You will never need the “boy’s club”. — Being a female in a male-dominated industry taught me that there is a very fine line that must be walked. You must fit in, be able to walk the talk and tolerate a lot to earn respect. However, it takes just one small step on the wrong side of the line to be disrespected forever.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bronwen Sciortino.
Bronwen Sciortino is an International Author and Simplicity Expert who spent almost two decades as an award-winning executive before experiencing a life changing event that forced her to stop and ask the question ‘What if there’s a better way to live?’
Embarking on a journey to answer this question, Bronwen developed a whole new way of living — one that teaches you to challenge the status quo and include the power of questions in everyday life.
Gaining international critical acclaim and 5-star awards for her books, Bronwen spends every day teaching people that there is an easy, practical and simple pathway to creating a healthy, happy AND highly successful life.
Sourced globally for media comment as an expert and working with corporate programs, conference platforms, retreats, professional mentoring and in the online environment, Bronwen teaches people how easy it is to live life very differently.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
I believe the secret to getting ahead is to learn how to break the ‘rules’ … every single one of them.
Question everything and leave anything that doesn’t belong to you in your rear view mirror.
Society teaches us all the wrong things.
From a very young age we’re given a very thorough education about the way we’re supposed to live our lives. We’re told what’s right and wrong, what’s good and bad, what’s acceptable and not, what we’re supposed to do, how we’re supposed to do it and who is appropriate for us to spend our time with.
As long as we live life within those lines, we are accepted, loved and given a sense of security. To make this work, we push and pull, mold and shape ourselves until we squash into the box we’ve been given, and then we spend every minute of every day trying to ignore how uncomfortable we are, how miserable we are and the increased level of stress that comes with living this way.
When I was young, I tested the boundaries but I was pulled sharply into line. I was told that I was ‘difficult’ and felt the sting of being ostracized. I regularly felt the pain of feeling like I didn’t fit in.
In the workforce, I spent two decades living under this regime: doing what I was told, ticking all the boxes, achieving more than anyone ever expected of me and never once rocking the boat.
It was like living in a pressure cooker that was primed and ready to explode. I knew I was stressed. I knew I was miserable and I knew that I was unwell. But I was more afraid of the backlash of stepping outside the box than I was of living with the pain of forcing myself to stay within it.
Eventually the pressure was too intense. My world erupted and in less than 60 seconds I was within my own Armageddon — my life shattered in a million pieces around me on the floor.
I was broken, lost and so frightened.
For the first time in my life, I had no idea where to turn, who to ask for help or what my next step was going to be.
It took me three years to recover, and throughout my recovery I found myself constantly asking the question: ‘what if there’s a better way to live?’
Embarking on a journey to answer this question, I delved into the ways that you can combine a corporate, successful career with the world of health and wellbeing.
I discovered a chasm: there is a widely-held belief that it is impossible to combine the two — that one outweighs the other and you are forced to choose.
My intuition told me that there had to be a way — that we just weren’t looking in the right direction.
So, I played and I adventured and I explored different options. I studied and I let curiosity lead me in the direction of the information I needed to learn. I toyed with different thought patterns and I challenged beliefs around the things our body, our mind and our soul need.
I put all the options back on the table — especially the ones I’d been told weren’t appropriate for me to look at. I was determined to find the solution that worked for me.
The result? I developed a whole new way of living — one that teaches you to challenge the status quo, empower your life through asking questions and then use YOUR answers to find the simplest step forwards.
There’s a VERY different way to live, where stress and exhaustion don’t exist and clarity about your way forwards comes easily. All around the world people live their lives in a cloud of misery and ill health. I dedicate every day to educating the world on what living this way is really doing to them.
Now, I’m often tagged as #rebelwithaclue because I know that every time you step outside the cage you’ve been given, you create an opportunity to move away from the beliefs about life that are holding you back.
We’ve wasted far too much time waiting for other people to tell us what we need to get ahead.
It’s time to ignore the ‘You have to do this…’, the ‘What you need is that …’ and especially the ‘If I were you, I’d be doing this …’ directives from others.
Every book, article, video, interview, and program I create is another resource that helps teach people how to live healthy, happy AND highly successful lives.
I’m often told how courageous and strong I am, and I can be those things if I need to. But right now, my way of living is focused on being smart with how I live my life rather than what I have to do to endure it, so I don’t need to be strong or courageous very often.
Yes, it’s a good idea to take your future seriously, and YES that means you need to pay it some attention and do some work. But it doesn’t mean that you have to go through excruciatingly hard and painful periods of time to get to the other side.
The time to live life differently is now. You can hide within the walls of your cramped, uncomfortable box or you can dip your toe in the water, take a small step in a new direction and watch the world open in front of you.
The choice is ALWAYS yours.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the middle of my recovery I unearthed a massive fear that I had of writing anything personal down. My homework to overcome this fear was to start to journal — to release the fear through writing words on a page.
This journaling morphed into my first book — ‘Keep It Super Simple’ — and as that went out into the world it earned 5-star reviews and international critical acclaim. That saw people approach me to provide other services such as keynote speaking, workshops, mentoring and leadership development programs.
Suddenly, I found myself an ‘accidental entrepreneur’ with a global business, but I was still very fragile and literally in the middle of a recovery process. This meant that there weren’t very many funny moments — my life was raw, it was serious and it was very, very real.
The most serious aspect of this part of my journey was my determination to create a life that was full of fun and that allowed me to be healthy and happy. Every step was focused on creating an environment that could support a quickly growing business as well as my health and wellbeing.
Of course I made mistakes. I was starting from scratch and trying to build something that everyone was telling me wasn’t possible. Ultimately, I had the opportunity to build a business from scratch at the same time as I was rebuilding myself.
Fun became the focus. Life became about finding the way that I could meld happy and healthy with working across time zones, different industries and with different people. When all the chatter says ‘turn right’, I became the one prepared to ‘turn left’ to see what was down the road.
Having fun every day also means I’m just as happy to find out something doesn’t work as I am to find out that it does. When something doesn’t work it is a clear signal that it’s time to change direction and try something else. If it does work then that’s great information to help you keep moving in that direction.
When you drop the pressure and the stress out of everyday, life becomes more about the fun of being on adventure than it does about success and failure.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
The trick to learning is to always keep your eyes open. We’re always looking to the people who inspire us to find our ways forwards, but we forget that we can be just as motivated by those who influence us negatively.
Just as you can learn and be inspired by people who are graceful, generous, empathetic and compassionate, you can learn a lot from someone who treats people badly, doesn’t respect their time or efforts and has no care or concern for others’ wellbeing.
From a young age I learned a lot about the way I didn’t want to be successful. I watched and saw the contrast between the way that people worked for heartfelt, supportive and encouraging people and those who expected too much, offered only criticism and had no care for anyone other than themselves.
Watching this contrast taught me that we always have a choice. We can get stuck in circumstances that don’t suit us, that drain our energy and make us feel exhausted all the time, or we can step into our flow and surround ourselves in vibrant, supportive and encouraging environments.
We also have a choice about how we want to impact the people around us.
What works for me will be different to what works for you. There is always a natural flow to the way that your life works for you. The important thing is to find the people who can teach you how to harness your unique characteristics in the way that is perfect for you.
For me, those people carry qualities of grace, generosity, kindness, empathy and compassion. They don’t ever allow life to challenge the colour of the way forwards or the way they communicate with the world. If they can help you they will, and they know how to effortlessly walk the line of selflessness without crossing into self-destructiveness.
I walked the self-destructive pathway for too long — giving everything I had to everyone around me and making sure they were all OK. All of my needs were ignored and there was never any time dedicated to making sure I was OK.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned on my journey is that until you’re prepared to stand in the truth of who you are, you’ll be swayed by the wrong people to be, do and have things that aren’t right for you.
Choose what inspires you carefully because inspiration creates the power that propels us forwards in ways we never expect.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disruption is always when good when it’s used to create good things.
The only constant that we can guarantee in life is change. Given this, it’s always so interesting to see how afraid of change we’ve become.
We’re highly intelligent and educated people, yet we would rather push ourselves to the limits, allowing stress and exhaustion to rule our lives than take one tiny step in a different direction.
We like life when it’s predictable — when we know what’s coming and we can create habits that allow us to live without too much trauma.
Falling in love with disruption, and actively become a disruptor, is one of the key elements to getting ahead in your life.
When you learn to ask questions that matter, you take a massive step towards consciously making choices for your own life.
For example, anytime I hear: ‘You have to …’, ‘You should …’ or ‘You need to …’, I automatically stop now and ask myself: ‘What if they’re wrong?’
This simple question allows me to work out whether what someone else is saying to me is something that is right for me. It gives me the time and space I need to consciously decide what is right for my life at that time. Asking this question allows me to disrupt the conditioning I was given around doing what I am told. It cuts the auto-pilot and allows me to make the choices that are right for my life.
Every time I disrupt embedded and conditioned thought patterns, I am using disruption for good; I’m making sure my life is taking the simplest pathway forwards and that what I am doing is right for me.
Where disruption is not so positive is when it’s used to damage something or someone else.
When it’s used to deliberately share information that is meant to discredit or disrupt the progress of someone else, then it can only be damaging.
For example, the person who places a false review about another person’s business so that they can discredit a competitor. Or, using social media platforms to provide a small percentage of information that is presented as the truth in a deliberate attempt to manipulate others into ‘outraged’ action.
Using disruption in this way does nothing more than serve to keep the world on a pathway to ill-health and misery.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1. You will never need the “boy’s club”.
Being a female in a male-dominated industry taught me that there is a very fine line that must be walked. You must fit in, be able to walk the talk and tolerate a lot to earn respect. However, it takes just one small step on the wrong side of the line to be disrespected forever.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to work with an incredible woman who taught me that even though the boys need the “boy’s club”, it never works for the girls. ‘Let them have it — you’ll never need it…’ were the wise words that were shared with me.
The differences between males and females are significant. We communicate differently, we feel differently and we almost always carry a different perspective of the same situation.
For some females, this has felt like there is a glass ceiling in place that limits the trajectory upwards. And maybe for a long time this was true. But I’ve always felt that the glass ceiling is of our own making.
Sure, there have been times I’ve been stuck on the ladder in an organisation — overlooked or undervalued from the truth of my potential. But it was my choice to stay sitting there, to keep slogging away and getting trapped in the spiral of ‘they’re never going to see me for who I am’.
Until I stepped out of the spiral and took steps to walk in a different way, I was always going to be stuck in the limitations of my own beliefs.
2. Your authenticity will always be your biggest draw card.
The more I step into the truth of who I really am, the more that people are attracted to the work I do. One of the most common pieces of feedback I receive is that I live the things I teach.
Years ago, I was in a personal development session and my coach told me that because I am so authentic people are always drawn to me.
I’m not afraid to share the truth of who I am. I’m not afraid to admit something I feel isn’t a strength. I’m not afraid to share with people the imperfections that make me human, and I’m not worried about showing people that I’ve had a bad day.
Life is real.
And the reality is that there will always be challenges and there will always be things that we are better at than others.
Each of us is an extraordinary and unique individual; we’ve just forgotten that this is something to be celebrated.
3. Be the “information girl” instead of the “’of service’ girl”.
For a long time, I spent all of my time giving to everyone around me. I was so worried about making sure that everyone had everything they needed and that they were OK that I paid no attention to my own health within my own life.
I was so busy being ‘of service’ to the world, that I forgot that I am important and that it’s OK to spend time focused on me as well.
When I rebuilt my life I chose to disrupt this pattern, and instead I now share the information I have with the world and allow those who are attracted to it to pick it up and do with it what they need for their lives.
I no longer have to carry the load of making sure everyone is OK. I simply show up, share my knowledge and wisdom and allow people to make the choices that are right for them.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
To date I’ve written books, built programs and provided information through articles and interviews around the globe that have focused on helping people to reduce stress and beat burnout.
The next adventure for me is to create tools and resources (through new books and programs) that show people how to disrupt their conditioning to balance the three key pillars of health (body, mind and soul).
It’s time to disrupt the belief that you can be a corporate being or a spiritual being. It’s time to prove that being a whole person is so much greater than being a ‘better’ person.
It’s time for the world to move away from a fear-based model and find the simplest solutions that allow everyone to be OK.
I believe that allowing power and control from external sources over our lives is the single greatest thing that’s holding us back. We need to move way from being triggered and manipulated by others into providing mass energy behind their movements.
It’s time for us to step into clarity and see the light in our OWN lives — rather than reacting to the stimulus given to us by others.
My next projects will be all about helping people to step outside the influencer society, and step into the internal serenity that comes with knowing how to create and maintain your own balance in life.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The biggest challenge faced by women is listening to other people tell you what your challenges are. We’ve heard them all: family responsibilities, gender, community responsibilities, value, self-confidence, beliefs and the list goes on.
There’s a completely different expectation on men than there is on women — it’s like men are expected to succeed, and everyone is completely shocked and in awe when women rack up some wins.
As women, until we’re prepared to ignore the expectations of others and to trust in the unique and significant contribution that we have to bring, we will hold ourselves back.
Our greatest challenge is always ourselves. We will be as successful as we allow ourselves to be.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
I am eclectic soul and I read voraciously across all different genres. There are so many books that have had a great impact, but perhaps the biggest was ‘Kokoda’ by Peter Fitzsimons.
This book taught me just how much I didn’t know about the sacrifices that others were prepared to make to ensure our way of life. It also taught me about the resilience of humankind when things are extraordinarily important to them. It taught me that when you’re aligned with your life purpose it doesn’t matter the challenges that are put in front of you; that there is nothing you cannot achieve.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would inspire people to view the world with a filter of love.
We’ve been taught to compare, judge and criticise as the primary way of determining where we are at in comparison. We’ve been taught that competition and getting to the top no matter what it costs us (or those around us) is the number one objective in life.
If we could view everything in front of us as a projection showing us the direction of our next step, maybe we’d see the end of war, the end of greed and the end of a life full of ill-heath and misery.
We’d be aligned with the things that are important to us, and simply let go of the things that aren’t. We’d be happy for everyone else’s achievements while still chasing our own. We’d move to living life from a place of abundance for all, instead of lack and competition for scarce resources.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
And every day the world will drag
you by the hand, yelling:
‘This is important!
And this is important!
And this is important!
You need to worry about this!
And this! And This!
And each day, it is up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your
heart and say: ‘NO! This is what’s important.’
We spend so much of our lives trying to keep up, to fit in and to blend into the expectations that others have of us. We’re always trying to find the photo, the selfie, the evidence that we’re matching pace with the world around us.
What we need to do is spend less time doing things that make us look good, and doing more things that make us feel good.
When the things you do are connected to the things that mean the most to you, you’ll always be in touch with what’s important in your heart.
That’s the truest, simplest and straightest pathway forwards.