Start Close In

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But I don’t know where to start?
But how do I know if I am on the right path?
But I have so many ideas and interests I don’t know what to follow first?

‘Start close in’

That’s a line from a beautiful David Whyte poem.

‘Don’t take the second step/ or the third/ start with the first thing/ close in/ the step you don’t want to take’

In the world of options and openings, in the world of possibility and promise, there are many pathways. As we fill our world with media and screens and flickering glittering lights, it can be hard stop, let alone start. We jump ahead of ourselves. We follow a flock just because there is already movement there. We expect the answers elsewhere, externally.

‘Start close in’

You see, our bodies know. The intimacies of our cells and the spaces between the fibres of our inner being know when we are on the right track. They vibrate with aliveness and seek out the mystery. They are generous and open and communicative with the very thing that sets them vibrating.

And when we’re not on the right path? We’ll, it’s contraction. It’s that deep pit in the stomach, distinct from nerves, which offers us ominous signs. It’s a tightening in the shoulders, a gripping of the jaw, a fake smile, an endless tiredness, an apathy that laces us up from within. Sometimes you can’t rationalise it. But you know.

To stop is to face up to it and really listen. To stop can be the biggest, boldest move you will ever make. It is then that you’ll know you have to shake things up and make that daring move- leave a job, leave a relationship, face up to your addiction, apologise. You feel a quickening, and simultaneously the world that was known to you- your crutches and your vices- begin to rattle and wobble. No wonder you feel shaken.

‘Start with the ground you know’, Whyte adds. It is a nod to what will steady us; ‘the pale ground beneath your feet, your way of opening the conversation’

In learning to stand with solid feet on the ground, we learn to steady ourselves. We learn to take responsibility for our own presence here; the weight of our beingness, the quality of our relationship with our own aliveness. And when we stand still, and start there, we allow the silence in. This is a real place of courage and bravery: the place we find when we stop.
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We quickly learn that the silence isn’t really silence. It too has a voice. It resonates with the conversation we are inviting with ourselves. The real conversation. It welcomes in questions we haven’t wanted to face; the hard, bitter and challenging questions which we know will change us. The silence fine tunes our bodies so we can trust again, knowing what doors to close. As the silence rests in our bodies we can respond again to the clues that will set us on the right path. The silence is the key.

So, when you are wondering what is the next best thing to do or when you are unclear of the path, can you make space for the silence?

Can you choose to stop, to ground and find a way back into yourself because the wonderful thing is that when you start close in, you continue close in. You are closer to your own truth. This can be your gift to the world, for there you will be a better guide to others. There you can be a listening ear, a balm or a brave companion to another. And that way, together, we all can find our way to our own first steps, close in.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems


Listen to your own rhythm…. and why it is good for business.

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Our circadian rhythms chime at our own pace. What is morning for one, is not morning for another. What’s late to some is early to others. And yet, in the world of work, ‘time management’ is a thing and 9-5 productivity taken as a standard.

It is 22.44pm as I begin to write this blog post. It has been on my list all day to write it. But the weather was beautiful, there was music on the street this evening, and I wanted a walk with my dog. And so the writing got delayed, and delayed. But there was trust in my wandering ways too, for by now I know I am a night owl. As the evening descended and a beautiful silence with it, I knew the blog post would come. Writing has always been a night thing for me.

I’ve never been one for regular hours, which is why a regular office job hasn’t suited me. It is the same for so many of the creative and social entrepreneurs I work with- we do this work partly because it can fit in with our own clocks and pace.

Over the last few months, as I have transitioned into a new life in the South West of Ireland, I now aim for 4 hours of concentrated productive time a day; that is really focused time when I can work, move things forward, get things in motion. Whether those hours are in the morning or evening it really doesn’t matter- what matters is the quality of my output, concentration and productivity. Shifting my attention to the consistent quality of my relationship with my work has meant that I am getting more efficient, and having more beach time too. 

I get as much done in 4 hours as I did when I used to spend all day at a computer. The shift has been from managing my time, to managing and boosting my energy. I am enjoying life more, work more, and my body more. I take lots of breaks and go on lots of walks. I am cooking more too- enjoying planning my meals and turning off my computer when I eat. So when I do sit back down to do the work, my attention is clearer and more concentrated.

There are days when I do spend lots more than 4 hours working, but only if I am in flow and feeling productive. If I am just staring at a blank screen or hopping from one website to the next, I turn it all off, get up from the table and go for a walk.

Like everything, learning to focus it is a practice, one which I am constantly trying to refine. I am easily distracted so I’ve needed to put some ground rules in place to help me stay on track.

So as learn this practice, here are a few things I have found helpful along the way, and offer a question to you ask yourself too….

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Go with the flow

Working in ‘peak hours’- these are the hours when your natural rhythm is heightened. On occasion when I am in ‘the zone’, and when time does not seem to matter, I just roll with this. If energy is flowing, ideas are flowing and creativity on the go, I allow the work to evolve. My peak hours are early afternoon and late evening. Knowing this, I don’t schedule meetings or skype calls before 10am.

*What are your peak hours? 

Move every twenty to thirty minutes

More and more I find it increasingly difficult to sit for long periods of time. I have taken to standing when writing emails, and every 30 mins or so, I try to either do some quick chair yoga stretches while sitting, or I get up to shake my legs.

*What can you do to remind yourself to move on a regular basis?

Create blank space

So, it  while may look like that I am not ‘working’ all that much at the moment, but my daily walks are essential blank spaces. They are my idea generating/ incubation spaces. My walking time is time to think, process, plan, digest, innovate. It is time to be curious. It is often when I am walking that a solution to a problem will come, or an idea will pop. I usually have a journal with me to jot down any ideas along the way, I take some phone notes, or even record a voice memo into my phone. Sometimes I choose to take a particular client on an imaginal walk with me- thinking through some of their issues or challenges, and then seeing what resources, ideas, or solutions arise when I think about them- ideas I’ll later email. So as I get to exercise, my dog gets exercise and my clients get exercise too!

*What does blank space mean to you? How can you create more of it in your daily schedule?

Schedule and structure time

While there is a lot of white and open space in my week, I am also becoming a lot more structured with how I use the remainder of my time. I have found ‘chunking’ meetings to be really helpful- scheduling them in blocks and around other meetings or appointments which I have. So when I need to go into the town or city I try to keep as many meeting together as possible. This has become even more important now that I am living in the countryside and don’t want to be spending all my time driving from one meeting to another.

*What blocks of your work can you chunk together? 

Block weekly regular activities

Monday is always the day I do banking and send invoices, Tuesdays and Thursdays are Thrive School days. Wednesday has a two hour study time block and is my preference day for booking in private client calls. Having this rhythm to each week sets me up. Within each day there is a lot of flow, but each day has a weight and intention to it, which helps to keep me focused on the tasks at hand. It also helps my clients know when they may hear from me.

*How might you ‘weight’ your own week? What intention can you give to each day?

One touch method

It is a simple premise: if you touch it, finish it.

This is about linking single tasks as chunks and as much as possible following individual tasks to an end. Picked up a dirty cup? Wash it there and then. Needing to process photos? Upload, process, export and send all in one go. I’ve written more about the method here.

*Think through a few task which you could apply this method too. Give it a go for a week and see what you notice… 

Tune into what fuels you

Naturally there are days where the slump hits (it happens to us all). So, rather than battling it, asking, ‘What will nourish me now? What will fuel me?’. Depending on the day, weather or season, this can vary greatly. Sometimes it is a conversation with a close friend, sometimes it is a walk by the sea, sometimes it is heading to a coffee shop with my journal or sometimes it is as simple as having a glass of water…

*Make a re-fueling list. What are the simple things that you can incorporate into your daily schedule which nourish and sustain you?

Have the right conversations

Carving those four hours of concentrated time can require some upfront work or conversations. I don’t have a designated office space at the moment, so I need to communicate with those around me when I don’t want to be interrupted, why, and when they can ask me any questions. Depending on the work I am doing, it often means needing to turn off the internet for a period of time so I don’t get distracted by online conversations.

*What conversations do you need to have to create focused time for yourself? 

Keep the vision alive

Why do you do what you do? What it is all for? What will you use your earnings on? How is your work impacting the world? Keeping the ‘why’ alive is a motivator, and helps with focus. Pinterest is a great tool for vision boards, as too working with an accountability buddy to keep having conversations about your dreams and visions. Connecting in with a vision is like keeping the gaze directed. As such, actions can follow.

*What is your why and how can you keep is alive in your day to day activities? 

So there are a few of my own tips. Got any of your own? Feel free to share in the comments below…

 


Letting the Future Enter: On the Power of a Journalling Practice.

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I have lost count of how many I’ve had at this stage. A least 100, maybe more. Some are torn and tattered, some with lines. You see, since I’ve been 11 years old I have been keeping a journal. It is my constant companion, my guide and one of the best friends I’ve had. I bring one with me pretty much every where I go and when I don’t carry it I feel I am missing something.

Recently I started looking at journals from a few years back, and I could see the same themes that are visible in my work now, re-emerged. There is a quote from Rumi which I love; The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens’. 

Journalling is way for us to see our own future. It is the ground of imaginal space, where we can dream and vision and explore the possibility of the possible. As a personal development tool it has been imperative, and more and more as a business planning tool it has invaluable. Just a few years ago, for instance, I mapped out the idea for Thrive School, but I did not really realise what it was then. I wasn’t ready to see it, but it was ready to seed. Looking through my journal now, I can see it there. Over the few years it had been given room and space, and so when I was ready, much of the conceptual foundation work had been laid, and the seed was ready to germinate.

Over the years my journal has offered me space to loose myself and find myself again. It acts as a witness, a mentor and a host to my inner world and realms. It is a private and sacred sanctuary, an incubation space and a punch bag. There are no rules as to what goes in or what stays out.

At 11 my journal was all about frilly things and the inklings of boys, my teen diaries have pages ripped out of them and some are full of scribbles and tip-ex. I’ve travel logs going back to my first big journeys, written on trains in Russia, boats in Tonga, and back of pick up trucks in Zambia. Page by page I can track my evolution, the error of my ways and insights along the way. With time, I can see patterns emerging, clusters of ideas and the seeds of projects which later fell or flowered. In particular I can see just how important giving space to ideas is.

On the blank page an idea has room just to be. It can be given the opportunity to be thought about, explored and questioned, without judgement or criticism. It is given a life out of the mind and onto the page. There it may need to sit for a while, to incubate, or fade.

I have no expectations of need my journal to look at certain way- only that I love blank pages and work with a nice pen. My preference for the last few years has been blank, soft-backed large Moleskins. I love the texture of their covers and the weight of their pages. The soft cream coloured pages also helps so take a glare off a blank page

My journal is not a day to day account of what I do. Rather it is a place to capture notes, thougths, feelings and suggestions. I write about my dreams. I transcribe quotes or poems which catch my eye. I track learning goals. I jot down things that are bothering me. When a chunk of time goes by that I am not showing up to the pages, I know something is astray. Getting back to the page inevitably brings me back to myself.

 

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So, if you are interested in starting, or continuing your own journalling practice, here are a few tips and  suggestions:

Handwrite your journal. I highly recommend handwriting your journal and not working on a computer or screen to type your journal. Writing is a way of physically expressing your inner process and thoughts. The weight of the pen on the page, the way your letters form, the speed with which you write, the variety and shape and sizes of you own lettering all has information for you about your inner process and ideas. I find it much easier to link and connect thoughts and solutions when on paper than on a screen.

Keep your to-do list in a separate journal/ notebookI’ve always separated out my to-do list. My journal is for reflection and long form ideas, while my to-do list is operational. If I use my journal for task lists, it become more of a ‘work’ place rather than a retreat space. Have a separate task list helps to protect the power of the journalling process.

Invest in notebooks that you really really really love, and pens to go with them. Think of your journal as a luxiourious study or private library space. It’s sacred ground.

Get in the habit of carrying it with you every where you go. This means you will need a cover and a spine that is durable enough to travel with you.

Take yourself on journalling dates. One of my favourite things is to head off to a cafe with my journal and spend some quality time together. Ideally I don’t have other technology on the go at the same time as this is just a distraction.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few starter questions/ prompts which help to get the journalling process going.

Describe your current location.

What is the light like?

What colours are you noticing?

What sounds are you hearing…

And once you get writing you can dive a little deeper…

What’s on my mind?

How am I feeling right now?

What am I thinking about?

How goes life? And love? And flow?

What do I need to hear right now?

How can it be better than this?

I am grateful for?

Every few months look back on your journal and ask yourself what patterns are emerging? What themes are you noticing? Where are you stuck or entrenched? What problems do you continue to encounter? Noticing these patterns is the first stage to solving the problem or issue you may be facing.

When you are feeling stuck, ask yourself questions ‘What next questions’ and write an intuitive response. ‘What should my next move be? Who should I ask? Where should I go next? Our bodies and beings often already know what we need and the journalling process is a way of listening, capturing and then responding to this inner knowing. Often this process can reveal a deeper or hidden wisdom within you. I call this a ‘dialogue with my soul’. As you are answering, try not to censor what comes- just write for a few minutes of free flow form. Be open to seeing what happens and what answers emerge.

Keep your journals in a safe space. Gather your journals in a box or a shelf in your bedroom. Wherever you choose, be sure it is somewhere you feel is a space place, away from guests, family members or colleagues. Knowing they will be kept in a secure place will help you express yourself more openly and freely when it comes to facing the blank page…

Don’t worry about what your journal should look like, whether messy or pretty, whether there are spelling or grammar errors – just write. Scribble, doodle, cross things out, link things together. Your journal is just for you. Remember there are no rules. 

Happy journalling… may it be the flame to your most exquisite relationship with you and your ideas.

 

 


What if…

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What if…

What if it is easier than you think it is?
What if you’re already good enough?
What if you put your inner critic in its rightful place?
What if you already know?
What if you quit now?
What if you actually do know what you need?
What if time is on your side?
What if you said ‘No’?
What if it is closer than you think it is?
What if you already have all the resources that you need to start?
What if regret is the only form of failure?
What if there is no right way or wrong way?
What if there are no rules?

What then…?

 

 


Creative Islanders: Miceal Murray

Miceal Murray Creative Islanders

The Creative Islanders is a blog series showcasing creative and social entrepreneurs and practitioners in Ireland who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and passions and choosing to do ‘business as unusual’ while being based in Ireland. The series aims to be a ‘behind the scenes’ look into their creative practices, process, motivations and mindsets, shining light of what makes people tick, and how, collectively Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

Next up in the series is Miceal Murray, a forager and cook who has recently founded ‘Taking A Leaf’, a new business running creative food events with a focus on wild and local foods. Inspired by the celtic cycles, Miceal has created a series of seasonal dining experiences and coupling them with music and art. With over 25 years in the cafe and restaurant business it was time for him to step onto his own path, combining his passion for sustainable enterprise with his love of nature and the wild. Miceal is also a Thrive School participant. And so with great pleasure I hand over to his lovely and kind self…

What keeps you in Ireland?

What keeps me in Ireland is the sense of home I get from here. It’s in my bones. Being from the country the connection is strongest felt from the landscape and the wild. And it is specifically the Irish landscape and whatever magic emanates from it. It seems to hold a mystery and a richness that I can’t find elsewhere. Obviously there is beauty all over the world but I find something else here; something hard to put into words. It is a distillation of many things, history, stories, art, music and memory. And of course my husband, family and friends.

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

A deep and heartfelt desire to live more in tune with the natural rhythms of nature and self, and to express these in a creative and meaningful way.  It is also the desire to live in a way that is more connected to nature in an urban setting.

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Why do you do what you do?

I think that part of me might shrivel up and die if I didn’t. It keeps me vital.

What do you do just for the love of it?

Discovering new things, be it music, food, books, magazines or places. Plus, jumping over a wall or crawling under a hedge to get to a new patch of land.

What does the creative process teach you?

Be open to change. I can visualise an idea or concept but to actualise it I must be open to change. Ideas can change or they can grow into something completely new, or they can be shelved and returned to at a more appropriate time.

What were some of the key moments along your own journey that helped you to get where you are today?

I learned so much from a wonderful lady called Judith Hoad. She is a teacher, healer and author and she introduced me to so many plants and explained their medicinal and edible properties. She inspired me to think differently.

DSCF4056Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. I recently watched a film called “Juliette of the Herbs” it stayed with me for days, as did “Embrace of the Serpent”. Although the content doesn’t directly inspire me the magic of the characters involved does. But you can’t beat a good walk to get you out and get the juices flowing.

How do you get through tough times? What sustains you?

It is pretty simple really: get outside and walk the dogs.

What key lessons have your learned about doing business or being a creative practitioner along the way?

It is strengthening to know that everything changes and nothing is constant. Whatever you are going through, whether good or bad, it will come to an end and change into something else.

Do you have a morning routine? 

Ideally I like to do an early Astanga class. It really sets my day up and I am more determined to get on and get stuff done. I have an on/ off relationship with meditation but this too helps. But most of all walking the dogs first thing through the very wild Liffey Valley park gets me going.

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What books have inspired you?

The Global Forest by Diana Beresford Kroger

What advice do you wish you had received as you were stepping onto your own creative path?

Make lists. And then make more lists.

Be kind to yourself if mistakes are made. I am learning all the time and am very new at this game so I have a long way to go and many mistakes to make.

And what advice would you give to your future self?

Work less, garden more.

What is coming up next for you?

On the 13th of August I am completing a cycle of dinners inspired by and connecting with the ancient celtic festivals. So this time it will be Lughnasa and the beginning of harvest. Simple local food with foraged elements. After that I will be collaborating with the composer Hilary Mullaney to create an immersive dining experience. Also a series of walks to get people out and introduce them to some plants.

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……..

All photos by Vivienne O’Brien.

Find out more anout Taking A Leaf over here on the website and also over on Facebook here.


The sea, the sea and a West Cork Calling..

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‘I want to live by the sea, not die by the sea’.

Sometimes you’ve just got to dive in. In diving you can’t but go under.

It’s not what I had been expecting, the radio silence on my writing and creative output but that is exactly what’s happened. You see, I have been literally swimming in a world of newness.

For years I have been talking about a vision of mine- to live in the countryside while running a creative school or venture. I always saw the sea and a dog by my side, yet it always seemed in the future. But as the years move on, I realise the future is now, and the future is not coming any sooner unless I act upon my dreams.

It is such a hard thing to give up something that is going well for the risk of something better, deeper, that may or may not work. The questions and doubts are hard too- How will I sustain myself? Will I be lonely? What about my yoga classes? What about my friends? What if that dream was all but an illusion and I will come out the other end with no other dream.

But my body knew. Back in January while on a retreat in the UK, it became clear to me that, for the sake of my very being, it was time to move and the time was soon. I did not feel ready but I knew intrinsically I had to immediately take action. There was a particular part of Ireland calling too; a place I knew well as a teenager, and a place which over the last few years had re-planted itself deep in my heart. West Cork.

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Once I made the decision it all happened pretty fast, which is often the case with these things.

The day I returned from the UK I sent a message to one of the few people I knew living in West Cork, asking if she knew of any housesits available. She told me that they are hard to come by but then said that her mother was actually looking for a someone. So I immediately contacted her Mum, and yes, I could bring my dog, and yes I could borrow her car.

It only took one email.

Flow is a sign of the right course of action. This almost seemed too easy.

But what about my room in Dublin? I sent an email to my friends wondering if anyone would be interested in subletting while I tested the Cork waters. Immediately I found someone.

That only took one email too.

So, ten weeks ago I found myself in Schull, West Cork, with a sea view and a dog by my side. This had been the dream for so long there were days I had to pinch myself. Has it really been that easy?

Sometimes we can be led to believe that what we really are called to do is not the right thing unless it is hard and challenging. Yet this whole experience shows me that the ease is a signpost too. The ease is permission and a gateway. ‘Follow’, it says.

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Ten weeks ago I took that housesit in Schull, really knowing only one person in town. Now, ten weeks on, I find myself walking down the street constantly stopping to chat. One day I went out for milk and came home seven hours later- there was the milk, and then the many many many conversations I had with people along the way. They stop to say hello to Milly and then the conversation opens. It is that kind of place. People have time and space and it is leading to very interesting connections. I am not sure where they are heading, but what’s important is the time and space.

There have been many surprises. I had thought in moving that I would have so much more time for writing, painting and new creative projects, but instead, the silence. Over these weeks there has been a lot of quite and a lot of listening. I have walked and walked and walked the coastline. I have listened to Spring turn into Summer and watched the clouds shift in an instant. The landscape offers its daily gifts. It is a landscape which thrills and embraces and it is a landscape which is alive and supportive. Even when the weather is bad it offers its wild intimacies and the unexpected turns of its stormy ways. The sea is in constant dialogue, the birds and wildlife too. It’s never a dull moment out there. The aliveness of it all envelopes and invites me into a deeper conversation too with my own particular wildness and aliveness. I indeed feel I am living by the sea.

When I first left Dublin I knew it was a trial run of a bigger and more substantial move. Ten weeks on, the housesit is over but I’m still here. I’ve a new friend has kindly offered to let me stay with her from the summer and am looking for a longer term house, trusting that the right one is out there for me. I gave notice on my house in Dublin and packed my bags last week. I’ll miss my yoga classes, and my friends, and all the good things that Dublin has to offer, but I knew I just had to leap.

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And so in the time and space, another aspect of that long held dream has evolved, with relative ease too. I launched Thrive School, and with a bit of marketing effort and conversations with people interested, it is now up and running and fully subscribed. The flow was there, telling me to keep on moving and developing it.  And so, with such gladness, I can say that my vision of the school is alive and evolving too. My plan is to launch Thrive School again in Dublin in the Autumn and a new class in Cork too. How exciting is that!

Diving in, I’m sinking deeper into beingness, into an exploration of what it means to track a dream. I feel lucky, so very lucky, to have the sea and my little dog by my side, and how can I ever be lonely with the wildness outside and the bit of wildness I am rediscovering inside too.

To be continued…

 

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Thrive School is here!

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From the age of about 12 I’ve had notions to set up an alternative kind of school. It would be a place of learning, but not traditionally. It would be a place where we could bring our whole selves- our head, hearts and hopes. It would be a place of skill building, and a place of strong community. That dream has taken several iterations over the years and now is emerging in real time, big time. It is a dream which is born from experience and born with the deep desire to serve others on their own creative and entrepreneurial paths.

And so, with this message I welcome Thrive School into the world. (I am launching this on my birthday too- a day I have always cherished as I shared it with my father’s birthday also- so it feels extra special!)

Thrive school is a different kind of school- one for dreamers, creatives, entrepreneurs, start-up-ers or people who really want to make a difference. It is about doing business, and life as unusual and giving us the support we need along our undulating journey.

I have been a freelancer/ soletrader for over 8 years now. It has been a journey full of learning, adventure, failure, progress and challenge. I have had huge highs and huge lows through it all and there have been so many times when I have wanted to give up because it felt too lonely or too difficult.  One thing I know for sure is that I would not be doing what I am doing without the support of friends and a network of other creative and entrepreneurs globally who lend support and advice. Their input has been invaluable.

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The kind of learning which we need to create a life we thrive through I know can be accelerated with the right structure, people, resources and community around us. Thrive School is that- a place to connect and learn from others on their entrepreneurial journey, and hone valuable personal and professional skills along the way.

Before Christmas I reached out to my network and asked what they were seeking.  Above all, people wanted a place to gather, connect, learn and find in-person support, which I know is so necessary and vital when working alone. And so I realised it was time for Thrive School to emerge.

We start on 17th May! 

Thrive School Dublin will take place from May- Oct (with a summer break built in).  It combines an in-person gathering once a month with an online learning component packed full of resources and tools. There will be an internal accountability support as part of the programme and it includes a private one to one coaching package for each individual who unrolls.

This is going to be very very special…
Thrive School Dublin EventsI am delighted to be teaming up with Emmet Condon from Homebeat and Cafe Thirty Four, who has offered his beautiful cafe space to be our Dublin HQ, and also very excited to welcome to the team Claire Faithorn, a fellow coach and current programme manager for the Suas Volunteer and Leadership programme- she is a bright star and brings such fresh energy and insight to the process.

Want to join? Read more over here, come along to our open evening on May 3rd or drop me a message.

Know you are ready you apply? Application form is here and applications are now open. Application deadline is Tues 10th May.

It’s time to Thrive! 

 

…………………


A Little Tale of Failure, or is it?

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Failure, I have come to realise, looks very different when added to with time.

Yesterday I had a realisation that what I once thought as failure was actually a massive blessing in disguise. Twenty years on, almost to the day, the memory hit me hard.

I was walking through University College Dublin and passed the admissions building. Twenty years ago, in that very same building, I had signed myself out of college. I will never forget the feelings. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed, and thought I had utterly failed, especially my parents.

I was 17 and had entered UCD with the full intention to complete an honours Science degree. My first year subjects were Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths. I had loved Biology while in school, got an A in my Leaving Cert, and somehow thought that it qualified me to sign up to all the rest of the sciences! I was mistaken, gravely so. By Christmas I was so off track I was about to fall off. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and falling far behind. I had never failed an exam in my life but I failed all my Christmas exams, except Biology. I remember getting 18% in my Chemistry exam which was returned to me covered in red corrections. I didn’t even understand the corrections. ‘What on earth was I doing? Why was I here? And why was I feeling so utterly lost?’ Mostly I remember the feelings of shame.

I knew I needed to tell my parents. I was fearing it because they had already paid my admissions fee and in leaving college it would not be reimbursed. I was so embarrassed. I don’t remember the moment I told them I wanted to leave but I do remember the response. It was filled with so much love and compassion; so much understanding. They could sense I was on the wrong track too.

The day when I had to sign out of college my father accompanied me too. He walked me up to the admissions building, took me by they hand and told me that it would all be OK, that I’ll figure it out. Afterwards, when I had signed what felt like release papers, he gave me a hug. That was that. He didn’t say much but his actions meant the world to me. He was giving me his blessing for whatever next and in those moments I knew he trusted me. I had no idea what impact this would have on my career, I was terrified and yet I was utterly relieved. I knew I would never have to sit another Chemistry exam in my life and the thought of that shifted and lifted my very being.

My strongest sense was that I needed to travel, move away from Ireland and learn on the road. Yet I had no money. So a few days after signing out of UCD, in possibly the most embarrassing career move of my life, I took a job in McDonalds. The shame radar escalated. I mopped floors. I cleaned toilets. I flipped disgusting fish cakes. I burned myself on greasy oil. I was told I did not hustle enough. I was told I need to up-sell. I hated it, I hated it so much I would cry every day, but I was determined to get out of there quickly. Three months later I had enough money to buy myself a plane ticket. I had organised a volunteer role in Tonga, South Pacific, and so, at 17, my parents, in yet another act of selfless devotion, brought me to the airport and with tears in their eyes waved me off to literally the other side of the world. The older I get the more I realise what a remarkable gesture of trust (again) it was on their part- entrusting me to the world, and to myself.

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Tonga was a revelation to me. Here I found myself in the middle of the Pacific- literally and metaphorically. I spent nine months in Tonga and three in Western Samoa (which is a whole other series of blog posts), and while there a world of possibility awakened in me; indeed the world awoke in me. I became more interested in education, learning and international issues. I realised that lack of resources does not equate to lack of imagination, and that sometimes the best innovations happens on the edges, on the margins. Travel, I have found, enriches as it shakes. In the challenges I was tested and invited to see more of myself. My so called failure had indeed been a doorway.

394725156_9ae5b0779e_o I realised that had I remained in UCD I would have been utterly crushed. I got out just in time, thanks to the love and support of my parents, and to some toilet cleaning. So when I returned to Ireland I was ready to re-enter university with a deeper sense of my interests and of my callings. I entered Queen’s University in Belfast and after three years there got a scholarship to Oxford University, staying as far away from Chemistry and Physics as I could.

Walking through UCD yesterday I was reminded of that 17 year old- full of shame, full of fear, but knowing she needed to step off track. In doing so, the world had revealed itself, and by entering into the world I entered into myself. That failure was a gift. As I walked passed the admission building, a tear swelled in my eyes, remembering my late father’s words, ‘All will be OK. You’ll figure it out’. He was right- all is OK, and while in many ways I am still figuring it out, I have learned to trust that the failures are just learning in deep disguise. My only wish is that my Dad was around so I could thank him, for walking me to that door, and unbeknownst to me at the time, opening a much deeper, richer one for me. It is a door that keeps on opening, one failure at a time.

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Fearless Freedom

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I decided to do a little experiment with this post, and include a recording of me reading it. Some people love to read, others love to listen. So to all those listeners out there, this is for you. Click on the bar below to play. And for others, read on!

 

I write it in bold across my diary.

I say it in my head, out loud, repeatedly.

I let the words rest on my heart, to move me.

It was one of my yoga teachers, Cara, who planted them there last Saturday. ‘Fearless Freedom’, she said, ‘they are our words for the year’. Our practice together was an exploration of what it means to move from that place- with an intention to flow with grace and ease; to let go of what we know to discover what we don’t; to act through power with an unfaltering, unquestioning belief in our capacity for joy and our right to it from the inside out. Our practice was our offering. Our practice was prayer.

They are two beautiful words. Fearless. Freedom. Together they pack a powerful punch. I have been sifting through the words over the last few days and it feels like they are here to stay. As signposts; as maps.

I am making some big decisions at the moment, those big life altering ones, and fear has been visiting, frequently. It is the kind of fear that keeps me small; the fear that makes me doubt myself and the fear what swells procrastination to the point that it too becomes powerful.

So what to do?

‘Fearless Freedom’, I say again to myself. What would ‘Fearless Freedom’ look like right now? What would Fearless Freedom do?’ It is as if Fearless Freedom is personified, taking a life of its own. I learn that it is a warrior at heart. It knows its own answers. It locates the cracks of courage within, sounds them out so as to amplify them, one little step at a time. Courage comes when given space to rise.

The question alone is the key. ‘What would ‘Fearless Freedom’ do?’ By asking it, I am finding that the fear itself is diminished and possibility is allowed back in. You see, the questions we ask of ourselves make a difference. We ask bigger questions so that we get to expand into them. The bigger the question, the bigger the response. Then, with warrior words alight within our hearts, there is less room for procrastination, less room for the small, questioning self. Words matter. Questions matter.

So, when I ask myself, ‘What would Fearless Freedom do?’, my inner self talks to my outer self, telling me it looks something like this:

It means writing the email to the person you admire.

It means asking for help.

It means saying no when your gut tells you so.

It means saying yes, over and over, to the dream, the vision, the place of possibility.
It means go.

It means doing it, even if you don’t feel ready.

It means placing value in what you offer.

It means showing up, repeatedly, even when part of you wants to retract, calcify because right now it feels safer. Deep down, long term, you know it is not.

It means I believe in you.

It means let fear be your ally, keeping you moving, onwards.

It means I love you.

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Fearless Freedom.

Let’s wave that flag and let the questions fly.

May the responses carry us, unfold us, unfurl us, yield us to the warrior within. Let them define us, refine us.

Fearless Freedom.

Let the words enter us, to move us, to clear our way, to make us believe again. Let them be our offering. Let them be our anchor. Let them be our prayer.

I say ‘us’ here. For the ‘we’ matters too. Together we can pack a powerful punch. Courage comes when given space to rise, and it is easier as a pack. So I’ll take your hand, if you’ll take mine.

Fearless Freedom.

Amen.

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A Furry Kind of Vision

 

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Dreams can manifest themselves in multiplicitous ways. Sometimes they may be big ones, or sometimes small. But whenever one of your long held dreams comes true it can seem like a miraculous thing. I’ve had one particular dream for a very long time which happens to be furry.

Since as long as I can remember I have wanted a dog. In vision boards, visualisations, and when day dreaming of future times there has always been a furry friend at my side. I have visualised us walking on the beach, playing in the sands, exploring the wilds and cozying by a fire. I have imagined doggie companionship as I work at my desk or go about my daily tasks. However, the timing of me getting my own dog never seemed right and the commitment felt too huge. Could I really take care of another being? What would that mean for my travel and work plans? Will it restrict me? Taking on a dog is a huge commitment and until this point having one of my own seemed like a commitment I could not quite make.

But things can change quickly. Last year the little and lovely Finn came along- my housemate’s dog who I readily adopted as my own, loved as my own, and treated as my own. However, she was never quite my own and the longing in me to have my own little creature grew. So I knew it was time… I dreamed it up again and started searching. Last December the search resulted in Milly, and as I write this she is sitting by my side.

It is been a full on few months with a new little puppy- at times very challenging but mostly amazing. She is so very sweet and a lively little thing, full of love and huge personality. But she has also shifted things; my work pattern and the demands on my time, and has tested my patience at other times too!

It reminds me that our dreams and visions aren’t always pretty packages (although in fairness, Milly is pretty high on the cute scale!) . Dreams take effort, engagement, work and often patience. They can test us and challenge us and expose parts of ourselves which we have not necessarily explored before. A vision is there to expand us into our possibility.

I’m glad I listened, and I am glad I responded too. Because now I have a little Milly, and a little Milly has me. Each day I get to know her better, and fall in love a little bit more. And for the challenging parts- we’ll figure it out. Together, and each with a wag in our tails.

Woof.

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