I first met with Julie about 18 months ago, I felt an instant magnetism to her, she has this exuberance and subtle confidence that isn’t arrogant but rather genuine, or real, or perhaps a touch raw. We first encountered each other through an interview, it was a really natural connection I feel we formed and the warmth from her side was instantly apparent. We met again under social circumstances and then fell into a friendship that has evolved over some fantastic conversations in recent months. She is one of those rare people that I just adore talking to – because the conversation is so engaging. Seriously, I don’t want to leave at times, and actually feel lighter afterwards – like I’m open with possibility and quite enchanted. Julie is a straight shooter, yet I always feel heard and understood, and perhaps that is why when we sat down to have a conversation on what passion means to Julie she revealed it’s all about having a generous approach to life. She oozes vitality, I can only wish that you can get a sense of her expressive spirit and imagine her sparkly eyes in the conversation I relay below.
I discovered that the preparation questions I sent Julie provoked her, I love how these interviews do that for people, I like that it makes people consider something different, gain clarity, become more aware or dig deeper. What Julie reveals to me is a beautiful philosophy to life that she has formed, taking a generous approach. I do truly hope you enjoy this exchange, oh, if only I could capture the laughter we shared. What became apparent to me as we were talking was how we were actually in the act of her passion, through Julie sharing her beliefs, her generosity shone through, and I felt a combination of gratitude and a pay-it-forward type duty in sharing the findings with you. I can only trust it inspires you to connect with your own sense of generosity, and play with what that means to you and your actions in the future.
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J: Leigh, I must admit when I first read your email with the questions about passion I got a funny feeling. I immediately started to judge myself, and what came to mind was, ‘I think I love the word passion but what it means to me, well, that’s not something I would usually talk about’. After a few days I connected with that the funny feeling. It came up because passion felt like it was linked to a ‘thing’ or a what. I was assuming that passion is ‘what’ you do, like music if you’re a musician. Once I striped that away, it was really interesting to me, I realised I absolutely have a passion and it’s not my what, instead it’s my why and my how. And that’s what I really started to focus on and get excited about before meeting with you.
L: That’s a really interesting perspective to take to my question. I’m glad I sent you on a bit of a journey (smiling!)
J: It’s such a brilliant question. What is your passion? It was HUGE! I didn’t get past that initial question, it really helped me figure out some things, and helped me gain some clarity on what is important to me.
L: So talk me through how you arrived where you did?
J: Firstly, I wasn’t sure if passion was meant to do with my career and industry – the advertising, marketing, strategy, and certainly it wasn’t the CEO title or some kind of identifier – you know when people ask you, ‘what do you do?’ Because I feel that ‘doing’ or the ‘what’ has never been the thing that drives me. Then I started considering my life journey, for me, it’s really been about purpose. I journal about it a lot, I’ve had things float up over the past 20 years, there is this thing about humanity and kindness, that came up really early, then there was a thing about service, and from that was this gratitude theme. That’s what my life is all about, observing all these things that bubble up, and it wasn’t until recently I felt like it all came together under this notion of ‘generosity’. I realised I journal about generosity all the time.
L: So tell me what generosity means to you?
J: Generosity is the thing that motivates and drives me. I’ve written so much about this and still feel the word is so misunderstood. Mainly because if you’re generous in the way you think and act, it all comes back to you. You can almost create this little circle yourself. Giving and receiving, it really is the guiding philosophy in my life.
L: It’s different to what I hear a lot of people get excited about, I am intrigued… How would you recommend people create generosity in their life?
J: One of the things they say for people in a depressive state (and this applies to anyone else as well) when they are really down is to do something kind for somebody else. Those random acts of kindness, just the little things like opening the door for somebody, to give somebody that 50 cents when they ask for it. People may ask, why are you doing that, and it’s because generosity gives you so much back, it’s like a joy maker. It builds worthiness. When you decide you have something to give, to value yourself – your talents and abilities, it’s so powerful. Once you understand that what you have and what you are is worth sharing, it underlies everything.
L: I can see how your face lights up ridiculously – it’s so present. Can you talk me through your way of processing it?
J: One of my journals contains all the bits of inspiration I come across, so it may be a quote on a postcard that I see, a verse in a song I hear, a certain book that I read, or a meditation class I attend, it can come from all sorts of sources. If I come across something that stops me in my tracks and I connect with it – it makes it into the journal. My process is around who and what am I drawn to, who I look up to in the world, so a big part of my journaling in the past 15 years has been taking notice of why am I drawn to certain things and what can I learn. I ask myself questions like, ‘is that something I can aspire to, and what do I need to do to do that?’ The other way of processing for me is noticing when I see something that is really painful in the world. Animal abuse, that is just heart breaking for me. I would later connect it back to my values and I would journal on that too. There are lots of words we talk about, but it’s looking at what connects with me and then to reflect on that, why did that hideous thing happen?
L: I really like that you can reflect on two levels, often people focus on what makes them happy, but I believe passion and understanding our values is also about what really upsets me, or what do you want to change. That can be really transformative.
J: Absolutely, observing what feels heartbreaking is important. I can connect with parts of me at times in my life when I haven’t felt looked after or felt hard done by, and I can also connect with those parts of joy such as helping others.
L: I actually feel like we’re living in the spirit of generosity in this interview. It feels like a genuine exchange. I feel like sharing this will enrich the lives of others in understanding what gives meaning to them. I really do thank you for your time and thoughts in sharing with my readers and me too, it is such a special moment.
J: Yep, so then it’s about what you then do with this conversation, and what others do with digesting the blog content. It’s like mentoring and giving back to people, you and I talk about this often Leigh, you know the feeling of giving back to people, is mind-blowing. You and I talk about leadership, here is my favourite definition of leadership, ‘helping others to succeed’. The reason that stuck with me a long time ago is because it’s still about service, the value of generosity that comes from being a leader, in life and in business, for others and for yourself.
L: I agree, for me a true leader is a person who can both serve and inspire people around them, and themselves. So what advice would you give others in trying to find their WHY or HOW?
J: Probably two things, the first would be to have gratitude. I had a friend who was in a bit of a dark space and I told him having gratitude would help shift that. We used facebook to email each other daily, writing the three things we were grateful for. He started doing it in a piss-take way, but now he genuinely does it, and it was really transformative for him once he took it seriously. For me it’s about reminding people of the cool things in their life, getting them to focus on that is so powerful. The other thing would be capturing what turns you on. You know when you get a flutter in your stomach when something excites you, or when your vision gets pointed towards something, like when you’re in a crowded space and you get drawn to something. Pay attention to that and question why am I drawn to that? And find some time to investigate and reflect on why you’re drawn to these things that excite you. These will be the revealing things that start to paint a picture of who you are. What motivates you, what inspires you?
L: Do you think we need to shed, or sacrifice something else in order to make room for prioritising what is important or understand what could be important?
J: Oh yeah, a lot of that is going on! Finding the capacity, interesting turns that life takes that give you that room to give as well. Part of it is your time and your values, and they’re the tangible parts.
L: It would be interesting to test your generosity at times of stress and change…
J: Oh yeah, the pressure cooker stuff. I find that when I’m in moments of stress , generosity is one of the things that pulls me back, I’m actually pretty good at laughing at myself, it’s one of the things people say to me, why aren’t you stressed? There is no benefit to any one. You’ve got to remind yourself that life can and should be simple. It is amazing how much some of us can carry around with us, you see people, they are heavy, its a choice. You need to remind yourself, every thought we have is a choice, our emotions, feelings, its all is a choice.
L: Talk me through your HOW?
J: There is this beautiful saying from Sanskrit in yoga, ‘may all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.’ This is one of my favourite notions in yoga teachings, it resonates with me because it links my thoughts, actions, and words to generosity. Let’s say I am having a struggle at work with somebody, then in my meditation that morning, I will do my absolute best to send positive thoughts to the person giving me the most grief in my life. So that is a thought ‘how’. Words hmmm… In those 4 agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz, he refers to how we use our words as positive messages. I try to be aware of how my words affect people all the time. Here is a great example, I was running late for a meeting, then the taxi took forever to come, I was stewing and trying to figure out whether I should jump on my scooter or how to not be late for the meeting. By the time the taxi arrived and I got in I was really short with the driver. Immediately when he pulled away from the curb I thought, how can I have been short with this man, this anxiety came over me, and by the time we got to the end of my block I leaned forward and said, ‘I am so sorry I was just short with you’. I actually felt myself wounded in the words I’d spoken. It was fascinating to see the power of words and trying to be generous with them and catching yourself when you’re not.
L: So do you think the words lead to the thoughts, or do the thoughts lead to the words?
J: I think they are disconnected, that can be the challenge. So many people don’t’ realise the thoughts they are having and then the words pop out and you can’t take them back, which is kind of scary. We have so much internal dialogue, some of us don’t give it any attention, or give it too much attention, or create it. There is this whole person inside your mind.
L: Just one person? There is often more than one in my head!
J: True! However, it’s just you, each of us are creating that thought and all the others. It can be an overwhelming truth to understand.
L: Indeed, so tell me more about the ‘action’ of generosity?
J: Oh that is the most fun! The absolute most fun. I feel almost like this is a guilty sense of being selfish because it give me so much joy. So much joy! I love doing it anonymously. For instance, I had a retreat coming up and a girlfriend wanted to come, but she had so much going on and couldn’t really afford it, so I asked the instructor if he could send her an email saying there was one spot left and he had discounted it to fill up the retreat and would like her to take it, and I paid the difference without her knowing. So we did it, and my friend had the best time. Seeing her experience it was the best and knowing I played a part in that happiness.
L: That is so beautiful.
J: It just felt great, and that is a financial action, but it’s not about the money. It’s about being in a place of being able to offer that experience to a friend.
L: I once heard this quote from Oprah, ‘real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.’
J: Yep, that’s’ where the beauty is, it’s not about someone changing their mind about you or forming an opinion of you based on what you did, and that it is also about the beauty of receiving. That can be the hard part of generosity, getting comfortable with that reflection.
L: I agree, there are so many platforms of giving, from money, time, energy – is it also about you accepting generosity back? How are you at receiving?
J: I agree, most people are more comfortable with giving. My test on receiving happened last year. I had my wallet and travel documents all stolen in Laos last year, everything! I didn’t have a card, or a cent, and I needed to get to Thailand to meet up with others within in a week. I got there on the generosity of strangers. I still can’t believe the amazing things people did to get me there. I didn’t have a penny on me, the banks weren’t open, and I couldn’t get any money wired. I will never forget the generosity of those people. When it happened I came back to my hut crying, and a woman that worked there gave me the biggest hug, her daughter made me this bracelet to protect me, wow it’s giving me goose bumps now talking about it. That sort of generosity in life, when you have no choice but to receive is powerful, and seeing what it does to others to be in a position to give to you, to be generous, and do something for you with an open heart, you also need to be so thankful, when you’re so vulnerable and lost, the world delivers all this great stuff to you. You have so much gratitude as a result
L: I can see how this type of gratitude has lead you down the path to generosity being so important in your life…
J: Absolutely, and the generous actions are the fun part of life! I just feel so lucky, so lucky in this life.
So how has this interview touched you? I feel a deep sense of gratitude towards Julie and also all my other contributors to this blog. The generosity of others is what makes it possible. Can you consider for the rest of today exactly what injecting a little more generosity could do to change your impact on the world in some way?