Soaring into 2018 with a Sense of Wonder: Sights and Sounds from the Sky

Welcome to my first blog of 2018! Well, actually, that’s not exactly true. The words written below are my kids’.

On the last day of 2017, my husband and I treated our two oldest children (11 and 9) to a parasailing adventure during our vacation in Mexico (our six-year-old dare-devil would have gone too if he was allowed!) The next morning, New Year’s Day, I asked them to describe their experiences…what they saw, heard, and felt while soaring in the sky for twelve minutes.

I wanted them to remember this experience forever, and I knew (if they’re anything like me), despite having the photos we captured from the ground, their memories would fade if they didn’t capture their thoughts and feelings with words. I didn’t necessarily plan to create a blog with their writing (and of course I have their permission to post) but when they read their pieces aloud – which they each wrote in about 15 minutes! – I was truly amazed.

As their mom and as a writer, I’m so proud of their natural writing talents and their ability to use words to capture their ideas and excitement. I especially love the pure innocence and simplicity in each of their passages. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Wishing all my readers a healthy and happy 2018 filled with childlike wonder! xoxo

PS. No, I haven’t taken the same 200-foot leap yet…maybe one day!


By: Gavriel Lichtman, age 9

It was on a Sunday afternoon when it finally came! The day I could finally go Parasailing! At first, I was fully exited yet not scared at all but when the time came I felt butterflies in my stomach!

Then, the staff were explaining everything: how to land, how to take off, and so on. Then suddenly I felt the tug of the boat and took about two or three steps and off I went! Once I was up I felt like an eagle and I was so high! For some reason, I didn’t feel as high as I actually was. From up there I thought that I could see everything!

When I was up I could only hear two things: the waves and the wind. It seemed so quiet from up there! I couldn’t hear anyone!

After about 5-7 minutes I saw this random wave in the middle of the ocean. For a second I thought it was just a random wave but then I thought about it, it was probably a dolphin or whale. After that, I think I saw a big sting ray! It was so cool to see! A real sting ray just in the middle of the ocean! Wow. Then, near the end of the ride I saw a huge “school” of jellyfish! What an experience that was.

Sadly, my ride was almost over so when I heard the whistle “toot!’’ I saw the red flag go up so I started to pull the red side. But then I ended up having a bit of a rough landing, but I was fine! Right when I got off I said: “That was sooo cool!!” to my parents and when I came down that was the time my sister got to go. And then she went up and had an amazing time too!


By Lielle Lichtman, age 11

“I was able to see everything!”. That was my little brother Gave telling me what fun he had. Still, flying 200 feet in the air is not an everyday thing, so I was a little nervous. Ok, a lot nervous. “ Lielle, amazing!” yelled my mom. “Have the best time!” yelled my dad. I tucked my knees and flew up into the sky. I spread my arms like wings, as if I were a bird. I didn’t feel that thrill in my stomach that I feel on a roller coaster. Huh, I thought. This isn’t half bad! Once the rope had straightened, I griped the harness with my inner elbows. I was told that I could just spread my arms the whole time, but I don’t take chances.

At about a minute in, I looked down. I saw the Grand Mayan, The Grand Bliss, The Grand Luxxe, The Plaza. Only, they were so small. I felt like if I reached out, I could pick up each building with my hands. Then I looked at the beach. The beach was full of tiny, tiny people. It looked like there were thousands. Each person could fit in my hand, that’s how tiny they looked. I was in shock. The best part of the whole experience was the water and the sounds. I kept on looking for a sound. The boat motor or a shriek maybe? Instead, I heard the wind. I heard the wind in my ears, blowing against me. When I turned my head, I could no longer hear the wind. At one point, I looked down at the ocean. I saw something I had only seen in the Instagram pictures. I saw that as the water got deeper, it got bluer which was so cool! On the shore I saw brown water (because of the sand) and as it got deeper in got greener until it got blue. I couldn’t believe what I saw. And to think that I almost didn’t go. On the last day of 2017 what could be better? I got to parasail through the sky.

As I started to land I looked back at what a cool experience that was! I had a motivational family who wanted me to have a cool experience, and let me tell you, it was more than cool! As I heard the whistle, I pulled the red rope real hard, and I banged down on the sand. I heard the cheering from my family, and I felt so proud.



He Shoots, He Smiles: Why Hockey is so Much More than Skills and Skates


As parents, we generally don’t like to see our kids upset, feeling deflated, and unhappy. So when my then six-year-old son was struggling through hockey (he was not exactly thrilled about his weekly ice time…and yes, there were tears) I thought that was our very clear clue to pack up the skates (and the rest of the gear…oh the gear!) and bid farewell to the arena.

I realize now – and perhaps even then – that I was clearly bringing my own biases into the conversation. Despite growing up in Toronto, ours was not a “hockey family” – so I didn’t quite get what all the fuss was about. Of course, I know Canadians and hockey go together like, well…Canadians and hockey….but I never personally felt a strong bond with the sport (no dirty looks please…read on…that’s changed!) Even though I have such happy memories of my own experience on my school softball team, where hockey was concerned, I zoomed in on the inconveniences and drawbacks which clearly didn’t allow me to see much of the good. I failed to spend time considering the team aspect of the game as I was too focused on one cold hard fact – my son did not seem happy at all. Not to mention, my husband and I are both building careers, and catering to the demands of three young children (and trying to build fun and meaning into our everyday lives while we’re at it). So, I was (very) okay with dropping one thing from our plates. Or at least potentially swapping it with a less demanding activity.

Quite simply, I was narrow-minded. The same way I admittedly dismiss most fantasy and sci-fi movies as content I simply won’t enjoy (except for The Never Ending Story…go Falkor!) But seriously, I realize at times I dismiss things too early based on pre-conceived ideas…and this experience has taught me a very important lesson. (Though I still don’t think I could get into Game of Thrones…let’s just leave it okay? Sorry!)

My husband, on the other hand, when faced with my son’s icy tears, had different plans. He confirmed that many kids at that age have similar emotions…and waterworks. They are learning a new skill (and a technically difficult one at that) and it’s simply a steep/sharp (!) learning curve. He didn’t think letting him quit at such a young age was the right thing to do – or the right message to send.

I trusted my husband’s instinct and my son marched – or skated – on. And truth be told, my husband did most rink shifts. In some ways, I think I kept hockey at arm’s length because I couldn’t bear to see my son sad (or even bear to see the gap in skill level between him and the other kids his age). But by doing so, I probably missed some special moments and some wonderful growth. Thinking about this makes me a little sad…but I’m not dwelling on the past, especially because now I’m all in! (Did you know there’s a special term for hockey moms…mom-sicles!?) In the meantime, my younger son’s foray into Canada’s favourite pastime has been smoother. He has loved it from day one – and not just because of the zamboni or the Tim Horton’s stops after games!

Fast forward about three years…

My nine-year-old son just spent the weekend in Guelph for a tournament as a happy, thriving member of the Willowdale Blackhawks Single A hockey team. He is not the best on his team by any means (some of these kids are unreal!) But with a little help from an important mom/dad/son talk at the beginning of the season (discouraging feelings were creeping in again), and consistent cheerleading from us and his coaches (thank you!), he is truly shining in his own way.

I’ve always known success is such a mental game – but I’m seeing it so clearly first hand. Once we said to him “why can’t YOU be the one to get the puck? Instead of assuming someone “better” will always get it first” something clicked. His effort, drive, and confidence shot up! And his coaches, team members, and even other parents are taking notice.

And even though he has yet to score a goal, I’m beaming too. Seeing him so happy…well, that’s what parents live for, right?! And it sounds so cliché, but I’ll say it anyway – the bonds he is forming with the other fourteen boys is truly special. The confidence he is gaining as he sees – and feels – himself improve, is amazing. And the smile on his face in the picture my husband sent me of the boys at their post-game dinner out, is priceless.

To my husband, thank you for encouraging him to persist, persevere, and believe in himself. You were right! 🙂

For as long as it lasts, we’re officially a hockey family – rink time is no longer just a daddy thing. It’s a family thing. As my eleven-year-old daughter has seen me get into it, she’s equally pumped and attends as many games as possible, as long as they don’t conflict with her own full dance schedule. And you know what…I don’t even mind all the gear anymore. Perspective….go figure.

It’s amazing what can happen when you open your mind…and that stinky hockey bag.

Men Behind Gender Diversity: A Key Ingredient to #MoveTheDial

Move the dial pic 2

Originally published on, October 20, 2017

Addressing unconscious biases. Drawing attention to microaggressions. Disclosing diversity Mandates. Setting gender targets. #GoSponsorHer. #MoveTheDial. There is something in the air these days – and I’m proud to be a voice in the crowd. As a TD employee, I recently attended a TD Women in Leadership event, Addressing Gender Barriers & Winning with Allies, hosted by Shari Graydon. Named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women, Shari engaged the audience in a crucial and honest dialogue – in her uniquely spirited style – about issues facing women in the workplace, their barriers to leadership, and what it means to be an ally. Talk about a packed agenda.

150 men and women filled the room and openly shared personal stories, challenges, and triumphs. The space was buzzing with narratives ranging from being advised how to dress in a professional setting (women shouldn’t show their bare arms according to some!) to the challenges – and opportunities – facing today’s young girls, tomorrow’s leaders. The event concluded with a TD Executive Panel Discussion – equal parts engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. I walked out of the half-day event with concrete ideas and takeaways. One that sticks out: know your value and how to communicate it.

Fortunately, TD’s voice in this space is just one of many and this event was far from an isolated one. Just a few days earlier, I received a call from my good friend, Jodi Kovitz, a trailblazer in the Toronto tech community. Jodi is CEO of AceTech Ontario, a non-profit member-based community organization for technology leaders to network, seek guidance, and offer advice. She is also the passionate founder of the #MoveTheDial movement which burst onto the Toronto tech scene this past January with an event that hosted 1,000 supporters and presented a momentous mission to Canada and the world: increase female participation and leadership in tech.  

Jodi invited me to attend the TakeOver Innovation Conference on October 2 in downtown Toronto, hosted by TribalScale, a digital product, strategy, design, and engineering firm. As Sheetal Jaitly, the candid and charismatic CEO of TribalScale proudly declared during his closing remarks, the conference’s goal was to achieve 50/50 representation between its male and female speakers. That goal was surpassed: 52% of the 83 speakers were women.

This. Is. Big. News.

As Roger Chabra, TribalScale CIO tweeted: “A tech conference with more female speakers than men? Yes that’s us.”

And as Jay Rosenzweig, CEO, Rosenzweig & Company affirmed during his powerful talk at TakeOver, this is as much about men as it is about women: “In addition to encouraging women to step forward as entrepreneurs in the tech space…I invite men to also step forward…as champions of gender equality.”

With so many important conversations happening around the topic of diversity, inclusion, and equal female representation, let’s take this opportunity to hear more from some of the most passionate voices in this space.

Why is this topic so important? Why now?

Diversity and inclusion has always been important. We have a long way to go, but this topic has been getting more attention over the past couple years. Thank goodness for that, it’s a long time coming and overdue. Diversity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s simply good for business. 

According to an important study by McKinsey & Co., companies with more diverse workplaces perform better financially. Macro trends like increased global competition, more rapid pace of technology adoption, proliferation of new technology platforms and decreasing costs to launch startups have companies, both large and small, constantly scrambling to prosper. Companies are realizing that in order to outcompete in their markets and truly serve the needs of their customers they have to put together the best teams possible, and that means teams with varied backgrounds, opinions and experiences. Diversity and inclusion are powerful strategic weapons, and the best companies in the world are recognizing this and taking steps to build it into the core of their organizations.

Roger Chabra, CIO, TribalScale

What are the stats and what needs to change? And what progress has been made already?

If I can reference the 2017 Rosenzweig Report: of the 25 biggest publicly traded companies in Canada, there are only 6 female Named Executive Officers or 5%. It means that at the ‘biggest of the bigs’, 95% of the top executives remain men.

I think the progress being made is in the awareness that’s been generated and the conversations being had as a result of movements like #MoveTheDial, #GoSponsorHer, and others like #HeForShe. We’re having the right conversations. We’re seeing our leaders, like prime minister Justin Trudeau, set new standards and examples by creating a gender parity in his cabinet. We’re starting to make the changes that are removing the barriers to equality. It’s progress, but our work is by no means done.

Sheetal Jaitly, CEO, TribalScale 

What can each and every one of us do to #MoveTheDial?

I firmly believe it will take a concerted, sustained effort by a great many individuals at the grassroots level – men as well as women – to #MoveTheDial. Big, important initiatives, including legislation, can seem distant to the average person. If you feel that way, then concentrate on the things close at hand. Encourage women to speak up in meetings. Fight stereotypes with facts.

I mentioned at the conference that, contrary to popular belief, women can do very well in the tech field. First Round Capital, a respected VC company, found that start-ups involving at least one female founder perform 63% better than those with all-male founders. I would also suggest that women and girls should enlist their male partners, fathers, brothers and sons in the struggle to achieve gender equality. I say that because fostering diversity and equality are societal issues that need to be tackled by us all, every day, in every interaction we have. As Parachute Club vocalist Lorraine Segato once put it, small victories are big steps.

Jay Rosenzweig, CEO, Rosenzweig & Company

What can we look forward to on the topic of women in leadership? What’s next for the Toronto Tech community – and the global community for that matter?

There has clearly been positive change and excellent diversity champions and initiatives underway for many years. That said, the stats in the soon to be released #movethedial Where is the Dial Now? report on #womenintech in Canada, will be a wake up call and a necessary call to action that we need to do more to #movethedial to change the face of tech leaders in Canada. This report is the first of its kind – a national collaboration delivering a baseline to the community on where we are at, brought to you by 8 tech community partners.

I believe that we can watch our Toronto Tech community build on the momentum we have created in 2017 to meaningfully come together to actively and collaboratively direct our efforts towards what it will take to #movethedial for women: committing to a mindset to help advance women. 

We now see as an ecosystem that is our full talent pool that will make us more competitive on the global stage and that #diversityisourstrength. We see the great opportunity for us to collaborate more deeply as a tech & innovation community towards this end, and I can’t wait to see the impact that will occur when we weave our initiatives and tactics together to make greater and faster change. We are stronger together.

 Jodi Kovitz, CEO, AceTech Ontario; Founder and Champion, #MoveTheDial

Thank you Roger, Sheetal, Jay, and Jodi. Your insights, passion, and commitment to drive this conversation forward is inspiring – and needed. As a female leader myself, a mentor to young men and women, and a mother to an 11-year-old girl and her two younger brothers, I know how important it is that we see continued and accelerated progress, and that we use our voices, the data, and our collective might to #MoveTheDial.

Diana Goodwin: Diving Into Business


Originally published on, August 25, 2017

This interview was conducted by Stacy Woloschuk & compiled by guest writer, Jori Lichtman. 

Diana Goodwin is the Founder and CEO of AquaMobile. AquaMobile was founded in 2012 and has six full time employees and 2000 swim instructors across Canada and The United States. Diana describes her company as “Uber for swim lessons.” And as the company websites touts: “Your Pool. Our Instructors. Peace of Mind.”​


Q: Tell us about yourself and how you want to position yourself in the world.

Growing up in Toronto, sports played a large role in my life. I worked as a swim instructor, played competitive soccer, and I was also a sprinter. I played varsity sports at The University of Toronto and participated in competitive sports well into my twenties. A lot of my personal and professional confidence can be attributed to my time playing sports. Yes, I mastered specific skills – but the confidence I gained has permeated throughout so many aspects of my life. I know there are many people who have had similar experiences with various sports and activities and I’m passionate about bringing that confidence out in others. Through the company I’ve built, AquaMobile, I believe I can achieve that. Above all, I’m here to make a positive impact on as many lives as possible.

Q: What was your first real experience with sports?

I didn’t always love swimming – in fact, I was the kid sitting at the edge of the community pool and shivering during my scheduled swimming lesson, refusing to dip my toe in the water. Another parent kindly recommended to my mom that she try private swimming lessons for me.  And after my first one-on-one lesson with Dawn, my private swim instructor, I quickly developed a love for the water.

Q: Tell us about your career path.

I completed my undergraduate degree in commerce and finance at The University of Toronto. My entrepreneurial spirit emerged when I started a side business called Swim for Life Aquatics. When I began my first full time role as a consultant at Bain and Company, I didn’t have time to teach, so I hired instructors. But as time went on, I wasn’t feeling personally and professionally fulfilled at Bain and I knew I wanted more. One day, a friend and I were brainstorming business ideas and I had a “eureka” moment – the concept for AquaMobile was born. I left Bain after three years and completed a one-year MBA at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management. In that year, and through the courses I enrolled in, I was focused on creating a business plan for AquaMobile. After graduating from Kellogg, I was a full-time entrepreneur and business owner.

Q: Is there one thing that stands out from your time at Kellogg?

Besides the great network I still tap into often, one piece of advice that Professor Andrew Razeghi shared has stuck with me: FOCUS. Do one thing – and do it really, really well.

Q: You are known for “bootstrapping” and navigating and building your business on your own – tell us more about this approach.

I was determined to launch AquaMobile in a low cost way, especially as it is a concept and a company that does not have high up front capital costs. I was resourceful – I sought out grants where possible and researched cost-effective options for our technology platform. And as the business has grown, I’ve reinvested the profits to ensure growth. Not all companies can leverage this approach – but for me and for AquaMobile, the right circumstances fell into place and it’s been a great experience.

Q: Tell us about your team and its diversity.

We are a strong and passionate group.  As it happens, we are a team of mostly women – both the core team and our instructors. While I do believe the make-up of our team has been an asset and has helped drive our growth, most importantly, we are all open to learning and growing. Like most start-ups, we fully appreciate and embrace the need to be flexible, especially as our business is seasonal.  Regardless of gender, I look to hire people who are humble, who work hard, and who want to grow.  And because instructors are going into our clients’ homes, they need to make people feel comfortable.

As a leader, I am focused on nurturing my team members and empowering them to make decisions. Mistakes are part of the process and we all learn from them. Especially with a wide network of instructors across Canada and the U.S., I am highly focused on ensuring my interactions with my employees have a personal touch – we not only work together, but we share personal stories about ourselves to stay emotionally connected.

Q: How did the idea of AquaMobile emerge? And how did it grow from a passion project to a profitable cross-border business?

Water wasn’t love at first sight for me and it was clear the one-on-one format was a breakthrough for me. I knew there were others who were similar to me and there was an unmet need out there.

AquaMobile started as a “side gig” – something I was passionate about, especially compared to my consulting job that was not fulfilling. But when I knew I wanted to grow it into something bigger, I didn’t quit my day job immediately. I knew I needed a clear and defined path in order to be successful. If you are like I was, and you’re working a full time job but have a passion project or business you want to pursue, set aside time to think through it carefully and thoroughly; solicit feedback from others; and ensure you are asking the right questions. Take your time to get it right. And even then there will be bumps along the way. But embrace the bumps and learn from them.

I am also always conscious of thinking big. Before I launched AquaMobile, I knew I needed to change my thinking – I had to stop looking at my business through a Greater Toronto Area (GTA) lens and start seeing it as an international enterprise. I made sure to adopt and implement a tech platform and brand that that said: I’m not local, I’m global!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

Focus. I always come back to this simple yet powerful guiding principle.

Q: And last but not least, what does MovetheDial really mean to you?

To me it means everyone, regardless of gender, using their unique abilities to to help women in tech reach their full potential. In my case, I’ve experienced open doors as I look to grow AquaMobile. People going out of their way to make introductions that will help move the dial for my career and for AquaMobile.

Beyond the Music: 3 Beautiful Moments from Carole King’s Beautiful


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Earlier this summer, I was fortunate to spend an evening taking in the sights and remarkable sounds of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre.

I left Beautiful with a newfound appreciation for a musical legend…but also with a warmth in my soul.

If you’re anything like me, and the darkness around us is leaving you craving some much-needed soul-warming…I hope you enjoy this piece that highlights some of my favourite moments. Moments when I felt the earth move…or perhaps those were tears flowing!

If you haven’t seen it, plan to, and want to be surprised, don’t read on!

If you have seen it and adored it as much as I did, please enjoy!

Born Carol Joan Klein in 1942 into a Jewish family, Carole’s extraordinary talent and her famous songs were the focal points of the show. (For a good part of the two hours, I was truly in Dirty Dancing heaven!) Also centre stage was the story of Carole’s success and rise to stardom, starting in her teens, and her trying relationship with then-husband Gerry Goffin.

But between the main storylines were three tender themes that stole my heart…

The Warm Friendships

Throughout Beautiful, we witnessed a touching and charming friendship blossom between couples who were highly competitive yet deeply devoted friends – Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

As much as each pair was aiming to surpass the other on the Billboard charts by writing the best songs and lyrics, they were also each other’s number one cheerleaders. Their unwavering loyalty and love were something special. They developed an incredibly close bond and both Cynthia and Barry were Carole’s rocks when her marriage was falling apart.

When Carole performed “You’ve got a friend” at the piano in her office, just before leaving for California, with Cynthia and Barry swaying and singing with her…um…those tears I mentioned…yah.

Carole and Gerry’s marriage wasn’t always Some Kind of Wonderful, and the couple divorced in 1969 after a decade of marriage. But when Gerry arrived at Carnegie Hall before Carole’s first performance in front of an audience, you could still see the spark of their special friendship, despite the mistakes Gerry made and their bittersweet past.

Finally, Carole’s spirited and loyal manager and music producer, Don Kirshner, supported Carole through it all. He encouraged her when she announced her plans to record and perform a group of deeply personal songs she wrote – instead of finding another performer or group to sing her words. Don and Carole had each other’s backs. Their relationship was beyond business – it was a unique and trusting friendship.

A Devoted (and Progressive!) Mother

While not a central storyline in Beautiful, a little research reveals that Carole’s mother Eugenia Gingold, was not only Carole’s most adoring fan, but she was also her first music teacher and later, her acting coach.

After her split with Gerry, Carole was a single mom in the 60s, raising two young children. Naturally, she felt deflated, nervous, and sad. While I don’t recall her mother’s exact words, she essentially declared this:

You had the guts and gumption to pursue your dreams as a young teenager determined to make it as a songwriter – don’t you dare stop dreaming…writing…or singing, just because life and love had taken an unexpected detour! 

Especially for the times, Eugenia was a truly modern women and raised Carole to be a proud, accomplished, and independent woman.

Oh, and if one fine day you remember exactly what she did say, please let me know!

Carole’s Inner Beauty 

If her remarkable talent wasn’t enough, Carole was strong, humble, and forgiving.

She endured some incredibly challenging times with Goffin who was unfaithful, and according to an L.A. Times piece written at the time of his death in June 2014, “struggled with mental health problems exacerbated by his use of hallucinogenic drugs.”

Despite their challenges, Carole tried to make her marriage work. She loved Gerry and was a committed wife. She believed in love. She believed in them.

Ultimately, her loyalty wasn’t enough. But when Carole belted out A Natural Woman, there was no doubt how strong she was. Her mother was bang on (as mothers usually are!) Carole was a trailblazer. She was a gifted composer and songwriter. And absolutely nothing could stop her.

Thank you to the writers, producers, and the creative team behind Beautiful.

It truly was.

And yes Carole (played by the incredibly talented Chilina Kennedy – just WOW!), I will still love you – and all you gave to this world – tomorrow.

3 Lessons from Baseball we can Pitch to the Workplace


Playing baseball on my school team, The Forest Hill Falcons, was one of the highlights of my childhood. The games, the friendships, being part of a team…and of course the end of season pool parties my parents graciously hosted for the team each year!

This summer, by joining the B’nai Brith Canada women’s softball league, I’ve had the opportunity to slide back into that innocent world after many years – if only for just a couple of hours per week. The experience has not only been fun, but it’s been a great reminder of how important “soft skills” are to success.

Yes, mastering hitting, catching, throwing, and pitching can certainly make the difference between winning and losing (as a new team in the league, we’re doing a bit more of the latter…but we’re still smiling!) And often these are the skills that receive the glory. Naturally, we cheer the loudest for the grand slam and the triple play.

But sometimes, it’s the less obvious interpersonal-related talents and interactions that transpire behind the scenes – and on the diamond – that give a team its edge. Not unlike what occurs in the working world.

I’ve spotted three soft skills in particular that have made a huge difference in our performance over the season – and we’re not done yet! If we continue to commit to focusing on these attributes as a team, I’m confident the triple plays will come soon (okay…we’ll settle for double plays).

Now, insert the same logic for the workplace, and you can see where this metaphor is going: technical skills matter, but let’s not underestimate the importance of soft skills.

That said, here are three competencies that matter a whole lot in baseball….in our careers…in relationships…and let’s face it…for the big game of life!

1. Communication

 “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”

– Yogi Berra

Especially in our first few games, we were pretty much striking out in the communication department. We weren’t calling the next play (i.e. “Play is to First or Second!), calling pop flies (“Got it!”), and we didn’t know all the rules of the game (“Don’t touch home plate when you come in for the run!”) Um…yes…there are some interesting rules indeed.

But now, about 10 games in, we are listening to each other, collaborating, and as a result we’re more mentally in the game – and we have a few wins to prove it! We make sure a third base coach is there to coach the runners; we call pop flies (and catch them more often too!); and we’re better at helping each other know when to hold the ball vs. attempting the often long throw to first base.

All of these gains, simply by opening our mouths…and our ears!

2. Leadership 

 “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

– Jackie Robinson

After about five games, it was clear we were a bit (okay A LOT) rusty and a practice would do us good. At that first practice, one player emerged as an obvious leader. She’s not only a solid player, but her leadership skills have helped boost our confidence and teach us some important strategies of the game (such as who should cover who, when you need to tag a runner, and oh…what to do about that in-field pop-fly rule). She is doing an awesome job bringing out the best in each of us and ensuring we maintain the positive and fun feeling we signed up for in the first place.

And I know behind the scenes, before our games, she and our captain devote their personal time to drafting the roster and batting order for each game – ensuring we each have the opportunity to try new positions, while providing enough consistency and leveraging our strengths to enhance our chances of winning.

Hey, Coach – it’s working!

Hey, leaders everywhere – take note!

3. Encouragement 

“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

– Babe Ruth

I am one of the pitchers for our team. I love the challenge and although I sometimes feel I’ve let the team down if I walk a couple of players, I’m surrounded by a great team that ensures no one player feels bad or accountable for a poor play. We all fumble. We all miss balls we should catch. We all throw to first when we should throw home. But we’re so pumped to have this experience together, it doesn’t matter all that much.

One of our regular back-catchers is especially awesome in the encouragement department. For my solid pitches, she cheers me on. For my not-so-solid ones, she has a great, natural way of boosting my confidence for the next one by providing specific feedback and advice – a little higher, a little further…and with her uplifting commentary, more often than not, my next pitch is a strike.

If managers in the workplace only knew how little it would take for them to get the best out of their staff. What’s that they say about a little encouragement going a long way?

So aren’t these skills – and the importance of them – obvious by now? Isn’t every other LinkedIn article about this stuff? Maybe. But seeing them in action really hit home (yes, pun intended). The discernible improvements we’ve seen since these three attributes have become centre stage are, in my opinion, truly remarkable.

Think about it – if this is happening on the baseball fields of Toronto at 9:30 on a Tuesday night, imagine what companies and teams could gain by scoring big in these areas!

Thanks to the talented and fun women on my team – and in the whole league. If you can’t already tell, I’m having a blast…sign me up for next season!

I’ll be the one with no fear.

3 More Communication Tips for my Younger Self

Dear me

I recently shared the first part of this series, called 4 Communication Tips for my Younger Self, featuring these tips, along with personal examples from my own career journey:

  1. Give people something to react to
  2. Don’t ask…recommend
  3. Tailor your text
  4. Questions are great…at the right time and in the right place

I was thrilled to hear from many readers that the content resonated (a.k.a. I was/am not alone…HINT: we never really are!) Not being one to keep good gems to myself, especially if they can help others charge forward, shine, and conquer the world (or at least nail that presentation to senior management at 2 pm!) here are a few more tips to chew on.

1)   If your project takes a detour, it’s okay

Early in my career, I used to be surprised – and sometimes fret – when I received bad news related to a project I was leading. Whether it was legal putting the brakes on an advertising claim, or a supplier not coming through as promised, or an internal partner executing something different than what was documented – I didn’t understand that it was normal (or at least not fret-worthy) for a project’s progress to follow a zig-zag pattern – or even a figure 8! I now believe straight-line A to Z initiatives are the exception, not the norm. As silly as it sounds, I didn’t quite understand that “Plans” – even pretty PowerPoint ones – are not set in stone. Circumstances change. Challenges change. Outside factors change. Inside factors change. Leadership changes. Goals change. And yes, plans change. And it’s our job to adapt and continue to move forward.

Now, when I receive unexpected news about my project needing to make a U-Turn, it’s not as…well…unexpected. As my manager recently shared: Sometimes you plan to make a pineapple and you end up with an orange. But you still have a piece of fruit.

In other words, we work hard documenting what we want and how we want to achieve it – but we also need to be able to go with the flow. Of course, major changes, challenges, and show-stoppers do arise – part of what I’ve learned (and am still discovering) is how to separate the mini challenges from the monsters. And how to manage them accordingly.

Either way, when things change, this is our opportunity to proactively share necessary information with our managers to ensure they are in the loop – and to make sure they don’t receive an update from someone else (especially if the news is not of the cheery variety). In many ways, our job is to help our managers look great – and if they’re blindsided, we’ve missed the mark.

Of course, if you have positive news – your project is under budget or will launch earlier than planned – share that too!

Need help crafting your message? Use the Tailor your Text tip in Part 1 of this series to organize the information and paint a clear picture for your audience.

2)   Clarify and Simplify 

I’m often the one in the room (or on the conference call) that ensures everyone is on the same page. I do this by speaking and asking questions in simple language. Simple.

Asking clear questions isn’t rocket science. But often in big corporations, buzz words and technical language can unnecessarily complicate a conversation and dilute even the simplest messages.

In a recent meeting, we were debating whether to launch a project with a few unknowns. After listening to the team’s conversation for a few minutes, I asked: “So if we launch now, what is the worst case scenario?” As it turns out, there was no risk involved in launching immediately.  The simple answer: Yes. The decision: launch today. Downside: none.

The lesson? If you don’t understand something, chances are others are in the same boat. (Remember, we’re never alone…I promise!) Sometimes it takes courage to be the clarifier (will others think you just don’t get it??) but it’s almost always worth it – for you and for the entire team. And when you ask for clarification, it serves as a gentle nudge to others to strip out the corporate speak and tech jargon if they want to get the best out of people and move projects forward more efficiently. (Unless, of course, spinning is your thing).

3)   You are the act like it

As the Brand Manager of the Peanut Butter portfolio at Kraft, I managed two Brand Assistants, one of whom was leading the Peanut Butter with Chocolate product launch. I recall a conversation in which I reminded her that she knew more about Chocolate Peanut Butter than anyone in the company. While she was young and fresh out of university, it was important for her to understand that she truly was the expert on this project. When senior executives required an update, she could confidently share her knowledge and recommendations because she knew more than they did.

About six months into my current role at TD, there was a threat of a Canada Post “work disruption.” I was tasked with the challenge of developing a mitigation plan for the TD Credit Cards business in the event that the threat became a reality. How would we send new and replacements cards, statements, and letters to customers? As I was relatively new to my role, being thrown into a challenge such as this one served as a great crash course. And since my role was to gather all the information from the subject matter experts to provide recommendations to senior management, I knew more than anyone else about our plans in the event of a postage strike.

Yes, I was relatively new. But on this particular subject, I was the expert. And it was my job to communicate all the project details as that expert – clearly and confidently. And I made certain to go above and beyond the call of duty to do just that.


So, there you have it…7 communication tips in all, ranging from asking smart and relevant questions to sharing our content confidently.

Can you relate? (Tell me I’m not the only one managing zig-zag projects!) Have your own tips to share? I’d love to hear from you!

When the Kids are Away, the Grown-ups Will Play


“Think through your leisure time. People are generally good about setting work goals, but we’re not as good about personal ones. Planning a few fun events gives you something to look forward to.” 

– Laura Vanderkam, I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time

As many of our kids head off to sleepover camp, or to spend time with grandparents this summer, that leisure time will be (strangely!) kid-free. And we may have four, five, or even six weekends – and many weeknights if we’re feeling wild! – to fill with…well…adult stuff! While I’m not personally embarking on a kid-free summer (I will have two at sleepover camp for 4 and 6 weeks each, and one at day camp in the city), I know many parents who are – including my sister and brother-in-law, whose girls, my nieces, will be devouring s’mores and bunk-hopping with my two at Camp Walden, East-North of Bancroft, Ontario.

In fact, I was inspired to write this piece because after her first kid-free two weeks last summer, my sister noted that she and her husband often woke up on Saturday morning with no plans…they simply weren’t accustomed to all the free time! No 9 a.m. soccer. No 12 p.m. hockey. No 4:00 birthday party.

Just a wide open weekend….and no, they weren’t dreaming.

While everyone needs a few lazy days here and there, I’m with Vanderkam who suggests: “Time passes whether we choose what to do with it or not. Creating memories is often about creating opportunities for memories, and sitting on the couch in front of the TV creates fewer opportunities than using the same time for a ‘beach and marshmallow roast.’”

So whether you’re on the all-kids-packed-and-ready-to-go team this summer, or you have one of more kiddies hanging with you in the city this summer, I believe we all deserve/need adult time to nurture ourselves and our connections with loved ones. Don’t take my word for it. According to a 75-year Harvard study on living a fulfilling life “The clearest message that we get is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” Okay…noted!

Even though we have one little munchkin with us the whole summer, I’m confident with the help of my parents – who will jump at the chance to babysit anytime! – I can sneak in some leisure time with my husband and friends that doesn’t involve packing goldfish crackers or worrying about bedtime. And things should be extra lively this summer as we celebrate our beautiful country’s 150th birthday!

A twist on the popular resource Toronto4Kids, I’m dubbing my list Toronto4Adults. Here are few ideas for us all to make great summer memories (without having to wipe dripping popsicle juice off those cute little hands and faces). Many of these adventures are new to me too…so I’m right there with you, exploring for the first time.

For those not in Toronto, perhaps some of the suggestions will spark your own ideas where you call home. And for those with cottages…well…I’m jealous.

While some of these outings and adventures are certainly kid-friendly, there’s something special about exploring with a loved one and friends, without little people (with big demands) in tow. And maybe it’s just me, but when I bring my kids to a farmers market or (attempt to) enjoy a stroll through a cool neighbourhood, it’s not long before the whining begins. Sigh.

Bless their little camp-going hearts…hey are those the camp buses I hear pulling up?!

Here’s to making great memories in the summer of 2017…

Biking, Hiking, and Walking  

While I’m sometimes guilty of wanting to stick close to home (mostly to avoid traffic, to be honest), I know there is so much to explore in and around the Greater Toronto Area. Here are a few resources that look pretty awesome. And if you’re like me, try to avoid the roads during high-traffic times – like Sunday evenings when cottagers are returning to the city.

Picnic in The Park 

Pick a park, any park! Toronto has no shortage of green spaces, ranging from High Park to Edwards Gardens. At the time of this posting, there is no ferry service to Centre Island, but hopefully it will resume soon and we can all enjoy this little gem in our city, and pop into the delightful Rectory Café.

Sports, Music, and Theatre

More of a splurge versus a picnic in the park, but if you believe the message in articles like this one, that experiences, not possessions, ultimately make us happy, then these are a few good ones to choose from!

Farmers Markets

I always enjoy these. And dare I say…even more so when I’m not with my kids. It’s not their fault these things make them cranky…they just don’t appreciate a good, giant beet as much as I do!

Neighbourhoods & Festivals 

While we’ve done less of this since we’ve had kids, my husband and I love exploring cool neighbourhoods, window shopping, and grabbing a bite to eat (and an iced coffee for him!) Here are a just a few on our list…if we make it to two or three, I’ll be thrilled!

Speaking of coffee, throwing these ones in for the java lovers out there:

As for festivals, this piece seems to have them covered:

Finally, for a third consecutive year (we haven’t made it yet but plan to this year!), Adelaide Eats (formerly Front Street Foods), will return to the second floor terrace of Adelaide Place (150 York Street).


BlogTO and NOW Toronto have us covered – or open to the sky:

Wishing you all a wonderful and safe summer. Here’s to making memories, nurturing relationships, and filling ourselves up with good times…and the best iced coffee in town!

And Happy 150 Canada!


4 Communication Tips For My Younger Self


Over the years I have spent time mentoring university and MBA students and young professionals. It’s been 12 years since I completed my MBA at The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and over 17 since I started my first full-time job as a copywriter at a then-digital marketing agency (today, if you’re in marketing…you’re in digital!) Despite the time that has passed, I still remember how I felt as a “newbie” in the professional world. On my journey, I have learned many lessons through on-the-job challenges, interviews, and transitions – and I am still growing both personally and professionally. Not a week passes that I don’t acquire new knowledge or insights – sometimes through successes, other times through failures. Oh, and if you haven’t heard, failure is all the rage these days. So go ahead, embrace it. These 12 famous people have.

Sharing what I’ve learned over the course of my career in a candid and honest way is one way I enjoy giving back. And since I often find myself sharing similar guidance with different audiences, I’ve summarized the tips that emerge most often in hopes they inspire, encourage, and most of all…remind us all that we’re not alone. Believe it or not, even big-time executives don’t have all the answers! And if you ask me, we can all use a cheerleader in our corner – and ever better if that cheerleader has some tips up her sleeve to help you shine even brighter!

Now pass me the pompoms please…

4 Communication Tips For My Younger Self 

1)   Give people something to react to

Many years ago, “Dealing with Ambiguity” was on my development plan. If I didn’t know all the answers, I didn’t feel like I knew where to start. If I couldn’t provide an answer with 100% accuracy, I was hesitant to provide anything at all. Thankfully, I wasn’t totally paralyzed and I did provide my managers and team members with content when I didn’t have the full picture; but it probably took me longer than it should have and I likely wasn’t as confident as I could have been when I shared information and recommendations.

Then someone shared this little gem:

Give people something to react to.

And it stuck.

What does it mean? When someone asks for information – a data analysis for example – use the material you have (and don’t be afraid to ask colleagues for help!) to formulate a response as thoroughly as possible. If there is data missing, make an assumption and state it clearly. Or make a few assumptions and provide high, medium, and low scenarios. Or complete the part of the analysis you can with the data you have and acknowledge that you require more information to complete the task. Or…you get the picture.

Recently, I opened my email when I arrived at work and read a note from my manager requesting an analysis…by noon. It was an ad-hoc request, not related to any of my current projects. Early in my career, this might have given me a fright…and stopped me in my tracks. But that morning, I efficiently pieced together the requested information, using data I had plus insights from colleagues who were kind enough to spare a few minutes. Ultimately, whatever was in my manager’s hands at noon would be more than he had at 9 a.m. – so there was only upside. And if I gave him something (vs. nothing at all) at least he would have something to react to.

Next time you’re not sure where or how to start…just start. Whatever you jot down is one step closer to a solution to the problem you’re solving. Because even if it’s not theanswer…it promotes healthy dialogue, discussion, and debate. 

2)   Don’t ask…recommend

People don’t want more problems. They want solutions…YES, from all levels in the organization. Perhaps you’ve heard the advice about removing words such as “just” from your communications (give it a try…it works wonders!) I also suggest reframing questions as recommendations when it makes sense – especially when you’re confident your audience will agree with your proposal. For example…

Instead of:

“Are you aligned with moving the project forward and incurring the costs stated above?”


“I recommend moving the project forward and incurring the costs stated above. Please confirm by Friday end of day that you are aligned.”

Replacing a question with a recommendation (in bold font if necessary) is a great tool to showcase your leadership and highlight your ownership of your initiatives.

3)  Tailor your text

I always re-read emails I’ve drafted and remove wordy sentences and unnecessary content. For all communications – emails, presentations, and conversations – I ask myself a few key questions:

  • Who is my audience? (And who might they forward my email to?)
  • What do they know (or not know) already?
  • What do I want to tell them?
  • What questions might they have (HINT: anticipate them and answer them proactively)
  • What do I need from my audience? Approval? Information?
  • What am I going to do next? And when?

Our messages should assure our audience we know our stuff (and know what we don’t know), we understand what we need to move forward, and we’re confident in our approach.

True, this is a bit tougher when delivering negative news. But I used this approach to share an update with my manager highlighting a project’s unexpected delay. It wasn’t the best information he received all week – but by using this framework, I felt secure about the message I delivered.

4)   Questions are great…at the right time and in the right place

As a naturally curious person, my initial tendency is to want to know everything about everything (um…yes…I might have control issues). However, I have discovered that knowing more doesn’t always add value to an initiative. I have also learned to be more thoughtful about when I ask questions and to whom.

In recent months, I have participated in several meetings that feature some fairly technical content. As the business lead of the project, I don’t need to understand all the nitty gritty behind the scenes; I must know that the project is on track (and if not, why…and what are we going to do to get it back on the rails), and that we have done our due diligence in key areas (think legal, regulatory, compliance, and risk) before we go to market. In these situations and others, I hold my tongue and think before I ask:

  • Will my question and its response have a significant impact on the trajectory of the project?
  • Am I the only one who doesn’t understand something? Or would my question benefit a broader group?
  • Is my question better suited for a one-on-one conversation with the subject matter expert – i.e. can I and one or more colleagues “take it offline?” (Shame on me! I wrote a blog about those pesky corporate buzz words and phrases!)
  • Do I really, truly need to know the answer? (Surprise! Sometimes the answer is NO).

Like most things, it’s a work-in-progress to strike a good balance. For me, that means maintaining my natural curiosity and desire to be thorough, while holding back the urge to ask anything at any time.


Any ideas to add to my list? I would love to hear from you! Don’t know where to start? I’ll let you figure that one out.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here with my pompoms…and my control issues.  

Final Spotlight: 3 More Traits for Success and the People who Rock them


In the final segment of this blog series about Success, inspired by Richard St. John’s The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Commonwe meet three more Rock Stars who are focusing, working hard, and serving up awesomeness.

Just catching up? Check out Part One for a quick tour of the 8 traits, and Part Two featuring three personal success stories, overflowing with Passion, Persistence, and Ideas.

Once you’re up to speed, fill yourself up with more inspiration from a business owner who aims to serve her team first; a talent acquisition specialist who inherited his hard work ethic from his father; and an accomplished writer who defined her mission with the help of focus!

Ann Gomez, @clearconceptinc

Transformation Consultant and Founding President, Clear Concept Inc.; Author, The Email Warrior 


Some of history’s most transformational leaders embodied service. Think of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King, Jr. They all lived with a driving purpose of serving others. And clearly, they each made a profound impact.

I launched my career at a company that believed in servant leadership. The leaders grounded every business decision in what was best for their customers. And this focus translated into an inspired, passionate team.

It is easy to see how businesses need to serve their customers. However, true service-oriented leaders are also committed to team service. As a productivity and leadership trainer, I strive to embrace servant leadership with my team as well, using six key principles:

  1. Doing the right thing

There are many grey situations in business, where a leader is called upon to make a judgment call. The correct decision for the “bottom line” isn’t always the best decision for the customer or team member. Should you waive a charge? Should you bring in extra support? Servant leaders reflect upon and move towards doing the right thing for others. Ironically, this leads to better results for the business in the long-term.

  1. Making others look good

Servant leaders strive to help their customers and team succeed. They provide solutions, opportunities, best practices and connections. This provides others with the resources to thrive.

  1. Helping others save face

There is rarely benefit (if ever) in proving someone wrong. Humans have an inherent need to be right. Servant leaders build on, rather than debate ideas. This creates a safe environment that encourages people to do their best work.

  1. Managing negative emotions

We’re all human but servant leaders are conscious of how their mood influences others. They strive to exude optimism and enthusiasm and set an energized tone for their team. In doing so, they eliminate needless drama and wasted energy.

  1. Asking rather than telling

Servant leaders solicit input from others. They believe the strongest ideas come from diverse perspectives and are not threatened by others challenging their thinking. This creates robust, creative and transformational solutions.

  1. Learning and supporting others’ goals Servant leaders support their team’s goals, resulting in more engaged employees who pursue work they find inspiring.


In my experience, servant leadership is a highly effective style to enable the best possible performance from teams. And when a team shines, we collectively are capable of doing amazing things.

Jared Tessis

Head of Talent at Klass Capital


My late father worked very hard – consistently and for decades. His work ethic and commitment were incredible. He built a thriving law firm and an enviable professional reputation. When I was a child, my father came home for dinner after a long day at the office – we ate together, he helped us with homework, and coached our hobbies. After my sisters and I went to bed, he continued to work well into the night, sometimes working at the dining room table until 2 AM. He loved his career and was passionate about helping people who were injured. He never complained. Although he dedicated long hours to serve his clients, he also spent time taking care of family members, coaching and mentoring young lawyers, and performing charitable work – and he was always a very active and beloved member of our community.

My dad’s work ethic was so influential on my own core belief system. From a very early age I equated WORKING HARD and WORKING SMARTLY with SUCCESS. Consistent hard work led to success. Cause and effect. As I grew and matured, this principle stuck with me. Still today, my inner voice repeats “work hard, work hard, work hard.” Naturally, I worked very hard in high school and university, and I continue to embrace this philosophy today, well into my career.

While I might not be the smartest person in the classroom or the boardroom, I can out-work anyone in terms of drive, dedication, effort, and consistency. In high school and university, I spent more hours in the library studying than my peers (but to stay balanced, I also made time to hang with friends…and this still remains a priority). In my first job, I always gave 150% and ensured all my projects and tasks were completed to meet the highest professional standards. If you are looking for someone who takes short cuts, look elsewhere.

I love what I do as a talent acquisition specialist and I am passionate about helping companies grow their teams. The organizations I partner with know I am deeply committed to helping them scale and attract and retain the best talent. I am relentless in helping them meet their objectives. I have always believed that where we focus our energies is where energy grows. As Tony Robbins says “where focus goes, energy flows.”

I know my dad would have agreed – the best part of success as a result of working hard is that it comes with a rewarding feeling of personal satisfaction that is tough to beat. Accomplishments and accolades feel better when you know you have worked hard for them.

Karin Eldor, @alwayskarin

Freelance Writer: Coveteur, Shopify, MyDomaine & More


When I left my full-time corporate job last April, I was beyond excited to dive into the entrepreneurial life head-on. I was hungry, I was wide-eyed, I was ready. But to be transparent: I was also super nervous! I mean, I was going from the stability and predictability of a steady pay check to the unknown world of freelance life. I was plagued with thoughts like What if I’m not busy next month? and Did I do the right thing?

Basically, a horrible four-letter “F” word: fear.

My solution? Say “yes” to EVERYTHING.

This meant taking on every contract I was faced with, from social media to copywriting. It’s a blessing to be busy, but the blessing quickly became a curse when I was on the verge of burnout. A few months into self-employment, and I was exhausted. The work-life balance I was craving seemed more like an elusive goal than a reality, and I quickly realized that I was running out of steam and more importantly: I had left my full-time job and still wasn’t pursuing my passion.

In the meantime, I met and connected with two fellow entrepreneurs (who I haven’t even met IRL yet, but our bonds are strong!)

One is Life Coach Andrea Crisp, who helped me realize that I wasn’t “living my purpose” and who continues to give me the tools I need to have courage as a businesswoman. 

The other is Belma McCaffrey, who created a program called Work Bigger. The program not only taught me the importance of defining my mission, but also how powerful FOCUS can be.

As a result of Work Bigger, I developed my mission (which is essentially, in Simon Sinek’s terms, my “Why”). Here goes:

My mission is to offer guidance and mentorship to women by aligning with brands that value self-expression, integrity and impact.

I decided to focus on writing (i.e. copywriting for brands and contributing to magazines that are in line with my mission) and let go of my social media projects. By focusing on writing, I was defining my niche and expertise, and maintaining laser-sharp vision throughout my projects and goals.

Focus allows you to:

A: Do away with distractions (which literally detract you from moving forward towards your goals).

B: Know which projects are a clear-cut “yes” and a definitive “no.” (I love how Tim Ferriss puts it: “If It’s Not a ‘Hell, Yeah,’ It’s a No.”)

C: Become an expert in one thing rather than be average at a variety of things. Focus is why Adele said “no” to the Super Bowl halftime show (it’s simply not part of her brand), and why Taylor Swift focused on making a pop album with 1989 instead of releasing a pop album that would also feature country songs. (I love this quote of hers: “If you chase two rabbits, you lose them both.”)

D: Eventually achieve more, by doing less. This is the basis of one of my favourite books, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown.

Focus leads to another “f” word: fulfillment.

Thank you Ann, Jared, and Karin – I am blown away by your journeys and insights.

To my readers, I hope this blog series on Success lights a spark…or better yet, inspires a Mission Statement!