Recognizing Your Inner Godfather – 7 Traits of a Natural Leader

At the 2018 CHC Safety & Quality Summit in Dallas I attended a plenary session titled “Creating a Culture of Behavioral Reliability and High Performance”.  At one point the presenter asked us “who in our lives would we regard as a natural leader – someone who inspired us?” I quickly thought of several cool “bosses” I have been lucky enough to work for but the most important person in my life eventually came to mind. Stan Shilson, my godfather, was important to me because he taught me the value of hard work and the serenity of natural leadership.

A natural leader is inspiring to those who wish to contribute but don’t know how or don’t know they have it in them. A natural leader inspires others with their drive and energy. A natural leader speaks and listens from the heart, radiating both kindness and generosity. A natural leader encourages rather than dictates. A natural leader enables rather than controls. A natural leader does not dwell on problems but rather enables those around him/her to find solutions. A natural leader is calm and not critical.

Stan had worked for the Winnipeg Free Press since returning from the Second World War. During his holidays and after retirement he helped to harvest wild rice with my family each fall. Plus I worked for his “office cleaning and management” business in the city during the evenings and weekends when I was attending university. 

The most important lesson Stan passed onto me was that as long as I could find it in myself to do a job well I too could inspire others to do the same. Stan “pushed” me in some ways: preparing for the next days work, getting up earlier than anyone else, keeping my breaks down to a minimum, finishing the job properly even if it took several tries – the kind of things I imagine a Staff Sergeant might expect from his troops. But when it came time to decide on “how” to do a job he would stop everything, direct me over to the nearest rock or log to sit down, chuckle a little to himself and then ask me “how do you think we should get this done?”

The problem to finding your own inspirational leader is for you to recognize the opportunity. When Stan asked me to find a solution to a work problem he also recognized my ability to do the job. He knew, even if I doubted it myself, I was ready. Even when I failed to meet my goals he encouraged me to go out again and never give up. In all cases, I recognized that he was leading from within. It was never about him and always about encouraging me to recognize a positive outcome. Even at the time (I am talking about when I was 14 to 20 years old) I recognized that he never acted as my boss but always as my godfather.

If you cannot think of a single inspirational boss then think about a friend or a relative or a sergeant or, if you are lucky, a godfather and dig deep inside your memories to find an act or a moment where they inspired you to do something – anything. If you were encouraged to find a solution on your own and not told “how to do it”: if you were enabled and not constrained with “what to do”: if you were empowered and not pushed to “get the job done”: if you were encouraged to do your best and not criticized because it wasn’t “done their way”, then it was because you were inspired by the kindness and generosity of a natural leader.

If you can find that experience inside of you then there is a good chance you too can become a leader and learn to inspire others. If you are a natural leader than maybe this exercise of perspective will help you recognize your inner godfather. 

For our Canadian Remembrance Day November 11th, 2018 I wrote this tribute to my friend and godfather who passed away at the age of 88.

Lest we Forget:

Stanley Victor Shilson was a good friend of the family and my godfather. Stan served in the Royal Canadian Artillery with my uncle, Ron Wesley Goulet, and befriended my father, Lorne Alfred Goulet, who was in the infantry. The insignia on his jacket (three downward pointing chevrons) signifies that Stan was a non-commissioned officer or specifically a Staff Sergeant.

All three enlisted in the war and shipped off to England and Europe to fight for the liberation of France, Belgium and Holland and continued through the fierce fighting of the Black Forest into Germany. All three made it home safely to raise their own families. 

As I was growing up in the ’60’s and ’70’s Stan was an early-to-rise, hard working, kind and fun-loving godfather who never told me what to do but rather asked me what I thought, helped me through the decision making process and then encouraged me to do carry out the decision myself. I miss him greatly. Stan’s contribution to our country, along with my uncle’s and father’s, is immeasurable and should never be forgotten.

Stanley Victor Shilson (my godfather) and Ronald Wesley Goulet (my uncle)                                 
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Pictures of David – Inspiring Genius

On the day of our 40th Wedding Anniversary Holly and I revisited the city we enjoyed so much on our European honeymoon. The first time, I don’t remember why, we were not able to visit the original statue of David by Michelangelo.

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“David the Replica” at the Piazza della Signoria in Florence Italy

Instead we settled for the replica placed outside Florence’s Town Hall (Palazzo Vecchio) in the Town Hall Square (Piazza della Signoria.) In our walk around Florence I decided to go there first to see if I could rekindle old memories. All the statues were still there as they had been for 100’s of years.

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Palazzo Vecchio Florence Italy

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Piazza della Signoria Florence Italy

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Piazza della Signoria Florence Italy

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Medici Lion over looking the Piazza della Signoria Florence Italy

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Perseus With the Head of Medusa

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Hercules and Cacus with Loggia dei Lanzi in the background

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Tourists and locals gather at the Piazza della Signoria Florence

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The original Medici Lion was carved in 1598. Since 1789 the two Medici Lions have been located at the Loggia dei Lanzi, Piazza della Signoria, Florence in case you wanted to send them a post card.

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Hercules and Nessus 1599 Florence Italy

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Loggia dei Lanzi was built between 1376 and 1382 as stage for public ceremonies

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The gallery of statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi

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Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus

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Medici Lion Florence

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Rape of the Sabine Women

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Replica statue of David at the Piazza della Signoria Florence

The Plaza was great but a replica is a replica and plus this David was covered in pigeon poop. This time we decided to visit the real-deal David in his protected home at the Galleria dell’Accademia.

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So on the morning of our 40th wedding anniversary we hiked down the street from our hotel to find the Gallery.

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Even before the gallery opened tour buses spilled out multitudes of tourists onto the street and the line-ups grew quickly.

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So I bought VIP express passes to be the first two people into the museum in the morning.

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For about 10 minutes we had David all to ourselves.

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To be alone with David in the silence left me awestruck. The lighting, the architecture, the ambiance and, of course, Michelangelo’s amazing statue of David, to me, defines human perfection. “All else” shall be judged and measured using David as the standard but only whereas David, the manifestation of Michelangelo’s vision or idea, represents us as being “only human” in our imperfect form. In other words, yes we see flaws and inconsistencies in the form, but in the end it, Michelangelo’s work, is perfect in it’s realization.

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The Original

I haven’t felt this way since I first stood in front of Rembrandt’s Mona Lisa in Paris or Vincent van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows in Amsterdam. Shortly after seeing the psychedelic impressions of Wheatfield with Crows I wrote my book of poetry Woodsmoke & Perfume. It took me roughly as long to compose my chapbook of poetry as did Michelangelo to carve out David from a block of marble but in the end my book, like this statue, become something tangible and lasting.

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Pictures of Michelangelo’s David

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Pictures of Michelangelo’s David

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Pictures of Michelangelo’s David

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Admiring Michelangelo’s David

When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelangelo finish it” was how Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari introduced in a few words the marvel of one of the greatest masterpieces ever created by mankind.

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Admiring Michelangelo’s David

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Admiring Michelangelo’s David

To visit David is an opportunity to be inspired but in what mysterious ways does inspiration work? What inspired Michelangelo and Leonardo to create their masterpieces, ironically, was a commission. They were paid to produce their art. But, at the same time, they did so with game changing creativity that cannot be explain in any other way than pure genius. When you browse the museum you also come across the names of other familiar geniuses: Stradivari, Bartolini, Botticelli, as well as Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci.

What struck me was the familiarity of those names but if someone asked me to name a living genius of our time only Stephen Hawkins would immediately come to mind. After that I would stall out.

In my opinion, genius is the manifestation of one’s ability to recognize and take advantage of one’s time and place. To be classified as a genius, you have to achieve something notable and to do that you have to have intelligence and luck. Why luck? Well none of the Renaissance geniuses would have been known today if Europe had not flourished with the rich patrons that commissioned statues, violins, pianos, and paintings.  They were in the right place at the right time. So does that help us define the geniuses of today?


How about Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Jimmy Wales, Mark Zuckerburg, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison, Sergy Brin or Larry Page? Are they in the living genius category? Well each of them built their genius status on creatively making use of recently made available inventions. If they have been born 10 years earlier or 10 years later someone else would have done that they did.

How about Sam Walton, George Soros,  Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg, Elon Musk or Richard Branson? Does figuring out how to make lots of money make you a genius? Are they creative or merely opportunistic?

How about Stephen Hawkins, Alain Aspect, Frederick Sanger, Albert Hoffman, Timothy Berners-Lee, Roger Penrose, Edward Wilson, Edward Witten, James Watson, Andrew H. Knoll, David Baltimore, Charles K. Kao, Gordon Moore, Craig Venter and George M. Whitesides.  Certainly inventive or innovative scientists must fall into this category as did Newton, Edison or Einstein before them?

Let’s try Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fareed Zakaria, Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Steven Pinker, Steven Weinberg, Philip Pullman and Christopher Hitchens? Does recognizing the fallacy of man’s religious and political beliefs make these candidates special or catapult them into the genius category? I believe these candidate’s genius is defined by their ability to follow intellectual lines of reasoning and to communicate this clarity of thought to the public. Smart and logical, no doubt, but does that give them the genius cookie?

What about the proliferation of today’s writers, musicians or artists? Who of them are geniuses?

The one category I am sure contains no geniuses is politicians. Watching the American elections and listening to the banality, hypocrisy and absurdity of Trump’s rhetoric assures me that political geniuses are far and few between.

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I am not sure of who we should, in our day and age, call a genius. There is so much more to our new age world than what was available during the classical or the renaissance ages. But by standing at the feet of David and admiring the perfection of his art I recognized that genius is also the result of hard work and perseverance. After carving out David Michelangelo went on to paint the Sistine Chapel. Thomas Edison summed it up by saying:

None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

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To my muse, my Mona Lisa, on our 40th wedding anniversary.

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Happy Anniversary sweetheart! I hope you remember this day as I will.




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C208B Seaplane Crash in China

FIVE people died after a seaplane, owned by Joy General Aviation, crashed into a bridge during a trial flight of the service in Shanghai’s Jinshan District today.

Source: Five killed after seaplane hits bridge on maiden flight in Jinshan District | Shanghai Daily

You have to wonder how much training and experience this pilot had before being given this responsibility? What he did shows a total lack of situation awareness which is always a symptom of the lack of both – training and experience.

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Bragging Rights

At the beginning of the year I had planned to exercise my “bragging rights” to look back and highlight my last year’s accomplishments. Then I lost my laptop in Tokyo, WordPress come out with a new update that made blogging harder instead of easier and Google killed Picasa making it nearly impossible for me to post images into my blog. That combination of “failure to blog” setbacks washed over me like a tropical storm. Although I have not yet fully recovered I am ready to start writing again.

To claim my bragging rights, however, I will re-post an article, called The Fly Boys, published by a men’s travel, adventure and lifestyle magazine called Grid. They did the “bragging” on my behalf and in a few paragraphs managed to explain one of the things I have accomplished in the past year.



The way we travel is fundamentally changing in ways that we would’ve scarcely imagined just a few years ago. Grid put together a list of 11 people leading the way.

During a television interview about this article Grid Magazine Photographer Paco Guerrero was asked:

Why did you choose these people for your list? What is the significance of what they do?

His answer was Skills.

The people on this list give us skills and the means we can use to travel the country in more ways, in different ways, in arguable better ways.

Moreover, the people in this list have skills that enable unique business and travel opportunities for both locals and tourist to visit their country like never before. Tourism, more so than forestry, fishing or mining is sustainable and ecologically friendly. Where there are tourists the reef dynamiting and fish poisoning stops, the trees are protected and left intact, the oceans are kept clean and the reefs thrive. Palawan, for example, has had most of its natural forest cut down by greedy lumber barons, the reefs bombed and poisoned to catch the local fish and huge patches of hillsides devastated by uncontrolled mining practices that allow the tailings to run off into the sea.

But in areas with developed tourism this all stops and the easier it is for tourists and local alike to travel into the remote regions of Palawan the less likely it is that these unsustainable practices will continue.

The (Off The) Grid list includes tour expedition leaders, divers, restaurateurs, innkeepers, celebrity chefs, hoteliers, instagrammers, luxury resort developers and not last and not least the seaplane expert who has changed fundamentally how one can travel to visit all the others on the list spread out on the 7107 islands of the Philippine Archipelago.


Capt John Goulet, Director for Seaplane Operations for Air Juan.

Living in an archipelago also means having to deal with the challenges of interisland travel. Going off to any other region means having to take land, air, and sea transport — sometimes all three in one trip. In many ways, a seaplane provides the perfect transport solution for our kind of geography.

It’s more than just another luxury option for the well-heeled. By providing ready access to our more remote islands, seaplane transport might be the great equalizer that infrastructure-challenged regions might be waiting for.

As it stands getting to your chosen destination is so difficult that the remotely located resorts and hotels outside of Manila and Cebu have taken to out-and-out lying to get you to visit them. Resorts in Busuanga and Coron will tell you that it is only a quick and easy 45-minute flight from Manila to their airport where they will whisk you away to your beautiful resort on a scenic boat ride. What they don’t tell you is that you have to arrive at least 2 hours before your departure time at a crowded domestic airport and line up with backpackers and crying children to board a hot and cramped commuter airliner and then wait another 30-60 minutes before takeoff. Often the flights are cancelled or rescheduled with no explanation given and you have no choice but to wait.

Then, once airborne, the flight is a merciful 50 minutes, not 45, to the closest local airport. After getting through the terminal and waiting for the others to attend the toilet you will board a small bus or van to drive 45-60 minutes to the harbour where you will wait another 30 minutes for your boat to leave. The boat ride will take another 45-60 minutes across rough waters to finally reach your resort sometime after lunch on a good day but on most days at about 3 pm. The first day of your holiday is spent and so are you.

By seaplane, however, you arrive at the harbour 20 minutes before your departure and arrive directly to your resort 1:10 min later in time for an early breakfast. After check-in you can snorkel along the colorful corals off the beach and enjoy the cool blue-green waters of the sandy lagoon. Then spread out with a good book on a beach chair and enjoy the late morning sun. Later, after a seafood lunch on the deck while you contemplate retiring to your room for a mid-day nap, you might, on a good day, witness the domestic flight passengers arriving to the resort but often they won’t show up until late afternoon. They have lost an entire day of their holiday in hot crowded waiting rooms and commuter airliners while you have spent your entire first day relaxing. There is no comparison.

A beautiful Filipino lady, dressed in a poppy red-flowered dress and draped with jangling jewelry, told me, when she boarded our flight at Two Season’s Resort in Coron, that the best part of her holiday was the seaplane flight home. She used to dread the last day having to ride a boat across rough seas to Coron, ride for another hour on the winding road and wait hours in the cramped domestic terminal for airline delays after delays. She was more stressed after getting home than before she left several days before. Now she reads a book on the resort deck while waiting for the seaplane arrival and then leisurely strolls down to the seaplane jetty to board. Within minutes she is airborne to enjoy a smooth ride to Manila where she is in the car on the way home in less then one hour and 20 minutes after departing the resort. No more stress.

In the Maldives, before the seaplane, there were about 40 developed islands that were easily accessible by boat without torturing their guests on the rough seas. Now, after the seaplane, there are an extra 70+ resorts on remote islands that are easily reached via the seaplane being able to land on the nearby beautiful blue/green lagoons. The Philippines can develop in much the same way. In my travels have seen many uninhabited and stunning beautiful golden sand beach ringed islands that are too remote for boats but are within a perfect flight distance for the seaplane.

Recently I have had interesting meetings with developers who wish to buy an island, build a resort and fly their guests in exclusively by seaplane. These are the business entrepreneurs, like Six Senses in the Maldives and the AmanResorts in Indonesia, with the vision to see past the crowded airports toward a greener sustainable future. The resort lagoons of the Maldives host 100’s of sea landings a week and are as picture perfect as the day the resorts were built. No runways, no terminals, no reef dynamiting, no spear fishing and no oil spills. Just nature at it’s best.

So if you are looking for an island don’t waste time. The hunt is on.

Coron Island Philippines

Ariara Island Philippines

Flower Island in TayTay Bay Palawan Philippines

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The Manitoba Homesick Blues

Most people I know who live and work in the frozen north dream of retiring to a tropical country or at least hope to be able to take a long vacation down south to Florida, Mexico or Costa Rica every winter. But after working in the tropics for 35 years I miss my Manitoba where we enjoy both summer and winter. I am obviously suffering from the Manitoba Homesick Blues so I decided to post a few pictures of home.

Winter Blues

Winter ski and snowshoe trail on the Winnipeg River

The beautiful Blue Jay

The view in the summer, however, goes from blue to green.

Lac du Bonnet rainbow and reflection. It happened so fast I almost missed it.

The Winnipeg River widens out to become lake Lac du Bonnet

Sunshower and rainbow blazing in a gold glow

Storm leaving and another Manitoba rainbow

Manitoba Rainbow lighting up the lake

White crabapple blossoms in the warm morning light

Cedar Waxwing hiding in the Manitoba Maple branches

Wild plum tree blossoms

Wild plum tree blossoms

The sow-thistle

Summer Fun – Grand Beach Manitoba

And of course the best part of a Manitoba summer is the Barbecue

Sweet potato and coconut soup and garden salad

And not least is the Mrs holding it all together

Just to make this clear – I have yet to see snow this winter or any temperatures below 20 degrees C. Being in Manitoba over the winter might have changed my mind but…

I have a very boring

and lonely job.

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