Become Your Own Financial Gardener …

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goofy investing

You may already know this, but I love investing in the stock market. I’m a Market Nerd.

But be careful reading this. I like to invest, not speculate.

I’m not loading my ass up to join in any Klondike Gold Rushes for untold wealth.

There’s a lot of fool’s gold out there, and I’ve bought my fair share over the years. Like the $25,000 I “invested” in YBM Magnex (a rare earth magnets company with wonderful financial statements) that turned out to be a front for Russian money launderers… the toilet got to eat those dollars.

Now, I bite into every piece of gold before I plunk my devalued Canadian dollars down.

At the age of 10, I knew I wanted to be a millionaire.


For an average guy with an average intellect, I’ve been able to make a reasonable return (12.2% annually over 10 years) on a consistent basis with a modicum of knowledge in reading balance sheets and income statements. It takes a steady hand on the tiller and confidence in the decisions I’ve made.

When so many others bailed out of stock markets in 2008 during the financial crisis and lost a huge whack of $$, I had no hesitation in staying the course.


Because I did my own research and analysis of each company and stock that I owned a tiny piece of.

Warren Buffett, the world’s most famous investor taught me well.

A year or two later I was back above where I was prior to the “crash”.

It didn’t matter to me that markets tumbled precipitously day after day after day (OK, I’m human, it hurt a bit… nobody likes to see wealth appear to evaporate like a cloud of steam arising from a kettle).

  • I looked around and I could see that the lineups at Tim Hortons Drive-Thru lanes remained as long as ever.
  • People still stopped at Shell stations to put gas in their car tanks on the way to work.
  • I heard of no one cutting their Shaw cable or Bell phone connections because markets dropped.

Granted, home sales dropped off the cliff and there were small cutbacks in family budgets for fine dining and car purchases.

But in the real world, very little changed other than perception.

Markets are all about perception.

In the stock market world, on any given day, everything is super amazingly fabulous … or … everything is catastrophically terrible. In the short term, rational thought doesn’t find a place on this rollercoaster. It’s screaming fun or vomiting your guts out over the sides.

This is one great thing about experience and aging. For the long term, I’ve learned to just shrug and remain calm. No bull.


I began investing in the stock market in the 1970’s in my 20’s.

Hot Tips” and broker recommendations were the way I made my investment choices. “This baby will double in 3 months!“… “You can get in on the ground level now, but it will be too late next week“.

When you hear those words anywhere in your life, I suggest you turn and run away as fast as you can. Those guys have stinky armpits and bad breath, but their seductive smile blinds you to the underlying stench.

The good thing about such tutorials at this point in your young life is that the hurt you can inflict on yourself is generally pretty small. These are just small razor nicks, not a nasty slice through the main financial artery.

Once you’ve accumulated a nest egg of a decent size, hopefully you’ve learned sufficient lessons to protect yourself from yourself and irrational decisions.

Just as you should feel more comfortable eating a meal you’ve prepared with ingredients you know, you can swim in warm comfort when you have a bit of understanding and know the reasons and rationale for making an investment.

You read your own financial cookbook if you want the best result.

financial cookbook

Nowadays, I can assess within about a minute and a half if a company has any interest to me whatsoever in terms of investing in it.

9 out of 10 prospectives get tossed quickly, then I can delve more deeply into that 1 possible gem and decide if it has long term potential. Potential and a sensible price to make the purchase.

I love DISNEY as a company, but I can’t make myself buy it right now because it’s selling for a crazy high price. I love APPLE as a company, and it’s selling for a modicum of its true worth (in my evaluation). BUY BUY BUY!!

Once I’ve made the decision to invest, it’s important to be out in the financial garden daily or at least with a regular frequency.

The very best investments occasionally turn south for a myriad of reasons (eg. new management (General Electric), changing technologies (Blackberry)).

Beautiful investment flowers can sadly become unexpectedly infected with a virus or fungus.

My investments are like bonsai trees. I trim a little deadwood here, I let other healthy branches grow.

Mistakes will always happen and need to be pruned.

Other times, a FACEBOOK takes the world by storm, and you just sit back and watch that branch grow and grow. Ka-Ching! Ka-Ching!

Pssst! Here’s my HOT TIP for you if you want to be your own financial gardener.

Start by reading and absorbing what’s worked for the ORACLE of OMAHA… Warren Buffett.

The Warren Buffett Way by Robert G. Hagstrom

Let’s go outside and smell the roses divine.

financial garden


What Movie Plays In YOUR Head?

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To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then, one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

   Woody Allen – Love and Death


I’m a dreamer.

Sometimes my entire life seems like a movie – almost another dimension that I view from some heaven-like place far removed.

I spend a whole lot of time inside my head envisioning things I’ve done and enjoyed or things I’d like to do and enjoy.

Occasionally I relive the bad stuff too, but it usually gets nudged out by the positive thoughts. A baby’s birth seems to stick more readily than a loved one’s funeral. Isn’t the human mind great?

A little voiced narrative runs through my head as if Woody Allen was in there writing a screenplay for his next flick. I could be a little neurotic New York Jewish guy soooo easily.

My narrative sometimes involves a group of us pre-pubescent Canuck schoolboys dreaming of future lives as hockey stars with nubile little puck-bunnies swarming around.

We don’t really know what to do or say with these cuties yet – even if we feel a pleasurable stiffening in our jeans – but we know there’s something tantalizing and special about them and one day we figure we’ll know and understand the allure.

But until that time arrives the only stiff rod in our hand is a hockey stick.

For now, it’s enough to just feel the juvenile desire.

First we develop the talent and then worry about the puck-bunnies… Gretzky knew that at the age of 13 and was willing to wait another 15 years for his LA-model puck-bunny to materialize.


So, from time to time, I’ll watch the movie of my life and see myself playing street hockey in the chilly winter air under the nightlight of Glen Echo School in Hamilton.

I look up into the inky winter-black sky and see the ivory snow flecks gently drifting down towards my pink-cheeked face. I’m wearing my PeeWee Parkdale Steelers hockey jersey with three clothing layers underneath to stay warm.

By the time my friends Rick, Jerome, Rick, Hugh and Larry and I finish our night game – the lively clapping sounds of hockey sticks hitting pavement turn silent – I’ll have peeled off all but the final ribbed-cotton t-shirt because of the heat built up by running and turning and jumping and slapshotting.

Future visions of becoming a Montreal Canadien or Chicago Black Hawk rattle around excitedly in our heads. I’m guessing we all wanted to become pro hockey players, but perhaps a stray thought of becoming a future ABBA singer was bubbling around, I don’t know!


Fantasy is a huge part of so many of our lives…. I know this if only because Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalker and Hugh Hefner have all thrived and flourished massively in the masses’ imaginations.

We love to spend time in other worlds. Worlds within our world or worlds galaxies distant.

But I prefer fantasies of my own making and choosing, not those of J.K Rowling, Suzanne Collins, or George Lucas.

For me, the best way to lay down the tracks for future “home” movies is by living in the moment with some focus and taking the daily actions that will create these movies…

That means I have to actually do stuff for my imagination to make stuff up …

My body craves movement and so most times I have to live the actions first that then synthesize the movie. I don’t want others’ fantasies occupying my head. I want the homegrown variety that involve me and enthrall me based on my own life experiences.

Once I’ve actually done something… gone swimming or canoeing, made a fancy dinner, run a Tough Mudder race, hiked into Machu Picchu …

… then my imagination can kick into gear and make my very own Walter Mitty fantasy world.

Imagination and dreaming are incredible human attributes. We all have a staggering ability to build worlds and stories from within.

My head fills with Olympic record swim times, Michelin Four Star meals I’ve prepared, war zones I’ve conquered with bravery, finesse and panache, and Incan kings I’ve encountered.

No matter what pain or suffering we encounter – and there are ample quantities of those – an engrossing book, a marvellously powerful movie, an incredibly real dream, have the breathtaking power to refresh and rejuvenate our minds with hope and joy and love.

Playing movies in my head works even better.

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.”

Woody Allen

It’s Back to Work I Go … Diary of a Male Bartender Prostitute…


LArry the Bartender

Bartender? … Prostitute?

… synonyms really …

You didn’t know that?

Well, I didn’t either until …

Hold on, I don’t want to confuse you, so let me retreat a bit here.

A few weeks back, for some fun and variety, I spent 4 hours each day, Monday to Friday, at Bartending School in Kelowna. Plunk down $400 tuition and a week later you finish with an official Bartender’s Diploma.

Hour after hour, I mixed and poured about 5 billion drinks of coloured water that looked like fancy cocktails into chilled martini glasses and shooter glasses and highball glasses. “Would you like that as a double?

Bartending Certificate

Then, the following week, with my official Bartender’s Certificate in hand, I went to a few local Penticton restaurants and dropped off my resume asking for a day or two a week of bartending work.

Within hours of leaving my resume behind, one of my very favourite restaurants, a local Greek culinary landmark, interviewed me and, in a moment of obvious weakness – or perhaps heat stroke – they offered me a shot at being one of their bartenders.

Hell yeah”, I said.

And now, looking like Sam Malone in Cheers, I’ve run and sweated and poured and mixed my way through 3 bartending shifts.

And despite feeling exhausted at the end of each stint, I kinda like this stuff.

Especially the Prostitution part. Yeah yeah, I’ll explain that in just a minute.

It’s a hot summer here in the Okanagan Valley, so I’ve dished up a ton of chilly Pinot Gris wine and foamy Cannery Brewery draft beers and spicy Caesars and even a few Mojitos and GreyHounds and Gin and Tonics.

I’m still waiting for my first requests for the candy-coloured fluffy drinks – a Red-Headed Slut or a Cosmopolitan or a Singapore Sling, but I can be patient. Manhattans weren’t built in a day.

red headed slut

OK… now let’s go back to the beginning of this story where I told you that bartenders and male prostitutes are kinda the same thing.

Prostitutes offer a desired service that makes their customer feel warm and fuzzy and light-headed, maybe even a bit flushed and elated (I won’t go into detail of the services offered right here if that’s alright, you can paint that libidinous picture according to your own desires and carnal proclivities).

And then the client hands them cash in appreciation for the service. Right? Am I right?

Well, I’ve just discovered, bartenders do the same thing.

I stand behind the bar, wiping the counter with a bar rag, looking so understanding and approachable. My warm eyes tell you that you could rip your heart out, hot blood pulsing onto the bar top, and hand it to me and I’d just nod in empathy, all ears for you.

Then I pour my client a shot of Ouzo or Baileys on the Rocks. I know I’m helping to make that individual feel warm and fuzzy and light-headed, maybe even a bit flushed and elated.

When they’ve finished their meal and drinks and reached their happy place, they slip a few appreciative dollars to the gaggle of (mostly) female servers (pimpettes).

At the close of the evening when it’s dark and the humid night air begins to cool – after the satisfied customers have all departed with a spent sense of inner serenity, the (mostly) female servers come to me one by one.

Quietly, they each slip me a few $5 or $10 bills in appreciation for the “happy” services I’ve rendered their clients throughout the evening.

I smile at them and flush a tiny bit as I accept the cash they call “tips”.

I feel a tiny bit dirty accepting payment this way, but I manage to quash my moral “inner voice”, rationalizing – perhaps fooling myself – that no one is actually being hurt because of the services I offer.

In my head I whisper soothing things like what I do is keeping the economy humming along.

gstring $$

It’s always said that Prostitution is the oldest profession.

I beg to differ.

Alcohol and bartending surely must have been precursors to sales of the flesh.

Who believes that alcohol wasn’t served as a soothing prequel to the idea of paid passionate pairing?

Just watch any movie about bawdy houses, brothels, whore houses… they all begin with “appetizer” drinks served liberally around before couples slip away to private quarters for the “main entree”.

Yes, bartenders have been prostituting themselves ever since Jurassic beasts abandoned our neighbourhoods and we humans rose up on our feet and discovered fermentation.

Today, I’m proud to go to work in what truly is the world’s oldest profession…

And you can take those $$ to the bank.

bar tips

How to Find Your Courage …


But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.”

                                – Ernest Hemingway

So it came to pass that as he trudged from the place of blood and wrath his soul changed.”

                                – Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage


What do I have to lose? Really?

In this life I’ve embarrassed myself so many times and in so many ways, it just doesn’t matter.

It never did actually, I just thought it did.

So I’m pushing myself to be courageous.

Not climb-over-the-wall-shooting-bullets-at-the-enemy, being-shot-at-by-the-enemy courageous – that’s WAY beyond my imagination-to-conceive courage. That just scares the shit out of me. How do people ever do that to themselves and to each other?

Nope, I just want to be gritty enough to walk up the stairs to a stage where a microphone awaits and I begin playing my guitar and singing a song.

Not any song.

A song of my own composition.

It’s a tiny thing that feels not-so-tiny in my mind. Kinda like my penis.

They tell us to conquer our fear of this sort by envisioning the audience in their underwear. Great idea.


The problem as I see it is that while the good folks watching me are in their underwear, I’m standing in front of them TOTALLY NAKED!

It’s a level of personal exposure that this blog should have prepared me for … except … I can post these blog posts without you looking me in the eye as I unveil my inner demons, my successes, my failures and joys.

The reason I want to do this so badly is because I need something to push me from behind… I’m not a super self-motivator kind of guy.

You see, I want to write songs, but I’ll only do it well and consistently if there’s a loaded gun at my head. The end of the barrel says “DO this or DIE!” … that’s motivation. I have to take the dark fear and compress it into a sparkling diamond.

Let me give you a few examples of motivation diamonds:

  1. I enter running races like this weekend’s 8K run in Kelowna regularly because I train harder and more consistently when I know there’s a timed event coming up. Otherwise, I yawn and roll over in my bed in the morning and snore and drool instead of sweating at 6 am.
  2. I write this weekly MAN ON THE FRINGE blog that I publish every Sunday. If I don’t publish as expected, I start getting e-mails from kind readers asking if I died. BTW… if/when I do die, I may not respond to your inquiry. I’m not sure if there’s Wi-Fi connections in hell … Just sayin’.
  3. When I was working (Another BTW: I am working part time again… stay tuned for next week’s post)… I had a few hundred dollars taken from each of my paycheques and deposited automatically into my RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan). I don’t want to be penniless in my dodderage. If I didn’t do this I would have visited Tim Hortons 3 times every day and blown a bunch of $$ on sweet chocolatey donuts which would have really negated the usefulness of point #1 above.

I guess sweet appetites come in different forms, eh Jian?!

Writing music is something I’ve longed to do all my life.

My passions, my dreams, my desires won’t be lived out unless I’m courageous enough to accept and brush past my fears. Every great personal reward has its gut-twisting risks.

The push that motivates me now is the fear of going onstage and looking foolish because I’ve written something that I feel little or no pride in … something that sounds like so much commercial stuff we all hear on our radios and iPods and iPhones and through Spotify and Sound Cloud. There are amazing musical gems out there, they just tend to be few and far between … needles in musical haystacks.

I need the courage to test my music – a rare needle or just a stack of formulaic hay.

Courage is something we all seek within ourselves and for a host of reasons and causes.

Courage comes in all McDonalds’ sizes: small, medium, large and super-sized.

We need courage when we look for a job, we need it when major changes occur in our lives, we need it when we lose someone special to us, we need it sometimes just to get out of bed in the morning.

For me, finding the courage to expose my inner self on-stage is a big deal. That and remembering lyrics. Singing John Denver or Sam Hunt or Gordon Lightfoot gives me a couple of butterflies to perform… but I’ll need to envision a lot of sweet golden lab puppies to calm my nerves when I sing Larry Green.

I found my courage once earlier this year when I sang one of my songs in public, on-stage. I did it and I woke up breathing the next morning.

The real test for me now is to load the gun over and over until I forget that courage was ever needed to walk up those stage stairs.

Then the smile on my face will be one of true joy and not just a faux front I plaster on as I climb over the battle wall and face the guns.