Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Flu Season - How to Sub for an Absent Employee

Flu Season - How to Sub for an Absent Employee

Posted by martin.parnell |

I’m a great fan of the England Premier League Soccer team Arsenal, and it’s frustrating if a good player from the team is sick or injured. Fortunately, the manager, Arsene Wenger, is fully aware of what skills are needed in a substitute. That player may not have the same level of skill, but is trained well enough to get the job done and help the team. 

During the past week, I have noticed a number of signs popping up, in various locations, informing people where they can go to get their flu shot. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my step-son, Calum around this time last year, in which he was telling me that his work load had increased considerably due to colleagues being absent with the flu. His bosses felt it wasn’t worth getting temporary cover as, by the time they had learned the intricacies of a particular job, the employee would probably have recovered. 

I’m sure this is an issue for many businesses, at any time of year. If you have an employee that needs time to deal with health or other personal issues, how do you cope in the meantime? You may just hire a temporary worker, but this isn’t always viable. It may be that the absence is only for a day or two, but even that can cause some disruption or mean that someone else has to cover the workload. 

Basically, it’s a matter of prioritizing. In order to do that, you need to be aware of what aspects of their job your employees deem most important. It may not be what you think. 

So, I have a suggestion that might help in preparation for when this situation may arise. Ask each of you employees to spend ten minutes thinking about their typical day and jot down: 

  1. What is the first thing they do? 
  1. What other tasks need to be done every day and in what order do they do them? 
  1. Do they have any tips – things that they do that make certain tasks quicker or easier? 
  1. What areas of their work will affect their colleagues, if it isn’t done? 
  1. Are there tasks that are non-essential, but they do them because they have a little extra time? 

Doing this will help whoever has to cover to know what tasks are essential and which, if not done, will affect the smooth running of your organisation. These brief notes can then be filed away until they are needed. 

You may not have a bench full of subs to draw on, but at least, if you know what particular skills are needed and tasks to be completed, it makes being a manager a whole lot easier for you and your other players.

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The most fruitful and natural exercise for our minds is, in my opinion, conversation.

Michel de Montaigne, The Essays: A Selection
Talk not Tech - Remember how to enjoy the Conversation.

Talk not Tech - Remember how to enjoy the Conversation.

Posted by martin.parnell |

In her book The Art of Conversation: Or, What to say and When, Catherine Blyth tells us that “Every day we use our mobiles and computers to communicate, but ironically we are losing touch with face-to-face talk”. She reveals the endless possibilities of conversation and shows that when it works it can come close to heaven.

And, to a certain extent, I have to agree.

Every week my wife and I communicate with our three adult children and have great conversations with each of them, albeit on very different topics. Kyle is into sport and he can chat at length about the Calgary Flames, The Blue Jays, Stampeders, Oilers, The British Barclay’s Premier League, Formula One, the list goes on. He can weigh the losses and gains of everything from transfer deals to draft picks.

Calum lives in London, England and keeps us up to date with all that’s going on in the UK, from politics, Art exhibitions, new places to visit, in fact all that’s relevant to living there. This is great for us as we like to know what’s happening “back home”. He is also an avid reader and movie-goer and will give us great recommendations on good books to read and movies to watch.

Kristina, our youngest, is married with three children (the sons are lagging behind a bit in that department, but we live in hope). She is married to someone who works in mining and they live in Ontario. Having worked in that Province myself, as a mining engineer, I’m always interested to hear what’s going on in the industry and about life in general back there. She works and runs a busy household and so always has something to chat about, especially concerning our grandkids.

At home, Sue and I enjoy nothing more than sitting quietly, coffees at hand, poring over the newspaper or listening to something of interest on CBC Radio 1. As well as our regular weekday favourites like The Current, Alberta at Noon and Ideas, having more time at the weekends, we try and make a point of catching Daybreak Alberta, Quirks and Quarks, the Sunday Edition, The House and Writers and Company. Interestingly all of these programs tend to focus around conversations with guests or experts in a particular field. They all provide stimulating content for us to enjoy further conversations on a wide range of topics. Fortunately, for me, my wife is also a great fan of “the beautiful game’ i.e. soccer, and can hold her own when it comes to discussing that particular subject.

With my business, I’m lucky to be able to meet and engage in conversation with people who will often share my passions and goals. But, I also find it just as enjoyable when I meet someone who has an alternative take on things or whose life has taken a completely different path to mine. I love the diversity of topics which one can cover when meeting someone for the first time.

Sometimes it can take some effort to strike up a conversation, particularly when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation or with people you don’t know. But, going on my own experience, it’s always worth that effort. Everyone has their own story, interests, expertise and it’s surprising what you can learn from just having that conversation. So, let’s put the devices down once in a while and let’s talk!

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Out of clutter, find simplicity

Albert Einstein
5 Ways to Improve when Writing for Business

5 Ways to Improve when Writing for Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

In late July, I was honoured to be asked by Jeri Maitland, Executive Director of the Cochrane Public Library, to be the library’s 2016 / 2017 Writer in Residence. To date my writing credentials include, my first book, the award winning MARATHON QUEST, my soon to be released second book RUNNING TO THE EDGE, both published by Rocky Mountain Books and having articles published in the Huffington Post, IMPACT magazine, Inspire Me Well by Lisa Belanger and numerous local and national newspapers, including the Cochrane Eagle.

During my residency I will be giving a number of workshops on topics such as “How to get Published”, “From Blog to Book” and a special children’s workshop on “How to create a Graphic Comic”. One area that I am particularly interested in is “Writing for Business”. My background is in the mining industry and over the years I have read thousands of reports, emails and memos and unfortunately many of them were poorly written. When I have to read anything connected to business I like it to be clear, as brief as possible and to the point.

I recently read an excellent book entitled “On Writing Well – the Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction” by William Zinsser and it is for anyone writing anything non- fiction, from a travel guidebook to a report, a formal letter to a handbook and more. As well as giving invaluable advice on how to write, Zinsser also makes it clear as to what one should avoid doing when constructing a piece of writing.

Here are just five of them to consider:

  1. Declutter: Examine every word you put on paper. You’ll find a surprising number that don’t serve any purpose. Don’t use a long word when a short word will do, e.g. assist (help) numerous (many) implement (do). And as readers we should not be prisoners of a notion that a simple style reflects a simple mind.
  2. Write for yourself: Don’t be too concerned about who you are writing for. There are so many individuals in your audience.  Relax and say what you want to say. As long as you have mastered the tools of writing you will get your message across.
  3. Portray your uniqueness: According to Zinsser, most executives in North America do not write what appears above their signature. They have surrendered the qualities that make them unique. Do not rely on others to speak for you, in the style in which you wish to be heard. “Remember that what you write is often the only chance you’ll get to present yourself to someone whose business or money or goodwill you need.”
  4. Edit what you dictate: If you feel the need to dictate something to be typed up by another person, make sure you take the time to edit it.  Zissner explains that this is important if you do not wish to be perceived as “pompous or sloppy”, but a true reflection of who you really are, especially if it is a document which will go to someone who will judge you on your “personality” and “style”.
  5. Know when to stop: it’s not necessary to repeat, in a compressed form what you have already said, so avoid phrases like, “In conclusion’, “What we have learned from this is “, “ To sum up”.  Think of a good, clear, concise sentence or paragraph to end with and have a sense of finality. ‘The perfect ending should take your readers by surprise and yet seem exactly right.”

I am always in the process of writing something, whether it be my next book, my weekly blog, an article for the local newspaper or a piece for my website. I know I still have a lot to learn about the intricacies of a good piece of non- fiction writing, but with the help of William Zissner’s expertise, I know I’m making progress.

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And when someone else speaks your name you feel pleased. You feel wanted. You feel there. Alive. Even if they're saying your name with dislike, at least you know you're you, that you exist.

Aidan Chambers, Author of Nik: Now I Know
How to Win at the Name Game

How to Win at the Name Game

Posted by martin.parnell |

In his biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson reveals where the name Apple comes from: Apparently, on the naming of Apple, Jobs said he was “on one of my fruitarian diets.” He said he had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”

Reading this got me interested in how other well-known companies came by their names. I discovered that the name IKEA is made up from the initials of their founder, Ingvar Kamprad and the first letters of the farm Elmtaryd and the village of Agunnarydin in rural southern Sweden where he grew up.

Here are examples of how a couple of other very familiar company names were developed:

LEGO got its name when the founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, took the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well”, and put them together – quite unaware that LEGO in Latin means ... “I put together”.

In the 1920s, the Dassler brothers operated a sports shoe company out of their mother's laundry room in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Adolf Dassler, who went by the nickname "Adi" handled the design of the shoes, and Rudi Dassler did the marketing. The company started to take off when they signed some big name athletes like Jesse Owens. However, the brothers had a severe falling out, split the company assets and ran competing sports shoe companies in the same town. Adi renamed his company "Adidas" using his nickname plus the first three letters of his last name. Rudi at first went with "Ruda" but, wisely, later renamed his company "Puma".

These are all interesting stories and I came across many more. I then wondered about the effect a name can have on a company.

Sometimes it might be necessary to rethink a company name and come up with something that better reflects the purpose of your company or just make it sound less intimidating or even just easier to spell, allowing for  quicker access on search engines etc. In a 2015 article for CNBC, Karissa Giuliano  listed  some of the biggest brands you may not have known any other way, but who had in fact started off under different names. Here are just three of them:

Back in 1996, the world's number one search engine was created under the name "BackRub." Creators Larry Page and Serge Brin's renamed their business and technology Google in 1998. It's "a play on the word 'googol,' a mathematical term for the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The use of the term reflects their mission to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web, says Google.

In 1893, a North Carolina pharmacist named Caleb Bradham started experimenting with a few soft drink recipes. One of these bore his name: "Brad's Drink." In 1898 Brad's Drink was renamed Pepsi-Cola and would become one of the world's most recognized brands.

Launched in 1995, eBay was initially named AuctionWeb – one of four sites housed under founder Pierre Omidyar's umbrella company called eBay Internet. Spurred by the media referring to AuctionWeb as ebay, the company made the name change official in 1997.

If you think a change of name might benefit your company, don’t be afraid to make that change. Consider whether your name is catchy, easy to remember or perhaps just better reflects what image you want to present. Here are some final tips from Martin Zwilling is CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals Inc. with some help from Alex frankel and others in a 2011 FORTUNE  publication:

Make your business name one that customers can pronounce and remember easily.

Keep it simple. The shorter in length, the better. Limit it to two syllables. Avoid using hyphens and other special characters. Since certain algorithms and directory listings work alphabetically, pick a name closer to A than Z. These days, it even helps if the name can easily be turned into a verb, like Google me. 

Make some sense. Occasionally, business owners will choose names that are nonsense words. Quirky words (Yahoo, Google, Fogdog) or trademark-proof names concocted from scratch (Novartis, Aventis, Lycos) are a big risk. Always check the international implications. More than one company has been embarrassed by a new name that had negative and even obscene connotations in another language. 

Finally, make sure the name is available. This may sound obvious, but a miss here will cost you dearly.

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Either I will find a way, or I will invent one

Philip Sidney - poet, scholar
Juggling Ideas to get Yourself Noticed

Juggling Ideas to get Yourself Noticed

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sometimes, in order to achieve, it is important to stand out. This isn’t always easy, especially when you are in a situation where many people are doing the same task as you and there doesn’t appear to be an opportunity to be different. For this reason, it’s important to take a broader look at what you are already doing and look for the little nuances which make the way you do things individual to you or if you can develop them to create something of note.

I was reminded of this, on recollection of an article in the Calgary Metro newspaper.

It was a small piece about Michael Kapral, who has been acknowledged, by the Guinness Book of Records, as the World’s Fastest Joggler, for his time of 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-marathon. Joggling is a sport which involves running and juggling 3 balls, at the same time. I decided to find out more about Michael as, not only have I run that same race, but I am also the holder of 5 Guinness World Records, in endurance events.

What interested me was the way in which he came to be involved in his particular sport.

“Technically I learned to juggle first because I learned when I was about ten.” said Michael “I started marathon running in my 20s. I ran several marathons before I started joggling. I was pretty competitive. I won the Toronto Marathon in 2002. I knew that I was never going to the Olympics, but I was pretty serious. That’s why it was funny that I took up this not very serious sport of combining juggling and running. It turned out that it wasn’t just a stupid thing, and it is funny and entertaining to people.”

Despite being an exceptional runner, Michael realized he would not be fast enough to qualify for the Olympics, but by slightly altering what he was already doing and combining it with another skill that he already possessed, i.e. juggling, he has still achieved success and recognition. We don’t have to go to quite such extremes to get noticed, but taking a look at the way we do things, making small adaptations might not only make what we do more satisfying, but also get us noticed.

It might be worth asking yourself.

  1. When I look at the way my colleagues do the same job, are there slight differences I can make, in the way I tackle things that can be more productive?
  2. Can I add or deduct something in my approach that will make me more efficient?
  3. Am I able to find a way of doing things that will make me stand out from others in the same field?
  4. Could I be more optimistic and develop ways to inspire a more positive reaction in the way I present myself?
  5. Are there ideas that I abandoned, in the past, for being too different that I might consider using now?

Developing and evaluating new ideas, in your approach, might be the first step to getting the greater satisfaction in your role, whatever that might be.

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Procrastination is the thief of time

Edward Young, English poet
Take Action Now and Boost your Company's Success

Take Action Now and Boost your Company's Success

Posted by martin.parnell |

We’ve all read stories about people taking too long to make decisions and find that, regrettably, opportunities have been lost. Most of them relate to their personal lives e.g. If only they’d bought something when it was on sale, If only they’d asked her out before she started dating their best friend, If only they’d told someone how much they loved them, before it was too late. Author Agatha Christie wrote   “One doesn't recognize the really important moments in one's life until it's too late.” 

We must also remember that this can and often does apply in business. 

I want to be clear, I’m not talking about missed opportunities. It’s not worth dwelling on what might have been, that type of regret can eat away at you.  Atari founder Nolan Bushnell turned down an opportunity to invest $50,000 in seed money in Apple.  Had Bushnell said yes, he would have owned a third of Apple, a company that is today valued at about $480 billion. That’s a missed opportunity.

 What I’m talking about is knowing you should take action and for whatever reason, you just keep putting it off. In business, this may concern reinventing your company, whether it be a branding, reacting to new competition, refining operations, installing up-to-date technology or recognising an untapped market. It’s especially tempting to stall when your company is at the maturity stage and enjoying success. 

There are many excuses for doing this. Perhaps it feels more comfortable to stick with certain employees, perhaps you’d rather not spend money on marketing or you feel you might just be making changes for changes sake. Whatever the reason, it’s good to re-evaluate, from time-to-time.   

You don’t want your company to be pushed out of the market by one that is hungrier and ready to be innovative. You can’t afford to let your business stagnate as this will affect your image not only with your customers, but also with employees who value a challenge and have the energy to move the company forward. 

Of course, in order to take the right action, a company needs foresight and employees need to be encouraged to share ideas and be asked for input, on a regular basis. If, however your company is open to this idea, you must be prepared to act. Otherwise those same employees may feel their input isn’t valued and you could miss out on an idea that could be transformative in boosting efficiency, sales or several other areas of operation. 

Maybe it’s time to take stock, don’t wait until things break until you start fixing areas that could do with some reinvention. Look at your competition, evaluate your technology and look at ways to get the best from your employees and reward those who are a real asset to the company. 

And do it sooner rather than later.

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Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.

Aldous Huxley
Taking advantage of a Chance Opportunity causes a Rethink

Taking advantage of a Chance Opportunity causes a Rethink

Posted by martin.parnell |

Three weeks ago I ran the Edmonton half marathon, dressed as my alter ego, Captain Clot Buster. This character is a by-product of the “Long Walk to Recovery” I undertook, in 2015, to help me deal with having Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis, an extensive blood clot in my brain. 

As my condition improved, it was suggested I run the Calgary Marathon’s 10km Dash of Doom. It was a fancy dress event and it was that which inspired me to come up with the Captain persona. 

It turns out, that the Captain has become quite popular and I have recently been invited to speak about my medical condition and relate the experience to my other challenges, when completing my “Quests for Kids” initiative.

In addition, it has enabled me to engage with different audiences, people who can relate to another aspect of my life. I was often referred to as the “Marathon Man”, due to my running 250 marathons on one year and I know that there were people who could not relate to that or to someone who has five Guinness World Records in endurance events. But, there are untold numbers of people who can relate to overcoming adversity or dealing with life-threatening medical issues. 

I usually work with groups and corporations on the topic of setting goals and overcoming obstacles, in order to reach your full potential with references to my work for the humanitarian organisation Right To Play and my fundraising efforts, over 5 years, which culminated in me raising $1,360,000 for the organisation. 

It was a revelation that people would be interested in another side to my personal story and has certainly given a new dimension to my speaking topic “Finish the Race Attitude “. It’s surprising how coping with my medical condition has offered further insight on ways we deal with adversity and the actions we take in dealing with it, in order to have the best chance of a positive outcome. 

It has certainly made me reflect on ways in which I can inspire more people in reaching their goals in life, just simply by rethinking and adapting my approach. It has been a valuable lesson in recognizing that opportunities can manifest themselves in various ways and we should be open and adaptable.

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Climb every mountain, search high and low.

Julie Andrews, Sound of Music
King of the Mountain-Taking on Cochrane's BigHill

King of the Mountain-Taking on Cochrane's BigHill

Posted by martin.parnell |


The biggest sporting event that no-one seems to know about is coming to Cochrane on Friday September 2nd. The Tour of Alberta is a bike race along the lines of the Tour de France, in this case the riders will be completing 5 stages instead of 21. 

The first stage, on September 1st, is being held in Lethbridge Then its stage 2, Kananaskis to Olds. This is how the Tour of Alberta website describe this section: Departing in an area known as “Alberta’s Mountain Playground” with over 50 interconnected provincial parks and recreation areas, the peloton will begin Stage 2 at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis before embarking on their 182 kilometre quest. This stage includes the biggest climb of the 2016 Tour, “Big Hill” in Cochrane, before the peloton encounters predominately rolling and flat terrain through Mountain View County, nestled against the picturesque foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Upon making their way to one of Alberta’s esteemed college-towns, Olds, the race will feature three exciting finishing circuits in what is expected to be a thrilling mass sprint finish. On September 3rd Stage 3 is from Drayton valley to Rocky Mountain House and Stages 4 and 5 are in Edmonton. 

There are 13 teams competing, with a total of over 100 participants. Riders include defending champion Bauke Mollema and Canadian Superstar Ryder Hesjedal both from USA Team Trek-Segafredo. Other teams include USA based Cannondale, UnitedHealthCare, Rally and Jelly Belly; Dubai based Skydive; Ukraine based Amore / Vita-Selle and Canadian based Silber, H & R Block and Team Canada. 

How big is this event I hear you ask? To put this in context, the Grey Cup draws a viewership of 5m and the Stanley Cup 14m. The Tour of Alberta is watched by 47m people around the world and between 1.30pm and 2.30pm next Friday those eyes will be on Big Hill in Cochrane where the “King of the Mountain” section will be contested.

Now we know there’s going to be traffic issues on Friday afternoon with rolling road closures. The riders will be flying along the 1A crossing Hw 22 then up Big Hill before hitting junction 766 and heading north. So instead of getting frustrated why not take the afternoon off, leave the car at home and head up to Big Hill. 

So let’s make this a “Big Hill Party”. Students are out of school early that day so kids why not head up to the “King of the Mountain” section. I’m going to be on the hill at 1.30pm wearing my Canada Moose bike shirt and cowboy hat and, clanging my cow bell. Let’s give these athletes a hug cheer as the flash by and show the World what a real “Cochrane Welcome” looks like.


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Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.

John Lennon
Lost for Words and Filling in the Blanks

Lost for Words and Filling in the Blanks

Posted by martin.parnell |

I’m struggling.

It’s been a busy week, for me, with lots of meetings and other activities scheduled and I suddenly realised that today’s the only day I have the time to sit and write my next blog. But, I’ve drawn a blank – nothing- not one idea has entered my head that I feel compelled or even remotely inspired to write about.

This is hard to accept. Usually, my head is buzzing with ideas, reflections and thoughts I want to share. I have considered commenting on recent topics in the news. The Olympics immediately springs to mind and you’d think that with my interest in sports I could come up with an angle on that, but no.

I thought about things I’ve done this week that are slightly out of the ordinary, but shifting 11 cubic yards of mulch from my driveway onto my garden isn’t going to give me 400+ words. Being British, by birth, you’d think I could, at least make some profound comment about the state of the weather, but, living in Alberta, that particular topic only leaves me bemused.

I have to accept that for most of us, most of the time, life is pretty ordinary, and that it’s not necessary to be constantly looking outside of our own private world with the need to take a stance or comment on every little thing that’s going on. Sometimes, we just have to bask in the joy of having nothing in particular to do and even less of a need to say something.

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Instead of fretting over not knowing what to write, trawling through news sites for inspiration, agonising over how many “How to....”s or  “Ways to........”, I’m going to make a coffee, grab a good book and settle down for an hour and just enjoy some downtime. These moments in our day, whether it be an hour or just 5 minutes should be cherished.

These are the times when we can withdraw from the world and do what we want to do, just for us. It may be reading, going for a walk, watching TV or even catching up on the latest cat videos on You Tube, Who cares? It’s your time, you don’t have to be anywhere, or doing any particular thing and, in this day and age, those times can be very precious.

If you suddenly find you have a few minutes and honestly can’t think of what to do with them you might like to pick up the phone and call someone you haven’t spoken to, in a while. You’ll feel great for doing it and imagine how happy you could make someone else. Whatever you choose to do in those times, I want to thank you for when you have a few moments to spare and you choose to spend them reading my blogs

Hopefully, by next week, I’ll have something more stimulating to share.

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The writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.

Dr. Seuss
How to Edit your Life and Business

How to Edit your Life and Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

Over the past few weeks, I have been busy revising the manuscript, of my next book RUNNING TO THE EDGE. I could call it editing, but my publisher has a professional to do that for me. It’s a peculiar process, removing parts that you no longer think are relevant, and having your memory jogged into adding something you missed, first, or even second time around. 

Getting sections back from the editor is strange, too. She will ask questions about things that, as the writer, you may think are obvious, but have to be explained in more detail in order that your potential reader can properly follow a train of thought or recounting of an incident. Things that you might think are relevant can be totally removed and yet parts that you might have been pondering over whether to include, or not, can become, from someone else’s perspective, essential to the text. 

It’s a bit like life.  We’ve all experienced incidents that, at the time might appear to have a huge effect on your well-being, your standing within your group, your job, family etc.

Yet, in the grand scheme of things are actually rather trivial and you have probably spent too much time and effort dwelling on them. I looked at the work some editors carry out and it’s interesting to see the role they play, in various areas of the process:

A copy/ manuscript editor ensures that the manuscript meets in-house style standards and checks facts. We might look to ensure that our standards meet those of our employer or someone engaging our skills. We should always check that the facts we present are accurate, in order to make ourselves credible. 

A developmental editor helps the idea stage through to the final draft. We should formulate and plan our ideas and what strategies we will use to implement them. 

A substantive editor helps the writer focus on story elements, plot characterization, dialogue, scenes and multiple other aspects that could improve the strength of a manuscript and, in non- fiction ensures that there is consistency and flow, with events flowing logically. They examine both the big picture and the finer details. These are all skills we need to engage if we are to see a project through, successfully, from start to finish.

Basically, an editor is an enhancer, polishing and refining, directing focus and essentially removes what does not fit, what has no bearing on the finished article and draws attention to areas where the audience should focus. 

These are all skills we can use to tackle tasks and provide positive, rewarding outcomes in the way we approach life and business. 

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Lau Tzu
Pokemon Go - A Step in the Right Direction

Pokemon Go - A Step in the Right Direction

Posted by martin.parnell |

Recently, Sue and I headed over to Sudbury, Ontario, to spend some time with our grandchildren, Autumn aged 12, Nathan aged 7 and Matthew Connor aged 2. They are full of energy and had us on the go for most of the time. I was also pleasantly surprised to see daughter Kristina out and about so much. Now, don’t get me wrong Kris is a busy young women with the kids, a full time job and participates in “Amtgard”, a live-action, fantasy, roleplaying activity. However, she seemed to be taking more walks than usual. Then I realised what was going on. She had signed up for Pokémon Go.

Now, I have a somewhat love – hate relationship with video games. Back in the dark ages the first game I played was “Pong”. Two paddles and a puck and away we went. Next up was Space Invaders, Centipede and Pac-Man. Then I got a job. Years went by and games came and went. I would go to a party and everyone wanted to play “Guitar Hero”, why not? I even outscored Kristina on “Dance Dance Revolution”. She’s never forgiven me. Most recently it was Wii golf. I was just as bad at that as I was at real golf.

With regards to Pokémon Go, I didn’t want to judge too quickly, so I asked Kristina how it worked. She explained that an app had been created based on the classic Pokémon game, whereby you can walk, run or bike and, using GPS, find little Pokémon creatures and catch them. The cool thing is that they will appear on the screen of your cell phone and it seems as if they are really there. Apparently, this is called “augmented reality”.

Also, during our stay, Kristina really surprised me. She said she wanted to join me in a 5 km race. On the Sunday before I left, we got up bright and early and headed off to Massey, a small town 120 kms south west of Sudbury. Every year, this town of 3,000 people, puts on a marathon, half marathon and 10 km race. This year they had added a 5 km event. We waited at the race start line for five minutes and at exactly 5.45am the gun went off. This was Kristina’s first 5 km and she set off like a bullet. Over the next few kilometers she slowed down, but as we approached the end, she got very excited. There was a ”weedle”, one of the smaller Pokémon characters, sitting on the finish line. We both started to sprint and Kris pipped me by 0.1 of a second.

On the way back, Kris snoozed in the passenger seat and I reflected on the fact that, finally, there was a video game that got people off the couch, enjoying the outdoors and interacting with each other. Go Pokémon Go!

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As with many things, hesitation is better than hurry.

Patrick Rothfuss
A Simple Life at a Luxurious Cost

A Simple Life at a Luxurious Cost

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently saw a promotion for some cottages for sale, at a nearby resort. So, on Sunday, my wife and I decided to check them out. Our curiosity stemmed, partially, from the fact that some friends of ours are having a property built on the same development. We toured three different show homes, one of which we particularly liked and then looked at the promo package we’d been given. 

I’m sure many people have experienced the following: 

You look first at the basic price for the lot – seems pretty reasonable. Then you look at the cost of having your property built – maybe a little more than you had expected, but still within your range. Next you look at the “add-ons”, which you’d really like because they looked so appealing in the show home. Of course you’d really like a garage and if you have more than one vehicle, that’s going to cost even more. Oh and did I mention the condo fees, the utilities bills and the GST? Suddenly, you’re looking at something that would end up costing far more than you’d originally thought. It’s all the extras that, once seen, seem so necessary – but are they? 

Things that I, personally, would consider pretty essential would be a closet and doors on the washroom, but these were somehow missed, when one show home was built. In fact closet space seemed to be an absolute luxury addition in all the houses we saw, including a couple that were for sale. Many of the properties are now advertised for “year-round” living. They are very attractive, but not necessarily that practical for a permanent residence. 

One idea, for when you look to relocate, is to make a list, beforehand of all the details of your current home that you couldn’t do without and make sure they are included in the home you might consider buying. In fact, it would be an idea to do this when considering making changes in various areas of your life, whether it’s buying a car, taking a holiday or changing internet / cable provider. 

In the area of business it is critical to use this approach. For example, how many employees do you really need, is it essential to locate your office downtown? Maybe it is, but it is key to establish that any changes you make are beneficial. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to find the simple life you’ve been looking for.

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It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.

Lena Horne - Jazz singer
In the Bag - 12 Essentials for the Road Warrior

In the Bag - 12 Essentials for the Road Warrior

Posted by martin.parnell |

On a recent flight to Toronto, I was reading an article in the Air Canada in-flight magazine, enRoute. The subject was an interview with a celebrity explaining which items they felt were “essential” to pack, when travelling. Personally, I don’t feel the need to splash out on a spray bottle of Evian water, essential oils for my cuticles or a spare pair of cashmere legwarmers, but it did get me thinking about the items I find I always take in my carry-on and are essential to me to make the experience a little more enjoyable. 

 I got it down to six: 

  1. A pen and paper - very handy for completing the customs card, on those international flights, filling in a crossword and jotting down notes when an idea comes to mind.
  2. A pair of good headphones - for listening to music or providing the audio for an in-flight movie.
  3. A book - not too heavy in either weight or content.
  4. A light jacket –  it can be used to keep the chill off, to roll up and place in the small of your back or a pillow (not provided on domestic flights)
  5. A pack of mixed nuts – a little in flight snack is always welcome.
  6. A small pack of wet wipes - you just never know when turbulence might hit and spills occur. 

 If I’m on a business trip I also ensure I’ve packed other “essentials”: 

  1. Sat. Nav. – with pre-programmed destinations e.g.  Hotel and locations of business meetings.
  2. Charging station – must be on top of this all the time. Computer, cell phone, camera battery and Garmin GPS have to be fully charged.
  3. Lap top – great to catch up on emails and get some work done.
  4. Running gear – if the weather’s good I’ll head out before breakfast for a 10 km run. Gives me a chance to check out the area.
  5. Camera - take it with me wherever I go.
  6. Swimming gear – at the end of a day, there’s nothing better than a swim, hot tub or sauna. Melts the stress right away

 Being on the road can wear you down but some preplanning and a conscious effort to give yourself some “Me” time will at least make it bearable and maybe even a little fun. What is one of your "Must Haves" when you are travelling?

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All that glistens is not gold

William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice
How to deal with the invaders in your own backyard

How to deal with the invaders in your own backyard

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last week, I found a card on my front doorstep, which had been left by a Weed Inspector, from Town of Cochrane Parks Department. It informed me that I have three invasive species growing in my garden. Had I been busted by a Baby’s Breath? Or, worse still, had the Bighead Knapweed dared to actually rear its ugly head? 

No, it was that femme fatale of the invasive species, the Yellow Toadflax, along with her partner- in- crime the seductively purple Creeping Bellflower. I had no idea that these plants could cause a problem, for either man or beast. But I know, now. 

To be honest, I had been quite pleased with my little wild patch, especially the Alberta roses, which dominate the area. I had been taken in by the splashes of purple and yellow that peeped through, adding more colour. 

But it just goes to show how one can be swayed by something that looks attractive, but can actually do more harm than good. Of course we see this everywhere. The attractive looking foods are often not the best, nutritionally and high fashion shoes for men and women can look wonderful but cause terrible pain. 

In business, too, we have to be wary of that “sweet deal” that ends up costing more than we bargained for or the very attractive contract that turns out to be a lot of hard work for very little return. This is where we have to learn to use various tools to establish facts and make sure we’re well informed. 

When it came to my patch of garden, those tools might have included: 

1. Researching what plants were in there.

2. Checking to see if they were doing more harm than good.

3. Not relying on first impressions. 

Fortunately, with an intense session of digging and hand-pulling, it didn’t take long to rid myself of the little invaders and I will definitely be on the lookout, to make sure they don’t return. 

So, make sure you check your garden and be aware when negotiating that next business deal. Weed out all the noxious elements. You don’t want the consequences of being ill-informed landing on your, proverbial “door-step”. 

Oh, did I mention Leafy Spurge? Now that’s one sucker you don’t want hanging around!

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I wear a lot of different hats – from writer to producer and artist. We all do.

William Bell
Are you a "Mad Hatter"?

Are you a "Mad Hatter"?

Posted by martin.parnell |

Our youngest grandson, Matthew Connor, who will turn 2 next month, loves to wear hats. He has quite the collection and will choose one and wear it all day. What Matthew Connor doesn’t realise is that most of his hats has serve a purpose. Some will keep him warm, whilst others will provide protection from the sun. He also has hats for other occasions, like the one he wears to go fishing, with his Dad or the swim hat he wears to keep the water out of his ears. Of course, he also has a selection of hats that are just for fun and he looks cute in all of them.

The only hats I wear are a running cap, for protection from the sun or a running toque for the cold days. But, of course there are the numerous “Life” hats I wear, depending on what I’m doing.

These were the ”hats” I wore today:

  1. My Husband hat – I went grocery shopping as my wife, who usually does it, is recovering from surgery.
  2. My Dad hat – I chatted with our son about a course he’s taking.
  3. My Granddad hat –I Skyped with my granddaughter Autumn and grandsons Nathan and Matthew.
  4. My Rotary hat – a business meeting about upcoming projects.
  5. My Runner hat – I managed to get in an 8km before breakfast.
  6. My Fundraiser hat – I spoke to a school about how they can raise funds for Right To Play.

Just this past week, I have also worn my Author hat – I donned this one, just yesterday, when I was speaking to my editor about my next book, due out in November and my Speaker hat – following up on a lead for a Keynote presentation.

Think about your day. How many hats will you wear today? Which ones fit you the best? Are there some that should be recycled? Are there hats in your collection you haven’t worn for a while? Which are your favourites and bring you most pleasure?

Maybe it’s time for a new hat?

Whatever you do, wear those hats with pride and panache and you’ll get noticed!

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I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
From Gerry to Humperdinck. It’s all in the name.

From Gerry to Humperdinck. It’s all in the name.

Posted by martin.parnell |

An item, on MSN UK, reported that a woman, in England had been banned from naming her baby daughter Cyanide. One can only imagine the problems it might have caused until the girl reached an age when she could, if she wished, opt to be called something different. On CBC Radio, recently, a lady phoned in and mentioned that she was listening along with her grandson, Beowulf.  Now, personally, I think that’s a fantastic name and, for me, conjures up an image of someone who is strong and adventurous. 

Gerry Dorsey was an English singer who, in the 1960’s couldn’t get a record deal. He changed his name to Engelbert Humperdinck and soon after was signed by Decca records. He had several top-selling hits in both the UK and the US. This got me thinking about names and how we can make judgements based on hearing them. This can apply to people, objects and businesses. 

There is a whole science devoted to choosing the right name and how to market it. Numerous articles have been written about the way the right name can quickly be adopted into our culture. It’s interesting how certain brand names become so familiar that we instinctively know what someone is talking about, when we say them e.g. Kleenex, Hoover, Jacuzzi, Thermos, Trampoline. 

When the first Starbucks opened in Seattle's Pike Place Market, in 1971, it didn't sell coffee drinks, just beans. The founders considered naming it after Captain Ahab’s boat, from the novel Moby Dick, but, according to a Starbucks spokesperson, changed their mind when a friend tried out the tagline "Have a cup of Pequod." and, instead, named itafter Captain Ahab's first mate, Starbuck. 

The most difficult choices I’ve had to make, when naming anything, have been deciding on the titles of my two books and how to brand my business. I decided it would be best to create a tag line that relates to what I’m best known for, which includes completing numerous endurance events, running 250 marathons, in one year and is aligned to my promise statement i.e. “Overcoming obstacles to reach your full potential.” After much deliberation I came up with the tag line ‘”Finish the Race Attitude” and the book titles MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE. 

What names strike you as “perfect” for a particular product or service? Do you use a tagline that reflects something about you or what you can deliver? Remember, it’s all in the name.

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There are angels and heroes all around us. Their super powers are not revealed to all..... Just those whose paths they cross and whose lives they touch every day.

Susan Gale
How to Recognize your Inner Superhero

How to Recognize your Inner Superhero

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Sunday, May 29th, my alter-ego, Captain Clot-Buster, finished the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, in a very respectable 4 hours 24 minutes 40 seconds and raised funds for the humanitarian organization Right To Play.

The Captain first made an appearance in October 2015 at the 10 km “Dash of Doom” and has since run the Glencoe Icebreaker 10 km and the Policemen’s half marathon. However the Captains origins come from a dark period in my life.         

In February 2015, during a business trip to Winnipeg, I was taken ill and, at the Health Sciences Center, I was diagnosed with Cerebral Venus Sinus Thrombosis, a rare form of blood clot, on the brain. The next few months were a blur. I went from not being able to walk, see or feed myself to walking a short distance along the river path, outside our home.

It was a long recovery process but now, after 15 months, the clot is decreased by 95% and, apart from still having to take several meds every day, my life has pretty much returned to normal. Creating Captain Clot-Buster was my way of showing that it is possible to overcome many obstacles in life and being fit and positive can make a huge difference to the outcome. My specialist told me that if my fitness level hadn’t been as good, I may not have survived.

Now, I’m not suggesting everyone has to don a costume, give themselves a different name and make public appearances. What I am suggesting is that in each of us there is a inner superhero, we just have to get to recognize them.

There is a lady, who lives near us, who spends all her free time doing volunteer work of various forms. She is a widow, in her late seventies and an unsung hero. There is another women who buys up fabric from the local thrift store and makes crib blankets and quilts for the local food bank. Another superhero.

Maybe you are the go-to person at work. Someone who makes a positive difference in difficult situations. Perhaps you’re the hockey Mum who gives rides to kids other than your own. Think of the priceless help that is, to another family.

Another way you can be a superhero? Keep yourself fit and active. Your family may not notice, they probably won’t think to thank you, but it may mean you’re around longer and they will reap the benefits.

Of course there are other superheroes who are pretty special and need a category all of their own. I’m not talking about Batman, Superman or Captain America. I’m referring to people like another competitor I had the privilege to race with at the Calgary marathon, Chris Koch. Chris was born without arms or legs and competed using a longboard and raised funds for a shelter for the homeless.

Chris is an extreme example, but if you follow Captain Clot-Buster’s motto “Keep Fit and Do Good”, you can be a superhero too. 

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If I were a flower, hummingbird would be my favourite bee And If I were blind, the light of darkness I'd love to see.

Munia Khan
3 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees

3 Lessons from the Birds and the Bees

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last week, my wife, Sue decided that she would like to attract bees and hummingbirds to our back garden. Her first step was to invest in a hummingbird feeder, in the hope that it would attract some of these colourful little birds.

The sales assistant told her that she should fill it with a mixture of sugar, water and red food dye, as the latter will attract the birds.

However, on reading an article on the subject by Penny Eliston, a licensed hummingbird rehabilitator, Sue learned that one should  “not put honey, Jell-O, brown sugar, fruit, or red dye (also known as food coloring) in your feeder!" Honey ferments rapidly when diluted with water and can kill hummingbirds. The effects of red dye have not been not scientifically tested, and it is not necessary to colour the water to attract birds to your feeder. Further, there are unverified reports that red dye can cause tumours in hummingbirds; this may or may not be true, but why take the chance?’

Why, indeed? Sue read more articles and found that this opinion was supported by other experts. After doing some further research, on the Internet, into which colour plants most attract hummingbirds, Sue discovered that apart from some red-flowering plants, delphiniums, foxgloves, columbines and several other blue, purple and yellow- flowering plants come near the top of the list.

Interestingly, these are the same plants which will attract bees. Also, if you want to attract native bees, you plant native plants and, to attract honeybees, you plant exotic plants. You could go to even further lengths and build a bee house or provide a bee bath, but I think Sue will be sticking to choosing appropriate flowers, for now.

So, how does one decide when information is accurate, valuable and relevant? First, it’s always worth listening to the experts, but do check out their credentials. Look at a variety of sources and ask yourself “What appears to be the general consensus?” When deciding which approach to take, look at the various options. Maybe there’s more than one idea to consider, when choosing a plan of action. Perhaps one idea is more practical, cost effective or quicker to implement.

Is there a plan that will satisfy more than one need? Which approach best suits the conditions, your time allowance and the needs of who you are doing this for. Sue’s really looking forward to sitting at the window, as she writes her journal and observes the comings and goings of her little visitors.

And, if they don’t come? Well, I guess that’s the time to review her approach and formulate a new plan of action!

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You realize what kind of life you lived, and that flashes before you, and then you realize what kind of life that you want to live after.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis
Life is an Obstacle Course - Keep Fit and Have Patience

Life is an Obstacle Course - Keep Fit and Have Patience

Posted by martin.parnell |

Adrianne Haslet-Davis survived the horrific bombings, at the 2013 Boston Marathon, where she lost her left leg below the knee. She quickly rose to meet her daily challenges head on with a unique perspective. Being a ballroom dancer and former Fortune 500 corporate manager, at the peak of her career, she has had to re-learn her craft and an entirely new meaning to the word patience.

At approximately 7:15 p.m., on April 18th of this year, Adrianne crossed the Boston Marathon finish line, after spending nearly 10 hours on the course. She became the second person who lost a limb in the 2013 finish line bombings to complete the race on foot, after Patrick Downes finished earlier in the day. 

Next Sunday, 29th. May, I will be running the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon, as my alter-ego Captain Clot-Buster. This super-hero first appeared at the 10 km “Dash of Doom” on October 24th 2015, eight months after being diagnosed with an extensive clot on the brain. It was a long road to recovery, from sitting, to walking, to running, with many obstacles to overcome. Fitness and patience were two key elements that helped me along the way.

According to my neurosurgeon, being in good shape certainly helped my recovery, if not my survival. As with Adrianne, it’s important to keep yourself fit, as it gives you a better chance of overcoming challenges relating to your health. Being healthy in mind and body can certainly be a bonus, when it comes to dealing with certain events in our lives.

I had to learn to deal with partial loss of vision and balance and have the patience to put all my planned engagements on hold until I had made sufficient recovery to re-engage my speaking career. For other people, their working lives can be just as disrupted by traumatic events, other than health issues, beyond their control.

In Alberta, in particular, we have seen the effects of the downturn in the oil and gas industry and now the devastation of the Fort McMurray wild fire. Both will have brought uncertainty to the lives of many. What one should try to remember is that, whether or not you pursue the same lifestyle you had before, or choose to go along a different path, past experience will always provide you with a set of skills on which to draw.

The important thing is to recognise the diversity of those skills, and be open to applying them to new and different opportunities.

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Never give up on your Dream

Terry Fox
7 Questions to Boost your Life and Business

7 Questions to Boost your Life and Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

If I’m home for lunch on a Monday, I enjoy turning on the radio and listening to CBC’S “The Next Chapter”, hosted by Shelagh Rogers. It showcases the lives and works of Canadian authors. It also has a segment where a guest is invited to answer the program’s own version of the Proust Questionnaire.

According to Wikipedia,”The Proust Questionnaire” is a questionnaire about one's personality. Its name and modern popularity as a form of interview is owed to the responses given by the French writer Marcel Proust.

At the end of the nineteenth century, when Proust was still in his teens, he answered a questionnaire in an English-language confession album belonging to his friend Antoinette, daughter of future French President Felix Faure titled "An Album to Record Thoughts, Feelings, etc." 

I thought it might be fun to answer this version myself, so I jotted down the questions and gave it a go. I also thought about how my answers might relate to business:


Q: Your favourite painter?

A: Salvador Dali. His creative interpretation of everyday items and images makes us stop and think. In business, being creative, allows us to rise above the crowd.

Q: Who are your real-life heroes?

A: Terry Fox. Terry had a goal and was totally committed to it. In business, there are no half measures. I once read that “Life is like a plate of eggs and bacon, the chicken participates, the pig is committed”.

Q: What is your favorite journey?

A: Running along a coastal or mountain trail in the fog. In business, it sometimes feels like that but when I know I’m going in the right direction, I just have to stick to the trail.

Q: What is your greatest extravagance?

A: Buying the best running shoes for the conditions. That means a pair of Salomon Gortex trail shoes for the ice, snow and rain. In business, the same concept applies. Which email marketing and Customer Relations Management package is right for you?

Q: What is your greatest regret?

A: Not always keeping in touch with family and friends. In business, it’s establishing, developing and maintaining relationships. This takes discipline and focus. It’s the glue that keeps things moving forward

Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: To see my children and grandchildren grow and blossom. In business, it’s having an idea and, through hard work and perseverance, and seeing it come to fuition.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: Through my six years of fund raising, I improved the lives of thousands of children around the world. In business, it’s working with clients to set and achieve goals in order that they can reach their full potential.


These seven questions reveal key insights into your personal and business wellbeing. Answers them today. Not only will they show where you are but are sign posts to where you need to go.

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