Want a better career, relationship or life for yourself in 2020? Arlene Dickinson shows us how . . .

In her latest book, Reinvention: Changing Your Life, Your Career, Your Future, Canadian Venture Capitalist Arlene Dickinson describes how a few short years ago, she found her life on the brink of disaster:  her 25+ year company (“Venture”) was crumbling beneath her, her “sense of herself as a strong, confident leader” was “in tatters.” She was overwhelmed by feelings of “loss, fear and shame.”

But within five years, her business stabilized and was again booming, she raised tens of millions of dollars and built a whole ecosystem to help other entrepreneurs—“District Ventures.” Dickinson has “never been happier or more excited about the future.”

She applied the process she used, over the past nearly three decades to improve underperforming companies, to her own life.

Well into this “reinvention,” Dickinson speaks of returning as an investor to CBC’s “Dragon’s Den,” 10 years after she left the reality show. And she was able to find it an “exclamation point, not the main event.” The show provided an additional way to publicize her new business accelerator, to secure new entrepreneurs who might apply to it, and, overall, to work with promising new businesses.

The value of “Dragon’s Den” this second time ’round inhered in several factors, such as its inclusion of more female leaders than ever before, and in its capacity to show everyday viewers that “dreaming big and pushing through failure are both possible.”

And, even more importantly, Dickinson asserts, we all need to “find the confidence and courage to reinvent [our]selves. It’s fashionable to sneer at sincerity, as though wanting to make more of yourself is somehow uncool. But to me, there’s nothing cooler or more important than trying to be the best you can be. Isn’t that why we’re here—to find out all we can do, to change and evolve into better people, and to lift others up when we have the chance?”

Dickinson says that many people, including her readers, these days, have to reinvent themselves, after suffering “a heartbreaking loss, a divorce, a professional failure, an injustice that upended everything.” (242). She recommends not waiting for disaster and recognizing that virtually all of us have all the ingredients we’ll need: “Once you figure out what your currency, your core purpose and your context are, you’ll be as ready as you’ll ever be to make your life better than it is today . . . . Reinvention requires not just optimism but a sense of urgency.”

She observes that even if we fail in the effort, to have “fought that good fight and done the very best we could . . . is as good a measure of success as any: that you tried your very best to be all you could be. At the end of the day, your power, your fulfillment, your growth, your evolution and your joy are in the effort, not in crossing the finish line.  Let’s face it, to be all you can be, you will have to keep on growing, evolving and changing. There really is no finish line. It’s a lifelong project.”

Learning and entrepreneurship are both lifelong processes, as Saskatoon’s Praxis School of Entrepreneurship teaches, every day.

Dickinson also warns that to sell yourself short will leave you with only “self-loathing and shame” (244). And “shame will corrode your confidence like nothing else, which is why you can’t let it take root at the very moment when you most need confidence.”

She recommends leaving the stories of your struggles and losses for your therapist or best friend. Then replace rumination with a simple declaration to colleagues and contacts: “I was [let go from my job/walked out on by my spouse, etc.] and I’ve decided to [remake my life in such and such way].” Through these lines of thinking and communication, she says, you’ll signal that “you’re focused on the future” and “have a plan that you’re excited about” (200).

Don’t “play small” or “deny the world the contribution that only you can make” (244), Dickinson concludes: “Everything you need for a reinvention is already inside you, just waiting to be tapped.”

And now it’s your turn. Are you considering reinventing your career, relationship or other life process? Would you consider entrepreneurship through the Praxis startSMART program in Saskatoon? An intake period is fast approaching.

Please share—I’d be delighted to extend this conversation.

Want to land a better job by early 2020?

Not getting traction with your current resume?

Got the resume blues and not sure how to shake them?

Here’s an answer!

Storytelling Communications and NSILC Present . . .


 A Lunch ‘n Learn Event

on Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 10:30 am – 12 noon + lunch

at the Northern Saskatchewan Independent Living Centre (NSILC) (237 5th Ave. North, Saskatoon)

Click here, to buy your ticket ($20):


The slides are ready . . . . participant handbooks are being printed . . . . we’re adding numbers for our catered lunch and networking time . . . .

Don’t miss out!  


In this digital age, must liberal arts still compete with science and tech? Re-thinking education in today’s blog posting

Readers of this blog will know that I value liberal arts education (including my own), especially in this hyper-digital age, for providing skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration or adaptability. These skills, over time, often yield valuable careers and meaningful lives. I have not aimed to be original when arguing (in previous postings and newsletters) that the arts can become more valuable than popular technical skills which quickly grow obsolete. Liberal arts focus on developing the whole person, which is a much  deeper and broader process than job-specific training.

This is not, of course, to knock the unquestionable value of STEM majors (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to our collective communities. Recent start-up presentations I witnessed at last week’s “Co.mmunity” Tech competition, at the Co.Lab start-up incubator (U of S) demonstrated just how many creative innovations the local computer science industry is spawning and how much support they receive! But “old school” wisdom has often said that STEM graduates have better job prospects and higher earning potential for life than peers who choose the liberal arts.

In a recent article in The New York Times, called “In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure,” David Deming, director of Social Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, reminds us that “the long-term story is more complicated” than just one field, and its earning potential, pitted against another. The advantage that STEM majors hold, “fades steadily after their first jobs,” so that “by age 40 the earnings of people who majored in fields like social science or history have caught up.”

The difference is not black and white: most universities require STEM students to take some liberal arts courses, although as an editor, I often encounter students in applied fields who late in their degrees still do not appreciate how to write a basic essay. In a better world, the U of S Writing Help Centre would receive sufficient funding to employ more tutors to teach students across all fields (and degrees) how to write.

Deming observes that there are two reasons that liberal arts graduates catch up and may even surpass their STEM peers: First, technical skills develop rapidly and become obsolete quickly, so that “skill obsolescence and increased competition from younger graduates work together to lower the earnings advantage for STEM degree-holders, as they age.” Secondly, liberal arts graduates develop careers in which they apply their abstract thinking.

Such “soft skills,” such as problem solving and critical thinking, can have long-term value in many careers. While it’s true, especially on the Prairies, that poetry doesn’t “pay the bills,” liberal arts majors turn to entrepreneurship, management and business occupations, as well as taking advanced degrees, like law. Abstract thinking that students develop by reading literature, philosophy, history and anthropology, are essential to such fields.

In my passion to read and write more about the psychology of marketing and entrepreneurial wellness, as exemplified by some of the best TEDtalks online and by innovative publications by geniuses like Seth Godin, I agree with Deming that we must resist contemporary pressure to make university and college curricula too technical or job focused. We should seek knowledge, not “information.” And as some experts like (Sir) Ken Robinson (whose TEDTalks are profound) have been saying for years, we need to step back further and not insist upon university- and college-based education for all students.

Last Monday, mentor Monica Kreuger (CEO of Praxis School of Entrepreneurship) spoke of work she is doing with a “Re-Imagine Education Reference Committee” in Saskatchewan to bring change to the public primary and secondary education system. There are so many ways over the past 30+ years that the system has failed, and continues to fail, students. Sometimes it has been an approach to book learning that has inflicted suffering–or an atmosphere that was hostile to student growth.

Certainly, for those who do attend university, today’s degrees should include both the arts and some classes in the STEM disciplines. But what those courses include, how they’re structured and taught should continue to change and adapt.  It’s heartening to read the statistics that arts-based graduates come into their own, salary-wise, over time; but this does not address the lost potential of students who fall through the cracks. (For example, think of the singer Joni Mitchell, who failed in Algebra during high school in Saskatoon. And what about those who also failed but never found her stardom?)

As we face the future, we need to think more broadly of what education at all levels looks like and how, as Deming writes, “a four-year college degree should prepare students for the next 40 years of working life, and for a future that none of us can imagine.”

And now it’s your turn: Do you have an education in the liberal arts (including social sciences) or in a STEM field? What value have you found, in it? And how do you think we need to re-think education, at every level?

Please weigh in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.

“Our minds are all we have”: how insights from hypnotherapy can help us as entrepreneurs (with Heather Rodriguez)

Proteges of the Raj Manek Mentorship Program were offered a tremendous opportunity for growth at the organization’s October seminar.

At the “mic” was Heather Rodriguez, hypnotherapist and teacher of the Regina business,“Hypno Heather.”

Trained in Marlborough, Massachusetts, Heather started her business in 2014, realizing that she could better teach and treat patients if she was an entrepreneur herself.

She recognized that busy people like entrepreneurs could only scale their businesses if they scaled personally. So much about business building requires confidence and motivation; and clients most often ask her to help them improve on those two attributes. Heather shared that this often means that our priorities and relationships need to change: “Things are not just treated by action, but also from within.” We tend to bracket off our emotional lives and then wonder why we cannot perform well.

She described our subconscious minds as the 90% of the iceberg that is immersed in water, out of sight and below awareness; while the conscious mind and activities that we get stuck in amount to only 10% of our minds. When we can “let our guards down,” and plumb the subconscious for unaddressed pain, loss and other repressed emotion, we can liberate our conscious minds from feeling “stuck,” unmotivated, lazy, weak and pain-filled.

All that we have, as humans, she says, are our thoughts, our minds and our consciousness: “All that we really have control of in the world is our thinking.”

Old ways of doing things (including “comfortable old habits”) can be ineffective and these and the fear that often underpins them contribute to self-sabotaging behaviours that undermine our growth. These include binge-eating or binge-Netflix watching, craving and eating too much chocolate, alcoholism, narcotic use, over-sleeping and more. We engage in these behaviours because we’re unhappy and because we don’t acknowledge our submerged fears.

Our minds don’t recognize the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful blueprint of thinking—our minds simply follow our thoughts, however hazardous, distorted or wrong they may be.

The goal of hypnotherapy is to create a more successful blueprint, so that we can live in alignment with our own minds.

Heather identified that when we feel fear, we should ask ourselves, “What excites me? What do I want to do next?” in our businesses, rather than giving way to fear. Fear arises when we push our own limits and start to grow within our minds.

At the same time, unhappy emotions disrupt our growth: Heather says we should not judge ourselves for having unhappy feelings, as the negativity of judgment will only erode our confidence. Instead, she advised us to ask ourselves: “What thought is making me feel this way and is the thought even true?” Often it is not. And yet we tend to believe everything we think.

And action we take when we react to distorted thinking can sabotage our lives. We should avoid “reactive” responses to our thoughts.

Although we often repress opportunities to change out of fear, desire fuels our motivation. We need to have relationships that support us, as we deal with our fear.
When we do create that more successful blueprint for our thinking, we can reach peak states of mind, through which we can institute change and take a “vertical” leap “up and out” of our thought-obsessed, horizontal patterns. Here is “where the money is, both literally and figuratively,” Heather advised. That leap is all about growth and change.

Internally oriented action won’t fail, unlike that which comes externally from others. In this hyper-digital age with the internet at our fingertips, those of us who are more creatively fulfilled increase our chances of success.

What most of us need is time to relax, mentally, that allows us to better align with our subconscious minds. Sometimes journalling, taking long walks, getting exercise, cooking from scratch and similar activities can hold us “in-the-moment,” and so help to calm our minds and “get in flow.” Hypnosis functions like meditation to bypass critical factors into our subconscious, circumventing the judgments and beliefs that limit us so much.

When we are in alignment with our emotions, not surprisingly, our work also goes better. Pushing ourselves when we are in a low mood is not productive or caring. We can decide “not to spend more time in our [conscious] minds, right now.” The “break” provided by hypnotherapy and other, enlightened activities, reduces stress hormones like Cortisol and enables us to transform our minds, as recent theories of neuroplasticity suggest.

Heather identified among all these insights an unfulfilled need amongst clients in Saskatchewan. She therefore now offers three month treatment packages, in-person, as well as online. She works as well with hypnotherapists in other cities and countries.

And now it’s your turn: If you’re based in Regina or can work long distance via Skype or Zoom, would you consider engaging in hypnotherapy with a licensed specialist like Heather? Hypnotherapy by a qualified, licensed practitioner can provide a tool to increase your capacity for growth, happiness and success.

Want to be a lifelong reader? Start young, psychologists say . . . .

Historians have long referred to the advent of widespread reading in the Western world as the crucible of so much of contemporary culture.

In a September 19th article in “The Atlantic” magazine (shared by psychologist, Adam Grant, in a recent newsletter), journalist Joe Pinsker suggests that people only “become lifelong readers” if four criteria are met.

It isn’t enough to fill our homes with books, he says. Instead, we must integrate them into our daily lives:

(1) Kids need to see their parents or guardians reading regularly. (It remains true that “Children learn what they live.”)

(2) Parents or guardians and children should discuss books during meals or car rides.

(3) Families should visit libraries and bookstores together.

(4) Books should be given as gifts.

As Pinsker observes, reading has been linked to “good academic and professional outcomes,” when we have the motivation to do it regularly.
Statistics south of the border are sobering. The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) found in a 2012 survey that 23 percent of American adults were “light” readers (reading 1-5 titles/year). Ten percent were “moderate” readers (reading 6-11 titles/year), 13 percent were “frequent” readers (reading 12 to 49 titles/year) and only five percent were “avid” readers (reading 50+ books/year).

In Canada, reading print books was the seventh most popular daily activity for respondents (at 16%), following shopping (35%), dining out (26%), and exercise (20%). Respondents were more likely to read weekly than daily. And in that weekly activity, 43% preferred print books, while 25% read ebooks and 15% listened to audiobooks (Booknetcanada.ca).

Seventy eight percent of Canadians said that they had read or listened to at least one book during the past 12 months. At least one local writer in my writers’ circle reports reading as many as 50+ books per year.

Although reading has historically been a mainstay of cultural transmission (e.g. in the 1830s onward, Victorian novelist Charles Dickens published his novels in serial format in newspapers that were devoured by readers). But in the late 20th century, reading was undermined by the advent of television and, subsequently, the internet.

Statistics also show that urban dwellers read more than country dwellers; that affluence corresponds to increased reading, as does race. For instance, in the US, white adults read more than African Americans, who read more than Asian, who read more than Hispanic people. But that pattern Pinsker rightly says may only reflect educational differences between races and classes.

More interesting still, Pinsker cites Daniel Willingham (psychology professor at the U of Virginia) in his book, Raising Kids Who Read, as observing that there are three variables that influence children’s capacities to become lifelong readers:

(1) A child needs to be a “fluent decoder,” smoothly passing from words on a page to images in his or her mind. Reading must involve wordplay, and early on, children must learn the sounds of speech (an awareness of which has caused some expectant parents to read to babies, in-utero).

(2) Children benefit from having received a “wide-ranging background knowledge about the world,” so that they already know fundamentals of culture and society as contexts for what they read. 

(3) Finally, children need to be motivated by developing a positive attitude toward reading and a positive self-image as a reader.

Correlated to reading for both Americans and Canadians alike is not only academic success but also emotional well-being.

So, what’s not to like about reading?

Whether it’s Harry Potter or Jacques Derrida, we all know intuitively that reading builds the foundation of our communities: consider the importance of the government-funded, program-rich, public library system in Canada. And yet it pales in comparison to the sophistication of European libraries.

The recent American college admissions’ scandal involving Hollywood actors (Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, amongst others) demonstrates the anxiety some parents face when they realize that they have not instilled in their children a love of reading and therefore the capacity to perform well academically.

Reading widely throughout life is a fundamental practice of lifelong learning that holds us all in good stead, whatever our age and wherever we live.

And now it’s your turn: how often do you read? And would you consider yourself a “lifelong reader” and learner?  

Please weigh in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.