Mentors surfer Layne Beachley champion conquering fear motivation

The getting of wisdom | what mentors teach | game-changing advice

Charisma and character - and just a little bit game-changing. Action!

Embrace fear. Know how much debt you can live with. Be honest about what you don’t know … gritty advice from mentors can be career game-changers. SUSAN SKELLY talks to four trailblazing women about passing the baton.

Layne beachley champion surfer mentor role model

Layne Beachley: the upside of fear


Seven times a world champion, it was inevitable that Manly’s number one surfer girl would become a role model and mentor. But it isn’t only sporty types who look to Layne Beachley for their next move.

Layne Beachley has just spent a brisk winter’s morning at Sydney’s Freshwater Beach, surfing a four- to six-foot swell, in light winds and “pumping” conditions. Being in the surf, she says, is “non-negotiable”. In fact, the best advice she received when she retired from professional surfing in 2008 was from former Quiksilver boss Bruce Raymond who said, “Schedule your diary around the surf forecast.”

Beachley has always surrounded herself with those who are older, more experienced and willing to share what they know. “When I joined the World Tour I travelled and surfed and trained with world champions,” she says. “Leaders love to learn from the mistakes of others, so I was always tapping into the knowledge of everyone around me.”

Made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015, Beachley has a list of mentors as long as her list of titles: six world championship wins between 1998 and 2003 and a seventh in 2006. But just as important as the mentors on the way up (champion surfers Wendy Botha, Tom Carroll, Pauline Menczer and Pam Burridge, surf coach Steve Foreman, and personal trainer Rob Rowland-Smith) are those who shaped her life at the other end of the pipeline.

The exit strategy

“I always had passion projects outside the sport,” says Beachley. “And when I retired none of them was ever going to fulfill that same level of elation and excitement you experience standing on a podium holding a trophy above your head and being sprayed with Champagne.

“I had to be realistic with my expectations. I did feel a sense of loss. And that’s when I reached out to my mentors.”

These included ironman Guy Leech, Michael Duff, who coaches executives in high-performance thinking, and professional mentor Debbie Spellman.

“Leechy gave me clarity and enabled me to put things back in perspective. Mike Duff gave me a chance to self-define because I had become ruled by my ‘job titles’. Debbie provided me with a whole toolbox of solutions around decision-making, being willing to forgive, and detaching from negative thought patterns.”

The biggest wave Layne Beachley has ever surfed was 50 foot high, as tall as a five-storey building, on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii.

How she dealt with the fear of that underpins her mentoring of others, which focuses not on how to win at surfing but how to win at life. She takes a holistic approach, helping people process their fears and learn to prioritise. There are, she believes, positives in fear.

“Embrace it!” she declares. “I embrace it in a way that acknowledges I am afraid and then I establish an exit strategy, a plan. What do I have to do to survive this today? Fear brings a state of awareness and brings your attention back to the moment.”

‘People are always watching, analysing and criticising’

Beachley has herself mentored entrepreneurs, tennis players, Formula One drivers, BMX champions and company executives.

Even before she became successful, she realised she had unwittingly become a role model, “which is what happens to most athletes … So I have been very conscious of my actions and behaviours, knowing that people are always watching, analysing and criticising.

“As I became more successful, I realised the gravitas or weight of my words and actions and the influence I could have by doing something positive to enhance other people’s lives.”

In 2003, Beachley set up Aim For The Stars Foundation, a charity to prevent girls from quitting and to foster confidence and belief in themselves. It awards grants and 12 months’ mentoring, this year to 31 applicants from a field of more than 800.

“After I won my 6th world title I reflected on some of the moments when I wanted to quit,” says Beachley. “I was fortunate in having a catalyst moment when Grant MacMinn, my employer at the Old Manly Boatshed, said, ‘I see you, I hear, you, I believe in you and here’s some cash.’ And I thought, ‘Wow’. Had he not done that I wonder where I’d be today.

“I thought I could make that same difference in other people’s lives, so I started a foundation to provide financial support and, more importantly, mentoring support  for girls to achieve their dreams – in all endeavours, whether music, science, culture, sport, academia.”

A voracious reader, Beachley’s bedside table accommodates Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Outliers; Discover Your True North, by Harvard professor Bill George; and The Biology of Belief, by Bruce H. Lipton.  “I love the psychology of life,” she says.

These days, Beachley takes Bruce Raymond’s advice. “I don’t tend to put anything into my diary before 11am if I can avoid it,” she says. “I have one happy place and that’s the ocean. I am still addicted to surfing.”

What Layne Beachley taught me…

MEL THOMAS, CEO of Kyup!, a self-worth and self-protection program addressing domestic violence:  * Have the guts to share and be vulnerable *Ask more questions * Implement an honesty barometer: are the people around you telling you what you want to hear or need to know? * Be accessible * Instead of lining up to be heard, flip the model and have people lining up for you * Leverage your networks * Stay true to your original purpose, passion and values.

Surfer TAYLA HANAK, recipient of the 2015 Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship and Mentoring Program: * a travel routine that keeps my body happy, healthy and ready to compete * tips about breathing and body awareness to help with nerves before a heat * find a diet that works for your body.

belinda hutchinson chancellor chairman company director executives mentor women in business robb report australia

Belinda Hutchinson, Chancellor of the University of Sydney


If there were just one word left in the world, for Belinda Hutchinson it would be “strategy.” Just about the best fun this corporate high flyer can have is being on a board developing a strategic plan.

Belinda Hutchinson AM often tells women she mentors about the time wasted at a leading bank waiting to be recognised for her good work. She never put her hand up for a promotion, a pay rise, or a bonus – and wondered why it didn’t come.

So a woman climbing the corporate ladder under her watchful eye will be way more strategic and know the value of the courage to ask. She will know that a career is never a straight line, that tangential opportunities sometimes provide the most interesting career moves. She will know how to succeed in an interview, how to present skills and experience in their best light, understand her relevance to a prospective company, and be honest about what she doesn’t know. She will know that EQ is as important as IQ.

“Everybody can benefit from having a mentor, from someone who’s worn a track ahead of them,” says Hutchinson, whose list of current positions includes Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Chairman of Thales Australia, Chairman of Future Generation Global Investment Company, Director of AGL Energy, of Australian Philanthropic Services, and a Member of the St Vincent’s Health Australia NSW Advisory Council.

“It’s important to be able to talk through challenges with someone, to share, and know that a roadblock is not the end of the world, but an opportunity to learn.”

Learn to navigate the speed bumps

Along with the gold nuggets of advice in her mentees’ discretely expensive handbag might be a copy of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

‘”She talks about career being like a jungle gym – you have to swing from one part of it to the next,” says Hutchinson. “As I also tell the people I mentor, a career is not smooth sailing, there are speed bumps along the way. Sandberg talks about the need to be resilient.”

Hutchinson’s mentee might also be reading Personal History by Katharine Graham, the American publisher who transformed The Washington Post.

“It’s a book that really talks to strength of character, resilience, hard work, good values and great courage. It’s one of the most riveting autobiographies I’ve ever read.”

Hutchinson nominates two mentors who have been key in her own rise. One was Mike Cannon-Brookes CEO of Citibank in Australia and later vice-president of global strategy for growth markets with IBM (and father of the other Mike Cannon-Brookes, the CEO of Atlassian).

“Mike suggested that a Chief of Staff role would introduce me to many more aspects of the business than staying in corporate finance, where I was,” she says. “He taught me the real value in being focused on strategy in business.

Be curious and open-minded

“I am absolutely focused on strategy. Every business needs its vision, its goals, and the building blocks to take it there.”

Ian Stanwell, former Managing Director of the AMP Society, was another. “When I was at Macquarie Group and I decided to move to non executive director career, he made me really think through the positives and negatives, deeply; consider areas where I would add value, industries to focus on, how I should position myself, how to sit at the table in a non-executive role, as opposed to an executive role.”

Hutchinson tells her mentees about needing to be fulfilled in life, beyond career. She herself stays relevant by being ever curious and open-minded. Her life is rich with seminars, conferences, books, podcasts and people.

As Chancellor of the University of Sydney, involved with 60,000 of the best and brightest students in the land and their teachers, Hutchinson is soaking up their research into nano-scale science and technology, gene splicing, bioengineering, robotics and advances in cancer and diabetes.

Mentoring others, she says, “makes me reflect on what I am doing. Listening to their stories and hearing about their challenges and opportunities makes you think ‘What more can I do?’”

What Belinda Hutchinson taught me …

CHRISTINE MCLOUGHLIN, whose current directorships include Suncorp Group Limited, Whitehaven Coal Limited, nib holdings ltd, Spark Infrastructure Group Ltd, and McGrath Foundation: * The importance of a career strategy *  The value of resilience and tenacity * Build meaningful rather than large networks

KATHERINE SUTTOR, Consultant, Bain & Company, Australia: * Never lose sight of what really matters * Fight for what you stand for * Be unapologetically your authentic self * Always keep sight of the legacy you hope to leave behind * Remember to have fun


christine manfield award winning chef caterer mentor traveller entrepreneur

Christine Manfield, from teacher to chef to teacher


From primary school teacher to hatted chef, Christine Manfield blazed a trail in fine dining via her Paramount and Universal restaurants in Sydney and East@West in London. But cooking techniques is just a small part of what she teaches the next generation.

Young chefs mentored by Christine Manfield will know everything there is to know about the thinness and thickness of flavour, the idiosyncrasies of spice, and the construction and layering of look-at-me ice cream.

They will also know how important is looking at the terms of a lease or the conditions of space, and how such things often gauge how they’ll get on with the landlord. She’ll make them think hard about whether they want financial backers or total control, about what level of debt will tip them over into not being able to sleep at night.

They’ll understand that to stay relevant in the digital age, where there is no expectation of loyalty or longevity, they’ll need many strings to their bow. Manfield has written eight sumptuous books, produced a line of spices, takes tours to places like India, Bhutan and Cambodia, judges, caters, makes guest appearances at pop-up restaurants, takes classes, and is a mentor for Women in Hospitality.

Mentees will come away knowing that their staff is a restaurant’s heartbeat. A cherished inner circle will comprise head chef, general manager, sommelier, accountant, and public relations whizkid.

Draw on the energy and enthusiasm of the next generation

They will, of course, be as proficient with social media as they are with perfecting the dipping sauce nam jim. They must have a data base from Day One. Social media, says Manfield, drives your profile and in turn your business.

“I closed Universal four years ago and put myself out there immediately as a fringe dweller who can just jump in and do something,” she says. “The whole pop-up phenomena I tapped into at the right time. For me, that’s driven by collaboration and wanting to be connected with the next generation.

“You are drawing on the energy and enthusiasm of younger kids who are so willing to try new things. There’s a lot more collaboration with this generation – it’s an established way of behaving. There’s none of that ‘This is my sanctuary.’ It’s a different way of camaraderie.”

Barbara Alexander, who cooked alongside Manfield at nearly all of her projects, and is now Executive Chef at the Napa Valley Cooking School in California, had this first impression on Manfield: “Chris greeted me with a pixie haircut, a cheek-level chef’s jacket, Doc Marten boots and fishnet tights … that’s all. I had never seen a chef dressed with such grit and cheekiness. She was busy on the phone and gave me a handwritten list of ingredients to collect – galangal, birds-eye chillis, tamarind, all completely foreign to me. I knew this was going to be an experience.”

Who mentored the mentor?

Manfield’s own mentors include Phillip Searle, of Sydney’s Oasis Seros, whose chequerboard ice cream (pineapple sorbet and star-anise ice cream bordered with licorice gel) was legendary, and Catherine Kerry, the Adelaide caterer who made Petaluma restaurant a foodie destination.

“With Phillip it was all about the discipline, serious discipline, he was an incredible perfectionist. He often used to say, ‘Tini – that’s perfect but you can do better.’ Push, push, push. It really instilled in me the importance of establishing your benchmark.

“With Catherine it was very much the best ways of doing things – the correct way of serving something, of laying a table. She’s huge on etiquette, the classics, the basics. She is super organised and confident about her beliefs and modus operandi.”

What Christine Manfield taught me…

BARBARA ALEXANDER Executive Chef, Napa Valley Cooking School, California: * Be open to learning * Be prepared to evolve the business model * Be fluid, there doesn’t have to be hard and fast rules * Treat kitchen staff like family – valued and appreciated * Surround yourself with focused, fun people who all have the same goal: to peel away the minutiae of the daily ‘grind’ of running a restaurant, to expose the passion and talent.

THI LE, Owner/Chef, Anchovy, Melbourne: * No mandolins – everything hand-sliced very finely * Use your palate, balance in flavour is all-important * Be financially self-reliant * Invest in mature age apprentices who bring a different perspective and discipline * Never take no for an answer.

patti miller author mentor writing autobiography self memoir

Patti Miller, mastering the art of memoir


Politicians, business leaders, academics, reporters, actors, musicians …. yes, everyone has a story in them, but how to bring it to the page? When it comes to memoirs, who you gonna call….?

In her “life story” workshops, Patti Miller has an exercise she calls “secret writing”. She asks students to write down what they really think and feel about somebody. It’s never read out. “The purpose of that,” she says, “is to see what you sound like when you don’t fear anyone’s judgment. It releases an energy and strength in the writing and helps find your authentic voice.”

Miller has been writing and teaching writing for three decades. She conducts workshops in Australia and one every year in Paris. Memoir is her specialty. She has written eight books, the latest being Writing True Stories (Allen & Unwin).

Miller has helped dozens of Australians shape their work, among them Jessica Rowe, Alexandra Joel, Caroline Jones, Caroline Baum, Renee McBryde, Toni Tapp Coutts and Anne Tonner,  several of whom have won literary prizes.

‘Memory is structured like poetry’

Anyone else can write a record of your life, says Miller, but only you can write the story of your life. But thinking about themes and structure isn’t necessarily the best place to start “because what happens is that the intellectual self gets in and starts taking control when it’s your creative self who needs to write the memoir.

“Memory works by association, by metaphor, by imagery, by patterning. Memory is structured like poetry. So that means, without being fanciful, that everyone’s memory is a poet.  So my technique is to have people take a direct leap into memory, not into the ordered packaged version of their life, where they can access those deep, patterned connections, that Proustian memory – really vivid, alive.”

Miller’s mentors include Australian writer Drusilla Modjeska, a teacher who provided encouragement in the early days. Her writing role models have been Helen Garner for her clarity and honesty and French writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne for his self awareness, insight, playfulness, lack of earnestness, and the fact that, in his writings, “he sees everything as fit for exploration, even what sort of glass he likes to drink out of, when he likes to have sex… there’s nothing that doesn’t matter to him.”

She is also enamoured of the writing of French memoirist Annie Ernaux. “She doesn’t show off. That might sound like an odd thing to say, but when you know how to write it’s difficult not to want to impress. She somehow gets to the bone of the thing every time.”

Memoirs that inspire the memoirist

Published memoirs that Miller regards as inspirational include the Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim of Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard, “which showed me you could write a beautiful and powerful memoir without any events in it. There’s no terrible childhood, there’s no awkward divorce, there’s no trauma, just her observations of hanging out by a creek.

“And Montaigne still blows me away, even though he died more than 400 years ago. He feels very 21st century – in his certainty, in his awareness of the intangible flux of consciousness. People call him an essayist but I call him a memoirist because his topic was himself.”

And a trick of the trade? Walk for miles. It helps dissolve that knob of busyness at the front of the brain, dissolving it into a wave that pulls together all those random thoughts and memories.”

What Patti Miller taught me …

RENEE MCBRYDE, author of The House of Lies: * If you think you can break the rules convincingly, go for it * Write without worrying what others might think (ie, write drunk, edit sober!) * Read to develop your knowledge of writing * Let readers come to their own conclusions about your characters: don’t force your opinions on them.

ALEXANDRA JOEL, author of Rosetta: A Scandalous True Story: * In every story there is a need for seduction * Memory is the mother of creativity * Be specific: a kookaburra is better than a bird, an orchid better than a flower * Break any rule if you can make it work * Lock all your critics in the shed * Follow the heat.

An edited version of this first appeared in Robb Report Australia, March 2018























Editor. Writer. Traveller. Keeping tabs on all things fab.

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