Jumping off the Totem-Pole

8 years ago I found myself in the hills above Sitges in Spain at the top of a 5 metre Totem Pole being told to jump off while shouting

I was born at this time in history to ….. we had to fill in the blank

Granted I was strapped into a safety harness, but with a life littered with height induced panic attacks, this wasn’t my finest moment.

And I was angry – angry at having spent € 000’s to publicly humiliate myself shouting some tree hugging mumbo jumbo I didn’t believe, when I thought I’d signed up for a year-long leadership course.

Isolated from the world for a week per quarter with an eclectic bunch of Europeans, I had to come up with something.

In my desperation I came up with the random statement

to show the corporate world it doesn’t need to be this way

– literally having jumped off the Glass Cliff from my corporate director role the week before starting the course – I was bruised, disorientated with no actual idea whether this statement made any sense, let alone what it might have to do with my “life purpose”.

The course came to an end and most of us went our separate ways.

Then a few weeks ago, I came across a book called “The Stake” a narrative account of the leadership course I’d attended written by the founder Henry Kinsey-House; I read it over a weekend.

My years of niggling negativity towards what we had got up to in Spain vanished as I read.

Not only did I now get what they were trying to do with us, but I realised what a powerful effect this experience had actually had on my subsequent life and how I’d adopted many of the life principles we were taught into my work.

8 years on from this experience I still meet my “Pod” virtually once a month – a small cohort from Germany, Denmark and Dubai – who provide mutual support for each other, forged through shared experience on the high wires.

The Women’s Development Forum grew from a homework assignment to bring my purpose statement to life in my own community – at WDF we have been building a community to show “it doesn’t need to be this way” in Guernsey for over 5 years and our Jersey offering is developing.

The Women’s Leadership Forum is solidly based on the premise that through self-discovery everyone can gain greater access to their innate potential and find more of their unique voice and purpose in their work.

Jumping into the unknown whether from a physical or virtual Totem Pole can be totally unnerving, creating a whole variety of emotional reactions – maybe we can never really see the full value of such experiences in the moment, but –

taking the time now to reflect I see my seemingly random statement feels very close to the actual “Stake in the Ground” I am using to navigate my working life now.

And having that Stake keeps me on track to do what I can for both gender equality and women’s leadership.