One of the country’s most famed businesspeople, Arlene Dickinson is a renowned entrepreneur and venture capitalist, best-selling author and one of the stars of the hit TV show, Dragons’ Den.

An award-winning leader and highly regarded mentor to companies of all shapes and sizes, the catastrophic flooding that Alberta experienced in 2013 turned Dickinson’s life and business upside down. To recover from the disaster, she worked hard to transform and reinvent not only her operations but also herself. This process and the things she learned inspired her latest book, Reinvention: Changing Your Life, Your Career, Your Future.

Dickinson spoke with us for Go Magazine about the key steps to reinvention, the importance of not limiting yourself and entrepreneurism.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Carry on.

You’re very active on social media. Why is it important for you to engage with people through your different channels? How do you curate the content you share?

The opportunity to use my platform in a meaningful way is one I take seriously. I believe that when you have a public profile, you have an obligation to help create standards. It’s taken me a while to get there. I have both sent and made some foolish social media posts – ones that I deeply regret and wish I hadn’t done. But I’ve also said some dumb things over the years as well. I believe it’s about being intentional and yet still being human. I try and curate content based on what I personally am learning and feeling and then see if there’s a connection to what others are thinking or worrying about on the same topics. I also try hard to simply be positive. I’m not always successful at it, but I consciously try.

You have a tweet pinned to the top of your Twitter account that says: “My dad used to tell me that I would be a lot less worried about what others thought of me if I knew just how little they did. Everyone is too busy thinking about their own lives to think long about yours. Live your best life – not caring as much what others think of it.” How have you learned over the years to tune out other voices and just focus on what you think is right?

I have worked hard to be less driven by other people’s opinions of me and more concerned about the quality of my life – as I wish it to be. It’s a paradox – we spend our time thinking so much about other people’s views that we start to become what we think they want and need from us instead of asking ourselves what we want and need to be. It’s hard to be introspective and self-aware. I believe that time spent alone is a good way to assess who you are and if you like that person you discover.

What inspired you to write your new Reinvention book? Why do you feel reinvention is so important for all of us in both our personal and professional lives?

Life is short. We hear that, we know it and yet we ignore the reality of it. I believe a life of regrets doesn’t come from trying and failing but from never trying at all. So, use your time. There is no one thing we can be. We are multi-faceted, so why limit ourselves. I was forced by an event, the 2013 floods in southern Alberta, to reinvent. Many of us wait for something major to happen to force ourselves to do what we likely should have been doing all along. It’s not that we are lazy. It’s just hard to change and to allow yourself the freedom to try new things and fail at them.

How did writing the book teach you to be more entrepreneurial? 

It wasn’t in writing the book I learned, it was in the reinvention of myself that I saw how much I was tempering my ambitions. I felt like, who did I think I was dreaming so big and daring to do more? So, I spent my time helping other entrepreneurs and always wishing I had pushed myself harder. Then I pushed myself. Hard. That’s what turned me into a true entrepreneur.

Many people want to reinvent themselves, but don’t know where to begin. What’s one thing you recommend doing to start yourself on the process of reinvention?

There are four key steps. The first step seems counterintuitive as it’s introspection. You need to look back at your life in order to move forward. Assess how you got into the place you are and the role you played in getting yourself there. Second, you need to understand and assess your currency – what you are good at, what your skills and talents are. Third is finding your core purpose. What is your “why” and what is driving your life as a result? Finally, it’s understanding the context of the world. How do you take your past, your skills and your purpose and apply them in the reality of today’s world?

You wear so many hats as a successful businessperson, entrepreneur, TV host, podcaster, author, speaker and more. What motivates you to keep taking risks and trying so many different things?

I am so lucky to do these things. What motivates me is knowing that I would always regret not trying if I didn’t. I know that with each experience – good or bad – doing something new is making me stronger and more rounded as a human.

A few years ago, you walked away from Dragons’ Den. Was that a difficult decision to make? What made you want to be a part of the program again?

I walked away because I needed to focus on building my Fund and saving my marketing company, Venture. It was an easy decision to make at the end of the day. Once I said it out loud and realized that I must follow my own path – even if that meant changing the one that seemed more glamorous – I moved forward.

I love the show and the impact it has had on Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs. It’s a privilege to listen, learn and sometimes invest with the brave people who come on.

Do you have any advice for the insurance industry on how to better serve Canadians in 2020 and beyond?

Treat your clients with care and respect. Spend the time to know them and their business models. Make sure they are well served as they are people with businesses, employees and lives that count on and trust the companies they insure through. I believe your compensation models and how you think about premiums are areas that should be reimagined for the future.

Check out Arlene Dickinson’s website here. Her latest book, Reinvention, is available now – learn more about it here.

20 Comments
  • Reply Matt Leishman

    February 28, 2020, 9:05 am

    Arlene,

    It takes true courage to take a step back, analyze and redirect your focus. By leaving DD, it helped you focus on your company and expresses the admiration you have for entrepreneurship by leading by example. True Class!

  • Reply Cari Uttley

    February 28, 2020, 9:23 am

    I enjoyed the Arlene Dickinson article. It was interesting to hear what her thoughts were on the insurance industry. I will be looking forward to reading her book.

  • Reply Anthony

    February 28, 2020, 9:38 am

    Wow, there’s a lot of great insights in here from Arlene. I especially liked the point about finding your core purpose. It’s so important to know our “why” and what’s driving us to do things.

  • Reply Luanne Posthumus

    February 28, 2020, 9:39 am

    Very informative article, I especially liked the quote from Arlene’s father.

  • Reply Susan Whellan

    February 28, 2020, 9:41 am

    I have always thought very highly of Arlene Dickinson and can’t wait to read her new book.

    • Reply Sarah Hoare

      March 5, 2020, 9:38 pm

      I really enjoyed the article, it offered alot of great insight to live by. Arlene Dickinson a truly inspirational women, and we could all learn alot from her. I am looking forward to reading her new book.

  • Reply Steven Moro

    February 28, 2020, 10:03 am

    I absolutely agree with Arlene’s four step approach – figure out who you are and how you got there, recognize your true value/skills and then put it all together and find a place in this world where you will not only flourish, but where the world will be a better place as a result of your contribution.

    Imagine what our world would look like if we all followed this advice?

  • Reply Jennifer Savage

    February 28, 2020, 10:18 am

    What a great article! I agree we need to take the time to get to know our clients more and their business models.

  • Reply Linda

    February 28, 2020, 11:30 am

    Insurance professionals are being challenged in more ways than one given the current market trends. Nows a good time to take Arlene’s advice to self assess the “why” and to “carry on” to do the best for our clients.

  • Reply Jenny Desroches

    February 28, 2020, 11:43 am

    Great insight! “Why limit ourselves?” So true! never stop learning, never stop looking for new carrots and new ways of thinking and expanding who we are. Love the four key steps, we need to be reminded that we all have an inner voice and light that needs to be heard and kept bright. Look back, reflect and most importantly keep moving forward!!!

  • Reply Carrie

    February 28, 2020, 12:20 pm

    “My dad used to tell me that I would be a lot less worried about what others thought of me if I knew just how little they did”. I LOVE THIS! Thank you so much for sharing

  • Reply Aileen

    February 28, 2020, 12:52 pm

    I had the opportunity to hear first hand about Arlene’s resilience at a Women of Influence event in Toronto many years ago – and even had a few gracious words with her while heading to the parking garage. Genuine is a word that pops to mind in reflection of that moment and this article follows that theme. I know my ‘core’ is a strong sense of ‘fairness’ for my clients which can be hard to find in our industry these days, so really like the advice to ‘carry on’ while trying to remain positive and true to those values..

  • Reply Leslie Zambri

    February 28, 2020, 3:08 pm

    I was inspired by this interview with Arlene, how can one not be impressed by someone who has the courage and strength to put themselves out there regardless of what other’s think. I think we can all learn a valuable lesson from her father and put into perspective that what other’s think really is irrelevant and self-limiting.

  • Reply Shelley

    February 28, 2020, 4:09 pm

    Well said! Sometimes we look at people who are successful and forget that they are also human beings. I particularly appreciate Arlene sharing the comment her dad used to make. How true it is that we spend way too much time worrying about what others think, and trying to become what they want, instead of trusting that we are the best judge of who we want to be! Thank you so much for sharing the article.

  • Reply Sheila

    March 3, 2020, 12:16 pm

    Thank you for the reminder of the important things. Listening to my inner voice, for the correct option for myself. Plus your Dad’s wisdom, true throughout the ages.

  • Reply Pat Goyette

    March 4, 2020, 9:51 am

    I read Arlene’s article in a recent Zoomer magazine. She is an inspiration to the next generation entrepreneurs.

  • Reply Traci Boland

    March 5, 2020, 7:32 pm

    Excellent advice. Really enjoyed the thoughts on our industry and on taking a step back to fix what is broken.

  • Reply Toby

    March 10, 2020, 5:47 pm

    I look forward to her tweets! Down to earth and insightful!

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