They say entrepreneurs don’t get their ideas from a sudden spurt of inspiration, it’s more like a 'slow hunch'. One of the  ‘slow hunches’ I’ve had over the course of my years in University has boiled down to this: Some people aren’t worth your time, so focus on the few that are. This is obviously an extreme minority, and I want to avoid making a post that is ultimately negative, but look at it this way: 

There is no person in this world like yourself. You are wonderful for the qualities that make you, you. Any ‘thing’, ’one’ , or ‘place’ that interferes with your sense of self worth should be gracefully removed.

I’d like to give a non-personal example, as these sorts of situations are much easier to spot from the outside looking in (as with many things in life). Let’s call this person, Leslie. Leslie has moved to China, after much difficult consideration, preparation, and paperwork. In this process of her move, Leslie was in communication with her male acquaintance, we’ll call him John from Candyland, that also wanted to come to China.

The two decided that they would make the move together, ultimately making the process easier for both of them. Leslie went to her embassy and got her visa, and her travelling companion did not. Her ‘friend’ John promised that he would be close behind, and would see her there.

Her ‘friend’ did not see her there. When Leslie was going through the difficult process of adjusting to a new country, John continued to ask questions about how life was going, what he should expect, and what problems she had encountered. It soon became obvious that he was questioning coming to China at all, and had let Leslie take the leap of faith by herself. To this day, he continues to test the waters from a distance, marking ‘read’ Facebook’ messages as unread. What should Leslie do?

It can be harsh, and brash, but the solution is simple: Do not give them the time of day. From my experience, here is a sample three-point-plan for removing a really sucky person from your life. Violins are optional, and Super Soaker attacks are discouraged.

Think about it: I find often times when I’m angry, I need to sleep on it and give it some sober thought. If I’m still angry after 2 days, I think to myself: “How long have I known this person, and is it worth cutting them?”. There is nothing worse than sending off a few angry texts in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later.
Explain yourself: Let them know what the problem is – eg. “Hey, are you coming to China or are you just humming and hawing, because I thought the plan was to meet here?”. Their reaction is a great way to see if you misgauged the situation all together. Maybe you overreacted?

Stop talking to them: This is the best part, cleaning up! As gentlemen (or gentlewoman), I’m a believer that we should do this gracefully. Don’t yell, don’t drunk text, don’t talk behind their back, don’t do anything! That’s the beauty of this third step, you just cut contact completely and the damage is minimal.

Quick and Painless! Do you think there is a better way to approach problem people in your life?

- Dave

I would like to literally tell a tale of two cities, and I would like to do it with three peculiar, paradoxal statements. They are all ‘BUT’ statements, because they are things that aren’t exactly as they appear. For some reason, living in Beijing for the last month has really left me with a critical eye for my own city. Go figure.

Here are my musings. This is based on my own experience and resulting opinions, and is in no way an attack on Toronto (I love me some clean air and personal space)!

1) Toronto is more diverse, but Beijing seems more inclusive:

            As honest as observations come, I have found Beijing to be one of the most warm and welcoming communities I have ever experienced. I had a taxi driver last week actually wish me: “Welcome to Beijing!” with a wide smile. Most taxi drivers here speak absolutely no English, and this one used the few words he had he chose to welcome me to the city. Do us Torontonians welcome our minorities in their native languages? Maybe we should.

2) Toronto has a more gender equal culture, but Beijing has more men who are comfortable with embracing femininity:

            I’ll be ‘straight’ about this one – none of the dudes are very big here. Not once have I heard “do you even lift?” or the Chinese equivalent. Nobody lifts, for the most part. It almost feels like macho man image never made it here, as the men are lean and mean and the women seem to love it that way. Male hairstyling is as large a market as female, and the only place in town with ANY notable after bar violence seems to be Sanlitun. Sanlitun is all foreigners, Chinese people don’t seem to like fighting each other.

3) Toronto may be a fraction of the size, but it feels worlds bigger than Beijing:

            In my opinion, a city feels big when there are parts that are out of reach, and when you lose your sense of community travelling between neighbourhoods.  Toronto largely feels out of reach, with a subway fare of $3.00 and laughable parking rates. It’s like they designed the city to keep its residents from moving around. Beijing is by no means the largest subway system – but with a $0.33 fare and taxis at $0.33/km, people are moving around graciously.

What I enjoy most about Beijing is the sense of community – how I feel totally accepted by Chinese and foreigners alike, no matter where I am in the city. Toronto can feel socially cold and sterile at times, and I get very little of that feeling here. Ever. And I'm a big fan of that. 

- Dave

When I tell people I moved to Beijing temporarily, I get a lot of funny responses:

"What? Why? Can you breathe?
"That takes balls man. Good job".
*No words* *Stare*

My point being, Beijing has been a victim of the media lately, and is a highly misunderstood place. Even though I have only been in town for two weeks, I can already say with certainty there are a few things that caught me off guard. 

1) A Life of Luxury

I knew the Luxury market was booming here, but I had no idea there was such a keen split between the low and high end.

It seems everything in Beijing is tailored for the rich, or the poor. A typical Chinese takeout meal, from a normal Chinese restaurant might cost about 15-20 yuan. A latte from Starbucks costs 30! Western style food, presumably targeted towards the rich expat population who are working in Beijing for business, is usually considerably more expensive. 

It seems that as soon as a luxury label as affixed to a good, regardless of the product, it costs 4x what it should. Take an extreme example - PBR 1844. Someone in the Pabst board room was thinking - Here's an idea, let's take the buck-a-beer staple of the blue collar American diet, 'reformulate' it, put it in a nice bottle, and charge $44 a bottle for it in China. 

It's an odd state of mind, especially coming from Canada - a country that has aspired to create a stable, middle class.

2) EVERYTHING is prepaid

I wish this was an exaggeration. Last weekend, the power was shut off to my apartment because the amount in the prepaid meter ran out. The same thing may soon happen to our prepaid hydro.

Instead of a monthly rent payment, I had to pay for four months in advance. A little outrageous to be paying $1300 at once, out of my Canadian dollars, some of which were lost in the currency conversion. 

I went to an electronics chain store last week to buy a universal power strip for my various iThings. I went to pick up a reasonably priced one out of the bin, and it was strapped down by plastic wire. I had a sales rep come over to me, enter my name in to his computer, and send me to the cash register first so I could pay for it. He then brought what I wanted over to me.

My cell phone plan - Deposit your money in advance, the monthly plan will be deducted from your balance.

Here's my theory: There are so many people in Beijing, that if things weren't prepaid people would steal/not pay their obligations. Sucks, but 'aint that the truth?

3) All for One, One for All

This has been my most pleasant surprise.

People are much closer to each other here than in Canada, and there is a real sense of community. People actually value the time they spend with each other, rather than just see it as a means to an end, or as an opportunity for personal advancement.

Now, I wouldn't generalize ALL of North American relationships to be this way, but there certainly is a disconnected feeling between people at home. Relationships in Beijing are much warmer - people will notice I'm sick and will bring me medicine,  notice that I'm tired and buy me coffee, and notice my shoe is untied and actually tell me!

It's these little things that really make me look forward to the next few months. It's too early for me to really tell what I'm in for yet, but so far I've met some great people.

Here's to living life like every day is an adventure, cause YOLICO (You only live in China once) (most likely).

- Dave

Disclaimer: This post was written from a male perspective, and it's just for laughs.

1) We think numbers are almost as sexy as you – Need to split a bill or calculate a tip? Don’t reach for the calculator this time, because we’ve probably computed it in our heads whilst impressing you with riveting tales from the office.

2) We’re exceptional decision makers – We can look at situations holistically and make rational, informed decisions.  You can always depend on a critical thinking accountant to plan a flawless day at the beach, or a sneaky surprise for your birthday. Indecisive about the black or red dress? We'll love you in either, but you can be sure we'll help you make the right decision.

3) We’re all about ethics – Have you ever watched the TV show, cheaters? How many of them were accountants? Much like our principles based accounting standards, we’ve got solid principles too.

4) … And we’re real cautious about related parties – All good accountants know the consequences and standards around related party transactions. Fortunately for you, this probably means that your cute sister is out of the question.

5) …But we still find all the loopholes – Want to get out of that euchre tournament with your Grandma that you promised you’d attend? ? Leave it to an accountant to find a practical, reasonable explanation for your absence that is entirely within the rules. The possibilities are endless!

6) We’ve got brains AND brawn – Chuck Liddell, UFC champion and all-round prince charming started his career as an accountant.  Would you fight Chuck Liddell?

7) We’re lifetime learners – Our profession requires us to be constantly learning and adapting to new practices and standards. We’d be more than willing to take that jazz dance class with you, and we’ll pick it up in no time! Think of how impressed the neighbours will be…

8) No commitment issues – Think about it, we all stuck with accounting despite the allure of fashionable careers in Engineering, Law, or Computer Science. If we know you’re a keeper and for good reasons, we can disregard the other partner candidates in our life with ease.

9) We don’t expect you to cook for us – We put in some serious hours at the office/with our clients, so we’re never home for 6’ oclock anyways. The only dinner you need to worry about ‘being on the table’ is your own.

10) We age well – Meet Mick Jagger, former student of accountancy. You can be sure that loveable face was built on debits and credits, and his youthful energy and libido was certainly a result of him dabbling in a bit of double-entry ;)

Everyone knows that university has more to do with what you learn about life than what you learn in the classroom. I've decided that throughout the course of my 4.5 years here, I can safely narrow down my real, tangible takeaways to three.




Find Something You Love About What You Study - If you’re meeting me and ask me what I study, I try and beat around the word “Accounting”. I’ve learned that the A word is not exactly conversation lubricant – “oh so you’re in Accounting, so you like math then?”. At the end of the day though, it’s more important to convince yourself that you're on the right path than somebody else, so I employ you to find something, anything that you love about what you study or otherwise do.

I can say that I love accounting because I can understand nearly everything about a business from a set of three financial statements. I don't love accounting because of my undying, emotional love affair with math. 

Go to Sleep – Apparently, we’re not robots. I found that late studying is often counter-productive against lost sleep, and at the end of the day any increase in your test performance will be offset against your misery.

Don’t Please EveryoneGoing along with the ‘tradeoffs’ theme of my note. I think the most pertinent thing that I’ve learned at university is that much like the big wide world around us, university is full of a diverse range of thoughts and beliefs. Trying to live up to the expectations of people around you is exhausting, and you only end up hating yourself for it anyways.

As a bit of a people pleaser from a young age, gloating in praise from teachers, parents, friends, whoever else, I took this upon myself entering first year.  Wrong move.

Please yourself. Do something that makes YOU proud of who you are. 

Of all the places I never expected to be inspired to write a new entry, GQ magazine probably tops the list. What could GQ possibly have to say about fear anyhow, and with all of this Halloween hubbub as of late, why am I still going on about scary things?

Fear is one of our six basic emotions, sharing the stage with anger, sadness, surprise, disgust, and joy. What I find most interesting and potent about fear is how something that was originally tied to our survival instincts, telling us to run from sabre tooth tigers, has evolved in to seemingly irrational fears such as fear of public speaking or fear of spontaneous combustion  (“Autocombustophobia”, it’s a real thing).

Need more proof of the power of fear? How’s this for a news headline – “Fear of math can cause real pain”.  To summarize, for those individuals with high math-anxiety (HMA), staring at a visual cue that signaled an impending math problem triggered the part of the brain associated with pain perception. The implications are obvious, the mere anticipation of doing something we’re afraid of can cause us pain. Our fear hurts!

So how do we hack our fear? Here are some tips from the pros:

1)    Dilute the message – train a second voice inside of you to drown out your irrational thoughts. This one should be the rational, reminding you of why you are going through with what you fear in the first place.

 2) Avoid avoidance – Letting in to fear is crippling. Over time the act of avoiding it becomes so powerful that the problem becomes magnified and impossible to face.

3) Act fast – Your mind is your own worst enemy when it comes to fear. Our own negativity biases cause us to imagine exaggerated worst case scenarios. Don’t give yourself time to do this.     

Let’s make this personal – I, Dave Howard, have a mild fear of negative feedback. My own solution has been to throw myself in to the deep end of the sales industry this past summer, allowing me to quickly dilute negative messages with the reality of what to expect. It’s not as bad as you think!

On a final note, Donald Trump would like you to know that fear is your own creation. We've simply labeled our concerns as fears, nothing more. Let’s try and take these words more seriously than we take his radiant blonde hair, shall we?

Donald Trump: “An interviewer asked me what my greatest fears were. I said I didn’t have any. He seemed surprised, but here’s the thing: Labeling something as fear creates fear out of a concern.”

- Dave

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to my blog space on Jump Factor! For it is here that I will post some amazing ideas about some really cool things! I'll keep it broad and general for now, but I have lots planned over the coming weeks. Stay tuned! Stay classy!

- Dave
Yes, the billion dollar, four bucks-a-coffee enterprise that we all know and love (or hate) is a staple of our malls, office towers, and suburban lots, there’s no arguing that. Up until recently, I never fully understood the appeal of Starbucks, but I’m beginning to see the light.

As an accountant, you’d think I’d shy away from the idea of spending more than my TTC fare on a cup of coffee, and in general I do. My friend and fellow blogger Josh would scold my financial tomfoolery, but there’s something magical about the Starbucks near my office that puts me in a sort of trance, something about the place itself that draws me in and opens my wallet.

My Barista had a name – it was Natasha. There was a face and a name to my jolt of caffeine, and she spent nearly 3 minutes making my beverage alone – a simple “mocha late”. I thanked Natasha, she smiled back and with a slight nod assured me “you’re very welcome!”.

I struck up a conversation with a Waterloo grad – a bright engineer who had recently moved on from his position at RIM and is now working for a large telecom in the city. We talked tech for a while, laughed at my antiquated Blackberry, and shared a similar stance on the great opportunity that Waterloo may come to see over the coming years.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t great people at Tim Horton’s, but something about Starbucks seems to attract the most interesting, friendly people.

There’s a lesson here, as all my blog posts eventually get to. Money is a measure of value, and sometimes you have to look a little deeper to understand the value that a certain product, service, or place brings to you. Restaurants and coffee bars are an experience purchase, one that can be remembered and retold but not physically held. Visits to Starbucks have become an experience for me through the atmosphere I enjoy and the people I meet, and this is as valuable to me as the coffee itself.

If it’s my opinion speaking - don’t feel guilty about spending money that you have on things that you enjoy, particularly if those things aren’t tangibles. Don’t put yourself in to debt, that is to say you should exercise a little bit of restraint, but live a little. Do it for me.

- Dave

Another day, a new post, another new angle on something that we don’t normally think about. Today’s thought is a truism about human nature that we often ignore, and something that we should probably take in to consideration when taking on new and novel tasks with the potential for high stress, or even something as simple as going to the gym.

Our willpower is a limited resource. It can be depleted just like coal, oil, or natural gas, in the sense that we have a limited supply and once we’ve used it up we can no longer rely on it to push through trying times. Similar to the earth, our mind replenishes its willpower on its own, however similar to society we’ve developed overdependence on our willpower to fuel our drive to accomplish, complete, and succeed. Want proof?

Here’s a neat study: Subjects are brought in to a room with the auroma of delicious cookies. In front of the participants was a bowl of cookies, and a bowl of radishes. Some were asked to sample the cookies, while others were told to eat radishes. Afterwards, every participant was asked to solve a challenging geometric puzzle. Can you guess who gave up first?

The cookie eaters persevered for nearly 19 minutes, and the radish eaters gave up after about 8 minutes. They quite literally depleted their willpower resisting the cookies.

I think this raises some interesting points. The basis for motivation, as I’ve seen it through posters, talks, and other media revolves around “how badly do you want it?” I think this is a great way to potentially increase the supply of willpower, but it doesn’t address the fact that it’s a finite resource.

The new question becomes: How do we accomplish tasks and strive towards our goals without injecting more willpower, or in addition to injecting willpower? Perhaps go to the gym with a friend, and take the option of not going off the table. Even simpler, why not try just taking a break if it’s something that will require willpower no matter what? Just something new to consider – so let your thoughts run wild!

- Dave



    Howdy! Dave Howard here.

    Welcome to my space in our new blogging collab, Jump Factor.

    "Best Foot Forward" is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and interesting stories that hint at little pieces of our human nature.

    In a nutshell - this blog is my own process of self discovery, where I share what I learn about myself and others, through experience, reading, and whatever else.

    It's an odd transition, with the impending end of my undergrad. Come along for the ride! 


    April 2013
    March 2013
    January 2013
    December 2012
    November 2012
    October 2012




    © Copyright 2013 Best Foot Forward. All Rights Reserved.