Thursday, July 28, 2005

The power of the Subconscious mind

I wore out the pedometer I was using for my Zeno challenge (see June 2 archive)so had to get a new one tonight (a big $29 expense at the running room). So lost credit for a few steps. I will say wearing a pedometer is a great motivator even for me. Just having it on means I walk more than I otherwise would. I strongly suggest this for anyone who is looking to improve their fitness.

Although I was in my Guelph office all day and did not have a particularly packed schedule, I am tired tonight. I even came home early (about 7). Don’t know what that is all about.

I finished reading “The Power of the Subconscious Mind” by Dr. Joseph Murphy. I was inspired to get this from my sales conference (see June 6th archive)with the hypnotist and have been reading it a few pages at a time. (one of my time tips is to always carry reading for the odd wait and this was the book I was carrying). I am fascinated by the subconscious and wish I could believe everything I read about it. I know the mind is powerful. I believe in visualizing outcomes. I don’t fully buy some of the shallow repeated phrases the book advocates. It says on the cover over 1,000,000 copies in print. This is surprising for something that is still fairly fringe. Maybe only 20 have been sold.

The book was originally published in 1963 so it is amusing in sections since life has changed a lot since then. It is interesting that a concept like this has been written about for so long and yet has yet to reach full acceptance.

The best way to cross the river

Last night when I arrived home, I had a huge list of things I needed to do. Almost overwhelming. And I was tired.

Fortunately I remembered one of my favourite Indian sayings “The best way to cross the river is to cross the river”. Don’t search up and down looking for the best place to cross. So rather than hum and haw about what to do first, I just started doing things that needed doing. One at a time. By the time it was time for bed, many (but not all) of the things that needed doing were done. And of course I felt more satisfaction for having done what I did.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Planning for what you cannot plan for

It was a great, well planned and well executed day today until things started to unravel. Unexpected crisis at about 11:30 meant 3 more conference calls to fit into the schedule. This meant juggling meetings and calls at roughly the same time. Then at 6:30 or so I ran into high stress unplanned system issues. Although I am not the one fixing anything, I do have to understand what is happening and how we recover from it.

Over the years, I have learned to leave a bit of space in my day for the unexpected. This is one of the sins of over time management. So I like to leave a bit of space. Of course I always have my list of low priority things to do to fill the time if nothing comes up.

I have been coached as well to have more unscheduled time to “think”. Interestingly, I am not sure I ever allow myself time to just think. Right now I am just thinking about the possibility of this. Perhaps I already do do this but in a structured way.

Days like the latter part of today, I could have used a bit more space in my schedule.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Powerful Sleep

Slow day today. Many people are on vacation. What can they be thinking. Busy day tomorrow starting with an aggressive workout with my over strong work out partner – Trevor, CEO of the Elliot. He can lift 20% more than I can. The only consolation is I can out run him. Lots of meetings tomorrow.

I went to my mom and dad's for dinner with my daughter Beth. I walked which is about an hour walk both ways. Need to get my steps in since I did not work out today.

I read an ebook on sleep today called Powerful Sleep by Kacper Postawski. Sleep and I have an uncomfortable equilibrium. I worry that I will miss something if I sleep. In my time management course I say “Sleep is for wimps”. But I don’t really believe it. I do think many people waste a lot of time sleeping but there is a healing that comes from a good 6-7 hour sleep. Even I will admit that.

The gist of the book is that you can sleep less if you get “good deep sleep”

Ideas from the book include:

1 – get lots of sunlight. (I am working on this)

2 – no caffeine

3 –no alcohol

4 – No change in sleep pattern on the weekend.

He also suggests that sleep and temperature are connected and that we sleep on a cycle. The key is to wake up in the right point on the cycle.

Interesting book.

Health books and the golden hour

I am just done a fairly lazy weekend. Hiked on the Bruce Trail near Dundas on Sunday. It was raining lightly for most of it. Saw Jennifer off at the airport late last night.

Lots of time to read which I love. I finished a number of books on health this weekend since one of my friends lent me his library of books on health. The list included “52 simple steps to Natural Health”, “The new Nutrition”, “Eat Right for Your Type” and “Optimum Sports Nutrition”.

One thing I do a lot of with health books is to filter the information heavily. I take a note of the publishing date since health information tends to change. Reading maturity is being able to read a book and not reject the whole book if there is a small part of it that is not agreeable. I like to take the material and make it mine. Modify, filter and use it.

With the health books, the summary is old fashioned do what you mother said and eat right. Eat your vegetables and fruits. Limit sugar and fried foods. Limit food intake appropriately. Exercise. Eat more smaller meals – not less meals. Eat more raw food. Moderation and variety are good. Take a multivitamin. Many health books tend to make it way more complex than that and suggest certain foods are bad, certain artificial foods and supplements are best and complicated ways of eating.

Right now I am enjoying the golden hour. The time early in the morning before everyone else is up. There are so many things I like to do during this hour (or in my case since I like to do so many things, I could use a golden 3 hours). This is a great time to meditate. I like to do some yoga (although I do this less than I would like). This is a great time to journal. I like to eat a healthy but light breakfast. And of course I like to work out. I even enjoy a short walk before my workout. All this and be at my desk by 7 or 7:30 so I can get a good jump on my day.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Why Business People speak like Idiots

I had dinner at my parents last night with Elizabeth and Jennifer. In to work today by 7:30 for a conference call at 8 that never happened – frustrating. Going to go for a long (perhaps 16K) run now and maybe lift some weights.

I follow the stats on my blog and notice the readership on the weekend is roughly half what is during the week. Interesting.

The latest book I finished is “Why Business People speak like Idiots” by Frugere, Hardaway and Warshawsky. It is a light read. The gist of it, better writing and speaking lead to better communication – duh (or does using that word make me one of the business illiterates).

Some good valid points that were made:

1 – think of the reader (not the writer) when writing.

2 – avoid acronyms. SYNNEX could learn - we are rife with NGM, OPL, RR etc.

3 – Appropriate humour is good (4 year olds laugh an average of 400 times per day compared to 35 year olds that laugh 15 times per day)

And my favourite:

4 – keep it shorter

I have long been a proponent of good writing and think the easiest way for people to improve writing is to read more. Reading has almost become a lost art.

One section of the book talks about apologizing. They put forth an interesting view that it reduces liability. There is truth to that. From my experience with lawsuits, most of them would be avoidable with proper heartfelt apologies. But this is not the reason to apologize. From my perspective, apologizing cleanses the soul and keeps authenticity. It is closely tied with taking responsibility which is one of the most important traits of successful people.

Off for the run.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Touch it once

My step daughter – Jennifer is home for a week holidays. She is in the Navy – posted in Halifax so we see her infrequently. So I am trying to get home by 8 or 9 so I can have dinner with her.

As part of dealing with the SYNNEX volume, I have had to re-evaluate my systems. Doing EMJ for 25 years, I had developed systems to handle the volume I dealt with. With SYNNEX, this all changed. Dealing with volume professionally is all about having good systems. I have developed a number of time tips – one of which I will share with you now.

Tip – The Power of One Touch.

This is the oldest time management tip in the book. When you get a piece of paper or an email – deal with it.

I have modified this practice in the following way in order to keep working on high priority items. The problem is I need to quick scan to see if it is urgent. From the quick scan – if I can deal with it and finish it in less than a minute, I deal with it. If it will take me more than a minute, put it in a TODO file or TODO efile and deal with it later. I use this quick scan differently depending on how rushed I am. For example, if I am caught up, I might deal with anything I can deal with in less than 4 minutes. If I have been out of the office for a week, I might only allow myself 20 seconds to deal with things.

The basic principal is if you only touch it once, it is faster. Don’t let the simplicity fool you – this is one of the most powerful habits you can have.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Adventure Capitalist

Multiple meetings and calls today. VIP tour of our manufacturing and config centre this morning. This part of our business is a competitive advantage. It is an area where our costs and capabilities really shine. My hope is to close some larger deals to make that area really hum.

I finished one of the books I started on the weekend called Adventure Capitalism by Jim Rogers. It is an awesome book. More like a novel or travel narration in many ways than a business book. This makes it slightly slower reading. Jim, and his wife Paige, drive around the world in a modified Mercedes. He comments on the business environment and economy of the countries he visits. Part of what makes the book interesting is the stories he tells of their experiences. He is a natural story teller.

He is a big believer in free trade and open borders and cites numerous examples of countries with open (or closed) borders that prosper (or whither). For example, Burma was a wealthy country which closed its borders in 1962 – it is now a disaster. Same for Ghana, the wealthiest country in the British empire in the 50’s(ever wealthier than England) which closed it borders in 1957. Seven years later it was bankrupt.

He has a view is that handouts to countries create dependency and slow self reliance. This is similar to a view taken in one of my favourite books The Millionaire Next Door to handouts to our children..

Trade tariffs (or things like the beef embargo) act as an inefficient tax on the citizens of a country. The citizens pay more for their products which allow local producers to make a bit more profit. This creates a laziness and inefficiency in the local producers that cause them to not be competitive on a world scale. Interesting view.

His view on India differs from The World is Flat (see June 19th post). Good on the ground R and D.

Adventure Capitalism is a great book and good recreational read.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Eulogy to a Hero

Busy day today. OK – so who am I fooling, almost all days are busy. The price I pay for taking a day off (even on the weekend) is added busyness. I did get almost caught up though so that’s a good thing.

I was greatly saddened to read that my high school idol and scuba instructor died. – Bessel VanderHazel. He was 77 years old. Very active in life. He ran, canoed, cross country skied and snow shoed. He had a keen interest in fitness and nature. He opened an outdoor centre near Woodstock where I grew up. He loved scuba diving and infected me with a love for scuba for a number of years when I was in high school and university. I remember fondly a camping trip to Tobermory that he took a group of divers on when I was in my teens. He always treated me with respect, even though I was a scrawny kid and I appreciated it. He always expected the best from me. He was a great man who never would have said he was great. He touched my life as I hope I touch some others.

I read a great Bernard Shaw quote on the weekend. “Life is not about discovering yourself, it is about creating yourself”

Bessel did just that – he created his life.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Day that got Away

Sometimes days seem to get away from me. Before I know it, I am out of time to do what I wanted to do. Today was one of those days. Bob was in town this morning and too many meeting and calls this afternoon to stay on top of things.

Tonight I attended RIM’s annual meeting followed by a long dinner at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo. I was re-elected to the RIM board. This has been a great inspiration and a learning experience for me.

I did not work out today. So had to check my log to assuage my guilt.

Tip for the day

I realize I actually do exercise and work out quite a bit. One trick I use is to track my workouts. I used to do this in a simple old fashioned paper daytimer. Now I do it in a spreadsheet – partly because I now need to track steps too due to my Zeno Challenge.

It is gratifying to look at the spreadsheet to see how often I do work out. This reassures me when I think I have been negligent.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


I took Friday night, Saturday and half of today off. Left mid Friday afternoon to Niagara on the Lake with my wife Elizabeth. Felt guilty since it was the SYNNEX national sales conference in Greenville this weekend. I booked the holiday this weekend before the conference was booked so decided to stick to the holiday.

Went to live theatre on Friday and Saturday. Cycled for a few hours Saturday. Bought some fresh fruit. Ran into my HP rep, Kathryn, Friday night at a pub that plays live music.

My boss, Bob Huang, arrived today at 4 and is in town meeting with me on a deal.

People have asked my how I balance my life or if balance is important. Quite honestly, I do not balance well by the view the world has. When I see highly successful people, frequently they are not balanced in the view of the world. Great atheletes and musicians spend too much time practicing. Great writers tend to write too much. Great painters study painting (and these days marketing)and paint too much. So if I wish to become a great business person, I will likely work and study too much and spend most of my time focused on business..

What I do know is everyone needs to find the balance they need to stay sharp and on their game. This is not necessarily what the rest of the world sees as balance. For me, I need to be healthy, so I work out enough to be healthy. I sometimes need to take my mind off business and focus on something else – so I play duplicate bridge, do competitive martial arts, spend time with friends and family, I read (or is that sort of cheating since I usually read business stuff) etc.

Elizabeth and I have a great equilibrium. She knows I am driven but we schedule some time together. It helps that she is high energy so stays up late. It also helps that she has her own career and understands my time constraints. It helps that she is flexible.

I do have friends and family(4 grown children, 3 brothers, both parents). Friends and family know I am driven and there is no obligation. We get together because we choose to.

What I see as most important is knowing values and from these come goals. They allow me to make decisions on how I will spend my time. Sometimes the best use of my time is to NOT do business. It gives me more energy when I return to business.

One thing I do know is guilt over balance does not help anything. I know I choose what I do so try to do it with gusto and without guilt.

So was this weekend considered balance? Or just sharpening the saw so I can get back to business?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Time Tip - workspace

Tired today. I need to get home earlier or cut my wind down time shorter. Tonight I got home about 9 and had dinner about 9:30 so by the time I had a 2 mile walk, it is now after 11. And of course I always like to read for a bit.

My den feels messy tonight. When I get home too late too often, it tends to slip. Goes against my time tricks.

I like to be able to sit down and begin instantly at my task rather than having to track down a tool I might need. It is not only the time to get the tool that you lose but the loss in concentration to get it.

Time Tip:

If you can, only do your job at your workspace. If you always power read when you sit in a certain chair, then psychologically, you will jump into it faster and stick with it more. The advent of computer games has made this difficult on home computers – the best thing would be to never use your home computer for games – only work (and have another place/system for recreation). If you cannot have a separate space for your work at home, you can always sit in a certain way or set up the desk in a certain way that triggers you into work mode.

Have multiple items that you need frequently. For example, I have reading glasses, a calculator, pens, stapler, post it notes etc at my desk at the office, my desk at home, my briefcase (which is a backpack) and next to my reading chair.

Vegetarianism and other things

Played duplicate bridge tonight. It is a good diversion. Takes my mind off work completely for a few hours. Of course now I pay for it by having to get caught up.

In tidying my den, I came across a newspaper clipping I was saving for my brother Glen – the big environmentalist, produce 500 times more power than you can use guy. According to Alan Calvert, a British physicist, “animals eaten by people produce 21 % of the carbon dioxide that can be attributed to human activity.” He suggests people switch to a vegetarian diet to battle global warming. So being a mostly vegetarian (I eat fish and chicken 5-6 times per month), I do my part unlike Glen who still eats meat (although I know he occasionally tries to cut back)

I finished reading “Put your Heart on Paper” by Henriette Klauser. I often forget how books get on my reading list but this one did. It is not very business oriented at all (what must I have been thinking). Her message is that writing is a powerful tonic. It is a way to create a bond with people, to straighten out your own thinking, to leave a legacy and she speaks of the power of the written word. It likely resonates with me since obviously I like to write. Some of the ideas I did get from the book are:

1 – Brainstorm on paper. She calls it High Energy lists. I knew this but it is good reinforcement.

2 – Write it down – make it happen. Good old fashioned get your goals on paper. Written goals often happen with what appears to be almost no effort on your part. The simple act of writing them down can cause them to happen.

3 – Writing can be a powerful form of communication that is often not used enough. Although it can be one way (and thus open to misinterpretation), it is sometimes a good way to say things you might be uncomfortable saying. I interpret this to mean good things. Tell the people you care – why.

4 – Writing as networking. My parents have done a Christmas letter for years. Not sure they think of it as networking but it is. I know I constantly need to nurture my network –this can help (and be highly efficient too)

Bed now – the workout will begin too soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A place for everything

I missed my usual catch up time in the office this weekend so feel behind. Usually a few good productive hours on the weekend are worth a whole day during the week. I also missed any time in the garden which would have been nice – currants, raspberries and gooseberries are ready to pick.

Lots of conference calls today. Still did manage to squeeze in the good son thing and help my parents move some furniture. They recently moved into a retirement place and are still settling in.

My father is naturally quite fastidious so organization is not at the top of his list – he does it naturally. One thing he always says is “a place for everything and everything in its place.” This is a great way to stay organized and productive. I need to do a bit more of that at home as I notice my den is getting cluttered a bit.

I also did some online Microsoft learning that we are thinking of doing with our staff. I did a tutorial on Outlook and learned a few things I am going to start using so that is worthwhile. I use outlook extensively so am competent but still was able to pick up a few tricks. There are major time savings in learning how to use the tools you use daily better.

Business Coaching

I spent much of today with my new business coach – Daniel Mueller. We cycled about 40 miles from Niagara on the Lake to Niagara Falls plus some and back. Nice day for it. He is in better shape than I am and a hard core cyclist so has an awesome bicycle. Still, I think he did not have to wait for me too much.

We talked about SYNNEX corporate culture – he told me I have a keen interest in culture which, once pointed out, I agree with. We talked a lot about goals. I have no problem in that area (unless it is that I like doing it so spend too much time on it). We talked about my top 10 list which are tactical things that support the goals I am working on. My top 10 list is not my TODO list. Many items on the top 10 list explode into many more items on the TODO list.

Daniel stressed the importance of having goals not just for business but for life – EG no health goal and die before getting to the business goals.

We talked about leadership. Clearly I have a keen interest in that.

Before and after meeting Daniel, I worked on my deal. Still lots of calls, reports, analysis, brainstorming etc to get that done. Tomorrow will be a more than full day on it.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Managing a Full Life

Friday night of a hectic week. I have been spending too much time working and missed my workout too often this week. Also missed some reading time. Will also be a fairly full weekend with a deal I am working on although I do plan to take a good chunk of time off tomorrow to cycle near Niagara on the Lake. This is partly business – I am getting to know my new business coach.

SYNNEX California uses this coach to help keep executives on track. Very interesting. I am really looking forward to the coaching process. I know I can use help navigating in a larger corporate entity. I have always held myself accountable so am not sure if having a coach will keep me more on track.

What I do think it can do is to give me perspective. Another view. He has already made a few suggestions that I plan to use.

I asked how long per month the process takes. The reason is one of my time rules. I know my life is full now. If I take on another commitment, I need to figure out what I am going to drop. This is one way I manage my commitments

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I just finished listening to an awesome book called Freakonomics by Stephen Levitt. It is now one of my favourites. Highly recommended. The bad thing is it means I spent 7 hours in my car this week – way too much driving. I only got the CD’s on Monday and I am already finished them.

Stephen is a unique economist that has an interesting way of looking at the world. A lot of it speaks about motivating people and why motivation systems often fail. I can learn some for our compensation systems (although compensation is more of an art than a science). He has a morbid interest in cheating and crime so lots on that. There is even a section on parenting.

He sifts through data and correlates it to try to figure out the cause and effect of what is happening in the world. I used to sit on the board of Angoss Software for about 10 years. They sell advanced data mining tools that do these sorts of correlations. I have always had an interest in it. It is even more interesting at SYNNEX since I deal with such a mass of data. The book is interesting and stimulates thought.

My time tip for tonight is to use the time in your car to learn. I can go through a ton of audio material even in short trips. It passes the time faster and I learn. I often rent audios from audiobook connection in Burlington. I have only ever been there once but have rented probably 50 audio books over the past few years – all by email and phone. I am fortunate enough to have an assistant that arranges most of it (another time tip)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Marathon pacing

I am immersed in a big deal right now. This gives me high energy while at the same time, leaving little time to do my regular job. I feel I am falling behind and need my team to pick up the things I need to drop.

While doing a deal, I can tend to overdo it. Work too long. Ignore balance.

Life is a marathon – I believe in setting a pace I can maintain forever. Yes there will be a few hills (like now when it is deal time) and sometimes the odd sprint to pass someone but largely set a pace you can maintain forever.

One thing I like about maintaining a great TODO list is it helps me to know how busy I am and whether I can take anything else on.

To maintain the equilibrium in my life, I follow the axiom of taking something off my commitment list if I add something. When someone asks me to take on a new position or new task, I look at what I have on my plate and figure out which one(s) I am going to delegate or drop.

I am highly goal oriented. Having too audacious of goals or too many of them can create goal burn out. I realize this particularly at a time like this. I need a bit of space in my life so I can handle the important things that come into my life.

Part of it is giving myself permission to pace myself. I still have a problem with setting too high of a standard on myself. I can accomplish more than most people but because it is not everything I set for myself, I can not feel accomplished. I am trying to learn to congratulate myself on my successes.

Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a day and underestimate what they can accomplish in a year or a decade. It is truly amazing what can be accomplished by continual long term push in a direction.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Profit Beyond Measure

Slow day today. I think it is a combination of the US holiday (4th of July), start of the month and extended holiday weekends for many people.

I finished reading “Profit Beyond Measure” subtitled “Extraordinary Results through Attention to Work and People” by Johnson and Broms. Good book. I have learned many things at SYNNEX. One of the great learnings is attention to detailed numbers and cost accounting. This has tremendous value and the SYNNEX system is truly awesome on granular numbers. This book reinforces the need for good cost accounting systems as long as they are logical. A lot of the book is about having the right systems. As a Systems Design Engineer, I really appreciate the books attention to systems and interdependence. Part of the problem with measuring is that interrelations are often overlooked.

A part of me at times feels that sometimes we are not totally on the right track though. Profit Beyond Measure reinforces what I already know about intuition. It will help me hold firm in areas where I know in my heart we are right to change (or not). Some of it comes back to my continual short term vs. long term dilemma.

I read in the Globe today about a book I would love to read that has actually never been published. I would love to get my hands on it. Sounds like a lot of business leadership wisdom. The book is “Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management”. One quote is “When faced with decisions, try to look at them as if you were one level up in the organization”. I already do this in a big way. I think we could do better if more of our people thought this way. This ties into the granular numbers that we manage by. Without care, we can end up with no team but very good individual numbers which will ultimately hurt the company and the individual numbers.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Energy and save the world

I had a great night last night with my brothers – Glen and Lyle after the kids were in bed. Most of the talk focused on energy and saving the world. Glen has a 1.8 megawatt wind turbine as his business. Lyle has a biodeisel refinery. Both of them give a number of speeches on conservation, energy, living conservatively etc. Lyle’s blog (energy blog) has a huge readership. He is also publishing a book on the trials of getting a biodeisel refinery going. Both Lyle and Glen are tied up with tons of government bureaucracy. Both of them are trying to save the world.

All of the Estill brothers have a bit of this save the world and energy conservation in us. My oldest brother Mark drives a Honda Civic hybrid, I drive a Toyota Prius hybrid. Glen drives a Honda Insight hybrid and Lyle drives a VW Jetta which runs on biodeisel (of course).

On Glen’s refridgerator he has a quote from Helen Keller “I am only one but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do” Of course Glen uses this to inspire him on the quest to save the world. I can use it to inspire me in the larger company. Sometimes I feel my contribution is small with little impact. It is these little impacts that ultimately move companies and society and the world.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Time to recharge

Lazy holiday weekend. Worked most of the day yesterday then drove up the Bruce Peninsula to where my brother, Glen lives. He owns a wind turbine. Lives in a beautiful cottage overlooking Georgian Bay.

My 3 kids came up. I had not seen my son, David, for a couple of months. It was good to see him. He is working nearby at Camp Celtic as a counselor. My youngest brother – Lyle, his wife, Tami and 3 of his 4 kids also are here. More activity than I am accustomed to.

This morning we did a 4 hour hike on the Bruce Trail. Beautiful.

It is days like today that help me appreciate what I have. I often say I lead a charmed life (actually it is one of my mantras) and days like today prove it.

I have often had feedback that I work too hard and that I should slow down and smell the roses. Something in my causes me to be driven. Why should I fight it? And occasionally I do take time off. I am a believer that we need recharge time in order to be at our peak. Perhaps I just take less of it than some.

This will be a good recharge weekend.