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A sea change

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

It has been a while since my last blog post, as I now write a weekly opinion piece for Campus Review to accompany and re-promote the weekly podcast episodes from the HEDx higher education experience podcast series. It has been a great honour and pleasure to have my weekly thoughts about the sector involve conversations shared with such luminaries as Jane den Hollander, Sally Kift, Andrew Norton, Barney Glover and Pascale Quester. And to continue that in the new year with John Germov and Duncan Bentley.

One of my first podcast guests was my great friend Denis Gibson who first brought me to Australia as VC at QUT 18 years ago. He shared his memories with me of first experiencing university life after being placed on a train from his home town of Newcastle upon Tyne to travel to Hull to take up first year study. That is now more than 60 years ago.

Entering my 60th year I reflect on how difficult it must be for first year students in 2021 compared to 1961! My kids have all now completed undergraduate degrees and are forging their careers around the world in fashion marketing, healthcare, and industry analysis. I now have two more beautiful young people in my world including one making great strides as a successful start up entrepreneur in San Francisco, despite the lockdowns, and another who is now a new first year undergraduate at UQ and still searching the exact path through study options to a career path that inspires her and connects to her purpose. I greatly admire all our young people and families around the world, as they not only grapple with the challenges of work, study and disrupted social and family lives, but also face the looming, and I hope soon to be prioritised, issue of climate change and our responses to it.

What have we done to the futures of all of our young people? Surely now is the time we must all do something and take responsibility to improve future prospects for all.

I have really enjoyed the sea change in my working life after I chose to step down from full-time executive leadership roles in universities after nearly 40 years and become an entrepreneur by founding HEDx as a start up, changing higher education for good. To have so many clients so soon, and to be making such a difference so quickly, has been beyond all expectations.

And after just squeezing in my first triathlon in my late late 50's, I am so pleased to be sharing daily runs, swims, cycles, stretches and endless beach walks at sunrise, sunset, and just about any other time, with my amazing partner. This comes more frequently now we have made a partial sea change.

I really enjoy the hills and forests in our world and forest bathing still gives me refreshment, replenishment, and a great feeling of rejuvenation and grounding. I am sure it also helps me see both the woods and the trees, however thick the thicket.

There is something really special about the ocean, whether walking along it, hearing it at night, seeing the full moon reflected on its lapping waves, or spending the best days of each and every year sipping champagne on a beach while the sun sets.

I am lucky to be having some of the best days of my life now. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity for daily contact with parents in the UK and daughter in Sweden and crave the completion of their vaccine jabs to the point where we can all again be reunited as a family.

I am really thoughtful right now about the many former colleagues at both QUT and Griffith for whom these days are progressively becoming their own ends of working lives and careers in circumstances they did not see coming or plan for. I saw a beautiful video last week prepared by a friend whose career was ending at the same time as the QUT Law Faculty was being disestablished. The video had wonderful reminders of some great friends and former colleagues in David Gardiner, Des Butler and others. There are some great memories that we can take to our sea or tree changes with us or wherever we choose to focus our new lives.

My new life could not be in greater contrast to the place of pain I found myself in 18 months ago. The answer I found was in taking control of my brain, with the help of a very significant other, to focus on how much I had to be grateful for, and to realise that seeking to be happy, healthy and strong was all the planning that was needed in life. And that you don't hope for it, you do it. For anyone facing their own challenges, changes, pain or disruption right now, my message to all of you is to find it within yourself, with help from wherever it may come, to begin your own path towards real gratitude. I now realise it is the only sea change that matters, as I connect the dots backwards.

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