Story Visioning

archetypes

Every January, I reflect on all that has passed and I set intentions for the year to come. I’ve moved away from specific goal setting as it can often be rigid and onerous, plus when you run your own business you need to be nimble and I have found that the best way to be open to success is to focus on Story Visioning. Four years ago, I started vision boarding and it has not only impacted the growth of my business, it has also impacted the way I live my life.

As a passionate social entrepreneur, I see no division between my business life and my personal life. Everything is connected and every piece impacts the whole. My professional development sheds light on my personal life, and my personal relationships foster new work collaborations. Everything feeds into the same system: me. So when I started vision boarding, it wasn’t about just one area of my life; it all intersects, and it is at that intersection that true power can be harnessed.

We all live many story lines; some stories fill us with pride and others hold us back. Each story we tell ourselves is indicative of how we live our lives. From the different roles we play, to the different people we serve, it can be overwhelming to try and set a goal or an intention when you are not exactly sure what aspect of your life you are considering. Story Visioning is meant to help you understand and embrace all of the story lines you hold and find that sweet spot where everything intersects. That is where true power and influence is born, at that spot where everything you love, everything you do, everything you want to be, is acknowledged and appreciated.

Scribing

 

Story Visioning is a technique I am developing with a friend and colleague Theodora Lamb. Together, we are launching an event for female entrepreneurs in Vancouver focused on exploration and intention setting. This one-day event is the first step of a larger initiative to support female entrepreneurs by creating space, online and offline, to acknowledge and appreciate our many stories.

Understanding the narrative of our business is vital; understanding our own story in relation to that narrative is equally important.

Buy Local Week

Last night, we celebrated the launch of Buy Local Week in British Columbia at the LOCO Christmas party. I joined LOCOBC last year and it has opened my eyes to the power of local buying – not only from an economic standpoint, but also from a community aspect. Walking into GreenWorks last night, I recognized so many local business owners – business consultants, food producers, designers and craftspeople. It is amazing how sharing one simple value (that of supporting the local economy) can cut through all of the networking fuzz and initiate deep conversations. I truly value my LOCO membership, and I urge everyone to support their own local business community!

Oh, and check out this beautiful, informative infographic designed by the talented Lisa Hemingway of Backyard Creative - one of my business collaborators! It shows you the real impact local buying has and how it can directly affect each and every one of us.

So this week (and every week) when you buy anything, be sure to Buy Local!

The Art of Hosting

It is in the wander that new paths are formed.
It is in the wander that old habits are broken.
Yet, it is in the pause that we prepare for all that the wander will bring.

I love to wander. It is something my partner and I joke about – he likes to have a direction in mind before venturing out, whereas I like to wander and see what shows up. My career has been a bit of a wander; moving in and out of different conversations, building ideas and inspiration along the way. Never really sure of a final destination, but enjoying the journey of discovery. One of the main challenges for solopreneurs like myself is to pause and let what I have collected along the way sink in.

Enter the Art of Hosting, an approach to leadership that allows us to gather and reflect on the wisdom inside ourselves and within our community. I first heard about the Art of Hosting a few years ago when it seemed that every new person I met found a way to weave it into our conversation. Jung would call this ‘Synchronicity’ – learning about something only to have it appear in all aspects of your life. Joseph Campbell would perhaps refer to it as ‘The Call’, a beckoning of sorts, inviting you to poke your head in and see what lies on the other side. Last week, I accepted the call and attended a 4 day intensive Art of Hosting training on Bowen Island.

Arriving anywhere by ferry seems to add a layer of space to the journey. Space to sit and reflect as the vessel coasts across the water. Space to explore since there is no easy escape off an island. Space to imagine and space to be curious. Anticipation is futile, what will be, will be. Or as The Art of Hosting declares, ‘Whoever shows up are the right people to show up.”

I’ve participated in Art of Hosting activities before – World Café and Open Space Technology often make appearances in my workshops and retreats. Yet, I have never been so fully immersed in the philosophy and art of bringing people together. I first identified as a facilitator or convener last year when I realized that in bringing people together to share stories I was working in the depths of group dynamics. One of my favourite aspects of group work is the Circle Practice – placing people in a circle and giving them equal air time shifts the power away from a single leader and invites the group to redefine leadership.

When I tell people I practice storytelling, they often bring up campfires. While the work I do extends far beyond the fire pit, there is something to this reference. Sitting around a fire, we can hear each voice and see each face. We let our guards down, feeling protected under the night sky. True storytelling happens when we trust our own voice and practice the art of listening. My time on Bowen Island, albeit without campfire, reminded me to listen. Thankfully, I heard the most beautiful stories; stories of hope and stories of possibility.

And there is no greater reason to wander than that.

 

Thank you to Conrad for the beautiful photos that captured the essence of our time together on Bowen. 

Letting Go

I am fortunate enough to belong to many communities, including a beautiful Transformational Facilitation Group (TFG) of women in Vancouver. Our group consists of 11 women at similar points in our career who are all interested in using facilitation as a way of bringing about change. We meet once a month for a potluck dinner and talk about our practice or our business, and we share ways that we can collectively support each other. I was introduced to the group by my friend Erica who works with me at the HiVE and it has already proven to be a powerful reminder as to what happens when you bring passionate women together.

One of our members has been part of ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action) for years and she invited us to last week’s ALIA West workshop in Vancouver. Leading up to this day, I was stressed with work, life and everything in between. I kept asking myself why I had signed up for a full day workshop in the middle of my busy season. And then I walked into the room.

Appropriately, the ALIA workshop was being held at the Centre for Peace and that is exactly what happened when I arrive – I felt at peace. It helped looking around the room and recognizing faces, either from my TFG or from my other communities of support. It also helped that I was stepping away my emails, my voicemails, my giant pile of To Do’s…and giving myself permission to plant my feet firmly and sink into the moment.

The Changing Face of Leadership: Mindfulness and Wise Action.

“It is our questions, our uncertainty, that leads us deeper. That is the one authentic truth that connects us all – we are all seeking, questioning and yearning for something else, beyond.” Wise words from our host Michael Chender, the Founder of ALIA in Nova Scotia. He went on to state that, “The obstacle is Fear – our confidence that we have the capabilities.”

The workshop was split into chapters, and we were just on the first page. Barbary Bash led us in a group meditation that bonded us on many different levels. We spoke of the challenges we face when trying to slow down our minds – the distractions in the room, in our heads, in our hearts. We opened up to each other, and we opened up to ourselves. ALIA is founded on three guiding principles: Meditation, Skill Learning and Creative Interaction. Well, this 8 hour workshop delivered all three in spades!

After settling into the day, we started exploring the 5 steps of Facilitation, and each presented a new understanding of leadership and wisdom. Barbara Bash led us in her beautiful Big Brush calligraphy as we explored each of the five stages of leadership.

1. ENTERING: This is about the way you enter a space, the way you begin a session. Entering sets the tone for all that is to come. Pause. Feel your body. Recognize your own fear and smile at it! Vulnerability is the only strong position.

2. EXPLORING: Not to be confused with proving pre-conceptions. Exploring is about inviting curiosity. It is about analyzing and understanding the systems at play, but it is also about listening to instinct and intuition, and ultimately recognizing patterns.

3. ACTING: This stage creates a profound energetic shift – clarity emerges and you commit! The path becomes clear and there is often a sense of hesitation…resist the fear and step into it.

4. COMPLETING: Acting sets off a series of consequences, and this stage involves coming back to the original intention. You have disturbed the system, but must not give in to second thoughts. Mistakes become stepping stones.

5. LETTING GO: Mark the occasion, bring ritual into the transition. Letting go does not need to fizzle out – it is about energizing toward the future. Be open and available to what comes next.

At the end of the day, we had stirred our own insecurities and hesitations as leaders, and we had found an approach that spoke to the wholeness of leadership. It was a beautiful, crisp Autumn day and my harvest feast came in the form of ALIA.

 

The Prism Effect

When I was first introduced to the Social Venture Institute (SVI) community, I felt like I’d uncovered a secret door that opened up to an amazing new world – a world where collaboration was queen, and the first question out of everyone’s mouth was “How can I help?” I made a wish last year that I would find my way to Hollyhock, the motherland of SVI, and last week my wish was granted.

When deciding how to make the long trek to Cortes Island, I was told The Caravan was the only way to travel. The Caravan is a group of vans full of strangers en route to SVI – people who sign up for an adventure, people who understand that the journey is as important as the destination. Several email threads later, I asked my Caravan of six how they felt about themes… and then I proposed we dress as pirates, a most unusual request for a business conference! To my delight, everyone not only agreed, they showed up ready to play. Community building starts right off the bat – it is how you show up that defines the experience. Six strangers – dressed in pirate garb, given odd looks by people on the ferry – now connected. Three ferries and seven hours later we arrived at Hollyhock, storming the castle and bringing laughter with every Arrrr.

Community can be born or it can be grown. It can grow slowly over time or it can be accelerated with the proper soil. Hollyhock is the magical fertilizer in the soil of the SVI community. It is a place with deep roots and a strong connection to the land. It is supported by people who respect and cherish what it brings to so many lives. It is also a place where reality is suspended, and that can bring challenges along with beautiful awakenings.

SVI is not really a business conference, despite it’s best intentions. It is a place where awareness is sought after, and challenges are brought to the surface. It is both personal and professional – because the majority of the people there do not see the distinction. Our work is personal. It is why we are social entrepreneurs. There is no clear division between who we are and what we do. It’s the ‘Why’ that is leading us forward.

The challenge I came with was around growth: How can a business grow while maintaining the intimacy and personal connection that defines its experience? This question around ‘Scale versus Depth’ seemed to be in the air all week. Judy Wicks, the founder of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), said it best when she was discussing White Dog Cafe and her strategic decision not to replicate or expand but rather to sink in deeper in support of the local economy.

The simple act of deciding what are the roots and what are the branches can lead you to your own answer around scale versus depth. The roots represent our history, knowledge and experience. The roots are where we come from and they feed what we do. To choose depth means that we want to sink our roots in deeper, drawing more knowledge, wisdom and expertise to strengthen our position in the market. The branches represent our connections, impact and reach. They are where we are going and they bring inspiration into our vision. To choose scale means that we want our branches to reach further, impacting more people in different ways so that we can expand our position in the market.

Why do you need to choose one?

Leadership was a big focus of the SVI week. I so appreciated the public acknowledgement that leadership is about recognizing ‘the whole’ – from balancing teaching with learning to dancing with both the masculine and feminine, true leadership seeks both the branches and the roots. In an unconventional exercise, we sat with a person we did not know and asked them over and over again: “What is the next step you will take toward becoming a leader?” It is amazing what you begin to reveal around the 20th time of being asked the same question, and how you realize that becoming a leader and being a leader are two sides of the same coin.

Building a community is like building the mythology of an organization – you have to take into account all of the different voices and perspectives that come into it, as well as the different ways people experience it. I often share with people an analogy that I call The Prism Effect. A brand is made up of common experiences and connections – that is the core of the prism. Yet each person experiences it in their own way, and they share that in a unique fashion, like a prism shining and refracting light out in different directions.

When I walked into the Hollyhock store, I found this prism and I decided that it would hold my SVI experience. I was told to go down to the ocean and cleanse it, removing the prints of others. I was resetting it, and allowing it to capture new experiences. I realized in that moment that the prism was the SVI community – we all came together from various places, bringing with us our own perspectives and points of view. Together, we formed the gem that was SVI for five whole days, and then we left, reflecting our individual experiences out to the world.

My SVI prism now dangles in my office, catching the light in different ways, reminding me of the power of community and the beauty of diversity.

Myth Making

Working as a solopreneur can be a lonely road. Sure, we do our best to attend networking events and social gatherings, we join co-working spaces (like the fabulous HiVE Vancouver!) and meet friends and collaborators for coffee or lunch. We might even get a dog so that we have a reason to go outside on rainy, dreary days! Yet despite all of our supporters and their good intentions, we really are our own best cheerleader.

Enter: The Business Coach

I am a goal-setting, vision boarding, kick-my-own-butt-into-gear kind of gal, so I never really thought I needed a coach. And, like any woman on a mission, I have trouble asking for help. I have worked with coaches in the past, and I have gotten a lot from the experience, but this time was different. This time, I wasn’t questioning where I wanted to go or how I was going to get there – I realized that I was doing exactly what I wanted to do and I was exactly where I wanted to be…and that scared the heck out of me!

I kept asking myself when will the other shoe drop?

I first met Lisa Princic at a LOCOBC event, an organization that connects values-based businesses to help grow the local economy. A mutual friend introduced us and told me how Lisa had helped her dig deeper into her business vision and get more out of what she was already doing. Yup, that sounded like something I could get on board with! Working with a coach can be a bit like looking into one of those magnifying mirrors – the more you look, the more you notice every line, spot or imperfection. You start to see what needs attention but you also learn to appreciate what is already there. You see things clearly.

Lisa was my New Years Resolution, or at least the experience she helped me create was. My goal was simple (or so I thought): to deepen my own practice and make my business more sustainable. In other words, figure out how to hold onto that awesome feeling you get when you are doing exactly what you love! Now came the tricky part – holding my business up to that darn mirror…

Over the course of 20 weeks, Lisa and I chatted every 2 weeks. We discussed the goals and challenges I laid out from my previous sessions and she helped me set up new ones. It was more than holding me accountable – she made me realize that in order to go deeper and become more sustainable I would I have to allow my business to transform. Transformation. That’s it, that’s what I was afraid of. I had finally arrived at a place in my career where I felt safe, valued and respected…and I wanted to hold onto that. But I soon realized that the part of my business that I loved the most was pioneering into new territory: learning new skills, meeting new people and allowing my perspectives to change.

I came into Lisa’s coaching process with a strong vision and sense of purpose. While I may not have realized it at the time, she opened my eyes to the fact that I was limiting myself by trying to hold onto things just as they were. I was blocking the road, and all along I thought I was driving free and clear.

I spent the past few months exploring my true vision for Narrative Communications and everything kept coming back to the word Story. When I first called myself a Storyteller, people looked at me with confused eyes and a crooked grin. “You mean, like sitting around a campfire kind of storyteller?” No. I meant the deeper stories that exist inside each of us. Jung calls it our Collective Unconscious, Joseph Campbell spoke in Archetypes. I have spent the past 10 years exploring the world of myth. From reading books by Robert Bringhurst, Lewis Hyde and Annette Simmons, to taking courses in narrative psychology, to learning how to facilitate and build community. I have been redefining, mostly for myself, what a storyteller is.

My passion is to harvest and gather stories, to weave and share stories. What I do is bigger than storytelling. It is bigger than any one single story or any one single person. It is about connecting personal experiences with universal themes. It is about tapping into a larger narrative that exists inside each of us and within our collective communities.

It is myth-making.

All of this brought me back to my first passion: Folklore. Fairytales. Fables. The stories we read when we are little and the stories that resonate when we are adults. The stories we feel we have heard before. The stories that are full of nostalgia and brimming with cultural memory. That was why I set off to study a Masters in Mythology at the University of Edinburgh many moons ago. That was why I moved to Ghana, West Africa to host storytelling circles. That is why I set out to start this business in the first place. So what I am?

I am a Brand Mythologist.

There. I’ve said it. It is bigger than storytelling. It is bigger than strategy. It is everything that connects us, it is everything that we are. Let the transformation begin!

 

 

Sunset at the End of the World

A story is a gift – best to open it slowly, careful not to peel away the layers too quickly, often finding something you may not have realized you needed. That is what happens when we share our story – we offer others insight into our world and we give permission to each other to find common threads and obstacles.

My dad and I have been going on a Father-Daughter Road Trip since I was 11. Every year, usually in the summer, we hop in the car and we drive. We drive North or we drive East, we drive over paved roads and gravel roads. We have flown in sea planes and small planes. We have kayaked, hiked, golfed, and white water rafted. We have travelled more kilometres than I can even count, and on every trip we offer each other the gift of story.

Growing up, people would ask me what my dad does. “Um…he’s an entrepreneur, I think. Yes, definitely an entrepreneur!” I would say. When kids would push back, asking exactly what that meant, I would stare them in the eye and with great pride say, “He gets to wear jeans every day and doesn’t have a boss!”

After our first road trip, I started to understand that what my dad did wasn’t a job title, it was a series of events that would lead him to an opportunity. Understanding what our parents do for a living can be a great challenge when we are young, especially when the job falls outside the traditional categories. We often believe we need to parcel things up in pretty little packages; a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher – we assume we know what each of those professions entails. But an entrepreneur? You don’t often see children’s books following the adventures of a Venture Capitalist! Funnily enough, now that I fall outside the traditional employment sphere, it has been amazing listening to others describe what I do for a living, often craving a title or concrete definition.

What we do for a living is not about a job title or an elevator pitch – it is about the everyday stories we collect and encounter. It’s about the people whose lives we affect, and it’s about what we hold onto when we are off the clock. When my dad and I started doing our annual road trips, it started as a way for a father and a daughter to bond. What ended up happening was so much more powerful – our stories started to weave together, and we got to see each other in a whole new light.

As far back as I can remember, my dad would tell me how he started his career with my mom – how the two of them moved around the world setting up different businesses, usually with ideas that were ahead of their time. Looking back now, every year I would gain new insight into my dad’s world, listening to his memories and the lessons he learned. His stories inspired me, and they led me onto my own entrepreneurial journey.

Last week’s trip was no exception.

This year, we decided to drive to Desolation Sound. I didn’t know much about Desolation Sound, only that it sounded far away and remote. Little did I know that it would be just far enough away that it would actually bring us closer to home. Waiting for the second ferry in Earls Cove, my dad ran into a neighbour named Garth Lawrence. Garth and my dad started chatting, and when I told Garth what I did for a living he gave me my first gift of the trip – he told me to read his son’s book. He said that his son, Grant Lawrence, wrote all about Desolation Sound after collecting dozens of stories from his own childhood as well as myths and folklore from the area.

When I got on the ferry, I re-read an email my friend Robyn Spencer sent me with recommendations on what to do in Powell River only to realize she suggested I read the same book “Adventures in Solitude” by Grant Lawrence. This was our first taste of synchronicity. When we arrived at Desolation Resort, we dropped off our bags and headed into Lund to grab a beer and some dinner. We found ourselves at The Boardwalk Restaurant, which once went by the name Sunset Restaurant at The End of the World. As the sun set in the distance it felt like we were on the cusp of something big, that point where the end becomes the beginning all over again.

As we do on our trips, we started talking with a man that sat next to us. He told us that he had recently been to his daughter’s wedding after not speaking with her much over the years. When he heard about our commitment to a road trip every year together, I think it inspired him to reconnect with his daughter. Our story now became a gift for someone else. We ended the evening at the Laughing Oyster restaurant, drinking port on the patio as the owner, Dave, serenaded us with old folk tunes beneath the moon light and meteors. His story, along with that of our waitress, warmed us on a cool summer evening.

The next day, we had a 6 hour kayak planned, and upon meeting Jordanne, our guide for the day, we told her about the Grant Lawrence connection and she just about fell over in her kayak! She knew about his book and used his stories as inspiration when she talked about the history of the region. We were invited to drop in on Garth for lunch and when we pulled our kayaks up to the giant rocks, we could feel the story deepening. As we sat at the picnic table overlooking islands that were once First Nations burial grounds and land that once housed homesteaders in the 20s and draft dodging hippies in the 70s, I felt a deep connection to this place. My story was now being woven into the fabric of the land. Garth gave us a copy of Grant’s book and that evening dad and I both started reading it, amazed at the many personal connections we now had to the people and landscape of Desolation Sound.

The trip brought more than just a vacation between father and daughter – it was a true exercise in storytelling. We shared our stories and by that very act invited new stories in. We came home full, from the people we met and the stories they shared with us. It also reminded me that sometimes we need to venture into the great wide open, unsure of what stories lurk in the distance. Grant prefaces his book with this quote, and I thought it fitting to leave you with this thought…

 

A Heart and Two Hands

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a LunaCircle at Lunapads. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lunapads, it is an amazing organization run by two beautiful, socially-conscious women right here in Vancouver. While their products include a collection of eco-friendly menstrual products, it is their focus on empowerment, education and environmental awareness that first inspired me when I met Madeleine and Suzanne at SVI Vancouver a few years ago.

When I heard about the monthly LunaCircles they were hosting, I knew I had found my tribe. For me, storytelling is best served in a circle, since each story is given the same amount of energy and reflection. It is a powerful thing to witness, a story circle, especially with a group of women who are meeting for the first time and discussing something very personal: birth.

This particular LunaCircle was titled We ♥ Doulas, and I knew I had to find my way to the circle. Six months ago, a dear friend of mine found out she was pregnant, and almost in the same breath that she told me, she then asked if I would be her doula. Feeling honoured to walk this journey with her, the fear then set in. What does it mean to be a doula, and am I, a-yet-to-be-a-mother, even qualified? I knew that the LunaCircle would offer me insight and advice – and yet it ended up offering me so much more; a reminder that we already hold our own wisdom.

Suzanne, our hostess for the evening, began the storytelling by passing around a Russian nesting doll. She asked us to introduce ourselves, our mother and our grandmother as a way of paying tribute to our birthing history. She reminded us that when our mother was inside our grandmother, the egg that we came from was already formed. This powerful visual, of three generations of women being inside one another, brought tears to my eyes. It also reminded me of the importance of ritual; the passing of the doll aligned our energy and gave way to a beautiful evening of authentic, vulnerable conversations.

The lovely doulas from Fig Birth Services, Danika and Andrea, guided us through the many pathways of motherhood. They held the space in such an open way, including each of us: moms, expectant moms, daughters, and soon-to-be-doulas like myself, in rich conversation and a guided meditation. They also gave me a beautiful gift – they told me that the only thing a doula needs is her heart and two hands to support a mom-to-be. Everything else helps, but at the end of the day, if you are there with a loving heart and ability to help when and where needed, that is the best thing you can offer. Beauty lies in simplicity. By the end of the evening, I felt inspired, empowered and above all, grateful for such an open, honest community of women who share stories the way they were meant to be shared – with love.

For more information about LunaCircles and our experience yesterday evening, check out the Lunapads blog or gain another perspective from our evening of doulahood at WestEndGirl blog.

Btw: I am also working with Lunapads to build a Brand Narrative for their new venture, GDay Vancouver, which focuses on celebrating, empowering and educating girls as they come of age. Stay tuned for more as the stories unfold.

 

Stanford’s Design Thinking Lab

Summer can be a slow time for consultants, especially when you need to engage with your clients on a regular basis the way I do. If I haven’t already started on a project by July, clients are hesitant to start the deep Narrative process when vacation and sunshine beckon. While I do have several clients on the go, I am also taking this time to go deeper into my own story. For me, that means embracing my passion for learning.

I heard via Twitter that Stanford University was offering a free, 5 week online course around Design Thinking through their Venture Lab. My interest was officially perked. I enrolled and awaited the start date. Just finishing Week One, I have been amazed at the many ways the Internet can bring people together from around the world, engaging us in ideas that are applicable to each and every one of us. My group consists of 6 members: from Peru, Mexico, Russia, Netherlands, India and myself in Canada. We work in diverse industries, and yet we were all drawn to the idea of thinking outside the box so that we can engage ourselves and others in creative processes. The first week of assignments has been a general introduction into Design Thinking. After hosting several workshops, retreats and seminars, I know that the design is the most integral part of fulfilling a vision for success.

One area that struck me in this week’s course was examining The 10 Faces of Innovation. This is similar to Narrative Communications’ Archetypal Analysis, in which I take clients through a series of questions and frameworks to understand what archetypes are driving them, and their business forward. Not surprisingly, I connected immediately with The Storyteller:

The Storyteller captures our imagination with compelling narratives of initiative, hard work, and innovation. This person goes beyond oral tradition to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and message: video, narrative, animation, even comic strips. By rooting their stories in authenticity, the Storyteller can spark emotion and action, transmit values and objectives, foster collaboration, create heroes, and lead people and organizations into the future.

And yet I was also struck by the ways that The Storyteller engages with the other Faces of Innovation – The Cross-Pollinator, The Anthropologist, The Collaborator. We all wear the 10 Faces depending on the scenario we find ourselves in. This is actually quite different than the Archetypes exercise, since Archetypes lead us at a more universal level, whereas the 10 Faces seem to float in and out of our lives depending on circumstances. Both are excellent tools and resources for understanding how we work as well as how others work.

I am looking forward to Week Two and all that will be revealed as I dive into my own strategic design thinking.

Getting to “Why”

Why do you do what you do? 

It seems like a simple enough question, and yet so many people struggle with it. We know “What” we do, and we often know “How” we do it, but as Simon Sinek points out in his TED talk How great leaders inspire action, “…very few people or organizations know why they do what they do.”

Simon goes on to say, “And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well, as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in. It’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

The idea behind brand storytelling is to dig into the Why.

My belief is that we all have stories that have led us to where we are and are driving us forward. We may not understand them, we might not even be able to identify them, yet once we start digging into our past, our present, our dreams for the future, certain patterns reveal themselves. I call these Themes & Threads, and they are the constants, the elements that exist at our core.

On Friday, I went to a beautiful yoga class taught by a new friend of mine, Dr. Thara Vayali at Sanga Yoga and something she said resonated deeply with me. The class was a ‘Core’ class, meaning our focus was on building core strength. Now, if you are like me, you imagine core to be your middle section, a strong abdomen. And yet, when Thara started talking about her perspective on ‘core’, a lightbulb went off.

She asked us to imagine our body like a tree. Imagine each root, each branch, each part of the tree that makes up the whole. She remarked that we often think of the trunk as the strongest part, like we do our own core. And yet, if you look inside a root or a branch you will find that they all have the core at their centre too. Just like our fingers, our toes, the top of our head – when we work on building our core we need to shift our perspectives and strengthen each piece as a part of the whole. Core strengthening is about working from the inside out, just like Simon Sinek’s The Golden Circle.

That is what I help my clients do. I put aside the pre-occupation with elevator pitches, sound bites and the ‘About Us’ section of a website. Understanding the story of your business is far deeper than any of that. We need to get to the core of why your business exists, and the best way to do that is to follow the root systems, the branches, the fruit, the insects that nibble away at that fruit, and ultimately the blue sky above – the very thing each branch is reaching for.

For me, story branding is about realizing that one single person cannot tell the story for an entire organization. We need to engage as many people as possible (the roots and the branches) so that we can identify the nutrients in the soil. Once we know ‘the secret sauce’ – that unique recipe that makes your organization authentic and distinct – then, and only then, can we start to share the story.

 

Woman of Distinction

Last night, I had the privilege of being in a room full of passionate business women at the 30th annual YWCA Women of Distinction Awards. Not only was I pleased to attend, I was thrilled to be nominated in the Entrepreneurship category. The description for the award category was as follows:

Award Category – Entrepreneurship: She has taken an innovative approach to solving a problem, filling a need or breaking into a new market. Her drive, ingenuity and solid vision for her business separates her from her competitors. She has made sacrifices and taken great risks to successfully launch, revive or manage a business or product. 

When I really thought about this description, it was exciting for me to see my storytelling practice, which was once a far off dream that started with my passion for mythology and folklore, now being recognized as a successful business. We solopreneurs often forget to take the time we need to celebrate our wins and bask in the light of success. Last night was the perfect occasion to break out my heels (I’ve been wearing rubber boots these days, walking our new puppy in the rain!) and rub shoulders with some of Vancouver’s most passionate, committed and successful women. Madeleine Shaw, of Lunapads, coined the hashtag #VancouverPowerBabes when she realized just how many amazing women (including herself I might add!) graced the event last night. I couldn’t agree more!

For me, the YWCA is more than a brand association; it is a place where stories are created and recreated as women aim to transform their lives. A dear friend of mine that I saw last night, Marnie Marley, dedicated her career to the YWCA, starting and nurturing programs like Crabtree Corner.  She retired a few months ago after working with the YWCA for 23 years and it was amazing for me to witness the impact her career has had on countless lives.

At the end of the day, being a Woman of Distinction for me means that we consider our community, both locally and globally, in our business strategy and we aim to make a positive impact on the world around us. It was an honour to be amongst women who feel the same way about business as I do.

As Christy Clark, Premier of BC, said in her speech last night, we are the ones setting the examples for young girls today, and we need to ensure that there is no glass ceiling in their future. And so, my ask of you is, if there is a woman in your life who has made an impact, please take the time to tell her so. It is amazing to hear how our own stories have positively affected others, and remind us all to persevere because, as the award category stated, we have all made sacrifices and faced risks when we decided to challenge the way things were once done.

Women & Wellness

“Mental wellness is something that we all struggle with – so many things in our lives pull us in different directions and consume our energy. At the end of the day, if you aren’t taking care of you, nothing else really matters. For me, a reminder to refocus my energy internally rather than sending it out into the world is one of the most powerful tools I have learnt.”

 

 

 

Last night, I had the honour of being the “Lift Your Spirits” speaker at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Women and Wellness event. When I was invited to speak, I thought carefully as to what story I would share. I have experienced mild depression in the past, and I have friends who have battled mental illness in many forms. Yet, rather than focus on what separates us, I wanted to focus on what connects us.

For me, wellness includes being centred, balanced and connected, both with yourself and with your community. This is something that we all battle – the ability to feel whole when so many aspects of our lives compete for our attention.

I spoke about my Life Pie in a previous post (Women Giving Back), and I used it as a central theme in my speech last night. Over the years, I have come to the realization that the Wellness slice of pie is THE most important part, because without it all of the other slices burn out. As I was getting ready for my presentation yesterday, I realized that my wellness was suffering due to work and social commitments. I found a park that held meaning for me, and I sat in the sunshine for 45 minutes. I took long, deep breaths and I reconnected with a part of myself that had been missing for a few days. I felt so much better after that, and it changed my entire perspective as to what is really important.

I closed my speech last night by saying, “It doesn’t take much to remind ourselves to feel grateful for the life that we lead, but for me it does require an intention –  a reminder to pause, reflect and appreciate the ripple effect we can each have on the world around us.”

I’m glad I was able to recognize this ahead of time and walk into a room full of amazing women feeling connected to myself.

For more information, see the article in the North Shore News :)

 

Down the Rabbit Hole

“Going to SVI Vancouver last year was like finding a door into a wonderful, new world – every person I met understood the power of collaboration and community. I have since worked with many people I met during those magical three days, and I also received tremendous support and advice for my own growth strategy and business development.” – Megan Sheldon

Last year, I walked into the Vancouver Public Library without a real sense of who, or what, the SVI community was. Three days later, I felt like Alice, somehow inhabiting an entirely new world.

Vancouver has often been dubbed ‘No Fun City’ and has been criticized for a lack of community and connectivity. My experience as an entrepreneur the past few years has poked many holes in that theory, and SVI alone has played a large part in dispelling the myths of how Vancouverites connect. Since SVIVancouver last year, I have connected with hundreds of people who all feel the same way about business as I do – we want it to matter. We want it to matter to ourselves, to our friends and family, and to our community. This values-based approach seems obvious, and yet it is a constant challenge to make wise business decisions that continue to steer you down this path.

Last year’s SVIVancouver consisted of a day and a half for women entrepreneurs only, and a day and a half with both men and women. While the latter was powerful and thought provoking, something magical happened when 80 female social entrepreneurs came together to collectively discuss how we can change the world.

My small community grew three sizes that day.

This year, Hollyhock heard our call and has responded by hosting a 3 day conference in Vancouver for women entrepreneurs. SVIWomen kicks off today and I know it will not only invite more game-changing women into my life, it will also continue to expand my definition of what it means to collaborate and build community. On Friday, I will be giving a workshop to the SVI Women on Brand Storytelling and I am looking forward to sharing some of the stories that I have collected under the Narrative Communications umbrella. Most of all, I am looking forward to continuing to chase the rabbit down the rabbit hole…it always seems to lead me to places that feels like home.

 

All my stirring becomes quiet…

My time at Connecting4Community was powerful in the sense that it allowed me to shed my layers and connect with people instantly at a deep level. We were all there for the same reason, to create community. It also helped that I didn’t have to explain what I did or why I did it – everyone got it right away. It was a powerful three days, and while it was a rollercoaster of emotions, it was a safe place for my gentle soul to weep.

On Friday morning I received news that my dear friend Samantha lost her battle with cancer. Sam entered my life years ago when I was working on Uganda Rising and UNICEF’s Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS. I connected with Sam’s story instantly because she lived from a place of authenticity. Everything about Sam was pure and real. She was running a successful agency in Montreal when she was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 31. She initially beat the cancer and decided to follow her heart and her passion by becoming a photographer, or as I called her a Visual Storyteller.

Sam had a gift for seeing people. She saw me, and for that I will forever be grateful. Sam and I reconnected a few years ago when I ventured into the entrepreneurial world as a fellow storyteller. She was so supportive of me chasing after my dreams, and I looked to her for wisdom and support. Together with our friend Gabby, we would walk along the beach or in the forest every chance we could. On the walks, we shared our stories, our hopes and fears, our questions and our answers. Those walks kept me afloat in times of turmoil, and nourished my soul in times of gratitude. I am so grateful for those precious moments with my dear friend.

When I found out Sammy had passed, a flood of emotions swept over me. I was far away from home, and yet I was with a community that embraced me. I shared my loss with a few people and was amazed at how deep my new connections travelled. Sam’s story was now impacting their lives too. I left the conference and found myself wandering aimlessly through the streets of Cincinnati, searching for quiet to reflect and remember. I found my way into a church, one of the last places I expected to go, and as I was sitting alone in the beautiful cathedral, I cried. There is something powerful about a shared space that holds the stories of people, the memories of loss and joy. I felt connected to Sam by the simple fact that she instilled in me a passion for stillness.

I miss my friend dearly, and I am reminded that her life will continue to impact mine in every thing that I do. She gave me the gift of friendship, and in return I promise to hold that friendship close as I travel along my own path fueled by the passion, courage and peace that Sam so beautifully embodied.

Sam’s favorite poem is holding my heart today, and everyday:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,

and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

-Wendell Berry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3: The Law of Two Feet

Welcome to Open Space.

When Harrison Owen, the inventor of Open Space Technology, walked into our room at Connecting4Community and started talking, everyone went silent. He is, after all, a celebrated leader in our community, one that pioneered the way for facilitation and conflict resolution. He is also a master storytelling, and he instantly captivated us by sharing his life experiences, and by showing his compassion and motivation for the amazing work that he does. He also surprised us by admitting that he holds a “light regard for the truth”. This struck me as particularly relevant as I believe each time we share a story it changes or shifts depending on our mood and our audience – storytelling is not so much about truth as it is about wisdom. As Harrison began, he told us that his goal for our day is “not just talking about community – its about ‘doing’ community.”

Open Space is really quite simple – you are invited into a space where you sit in a large circle. You can then walk into the centre of the circle and write down a topic or idea that you would like to discuss. The ideas are posted on boards along with time and area specifics, and people can choose which topics interest them. Harrison explained how everything worked and then asked us to write down our conversation topics.

I jumped at the chance to discuss something I have been exploring – the ability to measure change through storytelling. It is something that I know to be true, in the way that storytelling captures our impact in ways that data cannot, and yet it is also something I struggle with, since I am not sure how to set it up so that we can easily capture those stories on an ongoing basis.

Before Harrison released us from the circle, he told us about The Law of Two Feet. As he spoke, I suddenly got an entirely new perspective of what it means to be a leader. The Law of Two Feet encourages participants to float around from group to group, either as a Bumblebee or as a Butterfly. The Bumblebee buzzes from one group to the next, stopping whenever something catches their attention. The hope is that the Bumblebee will cross-pollinate, bringing ideas from one group to the next. The Butterfly sits back quietly, rarely dominating the conversations but almost always surprising the group with the depth of their contribution. The hope is that the Butterfly will encourage others to listen and be respectful of each voice in the circle.

Now, The Law of Two Feet means that participants can engage in conversations up until the point that they lose interest or choose to leave. They can then walk away, join another group or return to the original conversation.“If you are not contributing or interested, all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and walk away”, says Harrison. Now it sounds simple enough, to give people permission to leave when they want, but after having facilitated many groups, I know that most people, including myself, would not dare of leaving a conversation for fear of being rude or missing out (see my previous post on FOMO). This law throws all of that out the window. Open Space is not about being polite after all, it is about moving beyond discussion and getting to that place where ideas become actions.

Harrison’s advice to us: “Go somewhere where you are doing something useful”. 

And so, when we broke off into our small groups, I found myself leading a conversation with 8 people from all over the world interested in storytelling. Some of them stayed for the entire hour and a half, some left and came back, others buzzed about and then sought out another topic, perhaps more applicable to their field. The time flew by, and I was amazed at the flow of dialogue – every person had something of value to share, and we each built on the other comments. While we all had different perspectives, we found a way to come together and figure out why storytelling is so vital to social change and why we want to move away from traditional methods of analysis, including facts and figures. The day of Open Space reminded me that we often hold the answers to our own questions, it is just a matter of finding the time and the space to open up the dialogue and deepen our awareness. Connecting4Community was a magical moment in time, when strangers became friends and passions became possibilities.

To the organizers, the contributors and to my new community, thank you for opening your hearts and sharing your stories. Thank you for bringing us together and for building us a community.

Our stories woven into the fabric during Connecting4Community

 

Day 2: Disruption


The Fear of Missing Out, otherwise known as FOMO. My friends and I use this expression when we don’t want to leave a party early or say ‘No’ to an opportunity for fear of missing something important, exciting or transformational. My 20s were dominated by a FOMO – and now, in my 30s, I am working on letting go of this phenomenon and realizing that my intuition speaks louder than any experience I may possibly miss out on.

Today, at Day 2 of Connecting4Community, I saw no better opportunity than to test my theory of ‘letting go’.

Yesterday, as expected, was inspirational and full of positive vibes and energetic stories. People gathered, convened and connected. It was why I came here. And yet today presented something new: disruption. Some people deal in conflict regularly, and are therefore immune or accepting of the effects it can have. I am not one of those people. And so, when a fellow participant challenged one of the presenters first thing this morning, calling him out as ‘yet another old white guy telling us what to do’, I felt the air being sucked out of the room.

Winded. I felt winded. Perhaps it was because the ‘old white guy’ he was referring to happened to be a master storyteller who had riveted us with compelling stories full of ancient wisdom and personal anecdotes. Perhaps it was because it surprised me (I thought we were all on the same page?), or perhaps it was because I got angry. And I don’t do angry well.

Us versus Them. The disruptive comment positioned the participant, also a white male, on one side and the presenter on the other. As another participant told me later, it was the ‘Them-ing’ that got to her. I understand that the participant was fed up with being ‘talked to’, and that yes, almost all of the speakers here were white males. Yet there was something in the act of calling someone out, of drawing a line in the sand and stating that some of us are on one side and others are on another – that was what drew the breathe from my body.

Conflict. Disruption. Unease. You could feel it as soon as it happened, and even still as the day progressed. I needed air. I needed space. I needed to leave.

And yet, I had this uncomfortable fear of missing out – what if the next speaker, or the next small group, was what I came here for? What if something happened that reconnected the now seemingly fractured group? Yet, it no longer mattered; I knew what I needed, and it was to step out into the Cincinnati sunshine and ‘walk it off’.

And so I walked. I walked to the river, I walked over a bridge, and I later learned that I walked all the way to Kentucky, which isn’t as far as one would think! I found a spot by the water, and I collected my thoughts. Why had this disruption bothered me so? What was it about conflict that led me running for the hills? My new friend Quanita told me that as a Water sign my natural inclination is to be a peacekeeper, and to avoid conflict at all costs. That sounds about right :)

On my walk, I found the space I needed to realize that the disruption I was facing was inside myself, and my own conflict around power and privilege. It also allowed me to appreciate that this entire scenario ended up creating unexpected, and meaningful, conversations. It also gave me an excuse to visit Kentucky, and to walk, restore and replenish. Disruption often reveals hidden gifts, and today I received the gift of sunshine, fresh air, and a view I had not expected.

It also led me back to the conference a few hours later where I was able to hear Edgar Cahn speak about his Time Banking philosophy and his belief that “you cannot create community through random acts of kindness”. It also gave me a new perspective when we visited Elementz, a community hip hop group for youth in downtown Cincinnati. Watching those kids move, laugh and lip sync to Dr. Martin Luther King erased any trace of my own previous disruption and reminded me that community is like a marriage, we have to work through it, stay committed to our selves and each other, and rejoice in those moments of true connection.

 

Day 1: In a World Full of Wonder

“There is a movement afoot” said Peter Block in his opening speech today. This was followed by a group sing-a-long, led by Barbara McAfee, as we chanted “We are in a world full of wonder”. Truer words have never been spoken.

I first heard about Connecting4Community last summer when I was at a barbecue in North Vancouver. I was invited by someone I had just met, and was going to the home of someone I did not know. Fear could have gotten the better of me, but instead I embraced the unknown and wound up in the company of 25 people who, by the end of the evening, felt like friends. We shared stories and pieces of our journey, we shared food and drink, and we savoured the sweet air of a Vancouver summer evening.

That evening led me here, almost one year later, to Cincinnati. As Peter Block joked today, Cincinnati is not a ‘destination city’ and yet there is something magical happening here. From my first impressions, it is a city that embraces art and culture, a city that sees building community as a priority not a problem, and a city that has warmly welcomed 140 participants to a conference called Connecting 4 Community.

Charles Holmes, the convenor of the barbecue I was at last summer, extended the invitation to attend C4C, and I was amazed at how many people I already knew in the room. I credit that to good fortune – I have been blessed in the past year, meeting people who think like I do, as well as those who think differently. Avril Orloff, a visual storyteller and artist extraordinaire, came into my life last year at a Narrative Transformations retreat on the Sunshine Coast, led by the imaginative work of Chene Swart. Mark Jeffrey, a fellow hot desker at the HiVE, was the one who first told me about Chene and her narrative therapy process, and he accompanied me on the flight from Vancouver, sharing stories of his own transformative work. The list goes on, and while I knew several people coming into this, I am already feeling embraced by dozens more.

Angeles Arrien, who unfortunately could not make the conference, joined us via conference call and fortunately was able to share her wisdom of storytelling and remind us of our own ability to re-author the stories we live by (Restore and Restory). She reminded me of something else I innately believe in – that we have more in common than we could ever imagine, and that our stories are the key to unlocking the doors that separate us.

Most conferences follow a certain rhythm; this one has no agenda. Along with Avril’s graphic capture of our conversations, there have been several musicians who led us in song, dance and meditation, not to mention a woman who was weaving on her loom the inspiration from the stories in the room. Day 1 has certainly surpassed my expectations as we gathered to understand how we, together, can harness the power we each hold and ultimately re-imagine what community looks like.

 “Stories illuminate what is already in us”

Stay tuned for the wonders of Day 2.

 

 

Women Giving Back

I am honoured to be nominated for this year’s YWCA Women of Distinction awards, celebrating women making a difference in their communities through volunteerism and philanthropy. I’ve long respected the YWCA and the work that they do, and I consider it a huge milestone in my professional career to be acknowledged by such an amazing collective.

Years ago, when I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the things I wanted to do, I built a Life Pie to identify what is truly important to me in my life. I drew a circle and divided into 9 sections, or pieces of my pie!

  • Relationship
  • Career
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Spirituality
  • Wellness
  • Creativity
  • Adventure
  • and Service

The ‘Service’ piece of my pie is perhaps one of the most significant. I was raised to believe that we owe it to ourselves, and to our community, to help those in need. I started volunteering when I was in high school, and the philosophy of giving back has stayed with me since. While my business is still in it’s infancy (it’s a toddler in my mind!), I believe that we can all find time and energy to donate our services, our time, or our expertise to others in need. I sit on the Board of Directors and Chair the Communications Committee for the Community Arts Council of Vancouver, I’ve donated my story branding and coaching services to organizations such as The Vancouver Writers Festival and Create Change, and I share my story often, including at an upcoming event for the Canadian Mental Health Association, hoping to inspire others to go after their dreams.

This nomination reminds me that the energy we spend helping others is of true value. I hope that when you read about the amazing women being recognized for their contributions in Vancouver it inspires you to find a way to give back, in whatever way you can. To the other nominees – congratulations and thank you for all the wonderful work that you do. And a special thank you to Christina Simpson for nominating me and inspiring me on a daily basis. For bios and complete list of nominees, click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Not Lean Into Something Better?

I have been reading with great fervor all of the articles coming out surrounding Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, and still I am left unsatisfied. The challenge with being a feminist in an arguably post-feminist space is finding your own voice amidst the masses.

I remember being at McGill University and hearing a girl proclaiming, with great satisfaction, that she was not a feminist. I continue to hear this everywhere I go, and I shake my head in disbelief. I was raised by a feminist mother, and I am an educated, self-employed woman, how could I not be a feminist? That begs the question: what does it mean to be a feminist in 2013?

For some people, they can’t get around the word itself: FEMINIST. Perhaps to them it means a generation of radical, man-hating women, or perhaps they see it as a battle won. From where I am sitting, yes, feminism has taken us to a place of perceived equality, yet I still have friends who are terrified of the day when they will have to tell their boss they are pregnant. And only five years ago, I was sitting in post-oil Ghana talking with young, educated girls who felt their only opportunity for financial independence was prostitution. It is all relative.

The word itself has become somewhat loaded – the fact that many of us feel disconnected to the word ‘Feminism’ points to something larger. The story. What is the story around feminism today? Even Sheryl Sandberg refers to it as “the F word” in her recent interview Now is Our Time.

In reading books like Lean In, and articles like The Feminist HousewifeI Leaned In, or Why I’d Rather Stand Up Straight Than Lean In, I am left more confused than when I started. The only solace I find is that my story, that of Megan Sheldon, solopreneur and storyteller, is being written from a place of power, passion and purpose. But that wasn’t always the case.

In my previous careers, I found that leaning in just wasn’t cutting it. I grew tired of having to constantly battle and push in a corporate world that was designed by and for men. I knew that if I wanted to lead a balanced life that still afforded me a prosperous career, time with my family, and the ability to go for a walk mid-day if the sun comes out (in Vancouver you need to take advantage as soon as it does!), I would need to leave the patriarchal, hiearchal system and venture into new territory. Enter the entrepreneur.

Rather than leaning into the existing system, fighting for a position that may come with 3 weeks vacation and 3 months of maternity leave (we are more fortunate in Canada, but still our system treats women differently than men), why not break away? Imagine a world where the top execs, both men and women, suddenly said “No, this isn’t working for us.” Would they be ushered out quietly? Or would the system finally feel the urgency and realize that change is needed.

The premise for Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In can be seen in her TedTalk, where her question is “How do we change this”? Meaning, how do we keep women in the workforce who appear to be dropping out or leaning back in favour of family and lifestyle. Her points are valid:

  1. Get women to sit at the table – we tend to underestimate our own abilities
  2. Make your partner a real partner – this will make it easier for both genders to work in the home
  3. Don’t leave before you leave – keep your foot on the gas pedal until the very day you need to leave to take a break, and don’t make decisions too far in advance.

Yet, I am not convinced. Why not go that extra mile – now that we have the eyes and ears of many young and savvy business women, and people around the world chiming in? Why not encourage us to rally together and CHANGE the system? Why lean in to something that will inherently disappoint us?

My partner is from Sweden and while they deal with their own challenges as a nation, I love how they encourage and value both the man’s and the woman’s role in raising a family. His friends back home with kids talk about the year and a half they were given for Mat / Pat leave, and how if the ‘minority parent’ (typically, but not always the man) does not take his allotted 2 months, it disappears. Most of them have worked it out so the mother stays at home for the first 6 months and the father stays at home for the following 6 months. They then ‘bank’ the remaining 6 months to take when their children are older, favouring a travel experience or sabbatical to spend additional time with their family abroad.

There is no easy answer, especially not in a system like ours, where we feel like the cement has all but set on the way things ‘are‘. Change is hard. Yet, hasn’t it always been hard? Imagine the battles women fought, and won, 60 years ago. Change IS hard – that is what makes it worth it.

Future Storytelling

When I was approached by Adaptive Edge to help capture the stories surrounding the future of real estate in the United States, I didn’t hesitate for a second. AdaptiveEdge is a strategic planning firm based in San Francisco and is run by two former Vancouverites, Nicole Boyer, Founder and CEO, and Betina Schonberger, Senior Practice Associate. It is one of the most innovative business models I have ever seen.

“Our partnerships have expanded to include an extraordinary global community of practice from across disciplines all focused around finding solutions for these essential questions for our time.”

The power behind Adaptive Edge’s vision lies in their ability to collaborate with experts in various fields, bringing unique specialists onto specific projects to maximize results. As a result, they are able to work with large-scale clients that benefit from the diversity of expertise that Adaptive Edge brings to the table.

Recently, I was invited by Adaptive Edge to help capture the stories being told by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in Chicago during an intensive strategic planning workshop. It was my first time participating in such a complex arena, and it reminded me of the wisdom of storytelling: the simplest stories tend to resonate the deepest.

Furthermore, it reminded me that storytelling is not about the history of an organization. So often, people see the work that I do as a recap of where they started and how they got here. Yes, the past informs the story and sets the scene for what is to come, but the true power of storytelling comes in the form of visioning. We imagine the world we want, and we use stories to help us get there. That is what Adaptive Edge is focusing on; our ability to imagine alternate realities for the future, create stories around those visions, choose the ultimate version and then set out on a path to achieve it. The strategy to get there should be simple and easy to follow, and above all, it should be revealed by the people who are going to implement it, not imposed or dropped down upon from a third party. It must have a grassroots origin whereby members of the organization identify the challenges, create the solutions, and select the future road to success.

This mentality directly aligns with my vision of using storytelling as a tool when creating a brand and communications strategy; the best stories are those told from multiple sources to encompass multiple touch points. Within my own network, I have learnt from experts like Glenn Sigurdson who remind us that as a facilitator, our role is to create the opportunity for shared decision making – which ultimately leads to shared responsibility. This means that by inviting everyone involved to the table, and allowing them to be a part of the process, you help ensure their continued support of the final decision. Adaptive Edge is helping engage NAR’s members, their board, their staff and the general public to share their perspectives on the challenges and successes surrounding home ownership and the role of the Realtor. We are then leading them through the rough waters of decision-making so that they can set a path toward their desired future for real estate in the United States.

It can be a long and windy road that is best travelled with experts like Adaptive Edge to guide you along the way.

Generations of Storytelling

After appearing in The Vancouver Province a few weeks ago, I posted a follow up blog post (Welcome to Generation C) in my own efforts to better understand my position on generations in the workplace. It was an interesting experience to go through; every time I would sit down with a friend or colleague, I would ask them what they thought of the question on deck:

Are different generations getting along in the workplace?

The responses were overwhelmingly positive – the people that I met with categorically saw a mix of generations as benefiting a company. Yes, they recognized that there were tensions, but most agreed with me when we looked at why those tensions were arising: a lack of understanding. So when The Bill Good Show approached me about speaking on their radio show (CKNW AM980), I jumped at the chance to continue this conversation with my community.

Listen live here: http://narrativecommunications.com/assets/Bill_Good_Show.mp3

When I started Narrative Communications, it was because I knew that storytelling had the power to revolutionalize branding and catalyze change when it came to how we communicate. Yet, I was focused on my own ‘Communications’ lens of website content, social media strategy, marketing materials, press releases…it was, after all, what I knew.

So when this conversation around ‘Generations in the workplace’ started happening around me, I reflected on what it all meant and realized that this was what storytelling was all about – seeing similarities in our differences. Isn’t that what people lack when they say things like “Young people today don’t have any work ethic”, or “Those Boomers ruined it for the rest of us”. They are positioning themselves ‘against’ another group – they are creating the Other and as we all know, the Other is rarely painted in an accurate light. Sweeping statements can be detrimental to the way we see the world, and the way that we move forward as a society.

Now imagine a world where instead of jumping to conclusions and lumping an entire age group into one quick-witted stereotype we actually sat down, shared our story, and listened to each other. What would happen then? What would it look like if a woman in her 60s sat down with a woman in her 20s and listened to what life looked like for her, and vice versa. Perhaps they would catch a glimpse of themselves or someone they know, perhaps they would pause the next time a disagreement ensued, perhaps they would laugh at how that’s probably what they would have done 4o years in the past or in the future.

Perhaps.

That’s the beauty of storytelling; it is a world full of possibilities.

 

It’s All About The Story


The theme for the opening reception at the Galiano Literary Festival was “It’s All About The Story”.  Yes, I was in the right place!

A few months ago, my friend and fellow entrepreneur Theo asked me if I wanted to attend a writers festival on Galiano Island. Last year, I invited her to an event at the Vancouver Writers Festival as part of my tradition of introducing new friends to my favorite literary week of the year, and she was paying it forward. We decided to each invite a friend who we thought would be engaged and inspired by both the setting and the conversations taking place. I brought my dear friend Laura, who I believe reads more than I do! Laura’s wisdom and experience translates into an innate ability to add a point of view to every conversation, even if it’s the devil’s advocate. Theo brought her friend Rita, whose experience working in politics and as an entrepreneur gives her insight into our city and how we can best engage with it.

We knew it was going to be a good weekend.

Upon arriving at the Galiano Inn & Spa, I felt a sense of calm knowing that this is exactly where I was meant to be. We arrived on Friday, taking in the island and all that she offered. After several walks, talks and yes, some wine by the outdoor fire, we settled into each other’s company. We awoke the next morning and found our way to the opening reception.

Kevin Chong took the floor and shared with us 9 delicately woven stories relating to “Independence”. His depth and magnitude brought tears to my eyes as he spoke about his father’s brush with death, our city’s declining support of the Arts, and what it means to be independent while also being part of a community. His reading left the room silent, pondering the giant themes he eloquently alluded to. We were then greeted by a panel of four authors: Annabel Lyon, Kevin Chong, Mark Leiren-Young, and one of my favorite mythologists, Robert Bringhurst. Brad Frenette moderated the event that had the striking title “It’s All About the Story” and asked poignant questions such as what stories influenced them as children and if they recalled what their first story was. It seemed fitting that one of the author’s, Annabel I believe, brought up how her ancestral stories shaped her as a young girl.

Robert Bringhurst went on to say that “Stories suffer from not being told – we are weaker without them accompanying us.” This was followed by a reminder that it was once believed that “those who tell stories rule society.”

This got me thinking. We know that stories add value to our lives, and yet we often dismiss them as being childish. In a world where, paradoxically, storytelling is both declining and gaining influence, how can we continue to shift power back toward this ancient form of communication? I, for one, believe that storytelling is the most important tool for social change – by giving not just a voice but a deep rooted connection to a cause, we are able to humanize an experience and tap into that ‘collective unconscious’ we all seem to hold – a place where storytellers reign.

Throughout the rest of the festival, we got to hear authors such as Pauline Holdstock, Bill Gaston, Billie Livingston, and my personal favorite Nancy Richler. The dinner reception held a special treat – not only did I have the pleasure of sitting next to Nancy Richler, whose book The Imposter Bride captivated me right from the get go, we were also graced with the presence of our fearless Green Party leader Elizabeth May. She gave a toast that inspired each of us, and posed with us for a photo op! She reminded us that books hold power, and our continued support of events like this feeds us on so many levels.

Throughout the weekend, we found time to venture into the surrounding nature on hikes through the forest and across the rocky beaches of Galiano, encountering the following wildlife:

  • 7 seals a-bathing
  • 3 hairy coo’s
  • 1 deer in meadow
  • and an eagle overhead in the sky

Magic. That is what it felt like to have four friends surrounded by nature and literature wherever we looked. And a reminder that while life, and work, presents us with highs and lows, at the end of the day it truly is “all about the story”.

And we are the author of our own story.

Welcome to Generation C

Photograph by Steve Bosch, PNG The Province

Community, Collaboration & Change. That has been my motto since starting my own business three and a half years ago, and best of all Generation C is not limited by age, race or gender.

I was recently interviewed for an article in The Province about intergenerational workplaces. As soon as I got to talking about the subject, stories started pouring out of me, and yet upon reading the article I felt somewhat misrepresented.

Technically, I am Generation Y – at least, that is what those who need definitions define me as. I was born in 1981, so that places me at the very beginning of what is now teasingly referred to as Gen Why? For years, I have been exposed to so-called stereotypes about my generation: that we are lazy, self-entitled and lack patience. I have reacted against these bold and sweeping statements because the young people that I know, meet and talk to on a daily basis are just the opposite.

Of course, there are those who graduate university and expect a job at a certain level (their parents likely told them this would be the case), but I also see young people working three jobs to make ends meet. I remember coming home from working in Ghana, Masters degree in hand, and realizing I needed a job – any job – and so I started working in the outdoor coffee shop at Capilano Suspension Bridge…in the Winter nonetheless! It was cold, repetitive and a little gloomy – but it was also fun! I met great people and got to decompress as I dealt with my reverse-culture-shock coming home to a place where community was much different than it was in West Africa.

I am fortunate – through my work I get to meet people who are passionate about social change, excited about connecting with new people, and determined to live a balanced life that affords them time with family, friends and travel. Yet they aren’t just young people -  they are people of all ages and backgrounds, and they are teaching and learning from each other. The trouble with lumping people into a specific generation is that they can wind up defining themselves by that very definition. It’s like astrology – I am a Pisces and so I end up taking on certain characteristics of what I believe a Pisces represents. When we feed into stereotypes they grow stronger.

When I was interviewed for this article, I wanted to express that I am not here to propel or break down stereotypes, I am simply here to share my experience. Often when people talk about intergenerational work they position one against the other – Boomer versus X, X versus Y – and throw in the new kid on the block, Gen Z, and you can have an all-out war. As soon as I read the title of the article (Office turns nasty with the Boomer, X Y and Z) my heart sank. I see the opposite. I see diverse people coming together everyday in the office environment. Yes, there are challenges in dealing with people who grew up with different technologies, habits and lifestyles, but who is to say that it is a negative? I see strengths in bringing people of all ages together. We should all strive to be members of Generation C.

There may be a lot of stereotypes and assumptions being made ‘out there’, but it is often due to a lack of communication (mainly by the way we communicate). Some of us email, tweet, and post a mile a minute, but that is not to say we have lost the art of conversation. I, for one, take time every day to have a genuine, face-to-face chat with a friend or a stranger. It is how I stay connected to myself and my community.

As young people, we have a different relationship with the world than our parents did in the sense that we can talk to friends around the world in an instant, we know when a political coup or an earthquake happens within minutes, and we are inundated with information about climate change on a daily basis. My friends and I realize that our parents generation paved the way for us in so many ways, especially in terms of social issues like feminism and civil rights. I’m a female entrepreneur – I owe a lot to all of the generations who came before me. My guess is that every generation looks at what they were handed and hopes to make it even better. We are no different than the Boomers when they were young, we just have different issues and different ways of addressing those issues.

For me, it is not about us versus them, it is about ‘We’. I work in a space with people from ages 20 to 70 and we all want the same thing: to make an impact on our own lives and on the lives of others. Sometimes, all of this generation talk creates more rivers and valleys, when what we really need is a series of bridges that bring us closer to each other. I believe that storytelling is that bridge – it allows us to see ourselves in others and connect at a more authentic level. Isn’t that what we should be striving for?
-

Vancouver’s Creative Class

How a small number of people are celebrating the cultural landscape of our city, one breakfast at a time.

by Megan Sheldon

As seen in Vancouver Weekly, February 17th 2013

CreativeMornings Vancouver at W2 with Treana Peake / Photo Credit – Trevor Jansen

With the recent announcement that TED, the global cultural conference series, is moving to Vancouver, new eyes are upon us and it is more important than ever to come together and celebrate our creativity, innovation and community.

In 2012, Vancouver Foundation did a study in Metro Vancouver called Connections and Engagements. Shortly after, they came out with a report that states that “those in the 25-34 year-old age group feel more isolated and alone in the community.” That report upset a lot of people, including Mark Busse, founder of CreativeMornings/Vancouver.

“What bugs me about Vancouver is that everyone loves to talk about how awesome it is here, because of the natural landscape and the multiculturalism, yet those same people complain about how the city is betraying the arts and culture scene without any real idea what goes into it,” says Mark. “I’ve been one of those people, complaining and sitting around waiting, and then I realized I had to do something about it. I got involved and now I try and inspire others to do the same.”

Perhaps there is a feeling of isolation in our city of glass. With nicknames like “No Fun City” and “Raincouver”, who can blame us. But is it true? Are we a city without a cultural soul, or are we just too polite to take credit for the cultural energy brewing just beneath the surface?

“Most people don’t understand the complexity of the quilt that is our cultural landscape. If you break down who the citizens are that make up Metro Vancouver, it suddenly starts to make sense. There are a ton of factors that feed into our cultural scene,” reflects Mark Busse in a recent conversation I had with him.

In 2011, Mark Busse, Managing Director of Industrial Brand, was invited to speak at CreativeMornings/New York. CreativeMornings started in New York in 2009 and has since expanded to 44 independently, locally run chapters across the globe. Shortly after his presentation, Mark was invited to launched Canada’s first CreativeMornings chapter right here in Vancouver.

CreativeMornings/Vancouver (#CMVan) is a free monthly morning breakfast lecture series that does just what the Vancouver Foundation study identified as missing in Vancouver – it connects and engages people from diverse communities. Each month, a different creative professional shares insights, opinions, processes and ideas in relationship to creativity. They then encourage each of the 200 audience members to interact and start conversations that will hopefully continue long after they leave the event. Did I mention there is a free, hot breakfast for all to enjoy?

Every month, this coveted event sells out in a matter of minutes. Yet they are soon to be without a home. For the past year, CMVan has been operating out of Woodwards W2. They recently received notice that W2 will be closing at the end of the month, leaving Mark and his team to find a new location for one of Vancouver’s most celebrated cultural events.

“It is easy to moan about the closure of W2 and the Waldorf, but what we need to realize is that Vancouver will never be awesome until we change our attitude and start recognizing and celebrating what we do have,” expresses Mark.

In response to the Vancouver Foundation survey, Mark goes on to comment, “It’s dangerous to have reports like Connect/Engage out there. If that becomes the brand of Vancouver, we are in trouble. We have to find other ways to start conversations and inspire people to get involved. CreativeMornings is an opportunity for us to stop complaining and do something. Show up. That is what we are telling people. Get in the room and talk to the person next to you.”

CreativeMornings is a celebration of creativity – it attracts some of the most clever and creative people in Vancouver and celebrates their ideas.

“There are a lot of people who have a vested interest in seeing us succeed. We won’t fail, but we also have to hold onto what makes us unique. One issue Vancouver faces is a lack of cultural spaces, especially those that hold 200-300 people, which is what we need.”

The intimate setting of CMVan is something that sets this event apart, not to mention the free meal. Many people believe the intimacy CreativeMornings fosters comes from the simple act of sharing food as well as the strong encouragement to talk to one another.

CreativeMornings provides people with a quick and deep introduction into someone’s world, and hopes to inspire people to leave with new ideas around what creativity is and how it can be used to better the community. Mark’s objective now is to reach more and more people and encourage conversations about creativity and inspiration.

“We are the culture. If we want more arts and culture events we have to demand it, spend the money, and show up. We seem to expect others to do it for us, and that just isn’t working.”

Vancouver is slowly being recognized as a global hub for creativity and innovation. Now if only we could stand up and shout it from our own mountain tops, maybe, just maybe we could convince ourselves that there is creative energy flowing throughout our city, and there is plenty of fun to be had.

The Company I Keep

While a new year is in some ways a fresh start, it is also a chance to revisit the year gone by. For me, the moments of 2012 that stand out most involve people, lots and lots of amazing people. So I thought I would take this chance to introduce you to some of my collaborators and invite you to join our community of change makers!

Lisa Hemingway, Design Guru (Backyard Creative)

Lisa epitomizes what a good designer should be: creative, strategic and driven by passion. I first met Lisa at a series of workshops Vancity was putting on for female entrepreneurs and we hit it off instantly. Together, we can take the story of a company and turn it into a stunning, thought provoking brand or campaign. Lisa is currently living the life of a foot loose and fancy free entrepreneur as she is jet setting around SE Asia for 2 months! I await her return so we can join forces and take the social enterprise world by storm…

Theodora Lamb, Digital Strategist Extraordinaire

What started as an exercise during Hollyhock’s SVI Vancouver has turned into an amazing collaboration and friendship. It was Day 1 and we were asked to turn to the person next to us and introduce ourselves. Theo’s energy and enthusiasm reminded me why I love working with people who love what they do, because she certainly does. Theo’s expertise in the online marketing world is rivalled by few, a fact recognized by the companies she works with like Capulet Communications, BC Children’s Hospital and Hollyhock’s Social Change Institute (SCI). I know that a project with our names on it is waiting in the wings!

 

Aaron Vidas, Social Enterprise Strategist

Now I can’t go forgetting the boys! At the beginning of 2012, I met with Cory LePage, Matthew Quetton and Aaron to discuss launching a consultancy to help prepare social enterprises for investment. While the idea is still floating around, we have all found ourselves chasing after new dreams and opportunities. Aaron is one of those people who always seems to have a new passion project in the works; he epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit and I hope our paths will cross again in 2013.

Eve Rickert, Talk Science To Me

Meeting another storyteller at my co-working space The HiVE certainly was serendipitous, and convenient! Eve tells the stories of scientists and science-based organizations, and her agency Talk Science To Me (how great is that name!) builds websites, edits and publishes articles, and designs books and promotional materials. Eve and I have already collaborated on several projects, and I helped tell her story on her newly launched website www.talksciencetome.com. We are currently pitching on several large scale campaigns, bridging our passion for science, culture and social change.

Robyn Haddow, Motion and Design

Robyn and I have known each other since high school – and we have collaborated on dozens of projects since. She crafted my beautiful hand written logo, and aside from her impeccable design eye, she is also a gifted animator and motion design artist. Robyn works with companies like Gold Tooth Creative, Barbershop Films, and of course Narrative Communications. Together, we can take our client’s story and turn it into a strategic script and a high impact story video – it is one of the best ways to immerse audiences in your messaging.

Mike Rowlands, Junxion Strategy

Aaron first told me about Mike Rowlands after learning about my passion for storytelling and strategy, and when I met him at SVI Vancouver I knew our paths would one day cross. Mike works with local and international organizations to develop high level strategy while also drumming up creative and powerful ways to implement that strategy. We recently worked together on a project and it was inspiring to see how Mike integrates his own stories and experiences to relate concepts and ideas to his clients.

These are just some of the amazing people Narrative Communications works with and alongside. And while Vancouver is often given flak for being a hard city to meet people (a study that was done last year called Connect & Engage found that “those in the 25 to 34-year-old age group feel more isolated and alone in the community”) I firmly believe that there are vibrant and inclusive communities here in Vancouver and once you find the door you will enter a universe like none other.

Blue Sky Thinking

My intentions are set – 2013 is going to be a blue sky year!

This photo was taken from my yoga mat on Christmas morning in Hawaii after a meditation and yoga by the sea. As I was lying there, I let my mind wander in true meditation form – jumping from one idea to the next, desperately trying to slow my brain down for even a moment. When I finally had that pause, that lull, that break from the over stimulated mind of a dreamer, I found myself comforted by the quiet realization that I was on the right path.

A blue sky year for me means dreaming big…and then dreaming even bigger. I am a strong believer in the idea that we manifest our own reality; it is how I came to be a social entrepreneur and a cultural mythologist doing what I love every single day. I am a goal setter and I am a vision board maker, and I have seen how every intention I set manages to flourish yet rarely happens how I expect. And so I have let go of defining the process and managing the outcome. I have let go of the how and I am focused on the why.

I am setting an intention to realize my full potential. Sounds simple, no?!

Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map says it best:

You’re not chasing the goal itself, you’re actually chasing a feeling.

My question to you is: What do you want 2013 to feel like?

Tis the Season!

This time of year is always full of wonder and awe. Nostalgia seems to be floating around like clouds in the sky, heavy with the memories of days gone by and yet light with possibilities and excitement.

As I look back on 2012, I am struck with the realization that this has been a phenomenal year that has taken both myself and my business on a metaphorical roller coaster of ups and downs. January started off with a new direction for my business – that of a consultant. By choosing to feed my business rather than grow it, I have been able to work with people and businesses that would have been out of touch with my previous ‘agency’ model. This has left me nimble and flexible to work with amazing organizations, agencies, independent artists and solopreneurs. Food for the business soul!

To continue on this metaphor of feeding my business, I attended several workshops, retreats and events that blew the lid off my own vision. SVI Vancouver, Narrative Transformations, and my co-working space at HiVE Vancouver all led me through a tornado of excitement. Once the dust settled, I knew that the path I was forging was the right one. The roller coaster of entrepreneurship presents lots of challenges, including the idea that the higher up you go, the greater the fall will be. Yet what I learned this year was that the fall is never painful – as long as you are riding in a strong, secure train, you will stay on those tracks no matter how high or fast you go!

One motif I explored this year, specifically in my public speaking endeavors, was identifying my basket full of eggs. As mentioned in my previous blog post My Bag Full of Tricks, my mother told me that all of the random skills, events, experiences and people I meet are like eggs in my basket, and one day I will have enough eggs to create my omelette. Wise women she is, my omelette appeared to me four years ago in the form of Narrative Communications, and each year I add new and colourful eggs to my vision.

Some of my 2012 eggs for my basket include:

  • My first public speaking engagement with an audience of 200!
  • Facilitating marketing & branding workshops
  • A deeper understanding of Narrative Practices
  • Forging partnerships with fellow female entrepreneurs
  • Sharing my own stories on my blog and in social media
  • Mastering wordpress and learning basic HTML :)
  • Meeting storytellers around the world and in my own backyard (thank you Twitter!)

It has been a wonderful year, full of surprises and new friends. My goal is now to sit, celebrate each accomplishment, and relish in these blissful moments.

Happy Holidays!
Megan

Buy Local Week: Painted Rock

For those looking for that perfect gift this holiday season, look no further than your own backyard. Next week marks the first official Buy Local Week in British Columbia, and as a proud member of LOCO BC I am all about supporting local businesses.

On that note, here is the story I wrote for the wonderful Skinner family of Painted Rock Winery, a family-run estate vineyard in Penticton, B.C. I know from experience that giving, and receiving, a bottle (or case!) of Painted Rock wine brings sunshine to even the rainiest of Vancouver days.

So sit back, relax, and sip away on a glass of their signature Red Icon as you read the story of this amazing local business:

Painted Rock is more than a winery; it is an extension of a family. The Skinner’s dream of having their own vineyard was born after spending time exploring wineries in the South of France with their family.

As a child, John remembers digging for artifacts with his father near their home on Vancouver Island. John’s father had a passion for archeology and when he passed away, John wanted to find a way to honour his memory. Recently, John came across an article from 1972 that featured his father after finding Indian artifacts buried in the Comox Valley. For John, this symbolized the relevance of history and the importance of place, and it has played a significant role in the philosophy, as well as the naming, of Painted Rock. Painted Rock refers to the ancient pictographs that were found painted on the rocks behind the vineyard bluffs. When John discovered the pictographs, he knew that they were significant not only for his family, but also for the community. John contacted the local First Nations band to understand their meaning, and when he learned that they were symbolic of a spirit walk, or a coming of age, he knew that he had found the name for his winery.

Painted Rock embraces the traditions of the old world and the imagination of the new world. Set in the Okanagan Wine Country of British Columbia, Canada, Painted Rock has arrived at an opportune moment in time. The Skinner’s knew that the Okanagan was starting to gain international interest, and they recognized it’s potential to produce serious wines. The Okanagan’s combination of hot, dry summers, cool mountain air, and unique microclimates makes this a spectacular place to produce wine. Painted Rock sits on a spectacular bench overlooking the eastern shore of Skaha Lake in Penticton, B.C. This 60-acre property has a unique microclimate that is particularly suited to the production of premium wines. Since the early 1900′s, this orchard harvested apricots until the orchard was felled due to a gypsy moth infestation in the late 1980′s. The property, known locally as “The Blackhawk”, laid fallow while under the ownership of another winery until John Skinner and his family acquired and contoured it in 2004, and then began planting in 2005. This family-owned estate winery aspires toward a single vision of excellence that maintains the integrity of the wine and never homogenizes the brand.

When the Skinner’s and their team first began assessing the property, they noticed the unique air movement on the site. Because the land lay fallow for 17 years before being acquired by Painted Rock, they were able to contour the entire property, promoting the air movement and ensuring that there were no undulations in the landscape or inconsistencies in the soil. To fully exploit the site’s potential, the Skinner’s brought in renowned viticulturalists and wine consultants from California and France who helped devise the 2004 planting strategy. Recognizing the success of Bordeaux varietals, they prepared the soil for the finest vinifera from Bordeaux. Along with the primary red components of the classic Bordeaux blends, they included a small planting of Malbec and Petite Verdot to provide spice for their blend and to broaden their blending options. They also planted a single block of Chardonnay.

The primary influence on the Painted Rock grapes is the cool air that flows down from the mountains. This wind ensures that nothing sits still, creating an active site that reduces rot and infestation in the vineyard. The cool mountain air then collides with the lake, making for warm days and cool nights, a perfect recipe for ripening grapes and retaining bright acidity. The amphitheatre of rock cushions the land, creating another formidable site influence that encourages heat retention. With the sun bouncing off the lake, Painted Rock reaps the benefits of being on a sloped hill so close to the lake. When the sun goes down in the West, the reflection and glare from the lake impacts the fruit, especially the Malbec and Petite Verdot varietals that gain complexity and colour from the magnified light. This reinforces the saying that great wines are produced near great waters. With more sunlight hours than neighbouring wineries, Painted Rock is literally drenched in light.

Young wineries, like Painted Rock, are also challenging the industry to change their environmental practices without compromising the quality of the wines. With a strong message of sustainability and a primary focus on quality, Painted Rock is set to become a leader in the industry. Their initiatives include crafting their bottles from a light eco glass that has reduced their shipping weight by more than 20%. They are also looking to biodynamic agriculture to understand new ways that they can minimize their carbon footprint when harvesting grapes and producing wines. Painted Rock is also exploring initiatives like geothermal energy, wind power, and solar heating as they plan on building a sustainable resort development.

Great wines reflect the quality of the land, the climate and the people that bring everything to fruition. Working with some of the world’s top winemakers, Painted Rock is quickly achieving a cult status within B.C.’s wine community. It is through collaboration that Painted Rock is stepping out from the crowds. Working with a diverse and skilled team, Painted Rock encourages each individual involved to add their own experience to the collective. The Okanagan has been producing good wines, and now there is an opportunity to produce great wines. Painted Rock is extremely optimistic about the potential for the Okanagan and particularly optimistic about their role in this exciting winemaking community. John and Trish Skinner are not only making wines for their family and friends to enjoy, they are intent on making iconic wines that will be savoured for generations to come. www.paintedrock.ca

 

Celebration of Story

I have been going to the Vancouver Writers Festival since I was 6 years old. For me, it is a place where magic happens.

I love books. I have hundreds of books in my home (it helps living near Banyen Books, one of Vancouver’s best book stores), and every time someone asks me for a book recommendation, I take my finger and slowly browse through my shelves, touching each book and remembering the journeys I have taken.

I have volunteered with the Festival for years, and when they told me that they were gearing up to celebrate their 25th anniversary, I told them I was eager to help. They asked me to capture the VWF story and all of the ways it impacts people in the community, and so I held a story session for people connected to the Festival in different ways. This gathering of people all had a deep love of books and for the Festival, so you can imagine the wealth of stories being passed around the room. After the story session, I set out to interview even more people connected to the organization to ensure that the story I wrote captured all of the prismatic light that bounces off this organization.

Once the stories and experiences were revealed, I set out to capture the essence of the Vancouver Writers Festival in one page (not an easy task). Being a long time member, I know that the Vancouver Writers Festival is more than 6 days in October where authors and readers alike gather to share experiences. The Festival takes place every single day of the year – with the Spreading the Word school program and all of the resources to support budding young writers, and the events throughout the year including the amazingly free Incite reading series. So when I started to climb the mountain in front of me (in a seemingly Herculean task), I was reminded of the pure and simple fact: I love what the Festival brings to my life.

It was with this reminder that I set out to write the story of an organization I so dearly admire. I met Alma Lee, the founder of the festival, years ago when my mom chaired the Board, and I have come to know Hal, Ann and the VWF team well over the years, so I know that the Festival is in good hands. While the future of tangible, physical books remains uncertain, you can be sure that the Vancouver Writers Festival will continue to play an important role in our city, guiding us toward a place where words bounce freely about only to be captured by the writers of our time.

 

Blues Electrified

Imagine an old cabin, tucked away in the woods. A storm is on the way; the sky is dark and getting darker by the minute. A lone amplifier sits connected to a generator, it’s gentle humming echoed by birds anticipating the storm. Across the barren land walk two individuals, unrecognizable at first. They slowly come into focus just as the storm breaks free from the sky and electricity fills the air. Meet the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, affectionately known as H&AM, a blues inspired duo that makes more sound than thought possible from two people using only their feet, hands and mouths.

Shawn (the Harpoonist on the blues harp) and Matt (the Axe Murderer on the guitar) approached me this past summer when they were selected as Top 20 in the Peak Performance Project. They were given the task of building their brand, and a mutual friend suggested that they look at developing their story. Hence where I come in. Shawn and Matt have been playing music their whole lives, and they have had lots of interesting experiences along the way. The trouble was that whenever they were asked to give an interview, they felt like they were giving rehearsed or memorized lines. Their story needed an injection of colour; we had to tap into the very essence of what makes their music so appealing. And so I went digging.

Part of my process is what marketers refer to as “Discovery”; I like to think of this as the ‘Getting my hands dirty’ phase, which generally means talking with dozens of people connected to my client and then sorting through the weeds, the bulbs and the flowers. People are generally timid when it comes to being interviewed, so instead I set myself up as a friend looking to chat. I don’t come in with a set of questions that have anticipated answers; rather I gently peel away the layers to reveal the essence of an experience. If I can ask just one question and for the remainder of the interview be silent, I consider myself successful.

People love to tell their stories and, even more, they love when people genuinely listen. When I started gathering stories from family members and friends, industry professionals and other musicians, including Blues legends, I was thrilled to unearth stories that revealed threads and patterns that I knew would make an enticing story. The beauty of storytelling is that we all know when it is done well; as soon as Shawn and Matt read the final story, they felt everything click. At the core of their story is a sense of historical preservation; they love and respect the origins of their music – “the blues simply poured out of them like sap from a tree” – yet there is also the desire to break free from restraints and tap into the raw emotionality of the Blues as they feel it. The story we ended up creating entices the senses and emphasizes the tactile experience of what it means to play and hear H&AM’s music.

After I developed the Brand Story, Shawn and Matt enlisted the artistic talents of Matt’s brother Ben to create a visually stunning logo that represents the story we created. The H&AM brand will continue to evolve, but the story has been planted. I can’t wait to see where they take their story next. Follow them on their journey and if you can, go see them live. You won’t regret it.

http://www.harpoonistaxemurderer.com/

 

 

My Bag Full of Tricks

Now that I am a public speaking enthusiast (see last post), I thought I could use a little refresher on the ins and outs of delivering a TED worthy presentation. A friend of mine told me about Stand & Deliver, a tw0-day intensive workshop in Vancouver that promises to “hardwire your brain to your lips” – I was instantly intrigued.

I have been speaking in front of strangers for years – but usually around a board room table, pitching a new client, or facilitating a workshop. Getting up in front of an audience and ‘owning the floor’ is a whole new ball game. I think what intimidated (note my use of the passive tense!) me the most was having dozens, if not hundreds, of eyes on me without anything to break the tension. I am someone who feels things deeply – I wear my heart on my sleeve and you ALWAYS know when I am holding something back or when I have been offended. It is hard to hide your emotions when they are so damn strong!

Herein lies the challenge – how can you deliver a speech that will inspire people when you are so worried that someone might recognize the slightest emotion in you?

Two words: Embrace It!

What I learned at Bill Chalmers workshop was that everyone is dealing with their own set of emotions – be it embarrassment, frustration, sadness or extreme giddiness! The worst thing you can do is try and bottle those emotions up and stuff them deep inside you, hoping they won’t bubble up when you least expect it. Embrace your emotions!

What makes a good presentation? An emotional connection. We know that, and yet we struggle to believe it. In my last post, I talked about showing your vulnerability, and that was reinforced over these two days as I got up in front of a room full of strangers over 100 times, delivering speech upon speech in new and engaging ways. At the end of the workshop we were asked to say what we got out of the workshop and I had a Blinding Flash of the Obvious (see Bill’s website BFO Consulting!):

I came in wanting a “Bag full of Tricks to help me become a better public speaker.” What I left with was the awareness that I already have that bag…in the form of my “basket full of eggs”. My Aha! moment was realizing that everything I had done in the past, every random job, every skill or interest, even my Masterse in Mythology – each one was an egg, and I was collecting these eggs so that one day I would be able to make my omelette (meet Narrative Communications!).

Thanks Bill and Esther for reminding us that we already hold the key, and for inviting us to explore our light!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…

And as we let our own light shine, 
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, 
our presence automatically liberates others.”

- Marianne Williamson

Vulnerability & The Storyteller

Public Speaking. It is a fear for many people, including me.

Growing up, I loved to speak in front of audiences. I even competed in public speaking competitions in school – in French nonetheless! And then something changed. Perhaps it was at university when professors would cut people’s ideas down without batting an eyelash; or maybe it is because most of us don’t get the opportunity to speak in front of strangers very often, so we build it up into something scary.

It’s just like riding a bike, right?

Stage Fright. 

When I was asked to share my story at an event last week I jumped at the chance. I am, after all, a storyteller. This should be easy! But then fear started to set in.

The event was called Aha! Stories of Innovation and Action in Vancouver for CityStudio, a local organization working with university students to help implement their ideas into action. As I mentally prepared myself for this wonderful opportunity, several questions starting rolling around in my head. This led to the bubbling up of that dreaded word…stage fright.

Q: How many people would be in the room.

A: 120.

[hands starting to sweat]

Q: Who else will be sharing their story?

A: Revered public figures and change makers like Mark Brand, Kevin Millsip and Susan Grossman. Eight in total, many of whom have presented at local events like Pecha Kucha and Raincity Chronicles.

[hives starting to break out]

The day of the event, a friend of mine introduced me to Brene Brown on TED – she speaks about the power of vulnerability, and it was just the reminder I needed. Storytelling is all about being vulnerable – you let people into your world, your passion, your views and yes, your fears. It is why we connect so deeply through stories. And so I got up on stage and told my story. It was empowering to embrace the vulnerability and see it for courage.

You can listen to my story, as well as the stories of other movers and shakers in Vancouver here:

http://soundcloud.com/citystudio-vancouver/sets/citystudio-presents-aha/

Every now and again, even us storytellers need a good reminder.

 

 

Art Show @ the HiVE

Abstract Landscapes: Paintings by Gina Leon
When: Tuesday October 16th  530pm – 730pm
Where: 128 West Hastings (Vancouver)

I first met Gina Leon almost 25 years ago; she had just moved in down the street from my family and our parents became friends. Gina is from Johannesburg, South Africa and her family moved to Vancouver amidst the political turmoil taking place in their country. We were about the same age when she moved here and we instantly became friends. Fast forward 25 years and I am not surprised at the amazing art Gina produces. She has always had a poet’s soul, and when she found a way to share both her stories and the stories that surround her, I could tell she found her calling. Gina and I reconnected over our passion for storytelling – mine through the written word, and hers through paint and character portrayal.

Like many artists, there is rarely a single medium that expresses everything. For Gina, acting is her main portal into the artistic realm – her passion for storytelling comes alive on stage. Yet painting offers an entirely new way of expressing her emotions. In her most recent work, titled Abstract Landscapes, Gina explores the notion of home and the liminal space she has often found herself in. In between: it is a theme many can relate to, which is why her work is so powerful and captivating. When I saw Gina’s work I wanted to help her find a way to share it, so I brought her to my collaborative coworking space The HiVE and she connected immediately with the space.

Megan: How does it feel to have your art on display at the HiVE?

Gina: The first time I exhibited my work in New York I said to someone it felt like I was hanging my underwear up on a wall. It was so exposing – and this has a similar feeling, although more intense in some ways. These paintings have been in my apartment for years – every nook and cranny has been stuffed full with my canvases. When I packed up the car and saw how empty my apartment looked, it was a very confronting experience, almost like moving. Later that day, when we were in setting up at The HiVE, there were lots of people working and I had the sense that most people were very excited about seeing their space change. Now that my work is up, I am both terrified and excited – that is, after all, my underwear up there!

Megan: What message would you like people to walk away with after seeing your work?

Gina: My primary message is that the image has the power to stir something personal in all of us. I paint emotional landscape where I am communicating something through my painting. My hope is the reception of the painting is an emotional one. I feel like colour and abstraction has the capacity to move people more easily. We do so much to avoid feeling – we are often taught how to operate in a way that is safe and socially acceptable. I want to transport people into new experiences or connect them with old memories. The stories will be specific to the person.

Megan: Now that you have more room in your apartment, what do you plan on painting next?

Gina: I am looking forward to my trip back to New York next month. A lot of my interest in facades and weathered surfaces started in New York and was re-awoken when I moved back to Vancouver. I want to paint a series inspired by the New York landscape. I am not ready to make a departure from abstract painting. I have the opportunity to explore other styles when I am teaching at my 4Cats studio, and while I often include more literal pieces in my collection, I see everything as growing out of an abstract concept.  I like to create chapters in my work that are bookmarked by realistic looking paintings so that people can see where the abstract resolved itself to.

Gina Leon’s art show debuts on Tuesday, October 16th 530 – 730pm at the HiVE Vancouver (128 West Hastings Street). I hope you can all join us in celebrating the journey of searching and finding home.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

In this day and age, naming what we do can often be the hardest aspect of our work. We are, after all, wearing so many hats that it can be challenging to bundle everything up into a nice, pretty package that people understand.

When I first decided to plunge into the entrepreneurial world, I knew I would need a business name that was catchy and creative, but also a name that portrayed a certain image. I remember talking to my good friend Robyn Haddow (who designed my logo) and she was asking me ‘Outside the Box’ questions about my business. The whole process was very telling – all of my answers showed me that my business was seeped in history, yet had a very personal feel to it. Now I had to name that feeling. Easier said than done.

I clearly remember the day I named my business – my partner Johan and I were at Simply French cafe in Kitsilano and I was scribbling down names that represents what I thought my business would do. I had expected words like ‘Branding’ and ‘Marketing’, but I also had words like ‘Empowering’ and ‘Community Building’. Then I wrote down the word NARRATIVE on a napkin. It seemed so obvious that I discounted it right away. For some reason I felt like I had to work for the name. We were enjoying our cappucino’s when the owner, a lovely Turkish man who had lived in Paris with his family for years, came over and started chatting with us. I told him what I wanted to do with my business and showed him my napkin and he smiled and said “That’s it!”.

I have helped name countless businesses, campaigns and projects, yet coming up with a name that embodied the essence of what I do was stressful. I had to turn the tables on my own business and start treating it like I would a client. The key to a good name is to have it be specific and general at the same time. You want it to inform people about your business, but you also want it to invite the imagination and allow for growth and change. Logo design and icons can help with this, but you ideally want it to easily roll of the tongue.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that by naming my business ‘Narrative’ I would find myself on a journey I never expected. My name has led me to people who study narrative therapy and leadership, to conflict resolution specialists and mediators, it has even led me to performance artists around the world who recognize the art form of storytelling. My business is expanding to include new ideas and new ways of building narrative. I am working with clients who understand the need to focus on the internal state of their organization while at the same time sending messages out to the general public through websites, video and twitter.

Corporate Storytelling can be a powerful tool that can build bridges and help people see eye to eye within an organization. My role is to bring different groups together and use the simple, yet often neglected, role of storytelling to help people connect at a more personal and emotional level.

 

Building Your Way Home

Nick and Jehanne Hill live in Penticton, B.C. This is where their home is, and it is also where they create homes for others. The idea of home is an important one – for many of us, it conjures up images of family gatherings in the kitchen, peaceful naps on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and that feeling of belonging. It is with all of this in mind that Nick and his team at Ritchie Custom Homes build homes.

Their goal is not to build the quickest, cheapest house – instead, they work closely with their clients and their staff to find out how they can create that sense of home that is unique to each of us. Yes, time and budget are of course a factor, but so are issues like sustainability and environmental impact, not to mention quality and craftsmanship. Yet the most important thing that kept coming up in my story interviews with Nick, his team, and his clients was The Experience. I am capitalizing this because I truly believe this is what sets a great company apart.

The Ritchie Experience goes a little something like this:

THE DREAM

We all have a dream of what our perfect home will feel like as soon as we walk in that front door. For me, I imagine feeling relaxed as soon as I drive down the driveway. Someone recently told me they got a speeding ticket because they were so excited to get home to their new house! Ritchie’s job is to help draw that out and incorporate as many elements of your dream into the vision.

THE VISION

Ah the vision – this brings us back to reality. We are not all blessed with unlimited budgets, and we need to make things work on our terms. That is the priority when building with Ritchie. They aren’t going to promise you the farm and then under deliver. They are realistic and will tell you how it is. Often architects and designers get carried away with their own creative desires – I have learned that a good contractor reels you back in, listens to what is really important and helps you make those important decisions.

THE PLANNING

Once you have settled on a vision (a combination of your dreams and reality) you can start the planning process. This is Nick’s favourite part – he sees it like a puzzle, finding creative ways to bring everything together. The planning process involves a lot of different players who all have their own ideas regarding how things are done. The contractor’s role is to interpret what everyone is saying and ultimately represent your best interests.

THE UNEXPECTED

Ironically, we are taught to expect the unexpected. I am still grappling with this on many levels. Luckily, there are people like Nick who are in their element when faced with a seemingly unsurmountable problem. You see, Nick is a problem solver. He told me that he loves being presented with a challenge and finding clever and innovative ways to solve that problem, because, like any left brained individual, Nick knows that there is always a solution. With a new born baby less than 2 weeks old, I can only imagine the new kinds of problem solving Nick will be faced with!

THE JOURNEY

If you are lucky enough to be building your dream home, you will likely only do it once. With that being said, you had better enjoy the journey! Too often we get stressed out by incorporating elements of our dream into the plan, or dealing with unexpected hiccups along the way. If you choose the right contractor, the journey should be enjoyable. You should get along with the trades people and feel welcome on site, you should have direct and constant communication with your contractor, and above all, at the end of the day, you should find your way home.

Narrative Communications developed the Ritchie Custom Homes brand including:

- Brand Story and Content
- Logo Design
- Website Design and Development

We will continue to work with Ritchie on their communications strategy because we know that a good story like this will continue to evolve and needs to be shared on many different levels. Stay tuned!

Photo credits: Declaration Creative

East Van Love!

When I first met Maureen and Donalda, I knew that they would have an impact on me. Their passion for change was contagious, and I was delighted when they asked me to help develop the Project Limelight / East of Main story. I knew the word “Social Enterprise” from working with clients like Shannen O’Brien (Create Change feeds Karma Exchange), and Sarah McLachlan (whose music career supports the Sarah McLachlan School of Music). Yet this was something new. Maureen and Donalda wanted to open a restaurant in Vancouver that not only brought people together, the way food and drink does, they also wanted this restaurant to literally feed the community.

The truly remarkable thing about East of Main is that it is the definition of social enterprise, meaning that all profits feed back into a non-profit cause. For them, that cause is Project Limelight, a free theatre program for kids in the DTES. The main office for Project Limelight is just above the restaurant, as is Maureen’s casting agency. The kids at Project Limelight are not only taught by some of the city’s top actors, directors and producers (Cory Monteith is a big supporter), they also enjoy food security from East of Main when they come in. How perfect is that? The restaurant feeds the program financially, and literally feeds the kids yummy, healthy snacks.

East of Main opened this past Friday and I was fortunate enough to attend a friends & family pre-launch earlier in the week. Tucked away on Georgia Street, just east of Main (hence the name), the restaurant is now part of a flourishing community of stores, bars and bistros. This gem of a neighbourhood may not be known to everyone yet, but hold tight – the crowds are coming. Chinatown has seen some amazing restaurants in the past few years – Bao Bei, The Keefer, Campagnolo, The Union – and now East of Main. Inspired by the Mediterranean, the cuisine is both tasty and inventive. It is a place for friends to gather, snacks to be shared, and a reminder that we can choose to support businesses that give back to our community.

Imagine what the world would look like if every store we shopped at, every restaurant we ate at, every yoga studio we downward dog’ed at was a social enterprise. We can give back in so many different ways – East of Main makes it simple: Enjoy great food AND support kids in the neighbourhood.

Narrative Communications developed the story behind Project Limelight, including designing a logo and visuals, producing content and building a website. We also designed the East of Main logo, which hangs proudly in its new home. It was an experience that reminded me why I choose to work with values-based businesses and why I continue to support social enterprise.

For more information, visit Project Limelight / East of Main - EoM website coming soon.

 

Bring Me One of Everything

My former life (pre-Narrative Communications) had me exploring numerous career paths. After graduating from McGill, I took several courses in publishing and editing and wound up as a freelance book publicist for about a year. I have always been drawn to books – and I have considered myself a writer since the age of 12 when I started writing short stories and poetry. There is something about the written word that captures my attention and stirs my heart, so you can imagine my excitement when I met Leslie Hall Pinder, a talented writer and former lawyer who focused her career on working with First Nations people. Leslie was looking for some help in building a brand and website for her fiction and found me through mutual friends.

When I first sat down with Leslie at her home near Granville Island I was instantly intrigued and engaged not only by her story, but the stories of her characters and her deep understanding of the importance of mythology. Leslie’s first novel, Under the House, was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award for Fiction and was reviewed by Margaret Atwood who wrote “A haunting first novel by a writer of great talent and sensitivity. It treats a difficult theme with humanity and admirable complexity”. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors so this stamp of approval was as good as it gets in my book!

Leslie’s latest novel, Bring Me One of Everything, was released in February and has received critical acclaim. It explores Leslie’s own deep-rooted connection to the First Nations people as well as the British quest to capture and preserve Haida artifacts. This novel draws you in and sends you on a journey of self-discovery as you contemplate the human desire to take what is not ours.

When I started working with Leslie, we explored a lot of the themes in her writing and we kept coming back to the fact that all of her work explores what lies just beneath the surface. Her work unearths secrets, reveals truths and explores new ways of seeing of the world. She mentioned that she loves to capture people’s attention, using a hook to draw them in and then letting them sink deeper into the world she has created. Her brand was already ready starting to unfold. Working with my designer, we set out to create a logo and a website that expanded on these ideas and invited the reader to experience who Leslie Hall Pinder really is. Leslie loves being near the water; she has a summer home on a small island outside of Vancouver and spends lots of time boating and fishing. With her brand, we wanted to create a connection to the themes in her books as well as the life of the author. We launched her brand and website in April 2012.

 

 

Talking to Strangers

Stranger Danger!! I shudder to think there are still parents teaching their children not to talk to strangers. Yes, we need to educate our youth and teach them about safe behaviours, but ignoring or avoiding people we don’t know is not the answer.  Isn’t there a saying that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet? What would our world look like if we all took this message to heart?

Case in point my last three months. I have been talking to every stranger imaginable – on the bus, at coffee shops, signing up for retreats where I didn’t know anyone – I even attended a potluck on Tuesday with people I had never met before! And it has opened up a world, or rather a series of intersecting communities, that blows my mind. Never before have I felt so embraced by my peers, so connected to my city, as I do right now.

A recent Vancouver Foundation report indicates that Vancouverites are feeling socially isolated and alone. I’m sure there are many reasons for people feeling this way  (condo culture, the internet, cultural segregation are often the culprits) but this fear mongering around strangers has got to stop. I know Vancouver gets a bad rap – I’ve lived in communities where it was a whole lot easier to make friends, find work and generally feel ‘part of something bigger’. But it does exist here…it just takes a little more effort to find.

Some things I have done to build my community include:

  • Joining the HiVE – a collaborative, co-working office space
  • Joining the Community Arts Council board and volunteering with them
  • Using Twitter to find out what’s happening in my city (@Narrative_ink is me!)
  • Attending Vancity’s free workshops for female entrepreneurs
  • Smile! It is amazing how this can invite conversation.

My role as storyteller is to not only listen and help others express their story, it is also to walk the walk when it comes to sharing my own story. So I have set out to share my story with strangers! Sharing your story is hard – especially if you are going through something challenging (like running a business or moving to a new city). We were taught to put on a happy face and tell people everything is just fine. My experience has been that the more honest you can be, especially when it comes to the challenges or obstacles you are facing, the more people will reach out and offer a helping hand. Maybe it has something to do with being able to see ourselves in others, or perhaps it’s identifying the courage it takes to admit when you need advice or support. Whatever it is, the more honest we can be with ourselves, and with strangers, the better chance we have of feeling connected to a community.

Narrative Transformations

There are many ways to approach narrative work – as healing, as team building, as branding and marketing. I was first introduced to its power as a little girl listening to fairy tales & folklore, and then as a teenager writing my own story, and again in my 20s reading the words of Joseph Campbell, Robert Bringhurst and Lewis Hyde. Now Narrative is my business, and the story continues to unfold.
The Call
A fellow hotdesker at the HiVE (my co-working office space in Vancouver) told me about a Narrative Leadership retreat on the Sunshine Coast. He told me about Chené Swart, a woman who looks to storytelling to transform lives and businesses. I thought this paired well with my new interest in using storytelling to resolve conflict, mediate ideas, and ultimately build leaders. So without a clue as to what I was getting myself into, I jumped on the ferry and headed North.

Janey, one of the participants, had generously offered her ocean front home as a space for us to gather. She had met Chené in Vancouver last year and had a vision of opening up her home to the stories of others. Arriving, I felt the fear start to bubble up. I am a risk taker by nature (I am, after all, running my own business!), yet somehow the fear of the unknown lingers. I introduced myself to the other 8 participants and to Chené, who had travelled all the way from South Africa to share her wisdom, and I felt the fear start to dance away. The power of storytelling is that we all have a story, and our stories likely share commonalities. It is why certain movies or books resonate with people around the world. We are tapping into shared experiences. So what do you get when you have a room full of women eager to share and listen to stories? Pure magic.

Descent
Our first night, we sat in a circle, a universal symbol for story, and introduced ourselves. I discovered I was not only the youngest (as expected), I was also the only one who did not know anyone else. That was quickly rectified as I found myself chatting with women whom, by 10pm that evening, I considered friends. Waking up the next morning to the sound of the sea and the smell of salty air reminded me why I live on the West Coast, and how my surroundings nourish my story. After a relaxed breakfast, we got right to work. We learned that the key to Narrative work is to identify a challenge. That challenge will then take the form of a story so that it can be examined from every angle, allowing you to understand where that story started, when it shows up, and how you can begin to transform it. I was a little hesitant to share my business challenges with a group of strangers, but after our dinner the night before I knew my story would be in good hands. It was an intense experience – giving that much power to a challenge – yet I trusted in the process and dove deep into the narrative.

Transformation
If Saturday was all about identifying a challenge, Sunday unleashed our imaginations and allowed us to focus on the future! To be honest, after dissecting my story the day before I was feeling a little low. It is not often that we give that much attention to the obstacles we face in our business and in our life. Yet as soon as I began to re-author the story I felt the weight lifting. One of the most powerful aspects of storytelling is the act of listening. I spoke of this in my last post and this weekend reinforced my belief that listening is the key to building a strong story that invites people in rather than shutting them out. Throughout my journey that weekend, I was blessed to have a group of people listen, pause, reflect, and offer words of wisdom that continue to sit with me today.

Return
After a powerful month of diving deep into my story, first at SVI and then at this retreat, I am excited for the knowledge I have been granted, the people I have met, and the reminder to stay the course. I am also aware, more than ever, that storytelling connects people and builds community.

 

 

Thought Leaders & Change Makers

I was first introduced to Hollyhock six years ago by my yoga instructor and I thought it sounded like a magical place – “an unparalleled centre of learning and connection that exists to inspire, nourish and support people who are making the world better” – what’s not to love about that? While I have yet to make it to Cortes Island, where Hollyhock sits nestled between the ocean and the forest, I now know that I will find my way there soon.

Earlier this year, I met Cory LePage at an event at The HiVE. Cory is an entrepreneur and business coach who works with social enterprises. He was the one who first told me about Hollyhock’s Social Venture Institute (SVI) and I was instantly intrigued. When I was later told that SVI would be holding a three day conference in Vancouver I was interested in learning more, but it wasn’t until I discovered that the first day and a half would be for female entrepreneurs only that knew I had to attend. While I was looking forward to the co-ed part of the conference, there was something intriguing, and empowering, about spending a day and a half with female thought leaders and change makers like Madeleine Shaw of Lunapads and Céline Artal of Nexus Humani.

I felt a little nervous and more than a little excited walking into the Vancouver Public Library last week. The questions swirling through my head included: What kind of situations would I be put in? Would it be a competitive environment? How would people react to my business model?  I do, after all, refer to myself as a Cultural Mythologist and Strategic Storyteller – you can imagine the puzzled looks and confused responses I get from time to time! My mind was put to rest as soon as I started talking with amazing woman after amazing woman and realized that this was not your traditional networking event. I think the most common phrase I heard all week was “What can I do to help?”

It seemed that Storytelling was buzzing all around me – from designers like Lisa Hemingway who understand that the essential ingredient in building a successful campaign is story, to artists like Lisa Edwards who capture ideas in a visual story format, to branding gurus like Mike Rowlands who effortlessly spin tales that engage everyone in the room.

My business is all about stories and ideas, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss my vision and all the potential paths I can take. I see storytelling as not only the best way to build a brand and promote a business, but also the best way to build leadership. The SVI model may appear ordinary at first, but rest assured there was nothing ordinary about this experience that included Case Studies and Workshops, True Confessions and Peer Circles. I came out feeling like I had been throw into a tornado – my heart swirling with ideas, and my mind finding it hard to keep up with all the possibilities. I am now letting the dust settle and have already started to form partnerships and collaborations with the amazing people I met. I picked up a Hollyhock brochure at Banyen Books and am perusing the courses and retreats on Hollyhock, eager to follow this with an experience on the island of Cortes.

Before any of that can take place, I find myself preparing for a Narrative Leadership retreat on the Sunshine Coast with Chene Swart where I can learn about the role of storytelling when it comes to mediation and leadership, including employee engagement and conflict resolution. I truly feel that there is no limit when you surround yourself with thought leaders and change makers, and embrace the power of story.

 

The Art of Listening

I’m a talker; always have been. Growing up, I was never shy when it came to speaking my mind, and I sure did love an audience! I remember competing in a french public speaking contest in Grade 6 at UBC. I must have been nervous – there were over 500 people in the audience – but as soon as I hit that stage the story simply took over.

I have, and likely always will be, a storyteller. I love it when people hang on my every word, eager to hear how the story ends. It is a powerful skill. Yet all of that changed when I started to lose my hearing. I suffer from tinnitus (constant ringing in my ears) and it has affected my hearing. When it first started, I was terrified that I would lose my hearing completely, and the doctor’s initial (false) diagnosis of a brain tumor did not help calm my nerves.

Since then, I have spent countless hours exploring alternative medicines and therapies. My healer Louise offered me sanctuary at Vancouver Healing Centre where I could explore the possible causes and find my own solutions. Surprisingly, it was in the silence, where the tinnitus is typically loudest, that I was finally able to find some relief through meditation. Learning how to meditate not only helped me cope with my ears, it also taught me how to really listen.

One lesson that I learned through meditation was rather than filling up the awkward silences that can pop up in a conversation, you need to let go and leave that space open for others to fill. This is the art of story listening; giving someone the space, and the time, to collect their thoughts and embrace the conversation. It is how I learned to teach people to become storytellers themselves.

When I meet with my clients I don’t dictate how their story should go. I have learned to bite my tongue. My business background helps direct the process, but when it comes down to it my business is all about listening – listening to different people’s experiences and interpretations of a business, listening to the questions posed and the answers given, and above all listening to what my clients need and eventually helping them find their story. Listening may be the first step in my branding process, but I believe it is the most important aspect. Funny how it took losing part of my hearing to teach me how to truly listen.

 

Storytellers Wanted!

LOCAL STORYTELLERS WANTED!!!

To launch the City of Vancouver Community Plans, I will be curating four neighbourhood storytelling events in the following communities:

1. Marpole – May 1st at Metro Theatre
2. West End – May 10th at Denmen Theatre
3. Grandview Woodland – May 11th at The Wise Hall
4. Downtown Eastside – TBD

Each celebration will explore the richness of each neighbourhood and frame the conversations for community planning moving forward. Each event will be a neighbourhood gathering filled with local stories by local residents and featuring local entertainment.

I am looking for residents of each of the four communities who would like to share a personal story that depicts an experience they have had in their neighborhood, specifically around housing and community. These experiences should capture a memory that relates to the idea of “Home” including:

1. The history of the area – exploring the roots of each community
2. A time when you met someone who changed your impression of the neighbourhood.
3. An experience trying to find a home (house, apartment, purchase or rental).
4. A place or building in your community that holds a special memory for you.
5. What home meant to you when you were young.
6. How your neighbourhood has changed over the years.
7. What elements factor into your view of the perfect home or neighbourhood.
8. How you imagine your neighbourhood in the future.

Stories will be posted online so that we can build a legacy of community story-telling for all.

If you are interested in being a part of a special night of storytelling by sharing your story, or know of someone who might, please let me know.

Many thanks!

Megan

megan@narrativecommunications.com
604.781.7923

The Coach

When I was first introduced to the idea of a coach, I was a little hesitant. In my mind, a business or life coach was meant for people who were lost or in need of serious guidance. Whereas I had been writing down goals, drawing up vision boards and dreaming big since high school! I didn’t understand how a coach could help my business, especially since I had already surpassed my own expectations and was running a successful story branding studio.

I put my fears aside and decided to work with Carolyn, a friend of mine who had recently launched her own coaching business. I offered to help her with her story and address the misconceptions people often have with coaching, and in return she offered to work with me for a year to prove that having a coach in your corner is an invaluable asset, especially when you are riding the wave of success.

Carolyn de Voest launched Better Your Best  in 2008 because she wanted to help people realize their dreams. A year earlier, she listened to her intuition and literally changed the course of her life by following her own dreams. She had previously worked as a personal trainer, where we first met, and later as the Athletic Director of a country club. She met her future husband, a professional tennis player whose life consisted of travelling around the world from tournament to tournament, and decided to build a business that she could take with her on the road.

Carolyn is an amazing athlete, and the more athletes she met travelling the more she recognized the similarities between professional athletes and business owners. She learned to incorporate the sports mentality into her coaching style, helping athletes see their career as a business, and entrepreneurs train for their business the way one would train for a match.

I quickly discovered that Carolyn’s insight into the challenges and triumphs entrepreneurs face made her the perfect person to bounce ideas off of – and the perfect coach for someone like me.

Day 1 – Discovery

I have held dozens of discovery / story sessions over the years so I thought I knew what to expect. When Carolyn and I first met to go over my business plan and lay out some goals, I was amazed at how quickly we got to the core of why I do what I do. This for me is the key question that every entrepreneur should ask themselves. It is where the story first forms.

Day 30 – Breaking Free

After working with Carolyn for a month, my goals started to shift. I recognized my own limitations and started to put a plan into action to grow my business beyond what I alone could offer. I was breaking free from the constraints that many entrepreneurs place upon themselves…I was learning how to ask for support.

Day 160 – Halfway Point

This for me was probably the most challenging point in the year. I look back now and see that this is where my fear kicked in. I was asking questions that I was not quite ready to answer, and it scared me to reach beyond my safety net.

Day 365 – The End is Just the Beginning!

On our last call, Carolyn asked me to reflect on the past 365 days. She reminded me of things I said in our first meeting and I laughed in a gentle, loving way. I had placed a glass ceiling on my business without even knowing it, and it wasn’t until I started to set goals that were above that ceiling that I saw the forest for the trees.

Having a coach taught me that no matter how goal-oriented you are, there is always a blind spot. It is actually similar to what I do – I help people tell the story of their business by interviewing dozens of staff, clients and people invested in the success of a business to give a 360′ view of what that business does. In the same way that a story should have multiple narrators to be effective, a business should have multiple people gazing in and offering support.

While my first year of coaching may be over, there are lots of ways to introduce fresh eyes to your business. I am excited for Vancity’s new initiative supporting Women Entrepreneurs – they are hosting a series of free workshops for female entrepreneurs in Vancouver. I am also part of the Hive Mind, a collaborative think tank in the DTES and regularly attend events like Detail Communications’s Socialab, Creative Mornings, Likemind and YES networking events.

Once you know where you want to go, it makes it that much easier to get there!

 

The Entrepreneur

When I was young, I never had a clear vision as to what my career would look like. I took courses in Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, Marketing, Art History, Religion, and Mythology – and if I look back on the last 12 years, I have had at least 8 different careers:

  • Journalist
  • Book Publicist
  • Event Coordinator
  • Public Relations Consultant
  • Marketing Consultant
  • Advertising Executive
  • Community Development Coordinator
  • Strategic Storyteller / Cultural Mythologist / Story Writer

What I didn’t realize at the time is that all of those branches were actually part of a larger tree.  Each contract I took, each person I met, each place that I lived, has helped define who I am, both as a person and as an entrepreneur. There is something exciting and magical about being able to build your own business and define not only who you are and what you do, but also why you do it.

My career and my personal life have always been intertwined. I did not thrive in a 9-5 environment, nor did I relish sitting behind a desk all day. My parents are entrepreneurs, my brothers are entrepreneurs, heck most of my friends are, or at least would like to be, entrepreneurs. So that leads me to the question of the day: What exactly is an entrepreneur?

I have recently been confronted with the question: Are you an entrepreneur? A consultant? An adviser? A freelancer? What exactly are you?

I am all of the above, and none of the above. Confused yet? Entrepreneurs seem to do it all, that is until they can find someone better suited to hand the reigns over to. At times, I am a adviser, helping businesses build a strategic plan. Other times I am a consultant, coming on board to help with a project or campaign. I am also a freelancer, offering specific skills and services. I believe the entrepreneur is ingrained in me, directing all that I do. I also think that in order to understand the question we need to better understand the role of an entrepreneur and the myths we often associate with this precarious position.

Myth #1: An Entrepreneur doesn’t have a boss.

What I have learned is that while an entrepreneur may not appear to have a boss, we in fact report to more people than most. From shareholders to clients, consultants to contractors – the list of people that hold us accountable seems to keep growing.

Myth #2: An Entrepreneur gets lots of time off.

There is a common misconception, or rather a romantic idealism, that an entrepreneur could be sitting on a beach in Tahiti, laptop and cell phone in hand, and bill for their time. While I know this is not impossible (case in point: my parents), I am realizing that in order to hold onto this dream one must live in a world of hope, faith and above all else, delusion. Starting a business takes every ounce of energy that you have, and its addictive! I find myself working at 11pm on a Thursday, or 1pm on a Sunday. If I am not working, I am thinking about work, or trying to drum up new work. And I love it!

Myth #3: An Entrepreneur runs a business.

Coming back to this idea of addiction – an entrepreneur, by nature, may not want to run a single business but rather start up lots of businesses! Hence why the Tahitian Dream never actualizes. As soon as you achieve success with one business, you are already knee deep in the next.

Myth #4: Anyone can be an Entrepreneur.

This is a little tricky, since I believe that many people could be entrepreneurs but are held back by fear. They enjoy the life they lead and don’t want to rock the boat for fear of tipping over. I too fall victim to this but remind myself daily that even if the ship sinks, I know how to swim! Being an entrepreneur means letting go of the conventional lifestyle and embracing the roller coaster. I think the most amazing part of my career is that it is ever-evolving; with each new project, new client, and new day, possibility presents itself. It is up to the entrepreneur to embrace the opportunities that reveal themselves.

Myth #5: Entrepreneurs are out for themselves.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, an amazing thing is happening. More and more people are not only taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, they are looking for opportunities that also benefit their community. From social entrepreneurs, to venture philanthropists, to social enterprises and community investment corporations, social change is becoming a necessary component for many start ups.

The Entrepreneur is a rare breed, but in this ever-shifting economy and social landscape, the Entrepreneur, defined by characteristics like adaptability and perseverance, may just be the best equipped. I think the key is to educate and empower people so that they can learn how to incorporate entrepreneurial elements into their business and capitalize on opportunities that might normally pass them by.

 

Healthy Skin From Within

I admit, when I first met Corina Crysler my knowledge of skin health was limited. My skin care routine consisted of face wash, moisturizer, and occasionally sun block. As I started to learn more, I was amazed at how skin can be an indicator of our general health and well-being. I was also amazed at the stories I started to collect from people who had overcome major health challenges by paying more attention to their skin. It is, after all, our largest organ.

Corina is the founder behind GliSODin Skin Nutrients (GSN), a Canadian product line of ingestible pills and powders made from all natural ingredients that results in healthy, glowing skin. GSN actually improves our quality of life by increasing the levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant that is already produced in our body but decreases as we age. By boosting SOD levels, GliSODin Skin Nutrients not only increases general health, it also nourishes and protects our skin from damage and the effects of aging.

GliSODin was discovered in 1980, when melon growers accidently created a cantaloupe melon with a shelf life almost four times longer than regular melons. After extensive research, it was discovered that these melons contained much higher levels of SOD. The SOD was then extracted and coated with a patented protective system developed in Paris, France by Francois Vix, a veteran of the skincare and beauty industry. Francois partnered with Canadian nutritional and health expert Corina Crysler who then began formulating GliSODin Skin Nutrients in Canada, where strict regulations on natural health products ensure that each product is of the highest standards.

The natural ingredients in the GliSODin skin product line are not easily consumed through diet since they are usually found in fruit skins or peels, seeds, roots and bark. Most antioxidants that we consume are given to us in small doses, and it can be overwhelming to take the many recommended supplements and vitamins on the market. Each GSN product provides us with the nutrients required to feed our skin from the inside out.

Nutricosmetics are fast becoming an important component of skin care in North America as we begin to understand the direct effect that nutrition has on our appearance, as well as our health and well-being. I now see my skin as a way of addressing my entire body. If my skin is dry, my entire system is likely dehydrated and krill oil could help fix that. If my skin is splotchy and uneven, some lemon balm might help soothe my system. If I injure myself or need surgery, I know that gotu kola seeds will promote healing and speed up my recovery.

Luckily I don’t need to scour the farmer’s market searching for krill oil, lemon balm and gotu kola seeds!

An Archetypal Analysis

When I first learned about the importance of archetypes, I was amazed at how quickly everything seemed to click. My interest in mythology was now applicable to my work in branding and marketing. I began to understand the wisdom these universal, iconic figures held and wanted to find a way to tap into that power by using archetypes as a way of explaining ideas and defining brands.

My Master’s thesis explored the way that archetypes have both shifted and remained constant over the centuries. I looked to Canongate’s The Myths as a framework, including Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Jeanette Winterson’s Weight to understand how mythology continues to impact our daily lives. My findings showed that cultures around the world identify certain characteristics with specific archetypes, and people often have emotional reactions to those archetypes. For instance, there are certain words we associate with ‘The Mother’, and despite our own upbringing, that archetype remains constant in our minds.

By: Tom Fishburn

Upon launching Narrative Communications, I wanted to understand how I could tap into this power of understanding archetypes and what they represent. I started taking my clients through an archetypal analysis to strengthen their brand identity and their communications strategy. I looked to other storytellers and business consultants for advice and information, and have since implemented this process into several story sessions and workshops. The results have been outstanding. By helping a client understand what archetype they would like their business to represent, it helps shape the story and gives it universal appeal and a timeless quality. Jim Signorelli wisely cautions not to take the archetypal analysis as the be-all-and-end-all, nor to restrict businesses to simply choosing one archetype.

Now the question for you is:

What archetypes best represent your business, and how can you leverage that when building your brand strategy?

Capilano: The Story of Water

Capilano's Cliffwalk

 

Growing up on the North Shore, Capilano Suspension Bridge was a place that many of us felt connected to but rarely visited ourselves. Sure, we suggested each out-of-town guest make the drive up Capilano Road to take in the beauty of our natural rainforests and the excitement of the swaying bridge, but I don’t think any of us realized just what an amazing place Capilano really is.

Almost four years ago, Capilano Suspension Bridge asked me if I could help them tell their story within the park. I spent many hours researching interesting facts and figures that might engage guests on their walk through the forest and ultimately came up with dozens of story signs that are now strategically placed throughout the park, encouraging guests to pause and reflect on the world around them.

The Making of Cliffwalk

During this time, Jonathon Litchfield, Manager of Branding and Design, told me about Capilano’s vision to build a new attraction. As he described it to me I nodded, not realizing the scale of this project or the logistics of building a walkway along the side of a massive cliff. He also said that they wanted this new attraction to tell a story: the story of water.

I then approached experts in various fields, including the David Suzuki Foundation, to help inform me on what the role of water really is in the rainforest. In the end, we came up with a story that the guest reads as they walk through the attraction, emerging them in the journey of water. It was an inspiring project that satisfied my inner research-nerd while also allowing me to take a concept and weave it into a story that not only provides factual information, but also an emotional connection to the beauty and wonder of the forest.

A Story Sign

If you are in the Vancouver-area, I strongly urge you to visit Cliffwalk and experience the story of water.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: StoryBranding

Four years ago, when I first started fitting the puzzle pieces together and came up with my business plan, I didn’t realize how many other Story Branders were out there. Thanks, in part to the wonderful world of Twitter, I have been introduced to storytellers, story writers, story marketing and of course, story branders like myself.

StoryBranding

I recently finished Jim Signorelli’s latest book StoryBranding: Creating Standout Brands Through The Power of Story and was very impressed. He clearly lays out the importance of using storytelling when building, developing or changing a brand, and addresses and debunks several myths we have when it comes to business identity. I particularly enjoyed his Archetypal Analysis (The Purist, The Pioneer, The Rebel and of course The Conquerer) and believe that this is the key to creating a timeless brand. My interest in Jungian mythology and archetypes is what first led me to storytelling ten years ago.

 

This quote in particular captures what I believe is the essence of Story Branding.

“Brands perceived as stories to be told have a better chance of helping us find meaning than they do as products to be marketed. But to tell a brand’s story authentically, we have to know it first.

We have to see, hear, and feel its reality because it’s there, not just because consumers tell us they want it there. What’s real has to reveal itself not in what is promised, but in what is proven across every point of contact.

Story Branding is a process designed to help us know brands the way stories help us know characters. It’s a process that also helps us know a brand’s prospects in ways that will foster lasting relationships, immune from any competitive claim or coupon.” Jim Signorelli

For more information on StoryBranding

The Roots of Narrative

When I first started at McGill University, I wanted to be a journalist. I loved the idea of interviewing people and sharing in their experiences. I was also drawn to adventure, and in my mind a journalist was a modern day action hero. However, after taking several courses, I realized that the confines of traditional journalism did not suit my personality, so I decided to pursue my passion for books and complete a degree in Cultural Studies and Literature. My focus was on media and messaging, including how information was being delivered and perceived (think Marshall McLuhan meets Naomi Klein).

When I returned to Vancouver, I took an internship at Vancouver Magazine and then launched an online magazine (Don’t Tell Kelly) with my brother Scott. It was then that I realized that journalism was shifting beneath my feet. It was 2003 and while the Internet looked much different than it does now, independent writers, like myself, suddenly had an open platform for our words. I started writing for sites like suite101.com and submitting articles to online magazines, while at the same time pursuing a career in marketing and advertising.

Then my mom introduced me to the world of Jungian Mythologists, including Joseph Campbell, Marion Woodman and Robert Bringhurst and everything changed. I realized how connected I felt to mythology and folklore and started to explore my own story. When I was little, my dad and I were part of a group of fathers and daughters that got together to tell First Nations stories (the organization was called Indian Princess – obviously not politically correct, but I’ll chalk that up to the 80s). I remember hearing stories like How The Loon Lost Her Voice and feeling so close to the story that to this day I am mesmerized by these beautiful water birds.

My goal then became to widen my scope and build my own story. I started by writing my goals down on a piece of paper and the words that kept coming up were Storytelling and Community Building. I had never even heard about story branding until I googled story + marketing and learned about Envisioning and Storytelling, a strategic storytelling agency right here in Vancouver B.C. Suddenly the path widened and my options opened up. I did not have to force myself into a job (square peg that I am) – I could create my own business, and bring my unique skills and passion to the table to help people understand and connect with their business. That was four years ago. I remember sitting in a cafe, writing down potential names for my business and thinking no one was going to understand what I was trying to do.

Fast forward to present day and I am astounded at the number of storytellers I meet, whether in person or via twitter. While we all have different approaches, and different skill sets, I think that people are starting to realize that branding is about a feeling and not a logo. It is about connecting with your audience, and the best way to do that is to relay true stories and personal experiences. My job is to interview people (yes, that passion for journalism is finally being fed!) and uncover the story threads that can then be woven into a brand. For me, storytelling is about connecting with people and translating their experiences into a unique brand identity. I have managed to build a business doing exactly what I love. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

A New Year

As the clock struck midnight in Stockholm, I found myself reflecting on a year that exceeded all expectations. At the beginning of each year, I create a vision board that helps me visualize what I want my life, and my business, to look like…and 2011 will go down as the Year of the Story – literally!

2010

When I decided to pursue a Masters in Mythology, I did not foresee it playing a huge role in my career. Rather, I thought it would help me build my own story, introducing me to new concepts, people and ways of life. And again, when I ventured to West Africa to work with young girls on accessing their story, I did not necessarily see the correlation between my passion for storytelling and my background in marketing.

My vision for 2010 focused on launching a business that helped people find the stories that made their business unique. After working in the Ad world, I also wanted to focus on balancing the important areas of life, including my relationships and my connection to my community.

My vision for 2011 was all about Story! I wanted to expand my client base and work with businesses that were socially driven and community minded. Not only have I found an office space (hivevancouver.com), and joined a board of directors (cacv.ca), I have also expanded my story writing business to include full branding and marketing capabilities for my clients including visual branding, websites and story videos.

2011

I am a strong believer that if you can imagine it, it will happen. The best way to solidify a dream is to manifest it into something that you see everyday. My vision boards serve to remind me of what I am after in life, while encouraging me to reflect on my accomplishments and my obstacles.

Now to start planning Vision 2012…oh the wonders that will be!