All posts by Jean Chow

The Power of “Do”

Brené Brown is an American researcher from Houston and her TED Talk,  “The Power of Vulnerability”, has reached nearly 31 million views.  Her books inspire and help us when we are pondering life’s big questions – “Who am I?” What do I want to be when I grow up?”.  Titles like “Daring Greatly”, “Rising Strong”, “The Gifts of Imperfection” incentivize us to read on but also leap into action.

Another favourite is Yoda!  His quotes resonate as much as Steve Jobs’.  I remember the scene in The Empire Fights Back, on the marshy planet, Dagobah. Luke is trying to extract his X-wing fighter out of the swamp.  He sees that it is too big for him and says, “All right, I’ll give it a try.”  Yoda is encouraging Luke to commit fully, win or lose.  He senses the youngster’s failures within his mind.  Yoda sees that if Luke is unable to commit, then he will fail so he says, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

The Power of “Do” helped me overcome the fear of vulnerability as I take yet another step toward discovery.  Once again with no formal training, my first photographic exhibition, “Stopped and Found” will be installed today for public viewing from Sep 13 to Oct 31 at the aptly named restaurant, “Starving Artist” 505 Mt Pleasant Rd at Davisville in Toronto.

I am indeed “starving” as I have been seeking a long lost same passion.  It’s been ten years ago since I lost my food business.  Recently I felt a nudge, then a push, each time I take a photo on my Note 3.   Who would take me seriously?   I’ve never shot with real camera, a DSLR, a digital single-lens reflex camera? I had to google it.  I take photos instinctively, joyfully, leisurely, whenever I feel and see something which moves with me, awakens me, stirs me.  One day, my friends were talking about “composition”.  Again I had to look it up.

Since contests and competitions are hard to resist (after all, I am a squash player), I saw the Toronto Public Library’s posting in April for artists to submit their work to be displayed in their fourteen galleries.  On a whim like Luke Skywalker, I tried and created an artist statement, bio, and portfolio and hit “send”.  Leave it to the universe to decide I reasoned.

Meanwhile my squash friend and I decided one day to pop into “Starving Artist”, a new neighbourhood restaurant which serves waffles and saw an artist’s paintings on their walls.  Turns out they support local artists by allowing them to display and sell so I sent them my Library portfolio.

Tonight is a gathering of friends to celebrate this act of “daring greatly”!  I’m ready.  And it is no longer “try”, it’s time for “do” and maybe “done”.  I am excited, terrified, and liberated – an emotional roller coaster but we all win because at the end of the day, I know myself better and we all get to have fun and enjoy dessert waffles!

What I desire and aspire to is the hope my photographs will bring to others and stir this deep emotion I felt when I first saw Barnett Newman’s painting, “Vir Heroicus Sublimis” in MOMA, New York City.

 

Barnett Newman

Vir Heroicus Sublimis

1950-51

“The Latin title of Barnett Newman’s painting can be translated as “Man, heroic and sublime.” It refers to Newman’s essay “The Sublime is Now,” in which he asks, “If we are living in a time without a legend that can be called sublime, how can we be creating sublime art?” His response is embodied in part by this painting—his largest ever at that time. Newman hoped that the viewer would stand close to this expansive work, and he likened the experience to a human encounter: “It’s no different, really, from meeting another person. One has a reaction to the person physically. Also, there’s a metaphysical thing, and if a meeting of people is meaningful, it affects both their lives.  It’s no different, really, from meeting another person. One has a reaction to the person physically. Also, there’s a metaphysical thing, and if a meeting of people is meaningful, it affects both their lives.”

Affecting people’s lives, leaving a positive and meaningful imprint, no matter how big or small, is my aspiration and “nature is full of infinite causes” (Leonardo da Vinci) is my inspiration.  Oh and by the way, “Stopped and Found” will also be showing at the Toronto Public Library, Agincourt branch gallery, for the month of May 2018. Dare and do.

The Power of Networking

There is no algorithm nor app for success.  In fact, Albert Einstein, would rather you “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”  Of course, he meant “person”.   Your work does not define your worth.

In her article in The New Yorker, May 29, 2017 in “The Work you Do, The Person You Are”, Toni Morrison wrote, ” You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.”

Now I’m no subject matter expert.  My interests run wide but not deep. I have no letters behind my name although I graduated with a college diploma in Accounting.  As the years fly by faster now and ageing is indeed a privilege,  I’ve been called upon on occasion to speak in front of youth half but sometimes a third of my age.  And I’m always stumped. What could I possibly share that’s relevant, somewhat lively, and entertaining. Accounting???

So last November 2016, the Toronto Public Library asked me to present a seminar on networking: “Network: Anytime, Anywhere with Anyone” a bit broader topic than say, Accounting, and it became the inspiration for my newly announced full day workshop: “Networking:  Connecting to Create Possibilities” with registration now open!

http://learn.utoronto.ca/interactive-course-search#/profile/3396

For those who know me well,  it’s no surprise networking is my superpower.  However, we seldom see and recognize the things we do innately.  Is networking a defined skill? Networking is about people, who you are, and being of service to others.  It’s about connecting with people and in turn, connecting them to others to build and foster community.

As Thich Nhat Hanh, the notable 91 year old Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, wrote, “it takes only one word, one thought, one action to change the world.”  Allow me the opportunity to present networking in a new light and bring you closer to your life goals.

The Power of Dad

I’m one of the lucky ones.  Although I seldom see my Dad (too late to teach him Skype. He’s 88 and lives 4 hours away by plane),  I can often summon up and savour moments of his love instantly.

Oh how he longs for my safety, health, and happiness as I do for him.  He expresses his love simply, clearly, and often, regardless if we’re on the phone or face to face.

He catches me off guard sometimes because his timing is not during those special celebrations anniversaries, birthdays, Christmas, but when we are alone together, just the two of us.  I’d like to think my siblings also have this special time with him, too.

He tells me he counts the days before I visit them in Calgary.  And once I’m there, we would go for our morning walks on our regular route and stop in for our senior’s coffee at the Golden Arches.  We always take a selfie before heading home.

Sometimes after a drive and I’ve dropped him off at their condo, spend 5 minutes checking my phone for messages, and about to drive off again to meet a friend. I would see him standing still in the front lobby waiting to wave and see me off.

In the morning, I would ask him how was his sleep and he would tell me how well he sleeps when I’m there.

We share the same love for and watch the Raptors on TV while yelling, laughing, and cheering so loudly that my Mom would say, ‘they can’t hear you!” which makes us laugh even harder.

I’ll be calling him today and we’ll have “our talk” which is a bit of a guessing game because he dislikes wearing his hearing aid at home.  Nonetheless to hear his voice makes me happy and when I call today,  I’ll hear him loud and clear this Father’s Day and also the next.

 

 

The Power of Hope

One of my favorite things to do is write “thank you” notes, not virtual but paper notes you post by tossing them in one of those big boxes on your street corner.  They’re still there. You could say I start each day grateful for being grateful.  Another is when I talk to people, I love  to look and listen for positivity.  So you could say I hope for Hope.  And my final confession is I can easily spend an hour or two listening to convocation addresses. This “secret” pleasure helps me aspire to inspire.

Yes, I’m the annoying person who jumps out of bed every morning, not with a partner (happily single) but with hope.  When all you have is hope, you jump … you jump for joy, for love, for the next big idea, for whatever the new day brings!

However, for some and understandably so, loss and suffering make it difficult to get out of bed.  Some fear having expectations because the disappointments are too big to bear. Some are grateful just ‘having a cup” because asking if your cup is half empty or half full would hurt too much to even ponder.  And some start their sentences with “But the problem is ….”

We all have and will continue to experience loss – large losses like losing your identity, your job, your love, your business, your purpose in life and small losses like losing your car keys, forgetting a name, sometimes your smartphone (maybe that’s a large loss).  This is what we call living.

Here’s how hope transcends loss.  Listen to Sheryl Sandberg’s recent convocation address to the grads at Virginia Tech.  Listen with or without judgement.  Given Ms. Sandberg’s position of privilege and working as the COO at Facebook, some cynics refuse to acknowledge and sympathize.  But we’re all human and when you suddenly lose your life partner, well, I feel very sad and sorry for her loss.

In her convocation address, Ms. Sandberg’s voice quivered and cracked slightly as she gave us a glimpse of her heart still raw and reeling from her loss – tender, emotional, and vulnerable.   She continues boldly and brightly, wishing the graduates hope.  She showed them the way to find hope:

“Seek shared experiences with all kinds of people.  Write shared narratives that create the world you want to live in.  Build shared hope in the communities you join and the communities you form.  And above all, find gratitude for the gift of life itself and the opportunities it provides for meaning, for joy, and for love.”

The power of hope is about setting expectations and intentions, building dreams, big dreams, and believing you can make and leave the world a better place.  “Resilience is a muscle. which we need to build.” says Ms. Sandberg.  Why not exercise our resilience muscle first thing in the morning by jumping out of bed?  Jump because you’ve been given another day. Jump because you are alive and kicking.  And jump because together, we can make a big leap forward.

The Power of Seeing is Believing

I’ve had almost a week to distill the insights I’ve learned from our audience of emerging and new entrepreneurs last Tuesday at the Richmond Hill Small Business Enterprise Centre.  And I can’t help but marvel once again”the universe unfolding as it should” which is what my good friend, Bernard, says and believes.

My strong desire to do something good, something meaningful in my next “act” has confounded me since I closed my food business over 10 years ago.  I do a whole lot of digging (you should see my well worn”shovel”) and oh the discoveries, they could fill a notebook or two.

Sometimes we stand too close to something we desire … so close that we cannot see.

Seeing is believing!

A great example of standing too close physically is on the squash court.  Our squash pro, Bryan, repeatedly tells us to  “stand back from the wall so you can strike the ball properly. When you’re too close, you can’t generate any power from your swing.”  Sometimes he takes a video of us to help see for ourselves the lesson to be learned.

So I knew on some level my superpower was connecting the dots, networking, putting people together because I could always see the possibilities.  But what does this really mean?  Until my talk, networking was something I took for granted.  I did it without thinking, always seeking to help others by connecting them.   Until I looked into the faces of our audience and heard their questions did I realize how curious they were to learn more.  Until I could step away and face my audience and not face myself could I see the potential and power of sharing this skill through teaching.

I was standing too close and I could not see.   By sharing and teaching people how to network better, how to connect with people, and also how to connect people,  the world CAN be a better place.

As this epiphany hit me hard like a meteorite crashing through the roof, the universe was also reaching out and sending signals to my network, transmitting something good, something magical to those who might be able to help me spread the good word.  Stay tuned for  Version 3.0 of “Network:  Anytime, Anywhere With Anyone”!

Making a difference by connecting one dot at a time.

The Power of Belief

I forgot my parachute when I finally made the leap into entrepreneurship   All I heard were Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words “I believe … I believe… Now is the time …”

Entrepreneurs believe.  We believe as we power through the doubt and the many naysayers so we can follow our passion in our hearts and heads.  “I believe … this is the best idea. ever.  I believe I can build a company.  I can sell.  I can create jobs.  I can because I believe and I will.”  Sound familiar?

I believed as I dove head first into the food industry where I had no business being in.  Armed with little knowledge and no experience, somehow not knowing what I didn’t know became the catalyst for courage in my beliefs.  I knew no fear.

Year 1 quickly became 2, then 3.  We grew and grew until we were looking at Year 12 and when the unthinkable happened.  Our bread-and-butter client of ten years wiped us out with no notice. We were one of many small business vendors de-listed by the big grocery giant when they decided to streamline their distribution and forgot to tell us they didn’t need us any longer.

The cash suddenly stopped flowing.

Without a parachute, we landed hard. SO hard.  I wrestled  with the “why’s, how’s, and what next’s”.  Exhausted, I turned to a good friend who said, “ There is a way out albeit a painful way out.  Everybody deserves a second chance.”  He was right.  Now ten long years later, I have the clarity and trust to believe once again.

Banza – Chick Pea Pasta!

How two brothers turned a failed tech biz attempt into a consumer in-demand unique and healthy pasta!  Love it!  Read on #foodentrepreneurs for #inspiration

From The New York Times:

How Banza, a Chickpea Pasta Start-Up, Thrives on Attention

Two brothers took their chickpea pasta from obscurity to the shelves of national retailers, successfully demonstrating the fine art of self-promotion.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/30/business/smallbusiness/pasta-start-up-thrives-on-attention.html?mwrsm=Email

Hashtag Talk #8 – The Greatness of Canada

#OCanada  #freedom  #safety  #friendship  #peace  #home  #community  #gratitude #givingback #volunteer #NewCanadianCitizens #Canada #Canadian

 

20161013_120329 20161013_115657 Celebration

Today I had the honour and privilege of facilitating one of 14 round tables for  55 about-to-be #NewCanadianCitizens at the Ontario Science Centre as part of an initiative called #BuildingCitizenship  for The Institute For Canadian Citizenship. The citizenship ceremony which followed was presided by the very warm and welcoming Justice Albert Wong.  What a judge!  Justice Wong came via #Malaysia and landed in #Sudbury (as I aspire to earn more medals)!

Justice Albert Wong
Justice Albert Wong

As a co-facilitator, my role was to ensure everyone at our table had a chance to share stories on why they chose to become a #Canadian citizen.    We had such diversity in age, culture,  and profession – a father who became a citizen 4 years ago came to witness his identical twin 20+ something year olds from Lahore, Pakistan; a smiling Dutchman who has been here for 14 years with his Montreal-born spouse; a lovely Colombian fellow who also married a Canadian and has been living in Canada for 8 years; and my co-facilitator, a distinguished retiree who came to Canada in early 70’s with $200 in his pocket from Zanzibar, Tanzania and  now has a daughter and two grandchildren in Canada.

We were tasked to complete the sentence “I became a Canadian when ….” So at the end of our hour, we presented in 6 words our collective thoughts.  It made us pause to think and reflect.  The sports enthusiasts immediately shouted @BlueJays #ourmoment @Raptors #wethenorth .  Sports always unite and binds community… immediately! No language needed.   The more “seasoned” generation spoke about Canada as a land of “peace and heaven on earth” and “the beginning of new beginnings”.  The creatives focused on the scale and scope of the beauty and vastness of Toronto and the distinctive four seasons in all their colour and glory.

However, the one person who I believe said it best was “when I am at the end of my travels, I am looking forward to coming home.  Canada is “home” to me.”

Having worked and lived in faraway countries and in cultures so different from where I was born and brought up, a small Prairie town, I know this feeling all too well –  “coming home”.  Canada is home.  Is it this feeling of comfort, joy, and love with undeniable certainty?  Without a doubt, I couldn’t feel prouder to hear voices, young and old,  from many different countries calling Canada “home” , “OUR home and native land”! #OCanada!

Hashtag Talk #7 – #PokemonGo & Flash #Mentoring

PokemonGo#Pokemons

#DoingGood #SomethingGood

#karma #inspiration

#brainstorming #networking

#mentoring #coaching

#jobskillsforyouth #disabilities

This week @HBKidsHospital reception,  I found #inspiration! I spotted a young girl in her wheelchair, swiping fast and furious on her smartphone.

So I sidled over, “Are there any  #Pokemons here?”  She grinned, “Nope!”  I showed her my screenshots of the Pokemons caught at @hudsonsbay the day before and said, “Look, they got me another 20% off!”  We introduced ourselves and laughed!

I was meeting the CEO and Ms M was checking into her Youth@Work, an incredible program for high school students, age 15 through 20, (she’s 16) with #disabilities the opportunity to learn practical work skills through #coaching and short term placements. #jobskillsforyouth

In thoughtful detail as an event planner for a charity,  she described how she was planning a fundraising dinner for 20 for her placement.  The menu was difficult for her so we did a bit of  #brainstorming.

“How about food reflecting her colour theme – green and white?”  Ms M lit up! “Marshmallows! S’mores with shortbread cookies! Ice cream sandwiches with dairy-free gelato – vanilla, pistachio AND donated by my gelato-producing clients! #DoingGood Chicken, mushroom and white wine sauce, kale almond salad, spinach” We were on a roll. #SomethingGood

She  suddenly stopped, “Oh, I have to get permission.”  I said, “Of course.”

Did she know the word for what just happened?  “Advocacy?” she hinted.  Impressive! “How does #brainstorming and #networking sound?”  She nodded happily.

I jotted a few notes on my business card, handed it to her, and suggested she pass along to the Program.  Will they call?  Let’s see.

The CEO thought it was #karma !