We must open the doors and we must see to it they remain open, so that others can pass through.

Rosemary Brown, Canadian politician, activist
Why October is the Time to Celebrate Women and Girls

Why October is the Time to Celebrate Women and Girls

Posted by martin.parnell |

I am always noting the different celebrations taking place nationally and internationally , so I was interested to learn, on the Government of Canada website, that: “October is Women’s History Month in Canada, a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women and girls across the country and throughout our history.

This year’s theme is #MakeAnImpact, in honour of the women and girls who’ve made a lasting impact as pioneers in their field. Whether as business leaders, politicians, researchers, artists or activists, these women of impact have helped shape Canada into a thriving, diverse and prosperous country through their achievements and desire to make a difference.

As part of this year’s celebrations, we will be launching Women of Impact in Canada, an online gallery that celebrates the achievements of more than 100 women and girls through photos and biographies that capture some of their many successes.”

I will be interested to see who they include in their online gallery. If you look at the Canada’s History website, some of the Canadian women who made an indelible mark on history include: 

Doris Anderson (1921–2007)

Doris Anderson was a long-time editor of Chatelaine magazine and a newspaper columnist. Through the 1960s, Doris Anderson pushed for the creation of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, which paved the way for huge advances in women’s equality. She was responsible for women getting equality rights included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and sat as the president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Anderson was also an officer of the Order of Canada.

Ga’axstal’as, Jane Constance Cook (1870–1951)

Kwakwaka’wakw leader, cultural mediator, and activist. Born on Vancouver Island, Ga’axstal’as, Jane Constance Cook was the daughter of a Kwakwaka'wakw noblewoman and a white fur trader. Raised by a missionary couple, she had strong literacy skills and developed a good understanding of both cultures and legal systems. As the grip of colonialism tightened around West Coast nations, Cook lobbied for First Nations to retain rights of access to land and resources. She testified at the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission of 1914 and was the only woman on the executive of the Allied Indian Tribes of British Columbia in 1922. A fierce advocate for women and children, she was also a midwife and healer and raised sixteen children. 

Viola Desmond (1914–1965)

Challenged segregation practices in Nova Scotia. Long before the modern civil rights movement in the United States, a black woman from Halifax took a stand for racial equality in a rural Nova Scotia movie theatre. It was 1946, and Viola Desmond, a hairdresser, caused a stir by refusing to move to a section of thetheatre unofficially set aside for black patrons. Desmond was dragged out of thetheatre and jailed. While officials denied that Desmond’s race was the root of the issue, her case galvanized Nova Scotia’s black population to fight for change. In 1954, segregation was legally ended in Nova Scotia. 
 

Margaret Laurence (1926–1987)

One of the giants of Canadian literature. Born in Neepawa, Manitoba, Margaret Laurence graduated from United College (now the University of Winnipeg) and lived in Africa with her husband for a time. Her early novels were about her experience in Africa but the novel that made her famous — The Stone Angel — was set in a small Manitoba town very much like the one she grew up in. Her work resonated because it presented a female perspective on contemporary life at a time when women were breaking out of traditional roles. Laurence was also active in promoting world peace through Project Ploughshares and was a recipient of the Order of Canada. 

Agnes Macphail (1890–1954)

First woman elected to the House of Commons. Agnes Macphail was born in rural Ontario. While working as a young schoolteacher she became involved with progressive political movements, including the United Farm Women of Ontario. She also began writing a newspaper column. She was elected to the Commons as a member of the Progressive Party of Canada in 1921. Her causes included rural issues, pensions for seniors, workers rights, and pacifism. She also lobbied for penal reform and established the Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada. She later was elected to Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, where she initiated Ontario’s first equal-pay legislation in 1951. 

Nellie McClung (1873–1951)

Novelist, reformer, journalist, and suffragist. Nellie McClung was a leader in the fight to enfranchise North American women. Her efforts led to Manitoba becoming the first province to grant women the right to vote in 1916, followed by Alberta and Saskatchewan. After a move from Manitoba to Alberta, she was elected to the Alberta Assembly as a Liberal member for Edmonton in 1921. In the legislature, McClung often worked with Irene Parlby of the governing United Farmers of Alberta party on issues affecting women and children. Both were members of the Famous Five. McClung was also the first female director of the board of the governors of the CBC and was chosen as a delegate to the League of Nations in Geneva in 1938. 

Thanadelthur (1697–1717)

Peacemaker, guide and interpreter for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Thanadelthur was a member of the Chipewyan (Dene) nation who, as a young woman, was captured by the Cree in 1713 and enslaved. After a year, she escaped, and eventually came across the HBC York Factory post, governed by James Knight. Thanadelthur stayed to work for Knight, who needed a translator to help make peace between the Cree and the Chipewyan for trading purposes. Accompanied by an HBC servant and a group of friendly Cree, she went on a year-long mission into Chipewyan territory. She brought the two groups together and — alternately encouraging and scolding them — brought about a peace agreement. The HBC records refer to her as “Slave woman” or “Slave woman Joan.”

Justice Bertha Wilson (1923–2007)

First woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Born into a working-class family in Scotland, Bertha Wilson trained in law in Canada. When appointed to the high court in 1982, she already had a track record as a justice with the Ontario Court of Appeal, where she was known for her humane decisions in areas such as human rights and the division of matrimonial property. During her nine years on the Supreme Court, she helped her male colleagues to understand that seemingly neutral laws often operated to the disadvantage of women and minorities. She thus helped usher in ground breaking changes to Canadian law. 

And there are many more, writers, politicians, artists, explorers, athletes, artists and entrepreneurs, all pioneers in their field, who have helped shape Canada. 

October 11th. will be celebrated, internationally, as the Day of the Girl. The International Day of Girls initiative began as a project of Plan International, a non-governmental organization that operates worldwide.

The observation supports more opportunity for Girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by Girls worldwide. This inequality includes areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and child marriage. The celebration of the day also "reflects the successful emergence of girls and young women as a distinct cohort in development policy, programming, campaigning and research.”

International Day of Girls was formally proposed as a resolution by Canada in the United Nations General Assembly. Rona Ambrose, Canada's Minister for the Status of Women, sponsored the resolution; a delegation of women and Girls made presentations in support of the initiative at the 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly voted to pass a resolution.

On October 4th. I will be acknowledging not only the women and girls who have played an important role in the history of Canada, but of all the women, through history and across the world, who have fought to improve the lives of others, in a variety of ways.

I will also be thinking about the women I will be meeting as the flight I am on will take me first to Frankfurt, then to Istanbul and finally to Kabul, where I will meet up with an inspiring group of women who are trying to make a difference in the lives of women and girls, in Afghanistan.

These are the inspirational leaders of the future. Women like Zainab Husseini, who overcame numerous obstacles to become the first Afghan woman to run a marathon,

I will meet up with Stephanie Case, whose organisation Free to Run, is providing access to sport in areas where it would normally be unavailable to women and girls.

October is here so let’s all take a little time to pay tribute to all the women and girls who make a difference in our lives and the lives of others.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

 

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Big results require big ambitions.

Heraclitus Greek Philosopher
12 Actions Result-Minded People Implement

12 Actions Result-Minded People Implement

Posted by martin.parnell |

Result-minded people know where they are, where they want to go and how to get there. Will there be challenges, set-backs and obstacles along the way? Probably, but that doesn’t stop them. 

Below are 12 actions these people implement and how they can help you to become more result-minded:

1. They set a challenging goal 

Decide what it is you want to accomplish. Goals come in various sizes and there’s no “one-size-fits-all”. You don’t want your goal to be too easy, as that will leave you with little sense of achievement. On the other hand, one that is unrealistic could well lead to lack of completion and a total loss of confidence. My rule of thumb is a 50/50 chance of success.   

2. They establish the “Why?” of the goal 

Having a strong reason for setting your goal is critical. You may want to earn a promotion, move to another job or accomplish a personal ambition. I have always found that people get more satisfaction when they set a goal that will also impact others, whether it’s helping them move forward, proving a benefit to the company or your colleagues. A strong “Why” will get you through the tough times.

3. They determine the “Gap” 

The Gap refers to the measurement of where you are now to where you want to be. When you are considering this, it is always wise to give yourself a timeline. Make sure you know when you want to have completed your goal.

4. They make a comprehensive  plan 

Planning is the key to success. What resources do you need? Where can you find them? What are potential road blocks? You may not be able to plan for every eventuality, but being extra diligent, in the planning stage, will give you confidence as you move towards beginning your action. Do your research.

5. They ask for support 

Results-minded people don’t hesitate to ask for help. The key is to take every opportunity to share your vision with individuals and groups who can have a positive influence on the outcome. If you do your job they will want to be part of your team.

6. They “Chunk-Down” the goal                                                            

Sometimes a task can appear to be so overwhelming that it’s hard to get started, but, I believe almost anything is achievable if you take it one step at a time. Rather than be daunted by the whole task, look at it in doable, “bite-sized” chunks.

7. They measure their progress 

Keep track at each stage. Are you on course? Are adjustments needed? Reflecting on your progress will help you in the difficult times when things are not going to plan.

8. They communicate their progress 

Share your progress, whether good or bad, with your team and supporters. Communicate on a regular basis. People are invested in you and your goal. If things are off track they will want to help.

9. They deal with obstacles and set backs 

Result-minded people know one thing for sure, there will probably be obstacles and setbacks. In fact they accept this as part of the process, not an anomaly. What matters is, how they deal with them. You need to stay positive, ask for support when appropriate and don’t lose sight of the end goal. 

10. They celebrate their achievements 

Don’t get caught up in the “Results-Treadmill”. Take time to celebrate each milestone along the way. Share these success with people who are involved in your journey.

11. They learn from failure 

Result-minded people aren’t afraid of failure. As Nelson Mandela said “I never lose. I either win or learn.” What did you learn? How would you do things different next time?

12. They look for what’s next 

After a goal is completed there can be a period when you experience a feeling of deflation. So much work went into achieving your goal, but now what? Result-minded people take time to reassess their position and look at making plans for the next step on their journey.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Recognition is the greatest motivator.

Gerald C. Eakerdale author
How a Little Recognition can make a Big Difference

How a Little Recognition can make a Big Difference

Posted by martin.parnell |

On Sunday, I was excited to read the following headline, on the CBC website:

Eliud Kipchoge sets new world record in Berlin marathon win.

I continued reading: Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge set a new marathon world record, winning the Berlin race in two hours, one minute and 39 seconds. The 33-year-old broke the previous world record set in Berlin by fellow Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 by one minute and 18 seconds.

"I lack words to describe this day," Kipchoge said after becoming the first person to finish a marathon in less than 2 hours and 2 minutes. "They say you miss two times but you can't miss the third time," he said in reference to his two previous failed attempts to break the world record in Berlin.

As a marathon runner myself, I was awed by this man’s achievement. I know that there is always a team of people, behind the scenes, that are needed to help make results like this possible. Unfortunately, these people, rarely get a mention. I decided to find out who, in Eliud’s case, those people might be.

I read about Peter, a physiotherapist and life-long friend of Eliud’s who looks after his well-being, in Kenya. I read about his coach, Patrick Sang, who obviously deserves a great deal of credit for ensuring that Eliud is prepared for race day. Also, Kipchoge has diet plan which was in part developed by Andrew Jones professor of applied physiology at the University of Exeter.

I then turned to Eliud’s Facebook page and was delighted to see this entry:

Today the 16th of September 2018, I ran a world record in Berlin, it couldn’t happen without the support of the following: My gratitude and honor goes to:

1. My family: I thank my wife (Grace) and my kids (Lynne, Griffin and Jordon) for the overwhelming support they gave me for the last 4 months of training, you always inspire me and you are my ignition key.

2. Coaches: My coach Patrick Sang is my all-time coach and supporter, he is my life coach not forgetting his two assistants (Meto and Koech). You made this day realizable.

3. Global Sports Communication: This is a wonderful management, led by director Jos Hermens and Valentijn Trouw, and all entire team, you are such a wonderful management company.

4. Nike: Nike company led by Phil Knight and sports marketing Capriotti, not forgetting the innovation and design team. On the other hand the physiologists led by Brett Kirby, thank you for the support for over 15 years

5. NN Running Team: You are such a wonderful team and the spirit of bringing teammates to the sports is overwhelming.

6. My training mates: Kaptagat team, you are such a wonderful family, I like you all, I wish everybody all the best in the coming races. Cheers brothers and sisters, teamwork is the key.

7. Isuzu company: It’s a wonderful local and international car manufacturer, you gave me another leg to train on by providing all my transport. I will always be with you. Tuko Pamoja Safarini.

8. My fans: I totally respect all my fans across the globe, from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all social media. You always push me ahead.

In one word ‘Thank you’ all and God bless you all. 

This was very heartening to see that Eliud had taken the time, on this very special day, to recognise and thank those who support him. 

As someone who is frequently in the public eye, I understand the importance of giving credit to those people who may never be seen as part of what I do, but, nevertheless provide an essential support system that enables me to undertake my initiatives, follow my dreams and succeed in completing my goals. 

I always try and make sure I give them credit for their input, whether it be for a sporting activity, my coach, Malcolm Kent, my family doctor, Bill Hanlon, my physiotherapists, Serge Tessier, my chiropractor, Greg Long etc. or in my professional career as a speaker and author. I thank them at each opportunity. 

This is important. People invest time and effort to ensure we have every chance of success. It is essential that we recognise this and put it into practice, in the workplace. Whether you are working on a project, setting up new initiatives, planning an event or any action that requires the efforts of more than one person, no matter how small their contribution, they need to be recognised. A thank you goes a very long way to creating a positive atmosphere, a sense of well-being and will encourage continued support in the future. 

Let’s face it, there are not many people who work totally alone. Most of us receive support in one way or another. It may be from a colleague or team member, a partner, a parent or other family members. 

So, take the time to thank them, whenever you can.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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If 13 is unlucky, then 12 and 14 are guilty by association.

Mitch Hedberg American comedian
How to use the Right Number and be Lucky in Business

How to use the Right Number and be Lucky in Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

Today is my 13th. wedding anniversary. Some people consider 13 to be an unlucky number, but I have to say that wasn’t the case, as far as the past year was concerned. Sue and I ticked along as normal and, I’m happy to say, nothing untoward happened in our lives (Unlike 2015 which, to quote Her Majesty the Queen, was our “annus horribillis”). 

I wondered why the number 13 is considered unlucky, in certain countries, so I turned to Wikipedia to find some answers:   “The end of the Mayan calendar's 13th Baktun was superstitiously feared as a harbinger of the apocalyptic 2012 phenomenon. It is also considered unlucky to have thirteen guests at a table and any Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day. 

In fact, there are a number of theories as to why the number thirteen became associated with bad luck:

The Last Supper: At Jesus Christ’s last supper, there were thirteen people around the table, counting Christ and the twelve apostles. Some believe this is unlucky because one of those thirteen, Judas Iscariot, was the betrayer of Jesus Christ.

Knights Templar: On Friday 13 October 1307, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of the Knights Templar and most of the knights were tortured and killed.

Full Moons: A year with 13 full moons instead of 12 posed problems for the monks in charge of the calendars. This was considered a very unfortunate circumstance, especially by the monks who had charge of the calendar of thirteen months for that year, and it upset the regular arrangement of church festivals. For this reason thirteen came to be considered an unlucky number. 

Fear of the number 13 has a specifically recognized phobia, Triskaidekaphobia, a word coined in 1911. The superstitious sufferers of triskaidekaphobia try to avoid bad luck by keeping away from anything numbered or labelled thirteen. As a result, companies and manufacturers use another way of numbering or labeling to avoid the number, with hotels and tall buildings being conspicuous examples. Some will not have a thirteenth floor and hence no 13 button on their elevators.” 

Zoopla  found that more than a quarter (28%) of streets in the UK don't have a number 13 address, and some local councils have banned the use of number 13 in new housing developments. But while new streets can be built without a number 13, changing or removing it from an existing property is against the law.

In sports, the number 13 has a mixed reception: The number 13 was not used in the Indianapolis500 from 1915 to 2002.E.J.Viso, driving for HVM Racing, the 2009 IndyCar series season, drove a green number 13 car full-time, despite terrible superstitions about it in motor sports. The number 13 was not used in Formula One from 1977 to 2013. In triathlon, the number 13 is not used. As such, the numbering goes 11, 12, 14, 15 under the current numbering system. 

In some countries, different numbers are thought to be unlucky:  In China, the pronunciation of the word for the number 4 is similar to that of the Chinese word for death. Many buildings in China skip a fourth floor.  The number 9 is feared in Japan because it sounds similar to the Japanese word for torture or suffering. 

So, one might want to consider some of these facts if you have employees from overseas. Could you find out about unlucky numbers in other cultures? Also, if you have customers from those countries might it be worth avoiding days with certain numbers for doing business?   

Of course, one might also bear in mind the fact that countries, traditionally, have their lucky numbers, too. For instance, in China, the numbers 3 and 8 are very lucky are associated with wealth and prosperity. Could this mean the 8th. is a great day to conduct business with your Chinese clients? Who knows? 

And, not everyone considers the number 13 to be unlucky. In Italy, for example, it is considered good luck (whereas some Italians are superstitious about Friday the 17th because rearranging the Roman numeral XVII can create the word "VIXI"—translated from Latin to mean "my life is over").   

In the United States along with the UK, France, and the Netherlands the number 7 is considered to be lucky and, if you happen to know a Star Wars fan, remember to wish them a Happy May the 4th! 

Whatever your views on these numbers that may or may not be considered lucky or unlucky, in the workplace, it may just be worthwhile being sensitive to some of these beliefs and superstitions. 

As for me I’m going to celebrate my Anniversary by taking my wife out to lunch and remember the wonderful day we married –and today’s date?............. 9/11.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.

Stephen King, Salem's Lot
How to Accept Change and Embrace the Positives

How to Accept Change and Embrace the Positives

Posted by martin.parnell |

As we enter the early days of September, it’s time to face the fact that Fall is here. We always knew it was inevitable, but there is still a reluctance, amongst many people to face the end of Summer. 

Soon we’ll be padding around our homes in socks instead of bare feet, no more putting the laundry outside to dry on the washing line, some of us will be switching from the crisp white notes of a Chardonnay enjoyed on the deck to the rich ruby red hues of a Malbec, by the fire. 

But, it’s not all bad news. Who doesn’t like an excuse to sit by the fire with a cup of tea and a good book, whilst snuggled up in a favourite sweater and pair of cosy slippers? 

Perhaps just not yet. 

Any change brings its positives and negatives, depending on your point of view. Although it’s been great to wander around in shorts and tee-shirts, some people can’t wait to be done with the restless night brought on by the Summer heat and will be glad when temperatures fall, others embrace the fact that the children will be back in school and life can “return to the normal, everyday routine” that they experience for most of the year. 

We all face changes, throughout our lives, some of which are inevitable and some are unexpected and thrust upon us. Who would have thought that the wild fires in British Columbia would have made us question whether or not to venture out in the midst of August?

Change in the workplace can bring its own challenges, even though it can be for all the right reasons. 

If management changes, employees may have to accept that new leaders will want to make their mark and may institute new ways of working. If an employee leaves, it may take time to adjust to their absence and get acquainted with their replacement. If your company moves to new premises, it can take a while to get to know your way around. Where have they put the photocopier? 

If you take up a new managerial position, make sure you communicate well with your co-workers, forewarn them of changes to come and give them the opportunity for constructive discussion. If you are starting a new job, be open to advice from others and evaluate it according to your needs. If the nature of your job changes, don’t be afraid to ask for additional training and if a new employee joins your company, look for ways in which to mentor them. 

Some changes may affect just you personally, just a few of your colleagues or the company as a whole. Some changes may take time to get used to and others may suddenly make your working environment much more pleasant, your job much easier or bring a much more productive atmosphere. 

Whatever changes you may be facing, whether they are sudden or a long time in the making, try to see the benefits and, hopefully, they will outweigh the negatives. As Summer turns to Fall, it will take some adjustment but don’t worry, it won’t be long before we’ll be having to think about Winter and all that it brings!

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.

Anne M. Mulcahy- Chairperson and CEO of Xerox Corporation.
Puppies and Perks, how to keep Employees Happy

Puppies and Perks, how to keep Employees Happy

Posted by martin.parnell |

At the weekend, I was browsing through the articles on MSN UK, when I came across a headline from Business Insider UK, 4 companies that give staff paid time off when they get a puppy.  I wondered if this was just some quirky gimmick, so decided to see if I could find any other articles on the subject.

It turns out there were several. Kaytie Zimmerman, wrote one in Forbes magazine in May 2017, under the heading: Puppy Parental Leave Among The Newest Benefit Offerings In The United States. We are told that this is the latest benefit policies being offered by some employers. As an example, Zimmerman writes about a company named BrewDog, a beer producer based out of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. They not only encourage having dogs in the workplace, but also offer a week paid leave for the adoption or purchase of a new dog.

In fact, according to a press release, BrewDog allows both. “Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for human and hound both. So we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff a working week’s leave on us to help settle a new furry family member into their home.” BrewDog’s Puppy Parental Leave policy will also be available to employees in their new Columbus, Ohio, location, opening soon.

Zimmerman notes that: “Knowing that this benefit is offered in the United States, many can be quick to criticize the company, arguing that most companies do not have adequate leave policies for parents of human children, let alone canine kids. While it’s certainly a popular topic, pitting one week of puppy leave against six to twelve weeks of leave for a new child is not a fair comparison.

BrewDog touches on this type of argument in their press release: “Alongside this, we are also proud to be a Living Wage employer and offer sabbaticals for our crew as well as sharing 10% of the annual profits of our company between everyone who made it happen. Plus we embrace beer knowledge with the highest number of Cicerone-trained staff of any company in the world – and we also offer enhanced maternity and paternity pay for two-legged arrivals!”

As they announced, employees with new human children are given adequate leave to care for their new family member. It seems that it is possible to have a good balance of benefit offerings, as BrewDog has shown with their dog and parental leave policies.”

I must confess, I was left rather baffled. I asked myself, where does one draw the line? Is there a bias towards dogs? What if an employee obtains a new cat? Or even a goldfish or gerbil?

This got me wondering about perks offered by some other, better-known companies. In February 2017, The Team at Glassdoor, in their “Glassdoor Benefit Reviews”, listed the Top 20 Employee Benefits & Perks for that year.

Here are the top 10:

1. IKEA offers up to four months of paid parental leave to both part-time and full-time employees with at least one year of experience at the company, regardless of whether they work at a retail store or the corporate headquarters. 

2. Reebok encourages employees to reach their personal fitness goals by providing an on-site gym with Crossfit classes. 

3. Bain & Company, The Best place to Work in 2017, holds an annual two-day, global “Bain World Cup” soccer tournament open to all employees. 2016’s event was in Brussels. The 2017 tournament was held in Los Angeles. 

4. Goldman Sachs offers coverage for gender reassignment surgery, a benefit the company has offered since 2008. 

5. Facebook provides healthcare coverage and free housing for interns. Known for its competitive benefits package, many Facebook interns report earning more than $7,000 per month. 

6. Scripps Health cares about the wellbeing of its employees’ furry family members, offering pet health insurance for cats and dogs. 

7. Starbucks provides full tuition reimbursement for its employees, covering an online bachelor’s degree program through Arizona State University. 

8. American Express has a parental leave policy which offers up to five months of fully-paid leave for both mothers and fathers. Birthing mothers generally receive an additional 6 to 8 weeks under salary continuation for medical leave. Parents are also given access to a 24-hour lactation consultant, and mothers traveling for business can ship their breast milk home for free.   

9. Eventbrite helps keep employees healthy by offering a monthly $60 wellness stipend, which can be used on everything from gym dues to juice cleanses. 

10. Whole Foods Market offers a 20% store discount to all employees, including full-time and part-time employees.

It seems that some companies will go to extraordinary lengths to please their employees. I wonder if you have any ideas as to the “Perfect Perk” that might persuade you to seek employment with a particular company?

This doesn’t apply to me, personally, as I work from home, but I may not sharing this article with my wife and business partner, Sue, as I know she has a hankering for a house-rabbit!

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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It's only gossip if you repeat it. Until then, it's gathering information.

Mercedes Lackey, Author
How to Ignore the Smoke and Evaluate the Fire

How to Ignore the Smoke and Evaluate the Fire

Posted by martin.parnell |

This year I’ve set myself a goal to better my personal best times I set, in 2003, for the 5km, 10km, half-marathon and marathon distances. I call it 62 (my age now) beats 47 (my age in 2003). I always enjoy my running, whether I’m training for a specific event or just my regular exercise, especially the longer runs. They give me time to think, make plans and reflect. 

One day, last week, as I made my way along the Bow river pathway, here in Cochrane, I thought about the joy of running on a summer’s day, without all the layers of clothing needed in the cold weather. Then I started thinking about the issues a long hot summer can bring. This was due to the fact that, I couldn’t help but notice the smoke that has made its way across the Rockies, from the BC wildfires. Many countries are experiencing these and other problems as there seems to be little respite from the hot temperatures. 

As I thought about the many residents who have had to evacuate their houses and face the loss of their homes and the dangers faced by the fire crews, it also brought to mind that old adage, “There’s no smoke without fire”. Now, I know that has nothing to do with the situation in British Columbia, but, as my mind wandered, I pondered on the actual meaning of the saying. 

The Cambridge English Dictionary, gives the definition: “If unpleasant things are said about someone or something, there is probably a good reason for it”. That being said, we all know that gossip can be a harmful thing and things can get misconstrued and blown out of proportion. In the workplace, this can be especially harmful. In fact, in some companies, office gossip is prohibited. 

However, I wonder if there may be occasions, in business, when it’s worth taking an objective view and listen carefully to what people are saying and see if there is a pattern or something in a rumour that could possibly ring true. I also wondered if one could argue that some gossip can have a positive side.

I discovered an article “Office Gossip: It’s Not All Bad” by Margot Carmichael Lester, on the monster.com website, she quotes several sources to back up this idea, for example:
Travis Grosser, a doctoral candidate in management at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics tells us that “Information tends to move through informal communication networks with greater speed than through formal channels. The timeliness of incoming information often makes the difference as to whether or not we can act on it.”

Joey Price, HR specialist and founder of Push Consultant Group, a career counselling company in metro Washington, DC. states:  “Say you hear someone is leaving the company, creating an opening you’d like to fill. This kind of information can allow you to prepare a case for why you are best-suited for a promotion or raise,”

Chris Perry, founder of Career Rocketeer, a career-development and personal-branding service in Parsippany, New Jersey states “Sometimes office gossip recognizes the positive behaviours of others within an organization. That’s a good thing. For example, say Marc gossips to Ginny about a big account that Rose just landed. Not only does this make Rose look good, but it could also be the motivation Ginney needs to enhance her own sales skills to compete. That helps her career and the company’s bottom line. This can also help link you with people on the rise in the company. It also gives you an opportunity to potentially help that person succeed in some fashion. This kind of support may be repaid to you further down your career path.”

However, as Travis Grosser warns us, “While you can benefit from sharing the latest gossip, there’s definitely a fine line between sharing information and playing office politics. Negative gossip is used maliciously for character assassination and to undermine the success of others. Any gossip that attacks another individual and is of suspect veracity is not very constructive.”

In fact, Grosser’s research found that employees who gossip the most tend to get lower performance evaluations from their supervisors. “Gossiping creates more informal power with peers, but is seen as subversive and negative by supervisors. To stay out of trouble, be sure to spread only positive news.” Perry supports this by adding: “You don’t want to be branded as someone who initiates or spreads gossip about the company or people in it. This will hurt the company and will hurt your reputation and personal brand.”

In summarising Grosser concludes. “Gossip—whether positive or negative—can be a diagnostic tool for managers and supervisors. The gossip that circulates within an organization is an indicator of how employees feel and what they are thinking about.
For example, listening to gossip prior to or directly after a major organizational change is a good way for managers to learn how employees feel about the change and how they are adjusting to it.

Since everyone gossips—even managers—it’s unrealistic to think that you can—or should—steer completely clear of the office rumour mill. It’s highly unlikely that gossip will ever be completely eliminated from organizations. Good gossip, however, brings people together, instructs them on the organization’s ideals and how things should be done, and holds people up for heroic actions.” 

These are interesting perspectives. In business, we all have to be aware of the danger of malicious gossip. In the extreme, it has been known to destroy reputations and even end careers. But, having read what these contributors have to say, perhaps we might look a little more closely and determine the cause of all that “smoke” that’s smouldering in our workplace.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping for clear blue skies in the coming weeks.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 9th 2018.

He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals.

Jim Rohn American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker.
Keeping it Simple is Never Stupid

Keeping it Simple is Never Stupid

Posted by martin.parnell |

As I mentioned, in last week’s blog, our daughter, Kris and our grandsons, Nathan and Matthew are here for a visit. It’s great fun having them to stay and, as I watch the way she interacts with the boys, it’s heartening to see our daughter passing on the lessons she learned from me and her Mum to her own children. Values that I learned from my parents and which still apply today.

Having them to stay is enabling my wife and I to do many things we wouldn’t normally do and it’s a joy to experience them through the eyes of the children. One great investment we made was the purchase of 2 plastic magnifying glasses, from the dollar store. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to go on a “bug hunt”. 

It’s been a very busy few days, so I hadn’t given much thought to this week’s blog. I came into my office, sat down at my computer and hoped I’d find some inspiration.  Nothing.

So, I decided to look back at past blogs and see if I might find a train of thought that would lead me to an idea.   I even went back to my very first blog, posted on 11th. April 2016, entitled “No you can’t …….Yes I can”. In it, I wrote about overcoming obstacles to turn a negative experience in to a positive one. 

When I wrote that first blog, I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d keep doing.  How could I come up with something new to say every week? Well, apart from a couple of weeks when I’ve been away, I’ve managed to do it. From that first one, I’ve somehow reached blog number 111.  

I was quite surprised when I realized the range of topics I’d covered, but one thing that struck me was, despite having posted that first entry over two years ago, the words still have meaning.

It’s the same with most of my blogs. The months and years go by, but the basic messages still ring true and can be applied as well today as they did when I wrote them. That also applies to the many articles from which I’ve drawn inspiration and information.  

Just like the ideas we passed on to our children, if a message has value and makes sense, it will stay relevant. So often, especially in business, we feel obliged to come up with the next innovative idea. To be constantly making changes to the way we do things.

With regards to some aspects of the way we do business, that’s important in order for us to move forward, especially in this time when technology is constantly asking us to embrace new concepts and we feel obliged to engage with all the nuances of social media. But basic, good practice and sound principals still have as much value as any technological advance and we must resist making changes just for the sake of it.  

This week, I am going to leave you with the hope that you might take a few moments to consider those valuable lessons that have stuck with you, over the years and think about how they have stood you in good stead whether that be in your personal or professional life, and about ways in which you might pass them on to others. 

For now, I’m going to do something for which we should all make time.  I’m going to go and enjoy the company of family, the beauty of this summer’s day, the laughter and love of children and embrace the simplicity of it all.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering Women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, is being released on October 9th 2018.

He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.

Mother Teresa
How to Value Age-Diversity in the Workplace

How to Value Age-Diversity in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |

Next Saturday, our daughter, Kristina is flying in with our two grandsons, Nathan aged nine and Matthew Connor aged four. My wife, Sue, and I have been making a list of activities to do with the boys that they will both enjoy. 

On a recent Skype, Matthew Connor told us that he wants to see dinosaurs. We could take them to the wonderful Royal Tyrrell Museum, in Drumheller, but it’s a long drive and although Nathan would love the exhibits, we’re not sure if Matthew Connor would enjoy the museum as much. So, instead, we’ll take a trip to Calgary Zoo, where they can see animals they’ve never seen before and explore the Dinosaur Park. 

Another attraction we recently discovered is a place called The Granary Road Active Learning Park, at 112 Street West, in Calgary. It’s a wonderful, outdoor activity park, with many features including: Frog pond fun pad. Orchard treehouse, Arachnid web, Ant farm adventure, Bee hive honeycomb, Bat cave hang out and lots more. 

We especially like it because there is plenty for both the boys to do, despite their five year age gap. Whilst Sue and I were compiling our list, that’s something we tried to bear in mind. What activities can be enjoyed by both a four year-old and a nine year-old?  

As parents and grandparents, it’s something many of us have to consider. Sometimes, though, it’s a little tricky and we have to arrange alternative activities for them and this would apply even more, if our 14 year-old granddaughter Autunm was coming too. Fortunately, the boys are used to doing things together and Nathan is very good at being a tolerant playmate to his little brother. 

Considering this made me think about the way employees interact, despite the possibility that there may be a vast range in ages. There is a lot to be said for having people of different ages working together. Older employees can share their knowledge and experience, especially when dealing with customers. Whereas younger workers may have new ideas to share, as well as an enthusiasm which may be waning amongst older colleagues. 

Older workers can act as mentors and explain the advantages and pitfalls of doing things a certain way, younger workers can demonstrate the most recent trends in social media and advances in technology. A leader can make the most of the diversity in age of their workers by being aware of the advantages of not only the different skills and levels of experience, but how different approaches can be utilized when dealing with customers. 

Try to motivate all employees so that they share the same values and goals, when it comes to the aims of the company. Bear in mind that your younger employees may be looking for advancement, either in your company or elsewhere. Older employees may have already reached the position they want to be in and be biding their time until they retire. You need to give the younger ones every opportunity for advancement whilst, at the same time, being sensitive to the position of their more experienced workmates. 

I found some very useful information, in an article entitled Tips for Managing an Age-Diverse Workforce by John Krautzel,posted on the nexxt  website, Feb 16, 2016, in which he wrote:

Today's workforce is stocked with employees of all ages, from millennials to baby boomers. Managers have to learn to deal with and adapt to the different mindsets, work habits, values and communication styles of each generational group. Consider these tips for managing an age-diverse workforce.

Promote Work-Life Balance

It is important for employees to be able to separate their work lives from their personal lives. Employees have different values and responsibilities at each stage of their lives. Offering a flexible work schedule or compensatory time benefits employees of all age groups, whether they are baby boomers taking care of ailing parents, Gen Xers facing their own health problems or millennials tending to their young families.

Offer Employee Enrichment Opportunities

Give all your employees the chance to enhance their knowledge and skills. When employees are offered self-enrichment opportunities, they feel valued and are more satisfied with their jobs, improving workplace morale and decreasing turnover rates. Require all managers to attend training that helps them identify generational differences and adapt to them.

Focus on Communication

While communication strategies differ among all generations, the central idea of a strong communication network is important to everyone in your workforce, regardless of their ages. Avoid making communication too standardized or formal within your organization, as it can be restricting. Allow employees to work on teams to open up the dialogue and recognize each other’s' strengths.

Nurture Employee Relationships

Encourage employees to bond and socialize by planning casual social activities, such as luncheons. Promoting social relationships between your employees leads to a friendlier and more enjoyable work environment for the entire workforce.

Recognize Differences in Learning Styles

Employees of all age groups prefer to learn in different ways, so accommodate their needs. Millennials often prefer technology-based learning platforms with the opportunity for interaction, while baby boomers opt for traditional learning methods, such as handbooks and PowerPoint presentations.

Engage Your Workforce

Empower and motivate your employees by making them feel valued and appreciated. Ask older workers to mentor newer employees to share trade secrets and impart job-specific knowledge, and allow younger workers to take on challenging assignments that provide job satisfaction.

Celebrate Employee Achievements

Recognize the hard work of all your employees, whether the achievements are the result of team efforts or individual work. Send out a simple email to acknowledge success or distribute inexpensive achievement awards. This show of appreciation helps to improve the morale of employees of all ages.

There isn't one perfect way to manage your entire workforce. With each generation comes a new set of workers with personalities and work styles all their own. The key to managing an age-diverse workforce lies in recognizing the generational differences to address the values and expectations of each group.

I hope this is of some help if you have a workforce that is age-diverse. Meanwhile, I’m off to the local second-hand book store to stock up on books for the boys. 

Hopefully, I’ll find some they’ll both enjoy.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON, is being released on October 9th 2018.

He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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My definition of ‘innovative’ is providing value to the customer.

Mary T. Barra, Chief Executive Officer of General Motors of Canada
Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want…

Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want…

Posted by martin.parnell |

Two weeks ago, I ran the MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op) 10km, in Calgary. I thoroughly enjoyed the race, which was well attended and well organized. One thing that’s great about this event is that it only costs $15 to participate. I have run many races, in my time, from 5kms to Ultra marathons and the price to register can vary from $30 to several hundreds of dollars. 

Of course, some of them, particularly the longer ones, have to provide aid stations and other support, but oftentimes, with the shorter runs, the money is used to provide runners with a race shirt or other memento and a finishers medal. My run on Saturday did neither, but I didn’t mind. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I can understand the value of having the shirt and the medal. I have some that I truly treasure, for instance, the ones from the Boston Marathon, the Comrades Ultra, in South Africa, the Kilimanjaro marathon, my rock from the Lost Souls 160 km, the Massey 5km I ran with my daughter, Kristina and the Marathon of Afghanistan, to name but a few. 

However, there are some races that I have run several times and it would be great to run them again, at a cheaper registration fee and forego the shirt etc. You see, I don’t always want all the extras. Sometimes, I just want the basics. Have you thought about this in relation to your business? 

New and existing customers might be duly impressed with any extras you can provide for them, additional perks that may make the deal more attractive. But, you know that in the long run, they will be paying for them in one way or another. It might be the cost is included in the original price, you may ask for a longer commitment from them or there may be some other way they can reciprocate. 

Some customers, however may not need these extras or perhaps would rather not have them. The reasoning for this may vary. Maybe it puts the cost out of their reach or perhaps they are just not what the customer needs. 

And that is perhaps the point you should ask yourself and be the focus of your research. What does this particular customer actually need? This could apply, in particular, to a company that is starting out or a small business that has to watch every dollar and yet still wants to engage your services. 

They might really appreciate the fact that you have made this consideration and are prepared to present a price that is more appropriate to them because they don’t need or want all the extras. Remember, that company could grow and become a valuable, long-term client. That would be the time to suggest they engage more of your services. 

If you are unsure as to what a particular customer might want, when you are packaging a deal, ask them. You might be surprised and their response could save you time and money in trying to work out what might be the best for them.  

“Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet.” ~ Kevin Stirtz, Manager, Data Analytics Strategy Team – Thomson Reuters. 

Some people would argue that this is not the right tactic and your customer may not know what they need until you tell them.  That may be true if they have the funds to pay for the additional costs but not everyone will be able to and you could end up being perceived as too demanding or out of their league. 

It might also apply to a customer that has seen this tactic before, has all the services they require, at the present time, and knows you are doing this more for the benefit of your company than theirs. This idea brings to mind a quote by Annette Franz, founder of CX Journey, "What is necessary is to listen to your customers: understand their needs, expectations and jobs to be done, and design an experience that meets those needs.” 

And, if you are afraid that taking this approach might affect your profits, perhaps you need to look at your own production costs and see if getting back to basics, in some areas, might benefit your company, too.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON, is being released on October 9th 2018.

He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

 

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Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
How to Speak to the World through the Written Word

How to Speak to the World through the Written Word

Posted by martin.parnell |

I have been working hard, with my publisher at Rocky Mountain Books, on the manuscript of my next book “The Secret Marathon – Empowering Women and Girls in Afghanistan through Sport”, and things are, at last, coming together. So, two weeks ago, I took a break and my wife, Sue and I went on a road trip out to Victoria, BC, to spend some time with friends in their beautiful new beach house. I made the most of my time away relaxing, doing some trail running, exploring the area and catching up with my reading. 

Before I left I looked at the pile of books, sitting on my bedside table, trying to select which ones to take with me. I have a wide variety to choose from as I like to read a selection of genres, from business to historical fiction and science fiction to murder mysteries. I decided upon Single and Single by John Le Carre and Michael Connelly’s The Wrong Side of Goodbye. I also took The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, recommended by Sue, who knows what I like to read and will often make suggestions. 

Talking of recommendations, in the recent July/ August edition of The Atlantic magazine, I spotted an intriguing headline: 

 What Book or Article Would You Make Required Reading for Everyone on Earth? 

I felt this was an interesting question  and decided to give it some thought. I began by considering the reason for m my selection.  Would it be to impart a particular message? Would it be informative? Would it be because it was a thrilling story? Would it be words of wisdom for a future generation? Might I even choose a picture book for those who do not have the advantage of being able to read? The questions were endless and I could think of books for every answer. In the Atlantic article, the responses were,  as one would imagine, very diverse, for example: 

Carey Cranston, president, American Writers Museum

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave illustrates the greatest heights and the lowest depths of America’s history and potential, while, better than any other work, showing the power of literacy—that when a person can read and write, he gains the ability to create his own narrative, and to shape his life and the surrounding world.

Michiko Kakutani, literary critic

Shakespeare’s collected plays. Four hundred years after the playwright’s death, his influence spans the planet. He was uncannily modern in his inventiveness and gift for engaging the popular imagination; in his depiction of spirited, independent women; and in his appreciation of the contingencies of life in a chaotic world reeling from accelerating change and loss.

C. W. Gortner, author, The Romanov Empress and Mademoiselle Chanel

An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore. Though not very sexy, it addresses the most vital and pressing issue we face as a species on our beleaguered Earth. If left unchecked, global warming will have devastating ramifications for every living being on this planet. We simply can’t afford to ignore it in the hope that it’ll go away. 

Kevin Kwan, author, Crazy Rich Asians

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, is an astoundingly visionary satire published in 1932 that foresaw not just what’s happening today, but where we’re possibly heading next. 

C. E. Morgan, author, The Sport of Kings

The Mindbody Prescription, by John E. Sarno, saved my life. It explores how the subconscious mind can create physical pain as a means of avoiding emotional pain. This mind-body approach has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the psychological origins of many ailments. A vital read for anyone suffering from chronic pain.

Esmeralda Santiago, author, Conquistadora

Men speak about peace but prefer war. Men head the majority of governments and control the increasingly lethal weapons, using women and gods as moral shields. Unsparing in its portrayal of men’s nature, The Iliad should be read by everyone who hopes to understand mankind.

There were also contributions by readers which included titles as equally diverse, from books by Dr Seuss to the writings of Maya Angelou.

I gave the question some thought and, quite frankly, struggled to pick one defining answer. I wondered what books my family and friends might choose. As anyone knows who has ever belonged to a book club, passions run high when it comes to what is or is not a worthy read.  Also, I go back to the reason behind the selection, which wouldn’t necessarily be based purely on the book being one you personally love.

So, as the dog days of summer continue, I leave the question with you.

Which book, poem, article, short story or other piece of writing would you want everyone to read?

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON, is being released on October 9th 2018.

He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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A tree stands strong not by its fruits or branches, but by the depth of its roots.

Anthony Liccione Author
If Your Business isn’t Growing, Look for the Root of the Problem

If Your Business isn’t Growing, Look for the Root of the Problem

Posted by martin.parnell |

I was listening to the gardening segment of a local radio programme and the guest expert was addressing an issue, raised by a listener who had called in asking about a problem with one of his house plants. It was soon established that the likely cause was “root rot”. 

Apparently, if the entire root system has already become mushy, it is too late to save the plant. However, if some healthy, white, firm roots exist, it may be possible to salvage the plant by replanting it, in fresh soil with good drainage. 

If your business is failing to grow, maybe you should look at its “roots” or foundations and try and identify the reasons why. This may prove to be challenging.

If you have good sales, a happy, productive workforce and satisfied customers, what can be the reason for this plateau and should you be concerned? 

Of course, you may be quite happy with the status quo. Perhaps you have achieved all you set out to do and feel it’s OK to be a bit complacent. But, is it really good for the company. Perhaps not right away, but eventually the “rot” will start to set in. 

You may lose the impetus to inspire employees who may then begin to look for new challenges elsewhere. A similar company to yours may be more pro-active and dynamic in marketing their product. Even regular customers may be swayed by a better deal. 

It could be that the issues are more practical. Have you failed to recognise the need to update the technology you use? Are other companies more proactive on social media? Do your employees enjoy the benefits that other companies can provide? 

Yours may be a well-established company that has a recognisable name and a good reputation but, in these times when entrepreneurism is encouraged and new companies are springing up all the time, it’s important to develop an awareness of the ideas that these companies bring. 

They will be looking to be recognised, establishing those same qualities that you value so greatly and will be eyeing your customer base. They will also be looking to recruit workers with experience in their field. These things are simple to analyse so that you can recognise how they might affect your company. 

Do some homework on other companies similar to yours, see how they operate and market themselves. 

With regards to your own set-up, it may be beneficial to take the following action: 

  • Look at the ways technology and social media can keep you current and visible.
  • Look at ways to update your brand in order to modernise your image.
  • Look at your customer base. Who do you sell to? Are there ways you might broaden the demographic? 

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do you make the most of the individual talents of your employees?
  • Are you even aware of additional talents they might have but you are failing to utilize?
  • Where customers are concerned, do you ask them for referrals?
  • Have you approached them to give constructive feedback? You can provide them with the opportunity to do both of these things, on your website. 

It’s a great feeling to be able to sit back and relax and know that your company is doing OK, but it would be an even more satisfying experience to know that it’s growing and developing in a way that is both rewarding and challenging to all concerned. 

It’s good to have goals, it keeps us rooted!

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

Warren Buffett
Value Yourself and Others will see Your Worth

Value Yourself and Others will see Your Worth

Posted by martin.parnell |

When I worked in the mining industry, I knew, from month to month, what my salary would be. There was a graded pay scale and, apart from hoping for an end-of-year bonus, I knew I would earn the same amount for the whole year. 

Things altered dramatically when I changed careers to become a Keynote Speaker and Author. Suddenly, there was no guaranteed income. I had go out and sell myself and decide what I was going to charge for my services.

So, what was I worth? 

The important thing I had to remind myself was that I chose this path because I am experienced in my field and know what I’m doing, my expertise can inspire and motivate others, I have a passion for what I do and I have an important message to share.

All of things are of value. I am value for money. Of course the nature of my engagements would vary widely. One week I might be giving a talk at a conference, in front of a large number of delegates, the next I might be addressing a group of workers in their business setting.

Not only did I have to decide how to temper my talk to fit the group, adjust to the constraints of time allocation and make sure my content was meaningful and relevant, I also had to decide what I would charge.

I have a scale to which I refer, as a general rule. But, I’ve learnt the need to be flexible. Now, I know that most of you reading this will not be engaged in the speaking profession or have to go out and talk about your latest book, but you may be a freelance worker in some other field. So, what advice can I give you to help you on the subject of selling your services on a freelance basis.

I found an article “Why Freelancers Need to Charge Based on Value” by Matthew Baker, on theEntrepeneur website, in which he references to Marion McGovern, author of Thriving in the Gig Economy, who states “The most common mistake free agents make is thinking there must be one rate for all clients. People think it’s somehow unfair to charge ABC company differently than XYZ company. This is absolutely wrong.” 

Baker then offers some tips for setting effective prices: “Consider the time you will spend on prospecting clients, unbillable hours, marketing costs and upcoming vacation time. There are many online calculators who help you determine a rate that makes freelance work sustainable.

Once you know the market rate and a rate that will support you as a free agent, you’re almost there. McGovern suggests five other considerations:

  1. The riskier a project, whether due to the scope or aggressive goals, the more you should charge.
  2. The more a project allows you to deepen or broaden your skills, the more leniency you should have on price. Consider it an investment in building your business as a free agent. In the long run, you become more marketable and potentially able to command higher fees.
  3. The tighter the timeline for a project, the more you should charge. It’s a convenience tax. For example, you may not realize it, but Uber is much more expensive per mile than a rental car. Convenience and urgency costs a premium.
  4. Your daily rate should be approximately 1 percent of your annual revenue target. A marketing consultant who feels $200,000 would be the going salary for her expertise should charge $2,000 per day for her services or $250 per hour.
  5. Your anchor client should get a deal. An anchor client is one that pays your rent, so to speak, by giving you recurring business. Having a project year in and year out from one client is a wonderful thing. Some free agents may want to increase the fees after a few years. Unless your costs have risen dramatically, resist that impulse.”

Baker explains that taking this approach will not only enable you to have an independent career that supports your needs, but, just as importantly, addresses the needs of your clients, which is essential and he adds: “In order to stay independent for the long run, it’s important to prospect your own clients and learn how to price effectively.”

Due to the nature of my business and the various themes of my talks, I do not have as many regular clients as some freelancers, but tend to be attracting new ones. For example, last month I was the after-dinner Keynote Speaker, my topic “Ordinary to Extraordinary”, at the Conference for the International Society for the Studying of the Lumbar Spine and a week later, I was presenting a workshop on “Goal Setting and Achievement” at a Rotary District Conference.

For this reason, my fees can differ more widely. But, the point is, I’ve learned the value of what I have to offer. Also, I always ensure I will be reimbursed for my expenses, travel, food etc. and I look for the opportunity to sell my books. I will ask for a testimonial, which I can display on my website and take every opportunity to engage with delegates, other speakers and organisers. Networking is key if you are self-employed.

If you have thought of becoming a freelancer, do your homework. Do you know your clientele? Do you have a feel for the market? Do you have something extra to offer? Going it alone can be scary and challenging, but it can also be exciting, rewarding and may help you fulfill a dream.

Just make sure you value yourself and your expertise and enjoy your successes.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.

Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
How to Make your Writing Reader Friendly

How to Make your Writing Reader Friendly

Posted by martin.parnell |

When I am writing, whether it be for a blog, the next chapter of one of my books or a talk I am preparing, I often have to conduct research. I read articles, check facts, read other blogs and try to get a wide range of opinions to compare. 

Something I have noticed is that, although being very knowledgeable on their subject, there are many writers who do not adjust their writing to make it “reader-friendly”. This applies, in particular, if I am looking at studies which have been carried out on the subject I am researching, or looking for alternative opinions. 

Obviously, some studies are meant to be directed at others who work or study in that particular field and one would expect them to be more technical in their approach. But, there are times when these pieces of writing are put out into the general realm of readership and would benefit from being more accessible to the reader. 

In his free weekly e-zine, available at www.mediacoach.co.uk."The Media Coach”, Alan Stephens recently wrote: “You have to be sure that people who read your posts understand what you mean by them. Does that mean you have to use simple words and ideas? Basically, yes.

It's no use using abbreviations, jargon, and references to people that few of your audience will know or comprehend. It may make you look or feel clever, but it isn't communication. It can happen by accident, simply because we all make assumptions at times that our experience and knowledge is commonplace.

The most obvious indicator that your posts are too complex is comments that say "I don't understand", or feedback that has misinterpreted the point you were trying to make. A more effective way is to ask a friend or colleague to read them. If they don't understand, a re-write is required. Keeping things simple doesn't mean dumbing-down. It's real communication.”

Note that he said “Keeping things simple doesn't mean dumbing-down.” You need to use everyday words to create basic, simple sentences, which is, mostly easy to do. However, there will be times when you may need to refer to a more complex theory or use a technical term. In that case, it’s important that you explain it fully.

If you are going to use an acronym, make sure you make it clear what those letters stand for (this applies in conversation as well as in writing). If you are known for writing on a particular topic, you may think you attract the same audience all the time, but this isn’t necessarily the case. You never know who might come across a piece of your work for the first time and you need to engage them.

Keeping your writing current is also important. You want readers to think about what you have written and hopefully take something away from it. It also helps if you are enthusiastic about the subject and a little humour never hurts. If you are writing a blog or article, try to give more than one opinion on the subject. There is one school of thought that shorter pieces are best and it’s true that you don’t need to waffle and cause the reader to lose interest. But, on the other hand you want to give enough information to support your idea.

If in doubt you can always refer to articles you have read, in order that the reader can gain more information on the subject. Always remember to give credit to other writers and state where you found a particular piece.

Whatever you are writing, whether it be a blog, an update to your website, a memo, letter or report, make sure you know what parts you wish to emphasise. Make your sentences and paragraphs limited in length and focussed on the subject.

If you’re not sure whether your piece is worth publishing, just ask yourself “Would I want to read this?”

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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A lot of high-profile companies are recognizing the benefits of power napping. . . . It's like kindergarten all over again.

Stefanie Weisman author
Why Sleeping on the Job can be a Good Thing.

Why Sleeping on the Job can be a Good Thing.

Posted by martin.parnell |

Every afternoon, if I happen to be working from home, I take a short nap. I find it reenergises me and revitalises my work and it’s especially beneficial if I have an evening meeting or professional engagement. 

Lucia Binding in the UK’s Evening Standard , 30th. April 2018, quotes a study, first published in the Telegraph, conducted by the University of Delaware. It considered the link between a post-lunch sleep and brain function in early adolescents. A total of 363 youngsters were included in the study and it resulted in the conclusion that nap times should be scheduled into the school day, in secondary schools.

The study, which was published in the journal Behavioural Sleep Medicine, also revealed that those who napped more often tended to have a better night time sleep. Xiaopeng Ji, leader of the study who has studied the natural sleep and wake pattern of cells known as the circadian rhythm, said: “Young people who napped five to seven days during the week had better nonverbal reasoning ability, spatial memory and sustained attention, they found.

The optimal amount of nap time was found to be between 30 and 60 minutes. Midday napping, night-time sleep duration and sleep quality was measured by the researchers, along with performance on multiple neurocognitive tasks. The study also revealed that teens who put down their smart-phones an hour before bed gained an extra 21 minutes sleep a night and an hour and 45 minutes over the school week. So this would appear to support my opinion that napping is a good thing.

However, on the Chron website, Lisa McQuerrey  tells us that on MayoClinic.com a study shows: “Napping in the workplace can have both health and productivity benefits, like reduced fatigue and increased reaction time”. McQuerrey then looks into why napping in the workplace might be challenging: “Even if you get employer support for a mid-day siesta, consider the logistical elements that come into play when it comes to catching 40 winks at your desk. 

Where to Sleep

Cat naps can be productive if they truly provide good rest. If you don’t have a dark, quiet place to sleep, your sleep is likely to be spotty, which can actually add to your tiredness and make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you’re the type of person who takes a while to doze off, you could find that trying to catch a nap in the middle of the day is more trouble than its worth, especially if you take 20 minutes to nod off and you’ve only allocated 30 minutes to a nap.

When to Sleep

MayoClinic.com indicates that the best time to catch a mid-day nap is between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Anything later has the potential to interrupt your regular nighttime REM sleep. If you can’t regularly carve out this portion of the day, erratic nap habits can make it difficult for your body to adjust to a beneficial sleep schedule. If you work by appointment, or need to be available to customers, clients or colleagues on a regular basis, napping at work can hurt your productivity.

Perception

Napping at work can be perceived as lazy or selfish. You might have colleagues who think you’re taking unfair advantage or getting special treatment if you’re allowed to doze at work. Customers or clients who walk in or call during a nap period may also question your professionalism, which can have a negative effect on your reputation, and your company's reputation.

Increased Tiredness

For some people, a cat nap is refreshing; for others, it can lead to daytime drowsiness and make you feel even less rested than before you took the snooze. If it takes you awhile to perk up after sleep, the latter part of your workday could be slowed down. You may find it difficult to get refocused and not be as productive as necessary.

In some countries, an afternoon nap is part of everyday life. As explained on Sleep.org. The tradition began due to the fact that temperature climbed to such a degree, in the afternoons, that it is becomes too hot to be outside and therefore difficult for certain work to be carried out.

Over time, different cultures have tweaked the napping habit to suit their preferences. For example:

In China: Workers often take a break after lunch and put their heads on their desks for an hour-long nap. It’s considered a Constitutional right.

In Italy: The riposo may begin anytime between noon and 1:30pm and run until 2:30pm to 4:00pm. Businesses shut down, and public venues like museums and churches lock their doors so their employees can go home for a leisurely lunch and a snooze.

In Spain: The siesta is deeply ingrained, as businesses often close for hours to accommodate the mid-day rest. While the siesta can span two hours, only a fraction of the time is actually spent napping; first, there’s lunch with family and friends, then a rest. Because of the mid-day break, people often work later into the evening.

Many people have advocated for the benefits of taking a regular nap. Albert Einstein claimed that his daytime naps to fuel that amazing brain of his. Other well-known “nappers” include Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Ronald Reagan, Aristotle and Margaret Thatcher. 

I’m no Einstein, but I do know that my afternoon nap leaves me feeling refreshed and ready for my next task. If you find that you are fading by mid-afternoon, why not try taking a few minutes to close your eyes and take a brief nap? 

You may find that, like me, it’s just the little boost you need to set you up for the rest of the working day.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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I laugh at the way some people think graffiti is all selfish tagging and vandalism. Thoughtful street art is like good fiction – it speaks out on behalf of everyone, for us all to see.

Carla H. Krueger, Author
From Blogging to Banksy, it’s all in the Message

From Blogging to Banksy, it’s all in the Message

Posted by martin.parnell |

There’s a scene in the 2011 movie CONTAGION, where Dr. Ian Sussman (Elliot Gould) says to conspiracy theorist, antagonist and blogger Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) “Blogging is not writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation”. The comment was meant to be taken as an insult to bloggers. More often than not, the word graffiti will conjure up images of buildings, trains, subways, memorials etc. being defaced. 

Use of the word has evolved to include any graphics applied to surfaces in a manner that constitutes vandalism. In many places it is regarded criminal act. But, being a cup-half-full, optimistic sort, I decided to find out more that might reveal a positive side to the practice.

I turned to Wikipedia and was amazed at all the information on offer. Here are just some of the fact I discovered: Simply put, the word Graffiti means: “ Writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or painted, typically illicitly, on a wall or other surface, often within public view.” 

It turns out that graffiti has been around since ancient times. The term graffiti referred to the inscriptions, figure drawings, and such, found on the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs of Rome. The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti in Pompeii, which includes Latin curses, magic spells, declarations of love, alphabets, political slogans, and famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient Roman street life. 

The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of which also survive in Egypt. Graffiti in the classical world had different connotations than they carry in today's society concerning content. Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought, compared to today's popular messages of social and political ideals. 

It was not only the Greeks and Romans who produced graffiti. The site of Tikal in Guatemala contains examples of ancient Maya graffiti. Vikings graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and a Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the Hagis Sophia in Constantinople. Errors in spelling and grammar in these graffiti offer insight into the degree of literacy in Roman times and provide clues on the pronunciation of spoken Latin. 

The first known example of "modern style" graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). Graffiti, known as Tacherons, were frequently scratched on Romanesque Scandinavian church walls. When Renaissance artists such as Pinturicchio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Ghirandaio, or Filippino Lippi descended into the ruins of Nero’s Aurea, they carved or painted their names and returned to initiate the grottesche style of decoration. 

There are also examples of graffiti occurring in American history, such as Independence Rock, a national landmark along the Oregon Trail. French soldiers carved their names on monuments during the Napoleonic campaign of Egypt in the 1790s. Lord Byron’s survives on one of the columns of the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion in Attica, Greece. These early forms of graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past cultures. 

During World War II and for decades after, the phrase “Kilroy was here” with an accompanying illustration was widespread throughout the world, due to its use by American troops and ultimately filtering into American popular culture. Shortly after the death of Charlie Parker (nicknamed "Yardbird" or "Bird"), graffiti began appearing around New York with the words "Bird Lives". 

The student protests and general strike of May 1968 Paris bedecked in revolutionary, anarchistic, and situationist slogans such as L'ennui est contre-évolutionnaire ("Boredom is counterrevolutionary") expressed in painted graffiti, poster, and stencil art. At the time in the US, other political phrases (such as "Free Huey" about Black Panther Huey Newton) became briefly popular as graffiti in limited areas, only to be forgotten. 

Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages and a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint graffiti styles. Controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement amongst city officials, law enforcement, and writers who wish to display and appreciate work in public locations. 

Wikipedia covers graffiti in great detail and I found it all fascinating.  In some quarters it is regarded as a modern-day art form. In 1979, graffiti artist Lee Quinones and Fab 5 Freddy were given a gallery opening in Rome by art dealer Claudio Bruni.  Its value is highly contested and reviled by many authorities while also subject to protection. In fact in some circles, it has been positively encouraged. 

In 2001, computer giant IBM launched an advertising campaign in Chicago and San Francisco which involved people spray painting on sidewalks a peace symbol, a heart, and a penguin (Linux mascot) to represent "Peace, Love, and Linux." Due to laws forbidding it, some of the "street artists" were arrested and charged with vandalism, and IBM was fined more than US$120,000 for punitive damages and clean-up costs. 

Examples of graffiti can be seen in every corner of the world, from Brazil to Iran, from London to Tokyo. If you consider the aim of the graffiti artist, it tends to be to make a political comment or statement about the order of the day. Graffiti often has a reputation as part of a subculture that rebels against authority, although the considerations of the practitioners often diverge and can relate to a wide range of attitudes. 

I would argue that, in this respect the role of graffiti is very similar to that of the blogger, in today’s society. Wikipedia defines a blog as: “A discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries.” 

Graffiti is a means of prompting discussion in a different way, but it voices opinions which can be informal, engaging and thought-provoking, just as a blog might. As with graffiti artists, bloggers use their social media platforms to do the same and blogs promote perfect reader engagement. 

There are also many differences between the way in which the blogger and the graffiti artist communicate their ideas, messages and opinions, but I don’t necessarily think that the use of punctuation is the most obvious.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Handwriting is an imprint of the self on the page.

Dr Rosemary Sassoon, Handwriting Researcher.
Why Handwriting still has Value in the World of Business

Why Handwriting still has Value in the World of Business

Posted by martin.parnell |

In my role as an author, I write – a lot. In my other profession, as a keynote speaker, I also write in order to keep up with my platforms on social media. If I’m not working on my latest manuscript, I’m blogging, tweeting, connecting on Facebook, preparing talks etc. The list is long. 

Needless to say, all of this work is done on a computer. The other day, I gave a talk and, afterwards, as with most of my events, I did a book signing. For this activity, I write a brief message and sign my name. I find it interesting that, even in this time when most things are written on one form of technology or another, people still value having a handwritten signature. 

They would not be impressed if I were to print off a set of labels with my printed name and stick them in my books. A signature is very individual and personal. It is used to identify us. We have it in our passports and on the back of our credit and debit cards. It is the defining example of our handwriting. 

Graphology, or handwriting analysis, is the study of handwriting shapes and patterns to determine the personality and behaviour of the writer. In the world of forensic science, handwriting analysis fits into the area of questioned documents and expert examiners in this field can recognise signs of alteration, forgery and authorship. The primary basis of handwriting analysis is that every person, in the world, has a unique way of writing. Just look at the criminal cases of Robert Durst and David Allen Lucas, to name but two. 

On a daily basis, I still have a notepad where I jot down ideas and things I need to do. Every year I buy a diary, to keep track of things like appointment, birthdays etc. I must admit, I’m still, to a degree, a pen and paper guy. But, for many people, the thought of having to actually write anything seems a pointless activity. 

They would argue that there is no point when everything can be typed on to their Smartphone, IPad or other device. And I do see their point. However, handwriting appears to be a dying skill and that, I think, is a great pity. I could quote you articles and statistics about the number of schools that no longer teach cursive writing. 

On the other hand, I could also quote you experts who tell us that learning writing is integral to developing fine motor skills in young children and aids in their learning to read. But, I want to focus more on why I believe there is a place for us to incorporate handwriting at stages in our day-to-day life. Who doesn’t get a thrill when a Birthday card, Christmas card or postcard from an exotic destination arrives in the mail. 

It tells us that we are being thought of in a way that goes beyond just sending a quick text, email or message on Facebook. Actor Steve Carell once said “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It's disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there's something visceral about opening a letter - I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.” 

On the wall of my office, I have a charming picture drawn by our 4 year-old goddaughter and she has signed it with her name. Upper and lower case letters mixed and a back-to-front “S”, it’s a treasured reminder of her first attempts at writing. 

In business, probably the only time you might see someone’s signature is at the end of a letter. A busy boss hasn’t the time to be handwriting letters, he or she needs to let someone type them up or put them on the computer. It’s so much easier to reach a number of people that way and there’s no denying the convenience of having one’s spelling checked. 

Also, if yours is not particularly clear and decipherable, you may not feel inclined to put something down in your own handwriting. We’ve all heard the jokes about doctors’ handwriting being impossible to decipher and wonder if pharmacists have some sort of extra training to do so and ensure we’re getting the correct meds. 

But I do believe it’s worth making the effort. I keep Thank You cards to hand and will write a brief message and send one to an event organiser, or other contact that has engaged my services. I regularly get feedback as to how much they are appreciated. This personal touch resonates and shows how much you appreciate their business. 

At work, the only time you may only be required to write anything in your own hand is when you’re being passed a card for someone who’s leaving, had a baby or is celebrating some other event. But, why not think about other ways in which to engage by writing a note or card? 

I’m sure, if you are an employee, you’d really appreciate it if your boss dropped you a personal line to tell you “Job well done” or some other way to show you’re appreciated. “Handwritten notes are a rare commodity. They’re also more important than ever.” Those are the words of John Coleman, coauthor of the book Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest in Business. They’re also the title of an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2013. 

How many of you take handwritten notes when attending meetings? Robinson Meyer, in The Atlantic, May 2014, under the heading “To Remember a Lecture Better, Take Notes by Hand” referred to a study conducted by Mueller and Oppenheimer which found that: “People remember lectures better when they’ve taken handwritten notes, rather than typed ones. What's more, knowing how and why typed notes can be bad doesn't seem to improve their quality. Even if you warn laptop-note takers ahead of time, it doesn't make a difference. For some tasks, it seems, handwriting’s just better.”

The study also found that:  “The people who were taking notes on the laptops don’t have to be judicious in what they write down.” If you locate Meyer’s article, you can read the way in which the 3-part study was conducted. In conclusion, the study demonstrates that: “taking notes on a laptop seems to lead to verbatim notes, which make it tough to study well. We don’t write longhand as fast as we type these days, but people who were typing just tended to transcribe large parts of lecture content verbatim,” This result could feasibly be the same for those taking notes at business meetings.

I am not proposing that we all give up our laptops and computers and start writing everything by hand. I, for one, would find this far too time consuming and inconvenient. I need to be able to send written work to multiple contacts. The convenience of cutting and pasting, taking quotes and articles and use them for reference is obvious.

But, I would encourage everyone to at least make some small effort to write something by hand when looking at the ways in which we communicate. We need to find ways in which to show that we are engaged with colleagues and employees.

It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Make it brief, make it personal and watch it make a difference.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.

William James - American philosopher and psychologist
How to Manage a Mammoth Task – See it as an Elephant

How to Manage a Mammoth Task – See it as an Elephant

Posted by martin.parnell |

In 2005, I embarked on a cycling trip through Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town.  A total of 11,500 Kilometres and 10 countries in four months.   I kept a detailed journal and, on my return used it as a basis for my book “How Do You Eat An Elephant?” I chose that title because it pretty well sums up how I approached the ride, the answer being “one bite at a time.”  In my case, I just had to get to a campsite at the end of each day. This certainly helped me succeed and made the trip less daunting. When I present my workshops on thetheme of  “Finish The Race Attitude”, I encourage participants to do just that, when embarking on a new project.

The workshop title is “Unlock Your Potential: Set Goals and Achieve Results you Never Thought Possible.” Key areas include Goal Setting, Goal Execution and Goal Completion. We discuss what resources they will need to achieve their Goals including tools, time and funds available.  We discuss the need as to how they are going to manage their project. This is when the doubt can creep in. For those who have not tackled a large project before, the task can seem overwhelming.

To ensure that they do not become discouraged, I ask them to look at ways in which the task can be divided up into smaller, mini projects. Working in this way, allows for each area to be thoroughly researched. It encourages creativity by way of looking at various aspects of working and allows for evaluation at each stage.  It is important that deadlines are set for each stage, in order to keep the project on track and stick to a predetermined timeline. When a part of the project has been completed, it gives a sense of achievement and acts as a prompt to embark on the next step. It also provides a sense of accomplishment and, psychologically, it motivates us and gives us less chance of failure.

According to Lauren Marchese's “The Psychology of Checklists: Why Setting Small Goals Motivates Us to Accomplish Bigger Things”, on the Trello Website, January 27th. 2016: “When we experience even small amounts of success, our brains release dopamine, which is connected to feelings of pleasure, learning and motivation. When we feel the effects of dopamine, we’re eager to repeat the actions that resulted in success in the first place. Neuroscientists refer to this as self-directed learning. This is why achieving small goals is such an effective way to stay motivated during long-term projects and processes.”

Of course, this approach may not be right for you and Mike Martell, in his piece “Don’t Eat the Elephant One Bite at a Time!” originally published on Dumb Little Man,  argues that :  “The real problem with taking it step by step is that most people lose interest and end up quitting. If they can’t quit at let’s say a job related task they get so sick of it, they find every reason to get the project killed by their boss.”

He suggests that, instead of breaking things down into “bite size” pieces, we should create: “Big chunks that can be taken on at the same time. In the information technology world, you call this parallel instead of serial processes. You have several things running at once, instead of one at a time each after the other. In addition to breaking the item into big parts, you find others to help you with it. This might be outsourcing, it might mean finding partners, paying affiliates, or even bartering your skills for assistance. Getting outside help with these big chunks will make it go much quicker and you will get the results you wanted while you still remember why you wanted them.”

He does add, however: “Now I am not saying that this is for everyone and for every situation. Some people have a very disciplined mindset and a methodical, linear approach works for them. In my experience though, there aren’t that many people like that around.” What I would argue is that, whether you take small bites or large chunks, approaching a project in manageable pieces can be more productive, less daunting and more satisfying. What we all want is to make sure that we achieve our goals and can celebrate our success. In business, as in life, it is important that we see things through.

On thePsychology Today website, in an article “Why we hate not finishing what we start”, posted Mar 31, 2014 Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph. D explains: “According to the "Zeigarnik Effect," you are much more likely to recall uncompleted tasks than one you completed. In a 1927 study Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik asked subjects to complete a set of tasks. During some of the tasks, the subjects were interrupted before they could finish. When asked later about the tasks, they recalled the tasks during which they were interrupted at a much higher rate than those they were able to complete. It turns out that the brain has a powerful need to finish what it starts. When it can't complete something, it gets stuck on it. Intrusive thoughts about what we could not finish may pop into our heads as a way to remind the cognitive system that something still needs to be completed.” 

So whether you are confident enough to tackle a complete task head-on or find that chunking things down in to more manageable pieces, it is worth looking at different ways of achieving your goal.

I’m a great believer in the premise that anything is achievable, if you take the right approach.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere.

Ronald Reagan
Know when it's Time to Intervene but be Cautious not to Interfere

Know when it's Time to Intervene but be Cautious not to Interfere

Posted by martin.parnell |

Being a manager requires a great deal of skill when it comes to the way you interact with your colleagues and employees. You have been given your role because you are well versed in the workings of your company and have, hopefully, demonstrated excellent skills relating to that role. There is, however, one skill that, despite their competencies in many areas, some managers find it difficult to master. 

I refer to the ability to know when it is appropriate to demonstrate a valuable hands on approach and when that can be come intrusive. I am talking abut the difference between intervening and interfering. 

Obviously, it is important to encourage employees and be an enabler, so that you get the best from your workforce. If you are a smaller company, there may be times when you will be required to coach them in certain skills, train them in new techniques and technologies and bring an awareness to any new company policy.  

You should be available to engage in planning sessions and be seen to collaborate. This will gain the respect of employees and make it easier for you to identify areas for their development. It is important to take an interest in their work, be a mentor, offer guidance, and provide feedback. If you have a new employee, it makes sense to observe them and ensure that they are fulfilling their role. It is also important to make sure they fully comprehend all the aspects of that role, in order for them to show their range of capabilities. 

Being an approachable manager will encourage others to seek your opinion and refer to your knowledge and experience. Always keep lines of communication open, so that employees are not daunted by the thought of having to ask for support or clarification. There will be times when you may need to intervene. If you see that an employee hasn’t fully understood a task, or if they need some support in a certain area. Perhaps they are lacking in experience in a certain aspect of their job. It may be that they have become overloaded with work and you need to help them prioritize. 

Of course, as a manager, you need to know what is going on in your company and, if you have a large enough workforce, this can be achieved by appointing reliable, skilled team leaders, in each department. They can be very effective in ensuring that employees are up-to-date with day-to-day requirements and any changes needing to be made. It is their role to demonstrate new skills and be able to prioritize when they have issues to deal with and know when it is appropriate to take them to the manager. 

Team leaders can be seen as people to go to when problems arise and may be able to decide what need to be overseen by the manager or dealt with there and then.

They can give support to both colleagues and management and reinforce company policy and standards. For some managers, this approach can sometimes be difficult to adopt, the reason being that they find it hard not to have complete control.

They want to monitor everything their employees do and have an input in to everything. 

This can prove very disheartening if you are a capable employee. You have been given your job because you were viewed as being knowledgeable and have the appropriate skills to achieve what is required of it. You understand the job description and produce good work and yet you have someone constantly checking and overseeing everything you do. 

This not only undermines the employee’s confidence but it would make it appear that the manager does not trust them to complete a task to a satisfactory level. Also, if you are constantly spending time checking on your workforce, it gives you less time to concentrate on your own duties. 

As a manager you might wish to maintain a certain level of detachment which may be necessary at times. It also allows you to focus more on the bigger issues relating to your company. Of course, there will be times when a manager will have to intervene. If a team leader is not being supported by employees, if there are issues they are unable to deal with or there is s disciplinary matter. 

For a manager, it’s all a matter of  being engaged enough that your workforce sees that you are aware of what’s going on, are taking an active part in mentoring and  supporting them, offering encouragement and the benefits of your experience, without interfering in their day-today- work and knowing when it is necessary to intervene. 

This will result in a workforce that appreciates your interest and confidence in what they are doing whilst not feeling they are being left to struggle when they are in need of support and guidance. 

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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What we agree with leaves us inactive, but contradiction makes us productive.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Do Contradictions Fail to Make a Lasting Impression?

Do Contradictions Fail to Make a Lasting Impression?

Posted by martin.parnell |

The other day, I was going through our bookshelves, looking for something to read. My wife, suggested a title by an author she’d recently discovered and thought I’d enjoy. I looked at it and wasn’t impressed by the cover, but decided to give it a go. It has turned out to be a really good read. It reminded me of that old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” 

Last week, my publisher sent me 5 prospective covers for my next book, asking for my opinion. I really took my time, trying to decide which one I thought would most appeal to a prospective reader. After all, don’t “First Impressions Count”? Old sayings can prove to be very contradictory. Just consider these further examples: 

  • Great minds think alike.       Fools seldom differ.
  • Money is the root of all evil.      Money makes the world go around.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.     Many hands make light work.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.     Out of sight, out of mind. 

It’s easy to find one of these little nuggets of wisdom to support our ideas. Sometimes, looking at things in different / opposite ways can help us learn and evaluate.  However, offering contradictory advice can be confusing and non-productive. Consider the effect if you are giving out contradictory messages to your colleagues or employees. 

In an excellent article for the Globe and Mail, published 13th. January 2018, Harvey Schachter wrote: 

“Don’t ignore work contradictions – leverage them. Life is full of paradoxes, contradictions and apparent oxymorons. Success is often determined through the tension between two contrary desired ends. But it is also in our human nature to avoid bringing those contradictions to the surface, particularly in our organizations. So we let them fester, blocking us from moving ahead as far as we might, and sometimes creating opposing camps fighting guerrilla warfare by memo and artifice.

Let's take one of the most common contradictions. Most organizations are dedicated to producing quality products and services. And most organizations are also committed to efficiency. But at times, quality and efficiency can be contradictory goals. It might be difficult to achieve both at the same time. Similarly, it's often difficult to achieve quality and cost reduction at the same time, as the "more for less" gang claim.

The prevailing management position is to ignore the contradiction. Managers will choose whichever of the two goals seems most pressing at the time, and let it triumph. That might means efficiency rules for a six-month period, until anecdotal evidence surfaces that customers are concerned with deteriorating quality, in which case the tilt shifts in the opposite direction for a while. The other common technique is to simply go with instinct or the best case put forward at the particular time a decision is being considered. So in the morning, a decision favours quality at the expense of efficiency and in the afternoon the reverse occurs.

Meanwhile, employees' heads spin. They can't figure out what really counts in the organization. And many of them will take advantage of any inconsistency to criticize management, dampening morale. "They tell us quality is important, but look at how they are wrecking quality by that crazy decision to speed up the process," cynics will tell anyone willing to listen. Or they will feast on the contrary decisions in a short time span: "Yesterday morning, they decided to accept some inefficiency in the name of quality and then did you see what they did in the afternoon? Exactly the reverse! What a bunch of morons."

Meanwhile, you keep talking about clarity and alignment, just like the management experts urge, aloof from the reality of the workplace.

Running an organization is not simple. That's the challenge and fascination of management. You will always face contradictions and paradoxes. The trick is to identify them and grapple with them openly, so they aren't hidden. What makes managers look foolish is in not acknowledging the grey areas while talking in black and white terms. The result is confusion and cynicism, not clarity and connection.

Meetings, by the way, are loaded with contradictions. They are meant to build a team feeling but are best when people challenge one another, which can lead to conflict. The urge in a meeting is to plunge straight ahead to conclude an item but inevitably the best parts of meetings are when you get sidetracked, wallowing in some unexplored issue.”

Schachter offers some solutions:

“Start by identifying the various contradictions that bedevil your organization. There are probably a dozen or so, with three to five quite prominent. Everybody knows about them – people might even have divided into camps over them – but they have probably never been openly discussed in a general way, like quality and efficiency, or superb customer service and the need to keep staffing low. Less fundamental, but also important, might be the fact you say you want to hire the best people but you are always in a rush to fill a spot. Or perhaps you say you want to give developmental opportunities to your people but you tend to always hire from outside. Centralization vs. local autonomy, of course, is an eternal favourite.

Once you have identified these contradictions, talk openly about them. It can help to identify the positive elements in each element of a contradiction you have raised, to understand that both are still laudable intents and neither side is wholly wrong. How can you gain the positives each offers, a win-win in Western terms and a yin-yang in Eastern terms? Then try to figure out whether you can approach these dilemmas with more consistency and logic, developing some overall policy that keeps you – and staff – more balanced and consistent.”

 This may be a lot to take in and if you think your company is ticking along quite nicely as it is and your attitude to it all is “You can't teach an old dog new tricks.” However, I’d like to be a little contradictory and propose that “You're never too old to learn.”

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential”. Martin has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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