Why Festival of Doers Is The Most Empowering Day Of The Year For Women (an attendee’s viewpoint)

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Festival of Doers in Zurich has just ended but the echo from it lasts much longer. Over one day filled with incredible speakers and workshops and at least 150 incredible women (and one man!), came together – all dedicated to making a positive impact. These were women who do not accept daily struggle as a norm, who dare to dream big and speak the truth, authentically. Women who are willing to be vulnerable and are determined to make a change.

The event had a very strong impact on me. No Tweet, Instagram image or Facebook post can do this intensity any justice that’s why I am taking the time to write about the aftermath to honour, thank and respect the people who set this up. I simply felt the need to capture my emotions and the words are just my own.

How your define success is the actual journey.

Festival of Doers was a day that inspired me, encouraged me, and even more – convinced me that it is only the size of one’s will that determines success. Finding your own definition of success, defining your own values, creating a life based on your talents, passions and your purpose. It doesn’t mean you have to get richer, harder, better, meaner, and it certainly does not mean you have to walk that path alone.

If you are lucky and healthy life is not about mere survival. Working is not about doing just an o.k. job, or doing sports on a mediocre level, or doing the laundry and chores. Yes, you gotta DO IT YOURSELF, but it is much smoother and sustainable, if you have a supportive tribe of equal-minded people that cheer for you on the way and lift you up when you fall. That is the ‘lift’ I felt at Festival Of Doers.

All speakers and workshops were terrific, but I want to highlight just some insights, that were most important to me and had the strongest impact on my personal life:

Hazel Gale, a kick-boxing world champion, cognitive hypnotherapist and author of the book “FIGHT”

Hazel blew my mind with her talk about how #mindmonsters play tricks on your mind to make you loose your greatest fights, even if you win. She shared how she didn’t feel like a winner even when she was winning. Surely it was simply just her lucky day.

She wants you to work with your deepest shadows, fears and wounds to team up with (rather than push away) the #mindmonsters  and own the win. It’s far beyond the eye-rolling-touchy-feely approaches where you have to hold hands and sing songs. Her paradoxical combination of being full-dynamite power and heart breakingly vulnerable, is beyond comparison and the first of many speakers I heard in my life that left me shaking full of admiration.

Michelle and Denise from Salt Consulting

It didn’t take long to convince me that these two ladies are pure potential. As an organisational psychologist who majored in leadership, I promised myself never to be a leadership trainer as majority of management workshops are costly, boring, ineffective, embarrassing, unsustainable, untransferable, and you get sore eyes from constant eye-rolling.

Boy, was I proven wrong here!

If this was consulting it was how it should be done – authentic and powerful, tough but not rough, and very importantly: fun. They have set up a simple phone camera and gave us the opportunity to spontaneously pitch ourselves, our business or idea in a few seconds on camera. It took Denise 30 seconds to understand me and fully mirror me, the words I want to say, the pose I should take, etc. and thus role model how it could be expressed. This gave me a huge learning opportunity in a very short time.

I have done this kind of elevator pitch stuff a lot and even with my students when I taught a course years ago. But I never really appreciated it until now. It is an amazing tool, a great method to get out of your comfort zone, to know your vision by heart, and dare to say it out loud. This was an extraordinary experience! 

All speakers were truly amazing.

Emma Doyle is a tennis Australia high performance coach

Emma came to the stage with her tennis racket and jersey underneath her white suite. Admittedly, I lost maybe 5% of what she said due to her strong down-under accent, but that made me cheer for her even more. She’s so funny. She showed videos of girls and tennis, and it reminded me so much of my own project some years ago where I led poly-sport camps for girls in Switzerland and why I truly loved doing that.

Sports, team sports or just doing sports together is one of the best ways to develop yourself and your team skills. It can make you stronger, embrace success and failure and help you understand that mistakes are part of the game. As a former high performance volleyball player I am specifically touched by sport-related stories. I know how it feels when you work so hard, but loose or never get to play.

What I learned during those years is priceless: I can do anything if I work hard for it. I have not only gained self-confidence, but maybe more importantly, self-efficacy – the strong belief, that I have the innate ability to succeed and achieve my goals. And last but not least, very important in order to not end in depressive burn-out syndrome, I also learned to accept my limits and to stop and say no when a goal is impossible to achieve.

This sounds like I have it all figured out now…

But let’s make one thing clear. I don’t. Not at all, I still have no idea where I will be in 30 or 60 years. I still cannot manage my household or save enough money. I still overeat or yell at my kids. I am so far from being perfect. And what is perfect, anyway? Along the lines of one of the speakers, nobody likes perfect people.

I don’t look for balance anymore, I look for meaning and joy.

What will be my next concrete step towards a bigger life? Inspired by Danusia Malina Derben I deleted the word balance from my long term goal. She is an incredible business woman, founder of School For Mothers and a mother of ten and knows that balance is a myth. There must be a better way to have it all. I always thought I needed work-life balance, but what I need is a happy family, a meaningful career, and time for the things I enjoy.

And talking of joy, to make an event like this to work for also those not so touchy-feely people, Emma Stroud was simply the best MC. I think it is incredibly helpful if you do not take life overly seriously and sometimes just laugh.

So, my first step to follow the event and the commitments I made to myself was to have a date with my husband. Sounds very un-feministic, but taking the time for the most important people in my life is not so easy (especially with two toddlers) because I still believed in the myth of “having it all”. The second step was to connect with these incredible Festival people on social media and share the joy. I wanted them to know how grateful I am. I have recommend their work to others, such a simple gift to give someone. And my third step, was to write this stuff down (in this blog!). Writing things down creates a strong connection in your brain and increases your commitment to make things happen.

I am writing this on a train to Frankfurt in Germany where I will be presenting at an academic psychology congress on how to measure artificial intelligence from an interdisciplinary perspective. This AI stuff is not very touchy-feely at all, and not very feminine either (yet!). But still, I can take the lessons learned with me and will put them into action right away. I’m planning to work hard and to grow a network as a the ambassador for Women in AI in Switzerland and get out there with my A-IQ project.

In my opinion, this is what being a #doer is all about. Don’t get lost in the echo, step up and put plans into action. 

~ Marisa

Marisa Tschopp is a DrivenWoman member in Zurich, Switzerland.



DrivenWoman is an empowerment program for ambitious women who want to achieve their dreams and goals fast.

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Thursday, September 20th, 2018

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