Embrace

June 19, 2017 at 7:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Last Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the opening night of an art show for ASPECT (Autism Spectrum Australia) here in the Illawarra. It was a night filled with great people, great art and great opportunities to support the amazing work being done in ASPECT’s educational settings. There were so many conversations, ideas and goings-on that had me inspired. But it was the speech by one of the featured artists that moved me most.

“Embrace what you were born with because it’s beautiful.” – Shay Mitchell

Cassandra Kavanagh is an incredibly passionate speaker. She’s also an incredibly talented artist. Her presence filled the room as she spoke from the heart about her own personal journey navigating life on the spectrum. It’s such a privilege when people let you in in this way. As we courageously and appropriately share parts of our lightness and darkness with others we can positively impact our own and others lives.

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.” – Iyanla Vanzant

What I loved most during Cassandra’s speech was when she spoke about one of her wishes for our world. It involved that we don’t choose tolerate when it comes to difference. Instead we as individuals and groups choose embrace. I wholeheartedly agreed with Cassandra’s observations. The magic definitely happens within our homes, schools, workplaces and communities when our thoughts, words and action are wrapped up in genuine, caring and supportive embraces.

“We must not only tolerate others, but positively embrace them…” – Swami Vivekananda

It Really Does Take A Village

June 5, 2017 at 6:56 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sometimes you get subtle reminders. Sometimes you get sledgehammer reminders. While other times they’re anywhere in between. A certain series of events recently provided me with such a powerful reminder of how it really does take a village. Not just to raise a child as the quote goes, but also to support us as individuals and groups as we navigate the ups and downs that life inevitably presents.

“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being.” – Mahatma Gandhi

A teaching friend’s face was definitely different when I saw her recently. Teachers, especially at this time of the year are balancing a very full plate, but there seemed to be something else going on for her as well. She indicated that she had something to ask me, and I could sense it was something outside of the work environment for her. I just didn’t know what it might be.

“Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.” – Erik Erikson

‘Does Explore Discover Act offer programs to support young adults who ….’ was the first question asked. She went on to explain the challenges currently being faced within a friend of hers family. We chatted for a while about the various ways Explore Discover Act are currently supporting client schools and community groups, some back story on her friend and friend’s family, and the support they have used in the past. That conversation was such a reminder of the role we play in each others lives and also the privilege it is when we are let in for the light and the darkness that makes up the full spectrum of connection we experience as humans.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – John Donne

As we spoke I thought of another friend who has experience and expertise in this area. That night I contacted her and she happily asked me to pass on her details if they needed support. I also then thought of another service that I’ve seen before who do a great job supporting individuals and groups in this space. These resources could be used as part of the puzzle of support that this family might require at this present moment or in the future. None of us can be everything to everybody. But each of us can play our part as it really does take a village of support to navigate the ups and downs that life inevitably presents.

“Before you’ve finished your breakfast this morning, you’ll have relied on half the world.” – Martin Luther King

Something really inspiring I found during this process was when I checked back in to see how it was all going a few weeks after the initial conversation. My teacher friend told me a story of how she had been visiting a family member in hospital when she encountered a lady who she didn’t know but was obviously going through something similar. Armed with new information my teacher friend was able to compassionately pass on information about the service I’d steered her towards a few weeks earlier. She obviously didn’t have to reach out in this way but she could tell it might really make a difference if she did. Because it really does take a village!

Merge Like A Zipper

May 29, 2017 at 7:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Image found on www.carolinacoastonline.com

A friend of mine recently got back from a quick trip to New Zealand. As he was sharing what the trip entailed one of his observations struck me as really important. While navigating unfamiliar terrain in his hire car he had predictably relied more heavily on the guideposts provided to support a driver’s journey. One particular sign had stood out for him. This was because of the positive influence it had and continued to have on his own and others choices whilst driving in that area.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

The guidepost he saw was similar to the one pictured above. It’s an invitation to safely, mindfully and interdependently engage with self, others and the world around us whilst on the road. It got me thinking though about the guideposts that are present within my own journey of potential. The reflections that kept coming up fell within a busy few weeks of family celebrations. We’ve had milestone birthdays, other birthdays and of course Mother’s Day. These occasions provided plenty of opportunities for me to connect the dots.

“Love is how you earn your wings.” – Karen Goldman

As my siblings and I prepared slideshows of pictures, wrote poems to read and collated messages from family and friends into a framed artwork for our Dad’s milestone birthday I found myself filled with gratitude. The day after that celebration, with it being Mother’s Day, that feeling of gratitude continued. Many of the most important guideposts that have got me through the ups and downs that life inevitably presents have been born out of the example of these two inspiring individuals. Guideposts act as anchors that can continue to ground our thoughts, words and actions as we navigate all sorts of terrain. Thank you to all who have played a part in their development for me.

“The root of joy is gratefulness… It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” – David Steindl-Rast

Adding The Cherry On Top

April 24, 2017 at 6:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I love lending out books. Whether it’s a book that has really moved me and just has to be shared with a family member or friend, or I receive a request from someone for a particular title or to surprise them with a variety of selections, there’s always books in motion. One that has been a constant boomerang since first reading it is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I loved it, and of course then wanted to share it with as many people as possible (it has been a go to present over the past couple of years). When I got a series of texts from a friend last week I was again reminded of some really important themes that the book explores.

“Always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” – J M Barrie

The first text said simply, ‘I finished Wonder’. I replied, ‘What did you think?’. What came back was, ‘Really good. Particularly liked the quote always try to be a little kinder than is necessary’. We went back and forth for a while exchanging comments on different characters, events and themes, I was so pleased that my friend had enjoyed and was moved by the book as well. Kindness isn’t some abstract thing for us as human beings. It’s the daily lubricant that helps foster ‘informed, connected and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’ (our vision).

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr Wayne W. Dyer

So fast forward two days from those texts and I receive a Facebook message from my friend. It contained the video linked at the beginning of this post. He had seen it online and it had reminded him of a real life example of the quote that had moved him most within Wonder. After watching it I shot him back a message. Within that conversation I loved his observation, ‘What’s necessary? Who knows, but if we all try to be kinder than we currently are, isn’t that a positive step forward in showing humanity that we’re bound together by something other than social media, fear, etc.’ Each day, we can be adding that cherry on top if we’re prepared to notice, connect and act on the opportunities that exist to with kindness make a difference in our own and others lives.

“We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.” – R.J. Palacio, Wonder

As seen in the video, our attempts to embody kindness aren’t always met with enthusiasm, trust or belief. But I guess that really isn’t the point. As we interact with self, others and the world around us our choice of what that looks, sounds and feels like is up to us. We can’t control how that will be met, just our own responses along the way. Kindness is best served people to people, as seen in the video above. How much kindness will you choose is necessary? And then will you add the cherry on top?

“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” – R.J. Palacio, Wonder

L.E.A.D. with me

April 10, 2017 at 9:24 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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What would you say is a key to success when navigating a challenge as a group? There’d be many that would come to mind I assuming, especially when you consider all the different situations, complexities, who’s involved and circumstances that could be thrown in to spice up the types of problem solving required. Context definitely matters. But…

“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery.” – Warren Bennis

A few weeks ago, when posed with a similar question, a Year 6 student responded in this way: “A key to success is giving space for others to lead”. It was at the beginning of the day and we’d just completed our first small groups challenge (approximately 8 students in each group). This girl shared this connection as she unpacked the journey her team had just been on: excitement, preparation, planning, experimentation, distraction, failure, experimentation again, near success, failure, disappointment, regrouping, refocussing, experimentation again, achieving success, celebrating, regrouping, refocussing, attempting the next level of the challenge, and so it goes on.

“The great leaders are like the best conductors – they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.” – Blaine Lee

So I wonder, what individual and collective thoughts, words and actions help us create space for others to L.E.A.D. with me?

“You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

I Chose This

March 20, 2017 at 6:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Recently I was listening to a podcast where the presenter used a very powerful phrase. As he chatted away with the guest about her philosophy for navigating life’s ups and downs, he shared a connection to a mantra he uses as something similar. He reflected on the importance of him remembering, ‘I chose this’. This anchor wakes him back up.

“As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.” – Rumi

As I listened I was reminded of the science coming out of positive psychology. Roughly 50% of happiness is determined by genetics and 10% by life circumstances, but 40% depends on the choices we make (our daily activities). When our attention becomes mired within what we view as lacking, impossible or too challenging (genetics 50% + life’s circumstances 10%), we miss the opportunity to intentionally create where it matters most (the choices we make 40%).

“Ultimately, human intentionality is the most powerful evolutionary force on the planet.” – George B. Leonard

If we want positive change (either individual or collective) then we must embody it (be that change) through our thoughts, words and actions. Complaining, comparing, worrying, making excuses, blaming, ruminating, etc. might fill in time, but they aren’t going to get us where we truly want to go. There are definitely things in our lives that we don’t or wouldn’t want to choose for ourselves or others to navigate. But those things sit outside our spheres of influence. The phrase ‘I chose this’ seemed like a powerful way to bring attention back to intentionality when we feel it slipping away.

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn

The Heart of Leadership

March 13, 2017 at 6:30 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Compassion is a verb.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I absolutely loved this video above when I watched it last week. It made me stop. It made me think. It made me feel. And then most importantly it moved me into action. All week since I first watched it I’ve been hyper aware of the role of compassion in leadership. I think it lies right at it’s heart.

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” – Daniel Goleman

We’re all navigating complex and challenging journeys of potential. Some of that complexity and those challenges are visible for all to see. Some of that complexity and those challenges are shared with only those closest. While some of that complexity and those challenges are kept within. No one in our global village gets a free ride. So how we grow our awareness around, foster and practice compassion towards self, and then let it ripple out to those within our spheres of influence is so important.

“The best leaders blend courage with compassion.” – Robin Sharma

Leadership is purposeful. And that purpose comes to life when we use our thoughts, words and actions to make a difference in our own and others lives. It’s vulnerable to put yourself out there like that though. To notice. To care. And then have the courage to act from that heart space. It’s in the ongoing micro moments, day after day, week after week, month after month, that we’re able to embody the quote, ‘leadership is action, not position’. That’s where the magic happens.

“Compassion is the ultimate expression of your highest self.” – Russell Simmons

What connects with your highest self when you watch this short video? How do you want others to feel after you’ve interacted with them? What daily thoughts, words and actions might require courage if we are to lead but create the types of ripples that help ourselves and others to ‘be the change’? What do you believe is at the heart of leadership?

“Compassion doesn’t weaken leadership, it makes it stronger.” – Rudy Giuliani

Purposeful over Positional

March 6, 2017 at 5:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.” – John Wooden

Last Saturday we kicked off our year long ‘Let’s Lead’ program with SCARF Youth here in the Illawarra (Strategic Community Assistance for Refugee Families). We have 16 participants (16 – 28 yrs old) registered, who’ll be coming together on the last Saturday of each month. Between these sessions we’ll then be communicating online as we explore, reflect on and then practice the purposeful skills, attitudes and behaviours of choosing to lead. I think the biggest motivator for us all is to continue growing and developing our ability to be difference makers in our own and others lives. It’s an individual and collective journey of potential that we’re courageously taking together.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

It is so inspiring to work with a group of participants who are willing to commit their valuable time, energy and contributions within a year long program like this one. I’ve shared the proverb above before (it’s one of my favourites) but it absolutely epitomises what this group is all about. As we pulled apart what leadership is within the first session of the year I was reminded of the importance of experiential learning within our leadership journeys. Using our own experiences and wisdom, along with the working definitions of leadership from others within our global village, we were able to make real the daily thoughts, words and actions that a leader embodies.

“Be purposeful. Be patient, and be active.” – John Assaraf

I can’t even imagine what ripples we will create individually and together as the year goes on. This is a really exciting part of leadership, when individuals and groups choose to navigate purposefully over positionally. We don’t need any special titles or circumstances to make a difference. We just need to keep coming back to an attitude of I Can, a belief in You Can, while inspiring We Can, as we journey together. It is such a privilege to be involved in the development of leadership potential. It’s a process. One that I’m grateful to be purposefully navigating.

“Leadership is influence.” – John C. Maxwell

What Happens Next…

February 13, 2017 at 5:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I often express our belief that leadership is a shared endeavour, not a solo sport, to the participants we support. As the lens is widened to the difference we can make, instead of just focussing in on the position might take, a diversity of opportunities to engage, challenge and inspire are opened up (both for us individually and collectively). Our learning and leadership environments play a big part in our growth and development as well. This is why environments like the one I walked into on Thursday excite me so much. It has a lot to do with the quote below.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

At the beginning of each year a large group of schools in a particular area of Sydney send their school leaders away for 3 days. Amazingly dedicated teachers organise a diverse and meaningful program at the camp that empowers and strives to set up for success the Year 6 students for the year ahead. They’re interested in action, what happens next, but most importantly they’re interested in also creating support networks around these leaders so that they can confidently stretch, grow and contribute within their home school environments. I love having the opportunity to facilitate two half day sessions amongst the incredible schedule they’ve created.

“The role of leaders is not to get other people to follow them but to empower others to lead.” – Bill George

The sessions were such a pleasure. Watching, listening to and sharing amongst these student leaders had my inspiration meter peaking. But what happened next tipped me over the edge. It was the final circle of the day. 80 students invited to finish the session as it should be, in their hands. How they did this, what it looked, sounded and felt like, and what was shared was up to them. I stepped out and was privileged, along with the teachers present in the room, to be apart of something special.

“The task of leadership is not to put passion into people, but to inspire and elicit it, for the passion is already there.” – Ty Howard

Moderation, if required, was a shared responsibility. Inclusiveness and contribution were celebrated. When one girl stumbled sharing a quote she thought was important, the next to share compassionately related her reflection to without mistakes we can’t ever get to success. It was dynamic. It was authentic. And most importantly it reminded us all of what’s possible when we hold space for, foster and then embody the vision of ‘informed, connected and empowered individuals believing deeply in their own and others potential’. What happens next is absolutely in their hands. I can’t wait to hear about the ripples that are created as each student explores the possibilities, discovers potential and acts authentically each and every day.

A not The

February 6, 2017 at 7:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Sometimes you’re gifted with a participants phrasing during a reflection that will resonate so deeply. Phrasing that will never leave you after that moment because of its transferable wisdom. It’s the biggest privilege as a facilitator when someone languages something with such succinct beauty. Last Thursday provided for one of these occasions. I am extremely grateful that this participant had the courage to share what she was processing throughout the experience.

“Leadership is based on inspiration, not domination; on cooperation, not intimidation.” – William Arthur Wood

This girl responded within the reflection that she’d be taking away a desire to become a leader not the leader. It may seem like a subtle difference but to us it is such an important one. Imagine a global village where we as individuals and groups owned our ability to make a difference in our own and others lives each and every day. Imagine a global village where we as individuals and groups embodied leadership as inclusive, collaborative and inspiring. Imagine a global village where we as individuals and groups sought to influence and build, rather than control and fix. We imagine this every day; and have the privilege of working with incredible students who imagine this as well.

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