The Inspirer, the Disruptor and the Entrepreneur

5 Oct
min read
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The Inspirer, Disruptor, and Entrepreneur: A Reflective Tale

A funny thing happened to me this afternoon. Not funny as in laughing funny, but I ran into someone that triggered a memory where I was physically transported back to a time when I was really young and had no “have to’s”……..

Be the same as the others… fit in….NO!

It was a rainy, freezing afternoon in Melbourne. The official first day of winter.

I came home from picking up the kids and had the perfect night planned. The Husband was out at a work dinner, so the fireplace on, laptop was charged, Real Housewives on TV, and a bottle of red wine to whet the pre-dinner appetite would be just the cherry on top.

Problem 1: Husband drank all the red wine the night before.

Problem 2: It was raining, cold, windy and I didn’t want to leave the house to go and buy wine.

So my readers, what’s a girl who has been working hard all day on her start-up to do?

Suck it up. Go buy the wine.

Jacket on. Uggs on the feet. Off to the wine shop.

When I went there, I had a bounce in my step. I was really excited that I finally had a night to myself to read other start-up blogs and catch up on the shenanigans of my favorite housewives without commentary from my husband.

Then a woman stood in front of me.

She looked familiar, or thought that I looked familiar to her.

It was one of those awkward moments where you have made eye contact so you have to smile, but the person is in your space and you have to physically touch them if you want to walk past. You have to speak to them.

And I was on borrowed time. I had to get the wine and get home quickly!

Then came the flashback.

I was taken back to grade 5, 1989. The teacher had wheeled in a board to be used as a projector screen.

She was proudly setting up the “Kodak 35mm Slide and film Viewer”. I was sitting in the second back row of the classroom thinking “no math today!”.

Every single school-aged-child of the 1980’s-1990’s loved nothing more than when a teacher opened the door and presented you with the tv in a frame on wheels! It meant that today’s class would be different. It also meant you could pass notes to your friends, catch up on some sleep, or just keep working on the sculpture you were carving into the wooden desk with your “protractor” from the last class.

On this day, when I was in grade 5, my teacher spent this lesson showing us slides of the time she had spent 8 months traveling around Africa.

Nairobi, Africa.

We saw amazing shots of the land, of animals we had only seen at the zoo, and incredible shots of our teacher surrounded by smiling, happy faces of children who had far less than any other person in the classroom that day, but were so full of joy.

I remember never really liking my teachers.

I had undiagnosed ADHD as a child, so I found it incredibly hard to sit still and focus or listen. I was also a bit of an asshole kid. I rarely gave my primary school teachers the respect they deserved because I was resentful that I was forced to go to school….!

But today, in that classroom, looking at these amazingly candid slides of our teacher’s trip to Africa, something changed in me.

For the first time I saw this teacher, not as an employee of the school, paid to babysit me and help me earn my pen license, but as a person.

A person with a life that stretched far beyond this classroom.

This week celebrates World Teacher Day. The theme of this year’s World Teacher Day is “the transformation of education begins with teachers”.

As an adult, I actually love this theme.

It reminds me of that day in grade 5 when our teacher educated us about Africa, but more importantly educated us that there were children in the world who were our age, and lived such different lives.

This teacher must have left such an impression on me through that lesson, that years later I’m proud to say that I have traveled to Africa twice, and spent one really special day playing with the most beautiful kids at a school for orphans.

Actual pic of me, hanging out with the world's most beautiful kids (who had never touched blonde hair!)

Teachers are obviously there to teach us how to read and write, but this whole experience got me thinking about those really special souls, the teachers that imprint on you, that inspire you to do better.

I attended a startup forum last week, and we were asked the question, “who ACTUALLY inspires you”?

The other participants in the forum all had to individually answer this question out loud, as a way for us to look outside of our own inspiration and perhaps discover someone who had different methods we could learn from.

The answers varied.

There were the usual ones Malala Yousafazai, Michelle Obama, Madonna; then there were the answers that took a stand on individuality, “I don’t follow influencers”, or “I am inspired by my family”, but when it came to my turn to take the stage (something I love to do in my mind but in practice, I become a rambling mess!), I really had to pause and think…

The first answer that came to mind was that I’m inspired by all the people who comment on social media.

Ever since that day in 2008, when a friend of mine introduced me to Facebook, I never cared about the photos people posted, or the “status updates” that shared it was “wine o’clock”.

For me, I’ve lost hours, days, scrolling through and reading the comment threads posted by the everyday people.

I loved reading about their differences of opinions, I loved seeing complete strangers cheering and uplifting other people, I loved to read their solutions of how they would do things differently and of course, what they would recommend.

I suppose my idea for Suggesterfy really started all the way back then!

But when I think about who truly inspires me, I have to say it’s the everyday people who have really done things differently.

The innovators. The disruptors.

The disruptors, you are my people. You are my teachers.

Recently my mum found my school report from grade 1 and sent it to me with the subject line “HILARIOUS 🤣”.

An extract from my grade 1 school report.

So at 6 years old, I was “an expressive and lively speaker who occasionally makes careless mistakes”.

“Deanna is a keen class participant, but lacks concentration while others talk” (ok lady, but perhaps, the kids were talking absolute shite?!” )

“Deanna occasionally needs reminding to settle down and is a little too easily distracted”.

Ok, so maybe I am a disruptor?

When I read back over all my school reports, they are all variations and more detailed descriptions of the same feedback.

I am too easily distracted. I distract others. I lack concentration. If I only applied myself to the tasks I could achieve anything……

All true.

30 years later, nothing has changed. To all my former teachers, I am proud to report my progress thus far:

I still talk too much.

I am still easily distracted by shiny objects and by conversations and notes that come my way that are far more interesting to me than Pythagoras Theorem (only now instead of a crumpled note being thrown on my desk, the notes are now emails)

I still make careless mistakes (only now I have the luxury of the “command Z” shortcut)

I still lack concentration (but a morning dose of my medically prescribed ADHD medication is a very helpful ally…)

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with one of my year 12 teachers on my last ever day of school:

Teacher : “Deanna, I have wish for you”
Me: “go on, say your piece lady”
Teacher: “I hope you marry, a very PATIENT and WEALTHY man”, “I cannot see how you will get far in life without it”

Are you shocked?

The feminist in my head said “get fucked lady, my future, imaginary-husband will adore me, AND I will make my own money!”

At that moment, I chose the path of least resistance for the first time in my life. I laughed and walked away.

25 years later, I ran into that teacher, she was still surly, still had red lipstick bleeding into her mouth-wrinkles set by years of smoking.

She looked much the same, only much smaller. (Now I have been the height I am now since I was 15, so perhaps this is just years of perspective that gave me the height over her, but this was an opportunity for an unfinished discussion).

Me: “Mrs M, I’m sure you remember me. Being as disruptive as I must have been back then, I can’t imagine you don’t hear my voice calling out in class in the wee quiet hours of the night!”

Teacher : “Deanna! Of course I remember you! I see you still wear too much makeup”.
Me: “Look, I don’t have much time, I’m just popping out to grab coffee as I’m in between meetings with my board members….. BUT, I just HAD to tell you, that all those years ago you told me that you wished for me to marry a PATIENT and WEALTHY man, that I would need this man to survive the hardships of life, and it wouldn’t be fair not to let you know that dreams do come true. I married a very handsome, smart and PATIENT man, who finishes everything he starts and always keeps his word. He is a wonderful father and runs a successful business. BUT, he encouraged me to build my own start-up, to make my own money, and of course he adores me. So your wish came true.”

“One last thing Mrs M, he’s also a rockstar in bed!!!”

So there you have it!

I am still the disruptor that I always was.

And now I’m hoping to disrupt the mobile app industry by bringing you Suggesterfy.

Suggesterfy is inspired by those very comments in chat threads I used to read.

The ones where people shared their opinions and recommendations to be helpful, and add value.

Suggesterfy exists as a place that is free from the negativity online, it’s where you come to ask your trusted network anything, and in turn receive positive suggestions and recommendations.

Suggesterfy has only just reached the App Stores! Please support this disruptor and download and share with your tribe!

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