How I Turned The Worst Year Of My Career Into Something Extraordinary
12 July 2021
HOW KELLY LEWIS, THE FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF FLYING RUBY EVENTS, TURNED THE YEAR SHE’D RATHER FORGET INTO SOMETHING TRULY MEMORABLE…
“The arrival of COVID-19 heralded the worst period of my entire career, without question. Like so many people around the world, my life was turned upside down. However, unlike a lot of other industries that would only start to feel the effects in the months/year that would follow, the industry I was in – events – was hit first, and it was hit hard.
I knew almost instantly that things were about to go very south, very quickly, and it was only the beginning. I could feel a huge sense of desperation and fear from my suppliers and clients who were ringing me on the hour, every hour, in those first few crazy weeks in March last year.
Even worse was that it wasn’t like there were layers or elements to my work that came unstuck, which they do daily because that’s called “running a business” – the whole bottom fell out. It was like picking up a bucket of sand that had no base. I had my employees and clients looking to me for guidance and support and I didn’t know what to do – I felt completely out of control.
As a self-confessed control freak – let’s be honest, you have to be one to run an events company – this felt completely foreign to me. To cope, I did the only thing I knew how: I decided to take the control back. Professionally, I threw myself into helping my clients in every way possible – supporting them through event cancellations, rescheduling (then rescheduling again and again) their activations, producing plans b, c and d – whatever I could to ease their frustration and minimise the panic.
Personally, I also had a plan. I first made a point of saying yes to everything that came my way – I wasn’t letting go of any opportunity – and then I took it up a notch. I decided to focus on completing a challenge every week that I knew I could absolutely nail. I figured if I could succeed at even just one thing, then I wouldn’t feel that everything around me was falling to pieces.
I called it ‘The 50-Week Challenge’ and it became my way of coping with the uncertainty of the pandemic. Initially, I would make sure that my ‘challenges’ were achievable – there was no point in setting myself up for failure because that would have defeated the entire purpose. I began with tasks like Pilates every day for a week, or completing a juice cleanse. Easy, fun things that I could cross off my list and feel like I was getting stuff done, even though the world around me was in chaos.
Then I started to ramp things up – attending yoga retreats, riding camels, racing a V8 supercar, hot air ballooning – bucket-list challenges ticked off the list and incredible memories created with my family. And here’s the thing: it started to work. Instead of focusing on the unknown that lay three/six/nine months ahead, looking into a tunnel that had very little light at the end of it, I was simply looking forward to the week ahead. I was finally starting to feel present and positive again. The best bit of all, I was doing what I love most – ticking those things off my list, feeling an immense sense of achievement and I was doing it all with my family. What could be better?
Not only has The 50-Week Challenge turned the year I’d rather forget into something truly memorable, but it’s made me stop and re-evaluate everything: what’s important to my family and also what’s important to me. I think as business leaders we get so caught up in looking after everyone else – at home, we care for our families, in the office, it’s our staff and clients – that we forget about self-care. The beauty of this challenge is that it’s not just about challenging yourself, but also doing something for yourself. I’m creating a situation where some weeks I have to focus on me, and I don’t feel guilty about it!”