My last few weeks have been very challenging. There are times as an “entrepreneur” where the grind just wears you down and you need to recharge. I was facing a huge week of presentations, pitches and a big speaking engagement (after weeks…months….years…okay decades of running at speed). Stress levels were at an all-time high.
I have a fight or flight reflex – like most people – and this week it went into overdrive and finally my Chair of the board (prompted by my worried hubby) said, “go on holiday, take a break, come back refreshed and ready to go”. I agreed and promptly booked a ticket to Bali (I’m sitting in the lounge now, with bubbles in hand, yeehaa). Borrowing an analogy that a friend showed me this week, like my phone saying it’s running low on juice – my body is telling me the same thing.
Mental health and wellbeing for our founders of businesses is essential for sustaining innovation in New Zealand. Taking time out shouldn’t be seen as a guilty pleasure (and trust me, it feels like one and is hard to reconcile most of the time, I have to coach myself into relaxing) – but yet if we don’t take a moment to breathe, chill out, step back and recharge, then we risk making ourselves sick. There’s only so much stress the body and mind can take.
I, of course, like most people crammed it all in this week – having decided mid-week to head away and not before a last push of major projects. The speech I delivered on Thursday night to the Newmarket Business Awards was, on reflection, both a blessing and a curse. I was dreading doing it, wondering why on earth I had put myself into an additional stressful situation; talking for 20 mins to many hundreds of people who had been drinking for three + hours. Thankfully I channelled Britney and “worked it, B*tch” leading up to it and undertook a hearty “6 P’s” approach to my keynote: prior-planning-prevents-piss-poor-performance. I delivered the speech to the Dog countless times (he was a wonderful audience, always listening) and constantly rehearsed it, knowing that I had to deliver something special that would hush the crowd up long enough.
Ten mins before walking on stage I was beside myself with worry. I don’t mind public speaking, in fact, you could argue that it’s hard to get me off the stage – there’s a certain part of my personality that is devastated that I can’t sing (such is my desire to perform), but this was different from any other setting I had delivered to before. These people were liquored up and raucous; why would they want to listen to me for that long! And, of course, I was bored to tears of my own speech, having heard it so many times! My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, I felt like bolting. God I wanted to.
But I didn’t. I sucked it up. I took big deep breaths. I had invested in looking the part and that was going to help me strut out on stage. Dress. Heels. Makeup. Hair. Check, check, check, check. Very Flossie. I had tested the microphone, I had held the podium and I knew my opening lines.
Even now, typing this, I can feel the panic that I experienced. Have you ever seen someone go on stage and then freak out and try and leave? I have and it’s awful to watch, not because you’re disappointed in them – far from it, it’s that you feel their pain, you know the desire. It’s always there, the little girl sitting on my shoulder that tries to unbalance me, telling me to leave, that I won’t remember the next line, that I’m not going to be able to do it. But she gets the heave-ho, thank god, from the stronger voice who is reasonable and calm, and simply says, “you have this, keep going, nice and slowly, just take a moment and keep going, next line now, nice and powerful”. It’s amazing that these two have the capacity to do this, whilst I’m simultaneously delivering a rehearsed speech, that doesn’t sound rehearsed (so I was told), looking like the picture of calm and cool confidence, smiling and making the crowd laugh at my expense (the number of husbands I’ve had always wins a laugh early on). But inside, there’s a screaming match going on – it really does demonstrate how extraordinary the human brain is, all of this happening at once. The duck paddling at speed under water, whilst gliding along peacefully comes to mind.
I walked off stage, shaking. I almost cried half way through, that’s how powerful the energy was. I could feel the emotion boiling up to the surface, and it signalled to me that I knew I was nailing it. We’re not encouraged to be proud of ourselves as New Zealander’s, a weird little colony trait we’ve inherited and kept up. But I was, entirely and that’s why I say it was also a blessing. I needed the pep talk, and I gave it to myself. I need a confidence boost, in a time where the going was tough and I was feeling far from it.
You know, we’re not taught how to do this stuff, it’s entirely a “make it up as you go along” programme and that is why we have to share this with each other. Thanks to so many of the wonderful people who have sent me exceptionally kind messages or hugged me after (lots of random cuddles were received), putting yourself on the line and showing so much vulnerability is super hard to do – but you made it utterly worth it.
Putting yourself out there, is the essence of living.
Now for some sunshine. Yeehaa.