Your True South Star

Using the Negative to Define Your Positive

We also have an internal North Star.  It’s that little nudge that tells us if we are on the right path to fulfilling our potential, or on the wrong path wasting energy traveling somewhere we don’t need to go.  So my advice to you is, pull out the compass every once in a while and make sure you are navigating in the right direction on your journey. 

John C. Maxwell, (facebook post, December 26, 2014)

We are all familiar with the concept of a North Star.  Since the earliest days of navigation travellers have used the North Star to guide them across vast distances.  The North Star is that one star in the night sky that never seams to move while everything else revolves around it.  It does this because of its position in the cosmos, almost directly in line with the North Pole.  As the earth spins on its axis and orbits the sun, the North Star never deviates from that spot.  It’s that fixed nature that makes it valuable, if you know where you are in relation to the North Star you can set a course for where you want to go. 

It’s basic math, trigonometry really, the science of spatial triangulation.  If you know the location of two points on a triangle, its relatively easy to calculate where the third point is.  This is also the basis for our modern GPS systems.  By triangulating our position with a satellite in orbit above the earth our phones can use mapping software to tell us, within a few meters, exactly where we are and provide us with detailed maps of how to get where we want to go. 

I was recently introduced to the concept of a South Star while listening to a podcast by the author philosopher and theologian Rob Bell.  In philosophy the idea of a North Star has been used to describe a set of internal absolutes, or unchanging values, the fixed core of who you are or who you are becoming.  The North Star, as leadership expert John Maxwell put it above, is that little voice within each of us that tells us if we are on the right path or not.  As you can imagine, according to Bell, the South Star is the opposite of that.  While a North Star pulls us toward something a South Star repels us. 

Sometimes when we are trying to define and refine our values it can be helpful to start from a negative.  Rather than figure out what you want, instead define what you categorically don’t want and define your desired outcome by process of elimination.  That is what using your South Star is all about. 

In my business and in the way I approach financial planning for my clients my South Star is debt.  I teach my clients to get as far away from debt as possible.  In fact, the fastest way to build wealth and get on the path to achieve financial security is to eliminate debt.  That may seem like basic math but in actual practise it is extremely difficult and when I first started to build my financial practise many experienced advisors told me not to talk about debt with my clients. 

I can point to more than one conversation where a veteran advisor, upon hearing me speak against debt, would pull me aside and say something to the effect of; “Don’t talk about debt, everyone has some form of debt, and everyone knows it’s bad, by pointing it out you might make people feel bad about themselves and they won’t want to do business with you.”  Or, “Don’t lead with the debt talk, it’ll attract the wrong kind of client, you want to attract people with money, not people with debt.” 

I listened politely, thanked these veteran advisors for their advice and then ignored them. 

More than that I viewed these interactions as indications that I was on the right track.  The idea that people with debt make bad clients, or that by talking about debt I’d turn good clients off helped to define my South Star.  The idea of it repelled me.  The more resistance I felt from my own colleagues the more convinced I became that there was a huge under served market for a financial planner that is willing to work both sides of a client’s balance sheet.  By developing strategies to simultaneously reduce debt and build wealth I could accelerate, no turbo charge, my client’s results. 

This South Star thinking helped define my brand and my value proposition.  It rolls off my tongue effortlessly now; “I help people eliminate debt, build wealth and leave a legacy.  People who work with me tend to pay off all of their debts (including mortgages) about 8 years sooner, enjoy increased cashflow, retire four times wealthier and pay significantly less tax along the way.” 

Contrary to what my veteran colleagues tried to warn me about, by leading with debt, I have not only attracted clients who need help but who understand the value of leverage and the multiplying effect that reducing debt has on increasing wealth. 

South Star thinking is more than being contrarian.  It’s about using a clear definition of what you don’t want to propel you in the direction of what you do want.  Even if you can’t clearly define what that is. 

When I first started speaking out against debt, I didn’t know how to read a balance sheet, structure a consolidation loan or leverage equity into cash.  What I did know was that high interest debt payments were dragging down good, hard working people and making it difficult for them to get ahead.  It was this knowledge that was the wind at my back pushing me away from the notion that people with debt couldn’t be good clients or that talking about debt would make people feel bad about themselves. 

Over time I was able to develop the process that I use today but at first it was just about being repelled by the old school notion that debt management was not the purview of a financial advisor.

Zig Ziglar once said that you can get everything in life that you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.  Helping people get what they want is a North Star. 

In my world, most people want financial security.   The way I help them get there is by working both sides of their balance sheet, eliminating debt and building wealth at the same time.  The approach works whether you are drowning in debt or swimming in wealth.  And there is no reason for anyone to feel negatively about it.

So, what’s driving you?  Are you drawn by a North Star, or repelled by a South Star?  Either way, you’re probably headed in the right direction. 

Pay Attention!

Marcus Aurelius was emperor of Rome from AD 161-180.  Throughout his life he kept a book of meditations, really just a series of random thoughts, that largely followed the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies of his day.

Today, thanks to some fantastic Greek and Latin scholars, we can still read much of what Aurelius was thinking and writing nearly 2 millennia ago.  The manuscript that has survived, published under the simple title “Meditations”, was most likely compiled by Aurelius during his final military campaign to the German frontier between 175 and 179.  For those of you unfamiliar with the genre of ancient wisdom literature it reads a little like the Biblical book of Proverbs, only less poetic and more disjointed. Reading Meditations today is bit like trying to follow a squirrel on crack cocaine as Aurelius jumps from one unrelated thought to another. 

But if you slow down enough to examine and consider each thought before moving on to the next, you can begin to recognize much from our modern world within the Stoic and Epicurean philosophy of late antiquity. 

This morning, during my reading time, one of these thoughts struck me as a great lesson for each of us during these times. 

Apply your thoughts to what is being said.  Let your mind enter into what is coming to pass and what is causing it to be.

Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180)

In other words, pay attention, think about what is going on and try to figure out why. 

We live in an age of conspiracy theories, alternative facts, populism, and arrogance.  Evidence based policy, nuanced reasoning, and compromise is becoming a thing of the past.  The COVID19 pandemic and the politics of public health has only served to amplify these issues.  Solutions to today’s problems are not black and white, and they will not be found by succumbing to the populist fears of Orwellian overlords, or end times theories about the mark of the beast and the reign of Satan. 

We must learn to get comfortable with discomfort and hold seemingly contradictory ideas together before we can find a path forward.  The answers to today’s problems are not binary.  We cannot continue to form a path by answering questions as right and wrong.  The decisions of tomorrow will be made between options that are “less bad”. 

For the Stoics and Epicureans life was not a question of good and evil, it was a question of fate and survival.  It is high time we let go of our childish ideals of right and wrong and instead embraced a more nuanced understanding what it means to survive. 

The world is not black and white, and the goal should not be to live anything close to a perfect life. 

In many ways the Stoics had it right; the goal is survival, and the path is unclear. 

Thoughts from a Commonplace

How I Organize Ideas, Aid Memory and Remain Focused

“There can hardly be anything more useful as a sound help for the memory than a good and learned digest of Commonplaces.” 

Sir Francis Bacon, 1623

Recently, quite by accident I might add, I realized that I have been using a 500-year-old technique to aid my memory and organize my thoughts.  

I’ve been a journal writer off an on for most of my life.  It’s that journaling habit the spawned this blog and started me on the path to becoming an author.  About 8 months ago I realized that I was getting ideas for things to write about, or new things to try in my business at weird times.   Sometimes late at night or on the weekend when my computer was turned off.  In order not to lose these ideas I would pull out my iPhone and try to record my thoughts in a notepad to review later. 

I found it exceedingly difficult to write coherent thoughts on a small hand-held device and would often forget about them as quickly as I hit save.  Days and sometimes weeks later I would find these little thought fragments saved on my phone with little or no context to make sense of what I had written.  Not to mention the fact that sometimes my ideas come to me in the form of pictures and diagrams that are impossible to record with typeset words. 

So, I decided to go old school and bought a notebook to write and draw in.

As a physical act, notebook writing does two things.  First, it helps cement what you are thinking about in long term memory more so than tapping on a keyboard.  Second, the book itself is a physical reminder to review what you wrote down.  Since I started recording my thoughts in a notebook, I have managed to hold on to more of my ideas and ultimately get more done. 

The thing is, until this morning, I thought I had invented this technique, certainly no one, but me carries around a ratty old notebook anymore.  Even school children are taught to record their lessons digitally these days.  Cursive writing is no longer taught in schools.  Long handwriting of anything more than a grocery list may soon be a thing of the past.  But me, I still need to write things down. 

During my reading time this morning I learned that my technique is not so unique after all.  I’ve been reading “The Shallows, What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains”, by Nicholas Carr.  Carr’s main thesis is that every new technology changes the way humans think and rewires our brains on a molecular level such that we have physically different brains from one generation to the next.  The internet, with its incredible storage power and speed of recall is encouraging the human brain to evolve and sacrifice nuance, deep thinking and long-term memory for immediate, binary, and narcissistic decision making. 

Our brains, in essence, are taking on the form of the computers that drive the internet.  The robot uprising has already begun, we are becoming the robots ourselves.   

In the chapter on memory and how the internet is encouraging humans to sacrifice personal internal memory for collected and stored data, Carr reminds us of the original information storage device, the written word. 

The Dutch philosopher Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) is widely believed to be the first teacher to encourage his students to learn by writing.  He encouraged every student to keep a notebook, “so that whenever he lights on anything worth noting down, he may write it in the appropriate section.”  The act of writing, and reviewing regularly, according to Erasmus, would help to ensure the information remained fixed in the mind.  He viewed these written notes as “kinds of flowers,” which could be preserved in the pages of memory. 

Over time, Erasmus’ notebooks became known as Commonplaces because all a learner’s thoughts on a particular subject could be located and retrieved from a “common place”.  It is also where we get the colloquial meaning of “common place” for something that is considered mundane or widely understood because it would show up in multiple notebooks from different students.

My mind is a constant whirlwind of thoughts and ideas.  I often liken it to a caged tiger, brimming with power and energy but locked up by circumstance and poor timing.  Through COVID the tiger has at times gotten so restless as to give way to violent outbursts followed by shame and deep depression.  The physical act of notebook writing has so far been the only thing I have found to calm the raging tiger and prevent depression.

If you’re an ideas person like me, what techniques do you use to keep a clear head and remain productive?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. 

Livin’ La Tempo Giusto

Life at The Speed of Right

I was about 21 when I started my entrepreneurial journey. 

Sloths aren’t really lazy, they just don’t get in a hurry about things

When you start a business in your 20s you don’t quite have the experience to understand what happens when you inevitably get stretched too thin.  When you try to do too much too fast on too little sleep quality suffers all the way around. 

Over the course of a few years, it gradually dawned on me that quality in business and relationships are both connected to time management.  A few years after that, I began to realize that traditional time management is a myth.  Time isn’t something you manage, it just is. 

I shifted my focus to what I called priority management.  One productivity guru I read at the time described it as putting things in four buckets, the things that are urgent and important, the things that are urgent but not important, the things that are important but not urgent and the things that are neither.  The goal of priority management is to delegate the things that are urgent but not important and forget about the things that are neither so that you can concentrate your time on the things that are both or merely important.  Over time the goal is to reduce the urgency of things so that you can concentrate on important matters with less stress in your life. 

Lately though I’ve begun to realize that priority management doesn’t really work either.  There are too many competing factors and what one person deems important or urgent isn’t often the same as what you do.  Instead, as I have begun to explore what I can only characterize as Zen Spirituality I’ve started to settle on an entirely different understand of time.   Time management is still a myth but urgency is really just a matter of perspective. 

What it comes down to is doing the right thing at the right time with the right level of intensity.  Or as the Italians say, Tempo (pace) Giusto (proper).

The question then becomes, what exactly is “right” when it comes to the timing and intensity of the work you do? 

Spiritual author and teacher John Mark Comer once had the chance to meet one of his heroes, the theologian and author Dallas Willard.  Like any aspiring author/ theologian, Comer wanted to know how Willard the master, managed to maintain a busy teaching schedule while at the same time penning several best-selling books and travelling the world as a sought-after public speaker. 

Comer was expecting to hear a detailed explanation of Willard’s time management system, instead what he heard were three words that turned the whole idea of time management on its head and changed the trajectory of his life.  When Comer asked Willard for the secret to his incredible productivity Willard paused for an uncomfortably long time and finally said,

You must, ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Dallas Willard

Comer wrote that down and hurriedly asked, “what else?”  Willard paused again and very slowly said, “There is nothing else.”

Hurry, among other things, sucks the joy out of the room, distorts priorities, causes mistakes and ultimately ends up increasing the time it takes to complete a given task.  It may sound counterintuitive but hurrying through life is detrimental to long term productivity and satisfaction. 

After that interview Comer embarked on a years long study of productivity and found that there are four keys to “ruthlessly eliminating hurry” and increasing productivity.  They are, according to Comer, Silence, Sabbath, Simplicity and Slowing. 


Over the years, I’ve tried meditation several times and in different ways, but nothing really stuck.  My mind tends to race and nothing I do seems to be able to calm it.  What I have found instead is that the simplest and most effective way for me to relax is to just live, in personal solitude.  I get up at 5:45 every morning and spend the first 45 minutes to an hour of every day in absolute silence.  Depending on my mood I might pray, read, or just sit quietly and think.  What I am doing with my mind is secondary to the fact that it is done in complete silence.  Without the distraction of sound, I tend to find a level of calm that I can carry with me throughout the rest of the day.


Once a week, usually on Saturdays, I take silence to the next level.  I shut down everything that is remotely work related and spend a day doing as much, or as little as I feel like with no agenda.  Read a book, tend the garden, listen to music, watch a movie, go for a long walk, or take a nap.  One day a week of complete mental rest, even if I am physically active, helps to cleanse me of all the residue of the world. 


When faced with a complex task most productivity gurus will tell you to break it down into a series of smaller, simpler tasks.  The smaller and simpler the better.  Anxiety is often the result of an inability to see the small and simple tasks in the shadow of the large and daunting one.  The more we can break a task down, the more productivity becomes a matter of doing the little things consistently.  Over time this series of successfully completed tasks add up and compound until before you know it, and without working yourself to exhaustion, you’ve completed something great. 


Accuracy is always attainted by first slowing down.  I type a lot and I always find that when I type more slowly, I make fewer mistakes.  That’s a simple example but it’s an easy one for most people to recognize.  When you race ahead, you may get somewhere quickly but then be forced to go back and retrace over the same ground again.  That’s a lesson most of us learned in elementary school.  Do it right the first time and you won’t have to waste time doing it again later.  If you want to eliminate the perceived need to hurry, do it slowly and accurately the first time.   

There you have it.  Ruthlessly, eliminate hurry and live life tempo giusto.  You will save yourself a lot of unnecessary stress and still get lots done.  I promise. 

PS – This post took me 12 days to write.  There was no hurry.

Zen and The Archer

I’ve been doing a lot of studying lately in the area of Zen Buddhism. 

One of the main teachings of Zen Buddhism is to respect the process of any pursuit over the end result.  I recently came across a story that illustrates the point perfectly.

It seems there once was a young Buddhist who wanted to study archery.  He sought out a Zen priest, who was also an expert archer to teach him.  The priest took his new student to the edge of a high cliff at dawn.  He slowly set up a target and strung his bow.  Each movement he made was deliberate and meticulous and it seemed to the student as if the priest were completely focused on each tiny detail.

 Just as the sun was rising over the hillside the priest took a deep breath and drew the arrow into perfect alignment with the target.  With the bow taut he suddenly turned and fired to the side of the target.  The arrow soared majestically over the edge of the cliff and out of sight. 

The priest turned to his stunned student and said, “Just hitting the target is not the point, it is a side effect of a way of life.  A life lived on purpose with focus leads to the Way.  Once you no longer need or desire to hit the target, the Way will lead you there.  The Way begins with humility.  Now go get the arrow.” 

I’ve been a Financial Advisor for almost ten years.  For the first 8 or 9 of those years I worked myself crazy trying to hit imaginary targets.  It wasn’t until I began to recognize that the only thing that I could control was how I work, and that too much of my targets were dependent on other people, that I began to find my Way. 

Setting sales and productivity goals is the wrong way to think about hitting the target.  In fact, as the priest said, just hitting the target is not the point.  Instead, focus on the process, focus on the Way.

 It wasn’t until I stopped trying to hit arbitrary targets and just focused on perfecting the process that I started to hit them with any consistency. 

String the bow, draw the arrow, aim it and release.  That’s all you can do.  It’s the arrow that hits the target, not you.  Once it’s released it is literally out of your hands. 

Trust the process.  Become one with the Way.  Release the arrow. 


Buzzwords Pt 2

Noun – a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

My second buzzword for this season of life is Community. 

There are two common definitions of community, one focusses on the physical, a group of people living or working in close contact with one another, the other focusses on the emotional.  For my purpose I am much more interested in the later.

Google co-founder, Eric Schmidt in his book “The New Digital Age”, states that:

Everything is equidistant in virtual space.

Eric Schmidt, co-founder Google

In the age of social media and online communication, that means developing close community with individuals is less dependent on physical proximity and more a function of shared interests and goals. 

Last time we talked about the decline in truth and trust that has occurred as a result of fake news.  The same forces that are creating polarization of thought through social media are also providing an unprecedented opportunity for people to find each other and form communities. 

Right now, I am spending my time working and developing relationships through three distinct communities. 

First, I am a member of a vibrant expression of online church.  My church community meets weekly for a live stream presentation, similar to a traditional in person gathering and then during the week in small groups, for learning and discussion, also currently online.  COVID has necessitated that these meetings take place online but as Eric Schmidt has reminded us, because distance is irrelevant in virtual space, we have members in both the large weekly gathering and the small groups logging on from every corner of the globe. 

Second, I am a member of a business community that until recently functioned within a limited geographic area.  Now, due to the need for physical distance, technology, and the fact that  I am governed by a provincial licensing body I have been able to expand my reach across a much larger area without having to leave my home office.  Before COVID I never would have dreamed about soliciting business in cities more than an hour’s drive from my home, today I regularly video conference with people not only in a different city, but in a different time zone.   

Third, I am a developing friendship with fellow triathletes, literally all over the world.  This is perhaps the most surprising development to come out of COVID.  Last summer, I posted a photo of myself completing a run workout to Instagram.  That photo triggered a conversation with a triathlete in Australia!  To date I have opened dialogues with fellow triathletes in Winnipeg, Utah, Australia, and South Africa that never would have happened without the ability to form community online.

These communities, as the definition describes are predicated on common interests and shared goals.  But for them to work, they must also be built on a shared understanding of my previous buzzword, trust.  It is extremely easy for communities like these to become echo chambers where only like-minded voices are heard and all other information is filtered out both innocently through passive filtering and through active exclusion of conflicting ideas. 

In order or prevent this “siloing” of ideas we must actively seek out diversity on two levels.  First within the communities themselves and second in the number and types of communities we join.  The more ethnically, socio-economically, and educational diverse we are within each community the less likely additional biases like those around political affiliation are to creep in.  And we must be careful to seek out different communities that serve to represent a diversity of interests within our own selves.  In my case I strive to remain active in spiritually, athletically, and commercially diverse communities. 

Remaining active and connected within these various communities is part of being a well rounded, wise, and emotionally intelligent individual.    

What communities are you a part of?  How has COVID impacted your ability to stay connected?

Debt is Mounting and Canadians are Worried

Good Morning!

A new survey, out yesterday, has revealed that at no point in this pandemic have Canadians been as concerned about their finances as they are right now. 

How are you feeling?  I hear it from you guys everyday and now The MNP Consumer Debt Index, released yesterday has confirmed what we all have seen coming for months – Canadians Are Worried! 

“Almost one year into the coronavirus crisis, the financial confidence of Canadians has reached a low point.  The virus has understandably created significantly more financial anxiety for those directly impacted by job loss, declining wages and business closures. The Index shows that financial pressure is mounting for a large proportion of the country,” Grant Bazian, president MNP

Here are some of the more striking numbers:

43% say they are not confident they can cover their living expenses for the next year without going further into debt.  42% are concerned about their current level of debt and 45% regret the amount of debt they have taken on.

And perhaps most worrying, 61% thought that with interest rates low, now is a good time to buy things that they otherwise could not afford.

“Those who are already cash-strapped, saddled with debt, and struggling to navigate, risk being lulled into a debt trap.  The results can be disastrous when individuals in financial trouble try to cope by taking on additional debt.  It’s like trying to fill one hole by digging another.” Caryl Newbery-Mitchell, insolvency trustee MNP.

Almost half (47%) said they were afraid that if interest rates go up they could land in financial trouble. About a quarter said their debt was keeping them awake at night.

Many of you know my story.  For about 5 years, before I moved to Ottawa and started working with Freedom 55, I struggled with debt, at one point even having to work with an insolvency trustee to get back on track.  I know firsthand how easy it is to get locked into a cycle of borrowing just to stay afloat. 

When I started working with clients, I made it my mission to help people understand how debt could hinder their chances at Financial Freedom.  Over the years I have fine tuned my approach and developed an effective program that helps people Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.  People who work with me now tend to pay off all of their debts (including mortgages) about 8 years sooner, retire 4 times wealthier and pay significantly less tax along the way. 

I know many of you have already taken steps with me to be in a position to weather this storm and for that I am proud of you.  But if you haven’t, and you count yourself among the nearly half of Canadians who are worried about paying their debts long after the coronavirus has past, I have redeveloped my debt management program to help you reorganize your finances and stay on track.  Reach out to me anytime for a no judgement, no obligation, and no bull assessment of your current situation and recommendations for getting back on track the right way, (without additional debt).



Buzzwords, Part2

 Noun – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Last week I set the stage for a discussion of the buzzwords that I have chosen to guide my thinking and actions for this next season of life.  In case you missed it, check that post out here.

I am a word guy.  When speaking or writing, I choose my words carefully. I recognize that words carry powerful meaning and misunderstandings easily arise when words are used carelessly.  To that end I have chosen four words to help focus my thoughts and actions over the next while.  Today I want to focus on the first of these words.  Trust.

In the age of COVID, Social Media, and Donald Trump trust has been increasingly tested, manipulated, and weaponized by unscrupulous actors promoting an agenda.  Social Media in particular, is designed to keep our attention so advertisers can sell their wares.  The Social Media companies do that by continually monitoring our behavior, learning our preferences, and feeding us information that fits with and confirms our biases.  The longer we stay engaged, the more they can sell our data to the highest bidder.

In the film, The Social Dilemma, one of the whistle blowers drives the point home by saying that, if something is free yet boasts massive profits ask what the product is.  The answer, you, or more importantly, your attention is what is being sold.   

In my previous career as a music industry executive, I would regularly have a similar conversation with recording artists about radio airplay.  The music industry does not pay to have their artists played on the radio, it is the other way around.  Radio stations pay the artists a royalty for the right to play their music and hold the listener’s attention between advertisements.  Just like on social media, the real product of traditional broadcast media has always been your attention. 

This is where things get sinister. In the new world of social media, to hold our attention, truth, nuance and ultimately trust are sacrificed on the altar of conformity.  When a radio station focusses their airplay on a particular genre of music, that’s innocent demographic targeting.  If you change your mind, your preferences evolve, or you are just in the mood for something different you can easily find it somewhere else on the dial.  But when a social media platform targets news feeds to focus on a particular bias it becomes more and more difficult to find information that does not conform.  New information and varied perspectives are filtered out, growth is stunted, and opinions calcified.

When I say that I am focusing my attention on trust, what I am trying to do is twofold.  First, I must remain conscious of where I am placing my trust, so as not to become fixed in my thinking and unable to learn new things.  Second, I must be mindful of who has placed their trust in me and continually strive to remain worthy.

Trust is a precious commodity.  Regardless of where you place your trust it will have a profound impact on your quality of life.  When you place your trust in someone, or something, you are giving that person or product incredible power to shape your life. 

My advice, (if you trust me) is to trust experts because they know more than you.

Consider the court system.  In a court of law, when an expert is called, they spend considerable time explaining their credentials before giving any testimony.  They do that to establish trust so that what they say is taken seriously.  It is the opposing counsel’s job to cross examine the expert and cast doubt on their ability to provide trustworthy information.  The system works, (most of the time) because experts are, by definition, trustworthy.

But what if you disagree?  Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply disagree with a bonified expert.  You also need compelling evidence to the contrary, something to discredit them, or proof they have ulterior motives.  It is best if you can do more than one of these at the same time.  Unless you yourself are an expert, this can be exceedingly difficult. 

Trust as a buzzword for me means, do due diligence, test credentials, and cross reference sources.  And once that is done, trust the experts and continually strive to be a trustworthy expert in your own right. 

Who do you trust?  And why?


4 Words I’m Using to Guide and Define My Next Chapter

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions. 

Those of you who know me well, know that I firmly believe that if something is worth resolving to do, it’s worth doing now – not at some predetermined date in the future or tied to an arbitrary point on the calendar. 

But I do believe in planning and usually at some point in the fall my mind starts drifting toward what I want my next year to look like.  Making a plan is not the same as making New Year’s resolutions.  For me at least, plans are a guiding framework, not a checklist to be followed or a major “about face” that needs to be resolved and completed by a sheer act of will. 

I was recently introduced to the concept of buzzwords as a touch point for planning.  Rob Hatch, co-founder, and president of Owner Media Group, has written and presented several books and courses on leadership and management for business owners.  He recently sent out a newsletter that highlighted his use of buzzwords in is personal planning.  Honestly, I don’t remember if he used that term, but that’s how I remember and interpreted what he was saying. defines a buzzword as:

a word or phrase, often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context.

To me, it’s a word that anchors thought, directs conversation and guides action.  As I focus on my business planning for 2021, which is itself an ongoing and fluid process, I have begun using the concept of buzzwords in this way.  The following are the four buzzwords that are currently anchoring, directing and guiding my thoughts, conversation, and action.


To have trust is to believe in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.  2020 has shaken our collective trust in the structures and institutions of society worldwide.  As a result of corruption and betrayal, cracks have been forming in our societal trust for decades.  In many ways COVID-19 has been a catalyst in forcing open many small cracks into wider gaps that are polarizing thinking and breaking down the bedrock of trust that holds us together. 

As part of rebuilding and resetting we all need to double down on trust.  Trust in experts, trust in institutions, trust in media and trust in each other.  Trust in this way is an act of humility.  It says, “I don’t have the answers, so I am willing to learn from others, trust their knowledge, have my assumptions challenged and grow”. 

But we also need to be worthy of trust.  Being a trusted expert, or a trusted advisor requires constant learning and constant listening to be sure your advice is correct and properly received. 

Experts and institutions are worthy of our trust not because they are never wrong but because they are ever evolving and learning themselves.  True experts are willing to admit when they are wrong, and course correct when their errors are brought to light.  By naming trust as my first buzzword I am building my plan around a thirst for knowledge and wisdom through the humility of my own ignorance while offering gracious thanks for the trust people place in me.


When I think of community, I think of a series of nesting bowls or concentric circles.  Starting in the centre with my immediate family and working outward through my social groups, work colleagues, clients, the businesses I frequent, fellow citizens of my city, province, and country all the way to the loose connections I share with every human on earth merely because we breath the same air.  These ever-widening circles of concern are held together with weakening bonds of influence and shared interest.  The closer you are to the centre of my circles the stronger the bonds. 

A strong sense of community is what drives people to collective action and provides the catalyst for social change.  Black Lives Matter, climate activism, and advocacy for the homeless are all community movements that are driven by strong social bonds.  I’ve chosen community as a buzzword to help frame my thinking and actions around how best to impact the lives of those closest to me.  Both in physical proximity and shared values.  And as a reminder that in the broadest sense we are all members of the human family, if you look hard enough, we all have something in common. 


Of the many things we have learned in 2020 one thing that has stood out to me is the value of a strong physical constitution.  Deaths from COVID-19 have disproportionately fallen on the elderly, the weak and those with “underlying conditions”.  I will turn 49 in 2021.  I can’t stop aging, but I can slow down some of it’s more debilitating effects with a healthy, active lifestyle. 

By elevating health to buzzword status every decision I make will need to be thought of in the context of how it will affect my health.  Not only that but placing it along side the rest of the buzzwords forces me to think of health not just in my own context but also within the context of trust, community and even prosperity which I will get to in a moment.  And it’s not just physical health but mental and emotional health as well. 

Decisions about what (and how much) I eat and when I go to the gym are the obvious ones.  Less obvious in the context of heath are the decisions about how I build my workday, and recreation time, and the people I choose to associate with.   Maintaining health starts with maintaining balance between activity, nutrition, and rest in all areas of life. 


As a buzzword prosperity is difficult to define.  The popular connotation of prosperity is to think of it in terms of material wealth, however, the Latin etymology of the word has little to do with materialism and more to do with favor, fate and an element of luck. In ancient Rome to be prosperous was to enjoy the favor of the gods, however that was manifest. 

Wikipedia further defines prosperity as flourishing, thriving, and good fortune.  In using prosperity as a buzzword for my thinking I am choosing to focus on and acknowledge that to thrive is dependent largely on forces outside of my control.  By focusing my energy on prosperity, rather than an arbitrary definition of wealth or success, I can strip away the things that are out of my control and concentrate only on the things that are within my control, the way I work and how I interact with people.   The resulting success, wealth, or even personal satisfaction, while desirable and worth striving for, is ultimately in the hands of God or fate.  By framing success in this way, I am free to be prosperous without the need to be wealthy by anyone else’s definition.


These four words, Trust, Community, Health and Prosperity, form the framework of my worldview.  They are the glasses through which I look at and interact with the world.  I hesitate to call my buzzwords values because they might change.  As the world slowly evolves these buzzwords will evolve but for now, this is how I look at things.

The process I went through to come up with these buzzwords was through meditation.  As I continue to meditate on these words and look for direction in how to use their influence I am growing in my commitment and understanding more each day.  

You should try it, pick a word that feels right and meditate on it for 5 minutes, make note of what comes to mind and then do some research on the meaning of the word to make sure it fits with how you feel.  If not, pick another word until you find something that closely aligns with your personal desires.  Do this until you have 3 or 4 words that you can meditate on daily for 5 to 10 minutes each and let them guide your thoughts and actions throughout the day.  You might be surprised how often your buzzwords come up as you go about your daily life.  They are a great touchstone for guiding your decision making. 

Focusing on the right words will transform your life.  Try it and tell me what your experience is like in the comments below.       


Have you ever wished you could test drive a life insurance policy?  (No? Just me?)  Well now you can!

From now until December 1st, if you sign up for a 20 or 30 year Term Life Insurance Policy, Canada Life will pay your first 4 months of premiums for you.  (We’ll do it on a Term to Age 65 policy too, but you have to be under 45 to apply.) 

Call it what you like, 4 months free, 33% off, or don’t pay until May (I kind of like that one, it rhymes).  The bottom line is if you apply and pay the first premium before December 1st, once the policy is approved, Canada Life pays the next four months for you. 

That’s huge!

We’ve never done anything like this before.  In fact, when I started in the life insurance business, I was told that rebating in this industry was illegal.  But our lawyers checked, and they talked to every regulatory authority in the country and guess what – it’s not! 

So, the lawyers, talked to the accountants and the accountants talked to the underwriters and everyone agreed that it’s high time somebody turned the stuffy old insurance industry on its head. 

Now, accountants being accountants and lawyers being lawyers they won’t let us do this forever.  So, don’t delay, December 1 is only 10 days away!  Call or email today! (more rhyming, what can I say?)

Cheers – Lauren

PS – for those of you in B.C., the insurance regulators there told our lawyers we could only pay for three months of premiums for you.  Sorry about that, but you have killer whales and Bryan Adams so quit complaining.

PSS – early in January I will be hosting a webinar on the investment outlook for 2021.  Stay tuned for more details.