March 9

Who’s Packing Your Parachute?


On Tuesday this week, I woke up to the world spinning. I couldn’t open my eyes. Every time I tried to stand I’d fall over. The nausea was intense. My head felt totally disjointed from my body.

I managed to drag myself from the bed to the bathroom, knowing that the toilet bowl was about to become my best friend. There I was, sitting on the floor with tears streaking down my face, knowing that I had an inner ear problem I’d only ever had once before.

Later that day I was due to give a keynote as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations.

What on earth I was going to do?

“C’mon Janine you can do this,” I said. … Err, no I’m about to pass out.

I managed to reach for my phone. Still lying on the bathroom floor with the bright screen burning into my brain, I squinted and searched for a number.

I conceded. I had to ask for help.

Kieran” (sniff, sniff) “Are you free tonight?” (sniff, sniff) “I’m so sick. I have an awesome client that I can’t let down. I know they will love you. Can you help me and step into my shoes?”

“Hey stop. Of course I can,” she responded. “Are you OK? What more can I do? Leave it with me. Get back to bed and I’ll also free up my diary tomorrow for you just in case.”

Kieran is not just a friend, but a colleague, sounding board and one of the country’s most in demand female speakers and thought leaders.

But here’s the thing – there were no questions asked, no conversation about money, or what’s in it for her, just simply “Of course I can.”

Beyond. Awesome.

Without real friends around, real people who will drop everything to help you, well, it’s a long and slow way up from the bathroom floor.

It reminds me of the story of Captain Joseph Charles Plumb, Jr, aka Charlie Plumb. Charlie Plumb is a former US Navy fighter pilot and Vietnam POW turned author. He flew 74 successful combat missions over Vietnam, and it wasn’t until his 75th flight that his aircraft was shot down. Plumb ejected and parachuted to the ground under fire. He was captured and spent 2103 days as a POW. Years later, he described how he was approached by a stranger in a Kansas City restaurant:

‘You’re Captain Plumb.’

I looked up and I said, ‘Yes sir, I’m Captain Plumb.’

He said, ‘You flew jet fighters in Vietnam. You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down. You parachuted into enemy hands and spent six years as a prisoner of war.’

I said, ‘How in the world did you know all that?’

He replied, ’Because, I packed your parachute.’

So ask yourself this: Who has your back? Who packs your proverbial parachute and looks out for you? Who is there to help you? Who will go that extra mile simply because they care?

In the spirit of IWD, of #BeingBoldForChange, I learnt this week the real power and magic of being bold, being brave and asking for help and this blog post is dedicated to some of my pit crew:

  • Kieran Flanagan for being there
  • Lee Ussher and Ashleigh Connell for keeping the machine moving
  • My client for trusting that all would be good
  • Renata Cooper for checking in
  • My hubby and brother  – beautiful and incredible men who challenge norms as they go and support me always in my lack of conformity
  • My own little tribe of Flynn, Taya and Carter – all of you beautifully strong, independent, challenging, opinionated, curious, thoughtful and compassionate in your own unique ways.

And of course to you, my dear readers who continue to support and drive me everyday.

Remember that there are men and women out there who support you, will fight for you and will love you just the way you are.

They are the ones that pack your parachute, or pick you up off the bathroom floor.


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