Coincidence, fate and destiny can be controversial concepts for some.
We don’t believe it was a coincidence that when we raised the name ‘Kerryn Vaughan’ with people we received effusive, bubbly praise. Having recently hosted a successful Girls With Hammers conference and events associated with her Get Off The Bench initiative, the air around her West Gippsland community was seemingly brimming with Kerryn’s positivity.
Kerryn is a passionate speaker, author, podcast host, facilitator, mentor and agent for positive change — both in our local community and worldwide.
While Kerryn explains that her journey to helping people “live a meaningful life” was a course likely chartered early on, there was a fateful event that spurned her on to further devote herself to assisting others.
“I believe that when people feel great, they contribute more freely and openly to a better world"
When preparing for our interview with Kerryn, we spotted a screengrab of a recent online call that featured the Dalai Lama. Intrigued, it became the launching point for our chat with this dynamo.
Gippslandia: Firstly, can you please share what led to you being on a Zoom call with the Dalai Lama?
Kerryn Vaughan: Ian Speirs, founder of the One Better World collective, which I’m an Australian liaison for, invited me to take part in the Zoom as one of 35 special guests. Ian found me through (climate activist and changemaker) Clover Hogan, who was in my book Magnificent Kids.
I saw the Dalai Lama in person at a big event years ago, but the intimate setting was incredible. Even through Zoom I could feel the energy.
I have an ‘advisory board’ on my wall that I look to when I’m pondering something big and I need inspiration or advice. He’s been on that board for many years, so this was an absolute honour.
You've been on stage for many years now. What first attracted you to performing and what kept that passion burning?
From a young age, performing has given me a sense of value and self-worth. The universal language of music was an amazing way to bring joy and happiness to myself and others.
When I was growing up, our beautiful neighbour Edna taught me how to play guitar and it’s something I’ve loved ever since. Music has always made me feel alive and at peace.
I believe that when people feel great, they contribute more freely and openly to a better world — and by owning my space and inspiring others to really feel something, I hope this helps to create change.
Since having my thyroid out in 2017, I haven’t been able to sing more than one song in a row. This really threw me off-kilter for a while because it was such a big part of my life, but I’ve come to realise that I feel at home on the stage, and whether that’s singing, speaking or teaching, it doesn’t matter. The stage is my sandpit and it’s where I feel I can make a difference.
We notice the substantial praise for your work as an MC. Plenty of people out there have delivered horrendous speeches before, especially at weddings! Can you please provide some tips for being an engaging public speaker or podcaster?
I know I’m lucky to have a natural ability, but for those who are more nervous, there are a number of things to keep in mind:
- Always speak from your heart and wear your heart on your sleeve.
- Be vulnerable — people need to see the real you.
- Always be truly invested in the people you’re serving.
- Find common ground — things you both care about.
- Include stories people can relate to and take them on a journey.
- Keep people on their toes.
- Always include a sense of humour — this is really important.
- There are four commonly used archetypes you should try to cover in any speech: lover, warrior, magician, sovereign (these are easily searchable).
- Make people feel seen.
- Shine a light on the magnificence of the audience.
- Forget perfectionism.
- Don’t ever be fake.
It’s an interesting place to sit, and I often find myself reflecting that I’m such a staunch and active supporter of my local community, yet at the same time operating just as comfortably and confidently with worldwide organisations. A fascinating intersection of being local and grounded whilst also being immersed in incredible possibilities on a global scale. I find both equally fulfilling.
My social and bright personality has always lent itself to curiosity, opportunity and adventure. I’ve always been an inventor and problem solver, so have never really entertained boundaries or considered that I can’t do something. I always find a way.
I’ve always held a fascination with other cultures — but it wasn’t until writing Magnificent Kids that I truly realised I could have a significant impact. It was then I connected the global dots.
I’ve always been an advocate for injustice and fought for the underdog and have never really seen borders or boundaries dividing people as a good thing. I’ve seen people as people no matter where they live, what their religion or who they are.
Traveling overseas in my 20s was the start of really acknowledging and respecting other cultures, but it wasn’t until my sister, Carolyn, passed that I truly began serving others, which felt amazing and alleviated some of my pain.
Since I was a teenager, I wanted to work with villages in Africa, but never quite knew what that meant until it came to fruition through my not-for-profit One Planet Classrooms.
I think the key to any of this is to accept and embrace others and be open to opportunities. I’ve always been one to say yes and jump into new opportunities, and figure out how to do it later.
In my family, we were given the opportunity to learn with a ‘how to think’ philosophy rather than ‘what to think’ and this has had a massive impact on how I view the world.
You coach and mentor other people; how do you find the right point to trigger action in other people?
The two biggest things I focus on is their ‘why’ and looking at ‘what’s stopping them’ — which is usually self-doubt. There’s a beautiful intersection here and I can actually see a moment in their eyes when they are suddenly thinking ‘maybe I can’, and I try to amplify that moment and build momentum.
Essentially, they have everything they need within them, and often it’s about dragging all that information out of their head and onto paper, so they can have some brain space to start planning. When it’s all on paper, the steps seem so much more simple.
Usually, all it takes is for somebody to acknowledge what’s important to them, and to give them permission to take action. The truth is, they think I’m giving them permission, but in fact, they’ve just given themselves permission.
Through your various projects, you've worked with many different leaders. Some leaders are quieter and less assuming, while others can be bombastic with less substance. How do you unearth the right leaders to collaborate with in your
projects or bring onto your podcast?
Through my podcast, I look for a story of courage and inspiration for others, but also a sense of humility.
Most important to me is finding people whose stories or actions will resonate with others, so they feel they can make a change. It’s like, ‘If she did then maybe I can too’.
When looking to collaborate with leaders I find it’s an energy thing. When someone is genuine, they have an energy about them that truly touches your heart and you resonate with them. They’re doing things for the right reasons.
For the record, I have collaborated with some bombastic people, who truly care underneath and are having an impact, but it’s a bit of a job recognising this initially because of the noisy show.
For many years, in my past and current work, I’ve been able to quickly engage people and offer them space to bring their walls down. It’s so important to truly see people, and I believe this makes all the difference.
This knowledge and skill base helps me to understand the way people work and express themselves, so I find it very easy to unearth their vulnerability, authenticity and humility, which makes room for honest conversation and collaboration.
You're a passionate instigator, leader and provocateur for positive change. Do you have an end goal or vision for what that will look like? What is Kerryn Vaughan's utopia?
If people are fulfilling their dreams, doing the thing or things they love and living a meaningful life they will naturally be greater contributors to a better world. I want to inspire and initiate this in as many people as I can reach, because my utopia would be a world where we have reached a tipping point for good.
Kindness and compassion are top of the list. I would like to see the extinction of so many species halted, and if there was some way to make my ultimate dream possible, I would buy parcels of land all around the world that could be used as safe havens for wild animals, which would effectively bring our ecosystem closer to something that resembles balance.
This may not happen in my lifetime, or ever, but it’s certainly what I would like to leave as a legacy for creating a better world. I don’t have a specific personal end goal, other than to do better each day and make the most of this one precious life that we’ve all been given.