Energized! Making the most of a midlife crisis

I would assume that nearly everyone, sooner or later, brushes up against a question along the lines of “What am I meant to do with my life?”

It was Canadian psychologist Elliot Jacques who coined the term “midlife crisis” in his article “Death and the Mid-life Crisis” (International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1965), describing it as “the adult encounter with the conception of life to be lived in the setting of an approaching personal death.”

It’s not surprising that the question of what we want to accomplish in life crops up at a time when we’re realizing that our own mortality will be, after all, subject to a curtain call. 

Michel Laberge says, for him, the question came into sharper focus when he was 40.

While a midlife crisis can be a time when some people hanker after a new car or a different partner, Michel says he wanted something else: to make nuclear fusion happen.

His goal? Build a less expensive alternative to the multi-billion-dollar fusion reactors currently under development. Fusion, Michel believes, could help to solve the world’s energy dilemma, and he wanted to come up with model that could lend itself to smaller, more economically viable applications.

Pursuing his vision with zeal, he quit his job and built what he calls a “small machine for creating fusion” in his garage. When he got it to work, he donned a suit and tie and went to raise money to reproduce his invention on a larger scale. 

While building his company, General Fusion, hasn’t been a smooth ride – it was difficult to find the kind of funding needed for an ambitious project like this – Michel doesn’t regret his move. His energy and enthusiasm are evident when he shows off his facility. Yes, he’s having fun. 

In 2014, Michel was one of only two Canadians invited to speak at TED Vancouver.
In his talk, he says that in addition to the big labs, only a few small companies have joined the race for achieving fusion, General Fusion among them. Michel believes his team has a good chance to “crack this nut.” 

Regardless whether or not General Fusion ultimately succeeds, I believe that Michel’s experiences over the past decade and a half have brought him to a place where he finds his life fulfilling. 

Maybe going after something big is the secret for making the most of a midlife crisis?

Read about this project on TheRAC.ca

Why we should all celebrate We Day and a generation of youth now acting out

By Randall Mang
Parent, Citizen and Free The Children supporter

Today, more than 15,000 young people will stream into SaskTel Centre. One could easily assume they are there for a big concert, but in fact these students are part of a growing movement known as “Me to We” that represents a profound shift in attitudes and actions among young Canadians now embracing charitable giving and social activism.

International elite ranging from recent Nobel Peace Prize recipients Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi to Kofi Anan, Sir Richard Branson and the Dalai Lama are among the Canadian-born movement’s marquee supporters. Stars like Oprah Winfrey, Martin Sheen and countless others lend their celebrity to the cause. Major Canadian philanthropists are personally involved, as are corporate brands like TELUS, RBC, Microsoft, Ford and others.  

Why? These individuals and organizations see the impact and, perhaps more important, the potential. 

According to a recent independent study by Mission Measurement, LLC, Me to We has engaged more than 2.3 million young people from 8,000 schools globally and inspired them to be leaders in their communities. In turn, these kids have volunteered over 14.6 million hours of community service benefitting causes they care about. They have raised over $45 million in support of more than 1,000 local and global causes, including helping collect 5.6 million pounds of food for local banks.     

The forces behind Me to We – including its We Day events and integrated We Act program – are Ontario natives Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children, the world’s largest charity of children helping children. 

People who have never heard of the Kielburgers often assume they must have been born into money. They weren’t. Their parents are schoolteachers. Craig and Marc – brilliant and charitably motivated – have, over the past 20 years, been working in Canada and abroad to change the world for the better.  

This year, more than 200,000 young people and their teachers will attend 14 We Day events across North America and the UK. As in Saskatoon today, kids earn a ticket to We Day through community service. Seated among thousands of others like-minded individuals, these youths gather for a day of thought provoking presentations and entertainment by global superstars, thought-leaders and young change-makers. We Day stadiums roar with the sounds of tens of thousands of kids cheering for a world that supports women’s and girls’ empowerment, and where access to education, potable water, healthy food and other pillars of sustainable communities are rights, not privileges.   

Through We Act, kids go home equipped with a year-long service-learning program that helps them excel academically, at work and as global citizens.  

Me to We is delivering lasting impact. A recent study showed that 94 per cent of teachers reported that students involved in We Act have demonstrated increased leadership skills. Fully 80 per cent of We Act program alumni reported they continue to volunteer, on average 150 hours annually, while 83 per cent also donated to a charity. Equally notable, 79 per cent voted in the last federal election, more than double the national average. 

While many people are familiar with the Kielburgers, astonishingly I often meet Canadians who haven’t yet heard of Me to We and its transformative impact on our world. 

Admittedly, I only became enlightened a few years ago after my daughter Nayah – then in Grade 7 – was chosen to attend a We Day event. At the time, I didn’t even know she was involved in her school’s Global Citizens group. Now, at just 14 years of age, she and her friends – like hundreds of thousands of others – are now proving they can change our world for the better.  

With the Kielburgers and Me to We leading the way – I am confident that Nayah and her generation are just getting started. 

4 Reasons Why Social Media is an Integral Part of Content Marketing

Generating content that connects your brand with issues you and your audience care about can give the public and your clients a better sense of what your company or organization is all about. But even the highest quality content has little value without the ability to reach your target audience. In today’s media landscape, one of the most engaged and accessible audiences you will likely find lives on social media. 

Here are four reasons why social media needs to be part of your organization’s content marketing plan. 

1. Without an effective digital and social platform, even the most amazing content can go unnoticed.

You’ve put time, effort and capital into the production of high-quality articles. Unfortunately, if these stories exist only in print, PDF or digital flipbook formats, where users can’t link directly to articles, your good work will go largely unnoticed. 

Surfacing your content on an optimized digital platform and making your content shareable on social media will also increase the attractiveness of your website to search engines like Google, which look specifically for high-quality content when ranking website search results.

2. Data generated by social media reporting shows you what your audience wants.

Readers may have different expectations of your company or organization than those envisioned by your marketing department. By using social media to mobilize the content you produce, you will readily see which pieces get traction. As a result, you can continually refine your content strategy and achieve stronger results.

3. Social media gets the right people looking at your content. 

With social media, you can attract the audience you’ve always wanted. It just takes persistence and know-how.

Start by researching influential social media accounts in your area of interest, and then reach out to the people who are behind them. If you genuinely share interests and can help one another, you stand a good chance of forming a relationship. With influential individuals and organizations sharing your content, you can expect their audience will begin to pay attention and even share your content through other influential accounts, helping you reach a highly targeted audience. Just a few contacts per month can help you build a deeply relevant audience over time.

Be prepared to reciprocate by sharing stories from your influencers with your audience that fit your mandate. Doing so will help strengthen your relationships with influencers.

4. Social media gives you deeper insight into your audience. 

By enabling you to see exactly who is sharing specific articles, social media content tracking goes beyond web analytics. While web analytics give you raw numbers, they don’t tell you that an influential member of your industry sector or a politician has liked your content enough to share it on his or her channels.

Consider this: Google Analytics may tell you that your article has generated 100 views. Those results might sound unimpressive, but if social media data tells you the same piece is being shared widely by influential people in your target audience, the importance of that article becomes much more clear – especially in terms of its value as you refine your content strategy. None of this is to say that Google Analytics isn’t valuable. On the contrary; Google Analytics enables you to track the number of people drawn to your content through social media. All you have to do is pull up “Referrals” under the “Acquisitions” tab to see just how many visitors are arriving from each social media channel.

Inspiring lessons from Canada’s western schools

Inspiring lessons from Canada’s western schools

For a number of years now, I have had the great pleasure of managing the Globe and Mail’s Western Schools special information feature and writing one or more of the articles within it. Each year, learning about the passion, energy, competence and innovation simmering within Western Canada’s post-secondary education institutions inspires me and reminds me that our future is in capable hands. 

Finding meaningfulness and friends in nature

Finding meaningfulness and friends in nature

It’s a small world. I was reminded of this recently when reviewing the photos for a report on the Nature Conservancy of Canada and its commitment to innovation that we published in The Globe and Mail on July 24, 2014. As someone who grew up hiking in southern Alberta, I was immediately attracted to a stunning photograph of Waterton Park – which I then saw was taken by Karol and Don Dabbs. 

Canada-EU trade agreement

Canada-EU trade agreement

We Canadians tend to be very focused on our trade with the U.S. Of course, our southern neighbour is by far our most important trading partner and probably always will be, but while writing the recent Canada Europe Trade special report (Globe and Mail June 25, 2014) it became clear to me that Europe is an equally crucial part of our economic future.