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Losing my marbles… Again

Last month I celebrated my 58th birthday. As I grow older and after a number of decades on this planet, I have an increasing appreciation that I am travelling down (hopefully not too quickly) the other side of the mountain. It was with this thought in mind that I began my “marble initiative”.

Specifically, four 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 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 useful metaphor that gives me no choice but to pay attention to every single day.. 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.


“As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.”

Norman Wisdom


Be kind to one another

I am a fan of Ellen DeGeneres.

Earlier this month she attended an NFL game where she sat beside former American President, George W. Bush. As a result of her friendship with the former president, she attracted a hail storm of criticism due to his administration’s opposition to same sex marriage and responsibility for the war in Iraq, so much so that she felt compelled to “explain” her friendship with George W.

As DeGeneres shared in her monologue, why can friendship not transcend political (amongst other things) differences?

Is it just me, but why is this even a “thing”?

I believe the answer is that we live in an increasingly polarized world where, “if you are not with us you are against us”. Perhaps it is wise to remember what Bertrand Russell once wrote. “Whenever you find yourself getting angry about a difference of opinion, be on your guard; you will probably find, on examination, that your belief is going beyond what the evidence warrants”.

Or, as Ellen DeGeneres says, “Be kind to one another”.

“Most of all, differences of opinion are opportunities for learning.”

Terry Tempest Williams



‘Brave’ is a word that can mean different things to different people. As Hugh Macleod from gapingvoid writes, “We have to be as brave as the people who need us”.

So, who needs us?

Our family? Our friends? Those individuals or causes we are trying to help?
We all get to choose … and, by doing so, reaffirm our humanity.


Albert Einstein once offered some great advice: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

This is the part of work where people actually find happiness in what they do, no matter how humble or lofty. You don’t need to discover a cure for cancer or win an Oscar to be happy, you just need to find a way to make it feel connected to the humanity around you.

Being brave is easy. All you need to be is fully human.

“He who is brave is free.”



Gratitude… the greatest of all virtues

As Warren Buffet once acknowledged, a significant part of his success was simply due to his luck at winning of the “ovarian lottery”. Perhaps we’re not as (financially) successful as Mr. Buffet, but I would argue that all of us have won the ovarian lottery by being born in the 20th century and having the good fortune of living in Canada! Not only that, we should be incredibly thankful for it.

Similar to Buffet’s perspective, I love Hugh MacLeod’s line, “Believing in what you do is a good sign that you have already won the cosmic lottery”. I appreciate that this “belief” can be found in many vocations, but especially so in the philanthropic sector.


We’re great believers in the idea that gratitude plays a big part in being happy and successful, and that gratitude precedes the latter two, not the other way around.

The fact that we exist at all is pretty miraculous (or at least, the odds are 140 trillion to one), let alone that we live in a land of plenty, in a time of plenty, and all the modern ideas and conveniences that go with it.

That isn’t enough for us. Nothing ever is, of course. We are hardwired to keep noticing the negatives, and to ignore the positives. Then again, the positives never seem to jump out of the bushes and eat you, the way negatives have been known to do. The Good Lord made us that way for a reason.

Sure, life is full of danger. Life is full of suffering. The trick is not how to get rid of those (because you can’t), the trick is to make it all seem worth the trouble, in the end.

And believing in what you do is a good start. That’s why a good company culture is so important. That’s why people are willing to work so hard to attain it.

People want to believe in their own lives, and those of the people around them. It’s human nature.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

JUNE 2019

People love ideas

For those who work or volunteer in the non profit sector will, I’m sure, appreciate the wise words from Hugh MacLeod shown below. Yes, people like things … but they love ideas! In the end it will be those charitable organizations that understand this fact and effectively communicate their “big idea story” that will be truly successful in the future.


Product benefit doesn’t excite us. Belief in humanity and human potential excites us. Think less about what your product does, and think more about human potential. What statement about humanity does your product make? The bigger the statement, the bigger the idea, the bigger your brand will become. It’s no longer just enough for people to believe that your product does what it says on the label. They want to believe in you and what you do. And they’ll go elsewhere if they don’t. It’s not enough for the customer to love your product. They have to love your process as well. Something similar applies when we’re trying to motivate the people who work for us. Money, benefits, and perks only go so far. What really gets people fired up is Ideas – Narrative – Meaning. Giving people the opportunity to tell, or be part of a great story. Yes, one has to live in the real world. But a big part of the real world is made up of very abstract ideas.

“Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money.” 

William J. Cameron

MAY 2019

Canada’s greatest impact donation

Given that vaccine hesitancy has now been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019 I thought this article by Malcolm Burrows was both timely and fascinating. Malcolm is head of Philanthropic Advisory Services with Scotia Wealth Management and one of the most insightful minds in Canada when it comes to the topic of philanthropy.

I would agree with Malcolm that a forgotten $75,000 donation made in 1915 could have been the most impactful gift ever made in this country. For the full story on why it is often better to give with a live hand versus a dead one please click the below link.

Canada’s Greatest Impact Donation – All About Estates

This is a great 10 minute video for the anti-vaxers in your life! Perhaps we should reframe their description and refer to them as “pro-diseasers.”

“Vaccination is a barbarous practice and one of the most fatal of all the delusions current in our time. Conscientious objectors to vaccination should stand alone, if need be, against the whole world, in defense of their conviction.” 

Mahatma Gandhi 

APRIL 2019

Create good trouble

I have observed that one of the more significant differences between the profit and nonprofit sectors is their divergent thoughts and actions regarding risk and/or change. For the entrepreneurs I know one of their greatest fears are missing out on opportunities. On the other hand, for many of the nonprofit professionals I work with, I find their greatest fears are often related to change or trying something new. I can certainly appreciate their feelings as these same nonprofit professionals are obliged to report to their “overhead sensitive” donors and boards. Most in the charitable sector would consider it career suicide to share that a new and exciting initiative (fundraising or mission related) turned out to be a complete disaster despite the best of intentions. In order to be more effective perhaps boards and their donors should be much more tolerant of change or, as Hugh Macleod of gapingvoid would say, … “creating good trouble”.

Create Good Trouble


It’s hard to believe there was a generation that was afraid of The Beatles.

The fear of change is widespread. Change is trouble.

The fear of change is a natural survival instinct ingrained in humans. but as Benjamin Franklin once said “When you are finished changing, you are finished”.

That fear means you’re doing something meaningful.

Because change – that’s creation.

And the fact that someone’s afraid of it? That means you’re doing something worth being afraid of.

And fear is the first step in accepting a new standard.

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” 

Paulo Coelho

MARCH 2019

Hell yeah or no!

The video below is from Derek Sivers …. musician, programmer, philanthropist, philosopher, and entrepreneur extraordinaire. Given just how much wisdom his book “Anything You Want” packs into its 77 pages, it’s one of the best I have read over the last few years.

I find his “Hell Yeah or No” philosophy the most effective time management technique I have ever come across. Indeed,  it works just as well for my philanthropic commitments as it does for my personal and business life.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” 

Warren Buffet


Are you happy?

Who knew that there exists a “World Happiness Report”? These are the six key variables used by the researchers in their report on global happiness:

1. GDP per capita

2. Healthy life expectancy

3. Social support

4. Freedom of choice

5. Generosity

6. Perceptions of corruption

The good news for Canadians is that we seem to be the seventh happiest country in the world.

For those of us connected to the philanthropic sector, we are all trying to do our best to make the world a better place. However, I think most of us would agree that, if you live in Canada, you have definitely won the cosmic lottery!


For the full article, please click here.

“There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -are always attained by giving them to someone else.”

Peyton Conway March


99 good news stories you probably didn’t hear about in 2018


For those of us who work in the nonprofit sector and/or are closely associated with it as donors I’m sure you would agree that, whatever your charity’s mission, in the end we are all trying to make the world a better place.

… and I know we are!

But I also know I am in the minority, especially when it comes to my friends in the nonprofit sector who I feel share a rather “negatively biased” world view.

So as we begin 2019 I encourage you to consider that progress is not just a matter of faith or optimism but a fact of human history. Indeed, it is the greatest fact in history!

To help you appreciate this perspective, I invite you to read 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2018.

Here’s to a happy and progressive 2019!

“For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell.”

Deirdre McCloskey

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