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

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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 

SERVE

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

WORK

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

FOCUS 

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!

Spotlight: 3 Traits for Success and the People Who Rock Them

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PASSION, WORK, FOCUS, PUSH, IDEAS, IMPROVE, SERVE, PERSIST.

Inspired by Richard St. John’s The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common, I recently summarized these traits in my blog: 8 Ways to Rock: The Traits You Need For Success.

The book is based on 10 years of research and over 500 interviews with individuals such as Michael Jordan, James Cameron, and even Toronto real estate agent, Elli Davis.

In this blog, we’ll meet 3 Rock Stars right in our own community, who have earned that title. Not because their songs, podcasts, or videos have been downloaded millions of times (though I see TED Talks and podcasts in their futures…and do you EVEN HAVE TO ASK?? Of course I want a TED ticket please!!) But because they are kicking some serious career-building, freelancing, entrepreneurship, and building-my-business-and-life-my-way butt! Working hard, overcoming obstacles, inspiring others, and being awesome human beings, friends, and community members.

How’s that for a definition of SUCCESS!

While each of you probably rocks all 8 traits (and more to boot!) I asked you to FOCUS (see…I was paying attention) on one that has played a key role in your success. Thank you for sharing your stories and insights…keep on doing YOU!


Kim Smiley, @SapphoByKim 

Artist, Social Entrepreneur, Writer – The Empathy Effect, Kim Smiley Inc.

PASSION

If you’re starting a job, relationship or even a social movement, begin by fuelling it with passion. But promise to make it unwavering.

Passion unleashes energy, unfurls curiosity and creativity, and paves a path forward. It puts fear in its place and neutralizes inertia. But most of all, passion illuminates. And as human beings, we will go to great lengths to be in the presence of light. That’s the scintillating allure of the charismatic leader.

Like many entrepreneurs and artists, my heart beats with passion. But this quality doesn’t differentiate me. The biggest breakthroughs in my life can be attributed to a force that’s tethered to my passion, but that transcends it by leaps and bounds. As intense as my ambition, nothing compares to my compassion. I pursued my graduate studies on this topic, putting compassion under a microscope in every religious tradition on earth. I studied every philosopher’s musings on the topic too. Way before I pursued the study of compassion academically, empathy was the driving force of my life, personally and professionally. 

We are living in an age of narcissism. But there is a genuine yearning to help others too, a longing to be connected through reaching outward and upward.  My work has satiated this hunger by offering a platform to inspire more empathy. What’s attractive about The Empathy Effect is that it’s shining a light on the profound contributions of others rather than the self. It’s counter-cultural because it’s harnessing a medium historically devoted to the holy shrine of the “Selfie” as a way to exalt the sanctity of the stranger.

We may be divided by religion, ideology, ethnicity and geography, but at the root of the root, at a soul level, we are inextricably interconnected. Eternally bound together. There’s no difference between us. My definition of success, philosophically, is melting away our differences and joining forces to repair a fractured but very beautiful world. I believe that success can be defined as standing in the shoes of the angels of our natures.


Amy Laski, @AmyLaski

Founder and President, Felicity [Inspiring Communications]

IDEAS

I’ve always been an idea person. This trait has mostly led to positive outcomes; ideas for connecting people, solutions to problems where they weren’t immediately obvious, and fun things to do.

But, being an idea person can be a double-edged sword, because you can keep coming up with amazing ideas, and not follow-through on execution. Or, upon learning of a challenge, it’s tempting to jump straight to solutions/ideas without delving deep into the root of the issue. One time, my best friend approached me with a challenge. While the lightbulbs started going off in my head with solutions, she told me she just wanted me to listen. I’ve carried this experience with me because I know that listening and learning are so critical and can’t be rushed, that these may be the end unto themselves.  An idea isn’t a necessary output. 

I am not only an idea person, but I’m a realist and a doer as well.  So, when I come up with a great idea, I look at it through the lens of what is realistically implementable – and if it is, then how. And then, I don’t waste any time to make it happen.

Being an idea person led me to found my company five years ago, Felicity [Inspiring Communications], a virtual communications and content agency based in Toronto. The idea for Felicity was born after my experiences working in more rigid corporate environments of Coca-Cola Canada and two traditional PR agencies. The virtual structure of Felicity means clients invest in brains – media relations experts, journalists, social media strategists, bloggers, and subject matter experts to name a few – not bricks, buildings and “bored” rooms. I considered all the challenges I faced as a client and as an agency consultant, put these pieces together, and turned them into a business idea. My initial idea, coupled with an inherent curiosity, have led me to dig deep into my clients’ challenges and business goals, so my team and I can help them grow towards them.  We’ve been growing strong for more than five years, and my ideas, and empowering the ideas of others, has been a key driver of our success.


Jodi Kovitz, @jodilynnkovitz

CEO, AceTech Ontario; Founder Just Say Hello and #MoveTheDial

PERSIST

My parents (all 4 of them) spent much time nurturing my entrepreneurial spirit as I grew up. They supported and encouraged me to build my first company at 16 (Handheld Cards) and my first significant social venture at 19 (The Canada Trust MS Society Investment Challenge). What my parents taught me (and my siblings), was how to dream, plan and go after – very big things. Not to fear big dreams. And most importantly, how to stay at it, little bits at a time, even when it feels impossible.  PERSIST.

The card company was not profitable, but it changed my life. I acquired 25 customers going door to door. I learned to sell through the art of relationship building – now the subject of my passion, and joy project (and the topic of the book I am writing). The story of significant revenue (though low profits), an assembly line of staff in my apartment, and negotiating with overseas suppliers, helped secure my acceptance to Ivey Business School, which built the foundation for my career. And most importantly, I learned how to fail with grace.

Over the years, I have gained confidence, developed the courage to take risks, and I consistently set audacious goals I’m committed to achieving. People ask how I could possibly have started a movement to change the face of tech in Canada, or how I will raise $100 Million for Sickkids Hospital as part of the Capital Campaign Cabinet to raise $1.3 Billion over the next 5 years.  My response: it’s not that hard. Dream. Plan. Go get – with GRIT.

According to the brilliant Angela Lee Duckworth, grit is passion coupled with perseverance. (If you haven’t seen her TED Talk, I highly recommend it!)  Grit is eating the elephant even when you don’t want to. Grit is getting up at 5AM every day to move the boulder up the hill (which I do most days).  One step at a time, persisting, to achieve the “big thing.”

One of my two dads’ famous sayings is “don’t forget how to eat an elephant! One bite at a time.” My other dad has a “job jar” and works at the jar in 45-minute focused increments. My step-mom always made big things so easy, with a smile and a list. And my mom taught me the power of positive thinking and to believe in myself.

At 17, I staffed a 13-day canoe trip at Camp Tamakwa. I carried a canoe on my neck between lakes each day, including a 5.6KM portage. I completed that portage with a 50- pound canoe on my chaffing neck by repeating out loud, the entire time: “I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can.” Little engine…mind over body.

Set your sights high. Higher than you think you have any right to. Then plan your route. And just start. Take small steps. Stay the course. When the going gets tough, keep going.


Thank you Kim, Amy, and Jodi for your words of wisdom!

Stay tuned…3 more stories spotlighting 3 more Rock Stars…coming soon.

It’s a good thing I’m PASSIONATE about writing and storytelling. Eating this elephant (a.k.a. writing this blog series) has been great…but no 5 a.m. wake-ups for me!

 

8 Ways to Rock: The Traits you Need for Success

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Favourable or desired outcome.

The attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, both are definitions of Success.

While each rings true on some level, the idealist in me prefers the first one because it relates directly to what the person or group set out to achieve in the first place. If Joe owns a local dry cleaning store, has happy customers, earns enough money to live the life he wants, and ultimately feels fulfilled, that is Joe’s success story. If Jane sets out to build a multi-billion-dollar organization and is quite content spending most of her time working and rarely taking vacations, Jane has achieved her own vision of success.

While I’m impressed by success stories of famous business moguls, entrepreneurs, celebrities, artists, and athletes (especially if they use their positions to make the world a better/kinder/safer/cleaner place), I’m equally fascinated by those right under my nose – friends and community members doing amazing things, pursing their dreams, and kicking some serious butt!

So when I eagerly read Richard St. John’s The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common, based on 10 years of research and over 500 interviews with individuals such as Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Martha Stewart, my mind went immediately to the success rock stars I know intimately, and how they’ve embraced these traits. And let me tell you…my mind was on fire! I consider myself extremely fortunate to know so many talented, smart, creative, and driven people!

In this 2-part blog series, we’ll first take a tour of the 8 traits. In Part 2 (coming soon!) I’ll share how 5 awesome leaders, right in our own backyard, have embraced these traits, with each focusing on the one that resonates the most. I know, I know…I’m keeping you in suspense. But the guy spent A LOT of time figuring this stuff out – I can’t cram it all into one blog! Okay…fine…I’ll give you a hint: KS, JK, AL, JT, and KE. That must be getting your wheels spinning!

By the way, all this started when Richard, a fellow Torontonian (Go Canada!), was on a plane on his way to a TED conference as an audience member. A young girl sitting next to him asked him what leads to success…and while he didn’t know the answer then, he set out to find it. Talk about persistence…hint, hint…that one makes the list. (He later packed the 8 traits into his own 3-minute TED Talk – check it out).

So here goes…if you want to take a moment to guess before reading on, now’s the time! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

The 8 Traits Successful People Have In Common 

#1: PASSION 

“I love writing these books. I don’t think anyone could enjoy reading them more than I enjoy writing them.”

– J.K. Rowling, Author, “Harry Potter” books

  • In a nutshell, LOVE what you do
  • Strivers and Seekers:
    • Strivers: people who know what they love and head right to it.
    • Seekers: people who don’t know what they love and need to discover it – Albert Einstein, Larry King, and Colin Powell are just a few underachievers who became “Superachievers” once they found their passion
  • Follow your heart…not your wallet. The money will come if you LOVE what you do. Essentially, the other 7 traits will come more naturally or BE your way of life BECAUSE of the Passion.

#2: WORK

 “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”

– Michelangelo,  sculptor, painter, architect, and poet

  • Work really, really hard
  • Successful people aren’t workaholics, they are “Workafrolics” – to them, work is challenging but it’s also fun, fulfilling, gratifying, and engaging
  • Sometimes people chalk success up to natural talent or a gift…however even someone like Mozart who was considered a child prodigy, worked “12-hour days for over a decade in order to produce his first acknowledged masterpiece.”

#3: FOCUS

“I believe to do one thing well brings, not only satisfaction, it also brings a kind of confidence. We become very confident when we know we can do one thing well.”

– Norman Jewison, renowned filmmaker 

  • Focus on one thing, stop dabbling, be single-minded…but don’t focus too soon. Early on go wide and then when you figure out what makes you tick, FOCUS
  • Develop the ability to concentrate and eliminate distractions: “Warren Buffet became one of the world’s richest men by living in a state of no distraction – Nebraska.”
  • Attention Deficit Disorder is sometimes actually Interest Deficit Disorder – if you’re not interested in the subject, idea, or area of study, your mind wanders and you’re not focused

#4: PUSH

“Goal setting is not a mind game. It is a process of developing the internal will power to accomplish what you have set out to do.”

– Joan Samuelson, Olympic marathon gold medalist

  • Push yourself through tough stuff, like shyness, self-doubt (but keep the good things that come from shyness like reading, observing, and imagining)
  • Push yourself out of your comfort zone
  • Find a goal, challenge, or deadline to push you
  • Get others to push you (mother, friend, mentor, competition)

#5: IDEAS

 “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

– Marcel Proust, legendary writer

  • Big ideas come from everyday problems – be observant, listen, ask questions
  • Borrow ideas and build on them; to create new ideas, make connections between disconnected things
  • Mistakes lead to failures which lead to ideas
  • Write ideas down before they fly away – always keep a notebook and pen with you

#6: IMPROVE

“I never pick up an item without thinking about how I might improve it.”

– Thomas Edison, Inventor 

  • Get really, really good at what you do…then get better!
  • Practice, practice, practice; repeat, repeat, repeat
  • Focus on strengths, not weaknesses – outsource your weaknesses

#7: SERVE

 “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

– Albert Einstein, Physicist

  • Serve others something of value – expertise, usefulness, entertainment, understanding, information, experience, humour, health
  • Serving others will give you: happiness, satisfaction, appreciation, contribution, a rich life
  • Do what you love, serve others what they love, and put yourself in other’s shoes; forget about yourself, focus on people you serve

#8: PERSIST

“I failed my way right to the top.”

– Paul Haggis, Academy Award-winning filmmaker

  • Persist through time and unbalanced periods of life – success takes 10 years (there are no overnight successes!)
  • Persist through failure, mistakes, criticism, rejection – make failure your school, not your funeral (LOVE THIS!)
  • To succeed a lot, fail a lot; think of rejections as your badges of honour
  • Take small steps, never give up, embrace bounceability (bounce back quickly), be stubborn, be impatiently patient (impatient in short term, patient in long term)

Thanks for pushing through(!) to the end…please stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon!

In the meantime, wishing you success, happiness, and a bit of failure too 🙂

The Giving Gets Tough: 29 Gifts, Part 4

Give, Donate, Charity

My 29 Gifts journey continues, inspired by Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving can Change your Life. For a recap, please visit Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.

Okay, people…this is getting real. Hard I mean. Not hard because giving isn’t my thing. Hard because giving purposefully, mindfully, daily, consistently, and creatively really takes commitment. And don’t get me wrong. I didn’t take this on thinking commitment wasn’t part of the recipe. But I did underestimate how much focus daily giving really requires – especially since my intention was to try to change things up each day. A pinch of sugar one day, a sprinkle of cinnamon another.

While I’m proud of the past couple of weeks, I have lost a bit of steam versus the first 12 day – and actually missed a day of giving. But it’s all part of the process. And I’m still in the game.

Please enjoy a few of my latest gifts…and as always, I love hearing from you!

Gift #13: Thursday, March 9

After work today, with not too many options in the fridge for dinner, I headed to United Bakers Restaurant to pick something up. While paying, I noticed tzedakah canisters on the counter for Jewish charities, which have probably been there since 1912 when the restaurant opened its doors (and its pot of famous pea soup!) Well, I imagine they’ve been filled up and emptied many times since then….but you get my point. Those little canisters provided the perfect gifting opportunity. And they serve as a great example of what this challenge is all about. Often, at least for me, it’s about opening my eyes and noticing “new” things/people/opportunities…that have probably been there all along.

Gift #17: Monday, March 13

At about 8:00 p.m., with one kid in bed and two not so much (the bedtime debates and protests are a nightly thing, you see), my 10-year-old daughter, Lielle, was putting the final touches on a poster project for school, due tomorrow. Or so she thought. It turns out glitter glue kind of…well…sucks. Long story short, my gift today was patiently working with Lielle to help her create version two of her poster (no glitter glue allowed!) But I’m the one who received the best gift as I had the chance to watch how sweetly my 8-year-old son, Gave, willingly pitched in to cut, tape, and help Lielle bring her new poster to life. It was a proud mommy moment for sure. (Yes, I am well aware that cutting/pasting/helping was the ideal excuse for his late bedtime plot…this isn’t my first rodeo).

Gift #18: Tuesday, March 14

If you ever want to know how it feels to have someone look at you like you have three heads, do the following: pay for your coffee, and then hand an extra $5 to the barista and ask him or her to use it to pay for a customer’s drink at some point in the day. And walk away without too much of an explanation.

I know I’m not the first person to make this move, but I’ve often thought of doing it and this morning I did. At the end of the day, I popped into The Second Cup to ask Grace, the Barista, who she treated to a coffee today. Grace told me she used the $5 to buy a Green Tea Latte for one of their regular customers, an elderly woman named Irene. Just thinking of Irene being pleasantly surprised with a free latte put a huge smile on my face….and still does.

Gift #22: Saturday, March 18

Lielle was away for the weekend with a friend, so the boys and I watched Moana first thing in the morning. My gift to them was watching with no distractions (no phone, no cleaning the kitchen, no putzing around doing something that could be done later). Well, the truth is, I missed the first few minutes because I was doing nothing important on my phone. But for the next 104 I was very content watching and cuddling with the boys with our over-sized grey Costco blanket. If you haven’t seen Moana yet, it’s a beautiful movie with amazing music! But don’t do what I did, because those first few minutes are super important and useful when you’re trying to follow the story. Hint: there’s an island shaped as a woman (or is it a woman shaped as an island?), a curse, a Demigod, a green heart, and an ocean that “speaks” to a little girl named Moana. Actually, Moana and Esther have quite a lot in common…but I digress.

Please stay tuned for Part 5 soon…

 

 

 

Gold Medal Ribbon and Essential Oils: 29 Gifts, Part 3

My 29 Gifts journey continues, inspired by Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving can Change your Life.

For a recap, please visit Part 1 and Part 2.

Gift #9: Sunday, March 5

Today, I enjoyed most of the day alone with my ten-year-old daughter, Lielle. We didn’t have much planned, other than her 2:30 gymnastics class…so the day was ripe for giving. Our family is very active in The Village Shul and a fellow member and I spearhead the Welcoming Committee, with the goal of providing a warm welcome to new members with a small gift and a welcome phone call from a “buddy” at the Shul. Today, my gift was delivering a few of the welcome packages….with my daughter’s company and assistance. I have to give my husband credit as well – I sent a few packages with him to deliver on his way back from my son’s ski lesson. Side note: if you haven’t checked out The Village Shul on Eglinton, it really is an amazingly special place filled with so much love (and lollipops…and prizes…and kugel). Perhaps I’ll see you there soon…there’s a welcome package waiting for you!

Gift #10: Monday, March 6

On Monday nights my daughter has dance which ends at 8:30. Normally, my husband picks her up, but today he went to a much-anticipated event to hear Lior Raz speak, the creator and main character in the well-known TV series Fauda. With no one to watch the boys, I had to take them with me to pick up big sister – as you can probably guess, they weren’t complaining about the later bedtime. At 8:30, when the kids asked/begged me to take them for ice cream, the rational side of me said “umm…no.” But I wasn’t in the mood to be sensible….so an ice cream gift it was! Gold Medal Ribbon, Caramel Turtle Truffle, and Vanilla to be exact. Yes…vanilla…I don’t know whose child he is. But I’ll still keep him!

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Gift #11: Tuesday, March 7

I absolutely LOVE watching women achieve success with new business ventures or personal goals. I could probably name a dozen cool, inspiring women right now who are doing what they love and pursuing their passions with…well…passion! You want me to name them…sure! Jodi Kovitz, Adrienne Gold, Kena Paranjape, Mary Monaghan Amin, Karin Eldor, Kim Smiley,  Ilana Rubenstein, Marnie Sugarman Adler, Rena Nickerson, Lindsi Hollend, Amy Laski, Ellie Bass, Jody Pettle-Berkel, Leslie Zborovski and Nancy Soicher. (Yes, I know that’s 15…I just couldn’t stop). If there’s truth to the idea that you are the company you keep, I’m feeling pretty great right now!

As someone who has pursued and dabbled in different initiatives and projects, I know how much it means to have truly supportive friends…people who are cheering you on from the sidelines (or sharing their thoughts on your most recent blog in a private email…yes, please keep ’em coming!) When a friend, Carly Cooper, offered to share more about her Essential Oils business with me and some friends, who was I to stand in the way of her dream! So, in the spirit of International Women’s Day tomorrow, today my gift was my support. I sent an email (if you weren’t on my list, I’ll forward it!) inviting friends to meet Carly and hear more about her passion. (And I hear women like wine too…so wine there will be!) While I know we are all over-committed and an essential oils class may not be at the very top of our to-do lists, I want to help support a fellow female with a passion…and I wish her great success. I know I would love the support if the tables were turned…and we women need to stick together!

Gift #12: Wednesday, March 8 

Happy #InternationalWomen’sDay (IWD)! Today I had lunch plans with a colleague/friend/mentor, Jenny. I booked a meeting room and we were all set to watch a live on-screen chat at work, hosted by some of the female leaders at TD, in honour of IWD. When we confirmed the plan in the morning, Jenny mentioned she would be coming straight from another meeting and wouldn’t have time to grab lunch. Perfect…lunch is on me! I went to Aroma in the downtown PATH to grab us salads (fellow downtowners, you know what I’m talking about…the one near St. Andrew Station). While in line, I bumped into another colleague, Michelle, also from TD. Michelle and I used to work on the same team and have remained friends. I mentioned my lunch plans (Michelle knows Jenny too) and Michelle felt comfortable enough to ask if she could join – and of course she was welcome! It was the perfect IWD gathering – three fellow female colleagues sharing career-related challenges, ideas, and advice. Bonus gift: at the end of the day, inspired by The Empathy Effect‘s IWD Facebook post today, I wrote Jenny a LinkedIn recommendation.

Please stay tuned for Part 4…

xo

Jori

 

A Photo, Starbucks, and Snuggles: 29 Gifts, Part 2

A few days ago, I shared the first blog in a series I’m writing, inspired by Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving can Change your Life.

A quick recap of my first three gifts: A doll, two pink invitations, a Ziploc bag full of goodies.

My Journey continues with a girls’ night, a donation, a photo, Starbucks, and snuggles.

Please enjoy…and as always, I love hearing from you!

Gift #4: Tuesday, February 28 

Tonight, my gift is one I am giving to myself. I’ve had plans in my calendar for weeks for a girls’ night. For those who know me, you can be sure it wasn’t the head-to-a-bar-and-drink-my-face-off type of night. Quite the opposite. My girlfriend picked me up and we drove to another friend’s home close by. One friendship dates back 30 years to sleepover camp…the other to our first year in high school. In our sweats and Lulus, the three of us drank (tea!) and took turns sharing our challenge of the day/week/month/year…and good stuff too!

friendsWe talked, laughed, and supported each other in the way only let-your-guard-down girlfriends can. It was the kind of scenario that, in the movies, would have spilled over until dawn, with the three characters (I’ll be Katherine Heigl!) eventually crashing on the cozy couches, snuggling with an oversized knitted blanket. But alas…we all have kids/jobs/stuff so the tea party ended at 10:45. But it was just enough. Having learned just 24 hours earlier that my dear friend, Ramona, passed away after so many years of fighting, it was just what I needed. And perfectly fitting, in fact, because laughing and smiling are centre stage in my fond memories of Ramona from our childhood.

Gift #5: Wednesday, March 1

After saying my final goodbyes to Ramona at her funeral, choosing a gift today was easy. Ramona battled Cystic Fibrosis from the day she was born – so naturally her family’s suggestion was that loved ones make donations to Cystic Fibrosis Canada to honour her memory and support this very important cause. After everything Ramona gave to this world, it was the very least I could do.

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#RamonaWordCloud created from the recent words shared about Ramona via Facebook posts.

Gift #6: Thursday, March 2 

Tonight my cousin, Sarena, and I joined a few dozen fellow Jewish woman for Loaves of Love, a Challah bake at Toronto’s Village Shul – to knead, laugh, bond, and pray for good health for members of our community. I suppose my prayer was a gift…and an incredibly important one. But I will share one more mindful moment of giving. As the event was wrapping up, I asked one of the organizers to take a picture of us posing with our shaped dough. Sarena, who lives in Toronto, is originally from Ottawa where her mom still lives. Her mom is not in optimal health, and recently lost her own mother. And her husband, Sarena’s dad, passed away almost ten years ago. I suspect her mom worries about her daughter and misses her dearly – and I had a hunch a photo like this, with the two of us bonding and baking, would warm her heart…and my mom’s too. I texted the photo to both of our moms (who are first cousins and share a special bond). It cost me nothing and took five seconds. Her immediate response: “You 2 look so cute (insert Emoji happy face). Have a good Shabbat. xoxo.” And of course my mom was equally delighted. It’s always the simple things, isn’t it?

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Me and Sarena with our #LoavesofLove

Gift #7: Friday, March 3

While we enjoyed a full Shabbat table tonight with 20 family members in all (a delicious potluck dinner was topped off with a “Talent Show” performed by the young cousins), these Friday night festivities were planned weeks ago. Actually, the show was a spontaneous addition…but semi-coordinated-but-always-entertaining performances, featuring “tickets” and name tags, have become a regular thing in our family! The point is, as much as I loved hosting my family, I’m not counting Shabbat as my gift. Early in the afternoon, I went onto the Starbucks website and sent my hubby – a very loyal Gold Star member! – a $5 e-gift card with a sweet note referencing a relationship talk we attended a few weeks ago, Love is a Verb.

starbucks-logo-1Did he need more Starbucks bucks? Um…no….he thoroughly enjoys his pre-loaded, beloved app, stars, and perks. Did it feel great to give him something I know he’ll use and love? Yes! Bonus: it’s a 2-for-1! He loved receiving it today…AND he’ll experience a second boost when he redeems it (thinking of me of course), and sips his Venti Iced Coffee…light on the ice. As my 5-year-old son would say…BAM!

Gift #8: Saturday, March 4

While today was full and lovely (Shabbat morning at the Village Shul followed by a delicious Shabbat lunch at a friend’s house), as Hockey Night in Canada sounds filled our family room, I still hadn’t offered a gift to anyone or anything. As I was tucking my spirited five-year-old in for the night, he gathered three books for me to read. Ready to wind down myself, I negotiated down to two and he agreed relatively easily (I suppose he was a teeny tiny bit tired at 9:30 pm). After reading the two books, I offered my gift: “Do you want one more?” I asked as he nestled in closer, sweetly sucking his thumb. “Yes!” he replied swiftly, his eyes opening widely in pure delight (thumb still in place).

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Three books turned into four and my gift was complete…no bow necessary. As cliché as it sounds, his joyful expression and the twinkle in his eyes when he heard mommy was snuggling for a few minutes longer, were the real treasures of the day!

 

More gifts coming soon…please continue to follow my journey.

xo

Jori

Why I’m Giving Away 29 Gifts in 29 Days

I recently read a book called 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving can Change your Life by Cami Walker. As a new bride in her early thirties, Cami Walker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Feeling overwhelmed with negative thoughts, Cami filled an unusual prescription from a friend, an African medicine woman named Mbali Creazzo: Give away 29 gifts in 29 days.

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“By giving,” Mbali told her, “you are focusing on what you have to offer others, inviting more abundance into your life.” The gifts, she said, could be anything, but their giving had to be both authentic and mindful. 

When Cami inquired about the significance of 29, Mbali didn’t know, but offered to dig up the answer from another source. But Cami chose to keep it a mystery…so a mystery it remains.

Even though many of her gifts were quite simple (a phone call, spare change), the positive effects were dramatic…and a movement was born: 29Gifts.org

A few days ago, I decided to embrace this challenge. Thankfully, I don’t have a disease; but I do have a desire to live a life of gratitude, and I am always seeking new ideas and tools to fill me up. Please follow my journey…a few gifts at a time. If you would like to join me, please be in touch!

I am dedicating my 29 gifts to Ramona Blinick. While she faced countless obstacles, her giving was infinite. May we all bring as much Light into this world as she did.

Gift #1: Saturday, February 25

My husband and I have 3 kids (10, 8, and 5) and we are often giving kid stuff away to clear the clutter. But today I wanted to offer something specific to someone special. I chose to give a once-loved-but-now-tucked-away-on-a-shelf Journey Girl doll (with my daughter’s permission of course…she hasn’t played with it in a few years) to a little girl I just met yesterday. Her name is Whinslet. 

Whinslet is the 7-year-old daughter of my nanny’s friend. Yesterday, when I came home from work, she was at my house with her mom, as her mom was asking my nanny for advice on paperwork she needed to complete for her upcoming maternity leave – Whinslet is going to be a big sister! Whinslet was shy at first, but within minutes, she was playing soccer, tag, and “horsy” in the basement with my 5-year-old son. They hit it off right away…so silly, goofy, and cute together! I love that about kids – they can click and have the best time within minutes of meeting each other!

So today, I found the Journey Girl (and her wardrobe and accessories which, thanks to my nanny, were neatly packed away) and asked my nanny to invite Whinslet and her mom to come over again. They live just a few minutes’ walk away and were available…perfect! I added a puzzle, a book, and some crafts to the bag. Whinslet was so appreciative…she even called me Tita, the affectionate Filipino word for Auntie. And when she left (not before more goofing around with my kids) she embraced me with the sweetest hug. img_1929

I could not be happier that Whinslet will enjoy this adorable doll, instead of Ms. Journey sitting on a shelf longing to be loved.

Gift #2: Sunday, February 26

Yesterday, I was in full (early) Spring cleaning mode and I came across a bag full of Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations from my days as a pre-teen. I knew I had them and in fact just peeked at them a couple of months ago, showing off the sparkling, glittering, and oh-so-90s collection to my own pre-teen daughter. 

I snapped a picture of the invitation from a girl named Jessica who I’ve recently reconnected with as I am staring to think about planning my own daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Jessica works for a company that provides music entertainment (and more!) for events – with Bar and Bat Mitzvahs being their kosher bread and butter. I texted the picture to Jessica. Her reaction: “NO WAY!!! That’s unbelievable!!!” I proceeded to take photos of her Save the Date card and Kids Party invite and shared them with her. It turns out she has her own copy of the main invitation but not the other two pieces.

Today, I woke up and texted her saying the two pieces are my gifts to her! She was thrilled! Later in the afternoon, I dropped the precious pink cards at her house. While I’ve seen her on Facebook throughout the years, clicking and liking don’t compare to a real, live hug. And I was excited to hear that my gift inspired her to frame all three pieces and display them on her office wall. The perfect “art” for someone in her biz! I wonder what other random items I have stashed away that could make someone’s day?img_1839

For privacy reasons, I’m sharing a piece of the invitation only – umm…did I mention it was in the 90s?

Gift #3: Monday, February 27 

I live in Toronto and I take the subway to work downtown. Most days, when I emerge from underground, there is at least one homeless person sitting in the walkway where men and women in suits walk past, headed to their corporate jobs. Often these homeless individuals are in the same spot when I return at the end of the day, as I am heading home to see my family.

I often keep granola bars in my bag to offer, hoping this small gesture will help in some little way. Today, I went a bit further. Before I left for work, I assembled a package in a large Ziploc bag consisting of a challah bun, 2 granola bars, a delicious scone from our favourite bakery, an apple, and a hand-written card. Just as I was about to zip the bag and head out the door, my 10-year-old daughter, who knows about the 29 Gifts project, asked me to wait and rushed upstairs. She returned with $4 from her allowance to add to the gift. What a proud moment!

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On my way home, I offered the bag to a man who I’ve seen many times –  he sits outside the same subway station each day. I can only hope the package added a bit of light to his day.

I regret not asking his name…but I think I will ask him the next time I see him.

Please stay tuned for Part 2…

xo

Jori

5 Life Lessons from a Tech Jam (from a non-techie)

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A couple of months ago, I spotted a link on the TD employee intranet home page for a “Tech Jam” – an internal competition to create a mobile app concept, sort of like a hackathon. A few days earlier, I had created and shared my 2017 career development plan with my manager, featuring my goal to lead projects and initiatives with a strong focus on the digital and mobile space.

“I’ll just click and see what it’s all about,” I thought, contemplating the Tech Jam link, vaguely recalling a colleague participating, and earning the top spot in a similar competition last June.

Fast forward to mid-February. My team, including six fellow employees – who a few days earlier had never crossed paths – claimed the third place spot out of 19 teams for a concept we presented science-fair style to TD mentors and Executives. (For more on the event, check out the TD Newsroom).

A month later, the top 3 teams were invited to present our concepts to a larger audience, including senior TD leaders from various areas within the bank.

How did I get here? And what lessons came out of spending 25 hours in a warehouse-style space (boasting exposed brick walls of course!) with 120 other competitive go-getters, some of whom were younger than Justin Bieber?

Here I share my five key takeaways in hopes that they will inspire others, and serve as reminders to myself the next time I’m faced with an opportunity or challenge that may, at first, seem out of reach.

#1: Take the shot

Much of this experience was about me breaking out of my comfort zone and taking Wayne Gretzky’s famous words to heart: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” This mantra, featured on the lunch room wall at my kids’ school, gave me the confidence and push I needed to go for it. Plus, there was literally only upside. I could expand my network, try something new, probably have fun doing it, and add new skills to my tool belt. OR, I could have sat this Jam out and (maybe) thrown my hat in for the next one. I’m glad I chose to put on my gear and pick up my stick.

While I had the courage to take the shot (click on the link), first I had to have noticed it. And I must have noticed it because I was looking around with my eyes and ears open. I saw, I clicked, I registered. I talked about the upcoming event with colleagues and friends, secretly using the principle that states we’re more likely to keep a commitment if we publicize it (yes, I was a tad bit nervous). I joined a team with people I didn’t know, and then, finally, I showed up ready to jam.

The next time something crosses my path that might not seem “me” at first, I’ll remind myself: It’s “me” if I decide it is. And I’ll lace up my skates and get on the ice.

#2: Focus on what you can contribute, not on what you can’t

I’m not a coder, I can’t fix your phone, and you won’t find me in the IT department. With a resume highlighting achievements in marketing, product management, and customer experience strategy, where did I fit in at a hackathon? I was officially on board as an “Idea Generator,” one of the five selections available at registration (there were many of us which was reassuring!) But I saw myself as more than that – so I brought more. I came with my ability to bring new people together in a fun way. I compiled ice breaker questions for our first night, and brought a suitcase full of amusing props for our final presentation that helped us stand out, and drew in participants and judges. I helped keep ideas flowing when the well dried up. Three hours into the first night, I quickly grabbed a sharpie and jotted down words like shopping, fitness, travel, and friends to help spark new ideas (and to ensure we had our customer hats on). One of those words ultimately planted the seed for our concept.

While my team members brought their amazing technical skills (there is some serious talent in this organization!), I think I made Dr. Seuss proud by offering my own unique experiences and expertise. As he affirmed: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than you.”

#3: Accept help when it’s offered 

Throughout the event, mentors (fellow TD employees) were on deck to provide guidance to help teams polish their concepts and pitches. At 6:00 p.m. on Friday (the deadline was noon on Saturday) our team was hunkered down at our home-base table after plugging away in different corners of the floor for a few hours. We were joined by one of the mentors. After an hour and half of debating, discussing, and constructive challenging, we arrived at a focused and polished idea – one that was very much embedded within the concept we were already pursuing, but at 7:30 p.m. our approach was laser-focused.

Had we not been open to listening to our mentor’s insights and suggestions, or open to having a productive dialogue as a team, I suspect the final outcome would have been very different….and our bronze medal would have been awarded to another, well-deserving squad.

#4: The roller coaster feeling is part of the process…don’t fret 

One of my teammates and I spent quite a few hours researching statistics about market size and consumer behaviour to help support our concept. In the end, only two numbers were featured in our pitch. Yup, only two. We had a good laugh about that slide, calling it the “five-hour-slide” but at one point, we (or at least I) felt those five hours had been “wasted.” For a few minutes, I felt deflated and frustrated. At the same time, it was an exciting turning point as we had aligned on a crisp concept (see point #3), thus needing only those two powerful numbers.

I quickly reassured myself that the twists, turns, and unexpected dramatic drops, are all part of the process. I was reminded of a quote by Nelson Mandela: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

We fell and we rose a few times and I see now that each hour spent thinking, researching, and debating was ultimately a necessary step in our journey to our final destination.

#5: Laugh a lot…and pump up those around you

While competition was certainly in the air, my team members and I kept the mood light and fun. Two of us had a serious belly laugh developing a script for our two-minute video. We didn’t even use most of the content we were howling about (see Tip #4…it’s part of the ride) – but it didn’t even matter.

And when more serious junctures arose, like when my teammate felt a moment of insecurity after our final presentation to all the participants and judges, I made sure she knew how stellar her performance was! She smiled and hugged me, and expressed how much she appreciated my kind and sincere words.

So there you have it: five life lessons…or should I say hacks.

Thank you to my awesome teammates for helping make this experience so memorable and inspiring: Mike Brusilovsky, Tommy Lee, Aashish Malhotra, Ryan Song, and Pranati Suri – I hope to have the opportunity to see your talents in action again soon! And a special shout-out to Tae Moon, Mentor extraordinaire!

If you’ve ever taken a shot, what other lessons ‘stick’ with you? I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, perhaps there’s a link out there waiting to be clicked.

I can’t do it all…and that’s okay

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The other day, as I dropped my kids off at school, I caught a glimpse of another mom opening her trunk to remove her kids’ bags so they could join their little people for a day of education, enlightenment, and fun. The sight was typical. But looking back, I was disappointed by my immediate reaction. Before me was a multi-coloured row of four backpacks, all perfectly lined up, kept in place by what looked like a stretchy mesh barrier meant for this purpose exactly. My first thought: that mom’s more together than me because her kids’ backpacks are neater than the ones strewn messily in my trunk.  Even writing it out sounds silly and embarrassing. And no, the irony is not lost on me that I’m disappointed in my disappointment in myself.

It’s amazing how quickly I cast such a negative judgement upon myself. And for something so trivial! How swiftly I compared myself to this mom – who I knew nothing about other than she was having a good backpack day…or year. And how easily I concluded (even if just for a fleeting moment) that she is somehow better than I am.

In general, I am more conscious than ever before of being kind to myself and I try to recognize everything I do accomplish (and more importantly, what I contribute to my family, community, and society as a whole), instead of focusing on my so-called misses. But I am – and always will be – a work in progress. On the eve of 2016, I wrote a piece called Beating the Self-Compassion Drum into 2016. It’s 2017 and I’m still beating – albeit it’s more a light tap than a pounding at this point.

It’s hard not to feel like I’ve missed the mark once in a while. I am pretty diligent about uploading activities, events, and reminders to a shared calendar with my husband (and he shares the load too). But the why-can’t-I-just-remember-the-book-fair-money internal rant sometimes shows up uninvited. Even when I know I’ve done my best. And judging by a recent Facebook friend’s post that announced Put your hand up if you feel like your life is a constant ‘to do list’! I suspect I’m not the lone survivor on this island. Unless she and the 100 people who liked and commented actually complete their tasks with oodles of time to spare. Somehow, I doubt that’s the case (or maybe I’m just hopeful I’m not the only one). Don’t answer that…let me dream.

Lists aside, I know the real success metric for my life is how happy I am, whether I’m growing and learning, and how much light and love I bring into this world. Of course, not every day is going to feature a world series home run with fireworks. But it’s sort of like that song from RENT declares: “How do you measure a year in the life? How about Love? Measure in Love.” As far as I recall, no one belts out “How about stuff? Measure in all the stuff you get done!” – unless I was in the bathroom for that part?

Nonetheless, I still need reminding from time to time that it’s okay to miss the mark…or the early bird registration date for [insert any one of dozens of programs/activities/camps – take your pick].

So here goes…a few reminders of what I didn’t – but more importantly did – give to my family, friends, community, or myself in the last couple of weeks.

  • We didn’t get our 8-year-old son into Spring baseball because it filled up by the time we got around to checking out the website. I hear it was full within the first hour so I really didn’t stand a chance :(.
  • But the other week, I did set aside time in my day to make a phone call to a friend who is battling cancer and visit another friend in the hospital. They were both so appreciative of the call and visit.
  • I forgot to give my kids allowance 5 weeks in a row – I work at a bank (head office, not a branch mind you) and I still can’t remember to bring home small change for allowance! (I know…there’s an app for that…but we’re keeping it old school for now).
  • But I did support two friends at two book launches within two weeks! And I enjoyed a much needed catch-up dinner with a girlfriend the same week…and we have our next one in the calendar already!
  • I didn’t sit down to dinner the other week with my kids at all Monday to Thursday – with programs and other commitments, it just didn’t happen.
  • But I did arrive at school early to save front row seats to my son’s SK Shabbat Ceremony – and I even remembered to dress him in dark pants and a white top! I enjoyed every song, dance, clap, wiggle, and turn.
  • I missed the deadline for school lunch orders…again. Luckily, there was some wiggle room with the timing and my kids will enjoy their weekly mac ‘n cheese after all.
  • But I spent a Saturday afternoon playing ClueScrabble, and Spot It with my kids and hubby, distraction-free. And if it was up to me, we’d still be playing! Um…is it possible to discover a competitive side at 38? NOTE: My mom insists I’ve always had a competitive side…hey friends, is this true?
  • I’m reaching for chocolate chips more often than I’d like (to admit). My self-conscious feelings went through the roof when I was recently nestled between two very diligent “cleansers” at a (lovely!) community Shabbat dinner. Sigh. The company was great…but needless to say, I felt serious #ChallahGuilt.
  • I did spend time mentoring a Rotman MBA student as part of a mentor/mentee program I have participated in for a couple of years.

Have your own two-sided tales to share? I would love to compile your thoughts and share as Part 2 of this blog post. Please email me your own “I didn’t/But I did” anecdotes…or “Leave a Reply” below.

In the meantime, I consider myself accomplished if I get all three kids in the car in the morning and unloaded before the bell. And if the backpacks make it too, that’s a bonus.

Oh, and now I really want to see RENT again! If it comes to town and there’s a limited seat offer, someone please tell me before it sells out in the first hour!

The Connection Between Chanukah and Cancer

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This week I received an email from a friend who is fighting cancer. I was so moved by Joanne’s bravery and strength and I’m honoured that she allowed me to share her words here.

And what better time to share a letter of Hope and Light, than on the eve of Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights.”

This is no doubt an incredibly challenging time in Joanne’s life. But her email below is a powerful message about finding Light in the darkness. And while I have come to understand (and am still learning) that the flames of the Chanukah candles we are about to light are delivering some important messages, after stumbling upon an excerpt from Chabad.org, the connections between Joanne’s message and Chanukah are (pun intended) illuminating.

Please read for yourself.

And this Chanukah, let’s all follow Joanne’s shining lead and let the Light in!


Excerpt from Chabad.org 

So what are those flickering flames telling us? 

Never be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

Judah Maccabee and his band faced daunting odds, but that didn’t stop them. With a prayer on their lips and faith in their heart, they entered the battle of their lives—and won. We can do the same.

A little light goes a long way.

The Chanukah candles are lit when dusk is falling. Perched in the doorway, they serve as a beacon for the darkening streets. No matter how dark it is outside, a candle of G‑dly goodness can transform the darkness itself into light.

Take it to the streets.

Chanukah is unique in that its primary mitzvah is observed in public. It’s not enough to be a Jew at heart, or even at home. Chanukah teaches us to shine outwards into our surroundings with the G‑dly glow of mitzvahs.


Like the Maccabees, Joanne is in a battle…but her bravery shines through.

Joanne’s Light (and the Light of all who join her movement) will certainly go a long way – you can’t get bigger than savings lives!

And with her permission, I’ve taken her message to Facebook…the biggest “street” in the world.


A Letter by Joanne Godel-Blatt 

Dearest friends and family, 

Those who know me, know the following….I am not a fan of big crowds and gatherings. I prefer a quiet forest to a loud party.  I don’t live publicly, sharing little to nothing in the social realm. I am many things, both great and short-coming, and have many temperaments; introverted and outgoing, silly and serious, modern yet old fashioned, stubborn and tenacious, strong and yes, afraid. I love my life and family and feel blessed by all that surrounds me. 

Right now, I am also fighting cancer.  But this does not define me. 

To say we have all been touched by cancer would be an understatement. It’s a disease that unfortunately spares no one. Each of us has seen a close friend or loved one suffer. And that extends to family, siblings, spouses, and close friends. 

But know this…..what you see along this journey is more than disease. The care I have received at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center is like no other. I am amazed at the amount of positive energy and inspiration that reside here. Visit PMH and you will see Angels walking the halls dressed as surgeons and doctors and nurses and volunteers, and musical therapists and spiritual counsellors and various other staff who love what they do and make you feel like you are their number one priority on your return to wellness. I am truly grateful for the devotion, care and kindness that is always overflowing. 

 Our hardest job in life is deciding how to handle circumstances we didn’t necessarily “choose”.  

As I said above, I don’t live publicly. But with this letter I am stepping out of my comfort zone. You’re receiving this because I believe in community. I believe in the strength of numbers. I want to turn this little lemon into abundant lemonade. For me, working on a project is a great distraction. And a source of inspiration and motivation is to have a goal. I want to do something really great. I am asking for your support. Help me get there!

I’d like to invite you to join my team, led by our captain, my amazing husband Warren, as we hit the road to conquer cancer. This June marks the 10th anniversary of this epic event which has raised millions and millions of dollars for PMH in the fight against cancer.  I encourage you to visit The Conquer Cancer Site to learn more about this world class, top ranked amazing facility. 

TEAM JOANNE is now open and the training and fundraising has begun!

So help us fight by fundraising. Here’s a truth….10 years ago, even two years ago, we didn’t have treatment choices for certain kinds of cancer- today we do- we can only conclude that our dollars are working- so this year TEAM JOANNE will be trying to raise a huge sum of dollars to propel all the advances possible. Our $50,000 goal is aggressive but I know we can make it together. 

Here is the ask:  choose one or both options:

1.      Raise with us

2.      Ride and raise with us

If you ride with us you are committing to raising $2,500. An easy task for 7 months. 

You can participate by clicking here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for your consideration and support!!  If you feel this is worthy of passing along to a friend I would also be most grateful. (Yes, virally..socially..)

All the best for a wonderful holiday season!!

Joanne