I always knew story #52 had to be a special one – it’s a year since the leap stories launched, and I’ve saved one of my favourite stories for today.
Belinda (Binny) Langler is my business partner in all things content marketing and empire building. We were lucky enough to first work together nearly 20 years ago as fresh faced internet warriors out on the road selling template websites for small businesses across Melbourne. Binny had made the leap from hospitality to become an Internet Business Advisor (which was very rare for 1997!) and I was her manager. I loved working with her so much that I took her with me to another two startups in the five years following. A stint of overseas travel, high flying corporate roles, marrying fellas and a few babies thrown in the mix, now we’re working together again!
Bin however made a big lifestyle leap in the midst of all of that, after the corporate world took its toll on her health. A poignant question asked by her mum, physical rehab for chronic pain and stint of meditation lead her to believe there was more to life than climbing the corporate ladder in the city. She leapt to leave that all behind to live by the sea and craft a life she truly wanted, not one that was expected of her. Today she works part time with me in Of Kin, while taking mid week beach walks with her mini-mes and cooking up a clean eating storm for our one a week, face-to-face meetups.
Bin also has her own business called The Inkling Effect, which is geared towards helping young adults find their strengths, study better, and find pathways to careers they love. This is built on an awesome piece of content marketing she created while still a teenager – a study skills book she co-wrote and published with her Dad in 1990. That business is a testament to her desire to help young people have faith in themselves – don’t we all wish we had a bit more of that when we were younger?
I’m forever grateful that we crossed paths all those years ago and that we’ve continued to take leaps together. Having a leaping buddy certainly makes the whole damn shebang a lot more fun. So, thank you amazing woman for riding shotgun with me in the crazy juggernaught we’ve created, and making it so much more than I could have ever imagined!
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
When I was 10 I wanted to build and run a horse riding camp for kids. My sketch book was filled with drawings of the layout of the camp, bunk rooms, dressage ring, stables – so detailed you could have built the place from my sketches. Collage pages of horses, all named. I called it Yarraman which was aboriginal for ‘horse’. Clearly a phase (which mum spotted early). I have never owned a horse, and have no regrets I’m not a ranch owner.
At 12 I wanted to be Madonna SO badly. I created outfits by cutting up overalls into crop tops and bottoms, cut a cross out of the top and filled it with satin and sequins, filled my arm with black rubber bracelets, painted on the mole and danced her signature move from ‘Holiday’ for hours. Another phase.
I really struggled working out what I wanted to be, because clearly every few years it changed! It was graphic designer, PR, architect, fashion designer, chef, photographer, real estate agent (entering the family business), dancer (I do believe I achieved that in nightclubs worldwide in my 20s, and some of my 30s!). I loved doing so many things, but didn’t want to be stuck doing ONE thing all my life. I think I was actually terrified of that happening.
Perhaps it was career choice pressure at school that made me think like that. I was led to believe that what I chose to do when I left school was the only time in life I was able to make that choice – hindsight is a wonderful thing.
What did/do you study?
The struggle deciding what to do with my life continued. There were several more phases. I had loads of options, and could have done any of them, but was scared of getting bored if I specialised in one thing. Career advisers weren’t helpful at all.
A conversation I had with mum guided me the most. She asked me what I enjoyed doing and I replied with ‘I enjoy doing a little bit of everything that I love… economics, biology, maths, art, English and plenty of sport’ so she replied with ‘well, choose a course that will continue to give you that variety’.
That’s exactly what I did.
I turned down a place studying PR and did a degree in Hotel Management because it offered everything I loved doing. Culinary techniques (my cooking and creative side), economics, management, marketing (my business side), food science and microbiology (my intrigue with the sciences), environmental studies (my social awareness) and I played varsity waterpolo and softball. It satisfied all my loves. I was in heaven.
I’ve since completed a marketing specialisation on scholarship at Pennsylvania State University (USA), and a Master in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and studies in Strategic Foresight.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
My biggest leap was a lifestyle change. Many would have thought starting my own business (The Inkling Effect) would be, but that was very organic, and just emerged from being on maternity leave a second time.
As a dedicated Melbourne corporate girl in my early 30s I had my sights set on getting into a big organisation (Tick. Working at Sensis owned by Telstra), working my way up the ladder (Tick. Heading up Yellow Pages digital with responsibility for $250m and 100k customers). I was aiming at becoming CEO of a big corporate one day. Why not? I had worked hard, I was a dedicated employee. I always put my job first. I had planned my career to end up there.
I knew this would mean that once kids came on the scene I’d have to go back to work full-time almost immediately (so we could afford our mortgage and to hold my spot on that corporate ladder). But that comes with the territory of working in corporate and wanting to get ahead.
It would mean long hours, but we’d discussed my husband possibly going part-time to help with these future kids. He started a massage course to have that as a potential side earner for us.
About a year into our marriage, and at a time in my career where I was being ear-marked for advancement within Sensis and given more and more responsibility, the pressure and stress kept mounting in my role. Something changed. I no longer felt like I was in charge of my life. I felt trapped in my job, with no other option than to stay because the life we had chosen hinged on my salary.
I was completely blind to what my career choice and work ethic was doing to my mental state, physical health and happiness. I couldn’t function any more. On my way to work one morning, I kept driving through Melbourne CBD, past my office, to my GP to ask for a week off on stress leave.That week turned into four weeks. I was a mess. I couldn’t stop crying.
I couldn’t face walking back into the office, not from embarrassment or because of what people would say. I simply couldn’t continue the way I had been pushing myself. I’m human, I’m not a computer. I needed to be switched off regularly, and that was not happening at all.
I meditated every day (sometimes twice a day) for those four weeks. I swam laps daily. The first week I found a book under my beside table by Ian Gawler called Piece of Mind that walked me through the different meditation styles (I’d never seen it there before that time, go figure!). Meditation was like magic. It made everything clear in my head.
For the first time during that period I went from feeling completely lost, like my world was falling down around me, to knowing exactly what I needed to do. I also visited a counsellor weekly. She asked me a simple question ‘when was the last time you said no to someone?’ I couldn’t remember! I was stumped. I never did. I was that person people sought to get things done.
That was a massive moment for me. I never said no, never. My homework was to practise saying no to people. Boy did I find that hard, the guilt I’d feel. I still have to practise this every day, six years later.
Towards the end of the four weeks I woke one morning and my future was there, crystal clear in my mind. I did have choices. I wasn’t locked into this career path I had chosen. I didn’t have to pop my kids (that we didn’t have yet) into five day a week childcare at three months old. There were other pathways to happiness and affording the mortgage. And the path I had chosen had not shown any signs of happiness for me. I could choose to abandon it, that was OK.
I felt free.
I called my husband at work and told him that I had a plan. I haven’t yet mentioned how amazing he was during this time. Giving me everything I needed, and then some (an ear, a massage, space… but most importantly he taught me how to laugh again, he’s a very funny man. Seriously, people would pay money to spend a night chatting to Tim).
I told him that we should sell the house in inner Melbourne. The mortgage burden was too much to cope with, it made me feel trapped to earn more and have to work full-time (we’d been there just over a year). I told him that we had always talked about having a holiday house one day, but why couldn’t we live by the beach every day instead? Let’s leave Melbourne, I need a change of pace. I needed a lifestyle change. It had to be a complete immersion in a contrasting lifestyle.
Whilst he didn’t see it coming, he loved the idea and was fully supportive (he had also seen how unhappy and stressed I had become). We sold our house within a few months, bought a block of land on a golf course on the coast in Torquay and built ourselves our beach house (had a much higher standard of living whilst substantially reducing the financial pressure – bingo!). I didn’t once worry about work and how it was going to fit in around this lifestyle change… it was no longer my first priority. My health, relationship, happiness and long-term sustainable lifestyle were finally on the top of my priority list. Hooray for that!
The day we moved from Melbourne I found out I was pregnant with our first child (we’d been trying for one and a half years). Confirmation we had made the right leap.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
Working long hours, not listening to the messages my ailing body was giving me, not exercising, eating the wrong food, never laughing, chasing an expired dream. Feeling trapped. Saying yes too often and making my work my number one priority (I feel exhausted writing all that!).
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
My awesome mum. Such a strong, wise and funny woman. Never once in my life did she tell me what I should do, but she certainly knew the right questions to ask that would help me work it all out for myself (isn’t that what makes a great coach?).
The incredible Kylie Lewis. It’s no surprise we have worked together on and off for nearly 20 years! It all started at my first office job back in my early twenties and she continues to inspire and energise me to this day. You are one special lady Ms Lewis xx
My dad. I don’t even know where to start with dad. He’s a very smart man. He was the first real estate agent in Australia with a website back around 1995. He’s usually about five years ahead of everyone with digital apps, technology and strategies. I have never seen another 70 year old with as many free apps loaded onto his desktop! When they go on holidays he somehow had all the house lights turning on and off via an app he found online. He was the reason I moved from working in hotels to digital marketing. He’s one in a million and keeps me on my toes!
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
Nothing. I had no idea it was going to happen. It took a month off work meditating to see the option of leaving the city and turning our life upside down. It kind of blindsided me and my husband, but in such a refreshing and liberating way. We felt like we had jumped off a cliff together and realised we could fly.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
It all changed with one question. At a time when I was completing my masters part-time while working full-time. I’d often be at work until 9pm or 10pm at night. My stress levels had been high for months, I couldn’t turn my neck at all the muscles had tightened so much, I was recovering from a bulging disc a year earlier that should have been operated on (and had me standing up to work for six months, having lost the strength and feeling in one leg), my hands were peeling, and I had a heel spur in my other leg. Yep, all that and I still kept pushing.
Whilst driving to work one day mum asked me a simple question (there we go, those poignant questions!) that was the catalyst for my leap… ‘how are you?’
Well, the tears started. I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t stop crying. The mantra running through my head was ‘I can’t do this anymore’ quickly followed by ‘I don’t have a choice, I have to.’ Mum insisted I pull over in the CBD, calm down, then go straight to the doctor and get a week off on stress leave. That suggestion alone helped me breathe and gave me some space.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
It wasn’t hard. I took a long look at myself. My health, my working hours, mental state, relationship… and then thought about what the future would look like if I continued living this way. It made me feel sick. Really sick. That’s what drove me to change.
I had never imagined my life to be this way. The fear of being trapped in this lifestyle was actually the catalyst to find the courage to make a change and take that leap. I felt the fear before the leap, rather than afterwards.
People still ask today about any regrets, or if I was worried about hating the regional life and wanting to move back. Many friends told us not to sell our house in Melbourne so we can move back when we realised it wasn’t for us.
Not once did we look at each other and say ‘shit, what are we doing?’. Not once did we have doubts, not once did we think we might move back again. We just knew we had to do it.
How did you fund your leap?
Fortunately a lifestyle leap to regional coastal Victoria saves you money, especially when you have a house to sell in Melbourne in a booming property market. So the risks weren’t financial. They were more social and work related. But we didn’t feel those risks, all our friends did on our behalf!
What other leaps have you made in the past?
In my early twenties I left the hotel industry and took a punt on this new thing called the Internet and started selling websites for Fairfax Citysearch. This leap ensured Kylie and I crossed paths, so that was a pivotal one! Many would say choosing to leave the corporate world after nearly 20 years, and working for myself would be a big leap, but I didn’t see it that way. I was ready, and it felt very natural.
Maybe cutting my signature long locks off when I turned 40… and now having most of it shaved. Again, it was like this leap was bigger for everyone else than it was for me. It felt right.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
I left the digital world for about six months when I returned from living in London. I thought I’d try something completely different. I became a recruiter. I was really good at it, but the people I worked with didn’t like my creative approach to bringing in business. I would find ads in the paper for vacant positions and look through the database and match one of our candidates to the job, then pitch the candidate to the company. I don’t think that industry was ready for my creativity.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
Doubting myself. It doesn’t happen often. I’m usually quietly confident with my decisions and actions. When I do feel doubt creeping in it throws me off balance. It can mess with all aspects of my life. I find turning to meditation always helps me though these times.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.
Massive 10. Totally changed my life. I feel like I escaped from prison.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
I now live a life where I watch the waves, and see rainbows over the ocean while I drive to the supermarket. Our mothers’ group meets up at the beach. I do yoga and pilates weekly. I have a wonderful group training session with other mums weekly in our trainer’s back garden. I lost 15kg. I attend a meditation development class weekly. I work from a studio in a co-working warehouse run by a gallery in Geelong. I smell oil paint from the artists while I work.
No commute. No waiting in traffic. I wake up to a view over a golf course from my bed every day. And Melbourne is just over an hour away if I need my fix.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
Events and functions in Melbourne on a weeknight are harder to get to, but I wonder whether I would go to them if I still lived in Melbourne?
What might be your next leap?
I’d always said when I was younger that I’d love to live half the year in one location, and the other half somewhere else. That’s still an option.
What are your favourite words to live by?
Because I’m crazy enough to think I can.
Be the reason someone smiles today.
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
Liv Tipler (Co-Founder of Mozi) and Arabella Ramsay (Founder Arabella Ramsay fashion label). Both smart and sassy ladies who had successful careers in Melbourne and have chosen a regional coastal lifestyle that better suits their family, kids, health and happiness. They also live not far from me in Torquay (we must have all felt drawn to this beautiful location).
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
Stop and ask yourself what feelings you want to feel more of every day. Then look at your life and see if it is supporting you to feel those daily. If not. It’s time to make some changes.
You are never trapped in your lifestyle. We all have the power of choice. It’s finding the courage to see that, then the strength to commit to making the change, that’s the hardest part.
Right now I’m:
Hearing: Breathe In – Japanese Wallpaper
Eating: The life changing loaf of bread (recipe)
Drinking: Almond chai
Reading: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
Loving: The meteor shower from Hailey’s commet at 4am in the morning
This past week I spoke at a few leaping events, and someone asked me about knowing what the right next step was for her – she’d actually made a leap three years ago and was now wondering what to do next. The best advice I could give her was to get away, out of town, take a break and find some space to think, reflect and yes, meditate her way to an answer – because I’ve seen the power of what that kind of space can do for a person in Bin’s story. Listen to what your life is saying to you, acknowledge that you have choices, and be guided by your inner wisdom. Your life is yours for the making.
:: Your Leap Story ::
What about you? Do you have an itch to leap? A small niggle that won’t go away? Or a quite voice whispering it’s time for change? If you’re curious about leaping, start here with a little nifty guide to get you started. Take a tiny leap and download it now!