What a Ride!

 

FF with FBOne of the things that you don’t expect when you give up the day job is the massive internal, personal changes that start to happen as you start out on your journey working full time in your own business.

First there is the good stuff – the massive increase in passion and purpose. It’s perfectly normal to start working at 6am in your nightie in front of the computer because your brain is racing and you need to get it all downloaded and in print on the screen before it melts like the springtime snow.

As you ease out of your employee mindset (not easy when you’ve been one for thirty-something years) you gain a new sense of yourself, of the things you achieve, the things you create and the changes you make in peoples lives with the stuff you have to offer.

Then there’s the darker side; the self doubt, the financial insecurity, the worry of not knowing how this story ends. These thoughts are hard taskmasters but they are also a gift. They force you to develop resilience, to dig deep and really earn your stripes as someone who is bringing something new to the world that will benefit the world. This life game is not for wimps!

One of the mental tussles I’ve been going through is how to actually bring that stuff to the world in a way that makes sense for me and my clients. In other words – what’s my niche? I’ve been doing ok as a generalist coach and trainer but I knew my message and my vehicle for delivering all these goodies needed honing. My lovely coach Leonie explained that it was like giving birth and ideas, like babies, need an incubation period.

Well, just like an expectant mother – and just as wise Leonie had said – it has taken almost nine months before I got well and truly whacked on the head with the ‘obvious stick’! Let me explain; all my life I’ve been a Communication junkie. I worked in Corporate Communications for 25 years and carried on parallel careers in theatre and comedy as well as becoming a coach and an accredited NLP practitioner. After much reflection I realised that it was no different now, and my passion continues to be how we speak to ourselves, how we speak to the world and how we speak to each other.

So the upshot of it all is I’ll be channeling my coaching and training through the mediums (media!) that I know and love best:

  • More Than Words – Powerful presentation coaching.
  • The Funny Farm – Stand up Comedy for Beginners
  • The Joy Protocol – comedy shows
  • Personal and Business Coaching

It’s very exciting because as soon as I knew exactly how I wanted to do all these things, exactly the right people showed up in my life to make it all happen and it’s happening soon!

As Bill Hicks said, this life is just a ride, and what a crazy wonderful ride it is!

Top 3 Emotions of my First Week in Business

maggie1 Last week I finished up in my day job. After commencing coaching and NLP studies last year and working part time on my coaching, training and comedy business, I’m putting out my shingle for the business on a full time basis. I’m using my experience of 25 years in corporate communications, 23 years in theatre and 12 years in stand-up comedy to teach people and organisations how to be clinically, chronically happy.

This first week has produced some interesting insights, so here are the top three things I’m feeling in my first week of working for myself:

 1. Freedom!

I’ve been a faithful wage slave since I was 16. If you take away my four years of study/uni that’s 32 years of getting up in the morning and attending a workplace. Now my workplace is in the spare room and I am totally responsible for how I shape my day, my week and my entire future. The resulting emotions are a mixture of ‘Eeeeek!’, Yay!’, and ‘Really’? It’s only been a week so at night I’m still dreaming that I’m conducting wrap up sessions for my team at work or working through the day to day issues of the office. And then I wake up and realise that’s all in the past now.

 2. Freak out!

Closely related to Freedom, the freak-out in the first week is the gap between the comfort of the schedule of work I’ve mapped out and the knowledge that until the business gets traction then its income will be less than desired (which is actually ok and normal – unearned income is fine as it goes but unsatisfactory in that it doesn’t show me whether I’m doing it right). I’m having to absolutely live what I teach, manage my mindset and take appropriate action, which is all very cool because it’s what I ask my clients to do and if I only talk the talk and don’t walk the walk I’m not being a very good role model.

3. Fun!

I am having the best of fun. I get to be home with the doggies and make hubby a cup of tea when he gets home (he still insists on making dinner). I get the quiet and solitude of working alone when I need to and I get the creative juices going working together with my great partners in comedy and coaching, and I get to go networking regularly, meet new people and strike up new relationships – the best of all worlds. I get to manage my time as I want it and when I go for acting and comedy gigs I don’t have to second guess myself as to whether it would work in ok with the day job .

This ‘self-employment’ thing is an experience unlike any I’ve ever had. I’m sure it will be something of a rollercoaster, but at least when the time comes I won’t be left wondering ‘what if’. Whatever happens, this is a time in life that I would not swap for anything!

If you’d like to work with me have a look at www.maggiewood.com.au (new coaching site coming soon) and email me on maggie@elegantconceptsgroup.com

Making the World a Better Place One Laugh at a Time

dab-93947_640 A conversation with a group of friends on the notion of success in comedy provoked me to write down for the first time my mantra when it comes to comedy.

I’ve verbalised it often enough but never written it down before and it has been an interesting exercise. It goes something like this:

I measure my success by the amount of laughs I get, because for those 5, 10, or 15 seconds everyone who is laughing has forgotten their worries. If there are 50 people in the audience and I get 6 good five second laughs during a spot then that’s a cumulative 25 minutes when the world in that room was totally bereft of sadness, worry or depression. We’re succeeding alright, reducing sadness laugh by laugh. 

You see, to me, comedy isn’t just that time you’re on stage with an audience. It’s all those other times too when you’re with one person or a group of people and the opportunity is there to observe the topics at hand from the lighter side, to expose the absurdity of the situations and to laugh about them rather than to worry them or fear them.

The psychology of laughter is a fascinating thing. Laughter byypasses the conscious mind and directly hit the subconscious. Creating that pathway brings a fertile ground for new and fresh thinking, destroying prejudices and other types of barriers to open thinking and so helps to build new neural pathways created by new thoughts that in turn allow new ways of being to be explored.

The physiology of laughter is also fantastic. That great big intake of breath for a belly laugh increases the oxygen in the blood. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases our immune system. It eases anxiety, improves one’s mood and builds your capacity for resilience.

Because of what I do I’ve become accustomed to looking for the funny angle of a situation before any other option and if I feel that will help whomever I’m speaking with, I’ll use it. It isn’t for every situation, obviously.

As a Coach and an NLP practitioner I know that when someone is in a state of appreciation and gratitude then it’s impossible for them to simultaneously run the strategies of fear and doubt. I believe the same is true of laughter – when one is consumed by laughter that flame extinguishes all negativity, even if only for a brief period of time.

I’ve always been in awe of my fellow comedians, especially female comedians who experience some tougher obstacles to a career of funniness than the blokes. I feel it is one of the noblest vocations around and the people who do it are delivering a lifesaving service to our communities. With all its health benefits comics should be able to bulk bill on Medicare!

After all, we’re just trying to make the world a better place, one laugh at a time.

I Close My Eyes and Jump

angel-81392_1280Goodness gracious what a week!

I had always imagined that when days arrive that will change my life, they would be huge and dramatic. Maybe fireworks and heavenly choirs, marching bands and trumpets, a boom or two of thunder and lightning splitting the sky.

But what really happened was an unprecedented overwhelming wave of peace, and then deep, deep inside I heard a quiet, loving voice say very firmly “No, enough. It is time now”.

And the decision that had to be made wasn’t scary. I have no doubts about the way forward, and indeed it seems to be the most natural, normal thing in the world.

So, what actually happened is that this week I resigned from my well-paid job to devote my life to coaching and training, to helping people get happy (and therefore successful) quickly and easily, and to have fun doing it using a combination of comedy and cutting edge science (for those that don’t know me I’m also an actor and comedian).

Just to re-emphasise, on Tuesday I had a six-figure, relatively safe government job, and now, after I work my notice, in about 3.5 weeks time I’ll be working for my own business Elegant Concepts Group.

What I’ve done goes against all conventional wisdom. Women my age (52) find it increasingly difficult to get decent work in the corporate sector, and those who tread cautiously would say that it really isn’t the time to be striking out on one’s own.

However, here’s the crux of the matter; for the past 30-odd years – most of my working life – I’ve been suppressing who I really am in order to fit into the ‘corporate box’. I’ve been living a double life; appearing on stage either in theatre or comedy in the evening and by day I’ve been hiding my true passions to fit in with everyone else, and in the process I’ve been exhausting myself physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have also been disappointing myself for not standing up for whatever oddity I feel I must be.

I have often looked with envy at people who love their 9 to 5 jobs and wished for some of the peace of mind they seem to have. But maybe they too are hiding their passions in some way to fit in with what our society asks of us. I know that for me, as I’ve got older, it has been increasingly difficult.

And then I had the health scares of the past couple of months (see previous post) to bring me to very sharp awareness of the fragility and transient nature of our time here on earth.

The key has been a question of alignment. I’ve been out of alignment and not living my values, and yet that is what I ask my clients to do, to live according to their values. How can I ask that of them when I haven’t done it myself?  That non-alignment has probably been at the basis of my health and stress problems. I can hear my old Scottish mum’s voice in my head “Ye cannay be the servant of two masters.” And that’s why I’m now giving up on one and following, with such a happy heart, the other.

I have the advantage of a fabulously supportive husband, my lovely Steven, who in his own quiet way has been pointing out my fierce defence of this middling stance for some time. And now I’ve stepped out of no-man’s-land and made the commitment he is with me all the way.

So, here goes. The countdown is on. I have my methodology and content that I want, no – need – to deliver, my products for individuals and corporates are almost ready, and even in the past few days opportunities have opened up that I would never have even noticed before. The Universe responds.

I close my eyes,

I take a big breath, and

JUMP!

The Best is Yet to Come

It has been a while since I’ve blogged again. It has been another time of great change, learning and processing. I’ve begun studies in Coaching and even in just the pre-intake learning, I’m learning so much about myself, about why I do the things I do and how I can take control of them, that I am very excited to be able to take this and so much more forward for the people I currently work with and those I will help in the future.

It’s one of those phases in life where it feels I’ve come home, even though I’ve never actually been here before.

It’s just the same as when I began studies for my degree in Communications, way back in the dark ages of 1985 where there was no such thing as a text book for PR and we learned it from a guy who’d been doing it since the 1950s!

At that time I also felt that I’d come home – the material was exciting and I was discovering new things about myself that I didn’t know I could do. I understood it all so easily and I was fortunate that it translated into a series of great jobs over the past 24 years.

And now my job has changed and I’m more in the business of people, and here I am discovering these studies about maximising the potential of people! And it feels like I’m in my 20s all over again, discovering new worlds and enthusing about it all to anyone who will listen (you included, dear reader!). I feel like a kid in a candy store, with so many goodies to learn about and apply to both myself and anyone who wants my help.

I started my Elegant Souls page on Facebook a few months back. I knew I had managed to improve my life beyond imagination over the past 17 years, mostly through self-taught principles, self help and spiritual books of the New Age flavour. Here’s the passage from Elegant Souls that explains its raison d’etre:

“In August 1994 I was married, eight months pregnant, in a dead end job and a one bedroom flat in Glasgow.
Then one morning I answered a knock at the door to find a policeman with a warrant for my husband’s arrest. My life was in shreds, and the other lies I uncovered that day tore it down even more. I was at the lowest point of my life.
Now in 2012 I’m living in the country of my dreams, in the house of my dreams, in a fantastic marriage to a great guy. I have wonderful friends, I have enjoyed creative and financial success and at age 50 and three quarters I reckon its time I put something back by showing others how they can turn their lives around like I did mine.”

I knew I wanted to help others, and I knew I needed help above and beyond my supportive family and husband. I contacted the lovely Linda Chaousis and she agreed to be my mentor and help me explore the pathway forward.

I came to realise I wanted a methodology behind what I did to help people to short circuit some of the laborious paths I’d taken. I did some research and came up with probably the best coaching school in Australia, The Coaching Institute. I’m totally in tune with the school’s ethos and look forward to completing my studies with this fantastic team.

I’ve started coaching already – both at work and in my out-of-work life –  and I’m looking forward to a trip to Melbourne soon to spend some time with my instructors and fellow students.

I’m now 51 and a bit – the time in my parents’ lives when they were winding down to retirement and settling for whatever they could have. Not me! I’m stepping out into the most exciting time of my life yet – the best is yet to come.

Woo hoo – what a ride!

A flask of tea and some sweeties

 

Easter Monday. The words have been in the back of my mind all day like a reminder

Ben Lomond Winter Sunset - across the loch from the south

that wasn’t quite working. What did they mean? Or to be more exact what did they used to mean? I pushed it to the back of my mind and got on with a pretty busy and productive day (I love days at home) but still it eluded me.

I’ve just lain down on our bed for a few minutes of doing nothing and it all came flooding back.

For a few years between 1978 and 1983 Easter Monday was a tradition held by my mum and I. Normally dad would be working (he was a bread baker and had to get the stocks ready for the hungry hordes the following day, already deprived of three days of bread shopping!).

Back than I couldn’t drive so Mum and I would book a day trip – a bus run – for Easter Monday. Our favourite destination was Oban, a coastal town further north on the West Coast of Scotland.

Leaving Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow between 8 and 9am the bus would take the road north and west that remains to this day one of my favourite road trips.

Heading out of Glasgow and along the northern banks of the Clyde we’d pass through the affluent west end then Coatbridge and Dumbarton before veering north just past Ballantines Distillery with it’s security geese in the grounds. A curious coincidence is that this is the favourite whisky of my husband who I only met a few years ago!

As we came close to Loch Lomond the countryside became much more lush. That was one of the things I loved about Glasgow – within half an hour you could be up at Loch Lomond and be in an entirely different world to the great city. Lomondside, if you’ve never been there, should be on your bucket list. It’s possibly one of the most beautiful areas in the world. There is more remote eastern side that’s much harder to access, and then the easily accessible western side with its stops like the Village of Luss for sheer picturesque beauty, Cameron House hotel, Duck Bay Marina and towards the top of the loch the fantastic and ancient Drovers Inn at Inverarnan where all the male bar staff wear kilts ;o).

By this time we’d be well and truly in the Highlands and I’d marvel at the mountains -ancient monoliths, often still capped with snow at that time of year – and then the bus would turn west and take the high Rest and Be Thankful pass  before going through the pretty town of Inverary and heading north again, then west and landing in Oban about three or four hours after departure.

There would be time enough there for lunch and a wander along the harbour before returning to the bus and setting off homewards.

One thing about Oban was that it would always rain. Even if it wasn’t raining anywhere else, you could come over the top of the hill and descend into the town only for raindrops to greet you. I remember heading off there for a weekend with a bunch of pals. We were dressed for summer as there had been a heatwave in Glasgow and there hadn’t been rain for about six weeks – unheard of! Nevertheless, the bus got to the top of the hill, started to go down towards the town and on came the rain! I can confidently predict that Oban sells more umbrellas than any other town in the UK – I know we always had to buy one.

My mum loved the country versions of the city chain stores and the tourist souvenir stores. We always had to take a tacky present back for dad and the obligatory stick of rock that had ‘Oban’ written through it. There was some bloke who was an artist who had a shop that sold all sorts as well as his art. The shop always had stuff about ‘the bridge over the Atlantic‘, which was actually a bridge to the island of Seil, if my memory serves me right, which wasn’t that far off the mainland, and not as exciting as it seemed. The shop would always have some right ‘heedrum hodrum’ tourist Scottish music playing too.  The town had also gained some fame in the early 80s as well as it became known that Princess Diana’s mother lived close by and so all the royal paraphenelia also started to infiltrate the shops.

After a lunch of fish and chips we’d be quite happy to get back on the bus, tired from all the fresh air (as we told ourselves) and head back home. It wasn’t the most exciting time on earth, but I’m glad we had that time together, me and mum.

These days I live on the other side of the world. My mum passed away in 1995. My son is practically grown and we celebrate Easter Australian style with my Aussie husband and my family.  I’m a million miles away in time and distance from the Easter Monday bus runs. And then a nudging in the back of my mind makes me sit down and Google our routes and sends memories back to me of how I learned to love the Highlands. Just me and my wee mammy sitting on the bus with a flask of tea and some sweeties for the trip. Good times.

Happy Easter!

Still Standing

It would seem that once again life is showing me that it conspires to provide everything needed for progress – whatever you define that progress to be.

Since my last post around about the middle of February ( I think) I’ve undergone some pretty massive changes in my life. We had the Three Stuffed Mums season at the Adelaide Fringe that went until mid-March. At the same time, at the beginning of March I left my job at a place I felt very much at home and in an occupation that I’ve been undertaking for the past 24 or so years and took up a new post in a new organisation. It has been a challenging move and yet one that I’m amazed that I feel so comfortable with. I’m learning loads about myself, about my passions and about the job. In short, I’m having fun!

The show’s season went well and part of the reason that I haven’t been blogging here is because, with our marketing budget of zero I decided to try to get the word out about the show by blogging almost daily on the Talkfringe website. While I’d love to give you a rundown of the season, maybe its best if I just repost my final blog there that sums up everything the season meant to us. So, here it is below:

GOODNIGHT AND GOODBYE

The Three Stuffed Mums – myself, Kate Burr and Kehau Jackson -took our traditional last night of the Fringe off and repaired to the excellent dining facilities of The Maid for a lovely dinner with Candace, our sound person, Mike Pitman, our musical director and our partners Steven and Glynn. Unfortunately Jeff, Kate’s husband, was home with a poorly toddler Lily (get well soon little Lil!).
It was a fitting end to an arduous season. Along with all the other Fringe acts we coped with boiling temperatures, flooding rains, the whine of the V8s and the competition from the Festival, Womad, Clipsal and the extra 180 or so shows who were all competing for the punters’ money.
But we did it, we got here. 17 shows over four weeks, dodgy reviews, good reviews, audiences who were quiet, raucous, drunk, sober – you name it. We were refining our standup from the first performance to the last, we were punching the air when we came in on time and professing to do better on the odd occasion we over ran by a few minutes. We saw the birth of a new comedy duo – Ajit Daliwahl and Amy Manuel as Ajitating Amy – and celebrated the legacy of now-passed but forever with us comedy legend Dave Grant.
This Fringe helped us to live life to the full for four glorious weeks, to put ourselves and our skills on the line, to spread laughs and for a short while to help others forget their worries. I can’t think of any higher calling than that of the jester, the comic, the (hopefully) wise fool. We hold a mirror to our selves and to our world, and in laughing at the hard stuff, the bad stuff, we remove its power over us.
Goodnight and goodbye Adelaide Fringe 2012. Seeya next time.
Maggie x