November 23, 2014


old classroom I’ve got a newfound respect for educators after guiding 30 lively Grade 8 students through the Junior Achievement Economics for Success program with Dana Mitchell for Advocis during Financial Literacy Month. Thanks to teacher Maureen Deeney and Principal Julie Aube at Christ The King Catholic School for the opportunity.

Here is career advice for students to consider.

Look For What’s Missing

Spotting what’s missing is more valuable than seeing what’s there. What’s missing leads to opportunities. Searching hones your detective skills and helps you stay curious. You get better at spotting distractions and identifying the real clues. You’re not looking for Waldo. You’re looking for where Waldo isn’t --- and wondering why.

Observe the challenges other people face and look for solutions.

Do they have trouble with deadlines? Learn to meet them. Do they start studying too late? Start earlier. Do they forget assignments? Find a system that works for you. You’re then building skills which are scarce and hence valuable.

Develop The Habit Of Saving

Saving means putting something aside now to have more later. Money is an example but not the only one. What about
  • saving time: you can do some things more efficiently (which may mean investing time in developing a process) and stop doing some things which don’t need to be done (note: leaving your room untidy may not be an acceptable idea).
  • saving health: we have only one body for life. Exercising, eating well and sleeping enough build resilience and help preserve what may be your most valuable asset.
  • saving attention: with all the demands and distractions around us, we’re tempted to multitask and prioritize. Both are exhausting. Cutting out stimuli simplifies life. Maybe you’re too knowledgeable about happenings in sports and music. Entertainment is important but maybe less would do? (extreme example: years ago, I stopped watching TV, listening to the radio and reading the newspaper.)

Be Generous

We can each help others for free. We can give of ourselves, our time, our attention, our caring. You’re then making the world better in your own unique way. You’re also changing yourself. You’re thinking in terms of abundance (giving) rather than scarcity (hoarding).

You’re helping change the world since some of the people you help will follow your leadership and help others too.

Develop Portable Skills

You’re unlikely to stay in the same role forever. You’ll likely advance in your career and might even change careers. The cause might be opportunity or necessity. Either way, you’re better prepared if you keep developing your skills.

A portable skill stays with you and helps regardless of what you do.

For instance, communication is essential. Are you improving your ability to read, write and speak? Are you mastering new media? For instance, you write differently for school assignments, blogs and tweets.  Other portable skills include managing your time, getting along with others and finding problems to solve. How can you lose by getting better?

Build Your Network

Success requires willing support from the people you know and — more important — the people they know.

You already have a network. How well do you plant seeds, nurture and prune? Consistent generosity gets noticed and can be free (e.g. the gift of information). Most people feel obligated to give back. Reciprocity is the #1 universal principle of influence.

If you’re in Grade 8 now, you’ve lived your entire life with the Internet. Connecting, sharing and staying in touch is easier than ever via social networks. In-person contact still matters, though.

Market Yourself

You can’t expect the world  notice your brilliance without your help. You need to stand out (or at least be good). You need to be remembered. You need to be findable. The Internet makes this easier for those who bother.


The path to the future includes drudgery. Persist. To quote Zig Ziglar:
When you do the things you ought to do,
When you ought to do them,
The day will come,
When you can do the things want to do,
When you want to do them.
Best wishes for a wonderful future.


PS Please leave the world better than you found it.

November 16, 2014


image You won’t find the type of warnings on alcohol or tobacco applied to
The onus is on us to learn, evaluate and decide. Attempts at consumer protection (e.g., banning sugary drinks in school vending machines or capping credit card interest rates at prime+5%) get challenged. How dare we lose our freedom to harm ourselves!

Which Side?

Sellers claim to be on our side, but are they really? We’re encouraged to
  • drink responsibly (but still drink)
  • follow the rules of the road (but buy vehicles which break them in  commercials)
  • eat a healthy breakfast (but include Nutella)
Since shareholders have different interests than buyers — and rightly so — don’t count on voluntary transitions to better guarantees, more transparency and lower prices. Look at MasterCard/Visa credit card transaction fees in Canada, which are among the world’s highest. They’ve increased 25% in the last two years. Now MasterCard/Visa will make voluntary reductions of about 10%, leading to a typical charge of 1.5%. This is considered a victory, but for whom?

Money Madness

The financial sector promotes financial literacy … but profits from our ignorance, inertia and limited choices. That’s not as effective as improving the products. We could be prevented from paying heavily on unpaid credit card balances if interest rates were lower. We could avoid the pitfalls of mortgage life insurance if poor products were not sold.

Until we live in perfect world, beware.
An Example
We were looking for a video tripod strong enough to support a camera, 15mm rod system, teleprompter and an iPad. The advisor at a well-known specialty store recommended tripods costing $750 or more! When I asked for a cheaper option. I was shown a $350 tripod with weak legs and a poor head. Then another $750 tripod.

Because I did my research, I knew that getting photography legs and a video head separately would be better and cheaper. The advisor — an expert — could have suggested this  but maybe she got sales commissions or thought conventionally.

A Strategy

Protect yourself with education. You can often learn the basics online from objective sources. That helps you ask the right questions and spot the wrong answers. You might find better solutions than those presented to you.


PS Mind the fine print!