In their own words

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Thrive School is back. It’s been a journey too, starting this thing, and in the process I have been learning and one of the best things has been getting to know groups of amazing open individuals and support them as they grow, connect and learn together.

ts-final-day-june-2017-61As the new Dublin programme is soon to kick off (application deadline Aug 29th), and dates are in the planning for the next Cork programme, I thought it would be a nice thing to tell you a little more about some of the past participants, where they are now and the learning that they have been taking with them…. the people below are just a few of the gems in the mix. It such a pleasure to introduce you to….

Máirín O Grady

mairin_aoifephotos20webMáirín is one of those people who lights up a room. When she arrives she brings insight, fun, delight and a dazzling commitment to her practices of yoga and teaching. She’s been practicing as a freelance yoga teacher for a number of years, has a passion and flair for creative writing, and was seeking ways of creating a more systemic approach to her work- how to creative programmes and courses which would reach new audiences and have a greater impact. Thrive School offered her space and community to do just that… (and also teamed up with fellow Thrive Schooler, photographer, Aoife Giles to have these lovely portraits taken)

 

 

In her words: 

Thrive School has been an enlightening adventure into a more holistic picture of my life. It has offered me a fresh and reassuring perspective on how I am living my life, providing me with the space and also the structure to dream. It helped me to identify my values, my story, my why and to move from a space that honoured this and facilitated me in analysing my work/life balance and finance/life balance and in identifying what is enough. In identifying my values and my story it allowed me to see my unique offering, and to value this offering, aided by the support and feedback of Clare and my fellow Thrive Schoolers. Thrive School provided me with a license to pursue what brings me joy and excitement and to offer that to my students and clients with renewed energy. 

Máirín has kicked off this new approach with The Sunday School of Yoga, which captures her passion for yoga. Here she is again:

mairin_aoifephotos11webSunday School of Yoga is a dynamic workshop series where we come together to map our path towards inner connection, to hone our physical practice of Yoga, and to develop our skills of Breath and Awareness. It is a guided and supported journey where we build a toolkit for a sustainable and virtuous practice of care in our lives, allowing you to discover, sustain and root YOUR Yoga. It’s not a drop in class. It is a workshop. A chance to ask questions. It’s a chance to stop and reflect upon our practice. …It is a chance to pour the tea and grow as a community. Sunday School is the day where we digest, reflect, nourish, and refuel. It is the kind of school where we make friends. It is it the kind of school that teaches us the road home.  

Sunday School – Term 1 is an earthing and delicious collaboration with The Market Kitchen by the flowing river of Mullins Mill, Kells, Co. Kilkenny. 

Find out more about book online here

Niamh Gallagher

selfie-1-2017When Niamh Gallagher speaks, you listen. Her voice is melodic, hypnotic and so very wise. She speaks from a wealth of experience and an expansive reservoir of practice. With a background in fundraising, copywriting and marketing, Niamh made the transition into becoming a reiki practitioner, yoga nidra and meditation teacher, and a health coach. ‘Through my work, I want to bring people together so they don’t have to struggle alone; to provide a space for stillness, self-compassion and coming home to yourself’, she told me, ‘We are often led to believe that our struggles are either a sign of personal failure…or something that we can just take a pill to get rid of. The truth is that we are supposed to turn to each other and to heal in community. To rely on those who have been through similar struggles for support when we, in turn, need it’

Coming to Thrive School Niamh was seeking a community she could collaborate with. She dived right in, with grace and elegance, as only Niamh can….

In her own words: 

What I got from Thrive School was exactly what I was hoping for (and desperately in need of!) – community. A community of like-minded people in Dublin who were on the same journey as I was. The importance of social support can’t be underestimated when you’re starting a new business or project. Online courses have their place, but there’s still nothing like building real relationships face-to-face!

I’ve made some great friends through Thrive School and a year since taking the course, I’m still partnering with other Thrive Schoolers on successful classes and events. When your start-up business does not fit the conventional mould, it can be hard to find the support you need. Thrive School fills the gap for anyone with a vision to offer the world something soulful, healing or creative.

A very important aspect of the course for me was Clare’s coaching which helped me move through some big fears and blocks. She’s a really talented and intuitive coach and just a fantastic cheerleader. 

Niamh teamed up with some other Thrive Schoolers- Ffion and Jane, to collaborate on new meditation programmes in Dublin, and has since started a series of yoga and message. The next in the hugely popular ‘Sunday Sanctuary’ events takes place on Sunday 20th August at Fumbally Stables – deep relaxation, meditation, massage and lunch. More info and bookings here: http://createawholenewyou.com/sunday-sanctuary/

Niamh practices reiki at Oscailt Integrative Health Centre, Dublin 4. All details here: http://createawholenewyou.com/reiki

Máirín Murray

fullsizerender-3Máirín’s interests have many currents- from yoga to holistic therapies, but it is in the digital and tech realm where she is focusing her passions and interests. Since completing Thrive School she has set up the Tech for Good branch in Dublin- a group promoting the intersection of technology and social impact and is also involved with setting up an non-profit called ‘Refugees Welcome’. Her main work comes from her new business, Digital Doddle, a content and production studio for digital innovation products. It’s all taken off since Thrive School- she is scriptwriting, making digital products and working mainly in the health education sector to bring digital learning to patients and families…

Mairin was in the first Thrive School cohort and I asked her what it is she takes with her now… her’s what she said:

  1. To think big and be ambitious. No-one is served by playing things small and safe. As Marianne Williamson says when we shine our light we give others permission to do the same. This has led to huge growth for my projects, and my vision.
  2. Action has its own momentum. I learned that it is important to start now and today to do the work. The answers and insights come while the work is in progress. The important thing is to keep moving.  Small actions, consistently taken, have helped me find the work I am being called to.
  3. That having multiple interests and passions is good. I found others in Thrive School who were just like me, who do not want to pigeon hole themselves but instead contribute their skills meaningfully to make a difference.

You can find our more about Máirín on Digital Doddle, Tech for Good Dublin

Catherine Weld 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACatherine Weld is an artist and teacher living in West Cork. When Thrive School started, she jumped on board. Catherine had a dream of starting her own art workshops in the area and also getting her work out to more people. During the Thrive School process she worked on launching her website, designing a new series of art workshops and planning for more exhibitions. Just this week she has launched a new group exhibition in Schull!

 

In her own words: 

The Thrive School material helps participants identify and work with the foundations that will underpin their creative and entrepreneurial activities. Motivation and self discipline are important requirements – the monthly meetings form the framework around which the course develops while weekly checkins with other participants offer a source of support and advice. Working as a group is a very important element as it adds hugely to the potential for valuable ongoing connections and can provide access to high levels of skill in areas that are complementary to our own.

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It is so very excited to witness how Catherine has been stepping up into her own artistry and fulfilling life long dreams- this is the stuff of inspiration.

You can see more of Catherine’s work here and find out about her art courses here:

https://www.catherineweld.com/courses/

 

 

Cathy Kolbolm- Kelleher

ts-final-day-june-2017-79Cathy Kolbolm- Kelleher packs a powerful punch. Literally. She’s been training in boxing. When Cathy shared her story with us it knocked us off track too. Having had health challenges as a child she was determined to change her life around. She became passionate about fitness, nutrition, science and wellbeing -and is …. an Applied Health Nutritionist, Sports Nutritionist, Exercise Scientist, Fitness Instructor, Clinical Exercise Physical Activity Specialist and Phlebotomist!  ‘I am on a mission to activate a revitalisation in health, wellbeing and performance’, she told me.

Cathy came to Thrive School seeking structure, fresh perspective and people who would ‘get’ her. Since she finished the programme in June she has gone on to seek external funding, grants and additional support from the local enterprise office, set up her business name and is very much on track to develop a wonderful business which blends her expertise in health, nutrition and fitness. She’s defiantly one to watch…

In her own words: 

I feel now I am much more clearer, structured and confident in my ideas going forward and over the course I have gone from not having clear plans, lots of chaos to something I can start to roll out over the next few months. I also found Clare’s feedback and guidance invaluable. Even from what I was able to take away and learn from the feedback from the pitch has directed me to fine tune details.

…..

The next Dublin Thrive School starts on Sept 9thFind out more over here, and apply online by Aug 29th. 

PS- Thrive School is not just for women! There have been men too 🙂

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Kyle Zimmer – Firstbook

Kyle Zimmer

 

The One Wild Life +10 series continues- these are follow up interviews with the amazing, diverse and passionate social entrepreneurs who I met on my travels 10 years ago and whose stories were chronicled in my book, ‘One Wild Life’

We are heading to the Washington DC next with First Book’s founder, Kyle Zimmer.

FirstBook’s premise is a simple one; that books change lives. It was this deeply rooted belief that led Kyle Zimmer to forgo a successful law career to run an organisation that has since gone on to distribute over 100 millions books to children from low income families and communities.

First Book impressed me 10 years ago not just for its mission, but the way it designed strategic funding and systems to drive their growth and sustainability. Many organisations start out with brilliant and bold intentions but don’t always have the foresight and skills to put the time and resources into developing the systems needed to scale their models. But that’s exactly what First Book has done: sticking to their original vision and using data and clever funding streams to build a robust and brilliant organisation…

Over to Kyle to tell us more and share some of her learning along the way…

Photo of Kyle Zimmer from GWU

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise I co-founded with two friends in 1992 to tackle the lack of affordable, relevant books for children growing up at the base of the economic pyramid.  Even here, in a wealthy country like the U.S., 32 million U.S. children – 44% of U.S. kids! – are growing up in low-income families, where the cost of books keeps them out of the hands of those who could use them the most. A recent study by a prominent researcher found one book for every 830 kids in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood – a neighborhood not too far from my office. Without access to books, there is also no culture of reading — stifling learning and failing to provide opportunity for millions of children. We established First Book with the goal of developing a systemic, market-driven solution to this enormous social issue.

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on? 

First Book’s model has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Nearly 20 years ago, we started the First Book National Book Bank, becoming the first national clearinghouse for publishers to donate excess inventory to classrooms and programs serving children in need.  The National Book Bank has grown into a major success story over the years, providing approximately 15 million books annually at present — free books to children in need.  While the First Book National Book Bank is extraordinary, over the last 9 years we’ve built a brand new, self-sustaining model that has become a jet engine for our efforts.

In recent years we have focused on aggregating the voice and purchasing power of formal and informal educators serving children in need.  By the end of this year, our online network will include 300,000 teachers and caregivers.  The First Book Network is growing fast – more than 7,000 members are joining every month. We are already the largest and fast growing network of educators serving children in need in North America and our goal is to reach 1 million educators and programs in the next five years.  

Photo of child with bookBy harnessing the power of our Network, we created the First Book Marketplace, an e-commerce site that provides brand new high quality books and educational resources for children in need ages 0 to 18 – all for free or at the lowest prices possible.  This is an unprecedented model that collaboratively disrupts both the publishing industry and the retail industry – to serve the children at the base of the economic pyramid for the first time.  

Instead of relying on donated inventory, the inventory available through the First Book Marketplace is driven by the very educators serving children in need, enabling First Book to purchase in bulk the exact titles and types of resources most needed to support curriculum, fuel learning and help inspire reading. The First Book Marketplace now carries more than 6,000 new books and resources.  And in response to educators’ requests, we’ve expanded the First Book Marketplace to also carry resources uniquely needed to serve children who show up to school cold, hungry and suffering from chronic stress.  We now carry winter coats, socks and underwear; nonperishable snacks, backpacks and school supplies, and essential needs items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.  All of our products are specifically designed to eliminate barriers to equal education.

We’re also using the First Book Marketplace to help make recent educational expertise and resources more actionable and accessible to educators serving children in need, providing research updates, tipsheets for educators and parents, and curated collections of books that support such issues as social and emotional learning and mental health.

There have been a lot of changes over the past 10 years.  For example, we’ve shifted away from our earlier volunteer model – which was expensive to support and was difficult to scale.  In its place we have built a volunteer platform called ‘Team First Book’ that better reflects the volunteer interests of the next generation.

In more recent years, we have also begun to scale our efforts globally with pilot initiatives through local NGO and corporate partners in more than 30 countries.

And finally, we’ve been able to use market-based levers to request new content from publishers, instead of being a reactive and captive market. In this way we have been able to begin to elevate diversity in children’s literature.  It’s been an amazing 10 years; I am sure I could not have predicted many of these developments when we spoke 10 years ago.

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years? 

One of the highlights is the skill level we’ve built within the organization.  Don’t get me wrong:  we’ve always been hugely fortunate to have incredibly dedicated, compassionate, smart and wonderful people here at First Book. But ten years ago, there were fewer people and we had to multi-task in areas that weren’t always our strengths.  As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to hire the skill sets we need – on staff and through outside support.

We’ve also benefitted from some incredible partnerships – including corporate and foundation funders, amazing business and community leaders and social sector supporters who have believed in us and helped us grow.

Nearly 5 years ago, we celebrated our 20th anniversary by distributing our 100 millionth book – two major milestones.  We held our celebration at the same D.C. soup kitchen where I volunteered 20 years ago, and where I first learned that so many of our children are growing up without books.

Photo of two kids readingAnother highlight for me has been the launch of our Stories for All Project, the first market-driven initiative tackling the lack of diversity in children’s books. Since 2013, First Book has distributed millions of diverse, inclusive books. In fact, educators can now access a wide range of diverse titles from First Book, with books featuring different cultures, races and ethnicities, as well as different religions, family structures, sexual orientation, individual abilities, experiences and neighborhoods.  In addition, the Stories for All Project is serving as a catalyst for bringing culturally relevant books to the retail market, so that all children have access to more diverse books. We see how necessary that is every day – not just to turn non-readers into readers, but to better understand our commonalities and our differences and to build a path forward with empathy and understanding.

But the real highlights for all of us at First Book are hearing from educators and children about the difference that First Book is making:  in classrooms, in afterschool programs, in homeless shelters, in libraries and museums, and in the lives of children and families across the country every day.

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years? What would you have done differently? 

One of the challenges has been getting to self-sufficiency.  Through our models, we are closing in on 50% self-sufficiency.  It’s been a fist fight to get there – as we challenge ourselves to reinvent our models to be as efficient as possible and to harness the aggregated power of those serving children in need to become a market driver.

But I should note that the fact that we are nearing 50% self-sufficiency is amazing in the field of social enterprise.  We are very hopeful about getting to complete self sufficiency in the next few years, given that our network of educators has grown by 500% over recent years.  Few companies – even in the private sector — experience that type of growth trajectory – so just managing that growth in itself has also been a challenge.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 

I would be less worried and more bold in the steps that we take.  I think when you’re running a smaller organization that is more fragile, you can waste a lot of time and energy being too cautious about taking the next step.  I always believe in doing your homework – writing a full business plan – and then LEAP!

For example, I had us pilot our online First Book Marketplace for several years so we could test it, work the kinks out, and see how to make it work best for educators.  It was a completely new approach for us and for the world.  It necessitated that we change our strategy, how we were staffed, and how we saw ourselves. We were really testing out the idea of becoming a market builder.  Knowing what I know now, I wish I had launched the First Book Marketplace years earlier.  My advice:  stop waiting – do your homework and then — just do it.

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

Photo of Kyle and a studentMulti-culturalism is in peril.  Fear is driving a lot of political actions, social agendas and military actions.  We have to know each other better than we do.  For First Book, those same challenges also present us with an enormous opportunity. We know that education is a key to furthering understanding, to creating a better life for ourselves and our families, for building more just and peaceful communities.  We also know that developing empathy in children elevates the likelihood of their success in school and in life.

In 2009, First Book Canada began operations; in 2013 we launched the First Book Global Marketplace; and we have been piloting new efforts with book distributions and in-country discussions with publishers and authors from India to South and Central America.

We know there are opportunities to continue to build partnerships in countries across the globe that can help us reach more children and educators with the very resources needed to unlock the future.  First Book is experimenting with ideas that will enable us to unify the terrific organizations working in countries around the world.  Stay tuned!!

Over the last 10 years, the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces? 

There are so many very pressing issues that need to be addressed, and we have to be nimble, and be willing to question everything; to innovate and try new approaches.  As the field of social entrepreneurship has gotten bigger, there is a tendency to slide back into old models.  It is a natural tendency – but we have to fight it.  We need to continue to develop new models and strive for self-sufficiency.

That means identifying models that have helped address another issue and think about how those models can be applied in new ways.  It also means applying modern business practices and approaches to rethink the social sector. First Book is using predictive analytics and big data to help make new strides in our work:  from understanding the resources that educators need most, to determining which educators are more likely to utilize First Book’s resources.  We want to fuel learning and educational equality as fast as we can, with approaches that help us reach as many children and teachers as possible, as quickly as we can.

Another social sector initiative that I am championing is that we have more dialogue around how we are failing. In fact, that we make it an expectation and place value on the discussion of failure. I’m working with a partner organization to host a series of moderated panel discussions on just this topic.  We want to create a new norm, where funders regularly request – and expect – to hear about failure and that we share those failures willingly because we know that what didn’t work is just as important as what did work to move the needle on what we can try next.  I believe this is critical if we want to further the field.

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process? 

I continue to do this work because I know this is a solvable problem.  Educated people make sure their children are educated.  That is the simple and powerful truth.  So when you educate a generation, they will make sure their kids are educated as well.  This is especially true when we invest in educating women.  And it is true in countries all over the world. This means that if we put our minds to it – we could solve this problem in one generation.

While we have a long way to go to reach every child and to solve the issue, as we approach our 25th anniversary, I’m more hopeful than I’ve ever been.  We’ve had a lot of success.  We’ve piloted a lot of things that have worked.  Now we need to amplify and build up our systems – and be part of a grand new era – where teachers have everything they need to fuel equal education for all children.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path? 

My advice would be this:

  • You don’t need to know everything. 
  • Instead, make a list of the 10 smartest people you can think of.  You don’t have to know them.  Then call them; ask them questions.  Tell them about your challenges and ask if they’ll help you think of solutions.  My experience is that 9 out of 10 people are happy to help and flattered that you asked them.  
  • Celebrate your milestones!  And then set the next ones even higher.
  • Do not fear failure. Remember:  You can fail without ever succeeding – but you cannot succeed without ever failing. 
  • Understand this:  the social sector needs experimentation and people who are willing to try.  Look at the failure rate of new businesses.  If we’re not doubling that rate to address social issues, then shame on us. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on this wild ride of the last 10 years.  As our world becomes smaller and more intertwined, as poverty, climate change and other issues reach critical stages, the role of social entrepreneurs has never been more important.  We are the mediators, facilitators, and change agents, unbeholden to political parties, military regimes or institutional priorities.  It is our collective actions, our self-sustaining models and our ability to galvanize public willpower that help achieve the social change needed to provide opportunities for a more peaceful and prosperous world. 

 

Thank you so much Kyle of long-term dedication and tenacity to keep going. It is so inspiring to read of your growth and continued commitment to the transformative power of education.

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Want to stay in touch? Hope on over here to sign up for news, happening and resources.

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Time to Thrive…

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It is time to open the doors again.

Inside, connection awaits. Learning, support, friendship, challenge and opportunity too.

Inside, there is a gathering of rich ideas and eager hearts. There is vulnerability, doubt, bravery, questioning, imperfection, courage and momentum.

I’m talking about Thrive School.

Thrive School has been running now for 5 months, and I have been learning so much. I am encouraged and inspired by the participants. Each have a spark of an idea, want a better life for themselves, and others. There is so much talent, so much potential.

Part of my learning is this:

Universally, I see that keeping momentum going is so hard. Universally, the inner critic chimes in and sets the internal sabotaging demons on the loose. To have a dream, to believe in it, and then to get up and do something about it- well that takes guts. No one said it was going to be easy. But necessary, yes…

I don’t use ‘necessarily’ lightly here. I am a big dreamer. I am always always thinking of the next thing, the next solution. What I have learned is that those dreams are like fuel for my soul and my sanity. The dream is momentum. The dream is my gold. The dream helps me to stay connected to my essence, divinity, power, energy.

Thrive School potential 3And when we are each connected to our dreams and our vision? Well, we have collective rocket fuel. We have a world which is evolving.

You see, I think we need it all now- the talent, ideas and creativity. We need people who are awake, on fire, in love, devoted. The world is going through complex change. It’s easy to loose hope, and the alternative of despair will only set us in circles. We need those dreams;  we desperately need new creative solutions.

But we don’t have to do it alone. When we share our dreams, we find allies and supporters, collaborators, clients, funders, beneficiaries, customers, partners and people who we be there for us just at that critical moment when we may be running out of fuel…

Evolve your dream and in doing so you’ll serve others. 

In a way you could also call Thrive School a dream factory- a space where people have a chance to share theirs, work on theirs, prototype parts of it, ditch parts of it, discuss and learn tools to build it. Some dreams may take wings, others may pivot into something else… but at a minimum it will have been listened to, given voice and given space to express itself.

Want to be a writer? Great- let’s looks at the support you need to make that happen, the ways you can bring in income to fund it and the ways you are going to get your voice out into the world?

Thrive SchoolYou’re a yoga teacher but finding it hard to find you niche in a community already flooded with yoga teachers. What a great challenge. Let’s looks at ways you can connect with others, design a new programme, and bring yoga into places where it is needed to most…

Your already an artist but find it so so so hard to promote your work and share it online? You are like so many others… let’s take it one step at a time, looking at how to get your work into the right places and the right story to accompany it…

Want to eventually leave your current job to develop a new creative business venture? Great – come and prototype your idea, learning what may work, refine your target audience and test your thinking before you make the big transition…

Thrive School opens it’s doors again in Dublin and a brand new programme in West Cork. 

Topics include visioning, marketing, programme development, finance and sustaining momentum. There are 15 places on each programme.

We start on 15th Oct in Cork, and Nov 6th  in Dublin 

Applications now open, and come along to the open days…

Find out more here.

And if you want to discuss more, message me and we can arrange a skype call to see if you are a good fit.

Thank you…

Clare xx


Working with Accountability

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It may come across as a little clinical, but being accountable is one of the most liberating experiences I’ve had while running my own business. I like to think of accountability like a river:  the river would be but a deluge were it not for it’s banks and it’s bed. For the river to flow fluidly and effectively, it must have some boundaries.

For me accountability is about setting myself a goal or challenges and then having some mechanisms to help me stay on track– or banks to my freedom. These boundaries can be self regulated or externally regulated- either way though they are there to support my output and momentum.

Working alone from home most of the time it can be very challenging, distracting and at times isolating. To overcome this I have tried to build in accountablity into my weekly routine. When I have let this slip I notice a huge reduction not just in my creativity and productivity, but also in morale and mood.

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So, here a few ways to work with accountability- both self regulated and externally, with some tips for working with an accountability partner…

Set Deadlines

Deadlines are key. Create as many small deadlines as you can by breaking down projects into smaller chunks. As much as possible communicate those deadlines to others. And when you reach a deadline, celebrate or mark it in some way. Marking it helps you to have a feeling of momentum or achievement. Depending on the milestone, the celebration can be a simple as going for a walk or stopping for a cup of tea.

Create regular communications

A weekly blog, a monthly newsletter, a regular podcast or a consistent video release date- having an editorial calendar can help to keep you externally accountable to an readership or support base. Having to produce regular content builds in rhythm and structure to your week and keeps you connected with your clients and network.

Visualise Commitments

Make your goals visible and check in with them on at least a weekly basis. I have mine written up on a A3 sheet of paper which I keep close to my current workspace, and share them with my accountability buddies…

Accountability Buddy

By far one of the most powerful things I have done is work with accountability buddy. This is someone- usually a friend- who agrees to check in with me on a regular basis (generally once a week) and I with them. We share our goals, check in with our momentum and help to keep each other on track. They act as a supportive, listening ear but also someone to challenge, nudge and remind me of what I am are capable of. Importantly they help me see my blindspots and some of the things that I am are overlooking. Ideally we have a good laugh too…

It is important to choose the right person tough, as not all friends will ‘get it’. For myself, a fellow creative or social entrepreneur works best for me; someone who is on a similar path and working on their own big vision.

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Here are a few tips for choosing a working with an accountability buddy..

Check in at regularly time slots

Approach it professionally. Especially if you are working with a close friend, treat your accountability arrangement like you would a regular business meeting. Arrive early. Prepare. Stick to the time allocated- this means it is more likely to continue. If you are working with a friend, for instance, but each time to meet it runs on for hours and hours, you can end up regretting the arrangement as you may feel it is distracting from family time or other work time.

You can choose to meet on Skype, in person, or a mixture of both. You may find that at the beginning of your arrangement checking in weekly works best, but then it might move to every two weeks. Keep having conversations about what is working and what is not, reviewing and adapting as you go.

Have a pilot period

Again, especially if you are working with a friend, try it out for a short time first- maybe a three month timeframe. After the agreed timeframe review and see how you are both getting on. Always prioritise friendship. If you arrangement is getting in the way of that, maybe you are not right for each other as accountably buddies but perfect for each other as friends!

Work with your big vision

Let your buddy know your big dream or vision. Let then know what you really really want. Let them in on the secret desire… because they can help to remind you want it is your are working for, especially on days when you feel lost or lacking traction. Your buddy can raise the flag of your future and remind you it is there for the taking.

Agree parameters upfront

Agree with your accountability partner what you are seeking support on. Maybe you want advice on your business model- but maybe you don’t. Maybe you want their input on the design of your website, but maybe you don’t. Unsolicited feedback is some of the most unproductive kinds of feedback and can really deaden a relationship. Working with an accountability buddy doesn’t have to be license to critique everything. So be clear on the kind of support you are seeking on how you want that support to be given.

Avoid complaining (too much!)

We all have bad days. One of the advantages of working with an accountability partner is to have someone to travels the ups and downs with, but if it becomes a regular moan-fest, then it is a joy and momentum killer. Focus on solutions. One of the most powerful questions I know is; ‘what is your elegant next step’. It dilutes drama and shifts things into proactive and productive mode…

Ask proactive questions

Your accountability partner can help you see things you are not seeing. Here are a few questions which may come in handy:

  • what am I not seeing?
  • where are the gaps?
  • what are my blindspots?
  • are there additional opportunities you see?
  • who/ what else should I be consulting?
  • how else can my thinking be challenged on this?

So, how can you create some accountability for yourself? Think about who you may choose and what would be good parameters for your buddy arrangement…

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Maybe I can help too…

If you are looking for an accountability buddy, then perhaps we are a good fit? I have a new coaching package which is designed to get you clear on your commitments and keep you on track. Check out ‘Accountability Buddy’ here, and if you are interested let me know, we can arrange a preliminary chat and take it from there…

If you are in the Dublin or Cork regions of Ireland you may also be interested in Thrive School– a 6 month training programme for creative and social entrepreneurs, freelancers, doers and trailblazers! As part off the programme we build in an accountability structure, working with two other peers over the course of the programme. Thrive School is launching again in Dublin and Cork in October. Find out more over here…

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Want to say in touch? Sign up to my newsletter to stay in the loop…

 

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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! 

 

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Blessed Momentum

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There are days when it is hard to stay motivated in business, and in life.

As a freelancer, juggling many projects, with so much up and down, things can get messy. It is an ever fine tightrope walking between feeling the upward swing or edging into a downward spiral. And so often we are led to think that business, and life, is a linear process. But is so not.

In fact the more I do business, and life, the more I realise it is clearly not so. Labyrinths seem more appropriate images to enlist and yet still we are continually barraged into thinking in linear patterns: growth, scale, expand, produce, exceed; growth, scale, expand, produce, exceed, succeed. Again.

But the labyrinth has led me elsewhere.

Having launched this website earlier this year, alongside a new business- Zen Hen-, while also keeping my photography business, yoga classes and my own art and yoga practices on the go, by August a deep part of myself just needed to wander. I headed out to the West of Ireland, and then to Morocco and Turkey. It was magical. It was filled with love and connection. My eyes landed on newness. It was abounding in beauty and elegance. I am so glad I went.

But coming back into the flow of daily life here, things need my attention. So many things. And all week I have been almost paralysed by the sense and scale of it. ‘What next to do’? I have had the guilt trip, kicking myself for feeling I let my foot off the pedal.

But that serves no one; not me, or not you, dear readers, dear friends.

The fierce reality of all of this entrepreneurial lark is I am still figuring it out- how to run my own business while not running out of steam, how to keep finances in flow so that I too can thrive, how to deeply serve the needs of my clients from a place of integrity, love and openess. This is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. We all are.

And so the learning is in this process too, and so we must proceed.

 

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I believe in honesty and truth telling, which is why I am sharing this now. So lovely folks, I don’t have a Creative Islanders interview for you this week and I don’t have my new e-course ready to launch yet either (which I had planned for a Monday start)… But I know they are coming. Why? Because they are in my heart, because they have energy of their own, because I know they are serving a need, and I know they want to emerge. I’ll get there. I know I will. It is just taking me a little longer than I originally hoped. And so I’d love for you to bear with me while I figure out how to steer this ship.

The funny thing about labyrinths is that just when you think you have reached a dead end you turn a corner to realise you are right at the centre of things, into the heart of what matters, and you were never actually that far from it in the first place. The entrance and the centre have a proximity which the path belies.

So often we look at other people in business, in life, and think that they have it all figured out and that things come so easily for them. I am as guilty of this as others- looking at my own role models and wishing, wishing… but behind the scenes we are all struggling with what we need to learn; our challenges lead us to our growth areas, our labyrinthal path is our very own training ground; tailor made to meet our own twisting and turning trajectory.

It turns are that we are really all just seeking our way to the heart of things. 

And so I am grateful. Yes, grateful for it all. For this opportunity, for the not knowing, for the knowing, for the detours and mostly for the people I meet along the way.

In fact, each morning as I wake up and put my feet on the ground, I say to myself, ‘I am grateful for this day’. Even on the days that are hard, even on the days that I want to turn in on myself, ‘I am grateful’. That alone helps to start the day on better footing. ‘Whatever comes, I am grateful for this day’.

It took me about a month to make this little act a habit but it feels like it is there now- the moment my feet touch the ground, ‘I am grateful for this day’.  And that feels like a good place to begin, with pause, with gratitude for it all, over and over and over again. So I can take myself by the hand an lead myself to the next step, and then the glorious next step. For this is the labyrinth of life continuing with its own blessed momentum towards the heart of the matter. Always.


A Culture of Ships

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I am interested in ships. Not tall ships necessarily- although some of my best journeys have been on floating vessels- but entrepreneurship, leadership and at the root of it all, friendship and fellowship. If I was to coin a word right now and add it too the fleet, it would also be creativeship (the discipline of creative being). The ship here is important for many reasons, namely because it connotes a culture of this particular thing and not a rarified merit or accolade. Let me elaborate…

Over the next number of years we will witness a radical change in social contexts and labour markets. This will be the era of the freelancer and the creative. This will be the era of rapid automation of what was previously done by manual labour and the subsequent rise of niche markets, specialists skills and a whole new breed of worker. Gone are the days of permanent and pensionable. Instead we are seeing a rise in hybrid work and life, blended careers across sectors and continents, and people seeking flexibility over predictability. As a consequence will need a whole advanced set of skills to go with it, with creativity, innovation and solution mindsets placed centrally. Plus we will need a new system and ground rules for collaboration and engagement. This indeed will be business as unusual.

This too is an era of unstable economic and social tides. We only have to look at the (mis)fortunes of Greece today to see how systems which were once thought to sustain us are in fact destabilising us. There is universal systemic mistrust across politics and power structures, traditional institutions and the very fabric of society which once we lay our trust upon. It feels like shaky ground.

And so to navigate this change, economically on the one hand and socially on the other, we need also to be an era of rapid prototyping, experimentation, innovation, risk taking, openness, and collaboration. We need to be able to forecast, plan, design and execute new social initiatives and political agendas with a maturity which I believe can only come when we excavate our inner landscape and call on our collective compassion, solidarity and trust. We need to essentially learn to raise our conscience and then evolve and design our operating principles based on a new order of values.

Wishful thinking? Idealistic? Maybe- but wasn’t it ideals which built democracy in the first place, and wasn’t it ideals which got us to the moon, and back.

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As it has been said many times over, where there is crisis there is also opportunity. I believe that the opportunity resides deep within in each of us, if we frame the questions right.

At this stage, you may be wondering, where on earth do the ships come into all of this?

Well right here.

You see, we need to broaden the questions and the scope of our inquiries. Currently we don’t ask enough questions about how to cultivate a culture of the right kind of ‘ships’. What if instead of asking how we educate people for the current system, we really asked, how can we build a culture of entrepreneurship, of leadership, and equally of friendship and fellowship, so that we can equip ourselves with the essential skills we need as a collective to navigate these altering tides and not just survive, but thrive in the future- economically and socially. What would our education systems look like then? And our political system? And our economies? And our future?

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know that how we frame the initial question is critical.

Leadership and entrepreneurship have been heralded as the merits of a few. But this need not be the case. With the right training, and embedded within a culture of these traits, we each can express our own leadership and evolve our own innovative means to solve problems- we are fundamentally creative beings, and our creative intelligence is like our life raft.

We have our hearts to help us too, for with each of us there is the capacity for universal friendship and fellowship (as this is the stuff of hearts). Fear can mask it, and mistrust, but I believe the capacity to unearth and rediscover our essential nature is within each of us. Sometimes it just means we have to slow down, listen and really see each other, and ourselves, for the beauty that we are.

It is not easy, it requires dedication and deep inner work as well as outer work. But it is possible. We can thrive, if only we have the right mindset and the will to make it so.

So yes, it is idealistic, and could even be called naive. But what other choice do we have? I would rather set sail on that ship, trusting many others will jump on board too, in friendship, and in hope.


Creative Islanders: Superfolk

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The Creative Islanders is an new interview series showcasing some of Ireland’s brightest creative talent and enterprise. It is about people who are stepping into their dreams, purpose and possibilities and embracing their one wild life. 

The interviews give a rare ‘behind the scenes’ glimpse into creative practice, motivations and mindsets- shining a light on what makes people tick, and how, collectively Ireland is alive with creative possibility.

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Next up in the series is Superfolk founded by partners in life and business Jo Anne Bulter and Gearóid Muldowney. Based in Westport, in the wild west of Ireland, Superfolk design and craft exquisite homewares. Inspired by the outdoors and with respect to the raw and rugged landscape and materials which surround them, both Jo Anne and Gearóid’s work exude craftsmanship with comes with much patience, practice and a deeply rooted passion for elegance and beauty. I greatly admire their decision to move out west, working to create a business in tune with the landscape while generating employment and opportunities for the region.

Jo Anne also inspired me recently to take up lino cutting again, and gave me some very useful tips and hints (thank you!) I also love popping into their Instagram feed to have a visual dose of the west… they take some stunning images.

Now over to some words from Jo Anne & Gearóid..

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Photo Credit:Henrietta Williams

What makes you tick? What motivates you?

Jo Anne: I love to understand the relationships and connections between things and am curious about simple things in nature, animals, our weather and our environment. In designing I always want to try to understand the core or the essence of a material, a process or a problem. I want to always be proud of the work that we do and I love sharing that with others. Some people connect in a very emotional way to the sensibility of what we make and really get it and that’s very rewarding. We want to build a business where we will be creating employment in the west of Ireland.

Gearoid: I like to identify problems and rectifying them. I enjoy fixing things. But at some point its best to start afresh and thats why I design new things. Being able to understand your built/designed/made environment helps orientate a person. Being able to tell a story through our products is normal; materials have a history, objects are created in a context, keeping that context part of the product is an integral part of what we do.

What keeps you in Ireland?

Jo Anne: Our families – My father passed away in 2006 and Gearoid’s father died in 2012. The sense of sadness and loss is profound, but, bereavement also brought a deepening appreciation for our family, our friends and the feeling of ‘at home’ we have with living in the west of Ireland.

Gearoid: I love Ireland. My upbringing and my education has given me a wonderful appreciation for this island. My parents and my primary school teachers introduced me to the rich cultural heritage that is ours to discover. Ireland’s geography, natural history and culture fascinates me. With Superfolk, we are trying our best to use all of these elements to our advantage. We don’t want to leave.

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What do you do just for the love of it?

Jo Anne: I love learning about what I am seeing around me and anything that involves fresh air and being outside – walking, hiking, climbing, kayking, snorkelling, camping. I love trying to identify wild flowers and plants. I want to understand how a single plant can tell the story of its habitat – the relationship between the climate, topography and geology of a place. I want to know not just the name of everything that grows in the wild but why it chooses to grow where and when it grows – the wider inter-connected story of habitat. And I love watching Homeland. And Vikings.

Gearoid: I like being outside. I use fly fishing as a legitimate excuse to roam the countryside, study maps jump fences and talk to strangers. Fly fishing gives me the license to stand in rivers in silence, whilst water rushes all around you. I can stand motionless in a ditch listening for a plop of a trouts lip as it sips in flies trapped in the water surface film. I like the silence of big open spaces. Hiking in the hills of Mayo energises me. We have a large dog, ‘Woody’, a Wiemaraner and he demands plenty of exercise, so he’s another excuse to be in forests and hills and beaches.

What does the creative process teach you?

Jo Anne: Good work will not be forced. We might push really long and hard trying to make something work and eventually have to admit defeat. Good work is more instinctive, more fluid and truer to ourselves. When we are slogging at something it can be hard to stop and accept that what is more easy, free and simple is the better work. The slog is an important part of the creative process but its not the work. I think this is described best in the phrase ‘the simplicity on the other side of complexity’.

Gearoid. How to be honest. Well made things are honest. There are no tricks, if you want to make something that will last, and function well there are no short cuts. Use good materials and do them justice.

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How do you get unstuck? Any secret tools?

Jo Anne: Turn it upside down. In my foundation art course my tutor Robin Jones would tell us to frequently turn the page of a drawing upside down to make us look at the drawing with fresh eyes. So I try to find similar ways to keep fresh eyes and perspective on whatever I am working on. Turn the page upside down, take a step back, take a break, go for a walk. Learn to change your position relative to your work and learn to see with fresh eyes.

Gearoid: I don’t get stuck much these days. When I was younger I might have been more precious about my  ideas and less willing to give up on something that wasn’t working. I’ve gotten better at scrapping something that isn’t working, ideas are two a penny.

Where do you find inspiration? Any hidden gems?

Jo Anne: We are designers but it is really important to us that we are always looking outside of ‘design’. When Gearoid and I travel to new places we always look out for the folk museum, the natural history museum, the odd strange decorative arts museum.  I really love any outdoor folk museums even really touristy ones. I love ‘Den Gamle By’, the outdoor folk life museum in Arhus in Denmark.

Gearoid: Humans have been designing and problem solving for thousands of years. Its only in the last few hundred years that we have begun to document some of these results. My interest in vernacualr life tools is endless. I love folk museums especially if they have an outdoor element and archaeology, you cant beat digging in the ground and speculating.

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

Jo Anne: The memory of that first feeling of Spring in the air – at any time of year. And anything William Wegman ever made. Walking and listening to podcasts.

Gearoid: I used to smoke, rolling tobacco and I really enjoyed the peaceful time it gave. It allowed me time to meditate on things. It turns out smoking kills you, so I walk the dog now or go fishing.

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

Jo Anne: Don’t take criticism personally. Listen and understand criticism as subjective insight.

Gearoid: Play the long game. Make good work. Don’t rush things. Give yourself time to do a good job. Be nice to people and don’t waste time on negative thoughts.

What have you learned from your ‘failures’?

Jo Anne: Never be afraid to cut your losses. Don’t keep going with something that in your gut doesn’t feel right because you are too afraid of losing what you have already invested.

Gearoid: Not to give up. Move on quickly and regroup. Moving forward and not dwelling in the past is important. Keep moving forward.

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Do you have a morning routine?

Jo Anne: Roughly along the lines of …Feed the dog, go for a walk, come back have porridge and coffee and have a short meeting about what work is needed to be done that day.

Gearoid: Porridge. Clean and tidy, start work as soon as possible. Morning is the best time to have clear thoughts and energy.

Or other creative habits or rituals?

Jo Anne: Walking meetings – when we are figuring something out together rather than a sit-down brainstorm we take walking meetings where we walk and talk through our ideas. For some reason when we are more active, walking, you can be more insightful and make big decisions more confidently.

Gearoid: I like to have a place for everything so I’m constantly trying to put my life in order or de clutter my life. It is a struggle, the world wants me to have so much stuff.

What books have inspired you? Or what websites do you turn to? 

Jo Anne: The Wild Flowers of Ireland by Carsten Krieger and Declan Doogue – It tells the story of wildflowers and wild plant life from the point of view of habitat – I love to think about the inter-relationship of factors that create an amenable habitat for plantlife– in a funny way it is really quite relevant to home-wares designing. Also ‘The Way That I Went’ by the naturalist Robert Lloyd Preager. When I’m drawing I listen to podcasts like ‘On Being’ and podcasts about slow food movement and plant life on ‘Heritage Radio Network’.

Gearoid: I have referred to the SAS survival handbook since I was a child. Its a guide to doing everything a human needs to do to stay alive, it has nothing superfluous of luxurious in it its a stripped back guide to living. Its not a bad place to begin if you are designing lifestyle or homeware goods.

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

Jo Anne: Trust your gut. Don’t wait to be perfect (because there’s no such thing)

Gearoid: Be brave.

 

 

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Find out more over on their website Superfolk 

Follow them on Instagram here. 

Thank you so much Superfolk. You are, indeed, super folk. Clare x