November, 2015

Welcome Mid-November!

With still some sunny days and plenty of frosty nights upon us, I am pleased to send out another issue of “Communications Digest.”  At the time of writing, Hallowe’en was unusually warm and  snow-free for the youngest trick-or-treaters.

In last month’s issue,  I shared with you the benefits of participating in a writers’ group or artists’ collective. Thank you to those of you who wrote in with comments!  And I shared some highlights of another year’s successful “Word on the Street” festival.

Since all of our (electronic) desktops are piled high, these days, this month I’ll lead with a listicle on “Six Ways to Turn A Bad Day Around” (and who can’t use tips like these!). In “Ask an Expert,” I’ll feature Saskatchewan success story, Rachel Mielke (Hillberg & Berk) on her tips for building strong businesses in Saskatchewan. And in place of the usual “Word Nerd,” this issue will share insights from marketer Seth Godin and novelist Elizabeth Gilbert on how fear can undermine our creativity–but only if we let it.

Enjoy this issue and the beauty of autumn. Good news! Even though we dread dipping temperatures and  snow, Environment Canada continues to forecast a mild winter!




Elizabeth Shih Communications


6 Simple Ways to Turn a Bad Day Around

Wake up late? Out of milk for breakfast? Have kids that refuse to get dressed for school?

For millions of Canadians, that would be a familiar weekday morning.

For the online business newspaper, Fast Company, writer Gwen Moran recently shared insights on how to improve such a start to your day. She consulted and cites New York City psychotherapist Melody Wilding on mood in your daily work life.

1)  Change the Story—Moran says that when you notice that your day is going terribly, pay attention to how you label it. Once you’ve labelled it “bad,” she writes, “cognitive bias can kick in and leave you seeking out negativity to prove your thesis” that the day is awful. That attitude can make mistakes and misunderstandings turn into something overwhelmingly big.

Wilding says to “change the story” from an overwhelmingly “bad” narrative to “what you’re feeling.” Maybe you made one mistake that made you “feel like a bad team player.” Maybe that mistake triggered feelings of unworthiness that affect how you see your current environment: “When you isolate the feeling and name it, you can prevent it from overtaking the rest of your day.”

2)  List 10 Things that are Going Right—Even if you don’t have 10 positive things to record, make a list of all that’s going well in your life. Did you make it to work all right (no major traffic jam or accident)? Did you have a good cup of coffee? Collecting even these small positive moments can counter a disproportionately negative mood.

3)  Find Something that Makes you Laugh—a very good laugh can lift you out of a bad mood and thereby make your day seem better. Psychologist Pauline Wallin recommends a funny video on YouTube or an old family joke that still feels authentic. And if you can’t think of anything, remember that this kind of a day can in the future give you leverage for a great story and/or job interview!

4)  Bail on It—If things persist in feeling bad and you have the option of “calling it a day early,” do so. “Redirect your energy to an easier or more enjoyable task,” Wallin says. The rationale for this is that forcing yourself to “plough through” something can often be unproductive. Instead, completing something that is easier can give you momentum to change the course of a day.

5)  Find a Person Who Will Let you Say What you Need—Call or speak with a friend or colleague who will allow you to vent and just listen, perhaps without finding solutions or with who help you to find one or two solutions that are realistic (not Pollyana-ish).

6)  Go Someplace Green—Spending even a half hour or an hour in a space of green and natural beauty can reduce your stress, rumination and other negative feelings. Trying to let your mind rest in this setting can assist you, even if you have to return to work shortly after.

But there’s more underlying the gloomy day blues.

Psychotherapist Wilding says that “it’s a symptom of the happy work culture that we all strive to work in—we feel that on the flip side of that is that any negative emotions are instantly something that needs to go away.”

We don’t allow time for the negative feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and loss, often because they are powerful enough that we fear they’ll overwhelm us. But denying them only intensifies them.

Wilding notes that bracketing off such feelings “can colour how we react to any challenge that comes along.”

So while it’s great to express happiness when you feel it, that shouldn’t occur by denying less positive or convenient emotions. Denial will only compound the problem and defer it, until another, equally inconvenient time.

A persisting sense of “bad days” that lasts is often something worth exploring with a psychotherapist or psychologist, who can help you to find longer term solutions for these negative emotions.

Are you having a grim kind of day? Please share  your comments on the “contact” page of my website ( I’d be delighted to hear from you.


“The Power of Fear”: Seth Godin and Elizabeth Gilbert on the Power of Fear to Inhibit Creativity

In his October 17 blog posting, marketing guru Seth Godin wrote the following meditation:

“The power of fear

Fear will push you to avert your eyes.

Fear will make you think you have nothing to say.

It will create a buzz that makes it impossible to meditate…

or it will create a fog that makes it so you can do nothing but meditate.

Fear seduces us into losing our temper.

and fear belittles us into accepting unfairness.

Fear doesn’t like strangers, people who don’t look or act like us, and most of all, the unknown.

It causes us to carelessly make typos, or obsessively look for them.

Fear pushes us to fit in, so we won’t be noticed, but it also pushes us to rebel and to not be trustworthy, so we won’t be on the hook to produce.

It is subtle enough to trick us into thinking it isn’t pulling the strings, that it doesn’t exist, that it’s not the cause of, “I don’t feel like it.”

When in doubt, look for the fear.” (Godin, 2015)


Has fear undermined your growth in the past week?

In her recent book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (2015), novelist Elizabeth Gilbert (whose work Godin has commended) writes that she thinks that fear and creativity are “basically conjoined twins . . . creativity cannot take a single step forward without fear marching right alongside it. [They] shared a womb, they were born at the same time [so that] we have to be careful of how we handle our fear – because . . . when people try to kill of their fear, they often end up . . . murdering their creativity in the process. (24-25)

Gilbert instead refuses to “go to war against” her fear, making instead a lot of “space for it. Heap of space . . . .  to live and breathe and stretch out its legs . . . . the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back.”

Using the metaphor of sharing a car on a long road trip, Gilbert refuses to fight her fear, as it journeys with her in her creative work:

“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand that you’ll be joining us, because you always do . . . . Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting . . . . So  . . .  keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making decisions along the way. . . . your suggestions will never be followed. . . you are allowed to have a voice . . . . [but not] a vote. . . . [And] above all else . . .  you are absolutely forbidden to drive” (25-26).

Because it takes focus, work and courage to create any of the art we do, we must remember not to waste time on the smallness of fear and rumination. Gilbert says it best: “the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have the time anymore to think so small” (27).


Have you been fighting fear in your efforts to work? How have you counteracted fear on a regular basis?

Please send me your thoughts on my “contact” page and I’ll use them in a future blog or issue!


“Ask an Expert”: Rachel Mielke on How to Succeed in Business in Saskatchewan. . . .

At October 22nd’s “Shaken with a Twist” (sponsored by The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce and Women Entrepreneurs of SK), Saskatoon based designer Rachel Mielke spoke about the success of her jewellery company, “Hillberg & Berk” (H&B, named for her great grandmother Hillberger and her dog, Berkeley!).

Mielke started the company in 2007 with the idea of empowering women through innovative design. The company, now eight years old, shows no sign of slowing down. (Saskatoon’s first store will open in Midtown Plaza on November 20th.)

Mielke’s staff has increased in the past year from about 25 to 100 and the company has grown on a massive scale–receiving Brett Wilson’s financial backing (on “Dragon’s Den”); and reaching the illustrious wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth, Michelle Obama and Canadian Olympian Tessa Virtue!

To succeed in business, Mielke recommended the four following steps:

(1) “Make a solid business plan” (all entrepreneurs need to have a plan for where they’re going).

(2) Secure enough cash to apply to business development (she cited borrowing $10K to appear in the pre-Oscar gift lounge in 2008).

(3) Surround yourself with amazing and positive people (mentors, friends, gifted employees, etc.) who will grow your skills and buoy your spirits.

(4)  Be “almost delusional” in your belief of what you can accomplish.

Making a brooch that was worn a full five times by Queen Elizabeth in 2014 (arranged in part through SK Lieutenant Governor, Vaughn Schofield) was public relations gold! Mielke notes that it cost Hillberg about $15K to make the brooch (they were paid $200 for it), but they reaped huge, international dividends.

The good press raised the profile of H&B and stoked interest from far-flung clients.

Mielke credits her long-term success to her “hard-working, entrepreneurial parents;” extraordinary women mentors who “have had each others’ backs” in their work; and to excellent Public Relations agents (who got H&B into Canadian newspapers when Mielke was Oscar-bound).

She shared that the entrepreneur is always seeking new challenges. She has two other businesses which she’s growing with her husband and that have Brett Wilson’s backing and much potential.

Although Mielke says that she’ll one day sell the jewellery store, currently, she still enjoys playing with baubles and beads on rare days when her schedule permits.

Have you got ideas like Mielke’s for how to take your business up a notch? Please write me from the “contact” page of  my website:

I’d be delighted to continue this conversation.


Shop News . . .

The excellent 2020 Health Vision Conference (held October 19-20th at Saskatoon’s WDM) was a smash success! It was a pleasure to see hours spent interviewing and writing promotional articles pay off in thoughtful and wonderfully organized panels and papers. Special thanks to conference co-chairs Sanj Singh (CEO, AdeTherapeutics), Dave Dutchak (former CEO, MD Ambulance) and Corey Miller (VP Saskatoon Health Region) for leading the way. They are looking forward to turning ideas into initiatives and action.

I continue to format and revise business curriculum for Monica and Brent Kreuger of Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. It’s wonderful to skim-read business theory, while also working as an editor. And many thanks to Monica and Brent for allowing me a flexible schedule with this work.

In spare moments, I continue to work on my e-book project on creatives who have faced (and overcome) various forms of adversity (career, family, health, etc.). Special thanks this month to community developer Tracey Mitchell, for discussing her life and work. She joins Gin Foster, Lesley-Anne McLeod, Bob Pitzel and Wilf Popoff as fellow contributors. I hope to publish all in an e-book format in time for next month’s Christmas shopping! Please stay tuned!

Renewed thanks also go out to Humboldt area painter, Bob Pitzel, for his well-timed and welcome encouragement, when the waters get rough. Although Bob has brought excellence as COO to Failure Prevention Services, he is also a life-long watercolourist who understands the joys and sorrows of freelancing in the Arts. I recently wrote copy for Bob’s e-newsletter, “The Vanishing Prairie,” in conjunction with colleague, painter and designer, Paul Constable.

And equal thanks go to Lori Jestin-Knaus of Women Entrepreneurs of SK, for reconceiving and launching a new format for our monthly “mentoring circle.” Under Lori’s capable leadership, a committed group of business folk meet there and share how to take our businesses
“to the next level.”

And after an unusually moderate November, I am anticipating a good winter’s worth of  communications materials. Please contact me with your ideas and projects!


About Us . . .

Since 2011, Elizabeth Shih Communications has provided B2B marketing and communications services on the Prairies and across Canada.

Do you need help writing your “marcom” materials? Please contact me through my website, via the CASL-compliant email form, on the right-hand side of each page (

After I have received your permission, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

I help small- and medium-sized businesses create e-newsletters, blog postings, promotional emails, press releases, case studies and related documents that secure good clients. Please visit my website for more information (