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



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.


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]


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


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!



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