Mental Spinach for your career

The idea of a career for life is out the window. More than ever you now have the opportunity and responsibility to design your life and your career. You spend up to half of your waking hours working so the compounding impact of your career decisions matters.

You’re in the driver’s seat and this is a brief look into how the Mental Spinach Lenses can help you build a career and a life that is engaging and fulfilling. Click on this button to read the article.

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A look back on 1 year of Mental Spinach

 It’s been over a year since that delivery truck turned up with our first copies of Mental Spinach. On reaching our anniversary we wanted to take stock and celebrate a great year and how much we’ve learned.

We also wanted to take a moment to thank those who played an important role in helping to share this project. We really appreciate your championing of Mental Spinach. 

What was our strategy for sharing Mental Spinach and how many copies are in circulation? 

Our self-publishing of Mental Spinach had a range of benefits. It meant that we had total control over the expectations we set around our sales process and helped us to secure more dollars per book for charity. It also meant that we had to be the chief promoters for our little green pocketbook, as we should be. After one year of sharing the book there are over 3,000 copies of Mental Spinach in circulation – not a bad effort for a couple of part-timers! 

So, how did we share these copies? We experimented with many different avenues. We approached bookshops, cafés, large distributors, friends, friends-of-friends and organisations. What we found was true to the words in Mental Spinach – people love to help! We’ve been excited with the progress of Mental Spinach into a range of local cafes and Sydney bookshops including Gleebooks, MAAS Store at Ultimo, some Dymocks stores and Berkelouw Leichhardt – and with the consistent rate of sales they’re achieving. 

Gleebooks, Glebe

Gleebooks, Glebe

Berkelouw, Leichhardt

Berkelouw, Leichhardt

Our strategy of grassroots local growth has been a rewarding way to share our ideas. It has also meant that we’ve been able to make new friends and have been really connected to feedback on the book – both what works and what we could improve. From the charities we’ve been supporting to the bookshop buyers, it’s been fulfilling to see Mental Spinach touching people’s lives and causing them to reflect.

We continue to look for more places to sell our pocketbook, in particular retailers who have the potential to stock Mental Spinach nationally or internationally. We would welcome any suggested avenues or contacts. Click here is you have a bright idea for us.

What else have we been working on?

We’ve also been looking for workshop and speaking opportunities and thanks to some of our champions we’ve delivered a range of workshops and keynotes. These included working with the senior executive team of a major corporation; with young service firm professionals and their clients; with MBA students and university alumni; in  community services organisations and schools and with sports men and women. We really enjoyed the chance to experiment with a range of audiences and formats and to start to hone in on the best ways to share the Mental Spinach message face-to-face.  

A key breakthrough was the development of a Mental Spinach card game to make our workshops informal, fun and collaborative. Our card game has proved particularly effective in helping groups to reflect, connect and plan together and has helped to shape our two primary workshop offerings – the 90-minute Mental Spinach Blast and the half to full day Mental Spinach Feast. For more about how they could impact your team, click here.

Pictures for our workshop Powerpoint

Pictures for our workshop Powerpoint

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What impact have we made and which charities have we supported? 

As well as impacting the opportunities and lives of Mental Spinach readers, our work is also supporting education charities which are positively impacting the lives of disadvantaged young people. In 2018 our book sales and workshops raised over $15,000 for local and global education charities including the Story Factory, Evidence Action and the Smith Family’s Learning For Life Project.

In 2019 we’re looking forward to raising money for Australian Schools Plus and hopefully developing some school-focused resources for them. We align with their vision that schools and teachers know best what resources will help to profoundly impact their school environment. Every purchase of Mental Spinach in the first quarter of 2019 will be going towards supporting school-specific programmes in disadvantaged schools. To learn more about their offerings click here.

After reviewing information from the global charity evaluator GiveWell we will also be donating to Helen Keller International (HKI) which focuses on supporting programs that reduce malnutrition and avert blindness and poor vision through vitamin A supplementation programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. HKI has been voted one of the top 5 most evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted and underfunded organisations globally by GiveWell in 2018. To learn more about their work and impact click here

This is wonderful coincidence as earlier drafts of Mental Spinach included extracts from Helen Keller’s story. Unfortunately our objective of brevity and simplicity forced us to remove that story along with many others from our final version. We have attached it here as a separate blog about the power of curiosity and her truly inspirational life. Click here to read about Helen Keller.

Selling  Mental Spinach  at the Lilyfield Markets

Selling Mental Spinach at the Lilyfield Markets

MAAS Store

MAAS Store

What is the most interesting feedback we’ve been getting?

Much of this process has been an experiment, from sourcing designers and printers in 2017 to approaching bookshops and organisations for workshops in 2018. With so many interactions we’ve received a wide range of positive feedback, in particular from readers -  from book reviews to messages from people on how they have come to keep Mental Spinach on hand. We’ve had couples with His and Hers matching copies of Mental Spinach on either side of the bed and some individuals who keep it constantly at their desk or in their handbag or briefcase as their daily reflection tool. We’ve had regular feedback that it’s helped people to navigate career changes, relationship changes, big decisions and times of reflection and reconnection.

Perhaps our most exciting piece of feedback was how a family of four used Mental Spinach to help them to grow their small business, with the book encouraging them to explore their business proposition and family relationships through the Four Lenses. We loved this feedback after one of our workshops.

“The workshop was fantastic in helping us to reflect and to take action which we did as a “team”. It has helped us to set up our vision, our roles and responsibilities, and some clear short-term steps to take into our project! We now have our weekly family/board members catch up, we know what roles we each play and what our long, middle and short-term steps are. We already see the outcomes of the workshop helping our family business, but beyond that it has increased our happiness and delight building something together.”

— Sophie - mother, business owner and brand specialist.

Sophie’s family business is just getting started but we can empathise with Sophie’s feelings because of the pleasure we have gained as daughter and father working together on Mental Spinach. We regularly receive comments from other parents to the effect “I wish I could be working on a project with my daughter/son” or the mirror comment from young people regarding working on something with one of their parents. 

What has been the biggest lesson that we’ve learned?

Among the positive feedback there has been a range of lessons and new things to consider. This has included the challenge of how to repurpose the content in the book to reach young and broader audiences, including online, and a call for more personal stories. We’re looking forward to considering these deeply as we move into the next stage of this project.

What’s been a highlight for this project?

There have been a whole range of highlights that also bring new and interesting opportunities and challenges. Building resources, conducting workshops and distributing books is a time-intensive activity. Since it is just the two of us doing this on a part-time basis, it’s always a joy when things run smoothly and exceed our expectations. They mostly have. We are particularly pleased that Mental Spinach is kicking goals in the competitive and crowded environment of bookshop self-enrichment shelves. To quote Andrew Sims of Glee Books: “Mental Spinach sells consistently at our shop; its pocket size and price both make for a great discretionary purchase.”


Dymocks, Neutral Bay

Dymocks, Neutral Bay

Mental Spinach workshop at UTS

Mental Spinach workshop at UTS

Curiosity could be your Lifechanger

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.” William Hazlit

 Curiosity might kill cats, but it sets humans free.

When you’re curious and engaged, you feel alive and excited. You’re ready to observe, to explore or to experiment. 

All great discoveries stem from curiosity and all great masters have it in spades. If you can tap into ways to foster and apply your curiosity you will see games you’re playing from new angles or be able to spot a new direction going forward.

We’re particularly passionate about Signals that contradict our prior perceptions or challenge our notions of right and wrong. Being curious and open-minded enough to recognise a change in your perspective or a paradox in your behaviour can be incredibly powerful.

Our favourite story about the power of curiosity is that of Helen Keller. According to Mark Twain the two most interesting characters of the 19th Century were Napoleon and Helen Keller. In 1882, at 19-months old, Helen fell ill and became permanently deaf, blind and unable to speak. By age six she had about 60 signs she used to communicate with her family. Then 20-year-old Anne Sullivan became Keller's instructor.

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Anne’s efforts to teach Helen to communicate began with spelling words into Helen’s hand. For example after Helen had been playing with a doll for a while Anne would spell the word “d-o-l-l” into Helen’s hand. Helen was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it but didn’t know that she was spelling a word or even that words existed. Helen's big breakthrough in communication came weeks later, as she described in her autobiography:

Helen spotted a Signal:

“Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other hand the word “w-a-t-e-r” – first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.”

She discovered her Lightbulb: 

“Suddenly, somehow, the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave me light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.”

It was a Gamechanger for her: 

“In the summer of 1887, I did nothing but explore with my hands and learn the name of every object that I touched; and the more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world.”

And a Lifechanger:      

The ultimate implication of that Lightbulb was the total transformation of Keller’s life. She learned to speak and was the first deaf, blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. In her career she also went on to become an active

author, speaker, advocate and suffragette. Her relationships also flourished especially the ongoing 49-year professional relationship and friendship with Anne Sullivan, as well the growth of other relationships at the highest levels of society, literature, politics. 

Research has shown that the first 3 years of life are those of a human’s greatest learning. Helen Keller spent half of that period without the stimulation of sight, hearing or speech. Her story is an incredibly inspiring example of the human capacity for learning against all odds.

So, in the spirit of Helen Keller and curiosity, ask yourself:

  • What keeps my curiosity and love of learning alive?

  • Can I experiment with aspects of my life to better understand who I am?

  • How can I become an explorer in my world?

  • How can I explore my internal world?

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Why my creative career needed Mental Spinach

I fell out of love with music after about 5 years as a professional artist. I burnt out. The passion I had felt for music when growing up had run dry and I was anxious. So anxious in fact that I wanted to withdraw from writing, performing and singing almost entirely. I had lost touch with the joy and meaning that had inspired me to pursue a career in the arts. I needed to press pause.

So I did. I had been touring with a band for around 2 years and my musical collaborator and I took a conscious time out. Many of the lessons contained in Mental Spinach are a product of lessons that I learnt through research and reflection when I had to reassess what it meant to live a fulfilling and sustainable creative life. In short it was a journey to rekindle my relationship with my own creativity. The book also contains many of the tools that I saw propel artists around me and enabled them to sustain successful careers in the arts in Australia and abroad.

Mental Spinach is the toolkit I wish I had had when I began my life as an artist.

On tour with Rufus at Falls Festival.

On tour with Rufus at Falls Festival.

When you begin your career as an emerging artist you would be one of the lucky few if you managed to find a mentor who you could guide you into and through a career in the arts. These individuals are brilliant, but difficult to find. There is also no set path or guidebook to follow and I can’t remember anyone in my 9 years of formalised music education ever asking me to explain what I believed it meant to live a creative life. On top of this no one let me in on the secret that I actually had the power to set the rules for what I wanted in my creative life.

Only after I had been working as an emerging artist for years did I realise that, like 76% of other artists in Australia, I was a small business owner and entrepreneur and that I needed to develop the requisite skills to grow my own business. Even after finishing a degree at arguably the top music conservatorium in Australia, I had not encountered a single tutor whose job it was to discuss these topics. Nor had any of our tutors talked about how to begin building the mental, physical, social, spiritual and financial framework to weather the challenges that go hand in hand with working in the arts. Mental Spinach is just one contribution towards filling that space.

My hope is that through the changes and evolution that take place in your artistic career Mental Spinach will be there to prompt thoughts, additional perspectives and creative solutions to the challenges and opportunities you will undoubtedly encounter. In many ways I believe a career in the arts is survival of the fittest and the fittest are those who are mentally, physically and spiritually prepared. Mental Spinach is part of that preparation.

On tour with The Jungle Giants around Australia.

On tour with The Jungle Giants around Australia.

 Why Four Lenses and how could Mental Spinach help me?

Mental Spinach offers a framework for thinking that can be used for decision-making and for spotting opportunities in the world around you. It brings together a broad range of concepts from psychology, business management and personal development. Our goal in writing Mental Spinach was to streamline and distil these mega-industries into four simple themes. The tools and questions in each theme aim to give you an increased chance of picking the best path forward and some tools to pursue that path in a authentic, effective and sustainable way.

It can be easy to rush past big decisions or to ignore significantly limiting habits and mindsets. Many of us don’t take the time to stop and think critically and creatively about our options, our potential and how we might maximise them. You can use the Four Lenses (the Identity Lens, the Opportunity Lens, the Impact Lens and the Sustainability Lens) as a way to enrich your decision making and strategic or creative planning.

Each of the chapters can help you to more successfully reflect on and navigate important creative processes, like your:

  • practice technique and routine;
  • time management;
  • promoting and extending the reach of your art;
  • managing creative and broader relationships;
  • philosophy on what it means to live a creative life;
  • mindsets and habits for surviving a fluctuating financial life;
  • ability to avoid burnout;
  • understanding and navigation of your creative expectations;
  • ability to fearlessly say no and set your own creative boundaries; and
  • understanding of your own overall concept of life balance.

At the end of this blog is a streamlined list of questions/tools which can be easily applied by those building a creative career or business.

How do I incorporate Mental Spinach into my creative practice or into my community?

We recommend a range of ways in which Mental Spinach can have a positive impact on your creative practice and in your creative community. It can be used to empower individuals and groups through one or more of the following ways:

  • individuals can have a copy on hand to inform day-to-day decision making (that’s why it’s pocketbook size);
  • mentors, mentees and coaches can use Mental Spinach to enrich conversations about specific projects, creative practice or broader concepts; or
  • teams can use Mental Spinach as a resource to incorporate diverse perspectives into decision making processes.

Singing for the 2018 #ABCYours Campaign. 

That’s it for now...

We are so excited to be able to share Mental Spinach with the world. If you are an artist I would love to hear which parts of the book resonate with the creative questions you’re currently asking. Stay in touch and we would love to hear what you think of our green pocketbook!

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Appendix: Big creative questions and where to find them in Mental Spinach

The following list highlights a range of questions that emerging artists often face and links them to pages in Mental Spinach.

The Identity Lens – Why am I an artist and what does success look like for me?

  • What is my own definition of creative success?
  • How do I measure my own success?
  • What creative patterns are ruling my artistic life?
  • Where is the zone in which I will create my best art?  
  • What are my creative priorities?
  • Where and who are my creative supporters?

The Opportunity Lens – How do I grow my creative world?

  • How do I spot and pick big creative opportunities?
  • How do I come to terms with and learn from the creative opportunities I’ve missed out on?
  • How can I make the most of my daily creative habits and mindsets?
  • What does it mean to be part of an artistic community and how do we embrace reciprocity?

The Impact Lens – This creative opportunity has just become possible, how do I make it as successful as possible?

  • How do I create a routine that gives me maximum creative bang for my buck or effort?   
  • How do I supercharge my creative cycle so that it keeps growing?
  • I’ve just hit a creative road block, now what?
  • How can I keep learning and being creatively curious?
  • How do I find the maximum amount of time and energy for my creative practice?

The Sustainability Lens – How can I make my creative life sustainable and avoid burn out?

  • How do I balance and juggle different creative interests and areas of my life?
  • I’m a perfectionist. Please help!
  • Help me explore what a sustainable relationship with my creativity looks like?
  • How do I know when I’m moving into unsustainable creative patterns where I could be inching close to burnout?
  • Can I learn to switch off?
  • How do I build gratitude and mindfulness into my ongoing creative practice?

Two Factors That Will Put You In The Driver’s Seat Of Your Career

I (Jess) read an article in the Weekend Australian called Future Shocks describing 12 future technologies linked to ‘the fourth industrial revolution’ that it is predicted we’re about to encounter. I had only heard of three of them! I could barely even understand the description of what ‘ubiquitous linked sensors’ and ‘blockchain and distributed ledger’ technologies were. The feeling that life is getting out of control and that we’re moving into a world where driverless cars and virtual doctors/lawyers are going to be normal, can lead to an utter confusion as to how and where I will fit.  What if I don’t know how to code?

While most conversations in this area talk about the chaos and uncertainty this causes, there is also another story. The story of great opportunity – the opportunity to have more autonomy, more flexibility and to be part of a huge global technological boom.  Rewards come from getting down and dirty with the task of creating the life and career you want for yourself. It has never been easier to start your own business, to retrain or work remotely. Research by McCrindle suggests that young people today will experience 15 jobs and 5 different careers*. This is an example of the interesting paradox of work today. While the diversity of work experiences and industries you will encounter is unprecedented and exciting for some, it can also feel precarious and uncertain for those hoping for a little more certainty and stability. So what can you hang your hat on? What is a constant in the changing world?

The answer is you. More so now than ever it’s up to you to manage your career and your life. With all of these new choices and changes, where do you focus your energy and attention? You can’t control industrial shifts, the jobs that are available or how your company is going to restructure, so where is your energy and attention best focused? As I collect and analyse literature and research on how people thrive in today’s job market, two influential factors that are in your control stand out.

These are that your mindsets and skill sets are your greatest GROWING and EVOLVING resources!

This might not seem revolutionary, but too often we leave these two controllable factors to chance, depending on schools and employers to skill us up and our mindsets to develop naturally. Alongside this, we spend excessive hours and energy focusing on things beyond our control.

Taking back a little certainty in your career can be as simple as bringing the focus back to where and how you can grow adaptable mindsets and skill sets.

Your Mindsets

Your Mindsets = the attitudes you typically hold which filter how you see the World

Your mindsets are hugely significant as they infiltrate all aspects of your life. Every decision, action, relationship, learning or behaviour is influenced by these deep grooves of thinking. The recurrent impact of these habitual perspectives makes them fertile ground for potential life changers. When it comes to your work they are also deal breakers. More jobs than ever are seeking cognitive skills fostered through your mindsets. Big data analysis by The Foundation of Young Australians of 4.2 million job searches showed a huge growth in the proportion of jobs seeking skills founded in your mindsets including:

  • 158% more requests for critical thinking
  • 65% more requests for creativity
  • 47% more requests for listening
  • 42% more requests for strategic thinking
  • 33% more requests for self starters
  • 26% more requests for problem solving **

Employers are increasingly valuing not just your technical skills or credentials but also how you think and relate to others. The best part of this is that these are skills you can build everyday and often for free. Let’s explore two mindsets that you can cultivate that will hugely impact your career.   

The Growth Mindset 

Coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, a Growth Mindset is the belief that you have the ability to learn and develop new skills. This is also often called being a lifelong learner. A Growth Mindset acts like a domino in positively impacting other mindsets. This is in contrast to a Fixed Mindset, which considers skills and aptitudes to be genetic or static and has a negative domino effect on other mindsets. Do you believe your aptitudes are inherited or learnt? Believing you are able to learn and grow is a fundamental plank for growing your world and being able to adapt flexibly to changes. So it’s in your court and all that remains is enough motivation and a good plan.

Fixed Mindset

I believe that my (Intelligence, Personality, Character) is inherent and static. Locked-down or fixed. My potential is determined at birth. It doesn’t change. I:

avoid failure

desire to look smart

avoid challenges

stick to what I know

take feedback and criticism personally

Growth Mindset

I believe that my (Intelligence, Personality, Character) can be continuously developed. My true potential is unknown and unknowable. I:

desire continuous learning

confront uncertainties

embrace challenges

am not afraid to fail

take constructive feedback well


The Player Mindset

When a problem arises, do you typically see yourself as a victim of circumstance or of others’ actions or as a player with the ball in your court? Similar to a Growth Mindset, if you learn to take ownership of your attitudes, decisions and situations, you have the best chance of dealing with and learning from the things, good or bad, wonderful or terrible, that cross your path. Typical responses of a victim include: ‘it was her’ / ‘there was nothing I could do’ / ‘I feel as if the world is against me’. These responses close off the window for learning and wipe the victim’s hands clean of any obligation to act or learn. This is a missed opportunity. In contrast the player is always asking: “What is my role in this and what can I do about it?”

During his internment in four concentration camps, psychologist Viktor Frankl witnessed the most desperate and unimaginable circumstances and the way he and others handled them. Amidst the horror some uplifting signals stood out, like:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread…  

leading to his Lightbulb:

“…They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.” 

This Lightbulb was a factor in Frankl’s survival and foundational in his approach to psychological healing, as described in his book “Man’s search for meaning.”

At times you might feel like a victim, with no positive way to see the situation. Take a step back, examine your role in the situation as objectively as you can, and there will be a chance to step up and be a player. 

How Can I Shift My Mindset?

Humans aren’t perfect or fixed in their ways. As works in progress it is up to each person to create a system in which we check in with ourselves to see what mindsets we are feeding through our thoughts, actions and reactions. It is through this process that we can forge our own deliberate individual neural pathways. So what are some of the key questions you can ask yourself?

What are the mindsets that are running my life right now? Am I:

  • Pessimistic or optimistic?
  • Apathetic or enthusiastic?
  • Close-minded or open-minded?
  • Rushed and stressed or calm?
  • Judgemental or non-judgmental? 
  • Individualistic or collaborative? 
  • Fighting to stay in a comfort zone or willing to take measured risks?
  • Afraid of being wrong or willing to be wrong and learn?
  • In conversation focused on talking or in conversation focused on learning? 

Alongside this, ask yourself:

  1.  Is there a mindset I could cultivate that would drastically change you my life and career prospects? Hint: your ability and love of learning is a key to changing the game.
  2. What mindsets would I like to work on strengthening and where can I find opportunities to practice that in my everyday life?
  3. Are some mindsets easier to change than others and are they worth focusing on first?
  4. Are there any hurtful mindsets that I can’t seem to kick? Can I fight fire with fire and work on strengthening the opposite mindset?
  5. (After picking one mindset and committing to work on it for a week)  How has thinking actively about that mindset shifted how I think and behave? 


Your Skill Sets

Think of your skill sets is like a giant basket that is continually expanding and shrinking over your life. In it you will collect:

  • Foundational skills of learning, reading, writing, communication, numeracy and digital literacy
  • Technical skills relate to a specific task, role or industry. These often involve licenses, certificates and degrees, but can also be learnt on the job.
  • Enterprising or soft skills that are transferable and often learnt through social and environmental interaction. One simple system that breaks these skills down is the Six C Model of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, connectivity, creative and culture.
  • Career management skills of self-awareness, decision-making to build your career, job-seeking, use of career services/information, life long learning and work-life balance. 
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  Source: Soft Skills needed for the 21st century workforce - the six C's.

Source: Soft Skills needed for the 21st century workforce - the six C's.

In school we traditionally focus on foundational and technical skills, but global research ** is strongly in agreement that, if you want to be prepared for the future, developing your enterprising skills should also not be left to chance. A 2015 study called The New Basics has estimated that the future will demand 70% more enterprise skills and that jobs requiring these skills will also pay more***. Today this can be seen with jobs that request presentation skills paying an additional $8,853 dollars per year, problem solving an additional $7,745, financial literacy $5,224 and creativity an additional #3,129 ***. The most amazing part of these skills is that they can be cultivated every day if we are deliberate in seeking out opportunities to learn. Every conversation is an opportunity to learn and improve your skills, every budgeting question a chance to improve your financial literacy.

The next step in making the most of your skills (and the often overlooked part) is learning to communicate that you have these skills. It is really easy to breeze over or forget some of your most vital and valuable skills. The following exercise can be done with any of the above skills (technical, foundational), but first let’s focus our energy on the big-paying enterprise skills.  

This is a great exercise to help you to source and identify your enterprise skills. Using a table similar to below think of a time when you have demonstrated that skill. If you can’t think of a time, ask for help from someone who believes in you and your potential. 

This list is often where we stop. Don’t! Now that you know you have some ability in the skill take the time to articulate just how much value you create with this skill. That is where the STAR method comes in. This method is helpful in a whole range of employment contexts (interviews, cover letters, etc) and it’s also really helpful as an antidote to the uncertainty or fear that you won’t be able to adapt to the changing world. In a simple but detailed way put each of the above situations that you listed through the following questions:

  • What was the SITUATION?
  • What was the TASK you performed?
  • What was the ACTION you took?
  • What was the RESULT you created? Be specific!

When you look at these examples what we hope you see is the enormous value that your broad range of experiences can bring to your employability. Everyday is an opportunity to grow your skill basket, especially when it comes to those valuable and transferable soft/enterprise skills. It is not just on the job we learn, but through the diversity of experiences we have in life! 

In a career planning context focusing on skill development is an interesting and flexible approach. As stated by New Basics Report,

 “Rather than choosing an occupation with an unbroken path to seniority, a young person could think about developing a portfolio of skills that opens doors to a group or ‘cluster’ of jobs.”

The clusters that have been created using millions of job advertisements include: 

FYA (2015). The New Work Mindset. 

FYA (2015). The New Work Mindset. 

The amazing thing about these clusters is that the roles within them regularly require similar skills that are portable across jobs. This is estimated to mean that if you train or work in 1 job, you acquire the skills for 13 others jobs – a great bang for your buck! This perspective on skill building as opposed to picking an occupation for life is a great strategic way to navigate the changing job market. It also gives you a focus on building related skills that can create a wide range of employment options over the long term.

Source: FYA (2015). The New Work Mindset.

Source: FYA (2015). The New Work Mindset.

The Foundation for Young Australians report is a ‘must read’ for all ages. It gives a refreshing perspective on a whole range of job search questions. From insights into securing early career opportunities, how you can build your skill set based on your interests and how that can open doorways to a broader range of career pathways through focusing on building your skills. Click on the below link to be forwarded onto the report. 

It's a brave new world we are living in and the mindsets and skill sets we create will be the driving forces in determining the opportunities that come knocking. Learning to manage your career will offer the chance to generate a more enjoyable, meaningful, impactful and successful road ahead. Can you plan some time out each week to focus on your skill sets and mindsets?

What is one deliberate action you can take this week to positively influence one mindset and skillset? Can you write a February plan that you read each morning when you wake up to direct your energy and attention towards achieving this?

Jess’s February Mindset and Skill Set Plan =

  • Mindset = to create a regular meditation practice to improve my attention and spaciousness in each moment
  • Skill set = my understanding of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its relationship to STEM career pathways   

Ian’s February Mindset and Skill Set Plan =

  • Mindset = to be less rushed and thereby to be able to focus better on my and others’ emotions
  • Skill set = my understanding and experience in building online communities

We would love to hear yours!

Our next blog will be in March when Jess is back from cycling Vietnam. Thanks for taking the time out to read this and enjoy your week!


* Mccrindle. (2014). Job Mobility in Australia. Retrieved online: 

** Regional Australia Institute/NBN. (2016). The Future of Work: Setting Kids up for Success. 

*** Foundation of Young Australians (FYA). (2015). The New Work Mindset. 



Big Decision #3 - Your First Property – Ready or Not?

When it comes to big decisions in life, the leap to buy your first home is one of the biggest. Taking on the mortgage is the biggest financial commitment you will make, while the house is your biggest investment decision and also a lifestyle decision that will impact everything - from your job prospects and commute to how you spend your free time and your distance from your family and friends. 

It is important to note we are not in the business of giving investment or property advice and many of these questions came from me (Jess) asking for advice on this issue. We are however in the business of proposing questions as they relate to people growing and leading more fulfilling lives. So we have looked through our Four Lenses at this big decision to give you a wider perspective on your current position.

You may be:

  • Close to being able to buy a property but are wondering if it’s too much of a stretch
  • Feeling like you’re well short financially at this stage and wondering if you’ll ever get there
  • Already in the market after having bought your first place

There is an interesting paradox when it comes to property and personal finance. We are saturated with information about the struggles of entering the property market with even smashed avocado having made its way into this national debate. At the same time, most people are quite private about their finances so it’s a topic that not a lot of people like talking about at a personal level. That is why we want to raise some questions that could be of use to you in your situation. So let’s get into the Four Lenses.  

Identity Lens

Who am I and how strong are my foundations? Am I ready to make such a big commitment?

  • Are there other things or events in my life that I need to address before committing to this (e.g. overseas travel, study)?
  • Where does owning my own home rank in my current life priorities?
  • What are the merits/dangers of leaving it a year or two? If I decide to buy a house, what might that mean for me in 5 years time?
  • Why do I want to buy a house? Is it because I think I should (like my parents did or because of the “Great Australian Dream”)? Because my parents think I should? Or because it’s what’s right for me at this time?
  • Have I done my homework? What do I know about buying property? What don’t I know and where can I find it out?
  • Am I looking at this just as “getting myself set in the property market for my own residence” or also as “an investment of capital which should be compared with other alternatives”? After all it’s probably the biggest investment decision and financial commitment I will make in several years.
  • Where does the location rank in priorities? E.g. living near the water? Near a big park? Close to OR not too close to parents or parents-in-law? What are my job options here or elsewhere where property is cheaper?
  • Am I clear on what sort of home I’m really after? Where does the type and standard of property rank in my priorities? Am I really after a “renovators delight”? Or a big garden for the kids? Do I enjoy fixing things up? Or working in the garden? Or is my priority simplicity and ease?
  • Family plans? Given those, how long are we likely to stay in this home?

Opportunity lens

Do I Deeply Understand The Opportunity, Potential Opportunity Loss and Alternatives Available To Me?

  • By buying a house in this suburb at this time, what options does this open? Does it put me in better position to house kids? Or a worse position to afford them? Are there local jobs and schools available?
  • What options does this close? Will I be able to afford to start my new business? My current lifestyle? The ability to retrain? What compromises will I need to make and are they worth it? 
  • What are the alternatives to buying a house? Could I buy elsewhere and continue renting in my dream location? Could I grow my financial assets/ security another way? (e.g. investment in the stock market, building a business)
  • How comfortable and competent would I be at any of these other investment alternatives? Is it time that I start to learn how to invest and build capital?
  • Do I really understand the property options that are available? How do I maximise the number of potential property options open to me at decision time? Even just for comparison purposes? The more information you have the better equipped you will be to understand a good opportunity when you see one.
  • Am I being too narrow in my criteria? Should I expand the options? Could I look at suburbs 5 km further from the city centre? Should I consider house minding in a variety of suburbs to see what they’re like? Should I look at buying a “worst house in a good street” and do it up? Should I consider apartments instead of houses alone (or the converse)?
  • Who have I told what I’m after? How can I optimise my flow of information about what’s available? You never know when a friend or family member might spot the perfect property for you.
  • How can we make ourselves better borrowers from the point of view of potential lenders (e.g. quantity of income, certainty of employment with permanent salary rather than on contract)?
  • What alternative sources of finance are available? Where are the cheapest and most flexible options?
  • Be curious. How are others my age or in comparable situations tackling this and what can I learn from them?
  • Who can I talk to for advice and possible opportunities? This is a decision where getting professional advice could save you a huge amount.
  • Where does AirB&B or leasing out a room fit into my plan?

Impact toolkit

If this property is definitely the one I want, have I spent the time creating a strategy to get maximum return on my investment?  

  • How can I accelerate my accumulation of the relevant deposit? Weekend jobs with Uber? Tighten the belt and spend less? I need to invest my deposit in a relatively risk free and highly liquid manner so I can it when the right opportunity comes.
  • Do I have the confidence and courage to back myself and commit?
  • Do I have a strong vision for what value I can bring to my life by living here? What will be the benefits of being in this location and its community?
  • Do I have a strong vision of what the property can become? What can I do myself? Have I got mates who can help me on some reciprocal basis? (If I’m an electrician, can I do a swap of labour with other friends in trades?)
  • What bits of the fixing up should we do ourselves? Can this DIY experience make the process more enjoyable, satisfying, social and cost effective?
  • If we’re going to fix it up and can afford to do so, can we do it now and start benefitting from it?  
  • How can I maximise this experience as a learning opportunity? Can buying this property set me up with the knowledge to invest further in the future?

Sustainability toolkit

If I buy, how will this impact my life sustainability and balance?

  • What are the factors that can put my home ownership at risk? Job security? Changes in interest rates? In the event of an increase in interest rates what buffers do I have in my capacity to meet my repayments? (eg. only be prepared to go to the level of borrowings you can still service while still having a 2 week holiday each year – the capacity to forgo the holiday creates the buffer).
  • How will the work on this new house and the commute to work affect the amount of free time in my life?
  • What are the motivating reasons for buying this house that I should keep coming back to? Financial? Lifestyle? A project?
  • Am I being objective about my budget? Have I done my homework regarding the maintenance and possible capital costs? Do I deeply understand the rules of my loan?
  • What things am I giving up to make this possible? E.g. holidays or having kids? Deferring starting my own business? Will I be able to keep that up?
  • In sustaining this commitment, how can I make sure other vital parts of my life are still being met (E.g. my relationships, my free time, my health)?
  • Do I need to slow down and reassess? Would taking on this commitment take me into a territory that would be unsustainable?

For a topic like this the questions are unlimited! We hope that this article has helped you to think more deeply about the decision ahead of you. If one particular question spurs on a Lightbulb moment we would love to hear about it and if you know someone facing this decision please share it with them. Tune in on the 1st of February for Big Decision #4 – Picking a career path.