“I completely re-invented myself using certain parts of the old, like creating a new car with old parts!”

I met Joanna around the time I was leaving my corporate world and wanted to venture into my own business. I just liked her: she had come from the corporate world and she was doing creative coaching. We had a coffee, I liked the way she came across and so I kept in touch with her.

I’m a CPA qualified accountant. Then I went over to a professional services firm which provided project professionals to organisations, and I did that for five years. Then I did recruiting for a year and from that migrated into setting up global strategic account management in the Asia-Pacific region and stayed there for 10 years, living overseas. It was a great gig. But I always wanted to get out and start my own business—but I didn’t know in what.

When I came back from overseas, my sister and I had set up as partners in a creative business. We were going through a rough phase of the business: we didn’t know where to take it and we didn’t understand in which phase the business was. I reconnected with Joanna. She tailor-made a program for my sister and me.

We met her for two or three sessions to understand the business and to think creatively around how we should progress. She’s very creative in the activities she gives you and the way she gets you to think. My sister discovered her alternative path was very clear: she always said, “If the business doesn’t work out I’ll go back in to my finance field”. When we resolved that we would leave the business and do our own thing, I had no clue what ‘my thing’ was. I didn’t want to go back to my old world: I had left it and never wanted to go back. So what was I to do? When I was going through this very dark phase of my life, the first thing I thought was, “I’ll go and see Joanna” because I had history with her and liked her style.

I called her and said, “I want to come to see you, I have no idea what I want or where my head is”. I did her Escape Hatch six week program. It made sense of what was happening for me and the program was spot on. As we progressed, Joanna diverged away from the program and customised it where I needed it; she skipped stuff that wasn’t relevant; she honed in on stuff that was. I was pretty diligent with doing my homework from the workbook and I found it a great process.

I completely re-invented myself using certain parts of the old, like creating a new car with old parts!

In every exercise there was structure but I occasionally wondered, “Why am I doing this?” but then it would become clear. She got me to think outside of my little box. I realised all of a sudden it had expanded my mind to think from a different angle. It is absolutely amazing because it gave me the ability to strike up new career possibilities that would not otherwise have come to light.

I was able to walk away from that six-session process and I had something tangible to take out into the market. I did not feel so lost and I knew how I was going to experiment: who to connect with and how to connect with them and for what reason. Joanna always said, “This process has ended, but now you’ve got to go out and experiment” because we don’t know if we’ve got the right idea.

The homework involves lots of exercises. If you want somebody look into a crystal ball and say, “This is what you need to” without you having to do any work, well I don’t think that exists.

It was partly a healing process which allowed me to reflect, to redefine and to look at things in a different way. In our sessions, I brainstormed a million ideas but eventually I came down to two things that were real for me. I came up with this ‘clean it, improve it, build it’ concept and I took it back to the corporate world I was familiar with. I now have consulting gigs which have come out of that process, which has been brilliant.

I’m applying my Asia-Pacific experience but I’m finding that I’m sometimes surprising myself by being able to connect the creative dots. We’re talking about something really conventional and then all of a sudden my head starts to think about how we can work creatively with the very conventional.

I got out of the ditch through the Work in Colour process—it was incredible. I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without it. It has made me feel safe about the transition: I’ve managed to do it methodically; I did my homework, I funnelled the results, reflected, experimented and applied my knowledge. When I had completed the six sessions, I felt I had the resources to go ahead, and the more experimentation I did, the more confident I felt. I have gone back to see Joanna a couple of times after the course ended, as a refresher, and it has been useful, encouraging and grounding.

I’m working back into the corporate world, but I have carved out a little bit of that freedom and creativity within that world. I want to have time in a café, I want to work from home. I feel like I am now living up to my own rap.

Joanna Maxwell


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