In April this year Newcastle life coach Matilda Wand was in hospital. Despite the circumstances, she was untroubled.
"My baby came four-and-a-half weeks early," she says. "While in labour, I was giving instructions [to her staff], and dealing with clients by Zoom."
Such is the pace of life for Wand, who has never been one to sit still for very long.
Since featuring on the cover of Weekender five years ago - when she was driving a coal truck, working as a firefighter and aiming to play American football for Australia in the World Cup - she's turned things up another notch - becoming a certified life coach, getting married, having a baby and buying a bigger motorcycle. The 32-year-old is still a full-time firefighter (currently on maternity leave), but has dedicated herself to learning the skills to become a life coach over the past four years.
When Wand was 17 years old, her boyfriend attempted suicide in front her. He spent months in a coma before dying. She was not equipped to deal with the tragedy and trauma that followed, but she eventually threw herself into a intense program of professional and sporting pursuits. Over the past four years Wand took a deep dive into becoming a life coach. As her client base grew - with professionals paying $3000 to $9000 for a 12-week course to make major transformational changes in their lives and business - so did her knowledge. Now, Wand is about to launch a book, Freedom is Within, combining her life experience with insights that people can use as a toolkit to deal with life's challenges.
What's a typical day and week for you?
I value freedom and variety, so no two days are similar. In the past I woke up early and would achieve as much as I could in a day. Now I enjoy my life at a slightly slower pace. I wake up and play with my son, go for a long walk outside then my 'work' day starts around 11am when my personal assistant arrives who helps with the care of my son while I'm coaching. The days go really quick, and working on my business, whether I'm coaching clients or doing admin, it never feels like work. Even as the founding director of Freedom is Within, I still only work less than 15 hours a week. It's great.
Has the pandemic been a factor in the situations your clients are dealing with?
Definitely. Firstly, it has changed the way we communicate. Even though I was doing online coaching prior to COVID-19, my clients are now 100 per cent online. There are challenges that clients haven't necessarily had to face before, like being in lockdown - having to let go of staff, massive financial loss and relationship breakdowns. But this isn't always the case, as some clients' businesses are thriving and they want help taking their lives and business to the next level.
Your own story includes a troubled life in your teenage years and overcoming rough times. Does that experience give you a different outlook than other coaches?
We all base our current selves on the experiences we have had in our pasts, so most definitely yes. I have been through many challenging and downright ugly situations which does give me experience to draw back on. I am mindful though that just because things were a certain way for me, it does not mean it will be like that for someone else, that's why I love the coaching process as it is not about me giving advice, it is all about the client and how they can move forward breaking free from the past so they can step into new thoughts, feelings and behaviours that better serve them now and well into the future.
When did you realise you had a book in you, to offer as a life coaching tool?
I had wanted to write a book called Suicide to Success for many years, but the more I grew and learnt, the more I moved away from this story, as I believe, whilst it has certainly shaped the woman I have become, it does not define me. When I was starting my own journey to understand more about myself, my emotions and my behaviours I felt like books fell short in a few areas. They either offered a 'silver bullet' to fix your problems with one single tool ... or they left out how to practically apply the tools into your own life ... This is why I wrote a book with real-life examples, practical how-to applications that is perfect for busy professionals or people who already have an interest in self development.
In terms of managing your own life, what is the key to your success?
Prioritising areas of my life. I ensure that I finish what I call 'quick wins' as soon as they come in so nothing ever piles up and I make sure I set time aside for each area of my life. Bub takes priority, business is Monday-Thursday and weekends are spent with the hubby. I am very lucky to be on maternity leave with Fire & Rescue at the moment. I do miss it, but know that at this point in my life I am where I need to be right now. I still keep in touch with my fire family and the Commissioner has already read my book and given some advance praise before it's released, so I am pretty chuffed about that. No matter what I have on, when I prioritise appropriately I don't miss the important stuff like down time, fitness and fun.
I also love to outsource. I have a supportive team, three amazing coaches, my personal assistant who works alongside me, a social media manager in New Zealand, a graphic designer and a virtual assistant. I choose to spend my time and energy coaching instead of the other areas where I can have professional help.
What is it about motorbikes that you enjoy so much? After parting with your Harley 2020 Low Rider S, what's going to be your next bike?
I love the bike community, nothing beats heading off for a few days on the bike, travelling the windy roads to places I've never been with friends I'll have forever. Recently I have been looking at a few Harleys and almost bought one from North Queensland, but the bloke thought I was a scammer and wouldn't take my deposit. It had a stage 5 performance kit so I was really looking forward to riding it.
As a life coach, you deal with successful people. Is that the norm - the good want to get better?Do you take clients who only want to deal with personal issues rather than professional issues?
Yes my clients are generally highly successful and want to improve a specific area of their lives or get out of a funk they've been in. Clients range from our local area of Newcastle through to the east coast of America, Africa and the UK. Most clients are directors in multimillion-dollar global companies, so their challenges are unique, both professionally and personally. The coaching processes I use look at the individual's entire circumstances, so it is never single-faceted.
You have health professionals as clients. They respect your perspective, training?
Yes and the tools are different from mental health professionals. Comparing a coach to a psychiatrist is like comparing apples and oranges. Like in any field you will have a range of skills and choosing the right professional may take some attempts. Having proper accreditations and being a member of the International Coaching Federation and the Australian Board of Neuro-Linguistic Programming is important to me. Always check credentials.
Are you conscious of leading by example?
Besides prioritising my life effectively, I use my physiology to my advantage by holding my body language how I would like to feel. Most of the time this happens on a subconscious level now. I also value speaking my authentic truth and love any challenges that come in front of me, as I see them as opportunities to learn more about myself and others. Having empowering self-talk is a game changer to the quality of your life.