I’m good at…

How to claim your superpowers

We are SO BAD at claiming our strengths and talents. In Aotearoa New Zealand we have this on a range of levels:

  • Tall poppy syndrome (pull down who’s reaching higher than the rest
  • Kaua te kūmara e kōrero ki tana reka (the kumera doesn’t speak of its own sweetness)
  • Just generally being up yourself, full of yourself, big head, fathead, show off
Let's put away the scissors.

The power of a thank you

Society has many ways to stop us from comfortably saying, I’m good at [insert superpower here].

But our strengths and talents are the foundation of our growth. They’re our launchpad, our leverage. Owning them is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done!

I remember a lesson I had as a young woman, being taught how to receive a compliment. When someone compliments us, our most natural thing to do is to brush it off, deny it, minimise it, like this:

  • I was just doing my job
  • It wasn’t anything special
  • Anyone would have done the same
  • It was nothing

But I was taught, by a wise woman, to simply say, Thank you.

Smile, bite your tongue, grit your teeth against the discomfort, and just accept the compliment.

Thank you.

Now, 30 years later, I reflect and realise that was one of the foundations of my ability now to acknowledge what I’m good at.

You are a taonga, a treasure of value

There have been other influences along the way, like the boss who would koha or “gift” me to other teams or projects because, Shelly can write that for you, or, Shelly can facilitate that process, or, Let’s have Shelly run that workshop.

She believed in me. She treated me like a taonga, a treasure of value.

Or there are all those times people have complimented or thanked me.

For years I kept a folder in my emails called WARM FUZZIES. Everytime someone thanked or praised or appreciated me, I filed that email in there – ready to be revisited on a low day.

Now here’s the thing

I could still have bowed down to the societal pressures and those awful voices in our heads and let ALL THAT EVIDENCE that I’m talented just fade out of my memory.

I could have written it all off.

But I’ve learned over the years to gather all that evidence, put it on steroids, and put it to work for me.

I can live for two months on a good compliment - Mark Twain

So anytime I’ve been scared to claim a talent, to sell my abilities, I’ve gone back to my metaphorical filing cabinet of evidence, and pulled out some pieces to help me feel confident again.

I’m about to walk onto a stage in front of 350 people to MC an event? I pull up the time last year when a kind gentleman told me I was “the human glue of the conference.”

Worried that I can’t hold my own when pitching a proposal to an executive leadership team or board? I pull up my Gallup Strength results that say my number one strength is WOO – Winning Over Others.

I could go on.

Why we need to be a little brave

So here’s the thing about being able to say, I’m good at X.

The strongest people I know can do it.

The most powerful people I know can do it.

The most self-aware people I know can do it.

This is not a dichotomy – you don’t have to choose between being humble or being an egomaniac.

You can be a humble person who acknowledges their imperfections, how much they still have to learn, and how amazing other people are, while also acknowledging:

  • X is one of my superpowers
  • I’ve got a lot of experience in X
  • X is in my wheelhouse
  • X is my jam
  • I have a strength in X

For me, those sound like:

None of those are facts in relation to anyone else. They’re not comparisons that mean “better than.” They’re not me showing off.

It’s just being honest. And a bit brave.

Owning your story is the bravest thing you'll ever do - Brene Brown

Because anyone who knows me would say that all of those things are true. I do no favours for myself or anyone else if I deny that.

Say it with me, I’m good at [insert superpower here]

Maybe right now, think of one thing you’re good at.

One thing.

Own that superpower today. Both internally and out loud.

And see how you feel different because of that.

And give yourself permission to act differently because acknowledging your skills and talents makes you feel more powerful.

And finally, m’love, what can you do with that power?

Darling, just fucking own it.

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Looking for a powerful way to fucking own YOUR it?

A crisis of confidence

It might be a crisis of confidence. It might be imposter syndrome.

Either way, it can fuck right off.

Quote - Recipe for today: 1 cup of cluster.  2 cups of fuck

Living with depression

I had a period of depression last year that wasn’t like my normal depression.

It tasted different.  

This one had the distinct flavour of SELF-DOUBT.

A significant crisis of confidence.

On my tongue I could taste words like:

You’re a loser.

You’re going to fail.

You’re making a fool of yourself.

This will never work.

You don’t actually know what you’re doing.

Who do you think you are?

It was so WEIRD. I’ve kicked imposter syndrome in the ass years ago and it’s not usually a problem anymore. I hated it. It was actually pretty scary.

I came through it eventually, and there was no magic bullet or solution.

I had to slowly and consistently:

  • Remind myself that a thought isn’t truth, it’s just a thought
  • Dig into the fear that was hiding underneath it so I could see it and challenge it, and
  • Seek evidence every day that I am, indeed, good at what I do.

I came through it eventually.

Quote - this becoming will ask for your breath, patience and for your fight, perseverance.  Transformation is made of both surrender and strength. ~ Butterflies rising

The value of a tribe

Since then, some of the women I love and look up to most in the world have all described similar crises in confidence.

An amazing business coach who has helped me grow incredibly said she was telling herself the story that she was washed up.

A therapist who has lovingly influenced my growth for many years, doubting that she’s good enough. Using a slow moment in business as evidence that she simply must not be good at what she does.

A ridiculously incredible neuroscience and flow coach doubting her direction. Wondering why she’s lost some clarity and some motivation (oh, the irony.)

Quote - It is not what you are that holds you back.  It is what you think you are not.

So I wanted to say to you:

It’s ok. It happens to all of us. It’ll pass.  

And before it does pass, while you’re sitting there with that bitter taste in your mouth and rocks in the pit of your stomach, just be a little kind. To you, ok?

One of my favourite songs at the moment is “Anyone” by Demi Lovato.

I’m not a huge fan of hers or anything but this song speaks to me. And it makes me think about the women I love who have all said to me recently that they’re doubting themselves, that their confidence is low.

I’m told she wrote it a few days before a suicide attempt. And the line that gets me says:

I feel stupid when I sing

This young woman, with a well-established career and a list of songs that have topped the charts, this young woman who has made a career out of singing, at the moment she wrote this song, had lost confidence in her abilities.

I feel stupid when I sing.

Nobody’s listening to me.

You are normal (and amazing!)

It reminded me that crises of confidence are NORMAL.

No matter how good you are at what you do. No matter how much evidence there is of your success. No matter how many times you’ve felt confident in your skills and abilities, there will still be days when you can’t connect with that knowing.

Quote - You can't hate yourself happy.  You can't criticise yourself thin.  You can't shame yourself worthy.  Real change begins with self-love and self-care.  ~ Jessica Ortner

And when you have one of those days I hope you’ll remember this little love note from me.

I hope that when that bitter taste of self-doubt lingers that you’ll remember.

Everybody feels that way sometimes.

It’s ok.

It’ll pass. It’s just one of those days.

And your fears and self-doubt are not truth. They’re just thoughts.  

I see you, and you’re AMAZING!

Quote - Being our messy, imperfect, authentic selves helps create a space where others feel safe to be themselves too.  Your vulnerability can be a gift to others, how badass is that? ~ B. Oakman

____________________________________________________________________

For more “you’re AMAZING!” reminders:

We see YOU 💕

____________________________________________________________________

How about an AMAZING keynote to remind your team of their value? (Maybe a lunchtime webinar?)

Are you looking for that keynote? (not an average keynote.) THAT keynote!

The one they’ll remember for a lifetime? The one that invites authenticity, captures the heart, and encourages you to live a more joyful, badass life?

Let’s talk!

Are you a rock pool?

2020 is the year of the rock pool

One summer I was walking around some rocks on Aotea Great Barrier Island, and I thought about rock pools. Today feels like a pretty appropriate time to share that story.

Because I stopped at every single one, inspecting, looking to see what moved, what was hiding in the crevices, what colours and textures each one had. 

How deep? How clear? What was growing and living in it?

Girl fishing in an ocean tide pool – original watercolour by Aimee Lockwood Illustration

Adapting

But then they also have to be adaptable.

As the tides come and go, as the sun burns or rain falls, especially as the waves crash or swells rise and fall, that very specific set of circumstances changes. Drastically.

And the rock pool has no influence over those changes. It can’t control them.

It just has to adapt.

Hello, global pandemic.

Hello, COVID-19.

Quote: She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails ~ Elizabeth Edwards

Thriving in changing environments

I’m adapting. We all are.

I’m seeing rock pools all around me.

Beautiful,

stunning,

thriving rock pools

who are resilient and tenacious.

Quote: My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style ~ Maya Angelou

Through all of this upheaval and inconsistency and unpredictability, they continue to thrive.

Those rock pools continue to be beautiful and to support life in their own little ecosystems.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Not for the rock pool or for us in the post-pandemic “after.”

That doesn’t mean the rock pool never has to reinvent itself, farewell some species and welcome others, adjust to the changing conditions, rapidly and regularly.

That doesn’t mean it’s life is fair or it gets what it deserves.

Quote: While we are trying to make sense of things, may we learn to make peace with things

It just keeps adapting, thriving, and finding new ways to be beautiful.

I’d like to be more like that rock pool.

You?

Quote: This becoming will ask for your breath, patience and for your fight, perserverance.  Transformation is made of both surrender and strength ~ butterflies rising

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Rock pool shoutouts!

Quote: Behind every great woman there's probably a bunch of other great women

WE SEE YOU 💕

I want to shout out to some of the rockpools around my ocean, amazing #womenofimpact ready to help us all adapt and thrive!

[email protected]a marketing team that’s been incredibly responsive and generous responses to small businesses during the pandemic.

[email protected]: these guys never stop. Free advice, generous support, always available. Soooo much love for this recruitment crew.

[email protected]: performance coaching perfection!  People-focused and empowering, bringing clarity to chaos and truly valuable advice in changing times.

[email protected]: environmental and tree consultants who’ve recently reinvented how they’re connecting and sharing mātauranga generously with mana and care.

Kathryn, Diella & A[email protected]: who are doubling-down on their authenticity and personality to achieve more good, have fun and help kiwi employers and job-seekers thrive.

Jules & [email protected]unsurprisingly and yet still so impressively, they’ve knuckled down and got shit done!  The resilience, resourcefulness and tenacity of our women-in-dairy is stunning, and worthy of celebration!

#goodhumans #goodbusiness #peoplefirst #manawahine #authenticitywins #empowerment

Are you prepared?

I’ve had the privilege in the last 12 months of watching my 2 youngest daughters very rapidly transition into high-functioning, self-sufficient young adults. It happened so fast. I didn’t realise it was coming like that.

One minute I had a 15- and 16-year-old at high school.

The next minute I had:

  • a 17-year-old licenced driver with her first car, milking full time at a job she got for herself, coming home each day with eyes sparkling and covered in cowshit, and
  • a 16-year-old paying cash for a late-model 150cc motorbike on her birthday, organising every aspect of the process, from the research through to the courses and tests and insurance.

They both want independence. They’re both resourceful and capable.

It’s terrifying and glorious.

But that’s all context for what I really want to write today.

I want to talk about risks, resilience, and preparedness.

Risks, resilience, and being prepared

Your story of resilience will stir up resilience in others

I experienced some of that “terrifying and glorious” at the beginning of this year. Here’s how it went.

I had just got off the phone with my youngest.

I was on another island, hundreds of kilometres from her. And she was just about to take her new motorbike for a spin around our neighbourhood.

There were risks involved in this exercise.

I was confident that she was prepared.

And because of that, both she and I had a good idea of a range of possible outcomes, and were prepared for those.

Being prepared for any possible outcomes is one of the fundamentals of resilience.

How to get prepared

Risks, resilience and preparedness.  What can you do to prepare for possible outcomes, so you know you'll have a resilient response no matter what?

Here’s how she prepared.

The day of her 16th birthday was the day she picked up her motorbike. She got online and organised insurance. The same day,  she sat and passed her written driver’s licence test. Then she took a skills course to make sure she was prepared to handle the bike.

And now she was ready to go for a ride.

She was home alone. No one was there to see her off or supervise or welcome her back and debrief after the ride.

I was shitting myself.

Here’s how we prepared.

The phone conversation went like this:

Me: OK, let’s just run through a couple of scenarios before you head out, since no one’s there with you.

Her: OK.

Me: What happens if you drop the bike?

(She has once already, and it’s pretty heavy, and she’s not a big kid. She needed help to pick it up.)

Her: I’ll try to pick it up, first. But if I can’t, I’ll call Papa.

(Thank goodness for amazing grandparents – my dad used to train Ministry of Transport Motorbike Officers.)

Me: Yup, perfect. You might be able to pick it up. But before you call Papa, look around. Can you see anyone outside their house? Can you see a house that looks like someone’s home? If there’s someone nearby who looks strong enough to help, ask them first.

Her: Oh, ok, yup.

Me: OK, now what if the worst happens and you crash into something, or a car bumps you or something?

Her: I call the police.

Me: Well yep, if it’s bad enough, sure. But let’s say you crash into a parked car. You don’t need to call the police right then. What do you think you can do?

Her: Go into the house where the car is parked and try to see if someone’s home. Is that the kind of answer you’re looking for?

Me: Yup, you can, but I was thinking more of your welfare. You’ve just had an accident, and you don’t need to freak out, because you’re not actually alone. I think the answer is pretty much the same as the first one: Do what you can do yourself, look for help nearby, and call Papa if all else fails. Of course, if you’re hurt, call 111.

Her: Oh, ok. Yup.

(She is not a woman of many words, LOL.)

Me: OK, so call me when you get home so I know you’re safe.

The end.

Being prepared, mentally, can be the difference between life and death

Consequences don't care about the decision making process that led you to them.

It’s like drownings at the beach.

In general, people don’t drown because they can’t swim. They drown because they panic, and that means they can’t make resourceful decisions and they get exhausted, FAST.

If, before you (or your kids) went into the water, you thought through some what-ifs, then when one of those things happens, your brain says, OK, this is one of those things we planned for. I know what to do.

And if you find this train of thought offensive, please know I lost my first husband to a drowning at a beach.

I speak to this because IT IS REAL.

Risks, resilience, and being prepared in career and business

Do not be afraid to take a calculated risk.  All growth comes from taking chances.

And how about in your career or in your business?

Businesses take risks all the time.

We often call them “calculated risks” because we’ve done the calculations and decided that it’s a level of risk we can carry.

I’d suggest we can take more risks more comfortably and be more resilient through the potential outcomes if we ran a number of “if – then” scenarios.

If this happens, we can respond like that. If X happens, we can respond with Y, or Z.

What’s something you’re NOT doing because of fear or risk?

What can you do to prepare for the possible outcomes, so you know you’ll have a resilient response no matter what?

It's OK to be a glowstick; sometimes we need to break before we shine.

Brené Brown tells us, if you enter the arena, if you choose to show up vulnerably, you WILL fail.

Not might, WILL.

The trick is knowing that failure is a very real possibility, and preparing yourself for what you’ll do when it happens.

That’s resilience.

That’s strength, courage, leadership, and innovation.

And within those, I sat, and waited for my daughter to call me and tell me she got home safe.

Resilience is not about overcoming, but becoming.

(PS – she dropped the bike. She asked someone to help her pick it up. She got home safe. See how that works?)

Writing saves lives

And that’s not clickbait. Writing saves lives. Actual lives.

So when accountants bring me in and call my work a soft skill, that fucks me off.

But anyway… that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I’m here to talk about my growing list of names of people whose lives my writing has saved. And how you can do the same.

Actual lives

Last year I overheard a conversation about someone’s toddler with severe asthma. They listed a number of incidents where the toddler was in life-threatening situations because they lived too far away from hospital and even an ambulance. They’d had to drive to meet the ambulance on the side of the road a number of times, because waiting could have been fatal.

Every one of those incidents was a situation that could be resolved with a nebuliser in their home.

If they had that, they wouldn’t have needed the hospital or the ambulance. But they had asked their GP multiple times if one would be provided. He had said no.

Enter: your friendly badass rockstar writer.

The power of written records

I knew that when things are in writing, on record, it’s much harder to say no.

I knew that if you need to advocate for yourself in the medical system, that there’s a powerful approach you can use (thanks, Twitter):

When you ask for a test or an assessment or a medication or a treatment and the GP says no, ask them to put your request and their denial of that request on your file.

It means that if, somewhere down the line, it turns out that you were right to make that request and the GP made a wrong call, there’s a record of that. That’s risky for your doctor. It doesn’t look good.

So, often, you asking for that will make them change their mind. Not always. It’s not a guarantee. But if you do it when you need to, then when and if you need it you have evidence to show:

  1. how you’ve been advocating for your own wellbeing, and
  2. how the system has been responding.

I whipped up a document

So if we go back to the toddler and her asthma, I whipped up a document. I think it took me 17 minutes.

The document was a template which put the family’s request for a nebuliser IN WRITING, and listed recent incidents as evidence to support that request.

The family took the document to the doctor, and HELLO, nebuliser in the home.

Just like that. After months and months of distress and worry.

The document was simple. It was SO FAST for me to throw together.

And so started the actual list of lives my writing has saved.

My list is growing

This week I added one of my daughters’ names to that list.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve written in the last 2 weeks, cc’ing in the universe, to push back against systems that aren’t providing her with the care she needs.

It has been a battle, I tell you.

But every email I’ve written, every time I’ve hit send, I’ve increased the power of my voice in advocating for her.

I’ve created an evidence trail of what’s been happening, what she needs, and HELD THE PEOPLE AND ORGANISATIONS ACCOUNTABLE.

It’s working.

It’s ongoing.

But at the end of a long day where I’ve added 14 powerful emails to the paper trail and my daughter is still alive and is the safest she’s been in months, I wanted to tell you.

Don’t forget that writing saves lives.

A word of caution

For this kind of writing to be as powerful as possible, you need it to be sharp. And when I say sharp, I mean:

  • TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE. Just making noise in public isn’t enough.
  • Concise, not waffly
  • Factual, matter-of-fact, and not overly emotive
  • Assertive – 100% clear on what the problem is, and what you want done about it
  • It might need a timeframe – eg URGENT response required by COB today
  • And in some cases, or eventually, it might need an or else. You might need to let them know what your next steps will be if they don’t act or respond

You can’t just write and blow off steam and rip people new ones via email and expect that will get you results.

You need firm. Reasoned. Factual. Stripped back. Assertive.

Now, what?

So, m’loves, what in your world do you need a written record of?

What will give your voice more weight when it’s ON THE RECORD?

Cos the written word has POWER. It has WEIGHT. It changes things. It gets heard differently. It gets listened to.

Go and write something that will reclaim your power. And maybe even save a life.

And PLEASE fucking stop calling writing a soft skill.

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Are YOU ready?

So, if you’re ready to save lives (or save other people medical bills from when you’ve ripped them a new one and they have to get it fixed, and…and…let’s not go there), how about you download my AMAZING PDF on how to write emails that save lives?

You look smart. Go on.

In terms of mastering your mind

I’m all about how our thoughts are the only thing we can control in life.

We have the ability to decide what meaning we’ll attribute to any given thing, which then dictates its impact on us – how we feel about and respond to it.

For example

As I write this I’m facing my first ever Christmas alone. As in, completely alone. On an island. No children, no grandchildren, no Carver Boy, no siblings cousins nieces nephews.

And I gotta tell you, I’m FINE with that.

I plan to go fishing. And nap. And whatever else the fuck I feel like doing. I’m good with this because I choose to be.

But,

I remember 13 years ago, going through court for parenting arrangements with my second ex-husband (aka “custody”), being told by my lawyer that I’d need to let my ex have the kids every second Christmas.

THAT MEANT EVERY SECOND CHRISTMAS ALONE. WITHOUT MY BABIES.

And I thought I would break.

I thought it was the end of the world.

I brought these babies into the world, and waking up to them on Christmas morning and seeing the joy on their faces as they opened presents and ate junk food for breakfast and just basked in the holiday bliss, felt like the meaning of life.

Surely I wouldn’t survive it.

Until, at some stage, probably with the help of a good psychologist, I chose to survive it.

I chose to remove the “meaning of life” bit of Christmas morning as a mother, and pick another day to be our Christmas. And make that day whatever I wanted it to be – particularly a sleep in, given that I had been sleep-deprived for about 11 years at that stage.

It was a huge lesson. 

Yes, Christmas without my babies could feel like the end of the world. IF I chose that. Or it could feel completely doable if I chose THAT.

It was a lesson I was able to start transferring to many other areas of my life. And that has been POWERFUL.

And you know I’m ALL about people finding power in their world.

Is there something you can reframe? Can you change the meaning you’re giving to it? And by doing so, reclaim some power in your world?