Episode 52: Living My Life By Design with Melissa Marsden

Shivani Gupta (00:16)

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Hi everyone and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. Today I get to have with me as a guest, Melissa Marsden. Melissa and I have crossed paths so many times. And recently, it was in to EO and then also the work that we're doing with our online work. Let me tell you a little bit about her. She's a workplace dynamic strategist who works with emerging leaders corporate and professional services. And she helps the firms to create environments that drive High Performance team, something that we are talking a lot about, particularly as we navigate through the pandemic. Mel believes that the environments have the opportunity to positively influence our behavior and our performance at work. She's got a career that's been spanning more than 20 years and supporting organizations to help environments to inspire human potential. She's developed robust toolkits to transform organizations, she specializes in supporting others, and navigating the challenges of business and making sure the teams are aligned and remaining also at the same time connected to your true self. Her business acumen ranges and she's been recognized by Australian Institute of Management and Telstra Women's Awards. I could keep talking about her and entrepreneurial background for a long time. Welcome Mel.

Melissa Marsden (01:56)

Thank you so much, Shivani. Appreciate that very thorough intro.

Shivani Gupta (2:01)

Oh, absolutely. There is so much so many different things on… I've come across you let alone all the other things that have happened. Mel, you know, it's interesting when I speak to people about their journey, like the journey is good, like here’s my successes, but often it's our low points, things that have not worked so well, as well. But also, some of our high points, we take us through a few of those that have been, you know, kind of transformed you into who you are. Because that's what I'm always interested in first. Yeah, absolutely.

Melissa Marsden (02:29)

I think the biggest transformational life point for me was my early 30s, I was married, I had my dream career, I thought everything was going swimmingly. And it turned out when I took a really good look at it, it wasn't quite what I had anticipated, it'll turn out to be So, in what I affectionately call a life cleansing I blew up my life. And so, I quit my job as a director of a national firm where I'd been there for nine years, I separated from my husband, we had a two-year-old at the time, and I went on this little journey to try and figure out who it was that I wanted to be when I grew up.

And what it was in that process was really kind of getting to the point where I had been going along and ticking all the boxes and climbing the corporate ladder, and just had got to this point where I no longer recognize the life that I had created, I had fully created it on my own doing. But it when I got there, it just wasn't what I thought it was going to be. And it wasn't what I really, really wanted. So, I kind of went and took myself through this process of pulling it apart and putting it back together in a way that was more authentic to me and what I wanted to do with my life going forward. And so, I didn't have a job. And kind of just went on this little journey. And that's when I started my second business, which is Community, which is the one I operate now. And went on a bit of a journey to try and figure out what I wanted for my life and how it's going to get there. So, in built a bit of a toolkit to support me through that whole whole whole space.

So that was kind of one of those low points. And then there's been a series of ups and downs along that whole bumpy journey. I remarried. And I have a fantastic husband, we have another beautiful baby girl. And we blended two families together. So that was one massive highlight there. And that was a beautiful part. And then no, the journey of business is always rocky and bumpy. And the last 12 months have been an absolute eye opener for me with COVID. And the impact that that has had on not just my business, but everybody's businesses. And we are a project-based business in community delivering workplaces for organizations. And so, with that we were quite well protected as the lockdown sort of started to happen because we had project work that we're needing to deliver. But as that confidence in uncertainty that was sort of tethering through the world, there was that work done began to dry up as we carried on so it wasn't until about October of 2020 that we really felt the full brunt of what was happening as a result of the pandemic. And that was pretty hard to take because our business got pretty much annihilated through that process. And there was no amount of hard work that I was going to be able to do to bring that back from that brink. And I had to go through a bit of a process of grieving and dealing with that and then letting it go and I got to sort of the starter 2021.

And my word for the year was surrender, because I got to the point where I realized there was nothing that I could do to change it. And I just had to kind of let go and let things unfold as they were going to. And fortunately, I, through a process of using all these tools that I had in my toolkit and finding some new ones, I managed to let go and stop trying to control the outcome that came with everything. And things started to turn. And so, in March, this year, everything kind of started to gradually get better. And right now, I can sit here and tell you that we are having one of our best years that we've had in a very long time. And the pandemic has completely shifted the landscape and workplace design and given us a really great opportunity to support organizations to really reshape and reform what it is that their business needs to do, how their people need to work and how we create our environments to support people through that process. So yeah, a few ups and downs over the little while.

Shivani Gupta (6:28)

I love the bit where you said, I just blew up my life. This is what I did. And this is how I did that, but so authentically and beautifully down that just says, if something's not working for you then do that.

But in that what you've just described to me, which kind of leads to my second question is that, you know, there's a lot of decisions that we make. And sometimes people have, when they decide to do certain things, they follow a process. Other times they don't follow a process, you know, other times it says, you know, I went when these challenges come my way, this is my process, or this is my philosophy, or this is what I do, or they have almost like a ritual around it, right? So, when these challenges come, and you've described a bunch of them already, from your personal life, as well as what's happened through the pandemic, and you know, how you've had to know that pivot words completely overused, but you know, literally pivot your business, in terms of what you've created. What about the way that you deal with challenges? Have you got like a way like a master way that you do that? Have you? You know, like, some people have to just sit and think about what do you do when challenges come your way? And how do you process them?

Melissa Marsden (07:36)

I wish I could say that this is a little written down formula that I sort of take my way through. But the reality is, I think I get stuck in it for quite a while and I ruminate on it and I, you know, I spend a lot of time and it's actually interesting. I was listening to Brené Brown, we've been reading the Gifts of Imperfection again, and there's a statement in there. She says, you know, when I start polling people, I know that I'm out of control and I'm not listening to myself. And I went - yep, I've been making a little bit of a list for myself about where my red flags and that's one of them. I noticed after a while that I stopped trusting my own judgment, and my own intuition. And I start polling everybody and going, you know, this situation, what do you think I should do? And when I notice, when I do that, I get to the point where I get so frustrated because no one else is able to give me the answer that I'm that I'm looking for.

So, I have to kind of take that time and go inward, but I seem to fight it for quite some time before I get there. But I think you know, if I think about this most recent, you know, the ups and downs, it's happened with the business over COVID. I was reflecting on this the other day, and I think there was a number of different steps. So, I get a lot of external support. So, I was working with three different business coaches all in different ways. One of which you and I share another one very focused on business and helping me stay accountable to moving myself forward. Another one in a more spiritual kind of way about reconnecting back in with myself and trusting in my intuition. So very different opposite ends of the spectrum, but kind of building that out in a holistic way. So, I'm getting the really practical functional stuff, but also then a bit more of the intuition kind of connecting back in. I did a lot of reading. I read everything from Samantha Wills (Book: Of Golden & Dust) and I absolutely loved it. And then you know, all the way through to Gabrielle Bernstein (Super Attractor) and what I found with that was there were little bits and pieces that I was gleaning from all of those books and untamed with Glennon Doyle, there's my three favorites from this beginning of the year. And it was just kind of working through that process. And once I'd kind of, I think, absorbed as much information and other people's perspective as I possibly could. I then had to sit down and make my own decisions. And so, I had to actually sit down and go - okay, well, if I'm going to have the opportunity to completely redesign my business, what does it look like? What do I really want from this? What do I want? In terms of what does my perfect day look like? What is my perfect week look like? How does all of this start to come together? And what are the types of work that I want to be doing? Who are the types of clients I want to be working with and just mapping that out and building out a revenue model and business models and opportunities where I could start to see it actually coming together. And I think all of those steps, bought me the clarity then that I knew exactly what I needed to do. I knew where I was going, how I was going to get there, and what needed to be done. And then, as Gabby says, once you've got your point, your kind of then take all of your aligned action to make it happen. And you have to surrender the outcome.

You can't control the outcome; you can only control the steps that you take. But if you know exactly where you're heading, you know the right steps to take. And I suppose that is a big part of that process for me. And coupled with that I was meditating, I was exercising, I completely reset my diet. I totally refocus my attention, I was journaling. I had a really set morning routine around what I was doing each and every day. So put a lot of structure around myself to create really positive habits and routines and rituals that I think really supported my mental state so that I wasn't suffering that decision fatigue, I already had everything mapped out. And that left me the opportunity then to put my energy and attention in the places that I needed it to be.

Shivani Gupta (11:23)

Amazing, Glennon Doyle...I would read a paragraph. I'm a fairly fast reader. And my dad sent me to this speed-reading course when I was a student in high school, and I thought, why am I doing it? I'm so glad he did. It's been such a gift. I would read a page of a book and then I got - woah woah that was so big. Let me just stop and go back and reread it. It was probably the slowest book I've read in the last few years. But profound, so amazing.

Melissa Marsden (11:50)

So much, it is such a fabulous book.

Shivani Gupta (11:51)

She's amazing. Have you heard her podcast with Brené Brown?

Melissa Marsden (11:55)

Not with Brené, no.

Shivani Gupta (11:56)

Yeah, it is incredible. If you get a chance. I know you've mentioned both those people who are two of my…I love Brené Brown anyway. But as soon as you mentioned that, somebody sent me the link to that podcast, it's just outstanding. I was crying. Anyway, we will.

And so, like the fact that you've now starting to have the best year that you've had in years, which is amazing, right? Because it sounds like you're aligned, you're doing things that are alignment with you and where you want to do things. What are that building upon that? So, what does the future aspirations look like? Not only professionally, but also personally for you. So, whether you're, you know, span is three years, or five years or ten years, what do you see yourself doing or wanting to do or learn or any thoughts on future aspirations in?

Melissa Marsden (12:39)

It's interesting, because I'm very clear on these things now. So, I have a personal 25-year vision, I have a business 10-year vision. And I also have a very, very detailed three-year plan for the business. So, I did a three year plan every three years, and we've just rewritten it now for the next three years, because the time was up. And so, we have a really clear outline of what that looks like. And from the business perspective, it's from Community's perspective, it's really about solidifying and grounding exactly where we are now all of the strength of what we're doing with, you know, the previous three year plan has set us up for exactly where we are right now, we're very strategically focused with the work that we do with our clients around supporting them to create high performing workplaces, that are really great reflections of who their business brand, their experience, their values, their corporate strategy, all of that is infused into the actual physical built environment. And so, it's really building that out with our ideal clients, the culture that we want to be building as an organization, and ensuring that our team is really clear on that, and that we're all moving in that right same direction.

In terms of expansion in the business, it's not huge, I'm really comfortable with that. Now, that's another piece that I had to get really clear on is that bigger is not always better. And we're doing some amazing work with some of the largest corporate clients that we've worked with, in you know, in our history. And it's, it's fantastic. And we don't need a huge team to be able to do that. But, you know, I'm looking at sort of divesting some of the management role of the organization and bringing in someone else to support enough to enable me to really focus on where I bring the most value to my clients. But also, to free me up a little bit so that I can do more of my online business work as well, because I'm really interested in supporting others to design a life that they love and support other organizations in creating, you know, those really solid foundations and structures that I've built into my own business over the years, and now I'm reaping the rewards of so that's kind of the next three-year plan for me and the business.

That 25-year vision. I really love doing this one. And it was something I've got introduced to in the last few years. But the thing about the 25-year vision is it enables you to really just lift yourself up out of your life where you are right now and completely disconnecting from the logistics. I find that when you're standing here and you're trying to plan 10 years in advance, you are tethered by - oh but I can't do this because I haven't got the money or I live here and I can't make that happen or I don't have the skills and qualifications to be able to make that happen. But at 25 years, you kind of lift yourself out and disconnect from all of that. And you really get to connect into what if you feel like in your heart, what do you really, really, really want from your life. And then having that there and that decision out there and that 25 years from now. You can then make steps and changes every single day to move yourself towards that, so I can get additional training, I can take different opportunities, we can move into state, the kids will be older and will have more freedom and flexibility. So, it just enabled me to completely shift that thinking. And my 25-year vision enabled and you know, sees me living in Mullumbimby running a coffee shop and a retreat and you know, doing coaching online and speaking engagements, and really adding value at that really high level for organization. So completely shifted, still doing what I'm doing now, but just in a different way at a different level.

Shivani Gupta (16:04)

We might be might have to look at a property that's big enough, hey, because that's my long-term vision, as well, I love that I do a 10 year one, but I've never heard of somebody talking about a 25 year and I love that. I think that's, you know, like, that's like a quarter of a century when you look at that. Yeah, that's, that's incredible. And what about the way that you live? Mel, do you find like these philosophies that you try and live by or, you know, sometimes it's quotes or books, you know, that we've just speaking about? What are the things that you go? Yeah, that that part's really important to me might be a value, but it might be, you know, something else, I just wondered. Yeah, like, what leadership philosophies you have.

Melissa Marsden (16:48)

It's been a bit of an evolution for me. And I think from that moment, when I kind of blew up my life that sort of 10 years ago, the thing that I really discovered the most was that I didn't have a very clear understanding of what my personal values were. And I had to go about really unpacking that, you know, I worked with coaches, and I said, you know, tell me what your values are. And I'm like, I have no idea what you're talking about, what is the value? And then I went through this process of thinking about it. Well, to me, values are the things that, you know, everyone should have, you know, should we should all care about our family, and we all should care about this. And we should all care about the environment. But I had to kind of break it down and go - what does that look like for me, and it was only in the last few years, again, that I kind of found a process that worked for me and was able to then articulate those. And one of those is to live a life of freedom. And that was actually my fifth value when I created this little list. But over the years, it's actually become more and more prevalent for me and it's moving its way up to number one. And to me that's about well is this next decision that I'm going to make going to enable me to have more or less freedom is it going to enable me to be able to do the things that I want to do. And when I talk about freedom, it's not, you know, just run off and live with the hippies in the hills. That sounds pretty cool to me, too. But it's more about is this going to be moving me towards the goals that I have for my life, or is it going to be boxing me in and this is where it comes back to having boundaries and having those tough conversations and being really clear on what you do when you don't want. And I find that when I put myself into a situation, or I accept an opportunity that isn't really aligned with that value of freedom, I feel resentful, or I can get, you know, claustrophobic or like I've been boxed in. And when I think about it, it's because I've made the wrong decision, I've made a decision that doesn't align with that particular value.

So, I think that has become more and more prevalent for me and I've become far more conscious of it. Another one that has really come up for me through this whole process has been about really being very clear on your purpose and your values, values for exactly that. But my purpose as well, because that's what kind of drives everything. That's the thing that sits underneath everything for me. And it's since I've had the real clarity around what that is that I've attracted people around me that that whole concept of Simon Sinek. And you know, the purpose of the you know, the role of wise people who believe what you believe, and that is true for friendships, for networking groups that I've been able to join and connect into and the clients that we're working with and communicating that loudly and proudly your purpose and your values, you do attract like-minded people. And I know that from the clients that we're working with is we're all so connected and aligned and the vision that we're trying to create and the team that we're attracting to the business with Community and the clients that I'm working with through Melissa Marsden, it's just, it's been really, really powerful to see the impact of being very clear on your purpose and your values and how that draws people into you who are on the same sort of journey.

Shivani Gupta (19:58)

There's quite a bit to think about there in terms of what enables you what I wrote down to leave your value of freedom out. We need to have a better deeper conversation on that one.

But, what about your own wellness? You know, you're giving so much into organizations and teams and individuals. You've got two businesses happening, you've got a family. And so, what are some of the rituals or things you do around your wellness and sometimes it's once a year and sometimes it's a lot more frequent. Some people are yeah, I do an annual retreat, you know. So, what are some of the things that you do to manage your wellness so that you can continue to give by personally and professionally as well.

Melissa Marsden (20:39)

I think it shifts and it changes. And it's never, it's never consistent as much as I, you know, encourage everyone else to create a morning routine. And to live by that, I do create mine as well. And I probably stick to it for a couple of months, and then it kind of goes by the wayside and have to reinvent it. But for me, what I've really realized is I need time out on my own and alone to recharge. And I think really through COVID, I really realized the amount of time that I used to spend on a plane traveling or Interstate at work conferences, and that time out, I really, really valued because that was my ability to recharge myself without being connected to anything else. And I'm like, okay, so am I an introvert now, like, I didn't think I was an introvert, but I kind of felt like I really needed that time alone. So, finding that but doing it in small pockets throughout the whole week is what I've had to do as a result, because small family can't travel very much. So, you know, those trips away, and things alone aren't really happening.

So, what I try and do now is every couple of days, I try and find a slow morning is what I call it and it's I can drop the kids off at school, I can go for a walk in the bush, I can come home, I can sit in my favorite little pink chair and have a cup of tea and read a book and journal or meditate and do what I think I need for that morning, just to kind of find that space. And I think it really is that space. Like I think my diary is, you know, it's scheduled to the hilt, it looks like a game of Tetris in there. So, wherever I can carve out these pockets of just stillness is really that pace for me to kind of recharge. And then on top of that, you know, I try and get to Pilates at least once every once a week, every Tuesday afternoon is my Pilates day. So just having those little moments, I think for myself make a big difference. And they don't need to be extravagant. Sometimes I just go and sit outside and look at the trees and you know, watch the birds fly around. So, anything that I can do there to try and find that little bit of space for myself. I like to treat myself from time to time. So, the massage or a facial hopefully, like once a month. But I'm also pretty conscious, I think too, about the days that I spend in the office in the days that I work from home now. And again, thanks to COVID, we've been able to really do that. And so, Tuesdays and Fridays, typically my work from home days. And with Fridays, I try and keep those meeting free so that that's the day that I can be creative and do whatever it is that I think I need to do, it might be catching up on some work, it might be you know, working on new products, it might be you know, working on a particular project, but it's just gives me that flexibility to go where my energy wants to go and to work on the things that I think are important at that particular time. So yeah, I think it really just comes back to space and finding, carving out and allowing myself to be able to do what I feel like I want to do in those times.

Shivani Gupta (23:35)

I love the idea of the slow morning. You know I like everything just it's almost like a deliberate slowing down remembering this book called slow, which was all about the slow movement, but you've kind of incorporated that into in DBZ way, which is which is great.

And Mel, if people want to kind of see some of the work you're doing and follow you and you have number of channels, but what's the best place to find you and you know, find out about some of the stuff that you're doing?

Melissa Marsden (24:03)

Absolutely. So, Instagram is where you'll probably find me the most. So, you'll find me there. My handle is at @melmar. And if you hang out there with me, you'll see work from both what I'm doing with my coaching clients and the product development we're doing there and the programs that we run all the way through to the work that we're doing with Community and be able to connect through everyone else from that point.

Shivani Gupta (24:29)

Awesome. It's been such a pleasure having you.

Melissa Marsden (24:31)

Thank you so much for the opportunity, Shivani and it's been lovely to chat to you and it's really nice to just kind of reflect on all of the bits and pieces that make up your life. It's lovely.

Shivani Gupta (24:40)

Thank you.

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.