The right kind of 10% braver?

I’ve realised that for a long time, I was doing 10% braver all wrong. I’m writing this in case some of you are doing it wrong too, whether you’ve realised it yet or not.

Following the WomenEd hashtag on Twitter and listening to those I respected around me made me feel as though I was only being a strong and courageous woman if I was being 10% braver often. I could only change the world by doing the kind of 10% braver that left me exhausted. Everyone else seemed to be spinning so many plates and contributing so much of themselves to others that I felt I needed to keep up. This says a great deal more about my outlook at the time than it does the community that is WomenEd but there was an aspect of 10% braver that I didn’t hear anyone talking about.

There were good kinds and bad kinds of 10% braver.

There was the kind of 10% braver that others expected of me so I did it without questioning whether it aligned with my own values and moral purpose.

There was the kind of 10% braver that filled me with fear and dread to the very soles of my feet so that I could barely think, act, sleep or function. It was the kind of fear that I told myself I should expect if I was being brave.

There was the kind of 10% braver that left me utterly exhausted at the end of the day, week, month and year as I put in more and more work hours to make up for perceived deficits that I thought only things I was scared of could rescue me from.

There was the kind of 10% braver that made me give all of myself to others, leaving none of it left for my life.

It’s only with time and perspective that I’ve been able to notice this. At the time, I thought I was progressing my career, grasping for my potential that felt ever out of reach, and moving beyond myself and all my perceived areas of weakness; rising above. I proclaimed to everyone that I was being 10% braver and received well wishes and congratulations with women championing me from all corners. I thought that this was feminism. This was belonging. This was progress. This was success.

Was it?

I hid all of the shame, the stress, the not living up to my ‘potential’, and always striving for better when ‘better’ meant taking me further from myself.

In a previous role, I was asked to ‘coach’ a number of colleagues after their ‘developmental’ observations had been deemed inadequate. When I worked with one colleague in particular, she was initially excited about the opportunity and I enjoyed being in her lessons. I practised my self-taught instructional coaching as best I could. She left the organisation. For a long time I owned this as my own failure to coach and to develop another person and so I continued to dig deep and do the job that was asked for me with other colleagues. I perceived this as me being 10% braver at the time; stepping outside of my comfort zone and developing areas I saw as my own weaknesses to make progress and achieve success. It was an even longer time before I realised the reality. Here was a system that was anything but living up to it’s ‘developmental’ label. The coaching stemmed not from a desire for a teacher to improve with the help of a colleague but from a breakdown of communication and a lack of a respectful relationship between the teacher and their manager. The involvement of HR added an obtuse angle of capability that aligned neither with my role nor my soul. It is also obvious now that I look back how many of these teachers were BAME. I was so focused on myself and my own perceived lack of skills and knowledge that I failed to recognise that my 10% braver was facing in entirely the wrong direction. Instead of challenging the system and choosing another path, I was harming both myself and others by stepping so far out of my comfort zone that I was no longer in sight of myself.

I use this example as one of many I could have chosen to share with you. I use it not just as a means of excising some ghosts but also to demonstrate the kind of compromising 10% braver we can persuade ourselves into in the name of anything but a joyful life lived with values and purpose.

I can’t say that I’ll never say yes to something in the name of 10% braver that I really should have said no to but I’m far more aware of the nature of bravery that nourishes me rather than damages me. Let’s take a look at this healthier kind of 10% braver.

A healthy 10% braver is one that leads me to running a bookshop in Scotland and living out my dreams.

A healthy 10% braver is one that leads me to sit and shake my head on the side of a jetty as my partner leaps into the warm holiday sea before taking a moment, a deep breath, plunging in and doing things in my own way without being unnecessarily reliant on the encouragement and support of others.

A healthy 10% braver leads me to applying for a job I know I will love in an organisation I know I will feel proud to work for even though it means jumping clean off the ladder everyone else set up for me to climb so that I can return to myself.

A healthy 10% braver leads me to suggesting that we shout at the full moon whilst flying along in an open topped car beneath the starry night sky to experience the kind of joy I want to feel more often (would highly recommend by the way!)

A healthy 10% braver leads me to running a workshop at work about diversity because I think it’s a conversation that should take place. I set aside the fear I feel because this is insignificant in the face of the challenging conversation that needs to be had.

It’s also the kind of 10% braver that allows me to take my lunch break, to finish work on time, to focus on one job at a time, to not feel the need to respond to colleagues immediately, to take a walk if my head needs clearing, to set aside thinking time, and to make the right decisions in my working day for my health.

None of these are easy, especially that last one, but I don’t feel the same discomfort I felt when I was living out others’ values and expectations of me. I don’t feel the same sense of unease at departing so far from who I am instead of drawing on my strengths.

Take care not to be fooled into thinking that something that makes you feel good more than it does fearful is not filled with bravery and therefore isn’t worthy of your time or celebration. It takes courage to live your life on purpose and to be true to your values. Far more courage in fact than is needed to live someone else’s life and diminish your own value in the process.

A healthy 10% braver never expects perfection from you. You can demand as much or as little of yourself as you feel capable of at the time. Sometimes the bravest decision is to stop.

A healthy 10% braver may still be accompanied by a voice that says you can’t do this but your values can guide you to a decision that sets aside imposter syndrome and your inner gremlin.

A healthy 10% braver doesn’t sap you of your strength. It makes you stronger.

A healthy 10% braver doesn’t make you feel as though you’re living someone else’s life. You’re living your life on purpose.

A healthy 10% braver doesn’t feel you with crippling dread. It’ll lead to joy.

Anything that doesn’t is mere imitation. Leave it be. It doesn’t serve you.

Being 10% Braver

Today was a Development Day packed with the sharing of practice, the celebration of great work and plenty of festive fun.

It also contained a sprinkle of added bravery and we can all blame Amjad Ali and his TeachMeet last night, #TMOxford. I was thrilled to find a live feed for an event I would have ordinarily attended but that a move up north, a class until 4pm and a Development Day had prevented this year. As I watched on the train, listened in the Co-Op and made notes when I got home, I was inspired by the words and passion of many of the presenters:

  • Jaz Ampaw-Farr and her celebration of the amazing heroism of educators- highlighting the important, and often life-altering, role we are privileged enough to have.
  • Natalie Scott and her authentic self, great practice and inspirational stories of very real students and their very real lives.
  • Vic Goddard and his ever-influential ‘good sense’ advice and love for the profession.
  • Amjad Ali and his infectious enthusiasm, good humour and overwhelming generosity. Mainly this man because somehow, he’s always had the power to inspire me- to blog more, to share my ideas more, to host TeachMeets and to be brave. I’m unsure what his secret to this is…

And so I ran, excitedly, to my partner and babbled about yet another last minute decision- a great idea I’d had and how I was so excited, but scared, but I must go and do some work now! We’ve been together for 9 years. He’s seen this excitement before and usually responds with a knowing smile, a nod of the head and a calm reminder not to be too long or to work too hard (knowing full well that I won’t be finished until it’s finished). Last night was different though- he got excited with me and entertained my ramblings far longer than usual- we realised that this was the first time, in more than a year that I had been THIS excited about something. I resolved that it had to go ahead and that the only way it could was if I told everyone on Twitter, sought the encouragement of the @WomenEd community to be #10%braver and told my Principal, Heather Smith, to hold me to what I was going to do (without letting on what it was).

3pm arrived and the time for being brave was all of a sudden upon me. I had come close to not speaking at all at the end of the day out of fear, frustration and fatigue. Would 10% braver make me feel more confident or would it make me regret ever having the idea in the first place?

Below are the slides and ‘script’ I sort of followed except didn’t as I just held it in my hand the whole time … Proud!

Here’s the video so that you can find out what I ACTUALLY said, if you want to:



Earlier this year, I was introduced to the idea of being 10% braver- originally emerging from the #WomenEd movement- and I was inspired to give it a go!

I’ve done a few things over the last year that I’ve considered to be a % braver


Changing jobs.


Moving cities.


Speaking at a national conference.


Heading back into the classroom


Sticking it out for another day, week and month when I really just felt like this…


But last night, watching a live feed from a TeachMeet- an event where educators get together to inspire one another, I felt inspired to get another few % in before 2016 was over. So you can blame educators gathered in Oxford for the reason I’m stood in front of you now.


Today was a Development Day originally intended for sharing practice and celebration.


We’ve seen a great deal of sharing practice today- NOTES

I actually left my notes in the office so I tried to remember them.. I managed 3 of 4 without prompt…

In Foundation Studies, a lecturer was sharing how Functional Skills standards could be dissected to enable students to receive personalised English and maths targets. 

In Design and Visual Arts, the team spirit was clear to see throughout the day and they were focussing on their areas for development in collaborative, supportive and purposeful ways.

In one of the ETF workshops, staff were engaged with exploring vocationally relevant maths and English starter activities their teams could make use of.

In Media, Performing Arts and Academic Studies, staff were exploring how to incorporate more British Values in their practice.


But I’m left wondering how much celebration has taken place…

I’d like you to spend some time thinking about what you would choose to celebrate this term.

Firstly– congratulating yourselves- the first term of an academic year can often feel like this…


(gif shamelessly magpied from Amjad Ali’s #TMOxford presentation)

If we’re lucky then we have colleagues, like these, who help us over the finish line…


(gif shamelessly magpied from Vic Goddard’s #TMOxford presentation)

What are the small, and not so small things you’ve done this term that should be celebrated?

Secondly– congratulating your colleagues. Who has done something a % braver this year? Who has taken an action that gets them and us one step closer to transforming the life of another?

When I say so- you’ll find slips of paper dotted around the room. I’d like you to take a few moments to write a note to a colleague- something you think they should be taking some time to celebrate. You can choose to do this anonymously or otherwise- just make sure you fold it up, place their name on it and drop it in the box on the way out so that we can share it with the recipient as a motivator for the start of the new term!

But before you do that…

16 Dec- 10% Braver (19).png

The January Development Day is themed as a Festival of Learning- a day where we can gather together to learn something new and turn it into an action. I’d like each of you to commit to being 10% braver next term- finding that one thing- even though you may be taking brave risks already- What will your 10% be?

How did it come across to others when I shared my brave moments from the year (arrogant)? What did people think when I only shared 4 pieces of practice shared on the day and all from curriculum teams (left out)? Should I have given some time to writing their celebrations instead of passing onto the next speaker (almost definitely)? How much of what I intended to say was missed out and meaning lost (parts)? How did senior leaders feel about what I was saying as I hadn’t told them anything (disappointed)?

There are a hundred things I could have said or done differently but I refuse to fall into that Hannah trap again. I did it. I will celebrate it. I will feel proud. I am now free to catch-up on work, prepare for holiday and enjoy Christmas food and company.

I felt inspired to go 10 % braver. I was truly authentic ‘proper’ Hannah for the first time since I started my new job. I consciously went all in for 10% braver and I can honestly, hand on heart, say that I enjoyed what I was doing for the first time in a year (after the fact anyway and some of the during it too!) It felt purposeful, meaningful and I hope I achieved some of my aim:

Giving others the permission to feel proud of their achievements, giving them a giggle at the end of term and an opportunity to celebrate their colleagues. 

I am inspired to bring my authentic self to work more often and I’ll definitely be committing to more 10% braver moments next year.

I hopefully inspired at least 1 or 2 others while I was at it.

Some of the messages of celebration to be posted to colleagues for the start of next term:


Next time I feel I can’t do it, that I’m not the right person for the job, that I don’t have the right personality or skills- I’m going to remember this moment, seek out those who inspire me the most and take a shot at 10% braver.