November 2020–Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN)

November 2020 Vol 2 Issue 11


Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me tell your story!

Welcome Mid-November, 2020!

The month of November carries many psychological associations for Canadians and for our neighbours, allies and friends abroad. On November 11th we observed Remembrance Day, to commemorate the sacrifice of those Canadians who perished (and continue to), as a result of the conflic and strife of this world’s wars.

Our American neighbours recently concluded a federal election like no other in their history, whereby the potential re-election of Donald Trump loomed large in the electorate’s minds. It threatened many of the values that are fundamental to American democracy (such as honesty, integrity and decency) and to ours.

The ongoing pressure of living under the global pandemic of Covid (now in its devastating “second wave”) challenges entrepreneurs and profoundly affects our clients: The times call us to embrace the uncertainty that surrounds us, but often instability evokes paralyzing anxiety and fear. . . .

So it’s hard to imagine a month when more weighty issues including these could preoccupy us. For my local readers, much of Saskatchewan also recently experienced a severe winter storm last weekend, from which much of the city is still  excavating itself . . . . . Saskatchewanians have shown their customary generosity by helping to dig out motorists (sometimes perfect strangers) from densely packed snow and ice; and by driving others who have been stranded.

As I gradually return to work after providing elder care within our province’s very broken health care system, I recently found myself opening my “vault” (i.e. “swipe file”) of provocative (and sometimes soothing) insights and ideas. . . .

So this month, I’ll share some of the “nuggets” of wisdom and hope I found there, for clients past, present and future; and for fellow creatives who also loyally read and comment on this newsletter.

Stay warm, drive carefully, now that winter’s here (!), and thanks for reading!




Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1: November Nuggets: Some Wisdom in Trying Times

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: “Good Grammar” to and for Whom, with Bryan Garner 




Article OneNovember Nuggets: Some Wisdom (from my “Swipe File”) for these Trying Times

Seven years ago (2013), marketing guru Seth Godin blogged about the “legacy of Mandela” (a statesman whose name we might shudder to compare with so many of today’s politicians). Godin writes that that Mandela’s statesmanship and capacity to forgive the racism and incarceration he suffered under Apartheid in South Africa, has left us with a powerful lesson:

“You can.

You can make a difference.

You can stand up to insurmountable forces.

You can put up with far more than you think you can.

Your lever is far longer than you imagine it is, if you choose to use it.

If you don’t require the journey to be easy or comfortable or safe, you can change the world.”


In the end, much of our life’s work is about, stories; we live, eat, think and sleep in some form of narrative. For that reason, I rebranded my company as “Storytelling Communications” in 2019. . . .  Marketer Seth Godin reminds us that “marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

When we make strong connections with clients, we share their stories and they share ours. Working in communications and marketing provides a  service to our communities and should not be scorned or looked askance at, as I have sometimes experienced.


America’s best known and most prolific copywriter, Robert (Bob) Bly, has blogged that “Being the best is overrated.” Anyone who has read Bob’s books and heard him speak (as I did, in 2012) knows him to be insightful.

He writes, in one of his timeless emails, against self-disparagement:

“Confession time: I am an inferior human being . . . meaning I come up short in almost every category by which people are measured.

Every day, I look around and see people who are more athletic than me . . . better looking . . . taller, smarter, thinner, kinder, more personable, wealthier, healthier, more well-adjusted, even funnier.

Whatever I do professionally . . . there are others who are more successful. . . .

How do I live with myself knowing that I am inferior?

The secret is that you can be lousy at 99.9% of things and still have a happy and successful life—as long as you are good at just a few or perhaps even only one thing.

As far as I know, Paul Simon is good at only music. He’s certainly not the biggest, strongest or best-looking guy on the planet. Also, most fans listening to his music would agree that Paul Simon doesn’t have the best voice and isn’t the greatest singer in the world.

But he has enough people who like his songs and his singing to give him a lucrative and successful music career.

You do not have to be the best there is at what you do to make a great living at it.

“S.R.” is a great example. “S.R.” is a professional stand-up comic who decided to make the transition to more lucrative performing as a corporate motivational speaker.

I have heard “S.R.” do both comedy and speaking. He is not the funniest comic I have ever heard. He is not the best motivational speaker I have ever heard.

But he IS the funniest motivational speaker I have ever heard. So he makes a great living speaking for meeting planners who want a motivational speaker who can also make their audience laugh.  . . . .

You do not need a huge fan base to succeed at whatever it is you do.

. . . .

You simply do not need every company out there to consider you the top copywriter. You only need a few who like what you do well enough to want you to work on their promotions.

And even those . . . do not have to consider you the “best” at what you do. They simply have to feel that your service is a good fit for what they want.

. . . .

So if it helps you [Bly continues], I want you to know:

1: You can be middling to poor at most things and still have a successful life and career.

2: . . . You just have to offer something that other people want.

3: You don’t have to have throngs of admirers . . . to keep you busy and profitable all year long.” And yet, as Bly concludes, these consolations are not recommendations for mediocrity. If instead, “these comments provide some comfort to you and stop you from fretting about what you think are your shortcomings, then I have achieved my goal for this email.”

Remember: Negative self-talk and criticism do not support creativity or insight.


American (Republican) president Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), although not commonly assessed as one of that country’s greatest leaders, has been viewed (by biographer Claude Moore Fuess, in 1940) as embodying “the spirit and hopes of the middle class . . . their longings and . . . their opinions. That [Coolidge] did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength.”

Coolidge may be best remembered for saying this:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”


As creatives (or those working in creative industries), we should also not forget our “second wind.” Anyone involved with creativity in this world (and who isn’t?) needs to allow time for mental incubation and rest, as even this (arguably feeble) trio of couplets reminds us:

“When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road your trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low, and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but can only sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”

And now it’s your turn: What insights does the month of November raise for you? Have you thought to store them in your own swipe file? 



STORYTELLER’S CORNER: “Good Grammar” to and for Whom, with Bryan Garner

In a recent blog posting, American Etymologist Bryan Garner discussed the challenges facing writers and editors who believe in “good grammar.” In particular, he draws attention to the reality that what is “ ‘good grammar’ in the eyes of one person is, in the eyes of another, unacceptable intolerance toward linguistic variation.”

Garner says that there are two camps: on one hand, grammar tyrannists; and on the other, “anything goes permissivists.” What we need, he writes “is a middle ground in which [1] we recognize that Standard Written English does indeed exist (extremists doubt this, but it’s what you’ll find in first-rate periodicals . . . ; [2] learning it should be an opportunity given to everyone; [3] children shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of the language spoken in their homes; and [4] people should be encouraged to show tolerance toward and acceptance of speakers of regional and class dialects.”

However, he rightly notes that between these four issues, there are “clashing interests”:  With the above listed points, “No. 2 collides with no.3 and no.4.  . . . A teacher insists on ‘anyway’ (not ‘anyways’), Jane and I will sing a duet (not ‘Me and Jane will sing a duet’), I’m doing well (not ‘I’m doing good’), mischievous (not ‘mischievious’), and it doesn’t matter (not ‘it don’t matter’), I saw (not ‘I seen’), and so on.

“In their unsubtle minds,” Garner writes, “children view one as ‘right’ and one as ‘wrong.”

By early high school, some kids lose marks for using the language they speak at home, widening the “class divisions among students.”

Garner continues that “in many communities, the privileged kids go to private schools where ‘good grammar’ is taught, and the other kids go to public schools where the standards are less strict.” Class divisions start when students are young.

Politicians and others, he says, tend to “close their eyes to the issue,” focusing on “ ‘social justice,’” and not seeing any connection between “the language used in daycare and elementary school” and the kind of divisions we see in the most recent American presidential election.

Sometimes, Garner says, “the issue isn’t accent (how words are pronounced) but dialect (word choice and sentence construction).” If grammar should be “good,” he asks, good to and for whom?

So where do we ultimately go with this ever-present rift in Western culture that modern times have not resolved?

To begin to answer that provocation, Garner cites a radical “guest lecturer” whom he heard at Oxford University in 1981, who said that “he wouldn’t rest easy until all Oxford and Cambridge colleges were razed to the ground. ‘If education isn’t available to everyone,’ he asserted, ‘it should be available to no one.’”

And now it’s your turn: do you agree with Garner on the ever-present divisions among language use (and abuse) in the western hemisphere? If we agree that words carry fundamental cultural and educational inequalities, what should we be doing about it and how?



Special thanks to friends and colleagues who have provided services and support, as I’ve gradually returned to the office, after being on leave to care for an elderly relative. It has been a life-altering experience in both positive and overwhelming ways: I appreciate the emails and calls of support!

I’m particularly grateful this month for the opportunity to study ESL online (part-time) through,  to add to the repertoire of business communications, which I can teach online.


And I’ve recently been delighted to reconnect with mentors and colleagues at the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship. Having authored four extensive articles since last spring on some of the school’s recent graduates (posted on the Praxis website) and featured in recent postings on my blog, I have been delighted this week to help to plan the school’s first ever virtual graduation, to be held on Wednesday, December 9th!

Do you or someone you know have an entrepreneurial idea they’d like to discuss or develop? Please register for this graduation event, where the experiences of both 2020 grads and alumni will be shared. An amazing evening is being planned for Wednesday, December 9th at 7:00 pm.

There will be speakers, networking opportunities and multi-media presentations of alum insights all on offer!

Tickets are free, but you must register as soon as possible!

Whether for you (as an alum), or for a prospective future student at Praxis, please register for the virtual graduation here:

Or call Elaine or Silvana with your questions at (306) 664-0500

I hope to “see” you there!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now write career and communications documents and lead workshops that help economic immigrants land better jobs; that help small businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and that help promote companies’ legacies.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (