In 2005 I was serving schooners in classy pubs in sunny Surfer’s Paradise. It was the best. Not something I’d do forever, but it paid the bills while I was at Uni and I met some darn cool people doing it. I loved it. Until one night the duty manager shoved a microphone in my hand, told me to run the members’ draw in front of over 200 people and went and locked himself in the office. What! I hated public speaking (and clearly he did too). I had no idea what to say. In the past I’d failed miserably, I mean I got 3/20 for my first speech at high school and that experience had scarred me for life.
My hands were shaking and sweaty, my throat was caught up in my throat and I actually felt like vomiting. I hated him, but I couldn’t say no, the whole club was waiting for this draw. I was so worked up in that moment that my attitude going into the gig was that if I screwed it up, that would be on him. So I let go of all my expectations and just did it. And to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. Because I didn’t care. I said whatever I felt like and people loved it. And I’ve been addicted to the act ever since. From there I ran games and promotions in bars and clubs all up and down the Gold Coast, sometimes in front of hundreds of people. And when I finally landed my dream job in Landcare I was ready to speak. I’ve since gone on to facilitate many workshops and events. I have spoken at state and national conferences, most recently the National Landcare Conference. I’ve been key note speaker at film festivals and sustainability events. I’ve done countless radio interviews and loads of tv interviews and each time it gets easier and more fun!
There’s no doubt that night was a pivotal moment in my life, propelling me into the scary world of public speaking, something that I had feared for years. But until a few years ago, I had been winging it, despite having a university degree behind me and a few years of experience up my sleeve, I was making it all up as I went. And then I came across an incredible opportunity which kick-started my personal and professional development journey and took me to a whole new level of leadership.
The Art4Agriculture Young Eco Champions program was a pilot at the time and saw young natural resource management professionals trained up in media and communications skills to tell their story and go into schools to inspire students about our industry. It was through this program I met Ann Burbrook from Concise Communications who really helped me step up. I gained skills in designing and rolling out professional presentations, how to speak to my audience properly, how to speak to the media, and how to inspire young people. And I have used these skills every day since. The program helped me craft and discover what I was really passionate about and how to communicate this to others. It was the best start I could have hoped for and I am forever grateful.
I next decided that I needed some deeper skills in leadership development and working with other people, sort of next level stuff. So I enrolled in a program called the South East Local Leaders Program. Now this was awesome. I met people from all sorts of backgrounds in Landcare, agriculture and sustainability who wanted a deeper dive into effective leadership. We worked with an organisation called Global Learning and I got a deeper sense of who I was as a leader, particularly in a team environment. It was raw, real and I got some fantastic tools to work with others. The facilitators were incredible.
But something was missing. A deep dive into me. Yep, figuring out what was going on in that big ‘ol never shut up, lay awake at night and continuously think about all of the ridiculous mistakes you’ve made in your life, cringe for a while, beat yourself up a little more, and carry that around like a ball and chain despite your continuous success in the real world. And then I met Landmark. Good ‘ol culty Landmark.
Despite the stereotypes and the endless online forums about the 80’s pyramid marketing scheme, and ‘you’ve brainwashed my friend and they’ve changed forever and I don’t like them anymore they’ve joined a cult’ rhetoric, this has hands down been the best transformational personal growth program I have done to date. Let me tell you why. You can do all the skills-based training and courses in the world, but until you get the inside stuff on track, there’s no way you can reach your full potential and have the impact you are out to achieve. Think of it as defragging and rebooting. Yep you get rid of all that crap, all that baggage and start your brain fresh. No more lying awake stressing about the past or fearing the future. I’m content and grateful for now, and everything about now. And that’s what I got. Sometimes it wants to creep back in, but you are now equipped with ninja moves to boot it straight back out again. I also have a better understanding about human behaviour because I am clear in myself and who I am as a human. I am fearless in my communication and no longer feel intimidated like I used to in the past. It gave me permission to be me and to be real.
It has also given me the best tools to work with my team at Intrepid Landcare, to be an effective leader for an organisation and mobilise a team of very fast-paced change-makers in our industry. Without fear, without drama, without frustration. We’ve built relationships based on honesty, trust and simply keeping it real. Nothing more, nothing less. And it works. There’s no hard feelings when you get challenged or pulled up on something, it’s about the idea not you, it’s about the team not you, it’s about the organisation not you, and it’s about getting the job done not you. We are all there for each other, and we are all there for the future of the organisation. It’s beautiful, it’s refreshing, and it’s so easy.
As we were about to embark on building Intrepid Landcare I thought, hang on, I have no business skills, I need skillz man. So I enrolled in a Diploma of Business with an organisation called The Entourage. Now these are not your every day Dip. Business guys. The organisation has been set up to cater to Entrepreneurs, the one percenters in the world who think outside the box, don’t fit into conventional education systems and are true creatives (and a little bit crazy in their ventures) – that’s me! And I have just completed the course. It was fantastic. The framework caters to visual learners like me and text books get thrown out the window. Instead you get access to real life stories and case studies of successful businesses and entrepreneurs, and practical workshops which inspires, educates and motivates you the whole way through the course. Jack Delosa (founder and CEO) is a disruptor of the education system and I like where’s he’s taking the organisation. It no doubt helped build Intrepid Landcare every step of the way and I’m glad I made this investment in myself and the organisation. It really gave me the structure I needed.
But what has really helped me achieve everything I have in my life, my career, and my adventures, is having an extremely self-aware, mindful and grounded community of people who are fun and adventurous, willing to push the boundaries, and have also invested in themselves. We are all on different paths but we are all about doing what it takes to be the best versions of ourselves in what we are up to in life. The learning has not stopped at a TAFE course or University degree, we are continuously seeking opportunities to challenge ourselves, grow and contribute to each other.
I’m not saying you need to go out and invest in the above programs or seek out these particular courses. Everyone’s journey is different. My point is that no matter where you are in your life, always consider investing in yourself. Enrol in that course you’ve always wanted to do, read that biography or book you’ve been eyeing off to challenge your thinking, go on that adventure you’ve been procrastinating about, change your career if you are not happy, and find a tribe to support who you want to be in the world. Find your passion and simply just do it. Start taking steps. Give yourself the tools you need to move forward in whatever you are up to in life. My only regret (if I had to name any), is that I didn’t do it sooner.
It will be the best gift you ever give yourself, and the best gift you will give those around you.