Top Seven Tips for WorkLife Development by Carmel O’ Reilly

WorkLife development is about enriching your life to reflect your changing professional and personal needs. 

Top Seven Tips for WorkLife Development … is part of a series of tips, techniques and stories to help you learn, develop and grow in your WorkLife.

WorkLife development is about enriching your life to reflect your changing professional and personal needs. 

Those are the beginning words of a blog post I wrote some time ago, words taken from the learning from the stories of the people I’ve worked with. I’ve revised the post for this week’s blog and podcast.

Carmel’s Story: A Top Seven Tips for WorkLife Development Case Study:

WorkLife development is about enriching your life to reflect your changing professional and personal needs.

Sage Wisdom

“Build trust. Believe in the process. Earn a seat at the table, Be curious about everything. Learn how to listen deeply. Maintain a sense of humour about everything. Keep Moving.” Alina Wheeler

Book Wisdom 

In the book Brand Atlas by Alina Wheeler and Joel Katz they say: “Brands who do one thing better than anyone else and deliver on their promises are unstoppable.” They talk about how in Good To Great, Jim Collins: “Demonstrates how growth and greatness spring from companies that have a purpose beyond profit, strong core values, and a disciplined culture.” 

They propose the following questions for self-reflection and self-feedback:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What can you be best in the world at?
  • What drives your economic engine? 

As your WorkLife develops it is important to retain a sense of purpose that motivates and challenges you, allowing self-fulfilment and opportunities to develop and grow. The following tips are intended to help you manage your WorkLife development plan:

1. You are accountable for your own success. As such it is your responsibility to be aware of your attributes and skills that can give you a competitive edge. Commit to excelling in what comes naturally to you to develop personal mastery. For example, if you are a good negotiator, look for ways to fine tune your technique by practising in everyday situations both in and out of work.

2. Imagine as deeply as possible your vision for your future WorkLife reality. Then work backwards from that to determine what you need to learn or experience over the next one or two years to be seen as a highly desirable candidate to step into your next role. Thinking of the bigger picture and understanding the challenges your industry is facing will support you in identifying the right intelligence and know-how needed to accelerate your WorkLife advancement.

3. Embrace learning through experience – be open to learning and change. Your unique talent needs to be nurtured and developed through the right experiences, and this will support meaningful work. Use assignments and secondments creatively, bring your personal insights and creative abilities to each assignment. Aim to build breadth and personal depth. This is your opportunity to shine and build your personal brand.

4. Make mentoring work – build a personal advisory board who can guide your WorkLife goals. Identify your circle of influence and take time to invest in these relationships. Take responsibility through benchmarking – benchmarking allows you to compare yourself with others, identify their comparative strengths and weaknesses and learn how to improve.

5. Demand inspirational leadership and support your manager (if you work for yourself, you’re your own manager) in being innovative with leadership programmes. Identify key thought leaders in your industry – people you admire and respect for their authentic leadership – then role model their behaviours.

6. Find ways of gaining exposure to new people and ideas by being a participant in a strategic task force. Think of your networking as a professional development bootcamp to meet people you would like to collaborate with. Learn to value your time and how to connect with the right people. Nurture the relationships that matter most. Give time and attention to keep the most meaningful relationships active at all times.

7. Invest in your personal life to create balance and strengthen your WorkLife. Spend time with the people important to you and do the things you love to do outside of your work. This helps to clear your mind and broaden your observations through a different lens and appreciate new ideas that can help shape your thinking and contribute to your personal growth.

Words of Wisdom

“Define what your brand stand for, its core values and tone of voice, and then communicate consistently in those terms.” Simon Mainwaring


Today’s world gives you voice, power and multiple ways to develop your unique brand. You’re in the driving seat of your WorkLife development journey. You get to choose which roads to travel down – the roads that will enrich your life. Along the way you can reflect on your changing professional and personal needs, the decision to make a detour or change direction is all yours. Enjoy the ride!

Today’s book of the blog is: Brand Atlas by Alina Wheeler and Joel Katz

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.


Respect and Trust Yourself 

“Respect is the greatest motivator.” Carmel O’ Reilly

I have always believed that respect is the greatest gift you can give to another human being, and to yourself. I am not actually sure if I did coin the phase ‘Respect is the greatest motivator’, but it is something that I live my life by. It is perhaps my most important value. 

A Case Study

Dom’s Story: Losing His Self-Respect and Losing Trust in Himself

Dom always knew he wanted to be involved in team sports. Growing up he had a sense of what he wanted to be. This innate sense guided him to becoming manager of his county hurling team, the place he knew he was meant to be. He always knew he wanted to be the manager, not the player. That in itself was quite a crazy idea because it went against the long established and recognised pathway to becoming manager, as historically managers always progressed from the ranks of players.

As a young boy he was always on the side-line watching his brothers and friends play. He watched, listened and observed the coaches and managers throughout the years: how they engaged with the players, how they got the best out of them, what was happening when the team were doing well, and what was happening when they were not. Although he was encouraged to try out for the team, he never did. His ability to read his life allowed him to know this was not what he wanted to do. 

He chose to study Leadership and Management at university, and became an intern at the university hurling club – although at the time it was not called that. I don’t think internships were a thing in Ireland back then, and certainly not on university hurling teams. Dom simply turned up every day, and did whatever was needed. In effect he created the position. He was relentless, and was there all the time, trying to learn as much as he could. He was like a sponge soaking up knowledge. 

Dom was quite sociable, and very interested in people. He got to know the players both on and off the pitch. He knew what was going on in their lives and how this impacted their game. He also had a nerd side to him: he thought about things in an analytical way. He designed a programme that allowed each game to be analysed, from a technical standpoint (play, formations), while also taking into account anything that could impact individual and team behaviour during the game, and the impact this had. From this combined information he developed a system which took the club’s game to a new level.

On graduating he moved back to his hometown, got a business development role in his local high street bank, and got re-involved in his local hurling team. The coach/manager was retiring, and Dom stepped into his shoes. He got to know the players and what was going on in their lives. He analysed the games and applied the system he had developed at university to develop the team. It worked. In their first year, they went from mid-league to winning the county championship. Some people thought it was a fluke, a stroke of good luck. Not Dom. He knew his system brought together good tactical play with human interaction. It took two more years of winning the county championship for people to sit up and take notice – to take notice of Dom.

He was approached to become Assistant Manager for the county team. As a county they had not reached an All-Ireland final in 25 years. There was new manager Alan, who was more progressive in his thoughts, and more open minded to things. He really enabled Dom’s growth and development. He met the team, got to know them and got an understanding of their lives Some were still at school, while others were starting out in their WorkLives. They were semi-professional players: they did not get paid, other than expenses. 

He came to understand the industry, both from the ground level (the team and club), and the big picture (people who operated at country level and sponsors). He was given the opportunity to really immerse himself in it, and he continued to grow and evolve the analytical side of things.  All the different people he and his manager – who remains to this day a lifelong friend and mentor – were meeting along the way were starting to notice: oh this guy thinks a little differently to other people.

He got to work with great people both on and off the pitch. He really enjoyed it, having a lot of fun learning more about the game, and also the business. He surrounded himself with people who were outstanding. Going in he had blind faith it was going to happen; but when he was in the midst of it winning/losing, he had more or less faith, depending on results. At core he somehow really believed he was supposed to do it: somehow, someway it is going to happen; and he just tried to connect as may dots as he could. And it worked. The first year they came out of twenty-five years in the wilderness making it to the final. The second year, still considered the underdogs, they won.

And it was then it began to fall apart for Dom. That Sunday afternoon as he walked off the pitch, having congratulated the players, he was joined by one of their biggest sponsors, who said: “Well done Dom, now all you have to do is make sure we win again next year, when do you start again?” Dom replied: “At this moment all I’m thinking about is celebrating with the team.”

It was in that moment that he knew he was not living his life in accordance to who he was. He was so consumed by the game, and winning, that was all he cared about. It had become all about the professional side of the game. He had somewhere along the way lost himself on a human level, and it became about having to prove himself. Somehow winning was not the expression of greatness that he had envisioned, because it was not holistic. It was a relief, not a joy. It was more that he was glad he had got that done. He used to think he was a good person, but he no longer felt that. He had lost respect in himself, and with it went the trust that gave him the deep-rooted belief in himself that he could do this. 

He took himself away from the game, and went back to working full time at the bank. A couple of years later his young son, Alex, started playing soccer for the local team. Dom would take him to weekend games, watching and cheering on from the side-lines with his wife and daughter Anna – Alex’s twin sister; and this is where he found his love for sport again. He was reminded that it was the players, the team and community spirit that he loved. When he had got caught up in the championship all he was thinking about was winning, and then the next game. There was no time to experience the joy. He had got so caught up in achieving results because of the pressure that he forgot that the people around him were human. He did not take the time he needed to with them on a personal level. He had left his humanity at home.

Stepping away and not having any vested interest helped him find the love of sport again. He got to watch it because he enjoyed it. He got to rekindle that part of him that loved it. He felt he had done it because that is what he was chasing, and now he was not chasing anything anymore.

It was at this time a new opportunity came into his life: football for girls. He was asked to be part of the team leading on the Irish Football Association countrywide strategy to get more girls playing football. He led the drive regionally in the five-year project to recruit and train a hundred new female coaches through a funded pathway. He was back to where he knew he belonged, and he really wanted to be there. His self-respect was restored and along with that his trust in himself that he could do something special with this.

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

We can all fall short of perfection, and as a result we can all sometimes do things that are inconsistent with living the WorkLife we aspire to live, in line with the legacy we want to leave.

If you do not like who you have become or what is required of you in certain situations or with particular people, work towards removing yourself from that. You may or may not be able to walk away fully as Dom did, but you can take steps to distance yourself.  

Taking Yourself Away Assignment

To get back to your future you need to begin by appreciating the joy of right now.  

Stepping away requires you to say ‘No’ to people and events. If you are not in a position to do this immediately, or you find it difficult, begin by not saying ‘Yes’ to everything. Become selective about who you spend time with and what you spend your time doing. 

Use the time you reclaim to recognise and appreciate the greatness in everyday life. Take yourself back to doing something you enjoyed in the past. For Dom it was taking his son to play soccer, watching and cheering from the side-lines with his family. 

Take the time you need to distract yourself, in the knowledge that anything you do with intent is not a distraction. “Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” John Lennon

Moral of this Story

When your WorkLife is out of sync with who you are as a person it can cause you to lose the self-respect that comes with having pride, confidence and trust in yourself – that sense that you are behaving with honour and dignity. Taking a step back, making time for the simple everyday things that will support you in appreciating what you value in your WorkLife. The things that matter most to you, that allow you to be a force for good. This will help you find the next step to reshape your life, to make sure these things are really aligned with what you really care about.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

When taking time out, let go of any desire to control what happens next. Effective learning and change will take place through your increased awareness of the world around you.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

To maintain and protect your self-respect and self-trust work to fine-tune your feelings and emotions, so that you are acutely aware of what causes these to go out of sync. Ask yourself:

In what situations, with what people am I being different than I would like to be?

What’s not right about it?

How can I face this challenge the next time it arises?

Words of Wisdom 

Learning that takes place at its own pace is much more effective than learning that is forced.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.


Time for a Little (or a Lot) of Self-Analysis: 

The Power of Apology and the Power of Speaking Up

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start from where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

We can all do or say things that we later come to regret, an in the moment reaction that can leave us and other people feeling anywhere from slightly uncomfortable to totally destroyed. What we do next to be able to move forward will determine how the story ends.

A Case Study: A Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda, Wish I Hadn’t Said … Story

Rays Story: A Monkey Could Do It Better

“A monkey could do it better”

Ray could not believe the words that had come out of his mouth. Neither could his team who at first laughed because they thought it was joke, but seeing the look on Jake’s face – who was on the receiving end of this feedback – quickly realised it was not a joking matter. 

Afraid of what else he might say, Ray decided he needed to take five, remove himself from the situation, and so he took a walk. 

But let’s back up a little to: Ray’s Story: A Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda, Wish I Hadn’t Said … Case Study. 

Ray was the manager of a team of twenty people within Operations in a leading investment bank in the City in London. He had been with the bank for over thirty years. In his earlier days and younger years he had been a trader at the front end of things. It was a demanding role that was high powered and fast paced, which Ray enjoyed for the first few years; but after that the stresses of the job became too much for him, and he reached burnout. The burnout was quite severe, and he needed to take a one-year sabbatical.

Ahead of returning from his sabbatical, Ray met with his manager to discuss his future with the bank. His manager was very supportive. Ray was a good guy, intelligent, hardworking and brought a lot to the organisation. Ray knew he wanted to get away from trading and from client-facing roles. He wanted to move into what was then known as the back office, and so he took on a role in compliance. Although it was very static and process-driven, it suited Ray. He was good with analysis and enjoyed it. More importantly it helped to restore Ray’s confidence in himself. 

But Ray’s career did not remain static. With the support of his manager, over time and over the years Ray worked in a number of different functions within the bank. This allowed him to continue to develop and to learn new skills, which kept him motivated.

In all of these roles Ray was an individual contributor, and this suited him very well, he had no interest in managing people. Then the financial crisis hit, causing downsizing and restructuring with the bank going through a merger. A number of people Ray had worked with for many years who were not on board with the merger jumped ship, and as a result along with losing good people, the bank also lost years of important knowledge. Because of his in-depth knowledge having worked across several functions Ray found himself being promoted from individual contributor to manager. 

Some of the positions that had become vacant were filled from the merging company, and some were filled by people working in other areas of Ray’s existing bank. This was how Ray inherited Jake, who had been working with the bank for over fifteen years. He was a good guy and everybody liked him. 

Although known for having a good work ethic, his work from the day he joined Ray’s team was not good. He was continuously missing targets, which impacted the team, and this is what caused Ray’s outburst. He was at the end of his tether with Jake. Another late report ahead of an important meeting was the final straw, and led to those fateful words coming out of Ray’s mouth: “A monkey could do it better”.

Seeing the look on Jake’s and the rest of the team’s faces following on from his outburst, together with the anger Ray was feeling towards Jake in that moment, Ray knew he needed to take a walk to distance himself from the immediate situation, to calm down and to gather his thoughts. 

Mentor Wisdom

‘Walking Meditation’ is how Ray thought of this practice. It was a strategy his manager Nora introduced him to all those years ago when he was returning from his sabbatical, and one that had served him well at times when he had felt overwhelmed, when he needed to turn off his self-talk and his thinking. Ray thought of Nora not only as his manager, but also his mentor and friend.  Although she had long since retired, her wisdom remained with Ray throughout his WorkLife. It was something that he could tap into when he needed to.

The process was easy. He would begin his walk by posing a question to himself, something as simple as “What do I need to know about X (situation/person)”? or “What one action can I take today that will help with Y.” He would then switch off his mind and self-talk by focussing on the beauty of the park, and when thoughts/self-talk began to filter through, he would mentally acknowledge them, say thank you, pose the question again, and switch off again by refocusing on the beauty of his surroundings. Ray found this simple strategy quite powerful. It helped to alleviate the sense of feeling overwhelmed; and by not thinking or listening to his self-talk, the answer he needed always came to him: sometimes in the moment or soon after; most often when he was getting on with his daily life; and other times he would wake up with the solution of knowing what to do. 

Ray’s focus on quieting his mind to what had just happened took his walk on autopilot on a route he took each lunchtime, through a nearby park, then past his favourite bookstore, where he often spent his breaks browsing the shelves, picking up a book, sitting and reading a chapter or two over a coffee. Ray had received the answer to the question he had posed to himself: “What the hell did I just do, how can I put this right?”

Book Wisdom

Because on becoming a manager this bookshop was where he had discovered the One Minute Manager series of books, which he had found really helpful, Ray immediately knew which of the One Minute Manager books he needed in this moment: the One Minute Apology. He entered the store, picked a copy off the shelf, got a coffee and settled down in his favourite armchair open to the learning that he knew he was about to receive though the book wisdom of the One Minute Manager.

The key points of book wisdom that came to him from reading One Minute Apology were:

  • He knew he had to take full responsibility for his actions, regardless of the outcome;
  • He had to apologise to Jake, and he had to do this with a sense of urgency;
  • He had to demonstrate his commitment to making amends beyond this apology.

By the time Ray had finished reading it was too late to go back to the office. He knew everybody would have left for the day; and knowing what he had to do the next morning, he also knew he needed the evening to prepare mentally, which was best done away from the office. 

He just needed to do a couple of things before leaving the bookstore.  He messaged Jake asking him to meet early next morning before the workday began. He suggested a nearby coffee shop because this meeting needed to be away from the bank. He let his assistant know he would be late into the office, and asked that she rearrange his morning meeting.

And so at 7.30 am the next morning Ray and Jake met for coffee, and a discussion that Ray knew would not be happening if he had addressed the issues with Jake earlier on. He knew he had failed Jake, and began the meeting, having thanked Jake for agreeing to meet early, by saying: “Jake, I owe you an apology.” 

Jake was taken aback. Because of Ray’s angry outburst the previous day and knowing he had screwed up with the report, he was expecting a further balling out.

Ray continued: “I’ve let you down in so many ways. You’ve always done great work in the past. That changed in the last year. Your work has been under par for some time, and I failed to address it, I failed to talk to you, I failed to ask you why this was happening, I failed to take time to understand what’s been going on for you that was contributing to this. You’ve been loyal to the bank for so many years, you’ve been a great contributor, you’ve done great work, and I’ve let you down by not taking the time to talk to you, when clearly something was not right. I am sincerely sorry I’ve let you down so badly.”

Although taken aback for the second time within minutes, Ray’s apology – which immediately struck Jake as being both sincere and humble – caused Jake to blurt out everything that he had been carrying around since he had taken on his new role. Although Jake was visibly upset, Ray’s apology gave him the courage to speak up, together with a sense of knowing that he needed to do this for his self-esteem, and that this was his time to speak up. He responded to Ray’s apology by saying:

“I wish you had talked to me, I wish somebody had talked to me instead of making assumptions. I wanted to leave, when the others left. I wanted to leave, but then I was offered a role on your team, and told how much I was valued for my loyalty, and everybody assumed that’s what I wanted. It wasn’t, but I didn’t have the courage to leave or to speak up. I’ve hated every moment of this merger. The people on our team are all good people, but I miss everyone who has left. I was expected to be able to pick up my new role straightaway because of my knowledge of the business, but the work is so different to my old role, and I’ve been out of my depth since day one, but nobody said anything, and I wasn’t offered any help. I assumed you were OK with me getting up to speed. But I could see by the look on everyone’s faces yesterday that they weren’t surprised by what you said. They all looked sorry for me. Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t anybody say something? I thought you all liked me. You must of all seen that I was out of my depth. If only someone had offered to help. Instead I’ve become a laughingstock, someone to pity.”

Ray knew this was the conversation he should have had with Jake a long time ago, in the same way his manager had taken the time to talk to him all those years ago when he was struggling, when he was in a role that was not right for him. 

Ray spent the next two hours listening and talking to Jake: really listening to understand what was going on with him. By the end of the conversation Ray had learnt so much about Jake that he had not known before. Things he could have, would have, and should have known, had he taken the time to have a career conversation with him, which would have allowed him to understand his motivations, his longer term dreams and aspirations, how these fitted with his current role, and how he could have helped Jake work towards achieving this. The more they talked the more he realised how much he had failed Jake on so many levels.

While he could not turn back time, Ray knew he needed to do what he could in this moment to help Jake, and that was to help him to move on from the Bank, which is what Jake had wanted all along. You see Jake’s real passion was art: he was an artist, and had studied Art at university.  While at university he met his wife, they fell in love, got married and started a family right out of university. He made a choice to follow a WorkLife path that would allow him to support his family, and afford them a good lifestyle, and so began his career in banking.  He had actually enjoyed his work to a degree because of the people he had worked with, and before the merger the work was actually OK. More importantly it had allowed him to put his children through university. 

His art had become a hobby; but the burning desire to be an artist had never left him, and of late it was all he could think about. It was risky, but financially he was in an OK place. He had discussed it with his wife, and she was supportive, but Jake felt he needed a little more financial security for peace of mind. He had wanted to ask for redundancy before he was offered the role on Ray’s team. This had been offered to other people, but as nobody had asked Jake what he wanted at the time of the merger, and instead offered him a secure position, he had not wanted to seem ungrateful, and so he did not speak up.

Ray was in a position to secure a good redundancy settlement for Jake for his years of service to the bank. This is how the meeting ended, which was very different from how either Ray or Jake had anticipated it would have gone. 

Ray knew if he had taken the time to talk to Jake a year earlier to understand his career aspirations, or if he had taken time to give him feedback on his work at the given opportunities over the year when Jake messed up, it would never have gotten to this, and he could have helped Jake avoid the anguish and stress he had experienced. 

He knew he could have been a better manager if he had taken the time to create a culture of feedback, not just for him but also for Jake’s peers to give feedback to each other. A culture where Jake would have had the confidence to speak up, and ask for what he wanted. A culture where it would have been OK for people to say no to something they did not want to do.

Ray knew he needed to evaluate if he should in fact be a manager. Maybe he was not cut out for management. Maybe he was best suited to an individual contributor role. While Ray knew he had gotten a number of things right, he also knew he had gotten some fundamental things wrong. He knew he needed to step back to evaluate his own role and analyse what he wanted and needed to do.


There is a happy ending for both Ray and Jake’s stories. 

The time Ray had spent analysing how he should have managed the situation with Jake, allowed him to recognise that he did like his job, and that he was good at it. He acknowledged he had gotten it horribly wrong with Jake, and he knew in his heart of hearts he would never allow that to happen again. To ensure it did not, he did exactly what he should have done with Jake, with the rest of the team. He set up a time to have a WorkLife conversation with everyone. He now understood their motivations, their longer dreams and aspirations, and how these fitted with their current roles. He understood how he could support them in their development in achieving this, and how this fitted into the team, department and organisation growth plans. He is working on developing a team where everyone is responsible for giving feedback to each other, and where people feel safe in speaking up.

Six months later Ray received an invitation to the opening of Jake’s first art exhibition at a renowned gallery in the City of London. On Ray’s arrival Jake greeted him warmly. Ray was struck by how good he looked, and he was blown away by Jake’s art and his talent.

Later on in the evening Jake took Ray to one side, and he thanked him for everything he had done to help him achieve this. He thanked him for forcing the issue. He laughed and jokingly thanked him for almost ‘firing’ him. He thanked him for giving him the courage to speak up and say what he really wanted and for really listening. He thanked him for the financial support he had arranged that had made it possible to move onto the new challenge that he had for so long yearned, which gave him the success he was now experiencing. He told Ray he knew he had been spinning the wheels at work, and that he had been too scared to take action, and that the space Ray had given him that morning to talk had allowed him to know what it was he needed to do. 

Develop Your WorkLife Story

An apology forces us to take responsibility for our mistakes, to act with humility, sincerity and integrity. It goes to the heart of our relationships. It has the power to change our WorkLife, and the WorkLives of the people around us.

I Wish I Hadn’t Said … Assignment 

Have you ever given feedback that you wish you hadn’t? Maybe you blurted something out which you later regretted. Perhaps you were under pressure or at the end of your tether. Or it could be the person just really irritated you.

Was there anything you were able to do to recover?

On reflection what would you, could you, should you have said or done differently?

Three steps you can take to move beyond this: 

1. Apologise to yourself for behaviour you are not proud of; 

2. Resolve to avoid repeating the behaviour;

3. Then repair the damage done to yourself and others by behaving differently. 

Moral of This Story

We are all capable of not acting honestly on our own or someone else’s behalf, consciously or unconsciously, and in doing so we may have contributed to the problem. In the story both Ray and Jake recognised they could have spoken up. Speaking up can be hard, but the repercussions of not speaking up can be harder. A quote that resonated with both Ray and Jake: “At the very least, you’d be feeling better today if you had been completely honest with yourself.” The One Minute Apology.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Practice regular self-analysis by tapping into your gut instinct to acknowledge and observe your thoughts and behaviours in these situations. Then use self-feedback to evaluate what you need to do by asking yourself: What is the truth I’m not facing up to?

Developing a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

When situations erupt, the reality is they have very likely been bubbling beneath the surface for some time. Regular self-analysis goes a long way in preventing ‘I wish I hadn’t said’ situations. Ask yourself:

Am I contributing to the problem by not speaking up or taking action?

Words of Wisdom 

Every mistake should be noticed and corrected on the spot, but you also need time for reflection. Use this time to be honest with yourself and see reality as it is.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.


Rejection Recovery Resilience

“Rejection is the one constant of human experience.” Howard Jacobson 

The world has always been a challenging place, and perhaps now more than ever, as people try to cope with fast paced and unpredictable change. Times of uncertainty bring about difficult times, and oftentimes limited resources, leading to rejections.

Resilience is the quality that will help you survive. Building your resilience involves developing and maintaining habits of thinking and doing, which help you not just to survive in difficult times, but to come through the adversity knowing yourself better, and being wiser and more focussed on what is most important to you. 

This gives you the ability to recover, to bounce back from tough times and to display tenacity.

Let me share stories from the world of the performing arts to demonstrate how three actors used the Three Ps, Persistence, Passion and Purpose, to survive rejection, build resilience in allowing them to recover, and to push through their WorkLife obstacles.

A Case Study

Denise Gough’s Story: It Took Ten Years to Receive the Critics Award for Most Promising Newcomer

In 2016 I saw the actress Denise Gough give what has been credited as the West End performance of the year in People Places and Things. She went on to win the Laurence Oliver Award for best actress. I read afterwards that in 2012, when she received the Critics’ Award for Most Promising Newcomer, she respectfully said she had been around for ten years. Despite the award, she then went on to have a period of one year before People Places and Things, where she had no work. She applied for and did not get a cleaning job, and was about to give up on her dream when it finally happened for her.

Was it a lucky break? No, it was sheer persistence, determination, a lot of pulling herself back up, and staying true to her passion, and purpose.

A Case Study

My Story: Actors Don’t Take Criticism Very Well Do They? And Sir Anthony Sher’s Story “Don’t Give Up Your Day Job”.

I was at an event and in answering the inevitable “so what do you do?” question, I said I work with a team of actors, bringing techniques, structure and methods of theatre making to WorkLife learning and development. 

The comment I received in response was: “Actors don’t take criticism very well, do they?” I do not know where that came from. I certainly did not see it coming! I was extremely irked, but somehow managed to remain calm in my response in saying that one actor throughout their initial three-year drama school training will receive more critique than the 80+ people in this room together receive in their entire WorkLife, and that it does not stop there.

I went on to share a story about Sir Anthony Sher, who I had recently seen play the lead role in Death of a Salesman in the West End. His performance was phenomenal, and without exception the entire auditorium was on its feet for the final curtain call. His performance earned him five-star reviews. Shortly afterwards I read an interview he did with the Guardian newspaper, where in response to the question “If there was one thing you would change about your appearance, what would it be?” he answered, “Everything”. I was saddened by this because no matter how good actors are, the critique will continue. If they cannot be critiqued on their performance, they will be critiqued for their appearance. When it comes to actors, the whole world are critics. 

In the interview when Sir Anthony was asked “What was the worst thing anyone said to you?”, his reply was: “When I auditioned at RADA they urged me to seek a different career, and not to give up my day job.” Thankfully for him (and us) he followed his heart, and has since been knighted for his contribution to the Arts. He was also asked “what book changed his life”, and he replied: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare because it led him to the RSC, which allowed him to fulfil a dream he held since a young boy”.

A Case Study

Vince Vaughan’s Story: Rejected for his Height 

I listened to Vince Vaughan in conversation with Tim Ferriss on the Tim Ferriss podcast. He spoke about how he would be rejected for his height, saying that he had to find a way of using it, so that he would not be defined by it. He spoke about it being second nature for actors to be turned down.

He spoke about the time and energy spent preparing for auditions, and when it did not pan out, how at first he would be down, and would take four or five days, and not do anything, and say this is not working and would lose his energy.  

He went on to talk about finding a process where you allow yourself to feel disappointed. It is important not to turn off those feelings, but it is important to understand how to do that as quickly as possible to then become productive again, and start doing the things that are going to give you a better opportunity. He said the sooner you can get back to your own growth, and what can enhance it, the sooner the chance of having what you want in your life becomes greater. 

He said the opportunities of being exposed to failure in auditions inaugurates you in that you develop a tolerance for rejection that allows you to capitalise later. He went on to say that the other side is once you have had a level of success, you can maintain the motivation you once had. 

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

Rejections are hard, that is a fact. Do not accept the first rejection ever, or the second, or the third. Give yourself options, but at your own pace. You are not in competition with anybody but yourself.

When actors audition for roles, they can never second guess what the casting agent is looking for. They are given the script often with little direction. They prepare their character portrayal, and deliver their performance based on what they can glean from the script. Whether or not they get the role, if they can walk away knowing they have given a performance true to their interpretation of the character, this is good enough. 

That said, they will also consider what they can learn from the experience with regard to what they could have done differently or better. That is because there is always something to learn about ourselves in every situation, and we should always try to learn.

Watch the Watcher Assignment

In chapter 9 you worked on developing your power of observation, beginning by taking something that happened during your day, then replaying it in your mind and being observant of yourself, along with everything else that was going on around you in that moment. You then worked to develop this by being more observant as you went about your daily life. This demanded that you were fully present in the moment to notice what was going on within yourself, and around you.

Watch the Watcher will allow you to develop your power of observation even more strongly. 

Begin by taking a moment from an experience or situation where you were rejected. For an actor this may be from an audition, from a role they auditioned for. For you it could be from an interview or from a presentation.

Now replay that moment in your mind:

Begin by observing yourself, what was going on within you, and what was going on around you.

Next shift your focus to the person or people who were watching/observing you. Watch/observe what is going on within them, and around them. Of course, you have no way of knowing for sure, however you can learn to read people through what they say, what they do not say, and through their body language and facial expressions.

To develop this even further, become observant in the moment by watching the watcher.  For actors this may be another audition. For you it may be an interview or presentation.  The great thing is, you will have prepared really well for this; and so being observant, Watching the Watcher will actually be quite easy.

Draw on the information you have observed, acknowledge what you did well, acknowledge what you could have done better, then move on. 

Learning from your experience, acknowledging how being rejected made you feel. Then picking yourself back up as quickly as you can will support your recovery, and help you to build your resilience.  

Moral of this Story

The fear of rejection can stop people, if you are afraid of a No it can keep you from taking a risk. The key to not fearing rejection is to never reject yourself, not to take the rejection personally; and yes, I know that is hard, because it can sure feel personal. These stories demonstrate that if you follow your dream, believe in yourself, and surround yourself with people who believe in you too, you can overcome rejection, become resilient, recover, and become stronger in your resolve to achieve what is truly important to you.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

This is the time to reframe any negative feedback you give yourself. For example, in the case of actors, instead of saying, “I could have done better if only I’d done x,” they can change it to say, “Oh that’s not a fit for the audience they’re targeting, but I am a fit for other audiences, and I’m not rejecting myself as a bad actor because I got a no.” 

Adapting this to your situation is how you free yourself from that fear. In doing this you are rejecting the negative feedback, and you are accepting yourself.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

If the rejection came from doing something you love, then think about what it is that caused that rejection, and work to better understand how to present your best possible self when you try again. Simply ask yourself:

What could I have done better?

Words of Wisdom 

How you rebound from setbacks speaks volumes about who you are. 

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

My Top Three Isolation Inspirations By Carmel O’ Reilly

My Top Three Isolation Inspirations is part of a series of people’s stories of how they’re spending their lockdown, and how they’re being inspired in isolation.

In deciding what I was going to do in this strange time of lockdown and isolation I asked myself: How can I make the most of this time? The self-feedback I received in answer was that I wanted to do the following three things – which are actually six things, because well that’s what came to me, because they all seemed like good ideas, because they’re things I can combine, and because I can.

My Top Three Isolation Inspirations A Case Study

Isolation Inspirations


Embracing being at home and indulging in pure unadulterated me time, to my absolute delight I discovered all thirty-four of the previously screened episodes of Inspector Montalbano are currently available on iPlayer. I’m a huge fan, so of course I decided to work my way through them – there is a little work involved as it’s in Italian with English subtitles. As I’d watched them before I wanted to create a sense of purpose around re-watching them, and so I decided I’d read each book first, then watch the episode.

My reasoning behind this was two-fold: 

  1. I want to read more fiction, and mysteries are a life-long favourite genre. Beginning from a young age with Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven books, then moving on to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple detective novels, and many, many more in-between.
  2. I have an idea for a mystery book, but I have no idea how to go about writing it, and so I’m setting out to learn just that, and what better way to do it than by embracing my love of literature and performing arts.


Before the pandemic hit, I’d planned a road-trip around Ireland along with exploring France by train. While this of course has to go on hold for now, I thought I could still prepare, and as this is something I could multi-task on, I thought the best combination would be with home-exercise. So, I got my Michel Thomas Irish and French Language CDs, along with my Jane Fonda and Callanetics DVDs off the shelf, dusted them off, put on my legwarmers and got going. 


I decided I’d use this time to learn how to take better photographs. This is simply because I love photographs, but I’ve never been very good at taking them. This seemed like the perfect time to try out my new iPhone that I’d bought because of the camera function, which was reportedly good for both photos and videos. I created a project which I’ve called ‘Capturing the Beauty in Everyday WorkLife’, and as we’re allowed to exercise outside of home, I thought I’d combine both. How am I doing? Here are a few of my pics: I’ll let you judge.

Book Wisdom

So, what wisdom am I gleaning from reading mystery books and how could this be helpful in your WorkLife? Looking at the first book in the series of Inspector Montalbano (The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri), Donna Leon, an American author of a series of crime novels set in Venice, Italy, said: “The novels of Andrea Camilleri breathe out the sense of place, the sense of humour, and the sense of despair that fill the air of Sicily. To read him is to be taken to that glorious, tortured island.” 

Alongside exploring how to write a mystery book, I’m also working on my next book, which is about helping people to tell their unique WorkLife stories. Since 2003 in my work as a WorkLife consultant I’ve helped people manage, develop and transition their WorkLife. The importance of people being able to tell their story whether in interviews, presentations, in networking situations is so important at all WorkLife stages.

My earlier posts: Everything is Riding On This – We’re Relying On YouHello My Name Is … and I’m a Recovering Boring Person and Crushed by Feedback and What I Did Next demonstrate how to give a sense of place, humour and despair in storytelling. 

Words of Wisdom

In the midst of times of uncertainty and disruption powerful shifts are going to come about, people are going to make big changes. You may not have the clarity on what you could, should, would do, if you only knew what that was, and that’s OK. Focus instead on how you should think about making decisions when the time is right for you.

Sage Wisdom

Down moments are sometimes when the greatest opportunities arise.


This chapter of my WorkLife has just begun. In time I’ll reflect what it meant for me, what I learnt from it, and what changes it effected in my WorkLife. 

I leave you with a couple of questions for you to reflect on at whatever stage you’re at, at this chapter in your WorkLife.

What do you want to get out this strange, bizarre, challenging time?

What do you want to remember from this time?

Through reflection and self-feedback let the answers inform your isolation inspirations in whatever you choose to do. 

In time should you choose to make changes in your WorkLife, ask yourself: How should I think about making these decisions? 

Today’s book of the blog is: The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.


Inventing and Reinventing Yourself

If you are not where you want to be, do not quit, instead reinvent yourself.” Eric Thomas

In a world where things are always changing, there will be times when your WorkLife circumstances change, or you change. You will reach points where you will want and need to think about who you are and where you are at in your WorkLife, and then figure out whether or not it is time for a refresh, or a total change in direction.

Inventing or reinventing yourself while challenging is absolutely possible. To demonstrate this I will share Orla’s, Sean’s and Tim’s stories.

A Case Study

Orla’s Story: How she Applied to Work for an Organisation she Aspired to be Part of when she Didn’t Meet the Specified Criteria of the Position Advertised

Orla was at the early stages of her WorkLife. She aspired to work for ABC Consultancy, because she considered it to be a great company. She believed she could learn so much at ABC because they had so much experience, and being part of the company would support her in working towards achieving the best she could be.

So she was really excited when she saw a position on their website she considered she could apply for. But her heart sank as she worked through the application when she was having to answer no to the questions being asked to determine candidates that would be a good fit for the role. 

Although disheartened, she was not deterred. To stand a chance she knew she needed to show them that she could do this, but she also knew she could not write the cover letter that was expected, where candidates outlined their qualifications, experience and skills to date that would allow them to highlight why they are a good fit for the role.

So instead she wrote a letter that began from a place of honesty. She acknowledged her short comings, while also projecting confidence in herself, and her ability to serve the team and the company in serving their clients.

This is what Orla wrote:

Dear XXX, I’m probably not the candidate you have in mind for the Communications Development Lead position. I don’t have the required experience as a project manager, nor do I hold a certificate in Lean Coaching, but what I do have are skills and attributes that cannot be taught, along with the potential that comes from a deep-rooted ability to inspire others to live their WorkLives without compromise. My values align with your company’s passion in helping people and businesses grow in a way that has a positive impact on the world.

I’m a hard-worker, grounded and I get things done. I have the ability to bring out the strengths of each individual within the team, I take on the responsibilities needed for the team to excel. I know I would provide the excellence required to support the success of this position.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I welcome the opportunity to discuss my application further.

Orla got the job and is absolutely loving her time at the company. True to her word she is helping her team, clients and company thrive by achieving their best, while at the same time doing the same for herself. 

But what if there are no jobs advertised for the organisation you aspire to be part of? Can you speculatively approach companies across all industries and sectors? Well I happen to think so, and to prove my point I will share Sean’s story:

A Case Study

Sean’s Story: How a Speculative Approach Helped Him Reinvent Himself

Sean was at the mid-stages of his WorkLife when he decided he wanted to move into the public sector. He was not just looking for another job within the public sector, he actually wanted to transition from the start-up business he had founded. No mean feat by any standards, taking into account the public sector promote equality and fairness in their job-selection process, and as a result all positions will be advertised.

Sean speculatively approached a government department for a job: not an advertised position, but an enquiry letting them know why he thought his skills, experience and attributes gained working in the green sector would be valuable to that department.

This is what Sean wrote:

Dear XXX,

As founder of an independent think tank and advocate, committed to achieving a greener future I launched XXX Eco Housing in 2009 with a team of engineers. I am extremely interested in your commitment to align the environment sector to get the Government on track to meeting its climate targets. I believe I could play a key role in helping you deliver on your pledge.

Sheer grit and a determination to make a positive environment impact has supported the following:

  • The success of our project has led our retro-fitting housing to become one of a portfolio of climate projects underway at XXX Global GreenXXX, and draws on our thinking on climate leadership.
  • I’ve built relationships with politicians, environmental NGOs, and other stakeholders in order to help secure support for our project.
  • Our think tank plays a central role in shaping environment agendas, we are known for the clarity of our insights in support of work being undertaken by other organisations. 
  • An experienced researcher, I’ve helped devise strategies, and I’ve contributed to the thinking on substantive environmental challenges. 

I welcome the opportunity to share my thinking on how getting ambitious and effective policies in place, and showing how these act as a blueprint for faster sustainable housing across the world, the UK can show global leadership in addressing climate change.

Sean’s approach did not receive an immediate response, and so he went about his business. Then out of the blue and several months later, he got a call to say that while they do not normally accept speculative approaches, his letter and CV had impressed them, and they now had a position they considered he would be suitable for, and invited him to apply. His application was successful, and he was invited along for an interview.

This was a stringent interview process, as you would expect in the public sector. Long story short, having been put through his paces Sean secured the role, and therein lies my case that speculatively approaching organisations for work does actually work.

Interestingly as a friend of The Theatre Royal Haymarket London I was invited along for a tour of the Theatre, followed by tea and a chat with a couple of the actors from the play ‘Great Britain’, which was showing at the time. The actors were asked how they go about getting work, and if they rely solely on their agent. They both said that while their agents are instrumental in their work by and large, they have both approached directors and writers (both stage and screen) whose work they admire and respect to express a desire to work with them. And guess what – it paid off!

A Case Study

Tim’s Story: Life after Redundancy What Next?

Tim was at the later stages of his WorkLife when his human resources role in an organisation within the educational sector was made redundant. Now of course Tim’s skills were quite transferable across sectors, but he was actually thinking of doing something new, and he considered the redundancy pay-out he had received a gift. He wanted to ensure he invested it in the best possible business venture, one that would be fulfilling for him, and sustain him and his family in both the short and long term.

He needed ideas as to what that business venture could be, and so we talked about his interests and hobbies, one of which is scale model making.  An unusual idea you may be thinking, but sometimes the more unusual and unique the idea, the easier it is to research. So Tim went about researching his idea, and in the meantime he kept himself busy with a little painting and decorating, for his own home and also for friends and family who were happy to engage his services to carry out work they themselves did not have the time or inclination to do.

Well as I have come to learn, once you have an awareness of what you want, you will begin to see opportunities in the most unexpected of places. It is just like when you buy a new silver Mercedes (I wish), and all of a sudden you will see silver Mercedes everywhere. True to this belief, Tim discovered a woman who had an established scale model-making business who was due to retire, and he bought the business from her.

This was a good brand with an established customer base and great potential. The woman did not use computers and as a result did not utilise the web. Tim has built an effective web marketing plan into his business plan, and with hard work and a fair wind it should provide a nice income stream to supplement his savings and investments. The good thing is the margins are lucrative and the costs are low.

On top of that Tim has become a parent governor at his daughter’s school, which he is finding interesting, and he is enjoying applying past learnt management and people skills in a new context.

A Case Study

Fanny Craddock and Mrs Beeton: Stories of Reinvention and Christmas Puddings

My brother Noel is an amazing cook and dinner at his house is always a culinary delight. As we both live in London, we have shared many Christmas dinners with our respective family and friends. I remember one Christmas dinner when we were finishing our meal with the traditional Christmas pudding, which he had made, and I relayed the story of the first Christmas pudding I made.

It was in my first year in secondary school. I gave the pudding to my sister Olive and her family as a Christmas gift, but when she opened it, she found it had gone mouldy! My brother relayed a similar story about Fanny Craddock, who secured an order for her Christmas puddings from Fortnum and Mason – the wonderful British food emporium who (in their own words) for three centuries have been committed to bringing the world’s best food to Piccadilly. Now unfortunately for Fanny the Christmas puddings she made, which were distributed in their Christmas hampers to their elite clients, suffered a similar fate to mine: when they opened them they found them to be mouldy!

*Fanny Craddock was perhaps the queen of reinvention. By the time she had become the grande dame of TV she had over forty years of WorkLife ups and downs. She took jobs that included washing up in a canteen, hawking penny cures for tired feet at the Ideal Home Exhibition and selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. 

She carved out a minor reputation as a novelist and children’s author under the pseudonym “Frances Dale”. But it was her first recipe book, The Practical Cook, that opened the door to Fleet Street in 1949, when she became a columnist for The Daily Telegraph. 

This led to a TV series, which was initially suggested as a six-week run about weekend breaks in the country. Evelyn Garrett, woman’s editor, said she wanted Fanny “to find out if there is anything left that is worthwhile in the inns of England.” When Fanny asked, “What sort of anything?”  Evelyn replied: “A warm welcome, honest fare, integrity, Fanny, if it still survives.” 

Fanny proposed the name “Bon Viveur”, as it was sexless and covered food, wine and, vitally, travel. This gentle experiment evolved into a five-year voyage of discovery, during which Fanny and her husband Johnnie visited thousands of hotels and restaurants, at home and abroad.

This led the conversation to Mrs Beeton, who perhaps was the Martha Stewart of her day. I originally thought she was a woman who had many years’ experience as a cook; but the truth is she set out to develop her cooking ability at the age of 21, when she undertook a writing assignment to write a guide to all aspects of running a household in Victorian Britain. The book contained over 900 recipes and also gained the name ‘Mrs Beeton’s Cookbook’.

Mrs Beeton was an accomplished pianist, having studied music in Heidelberg. However she established her career in writing when she married her husband, who was a publisher of books and magazines, and she began to write articles on cooking and household management for his publications. The rest, as they say, is history.

I expect Mrs Beeton would have developed her career even further, or indeed developed a new career, as I am sure you will agree she was a woman of many talents. But sadly she died aged 28. 

Similarly to Mrs Beeton, we all have the potential to develop new skills that will allow us to perform in the career of our choice, and in line with the demands of the role. I also believe we all have the capacity and capability to have a number of careers in our lifetime, and the proof of that I guess is in the pudding – or maybe not!

As for Fanny, she continued reinventing her WorkLife, becoming among other things the grandame of cookery TV. She hung up her chef’s hat at the age of 85. 

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

It is never too late to invent or reinvent the reality you want for yourself in your WorkLife. It begins with the humility of having the self-awareness to know what you are good at, and what you are not good at. This will help you tell your story both in your written and spoken word, in letters and conversations when approaching people or companies.  

Bridge the Gap Assignment

Choose one of the following scenarios: 

  1. A company you aspire to work for;
  2. A sector you want to transition in to;
  3. A transition you want to make from being employed to establishing your own business.

For the purpose of this exercise consider opportunities that are a stretch for you to apply for, or for you to create. For example: 

  1. You do not have the requirements they are looking for in the role for the company you aspire to work for;
  2. There is no position advertised in the sector you want to transition in to;
  3. For the transition from being employed to setting up in business, you may or may not know what you want to do …yet. 
  1. As Orla did, once you identify a position you could apply for,  begin to look at how you could address the gaps. These are the fundamental gaps, that is the essential required skills, experience, training – not the desired required elements.

Next use Orla’s letter and adapt it to your situation: i.e address the gaps up front – what you do not have; then move on to the skills, attributes and potential that you do have – take ownership of this. Remember this is what is unique about you, and differentiates you from the crowd. Now put this in context by simply asking yourself how this will allow me to excel in the role, e.g. as Orla did in her second paragraph. 

2.  As Sean did, once you identify the sector you want to transition in to, then consider what you have to offer by way of skills, experience and potential that would benefit them.

Next use Sean’s letter and adapt it to your situation. Say what you want to say up front. Be memorable throughout your letter. Your purpose is to make it clear what distinguishes you, so they want to follow up to find out more about you.

3. As Tim did, to help you discover a business that you could launch:

  • Think about your hobbies and interests, then explore if there is business potential (e.g. in researching scale model making, Tim discovered an opportunity);
  • Consider what you can offer that would alleviate pain points for other people (e.g. Tim put his painting and decorating skills to use);
  • Think about your WorkLife skills and experience and how you can apply those in a different context (e.g. Tim applied his people management and development skills in a new position as school parent governor). 

To get your thought process started, for the option you are working with, ask yourself:

  1. Why am I drawn to this company?
  2. Why am I drawn to this sector?
  3. Why am I drawn to this business idea?

It could be something about you or an aspect of what the company, sector or business does. 

Next take a blank piece of paper (or document if you prefer to work online) and spend ten minutes free writing: i.e. get whatever comes out of your mind down on paper (in a document). Suspend judgement on the quality of what is coming to you. The purpose of this exercise to get as much of your thinking as you can from your mind to pen. 

Then look for the words, sentence or idea that is most interesting and develop this into the opening line/paragraph for your letter (if you have chosen Option One or Two). If you have chosen Option Three, develop it into the opening line/paragraph of your ‘About Me’ page on your website. 

Moral of this Story

You need to take a truthful approach to your reinvention, both as a reality check for yourself, and also in allowing people, companies and customers to recognise your potential – personal or business. While you may not have everything they are looking for, as in Orla’s case, or they might not even be looking for you in the first place, as in Sean’s case, or you are having to develop yourself in a new business, as in Tim’s case, the important thing is not to allow that to deter you from following your WorkLife aspirations. Be upfront about your shortfalls for the role, sector or business, while also projecting a confidence in yourself in being able to deliver on the job or in the business.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

As importantly you need to project another kind of confidence, a confidence in yourself as a lifelong learner. Self-feedback will allow you to know how you are doing, and to also identify the new skills you need to develop to transition in your WorkLife though your reinvention – as Fanny Craddock and Mrs Beeton did.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

To project confidence in yourself as a lifelong learner, you need to ask What questions:

What do I want to do next?

What are the gaps in my skills in where I am now to where I want to be?

What can I do to build those skills now?

Words of Wisdom 

While inventing and reinventing yourself can seem like a high hurdle, no wall is too high to be climbed.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.


Overcoming Self-Doubt through Self-Appreciation 

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare

You do so many great things over the course of your WorkLife, some of which you forget about or take for granted, and you do not always recognise how something you have done in the past can help you with something you aspire to do in the future. This can lead to you not fully appreciating who you are and how much you have to give, which in turn can lead you to doubt yourself.

A Case Study

Joe’s Story: I Won’t be Considered for Jobs Because I’m Too Old 

When I first began delivering outplacement programmes, I delivered a programme that was sponsored by the government to help people back into work. It was a year-long programme focussed on training and developing people in the area of supply change management. I was engaged to support people in the job-search element of the programme. The participants were quite diverse in terms of age, experience and backgrounds. I remember a conversation I had with one of the participants called Joe, because it is one I have time and time again.

Joe was in his early 60’s, and although he was going through the motions of the programme, he had the belief that because of his age that at the end of it organisations would not be interested in employing him, and would choose younger candidates over him. My thinking was different: Joe’s CV demonstrated his loyalty to the organisations he had previously worked with. He had actually worked for his most recent employer for over thirty years before his position had been made redundant. Although he had been with the same organisation his career had been quite progressive and he had advanced in terms of the roles and responsibilities he had undertaken. Along with his CV demonstrating his loyalty and ability, it also demonstrated his ‘stay ability’.

To my way of thinking these factors made Joe an attractive candidate to employers. Yes perhaps he only had four or five years before retirement, but this is actually quite substantial taking into account how much people move around in their WorkLives today. Someone younger may perhaps see an opportunity of joining an organisation as a stepping-stone to the next stage of their WorkLife, and will use this experience to facilitate this. Today’s job market is very different to that of when Joe began his WorkLife, when a job was for life. I actually think this is quite positive because it allows a flow that supports people at different WorkLife stages; and when people like Joe want to join an organisation with a commitment to staying with them for four or five years, the organisation will recognise this as being a genuine commitment.

Joe told me our conversation helped him to overcome his self-doubt and rethink his situation. He approached his job search more positively, and now recognised and appreciated just how much he had to offer a potential employer, feeling more confident in communicating this.

A Case Study

My Story: I’ve never done this before, Is it/Am I good enough? 

While I am really good at helping other people recognise and realise their potential to overcome their self-doubt, and to appreciate how much they have within themselves to achieve their WorkLife dreams and aspirations, at times I struggle with my own self-doubt, and I do not always recognise, realise or appreciate my own potential, and what I have within me to achieve my WorkLife dreams and aspirations. 

Revisiting Joe’s story as I was writing this book my own self-doubt crept back in. I am putting so much of myself into this work: it is who I am; it is what I am about; it goes to the core of my identity; and it makes me feel quite vulnerable. Vulnerable because of how much of myself I am sharing. Vulnerable because it is my first time writing a book, and I do not know if people will think it is good. I actually do not know myself if it is good. I know I am enjoying writing, but that does not necessarily mean it is good, and that is where my self-doubt is creeping in. As I begin to question how good this work is, I question how good I am. I want people to consider my work to be good, actually I want them to consider it to be great. But I need to overcome my self-doubt and appreciate my own work.

While all of this was going on in my head, I had a request to write a short biography focusing on my professional life from London Southbank University (LSBU). I am part of their Curriculum Advisory Board in a voluntary capacity. They required it for their website. This is what I wrote:

Carmel O’ Reilly Biography

I’m Carmel O’ Reilly, a WorkLife Consultant. I help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives through people development programmes. With a degree in Career Coaching and Management, I have 15 years’ experience coaching, training and helping people move forward in their WorkLives. My approach enables an understanding of skills, attributes, knowledge, experience and potential in line with values and motivators, to enable a more fulfilling WorkLife with a clear sense of direction.                                                                                                                

I’ve developed a continuous performance management solution to help people manage their own WorkLife performance development through effective feedback, insightful questions, and the ability to shape and tell their own unique story.  

                                                                                                                                                                Working with a team of actors I create WorkPlace Theatre: theatrical productions written following research into organisational challenges and desired outcomes. Live performances mirror reality to communicate issues directly to those watching. The plays form the centrepiece of learning and development, stimulating discussion and debate. Live learning events to help people manage workplace issues include: Difficult Conversations: Managing Upwards Downwards Sideways. Moving From Annual Appraisals To In The Moment Feedback. Well-Being: Mental Health and Hidden Disabilities. Diversity and Inclusion.

I work with organisations to create experiential learning designed for individuals and teams to create an environment where new ideas and ways of working are encouraged. Through programmes that combine learning and the arts, people are enabled to practice new skills and behaviours in a safe, supportive, creative and fun environment. 

Fun Fact: While travelling Australia, I worked as a “Mobile Haemoglobin Technician” which might just be the strangest job I’ve ever done. Good though, had car, did travel. #AustraliaRoadTrip 

I’m the founder of 

And you know what, it helped me to appreciate myself and my work, and allowed me to overcome my self-doubt.  It allowed me to know how much I have achieved in my WorkLife. It allowed me to recognise the WorkLife I have created, a WorkLife that is true to who I am. It allowed me to know I am living the WorkLife of my dreams and aspirations, true to my values, purpose and passion. It allowed me to recognise my potential, and how much I have to offer to people in helping them realise their potential to live a WorkLife that is fulfilling to them. It allowed me to recognise that I am already achieving so much of my:

WorkLife Mission

To spread the power of WorkLives lived with Passion, Purpose, and Pride by creating continuous WorkLife development programmes that are accessible to everyone.” 

It allows me to know that this book will support me in striving towards achieving my mission more fully. 

All of this allows me to know that this book is actually good, in that it is the best of me, the best I can give. Of course I still do not know how it will be perceived when it goes out into the world. Will people think it is good? I have no way of knowing this for sure. I just know it is something I need to do, something I want to do, something I want to test and try, because this is the only way I will ever know.

Thanks to the request to write my biography I have come to appreciate who I am and how much I have to give and to support people though my work. I was able to overcome my self-doubt. In the same way I was able to help Joe in recognising how much he had to offer in his work to potential employers, and overcome his self-doubt, this request allowed me to do the same for myself. That old adage I so believe in, coming to the fore once again: ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will come.’ For Joe, I was the teacher; for me, it was the request to write my biography, which brought about the teaching that was needed.

Develop Your WorkLife Story

The more you know yourself and the more you know your value, the more you can trust in yourself that you are good enough.

Writing Your Biography Assignment 

One of the fastest and surest ways to feel good about yourself is to understand how your WorkLife fits into the big picture.

Choose one of the following two ways to do this:

1. Look at job descriptions for roles you could apply for.

Reality check what you already have that would allow you to apply for this role, by considering how you fit, and what makes you a good fit.

2. Think of an organisation you would like to become a voluntary member of, which would allow you to contribute your knowledge, skills, experience in making a positive impact.

Whichever option you choose, imagine you have to write a biography as to why you consider yourself to be a good candidate for this position.

Now write your biography. Keep it between 250 – 300 words. This is sufficient to present the best of yourself succinctly.

The Moral of this Story

Whether you are at a later stage of your WorkLife or you are at the beginning of doing something new, looking inside yourself, looking at your own history, and using this to appreciate how much you have to offer in your WorkLife will help you to overcome any self-doubts that creep in. 

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback

Your WorkLife is ever evolving and you are evolving with it. Continuous self-feedback is important in informing you as to how you are doing, and to keep you moving forward.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning

In the knowledge that you have the answers within you, it is good practice to regularly consider what you have not asked yourself that is important for you to know and to be aware of. The following questions will help your understanding:

Do I have everything I need to be successful?

If yes, what am I going to do next?

If no, how can I get it?

Words of Wisdom

Own who you are and remember you are more than enough. 

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.


Self-Acceptance Not Good Enough Feeling Like a Fraud Not Deserving of This

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” Brené Brown

As we go through life, we can all make choices or decisions that we judge ourselves by. We are all capable of being our own harshest critic. The likelihood is that no one judges us more than we judge ourselves. What we need to do is to get out of our own way, because the path to self-acceptance is self-realisation in knowing that we are good enough.

A Case Study

Myra’s Story: Not Being Good Enough Imposter Syndrome 

Myra had experienced great success. She had sold her company, which had started as a market stall, for eight figures. She had built the company from the ground up, through sheer hard work, putting in up to eighteen hours a day, seven days a week for five years, without ever taking a holiday.  

She was now in a position where she could not only take a holiday, but she could take a significant amount of time out to decide what she wanted to do next; and if that decision was that she no longer wanted to work, the sale of her company meant that she was in a position to do that too.

So what did Myra do? Well she took a few days’ holidays, which she actually found unsettling and had difficulty relaxing. So immediately she started looking for opportunities to volunteer her time, and joined committees and boards of nine organisations, across many different industries and sectors. She also applied to university, and went on to do a degree in Business Studies, followed by three Masters Degrees, and then a PhD. 

But what was driving Myra to do all of this? Well, let us back up a little to her backstory. 

Myra was born in Thailand. When she was fourteen years old, her family moved to London. She was the first of her family to go to university, and her parents were really proud of this. At university she met a boy, fell in love, and became pregnant, which resulted in her dropping out. The relationship did not work out, but Myra did not want to go home. She wanted to keep the independence she had experienced for the first time in her life, which she had come to value immensely, and so she moved into a small bedsit.  

When her daughter Zara was born, she needed to work to bring in money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Myra wanted to do so much more than this. She wanted to provide a life of security and stability for her daughter, to build a fund for her future education and life. She recognised she needed help with this, so she asked her parents if she could move back in with them, and if they would help with taking care of Zara. Both of her parents worked long hours. They did this to provide for Myra’s three younger siblings, and to save money for each them to go to university. Asking for their help and support meant that Myra now needed to become one of the breadwinners with responsibility for the whole family.

She did not know what she could do. Having not completed her degree she lacked confidence in applying for jobs. She questioned who would want to employ her without having a degree, and without any work experience she did not consider she had any skills to offer. 

At this point her parents were working in early morning cleaning jobs. They did this while the family slept. Myra joined them to bring in more money while deciding what she could do. It needed to be more than this, but she was still struggling to know what. 

Every morning as they made their way home, they passed street traders who were setting up for the day. Myra was curious about what they sold, and if this afforded them a living. She decided to explore this, going walkabout one lunchtime, and found the market to be heaving. It was located in the City of London, a neighbourhood where banks, law firms, government departments, not-for-profit organisations, tech and design industries all converged. There were street food stalls galore, but it was the market stalls that interested Myra. Each one was quite unique and different in an arty, lifestyle sort of way.

One particular stall had a lot of people milling around. They were selling travel books: The Lonely Planet series. Myra could see that the books and payment exchanges were fast and furious. She counted a team of ten on the ground in the small space, attracting people in (though the crowd themselves were doing that), answering questions, selling and processing payments. She was intrigued, and hung around until the rush hour lunchtime had died down so as to chat with the owner of the stall, Ken, to try to understand why their books were so popular.

He told Myra that it was simply that these people were planning to travel, and it was easy and convenient for them to pick up their destination book while on their lunch break. Being located close to the street food stalls where they were picking up lunch helped. He went on to say that The Lonely Planet is a recognised and respected brand, and so sales are easy. They carried a generic stock of the popular books within the series, which met most on the day demands. If they are not carrying a particular book, people can order it, and they will have it for them the next day. When Myra had been observing the books being sold, she had noticed that a lot of people had purchased Lonely Planet Thailand. She mentioned this to Ken, who told her that this destination had been popular for several years, and continued to be. 

By now Myra’s intrigue was bubbling over with a sense of excitement. She still had no idea what this meant, by way of what she could do work-wise, but she felt there was something. She was also really buzzing from having been around the stalls, and in the neighbourhood there was such a positive vibe, she felt alive.

On her walk home and over the following days, she kept mulling this over and over in her head. Asking herself, what all of this meant to her, what it meant she could do, what could she sell. She went back in her mind to when she was growing up, when she had helped her parents who had a market stall on their home island of Phuket. She remembered how popular sarongs had been. People would arrive and immediately buy them to wear on the beach. They would come back and buy them as gifts to take home. She wondered if this could be something. She decided there was only one way she could find out, that was to test the idea. She knew she could have her family in Phuket send sarongs to her. They were able to buy them at a very low cost, which she would cover, along with shipping. 

She went back to talk to Ken to ask about standing near his stall and selling them. He said this would not be possible, because this space was needed for his customers and staff to mill around in. He also said the market organisers and vendors would not allow this. He went on to say that the people who had the stall next to him were giving it up. They themselves were going travelling, and having established themselves selling backpacks, they had already moved to an online platform. They had engaged a fulfilment centre to deliver their orders to anywhere in the world. This meant they no longer had to carry a physical stock, and they themselves no longer needed to have a physical presence, and were now ready to pursue their dream of travelling the world, working and living from wherever their journey took them. 

Ken said he would put in a word with the organisers and other vendors for her. What she was proposing to sell was unique and different to anything else being sold, and he thought she had a strong chance of being accepted. But she needed to move fast, because as stalls became vacant, they were snapped up immediately. Myra would be required to make an initial minimum commitment to a six-month contract, and it did not come cheap. It would require putting some of the family savings at risk, in that they would have to draw on this if the venture was not a success, if it did not bring in enough money to pay the rent on the stall, or the money they needed to meet their financial commitments; and of course she would need to invest in larger quantities of sarongs.

She discussed it with her parents, who were not on board because it made them nervous to invest their savings into something that they did not know would work, which meant they could lose everything. Her twin brothers, who had just turned sixteen, really wanted to help out, as did her younger sister who was fourteen. Knowing they would meet resistance from their parents, the four of them had prepared a plan to present in an attempt to persuade them to invest the money needed. 

The plan was quite simple. At sixteen the boys could now legally work, and they would join Myra and her parents at the cleaning company, to increase the income coming into the household. They would then go straight to the market stall to set up and trade for the day. Her sister would help out with taking care of Zara, and she could also help out with any aspects of the business that could be done from home. The school holidays were about to begin, and so none of this would impact their studies; and it gave them six weeks to work really hard to get things up and running, to push sales, to do everything they could to avoid having to use the family savings. Their marketing idea was simple too: they would sell to people before they went on holiday. The sarongs were much lighter than towels to carry, and could double up as towels and beachwear. They also promoted them as being ideal for the gym to replace towels.

They had prepared well, had anticipated their parent’s arguments, and how they could alleviate their concerns. It worked. Their parents were so impressed by their ‘pitch’, and how they handled their concerns and objections, and were proud of how the four of them had worked together, developing their ideas, and how much they were each willing to do to make sure it worked. Their passion and enthusiasm, supported by their projected income, played an important part in them saying yes.

And so, this is how it all began. How with a lot of hard work and long hours, five years later Myra and the rest of her family had agreed the eight-figure sale, which meant all of them were in an extremely comfortable place financially, and each one of them could choose what they wanted to do next in their WorkLife.

For Myra, it was degree after degree after degree. Why? She said it was out of fear that she was not good enough to get a job, and this came back to her dropping out of university and not completing her first degree. Having worked on a market stall, she thought she did not have skills or experience that fitted into a work environment. Despite the fact that she had sold the business for eight figures, she felt she had no understanding of how businesses worked. When she attended committee or board meetings of the organisations she had joined, when the discussions turned to financial aspects she nodded in agreement but kept quiet, and would come home and google the terminology used. She felt like an imposter, and was fearful she would be found out and exposed.  This is why her first degree was in Business Studies. It is also why she did not stop at one degree.

We are the stories we tell ourselves. Growing up in Thailand, while Myra was part of a strong family unit, she was not often praised, but was expected to be number one all the time. When she got an A-plus she felt loved more, so the performance love was embedded in her brain. She went back to university because she wanted to meet her parents’ expectations of her achieving a higher education degree, and to make them proud.  She also felt without a degree she was not smart, and people would think she did not deserve to be where she was. Despite external evidence of her competence, she remained convinced that she was a fraud, and that she did not deserve all that she has achieved. She doubted her accomplishments, and lived with a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud. 

It was through an event sponsored by one of the organisations where Myra was a board member, that she experienced her eureka moment of self-realisation and through this self-acceptance in knowing that she was good enough.

It was a literary event honouring great writers. *Abe, a Nigerian Poet and short story writer, in his acceptance speech spoke about inner self-beliefs, thoughts and self-talk, and how they affect your personal choices, saying: “Beware of the stories you tell yourself; subtly, at night beneath the water of consciousness, they are altering your world.” He spoke about his struggle for acceptance throughout his life, in Nigeria where he had faced rejection after rejection for his work, which continued when he moved to Great Britain. He spoke about how this became very important in his work. He spoke about the tranquillity he experienced through his writing, and how through this he eventually came to realise that the most important place of acceptance was inside of himself.

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

A turn of events is when your WorkLife narrative suddenly takes a drastic turn in a different direction. 

Self-Acceptance through Self-Realisation Assignment 

Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I living with a regret? If so, what is it? E.g. for Myra it was dropping out of university.

Do I consider I’ve let myself or someone else down? If so how and who? E.g. for Myra it was her parents who had worked so hard to put her through university.

Are there aspects of my WorkLife where I think I’m not good enough? Where I think I’m a fraud? If so, what are they? E.g. for Myra having not graduated from university, she felt she was not good enough to be part of an organisation. she considered she did not have the education or the right work experience. 

Self-Realisation is a powerful way to help your self-acceptance. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

Do I like who I am?

Do I like who I’ve become?

What specific aspects of myself do I like?

How close is the person I am to the person I want to be?

Take time to answer these questions, they will help you to analyse where you are in life, and who you are in life. To go deeper ask yourself:

What is my relationship with the people I spend most time with like?

What is one of my defining qualities?

What is one my best qualities?

Do these things align?

What would my friends say about me?

What would an acquaintance say about me?

What would my family say about me?

Do you like the answers to these questions? 

The Moral of this Story

Life events can take us off course and cause us to make choices and decisions that can result in us thinking we are not good enough. For example, we did not do a, b, c, so we are not good enough to do x, y, z. We are the stories we tell ourselves, and as with Myra and Abe our stories can be shaped by the expectations of the people and the world around us, and cause us to question whether we are good enough. Reality checking who we are and where we are in life will allow the self-realisation that different pathways can bring us to where we want and need to go; and maybe even more importantly allows us to recognise the strength we have within us to do what we need to do when we are faced with challenges and obstacles.  

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Self-reflection through self-feedback will allow you to realise how strong you are, and that you can deal with any challenge or obstacle that comes your way.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Samuel Smiles.  

Ask yourself:

How has a failure or perceived failure set me up for later success?

Words of Wisdom

Let go of what you think WorkLife perfection looks like. Life is perfection in all its imperfections. 

*Abe’s story, words and wisdom has been adapted from the great Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri OBE FRSL.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.

The Irish and The Chocktaws: A Story Spanning 173 Years That Connects our Tribes Across the Ocean By Carmel O’ Reilly

“To everyone who wants to create a world where not a single person is poor”. Muhammad Yunus

The Irish and The Chocktaws: A Story Spanning 173 Years That Connects our Tribes Across the Ocean is part of Acts of Kindness, Solidarity, Making a Difference and Reciprocity series of stories. Stories where people showed and were shown great kindness, both in difficult times and in good times. Stories of solidarity that connected people through humanity. Stories that showed the best of humanity in difficult times, in times when it was needed most.  Stories of individuals and organisations who made a difference. Stories of reciprocity because it was the right thing to do. Stories of acts of kindness, solidarity, making a difference and reciprocity, which were shown simply because people wanted to help – some were in a position to give support themselves, others joined forces to give support as a collective. All of whom did this without wanting or expecting anything in return.

The Irish and The Chocktaws: A Story Spanning 173 Years That Connects our Tribes Across the Ocean A Case Study:

Navajo and Hopi Families Covid-19 Relief Fund, Ethel Branch organiser writes: “My last update was 11 days ago, and I reported then that we had broken the $1 million fundraising mark. Well we have now broken the $2 million mark, in good part due to a beautiful act of solidarity from our friends in Ireland, who remember the kindness shown to them by our Choctaw brothers and sisters, who sent them aid during the great potato famine in 1847. Thank you so much, Ireland!!! 

“Several of our recent donations for our GoFundMe campaign have been inspired by the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland which started in 1845.

“During this difficult time, in 1847, the Choctaw Nation provided $170 of relief aid to the Irish to help them (today that is the equivalent of $5,000). Not long before the Great Hunger Famine in Ireland, 60,000 Native Americans, including the Choctaw people, had suffered through the experience of the Trail of Tears. The death of many people on the Trail of Tears sparked empathy for the Irish people in their time of need. Thus, the Choctaw extended $170 of relief aid.

“173 years later to today, the favour is returned through generous donations from the Irish people to the Navajo Nation during our time of crisis. A message from Irish donor, Pat Hayes, sent from Ireland across the ocean: ‘From Ireland, 170 years later, the favour is returned! To our Native American brothers and sisters in your moment of hardship’.

“The heartache is real. We have lost so many of our sacred Navajo elders and youth to COVID-19. It is truly devastating. And a dark time in history for our Nation. In moments like these, we are so grateful for the love and support we have received from all around the world. Acts of kindness from indigenous ancestors passed being reciprocated nearly 200 years later through blood memory and interconnectedness. Thank you, IRELAND, for showing solidarity and being here for us.”

I was moved to tears when I learnt how the Choctaw Tribe had helped my ancestors in our time of greatest need, how across the ocean they had shown us such great kindness and solidarity, when they had so little themselves. I cried tears of immense pride when I read the comments of my fellow country men and women who 173 years later were remembering and reciprocating this great kindness by giving what they could in an act of appreciation and solidarity.

Book Wisdom

In trying to make sense of what this could mean in today’s world, a world that has been turned upside down by the pandemic we’re all living through together while apart, I reached for a book I’d read many years ago: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Muhammad Yunnus. Yunnus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneered the concept of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

The Prologue “Starting with a Handshake” made me smile. Who could ever have envisioned a time when we can’t do that? In time of course the warmth and true meaning of that gesture will return. Yunnus tells the story of how over a lunch meeting with Franck Riboud, the chairman and CEO of Group Danone, he learnt about the origins of the corporation behind the brand. He learnt how Danone is an important source of food in many regions of the world, including developing nations where hunger is a serious problem. Riboud wanted to find ways to help feed the poor. It was part of his company’s historic commitment to being socially innovative and progressive. Within a very short space of time Yunnus found himself suggesting creating a joint venture to manufacture healthful foods that would improve the life of rural Bangladeshis – especially the children. Selling the products at a low price could make a real difference in the lives of millions of people. 

Immediately Riboud rose from his chair, extended his hand, and said “Let’s do it.” And they shook hands. Yunnus said he was as elated as he was incredulous. He questioned if this really could be happening so quickly, and wondered what they had agreed to and if perhaps what he said wasn’t understood because of his Bangladeshi accent. When they sat back down, he decided he’d better make sure that Franck knew what he was getting himself – and his company – into.

As he began to explain, Franck nodded and said: “No, I got it! Your plan is quite clear to me. I shook hands with you because you told me that, in Gameen Bank, you rely on mutual trust between the bank and the borrowers, making loans on the basis of a handshake rather than legal papers. So I am following your system. We shook hands, and as far as I am concerned, the deal is final.”

As I continue to ponder what all of this means in today’s upside down world, the initial learning I’m taking from these stories is that the decision to show kindness, solidarity, reciprocity, and to make a difference is instant; and it’s something that each one of us can take ownership for, whether as individuals, in our communities, our tribes, or our organisations. It begins by asking a simple question: What can I/we do to help? Then reflecting through self-feedback on the answer that comes to us, to follow through with the action we can take that will have the greatest impact. 

Words of Wisdom

“In Creating a World Without Poverty, Muhammad Yunnus argues convincingly that social business is an achievable way of exploiting capitalism to help the poor.” Poverty News Blog.

Sage Wisdom

“By giving poor people the power to help themselves, Dr. Yunus has offered them something far more valuable than a plate of food – security in its most fundamental form.” Former President Jimmy Carter


This is how Grameen Danone Foods defined its objective:

“Grameen Danone Foods aims to reduce poverty by creating business and employment opportunities for local people, since raw materials, including milk needed for production, will be sourced locally. The companies that make up Grameen Danone Foods Ltd. have agreed not to take out any of the profits out of the company. Instead they will invest these for creation of new opportunities for the welfare and development of people. Hence it is called ‘social business enterprise’.”

Today’s book of the blog is: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism By Muhammad Yunus

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife Story.



Creative Thinking: If you have a Problem or Question you also have the Ability to Cope and the Answer is Within You

I have never been lost but I was bewildered once for three days.” Daniel Boone 

I believe for every problem or question we have, we also have the ability to find the solution and the answer within us. To demonstrate this, I will tell you a story about Jack.

A Case Study

Jack’s Story

Some years ago, when Jack was just seven, his primary school decided they were going to form a school council with two representatives from each class. This was announced in the morning at school assembly, and the students were told that anyone who wanted to be considered would have an opportunity after lunch to speak in front of their class to be considered for nomination.

Jack relayed this to me at the end of the day when he told me he was among the candidates nominated from his class. I asked what he had done and said that resulted in his success at this initial stage. He said at lunch time he had found himself a quiet corner in the playground, and thought through what he might say. But when he stood in front of his class and saw everyone staring at him, he froze and could not remember what he was going to say. I asked what he did then, and he said: “Well I just started talking and I don’t remember what I said but at the end everyone clapped, and I was nominated”.

He was on a high and went about developing his campaign strategy. Then one day when he came home from school, he seemed quite subdued. When I asked what was wrong, he said: “Today Owen [one of his opponents] brought cookies to school and gave one to anyone who promised to vote for him”. He asked his dad and me what he should do. We just looked at each other and wondered if we should perhaps go out and buy chocolate for Jack to give to his friends. We did not do this though, nor did we have the answer to give Jack; and so he went about working on his campaign.

At the time Jack was into both The Simpsons and The Rugrats, and he made up stickers, leaflets, posters and banners saying ‘Vote for Jack’ using these animated characters. He had the whole family involved in his campaign. Jack took himself away from the immediate problem of how to compete against Owen and his cookies by busying himself.

Then the morning of the election came, and when I dropped Jack at school I asked what he was going to say in his election speech, he said he did not know, but he was concerned that his classmates would vote for Owen because they would get another cookie. 

I waited with bated breath all day, hoping he would not be too disappointed if he was not successful. When I picked him up in the evening, I asked tentatively what happened. And Jack said: “Oh yeah, I was elected,” in a no-big-deal sort of way. “But what did you say?” I asked.

Jack answered: “Well I stood up and everyone was staring at me, and I said, Owen has promised you cookies if you vote for him, these cookies will last a couple of minutes,  I can promise to help make your dreams come true, these will last forever.” “My god Jack,” I asked, “Where did that come from?” “I don’t know,” he said. “It just came to me”.

Therein lies my belief that if we have a problem or a question, that we think we do not have the ability to cope with or the answer to, we actually do.  Quite often the solution comes to us when we take ourselves away from the immediate problem or question, and busy ourselves with something perhaps related to the issue – just as Jack did by working on his campaign. Or we may just need to distance ourselves from the problem. I find I have my most inspirational thoughts in the bath, or when I sleep on it, or when I go for a walk. The 3 B’s of creative thinking are: Bath, Bed and Bus.

At the time Jack was successful in being elected to represent his class on the school council he loved Jackie Chan films and earned himself the nickname among his classmates as ‘Jackie Chan the first school council man’.

A Case Study

My Writing Story: The Strategies I Use to Move Forward when I’m Feeling Blocked or Stuck or I Have Unanswered Questions 

While this is the first book/online course I am writing, over the years I have written coaching and training programmes, short stories, blog posts and articles, dialogues for short films and live workplace theatre performances, which were scripted to support people development, and good workplace/WorkLife cultural practices.

I cannot say I have experienced writers block – I have always had lots of ideas –, but I have been blocked many times in knowing where I wanted to go with something. When this happens, it can mean I need to do different things to get moving again.

It can mean I have not done enough research, and so I go back to reading more. While at times I read everything I can on a specific topic and subject matter, I also read on topics and subject matters that could be loosely related. I also read about topics and subject matters that are completely unrelated. I read both fiction and non-fiction. As part of my research I take the same approach when listening to podcasts, or watching TV programmes and films. 

Other times it can mean I just need to keep going with it. I will force myself to write. It most likely will not be perfect, it might not even be any good, but that is OK. I can go back and revisit it later, revise and rewrite it. When I do go back, I always find something, even if it is just a nugget that I can work with, and I develop it from there.

Each piece of writing I do begins with bullet points of what I want to accomplish with that particular piece of work. Then as I flesh out the bullet points, each one becomes a chapter or a module that results in a story, a course and now a book. This gives me the outline I need, and this helps me to overcome blocks. When I do not know where to go next – if I am having trouble with one chapter, if it is not coming – I will go on to the next chapter, write that one and then go back.  

The more complete my preparation is (the research I have done, the outline I have developed), the easier it is to finish, and the harder it is to get blocked or stuck.

All of that said there are also times when I just take a nap, or I clean my home.

There are times when I take a day off, and there are times when I take a walk. Both work when I go back in being able to figure it out. I always seem to know which approach to take. It is something I have come to be able to figure out.

When working on this book I found it better to work on just one thing to be able to stay focused, and to push through times when I became blocked. On other pieces of work I  have been able to go back and forth between different pieces of work: for example, when I am in the early stages of research for a course, I can switch to writing blog posts, which can be on related, somewhat related, or unrelated topics to the course; then I can switch to developing the course outlines into rough drafts. Letting go of one piece of work for a while and writing something else helps both pieces of work. Switching my brain over to something else can help me to become unstuck.

Walking really helps me to know what I need to know, to get to where I need to be. The physical helps the mental. On so many occasions I have had a breakthrough in my thinking while I have been walking. Suddenly the solution comes to me, and I reached it by not really focussing on it but by doing something else. 

I have a number of walking routes from my home, which I take depending on how long I want to walk for or what I want to take in along my route: for example, different river walk paths, different park walks, different streets of London walks. I always remember exactly where I was walking when a particular solution came to me, and when I hit that ‘landmark’ in the road again it always makes me smile and think about how far I have walked in my life since then – the physical miles I have walked, and the metaphorical miles I have walked in my WorkLife since I had that breakthrough in my thinking.

I work really well from home, but when I am feeling blocked or stuck I will go to a coffee shop to work. Sometimes I do not even work, I sit and read. Or I sit and observe the world around me, the people in the café, the people walking in the street, the atmosphere around me. A change of environment really helps me.

I also have great Bath, Bed and Bus Ideas: The Three B’s of Creative Thinking:

I turn my bathroom into a sanctuary with wonderfully fragrant bubbles and flickering candles. I have simple rituals. Sometimes as I soak, I read or listen to Audible, more often than not fiction – I really like mysteries as a way of taking my mind off solving my own problem. Other times I simply switch my mind off and do nothing other than soak in the wonderfully relaxing environment I have created. Whichever approach I take, suddenly ideas will just bubble up.

I like sleeping on it too. Actually, I just really like sleeping. I love dreaming too, both daydreams and night dreams. Going from my bath ritual to bed helps my sleeping ritual, in that the answer I need will come to me in my dreams, or I will wake up with the answer. 

Sometimes I will sit on a bus, or more likely take a train journey, where I might read or listen to a podcast. But most likely I will just look out the window, take in the scenery, let my mind wander and wonder, and ideas seep in. 

And sometimes when I have the realisation it is not happening today, I am OK shutting it down, and coming back to it tomorrow.

Develop Your WorkLife Story

When your mind is clear in whatever environment that is best for you in that given moment, or when you tap into the Three B’s of Creativity, Bath, Bed or Bus, your mind is unconsciously outlining for you, and working out the solution to your problem, and the answer to your question. 

Creating your Best Creative Practices and Rituals Assignment

Think about how you can create the environment for those breakthrough moments in your thinking to happen, the moments when the solution to your problem or the answer to your question suddenly comes to you.

Where are your best creative environments? (Indoors or Outdoors)

Where do you have your best ideas – Bath, Bed, or Bus? 

What practices or rituals can you put in place or create to get the insight and inspiration you need to solve your problem or answer your question?

Whether you’re directly working on it, indirectly working on it, or not working on it at all, trust that your brain is always working on it. It will offer you thoughts, ideas and inspiration when you least expect it, and suddenly it will all start making sense. You have to be open to it. You have to allow enough time and have trust to allow it to happen.

The Moral of this Story

Everything you do depends for its quality on the thinking you do first. You need to create a ‘Thinking Space’ or a ‘Non-Thinking Space’ to switch on or switch off your mind, to be able to look within yourself for the solution to your problem or the answer to your question.

Develop a Practice of Continuous Self-Feedback 

Self-feedback frees your mind to think about what matters most, and helps your creative wheels turn faster.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning 

Insightful self-questioning unlocks your imagination, and helps you to explore your options and look at your possibilities. Probe your thought processes with questions that encourage creativity:

If it were possible, how would I do it?

If I knew the answer, what would it be?

Words of Wisdom

Throughout this book you’ve been exploring your own imagination, you’ve been going deep within yourself by asking insightful questions and giving yourself continuous feedback. Following this path of wonderment will inspire your creativity. All you need to do is to take that instinct and transform it into words or actions.

© Carmel O’ Reilly 2019 First published 2019 by WorkLife Incorporated

Feel free to publish an excerpt from this chapter, wherever you like. Your blog, your book, your newsletter. It’s all good. 

Just use my full name and kindly link back to my website: You’ll find my bio right here: Thank you. Be Well and Stay Safe.