Six time world surfing champion and the quintessence of an iconic Australian woman, Layne Beachley has succeeded in the pursuit of her goals and dreams. Now is her time to give back and inspire others to do the same; and her foundation, “Aim for the Stars”, is her platform. Layne will be a keynote speaker at a special Aim for the Stars Women’s Forum at Club Taree on March 15 …
Hi Layne. Please give us some background on the Aim for the Stars Foundation; how and why was it founded?
I founded the foundation in 2003; it was at a time when I had written the history books and become a six time world champion. I started to reflect on my career, and a friend of mine from Macquarie Bank suggested I start my own foundation, because as you know, when you become successful people want you to represent their initiatives and their causes to help raise their awareness and profile and opportunity. He said: “Why don’t you start your own?” I thought, “Well, why would I do that?” And he said, “Because no other surfer has”. So I thought, “That’s a good enough reason for me!”
I love being a female pioneer, and I decided to start “Aim for the Stars” to provide financial and moral support for young girls to invest in their future and fulfill their potential, all based on the challenges – especially the financial hardship – that I experienced in the early years of my career.
I was number two in the world back in the mid ‘90s, and I was working several jobs, up to 60 hours a week while I was competing, training, surfing and touring, and it just made it incredibly difficult for me to achieve my goals. I reflected on this one particular moment in time when a boss at one of the places I was working at – it was a pretty salubrious establishment call the Old Manly Boatshed. He saw how hard I was working and how committed I was to achieving my goal and basically said, “I believe in you; here’s $3,000”- and that paid for my next around the world air ticket.
That was a catalyst moment for me, that really changed my life to a point where someone outside of me saw how hard I was working and had the belief in me to invest in me – which increased my belief in myself and made me want to work harder to achieve my goals. It took another couple of years for me to get out of my own way and then go on and achieve my goals, but, if it wasn’t for people like him and other mentors in my life, then there’s no way I would have gone on to do it. It was all just too hard at the best of times.
You’re coming to Taree for the Aim for the Stars Women’s Forum on March 15. Introduce us to some other keynote speakers who will be joining you at this leadership forum …
I can introduce you to a couple. One of them of course is me, but there’s also a terrific scientist – a chief scientist at the CSIRO – Dr Cathy Foley, who’s an absolute go-getter. She’s full of energy and enthusiasm and life; she will amaze you with the amount of knowledge, business statistics and analytics and graphs that she has to share in regards to things that she’s done in her career and the choices that women make that prevent them from achieving their goals. She’s not a believer in the glass ceiling, neither of us are; it’s a matter of inspiring women to fulfill the motto of the foundation, which is:”‘Dare to dream, pursue a passion and aspire to achieve”. She is the epitome of that, she is hilarious and loads of fun and an incredible role model for women – especially in the science and technology sector.
For those who are attending the event, what will they experience on the day?
A lot of life lessons to be shared. There’s an immense amount of vulnerability and honesty; our speakers have basically redefined what it means to succeed in a male dominated environment and they’ve made it OK for other women to follow in their footsteps. They’re great role models, they’re great mentors, they’re full of life lessons and knowledge that they’re wiling to share with everybody, and that’s the difference between being a woman who’s creating a legacy as opposed to a woman who’s going through the motions.
All of these women are living to their full potential and creating a framework and a platform for other women to do it too. I have this belief in my mind that there are few female pioneers, because women tend to believe that can’t achieve something unless they see another woman do it first. Because of this imposter syndrome mentality that woman have, we tend to put our hands down before we put our hands up; whereas, men – whether they’re under equipped or not truly capable – they’ll still have that confidence to put themselves forward, because they’re willing to learn on the job. Women have to overcompensate for this lack of belief in ourselves by being over qualified to perform a particular role.
These events aren’t exclusive to just women – men can come along too?
No, they’re not; they’re an open forum for both men and women …
Not only are you holding a leadership forum, you’re also going to be inspiring youth on your visit. Tell us about this …
We are visiting a Taree high school and doing a vitality workshop with the kids, where we will take them through a bit of exercise and speak to them about health, wellbeing and how work- life balance doesn’t exist – it’s more about work-life alignment, and the way you can achieve that is by prioritising yourself first. We’re going to be sharing some life lessons with these kids, giving them a sense of clarity and direction and eliminating the pressure that seems to be on teenagers that they’re meant to know exactly who they are and what they want and where they’re going. I think that’s unrealistic.
This year the foundation awarded 40 applicants scholarships across a number of categories. Who is eligible to apply?
Scholarships for 2017 will be open for application in the middle of July this year, and they’re open until November. We have seven particular pillars that we’re focusing on. We have Sport obviously – a misconception about “Aim for the Stars” is that we primarily focus on athletes, but we don’t – we focus on Business and Leadership, Community and Culture, Environment and Sustainability, Science and Technology, and the Arts, Music, and Education.
Then criteria involves the applicant selling us why we need to give them a grant, we ask a variety of questions, we ask for them to demonstrate the need, their goal, what they’ve done to towards achieving the goal, demonstrate how the grant will influence or hugely impact their capacity to do so, and then show what they’re doing to give back to the community.
We’re creating future leaders and by doing that, we want these people to realise that once they become successful, they’re now a role model and responsible for inspiring others to do it too. Giving back to the community demonstrates that full circle requirement we expect from our ambassadors once they become a scholarship winner.
Women tend to compare or measure themselves against other women and put themselves down and believe they’re not capable, just because “they’re not like me” or I’m not “just like her”. Whoever they’re measuring themselves against, I like to say that comparison always leads to a sense of inadequacy; to compare yourself to someone even better or worse than you, you’re never going feel good enough. Aim for the Stars is a really inclusive, inspiring and empowering environment – one that elevates people towards success, because we want to see people succeed. I wasn’t born a word champion and I certainly wasn’t born with the ability to become one, but I was so invested in my goal of becoming a world champion … Then there were times when it was too hard and I had the courage to put my hand up and ask for help.
We like to award people who have the courage to say, “I can’t do it today” or, “I need help”, “I need the financial means”, or “I need the mentoring and support”. We’re rewarding courage, we’re rewarding vulnerability, and we accept that you may not go on and achieve your goal – and that’s OK too. But, at least you had a good crack at it, and we were there to support you. These scholarships don’t come layered with an enormous amount of expectations; we just want to be there to support and encourage and believe in women – especially at times when they don’t believe in themselves.
Join Layne Beachley and some of Australia’s most accomplished female leaders, plus enjoy a delicious two course lunch at the “Aim for the Stars Women’s Forum” on Tues 15th March, Club Taree.
Book a seat, $85pp at www.aimforthestars.com.au
Book a table or become a table captain: Amanda Tate: firstname.lastname@example.org