How I went from UWO to California.


I live in Laguna Niguel about two miles from the Pacific Ocean.

I grew up in Toronto and went to UWO in London.  I had never been to London before I arrived the first day at residence.  London was 12o miles from where I grew up.

When I went to Western I was reading a lot of books about Watergate and Richard Nixon.  President Nixon had a key advisor named Bob Haldeman who was his Chief of Staff and had worked at J. Walter Thompson, a large multinational advertising agency.  I thought that was pretty cool. I liked politics and I liked new things, maybe advertising was the career for me.  A couple years after graduation I joined JWT and I ended up working at JWT for ten years in Toronto and Chicago.

I had more than a few people at JWT tell me that the chairs in their office used to belong to Bob Haldeman.

Richard Nixon’s Western White House was in San Clemente. It overlooks some of the best surfing beaches in Southern California. One of them is Tresles which is one of the beaches mentioned in the Beach Boys Song, Surfin USA.  I go to the Farmers Market in San Clemente on Sundays.  It is one of my favorite Orange County towns.  I have walked on the same beaches that Richard Nixon walked although I don’t wear brogues like he used to.  I have had lunch on the San Clemente pier with my college roommates from Western who were visiting me.  I read the books about Watergate and the Western White House when I lived with them.

When I was 22 I visited Laguna Beach and said I want to live here. I live two miles away.  I work with a client in Laguna Beach and smile every time I look at the Pacific Ocean.

I only had a few road blocks to achieving my goals.  I didn’t live in the United States, didn’t have rights to legal residence in the U.S., I wasn’t in advertising, and I knew nobody at JWT. I didn’t even have a car. Big deal.

What I had were my dreams and I made them my goals.

Have any dreams?

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank


Watch a video on Why Graduates are Looking for Jobs in All the Wrong Places.


12 thoughts on “How I went from UWO to California.

  1. Amie Elizabeth Lauder

    Hank you are such an inspiration! I am also a Western grad who grew up in Toronto and have always had a love for traveling and seeing the world. My ultimate goal is to settle down in Cali just like you… it would be great if we could chat more about your experience sometime. I am currently working at a PR agency in Sao Paulo short term but would like to be in California by the end of this year. By the way.. I met Bob Woodward at a Conference in Washington last year at an event he was speaking at..he is also one of my heros. Once again, very interesting read. Thanks for sharing your article in the Canadian Expats group!!

  2. Hank, I really enjoyed your story though a little rueful that our paths are different. I am still on the road now in career transition after having many interesting endeavours and experiences at home in Montreal or abroad. Now I am actively pursuing another goal but one I had while growing up. My California is a little plot of land in Morgan Center Vermont on Lake Seymour. I cannot really express how refreshed I feel after reading your success story. Thank you for that.

    @Amie, we have many Canadian expats in the LinkedIn group situated in California, like Hank. Glad to have you aboard.

  3. Rob

    Hank, great story.

    12 years ago I brought my wife and kids to Disneyland, one day we went to the Rainforest Cafe in South Coast Plaza, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be great to live here?” And 9 years ago, as I was finishing up at Ivey, my daughter said, “Daddy, you need to find a job in a place that doesn’t have winter!” Interviewed with a company that said they had a job in Toronto and one in Los Angeles… almost said, “Is that a trick question?”.

    But now I’m living in Irvine, and smiling when I see the snow on the San Bernardino’s across the way…

  4. Adam

    Thanks Hank. This is great.

    I have been making my dreams my goals since I was 12 when I wanted to move to Canada. Moved to England at 14 and did my GCSEs and A-levels then at 18 moved to Halifax and now Toronto. After 7 years I have been thinking about how I want to live somewhere warm and near the ocean. For the past year I have been wanting to at least visit California but I guess I never made it my goal. 12 year old Adam wouldn’t be so proud.

    Thanks this short article reminded me of who I am and what I can do!

    I’ll see you in Cali 🙂

  5. Dwight

    I went from UWO, to U of T, to UC-Irvine to CEO of a small biotech service company in California. Go Mustangs and Blues! Good write up Hank.

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