My Epiphany

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a personal update on my blog, so here goes…

Where am I now?

I’m in Darwin, Australia. It’s my home base, my house is here and so are my kids, Wayne and Sasha (albeit they are adults. Well, most of the time!) and of course our dogs, Janie and Molly, who are two very spoilt pooches.

Janie - a faithful old friend
Janie – a faithful old friend

Since I got back, it’s been wonderful to sleep in my own bed, be with my family, see friends of 30+ years and to re-engage with the special places and people that make up ‘Territory’ life.

Things like gorgeous sunsets, noodles at Parap Markets on a Saturday morning, midnight swims in the pool to cool off on these terribly hot nights! Thank goodness for airconditioning is all I can say.

As much as I would love to return to Europe, at the moment that’s just not possible until probably later in 2016 – but that’s not far away! SO, I’ll definitely be in Darwin till February at least. If any of you are headed this way (to Australia), I’d love to see you!

There are very good reasons for staying put here in tropical Oz for the duration of the Northern Hemisphere winter – the obvious one is that I really do feel the cold – a lot! I hear from my friends in Spain and it’s pretty chilly at the moment. I think I prefer being hot to being cold.

Another reason, is that I have had a bit of an epiphany!!

My Epiphany
I’ve always been passionate about creating and maximising opportunities, which has stood me in good stead commercially for years and, I am very proud of the professional recognitions I’ve received.

Yet, I’ve always been more interested in helping people and that passion translated to making a real difference – more so since my breast cancer diagnosis some 18 years ago.  I give thanks everyday that I have been fortunate to survive thus far!

The diagnosis was the catalyst that led me to establish Dragons Abreast Australia, a national charity of 2000 members embracing the life-affirming, health promoting, benefits of dragon boat paddling for breast cancer survivors.

Maureen & Darryl Manzie, Marco Montenuovo, Lara Riva, Peter Hazelman & his lovely wife. Volunteer of th Year Awards 2014
Maureen & Darryl Manzie, Me, Marco Montenuovo, Lara Riva, Peter Hazelman & his lovely wife. Volunteer of the Year Awards 2011 where my Lifeline volunteers – Marco & Peter were recognised.

Since I stepped away from the day to day operations of Dragons Abreast, I’ve been involved with refugees and asylum seekers, teaching English as a Second Language, and, as CEO of Lifeline Top End, within the mental health arena.

I’ve always been able to juggle my not-for-profit work, travel and time zone variations, with that of my own business, Dragon Sisters. But I must confess that, like many who espouse an important cause, I’ve often left a great deal of Dragon Sisters work to my associates – frequently flitting off around the globe on some quest or cause.

Over the past 12 months, whilst I’ve been based in Europe, there’s been more and more people asking me for help. Help to enable them to create and maximise their own opportunities.

Working with so many different clients has also made me really aware of how simple it is for me to help people who want to help themselves.

The other week I received a lovely note from a client, it said, ‘thank you for being the angel sitting on my shoulder’. This really touched me and it meant a great deal to me, as you can imagine.

Regardless of whether I am engaged with charity work, working with clients half way across the globe or with one on one personal development coaching, mentoring and English teaching, I find that we are all in the same boat. We want to be empowered and effective at getting meaningful and positive outcomes. 

I also realised this is something I truly love doing! I love working with individuals towards achieving a better outcome either personally or in business. It really is my passion! But, in addition to being my passion, it’s something I am really good at. Yeah, I know, we’re all good at things we like. Simple really!

Over the last 8 years Dragon Sisters has developed strategies and resources to help people achieve what they want, or at the very least get them on the right pathway.  Everyone wants to realize their true and full potential, and that is my life and Dragon Sisters’ ethos.

The downside, for me personally, is that time is a massive constraint. There are only 24 hours in the day and, much as I’d love to, it’s simply not possible for me to help everyone. This frustrates me, because I know the strategies I teach  work. They are also not rocket science!

Soooo much of what Dragon Sisters has on hand has proven effective for so many (myself included), that I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great to parcel up those resources and make them more accessible and available to anyone who needs them?’  This was my epiphany moment!

Challenges of the Virtual World

Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I realised the way forward has to be via the virtual world.  It offers me the ability to share helpful techniques.

Given that I mostly work with clients scattered across 5 continents, one of the challenges has been coming up with a way of recreating face to face workshops and personal one on one sessions.

I’ve been forced to think outside the square, embrace new technology (big learning curve!) and to create new ways of presenting information.

Judging by the reaction to the first release – over 2,500 people engaged with this – means I’m definitely on track. I am extremely excited! If you want to take a peek it’s here.

As always, love your feedback here or via a personal email or note.

Michelle

Don’t you just hate clients that fail to pay their bills?

As a freelancer, I’ve been pretty lucky that on the whole, I usually get paid, but every once in a while I get caught. You know how it goes, you build a relationship and everything is tracking pretty well. You’ve worked for the client on quite a few jobs, so you don’t expect any issues. Suddenly WHAM! The client takes your work, the most expensive piece commissioned to date, publishes it and decides not to pay your bill. They just go silent and fail to acknowledge all contact attempts, despite the fact that I can clearly see them active in social media and LinkedIn, so I know jolly well that they are very much alive and kicking!

Integrity is everything!
Integrity is everything!

What do you do? If you’re me, you try to sort things out amicably, but when there’s no response, over several weeks, there is little to be done. Of course, I could go public, but my reputation is built on confidentiality, so it’ll do me more harm than good.

I suck it up, send a polite note to the client expressing my disappointment in their integrity and wish them well with their life and career. I won’t lower my standards and my reputation remains intact. I do however believe in karma and what goes round comes round. I also continue to place my trust in humanity and refuse to lose that despite a couple of negative experiences.

Love to hear how others, who work in a highly confidential space, deal with these kinds of situations?

Michelle

Being True to Yourself Series – Part 3. Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

A/N – I’ m delighted to have Bob McInnis as my very first guest blogger.

Right – wrong: is it a matter of perspective?

While I believe there are some absolutes, I am less certain about a lot of things. I read voraciously, listen attentively, think deeply, reflect and synthesize. The condensed product bears a resemblance to the original ideas and witness to a subtle and supple value set. As a recovering postmodern fundamentalist, I lived for decades with a clear, if not personally interpreted, set of rights and wrongs. In 2000, a shift happened in my belief structure (which is a whole different post) but an idea horizon was created and I can never return to that self-satisfied and self-assured state.

So, on this side of the divide, how do I manage truth, fact, discernment and right or wrong? In unfamiliar situations, I am careful, thoughtful and cautious. My understanding is informed by my current values and available information. I do make decisions quickly but my rigorous defence is less strident. If new information disrupts the value pattern, I rethink and where possible re-enact the choice. In familiar circumstances, I think the process is similar but feels more intuitive; as if I can blink and true is revealed (or not).

Regardless, testing right or wrong should be a habit we adopt in every situation. Is the decision just? For me? For others involved? Is it ecological? Does it conform to confirm the values you espouse and aspire to? Will you celebrate or regret the choice in one day, one week, one year? Are you committed to making the right choice? Even when the wrong one is easier? If yes (or no) are you prepared to accept the consequences?

I have applied a current burden of proof to the idea that we are all both responsible for our actions and complicit in the side effects of our inaction. I believe this is right. I have adopted a principle, which I first saw posted in the San Francisco airport “If you see something, say something.” Even though the poster was from the Department of Homeland security, I have expanded it into a wider vision. If I see anything that is immoral, illegal, hurtful, abusive, unsafe or manipulative I name it loudly. This approach isn’t without consequences. I have lost friends, caused a ruckus and received a black eye for my troubles, but from my wider perspective, it has always been well worth it.

Right-wrong: it is a matter of perspective. Yours. You arrive at the decision point, with the sum total of your knowledge, experience and biases. If you put the choice to a factual burden of proof, as best you can and apply the personal rigor above, you will be blessed with discernment and confidence to choose right from wrong in each situation.

You’ll find  more great reads from Bob MInnis on his blog.

Opportunities

My teaching load is lighter for December which gives me space to be taking on a couple more individual business clients. I’m open to clients from anywhere in the world as long as their work interests me and I feel that I can be helpful tEveryone is my teachero their business or cause. Anyone interested in discussing opportunities is welcome to contact me on michellehanton@gmail.com

Why is the load lighter? Well, two of my classes finished up on Friday as they head to their English exams tomorrow. These are external exams with examiners coming from Trinity College in the UK. It’ll be strange not to see them every day after having spent the last 2 months together. We enjoyed a great last day together including celebrating a birthday at morning tea and then lunch after the final class.

I find it so rewarding working with motivated students and clients alike. The pleasure I experience as a result of their success is really hard to describe and I guess the most recent public success was Katrina Fong Lim’s election night victory but all successes bring me the same pleasure which is why I so love being able to choose clients that align with my values and best of all I also learn from all these wonderful experiences. Life is indeed wonderful.

Michelle

Friends

friendOne of my newer (and much younger) friends asked me recently how I managed to remain in contact with so many people for such a long time. He went on to explain that he’d always felt the needed to be in touch with people all the time in order to keep up a friendship and hence had lost touch with several.

His question made me think and this is the answer I came up with.

First of all we need to be clear not to confuse colleagues and friends. The relationships are completely different.

We actually experience several different types of friendships over the course of a lifetime. There are many types of friendships and the old saying ”people come into your life for a reason, for a season, for a lifetime” is definitely correct but it is only as we grow older that we understand and appreciate this.

Friendships occur amongst school friends, workmates and sports teams as well as within social circles that we mix in. Many of these tend to be of a transitory nature with only a few friendships continuing once we move into different jobs, sports or circles. Those we maintain contact with tend to be those who we truly have a connection with.

I’ve been lucky enough to connect in person with several friends over the last couple of months. They are all people who I have not seen for some time yet when we met again the conversations flowed as if it was yesterday.

A friend can come from any walk of life, and indeed my friends are a very diverse group from all corners of the globe. A friend does not necessarily agree with you all the time, rather friendship is built on mutual respect where each person can be themselves and unafraid to express alternate views. Friends also sometimes provide advice that we might not want to hear but it is always given with the best intention and these tend to be our friends for a lifetime, people who we know will support us in an hour of need even if they don’t always agree with our decisions. They are the ones who drop everything to turn up with the tissues, bottles of gin or whatever else is needed during a moment of crisis.

Each of the friendships I’ve experience have helped me develop and grow as a person. I am thankful for the experiences and grateful for all my friends far and wide both the new and the old. Through this blog I’ve been keeping in touch with the world at large and it’s those who take the time to respond by clicking Like on the Facebook feed, sending me a private message, an email or leaving a comment on the blog that make my day. Friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime – thanks for sharing the journey that is life.

Michelle

DRAGONS EVERYWHERE!

Sitting on the plane en route to Melbourne and this is the first chance I’ve had to blog in ages! It’s been a whirlwind first few months of 2012 and the year of the Water Dragon couldn’t have started more auspiciously, or with more excitement, for Dragon Sisters. It’s actually a treat to sit still on the plane and gather a few thoughts.

It’s been an honour and privilege to work with Katrina Fong Lim these past months – she is an amazing lady who is I know is going to be the best Lord Mayor Darwin City has seen for a long time. When I was approached to take on the role of Campaign Manager for Katrina’s Mayoral Candidacy, there was no doubt in my mind that this was exactly the kind of project I would love to work on: a cause I believe in, great people to work with and a lady of integrity who can do great things for Darwin.

The only stumbling block was that Dragon Sisters had already committed to projects running through the first quarter of the year and we had in fact had to turn away public workshop and private coaching requests until later in the year. I had already committed to some key projects and it was only through the team work and the willingness of other Dragon Sisters to radically increase their workload to free me up, that I was able to join Team Katrina.

It is always a joy to work with like-minded, professional, genuinely nice people and Katrina and her team tick all those boxes. One of the things that we are most proud of is that many people (media and political individuals alike) commented on what a ‘clean campaign’ we ran, which just goes to show that you can win without getting down and dirty! I’m convinced that other than Katrina’s personality of shining integrity and honesty, the voters valued the style and calibre of the campaign, which was reflecting of Katrina’s personal traits. The Katrina campaign has been an absolute delight and Katrina’s election is the icing on the cake!

In tandem with my Team Katrina commitments, one other project which has had my absolute personal attention has been the Australian Dragon Boat Championships 2012 event (where I am off to as I write, ready for the event starting 30th March). As a life member of the Australian Dragon Boat Federation and having worked closely with AusDBF serving as a board member and Marketing Director in past years, the organisation remains dear to my heart. Understandable, not only because it’s a fantastic sport with warmly wonderful people, but also because AusDBF have been so generously supportive of the Dragons Abreast Australia charity I set up over 13 years ago for dragon boat paddling breast cancer survivors.

The 2012 National Titles being held over 5 days at Melbourne’s Docklands, is going to be a spectacular event with over 2500 competitors, the pageantry of the Opening ceremony, an array of media and VIPs and excitingly, the announcement of the 2012 Auroras, Australia’s premier elite racing teams who will wear the Green and Gold representing our country at the 2013 World Dragon Boat Championships. I shall be on the ground for the event duration; the first time the Nationals have run over 5 days (instead of 3) which is testament to the worlds and Australia’s fastest growing team water sport.

I am struck by the synchronicity of having just come from the election of a Chinese heritage Lord Mayor, to the celebration of an ancient Chinese heritage world embraced sport. It is truly the year of the Water Dragon for Dragon Sisters, so watch out Melbourne, the dragons are coming – including one very excited Dragon Sister!

Michelle