Several years ago I created what I call an inspiration board that sits above my desk where I write. No, I was not seduced by that steaming crock of bull known as The Secret years ago, with its overly simplistic and completely ridiculous premise that should you envisage or desire something enough, you’ll get it.
Nope, my board isn’t full of pictures of expensive houses and signed cheques for a million dollars I will one day be able to cash. That is inspiration wasted. Instead, mine is full of quotes from women I admire and pictures of those I love. Motivation to live life to its fullest.
On days when I can’t think of anything to write or am worried an opinion I put to print might be too controversial, I look up at my board and see the bravery that has come before me and surrounds me. And it never fails to push me to be better, bolder and brighter.
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore,” is one of my favourite quotes from William Faulkner, something that always gives me a metaphorical mental push along. It sits beside a picture of me embracing my beautiful friend Mia (yes, one and the same) who is the embodiment of this philosophy in my mind, creating a media empire out of a blog when she thought no one still cared.
“So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” This quote from Hunter S. Thompson sits beside a picture of my brave late Godmother, a woman who left to travel the world as a teenager in the fifties and wound up married to a French viscount, only to be divorced unceremoniously some years later and live a life of struggle. She didn’t regret a minute.
Then there is a quote from actress Drew Barrymore, “If you don't take risks, you'll have a wasted soul.” This sits beside a portrait of tea cress herself, a woman who has broken the glass ceiling in Hollywood and created a successful production company.
I also have a picture of myself arm in arm with the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world, Kay Cottee, who is also an incredibly talented artist and a great mother and friend.
You can see by now that what inspires me most are woman who take risks, who step out of their comfort zones. Women who are brave enough to put their heads out knowing by doing so someone at some stage will no doubt try to kick it.
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Which is why, when I read of Dr Maria Strydom, a finance lecturer at Monash University who died from altitude sickness while descending near the summit of Everest last week, I was saddened but also inspired.
Because this brave woman died doing what she loved. She knew the risks but she climbed that mountain anyway. And it is women like her, with adventure in their hearts and bravado in their souls that have advanced the progress of women in the past and will continue to do so.
Sure, she might not have been the first woman to reach the top of Everest but that doesn’t mean her achievement wasn't great. Over the last eight years, Maria had climbed Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, Mount Ararat in Turkey and Kilimanjaro in her continent of birth, Africa. She knew what she was doing but she also knew of the risks. It was a gamble she was willing to take.
Brigitte Muir, the first Australian woman to climb Everest, probably summed this up best when she extended her sympathies to Maria Strydom's family last week saying: "When we go to the mountains, we are there because we want to be there — we don't have to be there — and that has to be honoured as well".
I took great solace knowing Maria was on her way back down when she met her demise, having achieved what for most of us is an unfathomable goal, an achievement above and beyond our capabilities. I trust Maria was as proud of her accomplishment as she deserved to be. Her picture is now proudly pinned above my desk too.
So, to anyone who, like me, sometimes needs a nudge out of the inertia of what has been before and in to the unknown of all the possibilities that lie ahead, I suggest you get an inspiration board too.
Read up on the stories of aviation pioneers Nancy Bird-Walton and Amelia Earhart, marvel at the fortitude of early explorers such as Isabelle Eberhardt, Isabella Bird, Alexandrine Tinné and Octavie Coudreau, marvel at the athletic feats of Gertrude Ederle, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner and Annie "Londonderry" Kopchovsky (I mean it – their stories are enthralling).
Then ask yourself, if these women had stayed within the limits of convention, if they had thought they were not good enough or it’s not what women do, what their lives may have been in comparison.
I am sure if we could ask these pioneering woman what, despite their hardships, despite their insecurities and despite what others thought or felt, they would have changed the answer would be “nothing”.
Because, like another quote on my inspiration board, this time from groundbreaking legendary comedian Lucille Ball says, their spirit embraces the worthy ethos, “I would rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not.”