Optimism: Forget What You Hear, Remember What You Have

Optimism is something we could each use just about everyday. Unfortunately, the media is always pressing us to think negative with their onslaught of depressing and negative news stories. If the news is your only source of information, you probably think that the world is going to end any day now.

I thought I would take a moment to share a great quote from a recent article in Wired that lends an optimistic perspective on the world today.

Greenwald: How do you maintain your optimism amid the deadening barrage of bad news from around the globe?

Diamandis: Our brains are wired to look for negative information. The amygdala is the danger center. Our senses are routed through it before they get to the cortex. When we heard a rustle in the branches, we thought tiger, not wind. That’s why, in the news, if it bleeds it leads. But the facts are absolutely clear. The world is getting better at an extraordinary rate. The technologies available for solving problems are becoming more powerful and empowering more people. optimism-closeWill there be problems? Disasters? Pandemics? Terrorist attacks? Of course. But humanity picks up and keeps moving. In this country, lifespans nearly doubled in the last century. Per capita income more than tripled, and the cost of food, energy, transportation, and communications have dropped exponentially. That’s my source of optimism. That and a realization I made early on that if there’s a problem, I’m going to solve it. Once you see the world that way, it’s a different place.

The more of the story being, of course, that we are at an all time innovative high around the globe and that, even though things may seem tough, ultimately we have more tools today to help ourselves than that in the sum of all history.

Happy Canada day! Let’s celebrate the best country in the world!

Online Privacy is Overrated

online-privacyIt seems like everyday a new article comes out decrying the lack of privacy online. On the surface, it seems like something to be truly concerned about. However, after a closer look you begin to realize that we have it pretty good. It’s time to be done with the hysteria.

Reality Check

Everyday we all enjoy free services at the extremely low cost of “some of our personal information”. Take Facebook for example. Facebook offers a number of services to us and asks nothing of direct monetary value in return. I, for one, use it to organize my photos, keep in touch with friends and organize events and the only thing I have ever had to “pay” in return was a couple strings of text indicating who I am. And yes, Facebook has access to my photos and status updates but it’s not as creepy as you think. Contrary to popular belief, Facebook does not give out your information to all of the rapists and murders in the world. It also doesn’t ask that you provide information such as your address, phone number or when your doors are left unlocked (you can post that info if you want but it is discretionary).

View the article that inspired this rant: Online Privacy is Overrated

The point is, we are all getting a great deal. How many of you would continue to use Facebook if it suddenly cost $59.99/month? Most people don’t think of it that way, but when presented with the alternative of paying cold hard cash, they are more than willing to divulge what their favourite TV show is. It’s absolutely painless to divulge this information with very few downsides. Some people consider targeted advertising a downside. I have no idea why. Another reality check: you will be subjected to advertising. It’s a fact. So why not see advertising that is applicable to you? It’s easy to ignore and hey, if you happen to be in the market for that particular product or service, it just saved you some research time. Not to mention ad personalization will save us guys from being subjected to tampon ads everywhere we go and women get to avoid those “meet sexy lolitas” ads. Win-win-win.

The other angle of hysteria perpetuated by the media is the idea of being watched or followed. The idea that with your personal information online everyone knows where you are always – good old fashioned conspiracy theories to boot. A brilliant piece of knowledge I obtained many years ago goes as follows:

No one cares about you as much as you think they do

It sounds super depressing but what it means is that you may think that everyone is always watching you, judging you and trying to get a piece of you, while in reality most of them really couldn’t care less. The government is not after you (and if they are then you are probably a criminal and deserve the attention) and neither is anyone else. No one is going to hack your account randomly to find your children’s photos, so they can somehow track down where they are. It’s preposterous. If your children are unsafe, it’s because the neighbour you thought was so nice turns out to be a creep. They’ll just walk across the lawn and say “hi” after school.

Your family and close friends may care about your personal details (and that’s not creepy), but no one else does. Everyone else is too busy worrying about themselves and their own family and friends.

So what are you hiding from? Keep your financial data close at hand and lend it out to only the most reputable of sites. Other than that, share and reap the rewards.



Side note: even credit card information is relatively safe. In the event that your information is stolen, you are completely protected and the credit card company will reimburse you. Cash, on the other hand, is gone forever if lost or stolen.

Canada is the Best Country. Period.

A recent article in Canadian Business establishes, with heaps of evidence, that Canada is the best country in the world. I concur. The article focuses on why Canada is the best place to do business but many of the points raised make it clear that Canada is the best place, in all respects. Let’s take a look at some of the hard numbers presented:

Canada has been ranked #1 internationally for reputation.

Canada has been ranked #1 for international brand.

86% of Canadians believe Canada is the best country in the world.

Canadian households have a net worth of US$122,260, versus US$93,100 in the States.

See below for a full list of what makes Canada the best in the world

Canada is the best place on earth. A large number of factors determine our place at the top such as the liveability of our cities, where we rank on the Human Development Index (HDI), and our overall wealth. For years we have topped independent studies of dominance in these areas and more, but what has really set us apart – and put us on a pedestal on the international stage – is our performance as a nation during the recent recession.

The recession was tough on everyone; no one is going to say otherwise. However, it’s no secret that Canada fared better than most. We avoided a national implosion through a combination of our robust banking/financial system, our powerful hedged economy and our innate ability to weather a storm (literally and figuratively). As a result, we are now the envy of countries across the globe with our reputation beginning to grow as big as the massive land we sit on.canada-best-country

Canadians have little to complain about as this great country has continued to treat us well decade after decade, however, like never before, Canada is now positioned to take a much bigger role on the world stage. Part of our success has been to sit quietly in the background and enjoy our prosperity, but it is now time to give back to the world and take on the world leadership we deserve. We have the resources (natural and otherwise) to become a much bigger player globally and the everyday Canadian can stand to benefit from this globalization.

According to Joanna Pachner, writing for Canadian business, Canada has a number of opportunities ahead to become an economic super power. Our reputation can take us many places, particularly in proven industries like finance which Pachner sees as a Canadian strength. Combined with our vast resources (Canada is estimated to have 13% of all undiscovered oil in the world) and business prowess (Canada is taking on a much larger role globally with various trade deals in the works) Canada is poised to become the country-to-be.

Why Canada is the best country. Period.

  • Enormous and gorgeous (albeit cold) land
  • Powerful economy
  • Highly ranked on the HDI
  • Resource-rich
  • World-renowned educational system
  • Sound infrastructure
  • High net worth
  • Strong financial/banking system
  • Highly-coveted healthcare system
  • Business-friendly & investment-friendly environment
  • Technologically advanced
  • Large talent pool (particularly per capita)
  • Stable political environment (not a circus like U.S. politics)

My hope in writing this article is that Canadians will be more proud than ever. We are modest by design but it is okay to embrace our success sometimes. More importantly though, is to love the country that has given you so much; and when you’re done being modest – let’s take the world by storm.

Update: additional charts that clearly show Canada as a favourable country to live in across many different categories of measure. Very impressive!

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Finding Success in Hobbies & Interests

Want to be successful in life? Who doesn’t? The key to success (according to my late-night musings while exercising at the gym) is to pick up a hobby or two. All the evidence presented in this post is anecdotal, however, I believe there’s a lot of common sense to it.

Think of some of the most successful people in the world – as determined by overall fame, money, and how they are universally adored – and you will find a large number of people who got really good at one of their favourite things to do. The most obvious examples are famous musicians who were able to take their musical obsession to capture a broad audience. Unlike most other “average” jobs, it is safe to say that most musicians do not sucess-hobbies-interestssimply choose to make music because it’s “a job”. Instead, they take their passion for their music and leverage it for astounding success. Of course, there are many musicians that never make it – but when they do make it, they are far more successful/rich/famous than a plumber who is a master of his trade (no offence to the great plumbers out there!).

So it seems obvious but some of the best opportunities in life come from narrow interests and hobbies. Consider successful bloggers who took their passion for a particular topic and turned themselves into knowledge experts with a devoted following. Seth Godin is a great example of this type of topic expert, as are the original bloggers behind Gizmodo and Lifehacker (some of my favourite blogs).

Turn a hobby into a career and you will love what you do and have great opportunities for success.

For years, I have spent my life trying to be good at most things when really I should have been focusing on being amazing at a few. Not to get caught up in the whole New Year’s Resolution nonsense, but perhaps it is worth a look inwards – find your biggest strengths and focus on them. Pick one or two hobbies/topics/activities that you are really good at/really enjoy and find a way to leverage it.

Intelligence + Risk Comfort = Self-Made Success

It is very difficult to simplify something as complicated as success, yet as you can see above, I have certainly attempted it. What is important to notice is that I specify “self-made” success and not success in general. It is hard to consider success passed down as true success in life. Therefore, I am not counting the type of success that is passed down from successful parents (it is easy to be seem successful when, from birth, you have all the money and connections you need to get you through life). But I digress.

Successful individuals are typically either very intelligent or very willing to take on risk, or both. You only need one to be successful but having both is an almost guarantee of success.


The problem with intelligence is that it is nearly impossible to measure accurately as there are so many forms of intelligence. However, most people can quickly identify someone as having a particular intelligence – a sort of indefinable quality that serves to grant confidence to those who have it and those who must confide in them. Intelligence leads to great ideas which are successful no matter what you do. Intelligence means knowing what to do and when but intelligence does not necessarily lead to action which is where risk comfort comes in.

An example of someone who has intelligence but lacks risk comfort is a dreamer. Someone who spends all day thinking about how things could be better – but continues to daydream and not take action on it. Some risk and passion must be combined with intelligence for true success to flourish.

Risk Comfort

Having a comfort level with risk can also be thought of as having passion, doing everything in your power to make something happen. Successful entrepreneurs, for example, must have this passion. Looking at it more literally, it means being willing to do what it takes to be successful and make things happen – potentially risking everything while you do it. Intelligent people are able to accomplish great things while minimizing risk, but some of the greatest accomplishments have required taking on significant risk.

An example of someone who is comfortable with risk but lacks intelligence is a rogue gambler. Someone who always bets it all in the hopes of a big payoff. Sometimes, they will be successful but without intelligence the odds are against them.intelligence-risk-success

Together these two factors are the largest determinants of self-made success. Of course this whole discussion is a simplification of a complex number of factors that determine personal success, however, sometimes it is important to boil concepts down to a simple digestible form.

Can you think of examples of self-made success that didn’t involve either intelligence or risk comfort? What other factors do you think are important for self-made success?