Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Do You REALLY Want?

It's another obvious blog post. But I can't help it, the common sense is just flowing out of me these days.

Today, we'll address the "what do you want?" questions. This seems extra timely because of all my friends who are finally finishing up at University, and don't have a clue what the next step is. I know what my own next step is, and I know where I want to be a few steps after that. This is a recent development though. I've only just taken my future into my own hands by visualizing exactly what I want and planning how to get it.

I want to focus on the first part of that previous sentence: Visualize what you want. This is goal setting 101. This is the fun part. I think people just forget to do it. That or they are afraid to realize what they are capable of. Take a minute, and think. What do you want a year from now? I mean, where exactly do you want to be? Who will be with you? Imagine. What will you be doing? What is making you happy? WHY is that making you happy? Be lavish in your daydreams, and always be sure to answer that "why?" Write down what you're after. We can develop the plans to reach your goal later. Today's lessons is about thinking big and accurately. It's about understanding that success happens by design, and never by default.

It's like this: Imagine you'll be traveling. Pick a destination. Enthrall yourself with a mental model and get delighted about the splendors you'll enjoy after your arrival. We'll plan how to get there soon. Today, I just want you to get infatuated with the destination.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bratislava: A Tourist Perspective

I had an epiphany today. It should have come about 11 months earlier.

There are security cameras everywhere, because everywhere there aren't security cameras, there is a RIDICULOUS amount of graffiti.

Due to an ongoing camera compatibility issue, you'll have to take my word for it, come visit, or go by the stolen picture above.


In finding the above picture, I read this description of someone's stay in Bratislava. Here are some highlights:

"All I can say is wow."

"The first thing you realize about Bratslava is that much much less attractive than any other european city (at least the ones I've been to). Buildings are half completed, trash is everywhere, graffiti is rampant, and the city feels more like an urban wasteland than the glorious capitol city of an independent nation. "

I couldn't have said it better myself.

"The second thing you notice about Bratslava is that every single girl is absolutely, brilliantly exquisite
bar. I have been all around Western Europe and a good deal of Eastern Europe, and never before had I seen a grand quantity of smoking hot girls in one place"

Good to know he has been to many places, to substantiate his earlier claims. All true so far.

The Curious Case of the Name Change

I just wanted a fun title, really.

This is in response to a tweet from @stephaniefusco, who worked with me in the AMS and who I can say many great things about, that linked me to an article, I want to quip.

Now, I quote news paper articles all the time, my friends will tell you. They are constantly bombarded by the shit I'm sending them to substantiate all kinds of legit claims. Really I'm just thinking of them. After reading this article, if I'm going to

I'd like to say two quick things on the subject:

1. The article assumes causality when correlation is likely the case. I would be remiss if I didn't bring this up, and thoughts of my old stats 263 prof, Chuck Molson, - a stand up guy - would haunt me. For example:

"On average, those who had changed their name were older, had lower educational levels, had more children and held more conservative family values. And although they tended to display a stronger work ethic, they also worked fewer hours per week and earned a lower salary than those who did not change their names."

I bet that's true. But it's also worth noting that a lot of young women in today's cohort, have been taught different values than the older women the above paragraph mentions. It seems plausible to me that these values were taught to them at a young age, by their parents who ensured they were educated and exposed them to diverse experiences. I would say that these factors are more likely to predispose a woman to be successful than changing her name. I would go as far to say that to argue to the contrary would be sexist. I am betting that it is these factors, implemented early and consistently throughout life, that helped these women empower themselves to make more money and reach the heights of corporate stardom.

What I'm trying to say is: I'm sure the fact that they changed their name is indicative of who they are as a person - all decisions are. Who they are is the primary factor in why they're so successful and that's something that develops before most women are considering marriage.

Of course that doesn't account for societies' views on women who do change their last name when married and the profound effect it has, as the article clearly demonstrates,

2. As I alluded to at the start. I quote articles constantly. If the proof is evident, I back it. i think a wife with a different last name could be really fun, seriously. You could be like "Hi Ms. Smith" and she would be like "Hey, Mr. Johnson." Hilarious, right?

I mean if I was in your place, I'd probably go for it. I'm too much of a capitalist.

Not that I am thinking about marriage now, or anytime soon.


It's true! Here's what happened:

I was sitting quietly, enjoying a smoked salmon sandwich, when I was rudely interrupted by obnoxious horn honking and a loud but distorted voice. Oftentimes, gypsies drive around in cars yelling things with megaphones. I shrugged it off as a protest or some cheap fake Lacoste sale.

I landed my browser on Twitter and searched for what was happening in Bratislava. I did this once in Vienna to explain why 10,000 students were protesting outside our hotel. No other english source was available.

Of course there was nothing related to the belligerent street-dwellers and dumpster-diverse below to be found. There was however much talk of conferences. People, business travel folk, were talking real time about conferences they were at.

Now, the aim of my company is to systematically destroy business travel, one market segment at a time. This VERY TIMELY information is deemed HIGHLY pertinent.

Anyways, I've gotten distracted and the voice in the megaphone has subsided.

Willing to be Awesome

So it turns out, your willpower is finite. You need to budget that shit.

But in my quest to be the embodiment of awesome, I need to throw around willpower like I'm Pacman Jones at your favorite gentleman's club.

And so the dilemma steps into the light: How to reconcile my limited ability to make good decisions with my need to always opt for the best option? What is a fledgling entrepreneur and self-development obsessed individual to do?

I think I've got an answer: Put that shit on autopilot.

By this I mean, enslave yourself to good habits, of course. The beauty of habits, are that they are automatic behaviours. They are something of a heroin-addicted, Ukranian whore to put in their place, but once established they will perform dutifully without you having to do much more than flex your pimp hand.

It's not quite that easy though. You really need to look at your behaviours. You need to remind yourself of your goals when you are at the decision making point. You need to deconstruct your goal and focus on small aspects of it. Declaring to lose weight, or get in shape, for example, is too ambiguous. Take a month to put a specific habit in place. Replace your morning donut with an apple. Do this every day until it becomes the natural thing to do; until it becomes easy; until you don't need to exert any willpower to opt for the apple. At this point, you can focus on running every morning, or swimming four times a week.

It's unrealistic to think you can wake up to a changed life. You need to make the change happen by making the right decisions. The right decisions are hard, and require tackling very specific behaviours one at a time. It's not glamorous, it's not fast, but it works and is sustainable over the long term. It always seems to come back to incremental improvement as the best way forward.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Maybe this begins to explain why a teenaged @jiashwu eventually caved to peer-pressure, after a valiant attempt at being responsible. Sorry to drag you down, old pal.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sloppy Sidewalks

I trip a lot when I walk here. The sidewalks look like the surface of the moon.

I used to think everyone I pass on the streets had their eyes fixated on their toes because they were upset about the shitty lives they led. I'm starting to think that in addition to that, if they aren't careful where they step they'll fall and hurt themselves.

When the sidewalks aren't flat, maintained, or coherently connected to one another, it makes the prospect of ending up in hospital, all the more terrifying.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Alignment: An Earth Day Reflection

Let me start by saying, I'm not much of an environmental advocate. I don't REALLY care enough to alter my action, I'll be frank. Carbon footprint, meh?

I'm a biochemist, after all, so my love of science is profound. I don't think the science is settled, when it comes to anthropogenic global warming. But don't take my word for it, I suggest you watch the second best-known, and first best, global climate change documentary. I personally am paranoid enough to consider that Goldman Sachs engineered the whole scheme in order to produce a new market to exploit.

But that's not what this is about. What I am interested in, is what other people are interested in. As a fledgling entrepreneur, this is an important characteristic I must embrace and nurture, if I wish to effectively serve others. And this, is why I have an interest in the environment. Because other people are interested. With all the Earth Day hoopla blowing up my Twitter feed today, I got to thinking about my actions and how they might impact the environment.

ASIDE: I guess that's why things like Earth Day ARE important, to spread awareness and make you think.

Coming from a liberal Canadian university campus just a short year ago, I still have many close friends who harbor environmental sustainability amongst their highest priorities. At this point I want to make it clear that, global warming or no global warming, I think it's incredibly important to develop renewable energy sources. I think it's in our best interest to treat our environment carefully, just not necessarily because the Earth is [allegedly] heating up a little. All that being said, I eventually got to thinking about my own business.

I found a carbon offset calculator and did some quick math. If we had hosted live events in London, instead of webinars, we would have produced an additional 50 tons of carbon dioxide. And we're just getting started! The amount of revenue we drive is literally directly and positively proportional to a decrease in carbon dioxide, in terms of travel, - commercial flights, specifically.

I'm stoked that by running an almost completely cloud based business, we've virtually eliminated all of the significant sources of adverse environmental impact; we've managed to align ourselves with an incredibly important trend, that I believe will continue to gain strength. We need to leverage it more actively, it's literally in the best interest of the Earth, and conveniently my pocket.

UPDATE: I did some research, the average person in the UK has a carbon footprint 10 tons of carbon dioxide a year. So far we have offset five of those tea sippers.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Joys of Winship

My job involves a lot of rejection. A lot. It's pretty exhausting. I could very accurately model my emotional state with a sine wave that oscillates to each extreme of the spectrum, at an incredible frequency. Each day starts filled with promise, and often times it is ripped out of my outstretched arms at the last second.

That's precisely why it feels so good to win. When the periodic function that depicts my temperament, on any given day, moves to the positive extreme, it's a joy like no other. It feels really good to be good at something that's so hard.

And I'm always getting better. Continuous improvement and steps in the right direction eventually, inevitably, reach a tipping point, and I see real progress. Whether or not I made a sale this day, this hour, this call, matters less than knowing that I am doing the right thing. If I keep doing the right thing, I'm bound to find victory around a corner not so far away, if not the next one.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Incremental Improvement

My old friend @jiashwu blogged about it here (and my morning routine has never been the same since). I knew it was important, but I never really knew until recently. By that I mean, I'd never consciously reflected on it.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with Dean of Student Affairs at Queen's University, Dr. Laker, when I was coordinating the 2008 Orientation week. Queen's boasts the only student-run Orientation week in Canada, which I was at the helm of in 2008 (who's boasting now?). It's also the subject of much scrutiny, year over year. Jason, as I colloquially called him, once told me in the splendor of his gigantic, corner office that he liked the idea of gently improving upon orientations past, rather than a once-every-ten-year draconian review. I agreed, it made sense in practice. It also sounded easier than overseeing such a daunting review.

Over the last few weekends, Sarp and I have been continually improving our living situation. We have been consistently making small purchases, a light fixture here, a shower head there. And in looking back now, at how things have changed in the last month, I can confidently proclaim that our space is a lot better than it used to be. Adjustable lighting levels and massage-able shower heads go a long way, even though they're not particularly glamorous items.

My personal development is probably a lot similar. I'm not going to run a marathon tomorrow. But I will be victorious in my pre-7am 7km conquest. And next week maybe I'll push for 8. It's tedious, it's monotonous, but it's sustainable progress.

I think the same thing goes for business. You can't anticipate every bad thing that's going to happen. And I assure you, with all too much of my own personal experience, things will go awry. Business though, is like golf, in that what's most important is being able to adeptly correct from a poor stroke, rather than consistently hammering out perfect shots every time.

I have a pretty good idea of what my clients want, but I can't know for sure. There is a moment at which the extent of my planning becomes redundant. It is CERTAINLY important to get to that point, and plan properly. But don't dwell on it. I need to launch my product and then listen for feedback. If I've completely missed the mark, I might need to assess and make an executive decision to change direction or choose to stay the course. Or maybe a slight adjustment is all that the Dr. will order (I'm serious, a lot of my clients are doctors). Either way, you can only plan to a point. At some instance you have to just go for it. Then, shut up and listen to what people are saying. Make the appropriate changes as quickly as possible. And then keep listening.

Oh yeah, it probably goes without saying that the faster you can improve the better.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Documenting a Win

I try to tweet my stock market buys and sells, sometimes to the confusion of rogue followers and social media-adept university friends. Most of the time though, I forget. I have very recently made it a priority. I'm sick of sloppy trading. A reliable income stream from hand-selecting winning equities at sublime valuations seems like a delightful complement to any lifestyle. Ergo, it's worth the practice.

Here's a recent example, it's my best recorded call ever, on account of I've always done an atrocious job. I used the methodology I talked about previously. Although this very well could have been a fluke, I will take this opportunity to declare my winship nonetheless. It's my blog, after all.

I have a personal interest in making money off the subject of cloud computing, one way or another. It's fitting then, that the equity in question is RAX.

Here was the first brazen statement I made (click through the twitpick to see the equity at the time of purchase, $19.25). I've never posted a chart on the internet before. I usually just draw them up and erase them. They're not worthy of the eyes of others. The reason being is, it all seems far too simple. It's an arbitrary thing, really. I'm a very visual person, so it's almost hard not for me to play connect the dots. That's why I can't rely only on some lines and shapes. Anyhow, the story goes on...

Then, I bought.

Celebration ensued. Here's the stock now.

Hopefully more to come. Must stay focused.

Oh yeah, I sold 1/3 of the position just shy of $21 for a 10% win. The volume on the breakout was really strong, and the consolidation this afternoon has been relatively low volume. I think that could mean people are holding on to their shares? That means we go higher?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Language Degradation Through Globalization

I grew up in Ottawa, a stone's throw from Quebec, the French speaking province of Canada, for the uneducated readers amongst the audience. I was taught French from a young age, as a result.

The problem was, the French we learned in the classroom was very different from the French spoken by our neighbours just East of us. I remember the first time I boarded an Air France flight, I was amazed at the clarity of the French I heard. It too, was so unlike the "Quebecois" we'd been berated with on ski trips, or when we went to buy liquor as underaged kids.

Today at lunch, I went to the food court at a new mall. As I walked from Taco stand, to Czech food place, I passed Burger King. I heard someone order in Slovak, except for when they stuck the prefix "bacon-cheese" in front of their order. I was immediately reminded of Quebec adolescents yelling in mutilated frenglish. For whatever reason, these English expressions just seem to catch on.

Slovak sounds lovely. I can't speak it, but it sounds nice. The invasion of MTV and multinational corporations have brought me a much needed conduit through which to experience Western society, but what are the effects on the locals? This Tedster has an interesting perspective.

I'm excited about an increased prevalence of English, it makes my life easier. But how it will infiltrate the world, the conduits through which it will spread, and the subtle implications those complications have are of interest to me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Unexpected Lesson From Mr. Caufield

I’ve been reading Catcher in the Rye, again. That is to say, I’ve just read Catcher and the Rye again, rather. I have should have been done before today, really.

The problem, and I’ve realized this is a recurring theme, is that I just forget what’s important. I’m easily excited, I forget about the bigger picture, if only momentarily. That’s what happened with this Salinger classic. That’s why I didn’t get it finished earlier. I just forget what’s important. I never forget what’s REALLY important. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have my shit together. I get distracted easily though when it comes to less important things.

I was eating some toast with Nutella, watching MTV Czech when I was blindsided by the memory of the commitment I’d made myself. I resisted at first. I was having a great time lounging about, after all. But I asked myself why I had written it down. I wanted to finish Catcher because I wanted to start a new book and for urgencies sake that book needed to be read quickly because it was non-fiction and therefore immediately pertinent to my life. When I remembered why I had written down the goal or obligation in the first place, I wanted to do it again. I had to take a mental step back from the “incredibly stimulating” reality I had occupied, before the idle thought.

I’m glad I’ve identified the behaviour, that’s a practical first step. Now I just need to work on remembering things better. Maybe it’s just a matter of writing down everything I deem important, and carrying around said written account. That’s a good second step, at the very least. And I already do it, to a large extent. I just forget sometimes, usually once I’m at home.

Anyways, that’s what I observed today, thanks for stopping by. Any insights appreciated, as per usual.

PS: I’ve been listening to these Zig Ziglar tapes, as I alluded to yesterday. I like it when he said everyone should write a book, or what some less ambitious people might call a journal, because I’m doing that. Not that a book necessarily needs to be published.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Step Back

I'll get right to the point here, I'm sure you're Sunday time is at a premium. At least mine was when I worked in the produce section of my local Loblaws, all thanks and praise to the union for that perk.

In all seriousness though, I think unions are lame sauce.

I often get caught up in the day to day. I'm excited rather easily, I must admit. But this day, hangover free, I am seeing things a little more clearly than yesterday, thank goodness. And that's the point, it's important to see things clearly. It's important to see things from different perspectives and deconstruct them in different ways.

In the last month, business has picked up quite a bit. Things are going well. The challenge is now to keep improving, while showing little patience for complacency. I'm accomplishing this with incremental goals and a clear path forward. I wish I could do it faster. But sometimes I forget why I do these things. I'm reading a GQ, something I rarely do. Not because I don't have any, but because I don't allocate the time to peruse my collection.

It's not that I want to look really fresh. Ok, well I mean, that's part of it. Maybe it's because I'm in a place where people were deprived of an environment in which they could pursue their ambitions, for so long. But looking at ads of fly suits, and reading harrowing human interest stories of brave feats, and hurdles overcome, inspires me a little bit. It reminds me of the kind of person that I want to be. I would hate for you to interpret this post as a simple "Ode to Capitalism and the Pursuit of Material Goods." That would be rather low-brow. All I'm saying, is that inspiration and motivation come on many levels. I'm positively effected by the contents of the pages; but even more so, I find myself identifying with the theme and the promise that the GQ brand exudes. It's the "Men of the Year" issue, for crying out loud (whatever that means). They're celebrating success. That's primarily why this magazine has inspired this post.

Today, this is how I find myself getting pumped up, for the week ahead. You can't control this shit, friends.

I need to always be upping my game. If I'm not, somebody else is. You see kids, it's not about the money, it's about the win. I am learning, quickly mind you, that the art of winning feels better than a pile of cash. The pile of cash is just a convenient bonus to help you get by in this harsh world we inhabit.

I'm downloading some Zig Ziglar audio books. I can always work on my closing skills. It's the most important skill set, after all. If you can't close, what good are you, I wonder?

In other news, I'd like to proclaim, with pride in my voice no less, that my "greening up postulation," summarized in detail here, is coming to fruition. assured me a weekend of rain. However, it's held out so far, and I've taken advantage with long and frequent strolls around my hood, naturally. Suffice it to say, it's lush as hell outside. The realm visible from my elevated balcony is well on it's way to looking all "Hanging Garden's of Babylon." Once again, playing the bigger angle prevails.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


I feel like a homeless person, in the grips of a serious withdrawal. I'm hungover, in the extreme. Thanks Sarp. It's mostly that we just didn't get home until incredibly late.

Anyways, it's not all bad. The forecast was for rain and yet sunshine lights up my living room.

This song is also pretty fun, if you ask me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What's the Difference?

I'll tell you.

I was taking a leisurely afternoon stroll, you know, to clear my head. "I've almost been here a year; crazy!" I quipped to my business partner, Raoul.
"Imagine how much different it would have been if you were in an English speaking country." He retorted.

I imagined it.

Things would be a lot different. I like to think that overcoming adversity confers some sort of benefit over the longer-term. I'll somehow magically be better for struggling to get by. Maybe that is delusional self-rationalization. Either way, I have less friends than I would otherwise and despite my GPS-like knowledge of local streets and back-alleys, when shit hits the fan, if I don't have a native Slovak speaker around I find myself in shit-creek, again, obviously devoid of any object that might be used to propel me out of such said open sewer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Have you seen the movie Casino? I haven’t, but I read this and it got me thinking it might be worth 2 precious hours of my life. It's just that I’ve been on a movie watching bender lately. I find myself continuously looking for suggestions, as a result. I guess the whole thing has to do with that addictive personality of mine. I’d appreciate any feedback though, if you feel the aforementioned film is worth a watch.

It’s funny to joke about such said personality disorder, but it’s more important that I figure out how to live with it. I’ve realized that this strategy of adoption is more likely to help me succeed in the world, than just trying to blatantly ignore my character “flaws.” I know, know, it’s important to do everything in moderation, but that’s just not my style. Unless there is a pressing sense of urgency, or novelty for that matter, I hardly ever partake in anything. And when I do partake, you know I dive right in, very promptly after I dip that first toe. Besides, I would argue that everything in excess, equates to moderation. Can you follow that math?

Whether it is drinking, exercising, work or studying, I tend to get easily excited, and engrossed with, any given activity. I find myself enthralled with a pastime. Then I quickly get bored of it and move on; or, in the case of my brief Internet poker addiction, until it becomes too expensive to justify. Besides, I was always more of a blackjack guy anyways.

On the topic of gambling in Slovakia, aside from the mini-casino at the Hotel Carlton, which for lack of sheer size is unable to accommodate the plethora of games you might find here, there isn’t much in the way of establishments I’d want to invest a Saturday night at.

Don’t get me wrong; there is an array of what I’ll call “gambling shacks,” brightly colored storefronts complete with roulette wheels and flashing jackpot signs, that will happily take your money. It’s just that when you take into account the seedy location of most of these places, coupled with the lack of regulatory compliance and prevalence of organized crime in the country, it seems I would have a better shot at being complicit in a money laundering operation than beating the house. Given my predisposition to binge behavior and risk-taking then, it seems I’d be better served to stay home and virtually attend the Red Casino. As per my own business, I’m obviously a fan of the online way of doing things anyways.

I think most kids at Queen's exhibited this to some extent too. Never have I met so many people who hustle hard during the week, only to find themselves upside-down on top of a keg, come the weekend, -err Thursday.

So this has been the first step, recognizing behavioral patterns. I’ll keep working on strategies to curtail, and maybe even leverage, the way that my brain seems to be wired. Yes, if I could turn a seemingly negative thing into a strength that would be good…

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Quick Take on Contentious Issues

It's easy to get wound-up. Whether it is because of Sumo wrestling costumes, or a lost remote control forcing you to endure an episode of Made on MTVGermany. The reaction is often the same in it's emotional character. This afternoon I wasn't interested in finding the channel-changing instrument, so much as cussing at the incomprehensibility of the follies faced by a young nerd who was just dying to be a hip hop dancer.

I'm not interested in dissecting this particular qualm du jour. I'm sure there will be another one in a week or two. Maybe that's the one I'll choose to get really fussed about. It's just that I'm pretty busy right now, what with Easter and quarterbacking my company to dominate the world of virtual training. As a result, I've sort of missed the boat. So many others have quipped adequately about the story. Ergo, I'll keep this brief.

I hate complacency, don't get me wrong. It's my most worthy adversary. I am an incredibly firm advocate of incremental change. I believe that we can always improve.

That being said, I also think it's important to reflect on how far we've come, if only to use it as inspiration to continue our fight forward. I know this is because I've had a wild perspective change. I'm no longer on a liberal university campus. I'm in a country that has NEVER had a gay pride parade. I'm in a part of the world where I see oppression against minority groups in ways unfathomable to those of you privileged enough to reside in the Western World. I'm in a country that is in the process of passing legislation to become more nationalistic. I live in a country that has a fledgling but powerful neo-nazi movement.

And yet I'm positive, there are places in the world that are much worse than where I now find myself, as far as human rights abuse goes.

I applaud and appreciate your pursuit of an apparently elusive equality. Just please remember, when cooped up in your bubble, that there is a whole world of anguish, hurt, and unjust treatment, out there. A world that knows nothing of the rights you lobby for. Keep marching forward, but every once in a while take a minute to look at how far we've come.

PS - Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. Easter traditions in Slovakia see men whipping women with bows of willow and splashing them with cold water. The women in return, have to provide money and cakes to the men, naturally. I'll report back Easter Monday with an eye-witness account, but I have every reason to believe that a squabble about fat suits will pale in comparison to the absurdities that will be on display.