I refer to myself as an “Accidental VP” because I never, ever, had any intention of climbing a corporate ladder. If you were to ask my younger, introverted and literally terrified-of-everything self what I wanted to do with my life, my response probably would have been this: My deepest desire is to be a visual artist, one who spends hours on end in a constant blissful state of flow while getting paid for it. That was my dream - and that is the exact opposite of what actually happened.
Back in the 90's, I randomly fell in with Canada’s largest film distribution company, a business based in one of the most ego-driven industries in the world. There, I ascended the ranks and reluctantly landed in the role of VP of Publicity and Promotions, a role that actually terrified me. My full story is .
©Susan Smythe-Bishop 2022
Over the years, I have met some wonderfully kind and talented artists who I have a great deal of respect for (Anthony Hopkins in the illustrated situation above is certainly one of them). That said - celebrities and their "people" or handlers can be challenging to work with. I once had a personal publicist show me her teeth! Literally, like an angry, snarly dog - boy was she ever a peach. I wish I was kidding! Some journalists have been very challenging to work with too, although, they've never shown me their teeth. One did make me cry once though.
Observing the behaviour of celebrities (and those associated with the celebrity PR game) over the years taught me many valuable lessons on how to lead, how NOT to lead, how to stand up for myself and how kindness will get you WAY farther than being horribly rude ever will. At least with me. I've logged some good pretty stories (and lessons) from this business over the years and in truth – most are fun to tell. More on that .
Prince Edward County is a Magical Microcosm
Thirteen years ago, my husband Tim and I bought our first home on this beautiful island situated in Eastern Ontario, Canada - and there has been no looking back.
Without the distractions of noise and bustle from the city, it became much easier to really see and truly appreciate the many kind, brave, inspiring, creative and community-minded leaders and everyday heroes who are doing remarkable things here. In 2016, I randomly started doing caricatures of individuals who inspire me throughout the region, which grew into a really fun gratitude practice for me. But, by connecting the dots, I can now clearly see that this is also part of my ongoing quest to discover inspired leadership. To learn more about these exceptional individuals, click .
Harnessing the power of these author's words and wisdom literally changed the course of my life. They also delivered a lot of the more scientific evidence I was searching for to prove my point that leading with kindness, positivity and even love can be a winning formula :) More on that (along with some of my favourite book recommendations).
In looking back and connecting my own dots, there is one significant thread that has run through every aspect of my career and adult life - I LOVE learning about positive/compassionate leadership and witnessing its power. Much to the dismay of one of my early bosses who, on several occasions, accused me of being too nice - I set out to prove my theory that leading with authentic kindness isn't a weakness, it is always the best approach. Through obsessively reading about leadership, management and personal growth (more on this later) and observing as many people in positions of power as I could - I learned a great deal. And you know what? Based on my experience and outcome, I think I may have been right 😁
- Steve Jobs
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; You can only
connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that
the dots will somehow connect in your future."
Footnote (pun intended)...
Converse running shoes have become a little symbolic for me. As a young artist, they were my shoe of choice. When I landed into the world of film PR, they were pushed to the back of the closet in favour of more corporate footware, and eventually they were forgotten (I worked in a pretty corporate culture for the first 15 years of my career). How I EVER could have traded these comfy shoes for others, I'll never know - but they are happily back on my feet again :)
Words have such great power, and I am certain that I never would have landed at the top of that ladder many years ago were it not for the deep dive I took into books on personal development, leadership, business and positive psychology. I turned to books for answers and discovered that, at any time of day or night, I could easily tap into the mountains of wisdom and guidance from others who came before me.
, , and were just a few of my earlier “shelf mentors” and in more recent years, I’ve learned SO much from , , , , , and many, many more.