I’ve been meaning to do this for days, weeks, months.
Sit down + write you this letter.
It’s finally happening now.
It’s early August. Winter sunset is casting sunlight that is golden but otherwise uselessly non-warming. Still, our cherry blossom tree is readying for Spring, preparing itself by sending out tightly enwrapped pink buds off every branch. When warmth comes, it is ready. Ready to burst into song. I could learn from that cherry blossom tree, quit complaining about the cold, ready the celebrations for the turn of season.
A few days ago, we were getting winter-homeschooling-cabin-fever-stir-crazy, so we set off for an early-ish morning walk. Weave through one street, down the next. Walk down the sliver of a walkway between two homes, be ejected out onto the golf course. Skirt the golf course round to the dirt track that weaves over country paddocks. We see luminously green parrots we can’t identify, only marvel over, take notes and photographs so we can look up the names of later. We didn’t used to be like this. Now we are animal-identifying mad. Ostara doesn’t just want to know the names of things, she also wants to know all the names of the animal’s anatomy too, inside and out. Did you know that the membrane between a bat’s foot and tail is called the uropatagium? I do now.
We continue on until the children complain too loudly that it is too far, and we turn back. When we do, a large red fox runs in front of us. We stand and watch him cut away back and forth across the hill until he finally hides beneath a log.
An elderly man sees him too, walking towards us with his delightful and doddering golden retriever named Mac. We stop to talk about the fox, and give Mac cursory cuddles.
Beth (3), pipes up:
“The FOX ran up to the LOG and now he is eating CAKE!”
Mac’s owner replied:
“You’re right! And then after he eats his cake, the bus will pull up and he’ll get on the bus so he can get to the shops!”
It made me giggle inwardly, and I keep thinking of it in the days since.
I just loved this perfect stranger, and his perfect dog, and his ability to seamlessly imagine a cake-eating bus-riding fox world with Beth.
That’s my life right now.
And it has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except I think it also has everything to do with everything.
So, you know me. I’m pretty much an open book. I err on the edge of TMI, not TMM (Tell Me MORE!) Ha!
So it’s been a new experience to have not shared this earlier.
I didn’t really intend to go so long without sharing about it, but it didn’t really feel like the right time, and then I took some time away to homeschool and have a social media break and really just be with my kids without composing blog posts in my head.
And then suddenly the fruit was overripe and it was overtime, and I’m still finding mere snatches of time to tap away at the keyboard, and I’m waiting for pizza to arrive because it’s the only cooking I do now, my husband does it the other 6 nights of the week.
And now I feel like I’m coming out of the closet about it and you might be thinking:
YE GADS WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? WHAT IS SHE DOING? WHY WON’T SHE JUST SAY IT.
And of course, it’s because I’m nervous, and I’m afraid of what you’ll think, and I think I might be judged for it, because I used to judge it quite snarkily myself too. And if you’d told me even 12 months ago that this is what I’d be doing, I would have laughed my ass off and said:
NOPE. NO WAY. NOT EVER. NOT FOR ME.
It’s been one of the most surprising things that’s happened in my career.
I joined an essential oils MLM.
I know. I know. I KNOW.
I know every thought that has run through your head because I totally had the same thoughts.
I used to even have a running joke with Mr Dawsy about the “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Hippy Ascendency.”
It chronicles the evolution from being a normal, to hippy-curious, to hippy-converted, to Peak Hippy.
At the bottom, it started out with:
interest in crystals
Louise Hay books
As you move up the Pyramid of Ascendency, you will go through your phases of:
Law of Attraction
Going on a spiritual pilgrimage to Thailand or India
Becoming annoyingly positive, continuously pulling out such platitudes as “Just think positive!” Or “If it’s meant to be…”
Higher up, you start reaching:
Do your yoga teacher-training, preferably in Bali
Change your name to: a) an Indian name b) something like “Butterfly Rainbow”
Go to a non-speaking retreat and either hate it totally or tell everybody for the next 3.5 years how much quieter your brain is now you’ve done that.
Go vegetarian, then vegan, then have a dalliance into raw vegan.
Name your children after gods, goddesses or nature
Have dreams about joining a commune or intentional community
Join an essential oil MLM.
We also decided that there were only two levels higher:
Decide that monogamy is no longer spiritual, that polyamory was the way of the future
Leave husband because he wasn’t spiritual enough, or because polyamory kinda fucked it all up.
Here… graphic to illustrate:
So right now half of you will be laffing and laffing, and 50% of you will be ready to write pissed off emails to me (that I’ll never read, because I don’t do emails, my VA does!)… so before you bother sending your futile piss-o-gram to me, I want to specify:
We joke about it because we have TOTALLY DONE IT. I can tick off nearly everything except doing yoga teacher-training (yoga is still classified as sport for me, and it would probably take important time away from reading trashy novels), changing my name (only because I was given my spirit name when I was born (Leonie) and married into the right name. I HAVE however changed my middle name to something Wiccan-based so YAY! POINTS OBTAINED!) and going to non-speaking retreat (wanted to, didn’t get to it before children were born, and now my idea of a retreat is a quiet hotel room with art and books and room service and I am NOT wasting my child-free vacation on anything but that). The final two levels are also not an interest to me because as an introvert, I really don’t need any more people in my life. I’m at my people limit, thanks! HAHAHAHAH!
Also, I just wanted to specify: hippies are my favourite sub-culture. I identify as one. I especially like hippies who have a wry sense of humour and who can laff and laff about our own sub-culture with me.
I did it.
I crossed into another phase, ascended into Peak Hippydom.
Here’s how it happened, and why.
Last year, I was sick. Just as I’d been sick the year before.
Ever since I had hyperemesis gravidarum in my last pregnancy three years ago, my immune system was officially at Status: Fucked.
I’ve asked around, and it appears a fairly common side effect for HG sufferers.
I guess vomiting your guts out and nearly dying from dehydration and starvation and organ failure, existing only thanks to IV drips and drugs used on chemo patients, really fucks with your system. Who would have thunk it? I haven’t said it lately, but HG, you really do suck giant donkey dick.
So yes. Sick.
Come 2016, I spent most of six months in bed. Fevers which left me in vast pools of sweat. Chronic, unrelenting, recurring throat and chest infections.
I would mend slowly, then have a week or two out in the world again, and be down and out… again.
I began a slew of tests.
In the midst of the sickness and the unknowing, I wrote this post, published it for a few hours, before taking it down again.
It felt too vulnerable, too close to reality right then.
Roasting with fevers, my bed becoming a pool of sweat.
“How much can one person get sick?” my husband asks.
I shake my head.
I do not know.
I go to the doctor.
She frowns, orders tests and x-rays.
I gulp back tears.
I thought she would maybe tell me I was overreacting, that it was nothing but a bad year for colds.
She does not.
“It might be nothing, it might be something. We need to rule it all out.”
I stumble around the corner to the blood test lab.
I wish I’d brought my husband for this.
Just want to turn him over in my hand like a smooth, constant river rock.
She has a head scarf covered in flowers and gentle eyes.
As she prepares the vials and needles, I sit on the grey throne.
I begin to fixate on all that could be wrong.
Then, I raise my eyes.
There, on the other wall, is posters upon posters of natural miracles: lightning, sand dunes, sunrises.
Some capture my eye: clouds dousing rain across vistas.
And suddenly, I am enthralled by this realisation:
Even if I go
that is what I will do.
I will be a cloud.
I will roam the earth
pouring my love across all that I meet.
I smile. This makes me very happy.
Yes, that is what I will do.
I will watch you all and listen to your stories and I will love you.
Men and women and children, animals and ocean and earth.
I will love you and want only for your best.
I will believe in you.
I will love you. I will shower you with love.
It doesn’t matter what these tests (either now or later) will say.
It doesn’t matter if this is just a speedbump or a collision.
It doesn’t matter if the journey like this, as a Leonie, is long or short. I’ve already lived longer than my brother, than my dad’s brother, than my friend’s children. It’s never about the length of time of life for love to make an impact.
What’s important is this:
I remember what I am now.
I remember what I was born to do.
I’ll just keep doing the very same thing.
I’ll be a cloud.
That time was hard, and it was scary when I wasn’t immersed in the middle of a spiritual awakening in the blood-letting room.
The tests continued.
My inflammation markers were off the charts, in the range of hospitalisation.
Doctors were perplexed.
Blood tests. Then more. Great vats of them. Bottles of blood taken, leaving me swooning.
X-rays. Mammograms. Ultrasounds.
Tuberculosis? Lung cancer? Breast cancer?
Still no answers. Still so sick.
During the midst of it all, an old friend reached out.
I’d been a fan of hers, actually, in 2006’s halcyon days of scrapbook blogging. She was one of the stars then, and I read about her children’s births, and thought:
This is a good chick. I like this one.
Our paths kept crossing over and over.
Then she messaged me one day last year. I’m so glad she did. She opened up a whole new journey for me that day.
“Darling! Let’s jump on Skype! I used to have a fucked immune system from glandular fever too but I’ve fixed mine now. Let me tell you what worked for me… I know it can help you too!”
Let me tell you: by this point in time, I had zero faith that anything would work.
But I liked Em, and jumped at the chance just to have a yak and a bitch over Skype.
She told me her story about being introduced to essential oils while barfing over a toilet in Bali, and had quickly become a full blown oil-convert. She’d gone from being sick half the year to not being sick in years. She told me the most beautiful story about giving her kid’s teachers an essential oil diffuser with Onguard essential oil blend in the classroom to stop her kids getting sick… and the classrooms suddenly and radically reducing the amount of kids being absent from school with sickness. Such a noticeable difference that other teachers had noticed, and asked what those classes had done… and then adopted the On Guard and essential oil use so it’s now used in every room in the school, and all the hallways smell of it! (Which, to me, is totally delightful… if you’ve smelt Onguard, you’ll know what I mean… it’s this beautiful blend of uplifting oils which smells cinnamony and citrusy and warm!)
The funny part is – I knew about essential oils… I mean… I am a damn hippy after all… but I didn’t get how smelling something would help anything… I’d bought heaps of cheap essential oils before from health food shops I’d also bought higher-priced essential oils from a different MLM company before a couple of years before and didn’t resonate at all with them.
So I was cynical to say the least. But I was out of options, so I gave it a go. Just bought some for my immune system, started using them.I learned that it’s not just about smelling the oils, or diffusing them – though that’s a part of it – you can also apply them topically (like to the soles of your feet) and even take them orally (though this has to be done with care and only in specific ways with specific and good-quality oils).
Immediately, I noticed a difference. My never-ending sick started clearing up straight away. My bouts of illness started reducing in length from a week down to a few days, and in occurrence from every few weeks to every few months… until they stopped altogether. The difference was like night and day. When I returned to my doctor months later for follow-up tests, she was stunned by how my blood markers had changed. “Whatever you are doing… keep doing it. It’s working. And hopefully I won’t be seeing you again anytime soon.” I haven’t been back to see her in 7 months now.
What started as a way to fix my fucked immunity blossomed into a way of life.
We use our oils for:
daily emotions and mood management for us and our kids
sleeping and snoring
every health thing that comes up… 99% of the time, our oil box has a solution for it
creating no-tox house cleaning products
making no-tox beauty products
improving concentration and productivity when working
meditation and spiritual practice
the list goes on…
all of a sudden, I was oil mad.
I went away on health retreat and even took my diffuser with me and a big case of oils… which ended up being SO helpful… I diffused oil when I was homesick and needed something to smell like home. One glorious night, I got the oils out and me and my other retreaters lathered up and got essential oil foot massages and were all on a glorious blissful high for hours.
I started telling other mates about it… especially the ones with shit house immunities! One of them messaged me when she was away for a girl’s weekend – one of her friends with her had gotten sick, and my mate was convinced she’d get sick as well. Luckily, she’d taken her On Guard blend with her, and dosed the shit out of herself… meanwhile texting me “If I can get out of this weekend without getting sick… I AM A TOTAL CONVERT!” She did, and she is.
My kids adore it… they both have diffusers in their rooms now, and ask for a blend to be in it when they go to sleep. When I get new oils arrive in the mail, I sit down on the floor with the kids, and we smell them, and look up what kinds of plants they come from, and watch videos about how the plants are harvested. Having essential oils diffusing through the day definitely improves our moods, and I now use them in my office to stimulate my productivity and focus as well!
It’s really beautiful to see how quickly these Crystal Children GET essential oils and connect with them.
Ostara knows if she’s been bitten by a mosquito to come in and ask for lavender to stop the itching. She knows to use Spearmint when she has an upset belly. She knows to ask for oils when she can’t sleep, or when she’s moving through a difficult emotion.
How it has helped me + my family:
It’s improved all of our immune systems. I can’t remember the last time I was sick which is UNHEARD OF. No sicknesses for any of us!
We’ve got a really powerful, beautiful healing tool that helps us through all kinds of hard feelings, moods, tantrums etc… it’s amazing how quickly these oils change things! It’s like being held in the palms of angels…
My anxiety levels are better than they have been in years… I’m so grateful that I’ve got a healing tool that I can use if they do peak up, and I get relief within a minute (I apply Lavender Peace/Serenity onto my diaphragm and rib cage where my muscles tighten up with anxiety).
I sleep better + wake up with more energy (instead of feeling like a truck has run over me) because I apply Frankincense to the soles of my feet before I go to sleep and diffuse Easy Air/Breathe in our bedroom.
We just aren’t going to the doctor or chemist at all really… there hasn’t been any reason to! Considering we’re in the midst of a city in “flu epidemic”… that’s pretty amazing!
and so much more… I just don’t know what we did before oils, really.
Having said that: I will neverrrrrr be one of those people that think everything can be cured with an essential oil. I had way too many (well-meaning but completely misguided) people tell me that my hyperemesis gravidarum could be cured with peppermint oil (or ginger. Or dry crackers. Or some woo-woo reiki healing.) And it was totally frustrating and hard because I would have LOVED for that to be the case. But I needed some serious heavy duty western medication to survive that pregnancy. And honestly, I believe there’s a place for all of this – eastern, western, woo-woo medicine. That we don’t need to choose between them. We can use all of them as tools for better health.
This whole thing has reconnected me so much deeper to the healer woman in me… the intuitive plant medicine. I love that whatever is happening with us, I can turn to my books, and find a natural solution that works quickly, powerfully and often better than the pill alternative. (And trust me – if the pill worked better, I’d take it! I like fast and effective! Ha!)
But honestly… it made so much sense to me… as an earth and plant lover… to harness the powers of their essential oils. It makes me so happy to be out in the garden among the rosemary and lavender and know that the preventative medicine and mood lifters I am using are from the plants I adore so much. I feel like I’m working with the deva of plant medicine, the angels of the earth.
So that’s how I became a mad-raving fan of essential oils.
Next up: how did I fall into another business?
So, let me be clear:
I had NO interest in doing another business. I already have two of them between the workbooks and the Academy! Both of them are million dollar brands, and I was already busy enough.
While we talked about oils though, I had to ask Em about her essential oil business. I LOVE finding out how different businesses are structured. And she shared about how she’d spent years trying to make money different ways both online and offline, and that she’d really needed to find something that supported her and her family. So when she found this business, she decided to really give it a red hot go… and within less than a year was earning multiple six figures. On her two year anniversary, she’d built to half a million dollars a year. And she’d been doing it while being a present mama to her 3 kids. She obviously adored what she was doing, and it got my brain ticking, because I had a close friend who was looking to do… SOMETHING. Who wanted to make money outside of a job, she just weren’t sure WHAT.
So I started investigating it as a business opportunity for her. I wanted to make sure that if I was telling her about something, I knew that it was a good one… plus it was exciting for my funny little brain that loves to work out business models! At this stage, I definitely wasn’t thinking about it as a business for me. I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t recommend anything to my mate that wasn’t bonza.
Anyways, as I was doing my research… I realised just how much possibility there was… I discovered there were a number of my friends and associates (and even clients I had done private coaching with in years past) who had gone on to create 7 figure income streams.
And as I was doing this, I realised how beautifully it would work for so many of my clients who had so much passion to create an income for themselves and their family… they just needed the SOMETHING to sell.
So doing all the research and realising just how many benefits to this kind of business model… I realised that not only did I think it was a good business model for some of my friends and family… but that there was this increasing spark inside me that said:
Me. I want to do this. I want to build another business in this as well.
I know what you might be thinking:
Fucking essential oils? How do I build a 6 figure business from smelly shit?
Multi Level Marketing? Isn’t that a pyramid scheme?
Is this Amway? GROSS!
Is this really something for me?
So, I totes know those questions, because fuck, I TOTALLY had the same reaction.
The idea kept calling me for months, and I would only tell my husband Chris or my mentor Hiro because I was SO EMBARRASSED. Even then, I would say it as a joke:
“I have secret fantasies about running away and joining the MLM circus!”
I had to keep exploring it, turning it over in my head, having more conversations and sitting with myself before I worked through all the questions and worries I had in my head.
Honestly – in the past, I’ve been quite judgey about multi level marketing.
It was only when I did the research that not only was it a really fucking cool business model… but that I knew a stack of friends, family and clients who would resonate really beautifully with it, and that it would be an amazing income source for them.
Here’s why I fell in love with the business model:
They are really, really generous. They have one of the most generous compensation plans in the industry. It’s actually really doable for committed people to earn 6 figures + 7 figures.
They have one of the highest retention rates of customers in the industry – doTERRA enjoys a 68 percent retention rate, compared to a direct selling industry average near 10 percent. After joining doTERRA, 68 percent of all customers reorder, continue to share doTERRA products, or build a doTERRA business. What this means is: customers are REALLY happy with their orders… and it’s easier for doTERRA businesses to continue earning moolah! If you look at something like Tupperware that is sold through direct sales like doTERRA – there’s only so many products you can buy before your kitchen fills up. This is a consumable resource which means it creates long term residual income.)
They were just ranked the #2 best MLM company worldwide to partner with (despite being a relatively new business – they only started in 2008!)
You don’t have to hold stock or pay for expenses… it’s pure profit. (Which, to me, having spent $500k last year to print workbooks, is a masssssive turn on!)
Financial boner alert: it is also residual passive income. Once you build a stable business, you will receive income for life. Basically… a really fucking cool retirement plan. I think it’s a beautiful insurance idea really… for when you want to take holidays, have time away to have more babies, if you get sick or if, you know… LIFE happens!
The reason they sell it as a multi-level marketing company (also known as “network marketing” or “direct marketing”) is that doTERRA wants you to find a doTERRA business owner (called a “Wellness Advocate”) who supports, educates and helps people get the most out of their essential oils. They don’t want people to just go into stores and buy them. They want people to be connected and helped through the process so they can get the most benefit out of the essential oils. Being a doTERRA Wellness Advocate isn’t really about “selling” – it’s about sharing, connecting and helping people. Or as Em says “I get to hear everyone’s secrets so I can help them! I get to be their OIL FAIRY!”
It’s still a (very) untapped market… less than 1% of the population use essential oils… but over 70% of the population are interested in using natural products to improve their health.
Essential oils are something people need to purchase again and again – which increases your earning rates as a business as you get a commission for everyone’s orders for all time! Also… as you’ll soon learn… they are a bit of an addictive thing that brings people so much joy!
They have a really wonderful fair trade model of business that support communities in developing countries to grow indigenous plants for their area.
I also think that in a lot of ways it’s a really great business model alternative to change to, or add into your income streams. Here’s why:
It’s a plug and play business model. Everything is already worked out for you – the training, distribution, product, development, research, admin, marketing systems. You just have to actually do the work.
It’s easier to coach people in it because it’s a set of steps without much variance no matter where or who you are.
I’m tired of launching and the launch model. I suspect a lot of people are.
For me personally, I wanted to have an income stream that was a less personal brand, that didn’t require me to be public facing all the time.
Adding extra income streams is a smart financial move.
And again: the long-term passive recurring income. There’s not many businesses that can offer it.
Now: WTF would I be doing a doTERRA business?
So, when I talked to Em the first time about doTERRA businesses, I did NOT think it would be worth my time at all.
I’ve created two million dollar brands. I own a fast-growth company that is highly profitable. I’ve been finalist for myBusiness’ Australian Business Woman of the Year award and Ausmumpreneur of the Year. And I don’t want to be a wanker here, but I became a self-made millionaire just after I was 30 years old.
My time is money, and it’s really important for me to choose v. wisely.
And I started seeing it as a really fun extra passive-income stream for me… that would mean I could ease up the gas on my current workload, take time off to write a book (or just fuck around drawing unicorns and playing with my kids)… while building a long-term abundant financial security for me and my family. And most of all, I could gift my husband with a retirement plan. Even though we have other investments and excellent savings, I married a man who is a worrying worrier. He is very risk adverse… and bless him, he married an entrepreneur. He’s supported my dreams, stepped out of his own career to look after our kids so I could build my companies, even when it can be scary for him. My heart wells with gratitude when I think of his sacrifice, and I dearly want to give him the gift of a glorious retirement plan. It’s a love plan.
I also started getting excited about how fun it would be to apply my brain to something new… and to be able to help people super directly in their businesses, and see them prosper too. It would give me so much fucking JOY to use all the business and marketing skills I’ve built and work with people to see them reach their financial and lifestyle goals. In lots of ways I already do that, but this felt like it would be even more intimate and connected!
6 months on… how has my doterra business building journey been?
I decided to take six months and give it a good “test run”. See how it felt, see how doable it was, see the kinds of results people could get with it before going “public” fully with it.
My “test run” is officially ended, and it’s been a success – financially, emotionally + lifestyle-wise.
I’ve hit $200k a year already, and have plans to be at $1.3m a year by end of this year. I’m on track to be the fastest doterra builder in history.
More importantly, I’ve been able to coach + help other women (many complete business newbies without existing audiences!) build their own sustainable, abundant incomes, with many of them on track to earn multiple 6 figures within a year of starting. That’s pretty decent business odds if you ask me!
(Just to be super clear here: it is absolutely doable for someone to create a multiple 6 figure doterra business within 12 months without having an existing audience or business. It takes WORK… as does every business. But it definitely DOES work and I know many people who have done it, including my wonderful mate Em who introduced me to the oils!)
But honestly, the best parts are less tangible:
the joy of helping other women reach THEIR financial and business goals
getting to hear stories every single day of healing miracles of oils in my customer’s lives
becoming a major sponsor of Suluhisho Children’s Orphanage in Kenya
getting to do business with some of my closest friends
and most of all: doing business as a team sport for the first time
bonus points: retreats + hang outs.
I’ve realised how lonely it’s been to run a business solo for so long. This business comes with SO MUCH support built-in. It’s a community. It’s a sisterhood. I’m astonished when I get presents and cards in the mail from other people in my tribe when I reach a new doterra rank. I’m gobsmacked at how much free coaching and training there is available. I’m in awe of how much we’re all in this together.
I’m also really grateful for:
the chance for me to clear up my incorrect assumptions about network marketing
being able to master new business skills in a new industry
being able to teach about network marketing from what I’ve learned from being on the ground building a business in it (and learning its differences + similarities to traditional business).
So… that’s all.
5000 words to share with you what Leonie Did Next.
It was a leap of faith. A surprise twist. Something I never saw coming.
But I’m glad I did it. Glad I leapt.
It’s healed parts of me that I didn’t even know needed healing.
I’m having the time of my life.
I’m totally jazzed + excited to support more people in getting these oils into their lives… I think every home should have them!
AND I’m also deeeeeeelighted to help new peeps who want to build an abundant doTERRA business with me!
Please don’t email me to try to convert me to another MLM or essential oils company. I also know there’s a whole bunch of East Side/West Side conflict between Young Living and doTERRA. I have less than zero interest. I’ve tried other oils. I resonate with doTERRA’s the most.
I am not interested in poaching existing doTERRA wellness advocates. The only reason to change uplines would be if you have had no contact with your enroller and haven’t ordered for 6 months. If that’s not you, please follow doTERRA policy and bloom where you are planted.
Shitty emails will be sent straight to the bin by my VA. I’m not going to see them, and I am not particularly interested in what you think about me or my life or business decisions. If you are triggered by my decisions, perhaps it’s a wonderful opportunity to do some journalling or self-reflective work. You may also find this video useful.
If you email me asking questions that have already been answered in this post, you will be sent this link to read.
I will be continuing with my other two companies (workbooks + Academy) with great gusto + joy. This is just a third string to my bow. Those two brands have been my driving force for the last 7 years, and will continue to be a major part of my journey moving forward.
If you’re wondering how I’m managing 3 companies + homeschooling my 2 kids, there is a “how I do homeschooling” course in the Academy that answers that. Basically it’s the exact same way I’ve always worked part-time hours while building my businesses – doing only the important things and either deleting, automating or delegating the rest. I also talked about my commitment to Pareto’s Rule here.
I will be continuing to talk about all the other things that I usually talk about. It won’t be a 24/7 essential oil channel. It will just be an addition to all the other sharings I do.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for sharing this (surprising and delightful) journey with me!
I’ve decided to continue my social media hiatus – it feels too good and right for me not to.
I wanted to share my reasons why + what that will look like.
I’ve been online for such a long time – blogging since 2004, social media since 2007, with not much of a break (if at all in there).
It used to be a source of ginormous joy and creativity and connection for me.
The last few years, it shifted for me however. I started feeling saddened and defensive from the level of outrage and vitriol thrown around when someone misunderstands or disagrees with you. We would never speak that way in real life to someone’s face, and yet it’s all too easy to type it out to an apparently imaginary figure. I’ve lost too many hours of sleep putting out the latest internet fire because someone has wished to speak in ways which damage others.
I also have an increasingly un-fun relationship with the fame part. I never set out to become famous, I just wanted to share my work and help as many people as possible. I’ve noticed however that as my “personal fame” grew, so did people’s projections about me, what they wanted from me and how they saw me as a human (i.e. increasingly less human the more famous I got). It used to be that just the people who loved my work knew me. Now some people just know me because of the numbers of other people knowing my work. It feels wonky and odd and skew-iff when I’m either hated precisely because so many people know me or when I’m lauded for the same. It feels strange when I am treated more viciously and abusively because my work is known by many.
My skin has become thicker over the years from the attacks, it is easier to shrug it off as yet another projection. And yet, it also makes me feel more jaded, less light of heart, less willing to share from the vulnerable places. And honestly, it still hurts. I’ve tried to do good work and help people, and share the abundance I’ve received along to do even more good work with charities.
Of course it sucks when people are so eager to throw shit, so willing to dispel everything they know about you from a long history of doing good work, to project and name-call and attack. I’d tell you what I’ve been called over the years, and even worse for me personally, the things that have been said about my dear (and private) husband. You would gasp and you would laugh and you would say “How on earth could someone say that?”
But they have. And it adds to that etchings of scars, and I want to coil myself tighter, protect that tender heart of mine, protect those I love the most, those who never chose to have a wife or mother who happens to write books that a lot of people know in a time of wild west social media.
For me, it’s always about the work. It’s always about the work. It’s always about the work. The work of creating and sharing. Making art and writing, sharing what I know. Nothing more, nothing less.
I’ve been so grateful for the abundance I’ve received in my life. Grateful for the hours my family and I could spend together because of it, excited by the support we could provide to wonderful charities doing good work because of that.
For me, it’s always about the work. It’s always about the work. It’s always about the work. The work of creating and sharing. Making art and writing, sharing what I know. Nothing more, nothing less.
Taking a month off social media meant many things:
It meant I could take a break from feeling constantly on call.
It meant my shoulders could lower for a bit, no longer feeling tense, ready for the next attack.
It meant I could stop formulating every moment into a social media post and just tuck it into the pocket of my own presence instead.
It meant realigning to my priorities to all that is true for me:
First and foremost, I’m a soul, incarnated in the world, on my own journey. Secondly, I’m a mama and wife. Thirdly I’m a creative being. And far, far down that list of priorities, I am a business owner and entrepreneur.
A month off social media meant that when I created space in my life, something new came into fill it, as it always does.
And that thing that happened came as a wee bit of a surprise, and has also been one of the best things that has ever happened to me and my sweet family: we began homeschooling.
It’s been better than I ever could have believed possible, and healed so many pieces of me, and this, this right here, this is what I’ve always wanted to be.
Afternoons reading Story of the World and Fantastic Mr Fox on a blanket in the backyard, the autumn leaves golden, our resident Crimson Rosellas listening in from nearby branches. Art projects, and excursions, and homeschooling on a rock overlooking a great valley. Sunset walks up into the hills to look for wombats and rabbits. Nestling beside each other as Starry proudly reads me her very first book. A gift, all of this over and over again.
My kids are growing up.
That’s the surprising reality of my eldest turning 7. For so long, I’ve been counting down the years until it would be easier. And the elders would say: The years go by too fast! They grow up far too quick! And I would be sleep-deprived and lost in Toddler Land and too ridden with Post Natal Depression than to groan and inwardly think: Not fast enough.
But now suddenly I see it, and I see how true it all is, and I’m over 30% of the way there with Starry, and in another seven years, she’ll be 14, and it’s going too fast and I miss their baby faces and their toddler faces. And I’ve worked hard the last couple of years, and I’ve felt like I’ve been too focussed on that, and not on them, and I don’t want to miss a moment longer. And if you ever asked me to choose between this or that it would always be: them, them, them.
So to choose between social media and my inner sanctum, Facebook and my family, it is an easy decision. Of course I don’t HAVE to choose between them, many people do it, and do it well. I’ve done it for a long time. And it might be right again for me in the future. But right now, it’s not right for me.
A month of social media hiatus passed by, and there was no calling to return. It’s too good for it to end.
And so it won’t be.
And I thought about what all that meant, and what I’d like to do next.
Here’s the thing: I’ve worked hard for a long ass time to build my businesses. I’m not giving them up by any means. I’m just changing the parameters of how I wish to share and create.
I’m aching to do something different than hastily write Instagram posts and a zillion quote images.
And the joy of having built my business for such a long time… I don’t actually have to hustle anymore. I don’t HAVE to be on social media to earn coin. I can just continue with my work behind the scenes and be joyfully paid by that. I can afford to experiment, and find a path that is healthy and good and true for me once again.
So here’s what I’m doing next:
I’m continuing to pause the Workbook Facebook group and my Facebook page. Instagram and Twitter will be paused as well. These are all additional free services outside of my core business that I provide that cost me time, heart energy and staffing costs.
Will they be reopened in the future? I’m not sure. Maybe, if and when I feel called to it. It has to feel right and good and true for me.
I understand that this may cause sadness or grief for you. For that, I am sorry. And I also know that it is sacred and important work for me to hold the energy of that space, and if I am not called to continuing that currently in a strong and presence-filled way, it is not healthy to allow it to continue. Otherwise the energy will become distorted and wonky, and will not hold true to its original intention. (And no, I am not called to having moderators take over instead. After 15+ years of online community management, I know just how important it is to uphold the energy of an online space, and it’s not something I can allocate out.)
So if I am not called to it, I must trust in the words of my mentor Hiro Boga: “A no from your soul is a yes to other people’s souls.” I hope and pray that with this new space cleared in your life, it will be filled by something even better and more aligned for you.
I’m off on public-facing hiatus for the next wee while.
No blogging, no social media, even unpublished my FB page.
I’ll still be behind the scenes, working with publishers for my workbooks + teaching my Academy members + building my third company. I’ve loved being on stage, but it’s a beautiful change to be going quiet on the public front intentionally for a while.
I’ve been blogging since 2004, on social media since 2007. It’s time for a break.
I’ll probably be back later this month + will share the juicy deets about my third company then if the time feels right.
I always bring food. Gourmet donuts or expensive hipster treats. This time, I was running late, so it was a McCafe assortment of cheesecake and macarons.
Food is the way I celebrate, the way I make everything a celebration. Life is better when there’s ridiculously good food around.
Food makes long meetings feel like parties.
I pull up to that big white building, hauling boxes of books and juggling smoothies. I come bearing gifts.
I get greeted with hugs and wide smiles.
This is one of my favourite rituals.
I chose them carefully, my accountants.
These are my third set since starting in business.
With each one, as my business has grown, I’ve outgrown my old accountants.
I never want to be the big fish in a small pond. I want to be mentored and taught by accountants who know how to do business my size and beyond.
The last time I outgrew, I got disciplined in my selection process.
I knew how important accountants were to me, and I wanted them to fill my needs.
Before I had recruited accounting firms by referral, but this time I wanted to step it up.
So I created a spreadsheet of everything I wanted in an accountant:
Experience with online businesses
Experience with export businesses
Using cloud software
Quick responses to my email requests
Managing companies that were both smaller and much larger than mine (so that they had the skill set for exactly my size).
I also had columns for:
Whether they answered my call quickly or responded back to my enquiry quickly
Whether I liked them on the phone and if they made me laugh. (Because, you know… FUN is important to have!)
Then I added rows for all the accounting firms in my area, and set to work on calling them to interview them over the phone.
Some accountants were rude. Some had no clue about what I was talking about. Some made it clear I was outside of their expertise of “mom and pop small businesses.” Some didn’t respond to calls.
Each one was noted. Each negative answer was marked in red, each criteria addressed was marked in green.
Rob was the star performer in that interview round.
He got me. He got my industry. I wasn’t a large anomaly to him as a 7 figure business – he advised much larger companies than I. He was kind and patient and funny.
He got all green stars.
Rob said to me much later:
You’re the only person in 20 years who has interviewed ME to be their accountant. I had to work hard in that interview too! I knew what you were like just from that phonecall.
It’s been 18 months since I started making those quarterly walks up to his office, arms overloaded with food.
We settle in. The meetings are always long.
There is so much to discuss.
Numbers paint just a part of a picture, he says.
They raise questions, but the answers can only be answered by you.
That’s what these sessions are about.
Rob shows the numbers and is the voice of the questions:
This part here? This makes me want to ask: What is happening here? Why is this part growing? Why is this number increasing?
And sometimes I already know the answers and can confidently say:
I know about that. That’s a risk I took and it paid off.
I felt like that was happening. It’s a decision I made, and it hasn’t worked out, and I need to change it.
Things become clearer when the numbers paint their picture and I fill it in.
This time around, I feel like there’s a great weight on me.
It’s our meeting to review the year beforehand, the year of 2016, the year belovedly called: What In The Holy Fuck Just Happened?
It was the year I hired a large team, went through 3 COO’s in quick succession the year that did.not.work.at.all.
Thankfully, the company continued to grow in revenue, and despite expenses skyrocketing, I still made good profit.
But it wore on me. I worked harder than I ever have. I fought for the vision and purpose of my company. I felt profoundly unsupported and misunderstood. I didn’t love what I did anymore. When I went on health retreat, I cried because I couldn’t bear going back to work again.
I finally decided: No more. It’s my way or the highway. I will claim my own power and recreate this company to fit ME.
And I did. It was surprising how quickly things felt better, how much the noise quietened once I got clear. I slashed everything that didn’t fit Pareto’s Rule (20% of your work (the core, central, good stuff) will create 80% of your profit (abundant and joyful), 80% of your work (all the excess stuff) will create 20% of revenue (hard won and salted with sweat and tears).
I’ve been returning to this writing over and over for weeks, trying to get there. Trying to create the space and the quiet in my mind for it to keep flowing forward.
I went away to an essential oil convention which was huge and wonderful and energetically intense. I have a laughter hangover from being around my favourite girl squad, more stories than I can tell. And I backed it up with running the Mindfulness and Manifesting Success event yesterday at Australian National University.
And I’m grateful I’ve done both these things… heart-glad I’ve connected and shared and turned up and experienced.
And then it comes to pay the Introvert Tax, the tax of being highly sensitive/aspie/easily stimulated/whatever you want to call it.
The comedown, the overload, the backlog of thoughts and ideas and feelings and stories and adventures that need to be processed… whether that’s by telling them to Chris, writing about them here or in my journal, or simply just reliving it myself in my head until it makes sense.
I’m reading “First We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety” by Sarah Wilson, and it’s by far the best book I’ve read on anxiety. Everything makes sense now, and I just keep telling all my mates: Go. Go now. Go get. Read now. Must. In it, she talks about her experience of anxiety (and bipolar), and what she does to keep it being a gift, not a hindrance. And it’s making me think of all the things I need to do to calm the farm – the weighted blankets, the writing, the quiet expanses of spaciousness just to… think. And create. And make sense of it all.
So it’s Thursday and my commitments from the last couple of months have ended and I feel like I have a bit more spaciousness now. To write and think again.
And there’s still backlog to work through, but this is part of it.
Gotta write it out to make sense of it all.
So I’m cocooned away, in my office, door locked, lanky now-3-year-old playing with her papa bear.
Not only that, but I’ve gone into the innermost creative cave of it… the nook of the walk-in robe just off my office… a bean bag and candles and crystals and hand cream in a corner by the window… a sanctuary away from any noise.
Here. Here I’ll return to me again. I’ve gone on many adventures. It’s time to write myself home.
I wonder, you know. I wonder how I could have been a better manager, a better hirer so that I could have scaled up into a larger-sized business.
But it’s like trying to make an antelope be an anteater.
It’s not my gift in the world. It’s not what I was born to do. It’s not what lights me up.
This, this right here does. This part about writing and sharing, this part of listening enough to hear the soft voice inside of me, that’s what I was destined to be on the planet for.
To create endless systems and check-ins to monitor and ensure my staff were at full productivity and doing the right thing?
Nope. Nope. No. Not in a million years.
It was just way too… peopley.
And I didn’t have the right people.
And I didn’t love it, at all.
And I could spend my time beating myself up about that… about the fact that I’m not born to give dictation, I’d rather just do it myself… about the fact that this particular constellation of cells needs and craves great swathes of time in order to listen to the drum in her head and tap tap tap it out onto the keyboard in simpatico. I was not born to be a manager. I was born to be a Leonie.
But what’s the point of beating myself up?
It changes nothing.
And it makes the misassumption that managers are better than introverted creative types.
The fact is, this world needs both.
I got born as the latter.
And it’s my job to craft a life and a business that sings to that and plays to my best side.
So I returned to my Hedgehog Concept… the one that I’ve always been so devout about but it got messed with when I had too many loud voices in my team so insistent that they knew better.
The Hedgehog Concept is from my (beloved business-boner-inducing) Jim Collins.
From Mind Tools – a good article about the Hedgehog Concept:
If you could choose to be a fox or a hedgehog, which would you rather be?
Many people would choose to be a fox. After all, foxes are beautiful, sleek and cunning. Hedgehogs, which are small, prickly creatures found in Europe, Asia and Africa, are quite the opposite: slow, quiet and plodding.
So what do foxes and hedgehogs have to do with your organization’s success? In short, everything.
In this article, we’ll look at the Hedgehog Concept, and we’ll discuss why it pays to be a hedgehog in business.
About the Model
The Hedgehog Concept is based on an ancient Greek parable that states: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
In the parable, the fox uses a variety of strategies to try to catch the hedgehog. It sneaks, pounces, races, and plays dead. And yet, every time, it walks away defeated, with a nose full of spines. The fox never learns that the hedgehog knows how to do one thing perfectly: defend itself.
Philosopher Isaiah Berlin took this parable and applied it to the modern world in his 1953 essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” Berlin divided people into two groups: foxes and hedgehogs.
In his essay, he argued that foxes are sleek and shrewd animals that pursue many goals and interests at the same time. Because of this wide variety of interests and strategies, their thinking is scattered and unfocused, and they are limited in what they can achieve in the long run.
Hedgehogs, however, are slow and steady, and people often overlook them because they’re quiet and unassuming. But, unlike the fox, they are able to simplify the world and focus on one overarching vision. It’s this principle that guides everything they do, and helps them succeed against all odds.
Jim Collins developed this idea further in his classic 2001 book, “Good to Great.” According to Collins, organizations are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing, and do it well. By doing so, they can beat their competitors and become truly great businesses.
An organization can find its “Hedgehog Concept” by making three separate assessments. First, it can understand what its people are truly passionate about. Next, it can identify what it does better than anyone else. And last, it can determine where it’s good at generating revenue.
The right way forward is where all three answers intersect, and it’s this central position that is the “sweet spot” for the organization’s strategy.
I’d always been so devout about that Hedgehog Concept… knew what worked for the workbooks and the Academy. When I listened too much externally about what I SHOULD be doing next, it led to so much feature and product bloat it wasn’t funny. Revenue went up, but expenses leapt up at the same rate. More work, more money coming in, more money going out, same profit. I took on projects that I shouldn’t have. I got burned to a crisp.
In that meeting with Rob that day, I said:
I should have said No. I should have said No so much more. I should have just listened to what I knew was right, and continued to steer the ship in the direction it needed to go. I wish I had been stronger.
Rob looks at me kindly.
You know, Leonie, you need to be gentler on yourself. And that’s not true. You DID say No. You said No a LOT. I was with you in some of those meetings with your staff. You said No to many of those things that people were pushing you to do. You always knew.
You know, you were always going to get to this point…
How so? I ask, pleading to know the answer of how I’d managed to fuck it up.
Volume was always going to kill you in the end.
You’re not a slow growth company. You’re a high growth company. Sheer volume of orders was always going to force your hand. You were going to have to decide on either of two options: hiring a large team, or outsourcing. There are pros and cons of both, and it comes down to personal choice.
You just explored the option of hiring a large team. You’ve discovered that does not bring you joy at all, or help you feel like you are fulfilling your company mission.
So now you are streamlining and outsourcing.
Either way, you were going to reach a pain point. You couldn’t have kept going the way that you were without choosing one option or the other. All you’ve done is learn which one you don’t wish to do. Excellent. And you’ve done it while staying profitable. You can count that as a win.
Oh, I say.
Maybe I couldn’t have prevented the pain. Maybe I hadn’t made a mistake. Maybe I could give up on believing that if I’d just controlled more, worked harder, I could have avoided the growing strain.
This is normal, he says.
Everyone goes through this. Everyone has their thing to work through. The pain brought on by owning a high growth company. It’s called scaling up, and it isn’t always graceful.
I will get asked this question, so I’ll pre-emptively answer: Rob is from DFK Everalls.
Yes, I recommend them.
*However* they may not be the right fit for you. It’s up to you and your criteria.
Do your own spreadsheet and interview round.
It’s worth it to find gold like this.
Maybe I’m not that special. Maybe I couldn’t have done anything else but been what I am.
I think about what Richard Branson says:
“Even if I’m falling flat on my face, I’m happy, because I know I’m still moving forward.”
I fell on my face. It was muddy and shitty and it hurt.
It did not feel graceful.
It broke my heart to see my dream – that thing I loved waking up in the morning to do, become something I didn’t want to return to.
But that right there – that time, that space – gave me the opportunity to reclaim it.
A reclamation of vision, determined to heal my dream and make it whole again.
And in doing so, I stepped into myself again. My power and my light and my joy. My salty intuition and my lioness guts.
Each step of the way as I carved off the pieces that stung and the pieces that did not fit, I felt lighter again.
This. This is what it is meant to be. This dream that was here all along. It might have got covered up with vines and barnacles… but the castle remains.
Maybe I didn’t make a mistake – I just did what everybody does.
I tried something. It didn’t work. So I’m trying something else.
Right now, it’s working.
And if it stops working, I’ll change course again.
Maybe there’s never any wrong turns, just scenic drives along the way to give you insight and travelling stories you wouldn’t have without. My eyes are different for having seen that land. My heart is stronger and wider for having felt that pain and choosing me and my dream again.
Maybe the whole point of all this is that sometimes, in life and in business,
we go to places we don’t want to go, we learn lessons we don’t want to learn, we see things we don’t wish to see.
Maybe the whole point is that growth of any kind (revenue or spiritual) doesn’t come without pains, without fumbling and near misses in the dark.
That nobody gets through this unscathed, without their war stories, without their “Holy fuck can you believe THAT just happened?”
But that maybe the whole breathless, sweaty mess crafts us into better humans, far better than if the road was always smooth, the air always sweet, the choices easily made.
That this is what we were made for, the destruction and the resurrection, the losing and the reclamation.
It’s all the more sweeter, all the more precious, to have lost it and claimed it again.
I shared about my bigger reasons here. Basically: I’ve added courses + services out the wazoo for the Academy, and even at the increased price, it’s still a fantastic investment for people.
Q: Is this a new thing you’re offering?
LOLZ. Nope. I’ve been running the Academy since 2010 – nearly 7 years now! I’ve taught thousands of women in that time to grow abundant, successful businesses + have happier lives. I’ve adored watching their lives + businesses change + grow because of the Academy! I’m so very proud!
Q: Can I buy just the business courses? Or just the life courses? Or just one course on its own?
Nope. The Academy is the best way I can support you. It’s comprehensive support.
Q: What if I’ve already signed up at a lower price? Does that mean you are increasing my membership price?
Absolutely not. You get to keep the membership price you signed up at for life.
I’ve always promised my Academy members that even if I increase prices, I will let all members keep the price they signed up with. (Note: if you cancel your membership and want to renew later, you have to sign up at the new price. So always best to keep your membership renewed!)
I take care of you, boo!
Q: What is your spirit animal?
Trick question for those still reading. Buffalo or horse.
Q: Will I get to keep this price, or will it go up?
Whatever price you enrol at, you get to keep forever. So if you sign up today for $497, that’s your membership price forevs. Even if I double prices again in another two years and start selling the Academy for $1997 a year – you’ll get to keep it for $497 a year. YAY!
There are NO refunds for Academy memberships except where required by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Law.
There are no refunds for change of mind, or because you’ve logged into the membership site and quickly realised that you will still need to actually – you know – work to see results. It’s not a “Click a Buy Button and Instantly Fix All Your Problems” kind of thing. Nothing is.
As soon as you enrol, you receive access to 120+ of my business, marketing, tech, creativity, spirituality, meditation and relationship courses. If you use them, they will work for you. They’ve been used by thousands of people over the last 6 years with huge results. It’s a unique, generous offering, and you’d be hard pressed to find as much content, resources, love and goodness in such an affordable program. When you invest in yourself with the Academy membership, your purchase is final.
I stand fully behind my products, and I don’t enable quitters. Do the work + you’ll see the results. Simple.
It’s funny how both my babies – the Academy and the workbooks have been around for exactly the same amount of years as I’ve been a mama. I wrote the workbooks with a full moon belly of Ostara, and got the idea for the Academy one night in the dark haze of night breastfeeding a tiny baby in my arms.
I opened it the week after moving back to my hometown with a chubbier baby on my hip.
Oooh! Let me see if I can find the original video for it.
Nope… but I DID just find this!
Oh Leonie of 7 years ago. You are so beautiful babes. I am so proud of you. And I know your vajayjay is all bung up in this video, and you’ve got some big hard times ahead of you. But you’re going to make it through. And you’ll do it all your own way. And it will be enough. It will be perfect in its human kind of way. I love you.
EEEEP. Okay… that was a fun SASHAYYY down memory lane.
I just finished writing up all the courses I’m teaching for the next year for my Academy members. A beautiful blend of business, marketing, life, relationship, meditations + creativity. I feel excited. It feels… GOOD. I can’t wait to share them with you.
I took the weekend off social media + phones completely. Deleted them all off my phone, haven’t put them back on. Instead of using the phone as my reflex when I was bored or overstimulated… I had to make better choices. I read, and I journalled. I read a romance book in the bath so long I had to top it up twice with hot water. I made big art – the kind I haven’t done for a while.
All these choices I’ve made and been making…
it’s like the spring rains are coming
and little tendrils and petals are unfurling.
I feel like I’ve been beige for a while, for a variety of reasons – stress, illness, I lost my way.
But now I’ve reclaimed my path…
And damn it feels good.
Leonie in full colour is returning to life.
And it’s the most wonderful feeling of all.
If you’d told me last year that I’d feel this good by this time, I wouldn’t have believed you.
All I needed to do was make some decisions that were big and hard at the time…
but damn… if my life isn’t magnificent and good again from them.
How do I even begin to share about that night, about that magic, about what it meant to me, about who James Taylor is in the celestial gallery of stars in my heart?
At the very beginning I guess.
I didn’t get much of a musical history education as a kid.
I lived on a farm, and my parents were too busy chasing cattle or children to consider something as insignificant as music.
(That said, they did encourage us to play music – my brother and sister both played clarinet, the world’s unsexiest instrument, and I attempted very hard to learn how to play guitar thanks to my glorious Year 5 teacher Mr Davis, but only really mastered “Wild Thing”. Playing music just never was easy for my brain, not like the easy home of art and writing.)
There were a few stray albums floating around later on – The Lion King soundtrack and The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.
And like every good child of the 80s and early 90s, I made mixtape recordings of the radio, screechy beginnings and endings and all.
I felt like a scavenger, desperate to find the songs that lived in my heart but hadn’t heard with my ears.
The only glimpses I heard was when my cousin Michael visited and sang old country music songs, or I listened to his dad’s scratchy recordings on tape…. his deep voice visiting from the past, glorious and strong, long before emphysema rendered him a grey ashen shadow on my grandmother’s verandah, spitting up chunks of lung into a yellow ice cream bucket. If ya’ll want to know why I’m so anti-smoking, glimpse into this window of the blonde, curly-haired imp, sitting on her Uncle Trevor’s bed, watching TV with him on his tiny screen for endless, baking hours.
“The only twisted branch… on my good old family tree…”
My Uncle Trevor’s ghostly voice sang from the tapes.
So I’d take his old guitar out to the long grass by the fence behind the vege patch, and I’d try to sing his songs too.
It came easy to him, but it didn’t come easy to me.
When I was 15 I could sense an earthquake was beginning to erupt on our family farm, one that would continue for years and break apart forever the Allan Dynasty. No more Christmases spent with the legion of aunties and uncles and cousins, no more pride in being an Allan, not when Allans turned against other Allans, not when there was greed and hatred and childhood hurts turned into adult warfare. I know your interest is piqued, and oh, the stories I could tell. But now’s not the time, and this is not the place, and they’ve all been eaked out by me in therapy already until the hurt no longer hurt and the shock no longer shocked, and all that is left is: Well, that happened.
Still, I left before the real earthquakes began. Somehow, somewhere, deep inside, I knew I needed to get out. Not because I hated the place – but because I knew I needed more. Get off the farm, get out of that small town, get out of that high school that was so filled with chaos and pain and bullying.
I sent myself to boarding school. I sent away for prospectuses, took scholarship exams, and when I had enough offers, I chose not was the most big or flash. Just the one that felt like the most like me. It was small and homely and filled with naive country kids who’d grown up doing School On The Air. Kids who took the opportunity of Free Dress days not to dress up as “cool” or “hot” as possible… but to wear their Akubra cowboy hats and their Wrangler jeans.
And those country kids? They still remain dear friends to this day, ones I’m so proud of, kids who dreamed big dreams and made them happen: the ABC correspondent who raised 3 kids in Africa, Australia’s expert on the Burma crisis, Canberra’s urban planner, a micro-electronic engineer who designs the software cars run on (and also happens to be the world #2 in beer pong). The pride is real, guys.
I chose the right place. There I had teachers who were kind and brilliant and fascinating who loved what they did. When high school teachers don’t have to spend their days policing for drugs or defending themselves against physical attacks from students or just even spending three quarters of class time getting that one kid just to BEHAVE ALREADY… that one kid who should have been expelled long ago, but hasn’t been… when they don’t have to spend their time doing that, and can just teach? They are a miracle to watch and a joy to experience.
Miss Weeks who would giddily clap her hands and squee when I handed in a writing assignment, telling me she couldn’t wait to read what I’d write. She’d encourage me to write more, be more florally, be more expressive, be even more of myself. Mr Trezona who was so excited about computers and IT and the internet I couldn’t help but catch the contagion, who treated me like a person and told me stories of his life which filled me with wonder and awe. Miss Scott who gave me my first spiritual book – The Celestine Prophecy, who was more dear friend than teacher, and continues to be to this day. Miss Landsberg, who told me stories of her life during the war as we sat together, side by side on a wire framed bench, looking out over the night. The rest of the boarding dorms were filled with ants scurrying and chatting, but between us there was a secret world we could talk our way through each break. She still writes me letters now, at 90. She is one of the bravest women I know. Mr Thompson our Principal, who believed in me and was kind to me even when others didn’t see his kind side, and he protected me from the war that was happening back home. He made me feel listened to, that what I said was worthy of being heard. And Mr Turier, who reigned over the kingdom of the art rooms. He was benevolent and ridiculous and charming and encouraging and incomprehensible and sage and teasing all at once. I don’t ever remember him telling us what to do, instead he mastered the art of holding space for us to be creative while watching us from his glass office, 70s music blaring. He sent me back to the dorm rooms with an armful of “real homework” – books by Krishnamurti, albums by Bob Dylan and Mike Oldfield and James Taylor.
I got lucky, beyond lucky, with that moment in time, with that bunch of country kids and that circle of teachers. They were a miracle and a blessing to me. I wouldn’t be who I am now if I hadn’t leapt. So many seeds were planted then that grew strong in my forest of trees.
Just one of them was James Taylor.
When Turier handed me that CD in that armful of “real homework” he didn’t know he’d given me the songs I’d been hunting for.
The songs that were already inside me, just waiting for my ears to hear them.
James was the bard to my soul, the music I’d been waiting for.
There in that dorm room that night, there wasn’t any shock, just a homecoming.
At last. At last. Here was the music. Here was home.
I inhaled “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Carolina In My Mind” and “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” until they became a part of my cells.
I lay on my bed and looked out at the night sky and rested.
And so it continued. I made mix CDs of James and Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac and a thousand folk singers, with one odd disco version of Bette Midler’s “Beast of Burden”.
When I moved to Canberra, I foraged through the library’s music collection, hungrily feeding my ears all the new sounds I’d never heard before: world music and Willie Nelson’s later music and Janis Joplin and Sarah McLachlan and Xavier Rudd. One gleeful day, I came upon James Taylor’s familiar face, now slightly more weathered. It wasn’t the 70s anymore, but here he was – still making albums! He was still creating music! Still turning up, still creating! My heart swam with joy. I took home Hourglass and October Road, waited breathlessly, worrying, as all fans do, if I’d like “his old stuff better than his new stuff.” I worried that he was going to be rehashing, making shit albums. I didn’t want to break the James spell inside me. But the music came alive, and so did I.
Here was a man who still loved to make music. Who still made new music that was instantly timeless. Who was as brilliant as ever.
“Ananas” and “Line ‘em Up” and “Jump Up Behind Me” and “Another Day.”
When I was 21, I wrote a bucket list of everything I wanted to do in my life.
See James Taylor live in concert.
There were no other musicians or bands on that list. No Paul or Fleetwood Mac.
Time waned and roamed as it does. I became a mother, I lived through the hells of Post Natal Depression and Hyperemesis Gravidarum, I married my one true love by the sea. A friend died suddenly, grandmothers died expectedly but still sadly. People fell in love and married and divorced. We had another baby, we moved around a lot. We lived a whole lot of life. We landed back in Canberra, the city my love and I grew into adults in, the place I’d found those new James Taylor CDs in the library. My face shifted from glowing maiden to a Mama-who-has-seen-some-shit, ya know?
I started using essential oils therapeutically last year. My body a ship on the rocks, constantly coming aground on infection. First just to ward off the rocks. Then as the fevers left, my intuition started to bloom again with them. That intuition which had once been so deep but now was dusty and tired. Maybe I’d left it in a moving box, or maybe it had been dented over and over or maybe I’d convulsively vomited it out during the Time Of The Great Spewing For 9 Months or maybe I just needed another 100 hours of sleep to catch up with my motherhood deficit. Whatever it was, the oils began calling it out again. Lubricating the joints of spirit with lavender and sandalwood, frankincense and white fir.
I began dreaming again, feet adorned in Frankincense. Dreams that were tonic, were prophecy, were awake and full colour.
One night, I dream of James.
He has come to a small gathering, we are by the sea next to a crumbling mansion.
He sits with his guitar and he sings, that familiar voice washing over me, awakening me.
I recline in my wooden deck chair in front of him, my spirit humming.
I keep saying to myself over and over:
“This is the greatest dream of my life. I have front row seats to watch James SING!”
In the morning, I awake, jubilant.
Two days later, there is a knock on the door of my soul, in the form of an ad pop up.
I gasp in shock at the recognition – it’s James’ face.
I go to close it, but remember my dream had come to me for a reason.
I look closer:
He’s doing a concert tour. Surely not in Australia though? He never comes here! Well, even if it IS, he won’t come to Canberra. None of the big American stars do!
Still, I caution myself. The dream. Remember the dream. Look harder.
I click. I look. I stop breathing.
James Taylor has just announced a concert. In Canberra.
When Chris asks me what it is, I can only point and squeak and sob some more.
Not just that:
Tickets haven’t even been open yet.
I might just be able to get front row tickets.
I’m at Defcon Level 5 of Freakout.
Two days later, I wait patiently for the clock to click over.
Click. Front row tickets. Buy.
My hands shake and I am palpitating.
My Frankincense-infused dream has come true.
It’s two months between that moment and the next, the buying and the night of the concert.
I try and stay calm… two months is too long for me to be peaking out.
By the last week, I’m starting to freak. So I message my darling Deb for sage advice on how to emotionally process seeing James when I do see him.
She made me snort out my nose laughing. Most grandmotherly advice in the world: “Just keep yourself nice + don’t make too big a spectacle!” Even now I am chortling about this.
It was a relief to know somehow that I wouldn’t have to emotionally process seeing JT. That it would just stay as a magical experience, floating about in the ethers of my body. That, I could do.
The night of the concert.
Our friend arrives to babysit and we are dressed up all fancy and in a minute we’re on the highway together, alone, for the very first time in a long time, and the very first time at night since I was in labour with Beth.
We find our way, get our seats.
And my dream and my click-happy finger have scored us the prize seats of the house… the two seats directly in front of the microphone.
We spend our time taking selfies in front of JT’s microphone and guitar and water bottle.
I am at Full Blown Fangirl level.
I make friends with the other front row people. I’m the youngest fan by 20 years.
Chris meanwhile says he’s going to need No Doze to stay awake (he’s more of a KISS glam rock fan).
I keep burying my head in his shoulder, clutching the warm river stone of him, my mountain of calm.
The anticipation is too much.
he just sidles onto stage.
Walks out like he isn’t James Taylor, best-selling musician for the last 5 decades. Like he wasn’t the first person the Beatles signed for their own record label. Like he hasn’t sold over 100 million albums.
Walked out in his cap and his suit and his buttoned up blue shirt.
He took off his cap and bowed long and deep, reverent and grateful.
This mythical figure is a real man. Tall and long limbed, piercing blue eyes. He is at once brand new and deeply familiar to me. He has always reminded me of my dead brother, Clinton who died in a farming accident when I was a teenager. They are born from the same mould, the same archetype of human. He is my brother if he’d only lived fifty more years. Most of all though, he is James.
He walks up to the microphone, no fan fare, no words, no supporting act, no fancy light show.
Just strums his guitar,
opens his mouth
And that’s what he continues to do for the next three hours.
In between, he told us stories.
Stories about creating, about the land he loves, about politics (“It’s easier to break the political system than you think. Trust me, we just did. We’re sorry about that”) and about musical history he was a part of (“When I auditioned as an unknown for Paul McCartney and George Harrison for the Beatles’ record label, I was like a Chihuahua on meth amphetamines. I can’t remember that much about that decade to be honest.”)
He is funny and hesitant, at once shy and at home on stage.
He makes jokes at his own expense, is gloriously self deprecating.
But what’s most apparent most of all?
He can’t keep the smile off his face as he sings.
He closes his eyes and goes into another place.
He can barely contain his gladness.
This is a man who has lived the last 40 years making music.
He joked “I got famous for singing my dear friend Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’. When I first heard it, I couldn’t stop myself from running to the guitar to play it myself. I don’t know if I knew then I would be singing that song for people every night for the rest of my life. Still, if I had to choose any song in the world to sing every night for the rest of my life, that is a good one to choose.”
And he does it with gladness, and with joy.
Irrepressible gladness at doing this thing he was put on the planet to do.
And it rose in me a question I keep ruminating over…
What would be the thing that would still make me impossibly glad to do 40 years from now?
What would make me smile like James Taylor still does?
Now here’s the part where I tell you:
Despite my adoration for him as a musician, I always thought he’d be a little of the “You’re So Vain” type that his ex-wife Carly Simon allegedly wrote about him. I expected him to be a little jaded or conceited or narcissistic.
I wasn’t prepared for how humble and gentle his presence was.
That bloke might have had a lot of drugs + crazy times + spent time in a psychiatric hospital… but this clearly was a dude who has done a lot of therapy, gotten over his shit, has the love of a good woman and has become pretty sage in the process. He’s a canary (as Glennon Doyle Melton would call him) who feels so much he’s had to learn how to channel it in healthy ways.
Who he is as a presence is even more beautiful and present and healed than I ever expected.
By intermission I’ve already had the best night of my life hands down.
As he dismisses us for intermission, he jokes he is just going to go stand behind the curtains and wait for us to come back. Instead, a young couple come scurrying up to the front, and ask him to sign a shirt.
James smiles and says “Of course! Delighted to!” and crouches that long frame down to sit on the side of the stage.
I stand, paralysed, a metre from him.
“Go,” Chris murmurs. “Go say hello. There’s about to be a stampede.”
So I stand behind the couple, and feel terrible that I am even asking him of this, when he really should be backstage resting. He turns to me and I go blank and jittery.
“Ummm! Shit! I’m so nervous! I can barely even talk! Thank you for being you in the world. I’m just so grateful. May I please have a selfie with you and get a shirt signed? Totally okay if no!”
“Of course,” he smiled. “I’d love that.”
Then I stepped back and the crowds surged forward. Chris grabbed me by the arm, and I shook like a leaf.
He guided me out of the concert hall so I could stammer and hyperventilate in peace.
“How was that?” he said.
“Best… night… of… my… life.”
My hilarious friends were less than impressed:
And then it was time for round 2.
As we headed back into the concert hall… I was gobsmacked.
The crowd was still surrounding James, who was still sitting on the stage edge, taking photos and shaking hands and signing autographs half an hour later.
He had not taken a break at all… used the intermission solely to thank people for coming.
People were a gush with his generosity.
His band came back from intermission and began to play.
Still, James crouched and signed signatures. People began filing back to their seats, but he stayed and touched and connected with every single person who wanted it. Eventually, his back up singers pulled him back up… and that man who’d just sung his heart out for 90 minutes and then spent another 30 minutes swamped by fans?
Didn’t take a break. Didn’t get any water.
Just stood up.
Played his guitar.
Opened his mouth.
Three hours. Three hours, ya’ll!
The lovely lady beside us told me she’d seen him and Carole King sing live together in Melbourne, and that they kept singing for hours, around and around, totally joyful and in love with the act of singing.
After what I saw, I believe it.
This is a man who loves what he does. Who has an almost superhuman lack of personal needs.
Who plays that long and that hard and that well… and barely breaks a sweat.
Who smiles that whole time because he still can’t quite believe his luck that he gets to sing his songs and people want to listen.
On through the catalogue we journeyed.
I close my eyes, let the music vibrate over me, the song its own sound healing.
The catalogue of my life.
You’ve Got A Friend reminds me of my soul brother Dan, my high school best friend. His love saved me, and mine saved his. When I sent myself to boarding school, he said “I’m not staying here without you” and came with me. I’ve adored him for half my life now. That will only continue.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am I’ll come running to see you again. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.
Fire and Rain is the story of every fuckup and loss and sadness and grief. I think: If James Taylor can survive Fire and Rain, I can survive all these things too. And my weary old heart heals some more.
If this man who has been through so much – addiction, heart break, mental illness, fame, and can still be here creating 40 years later, still be lighting up as he does so… I can get through this great mess of life too. I can get through the Fire and still be joyful.
Won’t you look down upon me Jesus, You’ve got to help me make a stand. You’ve just got to see me through another day. My body’s aching and my time is at hand and I won’t make it any other way. Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again.
Wandering tells me I can forgive myself for being a wanderer, for moving so many times. That maybe just maybe I’m not alone in this.
I’ve been wandering early and late from New York City to the Golden Gate and it don’t look like I’ll ever stop my wandering.
And in my own Z-list internet celebrity-ish life, I more deeply resonated with Fame than ever before – both the strangeness of it, and the sacred blessing of being on purpose.
Fortune and fame’s such a curious game. Perfect strangers can call you by name. Pay good money to hear Fire and Rain again and again and again. Some are like summer coming back every year Got your baby, got your blanket, got your bucket of beer. I break into a grin from ear to ear and suddenly it’s clear That’s why I’m here.
And this will sound wanky, but it is honest, so that’s enough: That night with JT helped me understand a bit more about this fame thing. It helped me understand why some people feel the way they do when they meet me. My work touches them, so I can feel like both a mythical creature + a dear companion to them. Our creative work is so important and helps all of us feel less alone in the world.
He says he is just a country hippy, and all at once, those words become emblazoned on my heart.
That’s what I am. That’s what I’ve struggled with:
The small town farm girl who is into woo-woo and sacred women’s work.
But there it is:
I can be both.
Why didn’t I think of this before?
Still, now JT has said it, it’s officially a Thing.
I forget, but that night I remembered:
Music is transcendent.
It allows us to be present.
It asks only for our attention.
And it reminds all of us to be creative in the ways that sing to us.
And my husband, who thought he’d need No Doze?
He said it was one of the best concerts he’d ever experienced.
He said the joy and energy and gifts of James and his band of 10+ were contagious and brilliant.
He has converted and now bows down to the James Taylor altar with me.
James reminded me to PLAY.
Every part of that concert felt like play, as though we were invited in to see a band of 11 brilliant, gifted musicians jam together. It was a collaboration, a joyous celebration of music.
They had FUN most of all.
By the end of the night all the backing singers had got us all up and dancing by the stage. I was dancing in front of JT’s mike… it was all verrrry intimate… and I was basically in wild rapture trying not to wet myself. Chris was just behind me, man-guarding my handbag and attempting not to draw attention to himself. #oppositesattract
When it was over, my heart was so full.
All I could do was prayer pose and send waves of love and gratitude to James.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for doing your work in the world. Thank you for sharing your gift. You have touched mine and so many other’s lives because of it.
And that’s the whole point of it, isn’t it?
How can we be more playful?
How can we do work that still makes us grin madly to do in 40 years?
How can we more deeply trust that our work is meant for us and is meant for others as well? That this world needs our light and our song and our dance?
I return to my studio now, my James Taylor pass hanging over my head, a creative amulet.
I couldn’t make the music I heard in my heart as a child.
But that’s okay. James could. And James did.
And that was all that was needed.
So James plays his songs, and I write my words and make my pictures.