How To Find Your Unique Story and Make It Into a Powerful Presentation by Carmel O’Reilly

Sage Wisdom

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas out into the world today.” Robert McKee

How To Find Your Unique Story and Make It Into a Powerful Presentation … is part of a series of tips, techniques and stories to help you make an impact in all your communication needs, whether it’s conversations, presenting, influencing negotiating or leading.

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas out into the world today.” Robert McKee

Those are the opening words of sage wisdom in the final chapter of my book: Your WorkLife Your Way: Turning Your Story Into a Powerful Presentation.

Carmel’s Story: A How To Find Your Unique Story and Make It Into a Powerful Presentation Case Study:

Book Wisdom:

In my book Your WorkLife Your Way I talk about how truly great stories and presentations live on in the hearts and minds of audiences the world over, that’s a FACT. Everyone has an innate storytelling ability, that’s another FACT.

You just need to think about a time when you were with friends (or strangers!) in a bar or other social setting to know that you’re a natural born storyteller.

Why is that? Because when you’re in a friendly setting, you can be yourself, and you’ll use really direct language (no jargon) to make sure what you say is engaging.

These experiences show that we all have that innate sense of what makes a good story, but we tend to forget that a great presentation is simply a great story and we can also at times struggle to express our natural and true self.

How To Be a Brilliant Storyteller and Great Presenter

The first step to being a brilliant storyteller and great presenter is finding your unique story. But how do you do that? Let’s go back to that social setting and work through the following 5 steps; and I’ll share how I used these steps to find my story.

First a little background:

My area of work is people development. I’ve worked as a career coach and WorkLife consultant for over seventeen years, helping people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives. I work with a team of performing and visual artists to deliver training programmes that combine learning and development strategies with skills and techniques from the Arts. So, working with the:

5 Steps to Finding Your Unique Story

1. Begin by thinking about where your passions lie:

What topics are you most likely going to be talking about?

What are the things that excite you?

What are the subject matters that make you feel you have something to say?

I’m passionate about learning and development – my own and other people’s. I’m also passionate about the Arts, and this is what excites me and what I’m most likely going to be talking about; and I happen to have a lot to say on these matters.

2. Look where you spend your time

What is it you do outside of your work, when your time is valuable, where do you choose to spend it?

I’m always learning, whether I’m listening to podcasts, reading or taking a course, and this together with visiting galleries, museums, going to the cinema and theatre is where I choose to spend my time. As learning and the Arts are my work, this is what I do on a daily basis and at weekends for both work and leisure.

3. Look where you spend your disposable income

What are the things you spend your money on? – your interests or hobbies.

This is also where I spend my money: Learning and the Arts: I recently did a course on Radio Theatre, which was so interesting and great fun. Other spends include: A preview screening of “Liar” (A new TV show) at the BFI followed by a Q&A with the writers, director and leading actor. I’ve seen “Glengarry Glen Ross”, which is on at the West-End, and “Girl From The North Country” – written and directed by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan.

4. Think about your struggles

In tough times, what did you do?

What kind of uncertainties did you feel?

I changed my WorkLife from Investment Banking to Career Coaching, returning to college as a mature student, that was a struggle because it was a juggling act initially, I worked to bring in much needed income while studying and gaining practical experience to launch my new career and business.

I felt great uncertainty about whether I could make that transition and if I could make a living from it. There have been many tough times getting things started and keeping them going. I’ve gotten through those by persistence, determination and a positive attitude – I keep on going because I believe our work has a positive impact on people development programmes, and working with learning and the Arts, makes it easy to remain positive.

5. Discover your Eureka moment

What was the moment you had your greatest realisation?

There was a further struggle that led me to discovering my ‘Eureka’ moment: Once qualified, while the one-to-one coaching work came easily to me, workshops and presentations didn’t. I was so incredibly nervous that I would be physically ill before talking in front of people. I was also very inhibited and not my natural self and to top all of that off I became very wooden!

To overcome this I undertook a Foundation year in Drama along with several shorter acting courses and a year-long Directing Course, which led me to being Assistant Director on a production of Hamlet that went on to being performed at the RSC Open Space in Stratford Upon Avon (My claim to fame!)

This is when I had my ‘Eureka’ moment of how the techniques, structures and methods of theatre making are significant in the world of people development. The unique skills sets performing artists have had to develop in their craft brings learning alive. This excited me because I knew with my background in learning and development I could collaborate with artists to create meaningful learning programmes.

That’s how I found my story and it has been helpful in establishing my company brand, and in business and networking situations helping me to talk about what I do. It’s also been helpful in developing presentations and pitches for work.

But what about presentations? How can you adapt your unique story to help you deliver a great presentation that people are going to want to listen to?

Making Your Story into a Powerful Presentation

You need to think about the single purpose of your presentation, the one principle that is most central to what you want to accomplish.

Let me demonstrate with a presentation I’m currently working on. This is part of an application process for funding to deliver community projects.

First a little further background:

As well as working with the Arts in the workplace through people-development programmes, I’m also passionate about bringing the joy and benefits of the Arts to the community. This includes retirement homes and to people who are living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Here’s how my Story/Presentation is shaping up:

“My love of the Arts came from my parents, music, song and dance. Sadly, towards the end of my mum’s life she developed dementia, which progressed quite rapidly, and she had to go into a retirement home as she required round the clock care. As a family we felt we’d lost her. The dementia took away aspects of her personality and parts of her memory, she just wasn’t the same anymore and it was heart breaking.

“When we went to visit, she always knew us, but as soon as we left she wouldn’t remember we’d been there. We also couldn’t have a conversation with her, because she just couldn’t remember things and she’d become frustrated and agitated. It was too upsetting for her.

“Every couple of weeks a singer would go into the home and have a sing-song with the residents, and when she did, my mum would sing along and she’d remember every single word of every single song, and she’d be talking about it for days afterwards. It lifted her mood immediately and she was so much happier and calmer.

“This is why I want to work with a team of performing artists, to create a programme of events bringing music, song and dance to the lives of people who live with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I know the joys, benefits and well-being it will bring.”

My one purpose: To help people understand the immediate and lasting impact these programmes will have on people’s lives. Wish me luck!

Words of Wisdom

“The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning.” Vera Nazarian

Develop a practice of insightful self-questioning and continuous self-feedback by listening to and reflecting on the stories about yourself inside your own head. Ask yourself: What is it about these stories that make you who you are? Then build yourself out of that story.

Epilogue

I continue to draw upon the following wisdom from Brandon Sanderson: “The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon,” by asking myself: What questions do I want to give to people to think upon from my WorkLife stories and presentations. 

Today’s book of the blog is: Your WorkLife Your Way by Carmel O’ Reilly

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.

Top Ten Tips to Tell a Story that Makes an Impact by Carmel O’ Reilly

All great communicators are great storytellers. They use their own stories to communicate with power and impact. 

Top Ten Tips to Tell a Story that Makes an Impact … is part of a series of tips, techniques and stories to help you make an impact in all your communication needs, whether it’s conversations, educating, teaching, coaching, mentoring, presenting, influencing, negotiating or leading.

All great communicators are great storytellers. They use their own stories to communicate with power and impact. 

Those are my words, words I wrote a long time ago in a blog post, words taken from the learning from the stories of people I’ve worked with, words that I’m revisiting and revising now as I research my new book, which is about helping people find, develop and tell their unique WorkLife stories. Here’s my original post with some revisions.

Carmel’s Story: A Top Ten Tips to Tell a Story that Makes an Impact Case Study:

All great communicators are great storytellers. They use their own stories to communicate with power and impact. By doing this they have authenticity and presence giving them the ability to influence and lead. 

Sharing is powerful. In his book Every Tool’s a Hammer, the maker, designer, television host, producer, Adam Savage talks about sharing.

Book Wisdom

Savage says: “Sharing what I know is a personal mission. It’s a key part of how I balance the scales for the incredible gifts I’ve been given. Whatever success I’ve enjoyed in my life has always been directly related to those who’ve supported me, and to all the amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to meet, know, collaborate with, and learn from. As a maker and storyteller, I see myself as part of a continuum, going back to the beginning of humans using tools and telling stories, and continuing forward into infinite possible futures.”

Sage Wisdom

To paraphrase Stephen King: Sharing stories is a uniquely portable magic.

My intention in sharing the following tips is to help you to find, develop and tell the right story at the right time.

1. The most powerful communication has a human element. Share your experiences, your successes and your challenges, what you did to overcome them and what you learnt in the process. This gives insight into who you are, allowing you to break down walls and connect with people at a human level. In stories characters will always have flaws, and if you include a past failure, it will add another layer to your story and endear you to your audience.

2. Take time to think about an intriguing way to begin your story. You need to capture the attention of your audience from the very beginning. The beginning doesn’t just “hook” your listeners, it also sets the tone and launches the plot of your message. An example might be establishing conflict from the outset, e.g. “we were halfway to Mars when our fuel tank blew up”. This helps to create a sense of urgency and you can go back and fill in the details once people are on board with the fact that exciting stuff is happening.

3. Take your audience on a journey. Stories are full of events and revelations that take your audience somewhere new. All the best stories contain transformations. Think about what transformations you want your audience to experience by the end of your story.

4. Take your time. The pleasure is in the telling. Remember a pause, a look, a gesture can convey as much as words. Allow yourself to see the pictures, hear the sounds, smell the scents, savour the tastes and feel the emotions, and then your audience will too.

5. To keep you audience on the edge of their seats, use …………. “suspense”. Not knowing what is going to happen next will make people want to sit up and listen. You could do this by posing a “big question” that will keep people hooked until the end. Maybe you’ll have a surprise ending, and who doesn’t love a surprise! A surprise can come in the form of a well-guarded secret revealed at the right time. This is guaranteed to get people talking and your story will spread like wildfire

6. At times when you have to deliver difficult messages, it’s worth remembering that listeners are more open to receiving when they hear the message delivered in a story format. They can lower their walls and defences because the message is coming to them in an indirect way. This helps to replace suspicion with trust.

7. Share your vision stories to inspire hope, stimulate action and raise morale. Telling a story first will guide your audience towards seeing what the future ahead holds and this is particularly important during times of uncertainty. Talk about the obstacles to overcome. When people know the efforts needed to achieve these goals they will appreciate them even more. The old adage of “not appreciating things that are easily attained” comes into play here.

8. The greater the range of emotions in your story, the deeper the connection you will build with your audience. Empathy is important when storytelling: look at the world as though you are experiencing it from different perspectives, stand in the shoes of your audience. This helps to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking, and shows respect of other’s point of view.

9. Tell stories to inspire people who want change, to sustain positive energy over time. Stories will get people’s imaginative juices working, they will become curious about what else there is to find out and have a greater sense of being an integral part of that change.

10. Finally, if your thought process has dried up and you’re struggling to come up with ideas to get your next story started, places you can find inspiration from include:

Family, friends, colleagues –having an innate interest in people’s lives is a core attribute of all storytellers.

Dreams – we’ve all been intrigued by a dream at some point and have been left frustrated by waking up and wanting to know what happened next. The solution: write it down as quickly as possible and you never know what a seed may germinate.

Ask yourself “what if” then use the self-feedback you receive to open your mind to the infinite possibilities that are empowered through the power of storytelling.

Develop your storytelling ability by making storytelling part of your daily life. After all storytelling is the best communication tool a conversationalist, presenter, influencer, negotiator or leader can use; and as a strategy, whenever you want to make an impact tell a story.

Words of Wisdom

“Sharing information is the fuel for the engine of progress.” Adam Savage

Epilogue

I continue to share the power of story and storytelling in the hope that it will help people to learn, develop and grow through the power of finding, developing and telling their unique WorkLife stories.  

Today’s book of the blog is: Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage

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.

Red Velvet: A Story Both Triumphant and Tragic By Carmel O’ Reilly

Red Velvet tells the true story of African-American actor Ira Aldridge (1807-67). The playwright (and actor) Lolita Chakrabarti brings this fascinating story to vivid life and her husband Adrian Lester plays the part of Aldridge.

Red Velvet: A Story Both Triumphant and Tragic is part of A Story Worth Telling series. Origin stories that matter. Stories, some of which have been forgotten, or never told before, of people’s amazing achievements in difficult times and difficult situations. Stories where people showed courage in the face of adversity. Stories of celebration and suffering.  Stories both triumphant and tragic. 

Today I’m revisiting the story, of a play/book review I wrote some time ago which I’ve revised for this week’s blog and podcast.

Red Velvet: A Story Both Triumphant and Tragic

The story begins and ends in a theatrical dressing room, where Aldridge is preparing to play King Lear in the last year of his life. Adrian Lester, in playing the lead role at the Tricycle Theatre London, beautifully captures the pained dignity and irritation of the ageing, ailing actor preparing to play Lear in white face paint not long before his own death.

The story then moves back in time to 1833 and to the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. Aldridge is drafted in to play Othello when Edmund Kean, the great Shakespearean actor collapsed during a performance.

What should have been a breakthrough for Aldridge became a setback that haunted him for the rest of his life, despite the fact that he was the recipient of many honours, and became the highest paid artist in Russia. This was because of the racist reviews by the British press along with the deep discontent from some of the actors in the theatre over the manager’s decision to replace Kean with a black performer.

Lester gives a strong impression of the power of Aldridge’s playing and stage presence. He thrillingly replicates the charisma of the young Aldridge and the idealistic passion of the twenty-six year old, through to the weight of his weary disillusion towards the final chapter of his life.

Thankfully Lester has long-since broken the mould in roles that Aldridge did not get a stab at, and with a nice twist of fate starred as Othello at the National Theatre London.

Book Wisdom

The poignancy of Aldridge’s story was beautifully told in Red Velvet by Chakrabarti. She gives a social and historical context for the story while also providing contemporary insights. That Aldridge, as a black actor, was not only playing the lead role on a London stage, but the much-coveted role of Othello, was unprecedented. Notwithstanding that he became renowned for the greatness of his Shakespearean performances on his tours outside of the UK, his bittersweet memories of his time in London remained with him.

 Interestingly, Chakrabarti took time to chat to the audience at the end of the performance and told the story of how the play had evolved. She first heard of Aldridge in 1998 and was determined to find out more, but there was little known about him. This was pre-internet, and so her research and her quest to uncover his story took her many years and across continents and finally cumulated in this wonderful story with the support of Indhu Rubasingham, the artistic director at the Tricycle Theatre – another woman on a mission to draw in people who don’t go to the theatre, and her desire to make the world a smaller place through theatre was perhaps a goal she shared with Aldridge. 

“Theatres and the arts are a positive force for our community in turbulent times.” The National Theatre Home

Sage Wisdom

Origin Stories matter because as people we love stories. We’re curious about a person’s story that made them who they are. Stories help us to understand and relate to each other.  

Your origin story matters. To help you tell your story ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What was it that compelled you to do what you do? 
  • What is something you’ve taken a stand on that benefited you?
  • What is something you’ve taken a stand on that cost you?
  • What triumphs and tragedies have you experienced along the road of your WorkLife journey?
  • What has changed over the course of your WorkLife – ask yourself How? And Why to flesh this out more.

Take time to reflect on these questions and use the self-feedback that comes to you through the answers to help shape and tell your origin story.

Words of Wisdom

There are a lot of threads to this story, but perhaps the one that stands out for me is: in spite of obstacles, how talent shines through.  This man, in a period when slavery still existed in America and the British were debating whether to get rid of slavery in the colonies, was performing on a Covent Garden stage. He defied the preconceived judgements about authenticity because of the colour of his skin. Judgements made before he had even opened his mouth, judgements made before he could demonstrate his talent and ability as an actor. It was his talent supported by a determination to make his career happen, the courage to follow his purpose and passion, the courage to fight adversity that won through. 

Epilogue

Aldridge’s legacy is that of an actor whose name has long since outlasted his critics. He is recognised as one of the greatest Shakespearian actors that have ever lived. Aldridge’s story is both triumphant and tragic. His is a story that changed the world, by opening up the world to his fellow actors across many cultures who have followed in his footsteps in establishing their careers while pursuing and fulfilling their purpose and passion. 

The reviews I write are by way of reflecting on cultural experiences to include performing, visual and literary arts that touched my heart and my mind and making sense of them in the context of learning and development in both the work-place and the community.

Today’s book of the blog is: Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti 

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.

Identity and Work, The Subtlety of Persuasion and The Importance of Being Present By Carmel O’ Reilly

Two Days One Night (2014) is a film about Sandra (played by Marion Cotillard), a young Belgian mother, who discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.  In the film, the workplace becomes a battleground, these are struggling workers with families and not CEOs or fat cats. Sandra finds and creates solidarity, uncovering people’s true nature as well as her own. 

Identity and Work raises the question: Is this something that could happen in real life? 

And considers people’s WorkLife stories in the same way the directors/writers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne did. They said the idea came from reading news stories about similar situations where workers solidarity was challenged.

Today I’m revisiting a story of a film review I wrote some time ago, which I’ve revised for this week’s blog and podcast.

In my original post, I posed the question: Has the recent recession added to what Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne said about people competing with each other for their jobs, and if this in fact social realism? Today I’m curious about how the pandemic we’re all living through right now will impact this. Central to the brother’s idea is validation through work, a precarious concept in an era of widespread unemployment. In an interview with the Guardian, the brothers are quoted as saying: “If you don’t have a job, you are made to feel like an outcast from your community. Possibly in the future people will find another way to be part of the community that is not connected to work but for now that is where meaning lies. From an anthropological point of view, that is how mankind feels a sense of belonging.” http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/aug/07/-sp-dardenne-brothers-marion-cotillard-two-days-one-night

Identity and Work

Sandra’s Story: Identity and Work, The Subtlety of Persuasion and The Importance of Being Present

Cotillard talks about the difficulty of portraying her character, Sandra, because basically she has the same thing to say ten times. She had to find the evolution, the slight details that created the drive and motivation to keep Sandra moving even though she is telling people the same thing in her endeavours to persuade them to vote for her to keep her job and give up their bonuses. The tiniest changes in each scene meant Sandra’s confidence would go up and down and everything she could build up from those little differences would help her to identify how to angle each pitch she made.

Each meeting was filmed in real time. This allowed each of the characters to be fully present, and accentuated the tension and the movements within that tension. The shots were addictive, which draw the audience in. It’s like watching a live match: will they score, won’t they score.

The brothers spend a lot of time in the rehearsal process. They talk about rehearsal allowing the actors to be truly present, and it’s only when they are truly present that the scene can exist and the tensions and rhythms arise. They say rehearsals allow the exploration of tracks, which then don’t need to be explored again. They say you only get the picture right once: there’s only one shot possible. There’s room for manoeuvre because they’re on the right track. They acknowledge that while every actor is different, the work of creating a presence is the same. They achieve this by acknowledging that everyone was equally important, making the scenes possible because everyone had a leading role that demanded of them to be truly present in each moment, allowing the actors in turn to have more of a presence.

The art of persuasion, negotiation and influence is built on the same powers of observation, the ability to notice the minutest change, to be fully present in the moment and to react in real-time is of utmost importance. Marion said for her character, Sandra, that this was imperative because these subtleties meant what she was repeatedly saying was almost but not the same thing, and as the brothers say “there’s only one shot possible”.

Actors use a range of techniques when preparing for a role. Let’s consider techniques from the renowned theatre practitioner, Constantin Stanislavski, whose work remains at the forefront of actor training today, and how these techniques are applicable in the world of our WorkLives, and the impact they have on persuasion and being present.

Super-Objective: (Stanislavski) Focuses on the entire situation (film/play) as a whole and serves as the final goal the actor wishes to achieve. For Sandra, it’s to keep her job. This goes to the heart of her identity and to her well-being. 

Working with this objective in mind, the actor must then find the appropriate personal pain that can drive this objective. The pain must be powerful enough to inspire the actor to fearlessly commit to do whatever it takes to win their objective. 

Sage Wisdom

Aristotle defined the struggle of the individual to win as the essence of all drama. As a non-actor when you find yourself in a position where you need to influence, persuade or negotiate you need to start with your super objective (your goal) in knowing what it is you want more than anything from the situation/interaction, then identify your pain: what are the stakes; what is it you could lose; and what are the bigger implications of losses. For Sandra, underlying the loss of her job was the loss of identity her work gave her, and the negative impact on her well-being.

Book Wisdom

In An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski, Scene-Objective focuses on what the actor wants over the course of an entire scene, that supports their super-objective. For Sandra it begins with understanding each of her work colleague’s position on the situation. This inevitably leads to external circumstances that are impacting their decision. 

From this point she can gauge how to pitch her plea to vote for her to keep her job and give up their bonuses. While she may not get immediate agreement, she recognises no matter how small the win is, the important thing is to end the scene in a different position from where she started. She needs to make enough of an impact for them to at least consider their position. She also needs to be prepared to learn which votes she can’t count on.  This information, although crushing, helps her position in knowing where to focus her energy and efforts in the next round of discussions, and what changes she needs to make to her pitch/plea.

The book says: “That inner line of effort that guides the actors from the beginning to the end of the play we call the continuity of the thorough-going action. This through-line galvanises all the small units and objectives of the play and directs them toward the super-objective. From then on they all serve the common purpose.”

Words of Wisdom

When you find yourself in a situation where you need to persuade one or more people, begin as Sandra did by understanding their position and their thinking and circumstances behind this. A question that helped Sandra in preparing for each conversation was: What impact does me keeping my job have on my colleagues’ life? In posing this question to herself, she was able to give herself in the moment feedback by being fully present, in knowing what to say and how to handle the conversation. We tend to listen more when the stakes rise. As the stakes rise we also begin to sense the other’s underlying thought impulses. As the situation becomes more important, we struggle to predict what will happen.  Immersing yourself in the world of that relationship and its parameters strengthens your capacity for clear and honest observation, and will help you to plan, tweak and strengthen your approach. Aim for small wins and remember the importance of ending each interaction in a different position from which you started, learning from this and moving on from a more informed standpoint. 

Epilogue

In a changing world so much has shifted in the last few months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the past I’ve delivered outplacement programmes to individuals and groups, supporting people in managing the emotional and practical elements in moving their WorkLife forward in times of uncertainty. Throughout this I’ve never ceased to be amazed by people’s resilience, their ability to pick themselves back up, and to come through challenging times and situations with an even greater sense of purpose and determination. If I were to reflect on what’s different about this current time – which we’re all living through together, while apart – it would be the sense of community that’s coming through. The sense of caring about, and recognising the importance of our family, our friends, our neighbours, and our wider community. A greater sense of appreciation of and for life.

I leave you today with a quote from the National Theatre Home to ponder on: “Theatres and the arts are a positive force for our community in turbulent times.” 

The reviews I write are by way of reflecting on cultural experiences to include performing, visual and literary arts that touched my heart and my mind, and making sense of them in the context of learning and development in both the work-place and the community. 

Today’s book of the blog is: An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski 

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.

What’s the Best Thing That Anyone Has Ever Said to You? By Carmel O’ Reilly

Your CV Demonstrates Your Loyalty and Ability, and Your ‘Stay Ability” 

Has someone ever said something to you that surprised you? (In a good way). Maybe it was about an attribute or skill you have, which you never gave much thought to, because it was just you being you, you doing what you do naturally, but to other people it was something special.

What’s the Best Thing That Anyone Has Ever Said to You? … are people’s stories of when someone said something to them that allowed them to feel good about themselves, allowed them to see what other people saw in them, that they themselves didn’t see, allowed them to recognise and appreciate their potential, and to take ownership of their uniqueness.

Your CV Demonstrates Your Loyalty and Ability, and Your ‘Stay Ability’

Those words gave Joe a sense of encouragement. He hadn’t considered his situation in that way before. But let’s back up a little to Joe’s Story:

Positive Words

What’s the Best Thing That Anyone Has Ever Said to You? Case Study:

Joe’s long-time role had been redundant, and although he was going through the motions of a government-funded initiative in support of getting people into work, his belief was that at the end of the training course he wouldn’t get a job. You see, Joe was in his early 60s, and his thinking was: that because of his age, organisations wouldn’t be interested in employing him.

Sage Wisdom 

As facilitator of the job-search element of the course, I saw things differently, and I said to Joe: “Your CV demonstrates your loyalty and ability, and your ‘Stay Ability.” I could see those words gave Joe encouragement. I went on to say how his CV demonstrated his loyalty to the organisations he had previously worked with. While he’d been with his most recent employer for over 30 years, his career had been quite progressive and he’d advanced in terms of the roles and responsibilities he’d 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. 

Words of Wisdom

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 which 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.

Book Wisdom

My words led Joe to re-reading The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker – a book he’d found helpful when at his previous company, when his role and responsibility had progressed.  He was reminded that The Effective Executive focuses on contribution, that he looks up from his work and outwards towards goals. This led him to asking himself the question: “What can I contribute that will significantly affect the performance and the results of the institution I serve?” His reason for asking himself this question was by way of researching organisations he was applying to for jobs. This allowed him to prepare his application in a way that demonstrated what he would bring to the organisation, and also helped him to prepare for the interview, by way of being able to verbalise it coherently and succinctly. This question enabled Joe to give himself self-feedback on how his own commitment to making a contribution had always allowed him to think through what relationships his skills, his speciality, his function, or his department had to the entire organisation and its purpose. Thinking in this way had allowed Joe to connect the dots, from an understanding of both the finer details and the bigger picture. Joe began to recognise and take ownership of this being something that he was really good at, and this is something he would bring to a new role at a new organisation that would be valuable.

Epilogue

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

Today’s Book of the Blog is: The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

Joe’s story has been adapted from chapter 17 of Your WorkLife Your Way: Overcoming Self-Doubt Through Self-Appreciation

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.

Communication and The Power of Words by Carmel O’ Reilly

Words are fundamental in our WorkLives and are the medium though which we communicate who we are and what we stand for.

Communication and The Power of Words … are stories which demonstrate what we can communicate with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, vulnerabilities, plans, understanding, expectations, a past, a present, and a future, culture, community, ways of seeing … the list is endless, and the power is simply powerful. 

Communication and The Power of Words A Case Study:

I was at a masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket London at which the actor Mark Strong shared his experience of the industry and his career before hosting a Q and A. One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. His reply was that it’s in the writing and he gets everything he needs from the words. He spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play: A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.

Words are fundamental in our lives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for. 

Words of Wisdom

Words have the power to change the world. 

Just as Mark used the written words to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams though the words we use to communicate. Because as people it’s what we can communicate with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, vulnerabilities, plans, understanding, expectations, a past, a present, and a future, culture, community, ways of seeing …. the list is endless, and the power is simply powerful.

Book Wisdom

In Three Uses Of The Knife,David Mamet says: “It’s in our nature to dramatise. At least once a day we reinterpret the weather – an essentially impersonal phenomenon – into an expression of our current view of the universe: Great. It’s raining. Just when I’m blue. Isn’t that just like life?”

“Or we say: “I can’t remember when it was this cold, in order to forge a bond with our contemporaries. Or we say: When I was a lad the winters were longer, in order to avail ourselves of one of the delights of ageing.

The weather is impersonal, and we both understand it and exploit it as dramatic, i.e. having a plot, in order to understand its meaning for the hero, which is to say for ourselves.”

Whenever we communicate there is much at stake, and perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing your next communication – conversation, presentation or talk – to help your process, consider the following techniques actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words, that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:

They are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires, and allows the actor to step in and become the character.

You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry: study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector, to recognise successful trends, practices and behaviours that could make a difference to your world.

Interestingly writers are often recommended to take an acting course to follow this same process, because particularly in the early stages of developing a concept, they need to get to know their characters inside and out; and learning to live in a character’s skin, the same way actors do, sharpens their innate ability to substitute and imagine emotionally truthful stories. 

There may come a time when you think of taking an acting class to develop your understanding of character and voice – technically to develop a great speaking voice and also to develop your unique character voice that will motivate, inspire and impact those listening to you.

For now, you can draw on your learnings from the observations you make as you go about your daily WorkLife – conversing, listening, watching and reading. 

For example, let’s consider how Mark Strong gained an understanding of his character Eddie and the world he existed in, from this analysis by Sparknotes for A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller:

A View from the Bridge is a play largely concerned with discovery. As Alfieri warns, no one can ever know what will be discovered. There are two secrets in the play: Eddie’s incestuous desires for his niece and the two illegal immigrants hiding in the Carbone home, Marco and Rodolpho. The gradual exposition of these secrets destroys Eddie, as he is incapable of dealing with either discovery. An inarticulate man, Eddie is unable to realise, speak or understand his own feelings for Catherine and cannot forgive himself for exposing Marco and Rodolpho. Eddie’s feelings toward Catherine manifest themselves into fierce protectiveness and eventual rage at Rodolpho. Because of his inability to deal with his feelings, Eddie instinctively reveals his second secret—Marco and Rodolpho—which completes his undoing.

Now let’s consider how you can adapt the process of your WorkLife observations to your story – the concept, idea, message you want to communicate – by following these four steps:

  1. Begin by understanding the bigger picture in the same way Strong did. In writing the story, Miller used his prowess in communicating the great conflict between community and American law. The words he used gave Strong a deep-rooted understanding of the world his character Eddie existed in, the challenges and problems, and the changes that needed to take place if he were to be able to move beyond these. You will need the same understanding of the world/industry/organisation/team/partnership you operate in. 
  2. In writing, Miller took time to get to know people at grassroots level, to understand their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges. You need to stand in the shoes of your audience to understand your world from different perspectives. These are the first steps in developing your message to communicate your understanding of what others are feeling and thinking and show respect of other’s point of view.
  3. Having an understanding of both the big and small picture (the world you operate in and the individuals within that world) provides the backdrop to your story (the concept, idea, message you want to communicate), as well as an understanding of the fundamental words you need to use that have the power to arouse every emotion, and how to deliver them with the greatest impact that demands a call to action.
  4. To develop your story from here, begin by asking yourself the questions: From the knowledge I’ve gathered what makes a good story? What makes a good drama? Take time to reflect through self-feedback. This will give you the insight into the words you can use to shape and tell your story in a way that is powerful.

Sage Wisdom

“I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everyone likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialised job they have.” David Mamet 

Epilogue

Words Have Power. You have the power to change the world of those around you. Think of the words you can use to do that. Then: JUST SAY THEM.

Today’s book of the blog is: Three Uses Of The Knife by David Mamet. 

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.

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

Epilogue

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.

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

1. READING/WATCHING TV 

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.

2. LANGUAGE LEARNING/EXERCISING AT HOME

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. 

3. PHOTOGRAPHY/WALKING

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.

Epilogue 

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.

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.”

https://www.gofundme.com/f/NHFC19Relief

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

Epilogue

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.

How a Side Hustle Can Supercharge Your Skill Set and Effectively Future Proof Your WorkLife by Carmel O’ Reilly

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs

How a Side Hustle Can Supercharge Your Skill Set and Effectively Future Proof Your WorkLife … are people’s stories of how a side hustle allowed them to: utilise their skills beyond the scope of their industry; create opportunities outside of their main work; use the skills they already had to take the initiative to get things done; build confidence in a new skills set; create an additional income stream; make connections; practice authenticity; develop independence; spread risk, and much, much more.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs. Those were Saoirse’s opening words at her university’s annual alumni day.  But let’s hear Saoirse’s full address to understand her story:

A How a Side Hustle Can Supercharge Your Skill Set and Future Proof Your WorkLife Case Study:

Saoirse’s Alumni Address:

Sage Wisdom

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs.

In my earlier talk I shared how a side hustle saved my WorkLife and my well-being, and how I instinctively knew that sharing my experience would help other people. 

I took the following approach to understand how I could do this:

  • I evaluated what I enjoyed about both my work and side hustle;
  • I considered learning I wanted to undertake – areas of my WorkLife in which I wanted to grow and develop;
  • I thought about how I could combine skills from both to create something that was truly my own.

I’d begun my WorkLife as a freelance copy writer. When I had more work than I could handle, I outsourced it to fellow copy writers. This was reciprocated. This led me to founding a start-up business: a cooperative for freelance copy writers. 

I enjoyed writing, I enjoyed bringing people together, I enjoyed working solo on smaller projects and I enjoyed collaborating on bigger projects. 

I enjoyed the immediate and continuous sense of well-being and serenity I’d experienced by tidying my home. A weekend project which I soon became to think of as a side hustle because I felt it had greater scope. I enjoyed the enlightenment, inspiration and creativity that came to me through clarity in my thinking and from having a focused mind.

I wanted to learn how to enable people to learn and grow through self-development. That was my growth and development plan.

I asked myself: “How can I make a difference in people’s lives?” “What action will get me closer to the reality that I have just envisioned?”

The answer that came to me through reflection and self-feedback was that I could develop a mentoring programme for people who wanted to declutter their WorkLife. 

I focused on people who had founded start-ups.  After all, I knew their pain, so I knew there was value in teaching what I had learnt  to other people, and I wanted to do something that made a difference for others. That was my marketing plan: to Market to a specific group based on a shared identity.

Book Wisdom

I re-read Give and Take by Adam Grant, the book that helped me when I was figuring out how to shift from freelancing to establishing a business that aligned with my values. The book enabled me to articulate what honouring my core values meant in this WorkLife transition. I wanted:

  • To build a successful company from the collective energy, intelligence and contributions from all team members;
  • To practice a win-win practice with our team and our clients, by treating everyone with respect, fairness and integrity, and expecting the same in return; 
  • To serve and support our community by developing relationships that make a positive difference in people’s lives by enabling continuous learning, development and growth.

For me this book holds the key to a more satisfying and productive WorkLife, better relationships and fairer profits. It’s helped me to play my part in creating a society in which people do better by being better. It provides an inspiring perspective on how to do better by being better.

I began by utilising my experience to teach what being a self-organiser is really like. I created a virtual declutter mentoring programme for people who wanted to take a DIY approach to organising their WorkLives – instructional videos and work sheets. I made my course accessible by charging only £19. I thought this was a good price point for adding value to the course while also making it available to more people.

Next, I developed a 4-week organisation mentorship programme: for people who wanted to establish a business in professional WorkLife decluttering. I put together short-term training packages, to educate people on how to handle their business from the initial start-up through to the developing stages of growth. I followed my principles of wanting to make the course valuable and accessible by charging only £79. 

Finally, I contracted with a team to support high-end clients; people looking for onsite WorkLife professional organising. The cost for a 4-hour session is £299, which I outsource to my team. I take 20% commission from each job. 

Words of Wisdom

In managing your own WorkLife learning, growth and development, ask yourself: “What do I want? and “What will make me more fulfilled?” Reflect on what comes up for you, then identity how you can make that happen, and from there develop your plan. Pay attention to what you discover along the way: I discovered I enjoyed empowering others rather than being on-site doing the physical work myself. This allowed me to adjust and adapt my plan. 

Epilogue

You can view my earlier talk How a Side Hustle Saved My WorkLife and Well-Being on the university’s intranet to help you understand what led me to these simple steps of evaluating what I enjoyed about both my work and side hustle; considering the learning I wanted to undertake; the areas of my WorkLife in which I wanted to grow and develop; and thinking about how I could combine skills from both to create something that was truly my own. This had a significant and positive impact supercharging my skill set. 

Each and every one of you can do the same. By taking responsibility for your own learning, growth and development, you can design your WorkLIfe transitions around investing in a diverse set of skills, and in so doing you can effectively future-proof your WorkLife. Thank you. 

Last week Saoirse told her story of How a Side Hustle Save My WorkLife and Well Being.

Todays Book of the Blog is: Give and Take by Adam Grant

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.