Are you in your 20s and already thinking of changing careers? Stephanie Dickson was thinking of her next step 15 months ago, which lead to a powerful journey of personal change and self-discovery. At only 28, she is now the founder of Asia’s first-ever Conscious Festival entitled Green is the New Black. She is also the founder of The Wedge Asia, a monthly self-development event designed to inspire, provide knowledge and encourage positive action. At the same time she and her co-founder, Jerald Lim run a Social Media Marketing Consultancy and organise many other events to help fund the first two Conscious initiatives. In the first year alone Green is the New Black reached 600 attendees and 1.3m people online, a mean feat for someone who about 15 months ago had left her well-paid job not knowing what to pursue next. And The Wedge Asia is now a much looked forward to event in the Singapore evening event scene featuring some amazing speakers who are able to shift one’s perspectives on edgy topics such as Empowerment and Creativity in less than 20 minutes on her stage.
What transpired for Stephanie in the last 15 months is the success of a powerful idea but also a period of deep self-searching leading to a complete rebuild of Stephanie Dickson. This young powerhouse, who hopes to one-day host a Conscious Festival the scale of the annual Rise Conference in Hong Kong, shares her journey with us.
1. Who is Stephanie Dickson?
I am a third culture kid. That means I grew up in a culture that was neither my mother nor my father’s. I lived in 6 cities and 20 residential addresses by the time I was 26. Towards the end of university when I was deciding on what to do, I decided to scan my resume to get an idea of what I was good at. Hosting events was a clear theme all the way through it. So that is what I decided to pursue. With my first job, I was lucky enough to get lots of experience hosting various fashion events around the South East Asia region.
Then came the crunch. I quit my job and decided I wanted to work for myself and that too only in the area of Conscious Living. I was really keen on creating an eco-swimwear label but was not glued to that idea. On a personal level I was going through a huge shift and I felt unsupported during this time. I found it difficult to find anyone who was like-minded. Eventually I started watching a lot of TED Talks and Marie Forleo’s videos. One quote from Marie that changed my perspective on how to find what I should be doing is “Clarity Comes from Engagement Not Thought”. That made so much sense to me. I was always in my own head. I realized I needed to take some action to figure out what to do next, as just thinking is not going to get me anywhere.
Jerald, my co-founder is an ex-colleague from my previous job. I told Jerald I wanted to create a Conscious community because with all the personal searching I was doing at the time, I realized not only did I need this community for myself, but there were also others who could benefit. That’s how the Wedge was born. I strive to help people by bringing people together and learning from others who have been through a similar shift. We deliver inspiration, knowledge and action to hopefully move someone toward their next step. Also I think there are many people in Asia who are not deeply happy. There are still many people who escape using alcohol and travel from their daily problems failing to deal with the issues at their core. I hope to do my part to help them solve this.
2. After spending all that time in the world of fashion, why choose Conscious Living?
I started doing some research into fashion whilst deciding on my next steps and discovered that Fashion is the World’s 2nd Most Polluting industry. For example, I learnt that it takes 20,000 liters of water to create one cotton T-shirt and one jean. That’s more than 3 years of someone’s drinking water. I instantly decided I would start to consume less. I knew I did not want to be a part of the fashion world as it was but I wanted to be part of the solution to making it better. There was a time when I used to be just another girl going for fast fashion solutions but today I take pride in what I choose to wear because I know where it comes from and what it means.
My growing passion for the conscious living space was making me curious too. So I went for a few courses that help you learn more about yourself. I discovered that my mother was the core inspiration behind my passion for this area. She is a holistic energy practitioner and has been delving into various modalities from interior design to tarot reading, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Soul Realignment and now Jin Shin Jyutsu. She is also a vegetarian and takes great interest in the source of her food. When I was growing up I was quite skeptical about her varied interests. But some personal incidents happened in my life that made me see that these techniques are something to take note and be aware of. I feel empowered knowing them.
I slowly begun to accept my new passion for Conscious Living and by doing this I was also accepting who I truly was. One of my first actions was to try meditating to ground myself and get some peace and calm. All the major personal change teachers I followed at the time also meditated so I looked to discover the same gains they had experienced.
I then combined Conscious Living, my experience of creating edgy events, human-to-human connection and all the conscious brands I knew in Singapore. And this was the blueprint of Green is the New Black, our first ever Conscious Festival in Singapore. We managed to create it in 6 weeks and that’s really because we were fortunate enough to have a background planning big regional events.
One thing to note about our work is that we aim not to preach and push people into ‘doing the right thing’. We don’t even do this with our own friends. When people become curious and want to take their interest in this space to the next level, regardless of where they are in their journey towards conscious living, that’s when I hope they find us and we fill some gaps for them, in a really fun way.
3. What Drives You?
Inner Peace drives me. The Wedge is a personal tool to achieve inner peace. I want to help other people find solutions to their own inner peace too.
I do various other practices to keep me grounded and focused towards my quest of inner peace. I practice Gratitude at the start and end of my day using the 5 Minute Journal app. And I also practice positive affirmations inspired by Louise Hay’s mirror work. Yes, I tell myself in the mirror that I love myself, everyday!
Doing all this changed a lot within me. 15 months ago I was all over the place but I am hugely better off now. Some people may think this stuff is weird but I am totally cool with being a weirdo. I have been called a lot of things including statements like you are such a Greenie or you are such a Hippy or you are into all that Woo Woo stuff. If you come to my event, you will see that it is not like that at all. I believe today, you can be spiritual but you can still have a wonderful career.
4. What is Stephanie Dickson’s gift to the world?
My gift is to bring people together to help each other live more consciously.
My long terms goals are to make my events bigger and more often. Hopefully I will have 2 large events like Green is the New Black annually. In time to come I believe people are going to want that human to human connection offered by events even more and I am happy to take this challenge on. I’d love for us to get as big as the RISE event in Hong Kong but for Conscious Living.
5. Why do you think people begin to look outside of their usual networks for something new to learn? Why should they consider events from the Wedge?
People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did but they will never forget how you made them feel. Plus people have a thirst for knowledge. They want to get away from screens. They want to connect and get inspired. I believe there will always be a need for a combination of all this. And that is what we offer at The Wedge, a place to get a monthly top up of inspiration, knowledge and action, while connecting to like-minded people
We also look to attract the right audience. The magic in our space comes from the incredible people who come. We decided that it is better to have just enough of the right audience at our events instead of trying to fill up the event with anyone. We have learnt how to sustain events on a long-term basis with our experience of managing events and learning as we go.
6. Green is the New Black is an awesome initiative in the space of Conscious Living. Why should someone come for this event?
Apart from my mother I am also inspired by all the facts and documentaries that I have been watching on how the Earth is deteriorating from the impact of humanity. I may be just one person but my wallet has a lot of power. There is a quote by Anna Lappe, which I came across recently, that gave me the biggest jolt. It says, “Every time you buy something you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want”. With Green is The New Black, we are empowering individuals with tools to hopefully cast their vote in the right direction.
As a side note we will also be donating an extra tuition class to a girl in Cambodia to keep her in school with every activity engagement by an attendee at Green is the New Black. We have partnered with Buy1 Give1 on this initiative. We are still just a small company but we know we can do this showing people that their individual purchases can make a difference.
7. Have you ever felt like giving up? When and what pushed you forward to continue with your next step?
Yes I have. Towards the end of 2015, I was working on The Wedge and Green is The New Black full time whilst Jerald was still in the army. I was almost broke so I took up a job to lecture part-time on fashion at the Management Development Institute of Singapore. I pushed myself really hard working till 11pm almost everyday. I was completely overwhelmed and under so much pressure that I would start to cry over the smallest issue. I pulled myself through it with sheer passion for what I do. I can proudly say that we managed to reach 1.3m people online, 600 people at the event and spotlighted 40 conscious brands.
After the event, I thought the worst of my anxiety was over but I was still feeling really down in early 2016. I ignored this sad feeling within, making myself believe that there was nothing wrong with me. I was still crying a lot and did not know why. I also felt guilty that I was feeling this way because there are many real problems in this world than this strange sad state I was in. A girlfriend suggested that I might be depressed. She coached me through it as best as she could as she had been through something similar.
I felt like giving up almost every day at the time but each event made me stronger. Our speakers at The Wedge have just been amazing and inspired so many of our attendees and myself. I also begun to meditate more and do more gratitude activity and positive affirmations. And I believe I have finally come out the other side. Close friends and family were my biggest support during this time.
8. You naturally inspire many young women to want to do more with their lives being in the position you are. What in your words is a woman and what is her life about?
For me, a woman’s journey is to discover who she is, dealing with her internal self and deciding what kind of person she wants to be. Also, women are teachers of the next generation. We need to be aware of our own issues and do our best to ensure they stop with us and do not get passed on to our children.
9. How has founding The Wedge Asia and Green is the New Black changed you?
It has drawn me into myself in ways I never would have imagined. I learnt a lot about my passions, my limits, my strengths and myself. I have built something that has actually helped me a lot with the aim of helping others going through the same situation. Strangely enough I was creating both Green is The New Black and The Wedge Asia and at the same time I was beginning to truly love myself and accept myself for who I was.
I believe that the more I find ways to love myself, the more successful I will make both Green is The New Black and The Wedge Asia.
10. What is Conscious Living to you?
Conscious Living is about being conscious about the choices we make; its about having awareness of our inner and outer worlds – living wide awake and being mindful of the impact we are making. This also translates into having awareness of what is really going on and making the right decision based on that awareness and ultimately creating positive impact. These steps should cover all aspects of one’s life. It is tough but not impossible.
As an example of becoming aware with regards to personal happiness, my mum’s wise words are “You spend a lifetime with yourself, so why be cruel to yourself.” We need to treat ourselves like we would pamper and love a best friend. So, I am consciously choosing to reject my negative biases towards myself so I can be happier.
11. How “conscious” do you think your own life is? What advice do you have for people who are starting out in this area? Is there any sustainable living or conscious living hacks you would like to share?
First of all start off by questioning what matters to you. For example do you care about Climate Change, the issues of the Fashion Industry, or just making yourself happier? Start with one thing. As I mentioned before, clarity comes with engagement. Take some action in that space and move on to the next thing. Our brain expands and adjusts to more information in the same way we complete a marathon a kilometer at a time.
I mentioned meditation, positive affirmations and gratitude practice already. The meditation I do is from the app by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. I do drift off in my meditation even now but I keep at it. I also listen to podcasts from Tony Robbins and The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod on my daily travels on the Singapore MRT. I do not miss Marie Forleo’s weekly videos. I also buy a lot less than before. In terms of food, I am consciously trying to eat less meat and dairy because this industry is also a large contributor to climate change. (If you are interested to learn more, check out Cowspiracy). I am looking forward to the alternatives for meat and dairy that are being cultivated. I would gladly make the switch once they are available.
12. Would you be as conscious as you are now if you were a corporate employee?
I honestly don’t know. But I know that more than 50% of the attendees at The Wedge are corporate employees and the stuff we discuss matters to them too. The concept of “intrapreneurs” is becoming more prevalent. In time to come, hopefully change towards more conscious corporate activity is driven equally from bottom to top, as it seems to be from top to bottom.
13. What is the most inspiring feedback someone has given you, who were they? And what is the worst feedback anyone has given you, who were they?
Unfortunately people don’t tell us what we are doing really badly. I suppose they just don’t come back. We are lucky enough to get constructive feedback but have not been told anything bad so far. People come up to us after the events and say wonderful things, which is really music to my ears and keeps me going.
We hope you keep going and surpass your own targets Miss Stephanie Dickson. Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story of change with us. The 2nd Green is The New Black Festival is coming up on 22 October 2016 in Singapore. The team is flying in some amazing speakers from the region and beyond to shift awareness in this space. Tell someone about it NOW. We hope to see you there.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do – Edward Everett Hale