Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.
Name and role
Shannah Kennedy, executive life strategist, speaker and author, wife and mother
Tell us about your role? What is it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
My role is first and foremost as a life coach. I coach elite athletes, CEOs, managers in large and small companies, business owners and people in general who want to be a better version of themselves. A life coach ignites potential. The individual benefits of coaching are as wide-ranging as the individuals being coached, impacting not only careers, but lives.
Coaching is not therapy, which goes into depth about various issues, usually dealing with the past, nor is it consulting which generally results in giving the client answers. Coaching is more action-orientated and focuses primarily on the present and future. Coaching is not about instructing or telling or directing. It’s not about therapy or healing. It’s not about a right way or a wrong way.
Coaching is about self-reliance and personal responsibility. It’s about taking action, contributing, and making an impact. At its core, coaching is about helping people tap into existing strengths and talents. Our clients have the answers already – our job is to engage them in a dialogue that brings those answers to the surface. Clearly, these kinds of individual benefits can have a ripple effect throughout a company, a family and even friendships improving morale, retention, efficiency, productivity and satisfaction with life. By working in a completely confidential setting, coaching breaks down barriers to success and challenges individuals to reach new levels of achievement, satisfaction and balance in life.
You have not always been a life coach, what was the catalyst for change?
I have always been a high achiever. As soon as I left school I jumped straight into work – and I worked hard. First in stockbroking and then in a fast-paced role as a sponsorship and PR manager for a high profile sports eyewear company. I worked with more than 100 world-class athletes in Australia and internationally. By most people’s definition of success, I was living the dream. It was exhilarating, satisfying and demanding all at once. It was also incredibly intense. I was used to overloading my life, so as the stress, fatigue and exhaustion mounted, I brushed these warnings signs aside as just the price to be paid for the kind of success I craved. Unwilling and unable to slow down, eventually my body delivered a devastating reminder of its need to be taken care of and abruptly gave way to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It was debilitating. Virtually bed-ridden for 12 months I lost everything that mattered to me – my sense of self, my network, my ability to do the simplest things. My body just wouldn’t respond. Sinking towards depression I felt overwhelmed with shame and failure, replaying over and over why things had gone so wrong. It took a long, slow three years for me to fully recover, but working with a life coach I eventually regained my energy, clarity and motivation to move on.
I have also (unforgettably) witnessed many elite athletes self-destruct once their sporting careers were over. This, as well as my own experience with burn out, has inspired me to get over my distaste for study and embrace extensive qualifications as an Advanced Certified Coach. I could see the opportunity to coach sports people to become whole people rather than has-beens, with purpose and vision to create the life they want both during and after their short athletic careers.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I listen to a lot of audiobooks to keep educating and challenging myself. When I am walking, in the car or even meditating, I am listening. I get inspired by everything around me; the simple things in life. Mindfulness in life has taken my life and happiness to a whole new level, as has learning to breathe properly – all free and amazing! Who would have thought it could be that simple! I am inspired by people, magazines and audio and enjoying photography for myself as a hobby. I am inspired by the vision I have built for myself to always keep evolving as a human being.
Do you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career of the ground?
My first coach when I had chronic fatigue syndrome changed my life. She believed in me, my dream, my skills and my ambition and helped me get through the fear of leaving the corporate world and starting my own business as a life coach; 15 years ago when there were no life coaches around. No one understood what it was and thought it was all just hocus pocus.
I studied life coaching and there are not many around that have been coaching for as long. Along the way I have employed coaches for myself each year to keep me evolving, learning and they have challenged me constantly to follow my dreams. In the beginning I would have been happy with 10 clients. Now I have 40 clients, two books out and speak every week at conferences. I also have a great marriage and two children in primary school. I know it was possible and really wanted it but needed some great people around me as my support team. I also had to and still have to put my health first and foremost – mental, physical and emotional health are at the forefront of every decision I make.
What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path and since then?
My first stumbling blocks came from where I was most passionate – i.e. coaching athletes into retirement. I was way before my time I think and the doors were not opening. I saw athletes finish their careers after looking after over 200 in my corporate years, with no plan, no structure, and little confidence in themselves as person even thought they had achieved in their chosen sport. The other parts of their lives were not developed enough to support them. So it turned quite corporate very quickly as they were all open to getting the edge and working with a coach to be improve.
My challenges now are finding the right partners to collaborate with for my new book The Life Plan. How to get life-skills into more hands. I am passionate, extremely passionate about people learning the skills that will support them in life, in relationships and with their mental health. It is about making these skills available to all, not just those at the top or those that can afford a coach. I have packaged up the skills for all to take, to learn and to apply and my challenge now is to get it into corporations as a gift and training tool, for schools to give it to school leavers and for those with some mental health issues to start their journey through the book, which is a guide to building your life.
How did you overcome these?
I always overcome obstacles by going around them. When the door doesn’t open, knock at another one, and then another one, until one opens. I have always taken responsibility for my own luck and sometime you have to dig a bit harder and try a bit harder and be uncomfortable about it all, but the rewards are incredible. I also had a fear around speaking on stage as I don’t have a naturally loud voice and I am terrible at jokes! I have learnt through my own coaches that authenticity speaks volumes and to not try and be anyone but yourself.
You are about to launch your first book, The Life Plan. What is it about? What can we plan to find within?
The Life Plan is my first published book after self publishing previously with great success. The Life Plan offers life skills in a simple and beautiful format, so that those who want to learn can start their journey and get inspired and motivated in life. Deliberately set out in a visually beautiful format and written so you don’t have to read from cover to cover, each page gives you a skill, an inspiration or an action to help you develop your life plan. Most self-help books are very heavy reading and too much for people to digest and take in, so this one offers the best snippets from a whole range of practical life and wellness skills.
It is your handbook for life. There is room to write, there is room to discover who you are and build the structures in life that will support you and bring out the best in you. It is you commencing on a journey to be the best version of yourself in life. PLUS it is a beautiful coffee table book! We are making self-help practical and inspirational.
What are your goals for the future?
My goals are to get life-skills to more people in the world. They are not taught at school, yet they should be the foundation for your life. I want to be the first life coach with a profile in Australia as we don’t have one; they are all American. I have 15 years under my belt and I am ready to come out and be that person. Life skills are essential. They are the foundation of who we are, why we make decisions and can be a part of us that unlocks our individual excellence. They need to be available now in a format that is motivational, easy and practical. And of course there is a whole lot more on my list of goals! More books, more speaking, TV, online, etc. Plus keeping my health at its optimal level and continuing the great work on my marriage and as a mother to two children, all of whom are my core and whom I adore.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?
It is now a very crowded space I think and it is about really building great relationships and using your networking skills. I have never advertised anywhere, and simply worked on my own relationships with people and have let the referrals take me to where I am now. I think if you are going to be a coach, you should employ your own coach as authenticity is key. And most of all, dream hard, work hard and nourish yourself the whole time.
Image via The Daily Mail