REVIEW: How To Own The Room by Viv Groskop

How To Own The Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking

Viv Groskop

There are hundreds of books out there on Public Speaking (trust us, we’ve read nearly all of them), but Viv Groskop has written one specifically aimed at women. I have a real interest in helping empower women to use their voices and to be heard in all areas of their life which is why this one appealed to me in particular. Groskop also comes from a performance back ground (stand-up comedy) so that was another draw. Keep reading to find out what I made of her approach…

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ONE LINE PITCH ~

A guide full of inspiring examples and practical exercises for women who want to feel more confident and at ease when presenting, or in those moments when they are made to feel small.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTHS: 

This book is super accessible. Groskop writes with humour and draws from her wide-ranging experience as a speaker and a coach to give some useful insights into the pressures on women when speaking and how these may differ from those that men feel (#notallmen etc etc etc).

Viv’s suggests practical exercises throughout the book. These cover adjusting thought process, breathing and grounding, speech prep and challenging yourself. She also rounds the book up with an appendix of Dos and Don’ts for ‘owning the room’. Her approach is actually very similar to ours here at COR - a focus on the anxiety and the negative thought processes that can get in the way when we are trying to communicate. She shares our ethos of practice, practice, practice and discusses familiar theories such as Power Posing. A lot of what she is says in so inline with our workshops that I questioned whether or not to review the book...

WEAKNESSES: 

Groskop uses inspirational female speakers such as Michelle Obama and Oprah to illustrate her points throughout the book and whilst I think it’s important to have aspirations of speaking like the greats, for someone who is incredibly nervous of speaking publicly then consistently being given examples of incredibly successful women could have the opposite effect than that desired. Even though Groskop acknowledges this, I can’t quite relate JK Rowling giving a commencement speech at a university to my every day experiences in meetings, interviews or presentations. This means that the anecdotal nature of the book left me a bit frustrated. That’s all well and good for Michelle and JK but what about me?!

Also, whilst the guidelines for practical exercises are useful, I question how easily they are implemented for someone who is overcome with anxiety around speaking. They ask you to be very self aware and self reflective which can be difficult when working in isolation from a book. Sometimes we need feedback and conversation to help us identify bad habits or moments of negative thinking. I’m also the type of person who gives up on exercises in books pretty quickly, especially if I find them hard. My tip - sign up for a public speaking course…(I can recommend a really good one!)

OPPORTUNITY: 

First, this book provides you with an opportunity to start thinking about what is holding you back as a speaker. By actively acknowledging what’s not working, you can begin to find approaches that can work.

Secondly, Groskop references lots of brilliant Ted Talks and books and I think that this is one of the main opportunities this book provides - an opportunity to study other speakers, to see what works for you and what doesn’t, to discover what kind of speaker you would like to be. Groskop’s focus on authenticity is right up my street, and whilst the previously mentioned focus on other celebrated speaker’s could move you away from this, she does give advice on trying to communicate as you. Are you formal? High status? Funny? Passionate? Introverted? Extroverted? There is room for every type of speaker out there and Groskop’s discussion of speakers like Susan Cain (author of Quiet) gives permission to those of us who aren’t flashy, gag a minute presenters. How To Own The Room gives an opportunity to be curious, which is no bad thing in my humble opinion.

TIPS: 

My favourite tip from the book is to ultimately have realistic expectations of yourself! By acknowledging the reality of our speaking opportunity it may be easier to control our anxieties and also to ensure that we remain authentic to ourselves and our message, rather than feeling like we need to transform into Gloria Steinam (or someone equally as inspiring).

As Groskop says ‘…be honest and realistic about the impact and reach of what you’re doing. If you’re talking to twenty people at a work presentation, don’t treat it as if you’ve been asked to give the Gettysburg Address’

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“You can’t get around fear. You can only go through it. And the way to go through it is to speak in public and get more used to it.’

p. 19

“We all need to figure out our own idea of presence.”  

p. 67

KEY LESSONS ~

Everyone gets nervous. Everyone can make steps towards overcoming their anxieties around public speaking. Everyone has to work hard to improve their skills as a communicator and presenter…even Michelle Obama.

I think that the accessibility of this book makes it a good one for any woman who is dipping their toe into self- improvement and who wants to begin to build confidence in public speaking. It is a useful guide and can provide some funny insights into a much written about topic. Ultimately though, I think a well chosen workshop can give you all that this book does and so much more…

Lots of love, A x

TOP 5...LEADING LADIES, by Ruby Granger

@_rubygranger joins us once more with her most inspirational female figures…

In light of the MeToo and TimesUp movements of the last year, female empowerment has become increasingly noticeable in the media and public eye. I wanted to share some inspirational women with you - people who have led real change over the last century and whose names should feature in more history books than they do!

Ruby Granger

Ruby Granger

  1. HELEN KELLER - At the age of just two, Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing; however, despite this, she learnt to read and write in Braille, touch lip read and speak and, in 1904, she became the first deafblind person to achieve a Bachelor of Arts degree. Keller’s continued determination despite her setbacks can inspire us all to realise our own potential. Aside from these personal successes, however, Keller has also become something of a symbol in the disabled community. In her later life, she was an active member in the campaign for the rights of people with disabilities and her work in this field has changed public perceptions today.

  2. RENI EDDO-LODGE - Perhaps most famous for her book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge speaks out about, and openly challenges, the racial problems which persist, even in the UK, and is one of the leading female activists in this area.

  3. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT - Eleanor Roosevelt is one of, - if not the -, most notable first ladies in history. As well as caring for her husband, (who developed polio before his first term), Eleanor was politically involved in Franklin’s presidency in a way that no other woman had been before. She had her own newspaper column, held conferences and spoke at public events. Eleanor became a voice for women all over the country and also a participant in human rights campaigns, including the rights of African-American citizens and refugees from the second world war.

  4. ROSA PARKS - It would be a crime not to include her on this list! Famously and historically, Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person on a bus, at an oppressive time in American history, when this was considered the socially acceptable thing to do. Standing her ground and sparking the bus boycotts of the 1950s, her bravery in opposing the system remains inspirational. In an interview, Parks once said “each must live their lives as a model for others”, and she can indeed teach us to stand up for what is right and what we believe in.

  5. ELLEN DEGENERES - In my opinion, the infamous and hilarious talk show host, Ellen Degeneres, is one of the most inspirational women on television. In 2006, she came out as gay on live television, (the very first woman to do this!), and faced massive discrimination as a consequence: her show was cancelled and she was dropped by her agent. She said, and I quote, that “it felt like I had hit rock bottom”. However, today, Degeneres continues to help to de-stigmatise lesbianism in her openness on television, and this has led a change in media presentation.

You get more of Ruby’s tips and insights by subscribing to her YouTube channel, or by following her on Instagram: @_rubygranger

Naomi Bacon
HOW TO MAKE A SELF-CARE PLAN

Hello you lot, how are you all?

Fine? Busy? Tired? It’s a question we don’t often answer honestly, or at least with any substance. But I’m going to be honest. November has been a blue month for me. I’ve felt a bit flat, irritable and, at times, self-conscious and insecure. There’s been no obvious triggers. In fact, when friends have asked me how things are, I’ve been able to reply with “nothing much to report”, a rare and much coveted statement in my world.

Yet, instead of enjoying this period of calm, I began to feel anxious that I didn’t feel anxious. A ridiculous catch-22. Being in crisis feels familiar to me. Being high on adrenaline has become my baseline. I know who I am then and I know how to act. I like myself and am proud of my strength and resilience. Even small feats seem exceptional in difficult times. I feel like SuperWoman.

I’m not quite so keen on the person I am in the quiet. The lack of distraction enables insecurities to surface. And it’s always when things have settled, that we realise we’re exhausted and run-down. When my resources are low, I can very quickly find myself entangled in negative thought patterns once again. I doubt myself and my capabilities; I lose my ability to rationalise; and I take every remark to heart, certain that other people's’ anxieties have been caused by me. I berate myself for being useless / lazy / anxious, the list goes on and the cycle continues...

But in the past 2 years, I’ve learnt so much, enabling me to recover myself much more quickly. Some “Anxiety Truths” for you:

  1. Anxiety always wanes, even if you can’t see a way out when you’re in it

  2. It’s a natural, human condition; every single one of us experiences anxiety

  3. You’ve been at “breaking point” before, and you didn’t break (because what does it look like to “be broken” anyway?)

I know what can help me to feel grounded and in control once again so I have spent the past few weeks implementing my self-care plan. If anything, low mood months are important because they can bring you back to yourself, reminding you to take care and reinstate your routine.  

Routine is at the top of my self-care plan. I’m lucky that I work for myself so I can be in charge of how I structure my time (although I made the conscious decision to leave my 9 to 5 job so that I could do just that, so not so much luck, as self-determined). Monday is my favourite day of the week as it’s my day off. My out of office goes on, although I’m still up early to head to my favourite cafe for a coffee and most probably a chocolate muffin. I read. I reply to messages. I do some life admin. I look out of the window. An hour later, I go to counselling - something I’ve done every Monday for 2 years now. This commitment to myself has undoubtedly saved me. If counselling is something you’re keen to explore, there are lots of centres that offer low-cost options, and run sessions outside of work hours.

After counselling, I go bouldering all day. Nothing helps me to my let go of my anxieties more than a climb, as, for me, it’s not only exercise but a form of Mindfulness and problem-solving. Climbing is a full body workout that heightens your bodily awareness, bringing your attention to every muscle, from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes. Your only focus is how to make it to the top without falling, whilst remembering to breathe, which leaves no space for worrying.

I begin every day by reading a chapter of my current book. This gives me time to fully wake up and warm up my brain, rather than launching straight into my to-do list. It’s my way of doing something kind for myself to kick-start the morning, and I try to do this at intervals throughout the week. Sometimes, if I’m in need of a special treat, I might even take myself to an afternoon cinema screening. Being able to do things like this whenever I need to is what success ultimately looks like for me.

I find it really difficult to meditate on my own but I’ve found a guided meditation group for beginners that I love. It’s become an anchor in my week and I feel incredibly proud when I realise that I’ve carved out that time simply to sit quietly with myself, something I absolutely never thought I’d be able to do. If you struggle to meditate too, try listening to a clip by the wise Alan Watts; my favourite is ‘The Mind is a Vicious Circle’.

Finally, I try to live each day according to the values that matter most to me. A couple of years ago, I made a list of my core principles (or “COR principles”?), and I carry this with me at all times. Reviewing this list can help to ease my anxiety, for, as long as I have compassion, courage and connection, I know that I’m OK and that nothing else really matters.

Having worked through my self-care plan for several weeks now, I’m feeling in a much better place; more grounded, productive and self-aware. I’m guessing many of you might also have been feeling out of sorts this month, preferring to stay under the duvet rather than facing the cold, grey, rainy days? If so, why not have a think about what your personal self-care plan might look like and make a conscious commitment to stick to it for the next few weeks in the lead up to Christmas. Give yourself a little love and let’s make December a good one.

Lots of love, as always,

N x


NAOMI'S SELF-CARE READING LIST TO BEAT THE WINTER BLUES

Help Me! One Woman's Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Her Life

by Marianne Power

This has been my comfort read of the month, and I’ve forced all of my friends to read it, too. Journalist, Marianne Power, decided to test out one self-help book a month for a year, including Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Secret, by actually acting on the authors’ advice.

But what begins as a fun experiment soon becomes an often testing investigation into self-awareness and what it ultimately means to be happy in oneself. The result is an hilariously self-deprecating and poignant memoir, in which you can’t help but identify with, and feel reassured by the wonderful Marianne.

The Kindness Method: Changing Habits for Good

by Shahroo Izadi

With a background in Behavioural Change and Addiction, Shahroo’s book is a game-changer for anyone wanting to put an end to unwanted habits, be it drinking, binge-eating, or anxious thinking. She refutes the idea that things have to hit rock-bottom before they can get better, and instead argues that change will be effective and long-lasting if we spend time developing our self-esteem in the first instance.

The basis of the book is practical, encouraging you to create an assortment of mind maps relating to different themes, (such as ‘things I’m proud of’). I incorporated this into my daily routine for the two weeks it took me to read the book, making the mind maps the first thing I would do each morning.

The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living

by Dr Russ Harris

ACT, an acronym for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, is the newest form of popular therapy and coaching which aims to cultivate well-being through mindful, values-based living. The idea is that you need to accept what you cannot personally control, and commit to action that enriches your life by clarifying what is truly important to you.

Dr Russ Harris is an internationally-acclaimed ACT trainer, having trained over 30,000 health practitioners. He believes that our current ideas about happiness are misleading and directly contribute to our stress and anxiety epidemic. His approach to happiness is instead based on mindfulness as a means of reducing stress, enhancing performance, and managing emotions. You can read the first chapter here.

TOP 5...INSPIRATIONAL YOUTUBERS

COR friend, YouTube and study guru @_rubygranger gives us a run down of her go-to YouTubers for inspiration:

  1. Katie Morton - Katie helps to spread awareness of mental health through her YouTube channel, giving her viewers an informed understanding of mental illnesses and personality disorders, as well as advice: https://bit.ly/2OyGZmc

  2. Matt D’Avila - Known predominantly for his film Minimalism which aired on Netflix a few years ago, D’Avila continues to spread the world of minimalist living and well-being on his YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2OsTQqm

  3. John Fish - Speaking as a Harvard undergraduate, John Fish advises people on productive living and well-being: https://bit.ly/2OyJ1Tm

  4. Perksoflaur - Laura is a sixteen year old student who has just finished her GCSEs, and who, alongside helping to spark motivation in other students, speaks out openly about mental health and her own experiences: https://bit.ly/2D2V7D1

  5. The Bucket List Family - Until very recently, the Gee Family did not own a house, and instead, travelled from country to country, exploring the world. With three young children and just a few bags, Garret and Jessica show the lack of importance in stuff and the essentiality of family: https://bit.ly/2D2p3zf

You get more of Ruby’s tips and insights by subscribing to her YouTube channel,

or by following her on Instagram: @_rubygranger

Naomi Bacon
“Failing Forward”

Hello you lovely lot,

This month, we were joined by Ruby Granger who was with us for work experience, before she starts university next month. In reality, it was Ruby lending us her social media insight and expertise from her impressive following on YouTube (200k) and Instagram (44k!).

We first came across Ruby when we were developing our exam prep course for schools, and were inspired by her zeal for studying!

Ruby is a study-tuber, and her videos provide tips and motivation for that very thing. Taking inspiration from her childhood heroine, Hermione Granger, Ruby has trained herself to become the best student that she can be, and hopes to help others achieve the same.

However, on the flip side of working hard comes the, often self-inflicted, pressure and strain of being an ‘over-achiever’, and the ever-present fear of ‘failure’, often leading to anxiety.

Recently, Ruby experienced the first big ‘fail’ in her life, and shares her story, and what this taught her about resilience, in her own words, below…

Ruby Granger

Ruby Granger

‘Discovering Resilience’, by Ruby Granger

I was looking through my old journals the other day and, on the first page of one from 2013, I read, “Hello, my name is Ruby, I am twelve years old and my dream is to study English at Oxford University”. Even though I was still on the cusp of childhood, I was holding onto the possibility of studying at the prestigious school that Oxford is regarded to be world-wide. As a young teenager, I decorated my walls with postcards which I collected from tiny gift shops in the city and artistically positioned Bodleian candlesticks on my window sill.

If you’ve seen the film Candy Jar on Netflix, I was a subdued version of Lona who wanted to study at Harvard.

When Oxford offered me an interview back in December 2017, I was buzzing because it felt like everything was falling into place.

However, silence quickly fell when my rejection email came in early January. I still remember my stomach dropping as I read the telling line at the top of my computer screen: after careful consideration of your application…”. I didn’t read to the end of the email, and stared out of the window instead. It was January, but I remember that there were no clouds. It was break time, and I could hear people moving and laughing from just outside of the classroom door. I had been expecting a rejection email but, at the same time, it felt surreal as I realised that this dream that I had held since childhood could not now come true.

My biggest and immediate concern, - and one which was really quite irrational-, was that everyone would be disappointed, not just with me, but in me. Since I had invested so much into my application, I was certain that people would see me as an entirely different person now that I had been rejected; However, the kindness which I was shown that week reminded me that I really didn’t have to go to Oxford to be happy. The people around me, - my friends, family, teachers and viewers -, helped me to be resilient and reconsider my options.

Getting rejected for English made me wonder whether I had made the correct course choice at all. A nagging part of me had, since about fifteen, told me that I would be happier studying Philosophy at degree level, but I was so caught up in my dream that I did not give it adequate thought. The Oxford bubble having burst, however, I was able to properly think about it, and I realised that I had indeed made a mistake.

Seamlessly and easily, I changed my choice on UCAS from English and North American Studies to Philosophy and Theology at Exeter, and made this my firm choice. Whilst I still sometimes feel a pang of regret, I think that getting rejected from Oxford was for the best. Not only am I now heading off to study a subject which I am really excited about, but I faced real failure for the first time and I think that it has just been so important for my personal resilience. Resilience is essential for continued determination and motivation.

To coin a phrase from one of my favourite childhood films, Meet The Robinsons, we need to “keep moving forwards”.

Funnily enough, at school in January, as I left the classroom after receiving my rejection email, I passed a younger girl who was clearly distressed about something or other.

Pushing my rejection from my mind, I made this my focus. I made this more important.

Resilience sometimes means pushing something aside, such as ‘failure’, and not letting that define you and your actions.

I am so glad I stopped on that day, (even if just for a minute), because it reminded me that there were still things I could do.

It’s sounds silly, but the first step to continued determination after failure has to be tiny.

Do something you would do on any other day, because this reminds you that not everything has changed. That it is not the end of the world.

You get more of Ruby’s tips and insights by subscribing to her YouTube channel, or following her on Instagram: @_rubygranger

You can also find Ruby’s study planner and book at: www.pumpkinproductivity.co.uk

Naomi Bacon
TOP 5...VIDEOS ON DETERMINATION

COR friend, YouTube and study guru @_rubygranger shares with us with her TOP 5 videos on finding perseverance and determination…

The Top 5… Videos on Determination

  1. Scott Geller, a professor at Virginia Tech and a leading psychology scholar, tells us how we can become self-motivated: https://bit.ly/1jIgenJ

  2. The School of Life shares a short Lego stop motion insisting the importance of perseverance: https://bit.ly/1xepxJs

  3. In this infamous speech at Harvard University, J.K. Rowling shares her rejection experiences when trying to publish Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: https://bit.ly/1gylcEm

  4. This heartwarming animated short film might only show the continued determination of a puppy, but maybe we can all learn a little something from this dog...: https://bit.ly/2sMX1iJ

  5. Luca Fagotti, who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, speaks out about the importance of determination in pursuing our goals at a TEDX Youth event: https://bit.ly/2xolr4n

You get more of Ruby’s tips and insights by subscribing to her YouTube channel, or by following her on Instagram: @_rubygranger

Naomi Bacon
Into the wild…,well, sort of…

Hello you lovely lot,

And we’re back from our mammoth coast-to-coast road trip of Canada!  Apologies if we saturated your Instagram with yet another photo of a mountain or lake, but Canada for us was much more than just a holiday.

Back in December last year when we booked our first flight, I, (Helena), initially thought of our trip as a big adventure to look forward to, and honestly speaking, an escape from a very stressful and unforgiving job that was no longer bringing me any joy.  However, thankfully, it soon marked of the beginning of the next chapter, when I decided to hand in my notice in April. For Naomi, it was a reclamation of time lost last summer, when she had to deal with a serious family crisis on our return from Obonjan festival in Croatia. Inevitably, Naomi was anxious about leaving her family for four weeks, in fear of what she might be coming back to, with other previous holidays unfortunately cementing this worry.  So, for her, Canada was a big deal. We were counting down the days, and with me leaving my job only a few days before we were due to fly, and Naomi facing another critical family emergency with her father being admitted to hospital a week before our departure, - which led to her debating whether she could even go on the trip -,  we were totally exhausted by the time we got on the plane.

Naomi enjoying a lobster roll in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Naomi enjoying a lobster roll in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Up and away!

Tired, but relieved and excited to be on our way, we faced our first hurdle on arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where our connecting flight to St John’s was cancelled at the last minute.  

Though only a minor set-back, this had a knock-on effect on our carefully-planned itinerary, (of course, there was a spreadsheet!), as we only had 2-3 days in each place, and this meant we would lose a day in Newfoundland.  

Normally, this would be incredibly frustrating for two control freaks like us, but determined to not let anything put a dampener on our adventure, we preceded to sweet-talk the airline into putting us up in a hotel downtown, and made the most of our evening in Halifax, eating lobster rolls after a stroll along the boardwalk.

Descent into Quidi Vidi Village, St John’s, Newfoundland

Descent into Quidi Vidi Village, St John’s, Newfoundland

Finding inspiration

Arriving in St John’s the next day, we happened to be visiting on the one night of the year when it goes party-mad for the George Street festival, so we headed into the throng. Within seconds of stepping into an Irish pub, we were greeted by a very charming and confident Canadian who hugged us hello and insisted on buying us drinks.  His name was Chris and he had hitch-hiked all the way from Calgary, Alberta to Newfoundland, which had taken 18 days. His best friend was there, as she had told him that she would fly out to buy him dinner if he managed to make it to St John’s.

However, the most impressive thing about Chris is that he was born without arms and legs.  

Having worn prosthetics for years, he had decided that it wasn’t for him and, instead, he gets around on a skateboard. Never had we met someone so comfortable in their own skin, and un-phased by their physical disability, choosing instead to live his life to the full, and to respond to the inevitable stares with a smile and a wicked sense of humour.  Chris has made a name for himself across Canada, and is a motivational speaker and mentor for child amputees, in addition to climbing mountains and doing marathons!

It felt serendipitous meeting Chris at the beginning of our big adventure. Speaking to Chris reminded us that this experience would be what we made it, and not to let limiting fears or insecurities prevent us from making the most of our trip.  

You can follow Chris’ endeavours, on youtube and Instagram: @ifican.chriskoch

“Bertha, The Beast” - On the way to Prince Edward Island

“Bertha, The Beast” - On the way to Prince Edward Island

Taking on new challenges  

Back in Halifax, we picked up the rental car which would take us all the way to Toronto, via Prince Edward Island - Quebec City - Montreal  and Ottowa. To my horror, our hire car was essentially the size of a small minibus. Having not driven in years, let alone on the other side of the road, in an automatic car, I raced back to the desk demanding an exchange for a smaller vehicle, but to no avail. Thankfully, Naomi took the helm that day, mastering the roads instantly, to my equal relief and dismay. Whilst it was tempting to let someone else do the driving, I could not let my friend do the whole 2000km stint on her own. So, facing the, (literal), beast head on, I insisted on driving us to Peggy’s Cove the next morning, despite the rainy and misty conditions.  After feeling shaky, and couple of attempts to drive on the wrong side of the road (!), I made friends with Bertha, (the nickname for our vessel), and even began to look forward to my stints of driving.

Having never thought I’d even pass my driving test five years ago, I feel incredibly proud that, together, we took on the challenge of driving across Canada, braving unknown territory, from the crazy Quebecois drivers, to grizzlies on the Dempster Highway.  It’s no surprise that we got nicknamed Thelma and Louise by the odd over-friendly trucker.

Pre zip line! Montmorency Falls, Quebec

Pre zip line! Montmorency Falls, Quebec

Feeling the fear, and doing it anyway!

Later that week, on the way to Montreal from Quebec City, we made a morning pitstop at Montmorency Falls, which are famed for being taller than Niagara Falls. Oh, and there’s a double zip line running right across them.  Of course, Naomi announced on arrival that she would be doing the zip line. My initial gut reaction was, “absolutely not”, however I then spent the rest of the morning torn between curious excitement and dread. Finally, after seeing a little boy and his grandma take on the challenge, and very aware of the need to practice what I preach, I decided I couldn’t refuse.  Naturally, I bloody loved it, and wanted to it all over again. This made me realise how easy it can be to let opportunities pass when you let the scared voice in your head take over, and that, sometimes, the things that scare us are not that frightening at all in reality, and may even give us a thrill!

Power-posing in Banff, Alberta

Power-posing in Banff, Alberta

So close to “finding ourselves”…

Naomi and I have spoken about what we will be taking away from this trip. For me, it was embracing the friendly and open Canadian culture, and making the time to have conversations with people who would approach us at gas stations, coffee shops, in taxis and restaurants, on ferries... the list goes on.  I have never experienced anything like this in London, and it took some getting used to. However, I really appreciated being offered a small insight into the lives of all the people we met, even though I knew I would probably never see them again, and you never know what might come out of a conversation - all the tips we received from interested people meant we got to experience each place we visited to the full!

Road-side selfie, Five-Finger Rapids, Yukon Territory

Road-side selfie, Five-Finger Rapids, Yukon Territory

Unfortunately, half-way through the trip, Naomi received some bad news from back home, awakening her fears that things would be falling apart without her there to hold them together.  

The challenge she faced was recognising that she can’t always fix a situation, especially when physical distance is involved. Allowing herself a morning of feeling sad, she picked herself back up, and, taking inspiration from Chris, was determined to make the most of the precious time we had, and enjoy the rest of the holiday.

Naomi said that, for her, the Yukon was an immensely restorative place that encouraged a quieting of the mind and the capacity to breathe deeply.  Feeling so small amidst the great expanse of wilderness and breathtaking views was strangely comforting. Nearing the end of our trip, we’d become so relaxed, our brains, for once, not buzzing with to-do lists or future plans, the only thought being “What shall we have for lunch?”.

Homecoming

We both realise now that acknowledging how important the trip was for the both of us at the start was what made it such a good experience. For once, we didn’t struggle with holiday blues at the end of the holiday, as we knew that we had made the most of every day, and that every minute had mattered.  Of course, there were anxious days, but treating the holiday as an act of self care meant that we were determined not to let any setbacks, bad news, worries or insecurities taint our experience.  This is now something that we can add to our ‘positive playlist’, and have a whole catalogue of incredible memories that we can call upon when we are in need of an uplift!

We are also have a sense of pride in planning every step of such a huge trip, and taking on the challenging journey, and physical distance involved within a relatively short space of time, as two single young women! #Girlpower.

We hope you enjoyed our holiday monologues!!

H & N xxx

P.S. Let us know if you’re planning or dreaming about your next big trip - we’d love to hear about it!!


Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Naomi Bacon
REVIEW: BORN FOR THIS, BY CHRIS GUILLEBEAU

Born For This: How to Find the Work that You Were Meant to Do

Chris Guillebeau

There is one book that I can pinpoint as instrumental in giving me the confidence to quit my job 2 years ago. It is the book that I lend or recommend on a regular basis. I have multiple copies, keeping them in reserve to gift to friends who are in the throes of a career change and in need of a little courage. And I’ve reread it four times. Born For This by Chris Guillebeau absolutely changed my mindset, which in turn enabled me to change my life.

ONE LINE PITCH ~

A practical guide to self-styling your own career, be it striking out on your own and turning a passion project into a profitable business or by hacking a humdrum job into a role that you love.  

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTHS: 

Where do I start? I’m looking through my battered old copy and practically every page is dog-eared. But I think perhaps the most impressive element of the book is that it’s action-orientated, and provides you with ideas that you can immediately implement.

There are a number of quizzes to guide your thinking beyond the parameters that you might find yourself currently confined to, considering elements such as: what are the working conditions you need to be happy? And what’s your optimum combination of joy, money, and flow? (Flow is the condition of getting lost in a task, of losing track of time, because you’re doing something that comes naturally. Something we often forget about). Chris advises you to create a future CV, asking yourself what skills, experiences, and job titles would you want to see on there? And what would the first step be to getting there? Or, do you have an interview for your dream role? Chris equips you with clever questions to ask your interviewer.  If you’re ready to take the leap to do something different, but have no clue where to start, then there’s a brilliant quiz on the accompanying site.

It’s not only Chris’ experiences outlined in the book; he uses countless case studies to reinforce his ideas and ethos. For example, the story of the personal trainer who wanted to add yoga to his repertoire. Lacking the time to do a 200-hour course, instead he watched every yoga DVD he could get his hands on over the course of a week. He then threw himself into teaching. Years later, he has won awards and now trains other aspiring teachers himself.

WEAKNESSES: 

Zero. I’m a total fan girl.

OPPORTUNITY: 

Chris is big advocate of the side-hustle: a micro-business, he says, can help you to make more money, and offers a creative outlet to explore other interests, alongside your day job. You also never know what might become of your side-hustle. COR, of course, began as a fun project; never did we imagine that Helena would leave her job to manage the partnership full time! So, what would your side-hustle be? Would you sell something or provide a service or consultancy of some sort? Chris even provides a 19-day timeline to launching your micro business, so if there’s an idea you’ve been sitting on, why not follow this framework and give it a shot? For inspiration, buy his latest book Side Hustle School or listen to his podcast of the same name.

Or perhaps you’re ready to go full time self-employed? If that’s the case, Chris says that there’s four areas to consider. Firstly, improve your skills, both soft skills and the more technical. Upskill yourself regularly. Why not set aside £50 and challenge yourself to do several courses on a training platform such as Udemy? Secondly, strengthen connections. Network and meet people wherever you can; mention what you do, your side hustle, your ambitions, and you never know what serendipitous connections might arise. Also, don’t be nervous to approach people. Everyone I’ve ever asked to meet me for career advice and a coffee has said yes. Even Chris Guillebeau himself! Finally, experiment by trying new things and exposing yourself to new ideas, and say yes to opportunities that come your way.

And why stop there when you can have lots of different careers at the same time? Workshifting is where “you navigate multiple projects and interests by focusing fully on something for a while, and shifting to focus fully on something else”. This might be time-based, spending a day on one project, the next on another; or changing project hour by hour. Alternatively, Chris references the story of an owner of a landscaping business in Canada. In spring, summer and autumn he had plenty of business, but come winter his work slowed to a halt. Fortunately, he had a side hustle: he spent the summer months writing screenplays!

TIPS: 

Before you begin re-creating your career, make a list of all the things that you do well. These could be the skills you acquired throughout your education, things you’ve picked up from a parent or role model, capabilities you’ve mastered throughout the course of your career to date, or even skills you’ve obtained on your own by reading or taking classes. Following on from this, write down a couple of things that you’re not good at or hate doing. Address the areas you might need to seek help in. For example, I’m not confident with numbers so I’m happy to take the hit financially to have an accountant; this also saves me a great deal of time and worry.

Identify the hazards of going at it alone. List everything that could go wrong and in many cases you’ll realise that your worries aren’t life-threatening and are in fact irrational.

If you want to get out of your current job situation, have a D-day. Put pressure on yourself to follow through by marking the day you plan to hand in your notice in your diary.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“Sometimes the job you want doesn’t exist - and usually when that happens it’s because you don’t actually want a job, you want full control of your income and career. Many people who work for themselves believe this is actually the safest and most secure career path.” 

Chapter 8, Build a Small Empire

“Somewhere along the way, you were given some terrible advice: you have to choose a niche. You can safely place this advice in the paper shredder underneath your desk. There may come a time in your career when you need (and want) to focus on one thing, but until it arrives, you can craft the work you were meant to do around all your passions and interests.”  

Chapter 12, How to Do Everything You Want

KEY LESSONS ~

I guess, above all, Born For This teaches you that there isn’t only one way to work. Chris gives you an entire menu of options. At the end of the day, it’s our assumptions and fears that keep us locked in a career that ultimately makes us unhappy.

My life has changed dramatically since working for myself and on my own terms: being able to take time off when I need to has meant my anxiety levels have dropped and my productivity has shot up. I never work on Mondays - it's my day of self-care and I tend to spend the day at the climbing wall. I work the times that I know I work best (I’m a 5am freak!), and use the afternoons for meetings or reading. I work from cafes around where I live, working on one project here and another there, using the different spaces to influence my focus. It's also allowed me to build relationships with local members of the community resulting in many partnerships and new business.

COR wouldn’t be around if we hadn’t had the courage to just go for it and do something we love on the side. And I’m so glad we did. For me, being able to shift between the two jobs has contributed greatly to my work happiness and flow as each brings its own rewards and lessons. I refuse to choose one career. I'm the busiest I've ever been but every minute feels like my own.

So welcome to the world of self-employment, Helena. I, for one, categorically believe you were born to do this.

Lots of love, N x

A short story for you...

If you don't yet subscribe to our newsletter, you will have missed Naomi's personal story of an eventful Tuesday that she had a few weeks ago. Her experience that day led her to reflect on compassion - for others and for ourselves - something that is incredibly important to all of our work with COR. We didn't want you to miss out, so thought we'd share the story here as well.

We hope you enjoy reading and find some time today to show yourself, or someone else, a moment of compassion. 

A, H and N xxx

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As I’m sure many of us did, I woke up on Tuesday consumed with anxiety at the prospect of the workload I needed to tackle after the long weekend. I tend to hotdesk at the same café every day, but, for no particular reason, I decided to go to a different café. I managed ten minutes of emails before a woman in her late fifties came in and sat at the table next to me. Let's call her L. She was crying uncontrollably and wringing her hands, hunched over and shaking, and clearly very distressed.

I looked around the café but every person was making a conscious effort to ignore her. I bought her a coffee, gave her a pack of tissues, and then plugged my earphones in again and went back to my emails. But I couldn’t shift the feeling that I should talk to her.

Eventually, I told myself that work could wait and I went and sat beside her. I asked, ‘Is there anything I can do?’, to which she replied, ‘I don’t think I’m very well’. I asked if she suffered with depression. She nodded.

We talked for an hour, about her childhood in the care of her grandparents in Trinidad; her confusion at coming to London, having not seen her parents for years; her complex familial relationships; her frustration at being made redundant from the charity she’d worked at for a decade; and her sorrow at never having met a soulmate to have children with. It was easy to trace the trajectory of her descent into the dark world of depression and isolation.

She couldn’t remember the name of her doctor’s surgery so I called all of the practices in the area to see if they had her on their system. When I finally found the right one, I took a taxi there with her, and I agreed to accompany her to see the doctor. Finally, leaving her in their hands, I said goodbye and gave her a hug, told her it had been a pleasure to spend time with her, and that she’d been so brave asking me for help.

Back at my laptop that afternoon, all my anxiety had dissipated. The surreal experience of that morning, being privy to a stranger’s pain and hearing her deeply personal story, gave me huge perspective and made my own insecurities and worries seem so small and totally manageable. I did, however, feel a surge of other emotions: I felt angry at the people around me for feigning ignorance, I felt sad that the mental health services are so screwed, allowing people like L to slip through the system. And I felt absolutely honoured to have heard L’s story.

L is articulate, erudite and elegant; she reads three papers a day, loves books of all genres, and once owned a white cat called Winston. In the three hours I spent with her, she made me laugh and cry. She is also extremely lonely and very unwell. Storytelling is a way of giving language to vulnerability, and that is exactly what L did by sharing her story with me.

I have encountered many people like L and I have learnt something from all of them. There was T, the 60-year old ex-boxer who’d lost most of his teeth, didn’t drink or use as one might assume, but, after a stint in prison, had struggled to re-integrate into society and lived on the street or in hostels. He told me that life is all about connection and that he still tries to smile at people and say hello every day, even though most of the time they pretend he’s invisible.

And M, the tiny old lady from the park, who sat on the same bench every day last summer, and who always remembered my dogs’ names but never mine. M, who I sat with for two hours whilst she told me about her life - racked with abuse and battles with mental health – and how she had gained a degree in psychology, aged 50. She gifted me a book on Transactional Analysis, having underlined key paragraphs for me.

At 17, my best friend had a psychotic episode and she has suffered ever since, yet she still has a sunny disposition and a zest for life. And finally, there’s my Mum. She is kind and gentle, highly intelligent, quiet, caring and creative. She is also bi-polar. And the look in L’s eyes, I have seen in the eyes of my dear Mum many a time. And that is perhaps why I offered L a helping hand, because I desperately hope someone would do the same for my Mum.

So perhaps next time you see someone in distress, don’t submit to bystander bias. Do something, however small. Next time you pass a homeless person, please don’t ignore them. Look them in the eye and acknowledge them. And if you encounter someone seemingly unstable, ask yourself whether they have a story. And ultimately, through imparting compassion to others, you might just learn to give a little compassion to yourself.

Lots of love,
N x