<![CDATA[Culture Shift Communications - Blog]]>Sat, 04 Nov 2017 06:32:14 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Memories of Lawrence Paul]]>Thu, 29 May 2014 13:45:33 GMThttp://thecultureshift.com/blog/memories-of-lawrence-paulPicture
I remember chuckling to myself after my first meeting with Lawrence Paul.

I was a wet-behind-the-ears reporter just new in Truro, when the Millbrook Chief asked me to come out and talk about economic development.

I was impressed by his passion as we chatted alongside Highway 102, but I was skeptical of his vision. Looking across the traffic he talked in great detail about the creation of an outlet mall similar to the ones popping up in the United States...and perhaps an amusement park.

 I specifically remember he spoke about an overpass that would unite the two pieces of the reserve spilt earlier by the construction of Highway 102.

I looked out and saw only traffic and trees.

He waived off questions about funding, jurisdiction and highway access. Those were small issues. The important part was Millbrook had a plan that could bring prosperity to its people.

I walked away unconvinced.

Chief Paul, who passed away Wednesday evening, proved me wrong. It wasn’t too many years after that conversation that I got a call that work had begun on the Power Centre that is now home to restaurants, a hotel, a theatre, a video game parlour, a call centre that has come and gone, and several of businesses.

It was an inauspicious start to be sure. After fruitless negotiations with provincial bureaucrats to negotiate an exit from the highway to the proposed site, Paul authorized some of his band members to gather up heavy equipment and simply build their own ramp.

 It was crude, and failed to comply with any established safety requirements, but it got the province’s attention. It wasn’t long before there was a better exit in place and a deal with Sobeys for the construction of a theatre and a gas station. An overpass, much to my surprise, followed later.

Chief Paul was a tough negotiator. He led the Truro area band for 28 years and wasn’t afraid to threaten a native blockade or to open a giant casino if he needed leverage in a battle with the province.

I interviewed Paul many times and he always talked proudly of his community and his accomplishments. I covered his nomination as of Atlantic Canada’s top 50 CEO’s and the times he served as co-chair of the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs.

Paul's life-long battle with alcohol was no secret. He knew it cost him deals and sullied his reputation. His legacy is enormous and over the coming days the well-deserved tributes will flow, but I can’t help wondering what more could have been possible if he had been able to put the bottle behind him.

I liked Lawrence. I respected him. He was feisty and always had a glint of mischief in his eye. You were never certain what he was going to say or do next.

 He was a character, and Nova Scotia is less today with his passing.

<![CDATA[Learning to love a loser]]>Thu, 01 May 2014 14:42:59 GMThttp://thecultureshift.com/blog/learning-to-love-a-loserWhy we need to embrace failure

The bulletin board across from my desk overflows with tidbits of wisdom torn not so carefully from newspapers and magazines. There are lists of the most commonly misspelled words, advice on making international students welcome in the community and marketing slogans I wish that I had come up with.

 The centrepiece to the mess is a yellowing 2003 broadsheet page from the National Post. It’s an obituary about the death of Izzy Asper, the owner of the paper, who had died suddenly. If there is ever a story you want to make sure you get right, it is about the death of your boss.

It is a good looking spread with the obligatory smiling photograph and large pull quotes from influential leaders saying the expected nice things. It is the headline that is most interesting. It says:  Insert Headline here.

In the rush to get the details right, the team of highly paid professionals poring over the page missed a fundamental part of the story: the headline.


I keep it pinned to my bulletin board to reminder me that
failure isn’t fatal.

I’m certain there were some red faces in the newsroom and some butt kicking that went on behind closed doors, but I am equally sure the people involved will never forget the embarrassing error, and to this day triple check their work.

 The newspaper may in fact be better today as a result of the mistake.

The Nova Scotia economy today might be in better shape if there was a little more failure- or rather - if people were more accepting of failure.

Nobody likes to fail. It feels terrible. It’s embarrassing and undoubtedly somewhere along the way you’ve let people down who had faith in you.

But there is opportunity for growth in failure. It builds character and persistence. If you learn from your mistakes, you grow and know what not to do the next time.

 The fear of failure stops people from taking risks. They do business the “safe” way.  It cuts them off from new opportunities. Henry Ford went broke four times before he made his fortune in the automobile industry. It took Thomas Edison 1,000 tries before he developed a working prototype for the light bulb.

“I didn’t fail 1,000 times, “ he is reported to have told a journalist. “The light bulb was an invention of 1,000 steps.”

Stephen Hartlen, executive director of the Industry Liaison and Innovation Office at Dalhousie University, believes Nova Scotians need to be more accepting of failure. Rather than cross the street to avoid eye contact with business leaders who have tried and failed, we should embrace them for having the courage to stick their necks out, even if the initial results are disappointing.

"Our focus should be on failing well, on being good at failure. What I mean by this, is taking the risk and then learning from it if it doesn't work.”

Embracing failure is going to be a hard sell. As Ray Ivany of Acadia University pointed out in his recent economic report, we aren’t even that good at celebrating our success.

Business baron John Risley makes this point in his public talks when he says it’s easy to identify a Nova Scotia lobster in a pot of water.  Just as a lobster seems to have crawled free of the boiling water, it is the Nova Scotia lobster that pulls him back in. 

It always gets an uneasy laugh.

But I agree with Hartlen about failure.  In the best companies the executive teams do not shy away from failure. They look for employees who have a balance of success and failure in their resumes. They want people who have been prepared to give it all in the heat of battle and learn from their mistakes. Isn’t that what we need in Nova Scotia?

We need a culture change here in Nova Scotia. It won’t be easy, but like addiction, recognizing you have a problem means you are on the path to a solution.

In his autobiography Nelson Mandela writes: The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

Who am I to argue with Mandela?

(PS: Do not confuse this as a plea to support every half-cocked  scheme launched on a wing and prayer and a few dollars of government tax dollars. Risks need to be calculated, plans crafted and intent has to be genuine.)

<![CDATA[The power of negative thinking?]]>Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:50:21 GMThttp://thecultureshift.com/blog/the-power-of-negative-thinkingPicture
Astronaut Chris Hadfield believes in the power of negative thinking.

That’s right, Canada’s space rock star believes you need to sweat the small stuff. Just going with the flow won’t get you anywhere, except perhaps downstream toward the rapids without a paddle.

In his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Hadfield dismisses the idea that focusing on the negative actually invites bad things to happen. Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is the opposite of worrying, he argues. It’s productive. While you may end up being ready for something that never happens, if the stakes are high, it’s worth it.

An astronaut who doesn’t sweat the small stuff is a dead astronaut I guess, but what about the rest of us?

 I believe you prepare as hard as you can, learn from your mistakes, and try and keep things in perspective. In most cases the situation that has you stressed today will be a distant memory a year from now; a blip on the timeline of your life.

It may not feel like it in the moment, but if you keep on plugging away, life has a way of working out.

For Chris Hadfield fans, the Rocket man is coming to the new Truro community Centre on June 25.  Tickets are available from the Nova Scotia Co-op Council . #Gala65 

<![CDATA[Chuck Cartmill: Passion]]>Wed, 02 Apr 2014 15:28:12 GMThttp://thecultureshift.com/blog/chuck-cartmill-passionPicture
I just spent an hour with Chuck Cartmill of LED Roadway Lighting. I won't need any caffeine for the rest of the day. He is so passionate about innovation and commercialization. In one meeting he threw out no less than five concrete ways to get traditional businesses looking into the export market. He should know, he's got customers all over the world now.  It's ironic that he says the toughest place to do business is close to home.