TLP11 – Valedictorian Speech – Nicole Sherriff
Reflecting on my personal journey through 2017, it was a momentous year personally and professionally. I started the program with expectations and anticipation that change was guaranteed from the year ahead. I’d shared snippets of my amazing sister Leanne’s TLP7 journey and I was intrigued by her experience and the broadening of her awareness about herself and our home, Tasmania.
And here I am… surprised to be the valedictory speaker, and so conscious that all of TLP11 had a personal journey this year that is equally unique and inspiring.
I lamented with my husband Phil on how come I had been nominated by my peers…is it because I am the ‘lone nutter’ from the u-tube video? Phil, ever my voice of reason, suggested perhaps it was because I had demonstrated how to be brave, vulnerable and genuinely just be me. Practising my marital diplomacy, I reckon we are both right. Regardless, I’m humbled by the vote of confidence from my TLP friends to share my journey and I hope to provide insights that resonate for their TLP11 journey.
A quick snapshot of me…born in Wynyard, raised with my big sister in various homes throughout Tasmania-Devonport, Launceston and finally Hobart. My mother has been a consistent and inspiring influence, I now appreciate her capacity and resilience as a very successful solo parent of us two troublesome teenage girls following the death of our father. Always interested in the environment and physical activity, I graduated from Utas with a B.App.Sci and unknowingly began my career trajectory as a bushwalking guide. I met my husband, Phil Cook, when we were bushwalking guides and together we went on to manage the companies that started Tassie on the pathway to being the ‘bushwalking/eco-tourism’ destination that it is today. Ken Latona was the mentor and leader from whom I have learned so much, and cannot speak highly enough of the trust he placed in a bunch of inexperienced uni grads. He left us alone to develop and manage his brainchild – we took on the challenge, we made mistakes, we were supported, we learned so much and loved it.
Life took Phil and I to New Zealand, mostly to play in the snow, but our time as surrogate kiwis’ also progressed my career in conservation and environmental areas. Returning to Tasmania about nine years ago, I was fortunate to join Hydro Tasmania’s environmental team. During this time my passion for Tasmania’s environment, tourism and conservation grew, through my extracurricular involvement as a member of the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council, volunteering in our local coast care group and contributing as a national and state judge for the Tasmanian Tourism Awards. Currently I am privileged to be the Chair of Judges for the state tourism awards. My motivation to remain involved in areas I am passionate about has, been intuitive and unstructured, but it has fed my personal drive and also enabled me to, at least attempt to make some kind of difference to Tasmania’s future. I replenish my mojo exploring wilderness areas and just being immersed in nature with loved ones.
The TLP year started with the first residential at Strahan. On route chatting with a brand new TLP friend, I had the epiphany that 24 strangers were all about to embark on a journey with people from very different backgrounds, life experiences and intentions, and yet, we all had something in common – to voluntarily be uncomfortable to learn and develop and contribute to Tasmania’s future. Bob and Lynda introduced the concept of the ‘four rooms of change’…and it became obvious that there weren’t many of us arriving at TLP in the ‘contentment room’.
Arriving home from Strahan I was both intimidated and excited, soothed by Phil and our home of 15 years – acres of bush, privacy and inspiring views. I didn’t anticipate the change to my tranquil Hobart life, but not long into my TLP journey the trap door into the denial and confusion room surprised me with a creaky opening. The changes came about when Phil accepted work based in the northwest, a friend passed away, I had a serious health scare and began reflecting on the value I was adding in my work. Through the combination of personal challenges, new self-awareness and learnings from TLP, I actually heard and chose to listen carefully to my gut and knew change was the solution not the problem.
With support from very new friends in TLP, old friends and most significantly, from my sister and husband, I took on the challenge of honestly assessing my life, prioritizing what was important and stepping up to make the changes happen. I realised that my life, health and family make up the glass ball that needs to be handled carefully and taken care of, while my career is the fun rubber ball, designed to bounce. And so, halfway through my TLP year, I firmly shut a couple of doors. I stared down the fear of failure and resigned from a stable career and relocated to the northwest coast with Phil.
For a couple of months, I knocked on new career doors, peeked in a few rooms, trusting that eventually I would find the welcoming door to lead me into the ‘inspiration room’. And now, I am excited by the new opportunities and challenges ahead working with great people in managing Tasmania’s spectacular parks and reserves on the rugged west coast. Making the northwest our new home, spending time exploring my childhood playground with family, old and new friends and working in an area that aligns with my personal values was not the change I planned at the beginning of TLP, but its re-invigorated so many aspects of my life.
As described by Rohan Treblico while enjoying the Hazards circuit during our concluding residential at Freycinet, the TLP sessions and weekends away have presented “nuggets of gold”. A standout for me was Keith Bradshaw. Keith described his career journey through the performance and management pressures of international cricket, trusting himself and valuing his different view of the world. This is an experience I identify with and plan to build on. Only now, can I appreciate the words of one of the executive’s at Hydro Tasmania who explained to me that his support for my career progression was because I think differently to others in the business. At the time I was unsure how to interpret his comments, but now I reflect on the reality of it and I am practising truly valuing my differences and exploring the means to articulate them in a way that is valued and constructive. This self-awareness and appreciation is thanks to TLP facilitators, and my TLP friends for probing, questioning, supporting and providing the re-assurance that the more and varied opinions we voice and consider, the more solid the end result.
TLP is fortunate and privileged to draw on such a breadth of volunteers willing to share insights from such varied political views, social backgrounds, challenging lives and entrepreneurial paths – their experiences were enlightening and inspiring for me. I have broadened my Tasmania-centric world view, developed a greater appreciation for the issues and possibilities here, and acknowledge that I can choose to be an active part of any change – there is no point in sitting back wanting someone else to fix it.
The final take home from my TLP journey, is that experiences happen to all of us and we all have choices in how we respond. It is our response that determines what the outcome will be and whether it is something we can be proud of or something we need to file away in the lesson learnt bucket. My TLP11 journey, and life in 2018 has taught me firsthand about my response options, and how to apply aspects of the ‘fridge model’ passed down from Brian and Jillian – set the expectations, deal direct, accept the outcome and move on.
There were, and still are moments that I wonder if I may have taken an extreme approach to change during 2017, but we each have only one life and I’m motivated to have a go and make a difference. I’m still not sure where, or even if, our TLP journey will end and I look forward to sharing it and keeping in touch with TLP 11 friends. I don’t doubt that in 2018 and beyond we are each more able to actively contribute as leaders to the success of our own lives and this great island.
Thanks to the sponsors of TLP, the many volunteer speakers and facilitators Lynda, Bob and Ange, and most of all thanks to TLP11 friends for sharing and supporting our growth over the year.