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On the Brink with Andi Simon

Mar 13, 2023

Hear how to rethink your life to find what really makes you happy

Today's guest is Julia Wolfendale, executive coach and director at On The Up Consulting. Julia is from the UK and has developed an exciting and valuable approach to helping people find happiness, success and fulfillment. Her book is entitled Five Ways to Focus and we discuss it as a starting point to help people better understand themselves. Julia has a master's in leadership and has trained and coached hundreds of leaders on understanding themselves and improving their daily lives. You are going to find our discussion itself very interesting. Do please tune in!

Watch and listen to our conversation here

Julia W video

The five ways to focus

These are significant to understand, and they follow other research which we use at SAMC to help our clients understand why focus is essential to their success. The five forces are freedom, money, recognition, fellowship and fulfillment. As you listen to Julia, you're going to ask yourself, Am I the person I would like to be? Or do I need to take stock of where I am and consider where I'm going? 

At Simon Associates, we have developed a program that's entirely complementary to Julia's approach. Take a look at it at It's all about trying to discover how can we change our story to find the kind of person that we want to be? And so much of this has to do with how the mind works to keep you comfortable and confident that where you are now is the best place for you. 

To connect with Julia, you'll find her on LinkedInTwitter and her website On The Up Consulting, or email her: 

Ready to examine what really motivates you and makes you happy? Start here:

Additional resources for you

Read the transcript of our podcast here

Andi Simon: Welcome to On the Brink With Andi Simon. Hi, I'm Andi Simon. I'm your host and your guide. My job is to help you see, feel and think in new ways so you can get off the brink. And I'm always delighted to find people who are going to help you do just that. You know, I'm a corporate anthropologist. I'm a business owner and entrepreneur. I coach lots of folks. But I've learned over the years that new ideas come to you from different places in different ways. And somehow you'll hear something, and you'll go, oh, that's what Andi's been saying. But here's somebody else who said it and all of a sudden it clicked, and it helps me do something I've been trying to do.

So I have with me today a wonderful woman from England. And if you've been listening, we've had somebody from Paris, and somebody from South Africa. The world is coming to us and we're sharing great ideas. Julia Wolfendale is a terrific individual for you to listen to. Let me tell you about her and then she'll tell you about her own journey.

She's an executive coach and director at On The Up Consulting. What a great name! She's the author of a new book called Five Ways to Focus. And she's qualified to the master's level in leadership. She has trained and coached hundreds of leaders on how to have the best sales and get things on the up. She had previous roles as a marketing director for a large global company and also worked in large public sector companies.

She's developed an innovative set of tools, training courses and programs to transform, and I say this is a very important thing, to transform conversations at work. We've had other podcast guests who talked about conversations, and Judith Glaser has that wonderful book called Conversational Intelligence that I use in all my leadership academies. But we live conversations. And those are the crux of who we are and how we interact.

She now specializes in strength-based coaching and writing, helping organizations get the best out of their people with coaching conversations. So this is going to be such fun. And she also wrote another book called The Trouble with Elephants that she started when she was 12. And so there's a story behind that story I'm sure. Julia, thank you for joining me today.

Julia Wolfendale: Hi, it's great to see you, Andrea, thank you for having me.

Andi Simon: Julia, I gave them the overview of your bio, but I know your story is a rich and very important one for them to understand why as an executive coach and a trainer, you've moved into this whole area of improving conversations, but building better places to be and also to find them fulfillment and happiness. Who is Julia? Let's understand who you are so they can understand why this matters so much, please.

Julia Wolfendale: Oh, thank you, Andrea. So I guess my work career really started out when I got a Business Studies degree and went to work for Adidas, the sports clothing brand, and really being part of a big corporate setup really interested me. And then I was fortunate enough to move on and become a marketing director at Helly Hansen, again, a global sports brand. And having that opportunity to see different cultures, different people in different cultures of the organization, and in different countries in the organization sort of coming together and sharing ideas, that was always something that really interested me.

But particularly, I guess I've always been interested in what motivates people, what gets them to do the amazing things, and working with sports brands was really interesting because being able to see people perform at their best, use their body in the most incredible ways to compete and to perform and to really challenge themselves. But from a marketing point of view, I was interested in how do you get people to think differently about what they're capable of. So I suppose there was always something in me that led me to now, which is this coaching. So really recognizing that we are capable of so much more. And sometimes we have to challenge our situations, our environments, and ourselves, to make some changes to think differently and to find ways that we can be at our best.

So that's taken me many years to kind of come to this point now where I can say I have a successful coaching consultancy. I'm coaching leaders. Throughout the week, people have really important jobs and CEOs of hospitals and working with public sector organizations where people have really tough jobs and helping them in their professional lives, and thinking about how they can be at their best, but I also train in organizations and help them develop their leaders by having chats that matter. And that's our signature program, which is about changing the way they have conversations with their people using a coaching style of recognizing people's strengths, really unlocking that potential, and tapping into people's passions and what they care about so that they can be motivated and successful, happy and fulfilled at work.

And I guess that's what so many of us care about. But perhaps we don't always have the ways to do that. And I suppose that's why I wrote the book, because sometimes having the chance to focus on the stuff that matters to us and recognize what we're capable of is kind of the first step towards that. So the book, Five Ways to Focus, is around dealing with all the other stuff we could be doing. We end up getting involved in all the other things that we're thinking about, and actually just getting it down to really what matters to you. What changes are you ready and able to make? And what difference will that make for you, if you did?

Andi Simon: You know, it's interesting, because I have several leadership academies for corporations. And we're actually at a point where we're talking about understanding that leaders must focus on themselves on one hand, and on empathy on the other, and then the third on the environment around which they are operating. And I often worry that there are too many things to focus on. And we're preaching a methodology of getting to understand what matters at the moment. I am so interested in what you have learned. Talk to us more about when you say the word focus in on conversations, intelligent conversations, give us a little bit more flesh to this so that I think our listeners and viewers can all sort of grab what is it you've discovered.

Julia Wolfendale: Well, I think it's around cutting through the noise and the distraction. So sometimes the little distractions get in the way of us getting on with the work that needs to be done, or the plans that we need to make. But I think there's also the kind of the internal noise as well. There's the self-limiting beliefs that show up the things that we give too much attention to really, and believing when actually we perhaps could look at them, listen to them differently, challenge them, question ourselves. I think being able to focus on some of the things that are physically and literally in our way, but also what are the things that we've kind of manifested in our own minds that we believe to be our obstacles, but we've had them for so long that they've become things that we don't even imagine not having that or don't even imagine overcoming.

So the book really helps break down and is focused around what matters much. So really getting someone to understand, what are they really looking for? And if they are thinking about a career change, really helping them understand and assess their life right now. What's working well, in all aspects of their lives. And what do they want to have more of? What do they need less of? You know, why they value the things that they give so much time and attention to? Or do they value the time? And do they value those things or if they just took over?

And so helping people sort of reassess their lives and their work included in that. And help them think about what do they want to learn? What do they want to be able to be or be able to do? And then also helping them think about the things that are really driving them. So what are they looking for, by way of a change, and if it is a career change, there might be things that matter to them that they have lost sight of? So I do find that when I'm coaching with people, when I ask them questions around some of the one of the five ways to focus is, what are you really looking for, and it's based around freedom, fellowship, fulfillment, kudasai, and money and getting people to rank those in order.

So if freedom is a big one, it might be because it might be their first thing, and they realize they don't have enough of that now. And that's what they really do want to focus on. So I'll ask them about, what does freedom mean to you? And it might mean they've got more freedom to make decisions, so more autonomy. It might mean freedom in the sense of being able to have a better flexible working schedule and then they will come to fellowship and it might mean that fellowship is something that is important to them, and having a sense of belonging.

Great connections with people at work really matters. And, they may not have that now and people are suffering from that, aren't they, because of the hybrid working environment and so long remote working, that sense of fellowship might really matter to somebody, but they kind of lost it or forgotten about that. So help them understand what does fellowship mean to them? And if they're looking for it, what would it be? How could it be represented at work, so that it might be about moving into a new team, or joining a new organization where they really share the same values and they feel really connected. And so they belong and that's a strong driver for people's sense of belonging. Or it might be fulfilling.

And I think too often we forget to think about what makes us feel good about work. Work can take up a lot of our lives, but it can be so much more enjoyable when there's a sense of purpose and a sense of personal reward, as well as you might be serving others and that might be enough. So where does that fulfillment come from? And what does that look like, and really getting people to recognize that. I'm feeling unfulfilled at work and that's the thing that I want to prioritize. That's something I want to focus on.

And that's such a lightbulb moment when people realize that something is missing. But that's not the thing that's ever in a job description, or ever advertised. You don't apply for a job because that gives me fulfillment? No, you just hope that might come along. Or you might forget that that was ever important at all. And then curious, what do you want to be known for? What is it that you might stand out? And there might be that you have some great contribution to make, but it's just not being seen or heard in your organization? Or in your role? Have you been known for that thing that you do or the thing that you want that you want to have that kind of recognition for?

And you might be the go-to person in your organization for that. But is there another place where that could be valued as well? And you take that to a sort of a biggest regret or grander scale? Or do you want to start a blog around the thing that you know really well that other people struggle to express or struggle to understand? And then, you know, money. What will it take? Do you have enough already in use, this is just okay. Just finding something that will equally help you pay the bills? Or is this a financial move for you? I want to make the move that will really give me the money that I feel is important to me in my life. So yes, just shifting the focus on to the things that really matter. That's what I'm talking about in the book, when you want examples.

Andi Simon: When you work with people, have you had your own epiphany about how important this is, I won't ask you which of the five matters to you most. But, I have a hunch that when somebody does have that epiphany, do they then begin to act on it, or help them actually change so that if in fact they're looking for kudos or recognition. They can find ways to do that or if they're looking for fulfillment and purpose, they can redefine what the world is, and actually act on it. How do you actually take them from discovery to implementation or something?

Julia Wolfendale: Yeah, that's a bit that really excites me as well. So I love that whole exploration with clients to help them think about things they've never thought about before. I'll bring to the fore the things that they are clear that matter to them now. But yeah, I don't like to leave people hanging. So I always kind of frame my sessions around how do we make that happen now, so very practical steps.

So another part of the book is, can you do that? What's possible? So, I'll be asking them, so what can you do in the next two hours about that? What could you do in the next week, the next month, the next three months, the next six months? People need to feel that they can make those incremental steps towards the goals, whether it's a short term, or longer term, we think about changing the timescale as appropriate. So just breaking things down. That's another part of the five ways: the focus approach makes it small and achievable, but still aspirational enough that someone feels this is stretching them and challenging them and changing them but with the courage and the confidence to do that.

Andi Simon: You know, I think you get so excited about what you're doing. It's really quite remarkable because people are in need of a pause and a rethink of where they're going, and to create a new story about what they are becoming because they live already what's in their minds today. Once you got that story, there you think that's reality, but it may not be right. So true.

Julia Wolfendale: Yeah, so true. And for me, particularly, I can remember sitting in my business studies degree and I can remember being asked in my university class to sit and write down what I wanted to be and do. So I wrote down that I wanted to be a marketing director by 25. And I was, and then it's like, oh, now what? And then I had my first child, and I had a fantastic, fantastic job, as marketing director, and had my first child, and then everything sort of changed my priorities pane.

And I can remember being stranded at Schiphol Airport in Holland, after having this problem with the plane, and we couldn't fly home after having traveled over to a sales conference with the company, and really just weeping that I was already going to have to leave my six month old daughter for even longer.

And at that moment, I thought, something's really changed for me that if I'm going to do the work, if I'm going to try, if I'm going to have to be away from my child, I really want the work to be fulfilling. And it changed. So what excited me when I was 25 and 30 was the marketing, the campaigns, the brand building, all of that was fantastic. And then suddenly, my social conscience just really kicked in. I worked for 13 years in the public sector as a manager in a local authority, managing and organizing Children's Services, really deeply fulfilling as well.

I think, to be able to ask these questions of yourself at different times in your career and different times in your life, because you'll want different things. And it's okay. And I think people think that you get one shot at choosing your career, whereas there are very many paths to get to feeling fulfilled and satisfied at work.

Andi Simon: You know, so it's interesting, Julia, after my second book came out, Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business, I took the "how do you do that" at the end, and I turned it into an online do it yourself video program where you can rethink your story, not just for your career, but for your life. And I love when people take it because sometimes you need a guide, or you or me, but more often, you just need the discipline to try and pause and know what to do to rethink your story.

And as you start to walk me through your own story, you had to have an epiphany, something went off in your mind and it was a catalyst. I always say, people, if you want to change, have a crisis or create one because the habits take over. It's so much easier not to change. Even if you're not happy at the end of the day, and you're not happy in the morning, when I coach people, I say, well, if you're not happy in the morning, we have to change the story. Let's go to bed with a happy story that you're going to wake up with so your mind is working on the happy not on the you are, just what you believe. And it is so true. It isn't somebody's doing it to you, you're doing it to yourself.

Julia Wolfendale: Yeah. And I think the thing to notice is that we all experience our jobs differently. We all experience our own situations differently. So just because other people in your team might think this is the best job ever for them, but if it's not working for you, it's really okay to just check in with yourself. And if it's not fitting in with your family or your other priorities in your life, it is totally okay to ask yourself, what am I really looking for.

In the book we're talking about change points and boiling points. And the difference between those is the change points is when changes are coming about. So the organization is restructuring, to mean that change is kind of naturally occurring. Or it might be a change in yourself like you're approaching 40. We see a lot of people who are kind of reaching milestone birthdays and have a rethink, like you say, pause, restart, reevaluate. Or it might be that a pandemic has caused a lot of people to reevaluate their lives.

So there's change points that occur anyway. And they either come about unexpectedly because of external circumstances, or because of the natural process of aging or life change. And then there's boiling points. And it's important to pay attention to both because the boiling points are kind of less easy to spot. But if we tune ourselves into them, we know we're approaching them. So it's when those work stresses are just compounding and then it might just take something happened at home as well, which is the trigger but actually work wasn't great anyway.

But, then suddenly, work just fell short of being sustainable or too difficult to face every day because there's now other stuff that's not going well in another part of life. And so many people have additional caring responsibilities now that haven't been, with our aging population, etc. So, I just think, noticing what those boiling points are as well and having that courage to kind of check in and ask for help. You know to reach out and ask for a coach or read the book.

So you know, the help is available, but to notice that you might be at a boiling point, and people might be thinking, I need to change things for me. It's about taking charge, it takes a lot of courage.

Andi Simon: It does. And you know, as you think of your own story, I love the story, because you had a plan at the beginning. And you actually fulfilled it, you didn't have to stay in it. And your life took a turn because you had this wonderful child, and you realize there was more to what you were all about than just what you were doing at the time. That's okay.

Now, you've taken another turn past that and I do think that the most interesting time is a startup time, because that's when you're in the explore stage. You're really not quite sure what this is. But I know what I'm doing isn't whatever that means, and life is a short journey. And when one of the biggest challenges, and I have a hunch, you're going to begin to see it as people are reaching that age of retirement, and they have no plan for the next phase. So the next phase in their journey, and it doesn't take them long to have an aha moment, which says, this is not what I expected. There's only so much golf I can play. And it's not the financial money that's motivating me, it's fulfillment, it's purpose, it's recognition, it's fellowship, it's belonging. It's all the other things.

Now you have to remember, we're humans, and humans need all those other things. You know, Daniel Pink has a wonderful book called Drive. He talks about autonomy, mastery and purpose. And I do think that humans are herd animals. The secret to our success is our collective minds, sharing ideas. It's really understanding that what you think is not just about you, it's more than just about you. It's about the world that we live in as people and it's a great time.

And your book is great. I mean, as I'm listening to it, I'm saying this is really terrific because it gives people a way of reflection, as well as purpose and intention to begin to move into the next part of their journey. And it's okay, you don't fail. On the next part, well, that's pretty cool. Are there any illustrative cases that you can share? Or are they all private cases?

Julia Wolfendale: Confidentiality is with coaching people, so I always really preserve that. That's really important. But I suppose the book really has the tools that I use in coaching that are in the book. So you know, they've come about because they're tried and tested, and they are the things that help people shift their thinking. And I think that what I know really works well is giving people that space to reflect like you say, and think about what's possible, and really tap into their true potential.

And I think focusing on people's possibilities is such a shift because their self-talk can be so negative around what we're not going to be able to do or why we're not as good as somebody else. So I just think through that, and I've learned that through the coaching that perhaps we do share a dim view of ourselves. And through coaching, it's always about discovering what someone's really capable of, and that's really exciting. And through the book, as well, the questions that I asked people to ask of themselves will be ways that they'll discover what they're really capable of. And, even sometimes, just giving people a chance to check in and go at their pace. And that's the beauty of it and reading the book is that it's just all kind of in you. It's in bite sized chunks.

Andi Simon: Sometimes the mirror isn't showing you what is real. And you can have a hard time figuring out where am I? And the pandemic sort of accelerated a lot of those questions. And in some ways, everybody started to reflect on what's next. And coming out of the pandemic is as challenging as almost being in it because you can't go back to what was before, and you're not quite sure what's coming next. And uncertainty is one of those things that make people most uncomfortable, basically should be the way they are. Well, they aren't really and you're crafting them as you're living and you need to see the future if you're going to live today. This has been such fun. Are there one or two or three things that you don't want our listeners to forget? Because those are always important.

Julia Wolfendale: Yeah, so I think that they get to choose, they get to choose how to think and they get to choose what to do with their thoughts. You can choose how to think. You can choose to cut through the noise and to focus on the things that matter to you. But that does require you to sit down and really think, Okay, what matters to me? And if you feel that you've been driven very much by what other people's expectations are, you might find that things feel a little empty for you at the moment for people to really reevaluate and have that kind of life.

Through the book, there's always a big question that helps people reflect, followed by some action questions that really help people move forward with that insight. And I just think everybody's insights are true for them. And everybody's actions have to be right for them. So it's not about comparing with other people, everybody is on their own path. And sometimes it feels like you've strayed from the path. But hey, that can be part of the path to realize too. You're where you don't want to be right now. And that's a chance to come back a couple of steps or take a different turn completely.

And you know, so not to be so harsh in judging how you are in your situation, and remind yourself that there is a way to rethink and think yourself out of a particular situation. But a lot of it will mean thinking well of yourself. And just rediscovering really what's available within you. Coaches always think about things particularly like this stance. As a coach, I'm very much a supportive, challenging coach. But I really believe in people's resourcefulness and reminding people of that. I think it's important to sort of tap into what's already there, and how it can be reused and then kind of used to point the way forwards for somebody.

Andi Simon: And what's so exciting about what you're saying is that it's in your hands. I preach that as well. If you think that the problem is outside yourself, that's the problem, because you can't fix the outside of yourself. You only can fix how you see, feel and think about it. And if you can't craft a new story, you can't live a new story.

When I work with people who move this way, as you're asking them hard questions, you have to come to the point where you're ready to move this way to begin to hear your own self, your heart beating. If you can focus on that heart, and begin to see what makes you remember, we decide with the heart, and the head comes in as the eyes, the heart, the gut, and then the head. So don't try and beat yourself out of it. You've got to feel yourself out of it.

Julia Wolfendale: That's right. And those boiling points, notice that you're experiencing those even if people like you aren't. If that's your experience, notice it. Notice what you can do about it, rather than kind of sit with the problem too long. Because though, that's when we get really stuck and withdrawn and disengaged and disillusioned and disconnected. And it's so much harder then, isn't it, to kind of come back and offer up your best self to the situation. So just notice that it's good.

Andi Simon: Often when people look at career changes, I say, Well, have you spent any time with anyone who's in that career? Often, somehow they're imagining what it would be like to work in that field. I say, Well go. Take a leave from your job and go test out your imagination and see if something is better than what you have. But you may not really know what it is and why it's better. And just give yourself a little room to grow.

I'm an explorer by nature, my archetype. I'm an explorer. And I like discovery. I'm an anthropologist. I like to see things. All of the folks that you're working with need a little time to step back, pause and take a look at where they are and what comes next. And it's okay, and it may not work. I taught a course on entrepreneurship as a visiting professor at Washington University. And every one of the entrepreneurs said the same thing. I opened three businesses and I never failed. And I thought, interesting way to distance yourself from the outside. And never think of yourself as the problem.

Where can they find your book? And can they buy your book on Amazon or someplace?

Julia Wolfendale: Absolutely. Yeah. So the book Five Ways to Focus by Julia Wolfendale is on Amazon, in the US and the UK and worldwide. And also on my website And there's more about the book in there and what we're referring to coaching and consulting services as well.

Andi Simon: Okay, my friends, thank you for joining us today. Julia, thank you for joining us. It's been such fun. Your book is full of really important insights about how people can see, feel and think in new ways. So it's actually perfectly aligned with what we try to do and help people. For those of you who are watching, thanks for coming. It's always a pleasure. Remember that you decide with your heart and your eyes. So if you're stuck, or stalled, go explore. Spend a little time talking to people, maybe even Julia, maybe even me, but begin to think through, who am I? Where am I going?

You don't have to do it alone. You often need an echo back or place to vent, someplace to see, feel and think about where you are in life at a moment. And when you get too closed in, you don't see anything that's going on. Your mind deletes anything that challenges that story you've got. It's time for a new story. But you don't need to do it all by yourself and create it. And remember, your brain loves the habits, the familiar. They love the story that you've got, and they love pleasure. But it's what you're doing, giving you pleasure.

So it's a great time to pause, step back and rethink the five forces that will help you do that. So on that note, remember, I love your emails, . Our website is and my books Rethink: Smashing The Myths of Women in Business and On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights are both on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and local bookstores. And they continue to sell now. On the Brink came out in 2016 and it's still going strong. So I thank you all for just being good fans. Thanks again. Have a great day!