Tuesday Tales: How I got her to speak – Donna Thistlethwaite

As I waited patiently in line to catch a moment with the speaker who had grabbed my attention, I contemplated what I would say. Her presentation that morning which touched on goal setting, careers and living our best lives, had strongly resonated with me. I knew immediately that I wanted her message to reach more people, and particularly the return to work mums that I was supporting with their career development.

Finally it was my turn to speak to Julia Baker. I briefly introduced myself and told her about the amazing women I was helping to return to the workforce. My pulse was racing a little with excitement.

“Would you be willing to come and share your story with them?” I asked. After explaining that I didn’t have a budget because I kept the fees low to make it accessible to women, I waited with bated breath.

Julia’s green-grey eyes looked kindly at me as she said “I’m afraid I don’t speak for free any more, it’s time away from my family and speaking is part of my profession now”. I totally understood and respected her position but unfortunately, my tear ducts didn’t seem to get it.

As the tears slid down my face, I felt a warmth rise up my neck to my face. I’m not sure whether it was that I’d been denied, or that Julia didn’t jump at the opportunity to support the sisterhood that I thought naturally existed for women, that activated the tears.

I walked away with Julia’s permission to share her story with my career mums and did so when I met with them in the hours that followed. Julia had talked us through a manifestation style, goal setting process, in which we identify say six things we would like to bring into our life in the next 12 months; write them in the past tense, as though they were here; and put an image next to them as a visual reminder.

“Right, I’m going to create one of these goal lists and put Julia on there”, I resolutely told the ladies. Not long after that, my goal list watched over me as I went about my daily activities in my home office.

We were in the midst of 2016 and I was on the organising committee for my Chamber of Commerce’s Big Breakfast, a signature event designed to bring people together and support local not-for-profits. The Committee was in discussions with Julia about being our guest speaker and wanted some of us to lunch with Julia to discuss the event and best approach.

I was torn. The awkwardness of my last interaction with Julia was still fresh in my mind but another part of me was keen to get to know her better and be on her radar. I rocked up at lunch that day half expecting that she’d not remember me. My eyes scanned the familiar faces at the restaurant table, landing quickly on Julia’s face.

“Hi Donna”, she said with a big smile.

“OMG she recognised me”, I thought. “Of course she’s going to recognise someone who cried in front of her”, my mind shot back at me.

I slunk into my seat. By the time the formalities of the event came up I felt relaxed and excited that we were going to engage Julia for the Big Breakfast event.

Fast forward a couple of months … I found myself feasting on the spectacular photos a professional photographer friend was posting on social media of a group of women they had met and were supporting in Africa. These Women of Deep Samburu were adorned with colourful garments and jewellery and smiles that near jumped off the screen.

A few days later I woke up with an idea … “Naomi is supporting women in Africa, I’m working with women here in Australia. What if I can bring the two together? … If I create a fundraiser for the women of Samburu, I’ll have a budget to engage Julia and many more women will hear her message.”

My voice was infused with anticipation as I called Julia. To my delight she said yes and she agreed to a super reasonable fee in light of our fundraising objective.

On event night, it was amazing to look around and see over 70 women connecting and enjoying themselves. Julia regaled them with her talk and her goal setting process. At the conclusion I thanked Julia, announcing …

“Something Julia doesn’t know is that she’s been on my goal list this year”. The crowd erupted into cheers and claps as Julia and I hugged it out. “More proof that we can bring our goals to life”.

While I had no idea how my goal would be realised when I wrote it, as often seems to happen… the right doors opened and the right opportunities came together. Or perhaps it is just the micro-decisions we make when we have some clarity about what’s important to us. Whatever the case, never doubt that we can influence our outcomes by taking the time to reflect and set intentions for our life.

I have a bunch of different goal setting templates that you are welcome to download to get you started. Here’s a few of my favourites – Celtic, Sun Rainbow, Waves and Candle. One of my favourite things to receive are messages to say that someone’s goal has become a reality. Make sure you shoot me a message when it’s your turn.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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