Back in 2010, I added a section to the Inspired Practice website called 10 Things I Want You to Know About Me. Instead of a boiler plate bio, I thought it would be a great way to shine light on the person behind the business so that prospective clients and collaborators could gain insight into who I truly am.

Now that I have added a new role to the many I already play in life, I was inspired to write a personal post with little known facts and perspectives for an even more important audience – my kids.

My darling children,

Now that you are here, we spend our days growing together as mama and babies – learning about one another and how to thrive in this new NORMAL. Being a mom is one very important part of who I now am but I wanted to find a way to communicate other non-mom related things about myself. The kind of stuff that has evolved over the last 35+ years of life and that contribute to my substance and character. So I created this list of 21 things I want you to know about me.

  1. I am an innovator, facilitator, coach, creator, mountain climber, world builder, dog lover, people hugger, prairie girl, daughter, sister, wife and mother.
  2. My greatest ambition in life is to laugh. Any day that someone makes me laugh is an awesome one. Any day that I can make you laugh will be an extraordinary one.
  3. As a young person, I never imagined being married (it was a delightful surprise!) but I always knew that I would be a mother. Your very presence is proof of that.
  4. I developed a passion for running late in life. I was always the kid huffing and puffing during school fitness tests. I never seemed to have enough physical energy for long-distance running. (Yes we were actually tested on how well we could keep pace. Talk about a dumb way to get any kid interested in physical activity. But I digress…)  The truth is that it had nothing to do with my physical ability and was entirely a mental challenge I had to overcome. In a way, my age and life experience allowed me to return to a beginner’s mind and grow into new passions. Now that you are here, I am so excited to embrace the “newness” in everything again.
  5. I don’t subscribe to any one religion but I know that I am a child of God. I know from personal experience that prayer and meditation bring me great comfort because it helps me to ask the questions and find the answers from within.
  6. I am hardest on myself so I often struggle to find value in a critic’s words. This is especially the case when those sitting on the sidelines comment on my actions in the arena. Teddy Roosevelt said: ” It’s not the critic who counts…. It is the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…” I couldn’t agree more.
  7. You will never find me choosing jeans over a classic dress no matter the occasion. Other people may think differently, but I don’t believe it is possible to be overdressed. I credit your Grandma with this philosophy. She has already made me promise that you will never leave the house in a sleeper. For that matter, if we ever head to the grocery store and I’m in my pajamas, something has gone very wrong.
  8. I am a citizen of the world but Canada is my home. I love embarking on travel adventures but I always feel so grateful when I return home. We are very blessed that members of our family journeyed to this land and built a life from which many generations could benefit. Their vision and bravery is our treasure.
  9. I have a photographic memory and I am a visual learner. I think this is why I never struggled with spelling. (Except while pregnant with you.)
  10. I don’t see arguments or disagreement as a negative. Instead they are opportunities to learn because they test your ability to become a better person. I hope to teach you how to deal with disagreement instead of fleeing from it.
  11. I am a mutant but I don’t mind. Apparently my ear drums are located closer to the surface of my ear than the average person and I also have an extra tiny bone in my right foot that most people do not.
  12. Secretly I have always wanted to be a jazz singer. I don’t have the chops for it but I still appreciate the music.
  13. As a kid, my independent play was 90% make believe and included a range of imaginary people. I was always teaching, pitching, advocating for, or advising someone. Not much has changed except for the fact that these characters are now real.
  14. If I like a movie (or classic 90s sitcom episode), I will watch it again and again. If I laughed the first time, I will continue to laugh every time I watch it. That I have seen it before does not diminish my enjoyment.
  15. A clean and tidy space goes a long way towards making me happy. So does a thoughtfully-cooked meal. Gestures of this kind may seem unglamorous but I view them as generous acts of love, respect and time.
  16. I consider myself to be a very resourceful person. And because of that, my biggest pet peeve is when people ask me for information or the whereabouts of a possession before investigating for themselves.
  17. There is little work I do or have done that does not fulfill a key personal and professional value of mine – whether that value is in generating social impact or achieving financial independence.
  18. I have only ever dyed my whole head of hair once. I decided I would give it a try then realized that I actually like my natural hair colour. I have found that when you appreciate what you have been given, you embrace the beauty in it. There is no cosmetic or esthetic improvement available that can make me feel more whole than I am. I pray that you will feel this way too because, to me, you are already the most beautiful person ever created.
  19. I am proudly non-partisan. I respect those who have political affiliations but do not choose this for myself. I believe that political beliefs are not a package deal. I always vote for a person and not a party. I have actively and passively supported leaders within all of the major parties on the basis that I believed in what they could offer my community. As a result, I feel liberated instead of resigned by my choices.
  20. Being driven by recognition has always taken a back-seat to being driven by results. Although I wouldn’t consider myself particularly modest, I have often found that those who are very good at “doing”, have little time to do a lot of “bragging”. Tuck that bit of wisdom in the back of your mind. It will help you to more accurately see others and the true value of their contributions.
  21. I am not perfect. No matter what you may think or how it may seem, I am not nor have I ever been perfect. I will make plenty of mistakes in life and with you. I guarantee it. I have learned (and I hope you will too) that mistakes are just stepping stones to better future outcomes.

With love always,

(from the PERSON you know as)

Mama

 

I see myself as a poster-child for risk-taking. I believe it is the only way we learn, grow and reach fulfillment – in life, love and work. Everyone has a different threshold for risk. I lean more toward calculated risks but I take lots of them.

In reflecting on the many risks I have taken in my own life, I struggled to limit my discussion to only six. I decided to choose a few that I thought would really resonate with others – perhaps because they too have been at  similar crossroads in their lives and took big risks to move forward.

So here are six big risks that have paid off.

No. 01 Moving to Toronto for school

At the age of 17, I had a lot of choices to make as I graduated high school and prepared to start a new chapter of my life. I considered so many different schools and cities – from coast to coast – in my decision-making but I ended up choosing the University of Toronto.

Risk: Leaving my family, friends and my home community for the big city. Being 100% responsible for myself, studies, work and so on. Going to a massive university where I could potentially become “just a number”. Becoming lonely.

Reward: A meaningful education with bridges to continuous learning over the years. An amazing community that supported the launch of my first social venture (which achieved its 10-year milestone this year!). Mentorship from some extraordinary instructors and professionals. A great friendship with a young man who 8 years later became my husband.

No. 02 Ditching my career aspirations for the unknown

At the age of 24, I discovered that my lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer wasn’t such a fairytale after all. So I said sayonara to my life plan – 20 years in the making (yep, decided at 4 years of age) – and set out to find a dare-to-be-great situation. And I found it – less than a year later!

Risk: Forfeiting tuition and taking on the burden of debt-without-degree.  Disappointing others. Disappointing myself. Possibly getting lost in life.

Reward: So many good lessons that I could only have learned from failure.  The scenic route down a crooked path.  A wicked story to tell. Self-made personal pride. My brainchild – Inspired Practice. My every happiness.

No. 03 Letting go of people

There have been times in my life that I have found the need to let go of different connections. These might be relationships or friendships that weren’t the right fit anymore. Perhaps they weren’t reciprocal or healthy. Maybe it was that they couldn’t survive change. Each situation is different and so is the rationale for disconnecting but the act of letting go of someone is universally the same. And I have done my share of this.

Risk: Separation anxiety. Feelings of hurt. Misunderstanding. Possible regret. Loss.

Reward: It can feel liberating and productive like spring cleaning for your soul. It can help you become un-stuck. It can test your courage and bring you closure.

No.04 Speaking courageously

In 2012, through a civic appointment to a City of Toronto ABCC, I received a true education in what goes on in municipal politics. In the early days, as a staunchly non-partisan citizen interested purely in the priorities and programs designed to serve (specific segments of) the Toronto population, I fell short in my duties. After a few months of feeling intimidated by procedure, deferring to the expertise of others, witnessing group think and otherwise participating in ill-conceived decision making, I realized what it actually meant to be held to a standard of due diligence befitting my role. I had to choose whether to “swim with the current” or “stand like a rock”.

Risk: Judgement from others in a highly public forum. Being labeled and dismissed as “one of those people”. General distrust of my views and the rationale behind them.  Refusal to provide necessary information to which I was entitled in order to make decisions for which I was accountable. Misrepresentation of my position in order to undermine it in the eyes of other decision-makers.

Reward: Being able to face myself in the mirror every morning knowing that I spoke (and voted) my conscience. Learning how to steer clear of “the noise”.  Being recognized by some as a “voice of reason”.  Finding and acknowledging an inner strength (and level of self-respect) I had never before realized. The satisfaction that comes with actually doing the job I was entrusted to do.

No.05 DIYing

I am a really big believer in self-teaching. Although I greatly value what others have to share, for certain things, I learn best by “doing” it myself. I have taught myself everything from contracts to accounting to graphic design and yes, even some basic HTML code. I do not profess to be an expert in any of these things but I like to think I can get by.

Risk: It takes 10 times longer to learn and accomplish a task. There can be an exponential increase in the number of mistakes I make when I figure it out for myself versus having someone tell or show me how to do it. It can be an extremely frustrating process. It can be disappointing and demoralizing to realize that achievement does not grow in proportion to effort. People might think my results are mediocre (even though I might think they are awesome).

Reward: Discovering how to be both the teacher and the student. Developing a greater ability to be resourceful and problem-solve. Patience expands with each new trial. Learning victories are hard won but that much sweeter as a result. Appetite for risk grows as insecurities shrink. New knowledge that will probably never be forgotten.

No.06 Vowing to love unconditionally

There is nothing that I like to do more than love people (and canines). Loving someone else can be simultaneously the most self-indulgent and selfless act. Of course, there are different kinds of love but despite my track record as a serial monogamist, I had never imagined being married to anyone. No, not even as a little girl did I dream about my wedding day. Yet in 2010, I surprised members of my family (who thought I might be destined for spinsterhood) and even myself by becoming the “marrying kind”. Never before had I had to make such a public (or legal) declaration of my unconditional love for another person.

Risk: Vulnerability. Rejection. Abandonment. Disappointment. Failure. Heartache. Destitution.

Reward: Love. Support. Passion. Joy. Partnership. Adventure. Self-discovery. Growth. Creation.

What is one big risk you have taken that really paid off?

Working with the right people is all about attraction. Positively charged ions. Magnetic connections. Sparks fly when you’re surrounded by your dream team.

But who are they and how do you find them?  When I was a young, doe-eyed university student in the early days of heading up a student organization, I struggled to attract the right people. No one was committed enough or willing to develop the skills necessary to get the job done. (Hey I had a lot of growing to do too and plenty of mistakes to learn from!)  I couldn’t understand why until I realized that all I was doing was drawing in “interested” not “quality” people.

Sixteen months later, with a little bit more experience under my belt, I orchestrated a ground-breaking campaign to establish an innovative grant-making body with committed annual funding at the largest post-secondary institution in the country. Big stakes. Possibly an unachievable goal. What I was endeavoring to do was definitely no pub night. Yet I reached out and amazing people came to me in droves. So what changed?

I learned about leading others and discovered four key criteria that would enable me to collaborate with the right people and build dream teams.

Trust: Arguably a key ingredient in any functional professional or personal relationship. When you establish trust as a leader, others are more willing to sign on and commit. I garnered a bit of a reputation in my university days which got me a successful confidence vote. People knew I wasn’t a power hungry ego-maniac like so many other student leaders (sorry but it’s true!). I worked harder than anyone else, took on the least glamorous tasks and developed necessary skills at a rapid rate. People could see my determination and my own personal growth.  It is amazing how that kind of investment of self, attracts others. Likewise their commitment enables you to entrust them with the responsibility of a role instead of merely a task.

Mastery: I always gravitate toward people who are masters in a subject, skill or practice in which I would never personally claim to be an expert. I have my superhero power and they have theirs. What makes for a great team is that we do not duplicate strengths but instead complement one another. I look for people who can do it “better” than I can. (Otherwise seriously wouldn’t I just do it all myself?) In the last 3 years, I have engaged 10 very different people to support a critical project for (what I call) an anchor client. This allowed me to collaborate with people who have extraordinary work ethics, brilliant ideas, fierce risk-taking abilities and extremely unique expertise. None of them were like me and most of them were quite different from one another.

Initiative: I have always maintained that I do not manage, I lead. If you are looking for a manager, then we aren’t destined to work together. Managing others is a concept we really need to eliminate from our consciousness and replace with the idea of leading others. It might seem like semantics but the reality is that managing people is about fitting them into a pre-determined mold that benefits mostly you, your agenda, your company/organization, etc… instead of guiding them toward creating mutually beneficial possibilities. To that end, I love a person who can anticipate needs and take initiative because for me, that means playing an equal role – not a lesser one. It also means that they are confident in their own abilities and comfortable enough with their own autonomy to take risks, to pull it off and in the event they fail, to fix it and learn from it. (Gasp could there actually be something positive about failure?)

Aspiration: I have a highly acute BS-detector (one of my superhero powers) and when someone tries to convince me that our collaboration is the be all and end all for them, whatever chemistry we had disappears. Tell me about the mountain you want to climb or book you plan to write. Talk to me about your professional aspirations, the next step on your journey that you hope to be able to leverage our work together in order to achieve. My team should be one of many stepping stones and knowing that allows us both to maximize our time together. Is that different from what most managers want? Yes it is. They want someone to commit forever and give up their first-born so that all can remain stable and easy. I seek fluidity, fresh ideas and new people – all the time.

While there is more work involved in creating these kinds of dream teams, I believe the results are far superior.