Observation #16 – Should I Apply

I remember it fondly, though at the time it was a bit of a thing. I was in my final grade of high school and the annual oratorical contest was looming. My English teacher Mr. Murray was lamenting: “there is no one in senior year signed up to speak. How was that possible, all of this talent in this senior year and no one has come forward”? Then our eyes locked, he was looking right at me. In my head, I thought, how hard can it be, I write a 2-minute speech and I deliver it, and I knew he was looking at me, and so, I volunteered, not really knowing what to expect.

Fast forward to the night before the contest – I do not have a topic, I have nothing written on my page, and I am sick, like that kind of sick where you really shouldn’t be in the presence of other people. Yes, it was the next day and my procrastination was staring me in the face, and did I mention? I WAS SICK! A timely call from a good friend, my complaining – what did I get myself into and what am I going to talk about? His sage advice, talk about something you know, something you’ve experienced, something that comes from the heart.

The next day, there I am on stage, waiting my turn, representing my entire grade, in front of the whole school and competing against Susan (yes, her real name) the winner from previous years, a year younger, ready to win again. I speak last, and I’m sitting there with a box of tissues on my lap, Halls cough drops and that look – I was sick. My turn, a final blow of my nose and I start……Sniff, I have a cold and I feel terrible. That was my opening line. The rest of the speech kind of fell out of my mouth, I was authentic, I was honest, I was funny, parts were really funny, and I was relatable. I took my current experience, and turned it into a kind of monologue on the process of being sick. I even had to blow my nose during! I WON! (Yes the picture is me, receiving the trophy from Mr. Murray)

Why am I telling you? I feel like I have Mr. Murray’s stare burning into me, or maybe it is Rachel Hollis, or Michaela Alexis – JUST APPLY is running around in my head.

I’ve been working with my Start Today journal (Rachel Hollis). I start with Gratitude and next a section where I spill my dreams daily, like they have already happened. The goal is to keep you focused and committed to what is important to you. I’ve written time and again – My TED Talk was amazing! Every day since January – My TED Talk was amazing.

I also use Buddha Doodles http://www.buddhadoodles.com as a daily inspiration for me, a fun way to help keep me grounded. Today I pull the card that says: “Dive in and explore your Heart’s calling.”

I meditate and I journal, plan my day. With coffee in hand I jump on LinkedIN. The very first post in my feed – Ted Talk application deadline is April 30 – Algonquin College location.

I have spoken in front of hundreds of people, I have facilitated workshops for 500+. I facilitated an interactive leadership course through video conferencing, a first for me and the organization. I have even done webinars developing leaders around the world from my dining room table, and I have never done a TED Talk. I watch them all the time. I’ve been asked why I haven’t done one yet by my well-meaning network and today – like some divine intervention, there are all of these messages pointing me to apply, to leap and trust and just apply.

As we travel our journey, pay attention to the signs, some are subtle, some are obvious and some feel like someone is grabbing you by your collar and giving you a shake. Pay attention and trust them. I’m learning the signs are never wrong.

So here I go, I am taking the leap, taking the chance and will apply this week – how hard can it be? First, however, I need to figure out my topic!

Thanks for spending your time with me today and I hope you choose to have your best day!


Observation and Impact #15

It’s a Dog’s Life

It struck me this morning on our walk. Our Westie and I, out early before the warmer weather creates a layer of muck and dirt and nasty for his short little legs. He happily sniffs and walks and looks up at me in pure adoration – even after I admonish him for stopping every TWO FEET! Pure adoration.
We walk alongside a home, Mechanics are there to finish an HVAC job, and My little white dog marches right up to him behind his truck, gives him a sniff, a tail wag and a gentle demand for a pet. I apologize and comment that he (Indy) thinks everyone is his best friend. The man with a big smile replies: “Isn’t that a great way to live!” We continue home, had a cuddle and I go on with my day, my little white dog ever present.
I’m pretty sure I know why we love our dogs so much. They really have all the personal characteristics we admire, covet and spend money on self help books and workshops to embody.

Unconditional love: A dog is always happy to see you, always happy to hang out with you, go to the store, go for a WALK, eat popcorn, have a nap, their whole purpose (it feels like) is to love you.
Vulnerability and Forgiveness: They pour their heart out for you ALWAYS, regardless of how they are treated in return. They always circle back and immediately forgive any of your indiscretions big or small. They never hold a grudge. Dogs make us better people.

Trust and Kindness: A dog never looks away from your pain, our Indy seems to intuitively know when someone is having a bad day, is working though a challenge, is feeling sad – he sticks like glue, forces you to pet him and snuggles and ensures you feel his love. It is life altering, he knows all of our secrets and fears and insecurities. He pulls them out of you like magic, and he never betrays your trust.

Gratitude: Dogs exude gratitude in all things, breakfast? THANK YOU, a walk? ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Want to play? YES PLEASE! Come and sit with me? CAN’T WAIT. Time for bed YOU BET!

Purpose: Dogs know their WHY, they are born knowing it and work tirelessly in pursuit. Fetching a ball, herding sheep, cattle, chasing squirrels, being your eyes, your protector, your caregiver, relieve your anxiety, simple to complex, dogs know and perform to their best ability always.

Play: Have you ever watched a dog play? Their creative spirit, the unwavering problem solving, the focus and concentration – unmatched, I think.

Perhaps we need to watch our dogs, learn their secrets and implement them in our daily lives.

Greet your people at the door, in your office, on the street, greet them like they are the most important person in this moment. Open your heart, speak your truth with kindness. Be grateful for all of it, ALL OF IT. A coffee tastes so much better when we are grateful to have one. Figure out your purpose and play in that purpose with abandon, with focus and concentration. Love with abandon!

It would be such a compliment to me if someone told me, I reminded them of a dog, so be the person your dog thinks you are, or better still be the person who is worthy of their dog.

Thanks for spending some time with me and choose to have your best day.


For Nancy and Mike and of course Logan

Observation #14 – Connecting is so IMPORTANT!

We are wired to connect with others and yet when we are in job search mode, we most often avoid situations where we have to tell our newest story. This is the perfect time to connect with others; it can keep you grounded, it can keep you motivated; it can stretch your skillset as this is a time to reflect on who you are today and what challenges you want to help solve tomorrow. If you can change your internal dialogue from how much you hate job search to how job search is an exciting time, this is your next chapter, this is your new story and it is all in your control. Networking and connecting with others should be an opportunity to meet new people, and create connections that are lasting and……help you secure your next role. According to LinkedIn – 70% of people in 2016 were hired in a company where they had a connection.

Here is why I think connecting is important

Connecting forces you to plan:
• plan an outfit, your makeup, what shoes to wear
• plan a location to meet, a date and time (manage your calendar)
• plan what you are going to say
Connecting allows you to practice:
• practice your handshake
• practice your introduction
• practice your pitch
• practice potential interview question answers
• practice receiving feedback
Connecting is an opportunity to become aware:
• aware of opportunities in the work world
• aware of social events and additional opportunities to further connect
• aware of the first impression you give
• aware of issues affecting your tribe
Connecting is an opportunity to learn:
• learn how to be vulnerable
• learn how to accept help
• learn how to give back
• learn and understand the strengths and gifts you have
• learn your value
Connecting is an opportunity to check in
• check in with yourself-are you on the right track for your goals
• check in with your confidence, connecting should boost your morale and confidence
• check in with former colleagues, classmates, friends, friends of friends – expand your network for today and tomorrow and always
• check in to see how you can be of service to others (you get what you give)

When we practice connecting in job search mode, we continue to connect in job mode – reread the list, it is a great list for continued job success once you have landed.

Thanks for spending your time with me today!

I hope you choose to have a great day!


Observation #13 My First Generation Experience

I have the honour and pleasure of working in the First Generation office at Algonquin College. Until I started working in this team, I did not know that such a program existed and I did not know that I was indeed First Generation myself. This realization over the last number of months has me reflecting on my own first gen experience heading off to University, away from home for the first time.

Knowing what I know now, I realize that in talking to our First Gen students, I am often reminded of my own first gen experiences so I can relate – still.

I grew up in small town rural Ontario, on a Dairy farm. The youngest of five, Dutch immigrant family steeped in family tradition. I knew I would go to University AND, I was so not prepared to go.

In my first year:

  • I had no accommodations and I thought it would be really simple to go in late August and find a place to live. – WRONG! I did not get into residence and my family knew one person here. After a weekend of looking for a place to live that I could afford, with no luck, I called on the family friend who reluctantly allowed me a place to stay for a while. Thank goodness for Dutch family tradition
  • I did not know what a Bursary was – needless to say I missed that deadline
  • I did not receive any OSAP – loan or grants and I had saved exactly $1000.00. I needed to appeal the OSAP decision and was finally offered a loan – I received it in late October. My parents were not in a financial place to help out much, though they helped out where they could. I was always grateful for being able to grocery shop at home
  • I had no friends, I was only the third student from my high school to come to Ottawa to school
  • I biked to school and I biked home, went into my room and survived on mostly apples because I bought a bushel at the market, they were cheap.

I know I made all of the “rookie” mistakes and I was never so unsure of myself and yet every Sunday when my Mom would call, I told her all was good and I was fine. I am not sure why; I was homesick and very lonely. It seemed like a lifetime of being by alone, when in reality it was likely a couple of weeks before I met one friend, similar to me in so many ways except she was not First Generation. It is only now, that I realize she helped me navigate post-secondary at first, she was like a personal guide and I am forever grateful.

So what advice would I give my younger self and First Generation students? Here are my top 5 recommendations:

  1. If you don’t know, ASK, we are here to help, no such thing as a bad question. Access the services that are available to you – ALL OF THEM that can help you be successful Register with AC First Gen and access all that we offer, we are truly here to help you on your journey.
  2. Talk to people, make friends in your classes, make friends in residence, and don’t “hide” in your room. 25% of the student population at AC is First Gen and most likely, you have a number of peers in your classes. Find them, talk to each other and learn from each other. It is easier to navigate the college with a friend.
  3. Get involved. Your time here is short and the connections you will make here will last forever if you get involved.
  4. Involve your parents, I know this is not their experience, but their life experience will help guide you and keep you on track. My parents’ immigration experience gave me the courage to go in the first place. Trust me when I say, they want only the best for you.
  5. Keep your commitment to yourself, stay curious, keep your sense of humour and know that the journey is worth it.

If your parents did not attend or complete post-secondary school, you are a First Generation student. Algonquin College First Gen office offers support to our First Gen students to fill in the gaps and to help our students Go Forward

Observation #12 – We have NOTHING to EAT

Today is Thursday, I have done groceries on three separate occasions so far since Sunday afternoon.  Indulge me for a moment and imagine the scene.  I come home from work, to one of my sons sitting in the kitchen eating a container of strawberries, cereal bowl of yogurt finished beside him and an empty container of blueberries beside that.  He is getting ready for soccer training and will eat dinner when he gets home.  He has also had  (I think) 2 or 3 PB and banana sandwiches (or was that yesterday?).  The quantity of food he eats is really incredible.  Shortly, he will be gone again for another 2 hour training session.

Meanwhile, second born son, comes downstairs and is in the pantry for a second or third time since coming home, searching, searching, searching and then it happens.  “We need to do groceries, we have nothing to eat!”  I can almost feel the “hangriness” in his tone.  Oh yes, new word in my life – hangry – def’n:  SO hungry that I cannot be reasonable, so I am going to yell at whoever or whatever happens to be in my way (can you see the  monster that surfaces?).

I explain that I’ve done groceries three times this week already and will certainly need to stock up again (that and buy stock in Loblaws).  There is a slight easing of the hangry symptoms – mind you, only slight.  Mom to the rescue as I quickly make him a high protein snack and almost feed it to him (2 quick egg burritos with ham and cheese).  As I sit with him and watch him devour his snack, I can see my boy begin to return (just like colour returning to someone’s face after being frightened) and he starts telling me about his day and his friends etc.  I risk it and ask if he is feeling better and less hangry – I even get a chuckle and a smile, yes he says, I feel much better and puts his plate in the dishwasher.  The spring is back in his step as he saunters off, flashes me a beautiful smile and says “Thanks Mom”

I remember being a teenager and being frantic to eat something after school, I remember being really hangry during my pregnancies – yikes, that was not always pretty as I am sure my husband can attest and yet, today was really one of the first times that I recognized the hangry as nothing more than a hungry boy needing to eat something right NOW!  The hangry was directed at me but was not about me.

Life with teenage boys is always interesting, not always easy and a constant reminder to be patient, patient oh and did I mention to be patient?  Sometimes it feels like there are days when I do not even recognize them and other times when I get glimpses of those little boys.

If I can impart any wisdom for other parents who have not yet reached the wonderful challenge of teenagers, this is what I’ve got:

  1. They are hangry a lot  – find something to put in their mouths.
  2. They will make you crazy  – they suddenly forget all of the things they used to do by habit – hang up their coat, back pack, take of shoes etc.  They will give you attitude when you ask them to do any of those things.  BREATHE!  My husband and I have decided we will wait until they ask a special someone over and then leave underwear (our underwear) on the floor in the living room.  Well, it is nice to imagine sometimes – giggle.
  3. They are trying to be less dependent on you and yet don’t really want the independence (especially when you call their bluff and give them more responsibility…. doing their own laundry – as an example).  Hold your ground – you are not the maid and if you have a housecleaner, she/he is not their maid either.
  4. They will surprise you, just when you think they have not learned anything you have been trying to teach them, they will come out with something that will blow your mind (my son was being interviewed for a volunteer position at a hockey camp for this summer and of course I was trying to prepare him for some questions.  I asked him:  What are important take aways that a young person should receive from a camp?  His response:  “They should have fun, fun is very important.  They should feel safe and respected”  Mind officially blown.)
  5. They will say things that will hurt your feelings and then cuddle with you while watching the hockey game.

I think the big adjustment is mine;  it is exciting to watch your child grow up, it is also hard.  I often long for the days of boys in bike seats on our bikes and picnics and stories under the tree.  I like seeing the young men they are becoming and wish they could stay 8 and 6 forever.  It is a wonderfully scary time as I realize they are on their own journey and we are here to encourage, support and help them realize they are on the right path – even when we (as parents) cannot see it yet.

So, back to the hangry and we have nothing to eat?  I think I will hire my cousin’s husband to park his food truck in my driveway – permanently.

Thank you for spending some time with me today, I am grateful and truly blessed to have experiences I want to share.  Enjoy this beautiful evening.


PS – the dog is staring me down – he is hangry now too.

Observation #11 – The Joy of Facilitating Growth

I had the honour and privilege of working with a determined group of Leaders from a large national telecommunications company. Admittedly from my client, there were some leadership challenges with this team exacerbated by distance (they work in different parts of the country), teleworking, different roles and responsibilities, and the ever present pressure of time.
Any one of these challenges make for an interesting plan of delivery – put all of them together and it takes great dedication and commitment to make it work. Did I tell you this is a determined group of Leaders?
Enter technology. This company has fully equipped innovation centres in their various offices – these centres show case their tools, technology and the technical capability of their teams. Together, we  devised a plan to use these centres to deliver the FISH! for Leaders course. We dealt with time zones, room scheduling and ultimately the utilization of high end Video conferencing to connect to me as the facilitator and to each other as students, colleagues and team mates. We watched movies, participated in activities and delved into leadership conversations across the country. We even threw fish from Montreal to Toronto to Calgary! I was in Montreal with my favourite techno dude – Marty who made it seem like child’s play. The leadership team was in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. This was a first for me – it felt like a TV production, it was a first ever for FISH! in Canada to be delivered in this fashion. WOW! I am still in awe of the results.

I was the lucky one who watched (literally) the transformation happen before my eyes. They created a connected leadership vision for their team. The level of commitment was extraordinary. The team just didn’t want to miss their sessions together. On one occasion in this 6 session course, one team member video conferenced in from Florida on his IPad.
We recently completed the FISH! for leaders series and since have experienced increased engagement, camaraderie, teamwork and fun within our work lives.

The four simple principles of Being There, Play, Make Their Day and Choosing Your Attitude are key to the collective human need to be connected to something greater than ourselves, that being the service of others.

Thank you so very much for sharing the secrets of the FISH Philosophy with our leadership team, it was a life changing experience.

KC – Leadership team
FISH! for Leaders combined with video conferencing has become a platform for this team to connect more deeply with their team mates, create a leadership style anchored in the FISH! Philosophy while inviting their individual teams to join the fun and create a culture rich in learning, engagement and inspiration to make a difference. The learning continues. Here is my latest update from one of the leaders after a recent session of FISH! Culture – 10 Essential Conversations:

Hi Betty, wanted to share this with you.

We are just getting our team conversations going and R and I were facilitating with D’s team. Today, we did the Be There session and in the round table wrap up at the end of the session, one of D’s team used an interesting analogy for Be there: ” everyday we feed people the food that is our work, “Be There” means to make sure we ask; ” How’s it taste?”

Things that make you go hmm….

I am so grateful for this extraordinary facilitation opportunity. It has left a FISHy mark on my heart 🙂

Thank you for spending some time with me and I hope you choose to have an awesome day

Best always


Observations #10 – Lessons from the Pike Place FISH Market

Pike Place Market IMG_7918

My husband’s company is headquartered in Vancouver and so is his corporate Christmas party. This year I was able to join him for a pre-Christmas time of celebration with his company and with each other. I had never been to Vancouver before so I was certainly excited to go on this adventure. As an added bonus, we were treated to a lovely weekend away in beautiful (and yes rainy) Vancouver.

Last minute, I receive a text – “don’t forget your passport”. I thought this was a bit odd, we are staying in the country – or so I thought. After a lovely evening with my husband’s colleagues, a day of adventure in Vancouver, Stanley Park, Capilano bridges, Canada place, the Olympic Flame, a great lunch, meeting work friends for snacks and a well deserved sleep, we got in the car and headed for Seattle.

What a nice surprise – My early Christmas gift was a trip to Seattle, to the World Famous Pike Place FISH Market. I am a FISH! Facilitator and a portion of my income relies on working with teams implementing the FISH philosophy. This philosophy stems from this fish market and the organizational decisions made to avoid bankruptcy. It has 4 practices – Be There, Play, Make Their Day and Choose your Attitude. I believe the Fish Market is full of energy and enthusiasm and laughter and joy and lots and lots of fish. They even throw fish over the counter and “perform” for their clients. This is what I firmly believe, this is what is portrayed in my videos, this is my perception and perception is a person’s reality – and yet I am anxious. My trepidation is based on experiencing the reality.  What if it is not true. I was a bit like a little kid getting ready to see Santa. Will my perception match my new reality? We drove on with excitement and me, some slight apprehension.

We arrive – another west coast rainy day and we arrive. The pike place market is busy with Christmas shoppers, there are beautiful works of art, flowers, food, vegetables, butcher shops and yes a fish market – there are three and we walked by the first – “no, this is not it”, the second…….no, this can’t be it and then, I could hear it, I could feel it, I could see it. The energy, the fun, the enthusiasm; it was all there. I almost cried with excitement and relief. The World Famous Pike Place FISH Market. I stood staring, at the Fish Mongers, working the room, playing with their customers, engaged in conversation with clients and each other, enjoying the moments as they passed, ever observant looking for opportunities. They were living the 4 FISH practices right in front of me. I recognized Sam from my movies and like a star struck teenager I approached, introduced myself and shyly asked for a picture – yup star struck teenager for sure. I mentioned that I was a FISH! Facilitator and what happened next was amazing!  I was ushered up into the market, and became part of the show – I was an honorary fish monger for that moment and I even caught the fish that was thrown to ME!!  What a great experience, what a thrill, what fun.

I can hardly describe how it felt to Be There, to Play with the Fish Mongers. They Made my Day for sure and my spirits were lifted so high; I could hardly believe the experience. It was the best and I relish every moment.

There are always nuggets I learn from our adventures and this one is no exception.

Nugget 1 – I was giddy with Joy.

Why? I met one of my heroes and his enthusiasm in meeting me matched mine. He validated my belief in the FISH! Philosophy, by living the 4 practices; his energy is infectious, genuine and authentic.

Nugget 2 – I was tearful with Gratitude

My husband is my biggest fan, he is my rock and he loves me more than I can even explain. He planned this adventure for me and it means the world to me that he planned this for my sole enjoyment.  Thank you again.

Nugget 3 – The FISH! Philosophy is a way of life

I do my best to live true to the 4 FISH! practices – Be There, Play, Make their Day and Choose your Attitude. It is something that needs to be recreated every day, sometimes moment to moment – that is why they are called practices – I need to practice and practice and practice.

Nugget 4 – Our Perception is our Reality

It can be scary to come face to face with long lasting beliefs.  Is it easier to put our heads in the sand and pretend that our perceptions are always 100% accurate? What we think and believe may be shaken by our experiences.   It is a beautiful thing when both are aligned.  It is a great learning opportunity when they are not aligned.  So, for me, either way you win.

Nugget 5 – Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

There is something so special about the holiday season that brings out the Santa in all of us.

My trip to the FISH! market, was an adventure I had on my list for many years – ever since I first learned about the FISH! Philosophy; it did not disappoint.  I hope you take the time to plan an adventure on your list and experience all that the adventure has to offer.  It is always worth it.

Thank you for spending some time with me. I wish you and yours the very best for 2015 and I hope you choose to have a great day, week, month and year.

May the FISH! be with you.


Best always,