Book review: Keys to Success by Napoleon Hill

20161018_153352A few years ago, I read the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Since then, I haven’t stopped raving about it and I recommend it  to anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship.

Believing that all the books written by Napoleon Hill would be great, I decided to read “Keys to Success.” I was disappointed.

Napoleon Hill was a reporter. In 1908 he interviewed Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in the world at that time. During the interview, Andrew Carnegie suggested that he (Napoleon Hill)  interview all the successful people of the era and distill the secrets of their success. This was the turning point which defined Napoleon’s life.

Speaking at Toastmasters
Speaking at Toastmasters

After 20 years of research and hundreds of interviews, in 1928 he published “The law of success” in 15 volumes. The work didn’t sell well. The 15 volumes were edited down to one big volume (640 pages) which still it didn’t sell well. Finally, the big book was edited down to a 235 page book “Think and Grow Rich” which became a major best seller.

I mention this to highlight that Napoleon Hill was not a great writer, and only after 35 years of editing his work did he manage to create the book which made him famous.

Think and Grow Rich sold over 20 million copies during Napoleon Hill’s time. In the following 30 years of his life, Napoleon gave speeches, lectures and workshops about how to be successful.

During that time, Napoleon continued refining his material to better serve his audience. However, his new material was never published. Only after his death did the Napoleon Hill Foundation put together all the material he was using and condense it to publish “Keys to Success.”

Napoleon Hill never intended to publish another book. It is my opinion that the Napoleon Hill Foundation wanted to either capitalize on the name or serve the public who was still thirsty for his teachings.
The book was not a pleasant read. I found it dry and difficult to follow. The major lessons in this book were recycled ideas which were better explained and better written in “Think and Grow Rich.” If you are an unconditional follower of Napoleon Hill, maybe you will enjoy this book. I didn’t enjoy it and I give it 2.5 stars out of 5.

Personal finance and responsible consumption

Working as MC

What is responsible consumption?

It’s a movement created by consumers, like you and me, focused on making responsible purchasing decisions. The goal is to protect the environment, human rights, and reduce or eliminate animal cruelty.

As North Americans we live in a consumer society. We buy stuff because we think it’s fun, because we are bored and because we want to reward ourselves.

We purchase things without being aware of what we might be contributing to. We might be creating a lot of harm to the environment, we might be supporting the violation of human rights and we might be financing the continuous cruelty towards animals.

How can we be more responsible consumers?

The best way to be a responsible consumer is to ask yourself some question such as “what am I contributing to?” or “do I really need this?” If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. The end purpose is to reduce waste as much as possible and save our natural resources. This is not only good for the environment but it is also good for the wallet.

Every time I see a big SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) I feel sick to my stomach. There is no reason why anyone should drive a Hummer in the city. What they are doing is saying “fuck you” to the environment and to anyone who cares about it.

I recommend using public transportation, walking, to biking. If you have to have a vehicle, then purchase a fuel efficient one. As a money coach, I prefer that you buy a second hand vehicle.

Another thing that drives me crazy is the fashion industry. Every three months, with the change of season, retailers make us believe that we have to wear the latest trend in fashion. “Oh, this winter green is “in,” so throw out your blue coat from last year because you don’t want to appear out of fashion.” I am a strong believer that clothes should be worn until the end of their utility. If you are afraid that your friends will judge you because you are not up on the latest trend in fashion, you need to work on your self esteem or you need to have different friends.

When we practice responsible consumption, we not only help the environment and help ourselves, but we also influence others. I’ll give you an example. I used to eat meat every day, three times per day, but then I met my ex-wife, a vegetarian at the time (now vegan). Through her example I learned to consume less meat and now I eat meat about once per week. Our relationship made me a better consumer.

As consumers we have the ultimate power, we have the power of the purse. We can persuade other people, businesses and governments to be less wasteful, to protect the environment and to stop animal cruelty.

Book review: The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

The Ascent of MoneyMaybe the best history book about money that I have read until now. The author, Niall Ferguson takes us on a journey from the first forms of currency, to the assassination of the Inca race by  the Spaniard Conquistador, to the financial crisis of 2008.

The book was full of information nuggets. I found myself underlining paragraph after paragraph. By the end, however, it became a bit too complex for me and I found myself tuning out.

Niall Ferguson is a Scottish historian and professor at Harvard University. He specializes in International history as well as economic and financial history. Over his career he has written 11 books.

Spending some time with friends. :)
Spending some time with friends. 🙂

The book covers the history of money, credit and banking through the times. Although I liked the book and I give it 4 out of 5 stars, I believe the book is disorganized. Mr. Ferguson jumps from one time period to the next, from one geographic zone to the next and from one aspect of money to another. At many times I was confused and disoriented.

Overall, I recommend it. It’s entertaining and educational. You have my approval to buy it.

Net worth statement, October 1st, 2016: $153,000

With my friend Mala enjoying a beautiful day by the river.
With my friend Mala enjoying a beautiful day by the river.

Full of insecurity

Entrepreneurs are supposed to know what they want and where they want to go. The truth is that entrepreneurs are full of insecurity and often it can take years to figure out the right path, but in spite of their insecurity, they take steps to create that business, that service, that product. Many fail, but those who succeed keep the dream alive for the rest of us.

I have spent many months trying to figure out the next step in my entrepreneur journey. I have changed my mind many times while I put pieces of the puzzle together, and after a lot of trial and error, I think I know where I am going.

As early as February 2017, I will look for a second Airbnb property. Airbnb is the business that I have become good at. I think I offer a good service at a good price.

I have decided not to sell the piece of real estate that I was planning to sell. Having liquid cash is very seductive but there are two reasons why I will stick to real estate:

  1. My returns are quite nice. I am getting close to 8% with very little volatility.
  2. If I want to reinvest in real estate I would have a hard time obtaining a mortgage because of my low income. If I already have a mortgage why get rid of it only to look for another one in the future.

What are my dreams

The best is yet to come
The best is yet to come

I want to become a professional public speaker. Yes, this sounds like bullshit because I have done very little to achieve that dream. I have a blog but I am not disciplined writing articles. I have a YouTube channel but I have not been striving for quality. In short… I have a dream but I haven’t taken the necessary steps to make my dream a reality. We all want permission-givers to give us the “ok.” Someone to wave a magic wand and make our dreams come true. The cruel reality is that no one is going to give us the nod. We have to take action and have an influence in our lives, instead of letting life happen to us.

This are the steps I think I should take:

  1. Continue being active at my Toastmasters club
  2. Write my blog with more consistency
  3. Do a YouTube video every week. Strive for better quality
  4. Visit another toastmasters clubs to get more practice and exposure

The more practice and exposure I get, the higher the probability of improving my craft, of improving my English, of improving my thinking-as-a-speaker skills, of increasing my self confidence, and of increasing my network.

There is a person who recently joined our club, his name is Alireza. This person is hustling. He approached our club and asked us if he could come give a speech. He has done the same in several other clubs. This person is hungry and he’s doing what he needs to do in order to get extra practice and exposure. I am not doing nearly half of what he’s doing. I need to step up my game.

So here it goes. An overview of my financial affairs:

My net worth increased to $154,000.

Date Cash Car Stocks R. estate Debt Total
October 1st 4,440 500 97,070 158,050 106.060 153,000
September 1st 3,915 750 96,595 157,440 105,700 153,000
August 1st 3,790 1,000 96,120 156,440 105,350 152,000
May 1st 3,249 1,750 95,029 153,408 101,808 151,628
  • Cash is increasing. I want to have enough cash to take a vacation next January.
  • My car continues losing value due to depreciation, but I am making $1,400 per month by driving for Uber.
  • Stocks are happily going up.
  • The mortgages continue getting paid.
  • Due to interest expenses of 4%, my debt continues to increase as well.

Goals for September

  • To increase my net worth to $155,000. I can easily increase my net worth $1,000 per month.
  • My projection is that my portfolio will increase at the rate of 6% per year. This will be the equivalent of $5700/ year or $475/ month.
  • As for the real estate part, if my mortgage gets paid every month, my debt will be reduced and my equity will increase by about $500 per month.
  • My debts are increasing about $350 per month.


How to be a failure

I chose my friends carefully.
I chose my friends carefully.

I have been writing this blog for about three years now, and so far all my articles have been about self improvement; how the earn more money, how to acquire more success, etc. But after taking some time to think  I realized that during most of my life I have been a failure and that I am better qualified to share my knowledge on how to be a failure than how to be a success.

Here are my secrets on how to be a failure:

It’s all about your mental attitude. You have to have a Negative Mental Attitude. If you have a negative mental attitude you are half way there. Just close your eyes and imagine the worst case scenario for everything. Whether you think about love or business, if you imagine the worst case scenario, there is a good probability that it come true.

But it’s not all about your mind. It is also about your body. Do you know how difficult it is to eat healthy? All that organic food is expensive. Any kind of natural smoothie will cost you between $5 to $10 and many of them taste horrible. Instead you can buy a liter of Coke for for about $1. And who wants to spend time preparing healthy salads when you can have Doritos with Salsa. There are a lot of nutrients there. All those cheap meals have lots of calories you need to survive, they are accessible, and let’s face it… they taste good.

How about some exercise? Physical activity is painful. Just stay on your couch. You will be safe there. I have broken my jaw practicing karate, I have damaged my ligaments lifting weights. Even physical activities like dancing salsa can be dangerous. I met this guy who broke his partner’s nose while dancing salsa. Just stay on your couch — you will not get hurt.

What about your friends? Motivational speaker Jim Rhon says that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” So I choose my friends carefully. I try to find friends who are dumber than me, that way I can always feel like the smart one.

And last but not least: Procrastination. Always leave the important things for the last minute. That way, if you fail, if you do a horrible job, you can always use the excuse that you did it all at the last minute.

Good luck being a failure, please write back and let me know how it turned out for you.

Superpowers I acquired at Toastmasters

The superpower of building a community
The superpower of building a community

I joined Toastmasters in October 2014. I have this dream of becoming a professional public speaker and I had heard that Toastmasters would give me the training which would allow me to make my dream come true.

Today I feel that I am still far away from being a professional speaker, but I know that every time I give a speech I am a bit closer.

In the process of learning how to become a professional speaker, I have acquired some superpowers which I want to share with you.

In our competitive society, sometimes we need an unfair advantage in order to realize our professional or personal objectives. The superpowers I am about to share with you will improve your personal and professional life.

The Superpower of Public Speaking

Imagine that you are applying for a job. You and five other people with similar experience and education are the final candidates. Many of the questions you will be asked during the interview are simple: 1. Tell us about yourself. 2. Tell us why we should hire you and not the others… These are open ended questions. Who do you think will give a more compelling answer? The person who has practiced public speaking for over a year or the person who has never spoken in public. I would put my money on the person who has acquired the superpower of public speaking.

Public speaking could get you the job that you want and it can help you get a salary increase much faster than your colleagues.

The Superpower of Leadership

This is an amazing super power. When you are a good leader, you inspire others to follow your vision. To be a leader you need to be a good communicator, and you have to have a clear vision of where you want to go and where you want to take the members of your group. Leadership is a skill which can be learned and Toastmasters offers many opportunities to learn and practice this fantastic skill.

If you become a good leader in your family, in your community, and in your job many people will follow your vision and will help you realize your goals at the same time as you help others realize their goals.

The Superpower of Building Communities

Spending time with family and friends, and being of service to others are the activities which give us the most happiness. When we create a community of people who share our vision and goal we feel fulfilled and our chances of success are magnified.

When you build a community, you build trust among your peers, you have more human and physical resources, and you create  much deeper relationships with the members of your community. Communities are powerful.

At Toastmasters we strengthen our community by meeting regularly, by having dinner together, by organizing potlucks and BBQs and by creating many other activities. You can take some of these ideas and apply them to your circumstances. When you have a strong community with a similar vision, your options are endless.


The positive effects of these superpowers are difficult to measure but their benefits can drastically improve your life. After three years as a Toastmasters member my life is so much better, I feel more confident and I feel that doors are constantly opening in front of my eyes. Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you.

Net worth statement, September 1st, $153,000

Net Worth: $153,000

We don’t need much to be happy

Doing a net worth statement is one of my favorite activities of the month. I get to see where I am going and where I have been. It helps me reflect on my life and it allows me to share my journey to financial freedom with my friends and followers.

All my life I wanted to be a millionaire, and I still want to become a millionaire, but my priorities have shifted. Now, my biggest priority is to be happy.

At one time in life, I thought that the more money I had, the happier I would be. But I discovered that not to be true. I have met plenty of rich people with empty lives and I have met many more poor people with rich lives. Once the basic living expenses are met, there is little correlation between money and happiness.

Hiking Mont Tremblant
Hiking Mont Tremblant

The things which makes us happy are so simple and they don’t cost much money. What are those simple things that makes us happy?

  1. Getting enough sleep
  2. Spending time with family and friends
  3. Helping others
  4. And constantly learning something new.

However, those who believe that money is the key to happiness sacrifice happiness in the present for the illusory happiness of the future.

In order to have more money:

  1. We work longer hours so we get less sleep
  2. We spend less time with friends and family
  3. We stop helping others
  4. We stop learning new things unrelated to work
So how can we be happier now and in the future?

We give too much importance to material things. Things like cars, houses, fashion, gadgets. Sure, we might need some of those, but do we really have to have a big house and a new car? Do we need to have the latest gadget and the latest fashionable clothes? How about if we sacrifice some of those material things in order to get some more sleep, to spend more time with our family and friends, to learn something new?

If we stop this race to have more possession, we won’t have to work as much, we can invest in our happiness and we can save a little bit more for the future.

This are the priorities in my life:
    1. To sleep as much as my body needs
    2. To spend time with friends
    3. To be part of a club or an organization (currently I am a member of McGill Toastmasters)
    4. To take time to study and learn something new
    5. To do some physical activity every day

Any plans for the future?

I am planning to sell 50% of one of my properties to a friend. This will give me enough cash to eliminate some of my debts and to invest more in the stock market.

So here it goes. An overview of my financial affairs:

Date Cash Car Stocks R. estate Debt Total
September 1st 3,915 750 96,595 157,440 105,700 153,000
August 1st 3,790 1,000 96,120 156,440 105,350 152,000
July 1st 3,578 1,250 95,645 155,527 105,000 151,000
May 1st 3,249 1,750 95,029 153,408 101,808 151,628
  • Cash is increasing. I want to have enough cash to take a vacation next January.
  • My car continues losing value due to depreciation, but I am making $1,400 per month by driving for Uber
  • Stocks are happily going up.
  • The mortgages continue getting paid.
  • Due to interest expenses of 4%, my debt continues to increase as well.

Goals for September

To increase my net worth to $154,000. I can easily increase my net worth $1,000 per month.

My projection is that my portfolio will increase at the rate of 6% per year, this will be the equivalent of $5700/ year or $475/ month.

As for the real estate part, if my mortgage gets paid every month, my debt will be reduced and my equity will increases by about $500 per month.

My debts are increasing about $350 per month.

Long Term Goals: Airbnb is finally legal in Montreal. I hope to get one property next year and use it for Airbnb.


The slow track or the fast track to wealth

In our first world economy, we all have the potential to become wealthy. But is that what we want?

What is the role of wealth in your life?

Becoming wealthy is not everyone’s priority.

Some people think about love, beauty, sports, sex, dance, fashion, etc. They are committed to their goals and for them, they just need enough money to continue working towards their goals.

Many people don’t have any goals, they are social lemmings who live their lives without a sense of direction, they just follow what everyone else is doing.

For some other people, wealth takes a front seat, they believe that everything else will become easier if they are wealthy.

The two tracks to wealth

For those interested in building wealth, there are two tracks. The slow track and the fast track. Which track you take depends on your priorities, your ambitions, your self-confidence,  and your willingness to put in the work.

What is the slow track to wealth?

The slow track to wealth is to become wealthy through working a regular job and saving for decades. This method has proven to be reliable. If you work a regular job, save every month and invest in low-cost index funds or ETFs, it is almost guaranteed that you will become wealthy.

Let’s do a quick example. For this example, let’s ignore the effects of inflation.

Let’s imagine that a person saves $5,000 per year and he/she gets and average return from the market of 8%. How long will it take this person to become a millionaire?

It will take 36 years to accumulate $1,000,000.

To save $5,000 per year is not that difficult, practically anyone can do it, but most people are conditioned to spend, not to save, therefore very few people will become wealthy even though it is within their reach.

With one million dollars, a person can spend about $80,000 per year  for the rest of their lives without running out of money. The slow track is not bad at all.

What is the fast track to wealth?

Most people who become millionaires, they do so by creating  businesses or by investing in real estate. They take risks and responsibilities that others are not willing to take. They have a vision of where they want to go, they eliminate all the excuses and work relentlessly towards their goals. A fast track business should make you wealthy in 20 years or less.

I will give you an example:

I am in the Airbnb business. I have an apartment which I rent via the Airbnb website. If my goal was to become a millionaire as fast as possible, I will be able to do it without too much difficulty. I earn about $1,000 per month with one property. If I were to get an additional  Airbnb property every 4 months, by the end of one year I would be earning $4,000 per month. By the end of two years, I would be earning $8,000 per month. By the end three years I would be earning $12,000 per month. On year number three I could be earning $144,000 per year. If I spend $44,000 on my living expenses and invest the other $100,000, I could be a millionaire in less than 10 years.

I don’t have to be a computer genius and I don’t have to spend half of my life getting master’s or doctorate’s degrees. I could simply become a millionaire by running a business which doesn’t require much brain power.

This is just an example of how easy it is to become a millionaire. Many people who become millionaires have simple ideas.

We are masters of our destiny

We are not helpless. We can take control of our destiny any time we want. If we wish wealth, wealth is there at our feet. The only obstacles in becoming wealthy are self-imposed. Financial success is only limited by our lack of imagination.

Increase your wealth by reducing your taxes

Before giving a speech at Toastmasters
Before giving a speech at Toastmasters

In our journey to build wealth we are constantly looking for ways to increase revenues, reduce expenses and invest wisely.

If you earn more than $20,000 per year guess what is one of your biggest expenses…


In Canada, a person in a higher income bracket is already paying more than 50% of his income in taxes. If you add sales tax, property tax, gas tax, cigarette tax, alcohol tax, corporate tax, school tax, import duty, and all the other taxes I don’t even know about, high earners are getting a royal screw by the government and by the rest of us less well-off people.

Canada is a wonderful country. We have so many social programs which are the envy of so many other countries in the world. But, please people, be aware that all those social programs are not free. Someone is paying for all of them. I will take a second to express my gratitude to all the tax payers who support our social system. Thank you!

However, as much as a society  benefits from the tax revenues, it’s the responsibility of each individual to find legal ways to reduce his/her taxes.

Here are some tips to reduce the tax burden:


Change your source of income

For some reason, our government has decided to tax different sources of revenue in different manners. Employment income and interest revenues are taxed at a higher level than dividends and capital gains.

Let’s look at some examples. Assume that your tax bracket is 40%

If you earn $50,000 in salary, you pay $20,000 in taxes (ouch)
If you earn $50,000 in interest, you still pay $20,000 (ouch again)
If you earn $50,000 in capital gains, you will pay $10,000 (this is more humane)

So, the trick is to change your income as much as you can from salary and interest to capital gains.

In addition, the government has created special accounts which allow us to pay NO TAXES (such as the Tax Free Savings Account) or accounts which allow to defer taxes many years into the future ( Registered Retirement Savings Plan).

Pay your taxes decades later

How would you feel if you have a debt and your are allowed to pay it 10, 20, or 30 years later. Would you take it?

This is exactly what the government allows you to do when you open a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) account. The taxes that you owe today could be paid decades from now.

Assume again that you earn $50,000. You can take $18,000 and deposit it in your RRSP account. Now your taxable income is $38,000. Your tax bracket is reduced. You pay a smaller percentage of taxes on a smaller amount of money. When you retire at age 65, you can withdraw your $18,000 plus whatever gain it made and you will pay regular income tax on that money.

Pay $0 taxes

This is the biggest gift the Canadian government has given to taxpayers. We are all allowed to open a Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA). Money in a TFSA can grow 100% tax free. The only drawback is that there is a limit in the amount of money we can deposit in a TFSA. For 2016 the limit is $5,500.


Tax reduction is the low hanging fruit. Very few of us use all the opportunities we have at our disposal to reduce our taxes and our expenses.

Many people consider tax self education very boring, but this kind of education can pay high dividends for the rest of your life and remember, dividends are taxed at a lower level.

Now (and always) is the worse time to invest in bonds

With friends on a rainy day
With friends on a rainy day

Anytime anyone goes to a financial adviser two things happen:

  1. The financial adviser will only recommend their “in house” products — you know, the ones that have 2-3% management expense fees.
  2. They will ask you your age and they will miraculously show you a fund that is tailored made for all people your age.

We have already spoken about point #1 in previous posts. For sure, financial advisers will ALWAYS offer you the funds with high expense fees, because they get paid kickbacks, called trailer fees. Those kickbacks represent the major portion of their income. But guess what? Those trailer fees come out of your pocket. It is to the advantage of the financial adviser to always recommend the products which pay the best commissions for him/her. There are hundreds of low cost index funds and ETFs which financial adviser will never recommend, because even if those low cost index funds and ETFs are the best products for their clients, there is no commission involved. The investment adviser’s job depends on your ignorance.

On point #2, they are equally inept. The typical formula to choose a portfolio of stocks and bonds distributed like this: 100% stocks minus your age. That means that if you are 30 years old, you should have a portfolio of 70% in stocks and 30% in bonds. If you are 50 years old, you should have 50% in stocks and 50% in bonds, and so on. Really? the major contributing factor is our age? How about if I am already a millionaire? How about if I can hardly pay my rent? How about if I am good health? How about if I am in bad health? It doesn’t matter, he/she will simply look at the table his employer gives him and plunk you into the bracket recommended in their sales manual.

Historically, stocks have always been a better investment than bonds, but investing in bonds has always provided a false sense of security. In fact, what they provide is reduced volatility. We should not confuse less volatility with less risk. On the long run, bonds ARE NOT less risky than stocks, they are less volatile.

The reality is that the more bonds you have in your portfolio, the more you are handicapping your growth potential. Why would anyone slow down their money earning potential only because they are older? When you are older, when you need your money the most, it is precisely at that moment when you would like to get the most out of your money.

Here is another thing that is killing me. Sure, we all have heard that no one can predict the market and that a diversification between stocks and bonds is the prudent thing to do. But there is a moment in time when you can put rules of thumb to the side and use your common sense.

This part is a bit technical but this is how bonds work:

If interest rates goes down, the value of bonds goes up. If interest rates goes up, the value of your bonds goes down.

At this moment, August 2016, interest rates are at a record low. They are about 1%. If Interest rates don’t have much room to go down, then the value of your bonds don’t have much room to go up.

However, interest rates have a lot of room to go up. If interest rates go up, you will lose money. The potential to lose lots of money is very high.

Knowing this,why would anyone put any percentage of their hard earned money in bonds? Your probabilities of winning are low and your probabilities of losing are high. You are better off keeping your money under your mattress.


  1. Look for a fee only financial adviser.Don’t get a financial adviser who makes his/her living out of commission, he/she will only offer you the products which give him/her the highest commission.
  2. Don’t have any bonds in your portfolio, especially now but ideally never. Why would you shortchange your return. Even after retirement, you still would like to see your money to grow.

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