It’s fair to say that Rare Birds Ambassador Lisa Burling hit absolute rock bottom before creating the life of her dreams. She chats with us about how she did it, and how you can too.
You have developed an interesting approach to goal setting based on ‘little dreams’. Can you please explain the concept and tell us how the idea came about?
The last four years of my life have been a hotpot of overwhelming devastation and amazing excitement all at once. One day I was kicking career goals with an international PR career, I was a proud mum of a beautiful little boy, with a supportive partner to help me out. The next, I was an unemployed single mum of two little boys under three, one of whom was fighting for his life as a preemie in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Fast forward to today, and I am a businesswoman and entrepreneur with an award-winning marketing and PR business, LBPR. I built a new house for my family less than three years after I walked into Centrelink to sign up for single parent benefits.
When I reflected on what I’d achieved I realised little dreams saved my little boys and me from sliding further down the black hole of inaction and, even worse still, inertia. Dreaming little was the panacea to my predicament and in time, ensured the big ones came to fruition.
If, back when my life was a mess, I’d dreamt about where I am now, I can tell you now it would have only added to my misery. Instead, these little dreams were ones I could touch and see so clearly. I knew I could actually achieve them if I just stayed focused and took action and had the gumption to see it through.
How do you know which dreams to aim for and which goals to set? The options for building a business can be overwhelming!
For me, I map out my big dreams and work back from there, plotting the little dreams I need to make happen to achieve the end goal. As my Mum says, it’s like eating an elephant (gross, but true) – you’d never try and eat it all in one go! In my book, Dream A Little Dream, I articulate what the DNA of a Little Dream is, and this helps me to work out what means the most and what I can make happen. The intersection of those two elements is critical.
The DNA of a Little Dream
- It forms one part of a much bigger dream. For example, if you want to start a business, a little dream may be to confirm what you’re offering is viable amongst the target audience; if you want to have a holiday home overseas, a little dream may be to reach a financial target for the deposit.
- It can be realistically achieved within a year. Any longer than that, forget it – it’s not a little dream, it’s a vague wish.
- You have all you need at your disposal to make it happen – connections, resources, skills, knowledge…and critically, gumption!
- You whole-heartedly believe it can come true; that you can bring it to fruition.
- Most importantly of all, when you think about it you get butterflies in your tummy, like you did as a kid when Santa was coming the next morning. This is because you can feel it, see it and almost touch it.
You talk about ‘living with courage, faith and gumption’. What does that mean for you?
This statement is the subtitle of my book and for good reason. It means that every single day, I wake up, I show up, and do the work without excuse. I don’t know anybody, except perhaps those who are born into privilege or win the lottery, who doesn’t achieve great things without a whole heap of these three things. Gumption is the key word – without elbow grease, nothing will happen.
They say that time is a great teacher. Looking back over the past 5 years, what have been the biggest lessons for you both in business and personally?
There have been so many lessons, but the main ones for me are applicable to both my personal and professional life:
- You have all you need to fulfil your life’s purpose;
- You can step into the unknown to survive, and thrive;
- You are capable of far more than you ever give yourself credit for;
- Not everyone will like you or understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that’s OK.
What tips do you have for women who lack the confidence to put themselves in the spotlight, or to take chances?
When I set up my business and rebuilt my life, my self-confidence was at an all-time low. But I was firmly in survival mode then, so I had to get over that pretty quick and just go for it. I had nothing to lose because I’d lost it all. As JK Rowling famously once said, “Rock bottom became the foundation on which I built my life”.
A good way to get yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone is to become your Future Self. When I am hesitating to do something, probably because I am scared and nervous, I always think what the Lisa of tomorrow, or next week, or even at the end of her days, would think?
A good recent example of my own is taking my book into Dymocks in my home city of Wollongong and asking the manager to stock it. I knew if I didn’t do it, my Future Self would be so mad and wondering “what if?”. So, I did it, and guess what? A representative from New Holland, a global book publisher, picked it up, took it back to the CEO – and now I am signed with them as an author!
Dream A Little Dream has been updated and will be re-issued in February 2020, and I have started my second book. Lots of little dreams led to that big one – the dream of becoming an author since I was little – coming true too. Imagine if I didn’t go for it? That’s a reality not worth thinking about!
Two quotes that I live by play to this thinking: “Fortune favours the brave” and “On the other side of fear is everything you’ve ever wanted.”
How do you measure success?
Really simply. Am I and all my loved ones happy, healthy and able to enjoy life? If the answer is yes, and it certainly is right now, then life is good.
Who is your biggest inspiration and why?
Any person brave enough to go for what they want against the odds. Typically, it’s somebody who I meet at an event I’m speaking about who shares their own story with me of personal triumph in difficult circumstances.
What do you have planned for 2020? Is there any news you can share with us?
2020 is going to be a great year! My business is going through a change, and more will be revealed on that soon. It’s time to ensure it reflects where I am at, that I have a team, and that the work we do for clients all over Australia and internationally is not what most people associate the words “public relations” with.
I have a national book launch and speaking tour with New Holland as they re-release Dream a Little Dream in February 2020.
On a personal level, I plan to spend more quality time with my little boys Luca and Nate, my amazing partner Colin, my beautiful parents, and all the pets we seem to have accumulated in the last 12 months! Business can be all-consuming if you allow it to be, so balance is my little dream in this area of my life.
Thanks Lisa! Please feel free to add anything else.
I’m really proud to be an Inspiring Rare Bird 😊
If you would like to share your story with the Rare Birds community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will tee up an interview. Our motto is #ifshecanican and so we want to get as many stories out there as we can to show women and girls the possibilities of entrepreneurship!