Archive for March, 2009

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and David Mann Book Review

March 21, 2009

The Go-Giver, a business book written as a fable, addresses the importance of giving. I remember always being told – but I cannot remember by whom – that it is better to give than receive, and I always thought that, that made no sense. The authors of The Go-Giver, Bob Burg and David Mann talk about the fallacy of the whole idea of it’s better to give than receive. They suggest that receiving is the natural result of giving.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & David Mann doesn’t present any new information, but it presents old information in the form of a fable, that’s a reminder for you. At 127 pages, The Go-Giver is an easy read.

We all lead such busy lifestyles and are constantly bombarded with new information, so we inevitably forget things that we are supposed to know and even practice. The Go-Giver is a gentle reminder to us for some of the things that we should be paying attention to. One example is the importance of paying attention to your thoughts because you usually get from life what you focus on. According to Pindar, one of the key characters in the fable, “Most of us have grown up seeing the world as a place of limitation rather than as a place of in-exhaustible treasures… You get what you expect… What you focus on is what you get… Ultimately, the world treats you more or less the way you expect to be treated.”

A lot of emphasis is placed on service and the book suggests that the goal of a great product or service is to provide higher quality than any money could possibly pay for. Ask yourself these questions about your product or service:

  • Does it serve?
  • Does it add value to others? And if yes,
  • Does it make money?

The following Five Laws of Stratospheric Success summarize what The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & David Mann is about.

 Five Laws of Stratospheric Success

  1. The Law of Value: your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment
  2. The Law of Compensation: your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them
  3. The Law of Influence: your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people’s interests first
  4. The Law of Authenticity: the most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself
  5. The Law of Receptivity: the key to effective giving is to stay open to receiving

5 Great Ideas

  1. The secret to success is giving – make it a way of life – givers attract
  2. Making money isn’t a goal that will make you successful. The truly successful people, the ones that are successful in all aspects of their lives, focus on sharing and giving
  3. Appearances can be deceiving, it’s like the old adage, never judge a book by its cover
  4. People will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust
  5. There are three universal laws for working: to survive – meet your basic needs, save – expand your life and go beyond basic needs, and serve – make a contribution for the greater good. Strive for the last reason

Words of Wisdom

It doesn’t matter what your training, education and skills are, no matter what area you are working in, you are your most important commodity. You are the most valuable gift that you can give to yourself, so start appreciating and accepting you.

It’s a nice book and easy read, so if you have the inclination to get a refresher on some old success principles pick up a copy.

Excerpt February 2008 Ambeck Edge


Fairy Tales, What You Can Learn From Them

March 14, 2009

Book Review: Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole

Reviewed by Avil M. Beckford

When was the last time you ventured into the land of make believe? Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole allowed me to do just that. As an active reader, I was really engaged and found myself getting really annoyed at some of the characters. For example, I became so frustrated with Snow White because she kept on making the same mistakes over and over again, because she thought it would be different, she kept on getting fooled by the disguises of the evil step-mother. Why was I frustrated? Is it because her actions are a metaphor for life, my life, your life, where we seem to find ourselves in the same undesirable situations over and over again until we finally get it.

Some people may think it is a waste of time to read folktales, but for me, I thought it was very worthwhile because it reminded me of simple life lessons such as persistence pays, there is no need to be greedy because there is enough for all of us and instead of competing, why aren’t we creating?

Though Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole is nearly 800 pages in length, it is still appropriate for people with short attention spans because 200 folk tales are included. Because the stories are so short, and there are so many of them, the reader can start reading at any point in the book. You’ll find familiar tales you read as a child such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or unfamiliar ones such as East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Crab, Chelm Justice, Baby in the Crib, Salt, The Bunyip, and Faithful Even in Death. As an adult, you’ll approach these stories much different from the way you approached them as a child. You’ll view them with a different set of lens all based on your life experiences. You may find yourself sympathetic toward a character in a tale while you could be frustrated with characters in other tales because they keep on making the same mistake over and over again.

I enjoyed reading this book because I was introduced to stories from all over the world, the majority of which I had never heard about. And, it was amazing to find the same story with a different spin because of cultural differences, such as Rumpelstiltskin and Tom Tit Tot. The folk tales reinforce that we are not as different as we think. The author organizes Best-Loved Folktales of the World by regions and if you are like me, the first section in the table of contents that I rushed to was the Caribbean and was delighted to see an Anansi story from Jamaica among the 200 stories. There were other Anansi stories that originated from the Ashanti Tribe in Africa. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Anansi stories, Brother Anansi is a trickster.

Another good thing about the way the book is organized is the Index of Categories of Tales, which allows the readers to quickly see which tales are appropriate for children, wonderful to read aloud, have a moral, are for women and girls and so on. If you like drama, adventure, romance, mystery, horror or fantasy, there is a tale for you. After reading Best-Loved Folktales of the World, you’ll be reminded of the following:

  • Share what you have with others because there is enough for everyone
  • Persistence pays
  • Operate with honesty and integrity: do not claim the work of others because the truth has a way of coming out and the consequences can be dire
  • Asking for help shows strength
  • Dream big
  • Appreciate what you have instead of pining over what you don’t have

I recommend Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole because it’s not only a page-turner, but it allows you to tap into your inner child and have some fun. When reading Best-Loved Folktales of the World , read it not only in the context of providing entertainment, but also in the context of what lessons you can learn to apply to your life. So, take a step back in time and remember when….

Excerpt from March 2008 Ambeck Edge

Interview With Jude Smiley Your “Invisible Mentor”

March 11, 2009

Life is about taking chances, and it doesn’t matter how much due diligence is done, one can never anticipate everything.  Despite this, doing nothing is not an option. Always try to mitigate your risks. Jude Smiley, principal of RainMaker Inc. shares her story.

Describe a business challenge you had and how you resolved it.

Challenge: A few years ago I was offered an ownership position in a packaging design company. I didn’t know the owner very well but thought it seemed like a good opportunity to utilize my skills and experience building a design consultancy. I had recently sold my own marketing and design company and was looking for a new venture. This company seemed to be doing great and was ready to move to the next level. I did what I thought was good due diligence and decided to jump in.

After a few months into this new arrangement it became very clear that the other partner was not only dishonest, but had been stealing from clients and embezzling company funds. My gut tangled in knots as I considered all my options. It wasn’t as easy as selling my equity and getting out, my name had been tarnished and my financial resources were already tied up. It looked like it was going to cost me a lot of money and heartache to disentangle myself.

Instead of acting in haste, I sought the counsel of my lawyers, my mentor and some other trusted associates. Together we came up with a plan to remove the partner from the company, make restitution with the clients in whatever way we could, and minimize any additional risk by locking up bank accounts, client files and so on. Once I had a plan in place, I went to the other partner and told her I wanted a ‘divorce’ from the partnership. We had a long conversation and I left the office that day feeling like I was going to be okay.

When I showed up for work the next day, I walked into an empty space. No furniture, no computers, no nothing. Thankfully, I had approached all the staff and our largest client and let them know what was going to happen. It was an interesting few weeks with lawyers, police and bank managers. Thankfully I had put the controls in place so that I and my reputation were protected early on.

 Resolution: Once the initial shock wore off I started to think about how I could have done things differently. I realized that I hadn’t listened to all the clues or ‘red flags’ that kept coming up at the beginning of my discussions with this person. I decided instead to think with my head instead of listening to my gut which is always a big mistake.

A year later, all the company’s debts were paid, staff had found new jobs and I decided to dissolve the company. We filed criminal fraud charges against the partner which are still pending.

I also came to a real sense of clarity about what I was really good at, and how I wanted to best serve the world. The services we were selling at the packaging company weren’t anything I was really passionate about and so it made sense to walk away and start fresh.

What lessons did you learn in the process?

 Lessons Learned

  1. Always follow your gut. Learn how to read your own signals. For me a positive step is a strong feeling of excitement and passion. A negative is an empty, kind of dead feeling. When I first engaged in conversations with this person, I always felt strangely calm and without any enthusiasm.
  2. Do an enormous amount of due diligence. Don’t just read financial statements, get out there and talk to the clients, talk to the suppliers. Trust the instincts of your lawyers and mentors. They know what they are doing. It turned out that the financial statements that I “bought” into were extremely inaccurate and brought fraud charges to the table after they were reviewed by an outside accounting firm.
  3. Take action immediately. The minute I sensed something was really wrong, I took any and all actions I could to protect myself further. By doing that, I managed to save $100,000 in potential damages and ensure that my ex-partner couldn’t tarnish my name any further. I camped out at 7:00 a.m. one day to meet my bank manager with all the legal documents and made sure we had locked all access to the accounts. My ex-partner showed up at 8:30 a.m., stood at the teller and tried to pull a cash advance out of the company. If I hadn’t acted that day, she would have gotten away with it.
  4. Build your reputation. At the end of the day your reputation is all you have. Thankfully my reputation was strong in integrity and excellence. Whenever my ex-partner tried to tell lies or slander me, she was met with a very unresponsive audience. People already knew me, and that I would do the right thing, no matter what.
  5. Don’t assume that other people think or operate with the same morals and ethics as you do. This was a hard lesson for me but an important one. It has taught me to ask better questions, check references and communicate openly about the standards I have for myself and what I expect from others.

In your opinion, what’s the formula for success?

Formula for Success

  • Exist to serve – instead of asking what you want from this life, ask life what it wants from you.
  • Focus on your passions
  • Decide what you truly want and create a plan to achieve it
  • Take action everyday
  • Recognize your accomplishments along the way
  • Never sacrifice your integrity
  • Enjoy the Journey

If you were in Jude’s position, what would you have done differently?

Visit Jude Smiley’s website at

Excerpt from March 2008 Ambeck Edge

Interview With Your “Invisible Mentor” Rodger Harding

March 6, 2009

When you think of a mentor, what comes to your mind? Perhaps you think of a champion with whom you meet with regularly. Or, a  person who guides you. But, does a mentor have to be a live person?  Could a mentor be a book, or even an interview?

I think so!

I call these types of mentors “invisible mentors,” and the best thing is that they are just a point and a click away, and you can access them at your convenience. Read Rodger Harding’s interview with an open mind and see what nuggets of wisdom you can pick up. What aspects of the interview can you use in your work and life?

Describe a business challenge you had and how you resolved it.

Challenge: As a small business operator, immersion in tasks/deliverables is often at the expense of new business development; this results in frequent cash flow challenges.

Resolution: To continue working toward my own priorities in the hands-on fashion I love, the pursuit of like-minded clients has resulted in a constant, albeit erratic, flow of referrals

People who believe in me have helped out …without being asked! This is perhaps one of the most gratifying aspects of my life – I have somehow earned the confidence and respect of people who believe that it is important that I continue my work…..

Lessons Learned

  1. It is OK to graciously receive – I had always thought it was my role to be a giver… Learning to receive, has taught me how better to give!
  2. I have tailored my life style to accommodate my business ethic
  3. I can live happily on considerably less than I was used to – Compared to my upbringing and former diplomatic life, I have no status, fewer assets and no power base, yet am happier and a far more useful member of society than ever before…

How did mentors influence your life?

 Mentors have held up the mirror and shown me potential I did not know I had…Oftentimes I only realized the enormity of their contribution years later…

 What’s one core message you received from your mentors?

  That I am a gifted person who has loads of untapped potential…Using this potential will benefit myself and others.

What’s the most important discovery you’ve made in the past year?

I am definitely on the right track professionally. Some 10 years ago I decided to work only with individuals/companies that are a good fit – Many advised that this was the path to ruin – I now know that, given my personality, methodology and experience this was the right choice.

What do you observe most people in your field doing badly that you think you do well?

I prefer to work on a subjective basis with clients, marrying their circumstance/requirements to objective market/industry/workplace realities; I have a strong aversion to labels, profiling and template driven training.

To reach other people requires a degree of risk … I believe I take those risks recognizing, understanding and acknowledging the individuality of others is the greatest validation I can provide!

Tell me about your big break and who gave you.

There have been many! All involved random relationships that blossomed into good business deals.

Example: Soon after starting my business, I was invited to participate in a live call-in television program. A young woman, Emelia Prempeh, later called my office and asked for advice, which I freely gave. A year later she hired me to provide career guidance sessions for graduating classes at the Information Technology Institute – then a vibrant IT college that specialized in training diverse professionals and academic graduates into IT experts. I almost refused the opportunity as the compensation was way below market worth, yet my relationship with Emelia prompted me to accept – – Interaction with some 1700 people has been a vast business and personal resource that persist to this day. The 4 year experience made conscious my theory of what constitutes human excellence. I can honestly say that confidence in my unique approach to empowering others had its foundation in the intensity of the 1700 validating interactions experienced.

What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?

That being myself will not always be the easiest route. Many see this aspect of me as arrogance/attitude, yet despite my self-consciousness, lack of confidence etc. something deep inside has always refused to go with the flow for the sake of an easier ride….

Do you have problems integrating work and life? Do you waste time thinking about what could have been? How have mentors influenced your life? And, when are you happy, have you ever stopped to think about it? To read Rodger Harding’s responses to these questions and more, download the entire interview at

For more than a decade Rodger Harding’s Toronto based Business Leadership Consultancy has provided high level consulting, training & keynote speaking services to diverse corporate, government and not-for- profit clients. His skill-set has evolved over almost three decades in an international career that spans, Law, Diplomacy and Business Consulting.

Excerpt from January/Febraury 2009 Ambeck Edge

The Secret Garden By Frances Hodgson Burnett Book Review

March 2, 2009

The natural order of life is for people to grow, evolve, and have the ability to adapt to change. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is really about the transformative power of finding “passion” which gives meaning to life. The author’s writing is very vivid, and the words jump off the pages and transport readers into the story where they become a participant versus a passive observer.

First published in 1911, The Secret Garden is a story about 10-year old Mary Lennox, a self-absorbed, sour and sickly girl who becomes an orphan when a cholera epidemic kills her parents and the staff at their home in India. Mary is sent to Misselthwaite Manor in the United Kingdom to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven who is still grieving 10 years after his wife’s death. Shortly after Mary’s arrival, Archibald leaves on a journey to heal his aching and grieving heart.

At the Manor, chambermaid Martha is the only one who has time for Mary, and she regales the child with tales about living on the moor. Martha also talks about her brother Dickon Sowerby, a spirited lad with a kind disposition, who has a “green thumb” and the unique ability to charm animals. After hearing about Dickon, Mary is fascinated and wants to meet him.

One day while exploring the grounds at the Manor, Mary finds the key to the Secret Garden which she has heard about. Everyone is banned from entering the garden, but Mary who has always been accustomed to getting her own way, enters the garden. Her transformation begins immediately. Later, she meets Dickon and shares her secret with him. Together they sneak into the Garden each day and work hard at restoration by pruning and planting new flowers. Doing something that she cares about, Mary gets stronger and her sickness starts to disappear. Because her life now has meaning, she becomes a nicer person and her sourly nature starts to fade.

One night while in her bedroom, she hears weeping and decides to investigate. She discovers her 10 year cousin Colin Craven who is confined to his bedroom because he refuses to go outside. Colin is convinced that he has a disability and is going to die very soon. “Mary stood near the door with her candle in her hand, holding her breath. Then she crept across the room, and as she drew nearer the light attracted the boy’s attention and he turned his head on his pillow and stared at her, his grey eyes opening so wide that they seemed immense. ‘Who are you?” he said at last in a half-frightened whisper. ‘Are you a ghost?’ ‘No, I am not,” Mary answered, her own whisper sounding half-frightened. ‘Are you One?’… ‘No,’ he replied after waiting a moment or so. ‘I am Colin.’ ‘Who is Colin?’ she faltered. ‘I am Colin Craven. Who are you?’ ‘I am Mary Lennox. Mr. Craven is my uncle.’ ‘He is my father,’ said the boy. ‘Your father!’ gasped Mary. ‘No one ever told me he had a boy! Why didn’t they?’”

Like any other relationship, this one has its ups and downs, but the two cousins develop a bond. When Mary feels that she can trust Colin she tells him about the Garden. Together Mary, Colin and Dickon go to the Garden each day to work.

As the story unfolds, the transformative power of the Garden spreads to Mary and Colin, and, as the Garden comes to life, so do Mary and Colin. Both regain their strength and health and Colin no longer needs his wheelchair. Not only is their health restored through the transformation, but they learn the importance of appreciation and showing consideration for others. What seemed impossible now becomes possible.

Five Great Ideas

  1.  “You learn things by saying them over and over and thinking about them until they stay in your mind forever…”
  2. “The beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.”
  3. Make life meaningful by doing work that you are passionate about. Live each day as if it were your last
  4. Everyone wants to be liked, appreciated and wanted. People also want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves
  5. To receive compassion you have to be compassionate and to earn respect you have to respect others

Though The Secret Garden is a children’s book, everyone will benefit from reading it. Living a meaningful life brings joy, and people learn to live rather than merely exist. In 2009, what are five things you could do to add meaning to your life and work? And, how can you grow and evolve into the multiple roles you play both at home and at work? I recommend The Secret Garden. When you read the Secret Garden, read it with the view of applying the concepts to your life.

Excerpt from January/February 2009 Ambeck Edge