Interviewee Name: Traci Wells
Avil Beckford: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Traci Wells: Professionally I worked at Rogers for 15 years and was responsible for the management and development curriculum, which I loved. In the last two years, I’ve had a pretty massive life changing event which led me to make some changes in my professional and personal life. I suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest, my heart basically stopped and I was without a heart beat for almost four minutes. I was saved that day because of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator). The interesting thing about this event is there were no signs or symptoms. I had no problems with my health, or with my heart. Even after the event, I’m very fortunate there is no damage to my heart. I was in the hospital for 10 days and they tested everything they could. I’m one of those cases where they basically told me we’ll never know why it happened.
Avil Beckford: How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
Traci Wells: The next job I get is going to have to fit into my life versus my life fitting into the job. I have a whole different perspective on the person that I’m working with. I don’t think I’d be as patient with a bad leader as I used to be. I always try to help and mentor and coach, but sometimes people just don’t change. I think I stayed with a lot of bad leaders out of fear. I haven’t talked much about fear and I’d say that’s been one of my biggest learnings is that fear is so debilitating, and in reality once you face that fear it’s never as bad as you thought it would be.
Avil Beckford: What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- The lesson with fear is that we create the fear to be much bigger than what it is in reality. When you face it, it’s not as bad as you thought it was.
- Life can be gone in an instant, you have to make the most of it. It sounds so cliché but it goes back to the “don’t wait.” Don’t wait to live the life that you’re meant to.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I was a self-sufficient, independent, can-do-it-all myself kind of person and I realized that I don’t have to do with all myself, and it isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help. I’ve learned this over the last few years that if you ask people to describe me they would say that I have no problem being vulnerable, and as a result of that, I build extremely tight relationships with people because when you’re willing to show your flaws and make mistakes people see you as a real person. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
- Some of us do not value our health until there is a reason to look at it. I did not value my health until there was a risk to it and as I sit here at 42, if I was doing what I’ve been doing for the past year I probably would not have had a cardiac arrest. Even though the doctors cannot tell me why it happened, you have to look at the way you have been living your life and when people look at the list of things that’s important to them, what they value most, they always put family first. I say you have to put your health first or else you won’t be there for your family if your health isn’t strong.
Avil Beckford: When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
Traci Wells: I love volunteering now even though that may not be down time in some people’s eyes. Giving back, whether it be to the Heart and Stroke Foundation because of my experience, or something in my community that I believe in. There is a great quote that I love for, it basically is “Service is the rent we pay for our time on this Earth,” and I get as much out of that as the people that I’m giving it to so that’s a big one.
Avil Beckford: What process do you use to generate great ideas?
Traci Wells: A few, sometimes the process is as simple as turning on my computer, putting some music on and looking at the view of the Don Valley and just giving myself some time to think. That’s a process. I don’t think we give ourselves enough time to think, so I make time for that. I have some great people in my life and we feed off each other for great ideas. I had a friend here yesterday, we are working on a cool new Internet idea, and for him and I, the great ideas just come from taking one idea and expanding on it and by the end we get to this really great place. Collaboration is a really important step
Avil Beckford: What’s your favourite quotation and why?
Traci Wells: I really like “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” by Margaret Mead, but I am in a service mode so let’s go with “Service is the rent we pay for our time on this Earth.”
Avil Beckford: How do you define success?
Traci Wells: Success is individual and personal. Success and what is valuable to me may be very different from what matters to you. I define success as being proud of the work that I’m doing, knowing that I’m making a contribution.
Avil Beckford: In your opinion what’s the formula for success?
Traci Wells: The formula for success definitely has to be giving yourself enough worth as you give to others. I’m the kind of person who would do anything for everyone, and that’s a lovely quality, but it went to the point where I never did anything for myself. I want people to recognize that they are as important as the people that they’re doing the work for. Think about the mother who puts her children first, and that’s great, I don’t have children but I can understand why you would do that, but I don’t think we think about ourselves enough, especially as women.
Avil Beckford: What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
Traci Wells: I took some risks definitely. I went back to school as many times as I could because I think continuous learning especially in my field is a requirement. Learning and development can be a very typical process, what made me successful was going outside of the normal process and said, “we know that some of those things work, but what if you tried this?” Maybe it goes back to taking risks and not being afraid to try something different.
Avil Beckford: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?
Traci Wells: Based on my perspective now, starting out, if you’re right out of university jumping into the new job you’re thinking you have to be here today 24/7 to make an impact, and what I realized is it’s not how much time you spend doing something, it’s definitely the quality and the impact. Make sure that you develop a structure for yourself that doesn’t create your career that’s your only focus, even if that’s for only 10 years. There can be balance all the way through.
Avil Beckford: If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
Traci Wells: I used to ask this question in class, that’s a great icebreaker for people, and before I met my father, I would say my father.
- I would want to meet Martin Luther King and I would say thank you for having the courage to make change.
- And I’d like to meet Oprah Winfrey and say something very similar. But she also helped me to see my value, so I’d say, “Thank you for making me see my own value and potential.”
- I’ve always had this fascination with Janis Joplin, and I think what I would ask her is why she didn’t value her life enough.
- I like to meet Gandhi and I’d ask him how he maintained his strength in living his life at the time.
- I love to meet the Dalai Lama and let him share his learnings with me around fear and courage because he has an awful lot of courage and I’m curious about how he deals with the fear.
Avil Beckford: Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply?
Traci Wells: This is funny! Do you know The Princess Bride? They actually made a movie about it. But the book was a read to me when I was in public school, and my teacher was a huge fan of the book and every day I would look forward to hearing the next chapter. And why it was so powerful, as a young child, I wasn’t someone who lived in fantasy. I was an adult much sooner than I should have been, and as a result, I couldn’t see fantasy, I didn’t enjoy it. And the Princess Bride took me to a whole different place of fantasy and after I read that book I started writing myself. It’s not a business book or anything like that but allowed me to see fantasy, and that it can be fun, and a place to be creative in.
Avil Beckford: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are five books that you would like to have with you and why? Summarize the book in two sentences.
- The Princess Bride for what I just said.
- She’s Come Undone and the reason why I like that one is it was the first book that spoke to how I really felt about life and did not apologize for it.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fundamentally changed the way I look at life. That book allowed me to meet my father, it opened my mind enough to want to find out who he was.
- Good to Great from a business perspective, and it was the first time I felt at least in my business environment, that people understood the value of focusing on the people, and not just on the process. I thought that was a revolutionary business book.
Avil Beckford: What one music CD and movie would you like to have with you (on the deserted island) and why?
Traci Wells: I love music so that’s really tough, but I have to say Bruce Springsteen because there’s something motivating in his music like the underdog can win, and it would help me to get off that deserted island. As for the movie it would have to be a The Way We Were because it’s my favourite movie of all time and I can watch it over and over again without getting bored of it.
If you cannot view this Bruce Springsteen YouTube video click here.
If you cannot view The Way We Were YouTube video please click here.
Avil Beckford: What excites you about life?
Traci Wells: Everything right now. The potential, the opportunities, the fact that I still have life, it excites me. I never considered death before this experience, and I wouldn’t say that it’s an area that I focus on now, but because of that life and death experience, life means a wondrous thing to me now. I have a whole new value for time.
Avil Beckford: How do you nurture your soul?
Traci Wells: Providing service helps with that, wonderful friends and family, and music.
Avil Beckford: If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
Traci Wells: I’d wish that everybody could be educated. And I don’t mean higher learning education, but education that can solve all of our world’s problems. So I would actually ask the genie to give everyone some learning, some education that they can expand their worlds.
Avil Beckford: Complete the following, I am happy when…..
Traci Wells: I’m happy when I’m making a contribution.
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