Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

7 ways to get ahead by being a good person

Who says nice guys finish last? CJ Woods, senior vice-president and director for CIBC Wood Gundy, argues otherwise.

On-hand for NAIT’s 2014 convocation to receive an Honorary Bachelor of Business Administration degree, Woods (who’s also a Distinguished Friend of the Institute) offered advice best described as well worn but rarely heeded. Basically, he encouraged everyone to just be good.

Stifle that yawn. The “tools” listed below, as he calls them, are those that led to his own very successful career. Businessperson, accountant and Fellow Chartered Accountant, Woods was a member of the Edmonton Investors Group partnership that bought the Edmonton Oilers for $100 million in 1998 and sold it for $200 million a decade later to Daryl Katz.

Today, he’s a shareholder in two investment companies, Atlas Capital Group and AIC Limited, and an active philanthropist. The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, the Kaye Edmonton Clinic – home to the CJ Woods Prostate Health Clinic – and NAIT are among his beneficiaries.

And, now, NAIT’s class of 2014 will benefit from his experience. Here are the seven tips Woods shared.

CJ Woods at the 2014 NAIT convocationKeep a positive attitude – Woods doesn’t remember a time “in the past several decades” that he hasn’t woken up and chosen to have a good day. It’s about will. “If you focus on having that positive attitude, it’s going to take you most of the way to where you want to get.”

Be proud of yourself – not arrogant, he says, but pay attention to your self-esteem. That means being aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Leverage the former; identify and improve the latter.

Try hard – Always make the most of your abilities, Woods advises, and “be the best you can be.” That’s enough. “You don’t have to be the best in the world.”

Really listen – This is a skill Woods considers so important he’s surprised it isn’t taught in school. Because it isn’t, “Most of us just don’t listen.” Focus on what people say. Show you’re interested.

Show gratitude – Say “Thank you” and mean it, says Woods. If someone has helped you, look them in the eye as you say the words. Shake their hand. Send a hand-written note. Let them know you’re ready to reciprocate. Do this at least once every day.

Be a giver – Do something for someone regardless of whether they’ve helped you. Make the time, no matter how busy you are.

Keep it to yourself – “There is absolutely no value in complaining,” says Woods, so don’t bother. Instead, act on things that bug you. “Think of ways that can positively change those things.”

Adopt these practices, he says, and “you won’t just be passing through.”

Putting his own advice into practice, Woods finished his address with a promise. He announced he’d commit $250,000 in scholarship funding for NAIT students between now and 2016. He asked graduands to be givers, too.

“I hope each of you puts in $10 or more,” he said. By his calculations, in 10 years the fund will be worth at least $3 million, in 20 years, nearly $11 million. With $50 gifts, he added, those numbers reach $14 million and $52 million.

“Together,” he says, “we’re going to make a difference.”


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