After the last few Strathcona Centre for Learning Future events being held online, it was exciting to have an event back on campus in Featherstone Hall. Our guest speaker, Sarah Davidson summoned us to Seize our Yay! Yay is the word she uses to describe what brings us joy, those activities that make us forget what time it is when we engage in them. Some of the audience found their yay with Sarah. Although the presentation was scheduled from 6.30pm to 7.30pm, with people staying to talk, take photographs and have their book copies autographed I was locking up at around 9 pm. Sarah’s address was energetic, articulate, engaging and above all inspiring.
Sarah describes herself as a funtrepreneur whose philosophy is “seize the yay”! She began her career in corporate law but found it did not easily reconcile with her passions for health, wellbeing, nutrition, and creativity. So, she embarked on a series of business ventures that were closer to her heart, including a green tea company, café, and podcast. On top of this, she is an author and has recently joined the army reserves! Two audience members left with door prizes that included a signed copy of her book. Sarah shared some of her story including the strategy, coincidences and opportunities that led her to her success. Much of it was about seeing the opportunities that arose in her life and deciding which ones to act on.
In a landscape where young people can feel a lot of pressure to have “a career” that is right for them, Sarah offered a relief valve. Invoking the commonly cited notion that most young people will have many jobs and careers, she told the audience they do not need to get it right the first time, or even the fourth time. For Sarah it is vitally important to do something, not wait for the right thing. This is sound advice. As she said, “life does not always turn out as you expect – sometimes it turns out better.”
On the flip side, she warned that many people settle with good and never find out what is great. She wants us to try things but there is no need to stick to something that is clearly not right for us. Sometimes it is easier to stay because it feels safe but staying in one’s comfort zone is not the path to personal development. Sometimes finding what works for us can take a few attempts, but in each experience, we learn, so nothing is a waste.
Learning has always been a passion for Sarah. She cried when on the first day of Prep she did not get homework to do. However, she was not always the model student through her secondary school years. In the end, she did achieve the ATAR she needed to get into the law degree she wanted. As we often say, not everyone finds their way the first time and she explained that she could have got into the course via alternative routes if she needed. The important thing is to
“Stretch your brain so far it can never go back to its old dimensions”.
Learning is not just through formal education. She believes we are the sum of the five people we spend most time with – so choose those people carefully! Her husband is someone who has made a big impact on her life, and encouraged her outside her comfort zone, leading her to spend a month in Rwanda. What she learned there was how people, even in what we think of as highly deprived situations, can find joy.
While a great education for her, Law was not going to be a lifetime source of joy. Sarah managed to start a fledgling business selling matcha tea while still working as a lawyer. This soon demanded all of her time so she left her law job. Never one to sit still, she opened a café that is Chris Hemsworth’s favourite and even ended up at his New Year’s party in California, where she casually mixed with other stars. As she says, you never know where life will take you. She has a podcast called Seize The Yay that has had over one hundred episodes and through it Sarah has had the opportunity to interview many fascinating people. When asked by a former Strathcona student in the audience what her favourite podcast was, she chose Dr Richard Harris, the technical diver and anesthetist (they needed someone who could do both brilliantly – he was the only one!) who helped save the soccer team boys in the cave in Thailand. Sarah’s journey so far is certainly an inspiration!
Sarah left us with five takeaways:
- You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step.
- Doubt kills more dreams than mistakes ever will. Remember, learning on the job is normal. Research shows women are more likely to hold themselves back by waiting until they are overqualified for a job while men tend to apply with only 60% of the criteria.
- It is okay for things (jobs, relationships) not to last forever.
- You don’t need to find your “Yay” in your job. You might find what you need in activities outside work. It is a very contemporary phenomenon to think our jobs need to give us such satisfaction.
- “Self-care is giving the best of you, not the rest of you”. It is better to give 80% and last longer than 100% and burn out quickly.
Sarah attracted a diverse audience including current students and parents, past students, future parents, and a number who had seen the event advertised on billboards outside the School or on LinkedIn. Their faces and enthusiasm to meet Sarah at the end said it all. Sarah’s message had struck a nerve and inspired them.
Join us at the next Strathcona Centre for Learning Futures event is on 3 August at 5.30pm in Featherstone Hall – Planning Livable Cities. Hear about urban planning and the impact it has on lives now and into the future. Madison Robb and Yang Bai from Plan Melbourne will share about their careers in urban planning. I eagerly await their presentation where we will learn something that will have enormous impacts on our futures – the future of Melbourne. To book please click here