July 27, 2013


A provocation from Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch JoelThere are few books I recommend to everyone. Ctrl Alt Delete is second to make the list for 2013 (the first is To Sell Is Human, by Dan Pink). This time, Mitch Joel looks at the future of work. He asks a key question: will you be employable in five years?

You may be retired in five years but what about the people you care about in your family and community? The first step to nudging them to prepare is by making them aware.

We’ve looked at ways to stay employable over the years
With Mitch’s help, we’ll look at a fresh way to get a job in today’s new world.

Mitch Joel: Ctrl Alt DeleteThe Eight Steps

These steps are from the chapter The New Way We Work (pages 171-174). Much of the interpretation is mine.
1. Understand the process
"How do I win this job from the second they see my name?"

Focusing on your initial impact gives you an edge since few think about this. Your impact comes from what you’ve done in the past, including what’s visible online (your digital tapestry). You may still go through the traditional steps of résumé to interview to second interview to job offer but you started with a different mindset.

There’s no way for an employer to tell if you’re the right hire in advance. We decide with our hearts and justify with our heads. Employers do too. First impressions matter.
2. Present better
“Learn how to sell yourself better.”

Even with technical jobs (e.g., actuary), you still deal with people. Presentation skills are key in getting a position and advancing. There’s no downside to expressing yourself better.

You can break through your speaking barrier at Toastmasters. You get practice and critiques (Disclaimer: I oversee six clubs as a volunteer).
3. Be ready before you submit a résumé
"If you really want to be working in this industry and you have a passion for it, you have the ability to express it".

You may not be in the right place at the right time, but you can be the right person. Once you are, you can knock on Opportunity’s door. Social media gives you free tools to make your progression visible.  We're judged by the company we keep (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) and our reach (connections, followers).
Wired: how to puff up your résumé 4. Don't lie
"Tell the truth and let that truth come out on your résumé, online presence and in that first interview (should it be granted)."

How sad that this item needs to be stated. Here’s what happened to 10 people who lied (Business Insider, May 2012).

If you do want to cheat, Wired is filled with tips, including how to puff up your résumé — and get away with it (though you may not get away with it since employers read Wired too).
5. Know the industry
“Express your constant education within the industry in everything from your initial note of contact to the interview.”

You'll find lots of information online for free. Pay particular attention to what isn’t being said. You won’t know what that is until you absorb what’s visible. You might get very valuable insights that set you apart.
6. Read and write
"If you don't have a passion for reading and writing, find one."

You might wonder why this item is here. While there’s no harm in reading and writing, what are the benefits? The best way to find out is by doing. You may be very surprised. Blogging is an excellent way to publish at least some of what you write.

"Warren Buffet spends the majority of his time reading."

According to his biography, The Snowball, Warren even took reading material on his honeymoon. You don’t need to go that far.
7. Be you
"You really need to spend some serious time figuring out who you are and what you represent."

This isn’t easy. When I started working with advisors in 2005, I was told I needed to chit chat about news and sports. I even took golf lessons. I soon realized that I’d rather fail for who I am than succeed by pretending to be someone else. By being me, I got better results.
8. Network
“Network to be helpful to others first.”

You'll find Mitch at numerous events from free (e.g., we first met at BookCampTO 2009) to paid events like TED. You won’t get results if you only surface when you need something. When you’re building trust with networking, you’re making an ongoing commitment to staying visible --- even if you think you’re an introvert.


Mitch divides Ctrl Alt Delete into two parts. The first is about rebooting your business, with a focus on larger organizations. We've been looking at the second part, rebooting your life. You'll get the most benefit by reading from the start.

Today, we rarely work for the same corporation from graduation to retirement (even if that was our goal). Our careers are squiggly. When you decide to be proactive within your circle of influence, you’re more resilient and have more opportunities. Times change. We must too.

Ctrl Alt What?

If I ever meet you, I'll Ctrl Alt Delete you,
— Weird Al Yankovic, It's All About The Pentiums
These days, we restart our devices by pressing the power button, unplugging the cord or removing the battery. In earlier days, Windows-based computers often stopped working. Pressing three keys at the same time — Ctrl Alt Delete — sometimes let you stop the bad program or restart your computer.

You don’t need to be a tech nerd to read or benefit from Mitch's book. If you're not convinced, read his blog, Six Pixels of Separation. You'll (likely) see that Mitch says smart things in a way we can understand. Here’s an interview with Jonathan Fields that’s well worth watching.

Now reboot.


Podcast 230

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS "It's one thing to dream big. It's another to think and do big." — Mitch

July 20, 2013


Honest Ed's at nightToronto landmark (or eyesore) Honest Ed’s is for sale. I often pass by this one-location-only discount store at Bloor/Bathurst. I haven’t been inside since I was a kid.

The 350,000 square feet of land (including the 160,000 square foot store) may fetch $100 million and get turned into more condominiums.

The Start

“Honest Ed’s … inception came at the time when merchants were notoriously unscrupulous.” --- Toronto Star today
How did Ed Mirvish start Honest Ed’s? It’s difficult to know. A common story is that he cashed in his wife Anne’s life insurance for $212. That’s $2,210 in today’s dollars (according to an inflation calculator from the Bank of Canada). Neither amount is big. Sometimes a little is enough. Maybe Ed was unable to get money from the banks and wanted to avoid loan sharks.

His father died when Ed was only 15 (the Cake Boss was 17 when he lost his dad). Neither father had life insurance. Like the Cake Boss, Ed left school and started working to support the family. Ed died in 2007 just days away from his 93rd birthday. There’s no telling how much life insurance he had.

current flyerThe Capital

It’s easy to forget that permanent life insurance provides much more than a death benefit. If you pay more than the cost of the insurance, the excess builds up in a tax-sheltered environment with whole life and universal life insurance. You might lose this accumulation if you “buy term and invest the difference” because you might buy term and spend the difference.

You can access your equity in your permanent insurance by
  • “surrendering” your policy for the cash value, as Ed did (which can have tax implications)
  • borrowing from your policy via a policy loan (Walt Disney did this (Investopedia, Dec 2011) to help raise money for Disneyland)
Lenders sometimes want life insurance as collateral for a loan. In this case, a portion of the premiums may be tax deductible. Ted Rogers used life insurance in this way.


Some purchases give you more than one benefit. Ed converted life insurance protection into cash. That’s not possible with term coverage. He turned that cash into retail income and real estate. That’s not possible by renting.

What will happen to the Honest Ed’s location? How about a Walmart or Target with condos above? You cam still shop till you drop and then take the elevator home.


Podcast 229

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Do you remember Sam The Record Man?

July 13, 2013


Dark skies but no rainWhat is with the weather these days?

A storm  dropped a record 126 mm of rain on Toronto on Monday, July 8, 2013, primarily during the evening commute. There wasn’t much advance warning.

More bad weather was forecast for Wednesday night but nothing happened.

On Thursday, Environment Canada issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch (the capitalization is theirs):
I was hosting a 7 PM meeting for the executive of six Toastmaster clubs (I’m the Area Governor). Based on the 4 PM forecasts, I cancelled the meeting. The weather didn’t cooperate. By that I mean the weather was wonderful. No storm. What happened to the 100 km/h winds and the hail pellets of 2-4 cm? The weather warning was cancelled shortly after 7 PM, which was way too late to reinstate the meeting.

Aren’t weather forecasts wonderful?

The Weather Channel

If you’re expecting rain and get sun instead, you’re probably happier than if you expected sun and got rain.
The Weather Channel has a “wet bias” at the extremes. When precipitation is unlikely, the forecast exaggerates the chance of rain. When the likelihood is moderate, the forecast is honest. When precipitation is virtually certain, the forecast rounds up from 90% to 100% more often than it should. — Dan Allan (Oct 2012) [includes links to research by the American Meteorological Society]
Did you know of these biases?

Bad Weather Is Good News

Stations like 680 News have weather reports every 10 minutes. They are quick to report on potential bad weather, which has the effect of creating anxiety and encouraging you to keep listening for more updates … after the commercials.


Skill is difficult to measure. Do you pay more attention to the scientific equipment or your uncle whose ears get hot before a storm?
Attempts to predict earthquakes have continued to envisage disasters that never happened and failed to prepare us for those, like the 2011 disaster in Japan, that did. — New York Times (Sep 2012)
Weather forecasts are meant to be accurate but are not accurate enough.

The accuracy gets worse the farther away the event. If you want to know whether it’s better to hold your picnic next Saturday vs Sunday, you won’t get much guidance. The forecast for tomorrow will be more accurate but that’s not enough time to plan a group event.


“… the 2013 ‘Report Card for America’s Infrastructure’ gave the US a D on its maintenance of dams. There are 13,991 dams in the US that are classified as high-hazard, the report said. A high-hazard dam is defined as one whose failure would cause loss of life.” — Wired (June 2013)
Since we can’t predict the weather, maybe we can prepare better?


Podcast 228

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Today looks a great day for a picnic. I’m taking my umbrella.

July 6, 2013


Mike Holmes
Tom Hanks is the most trusted American, according to Readers Digest (but he got cheated by his insurance advisor). The most trusted Canadian is Peter Mansbridge, according to Readers Digest (May 2013).

We’ll look at #2, Mike Holmes who is also ranked #3 in the world by Forbes.

Who’s Mike?

Mike is a contractor who fixes homes. He’s well-known for his physique, attire and consumer advocacy.
In 2006, Holmes started The Holmes Foundation after seeing a renovation that was so poorly done that he felt it was necessary for him to tear the house down and start again rather than try to repair the damage. The purpose of The Holmes Foundation is to encourage young people to enter the building trades as well as to assist those who have been impoverished by bad renovations. — Wikipedia
How bad is bad? Mike estimates that only 20% of people in his field are good guys. Based on our personal experiences, he’s being generous.


Because of his TV shows, Mike gets more requests for help than he can handle.
“The hardest thing I’ve had to experience since all this started is reading all of these stories.” — Mike Holmes (Macleans, Dec 2010)
He no longer visits homes between shooting to give free advice.
“These people are in desperate trouble. They are in financial trouble. And that hurts because I can’t help.” — Mike Holmes (Macleans, Dec 2010)
While Mike can’t fix everything, he is increasing awareness of what goes wrong. That’s valuable.

imageMike’s Prescription

Mike wants us to
  1. Get educated
    (e.g. his videos, articles, blog)
  2. Get an independent inspection
    (e.g., his Mike Holmes Inspections)
  3. Get things fixed
    (e.g., as shown in Holmes on Homes)
This same prescription works elsewhere too.

The Financial World

You can get educated online for free from sources like blogs. You can buy books, attend seminars and watch webinars. You’ll learn to be wary of what’s hidden and left out. When you buy on price, you may get less than you paid for.

While you may know the basics, when you get an independent inspection from a fee-only advisor you make sure. There’s value in getting independent advice when you buy and in later years but few bother.
Just because the home is new does not mean that everything is in perfect working condition. The home could have been built incorrectly, which can cause things to fail within a short span of time. Problems are less severe when they are caught early. An inspection is always recommended before purchasing a home (old or new). — Home inspections FAQ
Should problems arise, you need repairs or renovations to get things fixed by an advisor you trust.
It is recommended that you obtain at least three cost estimates from qualified contractors before finalizing budgets for any work.
Home inspections FAQ
We need more like Mike.


Podcast 227

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Recently, I was called the Mike Holmes of the insurance world. I better hit the gym and get the overalls.