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2015 #Themeword: Create

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2015 #Themeword: Create


Welcome 2015. New year. New home. New job.

2014 was quite a year! It started out without too much fuss. Carlos and I spent our first NYE in Toronto, ringing in 2014. By February, I was offered a job at MSLGROUP Canada.

In July, Carlos and I went to Palm Springs where we joined 400 other Digital Utopians at Y&YY. This was a pivotal moment for me. Many of the attendees of Y&YY were old friends of mine from back when I lived in San Francisco. I realized, while reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones, that I had gotten really far away from who I am...who I really want to be.

When we returned home to Toronto after the trip, I took a big step back to look at where I was and where I would like to be. Though I loved working with many of my colleagues and was doing some really interesting work at MSLGROUP, I just didn't see myself settling in there long term. I made the plan to start looking for more suitable work in the next few years. This set the stage for what was to come in the next few months.

In the meantime, we were really starting to settle into Toronto and loved it, so when Carlos suggested we think about buying a place, I only resisted for a few minutes. From August to October, we worked with our amazing real estate agent, Mike, until we found our dream home in our dream neighborhood. (We move in end of January)


In November, I received an email from Patrick Pittman of Totem, describing a reinvention and the need for "non-traditional thinkers who don’t necessarily come from the world of corporate business-as-usual." This sang to my heart. After meeting Patrick and then Louis-Jacques Darveau, I was convinced that I had found my people. On January 5th, I start my new position of Director of Audience Development at Totem.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.23.32 AM
Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 12.23.32 AM


For anyone who has followed me for a while, you know that every year, I do a themeword for my goals for the upcoming year. This started back on NYE 2007/08 when Erica Douglas suggested it at a gathering of friends. Here is my history of themewords + how they played out:

2008: TRANSITION - came to represent more transitions than I planned for! 2009: THRIVE - great year with my book being released, a karaoke roadtrip + a move to Montreal! 2010: ACHIEVE - cofounded a startup, raised some money + built the first version of a social app! 2011: REAP - raised our seed round of money, got great press, built an amazing version of Buyosphere! 2012: GIVE'R - gave my heart and soul until the end of Buyosphere. 2013: TRIUMPH - helped lead Justin Trudeau to LPC victory, moved to Toronto, started Lime! 2014: PURPOSE - got back to me again. ------------------------------


2015: CREATE

This year, there was no real deliberating over what my themeword would be. I want to create again. My new role at Totem opens up all sorts of creative possibilities and I've already been talking about creating more content for Totem itself (and I have resources and support for it). Moving into our new home will also open up many creative possibilities. Now that we own, we can get more creative with the decor. I've already started gathering ideas on Pinterest!

As well, I've been meaning to do more video and our new place has amazing light and space for us to make this happen. We've already bought a new camera and some lighting, but I'm really looking forward to setting up a consistent set (our dining room will be doubling as the set) to film weekly videos. I'm also going to sign up for NaNoWriMo this year. I have an outline for my second book. This will give me the structure to do it.

I love strategy as much as the next guy, but I love making stuff even more! So that's what 2015 is all about. More video. More photography. More writing. More of everything that I can make!


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My #Themeword for 2013: Triump


My #Themeword for 2013: Triump


In the past few #themeword years, I've been incredibly cautious when it comes to picking my word. I felt it unwise to take the leap that this year or that would be MY year. It started with Transition in 2008, and Thrive in 2009, then moved along to Achieve in 2010, then Reap in 2011 and finally Give'r in 2012. The thing these #themewords had in common was hard work and growth.

I've worked hard. I've grown. I know I still have lots to learn, but after 5 years of hard work and growth, I'm looking forward to some awesome payoff and 2013 feels like the right year to go bullish on the themeword.

Triumph is an awesome word, too. It's not only amazingly dramatic and bigger than life for a word, it is also the name of an awesome Canadian 80's hair band and a pretty sweet and sporty motorcycle. I feel pretty brazen about this word and I look forward to this awesome year.

I have lots to feel bullish about this year. For many years, I struggled with Buyosphere and, before that, was figuring out who I am and where I wanted to go. These years have been challenging, but in the past half a year, I've re-entered the workforce and taken on some exciting new work that has put my skills to the test. I can now say I finally know what I'm doing and feel professionally solid.

I also have a wonderful relationship with an amazing man, my son is growing up to be a fine young man and I'm happy with who I am and have let go of many of the insecurities of my youth. I turn 40 in 2013 and I'm excited for it. I no longer dread that milestone.

Yep. This year is going to rock. I've fought the good fight, now it's time to rock out and roll on. ;)


2012 #Themeword: GIVE'R

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2012 #Themeword: GIVE'R


I can't believe that 2011 is almost over. It seems like yesterday that I was writing the themeword post for this year...REAP. This year really seemed to fly by in a way I don't recall other years flying by. Perhaps it is because I was so pre-occupied. Between being busier than I've ever been in my life and starting a new relationship, I lost track of time. You can say what you will about the challenge of startups, but they define a new level of focus that I didn't even know existed before this year. Even though I'd been working pretty diligently last year on things, it wasn't until this year that 'shit got real' (so to speak).

When I started thinking about my #themeword for this year (thanks to Laura, Karen and Liza), I looked back at how REAP worked out for this past year. What started out as a rocky year actually turned out pretty REAP-worthy. It unfolded slowly and I hardly even saw it shifting because it never got easier, but there it was. There was still time in 2011 and we started to REAP the benefits of the long road of work we put into things. But let me back up.

Number one was the relationship. I met someone right away. Only. That wasn't the right person. I thought it was because, well, I asked for the ability to find one. But it was pretty quickly apparent that it wasn't the right one. But it didn't take long and those closed doors made way for open ones.

When I met Carlos, I wasn't sure. He was definitely handsome, fun, smart and sweet, but I had a very definite 'type' in mind. That was my biggest problem. I kept going for the wrong guy. But I was lucky this time. The right guy went for ME. And even when I resisted, he persisted and wore me down. He helped me see that my list was stupid. I wasn't looking for what I needed, I was looking for what I thought I wanted. And what I wanted wasn't congruent with what I needed. But it took a man with a will bigger than mine to show me the light.

This has been a big 2011 point of REAPness.

As for Buyosphere, which started out this year under a different awful name. And a bit of a different idea. Well, that took a little longer. And with good retrospect.

I wrote recently about the anatomy of a pivot. It's a really personal story. I needed to learn a bunch of things: how to let go of the solution and focus on the problem. I'm stubborn. If it wasn't apparent in my personal relationship story, I suffer a bit from myopia. I convince myself of something and everything lines up to support that thesis in my mind. I don't budge. For Buyosphere, I was focused on data as the solution to helping people find what they were looking for. I was so convinced that I didn't know why everyone else didn't see it. And, to be fair to my own thinking, it was AN idea and someone will surely do it someday, but it will take lots of time and money and huge leaps forward in web standards...probably resulting in about 10-15 years of blood, sweat and tears on the subject.

It was late spring that we realized there was an issue. People liked the name, the design, the UI and a whole bunch of other bits and bobs with Buyosphere, but it wasn't solving the problem that it set out to solve and so it fell flat. We knew we needed to be useful now.

The funny thing is that I often told the story of my epic search for a black skirt and nobody ever questioned it...until one day David Rose made a super 'should-have-been-obvious' statement to me. I told him that Buyosphere is born from a series of fruitless and frustrating online shopping searches that ended empty handed and the best illustration of this was a search for a plain black skirt that took me 3.5 hours and 14 sites to find. So after giving him a few bars of my pitch, he stops me and asks, "Wait a minute. So when do you find the skirt?" I stammered a bit, "Well, after we gather the data and create this..." He stopped me, "Let me get this right, you took a 3.5 hour search and turned it into a 3.5 YEAR search? That doesn't sound so efficient to me." My jaw must have dropped to the ground. He was completely right. I was at a loss. But he's a smart guy and pushed a bit more, "Stop the deck and show me your site." And I did. I walked him through some of the features. The next thing he said to me triggered everything else that would come, "Wow, this is nice. Your site has a bunch of Quora-like features."


Black skirt. Quora. What would it take to to make helping people find stuff less about data and more about Q&A? Turns out 3 months.

It wasn't the first time I heard Quora brought up as a comparison or the first time someone suggested we create the ability to ask one another for advice. But it was the first time I was open to it and completely ready to hear it. David Rose is truly an angel.

It's what turned everything around for us. Jerome started working on the new site. I re-worked the pitch deck and the business plan. Cassandra worked on the business modeling around the new, improved idea. Within 3 months, we had a new site (which we haven't started any promotion on, but is getting steady sign ups and pick up), our seed funding (oversubscribed!) and a bright new path into the new year that is much more exciting and feels like the winner.

So...yeah...epic 2011. Very very REAPable. Where do I go from here?

Well, I know we still have lots of work to do and a long road ahead. I like the way that road is looking though. And now that I know that the road we're traveling is the right one, there is nothing left to do but work hard, smart and...well...


For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from my upbringing. I was raised in small town Alberta where bush parties and shotgunning beer are hobbies. If you haven't seen the movie, Fubar, here is a taste. Ah. Sniff. Memories! The term GIVE'R is often the philosophy of the partier, but I think it applies well to startup life. In essence it means (from Urban Dictionary):

"1. Going all out and/or balls to the wall to take care of business as quickly and as awesomely as possible 2. Acting in a way that is like you're rocking out really hard, but at the same time, trying to solve a problem that may or may not involve drop-kicking something without hesitation"

Quickly, efficiently and awesomely going all out. That is what 2012 is going to be about. With or without the drop-kicking. Hopefully without. We're going to GIVE'R through this next year and it's going to pay off big time.

So there you go. GIVE'R in 2012. That's my #themeword.

So, in the tradition that Erica Douglass began on NYE 2007/2008, what is YOUR #themeword?

How to Pick Your #ThemeWord for 2011 (via Erica O’Grady):

  1. Think of a word that reflects your hopes and dreams for 2010.
  2. Share your ThemeWord with friends on Twitter, Facebook, or Your Blog.
  3. Be sure and use the hashtag #Themeword.

What I love about boiling the entire year down into one word is that it helps focus everything else. It’s also a fun exercise. Be sure to tweet and tell me yours.

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Prioritizing M-E

Don't compromise. Because once you do, you will compromise again and again. Next thing you know it, you'll be doing everything for everyone else and you will feel stressed and awful.