Finding one’s pack

Have you ever felt like the outsider?  The one that is different?  Who doesn’t fit?

For me, there is a stack of irony in the telling the classic Ugly Duckling story by Hans Christian Anderson.

A beautiful swan born to a mother duck, who is ostracised by her family for being different.

The tale follows this creature, misunderstood, on her journey through exile to her joy at finally finding her home amongst her own kind.

Notwithstanding the obvious connection, this story resonates for me on so many levels.

As someone who thinks, acts and behaves differently; my road has been far from simple.

But, in Clarissa Pinkola Este’s interpretation of this classic story in ‘Women who run with the Wolves’ we are reminded:

See to it now that you spend less time on what they didn’t give you and more time on finding the people that you belong to.

Today, I was lucky enough to unpack this story with my very own Cantadora and Story Teller, Dr MJ Clark.  In our first ever podcast ‘Wolf Mothers’ we chatted about what the Ugly Duckling meant to us.

For me it was a real lightbulb moment when I realised that I had spent a fair chunk of my life trying to herd cats and encourage hens to swim.

Meaning, you might remember, that while the ugly duckling is on her pilgrimage she calls into a farm house and is teased by an uncombed cat and cross eyed hen for looking different.  Worse, the ugly duckling doesn’t sound like them and is of course, by their measure, ugly.

Over time, the uncombed cat and the cross eyed hen make fun of the ugly duckling for her inability to lay an egg or hunt for mice, denigrating her as stupid and of no value.  The duckling, frustrated, leaves feeling misunderstood and like an outsider.

Importantly, for me, the uncombed cat and the cross eyed hen remind me simply that a duck is a duck, a hen is a hen and a cat is a cat.  Or more simply, that we all have our unique qualities and that no talent is more important than another.

So, teaching a cat to swim is probably futile and encouraging a hen to chase a mouse similarly stupid.

So too, is asking a Swan to drive a bus.

Or as Este summarises beautifully:

We don’t see the world as it is;

we see it as we are

Therefore, for me, today, my real challenge is to embrace the unique nature of a Swan.  In more ways than one.

And, my personal challenge to you is to find your own unique nature and embrace it with open arms.

Because on the day that you do, you will most likely find your own pack, or like in the Ugly Duckling, your pack will find you.

The alternative is a life spent herding cats.

Keen to get clear on where you are going?

One of the most frustrating side-affects of having choice; is having choice.

Meaning, in 2020, we are all generally blessed with opportunity.  The internet fixed that.

If we want to study.  We can do it on-line.

If we want to meet like-minded people.  We can do it on-line.

If we want to start a business.  We can do it on-line.

If we want to learn anything.  It is all there waiting for us.

Access to all of these choices can be overwhelming and can often mean that we make no decision.  Which is probably worse, because we stagnate.

But, how do we get clear on where we are going?

I simply think we just need to look for clues.  What are we passionate about.  What would we do if money was no object.  The answer lies in the things we love.  Or perhaps Bishop Jakes says it better:

‘If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you straight to your purpose’

Bishop TD Jakes

Fear of judgement; the new form of procrastination

Fear of judgement; the new form of procrastination

Have you ever had a cracking new idea??

Something that will change the world – or perhaps just your life?

But, stopped yourself short of implementation?

Because you were scared?

Coming from 20 years in project management I have seen all of the excuses for why things don’t start.

And, if they don’t start, they don’t happen.

Interesting concept though. Projects of all shapes and sizes sitting on the shelf.

It’s real easy to find a reason why, but if we are honest it generally boils down to:

Fear of judgement. Judgement from others.

What if, those others were just as scared as you?

And, if we just got on with it, together we would move from procrastination, past judgement and onto something that might look like FREEDOM.

Freedom to try that next thing.

Freedom to be ourselves.

Freedom to make a difference.


Building your personal leadership muscle

Interesting thing is that we all know how to lose weight.

The theory is quite simple.  Less food in and more energy out, on a consistent basis, will generally translate into a better looking body.

We also know the theory behind getting fit and strengthening our muscles.

Add weight and stretch, on a consistent basis, and our muscles will also generally transform.

But building our leadership muscle is often written off as something ‘they’ are responsible for.

Meaning, leadership is often perceived as something that lucky white males are responsible for and that they have been ‘taught’ to be a leader.

Perhaps, in reality, we are all born leaders (just like we are all born fit, lean and healthy) and that it is actually regular conditioning that we need to grow this particular muscle.

Small acts of personal leadership on a daily basis, will overtime, transform our skills, our lives and the people around us.

So, if our personal leadership muscle grows with daily exercise; what are you doing, today, to build this muscle?

Stepping into our personal power

Seems to me like we are in the midst of a pandemic of the worst kind.

And, I am not talking about the Coronavirus, but rather the lack of personal leadership across our communities.

We have spent the summer belting the actions (or lack of) of Scomo, but have we really asked ourselves ‘what are we going to do about it’?

I don’t necessarily mean anything as glamorous as bushfires, climate change or global warming, but rather those small itches that need to be scratched in our families, our communities and our workplaces.

Just last week I watched a community volunteer, in a leadership role, ask for permission to communicate with the wider membership base.  And, I was also close at hand when a Business Manager put the needs of the wider team in jeopardy to please a client.

In both cases, these talented, smart, leaders-in-their-own right, gave away their personal power to be liked.  The desire to be both endorsed and appreciated was more important that the fundamental role description of their jobs.

So, it got me to thinking. Are we really so unsure of ourselves that we need to seek permission, these days, to get things done. Basic. Everyday. Leadership decisions.

Because the authority, to make decisions, already sits with you.  It sits with all of us.

Because what we really need to be talking about is the fear of our own personal power.

Fear that we might get it wrong.

Fear that we might not be liked.

Fear that we might be different.

Fear that we might actually be responsible for our own shit.

And, it is this fear that is pervading our homes, our offices and our communities.

The real pandemic is fear of our own personal power.

But, imagine, just imagine, what might be on the other side of that fear, if we simply leaned in and owned it?

The best antidote to a fear based pandemic is simply a life created on our own terms.

The struggle is real

So, 37 days into the New Year and how are you going with your resolutions.  How long did the shiny promises last?

For me, I have managed a 37 day exercise streak.  But all the other sparkly bits faded pretty quickly in the reality of life + work + kids.  On one hand, high five to me for the exercise streak and on the other hand, well there are always legitimate excuses.

But the struggle is real.

Reading some of Jordan Peterson’s work reminds me that we live in a duality of order & chaos.

When we strive for perfection through fancy new years resolutions what we are actually attempting to do is to apply some level of control, or order, over our existence.

And, just imagine if we achieved that!

Life would be tidy, organised and…….possibly boring.

So here is the thing.  The challenge.  The juxtaposition.  We actually need a bit of chaos for growth.

Real growth.

Imagine if we just got up and went to the gym.  Everyday.  For the rest of our lives.

Yes.  We would be disciplined and we would certainly get results.

But, imagine the true personal growth that comes with juggling competing priorities and demands on our time.

At some point we will need to pause, to make sense of the chaos and take the lesson.

And, that lesson may just be that we need to prioritise or make ourselves a priority.  But the chaos and conflict produces the lesson that order won’t.

So lean into the order and discipline that a new year resolution creates, but never for a minute believe that chaos and real growth are not just around the corner.  Waiting to move you in new ways.

The 366 day streak

Like you, and many others, I am basking in the glow a new year, a new decade and new possibilities.

Right now it is easy.  Really easy.  To set my intentions for the year.  To carve up time, allocate priorities and detail all the things that I am ‘gunna do’ this year.

But, here is the real challenge.  In my core, my gut, my knowing, I know that in about 5.5 weeks from now something will happen.  Life. Health. Work.  And, all of these well intended resolutions will disappear like fairy dust.

365 day streak kerry swan

And, so this becomes the real challenge for 2020.  How to change my life.  How to ‘be’ that person that I so desire on the 1st of January and how to live my truth.  My life by design.

Around about 20 years ago, I started my first business.  A consulting business which would allow me to work from home and juggle babies and life.  The dream that I sold myself was that a business would provide me FREEDOM + CHOICE for both me and mine.

Fast forward 20 years and I am still self employed and I still continue to chase the elusive FREEDOM + CHOICE that business ‘should’ provide for me.

Perhaps a larger team would be the answer; I thought 15 years ago.

Perhaps teaching would be the answer; I thought 12 years ago.

Perhaps real estate would be the answer; I thought 5 years ago.

Perhaps there is no answer, I thought last year; in a fit of misery and despair.

After 20 years of reflection.  It now seems to me that the answer is actually counter intuitive.

To achieve FREEDOM + CHOICE we actually need to dig into STRUCTURE + DISCIPLINE.

Meaning, to achieve the things we want, we need to commit to them EVERY DAY and even when we don’t want to.

  • Things like exercise.
  • Things like writing.
  • Things like leading.
  • Thing like showing up.
  • This like having the hard conversation, again and again.

So this year my resolutions are simple but bloody hard.

I know who I want to be.  I know how I want to live.

The real challenge is to keep at it for a 366 day streak.

Stick with me.  Hold me accountable.  And, let’s see what difference a year makes.


The 366 day streak Kerry Swan

How to survive as a leader in 2020

What worked before, won’t now

Moving from the management consulting space into real estate over the last five years has been a real eye opener into the way we do business in Australia.

In my life before real estate, as a business consultant, I was invited into boardrooms to solve big hairy problems.  Kinda like the problems you are dealing with.  Business problems.  People problems.  Leadership problems.

And, the interesting thing is that while it was great fun; we always came up with a solution, together.  Simply because we talked face:face and took the time to understand each other.  Importantly, the client always left with a solution that felt right. For them.

Fast forward to the real estate world and life is very different.  Imagine my surprise when a disagreement about the cost to cut a set of keys for a rental property ($20) could blow out to a week long argument and hurt feelings all round.

For a long time, I assumed it was my incompetence, the market, property management, the fee structure, the anything.  And, then it finally dawned on me.

Sales Agents.  Real Estate Agents.  People selling anything have taught their buyers and customers a lot of dirty tricks.  And, what I mean here, is the high pressure sell.  The do it now sell.  The don’t worry about that sell.  Tricks that were learnt and worked in the 80’s.

Which makes our customers, in the land of real estate sales, on edge.  On guard, for the trick, the bite, the pain.

Humans are smarter

Culturally, our customers, and indeed ourselves, have got smarter.  Our customers know exactly when we are bullshitting them and are after the quick sale.  Because, collectively, we have taught them.

Just pause and think about your last visit to a big box furniture store or a car yard.  How did it feel when the sales person, no matter how friendly they were, asked if you needed some help?

Like your skin was about to be set on fire.  Right? Yes.

It is all about them

Like your car yard experience, our customers, feel before they even see, when someone is acting in their own interest.

My absolute best days in real estate have been when I have managed to get my consulting hat back on and understand what the customer really wants and needs.

And, this is the reason why I just love an ‘off market’ sale where I can match a buyer to a seller.

It is inside these conversations, that I can take the time to understand what the next chapter is for them.  What are they trying to achieve.  An upgrade, a downgrade, a change of lifestyle, an ending or a new model?

Build trust

Building this level of trust and openness takes some time and patience.  Even just trying to get past the automatic ‘guard up’ is tough.  And, this is becoming tougher in the internet driven world.  Because, now we are teaching our customers about clicks, speed and new tricks.

What we need now, more than ever, is a relationship based conversation.  A conversation that is genuine and all about understanding the needs and motivators of the humans behind the transaction.

Lead from the heart

For any of us to survive and thrive in the new decade, we must approach our customers from our hearts and seek out the human that exists in all of us.

Absolutely, the internet gives us the gift of connection.  It allows us to find like minded humans.  It allows us to research, shuffle and sort, but the real work of 2020 is in finding opportunities for empathetic connection.

The sales will sort themselves out.  The lists.  The clicks.  The numbers.  They will happen.  Because what we really need are leaders in the next decade that commit to leading from the heart.

Heart felt, empathetic leadership, is the only thing that will cut through the noise and the pace.

Leadership that says ‘I hear you’ and ‘I understand what you need and want’; not transactional leadership that says ‘I know what is good for you, buy this’.

As we prepare for 2020, let us pause and reflect on the realities of leadership in the trenches and the importance of heart felt leadership that drives real connection and change.


An eat shit moment

It was late 1981, and I was a skinny nine year old kid, with freckles, red hair and poor coordination, when I lived the first of many of my eat shit moments.

The sun was already baking the asphalt in that tiny country town school yard when I stepped out to face my Armageddon.

Today was bike skills day at school, where the Education Department of day had decided it was in our interest to learn how to navigate traffic in our one horse, population 1,000, town.

It was hot.  Australian hot.  And, a trickle of sweat rolled down my back.

But it was nothing like the heat that I was about to feel.

Because these were the days before political correctness and every player gets a prize for trying.  These were the days when you were expected to just know.  And, just do.

‘Righto, grab a bike and line up!’ shouted the teacher.  Already hassled with the effort of juggling a big mixed level class with a hangover, Mr Smith had no patience or time for softness.

‘Now listen to what these instructors say and follow the bike course around the basketball court, and shut up you fella’s in the back’ Smith bellowed.

The terror gripped me.  Like a physical wave it washed over and momentarily blacked out the sun.

As the youngest in my school group, and a farmers kid, I was about to be exposed as ‘The Kid that Couldn’t Ride a Bike’.

Somehow the choice of pretending to be able to ride a bike was better than putting up my hand and exposing the real truth.  I couldn’t ride a bike.

So there I am.  The skinny, unco, kid with Mum’s home job, hair cut.  I dragged out a bike and lined up.

Of course, I had no idea that simply jumping on a bike and pedalling wasn’t going to cut it.

As I wobbled my way from the start line, the sun and the sweat intensified.  And, so did the quiet.  Gradually, the big noisy, messy gaggle of kids and teachers got real quiet.

You know that quiet before the giggling starts.

Somehow, with red hot shame, I made it around the course and I don’t remember much else except for that sense of complete isolation.

Fast forward about 40 years and I now define it as an eat shit moment, not for the terror and how I felt at the time, but for that moment when a choice is made.

A choice to go away, get real quiet and eat shit.

Metaphorically, in my world, to eat shit is to simply to take the feedback from the universe and use it to empower myself, my learning and my growth.

Of course, that Christmas there was a bike under the tree and I learnt how to ride, but what I really learnt was the power of being different.

Standing out in a country school, because I was the only kid that couldn’t ride a bike meant that, in a heart beat, I became the kid who was different.

And, I am sure that each and everyone of us has had a moment like that.

The power of that moment, though, is what you do with it.  You can let being different define you.

In my world, you can eat some shit and let the moment create you.

KJS xo

If you are keen for change, but don’t know where to start, I am always up for a chat.

Living your best life starts the day you make a choice to take the scary, creative, and audacious road.

I have spent a lifetime making choices that take me down the scary road.  It has been bumpy, scary and the best thing I have ever down.

I have also spent a lifetime solving problems.  Business problems. People problems.  And, of course property problems.

So if you are up for a no obligation, free chat, flick me a line and we can find a space in our worlds where the stars align and we can chat.

Yes! I would love a chat!



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Seven simple ways to change your life is a small collection of the things that you can do to create big results.

If you want to be challenged or want to find a better way, this simple read will provide you with ideas to bounce off and it also has simple wisdom from a range of masters!

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