I interviewed my dear friend and colleague, Deborah Shepherd, about her many soul adventures in life. In 2011, she left behind a big corporate career to become a purpose-driven and spiritual entrepreneur and business leader. She founded the Embrace Life Festivals and ran it across NSW Australia for about 6 years. She nurtured and mentored a community of health & wellness practitioners and created a movement called the Gratitude. She is now planning to launch Soul Advisors in Australia, a global non-profit organization with its founder. She is certainly a busy woman who embraced change and achieved a lot of success in her life. We talked about the ups and downs in navigating these soul adventures, what are the lessons learned and how can we best prepared for and manage these changes and challenges in our lives.
Here is the shownote:
- The leap from working in the corporate world to become a purpose-driven entrepreneur
- The good days, the bad days and lessons learned
- If you are not sure, meditate!
- Everything happened for a reason, all experiences lead you to personal growth
- The Art of Letting-Go
- How to become more resilient and evolve
- What would you say to your younger self, a 20-year-old Deborah Shepherd
You can watch our interview here:
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You can find out more about Soul Advisors here at https://www.souladvisor.com/
The following is the transcript of our interview:
Sze Wing: Hi! I’m super excited to talk to Deb today. Deb is my personal friend and we work on many projects before in the wellness industry and so today I’m really happy to be able to find the time together to have this interview and chat about one of my favourite topic, which is about authentic success, how do we embrace change and living a more inspired life which is a recurring theme on all my podcasts.
Sze Wing: So this is the podcast called #ConversationsThatMatter and we’re talking about stories from women that aim to empower other women. So today we have Deborah Shepherd with us who had been in so many different international corporate projects and worked in the finance industry and she had about 30 years of it and then you changed and you started your own business as a purpose-driven entrepreneur.
And we’re going to talk a little bit more about that. And she created the community called Gratitude and she delivered Embrace Life Festivals across New South Wales. She also has an online platform and now also doing consulting and mentoring. So she has obviously a few reincarnations of her career.
And now you’re leading a project called Soul Advisors. So I guess for my listeners will be interested to hear firsthand from the woman who has embraced so many different ventures in the business world.
So our guest today is Deborah Shepherd. Welcome, Deb!
Deb: Thank you Sze Wing. Lovely to catch up with you as you say we’ve been connected with each other for many many years. So. I look forward to being here today.
Yeah. You know I often feel this is like a conversation you know imagine sitting in a cafe and then we have our girlfriends and some I had never met that before and then you know that they all inspired to do something more in their life and then I often feel that I’m always a middle person to introduce them and you are too and I felt this is almost like one of those occasions.
Deb: I think it’s a combination of all sorts of things that you’ve just been saying. I think from memory because it is now quite a while since I left in 2011. But it would have been stirring for at least three or four years of me feeling that I had more to give to the world and something within me that needed to be expressed. Like a lot of people. I was committed to the job I was in.
I had commitments and I had a certain skill set and knowledge that I believe that I didn’t have any other options. So I stayed in the role for a period of time probably a little bit past my use by date and in that period of time that would have been growing resentment in a way of me having to stay. But at the same time, there were days when I really enjoyed it. So when I look back at it it wasn’t every day I was depressed but there were times when things would come up that I really would know that this wasn’t where I needed to stay for the rest of my life.
When you start feeling that way you start to think well what are the other options. And you go looking and that’s when I stumbled upon Nature Care which was a place where you could learn certain different ways to connect. So one was meditation. One was like a kind of energy healing. I did astrology numerology.
There were all these different creative outlets that I tapped into which allowed me to prolong the time that I was there but also started to continue to open me up because often with those types of qualifications we feel we’re signing up. For me I always get this strong I think it’s a left brain perspective the logical brain I’m going to learn this but what actually happens is the process of getting to know more of who you are and the more I started to peel back the layers the more I realized I did have a lot more to give and I needed to find a way in the world that would bring all of it together.
So 2011 was when you asked when I jumped ship. I did jump ship. I like a lot of people and often when I work with people I encourage them not to do it my way. It’s quite difficult to go from a nice stable well-paying career into the face of an entrepreneur and building a business and to build that up whilst you still got financial commitments are quite scary but that’s what my journey was. I did choose to do that for various reasons but in the face of that, I suppose it also forced me quite quickly to make it into something that could sustain me financially as well.
So that’s what I did. it was a slow burn decision. And then finally a job you know I really liked this thing you mentioned. One is that the feeling that you have more to give to the world because you know when I talked a lot of people who eventually become a creative entrepreneur all have their own business that is more in the purpose driven arena.
I think that’s the number one thing they feel that has something more inside of them than what they doing. It’s almost like it’s not that they’re not good or useful but they’ve outgrown it. They simply have matured to the stage where they think that that they have more to contribute. And they want to find themselves in that place where really truly live up to maybe their talents, maybe their capabilities but also the calling that they have within them. So you know some people like you jumped really. And some people take much longer.
Sze Wing: That is the number one thing I always hear from people is that they felt there’s something more in life than what they are living and there’s more to give. And I think that’s a valid point. The giving part like that that you like a lot of women felt they have all this possibility within them but they don’t know how to unleash it and embrace it. So they just sort of carrying on. And I think that’s a really good point to try to tell people.
And I’m sure you meet lots of people in the industry since you started your Gratitude Community that this is like you hear that they’re now sitting at the time that I made that decision.
Deb: Look it could have been the culture of the company but often you can find ways within the organization to express that, maybe it’s a different role, maybe it’s a different way of approaching it.
I don’t think always the answer is always to jump ship for some. I have gotten into an entrepreneurial streak in me and yet I was working meeting the banking role that at that time I can’t talk about what it is like now but in that time it was very hierarchical. And so my style was quite a misfit to the culture of things you know by certain ways but if you’re in a culture that inspires that kind of way of bringing your creativity into the role or you find an organization that allows that, you don’t always have to go out on your own.
And I think that’s the one thing that I would always say if I was to go back in that space I know when I look at it where I was it wasn’t the right place but could have perhaps found a different organization with a different culture that may have allowed me to grow without me having to jump, or maybe not. But I think that people should always think that it’s not always one or the other. It’s more about finding out who you are and what actually knocks you out and then what is the right thing for you at the time.
And I think you can be going out on your own. But it also can be found its initial place in your organization or another organization that allows those skills to come out. I totally agree with that. I think sometimes it’s probably best. Looking back it’s not to take a rash decision but to really think deeper into it.
Sze Wing: I’ve mentioned that sometimes I’ve felt people may have done a seminar and then they think they can jump to something else quickly but often it’s actually the learning it takes, not that certificate you can get in three days or three months, but often it takes many years of real work and experience to hone in some skills. So I often advise my client that you know yes you feel that may be a true calling is not in your corporate job, maybe is in nutrition or something else but not just get a certificate can get you anywhere, but maybe start working in that field get some real-life experience in that role in that field first. And then when you’re ready then you go and you will.
I see people when they jump ship too quickly, there’s a huge struggle. There’s a steep learning curve. It is a bit easier when you have more real experience instead of just chasing a dream. You have to dream but you also need to follow with inspired action.
The other thing is too that I feel when you do do that process of getting to know who you are and you suggested that we go we’ve had in our relationship many many different versions of who we are in our role or career. But there’s normally a common thread of who you are and what you’re here to express but we might do it in different areas.
Deb: And so to me it always comes back to knowing yourself first and then knowing what the soul wants to express and then seeing if you can still do it in the arena that you’ve got it in or you need to go somewhere else. And I think for me often we think you’ve got to have all or nothing. And so we still live in a world that needs to pay bills.
We still need to have that sense of security and we need that social connection often with other people around us. And a lot of those things can happen in an organization. It’s a culture allows for that purpose to come through. But you need to I think as an individual know who you are and what your strengths are what your passion is and know yourself before you can answer those questions.
And I think if I was to speak to the people that are listening to this podcast that I’m feeling maybe a little bit discouraged to where they are at the moment, I know it might sound cliche but to go with within and actually find out what is it that’s triggering. And it may be that a change is what you’re looking for. It might just mean that you’re evolving and you need to find a different way to express that and potentially in the same places where you are today. Yes. So when you’re not sure just sit on it.
And meditate on that matter and it may sound almost annoying when someone feel they just want to jump and quit their job or just want to throw it all away because today isn’t a good day. I think it’s almost annoying for us to say but sit on it and meditate on it because you know every time when you we’re going to come back to it.
Sze Wing: For those who doesn’t know that has been the biggest driving force as well as all the amazing embrace life festivals so she hosted, I think what was it, the craziest year you had done like eleven ten or eleven of those festivals and all over New South.
I mean I’ve been watching her and some of them I participate in as well. And there’s a lot of what I said before earlier. She doesn’t do anything lightly. So she just jumped right in. And it was amazing as she connected with so many practitioners, she created a community, a movement of practitioner in well-being wellness industry in Australia. And so there’s a lot of success in that. I mean it was about five years or more to achieve that and it took a bit of time.
So but with all this I remember every time when you go through like say maybe you need to change the game to the next level or maybe refine in that direction. it’s the same isn’t it you if you’re not sure you don’t know what the next step is to sit there and meditate on it. What we actually want to ask is that with all this success and all these big events, what is the biggest challenge and your biggest reward?
Deb: One of the things I have learnt is that everything has a reason. So with what you were saying about the Embrace Life festivals and to where I am today. And the frustration and the joys that happen in between. When you get to a certain point, you can look back there’s always something that led to something else.
So often when things were thrown my way or even the course of the six or so years of the Embrace Life Festival component, when I sit back now to where I am today it was it was all part of the journey it was all part of the learning. I remember, I think it’s Anthony Robbins and we all know him in his ability to speak to an audience and how he can connect. And I remember hearing and reading someone actually asking him how quick can I be able to speak like him and to be in that space. And he basically said well how many hours do you want to dedicate? And there was this rule of thumb that if you wanted to do something well you did it for ten thousand hours so if you wanted to do something well for a period of time so just like me, this five and a half six years I was doing one every four to five weeks I’ve got really good in that skill set.
But at the same time when it got to the point where I got everything I needed to get from that. That’s when it needed to me to stop reinventing the wheel I got next thing. So I think we all given our different gifts and our different challenges and there’s always something behind it, be it personal development, a skill set or the people you connect with. It’s the evolution of who you are but everything that comes your way has a purpose. That’s that to me.
I don’t know if it’s a lesson or a challenge or the greatest gift but that’s the way I see the world today is that everything that has come to me has has evolved me to. So when I go to things and to do things now there is such a toolkit of things that I can put together quite quickly because of the things that I’ve put in place before. And you know when you were talking I was thinking it’s almost like that kind of love Mr love hate relationships but sometimes I look back at a festival the moment that you think wow that was so awesome. That was really inspiring and exciting but then there were time that was just stressful. I mean that the memories were like there’s always ups and downs. And we learn to make you know almost all the romantic relationships good and the bad ones. So it’s like a balance but all of them kind of teach us something because even the bad ones you kind of get to learn about yourself or people of a relationship about what not to do as well as what to do. They kind of like polishing your rough edges on helping you to get a tool in a tool box and preparing you for the next one almost.
So even at the darkest moment it just sort of preparing us for the next. I mean when we see it that way it’s a little bit easier to navigate through those hard waters you know and definitely. And for me like you talked about the amount of events and ideas.
Like when I finally came to a point which actually coincided with me moving from Sydney to where I am today I got to a point of sheer exhaustion that I had to let it go. And it was so it was such an heart wrenching period of my life because I had invested from 2011 to 2017. So what’s at six and a half years of doing something every four to five weeks.
What makes building a community of not just people but people that I cared for relationships that I cared for and believing that that was what I was on this earth to do to get to a point where I had to let it go. I can’t express how you know when you feel like you’ve left your corporate job and you fought through all those hard barriers to get to your life purpose and you finally get your life purpose. It’s amazing. And then after six and a half years you realize that that life purpose isn’t what you meant to be doing anymore.
You know you have to go through that barrier again. And question who am I what am I here for. And to let go of something that once used to light you up but now is actually a burden and a responsibility and is actually not as life enriching but it’s actually taking life away.
And yet at the same time you don’t know what to fill up. So you sit with a void for two or three months. That’s that’s quite hard to do
Sze Wing: I find it so interesting that it’s almost like a spiral. It doesn’t feel like you’re going forward because you said what lights you up now actually started to burn you out. You are burn out but you’re still actually in a spiral staircase going upward but it doesn’t feel like you’re going forward. That’s the way I see the journey. And I have been there and I know how much you put into each of this festival so when that transition comes. It was definitely challenging.
Although now looking back I totally agree with what you said earlier that you felt like it prepared you for something different greater or it’s like you evolve. Your life mission or purpose is not a different direction you’re still on the same lane but maybe slightly different angle so lands on a different trajectory.
Deb: If you go within what your purpose is for me on purpose it is in this industry that we’re in the wellness industry, the complementary therapies, spirituality whatever you want to actually call it but for 20 plus years I worked in a corporate space and led teams here in Australia over the UK in Asia. First female executive on boards those sort of things and then became an energy healer.
So we all know there’s a twist to that story but in some respects that’s my purpose. My purpose is to have a foot in both camps. So you know where we are today with the projects that I’m working on and the mentoring of individuals that want to get that message out. I had to walk the path that I walked in order for me to be able to add value. I mean it’s it’s it’s I had to walk 20 plus years in the corporate space to understand it. I needed to walk the path as an energy healer to understand it.
I now have built a community of my own to now take that to a global stage like all these things hedge that with my training grounds. But at the time that you’re going through them you can sometimes attach yourself too much to something and identify yourself too much to something that it’s so hard to let it go. But at a social level at a life purpose level and a
Sze Wing: So for some people may be listening that they may be going through a similar transition or they feeling that in a bit of a difficult time. So you’ve gone through a few different transition yourself so you know what kept you going when you’re going through tough times. That’s something that you can share or tips or advice for people who may be feeling a bit like “I just don’t know”. This is really challenging. So what would you say?
Deb: I don’t want to sound really cliched so I’m gonna I’m gonna say a few things because some monarchs come across and go oh yeah I’ve been there done that but you know. First off my company gratitude. You know I’ve always had that as an anchor for me and in the true sense of gratitude not so much that I wash over things but I often will type myself back to if today is not what I want it to be what is one thing that is actually working for me today that I can focus on.
And to me gratitude in that energy will always lift me out of that space because to me if you stop focusing on what you do and that you’ve got water to drink, cool air to breathe or the ability to have something to eat or rest your head. There is so many things that you can actually do to focus on what you do have and and that can lift your energy.
The second to me would be also to think well what is one thing that can light me up today. So you know asking myself a question I might be one hundred and things that aren’t working but what is something that I can physically do today that will actually lift my energy now that could often be reaching out to someone else as well. I find when you get out of your own head and you focus outside sometimes to someone else you’re becoming in that energy of service rather than actually worrying about what’s happening in this thing in your mind.
So that can also be something that can actually shift. The third thing is is to just act a little bit of kindness to yourself. You know we all have really low days and that’s okay too. I think often we put so much pressure on ourselves to live a purposeful life and be on purpose and whatever. But you know what we are a human as well and a human experience will have the ups and downs and so often when you actually have a day that is a little bit heavy on. Your choice is how long you want to stay in there. But often sometimes sitting in that will give you some answers as to where you’re shifting as well and often can be just that day to be kind to yourself be to allow yourself to feel those emotions. We don’t always have to be Pollyanna you know sitting on the hilltops sometimes we actually need to cry sometimes we need to be angry sometimes we need to be frustrated sometimes we need to go within to find those answers and that’s okay too.
So I suppose how can you help yourself. You know it it’s as simple as allow yourself to be. LIke a friend who gives that to yourself. But then at the same time be that friend can occasionally kicks yourself up the butt when you’re getting a little bit too involved. I think if you can do one action.Whatever that action might be can actually leave the energy as well.
So I’d say it’s it’s a juggling act and that’s why I said at the start see it really is a life journey it’s getting to know who you are and what you’re about and what’s your passion and what are your drives and start having a relationship with yourself. And beyond what we think we are through our mind but more about how we’re feeling and how we are in the world.
Sze Wing: I really agree with your points like first of all I think overall really the entire course of our life we should stay positive but I mean that’s just the general being. But there will be days that we cannot always stay positive because it is just the most annoying thing. So you need to grieve, if you need to feel terrible for a day or week whatever how much time you need then you know let yourself be.
And I think that’s the art of this. The more I think you immerse yourself in the more spiritually infused life that you do meditation you have friends and you read books and in the same mindset you tend to have. I personally would say stronger resilience that you know when enough is enough.
Also allow yourself to feel that way and I think that’s sort of the strength that we were getting from being in sort of the most spiritually minded having that lifestyle read the books of the meditation is because then you kind of feel how much is enough and when you know you are probably overstaying the dark days then you also know it’s time to tell your friend who will kick your butt because people like you know like me and Deb sometimes we cheer each other up and sometimes we would just say you know get on with it you know because you can sense that too and I think that’s really important.
And then one of the things that you talk about at the very start, it may be cliche, did you really hear the message like something we’d have to go back and look at you know some of these things that we think we have done and you know trying to fix something but have you really?
Be very honest with yourself that you have done all the things you think you should do because sometimes that we we just go Yeah I know I know but have you really been go within deeply to think. Authenticity starts from the relationship you have with yourself. So the older I get the less I care about what people think of me.
And the more I care about what I think of myself. Have I turned up. Have I treated others and myself kindly. Have I enjoyed what this day has given me. Am I allowing myself to express who I am. Wherever I am. And if if someone is listening here at the moment is a role that they can’t see at this point that they can leave because they need to pay their bills or whatever.
What can I do today to allow the authentic self to come through and enjoy it today. What can do today to get me just that little bit closer. Because often when you’re in a place where you don’t think you want to be it can often be you need to still learn a skill or meet a person or do something in your life purpose journey that still hasn’t been done yet. Before the next step comes I really do believe that the universe does conspire to to make us succeed but often we are just too keen to get through it quickly and we have this pressure too to make success at a certain level that often is created by other people’s judgments or judgments of ourselves or what’s on an outside what we believe success to be.
Deb: It’s about coming back to being just to being authentic in to to enjoy what we have and that as I said often the simple things are the things that are the answers but we just don’t integrate them. We overthink things to go looking for the special thing but the special thing really just is coming back to our humanity. And enjoying what we’ve got here.
Sze Wing: Like people say as soon as the student is ready, the teacher will appear and also when a teacher is ready, students appear too. Sometime we’re just not ready. Maybe we’re just not ready to move to the next step yet but you know we’re impatient. We’re too keen and we don’t come on I am this age now. I should have x y and z and that contributes.
Deb:It really reminds me of movies like The Karate Kid, you want to fight and you want to go to the tournament and then you kind of get butt kicked and completely wounded and then you learn one more thing and then now you’re winning the medal of the storyline.
Sze Wing: So now we are about to wrap up today’s interview but I’d really like to ask this question for all the inspiring women that I talk to. So the question is if you can go back in time. Talk to the younger version of Deborah Shepard. What would you say to her. Say a 20 year old Deborah Shepard.
Deb: I think the distance of that seeming to me was well to the younger Deborah Shepard. It would be stopped worrying about what people think about you. mean like when I was in my 20s I was so worried about what people would think. I was still looking for people’s validations and I was comparing myself to what I thought people were expecting me to be. And. You know as I progressed through this life journey I realize now I was probably even thinking about what I was thinking and it doesn’t really matter.
Generation X has so much self-imposed criticism and judgment that didn’t need to be there. So that would be my my biggest one to my my younger Deborah Shepard and then the second would be as to to know your passion, who you are and then just go out and express it and enjoy this life because you know without putting too much of a damper on one day it won’t be here. The people that you’re connecting with or talking to may not be with you. And so just enjoy what life has to give you today.
Sze Wing: Well thank you so much for your wise words and we have a lot to talk about, tell us about one of the really interesting what are you working on, so tell us about Soul Advisors.
Deb: It is my next project and as I said to you I feel that a lot of the things I’ve worked on for the last six to seven years has evolved into that space. It’s a global global community that would be combining all or wellness practitioners onto one space. Our focus is very much about connecting the wellness industry to the people that are looking for that in one trusted source.
But at the same time it’s not for profit model that will actually look to bring all its funds behind the wellness industry so we become a trustee and an authentic voice but one that actually has a value and I suppose respected through either the professionalism and our business support or the research we can offer or the education that will deliver.
So to me it’s really exciting because it’s actually taking elements of both the leadership quality that I had in corporate the context that I’ve made and the branding that we have with gratitude community and the things you and I had worked on online summits and magazine and bringing it all under the one umbrella but doing on a global scale under the guidance of our founder which is align your business, she herself got an amazing story. So yeah that’s what’s next.
I hope that your listeners get an opportunity to to check us out because that will be launched here in Australia soon.
Sze Wing: So tell us where can we find Soul Advisor. So that is SoulAdvisors.com Oh great. Thank you so much for today’s talk and I hope our listeners maybe can identify something or they can relate to in anyway. I hope you find this is a conversation that matter and I’m very happy to chat with Deb today. so until next time everybody take care. Thank you.