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ET-088: A conversation with Ms. Fiona Demark

ET-088: A conversation with Ms. Fiona Demark

and your host Wayne Brown on February 13, 2024

and your host Wayne Brown on February 13, 2024

Episode notes: A conversation with Ms. Fiona Demark

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET.

Today I’m very excited to be close to home once again, and this time visiting Melbourne, Australia, even though we do spend some time in Broken Hill and Sydney, both of which sit in the opposing state, New South Wales. Why? Because we’re meeting with our Aussie outback legend, Ms. Fiona Demark.

I’m really excited to introduce Ms. Demark, who’s an adventure-seeking, obstacle-bounding, no-regrets kind of girl that lives life to the extreme. She’s spent the past 30ish years using her talents in human communication, care and kindness to help others. She shares her story and proves that all of us can be resilient, strong and grateful for what we have presented to us in life.

Fiona’s here today to share her inspirational story of resilience, of goal-setting and overcoming barriers, and she’s going to help us realize that we too have the power to change our life in positive ways and achieve our dreams.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

So Broken Hill is literally like, if you think about a map of Australia, it’s pretty much, getting pretty close to the middle, actually, to be honest. Not quite, but, um, it’s far, far Western New South Wales and quite isolated. The closest main capital city is in South Australia. So Adelaide is the closest capital city, which is not in the same state even. And that was at about a five-and-a-half-hour drive away. And then the next sort of big town that was sort of reasonable size was about three and a half hours away. So we had a town of a population of a, somewhere in between 15,000 and 20,000 people. It fluctuated quite a bit according to sort of, it was a mining town. So whether the mines were highly operational or whether they were struggling a little bit depended on the whole population. So not a particularly tiny place, but just very, very isolated. And so where I grew up, I grew up on sort of, you know, I guess the edge of where the township was. And so literally there was sort of the bush land behind us and there would be, you know, brown snakes in the backyard in the summertime and kangaroos bouncing around out the back in the bushes…

Today’s Guest: MS FIONA DEMARK

So imagine, if you can, living in an isolated city that’s hours away from the next closest location. In many cases, that’s also hours away from the next property. Many of you will have seen the American Wild West on TV.

Well, Broken Hill is pretty close to Australia’s equivalent, only it has rich red soil, an abundance of wildlife, which happens to include many of the deadliest reptiles on this planet, plus there’s a few friendly roos and koalas thrown in for good measure. This is the terrain where our guest grew up, all the while suffering with an increasing degree of blindness.

It’s a wide-ranging discussion ranging from disabilities to personal challenges and conquests and to suggestions that all of us can heed in helping make this planet a more friendly and engaging environment. I’m confident you’re going to enjoy it.

Final words from Fiona:

I think the first thing is to not make assumptions. And to go and speak to the person. I think we’re so caught up in being politically correct and doing all the right things and being afraid to offend people now, that sometimes we lose those opportunities to learn, and I think as long as you’re respectful and you’re going, hey, hey, is there anything I can do?

Can you explain if there’s something that I can help with? Sometimes you’re going to get an answer and they’re gonna… No, I’m fine, I’m perfectly okay. Other times you’re going to get the answer of, okay, yep, this is how you can help me, especially within the workplace, if you’re, you know, got someone in your team, someone that you’re managing, you know, just ask the question, how can I best help you? And they might say, no, I’m fine.

And then you just own that and go, okay, no worries, I’m here if you do need some help, but it opens that conversation, and having an open conversation I think is the easiest way to go, and that doesn’t just go for disability, I mean, it goes for anything, if you see someone and you think they’re struggling a little bit, go and offer that human support, I think we’re so afraid to do it these days, and I think it’s so important because we’ve lost a lot of that community. And that’s one of the ways to get it back

Transcript:

0:00:00.0 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host Wayne Brown and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. Today I’m very excited to be close to home once again, and this time visiting Melbourne, Australia, even though we do spend some time in Broken Hill and Sydney, both of which sit in the opposing state, New South Wales. Why? Because we’re meeting with our Aussie outback legend, Ms. Fiona Demark. I’m really excited to introduce Ms. Demark, who’s an adventure-seeking, obstacle-bounding, no-regrets kind of girl that lives life to the extreme. She’s spent the past 30ish years using her talents in human communication, care and kindness to help others. She shares her story and proves that all of us can be resilient, strong and grateful for what we have presented to us in life. Fiona’s here today to share her inspirational story of resilience, of goal-setting and overcoming barriers, and she’s going to help us realize that we too have the power to change our life in positive ways and achieve our dreams.

0:01:23.2 WB: So imagine, if you can, living in an isolated city that’s hours away from the next closest location. In many cases, that’s also hours away from the next property. Many of you will have seen the American Wild West on TV. Well, Broken Hill is pretty close to Australia’s equivalent, only it has rich red soil, an abundance of wildlife, which happens to include many of the deadliest reptiles on this planet, plus there’s a few friendly roos and koalas thrown in for good measure. This is the terrain where our guest grew up, all the while suffering with an increasing degree of blindness. It’s a wide-ranging discussion ranging from disabilities to personal challenges and conquests and to suggestions that all of us can heed in helping make this planet a more friendly and engaging environment. I’m confident you’re going to enjoy, so now please prepare yourself for this insightful journey as our guest, Ms. Fiona Demark, enlightens us about how we can turn adversity into triumph with the right attitude, grit and resilience.

0:02:35.2 Speaker 2: Welcome to The ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:53.1 WB: Welcome, Team ET. Today we’re speaking with Fiona Demark in Melbourne, Australia. Fiona, welcome to The ET Project. I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to connect.

0:03:04.9 Fiona Demark: It’s great to be here. Thank you.

0:03:06.6 WB: During the intro, I’ve mentioned many of the achievements that you’ve made over your life, and it’s even more incredible given that you’re officially or legally blind. And perhaps we can start by exploring that term legally blind because it sounds to have an inherent distinction built into that term. So is there different levels of blindness? Is that the case? 

0:03:33.3 FD: Well, there is. So many people just sort of consider being blind as, well, you can’t see anything and you just see totally black. And in actual fact, it’s a bit of a spectrum. So there’s people with low vision, there’s people with no vision or people that are blind. And that spectrum goes from, I guess, you know, having some capacity to see some things versus a capacity where, you know, we all know that little chart that you read on the wall with the letters and how many lines you can read down of the random letters. And once you get to a certain point where you can’t see the lines of letters, it actually becomes a point where then you become what they consider to be legally blind. And so it’s not just having a lower level of vision, it’s actually, okay, well, you’ve crossed that boundary now where we say your eyesight is so bad that we consider you to be blind, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re… Completely can’t see anything. It just means that your vision is so significantly reduced that it kind of becomes difficult to operate on a daily basis, I guess.

0:04:42.7 WB: And do you have any feeling for like what percentage of vision you still have? 

0:04:49.6 FD: It gets really tricky because of course, once you can’t read that chart anymore, it becomes very hard to judge. So my guess is, my eyesight has deteriorated across the year. So I’ve sort of, you know, experienced it getting worse in some ways. So that means that I would assume that maybe I’ve gotten possibly guessing about 10% or so left. So it’s not a huge amount, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

0:05:20.1 WB: Right, right. For sure. And so I’m a little bit fascinated, so I hope you don’t mind me prying you a little bit. Like what extent can you see things, or can you make out images or text, or like what is the extent of what you can see? 

0:05:37.4 FD: Yeah, it’s more like large kind of shapes and being able to detect, you know, light and dark. It’s interesting, the things that are the same colors seem to blend in together, where if it’s really opposite colors, I can see it. Funnily enough, my peripheral vision, so what you see out of the corners of your eye, is actually much clearer. So if I sort of wave my hand in front of my face, it’s really hard for me to see it. But if I put my hand out to the side and wave my arm around, I can actually see my arm quite clearly. So it’s quite interesting how it’s sort of the central vision that’s really deteriorated and the side vision, I mean, it’s still not great, but it’s slightly better than what is in the front. So yeah, it’s an interesting and very complex kind of answer that I just gave, but unfortunately, there’s no straightforward one.

0:06:32.0 WB: No, I appreciate that. Thanks for clarifying. So I’m not sure if you’re aware, but our listener base is quite global, and it’s prominently business leaders. And so I’m really looking forward to our conversation, because I hope that through this conversation, we can trigger a little bit of, let’s say, inward reflection with our listeners, and challenge everyone to think about what they might be able to do more so than what they’re doing today for the community or for the workplace that would support the lives of people with disabilities. Now, I know that’s a very broad topic, disability, and there’s many different forms of disability, but I really want to challenge our listeners as they hear us in conversation to think about what may be possible from their perspective that they may be able to do. So there’s the challenge, Team ET. I really hope that you take it on board. I know it’s a question, Fiona, that I’ve been asking myself since we connected, particularly after hearing you mention that something like one in five people, if I have that right, live with some form of disability. I mean, that was quite incredible.

0:07:53.6 FD: Yeah. And you know, that’s the people that feel psychologically safe enough to identify as having a disability. And, you know, you might also consider people that have got things like chronic medical conditions into that scope as well, especially if you’re thinking from a work environment kind of perspective, because someone that has a chronic medical condition of many descriptions may also need to have a different consideration or adjustment when it comes to, you know, having a flexible work arrangement or something like that due to their condition as well. So disability itself is one in five, but if you sort of, you know, actually really considered people’s personal circumstances, those statistics might actually be higher.

0:08:42.7 WB: If we were to compare where we are today with maybe a decade ago, how much is technology playing a role in driving the improvements for disabilities or people with disabilities? Is it really introducing wide ranging support or is it still fairly limited? 

0:09:04.7 FD: It’s definitely getting better. And it’s certainly from my perspective with vision loss, it’s better. So I’ve never learned to learn Braille myself because adaptive technology is so good these days that you can, you know, even your standard mobile phone that you buy over the counter will have accessibility features in it. So then you are not having to rely on special technology. Some of it is still really expensive and really specialized, but as a general rule, I think, you know, just even access to audio books, for example, I mean, when I was little, you had to go to the special tape library kind of thing, where now, I mean, we all use audio books. It’s a mainstream kind of thing. So technology has definitely made my life easier in many, many ways.

0:09:51.3 WB: I was reading a post or an article somewhere not too long ago with somebody talking about the apps that actually read the text, say in social media, have trouble when we use hashtags or when we don’t use capitals and this type of thing. Have you found that to be the case? 

0:10:11.0 FD: Yeah, look, I mean, especially, I mean, realistically, I mean, to be honest, I’m not really reading what people have hashtagged anyway a lot of the time, but definitely the answer is, say for example you’re going to hashtag, I don’t know, life coach, for example, then definitely capitalize that second word because then the screen reader does read it out as hashtag life coach rather than try to put those two things together and make it into one word and trying to decipher what it is. So definitely, yes, using the capitals helps. Yeah. And social media, especially as well, I think just explaining what is in your photographs sometimes, like, I mean, the AI is pretty good now. So it will actually tell you, this is a picture of this or this. And if you’ve got text in it or generally read out what the text is. But yeah, look, I mean, putting a little bit more description in the, you know, the notes of what your social media post is rather than just relying on the visuals is really important.

0:11:18.1 WB: Okay. And does it read the title of the picture? I know in social media you have the opportunity to put like a title quite often to the picture. Does it read that? 

0:11:29.3 FD: No. So let’s use the example where like you’ve got a picture and then you’ve added, you know, how people sort of put a text across the top of the page or something like that. It doesn’t read that out. No.

0:11:42.6 WB: Okay. Understood. I saw one of the videos you posted where you were demonstrating something. I haven’t been able to find it, but you called it a screen curtain on your iPhone. Can you explain? You haven’t said how.

0:11:56.7 FD: Yeah. So we’ve all got the access to use it. But it’s just because I, so I use voiceover on my iPhone, which is just able to be turned on in the standard accessibility features. So under general settings, there’s a little accessibility section and you can do all sorts of cool things. And one of those is turning the voiceover on, which means that it will read out everything on the phone to me as I touch it. So then the way that I operate my phone is slightly different because instead of just tapping once, I tap once and it reads out what it is. And then I sort of double tap to get it to select something where you would just normally just tap on it once. Now, because it reads everything out, I don’t actually have to ever see the screen. And my vision is so poor that, you know, stuff on the screen, I can’t read the text anyway. So to save my battery power and to be a little bit ninja so people can’t see what I’m doing on my phone, I actually have the screen curtain turned on. So it literally has a black screen the whole time. So it’s like my phone is asleep all of the time, but in actual fact, especially if I’ve got headphones in, it’s doing all sorts of things for me, but people just can’t see that the screen’s on.

0:13:07.4 WB: You mentioned very briefly before that you grew up in the country and to be more specific, you grew up, I believe in Broken Hill or that area. Now, for the people outside of Australia, they’ll have no or little understanding of where that is. So I wonder if you could share with our listeners a little bit more about, you know, what life was like for you growing up and really what is outback Australia.

0:13:34.6 FD: So Broken Hill is literally like, if you think about a map of Australia, it’s pretty much, getting pretty close to the middle, actually, to be honest. Not quite, but, um, it’s far, far Western New South Wales and quite isolated. The closest main capital city is in South Australia. So Adelaide is the closest capital city, which is not in the same state even. And that was at about a five-and-a-half-hour drive away. And then the next sort of big town that was sort of reasonable size was about three and a half hours away. So we had a town of a population of a, somewhere in between 15,000 and 20,000 people. It fluctuated quite a bit according to sort of, it was a mining town. So whether the mines were highly operational or whether they were struggling a little bit depended on the whole population. So not a particularly tiny place, but just very, very isolated. And so where I grew up, I grew up on sort of, you know, I guess the edge of where the township was. And so literally there was sort of the bush land behind us and there would be, you know, brown snakes in the backyard in the summertime and kangaroos bouncing around out the back in the bushes.

0:14:54.7 FD: And, you know, all sorts of those fabulous Australian animals that are, you know, potentially going to kill you. But, [chuckle] it was, yeah, it was interesting in the sense that because it was so remote and you are, we’re all pretty hardy, I guess. And so we all learned how to be very resilient and to just kind of get on with things and work out ways of adapting when things weren’t ideal. And so as a child, I mean, as I said, my vision was slightly better when I was a child as well. And so my mobility wasn’t as affected as it is now. So I was running around like every other kid getting up to all the same mischief and, you know, when I needed a little bit of extra looking after, especially my eyesight has always been terrible in dark areas or at nighttime, and so, you know, I always had a cousin or a friend or someone that was making sure I sort of didn’t get myself into too much mischief, but, yeah, it was a place where I guess we were free to go and explore and really have that country lifestyle, which was really amazing.

0:16:04.0 WB: Now, the other thing I know about Broken Hill and my knowledge is limited, so I apologize, the Flying Doctor Service, was that the base for the Flying Doctor Service? 

0:16:14.4 FD: Yes, it was. And, in fact, there’s a little bit of a story that goes with the Flying Doctor Service. So my parents actually met in a town that is, oh my gosh, probably closer to the sort of the Queensland border, so sort of north of Broken Hill, maybe by another few hundred kilometers. And that is tiny, like probably population of maybe 200 people or something when they were there. And that’s where they happened upon each other. And the romance sort of started to blossom. And my mom was like, no, no, I’m not interested, not interested, not interested. And my dad was, you know, doing the usual, oh, but, you know, I really like you thing. And he got sick and needed to go into hospital. And she was actually working at the hospital at the time. And the Flying Doctor had to come and fetch him. And it was when the Flying Doctor had to come and fetch him to take him to Broken Hill for treatment that she suddenly realized that she liked him. [chuckle] So my dad’s episode with the Flying Doctor actually, you know, was part of my history in a sense, because if that had have never happened, I wouldn’t be here.

0:17:29.4 WB: Fantastic. And I believe the school of the air, and it used to be called something different, but I can’t recall what it was now, also it was based out there or had some connection.

0:17:39.1 FD: That is correct. Yeah. And my mom grew up on, my grandfather was always based on the, there’s cattle stations and sheep stations up around that Queensland border kind of area. And so that was actually my mom’s education as she actually grew up doing that school of the air correspondence kind of schooling.

0:18:01.8 WB: Right. Yeah. It’s quite a different lifestyle for many people listening or have no idea what we’re talking about. This is, this is really living in conditions that those that grew up in the city have no relative understanding or association to. Now, the other claim to fame based on what I was able to see is there was a movie that was called The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

[laughter]

0:18:30.0 FD: I was waiting for that. Yes, so I guess our international viewers, if you are interested in seeing what Broken Hill was like with a little bit of extra flare, definitely go and find yourself a copy of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It was actually filmed when I was in senior high school, and the actors… My sister was actually working at one of the local accommodation locations, and so all of the actors and the crew for the movie actually stayed where she was working, so I managed to tag along one day when she went to work and meet the cast, which was really exciting. But yeah, so that was Priscilla and that was literally happening while I was still living there.

0:19:14.0 WB: When did you leave Broken Hill? When did you move down to Melbourne? 

0:19:17.4 FD: I left literally a week after my 18th birthday. I got my high school exam school scores, and I had put so much time and effort into making sure that my scores were going to be equivalent to get me into a university. And that was the plan. So essentially I got the scores, I got the university entry, and off I went on the train with my suitcase to Sydney and set myself up there and did university. So, yeah, it was a big adventure, but something that I knew that I needed to do, because if I didn’t leave Broken Hill, my prospects for a future were considerably limited.

0:19:58.9 WB: So you went to Sydney before you then shifted to Melbourne? 

0:20:02.7 FD: That’s correct, yeah. I lived for somewhere between 10 and 15 years in Sydney and about the same again now here in Melbourne.

0:20:12.1 WB: Looking at your website, you do a lot of adventures where you go searching for different things that others can come and join you with. Where did the desire and the drive come from to do this? Because when I look at it myself, I would think twice about whether I would do it with normal eyesight. For you, being legally blind, it’s really, I can only imagine quite challenging. So where does the desire and the drive come from? 

0:20:38.5 FD: I’m not even sure. I think it’s just part of my personality. I’ve always been one of those people that’s sort of a bit adventure driven. And as I said, we always used to get up to sort of all sorts of mischief living in the country. And even my first taste of adventure, I guess, was when I was about 14. I got invited to attend recreational camps for other people with other people that had a vision impairment. And so for me, literally, it was a bit of an eye opener. I got to meet other kids my own age that had a similar sort of disability to what I had, which in Broken Hill, the only other people that had an eyesight problem were old people that had age deteriorated eyesight. So all of a sudden there’s all these new kids that I met that were my own age and I was like, oh, wow, this is fun. And on these camps, we got to do all sorts of exciting things. So we went abseiling and water skiing and horse riding and all of the things, and it was like, oh, cool, I can do these things. And in actual fact, my disability doesn’t stop me from doing these things. And I think through that I got a bit of a taste of adventure. So I think it’s when I was 17, I went skydiving for the first time. So I did that while I was still out in Broken Hill. And then from there I’ve just taken every opportunity that presents itself that creates a bit of adventure.

0:22:03.6 FD: And I think we like to think of this idea of being comfortable, like a comfortable life as something to pursue. And in essence, that seems like it’s a good idea because we don’t really want to be uncomfortable all of the time, but having those moments of discomfort and facing your fears and going outside of that zone of where everything’s all cool, suddenly becomes a place of growth. And I find that it’s really exhilarating to actually go and push those boundaries a little bit and be scared and wonder, hey, is this beyond my capacity? And then you do whatever it is that you do and you find yourself feeling so proud and excited and full of energy afterwards. And I think that’s probably the buzz that I look for. Then I just keep on going back. [chuckle]

0:23:02.3 WB: Now, if I was ever to have the audacity to think I was going to jump out of a plane, I would kind of hope that I was not able to see what I was doing because [0:23:13.4] ____ firmly closed and just be totally reliant on the person that was tandem jumping with me. [laughter] So I can imagine that would be the only time where this might be a value add rather than a hindrance. But as you do all this…

0:23:30.6 FD: Not sure, actually, because my eyesight was actually still reasonably good when I did that. So I definitely remember hanging off of the arm of the strut of the plane and looking and seeing all the red dirt below me and going, okay, well, I’ve got to let go soon.

[chuckle]

0:23:47.5 WB: So you didn’t even do it tandem? 

0:23:48.6 FD: Yes, I did do it tandem. Yeah.

0:23:51.3 WB: Okay. It doesn’t make any difference jumping out of a plane.

[laughter]

0:23:58.7 FD: Well, once you’re out that door, there’s not a lot of choice. It’s like, well, you’re going now. [chuckle]

0:24:03.6 WB: I can only imagine that as there would be for anyone doing some of these adventures, for you there must be a lot of preparation involved. How do you go about that? You have a group of people that support you with helping you get ready for some of these things? 

0:24:22.0 FD: Yeah, somewhat. And look, I think there’s a lot to be said for, and this is how I started doing this sort of in a more comprehensive way, and putting the things on the website, is I believe that everybody should have access to any of these adventures and to be able to do these things regardless of their personal circumstances, as long as they know that it’s within the bounds of safety, then I think there’s a bit of an onus upon operators to actually then say, okay, well, this is not a ridiculous idea. Let’s actually work together to see how we can make this happen. And for sometimes that is not doable, but in most cases it might just mean a slight adjustment or it might mean that you have to do it one on one instead of with a group or whatever it happens to be. There’s usually a way of working around it, and I think, you know, to be able to have access to those things that maybe people do these things when they go on holidays. And some of the stuff that I’ve done, I’ve been in Queensland or somewhere else when I’ve done it. And to be able to go on holidays with your family and you all decide that you want to go and do a particular activity, whether it be as random as going on jet skis or jumping out of planes, or it might even just be that you want to go paddleboarding or canoeing or something a little bit more relaxed, any of those things should be accessible to people with a disability, just as much as it is to anybody else.

0:25:54.5 FD: So you should be able to rack up and go, you know what, like I’m giving you a bit of notice, I’m not just gonna turn up on the day and expect everything to go perfectly well, but if I know that I’m going to do it a couple of days before, to be able to make a phone call and say, hey, this is my situation. Is this something that we can work with? And most of the time you’ll find the operators say, yep, no worries. Let’s see what we can do.

0:26:18.7 WB: Yeah, that’s really encouraging, I have to say. I saw a picture of you on the Gold Coast where you climbed one of the tall buildings, I forget what it’s called now, but the background of the picture looked a long, long way down, so…

[laughter]

0:26:40.5 WB: Well done in that regard. Let’s fast-forward now to present day, you’re a keynote speaker, you’re a resilience coach, you’re a trainer, as well as you have a day job, I believe so. What is it that you do for the majority of your time? 

0:26:56.5 FD: As you said, I do have a day job. So my day job is I work for our Victorian government Department of Transport and Planning. And I do my day-to-day activities within that role, and I’m also the staff disability advocate, so I make sure that people that are working with a disability at the department are supported and then sort of dabble a little bit in the whole Victorian public service enablers network as well, so lots of bits and pieces going on in the day-to-day job, and then outside of that, as you mentioned, I do the keynote speaking and resilience coaching, I do a lot of one-on-one work with people in relation to just being able to set goals and achieve their dreams, and keep motivated, and some of those people are people with disabilities that don’t have an understanding of what they can actually achieve, because a lot of times people have been told, well, you can’t do this and you can’t do that, and all of a sudden to have someone to support them to say, well, maybe you can do it, just maybe we need to go about it in a different way. And so to help people that have a disability, but then to just help general people that are… You know, it’s amazing how many people just sort of get stuck on that little sort of round and round and round, doing the same things all of the time and not achieving the things that they really want out of life.

0:28:22.1 WB: If you were to characterize your typical clients as you work with as a coach, now, you mentioned that it’s people that are stuck, but what is it they’re actually seeking to do? And how do you help them? 

0:28:37.7 FD: I think a lot of the times we just end up unhappy and we end up in a place where we don’t feel in control of our own situations, and it’s maybe because we’re blaming something from the past, or we feel that we can’t take responsibility for what’s happening in our lives, or these days, a lot of us are just caught up in the busy, busy, busy, do this, do this, do this, do this, and we don’t take any time out to actually do the things that we love and enjoy, and for everyone, I get you to cast back to your childhood, all the times that you’ve been most happy and have a think about those activities and things that you liked to do, and then wonder how much time you’re actually dedicating to that, because at the end of the day we’re only here for a limited amount of time. And for some people that time’s longer than others, but whether you get to spend your time doing all of the things that are expected of you and all those responsibilities and the things that sort of, you know, we just do on a day-to-day basis versus spending some time doing things that you love and enjoy and that make you really thrive and have energy, because if you don’t do any of those things, you don’t have the capacity to keep on giving all of that other time to those other things that, of course we all need to do, you need to make sure that the dog goes for a walk and the kids get to school, and you rock up at work so you can earn the money to pay the mortgage.

0:30:08.7 FD: Those things are important, but what’s also important is making sure that you’ve got that energy to be able to fuel yourself to continue to do those things, because eventually if you just keep on doing all the things, you’re gonna end up burnt out.

0:30:21.8 WB: I understand that you’re a member of the NLP Association in Australia, and have you studied NLP? 

0:30:30.0 FD: Yep.

0:30:31.0 WB: And so I’m guessing therefore, you use that as part of your coaching practice.

0:30:37.9 FD: I do, yeah.

0:30:38.2 WB: Is there anything within the NLP approach… Like I’ve studied it as well so I know, I won’t say I’m an expert, but I know a little bit about it. So is there any particular area of NLP that you use when you’re working with clients? 

0:30:51.3 FD: I do a lot of anchoring exercises, and so for those who don’t know, anchoring is, we all do it, it’s just that we don’t consciously do it a lot of the time, so you may have been anchored in a memory of like a smell of your favorite cooking from grandma or someone’s perfume, for example. So there are good things that you’ve been anchored with, but you may also have been anchored by hearing a siren and remembering an incident where you were in an emergency crisis situation and the siren came along, and so that’s a bad anchoring. And so being able to work with the things that are really good and even create new anchors to be able to put yourself in a place where you’re feeling confident or you’re feeling calm, or whatever it happens to be, that’s a really great resource to have. And then in reflection on that, then also looking at those things that are maybe anchored to us that are bad things, and then being able to re-establish those anchors and turn them into something else. So when you hear that siren, you don’t feel that anxiety that you can actually go, you know what, it’s just a siren, I’m okay.

0:32:05.7 WB: I mentioned in the intro about some of the acknowledgements and the awards and nominations, one that I’d like to highlight here is that you’re nominated for the 2023 AusMumpreneur Awards, so congratulations on that. Has there actually been… Completed now? Like, those awards were in ’23 or…

0:32:30.8 FD: Yes. Yeah, so that all happened in, I wanna say, maybe November. And so I was a finalist in my category, however, I was not the winner, and the lady that was the winner is absolutely amazing, and I could see why she was the winner, because if you think I do all of the things, my goodness, this lady is just like 10 times more doing the things than what I am, and so… Yeah, but it was really fantastic to be involved in that, and I think, again, just acknowledging other people that are out there doing the things that they’re passionate about, and especially for those particular awards, it was about, hey, well, I’m a mom, but I’m also a business owner, or I’m also doing other things. And sometimes we like to label ourselves and to say I’m one thing or I’m another thing, but in actual fact, we’re all multi-faceted and it’s interesting when you sit down and you go, well, you know, look at all of these things that I do, I’m actually really talented at sometimes, all the different things that you may be doing that you don’t even realize.

0:33:41.1 WB: Fiona, you’re really starting to find your groove, it seems, with business, with life, and I can see that you have such passion. Are you working on anything at the moment, like is there anything in the pipeline for 2024 or beyond? Maybe a book. Maybe another adventure. Anything coming up? 

0:34:00.5 FD: There’s always adventures, literally this weekend I’m going surfing, so go and see what that entails, and look, there is a book, literally I’m in final editing stages for that at the moment, so hopefully that will be out in the first half of this year, if not by mid year, and yeah, that’s a bit of a, I guess, a retelling of my high school years and the journey that that took me on, and it wasn’t just living with a disability, but it was also sort of managing teenage identity and some school bullying and depression and all sorts of bits and pieces that were involved in those years, and of course, again, with that aspect of living in Broken Hill, made that situation very different for my experience, so that’s on paper at the moment, just sort of getting finalized, and funnily enough already, the next one is on the brain, and that will be, I guess, more of a self-help version of the same thing, so I’m thinking to tie the chapters of the more memoir style kind of book to then more of a self-help process of, okay, well, when you’re presented with these situations, what are some of the resources that you can use to actually help yourself get out of them? And that can relate to whether you’re an adolescent or whether you’re facing situations of grief or depression or identity crisis, even as an adult.

0:35:41.1 WB: Are you able to say the title of the book yet or is it…

0:35:44.6 FD: No, [chuckle] ’cause I’m not even sure I’ve written it, but I think sometimes the process of writing, the title comes to you at the end, once you’ve put it all together and you do that final re-read, I think the title is going to jump out at me at that point and go, you know what, that’s the right one.

0:36:05.9 WB: Yeah. Well, I look forward to it. Please let me know when it comes out, I’ll keep a vigilance on you to make sure that I’ll get a copy, so…

[laughter]

0:36:14.9 FD: I will do.

0:36:17.5 WB: [chuckle] Thank you. We’re coming towards the end, but a couple more questions, if you’ll persevere with me. Where is the best place for people to connect with you and find out what you’re doing, what services you offer? 

0:36:30.7 FD: Yeah, look, I’m all over social media, so I do have my website that you’ve mentioned a few times, so that’s fionademark.com.au, and then from there, you can also connect up to all the social media, so I’m on the TikTok and the Facebook and the Instagram, and doing all of those things, and interestingly, the things that I can’t do myself I’ve sort of outsourced a little bit to have other helpers to do the… Especially some of the non-accessible parts of those social media, I’ve got some helpers to help put bits and pieces together for that as well, so it’s all happening, so… Yeah, just type in my name and I will appear.

0:37:10.2 WB: So any final words of wisdom for our listeners and what they can better support people with disabilities, whether that’s at work or community? Any words of wisdom that you could share? 

0:37:22.9 FD: Yeah, I think the first thing is to not make assumptions. And to go and speak to the person. I think we’re so caught up in being politically correct and doing all the right things and being afraid to offend people now, that sometimes we lose those opportunities to learn, and I think as long as you’re respectful and you’re going, hey, hey, is there anything I can do? Can you explain if there’s something that I can help with? Sometimes you’re going to get an answer and they’re gonna… No, I’m fine, I’m perfectly okay. Other times you’re going to get the answer of, okay, yep, this is how you can help me, especially within the workplace, if you’re, you know, got someone in your team, someone that you’re managing, you know, just ask the question, how can I best help you? And they might say, no, I’m fine. And then you just own that and go, okay, no worries, I’m here if you do need some help, but it opens that conversation, and having an open conversation I think is the easiest way to go, and that doesn’t just go for disability, I mean, it goes for anything, if you see someone and you think they’re struggling a little bit, go and offer that human support, I think we’re so afraid to do it these days, and I think it’s so important because we’ve lost a lot of that community. And that’s one of the ways to get it back.

0:38:46.9 WB: Fiona Demark, thank you for being a guest on The ET Project, really enjoyed the conversation, wish you well with future endeavors and also the book of course.

0:38:57.3 FD: Thank you so much for having me.

0:39:00.2 S2: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars, and blogs at coaching4companies.com.