Each day, I share my thoughts as honestly and eloquently as possible. I do that to remind myself of what's important, to inspire others and to help us all be the change, we want to see.
There is no agenda, premeditated theme or even planning that goes into these posts. They are just the thoughts in my mind, as they appear, at that time.
I hope they can be of help to someone, somewhere each day.
I received a comment on a social media post that has enraged me. It has enraged me because an assumption was made about my husband.
This is not the first time people have made negative assumptions about my husbands role in the stories I share - in fact I left a number of 'supposedly' supportive social media groups for mums returning to the workplace, after receiving a number of aggressive comments on why it was me and not my husband who had given up their career in the first place.
So, for clarity I thought I would address, head on, all of the assumptions I have received on-line over the years.
1. My husband and I are a team and as such we make decisions together.
2. My husband did not ask me nor did he expect me to give up my career to become a home maker and full time mum, he would have gladly put aside his own, had it been what I wanted, but it was not.
3. I am not dependent on my husband salary, we view the salary as ours, earned by working as a team, carving out the roles required between us based on choice and who is best placed to do the role.
4. My husband does not expect me to shoulder all of the domestic chores or childcare, there is a practicality to how much he can do given he has a full time job, even so there are many nights he comes in after a long day, cooks dinner, clears up and provides emotional support when he sees how shattered and stressed I am by the day.
5. My husband is hugely supportive of my need to have time for myself outside of the role of being a mother and wife and pro-actively ensures this happens - for example this weekend I am off on a retreat whilst he cooks, cleans, shops, ferries the kids around and is forced to game with them on the PS5.
6. When it all gets too much and I feel lost, unseen, unvalued, unworthy or a failure (based on many of society's standards), he is the first person to pick me up, remind me of my value, that I am the glue that holds our world together, the support he will gladly give me should I want to change my role and how very loved I am.
My posts on SAHM/Ds, the role of women in society, the menopause, grief, mental health, changing the way we work and life in general, are always about my experiences in the wider society - in fact it is precisely because of the psychological safety, equality, freedom and unconditional love that my husband and children provide, that I have the confidence and support to be able to use my voice to say all that I do.
So, please so not use my posts to make negative assumptions about men, or about one of the most selfless, brave and kind human beings I have ever been blessed to know, my husband.
The deeds of a few should not be used to assume the worst of the majority and I remain hugely uncomfortable with the increasingly negative narrative I am seeing surrounding the role of men in our society - we are all human beings first and foremost and I say again, we do not empower women by demonising men.
It's difficult to feel worthy in a world when being worthy is only celebrated by really exceptional achievements.
Only yesterday I observed a few examples on social media of people's 'worthiness' being celebrated as:
1. Being a women in a senior position in business as well as raising lots of kids;
2. Winning accolades for ground breaking research;
3. Raising a huge amount of money for a well deserving charity;
4. Completing a fitness regime that befits an olympian;
5. Overcoming a serious illness and starting a successful venture at the same time; and
6. Writing a bestseller which will change everyone's life.
I could go on but I stopped scrolling in the end, not because these achievements are not worth celebrating, of course they are, I am in total awe of what these people have achieved, but because I do not tick any of the commonly celebrated 'worthiness' boxes and sometimes that's hard.
It's hard to feel worthy in a world where your worthiness is largely invisible to the naked eye.
For example when was the last time you saw a post being celebrated that said:
1. Well done for getting out of bed today knowing that you will be faced with challenges that will make you feel a bit sh*t and that you do not know the answer to and that will largely go unnoticed;
2. Well done for not screaming and venting your rage on the world even though it can be as unfair as hell;
3. Well done for not telling your ungrateful teenager to f*ck off and find someone else to wipe their arse;
4. Well done for offering some kind words to someone, even though you are feeling pretty cr*p about yourself;
5. Well done for cleaning up the dog sh*t, wiping the toilet seat, accepting the job rejection with grace and getting through the day without throwing yourself of a f*cking bridge because you still have tomorrow to face;
6. Well done for not crumbling into a big fat pile of failure when yet again you are compared to that other mum, who has a really good job and has achieved so much more than you;
7. Well done for sending some truthful feedback to that god awful retreat you spent your yearly savings on, which took a lot of courage, even though they really didn't give a sh*t; and
8. Well done for being an ordinary person, caring for others, quietly doing your bit to keep the world turning and trying your best to raise a new generation of kind human beings, that might one day, if you are lucky, see you were just a bit worthy really.
P*ssing on someone else's flame does not make ours shine any brighter, but neither does only recognising the largest flames.
So, to all of those invisible people who have not ticked the 'exceptional achievers' box - I celebrate you for being brave enough to be extraordinarily ordinary, to keep showing up each and everyday, for being able to love and care for others despite your inner turmoil and for being able to do all that you do.
I hear your silent roar, I really do.
Grief is our lifelong companion - she is beautiful and complex, teaching us all there is to know about love, loss and living a life that reaches beyond any human transactions, to that of a soulful existence that no death can take away.
Grief arrives with our birth, for each moment passed, for each day gone, for each friend lost, for each experience finished, for each relationship over, for each dream spent and for each life ended.
Grief is our personal orchestra, playing our own unique symphony, until it reaches its final crescendo.
The first few instruments start slowly and quietly, as we find our notes.
And as we allow grief to have her place, the notes join up into a symphony which becomes longer and deeper and more beautiful and unique with the passage of time.
Until one day, each of us will reach our final crescendo, a completed symphony that only ever gets played, in full, once - some are short, some are long, some are so full of love and some are so full of angst, but all have their own unique beauty and story to tell.
And then comes the silence, the purity of nothing to allow our soul to find its way home, before our audience finds it voice to ask for more, which, of course, they cannot have.
And in the face of such finality, the weight of love feels completely unbearable for so many.
But it is in fact, not the weight of the love that is unbearable, but the absence of another to share the weight with.
And so, we have to learn to carry that love ourselves and to welcome the sadness, the loneliness, the heartbreak and the tears as signs, reminders of all of the love we have received, given and indeed have yet to receive and give.
Because love does not rely on a physical body to be present, it walks with us everyday of our lives, often invisible to the eye but the most intimate and present of all companions.
And that is the essence of grief, it's just love that needs to be held in a different way.
Addiction, a way to escape from pain and suffering.
It is commonly accepted that there are 3 requirements for addiction:
2. A person susceptible to being addicted
3. Avoidance of something - a trauma, pain, suffering.
There are many things to be addicted to. We tend to focus on smoking, alcohol and drugs.
But what about the silent addiction that lurks in the shadows and does so much harm to us all?
I would argue that most of us, in one way or another, are addicted to the avoidance of uncomfortable truths.
You may not know this.
You may not know this, because we live in a world designed to distract you from it.
The problem is that by avoiding our uncomfortable truths, we cannot move through them, therefore they cannot be resolved. They just get ‘parked’ for another time. And that’s where we find addiction. The never ending circle of doing something else to avoid facing our truth.
Mine is financial. I use spending as a crutch to avoid facing my uncomfortable truths. But the problem is, I then create another uncomfortable truth - debt. So, I spend more and the never ending circle continues.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s ok to have uncomfortable truths.
It’s ok to share them.
It’s ok to live with them.
Please don’t’ get distracted, face your truth.
Life is random, we cannot control everything, good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.
There is an illogical unfairness to much of life, or so it seems.
But tying ourselves up in knots trying to resolve, justify or rationalise our challenges, can simply result in more challenge, more angst, more despair and ultimately a lack of hope, a perception that all is lost, it is the end of the world - although it rarely is and that is difficult to hear at times when you are deeply wounded and consumed by fear and anger.
So, what can we do instead?
Sometimes, we forget that humans have pondered the meaning and the suffering in life for 1,000's of years and there are many words of wisdom and comfort out there that remain as relevant now as they did when they were written - guides that exist to help us in our troubled and complex times.
Once particular guide was shared in the form of a story by the philosopher Alan Watts and it goes like this:
‘Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbours came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”
The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”
The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbours then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.”
The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbours came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”
The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.’
And it is this story that often plays in my mind when seemingly bad things happen, unexpected challenges present themselves and I feel at a loss to know what to do - sometimes inaction is action and sometimes what seems obvious, or destined to be, is nothing like we thought at all.
So, the lesson I take from this is always to remind myself that maybe it's ok, may it's not and that time will tell, but either way I have faith in myself and that I will find a way to deal with it, whatever the outcome.
And so will you.
Rejection - ‘the act of refusing to accept, use, or believe someone or something’
The word ‘rejection’ actually comes from the Latin noun rēicere, which means "to throw back”.
Interesting isn’t it that in both cases, rejection is about the giver of it, not the receiver.
And therein lies the irony.
Rejection is rarely about us.
Because people can only meet you at the same level as they meet themselves.
And sometimes that fits and sometimes it doesn’t.
And even if it fits now, it doesn’t mean it will always fit.
Because we all move to our own beat, at our own pace.
And sometimes that’s the same and sometimes it’s not.
So, the truth is that rejection is just a mis-match, with someone or something at a point in time.
And the only person who can really reject you, is actually you.
Anything else is just you taking the path that you are meant to take.
So, welcome rejection for what it actually is, not what we fear it to be.
Because the reality of it will set you free, whilst the fear of it will shackle you to an optical illusion and stop you from ever being able to embrace who you really are.
So, pease remember not to reject yourself and to see it for what it really is.
It's ok to enjoy a life of prosperity and privilege;
It's ok to enjoy your achievements and the fruits of your labour;
It's ok to enjoy treating yourself and your family; and
It's ok to enjoy any luck that comes your way.
It is not ok to brag about how much you have;
It is not ok to look down upon others because their resources do not match yours;
It is not ok to dismiss another's achievements because they are less then you deem worthy; and
It's absolutely not ok to judge a person based on what they have rather than who they are.
Sadly, I continue to see this behaviour on a daily basis and I have to wonder whether the people who I have witnessed abusing their blessed position in life, by using all that they have to belittle others, have any idea of just how dislikable and isolated they make themselves?
Is humility, kindness and empathy really beyond their reach?
Please don't become an ignorant arse with an inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement, by valuing money more than love for your fellow human beings.
And as we all do with time with the passing of time, I do reflect on the decisions I’ve made, the path I’ve chosen, the things I walked away from, the things I walked towards and the person I’ve become.
And no I’m not who I thought I’d be, nor doing what I’d planned to, all those years ago when mortality wasn’t even in my vocabulary and the world was full with nothing but possibilities.
I won’t have the most successful business woman on my headstone after all. I won’t be leaving my children huge amounts of money or a mansion and they won’t be able to tell stories of their mum who reached great heights in her career.
And that’s ok, it really is.
A loving wife, mum and caring human being is just fine for my headstone - and if I’ve done my job right, my kids won’t need the money, or story’s or status - they will make their own reality, tread their own path and make their very own dent in the universe.
Success comes in all shapes and sizes and sometimes it’s not quite what you had planned, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you.
So, please don’t ever underestimate yours, whatever it looks like.
"Someone once told me the definition of hell; on your last day on earth, the person you could have become will meet the person you became" Anonymous
So, I spend my days trying to be the person that I am going to be happy to meet on my last day on earth.
And that means being honest with myself about myself - the good, the bad and the ugly.
It means not being defined by a label, a job, a failure or a success, but being defined by the very essence of me - my values, desires, strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears.
It means not being afraid to share who I am with the world - because it is my quirks, my imperfections and my truth that makes me worth having.
And that is why I do not cultivate a professional persona - I am just me with a bunch of skills and experience thrown on top, which you may or may not find of use and that's ok.
Because I am not just what I do, I am not defined only by a job title, which is good news as I do not really have one - I am made up of all of the things that I do, I think, I believe, I feel, I have experienced and so much more, that will definitely take me beyond the Linkedin word count and that of any mere human's concentration span, including my own.
I simply do not want to turn up at work or anywhere for that matter, pretending or hiding, or carrying the heavy burden of shame, or disappointment, or resentment, or envy or even worse, of not being enough for myself or for others.
My challenges in life, my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities, do no limit my ability to perform my professions, they add to it, because they make me more real, more able to connect with others through the universal experience we all have, whether we admit it or not, of human messiness.
So, my world is a mixture of all that I am, all that I do, all that I see and all that I connect with.
And once we can truly accept and embrace that, for ourselves and others, I believe that we will achieve much more for diversity and equality in all aspects of life, than any of the initiatives we have seen to date - and more importantly, our world will be so much nicer, interesting, kind and easier to be in.
So, in the words of K.Flay:
"Mainly, I hope to inspire honesty. We live in a space where so much can be manipulated, and so much is expected to be manipulated - curated, contrived, edited. I think that's a real detriment to self expression and happiness in a lot of ways. In my mind, honesty and vulnerability is the way forward."
And I hope that all of these words, will inspire others to embrace all that they are both publicly and privately, because that's how we really change our reality to a far truer, more meaningful and more sustainable world for all.
I have 6 really important rules that matter to me and I think they do a pretty good job of helping me to stay sane and grounded, most of the time.
And the point of these rules is not to beat myself up when I fail to live up to them (which I often do), but to help me to correct my course if I feel that I am getting a little lost - and that's a really big deal in terms of our perspective when it comes to setting ourselves goals, objectives or rules.
They are not the stick with which to beat ourselves when we fail to live up to them, they are the stick to help us find our way when we cannot see what is in front of us.
Your rules or whatever it is that you want to call them, I've no doubt will be different to mine, or maybe not, it does not matter as long as they are yours and as long as they are used to support you, not to berate, compare or belittle you.
And here are mine:
1. Having a family and then career, they are not mutually incompatible but I have purposely put family first otherwise what is it all for?
2. Earning money and being socially responsible. 'But for the grace of god go I.' Never miss an opportunity to help someone less fortunate than me, who am I to judge how or why they got there and what is the point of money if it makes us forget our humanity? No one ever became poor from giving, quite the opposite.
3. Being logical and sensitive. Using my brain to solve a problem does not absolve me from caring about how others feel and how that solution is or is not offered - without compassion what sets us apart from a robot? We must always remember to meet others where they are, not where we want them to be - that's just misguided and generally unhelpful judgement.
4. Respecting rules but always having the courage to challenge them when required. "All it takes for evil to prosper is for a few good men to do nothing’" need I say more?
5. Inspiring others to feel good about themselves but not to feed my ego, or manipulate, or gain something for myself. Helping others is the food we need to feed our soul. It is the expectation of something in return that causes our suffering and turns our gift into an unwanted burden which awakens the ego, who is perhaps one of the most dangerous, judgemental and mean spirited friends that we are often foolish enough to entertain.
6. Always give freely with grace and good intent. It does not matter if this is a 'one way' street, or if it is not met with gratitude or care. The only thing that matters is my humanity and kindness. At the end of the day it’s my conscience I answer to not anyone else’s.
And these are the things that stop me getting lost, perhaps you could write your list so that next time you get lost, you too will have a stick to help you feel you way forward and lean on whilst you work out your next best step.
Many years ago I used to smoke.
I started at 13 years old because I wanted to hang out with the older girls - it worked, I looked cool and I got in the gang.
As an aside it may amuse you to know (I say amuse as it is so far from our imagination now), that I was able to buy 1 benson and hedges fag for 6 pence from my local sweet shop on the way to school, clearly not a very profitable line for them, as in those days it was 80 pence for a packet of 10 (I know as my dinner money was £1 so I could afford a packet of fags with enough change left for an iced bun at school at break time), therefore they were making a loss, bizarrely.
Anyway, at first I hated it and had to work really hard to get used to it, can you believe the irony of that.
Then, when I was in my 30's I gave up smoking twice - the first time when it was banned in bars and I was too vain to stand smoking a fag outside in the rain, but I started again after a sabbatical in Greece where everyone smoked, but found the taste so repellant that I had to start on menthol cigarettes to make then more palatable and the second and final time, when I decided to have children, as I was too vain to push a pram holding a fag - neither time had anything to do with my health, interestingly enough.
But the real point to this post is to share one of the things I missed most about smoking - the intimacy and connection it gave me with others.
Many may not remember the specially allocated smoking rooms in offices but I certainly do, quite fondly as it happens. I remember popping into them at regular intervals during my working day and that is where I made many relationships that transcended departments and seniority levels, were hugely interesting and were based on people sharing themselves, warts and all, not just their jobs or status.
We were just all human beings desperate for a fag and a break from pretending to be someone else - in fact many times people who did not even smoke would come with me, just to be part of that connection.
Now, I do not for one minute miss smoking itself, I constantly smelt and had to frequently have my teeth cleaned to remove the stains and god knows what state my lungs were in, but there was something in the act which enabled people to step out of their everyday world, away from their stresses and strains, with their fellow human beings all doing the same - there was a connection made based equality and comradely that I rarely get to see now.
So, no we definitely should not bring back smoking rooms, but yes we should definitely look at why so much was gained from them and create new environments to give people that space, pause for thought and human connection, in a somewhat healthier and safer way.
"There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt." Erma Bombeck
I was taken to an appalling comedy show the other week that crossed that line.
I left at the interval.
I left because in my humble opinion it was a) not funny b) inhumane and c) in conflict with my values.
The downward spiral started when the comedian asked the audience to raise their hands based on the colour of their skin. She then moved on to sexuality and religion.
She then told the audience that we all needed to try harder, as we were not diverse enough.
And all the while I could feel the rage rising inside of me, rage at the fact she was segregating human beings on the same basis that have cost millions of life and caused some of the most traumatic and savage suffering in the history of humankind.
I do not see the colour of someone's skin when I walk into a room, I see a fellow human being.
I do not see someone's sexuality when I walk into a room, I see a human capable of love.
I do not see someone's faith or religion when I walk into a room, I see a human capable of commitment to something beyond themselves.
I do not see someone's background when I walk into a room, I see a human with a story, rich in lessons.
I do not see someone's status when I walk into a room, I see a human making their way in the world the best way they can.
And the minute someone tries to polarise, reduce, berate or create inequality for another human based on their perception of what the colour of their skin, gender, faith, religion, culture or background means, I see prejudice and racism and bias and a complete and utter lack of humanity.
And if I am going to look for anything when I walk into a room of people, I will look for a smile, an act of kindness, a word of care, open arms, the tinkle of a laugh, an energy that brightens the room, words of wisdom to be shared and experiences of life beyond my own.
And that is why I refused to sit in that audience listening to someone with such little respect for her fellow human beings.
That is not comedy, that is inhumanity.
So, it's mothers day today and my journey as a mother was a bit bumpy.
After our first child, I carried on building a business and pretty much left his care to the nanny. I was a bit sh*t at motherhood it has to be said - my son would generally ask for the nanny before me.
After our second child, I laid in the hospital bed checking my emails and went back to work 2 weeks later, in the midst of the financial crash, resentful and full of angst - I still cry huge tears of sadness when I look back on that time.
After our third child, I crumbled with guilt, made the nanny redundant, began the process of dismantling a business, felt a complete failure by societies standards, as it turned out that I could not do it all, started taking anti-depressants and began the process of learning how to be a mum.
And it was hard because I had no idea how to be a mum, I had no 'mum' friends as I'd been far too important being a career women and looking down my nose at women who had time to go to baby and toddler groups, I no longer had a role in the world that (I thought) demanded respect and I lost my financial independence as well as 60% of our income, so the move to the 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom house and Waitrose shops were put on hold.
And then a few weeks later I was at a dinner with my husband when someone asked what I did for a job, I said that I didn't work, I was a SAHM, they then asked "so, what do you do with your time?" I didn't have an answer then and I still don't now.
But that question wounded me deeply and pretty much sums up much of societies view on SAHM/Ds, sadly.
After the initial transition, I found it easy to live with the loss of income and financial freedom, in fact it gave birth to a love of simple and sustainable living. I also learned that my natural self-motivation and curiosity meant I found it easy to create a new structure and new interests that worked around my children.
But to this day, I have never found it possible to accept the lack of respect, the lack of value and the lack of understanding that so many women and men are faced with on a daily basis, all because they chose to focus their time on their families and homes.
As Sandrine Bonnaire poignantly said:
"Our family makes us who we are, defines us totally. When you go to a therapist or have analysis, whatever reason you go in for, they will always bring you back to your family. We're strong or weak according to what family we have. You might have left them long ago, might not even talk to them, but something lingers; we have no choice."
So, perhaps this mothers day and on fathers day, we should remind ourselves that there are equally important roles in life that are not defined as 'work' and it's time that as a society we valued being a carer, a home maker, a parent just a little bit more and extended a little more respect, kindness and understanding to all of those people who have chosen that path - whether through choice or circumstance.
I grew up on a council estate, watching the miners go hungry, witnessing riots in Brixton, watching the hunt for the Yorkshire Riper and seeing kids become orphans and placed in a local childrens home.
When I was 13, I was sexually assaulted by the owner of the local grocery store where I worked, later that day he had a heart attack and I do not know what happened to him thereafter.
When I was 15, I was sexually assaulted by a boy at a party I was at and then outcast from my friendship group as he was the boyfriend of one of the other girls - ironically he went on to be a barrister.
When I was 19, I was followed home from University in broad daylight by a man who then exposed himself and tried to grab me, I was walking by the side of a rugby field when it happened and the sound of the players coming out to practice scared him and he ran off, he was never caught.
When I was 20, I was severely traumatised and shamed beyond words when I discovered I had a STD, I received no counselling, the GP simply referred me to a clinic for treatment without telling me what the treatment was for - the clinic themselves had to tell me why I was there.
When I was 21 years old I was emotionally abused by a man 15 years my senior, who all but destroyed my University education and left me when I had a complete mental breakdown.
And despite all of this, I somehow managed to return to University, carved out a pretty successful career, fell in love and created a happy marriage and family life.
And yet I have been sat in more than one environment, where I have been referred to as the woman who lives with the benefit of white privilege and therefore cannot understand what others less fortunate than me, have had to go through.
And this is what I alway say to that comment:
Feeling safe to walk down the street, feeling safe in my own home, feeling loved and wanted, having enough food to feed my children, having access to education and healthcare, being able to share my experiences without fear of retribution, having an equal opportunity to work and play, is not a privilege, it is a basic human right that each and everyone of us should have, irrelevant of out gender, faith, culture or background.
And for those who do not have access to these basic human rights, I do not believe that you are lacking in privilege, but a level of humanity that no one should have to endure.
I am not comfortable with such provocative language being used to compare basic humanity with privilege. They are two very different things and I think it is very dangerous to confuse them.
My experiences do not define me but they are the fuel that drives me and I remain determined to shine a light on difficult subjects, to banish the terrible load of shame and guilt and to challenge our approach to unfairness and inequality, if it does indeed need to be challenged.
I'm uncomfortable with a culture of empowering women by demonising men, that is not equality just a new form of inequality.
I'm uncomfortable with prioritising women over men for roles rather than simply choosing the right person for the job, because that's not equal opportunities, it's discrimination based on gender.
I'm uncomfortable with celebrating an International Women's day and not an International men's day, because that validates someone based on gender, not who they are as a person.
I'm uncomfortable with success for women being based solely on career achievements, with little or no regard for some of the other hugely important roles women play, such as being home makers, mothers, carers or volunteers.
I'm uncomfortable with being told what equality, empowerment and freedom should mean for a woman, by definition that's a contradiction, I get to chose what it means for me otherwise I am not equal, empowered or free.
And I'm uncomfortable with the perception of how a woman needs to be, to act and to live in order to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Our strength does not come from being a women making it in a mans world, it comes from a desire to see everyone as equal no matter what their gender, faith, culture, background or life choices are.
It comes from compassion, humility, kindness and the courage to forgive the inequalities that have gone before and not to repeat them by dressing them up in a new way.
Human beings should all be celebrated whether they be male or female, in a career or not in a career.
I wanted to share this thought after hearing it from a very wise soul, to help us all as we start our week, to try and help us to retain our perspective, stop the overwhelm and find some calm in amongst the chaos.
When a bird sits on a branch, they are not fearful of the branch breaking, as they have complete faith in their wings and so they sit on the branch with confidence and are able to enjoy it, without actually being dependant on it.
So, no matter what the week may throw at you, or how insurmountable the challenges may seem in the moment, please remember that we are all birds and that we can all trust in ourselves to find a way forward, no matter what.
Broken people don't know they are broken, they just feel angry, resentful and frustrated.
Broken people don't know they are dumping their waste on others, they just shout, wound and blame.
Broken people don't hear the narcissistic content of their conversations, they just see themselves as victims, with no choices or responsibility in their story.
Broken people don't recognise another broken person, they just ensure their story is louder, harder and bigger.
But broken people do not do this because they are bad people, they are just broken people who were never given the emotional tools or support to understand nor mend themselves.
So, the next time you experience a broken person, please remember that whilst you may be wounded, you are not broken, you will heal and those huge cracks that you see, are not yours, just the reality of a broken person too afraid to look at what lies beneath lest they see what lies beneath.
Fear is not always insane or silly or meaningless.
Life can be dangerous, we can get hurt, we can fail, we can get rejected, there is a randomness that lacks rationale and fairness and bad things do happen to good people.
But perversely the science shows that acknowledging and understanding our fears - whether they be realistic or not, does not in fact, make them go away.
No, science shows us something far more important, that shining the light on our fears and then moving forward despite our fears, actually makes us braver.
It engages the part of our being that is ready, willing and able to face challenges. And that is where our growth and the profound lessons in our life are to be found.
Life is not easy and many of our fears will be justified - the thing about 'feel the fear and do it anyway', is that it allows you to experience the part of yourself that is able to cope, grow and often thrive through adversity.
It teaches you to have faith in yourself and that no matter what life throws at you, you will have the ability to catch it and do something worthwhile with it.
So, please don't allow fear to be your jail, because you do have the courage that you need inside of you, it's just waiting for you to allow it to help you to be all that you can.
Every time you promote a woman because she is a woman rather than because she is the best person for the job, you devalue women, your organisation and your values.
An unpopular statement with many I'm sure, but one that needs to be made.
Women deserve equal opportunities and that means the same rules and opportunities apply to us all.
I certainly do not want to be a statistic on someones diversity tick box. I want a position based on my capability, my experience, my values and a genuine acceptance that what I can bring to the role is of value and needed by the organisation.
The questions always remain:
1. Is the person capable of doing the role? Promoting someone beyond their genuine capability is not good for the organisation nor kind to them, we should not be ashamed of who we are nor avoid honest conversations.
2. Has the person earned the role? No one is simply entitled to anything because of who/what they are, we all need to do the work.
3. Does the person have values that can help themselves and the organisation grow? Lots of people might have the experience and skills outlined in your job descriptions, but few will have the passion and commitment required to bring values to life and that's the thing to look for.
Give the role to a human being who can do the very best for the organisation, it's that simple..
I used to work for an organisation that did not have grades on our email signatures - you simply respected people not their status.
That same organisation used to invest a significant amount of money in us each month by hiring a venue, taking us off client work and encouraging us all to spend the day together in a semi-structured environment. We would learn about what the company was up to, its future plans and the wider market, we would have our say, get to share our case studies and then time was made for us to explore our areas of interests with others, forging new relationships and knowledge. We also got time to socialise and have lots of fun with our work colleagues.
Those two things did more for innovation, creativity, productivity and motivation than anything I have ever seen since.
The time I had there was by far the most rewarding of my 25 year career.
And I experienced those practices nearly 2 decades ago now.
So, we do know how to inspire and take care of people, we just need to make a choice and commit the investment to do so.
I'm afraid I have to say that I do get somewhat frustrated by the constant onslaught of new methods, frameworks and approaches, put forward as a way to increase a teams performance, potential, creativity, innovation or whatever else it is that is the flavour of the day.
Have we forgotten that teams and organisations are simply groups of human beings, working in different environments based on their needs, circumstances, interests, skills and if they are lucky, passions.
So, I would like to remind us that it is not the latest management fad or bestselling book that will make a difference to your team today, but your willingness to understand and observe yourself as a human being - what motivates, triggers, frustrates, angers, scares and inspires you. Because it is only then that you will be able to observe, understand and empathise with the needs and behaviours of others.
And that's when you start to build a team, based on one incredibly simple principle - get to really know your fellow human beings and spend the time building relationships with them based on honesty, fairness and trust.
You can read and study as many methodologies as you like, but nothing is as powerful as good old fashioned humanity.
That's pretty much it.
An organisation is only ever as strong as its people - it will not stand the test of time without good people.
But people are products of their environment.
And that environment is always created by the leaders.
So, if you have a problem with disengaged, demotivated, underperforming people, you need to look at yourselves - not the structures or process.
Because you are the root cause - poor leadership creates poor working environments, it’s that simple.
“Real transformation requires real honesty. If you want to move forward – get real with yourself.” Bryant McGill
Good leaders are not perfect, they do not have all of the answers, they consist of human messiness and vulnerability, just the same as everyone else.
Good leaders are honest, they are courageous, they care, they believe in people and they are not driven by their ego.
Of course they feel fear , it just doesn’t rule them. And that means they can trust and nurture psychologically safe environments.
Of course they struggle with time, they just choose how to spend it wisely, developing others potential, rather than basking in their own glory.
And of course they get it wrong, they just own their mistakes and ask for help to resolve them.
We don’t need perfect leaders, we just need human ones.
It's not always easy being a little different, weird or quirky.
Because you may feel things that others do not and that may be labelled as being 'too over sensitive'.
You may think things, question things, that others do not and that may be labelled as 'challenging' or 'prickly' or 'difficult'.
You feel see things that others do not and that may be labelled as 'paranoid' or 'neurotic'.
You may laugh at things that others do not and that may be labelled as 'inappropriate' or 'lacking boundaries'.
You may need things that others do not and that may be labelled as 'needy' or 'high maintenance'.
And you may do things others that do not and that may be labelled as 'irrational' or 'unpredictable'.
But it's important to remember that all of these labels are judgements, that do not reflect your inadequacies or weaknesses, but those of a society scared of embracing anything other than an optical illusion of 'normal'.
And it's so important to remember this when one of those labels is thrown your way, because otherwise we will simply stop being ourselves and the suffering of being in conflict with one's own self, is far greater than the suffering experienced as a result of labels and judgement.
The reality is, is that we are all a little weird, it is a fundamental condition of being human. The sad thing is that many people never get to fully experience their own joy and contentment, because they live in conflict with themselves, rather than risk stepping out of the shadows and embracing their weirdness.
So, next time a label is thrown at you, have a good, long think about whether it is actually true based on who you really are, or simply a reaction from a person unable, or unwilling to face all that you represent, because that might just remind them of all that they could be, if only they could embrace their weirdness too.
Visibility is everything, especially when you are delivering change.
Because change is emotive and highly susceptible to confusion and chaos.
Therefore a key priority when delivering change is visibility.
And to achieve visibility, you must organise the complex into the simple.
And that means cutting through the bullsh*t and getting to the facts, the root causes and the indisputable truths.
Once you have those foundations, you can establish your route and your mode of travel and take your detours without getting lost.
But most important of all, you can help others see the contribution they are making and the part they need to play.
And that’s how you get a team up and running all in the same direction.
Visibility, time and time again.
The self propelling, infinite circle of value.
Doing what you love and what you are good at, makes you feel special and of value.
When you feel special and of value, you create value for others, willingly and without being commanded.
And the more value you create, the more special and of value you feel.
And that’s the self propelling circle of infinite value, accessible to us all and of benefit to us all.
A perfectly balanced eco system for human motivation and value creation.
So, the lesson here is to marry what you love with what you are good at and then to go out there and do it.
That’s how you help yourself and others too.
And remember where’s there’s a will, there’s always a way.
We live in a world where we are surrounded by unfairness, comparison, competition, instability, judgement and fear.
So, of course we will be anxious, worried and scared at times.
It’s unrealistic to tell ourselves not to be and I believe it can harm us to.
Because it’s just another form of denial. And denial doesn’t make it go away, it just forces it to fester in a hidden corner of our being. And over time it grows and becomes so much more than it should be.
No, we should invite it in. Face reality as it is, not how we would like it to be. Accept that life can be hard, that we will all face suffering in one form or another, but it does not have to define or control us.
Because we can learn to live alongside fear and indeed grow as a result if it.
It needs a voice, to enable us to share our fears and by doing so, we dilute its power.
Because it is only by allowing fear to exist, that we can look at it, to understand it’s root cause and then we can address it.
Nearly all of our worry and anxiety is ultimately a reaction to a perceived or real problem. Once we can chip away at the layers of fear, the solutions will slowly but surely present themselves.
And that is how we learn to feel the fear and do it anyway - not by denying it, but by embracing it for what it is.
The real trick to delivering successful change programmes is not the methodology, structure or process.
No, it’s having a cause that is bigger than the individual - it has a purpose, it matters.
The minute you get into competition, individual achievement and ego driven thinking, it’s game over.
Because change is ultimately about solving a problem. And solutions come from teams of people - some of whom will suggest them, others who will object to them and then others who will solve the objections until eventually a solution is found.
But that behaviour requires trust, creativity and courage.
People have to feel safe enough to suggest new ideas.
People need the freedom to be creative enough to explore new ideas.
And people have to be courageous enough to deliver new ideas and tread the untrodden path.
And these things are only possible when the cause, the outcomes are greater than the individual.
Because that’s where people find their motivation - when they have a purpose.
And that’s where people step into their true potential - when they are of value and can make a difference.
And that’s where teams are made - when making the difference requires the contribution of all individuals, not the fame of one.
Change needs to matter and people need to matter.
Significant amounts of people live their whole life in denial.
Denial of what they really want.
Because it seems out of reach, outside of normality and because admitting what you really want, hurts a lot if you haven’t got it.
But you will never have it if you keep lying to yourself.
All of that energy focused on avoiding the truth, pretence and making do with half a life.
You can only be true to yourself, if you are honest with yourself.
And once you truly embrace what it is that you actually want, you can start pouring all of that energy, passion and focus, into finding creative ways to achieve it.
It’s never too late. It’s never too hard. It’s never too far. You just need to take the first step, no matter how small, then the next and the next.
Be honest, take your step and be who you are meant to be, in whatever way you can.
Results are not achieved by tired, stressed, over-worked people, constantly forced to make compromises and work in environments where anything other than being seen at their desk, flogging their guts out, is deemed as 'not performing'.
And no this is not 'a typical', this is the default state most organisations revert too, when faced with challenges.
It is in times of adversity and seemingly insurmountable circumstances, that we must focus on people.
Because it is not the algorithm, the process, or the system that will find new ways, create new knowledge, or forge new pathways. No, it's people - who have been given the freedom, the environment and the support to create, innovate and deliver.
And a command and control structure, built on fear, dogmatically chaining people to way of working that we have seen time and time again does not work, is not the answer.
Trust your people, empower them but most of all, don't just think outside of the box, be outside of the box.
If you are facing unprecedented times, for the love of god, do not adopt a system that is already failing in normal circumstances, never mind extraordinary ones.
You want results? Don't treat people like a pack of dogs, working to finite instructions, in a finite environment.
Start practising trust instead.
Nothing can prepare you for trauma, but trauma.
That’s the uncomfortable reality.
All the time spent worrying about terrible things happening, will not help you, if they do.
It’s just wasted time.
And if the day comes, when the worst does happen, you will cope.
So, please don’t waste the good days worrying about the bad ones.
Trust that you will find a way through them when and if the times comes.
Because you will.
Life is awfully bleak without trust.
If you’ve done something bad, tell the truth, otherwise you cannot begin to forgive yourself.
If you’ve hurt someone, say sorry, otherwise whilst their wound will heal, yours will fester and deepen.
If you’ve broken someone’s trust, take responsibility for the consequences and commit to building new foundations, upon which that trust can grow again.
If you’ve become so detached from yourself, you no longer trust in you, face your demons, clean the wounds and start again.
If you’ve become so detached from humanity, that you have lost hope, you must move beyond the fear, find the love and then you will see the good in people again.
Trusting in ourselves, in others and ultimately in life, is critical for any meaningful existence.
It’s ok to feel fear, but it’s not ok to become so entrenched in it, you loose your ability to trust.
Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, give others the benefit of the doubt and give life a chance to show you, the beauty that can be found through trust.
So many people ask me why I swim outdoors during winter, in freezing cold temperatures.
Well, there are lots of reasons.
Because a friend who I admire very much, asked me to and I was honoured that she did.
Because I told my kids I would and I didn't want to say one thing and then do another.
Because I told myself I could do it and I didn't want to fail, without having tried.
Because mother nature is a persuasive force and she makes me feel alive.
Because there are not many things you can do in this world, where you get to reveal your vulnerability and simply have someone slip their hand in yours, until you are ready to go it alone.
But mainly because I can and I do not want to be someone who could off, but didn't.
And that's pretty much my philosophy on life.
So, whatever it is that you can, please do - live your life, trust yourself and do what makes your heart sing.
Vulnerability, the very essence of being human.
I push my vulnerability to the limits, by sharing all of who I am.
I share to help me, to help others and to make this world a better place - by encouraging us all to be more accepting and more forgiving of ourselves.
But it's not easy.
I get scared all of the time and I am constantly fighting my inner demons.
My biggest fear is being a sh•t parent, getting it wrong, missing something, not being around when I should. It can make me over-protective, too controlling and neurotic. But each day, I get up as a parent and try my best.
My next biggest fear is of being rejected - by the person I love. It makes arguments far more traumatic than they need to be and pollutes my perspective. But each day, I remain married and as loved as the day before.
Both of these fears, stem from traumatic experiences earlier in my life.
I know that, I also know the triggers and that I need to let my past go.
But these things take time and Rome wasn't built in a day.
Beating myself up for having flaws, being a work in progress, will not heal my wounds.
Having self-awareness, self-compassion and patience will.
And despite these deep seated fears, I am very happy to be a wife and mother.
It's ok to feel the fear, just do it anyway.
To the parents who judged the kids from the wrong side of the tracks - f*ck you.
Yes that’s right, f*ck you.
Because I’ve heard you, I’ve heard the judgement loud and clear and I do not like it.
I will not be part of a small minded, bourgeois click, that associate intellect, kindness and courage with your postcode.
I will not judge people, for doing what they need to do, in order to survive, so that they can be who they are meant to be.
These standards are artificial, optical illusions. I know, because I was from the wrong side of the tracks. And I knew a lot of others who were too.
We hustled, we pushed boundaries, we swore, we pushed against the system and for those of us who made it, we got to see life, in all it’s glory, with all of its injustices, opportunities, love, sadness, loss and joy.
And perhaps the greatest gift of all, we got to see people, to understand the potential every human being has, regardless of their background.
And so should you.
It doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s where you are going that counts.
Don’t ever let another’s mis-guided, ill informed and small minded perspective, hold you back.
If they want to remain in their unfulfilled world, that’s up to them, but please don’t join them.
An idea isn't much good, if no one knows about it.
A feeling cannot provide comfort, if it is not shared.
A story will not inspire another, if it is not told.
And you will not add your much needed value to this world, if you spend all of your time trying to work out who you are and what your purpose is, rather than actually being authentically you and doing what really makes you feel alive.
Because that's how we actually find ourselves and our purpose.
By taking action, each and everyday - with good intent, courage and an open mind and then being aware of how those actions make us feel.
An inspired, joyful and peaceful feeling means you have hit on something true and right for you. An anxious, fearful and drained feeling means you have hit on something not true nor right for you.
Both are important - one shows you the way, the other gives you directions when you are lost.
Finding yourself and your purpose, in my humble opinion, does not generally present itself in a eureka moment, it is always within us just waiting for us to allow it to see the light of day, to give ourselves the time and space to understand how we feel in different places, with different people, doing different things and then to start having an honest conversation with ourselves about who we really are and what we should really be doing - no matter what others do or do not think we should be.
This route is by far the best way, to find yourself and your purpose, whilst at the same time creating so much value, for so many others.
The reality is life is much shorter than we actually allow ourselves to believe. We do not have time to navel gaze, procrastinate and roam the wilderness waiting for a knight in shining armour to rescue us. If we can truly open our eyes, look at ourselves afresh - at when we come alive and when we shrivel away, we will clearly see our needs, our values, our purpose and then we simply need to do more of the stuff that feeds us and less of the stuff that kills us.
And that's how we start to finally be exactly who we are meant to be.
We all think we know, don't we?
We know better.
We would do things differently.
We would have learned the first time round.
We would not put up with it.
We would have said no.
We would not have trusted them.
The list goes on.
The list of judgement, of looking at someone else's life and thinking we know better.
Well, we do not.
Life is not black and white, it's full of nuance's and shades of grey.
And most of the time, if you are being met with judgement, fear and resentment, it is unlikely to be about you - it's much more likely to be about the person, exhibiting those traits.
You've triggered something in them and that something, belongs to them, not you.
So, do not accept it as yours. Do not allow it to colour your world, or become your journey, because it's not.
We are each responsible for our own wounds, do not take on the pain of someone else's, no matter how hard they try to persuade you.
Stay true to yourself, heal your own wounds and be kind to others whilst they heal their's.
In all honesty, I really have no idea a lot of the time, how my thoughts, my actions, my life impacts others.
And actually, I don't need to know.
Because it's not about feeding my ego, or constant self-gratification.
It's about doing my best, with a genuine intent to help others and then simply letting it go.
That's what helping other people is about.
It should not be conditional, on getting something back. You help because that's part of being a decent human being, not because you are hustling for individual gain.
Giving unconditionally, is where true joy and contentment is to be found.
It's the expectation of something in return, that pollutes the joy of giving - because it makes us resentful, if nothing comes back.
And it makes us resentful because giving on that basis, is ego centric.
And the ego always wants something in return, because it's scared of not being the best, of not being seen, of not being someone.
Whereas giving unconditionally, is simply about doing the best and trusting yourself enough to know, that your actions, your thoughts and you are enough, no matter what.
Just do your best today and everyday, because no matter what it is, it is always better than doing nothing.
Stop being afraid of you who are.
Stop hiding your true self from the world.
Stop allowing others to limit your potential.
Stop trying to conform to the status quo.
Because the world needs your creativity, your alternative perspective, your imperfections, your naughtiness, your love and your laughter, otherwise how will we ever be anything other than what we are today?
Be true to yourself, shake your world until only the truth remains and then have the courage to do something meaningful with it.
Don’t wait for someone else to believe in you.
Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission, to be you.
Don’t wait for someone else to save you.
Don’t wait for someone else to love you.
Don’t wait for someone else to see you.
Because that someone else is you.
And that is all you need.
If you don’t like the part you play in my story, then change it.
I am accountable for my actions and you are accountable for yours.
I get to choose how to respond to others and you get to choose how to respond to me.
I am responsible for my part in my story and in yours and you are responsible for your part in yours and mine.
So, if you don’t like the part you are playing, change it.
Being accountable to and responsible for ourselves, our actions and our impact on others, is just a fundamental part of being a decent human being.
And it is from this very basic principle that meaning, connection, purpose and ultimately love for ourselves and others is borne.
Just work on the basics and the rest will follow.
It's just too noisy out there.
It really is.
There are so many people telling you what to think, do, be - myself included.
It's overwhelming and can just end up making you feel sh•t.
Reduce the number of voices in your head. Make room for your own. There are no right answers, only your answer.
It doesn't matter what anyone else's morning routine is, how many times a week they work out, meditate, spend quality time with their family or pick their nose.
Listen to YOUR mind, body and soul, first, foremost and last.
Then be discerning about who else you let into you head.
Take what lands and leave the rest.
Everyone is human. No one has your answer. The best they can offer, is inspiration or a clue to help you find it yourself.
That's where the work is.
That's where the discomfort is.
That's where the resistance is.
Sit with it, get used to it, let it see the light of day and then do something with it.
But you can only do this, if you reduce the noise that drowns out your own voice.
Life is simply too short, to aspire to be somebody you are not.
Here's an alternative view for you.
Don't chase success.
Don't work too hard.
Don't aspire to make lots of money.
Just go and sit in a wood and listen to the wind in the trees.
You'll find more insight and truth there, than from 1,000 self help books.
Be brave enough to look behind the bullsh*t, stop running from yourself and understand your truth.
Then do something with it.
It's not finished yet.
It may never be finished.
But it's been started.
I'm talking about the update of my website.
I've taken James Victores advice from his pretty amazing book 'feck perfunction'.
I'm slowly but surely replacing all stock pictures, with my own hand drawn, raw interpretation of the points I am trying to make.
It's not corporate, arty, polished, sophisticated, or even that professional.
But it doesn't matter.
Because it's completely and utterly me. That's creative courage.
My website is unique, unfiltered and honest.
It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.
As long as I'm ok with how it represents me.
And I am.
Well, for now........
The only USP any of us ever really have, is ourselves.
Don't let fear steal it.
"I am neither ashamed nor proud of my actions, they are simply part of my story." anonymous
I heard that on a mental health training course, the other week.
One of the most powerful quotes, I have ever heard.
It resonated deep inside my soul.
It resonated because I had been judging myself - on my 'not so finer moments', the ones where I fear the world would judge me harshly, if I told the truth.
But it actually doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, it is not their acceptance I crave - it's mine.
The rest of the world does not live in my head, walk by my side everyday and choose my decisions - I do.
I just didn't realise that, until a kind, honest and brave man, stood up in front of a room full of strangers, to tell his story and in the process, gave me this priceless less gift.
It is not the judgement of others that scares you, but the judgement of yourself - the judgement you think you will get from others.
Life is a nuance, people will surprise you - often for the better, truth is more powerful than shame and fear and if you accept yourself, you won't need it from others.
It's ok to be you - all of you.
My passion, the thing that gets me out of bed everyday, is to simply empower everyone, to 'show up and own up' as themselves.
Not to be scared of what others think.
Not to allow judgement or social norms, to restrict their passion and creativity.
Not to loose parts of their soul along the way and only realise they have done so, when it is too late to get it back.
Don't just challenge the status quo - smash it into pieces, with the raw beauty, truth and inspiration, of what it really means to be a human being living life fully, not caged by optical illusions and meaningless bullsh•t.
Get out there, take your space, use your voice, be yourself and shake your world, until only the truth remains.
Creativity doesn’t follow rules.
It doesn’t happen just because you are ‘at work’.
It moves to its own beat, in its own way.
When it comes you need to catch it in the moment, it can often be a fleeting visitor.
Creativity cannot flourish in a barren mind or soul.
Like all wondrous things, it comes from a motivated, liberated and curious mind.
One free to explore, courageous enough to share and humble enough to learn.
Creativity is everywhere and nowhere.
When it comes, grab it, don’t procrastinate, over think it or wait until it’s the right time.
Now is the right time.
My post on rejection today was written whilst waiting at the vets.
My post on nuance today was written whilst waiting for my eyebrows to be done!
And this one is being typed, whilst I sit in the car, waiting for my daughter to finish school.
I haven’t sat at my desk once today.
Give yourself space and time, but most importantly, have the courage to just do it - be creative and see where it takes you.
That’s it. Good luck.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else does.
It doesn’t matter how much anyone else earns.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else has.
What matters is who you are.
What matters is how you treat others.
What matters is whether you have the courage, to step out and live your life.
That is it.
Don’t get distracted.
Two women, two friend, two swimmers, two stories, two lives, two hearts.
We started swimming together at 5 years old and then we didn’t see each other for 30 years plus, after I stopped in my teens.
But she was there, on the day I tentatively put my foot back in the pool, petrified of what I couldn’t do and completely in awe by what she could do.
She held my hand, soothed my fears and showed up for me, week in week out.
She swam slower to stay with me, swam shorter distances to encourage me and praised every extra stroke I took.
This isn’t really about swimming, it’s about humanity - at its best.
The sharing of my vulnerability in that pool, was rewarded by a deep and precious human connection.
It’s the thing that makes anything possible - even a swim in an outdoor lake, in the dark, in the cold.
Show up in whatever way you can - that’s how you truly make a difference in someone’s life.
The biggest epidemic in our society - judgement.
Judgement is why people hide their true selves, it stops us taking action and connecting with others, in any truly meaningful way.
Judgement drives three incredibly destructive fears:
1. Fear of failure - we don’t live our dreams and as a result, whole lives are lost
2. Fear of ourselves - we hide who we really are, especially the dark bits, so we never get to fully live or feel the freedom of self love
3. Fear of not fitting in, of living outside the norms - we constantly compromise our values, desires and needs, to fit into an optical illusion of superficial and often hypocritical standards, created and sustained by others, who may never have the courage to be anything other than an empty shell.
So, please allow your roar to be heard, stand in your own reality and do not be distracted by meaningless judgement from people, who you probably wouldn’t give a sh*t about, if you gave yourself permission to actually be you.
Don’t be a lion led by a donkey, just be who you are meant to be.
We need to face the reality of social media.
It’s great for connecting with people, inspiration and getting your message out.
But it’s busy, very busy.
Lots of people, have lots to say. And that’s good and bad.
It’s good because it’s adds new perspectives and knowledge.
It’s bad because it can be overwhelming, difficult to be heard, drives a comparison mentality and rewards short term, individual gains over long term, collective value.
It cannot replace your core purpose, your brand or your business.
It is simply a vehicle, to support communications, learning and networking.
Choose your feed well.
Be discerning about who to follow.
Produce meaningful and original content.
Engage with others in a constructive and respectful manner.
Do not be afraid to block negative trolls.
Ultimately, it will be replaced by the next thing and that by something else.
You are the constant in your life.
Your core raison d’etre, your relationships, your work, your value, must be able to stand independent of social media.
Put your efforts into who you really are, developing deep relationships with those who matter and creating content/services/products, that will truly add value to this world, with or without social media.
You are the change we seek, not social media.
We are hiding the truth from our children.
We are hiding our fears and vulnerability.
We are hiding our struggles with relationships.
We are hiding the real challenges of being a parent.
We are hiding the tough choices we face in life.
We are hiding our failures.
We are hiding all of this, because we are afraid it may harm our children, that we maybe judged as bad parents, but mainly because everyone else is hiding it too and being the first to step out of the shadows and tell the truth, requires a bucket load of courage.
The irony is that by hiding our truth, we are harming our children.
We are leading them to believe that life is much easier, than it actually is.
We are setting false standards, they will not be able to achieve and therefore encouraging them to hide their truth, from their children, for fear of being inadequate and judged too.
We talk about developing resilience in our children.
But it’s not enough to talk about it.
We need to demonstrate it.
And that means no more hiding our truth.
Please show up and own up - our children need to know that being imperfect, is indeed just perfect.
You don’t have to be the best sibling.
You don’t have to be the best student.
You don’t have to be the best at your job.
You don’t have to be the best at relationships.
You don’t have to be the best parent.
You don’t have to be the best anything.
You just have to do your best, be honest with yourself, be who you are meant to be and never give up.
That’s basically it.
The rest is just a diversion from what really matters.
Courage is on my mind today.
I think we talk a lot about other people’s courage but rarely acknowledge our own.
So, I wrote myself a list of the things in my life that I have found the most difficult and traumatic, but I did them anyway because I just knew I had to - and that’s pretty much what courage is to me.
And here is that list thus far:
1. Walking into school, alone and isolated after being ostracised by my friendship group, standing tall and being myself.
2. Starting a new University in my final year, after the end of a love affair that went horribly wrong, with no friends and no self-esteem left.
3. Turning up to interview after interview, taking the sterile, impersonal comments and retaining my self belief, until I found someone that believed in me too.
4. Finding the strength to trust and love again, when my only experience beforehand, had been deeply traumatic.
5. Walking into a hospital room, day after day, with a smile, a dash of pink lipstick and joy at getting to spend time with my dad, despite the cruel death he was living out on a daily basis.
6. Walking into a church full of people, unable to hide my grief, to say my final goodbyes.
7. Watching my children’s lives unfold and being there to catch them when they fall.
8. Saying sorry when my heart is breaking, but I know I cannot ask someone else to carry my anger and sorrow.
9. Stepping out and telling my truth, each and every day, to help me grow, accept myself and support others to do so too.
And I bet if you write your list you will find that you have been much more courageous than you give yourself credit for too.
I've observed, more than I would like to, that sometimes when we find a role model, someone who speaks to our core, whose words resonate with us, we can become somewhat blinded by them and as a consequence we stop thinking for ourselves and we stop challenging what we are being told - and if what we are being told is true, coming from a place of good intent and shared with humility, it should certainly be capable and willing to accept challenge.
But giving up thinking for ourselves, researching the facts for ourselves and learning to have faith in our own conclusions, is really very dangerous, as history has taught us many times and I'm sure will continue to do so.
Role models, chosen for the right reasons (content, value and humanity rather than superficial celebrity status), are not bad or incorrect or to be ignored. They often add much to humanity, our knowledge and our perspectives, but they are not god or a divine being that has all of the answers, they are human beings who by definition, cannot have all of the answers, as no one does.
So, I believe that it is of fundamental importance that we remember the constraints and boundaries of our role models - others words, knowledge and ideas can inspire you, provoke a thought, reveal a perspective, call you to action, but they cannot and should not stop you thinking for yourself.
Role models are important, learning and curiosity is important, but we must not be blinded by the false illusion that by following the words and deeds of our role models, our lives will be transformed - only we can do that, first and foremost we are our own role models.
The others are our guides, but only we get to take the walk.
Please always remember to question and think for yourself, even if that means going it alone, otherwise you will loose your wisdom, yourself and your power.
My take on the relationship between courage and action.
Courage without action is really frustration, regret and un-lived potential.
Action without courage, is really meaningless ‘busyness’.
But put the two together and you can really be the change you want to see.
Johann Hari talks about sympathetic joy in his book ‘Lost Connections’.
The basic concept is that if you can feel joy at other people’s happiness, then you have a never ending supply of it, as even when things are sh*t in your own life, you can enjoy the happiness in someone else’s.
I think this principle applies to all aspects of our life, including social media.
If you are simply posting for the most likes, looking for a viral story or a brief moment of fame, you are destined to be disappointed.
The minute you post, so are millions of other people - it’s about the depth of engagement not breadth.
Therefore, if you post content with the intent of inspiring others to action, encouraging curiosity or widening perspectives, your post will have a legacy that lives on beyond your ego or your fleeting moment of fame.
It will have made a positive difference to someone, somewhere, somehow.
And that means, it doesn’t matter who else is posting what, because your post is bigger than you - it’s an idea, an inspiration, a call to action.
You never know where your words will land or who they will help, so carry on posting and don’t worry about how you compare to others.
Transformation is not about simply doing what you have already done, but in a slightly improved or different way.
Transformation is about doing something you haven’t done before. It’s scary, uncomfortable, lonely (most people will not ‘get it’) but most important of all, completely and utterly liberating.
Whether at an organisational or individual level, you have to let go of the past, unlearn your constraints and fears and then you can truly set your mind free, to create your own reality.
Competition and judgement cease to exist - no one cares about your ego in transformation, they care about the transformation, they care about courage, they care about the new possibilities, they care that you gave it a go. And if they don’t now, they will do afterwards.
Genuine creativity sits at the very heart of transformation - because it’s about thinking the unthinkable and taking action.
Redefine failure as growth, see reality as variable not fixed and change your perspective - we are all creatives, no matter what we do.
Stop farming ‘over-farmed’ land, look to new horizons, leave the pack and do something today and everyday, that can transform our world, no matter how small, for the better.
Transform don’t change.
Right now things seem somewhat bleak, we are fearful and angry, living in unprecedented times and life is desperate and unfair for many, all of which means that it is difficult to remain hopeful and to have faith that our actions, our words, our thoughts can make a difference.
But we must remember that they can.
The reality is, that since the beginning of modern history, most of our challenges have been unprecedented, humanity has suffered enormously, life is unfair and random and often cruel, but yet the human race is still here, we have evolved beyond all imagination and the lives of many have improved immeasurably.
So, during these difficult times, I thought it would be good to remind ourselves of what us mere mortals are actually capable of by looking to the past for inspiration.
It was 1993, Andrew Sullivan, a journalist was diagnosed with AIDs. It was a truly terrible time - there was no cure, the deaths were desperate and lonely and prejudice was rampant.
So, Andrew took himself off to die. But he decided that it was important for him to leave some kind of legacy, a note that he had been here and his parting birdsong, was to write a book and that book was called 'Virtually Normal'. And that book suggested a totally unthinkable thing at that time, that gay people should be able to get married. Andrew was acutely aware of the shame and subsequent self-hatred that so many gay people were unfairly and inhumanely forced to live with and could see no other way, in which gay people could be freed.
When the book came out, it was harshly criticised, by both right wing parties and the gay community. Andrew thought his work had all been for nothing and he would die not having made a difference.
It is now 27 years since that book was published, Andrew is alive, his book sparked a movement and was quoted in a key supreme court ruling in the US, declaring marriage equality for gay people. Andrew also received a letter from the president of the USA, telling him that the fight for gay marriage, succeeded in part because of him. He was invited to the Whitehouse for dinner and that President was black.
Enormous changes happen because seemingly ordinary people think the unthinkable and then have the courage, faith and passion to do something about it.
So, today and every day, please think the unthinkable and keep the faith that your actions, your thoughts and your words will make a difference to someone, somewhere.
P.S. I read this story in Johan Hari's book 'Lost Connections' one of the few books I would say was definitely life changing for me as is his new book 'Stolen Focus'.
I am what I choose to be.
I choose to be kind.
I choose to be honest.
I choose to be brave.
I am not what others think of me or think I should be.
And neither are you.
You are who you choose to be - nobody gets to take that freedom away from you.
Please don’t let yourself get stolen.
It’s easy to judge others when things are going well for you. But judgement leads to prejudice, barriers and a lack of understanding.
So what happens when things do not go well for you? You hide it because your afraid of judgement and what people will think.
It’s a circular situation right?
So, please don’t judge because until you have walked in the shoes of others, you do not truly understand the one simple truth, we can all miss - they may simply be doing the best they can, given the circumstances they are presented with.
Life is messy, sh*t happens and you never know when that might be your world.
Bad things can happen to good people.
Let’s be there for each other with open arms not a judgemental mind.
I am one of the many 1,000's of women who stepped of the career ladder to focus on their families, not because I was forced to, or did not have opportunities equal to my male counterparts, but because I choose to - and we should not forget that choice is a hugely important part of gender equality and empowerment.
I stepped of the career ladder because I was acutely aware of the amount of time and personal sacrifice my career would require - because senior roles with large pay packets and even larger responsibilities, unsurprisingly require a large commitment too.
But now I'm thinking about the future, the children are getting older, my brain aches for stimulation and I am bursting with ideas - although sadly not energy, whilst I move slowly through the menopause. Even so, my brain works perfectly well as I have simply had children, not a lobotomy.
And in all honesty, my career break has enabled me to grow more, learn more and be more, than I could ever have imagined when I was working full time.
I see the world differently now, I'm more rounded, kinder, less egotistical and far more forgiving and accepting - grief, motherhood and the menopause does that for you.
I'm more curious, less insecure and more interested in finding answers, rather than having to be right or to be heard first - not having a life dependant on external validation does that for you.
I don't care what title, grade or office I get, I care about the meaning, the purpose, the intellectual depth of the work and the people I work with - basing your choice of work on intrinsic motivations, borne out of taking the time to really get to know yourself, does that for you.
I don't need career progression, I need my mind and purpose to be progressed - embracing all of who you are and what you need, whether or not that has a price tag attached to it, does that for you.
But make no mistake, no matter what work I am involved in, first and foremost I will always be a parent and homemaker - these roles are my top priority and the sooner society starts to value them far more than it does today, the better for all concerned.
So, I have no desire nor do I intend to return to a 60 hour working week, build an empire or be ‘terribly important’. I just want to use my brain, to do what I do well, without compromising the very heart of who I am.
And I don't think this requirement is gender specific at all, nor only for parents. I think this is just a basic human need that we all have to make the very best of our lives, find ourselves and achieve some level of contentment.
We are in the midst of the Fifth Revolution - we are looking at how to create life on Mars, surely we can find a more meaningful and balanced way to work and live?
And I think the answer to this question may well do more for gender equality in the workplace than any artificial quota system.
Mark Manson's book 'Everything is F*cked - a book about hope', talks about hopelessness as:
"the uncomfortable truth, a silent realisation that in the face of infinity, everything we could possibly care about quickly approaches zero."
He has a point, we all die right?
But does that mean we have no hope, no future? No, I do not believe so and neither does he. It is precisely because of this fact, that we should all seize the day, today, because:
1. Our time here is short, no one is getting out alive
2. Very few of us are handed our dreams on a plate
3. All of us will experience loss at some point
4. We will all feel fear and be judged
But, we are not hopeless because we do have choices:
1. We can think about mortality with a different perspective - by fully acknowledging that we do have an end date, we are more able to live in the present, as fully and authentically as possible.
2. We can feel our intuition rather than just thinking with our heads, to enable our dreams to take shape and go after them, rather than allowing others to steal our minds and crush our spirit because no one should be allowed to tell you who you are, or what to think about yourself - that's your job alone, so please choose your words carefully and be cognisant of the constraints we often put on ourselves, because it takes more courage not to.
3. We can embrace the sadness of loss and grief as part of us, because it is feeling it that keep us alive and is a constant reminder of the joy and love that has flowed through our lives and indeed shows us how loveable we really are and that in itself means we always have hope. .
So, the point to this post is to say that in the scope of life, mortality, the bigger picture, much of what we worry about in the here and now and allow to constrain us, is really not quite as important as we think it is and we often have more choices than we can see.
Step back, create some space, allow the light in, consider your mortality and allow your dreams to breath and start to live your life, in your way, today.
We all simply belong to ourselves: "you only are free when you realise you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all" Maya Angelou
I'm a 47 year old woman. I have returned to work following a career break where I suffered from PND, experienced mortality and became the full-time carer for my children and home-maker.
I've struggled with:
1. Self-esteem - my career defined me, I only realised that when I gave it up.
2. Addiction - I only realised I had an addiction when I simply could not stop, despite the destruction it caused.
3. Judgement - I often did things because of what other's thought of me, not what I thought of myself.
4. Mental Health - I lost myself because I had put on so many layers, I no longer knew who I was.
5. A tough menopause - my body simply gave up on me and switched of the required hormones before my brain was ready.
You need to define your own reality, belong to yourself and no-one else.
1. Motherhood is not the end of your career, it is the start.
2. Grief can break you, but you will get back up.
3. Age is liberating, you finally learn not give too many f*cks about irrelevant stuff.
Seize the day, it's never too late to be you.
Define your own reality.
Stand tall as you.
Help others as you.
Redefine our world as you.
Whether at an individual, collective or organisational level, transformation happens everyday.
Let’s do it for the right reasons.
Let’s engage our hearts, minds and souls in the process.
Let’s drive it from a place of authenticity, care and meaning.
Let’s use it to define a reality not yet created, which works better than the one we have now.
Let’s make it count by making others count.
Let’s be ourselves collectively, embracing the strengths of our differences.
Let’s live with the courage to believe in ourselves, without needing to crush others in order to do so.
One of the truest sayings ever ‘united we stand, divided we fall’.
Would you like to live a life of unfulfilled potential and a relentless ache to do more or come with me and change the world by accepting ourselves?
Every one of us counts - our thoughts and actions matter. We are all capable of creating change, for the better, one step at a time. You just need to take that step.
Today is as good as it gets.
Remember the future is now.