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Articles filed in: Meaningful Work

Forward Thinking


Every business owner or leader, entrepreneur or creative, walks the fine line between creating value in the present and thinking about what their contribution might be in the future. We need to do the work that’s in front of us today and plan for a tomorrow we cannot yet see. Often, we end up doing the work and walking this path alone.

Where do you turn when you need to reflect on your next right move?
Who do you use as your sounding board?
Do you know people who are on a similar journey who can help you?

When I asked those questions of my readers three years ago, the answer to all of them drew a blank. Many people said they had a professional presence on LinkedIn, but that didn’t serve their need for support when they needed it most.

That’s why I launched the Right Company—a paid, group-mentorship experience. It has become a tight-knit community of like-hearted, generous people from all over the world, doing work that matters—helping each other to get better together.

Today we’re opening up applications to the Right Company to a limited number of new members. If you’re looking for support to create momentum in your business or with your projects I hope you’ll apply today.

What kind of of future could you build with the help of the right company?

Image by Chris Montgomery

The Power Of The Unexpected


Last Monday I got a handwritten letter in the mail. Imagine my surprise when I opened it to find a note from a contractor who had unsuccessfully quoted for a small renovation project on our home.

In his letter, he said he was sorry things hadn’t worked out this time around but that he hoped to be of service to us in the future. It was an unexpected gesture that we’re unlikely to forget.

Often it takes less than we think to stand out from the crowd. Small, thoughtful, well-timed acts can make a difference.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ll do today?

Image by Hanny Naibaho

Leveraging Our Mistakes


Each day we overlook some opportunity to see or to serve. We fail to challenge our assumptions and hold fast to our opinions. The result is that we sometimes miss the opportunity to do better.

This feels like bad news. But it doesn’t have to be.

What if instead of saying; ‘I could kick myself for missing that,’ we got into the habit of leveraging our mistakes instead?

‘What can I learn from this?’ is a powerful question.

Image by Caleb Jones

To Whom It May Concern


When an aspiring author is pitching her work to a publisher or agent, she needs to address the agent directly.

In her query letter, it’s not enough to be aware of her book’s strengths—she must also know who it’s for and why this particular agent will care enough to read the first few chapters.

It doesn’t matter what idea you’re selling—it could be a logo, financial services or behaviour change, the same rules apply.

You’ll always get a better result when you open your pitch with the words, ‘Dear Someone Specific’ in your mind.

Act as if you’re writing a letter to a person you know, not a marketing message. Because you are.

Image by Green Chameleon

On Ambition


Before I went to high school, everyone in our year sat an aptitude test. We were eleven years old, and the assessment took place over three hours one morning early in summer.

The goal was to identify each student’s potential and stream girls into year groups based on their IQ. The theory being that matching teaching to students’ abilities would deliver better educational outcomes.

It wasn’t only a pronouncement about our aptitude for learning that was consolidated in our minds, that summer. There was also a levelling of expectations about what was possible for each one of us—not just from our teachers, but in ourselves. Our ambitions were set at the age of eleven.

Career guidance conversations about going to university to study medicine and engineering rarely happened with girls who were not in the top stream. During the five years I was in high school, I saw only a handful of girls moved from one stream to another. Mostly down, hardly ever up.

In subjects like art and music, students’ potential was also identified early, so resources could be devoted to helping those most likely to succeed. We learned very early on to keep our ambition in check—to keep pace as much with our perceived limitations as our proven ability.

These lessons learned at a young age are hard to unlearn. The stories we tell ourselves can make us fearful of being ambitious for the future. Like some of our teachers, armed with the knowledge we have in front of us, we fail to see what might be possible.

Our mistake then, and still now, is our inability to be ambitious for each day. To match our effort with what we aspire to be and change now—not with some projection of our future-self or a future we cannot yet know. We shape the future we want to see in the present. One day at a time.

Image by Victoria Heath

Your Goal Is To Matter To The People You Serve


I once worked with a startup in the financial services industry. The foyer of their office building was all polished floorboards, high white walls and minimal seating. Inspirational magazines were strategically arranged on low tables, next to the espresso machine.

The walls were completely bare apart from a big decal that declared how many customers the company had acquired. Proudly serving a million customers, it read.

That number was the story the company’s leadership team chose to tell. It was a story about growth, success and their upward trajectory. The goal was to build trust with visitors and excitement among the team. The number said something about the company’s values and aspirations, but it didn’t tell the whole story.

As part of our work together, I helped them to find and amplify individual customer stories. They went from talking about how many people they served to showing how they helped one small business at a time. Finding, owning and sharing their stories enabled them to demonstrate that they were not just a company that measured—they were a company that mattered.

That opportunity is open to all of us.
What stories can you tell today to show people why your work matters?

*Today is the last day to enrol in The Story Skills Workshop. You can join us at the special discounted rate for my blog readers using this link. Here are some of the stories of the people we’ve helped to become better storytellers.

Image by Hayley Phelps

Imperceptible Growth


When our kids were young my husband and I charted their growth on a door frame. Every few months they’d stand next to the wall, and we’d mark their height with a pencil.

Some months it looked like they hadn’t grown at all. Other times it seemed like they’d shot up overnight. The truth was they were growing every day—just not always in ways that were immediately visible.

It’s the same for all of the progress we make. Sometimes we can see and measure it, and other times we feel like we’re stuck in place. But just because the things we can see with the naked eye aren’t trending upwards doesn’t mean we aren’t growing.

Often it’s the growth we can’t see that is the making of us.

Image by Charlein Garcia

Building A Reputation


When you and I were at school, many students had a reputation. We can recall the smart and funny ones. The artistic or athletic ones. The introverts and the extroverts.

Those reputations were not bestowed—they were built.

People’s opinions about you are based not just on what you say, but on what you do.

You can begin to build your reputation with intention by answering three questions:

Who do you want to be known to?
What do you want them to know you for?
What do you need to do to build this reputation?

Actions speak louder than words.

Image by Anna Samoylova

The Way To Lead


A few years back, my son was leaving the train station in Perth when someone asked him for directions. He began to explain the route but stopped halfway. ‘I’m going that direction, why don’t I take you there,’ he said, leading the way.

One of the best definitions of leadership I’ve read, explains that it’s the act of showing someone the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them.

That implies if we intend to lead, we not only need to know the destination but also who we’re leading and whether we’re committed enough to walk in front or beside them.

Leadership is a journey that we take the responsibility for making together.

Image by several seconds

The Unremarkable


Lately, we have come to recognise the remarkable contribution of the people many considered unremarkable.

The people who stack our food on the supermarket shelves through the night. The truck drivers who get behind the wheel every day ensuring deliveries reach us. Those who wake early to clean our hospital wards. The workers who once felt disposable, now suddenly seen as essential.

We’d begun to equate remarkability with visibility.
It turns out the two are not the same at all.

Sometimes it’s the thing we do that gets the least applause that makes the biggest impact.

Image by Martijn Baudoin