December 24, 2008


I hope you will forgive an old cynic like myself for horning in on a Christian celebration but this is my favourite time of year. I will leave all the usual comments about religion, politics, economics, stupid drivers and any of those other rants that spring so easily to mind and simply say a big Merry Christmas to everyone within eye shot. Two things are roaming through the vastness of my consciousness this morning: one is that this is a time to be grateful and might be the perfect time (day even) to make a list of those things that I am grateful for - please join me. And the second thing is something that I am really, really grateful for - for those of you who don't live in this corner of the world, it may be hard to understand the power of a chinook, but this morning when I look into the sky, I see the beginnings of a chinook arch and the temperature has risen 5 degrees in the past half hour! Now, I'm really grateful for that.

Anyway, to each and everyone who is reading this today - may the spirit of the season bring peace, joy and love to each of you.


December 18, 2008


While driving in to work this morning I had a lot of time to think due to the icy winter roads and forced slow down in speed. I began to feel fear creeping into my consciousness as I listened to all the negative and disastrous news coming from the car radio. I don't know about you, but fear is a palpable physical sensation for me and I generally experience it in the pit of my stomach and if bad enough, it almost causes nausea. Anyway, when I got to the office, I turned on my computer and lo and behold, there was a terrific joke from my sister in law and the following from James Arthur Ray:

Ten Tips for Thriving in This Economic Winter
Many of you have read and commented on our recent conversation about how it's a season to sow, how there's so much fear in our world right now and how it's related to some of the universal laws that modern society has forgotten.

If you missed the conversation or need a refresher, check it out here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Well, you asked for some quick, easy-to-apply tips on how to thrive in this economic winter and on how to apply the knowledge you learned during our conversation... So here you go!

1. Clearly define what inspires you.
There's a big difference between taking action out of inspiration versus desperation. Use this season as an opportunity to hibernate into the recesses of your own mind and define what you choose to create in your next spring.
2. Control your focus.
Energy flows where attention goes. Are you focusing on lack or opportunity?
3. Feed your mind.
What's your constant mental diet? Do you spend hours in front of the scare news or are you reading good books, attending more positive seminars, watching uplifting DVDs and listening to powerful CDs?
4. Strengthen your body.
Your physical health and vitality have a tremendous impact on your performance as well as your mental and emotional fitness. Exercise releases stress as well as strengthen your body and mind.
5. Inventory your friends.
Doom and gloom attracts more doom and gloom. Jettison those "energy vampires" around you and surround yourself with opportunity seekers.
6. Quiet your mind.
Take time to meditate daily and to slow down if only for a few minutes. Ten to fifteen minutes of meditation will relieve hours of stress and increase creativity and resourcefulness.
7. Rid your life of escapist activities.
Overindulgence in TV, sleep and alcohol only accelerate the problems you're attempting to avoid.
8. Make a daily gratitude list.
Focusing on all the good, gifts and God in your life puts you in the right line of thought, feeling and their subsequent actions, which will attract and create more good, gifts and God.
9. Change your attitude.
Realize that everything that's happened in your life thus far is here to serve you, teach you and help you grow. Find the lessons in your past results, forgive yourself for anything you could have done better and apply the lesson to move forward and create a better future.
10. Get resourceful.
For the next three days, go to a place where you can have uninterrupted time... Come up with 20 new ideas to grow your income, create new results and improve your life. You cannot leave your spot until you have twenty. And no editing! All ideas are good ideas. Do this for three successive days with 20 new ideas each day.

Now take your list of 60 unique ideas and pick the three to five most powerful and leveraged ones to put into action. Pick these three to five based on: ease of implementation, rate of return and speed of return.
And so during this winter season, remember: It's not about resources... there are plenty of them. It's about resourcefulness. Get resourceful and get busy.

To your continued wealth and happiness,

James Arthur Ray
James Ray International

If you don't know who James is, just Google him and sign up for his updates.

December 2, 2008


Just in case you think I was too harsh when commenting about the Perfect Storm in my previous blog, and just in case you think that I am blaming this mess on the PM, then let me be perfectly clear. Stephen opened the door to the possibility of a non-confidence vote that he could lose by sneaking in a clause to the financial update that would eliminate the government funding that flows to all political parties based on votes received in the last election. All three opposition parties are broke and this money is basically propping each of them up. When you back a political animal into a corner - what do you expect will happen? This whole mess is ALL about politics and the economy is a convenient whipping boy for the three stooges. Mostly I am just disappointed in our PM for allowing himself to be put in this situation where we are going to spend our energy and efforts fighting politics instead of solving the economic riddles. I was very confident after the election that we would be on sound economic and political footing. In absolutely no way do I think this joke of a coalition is the least bit capable of shepherding us through the economic maze.

Memo to the PM's office, the Governor General and all the media wags - GET US OUT OF THIS MESS AND GET ON WITH RUNNING THE COUNTRY THE WAY THE VOTERS WANTED!!!!


Batten down the hatches, there's a big one brewing. Those dark clouds you see on the eastern horizon are heading our way and it might be time to get off the Ferris wheel. Here's the recipe to create a "perfect storm" if you live in Alberta:

1. elect a provincial premier who is out of touch with the people and industry
2. add a pinch of arrogance and watch him tax the province's biggest industry so that they move to adjoining provinces where they feel more wanted
3. add insult to injury by backtracking half way without admitting your mistake
4. call a federal election a couple of weeks too late so that the economy begins to loom large as a serious threat to prosperity
5. see the PM make a serious error in judgement in the middle of the campaign in the province he really needs in order to elect a majority
6. watch oil and commodity prices drop like a stone around the world from the view of a resource-producing nation - sweat should be breaking upon your brow about here
7. elect a minority government with a leader who doesn't receive advice well but promises a new era of cooperation
8. watch our neighbours to the south elect a new president who promises change and see one of their biggest industries go through the throes of bankruptcy causing the loss of many jobs in our biggest province
9. watch that same neighbour's outgoing leader pour billions of dollars of debt into a faltering economy without a plan other than to attempt to save jobs (and votes) at home
10. stir in a cup of arrogance and pour the cooperation down the drain while presenting a mini-financial update that requires approval of the House of Commons, by cutting the funding lifeline of the opposition parties who are attempting to plead the case of their now unemployed supporters
11. start back stepping faster than the guy who dropped the bad smell on the elevator, on all of your economic plans or lack thereof, thus making yourself a lame duck PM
12. stir this mess up and hand the bowl to a media maven without political, constitutional or legal experience who goes from being a figurehead to having to make the biggest decision of her life, while being pummelled from all sides by conflicting and self serving opinions masquerading as advice
13. stand and watch as the economically strongest country in the world dissolves into political chaos with the 3 stooges on centre stage directing the orchestra
14. bring to a boil the populace that is seeing their savings vaporize into thin air while the politicians dance to the strains of "What a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts."
15. Steve, errrr...... Stephen, it's time to do the honourable thing, otherwise think Joe, er...Joseph Clark
16. Yet another election showing through the dark clouds
17. Can you name the 3 lame ducks in the election pot this Xmas?

Good Luck to us all!

December 1, 2008


Stephen, may I call you Steve - no OK, Stephen, stop playing hopscotch with the country and start acting like the Prime Minister of all the people! I have been a supporter for a long time and most of the time you're right on the mark. These days you have decided to sink to the level of the competition with some petty politics and snide remarks. You are above that fer gawds sakes.

I urge you to take the high road ( leave the 30 million for a later date) and tell the public, in an honest and forthright manner why it is best to wait a bit longer before making stimulus promises rather than let them think that the opposition method of pissing in the dark is in our best interests.

As for that ticky-tacky trinity of testosterone-challenged toadies that masquerade as an opposition - you can't run your own parties in terms of elections or finances - why would we ever think you can run the country!

And I love the media comment about how a coalition government would have four wisemen to advise on financial matters. Whoever wrote that is either 15 years old or has had a frontal lobotomy to remove their memories of these "wiseguys" actual time in political leadership.

November 27, 2008


As a keen, although amateur, observer of the human condition, I approach my self appointed status from two directions. When I notice something different about people around me (this can take an inordinate amount of time occasionally), I analyse it a bit and then wonder and test to see if this change applies to me. It could be physical, spiritual, attitudinal, age-related or any number of other alterations on any sort of level but primarily I spend some time in observation. The observation runs in two directions - towards the other person or people (it could be people or groups that I know personally or complete strangers) and then I begin to take a measure of myself to see if I exhibit these same changes or behaviours. An easy example might be erratic driving - I look to see if it has something to do with road conditions, driver age, time of day, full moon - basically I look to find common denominators and then look to see if I am a member of the group or not.

The other side of observing the human condition begins with myself. I may notice something different (eventually) and then look around to see if the same change is apparent in other people. I may be wrong but I often make the assumption that I am not that different from everyone else and if I am experiencing some sort of change then I assume that others are, or will, too. This one, I'm not sure about.

I've begun noticing since I passed the age-60 pole (could potentially be a clue), that I don't enjoy or practice certain physical habits that I used to be faithful to. Up until recently, I really enjoyed all of those small physical challenges during the day like reaching to get something or bending down to pick something up, heavy lifting, turning, twisting - anything that allowed me to feel a muscle stretch or increase the workload of my body. It always felt good to push myself a little beyond the comfort level. Gardening, golf, hanging Xmas lights, picking up grocery bags and holding them aloft, heck even vacuuming and laundry offered an excuse to flex and push myself. Now let's keep in mind that none of these little challenges resulted in any sort of terrifically athletic manoeuvres but they did allow me to stay in tone while maintaining the pear shape I have come to enjoy.

While sitting in a chair and bending to put my socks on this morning, it dawned on me that I have settled into a mindset of avoiding the stretch or the resistance of normal everyday activities for the past few months. It really is a state of mind rather than a physical limitation but the physical limitations are appearing a little too rapidly for my liking. I'm tempted to consult with Elvira, Queen of the Nazi Fitness Camp with whom I enjoyed such success prior to learning to surf last spring. However that would be just plain embarrassing at this point. The treadmill that I stare at every evening in the basement could perhaps be employed as something other than an electronic clothes hanger - my embarrassment would be private, at least. The excesses of Christmas including dinner parties, libations, fudge and other bon bons is upon us and I could talk myself into waiting until the New Year but will my human condition wait that long or do I need to stop observing and begin moving my ***!

November 24, 2008


"he's making a list and checking it twice"

While our American friends are thinking about turkey day and Thanksgiving, here in the great white north, the retail sector has convinced us that we need to make all of those gift purchases before they run out of inventory. Ah yes, Christmas - putting up outdoor lights, buying more extension cords, bringing home poinsettias and hoping they don't freeze on the way to the car, wondering about real tree or artificial, should we switch to LED lighting inside and out, company Christmas parties, dinners with friends, who, what and where for Christmas dinner and then the biggest question of them all - to make a list, ask for a list or go without a safety net.
I seem to be surrounded by people who like Christmas gift lists, who keep asking what I want for Christmas and offering a list of what they would like in exchange. I don't get it! For me, I think the spirit of the season is in the search to find something for our loved ones that has real meaning. I totally dislike the idea of giving a gift to someone that comes from the "I need" list. If you need it - buy it yourself! I think a gift should be something you don't need but maybe want, or don't even know you want, instead. I think the giver should spend some time thinking about what would be meaningful, surprising, uplifting, heartfelt and reflective of the relationship that exists between the giver and receiver. I get a bit of a kick out of those people who bleat on and on about the true meaning of Christmas and then revert to a list to find the perfect gift. Huh???? How does that work?
Personally, I would rather have one small gift that the giver has spent some time considering and searching for (regardless of price) than a new shirt or even worse, gift card. If that's the best people can do, then just offer a card or note - that would be more meaningful. At least you would have spent a few minutes contemplating what to say.
So, I assume I'll be getting Christmas cards with a nice note this year. Works for me!

November 17, 2008


tough assignment

A close family friend over the past 20+ years is in the business of changing lives through personal coaching, transformative group programs and inspirational seminars. One of the most powerful things she does is the "one word" exercise. She does this in two different ways. When she reaches a crossroads with her group, she will gather everyone together for a moment of introspection in which each person is asked to share with the others "one word" that describes how they personally feel in that moment. This process is incredibly insightful and enlightening as the full gamut of emotion and feeling is usually expressed, thus demonstrating how people react differently to the same set of circumstances. More importantly, the participants have to reach down deep inside themselves and discover the overriding feeling that seems to be in control of their thoughts at that precise moment. Words like fear, anger, love, heaviness, lightness, joy and trust are very common. Obviously, there is no right and wrong as each person reveals themselves but the process is incredibly life affirming as each person participates and listens to their fellow travellers.

The other occasion when she uses the "one word" technique occurs when one of the group participants is experiencing an overwhelming sense of emotion, usually negative and self deprecating and often the result of facing up to some perceived sense of failure in their lives. It is so much harder to see the truth for ourselves, but normally we are all able to see the truth for others and this is put to good use when the other group participants look directly at the subject who is in pain and with the power of "one word" offer strength, support, love and empowerment as they describe the truth about the person in front of them. The person on the receiving end of this very emotional exercise is often transformed in front of the group's eyes as participant after participant, word after word, builds, each on the other, into an incredible, life altering experience of pure joy and love. The pressure on each person in the group is minimal as they search for that right "one word" in the knowing that the words that they don't speak, will be offered by someone else. They are only responsible for finding, in their heart, the "one word" that they see at this particular moment and there is no pressure or fear of missing a better descriptive or a more insightful comment. The group dynamic gives each participant the confidence and safety of knowing that the subject of this exercise will feel the overwhelming totality of every one's words rather than analysing each one individually to search for meaning or for what wasn't said.

The other day I received a request from a friend, via email, that is similar in intent to the exercise described above but without the group dynamic, since it is sent to a number of individuals who will presumably, reply singly and without hearing the input of anyone else. This is a tough request as rarely does anyone get described in "one word." They are always a combination of skills, traits, tendencies, qualities, weaknesses, strengths and habits along with a bewildering array of conflicting adjectives, nouns and verbs that eventually add up to the whole person. On the receiving end of this blizzard of verbiage, I hope that the person will get a true picture of their entire wonderful self and read words like intelligent, humourous, beautiful, spiritual, caring, loving, loyal, insightful, graceful, hardworking, interesting, well spoken, articulate, creative, inspirational, charitable, forgiving and courageous. For the senders, to offer but "one word" in isolation, opens them to being entirely too one-dimensional and to a degree of criticism and analysis, along with the probability of second-guessing about what they didn't say, that might detract from their wanting to fill a page with words of encouragement and carefully considered awe of the subject. Anyway, I'm not very often at a loss for words but, in this case, I'm at a loss for one word that could adequately communicate the essence of being for an individual of infinite and impeccable spirit.

November 13, 2008


reprinted fromDylan Jovine

What This Year's Holiday Party Can Teach You About Market Bubbles

In my 20s I used to live for them. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night my friends and I would go club hopping in the City just looking to capture that moment. The one moment that defined all great parties for me:The exact moment in time when the right girl, the right drink and the right song come together not just for you - but for the entire room. The crowd goes wild.
The lifelong study of the psychology of crowds has been a large part of my professional career as an investor. I've always been fascinated by the "ingredients" it takes to affect the way a group of people in a certain setting perceive events.What I've discovered is that the three key "ingredients" for a great party in my 20s - the Disc Jockey, alcohol and social acceptance - are the same that have been used to create bubbles in all financial markets throughout history. The only difference is that in a market bubble people don't have to be in the same room together physically to have their perceptions manipulated. They just have to be in the same room together mentally.Here's how it works:Perception Altering Ingredient #1: The Disc Jockey. The "Disc Jockey" of the 1929 crash was the mass media at the time: radio and newspapers. The "soundtrack" they were playing is the same one played through all bull markets in history: Get Rich Quick.Now I'm not saying that it's the media's fault alone. Although many newspaper writers were literally on Wall Street's pump-and-dump payroll, the media tends to reflect the desires of the culture. Like any good DJ, the media plays the songs that people get up and dance to.Indeed, one of the most popular songs of the year was "Blue Skies Are Here to Stay," a song that reflected America's belief that prosperity had become permanent. My personal favorite hit that year was "I'm in the Market for You":

I'll have to see my broker
Find out what he can do.
'Cause I'm in the market for you.
There won't be any joker,
With margin I'm all through.
'Cause I want you outright it's true.
You're going up, up ,up in my estimation.
I want a thousand shares of your caresses too.
We'll count the hugs and kisses,
When dividends are due,
'Cause I'm in the market for you

Perception Altering Ingredient #2: Alcohol. The "alcohol" of all financial bubbles is, has always been and will always be easy money. Like alcohol, easy money is very intoxicating. The more of it you have, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more of it you want to get.Richard Pryor once said that doing a line of cocaine made him feel like a new man. And the first thing that new man wanted to do was another line of cocaine.I view easy money the same way. Since it's difficult to earn money under normal circumstances, when easy money starts coming into your wallet the very first thing you want to do is get more of it.Just like alcohol, the more easy money you make, the more your perception becomes altered. Instead of stopping after you "get a good buzz," you begin to get that invincible feeling that you've got everything under control.
And like all Greek Tragedies, hubris is often a big killer.Like "I work hard for the money I make - I deserve this new car." Or "We'll pay back the billion dollars we borrow from the bank to take this firm private before you know it." Or "Goldman Sachs (GS) isn't that special. If they could make a gazillion trading their own accounts so can we at Merrill Lynch (MER)."And that ties in to...Perception Altering Ingredient #3: Social Acceptance. In my 20s, it was the youthful, silly and completely normal goal of meeting the perfect girl for the perfect night. Looking back now, that form of social acceptance seems almost silly.
But how does it play out as we get older?I would argue that the pressures of social acceptance are as intense for a 50-year old couple with 2 kids as they are for teenage girls. Much of how we perceive ourselves is based on how we think people perceive us.And that's just human nature. It always feels good to drive a new expensive car in part because it conveys what in any society is a powerful message - the ability to acquire resources. And those who are best at acquiring resources are usually those who have the most power to determine the "pecking order" of their social group, whether it be in choosing "mates" or "friends."The trap that most people fall into is that whether they know it or not they "compete" with those in their "peer group" whom they perceive to be most "successful" at acquiring resources. Not only do they compete with them but they actually determine their own worth by judging themselves in relation to them.Teenage girls want to be skinny because Britney Spears is skinny. Men want to work out because Brad Pitt looks great with his shirt off. My wife and I want a bigger house because our son spends his afternoons playing at the Jones' house and they have a pool, etc.And in an easy money environment, the competition becomes far more intense as many of our peers begin to acquire excess resources in a much more accelerated fashion than normal.As with all financial bubbles, the greater the bubble, the easier cheap money becomes available. And the easier it is to get cheap money the faster it is for our peers to acquire resources. And the faster it is for our peers to acquire resources, the more intense the competition for resources becomes and so on.We all fall victim to it in different ways. The key is to know when the ingredients are at play and to avoid the perception traps the accompany groupthink.

Dylan Jovine
Chief Investment Officer
go to The Tycoon Report for more

November 12, 2008


the movie and the battle

We spent yesterday afternoon at the movie which was very appropriate considering it was Remembrance Day in Canada and Veteran's Day in the U.S. Paaschendaele is a village in Belgium that was the scene of one of the many bloody battles of the First World War. The Canadian troops eventually managed to take the village (or what was left of it) after losing 16.000 men and after the troops of two other allied countries failed in their efforts.

The movie of the same name combines the battle with a story of love that is based on the true life of the grandfather of the movie's writer, director and producer, Paul Gross. Inspiring, poignant and incredibly appropriate as our thoughts turn to the young men and women that have once again been sent in ' harms way.' It is a time to remember, to be grateful and to point out the sacrifices required to enjoy the life we have. Thank you to Paul Gross for a movie that does all of that.

November 5, 2008

OBAMA-mama-bomama, be my momama

sometimes I can't help myself

According to CNN last night, virtually everyone will remember where they were when Obama made his acceptance speech after his convincing Presidential election victory. Hmmmm, methinks thou dost pronounce too much. After a few years of being a political junky and seeing more elections than I would care to reveal, one thing I know is that you can't decide beforehand on the importance or relevance of an election result. There is usually some euphoria and just plain relief immediately following, which often includes a fair amount of hyperbole, which was in great evidence on the American networks last night as reporter after reporter fawned over the new President-elect. That's all well and good but history will judge the importance of the 2008 election and no crystal ball can predict the events ahead of us except to say that we are in very challenging times - world-wide. Something else we can say with certainty is that expectations placed on one man's shoulders have never been higher or heavier.
The race issue aside - and it's hard to fault black America for its current wave of emotion and sense of pride - events have a way of creating the success or failure of U.S. presidents rather than the other way around. Being head of the most powerful nation on earth is a little like being an ocean liner in a bathtub - impossible not to notice it but almost impossible to turn it. Let's hope that our neighbour can get beyond its preponderence for "playing" politics and actually move into an era of "doing what's right" because it is the right thing to do. They (and we) have little time for blame, nitpicking and apple polishing - get it right - get it done and then we will worry about whether or not this is some sort of shining moment that we will remember forever.
Good luck to us all.

October 31, 2008


"just a little bit"

Aretha Franklin

For some time now, I have found myself getting concerned about the lack of courtesy evident in everyday living. From the grocery store to the mall, on the freeway or the hockey rink, in the airport and the office hallway there seems to be an ever-increasing disregard for common courtesy as people bump and jostle their way through the day without a thought for the space of anyone else. The only problem with these thoughts is that courtesy is an "effect" not a cause so there must be something deeper at play here and then it occurred to me while reading an article in the sports page about a young player is serious condition after being hit in an NHL game. We have lost touch with the need to treat each other with respect. I'm sure there are many causes including television, teaching, parenting and in particular watching the actions of sports and movie heroes. Whether in real life, or in a movie or game the "actors" are displaying a total disregard for the effect that they are having on their fans. This isn't true in every case because their are still some celebrities who display a genuine personality that shows they have the maturity to respect the rights of others. It would do us all well to support and hold up these people as the real heroes in life.

October 29, 2008

Ya gotta wonder

Many thanks to the friend who passed this along after reading yesterday's blog:


I work, they pay me. I pay my taxes and the government distributes my taxes as it sees fit. In order to earn that pay cheque, I work on a rig site for a Fort MacMurray construction project. I am required to pass a random urine test, with which I have no problem.
What I do have a problem with is the distribution of my taxes to people who don't have to pass a urine test. Shouldn't one have to pass a urine test to get a welfare cheque because I have to pass one to earn it for them?
Please understand that I have no problem with helping people get back on their feet. I do on the other hand have a problem with helping someone sit on their ass drinking beer and smoking dope.
Could you imagine how much money the provinces would save if people had to pass a urine test to get a public assistance cheque? Please pass this along if you agree or simply delete if you don't.
Hope you will pass it along though, because something has to change in this country, and soon!

October 28, 2008


"as goes --, so goes America."

There seems to be something morally bankrupt (if not financially) about the bastions of capitalism and free enterprise lined up at the government trough for taxpayer handouts. Am I the only one who finds this to be an unprecedented paradox? If the governments keep printing money and handing it out - doesn't that mean that the nations' debt is increasing and won't somebody have to pay it back someday? I'm just a poor country boy but I don't understand this eagerness to reward failure. Perhaps I missed something in those economics classes about risk, reward and laissez faire - or is that just in the good times?
In keeping with the current trend, due to an unexpected electrician's bill today, the household budget is going to be about $500.00 short - where do I line up???

October 23, 2008


more answers in search of questions

Lunching with HJ is always a time of enlightenment, whether needed or not! Occasionally we create a topic of the day but most times we enter this hallowed space armed with nothing more than our deep convictions about how the world should operate. This intelligensia is free for the asking....if only someone would. Yesterday was no exception as we spouted forth on a wide variety of topics, all aimed at making the world a better place. So, I offer here a compendium of answers and you can play the Jeopardy Parlour Game by making up your own questions to go along with these highly researched and clarifying results:

answer # 1 - more sex - the attractive young lady at the buffet in the "one size too small blue jeans" was noted to be smiling in sympathy at the protestations of the two old farts at the table in the corner.

answer # 2 - cut spending - this applies to the excesses and extravagances of various wives and in no way should impinge upon the R & D budget required to continue these weekly lunch sessions.

answer # 3 - being right - especially important when one lives the philosophy of "zig when they zag."

answer # 4 - opinion masquerading as news - except at this corner table, of course.

answer # 5 - better is bigger - imagine the possibilities.

There you have it - the answers to this week's burning questions that imbibing minds want to know.

October 15, 2008


Executive Summary

OK, here's the Reader's Digest version of yesterday's blog:

1.) the media will always emphasise negative news

2.) stock market volatility is caused by a combination of negative opinions, enormous media exposure, emotional responses, lack of research and too much opinion without second thoughts

3.) the stock market responds to economic news, NOT the other way around

4.) buy low - sell high

5.) news programs (including business news) are more about entertainment than information

6.) having an attention span longer than a gnat will make you money

October 12, 2008


The thing that has fueled the Information Age is communications and we have financed, encouraged and embraced communications with a fervor that is as surprising as it is immense. The very fact that you are reading this blog is proof of the incredible speed with which information can reach each of us. While many of us marvel at the miracle of email, newer and faster and even more marvellous forms of communication have taken us to places that could not be imagined just 10 years ago! The ability to access and create information is mind boggling and while we stand in amazement, we are only now beginning to see that this coin has two sides. Let's see if we can connect the dots....

The fuel of financial markets has always been information and was generally a question of who had it and who didn't. Information was somewhat dry and cold and numerically inclined and basically the purview of economists, accountants and people who could read a balance sheet that pointed out where a company had been historically. This was combined with information about what a company was currently doing and its prospects for the future and the people who shared that information often profitted rather handsomely, so various regulatory agencies brought in insider trading and public disclosure rules requiring information be made available to the investing public before the keepers of the information could use those facts to make an investment decision. The theory was that everyone operated on a level playing field but the communications apparatus was unwieldy at best and the importance of access to information became ever more apparent as the average investor or man on the street was forced to rely on various advisers who had their collective ear to the ground (or heads in the sand). Speed became the new religion when it came to financial markets and the 100 channel universe began to create very targeted delivery systems known as CNN, CNBC or in Canada, BNN, etc. We are in the 250 - 300 channel universe now and have access to instant information from almost every corner of the world that includes weather, political, environmental, financial and every other discipline imaginable, if you consider sports and entertainment disciplines.

OK, I know this is a long one, but in order to understand the importance of the last paragraph, we really need to cover this stuff first.

During the past 2 or 3 years, the amount of information available to anyone with a laptop computer and Internet access is staggering and the portals to this information have become easier, cheaper, faster and bigger while names like Google, Facebook, Blackberry, Yahoo and YouTube have reached iconic status in the blink of an eye. The fact that the successful sites have 100's of million of users is a power that most of us can't imagine. The fact that each of those users can add or receive information from this infinite source, in a split second, is beyond the ability of any government or legal and financial body to control, assuming they can even understand it. By the way, in case you are wondering, I'm not about to call for control or dis assembly or anything else like that, but you will need to read on to see how this connects to the world we are viewing and how YOU can profit from it.

In addition to the staggering amount of information available (and we haven't talked about the quality of the info yet), the easy and cheap availability is supported by the nano-second recovery time and these have combined to create a new paradigm while we still cling to many historical thought patterns that serve to create uncertainty in our financial markets. Instant access combined with shorter and shorter attention spans as we lurch from crisis to crisis has spawned a financial version of the perfect storm. Greed and lack of self control along with unfathomable amounts of debt to support wars and mortgages for the down and out (but who still have a vote), run away credit on every level and a desire to have everything right now, added to a multi dimensional media (desperate to offer "breaking news") that chases after negative stories with the fervour of a circus tent preacher has created a tsunami of gyrating opinions that all demand action right now! We have politicians in the middle of election campaigns making up policy on the run as the media demands answers and action immediately and public opinion is being created by so called panels of experts whose areas of expertise are marginal at best, but they look good on camera.

Can you see what I'm getting at? We think we need instant everything from breakfast to health care, from sneakers to wine aeration, from landscaping to travel times and anyone who offers immediate fulfillment from news networks to Dr. Phil are feeding the info junkie in all of us. The media is interviewing anyone with a pulse, seeking their opinion on the latest disaster and they keep repeating words like "financial meltdown," "recession," "banking crisis," "frozen credit," "bail out" and whatever they dream up today. This need for instant gratification has left little time for due diligence and sober second thought is now a distant memory. In their haste to provide opinions, the media has invited conjecture and hyperbole to create sound bites and headlines that masquerade as NEWS or fact. In order to attract the viewers attention in a universe that is powered by a channel changer, it has become necessary to create ever increasing amounts of drama and breathless "on the scene" reporting and the area that screams loudest gets all the attention. Today it is the stock market.

Yes, I'm getting to the point soon.

Ok, one of the keys is that we are being fed an enormous amount of OPINION in the guise of breaking news. We have made pseudo celebrities out of talking heads and treat their every word as gospel which gets repeated over and over until it sounds like truth. We are inundated as absolutely every media outlet jumps on the bandwagon and pretty soon we have been stampeded into a recession because we believe (and so do the politicians, pundits and economists) something if it is repeated often enough. Only a few months ago everything was upbeat, house prices were climbing, jobs were plentiful, people were buying second homes in the sunbelt, luxury cars were driving themselves off the lot and the stock market was on an endless journey up - go ahead, check the on line archives of your local newspaper - spring of 2008 editions!

Notwithstanding the fact that their are enormous and unprecedented pressures on the economies of the world, the race to the stock market basement has been overblown, over hyped and overheated by this relentless outpouring of conjecture in every media outlet on the planet. There seems to be a race to report the worst possible news and the whole affair has been exacerbated by elections in which competing parties trip over themselves to bring bad news (whether true or not) to the electorate. Rather than look at solutions, they get more press coverage by blaming ills on the party in power. Cheap thrills by cheap people that is affecting in a very real way, your world and mine. We have talked ourselves from "controlling growth" into a full blown free fall of the world's economies in a matter of months. Fiscal responsibility has morphed into printing money as fast as we can without any plan to change the system that got us here. There is over reaction everywhere and it is fueled by instant opinions and hypothesis that are totally untested and untried. Information is king but the information is tainted by the incessant need to be first with the breaking news. Everything is moving faster and faster from communications to the reaction time of stock markets. Computerized trading systems that spark automatic buy and sell orders can move markets by 10% in a single trading session.

So, how does that affect you and I?

Markets that can come down that quickly based on emotion and over reaction can turn around and go in the other direction just as quickly. There is no way to know where the bottom is and so there is no point in trying, nor is there any point in waiting. To jump back to historical reference for a minute, by the time the economists declare that a recession has ended, the market has already moved up about 25% . We may be in for some wildly gyrating markets as they jump to and fro based on what the darlings of the media speculate and postulate about, but it seems to me that a few ounces of common sense would allow us to find a way to gradually invest over a period of time, in a basket of well managed companies, in one of the world's strongest economies and create ( or re-create) a nest egg that may move just as fast on the upside as it did on the down. As an old stock broker (investment advisor, in the legal sense), I am reluctant to admit that a nice mutual fund might be the ticket, but it might be the ticket.....

A long range viewpoint is the best antidote to short term hysteria

October 10, 2008


Ya gotta think we're near the bottom when the local sports radio station brings on a former NHL player, who is now an investment advisor, to discuss the impact of the current financial meltdown on the health of teams around the league.
How does creating more debt help us get out of a problem created by too much debt in the first place?
It will be interesting to see where reality is after the elections are over.
Consider carefully - who do you want in charge of the cookie jar for the next few years?

Regardless of the turmoil of the past few weeks, this has been a year to be truly grateful for so many things - I hope you can say the same.


October 8, 2008


naked shorts

I've been an interested observer of the stock market for many years including the years I spent in Winnipeg as a stock broker. Being able to tell the so-called unwashed masses that you are a stock broker has mixed benefits. When times are good, it is a rather popular career to tell people at a cocktail party, along with property developer, software inventor and plastic surgeon. When stock market news hits the front pages like it has lately, those same people tend to look at stock brokers rather skeptically, as though they are to blame for the financial woes that are being experienced.
Throughout these scenarios I have observed that about 90% of people I have encountered have little or no knowledge of how the market works - and that includes the politicians currently vying for your vote. It definitely includes the wags of the media breathlessly reporting the ups and downs of currencies, market indices and commodities. The industry, like most, is couched in a language that precludes the average person from understanding the workings of the market. It forces people to seek the advice of a paid professional or abandon the whole effort all together. If there is a course in high school explaining the financial markets, it is probably a little used optional or at best, something endured rather than presented in a light that could offer real possibilities to each of us.
Consequently, I am thinking about writing a common sense based outline of the stock market for people without any sort of industry based esoteric initials behind their name. Something for the average person to be able to understand and perhaps make use of the markets to help as part of a financial plan and if nothing else, present a starting point to asking questions of those salesmen masquerading as financial planners. What do you think - would it be useful?
At the very least you would be able to drop the phrase, "covering my naked shorts" into a conversation and understand what it means.

September 30, 2008


How can you tell when you have entered a government building? Above the numbers on the elevator control panel is a sign that reads: " Exit when elevator stops" I'm not kidding, I saw this with my own eyes this morning. And we put these same people in charge of our taxes and how to spend them?????? Election indeed!

September 29, 2008


throwing the baby out
with the bath water

One of the advantages to being a long term resident of middle age is that I have seen this before. There is comfort in knowing that this too, shall pass. Armageddon Now? I very much doubt it and if it is....who will care? One of the oldest maxims in the investment business is that when there is blood running in the streets, it is time to buy. The only saying older than that is, Buy Low Sell High! Well, it looks like we are here.
The turmoil that we are seeing is the perfect storm since the markets and financial pointy heads are beating down the prices of some incredible companies in a panic that we haven't seen for some time. The possibility is that it might even get worse - a financial bale out package of almost a trillion dollars is still a question of adding additional debt! They couldn't afford the debt they had already built up so adding more will result in what? We may not be at the bottom but we are definitely at the time to start accumulating quality companies and continuing to do so because the long term result will be a financial gain for the strong of heart that will take your breath away.
When everyone else is jumping out of the boat, grab an oar and buy like hell!!!

September 28, 2008


common cents

Elections seem to be rather popular at the moment and just in case you are getting a little tired of the finger pointing, empty promises, negative ads and blame game, perhaps I could offer a suggestion especially considering the economic challenges that abound. How about if we (the electorate and also the people who have to pay for all of this stuff) absolutely require any elected official, at any level of government to manage the business of government the same way they manage their household budget - no exceptions, no excuses and perhaps to add interest (since there is nothing to watch on TV anyway) any politician who does not perform in this way, could be boiled in a vat of good old Canadian oil!
Yea - I thought you would like it too.

September 22, 2008


"My knowledge is a mile wide....

and an inch deep"

Recently, I have begun a search to bring added value to readers of my books and blog and am considering something like a monthly newsletter or similar format that would give subscribers more in depth coverage than this blog does. In the process of thinking about this in the last few days, I have made some interesting discoveries. The crux of it is that I know a little about a lot. You could do much worse than to invite me on to your Trivial Pursuit team or join my side in the Home Edition of Jeopardy. I'm an inveterate reader on a wide range of topics from history to geography and science to food and have spent years studying the human condition, economics, politics, sports, the environment, foreign cultures, climate and almost every other topic I can think of. I have been involved in everything from creating and managing hockey tournaments, selling coatings, stocks, office equipment, building supplies and services to flipping real estate, owning and managing various sized companies and writing books. I've travelled all over Canada and the Excited States and even Europe while living everywhere from Ontario to the west coast.
So, on the one hand I have this very broad range of experience and knowledge but when I look around, I see people who have created great success from specializing in their area of expertise and have a storehouse of information to offer to a niche of society. In some ways I think that I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous on an amazing array of topics. I usually find that I have enough knowledge to be fairly opinionated in any number of areas too! We are surrounded by specialists in all sorts of professions and trades - no longer just an accountant, lawyer or doctor but rather, narrowly defined experts in ever decreasing scopes of interest from taxes to mergers and even a lovely area called gastroenterology.
I'm not really complaining about my lot in life but I am wondering how I might share some of the things I've learned with people interested in knowing about a broader range of subjects. Can I actually offer views and information on many different areas of interest as I continue to learn about midlife and some of the adventures that surround us? Is it possible to be an expert on not being an expert? Is there still a value that can be placed on an overview?

September 17, 2008


" it's always 5 o'clock somewhere."

There may have been a few libations involved but last Saturday night after a day of adventure, 4 of us were sitting on the deck basking in the glory of ourselves when someone suggested that my book, THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time would make a great movie. They waxed poetic about the thrills, spills, humour and inspiration and ever eager to receive compliments, I listened as they rambled on. One of the participants was my hiking buddy Gord, whose fame has spread after our exploits on the Trail. Since I am totally unknown to any Hollywood producers and for obvious reasons (check my picture) have no interest in testing out the "casting couch," the only thing we could turn to was speculation about the possibilities. At some point, the ladies asked who would play the two main characters in our Oscar winning spectacle and so Gord and I, ever mindful of presenting the right public image, began to offer suggestions. Clearly, the obvious choices we decided would be George Cluny to play Gord, since there was a similarity of hair-do's. The only leading man that could possibly maintain the integrity and vision and thus able to play me, was none other than.........Brad Pitt, due to the similarity in body-types.

The libations may have turned to drinks at some point........

September 15, 2008


"I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things . "

Antoine De Saint Exupery

OK, so I did it - spent an hour in the air in a high performance glider, fulfilling a dream I have had since I was a young boy. Soon after I learned to read and discovered the adventures held in my local library, I began reading a series of books about the exploits of bush pilots in Northern Ontario. I forget how many books there were, but the whole experience fired up my juices for doing something that challenged and excited me. That was also a time when avionics and the possibilities of space flight, Buck Rogers and travel to other worlds was starting to stir the imagination of the world. The space race began when I was in grade school and I briefly flirted with a career as an aeronautical engineer (airline passengers everywhere can be thankful that I didn't do that) but at some point, I discovered information about gliders and how they worked. Like many areas of interest, I did nothing about it and other than on one occasion, never pursued flight in small craft of any kind even though I harboured a wish to learn to fly.

Over the past 10 years, I have played golf and visited the Invermere Valley of BC many times and often stopped to watch the tow planes taking up gliders from the air field but it wasn't until our friends, Bob and Rose told us that they had taken a ride in a glider from the same location, that it occurred to me to think about doing the same. I mentioned last spring that I thought that I would do the same this summer and was informed that, indeed a flight had already been booked for my birthday - WOW! And WOW, is the right description - it was everything I imagined and more. A crystal clear Saturday afternoon (following a flight cancellation due to rain on Friday) and I was loaded into the back seat of an incredibly sleek craft with the call numbers 007 (I thought about wearing a tux and drinking a martini). The tow plane hauled us up to 8,000 feet and we let go into a steep right turn and a view of the mountains that took my breath away. No, it's not like flying in an airplane - it's so much more intimate and personal and fantastic and also much safer - consider what would happen if an airplane lost an engine. A glider can stay up forever.

In any case, the hour went way too fast and it was all that I had ever hoped for....until next year when I want to glide over the glaciers west of the valley. Next up though....introductory scuba!

September 13, 2008

100th BLOG and 60th BIRTHDAY

"too soon we get old and too late we get

I started this blog as a bit of a lark and it seems to have succeeded in allowing me to blow off a little steam, share some personal thoughts and insights and generally fulfill the idea of an online journal. September 13 is my 60th birthday and sometimes, as we reach age-related milestones, we begin to assume that we have a bit of wisdom to share and every once in a while someone asks for some of it. Not that that is necessarily the case at the moment, but in the event that anyone should ask, I think I'll list a few random things I've learned over the years.

So, in no particular order:

1.) the older I get, the more I know I don't know

2.) chaos is much better organized than I thought

3.) real power is never having to tell anyone you have power

3a.) the same for independence

4.) the difference between success and failure is not education, luck, birth, God, race, geography, politics, astrology, work ethic, environmental, intellectual, creativity or anything other than "thought." Simply put, we are who and what we think we are!

5.) the answer to any problem is always within ourselves - looking to some outside source for an answer is a cop out

6.) buy on rumour - sell on news

7.) other people will always rise, or fall to our level of expectation

8.) including ourselves

9.) common sense when reviewing marketing, political, pharmaceutical and religious claims is more important than celebrity endorsements

10.) avoid people who claim to never take vacations - there is something wrong with them

11.) don't hang out with people who proudly proclaim that they never read a book

12.) ignore "breaking news" items on TV after you have already seen it twice

13.) do something every year that will scare the crap out of yourself

14.) scientific fact is simply a theory based on current (and surprisingly out of date) information combined with opinion which has been spiced with all sorts of social bias

15.) if the opportunity to do something you have never experienced before presents itself, never say "I don't have time, I'll do it later."

16.) double the above if it is suggested by one of your children

17.) get a colonoscopy

18.) find some way to lower stress - focus on the cause as opposed to the result and it shouldn't be a drug

19.) never accept the responsibility for a project if you don't also have the authority to manage it

20.) out of great emotional upheaval comes the possibility of self discovery

21.) there are 8 senses - touch, smell, sight, taste, hearing, humour, intuition and the most important - COMMON

22.) the best teachers are our own mistakes

23.) trying to use only the last 100 years of recorded history to explain and understand planetary forces like evolution, plate tectonics and climate is not only myopic but stupid

24.) the " F " word may be the most flexible in the English language as it is used variably as a noun, a verb, an adjective and an adverb (sometimes in the same sentence) but there is an inverse relationship between its frequency of use and the knowledge level of its user

25.) contrary to what most of us have been led to believe, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship - it's always a work in progress

26.) what goes up also comes down including oil prices, house prices, stock prices, interest rates, egos, media hype, temperatures, water levels, airplanes, reproductive appendages, inflation, hot air and stress if you insist

27.) there are four highly secret additions to the Recommended Canada Food Guide - popcorn, wine, ice cream and chocolate - you know it's true

28.) laughter really is the best medicine

29.) gratitude = completion and leads directly to wholeness

30.) happiness is a natural state of being, not a goal

31.) being smart and being knowledgeable are not the same thing

32.) we need to tune all 8 senses into seeking out the inspiration that surrounds us

33.) getting older gives us permission to do more of what we want and less of what others want

OK, presumably I have learned more than this over the past 60 years but I have probably bored you to tears by now and I need to leave for my next adventure in a few moments. It has been an incredible 60 years and the last few weeks have been absolutely fabulous - 10 days in Myrtle Beach, SC with my family - playing golf with my son on some of North America's finest courses along with great nightly dinners, shopping and beaches for the four of us, we returned home to a backyard full of white tents, caterers and friends and family offering bottles of incredible wines and port and now, in a minute or two, we leave for the Invermere Valley in B.C. and a glider ride over the Rockies and valleys and lakes that I have been looking forward to since I was six years old. We return Sunday night and begin plotting the next adventure. Thank you to everyone who has crossed my path over the years - "may you live in interesting times."

September 8, 2008


60th birthday party
The weather was cold and wet, the food was hot and fabulous, the friends were many and smiling, the tributes were funny and heartfelt, the cards were hilarious and touching, the tents and heaters were a stroke of genius and the idea of wine for gifts allows me to remember this special night for years to come. Thank you to those brave souls who came to an outdoor birthday party and brought so much warmth to my life. A special thank you to my family, both immediate and far away for making this such a special occasion.
I have only one question: would it be inappropriate to casually leave the empty Chateau Margaux crate in the living room?
I thought so....

September 5, 2008


I approach events where I am the centre of attention with a combination of fear, ego, dislike, humility and nervousness. I have never knowingly courted attention and sometimes I realize that this is yet another conundrum in my life. The leadership role requires a willingness to stand up and let it all hang out (so to speak) and I have often found myself thrust into the role of leading a group of people. I tend to take on this responsibility with reluctance and yet, I am perfectly aware that this is where I should be. I seem to exist in this state of dichotomy in which I am simultaneously comfortable and uncomfortable with speaking in public and being some sort of lightning rod of attention.
Yet again, I find myself reluctantly approaching the limelight this weekend as my 60th birthday extravaganza unfolds tomorrow night. I was asked last evening, after doing a bunch of yard work in preparation, if I was looking forward to the party and my wife seemed surprised by my answer of "not particularly." Whether it is the accumulated weariness of recent travel, catching up at work and party preparations or just stage fright I'm not sure, but it is also mixed up with hitting an age that I thought would look a lot different. I suppose that it is a time for reflection, but I don't feel like doing that right now, yet this blog is probably part of that process. Knowing that there are more years behind me than in front of me, creates a certain sobering effect that I haven't experienced before. The very recent family vacation has also contributed to some realizations that are new for me. It may sound strange to many of you, but over the past couple of weeks, I seem to have found my place in the family, for the first time and it is a place that seems to reflect my feelings about being the centre of attention referred to in the opening sentence. A place that continues to unfold and also seems to connect rather interestingly with a new blog that I am creating called "My Secret Mother" which is part of the roll out for my new book by the same name. The Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times," has always been true for me and I suspect that this weekend will once again demonstrate the wisdom and trepidation of that line.

August 27, 2008


It is greatly amusing, in a perverse sort of way, to sit on the deck overlooking the 7th tee box at 8 in the morning and watch beer-bellied, middle-aged, white guys in shorts and mismatched shirts wearing two-colored shoes attempt to bend over and place their golf ball on a tee, then straighten up, look down the fairway, ask "how far is it?" like they had a chance of driving it 374 yards, hitch up their belt, take a half a swing and then step up and plunge at the over-priced white sphere. This is followed by a certain glazing over of the eyes and reddening of the face from exertion and then a combination of the following phrases :"Ah shit! Oh for chrisakes! Agggggh! Hit something! Turn, turn! Get going!" or the always famous, "Damn club!" followed by, "I'll look for that up there."

It would be a lot funnier if I didn't hear the same words an hour later from my own cart!

August 22, 2008


Five years ago today started an adventure that may be the most profound event of my life to date. My friend Gord and I, after many months of preparation, started hiking the West Coast Trail, a seven day backpacking trip that is always on the top ten list of world class hikes. It's not so much that the five years since have gone so fast but rather, that so much has happened in the interval; new houses, travel, grandchildren, careers, births, deaths, marriages and miracles, health, friends, projects, cars, finding out my birth father is still alive and then the discovery of a passion for writing. This week also marks the launch of my first book, The West Coast Trail: One Step at a Time, the story of that amazing week, on I also leave today for my second visit to Myrtle Beach and return to my sixtieth birthday party followed by a glider flight over the Rocky Mountains!

I can only say that I am absolutely blessed and truly grateful that I followed that hair-brained idea that was suggested in a coffee shop about attempting a backpacking trip that was far beyond my ability. Life really can change with nothing more than a thought.

August 21, 2008


I was reminded again this week of the number of people that walk through my life who give of their time and fortune without expectation and often without thanks. The following poem was sent to me this morning by a faithful follower and it is attributed to Mother Theresa who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for practicing what this poem preaches.

"People are often
Unreasonable and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind,
People may accuse you of ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are honest,
People may cheat you.
Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness,
People may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today
May be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have,
And it may never be enough,
Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end,
It is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway."

August 14, 2008


I Believe...

A Birth Certificate shows that we were born,
A Death Certificate shows that we died,
Pictures show that we lived!
Have a seat . . . Relax . . . And read this slowly.
I Believe...
That just because two people argue,
it doesn't mean they don't love each other.
And just because they don't argue,
it doesn't mean they do love each other.

I Believe...That we don't have to change friends
if we understand that friends change.
I Believe...That no matter how good a friend is,
they're going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.
I Believe...That true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.
I Believe... That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.
I Believe...That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.
I Believe...That you should always leave loved ones with loving words.
It may be the last time you see them.
I Believe... That you can keep going
long after you think you can't.

I Believe...That we are responsible for what we do,
no matter how we feel.
I Believe...That either you control your attitude
or it controls you.
I Believe...That heroes are the people
who do what has to be done when it needs to be done,
regardless of the consequences.

I Believe...That my best friend and I,
can do anything,
or nothing
and have the best time.
I Believe...That sometimes the people
you expect to kick you when you're down,
will be the ones to help you get back up.

I Believe...That sometimes when I'm angry
I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me
the right to be cruel.
I Believe...That maturity has more to do
with what types of experiences you've had and what you've learned from them
and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.

I Believe...That it isn't always enough,
to be forgiven by others.
sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.
I Believe...That no matter how bad your heart is broken
the world doesn't stop for your grief.
I Believe...That our background and circumstances
may have influenced who we are, but, we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe...That you shouldn't be so eager to find out a secret.
It could change your life Forever.
I Believe...Two people can look at the exact same thing
and see something totally different.
I Believe...That your life can be changed in a matter of hours
by people who don't even know you.

I Believe...That even when you think you have no more to give,
when a friend cries out to you
- you will find the strength to help.
I Believe...That credentials on the wall
do not make you a decent human being.
I Believe...That the people you care about most in life
are taken from you too soon.

I Believe...That you should send this
to all of the people that you believe in,
I just did.
'The happiest of people
don't necessarily have the best of everything;
they just make the most of everything.'
Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile.

sent by a faithful reader

August 12, 2008


" always, a sense of peace and calm overtakes me"
from THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time

"So, Mr. Smarty-Pants hiker boy, I read your comments about finding some quiet time and about silence and darkness and early mornings, but how do you keep from falling asleep?"

Excellent question my young apprentice. This is a practiced technique and falling asleep is a very real possibility but it is also part of the process and part of the discipline. First is to decide to keep the time brief - really only five minutes to start - and then gradually allow your mind to go into a neutral place where you will need to gently set aside thoughts as they come up. No berating yourself here, we have been programmed to fill the empty spaces in our minds with thoughts and the challenge is to resist it. It will happen anyway and you will catch yourself "thinking about not thinking" and then something else will arrive and you won't even realize it but you've gone off on a trip to your "to do" list or the grocery list or someplace. This is all part of the process and part of the learning but the constant vigilance against unwanted thoughts should keep you awake for five minutes and then stop the process. Keep at it every day until you have mastered your five minutes and you will find that your mind has calmed, you feel more peaceful and more in control of your life - I promise (money back guarantee printed on reverse side of this page.)

A couple of more comments on feelings, instinct and intuition: we all have experience with this gift and can point to various times when we just "had a feeling." We know of people who have expressed this verbally and have heard stories about how someone didn't get on a plane or drive a certain roadway, etc. only to learn later about an accident. I can tell you that there are numerous times when I have slowed down for no apparent reason only to discover a radar trap a little ways ahead. By the way, that "feeling" doesn't happen all the time unfortunately, but often enough to have gotten my attention. Now I know there are a few neanderthals out there who think that this particular gift is the specific purview of women (don't worry, they don't know what that word means) and still insist that it is "women's intuition" and simply dismiss its importance. Too bad, but each of us has this ability and each of us can tap into its power. This is a physical feeling but we need to be listening for it. It's just below the surface of our thoughts and you might just discover it in the early morning, if you can stay awake.

The truth is that this gift works full time, all the time, daytime and night time whether we want it to or not and whether we recognize it or not. Once we are aware of it, we can't put the genie back in the bottle. It may be the closest connection many of us find to truth, infinite intelligence, the universe, spirit or that other character that people insist on calling God.

August 11, 2008


"The magic in the moments of silence..."
from THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time

We left off yesterday with the idea that we need to carve out some quiet time from our hectic days. We noted that most of us are surrounded by distractions that keep interrupting our ability to get in touch with that part of our inner selves that needs to be heard. Driving with the car radio turned off doesn't do it and neither does the mute button on the channel changer although a few moments in the bathroom without a magazine article to read, holds promise. Personally, it works best for me to create a daily ritual, time and place in which I am virtually guaranteed no interruptions. About 5 AM, sitting in my reading chair, lights and all household appliances turned off and then I spend about 5 - 10 minutes trying to turn off my thinking appliance - my thought processor. This is a time of gentleness as thoughts continue to creep in but when we notice it, we make a conscious effort to let those same thoughts go. This is an excellent way to practice the process of getting in touch with ourselves and the truth that resides inside.

Now, to feelings. We have all noticed that when many thoughts come into our consciousness, they also bring an emotional response and each of us has felt that during our lives. For example, if you sit quietly and slowly cycle through the following list, perhaps you will notice, someplace in your body, a flutter or a lightness, or in some cases a heavier feeling or darkness. Go ahead and try this with the following list of words, one at a time and slowly let anything that pops up, come into your consciousness: first love, Santa Claus, theme from JAWS, smell of baby oil, sound of a siren, your mother's hug. There is a distinction here between the thought and the response and it takes most of us some time to identify this. In other words, we almost need to stop thinking immediately following the initial thought rather than continuing to let our mind create an appropriate response. It is not the desired response we are after but the automatic, in the gut, immediate feeling that we are trying to tune into. It is often nothing more than a feeling of lightness (kind of a butterfly in my stomach) response, or a heavier and darker moment and the key here is the physical reaction, NOT the one in our minds. This is the crux of using feelings as a signpost. Getting in touch with our intuitive or instinctual selves is a physical process. Keep in mind (interesting choice of words) that birds do not THINK about flying south, plants do not THINK about producing blossoms and bears do not THINK about eating more berries. They simply respond to a God given instinct that points them in the direction of their highest and best good. We have the same gift!

August 9, 2008


"...feelings seem to be a lifelong pursuit..."
from THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a time

A real life conversation recently overheard in a coffee shop from a table of four men in their mid-twenties who were otherwise apparently intelligent and career oriented young professionals: "We were having this argument about something or other and in the middle of it, she asked me how I was feeling and I said, Fine. And then she got even madder. Maybe I should have said something different, like used a different word or something. Do you have any idea what I should have said?" His helpful and concerned colleague offers, "Well, I'm not sure, maybe you should have said, Good."
This is a true story, as related by a friend at a dinner party last night, whose counselling niche is teaching variously challenged young students social survival skills and was related in the context of how people communicate through text messaging and have lost the ability to interact verbally. The lesson here is our inability to actually express a feeling because we don't know what they are, let alone, how to access them. If you read my blog from yesterday (and if not, why not???) then we began a discussion of how to locate and recognize something called feelings and how they might be useful as we attempt to discern a course of action that is in our best interests. We are constantly being met with the need to make choices amid a sea of conflicting ideas, thoughts, desires and emotions and through a studied refusal to accept the existence of a power within each of us, we have evolved into self destructive beings who seek answers to inner turmoil from an outside world with a totally different agenda.
We have surrounded ourselves with noise, distractions, busyness and a visual cacophony of promises all competing for our time and attention and taking us away from looking inside ourselves and from hearing the inner voice of intuition, instinct and truth. Those are the difficulties we face in coming face to face with ourselves and where do we start, in order to access what is freely available to each of us? Where do we begin to know who we are, what we are and why we are here? What is the first step on the road to finding meaning and purpose?
Step 1: BE QUIET!
Without question, the first gift we need to give ourselves is the space to experience quiet. How in heaven's name can we hear the inner voice of wisdom amid radios, TV's, cars, kids, pets and the million and one distractions that we surround ourselves with? We can start by insisting on 5 minutes of silence every day, even if it means getting up before everyone else or going to bed later than everyone else, or finding a place in the midst of our day to pursue the pleasure and experience of solitary QUIET. In my world, this may be the single best use of those buildings we call churches and most especially if there is no one else there including a priest or minister. An oasis of quiet for us to spend a few minutes in contemplation - step 1 on the road to peace and joy. Go ahead, try it.

August 8, 2008


"All ideas create some kind of ... feeling inside us..."
from THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time

The bird, insect and animal kingdoms were given instinct, without the intellect to question it. Lucky them! We too were given instinct, sometimes called "intuition" and because He has a bit of a dark sense of humour, or perhaps we are an experiment gone awry, He added the power to think. Thinking is supposed to place us at the top of the food chain and it has, but we have "thought" ourselves way down the food chain in terms of our ability to do what is in our own best interests. Let's look at this on a very personal level and leave the environmental, technical, political, scientific, medical stuff to another day.
Somehow, in our lack of wisdom (intelligence does not equal wisdom), humanity stopped reacting to its feelings and began to suppress them to the point where we don't even know what they are and if we do, someone is there to tell us to stop. We have successfully ignored the truth that exists inside us for so long that this unwillingness to follow our own truth has literally evolved to the point of ignorance. I use the word "ignorance" here in the sense that we "ignore" what we already know is the truth and we refuse to give voice to the most important gift that God gave us. Instinct/intuition is the most powerful force on earth as it moves millions, probably billions, of animals and birds from drought to a banquet of everything they require to survive and multiply and more. It is constant, consistent and unfailing in its power to create and recreate not just the necessities of life, but so much more abundance than its adherents will ever require to find fulfillment and happiness.
Let me drastically oversimplify how we can tap back into this gift that offers the one true road map to joy, success and happiness (or do some of us have different goals?). When we have an idea or thought, we automatically generate a "feeling" deep down inside us (some would say that this is where God dwells but you don't need to agree for this to work) and this feeling is the sign that guides our action. We need to be a little discerning here because when we were given the power to think, we started adding layers of "thought" over top of these feelings and thus, finding the truth has become much more challenging. We need to probe deeper than the thought level and find the kernel of truth hidden in the feeling that always makes itself felt physically and usually around the pit of our stomach. It may take a lot of practice to find this guidepost but each of us experiences it, each of us has it and each of us knows where to go to find it. If it's been awhile since you felt it, try looking at the things that change your emotional response and trigger a need to react. Pictures of babies, kittens and puppies, starlit night skies, smells of baking apple pies and roses in a vase, music that moves your soul or the sound of waves crashing to shore, an unanticipated hug or a cool breeze on a hot day - capture the essence of your response to these and so many more triggers, go a little deeper than the surface to discover the response in your core and we can reconnect with the gift that shows us the truth, the route and the joy of heaven on earth.

August 7, 2008


"...running the 800 stairs everyday
...I hadn't felt that good in years."
from THE WEST COAST TRAIL: One Step at a Time

Years ago, I attended a course in which the facilitator talked about building new habits and how we do that. According to her, we need to do something every day for 21 days in order to lock something in as a habit. So here I am, day two of getting up at 4:45 AM and at my computer by 5 in order to start the day with a little creative writing. In order to make this a lifetime habit, I need to get up every morning ( I suppose that means weekends, too) and start the day like this. Only 19 to go. The course leader used this technique when she talked about breaking old habits as well. We need to go 21 straight days without a cigarette, or sugar, or TV, or whatever our addiction of choice is, in order to break the harmful, habitual effects of our "bad habit."
I wonder why creating good habits is so much more challenging than creating bad ones, or is that just me? Does it have something to do with attitude because on the one hand, we assume that changing or stopping an activity that we label as negative, has to be hard. Haven't we been told that all of our lives and haven't the forces of marketing supported that viewpoint. Just watch a commercial for any ot the weight loss programs and we are conditioned to assume that achieving our ideal weight is impossible on our own without the help of one of the fitness gurus or fading TV stars on display. Perhaps we set ourselves up for failure (which is in the best interests of those weight loss companies) by beginning with the idea that we can't do it. A little like going to Vegas with our anticipated losses already figured into the budget.
I'm kind of all over the place here this morning when the point I simply wanted to make is that our minds and bodies probably don't know the difference between good and bad habits but rather respond to the disciplined daily routine that we establish. So how does getting up at 4:45 AM become a "good" habit and stopping at the DQ around 2 this afternoon become a "bad" one? I don't know the answer to that, so let's tune in tomorrow for more revelations - I can't wait!

August 6, 2008


Writing = Creativity + Discipline

The easy part is coming up with the ideas, the tough part for me, is putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward a little every day, in the direction of my dreams. That's why I named my first book "The West Coast Trail:One Step at a Time" since the key as I see it, is taking one step at a time on a regular basis. Back when I was preparing to hike the WCT, I had to work everyday on conditioning and strength and even then, I barely made it. Writing book number one was the same; a little every day in order to support the creative process and keep the whole project going forward. Ditto for book number two, which is now in edit.
Discipline has always been my biggest challenge. In grade school I would prefer to gaze out the window at the passing clouds and dream of riding my bike or playing baseball - almost anything but the droning voice of a teacher explaining dangling participles. In high school my mind wandered to the two-legged variety of distraction complete with plaid skirts and knee high socks that belonged to the all girls school down the street. I could go on here, but I'm sure you get the point. Now I have a new book idea and in order to get back into the process of "One Step at a Time," I'm hoping that getting up earlier and spending an hour in front of the computer before leaving for work will be the elixir I need to start putting it together. Or, winning the lottery might work too.....

July 28, 2008


Perhaps I'm a little weird. Okay, okay, you can stop nodding your head and saying "Is he kidding?!?!?" I went on a fabulous road trip last weekend and was in complete charge of the car and all of its accoutrement's. While I'm still not completely functional on the inner workings of the GPS unit and its female voice doesn't acknowledge my sharp tongued retorts when she makes a mistake (what's new?) I had mastery of the satellite radio and the volume button. When I was much younger, I misspent much of my time in various clubs of ill repute and questionable dance halls in Southern Ontario, close to Detroit. Standing near the stage and watching and hearing people like Wilson Pickett, Martha and the Vandalas, the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Tower of Power, Dave Clayton Thomas, Ritchie Night and the Midnights and yes, one magic night - Roy Orbison himself, has influenced my taste in music forever. Rolling down the highway, top open, sunshine on my head, 70's tunes, commercial free and the volume turned up to 10. My ears were bleeding, my heart pumped double time and it was 3 hours of bliss. ROCK ON!!!!

July 25, 2008


The male ego is a very delicate and fragile thing and, oh so easily impressed. A little while ago, during a quick stop at our local mall, I was thoroughly and completely "checked out!" Head to toe and complete with a mysterious little grin that curled the corner of her mouth. Just weeks away from turning 60, to say my spirits were lifted is an understatement of the first magnitude. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea what to do and I'm sure that my chin hitting my chest and then almost tripping over my size 12's, while attempting to catch my breath and make the spots in front of my eyes go away, was incredibly sexy - yes, I am just that smooth!

What a great way to start what promises to be a fabulous summer weekend and because I am such a gentleman, I won't even speculate about the lady's age although, I know for sure that she was 25........I'm just not sure in which decade.

July 20, 2008


So it just ticks me off to see garbage lying on the sidewalks

We don't have air conditioning so that we can avoid the possibility of Legionnaire's Disease - besides, walking to the Dairy Queen for a small turtle pecan cluster Blizzard saves money, provides exercise and, it could be argued, is part of my Olympic training regimen for the seniors power tanning team. I enjoyed my chosen protein supplement ( no banned substances, I presume) and disposed of the evidence into the garbage and headed back home. The route took me past a Seven Eleven where I noticed the usual crowd of cars and kids. As I walked down the hill towards home, I took notice of the assortment and quantity of items strewn about the boulevard, sidewalk, lawns and road. Slurpee cups, plastic utensils, lids, straws, cigarette butts and packages, pop cans and various other garbage. It started me thinking (or at least the brain freeze was slowly lifting), the current crop of high schoolers and college kids take great delight in blaming my generation for the condition in which we have left the planet. They have reason to be concerned but the evidence they leave in their own wake seems to point to a double standard. Like I said at some point in my book, The West Coast Trail: One Step at a Time, we are responsible for cleaning up after ourselves and it would seem to make sense that we take care of what is around us and what we personally control first, before worrying about others. Yep, I know that I am doing exactly what I am blaming others for (but I honestly try to take care of my own backyard) and the younger generations have cause to look at people of my age with disgust for some of the damage we have created. They need to keep us focused on the environment and pollution but just because we screwed up doesn't mean you should too. Pick up your garbage or better still refuse to buy all the packaging but at the very least, have enough respect to put it in a garbage container rather than on some one's lawn. Environment means more than some remote rain forest, it means the streets and neighbourhoods we live in too.

July 9, 2008


If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. [Mark 9:23]

I was reading a book the other day that used this bible quotation to make a point about the power of thought and the ability each of us has to create our reality. I think the most important thing about this is that we are always creating our own reality, whether we believe we can or not. The other thing about the biblical reference is that it doesn't state that we have to believe in somebody else to fulfill our dreams but to believe in the dream itself. Once again, proof that we are responsible for our own life, not our parents, not our boss, not our spouse nor the stranger down the street, not the government, school, church or even, God. Just us. Like my friend Mike Dooley says, " Thoughts become things, choose the good ones."


more about Choice Points

"OK, Mr. Smarty pants hiker-boy," (direct quote) "tell me more about Choice Points and what are they?" Choice Points are something that occur to each of us throughout our lives and begin at a very young age when we bear witness to something that causes us to stop and reevaluate our position and decide our course of action. The decision can be a conscious one or subconscious like the response to some tragic or threatening event in our childhood that we don't even remember anymore. The result is a change in the course or path of our lives. The point of change might result from something traumatic like abuse, violence, hunger, natural disaster, abandonment and not so commonly thought about are the results of witnessing acts of kindness, love and generosity.
Choice Points offer us the opportunity to take a different path from the one we are on now. As a child, these may have appeared to have been forced upon us but that simply isn't true. Two children can experience the same event and have two totally different reactions to it - something is at work here. As we get older, we often choose to ignore the Choice Points that are presented to us by refusing to look inside ourselves and find the spiritual guide that is trying to show us the way. The more we ignore the message, the higher the drama tends to get until we finally choose to deal with it, or not. The accidents become more serious, the illness or disease gets stronger, the financial stress keeps repeating, the careers keep ending, the dramatic episodes of our life start to spiral out of control - all in an effort to get our attention. On the West Coast Trail, I got stranded on a dangerous boulder field near Owen Point and found recurring issues about abandonement and independence rear their ugly heads in very dramatic fashion. Finally, I made the choice to trust in something beyond myself and stand on my own two feet (literally) and move in the only direction left to me - forward!