Fail Trying!

Fail Trying!

This is my motto for the time being. I think I’m going to start tweeting stories and videos of epic failure with the hash tag #failtrying and see if I can make it go viral.

The Fail Trying movement will be a celebration the human spirit. I will celebrate people who strive for greatness and miss but who deserve praise simply for the attempt.

I was 16 in the winter of 1988 when the Olympic Games were held in the Canadian city of Calgary.175px-brian_orser_-_1988_calgary_olympics_-_lac_pa-209756

Situated just east of the Rocky Mountains, less than one hour’s drive from some of the best alpine skiing in the world, Calgary is ideally situated to host a winter Olympics. By all accounts the 1988 games were one of the most successful winter Olympics ever and the first to actually turn a profit.

I, like just about every other red blooded Canadian, spent two weeks that February glued to my television. The stories of athletic triumph, “the joy of victory and the agony of defeat” that came out of Calgary that winter are similar to those we hear every four years from every Olympic Games. What figure skating fan could forget the “battle of the Brians” when American Brian Boitano defeated home town favourite Canadian Brian Orser for gold in one of the greatest show-downs ever recorded on ice? Or who can forget Switzerland’s Primin Zurbriggen and Peter Muller finishing, one two in the men’s downhill?

Calgary’s winter Olympics are perhaps best remembered for two stories of spectacular failure. Today, almost thirty years later when most people think about the 1988 Winter Olympics they don’t remember the winners, they remember one of these two failures.

Why?

Because both of these “failures” have been dramatized into major motion pictures…

bobsled“Cool Runnings”, released in 1993 tells the story of the Jamaican Bobsledding team that set out to compete against the best in the world despite never having seen snow. They failed. They didn’t even post an official time because they crashed in their qualifying run.

“Eddie the Eagle”, released in 2016 is the biopic based on the life of Michael “Eddie” Edwards. Edwards was the first person to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping since 1929. He didn’t exactly fail. He just finished dead last on both the 70 and 90 metre hills.

I saw both of these events unfold live, in real life. The thing that struck me about them then and continues to have an impact on me today is the idea that you can be victorious in failure, even spectacular failure. It isn’t enough that no one expected four guys from Jamaica to win a bobsled race. It isn’t enough that no one expected a British skier who had previous failed to qualify for the 1984 games in a different sport to suddenly become a world class ski jumper. What made them famous and transcended the games they were a part of is the fact that they failed while trying.

Minneapolis, Minnesota isn’t exactly a hotbed of culinary innovation. But on Cedar Ave, just off I94 you will find Tam Tam’s African Restaurant, owned and operated by a Ugandan immigrant to the United States named Stephen Kaggwa. Tam Tam’s is not a chain and it’s not world famous by any stretch, it’s a small privately owned business just like millions of others all over the world. Kaggwa the restaurant owner makes a nice living from his simple and unremarkable business but Kaggwa the man, is famous for coining a business maxim that has been quoted thousands of times in board rooms and loading docks from New York City to Hicksville USA.

“Try and fail, but don’t fail to try” – Stephen Kaggwa

Eddie the Eagle failed to qualify for the 1984 Olympics. The story could have ended eddiethere but it didn’t. He moved to Lake Placid, New York and took up ski jumping. While in New York he ran out of money and moved to Finland to take job as an orderly in a mental institution. The story could have ended there too, but it didn’t. He continued to train and compete in Finland and although still terrible by most everyone’s standards he became the number one ranked British ski jumper, enough to qualify for the Olympics.

In terms of international competition Michael “Eddie” Edwards is a failure. He never won a thing. But we love him, like we love the Jamaican bobsled team, because he tried.

Stephen Kaggwa is not a failure. He’s not a world famous restaurant owner either but he works hard and he is still trying.

Failure only happens when you stop trying. So fail trying. Get up and try again.

You don’t lose the game until the whistle blows, the last out is recorded or your time expires. Get up and try again.

#failtrying

Here’s a video of some spectacular failures that will warm your heart and make you say, even the pros fail sometimes but they keep trying..

Save

Save

A Quick Word About the Nature of Debt


The following is an excerpt from my new book – LeaderSheep; Leading from a Posture of Submission for Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven. For more information on this book and it’s expected launch date write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. [Romans 13: 8-10]

debtbondageBefore I continue I would like to pause here and give a clarification about the first century context for any discussion about debt. Debt in Paul’s world is not simply about money.   Indeed for much of world history, up until the last few centuries debt was a moral concept wrapped up in human relationships, intrinsic value and ultimate reality.

In today’s world we tend to think only in terms of physical capital. Cold hard cash as it where or credit instruments measured in fiat money. But we tend to forget that in ancient times “debt” went further than that and became a concept indistinguishable from relationships and human morality.

Human Capital is best defined as a measure of the skills, knowledge and experience possessed by an individual or population. To carry a debt therefore in a society governed more in terms of human capital than physical capital is to owe your life in exchange for comfort and security. Viewed in terms of human capital, institutions such as indentured servitude and even all out slavery start to take on a little more context and even a hint of moral acceptance. In a world before modern financial instruments, if my debt to society or an individual can be paid only in my skills, knowledge and experience than the only way to pay it back is to work it off rather than simply purchase my freedom with something as impersonal as money.

Don’t get me wrong, slavery in today’s context is wrong. As a society we have evolved and most people, at least in the west understand that human capital is infinite and therefore an inappropriate way of measuring one’s worth. But is the current system of financial debt, whereby a large portion of our earnings are earmarked for repayment even before we earn them any different in actual fact than a life of debt peonage from ancient times?

Often in ancient times people in bondage were abused, ripped from their relational context and held down by corrupt and dishonest systems of accounting but in world without banks and modern account, as a system of morality it does make some sense. Provided the masters were honest and kind to those who were in submission to their care.

So when Paul talks about debts in Romans 13 he is really talking about Human Capital. Just before is words on debt he says this:

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. [Romans 13:7]

love and lawStay out of “debt” so that you can focus you Human Capital on the things that really matter. Love is not only the fulfillment of the law but way in which you balance your Human Capital in the account books of society as a whole.

For more information on the The Meekonomics Project and my upcoming book LeaderSheep:  Leading from a Posture of Submission in Business, Ministry and The Kingdom of Heaven, write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

What’s the Big Deal About Credit Scores Anyway?


He that has lost his credit is dead to the world – [English and German Proverb]

creditscore

Do you know you credit score?

Do you know what a credit score even is and how it can come to dominate your life?

According to Wikipedia a credit score is –

an evaluation of the credit worthiness of a debtor predicting the debtor’s ability to pay back the debt; it thus forecasts implicitly the likelihood of the debtor’s default.

In Canada your credit score is a three digit number that is calculated using a mathematical formula. You gain points for behaviour that demonstrates you can use credit responsibly, like paying your bills on time and you lose points for showing that you have difficulty managing money.

The number ranges from 300 – 900 points.

Businesses use your credit score to determine their risk in doing business with you; especially in the lending of money. It is up to each individual business to determine the minimum credit score they will accept as a risk moving forward and businesses have the right to refuse service to customers they deem too risky.

And therein lies the rub. In order to increase your credit score you must demonstrate credit worthiness. In order to demonstrate credit worthiness you must use credit and in order to use credit you must demonstrate credit worthiness.

In our modern economy the old English and German proverb quoted above is true on so many levels. You can’t do business without credit and without credit you can’t do business. Or can you?

When I was on the verge of bankruptcy I used to rail against this seemingly perverse and corrupt system by stating emphatically that the only people who need credit are people who want to go into debt. I used that circular reasoning as an excuse every time I was forced to pay a bill late or default on a loan, which I did more often than I care to admit. My logic, being once bitten and twice shy by the whole thing, was that since I had absolutely no desire to go back into debt, I had no need of a credit score and could justify screwing my creditors.

To this day I do not know my own credit score, nor do I care to. But I know it exists and I know that even though I have no desire to go into debt, it is still there and it still dictates much of what I am able to do in life.

THUMBNAIL_IMAGELiving debt free, which is the first step in my 6 Steps to Financial Freedom, is the first key to building a good credit score. But it can also hurt you in the long run. If you have no debts the credit rating agencies have nothing to measure and their ability to determine your credit worthiness is limited. In that case paying your bills on time becomes even more important and keeping an open line of credit can help show that you can resist the temptation of going into debt for debt’s sake. But at the end of the day your credit score is only one number and if the company or individual you seek to retain is unwilling to do business with you due to a low credit score, when the only reason for it is the fact that you are debt free, there are other businesses out there that will gladly take your money. Especially if you can prove to them that it is indeed your money they are taking.

Why Have You Forgotten Me?!?


My God, My God Why have you Forgotten Me? [Psalm 22:1]

God speaksGod speaks to me through scripture. Through other books I read. In dreams and through the wisdom of the people I encounter in my daily life. Several years ago God spoke to me through my pain and failure and gave me a vision for a life of comfort and peace that has guided me ever since.

I don’t mean comfort in the sense that my life would be easy, comfortable or pain free. I mean comfort in the sense that I would bring comfort and hope to some of the dark and dreariest places of this world.

My favorite character in scripture, apart from Jesus of course, has always been Paul’s friend Barnabas. Barnabas isn’t his real name. His real name is Joseph the Cypriot. He was a Levite, a member of the priestly class who joined the early Christ-followers. We first meet Joseph in Acts 4:36-37 where we learn that he had just sold some land and donated the money to the disciples cause. This is also where we learn his nick name, Barnabas which means “son of comfort”. You see, Barnabas was so committed to bringing encouragement and comfort to everyone he met that the rest of the disciples dispensed with his name altogether and just started calling him “Comfort Man”.

Later, when Paul comes on the scene, he needs someone with him who shares his history as a Jewish Priest and can help smooth the waters with the leaders of the various local churches, some of whom may even have been on the receiving end of some of Paul’s early persecution. The disciples elect Barnabas to go to Paul and work with him as his ministry partner.

levitesWe don’t know a lot about Barnabas before this time. But there are a few things we can guess at based on the culture of the time and the details that we do know. First of all, for Barnabas to join the early church would have been a fundamentally life changing decision, he was a Levite, a member of the priestly class. In order for him to join the early Christian church would have meant not only that he would become unemployed but that he would be turning his back on centuries of family tradition. Most likely his family would have disowned him. To be a Levite was not a career path one chose but a vocation one was born into. To refuse the duties associated with the office would be to turn your back on your entire family.

Secondly, Barnabas not only went through with his conversion to Christianity but he then sold what was likely his only early possession and gave the money to the work of the church. He is now both unemployed and he had liquidated his retirement account. He had no financial security whatsoever.

Finally, in light of all of this it isn’t much of a stretch for us the think that Barnabas was operating from a place of deep pain, loss and maybe even regret. And yet, he is still able to give so much of himself that he earns the nickname “Comfort Man”.

Through my own journey I have come to love Barnabas not for what he gave up, but for what he gained in the process.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. [Matthew 5:4]

comfortHow will they be comforted? For many they will find their own Barnabas. And it was through my own mourning that God gave me the vision that I would one day be that Barnabas for so many experiencing the same kind of pain and heart ache that I was living through.

My journey started in 2005 and the vision took shape over the next 10 years. I now have, what I believe to be a fully formed vision. But it’s as if the life I see and the ministry God has laid on my heart now lie on a distant shore and there is an ocean between where I am now and where I need to be.   Worst of all, it feels as though God give me the vision and moved on before giving me the blueprint for the bridge I need to build to get there – which brings me back to my study of Psalm 22.

For Christ-followers, the opening line of Psalm 22 is a familiar one. Jesus echoed these words from the cross (Matthew 27:46).

My sister is a pastor in Southwestern Ontario. Her Easter message this year was a study of Psalm 22 because, as she put it, Jesus prayed through this Psalm while he was dying as a reminder to both himself and those who would hear his words that even when God is silent, his promises endure.

hopePsalm 22 follows a familiar pattern. What begins in despair moves to a reminder of God’s promises and ends in hope. Verse 19 marks the transition from anguish and pain to promise.

You are my strength; come quickly to help me. [Psalm 22:19b]

And after several reminders of God’s promises we see the final transition to praise and gratitude.

From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever! [Psalm 22:25-26]

God has not forgotten anyone. Those who hold to his promises and heed them will be satisfied. Those who seek the Lord will praise him.

Some of what we learn from Psalm 22 is this idea that to the extent that God seems distant is how far we have strayed from his teaching. His promises are real, my vision is god breathed. I can’t yet see the path but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

Just keep doin’ your best

And pray that it’s blessed

He’ll take care of the rest [Keith Green]

 

Protecting what you work for


Safeguarding your family’s lifestyle with insurance

When you first started working, you may not have given insurance a second thought. However, as you enter your peak earning years, you have a lot more to protect. It’s likely that you and your family depend on your salary for the lifestyle you enjoy – and life, critical illness and disability insurance can help protect that lifestyle if you are unable to work.

The number one cause of bankruptcy in Canada is an unexpected and uninsured illness or injury. That is why I placed “Regulate Risk” as number 2 in my Six Steps to Financial Freedom. If you haven’t already subscribed to this page and received your free copy of my e-book of the same name you can request it here.

There is a lot of confusion about the various types of personal risk insurance on the market so here is a quick primer of the three most common types of insurance and how they work. Contact us any time for more information or to schedule a FREE, no obligation consultation.

Life insurance

Life insurance is important for everyone, especially if you own a home, have children or are responsible for other family members. How much you need depends on factors such as you debts (e.g., your mortgage), education goals for your children and other income needs. Here are two of the most common types of life insurance:

Permanent life insurance (also known as whole life and universal life) provides protection for life, as long as your premiums are paid. In some cases, you can accumulate a tax-advantaged investment or cash value that may increase the amount you leave to your beneficiary.

Term life insurance provides protection at a guaranteed rate for a specific period of time, typically 10 or 20 years or to age 65. The policy is renewable at the end of the term, though the rate will be higher. This type of insurance is often used to cover a financial obligation that will disappear in time, such as a mortgage.

Critical illness insurance

Even though survival of heart attacks, strokes, cancer and other critical illnesses is increasing, recovering from such setbacks often requires weeks or months away from work. Extra costs, such as alternative treatments and accessibility modifications to your home, may not be covered by your provincial health plan.

Critical illness insurance provides a one-time cash benefit if you’re diagnosed with one of the conditions defined in your contract. The benefit can help support the day-to-day needs of you and your family while you take the time to access treatment get well and return to work.

Disability insurance

Relatively common conditions such as depression or osteoarthritis may prevent you from working for a period of time. So can a serious car crash or back injury.

Disability insurance provides monthly benefits to help replace your salary or wages after an accident or illness. This type of protection is especially important if you job is your family’s primary source of income or if you run your own business.

Do you have enough coverage?

Keep in mind that, even if you have insurance through a benefits plan at work, it may not be enough to maintain your family’s current standard of living in the event of your death, critical illness or disability. An individual policy can help top up your benefits – and stay with you if you change jobs.

Check out the insurance calculators provided on our product pages to find out how much insurance you may need and the potential costs. Contact us any time to schedule a FREE, no obligation consultation.

The Last Taboo


Why It’s Time to Talk About Money

In part, taboos are social and religions customs that forbid discussion of a particular practice. But as societies evolve taboos need to be broken for proper knowledge and wisdom to flourish. These days people seem more willing than ever to share personal details. The internet and social media make it easy to broadcast our lives to friends, family and even strangers. But one topic remains firmly taboo: money.

Modesty is one thing but whether it’s how much you make or what you paid for your car, cash to be a conversation stopper. We are taught early on that it isn’t polite to talk about money – and, if you’re not so comfortable with your own financial situation, discussing it might even feel embarrassing.

But, I firmly believe we need to break the taboo. Just like talking about sex with children can have lasting benefits for society, in the right context and with the right people, conversations about finances can have valuable benefits. They can even by empowering – for example, understanding how others manage their finances can help you make better choices or avoid mistakes. And knowing that others face similar monetary challenges can help you realize you are not alone with where you stand financially.

Consider all you could learn through an honest conversation about money. Perhaps a family member’s success is paying off a mortgage could inspire you to put a debt-reducing strategy in place. Or you might even strike up a conversation about retirement savings – how much are your close friends setting aside every month?

While it’s important to talk about money, it’s not always easy to do. Here are a few ways to get the conversation started and begin to break the taboo:

With your spouse – Open up about your personal histories with money, from how your parents handled it to your first experiences. What are your goals and how can you plan together to meet them?

With your kids – Your children don’t need to know how much you earn, but you can talk to them about wants versus needs and the elements of a budget.

With your family – Introduce new traditions like setting limits around gift giving for birthdays and holidays, or chipping in for something the family wants to enjoy together.

With your friends – Don’t be afraid to let your friends know if something doesn’t fit your budget. Suggest cheaper (or even free) options for getting together that won’t break the bank.

With your advisor – A great person to open up to about money – hopefully that’s me. I can help you understand the different aspects of your finances and work with you to put together a plan for success. Contact us today and let’s get started.

“You Pay Your Bills With Cash”


Book Review –“How the Mighty Fall” by James Collins

I read a book yesterday.

That might not sound like a very big accomplishment and to be honest it’s not.

I read a lot. My goal is to read about 25 pages a day. That works out to an average of one book every 10-14 days or so. I read just about everything I can get my hands on. They can be books about business, philosophy, history, theology, biographies or even the odd novel, the type of book isn’t really the point.

I read to learn. Part of my personal mission as a writer and teacher is to always be learning.

Yesterday I started a new book and was so captivated by it that I read the whole thing, just over 200 pages, in one sitting.

“How the Mighty Fall” by James Collins is a study in failure. It’s a study in how once great companies go from good to great to gone and how some companies can recognize the onset of decline and reverse the trend while others can’t or don’t do the work necessary to bailout and repair a sinking ship.

Collins became famous for his first book, “Good to Great” which is a study in how companies break through mere success to iconic greatness. His follow up book “Built to Last” studied how these great companies are then able to maintain their status over the long haul but within that second study Collins began to notice that some companies, even after a long time of sustained greatness would collapse into irrelevance or disappear completely, sometimes with alarming speed.

Collins claim, based on extensive research, is that there are five stages to decline.

  1. Hubris Born of Success
  2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More
  3. Denial of Risk and Peril
  4. Grasping for Salvation
  5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

Companies can appear to be healthy industry leaders right up until they transition from Stage 3 to Stage 4 but in hind sight the writing is on the wall long beforehand as they arrogantly go about their business under the mistaken impression that they are and will remain invincible. In my work as a Financial Coach both to individuals and small business I see the same 5 stages over and over again. In my experience the tipping point comes in Stage 3, its’ how you avoid or manage risk that is the key to survival.

Towards the end of the book Collins tells the story of Professor Bill Lazier who teaches small business management at Stanford. He begins his course with a case study in failure and asks the class what the central issue was as the company collapsed. These are MBA students that are used to looking at macroeconomic forces and strategic planning so at first the answers he gets are a grand analysis of big schemes and outside forces.

“No! Think!” is Lazier’s response to these egg-head answers. Eventually a student will somewhat sheepishly venture what seems so simplistic that it couldn’t possibly by right this is an graduate class at one of the most prestigious universities in the world after all. They will say something like “they can’t make payroll next week, they are out of cash.”

At that point Lazier will jump up and write in huge capital letters two-feet high, CASH. “You pay your bills with cash! Never forget, you can be profitable on paper and bankrupt at the same time.”

Cash is king. Everyone knows that, especially when you are first starting out in life or business, but as we become more and more successful we can get drawn in to the North American lifestyle of buy now, pay later, so we forget that. When available cash is replaced by access to credit and the whole system get’s flipped on its head.

The key lesson I took from this book is the simple fact that we must pay our bills with cash.

We may be able to buy on credit, we may even be able to extend credit and pay off one card with a different one but all this is a fool’s errand! Eventually you will have to pay – in cash. Buy now pay later is always replaced with pay now or else.

To a large extent the North American way of life was built on what sociologists and historians have dubbed The Protestant Ethic. Max Webber literally wrote the book on it in 1904, “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” originally published in Germany in 1905, put words to a sentiment that had been growing in western democracies for over two centuries. Simply put the Protestant Ethic says that time is money and there is honor in any work that contributes to the common good.  In addition, wealth comes to those who diligently work at their given task and spend less than they make.

But another social-economist, Daniel Bell would later note in the 1970s that the Protestant Ethic was dead due mainly to the invention of credit. Bell published his seminal work on the demise of the Protestant Ethic and the rise of capitalism, “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism” in 1976 at time when interest rates and inflation were on the rise, and for the first time since the Second World War people were spending less and going deeper into debt.

The Protestant Ethic is undermined not by modernism but by capitalism itself. The greatest single engine in the destruction of the Protestant Ethic was the invention of the installment plan, or instant credit. – Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

Now, according to Bell you can achieve the trappings of wealth quickly without completing the work previously required to get there. And that contradicts the basics of capitalism and capital allocation. Buy now pay later is just horrible planning and fundamentally wrong both ethically and mathematically.

And so, we come full circle. As a Financial Coach I see it every day. The Protestant Ethic, if not completely dead as Bell would have it, is indeed on life-support, put there by continued access to easy credit. Paying in cash is viewed as a curiosity at most retail institutions and downright discouraged at others. (Ever try to book a hotel room, or buy a car with cash?) In recent years central banks have continually lowered interest rates in order to encourage people to borrow ever more money so that they continue to spend money and keep this giant wheel called the economy moving.

People who refuse to take part in debt fueled spending are dismissed as “old fashioned” and even looked upon by their peers as a bit delusional, to be pitied as folks who just don’t know how to enjoy life. I know, I’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of derision more than once.

But – At that end of the day, as Professor Lazier likes to so dramatically point out to his students – “You Pay Your Bills in Cash!” Staying on top of cash flow is the first, second and last thing every person interested in building wealth needs to get a handle on. Without it you become locked in a perpetual cycle of working for the things you’ve already consumed and continually mortgaging your future for the things you think you want now. You’re taking on more risk than you can handle and you’re teetering on the edge of Stage 4 decline. Once you start grasping at straws in order to stay afloat, the dominos start falling quickly and it’s a short trip to the bottom.

Contact us for more information on how we can help you return to the Protestant Ethic, work hard, save for the future, and get out of debt before you reach the tipping point to stage 4 decline and it’s too late do anything about it.