Big Network- Bigger Education

I’m not writing about anything new or ground breaking. There are hundreds of blogs that explain the importance of a network of peers and professionals. I have read my fair share of them. I have always understood and believed that a network is fundamentally important when trying to make your way into an industry- any industry. In fact, even your friends are just another type of network, often leading you to meet more friends, lovers, even your significant other.

In the past I have played the networking game in a very light way. I did it when I had to. I worked it only when I was stuck. I am extremely independent by nature and that need to ‘do it all’ has often put me in uncomfortable corners. I am the person that helps others, and rarely asks for help. Or should I say, thats what the old me would have done.

Here’s the long and the short of it. Bad things happen in life just as good things do too. I experienced some life changing stuff in the past year. It changes you in a positive way- if you let it.

So now I call on my network. I don’t discriminate by only meeting people that fit my exact profile or need. I don’t wait until I “have to” catch up with people. I have overcome my fear of meeting brand new people, in a city that’s unfamiliar to talk about experience, business, belief, philosophy, leadership, money, passion…

That’s not to say I don’t meet people for a reason, or that there is no forethought behind it at all. It’s simply that I want to put myself out there in the world and I want to learn brand new things. I approach networking with a new set of eyes, and a refreshed attitude.

Other than the obvious benefits (friendships that are made, job and business opportunities that are created) the biggest gain for me has been the education. Hanging out with people that inspire you or have blazed a path before you, is like attending a course in entrepreneurship and life for free.

I have gained the answers to questions I would never have thought to ask. I have heard about the good times in business and the times that could easily crush a persons spirit. I have listened as people lay bare their vulnerabilities to me- a perfect stranger. And I have gained so much insight into so many areas of life and business I could not possibly list them all.

For me what has been the most astounding so far, has been what I have learned about myself. Sitting with people over coffee while they are bluntly honest about themselves, and what they see in me, has given me the courage to be honest with myself. I have a clearer picture of what drives me, what I will and will not do, what principles are most important to me, what my weaknesses are and how I can work with my strengths.

It’s phenomenal just how much more confident I feel knowing these things. I feel privileged to have talked to so many business leaders, most of whom have never heard of me before. They have each provided me with a college degree in experience.

These things may seem obvious, but too often we sit back and wait for things to happen. But rarely in this life do things just fall into your lap. Sometimes we see networking as selfish but it’s far from it. There is nothing lost on either side from just having a chat. Sometimes you can inadvertently educate someone in a way they weren’t expecting just by sharing your thoughts. It’s very much a two way street.

There is an entire world out there filled with people that can enlighten you in more ways than you can even imagine, and lead you in new and often better directions. Don’t allow your preconceived notions about yourself, or your position in you chosen field stop you from reaching out. Send emails, tweet people, contact them anyway you can. Try to talk to the ‘big fish’ people on your list. Nothing ventured is absolutely nothing gained. Be persistent and when you start gaining momentum, don’t stop.

Whatever it is you are seeking; the people around you can be your key to finding it.

I’d love to hear about what you’ve gained from your networks below!

Reborn in the USA

I am Australian. So Australian in fact that I was willing to pay $14 to import a tube of Vegemite to the USA (which in my new home). But I find myself being reborn in the USA, a whole new model of myself, Flic Version 7.2.

I have been in the land of loud noises, free-pouring drinks and advanced technology for almost a month now, and in that time I have begun changing in many ways. People here say what they think, literally and loudly. If they have a question they ask it, if they want to complain they do so, if they have advice they give it and if you ask for help they are more than forthcoming.

If you fail, you are applauded for your effort and for the lessons that failing gave you, and if you succeed you are applauded for your effort and the lessons that succeeding gave you. You win, both ways!

This is generally very different to what I ever experienced in Australia (which I will always love- don’t get upset) where there is a tendency to shy away from failure and to cut people down quickly when they rise to the top. The ‘middle’ is the best point in the journey back home.

These differences are having a huge effect on the way that I think and are providing me new challenges. Now I am willing to fail, willing to be rejected, willing to say what I really want and be completely transparent. This does not mean that you don’t have to work hard for what you want here, because you still do, but people will help you regardless of what ‘level’ you’re at.

Here, you can be ‘nobody’ talking to ‘somebody’ and if you’re gutsy enough to ask for advice, an introduction or help, people seem perfectly happy to oblige. However you need to move fast. There is no time like the present.

I am learning not to wait for things. This is an opportunistic society and so you have to cease the day, always, and with everything. This means that you have to kick your brain into a higher gear. The reactions, advice and connections can come thick and fast. There’s no slow evolution (if it feels slow then you’re not taking action fast enough). It’s either happening or it’s not.

I am also learning to be more confident in my abilities and personality. Americans practically always come across as confident. They have a presence. They believe they are entitled to what they have. I always felt inclined in Australia to wait my turn, that there was some magical level at which I would have finally earned my position; that I was not entitled to what I have.

Here, if you question yourself or you remain too self-doubting, you’re almost seen as a person with weakness. I mean if you’re good at something and you reject every compliment, you turn away praise or opportunity then that does seem weak. I am beginning to understand that there is a fine line between being kind natured and being walked all over. Too many times in my life I have been the latter. But there is no room for that here, and I feel that revelation and change in my behaviour can only mean positive things in my life. At some point we should see our experiences as positive, to revel in what we have done and appreciate our natural strengths. I don’t want to spend my life doubting myself and as a result allowing opportunities to slip through my fingers.

I am gaining traction and momentum by meeting people, networking and pursuing internships and jobs in a range of fields. I have had to look at my experience in life in a brand new light, not shaping it for someone else’s eyes, but simply seeing it laid out in front of me.

Wow, I have done a lot of things. I have climbed never ending mountains in creative industries, have made businesses from mere ideas, I have disrupted the way things are done, I have been every role in the business and dedicated every hour and every minute to my craft. I have succeeded when I was told again and again, it could not be done. I have refused to play the immature games, and instead lead my dreams with integrity and passion. I am proud of every moment, the good, the bad, the ugly and the devastating soul-crushing points too. I said goodbye to my former life, packed everything in a suitcase and moved across the world with my better half, for something unknown. I am okay risking it all.

So now looking at that experience, I see so much more that I can do than I ever did before. The job titles don’t matter at all, what counts is what you know you’re capable of.

Now I am not bagging out Australia. It’s beautiful, it’s filled with family, friends and it has shaped my life. It had taught me important, tough lessons. I had to learn to crawl before I walked. I had to learn to be strong, how to have ‘stickability’ when the going gets tough. It taught me not to stress over the small stuff. The concepts of ‘no worries’ and ‘she’ll be right mate’ will remain with me. I will be forever thankful for these lessons. It’s made me resilient and truly grateful for everything I have. But America is teaching me to stride, to see so much further than before, to reach beyond my current grasp without fear of falling. Version 7.2 of me is just a little more deep, a little more ready, a little more sure, a little more equipped than before. And I’m thankful for the chance to evolve in those ways. I know I am in a rare situation, and I have enormous gratitude for that.

I am ready to build new communities, to be involved in events, to lead people, to creatively come up with ideas, to work with people from different backgrounds, test myself, rise to the challenge and take on things I know zero about. I am excited and keen to get my teeth into the next opportunity, and next learning scenario.

So not much has imagechanged, but everything has changed. How cool is that?!

It’s a Whole New World

Ok so I may have just quoted a line from a song in Aladdin….but that is really how it feels to me right now.

I have never been one to ponder long on things, or to allow myself to stay in a state of limbo for long. In the last 8 months my life has undergone many changes and transitions, some of which were painful and others that were both refreshing and long overdue. I have a new pace, a new outlook, and a new passion.

I almost stumbled into jewellery design. It started in March when I visited my home town of Perth. While there I noticed a necklace from my wedding had broken. As it was a sentimental piece I did not want to throw it out, nor could I imagine buying a new one. I wanted to fix it. So my husband and mother took me to a local bead and Supplies store; I purchased not only whati needed to fix it, but also a range of tools, beads, leathers and metal fixtures.

I read 2 magazines back to back to see what I could pick up from there, grabbed some pliers and metal and hacked my way through the learning process. Within 24 hours I already had a finished necklace and bracelet. That’s when I knew I was on to something. Things were coming to me naturally.

I feel it calls apon all the skills I have picked up in dance and theatre- having to make things work and quickly, and a sense of drama.

Since then I have been experimenting, failing and succeeding at making a range of jewellery styles and I now feel that my pieces are expressing ‘me’ better than before. I have honed in on my brand and what I want it to represent- a perfect mix of rock and glamour. I have had the opportunity to touch base with people also in fashion that work in magazines and on runways as well as people designing clothing lines and i’ve have been chatting to photographers about photo shoots.

When I was entirely focused on dance, my body had to tell the whole story in a way that was entirely intangible and I adored that challenge and the endless energy required to make it work. Now I am seeing the beauty in the tangible. There really is something special about working with your hands, and seeing the idea in your head become real in front of your eyes.

It’s such a thrill when people comment on something you are wearing and you’re able to say ‘I made that’. I have had my first official customer this week purchase one of my personal favourite pieces. It’s a lovely type of validation to receive so soon into my journey and I’m incredibly grateful and happy.

So I guess you could say this is Flic Manning version 7.0! I never stop evolving as I don’t believe in being stagnant or that as humans we are only capable of one thing, or that we must specialise in only one field. I am thrilled I have found something new to love passionately, that gives me new experiences and a fresh pair of eyes on the world. I am sure there is more to come, and I look forward to sharing it all with you.

If you’d like to see some of my pieces go to Pink Outline

The Growth Spurt

As you may well know, I have not been particularly well physically, and even emotionally in the past six or so months. I won’t bore you with details on that (you can always read previous articles). I felt inclined to share something more to do with personal growth, which for me has become synonymous with all types of healing.

I figured, that while I was out of action I may as well use that time to work out if I wanted to continue on my journey just as I had done prior, or, if I wanted to develop and improve on things I knew deep down inside we’re bothering me or causing me some kind of harm. It’s not been easy tackling both disease and an emotional overhaul at the same time, nor am I far into it really, but I figured I may as well document it.

Those who know me very well, will attest to the fact that I have a BIG stubborn streak. Giving in to anything does not come easily to me. So disease was fought with much the same ideal- I simply would not die (hahah….such arrogance…but you have to be able to laugh at yourself). But in many ways in the aftermath of that, this sense of stubbornness has also been trying to sabotage my very mission of changing myself for the better.

My beautiful husband sent me a link to a TED talk by Bene Brown that really opened my eyes to the words Vulnerability, Worthiness and Shame. I really didn’t know how connected they were to one another, or to what most people would consider ‘success’ or ‘failure’ in any part of life.

So I have been digging into the subjects, doing a lot of reading, writing, video watching, digesting and crying over it.

The truth of the matter is that my stubbornness is linked directly to my misunderstanding of Vulnerability. I have always seen it as weakness, something I would not allow myself to have or show. And my stubbornness has been the mask I wore to cover it. It drove me to work harder, ignore pain, achieve bigger things because I felt stronger when I was wearing it. However none of those things truly made me happy. I practically chased away real feelings by working tirelessly.

So in the wake of having to sit on my bum, let it get bigger than I like, and having to learn to accept that it’s ok (1 of many of my little challenges), I have started to face my Vulnerability. And through it, as hard as it often is, I now see it as the root of my strength, creativity, love, empathy and success.

The fact is in this world we praise people for working themselves into the grave, and coincidently , we also praise those that succeeded in an extraordinary way. And here’s the catch; those we appreciate the most, are those that failed, and maybe failed a few more times before succeeding. Those people did it publicly. They were vulnerable to their inner voice, and the outer voices of millions. They overcame obstacles and found new solutions to their problems, not because they were stubborn, but because they accepted that they are enough right there and then. They were as ok with failure as anyone can be. And the reason why we adore them is because they show their vulnerability- we connect on a personal level because they show their humanity. So success and humanity are interlinked in our inner- thinking. You do the math!

Being vulnerable simply means admitting that you are human. You have flaws and faults, and you will make small and large mistakes. You will fail. You will likely fail many times in your life. But to live a whole-hearted existence we must also recognise that none of those things makes you weak, and if you can work through them, you are tapping into the most ‘true’ part of yourself. And that is the place that is your source of real creativity, intuition and strength.

So in order to move forward I have decide to set myself a challenge. Every day for the next month, I will address something that bothers me about myself and I will also address what I like about myself. It’s time to reprogram the inner voice that tries to override my good thinking with hurtful remarks. You see, I know logically that I am enough- now it’s time to believe it.

Like any real change, it won’t be easy – It’s all going to be one day at a time. I encourage you to also try it, and post your comments here to tell me how it goes.

The truth about Recovery

I feel inclined to share my feelings about Cancer recovery because frankly, I said that I would be blunt and honest about my experience in the hope that it helps someone else.

So here it is, warts and all.

Somehow the recovery part seems more emotionally draining. Although there are many resources out there to assist patients through treatment, I have found that the well dries up quickly when you are on the other side. That is not to say resources don’t exist at all- more just that people assume if you are no longer at immediate risk of death, that you are fine.

Perhaps only people that have experienced a trauma such as Cancer can appreciate the difference between being alive and having a life.

Prior to Cancer, and as far back as I can recall I have always had goals and worked towards them tirelessly. In a way I lived like a robot. I identified myself entirely by what I did and not who I was. But still, I felt within that, I had a purpose.

Cancer takes. That’s simply what it does. It strips away the bull shit in life and breaks things down to their simplest form: dead or alive. I found that in order to beat it, I had to be willing to let it take almost everything from me. This was so that I could focus on purely beating it. So I had to let it take my choreography, my dancing, my hobbies and my goals. And when it comes to Cancer, you have to make a deal with it in order to win. You find yourself silently agreeing to give it everything that you have and that you are, if in return you’re still breathing at the end of it.

And although I am not yet in remission I have moved into the recovery phase and weirdly, I find this somehow harder than treatment. Why? I Guess because Cancer has forced me to look at myself in a new way. It has asked me to reassess my life down to the very core of it. When you strip away all the little things, you see the truth about yourself and the world you have created around you. And as such, to really make the best you can from a bad experience, you owe it to yourself to really decide if how you were living is what you still want.

And if I answer honestly, I would say no. I worked way too hard. I sacrificed way too much. I didn’t really have a fully rounded life because I never stopped to appreciate it. But it felt purposeful and strong and these are two things I miss terribly and hope to regain over the coming months.

In reality, getting sick, has actually made me more human. I feel so much more than before. I appreciate the tiny things in a way I never did prior. I am thankful for the people around me who were able to judge so well what I needed and when I needed it. I don’t take things for granted as I did before. And so in a way I have to be thankful to Cancer for bringing perspective to my life, and for helping me reconnect with the important things.

But that doesn’t mean that this is easy. I want those who are recovering from any kind of trauma to know that I get it. I know what it’s like to go from happy one minute, to wondering what the point is in getting out of bed the next. I know what this limbo feels like- the void between who we were and who we will become after our experience has finished changing us. I know what it’s like to question everything, to be sure of nothing, and truly feel like you don’t know who you are, or what you are supposed to do. I know how dark that place can be, and how it feels like it could so easily swallow you whole.

But that is all part of it. I have always believed that if you do not allow good and bad to truly be in your life then you will never evolve. So as hard as I often fight it, I try to accept that where I am at is ok. Everything really is temporary. The days of laying on my bathroom floor too sick to move are over, just as feeling lost and alone will be too.

So, there it is. The ugly truth of it all. Sometimes it sucks beyond belief. Sometimes you just want to give in. Other times you find genuine joy and laughter in new things. It’s quite a ride. If you’re on the roller coaster – stay with it. Somewhere along the lines, I know the ride will have been worth it.

The Rollercoaster of Life

I feel as though every time I get a chance to write a post I am updating you all on some massive experiment that I call “my life”. Every day is an adventure in itself. I am always busy, always organised and yet the universe always finds a way to shake up my schedule, flip my plans upside down- send me on a different journey to what I had expected. Funnily enough, this all leads to the same end result – my version of success.

Normally I would just write about the various dance projects I am involved in and the normal trials and tribulations that come with working in any artistic field. Todays post is a little different.

My life has suddenly taken on a new meaning.- to me at least.  I have always had battles with my health and with events in my life. The road I have walked has been filled with pot holes and bumps for as long as I can remember. But I have always chosen to take the high-road. I have had good role models that have shown that “bad things” do not give you the right to be a victim for your whole life; that a positive attitude and living – truly living – is a choice. This doesn’t make me a hero or any better than anyone else- it is just how I choose to be.

I guess the advantage of being a dancer is that I know my body very, very well. I can tell when I am on the verge of going from rundown to flat-out sick. I can tell when something just isn’t right. That exact feeling brought me to the doctor recently and as I was due for all my usual health checks I was prodded, poked and generally used as a pin cushion. And that returned the result everyone dreads – I heard the “C” word. No, not the cuss word you are all thinking of – Cancer (insert sounds of doom).

Before I could really react, or tell anybody, I was lying on a table being prepped for my first treatment. So this leaves me feeling pained, uncomfortable, scared shitless but ALIVE. And that is all that counts. Because for me alive means I still get to live the life I have chosen. I still get to travel the bumpiest of roads and come out with only a scratch. I am truly lucky.

It has given me a chance to reflect on what I have achieved so far and what I still want to do. Being the “work horse” type of personality I so rarely stop and allow myself to bask in the glory of happiness. I never sit still. I barely sleep as I am so often choreographing or planning my next step.

So in reflection this is what I have learned. I am 28 years old. I have a business that I love, I have performed and toured in big musicals. I have taught well over 2000 people to dance, I have studied all main stream dance styles, I have choreographed music videos and films, stage shows and plays, created my own dance style that is about to launch on stage and managed to pay my bills entirely from within the dance industry. I have come out as Bisexual, found the man of my dreams and married him and moved from WA to Melbourne to set the wheels of my dreams in motion.

I have done all of this with circumstances that often should have prevented me. Sometimes it has been sheer stubbornness that has got me to this point. But it has also proved to me that I can do anything I set my mind to. Yes, I know that is so clichéd – but true nonetheless. And so this scary word “Cancer” isn’t going to stop me living my life. It won’t prevent me from taking on challenges. In the overall scheme of things it is just another bump on the road, nothing more, nothing less.

I just want it to mean something – something beyond having a disease. I am pleased that so many women have messaged me since finding out about my Cancer to say that they have booked in to have their health checks done. So I hope that in itself has changed something outside of myself for the better.

So what has all of this really changed about me? Not much I guess. I just respect life a little more. I am trying to be a little nicer to my body – something all people (especially dancers) need to do. I am being more grateful for the wonderful people in my life and more respecting of the journeys they must take for them to also be content. I am still teaching, choreographing and performing. I am still building my business and striving forward. All my goals are still in place.

So what was the point in writing all this? I just wanted to be honest. I want to live a life based on that point alone. I know other people are going through it too – and I want you to know I’m here, anytime. I want Cancer to know it can go f$#k itself – on behalf of all those that have it. I want to invest my energy in to what makes me happy, and not waste energy on things that don’t add value to my existence. I want to entertain, provoke thought, challenge the status quo and make every bump I have overcome count for something.

I want to thank you for sitting on the roller coaster with me. It is a big ride. It is far from over. I am not done….not even close.


Perspective & Success

Saying that I have been ‘busy’ would be a serious understatement. I have been working on so many projects that my schedule would likely be called ‘insanity’ by most. To me, this “insanity’ has been so rewarding, challenging and fun that I am just thankful to be doing so many things.

At the same time, I have been struggling with family illnesses, given that my family resides in WA while I am living in Victoria. I have also got my own injury which is slowing me down a little. Perhaps it is about age; but somehow life has tested me this year in a whole new way. Maybe it was time I learned some fresh lessons, and gained a whole different perspective on my life.

As I write this, my father is again in hospital having treatment for a heart condition. Things with his treatment have not gone completely to plan, and while he has every hope of a full recovery, I admit his condition has shaken me once again to the bone. At the same time, my beautiful Granny is hanging by a thread onto life. At the ripe age of 93 she has endured hardships I would not wish on my worst enemy and so my hope, like all those in my family, is that she goes peacefully. All indications are that this will happen at anytime now. You could say between them, my relatives have got me on ‘stand by’. Every time my phone rings, my heart skips a beat.

Meanwhile, I am proudly coming off the back of a successful performance of an excerpt from my show ‘Toxicity’ that we did at Underground recently. I was so impressed by the talented cast in my show. They really made me proud. We were out there breaking boundaries by doing Fusion Contemporary which is innovative and new. I am currently in talks with venues here in Melbourne and sorting out when the full length show is to be staged. All indications so far are for February next year. We have a lot of work ahead, especially given that we will be working with rope, so rehearsals will start very soon.

We are recasting one of our female roles with auditions being held on the 21st of this month – details here. We only work with ‘hungry’ artists that like a challenge and that want to stake their claim as an innovator of dance.

This show is a big first step for me into the world of production through my company Evixa, but it is only the beginning of a journey that I already know will last my entire lifetime. I believe Fusion Contemporary has what it takes to change the game in dance world-wide and bring attention to the artists we have in Australia. Those that know me well, know that I will drive this all the way forward; nothing can really stop me when I have a dream like this, that I am so passionate about.

Rehearsals are due to start for Lucy’s Bedtime, a film by the talented Dana Stockton. I am excited to work on this musical film and look forward to seeing how much character I can get out of each of the performers in it. It is wonderful for me too as I will get to experience a full-scale production using green screen from the choreographic perspective rather than as the dancer on set.

I have just signed on with OzDance, coordinated by the well established former Australian Ballet Company principals Simone Goldsmith and Josh Horner (also a judge on DWTS). I cannot wait to get my teeth into this opportunity.

I have been lucky enough to do an interview with Media Strikes Back that should air in about a month. They contacted me to do an “Artist Profile” which was a great honour. The team was lovely and so much fun to hang out with. A huge thank you to them for that opportunity.

My classes all over Melbourne, from singing lessons to casual dance classes are going well which I am really pleased about. I really do have the best job in the world probably because it is not a job. It is my dream. The recent upsets I have faced with family, my injury and the many trials and tribulations I am having to overcome in order to get my show on stage have changed the way I look at my life. I am building a legacy and I know that if I take one step forward in the right direction every day, I will get there. I also see that life is limited, and so the time we have is incredibly precious. I choose to use it to the betterment of the industry I have and always will love. It is the  support of my family, friends, fans and colleagues that makes it all possible, so I am thankful to each of you for giving me the courage to do what it takes to succeed.

Refocused on Toxicity

The past two weeks has contained more challenges than I had expected to encounter at this time in my life. It has been a wonderful reminder to me about the importance of grasping opportunities that are presented and to lead with my ambition, rather than always with old feelings of loyalty. This might seem a bizarre concept to some people – but one that is proving necessary time and time again in my life.

The fortnight started with a shock. A family emergency that left me feeling terrified, lost and extremely helpless. Although this has now settled, it shook up the very foundation of my being. It caused a chain reaction of events to occur that seemed to me at the time to be a “kick in the guts”. However, bit by bit I am seeing that this was lifes way of refocusing me on my bigger picture. I had simply got too comfortable and comfort is something not often afforded to those that want the most out of life.

At the same time this personal evolution has been taking place, my production company, Evixa has been growing. We have just completed the audition and selection process for our upcoming show “Toxicity”. This is literally a passion project for me because it is a big step in my dream. But it is without a doubt also a business venture. I am always working on both fronts in my life at the same time.

I truly aim to open up fusion dance to the international market and to create local dance jobs for the mass of very talented and often unpaid dancers we have here in Australia.

I believe that because much of the dance work in this country is offered again and again to the same group of people, we must start at a grass-roots level creating news works from scratch that give these up and coming performers a chance to show case what they can do. I suppose you could say that I am on a mission to revitalise the industry for others, and to leave a legacy behind for myself.

I am thrilled with the cast I have got for the show and am proud to call them my Principal Dancers. They inspire me, help me bring to life my own creative vision and embody that hunger and need that I also have for creative dancing. I am very thankful to have them on board and I look forward to bringing something amazing to the public.

We hope to show case what we can do at Underground in Melbourne during winter and again at The Australian Dance Festival in September. We are currently negotiating with several theatres to house our full length show either at the end of this year or early 2013.

Thank you for following my progress. I encourage you to also follow the progress of these amazing creatures of dance and my company over the following months as there is simply so much happening that I cannot write about it all in one post!

To get you started make sure you check out our audition process and the fabulous cast of our show.