We recognize and celebrate brave female leaders. The women featured in our Brave Women Leaders blog demonstrate resiliency, bravery, and the ability to radiate their light brightly. They have gifts, experience, and strengths to share with the world and they do so bravely.
Ali Gardiner is the Co-Founder of Mothership Marketing, with an illustrious background of executive marketing roles with Cactus Restaurants, Canucks Sports + Entertainment, VANOC, and more. Ali and I met many years ago and I have always been inspired by her brilliant creativity and heart-centred leadership. To me, she is the epitome of bravery and I have had the privilege to observe the path she has chosen for many years. Her vulnerability and courage to share from the innermost part of herself is just one of the many reasons why we feature her as one of our Brave Leaders.
What does bravery mean to you?
Doing the right thing no matter the personal consequences.
I think about those extraordinary heroes who emerge during humankind’s darkest hours and sacrifice and put their neck on the line for others. Or the people who nudge and push and battle for what is right for their whole lives, even when it seems the world isn’t ready for them. I also think true bravery is about getting back up when you’ve been beaten down or failed. When people have fallen and experienced real, serious pain or humiliation in the process, and they find the courage to get up and try again.
What is one of the bravest things you have ever done?
I think sometimes the bravest thing I’ve done is simply show up. I remember getting some very heart-breaking news around my infertility when I was working at the Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee, and I had to immediately get back to the office to do a TV interview about our mascots. It was a light topic and a friendly interview, but I had just been sobbing in my car the whole way back to the office and had to dry my puffy eyes and do my job, and I did it. Somehow that gave me some peace of mind, knowing that I had the power to keep going, despite everything.
In the years that followed, there were many more brutal hours and days where I had to draw on this resolve to move forward, both for myself and others. My Vancouver 2010 team unexpectedly lost our beloved Design Director less than a year before the Games. I had a miscarriage about a month before the Opening Ceremony. While working at the Canucks, I went for my last attempt at IVF on the morning of a major community event. I lost one of our twins (resulting from that IVF) during playoff planning. I delivered our other twin 9 weeks early, just before the start of the Stanley Cup finals.
As someone who loves to make plans and action them, those years gave me a massive life lesson in learning to wait and react with bravery, with no control of what lay ahead. Our struggles to have kids took place during a hugely demanding, meaningful time in my career, so it was tough to manage this underlying rollercoaster. I had to find ways to be positive and keep finding joy and fulfillment at work and at home, but my optimism and hope for a family were betrayed time and again by reality. I had to repeatedly figure out how to keep trying and keep showing up with energy and belief while preparing myself for big emotional blows along the way.
Of course, finding that strength was not a solo mission. Those that knew what my husband and I were going through were everything to us. They taught me the importance of taking the time to check in on others. They showed me why it’s so valuable to create a culture of openness and empathy within a family or team, so everyone has each other’s back and knows when someone needs extra support or compassion.
And like any good bravery story, there was an amazing outcome. We have two kids. And all that pain seems very long ago…until it doesn’t. And then I have another car cry, knowing that I could follow it up with an interview about mascots if I had to.
What benefits have come from leaning into bravery?
Living without regret. People who do brave things don’t always wonder about what could’ve been. They live with the satisfaction that they dared to act, and even if it didn’t go well, they learned something that will set them up better for the next time.
Also, bravery inspires bravery. I know anything brave I’ve ever done was probably inspired by someone else doing something even more courageous. Or I was trying to show my kids that “we can do hard things”, in the words of Glennon Doyle.
Even when the hard thing is simply to show up and try.
Photo credit: Candace Meyer Photography