Get free and unlimited cell phone calls in Canada

August 11, 2010
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He can't afford his cellphone bill, either.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: He can't afford his cell phone bill, either.

Raise your hand if you live in Canada. Keep it raised if you have a cell phone. Raise it still if you pay too little for your cell phone plan.

It’s a tragic irony that Canada – the country which gave us the telephone and the BlackBerry – is notorious for having among the world’s worst mobile phone rates!

You do not have to put up with it any longer!

This article’s title is not a joke: You can get unlimited daytime minutes and unlimited long-distance on your cell phone in Canada for just $2.99 a month.

I’m not selling anything. I’ve just found a simple approach that works, and I want to share it.

My friend Alex Frakking explained how to get free outbound and inbound calls using the method I discuss below. With Alex’s blessing, I wrote this guide to share a few tips that make using this system even simpler. Follow the steps below:

8 steps to unlimited daytime minutes and unlimited long-distance

  1. Get a Skype To Go phone number. (Choose a number in your local area code.)
  2. Buy a few dollars of Skype Credit to get started, or buy Skype’s Unlimited US & Canada plan for $2.99 per month.
  3. Get a phone number. (Choose a number in your local area code.)
  4. Login to your FreePhoneLine account. Set your “followme settings” to “Always /Forward/” as shown below:
  5. call-forwarding settings (Click for a larger image).

  6. Add a FollowMe number. (The FollowMe number receives forwarded calls.) Input your mobile phone number as your FollowMe number.
  7. Phone your mobile carrier’s customer service department. If you don’t already have it, ask the customer service representative to give you either Rogers’ MY5 plan, Bell’s Fab Five plan, or any plan that allows you to make unlimited calls to at least two numbers. Add your Skype To Go and FreePhoneLine numbers to your MY5 (or  similar) plan.
  8. Install a calling-card dialing-application (CCDA) on your mobile phone. I use BlackBerry EasyDialer. The EasyDialer software license is a one-time-payment of $9.99. (Without a CCDA it is inconvenient to make calls with Skype to Go. I recommend EasyDialer or your preferred CCDA.)
  9. Setup your CCDA to make calls to your Skype To Go number. If you use EasyDialer, make your “Calling Card Details” screen look like this (and input your Skype To Go number as the “Service Number”):
  10. Setup your BlackBerry EasyDialer setup screen like this to have EasyDialer make outgoing calls with Skype To Go

    Setup your BlackBerry EasyDialer screen (as pictured here) to have EasyDialer make calls with your Skype To Go number.

Now you’re ready to make unlimited daytime and long-distance calls in the U.S. and Canada with Skype To Go, and to receive calls with FreePhoneLine:

Make calls with Skype To Go using your Calling-Card Dialing-Application

  • To call a number from your mobile’s address book: Select the contact, and then call the contact’s number using your CCDA. E.g., using EasyDialer: go to the address book; search for your contact; press the BlackBerry menu button; select “Call with EasyDialer.” (This calls the contact using Skype To Go: First, EasyDialer calls your Skype To Go number. Second, once connected to Skype To Go, EasyDialer automatically calls your contact’s number. Note: your contact will see that the call is coming from your mobile number, not your Skype To Go number.)
  • To call a number not in your address book: Go to your mobile’s phone screen; dial the number; instead of pressing the “call” button, make the call with your CCDA. E.g., using EasyDialer: Go the phone application; dial the number; press the menu button; select “Call with EasyDialer.”

Receive calls with FreePhoneLine forwarding to your cell phone

Calls to your mobile number during your daytime minutes use your mobile plan’s limited daytime minutes. Once you exceed your limit, we all know our carriers charge us (a lot!).

You charged me 15 f***ing cents a MINUTE for every minute I exceeded my daytime minutes!

You charged me 15 f***ing cents for every MINUTE over my daytime minutes!

To prevent calls to your mobile number from exceeding your plan’s daytime minutes, encourage people to call your FreePhoneLine number instead of your mobile number (FreePhoneLine forwards calls to your mobile):

  • List your FreePhoneLine number as your mobile number in your social networking profiles (on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)  and in your email signature
  • When people ask for your mobile number, give them your FreePhoneLine number

I adopted this system two months ago (with Rogers as my carrier). I’ve drastically reduced my cell phone bill while enjoying unlimited daytime calling and unlimited long-distance calls in the US and Canada! It works for me and Alex; it will work for you, too.

Share your questions, tips, and experiences in the comments below.

How to start a blog and get a domain name

August 6, 2010

BusinessWeek discusses how blogs are changing business with 120,000 new blogs appearing daily.

You might want to start a blog to share your ideas, to connect with others, or to improve your writing.

This article explains how to: choose a blog service; host your blog; get a domain name; and receive email at a domain.

Choose a blog service

A blog service is software which makes it easy to create and maintain a blog. It’s a content management system that allows you to author, edit, and publish blog posts and comments. It provides an interface (similar to Microsoft Word) which allows you to format text and insert images without having to worry about html or programming.

The WordPress interface for editing posts. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress.

The WordPress interface for editing posts. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use WordPress.

I use WordPress: a top reviewed blog service which Daily Writing Tips calls “A state-of-the-art publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.”

Choose a host for your blog

A web host provides space to store files on a server, and makes your blog accessible on the internet.

A blog service will host your blog for free — or you can install your blog software on your own server or with a third party provider.

You can start by letting a blog service host for you (which is free and easy to setup). Later, you can further customize your blog by migrating to your own host. There are pros and cons between hosting and self-hosting.

I started with hosting; I might later self-host on

How to get a domain name with email forwarding

WordPress gives you a domain name such as “” Read on if you want a custom domain name, like “” or “,” and if you wish to receive emails sent to “”

Search for a name

Go to and search for your desired domain name. If “” is not available, go to “” to see if it is for sale.

In 2007, showed a page advertising the domain name for sale. I emailed the owner; he sent me a quote for $200. I made a certified offer through Network Solutions. The owner then transferred ownership of to Network Solutions. I completed an account information form and became mine.

I’m surprised I was able to get the domain, considering that there are 188 Kevin Kanes in the U.S. alone. The most famous KK might be Canadian singer Kevin Kane (who sings much better than me by the way).

Choose a name

When you search for “” at GoDaddy, you’ll see similar domain names available. Some cost money; some are free. Pick your favorite, or use something like “” at your blog service.

Register the name

To use a custom domain name, register it with a domain name registrar. lists GoDaddy among the top three registrars. GoDaddy will register a .com name for about $9.20 per year.

Map the name to your blog service

When you sign-up for a WordPress blog, you receive a URL such as “” Mapping a domain makes your blog available at “” without the “” portion.

I use WordPress domain mapping for $9.97 per year.

Get email sent to your domain name to forward to your personal email

Email forwarding sends messages sent to “” to your email account with gmail, hotmail, or any other email provider.

GoDaddy provides five email forwarding accounts for $3.02 a year.

If you host your blog at — and you have a domain name with a registrar such as GoDaddy — then add your registrar’s MX servers into your custom DNS records at your wordpress account. (This is easy to do.) The GoDaddy MX servers are: “MX 10” and “MX 0”

That’s all there is to it. Feel free to ask questions or share tips in the comments below.

How I benefit from volunteering with Junior Achievement

July 30, 2010

Note: Junior Achievement has not reviewed or endorsed my post. My opinions written below do not necessarily reflect those of Junior Achievement.

I began volunteering this summer with Junior Achievement (JA). My only regret is that I didn`t start sooner! As I`m sure you can relate, I felt I was too busy. I finally reached the point where I had talked so much about volunteering someday, that I decided if I don`t start now, I`ll still be talking about getting-around to it when I`m 132.

Why do people volunteer, anyway?

Junior Achievement volunteers facilitate hands-on business programs which help young people understand the key concepts of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy

Junior Achievement volunteers facilitate hands-on business programs which help young people understand the key concepts of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy

The American Psychological Association interviewed Mark Snyder, PhD, a psychologist from the University of Minnesota, who in the mid-1980s began studying volunteerism.

The linked article shows that in the United States, nearly one out of three adults regularly spends some time volunteering. “When I initially started thinking about this, I was struck by how much easier it was to come up with reasons why people shouldn’t volunteer than why they should,” said Snyder. “It’s time consuming, it’s stressful, it takes time away from your job or family or leisure.” What is it, he began to ask, that propels so many people to donate their time, energy, and efforts?

Snyder and his colleagues eventually identified five primary motivations for volunteering:

  1. Values. Volunteering to satisfy personal values or humanitarian concerns. (For some people this can have a religious component.)
  2. Community concern. Volunteering to help a particular community – such as a neighborhood or ethnic group, to which you feel attached.
  3. Esteem enhancement. Volunteering to feel better about yourself or escape other pressures.
  4. Understanding. Volunteering to gain a better understanding of other people, cultures or places.
  5. Personal development. Volunteering to challenge yourself; meet new people and make new friends; or further your career.

If you are considering volunteering, volunteer for something that matches your motivations. (Younger volunteers are more likely to volunteer for career-related reasons, while older volunteers more often cite abstract ideas of good citizenship and contribution to their communities.) “People whose experiences best matched their motivations were more satisfied with the experience. Those same people also said that they’d be more likely to continue volunteering.” (1998, Clary, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 74, No. 6, pages 1516-1530.)

Snyder’s team found that people who have more seemingly “selfish” motivations – esteem enhancement, personal development and understanding – are more likely to stick with a volunteering organization longer than people with more “other focused” motivations, such as values. This finding suggests that volunteers, and volunteer organizations, are best served when volunteers perform roles and engage in activities which allow the volunteers to achieve the personal gains that matter most to the volunteers. The most committed, productive, and long-term volunteers seem to be those whose volunteer experience satisfies a personal agenda: Volunteers do best in helping others when in the process of helping, they help themselves, too.

Snyder concurs: “Volunteering can have an altruistic component, reflecting a true concern for the welfare of others, but also an egoistic component, in that the volunteer receives clear benefits to the self. It’s better to see the two feeding each other, rather than being in competition.”

I’ll share how the motivations above (values, community concern, esteem enhancement, understanding, and personal development) have impacted and rewarded me during my tenure with JA.

How I benefit from volunteering with Junior Achievement


I value being a leader, a role model, and a mentor. JA provides me with a platform to facilitate programs with young people, allowing me to excite and instruct them to engage the world of business. The “working world” is tough; it can feel remote and confusing to kids. JA gives me the opportunity – such as through facilitating the Dream Big program – to inspire young teenagers with lessons from their own role models; to help motivate and prepare them for their first part-time and volunteer job; to explore their dream career job; to choose values which support their dreams; to decide the skills and knowledge they want to obtain to reach their dreams; and to learn how to find and communicate with mentors, who can help them overcome obstacles.

I am grateful to my mentors who help me pursue my dreams. I value reciprocating the favor by being a mentor myself, through my involvement with JA.

I believe it`s important to provide young people with experiential business programs that can imbue them with the confidence and skills they need to become the leaders of tomorrow. It means a lot to me to provide to young people some of the most important and inspiring programs on work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. These programs can literally, in a few hours, change the course of a student’s life!

Community Concern

Andre Agassi and one of the first graduates from the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy

Andre Agassi and one of the first graduates from the Andre Agassi Preparatory Academy

In the video at the end of this article, a man says, “We all care about our community. Volunteers care. They don’t care more. They just do something about it.” His statement struck me. Many people who don’t volunteer are nonetheless benefactors to their communities. My mom owned and managed a business for 15 years, employing about 10 people at a time. She worked six or seven days a week, taking one vacation-week only once every three years – for 15 consecutive years! She would have been pressed to find time and energy to volunteer. But her customers loved her and she provided jobs to many people who worked with her for years. I am proud that my mom was a recognized community entrepreneur and leader. Ain’t nobody gonna tell me that she didn’t contribute!

I sympathize with kids in my community. As I chat with them, I see that they have the same ambitions and insecurities that I had when I was their age. As I grew up, I didn’t experience a JA program. It would have given me an early edge. When I see kids in my JA workshop become motivated and confident, I imagine that the program – and maybe me as a person – is a spark which propels them toward their dreams of work success and community contribution.

A former participant of JA wrote:

“What has impacted me more than anything? JA. Really. Junior Achievement broke through and hit me over the head in high school. From there I have been fascinated with how business, governments and markets work. They gave me the curiosity and the desire to learn. From there, I have gobbled knowledge and know how. Embraced mentors, teachers and anyone with a differing opinion than me. I am volunteering in many capacities and plan to commit some time to this organization. Our children need to learn everything JA stands for.”

I’m grateful that the teachers appreciate how JA programs enhance their curriculum. I enjoy how each teacher contributes to the program by helping me tailor it to their classroom’s personalities and dynamics – every class is different!

Well known tennis star Andy Roddick shared a story about Andre Agassi:

“When I was 17 years old, we were on a flight together. I was very nervous, but Andre was kind and encouraged me to ask him questions. When I asked about his biggest regret, I expected some answer related to our profession. Instead he said it was not starting his charitable foundation earlier. There are most likely plenty of kids at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a model K-12 charter school for disadvantaged children in Las Vegas, who have never watched a match of his. I promise you that Andre could not care less. He would rather be viewed as the man who gives them dreams and opportunities.”

Actions speak louder than words. Volunteering shows that I give a damn: It demonstrates that I’m done talking about my values of helping others. Now people see that I’m doing it.

Esteem Enhancement

When I think of my volunteer work, I feel great.

I did an exercise that involved listing things that motivate and drive me. I listed everything that I find fun, interesting, or exciting; anything that means something to me.

For each item listed, I asked “Why do I care about it?” I wrote the reason why I cared. Then I looked at the reason and asked, “Why do I care about that reason?” I kept going deeper until I found that my reason for caring about almost everything reduced to the same fundamental reason.

For example, one item I listed which drives me is “Reading and learning new things.”

I asked, “Why do I like reading and learning new things?” I answered that I like learning to be a better writer by reading works of good writers.

Then “Why do I like learning to be a better writer?” Because I want to influence others. Being a better writer helps you to more effectively influence others – whether you’re writing an email, proposal, blog article, or book.

“Why do you want to influence others?” Because influencing others helps me earn money and win respect; people appreciate receiving information and feeling inspired.

“Why do people appreciate receiving information and feeling inspired?” Because it helps them to be more successful; to feel better about themselves and their own possibilities.

“Why do you care about helping people be more successful; to feel better about themselves and their own possibilities?” Because then they’re more likely to achieve their goals and feel happy – and I will have helped make that happen.

“Why do you care about helping people achieve their goals and helping them feel happy?” Because achieving goals, being happy, and helping others – is the reason we’re here. If we’re not here to develop ourselves; to be our best; and to help others be their best – then what else is there? Doesn’t it all come down to being our best and helping others be their best? Then we all enjoy the progress and happiness that flows from productive, happy, and sharing people?

Invest three hours in facilitating a JA program, and you will feel a sense of euphoria and contribution that will stay with you a long time. Contrast that with watching three hours of TV, or three hours playing a video game. The enjoyment derived from watching the program or playing the game is often temporal – usually vanishing the moment you turn off the TV.


Through JA, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of – and strengthened my connection to – young people, students, teachers, schools, and non-profits in general.

I’ve learned that kids are unaware of the diversity of available careers – most dream of doing the same 30 or so white collar professions. They have little idea of what work their parents do (other than by job title, if even that). Parents need to help kids understand – in simple terms – what they do and how they do it, so kids can start having meaningful discussions about their own career possibilities.

I’ve observed that JA employees work hard! I’ve been biased by the notion that government and non-profits might not be as efficient as for-profit organizations. In my experience with JA however, the staff are devoted and run a lean ship.

I’ve been reminded of how hard it is to be a kid in high school. Today, it’s so easy for me to walk into any school, to speak with anyone, and to facilitate a program for 45 students. But in my first year of high school, when I had to present in history class, I could barely breath. I didn’t know how to talk to girls. It was crushing when I failed at something. It took time and practice for me to become a fluent, self-assured speaker; to learn that failure is normal as we progress on the crooked – rather than linear – path to success.

When I share my early struggles with kids, it can give them hope that they too will overcome their self-doubts. It encourages me as well – when I think of how daunting some of my current obstacles seem – to be reminded that not long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to speak in front of five people, let alone 45. One day, I’ll look back on my current obstacles, and smile at how trivial they appear in retrospect.

Personal development

The graph below shows that volunteers report gaining many skills through volunteering. The full survey shows how volunteering also improves job opportunities.

Percentage who reported gaining skills from volunteer activities

Percentage of volunteers who reported gaining skills from volunteer activities. Source: 2000, National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating,

Another survey reports:

  • 73% of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteering experience over one without
  • 94% of employers believe that volunteering can add to skills
  • 94% of employees who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted

I volunteer to explore new fields of potential interest. Ibarra’s “Working Identity” shows that we discover who we are – and what we like to do – not by introspection, but by trying out new things; engaging in new experiences; and starting new relationships. From these experiments we learn about our skills and preferences. Volunteering is a great way to try out things you might like to do: the barrier to entry is low, and it’s easy to move on if it’s not the right fit for you. Volunteering with JA has reinforced my conviction that I love to speak and facilitate; it’s shown me that I’m almost obsessive in my passion to continuously refine the workshop content – to see how I can make it more engaging and beneficial.

Volunteering with JA enhances my leadership skills. I first heard of JA when an entrepreneur mentioned that she developed her leadership skills with adults by first leading kids as a JA volunteer.

For any skill you wish to strengthen, volunteering provides a safe environment to practice. The second time I facilitated a JA program, I walked into a strong-minded and unruly class. The students were engaged with my material, but as they observed my inability or unwillingness to seize control of the classroom, they became increasingly loud and interruptive. By the end of the morning I had lost order.

Then I witnessed an amazing thing. The students went into a classroom with a new teacher. The same teenagers were actively participating, and rarely did they lose focus, interrupt the teacher, or goof off. When a student did something that detracted from the lesson, the teacher corrected the student immediately and efficiently. I watched in astonishment and took notes.

The teacher explained to me that to gain the respect of the kids, I need to immediately establish myself as the alpha male and leader. I need to correct any misbehaviour promptly, abruptly, and consistently – in a firm but fair manner – with direct, simple instructions. When a kid lifts his desk, I can’t ignore it, and I can’t ask, “Excuse me, if you don’t mind, would you please put that desk down?” Instead I need to tell the student, with authority, “Put that desk down.” I started improving my non-verbal communication, too: standing straighter, looking directly at students, and walking closer to them to engage or to correct.

The next class I facilitated had an extra 20 teenagers (45 in total). I maintained order.  The students completed the exercises more thoughtfully. And the students and staff said it was an enjoyable and impactful program. I was asked to return to give the workshop to another group. Though I struggled the previous week, volunteering enabled me to get a fresh start to try again.

If you’re between jobs, volunteering shows that you’re not isolated at home and feeling depressed. It demonstrates that you’re active, meeting with people and productively contributing. It provides you with great stories to share. If you do a good job, then you will get testimonials and references that help you receive introductions, and maybe even a job offer.

Volunteering with JA has helped me meet interesting people and to make new friends. Volunteering offers the best kind of networking: you give value without expecting anything in return, rather than just taking.

If you volunteer in a teaching role, you find that nothing helps you master your subject matter more than having to teach it. Each time I deliver a program, I notice what works and what does not. The next time, I leverage more of what worked, and I omit or change what did not. It’s a continuous experiment of improvement.

I deliver the Dream Big Program in three hours, but I’ve spent days becoming more of a subject-matter expert on things related to the program. For instance, I gained insight into my own dreams and life experiences (e.g., I confirmed some of my skills in public speaking and coaching). I learned of role models that teens have today (from Terry Fox and Michael Jackson to Steve Nash and Bill Gates); careers kids care about (often high-paying, white-collar professions); what gets them excited about part-time jobs (money to buy a car, electronics, and clothes); and how to motivate them to volunteer (show how volunteering develops leadership skills, provides references, and gets their foot-in-the-door to otherwise inaccessible opportunities). I’ve learned about taxes for students working part-time jobs (in Canada, for students under 18, and who earn less than $10,000 a year, the only amount deducted from their pay is a small amount for employment insurance. They effectively pay no income tax and are not deducted for the Canada Pension Plan.) I’ve seen the values which students believe can support their dreams (e.g., persistence and risk-taking); of how values can conflict (e.g., loyalty vs. independence, candor vs. harmony); and how to help them resolve the conflicts. I’ve developed ways to add and strengthen forces that support young people’s dreams, and how to overcome their perceived obstacles. I’ve learned how to help them find mentors, and how they can work with them.

As a teaching volunteer, you learn as much or more from your students and your teaching experience, as your students learn from you.

How you can volunteer

If you explore volunteer opportunities, aim to try something that you’ll love to do – which you’ll personally gain from. If you join a random cause or role just to “help others,” you’ll find that you can also help others in any other organization or role. Consider what you’d like to try out; people you wish to meet; a skill you want to improve; or an industry you desire to learn about. The more personally motivated you are, the more rewarding the experience will be, and the more you’ll contribute to the recipients of your volunteering.

If you’d like to partner with the business community and educators to engage young people in hands-on programs which foster skills in work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy, then volunteering with Junior Achievement could be a very fulfilling experience for you!

For teenagers, here are 20 Ways to Help Other People (and yourself) by Volunteering.

I’ll leave you with this video which shows how we all volunteer daily, even by just holding a door for someone. It explores why now is a great time to volunteer.

Update: Multiple monitor screens: maybe the fastest way to boost your productivity immediately

July 30, 2010

I added content and revised: Multiple monitor screens: maybe the fastest way to boost your productivity immediately

What it’s like to meet Jack Welch

November 11, 2009

“I’m here to pimp my wife’s book” were the first words spoken by Jack Welch, when he presented alongside his wife, Suzy Welch, to an audience at the Indigo book store at the Manulife Center in Toronto, on April 27, 2009.

Jack was referring to Suzy’s new book, 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea. (As an aside, 10-10-10 received poor reviews. I believe reviewers compared the book to Suzy’s first book, Winning, which she co-wrote with Jack. 10-10-10 is nowhere near the caliber of Winning, though I think Suzy targeted the Oprah Book of the Month Club audience with 10-10-10.)

Kevin Kane, holding the Croatian edition of one of his favorite books, Jack and Suzy Welch's Winning

Kevin Kane in Croatia, holding the Croatian edition of one of his favorite books, Jack and Suzy Welch's Winning

When I heard that Jack was coming to Toronto, I just *had* to meet him. This is Jack Welch, the man who was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 1999; who during his 20-year tenure as CEO of General Electric, from 1984 to 2004, increased GE’s market capitalization from $14 billion to more than $410 billion, making GE the largest and most valuable company in the world.

So what’s it like to meet the man in person? Jack entered the store with his wife, the much younger and stunning Suzy Welch. Suzy is the former Executive Editor of one of my favorite magazines, the prestigious Harvard Business Review. Suzy speaks with considerable authority and presence, and has a vivaciousness that initially made me wonder if she might actually upstage her husband.

But once Jack started answering questions, the words of Warren Buffett came to mind when Warren said, “When you talk with Jack about management, his energy and passion fill the room.”

Though Jack genuinely tried to let the evening be Susie’s show, he couldn’t help but oblige the audience by answering a few of their questions. Here are, at random, a few thoughts which Jack shared:

  • Jack was challenged on whether his admonition to “follow your gut” might lead people to not consider important data in the decision-making process. Jack responded by relating “gut intuition” to “pattern recognition”: your gut identifies patterns of experience you’ve seen before, and intuitively hints you toward a correct decision based on your previous encounters. Jack advised us: “Don’t ignore your gut. Your gut is a legtimate data point. But combine your gut with additional data to make a better decision.”
  • People naturally dismiss ideas from people they dislike, regardless of the merit of those ideas.
  • Two questions Jack asked himself during his life and career: “What do you want people to say about you when you’re not in the room?” and “What would make you cry with regret on your 70th birthday?”
  • On the economy, and the US government’s plan to “spend its way out of the recession”: “How are we going to pay back the debt incurred, when realistically, the US will grow at only 4-percent, we have more global competition than ever, and people have fundamentally become more frugal?”

I approached Jack after the question and answer session and asked, “Which idea is tougher to sell inside organizations – candor or boundarylessness?” (These are two concepts Jack strongly endorses in his books.) Jack’s eyes widened and he responded, “They are both as tough as nails to sell!” He looked at me intently and stated emphatically, “You have to reward these behaviors.” Discussing these ideas really got Jack fired up, and we shared stories about them for some length of time.

Then Jack started asking questions about me and my career. He took a keen interest in me, and he is very encouraging. He maintains a relaxed but focused attention when he speaks with you, and he projects a down-to-earth warmth and sincerity. He frequently makes funny remarks, and he even laughed at all my jokes. Even my girlfriend doesn’t get all my jokes, so clearly Jack is a very enlightened person from my perspective. Meeting Jack Welch reminded me of how gratifying an experience it is when you discover that a celebrity whom you have admired from afar turns out to be just as impressive and likable when you meet them in person.

Lords of Loads & Logistics: 8 billionaires who built the shipping empires which bring the world’s goods to you

October 30, 2009

The cover story of the October 2009 edition of Forbes magazine features America’s 400 most wealthy people. Eight of 400 built their fortunes in the transportation industry. The eight are quite the motley cast of characters. I’ll share some highlights and sidelights, and their impacts on Canada.

Dennis Washington, $4.2 billion, Marine & Rail Transportation, Mining, Montana. With a net worth of $4.2 billion, Washington leads the pack of logistics moguls, and is the 61st richest person on the Fortune 400 list. He owns the largest tug and barge fleet in British Columbia. Washington also owns a large private estate on Stuart Island, British Columbia, including a luxury fishing lodge and golf course. He began his business career at age 30 in 1964, with a $30,000 loan and a single bulldozer.

Victor Fung & family, $2.6 billion, Li & Fung, Hong Kong. Despite the recession, outsourcing firm Li & Fung actually increased sales 25% in 2008. They supply clothes, furnishings, and toys to retailers including Disney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, and Target.

Donald Schneider, $2.5 billion, Schneider National, Wisconsin. Schneider National is the US’ largest privately held freight carrier, with sales of $3.7 billion. Schneider managed to take market share from some smaller, struggling competitors during the recession. A Wharton MBA, he introduced a 60-mph speed cap on his fleet last year, in order to reduce fuel costs. In one of my Canadian Institute of Transportation and Traffic (CITT) courses, we debated the efficacy of speed caps. The general consensus of my colleagues is that speed caps actually increase total transportation costs: Savings on fuel are outweighed by an increased expenditure on driver hours, and other costs associated with delivery delays.


A Schneider National truck is overturned. When the accident occurred, I wonder if the driver was moving at less than 60 mph? Though truck drivers sometimes get a bad rap, the high majority are excellent, safe, and professional drivers.

Stewart Rahr, $1.95 billion, Kinray, New York. Kinray is the world’s largest independent pharmaceutical and generics distributor. Rahr started Kinray after dropping out of law school. “Stewie Rah Rah, the #1 King of All Fun” adorns the wall of his office in Queens, NY. The business card he used this summer is a one-billion dollar bill, featuring a picture of Rahr with Donald Trump, Arnold Palmer and Bill Clinton. Now that’s original. Reminds me of Jeffrey Gitomer, who used to distribute a business card for his company’s mascot, which was his pet cat,”Leo.”

Fred Smith, $1.65 billion, Federal Express, Tennessee. Fedex is the world’s largest private shipping firm. The bulk of FedEx’s business is in the movement of courier packages, which is why everyone reading this article has heard of FedEx, though many outside the logistics industry will not be familiar with the other companies, which primarily distribute freight to manufacturers and retailers. A Yale grad, Smith envisioned an integrated network of planes and trucks in his senior thesis; he then launched FedEx in 1971. How about that! A thesis turned into a business plan! I published a thesis myself, though it has yet to yield $1.65 billion. Smith pioneered elaborate tracking systems, saying, “The information about the package is just as important as the package itself.”

Fred Smith, who founded FedEx so that he could continue to play with model airplanes from childhood to retirement

Fred Smith, who founded FedEx so that he could continue to play with model airplanes from childhood to retirement

William E. Conner II, $1.5 billion, Supply Chain Services, Hong Kong. Conner began working for his father’s company at age 12. He holds an MBA and law degree. With 35 offices in 20 countries, more than half of his business comes from women’s apparel and home goods, with the balance from textiles, lighting and other apparel.

Manuel Moroun & family, $1.3 billion, Central Transport, Michigan. Manuel is battling the Canadian Canadian government to maintain his priceless monopoly over the Detroit River border crossing. He owns the Ambassador Bridge, which is a channel for 25 percent of the commerce between the U.S. and Canada. The Bridge handles 8,000 trucks a day, and $100 billion worth of goods each year.

Johnelle Hunt, $1.1 billion, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Arkansas. Johnelle is the widow of trucking titan Johnnie Hunt. With sales of $3.7 billion, J.B. Hunt is the largest U.S. public transportation company, serving the U.S., Canada and Mexico with over 10,000 vehicles.

Proactive Personality and the Successful Job Search – Journal of Applied Psychology

October 24, 2009

While obtaining my degree in Psychology at the University of Waterloo, the hardest work I did might have been writing an undergraduate thesis. I was incredibly lucky, though. My thesis adviser, Doug Brown, was working with three other colleagues on the publication of a large paper to be submitted for publication in the most prestigious journal in Industrial / Organizational Psychology, which is the Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP).

At the University of Waterloo, Bill Gates is a bigger draw than Britney Spears and Paris Hilton combined

At the University of Waterloo, Bill Gates is a bigger draw than Britney Spears and Paris Hilton combined

For my thesis, Doug invited me to write a paper that would contribute to this larger article for the JAP. The opportunity to be published in the JAP, as an undergrad, was an auspicious stroke of fortune that I couldn’t turn down.

Of course I had no idea how much I’d have to work my butt off! But it paid off, and I still had a little bit of butt left when all was said and done.

Since the JAP is best, most world-class publication of the field, my paper had to be world-class, too, which is an unusual expectation of an undergraduate student. But Doug was a tremendous coach. He mentored me every step of the way, helping me improve my standard of excellence with each subsequent revision of my paper. In other words, he made me rewrite that damn paper about 26 times!

But I’m grateful his standards were so high, because he taught me to become a much better scientist and writer. He taught me how to:

  • thoroughly conduct research, so that I understood the literature surrounding my topic, and so that my argument was buttressed by existing peer-reviewed evidence
  • make powerful, empirically-supported, and logically consistent, arguments
  • write more clearly and succinctly
  • present a compelling and persuasive story

Below is a synopsis of the article, and a link to a pdf of the full article:

The current article tests a model of proactive personality and job search success with a sample of 180
graduating college students. Using structural equation modeling, the authors tested a theoretical model
that specified the relations among proactive personality, job search self-efficacy, job search behaviors,
job search effort, and job search outcomes. Job seekers were surveyed at 2 separate points in time, once
3–4 months prior to graduation and once 2–3 months following graduation. The results suggest that
proactive personality (a) significantly influenced the success of college graduates’ job search, (b) was
partially mediated through job search self-efficacy and job search behavior, and (c) was independent of
self-esteem and conscientiousness. The findings are discussed in terms of their general implications for
understanding the nature of the process through which distal personality factors, such as proactive
personality, affect the nature and success of an individual’s job search.

Keywords: proactive personality, job search, social– cognitive theory, self-efficacy

uwaterloo final exams

Ah, this brings back memories (nightmares?), of final exams at U of Waterloo. Notice that the three guys on the right look totally stumped, hands on heads, whereas the girls to the left are cool and collected.

Note: I contributed to my portion of the article in 2002 and 2003, though the article was not published until 2006. It typically takes this period of time for an article to be reviewed and published in the JAP.

Proactive Personality and the Successful Job Search – A Field Investigation – Journal of Applied Psychology – Brown, Kane, Cober, Levey – 2006

Multiple monitor screens: maybe the fastest way to immediately boost productivity 

August 19, 2009

For years, I’ve used multiple monitors on my computers at home and work. The investment I’ve made in two extra monitors has more than paid itself back in enhanced productivity. But don’t take it from me:

  • The NY Times reports, “Survey after survey shows that whether you measure your productivity in facts researched, alien spaceships vaporized, or articles written, adding an extra monitor will give your output a considerable boost — 20 percent to 30 percent, according to a survey by Jon Peddie Research.”
  • Research by Microsoft suggests that adding a second screen can achieve productivity increases of nine to 50 percent.
  • Apple touts research showing that larger screens increase work output, as discussed in a Slate article entitled, “Why gigantic screens are the best computer upgrades ever.”
  • The Wall Street Journal discusses a study by the University of Utah, which demonstrates that using a larger monitor helped users complete tasks 52% faster, saving upwards of 2.5 hours per day.

Though many studies suggest that having more screen space enhances productivity, it is challenging to design studies which reliably measure the exact impact. On methodology to measure productivity and screen size, Jakob Neilsen provides thoughtful input.

Who uses multiple monitors?

Bill Gates:

Bill Gates uses three monitors on one computer

Bill Gates uses three monitors on one computer, and he keeps a tidy desk to boot

Gates writes, “On my desk I have three screens, synchronized to form a single desktop. I can drag items from one screen to the next. Once you have that large display area, you’ll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity. The screen on the left has my list of e-mails. On the center screen is usually the specific e-mail I’m reading and responding to. And my browser is on the right-hand screen. This setup gives me the ability to glance and see what new has come in while I’m working on something, and to bring up a link that’s related to an e-mail and look at it while the e-mail is still in front of me.”

Multiple monitors aren’t just for technology wizards. Al Gore, former Vice-President of the U.S., uses three Apple displays:


Al Gore uses three monitors on one computer, and he keeps a tidy... oh, never mind

Gates and Gore use three screens with desktop computers. For laptop users, two additional screens connect to my laptop:

I am enjoying the pleasant fiction that my desk is never clutterred

I enjoy the pleasant fiction that my desk is never cluttered. Here it is after I moved in - with zero mess and zero personality.

Multiple monitors are used by folks from all walks of life: programmers, writers, customer service reps, sales reps, doctors, mechanics, logistics coordinators, and maybe your grandmother. See below for more multiple monitor workstations:

What do you do with so many screens?

It’s easy to move programs from one screen to another. I typically use:

  • on the left screen: Microsoft Outlook or Gmail
  • on the middle screen: A document I’m editing – such as an email, word document, or spreadsheet.
  • on the right screen: A web page related to the document I’m working on, or other supporting material.

This video shows how to move programs across screens:

I’ve worked in sales. Say I’m on the phone with a customer, discussing an email they sent me. I might view the customer’s email on my left screen, while typing call notes in Microsoft Word on the middle screen, and referring to the customer’s website on my right screen.

Perhaps I’m researching a company before I meet with them. I might be keeping an eye on my inbox on the left screen, completing a company profile template on the middle screen, while reading a news article about the company on the right screen. I’m not multitasking. (Multitasking reduces focus on a single task.) I’m using the monitors to do one task at a time. Often in our jobs we need to monitor incoming email  to see if something requires a quick response. Having email open on one screen is sometimes helpful; when email arrives, I quickly scan it to see if I need to address it immediately.  If it’s not urgent, I return to my task. Working this way, I don’t miss urgent messages, and I don’t constantly interrupt my task to check new messages.

I’ve worked in logistics. I might be speaking with a customer on the phone, while referring to their email on the left screen, a proof of delivery on the middle screen, and a transportation management system on the right screen. I’m performing the single task of solving the customer’s problem; information on all three screens helps me solve it more quickly.

Generally, my inbox is on the left; what I’m typing is in the middle; and what I’m referring to is on the right.

Once you experience working with a second monitor, I bet you’ll concur with the sentiment expressed in the Microsoft research: “Give someone a second monitor, let them use it for awhile, and then try to take it away. It just isn’t going to happen.” In study after study, users prefer having multiple screens.

It doesn’t cost much, and it’s easier to setup than you might believe.

How do I add additional monitors to my computer?

Three steps (basically):

  1. Get a second monitor
  2. Connect the monitor to your computer
  3. Click “Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor.”

Windows users can follow Microsoft’s step-by-step guide (with pictures).

Apple users are also welcome to join the multiple-displays party.

What if I don’t have space on my desk for another monitor?

If you can, invest in a desk which provides sufficient workspace. (My three displays at home are on a desk which is 54 inches wide.)

You can save space by using a monitor mount, which provides these benefits:

  • saves desk space, and allows you to add monitors that your desk can’t hold
  • reduces the visual clutter on your desk that is caused by large monitor bases
  • makes it easier to clean your desk, since you don’t have to clean around monitor bases

Monitors can be mounted on a wall:

Monitors mounted to wall

Monitors mounted to wall. (For ease of reading - and to reduce neck strain - these displays should be placed a bit lower.)

Or you can mount monitors to your desk using a desk-mounting bracket:

3-Way Adjustable Tilting DUAL Desk Mount Bracket for LCD

Save desk space by mounting two monitors to your desk with this mount; it is smaller compared to using two monitor bases.

The most cost-effective method for mounting two displays seems to be the desk-mount pictured above: The Monoprice 3-Way Adjustable Tilting DUAL Desk Mount Bracket for LCD is $38.40. (It has received rave reviews, with one customer claiming it supports even two 24-inch displays.)

How much does it cost to add a monitor to my computer?

1. Buy a monitor:

- A 22-inch monitor is $160 (as of this writing) from Tiger Direct.

- Or buy a new or used monitor for less on Craigslist.

2. If you need another monitor input-port, you can:

- Buy a new video card for $57 from Tiger Direct.

- Or buy a new or used video card on Craigslist, or from a surplus computer-parts store.

- Or buy a USB to VGA adapter for $25 on Ebay.

Do I need an extra monitor? Is it worth the investment?

What you need can only be decided by you. You might not need an extra monitor any more than you need a bigger desk or a bigger office – but they’d all be useful and nice to have, wouldn’t they? You might want another monitor because:

  • The studies above suggest that productivity increases (across a wide-spectrum of computer tasks).
  • Users surveyed almost unanimously prefer multiple screens over single screens. (One user reported that multiple screens inhibit focus on a single task, due to distractions on the additional screen. I can sympathize with that. I have three screens. When I work on a task that requires only two screens, I minimize distracting windows on the third screen. And unless my job requires it, I don’t keep my email inbox visible at all times. Rather, I check email at necessary intervals – because we all know email can be very distracting.)

How many displays are optimal?

I’m not aware if research has – or even could – answer this question. It depends on what you like or need to do on a computer.

Productivity returns diminish once more monitors are added to the point at which the extra monitors must be placed too far away from your eyes, or outside the periphery of your vision. Let me explain.

Based on an ergonomic assessment of your workstation, I suggest these guidelines for adding monitors to your space:

First, adjust the monitor height so that the top of the screens are at or slightly below eye level. Your eyes should look slightly downward when viewing the middle of the screen. If you don’t have desk space for all of your monitors to be at eye level, then one option is to use displays which can be oriented in portrait mode, rather than the more traditional wide-screen mode. See the picture of Czerwinski’s office below, showing three portrait monitors occupying less than 40 inches across her desk.

Mary Czerwinski, an interruption scientist, in front of her triptych of computer screens in her office at Microsoft. She found that more desktop space equals greater productivity.

Mary Czerwinski, an interruption scientist, in front of her triptych of computer screens in her office at Microsoft. She found that more desktop space equals greater productivity.

If you still can’t place all monitors at eye level, then place at eye level the ones more frequently used. Place the others as close as possible to avoid neck strain from looking up or down.

Second, position the monitors within 20 to 30 inches (about arm’s reach) from your eyes. If using bifocals, the distance should be 16 inches. If you position your monitors closer or further away, you might feel eye strain. If it’s not possible to position all monitors within arm’s reach, then place within arm’s reach the monitors more frequently used. For the monitors further away, you might reduce eye strain by increasing the text size or zooming-in on those displays.

If your monitors are placed ergonomically, I see no harm in adding displays. Depending on what you do, decide for yourself how much your productivity is enhanced by adding a screen.

For most users, I think three screens are terrific. For more than three to be practical, it might help to have some monitors in portrait mode. My three monitors – including one laptop screen and two LCDs – take up 51 inches across. Outside 51 inches, I can’t see much without turning my head or swiveling my chair. I don’t want to strain my neck upward, either, to view a second row of monitors above the ones on my desk.

Mitch Haile makes good use of six screens wrapped around his desk:

The three displays to the left are portrait oriented, and the three to the right are wide screen oriented.

The three displays to the left are portrait oriented; the three to the right are wide-screen.

If you have as much desk space as Mitch, you might emulate his display setup. Is it overkill? Maybe – but who’s to say? Besides, it looks cool. Some people like to “pimp their cars.” Beyond a point, does it improve driver performance or the driving experience? Maybe not – but it’s fun for car buffs, and multiple monitors are fun for workspace enthusiasts.

How much is too much?

Jason Fitzpatrick of Lifehacker said, “Sometimes trying to build a workspace that can do everything for every situation leads you to create an overwhelming and cluttered workspace.”

Research suggests that it’s better to separate spaces by the functions they serve, rather than try to do everything in one spot. It makes sense to use separate spaces for separate functions because mental states, moods, and behaviors, are associated with – and triggered by – particular locations. (See 2002, Gilbert, P.E. & Kesner, R.P.: The role of the hippocampus in paired-associate learning involving associations between a stimulus and a spatial location. Behavioral Neuroscience , 116, 63-71.)

It’s good to have one place (e.g., a bedroom in your house) for a home office. Use that place only for work (if it’s important for you to work at home). Have a separate space (e.g., your living room) for recreation. Research shows that it’s easier to focus on work-related tasks when you’re in a space that is used exclusively for work. When you enter your home office, your mind is triggered to work. Then it’s easier to relax – and take a mental break from work – when you enter the recreation space.

If in the same home workspace – or on the same computer – you also engage in recreational activities (such as personal email, personal web browsing, and gaming) then your mind can be triggered to perform these recreational activities when you want to concentrate on work.

I use one laptop for work (no personal email, Facebook, or games) in my home bedroom office, and I use a second laptop in my living room for everything else (like watching classic episodes of Columbo).

Too much clutter: this workspace seems gaudy and impractical

Too much clutter: this workspace seems gaudy and impractical

By contrast, the workspace to the right seems to combine everything and then some. It cries out, “Excess is barely enough!” If this space meets the needs of its owner, then he should follow his bliss. Since I don’t know what he does, my criticisms below are made without knowledge of the needs and preferences of the user. That said, I imagine this workspace makes poor use of the significant investment put into it.

The photo shows eight screens, and another photo shows an additional two screens in the room. That’s 10 screens crammed into this tiny space.

What is the purpose of the workspace? Viewing the screens, it looks like we simultaneously have a computer game being played, a spreadsheet being updated, an image being edited, a CNN market report being watched, a second CNN broadcast being viewed on another screen, a movie being watched, and who knows what else. If this person’s brain has evolved far beyond mine – to the point where he can achieve maximum focus while splitting his attention across many diverse activities – then all the power to him. But I want evidence before I believe it.

I’m concerned for the user’s neck as he (come on, we all know this is a guy’s machination) cranes it upward to view the upper displays. For long viewing periods it does not look comfortable.

Where is the working space for paperwork? Filing cabinets for storage? Cable management? Plants or art to give the space a warm, personal feel? This space seems cluttered and ugly.

If it was my equipment, I’d distribute the hardware among separate spaces, each serving a unique function. I’d have one workspace and one playspace. If this user can show why he needs everything squeezed together, then fine. But as a bystander, it looks like an expensive mess that does not work.

Who knows – perhaps he’s a political commentator, game reviewer, and graphic artist all rolled into one amazing person who uses the devices simultaneously with astounding productivity and focus. Or maybe he’s a guy who is trying to impress us with how many pixels he can pack into a photograph. I bet it’s the latter. This space looks less like a workspace than it does a playpen for a kid with attention deficit disorder.

How can I get my employer to invest in an additional monitor for me or my team?

Many employers provide employees with multiple screens. Sometimes the phenomenon is all-or-nothing: Either everyone in the office – from reception to developers to the president – has multiple displays, or nobody does. When companies decide that multiple monitors are a good investment, they’re often rolled-out to everyone. Organizations realize that if you provide multiple monitors to some but not all, then the have nots can feel slighted (and their productivity and loyalty diminishes).

From the research cited above, I believe multiple monitors provide most companies with a fast return on investment. And surveys show that employees enjoy extra screens; happy employees are productive employees.

It seems contradictory that some companies do not hesitate to pay $100 a month for an employee’s BlackBerry plan, yet resist making a one-time investment of $150 in the same employee for an extra monitor that will last about 17 years or 50,000 hours (before the backlight extinguishes). Workers says that technology like laptops and mobile phones have improved their productivity, and increased their working hours. When multiple monitors become more ubiquitous, I imagine similar worker surveys will show that employees work longer and harder due to having better displays, too.

You might share this article, or some of the linked studies, with your manager for their consideration.

If it’s not in your company’s budget, I encourage you to invest a couple hundred bucks to give yourself the tools you need. Your output will increase, and you’ll enjoy your work more when you have better tools for the job.

After reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Little Red Book of Sales Answers,” I decided to buy for myself (or invest in myself is how I think of it) anything I thought might help me be more productive. Gitomer was asked, “My company won’t buy me a laptop? What should I do?” He basically answered: “Quit bitching and go buy yourself one.” You’ll get your investment back on the first extra sale you make due to having the laptop. If you are not willing to invest in yourself, what makes you think that your customer will be willing to invest in you and your products and services? I’ve tried to adopt an empowering attitude of, “I’m not going to complain about anything. I’m going to find a way to get the resources I need to support my success. If that means I have to invest a few hundred to earn a few thousand, so be it.”

With permission of my boss, I’ve brought my own monitors into my workplace. If you bring in yours, coworkers will notice and ask about your extra monitor. Inform them that you bought it, so they don’t think you’re receiving special perks. When I upgraded to my current monitors, I replaced two 17-inch LCDs. Two of my team members were using cathode ray tube monitors instead of LCDs, so I lent my old LCDs to my coworkers.

If you bring an extra display to work to enhance your productivity, it signals to everyone in your office that you take initiative – and even invest your money – to be effective. (Just ensure that your extra screen displays work-related material, not Facebook.)

What equipment and software do I personally use?

Kevin Kane's home office

Kevin Kane's home office

My hardware includes:

  • a Lenovo T61 laptop – with a docking station – running Microsoft Vista. The laptop has a 15-inch widescreen with 1680 by 1050 resolution. Higher resolution shows more content on the screen, which reduces mouse scrolling.
  • an Acer 23-inch widescreen LCD in the middle, at 1920 by 1080 resolution. The Acer screen is connected with a VGA cable to my laptop’s monitor port.
  • a Dell 22-inch widescreen LCD on the right, at 1680 by 1050 resolution. The Dell screen is connected with a USB 2.0 VGA adapter cable to one of my laptop’s USB hubs.

If you use a laptop and want to use three screens instead of two, I recommend a USB to VGA adapter, rather than a dual-head device such as the Matrox DualHead2Go Digital Edition. The USB to VGA adapter is better in the following ways:

  1. It allows for three independent screens, each with unique resolution. The DualHead2Go requires that all screens use the same resolution. The two screens attached to your laptop have a stretched resolution across them, decreasing usability in some ways.
  2. The USB to VGA adapter connects up to six displays (if you buy six adapters). The DualHead2Go seems incompatible with adding screens (at least when I tried to add a fourth screen with a USB to VGA adapter).
  3. The DualHead software is buggy.
  4. The USB to VGA adapter is physically smaller than the DualHead adapter. The USB to VGA adapter and its USB wire take up less space, creates less wire mess, and is more portable.
  5. The USB to VGA adapter costs less (I bought it for $40, with free shipping, on Ebay) than the DualHead adapter (about $200 or more).

For multiple-monitor software, I like Ultramon. It’s not necessary, but for $40 it’s wonderful. Ultramon allows window-switching across displays, using keyboard shortcuts of your choosing. I use Cntl-1 to move a window to the left, and Cntl-2 to move a window to the right.

What has been your experience with multiple monitors? Share your questions and comments below.

Four tips to make your commute and driving time more productive and enjoyable

August 18, 2009
Traffic Jam Alert - prepare to be annoyed

Traffic jam alert

Most of us spend a lot of time in our cars or use public transit. I started a new job last week; my commute is two to three hours a day. If I sleep-over at girlfriend’s house it’s another 30-minutes drive to her home. Then we drive to the gym, run errands, etc.

I wondered about the best ways to maximize my commute time — my work commute alone consumes 20-percent of my waking hours!

Here’s what I’ve found helpful:
1. Listen to audio books and programs. My library lets me borrow 100 items at a time! I borrowed great books on CD such as: Good to Great by Collins, Authentic Happiness by Seligman, Advanced Selling by Tracy, Freakanomics by Levitt, and The Last Lecture by Pausch. As I speak with people, I naturally share interesting and helpful things — which I heard from the audio books — that are relevant to the conversation. Most of us wish we had more time to read; either to improve our expertise and knowledge, or just for the sheer joy of it. I find that driving while listening to books (on CD or mp3) helps me get my weekly dose of reading.

2. Review my mission and mantra. On my BlackBerry I have a note about my life’s mission and vision. It consists mostly of affirmations for my vision of the world — and the positive contribution that I am trying to make. I find it powerful to read it aloud. (I discourage you from reading your phone while in busy traffic. I sometimes glance at my phone when traffic has stopped.)

3. Eat on-the-go. In my trunk I keep a cooler that holds healthy foods in containers. I eat breakfast and other meals as I drive, so I can get on the highway earlier to get ahead of the morning-rush traffic.

4. Phone people (using a headset). With a headset, I can talk with both hands on the wheel. Someone told me that I shouldn’t talk while driving, even with a headset. I asked, “Do you not talk to your passengers when you drive?” I use common sense. If I’m on my handset when on the highway, sometimes I drive behind a tractor trailer in the slow lane while I maintain a safe following distance.

My commute is time that I can do these activities without distraction. It guarantees time to get some things done. Maybe my commute is a bit of a blessing.


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