What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Listen to your big sister; take an economics course. Stand up straight. Do not bend your spine like it’s a turtle shell, shielding you from the world. Make it straight, so it can hold you up.
Who were your mentors when you were in high school and university? And why?
My Dad and my eldest sister Kathy. Both of them always told me to chase after what I wanted to do, no matter what. My Dad was also proud of me when I wrote something brave or challenged authority, which I did both in high school and in university. He was probably the first person to notice that I had a problem-solving brain because I used to hang out with him on the weekends while he fixed stuff and I used to love to help him. Also, during big family parties, I would sneak away from the women in the kitchen and go hang with my Dad and my uncles in the basement, where they were debating politics, sports and everything else. He and my Uncle George (my Mom’s brother) are the best of friends but agree on next to nothing politically. They taught me that you can argue passionately for what you believe in and then when it’s done give each other a big bear hug and grab a couple of beers from the fridge. Kathy gave me one of the most important pieces of advice ever. It was while I was a political columnist for the Telegraph-Journal. In the midst of doing this thing that I loved, Dr. John McLaughlin, the president of the University of New Brunswick, asked me to come work with him on a still undefined project that was intended to speak directly to New Brunswick residents about the future of the province in the face of massive economic, social and technological change. It was around Christmas 2002 and I had already told him thanks but no thanks because I was a journalist and journalists worked at newspapers, not universities. Then I told Kathy about the offer and told her I had turned him down – twice. She looked at me and said “You’re an idiot.” Wha? She stared at me with that disgusted look of big sisters everywhere and said these words, which have guided me ever since. “Imagine how you will feel when you meet the person who said ‘yes’.” I did – and I didn’t like it. So I said yes and that one decision changed the entire direction of my life. Today John is my frequent collaborator, my mentor and my friend. And we continue to explore deep change and its impact on our communities. It has become my life’s work – and I almost missed it if not for my sister.
How did your mentors guide you then?
They both told me to study whatever I wanted, to be curious and use school to discover the world and broaden my perspective. Always, always be curious.
What do you remember about growing up that was fun? What were some of the challenges too?
I had an amazing childhood. Every summer we’d pack up the car and take off to explore Canada. By the time I was 10 my parents had taken me to all 10 provinces, plus a good part of the Eastern United States. My family is very close and I am the youngest by 13 years, which meant that I by the time I was 14 years old, both my sisters were married and my eldest sister had two babies – my niece Kim and my nephew Matthew. When I would take them out I was always mistaken for a teen mom! My sisters said it was payback from all the times that happened to them when I was little. I loved having this multigenerational family.
Which of your traits are you most proud of?
The way I think. The way I ask questions. My curly hair. My laugh.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid to fail?
Skydiving. Bungie jumping.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself up?
I tell my closest friends my fears and they lift me up. Then I think of my family, who supported and put up with me fighting with them when I was younger, and realize I haven’t accomplished what I promised them I would do. Then I think of my 11-year-old daughter and I remember that she has yet to see me at what I consider my best. So I roar out the door and keep fighting.
Where does your confidence come from?
From looking back and seeing that I have always been smart. My marks from school and university prove it. Also from the few people who have, over the years, told me they recognize that I’m smart and they admire that about me. Smart girls don’t hear that nearly enough. My husband is amazing for me in that area. He was the first guy I dated who wasn’t intimidated by my knowledge of stuff. While he still refuses to play Trivial Pursuit with me, he tells me to never hide my intellect. It is so important to be with someone who admires you and supports your personal growth, and you in turn do that for them. That’s love. There’s no pedestal and there’s no ranking of talents. Just mutual admiration for the gifts we each possess.
Courage and resilience are so important to living an authentic life. Where do you find yours?
I find my courage in knowing that while I may be attacked for my words – and that has happened throughout my career – I had the ability to speak, when others do not. I take that very seriously. When I write or give speeches, I feel a responsibility to get my audience to challenge their own assumptions and to broaden their perspectives so we can have a deeper understanding of each other.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when you were starting out?
The stories aren’t in here; they are out there. Grab your notebook and go find them.
Has learning from a mistake led you to success?
All the time. There’s nothing quite like publishing a mistake or getting a fact wrong that teaches you humility, responsibility and how to move past it because you have to back at the top of your game tomorrow.
What does success mean to you?
Being respected for my ideas, having influence on major national and international issues, having money to travel the world and time to hang out with friends and family.
What are sacrifices that you’ve made in running your business or building your career?
Disposable income. The camaraderie of a newsroom. Friendships that faded as I moved around. Relationships with people I admired but couldn’t befriend because I wrote about them for the newspaper. Strangely I don’t see any of these as sacrifices – I see them as nice but non-essential items for this adventure.
What characteristics do you admire in other women?
Being able to laugh at yourself, empathy, fierce intellects, a willingness to try new things, perseverance, being able to kick back and have fun.
What does the world need more of?
Humility. A sense of humour. Empathy. Restraint on social media.
The Up and Go tag is Be Brave. Be You. What does that mean to you in how you live your life?
I don’t know how to be anything else.
What do we need to do more of here in New Brunswick to have more girls and women in leadership roles?
Listen to what they need. Prep the space so they feel comfortable and welcome. Sit down, shut up and let them lead.
Create your own question? Anything you’d like to talk about with these girls? Please be creative!
When you open your mouth to speak, what comes out? Is it a whisper, a nervous laugh, a squeak? Is it a shout, driven by a need to be heard? Or does it rise up from deep within you, powered by a strong breath that can sustain you and hold the attention of the room? Do you understand the power and potency of your voice? How do you want the world to hear you?