#SOAR2020 - Damn you auto correct ... SOUR?

When the sun rose on New Year’s day this year, I was ready. More pumped, planned, primed and on-purpose than I’ve been for many years.  

Having achieved my one big 2019 BRAG [big radical aspirational goal]; launching my first book – Rock Your Stripes in June, I’d had a few busy months following with speaking engagements and book-promo travel, and then set aside the last few months to plan out my ‘what’s next’.  It felt like I was still playing too small; that there was so much more yet to do, in a much broader footprint.

In those last months of 2019,  I posted hints and ‘coming soon’ messages about plans to roll out new 2020 expanded programs in January; weekly videos, fortnightly blogs, and we even bought new techno programs and equipment [including a free-standing funky microphone – in red] for recording professional interviews and podcasting. All that positive energy was channelled into my 2020 word for the year: Soar.


SOAR - meaning to rise up swiftly, to ride the wind higher and higher, to feel the exhilaration and joy of moving through the air to reach greater heights.  The word perfectly matched my plans.

Those who know me will be aware that I love welcoming each day at sunrise on the beach; facing the ocean, arms outstretched and scooping up the energy from the wind over the water. I love the ocean breezes, the power of summer storm winds, and hearing the wind swaying tall palm tree fronds from my open upstairs office window. Definitely my energy source.

So, what the fcuk happened, right? 

Did the universe auto-correct my 2020 word SOAR into SOUR?  Or maybe even SORE?

Here we are almost at the end of March, and this is my FIRST blog for 2020. Seriously. Why? Well, the timing seemed to never be right. I had started several blogs and tried to record upbeat videos in early January, but it just seemed wrong and tactless to publish them when all those people [some family members] were experiencing such hardship from the massive fires.  A sombre, respectful approach, supporting from the sidelines felt more appropriate. A reverent pause from the ra-ra New Year hype.

Then, later in January, after waiting patiently [not one of my strengths] for key industry players to return from the holiday break, we excitedly took off for a full week of meetings with stakeholders and potential project partners in Brisbane.  On day one, walking from airport train to Brisbane hotel, the meniscus in my left knee decided to totally fail me. Out of the blue; no fall, no impact. Like someone was shoving a sharp knife into in and slowly ripping it apart; a subsequent MRI showed two complete tears – lateral and radial.  Majorly impacted.  Surgery likely.  I was facing months of rehabilitation. Crap!  Now what? 

Come on universe. You’ve got to be kidding me. I said SOAR, not SORE!!

So, in the 24 hours post MRI results I lost it completely and told my partner to cancel all my speaking engagements for IWD and Queensland Women’s week [6 weeks away], and postpone our Lean In Queensland launch that we’d spent months planning for; I was snapped out of that catastrophising downward mindset quickly [like a wet fish slapped across my face]. Mr Wonderful spun me around, looked me straight in the eyes and said: ‘What? Have you never seen a disabled person doing a key-note on stage?’.  Hmmm.  Perspective. It was just a degenerated knee, FFS!

Determination to beat this thing kicked back in. Reality is - I’ve had heaps of knocks before. I’m well experienced in rising up, zigzagging around the hurdles when I can’t jump over them, and just find another way.  In fact, I was known for it when I was in public sector leadership roles; “Jilinda doesn’t hear - ‘no, you can’t do that’ … she hears - ‘go find another way around it and do it anyway’. And, I won awards for my outside-the-box 'pilot programs' [once they were successful!].

This time, as it turned out, there were three possible outcomes; so I chose option one.  Lots of physio, strengthening exercises, pool workouts, and sticking to disciplined daily recovery plan. With every small step of improvement, I became more resolute that I would walk onto those stages and present the stuff that I am most passionate about, during my favourite week of the year that is themed and focused on my signature topics:

LEADERSHIP + GENDER EQUALITY = the need for more women at the decision-making tables.

Well, I did it. We did it. My wonderful partner took over all the logistics and event organising [plus chief whip coach for my recovery plan], and I was able to attend and deliver on commitments at six events during Queensland Womens Week [6 – 15 March]. Even modelled in a fashion parade [slowly, in flat shoes], after speaking on how to be your full-arse version and rock your unique stripes.  One small step for most, one giant leap for me.

It’s hard to believe that was just ten days ago. Gatherings in large convention centres, some in government workshop size rooms, others in small restaurant meeting spaces. Lots of people mingling, shaking hands and hugging. Now – nothing of that sort can take place, safely.

The universe is at it again, throwing us another 2020 challenge. A much bigger one!

Coronavirus is now upon us. Australia is not immune or amused.  In our usual, ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, it seems we’ve not acted as swiftly and seriously as we could have to mitigate the impact. Right now, we’re in the depths of fear, confusion and caution. 

So, we voluntarily commenced home isolation from last weekend [apart from basic food necessities]. In reality, it’s not that different for us as we run our business from a home office and most of our programs [involving coaching] are delivered online, or by Zoom video or phone. That said, like many colleagues in the gig economy, we are financially impacted by cancelled events, speaking engagements and travel plans, and having to postpone workshops we had planned to deliver over the next six months.

As a self-appointed ‘Change Champion’, and having gone through many career and business challenges, previous economic recessions and personal changes in my life; my default response is to quickly flip my mindful focus on to what I CAN do, not what I CAN’T do or can’t control. What I can do is choose how to use my time; so I’m determined to make the most of this imposed home-bound time. To use this time to recuperate, re-focus, re-jig a few things, rise up and SOAR; even if that means doing stuff differently or doing different stuff right now. 

One thing we are NOT doing is panic buying of groceries. I just don’t understand that mentality or the fear that is associated with the possibility of having to live a little simpler for a few weeks. We are also NOT panic selling of our products and services. Now is NOT the time to add to the increasing market glut of hastily-thrown-together online products, pushed onto people in their most vulnerable times. Now is the time for compassion and support ... [but that’s a whole subject for another blog]. 

Here’s what I know for sure: sh!t happens, but it also passes. Challenges force us to think outside that comfort zone box, and make changes. To focus on what we CAN do, and importantly – to focus on what matters most; your health and resilience, and supporting each other.

Have you revised your 2020 strategy to suit the current situation? 

Thought I'd share with you what my revised #SOAR2020 strategy now looks like ... 

S – Self-care                 … my 5 essential stress-busting formula of S’s: Sun [especially sunrises], Sea, Sand, Swimming, and Sex.

O – Open-minded         … my 4 creative ideas strategy of O’s: Objective [purpose], Overhaul [declutter], Options [explore] and Opportunities [leap on them]

A – Agility                     … my triple A change agility formula: Attitude [embrace change], Aptitude [learn new skills], Action [move forward]

R – Reset                       … my 2 word, well-used, kick-arse mantra:

                                             ‘RISE ABOVE’.

My point is: Now is NOT the time to hide under your doona, or sit in the corner rocking, or waste away whole days watching Netflicks while eating your way through a bulging pantry.

Let’s take on the universe and it’s 2020 sh!t-storm, and while in social-distancing mode, use this time wisely to recover, and get ready to rise up and SOAR! 


Written by Jilinda Lee - recognised leadership coach and mentor for leaders and managers, Regional Leader for the Lean In global movement, and Founder / President of Lean In Queensland.  – encouraging and enabling more women to step up into lead roles.

Jilinda is a passionate presenter, thought-leading commentator, and writer on all things leadership and diversity related. Her high energy sweet-spot is fueled and fired up when combining her two great passions - LEADERSHIP + FEMINISM.

Jilinda's personal mission is to raise the leadership bar, by developing more dynamic leaders through boosting diversity at the decision-making tables. 

Her recently released book - Rock Your Stripes is available from major bookstores and online distributors. 

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