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.

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?