Ladol­cevita!

SI­MONE NOVELLO ON LIV­ING THE GOOD LIFE, ALIGN­ING YOUR VAL­UES & LEV­ER­AG­ING YOUR SOLO MUM AS­SETS

Lift Magazine - - Contributors -

With a de­sire for a sim­pler life born from her Ital­ian her­itage

and a be­lief that we, as hu­mans, do bet­ter to­gether, sin­gle mum Si­mone Novello gave up a cor­po­rate ca­reer in Sydney and moved to the Blue Moun­tains with her sons Se­bas­tian ( 14) and Jasper ( 6) to set up her own part­ner­ship busi­ness called Part­ner2­grow. Si­mone is a firm be­liever that your fairy tale may just be found in places you would have never dis­cov­ered

had life gone ac­cord­ing to plan.

HI SI­MONE, THANKS FOR JOIN­ING US. LET ME START FROM THE BE­GIN­NING. AS A CHILD, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREW UP?

My big am­bi­tion was to be a pro­fes­sional ice skater. I did it for a few years but then re­alised there was no money in it as an Aus­tralian so I re­fo­cused on my ed­u­ca­tion.

WHAT WERE YOUR CA­REER PLANS WHEN YOU LEFT SCHOOL?

To never study again! But even­tu­ally I lis­tened to my mum’s ad­vice and stud­ied a Bach­e­lor of Commerce ma­jor­ing in mar­ket­ing. From there I did all the things you’re ‘sup­posed’ to do. I got mar­ried one month shy of my 19th birth­day, then fo­cused on fin­ish­ing my de­gree and set­ting up my ca­reer. By the age of 25 I’d bought a house and had my first child.

HOW DID YOUR CA­REER UN­FOLD FROM THERE?

My first job af­ter fin­ish­ing my de­gree was with a sta­tionery com­pany. Ev­ery­one told me how hard it was to find em­ploy­ment straight out of uni, so I felt pres­sure to take what­ever I was of­fered. On my first day I was led to an of­fice in the mid­dle of a stink­ing hot ware­house where I couldn’t leave a cup on my bench be­cause I’d find cock­roaches swim­ming in my tea. I quit af­ter nine months.

Af­ter that I found a po­si­tion in bank­ing where I worked for nearly a year un­til I re­alised I’d really started to hate my­self. At 21 I was frumpy, mar­ried and had one pair of sen­si­ble black shoes that I wore ev­ery day. My idea of ex­er­cise was go­ing to the bis­cuit tin for an­other Kingston. So I left and found a po­si­tion in an en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­pany work­ing with bank­ing loy­alty pro­grams. It fit so much more with my val­ues. All of a sud­den my life changed. I started ex­er­cis­ing again, making new friends and within 12 months I’d lost all my ex­tra weight, had a thriv­ing ca­reer and by the time I turned 22, I was head­ing up a team of 25 peo­ple across Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

SO YOU BE­LIEVE YOUR CHOICE OF JOB IM­PACTS THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?

Ab­so­lutely. In my pur­suit of cer­tainty and se­cu­rity I’d wrapped my­self up in so much cot­ton wool that I’d made my­self de­pressed and that flowed into ev­ery part of my life. Part of find­ing the job that’s right for you is to align your ca­reer to your val­ues; whether it’s run­ning a busi­ness or find­ing an em­ployer with the right cul­ture for you. It’s in­ter­est­ing to re­flect on that time in my life ac­tu­ally. I have less se­cu­rity now than I’ve ever had, but it’s also one of the hap­pi­est times of my life.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

I think I found the se­cu­rity I wanted in­side my­self. When you’re less se­cure as a per­son, you have to find se­cu­rity out­side your­self – in your job, the peo­ple around you, rou­tine, that sort of thing. But we live in a world that’s ev­er­chang­ing and ul­ti­mately there is no real se­cu­rity out­side of our­selves. Try­ing to fill your need for se­cu­rity ex­ter­nally is like strap­ping sand­wiches to your­self and try­ing to get full. Now I have a deep-seated be­lief that when you’re ok on the in­side, ev­ery­thing on the out­side will be ok too.

HOW DID YOUR CA­REER CHANGE WHEN YOU BE­CAME A SIN­GLE MUM?

The few years around the time I be­came a mum were huge. My hus­band wanted to have a baby in the year 2000. When the time came I was re­luc­tant, but we’d been to­gether for nine years so I went ahead. We sep­a­rated within 12 months of hav­ing my son and sud­denly I was a sin­gle mum with my ca­reer on hold.

It was a huge shock. I’d lost ev­ery­thing I’d worked so hard for and I didn’t understand what went wrong. Now I can see that the re­la­tion­ship was very co-de­pen­dent – the more I es­tab­lished my sense of self, the worse my mar­riage be­came. When it all hap­pened I didn’t know what to do, so I packed up my son, Se­bas­tian, and we went to Europe for seven weeks. While we were there I got a call from the Com­mon­wealth Bank offering me my dream job with an amaz­ing salary in­crease, which of course, I took.

HOW DID YOU BAL­ANCE YOUR CA­REER WITH HAV­ING A YOUNG CHILD?

My ex-hus­band and I worked up to hav­ing 50/50 care of Se­bas­tian by the time he turned two, then things got eas­ier. I was a sin­gle mum half the time but I was also a sin­gle lady half the time. In the next few years I got pro­moted to the head of part­ner­ships and cre­ated a new di­vi­sion which al­lowed me to travel reg­u­larly. My life was a lot of fun at that time.

DID YOU FEEL YOU’D HIT THE PIN­NA­CLE OF YOUR CA­REER AT THAT STAGE?

One of them, for sure! By my late twen­ties I was the youngest busi­ness di­rec­tor in the com­pany. I had a beau­ti­ful ter­race home and gor­geous shoes, I went to lots of par­ties and drank lovely wine… and with all that came the young, good-look­ing boyfriend with the six-pack who was study­ing to be a doc­tor. I’d really es­tab­lished my­self as an in­di­vid­ual and it was then I de­cided to take the plunge and start my own joint-ven­tured busi­ness.

EX­CIT­ING TIMES! AND SO HOW DID YOUR FIRST BUSI­NESS VEN­TURE GO?

It was steaming ahead un­til we hit an iceberg. I un­ex­pect­edly fell preg­nant with my sec­ond son, Jasper, and the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis hit. I went from joint ven­tur­ing with one of the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs to be­ing heav­ily preg­nant, liv­ing with my mum while my stu­dent boyfriend worked in a ware­house and I took a sales job cold call­ing peo­ple to ask them if they got their baby bot­tle of Tabasco sauce in the mail. Some­how I ended up tum­bling off my perch, los­ing ev­ery­thing and feel­ing hu­mil­i­ated. In the words of my neigh­bour (words I can now laugh at) “You had the best life and I just watched it go to shit”.

SHIT IN­DEED! WHAT DID YOU DO FROM THERE?

There were so many dif­fer­ent ways I could have re­sponded to what hap­pened, but I made the choice to pull my­self to­gether and se­cured a con­tract work­ing with Dar­rell Lea. The plan was that it would set us up fi­nan­cially while my boyfriend was still study­ing, but al­though I tried to make it work, we weren’t value-aligned so by the time Jasper was nine months old I be­came a solo mum again fac­ing my worst night­mare of rais­ing an­other young child on my own.

NEVER LOSE YOUR OPEN­NESS, YOUR CHILD­ISH EN­THU­SI­ASM THROUGH­OUT THE JOUR­NEY THAT IS LIFE, AND THINGS WILL COME YOUR WAY.

THAT’S ALSO BEEN ONE OF MY BIG­GEST FEARS AS A SIN­GLE MUM. WHAT IF I RE-PART­NER AND IT HAP­PENS AGAIN?

You know, you can look at life any way you want to. You can hold back and worry about the ‘what ifs’ or you can live and know that even if it doesn’t turn out the way you ex­pected, it might lead to some­thing bet­ter. When the sep­a­ra­tion hap­pened, I re­mem­ber sit­ting in my mum’s house won­der­ing how I’d made such a mess of my life, but then I re­alised it was an op­por­tu­nity. So I packed up ev­ery­thing and moved to the Blue Moun­tains for six months to get healthy and fig­ure out what that op­por­tu­nity was.

AND DID YOU FIG­URE IT OUT?

You could say that! Six months went by and when it was time to move back to Sydney, I couldn’t leave. The moun­tains were my op­por­tu­nity. They are where I be­long. By get­ting away from ev­ery­thing I re­alised my old life had been quite su­per­fi­cial, so I sold my house in the city and bought a rus­tic farm­house on half an acre of beau­ti­ful gar­dens. I felt so much more cen­tred, so much more se­cure in my­self and I landed a half a mil­lion dol­lar con­tract man­ag­ing a part­ner­ship pro­gram for a mas­sive re­tailer. I in­vested heav­ily in it, but when it came to achiev­ing out­comes for them, I couldn’t get the ap­proval I needed to take ac­tion. Even­tu­ally I had to ter­mi­nate the con­tract. I lost a lot of money. That was an­other great les­son for me. I thought I had to go big to re­store my fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion quickly, but at that point I fi­nally re­alised it was ok to take things slower.

WHAT WAS YOUR NEXT STEP?

For a lit­tle while, noth­ing. Lit­er­ally! Not long af­ter that re­al­i­sa­tion I broke my leg on a fly­ing fox. So I’d just lost a shed load of money, ended a huge con­tract and was rais­ing a three year old and a twelve year old on my own.

JUST A FEW TINY HUR­DLES. HOW DID YOU RE­COVER FROM THAT?

Well, my ini­tial re­sponse was to start a new re­la­tion­ship, drink wine and eat chocolate while I waited for my bro­ken leg to heal.

But it really was a bless­ing. It gave me time to see that one of my big­gest as­sets is my abil­ity to make the im­pos­si­ble pos­si­ble by cre­at­ing and lev­er­ag­ing win-win re­la­tion­ships. It was then I de­cided to fully com­mit to the vi­sion I’d had for my com­pany since 2008 and em­power other peo­ple and busi­nesses to do bet­ter to­gether through strate­gic part­ner­ships. I fi­nally re­alised that all th­ese twists in the plot were mov­ing me to­wards ful­fill­ing this pur­pose.

That was three years ago and now I’m very set­tled in the moun­tains. My busi­ness is grow­ing, my life­style matches my val­ues and I get to really make a dif­fer­ence to other busi­nesses. My pro­grams help them tap into as­sets they didn’t even know they had. Some­times they even think of their as­sets as weak­nesses! So know­ing I can help them turn that around and cre­ate part­ner­ships that will take them to a whole new level really fits with my whole life story. It’s al­ways been my part­ner­ships and net­works that have been my sup­port and my saviours. Now I get to teach those skills to oth­ers.

A HAPPY END­ING THEN?

Well, I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a happy end­ing. Things still hap­pen. In the past twelve months I’ve had a her­ni­ated disc in my back and Jasper’s fa­ther died in a car accident. I still have a habit of not leav­ing enough in my cup and bit­ing off more than I can chew but I’m con­stantly learn­ing to man­age th­ese things in bet­ter ways.

AND WHAT ABOUT LOVE? DO YOU SEE YOUR­SELF IN LOVE AGAIN?

I’m in a lovely re­la­tion­ship right now. It’s prob­a­bly the most un­dra­matic, stable re­la­tion­ship I’ve had for a long time, and I think that really comes down to the fact that we’re fully value-aligned.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO HAV­ING A HAPPY LIFE?

Re­silience and how you han­dle life when it doesn’t go to plan. You have to let go and let things hap­pen. The tighter you hold on, the more your dreams end up be­ing pushed away. When I first went to the moun­tains I moved in next door to a lady who was like an older version of my­self. I now call her my fairy god­mother. One day, I was talk­ing with her about some­thing that wasn’t go­ing to plan and I said “But Kay, I try to make th­ese things hap­pen and I don’t know why I can’t!” She replied, “Si­mone, we don’t make things hap­pen, they just hap­pen”.

I had this fear that if I wasn’t striv­ing and if I wasn’t in con­trol of ev­ery­thing, it wouldn’t turn out the way I wanted, but now I can see that it’s when I fi­nally let go of con­trol and let my­self be vul­ner­a­ble that the things I want ac­tu­ally start com­ing into my life.

IF YOU’RE GO­ING TO HAVE RAINY DAYS, YOU MAY AS WELL BE PRE­PARED TO

HAVE FUN WITH THEM

DO YOU THINK BE­ING VUL­NER­A­BLE IS HARD TO DO AS A SIN­GLE MUM?

Ab­so­lutely, but part of be­ing vul­ner­a­ble is learn­ing to ac­cept that it doesn’t mean you can’t han­dle things on your own. The thing is, you can do it on your own, but you can do so much more with help from oth­ers.

And you know, some­where along the road the world got mixed up into think­ing our key re­la­tion­ships only in­clude our spouse and our busi­ness part­ner, but we need so much more.

Movies can be great for help­ing us see al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tives in this way. If you’re look­ing for a lit­tle in­spi­ra­tion, lock in a ‘date’ night with your­self and watch movies like Cho­co­lat, Fried Green Toma­toes and Un­der the Tus­can Sun. They’re my favourites. They’ve in­spired me to live the life I do now and not feel lim­ited as a solo mum.

WHAT’S BEEN YOUR BIG­GEST CA­REER LES­SON SO FAR?

Be­ing re­al­is­tic about what I can do, fo­cus­ing on smaller pieces of the big­ger puz­zle and putting the right sup­ports around me.

Learn­ing how to pri­ori­tise the most im­por­tant things and then ex­e­cut­ing them really well has also been a big one. You can see the dif­fer­ence in peo­ple who keep things sim­ple and those who try to do and be too much. If you get tied up in the fear of not do­ing or be­ing enough it man­i­fests into the ex­act thing you’re scared of.

DO YOU HAVE ANY AD­VICE FOR SIN­GLE MUMS WHO FEEL OVER­WHELMED ABOUT CA­REER & LIFE BAL­ANCE?

The most im­por­tant thing is that you will do it. There is no greater driver than the love of your kids. I’ve seen it with my own eyes – women are fan­tas­tic at fall­ing on their feet. The key is to get to the heart of what’s im­por­tant to you and get se­ri­ous about liv­ing it. I went from dress­ing my son in Ralph Lau­ren to dress­ing him from the op shop. Treat it as an ad­ven­ture, see the small bless­ings and have fun.

WHAT ARE YOUR CA­REER PLANS NOW?

Life will al­ways throw up chal­lenges. Now that Jasper is in school I don’t have the flex­i­bil­ity I used to have so I need to find a new re­al­ity around how I grow my busi­ness. Be­ing or­gan­ised and pri­ori­tis­ing will be key as well as find­ing key strate­gic part­ners – some­thing that’s al­ready been show­ing re­sults for me. But per­haps most of all I’ve had to dis­con­nect from the per­son I used to be and stop com­par­ing my­self to her and to oth­ers. I used to be so hard on my­self. The con­cept of self-com­pas­sion was for­eign to me un­til re­cently and now I feel like it’s the last fron­tier to con­quer. The ‘past me’ was con­stantly think­ing “Maybe I’m not good enough. Maybe I’m not a good par­ent. Maybe I’m not a good busi­ness per­son” but maybe it’s all about ac­cept­ing things the way they are. It doesn’t mean you don’t have big plans, but maybe in­stead of try­ing to aim for the stars all the bloody time, we can start to recog­nise how of­ten shoot­ing stars hap­pen to fall into our laps.

I FI­NALLY RE­ALISED THAT ALL TH­ESE PLOT TWISTS WERE MOV­ING ME TO­WARDS FUL­FILL­ING MY PUR­POSE.

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