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Merry Christmas from Monty the Penguin

For each of the last ten years the British retailer, John Lewis, has aired what has become an iconic holiday season commercial. Although this years #MozTheMonster was clever in my opinion nothing comes close to 2014’s, “Monty the Penguin”. Admittedly, it is a rather slick piece of marketing directly targeted to tug on our heart strings … and open up our wallets and purses! Having said that, I challenge you to watch this two minute advert without getting even a little bit choked up. Not to mention the ear worm of a song, “Real Love” by John Lennon that will have you humming along all day long.


As 2017 winds down, I sincerely hope you have the opportunity to spend more time with family and friends perhaps reflecting on who and what brings meaning into your life. It is with this in mind, and your interpretation of the moral from, “Monty the Penguin” that I wish you all the best for the season and a very happy New Year.


Losing my marbles

Recently I celebrated my 56th birthday. As I grow older I have an increasing appreciation that, after a number of decades on this planet, I am travelling down (hopefully not too quickly) the “other side of the mountain”. It was with this idea in mind that I began my marble initiative.

Specifically, a couple of years ago I went out and purchased 100 rather brightly coloured marbles, each one reflecting the number of years I plan to live. I’ve always been an optimist at heart and I figured 100 had a nice ring to it! On October 20th of each year I simply transfer a marble from one mason jar to the other. I find this a wonderful visual metaphor that I have no choice but to look at every single day when I step into my office. I also cannot help but notice that one jar (years left) is shrinking fast compared to the other jar (years lived) … but of course this is the entire point.


Moving another marble from one jar to the other


You’ve won the cosmic lottery

This post has very little to do with philanthropy … but a lot to do with life.

For me, September feels like the beginning of the New Year. Not only do many of us bundle our kids off to school but, having enjoyed the slower months of summer, it is around this time we tend to refocus on our work. So given the time of year, perhaps there is no better opportunity to reflect on the many wonderful messages in the seven-minute film, “Alike” below. What I find particularly interesting is often the messages are different for each viewer of this incredible piece created by Spanish animators Daniel Marinez Lara and Rafa Cano.


“Alike” has been viewed by over 10 million people on YouTube and Vimeo and has won 81 awards (that is not a typo) so far since its release in 2016.

“There is a Fountain of Youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of the people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Sophia Loren

JULY 2017

The dash vs. cat photos

Life is way too short not to do something that matters. Hugh McLeod from gapingvoid shares his wisdom on the subject.

“Never before have so many people on this planet have had so much choice about how their time is spent. And how do we choose to spend it, those same 24 hours in the day that the gods also allocated to the Da Vinci, Einstein and Picasso? Well, some of us try to stand on the shoulders of the aforementioned giants. Others would rather upload cat photos onto social media sites. Alrighty then … “But there’s nothing wrong with uploading cat photos”, I hear you say? No, there isn’t. Not unless that’s all you have to show for it at the end of your days, lying on your deathbed. We can’t all be the next Da Vinci, Einstein and Picasso. But while we’re here, I think we should try to walk with the giants. Even if we get trampled on occasionally.”


Picking up on the same theme, at the end of the presentations I facilitate for nonprofits and their donors ( I often close with a picture of a tombstone. After the nervous laughter subsides I ask the audience to imagine that this is not just any tombstone but actually his/her own. I then say, “When it comes to your tombstone, what matters most is not the year you were born or even the year you died, but the dash between those two dates. Think of that small dash as representing everything, EVERYTHING you have done while walking the earth. So I encourage all of you to reflect, in all your actions, what do you wish your dash to stand for?”

I’ve never heard the answer to this question expressed in monetary terms as in, “I want my dash to be worth $10 million!”. Overwhelmingly the heartfelt responses focus on purpose, significance … and impact.

“For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.” —Linda Ellis

JUNE 2017

It’s really all about gratitude

Somewhat later in life I have found that without developing the conscious habit of being grateful it is extremely difficult to achieve  happiness in one’s life. Unfortunately, gratitude can take an awfully long time to learn. In fact, for many of us it is not till middle age before we truly get it!  As Hugh MacLeod, architect of the incredibly insightful blog, gapingvoid, writes,

“Here’s a question: when in business, when should you ‘feel’ successful? When do you start thinking of yourself as successful? When you make a million dollars? When your company makes its first billion? When you get your corner office? When your payroll exceeds a hundred people? How about … when you start feeling truly grateful to have the people around your office, in your life? How about, instead of measuring success by numbers, you measure it by the amount of gratitude you have for being there? Gratitude is not just a nice virtue they teach you at Sunday School. It’s a very powerful sign that your doing something right.”


When I tuck Kiera, my 12 year old, into bed I usually ask her, “What are you thankful for or what are you grateful for today?” Perhaps it’s the kind of question we should all be asking ourselves every single day. In my case I use an app called “The Five Minute Journal”  which reminds me to record my gratitude for the day. Given that over 80% of us are visual learners it also allows the user to include pictures to reinforce the habit.

Even better, consider making a list of the people in your life that you are thankful for — your spouse, children, parents, friends, and co-workers. When you think about it, the list is almost infinite. Then, pick just one person this week to thank — make a call, send a note, write an email or consider making an actual visit.

Gratitude can, and will, positively transform your view of your circumstances and future.

APRIL 2017

Winning the lottery of the universe

In 1999 I joined the Canadian board of the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF). In retrospect this was one of those life transforming decisions that one can only fully appreciate well after the fact. As a board member, and later Chair of the Canadian organization, I was afforded the opportunity to travel to sub-Sahara Africa on numerous occasions to observe the work we were supporting halfway around the world.


As long as I live I will never forget the memory of being toured around Kibera, a slum in Nairobi that exists on no official map. I have this vivid image of a beautiful child, no older than three, playing in a stream or, more precisely, a sewer running down the middle of a pathway and surrounded by the excrement and stench of 800,000 people living within three kilometers of one another. It leaves me thinking about my own 12 year old daughter … that could have been her! The simple fact is that Kiera and all of us have been merely lucky enough to be born and/or live in Canada, a country which in 2017, according to the U.S. News & World Report, in conjunction with Young & Rubicam BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, was ranked second in the annual “Best Countries” survey. (Only Switzerland with a perfect score of 10 topped Canada at 9.7) Quite simply, being born and having the privilege of living in this country is akin to winning the lottery of the universe!


I attempt to keep this in mind whenever I complain about the relative insignificant challenges I face in my own life.

MARCH 2017

All that we share

We live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes. Jock. Nerd. Serious professional. Slacker. Straight. Gay. Despite gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation, this video is a reminder that we all have more in common than we think.

As many of us look aghast at the current U.S. administration’s politics of fear we are again reminded of the values that make Canada such a great place to live.


Thanks to so many of you who, as a group both professionally and individually, are reading this and who contribute and reinforce those Canadian values on a daily basis.


For the love of gift planning

On January 26th I have the good fortune to participate with my friends and fellow gift planning zealots/professionals Paul Nazarath and Malcolm Burrows at the Toronto CAGP chapter’s, For the Love of Gift Planning half day summit.


Coincidentally, I interviewed Malcom Burrows for our very first DMPTalks podcast last year and given the upcoming summit I thought I would again give you the opportunity to listen to Malcolm’s DMPTalks and experience his wisdom, multi-decade gift planning knowledge, and of course, humour.

If you can be in Toronto on the 26th, I hope you will be able to join us for what I know will be an exceptional event!

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