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

Belgium – A Delightful Little Country

I started this post a year ago today, and I’ve just notice I missed actually publishing it…so here we go!

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Helene & Pierre

The train from Paris to Brussels is smooth and fast. I was met at the station by Helene, who I’d met when she and Pierre were in Australia and staying at my place. We took the bus to her home, dumped my suitcase before starting on a tour of Brussels.

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Helene & her parents
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Welcome to Belgium meal – home made by Nanette.

Nanette, is the most fabulous cook and had prepared a special dinner to welcome me. It was delicious – especially the dessert tasting plate!

The city centre is compact and very attractive.   2014-09-13 13.44.46 I tried delicious biscuits, visited the Cathedral, the Grand Place, and saw host of other famous landmarks and rubbed the reclining bronze statue (whose name I do not remember!), but the story goes that if I rubbed it I would return to Belgium.

Helene’s family warmly welcomed me to their homes in both Brussels and Wavre which gave me an experience of both the city and countryside. It was just a brief visit, but we managed to jam in heaps!

Belgium might be a tiny little country, but it’s full of history and wonderful scenery. I visited Namur, with its stunning citadel perched high on a craggy hilltop from which you can see for miles. Ideal place to watch out for invaders!

View from Namur Citadel
View from Namur Citadel

We also took a day trip to Bruges which is just delightful. It’s like stepping into a story book with its beautiful old buildings, the river that meanders through the centre of town, pictureques scenes abound around each corner. So many wonderful chocolate shops, delightful lace makers and fabulous little cafe’s. Definitely a place worth a couple of days at least. Sadly, I only had a day.

We even squeezed in a quick visit to Dinant, the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, the chap who invented the saxaphone. A big thank you to Christian for driving us all there! It’s another very nice little town to explore on an afternoon.20140913_182813

Delightful Bruges
Delightful Bruges

Belgium is just a tiny little country but full of beauty; I was very impressed and was very lucky to have Helene as a guide.

Michelle

 

A Little Me Time – The Camino

I’ve always espoused the value of Me Time and today I had a lovely midday break  in amongst my busy schedule. I took time out to head to the cinema, unfortunately I couldn’t stretch to enough time for lunch too.

I went to see the movie 6 Ways to Santiago. It’s about 6 different people walking the Camino de Santiago and their experiences. Sitting in the darkened cinema with two of my fellow walking companions, we were transported back to our time on the Camino trail. Cows coming down the streetThe images were beautiful, so much so that we could almost smell the cow dung. As the pilgrims travelled their journey, I vividly recalled the aching muscles as I put one foot in front of each other.

Lucky for me, I didn’t suffer from blisters, but some of my fellow walkers did, however, we looked after each other and soothed our worries away together.

Sore feet
Soaking the footsies!

If you’re thinking of doing the Camino, I highly recommend this documentary. You can also read my blog entries about my experience here.

The Camino is a magical experience. I’m planning another walk in 2016. If you’re interested in joining a small organised group of women on the trip of a lifetime, I’d love you to hear from you.

Michelle

Being True to Yourself – Part 1 – Authenticity

The Being True to Yourself Series, is a result of personal observations and experiences.

Authentic means being true to who you are.

Genuine.

It means not allowing a spin doctor, campaign manager, copywriter or another well-meaning advisor to change your way of speaking or behaving. Certainly there is a need to gain poise and polish, but this does not need to mean a loss of authenticity.

That is not to say we don’t evolve and change over time.

Of course, we do!

It’s part of life and the experiences we go through shape us as individuals. Some of us are very fortunate to have great role models and mentors come into our lives naturally. They help us evolve.

I am lucky to have had some wonderful influences, from a range of professional and cultural backgrounds in both my business and personal life.

When I embarked on my public speaking journey way back in 2004, or to be more accurate was thrust into it as a result of winning the Telstra NT Business Woman of the Year Award, I was a terrible speaker.

It was my biggest fear; I had to face it head on because there were expectations that went with the role. Expectations that I would travel around the country and speak at different functions.

Thankfully, I had wonderful support and improved no end, now I always receive excellent feedback. I developed and grew, but I have never lost my authenticity.

I will also never forget how hard it was to learn and how nerve-wracking.

The Turning Point

The turning point was when I received a very sage piece of advice.

It was simply ‘never lose sight of who you are; it’s what makes you unique’.

Those simple words gave me confidence and, amazing as it might sound, permission to be me.

I knew early on that I could not be a slick joke teller to break the ice, that’s not me.

I’m hopeless at jokes as I never remember the punch lines! I don’t try to tell them in the course of my normal conversations so how could I be expected to include them in a speech?

Sure, I’m not the same speaker I was 18 years ago. I’ve changed and evolved. A little older, a little wider physically and a little bit wiser, but I am still very much me.

How often have you a speaker and felt they were not genuine?

They may have something great to say, but because they are not using their own expressions, the words don’t ring true. They sound false even if they are genuine.

That’s because they are either, consciously or unconsciously, imitating someone or delivering a message in a style that is not their own.

The very best speakers in my book are those who have a passion for their subject and have had some training in public speaking, but remain true to who they are.

Subtle Nuances

I’m told I am very perceptive because I detect subtle nuances, read between the lines and realise something is not quite right.

I have often come across materials purportedly written by high-profile individuals, yet the moment I read it, I just know, they have not written that article or blog post.

How do I know? The answer lies in the tone and ‘voice’ used.

The more prominent you are, the more public speaking appearances you will make. This makes is all the more important that written pieces, especially those that will go to print,  sound like you.

It is for this reason that it is vital that speechwriters and ghost writers really try to understand an individual before writing for them.

The writing is the easy part, understanding who you are writing for is what makes the difference.

I’ve also noticed that authentic people are generally happier, less stressed people and will deliver their speeches with ease. Could that be because they are comfortable in their own skins, that they are true to themselves?

I’d love to hear your views and experiences on authenticity, either as a comment or email me privately.

Michelle


DECISION MAKING

We make decisions every day of our life from the moment we wake up each morning. Some are small ones; I’ll just lay here for another 5 minutes, one cup of coffee or two, a piece of toast or cereal? Simple, easy decision we make without much thought at all. We make all these decisions based on what we feel like at that given moment in time.

When it comes to making bigger decisions, we often tend to face a huge dilemma. We become decidedly more indecisive, although perhaps a better word to use here would be cautious. We often spend ages considering and weighing up all the facts. We might make lots of columns with pros and cons. Go through a myriad of for and against arguments before we feel in a position to be able to actually make a decision.

Why is this? Why don’t we make a snap decision in the same way we decided to lay in bed an extra five minutes?
The answer is because we don’t always trust ourselves even if we know what we really should be deciding. We fear making a decision. Yet, after we’ve gone through this whole process of whatever systems we are using to help us decide, we often find that our final decision is not at all what the logical sequence of working out has determined as the best course of action.

Nope, it’s something else. Something that defies all the logical, well balanced and structured analysis, we’ve just spent ages going through.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why?
Well, life is not logical. We need to recognise that there are no wrong decisions. Each decision is made for a reason that comes from deep inside of us. Maybe it’s because there is a life lesson to learn, maybe it’s because we’ve developed our awareness to such a level that we know to trust our gut feeling.
Gut feelings are impossible to explain but are very real. Decisions have been made in this way since time immortal. We just know that something is not right. We may not know exactly what is wrong; we can’t quite put our finger on it, there’s a little niggling voice in our ear, or a feeling in our bones, all highly illogical. We often cannot explain it, but we just KNOW.

Of course, we need to ensure that we make a balanced decision. This means we must always do our homework when making a decision, but at the end of the day we need to be sure that it is both from our heart and from our minds. It means examining the options and looking at the implications. Twisting, thinking, sometimes tossing and turning in our beds at night as we allow all the varying scenarios to run rampant in our minds. Finally, we make a decision.

Is it the most logical one?
On some occasions, yes it is. But not always, in fact, it’s often illogical. Sometimes, it’s seemingly completely the ‘wrong’ decision, defying all logic – but, hey, it’s all good because this is a learning process.

While we mustn’t be ruled by our hearts in a business setting, we shouldn’t simply discard our feelings and base an important decision purely on logic. Emotions are what make us human. Feelings are what give us compassion and make us who we are. Feelings are what many a successful business person has based their greatest decisions on.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I often base my decisions on what my gut instinct has told me, even when everything and sometimes everyone, screamed I was mad. In the end, it’s turned out I made the right decision, and there have been lots of great win/win situations occur as a result.

It’s not all smooth sailing and sometimes we experience pain as a result of our feelings. It can be a physical pain that affects us in a material sense or on an emotional level. However, when we learn to control and examine how and why we feel a certain way, we are on track to being able to make the right decisions for ourselves. Each of us has to live with our own decisions. I have found that it gives me great conviction, and commitment, to my decisions, when I follow my instincts. It gives me the courage to ‘own’ each decision and, when the going gets though, to have the courage to see it through. Empowered decision-making is a great tool in life and business.

Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your feedback on how you make decisions. If you would like some tips from the Empowered Decision Making tool that I use, just inbox me, I am happy to share.

Michelle
P.S. It’s always better to make a decision than not to!

INFLUENCERS IN OUR LIFE – FIRST JOB

I’ve just read an article on LinkedIn “To get a job, write your story instead of your resume” which prompted me to reflect on the jobs in my life journey to date that influenced how I respond and view situations today. My very first job was at the Masons Arms in school holidays – it was a very well know pub famous for it’s great food and the beautiful wooden furniture by Mousey Thompson. Although my job was working behind the bar at 15, I sometimes polished the tables, those were the occasions when I delight in finding the carved mice on each.  

It was a brilliant first job which I landed by chance. I had originally applied for a job at the fish and chip shop in the village and whilst they didn’t take me on they did recommend me to the Masons Arms instead (run by the fish and chip shop owners sister).

I learnt about team work and the importance of treating staff well. The owners, Christine and Roy Allen led by example –  they really looked after their staff, arranging for all of us from the village of Green Hammerton to be picked up and driven to work together. At the end of the night we weImagere all offered supper before the kitchen closed and then driven safely home again.

As I look back I see the lessons that have travelled with me from this very first job have been:

1) The power of making a good impression which leads to people wanting to help you and hence the referals

2) The importance of treating staff well and being a good worker – I went back every holiday to work there when I was in the UK and continued to until I left school. I loved my job as I worked for good people, they loved me because I was a good worker.

3) Don’t judge a person by their looks  – we had so many different customers from all walks of life. It was the ones least expected that were the biggest surprises.

Great lessons that I was lucky enough to have learnt right at the beginning of my working life. Lessons that have served me well throughout my career.