Keeping it Real Series – Success

IMG_1209I was honoured last month by my speaker colleagues – National Speakers Association- as NZ’s Educator of the Year. Last year I won NZ Speaker of the Year. It is always wonderful to have your work acknowledged by your colleagues and the hundreds of congratulations emails, posts and messages are always lovely to receive.

However, living in New Zealand, we have this unspoken cultural condition going on – The Tall Poppy Syndrome. Once all the congrats have died down – here is what I am often asked… “Why do you go for these awards – is it ego?” or “You have won so many awards – why don’t you let others have a turn?” or “What do you have to prove?” Interesting questions which have forced me to ponder over the years – why?

Recently my friend and colleague Meg Gallagher posted this quote:


The first sentence really resonates with me – Work for a cause not the Applause.

I truly believe this – and while putting myself up for awards may seem like a need for applause to others, and yes let’s face it who doesn’t like acknowledgement for the work we do, for me there is a bigger reason.

Following my recent post My world feels like it has been rocked… I have uncovered a link between the accolades and my blog on  Transformational Learning.

Before I reveal my link, I do highly recommend the process of applying for awards. It is a wonderful opportunity to take some time out of your busy life and reflect on where you have been, your successes and learnings, a chance to focus forward, to articulately restate my mission and purpose, my drive and my commitment to moving forward.  There seem to be so few opportunities for this in my life. The old adage that we will often do more for others than we do for ourselves rings true here, and as this is a  self inflicted yearly review with a deadline it ensures it gets done.

So why else do I do it? What is the link? The pressure! When people look at me receiving the award and think, “I wish that was me,” or tell me how inspiring I am, or I send the information out via social media and I perceive people thinking; “Oh look there she goes again” or “Really her?”  – it simply adds more pressure on me to live up to the expectations of others. The award is about pushing myself to greater heights.

The pressure is immense and perhaps why many people do not go for such awards. Or maybe it is the fear of failing which truly stops them. Perhaps they are scared of success – as this does take me outside my comfort zone.

Please don’t get me wrong – I love my comfort zone – I am really attached to it. It is warm, safe and comfy inside. Yet I know that being in a state of comfort stops me (and you) from growing. My ideal is to work on expanding my comfort zone slowly – to take tiny risks and give new ideas and opportunities a go. I read recently the idea that as your comfort zone expands, so does your definition of yourself.

However, as Ilya Prigogene and his law of Thermodynamics states the more pressure, the greater the change (or growth.) That’s why I enter for the awards, to grow, to stretch myself and to scare me. And if I don’t win (as often happens), I am thankful for the reflection process and am keen to learn from the winner.

I want to be a Tall Poppy – someone others aspire too and with this comes the pressure I wrote about in a previous blog My world feels like it has been rocked… about unmasking and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and real.




I love this Brene Brown quote – she owns the being vulnerable space and I highly recommend her work. To grow we need to stretch that comfort zone, risk failure and be vulnerable.

So when was the last time you did this consciously? You said to the Universe/God/Spirit – give me pressure that will stretch me and cause me to grow? I believe you can consciously welcome this in, or Universe/God/Spirit will send it unannounced and packaged in a way that might cause alarm.

Which awards could you apply for to stretch your practice, profession and self definition?

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Published on Monday, October 13th, 2014, under Learning, Success, Transformational Learning

Karen Tui Boyes is a champion for Life Long Learning across nations, industries and organisations. Winner of the NZ Educator of the Year 2017 and 2014 and the NZ Speaker of the Year award in 2013 & 2019, Karen is a sought after speaker who continually gets rave reviews from audiences around the world. Her dynamic style and highly informative content—which turns the latest educational research into easy-to-implement strategies and techniques — sets her apart from others in her field.

7 Responses to “Keeping it Real Series – Success”

  1. Julie Small says:

    Hi Karen
    Hearty congrats! Glad you feel proud to stand up there. This ‘tall poppy syndrome’ is an interesting one! The impact you have made on so many lives of students I have worked with is in itself a testament. Young people need to see people like you doing what you are doing so keep at it. WE can’t encourage young people to stretch themselves and stand up if we don’t model it!

  2. Robyn Keen says:

    Hi Karen

    Congratulations for your award and my reaction to your success was not one of jealousy…it was “I knew she deserved it”. You are my role model and I am always inspired by your posts and public speaking that I have been fortunate to attend. You have influenced my thinking and commitment to the Habits of Mind. I wish I could shadow you in your work so that I could grow myself by observing and reflecting someone who believes in being pushed out of their comfort zone!! Take strength from knowing that there are many people that admire you and being true to your passions is also something I value dearly. Keep up the great work that you do.
    Robyn Keen

  3. Clare Feeney says:

    Brilliant! Loved this one, Karen. Go for it! All the best – Clare

  4. Carol Hughes says:

    Hi Karen,
    Congratulations. Well deserved. You are inspiring to us all.
    Carol Hughes

  5. Putting oneself forward for Awards is definitely a ‘self-audit’ process, in that the application process exposes us to probing questions about our ability to perform at the level expected by the Judges, and are we really the person who is deserving of the Award?. Being selected for the finals then exposes us to scrutiny by our peers, and we then have to look closely at how congruent we are being. So stepping up for the Award is real perturbation, and can make one feel very vulnerable!

    Then, once we win the Award, the “Tall Poppy” syndrome kicks in, and many people who you would have thought would be pleased for you are the ones who become most critical of your success and recognition.

    Keep striving to be that “Tall Poppy” Karen. It has been a privilege to have been a part of the application process for some of your Awards.

    To quote Marianne Williamson “Your playing small does not serve the world”.

  6. Karen – loved this so much, posted it on our Facebook page!

    Great conversation starter…

    And, as always, smart broadcasting of your personal brand…



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