Monday, December 31, 2012

Meet our first New Year's Eve Girl...Jessie Yang

Not sure what to do to ring in 2013? Start by checking out our interview with our first-ever New Year's Eve Girl, Ms. Jessie Yang:

A new year demands a fresh perspective. So why not a new talent to admire as well?

Meet Jessie Yang, our first-ever New Year’s Eve Girl, and one of the sweetest, most energetic people I know. She really is surprisingly new on the scene, but has already done well over 150 photo shoots, has stars in two web series, and is doing all of this while double-majoring in Psychology and Nutritional Science. And if that isn’t enough to embarrass you into getting off the couch, getting your act together and kicking some ass in 2013, I’m not sure what will.

Jessie Yang. Photo by Diem Franke.

Jessie Yang. Photo by Diem Franke.

Name: Jessie Yang

Occupation: Student and Model

Education: I’m still in university but it is my last year. I’m taking Psychology and Nutritional Science as a double major.

Stats: I’ve done over 150 shoots in one year.

How did you get started on your current career track?

Just for fun, took some professional photos with a friend. After getting professional photos done, people on my social media started to pay attention to me more. I got more requests to do photo shoots and that was how it started.

What gives you the most satisfaction as an artist?

Being creative and inspiring others to do the same.

[Read the full interview, and check out Jessie's video and photo gallery...]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Problem (as I see it)

I've been putting off talking about last week's shooting because I wanted to give myself time to wrap my head around it. It's pretty clear, if you spend any time at all on social media, that things have been sharply divided yet again. However, since I have a background as a scholar ( of those damned liberal intellectuals), I've devoted my time to presenting figures and fielding counter-figures.

Here's what I've learned:

  • Japan, the UK, and Australia have very rigid gun laws, and since enacting them have had no mass shootings.
  • Switzerland, Norway, and even Canada have fairly expansive and open gun regulations, and also have few to no mass shootings.
  • Take guns away and psychos will just find another method of murdering people en masse; like McVeigh did with his bomb...
  • ...except that McVeigh opted to use a bomb instead of a gun, when guns are readily available. And there's no evidence from countries (like the UK) where guns have been removed from private ownership that bombs will become the weapon of choice.
  • We're only talking about the industrialized world. I won't get into countries that are actively torn apart by civil war and/or (largely American led) invasion.
  • Bill Maher points out that defending hunters' rights is a bit silly, since in North America food is readily available in stores.
  • Hunting is important, because it helps cull herds and manage wildlife populations...
  • ...except a) wildlife populations do that on their own, and b) I've never heard a hunter declare, "Look! I shot the weakest, sickest deer in the herd!" They always -- always -- make a point of looking for the best breeding stock as their prize.
  • The NRA and its devotees continue to tow the line that guns don't kill people. They're inanimate, so it's not their fault (as if it's even possible to blame an inanimate object and hurt its feelings).
  • You can kill people with knives. Taking guns away won't stop murder. Then again, it's harder to run away from a bullet than a knife.
  • One side argues this is because they (meaning liberals, presumably) took prayer out of schools. The other side argues it's the wider "gun culture" (meaning conservatives, presumably) that's to blame.
Net result from my perspective as a relatively gun-indifferent Canadian outsider and liberal? Neither of these positions is correct. In fact, they're both WAY off the mark.

First, a fact. The Second Amendment, which is wielded like a carte blanche for any and all gun violence, states quite explicitly:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Very few in the "gun lobby" can quote this in its entirety, but it's important to what's at stake in the US. First: "a well regulated militia" does not mean free and unfettered access to firearms of all kinds. It means, "a militia that is well regulated." For what its worth, this was written in because the United States had no army at that time. Second: "security of a free state" does not mean in defense against the encroachment of liberty by one's own government. It means "against invasion by the guys we just ditched." Third: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms" simply means there is no class restriction on who can participate in the aforementioned militia. Switzerland has no standing army, and so its citizens are required to own and be trained in the use of firearms and come to call in the case of threats from foreign powers; i.e., a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.


My own take on the responsibility of owning firearms of various action and calibre: more control is necessary in terms of restricting who can access them. Gun control doesn't mean taking weapons away from qualified people. It means ensuring those who own them are actually qualified (read "not dangerously insane").

The list of reasons to own or not own a firearm is far too extensive for a blog post. But I will say that I've been discussing these issues in an open and honest conversation with a friend who is an avid gun collector and shooter. In fact, he hand-builds firearms himself, which is pretty cool. I personally have no use for a gun and see no purpose in hunting, therefore, I don't own one.

My friend and I resolved that it's impossible to look at precedents in other countries, because the impact of varying degrees of gun control has no set pattern of result. And we can't know the motivation of an occasional insane person either. On the surface it seems easy: if there are no guns at all, at least the sociopaths won't be able to use them.

So where does that leave the discussion? Nobody's right, gun control does or doesn't work, and mental health has yet to be worked in as a significant factor (it's curious that the Regan administration seems to have eliminated a lot of mental health programming while simultaneously espousing freer gun regulations...hmmm). Here's where we come to what I think is going on.

I'd hate to argue for censorship. But you see so much TV where people are devalued more and more; a culture where image is everything and relevant thought is actually frowned upon. A place where things are valued more than lives and celebrities worshiped more for what they can get away with than for what they can do. Disaster movies kill off millions as easily as they blow apart buildings, and the recent trend in the zombie genre even makes play cannibalism a source of amusement rather than revulsion.

I believe that the glorification and dehumanization of gun violence in entertainment creates a dissociative effect in the mind of the killer. They see the act frequently enough without consequence and internalize it as a rational possibility.

Life is losing its currency, and human lives aren't any more valuable. So it's easy to look for fame, relief or catharsis by making lives disposable in as dramatic and marketable a way as possible. Given the sensation and attention mass shooters get in the news, it's not surprising that this could be an attractive outlet for a disturbed individual.

It's not about the Ten Commandments in school. Our culture as a whole has to stop treating violence as an end in itself, and start giving a shit about meaningful living again. Stop humiliating ourselves for a hundred bucks just to get on TV, and focus back on the value of human life.

That means the only way to fix it without censorship is to instill critical thinking in our kids. If they have an aesthetic and can tell good from bad entertainment they'll find better things to do. And with no audience the media will have to change its message. It will have to stop promoting the escapades of mass murderers, each of whom tries to outdo the last in both carnage and shock value, and start providing value once again in the form of entertainment and stimulation.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How many challenges can you face?

So, I've decided to take up salsa dancing.

OK, let me explain: I'm not really comfortable on the dance floor. Everyone has this assumption that because I'm a musician, I should have a natural sense of rhythm when it comes to moving to music. On top of that, I've spent years (decades, really) accompanying dance classes on the piano. So I should be a great dancer, right?

Wrong. I have no idea if I'm a great dancer or not, because I don't really like to dance. Why? Simple. I'm a musician. I spent the formative years of dance "learning" actually on stage. So while people my age were dancing and getting their awkwardness about it out of the way, I was usually either playing the music they were dancing to or hanging out with the DJ who was. Or I was hanging out with my headbanger friends who were too cool for dancing.

Regardless, it's something I've missed out on for the most part. So when I saw a Groupon for salsa dance lessons in Markham, I thought, "what the hell...why not?" And the rest is history. Or, the future I guess, since it starts next month.

So the gang at The Man Sphere caught wind of this, and now there's a challenge on. This is how we're doing it:

We're calling it "12 Months of Groupon Out-of-the-Box Challenge." 
The prize: You get to do stuff you wouldn't normally do. 
The challenge:
1. Go here: and get an account (or use your account if you already have one. 
2. Find deals that offer EXPERIENCES more than just stuff. Your mission will be to get one deal a month (you're free to try more) that takes you out of your comfort zone.
- Spend no more than $50 on any given experience.
- Buy no more than one Groupon per month for the purpose of this challenge. You can buy as many as you want of course. But for this exercise one is enough (nobody wants you to go broke).
- If presented with a CHOICE, choose the two-person option.
- Try to strike a balance between activities and things like restaurants.
- Don't get stuff like car care packages or home decorating.
Keep a journal, and write about your experiences. We'd love to hear about them here, and we'll publish your stories at the end of 2013, and see how much fun you've had!
Just to give you some ideas, right now there are GTA deals for dozens of restaurants of all kinds, walking tours, wine tasting experiences (one includes snowshoeing!), dance classes, spa packages, teeth whitening...the list goes on and on. So check your local area, throw the "it costs too much" excuse out the window, and take a leap out of your comfort zone!

I'll be following and blogging along with this challenge all year, because it's FUN. I've already booked in for teeth whitening in Downtown Toronto, and have two tickets for Yuk Yuks in Ajax. I'm looking forward to finding more cool things to do come January.

Thing is, this isn't my only challenge for next year.

Remember, I have it in mind to tackle the Tough Mudder in 2014. To this end, I have sort of a strategy (sort of) in terms of my own workouts. I could use a few more on my team though...but one way or another, it's about me finishing. So, starting in January:

Mornings: TACFIT Commando. This is major endurance and mobility training in a confined space, but it will get the joints and muscles honed and moving through full ranges of motion.

Evenings: T30 (four weeks) to cover strength, testosterone, and some additional cardio.

To do the entire TACFIT program from beginning to end actually takes a year and a half, so there's no need to take breaks there. I also have RushFit, if I get bored (it's similar in structure and tactical or mobile fitness). There are other muscle building programs I plan to take on throughout the year though, notably those by Vince delMonte and John Romaniello. I'm hoping to do some trail shredding to help with the obstacle part of the Mudder as well.

Think that's enough?

Not for me. Not for what I want to be when I grow up. To improve cognitive function as well as general well-roundedness, I'm going to get on the language bandwagon. I have in my collection several language learning programs (details later), including French, German, Italian, Russian, Mandarin and Japanese. Each program is forty-five hours in length. At an hour a day (in two half-hour sessions), that's six weeks per course, so it's doable in less than a year. For sure I want to get a handle on French, Russian and Japanese though.

Is that the end of my challenge list for 2013? Not by a long shot. But it's a pretty good start, I think. And you may be thinking that's a lot to put on one plate for a guy who has a full-time job, two businesses to run, and a four-year-old (soon to be five...yikes!). But really, what's here represents an hour a day of exercise and an hour a day (usually while driving) of language practice. The Groupon stuff, that's just spare-time material.

These are challenges designed to improve myself or in some way break my usual routines. They're not my goals. My goals are very specific, and in some cases the challenges I've set for myself are part of the method of attaining those goals. But in other cases, they're just part of the overall goal of being more awesome.

What challenges are you taking on in 2013? Maybe...try that Groupon one! You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Getting Ready for the New You

Last week, The Man Sphere launched a wildly successful special edition called "The New You Issue." In it, we focused on a lot of subjects designed to lay the groundwork for the classic "New Year's Resolution" game people play every January 1st.

The thing is, without some groundwork, there's really no chance of success. You can't resolve to lose weight if you don't do two things first: determine exactly how much you want to weigh, and figure out how you're going to do it. It's a bit like saying, "a scarf will keep me extra warm this winter," and then waiting until the temperature drops to start researching what materials make the warmest scarves, how long it should be, and what colours match the majority of your winter wardrobe.

You have to plan ahead before you attack.

So, for my loyal readers here, I thought I'd give you just a little heads up on what's coming in January. First of all, there's an interview with the incredible Anita Majumdar, who starred in the role of Emerald in Deepa Mehta's much-anticipated epic Midnight's Children (based on Salman Rushdie's 1982 novel of the same name). This interview will be coming just ahead of the next screening of Midnight's Children on January 10 and 11 at the TIFF Lightbox as one of Canada's Top 10 Films of 2012.

Exciting? Hell yes.

But then, it gets even better. See, we're releasing a new six-week e-course in January called "Your Personal Reset Button." This is like coaching for your resolutions...get motivated, find your path, get on track, and make success happen. Here's a sample bit from Week 1:

Now, in order for a goal to be effective it must be real, attainable, and above all it must be specific. The goal of creating goals isn't to be general at all. It isn't enough to say, "I want to eat healthier and get more exercise." It isn't enough to say, "I want to lose weight and get in shape." Everybody wants those things. A goal, for this purpose, needs to be a target you can hone in on so that all your efforts in that area are directed to accomplishing that one thing. 
In the example above, the solution is, "I want to weight 170 lbs., and be able to shovel the driveway next winter without being exhausted." That's a specific fitness goal. Things like eating healthier and getting more exercise aren't goals; they're strategies for accomplishing the goal of a specific weight and level of activity.

Good stuff huh?

And so, there's another great special edition coming up at the end of January: our Internet Fitness Special Edition. You DON'T want to miss this one, because these are some of the most motivated, and successful, people in the fitness industry online. Not only are they the ones you'll likely look to for real fitness advice (and we'll share our own opinion on some of their products and programs), but they're also great examples of people who have achieved financial independence, leadership status, and minor celebrity status in their field through actually helping others achieve their goals. Names like John Romaniello, Vince DelMonte, Ryan Murdock, Adam Steer, and of course Flavia DelMonte as well.

Like I said, not to be missed.

Keep an eye on your inboxes and here on the blog...pre-registration for "Your Personal Reset Button" will be starting soon. Oh, and did I mention it's FREE?

Yeah...because being awesome means helping you be awesome too.

Are you excited about 2013 yet? I am. Let's do this...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Local or Global: Where's your comfort zone?

As I was reading this blog post from Derek Sivers, I realized two things: I'm not as alone as I sometimes think I should be, and I've been missing blog posts.

Oops on the was a big issue day on Monday over at The Man Sphere with preparing and editing for the "New You Issue," so I've been preoccupied with getting all of that together.

Now, on the matter of the first, I should explain. Derek is a hero of mine for a number of reasons, not least of which is his business acumen. But beyond the fact that he built and sold a multi-million dollar business (he was the founder of CDBaby), he also has a philosophy of living that's quite liberating and worth reading in detail.

Derek vagabonds. He lives a life with very minimal possession in order to allow himself the liberty of just up and moving to another place. And in his blog post, he points out the conflicts he sometimes feels about that. But he narrows it down to the basic conclusion: he lives a life, that is more global than local. He feels an affinity to locales as distant as Tokyo and Woodstock, New York, yet his personal and professional network is spread across the globe.

That doesn't work for everyone. Some people build deep roots in one community, carving out their own particular place in the universe where they feel "at home" and surrounded by those they care most deeply about.

His point? Do whichever works best for you. It's a comfort zone model. Never assume that because you're not a world traveler you must necessarily be disappointed with the accomplishments of your life. Likewise, don't assume that because you haven't settled down in one place to start a family or build a brick-and-mortar business you're necessarily doing something wrong. Business and lifestyle writers are constantly pitting one of these options against the other, and ultimately neither is right. Take personal pleasure in whichever mode of operation works best for you, not what someone else tells you you must do in order to be happy.

Derek solicited comments for the blog post from his readers, but by the time I got there there were already hundreds. So I emailed this observation to him directly instead:
Derek, this is fantastic. I sometimes feel like I'm on the cusp of those two lives website has a huge reach, and I have friends in Toronto, Atlanta, Sweden, Australia...but don't really have what you'd call an "active" social life where I live. I would almost feel bad about it, but I've come to realize that my vagabonding is more cerebral. Finding like-minded individuals in the little town of 17,000 where I live is pretty unlikely, but there's one in every other town out there. So online is where we connect. 
Does this absolve me of the necessary travel that I should plan on eventually? Of course not. But it does make me feel like less of a recluse when I realize that I'm not secluded at all. I'm merely separated by distance. Yes, I would like more of a local social life, and will be working more diligently on that (after all, it's hard to really date over the internet), but I'm certainly not as lonely as I once thought I should be.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fitness Goals: The Mudder

I have one fitness goal for 2013. 6-pack? Fitness competition? Catalog shoot? Look awesome at the beach?'s to run the Mudder in 2014. Everything else is superficial. This is life-changing. You want abs? Pick a challenge that will make you better, and the abs will be a side effect.

Be. More. Awesome.

I posted this status update on my Facebook earlier this week. The last part ties in with the motto and theme for The Man Sphere in 2013. And coming up on December 3rd, it's a "New You Issue," with advice on goals and personal development designed to give readers a kickstart on the whole New Year's resolution thing.

Plus there's a course coming out. But more on that later.

The important thing is that this little status update, aside from being a face-slapping motivational message, serves as my subtle way of announcing to the universe that I am, in fact, planning on running in the 2014 Tough Mudder in Toronto. I'll be 39 in 2014, and this is my bid to do something big before I turn 40.

It also means I have to work my butt off. I'm not totally out of shape, of course. But I've never run a 12 mile obstacle course (I'm looking for a team, by the way...).

One of the things I'm doing to keep myself motivated and looking forward is really concentrating on learning from the people I interview for TMS. Like Plex, the Toronto-based recording artist who worked his way up from addiction and poverty to become an influential player in his own right. In fact, there's a lot of credence in the idea that to achieve something you should look at others who have done that much or more, and learn from their example.

Again, for me it's about focusing on my one goal (not the Mudder...something else), and understanding that all these little objectives, like launching a successful online magazine and running a brutal military-style obstacle course, are part of the process of becoming something more than just a guy making it by in the world. It's about potential and pushing through obstacles. Like I shared on The Man Sphere's Facebook page:

Pick a challenge that will make you far greater for having failed than you could ever become by not trying and you will train yourself to take as much pride in your efforts as your successes.

Be. More. Awesome.

Being more awesome is both the goal and the process. You coming?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Time!! (well, almost)

Oooooohhhhhhh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the waaaaaay!
Oh what fun is on a ride on tim hortons soap and sleigh! Hey! ~ (Mila's version)

It's almost holiday season. That means two things: trying to come up with a Christmas list for the one or two people who might want to buy me something (love you, Mom), and binge cleaning my apartment to make room for the Christmas decorations.

I love Christmas. This year might feel a little leaner, just because the space restrictions in a smaller apartment will make it difficult to hold my traditional open house party. This is a party where I throw open the doors just after lunch, and leave them open for anyone to come and go as they please. Last year I had 21 people in my home for dinner. That'll be a tight squeeze in the new place (last time, we had the entire main floor plus the Man Cave downstairs).

Maybe I'll just scale back the affair. Who knows?

In the next while, thought, I'll post a few of my favourite recipes and other entertaining bits and pieces. Some guys go crazy decorating for Hallowe'en. I'm a homebody. I like cider and homemade eggnog, a cozy blanket and The Muppets Christmas Carol on constant replay for six weeks. That's my idea of a holiday.

What's yours?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let me tell you about Peng...

Peng was my Taiji (T'ai Chi) teacher. This is a guy everybody should get to know. He's friendly, outgoing, and a brilliant businessman. He's also doggedly determined, and more disciplined than anyone else I know.

Peng came to Canada looking to earn a living. He started out small, offering just a few classes at a local seniors' centre. As his reputation grew, he found he had enough money on hand to buy a rental property, which he used specifically to put up Chinese university students.

Word of his rentals spread quickly among the Chinese community (being from China and speaking fluent Mandarin helped), and he became a valuable asset in that community. As his teaching grew, he earned enough from both enterprises to open a restaurant.

Not content to merely cook good food, Peng made trips back to China, sometimes three or four times a year, to study both cooking and Taiji. Being a leader in the local Chinese community and in the martial arts community, coupled with constantly improving his skill and never losing sight of the value of customer service made his restaurant a huge success.

In 2000, as part of the July 1 Canada Day celebrations, I was honoured to participate in a public demonstration involving 1,000 people, all members of Peng's T'ai Chi association. That demonstration was the highlight of that year's International Taiji Festival--another first for Thunder Bay.

That festival led to even greater ties between Peng and the martial arts community in Thunder Bay and in China. In 2007, Peng was awarded a 7th duan ranking in Chinese wushu (martial arts). There are only 10 duan, and he was accepted as a disciple of the great Chen Zhenglei, 15th generation grandmaster of the family that invented Taiji in the 1600's!

In 2010, Master Peng opened the Peng You International Taiji Academy in Thunder Bay. He was able to sell his restaurant and do martial arts full-time, realizing his dream of bringing the benefits of Taiji to the world.

The reason I told this story is that this theme is what has opened my eyes to my own shortcomings in business. Peng's success can really be summed up in his association's motto:

Health. Friendship. Happiness.

So Peng represents both the business model and the life-planning model. In business, what did he do?

  1. Start by sharing something he believes in.
  2. Leverage small profits into larger enterprises.
  3. Leverage customers from one enterprise to the next.

The last one is a must-do move if you're building something up, because those people become your best advertising. They are, in essence, your marketing team (come to think of it, I don't think I ever saw an ad for Peng's restaurant outside of the phone book). His marketing plan, then, looked something like this:

  1. Become a respected leader in the community.
  2. Become an authority in the field, and always improve.
  3. Make loyal customers assets who will do the marketing for you.

So, what about the goals? Well, Peng told me all along that his only real goal was to bring Taiji and its health and community benefits to the world. Renting low-cost housing to students and owning a restaurant were only tools to achieve that objective. But they're both still tools based on being of service to his this case, the Chinese cultural community. The wider martial arts community, including his own students, frequented his restaurant, where he always greeted customers personally and had a big smile. Everyone who went there felt they were dining with friends (and this is no exaggeration--he either knew most people by name, or he'd come out and introduce himself and learn your name). He united people across cultural boundaries, age groups, and even in an often deeply divided martial arts community where rivalries had deep roots.

Because he had properties to maintain, a business to run, and a family to raise, Peng was often down at the marina practicing Taiji at 5:00 in the morning. He closed the restaurant every night...I don't think he ever actually slept. His focus and determination was on building a great martial arts community, and that's where his mind stayed. But don't think he did it alone: he had a team of people who helped out by keeping the books on his association, keeping an eye on his properties, attending meetings with officials and dignitaries, and yes, he has the most patient wife in the history of the universe. Everyone did these things willingly because he had helped them in some way. They became personally invested in his vision, and as a result they formed his mastermind group in a spectacularly elegant example of what we might call "community engineering."

In 2006, seven of the foremost grandmasters of the art of taijiquan met in Thunder Bay--their first meeting ever outside of China. Guess who organized it.

Yup. Peng.

And to commemorate that auspicious event, the association and the city built the beautiful and serene Thunder Bay International Taiji Park. The project is ongoing if you'd like to make a donation (, but what you should take away from it is that this is sort of a culmination of a life of determination. Peng could have written either Think and Grow Rich or How To Win Friends and Influence People. He's like a textbook case in action of exactly the kind of manifestation and leadership espoused in those two books.

And, as a humbling coincidence, his full name is Peng Youlian. The Chinese word for "friend" is pengyou. The coincidence is not lost on those who read Chinese in the characters on his association's logo, nor on anyone who comes to know this remarkable leader.

Three Videos to Get You Pumped

Here are three incredibly motivational videos to get you revved up for your day (and your life). Take notes on them...especially the last one!

Special thanks to Alex Cane, whose Facebook post of the first video led me to dig up the other two. Total rush.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Funny Crap My Kid Says

I have a four-year-old daughter. If I could draw, she (especially in combination with my cat) would be my comic strip. The things that come out of most kids' mouths are usually pretty priceless. But when her cherubic little countenance spouts these things, there's just no way to stop from laughing.

...or cringing.

[after taking a chunk out of her toe on a concrete step]
"Shhhhhh! Aahhhhhh...Good lord!...Hey look, Daddy: I can see the inside of my foot!"

 Her: Are you going to play with the choir now?
Me: No sweetie, the choir isn’t here today.
Her: you’re playing with yourself.

Her: Who are you talking to?
Me: Nanny.
Her: What nanny?
Me: Your nanny.
Her: I’m not a nanny!

"Daddy, make sure there are no flies in here. I don’t want them to sping me. Especially bees and wops."

Her: Excuse me...How old are you?
Waitress: Um...I’m 22. How old are you?
Her: I’m four. What’s your number?
Waitress: [casts a sideways glance at le dad, who is trying to hide under the table] 

Store employee: Hi! What’s your name?
Her: I’m Mila. What’s yours?
Store employee: I’m Dana.
Her: Well Dana, it’s very nice to meet you [handshake].
Dana: [lol] How old are you?
Her: I’m four. How old are you?
Dana: Oh...too old sometimes.
Her: Are you as old as like my daddy?
Dana: I don’t know...maybe.
Her: Wow! You must be a pro!

Her: So, um, Daddy...
Me: Yes?
Her: Did we do a Barney break? [that's after watching the same DVD 5 times in a row] 
Me: Yep.
Her: Sooo...we had a Barney break then.
Me: Yep.
Her: So, I guess that means we can watch it now, huh?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Lesson from Hick Abbott

As you know, The Man Sphere is all about improvement. Over the weekend, we in Canada celebrated the observance of Remembrance Day (Veterans' Day in the US), which of course commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I in 1918. It's a time to give pause and reflect on the sacrifices of veterans from the Great Wars, and of those who continue to serve, in the advancement of the cause of peace.

But it's more than that. To the man looking to be all that he can be (if it's not too cliche to quote the US Army), it's a time to pause and think about the sacrifices we're able to make in our own lives. Can we, in fact, be more than we are? Can we create a greater contribution in the lives of others? Is self-improvement a selfish act?

This passage floated across my Facebook feed this weekend. It's from a general speaking at the funeral of Edward Lyman "Hick" Abbott (read more HERE). It summarizes what was then a good assessment of a stout Canadian, and what is, I think, the standard to which many of us aspire in life and business:

"He was the type of Canadian, and the type of Britisher, that the Germans cannot understand; the type that fights with a silent fury and yet that does not hate; too much of a sportsman to fight unfairly, but more dangerous in attack than their finest products of hate-inspiration because of utter recklessness combined with a deadly skill and total inability to recognize defeat.”

Give that a good read once again. Of course this is a piece out of history, where these ethnic and country lines were drawn much more sharply than they are in today's pluralistic world. But the attitude described is one worthy of note. He fights with a silent fury, but doesn't do so out of hate. He does so out of motivation to succeed; out of a sense of honour and defense; out of a sense of obligation to protect that which is most valued in his life, and the lives of those he loves.

See the next part? Too much of a sportsman to fight unfairly, but dangerous because of utter recklessness combined with deadly skill. Carry this into other spheres of endeavour, and our own desire to deal fairly with others can be tempered with a sound acumen, be that in business or personal life. Acumen, I think, is that combination of willingness to take risk (utter recklessness) and solid training and awareness of the field (deadly skill); in other words, being trained, motivated, and willing to risk the adventure for the sake of the goal.

The last point, though, is one I find most poignant: "total inability to recognize defeat." We talk a lot about perseverence through adversity, and when it comes to setting goals for our own improvement this process is vastly enhanced by the knowledge; not the mere estimation or assumption; that things will get tough. Not recognizing defeat doesn't mean being blind to the reality of failure. It means understanding that failure is not an end; that there is more life and another process beyond that. That's perseverence.

Fury without hate. Fair but dangerous. Reckless but with deadly skill. Unable to recognize defeat.

Sounds like the kind of guy I'd like to be.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Live How You Want To Live

I read an interesting meme on Facebook this week that got me thinking. The quote is from Doctor Who, and it reads:

Some people live more in 20 years than others do in 80. It's not the time that matters, it's the person.

This struck me as poignant, because I, like many other modern males, have recently discovered that I haven't "lived." Not by this definition at any rate.

I'm a big fan of Tim Ferriss' work, and some of his ideas do permeate my to-do list. I also see that there are a lot of women (a LOT) on dating sites who are looking for travel and adventure. And it occurs to me that there is a curious modern mindset that in order to have "lived," one must have lived extensively by experiencing "all that life has to offer."

Here's my problem: what if you don't actually like to travel? What if your personal idea of contentment is actually coming home to a place of comfort, putting on a favourite movie, and kicking back? What if partying on the beaches of Ibiza is so contrary to your personal nature that the thought of it actually makes your guts clench?

There's a disconnect here between ideas of self-acceptance and ideas of life fulfillment  Let's assume for a moment that we accept the notion that different people have different barometers for happiness. We can't, therefore, assume that the desire to collect nice things and avoid vagabonding is a kind of failure. Yet memes like this seem to suggest that the object of the game is to get out and live more; "more" having the subtext of "better."

Some people don't like to travel. Some people don't like to attend gala parties. Some people don't like to stay at home on their vacations. Some people don't like to go to bed at 10 p.m.. These are the realities of personal differences, and we have to accept them. Constantly telling people that not living up to a certain level of adventure is a failure of life by some arbitrary measure of someone else's happiness is a recipe for depression.

Guys, you're grown ups. Live how you want to live. If you like adventure, go for it. If you like kicking back at home, go for it.

The Doctor doesn't get to tell you how to live.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Much Easier Way To Live

Grandmaster Wong Jianhua (to me, translated by Master Peng): "Don't attack. When you attack, you always have to plan. Where to hit. Where to look for weakness. Where to block. What can he do if you do this or this, and what can you do for each response? And you do this all before you make a move, and if your opponent doesn't do what you've planned for, your attack is finished. Instead, defend. Then you only need to respond. If he does nothing, you do nothing. If he does this, you do that. Attack clouds your mind with strategy. Defense only has one strategy: counter the attack. This is a much easier way to win, and a much easier way to live."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Women We Love: Mandy Monroe

Mandy Monroe (no, not that one) is one of the spectacular stars of modelling’s social media circuit. Web savvy and out to conquer, this bombshell takes work and play very seriously, nailing down gig after gig with some of the top content blogs on the web. On top of all that, she’s making her mark as a cover model and event personality, all while taking on a full-time academic schedule.

If you’re intimidate by smart, sexy women, go home and crawl under the covers now. This chick’s gonna knock you flat.

Name: Mandy Monroe

Occupation: Model/Student

Education: Currently in college

Stats (how do you quantify your awesomeness?): By the level of success I have achieved in a matter of 2 years! from 2010-2012 I have reached many, many awesome goals such as 2 major magazine publications including 1 cover!

How did you get started on your current career track?

I started applying online to agencies when I was about 15 and have been growing ever since!

What gives you the most satisfaction as an artist?

The impact I have on some people is really rewarding. I show a lot of my outlook on life including awareness on animal cruelty and bullying and discrimination. People really appreciate my efforts and it’s very satisfying.

[read more...]

Monday, October 15, 2012

Men We Admire: Steve Foster

Singer/Songwriter Steve Foster has recently released his first album Sad Love Songs available on iTunes andAmazon. This 11 track CD produces captivating lyrics and a mix of various genres that can relate to all listeners. Sad Love Songs (see the video at the bottom) is quickly climbing the horizon as it debuted above one of his inspirations, Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the iTunes pop chart.

The Man Sphere was able to sit down with Steve, and get some insight into his work, his life, and his motivation to make things happen.

Name: Steve Foster

Age: 10 x 3!

Occupation: Singer/Songwriter

Pets? I wish. I had a cat when I was younger and I’d love to have one again but I have no time right now.

Car(s)? Nope, my two legs and taxis!

Gadgets? iPad & Macbook Pro Retina. I also have 2 HTPC’s loaded with XBMC and connected to a 15TB media server. I’m an Onkyo loyalist as well.

Stats? 6’4, 210lbs…I eat and workout a lot!

Favourite instruments? I love Vibraphones! When I was younger my music teacher used to play it all the time. There is something about the tone that makes me feel totally calm. I guess that’s why I’ve always had a love for Roy Ayers who uses them in his music.

Sports? Monopoly….seriously, I’ve trained my whole life. Nobody can beat me…lol. I’ve never really had a love for competitive sports like basketball or football, I’d rather spend my time creating music.

How did you get started on your current career/lifestyle path?

I honestly cannot remember a time when I wasn’t musically active, I have always known that music was the path for me. When I was 4 years old I would take my Fisher Price turntable to Kindergarten and my teacher would let me have 10 minutes at the end of class once a week to put on a dance party. My first public performance was a talent show 2 years later, I did Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ and came in first place. I was hooked from then on.

[read more...]

Threats to Male Sexual Health

Male sexual health is threatened by penile and testicular disorders which can damage a man's fertility and capability for sexual activity. These disorders include priapism, balanitis, balanoposthitis, phimosis, and penile cancer. This article discusses these disorders, their causes, and treatment methods.

Some of the most common threats to male sexual health manifest themselves as penile and testicular disorders. These disorders that affect the male external reproductive organs can severely affect a man's fertility as well as sexual functioning. Below are some of the most common threats to male sexual health: 

  • Priapism
  • Balanitis and Balanoposthitis
  • Phimosis
  • Penile Cancer

[read more...]

9 Stupid Mistakes to Avoid While Dating Online

Internet online dating takes patience and practice. Just because you are seated at your own computer doesn’t mean that people will come to chat with you for no reason. Even in this medium of Internet dating, you must take the initiative and actively seek to contact those you like.

But even if you contact some people or they contact you, there are some incredibly stupid things guys are doing on Internet dating and singles sites and then complain that all women are ignoring them.

Women are searching men which know to make them feel good and have great time with. They are looking for someone intelligent, someone who listens, a man with a good sense of humor, a well-rounded person with a positive attitude.

If you want to get some responses and even get to know closely women by online dating you have to stop doing the mistakes that are chasing all the women away. So:

1. Women browse profiles to find their match just like you do. Post a good recent picture of yourself, a nice picture that shows your sense of humor or style. Do not send women pictures of your “privates”. They will ask if they want to see that.

For good advice on setting up an awesome profile and email strategy that really work, check out Dave M.’s Insider Internet Dating.

2. Make sure your profile contains proper spelling and grammar. Women like an intelligent person. Do not ruin your chances with simple mistakes in your profile. Take some time to get it right guys and you will get a response.

3. Women usually like men with some class, so don’t choose a nickname that has a sexual innuendo (unless you are on an adult dating site). You don’t want to give the impression that you’re just searching for a one night stand.

[read more...]

9 Stupid Mistakes to Avoid While Dating Online


Internet online dating takes patience and practice. Just because you are seated at your own computer doesn’t mean that people will come to chat with you for no reason. Even in this medium of Internet dating, you must take the initiative and actively seek to contact those you like.

But even if you contact some people or they contact you, there are some incredibly stupid things guys are doing on Internet dating and singles sites and then complain that all women are ignoring them.

Women are searching men which know to make them feel good and have great time with. They are looking for someone intelligent, someone who listens, a man with a good sense of humor, a well-rounded person with a positive attitude.

If you want to get some responses and even get to know closely women by online dating you have to stop doing the mistakes that are chasing all the women away. So:

1. Women browse profiles to find their match just like you do. Post a good recent picture of yourself, a nice picture that shows your sense of humor or style. Do not send women pictures of your “privates”. They will ask if they want to see that.

For good advice on setting up an awesome profile and email strategy that really work, check out Dave M.’s Insider Internet Dating.

2. Make sure your profile contains proper spelling and grammar. Women like an intelligent person. Do not ruin your chances with simple mistakes in your profile. Take some time to get it right guys and you will get a response.

3. Women usually like men with some class, so don’t choose a nickname that has a sexual innuendo (unless you are on an adult dating site). You don’t want to give the impression that you’re just searching for a one night stand.

[read more...]

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lana Tailor Returns to TV


SUDBURY, ON-- So, let's take a little bit of comedy, mix that with hilarious challenges, sprinkle some skits and add a dash of on-location reporting. Toss all of those ingredients into the minds of several attention starved creative people from Northern Ontario and you get The Episode!

Sudbury-born Lucie Brunet, a.k.a. Lana Tailor, is an internationally-published supermodel, Hollywood actress, and former HDNet TV host. Brunet will be using her talent, connections and experience to elevate The Episode to the next level. Her role will be as a producer and co-host for the series. She recently wrote, pitched and successfully received funding for a lifestyle TV series which caught the attention of the network, Shaw, a frontrunner in broadcasting.

Prior to her producing experience, Lucie was the host of an international adventure travel show where she conducted activities such as skydiving in Toronto, shark feeding in Mexico, and scuba-diving off the cost of Spain. Lucie is now back in Sudbury, ready to bring new ideas and strategies to The Episode as a Producer and Co-host. The second season is set to air in January, 2013.

Follow The Episode on and You can also keep up to date on the The Episode's official website:

Here's yesterday's video announcement:

 Subscribe to Lucie Brunet's YouTube channel:

 Subscribe to The Episode on YouTube:

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Different Perspective on Age

I was having an interesting conversation with someone the other day about our perceptions of aging and how we view the stereotypical "old person" in our lives. It's a curious phenomenon, but I'm sure I felt when I was younger that the closer you get to the age of the people you consider "old" -- your grandparents, for example -- the more you understand and relate to them and their way of thinking.

What brought it up was a half joke about the way my dad complains about the old guys on the highway who drive too slow. He's 74.

This curious parallel made me think about how we view the older people in our lives. We picture Granny from the Bugs Bunny cartoons, sitting in her rocker singing mash songs from the 1930's, and suspect that this is the life all older people seem to be consigned to. Even in my regular work, I find myself making assumptions about older people because, frankly, my grandfather fought in World War II, and my grandmother survived a communist revolution (or two) in the "old country." But they were older than my daughter's grandparents, of course, and that put in my mind the idea of a sort of timeline.

Think about this: 1969 was a revolutionary year, right? It was the age of Woodstock, and of rebellion. There was a social revolution going on. And those rebels...

A 20-year-old woman attending Woodstock. Seems reasonable. Your 20s are your years of personal exploration, adventure, rebellion. Take a defining song like "All Along the Watchtower" (Hendrix). Put it in context. If that woman was 20 at Woodstock, she'd be 30 in 1979. So her 20s were taken up during the age of the sexual revolution. The age of hippies. The age of Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, Disco and so on. She would have lived through the entire technological revolution of the 80s and 90s; seen the rise of the personal computer, the demise of VHS, and the advent of smart phone culture.

That's right...when The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple were reshaping music history, your 63-year-old personnel manager was clubbing. Probably just the way you are now. So for further context, a 73-year-old would have been 30 at that same time. If you're 30 now and still checking out concerts, I'm sure you're pretty sure you're still cool.

Angus Young, the guitarist from AC/DC was born in 1960. He was 14 when their first album came out in 1974. He's a scant 52 years old now. Ozzy was born in 1948. He'll be 64 in December. Think he's still cool? His first album with Black Sabbath came out in 1970 when he was 22.

So if you're in your 20s or 30s, keep this in mind. The people you might see as old folks were part of a much more active, much more politically charged rock rebellion than you were. And it's quite possible they're still hipper than you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wrong line of work?

So, I took my cat to the emergency vet last night. True one of those bizarrely unromantic moments of pet ownership, it turns out she had a ruptured anal gland. Remind me to tell you about that sometime.

Anyway, I walked in the clinic and was advised that there's an up-front $130 fee for emergency vet services. My first thought: $130 just for walking in the door?! Man...I'm in the WRONG line of work!

Within about fifteen minutes, however, there was a veterinarian in the exam room with her finger in my cat's butt. My thought: Ah...THAT'S why I'm not a vet.

The biggest kudos in the world to vets who bravely go where mortals fear to tread, all for the sake of keeping our furry friends healthy and with us for many years.

(My reflections on the ride home: Damn...I should have asked for her number. Would that have been weird, under the circumstances?)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Men We Admire: Mitch Parker

Toronto-based Realtor and Active Investor Mitch Parker understands a home is a lot more than just an address; it’s a lifestyle. As an expert on buying, selling and investing in Real Estate, he helps both End Users and Investors, whether new or seasoned, realize their ultimate goals.

Living in a city he loves, Mitch realizes the importance of being heavily involved in the community. Mitch has worked with organizations that are close to his heart including Habitat for Humanity and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Mitch also lends an active voice to the city’s associations of Business Improvement Areas understanding the importance of aiding in the creation of a thriving and competitive Toronto. 

When he’s not thinking Real Estate, Mitch’s passions include fitness, cars and exploring the city. 

Name: Mitch Parker

Age: 28

Occupation: Real Estate Sales and Investment Specialist

Gadgets: iPhone, Laptop, GPS and because I’m a Real Estate nerd, a financial calculator.

Sports: Was always a sports guy growing up, played everything from hockey, lacrosse, football, baseball, you name it. Golf is next on my radar.

How did you get started on your current career/lifestyle path?

My educational background is in Business Finance. I’m not really a 9-5 desk person so when I came out of school I had an opportunity to get into residential renovations. Watching every TLC and HGTV show about flipping homes, I decided that since I had a major advantage with my skillset that I would look for a project to renovate and resell. While looking, I fell in love with the real estate process and decided to get my license. The rest is history.

Did you have any mentors who helped steer you on this path?

Growing up, my parents were super supportive of every decision I made. My dad was always involved in his own businesses so I think he’s passed on the entrepreneurial bug to me. My first broker really helped establish and concrete my decision that I was on the right path. Because it was a small brokerage, I was able to work closely with him to learn the ins and outs of the business.




[read more...]

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Who's pushing you to succeed?

So, Monday at 6 a.m. I started the T30 program from Prograde (featuring BJ Gaddour), and this is what I get from my 4-year-old daughter:

"But Daddy, you can't sit down yet! The guy on your exercise movie is still exercising and there's thr
ee more bars left!" (referring to the on-screen timer)

Everybody needs someone to be accountable to in order to keep them motivated and working toward their goals. There's no one I'm more committed to than my little girl (who came home from daycare yesterday, and popped in the DVD saying "I wanna do an arm sizzler!" as she rocked her little 2-lb. dumbbells.).

You can motivate yourself of course, but having the extra push from an outside source really helps to charge you up. Who's giving you the boost or push you need? Comment below...

>.< *kidkicksmybutt

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Women We Love: Christina Schimmel

Canadian actress and producer Christina Schimmel is constantly reinventing herself. Whether it’s slipping gracefully from one role to another, or from one side of the camera to the other, her passion for her craft keeps her in a constant state of forward momentum. With as many as four of five projects on the go at a time, her key to success is finding inspiration in challenging herself to be as adaptable as possible.


Name: Christina Schimmel

Occupation: Actress/Producer

Education: Second City, Various Acting Schools Toronto/Vancouver, Ryerson Business school, Langara College. Currently I train with Dean Bajramovic at Alza Acting School.

How did you get started on your current career track?

I have always loved acting and keep coming back to it. In my early twenties I was pretty wild and didn’t have the dedication required of a full time actress so I feel like I am really hitting my stride now. Producing is the evolution of that career.

What gives you the most satisfaction as an artist?

Collaborating with amazing people and pushing myself into new and demanding roles.

In the feature film “The Rebel” I play a battered wife and the character I play is 100 percent different from myself. I worked hard with my acting coach and the director was so impressed with my performance he wrote me in more scenes. That is a huge compliment.

What motivates or inspires you in your work?

There are a lot of amazing people in the industry. Their passion and creativity is infectious! I just want to make entertaining stories that people will like to watch. The actress that inspires me is Charlize Theron. She does solid commercial work but isn’t afraid to take risks like her roles in “Monster” and “Young Adult”

[read more...]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Making the Bed

…a guy’s playbook to the bedding deptartment.

Every so often someone contacts us with a question that we think is worth noting, if only because we know, as guys, that there are a lot of guys who have the same question but don’t want to risk asking it.

What’s the risk? Just ask!

Anyway, here’s the question:

Hey Man Sphere,

I was out shopping with my mom the other day. I just graduated college and she was helping me pick out stuff for my new “grownup” apartment. Anyway, so she said I needed a grownup bed, and that my pillows and sheets just weren’t going to cut it for a man’s room.

As soon as we hit the bedding section, I felt like I was buried in household stuff I’ve never even heard of before. Shams? Duvets? Duvet covers? 200, 400, 1200 tread counts??? I’ve always had a set of sheets, two pillows in pillow cases, and a blanket…maybe a comforter in the winter. What the hell is with the rest of this stuff? Can you maybe do an article on bedding to help average guys like me who don’t know what a bed skirt is for? Thx

Robert C., Maryland

Yeah Robert, we know exactly how you feel. There’s always that awkward moment when you realize, “Crap…I need four pillows, even though I only sleep on one?!”

As it turns out, the system isn’t all that confusing. Most of the stuff you described is decorative. The idea is similar to your dining room table. You don’t need salad forks and dinner forks, but every cutlery set comes with them (like you need 24 forks in your drawer!). You don’t need cloth napkins that coordinate with your placemats, but there’s a higher standard of class when you use them.

We know that for 99% of your meals you use a paper towel. Don’t sweat it.

Transferring the same logic to the bedroom, imagine this: You’re a new professional, just out of college. You’ve worked hard, got a great job, and you land a few dates with the perfect girl. She suggests you go back to your place for a nightcap, and things get interesting from there. You make it to the bedroom, and there, between the hockey poster, high school trophies, and model cars you made in grade eight, sits your single bed. Oh, it might be neatly made, but somehow the single pancake of a pillow and coordinating X-Men sheets worn so thin you could hang them as mosquito netting just doesn’t describe the serious, committed professional she hoped you’d be.

Hmmm…might be time to up the stakes a little there, Sport.

Even though you’re not likely to use everything on your bed, it has to be styled like an adult bed. That means, yes, decorative pillows and sheets that reflect your new status. But that doesn’t mean it has to be all florals and lace either. It’s a balance: you know you need a practical sleeping space, but at the same time you need to show that you’ve moved to a stage of life where you can furnish your surroundings on purely aesthetic grounds. The idea is to give the impression that you’re a man who values comfort and luxury, and who can make a bed that deserves to be un-made.

Here’s what you need to know:

[read more...]