CIA: How to Destroy Companies

During World War 2, the OSS (precursor to the CIA) created a manual to help its spies break down the efficiency and morale of enemy organizations.

The targets of these sabotage efforts were anything from strategic military planning departments to armaments manufacturers. The intent was to weaken the operational efficiency of organizations supporting the enemy’s war effort.

These sabotage techniques weren’t what you’d typically see in the movies – they didn’t require bombs or guns. Instead, the techniques used subtle behavioural ploys to slow decision making and progress. The techniques were as simple as asking irrelevant questions or seeking consensus where none was required. These techniques didn’t raise suspicion, because they simply spread bad business practices masquerading as productive work.

I’ve provided the list of techniques directly from the manual below. As you read through the list, what you’ll notice is that many of these sabotage techniques are things that happen every day in modern bureaucratic businesses.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to get anything done at work?

Most people working in businesses today aren’t purposely trying to create inefficiencies. Yet, many people – including senior leadership – purposely behave in ways that align with the CIA’s suggestions for killing efficiency.

I believe this is because few people running businesses today pay attention to the actual science of running a business.

To get to their position, many leaders simply rose through the ranks after starting as functional experts with no real management training. While many of these people eventually get formal training, unfortunately business schools and corporate training programs do a poor job of actually teaching people how to run companies.

Consequently, many leaders go with their gut instead of their head. A combination of charisma, confidence and cunning make these leaders appear highly competent. The honest truth is in most bureaucracies it’s the blind who lead the blind. Few really know what they’re doing.

When you manage a business using your gut, you go with what feels right. Does it feel like work? Is it challenging? Does it involve a lot of people in high positions? We’re accustomed to equating these things with progress.

Corporate leaders and management inadvertently destroy their companies by adopting behaviours that feel like work, yet actually slow down their organizations.

Striving for consensus, doing everything by the book, creating committees, making speeches and haggling over minutia feel like the right things to do. However, you can spend 10 hours a day doing that stuff without actually moving the business forward.

Because many of these behaviours are ingrained in many corporate cultures, it takes intelligent, conscientious and honest leaders to cut activities that feel important to everyone yet produce nothing. Once indoctrinated into the corporate culture, these behavioural patterns are very difficult to change. This is why large companies can slowly drift right into an iceberg everyone sees coming from miles away.

For example, how can the big 5 Canadian banks – which essentially provide commoditized products and services – have varying degrees of success with some trading at persistent valuation discounts lasting years? It’s because the laggards have allowed corporate culture to fester into a gangrenous nightmare. This is not to say people hate working there, but that the culture supports (even enforces) inefficient and ineffective business practices.

If you want to build or lead an effective organization, I suggest reading the excerpt from the Simple Sabotage Field Manual below and doing the opposite.

I’ve pasted an image of the original text from the actual manual. If you find that difficult to read, I’ve also included the full copy below.

(Source: “Simple Sabotage Field Manual“)

(11) General Interference with Organizations and Production
(a) Organizations and Conferences (1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.
(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.
(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5) Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the jurisdiction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.
(b) Managers and Supervisors
(1) Demand written orders.
(2) “Misunderstand” orders. Ask endless questions or engage in long correspondence about such orders. Quibble over them when you can.
(3) Do everything possible to delay the delivery of orders. Even though parts of an order may be ready beforehand, don’t deliver it until it is completely ready.
(4) Don’t order new working materials until your current stocks have been virtually exhausted, so that the slightest delay in filling your order will mean a shutdown.
(5) Order high-quality materials which are hard to get. If you don’t get them argue about it. Warn that inferior materials will mean inferior work.
(6) In making work assignments, always sign out the unimportant jobs first. See that the important jobs are assigned to inefficient workers of poor machines.
(7) Insist on perfect work in relatively un important products; send back for refinishing those which have the least flaw. Approve other defective parts whose flaws are not visible to the naked eye.
(8) Make mistakes in routing so that parts and materials will be sent to the wrong place in the plant.
(9) When training new workers, give in complete or misleading instructions.
(10) To lower morale and with it, production, be pleasant to inefficient workers; give them undeserved promotions. Discriminate against efficient workers; complain unjustly about their work.
(11) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.
(12) Multiply paper work in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
(13) Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, pay checks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.
(14) Apply all regulations to the last letter.

(c) Office Workers
(1) Make mistakes in quantities of material when you are copying orders. Confuse similar names. Use wrong addresses.
(2) Prolong correspondence with government bureaus.
(3) Misfile essential documents.
(4) In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done.
(5) Tell important callers the boss is busy or talking on another telephone.
(6) Hold up mail until the next collection.
(7) Spread disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.
(d) Employees
(1) Work slowly. Think out ways to in crease the number of movements necessary on your job: use a light hammer instead of a heavy one, try to make a small wrench do when a big one is necessary, use little force where considerable force is needed, and so on.
(2) Contrive as many interruptions to your work as you can: when changing the material on which you are working, as you would on a lathe or punch, take needless time to do it. If you are cutting, shaping or doing other measured work, measure dimensions twice as often as you need to. When you go to the lavatory, spend a longer time there than is necessary. Forget tools so that you will have to go back after them.
(3) Even if you understand the language, pretend not to understand instructions in a foreign tongue.
(4) Pretend that instructions are hard to understand, and ask to have them repeated more than once. Or pretend that you are particularly anxious to do your work, and pester the foreman with unnecessary questions.
(5) Do your work poorly and blame it on bad tools, machinery, or equipment. Complain that these things are preventing you from doing your job right.
(6) Never pass on your skill and experience to a new or less skillful worker.
(7) Snarl up administration in every possible way. Fill out forms illegibly so that they will have to be done over; make mistakes or omit requested information in forms.

(8) If possible, join or help organize a group for presenting employee problems to the management. See that the procedures adopted are as inconvenient as possible for the management, involving the presence of a large number of employees at each presentation, entailing more than one meeting for each grievance, bringing up problems which are largely imaginary, and so on.

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My Boss Quit

A couple weeks ago my boss, who is part the executive team at my company, told he he quit.

Good for him.

He’s been screwed over by the company too many times and his career hit a brick wall. He is leaving for a better position (and presumably better pay).

His departure creates a vacuum for my department. That vacuum attracts all sorts of people vying for power. But it also raises the question for me, as one of his natural successors: do I go for his job?

Of course, this assumes the company doesn’t restructure my boss’s position away to save money. We could all just get haphazardly lumped into another group. After all, budgets are under huge pressure so getting replacement headcount is very difficult.

But let’s imagine his position is made available.

Before simply applying I have to know if I really want his position. I’ve risen in the ranks enough to have a good-enough income and a great balance between strategy and execution. I’ll be honest…I’m comfortable. Ten years ago I wanted to aggressively increase my income. Today I’m more interested in writing, family, health and becoming financially independent than climbing the corporate ladder. I’d rather build alternate sources of income (which I’m doing) than double-down on my current source.

Besides, do I really want to be even less in touch with the day-to-day action and more involved with corporate bureaucracy?

The higher you go the more you need to align with the corporate propaganda, which I already find sickening. Is it worth selling your soul for a better title and slightly better paycheque.

People who are promoted tend to get less money than those who move to other companies. Most employers are cheap. They think they’re doing you a huge favour by promoting you, which they use as justification for a weak raise.

Moreover, you must consider the after tax impact of whatever pitiful raise you get. Often, if you break it down it might come down to an extra $50-100 per week in your pocket. For many, that wouldn’t be worth the extra work and stress.

A pay raise on its own – regardless of how insignificant – might still sound enticing. Why not just take the extra money?

In reality, there’s more to the decision than just money. The new position will come with huge expectations and uncertainties. You are selling your time, comfort and health for additional money that might not really make a difference to your life.

Of course, many just chase the titles. If that’s your bag then all the power to you. But if you have a life outside of work, then you need to look at the full picture.

If I don’t apply for my boss’s old position, others will. That opens up a whole other set of issues. A new person will want to make their own imprint and might try to fix things that don’t need fixing for the sake of ‘making a difference’. Do I really want to report to someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing?

A new boss from outside the company would also come with a new set of pressures. He or she would need to live up to high expectations, meaning the people reporting to him must follow suit. So regardless of whether I take the job or not, the pressure will be on.

Alternatively, perhaps a more familiar face – one of my colleagues for example – gets the job. If this happened, the pressure wouldn’t be as intense as if an outsider took the role. But how will it feel to report to someone who was once my equal? Indeed, there’s the possibility that I would report to someone who reported to me three years ago. That admittedly would be a big hit to my ego.

I have to remove emotions from the decision. I care about money, return on effort, intellectual stimulation, freedom and balance. I don’t care about titles, personal empires or corporate politics. I just want my highly specialized team and I to support the business the best we can.

This is not a decision to take lightly. Either I go for it or I don’t. Rejecting an offer on the table from your employer is a career limiting move. If I reject them, they will never make another offer to me again. If I apply for the role, I have to be prepared to accept it if offered. If I have conditions (e.g. pay), I have to be clear on day one what they are.

Even if I don’t apply, if they offer the role to me it is a potentially limiting move (although less so) to turn it down. To do so would require explanation, and I can’t think of any honest explanation that wouldn’t come across as apathetic or disengaged.

I’m still working through my thought process, but I think if they offered me the role I’d take it. I would do my best to maintain my current work-life balance and I’d craft the position into something I’d enjoy. Importantly, I wouldn’t lose sight of my ultimate goal to create lasting wealth and financial independence.

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Don’t Send That Angry Email!

I suppose I’m a bitter person. Twenty years in the investments business will do that.

I’ve seen all the same bullshit over and over again. After a while you just grow tired of bending over and taking it. Sometimes it takes the strength of Zeus to stop yourself from telling some idiot at work to shut the fuck up.

But if you want to keep your job, you don’t do that. Even if you don’t want to keep your job, the world is small and word travels fast. So don’t do that.

I’m not saying you need to be a ‘yes’ man or woman. Have opinions, provide criticism and strive to improve your business. But there’s a point where an opinion becomes an argument and an argument becomes an attack.

I’ve spent a lot of time whining, complaining, moaning, attacking in emails. HOURS! I’ve perfected these emails. Some of my emails read like Col. Nathan R. Jessep’s testimony in A Few Good Men. I know how to make an great case.

But do you know why I still have a career? Because I never sent those wicked emails.

Do you know why I still have a career?

Because I never sent those wicked emails.

If I had sent those emails, at best they would generate tacit agreement with no action. Some would position me as a ‘complainer’, limiting my prospects. Others would put me on ‘the list’.

You don’t want to be on the list. The list – whether official or not – includes disgruntled employees that don’t necessarily cause problems but are generally unhappy. Unhappy employees don’t get raises or promotions. Unhappy employees also don’t get packaged out. If your employer thinks there’s any chance you might quit on your own, they’ll just put you in the corner and ask you to shovel shit until you do.

Other than personal satisfaction, those emails wouldn’t have fixed my problems. In fact, by being the guy who doesn’t unnecessarily complain about the problems everyone already knows exist I probably advanced my likability within the organization.

You think executives aren’t already getting emails from other people venting about problems they already know they can’t fix? They don’t need another jackass making them feel like shit anymore than they already do. So by not sending those emails, you remain a positive force that helps them get through their day.

With that said, you don’t want to be a pushover. You have valuable opinions and are in this to create an imprint. Do this by delivering messages based on facts and evidence.

Instead of sharing opinionated complaints filled with “I think”, provide insights that start with “evidence suggests”. Be a messenger of truth by way of observations and recommendations that are rooted in objective information. Nobody cares about your feelings, but they do care about facts that are observable by anyone astute enough to see them. If you deliver those facts combined with actionable suggestions, you become the smart employee who can help build the business.

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Chart: US Personal Incomes Actually Rose in April

Unemployment has skyrocketed. The economy has tanked. Yet personal income rose in April.

Personal income include all sources of income (including employment and government sources). So while wages fell due to rising unemployment, government benefits more than offset that decline resulting in the rise in personal incomes. Essentially, government benefits kept people (in aggregate) whole.

However, with lock-downs in place, expenditures (specifically consumption) dramatically slowed. As a result, the personal savings rate jumped to 32% in April!


This Might Be Your Last Job

Last night I spent some time searching for old classmates and work colleagues on LinkedIn and Facebook. I just wanted to see what some people were up to, out of curiosity.

As you might expect, many were living their lives – having kids, travelling, developing their careers. However, I noticed something disturbing.

A huge proportion of people from my past have simply dropped off the face of the earth. I sort of expected this when scouring Facebook. Facebook is a cesspool and somewhat pointless, so many people quit. However, I didn’t expect to see people simply vanish from LinkedIn.

She went from jet-setting with executives around the world to homeless.

Where did they go?

While actual profiles were still up, it was clear that many have not made any changes to their accounts in years. These are people supposedly in the prime of their careers – aged between 40 and 55. While a handful might have died (morbid thought), the rest just went dark.

I did some detective work and discovered a common explanation. Many people in the finance industry in the prime of their careers who are laid off never recover. They simply go from being a valuable contributor with a great income and 20 years of remaining career…to nothing.

Some were laid off from long-held positions. Others were laid off after leaving behind solid tenure for a higher-level job only for it to not work out. All went from the prime of their careers to the abyss.

After getting the axe, some of my former colleagues tried to start a business (many failed), others accepted jobs far below their experience level. Many appear to be simply wearing down their severance and savings, possibly leaning on the kindness of others.

I’ve even heard of one high-powered senior marketing manager who ended up on the streets. She went from jet-setting with executives around the world to homeless.

It could happen to anyone

None of these people expected nor deserved this. They weren’t terrible at their jobs nor bad people. They simply were not liked by the right people or were just a number on a spreadsheet.

Due to circumstances outside of their control – and sometimes less than perfect relationship with a key industry influencer – these people became untouchable. Unfortunately, relationships seem to matter more than work quality. And those who didn’t nurture relationships with certain people lost career momentum. I’ve said this many times: the corporate world is for extroverts.

This is the sort of thing you might expect from the music or movie business. Many actors who were household names a decade ago are nowhere to be seen today. We so casually refer to them as ‘has-beens’ without realizing this is a terrible predicament to face, and one that could affect anyone in any industry. However, it appears especially common in the finance industry.

Don’t take this lightly

Once you get beyond a certain level, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a job. Unfortunately, middle-manager jobs aren’t plentiful and executive-level jobs only go to the chosen few. I can only imagine my colleagues’ combination of depression and desperation as they realized their careers were over.

If you are in your 40s or older, behave as if your current job might be your last. Let’s hope it’s not, but be prepared because I’ve seen the sad story repeat over and over.

Knowing your career might end sooner than expected, you need to aggressively save and build alternate income streams. Have a plan for if/when this happens to you. Don’t assume the path you’re currently on will be available to you for the rest of your working life. This might be your last job.


Where are the Black People in Finance?

I’ve worked in finance for 20 years. I could probably count the number of black men and women I’ve worked with using my two hands.

The number of black people in middle manager or senior roles? I’d only need one hand to count them.

8.9% of the Toronto population is black. Yet, the representation in the managerial and executive ranks of the Canadian finance industry is much less than 8.9%.

Systemic exclusion in the finance industry

I haven’t witnessed any blatant discrimination based on race. Quite the opposite – all of the financial institutions I’ve worked for had strict HR policies prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Every year, most institutions make all their employees go through some form of online training to avoid these issues.

So where are the black people in finance?

Note the first sentence two paragraphs above: “I haven’t witnessed any blatant discrimination based on race.” I think 90% of people in my industry would say the same. This results in a paradox – the issue of systemic racism in the workplace is made worse because most people don’t think an issue even exists. This is a big problem because it causes people to misunderstand what’s actually happening.

Racism in the modern workplace has gone underground. It has become part of the plumbing that goes unnoticed, yet remains a core component of the overall system. Given the lack of black representation, it is fair to conclude that there exists some form of systemic discrimination in the world of finance. However, since it is systemic it is less visible and more persistent.

Don’t believe me? Next time you see a financial institution posting on social media about racial inclusion, take a look at that company’s board of directors and executive team. You’ll be hard pressed to find a single black, East Asian or South Asian person.

The system is set up against black people

One might argue that black people simply don’t even try to enter the world of finance, explaining why there is such little representation at the executive level. But why would they want to?

While it’s true that black people shouldn’t technically be discriminated against during the hiring process, there are plenty of other excuses for why a black person might not ‘fit the job requirements’ – aka ‘the mold’. Faced with this reality, many choose to avoid the industry altogether.

In contrast, white anglo-saxon protestants can drunk-stumble into finance jobs because their parents set them up, their friends work in the industry and they simply fit the mold. There is a finance archetype. Anyone outside of that clique needs to work extra hard to get in only to compete with people who were born with an advantage. So why the fuck would a black person even want to join that world in the first place? Who plays a game knowing the deck is stacked against them?

Since they don’t fit the mold, black people who do get into finance likely face – at a minimum – unconscious bias. While I haven’t seen anyone officially miss out on a promotion because of their race, I’ve seen it happen because people don’t fit the mold. The deviations from the mold can be very minor – someone’s attitude, mannerisms, clothing, hair, etc. stray 10% from the archetype. So if that archetype includes white skin, wouldn’t that be considered systemic racism?

It’s very hard to pinpoint an actual racist action within these modern corporations. However, I can tell you it’s happening by matter of deduction. But it’s done in a way that is so subtle even those perpetrating the discrimination probably don’t realize it.

Many executives subconsciously feel the finance industry is for outgoing, thin, clean cut white kids with well-off parents who could afford to send them to expensive universities and connect them with jobs. It’s these expectations of what’s normal that create an exclusionary environment for anyone that doesn’t fit the mold.

Most corporate leaders would argue vehemently they aren’t ‘racist’. Yet, this is what makes racism ‘systemic’. It’s often not a cold, conscious decision by an individual – it’s part of the process. It’s part of the ugly system.


Why Executives Want to End Work From Home

What if you could have 12.5% more life?

Most people agree that they are more productive working from home. Work gets done faster because there are fewer interruptions and people are allowed to prioritize without distraction.

Moreover, by working from home most people cut their commute by about 2 hours each day.

(Frankly, I’m not sure how I’ll ever deal with rush hour traffic again now that I’ve seen the other side.)

Assuming you sleep 8 hours a day, by cutting out your commute you gain 12.5% more quality free time. That is significant.

Although I won’t attempt to quantify it, you also gain time by being more productive working from home. Realistically, you’re gaining more than 2 hours a day (i.e. more than 12.5% extra quality free time).

This extra time is a life-changing gain you can reinvest in your work, side projects, hobbies or family. Used wisely, these time investments can help you generate a second income stream, improve family ties and live a more fulfilling life.

You gain more than time

In addition to time, working from home improves your health and saves you money. No more coffee room ambushes, late buses, face time, toilet searches or itchy pants. More time for working out, eating vegetables and hanging out with people you actually like. All this is good for you.

I haven’t eaten food court food in months.
I’m pretty sure I’ve added 5 years to my life.

Then there’s the money saved on lunch, dry cleaning, coffees and office attire. I’m barely trying and I’ve cut my spending in half. Working from home can help you reach your financial goals – emergency fund, retirement savings, financial freedom – much faster.

You get my point.

While there are some downsides to working from home, there are many upsides. This is why most people don’t want to return to the office.

So why do executives want to return to the office?

The only people I know who are really pumped about getting back to the office are executives or other people with senior ranks within an organization. This is because most executives are extroverts.

Extroverts are awarded extra points by society. They are automatically considered to have leadership qualities because they love to schmooze with people. Justified or not, for this reason extroverts tend to rise to the top of organizations.

Extroverts tend to get off on meetings, impromptu chats, after-work drinks and coffee dates. This is their key to success within an organization. Regardless of the quality of their deliverables, their extroversion helped them become likable, relatable and promotable ‘leaders’. Before we all started working from home, this was their game and they played it well.

The funny thing is some extroverts mistake talking and socializing as ‘work’. Sure, the talks might be related to work, but most are pointless circle-jerks that accomplish nothing. And many conversations or meetings that do accomplish something could have easily been replaced by a 5 minute email.

Many of these people thrive on the inefficiency of daily corporate bureaucratic life. Have you ever felt like you’ve had the same meeting over and over for months? This is the ‘more talk, less do’ strategy unconsciously driven by many extroverts. Of course, work does eventually get done. But my observation is that it gets done because it is delegated to disciplined introverts who value output over endless chats.

Working from home changes the game.

Suddenly, the formula for success is flipped upside-down. Without a channel to direct the incessant shit talk, those in your face extroverts fall apart and conscientious introverts are the ones keeping the company moving. Indeed, this is the opportunity for introverts to demonstrate where value is truly created.

When stuck behind a desk at home, many extroverts simply cannot function. If you don’t already know who they are, they are the ones who are booking all the virtual team meetings and conference calls. They’re trying to justify their existence in this new work from home world.

Note: For dramatic effect I’m probably being overly critical of extroverts. They do have a role to play and many do deliver fantastic results. However, I have particular ‘extroverts’ in mind as I write this article. You probably know a few that fit the description. But you probably also know a few that are truly genuine, caring people that make things happen. Also, not all introverts deliver. Some are totally useless and get tripped up by their own introspection.

Introverts: Use this opportunity wisely

While the corporate office environment is ideal for extroverts, the work from home environment evens the scale between introverts and extroverts. Now’s the chance for introverts to step up, deliver and show the world what they can do.

Create value for your business and promote your work. The chains are unshackled, so when emailing a new report (or whatever) CC a few more people than usual. Share it with all the people in your organization that might be interested.

At the same time, use this opportunity to break out of the introvert shell by speaking more on conference calls. It feels safer than in-person meetings, so do it. In fact, if you really feel inclined, book a few of your own calls to showcase your work.

Finally, don’t let the loudest, most talkative people at the company dominate the conversations. Let it be known how you’re benefiting from working from home and how it ultimately benefits the company. If the executives are the only ones speaking on behalf of staff, returning to the office will be the only option.


25 Life Changing Dale Carnegie Quotes

Dale Carnegie was born in 1888 into poverty on a farm in Missouri. Over time he overcame his humble beginnings, eventually becoming a globally recognized American writer and lecturer.

He developed a number of courses and wrote numerous books on self-improvement, sales, interpersonal relations, public speaking and corporate life. His seminal work was a book called “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, a bestseller that remains popular today.

His work has inspired millions to become more effective and successful at work and life. Below are 25 of his most influential quotes:

  1. “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
  1. “Don’t be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.”
  1. “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”
  1. “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
  1. “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
  1. “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
  1. “Success is getting what you want…Happiness is wanting what you get.”
  1. “Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions. It depends on inner conditions.”
  1. “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
  1. “When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.”
  1. “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
  1. “Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. ”
  1. “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”
  1. “If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be. ”
  1. “Be wiser than other people if you can; but do not tell them so.”
  1. “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.”
  1. “Our thoughts make us what we are.”
  1. “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.”
  1. “The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
  1. “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
  1. “You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.”
  1. “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, for your character is what you are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
  1. “One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.”
  1. “One of the tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
  1. “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”


The One Skill To Get Your Career Moving Faster

There is one thing you can do to instantly raise your credibility at work or any other area of your life. This one thing will set you apart from your colleagues because people will perceive you as a confident leader. This one thing will raise your profile because you are able to do something nobody else wants to do.

That ‘thing’ is public speaking.

I hate public speaking. It causes me immense stress. Getting in front of a crowd freaks me out. But if you’re like me, now is the time to give it a go.

We’re all working from home at the moment. In-person meetings and presentations have been replaced by virtual presentations, a much more comfortable way to present to a group. For introverts like me, this is a great opportunity to ease into public speaking.

Moreover, while your colleagues are fading into the background because they’re remaining silent, you now have the opportunity to stand out by taking a leadership role.

When It Comes to Presentations, Preparation is Key

Whether in-person or virtual, presentations are still a ton of work.

For every slide I present I generally require an hour of preparation (if I want to come across as polished and prepared). A 30 minute presentation with 15 slides will require about 15 hours of work, including research, storyboarding and practice.

Anyone can do a great presentation if they invest the time and energy.

The entire process is excruciating. But preparation means the difference between confident orator and rambling buffoon. Don’t let this scare you. Anyone can do a great presentation if they invest the time and energy.

Of course, someone who has been presenting for years will do a better job than someone who rarely presents, but they can both do a great job that impresses their audience.

Presentations Are An Investment in Your Career

The investment will pay off. I have used this strategy at my work over the past several years to manufacture my personal brand. I hate it but it works. By speaking on numerous occasions about forward-looking research topics, people now perceive me as a thought leader. I like to think their perception is accurate, but without me making the effort nobody would know. Presenting is perhaps the fastest and most effective way to shape how others perceive you.

Indeed, because of this manufactured perception I have been able to purposely adjust the calculus of my career so that I spend more time doing the work I’m most interested in. On the whole, by doing something nobody else wants to do I have bought myself more freedom and flexibility to plan my day.

Take The Initiative and Start Small

Whatever your job – no matter where you sit in the hierarchy – you can benefit from taking the initiative to present in front of a group.

Your presentation doesn’t have to be directly related to your role. Talk about something interesting related to your industry. Or talk about something you recently learned that others might find helpful.

Start small and start with a topic you know well. Also, start with an audience you already feel comfortable with. These small wins will begin set you apart from your colleagues. You can grow from there.

Over time, you will become somewhat more comfortable. However, even the most accomplished presenters like Sir Laurence Olivier get stage fright. So don’t expect it to go away completely. Instead, develop coping strategies – the most critical being preparation and practice. 

If you don’t take the initiative to develop your public speaking skills, your career will eventually hit a wall. Almost all mid-level and senior positions require the ability to communicate verbally to a crowd. So investing in this one skill is critical to setting yourself apart and keeping your career moving in an upward direction.

Wealth Work

Your Pay Just Got Cut: Now What?

Your boss just told you and your colleagues that you’re all getting 30% pay cuts.

What do you do? How do you react?

First of all, look at it from your company’s perspective. This was probably the better of two shitty choices.

If the company needs to slash costs in a recessionary environment it has few options and little time to make those choices. Often, an impending debt payment puts a hard deadline on the need for cash. Missing a debt repayment risks the life of the entire company.

A pay cut doesn’t mean you’re getting screwed.

Often, one of the easiest ways to free up cash is to cut salary expenses. To do this, a company can either cut headcount or reduce pay per worker.

While a 30% pay cut feels like you’re getting the shaft, it is actually a sign your boss is trying to save jobs.

It might work, it might not. But either way, keeping your job during the Covid-19 recession should be top priority. A steady paycheque keeps you solvent and it buys you time to build up emergency savings. It also buys you time to build skills, network and prepare for the possibility of eventual unemployment.

Longer job tenure means a bigger severance if laid off.

Another big upside to keeping your job is you retain tenure. A longer tenure means more severance if you are eventually laid off.

In good times, a 30% pay cut would send you immediately searching for another job. But in bad times, that would be a risky strategy. This is not the time to let pride drive decisions. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you still need an income to pay your bills and feed your family.

Quitting for a new job is risky because it means your tenure resets to zero. A company can have the best of intentions when hiring, but changing circumstances could force them into cutting staff (or salaries). Who gets cut first? The new guy – because it costs the company nothing in severance. A recession is not the time to walk away from job tenure.

A 30% paycut is usually temporary.

As the economy eventually normalizes, salaries should be returned to their previous level. If this doesn’t happen, then consider your options. But it could take 2 or more years until the labour market is strong enough to give labour a fighting chance. Until then, it’s a buyers’ market.

Job seekers today are competing against millions of other job seekers for jobs that don’t exist. This is not a labour market you voluntarily enter. So accept that 30% paycut, as painful as it is, because the alternative could be a lot worse.

(Free Guide) Survive the Coronavirus Economic Catastrophe:

The Covid-19 economic crisis is gripping the world. After 20 years in the asset management business, it looks like we are fighting through unprecedented territory.

This is war. I created a 17 step, 47 page guide to help DumbWealth subscribers get through this.

I originally planned on printing the guide and selling copies for $20+. Instead I’m giving this away free because I think we all need to help each other during these difficult times.


How to Not Get Fired While Working from Home

Day 40.

I still have a day job. None of my colleagues or staff have been laid off.

We’re the lucky ones. Even if you hate your job, be thankful for your paycheque.

Right now there’s an unspoken expectation that as long as everyone holds on tight things will go back to normal in a couple months. Back to daily coffee trips with the team. Back to conferences and staff meetings. Back to lunch in the foodcourt.

But I don’t think we’ll get back to normal. At least not anytime soon.

I know some of you would love to get packaged out of your job but – unless you’re set for retirement – now is not the time. You don’t want to enter a job market with a 30% unemployment rate. While you might be a rare unicorn, you also don’t want to start a business when 50% of existing small businesses are collapsing. Hey, if it came to it I’m sure you could make it work. But it would be more ideal to enter this situation after the economic shit-storm has passed.

Those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home might find ourselves in this predicament for much longer than originally expected.That means we need to virtually manage our careers.

The best case scenario for a vaccine is roughly 12-18 months. The reality is that vaccines for many viruses are extremely difficult to produce. For instance, in the mid-1980s some researchers thought they’d have an HIV vaccine within a couple years. No dice. It is possible that the hope for a vaccine is false, leaving treatment and social distancing as our remaining defences.

We can manage through this, but life might need to change for a while. Those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home might find ourselves in this predicament for much longer than originally expected. That means we need to virtually manage our careers.

It’s very easy to slip into the darkness when working from home.

While you might keep in regular contact with your primary network – your boss, your staff – people in your secondary network no longer run into you in hallways, meetings or elevators.

If you’re not great at spontaneous small talk, this is your time to shine.

Your secondary network includes people who have an indirect influence on your success or failure at an organization. They may be senior leaders or people in other teams. While in the office you might never really need to work with these people, they are reminded of your presence because of serendipitous encounters. These encounters are neither planned nor necessary, but they help to shape your personal brand in the office. That 30 second conversation in the elevator creates a lasting impression. We lose that when working from home.

If you’re not great at spontaneous small talk, this is your time to shine. With everyone stuck at home, we now must pre-plan and manufacture those serendipitous encounters. Very few do this, so it is a fairly easy way to stand out from the crowd.

It can be a challenge because it might feel forced. Personally, I think people say this because they don’t want to look like they’re trying too hard. This is where the art of relevance comes in. To manufacture serendipitous encounters, you need to create relevance. You don’t simply email the CEO to ask a random question.

Instead, here are some quarantine-friendly ideas for building your personal brand within your primary and secondary networks without coming across as a blatant ass-kisser:

Ask questions during conference calls.

Make sure people know you’re on the call and still work at the company by asking questions. Usually you know the agenda in advance so you can prepare a few before the call. Try not to sound stupid or like a shit-stirrer. Try to make your questions additive to the conversation.

You never know who might be on these calls. Imagine your next boss is on the call and you want to make a good impression. You do this by appearing engaged in the content and interested in using it to further the business.

Take initiative.

After a while of #quarantinelife, it’s easy to sit on your ass and wait for emailed requests to come in. Some eventually do, but as visibility fades and many of your colleagues disappear into the darkness new requests can slow to a trickle.

Use this to your advantage. Lead, don’t wait. Big or small, think of new tasks and projects and propose them to your boss(es). Better yet, think of an initiative that would benefit people in your secondary network and propose it to them.

Even if your ideas don’t all get executed, your initiative demonstrates that you’re not just sitting at home or in the park twiddling your thumbs. Show people that you can drive the business forward no matter where you are.

Book calls.

As unnecessary as many conference calls seem, they are a way of communicating “hey, I’m still here”. Participating in calls is one thing, but setting up calls makes people think you’re a mover and shaker. I know it’s bullshit, but corporate drones tend to believe meetings = progress. While in the regular face-to-face environment you can get away without setting up useless meetings, when working remotely you might have to suck it up and join the party.

Send updates.

Gone are the days of someone casually passing by your desk to see where something is at. Many will forget what you’re doing, some can’t be bothered to email you. Like I mentioned previously, others will have faded into the background and simply stopped caring.

If you want to remain relevant in this environment, let people know what you’re doing. Send updates to those who might be interested – your boss, stakeholders, clients, whoever. And when a task or project is completed stand on the rooftops and tell everyone about your amazing success. Yeah, many people don’t care a shit what you’re working on, but you’ll create the impression that you’re a producer. Indirectly, you’ll also be feeding your boss soundbites to use in his/her updates with his boss. Remember, there’s always a bigger fish.

Create solutions.

The new work paradigm comes with it’s own set of complexities. How do you interact with clients? How do you deliver content? How can employees collaborate remotely?

As these and other new challenges arise, instead of sitting back and letting your boss figure out workarounds and solutions why don’t you get off your ass and help? In some companies, you’ll be put on a pedestal if you know how to setup a meeting using Zoom. After 40 days, I’d hope most companies have already figured this out. But the longer this goes, the more unique challenges will arise.

Be the person that solves these new challenges and watch your personal stock price rise.

Final thoughts.

I hate to say it but we’re in some kind of economic depression right now. Income is super-valuable.

If and when the layoffs do sweep across the corporate world, you want to be last on the list (unless you don’t want to be last on the list…but I’ll save that discussion for another day).

It is very easy to lay off the person you barely know exists. It is very hard to lay off the person who you know and who contributes to the organization. In the current situation, many people will fit into category 1, simply because they’ve been treating this ‘work-from-home’ situation as a quasi-vacation.

It is easy to set yourself apart and show your value right now, so do it.

Free Guide: Surviving the Covid-19 Economic Crisis:

The Covid-19 economic crisis is gripping the world. After 20 years in the asset management business, it looks like we are fighting through unprecedented territory.

This is war. I created a 17 step, 47 page guide to help DumbWealth subscribers get through this.

I originally planned on printing the guide and selling copies for $20+. Instead I’m giving this away free because I think we all need to help each other during these difficult times.

Investing Work

RBC and CIBC Commit to No 2020 Layoffs: 5 Reasons Why This is a Smart Business Decision


  • RBC and CIBC CEOs recently publicly stated they do not intend to make any Covid-19 related layoffs in 2020.
  • Many are interpreting these statements in different ways. But I think most are missing the point.
  • The decisions by the RBC and CIBC CEOs actually make smart financial business sense.

The CEOs of Royal Bank of Canada and CIBC recently made public statements both suggesting their companies will not make Covid-19 related layoffs in 2020.

The statements can be seen here for RBC and here for CIBC.

I’ve read the public reactions (e.g. comments on various news sites) to these statements and they vary quite widely. Many suggest RBC and CIBC doing the ‘right thing’ by being good corporate citizens. Others argue these companies are not charities and should do what’s right for the bottom line, and instead allow shareholders to decide how they direct charitable efforts.

While I’m sure the impact to society and individuals was considered, the decision to retain employees is ultimately probably a good financial decision that benefits RBC and CIBC shareholders.

1. These are quasi-government entities.

Let’s make no mistake. As systemically important institutions tied to the lifeblood of the Canadian economy, both RBC and CIBC are highly controlled (via regulation), monitored and supported by the Canadian Government. There are so few large banks in Canada that it has to be this way. It is for the benefit of the country to have solid, stable banking institutions. 

Given that, Canadian banks are not typical cut-throat enterprises that can simply eliminate thousands of jobs without political (and public relations) repercussions.

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While I have no evidence of this, I suspect the tacit need for a government backstop factored into the consideration for avoiding layoffs. I would argue it is part of an implicit (or possibly explicit) agreement that Canadian banks can’t receive taxpayer money with one hand and push taxpayers en masse to the unemployment lines with the other.

In fact, with the extreme volatility, I wouldn’t be surprised if over the past few weeks the big Canadian banks actually received some kind of direct or indirect support from the Federal Government and Bank of Canada. Assuming government or central bank support was delivered over the past couple weeks, I also wouldn’t be surprised if it came with clear direction from the Feds that banks cannot lay anyone off this year.

If you were running the government, wouldn’t you include this clause as part of the deal?

2. Layoffs kill morale.

Even if an employee survives a round of layoffs, they’re left forever wondering if they’re next. More personally, they miss their colleagues and the new void becomes quite apparent in the office. 

Compound that with the fact that remaining staff must pick up the work of those let go. The work doesn’t stop just because there are fewer staff. Often, those remaining envy the departed. 

By the time the dust settles after a round of layoffs, many remaining staff have one foot out the door. Many will also perform worse – either by choice (due to eroded morale) or by force (because so much additional work has landed on their desk). The remaining top performers will quit, leaving only those who couldn’t find anything better.

If you were running RBC or CIBC, is this the type of organization you’d want?

3. Laid off employees take value with them.

During a period of massive layoffs, the baby is often thrown out with the bathwater. Good employees are forced out with the bad.

As employees leave, they take massive amounts of intellectual capital, forever lost by the company. Worse, these employees are often eventually re-hired by competitor firms that benefit from the intellectual capital at the expense of the firm that originally conducted the layoffs.

Intellectual capital not only refers to knowledge of history, processes or functions. It includes client relationships and other forms of intangible goodwill.

When people leave a company things break, clients are lost and elements of value are forever destroyed. This greatly reduces a firm’s capacity to actually perform, delight clients and compete.

4. There will be a time to re-hire.

Layoffs tend fluctuate with the business cycle. When times are bad companies require fewer staff. However, when business improves more staff is needed. 

Therefore, looking past the current economic recession it is inevitable that RBC and CIBC would have to re-hire staff sometime in the future, if they decided to let people go in the first place. At that time, these companies would be competing with every other employer for good talent. This would prove difficult and costly, likely impacting the ability to serve clients.

Ultimately, the solution (layoffs) to a temporary issue (recession) could result in long-term staffing and business performance problems. Given the choice, many companies therefore are better off retaining their talent throughout the cycle.

5. Layoffs are expensive.

This might seem counter-intuitive to many, but it costs money to conduct layoffs.  

For example, the cost to layoff (and eventually replace) a full time employee earning $30/hour is about $20,000 (source: calculator). This estimate isn’t all-inclusive, however. The big missing variable is severance, which can be a hefty sum depending on tenure, age, common law precedent (these companies mainly operate in Canada), etc. Severance pay can add up to 1x, 2x+ annual salaries in some cases. This is why many big companies create a large reserve to pay for planned layoffs.

In addition, there are other potential costs related to lawsuits, administration, and so on.

Clearly, it is not cheap to let staff go. When all factors are considered, layoffs are a very expensive (financially and strategically) proposition and any benefit is quickly eroded.

Final thoughts.

So when do layoffs make sense? I would argue that the organizational structure of a large company should be relatively indifferent to the business cycle. Of course there are some variable elements, but I think, whenever possible, staffing should align to long-term strategy. If a certain level of staffing isn’t required to achieve long-term goals, it might make sense at that point to cut staff.

Given these 5 points, I think the decisions made by RBC and CIBC go beyond virtue signalling and social responsibility. They make smart financial business sense. 

Get Your Free Copy of CoronaCrisis:

The Covid-19 economic crisis is gripping the world. After 20 years in the asset management business, it looks like we are fighting through unprecedented territory.

This is war. I created a 17 step, 47 page guide to help DumbWealth subscribers get through this.

I originally planned on printing the guide and selling copies for $20+. Instead I’m giving this away free because I think we all need to help each other during these difficult times.


39 Wealth Building Hacks by Naval Ravikant

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, corporate manager or a student, if you want to build wealth you need to read this. Honestly, I have never seen such a dense compilation of wealth-building hacks in a single list.

This is gold.

The following list of 39 wealth building hacks was created by tech entrepreneur and investor investor Naval Ravikant.

Naval is an Indian American entrepreneur and investor. Naval is the co-founder, chairman and former CEO of AngelList. He has invested in over 100 companies including Uber, FourSquare, Twitter, SnapLogic, Yammer, and Clearview AI. Ravikant is also a Fellow of the Edmund Hillary Fellowship. He was listed as 4th on CoinDesk’s “Most Influential in Blockchain” 2017 list.

How to Get Rich (without getting lucky):

  • Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.
  • Understand that ethical wealth creation is possible. If you secretly despise wealth, it will elude you.
  • Ignore people playing status games. They gain status by attacking people playing wealth creation games.
  • You’re not going to get rich renting out your time. You must own equity – a piece of a business – to gain your financial freedom.
  • You will get rich by giving society what it wants but does not yet know how to get. At scale.
  • Pick an industry where you can play long term games with long term people.
  • The Internet has massively broadened the possible space of careers. Most people haven’t figured this out yet.
  • Play iterated games. All the returns in life, whether in wealth, relationships, or knowledge, come from compound interest.
  • Pick business partners with high intelligence, energy, and, above all, integrity.
  • Don’t partner with cynics and pessimists. Their beliefs are self-fulfilling.
  • Learn to sell. Learn to build. If you can do both, you will be unstoppable.
  • Arm yourself with specific knowledge, accountability, and leverage.
  • Specific knowledge is knowledge that you cannot be trained for. If society can train you, it can train someone else, and replace you.
  • Specific knowledge is found by pursuing your genuine curiosity and passion rather than whatever is hot right now.
  • Building specific knowledge will feel like play to you but will look like work to others.
  • When specific knowledge is taught, it’s through apprenticeships, not schools.
  • Specific knowledge is often highly technical or creative. It cannot be outsourced or automated.
  • Embrace accountability, and take business risks under your own name. Society will reward you with responsibility, equity, and leverage.
  • The most accountable people have singular, public, and risky brands: Oprah, Trump, Kanye, Elon.
  • “Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” – Archimedes
  • Fortunes require leverage. Business leverage comes from capital, people, and products with no marginal cost of replication (code and media).
  • Capital means money. To raise money, apply your specific knowledge, with accountability, and show resulting good judgment.
  • Labor means people working for you. It’s the oldest and most fought-over form of leverage. Labor leverage will impress your parents, but don’t waste your life chasing it.
  • Capital and labor are permissioned leverage. Everyone is chasing capital, but someone has to give it to you. Everyone is trying to lead, but someone has to follow you.
  • Code and media are permissionless leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep.
  • An army of robots is freely available – it’s just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency. Use it.
  • If you can’t code, write books and blogs, record videos and podcasts.
  • Leverage is a force multiplier for your judgement.
  • Judgement requires experience, but can be built faster by learning foundational skills.
  • There is no skill called “business.” Avoid business magazines and business classes.
  • Study microeconomics, game theory, psychology, persuasion, ethics, mathematics, and computers.
  • Reading is faster than listening. Doing is faster than watching.
  • You should be too busy to “do coffee,” while still keeping an uncluttered calendar.
  • Set and enforce an aspirational personal hourly rate. If fixing a problem will save less than your hourly rate, ignore it. If outsourcing a task will cost less than your hourly rate, outsource it.
  • Work as hard as you can. Even though who you work with and what you work on are more important than how hard you work.
  • Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until this is true.
  • There are no get rich quick schemes. That’s just someone else getting rich off you.
  • Apply specific knowledge, with leverage, and eventually you will get what you deserve.
  • When you’re finally wealthy, you’ll realize that it wasn’t what you were seeking in the first place. But that’s for another day.

After the above list went viral, Naval created a follow-up video (1hr) to explain his thoughts:

In the video, Naval recommends the following book: Influence by Robert Cialdini