Toronto

Kingston.

It is a wonderful town. The only thing it lacks? An international airport.

To get ourselves out to our Norwegian cruise, we needed to book a train from Kingston to downtown Toronto, a train from downtown Toronto to Toronto Pearson Airport, a flight from Toronto for Zurich and then, with only a one-hour layover, a flight from Zurich to Hamburg. And, once in Hamburg, board our cruise ship to enjoy Norway.

Cleaver’s rule of cruising: arrive one day early. In our case, that meant a day early in Toronto as well as a day early in Hamburg.

Having been a frequent traveller during my corporate career, I have encountered many, many delays while travelling.

Cruise ships won’t wait. If you miss the departure day, you have to catch the ship at the next port of call.

The trains in Canada are not great. Schedules are more like suggestions. We might plan to arrive at a certain time but that could be plus or minus several hours.

From Kingston to Toronto, our train was fairly close to schedule arriving about 40 minutes late. Via Rail is running old stock though. The cars are old, worn out and look a bit like something you might expect to see in an impoverished country. I agree with this recent article on our train system: we can do better.

Arriving into Union Station, it was a quick and easy walk to our hotel, Le Germain Maple Leaf Square. We’ve stayed numerous times at this small boutique hotel in downtown Toronto. Lovely place and great service.

The arena formerly know as the Air Canada Centre, now renamed the Scotiabank Arena, reminds us that we are still in Canada.

Hockey, eh?

Lorraine and I spent the day in Toronto walking through the harbour front. It is shocking to me how much the skyline in Toronto has changed in the past ten years.

I used to be an executive with a large Canadian bank in downtown Toronto. These buildings near the Queen’s Quay did not exist back then.

The waterfront has also changed dramatically over the past decade but not if you look out to the water. The Toronto ferry still goes back and forth to Toronto Centre Island. And there are no condos on the island.

Toronto’s CN Tower is visible from almost everywhere in the downtown area with the new condo buildings making it a bit more challenging to find.

Condos, condos, condos. No matter which way you look, condos are all over the downtown.

Toronto is amongst the most expensive real estate in Canada and in the world for that matter. Depending on which source you might reference, Toronto usually falls within the top 25 most expensive cities in the world. Vancouver beats Toronto. Both cities have become unaffordable for most Canadians.

Tiny 600 square foot condos will sell for $1,000 – $1,500 a square foot in the downtown.

$700,000 or more for a little space in the sky. Before condo fees.

Weather was sunny and very warm in Toronto and this weather pattern followed us all the way to Norway. We did not need to pack any thermal clothing for our trip. But we did not know that.

After a wonderful dinner in Toronto, Lorraine and I settled in for the evening, excited to begin the travel to Norway.

The next morning, we made our way to catch the UP Express from downtown to the Airport. This is the entrance for the UP Express:

Next post will cover our journey to Hamburg.

Back From Norway

After several days of travel, we finally made it back home.

Norway was an incredible experience and we will have lots of stories and photos to share over the next few days. Every morning we had views like the one pictured above.

For today?

Two major tasks.

The first is to battle the jet lag — I was up at 3am this morning. It will take a few more days to shake off the 6-hour time zone change.

The second is to take our coach out of storage and to begin the process of getting it ready for our travels south.

We will pick up the coach at 11am this morning. We will give the coach a thorough clean of the interior and of the basement bays. An overnight stay tonight and then off to the dealer tomorrow.

The dealer will have the coach until we take it back on September 20th and then Lorraine and I will begin our extended travel in our coach.

We placed our order for the coach in October of 2015. And now, after almost three years of getting ourselves ready to go, we are quite excited to finally hit the road for some new adventures in our retirement.

A new beginning.

Happy Retirement

Lorraine and I have made our way from Kingston to Toronto. Our flight to Hamburg, Germany is tomorrow night.

We have so enjoyed staying at the Hotel Le Germain whenever we have come into Toronto and we decided to celebrate the start of our retirement cruise with them.

Someone obviously told them about our trip and they brought us a tasty treat to help us celebrate.

Lorraine has a special dinner planned for this evening. Tomorrow we will explore Toronto as tourists before heading up to the airport in the afternoon.

Time To Abandon Ship

Cleaned out the office.

Handed back my building pass.

Took one final look back at the corner office where I had spent most of the past ten years of my life.

My name was still there but it won’t be on Monday morning. I’ve abandoned ship.

I’ve certainly gone through a bit of a rollercoaster ride leading up to this moment.

Excitement.

Fear.

Excitement.

More fear.

A friend told me that in retirement every night is like Friday night and every day is like Saturday.

Last night was Friday night and today is Saturday. So far so good!

We had a family celebration last night. Here is one shot of me with Lorraine and our three children.

Made it to the retirement line, which is really a new starting line for whatever happens next. Lorraine and I have spent years getting ready for this time of life.

We’ll soon be heading out to Hamburg, Germany and then from there to Norway. Things will likely be a bit quiet around this website over the next few weeks as I expect access to the Internet will be limited while we are away.

When we get back from Europe, it will be time to get our coach ready for the journey south.

Happy Retirement

An amazing reception for my retirement yesterday. There were four speeches before me and I started to think that I had shown up at the wrong retirement event. They must be talking about someone else!

Humbled, honoured, thankful.

Anyway, here is my retirement speech.

RETIREMENT SPEECH
For Delivery, July 18th at 2:00pm

Thank you for all the kind wishes and wonderful comments.

I am indeed a very, very fortunate man. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, an amazing family, good friends, and, clearly, the best looking team of colleagues in the world!

My life, your life, is not defined by a state of working or a state of retirement.

Our journey in life is defined by our relationships with each other, by themes of love, family, faith and self-acceptance.

I was taught at an early age that there several stages in life:

A time to learn.
A time to work.
A time to retire.

And so I went to school. I got a job. And now I retire.

Mission accomplished!

Although I do worry a little bit about the stage after retirement.

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about what makes for a fulfilling career. Lessons that I have learned over the past 40 years or so.

Three words to remember: mission, mastery, freedom

Let’s start with mission.

Everyone here in this room has the talent and capability to create a great life for yourself, for your family and for your community. And everyone here in this room can make our company an even better company in the future than it is today.

It starts with answering one very basic question:

Why are you here?

Having a higher purpose, a mission, a cause that you believe in will make all the difference to you and to your career. You will know, that in some way — large or small — you have made our company a better place because of your work.

Have you ever experienced a moment where your life was changed forever?

It happened to me when I was 16 years old.

I lived in a small house in Lachine, Quebec that was built just after the second world war. My father had been battling cancer for several years and all I knew was that he was very, very sick. But I thought that he would make it. That he would come home from the hospital.

I can remember the telephone call as if it happened yesterday. It was early. 6AM. My mother answered the phone and all I heard was her screaming and crying.

Dad was gone.

He left no will. He had no insurance.

We were left with nothing. We had to sell the house and my mom and I had to find jobs to make ends meet. Life was very hard during those years after his death.

I made a commitment to myself that when I grew up, got married and had a family, that I would provide well for them. To make sure they were protected and to be financially secure if anything happened to me. That was the core part of my mission in life.

And that is why I believe so strongly in our company.

We help Canadian families with their financial security. We help Canadian families build wealth. Our promise to them is simple, fast and easy. We have a great company whose underlying mission you can believe in. A company that makes a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

Why are you here?

What is your mission?

When you know why you come in to work everyday, you have a mission. And that mission you will carry you throughout your life. That mission will be your anchor when you face challenges and it will be your reason to celebrate your accomplishments.

After mission there is mastery.

Getting better and better at the skills and talents that you use in your work leads to mastery. People will see you doing great work and great work always gets rewarded. Always.

But it is not just about getting better at what you do. It is about helping others to get better at what they do.

Keep learning. Keep developing. Keep pushing yourself to get better at the things you really love doing. And then one day it will happen. You will become a Jedi Master. Every Jedi Master must take on an apprentice.

And then you get to help someone else get really, really good at what they do. That is the true reward of mastery.

Mission, mastery, freedom.

And I don’t mean Freedom 55.

When you have a mission and you get really good at what you do, you will have freedom. The freedom that comes from being passionate about your work and why you do what you do. The freedom that comes from being really, really good at your work and helping others to be really, really good at their work.

Suddenly, your career becomes part of who you are. It does not define you. You define your career.

There is one final thought that I would like to leave with you.

I am more and more convinced, having gone through many different passages in life, that the things I value most are the warm, caring relationships I have with the people who have passed and are passing through my life. These things are eternal and the rest is like dust before the wind. These relationships are the things to value and so I strongly encourage you to measure your success in this life by the quality of care you give to those around you. We need to be friends. We need to take an active role in the people who pass through our lives. We need to care, to trust, to support and to cherish our family and our friends.

I am grateful and thankful for the support of my family. I am grateful and thankful for the support of the leadership of our company.

I cannot adequately express the gratitude that I have for my amazing team and my wonderful colleagues.

All I can say is thank you for this incredible journey. I will carry many wonderful memories of our time together.

Thank you.