What Sets Your Soul On Fire

Recently, I was asked to sit on a a panel for the launch of the Speak & Share Series put on by two enterprising young women here in Halifax. There were a few things remarkable about this. First, the fact that I was even asked. When these women approached me, I double and triple checked they wanted ME to impart wisdom and advice to the younger generation (when did I even become the “older” generation?) and I repeatedly asked them “Are you sure you want me? I wear sweatpants for a living.” Despite my protests, they did want me to speak, and I won’t go into too many details about the event, but rather, would encourage you to check out the link on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEyKT1EJTSI

To launch the Series, Sam and Katie chose three women (including me) who have followed interesting paths leading to interesting careers. One of the most tell-tale comments from the evening, and one which was pointed out by an audience member (and probably not realized by anyone before the discussion) was that none of us had traditional business degrees, yet we all find ourselves running successful and innovative businesses in Halifax. That’s pretty cool!

And here was the other remarkable comment from the audience: “How can I make money and also do something about which I am passionate?” Great question! Um, wait…can you have both?

20 years ago, when we were graduating from law school, our primary focus was to find a job. Sure, we wanted it to be in a field which we found interesting (maybe even challenging), but our only goal was to get out into the workforce and start making money. I can honestly say that NEVER ONCE did we think about “following our hearts” or pursuing a career that “set our soul on fire.” That language and those concepts did not form a part of regular discussions.

I may be generalizing, but it seems (certainly from the audience that was at the talk that night), that this is a question and a pursuit that more young people seek out these days. Can you do what you truly love and make money? Honestly, I don't know. I hope so. My advice (and probably realistic but not necessarily what the audience wanted to hear) was twofold: 1) Pay your dues. Earn the money. Choose a career that you enjoy, earn an income that provides stability and savings, and then if you can, at some future point in time, find a way to pursue your passion (although you might not necessarily see the financial gains to which you have become accustomed); and/or 2) Find the vocation that “sets your soul on fire” and while it may not allow for the fancy cars and second home, if it allows you to eat, save some money and pay your bills, then stick with that. 

For me, if you can’t have it all, then it’s about priorities. I joke that I earned my highest income 20 years ago and I know that if I had stuck with the traditional path, I would have the fancy cars and second homes. But I don’t truly believe that I would be smiling with my chosen vocation every day as I do now. What it meant to “have it all” has changed for me, and despite the lack of cars and cottages, I can honestly say that today, “I have it all.”

It's All Simple Math : 1+2=3

I just got off the phone with a basketball trainer I was interviewing to coach my son Ethan. Not only were his values in accordance with mine (exactly and on every point), but one thing he said made it perfectly clear that HE IS THE ONE! We discussed how important it was for Ethan to LOVE THE PROCESS. YES! We talked about Ethan’s dreams and aspirations and we agreed how important it was for him that in order to succeed as he wants to, he has to LOVE THE PROCESS! We hear a lot of people saying “Trust the Process” and I’m not going to get into the merits of whether that philosophy makes sense; if it works for you, then live by it! But I personally think that if you go beyond “trusting” and move to “loving”, you might just end up with way more than what you ever dreamed possible.

So here is the process of which I speak and the simple math that goes along with it: 1. Resolution plus 2. Routine equals 3. Results. 

I recently wrote another blog about New Years Resolutions and for the sake of this blog, let’s assume that in the next few days, you have chosen to make a lifestyle decision that will affect your health and wellness in the coming year. And furthermore, let’s assume the resolution that you’ve chosen involves physical activity. So, here you have the resolution to do something at the gym - maybe it’s trying something new like a Barre class or setting a goal of swinging a 30lb Kettlebell. You’ve got #1.

Once you make that initial decision to “go for it”, work on developing a ROUTINE around that decision (#2). In these examples, maybe it’s looking at the Cyclone schedule and saying “I will try my first Barre class on Tuesday at lunch, and then, I’ll try another one on Saturday, and so on.” The Kettlebell example may have you saying, “I can swing 20 lbs now and maybe I can get in another class once a week to increase my strngth or perhaps I can speak to the instructor and get some advice as to how swing a heavier weight.” 

We now have #1 plus #2. And herein lies the simple math - 1 plus 2 equals RESULTS (#3). And to ensure you get the #3 that you want, make #1 and #2 fun, motivating, challenging and realistic so that you move beyond “trusting” the process and you end up “loving the process.” Simple math really.


It Doesn't Matter When, It Just Matters Why!

We get asked all the time, “So you guys must get really busy in the New Year with all the ‘resolutioners’?” First, I didn't realize “they” had a name. And yes, we do get a little busier, but for the most part, we tend to have consistent numbers throughout the year.

I think ‘resolutioners’ get a bad rap. There is the expectation that they will make the decision to change lifestyle habits, including going to the gym, and then after about 6-8 weeks, they’ll fall off the bandwagon and revert back to less-than-ideal habits. And yes, that does happen. But instead of setting people up to fail and believing in the expectation that they might, what if we give these so-called ‘resolutioners’ the power and motivation to succeed. Let’s applaud the decision to initiate change and not undermine the decision to start in the “new year”. Let’s celebrate that they made the decision at all!

I recently wrote for a blog put out by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Here are some tips taken from there that might help make the decision in the New Year, or at any other time, a little easier and more exciting:

TRY IT! Get excited about trying something new BEFORE/DURING the holidays. Set the momentum during the time that others may be winding down so you’re already ahead of the “New Year’s Resolution” rush. More important, stick with it! It will be tough and challenging at the beginning - that’s what makes it so rewarding. Seek out modifications, ask questions, but stay with it! Go at your own pace but be sure to challenge yourself!

BRING A FRIEND! Just as you might make the commitment to get a jump start on your New Year’s Resolutions, ask or even challenge a friend to join you. It is proven that working out with a friend (or friends) yields better and longer lasting results. A friend will hold you accountable to sticking with a schedule, as you will for your friend. 

FEEL PROUD! Set goals for yourself. Perhaps it’s trying your first 60 minute spin class or maybe it’s tackling a new TRX class with 100% effort. As with any fitness activity, give it your all. I use the motto - push yourself, pace yourself and then push yourself. Do not leave the class with regrets. Give everything you got when you’re there, and then walk away with a sense of accomplishment. Don’t worry what’s going on around you (e.g., if the person beside you seems to be spinning faster or lifting heavier kettlebells). Focus solely on the task of doing the best that YOU can do, THAT day, and walk away with a huge sense of pride. 

So, with those nuggets of advice, start now, start on January 1st, start in June - it doesn’t matter when - it just matters why!

Check Your Mailbox!

I know you know this feeling…going to the mailbox and seeing an envelope that is a different size (perhaps a different colour) than the ones from the bank…that rush that someone is sending you something other than a bill. How many of those do you get in a month? One? None? For me, I can count holidays and birthdays as pretty much the only times I’ll see those colourful, different-sized, joy-enducing, envelopes!

On a similar note, when was the last time you got a “thank you” card - a real, handwritten, bright and cheerfully coloured, sincere “thank you” note? Probably close to, if not the same frequency, as those ‘surprise envelopes’ above. I received TWO recently - in ONE WEEK! After Bare All for the Barre, my labour of love for the past year, I received two handwritten, heartfelt “thank you notes”. And I’m going to take it even one step further, and I am not being sexist when I tell you, they were written by men! 

It is one thing for someone to write “happy birthday” on your Facebook wall or to send an email saying “thanks for helping out”. It is a completely different experience to receive those little cards that say “thank you”. The cards that I received nearly brought me to tears, not just for the sentiments that were expressed within, but because of the rarity in which I receive such thoughtful notes in this day and age.

I saw the men that sent the cards about a week after I received them and told them how truly happy (and appreciated) they made me feel! Both gentlemen told me (and they work with each other) that they make it a practice to take some time at the beginning of each week to reflect on the week before and choose someone (maybe more than one) to whom they will send or deliver a thoughtful, handwritten “thank you” note! I think this might be the GREATEST IDEA EVER! We know that being appreciated means so much, and we know the joy of receiving a blue or purple card in the mail, so imagine how you could make your co-worker, friend, doctor, feel by just taking 5 minutes to write a note expressing your sincerest gratitude?!

So, “thank you" Greg and Dan for showing me that it only takes a few lines and a few minutes to make someone feel truly special. Friends, readers of this blog, check your mailbox next week!


There are a few reasons for writing this blog:

  1. Jon and I got married a few weeks ago, and on a personal level, some of these local businesses went above and beyond to make our experience so special (and fairly relaxed);
  2. Cyclone turned 3 last week and some of the businesses listed here have been true community partners, both in assisting Cyclone with its goals of giving back to the community, as well as telling their own clients about “the Cyclone experience”. (And, as you’ll see below, some have been integral in both personal and business endeavours and you’ll easily see why they made my Top 10);
  3. Voting for The Coast’s “Best of” Awards ends this week and in addition to asking people to take a minute to vote for Cyclone, these local businesses deserve a shout-out and maybe your vote too! PLEASE VOTE (It takes only a minute of your time but could make a huge difference to the businesses and people you support): http://thecoast.secondstreetapp.com/l/Best-of-Halifax-2015-BOH15/Ballot/Health

What I propose to do here is to tell you a little bit about each business, give you their website and suggest that you check them out - perhaps you can comment by adding your favourites to my list as well.

Planning a wedding in 4 weeks is no easy task - it doesn’t matter how “small” or “laid back” you think it will be, there are always things that need to be done, such as buying a new dress (for the record, that was never the plan but when Jon got a suit, well, of course I had to have something too). So, off to Toronto I went, for ONE day, to try on and then buy a dress which was “something like” the dress I had seen online. Having it shipped to Halifax two weeks before the wedding, we were undoubtedly in a panic. On the advice of a friend, we walked into Daniels Tailors and following his suggestion to buy everything from corsets, to “cookies” (don’t ask), to “the” bra, we never felt rushed, we were never made to feel like we were crazy for leaving it to the last minute, and most of all, we (I) got a gorgeous dress out of it.

If you recall, a few months ago I wrote a very raw blog in which I said (and I paraphrase here) “sometimes things just suck”. In that blog, I mentioned how I was told by a physio friend of mine that it would likely be a year before I could do a real push up. 12 weeks post surgery today and I did a push up, actually a couple. Mark and his team deserve a whole blog, but the “key” (pun intended) things that set Mark apart from my other physio experiences is that he’s 100% honest, you are THE patient when you come in the doors (not one of three or five in which you’re left to do exercises while the physio checks on others) and, he works with you and your goals (not necessarily what is “standard protocol”). My goal was a push up - I got there way faster than even I thought and even though Mark called me a “fast healer” (code for perfectionist), I know that without his help and guidance, I would not, this quickly and safely, be on the road to “normal” again.

I had “heard” of the great Applehead in the past and then when Jon and I got engaged, I decided that as small and to be honest, inexpensive as we wanted it to be, I would spend money on a good photographer. So, again, less then one month before the wedding, I started an email dialogue with Liam which turned into a meeting a week later. Sold! Liam and Steph were absolutely the most fun people to meet and I knew from the minute we met them, they HAD to take our wedding pictures. And again, they didn't think we were insane hiring a photographer a few weeks out (luckily it was on a Sunday so we got them booked); they assured us that the “pose under a tree” look was not their style (certainly not ours); and, on our wedding day - pure magic. Jon and I were actually both dreading the “photo shoot” but truly, in addition to marrying my best friend, having Liam and Steph take our pictures (sheep and all) was one of the most amazing memories of that day.

With good reason, the ring was important this time (another blog, another day). Having done our research, we went into a few jewelry stores in Halifax and didn't feel “it”. Enter George and his team from Fireworks. Helping us understand the process (there is a process, which can actually be quite fun, when you design your own ring), George kept in regular contact with us as our rings took shape. He even managed to keep the secret from me that the ring was ready, allowing Jon to truly surprise me while brushing my teeth (the irony of that is not lost on me). But then there is the ring itself…I have not stopped looking at it, 100 different ways, since I got it. George knew exactly what I wanted, even if I couldn't put it into words, and I actually received something more beautiful and special and unique than I could have even imagined.

Despite my chosen career path into fitness, I am plagued with “issues” including a herniated disc and what Monique would call “stress induced” neck pain (me, stressed?!?). For years I have been seeing Monique to deal with my “issues”, and I can honestly say that she has, repeatedly, helped me to move when I was all but immobile. Being beside the studio, I refer everyone to her and tell them to use my name (I don't know if that carries any weight but I do know that everyone gets seen almost immediately and feels 100s of times better after their visit with her).

Norma and her talented staff straddle both the personal and business lists. On the advice of one of my staff, Norma and I connected via Facebook and without ever meeting her, I asked her if she would donate some cupcakes for a charity event at the studio. Without hesitation she said yes and they were incredible. A few cake pops later, I asked Norma to create a Ferrari cake as a surprise for Jon for our wedding. I had no idea what it was going to look like and when I picked it up, I had tears in my eyes at how beautiful and detailed the cake was. Only later did I experience how amazing it tasted. Cake Boss move over - Norma has you beat!

Sheena, a former staff member, new mom to the cutest kid on the planet, and awesome entrepreneur, is a co-founder of this amazing company which now finds itself in stores such as Pete’s Frootique - talk about hitting it big. With good reason, their bars are delicious, clients crave them after a workout (quite a number of them have standing orders with MWL now) and having Sheena personally deliver bars to the studio - well, you get it. Sheena has also donated items to fundraisers I’ve held and well, anyone who helps me raise money for causes that are important to me, gets an even bigger high-five.

When you think of local businesses, business leaders, and philanthropists, of course Aerobics First and Luke MacDonald are the first to enter your mind. Whether you are going into A1 for your third set of Mizunos (despite all of Luke’s help with the shoes, I still ran backwards at the halfway point in my one and only marathon), or you’re asking Luke to help out with a charity event, Luke and his partners are the real deal. I was fortunate enough to work with Luke on some of the first Sparks Fly initiatives, and because of his dedication and drive, that organization has completely taken off, making national headlines and changing the lives of countless children. During one of the last fundraising events we did together, I jokingly told Luke that he deserved the Order of Nova Scotia. He does. Meet him and you’ll know why.

9) Before I finish with the last local business, I want to dedicate number 9 to a few that I think you should visit, because of their customer service, their product and their willingness to help out other local businesses such as Cyclone (I am cheating here trying to get in a few more).

I know I have to keep this short but I can’t begin to say enough about Linda and her team - again, on a personal and business level. How Vernon has tamed my hair over the last few years is nothing short of remarkable and it is no wonder that almost everyone who goes to Cyclone, now sees Vernon. You think Halifax is small, sit in Vernon’s chair!

Linda is a truly inspiring business leader in our community and wholeheartedly deserved recognition as one of this year’s Business Persons of the Year. She owns a beautiful spa, with every luxury you could want, without it feeling stuffy or pretentious. In fact, it is the opposite - with every service I have ever received (and remember, I just got married, so there were quite a few), I felt relaxed, comfortable and genuinely welcomed.

Every request that I have made of Linda to help out with fundraising has meet with not only approval but support and encouragement. Linda and her team have supported our Bare All for the Barre campaign with excitement and a desire to help. As a community, we are so fortunate to have a wonderful and caring community partner like Spirit Spa with Linda at the helm.

So there you have it - my votes for some of the best local businesses in HRM.

As a side-note, you can easily see some of the economic hardships that face small, local businesses, when you travel throughout the downtown core. I won't get into the politics of it all (although I do have plenty to say) except to say that in order for places like Cyclone to survive and thrive, we need to keep our business local. As a small business owner, there is not a day that goes by when I am not grateful for the people that walk in my door. In turn, I have a willingness and desire to give back to those people by making my business the best place it can be.