Snowstorm, Pea Coats & 2 a.m. Chaos: What is Your Character Defining Moment?

It was 10 years ago last weekend that I was College Royal President at the University of Guelph. Where did that time go. Seriously.

Among the many awesome things that took place that year, I think everyone will always remember 2008  as the year of the 'snow storm and coat fiasco.' It is a memory that while I cringe at first, it really was a character defining moment for me and my team of volunteers... and something I {now} laugh at when I look back.

It was early March and it had been beautiful weather until that Saturday when we were holding the annual ball. 2000+ students ascend on the University for a formal night known as the 'College Royal Ball.' That Saturday it started snowing. And it continued. All. Day. Long. To point that we had to meet late that afternoon and decide whether, for safety precautions, to cancel the ball after consulting with University administration. We decided to go on and hold the ball. If only had we known, that it would be our outsourced coat check that would be our dreaded nightmare, not the snow.

Because it was snowstorm of the century, everyone came in their formal suits and ball gowns in what felt like their snow suits. There were a lot more snow pants, boots and snow jackets that I ever remember seeing at any other ball. By the end of an epic night of dancing and drinking, 2000+ students (give or take) lined up all at once to get their myriad of clothing apparel. And what we realized quickly as an executive, was that the group we had outsourced coat check responsibilities too had not been as *organized* as we had thought - stuffing jackets here and there, not in numerical order.

It was a nightmare. Seriously, the worst nightmare of its kind.

What it turned out to be was a bonafide mess of huge piles of snow pants and jackets all unorganized - and of course, all the men's black pea coats looked all the same that year, making for an even tougher time to decipher whose jacket was whose when we were trying to rally and help.

It was a nightmare. Have I mentioned that already?

When I called my parents that morning at their chore time, 6:30 a.m. to explain what had happened, I think they could tell in my exhausted voice that I hadn't went to bed yet. 24 hours later.

To say I had to keep my composure as President; put on a brave face; role up my sleeves and go to work to help hand back jackets; all while {trying} to remain calm and stay positive for everyone around me was one of the hardest things I've done to date.

It truly was my first 'adult-like' experience where I had to put on my big girl pants and think and act like an adult. It really was a character defining moment for me as a person but also, a future glimpse into how to pull yourself together and how you have to act as a professional in the workplace when $*** hits the fan (in not so nice terms).

We all have our character defining moments. That moment that will forever be etched into your memory as the time you had to become an adult and act like one, whether you liked it or not, or whether you expected it or not. I'd love to hear your character defining moments, share below!

Happy Friday and happy College Royal weekend to those I may see back on campus this weekend! Oh and Happy St. Patty's day from your Irish friend :)

[Photo Source]

Motivated by Inspiration #AskHerToRun

I have a new found love relationship with Saturday’s. Saturday’s, for some time, have been my least favourite day of the weekend. I love the feeling that Friday night’s give me of the excitement for the weekend ahead. And if you’re a regular reader, you know I love my Sunday’s, period.

It wasn’t until recently that I’ve tried to learn to re-love my Saturday morning’s – whether it is taking in a quiet morning with Blake and a cup of coffee; walking through the dairy barns back home on the farm; listening to the Top 40 countdown at the cottage; or attending an event that tugs on my inner nerd personal development heart strings - I’m slowly learning to fall back in love with my Saturday’s.

This past weekend, I attended the first-ever #Guelph Women’s Campaign school, aimed at enticing women to learn more about politics, especially municipal politics, with the goal of motivating more women to run in politics. It was my type of Saturday morning– a little early morning action to talk politics surrounded by like-minded women #MyJam.

It was a day full of learning with so many great key messages and take-aways, and such tangible resources were shared for those interested in potentially running in politics and/or those who want to help support more women to run.

To say I left inspired by my profession of politics and motivated to want to do more is an understatement.

When the sold-out room of 50+ women were asked, "who was interested in running in the upcoming Ontario municipal election?", more than 15+ women stood up. The other half of the room stood up when asked if they wanted to help a fellow women run. Throughout the day, we shared ideas on why more women should run in politics, how campaigns work, what the rules are that govern something like a municipal election, and talked communications strategies. It was a brilliant day for those who may know nothing about the political process or for those who needed that little bit of kick ass inspiration to push them to run.

My 4 big key takeaways from the day were:

  • It is healthy to attend events like this, even if you think you know everything about politics. You never truly stop learning about the political process. It is an asset to understand how our political processes work at all levels of government.
  • The proper campaign has purpose – platform – people – and a plan.
  • Find your reason WHY to run – it the basis, foundation and purpose for everything you do in politics (it also reminded me to re-read Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’).
  • Men are assets for women and want to help and support us in being successful, if we ask for their help in the first place. It was why the hashtag #AskHimToHelpHerRun was started the day of our event!

It was one of those Saturday’s that reminded me of why I chose to work in politics - why I am so passionate about wanting to make a difference in public service and the lives of other especially now that I have a son.

It was a Saturday that gave me all the feels – I left motivated to want to do more, thanks to the inspiration that a room full of brilliantly smart and motivated women left me with. A special note of thanks to Ashley, Maureen and Alicia for a super fun Saturday together 😉

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Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

November has been an eventful month. Both unexpected and welcomed news relating to life and work has made being uncomfortable somewhat of a new norm.

Oh and just throw first-time parenthood into the mix.

I think this is something millennials get criticized for often. Perfectionism. Wanting to always do things ‘right’. Not wanting to fail. Not wanting to step outside of our comfort zones to deal with the uncomfortable. Our predecessors think this is unrealistic of us.

I say this is just human nature. We all want to be comfortable.

And the more I’m realizing, regardless of age or gender, people don’t like to be unconformable.

Its why:

  • We don’t leave our jobs, even if we may not like doing them.
  • We may talk about the same thing over and over again, because we are familiar with the content.
  • We like to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, because it becomes part of our daily routine.
  • Its why we vote the same way every time, even though we may not understand why we really continue to vote for them.
  • Its why we continue to listen to the same music from the generation we grew up in and don’t welcome new music. (Its why I’ve also heard so many people say they don’t like Taylor Swift’s new album because people weren’t ‘expecting’ her new sound. I think its killer).

Its why a lot of people don’t go out on their own to pursue their side hustles full-time.

Becoming your own boss is a perfect example of being uncomfortable. Knowing you are inevitably the reason you fail or succeed is all on YOU. Yes, there are going to be times of being uncomfortable when you’re your own boss. Things like being turned down for opportunities, approaching new clients for work, not making what you had budgeted or ruffling some feathers from a tweet or post.

These are things I’m still learning to get better at accepting everyday. And the more books I read and the more conversations I have with people, the more I realize this is NORMAL.

Being comfortable gets you no where. Being too comfortable leads to complacency. Its why I love being a millennial because I think we’re pushing the boundaries. Some may think in a good way, others may think its too much. We’re talking about the things that previous generations found uncomfortable to talk about. We want to pursue change at a faster speed than most can handle. Remember, no great ideas or actions were done in a place of complacency or being comfortable. Steve Jobs said it perfectly when he said, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

[Tweet "“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do." - Steve Jobs"]

The most healthy, successful, optimistic people, both in work and life, know to expect the unexpected. They are resilient to what comes their way, both good and bad, expected or unplanned. They've learned to roll with the punches. 

They are comfortable with being unconformable.

And sometimes, when we least expect it and we’re forced to deal with something that makes us more uncomfortable than we could have ever imagined, we surprise ourselves by how we handle it. We become comfortable with it. 

I’m learning to be better at being uncomfortable every. single. day. Try it with me.

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It All Begins With a Lemonade Stand

With a newborn, you can find me most days outdoors, gallivanting  around with the baby in the stroller, enjoying the summer sun. I always love seeing what adventures I'll get up too or things I'll encounter.

Last week, I was out for a walk in our neighbourhood when I came upon a young girl selling lemonade.

I looked like I was going to be her next customer as I was walking closer to her. It was then I realized I didn't have $$$ on me so I quickly turned around to run back home and grab change. I can only imagine the look of sheer disappointment on this girls face thinking she was losing a customer as I ran away from her. I was happy to return a few minutes later to buy a cup of her homemade lemonade.

There was nothing better than watching the pride on this young girls' face when I returned and asked her 'How much?' With the biggest smile on her face, she confidently said, "$1 please." She had all the right things going for her - a well-written, visible sign with the $1 per cup cost; she had the cute little table and chair; she had manners and spoke well; and she genuinely looked like she loved what she was doing.

And to top it off, she was so pleasant when I approached her with the baby - she even asked questions about me and the baby, the customer. Who taught this girl proper marketing etiquette at such a young age?!

It was one of those moments, as a random stranger, that you take so much pride in doing what you did to help encourage this person.

It also brought back so many memories for me as a kid... because I did the exact same thing! I held many a rummage sale and (tried) to sell lemonade to no avail.

The difference for me was that growing up in the country, trying to sell things on a random weekday in the summer, half way down a long driveway was not that financially viable or successful. There aren't that many customers who probably think stopping in a car and walking up to a young child in the country looks OK to those driving by. I get it now, but it was hard to swallow at the time.

Clearly my entrepreneurial spirit was evident already at a young age.

The acts of this little random stranger last week was an amazing reminder of what we're all capable of and how it all begins at a young age:

  • The ideas we have that spark within us;
  • How unafraid we are of big, hairy, audacious goals (and we don't even know what 'goals' are yet);
  • How we take a pretty basic product and only because of how we sell it, the product becomes a hit;
  • The complete, random strangers we are OK with meeting in order to make a sale (and a buck);
  • When we realize we can make money doing something we love or at least enjoy doing;
  • And ultimately, we have the guts to do something we have never did before (and don't know the outcome of as to whether we'll be successful or not) and we still go ahead with the idea and sell the lemonade!

It takes some serious guts as a young kid to have the motivation, confidence and persistence to want to do something like sell lemonade, while other kids are out playing with their friends.

At what age or stage in our lives do you think we lose that self-confidence and belief in our abilities that so many of us clearly have as young kids? When do we lose that entrepreneurial mindset of fending for ourselves and running with our own ideas, only to worry what others think of us and our skillset to land a job that may not be for us?

As a quote I found perfectly says, "When life gives you lemons, you build a lemonade stand and profit."

[Tweet ""When life gives you lemons, you build a lemonade stand and profit.""]

As the young girl packed up after selling me her last cup of lemonade, I encouraged her to make sure she sets up shop more this summer because I'd be sure to be back. She said she would.

I better start saving my loonies now because she has a repeat customer that will guarantee her sales for her young start-up venture (or college education) ;)

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The Two-Way Street of Communicating

I gave a talk at the end of March about my concept of feeding the goldfish when it comes to communicating. At one point during my presentation, I discussed just how valuable communication is as the most fundamental skill we possess as human beings.

We discussed how effective communicators, especially in agriculture in the social media age, are able to connect on such complicated topics, with audiences that have no understanding of a topic. One of the ways they are able to do this is through being relatable - they somehow connect with an audience on a mutual level. An easy way they do this is by finding common ground and finding out what the audience thinks and feels before they share their opinion and perspective.

One of the lessons I imparted with the audience of enthusiastic agriculturalists was the following idea:

Communicating is a two-way street, involving listening AND talking.

So often, we think communication is about talking, when it fact communication is a two-part process involving the most important part of the process... listening.

We all know those people who forget this concept.

The people who do a lot of talking but don't care to listen to what others have to say. Or those situations we all have been in where you are speaking with someone and you recognize early on, they aren't even genuinely listening to you, they are already thinking of the next thing they want to say.

You can see it in their facial expressions; their head is nodding but you can see behind their eyes that their wheels are turning, already thinking about the next thing they are going to say back to you. And you can tell instantly with their initial response, whether they sincerely took in what you said before they spewed out what you knew they were cookin' up.

Yes, we as human beings like to hear ourselves talk.

But the best communicators are those who take in what people say and listen.

Those communicators get the most out of conversation because they genuinely care about the people they are conversing with and what they have to say. Through listening FIRST, they are able to find common ground and mutual respect so the person/people/audience listens back to them.

As I shared that day with my audience, communicating is in fact a two-way street - try and not only be the driver, but the passenger. People will respect you for it and you'll be a better communicator because of it.