Shirley's Articles / Personal Effectiveness

If You Want To Be More Successful, You Have To Take Risks!

I’m writing this post from Sheffield in the UK right now, where I’m enjoying visiting family and friends. Last week I was honoured to speak at Executive Secretary Live, organised by Lucy Brazier and her team from the popular magazine Executive Secretary. What an awesome event it was, with 7 international speakers and 120 delegates from 17 countries. Congratulations to Lucy and your fabulous team!

The event started off with a great animated movie, and all speakers and participants couldn’t resist getting up to dance around the room to show how ‘Happy’ we were to be there.

Speakers discussed various topics at Executive Secretary Live, from workplace bullying to dealing with conflict, form how today’s assistants are transforming the workplace to the power of forming internal networks, as well as time-saving tips for Office.

My own keynote presentation was focused on my journey from shorthand-typist to secretary, from winning Super Secretary 1981 competition in Sheffield and the North of England, to qualifying as a trainer, and subsequently how I travelled from Sheffield to Singapore, Bahrain, Canada and back to Singapore. I shared with participants the key stepping stones along my journey, and the significant turning points in my life.

After connecting all the dots, I analysed that there were two key elements of success in my personal journey. The first was that at every stage I had to step out of my comfort zone. I was reminded of this yesterday when I watched a fascinating TV programme starring Will shared some of his own journey. He said, “Living in a ghetto and coming from nothing, I never dreamed I would have a studio like this, or a house like this. We must never stop taking risks, always going a bit further and then a bit further still.” The TV show followed Will on his first solo tour, and he admitted he was a little nervous, saying, “It feels weird. I’m so used to performing with the Black Eyed Peas.” So once again, he was pushing back the boundaries of the comfort zone, taking it one step further. continues to take on new challenges, saying enthusiastically, “I love to make music, but it seems like there is something else. I am reaching for something more. I just don’t know what it is yet.”

I smiled when Will made his next statement: “I am ignoring problems and paying attention to my dreams. You have to put yourself in a situation of opportunity, optimism, confidence, determination and discipline. And you must particularly surround yourself with good people.”

Why did I smile? Well, this matches perfectly the second key element of my own success, which I highlighted at the Executive Secretary Live conference. Every significant turning point in my life was influenced by people and great relationships.

Something else I learned about is that, unlike many people, he wants to pass it on. He doesn’t want to keep it to himself. An active philanthropist, he promotes the power of a good education. With his own foundation and scholarships, Will is involved in several very exciting projects for young people.

Will was writing a new song in the video, and here’s one of the lines from the song:

“Don’t be afraid of the dark. Look inside.
When it’s dark outside, shine your light.”

I think we can all learn a lot from this inspiring, affable rapper, and I hope this will encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, too.

Look inside yourself and find the courage, the positivity, the confidence. Don’t be afraid of the dark. Let your own light shine brightly!

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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