The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Slow Progress is Still Progress

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, October 20, 2016

Remember - the tortoise won the race.

Whenever I drive, I'm passed by a faster driver. That's okay. For me, the purpose of driving is to get from point A to point B in a safe, relaxed and enjoyable style.

Perhaps those faster drivers are going to arrive at their destinations before I do. That's fine. I don't care. As long as I get where I'm going, that's what counts.

I take the same approach to a lot of things. It seems to work for me. Perhaps it could for you too. Let's look at a few areas where taking some time can be beneficial.


 Did you know eating slowly can help you lose weight? It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to let your body know you're full. When you slow your eating pace, you will feel full sooner and will eat fewer calories. You will also digest your food better, potentially leading to less bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal issues.

Saving Money

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people don't have much in savings. It might seem hard to save, unless you commit to it and start slow. If you commit to putting aside an amount that works for you on a regular basis, you'll be ahead of the game in the long run. You're not going to get rich doing this, but at least you'll have money put aside in case of emergency.

The same applies when you're investing. You don't need to swing for the fences with every investment. Getting a solid rate of return over while protecting your investment is possible. Talk to a financial advisor and find out the possibilities for what you can afford.

Weight Loss

If you have 20 lbs to lose, losing it in a day would be horrible. Your body would have to go through a lot of painful adjustments. It probably wouldn't be pleasant, or worth it in the end. Losing weight gradually has been shown to be the healthiest approach.

Running a Business

If you run a business, you know it's not a get-rich-quick scheme. Success takes hard work and time. Patience and persistence and plenty of properly-applied elbow grease will get you where you want to go.

We're bombarded with messages that we can have it all, and we can have it now. Be grateful for what you have, and strive to improve yourself and your situation. Even if your progress is slow, it's still progress and it's better than not trying at all.

Thoughts About Getting Along

Mark Kawabe - Monday, October 17, 2016

Working together for the common good

I'm wondering if you're observing the same thing I am. Public discourse is continuing to deteriorate. Negativity, insults and anger are becoming more and more prevalent.

It's understandable, I think, because in general, people are angry and scared.

Angry because things aren't going their way. Angry because things are changing. Angry because things that don't matter to them matter a LOT to other people, and it doesn't make sense to them. And, scared because if the other people "get their way", there will be change from "the way things were".

Others are angry because they're on "the other side". They're the ones who've been oppressed and marginalized. Attitudes are shifting, acceptance is starting to come, but it's not coming fast enough because things that matter to them don't matter to a lot of other people, and it doesn't make sense to them. Scared because if the movement starts to fizzle, things will potentially go back to "the way things were".

Fear and anger are also combined with a societal trend towards individualism. Everyone has rights as an individual. While this is true, I think many of us have forgotten our responsibilities to ourselves and society.

We need each other in order to survive and thrive. Out of a population of 7 billion, the number of people who could survive on their own with no help from any other human is incredibly low. Do you run a business? You need customers. Do you eat? You need a farmer.

While we are interdependent, we are not well interconnected. We organize ourselves into communities based on religion, race, orientation, socio-economic status and more. In general, our communities don't mix, and as a result, our ability to understand each other is limited.

Don't understand the "black lives matter" movement? It's probably because you're not black, don't have black friends, don't live in areas where many black people live, and don't experience policing the way black people do.

Are you having trouble understanding why indigenous activists would prefer we not refer to Cleveland's baseball team by their name or show their logo in the media? I'll take a guess then that you're not indigenous, don't have any friends who are, and don't experience discrimination and negative cultural stereotypes the way indigenous people do.

Perhaps you're annoyed at our government. Fair enough. Most people are. The Liberal party happens to be in power in Ontario and Canada. You can disagree with their policies and approach, but insulting Liberal leaders and those who voted Liberal simply polarizes the discussion rather than leading to a productive solution. Building a society where we all work together means learning how to listen, empathize, and if we choose to disagree, to disagree with understanding. 

If we collectively all want to live in peace and harmony, we need to become more integrated into each other's communities. This is not an easy task. It can be uncomfortable. That discomfort gives us an excuse to avoid taking the steps needed to foster better understanding between people.

We have a right to be angry and scared, but we also have a responsibility to ourselves and to our children and to all those we are interdependent with to make this world a better place. Mutual respect, understanding and compassion are required to move our society forward. Improving our society means improving our discourse with each other.

It starts with me, and it starts with you.


Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, October 09, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

A few things you may not know about the origins of Thanksgiving in Canada.

  • The first Thanksgiving celebration in North America is said to have taken place during Martin Frobisher's voyage in 1578. It was held in what is now Frobisher Bay, Nunavut. The event thought of as the first Thanksgiving in the United States took place in 1621.
  • Thanksgiving has its roots in European harvest festivals.
  • Turkey, pumpkin and squash were added to Canadian Thanskgiving practices by the United Empire Loyalists after the American Revolution.
  • Thanksgiving was originally celebrated in 1816 on May 21 in lower Canada and June 18 in upper Canada. Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1879, although the date fluctuated. It wasn't until 1957 that Thanksgiving was decreed to be the second Monday in October.

Let us remember that for all the challenges we may face individually, within our families, our communities and society as a whole, as Canadians, we have much to be thankful for.

I hope you have a happy, healthy and joyous Thanksgiving weekend.

The Problem With Solutions

Mark Kawabe - Friday, October 07, 2016

SolutionsEvery day, we're faced with problems. Some are old. Some are new. Some of our own creation. Some we had nothing to do with.

Regardless of the source, problems need solutions. Perhaps it's just one person who has to put in the effort. Sometimes it's a collective effort of everyone on the planet that's required.

How you solve a problem is related to your values and beliefs. This means that who you are biases you toward a certain way of solving a problem. Your solution that requires negotiation and listening won't appeal to someone who thinks going in all-guns-blazing is the correct approach. Who's right? It's hard to know, but one certainty is there will be a debate over which approach is better.

For the big problems in society, we'll only know how good a solution is a decade or more after it's implemented. Even something the majority of people thought was good at the time has the potential to fail dramatically. Sometimes it will be because the solution itself was flawed. Other times it will be how the solution was implemented. Teasing apart why a solution isn't working is often so complicated that many are tempted to scrap it and try something different. If you've followed an election, you'll know what this looks like. Most political parties are quick to point out why something their opponents did was useless. The challenge for them is to come up with something better.

That's the challenge for all of us, really. How do we come up with something better than the status quo? On any given day, we have an opportunity to do better within our selves, our families, our workplaces, our communities, our country, and in the world. How do we do this?

I suggest we take more time to listen, on all levels. Start by listening to yourself. Tune into your emotions, gut feelings, hopes, fears and dreams. What can you do to be a better person?

Remember, the solutions you choose for problems are connected to your values and beliefs. Making change in the world means making changes in your self. You won't create a better outcome for yourself by making the same choices.

This approach scales. Remember that when you're in a position of leadership. Creating better outcomes for everyone starts with listening, empathizing, having compassion, collaborating, choosing a solution and then clearly communicating the reasons for that choice. Keep stakeholders informed as you go. Honestly evaluate progress. Be flexible and humble enough to admit mistakes if there were any, then get re-focused on the task at hand.

Remember: when you're confronted by a problem that if it was easy to fix, it would already be fixed. "Silver-bullet" type solutions are rare, largely because most situations are more complicated than being attacked by a werewolf. If there's any "magic" in solutions, it's doing your best to make the most appropriate decision, implementing, measuring, adjusting if necessary and continuing on. 


Litmus Test

Mark Kawabe - Monday, September 19, 2016

A litmus test for social justiceThere are lots of "marginalized" people in our society. What makes someone marginalized? In general, if people are part of society but aren't welcome by the majority, they are considered marginalized.

If you think about the news headlines, you'll probably be able to think of many marginalized groups in our society. Women. Visible minorities. People with disabilities. Indigenous people. The LGBTQ+ community. The list goes on, and on, and on.

There are those who've said that marginalized groups should just "get over it" and get on with bettering their lives. It's easy to say, but it doesn't recognize the reality that the structures of society weren't created to give those groups equal opportunities. This is why we often hear discussions about institutionalized racism, sexism, rape culture etc.

I watched an interesting video about racism that I think applies to many of societal issues. Here's the link to the video. In short, the audience (predominantly "white Americans") was asked to stand up if they would be happy to receive the same treatment as the black population is generally treated. Nobody stood. The question was repeated, yet nobody stood up.

It was then pointed out that every audience member obviously knew African-Americans are treated worse than white people in American society. The question was then asked why everyone was willing to accept the situation and allow others to be treated that way. Silence.

If you find yourself wondering why a group is complaining of how they're being treated, you can ask yourself a similar question.

Are you willing to be treated the same way women are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way the poor are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way indigenous people are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way people with disabilities are treated in society?

Are you willing to be treated the same way LGTBQ people are treated in society?

And, if you're not willing to be treated that way, are you working to change the status quo for everyone's betterment?



Mark Kawabe - Sunday, September 18, 2016

We are interconnectedEvery action has a consequence. The smallest act not taken can have a huge ripple effect. We are interconnected in ways we don't often think about, yet exploring and understanding those connections are essential for our individual and collective benefit.

I'm fascinated with how our society is transforming. There are heated discussions around every topic imaginable. From the environment, to race, gender, technology, economics, food, culture, politics, energy, transportation, it seems that every facet of our society is undergoing change. It can be overwhelming to try and comprehend all that's happening.

My desire is to begin exploring these connections as they relate to Niagara. I hope to increase awareness of and discussion about these issues from an open and welcoming perspective, while weaving in information about what's going on in Niagara from a business and cultural view. This fits with my vision for the Niagara Guide to "Bring Niagara Together". It's kind of a grand, muddy vision, and I don't know where it's going to take me, but then again, it kind of reminds me of life in general. It's grand. It's not easy, neat or tidy. But at the end of the day, I'm grateful to have lived another day and appreciate the opportunity to have new experiences tomorrow.

I hope you'll enjoy the journey. More importantly, I hope you'll participate in the discussion and exploration of topics. All voices are welcome on the journey.

Today's Gift of Time

Mark Kawabe - Monday, July 25, 2016

The gift of timeEvery day we wake up, we have a gift.

It's called time.

The fact is that today, you woke up. You are an alive, breathing, sentient human being, alive at one of the most exciting times in history.

What are you going to do today?

What will you do that will inspire?

What will you do that will help?

What will you do that will be of benefit?

Every second of every day, you can be working on making yourself and the world a better place, one choice at a time.

You can choose to help.

You can choose to say a kind word.

You can choose to forgive yourself and others.

You can choose to change your attitude for a moment, for a minute, for an hour, for a day, for a week, for the rest of your life.

Opportunities for greatness exist in the smallest of acts.

Today's post was inspired by my uncle Tats, who passed away this weekend. His time was up. I still have some. So do you.

How will you choose to use your gifts today?

Blink, and You Miss It

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June 27, 2016 was National Multiculturalism Day in Canada.

You'll be forgiven if you didn't know about it. Not that it means much, but I had no idea. I suspect the same is true for many Canadians.

Canada was the first country to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy, back in 1971. Doing so promotes the idea that all Canadians are equal. It affirms the value and dignity of everyone, regardless of racial or ethnic origin, language or religious affiliation. Multiculturalism helps encourage racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding.

As an official policy, that's great. The reality on the ground is different. Most cultures tend to stick together. While this is natural, it means there are still barriers to achieving that cross-cultural understanding.

Here are some ideas on how actively become more multicultural.

  • Become friends with at least two or three people who are from a different religion than you. Chances are they'll be from a different ethnic group than you as well. The twelve classical world religions (alphabetically) are: Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.
  • Choose to eat at small, ethnic restaurants. I like Wind, but it's not a true cultural experience in my opinion. Visit Kool Katts (Caribbean), Michinoku (Japanese), Spiice (Chinese), Duru (Korean)The Garden Restaurant (Greek), Passage to India (Indian / Pakistani), Afghan Horseman Kabob (Afghani), The Thai Dish (Thai), and any other non-chain restaurant that offers more authentic cooking. Learning about culture while experiencing new foods is great fun. If you're unsure what to order, ask the proprietors what they would recommend to someone who's never eaten that cuisine before.
  • When you see a racial, religious or cultural stereotype, take some time to research whether it's actually true. It's easy for untruths and misinformation to be spread online. Take some time to educate yourself and others.
Whether or not you (or I) knew that yesterday was National Multiculturalism Day is really not important as long as we're doing our part to foster understanding among all people.

Here We Go Again

Mark Kawabe - Friday, June 24, 2016

The British people have spoken and have voted to leave the European Union. 52% of the population have chosen the uncertainty of leaving vs. the uncertainty of remaining. The one thing the two sides have in common is fear.

The fear of staying in the EU, with its perceived bureaucracy, ability to impose rules on its member states and unaccountability was enough to convince a majority of Britons to vote to leave. The fear of economic uncertainty was an major factor in why almost an equal number voted to stay.

The start of the plunge at the top of a roller coaster

With all the uncertainty, one thing is certain: change is scary, but it's less scary if we seem to be in control. 52% of voters felt they would have more control over their futures by not being part of a larger entity. Thinking we have control over a potential outcome helps reduce fear.

The media headlines today are fear-provoking. They always are and they always will be. Fear is how the media get our attention and make their money. If there's one thing you have control over, it's your ability to recognize that despite the challenges you face, there are some things you control and some things you don't. Control what you can, then deal with whatever else comes your way to the best of your abilities.

We're on a big roller coaster. There's a build up, we go over the precipice and then are thrown around more loops, curves, swoops and hills. Ultimately though, we wind up in the same place as we were before, a little shaken up, our equilibrium thrown off, our hair a mess, and slightly changed for the experience.

Enjoy the ride as best you can and remember: we're all in this together.


National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, June 23, 2016

On June 23, 1985, 329 Canadians died when Air India flight 182 was destroyed by a bomb. To this day, this event is the largest mass murder and act of terrorism in Canadian history.

June 23rd was declared a National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. Flags should be flown at half mast to honour both the victims of the bombing of Air India flight 182 along with all other Canadian victims of terrorism.

May we remember and honour appropriately.


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