I grew up as a performer. That’s always meant a fondness for being in the spotlight, and a thirst for connecting meaningfully to an audience. I loved this so much, in fact, that at 14 I left my 8th mainstream school, to dive deep into an arts academy, where I majored in theatre. I thrived under the leadership of my director. I was pushed, prodded, challenged and, of course, wide open for constant feedback (some good, some not so good).
I strongly believed that it was this training that was going to prepare me for everything that was to come in life; I was completely comfortable with failure, rejection, criticism and I had developed charisma, confidence and presence.
The thing theatre didn’t prepare me for came as a shock.
At 18, when I decided my future looked much brighter as an entrepreneur, developing an insatiable passion for people, the human condition and intimate spaces; I founded a charitable organisation that focused on community development as a means of mental health prevention. As someone that had struggled for the most part of my teenage years, it was a cause extremely close to my heart. After an extremely colourful 7 years of working in hundreds of communities across the world, hearing the stories of close to a quarter of a million people, I had discovered certain things I needed to document and share with even more of the world. It was time for me to write my first book, Love Out Loud.
Writing was different to performance. It wasn’t such a clean-cut transition as it was to leadership, speaking and facilitation. I knew how to capture people’s interest and get them to drop into a space with me. What I didn’t know how to do very well, was to stare at a page which gave me…no feedback. Just silence. Just me and my own mind.
See, I’ve always adopted particular principles in entrepreneurship and business generally. I believe in failing-forward, failing out loud, and doing it proudly. These principles were very much birthed from the ways in which I had previously been consumed by perfectionism; and I vowed to myself to act differently as a leader; to be increasingly unapologetic. The amazing biproduct of this gutsy approach to business, was I was constantly receiving feedback. Just like with my theatre director; some good, some… quite frankly, terrible. Yet, I learnt. I learnt so much every day as I grew, and I learnt to adapt my content, my services and my communication to fit the demands and the preferences of my prospective clients.
Writing my book was very different. I would sit for hours and hours and be left with myself. A reflection of my own judgements. Sometimes I’d walk 3 or 4 times in a day to my local coffee shop to escape the suffocation of what became my writers’ den. I became aware of my inability, at times, to sit with my inner-most thoughts. I began to become curious around how this then played out in my leadership and my approach to business.
Was I creating because it was true for me, or was I creating because it’s what I thought my customer liked?
Something magical began to happen as I dropped deeper into myself. I began to see an incredible correlation between the way my days, and life, would unfold, in conjunction to the concepts I found myself writing about. In Love Out Loud, I explore 9 key concepts of love. It’s important to note here, that I don’t mean romantic love; I mean the true, unbreakable force that is the love which exists in your heart, longing to express itself into the world. Sure, this can be for a person; it can also very much be for a passion or purpose. For me, I have a deep love for humanity, that’s a constant compass in how I direct my journey. As each chapter was being written, I found myself in this internal push-pull; like a test of integrity. What was once a silent piece of paper, or unassuming laptop screen, became a wonderland of deep enquiry. My work began to ask me questions back;
- “Do you really embody the things you’re writing about?”
- “What are you true thoughts on honesty?”
- “What are the darker parts of yourself, you’re yet to accept?”
Love Out Loud became a place for me that was a haven. It was an extremely different relationship to the one I had with my audience, or my team. It was so incredibly personal and intimate. It taught me that there’s often a divide, as entrepreneurs, between what we truly feel, embody and believe, and what we see our market demanding of us.
It was a much-needed wake-up call. I gave myself the opportunity to become congruent, strong and centred in my philosophies of life, love and business. I dived deeply into months of teasing out finer ideas and decided my views around particular nuances of love. I became so much more able to lead, to have more meaningful conversations, and I became a more active-listener to the people around me. Being silent with myself, allowed me to truly be silent with others.
Writing a book taught me that, we become more effective and authentic leaders when we truly stop to be with ourselves. It makes a lot of sense as to why the likes of Albert Einstein, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs journaled. Writing gives you a deeply objective relationship with your own mind. The absence of feedback from your page, can become one of your greatest assets; as it will throw you into your own depth of self-enquiry. So often we’re influenced away from our true feelings and thoughts, especially in business, as the fear of negative feedback sways our standpoint. Yet, as Einstein said, “great minds will always have violent opposition”. Theatre taught me the importance of reading an audience, becoming influential, adaptable and agile; writing taught me the power to truly have the courage to stand in what it is I believe. The marriage of the two births, in my humble opinion, a remarkable and global leader. The more we become aligned to what it is we truly believe in, the greater and more precise the impact is we can make in the world.