"We're trending!" - Stephen Sim

Winnipeggers often feel overlooked and unnoticed in Canada, so when our small group of local TEDx enthusiasts started trending on Twitter we got pretty pumped! This was just one small part of the awesomeness that was this year's TEDxWinnipeg.


Trending for what? #PeanutButterSynergy of course! This is a testament to the quick-thinking genius of our fantastic emcees Caity Curtis and Stephen Sim. Local heavyweights of the improv scene, Curtis and Sim decided they would stir up the crowd by giving us a taste of what an improv-style TED talk might sound like. Looking to the crowd for overused motivational buzzwords, the words "proactive!", "out-of-the-box!" and "synergy!" came blaring through.  Then it happened..."peanut butter!" Already recognizing that this year's group was Twitter-friendly, Sim suggested, "wouldn't it be awesome if we started trending for....peanut butter synergy?" The seed was planted and the crowd ran with it. 


In addition to social media sharing opportunities, strategies were developed to encourage attendees to actively engage with one another. Long and frequent breaks, conversation triggers such as a "people bingo" game and the "ask me about" sections on our name tags helped to facilitate networking among even the most introverted. While some grew tired of the extended space between segments, many appeared to appreciate the extra time to talk, eat and wander the nearby waterfront on a beautiful day.


If I could summarize the overall vibe of the day it would be CREATIVITY AT WORK. Although speakers had very different backgrounds and topics, I felt that the ultimate message was this: how are you going to apply creative thinking to both enhance and develop a deeper connection to the work you do?

Here are some of my personal highlights from the day:

I was fascinated by Dr.Nicole Buckley's findings from her Space Health and Aging Research (SHARE) and how we can utilize the parallel data (both physical and psycho-social) of how we age on Earth and how Astronauts age in space to find health and well being solutions for both groups. 

Alex Drysdale made a very clever case for putting bugs in our pantry. As the owner of Crik Nutrition here in Winnipeg, he not only made a solid case for the utilization of insects as a more nutritious and sustainable food option, but a brilliant sales pitch for his cricket and plant based protein powder. People who initially cried "ick!" lined up all day just to try it.  Well played sir, well played.

Local filmmaker, Madison Thomas, made a passionate case for arts programming as a way to provide a positive outlet for at-risk inner city youth. Wanting to shine a light on both the struggles and possibilities of these youth, Thomas shared her own experiences as a young person growing up in Winnipeg's North End and her current observations of the economic divide. 

"Get someone else to share their game book with you." This one phrase stuck with me all day. We often throw around the word "mentor", yet for many it can feel abstract and inaccessible. The visual of a football player asking for guidance so he can understand the play and therefore excel - perfect. Thank you Israel Idonije for a memorable and accessible piece of storytelling.


By then end of the day, everyone had collected at least one new friend and one new nugget of inspiration which, in my books, equals success! To all of the TEDx speakers and volunteers: ya done good!

Until next year...



I'm happy to say that 2015 was an epic year for me.  It was a year filled with exciting adventures, good mojo and lots of inspiration to keep going and creating.  As I reflect on this, I am beyond grateful.  Though things were not always perfect, many things ended up in the "awesome" category and very few landed in the "suck" category.  That, my friends, has FANTASTIC year written all over it!  I sincerely hope your year was just as fantastic.  If, however, it wasn''re in luck!  A shiny new year filled with possibility is just around the corner!  Maybe you didn't get the promotion this year.  Maybe you didn't start that new business you've been dreaming of.  Maybe you didn't find your purpose and just felt that, yet again, you were on the hamster wheel of life.  That's okay.  Feel that discomfort?  That's life telling you it's time for change.  You may not even know what that change is yet, but that's the beauty of it.  Surrender to 2016 as a glorious adventure just waiting for you to say "yes, I will try something new."  When you do, I'll be waiting.  As you know, I love a good story...


"Do More of What Makes You Happy." It's funny, but most people assume that this means you should quit your job and go meditate on a beach somewhere. That's not where I'm heading. I don't believe that we need to falsely run around being happy all the time, but I do believe that contentment, happiness and gratitude are daily, conscious choices. For example, I don't care for crowds so if I have to shop at all during this busy season, I go early in the morning or order the needed items online. Doing this makes for a less-stressed me which means I can save my time and energy for the things that make me happy: dinner with my family, coffee dates with friends, visits to the gym and time to nurture ideas that are planting seeds in my busy brain. I know, I know..."but people expect A, B and C of me." Again, it's a conscious choice, so you need to be the one to set the expectation. Whenever possible choose more of the necessary (i.e. the things you value = happiness) and remove a LOT of the unnecessary (i.e. things you don't value = making you miserable).  

Wishing you a happy weekend! 

Sharing the journey,


"The work is the substance.  Do the work.  Fancy logos and business cards are nice, but they are the first step, not the last.  Find out what is needed and give it to them.  Produce!"

- Leif Norman

This is part of a series of interviews with people who have been identified as those who "work with love." These are individuals who are daring to create success on their own terms and, in the process, teach us valuable lessons about work and life.  They are proof that there are many paths to career satisfaction and happiness.  There is a "lessons learned" section at the end of each interview.

Age:  40

Occupation:  Photographer - Visit

Location:  Winnipeg, Manitoba

Number of years:  5

When did the photography bug first hit you?

About 1999. I started buying all the used cameras I could find.

What is it about this medium that speaks to you most?

I like the immediacy of the digital picture and the perceptiveness of the black and white film I was developing in my basement. The camera can see things you don't, even though you are looking right at it.

With a background in chemistry, how did you transition from the academic world to one that some would define as solely artistic?

The transition was hardly there at all. I was making money with photography before I even graduated. The focus was on photography so it was natural.

Do you see them as separate or parallel words? Why?

Anything can be parallel if you want them to be. In my case I am using the chemistry knowledge to make photographs in the 1854 style; Calotypes with Silver Nitrate and Gallic Acid. I would take the degree again if I could.

In my opinion, you found a way to combine traditional photography and modern perspectives making it more accessible to the viewer of today. How would you describe your work? How do you feel it has evolved over the years?

I would describe myself as an archivist. Photographs are historical records and should be made to share. I am also good, I am told, at making the mundane look exciting, which is a good skill when shooting business cocktail parties. The work has evolved to get closer to people over the years. I am less and less shy to talk to strangers and stick a camera in their face. It makes for better pictures.

At what point did you realize that you had stumbled upon something that you not only enjoyed, but could potentially earn a living from? How have you been able to monetize your passion?

The money came slowly at first. I was embarrassed to ask for it. And then I got more and more gigs and couldn't do it for free anymore. Anyone can monetize what they do so long as they are good at it. People ask for you, and then you will become a professional.

During our chat, we agreed that there are a lot of myths about entrepreneurship and small business ownership. What do you believe is the most damaging of these myths?

Probably the idea that getting people to "like" your Facebook page does anything at all. Nobody cares, even if they like you. Also, social media has way too much buzz around it.  People starting out think that that's all there is to it. The work is the substance. Do the work. Fancy logos and business cards are nice, but they are the first step, not the last. Find out what is needed, and then give it to them. Produce!

One of my favorite pieces of advice from you was the need for people to start small, start slow. How did a slower, more organic pace of development position you for sustainable success?

I didn't end up over my head in debt. I grew as I could. Photography has very low overhead anyway. For $2000 one can be well on their way to being a fully functioning photographer. It also builds relationships if you go slowly. Communication is the power. It's where the money comes from. Money doesn't come from the Yellow Pages and posters on a pole. Get to know people in an area and find out how to help them. If you give and give, then they will give back to you. Easy. Long-term relationships, especially in Winnipeg, are gold.

Looking back, what were some of the best decisions you made? Perhaps without even knowing it at the time, what things helped you get where you are today? What did you get right?

Moving slowly and finding out that I hated wedding photography and other genres was the right move. Even taking my chemistry degree right on top of a slowly building reputation was a good idea. Not moving to Montréal or Vancouver was also a good idea. Those cities are too fizzy. The focus and energy is disposable. A lot of money can be made but a lot of money can also be lost. Keep your overhead low.

Tell me about Gladys. Why is she so important?

Gladys (above) was an effort to subvert the digital revolution by doing entirely the opposite of what the trend was.  The camera was huge, wooden, handmade, and used a 150-year-old way of making photographs. I wanted to be a completist, and know all there was to know about photography, old and new, and the best way to learn was to DO. So she was a learning tool for me too.

For more images of Gladys and the Calotypes, visit

I love, love, LOVE that you consider yourself the "official photographer" of Winnipeg. A visual historian, if you will, of our city and her culture. How did this view develop? How has it enhance your enjoyment of your work?

That's very tongue-in-cheek. L.B. Foote is now considered to have been the official photographer of Winnipeg though he never was, and would probably laughed at the idea, but was everywhere with his camera documenting everything. Now we have an amazing record of Winnipeg people and places from 100 years ago. Maybe in the future I will be that person. The idea really developed after the 100th person said to me "your everywhere!"

Out of your vast collection of photos, do you have a favorite? Why? 

I do have some favorites, but they fade quickly as I am always making more. This bright and dark surreal carnival imaging in Gimli (above) was an accident. I had the wrong setting on the camera and it overexposed way too much. But the next day I looked at it and I quite liked it because it doesn't look like a photo you would take.

Who or what inspires you? Why?

I get inspired by looking at the work of other photographers, old and new such as Eugene Atget, Ansel Adams and Trevor Marczylo.  Mostly I am inspired by the idea that I am doing good work for the future by recording and sharing the images of the moment on my website.

You did a TED talk earlier this year. What was that experience like for you?  In preparing for it, did you find that you uncovered a new perspective on your work?

It was horrible, but I would do it again. I did find out that even though I want to be a philosopher like Susan Sontag, I am not. 

(Leif is far too humble. I witnessed his TED talk from the second row and thought it was brilliant.)

If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing? Why?

I might be performer and a poet. I like writing but don't have the time. I like to make people laugh.

What sacrifices and/or trade-offs do you feel you've made in order to pursue what you love? When it's all said and done, has it been worth it?

Yes. I have sacrificed very little. I am lucky to not have made any blunders along the way in it has been entirely worth it. All those dish washing jobs and driving taxi taught me that I needed to do my own thing, and I am.

When I approached you about doing this interview I stated that it was because identified you as somebody who "works with love." What does this mean to you?

I don't know if I work with love or am passionate about photography. I see it as work. I really like it, but it is work. Hamlet thought the actor was passionate as he played a tragic scene and cried real tears, though it was all memorized from a script. Many people are equally fooled when they see someone like me rushing around with the camera. I do have a lot of energy for it, but I cannot keep up the excitement that I first had when I exposed my first roll of film. That was passion long ago, but now it simply work I enjoy.

I love the good quote. Do you have a favorite you would like to share?

Susan Sontag in "On Photography" (Page 64) wrote something which really stuck with me:

"The Photographer both loots and preserves, denounces and consecrates."

Anything else you want to share?

If someone wants to become professional, and just stop now if you don't, then they should read every book on the subject, gather all the tools, befriend those in the field and show up on time.

Thank you for giving us lots of great stuff to think about Leif.  Wishing you continued success!

So my friends, what have we learned today?

  1. Slow and steady wins the race!  It takes time to build a business.  A slower, more organic approach (contrary to the modern "get rich quick" mindset) can position you better for long-term success.
  2. Avoid debt!  As a Career Professional I have worked with many people over the years who have, unfortunately, come to me after they had spent everything they had (and a lot more they didn't have) on a business they were sure would produce results and easy income overnight.  Unnecessary debt will keep you stranded, kill your creativity and will limit your options.  
  3. Do the work!  There are many things that can make you feel like you're being productive, but are essentially time-wasting distractions that keep you from the real work to be done.  (I certainly understand.  The distractions are safe.  Getting out in with middle of things can be scary, but it's where the real treasures are).
  4. Solve a problem!  Get to know people.  Build authentic relationships. Found out what their needs are and then solve the problem.  Find the right solution to the right problem and you're in business.

Wishing you a kick-ass day!

Sharing the journey,


Hello Friends!  What an amazing, yet brief, summer this has been.  I can't believe that fall is already on its way!  For once, I decided to take my own advice and just be.  Yes, there was plenty of work to do, but I made sure there was a lot of time to go for walks, meander under grand trees, run around the park, eat ice cream and just savour this wonderful season.

This small passage from Thoreau's Walden says it best:

"There were times I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work whether of the head or hands.  ...I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been.  They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance..."

I hope you had a wonderful summer.  If it was not all you hoped it would be, take this new approach to delight in fall.  I know I'm going to.

So much sky gazing and storytelling to do!

Have a remarkable week!

Sharing the journey,



Whether it's an Artist, Barrista, Freelance Writer, Retail Clerk, Teacher or Small Business Owner, the people I've met who work with a secret joy all have one thing in common - purpose.  They do what they do with love, for the love of it.  Money is not the driving force.  Sure, they need to pay the bills.  We all do. The satisfaction they derive from their work, however, has nothing to do with the monetary payback.  It's the thrill of the challenge.  The chance to put some good out into the world.  The opportunity to flex creative muscles, solve problems and remove a small piece of burden from another's day.    They choose to see what they do as having meaning and, because of that, work transforms into a meaningful experience.

That being said, I thought we should take the time to review a few awesome quotes to inspire us.  To let us know that we are not alone.  There are more than just a few of us that believe that work has value and can be more than the exchange of time and money.  

Here we go!

Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of the creative effort. 
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I believe you are your work.  Don't trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars.  That's a rotten bargain.
- Rita Mae Brown

Trust not what inspires other members of society to choose a career.  Trust what inspires you.
- The Lazy Person's Guide to Success

One must work and dare if one really wants to live.
- Vincent van Gogh

Never work just for money or for power  They won't save your soul or help you sleep at night.
- Marian Wright Edelman

The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.
- George Bernard Shaw

The belief that you can have a meaningful career is the first step to finding one.
- Sean Aiken (Author/Creator - One Week Job Project)

There is no end.  There is no beginning.  There is only the infinite passion of life.
- Federico Fellini

What is money?  A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.
- Bob Dylan

Hard work is painful when life is devoid of purpose. But when you live for something greater than yourself and the gratification of your own ego, then hard work becomes a labor of love. 
Steve Pavlina

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.
John R. Wooden

The biggest mistake that you can make is to believe that you are working for somebody else.  The driving force of a career must come from the individual.  Remember:  Jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!
- Earl Nightingale

There you have it my friends.  Wishing you a day filled with inspired action and empowered choices!

Sharing the journey,

Image by pixtawan


We choose to go...not because it is easy, but because it is hard.  Because that goal will serve to measure and organize the best of our energies and skills.  Because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Since the goal is to provide information and inspiration, I thought I would pause this week so we can take a better look at what we've learned so far. As I collect feedback and prepare to share these stories, I've discovered some major themes when it comes to working with love:  

  • be prepared to work hard (maybe even harder than you've ever worked)
  • get comfortable with being uncomfortable (you'll have to push yourself to try new things)
  • recognize that there are no guarantees (it's all on you - make peace with that) 

So why would someone choose to do this?  Don't we all want an easy ride? NOT. AT. ALL.  In fact, I believe the the desire for easy is a myth.  As I've stated in the past, boredom is my kryptonite and I don't believe I'm alone.  

While we don't desire hardship, we do crave challenge.  Why? Challenge provides purpose.  To work hard for something is to have a purpose to your day and, ultimately, your life.  The most miserable people I've come across in my work are the disengaged.  You know them. The people who look for ways to put in their time while only contributing the bare minimum.  I feel sad for these people.  Who wants to spend the precious hours of one's life caring about and contributing to nothing?  Just showing up is not enough.  It's a waste and, if we're all honest, it feels terrible.  Being of value and feeling you matter is essential to your well being.  It's no wonder mental health has become such a big issue in the workplace.  That, my friends, is a whole other discussion...

If you haven't had a chance to check out any of the interviews, you may want to take a peak at the following:

Lise Fiola

Balancing family, creativity and business ownership

                                       The life of a REAL working musician

Making the leap to freelance work and going back to school in your 30's

Have no fear my friends - more stories are on their way.  In fact, with so many wonderful stories to tell, there are barely enough hours in the day!  The people and the possibilities seem wonderfully endless.  With this in mind, I'm confident that one day I'll be sharing your story in this very place.    

Until we meet,

Image by siraphat