Friday, October 19, 2007

Worst Credit Card Ever!

Ok, there's bad, there's bad, and then there's the Worst Credit Card in the history of mankind.

Let me get this straight... they charge you:

$99 Set up Fee
$49 Annual Fee
$89 Program Participation Fee
$120 Account Maintenance Fee


357??? for a card that starts at $300. Oh, and it also charges 20% interest. Wow... just wow... No wonder the Rich get Richer and the Poor get Angry. What "grinds my gears" is that they also charge $25 to up the credit limit $100 at a time at their discretion without requiring customer permission! I think you'd be much better off with a cash secured credit card than this monstrosity...

Some words of wisdom that I learned from Frank Abagnale a world renowned expert on Identity Theft were thoughts on credit.

  1. Never use Debit Cards. They contain the information used to get into your bank account, and if stolen alongside your PIN - any losses that you take due to theft are placed in your own liability.
  2. Use Credit Cards and simply pay them off before interest is charged. With the insurance of credit card companies - just calling into them alerting them of the stolen card allows you to stop the withdrawals and purchases, alongside limited liability to the client for the stolen monies.
  3. When your children go to post secondary, instead of giving them cash - create supplementary cards in their names with credit limits. This allows you to monitor their spending habits, while at the same time building their credit history.

I hope that people get educated enough to realize that they could potentially be ripped off if they don't add up the fees that are stacking up... I'm also very much looking forward to Patrick Evangelista's future research notes on a GOOD Canadian credit card - and a breakdown of the points systems (airmiles, aeroplan, 1% cashback, etc)

Until next time.



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Leadership Mastery - Day 2

On to Part 2 of the Leadership Mastery by the power within.

The second day was a definite eye opener for me. We started off with Ram Charan who started his speech in a much different manner than the rest of the previous speakers. Instead of being up on stage, he walked around the floor engaging people directly and involving the crowd more deeply in his words.

Practice leads to Instinct grows to Intuition which evolves into Judgement.
it's only through the practice and desired determined repetition that people are able to reach further with their skills.

The rules he set out were:
1) Deliberate Practice. (Are you practicing something new every week?)

Without learning something new at each opportunity, your obsolescence grows. You need ferocious determination to commit to new practices because if you're not growing, your competition is.

2) Look over the Horizon (what's coming in the future?)

What's changing? Develop the ability to detect change. Also cultivate your creating change abilities to influence your teams.

2a) Identify changes in the external environment

Be a creator of change instead of a recipient.

3) Broaden yourself

Each and every day you must strive to be more than the person that exists now.

4) Use the Multiplier effect

"I don't do it, I get it done, with my multiplier"

Working in methods to leverage yourself and train the trainers allows your influence to increase in exponential leaps and bounds.

5) Keep an eye for Talent

With the current shortage of talent in the world - a keen eye for people that would make a fit, or growing organically (finding talent within your organization) will keep you ahead of the competition.

6) Calibrate People

This topic was touched briefly and basically stated to ensure that people are working at a good pace to the benefit of the business in one of the categories of margin or velocity - Ram continued into the next point to deeper explain the theory.

7) Mastery of your business

Exercise: How do the successful companies accomplish measurable goals? Identify 10+ companies that make good money over a long period of time? How do they make money?

Some of the highlights from this chat were:
- Microsoft (96% gross margin on product)
- Johnson and Johnson (11% sustained growth for 50 years)

Understanding of the 4 parts in a business that make all of the difference.

  • Margin
  • Velocity
  • Revenue Growth
  • Cash

Return = Margin x Velocity

Each staff meeting to really make a difference in the business would be to list different methods on how to increase the Margin if possible, develop a more efficient/faster Velocity to increase the revenues.

Ram gave the example of how Dell with already thin margins was forced to look towards increasing the velocity of the business. He then continued to show us a chart of the inventory turnover rate of Dell over the years and then explained that Dell's current inventory turn is somewhere around 120 in comparison to their closest competitor sitting around 25.

8) Understanding of the 80/20 rule

80 percent of the benefits will come from 20 percent of the changes. Once you identify said changes, select 3-5 of them to focus on as laser sharp dominant priorities.

9) Having the right people in the right jobs
10) Follow through

Ram's speech was of excellent value to me personally during this weekend because I had a lightbulb turn on at this point for my own business - and came up with an idea to increase revenues by 10% with just a little rearrangement in business structure.


The second speaker of the day Dan Gilbert spoke about his theories on Stumbling on Happiness

After showering us with many different views on how to calculate happines ranging from: Happiness = Your Salary / Your Neighbour's Salary to comparing one scenario vs. another. Other tidbits of info included that 10% of your income provides 90% of your happiness.

If you're intersted in checking out more of Dan Gilbert - I managed to find a video on the internet.

One of the comments that struck a chord with some of the crowd was the comparison on levels of happiness before and after children within a marriage. Basically he stated that with children and the time commitments required the different types of happiness that could be experienced were reduced, and thus wouldn't return back to normal until the kids moved out. I myself can't truly comment on this yet as I've yet to start a family. Needless to say the parents in the crowed weren't too amused.


The next speaker up was Frank Abagnale the author and protagonist of Catch Me If You Can with an inspiring speech about his history and life. At first, it seemed less lively and took many of us off guard with the delivery, but the content grabbed our attention, and before we knew it - many of us were swept away in the rythm of his words.

Many of the people that have heard the story via the movie - myself included were in awe of the social prowess of Abagnale during his youth, however from his point of view it was simply a matter of survival as a child thrust into the world of adults. His strong stance on family values and ethics was an inspiration to us all.


Unfortunately due to some logistics and travel issues, Peter Guber wasn't able to present.

Luckily for us however the keynote speaker Anthony Robbins was able to jump onto a helicopter and appear earlier for us.

Something of interest I noticed was that fans were put onto the stage before Tony walked on. Little did I know I'd be wishing for some fans too after all of the excitement.

Let's get down to the notes I took:

3 Mandates of Leadership

  1. See it as it is, not worse than it is
  2. See it better than it is
  3. Make it the way you see it

The most fundamental job of a leader is to influence.

Now to set the record straight - Tony is NOT a "motivational speaker". Where people get that idea from is all of the commercials with all of the jumping and screaming - but there is a method to the madness.



State -> Behaviour / Action --> Results



To reach the results you desire, you must change the behaviours or actions of a person. However before you can inspire change in behaviours or actions, you must alter someone's state. The only two routes to state are via physiology or where the mind is focused.

I suppose since his claim to fame wasn't hypnosis, we went the physiological route to change the state. Although it seemed silly at first, the drills on applying different types of physiology to similar actions indicated a change in state, and in the end, a change in the result of our actions.

I think that people could hear us cheering from across Whistler village as we got pumped up for the last few "state changes".


All in all the weekend was a most enjoyable experience. The company at hand always had something interesting to speak about - the speakers were of the highest calibre - and best of all it didn't feel like I was attending an event where I was there only to realize it was a giant marketing ploy aimed at selling me the "next level seminar". It was this level of professionalism that makes me look forward to the next year's lineup - and to experience the whole thing anew. Until the next one, live well - live full and I'll hopefully see more of you around again the next time through.



Monday, October 15, 2007

Leadership Mastery - Day 1

So I've decided to attend the Leadership Mastery program run by the power within. One it was just an excuse to get away for the weekend and hang out in "one of the most relaxing places on the face of planet Earth".

The first night was spent in a pure networking mode where basically all of the delegates were put together into a room to mingle. Just the meeting of the minds alone last night was worth the entire trip.


The MC

James Cunningham was the MC - and has a definitely intoxicating stage personality. His stage presence alone grabbed everyone's attention and brought us back into the fold. Although he used many of the jokes from his GM appearance, it's his delivery that truly makes them stand out.


The Speakers

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm spoke mainly about ideas within his book
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Wisdom without understanding
A disconnect between how and why.
and what stood out the most to me: the fragility of the wisdom in Blink.

What was interesting was his discussions on a triangle taste test instead of the traditional Pepsi vs. Coke test.

Give a person two unmarked glasses, one containing Pepsi and the other containing Coke, they'll have an 80% change of being able to tell which is which. (Personally I keep choosing Coke on purpose to infuriate those Pepsi guys). But if you introduce a third glass, containing either Coke or Pepsi, they odds that they'll be able to identify the odd drink is reduced to 33%, or pure chance.

How the intuitions of experts reach the level that they are is the very definition of the term "expert". The gut reactions that leaders have that end up becoming wise decisions in the long run come from the countless hours of experience under their belts. Malcolm then goes on to mention that younger folks just haven't on average had enough life experience to be able to make these types of decisions yet - but I'd have to disagree if you truly live, breathe, and immerse yourself in the topic that is your mastery. That being said, someone 100% in tune with their area of expertise - a 20 year old, although immature at life in general could be more versed in a subject more-so than someone 20 years in an industry. How else would you explain the child prodigies that are able to captivate and inspire the rest of the world to strive and reach farther every time?

Which in turn brings me to the next speaker:

Roland Fryer

Roland contrary to Malcolm's postulate on age, managed to receive tenure at Harvard under 30 years of age. What makes Roland stand out in my mind is his work on another one of my favourite books: Freakonomics

The discussion that carried well on into the lunch hour was Roland's methods on incentivising children on how to do better in school as a whole. His talks went from explaining how to ensure that kids came to school on time by spending on $300 per classroom by investing in an Xbox. The story continues to develop as he explains that kids were lining up at 6:45 am to get in early so they could play, and subsequently weren't late for class. Another method was to pay a child $2 per book read - followed by passing a comprehensive test.

Although he's been downtrodden by others in the educational community for his methods, I've got to say that I'm a personal believer because as a child my parents did not give me an allowance. Instead they rewarded me for getting good grades - and not just ANY grade, but only getting paid for "A's". As this was my major source of income for the summer time, naturally I tended to bring home as many A's as possible, unfortunately not doing so well in the subjects of French and Calculus. Funny enough I earned the award for top marks in the business class and look where I am today... Now my parents work with me, and I'm the one giving the incentive of money for performance.

After a well put together lunch with some tasty BC Salmon our minds were put to the test with Dr. Laura D'Andrea Tyson and her talk on economics.

She went on to tell the tale of the falling US Dollar against the world currencies (which by the way is a good thing and bad thing for my Forex investors at iPoint ) and discussed the balance of world trade overpowering world production among further interesting facts. Even more engaging were the questions asked at the end with a very entertaining remark on Clinton vs. Clinton.

My only feedback is that for the day - her talk came right after lunch, and although the content was amazing, the delivery method was not as story filled, or lively as the other speakers, and as such a few people were caught nodding off. Perhaps switching positions with Darcy Rezac .

On the art of the N.E.T.W.O.R.K. Darcy sits near the perfect definition of what Malcolm Gladwell defines as a connector. Part of the equation of what it takes to cause a Tipping Point - although I'm having a hard time picturing Darcy on horseback with the message that the "British are coming". His book The Frog and Prince, or the newly updated Work the Pond! are labelled as the connector's handbook.

Darcy went to give us great examples on the small world phenomenon, as well as tidbits of the science behind networking and the 6 degrees of separation. He even goes as far as showing the formula behind your networking capability as a balance between your current network, your ability to network, and your leadership skills. With an unforgettable exit on the stage with a sing-a-long that had more than the number of expected people joining in, I'll be sure to never leave my business cards at home - ever. Actually Darcy, if you ever end up reading this, you're the reason why I wanted to attend more Board of Trade events.

The day closed with last, but definitely not least Arianna Huffington who with her biting wit, and delicious but tasteful sarcasm told us her story along with all of her political commentary on how the world cannot be simply divided into two categories whether they are left and right, up and down, or wrong and right. My favourite joke from her speech was her comment on MSNBC being downgraded into a series of news reports of blonds reporting on other missing blonds. I'd look forward to hearing her speak again at a future event. Another part that stood out for me was her topic on "Joy Triggers" - identifying and using the simple things in life that make it all worthwhile. Be it a song with personal meaning to you, or just getting a smile from your special someone.

On that note - I'm exhausted just reminiscing about day 1's completion. Now it's time to forward this blog along to many interesting people I met at the conference and see how well I can put my new knowledge of blinking, bribing, economizing, networking and happiness to the test.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Stock Market Definitions

An acquaintance of mine had forwarded me an interesting collection of Stock Market Definitions that I thought would be fitting to share with you all :).

Stock Market Definitions

For all of you who are having trouble with the stock market these days, here is a little something to help you put things in perspective.

Bull Market -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

Bear Market -- A 6 to 18-month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

Momentum Investing -- The fine art of buying high and selling low.

Value Investing -- The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E Ratio -- The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

Broker -- What my broker has made me.

Buy, buy -- A flight attendant making market recommendations as you step off the plane.

Standard & Poor -- Your life in a nutshell.

Stock Analyst -- Idiot who just downgraded your stock.

Stock Split -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

Financial Planner -- A guy who actually remembers his wallet when he runs to the 7-Eleven for toilet paper and cigarettes.

Market Correction -- The day after you buy stocks.

Cash Flow -- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

Yahoo -- What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

Windows 2000 -- What you jump out of when you're the sucker that bought Yahoo at $240 per share.

Institutional Investor -- Past year investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.

Profit -- Religious guy who talks to God

All jokes aside though today I had an interesting meeting where I met two folks whose primary business is to basically take companies to an IPO and trading on the senior market. So far the initial plans are to setup a non-profit investment club as an entity that can find and bring people and opportunities together for our mutual benefit. Although the container/corporation itself is created as a non-profit, the opportunities that it shares with folks are definitely for profit. It'd be more of a risk capital type investment for people with money to burn that are sick of the normal ebb and flow of mutual funds. We'll see how things pan out - and if something does, be sure to look on the Infiniti Point website

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

So I took today off.

So I took today off and spent it with my wife. We had some dim sum in the morning, had plans to take a walk but due to the crummy weather in Vancouver ended up heading to the mall instead. At Oakridge Centre, I took her shopping and found some nice new clothes for both of us (thanks to Tommy Bahamas for me, and Hugo Boss for her). Afterwards we just grabbed some groceries at Costco, and then headed to Lumiere's for a nice relaxing dinner. Although it wasn't a spectacularly planned and eventful day, it sure was relaxing.

I suppose we're still going to need some "wise words" on the blog today so here goes:

P/PC Balance - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
I've been reading this book for awhile now, and something came to mind today. In the book there's an analogy in story form about the Production / Production Capability balance that takes into account the "legend" of the golden goose. In short, a farmer finds out that a goose of his lays golden eggs, and for a short while he collects a golden egg once a day and enjoys his riches. One day he decides that one egg a day is too slow, and kills the goose to get to many eggs at once. Sadly there is no gold in the goose, and now with it's death the goose or PC (Production Capability) was destroyed because of the farmer's greed.

It's a fine balance between production and production capability - or work and play. If you focus on either side by itself, the other neglected side will drag down both. Hence my day off today. I'll admit that we both worked a little bit, but focusing the majority of the day on each other was a nice change of pace that was much needed and welcomed.

It's been awhile since I've given my wife some flowers so that was something I thought about as well. A friend and ex-coworker of mine left the software industry, and just happens to own a little flower shop Thanks for the quick delivery Choymann! And an awesome job on the flowers as usual.

Back to the grind tomorrow, but a little more refreshed and with a little more spring in my step.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Protest vs. Tax Evasion

Jury says Windsor tax protest not tax evasion Jack Klundert of Windsor, Ont., has won a court case in which he was charged with refusing to pay about $350,000 in taxes.Copyright 2007 CBC All Rights Reserved

So let me get this straight...
"Klundert, who says he doesn't believe the federal government has the constitutional right to collect income tax, was found not guilty of tax evasion. "

Some dude, just says I don't wanna pay these CRA guys taxes - so I'm just gonna protest and not pay tax...

"Klundert argued that disclosing his earnings to the government would be like "sitting down with thieves" and telling them where his valuables were. "

And that's that? - Geez. And I thought that we had to go through all of these compliated methods to save taxes when all you really have to do is just say "no" in protest. Hell then I protest too! :)

For those of us who can't pull off the protest though, give the folks from a call and you'll be able to find out what tax savings methods they've got handy.

Penny for your thoughts?

I ran into an interesting article today regarding the
Canadian Penny.

Seems as though the poor thing has outlived its welcome. I've got to admit that I'm guilty of holding a jar of them hostage in my own home, mainly because it would cost me more time and money to get them sorted, than to actually count them and drag it to the bank. Besides, I use a money clip - no room for coins sadly. Makes for a pain in the ass when parking at a meter mind you. I can't wait until the lot of them have the ability to take credit cards so I can write the darn things off. Perhaps it's one of the major reasons that I bought a motorcycle.

In any case even though the site's not ready yet, I figure posting on a regular blog is in order these days so here I am. This time, I'll be sure to not leave such a long gaping hole in between postings. Eventually I'll plop a link to this article on the website, but for now this'll do. My vote? Lose the damn penny. I don't use them anyway.