Learn a New Language … Now!

Le chat est noir et blanc!

This is a bit of a diversion from my usual dietary woes but I thought I’d share a little something that could have turned into an even bigger regret than it already was. About thirty odd years ago, I was paralysed by my inability to decide between learning French, Spanish, German, Japanese or Chinese. So I didn’t start learning any of them. Inertia is a powerful thing!

Since Canada is a bilingual country, & I already had the English bit, I thought I should probably try French. Finally! After all, it would be easier to find francophones to practice with. We have plenty of local language resources. And we have French TV channels & radio that I could learn from. Logical, eh!

After 30 years of deliberations, I then did what everyone with an engineering background does … I did another comparative evaluation exercise on which French language course might be more useful for me. I lost another year doing that. But I finally picked one & splashed the cash. It was my 2017 Christmas gift from me to myself!

I did the first lesson the day I purchased the course. And then I did nothing. Again!

It wasn’t ’til after a family trip to Québec that I was reminded of some things I’d forgotten. Seeing things through another’s eyes, those of my daughter, was an eye opener! She loved Montréal &, no surprise this, the stunning beauty of Québec City too. She began learning French. Towards the end of last year I blew the digital dust off off my French course & got stuck in. But this time, so far & fingers crossed that it continues, I’m staying the course.

I’m lucky enough to have to travel to the francophone regions of Canada for work &, finally, I overcame my reluctance to speak my first few words of French in public. In a restaurant, of course! I had diligently practiced my opening lines. Those that warn people that I’m just learning French & to please have patience with me! They worked. People took their time, they spoke slowly & clearly, & they helped me. And I managed to get breakfast to boot!

There is a quote, a touch inaccurately portrayed as something said by Nelson Mandela, that says … If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.

That is one of the true joys of speaking, no matter how poorly, another’s language. I am awed by the tolerance, the patience, & the kindness elicited by my early efforts to speak French. I hope that, one day, I’ll be able to make it sound like the beautiful language it is. Meantime, my fingers are hurting from being crossed so that I might sustain the effort.

You know that I like to beat up on myself from time to time, so I’m just a tad annoyed that I didn’t start sooner. But I’m also kinda quietly proud of my progress so far.

I wonder if I shouldn’t think about doing a little Spanish on the side too? I really like the food in all the Spanish speaking countries I’ve been to too. And, who knows, maybe it’s not too late to give up on the notion that I might aspire to, one day, play that old dusty guitar like Carlos Santana!

Hope you’re all having a great weekend! 😜😁

PS … If you’d like to try something a little different for your next vacation, I highly recommend a visit to Canada’s French-speaking regions. It’s like a little touch of Europe, right here in North America. And give it a try, test drive your few words of French! And wait ’til you try the food, I’m going to do a post later on the fast food in Québec. Mmmmm! ! 🤪

Sales, Marketing, Diet, & Civility

This is a different kind of post for me, so please stick with it if you come across an unusual comment along the way. It’ll come clear by the end, I hope.

Montréal Fast Food

Montréal Fast Food

I’m heading home from Montréal last Friday & it’s Montréal in December, so I’m at the airport early in case there are any weather challenges in getting there. My phone needed to be charged & , once at the gate, I sat at one side of those little tables with the power outlets & charging ports at the back. At the other side of the table was another traveller, doing the same thing. While my sales regalia is often chinos & a company-logoed polo shirt, this guy was dressed in a really sharp suit, with a nice tight Windsor-knotted tie. In my defense, I have to climb inside working machinery sometimes. And yes, I can do a nice Windsor knot too! His shoes, unlike mine, were polished to a high shine. How’d he do that with Montréal’s salted & slushy streets? While I love to chat, other than a nod & a quick smile, I tend not to bother other travellers, as many want to be left alone. Having the earphones in is the clue to that!

After a few minutes, he unplugged, & started to chat. OMG, was this a gay guy hitting on me? I was used to a lifetime of women swooning at my feet, wouldn’t it be natural for a gay guy to feel the same way? Turned out he was, shocker this, in sales & marketing. With a focus on social media & the digital universe.

I was immediately engaged & the conversation took off, with both of us fighting for airtime. This guy had a very different outlook to mine. Over the course of my career, I’ve greatly enjoyed the company of the people I have had the pleasure of working with. Sure, I’ve met a few doorknobs along the way but, for the most part, I have enjoyed the company of colleagues, suppliers & customers alike. And I’ve made some really good friends along the way. His response to this was pretty blunt …

“Are you in business to make friends? Or to make money?”

Can’t you do both?

Not according to my fellow flier! His approach is to isolate & attack, hard, his target audience. In part, by denigrating the “others”, other suppliers & other customers. His philosophy is like some maniacal abuse of the Pareto principle … Forget the 80%, they don’t matter. Instead, focus on the 20% with the highest potential return. And milk them dry. Any way you can. For as much as you can.

But what about longer term relationships? And repeat business?

All garbage, according to this philosophy. The immediate kill is where it’s at. There is no long term view. Other than just doing more of the same with new prospects.

This went against everything I believe. I was gobsmacked, time & again, listening to his gospel. But he was relentless. He took a look at my blog on his phone & ridiculed that. Brutally. And, given the weight-loss bias of the blog, he laughed out loud as he rolled his eyes, while nodding towards my waistline, and passing a very sarcastic comment. One I’m too embarrassed to repeat here. Then he told me, guaranteed me, that I’ll do better with my diet after hearing his message. I’ll come back to that point below.

Montréal is a great town to eat in. I often think that spending my early years in Canada, in Montréal, contributed to my circumferential challenges. I had just enjoyed a week of dietary debauchery in this great city. I had had lunches & dinners with suppliers & customers. Though he ripped me apart for my choices of dining companions too. The bottom line was that I knew the scale would echo his condemnation when I got home.

Despite the scars, I held my calm demeanour, even if only on the outside at times. I wondered how it might have gone in my younger, more volatile, years. That gave me pause for an occasional smile, & that seemed to throw him off stride every now & again!

Before leaving, this wasn’t his gate, he gave me some blogging advice. Most of which was far too callous than I think I could ever use. But he did relent & give me a couple of milquetoast (his description!) things to try. They’re in this post, did you spot them? Send me a message & let me know. I’m curious to see if he’s as good as he thinks he is.

Despite it being a great conversation, I still think there is more to be said for just being a little more caring & civil towards each other. Sales is all about taking away a customer’s pain, not inflicting more. I want my customers to come back to me. Again & again.

Oh yes! The rat was right about one thing, my diet is going better since I returned. In fact he was right about two things, he also told me that I wouldn’t have the balls to do the post without explaining it, or putting a warning label on it. I guess my warning label was the opening paragraph. Go figure!