People often ask me why I do what I do? I believe it stems from being a “highly sensitive person” (HSP).
According to Elaine Aron, who coined the term, about fifteen to twenty percent of you will also fall into this category.
A warm "hello" and thanks for being curious. I'm happy you're here.
So, what is a highly sensitive person? I'll try to explain...
Imagine a meerkat, standing guard, intent on picking up stimuli from the environment so it can warn its mob of any impending danger.
HSP’s are similar to meerkats in that their nervous systems are wired to be in a state of high alert, all the time. You have to love HSP’s - back in time we would have kept the rest of you lot safe!
But, here’s the difference. Before a shift, a meerkat fuels up, then spends two to three hours on watch. Immediately following a shift, the meerkat rests and another takes its place. The load is shared.
Not so for HSP’s. Imagine you’re “always on” yet can’t relax and replenish during the day. We live in a hustle culture that doesn’t promote, and generally does not adequately value taking sufficient rest.
Being an HSP is often exhausting, but what can be a challenge is also a gift. All my life I have been developing strategies and sculpting my life to make getting things done a little bit easier, a lot less taxing, and definitely more joyful.
Coupling my instincts to solve problems with a natural desire to teach leaves me enthusiastic about helping other people on their journey towards greater productivity and pleasure. After all, everyone needs to get things done, and who doesn't want to feel good along the way?
I weave the following experiences into my mission of helping leaders and their teams bring their best selves to work:
- an education in biology and business
- fifteen years' experience in the corporate world as a leader and practitioner in marketing, finance, sales, product development, and internal communication
- experience in telecom and loyalty marketing
- leadership roles in Toronto, Montreal, and Tokyo
- fifteen years as an entrepreneur and almost as many as a volunteer
- an accredited executive coach
- personal experience as an expat
- experience inventing, designing and bringing a patented clothing management product to market
- contributing to media as a subject matter expert and brand champion on organization and productivity
- a mom of two teenagers, two cats and a very distinguished, loving, and somewhat needy miniature dachshund
AND, IF YOU WANT TO KNOW A LITTLE MORE...
I was born in England to parents of Indian and British descent. I drink Earl Grey tea and, yes, Marmite is a comfort food. I’m sorry, yet understand, that you might not appreciate it!
If you’re finding it hard to be compassionate to yourself, think of yourself when you were little. That can make it easy to remember you’re doing your best and you deserve to treat yourself with kindness. I keep this photo in my office to remember to treat myself with care.
We came to Canada when I was four. I went to ten schools growing up, including a year back in England at a boarding school. It was tough at the time as I never seemed to have the stuff I thought would magically make me cool, but I learned how to make friends quickly. It also may explain why every few years, I feel the need for a change of some kind, and why today, I’m very comfortable in a room full of people I don’t know.
I was a bit, okay, maybe a lot, of a nerdy kid who liked learning and singing, neither of which was hip when I was a kid, and I wasn’t particularly good at sport (an overstatement). Thank goodness it’s cool to be smart now…right?!
It’s important to be yourself, even if you stand out.
Outside of school, I had a variety of part-time jobs: babysitting the neighbours’ kids (which I adored), building one bicep scooping ice cream at a local convenience store, and selling clothing when sweatshirts were cool the first time around.
I survived three days in a shoe store. I couldn’t take the constant standing. I wondered how I could walk for miles, but not comfortably stand for an hour? I think the manager was probably pretty relieved when I quit. I kept reorganizing the haphazard displays. Seriously, who mixes models and colours with no rhyme or reason? It confused the customers and made me twitchy.
Moving on to work at a restaurant salad bar, I scraped sharp, jagged ice from the stainless-steel bin at night and the next morning I couldn’t wait to slice lemons. Not! Ouch! I had serious motivation to evolve quickly to waiting on tables in a glamourous pink tuxedo shirt and bowtie. And you know what? Despite regularly smelling like a sizzle plate, well, that was one of my most favourite jobs. I’ll tell you why later.
Coming from a medical family, there will be no surprise that I inherited a keen interest in biology. I completed an undergrad degree and then, after some serious self-reflection (I credit “What Color is Your Parachute” which is still on my bookshelf, and which I often recommend to clients), I moved onto studying business and specifically marketing to marry my creative and analytical skills.
I landed a job with Nortel in the early 90’s. It was an exciting place to work, full of bright minds and top-notch technology. Leadership made an incredible investment in training and development, providing ergonomic workspaces and access to a gym. At the same time, it was a place where pulling an “all-nighter” was an investment of which to be proud.
Work culture matters. When choosing where to work, look at what you can accomplish and the environment in which you’ll be contributing. Alignment is critical.
At 25, with a fully-fledged appetite for travel, I took a leave of absence and explored the world for a year on my own. It was a period in which jobs were being cut and colleagues thought I was taking a huge risk. Having lost my father a year before after a tough battle with cancer, it was a much-needed journey. It turned out to be one of the best years of my life!
A leave of absence is a generous way to keep high performing talent and allow them room to grow personally.
I returned to Toronto and slid into a finance job through a friend of a friend (it is often who you know, you know), again in the telecom industry. It didn’t start particularly well as HR had completely forgotten I was coming, and it didn’t really get a lot better. I joined the company at a time when it was floundering. I can still remember my director telling us that it was not his job to motivate us. I didn't understand that thinking then, and I still don't. It was tough for most to keep their spirits up. Upon reflection, however, there was a lot of learning going through that situation.
A leader can play a role in helping employees connect their purpose to the company's mission.
After a year I found a better fit at a rapidly growing loyalty marketing firm. It was rife with opportunities to build skills and develop as a leader, in a company with cutting edge technology. This company, too, continually invested in educating its employees, bringing in experts to teach us marketing techniques and more. The leadership, and in particular, the president, modelled a wellness approach. I can still remember the president talking about Steven Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". He made this point about sticking to your practice:
If you plan to exercise for 45 minutes, but only find yourself with 15 mniutes to spare, then exercise for 15 minutes.
Then it was off to Tokyo, with my then husband for an expat experience. Eager to be useful, I attempted to teach a few English classes but quickly realized I was probably doing more harm than good. English often makes less sense the more you think about it! Ultimately, I networked my way into a fabulous opportunity to bring marketing concepts into a British / Japanese joint venture. What a fabulous challenge to work in a different culture, with many memorable experiences. They wanted an “American” accent, so this Canadian had her first paid voice work, recording the disaster messages: “We are sorry, because of the emergency, your call cannot be completed at this time."
We moved from Tokyo to Montreal. The day after I landed, wasting no time, I hit up a job fair. Within a few weeks I was serving as the right hand to the VP of Small Business Marketing at a national telecom company. A fabulous opportunity to get an overview of the company and serve the broader team.
It was also the time we were blessed with two children, two years apart. Having a child altered priorities like nothing before.
Changing jobs again meant I stepped into new roles in technology and product development with a massive vertical learning curve.
While on a maternity leave, in large part because child care in Quebec was subsidized, I decided to explore using my interests and strengths and started Streamlife, on a part-time basis to help others (including myself!) live more organized, productive, and ultimately fulfilling lives.
After the maternity leave, I was lucky to find a very stimulating position with internal communications on culture change. This was another of my favourite jobs, this time because it aligned incredibly well with my personal values and skill set. But, just like the other time I landed a really fab fit for me, it was time to move again. This time back to Toronto. I have experienced a few times how hard it is to give up a job you love.
The move back to Toronto was a tough one. We left a house that was paid for and submerged into another mortgage. Not only did we lose an incredible quality of child care, we plunged into child care expenses four to five times greater. I also had a fear of being pulled back into a demanding, inflexible work culture. My fear was not ungrounded.
In hindsight, I made a mistake. As time on my leave of absence was running out, I said "yes" to a role that I knew I could do, but wasn’t quite the right fit for me. I made every effort to contribute in my last role and performed very well, however, I wasn’t able to negotiate the flexibility I needed despite the fact we were selling the very technology that would make it possible. The irony was not lost on me.
Whether working for a major national company, start up or international joint venture, in Toronto, Montreal, or Tokyo, I noticed opportunities to create a better experience for myself and others. Never being shy to speak up, I could be counted on to advocate for conditions that enabled maximum productivity, such as supportive office ergonomics, workplace flexibility, and respect for time, all while delivering results.
Success is using your authentic skills in service of others, without depleting yourself.
It was time to venture full time into entrepreneurship and a commitment to using my authentic skills in service of others. I believe that is actually one way to define success. Since then I’ve helped thousands of people set priorities, let go of what isn’t serving them, create spaces that nourish and schedules that breathe.
Not long after committing to my business, I volunteered for Professional Organizers in Canada as the Director of Marketing. This led to opportunities to represent the association in media. Since then, I’ve enjoyed sharing my philosophies and practical advice in media such as Fast Company, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, The Social, and The Marilyn Denis Show, and am often called on to contribute to news and lifestyle publications. I'm also thrilled to promote products and services I believe boost organization, productivity and pleasure in people's lives.
Volunteering is a wonderful way to build a variety of skills and give back. It often provides unexpected rewards.
At the urging of several clients who were asking me if I would consider coaching them, I decided to pursue proper training and took the Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching program at Royal Roads University. Now, as a Certified Executive Coach and Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation, I focus on helping forward-thinking companies create productive work cultures, environments, and practices to unleash the potential of their human partners. I work with leadership and team members to develop a common language and understanding of key concepts through presentations and workshops. Coaching and ongoing communications are the perfect complements to further stimulate mindset shifts and drive lasting behaviour change.
I practice what I preach in terms of commitment to achieving my Productivity Table Stakes, prioritizing the cultivation of meaningful relationships and making time for play. If you're curious what any of that looks like, I invite you to follow my Instragram feed.
I'm excited to see what the next chapter brings. Will you join me in crafting the story?