How To Successfully Invent And Reinvent Yourself

“If You Are Not Where You Want to Be, Do Not Quit, Instead Reinvent Yourself.” Eric Thomas

Image supplied by author

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 wasn’t deterred. To stand a chance she knew she needed to show them that she could do this; but she also knew she couldn’t 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’re 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.

Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters

It’s 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’re good at, and what you’re not good at. This will help you tell your story both in your written and spoken word, in letters and in conversations when approaching people or companies.

Orla’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Overcome Self-Doubt Through Self-Appreciation, from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.

How To Overcome Fear and Unforeseen Obstacles

“The Good, The Painful — It is all a privilege.” Bear Grylls.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

When it comes to the obstacles that stand in the way of us achieving our dreams, the role fear plays cannot be overstated. Those fears can cause us to play it safe, to not take the steps needed to push beyond that fear. But what if you don’t know what your fear is? What if it’s an abstract fear? How do you push beyond that? That’s exactly what Lucas had to figure out.

But let’s back up a little to find out how Lucas found himself in this position.

Lucas had followed in his father’s footsteps, trained as a lawyer, and on graduating joined the family law firm in his native Brazil. But three years into his work he was suffering from severe burnout brought about by the demands of the job. He was also feeling unfilled, unsatisfied and unhappy in his WorkLife. He decided to take time out and take the gap year he had planned on finishing law school. The gap year he couldn’t take at that time, because his father had fallen seriously ill, requiring life-saving surgery, which demanded a period of recovery time.

His father was now back at the helm, and so Lucas felt this was his time to take time out, to follow his dream to experience life in a different country. His first stop was Cambodia, where he took time to recuperate. It was a country he had always wanted to visit, and he chose it first because he wanted to take time to rest, and not feel the need to work. He could do this because Cambodia’s cost of living is relatively low, and so it afforded him the time he needed to regain his well-being.

From the very outset he began to document his experience, writing a blog and sharing photos on Instagram, and videos on YouTube. He quickly gathered a following, and from this he began to think about how he could somehow use this to fund his stay in Cambodia, without having to draw on his savings.

He thought about the different experiences he had planned for his visit, and approached the people running these, telling them about his growing online followers, the audience he was sharing his Cambodia story with, many of whom were planning their trip. Lucas is an amiable guy, and builds rapport with people easily. He offered to share the story of the people behind the experiences, along with his story of living that experience.

In return he asked if he could have the experience for free — not only did they agree but Lucas was also able to negotiate a commission for bookings that subsequently came through his channels.

He was putting the negotiating skills he had learnt as a lawyer into practice. He was elated. And it didn’t stop there. Soon he was eating at the best restaurants and sleeping at the best hotels as he continued to explore the country. All for free, while at the same time setting in place recurring financial rewards, through an affiliate programme of sorts: he was the go-between travellers and these venues, earning him a commission on future bookings.

Three months later and it was time for Lucas to continue his travels. His next destination was Europe, his first stop Portugal. He used the same approach he had taken in Cambodia, and soon he was travelling around Europe, having wonderful experiences, all of which were free in exchange for his promotional work, all the time earning commission on future bookings.

But then Covid-19 happened, and all travel stopped, and with that so did Lucas’s income. He was far away from home — to which he didn’t want to return because of how bad the pandemic had hit there. He was fearful for his family’s health, and he was fearful for his own wellbeing, together with the looming threat to his financial stability to survive in a foreign land with no money coming in. His fear was fuelled by the uncertainty of how long this would last. He knew he couldn’t return to his native Brazil and pick up his work as lawyer in the foreseeable future; and as to the future of a travel blogger, he knew that too would not happen in the foreseeable future.

Far from home with no income coming in, Lucas was forced to face his fear — a fear that was abstract because he didn’t know what he could do to survive. He didn’t want to tell his family he was fearful because that would have caused them worry. He felt very alone and very lonely.

Book Wisdom

Lucas had been travelling with the book Tribe of Mentors By Timothy Ferriss. It was a big book filled with “Short Life Advice from the Best in the World.”

He opened the book to the chapter in which Tim had interviewed Bear Grylls. The chapter title spoke to Lucas as being:

Words of Wisdom

“The Good, The Painful — It is all a privilege.” Bear Grylls.

As he read through the answers Bear gave in response to the questions Tim posed, Lucas considered this to be:

Sage Wisdom

This is because Lucas thought he could consider these questions and answers by adapting them to his situation, and then through self-feedback he could hopefully find a way to move beyond the unforeseen obstacle he had encountered, and the fear he was feeling in this moment — which he felt was an abstract fear because he didn’t really know what he was facing, in terms of what he could do and when he could do it.

And so, Lucas read the following questions and answers with a mind open to taking the learning he needed that would help him discover the steps he could take to push beyond his fear, to overcome his obstacle:

T.F: “What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?”

B.G: Rhinoceros Success by Scott Alexander. I read this at age 13, and it basically told me that life is tough and like a jungle. And that life rewards the rhinos who charge hard at their goals and never give up. And above all, not to follow the cows of life who drift aimlessly and suck purpose and joy out of the journey. I give it often to people I think would love or need it.”

T.F.: “How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a favourite failure of yours?”

B.G.: “I failed selection for the British SAS on my first attempt, and it ripped my heart out at the time. I had never given so much for anything and to fall short was soul-destroying. But I went back and tried a second time and eventually passed. Four out of 120 will generally make it, and they often say the best soldiers pass the second time. I like that. It tells me that tenacity matters more than talent, and in life, that is certainly true. Failure meant struggle, and it is struggle that has always developed my strength.”

T. F.: “If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?”

B.G: “Simple one for me to answer: ‘Storms make us stronger’. If I had one message for young people embarking on life, it would be this. Don’t shy away from the hard times. Tackle them head-on, move towards the path less trodden, riddled with obstacles, because most other people run at the first sign of battle. The storms give us change to define ourselves, and we always emerge from them stronger. The other key is to be kind along the way. Kindness matters so much on that journey of endeavour. It is what separates the good from the great.”

T.F.: “In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?”

B.G.: “Learning to enjoy the process, rather than always striving for the future. Sometimes in these jungles or deserts, I am desperately trying to get through it, do my best, work hard, work fast, and get back to my family. But I realised I was spending so much time dreading what was ahead, or striving to be out of where I was. Learning to embrace the moment changed a lot for me. The good, the painful — it is all a privilege.”

T.F.: “When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?”

B.G.: “Hold tight, focus the effort, dig deeper, and never give up. It isn’t rocket science but it is hard, as most people, when it gets tough, start to look around for an excuse or a different tactic. Often, though, when it starts to get tough, all it requires is for you to get tougher and hold on. The magic bit is that when it get like this, it often means you are near the end goal! One big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, and you often pop out of the other end. Look around you, though, and you see that most people are gone — they gave up in that final bit of hurting.”

Lucas knew he could hold tight, and that he could be tough. He had done that when his father had become seriously ill. As the oldest child, he had held it together for his family. And being fresh out of university, he had taken over the helm at the family business and had held on tight, steering the company and its workers through choppy seas, brought about by clients, shareholders and investors becoming nervous because they questioned how as a young man, with little experience in the business, he could run it with the success his father had. It was tough but he had held on, and he had gotten through it. It had resulted in him seriously burning out; and again he had gotten through that, by recognising it was time to take time out.

Maybe in his own way he had already adapted what Bear had said about enjoying the process, in that, when he went to Cambodia to recuperate, in slowing down, for the first time he stopped striving for the future. He had also realised that he had been spending a lot of time dreading what was ahead. It was in Cambodia that he had learnt to embrace the moment. Lucas, could now see: “The good, the painful — it is all a privilege.” He also felt that the storm he had ridden out at the family business, while causing him severe burnout, had also made him stronger, in that he pushed through it with all his strength. He had given it that one big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, that Bear had spoken about, and through that he had taken everyone safely to the other end.

It had been a struggle, but he now recognised it had developed his strength. He hadn’t given up, and he wasn’t about to now. He had overcome obstacles and pushed through fear before; and although what he was facing was still very abstract, he now had more clarity that he could do what was needed, which was coming from a sense of belief in himself in knowing he had faced his fear and obstacles head on before.

Lucas reflected on what he had done that had helped him before. He remembered in the past when he needed to work through things he’d hit the gym and worked out — the exercise and the buzz he got from being around fellow gym goers always seemed to bring him the clarity he needed. But the gyms were closed, so that wasn’t an option. The only thing he could do was to work out from his apartment. He did this by Zoom, connecting to family and friends back home. This was simply because it gave him a sense of being connected, which in turn helped him to feel less alone and lonely.


During one of the sessions Lucas noticed his sister Ana, who was exercising with him, was wearing something around her waist. When the session ended and they were off-camera he asked what it was and discovered it was a Slendertone Abs toning belt, which she wore to help tighten her tummy muscles. Lucas had an idea, and that was to order a belt, and to then wear it when he was exercising on Zoom, by way of promoting the product. And to then approach the company to ask if he could set up a link through his social media channels.

That would allow him to earn a commission on any purchases that came from that. They agreed and very soon Lucas had money coming in from the exercise/toning experience he was sharing. And it didn’t stop there. He was soon promoting exercise wear and home exercise equipment to an audience of home-gym goers. Lucas had faced his abstract fear, and had found the answer to the courage he needed to overcome that. Was courage needed? Well Lucas thought so, because he had to work out wearing only shorts, so people could see the toning belt. That, Lucas felt, needed courage on his part — especially starting out, as he was in effect not just exercising, but was in fact performing to an ever-growing audience of onlookers.

Today’s featured book is: Tribe of Mentors, by Timothy Ferriss.

Lucas’s story is one the stories featured in my book: How To Overcome Your Fear To Live Your Life With Courage, from The School Of WorkLife book series.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story 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.

Writing Helps Me Understand People and What Makes Them Tick

That’s Pretty Great Because My Work is To Understand People and What Makes Them Tick

Photo by Thom Milkovic on Unsplash

My work always begins by helping people write their WorkLife stories.

Stories of their WorkLife chapters from past to present.

Stories of their successes

Stories of their failures.

Stories of their learnings.

Stories of their turning points.

Stories of their future WorkLife chapters.

Stories of their hopes, dreams and ambitions.

Stories of what they want their next WorkLife chapter to be.

These stories help me to understand who people are and what makes them tick.

These stories help people understand for themselves who they are and what makes them tick.

I work with people who have inspiring WorkLife stories.

I read about people who have inspiring WorkLife stories.

I listen to people who have inspiring stories.

I adapt and retell those stories.

Writing those stories allows me to understand who people are and what makes them tick.

These stories help other people.

Because stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Writing your story can help you understand who you are and what makes you tick.

That’s a True Story.

WorkLife Book Of The Week: How To Start Something New In Difficult Times

Welcome to WorkLife Book Of The Week. Every week Monday through Sunday I serialise a story from the School of WorkLife book series. I do this each day in under 280 characters, which I post across my social media channels. Then at the end of each week, I bring all 7 daily posts together here as 1 weekly blog post, which I also share on my podcast: WorkLife Book Wisdom.

This week’s WorkLife Book of The Week is: How To Start Something New In Difficult Times

This week’s WorkLife Story of The Week: WorkLife Longevity Brings About a New WorkLife Chapter

John’s Story about how he developed a new WorkLife chapter at his later stage of WorkLife on discovering he had retired too early 


John’s WorkLife Included: Engineering in the forces; Production management in the computer industry; Design and manufacturing in the telecoms industry; Operations director in the pharmaceutical industry; consultancy work in the tobacco industry; He undertook various pieces of R&D


and delivered training programmes. Then he retired and moved to France. But a few months and many gastronomic delights later John was becoming a little bored. Not one to sit on his laurels, he undertook a building-development project and soon was project managing the development


work on properties for people back in the UK. John wanted to figure out what he wanted to do that would fit into semi-retirement – keep him mentally stimulated, but also give him the scope to do nothing if he chose to. Nothing other than developing his appreciation for fine wines 


fine food and fine art, that is; oh, and learning to perfect his French and playing boules. He set out to connect with people he’d met throughout his WorkLife, just by way of catching up for a coffee or beer and having a chat about things in general. Well no sooner did he do this


when an opportunity arose for him to deliver some very specialist consultancy training work, whereby he was training the consultancy firm’s consultants for this specific field-based work. He’s now established himself as the person they come to when they bring new consultants on 


board. He’s also been asked to be a non-executive director supporting the development of talent with a commitment of one day a month over ten months of the year. Un coup de chance (a stroke of good luck)? Maybe a little luck; but I’ve come to learn the better we are …


the luckier we become! And John is top of the game in terms of being good. So, it’s never too late to begin your next WorkLife chapter, and the wealth of your skills and experience will be of great value whether you’re joining a company or you’re starting a venture of your own

That’s a wrap on this week’s WorkLife Story of The Week: WorkLife Longevity Brings About a New WorkLife Chapter, from the School Of WorkLife book: How To Start Something New In Difficult Times

If you enjoyed John’s story, you may also like to learn about his fuller WorkLife story and the exercises that helped him to develop his new WorkLife chapter, along with the other stories and assignments in this week’s WorkLife Book of The Week: How To Start Something New In Difficult Times 

Click on the above image to see a preview of what’s inside, along with the main ideas and the meaning behind these.

Come back next Sunday for next week’s WorkLife Story of The Week: How To Use The 5 Steps To Tell Your Unique WorkLife Story from the School Of WorkLife book: How To Turn Your Story Into A Powerful Presentation

Click on the above image to see a preview of what’s inside, along with the main ideas and the meaning behind these.

You can also catch each weekly story as it’s released daily. Just tap the link below to:

The School of WorkLife book series are designed to help you manage your own WorkLife Learning.

Each book tells real WorkLife stories of the successes and challenges people encountered in their WorkLife. Each book also includes the exercises that helped navigate these situations, which are presented as assignments for you to work through.

The stories I share are based on real life WorkLife situations – case studies of the challenges and successes people experienced in navigating the chapters of their WorkLife Story.

I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and also a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

I hope you enjoy the stories and find them helpful in navigating the chapters of your WorkLife story.

To view all the books in the School of WorkLife series and to learn about my Affiliate Programme click the link below: 

Quote #14 That Helped Shape Of The Chapters My First Book

To Give People an Understanding Into What the Chapter Was About. To Open Their Thinking without Telling Them How or What to Think

Chapter #14 What Completely Engages You in Your WorkLife and How Can You Use This to Create Your Go Be Do Joie De Vivre WorkLife Living Plan

Quote #14 “Go, Be, Do, Go to interesting places, Be with interesting people, Do interesting things. Tim Ferriss Show

Followed by my Chapter Introduction:

I listen to The Tim Ferriss Show, a podcast where he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas to extract the tactics, tools and routines they use. A favourite question of mine, which Tim asks all of his guests, is: “What message would you put on a billboard?’ One of my favourite answers was, “GO BE DO.” Because it reminded me that when I am living my WrokLife fully, this is what I am doing; and when I am not, I ask myself where I want to go, who do I want to be with, and what do I want to do. In fact, I’ve created my ‘Joie De Vivre’ WorkLife Living — living my best WorkLife plan from this.

As a WorkLife Learning Practitioner and Writer, I know the importance of serving people’s preferred learning style. Some people like the bigger picture — quotes allow that. Other people like more detail — the chapter introductions allow that.

I like the bigger picture, to begin with, then I like detail. So I like both.

What’s your preferred learning style?

Bigger picture, more detail, or both?

First shared in my book: Your WorkLife Your Way.

A Story of Lost Trust - In Oneself, One’s Audience and One’s Work

Zeb Was Over Analysing Everything. Telling Himself He Could Have Done Better. He Needed to Have Tried Harder. That He Wasn’t Good Enough.

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

It was early morning when Zeb left his hotel to find somewhere quiet to have breakfast. He didn’t want to bump into anyone who might have been at his concert the night before. He wasn’t feeling good about his performance — he felt disappointed with himself, and he felt his fans were also disappointed with him.

He was inside his head and walking on autopilot down the backstreets of the city, his head bent, so as to avoid eye contact with anyone. He was over analysing everything, telling himself he could have done better, that he needed to have tried harder, that he wasn’t good enough. That all his years of creating music in his garage, all his years of gigging wherever he could get a spot, all his years of building from that to perform to bigger audiences, to have his own concerts, all those years of hard work, and he still didn’t have what it takes to be performer.

As he walked a man tentatively approached him and said: “My daughter and I were at your show last night, we had a great time, thank you.” He continued: “I’ve been finding it really hard to connect with my daughter since she became a teenager. We actually don’t talk much anymore. Everything I say seems to irritate her. But last night, your music, it really helped us connect. We didn’t talk — we didn’t have to. We simply shared an experience. We were in the moment together; no words were needed. It was really special, thank you. I’ve never really understood before when people would say music brings you together, and helps you connect, but now I do, and I am so grateful for the experience we had together. It’s a memory I will treasure. Thank you.”

Zeb thanked the man and they parted. As Zeb continued his walk, he reflected on what the man had said, which really struck him in an impactful way. The words he had spoken, and the sentiment behind those words expressed in his tone. It resonated with him in a way that was meaningful because it felt truthful. He had received lots of compliments over the years, many of which were gushing and didn’t feel genuine, but this was different, this felt real.

Then he happened on a café, which looked to be quiet, and so he went in. In doing so he saw it was also a bookstore, and was immediately drawn to a book on the display table.

Book Wisdom

The book was The Practice Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin. Zeb was a fan of Seth’s work, and so he picked up a copy to read over breakfast.

The question “Do you trust yourself enough to ship creative work?” from the inside cover, spoke immediately to Zeb. As did these:

Words of Wisdom

Which directly followed the question: “Learning to trust, yourself, your audience and your work — is the core component of the practice. Whether your creative work takes the form of a painting, a song, or a company, there is no formula for success.”

“But there is a pattern, a practice all successful creatives engage in. The best way forward is to recognise it and commit to it.”

These words were followed by this:

Sage Wisdom

That also spoke to Zeb:

Shipping, because it doesn’t count if you don’t share it.”

Creative, because you’re not a cog in the system. You’re a creator, a problem solver, a generous leader who is making things better by producing a new way forward.”

Work, because it’s not a hobby. You might not get paid for it, not today, but you approach it as a professional. The muse is not the point, excuses are avoided, and the work is why you are here.”

“Lost in all the noise around us in the proven truth about creativity: it’s the result of desire — the desire to find a new truth, solve an old problem, or serve someone else.”

“There’s a practice available to each of us — the practice of embracing the process of creation in service of better. The practice is not the means to the output, the practice is the output, because the practice is all we can control.”

“The practice demands that we approach our process with commitment. It acknowledges that creativity is not an event, it’s simply what we do, whether or not we’re in the mood.”

“The practice will take you where you seek to go better than any other path you can follow. And while you’re engaging in the practice, you’ll honour your potential and the support and kindness of everyone who came before you.”

Making music is what Zeb does. This brief interaction, followed by reading these words, led him to asking himself: “Why do I do what I do? His self-feedback brought his mind to this answer: I help people to connect, with other people, and with themselves and their own emotions. Helping people gain perspective on their own lives, taking them to a different place, even if only for a short time, helps them escape their everyday world. That’s why I write, produce, and perform my music. In that moment Zeb knew that no matter how he had felt about the night before and how it had gone in his mind, this brief interaction reminded him of every reason why he does what he does — his purpose.


Zeb knew in order to grow as an artist and a performer, that he needed to think through every performance, analyse it and access what went well and what could have gone better, because that’s the only way he’ll continue to learn, improve and develop. But in that brief exchange he was reminded too that he was there to serve his fans, and while his self-feedback is valuable, what also matters is how the audience feels about his performance.

He realised that while yes, he continuously needs to strive to be the best he can be as an artist, he also needed to have a greater connection with people in the moment during his performance, both as individuals and as a crowd; and he knew to do that he needed to get out of his head and be present in the moment.

Today’s featured book is: The Practice Shipping Creative Work, by Seth Godin.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story 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.

Zeb’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Use Your Purpose to Help Others by Carmel O’Reilly, from the School Of WorkLife book series.

How To Push Beyond a Place of Being Stuck

(Hint) The Secret Lies in Helping Others

Photo by Ian Deng on Unsplash

Lulu was feeling stuck. The bank had turned her loan request down flat. With no experience working in the flower industry, and no training, they weren’t willing to take a risk on her. They weren’t prepared to even consider her volunteering work.

But let’s back up a little to find out how Lulu found herself in this position.

Lulu believed flowers had saved her life. While recovering from a serious illness, she had stayed with her good friend Adam. Adam worked as a cleaner at a local hospital and each day he’d arrive home with flowers that patients had left behind on leaving hospital. With what little energy she had, Lulu began to arrange these flowers in a beautiful way, and soon her bedroom became a sanctuary. In doing this, Lulu began to regain her strength, causing her to believe that the few days of life left in each bunch of flowers was giving her back her life, and helping to restore her health.

On recovering more fully, Lulu wanted to share what she believed was the wonderful healing power of flowers with others. And so, she volunteered at the local retirement home, turning up arms full of beautiful flower arrangements, which she’d place around the home.

Lulu had an idea to develop this further, by way of creating arrangements to bring to the homes of the people who attended the community centre attached to the retirement home as day visitors. Many had expressed how lonely they sometimes felt, and their carers shared with Lulu that this impacted their well-being. Lulu believed that she could create a sanctuary in their rooms as she had done in her own bedroom, and that this would help their well-being.

But to do this she needed a lot more flowers than Adam could bring home from the hospital, and to do this she also needed money to buy the flowers. So she applied to the bank for help; and this is how Lulu found herself in the position of having her loan request turned down by the bank. They said without experience working in the industry, without training, she wasn’t a good risk. They weren’t prepared to factor her volunteering work into their decision.

Lulu was feeling stuck — she didn’t know what to do next.

Book Wisdom

While Lulu had been convalescing at Adam’s home, she had begun reading the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which was on the bookshelf in her room. The premise of the book comes from what Rubin learnt about making and breaking habits — to sleep more, quit sugar, procrastinate less, and generally build a happier life. All of this spoke to Lulu, and as she was pondering what to do next, she opened up the chapter ‘Temporary Becomes Permanent: Clean Slate’.

The following words spoke to her and she considered them to be:

Sage Wisdom

“The slate may be wiped clean by a change in personal relationships. Or a slate may be wiped clean by a change in surroundings. Or some major aspect of life may change.”

“Another aspect of the strategy of the Clean Slate? There’s a magic to the beginning of anything. One person might begin an important habit in a place that’s very beautiful, such as a grand hotel or the beach at sunset. Another person might transform a home or office building.”

The clean slate movement is easy to overlook, however, and too often we don’t recognise that some fresh start is triggering a habit change. Because we’re creatures of habit, the first marks on that slate often prove indelible. We should start the way we want to continue.”

While these words resonated with Lulu, she didn’t really know what they meant for her in her WorkLife, she just felt they had meaning. So, she asked herself that very question:

“What do I need to do to understand what this means for me in my WorkLife?” The self-feedback she received, was that she needed to continue to do what she had started — transforming rooms through her flower arranging, turning them into sanctuaries, because the answer lay somewhere within that.

Then one day as she was putting the finishing touches to a flower arrangement in Joan’s, one of the resident’s, room, her daughter Martha came in and thanked Lulu for everything she had done for her mum. She went on to say how her mum, who was living with dementia, seems less agitated since Lulu had been filling her room with flowers. As they continued talking Lulu shared her story and how she believed flowers had saved her life, and that she felt they had deep inner-healing properties.

Martha asked what she did outside of her volunteering work, enquiring if she had her own flower shop. Lulu told her about the idea of what she wanted to do, and the challenges she was facing. Martha asked why she wanted do this, and Lulu responded saying: “I truly believe flowers helped me to heal and to become stronger both emotionally and physically. I believe the same is true for the people whose rooms I’ve filled with flowers. I believe I can take this further into the community, and I believe the beauty of this will also have a positive impact on people’s lives. I believe my purpose is to help people’s wellbeing by bringing flowers into their life.”

Word of Wisdom

Martha, who worked at a marketing agency, said she believed Lulu could crowdfund the money she needed to get her venture off the ground. She said she could help her to create a video to tell her story, just as she had told it now. She went on to say it’s not about what you want to do, it’s about why you want to do it.


True to Martha’s thinking, this approach worked. Lulu raised the money she needed to fund her project. And this was just the beginning. Lulu soon began to be recognised for her work. For the beauty of her creations and her striking talent, and also for how she was making a difference in people’s lives. The positive impact to people’s wellbeing, and also the positive social impact her flower-arrangement designs were having within the community and among residents, as they stopped to talk and take in the beauty she had created. Soon she was getting paying gigs and being sought out to create her beautiful arrangements inside and outside for local businesses.

Today’s featured book is: Better Than Before, by Gretchen Rubin.

Lulu’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Use Your Purpose To Help Others, from The School Of WorkLife book series.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story 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.

Losing Sight of the Reason for My Work-Life

In Every Thing, There’s Always Obstacles, Big or Small, And the Reaction One Shows to Such Obstacles Is What Counts, Not the Obstacle Itself

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

Then one morning it struck me like a lightning flash: I had no sense of purpose to what I was doing. Yes, I was doing all the things I loved, but I’d lost my sense of purpose as to my ‘what’ and my ‘why’.

But let’s back up a little, to understand how I found myself in this situation.

I’ve worked as a Work-Life practitioner since 2003, helping people manage, develop and transition their Work-Lives in good times and bad. I’ve done this through coaching, training, developing resources to include books and courses. 

Over the last few years, I’ve gravitated more towards my writing work — working from home, sitting in my living room with my laptop writing, is my happy place. It’s what gets me out of bed every morning. It’s what I’m doing when I’m totally engaged when the time just passes by and I have to remind myself to stop and take a break to eat and get some fresh air; and before I know it the morning has turned into evening, and I can still continue writing right into the night.

So, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and we all had to isolate and work from home, I wasn’t at all fazed, because the Work-Life I’ve carved out for myself means I do that pretty much all of the time already. Now all that said, initially I did experience a sense of disappointment.

That was because, having recently launched my first book, Your WorkLife Your Way, I had developed a series of in-person workshops, and I was also planning an official book launch, book readings at bookshops, libraries and cafés, and a wider book tour of the UK and Ireland. I had to cancel all of these events and plans.

The feeling I had was more than disappointment. Underlying was a sense of deep concern. The fact of the matter was that in having to cancel the events, it meant I wouldn’t receive the much-needed income these would have brought in; and I had no way of knowing how long this would last and when I could expect to get back out into the world with my work.

Nevertheless, I decided to make the most of my isolation by reading, researching and learning as much as I could to help improve my writing, which in turn would allow me to continue to help other people in their learning and development.

This started off great; but as the weeks went by, I began to become really restless and listless, and I couldn’t figure out why. After all, I was spending my day doing what I love — reading and writing. I was making time to think, which I always did while taking a lovely long walk while exploring familiar and unfamiliar streets of London. I was living the Work-Life I love, but there was something wrong. I felt there was something missing, but I was really struggling to know what that was.

Then one morning it struck me like a lightning flash. I had no sense of purpose to what I was doing. Yes, I was doing all the things I loved, but I’d lost my sense of purpose as to my ‘what’ and my ‘why’.

What was I actually doing and why was I doing it? I had lost sight of the reason for my work. I had been wandering aimlessly for weeks, which had now turned into months. I had a sense of being busy, because, well I was busy; but busy doing what? Simply put, I just didn’t have a clear enough sense of purpose to my ‘what’ and ‘why’.

Book Wisdom

I picked up Be Water, My Friend: The True Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee. In the book, Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon, illuminates her father’s most powerful life philosophies, and how we can apply his teachings to our daily lives. It’s a book from which I’ve always been able to glean wisdom.

I opened the book on the chapter ‘The Obstacle’, and read these:

Words of Wisdom

“Believe me that in every thing or achievement there are always obstacles, big or small, and the reaction one shows to such obstacles is what counts, not the obstacle itself.”

And this:

Sage Wisdom

“In everyday life the mind is capable of moving from one thought to one object to another. However, when one is face-to-face with an opponent in a deadly contest, the mind tends to lose its mobility and get sticky and stopped. This is a problem that haunts everyone.”

“The opponent in this case is the obstacle. When we hit a big roadblock, it’s easy not only to get stuck, but to lose hope. It is not what happens that is success or failure, but what it does to the heart of man. What does it do to your heart? Will you let it defeat you? Or will you learn to use it to step into something new? Something unexpected? Perhaps even something better?

“Remember, my friend, it’s not what happens that counts; it is how you react. Your mental attitude determines what you make of it, either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.”

And that was it, that was the insight I needed in knowing what to do.

Now that I had this realisation, I knew how to go about figuring out the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of my purpose — what I was doing and why I was doing it. That’s because I had done this before in different areas of my work-life.

I knew I needed to ask myself the same question I asked myself in defining my purpose in my work as a WorkLife practitioner and also in defining the purpose of my first book:

How is my work going to help people? I then needed to reflect through self-feedback in knowing what to do, from whatever the answer to this question brought up.

In the past, this question had led me to writing a purpose statement for my work. For example, the statement I wrote for my work as a WorkLife Practitioner is:

“My purpose is to help people pursue their Work-Lives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride, by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.”

And the purpose statement I wrote for my book, Your WorkLife Your Way, is:

“My purpose is to create a resource that helps people live their best Work-Lives by managing their learning, development and growth, through effective self-feedback, insightful questions and the ability to shape and tell their unique story.”

I knew I needed to write a purpose statement to give me the clarity I needed for what I had been doing over the last three months, and how this was going to help people.

I had been writing a weekly story, which I published as a blog post and recorded as a podcast episode. I had called it WorkLife Book Wisdom, and I had already written a purpose statement for this which is:

“My purpose is to help people by inspiring readers and listeners through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Stories that will allow them to 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.”

I was really enjoying this work, and I had already written a full year of stories, which I had scheduled to go out weekly on my blog and podcast. Although I sensed there was a way I could develop this further, I didn’t know what that was, and this is where I had been wandering aimlessly with no sense of purpose.

And so, I asked myself my favourite type of questions: ‘What If’ questions. What if this could be developed further? What if people who like to learn through reading, and who also like to discuss books and interesting stories, could come together to share their experiences?

These questions led me to the idea of WorkLife Book Club — a book, or rather a series of books, that I could develop from the weekly WorkLife Book Wisdom stories I write. The thinking behind this idea is that experiences that we have in our WorkLife shape our understanding of the world, and experiences we have through reading can also shape or change us. This provides an opportunity for change and growth, and can communicate truths about human psychology and relationships.

Books help to anchor WorkLife conversations through characters, plots and settings. This may allow people to work through sensitive and nuanced issues in an open and honest manner, because when people come together to discuss stories and engaging texts, they are often presented with characters with competing and often equally valid viewpoints.

That was it. That was my purpose. It was a bit long, though. I always start with the bigger vision and then I endeavour to write a purpose statement from that of one to three sentences, which I can write on a sticky note or two. I then place this close to where I’m working, so that it is always visible, and serves to remind me what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. This is my condensed version of my purpose statement for the book WorkLife Book Club:

My purpose is to write a series of short stories to help people who enjoy learning through reading. Each story presents a WorkLife challenge, a featured book that presents ideas for the protagonist of the story to resolve this, and a discussion between the WorkLife Book Club members, who share their points of view on the case, the book, along with the WorkLife lessons they took from this.


That was it in a nutshell; and now that I had the clarity I needed about what I was doing, and how this could help people (which is always my why), I began to work on the first book in the series of WorkLife Book Club.

Today’s featured book is Be Water, My Friend: The True Teachings of Bruce Lee, by Shannon Lee.

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story 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 story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Use Your Purpose to Help Others from the School Of WorkLife Book series.

How To Overcome Self-Doubt Through Self-Appreciation

You Don’t Always Recognise How Something Great That You’ve Done In the Past Can Help You with Something You Aspire to Do In the Future

Image supplied by author

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 which 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’s one I have time and time again.

Joe was in his early 60s, and although he was going through the motions of the programme, he had the belief that because of his age at the end of it organisations wouldn’t be interested in employing him, and would choose younger candidates instead. 

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 30 years before his position had been made redundant. Although he’d been with the same organisation 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, per- haps 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 steppingstone 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 wants 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 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.

Develop a Practice of Insightful Self-Questioning Assignment

In the knowledge that you have so much of what you need within you, it’s good practice to regularly consider what you haven’t asked yourself that’s 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.

Joe’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Overcome Self-Doubt Through Self-Appreciation , from The School Of WorkLife Book Series.

The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.

Making a Difficult Decision when Faced with Choosing Between Financial or Emotional Well-Being

Linda Was Facing a Difficult Decision. Her Bank Balance Was Telling Her One Thing. Her Heart, Mind and Gut Were Telling Her Something Else.

Photo by Elena Mothvilo on Unsplash

Linda’s role at her last company had been made redundant due to the economic crisis and downturn in the market. The financial sector where she had always worked was severely impacted with significant job losses across organisations. People who had survived the slashing of roles, were hanging on to their jobs for dear life. This coupled with recovery and growth being slow, almost to the point of standstill, had led to months of unfruitful job searching for Linda.

There was simply a scarcity of new positions, and stiff competition for the small number of new roles that did appear on the horizon. It was the same story across all sectors and industries, and although Linda had tried to reposition herself as an attractive candidate to organisations outside of the financial sector, that had yielded absolutely no results.

Then four months into her job search she secured an interview for the role of Customer Relations Manager at Street Business Credit Card Company.

At first Linda was delighted; but as she began to research the company in preparation for her interview, she began to feel uneasy, as she uncovered and discovered what the company employees and customers said about the company values, which were described as very destructive. It was all very damming.

Linda was very driven by her values, and at times in her WorkLife when she had experienced situations that went against her values, it had impacted her emotional well-being. This caused her a lot more unease, driven by concern.

But she needed a job, and so she kept on going with her preparation. But the sense of unease never left her, and was in fact intensified at the interview, by the way in which it was conducted — which was very robotic and not at all personalised. She left the interview feeling cold and completely uninspired.

She had been told they would let her know their decision within a few days; and when she found herself hoping she wouldn’t receive an offer, she knew in her heart, mind and gut, that this job, this company wasn’t right for her, and she wasn’t right for them. 

But once again, her bank balance was telling her something else: she needed to support herself, and it would be very difficult, if not very irresponsible, to turn the offer down if it did come her way. And come her way it did, which is how Linda found herself in this position of facing a dilemma, and having a difficult decision to make.

A weekend of inner turmoil ensued for Linda. She talked it through with friends, all of whom advised her to take it, saying: “It may well be that you’ll discover your concerns are unfounded. If they’re real, you may be in a position to do something about that; and if you discover it really isn’t for you, you can ride it out until something better comes along.”

While Linda knew this was all good advice, she was really concerned about being part of an organisation whose values were considered by employees and customers to be destructive, and the impact this would have on her emotional well-being.

Nevertheless, it kept coming back to needing to survive financially, leaving her to question if she would need to choose between financial or emotional well-being. She further questioned if she was losing the plot and being completely irrational in her thinking and making more of it than was necessary. She got to the point where she was questioning her own sanity.

Book Wisdom

Linda was reminded of a chapter from Your Music and People by Derek Sivers. The chapter ‘Compass In Your Gut’ talks about your instincts having a compass that points in two directions:

  1. What excites you;
  2. What drains you.

The chapter goes on to say: “No matter what advice anyone gives you — no matter how smart they may be — you need to let this compass drive you.”

The chapter shares the following:

Words of Wisdom

“But nothing is worth losing your enthusiasm. Nothing! Whatever excites you, go do it. Whatever drains you, stop doing it. You have to pay close attention to that compass, even in little day-to-day decisions.”

“You get offered a gig. They’re on the phone waiting for an answer. Does it excite you or does it drain you?”

The chapter shares the following:

Sage Wisdom

“If it doesn’t excite you don’t do it. There’s almost nothing that you must do.”

“Work towards this ideal, and soon you’ll be doing only what excites you the most.”

“Then you’ll find that doors open for you, opportunities come your way, and life seems to go easier, because you’re doing what you’re meant to do.”

All of this resonated with Linda, she already knew the prospect of joining the company drained her, and moreover was a threat to her emotional well-being. But as much as she couldn’t shake that off, she also couldn’t shake of the prospect of not being able to support herself financially.

She asked herself the question: “What is the best and right decision for me to make — do I accept or decline this offer? Then she decided to sleep on it. The following morning she woke up to self-feedback that said: “Enough is enough, I have to find a way to make my decision and then accept that. I need to do it objectively while taking my own personal values into consideration, because it’s my perceived thinking that it’s the jarring of values, that will cause problems for my emotional well-being.”

So, she thought through her own values and what they could mean in relation to the situation, both around the decision she needed to make, and why she was feeling the way she was feeling.

Mental Wellness: Being able to cope with the ups and down of everyday WorkLife and taking these in my stride. The ability to be productive in the knowledge that there is a support system in place to help should there be times when I’m overwhelmed because of workload or a situation either in or out of work that’s impacting my wellbeing.

Linda had no way of gauging this from anything she had discovered going through the interview process. She hadn’t mentioned her discovery of the company’s destructive values, and her concerns about the impact this could have on her well-being. It hadn’t come up at any stage, and that in itself was not unusual. She recognised that she could have taken responsibility for sharing this. She chose not to because she didn’t know how it would have been received. Again, that in itself was not unusual. She had learnt the need to be self-protective in sharing what she needed to share about her concerns of values on people’s well-being. All of this meant that she wasn’t in a position to make a decision based on this core personal value being honoured, because she simply didn’t know whether it would or whether it wouldn’t.

Make a difference by being different: I want to spend time where I can make the biggest impact. I want to be part of a company that works on big ideas that are going to drive success, because they offer the opportunity for transformation.

Nothing about her experience gave her the belief that this would be possible. The way in which the company communicated who they were, how their customers and employees talked about the company, how the people she’d been interviewed by spoke about the company and their growth plans, was all very uninspiring. Nothing about anything she’d discovered or heard captured her imagination, made her curious, or gave her any confidence that she could be part of something that could be transformative. Linda reasoned that while much of this thinking was based on a strong sense of what was and what would be, rather than strong factual evidence, that this was a good enough measure to factor into her decision making. Her reasoning was that this should have been evident to her; and the fact that it wasn’t was enough for her to make a good-enough informed decision about taking the job. Based on this it would be a ‘no’.

Good Citizenship: I want to be part of a business that takes an active role in making the world a fair place. Beginning with the company itself, then taking this to the community we serve, and then to communities that are underserved and suffering because of it being an unfair world. I want to be supported as an individual and as part of a collective to play my role in striving towards achieving this.

There was absolutely nothing that gave Linda even an inkling of a sense that she would be supported in honouring this core value at her workplace. While this value was integral to Linda, she recognised that it may prove difficult to find a company that would support this. And that maybe she would need to find a way to achieve this in some way outside of her work, perhaps in a volunteering capacity at an organisation that strived to achieve this. For these reasons, Linda allowed that her belief that she would be unable to honour this core personal value within her job, could not play a part in her decision making in accepting or declining the job.

Autonomy: Self-direction is really important to me in my work. It allows me to be more effective because I do better and more work when I can get on with things and I’m trusted to do so. I want and need to take ownership of my work because that allows me to tap into the meaning that underlies the work.

Linda had gotten a distinct impression of micro-management being rife throughout the organisation, from the customer and employee reviews she had read — which very clearly demonstrated that autonomy given to individuals in being able to deliver in their role was a scare commodity. There was something about the interview that reinforced it, although Linda couldn’t pinpoint exactly what that was. It was something about the conversation, which wasn’t a conversation in a way that was free-flowing. It was simply a series of questions and answers, which she felt would be accessed and reassessed before a decision was made. That in itself of course is understandable, but it was more about the interviewers simply being information gatherers that bothered her.

To get an understanding of what exactly it was that gave her this sense of ‘botherment’, she replayed her interview in her mind, from the time she arrived at the office to the time she left. Suddenly it struck her like a lightning bolt: it was as though she had been in the “land of the ‘working’ dead” — people behaving in a zombie-like fashion, waiting to be told what to do next. 

The interview was question and answer, rather than conversation-based, because it lacked engagement. There simply wasn’t employee engagement, and autonomy is one of the essential elements in building true employee engagement. This was the opposite to autonomy; this was control. This was not an enjoyable place for employees, or managers for that matter. That was what she had experienced, and that together with believing her core value of Making a Difference by Being Different would not be honoured was enough for Linda to make her decision from an objective standpoint, while taking her own personal values into consideration. And so, the following day, having slept on it, she followed through with her decision and declined the offer.


Having done so she felt an immediate sense of relief from a belief that she had made the right decision for her. And so, she continued going about her job search. It didn’t prove to be easy. The days ran into weeks without a single response to the jobs she applied for. It was so disheartening, but Linda kept on keeping on. Then one day several weeks later she was invited to an interview. 

This time her experience from start to finish was very different. This time throughout the process she discovered a company that was completely aligned with her values. This time she left the interview feeling warm and inspired. This time she knew in her heart, mind and gut that she wanted the job, that she wanted to be part of the company. This time when the offer came through, she didn’t face a dilemma, nor did she have a difficult decision to make. This time accepting immediately was an easy decision.

Today’s featured book is: Your Music and People, by Derek Sivers

WorkLife Book Wisdom

The intention of this story 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.

Linda’s story is one of the stories featured in my book: How To Make Your Values Matter, from The School of WorkLife Book series.