Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Cultivate non-obvious trends for a business boost"/ Asheesh Avandi

Jan. 9, 2017 "Cultivate non-obvious trends for a business boost": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail:

If you like poking around to find interesting ideas that might offer business opportunities, this may be the time to try your hand at trend curation.

Rohit Bhargava, a Washingtonbased marketing consultant who began publishing a list of important trends in 2011, starts his annual search about now, systematically tracking signals that can help illuminate the currents around us.

It may seem easy when you get started, since there are lots of obvious trends. But he considers cataloguing those as lazy. He urges you to join him in finding nonobvious trends, things that aren’t being noticed and can only be pieced together through creative detective work.

He points to virtual reality, which is often cited as a trend. But he insists it’s actually not a trend – it exists. Instead, he built on that to focus attention on a trend he calls virtual empathy: The improved quality and lower costs for virtual reality allows creators to tell more immersive stories and see the world from another point of view. Mobility is a commonly cited trend these days, thanks to technology. “That’s so obvious. And it’s not particularly useful. I look at how a trend will change things tomorrow,” he says in an interview. In his book Non Obvious 2017: How to Think Different, Curate Ideas and Predict the Future, he says “a great trend is a unique curated observation about the accelerating present.”

He notes that collecting is a common human activity. Collecting and, more importantly, curating ideas, adds meaning to the noise around us just as museum curators through their themes and insight “add meaning to isolated beautiful things.”

He outlines five habits of trend curators: being curious, observant, fickle, thoughtful and elegant.

Of course, being curious, observant and thoughtful are obvious. But fickle? “That’s not generally seen as positive. But the key is not to dwell on things too long. Capture ideas, but be willing to move on and let the connections come with time,” he advises in the interview. That requires being disciplined, keeping records of all the snippets you notice, so you can return to them. As for elegance, he traces that back to his years as an English major, studying poetry. You want to say what you mean in a simple but understandable (and catchy) way. He follows what he calls “The Haystack Method.”

But you are not searching for the needle in the haystack. Instead, you are gathering the hay – ideas and stories – and then using them to define a trend, the needle, which gives meaning to them collectively. You gather the hay and create the needle. There are five steps:

Gathering: You want to save interesting ideas. This sounds effortless – haphazard browsing. But he found it requires great discipline. He is constantly putting stickies on good ideas in books, ripping out magazine pages to put in files and printing out what he sees on the Web. As a keynote speaker, he takes notes on the interesting ideas in the other talks at the gatherings he attends;

Aggregating: You now need to curate those ideas into clusters of bigger themes after you have a substantial collection. What is the underlying human need they point to? How is this same phenomenon affecting multiple different industries? He’ll usually come up with 60 to 70 topics before whittling them down to his annual 15 trends;

Elevating: This is the most difficult, but vital, step – making the broader connections that allow for non-obvious insights. His house has a room the family calls the “Thanksgiving Room,” since it’s primarily used by everyone on that day, but when curating he creates piles for his material on the long table and does his sorting and thinking there. His wife will find him staring at the piles for hours, pondering. “It’s creativity. But it’s trying to have enough discipline to combine and simplify. It’s easy to combine and make things more complex. But making it simpler is tough,” he says;

Naming: The poetry buff urges you to create elegant descriptions. Unexpected connections help, as in this year’s “authentic fame-seekers,” which jolts since we don’t think of those notions going together;

Proving: Maybe you have some trends, maybe not. Validate before telling the world. He tests them on colleagues and friends. If the trends are solid, it also should be easy to find more examples as you now check around, conducting further research. If he can’t find it, the notion is dropped.

Give it a try. Who knows what you will unearth? If it’s nonobvious, it could be very helpful. In the meantime, we’ll look at his 2017 trends next week.

The Ladder: Asheesh Avandi: Today I found this in the Globe and Mail:

Asheesh Advani, 45, is president and chief executive officer of Junior Achievement Worldwide, one of the largest NGOs in the world, dedicated to educating young people about financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work-force readiness.

I was born in India and spent my first six years there. My father worked for IBM and applied for a transfer to Canada. We came as a family and settled in Toronto. I think the fact that I was born in India has always made me interested in global affairs. In my current role, I travel globally because we provide programs to students and young entrepreneurs in over 100 countries.

When I was in school, being an entrepreneur wasn’t a popular thing to do. It was more popular to be interested in law and politics. I attended the University of Toronto Schools (UTS), and was naturally drawn to things which allowed me to do debate and public speaking in school. But I ended up doing some creative projects and programs like Junior Achievement, which got me interested in the idea of entrepreneurship.

I believe anybody can be an entrepreneur. I genuinely believe that. In my current role, I see so many young people who may not have the natural skill set or risk profile to forgo a steady income, yet – either by necessity or by genuine desire about an idea – they pursue it. Particularly in Western Europe and in North America, being a social entrepreneur – someone who is building products and businesses to solve social problems – is not only popular but deeply motivating. Young people are gravitating towards social entrepreneurship.

When I was younger, I had a major stutter. When I moved from India to Canada, I literally couldn’t get a sentence out without stuttering. So every Wednesday after school I went to speech therapy at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto. I did it for many years, and one of the exercises that the therapists made me practise was impromptu speaking. It made me focus on how you can change words very rapidly in your mind if you know you’re going to stutter on the next word. I think that skill set has been so valuable to me over the years. In retrospect, I’m bizarrely happy I went through that experience.

I’m really excited about the ability we have to impact as many young people as we do. It’s a very motivating, powerful thing. There is nothing more empowering than meeting young people who are building businesses and social enterprises. It gives you hope for the future and takes away any shred of pessimism that you have.

The way we think of jobs has been redefined. You may choose to do something entrepreneurial, fail at that – or succeed in a modest way – and then you’ll still be hired elsewhere based on the skills that you bring to the table. And then you might get tired of that job, or just find something better. Hopping around with a portable skill set is the future.

One of the most critical skills that young people need for the work force of the future is learnability – the ability and willingness to learn new things. There will be so much change and many of the jobs of the future have not been created yet. For most people, the idea of a job for life is gone. The average young person today will have up to 20 jobs over the course of their career. I think this fact is underappreciated in today’s education system.

I feel very Canadian. I think you can tell someone’s true loyalty based on who they root for in the Olympics. I’ve been living in the U.S. for over 15 years now, but for winter Olympic hockey there is no doubt that my loyalties are Canadian.

My 11-year-old twin boys are very sporty. They play soccer on three teams and have games on both days of the weekend. So come what may, I’m home every weekend. One way to maintain work-life balance is to try to really be present when you’re home.

When I meet someone new, I like to ask about their family. I’m actually really interested in people’s family life. You learn so much about a person by how they talk about their family. You learn about their values and can see their eyes light up when they talk about some element they’re really proud of. So it’s an important part of how I connect with people.

"My co-worker yells at me"/ "My wife is dying. Would a prospective employer hire me?"

Sept. 12, 2016 "My coworker yells at me because of his own incompetence. What do I do?": I found this article in David Eddie's advice column.  This is a job advice and should have been in the business section of the newspaper.

The question

I have been working with a colleague for over six months. He is a receptionist, with lots of great experience. He is really good at what he does and everyone at the workplace likes him. Since my workplace is a small operation, he has to do some financial reporting. One of my responsibilities is to critique his work. I know he is not an expert in this area, so I have been pretty easy on him and never blamed him for his errors. But whenever he starts getting frustrated, he yells at me or gives me attitude. I have tried different ways to discuss his errors with him, but the situation does not improve. I am not his boss or supervisor, and this is also my first job. I don’t want to tell our supervisor because it will look like I am telling on him.

The answer

I know exactly how you feel and have been in similar situations many times. I think most people have.

It’s hard to know how to deal with a nasty and/or incompetent co-worker. One’s first impulse is to be noble and take Robert De Niro’s advice to young, would-be gangster Ray Liotta in Goodfellas: “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut.”

(I love the gangsterish redundancy of that – “always keep your mouth shut” obviously would’ve covered it.)

But, well, my feelings on the matter have evolved over the years. I remember bouncing along in the bus on my way to my first real job, as a reporter for a tiny newspaper on Long Island called The East Hampton Star, the callow and jejune 22-year-old David Eddie, thinking: “My policy will be not only will I honestly admit to my mistakes, but will nobly ‘fall on the grenade’ sometimes for my colleagues and take responsibility for theirs.”

When my colleagues found out this was my policy, they started dumping their mistakes on me wholesale, and I was out of a job by the end of the summer.
Point being, your first duty is to yourself, and quite often, your colleagues will turn out to be unworthy of your scrupulous unwillingness to rat them out.

Get fired, then see what a pal this guy turns out to be. How worthy he was of your scruples. How quickly he returns your calls.

In other words, if he’s compromising your reputation or ability to perform your work properly, you need to protect yourself.

And here I’ll sound like a right little snitch, but you have a duty also to your boss and the company. They pay your bills, hello?

They need to know if there’s a weak link or a problem – especially in a small company.
This may seem like an obscure point, but bear with me: I recently read a very provocative and interesting book called Sapiens by Yuval Harari. It’s a weighty tome, full of thoughts and facts and history, but his essential thesis is this: The main reason behind the supremacy of homo sapiens over all other species (including bigger, faster hominids) is our ability to organize into large groups and accomplish things as a team.

He uses the odd example of nuclear weapons, which as he points out require co-operation from thousands of homo sapiens all across the planet – to mine the uranium, design the weapons, manufacture, oversee, etc.

But for a large co-operative entity (a “corporation”) such as that to function, you need lots of communication and information – especially about where to find the weak links, bottlenecks, obstructions and underperformers. And that information, Harari claims, tends to be conveyed via the medium of gossip.

In other words, gossip – especially gossip about underperforming members of a co-operative group – is hugely responsible for the success of our species.
(I suppose gossip about who’s shagging whom has an evolutionary function too, but he doesn’t really go into that.)

Therefore I would say not to feel too guilty about your urge to rat this guy out to your boss. It’s in your DNA! It’s for the good of the co-operative unit – your company.
Slight caveat, though: You say, “He does a really good job and everyone likes him.” Also that he has a lot of experience and it’s your first job.

So some humility and reflection is called for. Could it be that you’re in the wrong, and/or taking the wrong tack with him? And that you might be shooting yourself in the foot by complaining?

I don’t have enough information to pronounce on this score, but take a long look at the woman in the mirror before you act.

P.S. He “yells” at you? I hope that’s an exaggeration. Yelling’s out. That alone would propel me into the boss’s office to spill the beans.

Document, document, document. Cover yourself.

Donalda Duck
People who lack confidence often drag others down with them to make themselves look better and in this case it's you. I rarely agree with Dave, but in this instance I have to. If this person is impeding your ability to do your job effectively, you must protect yourself. Document everything, file it with a supervisor of yours and keep yourself "clean" in it all. Do it right, and don't let this person kill your career along with theirs.

I would definitely emphasize humility. Whenever you do approach your bosses/supervisor on this issue, preface your comments as you do in your letter. Note that 1) its your first job and hence you come with some hesitation, 2) you commend this guys work as a secretary and like him as a person, and 3) you understand his primary role is not in finance. That said, he is making mistakes and getting frustrated about it and it is having a negative impact on you and might have one on the company. Easy peasy. Imagine if you were the boss, wouldn't you want to know. Many people complain about management, but how can we expect people to manage when they don't have all of the information they should at hand. It takes us to ensure that they do.

Dec. 13, 2016 "My wife is dying.  Would a prospective employer hire me?": I cut out this article in the Globe and Mail on Mar. 9, 2015.  This was in the business section:

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine to Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to


My spouse is facing a terminal illness and I am her only caregiver.
My employer has allowed me to work from home some days, and on others I have taken a vacation day just to keep an eye on her. But my employer's actions have been less than supportive.

They expect me to not to miss deadlines despite emergencies at home, and set unrealistic goals that do not take into account my situation. Even without my home issues, the stress of my job has been taking its toll on my health. I need to look for work before my health degenerates further or I am fired.

My question is: Would a prospective employer take on an employee with a difficult shortterm situation?


Bill Howatt President of Howatt HR Consulting, Kentville, N.S.

Most employers have empathy for employees in your situation, and it appears even your employer has made some efforts to accommodate you. At the core of this issue is that each employer defines what they believe is fair, reasonable and what they can afford.

If you are looking for time off without pay versus time off with pay, these are two different requests. It appears you are looking for an employer who can accommodate your needs on short notice and who will pay you whether you are working or not.

When the stakes are high, it is valuable to step back and define exactly what you want from your employer. Write out your answer and be detailed. Then you will have framed your expectation for time off and money.

Before looking for another job, it is worth meeting with HR and
your manager. They know you are in a tough situation but they may be unaware of how you are feeling. If you have skills they value, they may be open to exploring what else they can do for you. Having a track record can be helpful in these kinds of cases.

Before adding more change to your life, this may be a prudent thing to do.
There are certainly lots of employers out there who care deeply about their employees.
However, as a new employee, it may be difficult to find an employer who is willing to compensate you if you are not able work within defined parameters.

Organizations create benefits programs to protect employees' income within limits they can afford. Insurance companies provide critical health and disability insurance to help employees bridge income gaps when their benefits run out or do not cover such situations. In your case, you will need to decide what you can afford to do, regardless of what your current or new employer is willing to do.


Kyle Couch President of Spectrum Organizational Development, Toronto

Caregivers in the workplace are becoming more common than many people realize. Therefore, more companies are developing programs and work policies to retain and attract talented employees who also have caregiver responsibilities.

While there is not a definitive list of employers that will be more supportive, be on the lookout for companies that tout programs to promote work-life balance, including parental support, flextime programs, and work-at-home potential. These companies all tend to take a long-term view of their employees, understanding that situations and lives change.
If you do pursue a new job, be sure your prospective employer is aware of the demands on your time, and get their commitment for support and flexibility.

Monday, January 16, 2017

"There is a second act"/ "Can you make money going back to school?"

Jan. 13, 2016 "There is a second act": I cut out this article by Craig and Marc Kielburger.  Here is another article about getting a meaningful career: 

Joanna Bowen had to start over in her late 30s. The job she loved for 13 years in international development was abruptly eliminated, and she feared there would be nothing else like it.

“It shook my core about my life and what my purpose was,” she told us.

After hunting in vain for a meaningful new gig, Bowen made the brave decision to go back to school. She pursued a longtime passion at Vancouver’s Institute of Holistic Nutrition. In a classroom abuzz with youthful energy, learning how to boost people’s health through food, her spark was re-lit.

“I had direction again,” Bowen says. “I felt I was alive.”

Millennials aren’t the only generation seeking meaning in the workplace. More than two-thirds of Canadians take a fork in their career paths at some point, and almost half change fields three times or more, according to a 2014 Workopolis survey. It’s a bold move that involves significant sacrifices of time, money and security—and it’s not solely driven by job loss.

Going back to school is an opportunity to re-educate yourself for an occupation that’s infused with purpose, so you gain much more than just a paycheque.

Karen Graham knows this well. The pharmaceutical consultant who lives in Orillia, Ont., has gone back to school twice—the first time was to be a career counsellor and life coach, helping others transition to rewarding new jobs. “People are waking up and asking, ‘Is this really how I want to spend a third of my life?’”

Graham guides clients so they find careers that make use of their passions and interests—and feel every day they’re contributing to more than just a retirement fund.

Three years ago, Graham walked her own talk. She enrolled at the local campus of Georgian College for certification as an addictions counsellor. At 54, she was the oldest person in the class. But she was rejuvenated by the younger students and the potential to earn a living supporting others.

We spend the majority of our waking hours at work, for four decades or more of our lives. Why not get paid and feel like you’re giving back at the same time?

In the U.S., organizations like ReServe and and are popping up to link experienced workers from the 55+ set with new careers serving their communities. Laid-off experts in information technology are now showing local charities how to build databases, and accountants have taken early retirement to teach financial literacy to low-income individuals.

While Canadians await similar groups, they can use the federal government’s “lifelong learning plan” to make a withdrawal from their RRSPs to finance a return to school. Ontario also has a “second career program” that pays tuition and living costs for mid-career workers seeking retraining in a new direction. Check out what’s available in your province.

Carole Angus made the switch from goldsmith to special education teacher all on her own, one course at a time. She took a low-paying, part-time job as a classroom assistant in an inner-city Toronto school to be sure her new path was the right one. Then she plowed slowly through her degree program.

“My jewellery career was leaving me empty somehow,” she remembers. “But as a teacher, my work mattered. I knew I could do this for the rest of my life.”

Back in Vancouver, Joanna Bowen has launched a new online nutrition clinic. “Running my own business is scary but exhilarating,” she beams. “I get to help people bring their body and mind to full capacity.”

Bowen now knows it’s not only pinto beans and avocados that maximize human potential, but also having a career with purpose. It’s amazing what one can learn, at any age, by going back to school.

Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger founded a platform for social change that includes the international charity Free The Children, the social enterprise Me to We and the youth empowerment movement We Day. Find out more at

"Can you make money going back to school?": I cut out this article by Garry Marr in the Edmonton Journal on Sept. 29, 2015: 

There was a price to be paid for going back to school and Susan MacDonald was willing to pay it.

The 54-year-old registered psychologist gave it all up at 35 —  her job and her marriage — to go back to school and pursue a dream she’d always had.

“I was a single mom with two little kids. I left my husband to go back to university because he told me I had one degree and that was (all I was) allowed to have. I used to be an accountant in the oilpatch until I realized how much I hated the work I did. So I went to back school. I got fantastic grades, I excelled and I loved it,” said MacDonald, who now specializes in career counselling as part of of an overall practice that deals with personal counselling and corporate services. “I feel like I’ve never worked a day in my life (since). My work is pure joy.”

The school year has started again and for some older Canadians the decision has been made to go back to further their education and career. There is little doubt they are in the minority on most university and college campuses.

A research paper from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario published in 2011 found 9.7 per cent of people in the province aged 25 to 64 participated in a college education program, and 10.1 per cent of respondents participated in a university education program.

CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal said the value of education has been declining relative to the cost, but noted that some degrees like engineering, math, computer sciences and commerce pay for themselves, compared to a high school diploma, even after considering tuition.

Tal said the argument about going back to school after you are in the workforce is more complex because you are probably giving up salary in prime income years.

“It’s not really that school won’t pay for (itself), it is the degree that you choose,” Tal said. “When you go as an adult to do an MA in history, that might not help you (economically).”

For most professions, it’s difficult to calculate how much going back to school will directly affect your salary. Some companies or unionized jobs, such as teaching, may offer specific bonuses or promotions based on higher education, a benefit that is worth taking into account when calculating the cost of taking time away from work.

As an aside, it can make even more sense for women to go back to school than men. “It’s because the income women are giving up is lower than men,” Tal said, adding that if you have no income and are unemployable, the decision to seek more education becomes a lot easier.

For people leaving a job to go back to school, planning how to manage cash flow during time out of the work force is an important consideration says Tony Salgado, manager of tax and estate planning at Investor’s Group.

“You need to know what your expected cash flow outflow will be. But you also need to review your net worth to see what your options are for paying for that school,” he said.

One of the first things people think about is pulling money of their Registered Retirement Savings Plan via the Lifelong Learning Plan. Over five years, you can pull out $20,000 without the money being taxed, but it must be paid back in 10 years.

“You really need to be mindful of what is your taxable income in the year where you are  withdrawing the monies and what … your marginal tax rate (will be) when you have to recontribute the money back into your RRSP,” Salgado said.

Another option is to finance your education using debt.

“It’s very cheap to access debt. A line of credit might charge you three per cent. So what’s the opportunity cost of taking that money out of your RRSP (instead),” he said, adding some people seek family loans.

But there is more to the decision than money. The key to going back to school and making it worthwhile is choosing the right degree, said Alan Kearns, the founder of

“The right education has never been more valuable and the wrong education has never been more expensive,” he said. “It’s easy to go back to school because there are lots of options. The real issue is the program you choose.”

Kearns advises people to do a thorough analysis of their situation, looking not just at salary, but also whether a career change will make them happier.

The likelihood of success is another important consideration before you decide to go back to school. Kearns said the goal should be the top 20 per cent of your chosen program.

“If you are in the bottom 80 per cent of any program, it’s not going to be that easy to find a new role,” he said.

Other things Kearns recommends considering when switching careers are your talents, your passion, the kind of environment you want to work in and your lifestyle. “You need to look at these things multidimensionally. You look at only two things and those people end up not as happy,” he said.

One back-to-school scenario that might inspire older Canadians to pull the trigger on education might be a buyout or severance package at the end of a career.

“You could use that and say ‘I’m thinking of this as a gift. I don’t have to worry about money. My mortgage is paid off, my kids have moved out and I’ve always wanted to do this,’ ” Kearns said.

The career move paid off financially for MacDonald, but the psychologist stresses that when she counsels people she tells them that going back to school shouldn’t be solely about making more money.

“If you find your passion, the money will follow. The top three dissatisfied professionals I see in my practice are lawyers, engineers and accountants,” she said.

“People sometimes throw time and money into educational program that are not who they are.”

Feb. 10, 2016 Public Outreach: I'm looking for a job and I remember this.  I applied there before way back in 2010, but then I got a job at my restaurant.  I don't really want to go up to people ask them to donate to charity.  I write about charities on my blog and then you can click on the link so you can donate.  Here's what it says on the website:

Public Outreach Fundraising is an international face to face fundraising agency that recruits and retains high value monthly donors for some of the world’s most respected non-profit organizations.

At Public Outreach, we are professional fundraisers who raise money for a select group of non-profit organizations. We provide monthly donor recruitment, retention, and strategy solutions.

Our honest, respectful and effective practices result in high quality donor interactions which maximize their long-term value.

We attract staff who are passionate and articulate about the mission of the organizations we represent. We have a great track record of completing large projects on-time and on-budget, delivering thousands of new monthly donors to our partner organizations.

Public Outreach is an inclusive organization that is committed to creating a welcoming and supportive environment for donors, clients, staff and the public. Public outreach is committed to providing excellence in serving all customers including individuals with disabilities. The Ontario-specific Accessible Customer Service Plan for customers with disabilities is available to the public here. For more information contact Human Resources at or 1 888 326 5535 x4000.

Jul. 19, 2016 "Why not be the change at work?": I found this article by Marc and Craig Kilburger.  It's about working and getting paid to help people.  In Australia, there were a lot of people sniffing gasoline.  BP Australia then created a gas where it was impossible to get high off because of low aromatic hydrocarbons. - Connecting People Through News

My week:

Jan. 12, 2017 Pure: I decided to watch the pilot.  When I watched it, I saw the name Michael Amo. 

Tracy: Wasn't he the guy who created The Listener

I was right.

"PURE tells the story of Noah Funk, a newly-elected Mennonite pastor, who is determined to rid his community of drug traffickers by betraying a fellow Mennonite to the police. But instead of solving the problem, Noah's actions trigger an ultimatum from mob leader Eli Voss: in order to protect his family, he must get involved in the illegal operation. Noah decides that if he must work for the mob, he will secretly gather enough evidence to dismantle the organization. Noah finds his beliefs and principles challenged every step of the way. Struggling to save his soul and complete his mission, Noah receives help from an unlikely source: his high school nemesis, local cop Bronco Novak. With his law-enforcement career hanging by a thread, Bronco sees the case as his ticket to redemption. - Written by CBC "

Jan. 13, 2017 Tues. night: I went out once this week.  I was to attend an event last month, but it was cancelled and rescheduled to this week.  I mentioned I was kind of happy because it was cold out.  Well I went out on Tues. and it was cold.

Job interview: I did attend one interview.  I felt a really good rapport with the man who interviewed me.  He was nice and friendly.

Work: This week I was working at my 2nd restaurant job and it was busy.

McDonald's burgers: My mom got 2 free burger coupons from a co-worker and told me about it.  I redeemed them.  That was like a highlight of the week.  I'm sure some of you guys are laughing at this part.

Jan. 15, 2017 Devani Freeman: This is a Lady Boss Marketing Series.  It's a telesummit to interview women who make big coaching independent businesses.  Even if you aren't an entrepreneur, it is a fun and positive interviews to listen to.

Today is Sun. and I don't do my job search on the weekends, but today I did.  I was listening to this.  It was inspiring.