How Does your Garden Grow?


Learning to Speak (and Listen) with Wisdom and Intelligence

I fancy myself a bit of a gardener.

I don’t grow anything exotic or even all that special, but I have about 100 square feet of flowers in my back yard and another 50 or so square feet out front. It’s mostly bulbs and other perennials, things like tulips, daffodils, and lilies that I supplement each spring with a selection of annuals. I like looking at the variety of colours as they come and go throughout the season and there is something primal about digging in the dirt that satisfies my caveman instincts.

This year I got brave and added a strawberry bush, here’s hoping.

I planted everything this past weekend and when I was looking at my handy work, I was reminded of something I heard a long time ago. The 13th century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, more commonly referred to simply as Rumi, once said –

Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that makes the flowers grow, not thunder.

The meaning here should be fairly obvious; when faced with conflict or embroiled in a heated discussion Rumi advises not to yell but to speak with wisdom and intelligence. People learn and grow best when information is presented calmly, like a gentle rain, not through loud and violent outbursts.

We live in a very polarized society. You are either conservative or liberal, capitalist or socialist, inclusive or exclusive, with us or against us. It seems more and more that people are less and less likely to listen to anyone who expresses opinions contrary to our own, let alone have a calm and intelligent discussion about them. How are we to learn and grow if all we do is loudly dismiss and discredit anything we disagree with?

Last week I talked about confirmation bias, which in one sense is our tendency to look for and associate only with people with whom agree. The best way I know how to combat confirmation bias is to listen and learn from people from all walks of life and those with whom we might disagree. Associating across various socio-economic and political lines might not be enough to change our opinions about things but we might at least learn something.

Remember – You don’t know what you don’t know, so raise your words, not your voice. Who knows, you might win someone over and gain a new friend or at the very least learn something new that you hadn’t considered before.

 

Four Types of Clients


I can’t be sure who it was who first came up with this list of personality types, it might have been Aristotle describing the way certain students approach learning, it might have been Socrates, and it might just have been the guy who sells me my  gas every week.  It doesn’t matter whoever it was.  In reflecting on the way certain clients have been interacting with me this week I thought it might be fun to talk about each of these character types and how I approach dealing with them in my financial practice.

#1 – He who knows not, and knows not, that he knows not.

Otherwise known as the arrogant fool.

Another way to say it is that we don’t know what we don’t know and going through life convinced that we know everything about everything is a recipe for disaster.  The great musician Louis Armstrong once said;

“There are some people that if they don’t know, and don’t know that they don’t know, you can’t tell them..”

This is the definition of arrogant ignorance.  These people will never be your client because they believe they are smarter than you.  Indeed they believe they are smarter than everyone they meet.  The only thing to do when you encounter someone like that is smile politely and move on.

#2 – He who knows not and knows that he knows not.

Otherwise known as the simpleton.

These are some of my favorite kinds of people to have as clients.  People who know that they don’t know things are teachable.  They of course must be willing to learn but the real danger here is that they may become paralyzed if you give them too much new information all at once.

The key with these kinds of clients is to take it slow, give them only as much information as they can digest.  If you go too fast you run the risk of causing “paralysis by analysis” or you end up with a client who feels like they were bullied into making a purchase that they didn’t fully understand.  Both are undesirable outcomes that are to be avoided at all costs.

#3 – He who knows and knows not that he knows.

Otherwise known as the unconscious drifter.

These are the people that, if they become interested in something realize that they had the necessary information all along and make decisions quickly.  The problem is they tend to be asleep to both their own needs and their own knowledge.

Waking up an unconscious drifter is a delicate business.  At first glance they may appear to be simpletons but if you treat them as such they may feel insulted.  The key to dealing with these people is to ask lots of questions designed to probe their knowledge.  Once you’ve determined that they do know more than they seem to be letting on you can switch tracks and begin asking a different sort of question.  Questions designed to get them to see that they already know what they need and how to get it.  Once they see their need they tend to buy quickly and confidently.

#4 – He who knows and knows that he knows.

Otherwise known as the wise one.  Unless you’re selling commodities, these people won’t likely be your clients either.  They already know their needs and they bought a long time ago.  It’s still important to get to know these people.  They tend to be leaders, and can be a great source of knowledge, guidance and influence.  They are also a great source of referrals and if their circumstances ever change, they are the first to know when they do need you.

Watch out for these four types of people.  Don’t waste your time with the arrogant fools but carefully cultivate unique relationships with everyone else.  Relationships with these types of people eventually pay off.

Either Way, You Win


Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you’re going to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi

I recently told a business associate that I tend to read a book a week.

To say that they were impressed is a bit of an understatement.  Shocked is more like it.  How on earth can anyone find time to read a book a week?

Well to be perfectly honest it’s not exactly a book a week.  More like 50 pages a day.  That works out to between 250 and 350 pages every seven days.  We aren’t talking about War & Peace here.  Or Adam Smith’s 900 page opus, The Wealth of Nations. I’ve found that the average hard cover non-fiction book on just about any topic runs between 200 and 400 pages.  50 pages a day therefore is about a book a week.

I have learned that in order to be successful in life and business you need to be a life long learner. The world is changing so rapidly that we need to be constantly learning new things to keep up.  My chosen field of work, the financial services industry, is no exception.  But when you strip it all down just about every business is a people business.  And I can’t seem to get away from spirituality either.

I read everything I can get my hands on that even remotely applies to these areas.  My bookshelf is lined with the latest and classic works of, Business Management, Personal Finance, Sales Theory, Marketing, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality, and Theology.

Where do I find the time?  It’s not that hard to read 50 pages in a day.  Unless the typeset is super small it takes me a about an hour.  Turn off the TV for an hour and you’re there – it’s that easy.

An hour a day is all it takes to read a book a week and be a life long learner.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was in the Life Insurance business, in the 1960s.  He was a top associate by the time he was 23 years old and in 1965 he founded Life Management Services and all but invented the Life Coaching industry.  Millions of people have read his books and attended his seminars on navigating life’s most challenging situations.  Most people know him for his famous inspirational quote:

You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

Nothing has a bigger impact on your life than what you learn from books and people.  That’s why I really like that quote from Gandhi as well.  If I continue learning at the pace of a book a week, and I live forever, I will eventually know everything there is to know.

That’s my plan.

But the first half of the Gandhi quote is important as well.  It’s important to live for today, don’t put things off, enjoy each moment as it comes and be content in whatever your circumstance.  Tomorrow might not come so live for today but if you do wake up in the morning, keep learning and make every day better than the last.  You can’t go wrong.

Live today or die tomorrow – either way you win!

How do you live for today and learn for tomorrow?  Tell me in the comments below.

The Rewards of Reading


Lose yourself in a good book and boost your overall well-being

I’m an author. I’ve written 2 full length books with a 3rd in the works and several more in the concept stage. There is also a work book related to my day job and all these blog posts. I write about 500 words a day and I endeavor to read about 1 book a week.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that I consider reading to be an essential part of everyday life.  It’s basic to communication, via email or text message, paying bills and even navigating traffic. But did you know that reading for personal enjoyment and learning is not only a good form of low-cost entertainment, but it also brings with it a whole host of other benefits? Here are some ways reading can have a positive impact on your life.

It sharpens the mind

Regardless of your age, the more you expose your brain to information the better it can learn and remember. Research by Live Science.com, has shown that neurons in the brain have the ability to change structurally in response to new experiences. Reading ranks as the number one activity we can do to promote ongoing improvement in our knowledge, vocabulary and intelligence. Keeping our brains active engages our mental pathways, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline in old age and could even prevent dementia. In fact, a recent study from Prevention.com found individuals who frequently participated in intellectual pastimes over the course of their lifetimes had an approximately 32 percent slower late-life cognitive decline than those who didn’t.

It reduces stress and improves well-being

In the constantly connected and always on world of today, finding an effective way to slow down is highly important. Enter reading. A summary report from Canada’s National Reading Campaign notes that among traditional relaxation strategies, reading ranks as number one. Curling up with a good book has been proven to reduce stress levels by as much as 68 per cent. And it doesn’t take a lot of time either. According to the report, it only takes six minutes of reading to effectively slow your heart rate and ease tension in your muscles.

Reading has been linked to other positive physical and social effects as well. Book readers are 28 per cent more likely than non-readers to report very good or excellent health, and 15 per cent more likely to report a very strong satisfaction with life.

Social benefits exist for fiction lovers as well. There is evidence that reading fiction helps to promote empathy, boost self-esteem and improve social skills. When you identify with the emotions of a novel’s characters you are activating the same areas of the brain that light up when you experience real-life issues.

It helps children succeed in life

Parents who read to their children positively influence how much their kids like to read. Reading for fun enhances comprehension, vocabulary and attention span, and increases children’s confidence and their motivation to read throughout their lives.

Reading levels among youth are also a key indicator of future success in both education and life. A report by Statistics Canada found that those in the top reading levels in junior high school are up to 20 times more likely to attend university than those in lower reading levels. A similar study indicated that children with higher reading skills went on to have higher incomes and more professional roles in adulthood.

So, why not pop in to your local library or bookstore and see what catches your interest. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner that you just can’t put down – plus a rewarding endeavor that is oh so good for you!

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Failure is a Failed Concept


Lately I’ve noticed some of my clients and even some colleagues around me using the phrase “I’m Failing” to describe their lives.  When I look at these people and what they define as failure it just makes me sad thinking about.

For the most part the people who describe themselves in this way are typical hard working, middle class citizens with a few challenges.  Sure they are experiencing stress.  Maybe they aren’t living up to their own expectations but if they were to take the time to you really stop and look at life I doubt they would classify themselves as failures.

Sure, you could always improve, I know I could, but does that make you a failure? I don’t think so.

You see, there is really no end destination in life, once we achieve a milestone there are always more accomplishments waiting just around the corner. There is no top of the mountain, there is always a still higher peak to reach just a little further down the path.

king of the mountain

When you think about your life in terms of pass/fail there is never any room for growth.

It’s time to stop thinking in this way. You’re not failing when you have stress. And you haven’t passed some great test when you achieved something. You’re just learning what does and doesn’t work.  And that’s what life is all about.

A so called successful life is about finding the pathway up the mountain. When you have a setback or experience stress you haven’t failed. You just learned what doesn’t work and you’re that much closure to figuring out what does.

So the next time you think you’ve failed try something new. That’s what all the successful people who came before you did and it’s the only way we learn what works.