Monday, September 19, 2011

Believing in romance: Sandra Hyatt

Romance writer, Sandra Hyatt loved happy endings and believed everyone deserved one. She had a lovely smile and curls I would have killed for. I met her at my first Romance Writers of New Zealand(RWNZ), Auckland Branch meeting and was impressed with how friendly and open she was. During the coffee break she introduced herself to me and mentioned she lived just around the coast in Clevedon and maybe we could carpool for meetings from time to time. I remember being slightly overawed that someone who was everything I was dreaming of being (a successful, published author)would be happy to carpool with me.

In late March Sandra very graciously agreed to be interviewed for my websites and that is how one chilly autumn afternoon found us together at my dining room table, sipping hot drinks and talking about romance.
At the time, I was, for a wide variety of reasons, struggling with the idea of writing romance, so I asked Sandra her thoughts on why people are ambivalent toward the genre. She gave her amazing curls a shake and took time to think a moment before replying.
“You know, I think that ambivalence has always been there and some of it is because romance is usually written by women for women and even today that creates issues I suppose. It’s important to remember to enjoy the spectrum of genres and styles available. One doesn’t have to spoil you for others. I enjoy gourmet cooking for example but I still love pizza. It’s not one or the other.”
She paused a moment and then added “personally I just like a good book.

Sandra, who sold her first book in 2008, didn’t set out to be an author, let alone one who was a USA Today bestseller. In fact, she had a successful career in marketing before taking up writing and was home on maternity leave when boredom drover her to enrol in a writing course.
“When I started writing, this light bulb went off and I thought ‘wow, this is it’,” Sandra told me. “But I still wrote for ten years before selling a manuscript.”
Sandra, as most members of RWNZ know, was in Reno for a Romance Writers of America conference when she won a critique session with Tessa Radley’s editor. That meeting was the turning point.
“I was rooming with Tessa and it was very cool to be in a group of writers who understood the joy I felt. “

The meeting pushed Sandra to take her writing seriously and she soon had a routine of writing every weekday, while her children were at school. It was important to her she said, to show her children you could have a dream and that it wouldn’t always be easy but that you could achieve it all the same.
She admitted, with something of an embarrassed grin, that she usually didn’t plan her work out ahead of time.
“I’m absolutely a pantser,” she said. “Sometimes I have an idea but that’s about all. The details come when my fingers are on the keyboard.”
Once the first book had been sold, she said she simply rolled up her sleeves and “got on with the next one”.
At times, Sandra did write in other genres but felt she wasn’t as good at it, preferring to stay with romance.
“I love a happy ending; I think they’re good for us. I like people falling in love. “

Sandra didn’t mind the solitary nature of writing but admitted she did struggle with the discipline required for meeting her 1,200 word a day target. To help avoid the distraction of email, Twitter, Facebook and the likes, Sandra kept one computer internet free and did most of her writing there. When she forayed online, she usually managed to raise a smile.
“You would think, being a writer, that I could find a pen somewhere in my house,” she once tweeted.
As we began to wind up the interview I asked Sandra what advice she had for new or unpublished writers.
“Take what you want from conferences and meetings and course but always listen to everything. Be careful about who you give your work to, to read. Then write, write, write – don’t write-edit – just get it down on paper. You can come back and fix it up later.”

Sandra died on August 21, 2011 after being taken suddenly ill at the RWNZ conference.  I was devastated because although we had met again at my house about six weeks after the interview, we didn’t know each other well enough to be friends yet. I would like to think that perhaps one day we would have become so because on that cold autumn day as I watched Sandra drive away, I knew one thing.

I wanted to be just like her.

Photo of Sandra Hyatt:  Janice Van Huenen Photography
©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.

Fun with frugality: Melanie McMinn

Melanie McMinn is the inspirational woman behind a popular and spirited blog by the name of The Frugal Kiwi –  a 2011 finalist in the highly acclaimed Bloggie Awards and runner up in ApartmentTherapy Best Green Home Blog Homie Awards.
“In the interest of disclosure,” Melanie says with a grin, “I should admit, I’m not really a kiwi.  I was born in Sevierville, Tennessee, USA but I love New Zealand.”

Melanie launched the blog in 2009, when, at the age of 36, her life was turned upside down by what the doctors at the time believed had been a stroke.    It took 20 months for specialists to discover that in fact Melanie was suffering from an extended duration, extremely severe migraine.
“I’m happy that I haven’t had a stroke. Thrilled, in fact. My long term prognosis is much better than if I’d truly had a stroke at age 36,” Melanie says.

Since the onset of the migraine Melanie’s natural tendency to frugality has blossomed into a full-fledged necessity and from there The Frugal Kiwi was born.
“I thought I’d share a tip or two to others who are frugal by nature or necessity and love living the green life.”

Melanie grew up in the southern states of America, the eldest child of simple, hard working parents.  Her father, a preacher, worked in the family business, a holiday park, and her mother was a stay at home mum.
“My mother, who suffers from various thus-far undiagnosable neurological disorders, was a stay at home mum, lover of books and quilter of beautiful things and still is.”

The family moved all around the South and Melanie changed schools often, learning to enjoy her own company and developing a love of reading.
Later, whilst completing a Master’s degree in Audiology Melanie’s eleven year marriage ended.
“ I struggled as best I could through the rest of my training as an audiologist and worked for a while in Arizona. Feeling I needed a break from life as I knew it, I sought out a job in New Zealand. I landed a position at Auckland District Health Board and moved to New Zealand.”

Still, moving half way around the world was not enough for Melanie and before long she left audiology and launched a career in freelance writing.
“ I wrote a couple of magazine pieces, but mostly worked a corporate freelancer. Before I could get fully established as a freelancer, the migraine hit.”
Unable to work, wanting to contribute to the household as best she could and needing a distraction from the excruciating pain, Melanie designed the Frugal Kiwi site and started blogging.   In the beginning she posted recipes but before long her love of adventure kicked in and she embarked on more adventurous projects like soap and felt making, bee keeping, and a variety of other activities.
Since then it has been a challenge to keep the mix on the blog balanced.
“It is easy to go off on a tangent and write about one subject, chickens or bees or felting for a month, but not all of my readers are that interested in any one of my projects. Making sure I keep a mix of posts that will engage the majority of my readers is a priority and a challenge for me.”

Designing, writing and managing a blog can be a challenge for most people  - but Melanie has her constant companion, The Migraine, to battle with as well.  She says her posting can sometimes be erratic and there are times when the pain is bad that she worries about her content.  The blogs numerous fans, however don’t seem to share her concerns.
“ I went through a period of four months earlier this year where I was barely conscious-a time I call living in ZombieLand.  I did my best during that time to create engaging content, but only my readers can say how successful I was. It did amuse me no end to have several comments from reader during my time in ZombieLand saying how energetic I was, so I must have been faking it pretty well at times.”

Although popular, the Frugal Kiwi doesn’t bring in a huge income, although it does bring in potential customers for Melanie’s Felted Kiwi product.  But money isn’t the point of the exercise.  Melanie blogs because she loves it.  When asked what she would do if handed a blank cheque, she laughs.
“Can I have the blank cheque now? In any case, I would still blog as I do now. I love knowing things. I love learning things. I like knowing how to do things and how things work. I'm not ONLY frugal and green because I have to be. I like my life the way it is. Passing that knowledge on in a way that people enjoy satisfies a pedagogical part of my soul.”

Melanie is not just adventurous in mind - before the arrival of the migraine, Melanie had another blog called Intrepid101,about her adventures  as a curvy lady:   skydiving, kayaking, rock climbing, riding in stunt planes, to name a few.  Melanies say too many women think, "I'll do that when I've lost a few pounds" and then life passes them by while they wait to get thinner.
"I wasn't waiting and boy am I glad now I didn't. Doing those sorts of things have been off the cards for me lately, but will hopefully be back on again in the coming months as things improve for me healthwise."

 ©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.

Honoring with her song: Yulia

When singer Yulia was younger she would visit her grandmother in the suburbs of Moscow and together they would sing.
“My grandmother dreamed of being an opera singer, “Yulia told Underground Mainstream.
“She even had some vocal training – but family and children came first.”

In her grandmother’s kitchen, Yulia learned Russian folk songs and listened to Caruso on her grandmother’s record player.
“My grandmother loved opera.”

A decade and several thousand miles later, Yulia – who now calls New Zealand home – is living her grandmother’s dream.

2010 was a busy year for the Russian born singer. She won the Grand Prix in the European Song Competition in Riga, Latvia and the national award for Best Nationwide Entertainment in the Corporate Events Guide 2010 People's Choice Awards while in the United Kingdom she was also an International Classical Crossover Album of the Year finalist.

The awards are the result of a combination of talent, passion, and good old fashioned hard work from the singer.  In 2009 Yulia spent year training with classical Russian and Italian singing teacher Valeriy Maksymov.
“It was a year of total immersion in classical singing.  I had to travel quite a distance several times a week to work with him.”

During the same period Yulia auditioned, and was accepted into Southern Opera and although she later declined the role, she  received valuable guidance from opera historian and former NZ Opera patron Jeremy Commons.
“He felt I needed to cultivate my own voice, so I took on board everything they both told me and I train every day of the week.  This is my life and this is as much a job as being a Doctor is.”
Yulia sees singing as an extension of herself and when she connects with a piece of music – whether be it be something she has written or a piece from another composer – she knows she can ‘really deliver’.

While in London in November 2010, Yulia ‘delivered’ for producer Craig Leon.  Leon, who has worked with a variety of artists including Blondie, The Bangles, The Ramones, and the late Pavarotti, heard Yulia’s music online and requested a meeting.
“It’s exciting to be working with him.  One of my dreams is to create a legend with my music and this is part of that.”

For a long time, Yulia says, she struggled with her identity.  She grew up in poverty and it is a normal human reaction to want to replace the hardship associated with that history with ease and abundance.  What is not quite so usual is that wealth in and of itself is not what drives Yulia.
“To achieve artistic greatness mean I could use that profile, that resource to help others achieve their greatness. I want this so I can share it with others.”

The words are far from empty; Yulia has already raised over a million dollars for New Zealand charities and would like to set up her own charitable organisation to educate, empower, assist and inspire others – with a special focus on orphans.
“My grandmother was given up for adoption during the war so orphans are close to my heart.”

With so much ahead of her and so much to focus on Yulia is philosophical about how to achieve her goals.
“In music, things take time.  Concentrating on what is in front of me right now is my focus.  Everything will happen one step at a time.”
With her eye fixed firmly on her destination, Yulia’s steps are well and truly on the right path.
©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.

Marketing with passion: Lea Worth

Lea Worth came to New Zealand, from Australia, on what was supposed to be a working holiday and fell in love.  With both New Zealand and the man she married – and 36 years later she is still here.
“We have three children two of whom  work in our jewellery manufacturing business with my husband,” Lea tells me with a smile. “Our youngest daughter is at the Broadcasting College in Christchurch.  After 30 years John and I are  empty nesters.”

Lea was working in the St Lukes shopping centre management office, assisting with marketing following the first major redevelopment of the centre, when in 1994 she was appointed acting marketing manager.   From there she was promoted to marketing manager of Glenfield Mall, at the time in the process of gaining resource consent for major redevelopment.

In 1997 when Westfield took over the management of St Lukes Group Lea was again promoted.
“I was made National Events Marketing Manager and was running national promotions across the ten centres in the portfolio.”

Newmarket Business Association(NBA) approached Lea in 2006 and asked her to become Newmarket marketing manager giving her the opportunity to work with (now councillor) Cameron Brewer and A-lister Di Goldsworthy.
“When I took over the role, Newmarket had no marketing strategy and no distinct brand position.  Four years on Newmarket is now known the length of the country as ‘The Fashion Capital of New Zealand’  - a title  I came up with as part of a complete marketing strategy to underpin Newmarket as our  premier shopping centre.”

During her time with the Association, Lea launched the Newmarket Young Designer award.  During the first two years of the award over $300,000 in public relations was generated for NBA  members and sponsors and attracted young designers from throughout the country.    Winners were flown to New York and worked back stage at kiwi designer Karen Walker's New York fashion show.
“They also received a scholarship to Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design and an internship working alongside New Zealand designer Vicki Taylor.”

“Looking back I can proudly say Newmarket benefited from the strong branding and events IImplemented, so now I’m looking for  projects in event marketing with a focus on  fashion and retail.  I’m a confident, professional and proactive person and have the ability to solve problems and use my initiative to meet challenging situations so I’m really looking for something to sink my teeth into.”©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.

Young and determined: Rachel Rayner

Rachel Rayner is a young woman with conviction.  The chair of the East Coast Bays Labour Electorate Committee is, at just 24, one of  the youngest people  in the country to hold the post.
When I met with Rachel she had just taken over the role and things had been quiet so far – she had only run one or two meetings to date – but being an election year things will soon be getting busier.

“I took the role on for two reasons,” Rachel says. “ For a start, it’s something I believe in – I simply believe we cn do better tha the other guys.  Secondly, it’s fantastic real world experience nobody else is offering.”
The primary role of an electorate committee is to support candidates standing for election – in this case Vivienne Goldsmith – and Rachel is pouring her heart in to getting ‘her’ candidate up the list and into parliament.
“The first thing I organised was a clothing swap – we really needed to do a fundraiser and it seemed like a good way to get things started.”

Part of the attraction, Rachel says, was a clothing swap was a good way to attract people who were not Labour party members along.
Held late last year, Sunnynook Primary School Hall provided an easily found  location for the event and social networking site, Twitter  soon proved to be a formidable marketing platform.
“We had more people from Twitter than from anywhere by far,” Rachel says with a grin.

Ten dollars cash and two items of clothing secured entry to the swap and three chits that could be swapped for three new items of clothing.
Neatly folded and sorted piles of clothes lined the hall and dressing rooms were set up at one end, as was a café.
“I was really  pleased to see people didn’t just come in, find something and leave.  They stayed, had coffee and a good look around.  Most people stayed around an hour – and everyone took at least two articles of clothing away with them.  It was fantastic.”

Although the event raised several hundred dollars, its real value lay in raising the profile of both Ms Goldsmith and the committee.
“It was the wrong time of the year I think for a fundraiser so it wasn’t the most profitable but it was so good in terms of profile.  We had lots of non-members there and it was the easiest fundraiser I’ve ever done.  Everyone just jumped in and helped.  We did have clothes left over – we kept the best for the next event in March and donated the rest to the Child Cancer Foundation.”
Rachel has had  plenty to keep her busy even before the election – which is exactly how Rachel likes it.
“I get asked if I would like to stand but not at this stage –you know there are not a lot of young members and we’re trying to change that so I feel  I can do so much to help at this level, I’m happy doing that.”
©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.  

Picking her priorities: Susan Wood

While discussing “hooks” at a  non-fiction writing workshop led by Graham Reed, he advised us to pay attention to “what you remember the most. What you notice is what other people will notice”.
The thing I noticed about Susan Wood was how very normal she was – and by normal I don’t mean ordinary.

Ordinary is hardly the word for a successful journalist whose courage is almost as famous as her career.

As well as taking TVNZ to employment court (she won) she quit as general manager for the Takapuna Beach Business Association after only a week in the role because insufficient funding would not allow her to take the village as far as she believed it could go.
Not content with an impressive resume that showed her working alongside Paul Holmes and presenting more than one successful prime-time show, Susan graduated with an MBA from Otago in 2001.

So, I was relieved to discover a down-to-earth woman with a great sense of humour who is more interested in her family-Susan has two sons -and friends than in being a celebrity. What's more, one  who makes a really good cup of tea.
“I did the MBA to show I have a brain,” she explains as she pours the tea.

Even with an MBA and leveraging her extensive media knowledge, it took Susan longer than she anticipated to find her niche once she moved away from mainstream media.
“Because I have had such a public profile, there is a perception around that profile and around what I used to do that is, in fact, incorrect.
“People were making assumptions about what I could do, or would be prepared to do, that just weren’t true.”

The experience gave Susan time to gather herself and decide what was important to her, what she wanted to do and who she wanted to work with.
“You know, if I can’t look someone in the eye I can’t be bothered working with them.”
“I’m not going to validate someone else just for a pay cheque.”
The result is Wood Communications and a group of carefully selected clients, many of whom which are not-for-profit groups.
More than just public relations, Wood Communications offers writing, video, communications and anything else its clients need.
“If it feels right I say yes and figure out how to do it.  I’ve had to learn how to do a lot of new things,” she says with a laugh.

Women, according to Susan, are wired differently so they respond differently – but rather than worrying about it they should simply learn to work with those differences.
“You know there are some brilliant women’s networks out there.  We have to look after each other as much as we can.”

It’s important, she believes to encourage, the next generation of women and share experience and knowledge with them as much as possible.
“I want to see good people who work hard do well.”

The greatest thing about her new lifestyle is the flexibility it affords.  The days of having to be at studios at four for make-up and worrying about missing cues behind her, Susan is free to set her own work schedule and time.
“I can march to the beat of my own drum,” she says with a grin.
“I'm not really a morning person but I do get my best ideas in the shower.  I’m an evening worker though.  I feel like I’m getting my niche sorted, that I’m on the right path – I want to continue with that, continuing to get the balance.”

Balance is the key for Susan who is a devoted mum of two boys in their late teens.  Being present and sharing their lives is a high priority for her as is being there for her friends.
“If people want you near when they’ve got issues it’s something really special. I think that’s pretty cool.”
The keys to success for Susan are simple.
Be true to yourself in every way, she says, and treat others in a way you’d like to be treated.  She also believes it’s important you appreciate what you have and what you have achieved as you go.
She settles her cup down and stands.
“Oh can I add one more?  Make sure there is enough love in your life – that’s what matters."

©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.  

Lighting the flame: Christine Rankin

Christine Rankin has long been someone I find inspirational.  Back in 2008 for the release of her book Light the Flame (Random House, NZ) she very kindly agreed to an interview with me for business community newspaper Business to Business:
Having built a successful career in public service against the proverbial odds, Christine Rankin found herself at one point in the unenviable position of being one of the most loathed people in our community – at times even being spat on in the street.
“The experience nearly destroyed me and sometimes I wished I could discreetly disappear to live in isolation.  But I chose not to vanish, because I am driven by a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, especially those who experience the disadvantages and vulnerability similar to my own early years.” Christine writes in the opening pages of her book, speaking of her dismissal from public service.

But if you are looking for bitterness – you need to look elsewhere.  For in her book Light the Flame, Christine’s account of her life – including the now famous battle with her superiors – is frank and at times brutal, but bitter it is not.
“I think it was a story that needed to be told,” Christine tells me during a recent interview.  “But when I started to do it, it was too raw.  So I left it for a while, until my son said, “you really need to write that book.”  Then the question became do I want to?  I’m glad I did.”
With son Matt, Christine runs a consultancy and mentorship business called The Rankin Group as well as a media training business Media Wranglers.  In her spare time – if such a thing exists for her – Christine is also chief executive of charitable trust “For the Sake of the Children”.
“Matt and I are passionate about what we do.  We teach people about transformational leadership.  It can be scarey for people to realise that if you want to get the most out of people and business, you have to give of yourself.”

She has also taken on politics again, this time on a regional scale.
“I don’t love politics – I probably fit in local body politics but not really regional.  But I am passionate and I have a lot of integrity.   Besides, we have to have New Zealanders who challenge the status quo.  I want to say what I need to say when I want to say it.”

At nearly six foot tall, Christine is unlikely to ever blend into the scenery but it is more than her height – and her now infamous earrings – that make her stand out from the crowd.  Straightforward and open, Christine is anything but run of the mill in her approach to everything.
“You know, a little man in a crimpolene suit with dandruff told me I was not dressed appropriately.”
The memory brings a laugh – and there is  a tinge of sadness when she continues.
“I’ve experienced the best of our culture and the worst of our culture. Lots of people want to be famous but not many would want to go through what I went through.  Let’s hope nobody has to again.”  There is a momentary pause before she turns to the current state of leadership in New Zealand – and she admits she is desperate for a change of regime.
“Why be miserable together?  Let’s celebrate together.”
Originally published in Business to Business, October 2008. Reprinted with permission.

Leading with integrity: Hannah Samuel

“A reputation, once broken, may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep its eyes on the spot where the crack was”.  Joseph Hall

Hannah Samuell wanted to be an altar girl.
“My older brother had been an altar-boy,” Hannah told me over hot chocolate, as we took refuge from a cold winter afternoon in a local cafe.

Gender discrimination at an early age did not dampen Hannah’s spirit at all – if anything it encouraged her to find out how people could authentically express themselves, personally and professionally, whilst also understanding they would be judged.
“I realised from a very early age – probably around 6 or 7 – that reputation rules,” Hannah said.
“I discovered everyone makes judgements about others whether or not those judgments may be fair or accurate. As I moved through school and into my adult life it became really clear how the school we went to, the suburb we lived in, the company we kept, the qualifications we gained and the career we chose, for example, opened doors or slammed them shut. ”

It can be slightly unnerving to meet someone who is considered a reputation expert.  All the usual pre-meeting worries surrounding ‘how do I look?’, ‘what do they know about me?’ seem to take on a new importance.  Even ‘how do I smell?’ -  after all do you want  a reputation champion going away from a meeting thinking “whoo – have they never heard of deodorant?”
So it is somewhat reassuring to meet the successful author and speaker and discover she is not only very nice - one of those people you like instantly - she doesn’t seem even remotely interested in your presentation.  Or how you smell.

A successful career in business development in both the UK and New Zealand allowed Hannah to experience first-hand how many businesses attract  high-value, loyal customers and clients by delivering on their promises and managing expectations.  Conversely says Hannah, others make a ‘quick win’ but failed to have lasting success by failing to treat their teams, their customers and those around them with integrity.
“My focus on reputation branding came about as a result of bringing these experiences together. When we understand how reputation is formed, and how it influences virtually every decision that’s made, we can make informed choices and decisions about how to live our lives and run our businesses and it’s this that drives me.”

Casting a ‘reputation lens’ over the lives and work of clients enables them to be become more informed about the choices they make, but Hannah is quick to point out this is not about telling people how to live their lives.
“I’m not the morality police. It’s not my place to tell someone what they should, or shouldn’t do. What I can do, however, is give them information and tools to make their own choices and have a fair idea of what the consequences may be.”

Encouraged as a child to  become informed and express her  opinion Hannah had forged a career as writer, speaker and consultant on the importance of reputation.  Her books include the very successful Reputation Branding: How to grow your business without spending a cent and The Integrity Factor
“‘Robust’ discussions around the dinner table in our house were a big part of growing up! As a young adult, because I was willing to express my opinion I was frequently asked to contribute to debates and speak on a topic. I also had roles as a trainer or facilitator and regularly wrote for business newspapers and magazines on issues around business development.”
It’s easy to see how her path led her to being an in demand speaker and  National President of the National Speakers Association of New Zealand (NSANZ).
“I’ve always enjoyed speaking in front of an audience and really engaging with people and found myself doing more of this, alongside more writing around reputation, trust and integrity specifically.”
Reputation Branding – How To Grow Your Business Without Spending A Cent – came about as a result of audience members asking Hannah if she had written a book and where they could buy it.
The Integrity Factor: Why Reputation Rules In Business And Life – which was co-authored with Ricky Nowak, came about as a result of Ricky and me deciding to collaborate on paper on the importance of integrity in our professional lives – specifically focusing on leaders and the responsibilities they have for their organisations and those around them.”

Hannah’s books are easy to read and echo her speaking style.  She uses real-life examples and case-studies to remind us everything we do impacts on how others perceive us.
People do business, and engage with, people and organisations they trust says Hannah which is why it is so important we develop and maintain, high-trust and high-value relationships.  In doing so we are more likely to have doors open for us than slammed in our face.
“We can also sleep well at night knowing whatever we may be accused of, of challenged on, we will be able to explain our actions honestly. Acting with integrity is one of the best stress-relievers there is!”

Hannah repeats that her job isn’t to dictate other people’s behaviour.  Integrity she says firmly is about accepting personal responsibility for our actions and the consequences of the choices we make. It is about the alignment of every part of our being – what we say and do, how we choose to behave and act.
“As part of my work I’m blessed to be able to meet, and engage with, people from all walks of life which enriches my experience and understanding, and I enjoy educating and informing, through my speaking and writing, in an entertaining and memorable way.”

It’s not unusual for people to give Hannah feedback via email, phone or via Twitter or Facebook, saying they  are now thinking differently about the consequences of their actions in a more personally-responsible way and making informed choices in the way they are living their lives or running their business.
“It’s easy to judge, criticise, bleat, blame, moan and whinge. I’m tickled-pink when someone lets me know they’re choosing the arguably harder path of being objective, accepting, nurturing, supportive and responsible instead.”

Hannah doesn’t spend her entire working day examining reputations though.  She is equally vigilant in the quest for fairness and equity – ensuring people are given  a genuine opportunity and are not discriminated against, or disadvantaged.
It is also important, she says with a grin, to have fun.

This of course begs the question how does somebody who is so aware of other people’s perceptions and interpretation have fun.   Hannah is not at all put off by the question .
“I love spending time with interesting people with wonderful life experiences of any age.   I enjoy reading – mostly biographies and non-fiction, music (anything from Gorillaz to Pucini), dancing and skating.  I also recharge by walking in the bush with my dogs or on the beach on a cold winter’s day, rugged up against the weather! One of these day’s I’ll become a proper gardener – I’m good at pulling out weeds – and I enjoy playing around with colours and fabrics quilting.”

Hannah credits a lot of her success to her parents who supported and encouraged her.  She admired their work ethic and was inspired to work with integrity rather than ‘win at all costs’. Success was never defined in monetary terms, but in lifestyle terms and the ability to make choices with time, money and other resources.
“My husband, too, continues to encourage and inspire me with his generous spirit, wonderful sense of humour and honourable work-life ethic.  One of my dreams is to take a vacation driving through the Swiss Alps in an open-top Aston Martin or MGB GT with Garry.”

Although Hannah does not believe she has the right, or the obligation, to help people make good choices, she is always thrilled to learn she has been instrumental in helping someone to succeed.
“By accepting personal responsibility and making informed decisions each and every one of us has the opportunity to influence and shape our lives, and society in general, for our own benefit, and the benefit of those around us. “

So what are the three vital ingredients in Hannah’s recipe for success?
The first is no surprise to learn - other people’s opinions count and it’s important to never forget that.  However, Hannah adds, it’s more important, to  feel good about, and be truly happy with, the life you are living.
“If you’re not,  be honest with yourself about what changes may need to be made, and make them.”
Modest self-appreciation is next on the list.  It can boost your spirits, and help remind you of the unique qualities and gifts you bring to the world. Every so often remind yourself:
I’m good at …
I’m loved and appreciated by …
I make a difference to …
And finally?
“If you  can help people feel good about themselves, and also feel good about dealing with you, you’ll never be short of money or opportunities. “

Download Hannah's fabulous free e-book 'Pocket Book Of Women's Wisdom Volume 1'. Words of Support And Encouragement From Women For Women. Compiled in support of global charity ‘Dress For Success’, this ebook is a compilation of original thoughts, sayings and quotations from everyday New Zealand and Australian women willing to share with, and encourage, other women in an uplifting way. Ideal when you’d like a boost of inspiration and encouragement here

©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.  

Pint sized passion: Janet Xuccoa

Janet Xuccoa does nothing by halves.

The Gilligan Rowe and Associates (GRA) partner has not one but two degrees, has created and successfully administers the Trust Planning department for GRA,  successfully written, published and released her first book, and is working on her second .

When asked why two degress – when most of us had enough trouble getting one – she looks somewhat bemused.
“Two reasons,” she told me.
“First, I believe in stacking your deck with cards that will ensure you have a great chance of achieving what you set out to achieve in life.
“Secondly, I have always been terrified of failing at whatever I do - failure to me means not achieving the goals that are set.
“So it seemed to me that having two hard core degrees behind me meant the deck was stacked in my favour and therefore my chances of failure were lessened.”

Law, Janet says, allows her to indulge her joy of words
“I like the clever way you can put them together to say something witty or challenging or thought provoking.
“With accounting, I like seeing how numbers behave and what they mean.  Numbers frequently tell a story all by themselves – a bit like words really.”

Janet was working in an inner city accounting practice and looking for a new challenge when she spotted an advertisement from GRA calling for applications for a manager’s role. She knew immediately they needed more than they were asking and took her tenacity into the role.
Within three months she was asked to become a partner.
“From the moment I commenced working with GRA I developed the role I held.
“I was however very fortunate to have two Partners behind me who gave me this licence and who had the confidence in me to get the job done.”

Over the years Janet has seen how people can get caught in the “litigation net” and this has fostered a passion for Trust work.
“They may for instance not have caused another person to lose money or suffer damage but because they were involved in some way, they are sued.
“When this occurs, those people can lose everything because they don’t have insurance to cover the event.
“When they lose everything, they end up with no assets, huge debts and a complete loss of self esteem and confidence.”

In other words – true to her nature – Janet sees having a Trust as having  another card in your deck. Family Trusts 101 writtten, published and released by Janet is also part of that deck. Although she primarily wrote the book to help demystify Trusts and help people administer them and fulfill their Trustee duties in accordance with the law – she also wanted to be sure she didn’t become “one of those advisers who create a Trust for a client, take their money and then turn their back on them”.
“I got mad at the professional advisors out there who are very good at creating Trusts for clients but absolutely hopeless at telling their clients how they should run their Trusts.
“You see when clients fail to administer their Trusts, it’s an easy task to attack their Trusts.

Self publishing was both a creative and a business decision. Two well known publishers wanted to publish the book which involved buying the copyright; as is the norm in book publishing, the publishing house would then  have chosen the type font, paper type, and layout of the book.
“I didn’t want a publisher to have this type of control so I chose to self publish.
“That said, I would never have been able to get this book out into the public domain without the wonderful support I’ve had.”

Since the launch of the book, Janet has been inundated with orders and is viewing the entire experience with a mix of amusement, relief and excitement.
“Relief that the tension to get it to market is over and excited to see something I’ve done in other peoples’ hands.”

Whether she is talking about law, accounting, or writing it soon becomes clear there are three vital ingredients to Janet’s success. The first and the most obvious is passion - Janet likes to be deeply involved in whatever she is  doing and says she never wants to live a life without passion in it.
“Passion for what ever I am involved in drives me to do the very best I can.”
It is however balanced she says with an equal dose of fear – of failure.
“Fear of failing on the other hand drives me to run harder and faster at whatever task is put in front of me.
“Passion and fear are two vital ingredients that work well for me but they aren’t without their costs.”

The third is helping others.
At a large funeral attended by several hundred people she was struck by the number of speeches that spoke not of the deceased’s successes and achievements but of their kindness in words, deeds and actions.
“I decided there and then at that funeral that when I leave this world, I want people to think of me like that and so I have set out to help others through the work I do.
“That’s why practising the principle “paying it forward” is just so important to me personally.”

Paying it forward includes helping women take personal responsibility for the life they  want.  This includes self responsibility for designing their physical, spiritual and financial life.
“This means getting some education (reading, asking questions) and putting in place a plan which contains goals and strategy for achieving the life you desire,” Janet says after some thought.
“It also means reviewing the plan every now and again and dealing with any issues that come up.”

To do this Janet recommends gathering brilliant advisors around you and not becoming a a person who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
“Good advisors charge good money but they will steer you in the right direction.  Also ensure you have great friends around you and don’t neglect them.  Have people who will encourage you, give you a bed for the night, who will help, support and motivate you.  At the same time, keep your eyes and ears open.  Know who is not in your camp and not on your side. But don’t let what you hear and see, affect what’s in your heart.  Just do what’s in your plan, in a well thought out, respectful manner and prove those who are against you wrong.”

Her last piece advice could come straight from Sex and the City's  Carrie and has a ring of sincerity that proves a lot of thought and more than a few tears have helped formulate it.
“You should buy more shoes, watch more movies, fall in love, eat more of your favourite foods, travel, laugh more, hang out with friends  … work out and then try to do what makes you feel happy and try to do it on a regular basis.  Sometimes we have to programme time in our lives to do the things that make us feel happy and content.”
While she works on adding another card to her deck, Janet is taking her own advice and taking some well earned rest and relaxation – with just a smidgeon of shoe shopping thrown in for good measure.

©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.  

Learning to trust: Sonia Choquette

Internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher, intuitive guide and author Sonia Choquette laughs when I ask her how old she was when she realised she had an ability to do something  different and special.
“I grew up in a house where the sixth sense was valued as the most important of all the senses. It wasn’t until I went to grammar school that I realised that what I considered natural and comfortable was not shared by other people .”

Speaking from Chicago, six weeks before she was due in New Zealand for her Traveling at the Speed of Love workshop in Taupo, Sonia has a strong, sincere voice full of confidence as she explains her work to me.
“I went to a Catholic school where they taught about angels while I was actually engaging with them.”
So Sonia, who energetically activates the highest vibration to free the authentic Spirit in everyone she meets, began teaching other people how to identify and use their sixth sense when she was just 16.
“I don’t know any other way of being so it just seemed natural.”

From there Sonia went on to study at the University of Denver and the Sorbonne in Paris, before pursuing a spiritual education at the American Institute of Holistic Theology where she gained a BA, MS and PhD in Metaphysics.

While writing several bestselling books, Sonia began helping to release  people from the restriction and fear of the ego while guiding them  to joy, wholeness, and personal empowerment in every area of their life.

Along the way she has been a personal intuitive advisor to New Age leaders like Louise Hay, Julia Cameron, Caroline Myss, Dr. Wayne Dyer, pop icon Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins rock band, and professional consultant to international business leaders such as Charlotte Beers, Fortune 500 Company CEO.

According to Sonia we live in a quantum field of energy but our ego minds filter that subtle connection with our intuition out – but once this is reactivated we can make more informed decisions.
“Intuition is the higher octave of our senses,” Sonia said.
“Women tend to be more fluent as they are more comfortable expressing their feelings than men but they are not inherently more intuitively capable.

Studies have shown that following our intuition is a skill of leaders, with CEO’s and entrepreneurs commonly citing ‘following their gut feeling’ as a reason for their success.
“We are all born with a clear connection to our intuition.
“We have been indoctrinated to abandon and hand ourselves over to the external patriarchal authority figures of our society but those figures are failing us left and right.
“The good news though is that paradigm is ending  and the reactivation of our inner guidance system is not that difficult once you are shown the way.”

Fear, stubborn habit and dormant imagination are all blocks to acknowledging our intuition says Sonia and she acknowledges that the unknown is often frightening.
“Don’t confuse fear with danger though,” she continued.
“It’s fun and exciting to activate your mind.

©2010 Angelique Jurd - All Rights Reserved.  

The power of poetry: Kim Rosen

There is, in poetry, a power to touch and transform our lives; a power so subtle it is almost magic.  Author, spiritual teacher and, yes, poet, Kim Rosen spoke to me about how  she uses the art form to help others transform their own lives.
“That’s wonderful,” Kim laughed upon hearing how much I enjoyed her recently released Saved by a Poem: The Transformative Power of Words (Hay House, 2009).  In fact by page two I was in tears and have been the prowl for poems on a daily basis ever since.  “I love hearing how the book has touched people. It is so rewarding.

Armed with a B.A. from the prestigious Yale University and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, Kim has successfully led trainings, workshops and retreats the world over  for more than  25 years. Combining her devotion to poetry with her background as a spiritual teacher and therapist, she also gives "Poetry Concerts", often working with other poets, teachers, and musicians like cellist Jami Sieber.
“I became a teacher of consciousness, an explorer of realms of spirituality and psychology – but none of these wisdoms I’d been immersed in could touch the place where I was broken beyond repair.  You know: take four teaspoons of Rumi and call me in the morning.”

In Saved by a Poem Kim speaks of accidentally finding a cassette tape of David White speaking poems that brought breath and feeling to a place within her that felt untouchable.   At that same time Kim was driving long distances back and forth to her parents who were struggling with their own health crises.  She decided to put the driving time to good use and start memorising some of her favourite pieces.
“I found myself not memorising the poems but learning them by heart and each time I said them I discovered something new – about the poem and about myself.”

She began recording poets reading their own work as well as that of other poets and putting it against the deeply soulful cello of Jami Sieber.  Writing  and recording Saved by a Poem became an integral part of her own journey to help people discover or rediscover the magic that is poetry in their own lives.
“Poetry is one of the main flashlights I use to help people to open up to the possibilities of who they are.”
While the book was with the copy editors, Kim found herself again being saved yet again by a poem.  After investing her lifesavings, Kim discovered that like thousands of others, she had lost everything to Bernie Madoff.  As she hung up the phone from hearing the news,  the opening words of the poem "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye began to play in her mind.
“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things.”

“You know, people think that all the people who lost money in those schemes were millionaires.  I wasn’t – it was a small amount – but it was all I had.  The poem just seized me - it really arrived from somewhere as if it had been an exam of my own teaching.”

Kim survived the Madoff loss and is not shy in admitting the role poetry played in helping her through that and other difficulties. She believes fervently that poetry is the only language that speaks to those vast shifts, wonders, and  heartbreaks that happen and that speaking poems aloud helps navigate those very challenges.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

From: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (A Far Corner Book) (Paperback) by ~ Naomi Shihab Nye
©2010 Angelique Jurd – All Rights Reserved.