Stop. Breathe.

Every now and then I’m guilty of letting myself get so busy I not only don’t see the forest for the trees, I usually wind up walking face-first into one of those trees.


It’s easy enough to do, and for a chunk of the time that it happens, I’m usually happy about it. It goes like this: I realize I am Very Busy and immediately make a list of things that Must Be Done Right Bloody Now Or Else, prioritize and get to them. Of course, as I am furiously working away, emails arrive or someone stops at my desk with something they need help on and then there’s that to think of and this Project We Forgot About that was needed yesterday and that other thing for the meeting tomorrow and….

..and suddenly it’s not even the end of the week, it’s the Monday of the following week and my head is still spinning and I’m going 300 miles an hour in every direction possible.

Stop. Breathe.

Confession: I love being busy. As a business owner, busy equals making money. Back when I was an employee, busy meant I was necessary. Busy meant I was doing my job well and was being given more trust and responsibilities.

When I was given my first big break, I took on every challenge and opportunity I could get because I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that I deserved it. I ended up working ridiculous hours, often putting in 12-16+ hour days to try and handle everything. As you can imagine, this isn’t the best idea when your job is to be creative. One day, in the middle of a management meeting we were all brainstorming for ideas. I was running on zero sleep and was making my list of things I needed to catch up on when one of the managers came up with a great idea. The company president looked at me and said “I thought you were supposed to be the creative one? Why is he coming up with the good ideas?”

It was barely a half-serious comment and we all carried on exploring the idea, but it had cut me to the quick. I had wanted to say “Because I was the only one here until after midnight 3 nights this week while you all were sleeping!” – but knew there was nothing to be gained by that. The person who had made me stay that late was me. I realized that working such long hours had become a vicious circle: I wasn’t at full capacity and so I needed to keep going longer to get the work done. I was a race car running with one cylinder down, not taking the time to hit the pits for repairs and instead being slower and slower on every lap.

I shut down at 5 o’clock that night alongside everyone else. Went home and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t work that weekend. I returned to the office on Monday and before I opened my emails or answered the blinking voicemail light waiting for me, I took a moment to breathe. To focus on what I wanted to accomplish. To think forward through my current projects and also think big picture for a moment. I made some notes and then waded into the task lists waiting for me.

Several years later, I still remember that moment clear as day. While I am always grateful to be busy, I do my best to take some time every day for myself. I schedule my workouts in the middle of the day as a time to step away and free my mind. This means I work later in the day, but it’s a conscious choice and one that works for me. It’s important for all of us to remember to be able to take a step back every now and then.

I’d be interested to hear from everyone – how do you deal with being too busy? What is your recharging mechanism, and do you allow yourself time to do it?

What’s in a slogan?

I suppose that like a lot of people, for a long time I didn’t really think too much of company slogans. For sure, I bought them up like crazy for brands I thought were cool, but that was about as far as my thought process went.

My first real exposure to slogans (or tag lines, if you prefer) came in the mid 2000s when I was working with a music and dvd retailer called play. We had three retail locations and were very well known to the devoted music or home entertainment audiences in the two cities we were in. However, if you had no idea who we were… well, you had no idea who we were. Our logo was a rectangle with rounded corners, the word play in lowercase letters and a green triangle to the right, like the play button on most electronics. Our slogan (which had been developed before my time) was “See it. Hear it. Play it.” It sounded cool, but for a brand trying to gain a bigger footing, it didn’t work. Why not? Well – does that tell you in the slightest what the company was about, or what we sold? On more than one occasion we had customers enter our store asking if we were an arcade, an appliance dealer (I still don’t know how that made sense), or part of an unrelated company from Eastern Canada. Eventually it was decided that we should create something new, beginning my interest in slogans.

The slogan I created was “The music store as independent as you are.” – and my goals for it were this:

  1. Clearly define what we sold. Music store. Check.
  2. Separate ourselves from big box stores, identifying our independent nature, which as a music retailer allowed for greater flexibility in bringing in unknown or underground artists, and not just the big superstars.
  3. In identifying ourselves as independent, we also associated ourselves with our customers. Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as cool and independent?

Okay, so, a little cheeky, a little precious, perhaps.. but it worked. Our customers liked the new slogan, and people seeing our store bags or other materials for the first time away from our stores were able to identify who we were. This slogan also had the great benefit of being an excellent radio tag – I closed all of our radio commercials with it. We knew it was working when we were signing up new customers to our customer loyalty program and they would comment “So you guys are really independent?”

Since that time, I’ve been honoured to have worked on many logos and slogans for both new businesses and those going through a rebrand. Sometimes the owners haven’t even considered a slogan, sometimes they don’t even know where to start… which ironically enough, was where I was when I started Ambition.


Too close to the forest? Perhaps. I was taking a number of business courses to help get my grounding, and we were discussing elevator pitches, slogans and branding. I ground my teeth. I had ideas for everyone else in the room – classmates and instructors – but for my business? Oh no.

Eventually I created “Connecting businesses to their

target markets and reconnecting people to their passion”. Say THAT three times fast. Yes, it said what we do – from marketing to creative coaching.. but.. let’s be honest: Ugh.

The instructors said that it was fine (in their defence they couldn’t really linger on me for too long – there was the rest of the class waiting), but I wasn’t happy at all.

I held off putting that slogan on anything. I knew what the rules were; I knew what a slogan SHOULD do.. and I broke the rules. Entrepreneurs, dreamers, business people.. they all have something in common: Passion. Drive. Ambition. How do you find out what moves someone? Ask them.

What’s Your Ambition?

I tossed that old clunky slogan so fast it didn’t even have time to hit the bottom of the digital trash can. Forgot about my elevator pitch. THIS is it… and it works because people love to talk about what excites them, and I love to hear about it. I frequently get stopped when wearing my company shirt with this logo across the back by complete strangers who want to tell me what their ambition is – or to ask me what the shirt is about. It’s awesome. Whether someone’s passion is making the fanciest doodadwhatzit gadget on the planet, or they’re in business because they love business (read: money) – we can help.

What’s in a slogan? Whatever, as a business owner, you want to put into it. It can be an integral part of your brand and marketing materials, or it can be ignored as an afterthought. It’s your brand, your dream. Now, tell me… What’s Your Ambition?

– Jason