Friday, December 6, 2013

Jessica & Brandon Hahn - Embracing and Living a Legacy

Brandon & Jessica
What happens when on December 1, the person you love most in the world is not there to share the month which lies ahead? 

Awakening to this heartache, Jessica Hahn’s mind drifted to the previous Christmas season. Her husband Brandon, who passed away just a few months prior, was a person who epitomized a pay-it-forward lifestyle and value system. Jessica announced in a Facebook post that she planned to do kind deeds for others throughout the month of December in honour of Brandon’s memory and admittedly, to help ease her own pain. 

Within minutes of posting her status update, several supportive comments further inspired Jessica. She decided to create a Facebook page where others could also participate in and share the pleasure and joy of their own actions. Little did Jessica know how quickly the page would evolve into an inspirational beacon for many. At last count, there were over 700 individuals on board with more joining daily.

I would learn after joining the page myself that Brandon routinely found ways to help people with no expectation of anything in return. In fact, his gestures were often ones where the recipient never knew the origin. That is how he liked it. The personal fulfillment of doing or giving was payment in and of itself. Although often times Brandon’s and Jessica’s caring and sharing actions were discreet and under the radar, sometimes, one simply cannot go unnoticed due to the visibility of the actions taken. Brandon regularly cut a neighbour’s lawn because it was his personal way of relaxing.  During winter-time, neighbour after neighbour could look out their window to find happy-go-lucky Brandon cleaning the snowfall from their driveways and sidewalks. Just because he could. He and Jessica also traded in two guitars towards the purchase of a new violin which was then donated to a Veteran at Parkwood Hospital in London, Ontario. Brandon had viewed an appeal on Kijiji and immediately went to work fulfilling a need. This is a smidgen of the many kind and unassuming gestures routinely undertaken.

One particularly poignant story that Jessica shared with me involved an annual rendezvous overseas. Quite impulsively, they decided to travel to Cuba in 2009 and would come to discover a world where people may not have had much yet graciously opened their hearts and homes to Jessica and Brandon during their travels. Returning again and again to Cuba, the couple would bring along and hand out little gifts; to see a young boy hold a small toy with the same incredulity someone else might feel in clutching a million dollars brought a smile to their faces.

Although Jessica has chosen to focus her attention on honouring Brandon’s memory and goodwill spirit, I asked her if this was a value they shared, and indeed it was … and continues to be!  Brandon and Jessica met when she was only 14, quickly becoming friends and then life-time partners. Jessica felt that she and Brandon complimented each other in terms of their outlook on life but none-the-less respected each other’s uniqueness, which ultimately added richness to their relationship. Upon interviewing Jessica, a simple comment she made really resonated with me: “I found we were better together.” I basically interpret that to mean that two good-hearted souls coming together helps create an even larger and lasting legacy. But now, Jessica must move forward alone, or is that in fact true?
Jessica feels this event page serves many purposes, not the least of which is honouring Brandon’s memory and warm heart. This experience is also helping her move forward on her personal journey, with Brandon in her heart instead of at her side. She has noticed that many people on the site, who themselves have faced or are facing struggles, are finding peace and joy in the little things people ‘choose’ to do for one another. They share their thanks, while also finding little or larger ways to pay it forward. Jessica also reflected upon the fact that some parents are allowing their children to choose a daily ‘pay it forward’ action, thereby encouraging our youngest generations to embrace the importance of helping ... simply for the sake of helping. In seeing all this evolve within the community and beyond, Jessica has developed a camaraderie with others and feels that Brandon remains an integral part of her life. And ultimately, she feels less alone.
Jessica’s Forward Momentum Wish List:
  • Jessica hopes that paying it forward is embraced as a lifestyle foundation, rather than being perceived only as an isolated event. 
  • She also hopes that individuals recognize the incredible personal gift received simply through the gesture of giving and caring, without an expectation of receiving something in return. She reminds everyone that giving of ourselves does not deplete us; it is a simple and rewarding way to enrich our lives on a day to day basis.
  • Jessica knows she cannot bring Brandon back but is determined he will never be forgotten! She wants his spirit of giving to live on in everyone.
  • Jessica is looking into the establishment of a foundation to support youth who cannot afford to play sports. As an avid football player, Brandon wanted children to be able to find joy in their particular sport of choice, regardless of their parent’s financial limitations. Jessica has already been in touch with one of Brandon’s football coaches in order to brainstorm her idea further.
Jessica is a ‘living legacy’ to her husband, and Brandon will live on, both as a result of his own actions, but also through the actions of others, including each of us.  Pay it forward, each and every day. 
Facebook:  31 Days of Paying it Forward 
Youtube:  Brandon and the Cake Caper

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paws-itively Speaking! Celebrating Positive Reinforcement

It is perhaps rare that a person has the opportunity to cross paths with a celebrity, but I am now in a position to stroke that off my personal bucket list! That said, this particular celebrity does not speak fluent English, so I relied on the assistance of her highly capable interpreter and manager. It is often said that one’s choice of a manager or agent is important to a celebrity’s success within the entertainment world. Although the individual wishes to remain anonymous, I cannot write this story without showcasing this 'backstage' person's talents, as she is the foundation upon which the celebrity in question developed her public image. 

Nana in New York
First of all, who exactly is this mysterious celebrity?Let me introduce you to Nana, an energetic and delightful border collie who has become quite a YouTube sensation. If you look up Nana Border Collie on the popular website (or click on the link below!), you will come upon an entertaining variety of tricks by Nana and many of her friends. Nana doesn’t simply perform tricks; along with a team of four-legged and two legged actors and actresses, she stars in several theme based storylines. My favourite? Home Alone with Nana and Kaiser. Kaiser is a beautiful Bengal cat who is equally impressive. 

Their manager (aka my interpreter) has been busy training pets since she was ten years old and has become so highly skilled that she garnered the attention of television personality David Letterman. Nana also starred in a television commercial this past summer. Nana has suggested several website links below, as she does not mind sharing centre stage and is in fact an amazing team member who works well with her fellow cast members.
Famous and Kaiser

But every story has a beginning; it took gentle persuasion on the part of Nana's manager to convince her parents that fur-balls could be fashionable within a household setting. Although a pooch was the initial preference, a feline friend would debut as the first four-legged member of their family. Imagine a child entering the realm of animal training with a cat as a debut subject. But that did not stop this naturally talented individual from dabbling in what would become a life-long passion. As time went on, other animals would join the family and become skilled tricksters and actors in their own right, rounding out an amazing cast of characters, including dogs, cats, ferrets and even rats. 

Fast forward to the present day, and our interpreter is an accomplished clicker trainer who uses positive reinforcement to train and reward her many protégés. Upon meeting her in person, I observed confidence and composure balanced with modesty and practicality. She is currently deep in studies for an exam to receive her Wildlife Custodian Authorization, which will provide a foundation for voluntarily educating the public on wildlife habits, lifestyles and behaviourisms, which she feels are often misunderstood and unnecessarily feared. Her primary career focus is to train domestic and exotic mammals for the film industry, specializing in Procyonids (members of the 'raccoon family' which includes raccoons, kinkajous, and coatimundis), as well as other small to medium-sized exotic mammals.
 When I asked our clicker trainer (aka Nana's best friend) what tips she might suggest to youth, she preferred to have Nana share her thoughts and experiences. So let’s see what our celebrity has to say:  

1.      Nana appreciates that her trainer and manager is able to recognize and nurture her natural passion for entertaining. Her trainer identifies and then focuses upon specific raw talents within each of the family members.  Nana emphasizes that you too should be inspired to embrace and follow your particular passions and talents.  
2.      Nana also admires that her trainer and manager does not expect her to ‘bite off more than she can chew’.  Nana and her fellow cast members are provided with ample opportunities to learn each trick until they develop confidence in that skill. You too might want to set incremental and achievable steps for yourself.  A good strategy may be to establish ‘SMART’ goals.
3.      Finally, Nana wants to remind everyone that you get a lot further in life by utilizing treats and kind words, as compared to a sharp voice, hand or newspaper.  In other words, her trainer is an advocate for positive reinforcement. Nana is grateful that she has such a wise and caring manager and would recommend that anyone in a supervisory role consider using the same philosophy. For that matter, Nana would like you to consider the value of positive reinforcement when interacting with everyone you meet, regardless of your position in life or at work!

I want to finish by saying how much I enjoyed writing this particular story, and that I was honoured to meet both Nana and her human family member.  Now to embark upon my next blog topic!

Nana's Recommended Links:

Cathy's Suggested Link:
SMART Goal Setting

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services


Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Doula's Devotion

'To Doula or not to Doula'. That is the question. This loose reference to Shakespeare is a fitting phrase to describe how Emily Tucker's fascination for the question "What is normal?" would lead her to supporting women during their pregnancy, birthing and post-partum experiences. Yet her journey was one of happenstance discovery, as compared to a dream rooted in early childhood. I found this particular quote by Emily interesting, as it speaks as to how important it is to embrace our instincts and at times, live in the moment. 
“When I was approached by a friend, (the Director of Beginnings Family Resource Centre here in Woodstock where my husband and I volunteer), about a Doula training course being offered, I found myself saying YES to the opportunity before my brain even had a chance to register what it was I was saying yes to!”  
During the ensuing process of completing her Doula training through DONA International and attending a few natural births, there would be an ‘awakening’ within Emily. This was the career direction she was meant to pursue.

'To Doula or Not to Doula' might also be an apt phrase to describe the choices available to a woman regarding her childbirth support options. Emily has long carried an empathy and concern that young women are trodden upon by a medical system that routinely utilizes a clinical approach to care, and which may involve unnecessary interventions. Emily believes that each woman should recognize she is unique and that she deserves to be treated accordingly during life-altering experiences such as bringing a child into the world. She advocates that each woman should be central to her pregnancy and birth, as compared to being 'treated' as an incidental factor. A Doula’s role is to be there for each step of a personalized journey, offering moral support and gentle guidance. A truly personal experience promotes emotional and spiritual wellness for mother, infant and other family members, and results in a much more meaningful and memorable experience.

Emily is a firm believer that women are naturally designed to bring life into the world and that most are equipped with the ‘tools’ to do so. Emily recognizes there is a fine line which must be honoured in working with each of her clients; she is careful not to impose her personal values, but assures that each person is offered well-rounded information which will equip her to make up her own mind as to the various options available. Ultimately, Emily wants each woman to know there is no greater job for her (Emily) than to “see a mother come through her labour and delivery with a sense of personal accomplishment and pride, and to see couples working in tune with each other so that Mom doesn't feel she has done everything alone. I consider it a true honour to be a part of their intimate and sacred journey”.

With a growing interest in more natural pregnancy, birthing and post-partum options, Doulas as well as Midwives are gaining respect and are increasingly sought out by expectant mothers. Finding a Midwife can be like winning the lottery however, and a Doula can offer insight regarding the associated benefits but also in directing those interested to available resources and Midwife groups. Regardless of whether a woman chooses an Obstetrician or a Midwife for the actual delivery, a Doula can be there to support an expectant mother throughout her overall journey.

David Charlesworth (
As a Doula, Emily meets with clients, often quite early in their pregnancies, to establish a personalized and trust-centred relationship. This shared time is focused upon creating a birth plan, discussing possible scenarios, and exploring their hopes and fears. As with anything in life, not all pregnancies and births go smoothly and for some clients, Emily has become a constant and comforting support within their lives. Among other challenges where a Doula can assist is the likelihood of rough patches a new Mom may experience upon returning home with a wee one. Two common areas of at-home care at this stage include the need to address breastfeeding questions and issues, as well the reality of post-partum depression for some women.

As of May, 2013 after a lot of hard work, theoretical studies and hands-on learning, Emily became a certified Doula. She has established her own business (L'Chaim Doula Services) and has created a website in order to share her vision. To date, she has supported and attended a dozen births in the Woodstock, Cambridge, Norwich and Stratford areas. She will be there to support her clients yet again, as two will be welcoming another child to their families and have asked to have Emily alongside them on their latest journey. Emily's closing statement is one which reflects her passion for new beginnings:
“I have been witness not only to a child’s first breath, but to a woman transforming into a mother. It is both an honour and privilege! I love my job, including all the ups and downs, joys and challenges, because I know I am making a difference. One baby at a time.”
Emily encourages you check out her website and facebook page, where in the relaxation and comfort of your home, you can learn more about how she can help you or someone you know!

Emily’s Website:  

Further Information:
DONA (Doulas of North America) Website:
Woodstock Needs Midwives:  

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment! Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Calming Workplace Waters

Many of us are contributors to contaminating the work culture in which we spend many of our earthly hours. Not always is it entirely conscious and controlled; sometimes it bubbles unexpectedly to the surface when we are resentful or under stress. More concerning might be an occasional dash or even hefty dose of toxins doled out in a conscious, subversive and insidious manner.

Ask yourself this question? Are the waters where you work primarily calm and placid, are they rippled with occasional stone throws, or are they outright tidal at times? Can you or will you acknowledge where you might be turning up the heat on those same waters, at least a degree or two? Do yourself a favour; don't treat the question lightly. Too often we prefer to disregard or downplay our own involvement and cast blame elsewhere. If you had to rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, with one being you strive to maintain pristine waters and 10 being you whole-heartedly cast pollutants (whether obviously or subversively), how would you evaluate your negative contribution level?

When I dig deep enough, usually I learn someone is at least in part a contributor, even during those times when we feel victimized by others; in fact, this may be when we are at higher risk of polluting the waters. Perhaps we have endured the wrath of a volatile team leader or the scrutiny of an over-controlling employer. Maybe we have worked alongside a co-worker who is a non-stop and aimless chatterer. Or maybe our values are out of synch with some of those around us and finding 'dry ground' seems almost impossible. It is not that uncommon to 'react' rather than respond to such challenges, essentially meaning our actions (or reactions) follow the flow of our emotions.

We may not carry the bulk of the blame, but are we entirely free of blame? One of the most destructive of workplace behaviours can have its roots in an ongoing feeling of helplessness created by unhealthy work relationships. Out of fear, resentment, annoyance or anxiety, people at times resort to what I will call 'underground antics' to express or provide an outlet for their disillusionment or anger. It may be a sarcastic comment under the breath or shared with another, or it may be a carefully considered or impulsive action such as spilling coffee onto someone's important presentation materials. The term passive-aggressive may be a more familiar term. Figuratively speaking, stones get tossed in the workplace waters, but the stone thrower hopes a ripple effect will occur without the source being detected.

When frustrated, disillusioned or even angry, we may react in less than stellar ways. It can feel good in the moment, sort of like a drug high might feel.  But the problem with highs is the lows which can follow. For instance, we may then think of the risk of getting caught or experience feelings of fallout guilt or stress. And not the least of which is that each negative action does indeed create a more toxic workplace culture, where job satisfaction takes a dive. Much better is to utilize strategies which will allow us to deal with such challenges in a more constructive manner.

It actually takes a great deal of emotional intelligence to do more than simply tread water in today's stress-filled workplaces. Emotional intelligence requires good self-awareness, constant self-regulation, and an ability to incorporate understanding and empathy when interacting with others. This means we have to learn to communicate in a conscious and conscientious manner.

Why not strive to create the calm and pristine workplace waters that ultimately, we should all want to enjoy? 

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Ballad of the Missing Cutlery

Has your tummy ever angrily growled back at you because you ignored the pleas to satisfy its hunger?  I suspect we have all been there.  Have you also suffered from what I now believe to be a chronic workplace woe, in that when you are at your most ravenous, you will assuredly find not even a single fork in the drawer.  (Yes, you should learn to bring your own from home, but let's save that for another post!)  Knives may be aplenty, and sometimes even spoons, but it is really hard to eat bean sprouts with a spoon, I have discovered.  Or if nobody is watching, your fingers. 

Seriously, is there some magnetic and mysterious force that draws cutlery from the dark recesses of our cabinetry into the void of outer space?  Or is it  like socks that are hijacked by the washing machine, never to adorn our tender tootsies again?  We must stop this madness, ... now.  So I am appealing to everyone who has suffered this trauma to take action. 

Feel free to post this poem in your workplace, and put your cutlery on notice that you will not take it ... ANY MORE!

The Ballad of the Missing Cutlery
Party Animals

Real forks and spoons appear from this air,
After cleaning your drawer, which of course is quite rare.
Staff members rejoice in seeing such class,
A real fork is nice alongside plates and glass.

One day they are there, all shiny and bright,
The next they are gone, and a mystery's alight. 
A sad story to tell, best done in a song,
But since I can't sing, that would be wrong.

Oh where do you go, you tools of steel,
We miss you so much at our midday meal.
I promise to wash you and put you away,
And not treat you bad, like a four legged stray.

Plan a big shindig, for the end of the day,
But make a morning appearance, that I will pray.
At 4:30 depart and go play with your friends,
Go do whatever, but when MY workday ends.

But if this is a crime and you are the cause,
Just bring it back please and expect no applause.
To fess up is good for mind, body and soul,
More important, we'll all have a spoon for our bowl.

All I want this Christmas is a real fork or spoon,
"Dear Santa, oh help me, I need it real soon."
I'll just close my eyes, please drop it in quiet,
I promise my excitement won't cause a mass riot.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good meal,
Just watch your cutlery; it's a really good 'steal'.

Catherine Stewart-Mott

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Remembering My Father on Remembrance Day

The other day I joined a Facebook page entitled ‘Remembrance Day 2013’.  For some, this title might imply those who have died during war times.  For others, it implies a much broader context, one which involves those who participated in and either passed away in a war or who luckily survived and returned to civilian life.  But Remembrance Day is not intended to ‘only’ honour those who have died or served; it is an annual message for all to recognize that we should not take peace, or our rights and obligations, for granted.  At least that is the message I choose to embrace.  For each of us, what we ‘take in’ about Remembrance Day is important; but equally important is what you choose to ‘give back’.

Without having a firsthand experience (or a parent who occasionally shared his or her life stories!), we can become consciously or unconsciously apathetic about the sacrifices and commitments made by others.  Yet to be able to envision, or at least try to appreciate, what others have gone through and why is a vital quality of human nature.

Arthur Stewart - WW2 Veteran
It is often suggested that one cannot truly ‘relate to’ what others have experienced in life until we have endured an identical experience or a very similar experience. I for one cannot truly imagine what it must have been like to grow up during the Depression era, like my Dad, his parents, and his many siblings.  I also cannot personally imagine starting my formal work life at age 12 or 13, as my father did. I cannot truly imagine what might have motivated him or his siblings to voluntarily join the war effort (WW2) and to put their lives at risk on a day to day basis.  I also cannot begin to imagine how hard it must have been to watch your close wartime friend die beside you, while you are helpless to do anything about it. 

Yet I strive, at best ... 'to understand’.  When I was sent a copy of my father’s war release paperwork a couple of years ago in preparation for a book about the Perth Regiment, I was shocked to learn that my father, a long-time farmer, had in fact wanted to be a café owner.  As a strong and burly man with a Grade 3 education, he was told that a future as a café owner was not in the cards, and he was told he was better suited to being a farmer or a labourer.  I was in fact shocked to learn of Dad’s true career interest and how quickly it was dismissed upon his return from the war. Who knows, maybe he had become used to 'taking orders' during war time.  Equally disconcerting is that I am now in the same line of work as those who told him to forget his dream, and it has made me realize just how important it is to really understand what motivates each person with whom I work. 

Given he fought in WW2 to protect our freedom, I found it disturbing that his own interests were so quickly quashed by the ‘powers that be’ at the time.  Yet this same man, with his Grade 3 education, could create an amazing array of poetry about his life and wartime experiences.  It saddened me to learn that I, in fact, knew very little about my father’s inner passions and dreams.

I admittedly worry that we have been taking a long and gradual slide down a slippery slope here in Canada.  It is getting harder and harder for me to look around and see true democracy in action.  I wish people would heighten their awareness as to what is important in life, rather than living day to day without a conscious appreciation for what is happening in the society and world around them. That includes how our own government 'chooses' to run our country, with or without our votes.  Or without our actions or reactions.  Please don't let apathy rule your heart or your life.

In honour of my father and his literary talent, as well as his interest in achieving true peace and democracy, I have chosen to include three of his poems. The first is my father’s reflection of surviving difficult times during the Great Depression, and the second showcases the struggles endured during wartime. The last relates to his wartime comrade Freddy Wells, who passed away during WW2 while at my father’s side. 

Mom & Dad
I'm lying here just thinking, of when I was just a lad
I'm thinking of the good times, and the bad times that I had
I'm thinking of my mother, and of my father too
I'm thinking of the hard times, that both of them went through
They worked so hard to raise us, and they tried to raise us right
They kept food on the table, and they kept us warm at night
But then the Great Depression, and things back then were bad
But we want the whole world to know, we loved our Mom and Dad
Though we never had much money, and things at times got rough
I know it never harmed us, it just made us grow up tough
Now Mom and Dad they've left us, for another place I know
And I’m sure they’ll have it better there, then they did down here below
Dear brothers have predeceased me, sisters they have too
But I know it won't be very long, that I'll be joining all of you

Old Italy
We left the shores of England, one damp and dreary day
Said goodbye to all our English friends, before we sailed away
We sailed away, we knew not where, until we drifted to sea
Our captain says, “Boys I’ve good news, we’re sailing for Italy”
We landed in Old Italy, young hearts were filled with glee
Though we knew not a month from then, where any of us would be
It was just one month from that day, we crossed the enemy line
Through German well-laid fire, and through German well-laid mines
Was in a valley now called Death Valley, the guns rang loud and clear
Where comrade after comrade fell, their cries I still can hear
When the smoke of battle lifted, so few of us remained
Young men now sad and bitter, their nerves so taunt and strained
Young men now aged and bitter, their hearts so filled with hate
That the German S.S. Army, had sealed their comrades fate
Well next there came Cassino, a place of utter ruin
Of death, complete destruction, that would be forgotten soon
But here the story changes, the enemy had their fun
When Victoria’s allied armies, had the Germans on the run
They cleared them from Ortona, The Hitler Gothic Line
And while comrades still were falling, morale was high and fine
We crossed the muddy Sangro, we battled to the Po
Pushing on before us, our badly beaten foe
But now we the victors. let’s bow our heads in prayer
Pray not forget our fallen pals, that are buried over there
And I pray to the Lord in Heaven, there be war never more
 And my heart aches for all mothers, who lost their sons to war

A Tribute to Freddy Wells
I saw your grave today old pal, the earth still dark and cold
And at your head there stood a cross, as if we need be told
We stood around like things not men, for we knew not what to say
Then someone broke the silence with, "We’d best be on our way.”
We turned as one and moved away, heads bowed and hats in hand
I hated so to leave you there, I hope you’ll understand
Who knows we soon may meet again, and start our lives anew
We’ll laugh about the army then, and the things we used to do
We’ ll plan our plans and dream our dreams, just like we used to do
So do the best you can, old pal, I may be seeing you

Art Stewart
WW2 Veteran
(B: 1915 – D:2005)
'Lest We Forget'

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Is Your Interview "Light Fluff ... or Real Stuff"?

Over the past summer, I embarked upon a challenge to create several different versions of an interview skills workshop, knowing that some of my clients would be likely to attend the sessions more than once.  Why might they do that?  Well, I suppose practise makes perfect, but I think a lot of them have learned that I get a little bit bored doing things the 'same old way' and even though the topic may be the same, my approach can vary widely from one workshop to the next! 

One of my current favourites it to utilize a '3-F' theme to describe a range of interview no-no's.  I crafted a theme around the letter F.  I came up with (1) FEATURE DUMPING, (2) MOTHS to FLAME, and as depicted in the title of this blog, (3) LIGHT FLUFF, NOT REAL STUFF.  So what exactly do each of these terms imply?  Many of my clients, when I describe what I mean, often turn a slight shade of pink or red, realizing they have fallen into the 3-F trap themselves.  So let me explain:

Feature Dumping:  That is when you wing off a bunch of adjectives/descriptors
about yourself that you hope sounds impressive, but you do absolutely nothing to demonstrate how they actually apply to you.  An example:  "Could you tell me your greatest strengths?"  Your response: "I would say my greatest strengths are that I am punctual, conscientious, friendly, organized, a good team player, determined, trustworthy, and can work well independently."  On the surface, this sounds good, but really, you likely said similar stuff like this on your resume or in your cover letter.  Choose a couple strengths with careful consideration and then paint a picture with an actual experience to back them up. 

Moths to Flame:  Moths are drawn to the light, but are at risk of being burned by the heat.  The human comparative  is when you are asked questions such as "Have you ever been frustrated with your boss or supervisor?"  Some of us seem bound-bent on choosing examples that resulted in a less than stellar outcome.  Perhaps it is guilt prompting us to confess our worst 'sins', but just like the moth, I can't tell you how many times people spew forth examples that demonstrate no positive outcome and they 'burn themselves' in the process.  Yes, an interviewer wants us to recognize we are human, but they are also looking to see how we strive to handle such challenges. So I might suggest that we park or absolutet worst examples in the closet and think about those that demonstrate our personal growth and a positive resolution.  And last but not least ....

Light Fluff; Not Real Stuff.  This one is sort of a cousin to feature dumping.  Except with light fluff, you basically talk in circles around a question and use vague statements.  An example might be:  "Do you consider yourself to be a good team player?"  And you answer with:  "Oh yes, I get along with everyone, and I would say everyone gets along well with me.  I am friendly, and I work hard to make sure everyone feels comfortable. And they know they can count on me."  Again, on the surface, it sounds 'okay', but in reality, if leans a little towards light fluff.  So anchor your answer down a bit more. A better approach is to start with an affirmation that you do see yourself as a good team member, but then suggest a specific example of how your teamwork skills were actually demonstrated in a real situation.  In other words, give them some 'real stuff' to consider.

All too often, people go into interviews without having consciously thought about the many 'stories' they could tell for various potential interview questions.  Perhaps they believe in magic, and hope the perfect answer will pop into their heads at just the right moment.  Real life doesn't work that way. Get more acquainted with the person staring at you in the mirror.  That person actually has a lot of stories to share. You might just have to dredge them up from the recesses of your memory; and as you think of them, start recording them as they come to mind to continue to build your 'story bank'. After all, it is a way of investing in yourself!

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Robert Boyd: Life is a Mission

Embracing Opportunity While Serving Your Country

I recently met a young gentleman who was a prior member of the Canadian Forces Army Reserves. As several times he referenced the value of this experience, I asked him to share some notable memories of this period in his life. Robert suggested that being part of the Forces helped him to become a more confident, articulate and critical thinker, and he summarized five strengths the Military personally brought out in him.   

Robert Boyd's 'Top 5' Countdown

5. CONFIDENCE:   From the moment you begin your military career, you will be challenged to reach beyond your comfort level. This helps to foster a greater level of self-confidence. For instance, within a group learning atmosphere, anticipate unexpected questions and be prepared to proactively contribute to group discussions and learning; this may be uncomfortable for some who are more ‘reserved’ (pardon the pun on military terminology), especially when you are not prepared with an answer as will likely happen! Becoming both comfortable and confident in such situations can take time, but when you have been in the Services even a few weeks, you may find yourself more relaxed and confident when interacting with new people and taking on new challenges.

4. PATIENCE:   As a member of the Canadian Forces, you will learn that timing and self-management is an expectation in everything you do in order to accomplish assigned tasks and goals. It is critical to remember that all around you, others are also expected to meet this high standard. You will each be given tasks with target timelines which must be achieved either independently or as part of a team. Some tasks admittedly require great patience, concentration and precision to accomplish effectively. It is important to remember that your actions are a vital ‘piece of the puzzle’ in an overall goal that has been set in place.

3. COURAGE:   As a soldier, it takes courage to do what one does in the face of adversity 

Courage, Respect, Confidence 

and uncertainty. Robert does not see courage as a ‘born trait’ but rather, one an individual develops as he or she grows both in confidence and within their military career. Upon entering the Reserves, a person generally accepts the potential and chance of an overseas assignment to protect others who may be in immediate or imminent danger. Through both formal and hands-on training as well as a value driven dedication to serving one’s country, a member of the military develops and embraces the courage required to meet such challenges.

2. RESPECT:   Fitting into a military command structure offers a bevy of unique challenges and opportunities. You must work respectfully, supportively and effectively with those above and below your rank, but you will also interact with soldiers and staff members from many areas of service (e.g. in Robert’s case: Army, Navy and Airforce; Royal Canadian Artillery, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), Electrical Mechanical Engineers and Royal Canadian Engineers, Canadian Forces Health Services, MP Military Police and more).  Robert mentioned that sometimes, one’s perception and reality can be different and that no two people will see the world through the same lenses, but it is important to find a way to work together despite differing outlooks. As a member of the military, it is advocated that respect for one another’s particular talents and rank could in fact mean the difference between mission success and failure, as well as life and death.

 1. HONOUR:  As a young soldier, Robert experienced some amazing opportunities and honours. One was to be a part of the Changing of the Guard (Ceremonial Guard - Ottawa, Summer 2008). He also enjoyed the honour of serving as part of the Canadian Forces Security Element in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. But most importantly, the honour to serve one’s country either domestically or internationally alongside those who share his vision and values he would consider the greatest honour of all.

In closing, Robert suggests that people need to look outside the box and sometimes outside their comfort zone, in order to choose a life path that will lead to fulfillment.

Make it your mission in life to choose your journey both consciously and wisely.

Written by Catherine Stewart-Mott, Forward Momentum Services
Contributions by Robert Boyd 

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Julie Armstrong; Mortgage a Home - Not Your Future!

I had the opportunity to meet a personable young business woman during the August 2013 Woodstock StreetFest.  Julie Armstrong is the proud proprietor of The Mortgage Centre in Woodstock.  Following a chat and coffee in her Light Street office, I talked her into having a photo taken alongside her Woodstock StreetFest promotional display.  What follows are some tidbits from our conversation, which leaned towards the importance of embracing a vision, as well as treating clients as we would want to be treated ourselves. 
Available to the Public at Woodstock StreetFest, 2013

When starting and managing your own business, one is likely to encounter numerous challenges.  But if your business vision is rooted in and has blossomed from a personal and professional value system, you are likely to feel an intrinsic sense of reward as well.  Such is the case with Julie Armstrong.  When Julie entered the Mortgage Brokerage field as the employee of an established but larger operation, she would come to recognize that at times, higher risk clients had difficulty honouring the contracts into which they had entered.  These contracts were often set at traditionally higher rates as a reflection of the inherent risk. 

Julie is well aware that real life can throw us some unanticipated and unpleasant curveballs, and she wanted to assure all clients consider their mortgage options with a clear head and a viable and realistic plan of action.  She is a firm believer in the importance of managing and minimizing financial risks related to assuming a mortgage.  As she herself evolved into the role of Mortgage Broker within the Stratford area, Julie began to wonder if there was a way she could break this unfortunate cycle for clients who were unable to meet their mortgage payments,

Julie tested the feasibility of establishing an independently owned business within the Woodstock area.  Her vision was to offer a personal and local touch which would result in manageable rates for her clients, with her service fee being absorbed by the lending institution rather than those seeking a mortgage. Julie has conscientiously worked hard to both develop and earn a positive reputation as a supportive business professional within the community.  There have been several times that she has been offered ‘employment’ within the field as she continues to build her business network, but Julie’s determination to fulfill her vision has kept her on course.  She occasionally reminds herself that if it was ‘easy’, everyone would be in business for themselves!   
In order to focus upon developing positive relationships with both clients and associated businesses, Julie has hired an Administrative Assistant; Manuela handles a range of ‘behind the scenes’ tasks; this allows Julie to do what she does best, which is to get to know her clients and seek out the best mortgage options available to meet their individual situations.   
Julie’s Top Three Tips!

Julie Armstrong;
The Mortgage Centre,
Woodstock, ON
Considering a Mortgage?    (1) Find someone who will treat you like a real person, not a transaction.  Julie welcomes each client as if he or she is entering her living room.  (2) Your mortgage payment should be calculated from your base salary, not less predictable income such as overtime.  And remember that life is more than a mortgage payment, so arrange for an amount and payment plan that takes this into account.  (3) Build and maintain an emergency fund.  Nobody is immune to unexpected expenses and repairs.   

Considering Self-Employment?    (1) Recognize that building and managing your own business typically requires a full-time commitment. In Julie’s case, she has responded to client inquiries morning, noon, and night! So maintain a positive outlook AND good health!  (2) ‘Think ahead’.  The first year or so (business start-up/establishment phase) is often a ‘lean period’ for income generation.  Plan ahead and build a savings fund for this time-frame, in case you need to draw upon it.  (3) Stay current in your field so that you can offer your clients the best possible service.  That is really what business is all about!

Julie's contact details can be found at:

Do check out my other blog topics while on here!  I love writing about people and what inspires them.  I also discuss various career and employee development topics, usually with a dash of humour or a grain of salt! I welcome you to join me, and to leave a comment!

Catherine Stewart-Mott; Forward Momentum Services