From there to here, and here to there

After a 32-hour trip from Peru to Liverpool, I arrived home on Thursday afternoon welcomed back by cold winds and small pebbles of rain. The smells in the air were familiar, and my wait for the taxi on my final stretch from the train station to my house was something that felt routine before going away — had I really been away for two months?

Liverpool is the kind of city, and it’s one of the main reasons why I love it here, where it doesn’t matter how long you disappear or hibernate for, you’ll always be welcomed back with open arms and a warm heart.

It sure does feel good to be home.

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Before I left for Peru in October, I was anxiously excited because it was something I had never done before; I had been on holiday but they would usually be for 4-7 days at a stretch whereas this trip, we’d booked out a full 8 weeks.

When making the decision to going away for this amount of time, both Mark and I were pacing through our workload and juggling our own companies. You could say it sounds a bit impulsive, almost daft, to be going away for this amount of time, so it wasn’t a surprise for me when I had people ask me whether or not I was scared to leave everything behind — mostly referring to business/work stuff.

“How are you going to survive out there?”

“Will you be doing work whilst you’re there?”

“Who’s going to be looking after everything while you’re away?”

I hadn't really given it much thought… unconsciously, maybe I didn’t want to and I wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not. But my main response when people asked me questions like this was that things will be ok and if they’re not, that’s ok too.

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I’ve spent a fair amount of years working — sounds rich coming from a 21-year-old but like many others, I started working when I was in my teens which meant a fair share of my time was spent behind a computer or on a shop floor at a young age.

Then, I decided to start up a business when I was 17, which I walked into determined, motivated, and driven to make what I was creating, a success. But this came at a cost.

My idea of success at the time meant that in order to get there I needed to work hard. And without realising, working hard meant becoming a recluse and parking what I had once enjoyed, to make sure that all the time I had was being invested into this thing that I believed would make me feel successful.


So as you can imagine, when Mark suggested we take a trip out to Peru this year for 8 weeks, my chest tightened.

What would it look like for me to not be in the country for two months? Will all the work I’ve put in over the years disappear, and what if I need to start from scratch when I come back? What am I going to do about finances? What if nobody wants to work with me again? What if people think I’m slacking?

The thoughts drove me up the wall and the idea of exploring a part of the world that I had never been to before with somebody I love was slowly becoming an idea that was less attractive and more of a burden.

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In hindsight… how self-important of me.


It wasn’t until a few days before leaving when I realised what this meant for me — big picture — and it had nothing to do with work.

Travelling for me has always been something that I had admired in others, and it was something I found great pleasure in when I was fortunate enough to do it myself. I’ve heard so many stories from other people on how travelling changed them and how it gave them a new perspective on life and the world around them.

I understood the impact an experience such as travelling could leave on your identity. Parts of you change — your outlook shifts, your confidence grows, and your self-awareness strengthens.

Sunrise during our 3-day Colca Canyon trek

Another reason that helped me to put this trip into perspective was my age and where I am in my life.

But then regardless of age, travelling is something that can be done at any stage of your life, and it makes me sad when I hear people talk about the graduates that have gone travelling after getting their degree ‘to get it out their system’ before they enter ‘the real world’.

Travelling is often seen as this luxury for the young and as something that becomes less viable as you get older — but since when was experiencing the world too idealistic and something that had to be squeezed into our so-called busy schedules? Shouldn’t it be a necessity?

We trekked up to this beaut on our way to Machu Picchu — breathtaking.

Writing this, I realise that I’m talking from a position of privilege.

I know that not everybody can take that amount of time out to go travelling whether that’s because money is a barrier, their job is too demanding, there’s a little one on the way, or they don’t own a passport. And to be honest with you, I’m not sure whether I would have been able to do this if I hadn’t put savings aside over the last few years.

But I see travelling as an investment rather than an extravagance — what can be gained from these types of experiences, if you’re intentional about them, is priceless.

Visited Canyon de Los Perdidos… reminded me how small I am

I made the decision a few days into the trip that I wanted to take the whole experience in. To do that, it meant I needed to limit the amount of work that I did — better yet do none, spend less time on the screen and more time in nature, and put aside all of my responsibilities (which you could argue is irrational and escapism… but if I can’t do it now then I’ll never be able to do it).

I made this decision because I didn’t want this trip to be something that allowed me to fall back into the usual routine that I had back at home; wake up, shower, breakfast, walk, work, dinner, gym (sometimes), sleep. Same routine, just in a different country.

That wasn’t what I wanted to take away from the trip, even though wouldn’t it have been lovely to be able to prove to myself that I could still run a business whilst sitting on the beach in Mancora, North Peru.

Bedroom view in Mancora — sadly had a bacteria disease during the week I was there but more on that another day

But, it wasn’t what I was here for — my intuition was telling me to drop the ordinary. This wasn’t easy, mentally, but it was the best decision I had made and I’m a better person for it.

The less work I did, the more clarity I had. The more clarity I had, the more decisions I could make. The more decisions I could make, the more creative I could be. The more creative I could be, the more happiness I felt.

Don’t get me wrong, work plays an important part in my life and I wouldn’t want it any other way… I love what I do and I love figuring out the role that I have here; helping others and challenging norms. But I’ve come to realise that I’m able to bring more value to the table with the more experience I have, and by experience, I don’t mean the number of years I’ve spent in a particular industry.

Dune buggy and sandboarding in Huacachina — don’t mind if we do

For me, experience is about the challenges I’ve overcome, the sacrifices I’ve had to make, the places I’ve seen and embraced, the things I’ve felt enjoyment from, the people I’ve met, the cultures I’ve adjusted to, the mistakes I’ve made, the feelings I’ve felt, the decisions I’ve made, the things I’ve committed myself to, the things I’ve quit, the boundaries I set myself…

Exploration and adventure is a decision, a risky decision to make.

It brings uncertainties to the table, new perspectives, and plenty of opportunities to test your understanding and your limits. Do you even have limits?

5-days and 100km later, we made it.

Travelling has been a therapeutic process for me and it helped me to overcome the challenges — more than just work stuff — that I have been too afraid to put myself up against.

Hopefully, I’m a better person because of it… I feel like I am and I suppose that’s what matters most.

Thank you for reading!

I’m hoping to write a few more rambling on Peru over the next few weeks, maybe month.

If you fancy it, you can stay updated by following my Medium profile or my Twitter: @robyndooley

Robyn Dooley
Project: OOO blog

05 October

Hi there,


Thanks for getting in touch! I'm afraid it's going to take me a little while to get back to you at the moment as I'm currently waiting in Heathrow to head out to Peru where I'll be for the next two months (eek!)

I'm feeling very fortunate and I thought wouldn't it be nice if I could keep people updated every other couple of days with some snapshots and thoughts of where I am and what I'm up to.

So this is it, welcome to my OOO blog!

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Ping me an email in the next few days and there'll be a new post on something that's a little bit more charming than a departures board, I promise.

Hope you enjoy and can forgive me for taking a little while to respond to you! 

Speak to you soon,

Robyn


08 October
Hi there,

Thanks for getting in touch!

Arrived in Lima, Peru after a good 24 hours travelling and although we're -6hrs behind the UK, I surprising don't have jet lag, whoop! 

Just a few days in and it's safe to say I'm already falling in love with this place. The first day was spent taking a trip over to Callao, an area of Lima which is predominately known to be the city's most important port area. 

Historically it's been known to be a place where you wouldn't want to be seen walking around, never mind taking some time out to take a pitstop and enjoy a coffee when looking out to the coast. The area has had a reputation for many years of it being a no-go area for it being a place that was incredibly high in crime. 

Fast forward a few years, and the place is gradually going through a transformation. Much like in Liverpool, where we have the North Docks and what is now known to be the Baltic Triangle, it took many years of time, energy, committed and investment to turn the place around to be what it is today and Callao feels like it's going through a very similar change today. 

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The streets in Callao are covered in beautiful street art, home to boutique cafes, delicious restaurants on the waterfront, a stunning local artists' gallery, and small kiosk stands where you can pick up some yuca fries when you're feeling a little peckish.

A must and would be a shame to miss out because of its sadly negative reputation!

Robyn


12/10/18
Hi there,

Now out of Lima after a good few days, and in Arequipa enjoying the weather and adjusting to the altitude!

I've never seen a place quite like Arequipa and it might just be the most beautiful city I've ever visited. Architecturally, it's stunning and it doesn't matter where you are in the city the landscape is breathtaking with the view being any one of four volcanoes. 

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Morning view!

I've spoken to people who have lived here for many years, or used to and visit regularly, and they've all shared how much this city has grown over a short number of years. But, despite its rapid growth and in case in popularity amongst tourists, the culture and tradition have remained.

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I have a couple of few days left here but I head off to Colca Canyon for a 3-day trek so in the very grand old OOO way... I'll have limited access to my emails and please bare with me if it takes a few days to respond. 

Wish me luck!

Robyn


26 October

Hi there,

So, I completed the three-day Colca Canyon trek and it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen... the trek itself was difficult, granted, but ridiculously rewarding. 

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If ever in Arequipa, sign yourself up! Regardless of the aching legs, waves of mosquitos, and obvious sunburn, you'll have no regrets. 

Now after days enjoying the markets, taking a trip on the city bus tour, and going to my first ever football match (I know, criminal for somebody who lives in Liverpool), tomorrow I'm getting on a 10-hour bus to Cuzco, a city in the Andes Mountains that was once capital of the Inca Empire. 

Over the next week, I'll be on a five-day trek where I'll be visiting Huayracmachay, Chaullay, the Llactapata Ruins, Aguas Calientes, then finally Machu Picchu (woohoo!)

I'll most likely be shutting off for the next week, but will be checking in when I can and get back to you as soon as possible. 

Speak to you soon!

Robyn

Robyn Dooley
Conscious Communication

How many times have you been involved in a meeting, review, or one-to-one session where the feedback has involved for the communication to improve between you and your line manager or you and your team?

It seems to be the case where it doesn't matter what new tool is created or what exciting new, structured process for internal communication is put in place, it continues to remain a barrier which we come up against time and time again. So, this month we ponder on why that is and what can be done to ensure communication is more effective, deliberate and conscious.

t's a common fact that good communication is essential to any healthy relationship; whether that’s between family members, friends, your partner, or co-workers.

When communication is disruptive and less considered, expect assumptions to be made, defensiveness to creep through and for the immediate responses to involve a fix. The conversation quickly becomes about what the person is saying, rather than what they are saying.

The power of our words lies in how and when they're delivered, followed by an understanding of what the intentions are behind what you're about to say. The benefits of conscious communication are not only effective for the other on the receiving end, but it also allows for you to begin to reframe your own mindset and what you tell yourself.

Through conscious communication we're able to;

- Encourage more engagement and collaboration because those around you feel heard and respected

- Give thought to what is being said rather than speaking impulsively

- Gather and seek valuable information which will enhance decision making

- Know what we need and want to say and why

- Remove our biases and respond with less judgement

- Build on our ability to empathise and increase our emotional intelligence

Robyn Dooley
Lifelong Learning

When it's in our culture to spend years becoming experts in our field and working our way up to the top, it becomes increasingly challenging to admit our inadequacies and gaps in our knowledge.

Whilst this might not seem like a big deal - it's bigger than we can comprehend because although technology might not take away our jobs entirely, it does force change upon many people. And with this type of stigmatisation towards knowledge, we're limiting our opportunities for life-long learning; one of the key components to the future world of work. 

In a rapidly changing market where the jobs of today might not exist in five years time, there will be a large percentage of us who will need to re-train and in some respect, start over in our careers. For anyone of us, starting over can be anxiety-inducing and demoralising after having already invested time and money into developing our existing skills.

However, understanding it's a possibility for us all, where does this leave us as school leavers, graduates, employees, the unemployed and employers? How do we cultivate life-long learning within ourselves and our teams to prepare us for the future and what's needed to stay ahead?

Whilst we can't be sure of what technical skills will be asked of us, we are aware of the foundational skills and those include play, creativity, curiosity, adaptability, empathy, self-management, communication, learning velocity. You might say some of these reflect what we see in our children today, and are sadly skills that we begin to abandon out of fear of appearing improper and childlike. 

But if we're going to set the stage for new innovations and stay aligned with technology rather than be overwhelmed by it, it doesn't matter what age you are and how far along you are in your career, learning and developing these foundational skills will prepare you as well as enable you to map out your career for the future...

Time to reignite our child-selves. 

Robyn Dooley
We're In Safe Hands

There's an organisation based here in Liverpool with a vision to produce 'food for the future, for everyone'. 

Farm Urban connect leading scientific research with local food production, by taking science fresh from the lab and implementing it in the farms which are at the heart of urban communities. They're an organisation that's creating change in such a way that they're not only changing how we science and farm our food, but, they're also inspiring local communities in moving away from what we know of food and how we buy it by engaging and inspiring them in sustainable food produce, health and nutrition. 

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They do all of this through aquaponics which provide 'a focal point around which communities can come together' and work alongside schools, allotment owners, residents’ associations, hospitals and universities to develop programs and education around sustainable urban living.

In which I had the privilege of being a part of last week when I was invited to be a part of their Dragons Den panel for the final day of their 12-week Future Food Challenge programme. We spent the afternoon judging six teams from six different schools who were all tasked to create an aquaponics business which needed to be supported by a business model, market research, and presentation that represented the brand and idea.

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Surely enough, I had to pinch myself a number of times as a reminder that these students were only in Year 9 and there they were, standing in front of a crowd, beaming with confidence presenting viable businesses that they've worked collectively on as teams. 

What Farm Urban have created and have done for these students is incredible. By creating a programme based on creating sustainable food produce, they've educated students in such a way that practical, hands-on and fundamentally, inspiring for them to be so proud that they're able to stand up and pitch their concepts.

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It's hard not to walk away from these events without feeling incredibly grateful for organisations such as Farm Urban, but I also found myself walking away with a great deal of reassurance... knowing that these guys will soon be our industry leaders and will be pioneering the sustainability of our futures is more than exciting. 

Robyn Dooley
The Future of Education

Depending on how you look at education might depend on how you envision it's future. Typically education is what's delivered in our schools, colleges and universities, but what does it look like more broadly? 

There has been a lot of discussion around millennials; how they operate and what their needs are. There has also been a great deal of research on how millennials are approaching their learning.

The shift from traditional to, what we call, alternative education is gradually becoming more popular with people now wanting to take their education into their own hands. As a generation, you could say we're moving away from being taught to being facilitated.

Facilitated learning encompasses;

  • Facilitators rather than teachers
  • Process over content
  • A vast amount of learning responsibility is put on the students
  • Students' insight is just as valuable as teachers
  • Self-evaluation rather than being evaluated
  • Obtaining information and then putting it into practice through real-life situations
  • Everyone helps to figure out alternatives rather than the teacher knowing all of the answers
  • Flexibility in answers and there not being a right or wrong
  • Facilitated learning feels like a catalyst to unlocking the education system, which can usually be seen to be a stand-still industry.

In the era of self-awareness and empowerment, it's exciting to see the transition of this generation who are embracing alternative routes to develop their skills and gain access into industries they hope to pursue a career in.

You can now find courses and programmes that are tailored towards this way of learning and are designed to give you, the student, the ability to develop skills in your own time while still be a part of a supportive network both online and offline.

Check out: CatalystHyper IslandGeneral AssemblyD&ADThe School of LifeSuperHiFuture LearnUdemyCodecademyShillington.

Robyn Dooley
If I Had Known

It's that time of year again where our playground comes to life and we get the opportunity to work with phenomenal talent who are travelling into the city to join us for our ten-day creative and digital experience programme, Catalyst.

Over the ten days, we'll be collaborating with leading businesses from across the industry to deliver content that challenges and provokes, providing our students with the tools and insight they need to pursue a career they love. 

The programme is packed with interactive workshops that help to equip our students with the skills of tomorrow, along with talks and panel discussions that have been designed to help start a conversation around topics and areas of the industry which we very rarely get the opportunity to talk about.

An example of that being; we’ve introduced three new panels this year which help our students to map their career path within; design, technical and marketing. The aim? Demystify job titles and help our students to understand the different roles in industry and the role that each of them plays in a team.

Another would be the Know Your Bias workshop, delivered by the wonderful team at The Other Box. The aim? To help our students to understand and question their own unconscious biases (which we all have). 

Finally, we'll be delivering a panel on If I Had Known which has a strong focus on communication. It's only a few years into our careers, with a couple of mistakes made, when we find out what great and not-so-great communication looks like, whether that's with a future employer, a team member, or a client. The aim? To help our students find their preferred way of communicating that will effectively convey the message they're trying to make, with calm and clarity.

There are always moments we look back on and wish somebody had spoken to us about prior to making a big decision or having a conversation... The more awareness we have, the more we're able to empathise, lead effectively and make well-informed choices based on what we know about ourselves and others. We're incredibly grateful for the businesses we'll be working with this year to help bring this to life - thank you to everybody who is involved.

Robyn Dooley
Starting the conversation

It doesn't matter where we sit in a company or where we are in our careers, stress and anxiety are two things that we come up against, time and time again, and yet are still feelings we find difficult to openly talk about... particularly in the workplace. In fact, studies have shown only 30% of employees feel confident enough to approach their managers when they feel overwhelmed.

As we know, well-being is incredibly important and with us spending more time in work than we do at home, it's even more important for us to create a safe space where you and your team feel confident enough to have an open discussion on the topic of mental health...

To help with this, we’ve compiled a list of resources and tools that we've found and used. The tools listed have not only helped us but have helped millions of people around the world and are playing a key role in changing the perception of mental health and normalising the conversation.

Taking moments out

It can be easy to get lost in your own thoughts, and while talking might not always be an option, there are tools out there that can help you to take a step back, reflect, and journal what’s going on. Apps such as Moodnotes and Kyo are fantastic tools you can use for journaling your thoughts and feelings at any point throughout the day, helping to bring you clarity and a greater sense of self-awareness.

Calming the mind

Although meditation is something some can often feel quite unsure about, it's shown to have a positive impact on reducing stress, boosting compassion and staying focused, by simply setting 10 minutes aside each day to practice it. Apps such as Headspace provide a wonderful catalogue of guided meditation packs that take you through what to do and how to get started (and don't worry they've also created a Headspace 101 list on thoughts that occur when you're having trouble getting into it).

Finding others

It's important to remember that you're never alone, and by that we mean everybody has mental health. More than ever before, platforms are being created to remind us of that and are doing a great job at helping to remove the stigma of mental health, by sharing stories of personal experiences and thoughts pieces; The Mind Map being an incredible example of that. Other platforms include Hub of Hope and Sanctus, who are creating helpful resources on where to go and who to speak to if you or somebody you know is looking for professional help.

We hope that this is a stepping stone to helping spark the conversation about mental health with people in your team, family or friends. Share far and wide if you want to, and tell us about resources that have helped you which we haven't mentioned. The more we talk, share and learn from each other, the less stigma there is around it.

This year's Mental Health Awareness Week is running from 14 - 20 May, to find out more click here.

Robyn Dooley
Doing, not talking

Diversity. A complex topic that needs discussing and debating, but, achieving it requires much more than just a conversation or a panel discussion or a hashtag.

Not to say that they have not been productive ways to raise awareness and shine a light on the matter because they have been. They have helped us to get where we are today which in comparison to a number of years ago is huge progress, but if we're now to achieve true diversity (across the board) it requires less talking, more doing.

We wouldn't be surprised if companies felt overwhelmed or unsure of what step to take first when it comes to putting diversity and inclusion at the heart of their workplace.

So, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We've broken a few things down that you could think about today and implement tomorrow.

Identify new talent pools

You will have programmes in your city that are doing fantastic work when it comes to nurturing new talent. In Liverpool, for example, we have Liverpool Girl GeeksAgent AcademyMYAPrinces Trust, and little old us (OH) to name a few. These guys are doing a lot of work on the ground, finding and upskilling local talent which as a company, you might find difficult to get hold of. The barriers to entry are usually low, meaning they’re more likely to attract diverse people. When you’re recruiting for junior-level roles, we recommend that you turn to programmes such as those above and share your opportunities with them.

Reimagining apprenticeships

There has been a lot of noise around apprenticeships lately because of the new levy that has come in, which could either 1) turn you off or 2) make you confused. However, we believe they might just be the solution to a lot of industry problems so please do reconsider them. Apprenticeships are a great way to harness new talent whilst training them on the job (and are cost-effective). The offer of apprenticeships, in turn, are more appealing to anybody who is just starting out their career because they're able to learn and get paid. You can get apprenticeships within all sorts nowadays, including Software Development, Analyst, Digital Marketing and much more. We recommend you check out Baltic TrainingDigital Skills Partnership, and WhiteHat for more information (we can introduce you if you like).

Speak to your team

Before doing anything radical, involve your team. Nine times out of ten they'll have the answers you're looking for particularly when it comes to inclusion and diversity. Gather feedback from them on why they applied to be a part of the company, why they're still here (because you must be doing something right), how they think the company could improve, and what solutions they have for those improvements. Sometimes the solutions won't involve you (the boss/senior management), so help the team to feel empowered to get out there and tackle the problems for you. 

Always keep a sticky note on your desk with this reminder: doing, not talking.

Robyn Dooley
Thinking differently

Tends to begin by overcoming fears and abandoning what you know. Sounds frightening, doesn't it? Stepping outside of our comfort zone and challenging the traditional means.

But what sounds more frightening to us is the idea of people not reaching their creative potential, or worse yet, not acknowledging their creativity at all because they grew up in a system where it wasn't embraced.

The fear wrapped around potentially choosing the 'wrong' path in what we do as a career, and failing at it, would be enough for us to not take a leap at all. To stick with what we know - with what's comfortable.

The consequence of this is huge... people feeling unfulfilled in their jobs and talents being left untapped. And so the real question lies in, how can we begin to make decisions that are driven by passion and intention, instead of fear when it comes to our careers? It takes courage but it's possible.

It's not necessarily about navigating and finding your purpose, it's about becoming your purpose. Begin by stripping everything back and letting go of what you know. With an open mind, you're more receptive to opportunities and new ideas... I encourage you to embrace your fears, accept them and do it anyway. I promise you'll be happier for it.

Robyn Dooley
Commitments
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I've been procrastinating  on writing this because once publishing, I don't want to feel like an arse (again) in the same way I did in 2016 when I made a commitment to myself to start writing. Properly. The introduction post was one out of about five, over nearly three years. 

Commitment fail. 

My intentions with the promise to myself were for good reason, though. I do want to learn how to write and I would like to capture more of what's happening, maybe not day-to-day, but week-to-week. On top of that,  I come across a load of interesting stuff online, like we all do, and it's stuff I want to share with other people. Not sure with who yet, but I would hope there will be someone out there on the www that will take an interest in something I post.

I sound so self-deprecating, don't I... Here's another reason for me to write, preferably in the way that I'm doing now where my fingers are typing my thoughts as they come and go. Writing/journaling helps me to put down my thoughts, which I might find more difficult to say out loud, and then gives me the luxury of reading it back and thinking, 'bloody hell cheer up will you'. Reflective.

It's a habit that does you the world of good. When it's done honestly and truthfully, it helps you to understand what's going on under the bonnet. Increases self-awareness and unlocks curiosity... I like to think so, anyway. 

But enough of this.

What's the point of this blog/site? 

Well, the generosity in sharing knowledge, wisdom, world-views, experiences and stories with others is something I've admired in people for a long time. Tina Ruth Eisenberg, Maria Popova, and Debbie Millman (all are who I have listed in my Findings) being wonderful examples. It's generous because it gives people an insight into who they are, what takes their interest and what matters to them. It gives people an insight into a different world view outside of their own and helps them to learn to be comfortable with the discomfort of disagreeing with them in some areas. I'm all for people sharing everything they know - the ol' saying sharing is caring seems quite fitting here.

If I admire this in others, should I not being doing something similar myself, or at least give it more of a go than I once did? 

So, forget the commitment fail, it happens to the best of us...

Here's to me having another go and here are some of the things I'll be sharing with you:

  • The things I enjoy and the work that fills every waking bone in my body with absolute joy when I do it
  • The things I find and am obsessed with including podcasts, books, resources
  • Experiences and conversations I have
  • Thoughts and wafflings 

Granted more will be added along the way, but that's it for now. I'm excited. Finally a place to brain dump and share a few things with you.

Robyn Dooley