The Game Changers in our lives

Gothic IMR 9

DAY 76

‘I had no idea that history was being made. I was just tired of giving up.’ Rosa Parks

What makes a leader?

Who inspires us to be better than we are?

Who calls to our hearts to step forward and be accounted for?

Who captures our imaginations and our strength, compelling us to strive for a new day?

For a long time I thought leaders were special people who stood out from the crowd. The type of people who gave grand speeches, stirring the troops before they marched into an un-winnable battle. I often imagined being a female version of Captain Kirk bravely urging the Enterprise into the far reaches of the galaxy to do what no ‘man’ had ever done before. You can imagine my excitement when Captain Janeway was introduced to the cast of Star Trek: Voyager! It’s true that many of our great leaders are just like this.

Sometimes they are artists who stir in us the passion to rise up and change the world around us. As a little girl I would lay in bed before sleep came for me, thinking of the day I might write a song like ‘I Am Woman’ by Helen Reddy; a song that I sang religiously every day for months on the way home from school and that generations would continue to sing.

At fifteen, my perspective on leadership shifted to lead singers of pop bands; they were the ones that stood up front and led their band to greatness. The ones that were the first to answer the questions while the members of the group nodded silently behind them. My obsession with good looking boys aside, these lead singers often showed us a side of leadership that is perpetuated in much of our culture. The image of a leader who knows it all and the followers who look to them for guidance and support. Our work cultures are often based on this model of leadership. So are our education structures.

I was convinced that leaders were born to be front runners until one day there was a fire at my school. We were sitting in the science lab that had a wall of windows looking over the school courtyard with a view of the triple story building and the newly built gymnasium and sports complex. Giant red orange flames and black plumes of smoke and billowed out of the roof of the gym and smoke was quickly filling the courtyard. The alarm bell rang across the school intercom. We could already heard the terror and mayhem in the corridor outside. Our teacher went a distinct shade of white and into shock. Not realising what she was doing she walked to the classroom door and locked it, essentially locking us into the room to await our fate. She told us to sit at our tables and not to move. In those days, you pretty much did what your teacher told you. In those days we were rarely taught to think for ourselves. So we sat. Quietly. Waiting.

Until one of my class mates got up and walked up to the teacher and held her hand and told her it would be alright. That he would take care of everything. He walked towards the door and calmly unlocked it, still holding our teachers hand. Then he told us all to stay calm and line up in pairs. We didn’t hesitate. Although we were scared of both the fire and our teacher, we lined up holding onto each other. Our eyes focused on the fire and our friend Wayne. Wayne smiled at us and told us it would be alright. Our teacher nodded along with him. Then he asked us to follow him down the hallway and out into the fresh air and safety of the school garden on the other side of the school. Wayne was not just a hero that day, he was an extraordinary leader. He was prepared to stand up for what he knew was right and prepared to challenge what he knew was wrong. He was prepared to risk himself for the sake of others. He was prepared to stand up and show up.

One of my favourite stories to talk about is the one of Rosa Parks. Rosa was a 42 year old African American who worked as a seamstress. One day in December, 1955, she got on a bus to travel home from work. Initially she sat in the ‘blacks only’ section of the bus, right behind the ‘whites only’ section. When the ‘white section’ filled up the bus driver told the  black Americans to move down to the back of the bus to make way for the white people. Rosa refused. She was arrested. But on that day Rosa started a revolution for her community; quest for freedom and equality. She didn’t make a grand speech and rally the troops. She didn’t have a position of power in her own life. She just stood up for what she believed in. In that one single act, she showed up for what she believed was the right thing to do.

Perhaps you have leaders in your life, or leaders from the past who inspire you?

I believe that we are all leaders. We all have the capacity to stand up for what we believe is right, and to act on it. Sometimes it’s a small act, a drop in the ocean. But the consequences of these acts are extraordinary.

Here’s the thing: All of us are game changers.

‘You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.’ Rosa Parks


Being Brave in a deathly life


DAY 74

Being brave is bloody hard.

So hard, that we will do almost anything to avoid it. Including dancing with the devil. By that I mean that we will hold onto the devil we know, even though it makes us completely miserable, and often sick.

I’m sure most of you have experienced a situation where you had to make an incredibly difficult decision which perhaps involved some vulnerability and risk on your behalf. You knew in your mind that if you could just make that decision, bite the bullet, jump off the cliff, whatever the analogy, you would be putting yourself in the best place possible. Perhaps you would be literally giving yourself the best possible chance of a fantastic life.

Perhaps your decision was about ending a relationship that was clearly not a healthy one. It would mean you would be alone, or a single parent. It might mean that you would have to be financially responsible, because you would be the only one bringing in the bacon.

Perhaps it was about leaving your 9 – 5 day job and full filling your dream career. Maybe this would mean you would have to go back to study, or survive on a lower salary for a while, or perhaps you could make the income but it would mean that you wouldn’t have the safety net of a secure job to pay the bills.

Perhaps it wasn’t about leaving a job at all, it was just about following your heart, and putting your ideas out there. Risking everything to write that great Australian novel, paint that picture, become that wedding photographer, direct that smash hit musical, produce that Academy award winning documentary or go on that round the world trip.

Maybe it’s about putting yourself out there in the first place and actually going on a date, or allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to have an intimate relationship. Maybe you just need to be brave enough to move out of home and set up your own home with your friends, your cat and a single bed.

Whatever it is, being brave enough to take the steps towards your dream, the steps that you know will give your dream the best possible chance, is a huge investment.

It’s true. Being brave and vulnerable is frightening and scary. There are a lot of ‘what ifs’. What if I can’t pay my rent? What if I write that novel and people hate it? What if I put myself out there and I get my heart broken? What if I go after my dream career and it doesn’t work?

Yep. Lots of stuff to be scared about.

But let’s ask ourselves another question. What if I keep doing exactly the same thing that I am doing right now for the rest of my life. Where will I be? What will I be thinking? How will I be feeling? What will I have achieved?

If I don’t change anything; if I’m not able to risk anything or be brave enough to give ‘it'(whatever your ‘it’ is) what will my life be like? Will it be better or worse?

If you are in an unhealthy relationship, it can only get worse. Unhealthy relationships destroy people. They mess with your head, and make you sick in many ways. The longer you are in an unhealthy relationship the more you will convince yourself that you are trapped. And the longer you are trapped the less likely you are to believe that you even deserve to be in a healthy relationship. It’s a never ending spiral. Downwards.

If you are in a job that you don’t like, that doesn’t make you feel like you are contributing, that you don’t bound out of bed every morning to get to – then it won’t get better. You will just become one of the corporate zombies. One of the living dead. The less you feel good about what you are doing, the more you will lose your confidence and struggle to find any joy. The less passionate you are about your work, the less you will invest in it, the more likely you are to be at risk of depression and anxiety. No amount of job security is worth your soul. Ever.

If you don’t actually go on a date, or give relationships a chance, then you won’t learn the intricacies of intimate relationships. There is only so much you can learn about relationships without getting involved with someone. It’s a bit like riding a bike. You can read about how to ride a bike, but you have to get on one to understand the ‘feel’ of a bike and how to balance your body and the bike so you can actually ride it.

If you don’t write that novel, direct that musical, or paint that picture, how will you even develop the skills to become that great novelist/director/artist? We don’t tell babies to get up and run. We encourage them to give it a go. We expect them to fall down all the time. But it’s in the falling down and getting back up again, in an environment of encouragement, that we have all learnt to walk…and then run. Some of us have become Olympic champions! But none of us would have become great walkers or champions if we hadn’t fallen down a fair bit, and gotten back up again.

And if you are still at home in 20 years…dude…what are you doing?

When you read the autobiographies of people like Madonna, Richard Branson, Kylie Minogue, INXS, Martin Luther KIng, J.K. Rowling and Oprah (just to name a few), none of them had their careers or achievements handed to them on a silver platter. They all took massive risks, fell over quite a bit, then rose up to achieve and live extraordinary lives.

They all talk about being afraid. But they were all brave enough not to live a ‘safe’ but deathly life and fight for what they deserve: An extraordinary life filled with passion and joy.

In 20 years time, if you had a chance to travel back in time to speak to your younger self today, I hope you would say something like: “Don’t ever give up on yourself. Because your life is all that you want it to be – be brave.”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

Be bold, be brave, be vulnerable!


DAY 69

10th March, 2014

One of my favourite films is The Notebook, and no, it’s not because Ryan Gosling or Rachel McAdams are the lead actors. (Although yes, both are extremely gorg!)

There is a scene in the film where Ryan Goslings character, Noah, renovates a house. Noah and his love, Allie, have broken up a good few years before, but he renovates the house that she loves. He thinks that if he works on re-building the house that she wants, that she will come back to him. Of course the film is a romance, so Allie does eventually come back to Ryan. But the moment I love is when Noah is brave and takes the biggest chance of his (fictional) life. He works his ass off to build the house that he believes his Allie will love. He is brave enough to step out of his comfort zone to do something extraordinary, even though he has never built a house before. And throughout the adventure of re-building his house, his home for his love, Noah is completely vulnerable; he wears his heart on his sleeve. It’s what makes him risk everything when Allie finally turns up in his driveway to see the house.

I know it is a Hollywood film, but I also know many people around me who have lived in similar ways, who have taken the risk to be brave. Who have been bold enough to be vulnerable. Not everyone has received what they wanted. Some have lost the love of their life. Some have had businesses fail, or been betrayed. Some have retreated to the comfort of their beds and stayed there for a while.

What gets them back up? What gives them the ability to be brave, even though they are frightened. The courage to be bold, even when they are not quite sure they have what it takes. But most of all the strength to be vulnerable again, because in spite of everything that has happened, they have the strength to open them selves up and try again.

As Richard Branson once said: “The brave may not live forever – But the cautious do not live at all!”
― Richard BransonLike a Virgin: Secrets They Won’t Teach You at Business School