Category Archives: #Hashtag Talks Series 2016

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


#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 !

#Hashtag Talk 6 – Get Giving

Give and Take#Help(Un)wanted



Some givers are dangerously heading towards #burnout. In Adam Grant’s “Give and Take”, they are the “selfless givers”.

To be of service to others has always been big in my books but I’m #learning.  I met a young upwardly mobile careerist and he told me: “My LinkedIn profile is sacred. I keep my list of contacts strictly professional.  So let’s not link in.” Me: Ummm… sure, ok. #Help(Un)wanted #learning

On another occasion, I had lunch with a young professional who just returned from working abroad for a quick visit.  I thought it might be helpful to introduce her to a colleague who now heads a huge conglomerate also in her part of the world. She was quick to ascertain, “What does he do specifically?”  I shrugged, “He does whatever CEOs do, lead his company.”  She declined. #Help(Un)wanted #learning

Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” offers amazing insights on givers like me. “Selfless givers” are very susceptible to #burnout while “otherish givers” are able to stand back to read “reciprocity signals”. He reminds us “sincerity screen” and that successful givers trust most of the people most of the time. #learning

I highly recommend “Give and Take” in particular to “selfless givers”.  Professor Grant, Wharton School’s highest-rated professors, neatly pulls together how the world works that makes sense.  And in light of all the recent catastrophes, we are ache to make some sense, any sense, in our world.  #learning

Hashtag Talk #5 – Putting Women on The World Stage




This Stage Will Do - FOur Seasons Centre of the Arts

Have been thinking about how few women are seen and heard on the big world stage. Think TED Talks and you can count the number of women on 2 hands… as if … we don’t or maybe can’t count.

Recently I noticed the talks I’ve attended @rotmanschool @MaRSDD are mainly male speakers @AdamMGrant  @Eric_Weiner @TEDchris @benbernanke #AlvinERoth to name a few . These wise men are on stage because they are interesting, intelligent, and accomplished speakers with “ideas worth spreading”.

@TorontoSymphony #NewCreationsFestival March 2016 had one woman performer! One! In his tweet reply, the former CEO of TSO admitted their oversight, apologized & said they will do better next year.  “Where are the women?” Next year? Really? How many more years?  How much longer?

An event organizer once told me women are too busy to speak.  Their lives are not only running big corporate but changing diapers,  leading business in the office and in the home. They decline speaking engagements because they don’t have time.  Is this true? I wonder.  Leaders know the power of influence,  making a difference, leaving a legacy.

I believe #WomenEverywhere need, no, want to have a say, OUR say. #WiseWomen please speak up the  #BozomaSaintJohn way!

Hashtag Talk #4 – On Being Sixty in the Six




A cold and dreary day in the Six and I have no urge to hop on my bike or make a move other than to make coffee or finish reading “The Code of the Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakiani.  I did my biz bit today and sent out a few tweets along with a few follow up emails.

A quick glance at my calendar (yes, paper) and #SixtyInTheSix looms exactly 2 weeks away. I curse as the dreaded day draws another day closer.

Maybe I should be reading the Globe and Mail journalist, Ian Brown’s “Sixty: The Beginning of the End, Or the End of the Beginning”.  Is one man’s 60 another woman’s, what?  40 ? Why doesn’t my squash battered body know this?  And to all you 30-somethings on court bashing the ball about gleefully, You. Just. Wait.

Maybe denial will help ease the pain.  Don’t show (hide the grey) and for God’s sake, don’t tell (unless you’re blogging, another form of denial because how many blog at this age unless you’re under 30 or maybe if you’re Ian Brown).

When @WalterIsaacson , author of the exclusive biography, “Steve Jobs”, was asked by a young man (of course, they’re all young), “What’s up next for you, Mr. Isaacson”?  He replied, grinning and without missing a beat,  “I just #KeepItMoving !” #LuckyinLIfe

So I’m curious.  All you #SixtyInTheSIx, what’s up next for us?

Hashtag Talk #3 – Pause and Reflection




The quiet calm and #stillness when one is about to wake up in the morning is the best and most creative time of the day for me, the irresistible draw of a clean slate, a new beginning, a start to a brand new day just waiting… like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.

Sometimes we need a gentle reminder that it is a “gift”.   Mine arrived yesterday morning via an email from a former client and mentee from Riyadh.  He’s a smart, young recent grad from Cairo, now working in Riyadh, after landing in Canada in 2014 and was quite joyous to send me a positive career update.

I gave him a quick snapshot of where I’m at and asked him to wish me luck as I was about to give an important presentation in a couple of hours.

And so he wrote:

“You, my dear friend, are one of those people who don’t need luck whatsoever.  I know the wish you wished me back when I came to you (at the settlement services organization), and I’ll wish it for you – “May your stars align and your days be happy!”

#stillness…that make me stop in my tracks.  I don’t know how to describe how I felt  –  maybe a sense of wonder that he remembered… and I had forgotten; a sense of comfort and #peace that his email arrived just when I needed a boost of confidence; or maybe this overwhelming sense of gratitude that I had the opportunity and privilege to help someone so long ago and he, in turn, reached out from afar and helped me? #mindfulness

Thank you, Akram, thank you very much!  Onto a brand new day!

Kyoto Calm
Kyoto Calm

Hashtag Talk #2 – Karma to help Kids with Disabilities




A funny thing happened on my way to my #GoodLife  gym yesterday.  The speed of thought zooming through my brain yesterday was at supersonic Mach1 – inventions for kids with disabilities, volunteering at the junior squash tournament, first coaching session with my new client, squeezing in a spin class and a run, applying for an exciting part time opportunity to help newcomers, the men’s PSA squash final in Cartagena, Colombia etc etc etc. a jam-packed day

How was I going to accomplish this in one day?  My New Year’s resolution kicked in.  Being mindful of doing too much, too #fastfasterfastest, too soon, I made a  conscious effort to stop, rearrange my thoughts, and reverse the order of my day.  In doing so, an amazing series of occurrences led to boundless #hope #karma

Let’s take one thought – inventions for kids with disabilities. I am excited to submit my proposal as a social venture start up consultant to help commercialize two inventions thanks to my good friend, Karen, who is vacationing in Hawaii and took the time to email me the opportunity #kindness #karma.

I found a young CEO entrepreneur online who is associated with the same hospital and already in commercialization so I was a bit nervous about my pending conference call with him who is armed with a double Masters in neuroscience and design engineering!  I decided to skip my morning spin class (sorry Graham), move my run to end of day and have lunch (why not?) at Sriannie’s snack bar located inside the gym before our call.

I managed to place my fish wrap order seconds ahead of the next customer who bought up all her fish. #karma  After 10 minutes, we both returned at the same time for our orders. #karma  He started chatting with the customer next to me #karma and soon the three of us were praising Sriannie on her high level of customer service and good food.

Minutes later I learned that my new acquaintance is actually Mr. Fitness Business Aficionado and his spouse is an occupational therapist.  I told him about the inventions #networking and got his permission to email him the details. #karma #kindness

After lunch, I spoke with the very affable and congenial genius young CEO #kindness.  I mentioned my new acquaintance. #networking  He softly hinted at putting his invention into the hands of their hands for a demo and I said I would try. #karma #hope

At the end of the day, after a great coaching session with my client, refereeing junior squash players under age 11 and age 15 (some were under age 7!), running 5 km, picking up my lost scarf gifted by my dear client from the cafe where I met my new client #karma, and reaching home just in time to watch the PSA World Squash final, I collapsed in my bed.

This morning I reflected on how #karma played a big role yesterday.  Maybe we can make a difference to improve the quality of the lives for the kids in rehab.  When we see the “dots”, we can try.  We have a moral obligation to try. Let’s try! #hope #leadership




HashTagTalks for Small Biz

Kicking off with February #s:

TheFWords:  #failure #fortune  #fun #fear #FailureFollowedByFortune 

TheGwords: #grit #gratitude



From A Micro Entrepreneur THEN   &

Jean Chow - MsBizWizA Small Entrepreneur NOW

After 10 years #grit in audit #superpowerskill and armed with an accounting diploma #grit and an incomplete final CPA #failure , I left my hometown, Moose Jaw, then Regina and Saskatoon for Zambia #fortune #fun!

Lessons learned from those Audit Years:                      a) how to count cattle #fun ; b) how to count  drums of yellow cake #fear #fun;  c) how to count my lucky stars to be paid handsomely #fortune for an African adventure #fun.

I was a Project Accountant, an aid worker, for 2 years on a wheat research project (how to count seeds, just kidding) and competed as a member of the Zambian Women’s Squash Team #grit #superpowerskills #fun. “Where are you from?” came up often in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and on the Zambian Copperbelt: Kitwe, Ndola, and Lusaka.  I learned it was much easier to say “Konichiwa” which made everyone was happy.

I left Zambia and saw more of this wide world #fortune #fun : Down Under, Thailand, France, England, France, then landed in Ottawa.  It was time to replenish my “inventory”.  After 18 months of financial analyzing, I could see a new business language emerging.  So I quit #fortune , loaded up my Honda Civic, and drove across Canada #grit #fun to study Mandarin #superpowerskill in Vancouver, a winter with a lot of rain. #grit

Another irresistible offer came along to work overseas, this time across the Pacific in Ujung Pandang, Sulawesi, Indonesia.  Not such a tough choice – starving, not-so-mature student versus handsomely paid adventurer #FailureFollowedByFortune #fun

More lessons learned:  Losing is winning  #FailureFollowedByFortune like losing my toughest squash match in Harare #grit but leaving it my all on the court; losing is winning after marrying someone you’ve outgrown and divorcing quickly, painfully, wisely #FailureFollowedByFortune; losing is winning after left holding the bag as a whistle blower, knowing right from wrong #superpowerskill having to walk away from my home in Indonesia and personal belongings #grit and then being saved one year later by good friends, friends for life #FailureFollowedByFortune

Enter my sweet spot decade – happy days back in Canada and after a short stint as a Director of Finance , I quit to be a – wait for it – Food Entrepreneur  #fun #superpowerskill #grit Talk about making something from scratch.  No cakes, no boeuf bourguignon for me.  I wanted the REAL DEAL.  I wanted to do what I love! #fun I loved to eat great food #fun so why not make a business from scratch? Did it matter that I was not a chef, never sold a thing in my life, no contacts in the food industry?  No! “Know no #fear” became my mantra.

I designed #superpowerskill, developed #superpowerskill, and physically delivered (for a little while) #superpowerskill “Asian Kraft Dinner” as Asian DIY dinner kits (Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, South Asian) which sold across Canada, U.S. and Bermuda for 12 (10 wonderful) years! #FUN #GRIT  All caps, definitely ALL CAPS!

Loads of lessons learned:  I lived in my factory for 4 out of 12 years #grit ; wrestled with uncertainty 24/7 for the entire 12 years #superpowerskill ;  received recognition by the big ones: Bon Appetit and CBS FoodNetwork NYC #superpowerskill #fortune; blind passion can and will kill you… well, almost; unexpectedly we lost 2 major clients so cash flow stopped flowing. At the same time we had to automate production , “go big or go home” so I lost it all and went “home”  #FailureFollowedByFear  I lived with my friends and family in 5 homes for 6 months in 2 different cities, 3,415 km apart; I lived with #humility and #gratitude ; I lived with zero assets+zero liabilities = ZERO for what seemed like a very long time #FailureWithNoFortune #JustPlainFailure

So “now is the time” to adapt, to pivot, to change, to endure, to survive #grit  For the next 10 years,  I worked in big corporate led by small people who MUST hit their “numbers”, I worked in small business led by big people (read “big egos”) who went mad not knowing their “numbers”; I worked in NFPs (aka not-for-profits aka “not for me”) with dedicated people who waste time wrestling with bureaucracy and not having any “numbers”.

Lessons Learned From Lowlights to Highlights:  Nothing can defeat you when you have nowhere to go but up #GRIT; nothing can defeat you when you set aside your pride, learn to lean, and ask (sometimes yell) for help #humility ; nothing can defeat you when you can still give a lot with very little because #gratitude is still gratitude #superpowerskill; nothing can defeat you when you can make a life a “something” out of “nothing” #superpowerskill ,  when you “treat every day like pay day”  with curiosity and wonder #fun #fortune, and when you strive to be kinder each and every day. “My heart has spoken.” #superpowerskill

What’s next?  March #Talk. Stay tuned!