RedSphere Network

Written by Ali Brown

“True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice.” – Samuel Johnston

They are your closest confidants and most passionate cheerleaders who make the bad times bearable and the good times even better. Your gal pals know you better than anyone else. But no matter how much you love them, you can’t expect your friends to be everything for you all the time. Life is so complex and multi-layered — no single friend is equipped to handle your multitude of different needs, wants, and desires.

You must cultivate a collection of friends to help you handle every aspect of your life. Think of it as being a little like running your business. You always employ the right person for the right job, so in your private life, pick the right friend for the right need. Worried about taking the company in a new direction? Call Barbara; she’s adventurous and has sound business advice. Can’t decide whether your new boots will go with the purple trench coat? Get in touch with Jane — she’s a fashion diva, always on top of the latest trends. To cover all your bases, surround yourself with friends who each possess at least one of the following traits.

The positive pal

This is someone endowed with boundless energy who is always looking on the bright side of things — even when it appears a bright side cannot be found. She sees potential barriers as mere hurdles to kick over. This is the friend that not only gives her approval by way of a thumbs up and an emphatic “Go for it!” when told you’re taking a year off to write poetry — this is the friend that takes less than a nanosecond to do it.

The truthful pal

There’s no hidden agenda here. She’ll always tell it like it is. If that outfit makes you look like a balloon, she won’t be shy about saying so. This isn’t done with any malice — the truthful pal only has your best intentions at heart.

The fashionable friend

Avoid those clothing calamities and wardrobe disasters with a fashionable friend who has the style tips and advice that are just right for you. She always knows what shoes go with which outfit and is a genius when it comes to accessorizing your look.

The forgiving friend

No one is perfect, but this friend will always forgive your faults. As Elbert Hubbard once said, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you just the same.”

The travel buddy

Whether you want to dive off the Great Barrier Reef, explore the pyramids of Egypt, or be pampered in a health spa, this friend wants to discover the world with you. She’s good at compromising; and like you, is just as happy by the pool, the bar, or on top of a mountain.

The party pal

When it’s time to dress up like a diva and hit the party hotspots, grab the friend who’ll make you giggle and forget the burdens of business. This friendship is about spontaneity, fun, and great times.

The faithful friend

She is devoted to you at all times. Whatever life throws at you, the faithful friend is always there at the other end of the phone and willing to jump on that plane, train, or automobile to be with you in your hour of need.

Picking and cultivating good friends is one of life’s greatest skills. It’s not easy but the results can be truly amazing. Think of each pal as a specialist, and you can call on their expertise at anytime. It’s like having your own team of special advisors.

© 2010 Ali International, LLC


Self-made entrepreneur and Inc. 500-ranked CEO Ali Brown teaches women around the world how to start and grow profitable businesses that make a positive impact. Get her FREE weekly articles and advice at

Transformative.  Dynamic.  Empowering.

In 1997 a group of 12 women created a one time “higher purpose” project called the Young Women’s Weekend.  Its purpose was to create the space for young women to share in being women together and to find their inner voice.  Marielle Smith was part of that group.

Marielle had an incredible experience facilitating for the first time, leading and listening to the girls talk about their lives, what they believed, what they were passionate about, and what they were sad about.  It was a life-changing event for all involved.  For Marielle, it sparked a desire and passion to continue the event.

Her original vision in 2001 as she was contemplating the creation of a grass-roots Society to continue this event was:   “To inspire young women and add to their journey into womanhood, so that it gives them strength and confidence to live life as who they are, not as who they think they should be.  It will be a weekend that encourages young women to pursue their dreams and to learn that no matter how old they are, who they are makes a difference.  It will be a weekend that is created by different groups of women each time, yet the purpose and vision will be the same. “  

From this, the Young Women’s Discovery Weekend was born – a retreat for young women to discover more of who they really are and to provide them the opportunity to deepen their relationship with their Self.

We had a chance to chat with Marielle, founder of the Young Women’s Discovery Society (YWDS) and the Discovery Weekend to learn more about this wonderful initiative.

Marielle, who is the Discovery Weekend for?

Any young woman, age 13 to 17.  We also have a mandate to create events for ages 18 to 25 as well.  Our only criteria is that they are willing to participate, they have a desire to look inside themselves and that they have fun!

What are some of the biggest issues that you see girls and young women are facing?

Being seen and heard by their parents, peers, teachers and siblings.   One of the biggest issues for girls is finding someone – usually an adult – to listen to them and not fix or change them in the process.  Girls are aching for people to accept them – their emotions, their day-to-day changes, their whims and wonders – without judgment, and with consistent unconditional acceptance.

Simply put, it is mentorship they long for.  Young women and girls are looking for and wanting advocates who will help them with their dreams.  And yes, I mean dreams.  It seems like society is expecting girls to grow up NOW, otherwise you’ll miss the boat.  

But the truth is that young women between the ages of 13 and 17 are still trying to figure out who they are…and it changes daily!!!  They still have dreams and are passionate and innovative enough that if given the opportunity, they will follow their passions and change our world.  There are not enough mentors, coaches, guides or whatever label you want to give it.  Young women need people who will listen, coach and accept them as they are.  

What do participants walk away with?

A connection to their voice, their inner wisdom, and to learn more about who they are at their core.  We coach them to see that outside influences may be something to consider and experiment with, however what is more important is to learn how to keep the judgments at bay.  In the end, their choices are their own.

I believe they also walk away with inspiration to continue with their learning process, and that they make a difference in this world.

What have been some of the “memorable moments” from previously held retreats?

We had an exercise called the Magic Wand.  The wand symbolized a talking stick, that each young woman held as she spoke.  We asked the girls, ‘If you had three wishes, one for yourself, one for another person, and one for the world, what would they be?”

We were amazed and touched by the depth of their wishes.  It was a profoundly emotional experience for the facilitators to hear their answers.  There were wishes that ranged from “I wish my father would recognize me on the street.” to “I would give everyone in the world the ability to feel happiness.”, to “I wish my friend’s parents were back together because she is so sad.”

Another memorable moment, and it occurs at each weekend – is at the end of the event – when the girls don’t want to leave, and we are all laughing, crying or hugging and SO connected to one another.  It is really why I continue to do this – for those connections.


When and where is the Discovery Weekend being held this year?

The upcoming Weekend is October 9 and 10th.  It’s from 11am Saturday till 2pm Sunday.  Our theme is around gratitude and acceptance – so the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend is perfect for that – plus the girls will be done in time for Sunday family celebrations.

This year it’s in Delta, BC at a residential retreat.    We are planning another one in the Spring of 2011 as well.


Get Involved!  How can others support the Discovery Weekend?

Help us spread the word about the Society and the Weekend.  Tell the young women in your life to check our site, or email me, as I’m always happy to talk by phone to parents or girls interested in more details about the weekend or how we can help coach individuals as well.  If you have a desire to volunteer, we always welcome those who wish contribute in many arenas – including marketing, fundraising, volunteering for the Weekend itself, and offering supplies and food too.

 As a not-for-profit Society, monetary donations are always appreciated. We have not yet attained charitable status, so we are raising funds not only to produce the Weekend itself, but also to hire someone to help us with charitable process.  Most importantly, there are always at least 3 to 4 girls who need sponsorship to attend the Weekend, and our intention is to offer this to as many girls as possible.  

To learn more about the Discovery Weekend or to register, please visit or contact Marielle Smith at



The first wave of Canada’s Hot Mommas secured their spot in history earlier this year.  These women have taken mentoring to the next level, offering their stories of personal and professional challenges and a-ha moments to  the world’s largest online library of role models for women and girls – The Hot Mommas Project.  I am thrilled to be part of this stellar group of women and had the pleasure of chatting with these ladies about their Hot Mommas journey.

Importance of having role models

Research has shown that having access to role models increases the self-efficacy of women.  Tamara Plant, the winner of the Top Canadian Case Award for 2010 and publisher of MOM Magazine, said it felt empowering to know that her story will be available to the world as an educational tool, “I want women to take the lessons I’ve learned and the examples from my life and use them for their own successes.”

These women are not just role models to others.  They understand the importance that role models have placed in their own lives as well.  Case author Chrissy Atley, president of states, “I think it’s super important to have someone who will support you and give you positive encouragement as you’re trying new things and finding your way through life.  It’s important to choose someone who won’t judge you and is going to be your cheerleader!  This helps to motivate me and in turn follow my dreams.”

Betty Ann Heggie, speaker and founder of, has been fascinated by women’s stories right from childhood, “I remember in high school vowing to make all my leisure reading be autobiographies of famous or inspirational women. I always wanted to know what those of my gender did to handle situations and what I could glean from their actions that would be of value for me.”  For females, having access to other women’s stories – whether virtual, in a book, or in person – provides them with an incredibly powerful learning tool.

The thrill of being nominated

Many of the case authors were nominated by others to write their case study.  The Canadian case authors all agreed that being nominated was a thrill.  Atley describes it as, “Amazing!  Unbelievable!  A dream come true!  I have dreamed of being a role model myself and feel so thankful that others may learn or even feel comforted from my experiences.” 

Heggie has spent a number of years mentoring young women and felt that to be recognized for doing something you believe strongly in is a tremendous feeling of achievement, “It is external validation of my internal value-system and that feels like I am on the right course.”

A tool for self-learning

The end result and value of a case study is quite clear.  But how does it feel to actually write your own case?  Marcy Berg, founder of and one of Canada’s Hot Mommas found that writing her case was an emotional but beneficial experience.  “Writing the case study turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined.  I started my business with a business plan and model but writing the case study was my first experience confronting the emotional force behind the idea.  I learned a lot about myself.”

Lara Galloway, founder of and a Top 25 Case Winner says that in writing her case it gave her an opportunity to step back and reflect on the life she has been living.   She explains, “Although it didn’t always seem so at the time, I realized that I actually WAS following a logical path to get where I am today. And that made me feel satisfied and proud. It also felt good to be honest about the mistakes and problems I’ve had along the way, knowing that people can often learn more from those than from me wrapping my story up with a happy ending and trying to appear perfect.”

Are you ready to be a Hot Momma?

So if the Hot Mommas Project is resonating with you and the idea of writing your case study for this award winning initiative sounds intriguing, there is a strong “just do it!” consensus from the founding Canadian Hot Mommas.  Heggie encourages women by saying, “Go for it!” We all seem to suffer from a syndrome that we believe our stories aren’t significant enough to be shared but all our stories have value for others and may be exactly what someone else needs to hear.”

Rather than looking at your case study as a final piece, it can be a great impetus to self-understanding and appreciation.  Plant encourages, “Don’t over analyze it, just write. And write. And continue to build your story as you go through life. Don’t stop with one case study, write multiple stories!! The final case study will be written by someone else when you’re gone because you can never stop growing or encountering new

To read the case studies of these and other dynamic women, visit the Hot Mommas Project website at


Lydia Fernandes is the Canadian Regional Manager and the 2009 Top Canadian Case Award winner for the Hot Mommas Project.  You can connect with her by email at lydia[at] or visit her website at

Guest post by Althea Francis


The primary objective of any business is to achieve maximum profitability and productivity. Even knowing this, it’s alarming how many business owners get into trouble with managing and marketing their business when something goes wrong. Preparing for a rainy day requires sacrifices (at first) that will pay off in the long run.

One of the challenges of running your own business is all the different hats you have to wear. It’s your responsibility to manage and market your business, and if you do not do it personally, there should be systems and processes in place to get things done.

“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal.  Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.” – Mario Andretti

If managing your business is killing your productivity & profitability, then make sure you have an active business plan that keeps you focused to maximize your business potential. The business plan is the heart and soul of your company and the platform from which decisions must be made — such as human resources, marketing, finance, products/services, client service, etc. Free sample business plans can be found at

Proper business management starts with these important steps aimed to increase revenue and decrease overwhelm (during good and bad times).


  1. Get & Stay OrganizedOrganization is the key to being able to properly manage your business. Disorganization leads to wasted time. Make the process of managing your business/clients and selling your products/services less frighten by effectively managing your time and staying organized.
  2. Maximize the Clients You Have – Make the downtime period a time to communicate value and increase sales with existing clients because not all of your clients suffer during recession. It is much easier to focus your marketing efforts to clients you are already building a relationship with.
  3. Increase Brand Awareness – Know your USP (unique selling proposition) and find new advertising opportunity to increase brand awareness. Use every opportunity to create additional demand for your product/service offerings. The ultimate goal is to ignite an emotional connection of loyalty to a specific product/service from clients.
  4. Trim Your Marketing Budget – Avoid marketing methods that produces minimal results. Trimming your advertising cost during difficult times will give less of a return than during an economic boon but your profit margin won’t plummet. Instead, think about low-to-no-cost marketing – like free publicity in the local newspaper. Every advertising dollars saved, is more profit you will earn. For instance, calculate how much you are spending as most businesses can cut this amount in half by allowing some flexibility in the budget. You will find that you can actually build a healthier business on a slimmer budget.
  5. Consider Hiring Professional Help – If you are overwhelmed in your business, then stop trying to do it all by yourself. It is a difficult task to survive and grow your business solely with your own efforts. Beware of the pitfall of trying to do too much on your own because there are other professionals (such as a coach for professional development or virtual assistant for admin. tasks) to help you save time and money to grow your business.

The business world belongs to those with a step-by-step plan of action for growth. Using these five easy steps will help your business survive and generate a sustainable profit. A well-managed business will transform challenges (such as the economy) into opportunities by creating new methods of doing business that
weren’t considered during good times – but is necessary for maximum success.


About the Author: Althea Francis is a Certified Life Coach & Business Strategist at MITCEY Business Solutions, a coaching and consulting company that helps small business owners to manage and market their company. Althea works personally with clients to deliver business strategies that fit their personality, goals, and work-style to achieve maximum results. Her passion is to empower freedom in business and life by leveraging the power of the internet to increase revenue and decrease overwhelm. She is available by e-mail at or by phone at 416-725-0598. Visit her website: to learn more and sign-up for the free success newsletter, “Passion Needs Action”.


“I’ve recently been thinking about starting a running program.  I have never been terribly athletic, but I think it would be something I’d enjoy and would be a great way to get some much needed exercise.  I just don’t have a clue where to start and how I would keep motivated doing something that kind of scares me a little.”



That’s wonderful!  If it makes you feel any better, I totally understand where you’re coming from:  I was never the athletic type either, and was quite intimidated when I first decided to take up running.  Here are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way – hopefully these tips will help you reach your goals!    

Make a date with yourself – and keep it.

Exercise is an important part of keeping yourself healthy, and you need to treat it that way.  Make it one of your priorities by choosing a time of day that works for you, scheduling it in like any other appointment, and sticking to it.  Are your afternoons frequently disrupted by meetings that go late?  Make your date in the morning.  Do you get a bit of peace in the evenings? Schedule your run after supper.  Do it at lunch if your days are flexible!  It doesn’t matter when you choose to write it in as long as you do it.

Start slow.  Then slow down. 

I find that one of the most common mistakes among new runners is to try to go too fast, too far, too soon.  You think if you’re running, you need to run hard – and you end up flaming out, feeling disappointed (or getting injured!), and quitting.  But there’s no rule saying you have to go fast!  Or far, for that matter!  In fact, when I first took up running, I ran for one minute, and then I walked for one minute.  I did this 10 times for a total of 20 minutes.  I was getting in a solid 20 minutes of exercise, which I would not have made it through if I tried to run the whole thing.  And remember the “talk test”:  you should be able to carry a conversation without too much difficulty – if you can’t, slow down.  If you can sing a song, however, you could probably take it up a notch.

Get dressed.

If you really don’t feel like going for a run when you’re supposed to, just get dressed.  Get a really cute running outfit that you like to put on if that’s what it takes.

Once you’re dressed, get out the door.  Just run for 10 minutes.  If, at the end of 10 minutes, you still would rather poke yourself in the eye than run, turn around and go home.  Most of the time you will find you feel perked up and ready to go by the end of 10 minutes, but even if you don’t, you’ve put in 20 minutes.  Every little bit counts!

Focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves.

Many people take up running because they want a specific result – to get fit, lose weight, lower their blood pressure…you get the idea.  The problem with focusing on the result is that in this age of instant feedback, people get discouraged when they don’t see the result right away.

But what if, instead of focussing on the outcome you’re looking for, you set a goal around the process?  A good goal might be to run 20 minutes a day, three days a week, for 10 weeks.  Unlike getting fit or lowering your blood pressure, you have direct control over it – either you run or you don’t.  You can see your progress towards the goal and you know when you have achieved it.  The best part is, when you’re focussed on the process, the results just sort of happen, whether you are paying attention or not!

Remember your reasons for running.

Maybe you’ve had a scary wake-up call from your doctor, or just want the health benefits of regular exercise.  You want to improve your energy levels and cope better with stress.  Perhaps you want to set a good example for your kids, or even just keep up with them.  Improve your self-esteem. Raise funds for a charity dear to your heart, challenge yourself, step outside your comfort zone.

Whatever your reasons, make them solid somehow.  Write them out, take a photo that reminds you of them, find a quote or an image.  Then on those days when you just don’t feel like keeping your date, take out your reminder, and really think about all you have to gain. 

If you are struggling at first, know that this is normal!  In my opinion, getting started is the hardest part of running.  You didn’t get out of shape over night, so cut yourself some slack, give yourself some time to get back into shape.  Remember that this too, shall pass – if you stick with it, keep your dates, and focus on the process, you will find your groove and it will get much easier.  It won’t be long until you are reaping the benefits of your hard work!


Karen Karnis is a running enthusiast and the “Endorphin Junkie” on  She writes from the heart, sharing her personal experiences and inspiring anyone who wants to run.  Stay tuned for the launch of her brand new website at



“I’ve developed a physical fitness routine that I enjoy but still feel like I’m missing a piece of the puzzle. I often feel tensed and stressed and wondered how yoga and deep relaxation therapy can help me? Moreover, how can I fit it into my already hectic schedule and what are some tips to get started?”




Great question. A physical fitness program is a whole lifestyle which addresses cardiovascular health, resistance training, flexibility and mental health. All of these factors must be addressed properly for the program to reap rewards in a timely manner.

The physical fitness program should be tailored to you and would require a live interview with a fitness professional in order to assess your current fitness level and your goals and make sure they are in keeping with the practicality of your lifestyle. In other words, if you only have 15 minutes a day to give to fitness, then your program must reflect that and not expect more.

In our hectic lifestyles of today, it is good to start with a daily 5 minute yoga program. After 6 weeks of that daily program, you can then add to it by adding on a 5 minute meditation to increase the relaxation effect. Meditation means “measuring the mind” and not some specific sitting position or hand position. Sitting in a chair, relaxed and maintaining a sense of calm with meditation techniques brings on great benefits for physical and mental health.

Meditation techniques include watching the breath for a couple of minutes, or writing therapy administered by a yoga therapy expert. Daily writing of thoughts and then shredding the papers is a great way to release frustrated anger that inhibits us from shining in our lives.

The 5 minute yoga program can be just one sun salutation carried out with proper breathing and focus. This can be followed by a 5 minute session of writing and breathing to increase the relaxation effect in your hectic life. Starting with this base, you can then build on it as time permits.

Dr. Hema Murty


Listed in Who’s Who in the World, a yoga instructor and expert in East Indian Philosophy, Hema has spent the past 20 years evolving as a lifestyle coach and personal trainer with a keen interest in training the complete being, rather than just the physical body. She is a Can-Fit-Pro certified personal trainer and teaches yoga classes at workplaces in Ottawa. Hema is an accomplished athlete who has run the Toronto Marathon as she balanced a busy life in the corporate engineering world. Hema currently practices yoga therapy to increase the body, mind, spirit fitness of her clients. She holds an MA in Sanskrit and Yoga Philosophy.

Guest post by Maureen McCann


“Many women struggle to find a balance between their family and their career.”

Yikes! Even as I write that sentence, I cringe. What is this elusive ‘balance’ that people refer to?

In his book Who’s Got Your Back, author Keith Ferrazzi writes about the idea of living a blended life, not a balanced one. “The elements you see in [your life] aren’t individual territories or fiefdoms. They should, and will, overlap!”[1]

This got me thinking about how often I struggle to balance my own life. Whether it’s coaching a six-figure executive through a career transition, getting my butt outside to run when it’s -20 degrees, remembering to pack a lunch for my 4-year-old and the diaper bag for my 18-month-old, or finding time to go skiing or sailing, I have to stop looking at these things as separate from one another. They make up one key element – my life.

My take on Ferrazzi’s advice is this: stop trying to balance a myriad of unconnected goals from different areas of life, whether they involve family, finances, fitness, career, or love. Instead, blend your goals into one incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.

So that’s what I’ve been doing: finding ways to blend activities in my life to make it the most rewarding and fulfilling it can be! The following are some of my cherished secrets – the things I’ve learned that make my life a little easier to ‘blend’.


Whatever it is that’s taking your focus away from the things you want to accomplish in life, drop it! Tough as it sounds, it’s time to let that annoying or frustrating person in your life – even if it’s you – know that you are tired of listening to the complaints about bosses, kids, spouse, and/or the supermarket cashier.

It’s time to choose happiness over drama. Making this choice may mean choosing to spend less time with the source of your frustration. You might instead seek out the company of people who can motivate you, inspire you, or open you up to a whole new way of thinking.

Choosing who will surround you is as important as being open to new people in your surroundings. When you encircle yourself with the best people, it’s almost like osmosis; they bring out the very best in you. Imagine how great that will feel!


In her article, my colleague Linda Schnabel writes about the importance of asking for help. She remarks about the significance of moral, referral, strategic, financial, and family support. We all need a little help from time to time; and having a strong support network will encourage you to move well beyond your situation, in pursuit of excellence.

People want to help you. It’s true. If given the opportunity to help someone close to you, you would, wouldn’t you? You might be surprised at how often we have access to the things we want within our own network (think: hockey tickets, job interview, introduction to the nice neighbour down the street), but because we don’t ask for them, we don’t receive them.

Similar to the law of attraction principle (you have to know what you’re after and ‘put it out there’), you have to get your message to the people closest to you – ask, guide, coach, explain, inform – let your contacts know how they can help you.


As a skier, I know that if I want to improve, I need to challenge myself by skiing with people who are one or two levels (or more) above me. By watching, following, and imitating these skiers, I learn so much. Doing this one small thing encourages me to push myself to go further, turn faster, ski steeper runs than I might if I were skiing alone.

Just last week, I watched Alex Bilodeau win Canada’s first Olympic gold medal at home. He inspired me to reach for my goals, strive for more, and excel in what I do.

Now switch gears and imagine yourself being the inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s skiing, skating, running, or pursuing a corporate career – you can be the one doing the inspiring. Look for opportunities to do so.


I strongly admire Lydia Fernandes creator of the RedSphere Network. Lydia initially reached out to me through Twitter, using a direct message (DM) to make a personal connection. We then arranged to meet over phone, and subsequently, she asked me to participate as a contributor. She asked that I write two articles and share my story with each of you. Sure I was busy (who isn’t). However, Lydia asked! And I admire that – so I said “YES I’d love to participate – what do you need from me? “

Many of my closest strategic partnerships have started over a cup of coffee, a telephone call, or an email. I’ve learned that when someone wants to meet you – say yes! You never know how valuable this connection may become!


Just days before my wedding, my mother sat me down and told me: “Maureen, he’ll never make you happy”. My mom always knew how to get my attention and, that day, she had it! Shocked, I could feel my heart pounding. I was about to launch into a combination of defence/offense when she continued, “…because that’s not his job, it’s yours.”

Nearly ten years later – and still married – that advice reminds me to continue to seek the things that make me happy. Being the master of my own happiness is empowering. Knowing it is my job to have a great life and be the kind of person I want to be, means keeping myself accountable for the excuses I make when life gets difficult.

When my life is not working for me, there is only one person to blame: ME! I’m the common denominator in everything that happens in my life, and it’s pointless to point the finger outward.

It’s your job to make yourself happy. No one will do it for you – not your spouse, your kids, your best friend, or your boss. It’s you, just you.

[1] Ferrazzi, Keith. Who’s Got Your Back. 1st Ed. New York: Random House, Inc. 2009.


Maureen McCann is an award-winning, inspiring, and resourceful master certified resume strategist and career consultant, and senior advisor for Career Professionals of Canada. As the owner and principle consultant of ProMotion Career Solutions Maureen works with professionals who find themselves stuck in unsatisfying careers. You can contact Maureen and find more information at

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