Relationship Golf

I spent the evening at an MBA graduation formal.

Normally being surrounding by MBA graduates and their type A personalities for 6 hours would be a bit overwhelming for me. But I decided it was a good way to take me out of my comfort zone, and move me towards my goal of building more relationships.  My goal for this event, was to try some advice in an article I read many months ago, about treating relationships like a game of golf, keeping your numbers low.

The idea behind relationship golf is to focus on making 1 or 2 very good connections instead of just running around trying to meet everyone.

When trying to connect with someone in a short period of time.  I learnt that you should focus 90% of the conversation on them.  People love to talk about themselves.  Ask them what they are up to, what they have done and where they plan to go.  Listen carefully to the conversation, as they generally will give you openings to continue down different lines of conversation.

For example, if you ask a person what they do for a living.  They may say accountant at XYZ firm.  My follow up question would then be, what type of accounting?  If they say tax accounting, I would ask them about any interesting stories of tax savings or tricks they did.

People generally are very interested in their craft, if you dig deep and listen carefully you can find countless things for them to talk about within their domain.  For example, any new laws passed by the government that they are affected by.  Or how they see the craft advancing or regressing.

I may not know anything about accounting, but if you take the position of the student, you can learn much from someone who takes pride in what they do.

As a side effect, by actively listening to the person you would have paid them a subtle complement.  Getting someone’s attention in the world has gotten much harder, with all the media we are constantly bombarded with. It is rare for someone to give something as valuable as attention away.  People notice this gift, and are more than likely going to return the favour when it’s your time to speak.

During the formal I ended up having good conversations with 3 people, and we will likely meet again to chat further to see how we can be of use to each other in the future.

Aim for small numbers of meaningful interactions, instead of spreading your time and attention far and wide.



Automobile University

Often times I will recommend a book to a friend to help solve a problem they are facing.  9 out of 10 times they will reply with some excuse about not having the time.

I used to reply the same way.  Until I discovered audiobooks.  Audiobooks are awesome, because I am a slow reader, and it takes me weeks to finish a book.  But with an audiobook, it only takes a few hours.

Lately I’ve been doing 3 hour drives to visit my friend on the weekends.  It’s a total of 6 hours there and back.  Normally this is a lot of wasted time.  Now I can use this time to finish a short book.

I’ve also found that audiobooks can be great for training a new language as well.  I’ve been using the Pimsleur system to learn mandarin.  I went from practically no mandarin to conversational in about 6 months.  Just half an hour a day during my morning commute was all I needed.

When I graduated university I had the impression I was done learning.  I thought I had all the knowledge needed for the rest of my life.  It took almost 2 and a half years for me to realize that I didn’t know anything.

Having a degree doesn’t mean you can stop learning.  I can safely say that all of my recent accomplishments had little to do with my university education.  In fact, if I had spent those 4 years just reading books that would help me get to where I needed to be, I could have saved thousands of dollars.

If you want to get anywhere in life, you have to read.  I’m going to paraphrase Will Smith’s quote, there have been billions people before you.  It is highly unlikely the problem you are facing right now is completely original.  If there is a solution to that problem, it is likely in a book.

Do what it takes to get the education you need, as it is the only thing you truly own.


Your Mood is in Your Food

For the last 4 weeks, I’ve been on a slow carb diet.  Basically this is eating any meats, vegetables, nuts and legumes.  So far I’ve lost about 2% body fat and dropped 5 pounds.

A lot of people ask me why I’m even on a diet, as I am at a healthy weight for my height.  The reason, I am doing the diet to reach a life long goal of mine, which is to have 6 pack abs.

Your only given one shot with your body, and I figure I’d see how far I can take it.  In addition to dieting I’ve been doing Kickboxing 3 times a week to speed up the process.

Unfortunately, I am unable to maintain my discipline each and everyday.  I find that trying to be social, one of my other goals, is coming into conflict with working out and eating slow carb.  In Canada, at least in Toronto, being social often involve food and drink.  The drink is often beer.  Beer has lots of carbs, not to mention causes dehydration and all sorts of other negative health attributes.  The problem is I love beer and hanging out.  I can reject the food, but the drinks are much harder to deny.  I’ve tried to have whisky instead, but it’s just not the same.  When I cave for the booze, I end up missing the workout the following days.  Double negative :(

In addition to occasionally cheating on my diet, I would have bouts of redoubled efforts.  What ends up happening is I would go low carb the next few days, completely restrict all sugary intake.  However, as I found out yesterday, this has many negative side effects as well.  Yesterday I was very moody, and found it hard to focus, as well as blurred vision.  I looked up some of the symptoms and it seems that low blood sugar was the cause.  I immediately popped some candies, and immediately started to feel better.  Too bad it was already at the end of the workday.  My colleagues had already taken the blunt of my sugar induced mood swing.

The lesson here is to consult a doctor before trying to do something so extreme to your diet.  As mood swings and other health risk can be a factor.

What would be great is if we had a device that monitors all the levels of your nutritional intake.  Just a simple thing you spit into to and it just tells you if you are deficient in anything.  Heck, even a clear plan on what to eat each day, in order to get all the nutrients you need would be nice.





How to create kick ass invoices for free

I started to create my own invoices about 7 years ago.  I remember the first invoice I made was with Excel.  I downloaded a template online, and filled it in with the utmost care.

Now a days, due to my mobile nature, I am rarely in one spot.  Access across all my different computers is key, so I’ve moved on to using Google Docs instead, currently named Google Drive.  Same idea as the Excel version, but allows me to save as PDF on all platforms without custom software.  It also saves all the files into one place where it’s easy to sort and find things.

This however was not a perfect solution either.  I found myself fumbling through many sheets for tallies, and also losing track of invoices.  Often time, it would just be the same invoice, so I would clone it, and miss some key fields, such as the correct billing dates.

This lead me to discover Invoice Machine, this web application does a great job tallying up your invoices and keeping them organized.  It looks like a mac application, and is pretty easy to use.  My only complaint is the cost.  I felt it was a good app, but I felt it wasn’t solving that big of a pain point to justify the reoccurring cost.

Today I discovered Invoice Ninja, this is an equally polished invoice application and it’s completely FREE.

I question how Invoice Ninja makes money.  Also is my client data private?  I think this could be an awesome way for someone to gather the running total of all the cost of contracts, and the average cost of a task.  Though one may argue that Elance, an outsourcing site, would have just as good of a picture.


An easy way to write better

I struggle to write clear manner. When I write it feels like I miss some of the things I am saying in my head. On other occasions I write run on sentences.

I found a mini solution to this problem. There is a neat little online application called Hemingway. It’s a tiny editor that lets you type, then go into editing mode.

In edit mode it actually tells you how hard it is to read your passage. Also does a bunch of other checks, such as adverb usage or passive voice.

Check it out at


Speed reading app

There is a great application called “Spritz” that increases your reading speed exponentially.

I have always struggled to read anything quickly.  I average about 10 pages per hour or 83 hours per minute.  I find I have to say the word out loud in my head before I can process it.

Using the app I was able to read at 500 words per minute.  Over 5 times increase in speed.

Often when I tired other speed reading techniques or programs, I don’t actually retain anything I have read.  But with Spritz, I find I can actually recall the content.

You can try the app out on their website.  I went to the science page and was able to read the entire thing in under a minute, and could spew the facts of the page to a co-worker.

Eventually they will have this app running on wrist watches, eye wear like google glass, or even rings like the smarty ring.

Though I question how comfortable it is to read text with only one eye.


The magic pill of E-commerce, and the myth

You may have heard that it’s possible to supercharge or even bypass many of the organic growth issues mentioned above. For example, in the case of Bean Pet, they want to create a pet-bone-focused e-commerce site, focusing on a specific segment—in this case, giant organic bones such as cow bones that dogs love. People have the impression that the Internet is a “busy street” where floods of people walk by your website.  This is a false impression.  Creating an e-commerce website without promoting it is no different from opening a shop in the middle of the desert.  No one will know about it; hence, it will not make money.  In addition, added to all the other issues concerning organic growth mentioned above, you now have the problem of making an e-commerce website.


Challenges of building a green business

There are some major problems with making ReFoodAble economically viable in Hong Kong.  One of the first major problems is that Hong Kong is not equipped to sell electricity back to the grid.  This eliminates many potential ways to make money from power generation, to which food waste would be well suited.  Food waste can be used in bioreactors to generate electricity.  Food waste can also be converted back into bio diesel, but ReFoodAble lacked funding and expertise to make this happen. The final barrier ReFoodAble would have is the culture in Hong Kong.  There is virtually no recycling done anywhere.  Getting support from the public would be difficult as I’ll demonstrate later with Noble Earth LTD.


The whole goal of ReFoodAble is to convert all organic waste into usable materials. During the presentation, they went over all their entire company, how it was formed, how they have a working facility located at Ma On Shan.  The also went over some possible ways the funders could help them; they needed about 7 million RMB to do the engineering and get it approved for bio diesel. At this time they are converting the food into pig feed, which is somewhat viable as it works out to be about 2,000HK per ton. It takes seven days to heat and dry the product, and the costs per production are about $800.00 per hour. The government was blocking the initiative to transfer the energy back to the grid. The people at ReFoodAble were pitching to an incubator or a seed fund called Sow Asia.


Sow Asia believes in impact investment and their financial investment company only invests in ventures that have social impact. They have competition such as the CUHA and they already take part in many initiatives.  The CEO of Sow Asia was is a friend of Mr Princeton’s and was there personally during the pitch. The takeaway from this pitch and meeting was that CEOs are very good at painting pictures.  The second lesson was that everybody in Hong Kong wants a cut.  If you want to get anything done in Hong Kong, you have to make it very clear what the incentives are for each person’s participation.


Organic growth

Organic growth relies on gradual customer acquisition, word of mouth and strategic advertisement.  Gradually building the brand and the image of the company. The decision of building a personalized brand or simply using products from other companies is also a tricky matter.  If you promote someone else’s brands, as in a supermarket model, you may end up doing a lot of brand building for free for the manufacturing company, whereas if you build your own products and brand them yourselves, you must have access to this type of skill, which is both expensive and time-consuming.


The VCC System

A mentor of mine, wrote a book a while ago, and developed a method called VCC: Voice-Inflection Conviction Close.  He taught it to use before the prospects came pouring into the show.

Voice inflection, the tone of your voice as well as the volume, greatly impacts your message. One technique is to control your pitch up and down and really animate the way you speak.  This makes what you are saying easier to understand and more enjoyable to hear.  I have been criticized for speaking in monotone a few times. This is a common tendency of people who are deep thinkers. This rule makes sense, as I would rather hear someone who is animated than speaking in a monotone if they are trying to sell me something.

Conviction, the emotion you put behind your words, is more important than your message.  He told me that once, he deliberately renamed the topic of his speech to Elmer Fudd, when he was trying to sell a charity—something along the lines of The Elmer Fudd Charity, which was originally supposed to be the XYZ Charity.  He talked on and on for about an hour about this charity with the funny name. No one laughed; because of the conviction behind his words, he was able to convince them to donate a record amount.

Remember to close the deal by asking for the sale.

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