The Five Whys:  Turning Failure into Success

Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem. – Mark Cook; Former Vice-President, Kodak Gallery

Back about 2010 or so digital photography created a problem.

With consumers rapidly transitioning from traditional film and print based cameras to the new digital world consumers began to demand quick and easy storage of their photographs within the digital environment.  Digital photographs tend to be fairly large files in terms of the amount of memory they consume on a home computer and people tend to want to keep them all, forever.   It wasn’t long after transitioning from the old film and print system to a digital camera that many families began to run out of hard drive space on which to store their precious memories.  Not to mention the fact the PC’s have the nasty habit of crashing from time to time and erasing everything held inside, Little Suzie’s first birthday party included.

Kodak, one of the world’s largest manufactures of both cameras and film saw an opportunity.  They would create a secure, on-line storage hub where customers could upload their photos and store them indefinitely.  Safely removed from the home computer, consumers would never again have to worry about running out of hard drive space or losing everything as a result of a virus or power surge.

The definition of success, above comes from one of the first leaders at Kodak Gallery and it’s a good starting point for what I wish to discuss today.  Sadly, Kodak Gallery no longer exists, it was purchased by Shutterfly in 2012 and all the photographs transferred over to their database.  But that shouldn’t change our perspective on the definition of success.

It’s about solving problems, period.

My bi-line on Twitter (@laurencsheil) says “I solve problems and write books.  Let me show you how to Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy,”

Over the years I’ve found that among the biggest problems many people and small businesses possess is an inability to properly manage debt.  This in turn hampers their ability to effectively build wealth, save for retirement, support a cause or leave any kind of lasting legacy.  Everything I do begins and ends with solving the big problem of debt and all the little problems that feed it.

I just finished reading “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries.  Ries is best known as the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of IMVU, an online gaming metaverse where users create 3D avatars to meet new people, chat, create and play games.  Think of IMVU as a real-time game of Sims.  Since founding IMVU in 2004, Ries has gone on to become a celebrated author and start-up mentor teaching companies of all sizes and industries the rules of his Lean Startup approach.

For me the most compelling section of the book was when Ries described his formula for learning from failure.  We all eventually fail at something, it’s how we pick up the pieces and learn from that failure that separates successful people from perpetual failures.  He calls it the five whys.

The five whys are not a specific set of questions that we need to ask ourselves when assessing failure.  According to Ries, five is simply the number of times you need to ask why in order to get to the root cause of any particular failure.

In my case it could look something like this:

  1. Why didn’t I land the big account? Because the client was worried about committing his funds to this new idea when he might need the money for a capital project within the next year.

  2. Why was the client worried about committing his funds? Because he didn’t understand that my proposal would still leave adequate free cash flow for whatever else he wanted to accomplish?

  3. Why didn’t he understand the free cash flow aspect of what I was proposing? Because I didn’t make that a big part of my proposal to him.

  4. Why didn’t I make that a big part of my proposal to him? Because I felt that once he saw that my product would solve his other problems he would be compelled to ignore some of his less pressing concerns.

  5. Why did I believe that by solving part of his problem the client would ignore his other concerns? Because I was lazy and arrogant and didn’t do all of my homework.

It is possible to get to the root cause of a failure in fewer than five whys but Ries cautions against going too quickly, and I agree.  In a lot of cases five whys might not be enough to get to the root of the problem.  It’s easy to make assumptions, skip over some crucial aspects and miss opportunities for improvement.

The five whys are a great way to get to the root of a problem, but I want to solve problems, not just identify them.   That’s why a properly executed five whys analysis must conclude with at least one (and sometimes multiple) big “So What?”

I was lazy and didn’t do all of my homework.  I will learn to ask more questions and better understand all of my client’s concerns before presenting a partial solution.

Failure is inevitable in life and in business.  Learning from failure and moving on takes a bit of work and a five whys analysis is a great place to start.




Reflections on a Spiritual Vision

 In the last days,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams. [Joel 2:28]

I had a vision the other day!

I’ll spare you the details.  They are personal, and I’ve only shared them with one other person so far.  I shared my vision with someone I trust, a person who knows we well and could help me unpack it’s meaning.

But today, I want to talk about visions in general.  What are they, how can we seek to understand them and what to do when we receive one.

In a spiritual context visions are supernatural experiences that convey a message or carry some form of meaning.  Sometimes they come in the form of a visitor from another realm, such as an angel or a departed person from our past and sometimes they come as a picture or word about something we are thinking about.  I my case my vision was of a vivid scene from a TV show.

Because they tend to happen when we are awake visions are usually simple and easy to understand, they tend not to be wrapped up in a lot of symbolism and obscure details like dreams can be.  As a result, the interpretation of visions is usually straight forward.  If your grandmother appears to you in a vision and says, “take out the garbage” it’s a pretty safe bet that you should just do what she says.  If, however you are asleep when the same thing happens it could mean something completely different.  Every detail of a dream needs to be examined for additional sub-context.  Garbage might represent a habit you have or a relationship you need to jettison, indeed Grandma might not even be Grandma, she could be that part of your sub-conscious mind that represents family, or a connection to your past.

You get the picture.  Dreams and visions aren’t the same thing.

In the case of a vision that comes in the form of a picture, like mine, it can be a bit more complicated but usually the meaning is still simple enough that it’s easy to understand.

Understanding a vision is really about understanding ourselves.  Even with a picture or word vision, when you stop and think about it, you know what it means.  Sometimes you need someone close to you to help you accept the meaning and make a plan of attack but that’s not the same as understanding the meaning of your vision.  In my case all I needed was to tell someone about it, in the telling I was able to clarify what I had seen and solidify my own understanding.

So, regardless of whether you saw Grandma, a painting worthy of Rembrandt or heard an audible voice telling you to go to China, the symbolism of a vision is simple enough that you should be able to understand the meaning without a lot of trouble.  The question is, will you do it?

Oprah Winfrey once said (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t exactly remember how she put it) that sometimes the “still small voice” of God needs to yell at you and sometimes it needs to start throwing bricks to get your attention.  But once you start to listen, it’s always been saying the same thing.  We just need to learn to listen better.

That’s what visions are;  the still small voice of God.   Have you had any visions lately?  Do you know what they mean?  What are you doing about it?

Lauren C Sheil is a Serial Entrepreneur and Financial Security Advisor.  He helps people live life to the fullest along the way teaching them to Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.  Write to 


“Just Like You…”

Continuing where I left off last week in discussing my Elevator Pitch for new prospects.  Once I’ve successfully converted a prospect to a client or decided that there is no real opportunity there the next step is to ask for referrals.  I’m always on the lookout for new clients and where better to find them than through the endorsement of people I have already worked for and who are presumably happy with the service I provide?

I start by saying something like this;

“As you know I’m actively working to expand my practice.  Now that you know first-hand the way I work perhaps you can help me find more clients just like you who recognize the importance of protecting their loved ones and know the value of professional advice.  Who do you know that I should be talking to?”

The exact wording of what I say, when and how I say it during my conversations varies but there are three elements (highlighted) that never change.

Just Like You…

Gratitude and a little bit of flattery never hurts especially when you are asking for something.  By telling a client that I want to work with people just like them I am expressing thanks and giving them an ego boost at the same time.  I am saying that you fit the profile of my ideal client, you are special, I wish I could clone you and spend the rest of my life working only for you.  But alas that’s not possible so who else do you know that you would be proud to bring in to our exclusive little club?

One of Dale Carnegie’s famous tips from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is to start with a complement.  Telling a client that I want to work with more people like them certainly fits that formula.

Protect Their Loved Ones…

One of the reasons why Life Insurance and Investment products can be so hard to sell is that at the end of the day, they aren’t really for you.  At best, in the case of a retirement plan they are for a future version of you and in the case of Life Insurance they are for the people closest to you but they are never truly for you in the here and now.

Legendary Life Insurance agent George Sigurdson of London Life and author of the book, “In Search of Friends; A Guide to Prospecting” says –

                “Life Insurance is a product bought with love and paid for with healthy choices.”

By telling clients I’m looking for people who want to protect their loved ones I’m reinforcing the flattery of the first statement by saying I see that in you and helping them fill in the picture in their mind of who else would be a good fit for me.  Another way of saying it is that I want to work with people who love their families enough to sacrifice a little bit of their cashflow to make sure they are going to be okay.

My friend Bruce told me a story once about driving on the Autobahn in Germany.  The first time he got behind the wheel he was excited to see just how fast he could drive but after a few minutes his wife leaned over and whispered to him, “Remember – you love your family.”  Suddenly it was no longer about how fast he could drive, it became more about safely getting to their destination with his is wife and their three young girls in the back seat.  He sacrificed his selfish desire to drive fast for the safety and security of the people he loves the most.

At the end of the day that’s what Life Insurance and Investing are all about.  I want to work with people who get that.

The Value of Professional Advice

Admittedly this last point can back fire if I haven’t laid the ground work for it in the previous two statements.  It basically says – “You are not the professional, I am.”

I’m poking at your ego a bit.  But by know you’re either already a client or I’ve determined that you aren’t likely to become one in the short term.  A little dig can serve to either snap you back into the conversation or further enhance the warm and fuzzy feelings I’ve evoked by reminding you how great you are for buying Life Insurance or starting an Investment plan.

The Investment Funds Institute of Canada (IFIC) has determined through numerous studies that people who work with a financial security advisor, on average, have up to four times more investable assets than those don’t.  Professional advice is clearly valuable to those who care to seek it out.  Similar studies have shown that the main reason people don’t seek out professional advice is a perception that it is too expensive or too complicated and that they are not sophisticated enough to benefit from it.  Lastly, many people don’t adhere to the need for professional advice because they have an unrealistic perception of their own ability to go it alone.

By telling people that I want to work with those who value professional advice I’m reinforcing the previous points, you’re great, you get this, congratulations on your good decision-making ability.  While at the same time reminding you that this is not too expensive or complicated.  I’m also drawing a line in the sand and making it clear the type of person I don’t want to work with.  If you think you can go it alone, without the help of a professional, good luck with that.

The world’s greatest philosopher Jesus of Nazareth said it best:

                “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Luke 5:31

In other words, if you think you’re okay, I’m not here for you.

So that’s my referral pitch.  It is designed to help reinforce in my clients and prospects a sense of their own worth to me and my practice and frame in their mind a specific picture of the people in their lives that I think I can help.  When I finally ask the question “who do know that I should be talking to?” a specific someone immediately pops to mind.

Who just popped into your mind?  Let me know – I’d be happy to meet them.

Lauren C Sheil is a Serial Entrepreneur and Financial Security Advisor.  He helps people live life to the fullest along the way teaching them to Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.  Write to 


Definitely, Maybe

That’s what my business is all about.

I use a number of different “elevator” pitches when talking to perspective clients.  One of my new favorites is to begin by telling people that I help mitigate the impact of the Definitely, Maybes in our lives.  Regardless of when or even if these things happen the impact on our lives and the lives of those around us can be devastating if not properly planned for.

Here they are;


We are all going to die.  The only question is when and what that might mean for the plans of the people we love.

Pretty much everyone can agree that the younger you are when you die the more tragic it seems.  The death of a child is almost always met with disbelief and regret for the senselessness of it all.  Such limitless potential cut short for no apparent reason.  Just about every parent I know would gladly trade places with their dying child.  Few parents put in that situation would ever consider that the collateral damage caused by their death would have a lasting impact on the life that child now gets to lead.  When a parent dies without having made adequate plans for their family the resulting financial difficulty can and most often does lead to lost opportunities and permanently alters the life trajectory of their children.

It may seem counter intuitive but the younger you are the more life insurance you should potentially have.  It’s not quite a straight line from birth to old age, more of a bell curve, peaking somewhere in middle age when your children are still young and your debts are still high but everybody dies and regardless of when that happens everyone should have some form of Life Insurance.


When I first started in this business one statistic surprised me.  According to StatsCanada one in three Canadians between the age of 25-65 will be out of work due to illness or injury for more than 90 consecutive days at some point during their working lives.  Three months may not seem like a long time at first but considering the fact that over 90% of Canadians are only one missed pay-cheque away from serious financial stress and you have a recipe for disaster.

Without adequate insurance a prolonged period of disability is in many cases a fate worse than death.  While the financial struggles brought about by the premature death of a bread winner are tragic, the person who caused them is gone.  What if that person wasn’t gone but had to sit by, helpless and watch his or her family struggle because they failed to adequately prepare for this very strong possibility.

Thankfully most employers in Canada offer some form of Disability Insurance through a Group Health Plan but these plans are often inadequate for maintaining your lifestyle long term and many smaller employers don’t offer any coverage at all.  Which would you rather have, a job that offers you a high salary with no guarantees of continued income or a job with a slightly lower salary and guarantees an income for life if you contract a serious illness or injure yourself long term?  Personally, I think the answer is a no brainer, sadly too many people disagree with me and don’t realize how short sighted their mistake made them until it’s too late.

What if you own a small business?  There are a lot of rewards to being your own boss but insurance benefits aren’t one of them.  The high stress of running a business, coupled with the fact that business owners tend to be the least likely to own any form of disability insurance makes owning a business, regardless of what the business does, among the most vulnerable sectors of the economy to long term illness and injury.  Not to mention what could happen to the people you employ if the business suffers because you don’t show up to work for six months.

Maybe #2 (R-2.0)

Increasingly in Canada more and more people are foregoing retirement and continuing to work in some capacity well into their 70s and 80s.  The reasons for this are varied.  Some haven’t saved enough and need to keep working to survive, others are still healthy and want to stay active.  As a result, the traditional retirement age of 65 is a thing of the past but regardless of when or even if you fully retire there will come a day when you either don’t want to or simply can’t keep going.

This phase of life is what I call Retirement 2.0.   Planning for R-2.0 is about more than just saving money to live on for the next 20-30 years.  It’s about deciding what you want to do with yourself and how to fund it.  And it’s about planning for the impact of declining health.

In preR-2.0 planning is about growing your nest-egg just like always, but once you start your R2.0 life it’s about guaranteeing income and securing your legacy.


So that’s what I do.  I help people plan for definitely and maybes.  I can definitely help you.  Maybe you’ll contact me.

Lauren C Sheil is a Serial Entrepreneur and Financial Security Advisor.  He helps people live life to the fullest along the way teaching them to Eliminate Debt, Build Wealth and Leave a Legacy.  Write to 

Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me???

Kicking the Fear of Missing Out in the Face!

Ever since mankind formed social groups we have always experienced a level of anxiety associated with being left out.  What’s the big deal about owning a wheel anyway?  Life would be so much cozier if I had a new stone fire-pit like that tribe over there.  Why didn’t Suzy invite me to the party?  But in recent years, with the advent of the internet and social media, this ancient anxiety has been ramped up to new and unprecedented levels.

In 2004 while finishing his MBA the soon to be world renowned venture capitalist Patrick J. McGinnis wrote an article for The Harbus (the student newspaper of Harvard Business School) entitled “Social Theory at HBS: McGinnis’s Two FOs”  in which he coined the phrase “The Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO.

FOMO is characterized by an almost manic drive to see and do everything.  But while you are rushing from one commitment to the next there is something else bubbling just below the surface.  You see it when people who should be engaged with their surroundings sit in the middle of a highly stimulating activity face down in their phones.  These are the people who abruptly change plans, never give a firm commitment and always seem to have one foot out the door.  They have graduated from mere FOMO, to the second FO – FOBO or the Fear of a Better Option.

FOMO is not really new.  Social Media and other forms of technology like text messaging have made it more prevalent and easier to get caught up in than ever before but the Fear of Missing Out has always been with us.  So has the Fear of a Better Option.  When I was a kid – before cell phones and social media, when phones had cords and hung on walls and computers weighed forty pounds, we called it something else.  We called it staying in touch, being popular or keeping up with the Joneses.  But whatever you call it – it’s FOMO.

As your Financial Coach it often feels like I’m fighting losing battle against FOMO and FOBO every day.  These two FOs are the main enemy of sound financial planning.  Keeping up with the Joneses when our every move is documented and published on social media is a losing game.  Especially when we think about the fact that people only post their best moments on Facebook and seem to go silent as soon as the credit card bill arrives, the bill collector comes knocking or the hydro gets turned off.  (That last one more out of necessity than choice).

We need a third FO that can over power and replace the first two.  And think I found it.  I call it FOOM, the Fear of Outliving your Money.  When FOOM takes over your every thought, FOMO and FOBO don’t stand a chance.

The Fear of Outliving your Money forces you to budget for today and save for tomorrow.  It used to be that the average person needed savings of about $1 million in order to retire comfortably.  But that’s not true anymore.  With longer life expectancy and lower interest rates that number is more like $1.5 million.

I looked at a projection for a 35 year old yesterday who earns $100,000 per year (slightly higher than the nation average) and his number was a whopping $1.9 million.  But FOMO and pressures placed on him by watching all his friends on social media has him overspending to the point that he has exactly $0.00 saved and only 30 years to go before his planned retirement date.  That means he needs to put away over $600 per month for the rest of his life starting immediately.  When I told him so he nearly fell out of his chair, not because he doesn’t have the money – he does, but because it would mean intentionally missing out on some of the life experiences he has become accustomed to.

FOOM kicked FOMO in the face!   After a little bit of bargaining because he wanted to have his cake and eat it too, (that’s FOBO) he got it.

So here’s my advice for all you people out there with a bad case of FOMO.  Go on a social media holiday – try it even for a day and see if you don’t start to feel a bit better about yourself.  At the very least stop looking at your friend’s latest vacation pictures and start a savings plan, even a small one will help.  And whenever FOMO starts to creep in look at the balance of your savings accounts and tell yourself that no what happens from now on you will always have at least that much.  As you discipline yourself and watch that money grow, FOOM will dissipate and FOMO will become irrelevant.

In many ways that’s what Financial Planning is all about.  I’m here to help you realign your priorities and help you eliminate all forms for financial fear , whether it’s FOMO, FOBO or FOOM fear has no place in financial planning.  In fact it’s the planning part the really kicks all forms of fear in the face.



Going Ballistic

I recently heard it said that humans could be considered ballistic beings.

What this means is that we are meant to always go forward in one direction.  Any attempt to go backwards or veer from side to side creates friction and causes us to miss the mark with our lives.  True, we can sometimes decide to change direction mid flight but not without considerable effort and a loss of velocity that is difficult to regain.  If you are constantly switching targets just forget about it, the effort required to fight against friction will kill your focus and cause you to miss everything.

Granted, like all analogies this one breaks down after a while but I think you get the point.  If humans are indeed ballistic beings, in order to remain effective we need to be aware of two things that make bullets work:  Focus and Velocity.


When a bullet is pointed at a target nothing else matters.  So it should be with us, goals are meant to be achieved.  The degree to which we are successful with our goals is largely a function of our ability to remain focused on them.  Anything that pulls is in a direction other than our intended target creates friction in our lives.  Friction slows us down and if it’s allowed to continue it will cause us to miss.

The most successful entrepreneurs in the world always have an incredible degree of focus.  They tend to be what my friend Tim once called a one note song.  Their target is all they talk about, all they think about and all they do.  But one note songs aren’t very interesting and not many people can stand to listen to them for very long.  This causes all kinds of problems, relationships suffer, physical and mental health suffers, and if allowed to go unchecked even if we hit the bull’s eye, we eventually explode and have nothing else to show for it.


The other aspect that makes bullets work is velocity.   Speed is required in order for a bullet to maintain its trajectory.  Too slow and gravity takes over, pulling the bullet down and causing it to miss the mark.  But often forgotten about is what happens when a bullet moves too fast, it can pass right through the target and continue on until it hits something (or someone) else.  This then causes additional damage.

People who have a natural tendency to maintain a high degree of focus, like me, can sometimes get frustrated when the velocity is not up to our expectations.  The thing is, focus is almost 100% within our own control but velocity is not.  The speed with which we are able to carry out our plans usually, if not always, depends on other people.  The result is that we can only move as fast as the people around us are willing to go.  Sometimes this velocity, or lack thereof can result in a loss of focus, other times, when others catch the vision the speed with which things begin to happen can be remarkably fast.   This is what I have recently begun referring to as life at the Speed of Relationship.

So here’s the deal.

Going Ballistic in life and business requires both focus and velocity.  In order to maintain your focus you need to be able to work at a pace that keeps you engaged and on track.  But in order to maintain that pace you may also need to recruit the help of those around you and that requires some people skills.  Sometimes you will need to slow down and cultivate relationships in order to then speed up and get things done.

And remember; you can always talk faster but sometimes it pays to listen slow.