Blog

Bringing about change, changes you. This is how it is changing me.

  • Failing this game is a privilege

    As a child I gave it 3 attempts. A first try. Another. If by the third I didn’t have the hang of it, whatever ‘it’ was, I had let it go and moved onto something that played to my strengths. Needless to say failure and I weren’t especially well acquainted. I either rocked at something, or I never really tried.

    I was raised on a diet of “you can be anything you want to be” and “you are good at anything you try your hand at”. Because I vetted what I turned my hand to, it became a self fulfilling prophecy. Now in adulthood things are far more complicated.

    Full time stay at home Mum and full time entrepreneur is not something I will get the hang of any time soon. It comes to 5pm any given day and I feel any combination of thwarted, overwhelmed, frazzled, maniacal, homicidal, or frustrated. On a good day, I’m aware that this is a perfectly acceptable combination of emotions.

    I have finally found something I’m ok failing at. Again. And again. And again.

    No one has cracked this nut. If there was a formula for combining a fulfilling entrepreneurial career and single parenthood its creator would be swimming Scrudge McDuck style in diamonds. I know I would happily contribute a few carats for the know-how.

    Failing at this game is a privilege. To walk away from this because it is ‘impossible’ to succeed at would be the greater failure. I know I can do meaningful work, and hold a loving impactful role in the lives of my children. I can lean in to my career and lean back into my motherhood and not be torn in two. The opposing forces should root me stedfast in the centre, right? For a fleeting moment at some point..?

     

     

  • It feels like failure. Its not.

    We worry about the little things. How our message will be received in that email. Whether we are under-dressed. If eating too many carbs today is a reflection of our level of self love.

    Then there are the big fears we don’t ever want to think about. Losing the ones we love. Losing our health. They only rear they heads when life is so sweet it hurts to behold.

    There are a whole series of worries in between, ones we have to ignore in order to pull the damned trigger and make shit happen. The worse case scenarios, the standard complications, the presuppositions you make, the timetables you create despite not actually being able to control all the variables.

    We alleviate these worries with advice. Professional advice we pay dearly for. We run the numbers. Look at case studies. Ask friends, anyone, who has been there before. We know the risks and we take them. Really, do we have any choice?

    The news always comes at a random &  inappropriate time. When you are on your way to parent-teacher conferences, just before you walk into a party, when you are blissed out from morning sex and check your phone padding down the hallway.

    It doesn’t feel like a part of the process. It feels like failure.

    Logically you knew it could happen. The mind is three steps ahead managing the fallout whist the hands shake and stomach roils with the toxic dread. The ground spins beneath feet you cant seem to move as the sky falls.

    And then it’s over. Moments?  Hours? Maybe a few weeks later.

    Looking back it was a part of the journey. Perhaps a blessing in disguise. You knew the risks. You acted anyway.

    The key is remembering this next time you are running the numbers and seeking advice.

  • The Creativity Of Comfort Zones

    Have you ever wondered why artists have studios? No, me neither. Isn’t it obvious. An artist creates a home for their art.
    A studio is built around the artist’s eccentricities; their preferences, their skills, their tools. It is often in a location they feel themselves. Studios are more than a workplace where art is created they are where the artist is resourced. Studios are a womb where artists are nurtured, an environmental midwife that ushers new art into the world.
    Creativity and Innovation are all the rage in business. ‘Creative’ used to describe a department that housed designers and writers. Creative is now table steaks, the new ‘touch typing 60 wpm’ or ‘proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel’. We are all expected to be creative. Perhaps rightly so.
    There is an inordinate amount of research done into the mystery of creativity. We have studied what happens in the brain during creative endeavours, how our neurology reacts to creative stimulus, the effect of classical music on creativity. The list is endless.
    There are many business articles written on the topic of creativity and business, often based loosely on the abstract of a paper or personal experience. Myths proliferate. Expectations rise. Picasso said every child was an artist, so if you aren’t creative now, you need to get out of your comfort zone. This particular myth is hazardous.
    Creativity does not come outside of your comfort zone. Creativity happens in your studio. Inspiration often comes from outside your comfort zone. Or while you’re doing the washing up.
    When we are at ease, when we feel safe, when we feel at our best, most confident we are more likely to take risks. When we are resourced, relaxed, unplugged inspiration strikes.
    There is science behind the wisdom that the longer we are in a routine and the same environment the more the brain will rest in auto pilot.  The same thing day-in, day-out does not inspire new thoughts, new perspectives or new ideas. It is important to do something different regularly to free up that additional brain power we put on ‘sleep mode’ when we are in a rut.
    Stretch yourself. Its healthy, creative and all round leads to fuzzy feelings and light bulbs. Marooning yourself in an alien environment on the other hand, will zap your resilience, knock your confidence and lead to distinctly uncreative solutions.
  • Nothing can exist without its opposite

    Batman needs, and wouldn’t exist without, villains like The Joker. Cold only has meaning if we understand it in relation to hot. The same goes for up and down. War cannot exist in a world that does not also include peace. Samsara and Nirvana are inextricably linked. Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. 

    What you want cannot exist in a world free of what you don’t want. One pole cannot exist without its opposite.

    The gem in this otherwise depressing news is that you can only experience one pole at a time. For example, if you are experiencing love, you cannot experience hate at that moment. If you are experiencing freedom, you cannot be experiencing captivity. If you are experiencing Success, you cannot be experiencing Failure. Scientists have even proven that if you are experiencing empathy you cannot be, in that moment, capable of violence.

    Don’t believe me. And please, ignore the science. This week when you feel like a project is getting nowhere, pay attention to the things that are rocking on the it and notice what changes. When you are judgmental of that annoying coworker, see what happens when you move to a place of compassion. Or, for shits and giggles, when you are joyously enjoying the sun and the relaxed pace of the weekend try to feel frustration and see if you succeed.

  • Compassion

    We give lip service to compassion. It is a lofty ideal that, more often than not, we use to calm ourselves when we are pissed off at someone else. For example when someone cuts us off in traffic or the check out chick is rude to us we talk ourselves back from a rage by being ‘compassionate’.

    Compassion is more than cutting someone slack. Compassion is deeper than considering someones feelings. Compassion goes beyond pity.

    I didn’t realise until I got the responses from my 150th blog post (the ask a friend challenge) how integral compassion is to who I am as a person in the world. I meditate on compassion. When someone wrongs me my response is, after the requisite clearing of the angry emotions (I’ll post on this process soon), to find genuine compassion. Finding that place of genuine compassion recongises that we all in this together. Compassion effortlessly forgives.

    Compassion means – to be deeply aware of the suffering of another. AND to have the desire to alleviate that suffering.

    I actively cultivate compassion. I focus on the suffering on untold millions and try to take it into my heart. It hurts. It is supposed to. I try to breathe out compassion. For myself. For untold millions. It is hard.

    Harder still. Hearing that my oldest friend lost his mother today. A graceful, impossibly strong woman with wicked sense of humour is lost to this earth. I don’t know what to say. Compassion is all I’ve got. Suddenly compassion doesn’t feel like enough.

  • Hard decisions are rare

    Some say that life is full of hard decisions. I disagree. I think there are half a dozen or so choices we make in life that really shape our direction. We put so much emphasis on little choices, fooling ourselves into believing that the outcome will matter in 5 years. I bet you can’t even recall most of the choices you made 5 years ago. I know I can’t.

    The simple way to know if the decision you are faced with will matter in 5 years, or shape your life is this;

    • Can you make another choice if it goes pear-shaped?
    • Is it permanent?
    • Will it shatter your view of the world completely and replace it with a radically new one?

    If the answer is ‘No’ to these questions, then I hazard a guess that it really isn’t a hard decision. It is probably simply a decision you wish you didn’t have to make. Either get clarity on what you really want, get more information or delay making the decision all together. Oh, and the rest of the stuff that goes to hell without you making a specific decision about it, probably couldn’t have been avoided. So they aren’t hard decisions either.

    So next time you are having a hard time choosing, try putting it in perspective. The decision will get a whole lot easier.

  • Being in the moment; wand or a carrot?

    There is much to be said for, and indeed much said about, being in the moment. Being in the moment is so elusive that many assume that achieving such awareness will be the magic wand to their problems. Sadly not.

    Being in the moment affords us the opportunity to:

    • observe what is happening around us
    • tune into our emotions
    • be aware of our needs
    • release our fears and hopes
    • act without the influence of our neuroses

    In essence being in the moment gives us clarity and freedom but it doesn’t change the moment. There will always be:

    • competing priorities
    • infinite options
    • unfortunate situations
    • unknown factors
    • things we can’t control

    Being in the moment just gives us a chance to see these things as they really are, free from our neuroses and the stories we tell ourselves about how it ‘should be’, what ‘they expect’ and what we ‘ought to do’ if only we were ‘good enough’. Being in the moment allows us to deal with what is in front of us as opposed to what is swimming around in our heads.

    Finally being fully aware of the moment without the skills to mindfully act in the moment is like turning up to a gun fight with a carrot. Being in the moment is one aspect of a healthy psyche, but only one and  in the end all roads lead to Rome.

  • What I learned about myself playing Chess…

    1. Safety first. I take risks, but only calculated ones.
    2. I am only happy when I can anticipate my opponent.
    3. Unless I have a strategy I feel vulnerable (even when my King is safe and sound).
    4. Tactics are the natural love child of strategy and methodology.
    5. I don’t like to feel controlled.
    6. I dislike being reactive.
    7. If the ship is sinking I look for ways to jump. If I think it’s a lost cause I wont flog a dead horse.
    8. I underestimate myself.
    9. I find it easier to see the pros of another and the cons of myself.
    10. I don’t have a poker face.
    11. I care way too much about pawns (Compassion or stupidity? You tell me.)
    12. I’m not comfortable with the ethos the end justifies the means.
    13. Once I have a strategy, I am like a dog with a bone.
    14. Once a piece has a role it pains me to have it multi-task.
    15. I avoid direct competition for a reason (its not good for the soul).
    16. I can be spiteful.
    17. I strongly dislike not being skillful in an area.
    18. I can turn anything into an exercise in self awareness.
  • Flexibility

    Flexibility is dependent on trust. The most flexible people I know are also the most grounded & self assured people I know. That is no coincidence.

    When are you most flexible? I am most flexible with the people I trust the most and in places where I feel most at home. I am flexible when I don’t have an agenda to push or outcomes to achieve. I am flexible when I am in my element and know the lay of the land. And, no, my flexibility has nothing to to do with being engaged to a Yoga Instructor.

    I am least flexible when there are unknown elements at play, when I am inexperienced or uncertain. I am inflexible when I am preoccupied with an aganda or afraid of being judged. I am uncompromising when I don’t trust myself.

    The secret of flexible people is that they know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that come what may they can handle it. They trust themselves to withstand the unknown. The secret of flexible people is paradoxical, the secret of flexible people is their (inner) strength.

  • Change

    The only constant is change. Perhaps that’s why we don’t notice it. Until the change reaches tipping point that is. Then everything is different.

    We don’t notice our faces age every day; The millimetres children grow every day; The changes in the length of the day. We do notice laugh lines before 30; that the baby can reach objects on the table; that all of a sudden it seems to be dark before we leave work.

    Our blind spots extend beyond the simple observations of things we take for granted. We don’t notice changes in our lives, our habits, our opinions, our feelings, our behaviours. We are often oblivious to the way our environment changes us, but it does.Have you ever been changed by something you witnessed? Something you experienced? The loss of a loved one that makes you more aware of your blessings? The end of a relationship that changes your outlook on love? The loss of a job that makes you re-arrange your priority list?

    I have had a few experiences changed me instantaneously, the irony here is that the changes those experiences precipitated were a long time coming.

    • I had 9 months to prepare for motherhood. I changed every single day of my pregnancy. I became less and less selfish, more and more aware of the needs of my baby. I became more and more focused on the present, because the future was too uncertain to imagine. I relied more and more on loved ones as I became less and less physically (and at times mentally- who leaves their wallet in the fridge?) capable.
    • After the accident I deferred Uni and took some time to re-assess my life direction. If I am honest with myself, the decision to scrutinise my life had its roots 18 months earlier in the first few weeks of Uni. I realized shortly after the novelty of drinking between lectures had worn off, that Uni wasn’t the fertile ground I was looking for. It wasn’t until the accident that I could see the subtle ways my life direction had changed.

    Change is incremental more often than it is monumental. You change every moment of every day. You change to become more like the people you spend time with. You change to become more like the thoughts you most think and the emotions you most feel.

    The only constant is change. Perhaps that’s why we don’t notice it.

  • Balance

    Believe it or not, balance is a naturally occurring state. Something either balances or it doesn’t. It flows or it doesn’t. Making something balanced by brute force will never work, because when the force is gone so is the balance.

    If we try to force balance in our lives we are never able to relax.We become exhausted and our forced balance begins to slip. We feel ‘out of balance’ and we go looking for tools, techniques and coaches to teach us how to manhandle things back into a forced balance.

    We have all done it. I know I used to. I sense that something was consuming too much energy and pulling me off centre so I would work extra hard, ‘fire myself up’ in the hope of creating more energy or try to prop everything else up.

    We feel we are not spending enough time with our friends. It would help to spend a leisurely afternoon and spending quality, restorative and refreshing time with a friend. Instead we over schedule ourselves trying to catch up with everybody in the same weekend. Or we feel like work is taking over our life so we do more overtime believing if we work super-duper-ridiculous hours we will get on top of it. All we end up doing is working more, and finding more work to do. The ‘on top of it’ moment never comes.

    So what other choices do we have? We could quiet the noise, cease the busyness and just listen for a moment. Listen to what you really want to do next. You see when we feel off kilter we usually have a deeply hidden desire. Your intuition is whispering the ideal counterbalance. A yearning so simple we most often dismiss it. An unpretentious pleasure, easily achieved. If you tune in & act on the quiet voice the outcome is remarkable; instant balance.

    Some of the small indulgences that have saved my sanity in the past include:

    1. A pot of peppermint tea
    2. Fine dark chocolate
    3. A walk along the beach
    4. Old movies
    5. Reading a great book
    6. Journaling
    7. A sleep in
    8. A day at the Museum
    9. A good cry
    10. Putting my feet up
    11. Singing at the top of my lungs
    12. Buying fresh flowers
    13. Sitting in the park under a tree
    14. Hiding in a secluded café for an hour
    15. A weekend away

    A girlfriend I caught up with recently named pedicures as one of her balance inducing activities.

    None of these are goal orientated activities. In and of themselves they don’t  actually achieve anything. That is the key. You don’t create a balanced environment ripe for producing results by being results focused all the time. You have to play as hard as you work.

    My small indulgences create space for me to stop ‘doing’ and just ‘be’. They break the cycle of craziness long enough for me to breathe. After a breath and a moment of real ‘me-ness’ my natural balance bubbles up to the surface and I can move on with more grace.

    Now when I feel off balance I take my foot off the gas instead of flooring it.

  • About Feedback

    You are your own worst critic.

    For most everybody I know this cliché holds true. We hone in on the slightest flaw, in something otherwise exceptional, and blow it totally out of proportion. Some of us, I know I have been guilty of this, imagine potential feedback to be something totally horrifying that would support our belief that we are crap.

    Why then are so many of us terrified of feedback? Could honest feedback possibly any worse that the tirade of abusive thoughts you have about yourself? Those around us are infinitely more compassionate and reasonable than we are when evaluating our performance. While we obsess that we sound too pushy, look too dressy, make no sense, generally aren’t good enough those around us are oblivious to our torturous thoughts. They usually are too busy wrestling with their own inner critic to give you a second thought.

    Most of us think of surveys, KPI meetings, arguments and “does my bum look big in this?” when we think of feedback but it doesn’t have to be this way. Asking for real meaningful feedback and being prepared to listen to the answers is a liberating experience. Just this week I elicited feedback from close friends about some business plans and a client about my coaching sessions. I sweated blood waiting for their responses and literally danced a happy dance around the living room when the responses came back.

    I want you to do a happy dance too. Here are some simple ways of recalibrating your inner critic and getting real feedback:

    1. Asking girlfriends to take a look at your resume
    2. Asking your partner/best friend to tell you which outfit they think flatters you most
    3. Ask a client for a testimonial
    4. Ask a colleague what you do best
    5. Ask your boss what skill you could develop to position you for a promotion
    6. Ask a friend how they would describe you in 3 words (I guarantee you they wont say Failure, Loser, Worthless or big-fat-loser)