This autograph signifies a lot for me, and not just because its from a Canadian celebrity.
That’s part of it, of course, but its not the real reason Arlene fascinates me. Yes, she may be on T.V, but no, she’s not famous for nothing like a Kardashian or because she was randomly selected to be on a reality show. Arlene is famous for her business smarts and her life story, and that fascinates me.
I’ve always admired and been inspired by her dedication, outlook on life, and realness. Although her struggle differs from mine, I feel like we have similar stances and characters, thus making her someone I can both look up to and relate to. The main point she made in her speech was to have the strength and confidence to believe in yourself. “It doesn’t matter what people expect of you, its about what you expect of yourself.” She openly admitted that this is probably her toughest struggle, and I am not shy to say it is also mine. We are often our own biggest critic and it is extremely difficult to always believe that not only do you deserve everything that you want, but that you are in fact capable of achieving it. I am extremely terrified of failure and not living up to expectations (whether it be my own or someone else’s). Arlene’s advice that she offers her children is to adopt a mind frame of “What is the worst that could happen?” They then turned the tables on her and offered her a piece of her own advice when she was going to refuse to audtioin for Dragon’s Den, but more on that later.
Another, less obvious, take away that I got from her talk was a common theme in many of her stories, and essentially an extension of her point of believing in yourself: have the confidence to not only believe in yourself, but to be yourself. Most of her success can be attributed to moments where she unapologetically and genuinely being herself.
She first told us about a job interview she went on for a sales position. The interview was done as a favor to her, and the interviewer made that overly apparent. She went into the interview well aware of this and decided to just get some experience out of it anyway. When the interviewer began really grilling her, he began to also grind her gears with his pretentious attitude and she through caution to the wind and let him know exactly what she really thought. I’m sure you can see where this story is going. By brazenly being herself, he saw some tenacity in her and to her shock and surprise, gave her the job.
Fast forward to many years later. She's already achieved great success with Venture Communications, and the folks over at Dragon’s Den give her a call and want her to audition. Again, she didn’t really see it as a real opportunity and only went because her kids convinced her to, with a more or less “why not” approach. She gets on set, focuses all of her attention on helping out the other ladies fend off Kevin’s cynical comments, and finally the producers hint that they actually want to hear from her as well, and boy do they ever. She lost sight of the camera, crews and people and really gave Kevin a piece of her mind (for the first time, but defintley not the last). She didn’t care or have concern for making it on the show, just fought for justice and in doing so, let her real opinions shine through. We all know where this story ended up. Now, 5 years later, she graces our T.V. screens on a daily basis as one of the daunting Dragons.
Another concept she explained that really resonated with me was that of luck. Not to rely on it, but to recognize it. She admits that some situations she found herself in were due to a stroke of good luck, but what she did with those opportunities was what made all the difference and caused her success. If you want to be successful you can’t just sit back, relax and wait for that stroke of luck to hit. It doesn’t quite work that way. You have to work your butt off, keep your eyes peeled for those lucky chances, and then work your butt off even more to take advantage of them.
Lady luck was definitely on my side when I won tickets to go see her. I had heard last minute that she was coming to town, but tickets were too expensive, I didn’t want to have to ask for the time off work, and I managed to find millions of excuses not to put myself out there and go after what I really wanted. The truth? I was dying to see her. I entered a few contests anyways, and was secretly hoping the universe would show me that I did indeed need to attend this. Lo and behold, I won the tickets, proceeded to jump for joy (multiple times, in my office, where no one had a clue who she was and everyone thought I was absolutely nuts) because I knew that fate had intervened, and that I was destined to actually see my idol in person. Her message really spoke to me and I know I was meant to experience this today.
I leave you with a few fun facts and quotes that Arlene shared with us:
-She was actually one of the “first” inventors of the fruit roll up. When she suffered from poverty, her sole source of food was from her gardens so she had a machine to dehydtrate them and essentially make fruit roll ups for her children.
-All of the Dragon’s have failed at math. I loved hearing this one and it only further confirmed that yes, I could be a dragon too.
-"My family was quite dysfunctional and that's what made me a great marketer." She explained how this taught her how to hone her listening skills, which leads to "Sometimes what people say isn't' exactly what they mean."For a variety of reasons, people might have difficulty expressing themselves and the art of listening means to also hear whats not being said. Try to figure out what people mean, not just what they say.
-"Stop and look at where you are, not just where you're going." Arlene brought this point home by describing a visual of her and her father in London, on their journey from South Africa to Canada, and him teaching her how to really stop and smell the flowers, enjoy the moment you are in and appreciate every moment of it. The image she had of the London skyline in that moment is forever imprinted in her mind.
Of course I am completely biased, but not only is Arlene an excellent storyteller, but an amazing public speaker as well, and I'm not basing this on my biased opinion alone. I gauged the audience throughout her presentation and I daresay that almost every single person in the audience was completely captivated throughout her speech.
There are not many people on this planet I would actually pay to see, but she is one of them. If I have the opportunity to see her speak again, I will attend, regardless of the cost. Another lesson she left us with: don't attribute a monetary cost to things of sentimental/emotional value.
A genuine, business minded woman with a warm heart, Arlene is without a doubt an inspiration.