Watch Me Bloom: Emma Jackson
Emma is a producer for weird tech for The5GS, seen most recently landing a plane with Kevin Bacon and having Martine McCutcheon help a cancer survivor sing a very special Christmas carol. A coach to the tech and creative industries, Emma uses evidence-based strategies to help people with performance, productivity and happiness.
She is at her most vocal (read potty-mouthed) on Twitter and will look at literally any cat photo you have to show her. A huge believer in the side hustle - "my side hustles have safe hustles", Emma invests in tech, female entrepreneurs, whisky and art. Proudly and loudly neurodivergent, she counts meditation, the ability to brag, and daily cold showers among her superpowers.
In this month’s Watch Me Bloom content, Emma shares her four brilliant golden rules and the big lessons she’s learnt over her career. Read on to find out more…
What big lessons have you learnt over your career so far?
The single biggest thing I have learned over my career, as someone who is pretty easygoing (read unfocused!), is that if you are not setting your own agenda, someone else is using your time.
Setting your goals and considering them, upgrading them over time, and even changing them doesn't matter - as long as you have them! You will be SHOCKED at how smoothly things fall into place when you know what you want.
Some call it the universe; I say you just know what the right shape or fit looks like when you've been conscious about what you want. You'll look at things with an end in mind, and it will help you hold small and big decisions up to the light and achieve greater clarity. So be honest: what is it that you want? A million pounds? Your own company? Directorship? Maybe you just want to work three days a week so you can breed marmots! It doesn't matter how ambitious, weird, or even *gasp* how self-serving it is - the more pointy and detailed, the better!
When it comes to your career, if you don't know what you want or can't think of something 'good' to do, then do something weird! Do something exciting! Move country! Take ayahuasca in Peru and document your journey! If you don't know what move to make next, do something unusual so at least you have a talking point or something on your resume or LinkedIn that will make people say, "Wait, you did what??".
Trust me - I got into an industry that, as a working-class girl with no university education, I shouldn't have been able to get into (it was advertising). Because I had a story and because my CV stood out, I got interviews, and I wasn't going anywhere once I was in. I had travelled to Australia and worked in PR at a zoo, in Formula 1 as a 'fixer' and for Red Bull as a - actually, I'm not sure what I was, but it was fun :)
The lite version is to get a side hustle, a hobby, or volunteer. Doing something different helps you stand out in your career and opens you up to a broader range of people and experiences that literally expand YOU.
Finally, if your friends and/or partner don't support what you do and who you are - get different ones. Melinda Gates said who you marry is one of the most significant career choices you will ever make. Whilst not everyone wants to get married, there is an absolute truth in that statement. For real. I have always been very fortunate in this regard, but I know what it looks like when people are not. (Spoiler, it's not pretty, it's not helpful, and it holds you back a shit tonne.)
As you made your big bloomin’ change, what helped you through the process?
This is a great question - I wish I could say that I had help, but a hallmark of my family life and my early adulthood is that I didn't. I guess what I did have was curiosity (curiosity helps you be open to the existence and possibility of a different world or way of being) and a fundamental belief that I deserved respect, happiness, and fulfilment. If I found myself in any place that didn't allow for or at least have the potential for those three things, I changed something, or I left.
Discovering accountability and realising that the safest person to bet on was myself brought me everything I love. I am a born collaborator and team player, but I had to acknowledge that self-worth and happiness start from within. We have to be accountable for our choices; any time you say someone made you feel or do X, that's the time to step back and take a deep breath.
Accountability saved me - but it also helped me bloom. It led me to my adult ADHD diagnosis, my career on the path less travelled, and a life I feel gratitude for every day.
My four golden rules are to approach everything with:
Curiosity. Ask "Why?" instead of reacting - not only is this response disarming and diffuses situations, but it also asks others to reflect and helps you not take things personally. Let's face it: 95% of what people do has everything to do with them and hardly anything to do with you, so why spend all that energy thinking it is?
Compassion. Kindness toward others and towards yourself safeguards against all kinds of stress. If you can be kind to others, you can also be kind to yourself, wherever your weak spot is!
Accountability. When you decide that you are fundamentally responsible for your choices and your part in every dynamic you are in, there is nothing you can't achieve.
Gratitude. Wherever you are, whatever is going on, there are always things to be grateful for. You'd be surprised at how much resilience you can form with gratitude.
The good thing about the above is that even if they are not your natural states, you can learn them and practise them as skills until they become habitual.
What would you recommend to anyone feeling like they're in a similar boat?
To anyone else in a similar boat, I'd say get tested for ADHD and ASD spectrum! Diagnosis is not a label or a category to live up to - it tells you where to look for relevant information. There were so many signs, yet I went through three decades of not knowing where to look.
Imagine going into a shoe shop and not knowing or being able to find out your shoe size? Buying shoes would take a lot longer and be waaaay less fun. If you don't belong somewhere, find a place or people with whom you belong and learn from them.
More helpfully to everyone as a piece of advice is to develop your network. When you want to make moves, a network is the most valuable thing you can have. You don't need to obtain influencer status on social media platforms, but if you have a network that you are an active part of (do favours, connect people, be helpful, be curious), you have a voice and a safety net.
How did you work through this change?
There are so many courses available and so much education you can apply to yourself with autonomy. Once you have decided on a direction, you can learn new skills to help you acquire your ambitions. I am constantly learning; one of my greatest strengths is my love of learning.
So in this love of learning, I can leverage a skill that the demonstration of not only gives me joy but also opens up new paths and opportunities. Notably, I said yes to opportunities and yes to being the dumbest person in the room so I could learn.
What kept you motivated during your period of change?
I can't tell you I was always motivated throughout two decades of change. A lot of the time, I think I was overwhelmed. Or anxious, lacking role models or a safety net. I guess the great thing about having always been pretty overwhelmed was that it didn't stop me. I moved onwards because what else was there but change?
The one thing I could do was keep going until I felt a bit better, until I felt empowered, until things were good, and finally - great. The truth is that you don't need motivation - it really fucking helps, but you don't need it.
You need a goal, and from the goal comes a plan, and the plan breaks down into baby steps, and you can take a baby step every day because it's just a baby step. After a year of baby steps, you might have climbed the mountain.