How often do you lift others up?

17.03.11 | Posted in General Women & Business Women In Business

We’re all still on a high here at Business Chicks from our week last week. Professor Fiona Wood spoke at our Melbourne and Sydney events and she was a knock out. Professor Fiona Wood and Emma Isaacs

I often have a giggle to myself whenever I hear someone read out her bio, because it goes something like this: Professor Fiona Wood is a mother of six, Head of Royal Perth Hospitals Burns Unit and Director of the Western Australia Burns Service.

I always think to myself that they could stop reading after the ‘mother of six’ bit because that’s a big enough achievement in itself. Her bio goes on to name her as Australian of the Year in 2005; Clinical Professor with the School of Paediatrics at the University of Western Australia and Chair of the McComb Research Foundation. Plus she invented spray on skin, cycles some 50kms every morning, and more other facts that will only serve to make you feel like a drastic underachiever in her presence!

There’s so many things I love about the lady and every time I hear her speak I learn something new. One thing that has been on my mind since last week is her story of talking to kids in schools. Every time she gives a speech at a school she asks two questions: “How many times have you done something that’s less than your best just so you can make others around you feel comfortable?” Apparently all the kids in the room nod and say “yep, I do that all the time.”

Then she asks them “How often are you energy in the raw? How often do you lift others up and take them with you?” Apparently all the kids sit there and shake their heads saying no they’d never do that.

I think we’ve got to learn to be proud of our achievements and not play them down so we can make others feel comfortable. I do it all the time. I don’t want to appear like I’m conceited or arrogant so I shake off compliments and only give the half story of what I’m working on or what I’ve achieved.

I think a lot of it’s cultural – we love to subscribe to the tall poppy syndrome in Australia, and pull people down. In the US it’s completely different – you see people giving high fives, cheering on their kids enthusiastically with no thought to how they’ll be perceived, and generally slapping each other on the back.

I’m working on it as I want to be a role model for my team and my family, just as the incredible Fiona Wood is a role model for me.

PS Adelaide! Here’s your chance to hear Professor Fiona Wood – see you there!


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  1. carol

    The Demise of the Tall Poppy Syndrome

    If the attitudes and aspirations of today’s teenagers and younger Gen-Ys are anything to go by, over the next few decades Australia may well lose a part of one of its most identifying traits – the tall poppy syndrome.
    The tall poppy syndrome is sometimes mistakenly described as our tendency to cut down successful people. This is not quite true. In fact, Australians respect people’s achievements,
    What Australians actually despise is when a person achieves success and appears changed by it. When they start believing their own hype the admired person instantly loses favour with Australians. When they act as if they are a step above everyone else and no longer equals. This is still the case and modesty is ingrained in our young people.
    But the tall poppy syndrome is also about not being overtly showy with wealth. Note the common reaction of Australians to seeing a car that is ludicrously expensive; on the one hand we admire the refined machine and on the other consider the driver a ‘wanker’ for showing it off.
    Young Australians see things quite differently. They want flaunt their wealth even though they don’t have any as yet. Asked to describe a perfect day in their lives where they called all the shots it was apparent how sophisticated and expensive their tastes had become. Most included international shopping sprees at the world’s trendiest and most expensive destinations. They described attending night club openings and bars frequented (and owned) by stars and were eating sushi and sipping cappuccinos.
    They have been weaned on a high dose of individualism, self-reliance and self-esteem and are optimistic about achieving wealth as adults.
    They admire individuals that have succeeded and the faster they made it to the top the better. They know exactly what professional sports stars earn by doing what they love to do. They admire young entrepreneurs and intend on using their smarts to become instant millionaires just like them. New media provide possibilities and opportunities and this is one area teens recognise they are the masters.
    Where did this desire for desire for overt wealth and its trappings come from? Teens have grown into a competitive society and globalisation is all they have known. There are more pressures to succeed and parents are ensuring they receive all the opportunities possible. There is also, of course, American influence, and it is considerable, more so than any other age group and more so than previous years. While there is a strong understated Australian nationalism among teens, many of their cultural interests are American based, like music, fashion, brands, film and television.
    More than ever before teens are obsessed with celebrities and the intricacies of the lives they lead. And this interest begins at a younger age. Thanks to blogs and photo and video sites they already know a lot more about these people, and this only feeds their hunger for more.
    When it comes to flaunting wealth this generation will shift the once engrained Australian ethos of egalitarianism forever.

  2. Emma

    Thanks Carol! Well written and insightful – thank you and will give us all further food for thought.

  3. Sean Finter

    Another great post Em! I agree with your point but am concerned that even in the U.S (where i am living now) that people simply celebrate celebrity, rather than achievement. I struggle to reconcile how a fool on a reality TV show become “rich and famous” in the same city that underpaid teachers are asked to take a pay cut. Wall Street is still paying billions in bonuses (with taxpayer bailout funds) while homeless shelters are being closed. I wonder what it will take to get our moral compass back on track?

  4. Ali Hill

    So true… I think Nelson Mandela says it so well in his “Deepest Fear” speech…This is absolutely one of my favourites!
    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    Pure gold…. :-)

  5. Emma

    One of my all time favourite quotes too Ali (if not my fave!). Thanks so much for your comment, Emma