Financial fiction review: ‘Free to Trade’ by Michael Ridpath

Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!

In this post I’m reviewing…

Free to Trade by Michael Ridpath

Financial fiction whodunnit in the high-stakes world of junk bonds.

OVERVIEW: In Michael Ridpath’s debut novel, ex-Olympic athlete Paul Murray is a junk bond trader in a small but successful firm. When one of his coworkers dies, he looks into the work she was doing before she died and uncovers more questions than answers. Even as the police are closing in on him as the main suspect, Murray investigates a complicated international scheme.

REVIEW: It seems like every financial fiction book I read, the main character is a high stakes trader and a runner. What’s with the running? It’s the same deal here. Paul Murray is a former Olympic athlete who works at a firm as a junk bond trader. In spite of finding evil people at every turn, and the police breathing down his neck, Murray uncovers an international scheme and solves his friend’s murder. There are plenty of red herrings along the way but by the end you pretty much know who the villain is before the main character does. The story moves at a pretty good pace although it felt like Ridpath wrote the climax of the book and then decided to stop — several strands in the book were left unsatisfyingly open.

FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: I don’t know a lot about junk bonds so I enjoyed this aspect of the book and wished that there was more. It was very approachable whether or not you know anything about the financial industry or junk bonds. Along with junk bonds, the main character pieces together the financial structure of an international fraud. The deal structuring was interesting but the character’s ability to put it all together (while fighting villains and investing his coworker’s death) was a little bit of a stretch.

SUMMARY: For a first novel, Ridpath’s book was good. Although now that he has several books under his belt, it would be curious to have him go back and revise the book now. I would read this book again.

Find more financial fiction reviews here.

Financial advisor article published at Advisor Websites Blog: Mastering the art of client conversations

I’m co-writing a series of articles for financial professionals, along with my colleague Rosemary Smyth, an international coach to financial advisors.

One of our articles was posted at the Advisor Websites blog. The article explains some conversational tools that financial professionals can use to build and strengthen their client relationships.

Check out the article at the link below:

Mastering the art of client conversations

#FinishWhatYouStart project list update 1

I’m blogging about how to finish well as I tackle this area in my life where I struggle a bit.

And to help me remain accountable, plus as a way for me to test out what I’m learning, I’ve listed 20 projects that I’m working on. By 11:59 PM on December 31st, I would like to have achieved the following:

  1. I will have developed a strategy for one of my brands (which I started up a year and a half ago but it stalled out and has a couple of false starts since but no real progress).
  2. I will have published 100 articles (which is a project I started — I’m 10% done — but then got busy doing other things).
  3. I will be doing 3-set high-intensity circuit-training workouts 6 times a week with 30 pound weights. (I keep getting stuck at 3 circuits with 20 pound weights or 2 circuits with 30 pound weights).
  4. I will have finished putting together my US corporation (which has been a long and painful process to set up since I live in Canada).
  5. I will have completed a copywriting course. (I’m always taking courses to improve my skills and I’m currently taking one on copywriting, which I started last year but which has stalled).
  6. I will have published my Sales Funnel Bible book (which I finished writing in the spring but the editing has stalled).
  7. I will have finished the first draft of a book I’m co-writing with a friend of mine (which is actually going well but is right at the precipice of falling into an abyss of delay!)
  8. I will be marketing each week to a joint venture list and earning a minimum amount of weekly income from that effort (which is something I’ve been doing off and on with mixed success for the past couple of years but which I’d like to have consistent income from).
  9. I will finish deploying a new brand that I’ve just started. (See? not everything is stalled. I want this one to do well before I let it crash!)
  10. I will develop a plan for an internet television brand I put together a couple of years ago (which I put aside for a while to focus on my Sales Funnel Bible book).
  11. I will drywall and paint the recroom in my basement and install a bar (which is something that I’ve be ready to do since the summer but haven’t got around to yet).
  12. I will have finished a client’s book (which we’ve been planning to write for a while!)
  13. I will finish a year’s worth of newsletters for a real estate investor (which we’re in the process of doing — everything is going well there. Again, I don’t want to let it fall).
  14. I will finish a book for a real estate investor (which, again, is going okay so far, although the timeline is starting to alarm me).
  15. I will have a plan in place to start marketing one of my brands (which is going well but I’d like to push it forward more).
  16. I will have a plan in place to take one of my brands to a new level (which has done well but I want to take it in a new direction).
  17. Proprietary project #1.
  18. Proprietary project #2.
  19. Proprietary project #3.
  20. Proprietary project #4.

I’m sorry that some of the projects are kind of vague. I don’t want to put too much attention on some of my brands until they are ready; some of my clients like to remain behind the scenes; plus some of my projects are proprietary projects and I don’t want to give away my secret sauce here… But I’m recording that they exist even if you don’t know what they are. :)

All of these projects need some effort and attention if I’m going to carry them through to completion within the next 76 days.

Yikes! Only 76 days??? I’d better get to work!

What are the skills that enable you to #FinishWhatYouStart ?

I’m doing a lot of thinking about how to finish what you start — about how I (and probably many others) do a good job at starting something but not necessarily finishing.

I want to change how I finish things and I’m sharing my journey because I think other people may want the same thing.

So what are the skills that a good finisher has? That’s what I want to explore in this blog post. I’ll probably be generalizing a bit because not all projects require every single one of these finishing skills but in general most of these projects do.

To help me create this list, I am thinking of two people I know and have worked with who I have seen finish projects and finish them very, very well. I am thinking about the times that we have worked on projects together and what they did to bring those projects to completion and what skills I saw them bring to bear.

FINISHING SKILLS

There is a lot of overlap between these. I can’t say that these are all distinct, discrete skills but rather a mix of related qualities. You might even look at this big group of skills and call them (collectively) “project management”. I would agree. If we were to dissect project management, I think these are the parts.

  • Resilience. Every project meets challenges but finishers stick with the project even when the challenges seem insurmountable. They don’t let the challenges stop them but rather they deal with the challenges, eliminating them or working around them.
  • Perfection. Finishing well requires a certain degree of perfectionism. A good finisher needs to avoid the temptation to just slap a coat of paint over everything and hope it hides the blemishes. Rather, they take the time and focus to correct the blemishes first.
  • Consistency. A finisher is consistent. They show up and do the work day in and day out. The finisher keeps going even though things don’t seem to change all that much from one day to the next. It’s as if the work itself is the reward.
  • Thrives on detail. When you get to the finish, it really gets down to the details. You aren’t just thinking those sweeping creative thoughts; you are now in the weeds, tackling the small stuff. You’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
  • Focused/Delays the reward. The finisher keeps working toward the end of the project because they know the reward will be there. I think this is a big reason why I leave stuff behind because I want the reward, and I feel I get it from starting more often than I think I get it from finishing.
  • Has force of will. I’m not sure if this is the right label for what I’m trying to describe but it seems to me that projects become more difficult as they move forward but a good finisher has the force of will to push the project forward in spite of the increasing difficulties.
  • Juggle all the parts. Here’s another area where I get hung up. A good finisher can see all the different components of the project, each one presumably moving along at its own pace with its own challenges, and they can see how it will all fit together into one smoothly-operating finished project.
  • Organization. Goof finishers, especially ones that follow a pre-defined plan, always seem to be well-organized, maintaining checklists and a project plan throughout the project.
  • Fixedness on the goal. This was a late addition to the list but I realized that one area that good finishers have is the ability to remain fixed to the goal. Not just focused to get through the project (which I mentioned above) but rather fixed to the goal. That is, they don’t redefine the goal as the project becomes harder.

I think these are the key qualities of a good finisher, and then you also need to dial in other factors — such as delegation and team management — if you’re working on a larger project.

A COLD HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR

Okay, confession time… because I’m blogging about this to help me become a better finisher. So what am I lacking?

I can see from this list that I really struggle in a lot of these areas. Yes, I can do some of them because I do indeed finish some projects (even if I don’t finish as many projects as I would like).

I was going to list the above skills in order of my best to my worst but honestly I can’t. I see glimpses of success in these but overall, not enough to call it “my best”. Truthfully, I am not happy with my performance in any of these areas. (For what it’s worth, I do okay at consistency in other areas of my life, thanks in no small part to Kelly McGonigal’s The Willpower Instinct, which I consider to be one of the 10 business books that changed my life).

In some ways, I am lacking these skills because I’m not wired for them. (As mentioned in a previous blog, I tend to do well with the big creative stuff). But also, I just haven’t had as much of a chance to practice these skills because I tend to focus on the start. So I get this feedback loop that rewards starting and stunts the growth of my finishing.

HONING THESE SKILLS

I believe these skills are learnable. I think I have seen these skills in my life now and then. But now I need to focus on developing them and growing them and making the work for me. In the projects I am currently trying to finish, I will specifically work on using these goals to help me finish well.

Vacation report: Ocean views and opportunities on Prince Edward Island

My wife and I recently took a quick little vacation to Prince Edward Island.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s smallest province — it’s a 2,170 square mile island of just 140,000 people located on Canada’s east coast. If you’ve ever heard of Anne of Green Gables, that story is set on PEI. It’s also the “birthplace of Confederation” because it was the location of a meeting in 1864 between representatives of different areas of Canada that eventually led to Canada becoming its own country.

Prince_Edward_Island_in_Canada

Janelle and I had never been to PEI before but our friends just moved back there after living in Winnipeg for more than a decade. So Janelle and I took some time off of work and flew out there to visit them and to explore the island. We were there from September 28th to October 3rd (although I’m only blogging about it now because a very busy week last week kept me from actively blogging!)

We had a great time! Our flight took us into Charlottetown (the capital city) and our friends picked us up and we drove the 30 minutes or so to their home in Georgetown (which is located on the east coast of PEI). The weather was amazing and the fall colors had just started to appear in the trees.

Throughout the week, Janelle and I and our friends fished for mackerel, dug clams and cooked them, danced in a ceilidh (pronounced “kay-lee”; it’s a traditional Scottish/Irish dance), explored the historic buildings of Georgetown, walked around the buildings that the Anne of Green Gables author grew up in, and walked around the historic streets of Charlottetown (including the very room where Confederation was signed)… and more!

PICTURES FROM OUR TRIP TO PEI

Here I am in the Confederation Room — the actual room where the Canadian Confederation was signed in 1864.
Aaron_Hoos_in_PEI_at_the_confederation_room

Here is my wife and I on a tour of The Prince Edward Island Brewing Company. They have an amazing growth story… and the beer is good too! In this picture, Janelle is drinking a seasonal pumpkin ale and I’m drinking a blueberry ale. I’m excited to hear that they are planning a Canada-wide distribution starting in 2014!
Aaron_Hoos_in_PEI_brewery_tour

Here I am digging up clams. We boiled them up and ate them — it was so weird. ;)
Aaron_Hoos_in_PEI_digging_clams

I just caught a HUGE mackerel! There were a dozen people on the boat and my wife and I were the last people to catch fish. #cityfolk
Aaron_Hoos_in_PEI_fishing_mackerel

And this handsome fellow is blocking an amazing view of the ocean.
Aaron_Hoos_in_PEI_oceanview

It was a great trip and so nice to hang out with good friends who we really miss. :)

OPPORTUNITIES IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

I never travel anywhere without seeing really cool opportunities for new brands and businesses, or spotting interesting business ideas and strategies to adopt.

Here are a few notes I made while I was there:

  • Land is ridiculously cheap around Georgetown, partly as a government-legislated way to attract people to the area but partly because of market forces. Frankly, it’s hard to find year-round work in some of the coastal towns. The main industries are potato farming, fishing, and tourism (not necessarily in that order), although there might be additional shipbuilding industries in the future. But as you can imagine, these three main industries are very dependent on the weather, which means they can’t operate from late fall to early spring. So housing is a huge opportunity if you can buy cheap land, build houses, and rent them out — especially if you’re willing to allow less-than-one-year tenants.
  • Tourism is huge and while in Georgetown we ate at the Maroon Pig Art Gallery and Sweet Shop (we ate the pizza!). It was a great little spot overlooking the water, with really good artwork. And at the risk of annoying the owners of this place, I think there is some cool opportunity for others who can offer something similar — a trendy place for visitors to shop and eat.
  • While visiting Georgetown we went on a boat (pictured above with my massive mackerel catch). It was a 2-3 hour tour around the area, showing us how lobsters, crabs, mussels, and mackerel are caught, and then we fished for mackerel and barbecued them up on the boat before returning to land. It was a memorable time and I heard that the same boat tour also offers yoga on the water (presumably they take people out on the boat to do yoga). There is a ton of opportunity here, not just for tours that are so seafood focused but also historical ones. My wife and I would have loved to learn more about the harbor area and the role it played in the history of the area. There are also hundreds of shipwrecks in the area (dating back to the 1800’s) and we would have loved to sail around where some of those ships have sunk.
  • PEI is a beautiful place, year-round but especially in the fall, and I think there is a huge opportunity here for someone to run an art destination… maybe something like a bed and breakfast art studio with a bit of land and tours around the island — stuff for painters and photographers. I can see this being an ideal investment for retired people with some artistic skills.
  • Our friends tell us that winters are short (for Canada) but can be very grey and there isn’t a lot to do since the island is so tied to the spring/summer/fall seasons. So if you want year-round customers, consider some fun activities for the locals — paintball, go-karts, arcades, etc.
  • And if you’re looking for an example of a great “home-grown” brewery business model, The Prince Edward Island Brewing Company is a great case study. They started by brewing beer in a restaurant but quickly outgrew that and built up to the point where they are exploring cross-Canada distribution. The restaurant-first craft beer model gave them the ability to perfect their recipe, test flavors and styles, and built brand loyalty before growing. Try their beer… and build your business the same way!

If you’re looking for a fun place to vacation, or if you love seafood, or if you’re looking for an interesting business opportunity, go check out Prince Edward Island!