Three Books I Loved in 2016

2016 was a pretty great year of reading for me. I finally got back in the habit – especially in the last two months – and I couldn’t be happier about it.

I like to read non-fiction – specifically, books about lifestyle design (think Tim Ferriss), philosophy, economics, history, and politics. The books on this list have helped me in a lot of ways this year – from helping me conquer my anxieties and my ego, to helping me improve as a small business owner, to making me the happiest I’ve been in years. I hope these books can do the same for you.

#1 Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Holiday is a fantastic author and a believer in stoic philosophy. I’ve read two of his other books – “Growth Hacker Marketing” and “The Daily Stoic” – and both have been really helpful in my day-to-day life.

“Ego is the Enemy” is the book I wish I read 10 years ago, before I started my career, before I finished school. I initially purchased the audiobook from Audible.com, but after listening to it twice, I had to purchase a hard copy – where I’ve marked up almost every page, as this book is full of tremendous insights.

As Holiday puts it, armed with the lessons in this book “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve.” If you’re a long-time high-achiever like me, who has had a hard time understanding why things haven’t gone better for them, this book is going to set you free.

#2 Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss is the best-selling author of “The Four-Hour Workweek”, “The Four Hour Body”, and host of “The Tim Ferriss Show.”

It’s hard to describe what Tim Ferriss does – “lifestyle design” is part of it – but I would recommend Tools of Titans to basically everybody. Over the past few years, Tim Ferriss has interviewed 200 of the most amazing people on the planet – from tech titans like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk, to Hollywood icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Foxx, to extreme athletes like Shaun White and Triple H.

Tools of Titans is a nearly 700 page tome with his notes from those interviews, which outline “the tactics, routines, and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers.” I’ve learned more from this book than every other book I read this year combined. It’s full of stories that will help you improve your life. And the best part is that if you’re not completely convinced, you can get a ton of his awesome for free on his blog or through his podcast. Trust me – you’ll want this book!

#3 Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur, best known as the co-founder of PayPal. He’s a billionaire investor (the first outside investor in Facebook) and a noted political activist who was recently named to the executive committee of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

“Zero to One” is a compilations of his lectures on start-ups at Stanford University, prepared with the help of his student Blake Masters. It’s a wildly optimistic book that examines how we can build a better future. It provides his brilliant insights on the dot-com crash, on competition and monopoly, on how we can control our future, and ultimately how to build a successful start-up.

I think my favourite part of this book is how unconventional his advice is. So much of it flies in the face of conventional wisdom – but it works. I would highly recommend this book to anyone searching for a “big idea” or a way to change the world, and it’s absolutely mandatory reading for anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Other great books

I’ve read a few other great books this year, listed below in no particular order. If you have any questions about these books, or have books of your own to share, please leave them in the comments!

  • Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
  • Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games are Won by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
  • All Marketers Are Liars Tell Stories by Seth Godin
  • The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
 

The Power of Marketing

Some advice I’ve heard before: Focus on the product. The customers will come. Your marketing isn’t nearly as important.

Tell that to rock, paper, scissors.

 

Time for Conservatives to embrace equality and end opposition to same-sex marriage

Many people my age equate “conservative” with “homophobic.”

That’s a big problem for Conservative parties across Canada — especially at the federal level.

It’s a big problem for our Party’s future. Twenty years from now, it’s entirely possible that we’ll have a generation of voters who have never been able to shake their first impression of the Conservative Party.

It’s also a big problem for our Party today. Many of the first-time voters in the last federal election were driven by the idea of “Real Change.” That’s not because of what the Liberals offered — it’s because of what Conservatives offered.

To be fair, the Conservative record on LGBTQ rights wasn’t all bad. In fact, I’d say Conservatives had a lot to be proud of when it came to defending LGBTQ rights. From openly criticizing Ugandan and Russian anti-gay laws, to defending LGBTQ minorities in the Middle East from ISIS brutality, our government got some of the big stuff right.

And from a Party standpoint, the doors have largely been opened to the gay community. The Fabulous Blue Tent — an event hosted by gay Conservatives — was a massive success at our last convention, featured Laureen Harper, and promises to be an even bigger and better event this weekend in Vancouver. It’s no longer a secret to the general public — a large contingent of senior Conservative staffers while we were in government were gay. One media outlet even asked the question: is Canada run by a gay mafia?

But on other issues — some of which really mattered in the eyes of the public — we absolutely failed.

Many Conservatives seemed afraid to speak publicly about LGBTQ rights, fearing retribution from social conservatives. Our MPs rarely spoke passionately in favour of LGBTQ rights, declined invitations to Pride parades for no clear reason, and routinely opposed gay rights and trans rights bills put forward by the opposition. All this despite the fact that in my years on the Hill, I don’t think I ever met someone who was actually opposed to gay marriage, or to equality for gay people.

Worst of all, the Conservative Party inexplicably still has an official Policy Declaration opposing same-sex marriage.

This is both morally and politically reprehensible. Morally, we are on the wrong side of history — it is indefensible to treat LGBTQ members of society as lesser human beings for political gain.

Politically, while we’ve pandered to small groups of outspoken donors and members, we’ve alienated an entire generation of voters, and its going to be very difficult for our next leader to bring them back on board.

And on a personal level, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life explaining that I’m not a bigot every time I mention my political affiliation.

The Conservative Party must repeal its anti-same sex marriage policy declaration this weekend — and leadership candidates should line up to condemn this chapter of our past, before our Party can move forward.

 

Silenced at Carleton U — School of Journalism must apologize for shameful threats against students

Once again, I am utterly ashamed of my alma mater, and specifically, the School of Journalism and Communications at Carleton University.

Students were complaining about an advisor’s lack of office hours on the Spotted at Carleton U Facebook page, and the School of Journalism took it upon themselves to send threatening letters to everyone who commented on the page.

I hopefully don’t need to point out the irony in the Journalism department trying to stifle freedom of speech. But I am not terribly surprised — while I was a student there, I was constantly told not to write about certain subjects, or that certain viewpoints shouldn’t be given coverage because those people were wrong. In one example, I had a journalism professor compare climate change scientists who disagreed with the IPCC consesus to holocaust deniers — an attack on the National Post, who had just published a series of articles outlining dissenting opinions.

Speaking of the Holocaust, the other departments at Carleton weren’t much better. I once had the chair of the history department explain in a class why “some people” think the Holocaust never happened. In the same breath, he went on to explain why George W. Bush was worse than Hitler.

In a political science class, I had a TA dock my essay marks, because I refused to state in a paper that Tim Hudak was a homophobe and a misogynist. As someone who took part in the Ontario PC leadership race, had met Tim Hudak personally, and went on to work for him for several years, I was obviously not going to say such an absurd thing about a good man.

Myself, and several other conservatives in the class, all received awful marks on that assignment. After doing a little bit of research, we found that same TA was a member of such Facebook groups as “Counting down the days until Margaret Thatcher dies”, and other fashionably hateful groups attacking conservatives. When I approached my professor about this, he bumped my grade up 5% and called it a day — and there were absolutely no consequences for the TA.

It is amazing that so many universities can get away with such tremendous intellectual dishonesty. A university should be the best place in the world for open, honest, intellectual discussions. Instead, they have become a place where groupthink has become the norm, and dissenting viewpoints are silenced.

While I was at the university, I saw the very worst of what it had to offer in the form of student government. Our student association gained international notoriety for its preposterous decision to stop funding a cystic fibrosis fundraiser because the disease allegedly “only affects white men.” At the time, I was quite angry about it, and the students who were responsible. But in retrospect, it was made possible by the faculty and the administration, who have created a hostile, anti-intellectual environment, where these kind of ideas thrive, and independent thinkers are made to suffer.

And the worst possible place for that type of thinking to take hold is at the School of Journalism and Communications — where freedom of speech should be valued above all else. If students aren’t safe to ask for better office hours, what on earth will they be safe to talk about?

The school needs to publicly apologize to the students it threatened or risk its reputation being tarnished forever.

 

The Path Forward — Why Conservatives Can’t Wait for a New Leader

Part one of a series on the upcoming Conservative leadership race

With the convention upcoming and a leadership vote just over a year away, many are debating the best path forward for the Conservative Party of Canada.

It has become increasingly clear to me that the best path forward involves a dramatic reversal of some of the recent changes made by National Council.

The decision to raise membership fees to $25/year is an astonishingly bad one. It’s a blatant attempt by the Party to try and suck every dollar they can out of their most hardcore supporters. Instead of selling, for example, 200,000 memberships during leadership for $15, they are hoping to sell 150,000 memberships for $25 at a net profit to the Party.

This might make us the first Party in Canadian history to actively discourage people from getting involved. It’s wrong, and it’s incredibly short sighted.

Even if we didn’t care that we are disenfranchising thousands of Canadians who can’t or won’t pay the new fee, and accept the fact that the Party needs all the help it can get as the Liberals crush our fundraising numbers, this is still a losing proposition.

During the Liberal leadership race, they built a list of 300,000 supporters — most of whom did not pay any sort of membership fee. But these supporters now form a large part of the Liberal donor base, worth roughly $6 million a quarter.

It’s no wonder the Liberals have proposed getting rid of membership fees — who cares about a $10 membership fee? When you have hundreds of thousands of people engaged and caring about your Party, you’re going to be able to raise a ton of money from small, repeat donors. That’s how our Party used to work, and we routinely out fundraised our opponents.

But when you’re transparently trying to suck every dime out of Party members — as the Conservatives are doing now — people don’t feel engaged. They are paying a fee to vote for the next leader. That’s it. And that’s not the way to rebuild a Party.

And yes, the Party fees are structured in a way that provides incentive to buy multi-year memberships. But the experience of the last few years has taught us that most of the time, all a Party membership buys you is the privilege of being telemarketed to repeatedly. If you want to convince people to buy multi-year memberships, it should be done by providing value, not by gouging your most dedicated supporters.

So today, I’m calling on National Council to reverse this decision and return to a $15 membership fee. And I’m hoping you will join me in supporting any person running for National Council who supports this change.

I’m also calling for a revision to the leadership rules which make it incredibly difficult to sell memberships. Section 2.3.6 of the leadership rules says “Membership payments must be accompanied by a prescribed membership form signed by each applicant, and a copy of the applicant’s cheque, money order or first and last 4 digits of the applicant’s credit card number used to purchase such membership.

There are so many problems with this. First, it seemingly makes it impossible to sell memberships online. You cannot collect signatures through a website, nor does any payment processing service provide the first 4 digits of a purchaser’s credit card number. Whether this was intentional, or made due to a lack of technical understanding over how online transactions work, this needs to be fixed. While I have chatted with executive director Dustin Van Vugt and he’s told me online membership sales would be allowed, this rule makes it basically impossible. It is completely backwards that a Party in the 21st century would take away this important avenue for reaching out to new members, and this rule needs to be amended to allow for online membership sales.

Secondly, the rule makes it incredibly difficult to sell memberships at events. Candidates will undoubtedly find themselves at hundreds of small events as they travel across the country campaigning. Are they going to have to warn people ahead of time that they need to bring their cheque book if they want to sign up to vote?

I understand the Party wants to prevent campaigns from committing fraud. Some campaigns in the past have been accused of buying memberships with cash for people who don’t even know what they are signing up for. But this rule is clearly and specifically targeted at ethnic communities in the GTA.  It also risks us being labelled, as our own MP Deepak Obhrai put it, as “elitist and whites-only.” If someone as loyal to the Party, and who has worked as hard and as tirelessly as he has, is willing to say it, so am I.

There are other ways to prevent fraud, and it’s not as if someone can sign up 10,000 members in Brampton and win the country — each riding is weighted. It won’t matter if 100 people vote or 100,000 people vote in a GTA riding, each riding’s vote total is worth the same. This rule makes it more difficult for all candidates to sell memberships, across Canada, and it means less people will be casting votes. It absolutely needs to be removed from the leadership rules.

There are other rules that seem egregious to me — for example, requiring every single donation to go through the Conservative Fund and then taking a “processing fee” of 10%. Or taking requiring $5 to process every membership sold after October 28, 2016. The Party seems to be nickel and diming Party members and leadership candidates — likely to compensate for poor fundraising since a disastrous election campaign.

But fundamentally, the biggest problem is the Party is closing itself off, rather than opening up — and that’s a big mistake. The leadership race is the best opportunity we’re going to have to engage our membership before the next election.

We can’t wait for a new leader. We have to reverse these changes now, and if the current National Council won’t do it, we need to elect one that will.

If you are a candidate for National Council, please contact me at tester.dean@gmail.com and let me know where you stand. I’m happy to provide an open forum here for any candidate who wants to weigh in, including those who disagree with me.

 

A quick rundown of our new “non-partisan” senators

So, a quick rundown on our new “non-partisan” senators…

  • Peter Harder — led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s transition team, worked closely with Gerald Butts and the senior campaign team
  • Ratna Omidvar — donated $1000 to Trudeau’s leadership campaign, and $1000 to the Liberals in 2012.
  • Raymonde Gagné — Liberal donor who gave $100 and $84.59 in October 2008.
  • Murray Sinclair — dozens of anti-Conservative tweets during the election
  • Frances Lankin — donated $350 to the NDP in 2015, former Bob Rae cabinet minister, worked closely with Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government in Ontario
  • André Pratte — La Presse columnist highly critical of Stephen Harper
  • Chantal Petitclerc — Paralympian and the only appointment without any obvious partisan ties

I’m not terribly surprised by this, or the fact that Justin Trudeau is mysteriously unavailable for a press conference today.

Nor am I surprised that, besides the obvious Peter Harder, the mainstream media has completely neglected to mention the other partisan ties from this group.

Instead, we get more boasting about the “non-partisan, merit-based process” from the Globe and Mail.

During last year’s federal election, Mr. Trudeau promised to create a “non-partisan, merit-based process” to appoint new senators. To come up with a pool of qualified candidates from which to make final choices, Mr. Trudeau created an independent advisory board chaired by Huguette Labelle, a former federal deputy minister and former chancellor of the University of Ottawa.
Globe and Mail, March 18, 2016)

What a remarkable coincidence that this non-partisan process recommended a group of Liberal donors, supporters, and anti-Conservative thinkers.

 

The Million-Dollar Liberal Website You’ve Never Visited (And You’ll Never Visit Again)

If you’ve ever wanted insight into the scale of government excess and waste, this would be a good place to start.

This week, news broke that the Privy Council Office wants an additional $600,000 per year to “modernize (the Prime Minister’s) web presence.”

But the lede of this story was buried – the website is already costing taxpayers $1 million per year to operate.

Have you ever visited the Prime Minister’s website? Probably not. It’s the million-dollar Liberal website you’ve never visited — and once you visit it, you’ll never visit it again.

It’s poorly designed and has only the most basic information about our Prime Minister, and functions as little more than a “non-partisan” homepage for government propaganda.

One company was quoted by the Toronto Star as saying the website could easily be replicated for $10,000-$20,000 – less than 1% of the budget being proposed by Trudeau’s government.

As a web developer and owner of testerdigital, a full-service digital marketing firm, I would go a step further.

I would be embarrassed if any website I produced looked like that, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I had produced this for a paying client. Anyone who compared the Prime Minister’s website to WhiteHouse.gov would be supremely embarrassed for our country.

The content posted to the Prime Minister’s website is equally humiliating. I don’t know how they justify needing four full-time staffers to copy and paste news releases onto the web 3-4 times a week — but they’ve proposed hiring two more.

One of the government’s justifications for spending hundreds of thousands on the website is the need to livestream events. Perhaps they think Canadians are woefully ignorant. Anyone who spends ten seconds on Google would find out that the world’s top livestreaming service, Livestream.com, charges a maximum of $399 per month – and that’s only if viewers are watching over 30,000 hours of content a month. And the kicker? The Liberal Ontario government has been using Livestream.com for years.

And was the site built on expensive, custom content management systems, or using a ton of custom JavaScript or plugins? No — it uses common elements like Drupal, jQuery, and Bootstrap, that anybody you’d hire for a junior web position would have a supreme mastery over.

And yet here we have a proposal to spend $1.6 million a year on a website that any designer would be ashamed to put their name to.

The last Conservative Prime Minister’s Office was rightly mocked when they launched 24 Seven – a lame, weekly video that was highly partisan and mostly pointless, receiving a couple hundred views a week if they were lucky. But the cost of 24 Seven was next to nothing compared to the new Prime Minister’s website.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s spokesperson, Cameron Ahmad, defended the price tag, saying it was necessary to ensure the website was “adequately funded,” according to the Toronto Star. It’s as if a million dollars a year were not adequate to maintain a website that would have looked bad when Jean Chretien was Prime Minister.

Perhaps the reality is that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office knows any better. They could be woefully uninformed about the cost of building websites, web design trends, or the time and effort it requires to copy and paste things into Drupal.

Or perhaps the reality is that nobody in the Prime Minister’s Office cares – $1.6 million wasted on a vanity project to promote their leader is a drop in the bucket compared to what they are planning to spend in the upcoming budget.

 

An open letter to conservatives — big government is back

When Justin Trudeau says Canada is back, he means government is back — specifically, big government. Do anything but sit back and watch.