So I was asked to write about the biggest change I’ve made since starting with FITera that challenged me.

I think hands down it was my drinking habits. I had a drink literally every single day. I love wine, beer and whiskey. One drink a day shouldn’t be an issue, but the problem is, most of the time it was more than one a day. As a professional performer and producer, I’m out at business events, networking sessions, galas, parties, one on one talks, etc. All of them usually serve drinks. I acknowledge that it was also something I used to reward myself after a hugely stressful day, which was every day.

In Ontario, our alcohol is highly regulated and taxed, therefore both pricey and hard to access. When drinks are complimentary, or someone offers to buy me a drink, I never say no. It’s almost like a hoarding/starvation mentality. I had a similar conditioning as a child regarding food, where my parents forced me to finish every bite, and my grandmother stuffed me too. For them, food was a precious thing that should never be wasted. Both my younger sisters always refused, crying, throwing tantrums, you name it. I wanted to be the good kid, and always cleared my plate. As an adult, it became an issue that I only recently got control over.

However, with drinking it was not the case. Additionally, I do not have the intolerance for alcohol that a lot of Asians do. Coupled with the fact I lived in Northern Ireland for a year of university, I’m a consumption tank. I was revered for my high tolerance for drink, and my knowledge of craft beers and quality wines. I think I didn’t want to give that up. It was a bragging right.

In the last year, I realize now that I gave up a lot of calories a day for drink. I worked out to create 600 calorie deficits for drink. Worse yet, drinking caused cravings and late night munchies. Even worse, the nights with very excessive drinking caused hangovers, which I am learning that the older I get, the recovery was way worse.

At the start of Fitera, I gave up drink for 2 weeks to really examine the habit. I realize that I wanted a strong body, a healthy and productive life and a successful career more than the pleasure of a drink. I think I justified it for a long time because I didn’t eat sugar or wheat, and also lead a very active lifestyle. But it was my sugar, pure and simple. Since then, I have slowly reintroduced it into my diet – when I have wine, I split 1 glass into 2 glasses to lengthen the time to drink it. I only ask for half pints in the pub. I also diligently record it in my food log right away so I HAVE to be held accountable. In the past, the moment I derail, I shrug, stop counting calories for the day and say I’ll get back on track tomorrow. Now, I am ridiculously honest with myself; if I’m going to derail, I’ll continue logging the calories so that I can try and at least minimize the overload.

My cousin’s wedding this past weekend was a strong test to my desire to change, even in the face of a challenging situation like a wedding. I limited my drink by nearly half of what I normally consumed. When I went out with friends afterward, I limited to 2 beers and danced the night away. Despite getting in at 2:30am, I was able to bounce awake (sorta) on Sunday morning, sans hangover, to get a workout in before a long day of hiking.

To be honest, I think just not having a hangover was worth it.

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I’m still trying to decide whether blogging is still worth continuing for me (and yes, it is VERY likely that most of my future blogs will open in a similar manner). Life gets more busy, I write on multiple platforms and channels, and who really wants to read my babble anyway?

But until I decide, I’ll put some tidbits up here and there for those who are still interested. And well, I also write for myself. It challenges me to commit some time to my own thoughts, which in my fast paced world is not something I’ve done enough.

Like many, many people, I still struggle with this phenomena called “weight loss.” Despite learning literally everything that is in the ultimate handbook of healthy lifestyle, self-experimentation with extreme methods, and years upon years of dedication, let’s just say that I’m still not there.

Bummer.

In the meantime, I sucked up my pride as a former personal trainer and sports nutritionist, and signed up with Fast Track to Weight Loss aka Fitera. (I will toss in a side note here that I’m going through a rather momentous life change/transition as well that prompted this decision, but I won’t expand on it here). I figure if nothing else, the membership will help me remain accountable to my goals. While most of the nutrition guidance is stuff I already know perfectly, I did get inspired today after trying their workout videos.

The last time I used a workout video was P90X about 4 years ago. After that, the only time anyone usually held me accountable during my workouts was when I did conditioning at circus (also about 4 years ago).

I am pretty good at holding myself accountable, given my highly competitive nature, rather intense obsession to working out (to the point where I have to force myself to take rest days). I consider myself pretty athletic (despite my body stubbornly holding onto fat) – I do up to 10km runs, do circus aerials, full body workouts, blah di blah.

So, after starting this program, my pride avoided the workout videos, thinking I’ll do just fine without them.

Then, out of curiosity (and also challenging myself to get over my ego), I went and tried this week’s video. Boy, was I surprised how tough some of those one minute cardios got!

I can see two reasons for this – 1) When I do exercises like burpees, jumping jacks and

img_20160907_1524311

Sweaty times

squat jumps, I’m numbers based, not time based. Therefore, if I make it to 50 jumping

jacks, I will stop. While still good for me, it may not push me as hard as intervals (and subconsciously, I probably was aware of this too and therefore shied away from it).

2) When doing 1 min intervals with different cardio exercises, I will push myself harder for that minute than if I was running for an hour. I know I have to pace myself if I want to survive a long distance run, and so I will keep my heart rate steady as opposed to trying to ramp it to 180 bpm.

Conclusion? Found myself pleasantly humbled by the Fitera video, and will certainly be using them more in the future to keep me on track, hold me accountable and challenge myself in new ways.

Yes, I know I haven’t updated this blog in well over a year; seems like I write almost everything but in this blog lately 😦 BUT, people write nice things about me…enough to make me blush…a lot.

kate-007 Photography Credit: Scott Williams

Miroki Tong

Artistic Producer of Altekrea Festival – July 17-19th, 2016. Downtown Kitchener.

Sitting across from Miroki Tong, is like sitting beside a live electric current. A self described jack of all trades, Miroki is full of ideas and energy. It is impossible to not feel inspired by her zest for life and quest for knowledge. Growing up in Kitchener-Waterloo, Miroki discovered early on her admiration for the arts. It was a sharp turn away from her planned path of science and engineering but a direction she was compelled to explore.

With an undergrad in Arts and Business and a tendency to break the rules, she is carving out her future on her own terms.  Knowing that to be successful, she must be able to see things clearly from both sides. She strives to balance  her artistic nature with a strong business pragmatism. Currently completing her…

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There’s nothing like the shame of feeling like you’ve abandoned something important to you, and this blog is one of them. In between writing papers for my MBA, press releases for projects, bios, blah di blah blah, the idea of writing even more becomes somewhat overwhelming.

I’m very committed to putting out decent work, and so blogs for me are like writing mini essays, reports or journals that I hold to the same standard as my academic or professional writings. There are a few half-written drafts on this page right now that I hope to complete, and there isn’t words to describe the vast number of blog ideas constantly racing through my head.

I wish we had brain recorders.

Summer term ends in a couple of weeks, and I’d love to put a few things up there shortly after. If nothing else, perhaps I’ll return to the handy dandy wine review section and toss up a few of my thoughts to keep the flow doing.

Til then, still rockin’ on.

I know so many people have been talking about Robin Williams’ passing, and as a performer, I owe him that tribute as well. Last night, I was part of a voice acting showcase, and at the end of the session, the news was delivered by one of the participants. The studio exploded in shock and grief, for not only Robin Williams was a brilliant performer, both dramatic and comedic, but he also stole all our hearts with his voice skills, most notably The Genie from Aladdin. Did not matter whether we were actors, instructors or casting directors in that room, we all had been profoundly impacted by his work in our development. My heart goes out to those who were closest to him, for if us as his audience feel the pain of his loss, I can’t even begin to imagine how his loved ones feel. He was genuine. As we shared stories in the studio last night, I said I remembered how, as a child, I would watch the behind the scene clips of him doing his voiceover, and being amazed at the ingenuity he gave to his animated characters.

People are right in that we should continue to put voice to depression. I am astounded and impressed by the proactive stance everyone has taken through avenues such as social media. I am saddened that it takes a tragedy every time for the discussion to come alive again. Here is something about myself that I haven’t talked about in a long time. I have been through depression and manic anxiety since my early teens. Depression isn’t a phase, or a trick to get attention (and shame to those who do so); it’s a painful and sometimes unexplainable mark. I had no chemical imbalance to explain my situation, and years ago, mental illnesses that could not have a medical diagnosis was seen with skepticism. I also come from a culture that has struggled with being understanding and compassionate about the idea of mental health and mental illness; unfortunately, cultural beliefs will play an important influence upon the perceptions of mental health in present day.

I am so gratified that in those years, I was fortunate to have wonderful psychologists, counselors, mentors and friends to support me. I was able to have the strength to openly talk about it throughout my life, even partake in theatre for social change where I publicly shared my story across Ontario with The MT Space. Not only were we able to encourage discussion amongst audiences, youth, government and health professionals, because of the company’s mandate, we were able to start educating about cultural barriers as well. But I know so many others hide their pain for fear of rejection, judgement and improper care – unfortunately, it’s because stigmas still exist around mental health.

In Canada, we are lucky. We have a progressive health system and we are allowed to have a voice. I never knew I had that privilege until I lived abroad, where authorities saw me as a legal liability, and even a delinquent or criminal. I’m not saying Canada is perfect, but I believe we have the freedom to keep driving positive change, so let’s harness that power.

I have not spoken about my own past for a long time (although I hesitate when I say it’s all past – mental health is a lifelong journey). I think it’s because I keep wanting to strive for a vibrant future. But Mr. Williams just reminded me just how relevant, and still raw the issue is, and I hope that by sharing my story once again, we will continue to give voice, dignity and respect to mental illnesses. Remember, we are all human. And having a mental illness just as painful as broken ribs, and it does not make us any less skilled and talented than who we were before. Rest In Peace Robin Williams.

RobinWilliamsMagnum

This entry is part of a series of journals written for my MBA course on Leadership. I write these entries based on ideas introduced in class that stimulate me in some way (either as a need to respond, explore, share or reflect). As such, they may contain incomplete thought processes or be more rhetorical in nature. I have decided to share these entries with you, dear readers, with the hopes that you will gain something from them, and also help me with my own growth through forum.


Visions.

I’ve seen how visions gather people together around a cause. I myself have been drawn to visions, and doing everything within my power to drive the vision I believed in.

So why, when suddenly I have to create my own vision, that I find myself stalling? A recent question to us a few weeks ago as leaders was to create a vision and enlist others in sharing the vision. We were asked whether visions are something of value. I think on a scale of ten, the average rested around 7 – essentially, that the value depends on the quality, initiative, etc.

I myself had rated visions at a 9. As someone from the creative sector, I know how important a vision is to rally people to a cause. None of us work for enough money; none of us have enough resources; none of us get enough perks to do the things we usually do to foster creativity, arts and cultural change. We do it because we feel a deeply seated and intrinsic need. As a friend and former mentor of mine said, “Being a producer is usually a very overwhelming, and often thankless task.” I have so regularly invested so much energy because of someone’s vision, I was a little surprised when I realized how I don’t see my own projects the same way.

In 2011, I started my vision to create a show that celebrated the artistic excellence of works traditionally known as geek culture

There are some fears that come to the forefront: Who is going to do it for so little/no money? What if they don’t believe in my vision? Will anyone work as hard as I will? Why should they care?

Funny how I don’t think twice on other visions that I believe in. I should recognize that if I could do so much for a vision, so can others. So yes, of course I would rather visions at a 9. I am an example of someone who would fight for a vision. I think the fear begins when as a leader, I have to enlist others to share my vision. The fear of failure is always on the forefront of the mind, and the stakes become so much higher. When I give myself to someone else’s vision, I know that I am supporting a creation, but I will likely be protected through the process. When I create my own vision, I am putting myself out there for the world to see, for the firing line, raising my own stakes, and it is up to be to be the protector for those who are willing to join me.

I care a lot about the projects that I create. I care so much that sometimes it takes years before I initiate a project, after I do lots of my own personal R&D, work through my personal doubts, get feelers out, assemble the perfect team, the list goes on and on. My visions carry really high stakes, and I am torn when I feel like I’m going at it alone – you can see a little bit of my thoughts on that on my last post on being a leader/wanderer on the periphery. But I keep going, because I keep believing, and in that belief, also that others will believe with me. I am reminded that there HAVE been people who have risked themselves to work with me, supported me, stood with me and truly shared my vision with me. And so with gratitude, I keep moving forward.

This entry is part of a series of journals written for my MBA course on Leadership. I write these entries based on ideas introduced in class that stimulate me in some way (either as a need to respond, explore, share or reflect). As such, they may contain incomplete thought processes or be more rhetorical in nature. I have decided to share these entries with you, dear readers, with the hopes that you will gain something from them, and also help me with my own growth through forum.


Unfortunately, time is escaping me as we go further into the term, and many of my blog thoughts are left as personal penciled notes in my binder. This is always the tragedy of any student – all the wonderful plans we had with regards to our work and actions get thrown out the window and instead, we haphazardly assemble an end product the best we can, losing sleep and eating trash food, hoping that it’s presentable. I can hear the lessons from my Operations Management class last night ringing in my ears now, “We always underestimate the time needed to complete a project.”

Although we are quite farther into the term than what I’m going to write about now, I wanted to take the time to revisit the Carly Fiorina case that my class explored for about two weeks, and the topic of being ethically neutral by Craig Johnson.

The more we explored the case, the more some of us felt that Johnson’s case about how ethic neutrality is just as detrimental for leaders as being unethical was highly flawed, and only appeared to apply in the case of Carly Fiorina, or even possibly, women. John stated that a leader who is ethically neutral is more focused on bottom line than on values and principles, and is more self-centred, lacking compassion, integrity and humility. Fiorina, according to most articles that we read, seemed to exemplify these things. But once again, I bring up the question I would have wanted to ask the board, “Would you have treated her differently if she was a man?”

We recognize a lot of male leaders with similar traits. Male leaders in general deviate towards a more directorial style of leadership, and exhibit more aggressive tactics which would reflect those mentioned in the ethically neutral leader. Males, however, are hardly ever condemned for the actions that they take – should they fire 3 executives at 5 in the morning for failing to meet their numbers, they likely will be described as tough or hardball rather than the words that I bet they called Fiorina when she did the same thing.

Carly discusses her decisions in her own autobiography. I'd like to read this someday.

Carly discusses her decisions in her own autobiography. I’d like to read this someday.

I know we also discussed how Fiorina’s intimidating actions led to members of HP to act unethically, such as stuffing channels, in order to meet targets. Colleagues were afraid to challenge or speak up to Fiorina, which led them to remain silent for noted misconducts. I would venture to call that a failure on the staff’s part. Considering that Kouzes and Posner’s “The Leadership Challenge”, and almost every motivational saying out there regularly asserts that there is a leader in everyone, it would imply that the full responsibility of leadership does not lie on Fiorina’s shoulders alone, but also on others. Any person could have stepped up as a leader, and challenged the status quo at the time, which was Fiorina. Nowhere did it state that Fiorina condoned channel stuffing, and I wonder how events would have played out if someone told her.

Sorry Mr. Johnson, but a number of us think your opinion on ethic neutrality is not universal. It seemingly worked using Carly Fiorina as an example, but it hardly applies to others, especially males. He certainly would have had a more convincing article if he kept his focus on the moral misconducts of the HP board instead.

Was Carly Fiorina a good leader? I certainly think she made many mistakes which was indicative of poor leadership. But I have a strong sense that she was doing what she had to do as a woman placed in a position where she felt she had to prove herself in some way. According to The Economist, “women are still fairly exotic creatures in the C-suite, they attract disproportionate publicity when they hit problems.” One of the five practices of leadership states that we need to assertively express our viewpoints. Is that truly possible for women? For years now, we have examined over and over how women feel that they have to behave in a masculine manner to assume leadership, because tests have shown people are unwilling to follow a female leader who leads in a manner that is more social and team based (which is more typical of female leaders). The catch? They get disrespected because people don’t like women behaving in such a way. Damned if they do. Damned if they don’t. The lesser of the two evils is to adopt the masculine way. My professor in Organizational Behaviour told a story once of a female executive who declared how her work was more important than her children and the sheer absurdity and horrendousness of such a statement; but, he had said, sadly that is how women need to behave in order to ascend as leaders.

I actually find myself increasingly identifying with Carly Fiorina, rather than vilifying her. I wonder if she felt a particular pressure to perform, and also to attain a degree of respect as a new, and rapidly ascended CEO. I remember when I first attained the role as Artistic Director of a grassroots theatre company, and also when my own event, The G33K Art Show, suddenly exploded from a

Photo by KPadda. Producing the second year of The G33K Art Show.

Photo by KPadda. Producing the second year of The G33K Art Show.

small black box studio show to the City Hall. I felt like eyes were constantly watching and judging me, undermining my performance, waiting for me to trip up. I found myself constantly having to defend my decisions, prove that I can do it, and get past the snide comments that had nothing to do with my skills – “Oh, they all like your event because you’re a cute Asian girl.” I actually did have an individual try to vie with me for power when I was in one of those roles, which further reinforced my need to reassert my power through aggressive and directorial methods. I was confrontational, refused to share information for fear of it being stolen and focused on the bottom line, much like how Fiorina did. I was a cutthroat producer. I some ways, I attained respect. In order respects, I’m certain people bad mouthed me, and I certainly was lonely. I was always constantly trying to reconcile my role as a driven and tough producer, and as a good person and desire to be friends with people.

A desire to succeed. A fear of failure. A pressure to perform. A wariness of criticism. Spin that already on top of the other stigmas of being a woman, and in my case, being a small Asian, and we feel a desperate need to overcompensate. I wish I could say that this is not an issue in our society. I wish I could say that we are all equal as human beings. But in the words of Jeffrey Pfeffer, “Stop thinking the world is a just place.” We are all trying to find our footing in a non-ideological environment, while holding onto our dignity the best we can. I believe I have matured a bit from the brashness of my early twenties, and both learned lessons through mentors, academics and experience, and developed increased awareness of both myself and those around me. From these years past, and for years going forward, I can only hope that I can continue to grow, and be unafraid to challenge the norm and drive changes for the betterment of equality and empowerment.

 

This entry is part of a series of journals written for my MBA course on Leadership. I write these entries based on ideas introduced in class that stimulate me in some way (either as a need to respond, explore, share or reflect). As such, they may contain incomplete thought processes or be more rhetorical in nature. I have decided to share these entries with you, dear readers, with the hopes that you will gain something from them, and also help me with my own growth through forum.


It appears that in these last couple weeks of class we have regularly examined women in leadership, either by examining their situation and issues in general, or identifying women leaders (ie. Lisa Dawe and Carly Fiorina). As such, as I looked over my pencil notes (which are my own thoughts and responses to “official” class notes), I find myself increasingly reflecting and questioning certain ideas with regards to women in leadership.

It is, unfortunately, common knowledge that there is a huge shortage of women in positions of leadership (glass ceiling and glass cliff anyone?). What frustrates me is that whenever I state this to someone, the response I get is, “there are female leaders! Look at (insert name here).” It’s not that there AREN’T female leaders, it’s that there is SIGNIFICANTLY less female leaders than males. Data and statistics cannot lie, no matter how much we resist. I am hardly one who is satisfied with the situation either.

The upsetting part is that we, as women, are often nervous to speak up (myself included) on the issue for fear of being called “feminist”, and not in the good way. When discussing the issue of Carly Fiorina (who failed as a leader for HP), I felt the need to defend myself when I mentioned the possible issue of gender bias: “And the ever controversial issue that no one wants to talk about, the question I would have liked to ask the board is, ‘would you have treated Carly differently, given her leadership tactics, if she was a male?'” I felt rather irritated, at both society and myself, that I felt compelled to explain/apologize before saying my piece. Sheryl Sandberg, in her TED Talk Lean In, said how when she was approached to do a TED Talk about women in leadership, she hesitated because of the stigma of how no one would take her seriously anymore should she address such an issue. It even happens to the women at the top of the power chain.

Even more devastating to me, was when I learned from my professor about how women are often thrust into positions of leadership during a crisis (eg. a business going through a crash and burn, scandal, etc.), expected to carry the company through the crisis, and then fired at the end of the process, if they are not forced to resign by the end of it because they are tattooed with the company’s tarnished reputation. I can understand certain reasons as to why women are made to lead during a crisis – a female leader often adopts the social and relationship building model as opposed to strictly directive, and the image of a female leader can exude a more nurturing/maternal energy based on the mother archetype (not to say this is true to every case). However, what message are we sending with regards to women in leadership if we discard them or scapegoat them after the fires are all put out?

Recently, I find myself within a collective for professional theatre by women...

Recently, I find myself within a collective for professional theatre by women…

You know, for years I rejected the idea of feminism. The term, frankly, made me cringe. I am the oldest of four, and coming from a traditional Chinese family, I was raised as the male heir for 10 years of my life before my brother was born (my parents might deny this to their grave, but in adulthood, I’ve come to recognize the patterns). I was always a dominant and rather aggressive individual, and through my upbringing and extracurricular, I always identified with more “masculine” traits and activities than “girly” things. Oddly then, my first few projects as a professional performer after graduation all involved feminist explorations. These projects, in conjunction with some glaringly obvious acts of discrimination/stereotypes against me as I entered the workforce, opened my eyes a little bit more towards the rights of my gender, and made me revisit the concept of feminism (and perhaps I’ll elaborate more on my own experiences in later entries).

Back on the subject on how women are treated in positions of leadership. Another thing we discussed was about how Norway had implemented at policy that boards must consist of at least 40% women, and how the rapid implementation of the policy forced a lot of women who were not ready or properly trained into the positions. The legislation actually compromised the competency of the board; but guess where they would most likely point the finger of blame?

However, what provoked me was not the discussion of competency/incompetency, but rather the number. Why did Norway decide on 40%? Why not 50%? If the nation was indeed seeking to improve the rights of women, why not create an equal division of power? To decide on 40% as a number instead of an even split appears to reinforce the marginalization in some way. It may not have even been deliberate, but the critical part of my brain certainly noticed, and I’m wondering if anyone else had as well.

The numbers matter. And they matter even more when it’s a conscious choice made by an entity or organization. We unfortunately have no macro control over the stats of women in leadership positions (lest some idealistic international legislation is implemented). But when someone says, “Let’s decide to allow 40% of a board to consist of women; not 50%, which would be an equal split, but 40%,”‘ it’s no different than when a film casts one ethnic character for that “token” role, all in the name of “diversity”.

After all of this, rather unexpectedly, I found myself drafting the proposal for my online group topic discussion as thus:

The culture of women in leadership – barriers, expectations and performance

I would like to examine how history, pop culture and societal norms affect women, and more specifically ethnic women, in positions of leadership, and also generate a path forward from the discussion and feedback. Since beginning my MBA, there are often discussions about women as leaders, or ethnic minorities as leaders; however, there hardly appears to be any examination on the situation of leaders who are both a woman and of ethnic minority.

Sheryl Sandberg said in her TED Talk that the difficulties for female leaders is not a problem that can be solved in her generation. She is correct. Women have been marginalized for centuries. Moreover, even in modern day, many ethnic women are still living in highly misogynistic cultures. Such details have often dictated these womens’ lifestyles, and also perpetrate stereotypes surrounding their cultures. For example, a female tour guide in Japan once told me that she refused to marry because she would no longer be allowed to pursue her own career. It was not a law, but the deeply seated traditions of the culture has made it nearly impossible for married women to achieve career aspirations.

I think there are more layers, if not a completely different angle to how ethnic women are perceived, and how they must function as people and leaders. Of course, we will spot similarities with regards to gender and to ethnicity; but from that point, it is a whole other beast. I would like to take any conclusions from this exploration to try and further develop some sort of guidance or strategy for how to challenge any of these issues, and improve the position and perception of ethnic women in leadership.

 

 

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My own photos of the wines that I purchased.

Name: Cabernet Franc and Unoaked Chardonnay

Maker: Sugarbush Vineyards

Year: 2008 and 2012

Region: Ontario, Prince Edward County

Alcohol Content: 11.7% and 12.5%

Sugar Content: Unknown

Price: $15 and $20 at Winery

Tasting Notes:

An un-oaked Chard, with caramel, orange and citrus notes on the nose. The palate is smooth with tangerine, butter and a caramel finish.” – Chardonnay from website

Cherry, red fruit, and a hint of jalapeno peppper on the nose. A spicy berry finish.” – Cabernet Franc from website

In a rather last minute decision, I decided to take off to Prince Edward County at the end of April, Ontario’s other wine country gem for a one nighter of pretend vacation, freedom and reflection.

It rained the entire time, my legs were in agony from intense physiotherapy and I didn’t get any sleep all night from the water heating system of the inn whooshing all night, plus the staff and patrons making noises in the morning (I had the ground floor room right beside the lounge area). BUT, somehow, I still had a wonderful time. The wine and food in this county was phenomenal (or maybe just from the places I ate); I had a beautiful room and library at the inn to spend a lot of time in quiet contemplation and even rest…and well…let’s just get back to the wine shall we?

Wine was in my life almost every other hour during the 24 hours I spent in the county. From the various tastings I attended, I learned so much more about not only wine growing, but the regional specialties and defining characteristics. Apparently, PE County is most famous for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, more acidic notes in order to cut through rich foods, and mineral notes due to the high limestone content of the soil. So fascinating!

I tried many wines, but today I want to look at little winery that calls themselves Garagiste (“a passionate winemaker who creates limited production premium wine in a garage-sized winery”). I had a tasting coupon to see them, but they had peaked my fancy in the regional guide even before I received my vouchers, both by the intimate nature of their business and also their wine selection.

So rather gingerly (I was wearing heels – bad idea – and legs still pumped with lactic acid), I made my way down their artistic stone steps into the store. I was the only one there that morning (it was still low season after all). Sally, one of the co-owners, was warm, welcoming and gave me lots of insight not only into their winemaking and grape growing processes, but also the business of wines in both private sales and LCBO. She told me some of the plans they had for their production this summer, and so I look forward to returning.

I purchased 3 bottles, and since then have tried two:

Cab Franc 2008

Cherry on the nose with some peppery undertones. Tart berry and grassy note on the palate – Sally suggested it’s like green pepper, and I’d agree. Sometimes I cannot put the name to something I taste without some reference. I actually remember watching contestants on Top Chef often do a blind taste test with varying results, so I don’t feel too bad in this respect. Very little tannins, which builds up as the wine aerates. Finishes dry with a lingering mineral which is characteristic of the region (a la limestone). I may be mistaken, but I think I was also told that the fresh, grassy tones is a result of 2008 being a cooler year, which could affect the grapes. So interesting.

Unoaked Chardonnay

Caramel and buttery nose with the tiniest bit of citrus (like a sweet apple). I really, really loved the nose before tasting it. On the tongue, it had a very clean and smooth texture. Tasting notes were tart, with a hint of mineral. Sweet honey-like and caramel notes laced through it the entire time, and it had a dry finish. I have an unoaked Lailey Chardonnay also waiting for me in my wine fridge, but until now, I didn’t understand why “unoaked” existed. Apparently, some people are really turned off by the oak notes in a regular Chardonnay, and hence the rise of unoaked Chardonnays. I’m not sure if I would have noticed anything on its own, but after tasting them side by side at the winery, I was blown away by the differences. Since the buttery characteristics of a Chardonnay usually comes from the aging in an oak barrel, I was very surprised that I enjoyed this Chardonnay more than their oaked one.  I think I was really charmed by that gorgeous nose on the unoaked. Truly, one of the more lovely things I’ve beheld.

My Rating: Cab Franc 3/5 | Unoaked Char 4/5 (based on Vivino App rating system)

Vivino Rating System: 1 star (“I dislike it”) – 2 stars (“It’s ok”) – 3 stars (“It’s good”) – 4 stars (“It’s great”) – 5 stars (“It’s outstanding”)

Vivino Average Rating: N/A (only my rating seems to exist)

Other Average Ratings: 4.3/5 and 4.1/5 (WineAlign)

This entry is part of a series of journals written for my MBA course on Leadership. I write these entries based on ideas introduced in class that stimulate me in some way (either as a need to respond, explore, share or reflect). As such, they may contain incomplete thought processes or be more rhetorical in nature. I have decided to share these entries with you, dear readers, with the hopes that you will gain something from them, and also help me with my own growth through forum.


John, my professor, made a statement that we need more full-time volunteer leaders in the world, being someone who leads or takes action without pay. Obviously, these leaders are being driven by something beyond the scope of monetary benefits, but almost immediately I found myself developing a series of counterarguments and questions with regards to this ideal.

In a prior slide during our lecture, was a quote from Hewlett-Packard (and apparently a lesson from John’s own Diploma in Business), “Business can take care of employees and customers only by making a profit first.” On one hand, one could argue that this only applies in a business setting, and not in a non-profit setting. Is it though? Non-profits and volunteer organizations require resources just like anyone else, and they need to reach a consumer base like everyone else. The term consumer may be different in this case (donors, audience) but as my marketing professor says, the business still needs tools and resources to achieve their desired goals.

In this case then, I only truly see two circumstances in which one would successfully be a volunteer leader without becoming burnt out, resentful or suffering:

  1. They are independently wealthy, or is are supported upon someone else’s wealth.
  2. They are, quite literally, a monk or nomad.

I am not saying that this form of leadership isn’t possible, but it’s hard to expect such ideals lest we are capable of being in one of the above circumstances. There are many part-time volunteers, and some of them are leaders, but they still need to maintain a full time position in order to support their basic needs. We need to pragmatically look at our own needs and well-being.

Perhaps I have a more critical view of volunteerism from my own experiences. I have come to view highly demanding volunteer positions as pro bono work, usually with the reasons of lacking funds or profit-share structures. Especially in the arts, increasingly I am seeing an expectation, even pressure, placed upon skilled individuals to work unpaid in the name of art. To request payment is seen as a faux pas, as if saying that we are not passionate enough about our work to do it without payment.

I suppose therein lies the difference. Volunteerism should take form in a personal desire to act, and the choice is, as the name says, voluntary. To be guilted into working for free is not volunteering. Such a practice is not any different than countries that force young men into military service in the name of volunteerism.Untitled-1

Years ago, I was a performer that took part in the development of a Theatre for Social Change piece that addressed volunteerism in Canada and its relationship to those of diverse cultures. I find it to be a rather sensitive issue with many facets. Moreover, the word can have different meanings depending on its context (charity, education, businesses, for profit events). For myself, I hesitate to make such an sweeping statement that “the world needs more volunteer leaders” when it can suddenly put so much pressure on those who are seeking work equity in forms of compensation, benefits and positive work environment (for myself, the entertainment industry).

Obviously, I have my own opinions on volunteerism. I have always seen it as a chance to build work experience, not only for my own development, but also on a resume. I do recognize the virtues of hitting the grind, working from the bottom to the top, delayed gratification, etc. etc. But it needs to counterbalanced with a payoff, or some other form of sustainability. Entering the workforce, I certainly think I follow HP’s philosophy that I cannot take care of others until I take care of myself. They teach this in lifesaving courses as well – when rescuing someone in the water, to not allow them to drag you under; maintain your own safety. On airplanes, the safety video always emphasizes securing your own air pressure mask before helping others. For if I cannot thrive, how can I possibly be of use to others in a meaningful way?

While I have always deeply admired those who give more than they have the capacity for, I wondered how helpful it could be when suddenly, they are so poor that they themselves become dependent on the system, become so ill that they require extensive care, or give at the expense of their own home and/or family? You can only hope that those they have helped will in turn help them. I hope that a strong community is built through the selfless acts of people, but to say that it always happens is a little too optimistic. As someone who has been exploited multiple times for my voluntary work, and willingness to help in spite of all adversity, I know the world is not a perfectly just place. I will stop giving if I can, but I also have enough self-respect to assert my own rights if required, and to value my needs.

So allow me perhaps to amend the words of my professor a bit. The world needs more passionate and driven leaders, those who are driven by a vision to change the world for the better. If they do it as a volunteer, amazing, but if not, that’s ok too. Leadership should be cultivated with sustainability.