A Money Coach in Canada

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C’mon, say it with me now:

If at first you don’t succeed,

[audio:http://nancyzimmerman.com/wp-content/Try-Try-Again.mp3|titles=Try Try Again]

That’s right. We’re talking about the virtue of persistence.

Here’s a question I frequently ask money coaching clients:

What one money-managing habit, if done consistently over years including times when things derail, would ultimately improve your financial life in a powerful way?

There is no right answer here.
Take a moment to think about it.
What is it for you?

Have you ever travelled someplace which has very different standards of living than your own? Or have you done some serious backcountry hiking?  A former money-coaching client of mine, the super-awesome, world-travelling, (and gourmet-dessert-making) Katherine, recently spent some time in Yukon’s backcountry.  She had some insights about possessions and the joy of life.  If you relate to her guest post, I’d be interested in hearing from you.  Leave a comment (below) on this post if you have a moment.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a month in the Yukon on a leadership course with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). The company I work for sponsors 2 people a year to attend. The premise of the school is that while you spend a month in the Yukon backcountry learning backpacking and whitewater canoeing skills, you’re also taught valuable leadership skills that you can take into future outdoor guiding, work and life.

As much as I had enjoyed the outdoors in the past, I hadn’t spent more than 10 days in the backcountry since I was 14 years old. However, because of the work that I do, I am familiar with what it takes to do a trip like this. Or so I thought.

I knew that living minimally was going to be essential. Especially for the backpacking portion where you have to carry everything you need. The motto goes “ounces equal pounds and pounds equals pain”.

Though I don’t live a luxurious life, I do enjoy certain comforts in life; indoor plumbing, toilet paper and nice sheets all rank high on my list of life’s comforts. Though I did prepare myself for a month of thermarest sleeping and “nature’s outhouse”, I was terrified at the idea of using “nature’s toilet paper”; smooth rocks, moss and I still shudder at the suggested pine cones.

Before setting off, the instructors did a final check of our goods for the 2 week backpacking section. The course recommended a 90L pack. Though I hadn’t backpacked before, I knew that this was absolutely gargantuan given my 5’5” height and smallish frame. Especially considering that my personal gear consisted of 2 pair of long johns, 2 pair of underwear, 2 pair of socks, 2 layering tops, a rain jacket, rain pants, a warm jacket and some toiletries. The rest (pants, t-shirt, boots etc…) were on my body. I even had to argue with the instructor to bring my 2oz deodorant as my “luxury” item (there were certain things I wasn’t prepared to live without) However, once we packed in all of the group gear (including an astounding 1.5lbs of food per person per day) my pack weighed 47lbs. I was set. Everything I needed to live was on my back.

As the days went on, the group of us (14 students in 5 tents and 3 instructors) finally found our groove. Our days consisted of waking up, packing up, breakfast, a class, hiking, a class, dinner and much needed sleep. Since I’d never backpacked before, I considered the end of each day an achievement; I was still standing.

Because I wanted to remember this experience, I journaled. I made it a point at the end of each day to find 3 things to be thankful for. As our time went on, my 3 things became more and more basic such as; being dry, being warm and thankful that I avoided blisters and illness.

Then it occurred to me, here I am in the Yukon, tackling quite possibly the greatest challenge of my life, having a great time, making new friends, learning new skills and I only have 47lbs of “stuff” with me. In the past couple of years, I was guilty of trying to fill my life with “stuff” to fill a void and try to find happiness after going thru a painful divorce. Constantly buying new clothes, new furniture and shoes, Ah! Shoes!

Many people warned me that this experience would be life changing and I can now agree. Since I’ve been home, I scrutinize every item I own. Did I really need that? Did it really bring me the joy I thought it would? To be fair, there are some things that did (the new couch sure is comfy) but did I really need all those shoes?

I had a Taiwanese boss in one of my first major career-jobs after university. In fact, he was the principal owner of the College, so a heavy-weight! Our Marketing Director was from Hong Kong, if I recall. Reporting to him were some strong personalities from South America, Korea and Japan (strong in a quiet way). Our heads of faculty were a German immigrant and another from Lebanon. The Director of Finance was from Taiwan. And of those of us who were caucasian, I was pretty much the only one who had not lived overseas for a few years and didn’t speak a second language.

I learned something invaluable straightaway and that was this: there isn’t one particularly right praxis of business. We all bring our cultures with us to our jobs. There are as many ways to accomplish a given end (not to mention, decide which “end” was worth pursuing) as there were cultures. Of necessity, I had to learn to let go of some of my notions of what the “right” way to do business was. This diversity on the workplace – and not mere tokenism, either – resulted in an incredibly rich, vibrant work experience for all of us.

The Banking Industry is emerging as a leader in adjusting itself in how it does business, in order to include other cultures. Specifically, Islamic Finance has a toehold and is growing rapidly.

Ron Robins just wrote an article on the topic:

Islamic Bank, London, UK

A proposed new mosque near Ground Zero in New York may symbolise a new berthing for Islamic ideals—and finance—in the heart of arguably the world’s most important financial centre. Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City and majority owner of Bloomberg L.P., the global media colossus, is an adamant supporter of the mosque. And with his media company in the forefront of global Islamic finance reporting, he just might be a champion of Islamic finance too.

Islamic finance is spreading around the world. Governments realising its potential for profits and jobs are duelling with each other to create the best regulatory and supportive framework for it. Western money centres with growing participation in Islamic finance include London, New York City, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Toronto. Islamic financial activities in these centres usually encompass the licensing of Islamic banks and offering of Shariah-compliant financial products that include bank accounts, home loans, and bonds.

More interestingly, here’s what it may hold out for us:

In some respects, Mayor Bloomberg of New York and his media empire’s global coverage of Islamic finance are reflective of a rising consciousness in the world of finance. In a financial world where greed has run amok and deceit and dishonesty is commonplace, the morality and ethical basis of Islamic finance may have much to offer. That is being realised as countries, East and West, North and South, Muslim and non-Muslim, compete to adopt and integrate Islamic finance into their own financial systems.

Fascinating, non?

To my knowledge, he is the only boyfriend who cheated on me. It was as devastating as you would imagine. For nearly a year he continued to try to regain me, but the problem wasn’t simply the act itself, it was this: his word no longer had currency with me. Not only had he cheated, he had used words deceitfully. He could not offer re-assurances or promises that had weight because his word had lost its inherent value.

Someone significantly above me in a chain of command excelled at subtlety and crafting his words to achieve his ends. Many staff had intuited that although the words were technically truthful, they were not the whole truth, and the end result was in fact a dissembling of the truth. Through an extraordinary set of circumstances, an absolutely critical moment to him came up and I held an important key. He approached me, nearly frantic, for that key. But he had no currency to bargain with. His words were the equivalent of tin. I declined them.

My friend Doug takes his word very seriously (and for that matter, thank God, so did the man who followed the boyfriend referenced above) . Doug often challenged me: Be impeccable with your word.

Impeccable:  In accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless

Being impeccable with our word isn’t about superficial truthfulness – the kind that allows us later to say, as if surprised, oh! Did you think I meant *that*? I didn’t say that! I meant *this*.
Being impeccable surely must mean we take care that the hear-er has a reasonably accurate and complete understanding of things. That they have the information they require to be safe at minimum, but better, to thrive.
Being impeccable with our word is also about restraint, I think. This is not easy for a blogger! But excessive words by definition are deceitful, are they not? – they suggest more than really is – hence the sad expression: Talk is cheap.

I don’t want my talk to be cheap. And I’m so deeply grateful for the many people in my life whose word has high currency value. This is no an easy thing, increasing the value of our word. It costs us so many things – we can no longer duck out of things, we may forfeit opportunities, it may be lonely sometimes. But as I enter midlife I am increasingly convinced that I want to offer – and receive – ie., exchange, high currency words than nearly anything else I want in life.

God help me in this.

Photo Credit: Wasabicube

Since being once-and-for-all put off the Mass Meat Industry after seeing Food Inc summer ’09, I’ve made an effort to mend my meat-eating ways.

I’ve ordered 1/4 pig and 10 chickens from a free-range organic farm in Alberta. And I committed to learning to fish..
I haven’t made much progress on this. To date: I went fishing with some friends and a guide last summer and literally prayed I woudn’t catch a damn fish and thank God I didn’t although every other person did and at least the guide was very quick at bonking the flopping living things swiftly so they then became very dead but still it was hard to eat the meat even though it had been deliciously panfried over an open fire and everyone else was pretty much having a fish-eating orgy but I wasn’t.

And that’s as far as it went.

So for 2010, when the opportunity arose to learn how to fillet a fish (bring your own knife; dead fish provided) I thought I should take it to the next level.

I learned a few things.

1. It’s easier to eat a fish that looks like this:

Mouth of a jackfish / northern pike

This friends, is what is derisively term a Jackfish, but we prefer to call it Northern Pike. It abounds up here. They are tough-spirited fish, and check out that set of teeth.

2. The steps to filleting a fish are:
a. Cut just behind the gills
b. Cut along the spine, from neck to tail
c. I forget how to get the side of the fish completely off next (I looked away)
d. To skin it, place your knife flat between the skin and the flesh. Keep your knife relatively motionless, but tug the skin towards you. You can cut a hole in the skin to put your thumb through (extra tugging power).

Learning to fillet fish

3. The stomach is apparently a delicacy. (I think I threw up in my mouth a bit) (probably politically incorrect)
Fish (northern pike) stomach

So here’s what money’s done to me: it’s so disconnected me from the primal life-and-death biology of FOOD that even something as basic as fishing and filleting (we’re not talking pretty goldfish here, much less gentle cattle or smart pigs) has me all disoriented. Pathetic!

In contrast, our instructor was completely at ease.

Learning to fillet fish

Do I have any readers who fish?

If so: I wanna know – how did you get past all the squeemish stuff?

Give me a fish and I’ll eat a meal. Teach me to fish and I’ll save a lot of money, eat more healthfully, and live more sustainably. If I can keep it down.

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