An Award-winning Assistant’s Path to Happiness and Success

August 4, 2016


As this is a controversial topic and includes questions such as “what is success?” and “who determines success?”, let me clarify: A famous quote by Henry Ford “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”. Your success and achievements are not based on what society thinks but on what you think. You are not only successful if your name is mentioned in a few articles, you receive recognition or awards, or you are presenting at training institutions. Remember the words of Robin Banks, “everything I need is within me now”. This is simply challenging the thinking of each EA/PA. Hopefully, by reading this article, you will begin to consider certain questions within that will give you the answer to one of the most important questions. “Am I living a life of significance and success or a life chosen for me by circumstance and society? Am I being true to myself by holding back and being content?”

What is Your Purpose?

Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” I would like to believe that I was born for a purpose, to stand out, to make a difference and be significant. I want to live my life in such a way that it does not leave a void when I take my final bow. But rather my life should fill a space in the Universe for others to build their dreams upon and from where they might find their purpose. If this is a question you ask yourself, I encourage you to take the time to ponder it deeply. Forget for one second about the ‘how’ and simply think about the ‘why’. For EA/PAs this might be a new concept as, in our profession, we need to be one step ahead of things at all times. But it is important to understand each aspect of our living in order to fit the pieces into the puzzle as we build our life. Only when we understand the purpose of our life and understand where we are in the building of that life, can we move onward. Only then can we complete the puzzle.

Where are you at right now? Comfort zone or destination?

What seems like eons ago, my career was ‘handed’ to me. I did not choose to become a Receptionist and grow to be a PA, it simply happened. Today looking back it was probably the best ‘Universe’ intervention in my life. I am proud to announce that given the decision today to choose a career I will, with pride, choose to be an EA/PA. But there is some hesitation as I write this. Is there more to this? Have I reached my purpose? How can I evolve if I have not? What does MY excellence look like? This can be answered from two perspectives.

If I look from my ‘comfort zone’ position, I have reached the pinnacle and the purpose of my career. I am a successful PA reporting to the CEO of a large Corporate Company. I earn a good salary and I am passionate about my work and what I do. I won the OPSA / REXEL National PA of the Year Award. I am respected by my peers and colleagues alike. I am honoured that some of my articles have been published. I am happily married with the most amazing son. Taking all into consideration I should be comfortable and content.

But I am not. There is a voice on the other side of my comfort zone getting louder as time moves on. A voice that is beckoning from out there, calling me to my purpose. It is encouraging me to break the boundaries of my comfort zone and move on with my journey. It is reminding me of the fire that burns within. A fire that I ignited and is now fuelled by the network of incredible PAs surrounding me, with whom I share and learn. It reminds me of my purpose and calls me to continue the journey of growth. Some may ask, what if you hear the voice and you know this is not your purpose what is holding you back? And this is where it becomes interesting. Where the mirror is turned from the outside towards the inside. This is where courage and bravery is needed. This is where most people come up with “But” and give numerous reasons why the time or the situation is not right yet. This is where the fledgling either finds her wings to soar or burrows back into the comfort of the nest, never to ride the winds on open wings. So do you stay safe in the comfort of the nest or do you spread your wings and soar with eagles?

What is the future? Does it need re-evaluation?

If there is a feeling of discontent, do you use your job as an EA/PA as a stepping stone for another career choice? Not at all. It simply means you need to challenge where you are and look towards what you believe your purpose to be.

If you are like me, and this resonates with you, then it is time to consider the demolition of your comfort zone. It is time to move towards your purpose for there is more to you than even you believe. Rumi said, “Study me as much as you like, you will not know me, for I differ in a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see”. It is time to strengthen your wings and allow others to see the amazing potential that you too possess. It is time for YOU to see yourself, not through what is current but what is possible. It is not only the destiny of a few EA/PAs to soar but for all EA/PAs to soar and be proud of their career choice. And most importantly be proud of themselves. It is each EA/PA’s responsibility to be the best they can be, to live the Brand of the Ultimate EA/PA and in so doing uplift others, now and for the future.

So how do we do this? How do we develop our own wings?

  • Remember the saying “if it is to be, it is up to me”.
  • It will take a decision, a decision you need to make yourself whether you have reached your purpose or whether you need to move towards it.
  • It will take maturity, maturity to move beyond any negativity for all are given opportunity, regardless of history, race or creed.
  • It will take courage, courage that you will find in your Network of EA/PAs. So surround yourself with a Network of courageous peers. Be brave enough to see the courage you have within yourself.
  • It will take guts, guts to push through regardless of circumstance, fear or hesitation. Never accept defeat or give up.
  • It will take determination, determination you will witness in those that have gone before you.
  • It will take belief, belief you will discover within yourself as you read self-development books and enhance your own knowledge.
  • It will take trust in those that have a vested interest in your success.
  • It will take the knowledge that you may fall, but you will not fail.
  • It will take ownership of your own life and your own decisions.
  • But most of all it will take the burning desire to FLY. To soar and constantly develop yourself. Discover your wings and be the light that others may follow.

In closing, here is a piece found on the Internet to keep with you:
You think you’ve seen her naked because she took her clothes off?
Tell me about her dreams, tell me what breaks her heart.
What is she passionate about and what makes her cry?
Tell me about her childhood.
Better yet, tell me one story about her that you’re not in.
You’ve seen her skin and you’ve touched her body, but you still know as much about her as a book you once found, but never got around to opening.” – Unknown
Do not dare to deny the world the privilege to read your story. To build from where you left off. To be inspired by your actions. To walk within your footprints. To follow where you FLY.

About The Author: Joanie Nel is the Personal Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer of Samancor Chrome, a position she has held for the last 8 years. Her career started in 1996 as a Departmental Secretary and Receptionist and her passion for the profession has grown ever since. Through continued development, mentoring and a drive to enhance and improve herself she has held various positions in Corporate organisations. In 2015 she won the OPSA / Rexel National Office Professional of the Year Award - an award that is recognized as the most prestigious and longest standing award presented to the most outstanding Executive Assistants and Office Professionals across South Africa. Joanie strongly advocates professionalism at all times, and regardless of position, race or gender she believes everyone be treated with respect and integrity, valuing individual uniqueness. For Joanie her brand is what defines her as an individual, and she aligns herself with likeminded professionals to take the profession forward. Her focus is on the establishment of a successful and sustainable PA Forum within her organization and sharing her knowledge with others. Not forgetting one of her mottos “become the change you wish to see within the world”.

This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at to find out more or to get your 30% discount email [email protected] and tell them we sent you.

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