Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Steve Jobs
Is it Time for a Redesign?

Is it Time for a Redesign?

Posted by martin.parnell |

If I asked you to close your eyes and think of an umbrella, I wouldn’t know what colour that umbrella might be, but I’m pretty sure I could describe the basic design. 

I was fascinated, therefore, to learn that a company, in the Netherlands, has come up with a completely new design for the umbrella. It was developed by Dutch company Senz, founded by former students of Delft University. They wanted to make an umbrella that was storm and windproof.

The new umbrella is weirdly angled, with one shorter side and one longer one connected at a 135-degree angle. The shorter end is the front, and the longer part is the tail. The designer, Gerwin Hoogendoorn says that the umbrella works so well because it mimics the aerodynamic shape of a stealth bomber.

Many of us will have experienced trying to open an umbrella, on a windy day only to have it turn inside out and the Senz model solves that problem, too. Also, there’s less fabric to wrap up, so the umbrella travels surprisingly well. The spokes are reinforced, and the stem is quite short, which eases the strain on your wrist and Senz claims it can handle 100kmh winds. Apparently, it’s become very popular, in Holland. 

When you consider that the Encyclopédie Méthodique mentions metal ribs at the end of the eighteenth century, and they were also on sale in London during the 1780s it would appear that time for a re-design was way overdue. This got me wondering about things, in general, that might benefit from an overhaul. Could there be a better design for a tea cup, a sunshade, a barbecue, a space rocket?

The possibilities are infinite. We may be frustrated by a teapot that dribbles or a can opener that’s awkward to operate, but, even though we could find something more efficient already on the market, sometimes it’s just easier to accept things the way they are, if they appear to be working adequately enough. 

Then I started thinking about less tangible things. What about the space we occupy, both at home and at work, could the way we use it benefit from a re-design. Do you park your vehicle on the road because your garage is full of “stuff” and have to waste precious time, in winter, de-icing it? Are your kitchen work tops cluttered because you have items in the cupboards that you might only get out at Christmas or Thanksgiving? It might be an idea to box them up and put them in the attic or under the bed. 

The same thing could be said about our work spaces. Have you used those spaces in the same way for years? Do you have space that’s not being used? Would employees benefit from having things moved around? Is that photocopying machine easily accessible for everyone?  Are employees eating lunch at their desks? 

Do you really need an extra board room that’s only used for a few hours a week, when there’s not enough space for employees to enjoy their lunch in comfort? Then there’s the issue of how we use our time. Could that also benefit from an overhaul? Think about the way meetings are formatted.  Does the way annual reviews are conducted need reformatting? 

How about the forms we are required to complete. Are all those questions telling us anything we don’t already know? Are we duplicating too much information? Do we have too many employees working on a task when their time would be better used elsewhere? Perhaps the design of your website could benefit from an update. Does your company logo look dated? The questions are endless.   

Just as Senz has created a new design for the umbrella,  redesigning or overhauling aspects of your home or working life may be solving a variety of issues that affect  the way you or your business operate. You might already have a very efficient work space. You may have already decluttered your home.  You may be super-efficient at managing your time and not feel that anything in your life needs changing. But, if you are a leader, in business, take a moment to look around and make sure it’s not only working for you but your colleagues and employees too. 

You may not feel the need to redesign anything. Everything may appear to be working well and efficiently, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

Read More

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.

Elizabeth Foley
How to Deal with Missing your Work Buddy when they Leave

How to Deal with Missing your Work Buddy when they Leave

Posted by martin.parnell |

According to an article on the Human Resources Director website, (May2014) the average working Canadian spends 1,702 hours at work per year. That’s a lot of time. In fact, it’s probably more than the time spent with your family or closest friends. 

When you think about it, if you spend that much time with your work colleagues, its little wonder that you build up close relationships.  We’ve all had that person who we usually spend our coffee and lunch breaks with, who we tend to sit next to at meetings, and share details of our out –of-work activities with, like what we did at the weekend etc. 

So, what happens if one of your closest working buddies decides to leave? 

It is a question addressed in an article I found whilst browsing through an old copy of Rotarian magazine (February 2016). In it, Steve Almond describes a situation where he had an unpleasant encounter with his best friend, a guy whom he had worked with for years and who was also his editor and mentor. During a business meeting the person directed a harsh diatribe at Almond, who couldn’t understand why this so-called friend was trying to humiliate him. It was totally unprovoked and out of character. 

After some time, Almond came to the conclusion that the real reason for his friend and colleague’s true source of anger: “ A few days before that meeting, I had told him I was leaving, to return to graduate school” and he felt that the rebuke was “a punishment for a personal betrayal.” 

As a result, Almond asked people whether they had experienced anything similar.  His friend, Jen told him that when one of her friends left their office, it left her feeling unexpectedly bereft: “I was depressed for a month. There’s this huge void. You feel it every day, every time you go to lunch without them, every time you look at their desk and there’s this stranger sitting there.” 

Our colleagues can become close friends and confidents. They come to know all our little foibles and idiosyncrasies and we get to understand theirs. Not only will they be able to understand the pressures you face at work, but they will know about your family and might be aware of problems you may have in your personal life and be a shoulder to cry on. 

Is it any wonder then that, if they should leave, they will be terribly missed? You may be required to step into their position or take on an extra workload. You will most likely have to adapt to working with their replacement. This is a time of significant change. But, bear in mind it’s not only for you, but for them as well. If their decision to leave is sudden and they had not made you aware, it can be even more upsetting. Try to remember, there is obviously a reason as to why your friend has decided to leave. It may be something beyond their control. 

Whatever the reason, whether it be due to personal circumstances, a promotion or they need a challenge, be supportive. If congratulations are in order, make sure you show that you are happy for them. If they are not moving away, make a firm commitment to stay in touch. Make a date to meet for lunch, in the near future. If they are going to a new job, this is a stressful time for them, too. Even retirement, despite something most people look forward to, can produce its own challenges. 

Try to stay positive. This, in some ways, is a new beginning for you, too. It may be an opportunity to make a new friend, spend more time with other colleagues and get to know them better. With a new person coming in, your experience will be valuable to them and your team. It might even make you think about your circumstances and ask yourself if you might be ready for a change. 

There is no guarantee that the people we connect with so well at work are always going to be there. Just enjoy their friendship, but as all things in life, be prepared to adapt if the situation should change.

Be glad of your friendship, make an effort to maintain it and know that your friend is going to miss you, too!

Read More

People would say. 'Girls don't play hockey, girls don't skate,' I would say 'Watch this'.

Hayley Wickenheiser
8 Hockey Sticks - Women’s Hockey in Afghanistan

8 Hockey Sticks - Women’s Hockey in Afghanistan

Posted by martin.parnell |

In the winter of 2016 /17, the NGO  started a very unique project in Bamyan, a town located in the foothills of the Hindu Kush Mountains, in Afghanistan. In partnership with the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan and the Conservation Organisation for Afghan Mountain Areas (COAM), they facilitated the construction of a new ice skating rink, the very first one in all of Afghanistan.

International ice skating coach, Britt Das, was flown into the country for a few weeks in February so Afghan participants could experience the joys of ice skating. The project was aimed at young women (ages 10-25) from the region, but participants from other regions were also flown in to take part in a special Winter Sports Week.

 “The local girls were more comfortable with skating,” said Taylor Smith, Free to Run's Country Programme Manager in Afghanistan, “maybe because they grew up in a colder region and could ski already, so they were a bit more fearless. The girls from other provinces had not seen much snow or experienced sports, and were more hesitant. One was scared about falling through the ice, not realizing that it was only 10 cm deep.”

A big hurdle that young women in the Afghanistan program had to overcome was the opposition from the community, as well as conservative families who were not always comfortable with their daughters participating in sports. “That's why we focus on women,” explained Taylor. “Although apprehensive at first, the families were relatively open to allowing their daughters to participate in ice skating lessons because we’d already built that relationship and trust with them.”

Said one young woman from the program, “for me, ice skating was amazing because when I started skating, I was wondering, 'How is it possible to stand on a small blade and keep our balance?' It's another reason we can have confidence; if I can stand on ice with a blade, then anything is possible.”

I had met Taylor in the fall of 2016 when I ran the 2nd Marathon of Afghanistan in Bamyan and with the success of the ice skating initiative, Taylor approached me to see if I would fund raise for the re-installation of the ice rink and support the Winter Sports Week in 2017 / 18. My Annual December 31st Run / Walk fund raiser has been going since 2010 and last year we supported the first ever kayak and camping expedient for Afghan women and girls to the Panjshir valley.

So, on December 31st 2017, the 8th Annual Run / Walk took place at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Centre in Cochrane, Alberta. The temperature hit -48C and a total of 60 hardy souls came out that day and ran / walked distances of 2 km up to 50 km. In total over $6,000 were raised and the ice rink and Winter Sports Week became a reality.

In early March, Taylor sent me an email and told me that re-installation of the ice rink and Winter Sports Week had been a huge success. The coach they had hired, not only was an ice skating instructor but also had 16 years of experience in ice hockey. He donated sticks and pucks and introduced hockey basics and puck handling on the ice to the women an girls. 

Taylor continued that “Although we weren't able to get up to the skill level to play ice hockey- we were able to teach a lot of the basics through street hockey sessions. Given how much the girls LOVED the game, I'm confident they'll be able to play next year. We also now have 8 hockey sticks to practice with in the spring/summer as well!” 

So there you have it. The women and girls in Bamyan, Afghanistan have 8 hockey sticks. I think I know what my 2018, 9th Annual December 31st Run / Walk will be fund raising for.

If you want to watch the women and girls participate in the Winter Sports Week then go to:

Read More

Deep rivers run quiet.

Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
How to Support an Employee who is Shy or an Introvert

How to Support an Employee who is Shy or an Introvert

Posted by martin.parnell |

I was recently listening to a podcast of one of my favourite CBC Radio programmes, “Under The Influence”, presented by Terry O’Reilly. His documentaries focus on the changing world of marketing and are always interesting and entertaining. 

In this particular programme, O’Reilly explored the topic of using celebrities in commercials under the title “Celebrities: Living To Tell The Tales”.

He spoke about, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Kiefer Sutherland, Spike Lee and others. 

But the story I found most enlightening was about the day he was casting for a comedic actress, for a particular commercial. Amongst the forty well-known, experienced actresses who auditioned, there was one very young, inexperienced girl who sat very quietly, didn’t know anyone and was very shy. 

However, when she stepped up to the microphone and delivered her lines, she had everyone in stitches. Her presentation was absolutely brilliant and, when she’d finished, she just tiptoed back and sat quietly in the corner. 

As it turns out, the young actress would go on to stardom and had the ability to overcome her shyness when it mattered in order to demonstrate her talent. 

For some people this may not be something they feel they can do. 

You may be one of those people, which may make the working environment very frustrating. You may have great ideas that you wish to share, but are too shy to do so.

Perhaps you are asked to give a presentation, but find the prospect extremely daunting. In some cases, you may see your shyness as a barrier to getting the recognition you deserve. 

If you are a manager, you may have employees who experience these hurdles and it is worthwhile considering this, as you think about your team. Do you have someone who is always reluctant to offer an opinion or be forthcoming when it comes to volunteering for certain tasks? 

Although their work may be up to standard, it would be easy to see them as less engaged in the goals of the company. 

I found an article on the Business 2 Community website entitled How To Manage Quiet Employees by Jacob Shriar (August 16, 2016) in which he states: 

“Quiet employees often are more successful and are considered better leaders.”

He then goes on to say why he considers this to be true:

  1. Introverts Are Better Listeners

Introverts are naturally better listeners, which is great when you’re leading a team. Extroverted leaders on the other hand, tend to do most of the talking without taking into account much of their employees’ opinions. They’re generally better with the command-and-control type of management, whereas introverts are more inclusive.

  1. Introverts Are More Humble

The best leaders practice what’s known as “servant leadership”, which is essentially when you put your employees first and are acting to serve them. According to research about servant leadership, the traits associated with servant leadership, like humility, are found more in introverts.

  1. Introverts Are More Creative

Quieter employees tend to be more reflective and take their time to analyze what’s going on. That reflection makes you more creative and helps you make smarter decisions. Extroverts on the other hand, tend to be a bit more aggressive when it comes to decision making.

  1. Introverts Form Deeper Connections

Introverts prefer to build those deeper, one-on-one connections, which is important for employee engagement. They’re much more likely to get to know their team members on a more personal level, making employees feel more connected to the leader. Extroverts are more likely to have more connections, but less meaningful.

  1. Introverts Are More Self-Aware

Self-awareness is one of the most important things you can have to be an emotionally intelligent leader. That self-awareness lets them listen attentively, pick up on social cues, process information, and see the bigger picture. They love that time alone to process the information. 

Shriar then proceeds to give advice to managers about how to manage quiet employees:

  1. Don’t Assume

The best tip I can give you by far is not to assume anything. Like I mentioned earlier, they might be quiet in meetings or at their desk, but don’t assume that they’re in a bad mood or disengaged. They might be processing some information that was just given to them or thinking about something, but they could be one of the more engaged members of your team.

  1. Don’t Just Show Up At Their Desk

Chances are, they’ll prefer to communicate by email or chat, so respect that. If you just show up at their desk or catch them by surprise, they likely won’t give you a good answer. They need time to process and think about what they want to say. Respect that, and give them the space/time they need.

  1. Use One-On-Ones

Trust me when I say one-on-ones is where you’re going to get the best feedback out of your quieter employees. They’ll be comfortable in that calm, quiet environment. If you can, it would be great to send them an agenda 24 hours in advance to make sure they have some time to gather their thoughts.

  1. Ask For Their Opinion The Next Day

If there’s a meeting, discussion, or anything you want their opinion on, it might be a good idea to wait a while before asking them for their thoughts. Again, they need time to process, digest, and formulate a smart response.It doesn’t necessarily need to be the next day, but give them time to think and come back to you with their thoughts collected. It also might be a good idea to ask for their opinion using their favorite form of communication. For example, you can wait an hour or two and send them an email or chat message and ask for their opinion. 

  1. Give Them A Quiet Environment

It makes sense that quiet people would like to work in quiet environments. Try your best to create a quiet environment so that they can work their best. If the workplace is so noisy and there’s no real way for them to get the quiet they need, you might want to consider letting them work from home one or two days a week.

  1. Don’t Ignore Them

It’s easy for introverts or quiet employees to go unnoticed, but you need to make a conscious effort to notice them. Or what about when companies are recruiting employees and there are words like “outgoing” in the job description. You don’t want to miss out on these people. Just remember, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Warren Buffett, Steve Wozniak, and Michael Jordan are all introverts.

Finally, Shriar  reminds us that “A huge reason why I keep stressing the importance of building up your emotional intelligence is that it helps you deal better with all different types of employees.” 

These are all very good ideas. However, there is something I wish to point out.

Being shy or quiet and being introverted aren't the same thing, although they may look the same. An introvert enjoys time alone and gets emotionally drained after spending a lot of time with others. A shy person doesn't necessarily want to be alone but is afraid to interact with others.

Consider two children in the same classroom, one introverted and one shy. The teacher is organizing an activity for all the children in the room. The introverted child wants to remain at her desk and read a book because she finds being with all the other children stressful. The shy child wants to join the other children but remains at her desk because she is afraid to join them.

It’s the same with adults. Someone can appear to be outgoing, sociable and engaged, not in the least bit shy, but may, in fact be an introvert and will soon want to find a place to be on their own and recharge their batteries in order to cope.

So. There is a difference between being shy and being quiet because you are an introvert. Of course, some of the ideas for supporting an introvert may also be applied to working with someone who is shy.

As a manager, you may yourself be outgoing and sociable but inside, be an introvert as may be the case with any of your employees, or you just may have someone on your team who is naturally shy. It’s worth thinking about. Be aware of how employees respond to different situations and try to be sensitive to their reactions.

One last thing, the actress who sat shyly in the corner? It was Ellen DeGeneres.

Read More

I hope I have helped to raise the profile of science and to show that physics is not a mystery but can be understood by ordinary people.

Stephen Hawking
How to Communicate in a Way that is Accessible to All.

How to Communicate in a Way that is Accessible to All.

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Wednesday March 14th. News headlines reported the death Stephen Hawking, at the age of 76. 

Hawking was known not only as a renowned physicist, but also one of the world’s most celebrated science communicators. This was despite his personal struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

Stephen Hawking has presented many theories, to the scientific community, covering such subjects as Black Hole Mechanics or TheUncertainty Principle that would have been incomprehensible to someone of my scientific background. But, in his book “A Brief History of Time”, Hawking ventured to make these concepts accessible to all. He wanted to share his knowledge and theories with the world, in a way that a layman could understand.

As Derek Hawkins explained in The Washington Post (Wed., March 14, 2018):

“In 1982, Stephen Hawking decided to put his years of ground-breaking research in theoretical physics into book form. His goal, he said, was to “explain how far we had come in our understanding of the universe and how humankind might be close to finding a unified theory of the cosmos.”

Several years and many rewrites later, Hawking’s A Brief History of Time defied all those expectations. The first run sold out in the United States in a matter of days, and soon the 200-some-page account of the origin and fate of the universe was flying off the shelves worldwide. It spent 147 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and a record-breaking 237 weeks on the Times of London bestseller list. To date, more than 10 million copies have been sold and the book has been translated into dozens of languages.”

Even Hawking himself struggled with the reason as to why his book had become so popular “It’s difficult for me to be objective,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

But, it is clear that he had an ability to explain complex concepts in theoretical physics, using a sense of humour and analogy, enabling us to understand his reasoning by relating his theories and observations to those more familiar to our own experiences.

Indeed, upon publication, the New York Times called Hawking’s work “a jaunty and absolutely clear little book” that shared his ideas about the universe “with everyone who can read.”

There is a message here for all of us who are required to present our ideas and opinions, whether in written or oral form.

It is not only important, but necessary that we convey them in a way that our audience can understand. That is not to say that we talk down to our listeners and readers, but are aware of  the fact that many people may not have had experienced things in the same way that we may have. This is particularly relevant when introducing people to a way of seeing, approaching and thinking about new ideas.

If your subject matter is of a technical nature,  I found some valuable tips included in an article for the British Council in May 2015 entitled  “How to present complex ideas clearly” by Dr. Emily Grossman, an expert in molecular biology, broadcaster and educator. Grossman states:

“When trying to explain complex information to an audience, the first task is to get the content of what you're saying right. You can’t hide poor or boring content behind a charismatic delivery technique, and expect your audience to let you get away with it. But how we communicate is also crucial. When someone is speaking, most of the information we receive comes through their body language, enthusiasm and tone of voice. It's our overall experience of the speaker that counts.”

She explains that the reason for this is that:

“Our brains contain ‘mirror neurons’ which automatically make us copy the emotions of the person we are engaging with. Have you ever noticed that if you see someone in the street smiling, you will start to smile too? If a speaker appears happy and relaxed, the audience will feel that way too, and will be more likely to absorb the information the speaker is trying to get across.

The more complex the information, the more important this is. Imagine trying to explain your latest scientific discovery in a flat, monotone voice. If you don't sound excited, the listener won't feel excited either. They will find it harder to engage with the information, and therefore, crucially, it will be more of a challenge for them to understand it.”

Grossman also addresses the issue of how much technical detail to include:

 “Generally, as little as possible! Try not to use technical language. If you do, make sure it is absolutely necessary in order to help the audience understand or appreciate your point – and ensure that you explain the word or term immediately afterwards.

Remember that there is a difference between using language that is simple (easy to understand), and simplistic (treating the problem as if it is not actually very complex at all). Keep your words as simple and clear as possible, and use real-life examples and illustrations where possible. But don’t patronise your audience by pretending that something is not as complicated as it really is.”

Much of what Grossman is saying can be applied whether you are covering something that is highly technical or not. Like Hawking, she recommends the use of analogy. It is also essential to clarify make everything you say, or write, without patronising your audience.

Like Stephen Hawking, we must find a way to share our passion for a subject in a way that we can communicate to the widest of audiences.

Read More

Some people see problem as obstacle, some see it as challenge and few visionary see it as opportunity.

Shesh Nath Vernwal
How to Diagnose and Cure an Ailing Business

How to Diagnose and Cure an Ailing Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

When we’re not feeling too well, it’s easy to go online, look up your symptoms and try to self-diagnose, but, as we all know, what might look life-threatening could just as easily turn out to be something far less serious, or vice versa.

The Internet may be useful for many things, but generally speaking, if you’re not well, the best thing to do is go and see an expert who, in most cases will be your family doctor.

They will be able to ask the right questions and usually be able to treat the problem or refer you to someone even more experienced in a particular field.

Fortunately, when it comes to business, the opposite is sometimes true. When you sense there is something wrong, you may not know an expert to go and consult. You may not be able to afford the expense of recruiting an expert to assess your situation and offer advice. In this case, with some careful research, it is possible to go online to diagnose the symptoms, discover why your business may be failing and get help and advice.

Being an entrepreneur has many challenges. The Small Business Association (SBA), states that 30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10. But, even if your business has been up and running for several years, it doesn’t mean that, at some stage, it could face a degree of failure. You may not have had a new customer in a while, you may be experiencing a high turnover of employees or you can’t pay the bills on time.

These are all important issues that need to be addressed.

In part of his contribution published in Forbes magazine, June 2014, under the heading “7 Reasons Your Business Is Failing -- And What To Do About It”, Jayson DeMers suggests other factors that may be having a negative effect on your business and offers some solutions:

“While every business is different, there are some typical reasons for small business failure. See if any of these resonate with you, then check out the “What to Do About It” section to turn things around.

1.    You Don’t Know How to Market Your Business

Not every business owner is born knowing how to get the word out about their business, and that’s fine. But when a business owner’s shortcomings put their business in jeopardy, that’s when somebody must take responsibility and take action.

If you think marketing is too hard to figure out yourself, or you assume it costs more than you’ve got to hire someone, you’re essentially shutting down the possibility of finding new customers. Yes, marketing is an investment in time, money, or both, but an essential one.

What to Do About It: Start marketing. If you lack money, then invest an hour or two a week to read a few marketing books, blogs, or articles and teach yourself how to use social media, blogging, and PR to draw more people to your website and/or your store. If you’ve got more money than time, get a quote from a few marketing consultants or freelancers.

2.    Your Prices are Too Low

If you’ve got more work than you can handle but are still having trouble making ends meet, it’s time to assess your pricing.  Pricing products tends to be a bit easier than pricing services because you know what it cost you to buy or make those products, so price can be determined easily based on desired profit margin. But even with business services, you’ve got to factor in things like overhead (Internet service, heating/cooling), salary, and office expenses. Your profit shouldn’t be so scant you have difficulty paying your own bills.

What to Do About It: Don’t double your prices overnight. Instead, raise prices for new clients only and see what the market will bear. If you’re getting pushback, you might have raised them too much. If you’re closing sales too easily, you might have room to raise those rates even more.

3.    You Don’t Really Know Your Customers

You know who you think they are, but unless you’re really clued in to your demographic, know what makes them tick, and understand their problems, you’ll do a terrible job of trying to present an appropriate solution.

What to Do About It: A little market research can go a long way. Talk to actual customers. Use surveys. Ask questions on social media. Build out buyer personas that will turn numbers into humans, and solve the riddle of how to connect with each type of customer you’ve got.

4.    You Think Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Don’t Apply to You

Regardless of whether you’re a global accounting firm or the bakery down the street, you should engage in an SEO campaign to help you get more customers. After all, it’s the keywords you use on your website that help the right people find you, and the links you’ve got online that help solidify your brand reputation. Social media is becoming more intertwined with SEO, but has also established an extremely strong niche of its own in the online marketing sphere.

What to Do About It: Again, it comes down to time or money. Teach yourself SEO tactics that work and stay on top of Google’s latest algorithm updates to make sure you don’t get shot down those results. Or, hire a professional SEO company that’s well-versed on the subject and can help you focus on other areas of your business while remaining competitive online.

5.    You’ve Got the Answer for Everything

There’s a bit of ego that comes with running a business. After all, if you were smart enough to figure out how to launch this company in the first place, surely you’re smart enough to figure out how to design a logo. Or manage your finances. Or tell everyone else what to do. Unfortunately, the more micromanaging you’re doing, the more harm you’re probably doing. Entrepreneurs know the things they excel at, and outsource the things they don’t. The most successful entrepreneurs do only the things that only they can do. Anything else can almost always be outsourced more efficiently.

What to Do About It: Get out of your own way. Think about those tasks that take you far too long to do, or result in shoddy work (that logo that took you 18 hours to design still doesn’t look as good as what a professional could have done in an hour), and outsource it. If you’ve got staff, trust them to do what you hired them to do. If they aren’t doing it correctly, fire and re-hire. Focus on what you do best: running your company.

6.    You Can’t Handle Growth

You started small and didn’t expect to burgeon overnight. Just ask any business that’s ever been the recipient of the “Oprah Effect” or even the “Groupon Effect”and then had a flood of sales the next day: rapid growth isn’t always a blessing. If you’re not prepared for the strain your servers will experience, the number of sales to process, or the flood of customer service calls, you risk seriously harming your brand’s reputation.

What to Do About It: Overall, rapid scaling should be a good thing, but you need a plan to quickly hire more staff and train them, as well as how you’ll manage more website traffic, phone calls, and customer service requests.

7.    You Don’t Have Business Savvy

While it’s not imperative that you have an MBA to start a business (or even a college degree) a solid understanding of finances, management, marketing, leadership, and sales will take you far. If you’ve mixed your personal and business finances, have trouble managing staff, or are just throwing your hands up at running your business in general, your risk of failure is multiplying by the minute.

What to Do About It: Consider whether you truly want to be an entrepreneur. Many business owners start a business because they want to “do what they love.” That’s respectable, but without a CEO that knows how to run a successful business, any business is doomed. And to be honest, many business owners get far away from the actual thing they love doing once the business takes flight; focus shifts from fulfillment work, and toward running the business. If you’re committed to sticking it out, invest time in classes, workshops, and resources to beef up the skills you’re weak in.”

Also, on the Entrepreneur website, I found a piece from March 29, 2017 7 by Guest Writer, Chidike Samuelson entitled “6 Lifelines That Could Save Your Failing Business”. In it, Samuelson tells us that before giving up on your business, you owe it to yourself and your employees to take certain steps. Two of these Lifelines are:

Invest in your team.

Your team has played a significant role to get your business to this critical point. Now, more than ever, you need to transform your staff into an asset. It's possible your employees don't understand your business model or the business itself. Some might be barely there for the pay check. This isn't good for any business.

Nothing grows a business like having a dedicated team whose members commit themselves to its success. Your employees must believe they are committed stakeholders and an active part of the business. By extension, your executives must become master salespeople.”

Go back to the drawing board.

Return to the root of the problem. There must be reasons why you are where you now find yourself. If you've started collecting data and monitoring negative feedback, you should have more than idea of the true causes. Now, what can you do about it? Go back to the proverbial drawing board and ask yourself some hard questions. Are you paying out more in salaries than your incomes can carry? Do you need to lay off some staff, make adjustments to compensation packages or consider other cost-cutting measures? 

Redefine your value Proposition, you deem it necessary. It could be that the very thing setting you apart from other businesses in your marketplace is a reason for your failure. Consider following the working trend, if only as a marketing test. Being different isn't best in every circumstance or space.”

He also offers this tip to help you find resources you may need to keep your company going or look at changes that need to be made:

“It's also worth researching whether you might qualify for a grant. Federal, state, county and even local development programs exist because these agencies and organizations have a deep interest in fostering small businesses.”

Whilst there are many websites offering advice and online services to help you deal with business problems, it is always good to remember that, for the same reason you make that trip to the doctor, you need to seek out contributors who have expertise in their field. Check their credentials to ensure the advice and solutions they offer are relevant to you and your company.  Also, seek out experts based in your own community as they will have local insight. 

Whatever happens, don’t despair and don’t give up until you know you have pursued every avenue in an effort to get your company back on its feet and on the road to success. 

If your problems are tackled properly, advice taken and solutions implemented, you will, hopefully, be able to look back on the whole experience as a huge learning opportunity.

Remember to involve your colleagues and employees. If they understand the reasons for any changes you might need to make they will see the possible advantages and appreciate your efforts. After all, they are in this with you.

Read More

With teamwork we are able to multiply our output and minimize individual input.

Ogwo David Emenike, Management consultant, inspirational writer and speaker.
Team Talk. How to get the Best out of a Group Presentation

Team Talk. How to get the Best out of a Group Presentation

Posted by martin.parnell |

Occasionally, I am asked to make a presentation as part of a team. This can be a challenge, especially if you do not know the other presenters and your time to meet up beforehand is limited. This is when Skype and conference-calling come into their own.

Ideally, though, all parties would be able to make time to get together before the event. Things are a little easier if you are asked to present alongside colleagues, especially if you are already part of a team. However, for some people, this can still be somewhat daunting.

Therefore I have turned to a couple of experts to give some valuable advice. Every week, I receive a free weekly ezine from The Media Coach, Alan, Stevens. Alan is a highly -respected Speaker and media consultant, based in the UK.

I’d like to share with you some of his thoughts under the heading:  PLAYING AS A TEAM:

“Sometimes, you need to make a team presentation. You may be pitching for business, talking to shareholders, or explaining a new development to residents. The rules of presenting still apply to the person who is speaking, but there is now more to consider. For example, who will be presenting? In what sequence? How will transitions be made? Will you have a facilitator?

As always, it comes down to good preparation. One person should take charge of the planning and co-ordination, and ensure that the whole team understands what will happen. Ideally, the separate presentations should fit together to form a coherent message. That will probably require several rehearsals, for both words and visual aids (if used).

Even the staging is important, and whether the whole team will be on-stage together, or appear one at a time. In the latter case, remember to practice the changeover, particularly if microphones are involved. Never, ever, try to switch from one laptop to another - something will go wrong, leading to embarrassed asides to the audience. If you are on stage together, remember that you are all on display at all times, so show your respect and attention to the person speaking. I once saw a pitch ruined by a two team members who clearly had a private joke running about another speaker’s style of delivery. They lost the pitch, of course.

Obviously, it’s all about good teamwork. If you are going to win people to your point of view, you need to be at your best, at all times. Plan, prepare and practice.”

In her article posted on,  entitled 6 Tips for Presenting With a Team, As A Team, Lisa B. Marshall explains that there can be benefits to presenting as a team   “You’re not alone! Someone can come to your rescue, if you need it. Teammates also can contribute their unique perspectives and experiences which adds dimension to a presentation.”

Marshall suggests some tips and techniques to incorporate, if you are aiming to deliver an unforgettable presentation:

1) Mutual Understanding

Often when working in teams, the presentation material is divided into small sections and distributed among members. Then everyone runs off and only learns their required area.

For a presentation to be really professional, everyone should understand all of the material, possibly even be able to present all of the material. Take the time to make sure each group member has a solid grasp of the subject and material.

2) Use the PEP Model

The PEP model (Point, Evidence, Point) teaches speakers how to support their ideas and make their points interesting and credible. Whenever you make a point, you should also provide evidence (such as an analogy, story, comparison or example) for that point. Then make the point again, but using different words.

To use the PEP model in a team presentation you divide the P-E-P. The first (or main) speaker makes a point, a different speaker provides evidence, and the first speaker summarizes the point again.

3) Know your Role

Before you present, make sure everyone is clear about their role. Will you present together? Will you take turns as lead speaker? How will you transition from speaker to speaker?

It doesn’t matter what you decide, but you need to decide ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to mark who is supported to be speaking in your presentation notes.

4) Practice…and Practice Again.

Practice early and practice a lot! You’ll want to practice two, maybe even three times more than you would if you were giving a presentation alone. Every member should at least understand all of the material – and that takes time!

5) Be Supportive

Remember, you’re in this as a team, as equals. This is not a competition between you and your co-presenter, it’s a collaboration. When your partner is speaking you should give him or her your full attention. Listen actively to what is being said. If they say something funny, then laugh; in fact, laugh generously. And if a teammate makes an important point, you can nod your head slightly in agreement.

6) Tackling the Q&A – Together

Try to distribute the questions evenly so all presenters have an opportunity to provide an answer. If the audience is favouring one person, the favoured partner should include the others by redirecting questions. “Tim, what you do think about that?”

The opposite also needs to be considered. If one member of the team is having difficulty providing an answer, the other team members should lend a hand – or in this case, a voice.”

So it is clear that, when asked to present as a team, preparation is key, especially defining roles and having the ability to adapt to your audience.

If you follow all the advice given here, I’ve no doubt your team presentation will be professional and well-received.

Read More

Most other competitions are individual achievements, but the Olympic Games is something that belongs to everybody.

Scott Hamilton, retired American figure skater and Olympic gold medalist.
With Regards to the Winter Olympics, my ABC of the Games

With Regards to the Winter Olympics, my ABC of the Games

Posted by martin.parnell |

I did a little research and discovered that, five years after the birth of the modern Olympics in 1896, the first organized international competition involving winter sports was staged in Sweden. Called the Nordic Games, only Scandinavian countries competed. It was then staged every four years, always in Sweden. In 1908, figure skating made its way into the Summer Olympics in London, though it was not actually held until October, some three months after all the other events.

A is for About the Winter Olympics and being”Alternative”

In 1911, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) proposed the staging of a separate winter competition for the 1912 Stockholm Games, but Sweden, wanting to protect the popularity of the Nordic Games, declined. Germany planned a Winter Olympics to precede the 1916 Berlin Summer Games, but World War I forced the cancellation of both. At the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, ice hockey joined figure skating as an official Olympic event, and Canada took home the first of many hockey gold medals.

On January 25, 1924, the first Winter Olympics took place at Chamonix in the French Alps. Spectators were thrilled by the ski jump and bobsled as well as 12 other events involving a total of six sports. The “International Winter Sports Week,” as it was known, was a great success. Soon after the Antwerp Games, an agreement was reached with Scandinavians to stage the IOC-sanctioned International Winter Sports Week. It was so popular among the 16 participating nations that, in 1925, the IOC formally created the Winter Olympics, retroactively making Chamonix the first.

Modern-day Olympians tend to be recognised, at an early age for their talent at a particular sport. They will often spend all of their teens and into young adulthood training with the aim of, one day, becoming an Olympian. They are driven by a passion to succeed.

I tend to think of myself as an “alternate’ or “reverse” Olympian. As a child and teen, I took part in many sports and had no particular talent in any of them.

I was a very late starter when it came to my sport, running, and as for success, I am not the fastest, but I can run along way over a long period of time. My passion is driven by the knowledge that I can use running to improve the lives of children around the world. 

B is for Bobsleighs and Beer 

Most of us who were around in 1988, when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympic Games, will remember the debut of the Jamaican national four-man bobsleigh team.

Their story was retold in the popular movie, “Cool Runnings”. 

Promotion for the film reads, “Four Jamaican bobsledders dream of competing in the Winter Olympics, despite never having seen snow. With the help of a disgraced former champion desperate to redeem himself, the Jamaicans set out to become worthy of Olympic selection, and go all out for glory.” 

I was reminded of this story when I read this piece from the International Business Times: 

Cool Runnings II: Beer Company keeps Jamaican bobsleigh's Olympic dream alive

Dan Cancian 16th, February 2018.

The Jamaican women's bobsleigh team's Olympic dream is still alive after a beer company has offered to buy them a new sled.

Their participation was thrown into jeopardy after their coach, Sandra Kiriasis, an ex-Olympic and European champion, threatened to take the team's sled with her after claiming she had been marginalised. The German said she had been forced out of the team when her role was changed from driving coach to track performance analyst, giving her no access to the athletes.

Kiriasis also added she was legally responsible for the sled used by the two-woman team and would take it with her, unless she was reimbursed for it by the Jamaica Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (JBSF). The JBSF, however, refused to pay her and disputed her ownership of the sled. The stand-off looked set to threaten the team's involvement in the games.

However, beer company Red Stripe has stepped forward and offered to buy the team a new sled. The brewer made the offer on Twitter, inviting JBSF to put the cost of a new sled on "Red Stripe's tab". "We have been gifted a bobsled from Red Stripe," JBSF president Chris Stokes told Jamaican newspaper the Gleaner.

"We have accepted their generosity and we are currently preparing the sled. The team is in competition mode and we are focused on one goal - coming to the start line prepared mentally and physically. We have had some challenges in Pyeongchang, but we stand united and thank our fans and colleagues for their unwavering support". The Jamaican women hope to become the first female competitors from the Caribbean island to appear in the Winter Olympic sport.

At the beginning of this blog, I wrote about the commitment needed to become an Olympian.  The following article, from the CBC website is a fine example:

How the salesman and the actor came to live their crazy skeleton dream: Sean Ingle Pyeongchang Friday February 16th.


Ghana’s Akwasi Frimpong (right) and Jamaica’s Anthony Watson 

One is a former illegal immigrant from Ghana who sold vacuum cleaners door to door to fund his “crazy” Winter Olympic dream. The other is a Jamaican who turned down a role as a hyena in the Broadway production of The Lion King to pursue an identical, if seemingly impossible, goal. Yet somehow Anthony Watson of Jamaica and Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana ended up pinging around a skeleton track at the Winter Olympics on Thursday, turning heads and creating history. It barely mattered they were the slowest by some distance, because when they hugged and told the world how their stories had converged there was barely a dry eye in the house.  

Frimpong’s extraordinary journey began in  a tiny one-bed home in Ghana, which he shared with 10 others as a child. Aged eight he had come to the Netherlands with his mother, where he lived as an illegal immigrant, but while he soon made waves as a talented sprinter he had a massive problem: he feared competing internationally because he worried he would never be let back into his adopted country. 

His solution was to tell his coaches he had lost his passport. It took until 2008, when Frimpong was 22, before he gained residency but his hopes of competing as a sprinter at London 2012 ended when he ripped his achilles tendon. Two years later, when he missed out on the Dutch bobsleigh team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he thought his career was over. His wife Erica had other ideas.  “In July 2015, she told me: ‘I don’t want you to be 99 years old and still whining about your Olympic dream,” he said, choking back tears. “So I spent two years going door to door selling vacuums to pay for my Olympic dream. 

I’d probably be still doing that now if I wasn’t here.”   He loved skeleton but knew it was not cheap. “And no one wanted to sponsor me, nobody believed I could do this. Everyone thought I was crazy but I proved to the world I wanted to do this and sponsors came on board. Now I am getting so emotional …” At this point Frimpong cried. Later, he was hugged by his wife and their nine-month-old daughter Ashanti, along with Watson, who has become a good friend since they met in September 2017 with the crazy plan to both make it to South Korea. “Since then we have been rooming together to keep costs low,” Frimpong said. “I always yell for him on the start. 

We want to get the best out of ourselves and also get a bit of diversity in the sport, inspire people in our country.”  When he competes he wears a helmet bearing an image of a rabbit escaping from a lion’s mouth – something that seems appropriate given his journey. “We know we are here on the bottom of the list and that is OK,” Frimpong said. “The best guys have been doing it 12-plus years. This thing is bigger than ourselves.” 

Watson has an amazing tale of his own – having turned down a role in The Lion King last summer to train for what looked like an unlikely ambition of competing in the Winter Olympics. It looked like a disastrous decision, until a few athletes dropped out late on. “Maybe you’ll see me holding a Tony 10 years from now, I don’t know,” he said, laughing. Watson also plays eight instruments, including the ukulele, and has an album on iTunes called Dreaming Wide Awake, which rather sums up his life philosophy. 

He laughed too, when asked whether he had heard from Jamaica’s most famous athlete, Usain Bolt, the triple Olympic 100m and 200m champion. “No calls, no texts, not even a shout out on Twitter,” he said, jokingly. “But I know there will be a lot of Jamaicans including him who are watching and cheering and that means a lot to me.” Every Olympic Games has its unlikely heroes, athletes who are catapulted into international stardom like Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards and the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team but Frimpong and Watson insist they have greater goals than being one-day internet sensations. 

Their plan is to return to the Winter Olympics in 2022, when they hope to have the experience to be far more competitive – and to also inspire more people. “For me, being at the Winter Olympics is about breaking barriers,” Frimpong said, “to show black people, people from warm countries, can do this as well. Second, I want to motivate and inspire people in my country, to show kids in a little corner what they can do. That little kid was just like myself, living with 10 other kids in a 4x5m room that would never see snow before. “Look at the world championships a year ago I was terrible,” he said, laughing, “but I am improving and that is what sport is about.” 

And he was just as self-deprecating when he was asked by one wag whether he would be pleading with Team Gb to borrow one of their skin suits. “You have to stop hitting walls first before you can go fast,” he sighed, “but I don’t mind. I want to show dreams can come true if you are resilient and work hard.” 

C is for Calgary, Cost and Clara 

Sarah Rieger recently reported, on CBC News that Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi along with other officials from Calgary, Canmore and the federal and provincial governments are currently in Pyeongchang this week as part of the Winter Olympics Observer Program.

"The program is a unique opportunity to experience the Games first-hand to learn how we could host a successful Games in Calgary — if we pursue a bid," Nenshi said in a statement on Friday. The program is estimated to cost $135,000, which will be split between Calgary, Canmore and the provincial and federal governments.

These costs are simply to find out whether or not it might be worthwhile putting in a bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.  Current estimates show that it would cost Calgary only around 4.6 Billion dollars to host the games.

I say “only” because, as stated by The Associated Press in mid-December and reiterated by Money Talks News week, it cost about $12.9 billion for South Korean, to host this year's Winter Olympics. A good chunk of those funds went toward transportation from the capital to Pyeongchang. There was also the cost of building six new venues and refurbishing six others. To get athletes and spectators to venues there is a brand new $3.7 billion express train running from Seoul to Pyeongchang. 

Now I’m not suggesting that Calgary would have to build a new railway, but there would obviously be huge costs associated with hosting the games.

And so, I have a suggestion. Instead of committing billions of dollars, why not buck the trend and have a “low-cost” Olympics. We could re-cycle all the old equipment, there’s lots of it sitting idle in the Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, located at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary and I notice Sport Chek have weekly deals on winter accessories. 

I know there would be a need to have more venues as there are some events that weren’t included in 1988 e.g. the Women’s ice hockey. But, there are place available. Cochrane has a wonderful facility at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre which has 3 Totem ice hockey arenas and a 4th arena off site. The Curling Centre features six regulation sheets of ice plus three junior sheets of ice.

If they got really stuck for space, there’s Mitford Pond, where this year 56 teams played in the Kimmett Cup Pond Hockey Tournament.

I’m sure accommodation wouldn’t be a problem, those Airbnb’s are springing up all over the place and as for sponsors well, I suggest they contact No Frills, Budget Car Rentals and the Dollar stores could donate all the bunting and flags they have left over after the previous year’s Canada Day. Tickets should be cheaper too, so that more people could attend the events. How about a dollar a seat and promote it as “A Buck A Butt”.

Anyway, that’s all hypothetical, we don’t even know if Calgary will decide to bid.

In the meantime, I hope, like me you’re all enjoying the sports and following our wonderful Olympians and looking forward to the upcoming Paralympics.

And, if you’re wondering why athletes put themselves through all those years of training and sacrifice. It’s in the hope that, one day, it will pay off and they’ll get to experience something that most of us never will and is perfectly expressed in the words of a friend of mine:

 “I still can't believe I won the Olympics. That's what I feel right now - completely alive as a human being. It's a really beautiful moment.” Clara Hughes”

Go Canada Go!!!!!!!

Read More

Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.

Edgar H. Schein, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling
Getting to the Point of the Matter

Getting to the Point of the Matter

Posted by martin.parnell |

I recently spent a week in Cuba. I had been there before and was aware that there are certain customs that one should be aware of when visiting the country.

As Brittany Brumfield points out, on her site Cuba,“Cubans are very rich in their nonverbal language. They focus more on gestures and facial expressions than they do on emphasizing actual words. In Cuban culture, it is considered very rude to take a step back from the person with whom you are speaking.” Brumfield says that “Cubans step forward in comfort and are easily offended when the other party releases from this comfort zone.” It also known that Cuba has its Latin roots so much like Latin America, they feel comfortable being physically close to another individual. 

Another key gesture important in Cuban culture is eye contact. Cuban’s tend to be very direct and clear about what they need/want/are talking about, however, constant eye contact is a no-no. This is because too much will make them feel uncomfortable. Yet, refusing or avoiding eye contact is considered a sign of dishonesty. So finding the right median with eye contact is important and indirect. 

On another note, the initial greeting is VERY important. According to the Centre for Intercultural Learning, “a handshake, for male and females, is expected always. If the individuals have met more than once, a hug is commonplace and expected. This is to establish the comfort zone that they feel is important.” 

“El último”   

However, there was one aspect of Cuban culture that I was not aware of that I learned during this recent trip.  My wife and I decided we would like to see the Cuban National Ballet’s production of Don Quixote, so we took the bus from our resort and made our way to the wonderful National Theatre, in Havana, to purchase tickets. Outside of thetheatre, we saw a queue, so we joined the back of it. After all, we had both been brought up in England, where queuing has been turned into an art from, it’s in our DNA. 

Within minutes, a very irate Cuban lady came and told us we couldn’t stand where we were because it wasn’t the back of the queue, we were baffled. Fortunately, a very kind gentleman explained that all the people we could see wandering around, sitting on the steps of thetheatre and leaning against the pillars were also queuing. So we asked how one knows where to wait. He then explained that Cubans don’t typically form a single line, waiting until their turn comes. They will often find a place to sit close to the waiting line or just leave and come back later, still expecting to have the same place. 

To accomplish this, they always ask for “El último” (last person waiting). As long as they keep an eye in this person, they know their position in the queue. If this “último” leaves his or her position, it might also be wise to ask him/her who he/she is following, so that you can follow two people and never lose your position. If you need to leave the queue, it is also customary to tell the person following you. If you intend to come back later and want to keep your position, then you should tell this person, “I will be back in 10 minutes.” (even if you are going to be more or less than 10 minutes). 

Amazingly, it works. We found the last person, a young woman and stood behind her until someone came and asked if we were “El último” and we could proudly answer with confidence that indeed we were! 


It’s rude to point 

Not long after returning from Cuba, I read an article by Lucy Yang ( ) entitled  “You'll never see a Disney employee point with one finger — here's why”. She had been speaking to  INSIDER's Micaela Garber, an Orlando native who spent a summer working at Disney World, who explained that cast members must always point with two fingers or their entire hand — a gesture known as "The Disney Point" because, in some cultures, pointing with one finger is considered rude. 

 As professional keynote speaker Gayle Cotton wrote in the Huffington Post in 2013, (Gestures to Avoid in Cross-Cultural Business: In Other Words, ‘Keep Your Fingers to Yourself!’), pointing with your index finger is an offensive gesture in China, Japan, Indonesia, and Latin America. According to Cotton, who is an expert in cross-cultural communication, pointing with your index finger is also considered impolite in Europe. And in many African countries, the gesture is reserved for pointing at inanimate objects, and never at people. In fact, she lists several gestures that can be misconstrued, according to one’s culture, for example: 

In Brazil, Germany, Russia, and many other countries around the world, the OK sign is a very offensive gesture because it is used to depict a private bodily orifice. The OK sign actually does mean “okay” in the United States, however in Japan it means “money,” and it is commonly used to signify “zero” in France. Clearly the OK sign isn’t offensive everywhere; however, it is not OK to use in many parts of the world, nor does it necessarily mean “okay”!

Most people are aware that the V for victory or peace sign was made popular by Winston Churchill in England during WWII. However, it’s important to take heed of where you are in the world, because if you make this gesture with your palm facing inward in Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and several other countries throughout the world, it in essence means “Up yours!”

On Inauguration Day 2005, President George W. Bush raised his fist, with the index and little finger extended, to give the time- honoured hook ‘em horns gesture of the Texas Longhorn football team to the marching band of the University of Texas. Newspapers around the world expressed their astonishment at the use of such a gesture. Italians refer to it as “il cornuto,” which means that you are being cuckolded (that is, that your wife is cheating on you!). It’s considered a curse in some African countries, and is clearly an offensive gesture in many other parts of the world.

Rule of thumb

The thumbs-up gesture is commonly used in many cultures to signify a job well done. However, if it is used in Australia, Greece, or the Middle East — especially if it is thrust up as a typical hitchhiking gesture would be — it means essentially “Up yours!” or “Sit on this!” The thumbs up gesture can also create some real problems for those who count on their fingers. In Germany and Hungary, the upright thumb is used to represent the number 1; however, it represents the number 5 in Japan. Take heed all you global negotiators: there is a big difference between 1 and 5 million!

Curling the index finger with the palm facing up is a common gesture that people in the United States use to beckon someone to come closer. However, it is considered a rude gesture in Slovakia, China, East Asia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and many other parts of the world. It’s also considered extremely impolite to use this gesture with people. It is used only to beckon dogs in many Asian countries — and using it in the Philippines can actually get you arrested! The appropriate way to beckon someone in much of Europe, and parts of Asia, is to face the palm of your hand downward and move your fingers in a scratching motion.

The open hand or “moutza” gesture is insulting in parts of Africa and Asia, Greece, Pakistan, and in several other countries. It is formed by opening your palm with your fingers slightly apart and extending your arm toward someone, much like a wave in the U.S. This may seem harmless enough to many Westerners, however if someone does it with a more abrupt arm extension, its meaning changes to, “Enough is enough,” or “Let me stop you right there.” In other words, “Talk to the hand, because the face isn’t listening!”

When it comes to body language gestures in the communication process, the important thing to keep in mind is that what we say, we say with our words, tonality, and body language.

Two way street

Of course, it works both ways. In our Western culture there are certain things that may not be acceptable to us, but are perfectly OK in other culture, including: 

  • Turning up late for an appointment and not feeling the need to apologise (I experienced this a lot, in Tanzania)
  • When you first meet someone, being asked what you or your wife/ husband
  • Being asked why you don’t have children
  • Unsolicited marriage proposals from strangers.
  • People standing way too close.
  • Shop clerks who follow you around the whole time you’re browsing.
  • Staring
  • Ignoring queues and pushing in
  • Bartering in shops
  • Urinating in the street 

All perfectly acceptable behaviour, in some cultures. 

A sensitive approach 

As a professional speaker and Rotarian, I have developed an awareness of the importance of being sensitive to the cultural practices of people I meet and am learning all the time. 

In business, it is equally important to be aware of the cultural practices of those we encounter, whether it be prospective clients or people in our employ. It would be ignorant of us to expect someone to fully embrace the nuances of our culture, if we were not, at least, making an effort to be respectful of theirs.

And one final thought, although, culturally, we may have some differences, it is worth remembering....

“Individual cultures and ideologies have their appropriate uses but none of them erase or replace the universal experiences, like love and weeping and laughter, common to all human beings". Aberjhani, Slendid Literarium.

Read More

Don't gobblefunk around with words.

Roald Dahl
How to Ensure Everyone's on the Same Page

How to Ensure Everyone's on the Same Page

Posted by martin.parnell |

I have just bought tickets for the Old Trout Puppet Workshop’s Presentation of “Jabberwocky”, on February 25th, in Calgary. 

The production is based on a poem from Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1872).  It’s a nonsense poem about the quest to vanquish a creature called a Jabberwock and my wife can recite it off by heart. When she was teaching, she would often introduce the poem to her students as a prompt for some very creative art work. As the creatures are all fictitious, the students could let their imaginations run riot. 

The poem begins: 

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe. 

When you read the poem, images are formed in your mind as to what the people and creatures look like. You can even conjure up a picture of the “tulgey wood”, through which the Jabberwok appears, with “eyes of flame....” 

So often, in life we are required to interpret things to our own way of thinking, but as we know, what one person might imagine may not be as everyone else sees it. 


When we read a novel, people and places can appear differently, to different people.

Now, it’s not always essential that we always see things the same, as long as we get the gist of what is going on. But, sometimes it is extremely important to make sure that we are interpreting things the same way. 

In business, if you are giving a presentation, or even just sending a memo, it is vital that everyone concerned is getting the same message. The use of vocabulary needs to be appropriate to the subject matter, the details need to be clear and precise and any references need to be accurately reproduced. The use of too many “in-words” and acronyms can be confusing, especially if someone is new to the group and unaware as to what they stand for. 

In business, people have a lot on their minds, attention spans are short  so when giving a presentation, make it as brief as possible, without omitting important information. The same goes for anything you put in writing. Make sure it’s easy to read, the sentences are short and to the point. 

If all employees are getting the same message and understanding goals, expectations, information etc. it will mean things will go more smoothly as you work to the same end. 

Of course, there are times, in the workplace when it is appropriate to be creative and use our imagination to come up with new ideas, be a little unconventional or from a new perspective, but it’s important to know when those time are. 

For anyone who’d like to read the rest of Lewis’s poem, here it is:

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
  The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
  Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
  And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
  The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
  He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
  Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Read More

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
How to get the Better of those Winter Blues

How to get the Better of those Winter Blues

Posted by martin.parnell |

A recent item on the CBC encouraged listeners to “embrace Winter”. Indeed, it’s great if you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or just being outdoors, generally. In fact, one guest suggested we should try winter camping. We are often reminded about the importance of getting out in the fresh air and enjoying as much sunlight as possible, during these long winter months.

But, what if you’re a person who has to get up and go to a workplace, or have other responsibilities, which keep you indoors? Whether you are an employer or an employee, there are things that you can do to make life more bearable if you are stuck inside for most of the day.

Do you get to work and then home again in the dark? 

Many people do and if you work somewhere with poor lighting and/ or ventilation it can seriously affect your mood and, consequently your performance.

Pull up the blinds and let in as much light as possible. Most experts believe that the lack of sunlight during the winter season throws off the body’s rhythm and leads to hormonal changes as well as a decrease in the production of serotonin, the chemical your brain produces when you have a lot of energy and are in a good mood. 

Open a window on those really sunny days (so long as nobody is sitting in a draft) and make sure thethermostat is turned to a comfortable level.

Amongst other things you can do is to introduce some plant life. In his article “Beating the Workplace Winter Blues and Avoiding Seasonal Slumps” on, David Galic refers to a study performed by Virginia Lohr of Washington State University which claims that “even workers who are on their computers all day see an increase in productivity and lower blood pressure when they are working in a room that is full of plant life. The presence of plants at the workplace boost productivity and it helps workers to feel refreshed and focused”.

 If you’re business doesn’t lend itself to having plants around, you can always include paintings of the natural world, in your décor.

It can be hard to be motivated during the winter months, especially if your company experiences some form of downturn in production. It’s important that employers ensure that the extra time is put to good use. Take it as an opportunity to engage with the workforce, have meetings and discussions that will reinforce and accomplish outstanding goals and set new ones. Getting together as a team can be motivating and refreshing.

This is also a time to take care of your general well-being. Get enough sleep, eat well and do try and do some form of exercise. Colds and flu are prevalent and you need to be proactive in keeping yourself fit and healthy.

If you do get sick, take time off. You will recover more quickly, but, more importantly, you won’t be spreading your germs to other people.

In some people, the winter months can lead to lethargy and even depression. If you find you are affected in this way, do read up on the condition referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). On the CTI Technology website, Chief Executive Officer, Aaron, S, Kane, addresses this issue in his article:  5 Tips to Keep Employees Motivated in Winter. He writes:

“If you find yourself feeling increasingly lethargic and in a very negative mood most of the time during the winter, there’s a good chance that you have SAD to some degree. He points out that “People who suffer from SAD are often overwhelmed when it comes to creating plans and getting things done. If there are any big projects that you need to tackle, try to break them down into small increments and focus on these small projects one by one instead of trying to deal with a giant project and being overwhelmed by it.”

He goes on to explain, “Sometimes it’s all about simply getting by for people with SAD. Get through the winter being as productive as possible and when the winter thaws and you start feeling better as spring approaches, then you can ramp up your work goals and take on the big projects that seemed so insurmountable to you while the weather was cold.”

Kane also gives advice to managers:

“Remember, as a manager, there is probably a solid percentage of people at your workplace who find it tough to work when the weather is cold and the sunlight is missing from their work days. Do everything you can to help them out and take care of their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Helping yourself and your workers get through the winter will undoubtedly result in a stronger, more engaged, happier and more productive workforce once the spring season returns.”

So whether you embrace the winter months or not, try and bear in mind, it won’t be long before Summer is here and we are bemoaning the fact that “It’s just too hot!”

Read More

Life is a minestrone. Served up with Parmesan cheese.

How to make Minestrone Soup and Build a Successful Business

How to make Minestrone Soup and Build a Successful Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

Today, my wife, Sue, made a huge pot of minestrone soup. It smells delicious and I can’t wait to tuck into a big bowl, when I come back from my trip to Calgary, especially as its minus 15 degrees outside. 

As I watched her chopping the ingredients, it made me think about how life really is like a bowl of minestrone. 

You have to have your basics, the onions and carrots, zucchini and celery, the potato and pasta. These are the building blocks. They give the soup substance.

Then she adds the tomatoes, their colour really adds a rich vibrancy to the soup. Then the garlic and Italian spices give it identity and the stock fills up the pot and gives volume to the whole thing. 

In life and especially in business, we need to look for the right ingredients, which need to be carefully selected, so that they will work together as a whole. 

If you are setting up a business or assessing an existing one and you are looking at the ingredients you need to create or reorganize, in order to have an effective workforce, perhaps you should consider these: 

Leadership – The outcome of every meal depends on the cook. They need to be able to decide what it is they want to cook, find the right recipe, select the ingredients, be adaptable if things aren’t tasting just right and see the process through to the end. 

Are you a good leader? Do you set clear, measurable, achievable goals and do you provide the tools your employees need to work efficiently? 

Goal – This is when you decide what it is you want to cook, look at the recipe and decide what you need to do to succeed. If all members of your workforce have a common goal, it will make life much easier and you will stand a better chance of success. 

Organisation – when Sue makes her soup, she gathers together all the ingredients, but doesn’t just throw them all into the pot straight away. Some things need to be sautéed first, then others are added and left to simmer and there are some that are added at the end. You may have the personnel to form the basis of your company, but always be prepared to add to that group, even if it’s on a short-term contract or in the role of consultant. 

Collaboration – each ingredient is carefully selected. Too much or too little of any one of them could alter the outcome and not be so desirable. Look for people who can work well together, but also look for people with varying talents. Each of your team should be able to offer particular skills which will enhance the group. 

Commitment – A soup can be allowed to simmer but, at some stage you need to know when to turn up the heat. There will be times, in business, when everyone needs to put in that extra effort and go the extra mile. It may be tough, but when everything comes together, you realise that the result can be oh, so satisfying. 

Also, don’t forget, when all the work is done and it’s time to serve up the finished project, presentation is key. 

In Sue’s case, she’ll add a sprinkle of Italian Parsley, grate the parmesan to go on top and have some crusty bread warming in the oven. 

You need to be able to stand by your project, have all the information you need at hand and be able to convince a client that you are the best. 

So, decide what it is you want to cook, allow the time you need to prepare it, have the right ingredients to make it happen and, like Sue’s Minestrone, everything will turn out just fine and you’ll have people coming back for more!

Read More

Study the past if you would define the future.

Looking at the Past and Reflecting on the Present

Looking at the Past and Reflecting on the Present

Posted by martin.parnell |

As I sat here thinking about the past year, I decided to take a look at events that have happened on this day, January 8th, over previous years. Here are just a few examples of some that I found, as listed by 

  • 1790- President George Washington delivers first State of the Union
  • 1877- Crazy Horse fights final battle
  • 1946- Elvis Presley receives his first guitar
  • 1962- Mona Lisa exhibited in Washington 

It struck me that there are often times that things occur that are so profound, they are remembered as historical events even though they may not affect everyone and some that occur that may not affect us at the time, but may resonate, in the future. 

When Crazy Horse led his starving people to Fort Robinson on the Red Cloud Agency in north-western Nebraska, he had reluctantly led them to life on a reservation where most indigenous peoples still find themselves today. When Elvis Presley was given his first guitar, who knew how this might lead him to becoming one of the best-known entertainers of all time? There aren’t many people who wouldn’t recognise the Mona Lisa and her famous smile. 

I then decided to take a look at some events which occurred on tomorrow’s date, January 9th and found an equally varied selection: 

  • 1431- Judges' investigations for the trial of Joan of Arc in Rouen, France, the seat of the English occupation government.
  • 1760- Afghans defeat Marathas in battle of Barari Ghat. 
  • 1909- Ernest Shackleton as part of the British Nimrod Expedition reaches a record farthest South latitude (88°23' south) 
  • 1941- 6,000 Jews exterminated in pogrom in Bucharest, Romania
  • 2007- Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs launched the iPhone

I found it interesting to note how some of the issues mentioned can relate to more recent events, e.g.  there is still fighting and unrest in Afghanistan and Catalonia is fighting for independence from Spain.

On 12 September, we saw updates to the iPhone, Apple Watch and Apple TV, as well as the 10th anniversary iPhone X, with its brand-new virtually full-screen OLED design  and NASA’s Juno spacecraft is orbiting Jupiter.

And so, as I look to the future, I wonder what events will occur that will have my grandchildren looking back on, in their futures, as news-worthy or life-changing.

With ever-advancing technology, the world is communicating as it never has done before and yet, sadly, some people find it easier to send a text then to sit and have a face-to-face conversation and many of us have to make a concerted effort to live active lifestyles.

In business, we are constantly seeing new innovations which affect the way we work and feel the need to chase increasingly-challenging goals. Changes occur and events happen on a daily basis, both personally, nationally and globally.

We may not all be history-makers, but, in our own ways, we can make a difference. Whether it’s doing something to help ease the life of someone else, by making their working conditions more pleasant, spending some of our spare time volunteering or just being there when someone we know needs a hand or someone to talk to, to others, our actions can prove to be not just memorable, but life-changing.

Read More

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.

Alfred Wainwright
Too Cold for Penguins but Not for Cochrane Runners and Walkers

Too Cold for Penguins but Not for Cochrane Runners and Walkers

Posted by martin.parnell |

Sunday, December 31st was scheduled for my 8th Annual Run / Walk. This event had never been cancelled but the weather the week leading up to the event had been brutal and the forecast for that day was -32C. Oh boy. 

The day before, I asked Paddy, Operations Manager at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Centre, if he had any thoughts for a back-up plan. He kindly offered to let people use the indoor track, free of charge, instead of going outside. Great idea. 

So, I sent out postings and emails letting as many people as possible know that it was still a go. I had my fingers crossed that the weather would break and warm up. No such luck. Sunday morning I was up at 5.30am and checked the current temperature. It was -48C with the wind chill. Not good. 

On reaching the Center, my first task was to mark the route by spray-painting orange arrows.  Every 30 seconds the nozzle to the spray can froze and I had to keep going back to the car and unfreezing it. At one point I was driving along the side of the path and spraying the arrows from inside the car.

This year we were attempting to raise $5,000 for Free to Run, an organization that uses sport to empower and educate women and girls from conflict-affected communities. The money would enable them to build an ice skating rink for girls in Afghanistan and also allow a group of girls from other provinces to participate in a week of winter sporting activities, in March. 

Soon, 9.00am came around and a hardy group lined up at the start, outside the main entrance. I blew my whistle and away we went. The route took us around the building, through the Bow River Edge camp ground, along the Bow river pathway and down to the old bridge which was the turnaround spot. One loop is around 2.5 kms and in the first hour I managed to cover 4 loops. By this time, my hat and facemask were caked with ice and snow. After a short break I headed out again and was joined by a few more run / walkers. 

Leanne Brintnell, from Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, had arrived and was organizing the band HYMN, who would entertain everyone with some beautiful traditional music. She would also be selling products made by women in Afghanistan. 

The day wound on with runners coming and going. Everyone doing their part and, by making donations, they were also making a difference. At 2.40pm it was time to do the final 2km, “Cookie Loop”. A bunch of kids lined up and I blew the final whistle and away we went. Twenty minutes later it was done. The kids got their medal, we packed up and everyone headed home. 

In total there were 65 participants, 30 of which were brave enough to run/walk outside. We raised an amazing $2,936.  We still a have way to go to reach the $5,000, so if you would like to donate to this worthy cause and  help us reach our goal then please go to and hit the big “DONATE” button. Thank you. 

I later checked the Globe and Mail website and read a story about how the King Penguins, at the Calgary Zoo, were brought inside due to the extreme cold and the headline in today’s Calgary Herald online reflected this. It read “Cochrane runners go where Penguins fear to tread”.

Read More

Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Books, the Perfect Gift idea for Last-Minute Shoppers

Books, the Perfect Gift idea for Last-Minute Shoppers

Posted by martin.parnell |

I’m sending this blog a few days early, because I doubt many of you will be logging on to read my latest thought, on Christmas Day. As I’m posting it just before your last chance to do any gift buying, I thought I’d try and offer some help. 

For the past few weeks, my wife, Sue, has been wearing a button which reads “All I want for Christmas is Books.”  I should mention that she has only worn it around the house, as this is a message specifically for me. (Other family members got the message long ago.) 

This is great, as I know that whatever book I choose for her, it will be greatly appreciated. It does help, of course, that she has a “Wish List”. I’m mentioning this because, just in case you still have some last-minute Christmas shopping to do, I would suggest that you can’t go far wrong with a book, in some form or another. 

I prefer the traditional type that you hold in your hands and requires a book mark, “A great stocking stuffer that the craftier ones amongst you can have great fun making and personalising”, according to Sue. However, for some people an audio book is more convenient and there are others that would rather read books downloaded onto their laptop or Kindle. 

Whichever way you enjoy a good read, you know the pleasure a book can give whether it’s one that you have specifically requested or a complete surprise. We love to give books for gifts, especially to children. We tend to go for the classics, in the hope that they will be treasured, for years to come. Browsing around your local book store or searching through suggestions online, can be fun, but a bit bewildering, especially if you are limited for time. 

So, I thought I’d try and help out by suggesting some titles you might like to consider: 

  • For young children:   “Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter or   “Nuptse and Lhotse Go To The Rockies” by Jocey Asnong. 
  • Children 6 – 10:  “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery or “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg.
  • For teens and young adults: Check out “The Yellow Hoods” series by local author Adam Dreece. 

I could suggest a huge number of books for adults, but I’ll just stick to a few I’ve personally enjoyed or look forward to reading – once I’ve opened my Christmas parcels! 

Everyone, but especially runners and dog lovers will enjoy “Finding Gobi” by Dion Leonard. A fascinating and amusing non-fiction read is “The History of the Snowman” by Bob Eckstein. Thriller readers will be happy with “A Legacy of Spies” by John le Carre, but if you think that might be a bit heavy-going, then how about the latest from Stephen King, co-written with his son, Owen, entitled “Sleeping Beauties”. 

On the business side, one book I really enjoyed was Lois Creamer’s “Book More Business –Make Money Speaking”. No nonsense and lots of great tips to apply in 2018. 

Of course, with adults, as well as children, if you want a Christmas – themed read, you can’t go wrong with one of the classics like Charles Dickens’  “A Christmas Carol” or the more recent “The Christmas Train” by David Baldacci. 

Books, especially the hardback versions, can be expensive, so why not check out your local thrift store? We have picked up many second-hand books and audio books for just a dollar or two. 

I do hope this has been of some help and I hope you receive some good reads this Christmas. 

I would tell you which books are waiting for Sue, under the tree, but she occasionally reads my blog! 

Merry Christmas.

Read More

No one has ever become poor by giving.

Anne Frank
How to Support others Locally, Nationally and Internationally during the Holiday Season

How to Support others Locally, Nationally and Internationally during the Holiday Season

Posted by martin.parnell |

As I mentioned, in my last blog, I’m currently making preparations for my 8th. Annual Run/ Walk event, to be held, on December 31st from the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre, here in Cochrane. Participation is by donation and all of the money goes to the charity that I have chosen to support, that particular year. Although, sometimes, I think it’s the charity that has chosen me!

This year, I will be supporting girls in Afghanistan, through the charity Free to Run. This is a NGO, whose mission is to use running and outdoor adventure to empower and educate women and girls who have been affected by conflict. Now I know that there are some people that wonder why I don’t solely support local or National charities. My answer to that is “I do”.

Personally, my wife and I support several charities, including CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the blind), the Alzheimer’s Society, the Alberta Lung Association, the Cochrane Food Bank and The Cochrane Activettes, to name but a few.

But it’s not all about donating money, sometimes, just giving of your time can make a huge difference to a worthy cause.

It was with this thought in mind, that I was moved by a story, by Sarfraz Manzoor, published in last Sunday’s British newspaper, The Observer, about a Muslim couple, who decided to enter the fostering system, in the UK.

This is part of their story:

Just before Christmas seven years ago, Riffat and Sajjad were at home when the phone rang. It was the foster agency letting them know that three children they’d never met would be arriving shortly. The children – two sisters and a brother – were in urgent need of short-term care. Sajjad and Riffat had been approved as foster carers only two months earlier and these would be their first placements.

“We were excited, but I was also a bit nervous,” recalls Sajjad, 50.

Both Riffat and Sajjad are observant Muslims of Pakistani heritage. Riffat, 46, was wearing a headscarf when we met, and prays five times a day. How did they cope with the arrival of three white English children raised in a Christian household?

 “I will never forget that day,” recalls Riffat, who grew up in Pakistan and moved to Britain after marrying in 1997. “It really was like being thrown in the deep end.”

That evening, once the children were asleep, Sajjad headed out on an urgent shopping mission. “We are Muslims and we’d never had a Christmas tree in our home,” says Riffat. “But these children were Christian and we wanted them to feel connected to their culture.” So he bought a Christmas tree, decorations and presents. The couple worked until the early hours putting the tree up and wrapping presents. The first thing the children saw the next morning was the tree.

“I had never seen that kind of extra happiness and excitement on a child’s face,” remembers Riffat. The children were meant to stay for two weeks – seven years later two of the three siblings are still living with them.

Riffat has grown used to surprised looks from strangers and people asking if the reason she has such fair-skinned children is because she married a white man. But she focuses on the positives – in particular how fostering has given her and Sajjad an insight into a world that had been so unfamiliar. “We have learned so much about English culture and religion,” Sajjad says. Riffat would read Bible stories to the children at night and took the girls to church on Sundays. “When I read about Christianity, I don’t think there is much difference,” she says. “It all comes from God.”

Just as Riffat and Sajjad have learned about Christianity, the girls have come to look forward to Eid and the traditions of henna. “I’ve taught them how to make potato curry, pakoras and samosas,” Riffat says. “But their spice levels are not quite the same as ours yet.” The girls can also sing Bollywood songs and speak Urdu.

“I now look forward to going home. I have two girls and my wife waiting,” says Sajjad.

I love this story because Riffat and Sajjad didn’t let the barriers of race, religion or culture stand in the way of their desire to help others in need.

I sincerely hope there are lots of people out there who feel the same and will be joining me, on December 31st. and, if you can’t make it. You have the opportunity to donate directly to this worthy cause through my website . Just hit the big red “DONATE” button.

If you think that a local or national charity is where you would like to donate your well-earned money, then that’s great too.

All I ask is that you consider the act of donating and making a difference in the life of someone else, next time you go shopping and are tempted to buy just one more decoration for the tree, one more stocking stuffer, or that extra box of chocolates.

Happy Holidays!

Read More

Beginnings are easy. The thing is to finish the race.

Victor Belfort
Finish the Race Attitude: How to Make it Work for you in 2018

Finish the Race Attitude: How to Make it Work for you in 2018

Posted by martin.parnell |

What is a “Finish the Race Attitude”? Well, Attitude is defined as “A way of feeling or acting toward a person, thing or situation” and “Finish the Race”, is getting things done!

In this blog I want to talk about the three steps to having a “Finish the Race Attitude”: Goal Setting, Goal Execution and Goal Completion. 

Yogi Berra, baseball legend, said — “We're lost, but we're making good time.  Is that how you feel about elements in your business? Zig Ziglar, Speaker and Author said “You need a plan to build a house. To a build life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal” and the key to successfully achieving that goal is to write it down. 

Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, recently studied the art and science of goal setting. She gathered two hundred and sixty-seven people together — men and women from all over the world, and from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, lawyers and bankers. She divided the participants into groups, according to who wrote down their goals and dreams, and who didn’t.

She discovered that those who wrote down their goals and dreams on a regular basis achieved those desires at a significantly higher level than those who did not. In fact, she found that you become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis. So for those of you that do write down your goals ask yourself these questions:

Do you review them monthly? Do you review them weekly? Do you review them daily?

Why daily? The key is to look at what you are doing on a daily basis to see if it’s aligned with your goals. If it is great, if it’s not then ask yourself “Should I be doing this?”.

So remember: In Goal Setting: Write it!

The Second Step I want to talk about is Goal Execution. Fine, so I’ve written my goal down but it’s so big, so over-whelming I just don’t know where to start. As the old saying goes “How do you eat an elephant, one piece at a time”. In 2010 I undertook to run 250 marathons in one year. Initially, the excitement of the challenge and the fact that I had people join me on the run kept me going however after a few months the excitement and the people disappeared. 

It wasn’t so much a physical challenge as a mental one. I was running 5 marathons a week and by mid-year I was literally running on empty. I remember waking up at 5.00am after running 4 marathons that week. The rain was pounding on the bedroom window and I just wanted to stay in bed, have a cup of tea and read the newspaper. The only way I could face the day was by “Chunking it down” in 10 minute blocks. 

I got up and in the first 10 minutes had a tea and breakfast. Then, for the next ten minutes, I’d go and just dress up in running gear, no harm in that. The rain was still pounding down. Next, I’d get in my car and take a ten minute drive to where I would start my run. This was the difficult 10 minutes. I’d then say to myself “Martin just go and run for 10 minutes, if you don’t like it then turn around and come back”. 

Well, after 10 minutes I was out there and turning around was not an option. Chunk it down. Use the technique on anything you’re tackling: Blogs, newsletter, cold calls and even writing a book. 

I’ve had two books published, MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and each have between 65,000 to 70,000 words. By chunking it down to 500 words a session and setting aside time each day to work on it, the manuscript was completed in six months. Could I have done it quicker? Possibly, but the bottom line was got it done. The power of consistent action cannot be over emphasised. 

So remember: In Goal Execution: Chunk it! 

The third step I want to talk about is Goal Completion. At the end of the day you’ve either successfully completed your goal or you haven’t. One of the hardest things is to take on something and it doesn’t work out. 

In 2013 I set a goal of running the Calgary Marathon while attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the fastest time in full lacrosse gear. The purpose being to raise $10,000 for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. The rules stipulated that it had to be under 4 hours and I had to wear a helmet, elbow pads, shoulder pads, and gloves while carrying a lacrosse stick and ball. 

On race day the temperature started at 15C and increased to 20C. My black helmet, probably not the best colour, became an oven. I started to overheat and my heart rate went through the roof. Up to the 38 km marker my pace was on target but then the wheels came off. I was dizzy and my legs went to rubber. I crossed the line at 4 hours 18 minutes and they rushed me into the medical tent. 

Nelson Mandela says “I never lose, I either win or learn”. So what did I learn? Well, it was probably one of the stupidest goals I’ve ever set however from a fund raising point of view it was a success. I think I got a number of “Pity Donations”. The temperature had done me in and there wasn’t a lot I could do about that. Sometimes when you take on something and given it your best shot it still doesn’t work out. The key, accept and move on. 

That’s why, when we do have successes, it’s so important to celebrate them along the way. This year I facilitated a number of workshops for indigenous men and women in Morley on “Unlocking your Potential”. We talked about Goal Setting and Goal Execution and then shared our thoughts on celebrating on Goal Completion. 

Some of the things they would do included: Have a steak dinner at Montana’s with friends, have a BBQ with supporters and friends, show certificate, take family to Disney World, house warming party, go mud bogging with truck, go camping with friends, have a special gathering, share with others. The key is share your successes. 

So remember: In Goal Completion: Celebrate it! 

In finishing, I want to leave you with 3 “It’s”. In Goal Setting, Write it; in Goal Execution, Chunk it and in Goal Completion, Celebrate it. 

If you follow these three steps then you will well on your way to having a “Finish the Race Attitude" and an incredible 2018.

Read More

I’ll even let you hold the remote.

Adam Sandler
Happy Birthday to the Man who makes our TV set a Little less Remote

Happy Birthday to the Man who makes our TV set a Little less Remote

Posted by martin.parnell |

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about those handy little things that, for some of us make life a little easier. I was reminded of this when I noted that today, December 4th is the birthday of inventor, Robert Adler.

According to Wikipedia, Adler was born in Vienna in 1913, the son of Jenny (née Herzmark), a doctor, and Max Adler, a social theorist.  He earned a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Vienna in 1937 and, following Austria's annexation by Nazi Germany in 1939, Dr. Adler, who was Jewish, left the country. He traveled first to Belguim, then to England, where he acted on the advice of friends, and immigrated to the United States. He began working at Zenith Electronics in the research division in 1941. In his lifetime, Adler was granted 58 US patents.

The invention Adler is best known for is a wireless remote control for televisions. While not the first remote control, its underlying technology was a vast improvement over previous remote control system.

Eugene Polley, anther engineer at Zenith  invented the first wireless remote control, replacing the signal cable based remote control devices, which never were a success. The Flash-Matic used directional flashlight in the transmitter device, and photo cells in the television set itself. One of the major shortcomings of this technology was that if the television set was exposed to direct sunlight, it could inadvertently trigger one of the remote control functions. The company president sent the engineers back to the drawing board to come up with a better solution. 

A system based on radio waves was briefly considered but rejected because the signals could easily travel through walls and could inadvertently change the channel on a neighbour's television. Furthermore, the marketing people at Zenith desired a remote control which did not require batteries, as it was perceived at the time that if the battery died, the customer might think something was wrong with the television set itself.

Adler's solution was to use sound waves to transmit signals to the TV. The first remote control he developed, the "Space Command", used aluminum rods, analogous to tuning forks, struck by hammers toggled by the buttons on the device, to produce high-frequency tones that would be interpreted to control functions on the television set.

In the 1960s, Adler modified the remote control to use ultrasonic signals, a technology which went on to be used in television sets manufactured for the next 25 years, until replaced by infrared systems which could transmit more complex commands, although, ironically, they still needed batteries to work.

Present-day remote controls are commonly consumer infrared devices which send digitally-coded pulses of infrared radiation to control functions such as power, volume, channels, playback, track change, heat, fan speed, or other features varying from device to device. Remote controls for these devices are usually small wireless handheld objects with an array of buttons for adjusting various settings such as television channel, track number, and volume.

An article in the New Yorker, reported a story about one member of the Z-Wave Alliance, an association of about two hundred and fifty so-called “home-control” manufacturers and service providers.  This past August, he climbed nearly twenty-seven thousand feet to the peak of Cho Oyu, in the Himalayas. With the push of a few buttons, he used his smartphone to adjust thethermostat, flip the lights, and unlock and lock the doors of his New Jersey home. 

Remote control has continually evolved and advanced and now include Bluetooth connectivity, motion sensor-enabled capabilities and voice control.

So, the next time you use that remote control to record your favourite program, let you skip through all those TV ads or simply turn up the volume, from the comfort of your armchair, give a thought to Robert Adler.

Read More

Help others to achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.

Les Brown
Building an Ice Skating Rink for Girls in Afghanistan

Building an Ice Skating Rink for Girls in Afghanistan

Posted by martin.parnell |

On December 31st 2017 I will be holding my 8th Annual Run / Walk at Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre. It all started in 2010 when, on December 31st, I ran my final marathon of Marathon Quest 250, completing 250 marathons in one year. It’s hard to believe that every year since then the community of Cochrane and beyond has come out, often in temperatures of -20C and lower, to help others. The first five years it was to support Right To Play and their play based educational programs in Benin, West Africa. 

In 2015 the funds went to Boma La Mama to build a playground for a Kindergarten class in the village of Mto wa Mbu in Tanzania. That year we raised $12,000 and these funds provided a swing set, a round-a-bout, teeter totters, a see-saw and a bouncy castle.

Last year we raised $7,000 for Free to Run, an organisation that uses sports to empower and educate women and girls from conflict affected communities. The funds were used for an unprecedented camping and kayaking expedition in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan. A group of eleven female participants from multiple provinces in Afghanistan participated. Not only was it their first experience in the Panjshir Valley, but it was the first time they had ever camped outdoors or kayaked. It was also the first time an Afghan female had ever kayaked in the country. 

This year we are again supporting Free to Run. This time we want to raise $10,000 to build an ice skating rink for Afghan females in the town of Bamyan, in the foot hills of the Hindu Kush Mountains. A small rink was built this January for the girls and young women and for the first time ever they got a taste of gliding on ice. Said one young lady from the program, “for me, ice skating was amazing because when I started skating, I was wondering, 'How is it possible to stand on a small blade and keep our balance?' It's another reason we can have confidence; if I can stand on ice with a blade, then anything is possible.” Last year, funding was provided by the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan however this is not available this year.

On Sunday, December 31st registration is by donation and goes from 8.00am to 2.30pm. You pick the distance: Marathon, Half marathon, 10 km, 5 km or 2 km “Cookie Loop”. Volunteers from the Calgary branch of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan will be on the sign in desk and will be providing Afghan music, dance and tea. They will also be selling goods made by women in Afghanistan. 

This is a family friendly event so why not combine it with a swim or session on the bouncy castles. 

So Cochrane, let’s keep these Afghan girls and young women on skates. 

If you can’t make it then please consider making a donation at Just scroll down and hit the big red “DONATE” button on the left hand side. Thank you.

Read More

Sometimes, little things make a big difference.

Nino Varsimashvili Actor
Why it's Important to Celebrate the Things we Take for Granted

Why it's Important to Celebrate the Things we Take for Granted

Posted by martin.parnell |

Last Tuesday, Google commemorated the 131st. Anniversary of the hole punch, a handy little device invented by Friedrich Soennecken who filed the patent, in Germany, on November 14, 1886, for his Papierlocher für Sammelmappen. I must admit, it would never have occurred to me that something like a hole punch would have a birthday and it got me thinking about some of the other little tools and devices that are commonly used and yet we probably take for granted.

How about the stapler?  An American inventor, Samuel Slocum, was raised in Usquepaugh, Rhode Island, where a Mr. William Lockwood, sometime after 1772, first invented the common pin with a head, to keep it from slipping through cloth. Samuel moved to London and become a pin maker. While in England, he invented a machine for the production of pins. These pins later became flat head pins (similar to staples). He later moved back to America and invented a "Machine for Sticking Pins into Paper", which is often believed to be the first stapler. In fact, this patent from September 30, 1841, is for a device used for packaging pins.

Then there’s the toothbrush. In ancient times, twigs and bones were used for the cleaning of teeth. The first tooth brushes were invented in China in 1498, where coarse boar hairs were attached to handles made of bamboo or bone. Boar bristles were used until 1938, when nylon bristles were introduced by the company Dupont de Nemours.

There are the bigger items, too. How much time would we spend doing our laundry, if it weren’t for the invention of the washing machine? How many of us remember the days when you had to stoke up the fire to heat the hot water or light a fire in order to boil a kettle or cook a meal? But, let’s not forget, not everyone is so lucky and may not have access to the things that that make our lives a little easier, tasks a little simpler or save us time.

According to the website it is estimated that only 2.4 billion people, or 34.3 percent of the world's population, are Internet users, meaning they have access to the Internet either through a computer or mobile phone. And what about the resources we use? Todd Lindeman’s 2015 article, in the Washington Post, stated that, at that time, 1.3 Billion people, across the globe were without access to electricity.

 The World Health Organisation and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme in 2017, reported that 844 million people in the world do not have clean water and, as we know, some of them are right here in Canada. So, although it may be amusing to contemplate the things we have in our homes and offices  that we wouldn’t think of doing without, let’s be thankful not just for all the things that make our lives simpler, but the things that make our lives so much better compared to many people  in the world.

As we approach the holiday season, why not think about giving a donation to a charity that can improve the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves?

I’m now going to go into my fitted kitchen pour some clean water from the tap into the kettle, turn on the electricity and, after a few minutes, pour hot water into the teapot and make my tea. When I’m done, I’ll put  my cup into the dishwasher, before jumping into my car, heading off to the gas station, where I’ll fill up my vehicle with a tank full of gas.

And while I’m doing all this, I’ll reflect on this blog and reminded myself of the privileged life I lead.

Read More