Tag Archives: lessons

The Power of No

Be willing to walk away

Saying-noIt's not a tactic and it's not a bluff. It's a change in attitude that changes the relationship for both sides.

Now you are only here because you both want to be. And you're working toward the same objective. Confronted with a firm no, both parties will find a better way to get to the win-win.

Or agree to walk away to other options and stop wasting each other’s time.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Earn the right to brag

It worked for me running marathons. Long after my rational brain and aching body were telling me to quit, my ego kept reminding me that I would lose all bragging rights, if I didn’t finish. I knew it was much more satisfying to work into the conversation, “Yup, the full twenty-six miles, 42.2 kilometers, and I wasn’t last. In New York there were even nine thousand runners finished behind me!” (No need to mention there were twenty-five thousand ahead of me. Just a humble telling of the facts that put you in the best light.  Getting too boastful can lead to distressing put downs, like “Did you win?”)

Pride is a great motivator.

No need to deny it; earn it and use it. Don’t exaggerate and don’t take credit where it is not your accomplishment, but if it’s true, let the world know.  Sometimes it’s not clear why we’re so proud, but if the feeling is there, share it. And if you are proud of your team, your family, your staff, or your associates, it’s worth sharing. Being recognized and appreciated is a great motivator for everyone.

What about the things we do we’re not so proud of? The question then is “Would you do that if anybody knew?” The opposite of pride is shame and it’s a good deterrent to bad behaviour if you imagine it being exposed. If you anticipate embarrassment, humiliation or loss of respect, then don’t do it.

Imagining an audience works both ways. Keep in mind that you may not be just imagining it.  In today’s over-exposed world somebody will notice, whatever you do.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs. Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book. 

The weird WWW continues

Back when we were first introduced, about twenty years ago, it was called the World Wide Web.  Now it would be better described as the Weird Wonderful World that we live in.

It is a continuously and rapidly changing world that affects us all every day.  From the time we wake up to check e-mail and the weather on our smart phones, staying connected all day for work and play, until watching old movies or TV series on Netflix before bed. The internet has become as much a part of the infrastructure we take for granted as traffic lights and coffee shops.

But taking it entirely for granted is not a good idea, since it is a continuously changing infrastructure. Suddenly, the most popular app is not available on your Blackberry and the old accounting software is not compatible with Windows 10.  You’re in danger of going obsolete yourself if you don’t continually replace or upgrade devices and software. Suppliers are constantly developing products and services to win new customers and build attraction to their brand. Marketing gurus find ways to make them irresistible and impossible to ignore.

But the suppliers also live in this challenging world without control over events. In the news again today, we learn that Yahoo continues to search for a strategy that will allow them to survive. Remember them? The original Web portal that asked “Do you Yahoo?”  Now we are all Googling and Facebooking instead of Yahooing. What was once creative and exciting, now seems old-fashioned and obsolete.

Twitter_bird_logoEven more recent successes, the so-called unicorns that grew rapidly from zero to billion dollar valuations, are not guaranteed longevity.  Consider Twitter. Another weird concept launched in 2006 that caught on and has grown to 320 million active users. The company went public just over two years ago before it was even generating any significant revenue. Enthusiastic fans drove the first day share price to $44.00 for a valuation of $31 billion and it rose as high as $69.00 in early 2014.  That little bluebird is now fluttering under $18.00 and management is saying “We have a ton of work to do in crafting the message to the world what Twitter really is and how you can use it” (FP, 18-02-2016).

This weird and wonderful world continues and we still cannot understand or explain it.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson


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Jordan Spieth2Last year Jordan Spieth made history with five PGA wins, including two Majors and the FedEx Cup, for over $20 million in earnings as a 22-year old.

Can he repeat that performance this season?  Well, against the other Tour winners in a high profile tournament in Hawaii last month he won by eight strokes. That's pretty convincing.

A few more tournaments around the world and he has only finished occasionally in the Top Five.  So he doesn't win them all, but he is still No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings in spite of pressure from Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Ricky Fowler.

Spieth is a year older and wiser with lessons learned from winning under pressure last year.  He will be tough to beat.  We will be watching at the Masters in April.

How is that like business?

One year is not enough. Each year you start again from zero and try to repeat your best performance.  No one is very impressed unless you can sustain it.

Consider Phil Mickelson - challenging himself and the competition for twenty-five years with forty-two wins including five Majors and still in the mix to win again until the last putt on the 18th green at Pebble Beach last Sunday. He has already won the Masters three times (2004, 2006, 2010), so maybe the 45-year old will be duelling with Spieth in April. It will be fun to watch.




It’s not all hope and happy optimism  

Trudeau JI thought he was “just a high school teacher….”, but apparently he was better schooled in the family business than I thought.

Justin Trudeau is a very different personality from his father, but just as inspirational a leader and communicator. Quoting Sir Wilfred Laurier, possibly our most inspiring and exemplary Canadian Prime Minister, he has shown us the “sunny way” to a better Canada. Not just doing better and contributing more to a better world, but also feeling better about being Canadian.

What can we learn from Trudeau’s leadership of the Liberals that brought them from near oblivion to a majority government in just three years? Being a charming and handsome young man is not necessary and communicating hope and happy optimism is not sufficient.

The key element for Trudeau was the hard-work getting ready to present himself as a legitimate candidate for Prime Minister. Most important in his opinion, was all the time and effort spent listening to and connecting with Canadians of all ages, regions and interests across the country. He learned a lot and gave his supporters more confidence in him at the same time. He was able to test policies and ideas with future electors.  And he learned that he could get away with a lot in revealing himself and occasionally looking foolish, naďve or inexperienced, as long as he was authentic. He learned not to put on a false smile or read somebody else’s lines in order to play political games. The more we saw of him the better we liked him.

His sincerity, generosity and compassion all appear genuine. (The skeptics may still think he’s just a good actor and we’re blinded by the charm and good looks, but most of us are convinced we are getting the real deal in the Justin we now know.) There is no denying his commitment, energy and enthusiasm for doing the right thing for all Canadians. It seems to be contagious.  We are all feeling more generous, caring and compassionate since Monday and happy and proud to be the Canadians we thought we were. Even the conservative Canadians that voted for the other guy are expressing those sentiments.

The euphoria may end soon, however, as the new Prime Minister has to make hard decisions and say no to some popular ideas or adjust his promises to meet real world constraints – economic or geopolitical. His next conversation with President Obama may be on the tactics of lowering expectations.

So, the real tests of leadership begin with his swearing in as Prime Minister on November 4th, but we should recognize how much he has accomplished already with leadership based on the personal touch, caring and compassionate listening, being authentic and genuine, risking exposure of his faults and weaknesses, and consistently communicating energy, optimism and enthusiasm. Those are the qualities of leadership that will cause people to follow and support the cause.



Jason Day PGA ChampFriendly Competition Inspires Everybody

The PGA Championship on Sunday saw the fans’ new favourite Jordan Spieth against the talented Australian Jason Day in a head-to-head contest that was an impressive display of superb golf and exceptional sportsmanship. Inspiration for us all. Meanwhile Rory McIlroy, the third superstar in this newly anointed trio of golf’s “Big Three” was lurking not far behind, in spite of it being his first competition after six weeks of recovery from a sprained ankle.

All three young players continue to demonstrate great respect for each other as competitors and for the traditions and history of the game. Fiercely competitive all, they keep it in perspective. As McIlroy himself said recently, “It may be a big deal to those of us in this bubble, but in the rest of the world only a very small percentage are even interested.”

And in spite of the big stakes, they are all friends. Chatting and grinning, enjoying each other’s good shots, Spieth and Day continued battling to the 18th hole. Winning by three shots, Jason Day won the Championship and $1.8 million while making history with the lowest score ever in a Major golf tournament at -20. Jordan Spieth had to settle for second and only $1 million, but also made history beating Tiger Woods’ record for lowest score in Jordan Spieth2the four Majors in one year at -54. (He won the first two – the Masters and US Open.). He also bumped Rory McIlroy out of #1 in the World Golf rankings.

Three very impressive and talented young men of character. Inspiring us by demonstrating that competition does not have to be like war. You do not have to hate your opponents as enemies. All is not fair. You can still focus on winning while playing by the rules and respecting your competitors.

Keep it in mind for your next round.


My story recently shared story with Jonathan Chevreau at his Findependence Hub.

It’s better to have a plan

My unplanned retirement at 52 seems to have been successful, if I look back over the last 15 years, but I could have done it better and suggest that you can too, if you have a plan.DelBanff

Here is my story and the lessons I have learned. I am sharing them on the assumption that it’s never too late for you or me to do it better. At age 52, I quit my day job and headed into the unknown. At that time I certainly did not call it “retirement”. It was more “seeking new opportunities”, “time for a change of career plans” and other appropriate clichés.

How did I get to that point? Well, I was just another engineer/MBA with a career in corporate positions and management consulting followed by twelve years in my own business. My business in computer products distribution grew fast and did very well during the booming PC revolution of the ‘80’s. Then in the ‘90’s the PC market rapidly changed and smaller players were squeezed out by the few surviving big manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. So the business become less fun and less rewarding as I went through the challenges of a merger, wind-up, re-start and finally an exit. My decision to leave was simply based on the lack of personal satisfaction. The stimulating challenges and my motivation had evaporated. It was time to move on.

During most of the 25 years after my MBA, I had earned good compensation and was apparently smart enough to manage a sound savings and investment plan (encouraged by the wise and practical advice of Jonathan Chevreau, the Wealthy Barber and many others.) The biggest bump in compensation and savings happened, of course, during the good years in my own business when sales and profits were booming. But when I quit working and starting searching for new opportunities there were two things missing: I did not know what I really wanted and I didn’t have a plan

Financially, I was able to carry on without income and live off my investments. My savings and investment plans, starting in my early 30’s, were based on reasonable risk and return assumptions in a well diversified portfolio. I started with a brokerage account and a commission-based broker. But after some bad advice and a couple of big losses, I switched to another broker for a few years and then finally decided to go 100% self-directed. I had learned that my choices were as good as those of the big brokerage research advisors and I now had the luxury of boasting about the winners and keeping quiet about my mistakes. I remained cautious on 85% of the portfolio, although it was 95% in equities, as I could never justify the low returns of fixed income and was willing to be patient through the downturns. I often explain (usually to aggressive wealth management sales people) that my decision to continue to manage my own investments is not for the better returns, but for the education and entertainment value. Admittedly, sometimes an expensive education and sometimes more horror story than action-adventure.

Over the years, however, I had achieved acceptable average returns and at age 52 I could quit working and earning income. I could “retire”.

My Rule of 15

How did I know that? Well, being an engineer and MBA, I did have spreadsheets to run through various scenarios that showed I could live well and still leave an inheritance behind whenever I checked out. I even developed a simple “Rule of 15” that saves you all the trouble of preparing those spreadsheets. If you have fifteen times your annual spending invested, then you are good to retire. That’s it: if you need $50,000 a year to live on, you can retire on $750,000. That amount will take thirty years to decline to zero if you can earn at least 5% a year return on it. The experts of course, will tell you it’s more complicated than that and you need to consider inflation and volatility of returns, housing, health and family issues, but they are not predictable anyway and you have some room for error and the ability to manage within the 5% return and the thirty-year time frame assumptions. Don’t make it complicated and suffer paralysis by analysis. The Rule of 15 is a simple reality check on your retirement plans

But financial independence, findependence as Jonathan Chevreau calls it, is not enough. You may know how you are going to spend your money during your retirement, but how are you going to spend your time? That turns out to be even more important to your long-term health and well being.

In my own case, I meandered aimlessly into my unplanned retirement and tried to keep it interesting by dabbling in everything from Internet start-ups to building a consulting business; from running marathons to running for MP, playing golf to playing guitar. I dealt with some family issues, separated and divorced and did some voluntourism by helping entrepreneurs in developing economies and aboriginal communities.

After fifteen years of wandering between consulting, semi-retirement and self-unemployment, I recognized that this approach was not giving me much satisfaction. I needed more passion and purpose in my life.

Since my own process was clearly not working, I started soliciting input and advice from professional resources to help figure out what I really needed for personal fulfillment. It began with a personal assessment of who I was and what I wanted. Better knowledge of myself helped me focus on what I should be spending my time on to achieve the goals of personal fulfillment. Clarity helps.

Here are the most important lessons that I learned in my unplanned retirement:

  1. Do not make decisions by neglecting them until events decide for you.
  2. Have a plan that recognizes your personal needs, goals, resources, limitations and timetable.

 Assess who you are and where you are now; decide where you want to be and when; and then start acting according to your plan. Hope for a little luck along the way, but don’t count on it.

Have a happy retirement

An old Blog post, that is worth repeating for the lessons it reinRicky Fowlerforces.

My Dad used to say, “Nothing succeeds like success”. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression also. My interpretation is that the more you succeed the more you and others expect to see you succeed.

It is true in business and golf. A couple of examples.

Out for another round with my 7-year old grandson and this time he did much better. A strong, smooth swing was connecting more frequently and sending the ball long and straight (for a 7-year old). Every golfer’s favourite swing result. On top of that he rammed a couple of 4 to 5-foot putts straight into the cup to the surprise of all of us watching and to his delight. He was so encouraged with his game that he insisted on going immediately after the round over to the driving range and the practice green. He was motivated to get better and enjoy the game even more.

I had a similar experience earlier this week in a rare round with my son-in-law. He is a very competitive former fullback with a vicious swing and a huge slice that he manages to keep in the fairway. We were both ready to impress each other. I got the better start.

Off the first tee, a short dogleg left downhill to a small well-bunkered green, I hit a perfect (for me) 5-iron that drew around the corner and ran down about 225 yards. Hit a full sandwedge about 100 yards and landed right side of the pin, then sank a curling 18-foot putt for birdie. I’m loving this course! (Son-in-law lost his drive in the trees and went downhill, literally, from there.)

The rest of my round was the usual roller coaster from par to triple bogey but I was not bothered after the great starting hole and the expectation by me and my playing partners that I was going to hit it well. That first hole just kept me confident and relaxed for the day and happy to come back soon.

The lesson learned was one often stated by the pros, “Keep visualizing your successes instead of your failures and that is what you are more likely to repeat.”