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Buildings built with a strong foundation have a higher chance of withstanding environmental factors, even earthquakes. Those built without a great foundation or much planning end up like the leaning Tower of Pisa at best (well, at least it's famous) and perish completely at worst. For example, there are the leaky condo projects of Vancouver which were built with the right kind of planning but for the wrong kind of climate. People are the same - those with a strong foundation do better than the ones with a weak foundation.

Just like with houses, you often cannot tell by looking at a person if the foundation is strong. You can only tell when the hurricane blows by or the earthquake strikes - and then it's too late to do something about it. The time to build a foundation is BEFORE you build the house. Often, you will spend more time on the foundation than the house itself - that isn't good news for impatient people who want to see results yesterday! If you build the house and notice later that you should have built a stronger foundation, you may need to tear everything down and start over again. Even patchwork will be tricky and very costly.

As people, we need a strong foundation with strong pillars which, in my mind, are made up of health, relationships, finances, and work. These, in turn, must be strong.

Strong health means strong physical, emotional, and mental health. It means being in that state now and it means working on maintaining that state. Everyone may come in contact with disease, but generally those with a stronger foundation of health will combat the disease faster, often even before you know you are sick. Building strong health includes working on a positive mental attitude, working out regularly, positive eating habits, regular time off work, and some form of spiritual work. This may include going to church, meditating or volunteer work to benefit others.

Strong finances don't only mean a lot of immediate cash flow. It means good cash flow and the knowledge that if the cash flow stopped (due to injury, divorce, downsizing, changes in market conditions), there would be a cushion made up of insurance and income from various sources like businesses and investments. Strong finances are built for the short term as well as the long term.

Strong relationships mean clean and happy, satisfying relationships with others. It has been proven that people with social interactions and married people, on average, live longer than those who are alone. Strong relationships mean that there are no outstanding issues with the people in your life. All family secrets have been dealt with, all the times that your spouse has left the toilet seat up have been forgiven and forgotten. Of course, it wouldn't be human to never have any disagreements, but it is human and possible to have such disagreements cleaned up quickly. Strong relationships feel great and provide an incredible opportunity for support when needed.

Strong work environment, to me, includes a number of things. Relationships with coworkers, owners or partners, and customers need to be good. There needs to be a sense of purpose, meaning, and appreciation for the work being done. The work needs to "fit" your particular personality and nourish you financially and otherwise.

How strong does the foundation need to be? That depends on the kind of house you want to build. A doghouse doesn't need much of a foundation. A tall apartment building does! What kind of a foundation does YOUR dream life need?

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IT AIN'T EASY BEING RESPONSIBLE A few weeks ago, I had an embarrassing moment which again reminded me of taking responsibility and how it easy it is to take credit for the glory and how tough it is to admit to making a mistake. As it often happens, life's powerful lessons show up in the most mundane of tasks.

One night, I was taking my dog for a walk. At the same time, I was taking some letters to throw in the mailbox. My dog needed to go to the bathroom and I, as a responsible dog owner, took out my plastic sandwich bag and deposited the smelly result of my dog's effort into the bag. It was a beautiful sunny night and I was busy admiring the beauty. I marched on towards the mailbox, deposited my letters and happily kept walking to the beach.

I walked a couple of blocks away and then put my left hand in my left pocket. Something seemed very odd and it took a few seconds to get to my brain. My hand touched the letters in my pocket, at first with no thought of what that meant. Then I thought "didn't I just walk by the mailbox? Didn't I just..." And then I understood what happened. "Oh no!" I realized that I had deposited the smelly bag right into the mailbox.

My mind raced back and I was at least very sure that the bag was sealed and nothing would get out. Then I started to imagine what may happen, especially if there was something sorting the mail automatically. It wasn't a pretty sight but I didn't know what I could do about the situation. Obviously, I couldn't just get the matter out of the mailbox. At the same time, I wasn't too excited about admitting my mistake. Frankly, I was quite afraid that I might get in trouble. Imagine the news headlines - "Idiot destroys innocent citizens' letters"

My conscience got me and I called Canada Post the next day. Thankfully, the operator had a sense of humor. She asked me to post a note on the mailbox and said that a real person always pre-sorts the mail. I felt better for telling the truth. The consequences are rarely worse than the lack of truth.

I should say one more thing though - I did call from a payphone...

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In this new economy, networking is the name of the game, in all sorts of forms. As Susan Niven, Vancouver's speaker on networking, says "It isn't just what you know, or even who you know, but it's who knows you". I would say it's about all three but, definitely, linking with others is extremely important.

The power of the Internet is in its ability to reach a huge number of people, but also in its cross-linking ability. The same is also the case outside the Internet. Network marketing programs, however bad taste some past situations have left in many people's mouths, are just rewards for referring. Amazon.com is based on the networking concept. Any type of a "refer a friend to us and we'll give you a gift" program is based on that concept. Even a simple, "do you know a great accountant?" question Is networking at play.

As an immigrant from a communist country, networking has been easy for me to understand. In Czechoslovakia, knowing someone in the meat shop meant an early warning of a shipment, knowing someone in a bike shop meant waiting for only a year to buy a bike, rather than five.

In the free world, word-of-mouth referrals and networking are more a matter of convenience rather than necessity, but still people like to get recommendations. It works in the job market, dating, business or finding a home. Do YOU know enough people?

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"Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
Saint Francis of Assisi

"The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."

"Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small steps."
Henry Ford


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"The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."
Dolly Parton






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© 2002 Pavla Michaela Polcarova, CPR Coaching Services, Vancouver, BC, Canada