Just Breathe


The Power of Meditation (and Prayer) in Times of Stress

Let’s face it, we’re stressed.  I’m stressed, you’re stressed, we are all stressed.

I’m no stranger to stress.  As an entrepreneur I have had more than my share of sleepless nights and fretful days as I have navigated through a world that has very little appreciation for the sacrifice and dedication that it takes to open, build and run a business with no safety net, no guaranteed income and no long term security.  Most of my friends have government jobs or jobs with large corporations that offer significant long-term benefits and job security.  I grew up surrounded by teachers and people employed by fully funded NGOs.

I’ve worked in start-up firms or for myself since I was 19.

Sure, I’ve brokered some big deals in my day.  The kind that purchase a modicum of security for a few months or even a year, but the money inevitably runs out and I am always left searching for the next big thing.

In the era of COVID19 many of my closest personal friends, colleagues, associates, and clients are experiencing job related financial stress for the very first time and I’ve been fielding a lot of calls from a lot of stressed out people.

Earlier this week I created a resource page that I published on google docs to help people find the things they might need to get through these stressful times.

But today I decided to write about the one thing, regardless of the situation that everyone should do when stress begins to mount.

Breathe!

Focusing on your breathing is the first step of meditation in all its forms.

According to Healthline.com, meditation, regardless of religious context has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, control anxiety, promote emotional health, enhance self-awareness, lengthen attention span, slow age related memory loss, improve sleep, control pain, and decrease blood pressure.

In my book “Prayer School”, available on Amazon.ca or for free download I dedicated the entire first chapter to centering and opening your mind and heart for greater things.  Whether you are religious or not the practise of the breath prayer (or breathing meditation if you prefer) is a key step in calming your mind and centering your thoughts for a greater purpose.

So here is a quick breath prayer or breathing meditation exercise that I teach everyone who comes to me in financial stress. When pressures mount and it seems like you are losing control follow these steps to calm your mind before you act on your impulses.  Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

1 – Stop

2– Be Still

3 – Breath In for a count of 4

4 – Hold it for a count of 4

5 – Breath Out for a count of 4

6 – Repeat until you feel your heart rate slow

If it helps repeat a mantra as you breath in and out.  Personally, I like to breath in and out on Psalm 46:10, “Be still (in), and know that I am God (out).”  It helps me to remember that I am not alone in the world.  But the words don’t really matter, I had one friend who like to breath “I like (in), peanut butter sandwiches (out).” The point is, to take your mind and body away from whatever it is that is causing you stress in the moment.  Once your heart rate settles down, you can turn your focus to the problem at hand with more clarity and peace of mind.

This practise works to calm anxiety and stop panic attacks in their tracks, but meditation is also a great way to inject a general sense of calm into your daily life.  Many people have incorporated meditation into their lives as a regular practise at the beginning and/or end of each day.  I’ve been doing it every morning for decades.  That’s next level stuff though, for now, and while we all learn to navigate the world during and post COVID19, a simple breathing meditation can go a long way to help us all through these stressful times.

 

How do you deal with stress?  Let me know in the comments below.  And if you are having trouble dealing with financial stress as a result of COVID19, or any other reason, get in touch and let’s talk.  But first – breathe.

Lauren

 

 

Branding Lessons from the Lizard the Captain and the Man in the Blue Shirt


3 Lessons About Projecting The Right Image For Your Brand
The Geico Gecko

Would you buy car insurance from a wise cracking lizard with a British accent?  Warren Buffet bets you would, and millions of Americans do.

Would you book a vacation with an awkwardly blunt and slightly creepy man in a captain’s uniform?  Obviously, or Hotels.com wouldn’t have created the character of Captain Obvious.

More importantly, would you let a plain talking, slightly nerdy, triathlon enthusiast give you financial advice?  I sure hope so or I’m in the wrong business.

All those things form a brand image and for the past few days I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about mine.

The fact is that how people perceive you, IS your brand.  You can’t control what people think or how they react, but you can control what you show them.  In so doing you are projecting an image for  your brand and letting the customers do the rest.  The key to branding then is giving your customers just enough to point them in the direction you want them to go.  And then hoping they get there on their own.

Last week I watched a series of videos on branding from success mentor and productivity coach Darren Hardy. www.darrenhardy.com  I don’t know what Mr. Hardy actually calls himself but when I think of him three things immediately come time mind, success, productivity and a freshly pressed blue shirt.  Why?  Because he talks about those things constantly and he always wears an immaculately pressed blue shirt while doing it.

Darren Hardy, trade-mark blue shirt and all, teaching from his back yard

Through watching these videos, I learned three very important lessons about how to establish and reinforce a brand.

1 –  Perception is Reality

How people receive and interpret the brand is just as important as the message you are trying to convey.  Mr. Hardy wants you to think of success when you think of him, that’s why he wears that perfect blue shirt all the time.  Would you think of success if he showed up wearing a baseball cap and ripped T-Shirt?  The gecko that shills car insurance and the creepy captain who wants you to enjoy your vacation both say we’re approachable and fun.

2 – Pick a Single Word

It’s okay to have more than one word but by picking just one it’s easier to direct your efforts and point people in that direction.  Most successful brands can be reduced to just one or two words.  The more words you use the harder it’s going to be to project your image with any consistency.  Mr. Hardy’s word is success, at least that’s what he said in one of the videos and I can certainly see it but there’s some subtext there as well.  He mentors business owners for increased productivity, hiring the right people and product marketing to name just a few.  If he wanted to mentor you to be a great athlete or coach the baseball cap might be a better idea.  But everything he says and does points back to that one word because more than anything he wants you to think, if you want to be successful you should be listening to Darren Hardy.

Which brings me to the last lesson.

3 – Design everything to reinforce your word

Think about how your word shows up for a meeting, how it comes through in writing, in advertising, or on LinkedIn.  I’ve already pointed out how Mr. Hardy’s blue shirt speaks success.  How does the Geico Gecko say approachable?  How does Captain Obvious say fun?  Remember, I’m not saying that approachable and fun are the actual words the advertising departments used to create those ad campaigns, but perception is reality and that’s what I think of when I see them.

My main brand word is compassion.

I understand that financial planning can be confusing and scary for a lot of people, especially if you’ve been burned by bad decisions in the past.  When people think of me, I want them to think that I am the financial planner they can be authentic with and receive solid advice delivered in a straight-forward, non-judgmental and compassionate manner no matter their circumstances.

I’m still working on how best to convey that message across all my media platforms.  I hope it shines through in the way I write and speak most of all.  Life is hard and finances are complicated, if authentic and compassionate service is what you are looking for form your financial planner, I want to be that guy for you.

What’s your brand word and how do you reinforce it? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out the video I did on this same topic yesterday.

 

Whole-Life Life Insurance


The Emergency Fund You Didn’t Even Know You Had

“COVID-19 has shut down my business, I need cash now!”

I have had clients start phone calls with that line, or something similar, at least twice a day for the past three weeks. Thankfully, most of them were smart enough to take my advice and set aside some emergency money, those that did not are wishing they had and are ready to push the panic button. But not all emergency funds are created equal and so yesterday I took to YouTube to discuss the most overlooked source of emergency cash that a lot of people have at their disposal; check it out here.

Once you get past my riff on breakfast nutrition I get into the meat and potatoes of the discussion around the 1:55 mark, hang in there, its worth it. Or you could just pause the playback while it downloads and skip ahead if you really want to.

For those of you who do not have a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy, I want to take a few minutes today to ask you one simple question. Why not?

I get that some people think Life Insurance is a waste of money. Why pay for something that you will not reap the benefit from directly? While I understand the sentiment, I have to say, dying without a plan in place to provide for your family and pay off your debts is just rude. If you are independently wealthy, that’s one thing, but my mother taught me never to expect anyone to clean up my messes for me. Even wealthy people have Life Insurance because Life Insurance, when built properly can be the final broom that comes along and sweeps your life into a tidy little pile and makes things easy to dispose of.

Not that I am saying you’re dirt that you family is just going to toss away. Let’s assume you love your family, and in turn they don’t think you’re dirt, let’s also assume you’re not independently wealthy and you’re not rude.

You probably have some Life Insurance already. Most employers provide at least a small amount of income replacement for your family to help them through a difficult time as part of your health plan. That’s nice but it’s not generally going to be enough to clear your debts and provide for your family long term. In addition to your employer sponsored plan most people will purchase some term Life Insurance to cover off major debts and provide income for their families for a few years. This is all good stuff but it’s not Whole-Life Life Insurance and it’s not going to provide you with any emergency money while you are living.

While term coverage resets at a higher premium at the end of a specific number of years, a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy is designed to give you coverage for one guaranteed premium amount throughout your entire life. It also provides you with the opportunity to participate in the financial returns of the insurance company and grow a cash surrender value which you can access while you are living. Term policies only payout once on death.

In the world of COVID-19 it’s the cash surrender value in Whole-Life policies that many of my clients are finding can form the basis of an emergency fund. You don’t need to die to gain access to this cash value, you can instead surrender some of the death benefit or take a loan from insurance company to bridge through a difficult time. The beauty of this plan is that you don’t have to submit to a credit check, it’s technically your own money, and you don’t have to commit to a specific time frame to pay any of it back. If you die while the loan is still outstanding the insurance company will just deduct whatever is left from the final death benefit and pay your heirs the rest.

This is not all sunshine and roses. The CRA may consider some of the advanced funds as income and expect you to pay tax on them and the insurance company may charge you interest if you take it as a loan. But if your other sources of income have taken a huge hit paying some tax is not a bad thing and the interest rate is about a third of that charged by most credit cards. Win-win.

Experts agree that everyone should have about 3 months of expenses in an emergency fund. Most people find this hard to do but by paying a premium of say $50 a month you can build up a cash value well in excess of that number over time. In the past week I have advanced an average of $6,500 from Whole-Life Life Insurance policies to everyone of my client’s who have qualified. Not bad for a commitment of $50 per month and a whole lot more than the government is offering through some of their emergency financing programs.

So, if you have a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy you might have a significant emergency fund at your disposal. If you don’t have a Whole-Life Life Insurance policy now might be the perfect time to check with your financial advisor and put something in place for the next “once in a life-time” financial emergency like we are living through right now.

Stay healthy and safe, and stay home if you can.

Lauren

The New Xenophobia


Fear and the Death of Community

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

My wife and I went for a walk to the drug store yesterday.  She hadn’t been out of the house in three weeks and cabin fever had set in.  We didn’t really need anything, but her aunt is turning 100 years old in a few weeks.  Since we won’t be with her on this momentous occasion, we decided we at least should send her a card to let her know we’re thinking of her.

For a few minutes we debated the need to go.  Is it responsible for us to go out at all?  Should just one of us go?  We eventually decided that we both needed to get some fresh air, the store is only a couple of blocks away so a walk would be good for the both of our souls.  If we felt uncomfortable when we got to the store, one of us would stay outside while the other went in, get what we need and leave as quickly as possible, while still practicing physical distancing as much as possible.

As we walked, we met a couple of other individuals and family groups, out for air as well.  Approaching these other people, we adjusted our strides, slowed down, walked in single file and gave a wide berth as we passed on the sidewalk.  We made eye contact, smiled and nodded at each other and said thank you for respectfully keeping a safe distance apart.

When we got to the store, we decided it didn’t look too busy so we both went in.  I stood at the end of the aisle while she went down and picked up what we needed.  We tried our best to stay the requisite 2 meters away from any other humans and didn’t touch anything unnecessarily.  This was especially hard for her as she likes to browse, touch and smell things.  You break it you bought it became you touch it you bought it.

The whole experience was surreal.  I couldn’t put my figure on it at first but as I began to reflect, I started to realize that what I was feeling was an underlying sense of fear coming from everyone.  Contrary to FDR’s inaugural address from 1933, we are now being told that fear and suspicion is an appropriate response.

Xenophobia is the fear of the other.  The term has mostly been used to describe the way in which societies organize around the exclusion of certain people groups.  Closing boarders, limiting access to social services and denying basic human rights based on religion, skin color, or country of origin has been described as xenophobic.  But today xenophobia can be more literally and broadly defined as the fear of neighbors.

COVID19 is not your grandparent’s crisis.   Ninety years ago, the economy cratered due to a cascade of events set off by the collapse of the overvalued stock market.  This led to tightened lending criteria at the banks, reduced consumer spending, and higher cost of exported goods as a result of a tightened money  supply.  FDR became president at a time when people were afraid, not of each other but for each other.  His speeches and famous fireside chats were designed to give people a sense of calm, encourage community service, sharing and cooperation.

Today we are being given a very different message.

“Enough is enough.  Go home and stay home.”  Justin Trudeau, March 23, 2020

Gone are any encouragements to go out and spend money and keep the economy going, like President George W Bush so famously declared in the aftermath of 9/11.  All non-essential businesses have been shuttered or forced to sell only on-line with curbside pick-up.

Gone too are encouragements to get together and work for a better community.  All community involvement has been reduced to, “do your part, stay home.”  But that doesn’t build a sense of community at all, it simply leads to isolation, stress and depression.

Last week, as I stood in line to get into Costco, (that being a head trip in and of itself, retailers have never before restricted access to their stores), one staff member walked up and down the line reminding us all to keep our distance because “everyone is a threat to your safety.”  It didn’t register with me until days later, but this is the perfect example of how we are being taught to live in these times.

Fear Everyone!

The economic, social, and psychological impact of this crisis has yet to be felt in its fullest form.  We are trying, but without real human connection there is a key element missing.  When all human interaction is done at a distance of 2 meters and shrouded in caution, like the Costco employee so starkly reminded us, we lose a piece of what it means to be human.  Our economy will inevitably suffer but the long-term damage to the social fabric and our psychological wellbeing my well far outpace any financial losses we will experience.

When we can’t get together in groups all attempts to maintain connection through other means are but a poor facsimile of the real thing.  This fear will kill community in ways we may never fully understand, it’s already started.    Not to mention the people without access to modern communications technology, the elderly, the poor, the physically and developmentally challenged.

I have no advice to combat this feeling of isolation and depression.  We are in uncharted waters.  Humanity is not made for this and we are completely ill-equipped for a long fight.  We need each other, there’s nothing more to say.

 

Living on the Edge


Transferable Lessons from Athletic Training for Life During COVID19

Depending on when you choose to start counting, we are now somewhere around 20 days into the brave new world that is COVID19.  As fate would have it, the morning before the province locked down the schools I went to my local public library, (the city locked them down the next day) and picked up a few books that I had been waiting for.  I now have these books for an indeterminate time, so I’ve been taking a slower, more studious approach to reading.

The first book I read was, “Peak: The New Science of Athletic Performance That Is Revolutionizing Sports” by Dr. Marc Bubbs.  I heard about this book on a performance podcast for triathletes and decided to check it out.  Dr. Bubbs was interviewed by a triathlon coach that I follow, and I was intrigued by some of the things he was saying specific to triathlete nutrition, so I decided to get his book.   Don’t tell my wife but, I’ve been considering hiring a nutritionist to help take my training to the next level, she already thinks I’ve lost my mind with all this triathlon stuff, I can’t wait to see her reaction when I start pouring bone broth into my coffee.

Dr. Bubbs is the Performance Nutrition Coach for Canada’s national basketball team and has consulted with professional NBA, NHL and MLB teams all over North America.  What I was expecting to get out of the book was a lot of information about athletic fueling and while there was plenty of that what I really learned was more about training load and recovery strategies.  It turns out you can’t eat in a vacuum all aspects of life affect your results.

Last night after a particularly stressful day managing our lives and businesses in this new world (we are both self employed) my wife and I each had a mini nervous breakdown.  The stress of not knowing what to do or how long this is going to last finally got to us and as we talked it out, I noticed I was using the same language Dr. Bubbs uses to talk about athletic recovery.

Here are the terms I learned from the world of elite athletics that we can all apply to life during the outbreak of COVID19.

Functional Over-Reach

It’s a well-known fact that you build muscle and endurance by continually placing stress on the area you want to increase.  That’s what lifting weights and running wind sprints are all about.  Functional Over-Reach (FOR) is the act of continually pushing training to the razor’s edge of complete exhaustion and then backing off.  By doing this repeatedly you can quickly build up muscle and endurance getting faster and stronger over a short period of time.  Most amateur athletes and weekend warriors never reach the stage of FOR however and don’t get the full growth benefit of their training.  In order to get to FOR you must push past the initial tired stage and find that next gear.  Some people call it the second wind but even if you can find it very few people will push it all the way to total exhaustion.

Critical to the build phase, once you’ve completely exhausted yourself you must take adequate time to recover before going out and doing it all again.   Recovery times vary depending on the athlete and what you are trying to build but the point is, stress and recovery go hand in hand.

Non-Functional Over-Reach

If you fail to give yourself the proper amount of rest between heavy training days, you will inevitably enter a phase of Non-Functional Over-Reach (NFOR).  Simply put, you’ll stop getting any growth benefit from your training.  Your strength, endurance or speed will plateau, and you might even start to get weaker.  NFOR is the alarm bell or blinking red light that your body sets off saying “slow down, we can’t do this anymore!”  A coach or athlete that keeps track of their training metrics will recognize NFOR the minute it starts and go into a prolonged rest phase or ratchet back training to include fewer hard days.  You don’t get a second wind from NFOR, there is no benefit to continuing to push a body that has stopped absorbing training.  The only thing to do is rest.

Over Training Syndrome

Finally, if you miss or ignore the signs of NFOR you will begin to experience Over Training Syndrome (OTS).  OTS is quite simply an injury waiting to happen.  Stress fractures, cartilage damage and repetitive strains all tend to be the result of OTS.  Since you failed to recognize the signs of NFOR and didn’t get adequate rest your body simply breaks down and forces you into an even longer period of rest.  In extreme cases OTS can end your athletic career altogether.

 

So, what does all this have to do with COVID19?

As I explained to my wife, it’s as if we have all entered a phase of mental NFOR.  The first couple of weeks we could push ourselves to adapt.  It was tiring but we could go to bed and night, get some rest and be ready to go again the next day.  But now, with no end in sight, and no escape it’s not fun anymore.  We aren’t growing, we aren’t getting any better at adaptation and we might soon start to experience prolonged anxiety, depression and mental illness as a result.

We all need to take a break.  Phone a friend, watch a good movie, go for a walk, take up a new hobby.  Anything really that takes your mind off the news and your social separation.  Do it as often as you need to.  For me that means completely shutting down all news sources between the hours of 8:00 am and 6:00 pm, texting a friend at least once a day, getting up from my desk to move around every few hours, and going for a walk every afternoon.  Whatever it is for you find something that gives you a mental break.  We can all get stronger through this, but only if we avoid mental OTS.

Keep your chin up!  Don’t over train, we’re all in this together.

Lauren

Fire Insurance for Your Life


Preparing for the Next Crisis

I hope this finds you healthy and safe in the midst of this unprecedented time.

I once had a long argument with a close friend about how best to support a mutual friend through a crisis.  I don’t remember the specifics, but I do remember that I was advocating for providing immediate support while he was lecturing them on how they could have avoided the situation in the first place.

I finally lost my cool and declared –

“The fireman doesn’t stand on your lawn lecturing about safety while your house burns down, grab an [expletive] hose!”

Right now, many of you are dealing with a financial house on fire.  The Employment Insurance department of the Canadian government usually processes about 27,000 cases a week, last week they received almost 1 million new applications.  If you haven’t lost your job, it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that your world has been significantly altered in some way.  If you are a business owner who has been forced to close your situation is even more dire and complicated.

So far, the government has done a fairly decent job of providing us all with a firehose.  The emergency aid package is not without complications and many people are still experiencing significant stress but it’s better than nothing and as they work out the bugs in the system, I’m sure it will get better.

Like rebuilding after a fire, in the coming weeks we will all have to deal with the fall out from this crisis and there a few things that I can help you start to do now to help you be better prepared for the next time.  Think about it like fire insurance for your life.

1 – Develop an Emergency Fund

Experts tell us that we should all have between 3 and 6 months of expenses saved for emergencies.  Sudden job loss, uninsured damage to property, uninsured health complications, they all have the potential to burn your financial house down.  I encourage everyone, regardless of your financial situation to at least set aside $1000 in a Tax-Free Savings Account.   As you are able, most people are okay to build that up to 3 months of fixed expenses, 6 months is only necessary if you are self-employed or working on contract.

Canada Life offers a broad range of investment options that are suitable to be held as an emergency fund TFSA.   Once this crisis is over and as soon as you are able, let’s get that done.

2 – Eliminate High Interest Debt

If you are carrying a balance on credit cards or any other forms of high interest debt, you should plan to pay that off as soon as possible.  After you’ve set aside the minimum $1000 in the emergency fund but before you worry about the full 3 months of expenses, get your debt dealt with.

As a result of the financial crunch this crisis is causing, we have already seen a significant decrease in mortgage rates across Canada.  If you own your home now is the perfect time to refinance and consolidate it with as much of your other debt as possible.  Canada Life offers a very competitive mortgage program with posted rates among the lowest in the country, along with a home equity line of credit, that could save you thousands and set you on a track to debt freedom years sooner.

Even without a lot of high interest debt, this may be a good option for you.  If you own your home and would like to see how this kind of refinancing can provide an extra layer of security for the next crisis, I’d be happy to show you how.

3 – Review your Living Benefits

The term Living Benefits is a fancy way of saying disability insurance.  In contrast to life insurance, living benefits are all the kinds of insurance tied to your health and wellbeing that pay out while you are still alive.

One thing this crisis has taught us is that we cannot take our health and wellbeing for granted.  While most employed individuals have some insurance through a company health plan should they become sick and unable to work, most people don’t know what it covers or for how long.  Many people are surprised to learn that their policy has a long wait period or provides only a fraction of what is required to maintain their standard of living.   Canada Life offers a number of living benefits programs that could provide that added level of support at a critical time and be the difference between a smooth and relaxed recovery or a drawn out and stressful one.

 

As I said at the outset, if your financial house is on fire, now is not be the time to drop everything and buy into any of these programs.  But if you are able, we are open for business and ready to help.  This crisis will pass, and I want to be there for you when it does.  Let’s stay in touch and when you are ready let’s make sure you are prepared for the next crisis before it hits.

Stay healthy and safe everyone.  We’re all in this together.

Lauren

So… That Just Happened!


Resetting the World Post-COVID-19

Every few generations we have an epoch defining event.  Life was going along one way and then, seemingly overnight, suddenly we live in a very different world.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Pearl Harbour and 9/11.  These incidents have all split history and profoundly changed daily life from that point forward.

The current COVID-19 crisis will be remembered as another such event.

Here in Ontario last Thursday morning most of us got up and went about our business in the usual way.  Sure, we had heard about COVID-19 and how it was disrupting life in other parts of the world.  What had started in China and shut down production there had rattled financial markets around the world.  Italy had shut down everything, but the most essential services and we were starting to see similar action in New York City but very little had touched us here.

That changed on Wednesday, March 11 when the first couple of cases were reported here.  Within 24 hours, the provincial government had closed the elementary schools, secondary schools, and day care centers and ordered all nonessential employees to work from home.

Panic buying set in as people scrambled to purchase cleaning supplies and non-perishables.

“Social Distancing” and “Flattening the Curve” became the new buzz words as everyone was ordered to stay at least 6 feet apart.  Churches cancelled Sunday services, Restaurants, Fitness Clubs, Dentists and most non-essential businesses began to implement first, extreme cleaning protocols, then reduced hours but by early the next week only grocery stores, pharmacies, fast food takeout (no dining rooms) and big box household retailers remained open at all.

What started with a handful of reported case, in just ten days, has grown to over 200 cases and resulted in a near total lock down of all non-essential human activity.  Officials are telling us to get used to it, this could go on for several weeks or even months.

I’m not qualified to go into a discussion of why this is happening except to say that I understand that COVID-19 is a highly contagious illness, one that if left unchecked has the capacity to overwhelm the medical system.  I’ve seen the computer simulations; I know what an unchecked spread could look like and how the various social distancing and lock down protocols should prevent the worst-case scenarios.  I get it, so I am doing my part by working from home and going out as little as possible.

For me at least all of this is starting to beg the question, “what’s next?”.

The only thing I know for certain is that COVID-19 has split history, nothing will be quite the same again.  I have no idea what some of the broader implications of this may be, but I have a few suspicions and a few ideas about how to go about life once things return to “normal”.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts on the state of the world post-COVID-19.

1 – Small Businesses will be hurt the most

My friend owns a coffee shop up the street.  He’s closed.

Rents are still due on April 1 and with no revenue coming in I have no idea how businesses will be able to pay.  To date, the government has offered to help employees that are laid off and offered some tax relief, but I have seen nothing concrete that provides income assistance for the owners of these business.  I hope the government will step in with something that will prevent landlords from evicting businesses and extend the income programs to people who are self-employed.  But at the end of the day, most businesses will never get back the revenue that has been lost.  The big chain stores have deeper pockets and stand a better chance of coming back from this, many of the smaller shops may never reopen.

It’s not just retail business and restaurants that are suffering.  Personal service providers, dentists, physio therapists, contractors of all types, (plumbers, roofers etc.), anyone who works in person with customers is effectively closed.  Even my business, which relies primarily on face to face meetings with clients, many of whom are small business owners, has been significantly curtailed.

The world post-COVID-19 will see fewer small businesses and less service delivered in person.

2 – The Rise of Teleconferencing

Teleconferencing is not new.  The ability to put more than two people on the same telephone call has been around for at least 40 years.  In the past decade the technology has exploded on-line with video conferencing over the internet growing exponentially.  Last week as governments and businesses large and small began ordering people to work from home the stock price for video conferencing start-up Zoom Technologies shot up nearly 75% as tens of thousands, myself included, opened new accounts to stay connected with colleagues.  Google and Microsoft have their own versions which have also seen significant growth in just the last couple of weeks.

As people become more comfortable with this technology post-COVID-19 I suspect we may begin to see more and more companies offering permanent work from home solutions to their staff.  We are all taking a crash course in remote work and some companies may realize that this is a cost-effective alternative to the traditional office environment.  We may also start to see less long-distance corporate travel, why fly halfway around the world for a meeting when you can accomplish just as much from the comfort of your own home via video conference?

3 – Emergency Preparedness

I tend to do my weekly grocery shopping on Fridays.  Last week, when the first school closures where announced my wife tried to get me to go early but I refused, saying that there was no reason to panic.

Boy was I wrong?!

Within hours the grocery stores had been overrun, toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, canned goods, pasta and countless other food staples where suddenly the hottest commodities on the market.  By the time I went out on my regular schedule many of those items were simply sold out.

Experts have been telling us for years to always keep a supply of certain things on hand.  Non-perishable foods, batteries, bottled water and a bit of cash, to start.  Financial advisors like me also encourage people to maintain an emergency fund, anywhere from $1000 for essentials up to a savings account containing enough money to cover 6 months of expenses.

Nobody does it.

What this crisis has taught us is that you never know when, or how an emergency might unfold.  Post-COVID-19, financial advisors like me and other experts should redouble our efforts to get the word out and help people prepare for the next disaster, however and whenever it may come.  Will anybody listen?  I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath.

4 – Your Health Matters

When COVID-19 first started its rapid spread around the world health officials were saying that most people wouldn’t get it, and for those that did it would just be a bad flu.  The only people who needed to worry were the elderly and the immunocompromised.  What we know now is that age has less to do with it, the real determining factor is your underlying health.

I’m not qualified to go into a detailed discussion of health, fitness and immunity.  What I do know is that the three are both interrelated and mutually exclusive, it is possible to be both fit and unhealthy for instance.  Nutrition science is the new cutting edge of medical research.  I know you can’t kill a virus by changing your diet, but you can fortify yourself against attack and make your body stronger and better at fighting off all kinds of infections and other illnesses.   Cutting out processed foods, balancing your microbiome (the millions of micro-organisms that live in your gut) and eating the right balance of macro nutrients, (fats, carbs and protein) for your particular lifestyle can go a long way to boosting your immune system and making you better at fighting off illness.

Post-COVID-19 the medical profession needs to do a better job of educating people about healthy foods and supplements and the food production industry needs to stop feeding us poison that damages our overall health and compromises our immune system.  Again, will anybody listen?  Some how I doubt it.

 

 

We are standing an apex of history, how we pivot from here will determine the course of the rest of our lives.  The world has changed, adaptation is going to be hard, but we don’t have a choice anymore.  As Mohammed Ali once said:

Don’t quit.  Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

See you on the other side.

FREE Prayer School E-book


For such a time as this

About two years ago I started to write a book on prayer.  What resulted was a 42-page booklet that I never felt confident enough to release publicly.  The plan was to continue to flesh out the ideas I had started until I had a complete book length project that I could release to the world.  That hasn’t quite happened, (long story).  In the meantime, I decided to put it up on Amazon with my other projects, but I never promoted it and I never included it on my books page.

Until now.

Not to be too opportunistic or to be lumped in with the “thoughts and prayers” crowd but it seems to me the world needs prayer now more than ever.  For seekers and new believers that are looking for answers, this could be a good place to start.

When I went on to Amazon today, I noticed that they are offering access to it for free with a Kindle Unlimited account or $7.84 for the paperback version.  As much as I would appreciate a few sales, for a limited time I’ve decided to make the pdf file available free to all comers.

Just to go www.laurensheil.wordpress.com/freeprayerbook and fill out the information form.  I will email you the file within 48 hours.  While you’re at it maybe include a little information about how you are dealing with the current COVID 19 crisis and what your experience has been with prayer during times of trouble.

If you a prefer a hard copy you can purchase it through my books page or directly from Amazon here:

https://tinyurl.com/tq66wl6

Here’s the back-cover description of the book that I wrote for Amazon, and the video message I just released on my YouTube Channel.

In 2016 I experienced a crisis of faith. In my darkest hour I cried out to God and heard a still small voice saying; “this then is how your should pray..” Thus began a daily ritual of prayer that has led me to a deeper understanding of God, community, peace and power. This little book is the framework of that prayer and forms the basis of a larger work slated for release in 2020.

Vlog – Your Image is Your Brand


Like just about the whole world I am in self-isolation from COVID19. While my ability to meet with clients in person has been limited I have still been doing a lot of reading and thinking about Branding and Perception. I read this article I found from Forbes (https://tinyurl.com/yx57njjk) and thought I’d give a little rif on my thoughts. Check it out and read the article too.

Offseason Summary


Tri-Goals for the 2020 Season

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now.  I started ramping up my training schedule for 2020 back on February 23rd with a goal of being ready to compete by mid-June but with the end of the big RRSP Investment deadline looming here in Canada and my desire to finish my thoughts on a few other business topics I never found the time.

Day jobs do have a way of taking precedence, don’t they?

My original plan for this post was to give a little summary of what I did in the offseason and lay out some goals and plans for this coming season.  Now that health officials all over the world are asking everyone to “self-isolate” and help stop the spread of COVID19 my original plans and goals are probably going to have to evolve.  I received notice this morning that my gym is closed for the foreseeable future.  I was planning on moving most my training, except for swimming and strength work outside around April 1 anyway so the run and bike work shouldn’t be too affected, but I don’t own a wetsuit and the river is still frozen so swimming is definitely out and it’s kind of hard to practice deadlifts without a barbell.

Such is life, I guess.  We must always remember that people are suffering with this illness all over the world.  We all need to do our part to help flatten the curve.

But back to the offseason summary.  I completed my first Olympic Tri (indoors) on January 20th in a time of 3:24:13.  I definitely didn’t break any land speed records but as a first attempt I established a pretty solid baseline for myself moving forward.  I had planned to take just two days off and return to the gym ready to work on some offseason maintenance beginning January 23rd but instead, likely as a result of over taxing myself and living in a cold climate, I got a bad cold and ended up in bed for the better part of three days.  I didn’t return to the gym until January 27th.

From January 27th to February 22nd I worked on a low intensity offseason plan.  Most offseason plans are built to run 8 to 12 weeks. In my case I shortened that to just four so that I could be ready to compete for most of the 2020 season.  If you are coming off a regular season that ends sometime in late fall, 8 to 12 weeks is still the preferred time frame.  As a new triathlete my body hasn’t been as stressed as much as someone who has just completed a full season so for me four weeks was just fine.

The goal of the plan was to keep my body moving while not over stressing the aerobic system and to slowing begin adding in strength workouts designed to promote flexibility and build lean muscle.  Up to this point I had not done much strength work and I recognized that if I want to get faster and lose weight it’s time to drop my aversion to pumping iron and work on overall strength at least twice a week.

On Mondays I swam.  Just an easy pace in the pool for no more than 35 minutes.  I didn’t worry about any specific drills as the goal was simply to keep my body moving and maintain decent form in the water.  The most I completed in that time was 1000m.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were strength days.  I completed a circuit of 8 exercises, 4 upper body, arms, chest and shoulders and 4 lower body, legs, hips and buttocks.  Since the goal is flexibility and lean muscle, not bulk, I stuck to a relatively low weight that I could push for 15 reps in less than 30 seconds.  It took a little trial and error but by the second week I had a pretty good system down for that.

Wednesday was bike day.   Every week was the same, 45 minutes with a goal to average 150 watts and 24 km/h.  My goal on race day is to maintain a better than 30 km/h pace so this was a more reasonable and easy goal.  Weeks three and four I travelled the exact same distance, 18.8 km.

Friday was run day.  Again, every week was the same, 35 minutes with a goal of 10 km/h.  I was never able to run the whole way but with a bit of intervalling down to 6 km/h and back up once my heart rate was under control, I was able to travel as far as 5.41 km on the last day.

I didn’t really have that many goals for my short offseason other than keeping moving, adding in some strength training and not gaining any weight.  I did gain about a pound, but I can chalk that up to variance in clothing and maybe a bit more muscle mass more than anything else.

Presently I am 3 weeks into a 16-week program to be ready for my next Olympic Tri.  The original plan was to be competition ready by Jun 14.  I was then going to repeat the last 4 weeks of the plan 5 more times thus completing 6 Olympic Tri’s by Nov 1.  With COVID19 closing my gym indefinitely and forcing me outside a month early that plan seems to be in serious jeopardy now.  I might be able to make up a week or two but if I’m out of the pool for more than 2 weeks I’m afraid I’ll have to push everything back accordingly.  Hopefully these things can be resolved quickly and life can get back to normal soon but if the price I have to pay for global health is one or two fewer tri’s this year, I’ll gladly pay.

I hope everyone in your circle is safe, healthy and able to continue earning an income.  Keep positive, stay moving and don’t forget to wash your hands.