Leaving port with no destination

“Sometimes we need to be floating around at sea before we find our next port. But we don’t know what it will look like, be like, or what we will be doing.” – Amy Buddy, with Brene Browne.

It’s been a year since I took my last stride out of the Publicis Groupe building in Pyrmont. In the middle of a pandemic and with no job lined up and without an onwards direction set. I took a leap of faith, floated for a while, sunk a little sometimes; but now I know it was the best thing I could have done for myself and my career.

A year on and there’s talk about the Great Resignation. People fleeing to the regions to seek a different lifestyle and to find new meaning. COVID has made us question the life we live, the work we do and the difference we make.

I’m sure there are some who are facing what I faced a year ago. And, if sharing my experience is helpful to just one person stepping into the unknown, writing this has been worth my while.

Untethering takes time. I’d spent the last two decades of my career with the same company. One that I’d been fortunate enough to join as a growing business. My passion for advertising and customer loyalty was let loose with the many opportunities I was given to charge forward in my career. At every step I had a new goal, new plan to achieve and ambition to follow.

In 2020, for the first time since childhood I didn’t have a plan. I felt anxious. The advice was flooding in, so much of it provided deep value, and some gave me a slight sweat.

“Take your time, take time off.” Great in theory. But living in one of the world’s most expensive cities with two hungry teenage boys to feed, and being no spring chicken, didn’t allow for lengthy breaks.

“You must have a clear plan of what you want to do next.” I only knew what I had experienced. I had a limited view on what my future success could look like. I wanted to look at the future differently. Society has judged success with a narrow lens for a long time. Money. Status. Fame. Busy-ness. Stress and sleep deprivation worn as a badge of honour.

Innovation has been a buzz word for a decade. And yet our society is conservative about failure. This is at odds. There is no innovation without experimentation. And being experimental opens up uncertainty and failure. Our systems want risk-free innovation. Which in turns makes humans take the less innovative approach. Whether this be to projects, work and more broadly – life.


A plan to have no plan. 

It took me two months to land on a plan. A plan to have no plans, just options. To live the year with ‘Experimentation’ as my guide. To set sail and have an open mind to the destination.

This approach has brought about unexpected opportunities and a new way of thinking. A new definition of success, and a new way of working that ultimately brings me more balance – and a new kind of career satisfaction:

  • A portfolio career. I didn’t realise it was possible to have more than one job and one focus in a career and be successful. Yet those entering the workforce often have multiple jobs and side hustles. I have met the most inspiration people who are flourishing doing just this. It is liberating to experience such diversity in my days.
  • Became my own boss. Consulting was not intentional at first. Yet using my experience to help others chart their path was so rewarding that I leant into it. A year and many clients later, I have loved helping such a range of businesses.
  • Launched a networking group. The Friday Lunch Club is a networking group connecting senior leaders and business founders in the Northern Beaches LGA. The positive reaction I’ve received shows that this appeals to the new work-from-home dynamic. Next step is to the extend to other areas in the New Year.
  • Accepted new Board roles. Already a Board member for ADHD Australia, I was able to join other Boards helping me build on my advisory skills.

How do you set yourself up to succeed?

It hasn’t been easy and there have been moments of questioning myself and whether I am on the right ‘no plan’ path. There are a few things that have really helped me along the way. So, if you are where I was a year ago I suggest you start doing these things now:

  1. Update your CV even if you don’t plan to send it anywhere.  My CV didn’t leave my inbox more than a couple of times. However, it was a valuable process in assessing what I have done, what I do well and what I get joy from.
  2. Give your time, mindfully. With free time there is a benefit in helping others and giving time to NFP’s. It helps build networks and skills. However, it can be easy to lose track of how much time you are giving and this can get out of balance with the time you need to spend to grow other income pathways. Assess the amount of free time you can give and keep to it.
  3. Invest in training. There are so many free webinars, cheap courses and mind changing podcasts that inspire and give knowledge. I completed the Brene Brown ‘Dare to Lead’ certificate, Oscar Trimboli Deep listening program and trained myself in new platforms. The future me benefits deeply from all of these.
  4. Take 10,000 steps a day. This has been my mental and physical saviour. Helping me formulate all thoughts and reflections. A walk round the block is my new go-to for sorting any mind mess. It works every time.
  5. More than anything connect, connect, connect. It’s blown my mind how generous people are with their time, ideas and networks.  Say yes to every conversation. Ask people you want to meet to go for a coffee. You never know where each chat will land. These conversations have created many opportunities for me, in fact without them, this would have been a very different article.

An unexpected, enriching journey

So, as I close out the first year of this journey, I realise that experimentation is not a destination. It has become a braver way of life for me.

The year ahead will be building on the foundations that this year has provided. As well as adding in some new and exciting adventures on the horizon.

To all those embarking on a journey like mine. Embrace the fear. Trust in the process and the direction that the the wind takes you. Most of all, enjoy your time at sea.

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