I have been lucky in my career.
It all started when my parents allowed me to go buck-wild and set up my own Hello Kitty store. My mom and I were at the House & Home show in Toronto and as soon as I saw the Hello Kitty section, I got this fire in my belly. My mom said “yes!” and allowed me to pick out my own product to set up a section in her home decor store.
I was the happiest 15 year old ever when all of my product arrived.
I remember loving the process of printing my labels, sticking them on all my products and displaying them. There was something about retail and being an entrepreneur that I loved. I’d seen my parents do the same so it came naturally to me.
I ended up buying a lot of my own stock because I loved the product – cartoon cats may not have gone with everyone’s colour scheme.
My next job was during high school and was working at a gas station. I worked at an Esso for my uncle where I would spend most of my weekends and holidays. I loved interacting with customers and playing life coach with the employees. There was something about interacting people and the organization of the gum, pop and candy bars that made me really happy.
I went onto selling knives and if you can sell a knife, you can sell anything.
I remember when I told my first Homemaker plus 8. It was a $1200 knife collection and the expression on my face said it all when my first customer bought. She asked me if it was my first sale to which I lied and said I had sold many $1200 knife collections before.
I managed to find my way into the fitness business. First, as a member ambassador (we were warmly called “party associates”), then onto personal training and then a manager of the personal training department.
Within a year, I was running the entire club and I felt like I was on a hot streak.
I was moving up very quickly in my career without having to think too hard about what I was doing. The work wasn’t difficult but there were long hours and days. I didn’t mind the work when I was busy – the days always flew by.
I knew I loved what I did and put my heart and soul into it. After about a year, I knew something wasn’t right. I started feeling burnt out and needed a break. I think what actually was happening is that I wasn’t getting the same energy out that I was putting in anymore.
It’s like an emotional bank account and it had to be refilled to continue to pull from. For me, development was my recharge and sometimes when things are going well, you don’t get as much of that. We usually spend 80% of our time on the people that are struggling, not the ones that are coming out ahead.
So I moved to Asia where I become an English teacher and entrepreneur.
I would teach English classes at night and on weekends, which left my days to ponder new business ideas and challenges. I loved how entrepreneurial and creative I was able to be in Vietnam; there were so many opportunities to work with various artists and the world was your oyster.
I started getting sick all of the time from the kids, touching their mouths, touching their squid snacks and then trying to touch me. I was sick every other week and that started to get old. My husband and I were then also in a small motorbike accident where we were both thrown to the ground (I was just wearing a dress and bare legs) and that shook me up. I missed the comforts and safety of home.
After a year, we moved back to Ontario.
When we moved back to Ontario, I went back into the fitness industry where I started working in training and development. I LOVED it.
I loved working with new general managers, helping them connect the dots of how to make their job easy and the work-life balance the role provided me. I could work from home on Fridays and we received a TON of development.
We would debate different learning ideas and I was engaged in my work all of the time. I had been covering a mat leave and there was an opportunity to go to Nova Scotia for a full time position. My husband and I packed up and we moved out East. I worked in training and development for another 1.5 years before I become a District Manager. I worked in New Brunswick for 4 years before moving to BC to become a District Sales Manager.
My intention this whole time was to do more of what I loved. But I starting chasing the money and associating success with moving up. I associated status with happiness and power with passion when these things do not interchangeably connect. I had lost my sense of self and which is what I was really chasing. I was chasing the dream to be able to do what I love which turns out is defining culture and molding it with training, systems and development and teaching leaders how to hold conversations safely. I call it the A, B, C’s.
You start with C – you have to define the culture you want and ensure everyone on your team can confidently carry out that culture. B is for behaviours; after you have the culture in place, you start implementing the right behaviours through systems and coaching to ensure you are upholding the culture. Next comes accountability; you teach your team how to hold each other accountable to the behaviours and culture through crucial accountability training.
This is honestly what I love – I love to read about culture, study it and learn about how the psychology behind it works. And I have learned in a very short time that happiness is truly doing what you love every day. Anyone can go out and work at a job but few people have the privilege of getting serious about what they love and making a great career out of it. Happiness really is based on what you THINK you do, day in, day out. And can you make peace with that.
I decided I need to make a change in the way I was going about my work. I needed to bring my passion and purpose back into what I was doing so I started teaching my team the A, B, Cs. I started a book club where we could discuss learning and development and get fired up about new topics. Funny enough, even though this was all content I was delivered, I was the most excited about it.
I can’t say that you are going to 100% love your work all of the time – sometimes it sucks. But I can tell you that it is the meaning you put behind it, the why behind the what, that makes it worth while. There is a gift in everything that we do and if we take a few minutes to realize what that gift is, we end up with more than we started.