Saturday, November 19, 2011


"To laugh often and much;

to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

to appreciate beauty;

to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (US essayist & poet, 1803-1882)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Return to Love

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Source: A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
(as quoted by Nelson Mandela in his inaugural address, 1994)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Happy People Are Givers

Excerpt: The Law of Happiness: How Spiritual Wisdom and Modern Science Can Change Your Life, by Dr. Henry Cloud (Howard Books, 2011)

When my older daughter, Olivia, was about three or four, she attended a half-day preschool a few days a week. She loved it and was making lots of friends. One day, before I took her, for some reason we got into a conversation about sharing. We talked about how you can share all sorts of things with others, from love to helping someone, to sharing cookies and toys. I suggested that when she was at school that day, she find someone and share something with her. I thought it was one of those normal on-the-run father-daughter talks. I didn't think much about it.

Later, though, something happened that I will never forget. I picked her up from preschool, and as we were walking around the neighborhood, she began to tell me about her day. I asked her about all her activities, and she told me they had made some cookies and how much she loved them. Then she told me she saw that one of the kids didn't have any, for some reason, so she walked over and gave some of her cookies to him. I thought that was nice but not earth shattering. She had shared things before. What she said next, however, was.

"Daddy, something happened. I don't know what it is," she said as she gave me a serious look.

"What, Livi? What happened," I asked.

"Well, when I gave Brandon the cookies, I felt something in here. Right here." She immediately pointed to her little chest. "It felt really warm in here. What was that?" she asked.

When I heard that, I actually felt like I was going to break apart in tears, but I managed to hold them back. "That was love, Livi. That is what you feel inside when you give things to people. It makes you fell nice and warm inside."

"It feels really good," she said. "I want to do that some more. I like it."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Speaking Makes Me Sexy

On any given night of partying, Wang Yip stands only a one in 30,000 chance of meeting his future wife. Last week Wang delivered a deceptively clever surprise-ending speech, allegedly about how we can use math to predict the probability of extraterrestrial life, but of course, it was really about why Wang is still single.

Hey, I’m single too! And I think I may have figured out how we can improve our odds.

Speaking makes me sexy!

Let me demonstrate. When we sit in the dark recesses of a room, unknown and unnoticed, we are one of 30,000, but when we stand centre stage, we are one in 30,000. Whether speaking at a church of 1,000 members or traveling the nation as a sales trainer, I’ve found that there’s something strangely seductive about the familiarity an audience feels toward someone in the spotlight.

No one needs to know that you may have spent 20 hours preparing to speak for only 20 minutes. The plain truth is that, when we present our best self, we are more attractive.

[This message, of course, wasn’t really about me being sexy. It was an attempt to help my fellow Toastmasters identify what they get out of participation in the club, and what they’re prepared to give in return. What follows is a rough version of the rest of that speech.]

Here are my top three reasons for attending Toastmasters:
  1. I genuinely love the people in the room. Many are already good friends; others are well on the way. I look forward to this family of friends every Thursday morning.
  2. God created me to communicate. The Dead Sea is not dead because there’s nothing flowing into it; it’s dead because there is nothing flowing out of it. A part of me would die if I didn’t get this opportunity to speak.
  3. I crave the comments of others. Where else can we count on constructive criticism each time we make a presentation? 
There are many good reasons for being involved in a Toastmasters group. That’s what we get, but what do we give?

Here’s what I give:
  1. When people ask for help I try always to give it. If a fellow Toastmaster has a role that needs to be filled, I’m quick to say yes.
  2. It would be a very rare occasion that I don’t make an effort to provide helpful feedback to featured speakers.
  3. I stepped up to serve on the Executive Committee this past year. 
What do you give when you’re part of a group? I’d rather hear honesty than apathy. If you’re completely burned out and have nothing left to give, say so. If you think there’s an ounce of energy left; that you might consider allowing your name to stand for an Executive Committee role, then have the courage to say so.

It’s been said that if you can’t speak, you can’t lead. But the corollary – that just because you can speak, you can lead – isn’t necessarily true. That’s why Toastmasters provides two tracks: The Competent Communicator; and the Competent Leader.

The Executive Committee is your opportunity to both give and get. I would love to serve alongside both keen new leaders-in-training and no-nonsense veteran leaders.

So why are you here? We want to hear from you. You are under no obligation to return the form in front of you. But I would be truly honoured if you would hand it to me as you are leaving today. I understand we’re busy, and I won’t judge if you just can’t see yourself stepping up right now. But I would be truly grateful if you would at least consider engaging at a more meaningful level.

Why are you here?

Are you interested in truly gaining full benefit from the Toastmaster experience… or is it just because you think speaking makes me sexy?

Sunday, January 16, 2011


In the past few days I've had the distinct privilege of walking with a friend as he struggled to complete an MBA assignment. Duane (not his real name) is a highly skilled professional in his field (healthcare) and has courageously taken on the challenge of furthering his education, mid-career.

When Duane found himself stuck on one particular question of an assignment, he did what all intelligent business people do: he called for help. As I listened to Duane's struggle to line up his learning with the case study in front of him, I recalled my own experience as an MBA student. I, too, leaned on the wisdom and experience of others who helped me get through. Cliff (his real name), an accountant, and Michelle (her real name too), an economist, walked with me for two full years. Their support was invaluable.

Nearly fifteen years later, I realize that what seemed so daunting back then, is now really quite obvious. A little education and a lot of experience will do that.

Duane will be just fine. When the classes are finally over and the exams are all written, the case studies will fade back into real life, and eventually, what once seemed so strange will suddenly seem obvious. That's the difference between learning and knowing.

And I will proudly watch as Duane magically mixes old learning with new to create something quite spectacular. And Duane will one day walk with someone else as they struggle through something strange - and he will know!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


We are reminded today of the brave men and women who have fought to protect our freedom. With poppies, moments of silence, and media coverage of public events honouring our heroes, today is a day for remembering. I find myself reminded today, also, of the man who taught me to remember.

Mr. Wayne Belanger was my high school principal. I recall the annual Remembrance Day Assemblies he led. As a young adult, I was mostly concerned about present day events and all things that revolved around me. I confess that I sometimes found these assemblies long and tedious and, while I understood from my history classes what he was talking about, I never full grasped the relevance.

It wasn't until years later, as I sat in a movie theatre witnessing the opening sequences of "Saving Private Ryan" that I realized what Mr. Belanger was talking about. These kids, who were only slightly older than us, were going to war, and suffering so that we could live in freedom.

So today, Mr. Belanger, I honour you, and others like you, for taking seriously your role as mentors to younger generations. And I take a moment of silence to remember those who have fought, and those who continue to fight - and sometimes fall - for freedom.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Find a Genius

Business has been great this year. So great, indeed, that I discovered I was in desperate need of a little help.

About a month ago I ran an advertisement seeking an Administrative Genius. I was immediately impressed by both the quantity and quality of the applicants. In less than 48 hours I heard from 40 people. One person wrote such a compelling cover letter that I had to call her right away. Six others also delivered exceptional cover letters and targeted resumes. I identified an additional four as "maybe's" for a possible second round of interviews. Five others I offered to refer to people in my network who were also seeking assistance. And twenty-four did not present well enough to merit further action.

There may have been some gems in those 24, but they never made it past the first cut. In case anyone is interested, here's how I narrowed the field:

  • Anyone who responded in less than 7 seconds (I'm exaggerating only slightly) did not hear from me. How could they possibly have diligently researched me, my company, and the position offered in such a short period of time?
  • Grammar, spelling, and formatting errors don't cut it - especially when the specific purpose of the position is to make an employer look good! One person told me they were "consciencious". (If you think about it a bit, it may have been a good idea to spell-check that word!)
  • I included a simple test in the offering: "Apply to with subject line: "Administrative Genius"". Missing this seemingly minor point is a good way to have your resume end up in the wrong file and demonstrates a lack of attention to detail or inability to follow simple instructions. (And, in my mind at least, a "Genuis" is significantly different than a "Genius".)
  • Templated Cover letters and non-specific resumes don't get far either. They sort of imply a lack of self-esteem.
  • Applicants get no extra points for cover letters or resumes that open with "What I want is... blah, blah, blah". No employer on earth cares about what you want until they have at least a faint idea that you might be suitable for what they want. If the employer is paying for the ad and your salary, try starting with helping them solve their problem. If you're successful, they will be more than delighted to give you what you want.
  • Finally, and somewhat curiously, not one applicant used any tool beyond a cover letter and resume to attract attention. For example, part of the posted job description listed management of Social Media. Doesn't anyone have a Facebook or Twitter account they'd want me to see?
I did have the pleasure of interviewing half a dozen very impressive individuals. For the most part, these people made flawless presentations, and were secure enough to take some chances by revealing a personality, rather than false professionalism.

Generally, I learned that one of the main attractors about my ad was that I described the position as one that would allow work from home and in the field, as well as flexible hours. In some cases, the candidate discovered through the interview process that there are trade-offs to this kind of freedom, and that perhaps they really were more suited to a little more structure.

Admittedly, I wasn't entirely certain of what I hoped to find. It is very difficult to describe an ideal position, and then seek to find the perfect person to fit that ideal. It is far more reasonable to find a good person and craft a position around them.

To all forty people who honoured me by responding to my advertisement: Thank-you! It takes great courage to put yourself out there. I know that there are many amongst you I would love to have met. I hope the comments above may in some small way help in your search. To those I met: a special thank-you. My inability to offer you a position at this time reflects more on my needs than your qualifications.

For my part, there is a happy ending. For the past eight months, I've had breakfast almost every Thursday morning with a group of people I've come to know and respect. A chance conversation with one of these people revealed an astonishingly good fit. On Monday, I met with my friend Blaine to begin planning how we could work together. I may introduce him more fully in a future post.

And that is how you find a Genius - look long and hard, but don't forget to look right in front of your nose!