Saturday, March 02, 2019

Being a complete person

Today was my mom's funeral.  It was beautiful and well done.  And family surrounded us adding a special feeling for the day.  I almost feel guilt for the good time we had together in such a time of mourning.  I love spending time with my brothers, cousins, kids, nieces, grandkids etc.

In marketing, we often speak in terms of personas.  Marketing to a specific 50 year old male who likes X.  I realize at times like this that mostly I live in the persona of "business person" or "efficiency person" or "health person" or "constant learner".  I know that is how I present here.

Most of those personas are shallow (but real)

But like all people, I have many aspects.   We are all complete people.  I am not sure people think about that with me.  They see only the business person.

Unrelated but beautiful - I share photos of a trail I walk.  Yes - power of while but mostly beatuty.  Most days I do 2-3 walking meetings on this trail:






Monday, February 25, 2019

Mom's Funeral

The funeral for mom (Ann Estill) will take place 10:30am Saturday 2 March at Harcourt United Church at 87 Dean Ave., Guelph.  A reception will be held at 12pm at the University of Guelph Arboretum which is accessed off College Ave.

Should you wish to make a donation in Ann’s memory please consider Brain Tumour Foundation at https://www.braintumour.ca/6915/donate-now 

My brother Lyle wrote a good FaceBook post on her life:

Burying Annie
I lost my Mom last night. My brother Jim found her dead on the floor this morning. That’s all. Gone. I got the word mid-morning. Arlo and I were working on Hempsmith’s tax return. I was making scones.
It was a cold, rainy, miserable February day. Our phones don’t work in our house—so taking calls involves walking around outside in the rain. Horrible. My cell phone exploded with the news. Wet feet from pacing about the lane in my slippers taking and making calls.
I embark on the long drive to Canada tomorrow.
Mom was born in 1931. Ann Aurelia Wilcox in Highland, New York. She married my Dad, Don Estill, in 1953 when she was 22, and launched four boys into the world. I never really called her Annie. That was an affectionate nickname used by Dad, and by her little sister, Boo Boo.
When I was in high school Mom completed her Masters of Divinity and became a minister. I had a front row seat. She did a booming trade in funerals. I used to call her “Burying Annie,” and she loved the moniker.
She was a feminist at the dawning of the movement, and I got to watch her get kicked about by the male dominated systems of the day. She would spit out a sermon using “inclusive language” and get run out of town on a rail.
Mom was an intellectual. She loved to read. And to learn. She told stories. And loved the arts. From her I received the gift of gardening. And bird watching. From Mom I learned about theatre. And radio.
She loved CBC radio. I remember her crying as she ironed and listened to the news in 1968 when Bobby Kennedy was shot. I was playing with her spools of threads beneath the ironing board.
Ann was a homemaker. A stay at home Mom who kept her boys in homemade cookies. She mended socks. Picked out wallpaper. Submitted recipes to Gourmet magazine. And she raised her boys with a linen fist. Mom refinished furniture. Stenciled old things. She revered “stuff” from the past, and kept a close eye on her ancestors.
She was a keeper of photo albums, a maker of scrapbooks, and a writer of memoirs.
Mom buried her first born son, my brother Mark. And she buried her husband Don—who shared a bed with her for 61 years. She also buried her first born great grandson, Zafer. I have a bittersweet memory of her at Zafer’s memorial. She came out on stage as a dottering old woman. But once she was at the microphone, she laid it down. Like she always did. She was a deep introvert with a vast intellect that could spit wisdom when needed.
Lover of poetry. Lover of nature. Lover of family.
I had a wonderful conversation with her the day she died. I had her laughing. She would call it “being in stitches.” That same day she had a great conversation with Aunt Boo Boo. And she raved about a wonderful email she had received from Arlo—who had shared the lyrics of one of his newly written songs.
Mom was 88. She had lost a lot of her hearing. And a lot of her vision. She had stopped driving. Lost a lot of mobility. She battled brain cancer from 1982 until yesterday. One time she sought surgical treatment in London, Ontario. At the time I was a student. It was the only time I ever saw my father cry. He was so scared. We all were. Mom made it through.
I’m going to miss her. Our family has lost its matriarch.
I talked to Boo Boo today. She said that Mom was having multi-colored hallucinations at church. Walls were becoming alive with strange images for her. Maybe it was the brain cancer that took her. No one knows how she died.
But I’m going to say it was a good thing for her. She was lonely from the loss of Don. And she resented her loss of capabilities. She dropped dead at home—the way everyone should go.
Mom’s golden. She’s been released. The harder part is for those of us who are left behind. We get to search for the path of the “living.”
Rest in peace, Mom. Here’s hoping there is no bursitis on the other side...

Saturday, February 23, 2019

My Mom - Ann Estill Died Today




She was scheduled to help pack food today for refugees and Danby Appliances.  We had over 100 volunteers lined up and were packing hundreds of kg of food to ship overseas.  

The people who were bringing her told me she did not answer the door or the phone so I left almost as soon as I arrived at Danby.  I called and rang the doorbell and pounded then I went in (she lived alone – my father passed a few years ago) – she was dead on the bathroom floor.  911 could not revive her.

It was unexpected.  She was a bit deaf and going blind but she was fairly healthy and I expected her to be around for many more years.  She was 87.

She was married to my father for about 60 years and I knew she still missed him.  The second greatest tragedy for her (and all of us) was when my dear brother died 10 years ago.

She was active to the end - telling stories, going to aquafit, writing memoirs, going to symphony, attending movies and lectures in the Arboretum Centre etc.  And she had a wide circle of friends and was always having lunch or talking to someone.

She was always the first to tell my my blogs had a typo, grammar error or needed some other correction (so now I have an excuse).  

She never really liked business and did not really grasp what I do.  She even tried to mandate "no business talk" at the dinner table (which of course did not really work...unless she wanted silence).  

She was worried about me and thought I worked too hard and should slow down.  

Although it feels at this moment like there is no blessing in it - there is.  She must have died quickly - she had a lifeline on her wrist and she did not even push it.  And she always said she never wanted to move to a home - or even the apartments in her complex.  So she lived in her house to the end.

Now I feel like an orphan (and I guess I am)

She usually ate well (or almost perfectly) - this sundae was an exception.  Story time with her great grandkids.  And last Christmas.







Monday, February 18, 2019

The Power of While

Today I got a light work out in before my work out at the gym.  I shovelled snow for 20 minutes.   This is a perfect example of the Power of While.  What can you do while you are doing something else.  In this case, I could get the drive shovelled and get a bit of exercise.

Last week the shovelling/chipping ice was more than just a light work out.

My brother, Lyle, who does not "work out" per se builds his life around heavy and physical projects so he gets his exercise (and he actually gets a few more steps in that I do)

I believe it is healthy to spend 20 minutes or more each day outside.

Exercise is one area I use the Power of While in a big way.  I do walking meetings with my staff and people who want to meet with me.  Most walks I do are 30 minutes.  Long enough to get some fresh air - short enough to be efficient.  Walking meetings are also very levelling - not like sitting across a table or a desk.  To some extent - less confrontational.

I will also sometimes get some friend time in by walking with a friend.

Most days I do 2-3 walking meetings.  Some rare days I will do 5 or 6.  I need the breaks anyways and it gives me a bit of exercise, steps for my Fitbit, fresh air and gives me the time to speak to people. 

I use the Power of While while I am driving.  Most of the time, I listen to audiobooks.  I surprise myself how many books I can get through even though most of my driving is short local hops.  Sometimes I will listen to an audiobook while working out at the gym (but usually not)

The Power of While is a time management technique.

A friend emailed me and article "Steve Jobs Practiced This 1 Habit That Triggers Creative Ideas, According to Neuroscience" where it talks about walking being a great way to stimulate creativity.  The article is here,

I just got an Ikea sitdown stand up desk.  What can I go while doing some computer work?  Stand up to be a bit healthier.  I also ordered a 40 pound weight vest but not sure I will wear that often.  Will see how it goes.

Lately I have been thinking about living in the present (something I am not good at).  Wondering if my Power of While hurts that.  Perhaps I should do some things without doing something else at the same time.

Some photos of my new desk, beautiful snow and beautiful grand daughter.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

10 Things Successful People Always Do

I rarely use someone's articles in their entirety but in this case, I thought it was good.  The original was written by a friend of mine - Nate Collier.
My comments are in bold Italics.
1) Planning their Lives, Working their Plan. Ordinary folks with a plan will go further than a genius without a plan. Most folks go the same distance in life, too often much of it is in circles!
 I am fairly good at planning although, I admit, I was better in the past.  Good reminder to get back to it.
2) Growing, Developing Their Abilities. If you are not growing somewhere, you are not going anywhere.
I call this constant learning.  I try.
3) Saying No… to things that are others’ priorities, that are not core to their live’s purpose. Every yes is a no to something else, stay aware of what you are saying no to when you say yes!
 This is my failure.  I often decide I should say no more but I still end up saying yes too often.
4) Growing in Self-Awareness. Journaling is an excellent way to gain perspective on yourself, review the day, think about what went right, what and how you would do over better.
I work on this constantly.  My current work involves meditation.  And of course - study.
5) Releasing all thoughts that hurt, letting go of all attack thoughts and negativity. If you knew the Power of Your Thoughts, you’d never think a negative thought again.
I try
6) Choosing their companions carefully. Your energy levels and your life are powerfully impacted by the five people you spend the most time with. Birds of a feather flock together: what does your “flock” say about you?
I often say "you are the average of the people you associate with.  
7) Stay focused. Life is full of distractors. You can’t get enough of what you don’t need. Find your North Star, lock on!
My greatest strength is creativity.  My distractions do not tend to be outside of me.  It is my own mind.  So focus is something I could use more of.
8) Staying Positive and Solution Oriented. Successful people are optimists, believe in themselves and have good self-concepts with quiet self confidence that where there is a will, there is a way.
I am very positive generally.  Where I sometimes am not is when I think of the big problems of the world.  I sometimes find solving those to be daunting.
9) Taking Ownership. They are Pro-active, they are Response-able, they avoid Rational-lies.
I do.  I look for this in people I hire also.
10) Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude and the Habit of Happiness. They know that there is nothing but that thinking does not make it so.
I have this habit.  I am very grateful for the abundance in my life.
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier

Monday, December 31, 2018

How to set New Years Resolutions

This is a time of year that I reflect on the past and plan the future.

I am in the office today but have a surprisingly low number of meetings, calls and emails so I am getting a lot done.  It makes me realize how busy I usually am.

Some ideas I use when setting resolutions:

1 - Most resolutions are broken.  Not because of a lack of desire but because of a lack of action planning. Yes, the ultimate goal is important but mostly that is a result of actions so I tend to focus on the actions and activities that will yield the result.

2 - Daily habits are the friend of goal achievement.  I focus on what habits I have.  The reason I prefer daily habits is they are easier than 3 times per week or some other measure.  Habits beat self discipline (yes - they are used together but habits make self discipline easy)

3 - There is a concept a friend once told me of plug/unplug.  Think of your time as a power outlet strip.  Every socket has a plug in it.  To plug something else in, something has to be unplugged.  So as I plan my 2019, I need to look at what things I will not do or do less of.

4 - Many people (myself included) come up with resolutions that require "just doing it".  Those are the ones that get broken.  To have a resolution that just requires self discipline does not usually work.  Work the systems and process needed to support the self discipline needed.

5 - Much of goal achievement has to do with time management.  But most time management is really not a time management issue - it is energy management.  I cannot increase the time available but there are things I can do to increase the energy I have.  And I can use my energy on the right things.

6 - Most time management problems are not time management issues they are priority issues.  So setting priorities is part of the key.

So 2019 is the year I will work smarter - not just harder.  I will work on higher priority items and use my energy well.

Good luck with your resolutions and Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 28, 2018

John Fredrick Wood Eulogy

On Christmas day, I lost a great friend and mentor - John Wood.  It has taken me a few days to write this - I just did not know what to say.  Although I knew it was going to happen soon, it just hit me hard.

John Wood was only 78 years old.  A few years ago he had a lung transplant and since then had struggled with health issues.

I first met John when I was early in business.  I had perhaps 20 employees and he had 800.  He was the "big" business in Guelph and I was an upstart.  I wanted to grow my business so I reached out and asked if we could meet.  He graciously agreed.  I recall that I had a list of questions for him.  I wish I had kept the list or could remember it.  I do know, I thought the meeting was worthwhile.

From then on a couple of times per year, I would meet with him.  And occasionally our paths would cross at local charity or business events.  He was always nice and we had excellent rapport.

Our paths crossed again in 2011ish, when he asked me to join the board of Danby.  That meant we saw each other quarterly and I saw John more in action.  He was a detailed person.  He knew the numbers down to the penny.

Shortly after I joined the board, John got sick and resigned the board.  Shortly after that, the CEO of Danby resigned.  I said I could go in and run it for a while.  By then John was sick and mostly I did it so he would not have to worry.  Then the family asked if I could sell it for them.  I asked "for how much" - they told me and I said "fine - I will take it".  So that is how I ended up owning Danby.

Part of what made the transition so smooth was I had been running it for a year.  But part of it was the trust I had in John.  He was an old fashioned fair mined business person.  A handshake is a handshake and a deal is a deal.  And if there is a problem - work it out fairly.

John had a great impact on me.  He had an impact on many people.  People that I did not even know knew him have sent me emails.

I hope some day I can have the same impact on some young entrepreneur as he had on me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Actionable Gamification

I have a new favourite book - Actionable Gamification - Beyond Points, Badges, Leaderboards and Reviews by Yu-Kai Chou.  It may be of interest mostly to me because I am in the process of implementing some of this in a business.

I have been interested in gamification for a while.  In 2008, I was granted a patent on it.

According to Chou.  "Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and engaging elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. This process is what I call “Human-Focused Design,” as opposed to “Function-Focused Design.” It’s a design process that optimizes for human motivation in a system, as opposed to pure efficiency."

Actionable Gamification speaks of 8 types of gamification (bolded here).  Not all gamification needs all 8.  4 of the 8 are positive but 4 can be bad if not used for the right purpose.  Speaking of purpose - that is the first type of gamification - purpose or meaning

I am a Fitbit user.  Fitbit is a gamified experience.  It starts with purpose - to stay in shape or be healthy.  It also uses some of the other gamification types like social influence.  I am connected to friends so can compete and see what others do.  It also uses accomplishment and empowerment.

I am an Aeroplan member.  It is somewhat gamified.   I am close to 1,000,000 miles.  This appeals to scarcity.  I like the perk of lounge access and being able to get my luggage in first so have some loyalty if all else is equal.

I have a game I sometimes play when trying to get through "volume" work like clearing emails, cleaning, etc.  I estimate the time to complete and try to beat it.  A simple To Do list can be a type of game.

I am thinking about how to get more from life with gamification.   It suits one of the rules in time management around procrastination.  Add reward to a task you want to get done.  With gamification, the reward can be as simple as logging completion or completing a list of items.  

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Making Choices

I tell people "I only do what I want to do".  Mostly this is true.  Sometimes though I find myself doing things because I want to be polite where I might really want to be doing something different.  

I have heard it said "you are the (weighted) average of the people you spend time with" . (perhaps that is why some people look like their dogs?)

The choice to use this guest post is also a choice for time management.  Why write something that someone else has already said well.

This is the guest post by Ann Marie Sabath:

Surround Yourself with People You Want to Be Like

“Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”
—author unknown

Did you know that the four people with whom you spend the most time are who you become in the future? Scary, isn’t it? This fact alone should make you very selective about the company you keep.

Think about the individuals with whom you spend your leisure time. Perhaps you go to dinner with certain people once a month. Or you go to the movies with someone who insists on choosing the films that aren’t even of interest to you, but you concede rather than going to the movie of your choice all by yourself.

Whatever the case, recognize that—for better or worse—over time, these people become influencers of your interests, actions, and even how you think.

Make a list of the four people with whom YOU spend the most time. Now, I am not asking you to disinherit your family members. Nor am I recommending that you change jobs—at least not for now. I am talking about the individuals with whom you choose to spend time outside of your family and work lives.

What are the five qualities that these individuals possess?  Are they punctual? Fiscally responsible?  Well-read? Are they good listeners?  Have a thirst for knowledge?

Or are they me, me, me people? Are their reading interests shallow by your standards? Are they constantly sharing their tales of woe without bothering to ask what is going on in your life?

Ask yourself, “Are you reinvigorated after spending time with these people or are you emotionally zapped?” Evaluate the ROI (return on your time investment) with these individuals by asking, “What have I gleaned from these people?” Are you now more fiscally responsible? Have you started reading books based on their author recommendations? Have you acquired a passion in opera, theater, ballet and/or classical music as a result of their interests?

If you realize that you are merely filling time with one of more of these individuals, adjust your relationship by getting together with them less often. You may recognize that the value of the interactions with these people is that these relationships are not based on what they bring to you. Au contraire! Rather, these relationships have value based on YOUR interests, experiences and knowledge.  In other words, what you bring to the relationship table. If that is the case, then categorize your time with these people as that of “paying it forward.”

At the same time, give serious thought to the interests that you would like to develop and with whom you should surround yourself in order to expand your horizon. Heed counsel from the maven of advice, Oprah Winfrey who has been quoted as saying, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” She certainly is right.

You will gain much satisfaction by giving your time to others. You also will experience a sense of gratification by being intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and/or physically stimulated by the individuals with whom you choose to surround yourself.

It is called the Circle of Life. After all, in the big picture, you have to give to receive.

Ann Marie Sabath is the founder of At Ease Inc., the 31-year-old New York City-based business consulting firm. Her ninth book, What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don’t: 52 Secrets for Creating Your Own Success, was just published by Career Press. “Surrounding Yourself with People You Want to Be Like” is one of the 52 Secrets.  For more information, visit www.annmariesabath.com and www.24-7pressrelease.com/press-release/455470/ann-marie-sabaths-six-solutions-for-creating-your-own-success-what-even-the-most-driven-eminently-qualified-people-miss.


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One of my favourite time tricks or systems is the Pomodoro System.  I read this article on it in Fast company.    I use this system almost daily.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Delegate to Scale a Business

A friend suggested I write an article on delegation.  It took me a couple of weeks before I figured out who to delegate the task to and I decided to do it myself.

There have been many articles written on delegation.   In writing this, I am thinking what can I add to what has already been said?

The basics:

Who, What, Why, When and How.  Many people stop at the What and wonder why they do not get the results they want.  The Why really helps with understanding.  It can help the person being delegated to find more meaning in their work and often they will do it better because they understand what is needed.

The best Who is someone that can do the job easiest, fastest, best or most economical.  Delegate jobs that are well suited to the person.  Some people say they cannot delegate because they do not have someone who works for them.  First, that is easy to solve by spending a bit.  Hire someone or hire one of the many outsourced assistant services. 

My favourite trick though is to delegate to someone who I do not pay.  This could be a supplier or a customer (yes, people want to help you without being paid – of course you have to reciprocate).   Or delegate to friends or other contacts.

For example as a What, I could say “I need a list of people who sell appliances”.  A more useful ask would be to add a Why “I want to do a marketing campaign to appliance dealers in the US.”.  Knowing that it is for marketing reasons might cause the person doing the job to add phone numbers and web sites.

And of course that ask is not complete without When.  “By next Wednesday”. 

And the How would also help.  “by searching Google” or “by contacting list brokers”.

One thing that often causes reluctance to delegate is speed and perfection (someone might not do it exactly the way I would).  Part of that can be training.  Training can cost time in the short term but result in long term savings.

Questions I ask myself to inspire myself to delegate include:

Is there someone who can do it easier, faster or better than I can?
Is there something else that is higher impact that I can spend my time on?
Will delegating help me to scale?

Some Tricks

Break the job down.  Many times procrastination is a result of having a huge job.  Breaking it down into small tasks seems more daunting. 

Reporting.  Part of delegation is setting the reporting.  EG “include and update on this on your weekly report”.

I like to say how long I want spent on the job.  Very simple – “can you spend 2 hours to …”.  This avoids overkill.  It also avoids the problem I often have in thinking something can be done in 2 hours but it actually a 10 hour job.  And if I know it would take 10 hours, I might not want it done.

My Tracking.  I generally prefer to surround myself with people who have sticky to do lists – so when something is delegated I know it gets done.  That said, some things I am not sure of the person or some things are so important that I have a corner on my own to do list of things I have delegated.

I also like to have in person check in’s.  It is those that usually uncover things that were not clearly understood.  I can often shake things loose during those meetings by helping get it started or by clarifying things.

I particularly like an early check in.  Often it uncovers more detail that needs to be covered.

I do not yet consider myself a master at delegation.  Perhaps I should read this article.

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Delegating the muffin making: