The last time I was on this stage, I was receiving my parchment at my graduation ceremony for Applied Law from QUT Law School, but I have to say, I am more honoured and more excited to be here with you tonight giving this speech at the Clayfield College Speech Night 2018...
Tonight I have been asked to share my post-Clayfield College journey with you—a journey that started in 1973 and ended in 1977. Yes it’s 41 years since I graduated! So to explain my journey I want to tell you three stories about passion—firstly finding my passion at Clayfield College;; then pivoting my passion post-Clayfield College;; and then back to today where I continue to work very hard on keeping my passion alive! My hope tonight is to inspire some of you to go out and find something you love and find your passion and succeed whether you receive a speech night prize tonight or not.
So I want to start tonight’s speech with the first story…Finding my passion
1973 was a big year, not only was it the year I started at Clayfield College, but it was also the year the new uniform was introduced—yes that green / white stripe uniform—the one you are still wearing today. It was not hard to tell who the new girls were when we arrived for our first day of high school. As if it wasn’t already scary enough—we were walking “new girl” billboards around the college campus!
And to give you some context of my first year at Clayfield College—Miss Ida Kennedy was the Principal;; the Sydney Opera House was newly opened;; and on the royal front, Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips in Westminster Abbey. I went with my friends to the movies to watch ‘The Sting’, ‘Grease’, and ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’—the original versions;; and listened to the LP recordings of ABBA, Rod Stewart, and David Bowie. When we got home from school, we watched ‘The Partridge Family’, ‘Countdown’, and ‘Days of Our Lives’. We were not allowed under any circumstances to watch ‘Division 4’ or ‘Homicide’ unless Mum and Dad went out and we convinced the babysitter that we always watched those shows after we finished our homework! Sorry Mum!
If you were to rummage through the Clayfield College archives and find my year books, you’d find some information about me. For example, I participated in many aspects of school life including sport where I was in involved in such things as ballgames, swimming, lifesaving, tennis etc;; and many art competitions such as Warana and Queensland Art Gallery—where I won a few awards. One of my proudest moments was when I was awarded an Art pocket in my final year. After I finished school, I actually unpicked that pocket from my school blazer and had it framed. It still hangs on my wall at home.
But I have to say, I thought I was a pretty average student generally—because I felt that Art at that time didn’t matter as much as the “serious subjects” such as science, maths, etc. But fast forward a few years, where creative thinking and creative problem solving is now highly-respected and a much sought-after business skill to have! I love the fact that Clayfield College includes ‘A’ for Arts in their STEM program to make it the STEAM program. I also love to see the visual arts being celebrated—like the recent LUX Art Exhibition!
During my time at Clayfield, the great thing for me was that my talent in art was recognised early and nurtured all the way through high school especially by the art teacher at the time— Mrs Catterall. Mrs Catterall was absolutely eccentric and absolutely fascinating—I loved the fact that she could make art from almost anything. Although I think weaving the hair from her dog and knitting it into a jumper, was one of the funniest things I had ever heard of!
Whereas some of my fellow art students were great at the traditional arts such as painting or sculpture, I was really good at graphic design—actually I didn’t know it was called graphic design back then. I still remember one of my first graphic art posters. It was for the “Sportsgirl” brand—and everything was hand rendered—the lettering for the heading, the Sportsgirl logo, and the fashion illustrations—after all this was pre-computers! I loved that poster and I was good at this type of art! Mum’s probably still got the poster somewhere!
And it was Mrs Catterall who encouraged me to apply for a very hard-to-get place at Queensland College of Art—which is the oldest arts institution in Australia. Not only did Mrs Catterall encourage me to apply; she also helped me prepare my portfolio—which contained everything from lino-cut print fabric made into a cushion to silver jewellery to paintings and drawings; and she even went the extra mile by providing me with a letter of recommendation.
All of this led to my successful application—and I will never forget the excitement of receiving the offer in the mail! I was on my way to my dream career and the beginning of a fantastic, creative, international career! It also kick-started my passion for life-long learning as I continued on to complete my various degrees at QCA, Griffith University, QUT, and Stanford University. All thanks to the start I was given by Mrs Cattrall and Clayfield College. Oh and also thanks to Mum and Dad who paid the school fees!
I know when you are at school there is pressure to make up your mind as to what you are going to do for the rest of your life—all starting with the selection of your post-Clayfield College tertiary courses. There is pressure from your teachers, your parents, but also the pressure you put on yourself. But it is important that you that you fully appreciate that Clayfield College is a place where your unique talents and potential strengths are recognised and nurtured….so remember to “stay present” and find your passion. The important thing is not to sit and wait for it for it to come to you…you have to go out and find it. You passion will come from something you love!
Steve Jobs said in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.”
My second story is about…Pivoting my passion
I have always been entrepreneurial. I started the first of many businesses in my first year at QCA. I was eighteen. But a few years ago I felt I was losing my passion as everything was becoming too complicated and just plain hard work…and I started “to fall out of love” with design.
And then something life-changing happened to me. It blindsided me. And while the details are for another day and another speech, it was at this very moment—when I was at my lowest — I was able to reframe my passion and my drive, and start new, creative projects.
My passion was reignited but behind this was a saying I learned while at Clayfield. It was Miss Kennedy’s “closed/open door saying”. At assembly and every speech night, Miss Kennedy always said: “When one door closes, another one opens”. I probably rolled my eyes at the time listening to this—as we had all heard it so many times before.
But here’s the funny thing…I don’t roll my eyes anymore because I know it to be true...who knew? I have felt disappointment many, many times, for example, when I miss out on a project or an opportunity I thought I was absolutely perfect for.
By thinking about Miss Kennedy and her saying, I get up and dust myself off and keep looking for another door to open. So when something isn’t working for me or I am just stuck on something… I start looking for another door to open and I don’t stop until I find it. I have come to realise it’s important to have strategies in place to keep the passion alive.
And now the final part in my three-part story….is keeping my passion alive!
So far your journey at Clayfield College would be pretty much incident free, but as you travel through life you are going to have challenges and your plans change, and this is where you will find it difficult to keep your passion alive. But I know for sure, the best things I have achieved have come from some of the worst things that have happened to me. Although at the time, it’s hard to imagine this happening!
In her Harvard University Commencement Speech 2013, Oprah said:
“You may stumble, and you may fall, but you will be okay.” And who am I do argue with Oprah. But she is right.
So I’d like to share with you some examples of how I keep passion for my work alive…one day you might remember one of these and make it your own…and you too will be okay!
1) I continually undertake some sort of study (formal ie, uni or fun ie, drawing classes). I particularly love getting way out of my comfort zone—For example, I have completed multiple degrees across multiple disciplines including business and law (for a creative that is brownie points right there!)
2) I apply for things even if I don’t think I am ready or 100% qualified for—For example, I applied for, and was successful in getting into an executive program at Stanford University—it was for their famous d.school design thinking program. I left my application until the very day of enrolments and as I pushed the submit button, I didn’t think I would have any hope…but I did, and it was one of the best experiences of my professional career. Entering the campus grounds and driving down that palm-lined main drive gave me goose bumps! In fact I made the taxi driver slow down for me because I wanted to take it all in!
3) I take up something creative and physical—For example, I took up ballet for the first time at 50 and even danced on the stage in New York (okay it wasn’t technically a stage as such, but it was the ballet rooms at the famous Alvin Ailey;; and it was the ‘absolute beginners’ class…and it was in NYC)
4) I start a new idea and create a new company—For example, I started my first company at 18 and then went on to establish many more (Moody Design, Brand Audits, The Wrap Dress, Poppy Cakes)—they may sound disconnected, but they are all design- and creative-based businesses
5) I work on big projects with national presence—For example, I have worked on brand identities for Gold Coast City Council, Expo ’88, and the National Trust.
6) I get work that takes me places—preferably exotic overseas places!—For example, I have travelled the world for work!—Chicago for Wrigley’s;; Dubai and London for International Cricket Council;; and LA for become cosmetics!
7) If something is bugging me, I write it down—For example, I had something that was bugging me, and I started writing every morning—this started as a warm-up exercise for my thesis writing but ended up as a book!—I wrote a book that helps other designers and entrepreneurs understand the legal side of running a business
8) I have an ‘art date’ with myself by myself each and every week—For example, I take a drawing class, or go to an art gallery, or even drop into the art supply shop and smell the paper and the paints—okay that sounds a little weird, but I just love art supplies and stationery stores
And lastly….number 9 on my list:
9) If things get really tough, I run away—For example, I ran away a couple years ago and joined the circus! haha — no I just made that one up—well I did join the circus of sorts… I ran away to New York City. If you can’t go to New York, go somewhere to escape (even if it’s the library or the park down the road) get out and exercise, go and get a coffee. Do anything to run away for a short time and have a break!
These all represent getting out of my comfort zone to continue to grow and to move forward— and to open those new doors! As Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM said: “I learned to always take on things I’d never done before. Growth and comfort DO NOT co-exist.”
Later on this evening, over 350 prizes will be distributed. But whether you are a prize winner or not…I want to personally congratulate each and every one of you for doing your best again this year. So tonight we not only celebrate the prize winners, but also everyone’s achievements at Clayfield College during 2018.
In conclusion, what I really want to do now is come back to that scared young girl in the new green and white uniform arriving at the main entrance at Gregory Terrace, Clayfield to where I am today, talking about what I have achieved since. I am so grateful for this opportunity.
And to the Class of 2018—go out there and find your passion…follow your light to find your passion, pivot your passion, and keep your passion alive—because your light will shine so brightly through your living your passion that I know you will find success and happiness in whatever you decide to do!
And I look forward to listening to one of your speeches at a future Clayfield College Speech Night!
Thank you very much.