Archive for November, 2015

See you round like a rock star

IMG_7939“It’s 8am!” Bob Geldof complained at last Friday’s Business Chicks breakfast. “It’s too early. I’m a mega *#%^@ super global rock star…”

The organisers had encouraged us to share the event on social media as it unfolded, so I posted this intro to my friends on Facebook, two of whom replied that this sounded typical (even though it was said in jest) and they’d always thought Geldof was a bit arrogant and unlikable.

For the next 60 minutes, he delivered a staggeringly complex, articulate, off-the-cuff talk that seemed to encompass everything from the invention of the printing press through to the Dark Web. I mean it. I think I learnt more from Bob Geldof in an hour than I did in my four-year history degree at ANU.

At some point, possibly around the time he was weaving Picasso into his presentation, I realised he wasn’t so much “arrogant” as “brilliant”.

And passionate.

And doing all he can to change the world.

His next stop after our breakfast was Paris for climate talks. He’s on a mission and won’t be diverted from it. I think what comes across as arrogance might actually be a case of showing up in life, one hundred percent.

Brene Brown speaks of being ‘seen’. Her advice is “Never shrink. Never puff up.”

In Australia, where we’re often pulled down for standing out, learning to be ‘seen’ can be culturally challenging. One of the things I’m secretly most proud of is being a published author, but when people ask me about it, I inwardly cringe. Will I sound arrogant if I mention it? Can’t we talk about you instead?

If part of being ‘seen’ is showing up with all of your knowledge, experience and skills clearly visible, as Geldof does, part of it is also showing your vulnerability. He was interesting on that too. “I’d taken on too much,” he said of the time when he was planning Band Aid in 1984. “I was a pop star and suddenly talking to Thatcher and Reagan and Murdoch and the Pope… I was terrified of failure, not just for me but for the people in whose name we were doing this. I was tired and frightened.”

A stranger sent him a letter in 1984, which he pulled out and read to us. The man had noted that he looked like he was struggling, and said to him: “Don’t wobble. Commit.”

The result of Geldof committing to Band Aid was the raising of 8 million pounds to assist victims of famine in Ethiopia. The following year, he raised over 150 million pounds in Live Aid. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize eight times—more than anyone else.

That’s what happens when you show up fully. He’s a rock star and a knight. Most of us will never fly as high as he does. But we should always fly exactly as high as we can.

Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Be seen.

I had an email during the week…

1195545It was from a full-time working mum of a toddler, whose husband stays at home as the full-time parent. The challenge outlined was this:

“Aside from the standard guilt I feel for being absent during the week, I really struggle with co-curricular activity guilt. I feel like because I am so absent during the week, that I can’t / shouldn’t take time for myself on the weekends or after work in that short and precious time I have with my son. I find it really overwhelming. I’m assuming I’m not alone in this…”

Very much not alone.

In the seventeen years that I’ve been a parent, I think there isn’t one mode of ‘work and family’ that I haven’t experienced. I had a full year with my baby at home on leave, returned full-time, ten months at home on leave with my second, returned part-time/job-share, upped to full-time for several years, left my job, started a business, worked full-time from home, had my third baby, wrangled the family and business from home and am now looking forward to my youngest starting school next year, which will make things slightly easier. (I say, despite experience telling me the school years are no picnic either!)

Throughout all of it—during every incarnation of ‘juggle’—I’ve needed ‘me time’. And the time I’ve taken for self-care, relaxation, friendship and fun has only ever enhanced our family, my health (physical and mental), my relationships, friendships and parenting.

Think back to the last truly fun or relaxing time ‘off’ that you had. Try to re-capture the way you felt at the end of it. That liberating or relaxed feeling of having unwound.

Compare that to the last long stretch of pure ‘slog’, without a break or space just for you.

  • In which scenario do you show up as the better parent? Which helps you be more calm and patient and more genuinely engaged? (Not just reading the story on auto-pilot, wondering when your Netflix time starts…)
  • In which scenario are you the better partner? More interested and connected.
  • In which scenario are you at your best at work?

There was an old saying, ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life.’ I find it out-dated and sexist, but the premise is spot on. Happy partner, happy life. Happy parent, happy life.

Happy person. Happy life.

There’s a concept called the ‘Third Space’. It’s that place that all of us need—every person—partnered, single, people with kids, people without kids, people who work outside the home and people work inside it. People do both. Anyone.

Our ‘Third Space’ is that place where we get to be ourselves, express ourselves, relax, unwind, be exhilarated… whatever floats our boats. Without it, everything becomes two-dimensional. Everything becomes tougher.

Practically speaking, how can this work for the person who emailed me?

I’m willing to bet that your husband is keen for his own ‘Third Space’. Each of you are contributing equally (if differently) to your family. Each deserves a break.

I’d sit down and map out a plan that sees you both having exclusive, one-on-one time with your little boy. Because that’s the result of ensuring you both have ‘me time’.

In my family, this means that every Sunday morning, without fail, I go to my walking/jogging/running/breakfast group. It’s as much the part of our household schedule as Christmas. And my husband is at every home game of the Brumbies, and other games during the season.

There are other times we both do things without each other and the kids, but these things are non-negotiable. They’re part of the glue that holds us together as a family unit.

If you’re:

  • Having fun
  • Making memories
  • Having time together as a whole family
  • Having time apart as individuals
  • Having time as each parent with each child
  • Having time together as a couple
It’s an equation that really works.*

*I’ve been a single parent too, and understand those particular challenges. It’s the subject of another newsletter, but many parts of this one still apply.

The sadness can’t win

On Friday, I was privileged to attend the heartbreaking funeral service of a wonderful teenager, gone far too soon. His family and friends are wholeheartedly devastated. All of them—mum, sister, dad, school friends—got up and shared their memories of the young man they love. The essence of their message was ‘live a big life—no regrets.’

That same day, many lost their lives in an horrific suicide bombing in Lebanon. A funeral was bombed in Baghdad, killing nineteen. The next day, we woke to news of the terror attacks in Paris.

There are times when the world feels ‘shaky’. When life itself both here, close to home, and far away, seems tenuous.

Life doesn’t always make sense. There are times when it’s so hard we feel like it can’t go on.

But for most of us, most of the time—no matter what happens to us, or what mistakes we make, even when we hit rock bottom—life does go on.

I thought of that when I took this photo of my son with my ex-husband’s daughters, looking up to our two teenage daughters on Saturday. They were in a hotel lobby. News from the unfolding events in Paris was playing on a TV screen beside them. The children didn’t notice the TV. They only had eyes for their big sisters.

Divorce is nothing like the loss of family members in a senseless act of terrorism. Nothing like it.

But it is another time in life when the rug is ripped from under us (even when we’re pulling the rug ourselves). It’s a time when everything falls apart.

Eventually we scramble to our feet. Our lives continue. They continue differently from before, but they do continue.

And they can flourish.

There was a day ten years ago when it felt like sadness had won for us. These three little children prove that in the end it didn’t.

Now, during my friends’ raw grief for their son, it must feel like sadness is winning.

In Paris and Lebanon and Baghdad and in other parts of the world where people are grieving, it must feel like sadness is winning.

Sadness will never win. Love always pushes its way through the charred remains of devastation. Life always flourishes after a fire.

“Live a big life. No regrets.”

It’s our micro ambitions that count

shutterstock_81301666What is it with male school captains this year? A few months ago, we were privileged to watch college captain Xavier Eales’ incredibly moving speech about depression.

Now, a video is circulating of a speech delivered by senior monitor of New Zealand’s Christchurch Boys’ High School, Jake Bailey, a week after his diagnosis with aggressive cancer. He’d written his final address prior to being told he had weeks to live. Doctors told him he wouldn’t be present at the ceremony.

Not only was he present. He was inspirational. And acutely sensible.

“I wrote a speech, and a week before I was due to deliver this speech tonight they said, ‘You’ve got cancer’,” he began. “They said, if you don’t get any treatment within the next three weeks you’re going to die. Then they told me I wouldn’t be here tonight to deliver this speech.”

“None of us get out of life alive, so be gallant, be great, be gracious, and be grateful for the opportunities you have.”

Then this:

“The future is truly in our hands. Forget about having long-term dreams. Let’s be passionately dedicated to the pursuit of short-term goals. Micro-ambitious. Work with pride on what is in front of us. We don’t know where we might end up. Or when it might end up.”

Be micro-ambitious, passionately dedicated to short-term goals…

That concept really struck me. I’ve never been a long-term planner. In fact, I’ve never been a planner at all. I’m sure it frustrates my business partner in the My 15 Minutes program, Audrey Thomas, that I can barely look beyond what feels right to do today…

Australian band, 5 Seconds of Summer recently released an album called “Sounds Good, Feels Good”. That’s pretty much how I operate most of the time. And because of that, some amazing things have unfolded—business programs, books, spontaneous day trips… passionate pursuit of short-term goalswe never know when it might end up

I’m not saying ‘don’t do 5-year plans’. Lots of people thrive on them.

It’s just that Jake’s right. We have no idea what’s around the corner. No idea of the obstacles, or the opportunities, that are on our near-future horizon.

Micro-ambition—working with pride with what is right in front of us—can add up to big progress over time, but his point is that these achievements can also be an end in themselves. If we start to value our small achievements as importantly as the big, long-worked-for ones, how much more pleasurable would our lives be? How much more grateful might we feel for the opportunities we have not in two years, or five or ten years, but this week. Today.

Don’t dismiss as ‘nothing special’ the fact that you make it out for a walk on Tuesday. Don’t dismiss that you nail a difficult email on Thursday or bake a really cool birthday cake on Saturday.

These things, all of them, are what add up to a pretty special life, later on. A life lived now. Not years away, in the land of “I’ll be happy when…”