101 Days, 101 Strangers, 101 Stories: Day 10

Today was an interesting day at work. Halfway through the day I had to go downtown to pick up blender bikes — bicycles that have pedal-powered blenders attached to them. (Each day at the Games, we host a sustainability engagement piece. Tomorrow, our theme is transportation, so we thought the bikes would be fun).

I was told I would meet someone who would drive down and pick up the bikes with me. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this person. Who were they? What would they be like? Driving with anyone, let alone someone you don’t know, can be a strange experience. Sometimes there are awkward silences, other times there’s empty small talk and cued laughter, and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, top 40 on full blast with out of tune accompaniments that are so awful that they are actually entertaining. If you’re driving with Sveto, you’re in for a different kind of ride — one that’s filled with thought-provoking conversation and wisdom. I was happy that he was willing to be my stranger of the day, and I’m excited to share his insights with you!

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He and I drove down there together (i.e. he drove and I provided an impeccably failed attempt at giving directions).

He works at Work Safe BC, promoting the well-being of workers across our province. The kind of care for people which he promotes is, he suggested, very similar to promoting care for the planet. “They’re two sides of the same coin”, he said. Under current business models, the well-being of perhaps the two most crucial pillars (people and the planet) is not well accounted for. It can be costly. And a profit-maximizing business world is easily disinterested by the thought of spending money on things that don’t directly yield more profit. Hmm.

As we drove past a sun-kissed, rickety hotel on Main Street, Sveto told me about how it’s one of his favourite buildings to take photos of. He identifies as an amateur photographer, enthralled by the thrill of visualizing scenes in different ways. We drove further. “Look at that building”, he said, pointing near the Vancouver Sun/the Province tower (which has, for the record, always reminded me of a giant waffle). He lifted both his thumbs and index fingers, making a square, photo-frame-like shape in the air. “Now look at it this way”, he said, squinting through the frame he created. “It’s completely different now”.

Sveto studied law but then realized that he needed to be more literate in the language of mathematics. He went back and studied statistics and is really glad that he did. He stressed the importance of understanding how numbers work. When you don’t understand the mathematical side of things, he explained, it’s almost impossible to deeply understand the full picture. From event management to economics to even daily tasks, understanding math provides you with a clear new lens. If your lens is blurry, it’s well worth the effort to refine your focus.

He told me about a renowned event planner in Vancouver, who’s a sharp thinker and strategist. In an interview, she was asked about her one regret regarding what she would have done differently if she could have. Sveto told me that she wished she had taken the time to understand math better.

Sveto doesn’t believe in beliefs. He believes (?) that beliefs are just internal biases. When we let go of our beliefs, he explained, we are able to absorb information and reconstruct it with an open mind. If you’re willing to let go of what you believe in, you can open doors to untapped knowledge.

Lastly, he gave what I thought was some pretty great advice. He said that the young generation needs to have conversations with the baby boomers. “We lived good lives”, he said. But they screwed some things up and have some wisdom to share about what went wrong and how to fix it. We need to work together, collaboratively, across generations, if we’re going to make the big changes we need to make in our communities.


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