YOUR UNIQUE PROPOSITION: Live into your greatness and adjust upward.

Mugs with Frames, Portrait of a City.

I had a reason, of sorts, to ask for a moment of complicity in a personal project with the name Mugs with Frames, Portrait of a City. This project makes me smile – still, and I hope it will attach a kind of grin to you, as well, as 124 mugs with frames mostly grin back at you.

Canadians, that is WE as a people, look to Europe who has more than 10 times our vintage and south to the United States who has more than 10 times our population. We constantly observe and consider – we ruminate. Canadians can be defined as frontierists because we look outward: to Europe, to the USA and to the massive expanse of undeveloped land that is Canada. Being a frontierist means that we weigh and measure, we observe and deeply consider possibilities, yet are not quick to action. We are not loud and opinionated, and we tend not to consider ourselves on par or above par with those we observe. We think of ideas but we do not act as a matter of course. We need to have assurances and be legitimized, and we have a legacy of hiring Americans and Europeans to give us their opinions and assurances – even to coach us. We eat humble pie.

This is a deeply ingrained Canadian mental imprint, and just like the often-told story of the crabs in the bucket – we are not supportive of those who break free of the great Canadian pattern. I am constantly reminded of the crabs in the bucket story because my father lives on Vancouver Island and for the last so many years, he had a crab pot 100 rowing strokes out into the basin.  Each time I visit my parents, I eat fresh Dungeness crab, and for the briefest moment I think of this story: All the crabs have been put, none-too-gently, in one bucket. One crab climbed over the rest and had one pincher extended over the rim. One inch more and that crab would be free – outside of the bucket. As my father could attest: the crabs in the bucket seemed to be keeping that one, nearly liberated crab, from escaping. What is at work here?

Let’s look at a BIG, and yet somewhat unknown, Canadian story.
This story is of C.D. Howe, an American who chose Canada, and how his leadership developed the Avro Arrow, a jet designed and built by Avro Aircraft Limited in Malton, Ontario. The Avro used advanced technologies and was an unprecedented aerodynamic achievement with the promise of Mach 2 speeds at altitudes exceeding 50,000 feet. In 1958, before test results could be fully verified, then Prime Minister, Diefenbaker, quashed the project – COLD. He not only halted the project, he also had a fully functioning Avro destroyed along with all drawings and mechanical references. It has been said that the Avro Arrow project was too bold, too big, too fast and too expensive a project for Canada to undertake. To this day, the story of the Avro Arrow is shrouded in hearsay.

It is important to note that the team who developed the Avro, right here in Ontario, went south to the United States where they made significant contributions at NASA and beyond. An important postscript to this story is that talented Canadians across every field from music to science continue to go south where they are able to do what they do best. Is the brain-drain a strictly economic situation? It seems not.

Consider again the bucket and the crabs. Life outside of the bucket is unknown. Far better to be with the rest – to keep company, as it were, with a group dynamic mindset. A human family, a corporate department, a community, a city, a province, a country and a tribe usually function in a similar way to the crabs in the bucket. Be with us, stay with us, do not go out on your own into the great unknown. Your people want to protect you from the unknown and the unfamiliar. This behaviour of near and contained, of safe and essentially Canadian, has limited us as individuals and as a country for years. Test this assumption with your own family or group of close friends. Describe a new out-of-the-ordinary business, an opportunity out-of-country, a relationship you have jumped into, and chances are, your family and friends, out of love, will try to dissuade you. Love where you come from, but at the same time do not let where you come from be the measure and the judge of you. Live your life in big bold strokes and those who love you will be first amazed and then proud. Throw off the aspects of your heritage that are like the crabs in the bucket...Be the greatest possible you!

Today is your day. Consider what you will do, attempt, plan, discuss, research and begin, that which is unprecedented for you, for your department, for your company. Imagine the potential for your organization, imagine how you will plant, ignite, support and impact change within your office, department, company, even your country. Imagine that there are no longer any ordinary days. Sit in a quiet space and let your imagination run away with you... And rather than thinking of the weekend, or the upcoming holiday, think about what you could accomplish if there were no restrictions and no barriers to your role, your department, your company, your country. Doesn’t feel very Canadian does it? Go with it!

There are enough great jobs, there is enough money, there is enough opportunity for all of us, but first we need to stop and consider our own unique proposition and then we need to work, based on that proposition. Before day’s end, I implore you to write a 140-character description of who you are and what you bring to bear. Tomorrow, I want you to live into that description and adjust upward as you go.

Forget your job title for a moment and think instead about your uniqueness: that is, the abilities that you could bring to bear in a role, in your company, should you want to step outside your job description. I have read, ad nauseam, about how creativity must be invited and encouraged into the work place – yet what we really need is an adjusted mind set.

Nora Camps
DUO Strategy and Design Inc.

10 ways to get and keep a winning mindset <only click on this link if you want to live into your greatness.


LIVE INTO YOUR GREATNESS EVERY SINGLE DAY. [You already know the alternative.]



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