Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fitness: it’s now, or never!

Lydia Di Francesco is an incredible motivator…and one of the most persistent human being I know.
Sometimes, a true and tactful observation is the most helpful thing you can hear.
These are my favourite one-liners from my fitness coach Lydia Di Francesco:
“I notice you eat a lot of cheese and crackers.”
(Lydia evaluating my 14 day food diary.)
“Rita, we’re friends on Facebook and it’s not like I’m stalking you, but you do A LOT of things. A LOT. I am sure you can find 15 minutes to exercise.”
 (Lydia busts me for spending time on everything but exercise.)
Me: “The snow has melted so I can’t ski, and the pool is closed over Christmas.”
Lydia: “Well, you could always do the 15 minute exercise video I customized and posted just for you.”
(Lydia refuses to accept my namby-pamby excuses.)
When I moved to Newcastle in August, I firmly resolved that this phase of life would be “Newcastle, New Rita!” I had bold plans to exercise more, eat healthy, and take advantage of everything at my disposal to get in better shape and improve my health.
And realistically, there is no reason why I could not: I live adjacent to miles of trails for hiking in summer and skiing in winter. The Clubhouse two minutes away has a fantastic swimming pool and weight room; farmers’ markets in Durham are awash in fresh produce from May to October.
In my fit of August enthusiasm, I hired Ottawa-based coach Lydia Di Francesco as my on-line personal trainer: by email and phone, Lydia has a program to keep people motivated over long distances. The first thing she had me do was keep a food diary for 14 days to record everything I ate, and fill in a weekly exercise report. She even videotaped a great 15-minute exercise routine I could easily do in any room of my house, no special equipment needed.
But in August I was moving. Life was chaos. I was homeless for 3 days. I had no refrigerator for over a week.
In September, of course, I had to get my house and my office organized so I could work productively. That was all-consuming.
In October, my dad came and visited for 19 days. We went to Stratford, built a work bench in my garage, hosted a giant family Thanksgiving dinner, and generally celebrated life.
In November, my son visited North America from England with his fiancée…cue the giant Engagement Party in Michigan, and also the early Christmas party!
The first week of December, I had my scheduled phone conversation with Lydia. It was during this call that I had a giant epiphany: life does not get any calmer or less busy next month, no matter how many months go by.
“Lydia, in August I was sure that by September I would have my new routine in place; September and October were a blur, and November was even crazier than that! I have been telling myself for five months, “Next month, when things are less busy…
“I am only realizing RIGHT NOW, talking to you, that December is going to be just as busy as November if not busier. And January will be worse than that! If I don’t carve out time to exercise right now, this month, today, I never will!”
This may seem an elementary realization, but it was HUGE to me. I’ve never skipped exercise out of laziness; most people would not describe me as a lazy person. However, as the years creep by, I’ve been only too ready to allow working, travelling, family visits, cooking, entertaining, hobbies and – the worst! – reading online[1]to supplant running or working out in my schedule.
Lydia and I worked out a strategy to limit my online reading: I bought a $2.99 egg timer to set for one hour each morning. I augmented the egg timer with a photo of Lydia, urging me: “Stop reading online and exercise!” This works perfectly to remind me how quickly one hour passes.
I also laser-printed motivational pages and posted them all around my house: “Live in your reality, not in your fantasy. Remember you have to PLAN in your reality!”
These served as great reminders that NEXT MONTH IS NOT GOING TO BE ANY CALMER THAN THIS MONTH. Next month is going to be just as crazy as this month, if not more so. I cannot create a life-and-fitness plan based upon the theory that next month, I will have more time. This is simply not true, and it’s never going to be true. I get it, now!
I adjusted my daily “block planning” sheets to build workout time directly into my daily schedule; if I miss a workout, I have to colour in that time block with the Pink Highlighter of Shame. I hate the Pink Highlighter of Shame.
On that December call, Lydia and I agreed to a system of daily accountability: I would dedicate time to exercise, and message her to report results. It’s so much fun to send Lydia a quick message at the end of the day and get back: “Awesome! Fantastic! Keep it up, Rita! Don’t forget to eat some protein.”
I’m really pleased to report that I have skied virtually every day when there’s been snow, and been swimming about 5 times per week. Turns out, I can swim half a mile pretty easily – and there’s no reason for me NOT to. Everything is better when I work out: I sleep better, I eat better, and my work days are hugely productive. All of these are goals I set for myself last August, when I resolved to create “Newcastle, New Rita!”
Were my first, less-than-productive five months a waste of time? Not at all! That time helped me get my mind around the fact – again – of what is necessary to create a workout program; and especially, the fact that next month is never going to be less busy than this month.
Newcastle, New Rita – it’s now, or never!
Now that I have scheduled my workouts right into my daily planner, I have to
colour that block pink if I miss a workout. I hate the Pink Highlighter of Shame.

[1] Reading online is a 21st century killer!
“When I actually used to get paid to monitor the media for clients, I read four newspapers every morning and had a summary written by 7:30am. When I used to read only the Globe every morning, I had one cup of coffee, read the “A” section and I was finished,” I mentioned to my son Tom.
“Now with online news…there is no end! It is updated as I am reading. I could start reading news at 6am and still be reading at 9am, with no end in sight. Theoretically, it could go on all day!”

For best results, make the other person feel important

ontario flag
Up close, a full-sized flag is surprisingly large.
“Make the other person feel important, and do it sincerely.”
–Dale Carnegie, Principle #9
In 1998, Ontario’s Education Minister Dave Johnson was preparing to release the province’s new Kindergarten curriculum – the first update since the early 1950s.  It had been two years in the making and was considered a pure “good-news announcement” during a tumultuous period of education reform.
We identified an elementary school in Rexdale. I knew if I simply placed a call to the school and asked if we could have the launch event there, the principal would be likely to just say “No.”
Instead, I asked only for an appointment.  I drove out to the school, prepared to make my pitch. When I entered the principal’s office, a room full of women were waiting for me – teachers from kindergarten and early elementary grades had been invited too.
They had issues with the Mike Harris government. They had issues with the way teachers were being portrayed in the media. They had issues…but, they also had hope.
“I don’t agree with a lot of what your government is doing,” one kindergarten teacher noted. “But, I can’t see anything bad about this announcement. And our kids…this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them. I would hate to have them miss this chance.”
And so we were able to carefully negotiate an event. The teachers suggested the audience be kids from Grades One and Two, as those kids are already much more mature than the 4 and 5 year olds in kindergarten. “The kindergartners won’t be able to sit still for five minutes, and there could be crying,” was their logic. I appreciated the intelligence.
“We know this is a media event, but will the kids be able to ask questions too?” another teacher wanted to know. Yes, we could set that up, I promised.
“Will the minister bring the kids a present?” another teacher asked. “These kids have nothing. A gift exchange would be very important to them.” Yes, I promised, we could arrange that.
The day of the event, hundreds of small children lined the hallway, waiting to greet the minister. Their joy and excitement was palpable; but it could not compare to the energy in the library where the announcement would be made. 
There, classes of Grade One and Two students were sitting cross-legged on the floor. They were fascinated by the rows of cameras set up across the back of the room. As the teachers had warned, even these older kids could barely sit still with all the excitement.  Behind the cameras stood the Education staffers accompanying us to the event, including Linda Zavarella, Education’s Events Planner, and John Capobianco, our very-Tory office MPP liaison.
Dave Johnson took a seat at the front of the room and began talking with the kids. He explained to them that Ontario had done a lot of work to develop the best way for kids in kindergarten to learn so that they would be ready for grade one, knowing their letters and numbers and other important things. He made pretty quick work of the announcement, answered reporter questions, and then we opened the floor to the kids.
“The kids have made a present for you,” their teacher informed him. One of the kids came forward with a book of poetry, one poem written by each child in the class, and hand-bound with a special cover. Every child in the room was squirming with pride as he accepted the gift.
“Does anyone want to ask the minister a question?” the teacher went on. I held my breath, worried the kids would be too shy to speak up. I need not have worried.
“Do you like reading?” the first question came without hesitation.
“Oh, yes, reading is a very important part of my job. I read a lot, every day,” Dave answered.
“What is your favourite book?” was the next question.
The response was absolute, impromptu political genius.
“This one!” Dave replied, holding up the hand-made book he had just been given. “This is my new, favourite book!”
An outburst of delight swept the room. The kids’ pride in their work and excitement that someone so important loved their poems was clearly now one of the highlights of their existence. It took several moments for noise to abate.
Meanwhile, Dave came up with his next brainwave.
“Let’s read a poem from this book,” he suggested. Dave opened the book to a random page and looked at name at the bottom. “Let’s read this poem by…Tory. Tory, do you want to read it with me?”
A scream erupted at the back of the class as a little girl leapt to her feet, ran to the front of the room and hurtled herself onto  the minister’s lap. The TV cameras were rolling, eating up every second of it.
Together, Dave and Tory read the hand-written words on the page.
At the back of the room, John Capobianco was wide-eyed in disbelief.
“Rita, that was amazing! Did we set that up?”
I laughed out loud. “Are you kidding? I could not have set that up if I tried.”
After the poetry reading, Dave gave the kids his gift – he unfurled a brand new, full-sized, gleaming Ontario flag for the kids to hang in their classroom. The kids gasped in awe – full-sized flags are actually quite large, and the crimson and gold colours seemed to pop right off the fabric. The teachers were nodding in appreciation – apparently we had picked exactly the right gift.
The kids filed back to their classrooms, buzzing with excitement. Linda and I packed up supplies. Had that actually just happened? I asked myself.  On top of every other perfect detail, he opened the book to a poem written by a girl named Tory?
This event still stands out as one of the best I ever managed; from start to finish, the entire announcement had been an exercise in making people feel important.
–Rita Smith



Life lessons on Leather, and Love

It’s hard to ignore a determined woman in a $1000 black leather suit. 

Way back in the early 1990s, I was a struggling single mother, self-employed with three kids to feed, clothe, house and transport.
Every day was hard; there were no easy days. But I was absolutely determined to provide a safe, middle class lifestyle for my kids in an East York neighbourhood where they could walk to school. I was equally determined to do it running my own home-based communications business, where I could actually make more money in far less time than I could ever hope to earn in a paycheque position. Self-employment means risk, though, and my first few years were a terrifying emotional roller coaster.
One Godsend was the local business association, which hired me and paid me for 20 years. In addition to steady work and money on which I could rely, the Pape Village BIA connected me to a whole world of hard-working small business owners who shared with me endless advice and experience on life as an entrepreneur.
“Sometimes, I look at my fifty t’ousand dollars hanging on the wall, and I wonder if I made a mistake,” our local shoe repairman confessed to me once, as he had been persuaded to invest that much money in imported sweaters and leatherware during the depths of a terrible recession.
Another memorable day, I dashed into his store as I made the rounds soliciting gifts and prizes for East York’s Winter Carnival.
I began my pitch on why it would be good for his business to give the Winter Carnival something for free. Hilariously, he held up both hands and dropped his head in a position of absolute capitulation.
“Madam,” he sighed in resignation, “anything you want. Take anything you want, seriously, if you tell me it is important, I believe you!”
His words, “Anything you want,” actually became one of my life and business mantras as I realized the way to get ahead in business was not to quibble with clients over small details, but to willingly give all that is asked and more in every situation where it is possible for me to do so. I still live and work according to this principle.
One winter day I popped into his store to drop off a newsletter. I was wearing  a black leather skirt that I had purchased in a fit of professional optimism the summer before; I thought it made me look like a sharp, tough journalist. I eyed the “fifty t’ousand dollars” worth of leather hanging high up on the wall and spotted a beautiful black leather jacket.
“Just for fun, can I try that on?” I asked. The price tag said $269. I did not have $269 and had no hope of having $269 to spend on a jacket any time soon. It was just for fun.
The shoemaker reached the jacket down for me, and I slid it on and turned to look in the mirror. We both gasped in amazement at the sight of me – NO ONE in any business or media situation could ignore a women in that skirt and that jacket. It would be impossible. Putting on the jacket transformed me instantly from a rushed and harried single mom into a commanding social presence.
“Wow!” the shoemaker exclaimed excitedly. “Now, you have a t’ousand dollar suit!”
“I wish,” I sighed, shaking the jacket off. “Maybe one day soon when I get a cheque, I could come back and buy it. It is gorgeous.” Reluctantly, I held it out to him.
“Madam, please,” he laughed, pushing the jacket back toward me. “This is your jacket. Clearly it was meant for you. What would I do with it? Take it, and pay me someday when you can.”
“No, no, no, I couldn’t do that!” I insisted, blushing. What had started out “just for fun” was now turning into a sticky situation. I was embarrassed.
“Madam,” he insisted sternly, “take the jacket, and go make some cheques so you can pay me.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” I laughed, pulling the jacket back on. “OK. Deal!”
I’m happy to report, I wore that jacket to pieces. My “t’ousand dollar suit” was my go-to uniform for years’ worth of business and media events. I did a lot of challenging, nerve-wracking new things during those years, and that suit gave me instant confidence in every situation. It was like a soft, warm suit of armour I wore into business battle. I did immediately go “make some cheques” and paid for the jacket in only a few weeks.
Ali Metmhal-Ali, the shoemaker, will live in my heart and my mind forever as the kind of humble, generous, hard-working business owner I would strive to become.
After 9-11, I was having a heartfelt conversation with my brother Pete about Islam, Radical Islam, Islamophobia…
“I don’t understand it, at all,” I mused out loud. “In my real life, every single Muslim person I know is incredibly hard working, kind and generous, some of the best people I work with. Then I pick up a newspaper, and every Muslim in the news is a crazed violent killer. It’s as though there MUST be two completely different kinds of Islam – the religious kind of the people I know, and the political kind in the news. It’s like the people stealing the idea of Islam are political wolves in religious sheep’s clothing.”
“The guy who told you to take the black leather jacket years ago – he was Muslim!” Pete recalled suddenly.
“Yes, he was. He was the first Muslim I ever met, that I recall. So I spent all these years thinking, that’s what Muslims are. How can the man who trusted me to pay for the jacket and the terrorists flying planes into buildings be the same religion? How can people flying planes into buildings represent ANY religion, at all?”
I still don’t have the answers to these questions, but I am interested to see media making the distinction between “political Islam” with its goals of governance and territorial imperative, and “religious Islam” as a spiritual discipline. It will be up to someone above my pay grade to clarify things; for myself, I cling always to my memories of Ali Metmhal-Ali and the life example he set for me. I like THAT Islam; the world could use more of it, actually.
–Rita Smith

Islam, Charlie Hebdo, the CBC…what would Dale Carnegie say? Here’s what he wrote.

Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” slyly excoriates religious hypocrisy in one of the best movie scenes of all time: “Blastphemer!” “No one is to stone anyone at all, even – I want to make this perfectly clear – even if they do say ‘Jehovah.'” While every minute of “Life of Brian” might have been at least as offensive to Christians and Jews as the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were to Muslims, no one died as a result of the making of this comedy.
 “I now know with a conviction beyond all doubt
that the biggest problem you and I have to deal with –
in fact, almost the only problem we have to deal with –
is choosing the right thoughts.
If we can do that, we will be on the highroad to solving all our problems.
The great philosopher who ruled the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius,
summed it up in eight words – eight words that can determine your destiny:
‘Our life is what our thoughts make it.’”
–Dale Carnegie[1]
Healthy, mature human beings have both the freedom and the responsibility to choose their thoughts. It’s not a “maybe” proposition, as in “If everything goes well and people treat me kindly, maybe I can choose to be happy. If life is difficult and I don’t like the way things are going, I might choose to be miserable.”
It is incumbent upon us to choose our thoughts in all circumstances.
This is not bad news. In fact, it’s the greatest news ever: you get to wake up every day, and choose your thoughts and your attitude. You cannot control what happens in life; but you get to choose how you respond to it. This is worth celebrating!!
The freedom and responsibility to choose our thoughts applies equally to all people. Some cultures support and celebrate it, enshrining it into the very institutions that propagate the society.
Other cultures fear and despise this freedom, and use their institutions to repress it.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn described an incident in a Soviet gulag: he was the target of abuse by one of the nastiest prison guards. One day, the prisoners were working in a field and the guard came by to heap abuse on Solzhenitsyn and make his life even more wretched.
One of Solzhenitsyn’s fellow prisoners silently walked by him, pausing only for a moment to draw an image in the dirt with his hoe: a cross. Then he kept on walking.  
That image, and the thought it represented, was all Solzhenitsyn needed to endure that moment. The prison guard could threaten or even control Solzhenitsyn’s physical body; but he could not imprison Solzhenitsyn’s mind. No one could; the Soviet government spent decades trying.
Nelson Mandela sat in prison for 27 years, and when he got out, he forgave his jailors.
Anne Frank, locked away in an attic for the final years of her too-short life, wrote “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.
Throughout history, human beings have proven that they possess the power to choose their thoughts, and can choose helpful thoughts if they so desire.
Surely, followers of the faith of Islam possess this power too.
To believe otherwise truly would be damning an entire religion, a billion people, with the tyranny of low expectations.
“What do I mean?
Have I the colossal effrontery to tell you to your face –
when you are mowed down by troubles, and your nerves are sticking out like wires and curling up at the ends –
have I the colossal effrontery to tell you that, under those conditions,
you can change your mental attitude by an effort of the will?
Yes, I mean precisely that!”
–Dale Carnegie
Muslims can choose their thoughts in exactly the same way every other human being on the planet can. If a Muslim can choose to believe that drawing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed is an insult, a Muslim can choose to believe that drawing a picture of the Prophet Mohammed means nothing. A Muslim can choose personally never to draw a picture of the Prophet Mohammed, and he can choose to ignore pictures drawn by others. Or, he can choose to pick up a Kalashnikov and wipe out 12 people.
Westerners don’t offend Muslims; Muslims choose to take offense. This is great news! Because Muslims are in control of their thoughts, they can choose to have different thoughts.
To pretend and to behave as though Muslims cannot choose their thoughts demonstrates contempt for Muslims.
“If half a century of living has taught me anything at all,
it has taught me that nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”
–Dale Carnegie
When news outlets such as the CBC claim they are not showing images of the Prophet Mohammed because they do not wish to offend Muslims, they are feeding the myth that the CBC has the power to offend Muslims. It does not. Muslims have the power to choose whether or not to take offense.
Intelligent Muslims do not need the solicitous molly-coddling of CBC executives. I daresay that if my friend Abdel saw an image purported to be Mohammed on the television screen, he would still be able to eat dinner, sleep, and make it to work the next day. All of the Muslims I know personally work exceedingly hard and are focused on paying the bills and enjoying their families. I doubt any of them would need to call in sick if they saw an image of Mohammed. MUSLIMS can decide whether or not to be offended. The CBC really has nothing to say about it, much as they might like to.
It’s as though the Thought Control Police at the CBC, and the Thought Control Police who enforce Sharia Law[2], got together and made an agreement: “Let’s pretend that what we believe is true. And let’s insist everybody else should believe as we believe. Otherwise, the inevitable outcome will be offense leading to violence. If violence occurs, we both agree it will be the fault of the people who caused offense, not the people who chose violence.”
Canadians should not buy into this. Nobody should.
“Concern means realizing what the problems are
and calmly taking steps to meet them.
Worrying means going around in maddening circles.”
–Dale Carnegie
The idea that the CBC made its decision not to show the Mohammed cartoons because of “respect for the tenets of the faith” is a bunch of hooey.
The CBC – and in fairness, virtually all the media in the western world – has NO problem trampling on the tenets of every other faith. They are only worried about trampling on the tenets of the one faith whose members are statistically most likely to storm their offices and shoot them. Let’s just be honest about that.
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper which published the Mohammed cartoons in 2006 – and has been under threat of violence ever since – announced that it would not reproduce the Charlie Hebdo images out of concerns for the safety of its staff.
This was an honest assessment of the situation. Jyllands-Posten is not pretending that its decision is as a result of its deep respect for the tenets of the faith of Islam. It is a security issue. Temporarily at least, terror and violence have won out over free speech at Jyllands-Posten. This is an important statement for the paper to make, because the world is currently grappling with how to deal with and prevent acts of murder and violence by Muslim terrorists, and we should be able to think and speak clearly as we do this.
Pretending a security issue is actually a religious issue, as the CBC is doing, confuses the situation and encourages fantasy thinking when we most need to be thinking clearly.
Let’s not pretend that the CBC has suddenly developed a deep respect for faith and the tenets of faith, any faith. Here, check out the CBC’s graphic visual image “Piss Christ.”
As Rex Murphy writes, “In the domain of the laugh-generators…Christ gets a pie in the face every 10 minutes while Mohammed is awarded the incense of silence, becomes ‘he whose name must not be spoken.’”
Why are we making such a big deal out of drawings? Considering the major and more minor transgressions of the tenets of faith that are possible, Islam’s wish that people would not depict the Prophet Mohammed in art is roughly comparable to Christians’ wish that people would not take the Lord’s name in vain: nice to have when you can manage it, but really not worth murdering someone.  
The Lord’s name gets taken in vain so often, so casually, that it almost seems futile to defend it. Steve Martin had a great routine about what it would be like when he got to heaven and God reminded him of how often he had taken His name in vain. “Oooooh, a million six? Really?” Martin winced. “Jesus Christ!”
Christians, by and large, have learned to live with this reality. They may not like it, but they live with it. Muslims can do the same. They’re tough; they can take it.
2000 years ago Judaism’s laws against blasphemy were absolute and brutal. Somehow, over the centuries, they softened to the point that now people say the word “Jehovah” without worrying about being stoned to death, and in fact Monty Python’s depiction of the logic underlying Judaism’s enforcement of its blasphemy law stands as an all-time classic in its simple, brilliant incising of hypocrisy. Maybe 1000 years from now, talented artists of the 31stcentury will create something equally funny and harmless for Muslims. Hopefully sooner.
Islam can make progress. The western world can support this progress, by speaking the truth instead of indulging in pandering. Canada’s national broadcaster should be leading the way.
“Here I was, wanting to change the whole world and everyone in it –
when the only thing that needed changing
was the focus of the lens of the camera which was my mind.”
–Dale Carnegie
–Rita Smith

[1]All quotes in this blog are from Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” If you do not own a copy of this book, you should order one immediately. The Kindle version on Amazonis $8.99.
[2]Don’t get sold into the media fantasy that all Muslims want Sharia Law. When we finally defeated the idea of implementing Sharia Law in Ontario in 2005, I was surprised to see that there were far more men than women at the victory party. I mentioned this to one of the men who replied, “We left home to GET AWAY from Sharia Law! We know what it is. We hate it more than anybody.”

It’s legal to be a professional positive thinker in Canada

According to the Office of the Federal Ethics Commissioner, you can legally be a professional positive thinker AND work for the Government of Canada. Thank goodness! Canada has been very good to me, my family and my business. 

30 years in business!
Last summer when I was arranging financing for my wonderful dream home on the shores of Lake Ontario, the loans officer asked me my employment status.
“Self employed,” I stated dutifully, knowing full well these are the very last two words any bank wants to hear, ever, from anyone.
“For how long?” she sighed.
“In 2015, thirty years.”
“Three years?” she repeated as confirmation.
“Thirty. THIRTY. Three-zero. Three times ten, three decades, THIRTY. Since 1985,” I clarified patiently. Actually, by the time I finished making myself clear, it wasn’t so much patience as pride that fuelled my declaration.
I count my years in business from the first moment I was paid to write – the first article I ever sold, to the Toronto Star for $200 which ran on August 14th 1985. For the first year or so, I called myself a “freelance writer.” It wasn’t very many months, though, before I trundled down to the Government of Ontario office at Bay and Wellesley with two toddlers in tow, and registered as a Sole Proprietorship.
A few years after that, I incorporated. I have modified the form of my incorporation twice: once, when my lawyer advised me to create a corporation which would legally allow me to split my income with my kids. THAT was the best advice I ever got! It was like Christmas every income tax season, until my kids went off and started earning too much money to allow me to issue dividends to them. The “mom” half of me was very proud of them for all getting out there and earning money. The “taxpayer” half of me grieved the loss of the giant write-downs I used to get. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Twice, I had to make my incorporation inactive when I took full time jobs inside of government, once provincial for three years, and once federal for two. In both cases, I viewed the jobs not as long-term career potential but just aberrations, periods when I had to have only one client instead of several, as is usually the case.
Evidently, both levels of government had concerns that my entrepreneurial spirit would become a threat to public sector agencies. In my first six months at the Ontario government, the Attorney General’s office called me three times to remind me I that I was allowed to work for NO ONE ELSE while I worked for the Government of Ontario.
“I GET IT,” I exclaimed on the third call. I was somewhat miffed that my Chief of Staff was still allowed to teach classes in Public Administration at Ryerson, but I was resigned to the fact that my gig with OntGov was completely exclusive.
When I went to Ottawa to be Director of Communications in the Minister’s Office at Health Canada, I was smarter. “I will give up all of my clients,” I promised the Chief of Staff interviewing me, “but I must be allowed to continue teaching Dale Carnegie classes. I will not give up Carnegie. If I have to, I can’t take this job.”
As is the law under the Federal Accountability Act, I made a request in writing to the Ethics Commissioner to get a ruling on whether or not it would be legal for me to work for Health Canada in the daytime, and teach Dale Carnegie classes one night per week.
Surprisingly, it took almost 6 months to get a decision. I was in regular contact with the Ethics Commissioner’s office, where staff informed me my case was still being reviewed. I received several information requests on what Carnegie training is, how it is delivered, who attends classes, and so on.
Finally, I received a telephone call informing me that the Office of the Ethics Commissioner had decided it would be acceptable for me to teach Carnegie classes at night, so long as my involvement was limited to the classroom and that I was not calling on any businesses at their premises as a consultant.
“THANK YOU!” I replied passionately. “And I would just like to take this opportunity to say, I am tremendously relieved to see that there is no perceived conflict of interest between being a professional positive thinker, and working for the Canadian federal government.”
“I beg your pardon?” the woman asked, mystified.
“Never mind. Thanks for your call. I look forward to receiving the confirmation email,” I said, before we hung up.
I’m excited to see the start of 2015. This year, I plan to use this blog to reflect on 30 years in business; how business has changed since I started; lessons I’ve learned; what an honour it’s been to work with some of the smartest people in Canada; and what lies ahead.
Thanks for helping me celebrate 30 years in business!

–Rita Smith