December Dreaming: On Building Cities, Communities, and Careers

I was fortunate to attend the final Pecha Kucha Vancouver event of the year at the Vancouver Playhouse. Fascinated by this Japanese style of presentation and the evening’s focus on food and drink in Vancouver, I was pleased to watch local business leaders sweat through their presentations.  We were clearly witnessing personal challenges being conquered on stage. 

Pecha Kucha Vol.47 Vancouver

Pecha Kucha Vol.47 Vancouver

The Pecha Kucha platform provides presenters with 20 slides, each timed to transition every 20 seconds.  This ensures that all presenters pace the delivery of their material in a fluid motion, ending in 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  Carefully selected slides are meant to compliment the focused presentation delivered by the speaker. 

Presenters included Shira Blustein & Brian Luptak (Owner/General Manager & Head Chef at The Acorn), Shelley Bolton (Head Chocolate Maker at Eastvan Roasters Coffee & Chocolates), and Scott Cohen (architect and designer, responsible for bringing Les Faux Bourgeois, The Waldorf Hotel, and Nuba Gastown to life). I was particularly struck by Eleanor Chow Waterfall (Chef/Owner, Cadeaux Bakery) who told a story about arriving at her family’s farm and seeing that a large tree had fallen, completely blocking the access road. Eleanor smiled bashfully, shrugged, and in her jovial tone, explained “it’s good … it’s good … it’s so good" while sharing a photo of the damage.  Similarly, Shira Blustein explained that although tonight was a glamorous event organized to celebrate success and project completion, oftentimes restaurant owners are in the kitchen putting out more fires than the physical ones.

I was inspired by the honesty and vulnerability shown by the group because it was a reminder that leaders struggle and fall. We can laugh and speak to the challenges we’ve overcome after the fact, but we all struggle through unforeseen challenges nonetheless.  As an entrepreneur in Vancouver, I’m also torn by cost, lifestyle and experience, as expressed that night.  As a local, I appreciate and understand “Yaletown’s fetish with brick,” as Scott Cohen described it, and am ever-mindful of the cost associated with that dining experience.  These businesspeople are mindful of the cost as well. Anyone who lives in the city manages the cost of living out of necessity; we forgive, but can't forget. 

“Community develops through authenticity,” as Scott stated.  These business leaders build the infrastructure and space for locals and visitors to live our lives.  Consider the magnitude of that.  Their dreams of providing warm, evocative spaces as well as appetizing and creative menus are woven into the fabric of our lives.  We plan to celebrate the holidays, meeting friends and family at various locales, inadvertently slipping into the manifestation of a business owner’s dreams. In order for warm spaces like Nuba Gastown or versatile buildings like the Waldorf Hotel to be available for gathering, someone had to dream of that environment.  Once the space is available, community gathers and is shaped by the experience felt within that place.


Colleagues of mine recently performed at Café Deux Soleil, a restaurant and performance space on Commercial Drive.  In addition to enchanting cover songs, Amy Blake and Dana Oikawa performed six original pieces that Amy had written.  Performing live for a full venue, songs including All That You’ve Known, filling the air with inspiration and peace.  The music brought the venue to life; the eclectic space and menu supported that warmth, and we were all drawn to that place to share the evening.

December is a magical, yet complicated time.  There’s hope in the air, but there’s also the stress of expectations on every storefront.  My experience at Pecha Kucha, and watching my friends perform was a reminder that every dream starts with the desire to act, and that success is realized through action.  If you want to sing, then sing.  If you want to lead, then lead.  If you want your workplace culture to be more positive, you must be more positive yourself.  Watch and see what happens when you share that level of leadership and vulnerability.

My hope for you at the end of 2018 is that you allow yourself to dream.  Let your mind wander as you feel the cold air against your cheeks.  Drink in the contrast between bright decorative lights and the dark night sky.  May you dream of whatever compels you, inspiring action now and in the new year.  Dreaming is not just for children sitting on the laps of shopping mall Santas.  Inspiration, hope and ambition are available for all those who are prepared to sit in their thoughts and explore. 

What are your hopes for the new year?  What were your successes in 2018, and what were the challenges that you overcame?  How do your dreams build community?