I value the knowledgeable community at my fingertips.

Earlier in the week I wrote about the power of community and how it had the impact to change a girl’s life. The strength of an active and engaged community is invaluable. Whether it is for serious life changing impact, or small trivial problem solving.  The other day I was once again reminded of how much I have come to rely on the advice and opinions of my twitter pals.

I had a problem. I needed to find a marathon friendly school dress. After a fruitless weekend searching Dimmies, Target and numerous op-shops I felt deflated.

So I posted it on twitter.

Within about 5 minutes this is what I got…

So many genuine offers of advice and assistance. It was amazing.

An engaged community, ready and willing to share their knowledge. So why doesn’t everyone see this value?

Everyday I still have the same conversation with people about the value of social media and in particular twitter. Why would I want to know what everyone had for lunch? As many of us know, this does not define twitter or the reason that the majority of people on there now use it as their number one news, information and knowledge source. You have direct access to politicians, journalists, athletes, chefs, specialists of all and any fields. It is real and real-time. And as I experience every day it is a valuable and wise community. One that is even willing to help me locate my perfect marathon dress. Awesome.

Without twitter to connect us this level of open communication and knowledge sharing would not be possible. Many minds are always better than one.

I did end up finding my school dress. The lovely guys over at One Girl actually sell Action Kits this year – which Chantelle shared with me… on twitter.

The dress still needs to go through my sewing machine and hopefully come out the other side fitting perfectly with no ability to chafe. But I am almost all set. Thanks to the responsiveness of my valuable online community.

My Do It In A Dress Action Kit arrived in the mail today too. Woohoo! Check it out…

Commitment, community & generosity change a girl’s life. And all in one week.

On Monday this week I handed in an essay for my Masters. The topic was on the importance of gender and the education of women in development. On Tuesday a friend of mine asked me to participate in One Girl’s campaign, Do It In A Dress. On Wednesday I committed to running the Sydney Marathon in a school dress (on my 30th Birthday).  On Thursday my lovely family and friends had donated enough money to send one girl to school in Sierra Leone. Today is Friday, and I am feeling rather overwhelmed about how much can be achieved in one week. Commitment, community and generosity is amazing.

So this is what I say about me and my commitment…

I love to read books. I love to write blogs. I love to run. I love being empowered to make the decisions that affect my life. And I am about to turn 30.

For my birthday I don’t want presents or champagne. Instead, I am running a marathon in a school dress and asking all my mates to give $10 to help send girls to school in Sierra Leone.

I am running the Sydney Marathon on September 16th – which happens to also be my 30th Birthday. I want to turn 30, being fit, healthy and in control of my life. Things which would not have been possible without a good education.

Knowledge and education change the world and no-one should miss out on this. By wearing a school dress for the Sydney Marathon I am going to help give girls in Sierra Leone an education. The school days are never over, and for girls in Africa it has only just begun.

I am going to turn 30, being hot, sweaty, red-faced and thanks to an awesome community, being proud to have helped share the joy of education with deserving girls.

If a woman is educated, she is empowered to participate in political discussion, family decision making and be an active citizen in society. In Sierra Leone a girl is more likely to be sexually assaulted than go to school. Education can break the cycle of poverty and give a young girl the opportunity to take control of her life. I figure that is worth wearing a school dress for and if I need to run a marathon in it so that people take notice of me, then I can do that to. It’s a challenge but one that I am up for.

You can check out my profile page and if you have to feel like supporting me you can do that over  here too. Thanks!

Support Sarah‘s Do It In A Dress Marathon

Has our accessibility made just ‘dropping in’ unacceptable?

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day and we were talking about community spirit and friendship. Not the online community type but the real life, borrow a cup of sugar, walk straight through the front door type. He said that real community comes when people just drop in unannounced. I think it’s true. And these days it is rare.

It’s so easy to find out if someone is home that you don’t need to go and knock on the door.

People, and their locations are so accessible. You can see their foursquare, their path or even just call their mobile. You don’t need to waste time going over to someones house with the risk that they might not be there.

At the same time, I find myself not just ‘popping in’ if I happen to be going by. This whole accessibility thing has made me feel like I should always check first… because I always can.

That the unannounced drop-in is almost no longer acceptable. 

This is sad. There is something unique in the sincere friendship of the unannounced drop in. That you know the person on the other side of the door will welcome you – even if you have caught them in the middle of cleaning the shower, watching a movie, or drinking alone. You get people as they were. Going about their daily activities behind closed doors. That’s community spirit. Being able to trust the unpredictability of friendship. The online version is much more predictable and measured.

I like unpredictability and so I am going to work to add the unannounced drop-in back into my life and not left it fall off the IRL radar.

What do you think? Is the unannounced drop-in still acceptable?

No debate. Just sweet smiles between bikes and cars.

I love my bike.

For Christmas last year my dad gave me an IOU voucher to do up my old bike. And he did. New breaks. New cables. New tyres. New seat. New colour. I chose green. It’s great. It takes me to work. To the market. To the pub. Through the rain, the wind and the sunshine. Always for free and always on time. There are the the odd moments of abuse when he pops a tyre or snaps a break cable. But I forgive, fix, forget and get straight back on. I ride on bike paths and on the road. I have three bikes. I ride slow in cool clothes on my cruising green machine and I ride down beach road in lycra on a bike that cost me too much. I also own a car.

I have a little yellow thing that some Japanese company pumped out in 1991 and it’s called Bertie the Banana. He is a cool car. I like to drive him.

Even though he doesn’t get out that often, the admiration I have for my bike and my car is almost equal.

When I am driving I get frustrated by cyclists that run red lights and don’t use arm signals. They give me a bad reputation. As much as I feel unique and special when I am on my bike, to drivers, we are one. We are bikes. So when I am on my bike I always smile at cars. I always let them go first. I apologise – even when I am right. I want to bridge the divide and foster mutual respect for each of us.

I am sick of the driver-cyclist divide. The debate is tiring – I am on both sides – and I am not sure my smile and friendly cyclist attitude is having much impact.

So lucky there are people giving more than a sweet smile to oil the creaky love between cars and bikes too. These are two of my favourites:

* Cycle Space: Today I funded a project on Pozible called Cycle Space. It is a book which connects cycling, architecture, design and urban planning to create healthier and better looking cities. Awesome.

* Why do you Ride?: The other week I supported the Why do you Ride blog by being profiled about what keeps me on my bike. It is a blog dedicated to sharing the various reasons people choose to ride a bike. No preaching. Just nice, honest snapshots.

Time to move past the debate between bikes and cars. Just accept we are both on the road and make roads that accept us both. Done.

Why I like excessive realness in our dynamic digital world.

Most of the time I like things that make life easier. Simpler. More organised. More efficient. Tram tracker, VISA pay wave, Evernote, elastic laces. All nice little creations that make it that much easier to get things done. But sometimes the best part about things are when you have to work for them. When you actually enjoy the process and don’t necessarily want it to pass by any quicker or be any less memorable.

I like peddling my bike and would never get one of those ones with the lawnmower motor. I like grinding my pepper and slicing my bread and the electronic version of both those items will never find a home in my kitchen. I like real herbs and spices and not the kind that come in a handy bottle and last way too long. I love loose leaf tea made in a pot and real coffee ground and brewed. Even though all their efficient new age cousins would save time and energy – I don’t want them.

The time that goes into riding my bike, cutting my bread, grinding my pepper and making my tea is time I enjoy.

I like being efficient and fitting lots in. But I don’t want all those everyday moments to go past so effortlessly and efficiently that they happen without me remembering them. Tired legs, wonky bread slices and tea leaves in my cup make me feel alive.

I live the rest of my life online, in a space that is evolving at such a rapid pace that I need the apps and tools in an attempt to keep up with it. I love the excitement of digital and the real time information flow and the ease of connection with social media. But sometimes so much happens. So fast. So easily.

Maybe this is why I like the excessive realness of my everyday moments.

They are nice little reminders that there is beauty in doing things slowly. That I can balance my life embedded in our evolving digital world by keeping the other parts driven by my own human effort. That not everything is dynamic and exciting but that some things stay the same. It’s kind of a relief.

A healthy dream check.

I love dreams and people who aren’t afraid to share them.

To divulge your deepest hopes and desires takes guts. When you open up your dreams to others you are also encouraging the extent to which you have accomplished those dreams to be put on a realistic scale. It shifts your dreams from up in the hazy, day dreaming space in your head to the action orientated reality. It forces you to think about who you wanted to be and who you actually are. To honestly ask yourself if what you are doing and where you are is what you want to be doing and where you want to be. This can be scary. No-one wants to realise that they are heading in a direction they didn’t want to go, doing something they don’t like and living somewhere they hate with someone they don’t love.

But this is why the intersection between dreams and reality is important.

Scary yes. But totally worth it. Some people like to call them reality checks, but I think dream checks is better. Not prioritising that you are being realistic but prioritising that you are living your dreams. Dreams are realised, they change, they evolve, they adapt. So thanks to the inspiration from Kyle, Richenda and Rachel – who all wrote about their dreams, today I am having a dream check.

Sunrise cartwheels on the beach in Thailand.

When I was about 10 I decided I was going to be the sports physiotherapist for the Australian Olympic team.

I would work once every four years when the Olympics was on, I would get to travel the world, and in between I would have a family and be a writer. Easy. I had the best plan. I would be perfect for this life. My whole child hood I was either playing sport or reading books, writing poems and talking. My school reports alway said I was good at spelling and sport but talked too much and was a little bossy. However, when I was in my last years of senior school and started doing work experience, physiotherapy all of a sudden stopped appealing.

It seemed too much of a distinct, definite and decided career path for me.

Instead I began coaching kids in all types of sports and did a science degree and a commerce degree. I travelled lots. Read lots. Exercised lots. Talked lots.

Although I never became the physiotherapist for the Olympic team (note that I wanted to be THE physio not just one of…) I do feel content with achieving the reason behind that. I wanted to understand the human body and be surrounded by inspiring people who are driven and challenge themselves. I wanted to encourage people to live happy, healthy and active lives. And I wanted to travel. Over the past decade I have coached, encouraged and motivated children and adults to row, ski, run, play netball, do aerobics, attend spin classes and just do stuff. I have also travelled all over the world, met my perfect man and through a degree in human physiology and neuroscience, I get some of what makes the amazing human body tick.

Me and my perfect match at amazing Palmyra in Syria in 2008.

Along the way I also realised that not everyone has the opportunity to live a happy, healthy life.

So this was my next dream. I wanted to help make the world a better place.

I started a masters in international development and spent the next few years managing everything digital and social at Save the Children Australia. I wanted more children to know the feeling of being happy and healthy. To grow up running around outdoors, eating nutritious food and having a family that encourages and supports you to live your dreams. It sounds corny, but I wanted to be part of changing the world. And I was. And I still am. After a few years in the non-profit sector I realised you do not need to work for a development organisation to change the world, and that perhaps it was not the most effective and efficient avenue for me. That my skills, knowledge and passion could have more impact elsewhere.

Today technology is the catalyst for change.

So now I am connecting and empowering people in companies, governments, universities and non-profit organisations with Yammer. We are enabling people to do their job better. They can find information faster, work more efficiently, share knowledge easily and collaborate effortlessly so the bigger problems are solved. Yammer is changing the way organisations work. And that is changing the world. It’s exciting.

I don’t feel like I am done with this dream just yet so I am going to keep on chasing it. I want to be part of technology making the world a better place, by connecting and empowering people. While I do that I am going to write and run and encourage others to do the same. Sounds good for now. But you never know, tomorrow I might wake up with a new one. I love dreams.

Have you had a dream check recently?

Disconnected but 100% connected.

Last night I went and saw Dallas Green of City and Colour at the Palais in Melbourne. I was inspired by his voice and the venue, but today I have been thinking about his words.

He asked everyone to put their phones away. To disconnect from everything else happening simultaneously around the world. To forget about twitter updates, instagram filters and Facebook.

To stop trying to remember the moment so hard that you forget to live it.

People listened. The light of the iPhone screens went dark and we were all in the moment. It was beautiful. I felt the music. I absorbed the changing tones in his voice. I watched his fingers glide over the guitar. I heard the lady in front of me crack her neck. And I saw the moths flapping in the lights above the stage. I was 100% in the physical moment. My senses were sharp and it felt great.

I don’t have one photo of Dallas rocking on stage. And I am actually ok with that. 

I remember the night just as it was. Not with a filter or a hashtag.

Anyway if I do forget, I am only a google away from everyone else’s recollection of the evening.

I am going to try this more often. Disconnect myself from online so I am 100% connected to the physical moment. It’s kind of exhilarating.

Pushing past the impossible is entirely possible. I am not a cynic.

I like being good. And usually I am good at obeying rules. I am a law abiding citizen, and a girl that never once wagged or got a late mark in six years of senior school. But in the last three days there have been three separate reminders that some rules need to be broken. That if we always work within the boundaries then nothing is going to change. Nothing evolves or innovates. And we would all live in a monotone and static world.

So here are my three timely reminders of how and why we should  do the impossible:

1. On Tuesday comedian Daniel Kitson reminded me that pushing past the impossible is entirely possible.

I like life lessons, but I love them, when they arrive with laughter. Daniel Kitson was awesome. An intelligent, funny man with an amazing vocabulary. His whole show, Where Once Was Wonder, is about how we need to let go of our comfortable ways of wisdom and achieve things that others say are impossible. Before they happen it almost hurts our brain to think about it, but once it is here we can’t imagine how we lived without it. All the best innovations are like that – planes, tv’s, iPhones, those fake gas fireplaces. We need people who break stereotypes, say completely inappropriate things, mix sweet and savoury and remind us that if you keep trying different things you will push past the impossible. And there is exciting, and funny, stuff on the other side of the impossible door.

2. Yesterday, optimist Mark Stevenson, reminded me that cynicism is not cool.

He calls himself an optimist. Mark Stevenson looks at everything, sees the positive and thinks ‘what’s next’. He looks at a process and wonders how we could do it better. I think that is a good thing. And I think that I have a lot of that in me too. When it rains we get wet, but the plants get watered. When we run out of milk, we try juice on muesli. Some people find it frustrating. But I like that it makes us try something different. That it keeps the innovation ball rolling and that I might accidentally discover something really great.  I am often asked, why am I always so optimistic. I am not sure. My Mum is like that too, so maybe it’s genetic?  But instead of defining yourself by who you are be what you create.

Mark also proposed that today optimism is seen as naivety and that for some reason it is cool to be cynical. To be the one that always say no. That it is not possible.

Cynicism is like smoking. It might look cool but it is bad for you. And even worse for the person next to you. Cynicism is the ultimate enemy of creativity.

Breaking rules allows for innovation. Don’t look at boundaries as limitations but as opportunities.

3. Today Yammer made Microsoft Office Social

If some body had asked me last year, would it be possible for numerous people all around the world to work on the same word, excel, or powerpoint document at the same and be able to see each others real time changes, then upload it to an enterprise social network where all their colleagues could simultaneously view, edit or download it…. the underfed cynic in me would have said, ‘no. BUT that would be amazing.’ And now it will be possible. Pretty damn cool. Yammer has made Microsoft Office social.

 

So the impossible is entirely possible and to do it we need to break the rules.

I had three great reminders of that this week. One from comedy. One from an optimist. And one from work.

Some rules and ways of traditional wisdom need to broken. And when they do the world changes. We just need to make sure the right people are creating the new value systems. So put your hand up and say it is possible. Let’s give the cynics the flick and make the impossible happen.

Living the morals of your career.

My partner was in the hospital today. He is a healthy young man and was just getting a regular checkup. He came home and commented on how he noticed lots of the doctors were overweight. He said it frustrated him that they sit and provide actions – advice, drugs, operations – all in the motivation of helping people live a a healthier life. However, they do not appear to prioritise that themselves.

So it made me think – should you have to practise what you preach?

Should it be an obligation to live and breath the words that you speak?

Of course, the best professionals are passionate about their line of work. So you do hope that passion extends to the actions in their personal and not just professional life. But for some reason that is not always true. Often people state something and but actually do the opposite. I know that most companies do try and have an element of the recruitment criteria which is related to the values of the organisation. But there is nothing like this for actual career choice. I know that I have had sports coaches that are overweight and worked in non-profit development organisations with selfish and materialistic people. I find this conflicting. Not only from respect for the individual, but also in regards to their personal choice.

Why would they choose to work in an environment where they do not live the values?

Is it because the available passion and energy for that area of life is zapped at work? No time for the chef to cook nice meals at home, the sports coach to do their own exercise or the doctor to eat healthy heart meals. I find it harder to understand this, than the opposite (and more common) way – the accountant who has a fashion blog on the side or the receptionist who is an opera singer. People who save their passion for hobbies and not for work. Not everyone manages to blend work with passion and not everyone has a choice. But to conflict what you preach professionally with what you practise personally confuses me.

I struggle to respect people in any area of life that are hypocritical. Maybe I am just too idealistic. But I really do hope my energy and passion for the things that I love continue to have more longevity than 9-5.  How about you? Do your values carry from the professional to personal sphere?

What I (and you?) got out of blogging every day in March.

Back on the first of March, I decided to take Steve’s challenge to blog something worthwhile every single  day of the month. That is 31 consecutive posts. Some of the posts I was happy with – usually the ones written straight from my mind to the blog at 11pm with little editing – and sometimes I felt like a blog-spammer – almost ashamed to post the words and cringed as I hit the publish button. I admit, that I did take on the challenge for selfish reasons, and not to please the people who actually read my blog. But I am hoping that in the end more people than just myself benefited from the words that I shared.

Back in that first post I wrote what I hoped to get out of the month. I wanted to feel connected, challenged, slightly overwhelmed and empowered. And I actually do think that I ticked all those boxes.

Connected

To my environment. To my thoughts. To the constant change in my life. To the other 42 people blogging for the 31 days of March.

Although I had a back up list of possible topics to blog about I actually never used it. I always wrote about experiences that I had or connections that I made during the day. I wrote about having a perfect day in San Franciscothe power of your mind and why it is great to hang out with friends in real life and talk to strangers. Sharing these thoughts made me feel connected.

Challenged

To share something worthwhile every day. To channel my thoughts into something that doesn’t only sound good in my head. To post at midday, every day, for 31 days.

Although I failed miserably at posting at mid-day I did write a blog everyday and I did feel challenged. Whether this was from writing the blog specifically or just the general challenges that occurred during my everyday life throughout the month of March. I did often find myself saying to people ‘sorry I am late, I had to write my blog’. Many of the posts reflected my thoughts on being challenged. I wrote about how without a mental or physical challenge you will stay exactly as you are, how you feel when you lack motivation, and why you should think about what you have done not what you haven’t.

Slightly overwhelmed

There is a fine balance between being overwhelmed and underwhelmed. Somewhere in between is where energy for great ideas and the momentum to get things done collide. I hope I land there with this challenge.

Writing things down forces you to reflect on what you experience, feel, and think. And which parts of these you are comfortable with and which parts make you feel overwhelmed. I have always thought a lot, but writing everyday clarified a lot of those thoughts. I wrote about feeling confused by my relative work speed, the lack of business evolution and how great it is to take time out, feel proud and tell people how great they are.

Empowered

To post my thoughts, opinions, beliefs and values out in the public for response, debate and to sit there quietly unread too.

Expressing your honest and independent thoughts can be daunting. But there is something exhilarating about hitting publish on something that you know certain people won’t agree with. I wrote about why I think it is great to wear lycra with the work crowd, move back in with your parents, make up your own mind and bring your care-free travel self to work. They were slightly controversial ideas. And they felt great.

So after 31 days I still like challenges and I still like blogging. I guess that means more of each to come. Sounds good to me.

Thanks for reading. If you did get this far, I would love to know if there was a certain post that resonated with you. Is there something that I wrote that you remember?