Sep 19 2014


Rory Holland

It’s late. I am sitting by myself away from the incredibly loud sounds in the other room. The place is full of young, hip people. I feel like a chaperone at a high school dance.

I’m at a festival of avant garde music and new media because my middle son – he’s the musician – said I should come. He’s not here, just me – and lots of folks in skinny jeans.

I’m not sure if it’s my age, or that I’m not avant garde enough, but I wasn’t really digging the guy who was dragging microphones covered in rags across the floor while wearing a gas mask. That’s when I retreated for quieter ground.

I do see one or two others who could be approximately my age. We nod as we pass, like secret agents in an eastern European train station. It would be totally un-cool to actually engage – “hey, you look too old to be here too!”

I was excited, and still am, gas mask notwithstanding, to come to a weekend like this. Out of my comfort zone, and past my bedtime. So far none of what I’ve seen or heard is easy to understand. Each artist is pushing a boundary, a convention, an assumption. My mind can’t just run on autopilot. I am forced to think, to discern, and even consider what I am experiencing from their point of view.

This is about both appreciation and education. It’s not so much ‘what to think’, but rather ‘how to think’. I don’t understand German Electronica, but the very act of trying seems a worthy exercise.

The last act of the night is some DJ from LA. I ditch. No point hanging around. The guy’s way too mainstream.

Sep 18 2014

Driving Out Of Control

Rory Holland

Living on an island I am beholden to that which is greater than myself. BC Ferries. To get from here to there I have to submit to their schedule – which, in reality, is often no more than wishful thinking. To secure a spot in line for the morning run requires leaving my house at a precise time. A five minute delay is the difference between being on time, and well, missing the boat completely.

From the moment I pull out of the driveway my calculation assumes that the road is mine. What I don’t anticipate is the driver ahead of me choosing, for whatever reason, to amble along at the speed limit. I immediately assume they are doing it with complete knowledge that I am trying to make the ferry, and are trying to teach me a lesson. I hate them.

The experience forces me to understand that the road is not all about me. As I gaze at the taillights in front I realize that, in fact, I am about the road. Sure, there are things I could do to make my life easier – like leave sooner – but even then there is no certainty.

From the weather to my home internet speed – I have so little control. I do like, and often use, the phrase “make life happen, or it will happen to you”. More and more though, I am not sure I have as much choice in the matter.

Unwittingly, slow driver dude has been teaching me. Circumstance is sometimes the only higher power required. There is the tension between taking responsibility and letting go of the situation. I can’t make him go faster. I can’t make the ferry run on time.   At 40km per hour, it is simply all happening, and I am a part of it.


Sep 17 2014

And Your Chickens For Free

Rory Holland

So, about a month into being full on empty nesters, what do we do? Adopt three chickens. Evidently the ladies didn’t get along with the existing hens of our neighbour, and so she asked if we’d take them on. We’ve replaced three intelligent, independent boys with three wholly dependent, not too smart birds.

Imagine. You’ve been living in tight quarters with three other girls, and a very horny guy. You’re new, so you get the low rung in the coop, if any at all. You spend your days being shunned or mounted or both. Then, all of a sudden, you’re moved to a place where it’s just you and your pals, no boys allowed. Brand new digs, and a roost you can call your own. Poultry Shangri-La. I am sure they’ll be pleased with the new arrangement.

We, on the other hand, now have other beings on the property that require our attention. However, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. I figure, on the scale of maintenance demands, the three chickens will fall somewhere between a cactus and cat.

It will be nice to have them around. There will be a daily, or almost daily, if I remember, reminder that we are not all that matter. There will be that offering of eggs from them for care from us. Am I romanticizing this? Sure, I’m new here.

As I’ve been writing I’ve been trying to come up with the metaphor. The meta narrative, the bigger meaning. I got nothing. Three chickens, that’s all. Today the coop will get finished and the fence will go up. All to make room for the new occupants: Sam, Pat, and Aidan.

Sep 16 2014

Let’s Be Friends

Rory Holland

I met a great guy this past weekend. He’s the type of person anyone would want to know – a big easy laugh and good storyteller. I made sure we hung out some over those days, and now we’re home I want to become his friend. How do I do that?

Remember as kids it took about thirty seconds to connect with another kid and start playing together? It was a given if you asked, they’d say yes. As time went on the process became more selective and thus there was the chance that the offer or request would be turned down. All the way until now, when the idea of phoning another grown up and asking if they want to play just seems unfathomable – if not kind of creepy.

I have to have a motive for the meeting. “hello, it’s Rory, from the conference, um, do you have time for coffee to connect over those ideas we talked about?” When I want to say – “hey, want to ride bikes and hang out, maybe get a beer?”

Why is it so damn hard to make platonic friends as adults? Getting together for no reason than just that seems unfathomable. From the blissfully naïve days of sandbox and playground I think I’ve calloused over my vulnerability with a fear of rejection. Am I alone on this?

I mean, I am very fortunate, I do have some great guy friends. It’s making the next one that’s got me beat. It’s like high school and I want to ask that girl out on a date – sheesh.

So, I’m just putting it out there. Whaddya say we all agree that it’s totally cool to call each other up to chuck a ball, swing on the monkey bars, or go for a beer. No agenda, no motive. Ok?

Sep 15 2014

Young People These Days

Rory Holland

I just spent four days with a group of people who are absolutely delusional. They have this notion that they can change the world, that somehow all the obstacles and and impediments of government and economics don’t apply to them. Can you believe that?

Honestly, they need to give their heads a shake. Commerce is not about making things better, it’s about selling, it’s about making money. People aren’t interested in what they need, they buy what they want.   But somehow, all that escapes these dreamers. They insist that organic food is better for us. They believe that citizens, given the right tools, will vote with their conscience instead of their wallets. They even talked about giving money out of their companies toward things like clean water or forest preservation – a total disregard for shareholder value.

Conversation after conversation was about ‘good business’, making sure their so called ‘footprint’ on the land was small, and even discouraging more buying and consumption. Clearly they have no idea what they are up against.

Sure there was the one or two examples of success. Businesses that somehow dodged the bullet and were growing and doing well – despite the fact they were also trying to do good. In my mind these happy stories just served to give the others false hope. Just because a few companies have been able to have happy staff, increasing revenue, and a positive impact on the environment – doesn’t mean it’s the norm, or that it has any chance for replication.

All these young folk who have spent hard earned cash on university degrees (some even MBA’s!) and are now just chucking it away on these head in the clouds concepts like ‘care for the commons’ and ‘people over profits’. What do their parents think?

Clearly this next generation just doesn’t get it. I am not sure it bodes well for voting in the Conservatives at the next election or all that hard work the folks have done up there in the tar sands…

Sep 12 2014

These Are The People In My Neighbourhood

Rory Holland

Bob bragged that he was planning to swim right up until October. But there we were on the beach and I looked along and saw him sitting, clearly with no intention of going in. Neither did I. However, I got my suit on, applied peer pressure, and we both jumped into the now much cooler September ocean.

Coming out of the water we laughed and had a light conversation about water temperature and swimming. It was a sweet connection.

We live amongst about 25 other homes on an island. Our area is a Strata, meaning we govern ourselves around issues like septic and roads, and have certain bylaws that express what we can and can’t do on our properties. Frankly, it’s a pain in the ass. It feels at times like it flies in the face of private ownership.

I find I can easily lose sight of what is important. I get caught up in the complaints about trees in the ways of views, boats left on common property, or whether or not someone can keep chickens. I can forget the people who are behind these concerns – really well meaning folk. I can forget that those that live around me are my neighbours.

Being here is an intentional decision. It’s a hassle living on an island, and even more so in a strata. A lot is invested in the choice. How lovely that we live among people that have made a true effort to be where they are. I need the reminder at times to see all that other stuff about trees, boats, and chickens through that lens, the bigger picture of the neighbourhood.

Is it any wonder that when Jesus was asked what was most important he said ‘love your neighbour as yourself’.

Sep 11 2014

I’m Not The Only One

Rory Holland

I am at a conference. I sit in silence looking around at a group of people, all of whom seem to have their shit together, who know what they’re on about. For sure they don’t have the voice in their heads mumbling about their inadequacy or how they really have no business being in that room. It must only be me.

Here I am in my 50’s and I still find I get blindsided by comparison and insecurity. I have more than enough evidence to feel confident that I actually do know what I am doing and am more than capable. However, it seems just as easy to explain all that away as fluke, and to smother it with all the reasons why not.

There was that episode of Gilligan’s Island – where he fashioned some wings and was trying to fly. He was flapping madly and hovering off the side of a cliff when the skipper came “Gilligan, what are you doing?” “I’m flying!!” “You can’t fly!” “I can’t?” “No!” At which point he dropped like a rock. It’s like I have the skipper in my head.

It takes conscious practice to listen to my own voice – not that other loud one that is so keen on talking me down. Yet, is there really another voice in my head competing for attention?

I am both Gilligan and Skipper. I am my own storyteller. I am thinking that the real work is not holding on, it’s letting go, it’s grace. It’s not so much about self-affirmation as it is self-acceptance. I am both good and bad, success and failure, competent and screw up. There are plenty of times I crash and burn, but every so often I do fly.

I am pretty sure I’m not the only one.


Sep 10 2014

Rory Holland

Ok, well, this is it. I have gone and started something. In typical fashion I have no idea where it’s going to lead, or how it’s actually going to work. What I do know is, it’s about bloody time.

For years I have sat in coffee shops, restaurants, and boardrooms talking with entrepreneurs about their ideas, their fears, and their problems. It’s always been casual, and I’ve not been all that committed. Up to now.

This morning I am launching a coaching/advisory practise under the name of Change Agents. My focus is working with people, businesses, and organizations who are taking outsized risks for the greater good. I want to partner with socially minded entrepreneurs on their journey to resiliency and sustainability.

It’s just me, for now. I’d love for the idea to grow and include others wanting to do the same thing helping to build enterprises that do well and do good.

The twist in my new venture is that I will have no set rates. There will be no invoices. I am working on the basis of generousity and elements of the ‘gift economy’. My theory is that time is worth way more than money. The value will be in the eyes of the client and it will be up to them how they choose to express it. It’s a practice of meaning over monetization.

So, there it is. I am out there again. I am standing in the very shoes of the people I want to serve. Starting something new is exciting, frightening, humbling, and emboldening all at the same time. I have a simple website that will give a better idea of what I am up to: . I am curious to know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sep 9 2014

With and Without

Rory Holland

Regardless of the amount of water, the glass is full. There is no adjective to put in front of what isn’t there, it just is.   Coming to terms with that empty part is a struggle, but I’m not sure there’s any other option.

Yesterday I heard the news that an old friend, a very talented actor and musician, has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  51 years old and he now can’t remember his kid’s ages. “But I do know I love them”.  This is a guy who has sucked the marrow out of his artistic life – he is fearless on stage.

Beyond the heartache I feel for him and his family, his announcement is a stark reminder of the frailty and uncertainty of this life.  We really have no fucking idea what’s next.  In other news yesterday a young actress was struck by a falling tree and died, while riding her bike in a Chicago park.

Skyping with a friend, we were talking about the idea of expectation. It suggests a future, a hope, a plan. But it’s organizing life that’s not yet happened. Should not this moment be the focus? I don’t mean to suggest I shouldn’t look ahead, I am all about what’s next, just maybe not at the cost of what is going on here and now.

My friend’s present is living with a full glass, a day by day recognition of all that is and isn’t inside it.  His circumstances are vastly different from my own, but I think my task is the same.  It is not so much about anticipation as it is about paying attention.  It is about accepting, and making the most of what is – the part with, and the part without.

Sep 8 2014

You Will Be Disappointed

Rory Holland

I’m in.  All in.  When it comes to half full or half empty, there is no contest.  Once decided let’s go for it.  If we’re playing the card game Hearts you can count on me trying to ‘shoot the moon’ every time.  The thing is, I rarely do.  I end up with all the cards.  With a character like mine, one gets used to more than occasional carnage.

Yesterday, in conversation with friends one said “I remember, years ago, my youth leader telling me: expectation leads to disappointment”.  Kinda harsh words to lay on a teenager – don’t you think.  Then is not the time to foster a jaded sense of the world.  Actually no time is.

Disappointment, heartbreak, failure, even humiliation are all potential consequences of trying.   Unlike my hands after a few days on the business end of a shovel – no matter how many times I screw up or am let down, I don’t develop protective calluses. It hurts, just like the last time.

If I am living, I am suffering.  I am out there, taking risks, falling in love, standing up for a cause, protecting, building, and growing.  I fuck up, am wounded, I stumble, and generally take it on the chin – but I don’t think I could have it any other way.

Sure, I could heed the advice given to my friend, lower my expectations and stay out of harm’s way.  But that’s not what I am supposed to do.  In fact, I don’t think anyone is. Life is meant to be lived fully and completely.  Bad comes with good.  Sorrow with grace, loss with love, failure with risk.

The amount of water in the glass is irrelevant.