Shiny, Noble & Awesome – Leadership Embodiment for Kids

Last week, I finished a two-year long personal development course.  At the celebration event, we were all talking about the journey we had been on and the fact that this isn’t the end.  It can’t be – we are always changing and developing, whether that is because we want to or because we have to.  The difference is in how conscious we are of it and what direction we take it in.  Throughout the event I was thinking, how would be life have turned out if I had know some of this stuff as a child?  Granted, much of my learning wouldn’t transfer easily to the kids but some of the fundamentals should.  Being open to leading on things that matter to them (i.e. leading for a purpose not for status or power), working with people effectively and in a way that fits with who they are as people, knowing who they really are in the first place – all things that I’ve been learning to be more open to and yet see in the kids every day.  What the hell happens to us during the transition into puberty and then adulthood that suppresses this and how can I help them keep open to it?

A huge area of my development recently has been learning to work with a range of different people to deliver on some tricky, messy stuff, in a way that feels natural/right and fits with how I want to work (I’m trying to avoid the word authentic here but that’s what it is).   A huge eye-opener for me was learning to acknowledge how I was feeling about a person or situation.  Maybe it’s a societal thing, or the culture in which I work, or how I grew up (I suspect probably a mixture of them all) but I realised that I suppress a lot of how I’m feeling but it still has a big impact on what I then do.  Now! I thought, if I could help my kids stay in touch with this side of them as they grow and encounter what life has to offer, wouldn’t that be a gift?  And that’s exactly what my mum has been doing with the kids for some time now – adapting what she’s learned about Leadership Embodiment to help the kids recognise the fact that they have a choice about how they react in any given situation if they can be aware of how they are feeling about it.  Ok, it might seem like some hippy-dippy s**t when you first hear about it but if you can get passed that, there is definitely something valuable here.  I’ve been encouraging her to develop these ideas further as I think parents (and even a wider audience) would find it really helpful.  It’s a different approach to parenting and so far, while it’s not a silver bullet, I’ve seen some amazing results.  So, as a starter, I asked her to write a blog post about it.  Really keen to hear what you think!

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Mischa being "shiny" when her unicorn poked her in the eye

Mischa being “shiny” when her unicorn poked her in the eye

When Keira asked me to do a blog post on what I’ve been learning and doing with Leadership Embodiment I thought, ooooo interesting, and this is such powerful stuff I’d love to share it people.  But the clue’s in the title, embodiment is about your body’s reactive patterns to situations, how do I put that into words…

Here’s my take in it (so far).  When we’re faced with a situation, whatever kind (exciting, scary, annoying) we react.  I can’t really explain the ‘embodiment’ bit and that’s where the real insights come from but your physical reaction to a slight nudge can tell you loads about how you react to non physical ‘nudges’: coming back from holiday to 300 emails or having to have a tough conversation with your boss . This work helps you to explore how your head, your heart and your gut (Amanda calls it your hara) react.

Imagine a family member says ‘what are we doing for Christmas this year?’

Head might say “I don’t really mind, what do you think?”

Heart might sink: “just don’t make this a big deal

Gut instinct might be “I wish I could go to Hawaii


Head, through gritted teeth, “I think it’s our turn, how about you come to us?”

Heart, ever hopeful “please say we can come to you

Gut, churning


Head “We’ll do lunch this year, I want to try out a Nigella cranberry sauce’

Heart “I love doing Christmas dinner

Tummy rumbling at the thought

This last one is aligned.  What would it be like if you could have more of this in your life?  And it doesn’t have to be exactly aligned in order to say yes, it could be:

Head “I’d like to do something different this year

Heart ever hopeful

Gut, be brave

I’ve being playing around with these ideas with my granddaughter.  She was a bit upset one day, she was five at the time, and I said to her, imagine you have three boxes.  One is labelled ‘shiny’, one is ‘noble’ and one is ‘awesome’ (this is how Wendy Palmer’s guru describes head, heart, hara).

What do you think would be in the Shiny box?

She thinks for a bit and says “toys?”.

Ok, anything else?

em crayons?”

And what do you think is in the Noble box.  I’m not sure what she’ll make of this, is this word in her vocabulary…

helping the teacher to tidy up

What else?

being kind

And what about the Awesome box?

going really high on the swings

More recently, she’s seven now, I said, if shiny and noble and awesome were music what would they be.


No hesitation “classical


She’s started to speak in that American/Australian way when her voices lilts up at the end of sentence? Like everything’s a question? “ that’s like when you put on a CD? And there’s a story? But there’s also music?”

And what about Awesome


Mischa and Jude being "noble" with their cousin

Mischa and Jude being “noble” with their cousin

Here’s an example of how I’ve helped my grandson put it into practice.  I came home one day and he was having a major melt down with his Dad (he’s a kid, that’s his job!).  He went into the kitchen in a huff.  I said to him “that’s one awesome voice you have there but I think you could use it a bit more effectively”.  Grandad arrives with a load of shopping, grandson starts to build a tower out of soup cans.  “That’s pretty shiny dude!  And how about you tune into your noble and help granddad put the shopping away?”.

I came back into the kitchen 10 minutes later and grandson is helping dad chopping vegetables for the stir fry.  I like to think he found some of his shiny, noble and awesome and it helped him to cheer up a bit!

The idea is that when our shiny (creativity, sense of humour, logic), noble (kindness, thoughtfulness, honour) and awesome (courage, strength, rock n roll) is tuned into and aligned we can be ‘centred’.  Then it’s much easier to say and get what we need.

Jude being "awesome" holding a giant snake skin

Jude being “awesome” holding a giant snake

For more stuff about this, check out my guru Amanda Ridings and her guru Wendy Palmer.

Comments welcome.   And check out the first sentence, did you see what I did there 🙂


Reflecting on backpacking with kids – would we do it again?!

CIMG3652My word, time has flow and I can’t believe I haven’t posted for over two months!  That’s insane as it feels like only a few weeks have gone by.  And ironically, rather than having nothing to blog about, I’ve got loads but I’ve put my energy into doing them which has detracted from writing about them, for example, we’re preparing for Christmas a bit differently this year which I’m loving but definitely takes more time, trying to convince my kids’ school to support the kids start a social enterprise and taking part in Dinovember (you can see the photos on Twitter @EllaRove).  I hope to write about all this soon but wanted to finish up my little series about backpacking with the kids first.

Personally, and with a few months of hindsight now, I think this was one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on.  It was a gamble but what we learned about ourselves and each other was something I don’t think we would have got on a normal beach holiday.  I’ve been wracking my brain to think of anything that was less than positive.  Am I being selective in my memories? Other than a woman in Paris trying to scam us into giving her money (which lasted all of 20 seconds as Steven quickly clocked what was going on and politely and quickly moved us on), I can’t think of anything.

Why did it work?  The key was the amount of prep work we put in beforehand and this is made infinitely easier these days by the number of helpful blog posts out there (e.g. step by step instructions about how to get from the terminal in Charles de Gaulle airport into central Paris by train – total bonus for control freaks like me :)) and Google Earth so could find landmarks ahead of time making navigating around where we were staying much easier.  Deciding beforehand what we definitely wanted to do and what would be “nice to do” also helped us focus and not put too much pressure on us. Overall, we wanted to give the kids a sense of what it means to be a traveller (which for us was about spending our short time experiencing living in Paris) rather than being a tourist (packing in as much as possible into your time there).

I asked Steven and the kids what they remember and what they learned from our holiday.  Steven’s reflections were remarkable similar to mine: that he (we) could be overprotective and hold on to the kids a little too tight at times but that because we were away from everyday pressures such as work and housework, we enjoyed our time together much more and, ironically, didn’t feel we needed a break from the kids as much as we might do when at home and work and home and school pressures can feel overwhelming.  It helped him learn to let go a bit more and see that the kids are capable of so much more than we sometimes realise.  Mischa learned that she’s good at trying things she was maybe a bit scared of to begin with – sleeping in a tent, going on a boat – and that what she enjoyed most was spending time with her family.  Even Jude.  Jude, being the youngest, found this question harder to answer.  Whenever we ask the kids where they want to go next, they say back to France, but when I delved a bit deeper with Jude, he can’t remember a lot of what we did and saw.  However, I think he remembers how he felt there and that’s why he’s keen to go back.

So, did we met the criteria we set for ourselves before our backpacking holiday?  Pretty much:

  • Flying from Edinburgh Airport  – TICK
  • Should include at least two foreign countries – one of which being France as Mischa had just started learning French – TICK (and she used some of her French too 🙂 )
  • The trip should feel as close to a backpacking holiday as possible so we decided no hotels but also, to reduce the stress factor somewhat, no hostels – TICK (Airbnb apartment and camping)
  • The kids wanted a swimming pool at some point and a chance to meet other kids. – BIG TICK
  • The main part of the trip to come in at around half of what we would pay if we were to go back to Tenerife during the first week of the summer holidays (which would have cost us £3,000 – WHAAAT?!!) –  the main part of our trip (flights, train and accommodation) came in at approx. £1,600.  We then had local transportation and food on top of that so it was probably closer to £2k.  I might be rationalising here but given that the holiday was 10 days rather than a week and the quality of the experience we got, it was worth every penny and more.

I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone to try something similar to this.  To go off the organised holiday route a bit – when it makes sense and it doesn’t scare you so much you’d never do it (for some of the other holidays I want to take the kids on, I’ll definitely be signing us up for an organised tour).  But amazing things can happen when we try to be even a little bit braver and not let ourselves be scared by thoughts of what might happen.  The week running up to the holiday, I was swinging between feelings of total excitement to those of dread and thinking “why the hell are we doing this to ourselves??!!”  But I am so glad I didn’t listen to that last voice.  This next year, money is going to be tight because we want to do some stuff to our house so we won’t be doing any backpacking around Europe for a while, alas.  But Steven and I have decided to take what we learned and try to do something different in the UK next year.  Can’t wait to see what we decide on.  For me, the value of a holiday is as much the anticipation and deciding what to do as a family, as it is the experience itself.