Thursday, March 13, 2008

We've Moved! + Other updates

With the help of my good friend Malcolm over the next few days, I've moved this blog over to after signing with my new host as well as moving over to a Wordpress platform. I'll be playing around with the layout and we'll see how that turns out.

However, my writing won't be interrupted in the meantime. Next up... a post on my experiences with reading David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) and implementing his system of organization and productivity along with some other tricks and "tech" I've learned before coming across his material. :)

Additionally, after several failed attempts at completing a fully-fledged tempo run in the gym (something about running around in circles that drives me nuts!), I opted to run outside in the blistering cold and just got back after completing my first successful tempo run!

- Will

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

40 Days to Freedom!

Exactly 40 days from now, I would have finished my last exam in my undergrad career. I've been in school for a LONG time, and it's time for me to move on to the next stage in my life.

I'll be posting my progress in terms of my understanding of Canadian Corporate Tax and Business Combinations in weekly updates. From here on in, it's making EVERY SINGLE DAY COUNT. By planning in advance and harnessing all of the resources I have at my disposal in order to get the best possible mark considering my poor performance of midterms until I write my last exam.

This is to be a public record to hold myself accountable so I can follow through on this commitment of focus and determination to overcome this last hurdle before graduation.

I am both anxious and excited of the outcome of this challenge.

- Will

Sunday, March 9, 2008

FREE Income Tax Returns for Canadian Students!

With tax season upon us, the majority of Canadian post-secondary students who don't know how or care to do their own taxes most likely decide to walk up to the local H&R Block cough up $30 to have their income tax return, compared to those fortunate enough have their parents, family member or friend do it for them.

For those of you who already know how to do your own taxes, did you know that you could file it online for free? With a partnership between and the Canadian Federation of Students, you can file your taxes online and on time for free can be found here.

As for those who aren’t fortunate of having their own taxes done for them, don’t despair! You can have your income taxes done for you for FREE through the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) run through volunteer initiatives supported by the Canada Revenue Agency.

After scouring the internet, here’s a list of free tax clinics that I found run by your school’s student union. (If your school isn’t listed, here are alternative services that are under the CVITP program if you follow this link)

Here are some common things to bring with you to make sure your return can be prepared:

* Photo I.D. and S.I.N
* Rent Receipts
* Medical Receipts
* Charitable Donation Receipts
* Public Transit Passes (Monthly or longer)

Information Slips
* T4, Statement of Remuneration Paid
* T4A, Statement of Pension, Retirement, Annuity, and Other Income
* T4E, Statement of Employment Income and Benefits
* T5007, Statement of Benefits
* T5, Statement of Investment Income
* 2005 Notice of Assessment for Tuition carry forward amount
* RC62, Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB)
* T2202A, Education Amount Certificate

Furthermore, I'm pretty sure you can attend any one of these free tax clinics even if you don't attend the school that's hosting the clinic, provided that you can prove that you're a student.

If I accidentally omitted your school and you know that your school does in fact have a free tax clinic, please post it in the comments so everyone can benefit! Thanks!

- Will

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Joy of Accepting Unexpected Offers

We Laugh [out]doors
Originally uploaded by [wicked and lazy]
In any given day, we are given countless opportunities to engage in something we didn’t expect. For one reason or another we are too immersed in our own lives to be aware of opportunities, and if we are aware we consciously block those opportunities rather than accepting them to create joy that arises from the spontaneity in everyday life.

I am deliberately being as general as possible here by using the word “something”, because opportunities or offers can come in any shape or form. It can stem from a smile from a stranger, which can warrant you starting a rewarding conversation to being chosen to be interviewed at random and being asked “do you touch yourself at work?” (I’ll explain this later on… :)

Now to be explicitly clear, we’re not talking about unwelcome offers that are a threat to your own safety or are outside of your values and belief system; rather, I’m talking about the type that are non-threatening that you’ve determined and feel you can engage in fully with joy, ease and lightness.

The rule of thumb of your own acceptability of an offer or opportunity should be “Does this threaten or harm me? If not, can I have fun from this offer/opportunity?” If you’ve said no to the former and yes to the latter, then you can begin experience the joy of accepting unexpected offers!

What do you mean by “accepting an offer”?

The inspiration of this article comes from my improv (improvisational comedy) training at The Second City. I use the concepts I learned from my improv training to add more fun to my everyday interactions. The main concept or “technique” in order to create a scene or in this case, an interaction, and move it forward is to accept offers.

Accepting an offer is simply saying this statement to yourself (verbally or in your head) in the skit/scene or in this case real life, “Yes, and…”. The point of the “Yes anding” something is to heighten and explore the scene.

An example of this technique in action in a scene would be:

Mike: “Hey Franz, did you want catch the Patriots game with me and Geetha tonight? We have an extra ticket because August bailed on us”

Franz: “Yeah, and we can all pretend to be Manchester United fans talk with an English accent, bring horns to be loud as possible and try to convert Patriots fans to the real football!”

Here, you can see that Franz has accepted Mike’s offer and heightened and explored it. It may seem absurd, but the sheer fact of trying to convert hardcore Patriots fans to the “real football” amidst insulting American beer as a drink for girls can be daunting and well… fun! If Mike and Geetha are willing, they can further “yes anding” Fred, with the end result being fun, spontaneity and havoc ensuing!

How you can apply this in everyday life

A few weeks ago, I was walking towards the men’s change room to get changed for my tempo run. As I was walking I looked into one of the Studios at the school gym where I go for training. As I looked in, I saw a room full of women who were doing some sort of Tae-Bo like cardio workout program, where the instructor enthusiastically invited me (a complete stranger) to join in.

After asking myself, “Does this threaten or harm me? If not, can I have fun from this offer/opportunity?” and determined that the offer was safe and fun (alongside my utter inability to turn down offers of this nature). I fully committed to the offer and as a result, had a fun and amazing workout that was even better than the tempo run I originally planned for.

“Do you touch yourself at work?”

Just the other day, when I was walking towards the library to get some studying done for one of my accounting courses, I was stopped by a scruffy looking reporter holding a microphone with his cameraman.

What happened afterwards went along the lines of this:

Reporter: “Hey, do you have a minute to answer a few questions?”

Me: “umm.. sure.. what did you want to ask?”
Reporter: “We wanted to ask you a few things about your job”
Me: “hmm.. okay…
Reporter: “Where do you work?”
Me: “I’m not at liberty to say” (because I’m not supposed to divulge details like that)
Reporter: “Do you hate your job?”
Me: “Well, I wouldn’t say that I hate it but, it’s unrewarding and unfulfilling…”
Reporter: “So you hate your job then.”
Me: (taking a clue here and accepting the offer) “Yeah, I hate my job”
Reporter: “Why do you hate your job, though? Does your job entail you having to touch anyone?”
Me: “Haha. NO.
Reporter: “Do you touch yourself at work then?”
Me: “Yeah...sometimes…*shifty-eye + big toothy grin*”

Obviously that isn’t the truth, but I had effectively heightened and explored the interaction by accepting his offer by employing self-deprecating humour with the outcome being laughs shared by all.

*** Note *** I don’t condone using self-deprecating humour all the time as you want people to laugh with you not laugh at you, through my experiences and training I deemed it appropriate to do so.

After the interview, I found out they were shooting for a promotional campaign for Staples Business Depot up here in Canada, posting their mini-interviews on their website and was given a $20 gift certificate for my time all from a quick 2 minute interaction. Not too shabby huh?(I’ll link to the interview when it goes live).

As you can see, above are examples from my own life of accepting unexpected offers. I feel that our time on earth too short to be drowned under the crush of waves that we call “life”. By employing this basic improv technique, you can create a sense of joy along sharing it with others by putting smiles on faces of people you interact with that will be guaranteed to resonate throughout the day.

Have you ever used the technique of “yes anding” unknowingly and “going with it”? Were there any situations in hindsight that you could have done so? Let me know in the comments!

If you learned anything or liked this article, please Digg it. I appreciate your readership :)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Fitness Update #4: Back in Business and Surpassed 10K :)

I'm back in business and with the help of my new Mizuno Wave Nirvana 2's, I was able to run 10K within 1 hour and 3 minutes, shin splint free! :)

My run went a little something like this: My heart was pounding, eardrums were thumping to the beat of Justice's "Phantom Pt. II". My feet felt so alive, with the rhythm of my breath matched with the cadence of my stride. My lungs filled to capacity and exhaled fully in the crisp -1 degree celsius evening air. I was totally present, "in state" and in the zone. I felt powerful with every stride during my cool down.

With respect to my cross training, I'm up to swimming 24 lengths consecutively, which is a major jump since the 8 laps I started with during my first semester. Swimming is my other fitness vice, where I can become totally present and get into state, focusing on being efficient as possible with every stroke as I glide through the water. And I'm using some elements of the P90X workout program to increase my core body strength, while I save up for the PowerBlock weight system and a pull-up bar for use at home.

Anyway, here's the route that I took, which was supposed to be done two weeks ago, had I not developed shin splints.

- Will

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fitness Update #3: Running a tight ship

Originally uploaded by eduardo.peiro

Since my last update, I've been swamped with studying for midterms after fully making use of Reading Week (March break for us Canadians) by reading :) The level of focus, clarity with what needs to be covered in my Consolidations and Corporate Tax courses has taken precedence of what would normally be training regularly for my half-marathon. But for anyone else during these times that require intense focus, you shouldn't drop everything that isn't related to my studies.

While I don't have my new running shoes that I ordered from eBay in my possession yet, I've supplemented some of my long and tempo runs by cross training with swimming. So far I'm up to 22 lengths consecutively, where I add an extra lap for each week.

Squeezing in a workout during midterms is challenging but not impossible. It doesn't need to be a full fledged workout. It can be a brisk 30 minute jog, a few laps around the pool to get the heart pumping or some core body work for the abs. You just need to keep in mind your priorities and stick to your schedule.

I've been experimenting with Parkinson's Law and Pareto's Principle (80/20 rule) just not just studying for midterms in order to increase my productivity but all areas of my life as well. So far, it's working great, but I need to be conscious of these principles as well as visual reminders of those principles. The results have been positive so far, and I'll explore these concepts further in a future post.

Why I insist on training during studies is that it keeps my mind sharp and my energy level up in order to what I need to get accomplished despite having a full day's worth of studying, and more... which reminds me - I have to go to the pool now. :)

I've got some awesome articles on cultivating charisma, leadership and improv coming down the pipeline. Stay tuned!

- Will

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

6 Hacks to Quit Smoking Once and For All

I Quit
Originally uploaded by adrianadesigner
If you’re a smoker, how many times have you tried to kick the nasty habit of smoking only to succumb to the supposed ‘pleasures’ or ‘enjoyment’ of nicotine running through your veins? Probably more than 3 times would be a conservative estimate. I’m sure all current and ex-smokers can relate through their struggles of kicking the habit.

As an ex-smoker myself, I have tried to kick the habit for a total of 6 times. At my heaviest period of smoking after starting at the ripe age of 19 until 24, I was going through a pack every two days. Needless to say, I didn’t feel that great after feeding my lungs with cancer sticks. It was that 6th time, I decided to try something drastically different.

Being sick of the disappointment of crawling back to cigarettes as my outlet for releasing stress., whenever I felt stress coming on, I’d immediately reach for my pack of cigarettes and if I didn’t have any on me, my eyes would automatically scan for any smokers in my vicinity in order to buy a smoke off of them. I found this behaviour to be extremely problematic and disturbing, and sought after ‘extreme’ measures to address this problem. I desperately wanted to reclaim my health and fitness back.

Here are the 6 Hacks of Effectively Kicking the Smoking Habit:

1. Undertake Hypnosis sessions - Yup, you read it right. Hypnosis. While hypnosis to many sounds hokey, creepy or is brushed off as an illegitimate science, bare with me for a moment. I decided to take hypnosis sessions. As I’m a highly experimental person and I use myself as a guinea pig for anything self-improvement related. Only after determining the safety risks are nil would I recommend it to anyone else. I knew of an acquaintance of mine, Luke Chao who is a Certified Hypnotherapist and runs The Morpheus Clinic, which happened to be steps away from my school.

Apparently his claim to fame was that he successfully performed hypnotherapy on a relatively well known Porn Actress named Sydnee Steele to kick her habit of smoking. Her testimonial is still on his website. Without going into too much detail, I determined it was a safe environment and most importantly it worked after 3 sessions for me. If you can afford the upfront costs (about $80 per session for students) it will save you your health a whole lot of money as the temptations of smoking are drastically reduced. Most importantly, however, you have to WANT to quit smoking and make a commitment to yourself. If you genuinely enjoy smoking, then you’ll be hard pressed kick the habit.

2. Gradually ease into it - For the heavier smokers out there, this here's technique that helped me drastically cut down my consumption - I simply refused to buy packs of cigarettes as I know having full access wouldn't be a constructive way of kicking the habit.

Take your time and don't beat yourself up if you cave in. Expect it, as it will happen and know that it won't happen another time as it may well be a bit of a struggle to quit smoking on hypnosis or willpower alone.

Perhaps taking resorting to nicotine alternatives such as Nicorette gum or the nicotine patch will help curb your cravings so you can wean yourself off of smoking altogether. Be sure to see if these methods poses any health risks to you before deciding to choose this as an option.

For any of this to work, you need to set a timeline for yourself, let’s say quit smoking within 3 months. You need all of your progress to be clear, specific and most importantly measurable. I had the help of my old blog at the time to keep track of my progress.

If, however, you do succumb to the urge, you can buy a cigarette off someone for a dollar, and keep track of how much you’re spending through your buying ONE cigarette at a time. The amount that you spend will astound and appall you.

3. Avoid social smoking situations
- what I mean by this is that if you started smoking as a social activity, like myself, you might want to avoid these situations altogether. When your friends/colleagues invite you to join them for a smoke, politely say "No, I'm quitting smoking, I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from". No harm no foul. You didn't insult your friends/peer group and you saved yourself from falling into a situation where you're more susceptible to caving in due to peer pressure.

4. Join a quit smoking program - they’re FREE and they’re there to help and support your journey to kicking the habit and most likely they’ll have contests and prizes as an added incentive to join and follow through.

Throughout all of the province of Ontario (Canada), post-secondary institutions have what is called the “Leave the Pack Behind Program” (LTPB) which is launched at the beginning of each semester. They do regular checkups with breathalyzers that measure the amount of carbon monoxide in your breath and can detect minute traces of it to determine whether you’ve smoked or not.

I had joined this program and a won $200 tuition credit for my school, a ton of prizes and had a party for all winters just for following through on that commitment to my health. How freakin’ cool is that??

5. Get Accountability Buddies - If you don’t have a quit smoking program in your area, have Accountability Buddies. Make sure that they are super supportive of you, give you constructive feedback, will grill you if you don’t follow through and most importantly WANT you to kick the habit.

I had my friend Frank Whitestone support me through the LTPB Program, where he would check up on me regularly to see how I was doing. Having Accountability Buddies was actually one of the requirements to join, but having Accountability Buddies works equally well if you don’t have access to a similar program, where the only prize you get is your health back.. but you can't put a price on that.

6. Leverage through exercise – you can gain more leverage for your crusade towards destroying the habit of smoking by exercising regularly and working towards a specific outcome. While it certainly isn’t easy when you’re coughing and wheezing after running around for a few minutes, exercising can very well be be the final nail in the coffin to your quitting smoking.

It was my decision to train for a marathon that effectively nullified any thoughts of smoking. I took massive action and cut out anything and everything that was a detriment to my training as nothing would come between my focus and vision of crossing the finish line, healthy and smoke free. While training for a marathon may not tickle everyone’s fancy, taking up something that forces you work your lungs be it a sport or an activity – anything physical that gets your heart pumping and your lungs expanding should seal the deal in your quest to quit smoking.

As I mentioned in point 1, you have to WANT to quit smoking and give it everything you’ve got. Think about all the pain in the future you’ll have to endure when you’re suffering from lung cancer awaiting treatments in your hospital bed. If you imagine potential reality vividly as if it were REAL, I can guarantee it will scare the living daylights out of you and you’ll look at cigarettes in a different light.

Keep in mind, however, that the process to quit smoking will vary from person to person, whether you decide to take massive action to kick the habit like I did or combine any of the approaches I described above, you’ll be on your way to a much healthier future for yourself!

So to recap, the ways that you can effectively squash the habit are to:

  • Hypnosis
  • Ease yourself into it and measure your progress
  • Avoid social smoking situations
  • Quit smoking programs
  • Have accountability buddies
  • Exercise!

Let me know in the comments section of your experiences with quitting smoking. If you’re a non-smoker, share your experiences of your friends who smoke and how dealt with the situation and how you can a part of their support network!

If you learned anything or liked this article, please Digg it. I appreciate your readership :)