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The 2016 Gratitude with Attitude List
No time to waste, I have a cheesecake cooling that needs a Fiona taste test. Let’s do this

THE GRATITUDE LIST

Physicore

At then end of the 2015 rowing season – deep breath – I hated rowing. HAAAAAATTTEEEEEDDDD IT. I’d forced myself to do every single soul sucking erg (ie. rowing machine in gym aka Satan’s Sled of Self-Flagelation) throughout an epic year of criss crossing the country delivering sales offices. I was doing ergs sent by Koach Kim at 10pm Perth time / 1 am Sydney time after finishing on site for the day. I did ergs in hot tin sheds while on holidays. I had to ask nice lady gym owner to remove cat firstly off the erg seat so I could do erg and then remove cat entirely from my sight as its mere presence was JUDGING ME and my erg output. I have erged in cookie cutter gyms while muscled men carefully avoid the sweating mess that was me on the erg muttering: “FREAKIN’ HATE THIS, HATE THIS, KILL ME NOWWWWWW”. So yeah, my sparkle was dulled. And on top of that, I had the worst season ever results wise. I hit the pause button on rowing and did a mash up of other fitness classes, one of those being Physicore. Never have 8 counts out / 8 counts back meant so much pain. But I loved it. I can’t grapevine to save myself. When I do burpees, I get tangled up with feet and legs and I have fallen on slow moving gym goers nearby. I dislike jumping as a rule as I look idiotic. But the slow and controlled movements on sliding beds, pulleys that rip your abs apart and donkey kicks that crunch your glutes? LOVE IT!

ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

On my way to Auckland at the end of October, I snapped on the inflight entertainment and discovered this gem of a movie. Beautiful and deeply heartfelt. So much so, I was a sobbing mess several times while watching it. Nice man sitting next me passed me his napkin at one stage so I could try and stem the flow of tears. Yeah, its full of teenage kids and its not miles away from the John Hughes movies of my much younger years but it is just heartbreaking and life affirming all at once because it deals with the truth of “Sometimes, things don’t work out for the best”. Watch it with hankies, Haighs frogs and a love one you can text at the end to tell them how much you love them.

me-and-earl-and-the-dying-girl-poster-olivia-cooke

KURT VILE “B’LEIVE I’M GOING DOWN”

This was a find through Double J, the 2015 release from Kurt filled with sly humour, everyday cuts of real life, guitars sounding like banjos and wisful glances in the rear view mirror of life. I laid on my lounge room floor smoking imaginary cigarettes in the darkness letting this music seep into me. I reckon you should do the same. Even with the pretend cigarettes.

VENICE

More tears, these of the overwhelmed kind when I exited the train from Milan and saw the Grand Canal in its simmering, turquoise glory in front of me. First time to Milan, first time I lost my shit over a view that will be further burnt into that inbuilt camera part of my brain. I loved Venice’s crazy-maze canals and cross-over alleys and bridges, I loved her galleries (forever grateful to Peggy Guggenheim for secreting artworks out of France as the Germans adavanced), cafes and artisan studios. I loved the second night there, humidity at choking point and thunderstorms rolled in, flash-lighting the Venice while I sat in the open frame of my hotel window near the Piazza Rialto, soaked with rain and grinning like a happy idiot at the beauty of it all. I loved my solo lesson learning to stand up and row a gondola in the canals and then into the open lagoon. I loved finding the spark to draw again simply because I couldn’t not draw what was in front of me. And wine and cheese helps the creative process – who knew? Venice, I’m coming back for you!

Im-rowing

ART

I started painting again this year. That was pretty big for me as I’d stoped since Uni. No longer having the time to design in my biz, I was mourning the lack of a creative outlet so I picked up the paintbrushes and stared down the blank canvas. I can’t say any of the stuff I produced was good but I got a real kick out of experimenting, transforming the white page into a carnival of colour – or no colour! I’ve always wanted to live like a Mark Rothko painting, vibrantly and passionately and this year I inched closer. Special love to Nicola Newman for hosting me for a weekend painting retreat where I got my oils on!

DON’T-LET-ANYONE-DULL-YOUR

ERIKA NAPOLETANO

I love everything written by this woman, ever. Get on her email List and in the meantime enjoy this (youre welcome).

THE DIVA TEAM.

I have done approximately 3,467 things wrong in building Diva Works this past year. But the best thing I have done was – somehow – trip over the smartest and most amazing woman and entrench them in my business. I don’t even ask them to join Diva as I was so scared they would say no, so I just threw work at them and let ‘em rip. If you want a hot tip in business building it’s this: employ people who are better at stuff than you. And then chain them to something big and heavy so they don’t leave. Never, would I have ever suspected I would have a team a Divas to collaborate with. I’d always fancied myself as a lone penguin. But I’m a nicer, kinder person for expanding. Fiona H, Anastasia, Trudy, Lisa, Fiona L, Celeste, Nicole, Desi, Tracey, Diana, Amber and Roslyn…I’m so grateful I tripped over you all and you’ve become Divas, I love youse all!

fine dining for everyone

THE ATTITUDE LIST

Politicians. Everywhere.

I can’t even….But yet I must. In case you’ve turned away in aghast sometime over the past 5 years, let me bring you up to speed:

TONY ABBOTT: He was the minister for women. Let that just seep in for a moment. A man who was in charge of a portfolio affecting 51% of the population and didn’t even attempt to understand what it means to be a woman in modern Australia. Good news! His portfolio and prime ministership was yanked from him. Bad news! He’s still sniping from the back seat. Someone get him a seat on a long haul flight between Anne Summers and Lowitja O’Donoghue and let the learning of Tony Abbott begin!

SALIM MEHAJER: The bottoxed buffoon and all his local government sycophants look like they almost might get their comeuppance in 2016. He’s delusion enough to think he’s a victim of the tall poppy syndrome. Nah. Us Australians have just had a gutful of dickheads.

DONALD TRUMP: Taps into the most vile and baseless fears Americans have…and says it out loud. Somewhere a village is missing their idiot and we have this clown as a candidate to lead the still-most powerful nation on earth. He won’t win but he’s doing a bang up job of driving deep wedges into the heart of America.

CLEANSES.

Ah HELL NO! I did one for two weeks for my naturopath Vesna. Love her, hate cleanses. I’ll never do another one for as long as I have breath in my body to bin protein powders. I love food. And wine. And cheese. And dairy. And cheesecake. And sugar. And salads. And grains. And vegetables. And protein. And ripe, juicy strawberries So new food manifesto: Eat well. Eat in moderation. And eat the damn cheesecake!

TERROSITS.

Fuck them too. Too many people were displaced, injured, killed, had limbs stripped off them, tortured, forced into unseaworthy vessels to make a new life in god-knows-where and had their lives irretrievable derailed by some fool and some cover story about “my religion is better than your religion”. To hell with all of that, terrorists are small-minded, scared and angry people who are just looking to create mayhem and inflect pain as they have abdicated all feelings of compassion and love in their own lives. There are approximately 443,890 terrorists in the world and 7.3 billion of us who aren’t. That is a comforting thought. My long term solution for weeding out terrorists would be to hand Chad over to them, removing all peace loving people first and any stray giraffes and let them blow each other while the rest of us watch movies with Amy Poehler in them and hang out with their nieces making cheese & spinach triangles.

GLUTEN FREE BREAD

Nope. Or, just kill me now.

DATING PROFILES WITH MEN HUGGING TIGERS IN CAGES

I don’t often wish violence on other people but when I do, it’s for the men on dating sites who populate their profiles with photos of them hugging tigers shackled in cages. Please let that tiger bite off the face of that grinning idiot, I silently pray. Let it be so.

And so dear reader, as this year winds down and I lick the last of the cheesecake mixture off the beaters, I also want to thank you for taking time to read my sporadic posts. I know we all have the same 24 hours of Beyonce and I want to send me heartfelt thanks for spending some of that time reading my missives and not dropping it like its hot.

Be kind to you, yours, strangers who don’t freak you out and small furry animals.

Love, Fiona xx

P.S.

Here’s one of my fav tunes of the year

Diva does World Expo in Milan. Day 1.
Let’s get into it! We’ve got heaps of pavilions to shimmy through…

We’re here because…oh, never mind: Every African Pavilion and some Middle East ones as well

When I think great food nations, I don’t automatically think of African nations and that’s totally my ignorance. And also, seemingly the designers of many of the African pavilions.  Most of countries exhibiting just used it as an excuse to get out of their war ravaged, barren badlands.  And using the event as a chance to shill their cheap souvenirs so they can fund the return journey.  Most of the staff manning the displays were a second cousin of the country’s dictator president and they spent most of their time on smart phones tweeting their appreciation to the Supreme Leader, giving thanks for being selected to hold the role of cultural attaché in Italy.  The photo below says it all.  The organic cultural products have been shunted to the back while cheap necklaces and trinkets hold the coveted up-front position.

Come-and-get-your-organic-jewellery

US-ON-TWITTER

The “Hey!  That’s really cool! Award” goes to Belgium for the Wheel of Food, Fish and Fortune

A lot of displays just bang on about concepts and ideas and suggestions and recommendations and plans for the future and high level rubbish.  I want actual examples of food sustainability not just an image of a child’s hand cradling a seedling because enough of the metaphors, let’s get down and dirty with the specifics.  And Belgium delivered!  I was totally captivated by the Wheel of Fortune being reinvented to grow plants spinning around a light generating axis, with the run off from the plants feeding the fish below in tanks.

GROW-PLANTS-FEED-FISH-GENIUS

Well played…United Kingdom!

With so many pavilions (I’m looking at you Azerbaijan) stacked to the yin yang with messages: “We do sustainable fishing!  We have music played on string instruments!  There’s some random coloured flowers that someone’s uncle donated and we’ve made a display out of”, the UK pavilion was an exercise in restraint.  It was all about the bee and it was designed around the beehive.  Yep, one little bee, one singular message ie. if the honey bee is under threat, then we’re all screwed.  I walked away from so many of the pavilions, wondering , WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ALL ABOUT?!? But the singular, simple message of the honey bee proved that you don’t need to plaster ever surface with competing messages.  You instead need to pick and stick with one message only.  Great reminder when doing your next display.

Slow-clap-to...

Trends in displays: Digital’s where it’s at.

But with an important caveat: it needs to support the message or idea, not overwhelm it.  There were soooo many pavilions relying heavily on the use of digital and interactive screens to convey messages or ideas but watching most people interact with them, it was a case of thumping the screen a few times, not paying attention to what came up and then moving onto the next to start the thumping all over again.  There was so much great content on these interactives but that was the problem: too much content for short attention spans. Our brains are being rewired through social media, multitasking and interacting with a number of media devices simultaneously so the content that gets delivered needs to be punchy, relatable, succinct and entertaining.  For me, one of the best used of interactive was in the supermarket of the future where you triggered a pop up screen above the food items your hand was hovering over, giving you stats on nutritional advice, source of origin and carbon footprint to bring it to market.  Not only could you buy the products on display, but people were fascinated to learn more about their food choices and whether cheesecake is a complete meal.  FYI: it is.

POP

Overall take away from day one: 

We’re doomed.  DOOOOOOMMMMEEEDDDD!

Too many hungry people, arid lands, poor crop quality, unpredictable weather events due to global warming (except in Australia we’re totes fine, aren’t we Tony Abbott?) leading to floods, fire, pestilence that will impact food harvests and farming.

Basically, start stacking your tinned peaches on end and get a solid lock on survivalist websites.  The future’s coming and it looks a whole lot like the dude below.

Doom

But I’m a bit of a hopeful Harry.  I think we’re going to wrestle the food crisis to the ground and emerge in full cheesecake glory.  And while that is happening, best I consume some Spanish white wine. There was an Esmeralda involved….either the name of the grape, the vineyard or my lovely hostess.  My brain was fried from the heat, what can I tell you.

IMG_5812

Till tomorrow! And while I was in the far queues (say out loud) today, I found myself humming this tune.

Trust is Rust

Marketing so bad, it should be spanked
In these enlightened times when I can get the very best internet access from some paddock on the outskirts of Melbourne, where same sex marriage might even become law in these conservative ruled times, that I have a smart device that tells me I slept 6hours 13 minutes and woke twice (once to try and figure out what episode of Game Of Thrones I was up to, second time to wonder why I was not married to Henry Rollins)…why, WHY does bad marketing persist?

There’s so much big data around to tell marketers and advertisers who their customer is, what they want to buy, how they want it delivered to them, what colour option they’d prefer and what the name of their first car was…and yet, we’re bobbing about in a sea of bad marketing.

Why is that? Seriously I’m mystified.

Exhibit A, members of the jury: This Mercedes-Benz ad

Unhappy-chic

I worked with Mercedes from the mid 90’s to 2006 doing their motor show stands across Australia. And I totally fangirled the brand. How could I not when I slid into the seat of the CLS coupe that was worth 4 times the amount I paid for my 1 bedroom cupboard in Melbourne? They got the shakes after the GFC when their message become muddled and unfocussed which in some ways was understandable after it got the cash stripped out of it, jettisoned the nutty match up of Chrysler and then sought to re-establish itself in the luxury car market. If this ad is any indication, they need to go into the room of mirrors and take a good hard look at themselves.

Alienating 50% of potential purchasers with a dour, fun-killer female is lazy and bad marketing. What kinda blows my mind is that this claptrap made it past the agency concepting whiteboard, through the suits at Mercedes and at every level it got ticked off without anyone saying “Hang about, isn’t this going to piss off a core group of our customers?” When you are dropping some serious coin on a luxury car you want to feel successful, prestigious, free and golden. Unlike the commercial that portrays women as hard nose harridans capable only of smirking like a know-it-all or eye rolling. Mercedes, time to lift your game, ladies love the luxury marques too.

<strong>Exhibit B, members of the jury: The Australian Liberal Government</strong>

No surprises, I’m not a liberal lover. And I could write a 7,489 page manifesto of the things that tick me off about them and not being able to market their message affectively. And let’s be clear, every government needs need market effectively, it’s how you bring the public along on the new vision you are creating for Australia’s future. They need to get their message out to the community, sell the hard policies and successfully celebrate the wins. But jury members, we reached a new low on morning TV recently. I nearly choked on my toast and vegemite one morning when Tony Abbott was rabbiting on about dealing with the children of suspected terrorist who have left Oz. Just watch.

<a href=”http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/06/24/07/47/tony-abbott-says-he-feels-sorry-for-australian-jihadist-children-on-one-level” target=”_blank”>http://www.9news.com.au/national/2015/06/24/07/47/tony-abbott-says-he-feels-sorry-for-australian-jihadist-children-on-one-level</a>

I can’t even….

Mr Abbott said the law would be applied to people regardless of their age or gender and that the children of criminals would be “dealt with in the same way [they] are usually dealt with”.

Like Tony, exactly how do you deal with children…<strong><em>children</em></strong> of alleged terrorists? Is it sending them to an off-shore detention centre, housed in the most basic conditions, for an indefinite period, behind barbed wire, mingling with people who have suffered trauma, are dealing with complex mental health issues and most heart breakingly, have abandoned all hope.

These are children we’re talking about, whose only crime is being born to alleged batshit crazy parents. One more time with feeling: <em><strong>children.</strong> </em>Tony’s really missed the marketing opportunity to sell his proposed citizenship reforms by going all hardline with kids who should be playing with Tonka toys and instead have the misfortune to be stuck in Syria with a dead dad and a mum who’s stateless. Way to go Tony coming on all heavy on the kids. Marketing fail.

<strong>Exhibit C members of the jury: St George Bank</strong>

I just paid off the home loan of my 1 bedroom broom cupboard in Melbourne. But context: This cupboard was bought back in ye olden days where you could pick up a home in Melbourne that did not require living 6 lifetimes to pay off the mortgage. But still, I was pretty pleased with myself paying it off and no longer co-owning with a bank.

So I received letter from my lender St George in mail. I’m a hopeful Harry. I try and think the best of people. I like to think that people are not dumb arses and have no clue about merging in traffic and instead are helping me develop fast muscle fibres as I avoid collisions with cars that inexplicably own no indicators or rear view mirrors. So I was hoping for a nice letter from St George congratulating me on me achieving the Great Australian Dream. But no. I was encouraged to plunge back into debt and fund some lifestyle purchases such a boat, a holiday or a pool with obligatory pool cleaner named Coco. The call to St George to see if I got any congratulatory love went no better. After a terse exchange because I was passed through several departments to reach “I-want-to-discharge-my-loan-and-not-take-up-your-offer-of-pool-and-Coco” I was dealing with the happy news to free myself of the St George loan shackles, I would be charged $350 and what account could they take it out of?

“Um…none? What does that $350 get me exactly?”

“It was in your contract you signed”

“Yeah, that was back in ‘97 so details are a bit sketchy 18 years down the track…but what’s the $350 for?

“It was in your contract.”

“I’m hearing you.  But what’s it for? Exactly?”

“Your contract.  The fee was in there.”

“I can’t even…”

So sum total of that total waste of a marketing opportunity by St George to congratulate me, treat the event as something to be acknowledged with a branded something sent in the mail…hell, I would have been been happy with a plush mini dragon at that point.  Instead, the lack of feel-good marketing has got me thinking instead of shifting all my banking to a smaller firm that understands that it much easier to keep an existing customer happy than chase a new one.

The green dragon needs to ante up. Marketing FAIL.

Ok, I’m hopping off Dobbin my personal hobbyhorse to shake by tail to this:

Yep, no good marketing comes easy. Feel free to share your own bad marketing examples in the comments below.

Fiona

I love the F word
No. The other one. Feminist. Yeah, I’m one of THEM.

This kinda puts me at odds with so many ladies in the social sphere. Beyonce, Katy Perry, that chic from Big Bang Theory, Julie Bishop, Shailene Woodley, Kelly Charkson…(wow, the list is long and impressive in talent and scope) have all rejected the tag of being a feminist at various points. Many of the ladies asked about being feminist claimed that they were for equality of both sexes and that the label “feminist” is too harsh and exclusionary. If you are a bit confused about whether they identify as feminist, I have heard you and I have devised a very quick tool to help decide if you are a feminist or not.

Firstly, let’s get a dictionary definition in place:

Feminism (noun)

1. The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.

2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

3. feminine character.

And now the test to help you decide if you are indeed a feminist:

  1. Do you agree that women’s rights are equal to that of men?

If you answered yes: Congratulations! You’re a feminist

If you answered no: Congratulations! You’re a muppet!

I know a lot of people get their knickers in a twist as feminism has some how been skewered to mean man hater, under arm hair wearer, high heel denier and well, dour and humourless. Not true. We’re a very broad church and even though I’m a feminist, I love men, I shave my legs (er, only when I remember or I have a date with my rowing zootie coming up). I love heels, I celebrate the differences of men and women in the workplace. I also believe that the lack of a national approach to domestic violence is shameful and a blight on this fine nation. On average 2 ladies a week are dying at the hands of their partner or ex. Is that OK with you? Because it sure as hell ain’t squaring with me. I think that the idea of child brides and genital mutilation in any culture is abhorrent and needs more action that soothsaying and mansplaining along the lines of “well, you know, they have been doing it for centuries”. And I reckon that paying ladies less than their male counterparts, being underrepresented on the political front, in boardrooms and upper management is just plain wrong . But I still love men and I don’t blame them for this pickle we have found ourselves in. To address these problems listed above and more is going to need both men and women to come together, get out the iced vo-vos and start some strategic planning with an action plan. Because yapping about stuff is great, but action trumps everything.

To celebrate the recent international women’s day, I want to shine a light on the ladies in my life that have made me a better person and feminist.

My mum.

Do not be fooled by the form of a 71 year old with a walking stick and flair for the home-made dress whipped up on the Singer, this lady has been so formative in the development of me as a lady and business owner. Growing up, my lessons from my Mum were never about getting me married off and having babies. Not that she would have minded me pursing these goals outright. No. Noelene Jeffries life lesson to me was to develop myself through education and experience. Her take on life was that you weren’t much of a person or a potential partner if you did not have a rich inner life and a broad range of experiences. So while other kids got Baby Alive, I got a set of Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia. Other kids got bikes. I got a skateboard and a shove down the hill of Aries Way. Other kids got taken to netball on a Saturday morning. I was given a shedload of art materials and a quiet house on Saturday morning while the rest of the family went and did the weekly shop so I could create art. This was not an idyllic Enid Blyton style upbringing but man, it put me in good stead for what was coming down the line for me. I will be forever grateful for my mum giving me a lifelong love of learning and the ability to see what was possible beyond the borders of Elermore Vale.

fiona-and-inspiration-guru-noelene

My sister.

I have a lot of sharp edges to my character. I can’t help myself from mouthing off at people who hog the right hand lane while driving 15kms under the speed limit. I start fights with some fella in a newsagency at 7.20am on a Sunday morning because Ian Thorpe is on the cover of the Sunday rag coming out as gay and the sock puppet calls him a “effin’ poofter”. I have snapped an entire CD collection of an ex’s….I’m not saying is wasn’t justified but there is no good excuse to trash masterpieces like Tool’s early albums. My sister once described her kids as being her heart living outside her body. Whey they hurt, she hurts. When they are happy, she’s happy. Well my sister is the better version of me. Where I light torches to burn all bridges behind me, she is more considered, suggesting that I might like to put down the burning flame and slow my roll. She has been my wise counsel, my true north and my guiding light. All this and she’s 5 years younger than me. She’s my first call when I am overjoyed, white hot angry, in the pit of despair or have fallen off my bike (twice in one day). I got the love of rock and roll and she got the calm, ancient feminine wisdom mixed with being the funniest person I know. She also has my heart, like her beautiful, funny and spirited daughters do.

My Aunty Christine

She’s my mum’s youngest sister and only 14 years older than me. When I was growing up, she was not around a lot as she lived in the badlands of Cambelltown teaching primary school kids so I desperately looked forward to those weekends she came home and stayed at Grandma and Grandad’s. Even better if I was staying there as well because Mum and Dad had an event to attend. Nothing was sweeter than climbing between the flannelette sheets and then being taken on an oddessy through stories real and imagined from Aunty Christine self illustrated books and memoirs. I slept under her paintings and listened to the mix tapes she sent me in the post. I was taken to galleries and museums and she even managed to wrangle me a trip to an art camp when I was feeling lost and misunderstood in my early teens. Even now, she is a lighting rod for new inspirations and sage advice. I recently had a girls lunch with her in Newcastle and 2.5 hours were soaked up with reminisces, Snoopy references, dark tales from the family of origin, problems raised and solved and the love of being in the company of someone you so admire and adore and just “gets” you. I never take that sort of unconditional love for granted and when I flap about trying to think how I can be a great aunty to my nieces, I only have to look at example my Aunty Christine laid down for me as that is the ULTIMATE.

DSC02311-225x300

I’ve also been lucky enough to be under the influence of these remarkable ladies that I want to celebrate:

Anne Summers – She help found the Women’s Liberation Movement and started Elise’s Women’s Refuge to help women and kiddies fleeing from domestic violence at a time when that stuff wasn’t talked about, you just “ran into a door” and toughed it out.

Anne Deveson – set the standard for female broadcasters though the 60’s and 70’s and wrote an amazing book “Resilience”. If you have lost someone you love READ THIS BOOK. She is just an all round interesting lady and she’s not disappearing into the long night quietly. Google her and the interview she did with Good Weekend, you won’t be sorry.

Lowitja O’Donoghue – Speaking of resilience, this lady is the gold standard. Activist, chief ruckus causer, renegade, classy…I barely know where to stop the list

Chrissie Amphlett – Rock music is my church and she is my high priestess. She was dangerous, unhinged, passionate and uncompromising on stage. Her unique style paved the way for so many other front women – and men.

Do me a favour? Go hug a feminist. Or someone who loves a feminist. I’d love to hear in the comments below about a woman who has been a guiding light in your life.

And in the meantime, let’s get a bit dark and dangerous with Chrissy. Roll tune!

I just blew up my business!
In the weeks before Christmas, I was a hot mess. And the hot relates to fever, not any heels I might have longed to wear. I was sick in the way people don biohazard suits to be around you. Slumped on the lounge surrounded by empty protein bar and potato chip packets the only food I could stomach, a strong, unyeliding thought kept on permanent rotation: “This needs to change”.

the-lounge

No mystery, about the cause of the illness. I’d worked myself into a frenzy after rescuing major projects that was stalled through a builders bi-polar issues and another’s habit of switching off his mobile at critical times to go AWOL. Or to the golf. On top of these unexpected issues I was handling some 37 other projects that were in various life cycles from concept through to handover. I was trying not to acknowledge the intense workload I was shifting until Lisa, my project manager reminded me on out work in progress calls “You know, you seem to have a lot going ON”

Word, sister.

Over Xmas when I was at my fav Hawks Nest retreat, I really did retreat and thought about how I was living my life. And I knew I could not do another year like the previous. Or in fact another month. My health and vibrancy was at stake and if I continued with the workload I would not be producing my best work. Or any work at all.

So with much angst, grinding of teeth and spending what seemed like an age in the downward dog position, I told The Display Builders (DB) whom I had collaborated with for 9 years I was no longer able to work with them.

I have adored working with DB. I loved working the clients some of who are even now friends or frequent refers of the best charades and tap pas to try. And if you need a trade show stand design, built and managed, I reckon you can do no better in the industry.  Go here to see their amazing portfolio of work and here’s their contact page in case you want to see how they can be help to you. But with all that weighing on me, I still chose me.

The seeds of change actually sprung from a funeral I attended for one of my dearest friends’ mum. She died suddenly. Shockingly and as I sat through the beautiful and heart breaking funeral listening to stores of Belen’s amazing, brave and love-filled life story I through about my own legacy. By working so hard and trying to grow both Diva Works and The Display Builders, what was I giving up I my life? How was I spending my time and was I really producing my best work? No at all coincidentally I was reading “Die Empty” which argues and prods you to produce your best work every damn day  and especially when you don’t feel like it. It’s a clarion call not to put off your passions for “one day”.

With all that churning through me, last week I told DB of my decision to depart their business.

Yes. Excellent.  Cue the feeling of ease and surety. But no, I sobbed on the lounge like a girl with a pink frilly dress on, scoffed a box of Lindt chocolates, washed down with gulps of champagne direct form the bottle and then messaged the ladies in my mastermind to wail “What did I just do….WHAT DID I JUST DO?!? I think I have blown up my business!!!”

I’d really love to tell you that’s find making change easy as slipping on a pair of kicky heels.  But even change that was so needed was freakin’ so HARD and I avoided it look too long.  I was giving up the known and secure of DB to step fully into my own business and the unexplored. The ladies of the mastermind rallied beautifully and sent such heartfelt supportive messages backing my decision. There were directives to become more of a pleasure slut where I looked for ways to bring more joy into my life daily. So currently I’m on a bender of “Orange is the New Black”, dance classes (!!!!), indulgent trips to Adelaide with some best buds to see fashion and spending time with my family even if it’s just eating a Cornetto to in chez Jefferies on the Jason recliner with my 4 and 9 year old nieces.

The following day after parting ways with DB, I crawled out from under the Lindor wrappers and this happens:

I had kinda skimmed over lovely comments from my lady mastermind because I was embarrassed to read them…I just didn’t feel “worthy”. So I printed them out, escaped to the hairdressers. And this time, I read them. Really read them, hearing their collective voices say these things to me and yeah, I was a teary mess in the salon chair.

But hark, what is that…I start listening in the the convo in the chair beside me with nice old lady tell the hairdresser about how this year will be a good year for her, she just knows it. That she is working really hard with her budget as she is on a payment plan as she threw all her life savings at getting her son off the drugs and now he’s doing well and she’s really looking forward to getting the $32 swim cap she is saving up for because she loves swimming in the retirement home pool and does not want to ruin her ‘do.

Nice old lady does not have $32 for a freakin’ swimming cap…are you kidding me?

I mull on this. I read the words of my lady mastermind again. I grab my purse, turn my chair towards her and say –

“My name is Fiona and I could not help but her your story. I’m one of Victoria’s PleasureSluts (if you say if quickly it does not sound at ALL freaky weird) and right now, I am totally scared out of my tiny mind about taking the next step in my business. But. I have a bunch of ladies that barely know me but believe in me so hard, I have to do this. I will do this. And what I know is that as they believe in me, I believe in you and we would like to gift you that swimming cap so you can be a pleasureslut too.”

Cue more tears, grasping of hankies and hands and her looking slightly concerned that she has been labelled a slut.

My Diva mojo was restored with the love and support of family and friends.  And a swimming cap.

All in on Diva Works, my 3D marketing business and heartfelt thanks for reading this pretty revealing and honest post of mine. Change is hard but honesty is easy.

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Oh and feel free to share in the comments section below how you might have used 2015 as a catalyst for your evolution, I am really digging on other people’s stories of change and saying no….to say yes to life.

Through this turbulent time of change I kept returning to this song as a rally cry. I’m using it to fuel the drive to do my best work.

Fiona xx

When It’s Time To Quit Exhibiting. And What You Should Do Instead. Part 2 of 2.
(Episode 2: I just told the show organiser to get bent. Now what, genius?)

It was back on the 11th July that I wrote the first part of this post and much like my golden years of TV where I was left wondering between seasons who the hell really did try to kill JR (anyone reading this sub Gen-X…ask a grown up), I finally have coughed up the finale. Let’s dive straight back it to where I left you…..

So you’ve pulped your exhibitor manual and blocked calls from the show organiser….. Now what?

Create your own trade show. It sounds like a mountain of work and I won’t lie, the organising of your own event is EPIC but there are heaps of people you can outsource to like my wonderful friend Jade who loves staging events as much as I love a rock festival with short queues for food ie. A SHED LOAD!  There are some major benefits to you staging you own event such as:

  1. You own the show

Yep. You company name looms large everywhere and you don’t have that sinking feeling when you get to the traditional trade show and realise that your opposition has spent twice the GNP of Fiji on their stand design.

And have sponsored the keynote.

And they have better coffee.

Your show, your way….doesn’t that sound divine?

The Display Builders do Schneider’s own events and they have had HUGE success with these.  See below for a pretty pic of Schneider’s own event.

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  1. You set the program

I’d suggest reaching out to your ideal customer here and ask them what would make them give a “HELL YES!” to them to taking time out of their packed schedule and to a self-produced event. Don’t fall into the trap of booking speakers that would parrot accepted business practise. You really want to mix it up! Some of the best events I have been to included a left-of-centre presentation on “How the world sees you” by Sally Hogshead. Totally fascinating stuff (I’m the trendsetter according to her online tes), so make you program free ranging, intriguing and even controversial. But please, no cheesy corporate presenters. That stuff is so Chamber of Commerce 1970’s style.

  1. You control the invites

No more wondering if your ideal market will even be there, you control the list. You will have to work harder at getting your ideal clients along to convince them their time at your event is worth clearing their calendar for. Send save-the-dates at least 9 to 6 months in advance and then have a solid pre-event strategy where you send regular reminders and updates. Consider using direct mail to target your customers and send this in an express envelope (everybody opens an express post envelope!)

  1. You can measure success. (Bonus: You get to define what success means to you) 

To prove the worth of you own self funded event, you can set what you measure against. Invitees versus final registrants. Post customer feedback forms. Number of press impressions. Total count on follow-up meetings or demos booked. No more rubbery figures provided by show organisers. You set the benchmarks of what you want to measure, then you find a way of either counting or measuring this.

I’d recommend investigating further if running your event is a good move for your company to either stage in conjunction with your trade show program or to replace some current trade show events with your own. The first step – as always – is to look at your objectives and see if that is being currently served by your show roster or if you are going to look at solo events to achieve your aims. To help get a feel for costs, speak to your trade show partner so they can give you a budget guide of the costs you can expect to be up for and don’t forget to add in costs to boost your in-house resources. Depending on your expected numbers, you will definitely need someone – or a tribe – to help with the invites and delegate management. Getting your ideal customer to the event is paramount. No-show people wise means no-show event wise.

Now I am moving this blog over to my new home at: http://www.divaworks.com.au/whatdivadidnext/. Please come across and visit me there. I decided I wanted more sparkle, a bigger lounge, perhaps a guest bedroom and a walk in heel-drobe. So yeah, come over, bring a plate and make your self at home!

And if you did find yourself in my actual real home (oooh look! She does have a LOT of recipe books that seem to be only about cake…), you would be listening to this tune on high rotation. I’m going to give it another spin now!  And really….this is the only blurred lines song you need.  That other one with la douche Robin Thicke?  Total rubbish.

See you at my new home!

The light that never goes out
I’m not entirely sure I should be blogging about the MH17 tragedy on my “mainly marketing with a side serve of hard rock” site but I’ve spent a large part of this week in reflector mode. And perhaps you’ve been too.

I don’t consume a lot of mainstream media as so much of it is filled with carping politicians and non-news stories of Kardashians, Kidmans etc. But when the news broke of MH17 being shot out of the sky, the tragedy was too great to process and so I made even more concerted effort to avoid… avoid…avoid.

Until Sunday afternoon, walking through Newtown, I clapped sight of the newspaper front page and there he was, another person lost to his family, confirmed dead on the MH17. Except I knew him. He’s Jack O’Brien, a trainer at my gym. He often signed me in, we exchanged sleepy hi’s / bye’s and my overriding impression of him was a quietly contained and gentle young fella. He always looked bemused if I arrived at gym already fagged from striding up the hill from my home to the gym. And he was my accountability partner when I could not face another stint on the rowing machine. As he signed me in, I would hiss, wide eyed and unblinking “I have a 27 minute erg to do and if you see me leave before that time is up, feel free to shake your head in disappointment.” I never did try him out in that, somehow telling someone you are going do the bloody thing is all I motivation I needed.

Later on that same Sunday afternoon, crossed legged on the lounge I wanted to know more of Jack and the others aboard the flight. So I grabbed a fistful of hankies and read the deeply personal stories that I had avoided earlier. And it is all so unbearably sad, even for someone like me with a tenuous connection to someone on the flight. I have no idea how family and friends live through this.

In settling into this sadness, I have been brittle with time-wasters and incompetents this last week but on the flipside had long, loving, meandering conversations with family, friends and even strangers and we try to fold this tragedy into our understanding. One of the loveliest, heartfelt talks was with one of my besties, Donna who is back safe in Australia after stints living in and around hot beds of conflict. Over the years I have held my breath and repeated the mantra “please let them be safe and well, please let them be safe and well” when trouble bubbles up close to where they live. I now extend that I hope out further to anyone living in and around conflict.

This is where I want to direct my energy: towards love, hope and gratitude for having the life I do with do much love from family and friends. With the reminder that no one we love ever really dies.

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As a counter-point to this meditative post, I need, we all need some whimsy, so here is a special find from my witty, sweet sister that will lift your spirits.

See you next week.

My Guest Post: 5 ways to nail your expo stand design
I know I promised Part 2 of “When It’s time to quote exhibiting.  And what you should do instead”.

But.

I have been laying on the floor at night.

In the dark.

Listening to my “Voice of Choice” Henry Rollins cycle through his favourite tracks on Double J.

I am a BIG fan girl of Henry Rollins.  I have not been this type of rabid fan since I discovered Paul Stanley of KISS and his thigh high boots when I was 9 years old and clutching my first piece of vinyl with accompanying collector cards. Henry is such an interesting, intense fella creating amazing work.  And his taste in music is so broad and mind blowingly awesome!

So – no time to write part 2 of the promised post but I did manage to knock out a piece for Spice Magazine about the 5 ways to nail your expo design. Go here to read it.  Really pumped to be featured in this magazine that I though would be all about spices and how you can do rad stuff with cinnamon…but no, apparently it is about the events and exhibition industry.

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Ok, so here is one of the bands I have rediscovered thanks to Henry: Beast of Bourbon and their slinky “Chase the Dragon”.  What a tasty slice of Australian rock!

See you next week with part 2 of the promised post!

When It’s Time To Quit Exhibiting. And What You Should Do Instead.
(Episode 1: Tell the organisers to go fly a kite)

Pulling out of an entire trade show program or even a single show needs to be considered carefully. And requires top shelf spirits.

There was a time back in the early 2000’s when BMW pulled out of doing Motor Shows in Brisbane and suffered heavily for it, both in lost sales and a downgrade in perception. The Brisbane Motor Show was pretty unique in being the ONLY show on the Australian circuit where people actually bought cars off the stand floor. One year when I was managing the Mercedes-Benz stand, and a sports car in a ridiculous shade of 70’s deep purple was off loaded for $200K. That alone covered the costs of the entire stand build. So while other car brands did hot deals at the show, the question remained…where was BMW and were they….you know, ok in the Brisbane market? This perception of not exhibiting at a show bit BMW hard so after several years MIA they rejoined the exhibitor list.

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So before you bin your deposit invoice for stand space at a show consider what your absence will say to your customer. “Just being there” is not a single good enough reason to exhibit but you need a strategy around counteracting negative perceptions about your brand’s absence.

Here’s when I think it is time to jettison your participation in trade shows:

1. When you have no support from management or your sales team to participate in a trade show.
This is one of the toughest things to push back against: a wall of crossed arms, closed minds and snapped shut wallets. I always believe in picking your battles. So if your well considered case studies, charts and spreadsheets proving return on investment and customer endorsements are not enough to convince management or your sales team the value of exhibiting, then let it ride. You can always go along to the show and gather intel in staging another pitch for why you should be in the show the following year. Or you could suggest another course of action that does not discard events entirely (I come to this later in the post, sit tight).

2. When the show is crap
Everything has an expiry date, including trade shows. In the last few years the motor show circuit has folded due to reductions in marketing budgets and poor scheduling. But a show does not have to fold to force you out. Trade shows with declining audiences, lackluster programs and an uninspired speaker list should also ring alarm bells. I think there is a definite case for a range of shows – especially medial based ones – that should look to moving their event to every second year rather than yearly as there is not enough innovation in some medical fields to sustain yearly shows. So weigh up the delegates number (cull the inevitable padding done by organisers to boost numbers), study the program and talk to your customers…does this trade show warrant your participation?

3. The organisers are vague / not delivering on promises / hard to get a hold of / have no form.
Look, don’t get me started….the amount of slack-jawed,UN-helpful, UN-organised organisers I have to deal with *reaches for the stress ball and goes to lie on the floor for a series of breath of fire exercises*….Ok, I’m back, let’s start again.

Trade shows can draw a lot of energy form you and your team so if the trade show organisers are continually not making good with promises, don’t return messages and are not working to help you increase the value of participation…then sod them off. A trade show is only as strong and successful as the organizer and too much money is committed to exhibiting to have it fritted away by a hot mess of an organizer. If you have had a bad experience, by all means raise it with the organizer but if you feel that they aren’t capable of improvement then consider not participating in future shows.

So now you have marked “return to sender” on the stand space deposit invoice…now what?

Do your own.

Yes! Do your own event!

A lot of companies like Thiess and Siemens are staging their own customer events so they can control the invitee list and tailor their invited speakers to their delegate’s particular area of interest. This is not as work intensive as it sounds and while there is a significant cost investment, your ability to control and influence the outcomes is far greater than if you attend a third party organized event. I will dive into the ins and outs and what-have-yous in next week’s blog post. This blog post is a two part-er, just like one of my fav TV shows Moonlighting used to do. Except there is no Bruce Willis. Because there something NQR about Brucey these days.

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But there is everything right and fabulous about Dan Sultan who I will be seeing playing live tonight!

See you next week for the continuation of our cliffhanger “Just told the show organizer to get bent, now what genius?”

Guest Post: Forget motivational messages, action is the only way to get what you want
I recently wrote a guest post for Women’s Agenda and I got a TONNE of comments and emails along the lines of “YES!” and “Thank you, I so needed to hear this right now” and “I’m up for shredding some motivational posters….can we create a meetup for that?”.

So if you are stuck, waiting for some sort of sign or still crafting your business plan for the jillionith time….you need to move it lovely!

Go here to read the guest post and I would love to hear what action you have taken recently to move FOWARD in the comments.  I am a BIG FAN of action takers so let me know what you have doing to get what YOU want!

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See you next week!

Fiona