The Leap Stories #21: Carolyn Tate

The older I get, the less I care for competition. The more I wonder what the point is of creating competitive environments where there are winners and losers, where faster, bigger and cheaper is valued more than culture, purpose and the human condition. I might come off as sounding naive, or not plugged in with ‘the real world’ when I say this, but the more I see the economic, environmental and engineered tragedies of humanity, the more I believe that we need to see that we are all in this together, and interdependent on one another. That ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.

And this is why I love what Carolyn Tate’s latest leap is bringing to the world. Carolyn is a conscious capitalist and founder of The Slow School of Business, an unconventional business school for people passionate about building purpose-driven and prosperous businesses that make the world a better place. In a world where fast-profit and short-term thinking dominate, the slow movement advocates a shift towards slowing down. It’s an ideology that espouses that fast is not better, and that a conscious and mindful approach yields better results. Her courses offer the safe space for experienced independents and corporate escapees to gain clarity of purpose and take the right actions to generate prosperity.

It takes a mountain of courage to question the status quo, push back on mainstream thinking and craft a life saying controversial things. If we are lucky enough, bumping up against new ideas will provoke us to tap into our beliefs, continually expand our worldview and capacity for empathy – quality sadly missing in boardrooms and partyrooms across in our country.

This is an important leap. Carolyn is starting a movement. One that I need to believe can change the world.

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Gorgeous Carolyn Tate, founder of The Slow School of Business.

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

A teacher. I wanted to be a teacher at age 7 and age 14. When I left school, I became a banker. Go figure!

I grew up in small country town in South Australia and there were really only three career choices for women – banking, teaching or nursing. I chose the one that would make the most money until I could get married and have kids. Makes me cringe just to think about it really. I sometimes feel quite resentful of how stereotyped and conditioned women were in those days and still are to a large degree.

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What did/do you study?

I got a marketing diploma while I was working in Westpac many, many years ago. I don’t subscribe to any form of ‘formal’ learning any more. I prefer what I call ‘free range learning.’ I’m an avid learner. I can watch three documentaries, read one book, attend two interesting events, watch five TED talks, read a dozen articles and have three profound phone calls or meetings with edge-thinkers in just one week. I take from each of them the nugget of wisdom required to build my own knowledge and I draw on my own emotional and spiritual reserves in making decisions personally and professionally. I avoid mainstream media and have been as dedicated to ‘unlearning’ the old as I am to learning the new. We have a long way to go to reinvent learning. Plato said ‘All learning has an emotional base.’ I believe in that 100% and we should be studying the revolutionary thinkers of the world for insights into the new world we are emerging into. I also really dislike the business education world that people are being sucked into at the moment – you know the ‘five steps to seven figures’ stuff that is being peddled to vulnerable people using ‘funnel marketing’ techniques. They’ve been the fuel for me to build the Slow School movement.

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

I’ve made two big ones in my life. The first was in 2001, when I got divorced, shifted house, became a single mum and quit my corporate job all in the space of 6 months. That was when my ‘consciousness’ journey began and I started my business as a small business-marketing expert. It was the start of my ‘purpose’ journey. After 20 years in corporate I had no idea what gifts I really wanted to give the world so I just took action and tried many things (writing books, speaking, running networking groups, consulting, running workshops and starting at least three different businesses).

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I took my next big leap in 2010. I was completely disenchanted with marketing and the whole toxic marketing and advertising world, so I gave up my business, sold my house in Sydney, gave away most of my possessions and moved to the South of France with my 12 year old son Billy for about 6 months. That was well and truly when my real purpose journey begun. I spent that time in France recovering my latent creativity and spirituality and basically repairing myself. That was the start of something truly wonderful. I came back to live in Melbourne, worked for a not-for-profit, gave that up and then came to work at the Hub, became a founding member of Conscious Capitalism, published Unstuck in Provence and now Conscious Marketing and just 12 months ago started The Slow School of Business. It has been a haphazard road to finding my purpose, but never ever before have I felt so dedicated to my purpose – bringing this school to life and writing. I have at least 10 more books in me and this school will go global. It is not just a school but a movement. Action precedes clarity, every time! Don’t just stand there, do something. The biggest tragedy of all is not that you failed but that you failed to do nothing. When you find your purpose, you just have work to do.

What were you doing before you made your leap?

Working in banking at Westpac and Merrill Lynch. I left them in 2002 though. They were great training grounds in those days. Now I think the banks are in trouble and rightly so. I wouldn’t want to be working for any of them. The financial system is seriously responsible for the cancer that exists in capitalism right now. I wrote this blog just recently on the topic of capitalism. It’s pretty out there but what I believe. There are no prizes for not being bold and honest in life and business. The death of capitalism.

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

It’s hard for me to separate life and work. What I have learnt about life has directly impacted my vocation and the work I am doing now. I also can’t just pick three. My biggest influences have been Eckhart Tolle, Julia Cameron who wrote The Artists Way, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, anything Seth Godin, Marianne Williamson, Charles Eisenstein, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Buddha, Pope Francis, Russell Brand and people in the Conscious Capitalism and B Corporation movements as well as many personal friends and influencers.

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

Nothing. I was a single mum with no financial security and a big mortgage before I took the leap. I just did it. I saw it was my chance for total freedom. I just thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ – give up my business and go get a job again or go live with my folks if the worse came to worse again. I have never really worried about the risk or worried about what would happen if it doesn’t work out. I’m not advocating this for everyone mind you. It’s just been the way I’ve done it.

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

The first one was when I realised I had to get divorced. I was out running and I stopped at the top of a big hill ready for the last few hundred metres home. I just broke down in the gutter and sobbed. It was that moment that I just knew I had to have the conversation with my husband that would end my marriage. I still remember it as clear as day. The second epiphany was on Monday 17 May, 2010 when I awoke one morning and knew I just had to leave Sydney after 13 years. I write about it in Unstuck in Provence. Within 90 days of that moment, I’d sold my house and given away most of my belongings and my 12 year-old son Billy and I were living in the Aix en Provence, France. As I get older I’ve learnt to trust more and more my own instincts and to observe the signs that are telling me the way forward. I just trust my gut and follow my intuition and instincts.

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

Aristotle said ‘The most essential human quality is courage, because it is the quality that guarantees all others.’ Courage is the gateway to creativity, to spirituality and to consciousness. It takes great courage to look inside and address your flaws and tackle what’s holding you back. So many people live lives of mediocrity and mere existence because that is what they have been conditioned to accept and believe – by the church, by society, by governments, by the education system, by banks, by the media. We’ve been taught to be ‘happy’ little consumers enslaved by debt. That’s how the elite and the institutions control us. They don’t want us to question anything. They want us to comply and conform.

Every single day I get at least three people contacting me who love my message and agree with me and who want to do something courageous. Underneath, everyone wants to break free from the system. There are two paths to courage and consciousness – the first is through a personal crisis – a death, an illness, bankruptcy or loss of job. All change and learning comes through either pain or joy – the most exquisite learning and access to courage however comes through pain.

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The other path to consciousness is from the outside – when we get hit over and over again like a hammer to the head by the powers that be. We see refugees being persecuted, human rights being denied, profit at all cost destroying our planet, people working on less than $1 a day, the hungry and starving contrasted against the obese and wasteful. We look at all this stuff that is just bullshit and so downright offensive, that we go – enough! I am not actually going to stay silent any more. I am not going to be complicit in this bullshit treatment of humans and our environment. I am going to do something about it! That’s when we truly find the courage to take a stand, to tap into our purpose and do something about it.

Courage to me is about living a life of purpose that is in service of the greater good and having a vocation that supports that. That’s when you just have work to do. If more businesses were fuelled by courage and purpose, imagine what we could do to heal our world!

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How did you fund your leap?

For the 2010 leap it was from the proceeds of the sale of my house. I invested some of my capital in ME! At the time I remember people thinking I was irresponsible not to have an ‘asset’ behind me when I went to France. Their view was that I should have a house to come back to and a solid investment behind me. I now know the most solid investment one can make is in oneself and in the experiences you have. Collecting experiences not things is my motto. I also have radically simplified my life so that I own less and so that I can just take off whenever I feel the need.

What other leaps have you made in the past?

I’ve made more leaps in the past 10 years of my life than the previous 40. It’s not always about big leaps. Often it’s the regular little leaps that make a difference – realisations that I will cease a friendship that is harmful or that I will write a blog that is really out there or a book that is waiting to bust out. I am very bold in contacting people I want to connect with and in asking for favours to further the cause of Slow School or saying what I think when I am invited to speak and even to potential clients. I don’t sugarcoat my message or change who I am or what I believe in order to win new business. I can’t do that any more. I am not interested in doing work where I cannot be 100% authentic and challenging. I’m probably one of those women that people either love or hate.

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

There have been many leaps that didn’t work out. One in particular comes to mind. A few years ago when I was exploring the new edges of where my work would take me I met a business coach who quickly decided to adopt me as his new ‘project’. Before I knew it I found myself going down a path that I probably hadn’t planned. We were in partnership delivering this business program that really didn’t resonate with me or the people in the program. We were halfway through the program and I had to put a halt to it. I had this incredible realisation that I was ‘off purpose’ and I knew I had to get out of it. I remember having to tell him it was all over. Before our meeting I went into the toilets to pray as I was worried how he would react. I breathed out fear and breathed in God (my higher power) and asked for help on how to handle the situation. It could have been ugly and it could have been financially catastrophic, but it wasn’t. We parted ways amicably and I was able to restore some of the faith the course participants had in me.

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

There is not much I am fearful of, but the big one is failing financially. This is a hard one to conceive of because I actually don’t believe in the capitalistic/profit-driven world we live in anymore. I am very fast moving down the share economy route, living off the grid, living with less and living simply. Last night I watched a doco called Craigslist Joe. It’s a movie about a young man who lives for a month through Craigslist. He wants to test the generosity of humans while travelling across the US and back without spending a cent. He does it too and it proves how wonderfully generous and empathetic people are. I’ve been a single mum now for 14 years and had to live off my own wits. So I know I will survive, just sometimes I wish it was easier!

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

10. Totally 100% happy about being a business owner. I am simply unemployable now!

What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?

Freedom of expression. No politics. No beaureacracy. Creativity. Cause Leadership. Flexibility. My community. What I have learnt. The biggest upside however is that I am a wicked role model for my son. My 17 year-old Billy is why I do what I do! He has a social conscience. He wants to make a difference. He is our future. He thinks I am a pain in the arse half the time, but deep down he is proud and he is sucking up every ounce of goodness he experiences. The absolute biggest upside to taking the leap is passing it on to the next generation. It’s an imperative. If we don’t do it our world will not survive. We will combust.

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

Financial ups and downs. Just knowing that it will all be okay as it always has been. Journalling, meditating, focusing on the good stuff.

What might be your next leap?

Launching Slow School branches in Sydney, Portland, San Francisco and New York.

What are your favourite words to live by?

I have my own personal manifesto which is in my book Conscious Marketing. It starts with Live with Purpose. Do work that I love. And it ends with Question everything. Dream of a better world. Do something about it.

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Who do you admire who also made the leap?

There are so many people (mostly women) that have made the leap that I admire. One is my beautiful friend Julie, an Australian who now lives in the US. She is an entrepreneur like me and we have been through thick and thin together. She now roves around the US travelling with her husband in their RV. She’s a fabulous woman and I love her so very much. Check out her blog at RV Love.

I also admire every single woman that has made the leap to freedom from their abusive partner. I’ve had everything I could ever need and so do so many women. But there’s a growing number of women suffering terrible abuse at the hands of their partner or even their own relatives. Two women every week get killed in Australia at the hands of their partner and we now have a government that wants to reduce spending on helping these women. Abusive men should be forcibly removed from their home and incarcerated until they are rehabilitated. At the moment we have a system where women are financially disadvantaged and forced to flee their partner with their kids and often into unsafe situations. We need to stop the patriarchy protecting this sick system and ensure women have the freedom they deserve. And this is just Australia. Don’t lets get started on the atrocities happening to women across the globe. The women that take the leap out of these situations are the women I most admire.

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

Just do it. You will never regret it and you will learn more from this experience than you have learnt in the previous 10 years. If you want to find your purpose and do work that is meaningful, doing it for yourself and by yourself is the only way. What’s the worst that could happen?

Right now I’m:

Hearing: David Deida – The Way of the Superior Man
Eating: Crackers with chilli pesto
Drinking: Red Tin Shed Cabernet Savignon
Reading: Time to Think by Nancy Klein
Loving: My son and my Slow School community

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I’d love to hear what you think of Carolyn’s leaps and her Slow School movement. Please let’s chat about this in the comments below. #choosecourage Much love, Kylie x


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  1. Thank you Carolyn for introducing me to OfKin.com – it’s a fabulous concept! I loved your interview, gorgeous photo and above all, how real and authentic you are in articulating your journey, your vision and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. You are a true trailblazer and an inspiration and one of the best examples of COURAGE and going for it that I know! Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insight with us. Here’s to the future and the sharing economy… the world is ripe for change and embracing new ways of being, I look forward to the evolution and expansion of Slow School to help pave the way.

    Love, Julie
    PS. Thank you for your generous mention of me as a person you admire. We certainly have been through thick and thin together! And lived to tell colorful tales 🙂 xoxo

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  2. […] person was Carolyn Tate, an unknown kindred spirit who had agreed to share an hour of her life with a random stranger. A […]

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  3. […] 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 […]

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