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.