Yourself unlimited


Link: TEDx Gold Coast, Friday 3 May 2013.


Globalisation today is a mainstream term but remains largely used when talking about industries and corporations. Rarely is it used to talk about the globalisation of individuals. Andrew Woodward believes it should be. Individuals can be globalised for their own benefit and that of their friends, families, community interests, employers and their countries as a whole.

For years, the English, Americans and Europeans held all of the top jobs. Today, Australians are in every corner of the world occupying some of those big roles. Likewise, many New Zealanders and South Africans are treading the same path as us Australians with equal success. You can go from the bottom of the world to the top of the world in every respect. Once it was the domain of a few – now anyone can have those opportunities.

It isn’t easy but it is easier than ever to do this. It involves dedication, hard work, and some sacrifice. It has its ups and downs. It can be exhilarating. It can be lonely. Andrew Woodward has spent over twenty years working in international environments, mostly from Australia, and encourages everyone at some time to “head north” physically and mentally to become a global citizen.


Today I want to talk about Yourself Unlimited in a place where you can be what you want to be. It is right here on earth, that’s right, right here on earth. But it isn’t going to happen by staying in this suburb, this city, in this country.  To have unlimited opportunities you must be global.

This doesn’t mean you have to live overseas, holiday overseas frequently, or learn another language. It just means that you have to make an effort to think global and make the effort to learn about the world around you. Of course it is better if you have the overseas experience but even if you never leave Australia, you can travel the world through books, podcasts, film, documentary, social media, cooking groups, engaging with multi-cultural communities.

My simple view is that the more global you are – the better an individual you are – the more opportunities you will have – the better life you will have. I want to talk to you about self-globalisation. To be yourself unlimited, you have to get on the runway – physically or mentally and take off. Today, I want to tell you my story and you can make your own conclusions about what it means for you.

I like most had the suburban upbringing. I was brought up in a house dominated by grand parents where World War Two was a fresh memory. Things foreign weren’t very popular. Neither grand parent had been overseas with the exception of my grand father who served for Australia in Papua New Guinea. I asked him why he had never traveled. He said the last time he went overseas, well, someone took shots at him.

Growing up in the 1970’s I saw the tail end of Vietnam on black and white then colour TV; I remember my mother’s excitement at seeing Gough Whitlam go to China and, I watched fuzzy satellite TV images from Olympics and Commonwealth Games in far away places.

I was given a radio as a child – it has medium wave, FM and something called SW – for short wave. Here began my fascination with the world and a quest for knowledge. While other kids played games, I tuned the world listening to radio stations… the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Moscow, Radio Japan, Radio Tanzania and more. It was incredible. My listening turned into a hobby and I starting writing to these radio stations and getting verification cards or QSL cards as they’re known. I was hearing conversations about things I knew nothing about from far away lands and getting cards, stamps, books and information form these places. Getting home everyday from school to check the mail was a thrill. So began my fascination with – get ready – communications – the world and technology – something that I now do today for a living – and get paid for it.

So from this place down under, at the bottom of the world, I could communicate. Over the following 30 plus years, I reached out to the world through a variety of means.

I have lived overseas only once and that was recently. I spent three years in the United States in San Francisco – one of the great cities of the world. I went to the USA for a big global job in my company’s head office. It was quite intimidating. Here was me, from this little country, in this global job. But you know what, after a while, I learned that I was as good as them. The reason they have all of the big global jobs is because they were brought up there and their head offices are there. Australia had branch offices. But in technical ability, I was as good as them. 

Over the following few years, I worked with colleagues in Russia, South Africa, Brazil and many other paces and they too were just as good as those with the big global jobs. This proved to me that no one has a mortgage on the big jobs. No matter where you are from in the world, you can make it if you are good enough.

There are so many Aussies abroad… one million in fact. In Californa, there was somehting like 60,000 Australians living there, 17,000 in the San Francisco Bay area alone. It was quite amazing. And they had some great jobs.  I knew of a lady who was a big wig at Yahoo – she previously worked as Hillary Clinton’s press secretary. One of the top lecturers in Business at Stanford is an Aussie. There’s a guy from Sydney’s west who takes executives on tens of millions  a year into the Arctic wilderness to toughen them up. The former boss of Levi Strauss was an Aussie and he studied where I did, at University of New South Wales, albeit 40 years before me. These are just four people I know. Amazing people – doing amazing things – in amazing places with equally amazing people.

Globalization to some is a dirty word. To many it means a loss of jobs, industries, individuality and so on. Yes, there are downsides which our civic leaders need to address through honesty, sustainable policy and good politics. Globilised people will be up to this task.

The globalised individual is:

  • Someone who looks over the horizon
  • Someone who thinks big
  • Someone who genuinely cares about what others think
  • Someone who will integrate and not impose their way
  • Someone who makes an effort to understand
  • Someone who is open to new ideas
  • Someone who listens to, reads or watches international affairs

Much of my input these days comes from podcasts or vodcasts like TED – I listen to the “Wall Street Journal This Morning” and the BBC World News. I listen to about four tech podcasts. Each week I probably listen to about 12 hours of what I call world audio. And then I take comfort with Aunty ABC. I crave for new ideas and information. There’s some amazing things happening out there.

I have been able to take my fascination with the world to my work life. My career has focussed on tourism, sport and the major events. I with many thousands of other worked on the best Olympic Games ever in 2000. I played a role in Rugby World Cup 2003 – which was a great tournament except for one  match and a particular kick by a particular person called Jonny. At the Australian Tourist Commission I got to turn up to work each day and promote my country as the world’s best tourism destination. I helped Bali recover from the 2002 terrorist attack and then I did some groundbreaking work in Papua New Guinea helping them establish a tourism brand. In my last job, I got to work on the Olympics, FIFA World Cup and NFL American Football.  I am not saying these things to be boastful. I am saying these things to prove that anything is possible.

That brings me to what I do today and that is that I work on the 2018 Commonwealth Games here on the Gold Coast.  Every day I turn up to work I regard it as a privilege to be a part of a team that will work with the local community to deliver this great world event here in this great place. That’s what being global is all about – using your acquired global knowledge here at home for something great in your own city or country – and yourself. It is about as good as it gets. We hear lots about Australia being a cultural melting pot with people from all over the world. Don’t forget the returning expats who add to this dimension.

A few bits of advice… if you do go global physically, there are downsides as well. You can have culture shock, periods of loneliness, conflict in the work-place, it will cost you money, it puts big strains on relationships and it is inefficient.  There are support services for Aussies abroad. In just about every country there is an Australian Chamber of Commerce, facebook group or Meet Up group.

Australians are so well placed to be global:

  • We have a great education, work ethic and culture
  • We speak English
  • We as a nation have a good name
  • Australia operates in most countries.

I also realized while away how awesome Australia is: 

  • Our democracy and Parliament are the envy of many
  • Our legal system is robust
  • Our tax system is fair
  • Our national rankings in many key indicators are top ten globally
  • Our infrastructure – transport, health, telecommunications is world’s best

Funnily enough, these are things that people whinge about here on a daily basis.

Finally, a few personal thoughts on the future which anyone who wants unlimited opportunities on the global stage should consider.

Personal mobility will the next revolution. Just as we are going through the internet revolution – people in the next fifty years will be much more mobile. Cross border migration will loosen up,

We hear lots about BRIC – Brasil, India, Russia and China. We’ve heard from the Australian Government about “the Asian Century”. After Asia will “go” South America and then Africa after that. There’s a lot of wealth in Africa and development programs are kicking in. Watch Africa.

The internet revolution will continue and I don’t think many have begun to comprehend what is about to happen so dramatically so soon. I don’t know myself. I know it is doing to be amazing. My point here is to not cement your thinking on the Internet to what’s happening today. be prepared to change what it means every few years as “we” work it out.

Things are getting cheaper. A return airfare to London is about $1500; phone calls are essentially free; internet is free if you look for it; social networks are free; household goods are disposable; a computer that cost $3k five years ago costs $1k today.

The world is awaiting you, mentally, physically and spiritually.  It is fascinating. It is worth it. Are there any limits? No. It is all about Yourself unlimited.


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