#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Nicole McLaren

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays is an opportunity to feature stories of individuals whose journeys can be examples for all of us. Most often, these stories have popped up in my social media feeds, and although the randomness is amazing, there is a common thread connecting them all. Whether through a career reinvention, an unexpected opportunity, or an a-ha moment; because of boredom, or maybe circumstances, these individuals have followed their, often meandering, paths to find fulfillment through purposeful work.

PALEOBIOLOGY | cOMMUNITY & Economic devpt | RECONCILIATION

I have always had a passion for finding interesting ways to engage, inspire and motivate those around me. My mixed-heritage and Indigenous roots are what drove me to do this. – Nicole McLaren, Raven Reads

Nicole Mclaren, Raven ReadsNicole McLaren, Founder of Raven Reads, graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Paleobiology/Archaeology. Since then, she has worked primarily for mining sector companies in a variety of capacities in both Saskatchewan, and for the past few years, in British Columbia. Prior to her departure for BC, McLaren served as an elected Councillor for the Town of Langham, volunteered extensively, and also completed a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology.

Much of McLaren’s work has involved consensus building for community and economic development initiatives between Indigenous and non-Indigenous interest groups. As an Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, then Advisor, for an international mining and metals company, and as a woman with Indigenous roots, Nicole has often wondered what reconciliation means, and what role she might have in it. Within the past few years, two things happened which, when combined, led to the creation of Raven Reads.

McLaren started a book club at work. Not only was it a way for her to read more, it was an opportunity to introduce her co-workers to Indigenous writers. “Almost none of the women in her book club at work had contact with Indigenous communities, so reading about Indigenous experiences created better understanding.” (CBC Unreserved) And, secondly, quite by accident, Nicole discovered the concept of subscription boxes. Although Raven Reads wasn’t conceived as a Reconciliation project, it has slowly evolved into one.

In honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, Raven Reads aims to inspire and create safe space for dialogue by expanding our understanding and perspectives of the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world, through the written word, from the past and into the present. – Raven Reads

Subscription boxes are mailed out seasonally throughout the year. Each beautifully packaged box contains one book by an Indigenous writer, along with giftware from Indigenous-owned companies. In the spirit of giving back, in 2018, Raven Reads will donate $1 from each subscription box to the First Nations Caring Society. For more information on Raven Reads, and their giving back activities, please click here.

Sources: Raven ReadsLinkedIn, CBC Unreserved

Photo via CBC Unreserved: supplied.

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Sandy Sharkey

When I began work on The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference with Stacey, I thought we’d have a difficult time finding speakers for the event. Although, there was no doubt in my mind we’d have an audience interested in the subject matter, I wondered if there were really people out there who had pulled off a successful career change, or found a way to incorporate purposeful work into their lives. Now, not only have we lined up an inspiring and accomplished group of Speakers from a variety of backgrounds, but I continue to come across individuals whose journeys can be examples for all of us.

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays features stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion.

WRITER | RADIO ANNOUNCER | PHOTOGRAPHER

When you’re a kid, you have dreams, and as you start to get older, you learn you have to have responsibility, and you have to have a career… And somehow your childhood dreams just go away and they’re lost. – Sandy Sharkey

Sandy Sharkey, Founder of Sandy Sharkey Photography, grew up in Ottawa, Ontario spending much of her childhood free time exploring the outdoors, and the rest of it leafing through the Funk and Wagnalls Wildlife Encyclopedia series. She dreamed about seeing those animals in their natural habitats, and knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up: a veterinarian.

Instead, Sharkey spent more than 35 years in broadcasting, and it’s only been in recent years that she’s returned to the world of animals, her first love. Carol Anne Meehan, from the Ottawa area podcast series Coffee With, featured Sharkey in the 10 minute video below:

My job as a photographer is to show those interactions between the [wild horses], which are absolutely stunningly beautiful to watch; and hopefully turn people’s minds… there are pockets of people who want them gone forever. – Sandy Sharkey

Now, you must visit Sharkey’s website, which not only features beautiful photos of wild horses, but also stunning pictures of birds, animals in the wild, and assorted musicians, too!

Sources: Coffee With, Sandy Sharkey Photography

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Kate Ming-Sun

When I began work on The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference with Stacey, I thought we’d have a difficult time finding speakers for the event. Although, there was no doubt in my mind we’d have an audience interested in the subject matter, I wondered if there were really people out there who had pulled off a successful career change, or found a way to incorporate purposeful work into their lives. Now, not only have we lined up an inspiring and accomplished group of Speakers from a variety of backgrounds, but I continue to come across individuals whose journeys can be examples for all of us.

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays features stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion.

ACCOUNTANT | CFO | OUTDOOR ADVENTURE PROFESSIONAL

At first I found thinking about change hard. I didn’t know what the drum beat called me towards. I had gotten out of the habit of paying attention to what my intuition told me. – Kate Ming-Sun

Kate Ming-SunKate Ming-Sun, Founder of KMS Outdoors, writer, and photographer, spent a good portion of her childhood playing outdoors, swimming at the lake, and on camping adventures with the Girl Scouts. As a college student, hiking with friends became a regular activity, and once Kate began working, weekends were filled with rock-climbing, snowshoeing, kayaking, etc. with a multi-sport adventure group. Outdoor activities were a large part of Kate’s life… until they weren’t.

With undergraduate degrees in Finance and French, and a Masters of Accounting, Kate easily moved up the corporate ladder. Her financial career, which began in audit and accounting, eventually led to a plum position as Chief Financial Officer for a company in Toronto. Kate’s student loans were paid off; she and her husband enjoyed vacationing around the world, her partner even had dreams of becoming a house-husband but… Kate was putting in 50-hour work weeks, and was bothered by a niggling feeling of dissatisfaction that wouldn’t go away.

Kate’s company agreed to let her take a 5-month hiatus to figure things out, but that didn’t work. So, she hired a career counselor, which did. At the end of their sessions, Kate quit her job to register in the Outdoor Adventure Naturalist program at Algonquin College. Now, a few years later, she is “the chief adventurer and owner of KMS Outdoors,” a business that is bent on inspiring individuals to spend time outside. In addition to guiding, Kate is a writer, a photographer, and an entrepreneur. Through her website, she blogs, markets her consulting services, her photographs, as well as a line of branded products.

Five years into her new life, Kate’s resolution is this:

This year I’d like to… explore more consciously what my contribution will be to the world around me. How can I offer my time, skills, and strengths to my community or community organizations that will line up with my values and create value for all involved? – Kate Ming-Sun

Sources: KMS Outdoors, LinkedIn.

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Jeff Bezos

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays features stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion.

Star Trek | Wall Street | E-Commerce | Aerospace

There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. – Jeff Bezos

Yes. Today we feature the Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, famous philanthropist, and one of the richest billionaires in the world, but this post won’t really cover that part of his life. Instead, it’s a look at Bezos’ childhood obsessions, his background, and the company he created to further his dream of human exploration in space.

Bezos was a tinkerer and inventor from an early age. His mother remembers him as a toddler trying to dismantle his crib with a screwdriver. In his garage laboratory, he created a solar cooker that used tinfoil, and an umbrella, and he was always wiring up electrical contraptions. As a teenager, he worked at McDonald’s one summer, which prompted him to start his own business the following summer: two-week long camp sessions for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students where they studied black holes, and wrote simple computer programs. His attraction to computers resulted in a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University in 1986.

Jeff Bezos, 1999

Photo: Bezos in his office, 1999

However, not only did he have an interest in computers and electronics, Bezos was also captivated by the idea of humans in space. Maybe, this was his maternal grandfather’s influence. Lawrence Preston Gise had been employed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission at a time when the Russians had just launched Sputnik 1, and the Americans were researching, and prototyping all sorts of military technologies. Bezos spent a lot of time with his retired grandfather during summers at the maternal homestead in Texas.

Probably, the Cold War culture of the time also played a part in his dreams of space. Bezos was a committed Trekkie, and would re-create the television episodes with his friends, often taking on the role of Spock, or the Computer. He had his summer camp students read selections from Dune, and Watership Down, and his yearbook entry quoted Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bezos was named Valedictorian of his high school graduating class, and interviewed by the Miami Herald. His interest in space is described here:

… he wanted to build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people who would be in orbit. ‘The whole idea is to preserve the earth.’ The goal was to be able to evacuate humans. The planet would become a park.

Blue Origin's New ShepardAfter graduation from Princeton, Bezos worked on Wall Street, then moved to Seattle, and founded the online behemoth Amazon.com. In 2000, Blue Origin, a human spaceflight company, was launched in secret financed from the sale of some of Bezos’ Amazon stocks. Bezos went public with the company in 2006, and in 2015, Blue Origin’s reusable space vehicle, the New Shepard, was successfully launched, reaching its test altitude, and returning to the launch site via a vertical landing. Bezos still dreams of colonizing the solar system; New Shepard’s capsule is built for six. It’s all right here.

Sources: Biography, Famous People, Washington Post, and Wikipedia.

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Jonah Peretti

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays features stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion.

SCHOOL TEACHER | MASTER’S STUDENT | INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR

You should feel badly if you’re doing something that isn’t the right fit for you, and isn’t the thing that you’re passionate about, and doesn’t fit your strengths, and the things you’re interested in doing. – Jonah Peretti

Jonah PerettiJonah Peretti’s name may not be immediately recognizable to the general public, but mention The Huffington Post, or Buzzfeed, and anyone who is active online will probably nod their heads. Peretti was a founding member of both of these internet success stories. He grew up in California, received a degree in environmental studies, then taught at a college prep school in New Orleans. It was when he was back at university studying for his Masters’ at the MIT Media Lab, that he created his first viral sensation.

It was early 2001, and Peretti was procrastinating. Instead of working on his Masters’ thesis, he was surfing the web. He’d heard that Nike was accepting online orders for customizable shoes, where a person’s name could be placed under the Nike swoosh. Some words had been blacklisted, but Peretti kept trying until, finally, the word sweatshop went through.

When Nike rejected the order the following day, because sweatshop was “inappropriate slang,” a series of emails were exchanged. In the end, Peretti created a cut-and-paste of the correspondence, and emailed it out to his friends who, in turn, emailed it to their friends, and it made history as the first forwarded email to go viral. Jonah Peretti ended up on the Today Show with a Nike PR executive and Katie Couric! For the full story, google Nike sweatshop email. Yes, it’s actually a thing.

Buzzfeed

The viral email experience was important to Peretti for two reasons: Firstly, it was the beginning of his fascination with how content was used by people to connect with each other, to express themselves politically and culturally, and to combat loneliness. Secondly, it introduced him to his future business partners. The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed used evolving technology, including algorithms and data measurement, to communicate through content. Today, Peretti continues as CEO at Buzzfeed, and is proud to have refused a buyout offer from Disney.

If you love that, if you love the struggle, and that’s part of why you do it, it also makes selling a company a lot less appealing. – Jonah Peretti

Sources: Business Insider, CNBC, Wikipedia

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: The Zagat Survey

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays features stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion.

Today, we’ll look at a wildly successful husband and wife team who gave up their respective law careers, in their 40s, to pursue their passion.

Tim and Nina ZagatTim and Nina Zagat compiled their first collection of New York City restaurant reviews for friends in 1979. Within a couple of years, their restaurant guide had become so popular that, in an effort to defray printing costs, they sought a publisher. None would take the project on, so they published it themselves, and sold the bound copies to small bookstores from the back of their Toyota station wagon. What started as a hobby, turned into a successful business, and in 2011 the company was sold to Google for a reported $151 million.

* * *

Eugene Henry Zagat, Jr. and Nina Safronoff met at Yale Law School, married in 1965, and graduated in 1966. Each of them was hired to work in the Paris office of a different New York City law firm for approximately six months. While in Paris, their primary goal was to visit as many restaurants as possible, and sample as much French cuisine as they could in that short time. They kept a list of all the restaurants they visited, what they liked, didn’t like, etc.; six months turned into 2 years.

Zagat SurveyWhen they returned to New York, they began to host regular dinner parties for their friends, and other food-lovers. At one dinner, about 10 years after their return, and after much wine, the conversation turned to food critics. The consensus was that, often a critic’s dining experience was a much better one than the average person might have because critics were recognized, and courted, for five-star reviews. The solution, they decided, was to solicit the opinions of hundreds of average people, and then tabulate the results for a more accurate review.

Tim and Nina created a survey with questions about the entire restaurant experience, based on their time in Paris. This survey was distributed to their friends, who then distributed it to more friends and colleagues. Then, the ratings, and comments from all the surveys, which covered all sorts of restaurants were compiled annually. The published guides became very popular. In 1982, 7,500 copies were sold; 18,000 the second year; in 1985, sales jumped to 75,000 per month. Tim and Nina quit their respective law firms, and became full-time publishers of the Zagat Survey.

Tim Zagat’s advice to students:

Do something you really love. We had the good fortune of finding something we love to do and turning that into something successful.

Sources: Notable Biographies, Wikipedia, Yale School of Management, Zagat

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Olive Dickason

HIGH SCHOOL DROP-OUT | JOURNALIST | SINGLE MOM | AUTHOR | PROFESSOR

When Olive Dickason was 12 years old, her family left Winnipeg, and moved to the bush. Her father, Frank Williamson, had just lost everything he owned in the Great Depression – except for a “worthless” piece of land in the interlake region of Manitoba. Olive, and her younger sister hunted and trapped with their Métis mother Phoebe Cote, to keep the family alive. Olive completed Grade 10 via correspondence.

Olive DickasonAt the age of 19, Dickason left the bush for Saskatchewan where she found a job selling subscriptions. Two random meet-ups there would influence the course of her life. The first was with a Catholic priest who, as improbable as it sounds, secured sponsorship for her university education at Notre Dame College in Ottawa. The second was with her mother’s Métis relatives in Regina, and would eventually determine her path to reinvention.

With her B.A. in Philosophy and French, Olive worked a series of journalism jobs at a variety of newspapers, moving from reporter, to writer, to editor. She married Anthony Dickason, had three children, and divorced. Without financial support from her ex-husband, she was forced to surrender her daughters to foster care for seven years – until she was hired to work at The Globe with a paycheque sufficient to support the four of them. Then, in 1970 at 50 years of age, when her daughters were grown, Olive went back to school.

The Myth of the SavageDickason had to fight the system the entire way. She wanted to become an Indigenous historian, but there was no such thing as Aboriginal history in the 1970s. So, she gathered her resources and made her case; then she found her own advisor and was allowed to proceed. After completing graduate studies in 1976, Olive taught full-time at the University of Alberta for eight years until she reached their mandatory retirement age of 65. At this point, she was supposed to retire, but instead, filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which made it to the Supreme Court of Canada. The case was ultimately unsuccessful, but she was able to stay on as a sessional instructor until 1992, when she retired at the age of 72.

 Canada's First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples From Earliest TimesOlive Dickason’s doctoral thesis was published in 1984 as The Myth of the Savage, and was the first of her books to become a bestseller. In 1992, she published the first written account of Indigenous people in Canada: Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples From Earliest Times, another bestseller that has become a “major, path-breaking resource.” She received 10 honorary degrees, earned a National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award, and was named to the Order of Canada in 1996. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 91.

Olive’s work was unique at the time. She was totally focused on rescuing the history of the First Nations from oblivion. She transformed the landscape and inspired a whole generation of new scholars. – Rod MacLeod

Let’s be inspired by the successes of others, and let’s continue to dream ‘the impossible.’ Put aside the obstacles, close your eyes, and finish the sentence: When I grow up, I want to be…

Sources: Globe and MailUniversity of Alberta History & Classics, University of Alberta Newsletter, Wikipedia

Photo: Olive Dickason

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Joanne Rowling

RESEARCHER | SECRETARY | EFL TEACHER | WELFARE MOM | AUTHOR

Today, Joanne Rowling (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith) is known around the world for the Harry Potter film franchise, and the series of books upon which it was based. She also has a net worth of more than $850 million, a property in London, and another in Scotland. Rowling is the founder of the Volant Charitable Trust, the recipient of multiple honorary degrees, and an international celebrity. Few of us will ever achieve that level of success, or even dare to dream in those terms, but Rowling’s journey is only remarkable by the level of her achievement, not by the path that took her there.

JK RowlingBorn in 1965, Rowling was raised with her sister in a two-parent household in England. Her mother suffered from multiple sclerosis; her relationship with her father was strained, and as a teen Rowling struggled with depression. She wasn’t an exceptional student, but was competent, good in English, and completed her work. She graduated from Exeter University in 1986 with a B.A. in French and Classics.

After a few years of office work, Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English as a foreign language. There, she met her first husband, television journalist Jorge Arantes. Their daughter was born in July, 1993; they separated in November of that year. The marriage ended with rumours of abuse. Rowling left Portugal with her daughter, Jessica, and moved to Scotland to be near her sister. Upon their arrival, she registered for state benefits.

Seven years after graduating from university, Rowling saw herself as a failure.[1] Her marriage had ended, and she was jobless with a dependent child, but to her this was liberating, and it allowed her to focus on writing.  – Wikipedia

The first Harry Potter book was completed in Scotland while Rowling was on welfare. She wrote at her kitchen table, and worked on the book in cafes with her sleeping daughter beside her. Did her desire to write appear out of nowhere? No, she had always wanted to be a writer.

Rowling had grown up surrounded by books. She was a voracious reader, and wrote fantasy stories as a child. In university, she put reading ahead of her studies, and even accumulated a £50 fine for overdue books. The idea for Harry Potter came in 1990 on a train trip from Manchester to London. She began to make notes, then took all of them with her to Portugal. When she returned to Britain, in her suitcase was a draft of the first three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and an outline of all seven books in the series…

So, let’s be inspired by the successes of others, and let’s continue to dream ‘the impossible.’ Put aside the obstacles, close your eyes, and finish the sentence: When I grow up, I want to be…

[1] JK Rowling (June 2008). “JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure”. TED. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2011Failure & imagination

Sources: Biography, J.K. RowlingWikipedia

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

Introducing: #WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays

Graduation CapWhether you graduated from high school five, or twenty-five years ago – or more – I’m guessing few of you have hung onto any of the words spoken by your Valedictorians. I certainly haven’t, although I’m sure “future” figured in there somewhere. So, in order to find the perfect sentiment to introduce our hashtag for The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference, I resorted to Google. As you can imagine, the possibilities were endless, but I did find one quote that particularly reflects the spirit of our event:

Never give up what you want most for what you want today. – Neal A. Maxwell, scholar and educator, 1926 – 2004

By the time we finish high school, our heads are packed full with dreams. Some of us share these big ideas with our friends and families, some keep them to ourselves. They can be simple, or utterly fantastic, but they’re ours, and usually our first steps outside of high school are made in their direction. Then, life happens.

From Passion to Purpose Events invites you to reignite the sense of possibility that filled you up when you were in your teens, when you believed the world was ‘your oyster.’ On #WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays, beginning next week, we’ll feature stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion. Or who found a new one!

Remember when you used to say, “When I grow up, I want to be …?” On Wednesdays, let’s play that game, again.

~ Debbie MacLeod

(Photo courtesy of Kenn W. Kiser via morguefile.com.)


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!