Loneliness and the danger of BFFs


There has been a lot of media coverage around loneliness recently and for good reason. In the 2016 Aotearoa State of the Nation’s Social Wellbeing survey, many respondents identified being lonely ‘all of the time’, ‘most of the time’ or ‘some of the time’ over previous four weeks. On a positive note, we can flip that, and report that nearly 64% of all respondents over the age of 15 reported no feeling of loneliness in the previous four weeks. Loneliness does seem to decrease with age, with nearly 17% of youngies (aged 15 to 24) reporting feelings of loneliness during the prior four weeks, compared with less than 10% of those aged 65 to 74 (although it was unsurprisingly higher for the 75+ age bracket).

I stated in my blog last year about the changing face of romantic partnerships and that society’s obsession with ‘finding the one’ had a lot to answer for. Think about fairy tales and Hollywood movies where a glorious picture is painted of marital bliss. There can be a fair bit of drama thrown but the living happily ever after was the standard outcome. Real life relationships tend to have the drama but so many end up anything but ‘happy ever after’ and I think it has a lot to do with unrealistic expectations.

A little side note on living ‘happily ever after’. In her book Conscious Uncoupling, Katherine Woodward Thomas states that fairy tales were invented in late 16th century Venice, which was post renaissance, and the first time that all classes were literate. A hopelessly romantic author called Giovanni Francesco Straparola wrote the first fairy tales, which gave (for the first time) the opportunity for the poor classes to escape ‘their lot’ and to imagine what it might be like to marry a prince! (Not that it would ever happen in real life, in fact it was illegal in the 1520s for a noble person to marry outside of their social group). The interesting thing is the statement ‘and they ALL lived happily ever after’. There was life expectancy of less than 40 years and 60% of people died before their 16th birthday, so to all be living happily was for many a very positive outcome.

I don’t think that these unrealistic expectations are limited only to romantic relationships. I think if you look at any teenage movie, the whole concept of BFF (best friend forever) is also a bit idealistic, and as the characters in the movies age through their 20’s and 30’s, these bestie friendships prevail. You know the sort, think the sitcom ‘Friends’ as the ultimate. A closely-knit bunch of friends, who can’t seem to do anything without each other, and who experience life’s ups and downs as a team, not an individual.

But how many of us actually have those individuals or groups of friends in our lives? Personally, I feel very blessed with the amazing people in my life, but many of my really special friends live outside of Auckland, and we don’t get to see each other that often. Of the wonderful friends who I have in close surrounds, there isn’t a group of us who do the ‘Friends’ stuff every weekend.

Maybe it’s an age thing. Certainly, when you think of besties in TV programs and movies (eg Thelma and Louise and Bridesmaids) the stars are in their 20’s and 30’s not 40’s and 50’s. But then, there is another group phenomenon which I think equally applies to the older generations and that’s family holidays away at the beach and….camping! Are you one of those lucky ones (some of you I know would certainly not call camping trips lucky) who is part of a bunch of families who take off to a wonderful NZ or Oz location around the same time every year (it’s usually around now)? I know this tradition can span decades. My brother has a great group of mates who all meet in tents and caravans at off the beaten track spots in the South Island, and they’ve been doing it for around 20 years.

Of course I can imagine, just like the seemingly perfect romantic partnerships, it’s not all going to be sunshine and happiness in these gatherings. But it must work in the main, otherwise, wouldn’t you just stop going?

So back to loneliness and the feeling that everyone else has besties or BFFs. To translate that into practical terms, someone who will come to the movies with you at last minute’s notice. Someone who you have a regular Sunday afternoon date of a walk and a drink afterwards. When I was regularly one on one coaching, a common theme that came up was feelings of isolation, in spite of being in a relationship. Entertaining and socializing was often ranked low in the tolerations matrix (email me if you would like a free copy of the tolerations matrix) and when I explored this with my clients further, they usually said something like they were too busy, or they simply never got around to it. Most times they were in relationships and they generally agreed that to rely on one person for the majority of their conversation and stimulation outside of the work environment was a bit unrealistic (especially if, as some of them did, your hubby prefers to tinker in his workshop every evening and weekend!).

Personally, I think many of us have lost the art of building and maintaining friendships. Some of us get resigned to the fact that now we are older, it’s harder to make new friends. Certainly, as we move out of our twenties and into our thirties and forties, juggling career and children can make investing the time trickier, but I think it’s really important that we make the time. Check out this sobering article from Psychology Today which lists a bunch of stats on the reduction of friends as you age. But I don’t think it has to be this way.

It reminds me of one of my favourite ever quotes from Richard Bach; ‘argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours’.

Here are my three key ideas on ensuring that you don’t have massive FOMO (fear of missing out) in the friends department;

1.  Change your expectation of BFFs and close-knit groups.

I think that in reality that functional BFF relationships are less common than you think. I use the word ‘functional’ because sometimes we can be drawn to exclusive bestie type arrangements because we are hankering for something from our past. Check out this interesting article where the author realized she was trying to recreate the intimacy with her bestie, that she had with her mum growing up (solo mum/only child). She realized that she was getting just a wee bit dramatic and jealous about her BFF and it wasn’t serving either of them. I did want to include the topic of drama in friendships, particularly dramatic dumping of friends (usually by text), but there is just soo much material on that, that I will save that for a separate blog – would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

I also think that rather than a single friend or even group of friends (a la ‘Friends’) that we have a wonderfully complex and divergent set of interests and needs that are better fulfilled by a bunch of friends.

Check out this quote by Janna Koretz, a Boston based Clinical Psychologist;

 “We are all looking for a best friend—but that’s not really realistic as an adult. One friend doesn’t have to offer everything. I have a lot of friends I wouldn’t call if I was having a bad day, but I’d invite them to play. You can have one friend you love to talk about fashion with, someone else you go running with, another whom you call to help you get through a crisis. It can be fulfilling to have friendships on different levels.”

Certainly for me, I have my friend needs met by a wonderfully different bunch of individuals. Check out this blog from last year about home birthers in high heels or this brilliant advert from Scandinavia about how we don’t have to pop people in to ‘boxes’ any more. There is no reason that a tight group of friends can’t be diverse, but with our interesting almost subliminal attraction to ‘like’ people, it’s probably the exception rather than the norm. Having a bunch of different friends with different backgrounds is interesting!

And don’t believe that everyone else is having a better and more social time than you! I remember when I was single in my 30’s, one of the hardest times for me to deal with was holidays and long weekends, when everyone else took off with their boyfriends. Today is the Monday of Auckland anniversary weekend, and apart from bumping into a lovely friend at the harbour bridge lights viewing on Saturday night, I haven’t done one social thing. And don’t believe what you see in social media. This Youtube clip about the fake-ness of an ‘insta-life’ cuts a little close to the bone; I am so glad that social media wasn’t around when I truly worried that I wasn’t having as great a social life as others.

2.  Value being yourself and value your friends for who they are.

There have been times where I have had some friends who have been super critical of me and decisions I have made. There have also been times where I have been super critical of my friends and decisions they have made. Why do we have to judge those closest to us? We are all fallible and if we get all self righteous on this, then the friendship is likely to wane over time.  

I love my present friendships particularly because I don’t have to try to be any different to who I am, and nor do they to who they are. If you find that you can’t be totally yourself around them, then you are probably doing both parties a favour by letting the friendship lapse.

Likewise if we have high expectations on friends, for example, how often they ring you. Or if they don’t include you in every social invitation. I remember once feeling horrified when I unexpectedly discovered that two friends were socializing together, when it was usually the three of us who went out with each other. I mean I truly felt like I had been kicked in the guts. But the reality is, they had no obligation whatsoever to include me. Sometimes we are going to be left out of opportunities we would like to be involved in. Sometimes, we are going to want to catch up with one friend and not the other one who is usually invited too.

A healthy level of self-awareness helps here. I think a lot of my upset was due to my obsessive need to be liked in my earlier years and there were definitely some ego and identity triggers pulled too. Relying on external circumstances to feed this wasn’t healthy and I have learned to truly enjoy my alone time.

Friendships can change over time, as people grow and their circumstances change. It’s a good idea to come to terms with that too. Friends who you used to see weekly, you might now only see once or twice a year. Have you ever had the experience of a close friend moving into your town, only to find out that you see each other less than when you lived in separate cities? Trying to hold on to a friendship for nostalgic purposes usually ends in disappointment and frustration.  I don’t think there is any need to have a “D and M” (deep and meaningful) about it; simply naturally accepting that like the tides, friendships come and go will help with any upset.

And finally, honour yourself in your friendship. Accepting friends for who they are does not give them the right to treat you like shit. If you are constantly being let down by a friend, verbally abused or betrayed, then it’s probably time to let the friendship go. Narcissistic and sociopathic behaviour is not only limited to the realms of romance, work and family. Liking and accepting yourself goes along way to extracting yourself from toxic relationships (more on this will be discussed in the drama blog!).

3.  Don’t just sit around waiting for the phone to ring, the invite to come or the text/messenger to pop in.

Your friends have their own lives. Your friends are busy. Some of your friends are absolutely overwhelmed with the many things in their world and can hardly schedule in time with their own families. Don’t make it mean anything that the phone doesn’t ring. Don’t (within reason) do that tit for tat thing and think ‘well I rang her last time, it’s her turn this time’. This blog about why people don’t return calls is as relevant for personal relationships as it is for business relationships.

Do you have anyone who you could ring or text today to see if they wanted to go out to the movies tonight? I recently wondered this myself, then I realized that there are a bunch of people I could invite, even though I hadn’t ever done the ‘spontaneous ring’ with them before! Most of them, surprisingly, aren’t out every night, fending off multiple invites. Most would love a night out with a friend, but haven’t got the emotional energy or sometimes even the confidence to do so. It’s just an invite! But we so often find excuses to not ring or press send. Personally, I prefer to ring or send an individual message, but if you like the idea of posting an ‘anyone around’ invite on FB, then go for it!

How about making some new friends? One of the cool things about being a coach and being in some professional communities full of fabulous people is that I have met some wonderful new friends. But again it takes something. I have scheduled a number of ‘hey you seem interesting, would you be interested in having a coffee or walk some time?’ dates, some which haven’t led to anything, and others which have turned into solid friendships. If you don’t meet people through your work, then Meetups is an amazing source of gatherings to discover friendships.

And what about old friends? A couple of weeks back I spent fabulous time (separately) with two very dear friends who were in drama productions with me over 25 years ago. Even though we all live in the same city, we simply don’t see each other that often. And that’s ok! But, if you are feeling lonely, or simply would like some company, then give them a call.

And finally, keep an eye out for friends in need. It is so easy to get tied up in our own lives, that we don’t simply check in to see how someone is going, who is presently in a crisis. I have sadly had to resort to having a ‘check in to see if ok’ list on my tasks app, so I can remember to do so. It really helps me to take some action, even if I send a text saying ‘thinking of you’ from time to time. And likewise, if you are experiencing a crisis yourself, please don’t feel resistant to reaching out and asking your friends for help. Most people love (some even relish!) the opportunity to do so.

And as a final final health note; if this blog leaves you feeling paralysed with fear; that you couldn’t possibly reach out to friends or find new ones, then it’s important to seek out professional help, eg a therapist or coach (it is well worth the expense, and you will most likely get benefit even from one or two sessions). Or at the very least, upskill yourself with a recommended book or online research. It’s usually because of confidence or self-worth issues and remaining isolated is not going to help. Loneliness sucks, and if you are depressed or stuck, being in the company of others is so important. Connection to others is about the most amazing gift of being human.

Posted on February 19, 2018 .

The feeling that we are accepted and that we belong

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(Firstly, thanks to those of you who responded to my last blog about wasbands and werewives. I refer later in this blog how viral this went; it even ended up in the South China Morning Post!)

I have just returned from presenting to various Women in Tech groups in the United States with my twin sister Josie, under our new brand Twinovate (I am the one behind the podium in the photo!). We were lucky enough to present at Salesforce, Apple, Planet Lab and to host a workshop at the incredible Grace Hopper 2017 women in computing conference in Orlando, Florida. Our topic was 'quit apologising, justifying and over-explaining'. It was incredible seeing how much this resonated with the audiences with both an oversubscribed session and the subsequent feedback we received.  Check out this article and video about us from SiliconANGLE to get an overview of what we were on about.

The key points focused on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) who second-guess themselves, use cautious language, and don’t confidently express themselves/contribute unapologetically. We call it the ‘apology epidemic’ and the insidious thing about it, is that in many instances, women are not even aware that they are doing it.

We provided some powerful strategies, eg how to realise how often you do it (check out our Facebook page for our apology bingo sheet and other diagnostics like the gmail Just Not Sorry plug-in) and how to deal with the individuals in their organisation who might not take too kindly to a new more assertive communication style. 

But for me, that is all ‘symptom’ stuff, and if we really want to live a life full of confidence, self-expression and freedom then feeling accepted for who we are and being unapologetically OURSELVES is key to this…

…(of course I am not alone in this, most personal development frameworks have authenticity as a primary focus).

What was special for me, was observing how much the value of inclusion was embraced. 18,000 attendees at Grace Hopper, and so much discussion about diversity. It was okay to have these conversations! It was okay to share your concerns around ‘offending’ someone and not walking on egg shells when talking about so called sensitive topics. So much acceptance of everyone, regardless of size, age, gender preference, race and personality. There were even little ribbons you could pop on your name tag to reflect the pronoun you like when referring to yourself (I had never even heard of Ze and Hir before this conference, and if you haven’t yet yourself, I recommend you find out more!).

What truly struck me about this was how this affects individuals who have spent their life feeling like an outcast. Who because of society’s confusion, awkwardness and judgement around ‘different’ have never felt like they belong anywhere. Who have spent their whole lives hiding their ‘real selves’ because of fear (real or imagined) of ridicule. I know some who wouldn’t even dare attend a conference like this in the past.

Danielle Brown, Chief Diversity and Inclusion officer at Google was a host on this brilliant Harvard Ideacast earlier in the year, talking about the value of diversity. 

She refers to diversity as accepting anything different about someone and about addressing the whole person. Inclusion is feeling accepted for that in a community.

Addressing the whole person and accepting anything different. It is something super important to me, because I have spent so much of my life trying to fit in.

As an identical twin, growing up in the conservative ‘80’s, I spent my life craving to feel accepted and not liking

  1. the way I looked (frizzy red hair, freckly and skinny, buck teeth, and there were two of us!)
  2. the way I sounded (sooooo loud, overwhelming and over excitable, constantly being told to ‘calm down’)
  3. the way I moved (completely uncoordinated, awkward, clumsy and walking with a strange bounce).

Isn’t this something that affects almost all of us? Aren’t we craving to belong and be accepted because of the negative messages we received (or told ourselves) as kids around the way we looked, sounded, moved or acted?

That’s why Diversity and Inclusion is such a phenomenal movement in the business world. Some people write it off as overkill, others can’t see past the race or male/female element but it is so much more than that.

For me it’s about that glorious feeling that we belong, that we are accepted and that we can ‘fit in’ and ‘stand out’ at the same time. It’s about freely living a life that works for us, and inspiring others to do the same.

Some individuals might say that they have absolutely no need to belong or feel accepted. Here is an interesting quote from Brene Brown’s latest book ‘Braving the Wilderness’;

“Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you don’t belong. Because you will always find it… our worth and our belonging are not negotiated with other people; we carry those inside of our hearts."

I do believe we have the answers in ourselves and don’t need to look outside of ourselves for approval. I do believe it’s ‘up to us’. But it usually takes time and investment to ‘do the work’ and get to this stage (and because we are humans, I don’t think anyone masters it 24 x 7). Doesn’t it make sense to expect the ‘outside world’ to do its bit and create more opportunities for people to feel like they belong?

The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit together for me personally.  Diversity and inclusion has everything to do with the apology epidemic and everything to do with unapologetic lifestyles and careers. 

A vision that I created way back in 2006 when I was coaching with the amazing Sally Anderson was...

“Igniting passion and love in community, and trusting everyday life as the ultimate celebration”.

This still stands true all these years later. If every day, we feel part of a community, including a workplace, then life is simply better. But so is business! As Danielle Brown states ‘Diversity is good for business’. I think I will save that conversation for another blog, along with neurodiversity, which is super exciting! Check out BBC’s series Employable Me, for an extraordinary example of accepting someone else who thinks differently (and leveraging that difference in your business).

Back to the wasbands and werewives blog and the stir it created. Firstly Stuff wrote the article, supposedly for their  ‘Homed’ section, but it ended up on the front page of their news site, complete with a picture. Then The NZ Herald requested an interview, as did The Daily Mail. I am on the am Show on Monday 13th November at 8:50am talking about it too. There are loads of comments on the articles, mostly positive and I have been inundated personally with wonderful feedback.

So why did it generate such interest? From what I can gather, by being super open about what our relationship is and what it’s not, it helped people feel a lot better about not living the ‘Hollywood romance’. Feeling like you belong, regardless of your relationship status is huge, and relationship forms are changing. Check out this blog about the traditional arrangements being challenged.

I am  presently facilitating “Unapologetic Women in STEM” workshops in New Zealand, Australia and (with Josie under our brand Twinovate) in the United States. It doesn’t only apply to STEM of course, these can be run in any organisation that wants to celebrate unapologetic behaviour (without giving permission to be a jerk). Please contact me personally if you would like to know more.

When we can unapologetically contribute to the vision of our company, good things happen, especially around innovation and collaboration. But it’s embracing the diversity that comes with that which creates the true value for business. And I for one am enjoying supporting individuals to have that fabulous sense of belonging (both from within and outside of them), feeling accepted (ditto), and unapologetically celebrating themselves for who they are, how they live and how they think. Diversity is GREAT for business!!!

Posted on November 2, 2017 .

Wasbands and Werewives - a new form of marriage

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A couple of years ago, my husband Geoff and I were in a bad way in our relationship. As much as we both loved each other dearly and were both committed to our marriage and raising our children together, things just didn’t seem to be working. We were grumpy with and hostile to each other and constantly felt that the continual focus we both had on the relationship was just such hard work. For me personally I was feeling like a failure, because this wasn’t the way I felt a marriage ‘should’ be. Geoff (who has read this blog and is okay with me sharing our story - in fact he publishes my social media posts, so may 'edit' it without me knowing!) pretty much felt that he couldn’t do anything ‘right’ and was constantly trying to live up to an ideal I had of what a husband ‘should’ be. There was no ‘big stuff’ going on like infidelity or nasty secrets; Geoff was and always has been my biggest supporter and cheer leader and I knew how lucky I was to have the most generous, honest, loyal and supportive man as a husband. But it still felt ‘broken’.

This wasn’t new by the way. We had both been ‘tolerating’ a less than ideal marriage for a few years. When I think back to the early days, when Geoff and I were both sooo different to who we are now, we had a great connection, a sparkle and loved just hanging out with each other. But over the years the changing focus in our respective lives meant we both grew in entirely different ways and weren't really compatible anymore. We are completely different people, and that can be a good thing, but in our case, we found ourselves resenting each other, as much as we tried very hard not to.  We take our marriage vows very seriously, but it just seemed that the harder we tried the more we hurt ourselves, and quite frankly we were both pretty miserable.

One day in December 2015 after a very honest conversation with a supportive friend I decided that it was time to confront the issue head on. It makes me sick to the stomach when I think of how I felt saying to Geoff that we needed to talk. And what I said was…

“Maybe it’s time to have a conversation about our marriage like we have never had before. Maybe it’s time for the both of us to quit trying so hard, and call it a day”.

Fast-forward to today 21 months down the track, and Geoff and I are very strong as a unit, happily co-habitating and co-parenting our two delicious boys...

Geoff is my rock, still my biggest supporter, the most amazing father to my children, but he is not my husband, he is my ‘wasband’ (sorry Mum, I know you hate this term!). I am not his wife, I am his ‘werewife’. It is confusing for a few people, and we certainly don’t shout it from the roof-tops, but with some very open communication and honesty with each other and some incredible support from relationship coach Lorna Patten, we have found an arrangement that works for us and our family.  

Our present situation is not currently considered to be a societal norm and there is no real definition of what it is and what it isn't.

I think society has a long way to go in broadening the definition of marriage or relationships. It still seems pretty much defined as boyfriend/girlfriend, defacto, married, separated, divorced or widowed. And as someone who was transitioning from married to separated, I immediately assumed that one of us had to move out of the beloved family home and set up a second house for the kids. There were interim options thrown around like ‘bird-nesting’, where instead of the kids moving between two houses, both Geoff and I would do the switching, while the kids continued to live at home. ‘But that never lasts long term’, we were told.

We have come a long way however as a society in the last few years by broadening our definition of gender, so why can't we change our definition of marriage? Whereas it used to be gay, straight, bi-sexual and maybe transgender, we now define a broad spectrum of genders including a-gender, bi-gender, bi-curious, cis-gender and gender fluid. There will be some people who roll their eyes at such definitions and wonder ‘how or why the world got so complicated’ but evidence suggests that there are many individuals who now feel that they can identify their gender whereas earlier they could not. Maybe there is now an opportunity to define some new relationship forms.

Lorna really helped both of us challenge the norms and simply change the form of our marriage, and do what worked for us, rather than what ‘everyone else did’ or thought we should do.

Firstly, we moved into separate rooms. Next, we drew up and agreed a handful of guidelines around child care, finances, holidays, Christmas, socialising and dating other people. That all happened without drama.

Then we both got on with living our ‘separate but together’ lives, and over time, it just became ‘what we do’. And now, nearly two years down the track we make pretty good flatmates and co-parents. The energy in the house is way better than it was, and that’s because neither of us are trying to make this something that it’s not.

But what if either of us meets someone else?

That’s the question we are constantly getting presented with. And of course, if one of us meets someone else, then things might get a bit awkward. 

Check out this blog by Mark Manson, who I think is bang on with his thoughts on the subject of romantic love. He states that Romeo and Juliet was written as a cautionary tale! Passionate all-consuming love can in some instances wreak havoc, but I think the ideal of it, and society’s obsession with ‘finding the one’ is what's actually harmful. This brilliant blog talks to how we are so pressurised to be ‘happy’ that it can actually contribute to depression. I think our feelings of failure around how our relationships don’t measure up to the movies are another catalyst. The expectation that one person meets many needs is bound to be unfulfilled, particularly over time. Relationships are extremely hard work; it takes something to be in a functional partnership and as much as there are some massive rewards, there are also some big costs. I know more and more people who are simply choosing to remain single and who feel very fulfilled with their life. Selfish? Maybe, but maybe also it is time to wake up to the fact that we have way more choices now in how we live than previous generations. 

Laurel’s pop psychology model for ‘partnership love’

I am no expert, believe me, but based on anecdotal evidence of observing relationships over the last 30 years, I am offering my simplistic model. I think that we hook up long term with someone else to fulfill three basic needs and I think most of us get one or two, with some very lucky people getting all three (and I think it can change over time as the relationship grows or withers).

#1 – support for each other.

Being on your own can suck. Having someone beside you, to give you emotional support, to share the responsibilities of parenting and living makes a lot of sense. Someone you can rely on, who is loyal, who has your back and who you can trust.

#2 – companionship and growth.

Sharing interests, discussing ideas, making each other laugh and enjoying doing nice normal everyday things together and special things together. This is where your partner is also your best friend if you are lucky.

#3 – spark and romance.

Not the 'when you first meet' kind (I think that it’s fairly widely accepted that the shelf life on that is generally limited) but the chemistry, energy kind. I think it’s wonderful when I see couples who have still been together for years get a little kick out of seeing each other. Yes, I think you probably have to work at it, but I also think there are some partners that naturally fit better together than others.

If you believe your partner provides you with all three of these, then I think you are super lucky, and I can imagine why you would think that you have found 'the one'. I certainly know a few couples this applies to, but I think it’s rarer than we would like to believe.

If you have two out of three, then I think that’s still pretty good.

Geoff and I are big on #1 but both agree we don’t score highly in #2 or #3. I feel so super blessed to have Geoff as my rock in my life particularly when it comes to our family. And for me, right now, that is totally enough! I get my #2 from amazing friends and communities, and for now have no interest in #3 (a far cry from the romantic idealistic 20 something I once was). We do still drive each other insane, quite frequently, but way less than when we were ‘together’ and separate socialising and holidaying gives both of us enough freedom to balance things out.

So to answer the question, if someone else comes along for either of us, then our arrangement could very well change. I don’t think it would be driven by either of us (I won’t know for sure unless it happens) but there are probably few partners who would be okay with their new boyfriend or girlfriend living with their ex! I do know of some amazing couples who holiday or spend Christmas day with their exes and their respective partners for the children's benefit so never say never.

Our kids are the big winners out of all of this. I do realise kids are resilient, and so many now live between two houses, but we love that we can continue to raise our children in the family home. And it's worthwhile mentioning the pragmatic angle here; our present housing crisis means that there are new configurations of home dwelling, eg over 65’s flatting together. One of the smart reasons to make it work staying together is because there is no way in hell we could afford to live in central Auckland if we had to purchase/rent two properties.

I have questioned my motive for sharing my personal relationship story on this blog, but I think the key message I want to relay is to challenge the norms of what society expects today, particularly in terms of relationships. The last thing I want is for people to see this as ‘an easy way out’ and if you can save your marriage in its original form, then that is fabulous. I do realise that I am very lucky to have a wasband that has the emotional skills to pull this off. In fact Geoff is pretty bloody extraordinary in so many ways and there are just so many cool things about him still being in my day to day life.

I was prepared to ‘throw out the baby with the bath water’ by splitting up our little family unit and I am so grateful that we tried a different version of marriage and it has so far paid off.  In a way nothing has changed drastically, it’s simply that we are being super straight with each other and not trying to pretend we are something we are not. In the main, we are significantly happier and more harmonious and that’s the best gift we can give to each other, and our boys!

Posted on September 18, 2017 .

Unapologetic Weight Gain

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Okay, while I am getting all raw and vulnerable on it, I may as well pen part two of my ‘failure currency’ blog. Thanks to all of those of you who commented on my last one around how we measure ourselves by the money we earn. It does sound like it resonated with a few of you and I don't feel alone with this self flagellation.

I also realise there are people, who know me, who will be thinking something along the lines of ‘’not quite so vulnerable Laurel!” But my drive for cutting out the crap in my world is a stronger one, and there is a curiosity to explore this further, so here’s part two;

WARNING: This is probably more relevant to my female subscribers; many males are going to read this rant and think 'really'? (having said that, body image is becoming more of an issue for males so there may be something that resonates).

Another key area in my life where I have felt completely bloody useless has been my constant weight wobbling (you know what I mean by that, when your body shape swells and shrinks and swells again over a period of time).

I will go a wee while totally committed to my exercise regime and whatever limits I am placing on my eating at the time and start to feel and look better. But as I get older it is just such a SLOOOOOOOW improvement and the truth is, usually I just get over it (usually after say two or three months) and lighten up a bit on said regime.

Case in point, latest ‘reduction in sugar, wheat and dairy’ when I returned from Bali in late May. I earnestly gave up some favourite comfort foods, stocked my ‘special shelf’ (that no one else in my family wants to go near) with kelp noodles, chia seeds and paleo crackers and even went as far as trying almond milk flat whites and dairy free cheese. Huckleberry’s did well out of me, and I really did enjoy the new flavours and experimentations … for a while.

At the same time, I was getting up early four or five times a week, and attending my barre classes. And there was no doubt, my body shape started looking just a little bit better. My problem flubbery upper abdominal area was starting to look like more like I wanted it to and my face was taking on a slimmer shape.

But the reality was, in spite of the constant exercise and new ‘cleaner’ eating, I didn’t actually feel any healthier! My energy levels have always been good anyway, but I was desperately looking for some validation that my body was thanking me for the wonderful self care, and wanted to have even better energy levels.

So what happened after eight weeks of this, and no real change visually or feeling wise? I got a bit bored with it. The minimal gains I was observing weren’t dramatic enough to keep me motivated and even the impending birthday celebrations (lots of photos!) and tropical holiday didn’t do the trick.

So I ‘relaxed’, dropped my barre classes back to once a week (and upped the walking) and introduced limited dairy and wheat back into my diet (no more almond milk flat whites – yipppeee!).

And this is where it gets frustrating, and it’s happened time and time again in previous weight wobbles. I may work my butt off exercising and managing my eating for a few months, with very minimal results… but when I STOP these habits? The problem areas become more problematic VERY quickly.

I love the following quote;

‘I wish I was as fat as the first time I thought I was fat’.

As we get older, it seems that it just gets trickier! I am 50 and for my age, if I was to get really honest with myself, I am doing pretty well. Being tall helps.  I know that there are some 50 somethings out there with amazing bodies, some genetically blessed and some who just work really really hard at it.

Try having an identical twin who is 10 kg lighter than you (when we say that comparison is hard, imagine the brutality of that comparison!) I have to hand it to Josie though, she is way more committed than me with her various programs.

So here’s my realization – I just don’t care enough!! 

Well, I do care about my health, and my eating (and limited drinking) is healthier than any times in my past, but when I have a birthday celebration, an emotional upset, a bit of boredom or a holiday away then enjoying great food, awesome cocktails and a bit more wine than normal wins out. And I fill out a bit!

The fabulous Lisa O’Neill has made it her life lesson to support women to have the best and happiest lives that they can and I love her take on this;

“Quit wishing that you were thinner and just start wearing better clothes”!

She also has shown me some fabulous ways to stand in photos to take a few kilos off and lose a chin or two!

And that is going to be the way I deal with this whole body image lark. I am not looking to ‘love every inch of my figure’ but I am not going to beat myself up for my lack of willpower, my emotional eating or my ‘sabotage behaviour’.

I am not going to cry when I see the number on the scales (in fact I gave up weighing myself a while ago). Seriously, I used to do that! The irony is, it was often when I was actually feeling better about my body and I was so disappointed when the results didn’t show up in reduced kilos. There would be a cue for feeling completely bloody useless again. And it also makes me shudder to think of the way I used to look at parts of myself and feel so incredibly revolted and unattractive.

I have invested in nutritionalists, hypnotherapists, personal trainers and Weight Watchers, and each time I got caught up (and very excited) in their enthusiasm about 'their way' and how it works. Funny, but I do find that the wellness industry is one of the most dogmatic. But it never lasts ongoing, which probably says more about me than them. Some people find their 'thing' and drop masses of kilos in a healthy time frame, and maybe that will still happen to me; it's just I am not going to earnestly be on the search for it (and please don't send me any well meaning suggestions,  I am all good!).

I am going to continue to enjoy good unprocessed yummy food most of the time and crap yummy food from time to time.  I am also going to honour the significant shifts that I have made with my eating in general, and curbing my more predatorial food behaviour of my past. This is going to be driven by what's actually important to me, like;

  • Being a role model to my children (one practice that I do now subscribe to is mindful eating, after attending a course)
  • Feeling way better energetically when I cut the crap (I may have not felt different when eating 'clean' but when I start eating processed food etc, I do really feel it).
  • Feeling way better when I am active (if I don't exercise for a while, I start to feel very grumpy)
  • Taking responsibility for my health, especially cholesterol wise (if you have challenges with your cholesterol, I have found a Melaleuca product has lowered mine significantly, get in touch with the gorgeous Lynette Barrow if you would like to find out more).

And if my weight drops as a result of this focus, then great, if it doesn't, then it's ok, I know I am healthy in the main.

So I like the idea of being ok with what I look like. I am unapologetic about what I eat and what I don’t eat. I love the massive enjoyment I get out of food. I am also truly grateful for what my body has done for me, particularly my great energy levels and carrying two healthy babies!

Giving up this deeply embedded hope that I will significantly transform my figure THIS time around is immensely free-ing and I recommend it (without being dogmatic; it's entirely up to you what you take out of this blog, of course)! It’s certainly going to free up some think space to start focusing on the more exciting stuff in my world. The other crazy irony is that most people around us are probably not even aware of our weight wobbles. Case inpoint, one of my gorgeous friends cleverly lost eight kilos since the time I had last seen her. I thought she looked amazing, but I thought she looked amazing the last time I saw her too! Life’s too precious, don’t waste time berating your body! 

I really must watch the movie Embrace, I understand it is along the same theme?

Footnote: Today I got a message from Facebook advising me it was my 10 year anniversary of being a Facebooker. I looked through some of the randomly selected photos, and became very emotional. I think this is the key to my challenging everything stage I am going through right now; forget money, forget weight, maybe even forget purpose (within reason). It's our connections to others, friends, family and communities that truly counts. Sometimes they are with us for a life time, and sometimes they are with us for a short time, but they are all precious. And that's what my next blog is going to explore!

Posted on August 25, 2017 .

Turning 50 and Celebrating Financial Failures

I turned 50 last week!  It is something that I have been looking forward to (I do know a few who dread it) and I am celebrating in style with a month long ‘Festival of Floral’. It rounds up with me and my dear twin sister, Josie, celebrating together in Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Leading up to this milestone, I have been slowing down… a lot, and continuing to question pretty much everything. Over the last 20 months or so, I have posted before about letting go of things in my world, but more recently I have been starting to really question some of the ‘world views’ I have fervently held on to over the previous 15 years. Memes and teachings that I have been so attached too that I have pretty much considered them ‘the truth’.

There is a bit of WTF going on here! Facebook has a funny way of reminding us who we were say a couple of years back. Sometimes when I see my posts of two or three years ago popping up in my feed, I am quite bemused. Did I seriously think that?

I know I am not the only one who is currently doing a 180 degree turn on things that I have been quite zealous about, particularly around the area of personal development. Don’t get me wrong, I am so super grateful for the decisions that I made and the way I was living but there was a giant personal cost related to those choices.

The two primary things I have been questioning have been

  1. Earnestness – being so hell bent on changing the world and getting people clear on their purpose and being the best that they can be.
  2. Working HARD – trying so hard to do the ‘right’ thing, follow the systems, get out there and make a difference. Also, trying so hard to fit in and ‘show that I belong and that I am a success’ (I would have probably denied that I was doing so at the time).

It has been an honourable quest! And something that when I felt in the zone, flow or whatever, felt really, really good. There were some massive successes and 'pinch myself' moments where I felt so bloody self actualised I thought I would burst!

But for all those moments, there were others where I just felt completely bloody useless!

  1. Useless when someone who was so ‘lit up’ by an opportunity I shared just disappeared off the planet when I followed them up to pursue it.
  2. Useless when I didn’t fill a room or a program.
  3. Useless when I looked at my earnings over a period of time and realised I would have done better financially if I had cruised and done nothing workwise.
  4. Useless when I followed systems that are ‘guaranteed’ to make you money, but for me not-so-much.
  5. Useless when I was paid to speak for a road show across New Zealand and when we went out to the airport with my clients I was the only one who wasn't a Koru member.
  6. Useless when I invested significantly in energy clearing/money unblocking/spirituality courses and nothing changed or ironically my earnings went backwards!

Here I was espousing following your dreams and creating the life you want, whilst often feeling like a failure myself. But the failure currency was all about earnings and not the actual difference I was making to others, or the general fulfillment i was feeling at the time (there was also some failure I felt around weight, but I will leave that to another blog post).

I am a bright bubbly optimistic person, and in the main, I managed to ‘jolly my way out of it’. But there have been times in my past where the way I felt about myself was just bloody awful. Like please let the ground swallow me up/I feel so bloody humiliated and useless, and like a complete failure. And here’s the kicker. Some of the stuff that I have so totally believed in and shared with my clients were the things that were the most damaging for me personally. Things like…

  1. It’s all about your self-worth. If you don’t believe you deserve it, then you won’t be ‘rewarded’ by the universe.
  2. It’s all about self-love. Ditto.
  3. It’s never about the money and it’s all about the money.
  4. You are out of alignment. Get back into alignment and the money will flow.
  5. If you want something enough it will happen. Believe it! If you are not getting it then you clearly don't really want it badly enough and aren't taking enough action (there is some truth in this one I think - more on that further down :-)).

So if I wasn’t feeling ‘loser-ish’ enough about not getting results, I was also feeling like a complete failure in the whole idea of manifestation/spirituality/flow. I think self-worth and self-love are fabulous things, but not when people measure their success around how much of it they have.

How many people do you know who turn themselves inside out because they are not happy with the money they are earning? On top of the actual pressure of not being able to pay the bills, they put so much pressure on themselves that they are a failure?

I almost feel like a traitor to my old self in saying this, but I think it needs to be said…

Being in business, whether as an entrepreneur or a coach/trainer etc can be bloody hard work and there are no guarantees particularly financially.

You can (in my opinion) do everything you possibly can to make it work, and things can go ‘wrong’. I know a number of coaches who aren’t making much money and I know businesses that are losing money monthly; from the outside they probably look ‘successful’ (and I include myself at times in this category too).

Some weeks, months and years are better than others. Sometimes stuff happens outside of your control and has a negative financial impact. Sometimes you invest in highly recommended programs or mentors, ‘do the work’ and still don’t get the results. Sometimes you make well-meaning or even stupid decisions yourself that result in losing money. It’s just being in business! Even the savviest business people in the world aren’t immune, although there are those who seem to do very well (either naturally, by luck, or managing to successfully follow a system) at the earning money business. Interestingly, some of these people then create an offering to show others how to do it, with mixed success. Personally, I am just not so sure it can be 'taught' any more!

How about focusing your success on how you feel? On the way other people feel around you? On how much freedom you have? On how much love you have in your world? On your courage to get out there and try something and take a risk when others don’t?

For me personally, I have been giving up trying sooooo hard. I have been giving up relentlessly working on ‘being a demand’ for others. They are free to do what they want, as am I. Maybe they want to change the world, maybe they don’t.

Presently I am loving exploring topics that I am really passionate about like boundaries, creativity, clarity, giving up dogma and being unapologetically you. I am just not quite sure how I am going to make money out of it yet and for once in my life, I am giving myself some time to percolate on these topics, rather than getting out there and creating an offering! I am not going to come back from my holiday in Vietnam and cruise forever, but taking the pressure off myself work-wise for a few months has been the best turning 50 gift I could give myself.

I do think there is a correlation between this ‘failure’ epidemic and the high levels of anxiety and mental health in our communities. What's the point of working your butt off and trying to reach a certain income or revenue level if you end up having a breakdown, or worse? I do of course applaud those individuals who are successful money-wise without putting a whole bunch of pressure on themselves, or managing the pressure in a healthy way.

None of us need to feel like a failure because of the money we earn in any given week or month. Of course if you are in the situation where your kids don’t eat next week if you don’t drum up some business then that’s a different story. If I were personally in that situation, I think I would go get a job, it’s just what would ‘need to be done’. This is not a post about financial irresponsibility, it's about freedom from feeling like a financial failure every time you have a tight week, month or year. It is of course wise to take a good look (compassionately) about what might need to be done differently to make sure the tight period doesn't last too long.

And if you want to strive, to be the best you can be, to make a profound difference to the world, great! And if you don’t want to, also great! Whatever you choose, I think it’s good to look at how comfortable you are with how you feel,  rather than how successful you want to be seen by others.

I am taking a big dose of 'lighten the hell up', 'have way more fun in my life' and 'saying bye bye to earnest over eager Floral'! THAT's what being 50 is all about for me!

Posted on August 10, 2017 .

Why it’s now almost the norm for people not to return calls or respond to emails

Two years ago I published this blog on LinkedIN and it has attracted more interest and views than any other. In fact I am still getting comments on it now.

A general response goes along the lines of "it’s common courtesy for people to reply to us", but I seriously think that even more so two years down the track, people tolerate this on both sides of the communication; ie many of us are resigned to both people not getting back to us, AND not returning people’s calls or emails ourselves.

Now of course that doesn’t equate to everyone, but I have reached the point where I simply don’t expect that a good proportion of people will get back to me! Self-defeatist? Maybe, but I also don’t get upset about it or make it mean anything.  This covers all sorts of communications, from texting a friend to say hello, inviting someone to an event or party or even (and this happened to me last week) actually wanting to order some products with someone who represents a fabulous brand*.  

Why is this happening? What has happened to our common courtesy? Are the rules changing? Well, I think simply, the answer to that final question is ‘yes’.

In a recent study by Carleton University in Canada, over half of the 1500 participants were spending 1/3 of their time in the office and ½ of their outside of working hours working time reading and answering emails! 30% of these emails were considered as not urgent or important.

That’s an awful lot of time on email! No wonder people get snowed. The study reported that many of the recipients placed unrealistic expectations on themselves around how quickly they respond. Many tried to do that within a day, which I simply don’t think is manageable for many.

There were reports of high levels of work overload and stress associated with it; imagine how much that would reduce if they gave themselves more time to respond? Yes, I know that it might just seem like the back log would build up too much and they would never get on top of them, but there are smart ways they can architect their time. For example, even the simple act of having email on your phone, and tackling them in the 'gaps', say waiting for an appointment or a bus, might change someone’s life dramatically. But not everyone’s lives, because that won’t work for everyone. You need to find a way that works for you!. Keep on tweaking until you find one that does.

Personally what works for me is zero inbox. It still completely amazes me that I practice this, and I fought like a feral dog to resist it for years, but now, one year down the track, not only do I feel I have more time, I also know I am not missing out on any opportunities, because I have set up the system which means I will reply to all emails! Check out Dermot Crowley’s great work and powerful book Smart Work for more information.

I think it’s time to change the rules; don’t expect a reply within 24 hours for non urgent requests and explore platforms like Slack (or walk across the floor to their desk!)  for more real time effective communication.

Now having said that, I haven’t used Slack myself, but I understand for quick questions and more collaborative group tasks, it can work wonders. Not so much for longer or sensitive communications, but it might go some of the way. And if it’s a simple yes/no answer, then a face to face could save you both type time.

I have even seen people autoreply to their emails with the expected time within which they will reply. 

Regarding phone calls, it’s a bit the same.  We don’t want to be responsible for filling up people’s schedules with noise, eg them having to listen to our voicemail. More and more, I hear phone messages where recipients simply request explicitly not to leave a message, and send a quick text instead. Interestingly, if I am going to miss replying to something, it's usually a text or Facebook message; I haven't quite got my system working for all channels.

And here is a really simple shift, which has worked for me.  Follow up!

Just like I mentioned in the original blog, if someone hasn’t called me back or replied to my email, I simply reach out again! Using a system of having an 'awaiting response' list in my task list means I easily keep on track of who hasn't yet replied. Okay, maybe I am contributing to more clutter, but more often than not I am presented with a response which goes somewhere along the lines of “thanks so much for following up on me”. And hey, even if they say something along the lines of "thanks but not interested", wouldn’t you prefer to know?

This is one of those pesky topics that tends to polarize some people, I would love to hear your thoughts. I do think it comes down to the reality that people are dealing with crazier schedules than ever before, and simply can’t manage the luxury of so called "courtesy"! Let's cut them some slack and help them out with gentle prompts, and ask ourselves that very important question; "is my email content truly adding value to their world?" If you can't put your hand on your heart and say "Absolutely!", then maybe it's time to look at more than just email snubs.

*I sent the quick ‘nudge’ email to my wonderful products supplier who immediately responded with a big apology, she had simply not flagged the initial email.  Follow ups work!

BTW - I am on the am Show next Thursday (13th July) talking about bad managers. I cannot believe how many people have shared with me how they have been affected by at least one in their career. It is something that urgently needs to change, particularly considering the associated mental health challenges.

Does anyone you know need a bit of career clarity?

For the next month (until August 9th) I am offering limited 30 minute complimentary Skype sessions for people who are at cross roads with their career, and are wondering what options are available to them. In 30 mins I will ask the powerful questions to challenge what people think they should be doing, or the limitations they are placing on themselves. I can then share some relevant options for them to consider. There is a world of opportunity, it's worth investing half an hour to get some insight into what is possible career and business wise these days. Recipients will get one to three distinct actions they can take immediately which could change the course of their future dramatically. Please email the amazing Trish at trish@laurelmclay.com if you or one of your contacts are interested.

Posted on July 10, 2017 .

Getting out there and getting known (my book on this is attached!)

Now that you have worked out what your unique creation is, how you can make that work for you, and provide value to the people who you like, then it's time to let people know about it! (If this is your first blog from me go to www.laurelmclay.com.blog for previous videos).

But what I find again and again, is that people with great stuff to share, just don't get the message out there, and so they end up being a best kept secret!!

How many people do you know, particularly in the wellness and coaching industry, who are so underpaid for the value that they provide? In some instances, it's because they are over generous, and end up undercharging or even gifting their services, but more often than not, it's because they haven't got enough clients. Why? Because people don't know they exist or they are confused by what that person actually provides (that's been a great challenge for me!).

Often this is because people attracted to these industries do not have the skill sets or experience to sell. The thought of 'cold calling' or networking drives them spare.

The most important thing about creating an influence strategy, is to find a way that works for you personally!

Why do people put themselves through doing stuff that they hate? In this email, I am going to share with you the simple three stage process, which I have developed over years of sales, of recruiting sales people and from training sales people. This process is something that you can take, and tailor to your own specific preferences. In fact I even wrote a book on it, which is attached, so you can find out more about the detail of this process.

But before I share this with you, I want to emphasize that what I believe helps you to sell more, is by being unashamedly unapologetically you. And how can you do that? By making sure that whatever you are sharing with others is something that lights you up!! If you are excited and highly motivated by what you do, it is going to show, and people will want a part of that for themselves!

1. More Walk Less Talk

This is critical, reaching out to more people, getting yourself out there, and getting yourself known (and ultimately positioned). There’s no substitute for pounding the right pavements, and inevitably this is where most people fall down, ie not enough reach. But it needs to be quality reach, no one likes the cold approach, and in some parts of professional services, it is just completely inappropriate! There are a bunch of ways you can get out there and get known, check out chapter 6 in my book called Lead Generation, which is attached.

2. More Heart Less Hype

Great, you’ve set up some appointments; how are you going to turn them into long-term customers? Absolutely, you need to understand your market, know your products/services and their value well and simply practise the approach that works for you, but I think the most important thing at this stage of the game is to get into their world! We can be so hung up on our stuff, and worrying about what they think; a great way to create a profound experience for them is by making it all about them. The other golden nugget is to be present, and that’s where getting rid of some of the distractions works beautifully. Come from the heart and not the head. Ultimately, once you have mastered being more heart centred in your interactions, they almost create a rhythm of their own, where each conversation ‘just works’.

3. More Care Less Crap

So you’ve met up, and they are now either customers or prospects. What is important now is to foster that relationship by sharing valuable stuff ongoing with them. And what trumps everything else at this stage is a good system! Now, I am not talking about some fancy CRM; a good one of these is definitely valuable, but I think some people sabotage by getting distracted with the technology. Seriously, I have seen people’s commercial success transformed with a simple funnel on the wall or a well thought out spreadsheet. Many professional services firms provide good well considered systems for managing client relationships, and so often, these systems are simply ignored.

Another critical element of this section is the familiarity, you want to feel connected to your prospects/clients and demonstrate genuine care and a wish to rock their world without filling their already crowded life with annoying noise. Ultimately, the high performers will be fostering powerful centres of influence; clients and referrers who are so present to the value that you provide, that recommending you is second nature.

Putting this in action

I personally believe this three step approach, when applied with rigour can create an influence strategy that works for you. But it’s important to not only invest in the time to craft your strategy, but also to embed rituals, structures and support mechanisms which mean that not only are you sticking to it, but you are constantly, over time, reviewing and enhancing it.

What about your loved ones?

I think when we are talking about influence strategies, it is important to understand how you can best get your loved ones on board. Making a decision about your career, especially a big decision can impact others in your life. For example, if you absolutely feel it's your calling to leave your well paid corporate job and start up your own company, then there are financial implications to consider. If you decide you want to incorporate travelling into your new career, then your partner, if you have one, might be keen to know how much you intend to do!

There is no easy way to get people on your side, I think the best strategy is to be open and communicative once you have pretty much made your decision and listen to what they have to say about it. I say wait until just before you have made your decision because if you involve them earlier, they may either confuse you with their thoughts on it, or you could alarm them with an option that in reality is not going to play out.

Sometimes partners, particularly long term ones find it confronting when their loved one starts to change, and start showing up and getting excited in a way they have not seen before. In fact Katherine Woodward Thomas, in her brilliant book Conscious Uncoupling cites 'outgrowing each other' as one of the top three reasons people break up. But it doesn't need to be doom and gloom. Be upfront, keep them informed, share your concerns openly, and allow them to share yours. They will very likely become one of your best cheerleaders, particularly if you have been unhappy in your current situation.

In the next video, we will address the support mechanisms and rituals to keep your influence strategy active in more detail, but in the meantime, think about how you want to get out there and get known in a way that works for you!

Now, here's the book: LeadGenerationLaurelMcLay.pdf

Posted on June 15, 2017 .

Getting clear about your unique creation

In this third video (apologies for the poor quality of this one!) we are looking at your unique creation. This is timely as we have focused on your personal ROI to date, and essentially primed thecanvas to get rid of some rough bits to make sure that your creation will last. If this is your first blog from me go to www.laurelmclay.com.blog for previous videos.

Your unique creation could be anything, it might not be a job or a business, but some kind of community project. The great thing about doing something that isn't commercial, is that it gives you a wonderful outlet to focus your energy and passion, but you don't have to rely on it to pay the rent or mortgage. Having said that, there are of course a number of options you can take to create something that is a career or business.

The main thing as always, is to find something that makes you sing, that lights you up, and that isn't something you feel you have to do (eg because that's what you trained for), or that someone told you to do.

See this model for an overview; it essentially boils down to three areas:


What kind of things really stir you up, in either a good way or a frustrating way? Maybe you want to rescue stray dogs in Rarotonga? Maybeyou love theatre and performance? If that's the case speaking or the events industry might be for you. Tidiness and things being in place might be super important to you. In that case some kind of analytical role could be ideal.

You want to find something that is naturally you, because it really does make things a whole lot easier. It might take a little bit of time to discover what that is, but it's worth taking that time. I think of it as climbing a ladder; there's no point climbing the ladder if its leaning against the wrong wall!

For me, I love all things about identity and uniqueness, which might have something to do with the fact that I have struggled with uniqueness all my life, being an identical twin.

Grab a blank piece of paper, and some coloured pens and just start writing or mind mapping. Think about what lit you up as a child. What was a job, either casual or 'serious' that really got you excited? Or even a particular project? It's like finding a thread in a bundle of wool, and then following that thread till you get it untangled; just trust the process. It's amazing what can come up!


So now you have found your thing, who are the people you like to hang out with? Life's too short to spend time with people who don't fuel you (and if they don't fuel you, chances are you don't fuel them!) Do you like inquisitive people? Smart people? Adventurous? Introverts? Extroverts?

I have been in front of prospects sharing enthusiastically, and have quite literally noticed their eyes glaze over. There are others who would love nothing more than to clear their calendars for the remainder of the day and just continue talking. Those are your people!! As a recovering people pleaser it has taken me a while to accept that I am not for everyone, and that's ok! 


Finally you want to think about how your unique creation is going to fit in with the rest of your world. The main considerations are your family and friends, but also travel, sports and interests. We don't have to settle for a 9 to 5 (or worse 70 hour a week) role any more.

If it's not a hobby/interest that you are creating, then you have three primary choices about how you are going to bring your unique creation into the world;

  1. Employee - sometimes working for someone else gets a bit of a bad wrap, but there are some very big pluses about this, and some employers take flexibility and employee wellbeing very seriously. If you are going to be an employee, it's a good idea to find one of them!
  2. Expert/educator - making a living by sharing what you know is not only immensely rewarding, it also provides you with freedom. Find out more about the extraordinary thought leader's curriculum here (as a start buy this book, thought leaders practice). I know so many wonderful thought leaders who are making a great living and enjoying their life as a speaker, author, trainer, mentor, facilitator or coach.
  3. Entrepreneur - this is a truly creative venture, probably the riskiest but also the most rewarding. I probably never felt more alive than when I was an entrepreneur, and as long as you get some great support and make sure you do your research, it can be a fabulous journey. One key consideration about becoming an entrepreneur is how your loved ones feel about it. I am all for being unapologetically you but when there are some big financial impacts, then their support is essential. I will talk more into this in the next video about influence strategies!

Get clear on your thing, your people and your way, and you have the foundations of a brilliant and unique creation, just for you. Next video we will explore the oh so important activity of getting out there and getting known, your influence strategy!

Posted on May 24, 2017 .

What's really taking up your energy, time and resources?

In my last blog, I introduced you to the overall framework I follow to designing and living an unapologetic lifestyle and career. In this week's video, we will be talking about personal return on investment (personal ROI). Where do you best put your energy, time and resources in a way that works for you, across the four key areas of your life, as outlined below?;


Before you go investing all your energy into a new job, career or project, it's a really good idea to 'prime the canvas' first!

Basically that means getting clear on what's going great in your world and what maybe needs a bit of attention. There is no point in getting all excited about your new business venture when your relationship is traumatising you, you've had a bust up with your bestie, or you can't shake an energy zapping virus!

Please download the tolerations matrix, for a comprehensive list of questions that will give you some insight into this.

Let's go into each of these in a bit more detail;

(1) Wellness and faith - I think this comes down to one thing; how energised are you feeling? If you are feeling bloated, clogged up or just plain depressed, then energy isn't something that is going to come easy to you! Ask yourself questions about your eating, your movement, where you place your thoughts (eg anxiety or worry) and your levels of trust. I must confess I am no longer doing my overly positive thinking lark about life being fine and dandy all the time. I do believe that just sitting with whatever emotion I am embedded in at the time, and trusting that I will get through it, is an easier way to live.

Faith is an emotional word too. I like to re-frame it as being able to trust that things are, in a way, all perfect, even that maybe I might have attracted them at some level. I think your faith is whatever it is that helps you make meaning out of your place in the world! For some it's manifestation, for some it's Christianity, maybe for some it's something completely different. Whatever works for you!!

(2) Relationships and community - Interestingly,  I believe this is all about energy too. Do your loved ones energise or drain you? Sadly I know of a bunch of people who are in relationships that absolutely zap them of energy (I also know some really great examples of relationships too, as I am sure you do too). So often they stay in them because they think they have no choice, but they do! Firstly they might consider what they can do about it to make it better, because staying miserable isn't really an option. Maybe it's an opportunity to change the form of their relationship eg. move from being a married couple to co-habitating and co-parenting together. That's what Geoff and I are doing and so far 15 months into it, it's working for both of us! Getting support from a therapist or coach can do wonders, which is what we did, and we are both so much happier. I take marriage vows very seriously, and am not suggesting that it's a decision you want to make lightly, but in your heart of hearts, I think you will know what works for you.

The people we have around us, outside our family also have the ability to fuel or drain us. I now only choose to be around people who don't judge, criticise or put me down. Often we seem to tolerate toxic people in our lives, when actually we don't need to! Recently I came to a realisation that there are people who are literally here for a reason, season or lifetime. Who knows who fits into which category, I have had intense friendships with wonderful men and women that have not lasted long, but have made a very big impact on my life. Just keep asking the question to yourself about how you feel around them!

(3) Career and purpose - We will go into this in more detail in the next video, but the key thing to ask yourself is how is your career helping or hindering who you are as a person? If you are a grumpy tired old dad when you get home from your stressful job, is it really worth the money they are paying you? Simplistic I know, and I am not condoning being a victim (eg blaming your general miserableness on your job!) but again, so many people are hating their roles, and hanging in there because they either feel they should, or don't think they could get anything else. Aargggghhh!!!

(4) Finance and abundance- One thing that really gets to me is how undervalued some amazing individuals are, particularly in the areas of wellness and coaching. There are some extraordinary people who have invested so much of themselves into their craft, and can't seem to make a decent living. I do not claim to know the answers to this, I just think it's worth asking yourself some questions around how your financial picture looks as a whole. For example, are you charging enough for your services? Are you charging too much? Do you have a long term savings plan? Do you think your future earning potential is high or low? Getting a reality check on your finances is liberating. I also am starting to question the whole idea of scarcity mindset and that we somehow are responsible for the financial results we produce by how much we value ourselves. Sure I think there are some instances of that, but I also see very rich people with a scarcity mindset and struggling people with high self worth! As usual, I suggest if it works for you adopt this belief, if it doesn't, scrap it! No point beating yourself up and blaming yourself for your lack of abundance, sometimes I truly believe it comes down to plain old luck!

Again, feel free to download the tolerations matrix and complete in your own time.

I have sent this out before, but I am constantly getting such positive feedback from people who have downloaded and completed it, so I thought I would send it again. I have used this for a number of years now with my clients, and the insight they generally get from completing it is priceless. If you are serious about living a life of freedom, and finding a job, business or project that is unapologetically you, then this is a great place to make sure you have primed your canvas as a brilliant starting point! I think dogma is alive and well in all four areas, and that you don't have to look far to find someone who claims to have the answer to your challenges. Just go where the energy is and ask yourself the questions before asking anyone else!!



Posted on May 3, 2017 .

Are you unapologetically or apologetically you?

How often do you find yourself saying 'I'm sorry'? Or justifying or over-explaining something? As much as we can convince ourselves this is all about being polite, I think there is a large cost associated with this. Check out the clever Pantene commercial below, which makes the point beautifully (this one is directed at women specifically)...

How about being unapologetically you, rather than apologetically you?

It seems to have been a theme in my life, and also my blogs over the last year*. After years of justifying, over-explaining and apologising for what seems to be everything, i am now relaxing into being unapologetically me. Phew! It's a bit hard for a reformed people-pleaser and I know I am not alone in this.

I don't think this gives me (or anyone else) permission to be a jerk about it, we do have some social and human constraints that serve us well to live within, butI think that there are so many people living lives which are not really them! And if they stopped looking outside of themselves for answers, and checked into 'where their energy is', I think they would be pleasantly surprised.

One insight that I have experienced,as a result of 'going where the energy is' is that this is what really lights me up. Helping people work out to be unapologetically them. And I seem to have been able to cram my many years of researching and exploring this and related topics into four simple models, which I am going to share over the next couple of blogs via video. Here is the first model, the overview!

Have a watch of the video where I go into the concept in a bit more detail, butI truly believe that these are the things in your life that you want to be looking at if you want to experience a life of freedom and being unapologetically you. And this isn't me telling you how to do this, it's giving you some questions so that you can come up with the answersyourself! Because, in my opinion, blindly following others doesn't seem to work that well.

  1. Your personal ROI - how you can prime the canvas, and ensure you are investing your energy, time and resources into the four key areas of life in a way that works for you.
  2. Your unique creation - what is it that you personally would love to do or create based on your own uniqueness, personality and style?
  3. Your influence strategy - how can you get out there and get known to make this unique creation come to life?
  4. Support and structures that serve - what support, resources and rituals can you put in place to help you architect your life and career in the above three areas?

The event I am hosting in two weeks in Auckland will go into this in way more detail, click here for more info. I would love you to come along (or invite someone who you know who it might be relevant for) if you feel like you might be living a bit of an apologetic or simply 'not you' kind of life. OR it's actually not bad, but you think it could be better! Imagine how different our lives would be if we were doing what we wanted to do, instead of what we felt we should, or were limited to doing?

Thanks and have a great week.

Posted on April 24, 2017 .

Putting our kids through needless crap!

Elephant cartoon.jpeg

One major realization that I have discovered recently, is how much I burden myself with my attitudes and the pressure I place on myself, usually around rules and obligations that don’t really matter in the long run. Phew, it’s a bit crazy, because a part of me thought that I was nailing this, but I suppose we have such entrenched conditioning and patterns that they can take time to be untangled.

Then I realized something else; I put my kids through the same kind of burden that I put myself through!

Like any parent, I want my kids to be ‘successful’ but what does that mean? I think we sometimes get so bogged down into making sure their extra curriculum activities are extending them that we forget about the joy. Case in point, my nine year old Lucas, who is musical, and loves playing drums and guitar.

Because we want to ‘do the right thing’ and develop this, we have invested in guitar and drum lessons for him. But both Geoff and I find ourselves having a go at him for not doing his practice! What we want him to do are the exercises he has been prescribed, and I have to admit that some of them are pretty bloody boring!

This is a kid who, when everyone else at the end of term guitar concert is playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ bashes out ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC or Black Sabbath's Iron Man. He also loves experimenting with his electric guitar, and amp, and creating some pretty crazy noises. We purchased electric drums for him and his brother, and he is also fascinated with the sounds he can create on them.

When I was a child, I went through around 11 years of piano teaching, and studiously worked my way through the Trinity College of Music grading system. It was pretty brutal really, every year you went the grueling process of the examination, where the examiners were extremely intimidating and quite frankly rude. Poor Josie had to put up with me practicing religiously for an hour a day and I managed to do pretty well, being awarded top person in my grade in Dunedin a number of times.

But the tragedy is, no one told me that the main thing about learning a musical instrument was to be able to enjoy creating the music!

As crazy as it sounds, I just didn’t catch on to that, and put myself through the practice because it was ‘something I had to do’. In fact it was even worse than that, by the time I got to the exam, I pretty much hated the pieces I was practising, I was so sick of them! Fast forward to today, and I hardly ever touch the piano. If I do, I have been trained so technically, that I need sheet music to play. It is so inspiring for me to see people play any instrument by ear, be spontaneous, and most of all enjoy the process!

Here I am, doing my best, unintentionally to get Lucas to feel the same way about music! I find myself barking at him to do his practice, when all he wants to do is play ‘his own stuff’. What is driving this (and this shows how sinister this need to be a good girl is) is me wanting him to please the teacher, and not feel like Lucas is wasting his time. Additionally we are spending ‘good money’ (!) on his lessons, so we want to get the most out of it.

Argggggghhhhh!!! Say’s who? Firstly, why worry about the teacher? Yes, I am sure they like kids who do their practice, but how many do? The other day Lucas had a guitar play date, and one of the girls in his group didn’t know one of the songs. She told me very matter of factly that her life is very busy with hip hop, tennis, and two other extra curricular activities, so she simply didn't have time to practise.

Secondly, why can’t we just let Lucas be, and play his own stuff, when he wants to? I have been reading Grit by Angela Duckworth recently, where she shares the importance of a combination of passion and persistence to become a master, and I like her views on teaching persistence by being a demanding but supportive parent, but how far do we go? Maybe it is just a gentle suggestion to go play the guitar, or even better go have some fun with him, for example looking at a Youtube tutorial (something he loves) and bashing out a tune. Last night he played me a jaw dropping song that he had composed himself, and we agreed it would be a great idea to book a recording session at the brilliant Studio 38 once he feels it is at recording quality.

I love the cartoon at the top of this blog which I think beautifully summarises how we have a tendency to teach our very different kids in the same way, rather than letting them find their own way (within reason!).

Our family has been working with an amazing clinical psychologist for over a year, to work through some probably not too out of the ordinary family dynamics. I thought that this would be a great thing to talk about at our session, how we expect our boys to be successful. Let’s face it, they are six and nine, so not at an age where they need to be worrying about guitar concerts,  exams or careers.

At the session with our clinical psychologist, we discussed at length, the possibility of just ‘letting our kids be’. Let’s view life at this age as play, fun and exploration; to experiment with life, and bash away at a number of different things. But most importantly, let’s not contaminate them with our own attitudes of life being a burden!

I swear the psychologist was close to doing a little dance as we agreed on this strategy! He claims he constantly sees parents applying so much pressure on their little darlings that they simply forget how to be kids. Homework is another big part of this. Thankfully our (very progressive) school has chosen a more liberal approach to homework, suggesting that we select from a number of options to tick the homework box each night. At a recent student led conference, we agreed that Lucas searching online for facts and figures about Air New Zealand planes (a current obsession!) not only satisfies the need to practise reading, but hones his skills on internet research! Isn’t that a great way to set him up for the future?

Going even further (and this does challenge some deep rooted beliefs), aren't we obsessing too much on how our kids are performing academically at school? Lucas might not have the patience to go to university to embark on some kind of degree (if he chooses to that's fabulous), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to set up a business. Already at his age, he demonstrates way more hustle than his mum, as evidenced in the way he behaves at the local car boot sale. For me, supporting him to run a stall for three hours a month provides him with better skills for his future than a few hours on mathletics! It’s already pretty lucrative, he can make around $100 in this time, which beats other options of chores. I am so proud of the way he engages with the car boot sale attendees, his uncanny ability to spot quality goods to buy and he can drive quite a bargain.

Imagine how much this embeds his values of worth? Helps him learn how to talk with strangers? These are applicable skills for his future. I shudder to think about the years I invested learning about principles like row echalon matrices or Cartesian planes which have provided me with absolutely no practical value in my life what so ever!

So here’s a bit of an experiment I am practicing with my kids… I am going to allow them to go where their energy is, whilst providing them with the requisite boundaries and guidance to keep them safe and able to engage powerfully and respectfully with the social constructs of this world.  For them to allow their experiences to be joyous and loving, as much as they can! To be unapologetically them! To learn the way that works for them, and not to try and make them an elephant when they are a goldfish. A big ask, and one I may very well slip up on from time to time, as it's certainly not the easiest option, but setting the intention is a great start. I would love to hear your thoughts on any similar experiments you are conducting on your kids!!

Posted on March 31, 2017 .

Has your 'best place to work' become a boring, rigid old man?

How to preserve your company’s edge and energy and prevent it from turning into a staid and beige place to work.

One thing that has annoyed me a bit recently has been how some supposedly ‘cool’ companies that consider themselves great places to work are anything but.  Some of those nearest and dearest to me have experienced an awful level of bullying and sheer misery when they took up a role in one of these companies.

To make things even more infuriating, the founders seemed to be in la la land as massively talented individuals left in droves, often on anti anxiety medication for the first time in their lives. They knew something was wrong, but didn’t have the tricky conversations and make the hard calls to get it right.

I want to at this stage acknowledge the workplaces small and large who have a genuine commitment to doing what it takes to make it a great place to work; there are a number of them who are taking the trickier route and committing to changing the status quo for the better. And this is not easy stuff, most people obviously want to do what it takes to keep their workplace a happy one, but as I have said before it is a challenge of human nature that we sometimes don't play well with others.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that company founders (like politicians) enter the entrepreneurial game with the best of intents. Often they are corporate refugees, having themselves escaped the darkness of long working hours, ridiculous policies, a feeling of being boxed in and large doses of anxiety. “Let’s create a company where people can be themselves! Where we encourage innovation and individuality! Where we can throw out the rule-book and work together to grow a family; a culture that everyone loves and is proud of”. And I think at the beginning, when there are only a handful of people, that’s totally doable.

I remember back to the days when my co-founder and I started up our first company, and took on our first few employees. It simply felt like a great place to work, and our team felt valued and happy.

You can liken this stage to a cute toddler. Even when they make mistakes, they are endearing little darlings, and they get away with an awful lot simply because of their age.  But what happens to these little cherubs? Over time, nature takes its course and they grow into hairy smelly teenagers; ones who don’t communicate, can’t see much past their own needs and are confused and angry about what the adolescent process is doing to them. Finally they turn into grumpy old men, with rigid beliefs, a beige outlook on life and quite dislikeable.

But whilst most parents, get some pretty good visual and other cues that their baby is all grown up, it can be trickier for company owners. They can just get frustrated and wonder why their baby is being so revolting! Here are some of the things that annoy them…

Keeping their key people (inside and outside of the organisation) lit up seems to be a constant struggle, they don’t appear to ‘bring their best’ to work, and the energy/buzz is a little flat. There also appears to be some niggles/difficult managers who bring a downer on the organization but often it’s the people with the best understanding of their company or industry, and risking disciplinary action with them is frightening.

As their baby grows up, they need to start implementing processes and procedures that were previously unnecessary. These include hiring, travel, entertainment, technology and training policies. People who have been here since the beginning may resent this, and even rebel against it. Having such policies in place is a simple function of growth, but they seem to cause more harm than good at times.

One day the management team and especially the founder might realise that actually it’s not providing them with any freedom or joy any more. They can feel trapped in the reality that they are simply doing a job. Being around a smelly teenager or a grumpy old man isn’t fun, and they might find themselves avoiding company get-togethers and spending more time away from the office, wondering how they can exit sooner rather than later.

But the worst thing about all of this, is that I think at this stage, they lose their magical creative entrepreneurial edge, and end up turning into the very thing they despise. They risk becoming a toxic organisation, plagued by gossip, bullying, policies and being resented by their staff, although generally it's not quite that dramatic.

Oh dear, this is sounding a bit doom and gloom. But it doesn’t have to be the reality. Like humans, with the right mix of discipline and affection, these companies can evolve into thriving well-adjusted individuals...

...(read Angela Duckworth’s excellent book ‘Grit’ for more on this, particularly the chapter on parenting with grit).

I believe this comes more down to common sense than a massive cultural change program.

If the company is not too big, then often there are some very simple steps you can take to support people to feel valued and excited about being part of your vision. And to ensure that the founder and exec team are also re-inspired and remember what they are here to do!

Here are the three common sense areas that you can start to work on to ensure that the ageing process isn’t too gruesome;

1. The CEO/founder has a big role to play in this!

Is the CEO visible or do they hide in the background? Do they speak regularly to their team? Do they blog or write about what they are all about? Do people know the history, their vision? Are they approachable? Do they know most people’s names?

A boring , blaming or plain frightening CEO is a massive risk to any organization. And one that is invisible isn’t going to make a great leader (the program Undercover Boss amazes me. I appreciate that these are large companies, but the fact that the leader isn’t recognized by the employees, even with a disguise, is surprising).

2. People need to feel that they can be themselves, and celebrate themselves at work.

I posted this blog about a year ago, about how a recent Google study revealed that the key thing employees wanted was to know that they could feel psychologically safe at work. They don’t want to be squashed by bullying bosses or co-workers.

Is there toxic or bullying behavior going on that people turn a blind eye to? (particularly those where an individual whose value to the organization is high, eg a top sales performer or highly knowledgeable operations manager?

Does trust and transparency go both ways? Do people feel like they are making a difference? Doing good work? Getting recognized for it? Are there development opportunities for people? Do they think that their opinion counts? What do they say when people ask what it is like to work there? Are they having fun?

3. Celebrate different ways of doing things and balance the old with the new to achieve your vision. 

We all know the world has changed, and some of the archaic policies of old do not work today. But some of the old is worth holding on to, whilst bringing in new ways of working that suit today’s environment better;

Does your company welcome innovation and contribution from everyone, have a process for this, and don’t pay it lip service? Do you constantly look at how you are doing things, but don’t change things that work, just for change sake?  Do you hold onto restrictive rules, including where and when your team can work, the approval process, travel restrictions? Are your meetings effective? (look at Matt Church’s great blog on meetings here). Are your performance reviews, hiring strategies and personality profiling tools still effective, or are you just doing them because they have always been done that way?

Start asking people in your work place some of these questions, and see if there might be just one or two small changes you can make to bring the edge back into your organisation (or, if you feel you are still edgy, prevent your company from eventually falling into the beige abyss!). Better still, look out for the company tolerations matrix, soon to be downloadable onto my website, which lists a bunch of questions for both the exec team and the talent in your organisation (or email me if you would like me to send it to you when available).

How useful would it be to understand where exactly in your organisation your brightest and best talent feel prevented from doing a great job?

Do not assume that everyone loves working for you and your company! Wouldn't you far prefer to know their frustrations now, rather than further down the track when it has escalated? Like so much 'people stuff' it is not easy. But awareness on what people are tolerating is a great first step. People often talk about how powerful one or two small but deliberate actions can be. Get clear on where you could be doing things differently in the above three areas, and watch the ageing process become a more welcoming one! Getting real by asking some curly questions is a great place to start.

Posted on March 3, 2017 .

High heeled home birthers, executive protesters and luxury minimalists

Throughout my life, well back when I bought into things like labels and stereotyping (not saying I am completely recovered from this affliction of course), I felt like I had my feet firmly planted in two different worlds.

The first world was arty, creative and alternative. Whether it was repertory theatre in Christchurch, Buddhist retreats in London, film making courses in Big Sur or art therapy classes at Elam, I loved mixing with interesting people, creating stuff and getting lost in conversation, contemplation and a general sense of flow.

The other world was commercially explicit, social and fast paced. Think the glamorous balls of the trading floors of London, a Young Entrepreneurs University in Dubai, think tank sessions at leadership development programs and hotel breakfasts and Friday nights at busy bars with fellow budding young professionals in my first job out of university. In this world, I felt alive, powerful and energized.

Something that used to bother me was that whichever world I was in, I often felt a bit ashamed or embarrassed about my ‘other world’. This was, of course mostly a projection, but there were definitely times when an arty mate might jibe ‘oh I can’t see your fancy corporate friends being into this Laurel’, or a work colleague would deride me for going off to my latest ‘drumming and chanting’ pursuit. I was definitely mindful of standing out if I was still wearing my suit jacket or Thai farmers trousers in the ‘wrong’ environment.  

Thankfully putting people in boxes seems to be losing its appeal over time.

I recently heard that people born in the 60s and 70s have a massive advantage, in that we understand life before technology was so prevalent, but also were introduced to it young enough that it doesn’t bamboozle us as much as people older than us. I think we also have an advantage of seeing how stereotypes of old simply don’t apply (and having the insight of having previously lived in a world where it did). The two worlds that used to seem so different to me are now colliding in a way that I could never have dreamed off. Think about it, how often was spirituality or creativity talked about in the commercial world even ten years ago? I am not sure we are feeling totally unshackled from the previous judgments, but it’s a start.  

Certainly for me personally, it has been refreshing meeting more like-minded friends, those who I don’t have to mentally tag as ‘Kate Sylvester’ vs ‘Kaftan’, but who I know would feel comfortable wearing both. One such friend has shared how she used to be judged as the only person at her home birthing classes who would turn up in high heels; nowadays I think she would be more openly accepted.  

Here are some other examples of the ‘alternative’ and ‘mainstream’ worlds colliding.  

Executives protesting  

We only need to look at recently as last week, with the Women’s March movement to see that people in corporate are not afraid to stand up and let their opinions be heard. People I know who have never protested before, were compelled to not only protest, but knit the requisite hat and garner support via social media.  

Little side note here; I was going to blog this week about the sliver of silver linings that the election of the new US president has created; it is activating people. If Hilary Clinton had been elected, it would have pretty much been status quo; whereas with the crazy situation America is in now, people are doing things they never would have done so before! Early last year, I was impressed with the idea of individuals not governments changing the world (here is a link to a maybe overly celebrity endorsed video by the UN about that), maybe drastic measures are required to get the individuals to take the action required. But I figured there is enough dialogue online about this situation for now.  

Luxury minimalists  

Last night I watched the Netflix documentary ‘Minimalists’, and must confess that I was wary that the message might be gift or throw away everything.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was more about value and quality, simplicity, affordability and sustainability. It’s things like fast fashion that they are lashing out against, where unbelievably some clothing manufacturers have 52 fashion cycles every year, and have been known to slash ‘one week’ old clothes, to make sure people buy the latest. It’s also the fact that rice and beans cost more than the equivalent weight in recycled clothes. This was a timely movie for me to watch, as we are presently clearing out the attic and the garage, and I had a wonderful time with my nine year old in the weekend raising money for his drum kit at a car boot sale.  

We have permission to de-clutter (if that’s what we choose), but hold on to the things we love. Of course we always have had, but often the people who were espousing this concept in the past didn’t share that. I am presently visualising a ‘tiny house’ with the most amazing high-end couch and range!  

A quiet revolution is taking place.

One where slowly, we no longer need to identify ourselves as hippie or conservative, activist or pacifist, arty or analytical, spiritual or atheist or straight or gay. I was amazed when I found out recently that a high school where one of my friend’s kids attends has a good number of pupils who are known, accepted and even welcomed as ‘bi-sexual’ or ‘asexual’. Yes, there will be some of you rolling your eyes and wondering what the world is coming to, but those kids in that school, in my opinion, know who they are, and know they can be who they are, without (for the main part) ridicule and bullying. I shudder to think what it felt like in my era if you knew you didn’t fit the expected mold of straight, but couldn’t share it with anyone. The 16-year-old boy I was talking with about it was so unbelievably mature and unfazed by it all!  

This Danish advert cleverly demonstrates the danger of putting people in boxes. At the risk of sounding cliché, we all share the same fears and passions, so why keep mingling only with those who we feel are like us? Someone mentioned to me recently that a massive advantage of Tinder is that you get to have conversations with people you would never normally meet in your day-to-day life. How’s that for a great upside for a pretty judged dating site? Meetup has the same advantage if you aren’t single.  

One of key things that stop us from breaking out of a life that doesn’t rock us is the worry that we will be judged and the perception that we should be a certain way. Start to gather evidence about this quiet revolution, and then, if you choose, think about who you can converse with, who you might not have in the past, simply because you perceived them to be sitting in a different box. Who knows where it might lead?! 

By the way, I have been enjoying the one on one sessions which I am offering until the end of February. Normally unavailable, this is a great way to get clarity on your value and to work out what might be a very useful and rewarding project to focus on this year. Contact me if you would like to find out more! 

Posted on February 7, 2017 .

Downgrading my delusional Vision Board


New year’s resolutions seem to be copping a bit of slack recently. Personally for me the energy of a new year is a perfect time to reflect and re calibrate on what I want in my life, and with New Zealand and Australia essentially checking out over most of January, it’s a lovely time to gently swing into the new year with some planning and focusing (versus a bunch of coffee meetings or phone calls).

A concept which seems to be enjoying as much popularity as ever is creating vision boards. I attended a vision board workshop just over three years ago, and recently as part of my new ‘reality check’ philosophy, thought I would identify what had come ‘true’ on the board I created that day.

What a reality check – pretty much nothing had come true… after three years!

I think some of the most dangerous ‘popular recommendations’ that are dished out frequently are that when you are goal setting, err on the side of thinking big.

Well there’s thinking big, and there’s thinking delusional. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe we can create anything we want, but if we are choosing grandeur, I think we sometimes lose a reality check on what it is actually going to take to get there.

My vision board was full of Bentleys, diamond rings, luxury holiday houses and world cruises. Of course the first observation on that is that it is all very materialistic. But when you are in a room with a bunch of glossy mags to cut up, that often ends up being what presents itself to you (and it truly was a great workshop and lots of fun).

Two challenges on this one; firstly, if I were to be able to purchase those things myself, then I would need to be earning something along the lines of 1 mill a year, which is, just quietly quite a jump from what I was earning back then.  

Within the powerful Thought Leader’s Business School, there is a methodology which if followed can drive you towards earning that kind of money within three years. However, you have to be prepared to put in the work to a whole new level, and that’s something I realise I am not choosing right now.  

The second challenge is, did I really want these things, or was it just a bit of fun? Realistically, I am not sure that driving around in a Bentley is really me, and rather than a holiday house, maybe I would prefer to travel to different places each holiday.  

In the last couple of weeks, I have created a new vision/reality board, and one which contains images and words for things that I realistically want to appear in my life for 2017.  

Actually, I think that the better way to describe it is a reality board. Many of the things that I have put on it I already do have; it’s simply a way of keeping them front of mind for me. I have popped stars on the ones that are currently in my life and am looking forward to popping stars on the ones that become reality as the year progresses.  

Out goes the fancy jewellery and in its place are things as simple as a case of Rockburn Stolen Kiss Rose, a new winter jacket and boots, even a vegetable spiraliser and dental water flosser! Pedestrian? Maybe, but a heck of a lot more realistic than my previous effort.  

At the heart of my reality board, are the four essential choices that I have identified, in accordance with Robert Fritz’s brilliant work on creating; I am enjoying reading his book ‘The Path of Least Resistance’, which flies in the face of many concepts I have adopted over the last 20 years or so.  

(1) To be true to myself and embrace REALITY as a new guiding light. Case in point, this vision board; as a recovering idealist, I am all up for million dollar revenues, but choose to get a gauge on where I am now as a benchmark, something I probably have enjoyed avoiding in the past. On the true to myself bit, it is also about choosing the work and market that I actually enjoy vs what I, or others, think I should do.  

(2) To be the predominant creative force in my life; it’s all up to me. An interesting insight I got recently, was how I still hold onto victim mentality at times. For example, going to a gym and doing all the ‘right’ things but not trimming up as quickly as I would like. I felt like a little four year old girl with my arms crossed, stomping my feet and saying ‘it’s not fair’! This year, I am simply getting clearer on what I want to create, noting when things aren’t working, and experimenting usefully with other approaches. Creativity is one of my key words for this year; watch out for upcoming blogs on how you can apply it to your own world (if you choose of course).  

(3) To be free, especially financially and continue my sense of bliss and knowing. Ever since I started meditating twice a day almost 18 months ago, I have generally felt this almost trippy sense of bliss. Of course I get triggered at times, I am only human, but if I can maintain it, along with the knowing I am on the right track, then that will be the best version of freedom. Regarding financial freedom, it’s time to get a reality check on what I choose to generate monthly, to feel free. Last week I actually created a budget, for the first time in over 15 years. That’s a good start!  

(4) To be freely healthy (and love my food and exercise) and love my body and energy. How many hours of collective head time have I spent worrying about what I eat, how I exercise and what I weigh? I know I am not alone in this. Well guess what? It hasn’t exactly served me; any time I produce results of a significant weight loss (say 5kg or more), I end up piling it back on! Enough! I am taking the invaluable learnings from the Mindful Eatingcourse I did last year, and simply feeling free around my food and exercise choices. And feeling comfortable with my body whatever size!  

Even just writing these down now, it feels so good, particularly the freedom around it! It is amusing to see that it has taken me until I am nearly 50 years old to realize that my refusal to be real about my present situation has not been that helpful. Don’t get me wrong, I am all up for thinking big and bold, I think the question that has liberated me, is ‘how is that really going for me so far’? For me, there is freedom in a health dose of pragmatic reality. For you, it may be that you are truly thinking way bigger than this, and if that is the case, bring it on! Whatever works and feels energetically right for you is the way to go, in my opinion!  

I am reintroducing my New Years offer of a one off session with me before end of February.  

With last year being all about working out the way I truly want to work, I realised that I wasn't such a fan of one off coaching or training; the reason being, as humans we can create all the intentions in the world, but often don't get the results we are looking for. That's why my key offerings, LabYOU and Your Best Work Coaching, require a longer term commitment of six months to a year. But not being one to be rigid and forced about anything, I like to offer a one off two to three hour immersion session as an exception for the beginning of the year.  

These sessions receive rave reviews, and will help anyone who is looking for powerful clarity on what they might want to be focusing on career, business or even project wise for 2017. I love asking the questions that give me clues to the threads in an individual's make up and brilliance, and then working with them to create a framework/high level overview of where they can not only create some great revenue and fulfillment for themselves, but do it in a way that feels way more natural, simply because they are focusing on what they naturally are good at and enjoy rather than what they think they should be doing.  

Don't underestimate what value you can get out of a couple of hours; this session could save you massive amounts of time, energy and frustration, simply because you have been focusing historically on something that is not really you! There is a huge cost, both personally and nationally associated with people hanging around in roles and businesses that aren't enabling them to be their best creatively, and sometimes all that is required is a minor tweak in their current situation. Please email or phone me direct to have a chat about this. The investment is $700 plus GST. 

Posted on January 17, 2017 .

Why I am shunning adrenalin rides and half marathons

One of the things that I believe is integral to living a life of freedom on your terms, is working out what you don’t want. I think a great example of this is when you go through a branding process. So often, when very smart people are working on a new brand or look for me, the first iteration they come up with (based on me being what they think is super clear on what I am looking for) is something that I don't actually like.

This happened with my latest rebrand earlier this year. But then I realized that my amazing designer had simply given me what I thought I wanted.  This is an integral part of the creative process and means that you can then work out what you do want, and come up with something exceptional. I highly rate Bronwen Hurford who is not only a designer, but also an illustrator, check our her brilliant work at DecemberandCo and JanuaryandCo. She was very patient with me, while I worked out exactly what it was I wanted, without really knowing at the time! Needless to say, I am thrilled with the end result, and have never received more positive feedback from clients and friends alike.  

Here are some of the first iterations of my branding....

Someone kindly informed me that they thought it was a bit childlike, which is definitely part of who I am, but I realised I wanted to bring some more substance, elegance and beauty to it. Here is what we ended up with... ( I actually have six versions of this, ie six different colour versions to play with, the orange themethat is presently reflected in this email template and on my website is only one of them).

I am thrilled I took the time to worth through the iterations, because I believe the end result is way superior (however I am sure there will be someone who replies to this email telling me they prefer the first one!) I think the same applies for the most exciting creation possible, our life! There are things that I have historically thought I might be in to, that now , If I am really straight, I am not! Here are two recent examples;

1. Voluntary Adrenalin – ie theme park rides

Nearly two weeks ago we came back from a family holiday in the GC. We were adamant that this was a holiday totally focused on the kids, which meant an unnaturally large number of theme parks to visit in four days. There were some magical highlights, the dolphin show at Seaworld being the stand out, but for me, the experience of going on a reasonably fast ride (not even a massively high adrenalin one) was hideous. I think we have as a societybecome a bit immune to thrill seeking, because the sheer drop of some of these rides seems to be way steeper than last time I did it (yes, I also get I could be coming more of a weenie wag in my old age).

Case in point, a vertical drop at a water park, with my quite adventurous nine year old Lucas in an inflatable boat. My not so adventurous six year old Cam had also clambered up the monstrous structure, willing to consider it.  

‘Hey buddy’, the controller at the top said to Cam (his eyes most likely rolling behind his dark sunglasses having to trot out this conversation for the 10th time that day). ‘I know you are feeling scared now, but I promise you, you will have fun on that ride’.   I remember telling myself to prepare for FUN although that was the last thing I was feeling…. Then whoosh, we were off… my heart feeling literally in my throat, the speed simply frightening, and thankfully it was over pretty quickly. Lucas loved it, Cam thankfully had decided to abandon it (I have no doubt he will be keen to do it in a couple of years) and I realized that I am never going on a high thrill ride again.  

It is just not in my make up. Sure I can think, conquer that belief, ride through the fear and the limitation, but why? Once many years ago, I was on a leadership course at Solway Park near Masterton. As part of the ‘development’ I had to scale a lamppost high pole, stand on the tiny platform (harnessed of course) and leap up onto a trapeze. My legs were wobbling so much I almost fell off the thing.  

‘Come on’ came the voices from way below. ‘You will feel amazing and such a sense of achievement’. Fifteen minutes later, after realizing that clambering back down the pole was probably going to be way worse, I leaped…, I swear the facilitator was in tears of joy. Not me, I did not feel one skerrick of satisfaction or accomplishment, more like PTSD. Kind of similar to the way I felt after some masochistic friends have led me down black diamond runs on icy ski fields...  

Thankfully there are people like the kid's dad Geoff, who did a great job of taking on the scarier rides and supporting Lucas through some additional thrill seeking.

2. Half marathons

The weekend before we left, I completed the Keri Keri half marathon (my first and only). I was only ever going to walk it, and had been pretty good in the lead up to it, walking lots, tracking ‘Map my Walk’ and conditioning myself well with gym work and Barre. I thought it would be a nice opportunity to ‘have something to aim for’ and it was with a dear friend who has competed a number of half marathons.  

Fast forward to the event, and I was going well. First 10 km and I am striding forth, enjoying the banter with fellow walkers, admiring the views and keeping up with my long legged friend. At 15km I hit a wall, and I mean a real wall. There was a point I was wondering whether I might have to hail a medic, or at least give up. Some people share this experience (admittedly more for marathons) as something to break through, to conquer, against the odds… F@## that! I slowed right down to a gentle walk, recomposed myself, then somehow managed to get across that finish line in a not entirely un-respectable time.

A part of the weekend I was looking forward to was the social bit afterwards. Keri Keri was hosting a street party. But I was so completely shattered that all we did was go back to our hotel room, eat some left over avocado and eggs on toast, and get to bed early. Yes, I get I hadn’t trained in stamina properly, and could potentially do better next time.

‘You will now have caught the bug’ commented one of my lovely relatives on FB. ‘Not feeling that right now!’ I replied. ‘You just wait another week!’ he counter replied. Here I am three weeks later…. and… NO NO NO NO !! No bug. My idea of a great weekend away would have been my girlfriend and I doing our own thing, including a couple of nice big walks, and enjoying magazines, wine and exploring. 

SO, my declaration – no more half marathons and no more theme park rides. Why is this such a big deal for me? Because for years and years, I have been trying to ‘prove myself’ and suck up to challenges which I actually in reality do not like...

...(Half ironman swim many years ago case in point – groan). Now I simply accept that I am neither an adrenalin junkie nor a multisporter. It doesn’t rock my socks and that doesn’t impact the friendships I have with the many people I know who differ from me and LOVE them.  

Now that I have (hopefully finally) accepted that I have nothing to prove, that I totally accept myself for who I am (and who I am not), life seems easier. Sure there will be people who think I am ‘selling out’ and not ‘challenging myself’. Personally, I think I am just being smart. There are other parts of my world where I completely challenge myself, in a way that works for me (and those feats are probably other people's versions of 'adrenalin rides' for me).  

On Friday I woke up naturally at 545am (loving my no alarms wake ups) and decided to go for a walk. My first instinct was to find a pod cast to listen to… and I chose not to listen to anything. My next thought was to kick off‘Map my Walk’.. and I chose instead just to go at the pace that felt natural. I explored my local streets for nearly an hour, discovering a street super close I had never walked down (amazing, the trees were so overgrown that the leaves actually touched your face when you walked past!) observing finches playing and visiting a local pool which looked so inviting, that I will make swimming there in the mornings a priority over this Summer.  

I think that it’s a natural metaphor for the way I have chosen to live recently. I am truly grateful to Lorna Patten from Open Up Communication  for coaching me this year through this massive shift as a recovering 'doer and pleaser'. Giving up the ‘shoulds’, slowing down and enjoying exploring and discovering at my own pace and level of adrenalin, no one else's. And however you choose to run, walk, thrill seek orlive is entirely up to you, just make sure you are getting clear on what you don’t want vs what you feel you should do, simply to prove a point! 

Posted on December 13, 2016 .

Winging it or work of art – the pesky spectrum of precision

”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit”


In my book Lead Generation, which I published exactly two years ago, I included a chapter on Perfectionism. Essentially I shared that waiting for the website to be ‘just right’ or not publishing a video until we feel it is of Oscar quality holds us back, because really, what works commercially is just to get out there, and start having conversations.

Whilst I do believe there are some of us who use ‘getting it right’ as an excuse to delay the confronting bit of having sales conversations, I do believe that there are actually a bunch of people out there who simply have higher standards, and feel like they are compromising their work if they put it out there in a shabby way.

If you want to continually demonstrate excellence and mastery in your work, then go for it!

I am interchanging words like excellence, mastery, precision and perfectionism, but I am essentially referring to the act of a job ‘very well done’.

I have a wonderful friend who is all about excellence. She lives and breathes it, and likes things to be just right, whether it’s a book, a website, her home, an event or gift wrapping. Try telling her to ‘wing it’ or not submit her ‘best work’ and she would tell you where to go! Of course she is practical, there are times when she knows she needs to be on the non precision side of the spectrum but her natural way of being is excellence.

On the other hand, I am very happy just to get things out there and not worry too much about the finer detail. The video below is a case in point; there is a washing basket (and washing!) in the background, I am squinting badly and don’t exactly look camera ready. But this is my natural way of being; I am happy for people to see the washing baskets in my life!  In a way, I love the challenge of seeing what comes up without too much preparation. However, I also will be very well prepared when the occasion calls for it.

The thing that is similar with my friend and me, is that we both feel immense freedom in the way we work (and believe me it has taken something for me to get to this stage!). We don’t give much of a shit what people think; we are confident in the knowing that it is our 'real stuff' and that is has value. And we are also happy to take a risk. My excellence driven friend knows she won’t be pleasing everyone, and she is cool about that. I know for a fact that I get judged for my ‘muckiness’ at times, and most of the time don’t let that worry me.

When we continue to worry too much about what others think, I think that is what holds us back, not striving for perfection in the first place.

Carol Dweck refers to this as growth mindset vs fixed mindset. I love the idea of curiosity and exploration as the drivers for growth, and you can do that in a winging it kind of way or a work of art kind of way, whatever works for you!

I also think we have parts of our life where we are driven to excellence more so than others.

For example, with Transcendental Meditation, I am very clear that I am all about mastery. I have a very disciplined practice, and am constantly researching the literature which supports it (have just finished this fabulous book on the topic). There are others who have a more ‘wing it’ kind of approach to meditation, which is great; in this area I choose mastery.

It comes down to trusting yourself, and what feels right for you. In the past, I think I have come from a place where people who are vigilant in their need to constantly demonstrate excellence are somehow broken or constrained, and I don’t think I am alone in this. But who on earth am I to judge others, particularly if their only ‘crime’ is wanting to be the best?! Let's represent ourselves to others in a way that works for us, and the real us.

Have a think about where you sit on the spectrum, are you are ‘wing it’ or ‘work of art’ kind of person? And does that differ depending on what area of your world you are thinking about? Do what works for you, don’t base your ‘success’ on what other people think, and the world will be a better place for you sharing your stuff in your own unique way!   

Posted on November 22, 2016 .

Is the present ‘corporate model’ outdated and flawed?

One thing that fascinates me is how as humans, when we get together in groups, and I mean big groups, things can suddenly get a whole lot more complicated, particularly in the way that individuals feel within that group.

Think about large companies and how often people will say that the culture is toxic. Think about cultural change initiatives, and even though the best intent is there, and the time and money investment is made, in many instances it just remains a miserable place to work. There are definitely some great places to work, and there are extraordinary people who are committed to creating and supporting such work places, don’t get me wrong, but I am wracking my brain as to why it is so hard for work places in general to maintain an inspiring and productive culture. Time and time again I hear of almost Dilbert like examplesof really silly things happening in the corporate world, not necessarily because of oneindividual's stupidity, but as a result of the way that the individuals work and communicate with each other! (By the way, Richard Branson believes that eventually office buildings wont even exist, I wonder how that will impact the system if it becomes reality?).

This Daniel Pink quote (from this popular Ted Talk about motivation) I think provides some of the answer…

"In the 20th century, we came up with this idea of management. Management did not emanate from nature. Management is not a tree, it's a television set. Somebody invented it. It doesn't mean it's going to work forever. Management is great. Traditional notions of management are great if you want compliance. But if you want engagement, self-direction works better."

The interesting thing about this is that the Ted Talk is seven years old! And as much as autonomy, mastery and purpose seemed like a great idea at the time, how many companies are managing to do this well? I think he is bang on about his ideas around management and reward/recognition working only for low skilled tasks, but what is the new way to incent people and get them performing not only at their best, but also with a higher level of fulfillment?

The very smart Dr Jason Fox states in his book ‘How to Lead a Quest’ that the default ‘enterprise model’ has been built to instill order and resist change, and that this is exactly what holds us back. He suggests that the way forward is to instead look at pioneering leadership, which is essentially looking at things differently and embracing experimentation and learning, accepting uncertainty and celebrating smaller wins, having fun with quests and recognizing meaningful progress (sorry Jason if that is a bit of a dog’s breakfast of a description, I just think it’s all so good!).

I mentioned Patrick Hollingworth’s thought provoking blog about a month back where he basically has the guts to call it like it is (on our western approach on general!) and say…

"Our traditional western approach to the world is fundamentally flawed. As in, it’s fcuked. Broken. Kaput. C’est finis."

So what’s the answer?

For me personally, I am leaving it up to the insanely smart minds of the likes of Jason, Patrick and Daniel to continue to explore and challenge. They are looking at all sorts of things from technology to gamification to neurophysics for the answers.

In addition to the experts mentioned here, I think Raj Sisodia’s and Seth Godin’s work are well worth a read, as are Jason Fried, Stephen Johnston and Simon Dowling. Here in New Zealand, Michael Henderson and Blacksmith’s Kate Billing are leading the way in my opinion.

My personal focus is now clearly on individuals and how they can work within their own environments and lives to create success, fulfillment and freedom for themselves.

It may sound like a cop out but personally, I find the complexity of working out how humans can play nicely together in big groups a little overwhelming. I do believe that with our time of unprecedented change, the old ways are not going to serve us any more. The more people start challenging the status quo, the more likely the overarching model will transcend into something way more powerful, enjoyable and relevant to our tomorrow.

If you are part of a large organization, and particularly if you are in a leadership role, then I urge you to start listening to (and even partaking in!) some of these fascinating conversations around the future of working in groups. Congratulations to those of you who are already doing this; I know of some brilliant initiatives, which are succeeding in spite of being within ‘the machine’.

If you are a disillusioned individual, I believe you have three options;

  1. hang in there (that’s not really an option!),
  2. work out what you truly want to do and go out and make it happen or
  3. start to champion being a change in the organization where you presently work (definitely the harder option, but maybe the most fulfilling!). For the latter two options, my program LabYOU would be ideal to support you with this.

The answer is not easy, but the more of us who operate within the present and flawed system start challenging and exploring, rather than accepting ‘what is’, the more likely we are to find it!

Posted on November 4, 2016 .

Hang on, says who?! Your personal invitation to LabYOU

labYOU final blue (Clipped).PNG
  • A yearlong mix of coaching and labs for 10 inquisitive and interesting individuals (based in Auckland).
  • I would love you to be part of my pilot program!
  • This is my personal project. What is going to be yours for 2017?

A wonderful new client and I were having a discussion yesterday about what it takes as a female to get onto boards. She was a little bemused as she had recently heard some advice (from a female who was on a number of boards) which went something along the lines of needing specific tertiary and industry experience in order to get a look in in a predominantly man’s world.  I found myself feeling quite riled up about it.

I know a number of business owners who wouldn’t give a rat’s arse about the qualifications or said industry experience; surely it’s about the value that person can bring and that equates to more than a few letters. But what was more surprising for me was that the females dishing out the advice were keeping the story in place by sharing it and not challenging it. Of course they came from an era where they had to ‘do it hard’ to get to where they are today, but I would have thought that would be an even stronger reason to share with younger inspiring women that they might like to look at things differently. I am not saying that there is no truth in the suggestion, simply that it’s not set in stone.

The interesting thing about these limitations is that sometimes they are so deeply entrenched, that we don’t even realize we are influenced by them. One way that I find I can personally unearth them, is by asking the question ‘Hangon, says who?!’ when I feel that I am buying into something that doesn’t serve.

LabYOU is a place where you can lightly explore and challenge the limitations that you and others place on your own aspirations to live the way you choose, particularly around career and working hours.  

It is finally time to share details about my upcoming year long Auckland based program. If you have been regularly reading my emails, you will know that this has been a year of letting go and getting clear on what I really enjoy (vs whatI think I should enjoy) and LabYOU is definitely my personal project that really lights me up. Now I want to support you in discovering, creating and sharing yours.

LabYOU is a year long central Auckland based project commencing Saturday 3rd December 2016, where a small group of inquisitive and interesting individuals go through a mix of coaching, lab days and connection/growth with each other to create a lifestyle that works for them, particularly around the way they make a living (and how long they spend each week or year doing that!). It is very experimental in nature (think guidelines not a strict curriculum, and a general tinkering approach) and will definitely be driven by the group as a whole rather than any preconceived ideas. We will be doing a lot of 'going where the energy of the group goes'.

The cost is deliberately low, at $600 plus gst per month per person, which does not reflect the extraordinary value you will get out of the experiment. Why am I not charging more? Because this is what I want to charge, and I want it to be something that can be a reality for more people! This is also my pilot, and so I am keen to get it filled and started, and make it happen!

You can find out more about the program by going to my website. Fill out the form and you will receive some more in depth information about what you are potentially getting yourself in to, or just email or text me and we can have a chat. I promise I won't do any hard sell or be pushy; I will just be thrilled you are considering investing your time and money into yourself, and will be happy to give you some clarity over aphone call about where to next for you! I also have one spot available for one on one coaching, which might be something you want to explore if you don't historically 'play well with others'!

The following model is the basis of LabYOU

LabYOU Model Edited.PNG

Personal ROI  - Where do you specifically want to spend your energy, time and resources to make the most impact on where you are today? For example, if you are having massive challenges with your relationship or a health/lifestyle issue, then putting some energy up front into solving that might be a great move (if that’s what you choose to focus on of course; it is pretty much up to you, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but naturally there are consequences to some choices!). If you don't have your personal ROI sussed, you are likely to have an out of kilter lifestyle.

Your unique creation – What is it that you really want to do, be it a job, a movement, a business or simply a hobby or lifestyle (eg creating a social indoor netball team!)? And is this what you want to do rather than something driven out of feeling you have no choice, that you are too old, or because of something someone else told you once? Once you have worked that out, how are you going to build it? This is what I am referring to as your personal project and is usually related to how someone earns a living, but it can actually be anything you want to create. If you aren't focusing on your own unique creation, you are likely to be working  with someone else's art.

An influence strategy – how are you going to get out there, and get known for this, once it’s been built? Who are the ideal people to share it with? How will you keep in touch with them in a way that doesn’t annoy them, but means they won’t forget about you? How do you get others on board (eg loved ones or high profile potential advocates) who will be instrumental to this becoming a reality? How can you do this in a way that works for you? For example, if you are a natural hustler, then great, we can use that skill. But if you are someone who is more interested in influencing under the radar, we can make that work too! If you don't have a workable influence strategy, you might just be a best kept secret!

Support and structures that serve you – those last three words are very important, because I have myself adopted a number of support mechanisms and structures that have in reality been a great way to beat myself up, and believe that I am ‘sabotaging’, when in fact, they just haven’t really served me! Having said that, some support and structures are super useful and we will spend time working out what works for you specifically. One thing I am clear on is that the LabYOU participants don’t get themselves into (or stay in) any state of overwhelm, beat up or burnout. These structures will apply to all parts of your life (eg date nights, zero inbox, food diaries and financial advisers, whatever you choose!). There will be an emphasis on working less than the standard ‘expectation’.

Once you have worked through each of the above four areas, you will be likely to absolutely experience freedom, in a way that you have never felt before. That's the aim for participants of LabYOU.

Have you ever been to Christmas in the Park on dress rehearsal night? It's way less crowded than the actual night, but I find it quite neat to witness the sound checks, the slight hiccups and the insight into the crazy logistic of this massive event. Personally, I think becoming part of a pilot will add some extra magic. I have other LabYOUs planned for launch in 2017, but this one is going to be the really special one and I would love you to be part of that! 

Posted on October 21, 2016 .

Reducing the hours I work - an experiment

I have been FASCINATED with the story of SpaceX and Elon Musk’s quest to set up a human civilization on Mars. Patrick Hollingworth is a fabulous man who uses the principles of mountaineering to help us navigate our present world of uncertainty and complexity, and he wrote his ‘most important ever’ blog last week. Thanks to Patrick’s blog, I have discovered a great resource right here, which explains SpaceX beautifully (I love how the author refers to it as a BFR Big F#@king Rocket) but if you don’t want to read the whole article, these are the exciting bits as far as I am concerned;

  1. Elon wants to send people to Mars as a kind of ‘life insurance policy for the species’.
  2. Right now, it would cost about $10 billion a person to get them there, which is cost prohibitive. He thinks around 1 million people are needed and thinks that $500,000 per person  is a realistic figure that enough people could afford (out of those who would actually want to go!).
  3. Late last year, they worked out how to make space travel more affordable by returning the rocket to Earth so it could be re-used.
  4. They have worked out other ways to reduce the cost per person, specifically by 1. getting more people in each rocket 2. Refueling the spaceships in orbit and 3. Manufacturing propellant on Mars (read the article for more on why these things can lower cost).  

If all goes according to plan, the first people will be going to Mars in 2025 (that’s not that far away!!). It will take 3 months to get there, but it will be fun, because people will be floating around and doing interesting things.

What does this have to do with working less hours a day??

Because with SpaceX they are looking at doing the impossible, and the way they are doing that is by working out how they can make it happen by simply viewing at things in various ways (eg refueling/re-landing rockets). Most people would say that it’s not doable, but they are already a fair way down the track! The cool thing about this approach is it requires you to look at things very differently (Patrick calls this emergent, where you tinker, influence and experiment with certain conditions and factors). If we stop viewing things the way we always have, and start experimenting a little more.. eg by saying ‘how could I work 30% to 50% less than what I am doing presently’ then just maybe you would work out a solution.

It reminds me of Ernest Rutherford’s quote; “We haven't got the money, so we'll have to think”.

How about we hack that, and say ‘we want to work x less hours every week, so we are going to have to think'?

But before we look out how, let’s consider why I want to reduce my working week. Most of you who know me, know that I love what I do, but there’s some other things that come into play;

  1. I want to spend more time with my kids.
  2. I want to hang out with my friends more (for a while now I have been primarily limiting coffee/lunch connections to work related ones).
  3. Someone very close to me has just completed treatment for breast cancer, and that definitely puts things into perspective (and I think working less is definitely healthier, particularly when it comes to stress levels).
  4. I have worked my butt off for a fair bit of time since returning from maternity leave five years ago and I feel it’s time to try a different approach.
  5. I want to explore more creative and personal projects (there are a ton of them in my head, but they are require commitment and time).
  6. I feel that by working less, I have more energy, enthusiasm and creativity to invest with my clients.
  7. I love getting up later than 5am (as a morning person, I also like getting up early and being super productive in the blissful quiet of that time of day, but want this to be the exception not the rule).
  8. With summer coming up, I want to spend more time outdoors.
  9. I see this as a great experiment that I can share with others, regardless of the outcome.

This last point is really all I needed to say, isn’t it? This is my year of no dogma, and a big part of that is doing what I feel like doing, rather than what other people think I should do (without being a complete prat about it). This feels right!

How do I plan to do that?

Firstly my productivity has been supercharged since reading and adapting to Dermot Crowley’s Smart Work structure just over a month ago, and I am presently working through these Ted Talks on the subject.

I am prioritizing what I am doing and focusing on only one or two work areas at a time. I am also in the fortunate position of having sowed a lot of seeds, which will come to fruition in the next six months (but for now, I have some space; another good reason to lessen the workload now; because I can!).

Finally, for the first time ever, I am offering group coaching, which is something I have always wanted to do, but haven’t ever made happen. It follows on from my recent revelation that I love working with over 45’s who want to change things in their career world (and maybe work less hours too!). Because of the way it’s set up, I can charge a more affordable price point than the standard one on one partnership (even though it still includes one on one coaching). It is funny, as soon as I decided I would actually do this, there are already some people interested! 

Let me know if you would like to find out more; the 10 people who sign up to my pilot program (starting in December) will receive some great value as a thank you for being my first!

But really, I am just changing the way I think about my work overall, and playfully experimenting with different approaches to condensing the time. And let’s face it, this is not actually rocket science! (groan). Who knows what will come of it; deciding it’s possible is simply the first step.

This is an experiment, and like SpaceX, there is no guarantee that the experiment will be a success. But I am going to have fun giving it a go, and I am in good company too; check out this article on the paddle board company who operates a five hour work day or this one, where Amazon is piloting 30 hour work weeks for selected employees (and yes, they get paid less). A study conducted by the University of Melbourne earlier this year found that over 40’s work better when their workweek is reduced to three days.

I am also keen to hear from anyone who is going through any kind of change in their work habits. It would be great to share the journey! How often do we keep doing things the same way, because we can't give ourselves permission to do things differently, just because we want to?

Posted on October 4, 2016 .

The extraordinary appeal of over 45s (and why I want to coach them!)

Did you know that Jimi Hendrix’ first foray into the US market was a bit of a flop? He was big in the UK, but widely unknown in the US. In 1967 the Monkees discovered him and invited him to tour with them. It was a complete disaster, with Jimi finally walking off the stage in disgust, and only performing a handful of the scheduled 29 performances. The audience just didn’t get him! For those of you who know the Monkees, have a think about it. What on earth would their audience, who were largely teenie boppers, make of the highly unconventional Jimi?

I have been thinking about the audience that I like playing to the most. Chances are, if you like playing to them, they will like listening to you! Case in point, Jimi was known to refer to the music of the Monkees as dishwater. I have realized that a lot of the audiences I am have been wanting to attract are ones that I feel I should be playing to, or that others have told me to play to. (This year has been one of the most extraordinary transitional times of my life; I think mainly because I am giving myself a total reality check on how I want to be living rather than how I am living according to rules created by myself and others; here’s a blog I wrote on that earlier this year).

When I think of a group of people that I have loved working with in the past, who get extraordinary insights as a result of us working together, and who I find particularly appealing, it is people who are over 45 years of age. By the time they get to 45 years old, they can’t help but have experienced some massive highs and lows, they do most likely have a better idea of who they are and what they love,  they have probably lost most of their younger self angst, and they don’t follow other people’s rules; they create their own…..

Or do they… really?

When I delivered the ‘career decisions by decade’ series on The Paul Henry show last year (a nice way to carve myself a regular spot by focusing on a bunch of interviews vs one offs!), by far the decade that elicited the most feedback was that of the over 50s and 60s. I was inundated by gorgeous people of these decades connecting with me, exasperated that their job hunting efforts had failed; deflated about feeling ‘washed up’ or feeling trapped in a career that they now hated.  The common theme was that now that they were of this age, they felt that their choices were significantly reduced and they really had no idea how they could continue to generate income (which many of them still had to do).

A good friend of mine recently shared that she and some of our closer friends were feeling anxious about turning 50 years old. Ok, I understand that there is still an obsession with youth in our culture, I also know that as we edge into our 50s and 60s our ‘warrants of fitness’ can fail more regularly, and health, energy and sleeping challenges can impact what we are up for. But what about the opportunities? What about the different ways we can make money these days? What about our freedom to work from anywhere in the world?

I know countless stories of people who have reinvented themselves beautifully in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Like the woman who decided she loved interior decorating after years in corporate, and managed to score a sales role where she caned the targets every month. The man who studied to become a lawyer in his 50s. The woman who left a cut throat industry and now spends her days doing what she really loves around theatre and history.  The high flying Wall St broker who came crashing down with a supposedly non curable illness, discovered reflexology as a way to cure herself, and now supports others through the same. The diversity specialist who sold up everything and is traveling around the world.  

The interesting thing about all these stories, are that they are not ones that might makethe news. They are not ‘out of the ordinary’. But ask any of these people how much happier they are than in their previous world? How much more time do they spend with their family? How are they sleeping?  I am not promising that making a move into the unknown is guaranteed for success but when you are struggling with the crazy pace of your life, the stress, the compromise, the politics, it’s a sure sign to take some action (and not wait for a health scare to force you to look at it).

I used to implore people to discover their absolute truth, their purpose, be a stand for changing the world in a big way, and earn big bucks doing so. I absolutely believe that this is still a brilliant (and highly rewarding) option for many people, but I also think to a certain extent, that it was a form of sabotage for me, and gave me a great excuse to beat myself up and feel like a failure when I wasn’t getting those kind of results, either for me or some of my clients.

If my dear Dad was still alive, he would have turned 80 two days ago. He was an amazing role model for doing what he loved; working in television in its heyday, and feeling super blessed for being paid to play with exciting and new technology. But in his later years, he was really biding time before he and mum felt comfortable enough financially to retire and move from Dunedin to Wanaka. Just before his 60th birthday, a very close family member died suddenly, at the age of 62. It was a brutal wake up call for him, and Mum and Dad were living in Wanaka within the year, and enjoyed the most amazing 16 years together (with an enviable social life!) before he died. I like to think that I am honouring Dad by supporting others to have the courage to work out what’s truly important to them and just making it happen.

This is my audience! People over 45 years who are running themselves ragged (or even just a little discontent) doing what they know in their heart of hearts isn’t really them.

If you (or someone you know)  are interested in exploring a six month coaching Illuminate partnership with me, then let's have a coffee and I can (lightly!) ask you a bunch of questions that will give you some powerful upfront clarity. That includes working out if you are playing to your version of The Monkees! Through the partnership, you will uncover aspects about yourself you never knew, discover the slip stream that opens up when you start doing what you want to do (not what you think you should do), open yourself to a world of reinvention opportunity that you weren’t aware of, and start feeling that life is simply easier and more enjoyable. I will also be hosting regular get togethers where a bunch of over 45s can explore this in a relaxed, safe and inquiring environment. The focus is on a mix of personal development and practical support to allow you to actually get on with it, and make it become a reality (which may include a transition time to keep yourself going financially).

I will finish up sharing this YouTube post create by Gary Vaynerchuk for anyone who is approaching or has just turned 50 and is having a hard time coming to terms with it. Interesting that Gary is only 40 himself and I think he has some really valid points; how much of our excuses are created by our own limited way of thinking? Take the opportunity to reinvent!!!

Posted on September 19, 2016 .