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Defying Odds: Jess’ Inspiring Path to Success

Posted on September 6, 2023 in eMpowered

Looking for a dose of inspiration and empowerment? 🌟 Look no further than this phenomenal podcast featuring Jess Torpey with host Emma Herbert! 🎙️ Their conversation is like a heart-to-heart with a close friend, as they spill the beans on their journeys filled with triumphs and epic battles. 🗣️

Jess, the former softball sensation, spills the tea on her quest for Olympic glory, battling not just competitors but also curveballs like pneumonia and unexpected career shifts. Her honesty? It’s like a heartwarming hug for your soul. 🤗

Emma and Jess? They’ve got a chemistry that sizzles like a summer romance and reminds us all of the importance of having a squad that’s got your back. 👯‍♀️ Jess’s rollercoaster ride is a testament to resilience, showing us that life’s tough cookies can actually make us stronger. 🍪💪

In this episode, they’re dishing out vulnerability like it’s a hot new fashion trend, showing us how to rock change like a boss, and revealing the superpower of finding strength in camaraderie. 🦸‍♀️ Jess’s journey is a living proof that failure is just a makeover for success, especially with the unwavering support of her hubby and mentor. ❤️👫

Don’t miss out on this epic convo—it’s a one-way ticket to Inspirationville! 🎫💥

#EmpowermentJourney #ResilienceStory #InspiringConversations #OvercomingChallenges #FindingStrength


📍 Chapter Markers: 
00:20 – Intro Spiel
05:04 – Jess’ Values in life
07:11 – Talking about Jess’ career
08:02 – Gender diversity issues at work
11:11 – Technical people promoted to a leadership role
12:42 – Working with their husbands from home during covid
13:09 – Imposter syndrome
14:01 – What do Jess’ future goals and career look like?
15:14 – Working at the University of Queensland and her athlete life
17:39 – What does 10 years away from now to Jess look like?
19:07 – Insights on Jess’ leadership skills
20:05 – Empathetic leadership
22:13 – Unleashed Leadership Program
24:36 – How do we make employees feel that they belong?
25:55 – Bringing out the emotions in the technology world
26:55 – Mental health and suicide rates in men
28:13 – Jess’ athlete life
28:59 – Having a support system
31:51 – Why softball?
35:31 – Meeting Jess’ husband
37:01 – Jess’ Olympics journey
51:03 – Wrap-up spiels


Join us in this episode and be eMpowered! 💪🎧


If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website, [email protected], or through any of the links below.


Emma (Emma Raphael) Herbert | LinkedIn

Jess Torpey | LinkedIn



Thanks for watching!

You are amazing and you are loved!


You can find the full transcript below!



Welcome to Empowered. Before we get started, I would like to acknowledge and pay my respect to the past, present, and future traditional custodians and elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We further acknowledge the land on which we work here at Red, which the land of the to and ra peoples the struggle that you have overcome might be the struggle a queen is currently sinking in. We all have a story and we all need to share it. So welcome to Empowered here. You’ll be surrounded by a community of queens who have conquered their own. I’m very blessed to have a village of people in my corner who lead with love, share their success tips, and this is a platform for their stories. Be it your career success, a fitness achievement, finding your personal balance with that elusive work-life balance.


There is a queen out there struggling to stay above water. If you had the cure to cancer, you’d share it. I believe your story is someone’s cure. Your story will help save a soul and this world needs way more of that. The intention for these potties is to host guests with topics and tricks shared with the listener to help them live a life full of love, happiness, and success. Be surrounded by queens who have walked your path and resonate with their stories. What do you know now that has helped your journey that you would love for your younger self to have in your toolbox? Welcome to Empowered and Today’s Queen. I’m very excited. I shouldn’t have favorites, but I do and here you are.


Oh my gosh. And that will be forever. Always amazing. Ruby


Is the one, the only, Jess Torpey.


Thanks for having


Me. Toi Torpedo, I have you. Still saving my phone as torpedo


I roommate I saw when I came into reception.


Welcome, welcome, welcome. Thank you. Thank you for being here. I didn’t mean to look to you in my introduction for the fitness achievement, but it’s predominantly part of your big story, which I’d love to unpack today. I think that’s really cool. We have a lot of things in common. A joy and a natural spark and a love for life. A determination. Love of dogs.




Most of the time. Love of our husbands. Yep,


All the time. Maddy,


All the time. Like and love. Sometimes we absolutely do not have potential athleticism and commonwealth games experience. That is not something we have in common.


And we also don’t have in common our sports understanding. It’s not


Commonwealth games is it? Was it


The Olympics? No. Well we can unpack that. It’s definitely not common.


Oh my gosh. Memory like an absolute goldfish. Alright, well we’re going to hear about that. So you can tell your story. I won’t fabricate that and tell the wrong story, but Jess and I way back yonder feels like yesterday, but also decades ago. Absolutely. In the humor behavior space. And we were roomies roommates. I’m sure we were a massive distraction. But joy to the


Rest of the office, you mean they hated us probably. Absolutely.


Did we bring joy and sparkle also? Yes,




And we are still very lucky to consider our other roommates and colleagues and people in that space. Very good friends. Absolutely. Much love. That was a beautiful time in my life and I just loved it. And you are a gift from that moment as well. So thank you. Thank you. Many a time when I ask guests to be on my podcast, they go, but why? And you didn’t even question that, so I love


That. I’m too confident.


Which topic do you want, doll?


Yeah, I’ve got a lot to unpack.


I know. No, I love that because I think you have this beautiful pride without being cocky. You just have a natural I know who I am. I don’t. Do you realize that or do you?


No, but on reflection, when you were talking about the purpose of empowered, because I’ve done my research, she’s


Not watched a single episode.




That’s okay.


Really big supporter of you. You played


Hockey, didn’t you? No. Oh God, we’ll


Get to that. But I was reflecting on probably one of the biggest things, and it’s not really a lesson I’ve learned. It’s something I’m probably most proud of and that’s around being true to myself and just owning my stuff. Good.




Do what I mean. You’re very




And just sticking with it. What


Are your values?


Sorry, I put you on the spot. Shit. So connection is a big one. Authenticity and probably just passion.


I feel


That they’re probably my top three to be honest.


Yeah, that’s good. That’s so good. Do you do values with Matt share together as


So great question. There was once and for those listening at home, my husband and I are very different but similar. He’s obviously tradie has his own plumbing and gas fitting business. Which would you


Like to plug


Your mate’s? Plumbing and gas,


Unlike your mate’s brewery?


Very similar. They should do a collab. In fact, I love that. But we are so different. And then in the world I work, I’ll go, Maddie, look, let’s unpack your values. Oh my God, what would that be? And he’s like,


Same eye roll with Chris.


He absolutely does it in his own way and is similar in his own way in terms of he’s probably never done the formal work to identify it, but he lives his values.


He’s never process mapped it out and has a whiteboard. He’s gone,


Oh, what’s my goals? What am I going to set? What support do I need to achieve that? No, no, but he does it in his own way. That’s cool. So we have done it once and my sister-in-law sent me this meme the other day and she was like, this is me with my brother Dean. And it was like when someone talks about work and asks what your partner does, and you sit there going,




No idea. Absolutely. Maddy has absolutely no idea what I do. That’s so


Cute. You know what he does? Yeah. Deals with shit all day. Yeah, literally.




I love that. Do you want to speak to what you do in your career and what you love? Because you are a fricking weapon addict? I used to watch you and just be like, you could create something out of nothing every single time.


Thank you. That’s very kind.


That’s a genuine compliment. It’s not like you polished herds. It’s amazing.


So I suppose I’ll go back to where it all started. True. It started for me at a big rail freight organization of Ryzen based in Izzy here. Super fortunate enough to be in a grad program there, which meant that I got to try out lots of different stuff. So I loved that. In terms of an organization to start my career, it was the best starting place for me. Gave me the ability to started




Yeah. Move. And my background was public relations, shocked and journalism. So I loved talking, I loved writing, I loved communicating, and started in this great organization, went everywhere. And one of the coolest things about that organization is they just didn’t really give a shit about what people said they did, what they wanted and what was right. So at that point, gender diversity was a massive issue. It was, I want to say there was 95% men, maybe five, 6% women when I started. And so they just unapologetically said, this isn’t good enough. Let’s really push the Change it. Yeah, change it. That’s amazing. Every single role in our business. That’s a


While ago,


Right? Absolutely. Probably a good 12 years ago now. Yeah.


Wow. That’s


Big. So I was sitting there one day after the grad program, was in external relations, used to write speeches for the CEO O and PowerPoints and got a call from our HR team and said, Hey, we’ve identified you as a person to go into a frontline leadership role out at Red Bank in Heavy Hall. And I was like, pardon




Yeah. They’re like, well, you’ve put in our HR system that you’re really passionate about leadership, creating cultures of high performing teams. Which is true because I suppose the sport side, that external to work was the thing that really lit me up all that




Softball. And so I had this moment where I really doubted myself. I knew I was


Imposter syndrome


Absolutely. Where I was like, holy shit, I’m a young female about to go out to perform and potentially deal with a bunch of trades. So went through the interview process. I interviewed the hiring manager more than he interviewed me, which is not surprising, but I just called it out. Like I said, Hey, how do you think that the guys would react if a 26 year


Old, 20 something


Female comes in is their leader? Has no idea, zero experience. And I went home and spoke to Maddie, my husband, well at the time he was my boyfriend, your boyfriend. And I said, Maddy, the weirdest things happened at work today. I’ve just had this opportunity. And it’s like it’s a secondment, so it’s a five month opportunity. And he goes, after I told him about it, so let me get this straight. You would manage someone like me. And I said, yeah. And he’s like, that’s the fucking stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. And I was like, right, I’m doing


It. Signing up on that note.


So I then went to one of a really good friend of mine who was one of the execs in HR and said, I just don’t feel right about it. I want to do it, but the fact that I’m getting this opportunity because I’m female and I’ll never figure out what he said to me. He turned around and he said to me, Hey, I’m just going to tell you something about my career. Every single job I’ve gotten, or not every single, but majority of them has been because a mate has gotten me a job. He’s like, so how is this any different? Oh, that’s


So good.


And I was like, whoa. Covered in




And it really kind of made me, obviously we talk a lot about particularly gender diversity in male dominated industries. And it made me really rethink the whole thing about it and then put on another lens of how many times we see technical people promoted into a leadership role because they’re the best technician shift. Well, they’ve had L




It should be about. And they really went outside the box and said, no, you’ve got leadership capability. We want you to help this team. They’re going through a huge amount of change. It was a really hard time for that team at Red Bank. And I love the opportunity and that’s the point in my career that really just put it on steroids and kind of gave me a new purpose and direction. It’s


Like they’re sliding doors. Imagine if he said no. Imagine if he caved into that imposter syndrome and went, nah, that’s not, I can’t do that. What would life look like now? That’d be totally different. So that was a pivotal career






Yeah. That’s cool. And it’s probably one of the biggest things, depending what it is, I will merely always say yes.


Even he was scared


Shit loss. Absolutely. Because you never know what’s going to come. And I dunno if you know of Mark Matthews big wave surfer, but he recently was at one of his keynotes. He did. And his whole thing’s about what’s on the other side of fear and his whole thing is you can’t, the only way to get through fear is to experience it. Yeah,




You cannot train for it. You cannot do any meditation, mindfulness, any of that. You’ve just got to get through it into it. And so the worst thing, I was like, well, the worst thing that can happen is I hate this. And I go, this isn’t for me.


Yeah. You are the master of your own destiny and just choose another path or go and work with Maddie. Could you


Imagine? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. There’s all those people in Covid who worked with their husbands or partners from home. I was like, oh, I would no hard. No,


It can work Christopher. Hey, we love


It. Hashtag love you. Yeah,


Absolutely. No, that’s really cool. And that’s a really great take home for someone listening right now who perhaps is younger than we are, but that imposter syndrome is real. Even pink, the artist has it. She’s like, are you sure I released another album? Somebody’s going to listen to it. And absolutely every




It’s a bloody hit wonder. I like that We are likening ourselves to pink,


Same bank account and everything. But yeah, that imposter syndrome is just a voice in our head. Right? Absolutely. And it’s a story that we’ve made up that it’s just false. Absolutely. So that’s really cool. There’s somebody out there who will lean into that as a support mechanism. So that obviously was a little while ago in your career, but what have you, obviously you’ve taken on board that construct of just get in there and be unapologetic, but what now does your career look like and what’s the future look like career wise as well? What’s your goals? Yeah,


Great question. So from there, obviously went and had the pleasure of working with you, Emma, and that was really great work understanding for lots of different big clients around Australia. What are their issues and how can we help them from that behavior change point of view? Did


You do much in that human behavior space prior?


I had done a bit.


I mean obviously everything you’ve ever done is really human focused.


Absolutely. But in terms of an actual role, no. So I learned so much


There. We faked it very well. See, make something out of nothing. Yeah,


Absolutely. And I really enjoyed that. It was probably challenging being in a consultancy for me rather than being embedded in an organization. Understood. You can have the best plans and hand that over to whoever you’re working with, but if it’s all about the engagement and the rollout, to be honest in whatever you do. So yeah, that was a great time in terms of the people I met, the people we worked with, the clients we had. And then from there went to a bit of a different diverse role at uq, university of Queensland. That’s right. And the whole purpose around that, and this is where I bring the athlete life in, was leading into the 2020 Olympics. My goal was to make the softball, the Olympics softball teams, teams, not the Commonwealth games. Emma, I


Was so close to you then too. I was so cheering you on.


Yeah. And so I went essentially to a recruiter and said, Hey look, I love change management. I love behavior change. I would love a job in that space, but it needs to be Brisbane based with no travel because I need to train. And I was a firm believer I could do it all, which I did in terms of fitting in full-time work, succeeding at work and being an athlete and representing my country. To be


Fair, that’s exactly the point that I wanted you to speak to. And that’s why I just was in awe of you. I always am. But in particular, in that time of your life, it was insane. Yeah. How on earth did you manage to, you’re just a wonder woman.


Thank you. I look back now and have no idea how I did it. And even my mom when I finished playing was like, I don’t know how you did that. I think it’s number one, I was just so driven. I was just, I’m going to do that. I’m going to set my mind to it no matter what setbacks happen, that is my goal and that’s what I’m going to do. And also at work, I want to be a high performer. I want to take on more. I’ve never thought that you need to do one or the other. And the other day I was having a chat to a woman who I have never met before this day. And she was talking to me about, she’s on the end of parental leave, not sure if she can go back to work. And I was like, well, why can’t you do it all? And she was like, I’ve never thought about that. And I understand everyone’s different, but that’s always my why can’t there be a female c e o in a job share in an As S X company? That would be amazing to see. Is


That you? Did we just manifest that?


If you dream it, you believe it tomorrow? No, not where I can imagine going. But you never say never, right?


Absolutely. And why not?


Absolutely. What is


The goal for your career wise? What’s 10 years Jess look like 10 years away for Jess look like?


Yeah, great question. So currently working at a smaller mining company, Kestrel Coal Resources, which is awesome in the org development space. And that absolutely lights me up. And also understanding more around the broader HR lights me up. So that’s where I want to head into a bigger leadership role within in the next 10 years that’s really diverse and has lots of different people under, because I love leading people and teams. That’s what absolutely lights me up. And just being in a place where you can help create a great culture. Preach. Yeah. So I dunno exactly what that looks like, but that’s important to me. That’s


Awesome. And you are an exceptional leader, but you’re a leader without realizing it in everywhere. You’re a kind compassionate, but a leader who leads within. It’s not. Thank you. You’ve met leaders who are dictators and yeah, insert absolutely negative word here. And I dunno whether you’ve seen leaders like that and gone, whoa, not going to be that one and charged the complete opposite direction or whether you just are you authentically and unapologetically and that just is your leadership style. I dunno if you’ve actually strategically approached your leadership like that or is it just natural that because it’s organically you?


I think it’s natural and it probably comes back to your values and your beliefs when you are young and what your parents instill in you. And I was super lucky to have and still am, they’re alive, which is great. That got real




Real quick and we’re back. But just that whole sense of that drive from my parents and just they were both teachers and it was all around treat others how you want to be treated and well, why would you treat anyone differently? What shits me the most is people in a workplace who look down on someone else because they’re in a job perceived as under them.


Oh, I can’t stand that.


It just kills me. Absolutely. All those people that manage up really well and everyone’s going well, that person’s a dick. Absolutely. And then the CEO’s like, oh, well they’re a great person. And you’re like, yeah, no, they’re


Killing your culture. That’s toxicity right


There. And I think the other thing is just I’m really, I try to be, no, I think I am empathetic. You are absolutely, you might not understand exactly what someone else is going through, but you can make a bloody good effort in understanding and being there for them. Because obviously we talk a lot about apathy versus sympathy versus empathy and empathetic leadership I think is the key.


Dinging. Dinging. I agree very much so. Do you want a job? Sorry, ke plug.


Yeah, exactly.


I love that. And you’re right, we’re all about obviously framework and process mapping and the implementation is the important part, but the rollout, the consistency, something that we are very, very both passionate about. It’s something that we talk about here. So at Red Shameless plug, as the chief of happiness, I am responsible for, but love everything people related. I think we’ve always had that in common as well. And being in a tech space, a tech industry, you can very quickly lose the human element to anything we do. So you mentioned that your name is on the welcome board out the front. That’s the little things that we do from start to finish to make sure even our customers are felt. It’s not just a logo and a business. We’re dealing with the human.




And a lot of when we were working in that space together, I actually use still today, so I probably should pay some trademark rights or something. But rolling out or seeing what you rolled out and the framework of it, you’re right, it’s got to be, it can’t be, here’s the framework, off you go, see you later. And good luck. The people have got to marinate in that framework and that process and the implementation. So it’s key that you are present in that as well.


Absolutely. So


Do you love that moment when it’s like, wow, that was a concept or a framework that I implemented and it’s actually working. You see it evolve and come to life. Is that something that serve


You with joy, your Yeah, absolutely. And we’ve just done a big leadership program that we called Unleashed, which I saw that. Yeah, it was amazing. And in terms of businesses that, especially in the heavy industry, male dominated industries that give back and put time into their people. That’s why I’m at Kestrel. And anyway, so we had 220 people last year go through, it was a year kind of leadership program with eight different topics covering everything from what’s yourself, leadership style, what’s your disc profile through to how to give feedback, feed forward, how to planning and prioritizing communication, all of the things that you kind of need a reminder on whether you are super experienced or inexperienced. But the really cool thing from that is at the end of it, we went out to all of Kestrel who had done it. Unfortunately our operators didn’t do it, the guys at the coalface, but everyone else did.


And we said, Hey, nominate, has there been anyone who you’ve seen have a positive shift in their leadership style? That’s cool. In the last six to 12 months since we’ve started it. And we had so many nominations, there was one person who got 15. So we then had prizes. We then made a big deal out of it and if people got nominated, we then wrote them a little postcard and said, Hey, someone has seen you and this is what they’ve said. And so it was just bumps. Again, those types of things. And if you talk to our C E O, he’ll tell you how many wives of people at work stop stopped him at different events and said, you have not only changed so-and-so’s life at work, but at home through that program, I will not


Cry. I will not cry.


Do not cry. Do not cry. That’s




So it’s those things that, and in anything you do rise, especially in the culture capability space, a lot of the time it’s a shit fight to get something off the ground.




Which you’re trying to, because it’s hard because it’s not a project that is going to give you a specific dollar figure return on an R O I, whatever that is. Ask your people, you’ve got people


For that


Stuff person. But it’s those other things that really help in terms of that retention piece and that how do we light our employees up? How do we make them feel like they belong? How do we help them,


Especially in that space. I mean the similarities in the work that we do is very similar because it is sometimes struggle street and I mean that with all the love in my heart, but we have a comradery culture here.


Love your values by the way. Thank you. First thing I saw after Torpedo on the tv,


But they’re not just on the wall. We speak to them every day. They’re in performance reviews, they’re in shout outs of great work. I love what you mentioned there before about the difficulties of here’s a concept, go do that thing. And they’re kind of like deer in headlights going, what you want me to do? What? Yeah. One of the very first things I did here at Red was we use MS teams very heavily and I made a channel called Gratitude.


Oh, I love that.


And I just started, thank you. Thursdays just started really small. No one fucking did anything. It was like


Crickets, Emma from Chief Happiness Officer Gratitude.


So in the beginning, and Chris was like, Emma, that’s absolutely not going to be picked up. We’re in technology, 99% are either diagnosed or not and neurodivergent and unsure of how to give emotion or receive it.


And did you say you don’t know me? Dull,


Shush, dah. Now it’s probably one of the most commonly tagged or spoken to channels. Love that. How cool is that? So it’s those simple things and the aha moments, but emotion in both of our worlds. So in the mining and information technology worlds, it used to seem or feel taboo. So not, I mean it’s anywhere, but especially in our worlds, especially when it is male dominated, I think that fills me with super purpose every day to strive harder, do more because of that, like you said, the wives piece, we are not just changing people’s lives and making them happier and enjoy their life. Although we spend most of our life at work, it’s what comes off the back of that. Yeah. Well done. Thank you. As we know, the suicide rate in men is just horrendous. We speak about mental health every single day here, neurodivergency, A D H D at the Wazo. But it’s what makes us us. And we lean into that and you taught me that leaning into, I loved working with you with that. The leaning into things instead of leaning away. And they’re just such simple things that we can have big impacts on people’s lives. And sometimes we don’t realize it until we take moments like this and actually shoot the shit and talk about it.


Absolutely. How


Cool is it that we get to be this person in other people’s lives? It’s really cool, isn’t it?




It’s all about you, but I’m making it all about me too. Oh no. But it’s about us. So I really appreciate everything that you’ve taught me in that space when we were working together because it’s allowed me to go, I’m not just a crazy person with this ambitious desire for better. It’s actually able to be achieved and you are also doing it. And the others that we still love that we worked around as well. That’s really cool. So thank you for sharing that with me and our listeners and viewers. Let’s talk more about your athleticism, like sure. You are just a weapon. So back when we were a lot closer in the workspace that we were in, you were just so focused and you made me feel so unfit. No, still am. But no, I loved also too, watching a couple of your games and Maddie, your husband, that was so cool. I couldn’t fathom you being able to achieve that without Matt’s support too. I mean, you would’ve, but it would’ve been a bit more of a struggle if he wasn’t on board with it.


Oh, I think a hundred percent in terms of not even a bit more of a struggle, I think in a relationship in whatever you’re doing, you’ve got to find someone, you’ve got to be with someone that brings out the best in you. Correct. And that can be you’ve similar, you’re different. And for me, support was just a non-negotiable.


But it obviously was for him too. It was,


Oh yeah, sorry, I’m talking about back when you like dating and


You’re like,


Oh, yep, nah, nah. But yeah, in terms of softball, I suppose to give everyone at home a bit of an overview, I, nothing came easy to me. And what I mean by that is there’s plenty of my mates who were super talented, naturally high performers, consistently made their state team, their national team without


Even trying,


Without trying. They absolutely tried, but I worked my ass off. I was so driven and I knew that to get to where I wanted to go, I had to work harder than everyone and I had to just grind. And what that looked like in a normal working week when we worked together, oh mate, three mornings a week we’re at gym at the Queensland Academy of Sport. So getting up at four 15 every morning or those three mornings, driving to gym, then on the way home from gym, stopping at a random oval somewhere so I could do some of my own training for half an hour. So I’d hit a ball into a net off a tea. I had a bucket of balls, so it wasn’t like I had to go fetch it every time. And then I’d drive to work, shower, start work, finish work, go to team training, whether that’s club, whether that’s state training, and then get home, eat dinner, go to sleep. It was rinse


And repeat


Groundhog Day for such a long time. It’s so funny because although it felt like I had time to do stuff at that point, I look back now and now my guilty pleasure is just going home and then watching tv. Oh doll, I’m you slob. Never People at work can talk about shows. And I’m like, oh


Yeah, that’s a great series.


It’s a movie, Jess me, put that down for when I travel overseas next


You have the longest list. So


I just never, and that’s fine. But it all came down to Maddie and my parents really, my parents initially, they said to me once, you can do all of the things you want to do in terms of sport, but you can never miss a training for anything. Whoa. So even if that’s year 12 exams, if you commit, you commit. You don’t just miss a training because you haven’t planned your time effectively. And so it was a really good lesson to learn early. And I think that’s why I could juggle things and fit everything. I just knew if I was going to commit to something, you make it happen or you don’t commit. Yeah.


Yeah. Don’t sign up. Yeah. Why softball? I don’t think I’ve ever asked you that. Oh,


Good question. So my auntie Captained Australia for a long time, I want to say 12 years, 15 years around there, auntie Joyce, she captained them at the 96 Atlanta Olympics, which is the first time softball was in the Olympics. And they won a bronze medal. That’s awesome. And she was one of the first Australians to play professionally in Japan. So I had her, she was a big role model for me. And then my mom also, she played softball, is in the Queensland Hall of Fame. She’s a Hoff, which is exciting for her. That’s cool. Yeah, it’s amazing. And it’s interesting, because of that connection, mom never wanted me to play. So if I found it, I found it on my own, which is absolutely what happened. So in school, back when I went to primary school in summer in Brizzy, you played softball, and in winter you played netball.


There was no other real sport options for Interschool. So yeah, grade five played T-Ball was obsessed with it. Really straight up. Absolutely. Just, yeah, loved it. What did you love about it? I just loved being in a team. And I think from early on, you look at your career now and that love for culture and high performance and driving teams, I just loved being in a team and just having a great time. I feel you. And I must’ve been good at it, but I never knew I was good at it. Do you know what I mean? I made Queensland when I was 12, and then through high school, made lots of teams, made the Australian junior team, never, still, never was like, I’m going to play for Australia, never sign me up for the Olympics or for which I didn’t make, it’s okay, it’s alright, we’ll get there.


Which we can talk about that. We absolutely will. So yeah, it was just a passion of mine. I really loved the whole thing around the harder you work, the harder you train, the better you get. That’s cool. And so just from an early age, I’d have my dad out there. I’d be like, Phil Dog, poor dog. That’s what I called my dad, Phil Dogg, how about you go toss me some balls at the school? And they would. So anytime I wanted to train, they would just help, which is awesome. And then, yeah, just really loved the game, loved the team, loved the girls, loved going away. Even when you’re 12 years old and going to state championships and you get to room with someone and your parents aren’t there, it’s just all a bit exciting. So love that. And then got to a point where I had a coach and he said to me when I was 18, you’re going to make the Australian squad the open women’s squad next year. And I looked at him and said, Lockie, no, I’m not. And I literally did. I was sitting in uni and started, my phone was blowing up in this lecture and I just made paparazzi my first Australian squad at 18 with all the big dogs. So the Olympics had just happened. It was 2008 Beijing had happened. So this was the next year, 2009. And I was like, holy shit, they got the wrong number. And then it was a bit of that, the imposter at that point. I was like, I’m not very good.


I dunno what they saw, but this is, I had never, and I was never one to do anything special. I think that’s what it was in my mind. And then I met my husband, now husband, Maddy after that. And he was one of the coach hands down I’ve ever had. And a lot of the softball girls today, his specialty was hitting. And so I just,


Did he play as well?


Yeah, he was a world champion and then went to baseball. So he had a really good mix of just knowledge and skills, and that was his passion was coaching, specifically hitting, which is a really specific skill. And we just


Did, you hit it off.


Absolutely. And so from there just got better and better. But I suppose through that journey, made an Australian squad young and then got dropped two years, three years later from the Queensland team and had that moment of, well, I can either quit or I can go in the draft and play for another state and get back in that team. So went in the draft, played for South Australia, had the best time, and then transferred to be a South Australian for a few years. And then at that point was like, it sucks training by yourself, you never see the team. Then went back to Queensland and then finally debuted for the Aussie spirit, the open women’s team. So all these years later.


That’s amazing. Yeah. You talked before quite quickly about not making the Olympics. Oh




Are you comfortable to talk about that?




Have you healed from that part? I know I, I don’t know that I was there with you when it actually happened, but it


Was, no, it was right after we worked together,


But I remember checking in and it was really hard because I didn’t know how much to lean into support you or if you just needed space or, because that’s hard. That’s hard to receive because you’ve worked so effing hard for


Absolutely. Tell


Me about everything around that.


So everything around that, I suppose through that period. So to get to an Olympic games, you have to qualify, your team has to qualify. And in the year of qualification, which would’ve been 2019 because Olympics was meant to be 2020, but it moved to 2021. And my whole thing was at the Olympics, I’ll be 30 and then I’m going to retire and have kids. That was my whole plan in terms of my head, which we can talk about how that plan went in a moment. But yeah, coming into 2019, I was in the best form that I’ve been in. I was so confident, comfortable, relaxed at that point. You talk about the 10 years prior or however many years prior where I was like, oh, shitting myself. At that point, I was just ready. Yeah,


Give it to me. It’s mine.


And the process to get, so we had Olympic qualifiers in China, and the process to get there was we played a professional season in the States, which was great. The year before. I’d played in the States as well for about six weeks and was really successful. Personally, the team wasn’t that successful, which was disappointing. But it was good because in Australia we play club softball, we play 15 games in a season, and over there you’re playing a game every day. So it’s completely different. And in the states, obviously everyone, college softball is massive. So there’s a heap of people who are really, really good. So we do amazing considering how small we are. True, that’s true. For sure. And our background. So we’re over heading to the states for this professional league, and I got there and I wasn’t feeling well. And this is when I worked with you, I dunno if you remember, but I was really unwell. And for the first few days they were like, oh, you’ve probably picked up a cold. Anyway, ended up in hospital, had pneumonia. That’s




Or as one of my teammates said, is Pomona a bad? And I was like, oh, George, that’s not, I was like, do you say pterodactyl?


Oh my God, I do now. That’s amazing.


Yeah. Anyway, so at that point I was like, oh, I’ll be fine. I’ll brush this off. Absolutely. This’ll be easy. It was so hard. Went through the ringer trying. And you can imagine from an athlete mindset, no, I can’t. You’re trying, well, just imagine for me




That that’s a selection tournament to go to China. So you are doing everything you can. You’re trying to rest, you’re trying to be supportive. And it was an really tough experience because the team, every single person in the team would go play the game. I would be in our apartment. I couldn’t even leave the apartment. So


It would’ve been the mental battle.


And then it got to a point where we went to Florida and we obviously had a heap of medical staff supporting us, but I then played this game and it was so hot. And I just remember when you’re like, I’m not myself, and I’m standing on the field like, oh god. And afterwards I started, just my eyes were rolling back, I fainted, my whole body shaking. And at that point then ended up back getting back in hospital for the tests. They’d given me the wrong antibiotics.


They gave you the pneumonia, not the pneumonia.


So I still had pneumonia, and that was really dangerous. And at that point, my dad called me and said, Jess, nothing is worth your health. Correct. What are you doing? Think about this logically. And I thought about it. He’s like, who gives a shit about if you make that team or not? Because of this, you need to come home and get better. Your


Body is screaming out to you. Something.


Had a chat with the coach, and I’m not an emotional person, but I just broke down to him and said, I need to go home. I need to get better. Went home. Queensland Academy has fought amazing in terms of what they did. Ended up getting sorted, getting better, having a really prescribed workout plan to get back because the plan was still get myself ready for the China qualifier. Hopefully I make the squad. So worked out in heat chambers, so it’s at a ridiculous percentage of humidity. And you do a 30, 45 minute session in there, as you’d know. I’ve


Done many of those.


And they were amazing. Got myself back, got named in the qualifier squad, went to Japan. And so we were in Japan, there was 20 of us, went for, I don’t know, a period of seven, eight days. Played all the professional teams over there. And the coach was like, well, we are picking whoever’s informed. If you are informed and you perform, you’re going to go to China. And everyone had to go to China anyway, so that was another part. And so I walk in the day before we leave for China, walk into a selection meeting. And I’ve never been, I had played really well and I’d never been one to assume I was in a team, but I was so just confident. I was like, yep, I’ve come back from pneumonia bags packed. Let’s go. Yep, I’ve played well. I’ve done exactly what you’ve asked. And he sat me down and said, no, you haven’t made it. And I just broke down. And I remember thinking, this is fucked. How do I, and I was so embarrassed, which is, that’s just how I felt, which is looking back, that’s the wrong way to go about it. But my family was flying to China the next day to watch.


I remember that. And you had to work out who was getting tickets.


So my husband, my mom, my dad were coming to China. I called them. I said, I haven’t made it. They were like, what?


Very funny, Jess.


Yeah. And I said, I don’t want you to come. And Matt said to me, bless him. He said, if there’s ever a time for me to be there to support you, it’s the time when you’ve got to be there and you haven’t made the team. And it was really hard because I wanted the team to do well, and it was such a mind fuck because the only way to make the Olympics is if the team qualified. So I was like, change your mindset sucks for you. Let’s


Go. Let’s get that team


There. Let’s get them there. And it was such a, and the five girls, we called ourselves the Fab five. So we were cut. Of course, it was so awkward. Culturally, they didn’t handle it well at all in terms of, they sent us to the stadium in China and they were like, oh no, you can’t wear your Australian uniform. No, you can’t be on the Australian team bus. We’ll pay to get you there in home. And


That’s not


Okay. And it was such an awful but learning experience. And at that point, I think I knew if I didn’t make it at that point, I was never going to make it. And so when I look back and reflect on how emotional I got, I think I knew that the writing was on the wall then for the future six months that followed. So yeah, didn’t make the Olympic squad and retired. So stopped playing softball, finished club, finished playing for Queensland, obviously finished playing for Australia and and a lot of people go, oh, don’t you miss it? And I was like, I miss the fun and all the off the field stuff. I miss that really working hard for a really specific purpose. But I don’t miss every single weekend in summer not knowing when my game is, not being able to commit to someone’s birthday, not being able to do things. And it’s not a sacrifice, it’s a choice. But I really was just so strong on, well, that’s when I’m finishing whether it’s a good or bad story. And you reflect and you go, yeah, I didn’t hit, I failed. I didn’t get my goal. But then you also have to be super grateful and celebratory of the things you did.


How long did it take you to get to the celebratory bit?


It took a while. I went through a place of where I hated the game, which really sucked because you heard me talk about how much I loved it at the start. But I think that that love through that period, just because it was such a high pressure environment. And I suppose for softball in particular, we hadn’t been in the Olympics since 2008, so it’s not like we had a Comm Games or there was a world championship every four years. But once you’re in an Olympic cycle, funding improves, things don’t cost as much, all of that stuff. So it was such a pressure cooker time.


But you’ve thrived. Look at you now telling that story. How long ago was that?


So that’ll happen in 2020. 2020. So three


Years ago. Yep. That’s insane. The growth that you’ve had from that moment, let’s be honest, let’s not, that was an effed time for you. Even though you say you’re not emotional, you have every right to have been. And I’m sure it would’ve been like a grieving process and all the emotions would’ve come out off the back of that.


Oh, for sure. And I think when you reflect, the thing I’m least proud of is that feeling of embarrassment, which is so dumb, right? It’s not when you reflect, it’s




But the thing I’m proudest of is I can sit here and go, you know what? I did absolutely everything I could. You gave it a crack man. How I presented myself, how I turned up the state in which I approached everything was absolutely right, how hard I worked. So at the end of the day, you can’t, life gives you lemons, right? But as long as you’ve controlled the things you can control, everything else was out of my control. So I’m proud of that. Good.


So you should be, I’m proud of you. Thank you. That’s amazing. And you’ve spoken to a regular guest who is in here, Mr. Toby Jenkins. We love him. That support mechanism of legends like Toby, like hearing keynotes from Mark Matthews, hearing keynotes from Matt Tope.


No, that’d be a, we’d have to beep a lot of that de out. I


Would love that. But again, in his own way, he supports you in his beautiful way without


Realizing it. He


Has that framework.


Absolutely. And that’s probably when you reflect, you probably don’t spend enough time giving the gratitude to the people that do support you. So it’s almost like it’s just expected.


It is. But you know, he’s there. He’s going to have that and yeah, him saying, no, mate, I’ll be there for you in China.


Absolutely. That’s just, he got very drunk every game, I’m going to support you. I would always look up and I’d be like, oh, there’s another beer in a bucket app.


We might just flash a picture of Maddy up here on the product,


Living his best life. Oh,


He’s a doll. Tiny little pocket rocket with a big personality. He’s a doll. He’s a doll. Thank you. The whole idea that I had around these podcasts was it was short and sharp and impactful. I fear that ours today could continue on for hours, but I am going to start to wrap it up and perhaps we have a version two, version three continuation. Absolutely.


We could do a


Series of just Toby,


We have


Fun. But thank you. I really appreciate you coming in. I hope that wasn’t as scary as the onset of the idea of it was, but


Oh no, just a chat. Just a chat between friends. A Rose would’ve been good. Next time. Let’s


Almost rose a club.


We have had a guest in a while ago, and it was a very heavy topic. A lot of these bad boys were consumed, and there was some white wine at about, I don’t know, just shy of 10. So how good. No one ever knows what time we’re recording these, so it could be four o’clock in the afternoon. But thank you. I really appreciate, and a big shout out to Kera Cole for allowing Jess the time to be here today. Thank you. But thank you. I hope that was as enjoyable for me, for you as it was for me. Bloody hell, Emma. But thank you. I loved that. I knew most of that story, but there was some highlights in there that I wasn’t aware of or needed a good reminder. Great. So thank you. I know there’s going to be somebody out there who resonates with your story, and you’re just amazing.


Oh, stop back at you. No, I won’t. I will not, Jess. No. But thank you. I love and adore you since the day I met you. And don’t ever stop being you because you’re incredible back at you. Thanks, Jess. Thanks for having me. You’re welcome. Thank you very much for listening or watching this episode of Empowered. Don’t forget, if you would like to be a feature guest on the series of podcasts, you’re more than welcome. Please connect with me, and hopefully something resonated with you today and gave you one of those aha moments. Again, thank you and welcome to Empowered.


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