Closing the Gap for a Fair and Equal Workplace #backyourself

This week I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2023 exploring  ‘Closing the Gap for a Fair and Equal Workplace’.

As part of the preparation for this event I revisited a previous blog I’d written a couple of years ago ‘Women in leadership – a wicked problem and an immeasurable opportunity’ and thought a lot of these reflections are still relevant today.

As our host Cindy Nicholson-Atrash, CEO of Braintree shared in the event build up, Gender Equality is one of 17 sustainable development goals set by United Nations Women’s Organisation and United Nations. Equality isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. A focus on gender equality needs to be part of every society’s DNA.

Some of the thoughts that seemed to resonate from the panel to help supercharge closing the gap:

  • More support for grassroots initiatives including programs like Girls Who Code
  • Better childcare options and sharing more stories of males taking paternity leave
  • Leaning into imposter syndrome and living outside our comfort zones
  • When given a choice take both – I.e. aim to be a great mum AND advance your career
  • Backing yourself and others and paying it forward through mentoring – check out the great work of Global Sisters here
  • The need for more education and female entrepreneurship courses which UTS are exploring

Sharing some of my personal experiences on this theme which thought may resonate for some:

1.     When given a choice take both! – This is a sentiment shared by SingularityU Co-Founder Peter Diamandis in his book with Steven Kotler – “BOLD” relating to when he was in graduate school and told multiple times to either go to school or start a company. He chose both and started three companies whilst in graduate school! Relating to closing the gap for a fair and equal workplace I reflected back to around 8 years ago when I was pregnant with Ethan. There was a thought at the time that you should either be a great mum or focus on your career, I chose to aim for both. I overcame the challenge of my career stalling by keeping in touch with my network during maternity leave, having a side hustle to keep my mind active and being fortunate that after my nine months of maternity leave my husband could take 6 months paid leave at Macquarie University. I repeated this 21 months later when Huw was born and then fast tracked my career by turning my side hustle into a business. A key moment in this transition was speaking with a female mentor who said, “Back Yourself”. I think this moment was pivotal to starting my entrepreneurial journey.

2.     Imposter syndrome is normal and use it as a strength– Having the privilege to partner with many female senior executives, I have learnt that imposter syndrome is very commonplace where we doubt our skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a fear of being out of our of depth and exposed as a fraud. As much as I practice self-empowerment, these moments hit me too including when recently being honoured as a UTS Adjunct Associate Professor and even being on this panel with such experienced leaders! I think we can flip our imposter syndrome into a strength, embracing the humility and empathy from where it derives. We can also help each other with this by being each other’s cheerleaders. As an example, a previous colleague bought me two bracelets saying ‘Believe’ and ‘You’ve Got This’ to help give me strength when I am facilitating or presenting and she’s not physically there with me.

3.     Create a sisterhood – As part of the Abundium network we have a community of Women CEOs in multinationals who have become known as The Sisterhood. We meet monthly virtually or physically and keep in touch via a WhatsApp group in between. We celebrate each other’s achievements, are there for each other when things get tough and support each other’s businesses when opportunities align. I love the power of women supporting other women and us all rising together. There is enough room for us all to shine. As well as having a sisterhood I believe in building a diverse team around you to help support you and your success, for me this includes an executive coach, bench of mentors, a sports coach and self-care practitioners.

4.     Step up for equal pay – Equal pay for equal work / output is something I feel strongly about, and it has pained me in my career when I’ve heard of females being underpaid compared to their male counterparts in the same role. I think the work of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency on equal pay has been pivotal in addressing this and I’ve admired leaders who have conducted full audits and matched any pay gaps. I also think part of the solution is women believing in their worth and asking for what they deserve. When I worked in executive search, I learnt a good tip for women to say when asked for their current rem by recruiters, to share their salary expectations versus their current salary. It has been promising to see changes in the Fair Work Act to help with more salary package transparency.

5.     Flex for success – As a working mum, workplace flexibility has been a key component of me being able to advance my career. When Abundium was launched our CEO Rich and I made a pledge to ‘keep the main thing the main thing’ and always try to create a working rhythm where we could prioritise family whether that being a school event, wedding, memorial, or other occasion. I think a silver lining of the pandemic has been normalising flexible working which has benefited both men and women. I loved seeing more Dads out playing with their kids whilst saving valuable travel time. It’s great to see more companies focus in on productivity and trying things like Unilever ANZ’s 4 day a week experiment which is now running in Australia after a successful pilot in NZ.

As a final thought I encourage you to create some space for yourself this year and be BOLD which is my NY evolution for 2023. Let’s #bethechange

Lessons from the Fijians

Bula and New Year greetings dear reader! I hope your 2023 has started well.

I drafted this post whilst boarding was delayed at Nadi airport in Fiji after a magical break there.

We last came here 5 years ago when Ethan was 18 months and Huw was in my belly. According to Huw he remembers everything we did that time, even tasting the coconuts through mummy’s belly!

This time round the boys were 7 and 5, old enough for the kids club (#winning) and to create memories that will last. We also came with our dear friends family Wong to share the fun. As a mentor once shared, all good things are for sharing!

Reflecting on the warm, welcoming nature of the Fijians and lessons from their spirit and culture that thought are worth paying forward. I’m sure those who have been to Fiji can relate.

Fiji time – once you arrive in Fiji the locals tell you you’re on ‘Fiji time’, where you are not worrying about the stress of time….things will get done eventually….. Whilst this can at first be a little hard to adjust to, especially if you’re used to the hustle and bustle of city life and things being available on demand, I found you soon get into the swing, especially after a cocktail or two! I recall the difference in my patience when we first arrived waiting a long time to check in and then by the end of the trip waiting in a queue smiling when I was really into Fiji Time. A great perspective to bring back home and a refreshed sense of patience. What’s the rush? Will try this when the husband is waiting for me next 😉 

Bula – everywhere we went in Fiji a welcoming ‘Bula’ greeted us which can mean many things including an informal hello, welcome, good morning and afternoon. Even when my husband Owain was running down the side of the main road he received and gave a Bula greeting to every vehicle passed instead of angry beeps which sometimes happens elsewhere. We found the Fijians make eye contact and are excited to connect, not look down and away. They truly embrace we are wired to connect! Vinaka – the Fijian word for thank you is commonplace too and helps create a respectful and polite culture.

Ties to country – I found the Fijians we met, really seemed to embrace their cultural roots and traditions including with food, dress and dance. We observed that the culture is truly respected and brought to life including through storytelling which the boys loved at a live cultural experience. I would love to see this approach more widespread in Australia to learn from, truly respect and embrace Aboriginal Australian’s, one of, if not the oldest civilisations on Earth. 

Creativity – I loved how the local Fijians would bring creativity into the kids club activities and use natural resources for this. The boys enjoyed making a boat out of a coconut and racing it, weaving, playing fun local games, dancing and making tie-dye shirts. It shows you we just need to look to nature to surprise and delight.

I hope to hold on to these lessons as I return to normal life including being a little more patient, embracing the simple, not being in a rush, connecting with nature and being warmer to strangers. 

Whilst still on a post holiday high, I know it’s easy to have a rose tinted glasses view of a place after staying in a luxury resort and that every culture has its troubles with poverty and domestic violence levels high in Fiji. This seems to be a systemic issues which organisations including AusAID have made a long term commitment to help. I pledge to research more into this and find a way to give back to a place that has given our family its best.

Thank you Fiji for the memories, we plan to be back soon! This year according to the boys 😀 Huw said ‘20 out of 10’ for the holiday as the Fijians are so nice and kind 🙏❤️ Vinaka! 

Wishing you all an abundance of love, laughter, good health and happiness in 2023 and beyond xx

“I have more than enough time not to rush.”

Family Matthews travelled to Jindabyne last week set in the beautiful Australian snowy mountains which always seems to generate some writing inspiration…

Lake Jindabyne

It was my first experience of a ‘workcation’ where I worked half days in the mornings and then had the afternoons to enjoy time exploring the area with the family. I found it very productive having focused work activity blocks, then lots of quality family time and some beautiful trail runs. Something I’d be keen to repeat again!

It was a great chance to slow down and reflect after an abundant time (my new word for busy!). Sharing one of my reflections on the power of mantras / affirmations.

“I have more than enough time not to rush.” is a mantra I’ve been working with to help curb my maximiser tendency to fit so much in that I’m then rushing around to things and not fully present.

I used to think fitting lots in was a superpower then it hit me one day when a spiritual friend shared,, ‘rushing steals all joy’. I stopped and reflected that yes it does. It’s hard to be fully present when you’re running late and are over committed. Another moment of insight was hearing this quote from the late Thich Nhat Hanh:

As we know it’s hard to change habits but we have a choice in every moment to make a new commitment. This was where my mantra came in.

One of the books that alerted me to the power of mantras / affirmations was Gabby Bernstein’s ‘Super Attractor’. Gabby shares becoming a Super Attractor “means that what you believe is what you’ll receive.” She describes a powerful story of how she wasn’t feeling supported at work and things were falling apart. She then thought about times when she had felt supported by one colleague and started using a mantra, “Everything is happening around me and I am truly taken care of”. She described “in those moments when I felt the urge to take over anything, from a big project to a small task, and do everything myself, I turned to this mantra”. Gabby repeated this for months and then started to notice dramatic positive shifts in her business, she stared to let go and let others in allowing her to do the work she loved. This approach reminds me of another wise saying my aunty shares, “What you look for you shall seek.”

The mantra is seeming to work for me so far and I feel less rushed and have been less likely to over commit since I have started using it.

What is a mantra / affirmation that could help you with something? It could have the power to radically chance your life.

On this subject, Michael Singer, author of ‘The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself’ recently discussed the power of mantras with Oprah Winfrey in this Super Soul podcast episode. I liked the idea that as we have so much time witnessing our thoughts, it’s good to have mantras to help control what we’re hearing.

I have found his teachings profound and love the fusion of science and spirituality. He has his own podcast too which you may enjoy. Whilst running around beautiful Lake Jindabyne I perhaps serendipitously listened to this episode from it, ‘Look into the Lake of Life’ . I found it reaffirmed some useful insights including what we experience in the world is a projection of our inner self.

As one of my mentors once shared, life is a mind game!

Wishing you all well with your learning and reflections 🙏🌎

The Power of Performance and Experience Goals

Last Sunday I participated in the Real Insurance Sydney Harbour 10k running race on a beautiful winter’s day.

It was a race of two halves for me and I thought I’d share my reflections in case they resonated with others.

I had a performance goal for the race of sub 42 minutes and was excited to see how I’d go in a solo running 10km versus a triathlon.

I was on the start line with my friend Jeff and a 40 minute pacer was ahead of us. I went off with the pacer and a group and managed to stick with them for 5km. At that point I was struggling to keep on the pace and realised I hadn’t looked up and taken in the beautiful coastal surroundings.

I then decided to look up, run my own pace, smile and take in the atmosphere and scenery. I still pushed hard and was able to meet my overall race goal but certainly enjoyed the second half a lot more and also the post race experience of soaking in the atmosphere and stunning surroundings.

Being an advocate for coaching and goal setting with lots of research supporting the process including the Harvard MBA Business School Study., it made me reflect on the power of having both a performance and experience goal.

Taking a corporate athlete approach and applying this to the business arena it made me think of the quarterly financial performance targets that many leaders are chasing and how by having an experience goal alongside these the process could be more enjoyable. As my Aunty Julie says “Enjoy the Journey”.

Two questions I’ve written about before that may be useful here too include, ‘How do I want to be remembered?”, “How do I want to remember this time?”.

There are of course times where the situation may just cause for a performance goal to be met like front line crisis responses and life saving surgery. In these cases other goals such as learning and impact goals may be useful.

Reflective lessons for me from my race of two halves which I thought translated to the leadership arena are:

  • Run your own race
  • “Stop and Look” as my colleague Elbrie says
  • It’s never too late to reframe a situation
  • You can hit high, hard goals and enjoy the experience

Last Friday, Tenfold hosted a ‘Purpose Driven Leadership, Daring Greatly” Special Dialogue with our previous NSW Premier Mike Baird, now CEO at HammondCare in the Age Care sector. Some of his lessons learnt linked to the theme of making sure you are present and taking in the experience.

  • As Premier, having a date night once a week with my wife was as important as meeting a Foreign dignitary
  •  When you are connected to what you love and who you love you are more successful
  • The person in front of me is the most important person right now

Inspiring words!

Tenfold Purpose Driven Leadership Special 31st July 2022

In relation to performance and experience goals, I found watching Jess Stenson win the women’s marathon at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this weekend with a big smile on her face very inspiring too. From a few perspectives:

  • Her humility, gratitude and presence of trying to take in the amazing achievement – “I was trying to juggle being excited and soaking it in with concentrating and not tripping over”
  • Her selflessness in thanking her team – “We did it together today, this medal is not just mine. I want all of the girls to feel like they’re wearing it because we did that together.”
  • Her shout out to all the mums out there and perspective share – “I think I’m a more relaxed runner, as a mother, I can just enjoy the process a bit more,” 

What a great role model.

Sending waves of abundance to all and all the best with your goals.

When life gives you lemons….

I hope you are keeping safe and well during these unchartered times dear readers. It has been a while since I connected through this blog and it feels good to put the fingers to the keyboard and reconnect. I have been sharing some learning through LinkedIn articles if interested to check out including an ‘International Women’s Day’ piece on ‘What advice would you take from your 22 year-old-self?”

Family Matthews has had a tough few weeks with my dear Father in Law passing away in his sleep (RIP Gary) and our family being hit with covid and isolation which coincided with a visit from my mum and dad who we hadn’t seen in 2.5 years.

I know many people are going through tough times at the moment whether that being connected to the horrors in Ukraine, rebuilding from the floods, battling covid and all the other things life can throw at us. I thought it may be useful to share some of my reflections from going through the tougher times which I do believe make us stronger.


“Accept the things you can’t control and refocus on what can.” 

Ben Crowe

I heard this quote from mind and performance coach Ben Crowe when hearing him speak at a recent ‘International Cycling Execs’ event and it really landed with me. During this time of global uncertainty it’s not worth worrying for hours about what we can’t control. As Jen Moss shared in a recent collaboration with Tenfold ‘focus on the controllables’. I have found keeping up my daily meditation and gratitude practice, light exercise and reading / podcasting have helped me stay resilient. Ben Crowe also shared that acceptance, appreciation and self-compassion are three leadership superpowers right now and to lean into these.

Listening to Ben Crowe virtually in Iso

Heightened Empathy and Compassion

“But my experience is that people who have been through painful, difficult times are filled with compassion.”

Amy Grant

One silver lining I’ve found when you go through tough times is a heightened empathy for others when they go through something similar and compassion (empathy into action). After recovering from my foot fracture last year (which I wrote about here) I now feel a lot more empathy for others recovering from injuries. Now having been through covid and the isolation I can relate more when others will be going through it and able to offer help such as I received. Ben Crowe shared humility and curiosity can emerge stronger from our darkest times. Some of the most compassionate leaders I have met including Aminata Conteh-Biger and Mahboba Rawi have been through very painful and difficult times and have emerged with such strong compassion and conviction for their causes. A picture below from a recent Tenfold Sisterhood visit to meet Mahboba and the beautiful Afghan refugee children Mahboba’s Promise helped evacuate after the Taliban take over.

The Tenfold Sisterhood visiting Mahboba and family ❤️🙏

Connection to the Community

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals.” 

Jean Vanier

I have been really touched by the community support received in the last few weeks. All the meal deliveries, surprise gifts to brighten an iso day, messages of love and support and coffees delivered through the window will long be cherished. You realise in times of struggle that you are not alone and that we are most definitely stronger together. One common thing I’ve often observed emerging from a crisis is the community coming together. One of my favourite proverbs is “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Community gifts ❤️🙏


“Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive. It’s the quickest, easiest most powerful way to effect change in your life — this I know for sure.”

Oprah Winfrey

I’ve found that going through the stages of grief have made me emerge even more grateful for each new day and that the little moments really are the big moments. I was recommended the ‘Happy Feed’ gratitude journal app (thanks Sam!) where you can add photos each day when reflecting on moments of gratitude. It’s great to then look back at these when you are having a low moment.

Happy Feed example


“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it”


I’ve found an even stronger sense of purpose emerge after the last few weeks to really help make a difference and ‘be the change’ in areas of passion including helping to advance positive climate action, more women in leadership and supporting our Tenfold NFP community. It was a privilege to be interviewed on the ‘Leaders for Good’ podcast with out Tenfold CEO Rich Hirst during isolation this week to share some thoughts on the state of purpose in Australia. The episode is due to come out mid April for anyone interested to listen.

Leaders for Good podcast filming

Never lose the ability to laugh

“Sometimes crying or laughing are the only options left, and laughing feels better right now.”

Veronica Roth, Divergent

There’s a saying that goes ‘laughter is the best medicine’. One of the best things my husband and I did to help process losing Gary was going into the city, having a few drinks in memory and sharing stories and laughing together about the good times. My Grandma is due to turn 97 this April and she hasn’t stopped laughing along the way. Her laughing fits growing up were contagious and I hope I can always find a way to laugh through the highs and lows of life. One of Ben Crowe’s other pieces of advice was to over index on fun and not to take things too seriously which we try to do at Tenfold. I’m excited to be reunited with the work husband next week whose favourite leadership trait is fun 🙂

Grandma with a special visitor

I hope you may find something useful in this article, it felt good to share and reconnect.

Sending love and light to all and look forward to writing again soon.

The Power of Connection

“The most important things in life are the connections you make with others”

Tom Ford

I have been pondering on the power of connection and the network effect over the last couple of weeks and thought I’d put the fingers to keypad whilst our little boys are watching Mickey’s Christmas!

I truly believe that we are wired to connect and as I’ve written about before in “What makes a good life”, community and positive relationships have been shown to add years to our lives. Connection is all around us, currently being displayed at the airport welcoming lounges around the word as families reunite and between humans and animals as beautifully portrayed in “My Octopus Teacher” on Netflix.

When I googled ‘what is the origin of the word connect?’ the first result shared – “Connect came into English in the 15th century, derived from the Latin ‘conectere’ meaning ‘join together’, which in its turn was formed from ‘com’, meaning ‘together’, and ‘nectere’, meaning ‘to tie or bind’.” (Macmillan Dictionary Blog). I love the notion of ‘join together’, at Tenfold we often talk about being “better together” and that “all of us are smarter than any one of us”.

The Tenfold team just spent three days together in beautiful Fingal Bay for a team offsite after spending months like many working remotely. Two of our newest team members Bre and Jamie had only spent a day or two with the team face to face previously. It was such a joy to hang out, strategize, laugh and cry together! The overall collective feeling on our departure was one of connection after our time together. Another takeaway was that individually we all have our doubts and imposter syndromes yet together we are whole and more than enough.

I’ve found making connections to be one of the most time effective ways to make a positive contribution to the world. Taking that 5 minutes to connect two humans via email, LinkedIn, phone or other medium can have such a long term positive impact on those being connected.

I am ever in awe that the right timing of a connection can be life changing, whether it be helping connect someone to a new role, opportunity, partner, mentor, or best friend.

One leader I admire set himself his own KPI to make 5 connections across his network each week. Can you imagine the compounding and ripple effect of this over time? When we connect others, I believe it increases the likelihood of them paying it forward and doing the same. It also helps open us up to new networks, as I have written about previously, “It’s not who you know but who they know”.

Who could you connect in your network this week? It could positively change a life.

Investing in making our own new connections and social capital keeps life interesting and us learning. At Tenfold we believe in the network effect, a phenomenon whereby increased numbers of people or participants improve the value of a good or service. We have grown to over 800 C Suite Executives in 17 months and it’s amazing to see all the new connections being made for positive impact. These have included setting up CEO postcode walking pals who have become friends, NFP and multinational leaders connecting for new impact, connecting two leadership teams in different sectors to share learning and connecting new to country leaders with local leaders and families in their area. The power of connection was felt very strongly at our first two CEO face to face roundtables and a local community event where there was so much positive energy reconnecting in 3D format. I believe connected intelligence is a critical skill of leadership today.

It’s often shared that you are remembered for how you made people feel rather than what you achieved. In a recent Tenfold Masterclass with Dr Jim Loehr, Jim left us with a reflective question to think about the three words of phases we would like to see written on our tombstones. Jim shared his were “Fully engaged, loving and kind”. What a beautiful combination. I had thought “Enjoyed the journey, seized the day, made a difference”. Reflecting since of the power of connection I may include made loving connections. What would be your three words or phrases?

To finish in some of Jim’s wise words, “How you scale the mountain is more important than the mountain scaling itself.”

Not ignoring your weaknesses and stepping into your courage zone

I’m a big believer in utilizing a strengths-based philosophy and have written about it previously (see Discovering and Utilising Your Strengths ).

I have reflected however this should not mean ignoring your weaknesses if they are a crucial part of your goal.

As an example, I ignored focusing on my swimming for a long time as a triathlete which is a core part of the three-discipline sport. I wouldn’t get into any consistency of swim training focusing more on running and cycling which came more naturally to me. I got used to coming in right at the back of the pack in the swim and then playing chase in the remainder of the race.

After my recent foot fracture (Being brought to a standstill – literally! The power of reframing), I was forced not to run or cycle initially in my rehab which gave me an unexpected gift of embracing swimming and upper body strength for my exercise.

I got into a consistent routine of swimming four times a week in the ocean with pools shut in the Sydney lockdown and have really started to enjoy it for the physical and mental health benefits. I’ve had some Balmoral postcode pals as buddies for some of my swims and it has been great to have a new micro community. Whilst I still have a long way to go to be competitive in that leg I have grown stronger and more importantly developed a love for it.

What’s something you don’t love currently but by focusing on it could help you with a goal?

When listening to Dr Jim Loehr on The Tim Ferriss Show recently he talked about the power of journaling to help us achieve our goals and change our mindframes. I started journaling ‘I love Swimming’ and over time this has manifested to be true. Jim co-authored the HBR article ‘The Making of a Corporate Athlete’ and we’re super excited he will be dialing in to join us for a Tenfold Masterclass in October to explore mental toughness and managing our energy. 

In the business arena one of my mentors once said if you ever want to be a business leader you need to lean into the financials at least enough to be able to ask the right questions.

For me financials have been a bit like swimming, not a natural interest or strength so easy to ignore. For a long time, I let my personal finances tick along without much thought. One example being I didn’t get on top of my student debt when emigrating to Australia and let the interest accrue over years thinking I’ll sort it one day. I then decided to take accountability and take the plunge and pay it off in one go to become debt free and it felt so empowering.

Having always thought of myself as a spender and not the saver I hadn’t been disciplined with saving. I’ve now learnt I need systems to help me with this and have a fortnightly direct debit set up into an account I can’t access day to day. I’ve also started investing a little each week on the Raiz app as a little fun project to help automate savings.

From a corporate finance perspective, I took an online Wharton Coursera course ‘An introduction to corporate finance’ and had some mentoring sessions around the topic. I’d like to develop my study further and am interested to go through some of the AICD’s foundation courses as a next step. I’ve also started reading more about money and listening to some podcasts to help with my understanding. Whilst I still prefer to listen to Super Soul Sunday or Fortunately I’ve enjoyed having a balance to stretch my thinking in a new area.

Whilst I feel safer in the comfort zone of my strengths there’s a saying that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and I’ve found pushing yourself outside it can make your goals even more rewarding when you hit them.

One recent example of this in swimming has been swimming from Balmoral Beach to Chinamans return which is something I never would have thought possible when emigrating to Australia ten years ago and not being able to swim 50 metres of freestyle.

I read recently that each quarter or sometimes each month Tim Ferriss has a fear setting session and cites it as the most valuable thing he does with his time. On this theme in a recent Tenfold workshop  Dr Peter Fuda challenged our C Suite leader community to try something each week that puts them out of their comfort zone.

My Wednesday lunchtime tennis buddy and I have taken this forward and started sharing something each week that will put ourselves out of our comfort zone and then supporting and holding each other accountable to that. This could be having the courage to have a difficult conversation, calling someone we’ve been putting off, entering an ocean swim or booking in something for ourselves.

What’s something you could do this week to stretch your comfort limits for personal growth?

You may discover pure joy emerging from the edge of fear 😊

The Parent Gap

Much has been written about the gender equality gap and the gender pay gap and now another gap has become evident, what I’ve called ‘The Parent Gap’ – the gap emerging between those currently in lockdown home schooling children whilst concurrently working and those not.

It has been interesting watching this dynamic play out from both a personal perspective with my husband and I home schooling our 6 year old and also across our Tenfold community with many of our leaders going through this. It has in some cases created a new divide of capacity for those with children and those without which can equate to an unfair pressure on those without children yet who have other competing priorities including elderly parents and pets.

I’m sure when most parents had children we did not foresee a time when we would be home schooling whilst working (I have had to laugh at some of the memes circulating including this one!). However, it is here now in Sydney and beyond with currently over half of Australia in lockdown with many of our global friends having worn this path before us. We were humbled hearing one of US based Masterclass speakers recently share she has been home schooling for a year!

From my experience of home schooling I have found it a reality that your hours and attention are reduced. Trying to supervise a six year old write compound sentences, combine texts and conduct science experiments whilst trying to multitasks on calls is not a recipe to always end well! I had a food colouring explosion as a testament to this 😀

There have however been unexpected joys in the process including lots of extra hugs in the day, the Tenfold team getting to know my family better and little moments of accomplishments like when Ethan was the learner of the week.

I’ve noticed a recent trend of CEOs (particularly female) setting boundaries and not committing to anything new during this home-schooling period. Whilst currently home schooling Ethan with my husband Owain, I can certainly relate, it feels a necessary survival response to keep across business as usual as best we can. I do worry about the longer-term impacts on females in particular of not taking on extra stretch projects, pursuing study, keeping up their professional networks etc. With the recent day care restrictions announced in Victoria I think this will amplify further. It seems like it’s here to stay for a while yet this too shall pass.

Embracing positive psychology and trying to focus on how I can make the best of this time here are some thoughts I’ve tried or heard through our community that I thought may be of use to others.

  1. Bring in the kids – I heard a great example of integrating school kids into work activities in our NFP pod last week with a CEO sharing how they have added a daily fancy dress element to their team huddle that any children are welcome to participate in. The parents are then challenged to keep their item / elements on for the rest of their daily meetings which included the CEO wearing pig tails to a Board meeting 😊 Tenfold hosted an illusionist evening with Matt Hollywood with our community inviting partners, house mates, kids and pets and it proved to be one of the highlights of the program. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
  2. Don’t be selfish – I was humbled whilst in conversation with one of our male multinational CEOs recently who is encouraging a 4 hour work day for his people who are home schooling. The message was not to be selfish and expect partners (if applicable) to carry all the load and for all their people to do their fair share. I thought this was a great example of bold and compassionate leadership.
  3. Gifting two hours a day to all – One multinational organisation in our community has given permission for all team members to take two hours off a day for home schooling or other activities. They wanted to make it fair for all people, with those not home schooling taking on all the extra work.
  4. Embracing ‘the weave’ and well-being Wednesday – One of our NFP leaders shared the notion of embracing ‘the weave’ of the day and flowing in and out of personal and professional tasks without feeling guilty and getting your work done in your own rhythm. I liked this analogy and it supports have we all have different energy peaks and troughs in the day and to let these flow! Another member discussed well-being Wednesday where every Wednesday you can prioritise your wellbeing and do whatever you need, I have heard a number of schools embracing this with Wednesday afternoon as free time.
  5. Dial up your superpowers – When having a session with my executive coach recently we were exploring my strengths and it dawned on me that this is the time to dial up my top strengths as they take less effort in a time poor environment. It was good to reflect on how I could dial up my connectedness, ability to maximise and activate to get my work done in a time effective manner. What are some of your superpower strengths that you could activate further?
  6. Protect some time for yourself – During this time of dual working and home schooling it can be easy to let self-care and any time for yourself go. I think it’s crucial to protect something for yourself so you can show up as best you can for those around you. For me this is my daily exercise schedule. As lockdown began I partnered with an inspiring triathlon coach to help keep me motivated and accountable. Having a schedule and structure for the sessions is a precious part of my day. I also think that taking the pressure off where you can helps a lot. For me this has involved buying more lunches and dinners from our local cafes and restaurants to save time cooking and supporting our local community at the same time.  
  7. Have a post code pal – I’m grateful that Tricky from the Tenfold team lives a couple of streets away from me and we can meet for a daily walk and takeaway coffee with his beautiful puppy Charlie. This half an hour provides a dopamine hit with lots of laughs and we often have some of our best ideas too. Especially when we change the coffee to a margarita at the end of the week!
  8. Keep perspective – It’s easy to get into a lull in the current environment yet when you step out and reflect on situations in the broader world like the current situation in Afghanistan it is a great reminder on our privilege here. I find by trying to help a cause larger than yourself like donating to a SmartAid mission in Afghanistan, raising awareness for homelessness through the Sudsy challenge or brain cancer taking part in the RCD Foundation’s virtual Connor’s run we can elevate ourselves for the greater good.
  9. How do you want to remember this time? This is one of my favourite all time questions paid forward to me by a friend who heard Sir Clive Woodward use in in the 2012 Olympics. I love it as time is fleeting, things don’t last forever and how do we want to remember each chapter. For example I could choose to remember lockdown and homeschooling as a time with added pressure, a test of patience and stress or as a time where I got to see Ethan’s learning growth, had extra hugs and special garden plays.
  10. Be grateful – I do believe through personal experience that one of the keys to keeping in a state of ‘whelm’ versus ‘overwhelm’ is having a daily gratitude practice and reminding ourselves of what we have versus what we don’t. It’s been inspiring to see movements like the ‘Thank you project’ led by a amazing family in our local community, a kindness project for Aussie kids helping embed this from a young age. One campaign they led was writing thank you cards to our returning Olympians who would be in quarantine after their Olympic highs.

I would love to hear any of your tips for managing yourselves and families through this time.

As my sister reminded me (who is a school teacher in the UK) we will go down in the history books for living through this pandemic. I hope we’re remembered for the right reasons and how we pulled together and emerge as a more compassionate and humane society.

Finishing with some wise words my dad reminded me of as we went into an extended lockdown.

What I Know for Sure

The question “What do you know for sure?” stunned Oprah Winfrey when she was first asked it in an interview, and she’s spent years since reflecting on this and asking it to others.

I’ve been reading her book “What I Know For Sure” sharing these reflections across the themes of joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity and power and listening to her read them on Oprah’s Super Soul podcast.

It made me reflect on the question for myself and thought the learning may be useful for others too and for you to reflect on this question yourselves and ask others around you however the answers may not always be profound! I asked my four-year-old what he knows for sure this morning and he said that “I’m wearing underpants!” and my husband who said “everything” :D. Always love their down to earth perspective.

For me, what I know for sure:

  • The best things in life are free – as famously sung by Luther Vandross & Janet Jackson I believe the best things in life are free including moments of wonder in nature (watching a sunrise, sunset, full moon or rainbow), positive relationships, love, laughing, dancing, tapping into our senses, mindful moments and hugs. This song came on in the car recently with my little boys and we had a conversation around it. I think the current lockdowns many of us have been experiencing provide an opportunity to really go within and be grateful for the small things which often are the main things. Of course a good wine and cup of herbal tea or coffee helps!
  • We have a choice in how we respond to situations – I heard a great phrase recently that there are always two ways to ask something and we can respond to difficult situations with love and grace or we can react with anger and hurt. I like to try and take a breath, collect perspective, and respond in a calm manner. I find regular meditation helps with this and as a mum of two little boys it is a lifelong practice!
  • Friends are the family we choose – I had a plaque with this phrase up in our university shared house. We can’t choose our family and fortunately I’ve been lucky to be born into a supportive and loving family yet know that is not the same for all. Friends provide us the unique opportunity to choose our extended family. I know for sure that laughing with my girlfriends is so good for the soul!
  • This too shall pass – One of my favourite sayings is “this too shall pass although it may hurt like a kidney stone!”. The old adage that time is a healer I know for sure and that what we’re feeling in this moment-excitement, sadness, love, hope, will all pass so to accept the moment and make the most of what we can. I recently wrote a reframe post on this subject after fracturing my foot.  
  • Learning provides opportunities – A lifelong mindframe of learning is our opportunity to grow. As many like Michelle and Barrack Obama have demonstrated education can be a pathway to opportunity. I also know for sure from my experience that taking on opportunities that might scare us can help take us into our courage zone and step up to realise potential that we didn’t know existed. What extra learning time can you build into your routine?
  • We can only control the controllables – My friend and spiritual sister Aminata Conteh-Biger shared recently that “all we have is now and so much is out of our control. However, we can control our thoughts and actions. There is an opportunity to make something of every setback.” This resonated for me and I am trying to keep optimistic about the latest lockdown situation and take daily actions to help like meditation, exercise and good nutrition to navigate through it. Another phrase Amii shared with me is “I am my daily routine” which really resonated. What can you control in your daily routine in this landscape of chronic uncertainty?
  • Choose love – I know for sure that choosing love and loving others as a way to live your life is the best way. I try to regularly practice and show acts of love, kindness and compassion. As Oprah has demonstrated, once you choose to live from a mindframe of love it is more of what you attract. A quote in a Saturday Wisdom Chopra App meditation I did earlier today finished with – “The ignorant person seeks material things, the intelligent person seeks spiritual goals but the wise person just loves and everything comes to him or her.” A passage in Oprah’s book that really stood out to me was:

“When you make loving others the story of your life, there’s never a final chapter, because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another. And I know for sure that in the final analysis of our lives- when the to-do lists are no more, when the frenzy is finished, when our e-mail inboxes are empty- the only thing that will have any lasting value is whether we’ve loved others and whether they’ve loved us.”

― Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure

I think that is the thought to finish with and I wish you all safe and well wishes and would love to hear what you know for sure.

Being brought to a standstill – literally! The power of reframing

On Friday I received the news from my physio that I had fractured my right foot and needed to get into a boot asap. At the time I was in heels on my way to a work event!

I had tripped on an umbrella stand at the beach a few weeks earlier and had developed a mega bruise and thought that was the extent of it and that it would heal naturally.

I had kept charging around my daily live, even trying a run, dancing the night away at a friend’s wedding and kicking a football around with Ethan. After the wedding it felt sore again so thought I had better get it checked out and lucky I did! A lesson to slow down and tune in and listen to your body!

When receiving the news of the fracture the first feelings that came to me were that of overwhelm – how am I going to chase after the boys? Train for the duathlon I’d entered? Power around Sydney for work events and meetings?

Luckily as soon as I arrived at our work event I had a coffee with our wise Tenfold CEO Rich Hirst and he helped me reframe the news. He drew a diagram of underwhelm, whelm and overwhelm which showed I only had to pull back a bit to find my whelm and get back into that zone.

I started thinking of the reframe – it is winter and some more rest would be nice – an opportunity to spend some more time with family and friends – more time for meditation, writing and reading – an opportunity to focus on some swimming (which I can still do). As much as I love running and cycling I thought this isn’t my identity. Suddenly I felt much calmer.

I then had a dress zip malfunction and literally couldn’t move much with the potential for the whole dress to spring open and had to laugh, I’d been brought to a standstill! I thought a sign from the universe to slow down.

After having initially felt a bit down and then with a reframe and sharing a bottle of bubbles with my aunty (and borrowing her boot thank you!) a magical thing happened this weekend. Kind friends and family sent messages of support. My cousin came to pick me up and drove me for afternoon tea, a beautiful fried came and made us dumplings for dinner. I had a coffee catch up with a friend who connected to check in, another friend offered to host a lunch we had been hosting.

I was able accept to surrender and accept love, kindness and help from our community. Sometimes when you are rushing around and powering through everything you don’t create the space for this.  

I listened to an ‘Injured’ meditation this morning by Ariel Hardy which I found quite profound. Some of the thoughts included:

  • We don’t have to look for a reason in everything and see an injury as a time to heal.
  • Think back in your memory to when you became injured and think that did not happen to get rid of the obstacle, that you did not get hung up or thrown off, you walked through and were safe. Retrain the body to feel like that, unwind and rewind what happened, remove the fear from the injury area.
  • Give love to your injured area and breathe into it.
  • Bend with the wind and see it as an opportunity to embrace change.
  • Reframe not as a lesson, yet an opportunity to feel love – a time that can be good for your relationships.
  • Don’t get mad at yourself for getting hurt and keep pushing on, open up to being loved and helped. Allow the community to help you, stop and receive.
  • Relax and do not fight it, laugh through the moment instead of being so upset that this happened to you which will add to the stress of the body.
  • It is popular to look for the lesson in an injury (means I should slow down, am on the wrong path?). Instead use the ‘just heal it’ theory – whatever happens, try and just heal it – you don’t need a big lecture to yourself – it happened, bring love into it and kindness.
  • Rest more and exercise in more gentle ways – maybe my body would like that.
  • Learn to be good at unplanned change, reroot our plans.

I’m sure there will be some moments of frustration over the next 4-6 weeks of wearing a boot but I vow to try and keep grateful, keep the reframe and laugh and move gracefully through it. Luckily, I have my husband to keep me grounded who is great at keeping perspective and reframing!

I hope by sharing this experience it may help others going through some sort of injury or trauma and find ‘your whelm’. Sending healing thoughts. I’ve also been recommended to read Leigh Sales book which you may find useful – Any Ordinary Day: Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life by Leigh Sales