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October 10, 2015

'Dragons' Den' Star Arlene Dickinson on Her New Book, 'Persuasion,' and Why Sofia Vergara Is a Good Role Model

by Annette Bourdeau, posted Sep 27th 2011 10:00AM
You may know her remarkable back-story by now: 'Dragons' Den' sweetheart Arlene Dickinson went from being a broke, divorced mother of four without custody of her children at age 31 to being one of the most widely respected entrepreneurs in Canada. The secret to her success? Persuading herself she was capable of anything.

It's pretty rare that people completely overhaul their lives past 30, which is part of what makes Dickinson's new book, 'Persuasion,' so compelling. While it's a business book at its core, Dickinson illustrates her points with some very personal anecdotes, including her painful divorce, her struggle to win custody of her children and her excommunication from her Mormon church. She even opens up about the affair she had towards the end of her rocky first marriage.

'Persuasion' outlines how you, too, can become a rock star when it comes to principled persuasion. Dickinson hopes the book will appeal to a broad base, from fellow marketers and entrepreneurs to people at home who want their voices to be heard. AOL TV caught up with Dickinson to chat about everything from her decision to get personal in the book to why Gloria (Sofia Vergara) from 'Modern Family' can be an inspiration to us all.

Why did you decide to focus on persuasion in particular?
I'm a marketer, and part of our job is to influence and persuade people to be engaged with our clients. That, plus I'm on the stage at 'Dragons' Den' and people are always trying to persuade us to invest with them. It was this combination of thinking about how my life has really been about getting people to come along with me, and what I think people need to do in order to persuade more effectively.

You have a lot of really fascinating personal anecdotes in here. Did you ever consider doing a memoir instead of a business book?
No, I didn't. I wanted to use my life to illustrate my points, not use the book to talk about my life. I wanted people to know that making mistakes and going through the journey was something that you could do, and the only way I could do that was by talking about my own experience. I don't think that people would want to read my memoir, but they might want to hear about my business lessons.

You write about some really personal things. Did you struggle with the decision to include some of your more personal struggles, such as your excommunication from your church?
Definitely. People often ask if I have regrets. I don't. There's stuff in there that I'm not particularly proud of, not my best shining moments in terms of some of the choices that I've made, but they're my choices and I made them and I have to be responsible for them. It was hard, but it was the truth. And it made it easier because I felt like I wasn't trying to hide anything. And I hopefully said it in a way that was thoughtful and reflective, not damning and mean.

It really speaks to the whole authenticity piece you talk about in the book. You're putting your money where your mouth is.
Yeah. I thought I needed to. I can't really tell people to do it and then say, "But you guys be honest, since I'm not going to be."

Has it become easier to persuade people since you've been on TV?
It's different. There's a view of people on TV that creates this special armor. You get treated a little differently, and as a result I don't think people persuade in the right way, because they're too stymied by the persona that they believe you have from television. And I keep saying this is who I am. Just talk to me like a regular person.

I was shocked by some of the things people have said to you since you've been on TV, like asking how much money you have!
[Laughs] I get asked that all the time! There are lots of people who have published whatever. My point is always the same: people will say what they want to say. I'm a private person. How much money I make and what I do is my business.

Can you think of any fictional TV characters who exemplify good or bad persuasion tactics?
I think Gloria on 'Modern Family' is a very good persuader. She understands exactly what people are about, and she listens to them and she doesn't care how people view her because she has her own mind. I like her style.

And she emphasizes the reciprocity.
Yes. She's as giving as she recognizes what she needs to have done. I like her character.

What's your single biggest piece of advice for people who don't believe they can turn their lives around?
Stop telling yourself you can't turn your life around. It starts and stops by persuading yourself that you do have it in you to do it.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book to me was the part about self-persuasion. Do you think you may have a follow-up with specific goals like weight loss, which you address very briefly towards the end of the book?
I do have a couple of things I would like to chat about. If this book is well-received, and I hope it is, then I would love to talk about leadership. There are lots of books on leadership, but I think that's a topic that I care about, particularly for women. Then from a perspective of life tips, maybe! [Laughs] I've certainly made enough mistakes, I should be able to write a book full of them! Don't do this. Don't eat so much and then you won't need to lose weight. Things that I've done.

Is there anything else you think readers might be interested in hearing?
I did launch a line of products around the book. That's something that hasn't been done before. As a marketer I wanted to see if you could take the essence of the book and think about what people do when they read, so I've launched a wine called Persuasion. Chocolates. Coffee beans and skin care products. Wine, chocolate, coffee -- I do all of those things when I read. And put face cream on at the same time! [Laughs]

You can watch 'Dragons' Den' at 8PM on Wednesdays on CBC.

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