Giving 100% Might Still Not Be Enough


Has this happened to you? You’ve just sat down to eat and you reach for the salt and start shaking it only to find all you get is a few grains of salt. While you did get every last grain you could out of the container, it was still inadequate. So you got up and grabbed a second salt shaker and got the quantity you wanted.

Whenever a group of people come together to learn, you’ll find those in attendance have varying abilities to receive, comprehend, internalize and then use the new information in the way it was intended by whomever gave it to them. Just like that first salt shaker, one person might give it all they’ve got, but it’s clearly not enough to term their experience successful. Others in the group might be more like the second in that they don’t need to invest 100% of themselves to grasp the lesson; they’ve got so much more to give and aren’t taxed to their limits.

This is something that you should remind yourself if and when you find yourself instructing any group. It’s easy to misread someone in attendance and openly question their level of commitment, their self-investment and how bad they want to learn whatever they’ve signed up for. It could be that other things going on in their lives have robbed them of what they would have otherwise loved to pour into your instruction. Yet, the multiple things that are occurring around them outside of your own awareness has them distracted, consumed with worry. As a consequence, they find it difficult to process what you’re sharing and then demonstrate they have mastered the learning.

This is true whether we’re talking about children, teens or adult learners. The major difference experienced by those in these three groups is only the things they worry or stress about; but the experience of being distracted itself is shared. So you may see a child unable to focus or pay attention in elementary school and make the error of assuming they are a daydreamer or assume they just wont’ concentrate. A teenager might walk into a class and look sullen, withdrawn, unmotivated etc. but really they are fixated on something they are experiencing in an all-consuming way. As for an adult, it’s not hard to now understand that while a person might tell us they are committed 100% to learning, what we might observe is skipped classes to work on solving outside issues that they feel take priority.

I suppose then it’s ourselves we have to look at when at the start of a class we tell the those before us to give 100% of their focus to the materials. While we assume our meaning is clear and direct, upon reflection, we might be failing to lay out what’s required in order for each person to ultimately be successful. Why? Life gets in the way is how I put it.

Let me use my own experience this week and last as an example. I started with the expectation I’d have 12 unemployed people and over the course of two weeks I’d share with them much of what it takes to successfully land a job. Cover letters and resumes, interview preparation and job applications, all crammed heavily into 10 consecutive days of 9:00a.m. sharp to 2:30 p.m. Before being accepted into the class, I spoke individually with each of the 12, going over their expectations and mine; specifically asking them if they were prepared to commit to these days and times. All 12 told me what I wanted to hear and accepted the invitation.

What I’ve observed is not all 12 have the capacity to keep to that commitment. It’s not that they are lazy, combative or don’t want to get the most out of time together; it’s that not all 12 are actually capable of being present for the 12 days. So what’s got in the way? Life. What does Life look like? It’s mental fatigue, mental illness, a threat of eviction, a bad decision to stay home and await a phone call with a job offer when they could have attended with their cell phone in hand. For some, it’s the trigger of something raised in class that’s brought back a haunting memory from the past of failure, shame and the need to, ‘take a day or two to work things out’.

What we can’t tell just from looking at someone, is how much they’ve got inside themselves to give. If I could line the 12 up and see them like 12 salt shakers, I could easily see how much they each have to start with, and I could also see how close they are to emptying everything they’ve got. The expectation I have for how much they need to invest in the first place to succeed and perhaps their own ability to accurately self-assess themselves may be unrealistic.

Maybe I should get a few salt shakers of various quantities and sizes and illustrate this point to the group. Perhaps it might save someone from feeling bad about not meeting my expectations or those of the course. Hey, when you give it all you have, it doesn’t matter how much is expected of you, you’ve emptied the tank. Demanding more of someone who has nothing less to give is unrealistic and does them a disservice as they are set up to fail.

Hmm… maybe this would be a good read for anyone who helps people.

Fully Investing Yourself


I’ve changed my answer to the question people ask me regarding my strengths. In the past I shared my enthusiasm for innovation and creativity; pushing myself to always look for new ways of presenting material. I love morphing what exists into better versions and by better I mean bringing content into a fuller understanding and buy-in for and by those receiving the content.

I like to believe that my peers still see me as innovative and creative so it’s not that I’ve plateaued and stopped innovating, it’s just that I’ve found something I’d rather share as a personal strength. What I offer in response to this question now is an unwavering, complete commitment when it comes to investing in others. Honestly, I don’t think I personally could choose anything more rewarding to do, and I’d hope that participants of my workshops, coworkers and supervisors would back up my words if/when called upon to attest to my actions.

As an Employment Counsellor, my role brings me into contact with the unemployed and the underemployed every single day. As I work during the day with a population exclusively in receipt of social assistance, I also have the great privilege of coming into contact with people when they are most vulnerable; a low point if you will in their lives. Their lack of financial independence is far from being the only problem they have when their lives and mine intersect. Believe me, those in this population would love to believe that finding a job was their only problem.

By the time I meet them, many are dealing with homelessness, abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, marital and custody battles, poor landlords, interaction with several other social service agencies, loss of self-esteem, self-confidence and rising debt. Some have poor education, under-developed social skills, poor self-awareness, weak problem-solving skills, poor role models, questionable decision-making abilities, limited vocabularies, and others have legal issues to contend with. The lack of a job is just one problem, and not often is it the number one concern.

My coworkers and I understand that to be effective, we have to address more than just the lack of employment to give those we serve the best opportunity to move forward and keep the jobs they land. I suppose this is one of the key factors that defines us, (and others who work in similar roles with this population) from organizations which exclusively address unemployment as a stand alone issue.

Not all people understand this; nor do all people in decision-making levels of government. The mantra of “Just get them a job and move on to the next person”, is short-sighted and doomed to fail more than succeed. Those fortunate to get employment will often lose it quickly and return to the safety net provided by social services if they don’t have the multiple barriers to employment addressed and the required skills learned to work through these other presenting barriers.

So herein comes the need to invest in others; completely. I don’t believe you can be effective if you only invest partially in people. Well I for one can’t at any rate. To be truly effective, it takes a complete investment. I’ve also learned over time that this investment is simultaneously both energizing and draining. For it’s not just investing in one or two people here and there. Fully investing in my work environment means there are only seconds between people asking for and needing aid.

When someone comes to see you as trustworthy and helpful, you move in their estimation into a place where you’re the go-to person when problems arise; which they do with regularity with this fragile population. Some folks are very considerate of our capacity to hear their stories and help with arriving at potential solutions, while others dump all their problems out expecting us to own them and fix them because it’s what we’re paid to do. “It’s your job to solve my problems.”

I love this role. I embrace all that being an Employment Counsellor means and it continues to be a privilege and honour to hold this position. I’m not always successful in connecting and forging a deep connection; no one of us is for that matter. This is one key thing new staff in the field must come to appreciate; you’ll not succeed, not connect, fail to help and you’ll be questioned openly about your suitability in the role from time-to-time; the volume of people we see daily, weekly, monthly and yearly guarantees we won’t always be successful. Investing nonetheless and doing so fully to the extent we are able is still to be strived for.

Yesterday a woman dropped by unannounced and I was called to reception. She literally ran to me, wrapped her arms around me and jumped up and down with the excitement of sharing her news of landing a full-time job with her employer of choice. It’s taken her about 5 month’s and two jobs to get to her landing this plum job. In that embrace, I soaked up all the energy, gratitude, joy, exhilaration and emotional relief I could. That hug and her smile was her simple way of expressing her sincere appreciation for my small help along her journey.

I implore you to consider upping your own investment in the people you serve. Whether those are customers, junior staff, volunteers or the vulnerable; invest without reservation. It. Makes. All. The. Difference.

Our Choices Spread Jobs Around


Of late, my wife and I have been actively looking at where and how we want to live  from now until retirement and then hopefully long into that next stage. There are a lot of tradespeople and others who will ultimately gain or lose work based on what we decide. Ever thought about that yourself?

So we live in a bungaloft; a home with a main floor, finished basement and a second storey that overlooks the living room on the main floor. Outside we’ve got many floral gardens; 95% of which are filled with perennials; so there’s less work than it looks at this stage as the bulk of the work is done. The folks at garden centres have a lot of our money!

The thing is, we can’t at the moment, decide on what to do between the choices we’ve presented to ourselves. We could:

  1. Stay put and do some renovating to make a really nice home even better
  2. Move to some property with a great view, and a house that ticks off all the things on our ‘dream’ list
  3. Buy a lot and have a home built from scratch just the way we want it
  4. Move to a smaller place; like a condo and buy a recreation vehicle and travel weekends and on our vacations

Now I’m not just sharing our discussions for the purpose of garnering ‘likes’ such as one would on FB. No, I’m sharing because there are a lot of working people who will make money or lose opportunities based on whatever we decide. And who knows; there could be more options yet that come to light.

There’s the RV sales people; and if you’ve not been inside some campers and trailers for years, you should think about taking in such a show. Things have come a long way in comfort and options. Bigger isn’t always better, but it sure is nice to have some comforts when you’re coming in after a day on the trails, white water rafting or having been out doing pretty much anything active. Yes the RV sales people will be happy to know that we’re potentially in the market – again.

Now we’ve moved 8 times if you include the first three years of our marriage where we were in 3 apartments in the first 3 years. 5 different houses representing 10 real estate commissions, 10 lawyer’s fees, 3 home inspectors and way too many people in administrative roles to count giving buyers and sellers approval for this and that. In the last house, we stood and watched it go up right from the foundation. So many builders! There’s the tradespeople; the carpet layer, the hardwood installer, the trim team, the counter top manufacturer’s, the roofers, the framers, the dry waller’s, the landscapers who brought in the armour stone and made the waterfall, the plumbers, electricians, asphalt team, city inspector, gas, hydro, cable and water installers, the people delivering turf. Forgot to mention the heavy equipment operators, window installers and manufacturer’s, and of course all the people who produce and sell all the contents from lighting and bathroom fixtures to painters and HVAC people. Then too there’s the movers who transport all the ‘stuff’ from one house to another. So many people!

That’s a lot of jobs for a lot of people and we’re only one couple. When the housing industry is booming, it’s not hard to see that for every time you pass a new development going up, a lot of people are benefitting from the work created.

And what of that RV? There are owners of campgrounds hoping we’ll be among the many who frequent their sites. There’s the gas station employees and owners who hope we’re on the road, the people who build, sell and install the appliances contained within. Then there’s plumbers, electricians, framers, again. There are folks on automotive assembly lines who work at construction, engine installation, wiring, lighting and depending on the model, even the kitchen sink and toilet!

Then we’ve got to find a place to store the vehicle perhaps, for if we stay put, that new RV can’t stay in the driveway. Nope, by-laws forbid that. So someone makes money storing and maybe winterizing that RV.

I see a lot of Mitchell money going out. Oh, and to pull it unless it’s self-driven? Yep, that’s one of our cars to sell and replace with a vehicle with better towing capacity. I just keep thinking of all the people happy to take my money; our money. Oh well, it is only money. Right? Then again, I’m about 7 years (give or take) from retiring and then the money coming in drops. That bears thinking about.

That we’re in this thought process isn’t the thrust of the piece, but a look at who in the world of work will be affected and receive income/work from our choices. Say, what if we stayed put and just did some traveling of a different sort? Then the people taking our money might be airlines, hotel owners, restauranteurs, theatre owners, valets, RV rental agents, train operators, etc. What about all the souvenir creators and vendors relying on us, the servers, hotel staff, bed and breakfast operators and tour guides? What of the amusement operators – why even the road crews who pave the roads we’ll drive on?

There are a lot of people potentially taking our money. Stay tuned contractors, agents, builders, vendors, assembly line workers, …

Invest Earned Income In Your Retirement


I can only speak for myself, but I when I was in my 20’s the last thing I wanted to do was sock away some cash for retirement. Come to think of it, I probably never thought that far into the future. I mean back then, retirement – even thinking about retiring wasn’t even on the radar screen.

However, one of the key mantras Financial Advisors preach is the benefits of compound interest. You know, invest money on a regular basis and not only does the interest build on your invested money, it also builds on the interest as well. Over 4 or 5 decades, that regular investment that you probably don’t miss much all along really adds up.

I am happy therefore that while I wasn’t much interested in the investing side of things, my wife  was and still is. Oh at the time I balked at the idea, just as I balked at the notion of needing a will all those years ago. Of course, I’m still living and the will could have waited, but as it gave her piece of mind…

Come to think of it, without a will or investing in our futures, I’d be looking at an unstable retirement. Now it’s not that I am a big spender by any stretch of the imagination, but when retired, it would be nice to still have funds in the bank to do things now wouldn’t it? I mean who knows what friends you’ll make along the way in life and how awkward it will be if you have to keep declining doing things together because you’re nervous about running out of money when the earnings stop.

Time certainly does fly by quickly. Can you clearly remember 5 or 10 years ago? What about those babies you snuggled in your arms that are now graduates of high school and post-secondary institutions? Time goes fast and so does the cash! Don’t catch yourself lamenting, “Where did the time go? Where did the money go?”

So what’s this got to do with employment? Good question and thanks for asking. When you get a job; your first real job or a job after lengthy unemployment, you’ll be relieved and thankful you have some money that’s going to make your present life more comfortable. You may either be so happy you spend it frequently, or you may want to store some away to guard against money troubles that might arise until you feel entirely secure in your job. Both are reasonable behaviours when money was scarce and is now coming in thankfully.

Give a little thought though to socking some of this money into your retirement. I’m not an investment guru, won’t make any money whatsoever from this post for giving this advice; it’s just prudent planning on your part for the inevitable future. Look barring a complete disaster in which your life is terminated, you do plan on getting older don’t you? I mean few people actually plan on dying before they retire unless they have a medical problem. So you’re going to retire, the money from employment will stop, your government pension could be there to some degree, but plan for yourself and anything you get from an employer or the government will add to your income, and not make you solely dependent on them.

Now in my case, it was my wife as I say that really got me moving. She announced one day that she’d contacted the bank we deal with and we had an evening appointment with one of their Investors. This was years ago mind, and at the time I probably rolled my eyes and like a child lamented, “Do I really have to go?” Well maybe I did and maybe I didn’t, but it wasn’t something I jumped at in any event. Still I went and am glad for it.

You can do the same thing; without rolling your eyeballs. Every financial institution has these investment types. They essentially find out what you envision your retirement to look like and then figure out how much money you’ll need to live that kind of life. Working backwards, they figure out how much money you’ll need to invest regularly in order to retire with the funds you want. I mean it makes perfect sense. The earlier you get this kind of investing going, the less you need to invest regularly. Do it in your 20’s and you’ll hardly notice the small bit of money that goes to your own retirement and it compounds to higher amounts. Wait until you’re in your 50’s and you have to set aside larger sums and the compounding interest doesn’t add up as much because you’re doing so over a smaller period.

We still meet with this Investor a minimum of once a year. We get these statements all along where my wife and I can see how much money we are accumulating, and because she started with greater amounts than I did, I’m playing catch up to her. I get it though; not her money, (and this would be where the wills come in I suppose), I understand the process.

So my advice to you is to get your own investments going for your retirement especially if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s. You can have it removed from your pay  automatically and won’t even miss it. Planning ahead makes you so responsible and you’ll thank yourself years from now.