Tag Archives: Life

Thoughts on the Japan Earthquake

I remember when the Kobe earthquake happened in 1995. Back then, like now, there were the scenes of toppled buildings, the rising casualty counts, and the security camera footage of offices shaking themselves to pieces. Still, it all seemed so far away coming from hourly news broadcasts and newspapers.

Maybe it’s because of all the social networks I’m on, maybe it’s because I’m older and have a much wider network, but seeing my friends check in with their loved ones overseas is making this situation a new kind of emotional reality. It feels like this is happening to our neighbours instead of on another continent. I’m thankful for the good news. Most of the statuses have been about friends and family being safe and sound. It’s made donating a lot easier. I’ve already given to my local Red Cross, and I probably will again soon.


There have been a few insensitive remarks about the disaster from within and without Japan about how this disaster is somehow Karma. Typical baseless human pattern-seeking behaviour. It’s bound to happen any time a reasonably powerful developed country is in trouble. It happened during 9/11, and it’s happening here.  The Pacific Tectonic Plate doesn’t care what kind of economies are sitting on its edge. It’s going to move just the same.

All in all, I believe the major lessons of the Sendai Earthquake of 2011 are:

-Building Standards Save Lives.

-Donate to the Canadian Red Cross by texting REDCROSS to 30333.

-This Earthquake prevention guide from Shizuoka prefecture is both handy and easy to read.

-Distance is no longer a factor in the human cost of natural disasters. No matter where we are, no matter how far away, we are all in this together.



Michael Gerber with James Strocel

Workshops and Seminars

Michael Gerber with James Strocel

Me and Michael Gerber

A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar and luncheon hosted by E-myth author Michael Gerber called “The Dreaming Room”. It was essentially a sales pitch for Gerber’s attempt to create a franchise out of his E-myth coaching seminars. Sure, I paid $100 for the privilege  of sitting through a 4-hour commercial, (to be fair, they did give us lunch) but sometimes you just need to bask in the church of the entrepreneur.

It’s one thing to read about owning your own business, it’s another thing to actually see someone talking about it. Books can only take you so far, audio or otherwise. Socrates was on to something when he preferred oration to the written word. Body language, facial micro-expressions, and uncontrollable randomness of presence are all lost whether you’re reading the words out of a book or getting them channeled into your skull via earbuds. If one is to maintain the industrial grade levels of enthusiasm necessary to carry on a business enterprise, it’s a necessary expense to buy a seat in front of the myriad of motivational and business speakers that travel this world. You need to remind yourself that what you are doing is real, what you are doing is good, and that there are hundreds and thousands of people like yourself who are trying to make the world a better place through the power of their wits and hard work.

And speaking of those other people. These places are a great place to network. You might not come away with that big sale right then and there, but you are more likely to run into companions on your journey. Like you, they’ve left the comforts of corporate life to pursue something better. Getting to know more people in your situation reminds you that you are part of something greater than yourself. It’s that sense of connection that’s going to motivate you when times are tought.

Then there’s the speaker himself. Michael Gerber is a dynamite salesman. He oozes passion and authenticity from every extremity. Even if you don’t buy into his “Dreaming Room” program, you can learn a lot from how he sells to people. He truly believes in every word he says,  making him look supremely confident on the stage. He judiciously uses repetition and dramatic pauses to get his point across. When he wraps up, there is always a call to action, no matter how small. One of the questions at the end asked him how he would create an enterprise that was socially responsible. He launched into a story of a friend of his who was using his techniques to build a suicide hotline in the Southern United States called “Not On My Watch”. He called on members of the audience to put their business cards on the stage with pledges for donation. When I got up there, I noticed a surprising number of zeroes on some of the cards.

When you are trying to learn the art of the sale, being sold to is not a bad thing. We are expected to market ourselves the minute we leave school, so why not get out there and watch how it’s done? Seminars like these demonstrate sales techniques, and they also physically get you in front of people, which is the only real way to build a customer base anyway. So if you’ve been toiling away alone in that home office for too long, put on a nice shirt, head out the door, and see for yourself what real salesmanship is like.

It’s Official

I got the call Thursday that my SeedsBC funding was approved. As of today, I have stopped looking for work. I have a new job. For the next 40 weeks, I’ll be receiving funding and training to start a new web design business. For the next couple of weeks or so, I’ll be attending workshops on marketing, accounting, and business planning. After that, I’ll start calling up the sales leads I picked up during my application process and go on from there.

I feel like say something inspiring or Seth Godin-like about this, but it just doesn’t feel like the right time. This is not a product launch. It wasn’t even a tough decision to make. Freelance contracting made me money. Sending out resumes did not. I’m not exactly throwing off my chains and seizing the means of production. This is just the first, faltering step on a long journey.

Entrepreneurship, for the most part, is still something I’ve only read about in books. I have no doubt a lot of its details are obscured by the triumphalism and tragedy that makes for good business publishing. But I can’t give in to the fear of the unknown. As of now, there is no boss I can beg for my job back. I signed a contract with my government that I would give this venture my full attention. I have a mortgage and car insurance that can’t be paid with anything less than profit. It sounds like pressure, but to me it’s comforting. We spend our whole lives looking for direction, wondering where to put our energies. The only direction I have now is forward.


I was tooling around on wikipedia the other day and found the page for the definition of elitism. On the right hand side was elitism in all its forms, classism, racism, even terms like heightism and mentalism. With all these ways for us to be more sensitive about people, I wonder if we’ll get to the point where no one has to feel bad about themselves, ever. I don’t think this is a good thing.

I can understand being comfortable with traits you can do nothing about, like the colour of your skin, gender, and whatnot, but what if we have to feel good about traits we can change? We need to have our flaws pointed out every once in a while. It’s what keeps us grounded. Being put down too much isn’t healthy either, of course, but if no one says anything bad to you, ever, what’s going to happen the first time someone tells you no?
I got teased as a kid. A lot. I still deal with those experiences to this day, but at the same time I’m also able to look inside myself and take responsibility for who I have become. These days, I don’t mind being teased by people I trust, because that’s how I find out my limitations so I can exceed them. To paraphrase Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, your real friends won’t accept you as you are. They instead will treat you as what you are capable of becoming, and you will become that.

The Search for Intelligent Life

Flying_Saucer _Aliens _-_GPN-2000-001993

When I heard the news report that the British government was closing down its UFO hotline, I thought to myself, if this was the start of a Doctor Who episode, this would be the exact moment where my organs would be sucked out for use in a hilariously impractical death ray. Fortunately, either Earth isn’t prone to those kind of threats, or human organs just don’t make very good death ray fuel.

I’ve always felt the question of whether you believe in extra-terrestrials or not is an asinine one. It’s not a question of believing. Aliens either exist or they don’t. That’s like asking if I believe in Hungarians. Besides, no one wants to be the guy who said, “I believe that humans are the most advanced form of life in the universe” when the giant head of Morena Baccarin appears over New York City. Not even a lifetime of slavery in a distant galaxy will let you let you live that down.