2017-monthly-planning-calendar free downloadable

The 2017 Monthly Planning Calendar is here!

Download it via the form below!

This humble tool is one of the most powerful tools I use in my business, and that I use with clients. Because unless you can see your time laid out infront of you, you can’t make realistic plans, set achievable goals or get everyone aligned about what needs to be done, and by when.

I use this tool with my executive coaching clients to help them plan out and ideal week, and understand what’s achievable with their time. I use it with my content marketing clients to map out content plans, deadlines and publishing dates. I use it with my business clients to help them and their team see what needs to be done, and when by so they all get on the same page, literally. Read more…

Crafting a career is a creative act. It might involve moving cities, trialling a range of gigs, applying your skills in unforeseen ways, partnering with other pros to start new things, and working both freelance and employment to find a mix just right for you. And this week’s leap taker Lani Pauli has taken her love of communication and community building and explored all those avenues. From working in traditional PR agency land in a new city to local community building for US startup app, to then leaping into her own business with allied professionals, Lani has joined the dots between ideas and opportunities.

You’ll read in her story, that one of her favourite insights is to ‘Keep your eyes on your own yoga mat.’ Even if you don’t do yoga, you’ll want to take heed of her advice when pondering a leap. Because getting caught up in comparison, not-enoughness, what others might think and over investing in trying to please everyone, all lead to leaping paralysis that holds us back from exploring our own unique potential.

Today Lani combines her own freelancing work, with values-aligned agency Deane & Co to service a range PR clients. She’s crafted a working life that also allows her to take care of her health and plunder possibility. But she readily admits that self-employment isn’t for everyone, and I totally agree. But we also agree that taking a leap, even a tiny one that feels a little bit scary, counts.

Creativity is “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns or relationships, to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods or interpretations.” We were all born creative. When we were young we all took risks in the face of uncertainty, dared to try new things and got back up when we fell over. These were the essentials to expanding our life when we were kids, and they’re same for us as adults. The smallest of leaps is a creative act that expands what you see for yourself in your life, no matter what season you find yourself in. Because the truth is, we never really stop growing up.



Gorgeous Lani Pauli, onsite with Deane & Co.

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

The earliest thing I can remember wanting to be when I grew up was a forensic scientist. Looking back, that young, I definitely didn’t know what it was. I always want to know the ‘why’ behind everything – why someone does something, why things are the way they are – you get the picture!

As I went through high school this transitioned into wanting to be a journalist. If I could tell myself then what I know about myself now, I’d remind the past me that she doesn’t really have the constitution to be a journalist and she’ll find that out in an interview for a cadetship with a major metropolitan newspaper when they ask if you would be comfortable doing a death knock (essentially advising a family member their loved one, for example, has died and proceeding to ask questions for a story).

What did/do you study?

I studied journalism and public relations.

What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

Although my barely 21 year old self didn’t think it at the time, moving out of home for the first time, not just to a share house in the next suburb, but from my hometown (about 90 mins from Brisbane) to Sydney was one of the biggest leaps I took. More recently it was jumping into a job with an international app that on paper seemed too good to be true. It was four of the best years of my career and I’m glad I took the leap from the comfort of an office job with an ad agency to see what it would become. It absolutely has led me to where I am today.


What were you doing before you made your leap?

I was the community manager for an app that helps people find the best places to eat, drink and shop. I got to spend my days working with some awesome small businesses and it was their stories that I loved most I think. It was four years where I pushed myself, met amazing people, and learnt a great deal. It was something that took this natural introvert into some pretty extroverted situations!

Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

Good question! I would say working in larger agencies in Sydney (and later in Brisbane) helped influence what I do and don’t want in a career and workspace. I’m thankful for people like the person who hired me for my role at Yelp who opened the door to showing me that, for want of a better phrase, you can have your cake and eat it too. And as naff as this may sound podcasts like On Being and a few others that give me food for thought on topics largely unrelated to work that end up influencing your view of the world and as a result how you work.


What did you have in place before you made the leap?

I would have preferred to have a lot more in place before I made the leap financially speaking. You know they always say that you should have at least 6-12 months of a salary saved. I didn’t. I did have two clients in place that I knew could be the foundation of my finances after I jumped.

Honestly, it was one of the least planned things I have done in my life. I generally plan and overthink things to the enth degree. And although ‘the leap’ had been playing on my mind for a while, the moment that led to it wasn’t planned. Mind you, I went back to the safety of a contract role in between because I thought it was ‘the right thing to do’ before I committed to where I am now. I don’t regret it for a second and along the way I’ve learnt that you need to trust the net will be there to catch you. That isn’t to say it will be easy. It won’t. But it will be satisfying (for the most part), the (right) people will be willing to help you, and the worst case scenario (going back to full-time work in an office) still isn’t my worst case scenario.


What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that led you to the leap?

It was during a quarterly conversation with my then manager. Looking back now I’d been trying to keep plugging away for months. I liken it to trying to keep a relationship going when you just know deep down your heart isn’t in it and each person has naturally grown apart. It eats away at you and the more you put the smile on and pretend it’s okay, the less it is so. Lucky for me, my manager at the time was also a friend, so I suspect she knew where my head was at. It was during this call that she tactfully suggested that perhaps I would be happier doing something else. In that moment it was like I gave myself permission to believe the ‘gut feelings’ I’d been pushing away were actually trying to tell me (probably screaming at this point) something. My manager saying those words opened the gates and gave me the strength to say, ‘Actually, yeah, I think I would be.’

That moment led to leaving a role I’d adored for four years but knew wasn’t right for me anymore. I’d done all I could and it was time to finish that chapter. I believe that leaving when I did, I still learnt from the experience and didn’t overstay to a point that I felt bitter about it all. That said, it took time to come to peace with it all, like any good relationship ‘break up’, but it had to be.



How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

I’m still learning how to harness the fear and choose to, in Elizabeth Gilbert’s words, have an old fashion chit chat with it. In a good week all the routine things like making sure I’m eating well, getting adequate sleep and moving, mean the fear that comes with leaping is kept at bay. Self-care gets a good whip as the buzzword of the moment but it is the act of maintaining a routine, that helps me perform at my best. And I don’t always get it right! Yin Yoga has been the biggest thing to help me continue to overcome those racing and nagging thoughts we all have. I started Yin thinking it would improve my flexibility (and it has) but more than that it gives me space to defrag everything (like you used to do on an old school PC!) and have more clarity when I’m not on the mat.

A support network – it would only be in the past 18 months that I have found a small but mighty group of women who have become good friends and are often going through similar things. Having a safe space to vent, sound an idea out or say what’s causing you the most anxiety (however silly it might seem in your head) has been a wonderful gift.

Redefining my definition of success – the past 12 months have thrown me challenges, good and bad, that have forced me to look inwards and spend time working out what is important to me. The closer I hold my definition of success to my chest the easier it becomes to let go of some of the fear-driven decisions and actions we make. Success doesn’t have to be buckets of cash, fancy cars and a jet-about lifestyle!


How did you fund your leap?

Having two clients already on board made the financial stress of my leap a fraction less. I certainly didn’t have the ‘war chest’ I would have liked to when I took my leap. If this process has taught me anything it’s that even the best plans go astray. I often think that had my hand not been forced, to a degree, I would never had made the jump in the first place. The lack of funding, so to speak, made me work a little harder because I knew I didn’t have the biggest cushion to fall back on.

What other leaps have you made?

Saying yes to partner with two colleagues to work on an education platform for small business owners in Brisbane. We also wanted to create a series of non-networking events where everyone could forge genuine connections through conversation without it being about, ‘How many business cards did you hand out?’, as many networking events we were going to had become and there was a lot of pink washing. Claire and I are both introverts so a small supper club to gather with women from all different stages in business was a natural way for us to operate. The response has been wonderful and I’ve been lucky to meet people like Rachel Service (aka The Happiness Concierge) along the way who teaches me so much each time we catch up!


What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?

I would say the leap to Sydney. It wasn’t the city for me (although I enjoy visiting it now) to live in and I was too stubborn (and young!) to see that admitting it wasn’t right was a sign of strength not failure. I didn’t have the support, community or sense of self to thrive there and it wasn’t until I moved back to Brisbane in 2008 that I started to find that. That said, I wouldn’t take it back. The lessons I learnt during that time stay with me to this day!


What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

Other than clowns? On a daily basis I fear losing my ability to think critically about a problem or a way to strategically approach work. I’ve started working on, as I say, slowing down to do more. This frantic pace we’re all working at, responsive to pings and alerts, emails with perceived urgency – it creates an environment to rush everything and often not think something through as well as it should be. I try, for example, not to answer emails from my phone to ensure I’m really thinking about the response; work on one thing at a time and not be afraid of saying to a client that something isn’t quite right yet and it will be to them in a few hours. Making sure I’m setting boundaries in the way I work help ensures I’m in the best headspace possible to work diligently and effectively for my clients.

In the bigger picture, like most, my personal perception of failure is the fear that hangs heavy over you. It’s crazy that we do it to ourselves and as much as I like to think it keeps me hungry I also try and work on challenging it. If failure means I end up working in a stationery store or a bookshop while I figure out my next step, then it could be worse! I used to see the catastrophic and fishbowl effect of such small situations when I worked in PR agencies and it is a good reminder to always look at the bigger picture.


How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.

It’s always rad. Some days are always better than others but I’ll always come back to being thankful for the opportunities I have right now.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

Having time to work in a way that I am most effective and being able to look after myself more diligently. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in early 2015 and being able to work in a way that feels in alignment with what I need, take due care of myself (mind you even now I still forget to sometimes and feel the consequences as a result) and be mindful, I think, allows me to give more to clients. Similarly, the biggest upside is being able to work with clients in a way where I am truly an extension of their organisation. I’m really proud of some of the goals I’m kicking with clients at the moment.

What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?

The isolation and the ‘Am I doing enough? Am I good enough?’ imposter syndrome. Working in a co-working space twice a week helps with the isolation and also gives space for collaboration and some good-old fashioned brainstorming. I also find practising Yin yoga helps calm my mind and the overwhelm. When I’m in a good rhythm practising one or two times a week I feel far more centred, together and in control. And no surprise – more productive!


What might be your next leap?

I keep coming back to the idea of studying my Graduate Diploma in Psychology. So maybe that when I summon the courage to take the leap!

What are your favourite words to live by?

In the last six months it has become, ‘Keep your eyes on your own yoga mat.’ I’m not sure where I heard it but I’m thankful I did. For many years I realised I was holding myself back by focusing on what everyone else was doing and comparing my actions to that. It’s a devil’s game. So, keeping my eyes on my own yoga mat means I keep my eye on what I’m doing. Of course you still look externally at times for inspiration and such but I try to do it from a better place rather than from a place of thinking whatever they’re doing is better or more valuable than my actions.


Who do you admire who also made the leap?

This will sound naff as it is on the Of Kin blog but, Kylie Lewis. I remember talking with Kylie in one of my previous jobs while she was at kikki.K and being in admiration of what she was doing then. When you took your leap into Of Kin and consulting, the admiration continued and you showed there was a way to create your own path, be true to your beliefs and values and ‘be successful’. I also admire people like the manager who hired me for Yelp, Laura Nestler for always being ready to take a leap. She is strong, supportive and someone I definitely look up to. She’s also a great reminder that the leaps you take don’t have to be ones into running your own business.


A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

Take it. Leaps don’t have to be grand gestures. The smallest leap may have the biggest effect. Take one small leap every day or once a week. It will all add up.

Don’t feel you’re ‘less than’ if you don’t or you choose to do it to your own time. I think there’s a huge fetishism of the freelance/location independent/entrepreneur life right now. It can be easy to feel like if you’re not doing it right, or not leaping at all, or you’re not working poolside from your Balinese retreat, that you’re not achieving goals.

While it has definite perks, a leap into working for yourself isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. I remember reading an article about intrapreneurship and resonating with some of the traits. It is okay if you’re not an entrepreneur. I’d love to see that getting as much spotlight as those who choose to step out and work for themselves. Sometimes a leap isn’t to work for yourself but perhaps finding a company more aligned to your personal values and beliefs. I feel like I’ve been lucky to find a good balance of both working with a handful of my own clients and working with a small group of entrepreneurs and small businesses with Deane & Co that align with my values and beliefs.

Right now I’m:

Hearing: My podcast binge is never ending. I’m that person that starts a sentence with, ‘I was listening to a podcast the other day and…’
Eating: Naked Byron Bay dips. Especially the turmeric and ginger one! They go with everything.
Drinking: New Farm Confectionary Dark Hot Chocolates with almond milk.
Reading: Helen Garner Everywhere I Look and Carolyn Tate’s Conscious Marketing
Loving: Always my dog! A 40-minute walk with him is the ultimate meditation.


Keep your eyes on your yoga mat this week, and keep growing up. You are a work in progress, always.


Kylie x

P.S. Grab your copy of  The Leap Stories book here, and tap into exclusive leaping content only available in print.

Welcome to our first leap story for 2017! After a summer hiatus, we’re back to embrace all that this new year has to offer. And this year is perhaps especially inviting. According to numerology, 2017 is a ‘1’ year (2+0+1+7=10, 1+0=1), which means it’s a year of new beginnings and a great time to consider taking a leap!

But what exactly defines a leap? Ever since I started this series I’ve wanted to showcase all types of career leaps, not just those into self-employment. Because I believe a leap is fundamentally anything that gets your adrenalin going, feels a little uncomfortable, that feels more authentically you and pushes you to see yourself in a new way. It involves a healthy dose of vulnerability, accepting imperfection, the fear of rejection or failure, and feeling scared and exhilarated at the same time. It moves you closer to who you are, and feels expansive and empowering, rather than sad, weakened, tense, tightened and lost from yourself.

Leap takers recognise they have a choice in how their life plays out. They stay open to possibilities and consciously craft a life on their own terms. They’re aware when things need to change, and that what worked then, doesn’t work now. They embrace that change is the only constant.

Leaping isn’t always a jump out into the wilderness of your own gig full time. Leaping is anything that pushes you live bigger, within your own values. And values change over time.

And that’s why I love this week’s story. Last year Emma Clarke Gratton leapt out of Gratton Design, the furniture design business she and her husband built, into a part-time job as a writer for ArtsHub. While dual self-employment worked for the couple for a while, add two young kids, bigger projects and more staff into the mix and life and partnership becomes complex, both at work and at home. So Emma decided to redesign her life and build a new path forward by reigniting a past love.



What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

I always wanted to be a writer. But I didn’t know what that really meant, just that I wanted to be famous for writing books. I was a huge book nerd (my best friend and I have known each other since we were four and she still teases me about inviting her over for play dates and then spending the whole time reading) and still am a book nerd, and was always much better at English than I was at maths. I still can’t add up or do anything remotely mathematical. Thank god for the calculator app!

What did/do you study?

Straight out of high school, I studied a Bachelor of Communications at Monash and majored in journalism and international relations. I also did a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. I worked night shift as a media monitor throughout uni, so was basically nocturnal for a few years.

When I was about 25, I had a quarter-life crisis and decided to study interior design, something I had always wanted to do. I graduated when my first son was about six months old, and then joined my husband’s furniture design business.

What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

I’ve made several leaps. The first was from writing to interior design, and putting all my eggs in one basket by running a business with my husband. And now the most recent leap was the opposite to what most people dream of doing: moving from self-employment back to a ‘day job’ working three days a week at ArtsHub.


What were you doing before you made your leap?

My husband and I were running GRATTON, a furniture and high-end joinery studio in Melbourne. We had worked together for about four years: him doing the building and running the workshop, and me doing the client work, the marketing and the business side of things. We had expanded from him working solo to a much bigger business with a team of staff, a waiting list and new product ranges.

We are both very different personalities, and while that works really well in our relationship, it made for a very challenging workplace! We have renovated four houses together, had two kids and were very involved in each other’s lives, so we imagined that running a business together would be easy-peasy.

Good lord, were we wrong.

Basically, it came to a point where we were becoming more like colleagues than spouses, and we knew that to keep working together would be to sacrifice our relationship. So I got a job! It is honestly one of the best things I could have done, both for our relationship and for my own identity.


Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

My dad – he has been described as a hurricane, a steamroller and the Big Kahuna. He taught me how to juggle multiple projects: he currently runs a thriving construction company, a property development business, and one of Australia’s most successful sheep genetic breeding facilities. He is super-involved in all of his projects (he has produced films, built apps and was president of the local football club for years) and still manages to leave presents in our letterbox for his grandkids.

My husband, Lee – he is like a soothing balm, the yin to my yang. I have workaholic tendencies (inherited, see above) and struggle to relax, but Lee has taught me the value of chilling the eff out. He sometimes puts me on the ‘Couch of Silence’ where I have to sit on the couch and not think or speak until I am sufficiently calm.

My girl squad – I am surrounded by excellent, feminist, go-getting, creative women who I am so lucky to call friends: artist Sam George, florist Marnie Cunningham, jeweller Liz Ickiewicz, and the indomitable Tess McCabe, plus a whole posse more.


What did you have in place before you made the leap?

In many ways my leap was a backwards jump compared to most people, going from self-employment where I had no sick leave or entitlements, no boss, no regular work hours and no regular pay, to a way-less-scary leap of a regular paycheck, set hours and no more hustling to find work.

Most people seek self-employment to find freedom and be their own boss, but I was sick of being my own boss! There is something really freeing about being told what to do every day (creativity thrives with limitations!) and having the safety net of superannuation, sick leave and all that, especially with two young kids.

What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?

Lee and I had a huge argument about work and money and the business and we had the epiphany that this wasn’t sustainable, for us or for the business. At first we thought that I could try and get more freelance writing work, but frankly I was a bit burnt out with self-employment and at least one of us needed to have a regular income. I was stoked to go back to ‘proper’ work – it meant getting a large chunk of my life back.


How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

In the circles I move in there are lots of entrepreneurial, self-employed ladies and men. I totally applaud that and am entrepreneurial by nature, but I think this can make people feel like a failure if they get a ‘proper job’. I never really felt like that, as I have been self-employed and it was bloody hard work!

Working for someone else (in the right job!) can be very liberating, as you don’t have to think about where your next dollar is coming from, and there can be a distance between you and your work that can be quite emotionally freeing.

I also think that the reality of running a small business is incredibly difficult: lots of nights spent on the couch on the laptop, working weekends, losing money, hiring staff and doing everything yourself. It can be a huge emotional rollercoaster, especially doing creative work like we were. Lee was regularly working 14 hour days and was so exhausted the rest of the time.

Now, he has more stability as I am bringing in a separate income, and has taken on more responsibility with the kids. By leaving that behind, I have found a lot of space to do the things that I really love. So I am writing a novel, am really getting into my garden and am spending more time with my gorgeous boys.

And I love my job at ArtsHub. I have a lot of freedom and a very understanding boss who is sympathetic to the unique challenges of working mothers.


How did you fund your leap?

Ha, the leap funded ME! It wasn’t really a matter of needing cash to make the leap, but rather that I was leaping into a big pile of cash in the form of a regular salary and all the other benefits that come from working for The Man.

What other leaps have you made?

I think I’m more of a planned and careful leap-taker, so they haven’t felt like big scary jumps, but more like a series of decisions. I tend to go by instinct a lot and trust that things will just work out, so things that might seem risky to other people seem fine to me!

Renovating houses has been a series of leaps. I met Lee when I was 20 and then six months later went backpacking through Africa, Eastern Europe and India. When we came home, we bought a house in Northcote (I was 23) and renovated it, then bought another one in Coburg and had our first son there when I was 25.

We purchased a house in Brunswick about 10 minutes after inspecting it and lived with my parents for a year while we renovated that, then finally purchased our dream house in Warrandyte, a 1960s Robin Boyd home on a bend of the Yarra River. The house purchases all seemed like big scary decisions at the time, but in hindsight, they made financial sense.


What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?

At a risk of sounding like a massive wanker, I think everything has worked out perfectly. Lee’s business is still thriving, we have two beautiful boys and we are healthy and happy and safe.

What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

Bugs. I think it stems from having terrible eyesight and thinking every speck of fluff was a spider ready to kill me.

Also, dying with unfulfilled dreams. That’s why I am finally tackling my novel. I tend to be quite pragmatic about my fears and emotional issues (my husband would say that I am ‘the bloke’ in our relationship: I have to work hard to listen and be empathetic instead of trying to fix everything immediately) so I like to investigate my fears and try to tackle them.

I have seen a therapist on and off since I was 16 and have been on anti-depressants for over twelve years and will probably be on them forever, so am firmly in the ‘GET HELP!’ camp of self-care.


How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap? 1 being sad, 10 being rad.

Maybe a 9/10? Some days it’s a ten, other days trying to get my kids and myself out of the door at 7.30am is bloody hard work. But it’s only three days a week. I have a long commute (which I LOVE) so the mornings can be a bit hectic. But then I get on the bus, get out my crochet, pop on a podcast and exhale.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

Having my own life, separate to my husband. When you work, play, sleep and parent together, it can be smothering and claustrophobic. Now we have new things to talk about, I have colleagues who aren’t all tradies, and I can exercise my brain a bit more, doing the thing I love.


What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?

I don’t think there is a downside! My husband probably finds it a bit harder that I’m not in the business, and I see my kids a bit less, but it has been a life-changer for all of us.

What might be your next leap?

God, who knows? I have been permanently clucky since I was about 15 so maybe another baby. But Lee is not 100% on board so I’m slowly convincing him that we need a house full of loud and cheeky kids.

What are your favourite words to live by?

‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ – Maya Angelou

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

I don’t actually know many people who have made the leap I did – most people are trying to do the opposite! The people I admire tend to be trailblazers, people who are tough in the face of adversity. People who are open and honest about the difficulties they have faced and overcome.


A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

Just bloody do it. You might fail, but it’ll be a good story for the grandkids. Life is for doing, not thinking about doing.

Right now I’m:

Hearing: The koalas mating in the big eucalypt outside my bedroom. Not a pretty sound.
Eating: A mandarin.
Drinking: Copious amounts of my favourite tea: Dilmah’s Green Tea with Moroccan Mint.
Reading: So many things! The gut-wrenching poetry of Warsan Shire, Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things and books on writing by Stephen King, Catherine Deveny and Anne Lamott.
Loving: The change in seasons!


Life is for doing! Here’s to doing yours this year and beyond.


Kylie x

P.S. Pick up your copy of The Leap Stories book here, and tap into exclusive leaping content only available in print.

P.P.S Emma is also half of the parenting podcast ” target=”_blank”>The New Normal which is worth checking out if you’re a newbie parent or a seasoned pro. x

Can you imagine the person you might be this time next year? Of what you will have learned, experienced and survived after another 365 days of being you? Because it’s not a matter of if  you’ll change, but rather, how. Change is not optional.

When Elizabeth Donaldson was a DFAT advisor living in Japan, I doubt she ever imagined herself becoming a champion of independent design, retail shop owner and co-working enabler in Adelaide. But after turning forty and waking up to the realisation that the career that looked good on paper was not longer holding her attention, it was time to follow hunches about her next career iteration and a take a leap.

Today Elizabeth is the owner of Brick+Mortar, a retail space for independent local designers, artists and makers, and a co-working space for creative entrepreneurs co-located in a design-oriented environment with a café, workshop/event/exhibition space, and free wifi.  The focus is on creating a destination for local creatives to connect with the community and other businesses in the creative industries.

Despite the notions of not being ‘qualified’ to make the transition, and of being fearful of what people might think if she failed, Elizabeth focussed on how she would feel if she never gave this idea a red hot go. The idea of living with regret, far outweighed the fear of failure. And so she changed her course, changed her idea of what her life could be, changed her relationship with fear and started living her leap.



Lovely Elizabeth, founder of Brick+Mortar Creative, a creative retail hub in South Australia.

What did you want to be when you grew up and why?

I never had a really strong sense of ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’ in terms of a particular job description, although the ideas that resonated most strongly were always something to do with travel and a fascination with other countries, people and languages.

My great love as a child was reading so being an author or (due to a lurking suspicion I wouldn’t be a good enough storyteller) then an editor was an idea that persisted. When I was in primary school I wanted to be an airline hostess (but back then they had height restrictions and it looked like I’d be too tall!), then when I was a bit older, a diplomat – not that I had much idea of what was actually involved beyond travel, but that was the allure.

In high school I remember doing work experience with the ABC for journalism and also with a natural health practitioner, so I guess it was always pretty wide open as to what I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’.

In the end, chance intervened and at the end of university a friend suggested I sit the public service exam, and from there I entered the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as a graduate.

What did/do you study?

I went straight from school to university, with a three month American Field Scholarship to France in between. I actually loved school and was lucky to have gone to an academically focused but sort of bohemian Quaker school in Hobart and remember with great fondness some truly inspirational teachers.

At university (University of Tasmania) I studied Arts/Law (French, European Literature and Philosophy as the arts component). I studied the arts subjects out of interest, and the law subjects out of a sense of obligation to have a ‘serious/proper’ degree. In retrospect although I didn’t enjoy law and am glad my career trajectory veered away from legal practice, it was a useful discipline to study as far as developing clarity of thought and a sense of how the world works.

As part of my time with DFAT and in preparation for my posting to Tokyo I went on to do a thesis based Masters in Arts (Foreign Affairs) at Monash University around Japanese reform prospects under the new and charismatic Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi.

I think if I’d studied what I actually enjoyed at university rather than what I felt I should study, I would have followed a different path, possibly into literature and publishing. Back then, however, there was the expectation that if you got good marks at school you should aim for a career where good marks were a prerequisite. In hindsight that logic is totally flawed but the framework of the job market was completely different than it is today. I remember A-Z lists of jobs you had to choose from as a guide to choosing tertiary subjects – and there certainly wasn’t an ‘e for entrepreneur’!

I don’t feel I have the time or inclination to study in the traditional sense any more, but as my business unfolds I am constantly absorbing information, mainly online – on lean startups, management style, marketing and communication, design and manufacturing, hospitality and retail, coworking, small business models etc – completely new skill sets that I would have found tedious beyond belief before my leap, but now find infinitely fascinating (except for the really dull bits like bookkeeping etc which still require a fair bit of teeth gritting to get through).



What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?

Definitely the one I’m in the middle of now. I guess I’d made incremental ‘bunny hops’ before, but they felt like they were all part of a path I was already on – leaving my home town of Hobart to head to Canberra for my first ‘real’ job, then moving to Tokyo for four years, leaving DFAT and moving to Adelaide to be with my step-son. In career terms they were sidesteps, compared to what I’m doing now which feels more like leaping off the cliff of fiscal certainty into a whole new world.


What were you doing before you made your leap?

Working as a senior adviser in government (to the Deputy Chief Executive of Premier and Cabinet in South Australia), mainly on international and strategic policy plus a good measure of whatever was on the agenda for the day. I had a brilliant female boss who was an amazing role model, a super smart team who I loved working with and was constantly inspired by, job security in an industry where that was becoming more scarce, and huge variety in terms of work coming across my desk. So strangely all the things that should have made me ‘not leap’.


Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?

The biggest influence is my husband Joe. He understands me to my core, (better than I do sometimes – I’m not much driven to introspection) and has relentlessly encouraged me over the 17 years we’ve been together to shrug off the ‘I should be’ internal pragmatist in favour of following my instinct and taking a risk. He’s taken a million leaps in his existence, often spurred by generosity to support others – like leaving great career opportunities to follow me to Tokyo, and is motivated by bold ideas and helping people and bringing the two together. He’s also worked hard to pull off things people assumed were pipe dreams and done them regardless relying only on his own resources, so is a veteran at understanding the physical and emotional demands of being self-employed. Joe’s the one who gave me the confidence to leap, and while it’s financially scary both being self employed, it’s also a wonderful opportunity that allows freedom.

I’ve also been lucky enough to work for a number of extraordinary bosses. You learn a lot by watching people who inspire you and I learnt about the importance of emotional intelligence in building teams, of networks in developing strategy and decision making, and leading by example. Of course the converse is also true and there are a couple of bosses that displayed the opposite traits and while it was traumatic at the time, it intensified that message (and probably my resilience!).

My mother. When I look at my mother’s generation and the number of smart and creative women whose career prospects, or even opportunity for professional fulfillment and financial independence was stymied by social infrastructure, it makes me so aware of how different things would have been had I been born a generation earlier. When I look at things I take for granted now that weren’t the case back then (like being able to get a bank loan without a male guarantor, having the same educational opportunities as my brother, not having to quit the public service when I married) I’m grateful for gains towards equality made within a generation and hope my daughters will inherit a future that closes the opportunity gap between men and women.



What did you have in place before you made the leap?

Most importantly, in a practical sense, I had personal savings to buffer a 12 month period of no income and investing in setting up a new business. In terms of what I needed to know in setting up a small business, I now realise I didn’t have nearly enough in place (it’s always a question of the things you don’t even know you don’t know)! I was moving from having worked in policy development and project management in a team environment to a solo enterprise running a store, a café, a coworking space, events, workshops and exhibitions, doing the marketing, social media, community building, fitout, and all the small business admin that comes with it.

But maybe that’s not a bad thing, sometimes it’s better to start something big with only part of the picture. It’s like having children, if anyone told you how little sleep you’d get and the heartache and worry all parents go through you’d probably never do it, but once you have made that ‘leap’ into parenthood you’d never look back, and any hardship becomes insignificant in the grand and wonderful scheme of pouring your soul into something you love.


What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?

I was losing the ability to focus properly on my work, almost like my brain was involuntarily disengaging from what I was doing. It was an odd feeling, as on paper I had the perfect job with the perfect colleagues. But for some reason I felt my mind was pulling me elsewhere and I wasn’t giving 110% to my current job – and the last thing I wanted to do was let anyone down.

And the more I thought about it the more I realised that I’d never felt like a perfect fit in my job, and I’d thought that was normal. But working with people who loved what they were doing and were passionate enough that work was integrated with the non-work part of their lives it dawned on me that maybe I should listen to the other part of me that got excited about design and creativity and all the things I wasn’t ‘qualified’ to do but had always been drawn to. And then I turned forty and knew I wasn’t engaged enough to aspire to promotion but equally didn’t want to just tread water for the next however many years. I thought if I don’t do it now, maybe I’ll lose my courage and miss my chance. So it was almost the external factor of a fairly arbitrary milestone that pushed me to jump.



How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?

The fear was all in the lead up to starting. Once you press ‘go’ and are past the point of no return it’s just a mixture of adrenalin, momentum and sheer determination to do everything you can to make it work, there’s no time to be scared.

The fear I felt before leaping was the fear of failure. Not in the sense of manifesting the project, as despite being inexperienced in most of the aspects of the project I was about to embark on, that didn’t induce fear. My time working for DFAT had consolidated an attitude to work versus fear that if there was something that needed to be delivered (even if you felt totally out of your depth and terrified) then you just got on and found a way. ‘Impossible’ just wasn’t in the vocabulary, and I believe rightly so. Ninety-nine percent of the time there is a way to do something, it’s just a matter of persevering until you find it.elizabeth-donaldson-quote-7


When I really break it down, my fear was that, if the business didn’t work out, other people would think I’d failed. For the first time I was putting myself out there to deliver my own vision and I would be personally judged (as opposed for delivering a project for an organisation which holds ownership). And when you analyse that, it’s probably the most ridiculous reason for not doing something. But it’s also a powerful one and shedding the tendency to care what people think has been a liberating by-product of this venture.

As for ‘choosing courage’ it was weighing up what would happen if I didn’t do it. Really what’s the worst that can happen – you lose your savings, a couple of years of your life, and possibly your dignity? It sounds flippant but it’s actually true – it’s a small consequence in the scheme of things, and insignificant in terms of the ‘what could go wrong’ on projects I’d worked on before.

But the longer I’m in this the more comfortable I am with the concept of ‘failure’ and why it’s not actually important. I’d take putting my all into something I really want to pursue, that really stretches and inspires me, and see it fail spectacularly, over settling for feeling disjointed from your true self for the (not insubstantial) portion of life that you spend working. I think fundamentally I would regret always wondering ‘what if’, and in the end I’m so lucky that enough factors in life coincided to allow me to try this out.


What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?

I don’t really have an answer to this one, not having really ‘leapt’ before!

What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

Losing precious time with my children while they’re young. It’s so important to be present in parenting and just the sheer hours involved in the startup phase of this business mean I spend less time with them than I want to. They’re five and eight years old so we talk things through and they understand that there’s time I need to work and they let me know when things are out of balance. I also see them learning lots by being around talented creative people and hope that as they grow older their comprehension of what ‘work’ is when you’re doing what you love and playing to your strengths will be broader than mine was.

How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.

10. On any given day it’s a 10 coloured by frustration, stress, exhaustion, excitement, hilarity and satisfaction – the whole spectrum of emotions, but yes, 10.

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

I feel fully engaged every day in what I’m doing. I’ve never actually felt like that before and had always had a very clear distinction between work versus life. Work was challenging and interesting and I tried hard, but time outside work was where I experienced ‘flow’ in the sense of being able to be effortlessly absorbed in learning new things, be recharged by friendship, travel etc.

I love the diversity and daily challenges of running a multifaceted business, the satisfaction from small wins and nutting something out, learning new things every single day, and the autonomy of having control over the direction you choose to take things, being able to make decisions quickly.


What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?

The toll it takes on your social life – finding the time to catch up with friends, trying to switch off, looking after yourself, all the things that recharge you and help you be creative and productive. Too often the important loses out to the urgent (like managing admin, worrying about financials etc).

What might be your next leap?

Maybe a sideways one. I love connecting people and I’m really intrigued by so many aspects of design I’d like to develop these elements. That or win the lottery and live by the coast in Croatia!

But for now I feel I’m at capacity with Brick+Mortar and the prospect of another leap seems too much to think about, unless of course I’m pushed through external circumstances and it’s an involuntary leap, in which case I’ll feel like I have more resilience and skills to start again than I had just over a year ago when I started this.


What are your favourite words to live by?

Oh so many great words and phrases to choose from, but what first comes to mind is my daughter’s kindergarten motto: ‘Be Kind, Be Friendly and Do Your Best’. That pretty well nails it, but I’d also add ‘be grateful’, there are a lot of people in the world in very hard times and it’s important to remember that and act accordingly.

Who do you admire who also made the leap?

There are so many people who leap every single day, often just to make ends meet or overcome adversity, it’s those people I admire the most. In the context of making a career leap to follow your heart though, interestingly I’ve worked most of my life alongside incredibly smart and talented people who absolutely love every part of what they do and are in it for the long haul. So within my personal experience it’s almost a case of admiring people who’ve already found their passion and are pursuing it wholeheartedly (and by default realising that if you don’t feel like that then maybe you need to leap).


A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?

Just do it. There will never be a perfect time or perfect circumstances and once you’re on your entrepreneurial journey it’s a mad ride, so just give it your all and be prepared to work hard, be humble, be open to opportunity and don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re doing the very best with all you have.

I remember a piece of advice from a serial entrepreneur that it’s best to try your second best business idea first so you make your mistakes and experience your biggest learning curve before you embark on your ‘first best’ business idea. While that’s good in theory, a) you may never get another chance and b) the whole process is a learning curve, about your business and yourself so you’ll come out ahead either way.

What was unexpected that translated from your leap?

All the fear and caution that had prevented me from leaping for so long just dissolved. I’m now taking much bigger risks than I anticipated I would and feel like I’m starting to find my feet and able to trust my instincts more readily.

Right now I’m:

Hearing: The Avalanches ‘Wildflower’
Eating: All the fresh seasonal foods that come with spring, emerging from all the lovely comfort foods of winter.
Drinking: Waiting for the hot weather of summer to drink soda, umeboshi (pickled plum) and cucumber (with a dash of vodka/gin as required).
Reading: Not enough, I love reading but haven’t seemed to find the time lately. But two books I have next to my bed to re-read at some point are Hannah Kent’s ‘Burial Rites’, a book of beautiful prose by a South Australian author, and Thor Heyerdal’s ‘Kontiki Expedition‘, a small volume written in 1948 but an enduring favourite for its sheer adventurous spirit.
Loving: My beautiful family: the incredible and enduring support of my partner Joe and my awesome kids who are hands down the most spectacular human beings I know. Also the privilege to be pursuing my dream, I’m so grateful to have this chance.


Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said ‘Nothing endures but change.’ As this year draws to an end, ask yourself ‘What changed this year?’ and recognise all the myriad of ways we, and the people, circumstances and ideas around us evolved this year. And then follow up with ‘What would I have liked to have consciously, deliberately changed in my life by this time next year?’ Perhaps the draft of your own leap story lies in your answer.


Kylie x

Earlier this year I was lamenting with my husband that there needed to be an app to help Instagrammers plan out their visual feed ahead of time – where we could see all our potential posting images, and layout them out in order to design a great looking feed, and have a bank of images to call on.

Read more…

the-leap-stories -pony up cat harding mardi brown

What happens when two mid career marketers ‘unpack their confidence and self-belief from the suitcase of doom’, and ask themselves ‘what will I regret having not done when I’m on my deathbed?’ What happens when they join forces to do work that matters, that leverages their skills and contacts? What happens when they connect the dots to solve multiple problems in a global network? A beautiful leap is made, that’s what! Read more…

While we don’t always find ourselves in situations of our choosing, we always have a choice about how we deal with it. And that’s the very place that leaps are often born.

When graphic designer Emma Kate Codrington couldn’t get her working visa renewed, and she had to leave London and return to her hometown of Adelaide, she had a choice: try and replicate the corporate life she had created in England, or seize the opportunity to start afresh. The adventurer in her won out, and EmmaKateCo was bought to life. First as a petite design studio, then as a stationery company. It was returning to her roots that gave Emma Kate the opportunity to try something new. Read more…

Of Kin What's Strategy free webinar

What’s strategy? It’s a question that kinda stumped me for a while, thinking it was this big, unwieldy, highly complex and over analysed tome of data printed in some highly official and intimidating document.

But when I read the word’s ‘execution is the strategy’ everything turned around. In this webinar, Binny Langler and I demystify what makes a strategy, and uncover the five questions you need to answer to build a strategy for your business. Once you’ve answered these questions, your path forward and planning become simple.

Dive in to find out more.


Full time employee. To full time freelance designer. Back to full time employee with a side gig. Throw in several redundancies and a life threatening accident, and you’ve got several leaps in all sorts of directions. So is the story of Olga Grueva, founder of  family tree digital printing business, The Family Tree Co.

We’re big on family and kin around these parts. And many leap takers call on their family to help them make the jump. In Olga’s case, it was a 12 month bed-ridden recovery requiring the full care of her family that crystallised what was important, and inspired her to create customised, archival quality, bespoke, framed family tree prints to honour her loved ones. Read more…

Over the many stories I’ve recorded in this series, travel seems to be a common leaping ingredient – either as a way to escape the known and see life differently, or as way to tap into different tastes, textures and terrains.

Sarah Holloway and her partner Nik like to travel. And on those travels they experienced drinking matcha tea (ground organic green tea leaves) as part of a traditional tea ceremony in Japan. And then on the other side of the world, they saw it being used by healthfood outlets in Los Angeles. When they wanted to have it to use for themselves at home in Australia, the only they way they could purchase it was in bulk. So they took the plunge, made an order with the idea of selling off part of stock to like minds. Little did they anticipate how in solving their own problem, they created a new local market for an ancient superfood. And so Match Maiden was born as a side gig. Read more…

Have been neglecting your email list for a while now (perhaps ever since you started your business. Yeeouch!). No judgment here, we’ve come to your rescue. Or you need some fresh ideas to help you grow your established list?

Whatever the reason, this webinar will give you some inspiration and ideas to get your list happening, and to help you convert your followers to customers.

We’ll cover topics like:

– ways to grow your list
– technology you can use
– what to put in your emails
– the types of emails and when to send them
– subject lines and the words to use?
– email format and layout for readability
– rookie mistakes

Don’t be fooled by us, we’re not one-eye social media supporters. You will catch us constantly reminding you, our fine kin, to never forget about growing your email list.
You own your website, blog and email list. You rent space on social media. And the landlord sets the terms. So a golden rule for growing your business online, is always be converting your social media followers to email subscribers.

Once people are on your email list, you’ve built a tangible, valuable asset for your business that you own and control (best you don’t ignore it then!). You can then send them direct messages, without the interference of a landlord. So let’s hop to it then.

There are some basics you will need to build your list and communicate with those lucky enough to be on it. We’re going to start there.