All posts by nleaper

Choosing busy (the right kind of busy…)

 

Choosing busy
Image courtesy of Unsplash

I keep getting told how busy I am – the inference being that it’s a bad thing.

And sometimes it can be… and… mostly, right now, I feel lucky that I’m choosing busy.  My exact design of busy.

Choosing Busy

I am choosing to study – and I love it.  I really love learning.  My Wednesday mornings spent studying (group calls, reading, audios, notes) are such a joy.  Me. My (newly tidied) desk.  My view out the window.  Devouring knowledge.  What a luxury.

I choose to work at Imagination (part time, a definite choice on my part, out here) – and I enjoy the people, the conversations, the ability to provide a space for options and discussions and thoughts and … well, just a space for people to breathe.

I choose to coach bright, sparkling individuals – more conversations, which lift me up, make me feel lighter and buoyed by all that is possible in this world… The chance to be a mirror to all their talents and gifts and value.  This is a real honour – that literally feeds my soul (quite possibly more than it does theirs… but I hope not…)

I choose to go boxing.  Michele Aboro at Aboro Academy is not only an undefeated world champion, a Londoner, and a resident of Shanghai – she also makes me laugh more than anyone else I know could at 7am in the morning!  Her classes make me ache SO much… and yet the sense of pride they bring out in me, when I can still walk the next day… they keep me coming back…

I choose to run and to cross train and to cycle and to move this body of mine every day (ok – most days) for at least a little bit.  And I’ve learnt (thanks to my 100 day challenge) that this is not a chore.  It gives me space. It lets me burn off and work out and process all sorts of thoughts and issues and ‘stuff’ that would otherwise consume my brain.  Sometimes on my own. Sometimes with others.  Both are useful.

And all these choices support the day to day running around that I do in honour of the little people and their schedules.  Football, choir, netball, craft, swimming…

Yes, I am frequently rushing (cycling, mostly) from a to b to c and back to b (again and again and again) AND…. this is the choosing busy that makes me smile and feel grateful.

I know how lucky I am to have been able to create this life that I love out here in Shanghai.  It keeps me in action.  It is rarely static.  And there is always a ‘balance’ to be moving towards…

And sometimes, I get to choose stopping. Sitting. Reading. A cup of tea with a friend. An evening on the sofa (currently chomping my way through This Is Us – which I love!).  Or today… a massage at Dragonfly… a short cycle ride down the road…

It’s not overwhelm.

This is the choosing busy that makes me feel alive.  My choices.  Changing all the time.

How to say goodbye

how to say goodbye

I’m working on learning how to say goodbye.

It’s come round to that time of year again in Shanghai and so on top of goodbyes for the summer, there are the longer term ex-pat life goodbyes as families head off on the next part of their adventure.

I’m trying to get better at making the goodbyes feel less awkward. And it’s hard.

There are the people that I have spent the last two years with, closely connected. The people who made our move out here so much simpler than it ever should have been. Who found houses and school places. Who had BBQ’s and beer and ‘gave’ us their network of friends. What words there can express my deepest thanks and the strange shaped hole that will be left?

And then there are the people who smiled and said hello whenever they saw me and the gang. Who knowingly laughed along as I cajoled three kids on bikes with bags to school in the morning. Who took 3 minutes out of their day whenever I saw them to ask how I was doing. Who had the kids over for play dates or took them to parties to make my day a little easier when it was all a bit chaotic.

These are the unsung players in our adventure out here. We each have our own network of close friends, but these ‘extras’, these friendly faces, these awesome supporters… how can I say goodbye to them appropriately?

Each person I interact with out here shapes my overall experience. And yet the majority of these interactions are just so transient. Adding up to mere minutes of a life well spent… and yet…

I don’t want to ignore or avoid the goodbyes. I want to find a way to honour them. To let them know that their small kindnesses won’t be forgotten. They had an impact on me. They made a positive difference to me and my family.

And it’s been made more awkward for me this year, as I run off early from the school year – to have my own goodbye elsewhere…

I’m on my way to California for the last time – finishing up my Leadership course. How on earth do I say goodbye to those guys? My tribe. Well, maybe with those I’ll stick to Au Revoir or Hasta Luego…

Because what I do know is that these days, goodbye never has to be final. But for me, it does need to be heartfelt.

So maybe that is how to say goodbye.

Simply.

Honestly.

From the heart.

I will miss those that I no longer get to see regularly. And I will look forward to those precious moments when our paths unexpectedly cross again.

Leaning in to the Gender Pay Gap

Leaning in to the Gender Pay Gap

How do we go about leaning in to the gender pay gap?

This story began a long time ago for me.  While I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment in time when gender equality became a ’cause’ for me (as opposed to something that I just thought I could work myself harder to get over), I know that the flames were fanned by the publishing of the phenomenon that was Lean In.

A friend of mine, the uber talented Harriet Minter (journalist, speaker and women in leadership advocate) wrote a great piece last week in The Pool about whether Lean In was still relevant today – concluding that yes it was, even with all its faults.

“It’s relevant because it shows all of us clearly exactly how the power structure is set up to support men and discourage women. It’s relevant because it challenges us all to take action in our own lives and not settle for less than we’re worth. And it’s relevant because it started a discussion about women and work without which I’m not sure we’d be where we are today.”

So what now?

Well, right now in the UK (which still counts as home whenever I get a chance to rant…) companies with over 250 employees are required to publish their gender pay gap figures for the first time by end of day today.

This has been a hanging question on my part for at least the last three years – since just before I went on my final maternity leave when it was just starting to get discussed as a possibility.

To find out what UK employers are required to publish, together with the explanations of the data requested – plus a link to the database of what companies have published –  click here

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reading a selection of the published reports.

Some have made my blood boil. Made me so angry that I didn’t know what to do or say in response. The tone cursory and derisive.  Explaining that it really wasn’t an issue at all. Just historical fact (repeating itself, again and again).

Some have come across as transparent and written in good, if slightly awkward, faith – making me believe that closing the gender pay gap is being taken seriously in at least some quarters.

And some have had positive stories of negative pay gaps that could have been spinned…but instead they faced the fact that they had other gender equality issues to face. Other areas to improve.  That their work was, in fact, far from done.  These are the ones that had the most uplifting impact on me – the ones that openly acknowledged that there were still so many ways to be better.

And then as a working female, I was left with a lingering, uncomfortable question.

What’s next?

What’s the next step?

I’m a firm believer that once a step is taken, once we get beyond thinking and into action, the ground will rise to meet the foot to complete the next step.  The path will become clear.  But this time? I wasn’t so sure…

Until I started talking about it with some of my Leadership tribe – who made me realise that my staying quiet was just my own fear getting the better of me…(& if I can’t face my fears of not being liked and speak out, in the absurdly lucky & enjoyable position that I have managed to create,  then who the hell can? )

Plus a non-response would be a complete disservice to the empowerment & equality of women – something that I have been working on for years – for myself, my teams and anyone who in any way stood to benefit or be inspired by even the smallest step in the right direction.

So here goes…

Here’s how I think we can start leaning in to the gender pay gap

Firstly, if you’re angry (as I most certainly have been) then read this – some of the tone still chafes a little, suggesting that now is not the time to be belligerent (which I get, but – if not now, when???…) – but their proactive suggestions around actively making your bosses feel the heat, interrogating the promises to do better and being on the look out for corporate hogwash are helpful – and if followed en masse, might just help keep the fires of discomfort burning a little longer, which can only help shift the conversations along another notch or two…

And then I came up with my own list of questions that I would want to be finding answers to, if I were an employee in the UK today…

If the gender balance of the company is significantly out of kilter – what are the Leadership of the company doing to balance that out? Diversity (in all its forms) offers a strategic and financial competitive edge to companies.  McKinsey have been reporting on this for years.  If the company isn’t actively listening to that message and acting upon it – why not?

How many Board & Senior Management positions are held by females?  On the assumption that this is not sat at the same level as males, what are the company’s plans to address this? What initiatives do the Leadership Team have in place to support the promotion of women into more senior positions?  How do they actively support and promote flexible working? What % of their women who leave on maternity, return?

Do the company have a good story to tell on a role-by-role basis?  If yes, why not openly share that data? It is illegal to pay men more than women for the same work, but it’s hard to get actual data here as no-one likes to talk about money and companies often make it feel as if it is  ‘not allowed’ to talk about your salary (& bonuses & package etc etc).   However it is important to know that The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to prevent employees from having discussions to establish if there are differences in pay.  So be brave. Get asking… (More info from ACAS on that and what ‘equal pay’ actually means here…)

What are the Leadership actually DOING to address the real-time pay differential? What is their plan? What are the details?

What timescale do they have in mind to achieve what hoped for results? Do they have a Diversity Champion on the Leadership Team? What diversity metrics are being tracked at Board level? And how often?What are they aiming for – and by when? It’s sad but true that there won’t be an overnight fix but… when it comes to efforts, what gets tracked, measured and reported gets focused and acted upon…

Do they have a clear, open channel of communication for anyone who wants to talk about the Gender Pay Gap Report data now that it is published? If not, why not? If yes, has it been strongly communicated to all employees (from the top down, at each & every level) that the Leadership want to actively engage in this conversation with people?

How are raises given? And bonuses awarded? Are there standard procedures? Scales against which these are awarded based on merit? Are they transparent? These factors can weigh more heavily the more ‘loyal’ you are to a company and if they are entirely ‘discretionary’ based on individual Managers feelings, then you are at more risk.  Be aware.

Why do women leave the company? What Exit Interview data do they hold on this? And what actions have they taken to address any recurrent issues?

And what if you feel that your working life is okay right now?

Well, firstly – hurrah – I’m super pleased for you.  Share your story – and that of your company, because right now, I feel we could all use some good news.

And still…

My advice would be to read the data, and the stories, from as many similar or interesting companies as you can. Get a feel for the tone, the words, the personal, the truth…

Even if you think it’s not relevant to you now, I can promise you that knowledge, and informed opinion, can quickly become power in the right hands.  So better those hands be yours…

Work out what IS important to you right now about the company you work for (or the company you want to work for) and see how they stack up against your desires.  You are entitled to want things.  You do not have to simply be ‘grateful’ for the fact that you have a job.

It is by being curious and voicing your questions that we all get to start leaning in to the gender pay gap.

Leaning in to leaning out

 

leaning in to leaning out
image courtesy of unsplash

Leaning in to Leaning Out – the beginning

This journey started a long time ago – way before I could ever put words to it.

I spent my twenties working hard.  I got the job of my dreams and threw myself into it – heart, soul, hours, days and months. And I loved it. I stepped up and did things I could hardly believe. I worked with great people. Helped amazing events be realised. Worked for more hours than I would have thought physically possible. And I loved it.  And I was leaning so far in that when I fell over – I didn’t think anything of it. I just got back up & started again.

I got to travel and live abroad. I knew how ‘lucky’ I was and I loved it.

I got to choose to go ‘back home’ and carry on working with an amazing team. And I remember saying to my boss, one appraisal time, that what I really wanted was HIS job.

And what I remember now, more than anything else, is that he said: ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.

That was it though. I had set my stall out and that was what I was going to achieve.

Except when I started to get close, I started to realise that I wasn’t loving it quite as much any more. And this is where time started to slow.

right.

down.

It took years for me to realise that I didn’t want to go to where I was headed anymore.  That my heart was no longer in it. I was too scared and embarrassed to change course. To stop leaning in to what I had ‘wanted’ for so long – because if I stopped leaning in to that, what would support me? What would hold me up?  Who could I possibly be without the title, the pay cheque, the benefits, the ‘status’?

Leaning In to Leaning Out – the middle

Two years ago, I wrote this post... about how I was feeling. About the questions that were starting to form in my head. The options that were (slowly) becoming visible…

And I realised that I could ‘lean out’ from my previous choices. From what I assumed was ‘expected’ of me by others. From ‘the norm’. From the ‘corporate ladder’.  From London and everything I thought I had wanted…

I could lean out and follow my hearts desire – even if friends and family thought I was mad.

I could lean out and risk the loss of personal benefits for the gain of feeling like I was helping others little by little, to make some small corners of the world a little bit better, brighter, and less rigid.

Leaning in to Leaning Out:  The end?  No.

The Fresh Start!

So, two years on – and this week I got to set the new baby live:

Nicki Leaper Coaching

It’s petrifying.  My name, my words, my hopes and dreams are out there for everyone and anyone to comment on – and I’m well aware that it won’t all be kind.

And you know what? I don’t care.

Because this time round, I was a lot more careful what I wished for – and my leaning out has opened up a whole new world of possibilities – and I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me.

(PostScript: I need to credit the rather wonderful Jessica McClure for the use of the phrase and sentiment behind Leaning Out.  When she told me about the Lean Out groups she runs, something just clicked – and so if you’re in or around the Seattle, WA region, and this has touched a nerve – get in touch with Jessica.  You won’t regret it.)

Leaning in to family adventures

leaning in to family adventures

Leaning in to family adventures… not falling over(board)

It’s amazing how one shift can change everything.

When we were back in London, we planned holidays to be as stress free and simple as possible… for the kids.  Portugal worked well. Short flight. No time difference. Resort life with buffet breakfast and kids club activities. A couple of hours ‘off’ in the afternoon with a book and a sunlounger.  Perfect.

And don’t get me wrong.  They worked. The little people were happy (relatively). We knew what we were buying into. We could pretty much guarantee sunshine. Our best friends were down the road.

And then came Shanghai.

Suddenly, holidays took a different slant… and we needed to find a way to embrace the changes.

Shanghai is a very long way away from most places, it would appear (other than the rest of China, obviously) –  but sometimes, we really want to get away from China… for a few days…

Plus… we’re in Asia.  We have chosen to change our entire world.  So we need to change our outlook on holidays as well…  It’s time for us to really start leaning in to family adventures.  Because adventure was the main reason we made this life change and it’s a huge value for me to honour (read more about that here).

And so this Lunar New Year we headed off to Hoi An, Vietnam – after a busy start to the calendar year.

And there starts the adventure…

Whatever it takes to get everyone to the final destination in one piece is just fine…

We had connecting flights via Hong Kong (which is a very civilised transfer airport, I must say…)

LeapPads while queuing for immigration? Fine.

Fries for breakfast while waiting for the flight? No problem.

Every single adult device known to man running the plane movie selection – with and without headphones involved – yep, that works for us.

The kids hate the travelling.  “It’s a dull and boring day” as the littlest one took to shouting.  Loudly. & Frequently.  So I’ll bribe any moments of non shouting peace I can get.

We made it to our hotel – and we were all still talking. Result.

(The fact that us grown ups had to climb through our wardrobe to get to the bathroom for the first two nights is irrelevant – another story for another time about cultural differences that do not show up on TripAdvisor!)

The little ones are brave

And I am a wussy-wuss.  Official designation, given to me by the eldest.

The swimming pools were not heated, and lets not forget that Vietnam is still northern hemisphere, so this is winter!

Do the kids care? No.

Do they laugh when I care? Yes.

Every single day I ‘ooohhed’ and ‘ahhhed’ my way into the swimming pools to join them on whatever freeze-inducing adventure they were creating.  They just leapt. Time and time again. Until they were blue and their teeth were chattering.  Then they got out. Asked for a snack. And went and did it all again.

The youngest and middlest went in fully clothed because they just couldn’t wait.

I couldn’t drag the eldest one out at the end of every afternoon.

And the littlest spent most of her time wandering around talking to any and every stranger she could find.  She co-opted more people to help her gather her swim toys every day than I thought possible.  She wanted something – she just asked whoever was nearest to help.

The little ones have absolutely no interest in sight-seeing

They are (mostly) happy to ‘see’ whatever happens to be passing them by on route to the swimming pool. Or to more food. Or to the people selling the LED ‘flingy things’ that they want. But if we try to take them ‘sight-seeing’ – no way.

They just take it all in their stride.  Everywhere they look is new and different and they just swallow it all up.  They don’t need to feel like they are ‘doing’ Hoi An.

The little ones amazed me by expressing gratitude

Ok, it was short lived. And did follow a supply of treats one afternoon.  But as I was waxing lyrical about the joys and privilege of travel (& how different it felt all these years on from my big Asia adventure with my father in tow) the middlest one said to us that he was grateful that we were spending the money we worked for on taking the gang to different places… and the other two begrudgingly agreed that it was indeed, quite a nice thing for us to do. All together. As a family adventure.

That made me quite proud of our gang.

And that’s a feeling well worth leaning in to whenever possible.

A Bridge to the New Year

bridge
Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

The Bridge

It started out as an end of year review.  My completion ritual (you can read more about that here).

I like finding the time to look back and celebrate the year that has been.  Take stock of the positives – what I’ve done, what I’ve learnt, how I’ve grown – rather than just focus on what ‘next’ I want for the New Year.

This time round, I used a format suggested by Unstuck (which you can find here) and enjoyed thinking about what my achievements had been (personally & professionally), how I had grown and what I had enjoyed most over the year.

What surprised me here was how many physical things were on my ‘most enjoyed’ list: Lake swimming in Finland, my pole climbing escapades in Sonoma, yoga classes that made me cry… I hadn’t realised how alive doing that kind of stuff really made me feel.

A good friend then suggested that we build on the reflection – and create our plans for 2018, based on appreciation for the positives of 2017… So creating a bridge between what has been, and what is yet to come…

For anyone who wants to do the same thing, the questions that got added in, to look forwards, are:

  • Who did I become in 2017, to achieve, learn & enjoy so much?
  • Specifically, how would I like to deepen this learning and forward this action in 2018?
  • Who will I need to become this year to do that?

My bridge

Well, my bridge very clearly stems from ‘challenges’.

Last year I really challenged myself – to step outside of my comfort zone (and not just physically) – to see how I could grow.  I made myself act braver (& then found out that by acting braver, I became braver).

I took one step. And then the next step. And by the end of the year I found myself somewhere quite different to where I had expected – in lots of ways.

I can run 10k (slowly, and with little style, but…).

I do write (and people do respond).

I have a (small and perfectly formed) roster of coaching clients and I LOVE coaching.

I allowed myself to go on big adventures, not knowing quite what they would bring.  I made myself uncomfortable and I kept on trying new things, in new places, with new people – all of which has had a huge impact on how I head forwards.

And so how do I want to deepen this learning and move the action forward this new year?

I want to do more. Try more. Challenge myself more.

I want to move my body more. And more often. In new and different ways. (Hawaii / Paddleboarding here I come…)

I want to keep ‘in action’.  Do / move / fail / recover / repeat.

Who will I need to become this year to do that?

Me.  Just braver.  More passionate. More vulnerable.  More willing to try and fail.

The Golden Gate Bridge

And the best part for me? The bridge at the top of this post, the Golden Gate Bridge, will get to be a powerful reminder, at least twice more, of the choices I’m making and the actions I’m taking as I head back out to Sonoma for the next half of my Leadership studies.

I’m not sure its possible to drive over this bridge without smiling and feeling inspired – as to all that is around us, and all that is waiting for us on the other side.

Here’s to a great 2018.  Where is your bridge going to take you?

Full of Thanks

Thanks
Image courtesy of Jessica Bristow – Unsplash

Thanksgiving

Just the best holiday ever, as far as I’m concerned.  I adopted it wholeheartedly when we lived in NYC and with an American daughter, it’s now a firm favourite in this English / American / Chinese household.

Why do I love Thanksgiving so much?

Because it’s not about presents.

Because it is about people. And gratitude.

For me, it’s about putting words of thanks together into sentences and saying them out loud to the people who really matter in my world.

To my eldest, the American: to say thanks for the spirit with which she shows up to everything in her life.  She is like a tornado – moving at speed, causing untold chaos around her, very focused on the current ‘thing’ and then very fast to switch attention to the next ‘thing’.  She is strong willed, independent and fiery – and she challenges me every single day to be a better person.  So I can set the best possible example to her of a life well lived.

To my middle one, the Brit: to say thanks for the emotion that he brings to all that he does.  He is full of hugs and laughter and tears and rage and he lets it all run through him openly and then, exhausted, lets it pass and moves on swiftly.  He is the performer and the kind hearted caregiver.  This is the boy who is not afraid to love.  He reminds me to apply ‘equality’ in his direction as well as his sisters.

To my littlest, my ever-more Chinese bundle of joy: to say thanks for the joy and the cheek with which she embraces her world.  She takes her chances, she embraces risk.  There’s nothing her older siblings can do that she wouldn’t try (if I would let her!)  She uses her charm to her own advantage… and melts the heart of whoever is trying to tell her to do differently.  She reminds me to have fun – every day, in the smallest of ways.

And to my hubby.  My globe-trotting partner in crime.  Thanks for the continued adventure of a lifetime.  It may not always be easy, but it is never dull.

Falling gently into fall

Fall
Image courtesy of Jakob Owens – Unsplash

Fall vs. Autumn

Autumn is finally here in Shanghai.  I am loving it.  The skies are blue. The air is (currently) fresh and the temperature is wonderful.  Back in Britain, these days wold have felt like the heady days of Summer. Here though, it is wonderfully Autumn.  But it makes me struggle with the Fall vs. Autumn thing.

The leaves here are very reluctant to fall.  They change colour (a bit… my soul belongs in New England in the Fall) but they hang on to the trees, they linger.  They do not ‘fall’.  It seems they wait until Spring when new leaves literally have to push them off the branches.  So I am missing the piles of dry leaves to kick around it, and I therefore am struggling with the concept that this is Fall.  It’s not.

So I get to remain British and claim the word Autumn instead.

The air in the morning, as I cycle the eldest down to the school gate, is fresh and crisp.  It wakes me up and makes me smile.  Plus it means that I need a ‘pointless top‘ to just keep the chill off – so, I am in heaven.  I was built for Autumn.

And still the golden sunlight in the mid to late morning is warm – and so I can happily sit on the football field and wait for however long, as whichever of the kids finishes off playing.  These days are rare.  I’ll be less keen on the early Sunday football starts when I need to bundle everyone up and keep jogging on the spot to keep warm while watching…

Fall away

Now is also one of my favourite times to start afresh.  The ‘other‘ Spring clean time.

We have had a habit of moving house (country, continent) around this time. So with that, and the new school year, it is always a time of clearing. Decluttering. Letting things ‘fall away‘ to create some space for growth, for change.

The storage cupboard was finally tackled at the weekend. As was ‘the study‘. It was a room that we really didn’t use.  It had sofas and bookshelves and tables and… and… boxes of paperwork that had never been sorted through.

It’s still (very much) a work in progress. But it is less cluttered.  We can see the wood for the trees.  I can sit on the (one) sofa now and look out of the window, towards the trees and the sky and I can see how I can create a room of my own here.

My space. For my work. (It’s a L’Oréal moment – because I’m worth it…)

It’s just one of those things that a woman should have…(OK, a dubious link to this, but – a good friend shared this with me yesterday and it was too good to not pass on…This is the woman I hope I can grow into)

Fall. Let it Unfold

Another wise friend shared this post with a gang of us – about letting life unfold – and it seemed to sit well with the slowing down of Fall. Of Autumn.

What would happen if I stopped trying to rush. Stopped trying to ‘achieve‘ and instead just ‘experienced‘ all that life was sending my way?

What if I could stop trying to fast-forward through the awkward bits – to get to the so-called good bits – and instead trust that it was all moving along just as was intended?

What if, like the Shanghai trees, I could just let it unfold – knowing full well that everything would happen just in time for the next thing?Even if it didn’t fit into my pre-ordained schedule.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?

 

Can I have some help please?

Help
Image courtesy of Nikko Macaspac – Unsplash

Help anyone?

So, the Leadership course that I’m (super enthusiastically) working my way through sets us tasks and inquiries – to support the learnings we had while we were all together. And this weeks inquiry is to do with our relationship with asking for help.

Any in all honesty, my relationship here sucks.

So, the task to undertake was to try and find at least five opportunities to ask for help where you might not normally, and see what happens.

So… this is where the challenge starts… but I’m going to claim an early win here, from the return leg of our vacation.

Help me to fly

Ok, so that’s a bit of a stretch but…

We had a great Golden Week holiday in Bali.  And I’m a fan of direct flights where possible… but the reality of 01:30 kicked in loud and clear at about 20:00 on the night of the flight, and suddenly our allocated seats at the busy front end of economy (to hit the Immigration Hall as swiftly as possible) were not looking so charming – with three tired, grouchy and borderline unwell kids.

I have a tendency to assume there is little point trying to sweet talk airline staff, and so normally would have just ‘made do’ with what we had allocated… but… why not? Why not just ask…? Is the back of the plane quieter? Could you move us so that we could hopefully be able to spread out a bit and find a way for the kids to lay out and sleep a bit on the way home?

One cute toddler smile (littlest is still super useful being cute at this point in her life)… and yes… moved to the back of the plane where our 5 seats managed to spread into 7, and then 9, during the flight.  One tiddler sleeping on a blanket in the floor in front of me (well, she’s still pretty small), middlest and eldest bundled out across 2 seats each… and hubby managed to see off a Chinese contender for three middle seats and a couple of hours kip in between some email clearing.

Yet again, it appears that if you’re able to ask (politely, and without assuming you are owed anything) sometimes the universe comes through for you…

So, what else do I need help with?

My course taught me (very clearly!) not to be overly specific in my demands for help, rather to simply ask and see what might happen when people have the opportunity to help in the way they want – rather than the way I would typically prescribe so…

I’ve decided to lay out my current wishlist – to see what the universe comes back with.

Parenting 101 Help

I’m trying to raise 3 small children, whilst living abroad in a wonderfully amusing yet challenging city, a long way from my small but well honed support network – and I’m finding it hard.  Eldest is a ‘spirited, independent, strong-willed’ chip off the old block (b*gger – it’s sometimes like looking in a damned mirror!), eldest and middlest fight like cat and dogs, and littlest, whilst still super cute, has decided it’s time for her to find her voice in the family… But I don’t need any more voices to try and listen to. I can barely hear my own… Can I have some help here please?

Add to this a desire to still keep a marriage / partnership in tact – rather than just feeling like co-minders of a small zoo.  I think you can sense the personal struggles here…

Friendship 3.0 / 4.0 / 5.0 Help

I keep moving. I keep heading off around the world, and my nearest and dearest have done so well at holding the fort for so long for me that the scorecard is weighted heavily in their favour. How can I keep my longest and most important friendships alive across the miles and years (3.0), whilst truly allowing myself to open up enough to make some real friendships out here (4.0) – without the fear that everyone is essentially just at some part of the ‘moving on’ phase of ex-pat life?

And then how do I successfully manage the amazing new global network of friends (5.0) that I have made through my studies and adventures? I struggle with enough hours in a day, let alone managing the time zone game…

Portfolio Career Help

I’m a solid Gen X, not Millenial.

I’m not a digital native and yet I want to find a way to utilise the new ‘social’ networks to showcase myself as a brand – with multiple, linked, well developed and seriously studied strands of talent and interest.

How can I best serve a company that I still love, whilst also developing myself to be the best leader and coach that I possibly can be? So that my wider aim of inciting positive change, and inspiring real action to support true working ‘equality’ can be met?

And does this one not really boil down to – how can I show up as the best leader I can be?

Answers on a postcard please… Oops sorry, showing my age there.  Add a comment. Email me. Facebook me a thought…

I’ve decided that all offers of help will be welcome – however they show up.

Actually, I can

actually, I can

Can I have two Mondays and enjoy them both? Actually, I can!

A story of Time Travel and Bravery – via the Golden Gate Bridge

So I’ve started in on a ten-month Leadership programme that involves the unfortunate requirement of having to go to Sonoma, California four times.  It’s a hardship, I’m sure you can imagine.

I left Shanghai about midday on the Monday, and thanks to a rather brilliant United flight made it safely to San Francisco for about 0830 on that same Monday morning.  Confused? My head was.

My first Monday, aboard the plane, was about as nice as it can be – aboard a plane.  I ate, I drank, I slept, I read a bit.  Traveling without the three little ones in tow really is a pleasure.  I now truly get why hubby doesn’t mind all his to-ing and fro-ing.  No one gets to ask anything of me on the plane – other than whether I want beef or chicken!

My second Monday was pretty awesome too.

I picked me up a fantastic little Fiesta (can’t kick the Ford-ness out of me, no matter how you might try) and headed from the airport through San Fran and out across the Golden Gate Bridge and down in to Sausalito.  How could that drive not make you smile?

I can

When did I last get to explore on my own? To just meander around, stopping whenever and wherever I wanted?  Well, on this second chance Monday, that’s exactly what I did.

Iced coffee and cookie overlooking the city? Yes please.

Hearty singing to a truly bad playlist, whilst happily following Google Maps? Actually, I can. (With a little help from SYNC technology – sorry, couldn’t help but put that little plug in there!)

And then a night to myself in a gorgeous hotel in Napa – the River Terrace Inn.

And that’s when I decided to be brave.  (After a little power nap to head off the jet-lag snoozes.) I could have just hibernated in my room. Grabbed some room service, watched some bad TV and gone to bed early.  I was on my own after all. And I didn’t know the place at all.  But instead I decided to take myself out for dinner.  To get in the car, and drive myself 30mins up the road to head to the Auberge du Soleil for dinner.

In pre children times, hubby and I had talked about heading there for a Napa Valley vacation, but it just never happened. Other things did instead.

So I took myself there.  I got a table out on the veranda. And I sat there, with my book, surrounded by people on dates, and I felt brave and happy. And well fed!

Actually, I can!

And that kind of sums up how the rest of the week went.  I got to challenge so many of my own assumptions of what I can and cannot do.

Can I walk into a room of 20 or so strangers and tell my story of why I’m there? Actually, I can.

Can I show up and really listen to all their stories, even when uncomfortable, or heartbreaking, or both – and not try and ‘fix the problem’ but instead just listen? Actually, I can.

Can I climb a 20ft wooden pole, stand on the wobbly top and then jump off it – knowing that this group has got my back?

I can
Yep – that’s me up there. Crapping my pants!

Actually, I can.

There were a whole pile of other, smaller wins as well.

Can I sit and talk with this group of new friends about my biggest fears – without a glass of wine in my hand?

Can I dance as if nobody is watching? (Um… this one, maybe not quite so easily.  I can shuffle from leg to leg, and then slowly and gently be persuaded that with my hair and my dodgy rock loving past, I could manage a ‘rock-on’ that no one would laugh at too much!)

Can I enjoy whatever food happens to have been made that day, without getting fussy? (Um… yes, the food at Westerbeke Ranch where we were staying was unbelievably good.  I was so sad to leave it. Shanghai, you are sorely lacking right now.)

It was a great few days that put the sparkle back into the tired old (jet-lagged) eyes.

The question now is whether I can put what I’ve learned into practice in the real world?

And whether I can enjoy the next three trips out there as much?

And I know the answer…