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Lift as you climb

Emma Grey

Be the ‘someone’ who makes the string of little differences that add up to change for the better, for everyone.

Last week I had the privilege of interviewing Jessica May, founder and CEO of Enabled Employment, at a Canberra Wise Women event. Jessica spoke of her experience with mental illness, and her activism in creating recruitment opportunities for people with disabilities. 

It was her tattoo that caught my eye. “Lift as you climb,” it read. The words come from a quote by African American feminist and racial justice advocate, Mary Church Terrell. The longer version reads: ‘And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long.’

What a difference it would make if most people adopted this philosophy in every corner of their lives: workplaces, families, friendship circles, sports teams, music and theatre groups, in traffic, in queues, in schools—what if, everywhere, people were cognisant not just of their own personal development and achievement in a situation, but of facilitating the development and achievement of everyone around them. How much progress would we make together then?

I think about this as I scramble out of grief. As I articulate what’s happening, I’m trying to make sense of it myself, and in the hope that my words will bring understanding or comfort to other people. This is where I’m specifically ‘lifting as I climb’ right now, but here are three other ways we can do this.

Delegate well at work

This is about more than passing out the tasks. It’s about seeing an opportunity to fill a gap in someone’s experience and patiently teaching them a new skill. It takes time. Often more time that it would take just to do the thing yourself. But as you climb higher in your career, take others with you by offering opportunities for them to learn and progress. 

Model this at home

Our children aren’t lucky enough to be presented with perfect parents who always know what to do. We make mistakes, and we’re in an ideal position to model how to learn from them. There are ‘teachable moments’ scattered all through our week, and they need not be shared in anything more formal than a casual comment or observation. As we rise from our own mistakes, we can take our children with us, building their resilience by proxy. 

When something frustrates you, change it

My dad used to work in a building from which he had a direct view of a dangerous intersection. He saw a number of accidents before writing to local government and police suggesting the traffic lights that have now been at that intersection for over two decades.  

Most of the world’s most useful inventions evolved to plug a need. So often, we traipse over the same clunky processes, cursing the situation without giving any thought to fixing it. We’re good at ranting (at least, I am) and venting and sighing and rolling our eyes, and when things are frustrating, one of our most common shared thoughts is, ‘someone should fix that …’ 

Be that person. Be the ‘someone’ who makes the string of little differences that add up to change for the better, for everyone. Let’s all do it, and watch the ripples this creates in our world.  


Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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