From time to time I post a sample of the writing I do for other organizations and companies. This article was printed in the quarterly chapter newsletter of a national professional association in June, 2015.
The Road to Life is Ever Under Construction
By Sophia Oldford, CAE
“People take up the trapeze for many reasons,” says Ezra Trigg, Director of the Gorilla Circus in England. “Some people have stressful work lives, and it’s a release. As soon as they’re up in the air, they don’t have to worry about anything on the ground.” [i]
Meg Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature was the guest speaker at the CSAE OG Volunteer Breakfast. She opened her presentation, “The Road Less Travelled”, by stating that “The road to life is ever under construction”. Listening to Ms. Beckel, you don’t find it strange at all to learn that she includes gigs as a trapeze artist and aerobics instructor at Club Med in between her senior positions in banking, the performing arts and higher education.
On a rainy day in June over 35 CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter volunteers gathered for a much-appreciated hot buffet breakfast at the elegant rotunda of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Networking was lively throughout the morning.
Andrea Fernandes, Sales Representative and Protocol, Canadian Museum of Nature and Christine James, CAE, Associate Director, Membership Services and Programs, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, co-chairs of the CSAE O-G Membership Committee welcomed everyone to the event.
Jasmine Lidington, CAE and Past President of CSAE OG, spoke about the best way to connect members and share knowledge. She emphasized the importance of volunteering to the fabric of our community and how new volunteers keep the chapter vibrant and amazing.
Andrea introduced the guest speaker Margaret Beckel, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. When Andrea used words like, “courageous” and “bold” and “inspiring” to describe Meg the audience knew that she would be interesting. Just how interesting was a surprise!
Picture this. A woman leaps from challenging job to demanding post to … circus performer? This describes Meg’s career trajectory. She shared that, “Winging it makes it interesting, but you have to really know yourself.” She certainly gained that knowledge as she moved from a career in corporate banking to fundraising for the performing arts (ballet, theatre and symphony) and universities (Calgary and Victoria) to running museums (Royal Ontario Museum), back to university fundraising (University of Waterloo) and finally, to the Canadian Museum of Nature. Oh, and a few weeks and months of teaching and performing at Club Med in between.
Meg’s career certainly hasn’t moved in a linear path but it does have rationale. She offered us some valuable takeaways.
- “Banking had services, ballet had magic.” Discover the power of passion and commitment.
- Ballet dancing for 17 years and Saturdays spent with the ROM kids’ club paid off. Childhood passions can turn into adult careers.
- Everyone’s in it together. Collegiality can make a difficult situation bearable.
- If you need to rebuild trust, you need to be honest. Commit to being a person of integrity.
- Take a break when you are fried! Do something that allows you to step away from your stress, like working the double trapeze. (Author’s note: I preferred to become a lifeguard. I like my feet on the ground. And wet.)
- Teaching aerobics didn’t end after Club Med. Keep something that gives you control when your work life doesn’t.
- Sometimes a professional move backwards allows you to rediscover the magic.
- Facing scary moves in your professional path will test you but you will learn a lot about yourself.
- When you’re consumed with your job you have no room for your friends, family or partner. Protect your work life balance.
- Stretch yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
Volunteers are free to seek roads other than the one that brings home the paycheque. Knowledge given and received, supporting a cause, and networking are just a few of the rewards volunteering for the CSAE Ottawa Gatineau Chapter offers. Coming together to express our appreciation to our volunteers is like cake; sweet and sustaining. Being inspired at the same time is the icing on the cake.