My mother is almost 90 now. One of her many grandchildren is about 30. About 10 years ago they struck up a conversation which has yet to come to an end. John calls my mother from Saskatoon (and more recently Halifax) EVERY SUNDAY for about an hour.

When I build personal or commercial brands I look for the operational advantage: what a person or an organization is willing and able to do consistently well over time.

Chance favors those who are prepared

For years my parents toured North America by car two or three weeks at a time. After my father died I found two of his packing lists. One is a bit longer than the other.
My guess is that these list are about 20 years old now and that they were used by my parents for at least thirty years.

In October I'm going to New Zealand. I'm using the tried and true long list as my own 2010 flight-check starting point 50 years after it was written. It's that good!

Here's my father's list in the order it was originally written. "Don't leave home with-out it."

Passport, Glasses, Sunglasses, Street-map, Pad, Pencil, Camera, Binoculars, Radio, Calculator, TV, Compass, Flashlight, Magnifying glass, CDN. $500., U.S. $1,000., Toiletries, Sewing kit, Towel, Suspenders, Socks, Kleenex, Tobacco, Pipe, Antibiotic cream, Hand cream, Pullover, Windbreaker, Underwear, Bathing suit, Goggles, Rainwear, Shoes, Hat, Air-mattress, Blankets, Ground-sheet, Stove, Electric Stove, Thermos, Pots, Auto-repair tools, Motor oil, Top oil, Tire pressure 30PSI, Gas, Bucket, Sponge, Cooler, Flippers, Bible, Books, Pendulum, Suit-case, Sun-hat, Pocket-knife, Long pants, Shirts, Pillow, Car Wax, Vitamins.


Charlie is an urban hunter who specializes in hunting tennis balls. I take him to overgrown fields and woodlands that surround many community tennis courts. "Where's the ball" puts charlie into hunting mode. He blindly follows his sensitive nose which is just an inch off the ground while his tail's wagging action tells me how close he is to his little round quarry. I'm always amazed at where he finds the balls, how many he finds and how fast he finds them. When we work as a team we find even more balls because I am taller, have full colour eye-sight and am able to retrieve balls he finds but can't get at. Charlie and I employ the same basic complimentary hunting skills Charlie and my ancestors used when they first met at the dawn of time. Sometimes it's hard to trust someone who is very different from who you are, how you are, or how you think, but the rewards can be incredible!

charles june 2012


While Charlie sniffed the base of a tall flower, I looked at the blossom in which three ants were marching around gathering nectar. While those ants may have known how to work together to bring the nectar back to their nest, I know they had no idea of the size and complexity of the garden in which their flower grew, that Charlie was sniffing at the stem of their flower or that I was watching the whole show.

Seeing how tiny and irrelevant those three ants and their flower were in the context of the world as I knew it made me wonder about how irrelevant my thoughts and actions are in the bigger picture - and who might be watching me watching the ants and Charlie.

Sharp Knives

My Father was a Cabinet maker who began his apprenticeship in Germany when he was 14. Part of his apprenticeship included making tools and keeping them sharp. when I lived at home you could shave with many of our kitchen knives as well as all of my father's wood-working tools. He died of Parkinson disease. As the disease progressed his mind and his tools lost the razor edge they had held for more than 70 years. Today the knives in our kitchen are like those found in most kitchens: dull. The knives - like the memory of my father are all there - but they just aren't as sharp as they used to be.