A preface: my parents are my mentors (in business).
I found myself nestled into my nonprofit sector niche pretty young. I like to joke that it’s the family business. I grew up listening to dinner table conversations about fundraising, board relations, and leadership. I was raised by my market — and that’s why I find it so easy to connect to nonprofit leaders on an emotional level.
My parent’s wisdom is some of the best in the business. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Whenever there is a decision I need to make, I run it by my dad to see if he thinks it’s right. When I build out my 2021 cost projections, I sit down with my mum for an hour to go over them.
They’ve helped me think through business models, difficult leadership moments, and supported me as I’ve built My Media Creative. I am so deeply lucky. I am so profoundly grateful. They, alongside the brilliant creatives I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with, are the reason for any success that I have.
An appended preface: my parents are my mentors (in life).
My parents are the most joy filled, compassionate, and generous people that I have ever met. It’s weird how proud of them I am (I know that’s not something that a son usually says about their parents).
My father is generosity embodied. Countless times he has dropped everything to drive to Montreal to help me or my brother get back. He knows how to give presents like nobody’s business. He is kind and giving with his wisdom. Being loved by Mark Surman is a pretty amazing thing.
He has also modelled what a man is to me. He is man filled with love, guided by patience, and one who is impeccably good at setting emotional boundaries. He knows how he wants to spend his emotional energy — so he focuses it like a laser on the people he loves.
Sitting like a layer of rock on top of that generosity and kindness is a wealth of ingenuity. This is something that I didn’t discover until I was older, and able to appreciate it. He recently connected me to a friend of his who needed work from My Media. This friend, an impressive man in his own right, spoke about my dad’s ability to capture a room, weave a compelling narrative, and craft a poignant argument. He had this glimmer of excitement and reverence in his eye. He truly revered my dad.
It was a reminder of who I get to go to for wisdom every day.
My mother is a light. A propeller. A force of nature. My mum is one of those people whose heart fills up entire rooms. Her laughter acts like yarn tying people together. She has absolutely no tolerance for bullshit. She is uniquely capable of manifesting the things that she conjures up in her imagination. It’s pretty much impossible not to use active words when describing my mum. She moves quickly, with focus — and she moves the world with her.
She has taught me that vulnerability and honesty is one’s greatest super power. She is fully present with her emotions. Her passion is felt. Her opinions are heard. She was the person who taught me that everybody is just a human being who wants to be seen. She’s made it her life’s work to go around the world and see people. She has made countless people feel loved. Empowered countless more. She has built an expansive and loving community in the wake of her travels. She is a family builder.
Around the world, to hundreds of people she is the glue, and the light, and the heart of community. I’m lucky to be part of the most important one.
The particular moment where I realized how truly brilliant she was came in first year university. She told me that she left some granola for me (she would always make these huge batches), and handed it to the CEO of one of Canada’s most important foundations. I was told to go to his office, so I did. I went up to a high floor of a glass building downtown. I told his EA I was there. The (very important) man walked out with a garbage bag filled with granola. Like…a full black garbage bag.
That was a perfect underscoring of the philosophy that now guides all of my business (one she taught me): no matter how important the person is, they’re a human being. There’s no reason not to ask another human being, a friend, to drop off some granola for your kid.
I am truly proud of my parents because they have found themselves settled in ways of living that make them happy. We went through a lot of change together through my teenage years. I learned that love is work, but it’s worth it. I learned that everybody is just trying their best. I learned that the joy of chasing a mission with great people is second to none. Finally, I learned everything I know about business.
The body of the article/the conclusion: Now, I’m craving even more wisdom.
I need to talk to leaders. Specifically, leaders that have managed complicated challenges. Leaders that have had a social and/or environmental impact with their work.
I am entering a moment in my career, and life, that is deeply unprecedented to me. I can’t wait to build a Board, or a group of advisors. I’m simply in search of wisdom — now.
So if you can offer it, please let me know by whatever means.
I know it seems like a weird connection, but I want to make clear why I spent this entire article in a preface about how brilliant my parents are:
I’m just a collection of the pieces of wisdom that have been handed down to me. For that, I thank my parents.
5 years from now I’d love to thank you (and my parents).