A Cure for the Restless

Fine Arts

- Hugo Wong

A creator with a connection 

When Kelsey Ramsden (BA ’00) introduces herself, she says she is “a creator who values intimate connection.” It is not her job title, but this approach is woven into all she does. When faced with a choice or challenge, she refers back to that introduction and encourages others to do the same.

Ramsden is the author of Success Hangover: Ignite your next act. Screw your status quo. Feel alive again, released by Lioncrest Publishing last fall. It was written for people who accomplish their long-term goal—such as earning a degree or promotion—yet feel unsatisfied.

Ramsden, who has spent much of her life in the construction industry, says building personal fulfillment was not always front of mind. “I was never a tremendously interested student,” reflects Ramsden, who describes herself as being on and off academic probation. After failing a calculus class, she switched from biology to economics, which saw her interest and her grades rise. She did well in electives and subjects she liked, such as theoretical physics, but only scraped by when it was a course just to “check a box.”

The feelings of graduation

When she graduated from UVic in May 2000, her walk across the stage did not bring the sense of fulfillment she was seeking. “I had the sense that graduating would complete a loop. I’d feel better, I’d feel accomplished, I’d know what I was doing,” she says, speaking from her home in Lon­don, Ontario.

It is a feeling she experienced time and again— including after earning her MBA from Western University. Since then, Ramsden has been extremely successful in business, including being named Canadian Female Entrepreneur of the Year twice. While accomplishing this, she also raised three children and battled glassy cell carci­noma, a rare form of cervical cancer.

“Sometimes when we arrive at that place, where we have so many choices, we thought the way forward would be obvious,” she says. “It’s really a turning point of saying: what do you want?” she says.

“They get their undergrad, their MBA, their pro­motion...they’re checking that next level of suc­cess but they feel like, immediately after that dopamine high wears off, they feel not good. They’re hungover, and they’re on the chase for what’s next.”

UVic experience

Instead of focusing on big accomplishments like an award or a raise, she prefers prioritizing innate qualities and incremental changes, rather than making a big dramatic gesture. When asked to introduce themselves, Ramsden says people tend to define themselves by what they do instead of who they are. Switching from their job title to more innate personal traits to describe and define them­selves can allow people to find common threads between all their activities, and also to eliminate options by making a more decisive choice when possibilities might seem overwhelming.

Despite championing incremental changes, she does not regret any of her accomplishments, including her time at UVic.

UVic, in particular, is one of those really inter­esting places where you get the rich petri dish where new and innovative things come out of by virtue of proximity. Because of the size of the campus, it was not uncommon for business kids to hang out with artists or biologists going up island.
—UVic grad and author of Success Hangover Kelsey Ramsden

These days, Ramsden still values an interdisci­plinary approach. She continues to head up sev­eral businesses but has begun leading retreats throughout the year for herself and her fellow par­ticipants. Most recently, she organized a retreat that combined meditation with the sharpshooting of targets, meant for people wanting to explore or challenge their existing sense of self.

“People are going to want to know who you want to be. The truth is you already are; there’s no one to become. We’re asking the wrong question,” says Ramsden. “The real question is: ‘Where do you want to apply who you are?’”

Visit the Success Hangover website for more information.


In this story

Keywords: alumni, writing

People: Kelsey Ramsden

Publication: The Torch

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