Planting a seed for the future

OLYmpian Natalie Cook speaking to business owners at the Regions Rising event in Hughenden, Queensland

I’ve recently returned from an inspiring week travelling around regional Queensland, from Charters Towers (where my Grandma was born) to Hughenden, to Cloncurry and Normanton (population 1200ish people, and some big crocs!), and even my hometown of Townsville. I love any opportunity to visit my home and family, so that made the trip even more special. 

Regions Rising is an annual series of events, workshops and masterclasses, driven by Regional Development Australia that aim to connect and empower business owners in regional communities. This year, I was brought along to sprinkle a little GOLD dust into the hearts and minds of the people, considering that in 10 years, our amazing state of Queensland will play host to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. What can we all do NOW, to prepare for the momentum of the Games?

10 years may sound like a lot, but believe me it will come around super quick… that’s why it’s crucial we start dreaming, planning and taking action now. 

Johnathan Thurston

Jonathan Thurston and I with 'Krys the Savannah King' in Normanton.


The tour started with a bang, we picked up JT (Johnathan Thurston) and hit the road for our first stop, Charters Towers. 

One of the prompts I often use in my mentoring and goal-setting sessions is to ask people,
“What is your ‘gold medal’?”

For some (not many though), it is their dream to win a gold medal. But for many, it could be as simple as upskilling into a new role at work, launching a new product, or even building the kitchen they’ve always dreamed about. But it does have to be a stretch… maybe even a bit crazy or EPIC! After all, we’re talking about a dream to be the best in the world.

I asked people at all our regional stops to think bigger and bolder than ever before! To make their dreams OLYmpic-sized! Where was the gold for the medals going to come from? Hmm… maybe in surrounding gold mines! Maybe the ribbons could be designed by an Indigenous artist?

The sky used to be the limit until man went to the moon!

There is nothing better than stirring the energy in a room full of people. The collective mind expands and then anything is possible!

It was amazing to watch the energy building: from “Wow, WHAT IF I could do that?” to “...CAN I do that?” to “Actually, I AM going to do that!”


Speaking with business owners in Hughenden


Whatever your ‘gold medal’ is, whether you’re an individual or in a leadership role for a large company, you’re going to need a plan to get you there: what will you need to achieve within one year? Five years? Ten years? Create a clear 2032 strategy now and you’ll have the map to guide you.

In addition to strategy, you’ll also need a clear purpose. Finding the ‘why’ will keep you going through the tough times.

I loved hearing JT’s stories, too! How he beat the Broncos to win a premiership in 2015 – “He doesn’t miss a second time” and his advice for achieving goals is to ‘ride the wave’. 

Achieving a goal is not always linear… in fact, it rarely is. It’s more like a rollercoaster! JT talked about accepting the ups and downs, learning from your missteps, missed tackles or missed kicks...and surrounding yourself with the right people to support you on the journey. And most importantly, linking arms with your teammates when things don’t go to plan - it’s important to put your hand up and let your ‘team’ know when you’re going through a tough time. 

 COP26 Climate Summit

JT and I on tour


Big goals need long-term planning, clear strategy, and a lot of momentum.

The recent COP26 Climate Summit has the whole world looking further into the future. We’re now acutely aware that the 2050 climate target isn’t far away. Sure, it’s almost 30 years from now, but we are building a future that looks completely different to the world we live in today. The thinking and the work have to start now to get there.

And if you think a 30 year plan sounds like a stretch, consider this: I have a friend who is a monk, and they set themselves a 50 year goal!

The philosophy behind this is that we plant the seed today that will grow into a tree to provide our next generation with oxygen, shade and food.

As we steamroll into the last few weeks of the year, I’d love you to start thinking about your 2032 goals. Use that OLYmpic-sized spark to ignite your own dreams, and think about how you can ‘plant your seeds’ in 2022.

St Joseph’s

Meeting our next generation of superstars at St Joseph’s in Cloncurry


PS - A special thanks to everyone we met on the tour. The passion, resilience, commitment and pride in their towns was palpable. The mayors of each city greeted us with a big smile and open arms! I loved meeting you all and seeing some of the young talent with that sparkle in their eye to represent the green and gold in 2032 – like Summer from Normanton (age 8, and yet to be beaten in the pool!) and Hayley from Cloncurry who at age 9 wants to be just like me!


Images thanks to Regional Development Australia