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

Aldous Huxley
Taking advantage of a Chance Opportunity causes a Rethink

Taking advantage of a Chance Opportunity causes a Rethink

Posted by martin.parnell |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Procrastination is the thief of time

Edward Young, English poet

Take Action Now and Boost your Company's Success

Posted by martin.parnell |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And do it sooner rather than later.

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

Philip Sidney - poet, scholar

Juggling Ideas to get Yourself Noticed

Posted by martin.parnell |

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

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

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

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

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

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

It might be worth asking yourself.

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

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

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

Aidan Chambers, Author of Nik: Now I Know

How to Win at the Name Game

Posted by martin.parnell |

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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