Convenor Keynote 2020

The Australian Career Book Award – Convenor Keynote address 2020 delivered by Lawrence Arnold FRSA, Award Convenor

The awarded book for 2020 is Quietly powerful by Megumi Miki, published by Major Street Publishing

The six Finalist Books this year all demonstrate the journey along the writers’ road, with its ups and downs, its bursts of acceleration, and the frustration of an unforeseen border block. The peaks of inspiration and celebration are accompanied by the troughs of isolation where writers find the soul to push forward to tackle the next hill.

No matter how inspired a book is, the reader experience needs to be clearly crafted with the soul of writing before we can release the spirit of celebration!

On a warm summer evening late last year I attended a book launch that was such a celebration. One role of the Award Committee is to engage with career writers and publishers by attending book launches, seminars, workshops, and writers’ festivals.

The book launch that warm summer evening was for Megumi Miki’s Quietly powerful. It was a well-crafted celebration, and I’d like to add to that celebration by declaring that the 2020 awarded book for The Australian Career Book Award – supported by the Royal Society of Arts Oceania is Quietly powerful by Megumi Miki. Megumi … Congratulations – and celebrations!

The Quietly powerful book launch that summer evening drew a big crowd. Behind the registration desk was Megumi’s young daughter – a typical teenager in jeans and runners tapping away at her phone. I thought it was nice she’d come along to support her mum. Megumi started her welcome, and I noticed that the daughter suddenly appeared in the corner of the room transformed into a tu-tued ballerina in preparatory position. Megumi introduced her, hit the music, and we were taken to another space, enthralled by art and athletics. After a burst of applause, the ballerina disappeared to return later disguised as a typical teenager, in jeans and runners, tapping away at her phone.

I began to think that maybe this was what Quietly powerful was about – deliberately harnessing your energy to do something, doing it, changing the vibe in the room, and then going back to quiet. Reading the book filled out that first impression.

In the noisy workplace of high-energy activity, charismatic colleagues, stressful deadlines, mega meetings, and persistent PowerPoint presentations maybe a year of working at home in peace and quiet, and thinking about things more … has been a blessing in disguise. The first of the Australian Core Skills for Work is ‘manage career and work life’, and Quietly powerful guides readers to manage by using their real personality, not the persona they think would be more acceptable at work.

There’s a two-part strategy to becoming quietly powerful. Firstly, appreciate fully your natural qualities and skill sets. Secondly, adapt purposefully by adding to your skills for a purpose instead of trying to replace what you have, because what you have isn’t good enough. Darwin is often misquoted: originally it wasn’t ‘survival of the fittest’; it was ‘survival of the most adaptable’.

To appreciate fully, Quietly powerful adopts a narrative approach to change the stories you tell yourself, and how you brief yourself on what’s happening in your workplace. You can choose a negative, a neutral, or a positive interpretation. For example, you’re in a mega meeting:

  • ‘Everyone else in the room is so much smarter than me.’ That’s the negative.
  • ‘Everyone in the room has some expertise required for this meeting.’ That’s the neutral.
  • ‘Everyone, including me, has something to contribute to this meeting’. That’s the positive.

If you state the positive, you give yourself a Licence to Thrill. How you do that may need some creativity, but at least you’ve taken a seat in the Casino and dealt some cards. I point out that this exaggerated metaphor is my doing – because ‘Everyone, including me, has something to contribute to this meeting’. In fact, my only criticism of Quietly powerful is that it doesn’t have enough exaggerated metaphor – but maybe the thought leadership, the conceptual depth, the clear understanding of the readers, the targeted exercises that operationalise the concept consistently throughout the text can stand by themselves, and help the readers ‘manage career and work life’ on their own terms.

You’ll see that today I’ve taken the opportunity to be Quietly powerful because ‘Everyone, including me, has something to contribute to this meeting’, and now that I’ve contributed, I’ll take the opportunity to be powerfully quiet, and allow Megumi to respond.

Megumi Miki – congratulations, and celebrations.

Lawrence Arnold, Award Convenor