Q1: As you mentioned early you just get accepted into doctor program from next January so why did you make this decision at this age?
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Sure. From my perspective, I enjoy learning quite a bit. And when I was in my early 40s I decided to go back to school to do a Master of Education in Developmental Psychology. And the reason I did that was my children were diagnosed with special needs and I wanted to understand more about their special needs and how it would impact their schooling. And one thing that I found, the main thing that I found from enrolling in that program, in addition to the studies, is that by getting back into school I felt like I became more involved in society. I was more enlightened about the things that were going on. Sometimes I think as you progressed through your life and you get older you become a little bit more detached from the changes that are happening in society. And particularly with lots of digitization of information, computers, data, so forth becoming so prevalent. Society is evolving a lot more quickly than it used to in the past. And in order to keep abreast of those changes and fully engaged with what’s going on in society, I find that academia is one of the great institutions to be able to do that. That is my general philosophy for going in there. For me living is learning and being part of life is augmenting enhancing your intellectual capabilities and knowledge that you have.
One of the things that I always wanted to do when I was a student is to get my doctorate. And earlier on in my life when I graduated I didn’t necessarily pursue that avenue but I always had it in the back of my mind.
And when I was doing my master at U of T, the field that I was studying I wanted to do more with that, in particular looking at people with special needs. Things like anxiety, obsessive impulsiveness. And I discovered that a lot of people in my industry possess a lot of those characteristics. Also, my main field of study was giftedness. For me, giftedness is not a score on an IQ test that somebody would take. To me, that doesn’t really measure it. It’s more a set of personality characteristics. Those things like overexcite ability or people have hypersensitivity to touch and smell. And I find that our business has a higher proportion of such individuals than society in general.
And so I always had this in the back of my mind that I wanted to study. What I’m doing with my doctoral program is looking at behavioral finance and what I want to explore is whether or not these segments of the capital markets population that possesses these characteristics of giftedness are more or less inclined to be biased in their decision-making. That’s one aspect of it. And then also the program that I’m taking centers on innovation and innovation are something that transforms society. But it’s also happening with a lot more rapidity the past few years.
And I think to be able to be competitive going forward from both a personal perspective and also a business perspective to help BMO Capital Markets. I think it’s germane to get a solid understanding of innovation, the factors of innovation, and how I can help effect changes in the line of business that operate.
Q2: You have three master degrees. Why do you think you have a learning disability?
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Sure. I was diagnosed. I actually didn’t discover that I had a learning disability until I was 40. So I went through my entire life (with that). I was sense that I was a little bit different than other folks. But you go on and you encounter the struggles in life the way that you do. And when I was in and around 40, it was suggested to me that my youngest child had something that should be investigated a little bit more. And we had him do a psycho educational analysis and that came back with an anxiety disorder. And he was also gifted in ADHD, and so forth. And then my second son got tested and he also came back with something.
My wife at the time was tested. She came back and then I got tested and it was discovered that I have what’s called a nonverbal learning disability. A Non-verbal learning disability is characterized by a difference in your capabilities between your verbal comprehension, so I’m very good with words, and your visual spatial perception of the world.
So you know growing up I have a tendency to fall a little bit or to bump into things. But one of the other characteristics of a non-verbal learning disability is that you have difficult interpersonal social skills in that communication is largely non-verbal. There are a lot of visual aspects to go along with it, people’s facial expressions, their hand gestures, and so forth. So people with NLD tend to have very difficult social interactions. I’m a little bit more straightforward and matter of fact in the way that I present myself I’m not very nuanced.
It also entails difficulties with math and abstract math concepts. I’ve got 21 in grade eleven math, 21%, it helped explain the difficulties that I had in math. But it also possesses some characteristics of giftedness. One of them is certain tenacity and never one to shy away from a challenge. When I was doing my master’s degree, my third one, in education, I endeavor to take graduate level statistics including Dr. Level statistics courses to try to overcome my demons with math. Even now I’m taking a program through Fitch learning called the Certificate in Quantitative Finance and it’s predicated in large part upon calculus.
And so you know it’s hard, it’s very challenging for me but I like taking on that challenge. One of the things about people is that in order to advance yourself and prove yourself, you kind of has to take yourself out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges and learn things. And so I found it very illuminating experience to discover that I had a learning disability and the characteristics that go along with it, cause it helped me understand a lot about who I was who I am and who I want to be, and how I can be the type of person that I want to be.
Q3: You said you have mental health issues. What kind of mental health issues do you have?
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Sure. These are the issues that are emblematic of people, especially people in our business, are obsessive-compulsive. This obsessive compulsiveness could be viewed as attention to detail. For example that you think about things a lot more, you obsess about them. And then the compulsion is that you undertake certain activities to address the obsessions that you have. One of the things I like to look at in life is adages and if you look at the saying that ignorance is bliss, the reverse of that is that the smarter you are the more educated you are, the more anxious you become because the more you know the more things that you know to worry about. Obsessive-compulsive is intertwined with anxiety.
I go a little bit further I also have Tourette’s which is associated with the same part of the brain that the basal ganglia. And in terms of these mental health issues certainly they can have their challenges but they also have their advantages as well. So when I look at my career and my career development, having obsessiveness fits very well with being in research because to be in research you have to have very strong attention to detail.
Also being in the capital markets, in general, you also have to have very strong attention to detail. But one thing that you have to worry about an obsessive-compulsive tendency is not a disorder because if you had a disorder your life would be a lot more problematic. You would have difficulties engaging in society depending on what your obsessions and your compulsions were. But just having these tendencies and I think it’s good to be cognizant of them so that you can control them a little bit more.
I see a lot of people perhaps excessively using hand sanitizer. You don’t really need hand sanitizer as a society got along for hundreds of thousands of years without hand sanitizer. You have to look at things objectively and determine whether or not the things that you’re thinking about or focusing on are logical and proper, or whether perhaps you’re going a little bit too far. And that’s always the fine line with obsessive-compulsiveness is the things that you’re doing, are they positively contributing to your life, or are they adversely contributing to your life. So it’s about becoming cognizant of the effect that it’s having on your life.
Another thing that people in our business capital markets tend to have is what’s called maladaptive perfectionism. Perfectionism to a certain extent is also something that can be favorable because that again ties to attention to detail and we always want to be right. You always want to be correct that fits in with a Type A personality where you’re very competitive you always want to be right. But when it becomes maladaptive, for example you’re writing a paper for school and you want that paper to be so perfect and it just doesn’t get perfect enough for you. So you don’t hand it in.
Meanwhile. it was probably a good paper and maybe you got 80 90 whatever on it but you just felt that it wasn’t perfect enough for you that you couldn’t move on. Another manifestation is especially from a managerial perspective. If you’re always harping on your employees to do a better job do a better job. It’s not good enough it’s not good enough that induces anxiety to people. It’s also can be a problem in parenting as well if you’re always on top of your kids. Well. you have to do better you have to be perfect. You got one wrong. There has to be a margin of error that exists in life because everybody makes mistakes and you have to be comfortable that you do make mistakes and you can learn from those mistakes, it’s part of being a human being.
And so you just have to go a little bit easier on yourself. And that’s one of the messages that I have when I give discussions on mental health issues is that.. I was on a panel a while ago and one of the people remarked that most people wouldn’t treat other individuals as bad as they treat themselves. So one of the messages I get is cut yourself a little bit of slack, treat yourself a little bit more tenderly than you do, and don’t always harp on your mistakes. Be cognizant of them and look to improve but recognize you can’t always be perfect.
Q4: Can you show us about your learning style or do you have any studying habits that you think that is important for young people.
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Sure. And actually, I have evolution in my study habits as well. When I was younger I was affected more with maladaptive perfectionism because I didn’t understand what it was. And so oftentimes I had difficulties getting started because I just couldn’t come up with that perfect start. Once I did get started and then I could flow. So one of the things that I adapted to or evolved into is, you know even if when I’m writing a paper or something or a project I have ideas that come to me and I would always try to organize them in my head before I put them down on the paper. And now I just throw down ideas as they come and then I try to reconfigure them later on just to get something down there so you can get some momentum to begin the process.
Because oftentimes associated with intelligence as well as higher intelligence is that you do have procrastination because you can’t get it perfect enough. But you know just dip your toe in the water a little bit first and you get things started.
And so that’s a big difference. That’s something that plague me more in my first couple of degrees. And then I was able to overcome by the time I did my third degree. And it also helped me with my work as well in the environment that I’m in. I have to do a lot of writing and I have to do a lot of writing very fast. And if you get caught up on perfecting your style before you actually start something then the events already come and gone and the markets reacted to it. So you have to be able to respond very quickly to stimuli in the in the environment. But even from an academic perspective right, you have lots of courses on the goal you have to be able to get stuff done.
Q5: You’re a board member of Ontario Institute of xxxxxx in education and you have a master’s degree education so why do you like this education. Why do you like sharing knowledge?
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Sure so pursuing my master’s of education related to my kids. Because as I mentioned with the special needs master’s degree that I did was developmental psychology with a focus on special needs, and I just wanted to get a better understanding of the challenges that DPH would face in the academic environment so that I could help them develop better. Because when I was growing up as a child, certain things, like ADHD for example, wasn’t even recognized at that particular point in time. In the current academic environment in the public school system, they have individual education plans where students get accommodations. That’s by law in the province of Ontario.
But when I was growing up and I saw so many smart kids that couldn’t fit into the system back then, and they just kind of got brushed by the wayside. And so as I went through my master’s of education program I started to become more cognizant of these issues that were generally facing a society. And so one of the things that I wanted to do was to try to get that message out a little bit more, which is one of the reasons why I talk about education, I talk about mental health, is to try to make people just more aware that there is a difference out there and students learn differently and they could have issues that affect them in the classroom. And it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re a bad person or even a bad student. It just means that they have a different learning style. And I really felt when I went into the Masters of Education program it was for one reason and I continued on with that reason. But I just found it so illuminating about society in general, and people, and how they develop, and the people around me, and my peers and my cohorts, that I just.. you know it was so beneficial for me. It made me understand myself so much better and alleviated a lot of things for me and actually changed who I was as a person. I became less anxious because I had knowledge. And I guess that’s what I want to do for people is to enhance their knowledge so that they become a little bit less stressed themselves. And when you’re less stressed it gives you the opportunity to be a little bit nicer.
Q6: As to life philosophy, can you talk about perseverance and endurance?
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Sure. We all face challenges in life and the measure of your character is how you deal with those challenges. And I don’t mean that in a harsh way, because some people face incredible challenges and it’s difficult to get up every day. But I guess one thing that I’ve always had intrinsic in myself is something that I learned from my parents is that you know you have one life, you have to go out there and live it the best that you can, and enjoy life and then you get as much from life as is possible.
And in order to do that, you have to be able to get up every day and continue on through the challenges in your life. My father was born and he had an infant stroke in the late 1930s so he grew up in the 1940s with partial paralysis on the right side of his body. And as a kid, he had to wear a leg brace and his arm didn’t function properly his right arm. And I just.. you know.. think back to the derision that he must have faced all through his life growing up the challenges.
But you know what? He got up every day. He tried. He kept on going. And to a person and anybody who meets my dad will tell you he’s one of the most affable people you’ll come across. He has a good outlook on life. He always has a smile for people, always likes telling jokes having humour and enjoying life. And I think if somebody who faces those kinds of challenges can continue on and have such a positive outlook, why can’t I. And so when I look at the challenges that I encounter whether it’s on a daily monthly yearly basis, I try to put them into perspective, and recognize that as hokey as it sounds tomorrow is another day it was another opportunity for you to tackle the challenges that the world has.
One of the things I’ve also learned is it’s not every day is going to be a good day. Some days you get down, some days you get down on yourself more than others. You know what maybe those days you just take a little bit of time off and then the next day you regroup and you keep on going forward. One thing that I’ve found is that as bleak as things seem at certain times, being older as I am now, you see that those negative situations or those negative feelings don’t persist, but you have to persist. You have to continue go through them, whether it’s moving to a new country facing challenges that way, whether it’s facing challenges at school, at work a terrible boss or whatever, you for yourself have to continue on.
Q7: Can you talk about some of your favorite books?
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It’s an immense joy for me. I take the GO train to and from work every day and it’s one of my favorite times because I get my, maybe not in the morning, but I get to go on the train and I like to read books. A variety of perspectives and books have really changed my life. One of the key ones was a book written by Daniel Kahneman who was a psychologist. It’s called Thinking Fast and Slow. And what it is about is the different ways that we think there’s the fast part of the brain that has your immediate responses to so forth the things that are more ingrained reactionary. And then the slower part of the brain the things that are more intuitive more cerebral. And the interactions between those parts of the brain and to some extent was very scary both because it also talks about biases that people have and how the fast part of your brain influences your perception and can cause you to have these engendered biases. And that’s actually what I’m doing. I also like books that challenge conventional thinking like Black Swan by Taleb, for example, challenges the notions of Ghazi and distribution models normal distribution models, and how a lot of finance is underpinned by those incorrect assumptions, and that it’s the black swans the events that happen infrequently that tend to have the biggest impact on society.
And I guess myself growing up to some degree on the margins just because of my learning disabilities and my mental health issues. I’ve always kind of approached things from the margins and tried to challenge the conventional wisdom of society. Other stuff that I love to read, I like to read historical documents that explain how the world has evolved. Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, or The Ascent of Money by Ferguson Niall, This Time is Different. So many good books out there on capital markets but also I like reading books on life in general.
Q8: Let’s talk about long-term and short-term goals. How you use your short-term goals as signposts along the path to achieving your life goals?
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Sure. I think this is something that comes with age. I like to play the guitar for example but given my life and all the things that I have going on in my life, sometimes there are prolonged periods that go by where I don’t even have the opportunity to play the guitar. But I recognize that life isn’t static. Life is always changing, there are different opportunities, different variables that impact your life. You have to recognize that just the way things are today might not necessarily be the way things are tomorrow. That’s a bit of a backdrop.
Now in terms of your goals and having shorter term goals and longer term goals. A good example is I always wanted to do my doctorate and I didn’t know how I was going to get there. But that was one of my longer term goals. Back when I was 40 I wanted to do my Master of Education is actually going to do that as a satisfaction of my desire to get my doctorate. But it ended up being a stimulatory cause to propel me towards doing my doctorate because of things that I learned there. I realized that there was more than I wanted to understand, and it gave me a construct with which I could do to pursue those endeavors. And even after my doctorate I still want to do a Bachelors of the guitar. I have these things that I want to achieve in my life, but I recognize that there are also shorter-term goals. So, for example at BMO Capital Markets we’re starting out by diversity and inclusion councils. I have goals in there. I have short term goals about just getting a council set up and then I have longer term goals in terms of what I want the council to achieve.
It’s harder when you’re in your early 20s even in your early 30s because your thesis from a developmental psychology perspective what your experience with life is finite in terms of the number of years that you’ve been around, your experiential factor is finite as well. As you garner more experiences you realize that you can have a longer term view of things. And it’s actually better to have a longer term view to things because you want to have these longer term goals as kind of cycles along the way that you want to achieve to make sure that your life is travelling in a trajectory that you wanted to do.
You know there’s a thing out there, midlife crisis and so forth. You know it’s I guess underpinned by people who wake up at a certain age and realize we didn’t achieve this I didn’t achieve that. One of the ways to help alleviate having remorse later on in your life is to have a decent enough plan as to where you want to go. The ultimate things and how you’re gonna get there to achieve them. Not saying that your life has to be so structured and planned because you have to incorporate room in there for the unplanned things that happen in your life. There was a political philosopher back in the 14th century by the name of Niccolò Machiavelli and he wrote a book called The Prince. And in this book, he talked about these two notions of Virtue and Fortuna. In Italy, at the time Fortuna was the goddess of luck good fortune, and Virtue was about the skill set that you developed. And his philosophical construct was that people with strong virtues or people who thought things through and reasoned oriented their life so that they would have a better opportunity for Fortuna to shine on.
And what that means is you put yourself in situations where you have a better chance of winning rather than losing. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take on challenges in life. But you can construct them in a way that you will improve the odds in your favor. Because life is full of considerable amount of random events things that you just can’t control. You want to put yourself in a position where those random events won’t have as much of a potential negative impact. For example, you wouldn’t want to go for a picnic in the winter and want to go for a picnic in summer when the weather is warmer.
Q9: So, your work is busy. How do you balance your work and life?
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You know this is something I also try to infuse upon my kids as well because it’s a fundamental construct for my life. As I was mentioning before you have one life so you might as well try to maximize the enjoyment as much as you can. And for me in order to have a happy work life you have to have a happy home life. And in order to have a happy home life, you have to have a happy work life. And I try to be the same person everywhere. And so how I balance the various pressures that I have with the various things going on in my life is that. My life is my work my life is my home.
I’m very fortunate that BMO Capital Markets to have the opportunity to be on the steering committee for BMO without barriers, which is for employees with disabilities to be on the diversity and inclusion steering committee and on the Diversity Inclusion Council. Because that reflects who I am as a person. That incorporates the Master of Education that I did look into special needs. It incorporates who I am in terms of wanting to help other people. But I also take that in my whole life as well, where I try to instill those philosophies onto my kids as well. And to try to intertwine things as much as you can in your life. You’re not one person here another person there because then you’re always going to find yourself being pulled in different directions. But if you’re a unified person across all parts of your life you find that you’re not getting pulled in different directions. Everything that you do is part of the trajectory of where you want to go to.
I’m fortunate that I also love studying the capital markets I love learning about economics I love learning in general. That helps me with my job. I love helping people. That also helps me with my job. I do a lot of recruiting for BMO. And when students ask me you know what’s the favorite part of my job. What’s the thing that gets me up out of bed every day. For me, it’s actually the ability to help people through the diversity and inclusion stuff that I do. But at the same time, I’m a Bloomberg news junkie. A lot of time I just consuming information, thinking things through, and trying to come up with a better answer for how the world works. So it’s this kind of drive that keeps me forward.
So yeah I’m always doing something. I don’t really watch TV, I watch documentaries. But that’s just who I am and that’s what I like doing. And I guess another part of that is to be comfortable in who you are. That’s who I am. That’s not necessarily who you have to be but find who you are and try to be comfortable and hopefully you can get a career that is in line with who you are as a person so that you don’t feel drawn one way or the other and that you don’t feel like you have all these competing pressures that it’s as much you as you can be.
Q10: Is it any time you feel different how do you fit a well you feel different? How does feeling different affect your life and your performance at work?
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So yeah there are lots of lots of times where I feel different. I felt different growing up the whole time. Again going back to the nonverbal learning disability that I have. So you probably wouldn’t perceive it from the fact I can speak comfortably in front of a camera and not speak comfortably in front of a large group of people, but actually have a huge social anxiety disorder. If we were in a group of people at a social event or something and I didn’t know anybody there I would be the person standing against the wall by myself. I just kind of looking around because I feel socially awkward. I don’t know how to engage people in conversation. I have this inherent belief that nobody wants to talk to me that I’m weird that I’m imposing on other people when I go to speak with them. And individuals say, “oh no you speak so beautifully in public and stuff”. And that’s the flip side of my nonverbal learning disabilities you can actually look at it as verbal ability. My verbal comprehension is very strong, my ability to communicate verbally is very strong. But at the same time, I am just socially awkward, and I know that I’m socially awkward.
When I found out that I had an NLD at least it gave me an answer as to why I feel socially awkward and uncomfortable. But yeah, for the most part I feel like I am different than everybody else. Now I’ve come to recognize not necessarily in a good or bad way. I’m just you know a little unique and I come into the quirky. And I guess I just come to enjoy my quickness and be comfortable with it and be confident in who I am and continue on with life. And that’s one thing that I try to profess upon other people as well.
I was having a discussion with somebody just before this filming, where she was asking me what advice I would give to people that were new to Canada or people from different cultures or people from the LGBTQ community. And it is about believing in yourself and getting that confidence. And although there is a myriad of reasons why people might be different. The fact that you are a little different actually is a commonality. And just be comfortable in who you are in and recognize that even though you might have a certain difference here, everybody is kind of different in their own way, and just trying to get a sense of community and find people that you have commonalities with and people that you can engage with.
Q11: How you be at the network with people that is totally different from you?
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Sure. In terms of there’s a variety of ways to go out and build a network. And one of them is engaging in people that are similar to yourself. So for example people with a part of New Horizons Career club because that’s one of the questions that I get a lot How do I go and develop a network. Because it’s something very important in developing a career. And also just feeling more acclimatized to where you are. And so I would start with looking for organizations that have similar interests as yourself whether that’s could be anything from baseball to computer science to committing whatever. And look for people that have similar things. You tend to meet individuals there. People in the capital markets can look for various groups that represent different parts of the capital markets and try to fit in there. And then also when you meet individuals, we can always ask them. I do a lot of mentoring for people. Anybody that e-mails me I’m more than happy to meet with. I always encourage them to ask me to introduce them to somebody else if they’re interested in the risk part of the capital market, so they’re interested in trading or they’re interested in sales. “Hey, can you introduce me to somebody who does that”.
And then when you meet that person then you can ask up hey do you know anybody that I might be able to meet. I hosted an event last week. One of the panel members was saying “don’t ask don’t get”, and it’s one of those things and that’s where you have to have a little bit of confidence in yourself. And especially for people that are newer to the country as well and I have a lot of conversations especially when English is not your first language and sometimes people feel intimidated about their mastery of the language and kind of inhibits them from speaking and engaging with other individuals.
And so you can look for ways to mitigate that as well, like joining things like Toastmaster where again you take yourself out of your comfort zone, and you put yourself in a situation where you’re going to be learning a new skill set that’s going to benefit you in a number of ways. So going to toastmaster gets even more confidence speaking in front of people. That’s good for interviews. That’s good for networking and that’s good just for being in… just as part of society in general.
My wife, for example, is from Taiwan and she did schooling there until she was in Grade 9 and then she came to Canada and she didn’t speak English at all and she had to learn the language and fit in and she actively went out in her career and did toastmaster. And I’ve seen significant development in her from when she started the toastmaster to now in terms of getting that confidence, getting that ability to speak people speak with people and engaging them. So part of networking is having the confidence to go out and actually interact with people.
But also having the confidence to to reach out and ask people. Look for people on LinkedIn one of your connections if they have a connection you can ask them to introduce you there. But as I was saying initially also look for people that share common interests with you and then ask those people to develop help you develop your network.