Masher and creative strategist Ainsley describes herself as ‘your a-typical work-exhausted purpose-seeking individual.’ After 20 years playing the tourism and corporate game – with Tourism New Zealand, Carnival Cruises, PWC and Westpac, Ainz decided to take the leap from the old 9-5 to follow her curiosity and go out on her own. She started two businesses Tribal Chocolate and AP Collaborate – and hasn’t looked back. Read her story:
What’s potential if you don’t do anything with it?
“Look up”. I was 20 years old and had already hit a career plateau as an executive assistant to mining company CEO. He said to me, “Look up if you want to go further. Looking down only tells you how far you’ve come, not how far you can go. Looking down doesn’t show you what your potential can do, only what you’ve already achieved.”
My boss told me that. He was also my guardian angel who set me on a course to realise my potential through action – not dreaming – action. It lead me to university as an adult student, travel the world, live in multiple countries and work for some of the most recognised companies in the world. He said that to me just over 20 years ago, and to this day it still rings true. Potential is only useful if it turns into action.
I describe myself as your a-typical work-exhausted purpose-seeking individual. I’ve done the career drill across consumer, corporate and consulting sectors. I’ve read self-help books, liked far too many instagram quotes and dropped a few dollars at luxury yoga retreats – all in the aid of finding my purpose. I expected it would land in my lap. Like a present. Stylishly wrapped and all. And when it did land, all would be magically right with the world, because I’d know in an instant what my purpose, and values were.
But, hate to burst your bubble people, it doesn’t work like that. Turning potential into purposeful action takes… action! It takes guts to be wrong, grit to keep playing, hard work to not give up and hard conversations. And bugger the bullshit that says ‘it doesn’t feel like work because you’re living your dream’. It’s still work and it’s not all joy. There will definitely be things, people and tasks that will still frustrate you. But, doing work with clear reason of why you like it, makes it a helluva lot easier to do and therefore much more enjoyable.
I left traditional 9-5 work life in July 2019, the same month MASH sought a workshop facilitator to support a client conference. There’s nothing quite like honing your focus fast and then being able to test it live with an audience. It was this experience that helped me create, define and test, within just one week, what I hoped was my purpose – to creatively support how people communicate and present themselves to the world. I’ll admit it didn’t 100% work for that scene. But it did help me refine my ‘so what’. Because ‘so whats’ aren’t about you, they’re about your audience – the people you want to connect with – and it’s not until you ask others if your ‘so what’ matters to them, does it actually matter at all.
That first MASH workshop was just the start. Defining and testing my purpose wasn’t enough. I needed to find a way to bring it to life ongoing. My heart, head and brain power sings when I help people bring their own story, idea or strategy to life. I found the more I listened to my belly-gut intuition and paired it with my rich career experience allowed me to intelligently play and experiment. It wasn’t about forgetting what I’d done previously to start something new, it was about looking up and using my existing expertise to help me reach higher.
Practically speaking that’s meant refreshing myself on the basics of my craft. It’s up to me to once again to keep project budgets, write pitches, format proposals and organise room logistics. I’ve had to learn basic book-keeping, read copious amounts from the ATO and leverage friends across law, accounting and corporate affairs. Importantly, I continue to hone my boundaries every single time I engage in new work – my time now truly is money and only I can protect what that means in my world. I used to say you only get to negotiate once with a client – nope, not anymore. I’ve now found you can simply just not accept the terms and renegotiate. It’s actually very easy to open a conversation with ‘hey, we’ve progressed in our relationship and feel that our agreed T&Cs no longer suit the relationship we have. Let’s have a look at them again and see what suits us as a partnership’. You’d be amazed at the response.
20 years after being asked to ‘look up’ I’m only now finding that means ‘wise up’, through physically doing, learning and growing – it’s the best teacher in the world.