Personal growth is something I am constantly struggling with and then there are instances when I see someone else I know grow, that ignites something inside me and I suddenly can overcome my own complacency.
As some of you know I attribute many of my successes to the experiences and opportunities I gained from being a member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets – specifically with 699 Jasper Place Squadron in Edmonton, Ab. From air cadets I learned lifelong skills such as leadership, fellowship, respect, compassion and perseverance. Not to mention amazing ninja skills as an athlete or survivalist or sharp shooting.
All of these skills didn’t just come about willy nilly, but rather from someone who had learned these attributes and skills from those before them. Many (apparently) know him today as a great composer, filmmaker, artist, and many other things. However, I was ignorant of most of that until last year when I heard that Canada’s new “Hockey Theme” song was composed by Darren. Yes, that’s Sgt. Fung.
Today I will share with you my memories of Darren Fung as a mentor. Like many of us, we find ourselves thinking about people in our past that helped curve our minds and our passions. We think back to forks in our roads, where individuals guided us towards a road better than the alternative. Sgt. Fung was one of these leaders for me.
He taught me – through one of the most powerful mantras I still use every day – to “lead by example.” Through his example I learned confidence and grace. Sgt.Fung was my senior by a few years and was often teased about his lisp by other seniors in his age and ranking. Looking back I see that there were many ways in which he could have responded. There are certain things in life about a person you just don’t tease. Weight, moles, scars, basically anything that society deems as “different,” or “out of the ordinary.” And those with lesser grace would never have had the confidence to simply laugh it off and work the banter in his favour. Through these actions, I learned grace and confidence. I learned to not let the teasing get to me (as much) and how to turn it into a positive. Especially since one of the people that often ridiculed Sgt. Fung was someone that also caused me much strife growing up.
A couple other things he taught me was achievement through discipline. Sgt. Fung had a fun soft side whenever we were on breaks or in “civvies” (civilian clothes), and when it came down to business it was time to be a Sgt. Not in a bad way though. I think because he was able to show the younger ranks that you can still be fun during breaks and off time, and then be serious and precise during instruction, it showed me that there was a balance the could be had and therefore resulted in my increased respect for him. Versus the other seniors that would be yelling and power tripping on breaks, off break, and everywhere.
Sgt. Fung was actually one of my drill instructors. Drill is marching. And often misconceived as something drone like and without reason. Drill to me is art. Learning drill was one of my favourite periods. It challenges your mind to hold positions for a long time and then at a moments notice change your direction, step and pace. It is a form of meditation. I can see now how being an excellent Drill instructor has translated into being an award winning Canadian film composer. Commanding a flight of multiple cadets is no easy task. We must all first be stepping in time, on the correct foot and of perfect spacing from one cadet to another. As a commander you need to be able to know how to separate the ranks and to give commands at the correct time so your flight isn’t thrown off. It is precision. And now Darren Fung does something similar – in terms of directing a mass of talented humans using timing and precision- only now, he uses a stick. A conductor’s baton, to be precise.
This is Drill. Video of the 2013 Gold Medal Precision Drill Team.
What I have learned from this, is that success is based on choices that we make, towards the people that are around us. Success is also based on how we react to things when they are put upon us. Do we lash back when we should laugh back? Do we step out when we should hold still and wait for the command?
In closing, about a week ago I heard Darren’s name on CKUA. He’s coming to Edmonton to conduct the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. I am once again inspired by those in my life, because Darren Fung will now be returning to home town Edmonton, to conduct at the Winspear Centre for the compelling tale of The Great Human Odyssey . So if you can, come out and support his art and see the greatness that has inspired a part of who I am today.