A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog entitled, ‘Halloween: Who Will You Go As?’ You may recall that this blog described how our friend, Kathleen had come to our house for the day while her parents were away attending Glendon’s convocation with his Masters Degree from the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. I’ve received a lot of feedback on this particular piece. One of the responses that touched me was the following one written by Kathleen’s older brother, Glendon. In his letter to me, Glendon not only tells of his journey from young teenager to present day businessman, he also manages to illustrate what happens when a person chooses to not be led by fear, but rather to choose a meaningful value to lead them. Despite the competitive business world he has entered, Glendon has chosen to lead with love. What a message!
Please indulge me as I ‘listen’ to Glendon’s words this week rather than ‘talking’. I invite you, with Glendon’s permission, to join me in enjoying his letter.
Dear Mrs. Critchley,
Thank you for your generosity in taking Kathleen this past Friday for our family. It was a selfless act in our time of need and it allowed me to spend a weekend capping my academic accomplishments with the people who matter most to me, my parents.
The world, and life, seem to be chock full of serendipity and fortunate circumstances that I can't quite explain, your most recent blog post was one such moment, coming on a weekend where I got to celebrate graduation from a school that I would have never gone to had your son, Greg, not had a chat with me two summers ago.
I'll always remember his kindness and generosity in showing me around campus and it was one of those things where I immediately felt like I was home. I think the seeds of my success were planted a very long time ago.
The tremendous positive influence you held over the Red Deer Lake community during your years as a teacher was something that absolutely shaped me into the person I am today. I so vividly remember entering Junior High and from the moment I was in Grade 7, I dreamed of being in Class 9A: Mrs. Critchley's home room. Life finds a way, and I'll always look to Grade 9 as a seminal point in my development after what was a rocky and tumultuous year in Grade 8. That was the first time in my life where I felt comfortable and encouraged to "just go as yourself".
Throughout my educational career I seemed to stumble out of the blocks and find my stride. High school was like that for me and it wasn’t until I reached Grade 12 that I was once again able to shed trying to "fit in" and was able to "just go as yourself".
When University arrived, I made the choice to forge new beginnings and move a province away. That first year away from home was a challenge. Where my natural academic strength was once sufficient for success, I found myself learning how to study for the first time, while struggling to stay afloat in the sea of independence and temptation. It was a fight I almost lost. I barely scraped by Calculus, and perhaps would not have if Dad had not come to stay with me the weekend prior to my calculus exam. I exited first year, 220 lbs, unhealthy, unhappy, and ready for a change. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what I changed but I managed to shed 30 pounds that summer and 70 pounds total over the next year and a half. With my physical transformation, came a mental one, back to being myself. I was confident in who I was, in the relationships I held and in the impact I could have. I ended my undergraduate career with many friendships I still hold close, and a renewed sense of who I was. Or so I thought.
The crushing disappointment of not finding a job was only outweighed by the nagging feeling that I had self sabotaged on purpose. On a long summer drive to visit friends at a South Saskatchewan cabin I had a serious realization about my future. I could have found a cozy production job at an oil and gas company and proceeded to grind the career ladder for the next 30 years. I would be successful at that, I would be a millionaire, I could have a family. And I knew I would be absolutely miserable. A large catalyst for my desire to change was a dear friend who shared with me that summer that she was expecting a baby. A pregnancy she had not wanted at first but grew to accept and by the time she shared with me, a baby she was ready to sacrifice her career and life for, because of love.
That made me realize why I desired my change. I wanted love. I wanted to love what I did for work. I wanted to love the path I chose. And above all, I wanted to do what I had done every time I had "just gone as myself", I needed to LOVE ME. It was soon after this that I had my chat with Greg and fell in love with Ivey. I went across the country with a singular mission, a purpose, a fire, and a passion I had never had before; I was going to Ivey, Canada's top business school, ready to conquer the bureaucracy and elitism with love, I was going "just as yourself".
From baking for my classmates every Thursday for three straight semesters, to taking a risk I could have never imagined, and running for class president I led with love and continued to reveal myself. I forged strong relationships with my professors, and even closer ties with every single one of my classmates. I spent my entire time at Ivey, as Glendon William Hass. Not as the Calgary kid. Not as a Chemical Engineer. Not as someone from a middle -class family. Not as someone born with Goldenhar Syndrome. I was myself, Glendon, from day one to the end, and my mission every day from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep was to make someone’s day better and to empower my classmates to be their best.
I believe people truly transform and unlock their potential when they're fully committed to being authentic and true to who they are. Ivey was my test ground in the tough, cold business world of applying my mission of love and care to everything I did. Whether it was recommending job posts, helping with class homework, representing the class on student council, getting to know the personal stories behind the people I saw every day, driving friends to and from parties, participating on intramural sports teams or waiting patiently for a job offer I would love, I did it all "Just As Myself".
I can't say the rewards weren't worth it. As I crossed the stage at Western on Friday, I knew my chapter at Ivey had come to a close and I had filled every single page of the book with a story I was proud to tell. My academic success followed and I was overjoyed to see the fruits of my labour, finishing as an Ivey Scholar with the top marks in my stream. I knew the names of every one of my classmates. I found a job that has allowed me further room to continue to grow and "Just Go As Yourself". I owe so much of my success to the unwavering support of my parents. Without their empathy, kindness, but most of all, their love, I would not be half the man I am today. They stuck with me and believed in me when times were tough and when I didn't believe in myself. I love them for that. I love them for being such role models of living lives with love.
Thank you, Liz, for being an amazing teacher, neighbor, mentor, and supporter. I know you have played a large role in shaping my story and I find it so apropos that your blog post this week, “Just Go As Yourself" was brought about by your love and kindness towards our family on a weekend that came about because of your family as well.
I have a goal to support and influence the ability of millions to be our future leaders. How this dream will come to be is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I'm sure you'll be happy to hear it involves a passion for education and empowering others to do just as I have, and "Go As Yourself"
Thank you for everything!
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘With what am I leading?’
Elizabeth creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. She provides leadership and personal coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to help you uncover your ‘Leading Value’.