Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Travel Journey To 100 Countries Picks Up Again Post-Pandemic

For a family that loves to travel, the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging. A few years of a staycation has now been replaced with adventure once again!

We were able to get away to Cancun and the Bahamas in 2022.  A personal milestone was made in Mexico when we visited Chichen Itza - completing my tour of the 7 wonders of the world. The other 6 were the Taj Mahal (2013), the Colosseum (2009), Machu Picchu (2017), Christ the Redeemer (2010), Petra (2019), and the Great Wall of China (2009).

"At the brim of the well where the Wise Men of the Water Live. This is what Chichen Itza means in Maya. Chichen Itza was one of the most important city-states in pre-Hispanic America and is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico today. The Chichen Itza Pyramid or El Castillo is the most astonishing Mayan Ruin or building inside the Archaeological Site."

Antarctica Voyage

We finished the year in epic fashion with an adventure to Antarctica - our 7th continent!

The backstory is that we were going to go in 2013 when Michelle was pregnant with Brooklyn. There is only a 3-4 week window of the year (Christmas time) that you can sail to the South Pole and, at the time, the only way we could do it was on a Russian frigate. Definitely not consumer friendly. As fate would have it, we decided against the trip and that specific ship got stuck in the ice. Brooklyn could have been born in Antarctica under a Russian flag!

Fast forward a number of years and we booked the trip to depart in 2020. A couple of Covid-cancellations later we reconfirmed a December 2022 date and prepared for departure.

We booked three days to explore Santiago, Chile on the front end of the 16-night cruise and then three days in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the tail end.

The weather created some challenges on the voyage with a couple of missed ports and some itinerary changes, but Captain McBain (yes, no joke, from Calgary, Canada as well just like me!) navigated us safely through treacherous waters. He reminded us that weeks prior someone was killed on a large cruise ship through the Drake Passage by a rogue wave

Every day in Antarctica was a new adventure. Everywhere you looked was like a postcard. I have seen many glaciers growing up in Canada, but nothing like this!

This was more than a bucket list check - it was life changing. The Russian frigate trip was $10k per person. This new option of luxury cruises (we took Princess) was closer to $2k per person and we could sit in the hot tub and eat steak and lobster every night.

We were all smiles as we went from 85 degree summer weather in Chile and swimming in the pool to having a snowball fight on the same deck a few days later!

Strongly recommended for everyone looking for an epic adventure! 

Now, we are in the 90+ country range and looking forward to trips through Central America and Alaska later in 2023.

The journey continues...

With these challenges:

The Butterfly Effect – My Life Story

Have you ever thought about the impact of big decisions that you made in your life? How about the small ones or the ones made for you? How would have your life turned out if things went the other way?

A movie that has always fascinated me is the Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher. The movie was good (not great) but the concept is mind-blowing.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect says that a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. The concept was formulated by Edward Lorenz, and uses a metaphorical example of a hurricane being influenced by the flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly.

Thus, a very small change in initial conditions can create a significantly different outcome.

Another similar and equally fascinating concept in science fiction is parallel universes or multiverses. Star Trek TNG had an episode called Parallels where every decision and possible outcome create multiple parallel dimensions. Thus, your life would have millions of permutations based on every decision you have ever made (or was made for you). You could be President of the United States or a bum on the street, depending on chance.

Today I talked about those moments in my life in front of MBA students at the Lally School of Management, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. I came up with 11 pivotal times in my life that got me to where I am today:

1982 - My mom lugs home an Apple IIe computer 

As a computer teacher at a small Jewish school in Calgary, my mom regularly carried home a heavy computer, screen and disk drives, introducing her inquisitive 10 year old son to computers. Instead of playing games, I learned BASIC and built a Quicken type financial tracking software that manages every dollar I earned at my paper route and every dollar I spent (normally Slurpees and Hockey Cards at 7-Eleven).

This small flap of butterfly wings created a future I couldn't imagine...

1987 - Five years later, a hit movie called Top Gun changes everything 

Watching Tom Cruise pop a wheelie on that Ninja 900 (chasing a girl) as a jet takes off in the background had a monumental effect on an impressionable 15 year old kid, 6 months away from getting his drivers license.

I did the research (this was before the internet remember!) and figured out that the bike would cost $4,000. That finance program I built years back detailed for me exactly how to make it happen.

That frugal 6 months, combined with achieving a clear goal had a huge impact on my life from that day forward. Cutting out alcohol, smoking, drugs (or anything else frivolous) allowed me to get that motorcycle, build an executive home at 22 years old and get a new cherry red Mercedes a few years later.

That is the reason I don't drink alcohol today - plain and simple.

1994 – IBM Intern and resident Futurist

My dad strongly encouraged me to pursue an internship in my final year of college and I was lucky to have Cargill and IBM come knocking. Working a tech call center seemed to be a better option than a meat processing plant, and my career was officially launched.

Two stories stick out in those early days.

I walked in my first day expecting to work on spreadsheets tracking call center rep performance – it was January and IBM had just sold a boat load of Aptiva home computers. Canadian customers bought NHL Hockey ’94 in large numbers as well. Problem was, after spending over $3,000 and having the family open up the computer on Christmas morning – the game wouldn’t run! After waiting on hold for over 60 minutes the customers were livid! The stress was felt in the office and instead of working on spreadsheets, I picked up the phone. I took over 50 calls that day and everyday after. My boss met me for the first time a week later and was shocked - and pleasantly surprised - that I was the top rep in productivity as measured on the spreadsheet I didn’t work on.

Even in the first few weeks of that internship I could see myself contributing more. IBM at the time was a technology juggernaut employing over 10% of all world PHD grads in math, computers and science. They had just proven that Teleportation (Star Trek style) was possible, were building the computer called Deep Blue that would be the first to beat a grandmaster at Chess (Gary Kasparov never got over it) and evolve into Jeapardy champion Watson, and were demo’ing a new personal area network that used the bodies natural electricity and could transfer data by just shaking someone’s hand.

Problem was, there were no evangelists that could talk to business audiences, students and go on TV. I jumped on the opportunity and became the resident IBM futurist. According to the World Future Society, I was the only one they knew of that had lifestreamed my life from the beginning – using that financial tracking software, combined with the fact that I was scanning all my documents and storing all of my pictures in digital format.

Every day of my life was documented; financially, documents and pictures – and it still is today!

1996 – The Winnipeg Place Mat

When IBM promoted and moved me to Manitoba to be a sales rep it was a big deal. Most IBMers before me had to wait 5 or 6 years to ever get a chance in front of a customer, and even then as a junior assistant. Here I was, 24 years old (looking more like 14) trying to manage an entire IBM Territory for the PC division.

Knowing I wasn’t the most extroverted relationship salesperson, I went the transactional route. I spent hours in the library and on the road documenting EVERY customer in the region. It became a massive color-coded spreadsheet called the Manitoba Unfortunate 500. I even took my family on a trip driving thousands of miles through the Northern townships and peeking inside each window on main street to see what kind of computers they used. The spreadsheet grew to dozens of columns with absolutely every piece of competitive and contact info I could get my hands on.

I would print the spreadsheet on a large sheet of paper and then laminate it – becoming affectionately known as the “place mat”.

This place mat drove my activity every day and a few years later I was recognized for having the largest IBM market share of any Territory in the world – almost 7 out of 10 computers bought in Manitoba in 1998 were IBM!

2000 – The Knowledge Worker Index 

IBM had moved me to Country Headquarters in Toronto and I was now a National Sales Manager. I was able to replicate the place mats for all 10 Territories and because of the mass quantity of prospects, a new scoring and propensity system needed to be developed.

After looking at thousands of our current customers, I built an algorithm that predicted how many knowledge workers (and thus computers) every company in Canada would buy in a given year. This predictive model was picked up by other divisions and the same methodology was being used to predict server, software and services sales.

2007 – The Channel Dashboard 

I was now handling Lenovo Channel sales for North and South America, and the challenges were that much larger in size and scope. Like many times before, I used a data approach to tie together over 30 systems including financial, product, inventory, distributors, programs and historicals.

Instead of being data jockeys for partners, the channel reps could now have all information on one screen and start spending their time driving more strategic discussions with partners.

2009 – Moving to the United States and channeling Paul Revere

Lenovo moved me to World-wide Headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. and I was now faced with the biggest challenge yet. How do I run an SMB business for a company that ignored the market for decades with someone brand new to the country?

In the Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell illustrates the story with Paul Revere and the Midnight Ride. Revere was possibly the best connected person in Boston on April 18, 1775. When he was alerted to the impending British attack on the armory at Concord, he successfully alerted and armed much of the Boston countryside. I used the exact same approach for finding connectors, gaining endorsements, and taking the IT Industry in the US by storm.

This is a longer story and maybe one of the most interesting times of my professional life. I go into more detail here:

2010 – Market like Dandelions 

I ran into a great connector in my travels by the name of Jeremy Epstein. He had an e-book that compared the future of marketing to a dandelion and it made total sense.

After traveling for 6 months straight on the Paul Revere journey, I needed to make an impact on the 30 or so communities that I became a part of. The problem was that communication preferences were changing with social media and almost 30 newer marketing vehicles. The simple math was 30 x 30 = 900 new touch points and the plan was to cover them all!

This is also a story that has it’s own blog here:

2011 – Give up corporate life, become an Entrepreneur! 

One of the top super-connectors I met on the Paul Revere journey was Bob Godgart. He is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of 5 successful businesses.

Bob was just transitioning his fourth company Autotask and I decided to jump on the chance to build ChannelEyes with him and two other great co-founders, Dave Geoghegan and Shari Godgart. The first couple of years were a blast – building the first social, mobile and big data solutions for vendors to better communicate, enable and drive sales with partners.

2015 – Become a CEO – fulfill a life dream

As we entered 2015, ChannelEyes was transitioning into a larger company. Having successfully raised millions in venture capital investment, ChannelEyes is now readying its breakthrough product called OPTYX – the first sales workflow product on the planet made for indirect sellers.

2017 – Becoming an industry curmudgeon – bring it all together

On a trip to Miami with my daughter, Danica, for spring break a couple of interesting things happened. 

One, is a major snowstorm hit our home in Upstate New York, and Michelle was at home stranded with the driveway snowed in. All flights were cancelled for at least a week and we needed to get home! We rented a car and drove 24 straight hours home without sleeping.

Two, on that long car ride (around Virginia), I had a conference call with a company I was advising called Channel Mechanics in Ireland. It was a 4 hour call and I had trouble hearing and communicating effectively - but tried my best. After the call, two representatives from Forrester phoned me - one a sales rep who was on the call, and the other a Vice President and Research Director who was leading the call - both with praise for my contribution and an offer of employment. A few months later, in June of 2017, I joined Forrester as a Principal Analyst of Channels, Partnerships, Alliances, and Ecosystems globally. 

In early 2022, it was time to take my analyst work to the next level - joining Canalys - the world's largest research firm laser focused on channels, partnerships, and ecosystems. Waking up each day with over 120 colleagues around the world thinking about indirect channels is amazing and the company culture is like family.

Now back to the Butterfly Effect. 

If my mom didn’t bring home that Apple IIe computer when I was 10, I may never have got the job at IBM. If I didn’t write that Quicken program, I may never have been inclined to think in new ways during my sales and marketing career. If I didn’t apply the Paul Revere strategy I may never have met Bob and started a new company. The permutations and combinations of what-if scenarios is mind numbing.

Life hasn’t been without its disappointments. At one point I thought I could play in the NHL until I was cut in 1989. I went through a painful divorce in 2001. I thought I would be a lifer at IBM until Lenovo came along and moved my cheese in 2005.

I do know this. Getting cut at hockey refocused my efforts and led me straight into college. Getting divorced taught me life lessons that I apply to my wonderful marriage with the love of my life Michelle and 4 wonderful daughters (Danica – 1997, Mila – 1999, Brooklyn – 2014, and Cali - 2015). Leaving IBM/Lenovo put me in a wonderful position to create something meaningful.

I wish I could flip parallel universes to see what my life would be like – although I would make 100% sure I could get back to this one because it is truly blessed.

I wouldn’t change a thing...the butterflies have led me to paradise.

Read more about my life story here:

My Housing Story - After 13 moves and stops in three Canadian Provinces and three U.S. States, here is my journey in pictures from the Northwest to the Southeast of North America.

My Travel Story - After visiting 93 countries (many with kids in tow), we are preparing for a trip to our 7th continent (Antarctica) in January 2021 assuming restrictions from COVID-19 lift.

My Nautical Story - I am pretty sure the love of water started in 1972 when I was six weeks old and my grandparents Bob and Dona McBain retired to Shuswap, British Columbia, Canada, and built a log cabin.

My Crazy MBA Story - In the summer of 2017, while climbing Machu Picchu, Peru as part of my wife Michelle’s International MBA from Manhattan College, I thought – why not me?

My Hockey Story - As long as I can remember, I have been playing hockey. Over four decades and thousands of games later, I still lace them up a couple times a week, year-round.

My Car Story - I have the dubious honor of getting speeding tickets on all 6 driveable continents - lucky that there are no cars in Antarctica! Did I ever tell you the time I passed the Polizia in Italy with my mom?

My Christmas Story - Whether traveling to see family, or going to Disney or Hawaii, or simply staying home - the season is packed with memories of family and friends.

My Music Story - My favorite music can be best defined as sad / emotional / multi-level slow music. Oddly, it is opposite of my worldview - which is normally overly-positive and optimistic.

My Movie Story - Oddly enough, I think Pretty Woman made me very interested in business. I named my cat Austin Powers - oh, and yes, "Danger" is his middle name. Our current dog is named August Rush (Auggie Doggy). Movies such as Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Forrest Gump, & National Lampoon's Vacation have become soundtracks to my life.

My Car Story - How Top Gun and a "Justification for Higher Education" Poster Changed Everything!

I have always loved cars.

From being a kid playing with Matchbox day and night, to an adult that is obsessed with the internal combustible engine.  In fact many of my memories revolve around the vehicle I was in - whether traveling through 93 countries or driving through 10 provinces and 49 U.S. States (New Mexico - looking at you!).

I know it is a bad thing, but I have a lead foot as well.

I have the dubious honor of getting speeding tickets on all 6 drive-able continents - lucky that there are no cars in Antarctica!  Did I ever tell you the time I passed the Polizia in Italy with my mom?

He was smiling because I was driving a little yellow gutless Panda - and passing a Lamborghini!

A couple of major milestones happened as a teenager that further solidified my love of driving:

1. I was 14 when Top Gun was released in theaters.  

After watching Tom Cruise take off after the girl on that GPZ900R (or better known as the Kawasaki Ninja 900), I was hooked.  For the next couple of years my life revolved around motorcycles.

My first bike was old 1964 Bridgestone 400 that would literally seize up on the highway (having your back tire lock up at highway speeds teaches you a lot about balance and motorcycle handling!).

My second bike was a Yamaha RD400. It was white with red accents, had some serious upgrades including pipes that made the 2 stroke louder than a Harley.  My favorite memory was tearing down the engine and removing the carbs to get it running each day before school.

Then it happened.  I got a red and black (matching the movie) Honda CBR600R - with matching leathers, gloves and a helmet too!  I had arrived - in the motorcycle sense.

2.  Then my sister bought me this mounted poster and everything changed:

This poster became symbolic on multiple levels. One, to finish post-secondary studies, and two, to own all 5 of these cars in my lifetime.  It never left my wall - different dorm rooms, apartments and even my first house - never took it down!

Knowing my first car couldn't be a Ferrari or Porsche, I started where I could.

First came a nice 4x4 Chev truck that I lifted slightly, put nice big tires and rims and a 3 inch solid steel bush guard on the front.  Nothing could stop me, especially shopping carts on late night supermarket runs.

With my first job secured at IBM came my first brand new car - a 1994 Saturn SL1.  It wasn't the fastest or sportiest car - but it had the new car smell and I drove it everywhere.  Across all 10 Provinces in Canada and at least 15 States.  It was stolen off our front driveway (fun story for another blog).

Replacing the stolen Saturn was the new 1994 Mazda MX-3 Precidia GS Coupe with the smallest V-6 in production! The sporty and cool factor went way up until I was moved to Winnipeg and I learned (the hard way) about the ice ruts that form on the road for 6 months out of the year.

So I traded in the front bumperless Mazda on a new 1997 Ford Ranger Splash truck. You may remember these from BayWatch on TV.  That lasted until the kids came - Danica in 1997 and Mila in 1999.  It was time to upgrade the Ford to an Eddie Bauer Edition Explorer which were so popular in that era.

Then it happened.  A crazy few years of upgrades.

Combined with some good sales quarters at IBM and a neighbor who was a GM at the Toyota dealer, I located the first car on the poster.  A BMW 320i Sedan.

Then 1999 hit - and for anyone selling computers pre-Y2K, there were some rich commissions being paid out. Exit BMW, enter a cherry red Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor!

A year and a half later, the Mercedes was traded on a bright blue Corvette.

Not sure why I bought a 2 seater in the Great White North, the next year I went back to a 4 seater, a yellow 1987 Porsche 911 Cabriolet.

With some nicer cars meant that I had to get some winter wheels - everything from a Volvo, Pathfinder and Jaguar XJ6 provided some winter comfort.  I even took over the lease of a Toyota Yaris hatchback because I was pounding on miles driving to work and with my kids.

Three vehicles, one motorcycle, one boat and a jetski for a single guy was not efficient.

Around the mid 2000's I decided to upgrade the Porsche to a 2000 model with the new body style - still yellow of course.  Also traded the Jaguar and Toyota into a 2000 Mercedes ML430 SUV. I still have the Mercedes and added another one - a 2010 Mercedes GL450 last year.

After moving to the U.S. in 2009 I felt it was my duty as a new American to buy a Harley - so there it was, a beautiful V-Rod with $5K in extra chrome and only 600 miles presented itself.  Did you know that Porsche designed the V-Rod engine?

After 40 vehicles in 15 years, I officially pumped the brakes.  We still have those three cars, 1 bike, a golf cart, and Boat. Michelle picked up a 2013 BMW 328i Convertible to round out the garage.

The Marine Life is Calling

Around the time I moved to Toronto from Winnipeg (2000), I also got a passion for the water.

I bought a Seadoo Speedster boat with 2 jet engines capable of 55 miles/hr in a 15 foot boat.  Within a year, I upgraded to a more reasonable 16 foot bowrider that didn't scare my children.

A few years later, after cruising the Trent-Severn, Rideau Canal and shooting up the St. Lawrence to Montreal, it was time to get a cruiser.  The Bayliner 2651 Cierra provided a couple of nice beds, a bathroom and some cooking abilities and we must have put 1000 hours on it.

Finally, the two-footitus set in and I upgraded to my dream boat - a Carver 350 Mariner - with leather seats, a big screen TV and ample room to live in summer comfort.  Parking it on the ocean in North Carolina provided the best moveable ocean-front property one could ask for.

Then in 2015, the reverse of two-footitus set in and it was time to downgrade into a boat where we could explore the North East United States without getting killed in gas money or repairs. The Carver was sold and a Bayliner 245 Ciera was purchased. Full story here:

History in Pictures

1964 Bridgestone 400cc Motorcycle

1976 Yamaha 400 Offroad Motorcycle

1982 Yamaha RD400 Motorcycle

1982 Yamaha IT125 Offroad Motorcycle

1987 Honda Hurricane CBR600 Motorcycle

1982 Chevrolet C1500 4x4 Truck

1986 Hyundai Stellar Sedan (Second vehicle)

1984 Yamaha 400 Motorcycle (Getting back and forth to Lethbridge more gas friendly than truck)

1994 Saturn SL1 Sedan (first new car!)

1994 Mazda MX-3 Precidia GS Coupe

1991 Honda Civic DX Sedan (second car)

1997 Ford Ranger Splash Truck

1995 Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer SUV

1992 BMW 320i Sedan

1999 Mercedes-Benz C230 Kompressor Sedan

1997 Honda CR-V SUV

1995 Seadoo Speedster Jet Boat

1995 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe (and Mila!)

2000 Dodge Caravan

2000 Scorpion 16ft Bowrider 60HP Boat

1987 Porsche 911 Convertible

1994 Volvo 850 Sedan

1997 Toyota Corolla Sedan (second car)

1995 Jaguar XJ6 Sedan

1998 Honda CR-V SUV

1990 Suzuki Sidekick ($1000 project car - rebuilt engine) - and Danica!

1994 Nissan Pathfinder SUV

2007 Toyota Yaris Hatchback (and Austin)

2007 Honda CBR125 Motorcycle

1990 Bayliner 2651 Cierra Boat

2006 Honda Accord V6 (Michelle's car before the deer incident)

1997 Carver 350 Mariner Yacht

2000 Mercedes ML430 SUV

2009 Audi A4 Quattro Convertible (Michelle's car)

2006 Seadoo RXT Jetski

2006 Harley Davidson V-Rod Motorcycle

2011 Honda Rancher 4x4 ATV

2000 Porsche 911 Convertible. 

2010 Mercedes GL450 SUV

Current Garage:

2018 Mercedes GLS 450 (purchased 2.12.23)

2013 BMW 328i Convertible (Michelle's car - purchased 6.2.18)

2008 Bayliner 245 Cierra Boat

2018 Honda CBR650F Motorcycle

2016 EZ-GO Golf Cart (Florida Life!)

History in Spreadsheet Format (yes, I track everything)