Seven lessons from (not quite) 50 coffees


It is officially the start of the silly season. To be honest, I have no idea how it’s December already! I am sure that I am not the only person wondering where this year has gone. For me, 2014 has been all about the journey. Starting my blog has been a great tool to challenge my thinking, learn from others and most importantly share everything that I learn along the way.

At times, the past few months have been slightly crazy - juggling breakfasts, lunches and events with a job that can often be all consuming. Despite this, the change in my outlook and mindset has been huge. I have had some fascinating conversations which have not only led to new opportunities and knowledge, but also a lot of personal reflection and learning.

Over the weekend I was flicking through my “little red book” - a collection of rough notes, thoughts and lots of to-do lists - and it really brought home to me the journey that I am on. From the outset, I wanted to blog to share my stories and what I have learned with others at the start of their career. So as a little “teaser” of what one day might be a tell-all book, I have compiled a little list of things that I have learned along the way:

First, look after yourself

At the start of my journey, I met someone who I had been chatting with on Twitter (this seems to be a bit of a theme!). The start of our meeting was a bit of a disaster, there was some confusion and she came to meet me at the wrong time. My “50 coffees” didn’t get off to a flying start. The whole coffee she seemed a little frazzled, the complete opposite of her social media self!

She later told me that after our meeting she realised that her jumper was on back to front and she hadn’t washed her hair for days. For her, the timing of our meeting had a profound effect: she was so busy living and breathing her start up that she had forgotten the importance of looking after herself. This meeting was a wake up call to her, and an important message to me, to take the time to look after yourself to ensure that you are the best leader you can be. I am excited to say that this person turned into much more than 1/50 coffees, and when we caught up last week she was both happy and healthy, and launching an amazing new online learning tool next year!

Life is not a meritocracy

Accept this, and adjust your mindset accordingly. Don’t sit on the sidelines and wait for things to come to you, no matter how deserving you think you might be. (This was a really profound piece of advice from recent Australian Corporate Lawyer of the Year, Debra Tegoni. You can read more of Debra’s wisdom here.)

Work out what “your stand” is

Personal branding is crucial these days. Work out what you stand for, and what differentiates you, to help moving forward in your career. Find your niche and own your space.

It is hard to make mistakes in the first ten years of your career

Now before you disagree, or remember that career limiting move haunting you (well, at least in your mind!), hear this thought out: As long as you are moving forward on your journey, working on creating your own path and making the right decisions for you, you will always be able to explain the decisions that you made to a future employer.

Be true to your own story, and don’t be afraid to tell it like it is.

Work on being brilliant

Flicking through my notebook to write this post, this little sentence popped up and made me laugh. The key point that this person made was you can’t get a piece of paper to tell you that you’re brilliant, so get out there and make things happen.

I know this thinking is potentially challenging to people who have spent years at university (like myself!) and may be a little controversial. Importantly, the message was not that a degree is pointless - but don’t hold yourself back because you have a particular piece of paper that you are capable of doing a specific thing. You are more than what you decided to study at 18 and if you want something - go and get it!

Learn more, learn faster

It is probably hard to sum this piece advice better than Simon Terry, who gave me this gem over coffee the other week. Luckily for everyone else, it was Working Out Loud week, so Simon shared the idea on his blog with everyone who was working out loud:

The future will not judge you on what you are today. The future will judge you on how well you used your opportunities and potential.

Don’t worry about how you compare to the people that you can see around you. Worry about the ones moving past. They will be the ones who pursue mastery. They will have learned to learn faster.

I definitely recommend reading Simon's full post here.

Don’t be afraid to go after what you want

Or, in this instance, who you want to talk to.  This final thought for this instalment isn’t attributed to one person, but rather what I have learned from this process.

A year ago, I never would have had the guts to ask a stranger for coffee! In all honesty, sometimes I still find it really challenging to put myself out there. The lesson here is don’t let the fear of rejection get in the way of what you want (or who you want to talk to!) [In the interests of full disclosure, I am proud to say that I can’t recall any rejections, but if and when I do get knocked back, it’s not going to stop me… the people that get excited about sitting down with a stranger to discuss life are the people I want to talk to anyway!]

Thank you to the special people who have given up their time to share their stories and learnings with me. By sharing what I have learned, and helping out those who look to me for help, I hope that I can pay forward your initiative and kindness! I look forward to all the stories to come, and sharing them with you on Making It Up.

Interested in having a coffee? I still have more to go to reach my target of 50 so feel free to get in touch!


Thanks to Adele from Hello Little Foodie for the great picture. In addition to being a lovely work friend of mine, Adele is now blogging all things food and restaurants in Melbourne - check out her blog!