" You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."

George W. Bush
The West Wing

The West Wing

Posted by martin parnell |

It’s been a long five months since I was diagnosed with “Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis” or, a clot on the brain. Initially, there were many restrictions and I slept most of the time. Also, Sue had gone to England for her Dad’s funeral and I was spending a lot of time alone. I was bored and needed something to occupy my time. We have many DVD’s and I thought maybe I could rewatch Battlestar Galactica. I’m a big science fiction fan and can you really go wrong with Cylons taking over the planet? Well, apparently you can and I soon got bored watching reruns. Then, at the back of the shelf, I spotted the complete box set of “The West Wing”. Sue had bought me this gift for one of my birthdays and it had just sat there never seeing the light of day. Every so often she would suggest we watch it and but I didn’t show too much enthusiasm. However, these were desperate times and I popped the first disc in the DVD player. An hour later, I was hooked.

The series is set primarily in the West Wing of the White House, where the Oval Office and the offices of the presidential senior staff are located, during the fictional Demographic administration of Josiah Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen). The show ran from 1999 to 2006 and in total there were 156 episodes. Over those seven years the show won three Golden Globe Awards and 26 Emmy Awards. The story line took us through the two, four year terms of President Bartlet and the election of another Democrat President, “Matt” Santos (played by Jimmy Smits).

The stories were well written and what was fascinating was comparing the status of the issues today to the ones highlighted in the series 10 years ago. Some have changed. Legislation of gay marriage, a nuclear deal with Iran, diplomatic relations with Cuba and the establishment the Affordable Care Act. However, some that have not include Gun control and illegal immigration. Now, here we are in 2015, and two election races are under way, one in Canada for October and the other for the USA Presidency in 2016. Leading candidates, south of the boarder, are Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans and in one of those “fact is stranger than fiction” items Hillary Clinton was diagnosed with “Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis” in December 2012, after suffering a concussion from fainting. She has since made a full recovery and is hitting the campaign trail while, for me, it’s time to switch off the TV and to hit the running trail.

Read More

"Never over look the good in a bad situation"

Zig Ziglar
Thank You Scammers-Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Thank You Scammers-Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Posted by martin parnell |

The internet has brought many good things to the world, instant news, weather reports, finding lost puppies, and selling patio furniture. However, one curse has been the rise of online scammers. Will Ferguson's excellent book “419” highlighted the Nigerian diplomat scam and the devastation it wrecked on a family. Over the years I’ve received many requests for help from widows, students and lost friends who needed money to get home. I’ve also received emails telling me I’ve won huge amounts of money that are still sitting in bank vaults in Switzerland, Cayman Islands and Zambia. Generally, these scams are easy to spot and the delete button gets a work out. But once in a while something comes in that makes me take a double look.

A week ago I received an invitation from the Reverend Zipo Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to speak at their annual conference in October. The email was well written and all they wanted to know was if I was interested. I used the mighty Google to check out the Reverend and the Church and everything seemed legit. The next morning the Reverend sent me more details, including the theme of the conference which was “Surpassing your limits-Attaining the Unattainable”. This was an excellent fit for me as my presentation is “Ordinary to Extraordinary- Changing lives one step at a time.”

I then received a letter of invitation and letter of agreement. The contract was very attractive, the fee offered was $30,000US which is around $125,000 Canadian, two business class tickets to Cape Town and 4 nights in a top hotel. Was it too good to be true? My Professional Speaker friends on Facebook were warning of a scam so I started to check some of the finer details of the invitation. The event was called the “Sola 5 Seminar 2015” and it does exist. However, it takes place in September not October and the event location was listed as the “Bernard Mizeki Centre” in Johannesburg, incorrect, it’s in Cape Town.

Then I saw the headline “Scam – Beware of Archbishop-Impersonator”. It was a post from 2013 by Mr. Rob Rogerson, Provincial treasurer of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He stated that “It has come to our attention that some individual, or individuals, are impersonating Archbishop Thabo Makgoba in emails designed to extort money, for example through issuing invitations to speak at conferences and then seeking banking details into which to pay travel costs.” I contacted Mr. Rogerson right away and he confirmed my fears, it was all a sham. He said he would contact the real Reverend (actually Bishop) Siwa and they would put a warning on the website.

So what did I learn from this episode? Well, losing the fee, flights and hotel was disappointing but what I really lost out on was meeting Reverend Zipo Siwa and sharing my story with so many people in Africa. I had spent a considerable amount of time reading the Church’s website and they do a tremendous amount of good work. They have several homes and even a village that looks after hundreds of the most disadvantaged and destitute children. At the Ethelbert Children’s home it states “The toddler unit cares for children of 18 months and older, many of whom are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. We do our best to find adoptive parents for the children in our care, when their circumstances allow it, and are always thrilled when one of our children are adopted.”

Bishop Siwa and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, keep up the good work. I’ve sent you a copy of MARATHON QUEST and maybe one day we’ll meet. Thank you scammers for the introduction.

On a final note. As I was finishing off this blog an email popped into my inbox. It was from Mr.Ernesto L. Isidoro. Apparently he has emailed me a number of times before but I have not responded. He told me that I am the beneficiary of an US$8.5m estate, just send bank details etc. Too good to be true? You bet.

Read More

"Don't worry about reviews. Even the Bible only got 4 1/2 stars on Amazon!"

Craig DiLouie Author
When Words Collide - The Accidental Author

When Words Collide - The Accidental Author

Posted by martin parnell | Non-Fiction Publishing

Over the weekend, I went to my first book festival, When Words Collide in Calgary. I had been asked to make a presentation and I chose the theme “The Accidental Author – Confessions of a Rookie Non-Fiction Writer”.

I love reading. I’ve always got a book on the go and at some point during the day I take 20 minutes and knock off a couple of chapters. It wasn’t always this way. At school, I had a love / hate relationship with the written word. English Literature was one of my favourite subjects and as a class we read books like “Animal Farm”, by George Orwell and dissected them with questions like “Why does it state: All animals are equal but some are more equal than others?” However, the flip side of English literature was English language. I was forever struggling (and still am!) with spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Over the years, I’ve realised that you can’t be shackled by your fears and when you really want to do something, you just have to give it a go. In 1979, I entered a short story contest on CBC Radio. My submission was called “The Ice Key”, a sort of “Games of Thrones” meets the “Minions”. A month later I got a rejection letter. I was very disappointed but as Wayne Gretzky said “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

My written efforts over the intervening years were sporadic. I kept a daily journal during a one year trip around the World and blogged on a four month cycle trip across Africa from Cairo to Cape Town. I dabbled in the world of self-publishing, releasing a book on the trip entitled “How do you eat an Elephant?” (one piece at a time). I sold 25 copies (all to me) and sent them out as Christmas presents.

In 2010 I ran 250 marathons and every day after completing 42.2 kms I’d blog about my run. “Marathon Quest 250” raised $320,000 for the humanitarian organization Right To Play and my PR person, Lyn Cadence, suggested I spread the word by publishing a book. I told Lyn that I couldn’t see me sitting down and writing a manuscript but Lyn gave me the best advice ever, the book is in the blogs. Lyn had me fill out a Book Proposal and she sent it out to a number of publishers. One stepped forward, Don Gorman from Rocky Mountain Books and after numerous edits and revisions “MARATHON QUEST” was published in the fall of 2012.

One twist of irony was that in 2014 CBC radio selected MARATHON QUEST as one of their top five books by an Alberta author. The wait was worth it.

Read More

"Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples"

George Burns
Retirement - What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing!

Retirement - What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing!

Posted by martin parnell |

In November 2003, I resigned from my job as the Human Resources Manager for Falconbridge Ltd, a mid-sized Mining Company. I was 47 years old and my wife, Wendy, had died two years earlier of Cancer. I was feeling empty and needed to do something about it. All I seemed to hear at work was how people had 5, 10, or 15 years to retirement. They were counting the days. I had 12 years to go for a full pension and it wasn’t going to happen. I had been with Falconbridge for 18 years and in the industry for 25 years. The company gave me a retirement party and gift, however, I wasn’t ready to retire.

I’m now 59 and over the last 12 years I’ve turned my hand to many different things. Some unpaid such as membership to Rotary and fund raising for the humanitarian organization Right To Play and some paid such as mining consulting, property development and management, substitute resource teacher, extras work in TV and Films, and my current endeavours as a book author and professional speaker.

People ask me have I retired or am I semi-retired? Honestly, I didn’t know what to tell them until now. Apparently I’m a “Pre-tiree” and it’s a trend that is going to have huge ramifications in the future.

According to an article by David Black published in a report by the UK company Zopa (December 2014) http://bit.ly/1hwYhzF:

  • ‘Pre-tirement’ begins in 50s and runs well into 70s, as Britons ease themselves into retirement
  • Britons cut working hours earlier in life, but continue in paid employment for longer: 17% of over-65s are still in paid employment and 30% of them are in unpaid employment
  • 89% of 50-54 year-olds say they don't know when they will retire, and 35% expect to retire later
  • Only 24% of those aged 55–64 said they would be financially secure if they had to retire immediately
  • Giles Andrews, Zopa CEO: 'Retirement is no longer about clearing your desk on your 65th birthday'

Pre-tirement is a seismic shift in the way we think about retiring. It is an opportunity for many people to stay healthy, give something back, spend more time with their families and continue working. Pre-tirement is set to become the norm as it provides both flexibility in the work / life balance and in financial planning.

So, what are your “Pre-tirement” plans? Remember, before you cross the finish line you have to leave the start line.

Read More

"Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that"

Bill Shankly, Liverpool FC Manager (1962-74)
Underdog - The Amazing Story of AFC Bournemouth

Underdog - The Amazing Story of AFC Bournemouth

Posted by martin parnell |

As a lad of 13 living in a small town in Devon in the South West of England one of my greatest pleasures was every other Saturday going to see the greatest football team on the planet, Plymouth Argyle. Of course, they weren’t the greatest team on the planet, and some seasons, not even the greatest team in Devon. But my dedication to them was unwavering. My Dad had supported them and so had his Dad and the tradition ran deep.

In soccer, it’s easy to support a top team. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal all have had many highs over the years. Whether it’s Champions League, Premier League or FA cup triumphs these fans never seem to have to wait long to cheer about something. However, in the lower leagues it’s very different. Season after season you live in hope that one day a miracle will happen, that one day your little team will be in the lime light. In the case of Plymouth I’m still waiting for that day but 130 miles up the coast is AFC Bournemouth, a team that my wife Sue supports, and that’s a very different story.

In February 2008, Bournemouth were forced into administration, suffering a 10-point deduction which put them in relegation trouble. The club had debts of around £4 million and almost went out of business completely. They even had a bake sale to raise some money. The off-field uncertainty continued throughout the season, and the club ended up being relegated to League 2. Ahead of the 2008–09 season, the team's future in the Football League was put into doubt when the league threatened to block Bournemouth's participation in League Two, due to problems with the team's continuing administration and change in ownership.

It ordered Bournemouth to demonstrate that they could fulfil all of their fixtures and find a way out of administration, eventually allowing the club to compete with a 17-point penalty for failing to follow the Football League insolvency rules. Former player Eddie Howie took over as manager with the club still 10 points adrift at the bottom of the league and initially on a caretaker basis, becoming the youngest manager in the Football League at the age of 31.

Over the following 8 years things improved and this tiny club achieved promotion through the ranks of the Football League. From League 2 to League 1, then on to the Championship and this year into the Barclays Premiership. Over the next 10 months they will be playing some of the top teams in the world. In early December,  they play Manchester United at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium which seats a cozy 11,700 supporters. However, in the last game of the season, they’ll be traveling to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, which holds over 75,000 spectators.

It was a rough start to the season for the club with two, 1-0 losses to Aston Villa and Liverpool. But then a historic victory took place in their third game, a 4-3 win at West Ham United, their first ever goals and points in the Premier League. It’s not going to be an easy season for the Cherries but Sue and I will be cheering them on each week because that’s what you do when you support an underdog.

Do you have a team or sports person you’ve followed and cheered on from when they were an unknown to making it in the big time?

Read More