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I never understood why people did it, until now

A few years ago, I went to a RISE conference and listened to Anna Stretton speak about ‘RAW’, a programme she created where she took women recently released from prison under her wing.

The programme comprised taking the women to a house, away from their hometowns. Once there, the RAW team set about rehabilitating them; getting them reintroduced to society, helping them feel worthy, and building up their self-esteem and confidence. Anna even gave them jobs in a second-hand store that the organisation ran.

Part way through her talk, she brought one of the women up to speak and wow! It was powerful. Everyone in the room had tears running down their faces as they listened intently to her story.

Aside from thinking Anna was a generous and amazing woman, I remember wondering why Anna does it. Why would she spend her own time and money to help these women?

I now understand exactly why she does it.

It all started with a conversation in passing. That conversation quickly turned into a concept, then to a proposal, which led to negotiations, and then to signing contracts. Before I knew it we were fitting out, purchasing equipment, and developing content for the first ever Savvy Business Administration Course. Concept to day-one of the course was just five short months. This was my side initiative too. We still had the Strictly Savvy core business to run. Luckily, we have an incredible, capable team and I have a very hands-on partner and coach.

So here I am. At the end of the first course feeling like my head is going to burst. Anything more than a whisper makes me wince. My sinuses are messed up. I’m sick. It happens. It’s been go, go, go for the last eight weeks and now the adrenaline has stopped pumping, I can finally let myself relax and breathe, my immune system has taken a hit. So sitting here, I’ve been reflecting and decided it’s a good time to put pen to paper (so to speak) and share my thoughts. Who knows? You might be inspired the way Anna inspired me.

The 8-week Savvy Business Administration Course was created for solo parents receiving a benefit. It is specifically designed to help these parents upskill and get their confidence back after being out of work while raising children, alone.

Thinking about what we do for our clients, I knew the participants (who happened to all be women – although it was available to dads too) would love learning about business productivity tools and apps. In addition to teaching them all sorts of new skills, I hoped I’d be able to impart some of my wisdom and learnings, and maybe help them change a few perceptions about themselves too.

So with everything set to go, we launched right into it. We crammed a whole lot of learning into the course and it was wonderful to see the participants completely engaged. In addition to covering positive topics like the Law of Attraction and positive thinking, we shared our expertise and taught our learners everything we knew about: personal assistant skills, diary and inbox management, useful programmes, sites and apps like Google Apps/G Suite, Office 365, Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint, Slack, LastPass, the Snipping Tool, Chrome profiles, Windows 10, Canva, TrelloXero! We even covered intranet site development, accounting concepts, building a strong personal brand, putting a CV together, learning interview skills and updating their online presence.

I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction.

It's a huge part of my life, and hands down, it’s the reason I am where I am. I remember reading that the average person speaks to themselves negatively about 80% of the time. I’ve worked hard to get mine down to around 5%, if that. The negative voices in my head are almost non-existent. I hardly ever talk badly to myself and I never tell myself I can’t do something. Doing so doesn’t serve me, so I’ve simply stopped doing it. I put a lot of emphasis on this concept throughout the course and talked to the women about my story.

Although I would consider myself a lucky person (I had a fantastic childhood, supportive and positive parents, and I loved school), it wasn’t all roses. I went flatting and put myself through the last few years of school after my parents split. It was tough. I ran out of petrol more than once. I got crappy results in my last year of school. I spent a few years partying far too much. It was only when I headed off for a new life in Wellington that positivity and the Law of Attraction returned to my life. I shared a story about bluffing my way into my first personal assistant role, where I had no actual experience, I had just worked in an office. This was just semi-relevant enough to include on my CV, and it miraculously got me an interview. What this showed the women is that you can make your own 'luck' and it really is up to you what you want to do.

When half-way through the course I asked the women if learning about the Law of Attraction and positive thinking had made a difference in their lives, their answers made me feel like I just won the lottery. There were stories of how parents and friends had asked them why they were so happy and positive to which they answered "It’s because of this course I’m on". They told me that they feel like different people, and that they feel so positive about the future; motivated, and grateful for the opportunity to learn such useful, modern and relevant skills. They even told me about having their goals pinned up around their houses.

One particularly moving moment that stands out came from a woman who had suffered from anxiety. Coming to the first day of the course was a real struggle for her, but I am so glad she did. She announced on the last day of course that she had stopped taking her anxiety pills four weeks ago and feels better than ever. She had been using the ‘Dear Diary’ process that I passed on to her. This is where you write in a diary the night before as if the next day has already happened. The day I announced that she had passed her Xero assessment, she burst into tears because she had written it in her diary the night before and now it was playing out exactly how she wrote it!

Knowing that I had played a part in changing her life forever – well there isn’t a feeling much better than that.

I knew that giving back and empowering these women so that they may become better versions of themselves and positive role models in their children’s lives would be an awesome thing to do, but what I hadn’t anticipated is the overwhelming squishy feeling I’d get inside knowing just how much we changed their lives. It’s hard to put into words how what I have given them doesn’t even compare to what they have given me.

Although I acted as a catalyst to start things off, it has been a life-changing experience for all involved. The learners supported each other, the Strictly Savvy team supported them, and Craig the course facilitator encouraged them.

At Strictly Savvy, we’re spreading positivity and it's contagious! The second course is kicking off soon and we can’t wait. Imagine a world where everyone gave a little bit more. What a wonderful world it would be. You should try it!


Jo Muggeridge | Founder & Leader at Strictly SavvySavvy School & Savvy Spaces
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