February 28, 2010


To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.
--- Benjamin Franklin

Riscario Insider is already three years old. The opportunity to write has resulted in this, the 156th post. That's about one per week. Hard to believe.

When you start, you don't know where blogging will take you or if you'll stick with it. I certainly didn't. I started as an experiment and then kept going. Habits form and so do reader expectations. This virtuous circle helps keep you going. You transform from a sprinter to a long distance runner.

Will you run out of ideas? Probably not. If you're passionate about your topic, writing de-clutters your mind and makes room for fresh thoughts. Just today, I jotted down how to pick a mentor and how to spot tricks that sales people use. Maybe those kernels will become blog posts.

It's easy to keep going if you love your topic and care about your audience. You'll then find the time and motivation to write. You'll find the right frequency for you. For me, it's once a week.

Whoever says it doesn't matter if you win or lose, lost.
--- Unknown
There are different ways to measure success. In the beginning I thought I'd make a fortune from ads. I soon realized that a niche blog won't draw enough traffic to generate much revenue. So I went commercial-free. After all, you already pay generously with such valuable currency: your priceless attention.

I restarted ads a few months ago to help cover the costs of my online activities. Did you notice? The revenue may not warrant the aggravation to visitors. I'm not a fan of affiliate links either because they can taint your credibility. QRS is an amazing product. Click here to buy.

Your success in blogging comes in three intangible ways
  1. generosity improves you: you become a better person when you're helping others
  2. you learn: you look for clear, concise and memorable to communicate your messages
  3. honing your skills: how can you lose by learning to write better?

What's New
I started podcasting on January 11, 2009 for the convenience of visitors who'd rather listen than read. You'll see the podcast embedded at the bottom of each post and all episodes on the Internet Archive. I also started using Twitter on February 19, 2009 (@riscario). There's usually a tweet or two a day.

The content continues to shift towards the wealthy. I wanted to write about risks facing average people (e.g., stagnant family incomes was the second post) but can't because I work primarily with the wealthy. Why write about what you don't know about? The insincerity would show. This blog is fact not fiction. Since writing about financial risks would bore readers (and me), there are detours. Some of the most read posts are technically off-topic.

I keep getting asked whether I'm planning to write a book. There's certainly enough content that could be organized and expanded. A paper book is quite unlikely. I might prepare short free ebooks on selected topics.

I wish there were more reader comments. I know there are readers but for reasons I can't figure out, you aren't enticed to share your thoughts. That means there is no dialogue.

What's Coming
Riscario Insider is continuing as before. I'm planning to introduce more video for those of you who would rather watch than read or listen. Video would not be part of each post would be used to augment selected content. My goal is not to be on camera but to narrate PowerPoint slides. Video is the toughest medium for me because I don't have experience in editing but can learn the basics.

Bloggers really should have a series of posts written in advance. I have dozens of drafts on paper but they're not ready to publish. The consequence is that I generally write the post the day you see it. That allows the inclusion of latebreaking events but creates unnecessary time pressure. During my December sabbatical in India, posts were pre-written and published at scheduled times. This felt good.

Thanks for reading or listening.

PS What changes would you like to see? Your suggestions are always welcome.

Podcast Episode 56 (5:48)

Direct download | Internet Archive page

February 21, 2010


These days you can go to camp even if you're not outdoorsy. That's great during a Canadian winter in February.

These camps help you learn, generally for free. No sales pitches. Here's how they work. Volunteers arrange the event. Sponsors donate space, refreshments and probably money. The speakers donate their time. In an unconference, if you don't like something you change it. If you want a session that isn't listed, add it. This democracy does not lead to anarchy. You feel like a part of the event rather than a mere attendee. I've helped put chairs and tables back in place at the end of the day.

Let's compare three camps
  • BookCampTO 2009
  • PodCampTO 2010
  • Personal Brand Camp 2 (2010)
These were all held in downtown Toronto.

BookCampTO 2009 [June 6, 2009 | University of Toronto]
This was my first unconference and I didn't know what to expect. The attendees seemed to be insiders in the book publishing world. This almost felt like an industry event. Maybe that's why this event was well-funded and even included a free lunch. The only cost was parking. This was where I first met social media rockstar Mitch Joel.

PodCampTO 2010 [Feb 20-21, 2010 | Ryerson University]
The sessions my son and I attended were run by passionate hobbyists. They focused on doing things cheaply. Example: don't spend $50 on a headset microphone because $20 will do. They were proud to be noncommercial.

The attendees were diverse and included many students. Few had their own podcasts, despite the ease of getting started. That's not a surprise. What's strange is how few listen to podcasts. Yet they still attended and very few left a session before the end.

Personal Brand Camp 2 [Feb 23, 2010 | Berkeley Heritage Event Venue]
This event is different because it's not open to the public. It's for students of the Humber College public relations program. I volunteered as mentor. The day ends with Third Tuesday where Mitch Joel talks about Your Personal Brand (sorry, all tickets gone).

Attendees here are goal-oriented. They want good grades and great jobs.

If you've never attended or volunteered at a camp, you're missing a wonderful opportunity. There may be events for other topics too. If not, you can organize your own. Please don't hold it where the bugs bite.

February 14, 2010


Hello? Operator?
Give me the number for 911!
--- Homer Simpson

I made my first 911 call last Saturday at 3AM for an ambulance. The process was underwhelming, which is good.

There's some virus going around. It's not H1N1. My son Jeevan's symptoms started Wednesday night: nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. Thursday morning, my wife, Sharmila, went to get electrolyte. We knew this helped after getting hospitalized for food poisoning while we visiting the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky years earlier. That's another tale.

The drug store was filled with cosmetics and junk food but only had one bottle of electrolyte (children's apple-flavoured pedialyte). It helped. That evening I went to a 24-hour super-mega drugstore. They were out of liquid electrolyte!?! I got powder (eight individual packets), which was probably better.

On Friday, Jeevan was recovering. On Saturday, he was fine but Sharmila was tired. She rested most of the day but got worse. Around 3AM, she asked to go to the hospital with similar --- but more extreme --- symptoms.

I woke up Jeevan so he could get ready. I then called 911 for the first time. The operator instantly answered and asked if the call was for fire, police or an ambulance (maybe not in that order). I said an ambulance. She asked for the address and reason for the call. She asked probing questions and dispatched an ambulance. She reminded me to turn on the outside lights and unlock the door. Good tips.

I helped Sharmila get ready.

The Ambulance
Within minutes, the ambulance arrived with lights blazing but no siren. The two attendants setup the stretcher outside our door before entering. By now Sharmila was sitting on a chair in the living room. One attendant asked questions while the other administered tests. They determined that a hospital visit was warranted.

During this, firefighters arrived. The ambulance attendants sent them away since they weren't needed.

There are three hospitals near us but we couldn't automatically go to the closest because the condition was not life-threatening. Due to bad mobile reception, the Tester went outside to phone and soon found a hospital.

Jeevan and I followed in our car. Like the ambulance, we zipped through traffic at highway-like speeds but obeyed traffic lights. There was very little traffic at 3:30AM, which helped.

The Hospital
The hospital admission was quick (especially compared to airport security) because the ambulance attendants supplied most of the information. This is a big advantage over arriving on your own. Sharmila was put into a wheelchair and taken to a nearly deserted waiting room. Well-named. We waited nearly three hours. Diagnosis took a few minutes and then Sharmila was discharged with a prescription. She appeared to have the Norwalk virus, which might even strike the Winter Olympics. The hospital has been getting about 15 cases a night.

The Super-Mega Drugstore
The 24-hour drug store only had six tablets of pills that cost $21.97 each (plus a $11.99 dispensing fee). We needed 10, which meant a return visit. Instead of pricey medicinal electrolyte, the hospital recommended a sports drink like Gatorade. The cash register kept ringing in the wrong price and required a manager's override. Annoying at the best of times.

We got home around 7:30 AM. I'd been up since 7:00 AM the previous morning, a personal record I'm not eager to beat.

The Lessons
Health care has been labeled the biggest financial fear in Canada and perhaps in the United States and other countries. Napoleon Hill found ill health ranks #3 on the basic fears in 1937.

Given those concerns, the whole emergency process was reassuring
  • instant connection to 911
  • ambulance and firefighters arrived within minutes
  • quick admission into the hospital
The hours waiting in the hospital were a drag but what can you do when doctors judge that others need treatment more urgently than you? The two drugstores were the big disappointment because they lacked adequate stock of medical basics.

Movies show hustle and bustle in emergencies. Real life was calm and orderly, which is better.


Podcast Episode 54 (5:32)

PS We received a $45 bill for the ambulance and paid $15 for parking.

February 6, 2010


How you spend your money reveals your values.

You may make small purchases without noticing how they quickly add up. That's the concept of the latte factor which was recently discussed on other blogs in Rethinking the Latte Factor (on Million Dollar Journey) and When the Latte Factor doesn't work (on Thicken My Wallet).

You probably notice your larger expenditures when you receive your credit card statement. Think back to your latest sizable purchase. Let's say costing $500 or more. Pick something smaller than a condo or house. What was it?

Here are some ideas.
  • a bike
  • a boat
  • a car
  • cookware
  • clothing
  • a computer
  • an exercise machine
  • golf clubs
  • a gym membership
  • an HDTV
  • a home renovation
  • jewelry
  • a pet
  • a purse
  • a smartphone
  • software
  • a stove top
  • tuition
  • a washing machine
  • a wrist watch
  • a vacation
Relax. This blog post won't ask why you buy or suggest you save the money instead. Maybe you're saving on lattes to buy something big. That's fine. We're looking the how, not the why.

Your Decision Process
When you made your $500 purchase, how did you decide what to get?
  • the brand
  • the design (elegance or functionality)
  • the features (as few as needed or as many as possible)
  • the price (low, medium or high)
  • recommendations from others
  • the retailer
  • the return policy
  • the warranty
How much time did you spend deciding? Did you buy on impulse or research extensively? Was your research online or in store?

Many Factors
Many factors affect our decisions. Most aren't logical because we aren't ... even if we pretend we are. What does how you bought say about you and how you can be influenced?


Podcast Episode 53 (2:57)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS The way we decide varies. You might buy electronics online and clothing in store. We might migrate from name brands to generic. Or vice versa.