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What If Your Whole Career Came Down to Just 20 Magnificent Minutes?


I am one of a small team of co-facilitators on a ground-breaking leadership initiative for women in higher education, called Aurora.

The initiative is the brainchild of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Programme Director, Ginnie Willis and was stimulated by research by Professor Louise Morley, entitled Women and Higher Education Leadership: Absences and Aspirations Aurora combines education, mentoring and on-line resources to provide learning with a more enduring impact.

On the final Adaptive Leadership day of the initiative, a guest speaker is invited to provide a keynote on 'Navigating when there is no routemap'. On the 12th June, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Para Olympian, Politician and TV Personality was that guest speaker. She provided an engaging and thought provoking talk, full of insights, helpful tips and refreshing honesty.

Tanni's list of World Championship medals is impressive: 5 golds, 4 silvers and 3 bronze medals.

Shockingly, Tanni shared that all of the above wins amount to approximately only 20 minutes of her life. Yes, you heard me right, just 20 minutes!

Years of training, sacrifice, and losses in order to have 20 magnificent minutes. This left me with a few questions:

1. What if Tanni had given up, after all she didn't win her 1st race for 4 years?

2. What levels of resilience do you need to keep bouncing back?

3. What happens in the mind of someone like Tanni?

These are the conclusions that I came to:

If Tanni had given up I am guessing she wouldn't have been created a Life Peer on the recommendation of the House of Lords Appointments Commission (HOLAC) giving her the opportunity to fight for the rights of disabled children. Tanni's success has given her the power to influence how the world views those with disabilities.

Tanni is able to reframe challenges. She describes failure as an opportunity to be better and says that a bad race doesn't make you a bad athlete, this ability to reframe means that she is not knocked down as much by challenges.

In terms of Tanni's mindset, she shared her family mantra - 'aim high...even if you hit a cabbage', in other words, go for it.

There were many lessons from Tanni's experience, I would summarise the top 5 as:

1. Set yourself challenging goals

2. Think about what the best that could happen is, not the worst

3. Work extremely hard

4. Except imperfection as part of the process

5. And, if anyone tells you 'no', prove them wrong.

The afterglow of 20 magnificent minutes is worth it, so go on, make it happen.

Jenny Garrett is the Award Winning Coach and founder of Reflexion Associates, a leadership and coaching consultancy. She's also the author of Rocking Your Role, a how-to guide to success for female breadwinners. Creator of the online coaching programme the Happenista Project and co-founder of Rocking Ur Teens CIC

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