I Can’t Remember

The process of learning requires not only hearing and applying but also forgetting and then remembering again. John Gray

I have been thinking a lot about memory recently. A project I am working on “Faded Recollections” has stirred up memories and mis-remembered amalgams of feelings, senses, stories and family. During Beakerhead we heard Dr. Julia Shaw speak about her book “The Memory Illusion” where she “demonstrates the absolute centrality of memory to our existence, and explores an astonishing variety of ways in which it can go awry” Last night we saw “Finding Dory” with one of our grandchildren (actually the second time we have seen it since June) and I was reminded about my frailty and imagination. “I suffer from short term memory loss, it runs in my family. At least I think it does.” –Dory

From remanufacturing vivid stories about cherished childhood experiences to feeling like there is something I am forgetting, I pondered where forgetting comes from and what purpose it might serve.

According to psychology there are at least two theories for why we forget; Trace decay theory states that forgetting occurs as a result of the automatic decay or fading of the memory trace. Trace decay theory focuses on time and the limited duration of short term memory. Displacement theory posits that we can hold x +/- 4 memories ( where x = between 3 and 7 depending on the theorist) in our short term memory (STM). When we get beyond x capacity and attempt to add another memory, it displaces one from the inventory.

Neither theory actually answers the why. What function could evolution have been working toward when we developed or incorporated these lapses of memory into humans.

Elizabeth Loftus, has identified four major reasons why people forget: retrieval failure, interference, failure to store, and motivated forgetting. Retrieval failure seems to be the same thing as trace decay. Interference theory seems a lot like displacement but Loftus suggests that we can proactively or retroactively interfere with memories that are alike. She doesn’t suggest that older memories are tossed out but that they are over powered by newer ones that are similar. I had this conversation with someone this week when he suggested that as I tell a story that he has heard many times, I don’t seem to be remembering the original event but a composite of the original and the minor embellishments and changes I have made in the tellings.

Failure to store has less to do with forgetting and more to do with the fact that it never made it into long-term memory in the first place. (the result would seem to be the same) We may only be encoding general details rather than specifics about an object, piece of data, idea or event.

Motivated forgetting seems closer to what I was trying t put my finger on (if I remember correctly, although after all the reading my motivation might have been altered). Sometimes, we may actively work to forget memories, especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences. I can willingly suppress an unpleasant memory or unconsciously repress one.

If I have a presentation or a test ahead of me and I don’t prepare sufficiently and bomb and you ask me a month later how it went, I might say ” I don’t remember” and if I have suppressed it that would be true. Some psychologists (not Dr Shaw) believe that repressed memories can be recaptured after counselling but even when experiments and data have shown this to be true it was around a very specific set of experiences so can’t be generalized.

I think I understand some of the how and why of forgetting and it is something that is in a big wheel house of interests so I will continue to skim and peruse the interesting case studies.

It still doesn’t explain why or how I can forget where I put my phone last night or my keys 5 minutes ago.

Self Improvement · Teamwork

Are You Exercising Due Consideration?

What if you took as much time and consideration about your next charity donation as you do about your next smartphone? (Samsung Note 7 aside). Would you check out available options that would meet the issue itch you are trying to scratch? Did you know that there are pros and cons to every charity? Do you just ‘buy’ the default without thinking about how your gift might be used? Do you visit websites and read reports and stories? Compelling narratives about how and why individual organizations enact their mission and the difference it is making are easily available or they should be. If I can’t find them regarding a specific agency, I drop them from my list of potential recipients.

I have heard friends talk about how they visited the Apple store 4 times and talked to 3 different geniuses and read consumer reviews about a product they were considering that might make their lives marginally better (or worse). They then rush to the Red Cross website in response to news coverage of Hurricane Matthew hitting Haiti and without consideration donate money to a life and death situation. I asked ” Did you consider Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)?” ” or Oxfam?” ” or Care Canada?” They shrug and indicate that it isn’t their job to investigate if they money would be put to good use. With that attitude (and no judgement of the agencies named here) they might just as well be throwing the money in the air.

Each opportunity to make a difference that we discover should be given the IRC test. Is the action immediate? You are ready to do something and putting off the action will not benefit you or those people that are impacted by the issue or problem. If an action meets the immediate criteria, it will also immediately cause ripples. Not all actions are going to make the same ripple and while we can never be sure how the ripples will grow, we can anticipate what the results might be.
The second criteria is relevance. We can get caught up doing things that are not relevant to the issue or a solution. In order to be relevant, the action needs to have significant bearing on or connection to the act. Don’t be fooled into doing ‘busy work’ just for the sake of doing something. Ask questions about the effect of your actions. “What difference does this acton make?”
The third and possibly most important criteria for choosing everyday action that the action needs to be concrete. While it is important to raise your awareness of an issue, attending an information session does not constitute concrete action. After your awareness has been raised the next step becomes action.

Donating money as a humanitarian response to a catastrophe or a chronic social problem is a type of action that many opt to exercise. What if you just did a simple IRC test – will the money have an immediate impact, will it be relevant to the issue and the anxiety that I am feeling, and is the money going to make a concrete difference for the impacted population? If yes – proceed. If no – look for a better way or a different cause.

The world needs us all to become more discerning and diligent in the choices we make.
You can start today.


Monday 168 report Sleep 18, Workout 3, Learn 4, walk 6, Read 3, Eat 2, Netflix 6, Work 6

Tuesday Sleep 14, Learn 4, Workout 4, walk 2, travel 2, Read 4, Work 10, Eat 2, Write 2, TV 4


After a couple of days of writing about being grateful and being optimistic, here and here,  I was accused of ‘always focusing on the positive’. Guilty as charged, I am optimistic, hopeful, and believe that tomorrow can be better/great if I choose to make it so. I completely understand that this might just be a placebo effect and that there is ‘no proof’.

The world has enough haters, enough naysayers, enough hell in a hand basket, down the tubes, nothing will ever be right, it’s not my fault pronouncers. Social media, newspaper comment sections and most TV punditry is full of veiled vitriol. I considered writing a column about all the things in my life that I am not thankful for but realized that I would be worse for the exercise. We don’t need more negativity.

I will continue to try to be affirming, confirming, endorsing and supporting and allow dissenters the opportunity to seek conversation, discussion and debate elsewhere.

Make Today Positive,


For those who are following my 168 here is my day 1 report on how I spent my 48 – 30 minute segments.

Sunday Sleep – 16, Family – 8, Travel – 5, Exercise -4, Eating – 3
Reading – 4, Learning – 2, Writing – 2, Netflix – 4. What I noticed; this was an unusual day with Thanksgiving celebration and airport pickup.


How to Build a Dream- I Need Your Help with This!

prayer & practice

Would you be interested in helping me with my most important piece of work to-date?

How to Build a Dream is my first major ebook you guys!  And I can’t tell you how excited and nervous and happy I am to have been blessed with the responsibility of getting it out into the world!

But I need your help!

I’m looking for a few reviewers/draft readers to give me their input and opinions good, bad or indifferent.  It’s a first draft and approximately 12,000 words/70 pages, it’s short but powerful!

Some of you have been with me for awhile and some of you are new to the family and I trust  you all!  So if you would like to be a part of this journey, please let me know by leaving   a little note along with your email in the comment section or you can contact me directly  here.

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Self Improvement · Teamwork

I Appreciate You

Being appreciated, maybe even more than being loved, and being acknowledged is an uplifting experience even when you are down. When someone loves you they have a compulsion to appreciate you and maybe their unconditional bias turns mediocre into grand. That is what is wonderful about love but when someone expresses thanks and recognition for something you did or attempted there is an unrequited gratitude that buoys the spirits. If I recognize how remarkable this makes me feel as a receiver then why am I so stingy as a giver? When someone, outside my intimate and personal circle, does something that improves my/our world what holds me back from expressing esteem and admiration? There is probably some deep seated childhood memory that compounds my other pathologies and inhibits my ability to express simple and sincere gratitude. Too much baggage there, but the theme of the day is appreciation and so I do.

Thanks and congratulations to the team at Alzheimer Calgary for holding the 26th Annual Thanksgiving Run despite the wintery weather. Thanks for the enthusiasm. smiles, cheering and crazy warmup. Three cheers for all those who turned out to run and walk in support of people living with Alzheimer and all those who made donations to support the runners fundraising efforts. The team of first aid volunteers and the massage students deserve a big round of applause for stepping up and handle the aches and pains from a slippery track. Two event sponsors deserve special recognition; Investors Group (Title Sponsor) and Save-On-Foods (Lunch provider) – Thanks for sharing your financial and human resources to make the day complete.

While I didn’t set a personal best, special thanks to the young lad, in lime green, that kept me pacing to within 8 seconds of my best time. Your steady stride and young age were enough of a motivation to keep these old legs churning.

The them for today is appreciation – don’t be stingy. Tell someone you don’t know well what they did well.

Make Today Thankful,


Original Thought · Self Improvement

Time is on Your Side

Tomorrow you get a fresh 168. I know some of you will disagree and say that the new week starts on Monday but for the purposes of this post, please humour me. Starting at midnight tonight you have 10,080 minutes to use as you want, need, could, should. At 11:59:59 next Saturday, the clock ticks over and they are all gone regardless of how you wanted to, needed to, promised to, hoped to, should have, could have used them. Next Saturday night, they are gone. You don’t get to carry them over. There isn’t any interest paid on the moments you didn’t really use but let slip away.140seconds

168 hours, 10,080 minutes, 604,800 seconds ahead of you in the next 7 days and yet the refrain I hear most often is I don’t have time. How did you use the week that is ending tonight? Do you know what you did with the minutes? Did you fritter some of them away like I did? Do you have no memory of great chunks like I do? Did you sleep enough? too much? If you are like me, you don’t know where the week went. Maybe it is time to keep track.

Would you join me in capturing your week in 30 minute blocks? Start tomorrow morning, when you get up – I will be up at 5am so I will record that 10 30 minute segments were at rest. My routine is such that I can predict that the next 2 segments will be learning and the following 2 will be exercise. After that it often seems like a free-for-all but I will hand record my day and my week so I can see where it is going. I am not asking you to change anything (not yet) just capture the 336 segments so that you can review your activities.

Are you in? I will commit to begin disclosing my week starting with my Monday post, just to keep me accountable.

Make Your Time Remarkable,


Self Improvement · Sharing Economy · Teamwork


100 Reasons to be Thankful


In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving on Monday October 10. I know all our friends south of the 49th are waiting until November 24th. My challenge to you is to make a list of 100 reasons you are thankful before the celebration where you live ends. The list can be in point form or an essay or a poem or song or whatever means you like. I am thinking that one of our regular readers will take her camera out a create a collage of thankfulness. Be courageous in your gratitude and brave in sharing your thanks with others. Feel free to paste your lit in comments or sent your creation to bob@remarkablepeople.com and I will post it on the blog.

My list, written spontaneously with this post. After the first 10, they are in no particular order.
1. My beloved Jan
2. My son Jon
3. My son Adam
4. My son Patrick
5. Three amazing daughter’s in-law Amber, Becca, Karla
6. Lidka and Craig
7. Eleven grandkids, Daniel, Josh, Austin, Andrew, Kaleb, Theo, Jack, Claire, Kennedy, Sam, Wyatt
8. My mom
9. My siblings Wendy, Teresa, Ken, Kevin
10. Pat and Phil
11. Fine Diner Gang
12. A large social circle
13. Work Nicer
14. changing seasons
15. liberty
16. hope
17. optimism
18. remarkable people
19. my neighbourhood
20. my city
21. my country
22. clean air
23. clean water
24. courage
25. vision
26. hot coffee on a snowy day
27. a home that is more than just a roof
28. access to fresh food
29. resources to acquire what I need
30. resources that I can share
31. time to write
32. time to love
33. time to run
34. time to think
35. creativity
36. artists and their art
37. singers and their songs
38. writers and their work
39. peace
40. generousity
41. people who care about the same things I do
42. people who care about different stuff
43. people who I disagree with
44. people and ideas that challenge me
45. tradition
46. As yet unimagined solutions
47. heroes
48. role models
49. mentors
50. coaches
51. a good night’s sleep
52. a comfortable bed
53. lights and heat
54. the routine of rising at 5am
55. the surprises that each day brings
56. old acquaintances
57. strangers
58. craft beer
59. the ritual of table
60. freedom to believe
61. freedom to question
62. laughter
63. tears
64. mental health
65. physical health
66. access to medical treatment
67. spiritual health
68. emotional health
69. libraries and great books
70. making those closest to me laugh
71. memories
72. travel with my beloved
73. adventures with friends and family
74. democracy with all it’s warts
75. abundance
76. new possibilities around each corner
77. commitment
78. silliness
79. 62 years of life and experiences
80. 40 years of marriage
81. anticipation of another 40 years
82. the gift of each day
83. the diversity of our city
84. the beauty and awe of creation
85. the mystery
86. knowledge
87. great thinkers from the past whose ideas still rattle me
88. the wisdom from the mouths of the children in my life
89. curiousity and zest for life
90. adversity that helps shape us
91. justice with all it’s bias
92. firefighters, police officers. emergency responders and all who put their life on the line to protect us
93. teachers and coaches
94. public servants and politicians who work for the greater good
95. the Blue Jays and Stampeders for giving us something to root for
96. pizza, perogies, pasta, tacos, fish and chips, hamburgers ..
97. challenges that inspire
98. gifts, skills, talents and strengths
99. people who can compensate for all my weaknesses
100. the heart and head to allow me to be thankful

What do you notice in your list? Are their themes? Was it difficult to create or could you have added another 100?

For Canadians take the almost 100 hours ahead of you and be as thankful as possible. Share your thankfulness wide and far – it can be infectious.


Self Improvement

Moving Forward

A revised version of an October 2015 post that seems timely this week.

Lethargy, inertia, torpor, indolence, lassitude, listlessness… – there seems to be a lot of words to describe waning motivation. Maybe it is health; low iron, low blood sugar, or illness. Maybe it is diet; too much protein – too little, too many carbs, too many sweets, too much alcohol or just too much. Maybe it is the season; a memory of autumn that draws you down, a realization that another year is slipping away, a relentless schedule or big changes in your life. Maybe it is mental illness; too little serotonin uptake, brain chemistry out of whack or a long running script that erodes confidence. Maybe you have an infection and your body is fighting desperately to slow you down so it can heal.

If motivation and excitement have left, it is important to work through the possibilities to discover what is zapping your energy so that you can take action to reduce the impact or eliminate the cause. I am not a medical doctor or psychologist but recommend that you find some help in your research and diagnosis. I have some serious mental health issues that I monitor and treat every day. I have found a routine and alternative supplements that temper the edge of the dark clouds without zapping away all the brightness. I am aware of my impact on those around me and recognize that when I am not well they are less well. It is the right practice for me, mostly because I believe it works for me. Acknowledging that something is amiss, seeking information and assistance and following a regimen that you believe in can lift the weight and let the rays of sun and hope reach you.

Our days are busy and seem to be getting busier. There doesn’t seem to be any relief in the near future. We deserve to feel at our best and have a responsibility to be our best. Reaching out recognizes both and is the mature (yet difficult) thing to do.

Make Today Better on your way to remarkable,


Original Thought


Are you superstitious? Last night we watched the AL East Wild Card game with family and celebrated the Blue Jays victory. As we were leaving to head home they said ” so now we need to do this again on Thursday”. I was surprised and must have looked it because they said “the division series starts and now we have started a tradition and we need to keep the winning streak alive.” They were half, maybe a little less than half, joking but it got me thinking about where I have superstitions in my life.


I am pretty sure that I have practices and habits that I do with because of a vague suspicion that things will go better. I know that I think about a bad omen when I see a black cat but I don’t go out of the way to avoid having it cross my path. I also don’t avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks and my mother is a spry 90 year old.

Even though it is difficult to find a penny in Canada, I do practice the sentiment of “find a penny, leave a penny and good luck follows you all day long”. I repay good fortune by paying it forward and am generous when I receive generousity. I don’t know if I am being philanthropic for a future reward but I know it makes me feel better in the moment.

I have said ” bad things happen in threes” and have witnessed the self fulfilling prophecy occur. I wonder what could go wrong when I walk under a ladder and am careful around mirrors.

Thanksgiving is around the corner and turkey is on the menu. It seems weird that we still follow the tradition of turkey bone tug-of-war that goes back a long way. Legend has it that first-century Romans used to fight over dried wishbones — which they believed were good luck — and would accidentally break them, ushering in the idea that whoever has the largest bit of bone gets their wish. I am crossing my fingers that I get the larger piece this year and knocking on wood so I don’t jinx the possibility.

There is no paraskevidekatriaphobia for the rest of 2016 but crops up the second Friday in 2017. I don’t expect anything bad to happen on Friday the 13th but I do know I have said ” what do you expect to happen on this day?”

I acknowledge the easy superstitions and that I halfheartedly consider them without any real conviction but I have habits that I have been following for years and now wonder if there is anything other than routine involved.

I will be watching the first game of the Jays and Rangers although probably not with family and I will be watching to see if we need to get together for game 2.

Make Today Remarkable, by doing something superstitious,

Self Improvement

Yes or No

What happens when you say “yes”? If the question is ” Do you want pumpkin pie?” then you have something else to be thankful about. ” Will you make a pumpkin pie?” means that you are making a commitment and will still get to eat some, so again thankfulness. ” How do you make a pumpkin pie?” might mean that someone else is going to make it but they are probably leading up to the second question. ” Do you know how to make pumpkin pie?” is definitely a precursor to ” Will you make a pumpkin pie?”. Saying “yes”, in this case will lead to you eating pie but three response mean that you are accepting responsibility. That is a good thing – if you mean to honour the commitment. Being asked to make and honouring a commitment is another reason to be thankful.

Sometimes “yes” isn’t an unqualified agreement. ” Are you coming to the party?” may mean “yes, I will be there if something else doesn’t come up” or ” no, I won’t be there but I don’t want to explain why to you” or ” yes, do you want a ride?”. Yes doesn’t always mean that you are promising something but if it can be construed that way, you should be sure you are able and willing to follow up.

In the past week, I have heard hundreds of “yeses” that I knew weren’t pledges or soft agreements. There were a few times “Yes” meant ” I am positive” and once that I recall that it meant “come hell or high water”. Somehow I recognized the level of the guarantee by the tone, intonation and non verbal communication cues. But if I missed the subtlety I may have been disappointed and a blade of straw would have begun a pile.

In the past week I have said “Yes” a hundred times (estimate). ON the occasions that I understood someone was asking for a vow to do something, I meant my response to mean “for sure, I can do that”. Most of the time, the action was simple and completed quickly but there was one instant where I knew as soon as I uttered ” yes” that I wasn’t willing or able. I didn’t confess my unwillingness or inability and now have a hanging commitment. The ask wasn’t ‘life and death’ or of major consequence but I am now spending kinetic energy fretting that I won’t complete the request. Following the ‘better late than never’ adage I am going to reach out and explain the situation to my colleague and advise them that I won’t be meeting their expectation and I that I should have said “no”.

If you say “yes” often and then have regrets or apprehensions you may need to learn to say “no” more often. If you say “yes” and then find yourself missing an opportunity because of the commitment associated with it congratulations on honouring the promise but you may need to say “no” a few more times each week.

“Yes” and “No” – two short responses that can tell the tail of our character. They can be simple to say but can carry so much personal baggage. Our self worth and perception of how the world sees us can be tied to our choice. Judicious and sincere “yes or no” will both elicit respect in the long term. It is how we choose to react in the short term that determines how we see ourselves and how we perceive how others see us.

Be careful with your responses.