What a difference 6 months can make…

0fJoTvlOQVCZKQpyk6rt_PwC-Alumni-preview_232Last week I celebrated 6 months of being an entrepreneur. I had to pinch myself… but more about this another day.

I also celebrated – yes, lots of champagne was involved – my new healthy lifestyle. Never in a million years did I expect to do so much weight training and drink so little alcohol… but more about this another day as well.

My biggest celebration last week was my ‘TED-style talk’ at PwC’s inaugural Alumni Live event. It was held at Sea Containers on the South Bank – a simply stunning venue – and I had the honour of sharing the stage with six other amazing speakers.

This talk was a big deal for me, and I had to dig deep to stay calm and composed – hence the breathing exercises at the beginning. I had an important message to share, and the title of my talk was: “Completing the human firewall”. I explained why a failure to attract and retain women in the Cyber Security industry is making us all less safe. That we need people from all walks of life to strengthen (and complete) the human firewall. Let’s face it, technology and processes can only get us so far after then we need people.

But although I am very proud of my talk, it is not the point of this blog. So let’s talk about unintended consequences:

On Monday morning, both Heinrich (my 10 yr old) and Andreas (my 8-year-old) played piano exams. We practised their scales and pieces slowly over the weekend, which was a battle in itself (I was contending with Fortnight), but we got there in the end.

I woke up Monday morning thinking, how do I get my boys ready for their exams? Reflecting on my own anxiety as a child (when I played piano exams), and my recent studies as a high-performance coach, I realised that I needed to prepare them mentally. So lots of motivational talks followed, for example, Heinrich asked me: “Mom, what if I fail?” and I said: “But Heinrich, what if you get a distinction? You’ve worked so hard and you know your pieces so well, it is not possible to fail”

I also decided to make them do some of my own morning ‘rituals’:

First, I gave them each a big glass of water to drink (we’re most dehydrated when we wake up).

Then I took them to the garden for some exercise (jump squats, skipping, push-ups etc). This cleanses the body from cortisol (stress hormone), releases serotonin (happy hormone), releases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and gives you a dopamine rush (i.e. motivates us). In addition (to these health benefits), the joy on their little faces was priceless.

Finally, we did breathing exercises – from the moment they woke up until they entered the exam room.

I listened to them playing their pieces, closed my eyes and played every note with them… They both did so amazingly well. I was so proud. And afterwards, Heinrich (with a very chuffed little face) told me: “Mom, those breathing exercises helped a lot”.

Wow, I didn’t expect this. Talk about unintended consequences.

My boys were petrified to play their piano exam on Monday morning – they probably felt similar to the way I did go onto the stage last week. But I was able to prepare them mentally and give them the confidence and belief that they can do it. #priceless

I want to help boys – and girls – growing up believing that they can be anything they want to be. I want to open their minds to careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Like Bryony Mathew, I want them to grow up thinking that it is perfectly normal to be an Algorithm Specialist, Cyber Security Analyst or Aerospace Engineer.

Please join me in ‘completing the human firewall’. I am very interested to hear your thoughts on how we can do this – please be so kind to share.