Accidental collisions of the human kind.

Last weekend, my closest friend Rhonda married her best friend Amit. It was a hallmark occasion in our epic friendship and my heart was bursting with joy to witness their union. I write this post in celebration of their special day.

Back in the spring, Rhon asked me to speak at her wedding. To say I was deeply touched is true, but I also felt a profound responsibility to convey the joy I felt for my friend after 20 years of monumental ups and downs in both our professional and personal lives.

Those who know me, know that I can be entertaining, witty and relatively eloquent with little preparation on various topics but few know that I tend to shy away from expressing my inner feelings and thoughts publicly. I much prefer to discuss intimate matters only with those closest to me. So to speak publicly about my love for Rhon, in conjunction with the perfectionist pressure I put on myself, I felt nervous, in the truest sense of the word. Rhon tried to reassure me on Friday by saying my speech would be great even if I winged it, and though I knew this to be true, I still desperately yearned to get it right.

Unbeknownst to many, I had written two versions which I completely hated. A core essence was just missing, they felt generic and empty. Luckily, inspiration came knocking on Friday night at 2am. I woke up with a start, got up and started typing, words flowed magically from my hands onto the keyboard. Satisfaction came after 20 minutes. I went to bed, awoke hours later, read it aloud while recording myself, got verklempt and knew I had a winner!

So in honour of Rhonda and Amit (and with their permission), I would like to share my speech in celebration of their beautiful wedding last Sunday, September 10th 2017.

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“The life we all lead is a result of timing, circumstance and accidental collisions between humans. As social beings, I am often dumbfounded by the serendipitous nature of events that lead to coincidental meetings that change the course of our lives forever.

Nearly 20 years ago today, good fortune brought Rhonda and I into each other’s lives as Freshmen at McGill where we definitely Gert’s Til it Hurt. In the decades that have followed, to say we have supported one another through life’s hard knocks is to undervalue the magic and mystery of our relationship and what it means to me. We have helped one another mature into wonderfully accomplished individuals both professionally and personally; we’ve learned immensely from the school of hard knocks and as we like to say often, “this too shall pass and if it doesn’t kill us… it is making us stronger, right?”

Rhonda is undoubtedly the hardest working, clever, funny, smart and beautiful person that I am blessed to call my friend, she is the sister that I got to choose for myself. And seeing her follow the right career move to Toronto was hard but we both knew it was the right decision to turn the page on Montreal. And as life is often about accidental human collisions, her move brought Amit & Miki serendipitously into her life, in the same magical way that Charlie arrived and I can’t remember seeing her so joyful.

Over the years we have borne witness to many life events, we have travelled the world, loved hard and fallen even harder. We have been blessed with one another and an incredible circle of friends & family that help us get back up again and shine on.  And as her friend, my ultimate desire is for her to find contentment and joy in her everyday life. And I know today that she has found this in her relationship with Amit.

What I love about this couple before me is that they don’t complete each other, they didn’t have gaping holes in their spirits before the other arrived. Both of them are strong, brilliant independent people that are whole in all of their beauty and imperfections. Their coming together just compliments each other. It’s incredible how their shared light shines brighter than the mere combination of two stars into one.

In a lifetime there are magic moments that get burned into our memories and my fondest one is a moment of pure joy emanating from Rhon as we drove with windows down, high above Santorini’s volcanic coastlines. As I hugged the curves of the narrow road in our little stick shift rental car, she had her arms extended out of the window facing the sea and she just bellowed out WHEEEEEEE so spontaneously, gleefully and free, over and over into the great expanse, all while the sunlight danced on her smiling face. I honestly don’t remember a moment where I have seen Rhonda as happy. That is until I saw her with you, Amit.

Rhonda, I am overcome with joy to see you so content, full of life and just plain happy. Thank you Amit for giving Rhonda lots of WHEEEE moments to date and also in all your future years together. I am grateful for you, and love you for bringing such joy to my dear friend, who means the absolute world to me.

So to conclude, I would like to ask you all to join me in celebrating Rhonda & Amit with the most joyful WHEEEE that we can all muster because as we have all lived through many dark moments, these moments of light and love must be celebrated.

So let us raise our glasses and on the count of 3, let us shout out WHEEEE to celebrate the happy couple.

1…2….3….WHEEEEEEE”

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Thank you Rhonda for being my pillar of strength over the last 20 years and for decades to come. I feel blessed to walk down the road of life with you by my side, because as we both know, it is the journey that counts, not the destination.

I am eternally grateful for the accidental collisions of the human kind that brought you into my life and for the serendipitous collisions that brought Charlie, Amit & Miki into yours. I am so happy for you both. Mazel tov!

I love you.

The End of an Era.

The theme of this year’s TED conference was The Future You. Its relevance was striking as I flew home from sharing a mind-expanding week in NYC with my beloved TEDx tribe. Over the course of TEDFest, during the moments between powerful talks, I was overcome with profound gratitude mixed with a deep sadness as I prepared to start my last week at Loto-Québec.

It has been one hell of a ride these last 8 years at La Société des Casinos du Québec. Never would I have anticipated that my “rebound boyfriend” job, after Maple Leaf Foods, would have been as formative and instructive for my career. All the positions I’ve held over these years have “under promised, over delivered” on teachings; gifting me with an empowering hands-on education second to none. And though I still have much to learn, I have matured, developed and grown significantly for which I am grateful.

The weeks since announcing my departure have given me some of the most humbling and rewarding moments in my life. I have been flooded by intensely touching stories in person, by phone, social media and email. Each story shares at its core, the desire to convey to me what our relationship and interactions meant to them. The stories are deep, personal and filled with such love and gratitude – I have laughed, cried and hugged with such intensity these past weeks that my soul feels filled to the brim, overflowing with gratitude for each person’s desire to share such vulnerable stories about us with me.

It has been difficult to put my finger on the emotions coursing through me. Yet, after crying during an epic TED session on refugees, it finally dawned on me what was causing me to stumble emotionally. To my surprise, the predominant emotion gripping me was grief. It’s as if I needed to fully appreciate and mourn the end of my career at Loto-Quebec before being able to turn the page. Once I knew this to be true, I spent a lot of time alone despite the bustle, reminiscing on all the good and bad times to get closure.

Ironically, all the expressions of gratitude I received and was able to convey to employees and colleagues felt oddly like being lucky enough to attend my own funeral.

The most touching and recurring themes from my staff have been their appreciation for my unwavering belief in their capacity to achieve greatness; how my vision for them often exceeded their own expectations of what they could accomplish. Many thanked me for investing everything I could to help them succeed; from defending them in sticky situations, to impromptu coffee breaks or late night chats on how to improve their attack strategies, presentations skills or political agility. Others wanted me to know that I had given them the confidence and desire they needed to excel – they trusted my judgement and had faith that perhaps I saw something in them that they didn’t see… just yet.

During the time I spent pondering my impact on others and vice-versa, a question began to haunt me. I started to ask myself how we got to the point where many of us no longer feel that people have our backs or are truly on our team, cheering and supporting us. Why has this become rare? Why have so many of us stopped championing for others? We all know a rising tide lifts all boats, yet why is the behaviour of doing all we can to uplift our fellow colleagues rarer than we’d like? This has got to change and I hope in a small way, my passage at the SCQ will leave that legacy. My hope is that we all pay this forward, uplifting each other to achieve great feats with the pride of knowing we did it together.

“If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; however, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that.”

          ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I will now conclude with some words to my dear soon-to-be ex-colleagues:

‘It was an honour and a privilege to work alongside each of you. And though my chapter at Loto-Québec is coming to a close, I hope to start a new page with you soon.

For my outstanding teams – Thank you for the hard work, good fun, honest discussions and debates. I will miss our 1:1 and open-area chats the most. Over the years, we have witnessed each other grow and I look forward to seeing your progress continue. Know that I invested in each of you not because I was your manager but because I believed in your potential. This belief does not stop just because we no longer work together. You are still your incredible YOU! As always, you can count on me to bounce ideas or strategies with you, don’t hesitate to reach out.

To my teams, collaborators and leadership teams – Thank you for granting me the liberty to try new, sometimes kooky ideas and for generously tweaking, supporting and launching many of them. It has been an incredible journey balancing two levels of politics in a turbulent sea of public opinion while optimizing a ‘vice’ entertainment experience that provides essential public services. Building product management and other parts of the organization from scratch would never have been possible if not for the outstanding caliber of your individual contributions.

Above all, I feel blessed to have worked with such a passionate and dedicated bunch! Thank you all and most notably, to my manager Charles.

Charles, you were my lighthouse during many stormy seas, we made a great one-two-punch. I am grateful for all your coaching and championing; gifts I intend to pay forward.’

So it has been a blast folks, thank you for the side-splitting laughter, the head-scratching casse-têtes, the hard knocks and especially the opportunity to share a slice of our lives together over the last 8 years. I wish you all the best and look forward to writing a new page with you as I start my next chapter…

u can fly

Kindling the flames of epic friendships

Last Saturday night I spent the evening catching up with old friends and was struck by the beauty of friendships that span decades. I have personally enjoyed the pleasurable company of 3 extraordinary ladies for just over half my life’s journey. Since 1998, we have borne witness to each other’s lives. From trips abroad, nights on the town, new jobs, weddings, sickness, disappointments, heartbreak and even the birth of a beautiful baby girl who is now almost a woman – we have shared our lives openly and unapologetically over the years; with care and support radiating from a place of love.

Laced with life’s ups and downs, our friendship has evolved, stretched and repaired itself like a beautiful spider’s web – it’s resilience has enabled us to capture magical moments and bridge many of the obstacles that life sends our way. At times, the strength from our bond has helped me cross the darkest of valleys when I had no strength of my own to continue.

When I step back, I marvel at the serendipitous circumstances that brought us together during very different life milestones. Luck led us to work at the same retail store –reasons varied from a part-time stint while in university, to a full-time career in retail, and as a stepping stone during a brief career break – it is unlikely that any of us foresaw the creation of such a random, positive and long-term comradery back then. The uniqueness of our friendship lies in how incredibly distinct each of us are, all with careers in industries miles apart; to passions, lifestyles and friend networks that overlap but slightly. Yet the ties that bind us stem from our shared values –a thirst for living a life of kindness, generosity and love fueled by endless curiosity and self-discovery – and ultimately a desire to laugh and celebrate joy in our lives.

As we continue to grow older and life runs its course through habits and routines, I invite you to step back and marvel at the delicate yet resilient friendships born long ago, the ones you yearn to rekindle or maintain more often. I welcome you to look at them from a fresh angle, one where the light reveals the sparkle hidden in that old spider’s silk, which until perceived differently, had blended into the background, completely transparent. Perhaps it is time for us to see the beauty in what we may take for granted to always be there.

I encourage you to reach out to your beloved old friends – those with whom you’ve shared significant life milestones – those whom have drifted, not due to a lack of commonality but due to a lack of action on both sides. Because life moves quickly and we sometimes lose grasp of important connections when our hands get too full.

The truth is that it will always be harder to connect with friends in different circles, life stages, time zones and industries. Why? Because it requires more effort and coordination. Because there are no happenstance occasions to bump into one another at the cafeteria, day care or local park – it requires planning. But with just the tiniest bit of planning and desire to step out of our routines, we can choose to deepen these longstanding relationships with just one surgically-precise scheduled dinner. One that will reconnect and strengthen the strands of friendship so that the revitalized web can continue capturing new memories for us to cherish over a lifetime. There is great joy to come from reviving these relationships, I urge you to fight the divergence borne from inaction in order to rediscover the joy of each other’s company.

In 2018, we will be celebrating 20 years of friendship and our web is certainly more beautiful now than yesteryear. I am eternally grateful for the circumstances that brought these lovely dynamos into my life and enthusiastically look forward to our next 20 years together!

Cheers ladies!! Love you to bits!

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