It was Level Up 2017, a conference for one hundred professional women to learn tools and tactics to take their careers to the next level.
My keynote, on Tactics For Happy Change, was allotted to the graveyard shift 2.30pm. Years of facilitation experience had taught me that energy levels would be waning and a bold strategy to engage the audience would be required to embed my message.
I had spent the past three years turning my life upside down, in pursuit of happiness, a life and work with meaning and positive impact, post my exit from sixteen years as an executive within a global giant. I had arrived at a point where I had never earned less yet been happier as my definition of success was now defined by me not a societal norm or the expectation of others.
I knew from the hundreds of change-seekers I had worked with in the past year that happiness in life and career was considered the Holy Grail. Highly sought, however, hard if not impossible to attain due to fear of failure, what others will think, overwhelm and no clear path to get there.
I wanted my keynote message to be real, raw and awaken curiosity. I realized that the most powerful message I could deliver to evoke change was that
breakthrough moments come when we surrender the need for control and allow ourselves to get comfortable in discomfort. But how?
Well, as a woman who has always struggled with her weight and a negative body image, I knew I was not alone. So at forty-one years of age with a body that was built for comfort, I decided to start my keynote getting half #nakedforchange. I stripped down to my bathing suit and proceeded to tell the audience that I could not think of a better way to convey my first tactic for happy change… learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I then went on to say that I doubted that there would be a woman in the room that could not relate to how uncomfortable I felt in that moment and that this is what if feels like to move through change worth having. To which the audience responded with a huge roar of cheering and applause.
That moment would have to have been one of the most liberating in my life and within that extreme discomfort another breakthrough in understanding change.
I had finally learnt through facing fear and allowing myself to be truly vulnerable that I had finally let go of who I should be and allowed myself to be who I am.
The self-acceptance was profound as it created a platform of courage beyond expectation. I let go of seeking the acceptance of others to validate my success and realized that the only validation I seek is from myself.
Allowing myself to be completely vulnerable opened a door to possibility. It somehow gave others permission to feel a little braver and stop holding back on changes that they were seeking.
I was overwhelmed by the number of audience members who said to me “I realised that if you can do that surely I can step up and face my own fear to move ahead.”
With over 26,000 views across social media in just three days, of my bathing suit moment and an influx of positive comments on multiple social platforms, I believe that the professional world is desperately seeking real and raw role models. We need to drop the overuse and tokenism of the word “authentic”, remove the mask that we to often hide behind, tempering who we really are to limit the risk of what others may say about us.
Vulnerability is the new authenticity and an underrated powerhouse for creating real cultural change. It makes us relatable, real and it can provide a basis for others to look at fear as a positive lever and challenge their perspectives.
So here is my challenge to you; if you seek to be a no bullshit leader and enable positive change in your workplace, your personal life or in society, I want you to join me in an experiment. I’m calling the experiment #nakedforchange because I want you to feel the impact and learn the magic of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I want you to do something that makes you feel exposed. Now you don’t need to do what I did you just need to put your own slant on what #nakedforchange means for you. You have one week in which to expose yourself through vulnerability and then you need to own it by sharing your story and or an image on either LinkedIn (tag Penny Locaso), Instagram (tag @b.kindred), Facebook (tag bkindred.com.au) or Twitter (tag @werbkindred) and use the #NakedforChange.
If I can stand in front of one hundred people in my bathing suit you my friend can totally do this. I dare you!
Last week I started full time for eight weeks in the first Australian Antler Cohort in Sydney. Antler is an incubator program that focuses on creating the next wave of tech companies. They had over 1000 applicants but accepted only 71 amazing humans of which I was fortunate enough to be one. Some may consider this a success but at the end of week one, I found myself questioning if this is success, why do I feel so uncomfortable?