How I Thrive: “Why you should join a book club” With Ming Zhao & Maggie Adhami-Boynton

Join a book club. This one definitely tops my list. Firstly, because reading itself helps the mind thrive, but also the incredible conversations and debates that come for my once-per-month book club dinners easily expand my world views. What’s so amazing about this routine is that each month one of the 8 ladies gets to […]

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Join a book club. This one definitely tops my list. Firstly, because reading itself helps the mind thrive, but also the incredible conversations and debates that come for my once-per-month book club dinners easily expand my world views. What’s so amazing about this routine is that each month one of the 8 ladies gets to choose the book we will read, and while we all have different preferences in what we would like to read, we are forced to step out of the ordinary and embrace new styles and genres that we would not have otherwise. Of course, once we’ve debated the book, we then spend over an hour catching up and helping each other through whatever work, family, social or other problems we may have.

As a part of my series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maggie Adhami-Boynton. Maggie is the founder of ShopThing, the world’s first live shopping platform, which aims to bring unbeatable prices to all people, regardless of where they live or who they know. Prior to founding ShopThing, Maggie was the VP of Operations and Client Services at Havas Canada, one of the world’s largest communications companies. Even though Maggie worked in the technology sector for well over a decade, what really excited her was fashion and style. This led Maggie to start her lifestyle blog (Over Exposed) and Instagram account, now garnering more than 30,000 followers and readers worldwide. Maggie holds a Master’s degree in Management from Harvard.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path and to where you are today?

Thank you for thinking of me!

The story of how my career began is pretty untraditional. While most people in my position studied business, I did my bachelor’s degree in psychology, and it wasn’t until my 4th year that I decided psychology was not for me.

Not having had any real-world experience put me at a bit of a disadvantage compared to my business school counterparts. And though I always loved tech, it was not even remotely on my radar. I quickly pivoted, took my GMAT and enrolled in a part-time MBA. While I was pursuing that, my now brother-in-law and co-founder offered me a data entry contract at FutureBrand, working very closely with the technology team in Toronto. I instantly fell in love with the job and being surrounded by engineers. I ended up taking on a full-time position there and moving more into a project management role.

From there I went on to work for an advertising company and then Rogers Communications, Canada’s largest telecom. But through all my experiences something was missing — I was itching for that entrepreneurial culture and excitement.

Only 1.5 years into their mobile technology startup, my sister and brother-in-law (the same one who hired me at FutureBrand), asked me to join them and help grow the business. Joining a team of only 8, it was the perfect opportunity for me to make a real impact and be a part of something amazing. And that it was. We saw incredible growth over the next 4 years, often doubling our revenue and staff yearly, and by the time we were a 6-year-old company, we were acquired by the communications giant Havas Holdings. I spent another 5 years with the company, eventually taking on the role of VP of Operations & Client Services for Havas Canada.

And then it hit me again. The itch. The itch for something a little different. I had successfully been a part of an incredible startup, from infancy to acquisition, and then worked as a VP for a mature organization, dealing with global scale. But throughout all of that, I was still hunting.

My love for style and technology finally intersected in 2019 when I decided to pursue a new venture and start ShopThing. ShopThing was born out of passion and curiosity and has been the best thing I have done in my career to date. While we’re still building our platform and have a long road ahead of us, it has been incredible building my own product and being hands-on once again with the technology team.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I accidentally became an influencer and lifestyle blogger. Yup, true story!

I was completing my last course of my Harvard Masters degree and I decided to take on Social Media knowing it would be an easy course to finish my degree with. Little did I know that this one course would lead to the creation of Over Exposed, a style and lifestyle blog that I still maintain today as my hobby and creative outlet. Over Exposed evolved far beyond my school project and became a personal passion. It is an avenue to take a break from everything: work, kids, chores, family. The 7 to 10 hours that I spend on my blog each week is my meditation, introspection, and self-reflection. It’s my personal therapy, and I won’t change it for anything.

I wrote a piece about how and why I started this journey which you can read about here!

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

We make so many mistakes in our career, especially in the early days, because we are still learning. I always look at mistakes as healthy lessons on what to never do again, and I will share one that has stuck with me for over 14 years.

I’m a very straightforward person and traditionally have had a hard time hiding my reactions, especially on my face. Early in my career, only having spent 2 years in the workforce, I was in a client meeting and someone on my team had said something that I thought was eyeroll-worthy, and so I did just that. Not realizing it, the client had seen that and reported the disconnect between our team to my boss. At the time I thought it was funny because I truly believed that person was full of it, and my boss got a good laugh out of it as well. But it taught me something so powerful: It taught me that you should never let a client or customer see any internal disagreements or struggles. You may completely disagree with something your colleague says or does in a meeting, but in front of the client, you should have a united front, otherwise they sense weakness.

Not only was that an incredible lesson for my career, but it has also been a vital part of my parenting strategy. My husband and I employ the united front at home and are very conscious of remaining unified in front of our kids!

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?

Culture is a tricky thing that has really become top of mind for a lot of executives lately, and a healthy culture really is key to any successful organization. In my experience, a company’s culture comes from its people, more specifically, from its leaders. Having worked for different companies of vary sizes and having experienced both good and bad work culture, I have seen how culture can create a really productive or an extremely toxic work environment.

At ShopThing our team is small, so creating a fantastic work culture and wok life is really important to us. It allows us to attract and retain incredible talent. We live by a few key principles and make sure all employees that join us feel the same:

Independence — we foster a culture of independence by empowering our employees to make their own decisions and be responsible for their own work. This means no micro-managing.

Fail fast — we don’t view failures as negative. In fact, we encourage failing. It allows us to learn and move forward.

Honest and open — this one is really big for me. I am a big believer of being open and honest with my employees, so that there are no surprises and no unknowns. So much so that I have personally helped my employees find other employment when they were no longer happy in their roles.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

1 — Exercise

This is an easy one, but perhaps the most important self-care routine that I practice for my body is exercise, usually in the form of playing squash, but more recently taking a ride on my Peloton. Not just for the obvious “high” that comes from exercise, but there is also a domino effect on the rest of my choices after I exercise. I’m sure many people can relate that they are more likely to make better food choices — salad vs. burger and fries — after exercise. I’m one of those people, and more than that, I also make better lifestyle choices (sleeping earlier, on the days that I’ve performed some kind of physical activity) and ultimately, all of that impacts my body and health.

2 — Yoga

Yoga is another one of my go-to self-care routines. Yoga isn’t just an incredible exercise and a way to stretch my muscles, it also gives me a lot of quite time to just be with my thoughts. I love how Yoga allows me to meditate without having to sit completely still and consciously meditate. Funny story, when I first started doing Yoga, many, many years ago, I began with a very easy flow class meant for beginners. This class was definitely more about meditation and relaxation rather than exercise, and the last 10–20 minutes of the class would be just that. I would become so relaxed, that I would often (almost every class), fall asleep on my mat and would be woken up by the instructor!

Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

1 — Book Club

This one definitely tops my list. Firstly, because reading itself helps the mind thrive, but also the incredible conversations and debates that come for my once-per-month book club dinners easily expand my world views. What’s so amazing about this routine is that each month one of the 8 ladies gets to choose the book we will read, and while we all have different preferences in what we would like to read, we are forced to step out of the ordinary and embrace new styles and genres that we would not have otherwise. Of course, once we’ve debated the book, we then spend over an hour catching up and helping each other through whatever work, family, social or other problems we may have.

2 — Podcasts

Outside of my book club, with three children and a demanding job, I don’t get a lot of time to read. But wanting to still be inspired and learn, I turned to podcasts. Ranging from sports (I’m a sucker for fantasy football) to business, I will fill any driving time I have with podcasts. There is nothing more that inspires me than listening to an episode of How I Built This, taking every lesson from every entrepreneur, and finding a way to implement those learnings into my own business.

Finally, can you share with us two routines that you use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)

1 — Family Time

Obviously for me family time is really high on my list when it comes to my heart. There is a lot of guilt that comes with being a working mother, especially for those that may choose to not take full maternity leaves or often travel and are away from their kids. Needless to say, for any women, being a mother and working are hard to balance and juggle. The routine I have started to implement when I’m with my family is really being present and putting away our connected devices. That means, no TV, no phones, no iPads, no technology. Just spending really good quality time together. That’s not always going to be the case and sometimes we give in and let them watch a bit of TV, but the key for me when I’m with my family is to take in as much of them as I can. I know that I won’t ever be able to get back these precious moments with them again. This has been really important for my emotional state and has allowed my heart to thrive. Then once they are fast asleep (fingers crossed), the laptop comes out and I’m back online.

2 — Date Nights

Another part of life that tends to go neglected when there are so many (cute) children around and busy careers is the romantic love life. My husband Chris and I really loved our time together doing something as simple as getting dressed up and dining out. Introduce children to the mix and we’re now not only tired after a long day at the office, but we’re exhausted trying to corral three children under 5, feed them, bathe them, break up fights, listen to tantrums and finally get them into bed. Most nights, we are asleep in their rooms before they are!

It was a big change to our life. We started making a conscious effort and a few years ago we began planning date nights so that we can have real adult conversations and meaningfully connect with one another again. Though I became pregnant a few times over the span of our plan, and we didn’t always have child care to enable date nights, we have maintained a healthy balance of getting away from everything and just being together. This is the second most important ritual for my heart and emotional well-being. Being on the same page makes us better parents and happier people.

When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?

I absolutely cannot live without my morning shower. No matter how busy it is, or if there are kids screaming outside the shower door, it is the one routine that stays constant in my life and allows me to positively start my day. You’ve probably heard about the concept of shower thoughts. Well, most of my best ideas and solutions to problems come from that sacred time I spend, completely alone, in the shower.

All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?

Rockstar days are by far my favourite days! They are usually days when I’ve had a great meeting, or I’ve just come across something that has really excited me about the vision of our company, or quite simply, none of my babies woke up and I got incredible sleep!! Those are the days when I tend to dress better, because I feel better. They consist of me making really clear decisions and feeling really confident about those decisions. It’s incredible how much your mood can affect your confidence and decision-making abilities! I can’t say that I’ve always been that way — It has definitely taken some time to fine tune and learn how to effectively and productively use those Rockstar days.

In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?

Being an entrepreneur goes hand-in-hand with having really low days. Days when you think you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life or you completely second guess your entire vision. It sounds dramatic, but when you feel so passionately about something and you so badly want it to succeed, the stakes are high. So, bad days are inevitable. What I’ve learned is that while I’m not feeling my best, it is always temporary, and I should not be making any game changing decisions on those days. I like to take a “time-out” in those scenarios. Sometimes it’s a day off, sometimes a long lunch and sometimes as simple as a 5-minute walk to reset. They key is to recognize that you’re having an off day and consciously making an effort to change it.

Do you have a story about the weirdest, most bizarre or most humorous wellness experience, treatment, practice, or practitioner that you’ve ever partaken in? If you do, we’d love to hear it.

This past year I was lucky enough to find myself in Morocco with 3 very close friends, who, like me, work too hard. We decided to go to the spa and have a lovely, relaxing afternoon by partaking in a traditional Moroccan Hammam experience. We had all heard about the exfoliating scrub treatment, but none of us had experienced it before.

Little did we know this treatment was a very intense full body scrub that required us to be naked in a room with each other, while a crew of ladies scrubbed our bodies. I mean, we knew each other pretty well, but this definitely brought us closer!

It ended up being an amazing experience, and we got a really great laugh from it all.

You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?

This is definitely one of the toughest parts of balancing a family life and a career. I obviously can’t expect the same behaviors from my 4, 2 or 1 year old as I do from the executive team at the office, but I often catch myself doing so. I’ve had to work hard on changing modes and moving from exec into mommy gear. The best way I’ve been able to do this successfully is to literally leave work behind me as I exit the office doors. That means, as soon as I get into the car, en route to pick up the kids, I have already changed gears. By the time we are at home, I’m ready to get on the floor to literally and figuratively roll around with my babes.

Of course, not all days are as clear cut as that and work certainly comes home with me, but when I’m at home with them or even on weekends, I try to be the best version of a loving caretaker as I can. Once the kids are all tucked in and asleep, the laptop comes out and I’m back into executive gear.

Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?

I’ve already made mention of this above, but the How I Built This podcast has had a big impact and has helped me thrive. Being an entrepreneur can sometimes be very lonely. It’s hard for those around you to truly understand what you’re going through and why there are so many emotional highs and lows. I found that the podcasts and listening to those entrepreneurs talk about their journey and how they overcame certain struggles really inspires me to push forward, especially on bad days. And on good days, they excite me and make me feel like I can do anything. The podcasts serve as a virtual one-way support group, where I can listen to the mistakes they have made, the struggles the have overcome and know that I’m not the only person that has gone through this.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We’re hearing this a lot this year, but sustainability is a cause that is near and dear to my heart — it always has been. This has been something that was instilled in me from a very young age, where I would see my mother repurpose and reuse as much as she could, simply because she hated waste.

My movement would be to create or fund a business with a focus on sustainability. Those who are solving one of the world’s biggest problems.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

It’s really cheesy to quote yourself, so I won’t do that, but I will impart a few things that I have picked up along the way and have turned into my own personal life lessons.

1 — It’s not supposed to be easy. If it were, someone would have already done it. Seriously. If it’s worth it, you will need to work hard!

2 — Balance is not always possible. To be the best at anything in life, you must put everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — into it. Your entire being, all of your energy, blood, sweat, tears etc. Think Steve Jobs, Wayne Gretsky, Michael Jordan — they lived and breathed their professions, above and beyond anything else.

What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Glad you asked!

You can follow ShopThing and our live shopping events here:

You can follow my personal page/lifestyle blog here —

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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