Disrupt or Be Disrupted: Disrupting the Self

On Wednesday night our founder Rebecca had the privilege of presenting at Women@Grab's inaugural event. The theme was Disrupt or Be Disrupted and they invited a range of speakers to discuss different angles of this theme: Disrupting Ageism, Disrupting the Norms, Disrupting the Silence, Disrupting the Self and the Duality of Disruption. It was a moving event to be part of and I was so honoured to be amongst the speakers exploring Disrupting the Self. Sharing a written version of the speech below:

"Today I’ll be exploring the topic of Disrupting the Self. This is a topic that is meaningful to me both in the work that I am privileged to be able to do everyday with my clients in encouraging them to lean into disrupting themselves, but also in my recent past of leaving the comfort of a decade in the corporate world to disrupt my trajectory and lean into what matters most to me.

I also believe there’s never been a more important time than now to explore what it means to really disrupt yourself and to sit in the drivers’ seat in life. I believe we’re in an era of unprecedented change with crazy demands placed on ourselves as employees, employers, and humans in general. How many of you feel that the pace life is operating at is relentless, where you're always 'on' and busy. I heard myself recently say oh my gosh, is it really almost September? How many of you feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel – that life is just happening to you and it’s about keeping up?

If change is the only constant, we can either go along for the ride or we can forge our own path. It is about reinvention, about transformation and, fundamentally, about choice. It’s a two-sided coin - either you choose to disrupt or you choose to be disrupted. To change or be changed. To reinvent yourself or be reinvented involuntarily. The choice we have is to be active or passive.

So, let’s explore the first side of the coin – the passive one – of being disrupted. Unfortunately, we would say that disruptions are an unavoidable part of life – that there are moments and movements in life that are undeniable and cause irreversible alteration (like seasons, or parenthood, or losing our job, or getting sick, or falling in love or getting passed over for a big promotion). They will happen whether we like it or not.

Officially, the definition of disruption is:

To interrupt by causing a disturbance or problem or to drastically alter or destroy the structure of.

I can definitely attest to the fact that motherhood has brought on a new meaning of drastic alteration or destroyed structure in the form of a cuddly mum-bod and permanent panda eyes. But jokes aside, the alteration was way beyond purely physical. My previously held sense of identity (who I am and what mattered most), my perspectives and my outlook all shifted. The professional path I had known for myself and, more than that, actively forged was changing around me and all this by a tiny, unassuming little human by the name of Darcy. As I stared down at his big blue eyes in the hospital bed, my world shifted, a welcome disruption but a disruption all the same. In this experience I know I’m not alone, many of you may be sitting in the audience identifying with the experience of becoming a parent. The sudden shift in thinking, how could you possibly make the same decisions you made prior to that mini you coming into the world?

In this passive perspective, the choice is more about your reaction - what will you do when faced with these circumstances? Will you accept the situation? Will you shape it to your benefit? Will you fight against it? What will guide your course of action?

The other side of the coin is about causing disruption – not just accepting what happens but actually being a catalyst for change. Just like businesses, as individuals so often we get stuck in what we’re doing and forget to look around and adapt. We need to learn to be uncomfortable being comfortable in life. We need to remember to innovate ourselves and drive ourselves towards what we most care about in the world. But why Bex would I actively seek out discomfort? It’s so much nicer here in my comfort zone. I would argue that through disruption we grow and learn, adapt and strengthen. By not choosing to change anything is in fact choosing. To every no you say, you say yes to something else and vice versa. By saying no to change you are in fact saying yes to status quo. And by saying yes to status quo, we essentially say no to growth.

In either scenario – if you are adapting to a disruption that happened to you or you are causing the disruption there are a few very simple tips and tricks that can help on this journey of transformation:

  1. The first tip is "Know Thyself" and it sits at the core of taking charge. It starts with spending time reflecting and fully understanding your why and values – your raison d'être – your reason for being. What is the legacy you want to leave behind, and if you’re being really honest, what do you want your life to be about, to mean, to serve? Once you understand your purpose, it’s then a case of articulating what you value in the pursuit of that – what is really important to you. In my own experience, what became clear through this self-discovery was I had allowed myself to shift from the drivers’ seat into the passenger one. So I decided to take a drastic change, to disrupt myself – and take the step to set up my own business but the disruption was more than just a shift in career, what it really was, was a choice to be braver and bolder in the pursuit of what a purposeful life meant to me
  2. Secondly, dare to be brilliant, to play big and to shine as brightly as you can in the pursuit of your passions. To truly be a disrupter, we need to play as big as we can and step into our power. One of my favourite quotes of all time reads: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world.” – so I ask you, how can you play big? What does that mean for you? What disruption would you lead or lean into to allow yourself to really play as big as you can?
  3. And finally, when was the last time you did something for the first time? So often we put off something or being who we want to be. Why not be a little more radical, a little more spontaneous, a little more YOU. It is never too late to be who you might have been. Because my words are inadequate in comparison, here's a poem from the great Apollinaire, it reads: “Come to the edge. We can’t we’re afraid. Come to the edge. We can’t – we will fall. Come to the edge. And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew”

My ardent hope is that we all are at choice in life. That we dare to innovate, to be bold, to be brilliant and to live the lives we chose for ourselves. We are all going to face disruptions that happen to us but I urge you to go one step further and chose to catalyse disruption. It is a brave choice but it puts you and your true self at the core. It positions us in the drivers’ seat in this life. So go on, what would it take to bravely disrupt yourself.

Ban Busy

We live in a world where the word busy has come not only to be common everyday language but more than this, a word that we have come to celebrate.

How many times do you hear friends, family, colleagues and clients talk about how busy they are as though this is something we should be impressed by. It is relentlessly and pervasively present in our general day-to-day chit-chat, whether it be in a social setting or professional. There's a famous Monty Python sketch wherein when asked to introduce himself with his name the Merchant Banker replies: "I forget my name for the moment but I am a Merchant Banker". How many of us can resonate, "I forget my name but I am very busy" or "Hi, I'm Busy"?

Has it simply become something we say? Is it a status thing? Is it because of our known digital addiction where we are struggling to get present? Is it a lack of clarity or intention? Is it because we’re working longer hours and more than ever before? Or are we holding ourselves to new unattainable standards where we are expected to be all things to all people – never saying no?

It seems this ‘busyness’ or “perennial time-scarcity problem” impacts individuals at all levels in all types of industries and organisations. And yet there seems to be a more acute issue facing today’s leaders and entrepreneurs and, in particular, working parents. I'm interested in the impact this persistent busyness is having on these leaders' teams, on their businesses ability to succeed and, closer to home, on their relationships with partners and children. What are we saying when we say we're constantly busy?

"If we would only give, just once, the same amount of reflection to what we want to get out of life that we give the question of what to do with a two week vacation, we would be startled at our false standards and the aimless procession of our busy days." Dorothy Fisher

Some might say, it’s just a word, it’s just a way to articulate a feeling. But I would attest that the very use of this language may have an influence over the way we think or the actions we take. If we believe that being busy is something we should be proud of or, worse, what is expected, we will continue to load our days, our diaries and ultimately our lives with stuff that keeps us busy. Is this really what we want? Is this really what is best for our world? For our society? For our children? Is this the vision you have for your life?

My question is, what might possible for you if you weren’t busy? If you had focus? If you had intention? If you allowed yourself to breathe a little more?

Do it now, breathe… Slow down... focus… and think:

  • What matters the most to me? What do I truly care about?
  • What dreams do I have for my life? What is my purpose? What do I hope my legacy to be?
  • What is serving this today and where should I continue to focus?
  • What is just noise? Where am I living someone else’s life?

My ardent hope is that we ban the prolific use of the word busy – my belief is it is not serving us as individuals, as companies and as societies. Let's take it out of our vernacular and find other ways to describe our lives. Let’s take away the prestige in busyness and instead focus it on having clarity, on being purposeful and on consciously managing our time. Let's get back on the front foot and take back control of our lives. Let's use our time productively with intent always focused on spending it on matters most for us as individuals, families, teams and orgnaisations.

It might seem radical, but I assure you it's not as difficult as it sounds. Why not carve some time out of your busy day to try it today and see what changes (if any) it creates for you? Who's with me?