Four Days on Necker – What I Learned About My Great Work From Richard Branson

When the invitation from Virgin Unite arrived, asking Gulliver and I to join Richard Branson, Amal Clooney and a host of other amazing activists and speakers on Necker Island for an event entitled “Disrupt For Good”, it was one of those “pinch yourself” moments.

How does a heavily tattooed, working class punk rock girl from the suburbs of Brisbane find herself at one of the most exclusive gatherings of thinkers and movement makers in the world? And what does she learn when she does?

This article could easily become a book with a blow-by-blow account of everything that happened over four days – it was all that impactful on me. Instead, I’ve narrowed it down to my top take away from each day. These are the things that have had the biggest impact on me and my business since getting back.

Day One:
The most successful people on the planet are looking for ways to use their wealth and influence for good

Not a Bad Way to Spend Your 37th Birthday! With my awesome friends Emma Greyson and Kim Seeling-Smith

People want to talk a lot of trash about people with money. And sometimes it’s justified. It’s certainly not as though every CEO of a large corporation or every individually wealthy individual got there by doing the right thing.

But it’s still pretty rare to hear the stories of hyper successful people and what they’re doing to make the world better. Mainly because – they’re not doing it for the applause. It’s not a publicity stunt. They’re working away behind the scenes to affect real change and to leave a legacy of impact.

I’m not one of those people who thinks people with money are evil – but even I was surprised by the level of dedication so many of the very wealthy people on Necker displayed. It gave me a sense of relentless optimism

One of the major conversations on Necker was about reforms to the Criminal Justice System. We spoke, at length, about the privatisation of the prison system in the US and the issues that had created. Then, someone said,

“Well. We could just buy them.”

And a very serious conversation followed about the feasibility of that concept.

Because these guys are willing to put their (considerable) financial resources where their mouths are.

Day Two:
You Can’t Do It On Your Own

Due to the nature of my work – mentoring small business owners – I see a lot of people who are interested in changing the world. But I also see a lot of ego in that. Yes, there’s a lot of talk, for instance, about “empowering women”. But a lot of the people who talk about that, mean that they should be on a stage empowering women.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered what kind of impact it would have if the hundreds of different women I’ve met who are intent on empowering women, worked together to achieve their outcome, instead of holding on to the “women must only be empowered by me” mindset that I see so often.

Watching a room full of people who were significantly more wealthy and successful than me put aside all ego and focus on what they could do collectively to create real and lasting change on the planet was a revelation.


Day Three:
Great Work, Social Enterprise and REAL CHANGE

“White Night” is a Necker tradition. What’s more appropriate than a storm trooper outfit, I hear you ask? Nothing, said Gulliver.


This, for me, was the biggest breakthrough I could have gotten – and at the perfect time. For the last two years I’ve been working on building out The 8 Percent concept. And while I knew I was on the right track and just about there with the values of Excellence, Creativity and Courage – I knew something was missing.

When I heard Camal from Change Please talk about his for-profit social enterprise, which takes homeless people in London off the streets and trains them to be Baristas, it was like the lights came on.

I realised that THIS was what had been missing from the conversations I was having with people around Great Work.

You see, when your Great Work is focused on you, your family and your immediate community (i.e. people who are exactly like you), then its impact is limited.

And THIS is why people experience the “Million Dollar Meltdown”. Because when you’re making $800k-$1M, you have everything you need for you, your family and your immediate community.

Setting higher financial goals will make you more money – but they won’t fill the sense that something is missing. That it’s all empty.

When you begin to take not only a global view, but a generational view, the meltdown disappears and your Great Work comes into focus.

To quote Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute:

“If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”

Day Four:
Poor People Buy Things – Rich People Buy Experiences

Emma Greyson and I In the Great House On Our Last Day


This is something I already knew, but I experienced it at a whole other level.

Years in the business development / internet marketing / coaching / wealth creation space had left me feeling disillusioned. I was burned out on being surrounded by people who only care about making money for and helping people who were “like them”. The amount of blatant sexism, racism, ableism, and general unconscious first world privilege I encountered was exhausting.

Part of me feared that this was just the reality at the top. That “Captains of Industry” all felt entitled to everything they had and saw no issues with hoarding instead of helping.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It was an outstanding lesson in getting outside of what is familiar – outside of your industry and the things it takes for granted.

Necker isn’t cheap. For two of us, once everything was paid out, we spent two or three house deposits on attending. It was worth every cent, in no small part because I finally felt as though I’d found a place where I belonged. A place where people weren’t just talking about making a difference, but actively engaging in it.

Obviously, an investment at this level isn’t a possibility for everyone (although if you ever get the chance to go, I strongly recommend you take it!). And that’s why Gulliver and I have worked really hard to incorporate the things we learned on Necker into the 8 Percent Festival in Melbourne in October. With ticket prices starting at just $197, it’s a lot more achievable.

You’ll get the opportunity to meet, spend time and engage in conversations with ground-breaking and provoking thinkers, movement makers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

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