When a life crisis forces you to lose control

Sometimes a life crisis forces us to look long and hard at life, including where we sit in our careers and whether our seat is a good one.

That’s just what Dr Danielle Klar did when recovering from both breast cancer and clots in her lungs and legs, which almost killed her. And that’s why I invited Danielle to be the guest speaker at the November Network of Possibility, a philanthropic initiative for like-minded people who want to connect, share knowledge and experience, and give back to the community.

 As the founder of the Network, I invited Danielle to share her inspirational story to encourage others for two reasons. First, as an accredited career coach, I see people all the time who are hit by a mega moment in life, sometimes of their own doing and sometimes not. While they might not feel so, there is hope for positive change during these momentous moments. Second, I want to encourage career professionals to regularly look at whether they’re happy and flourishing at work and at home. If they’re not, then I want to motivate them to have the confidence to shake things up.

So many professionals, including leaders in the workplace, see that strong ambition and working harder, faster and longer are their only options. This isn’t true. We can all put mechanisms in place to transition when we need to, before life demands that we do so.

So what is Danielle’s story? She was ambitious and driven—by her own admission. She was enjoying her career, which started as a medical officer in the Royal Australian Air Force. She had completed two medical fellowships and several degrees. She was determined to become a Department Secretary and nothing was going to stop her. Then—BAM—she got breast cancer and complications led to more surgery and more recovery time. Then she learned she had clots (or pulmonary emboli), which were life threatening. She was told to STOP and rest for six months. She lost control over her life in so many ways and on so many levels.

During that six months, Danielle was smart. She took time to reflect—time so many professionals in the midst of careers simply don’t do. She took time to reflect on what made her happy and that was the creative side of her mind and her love of design and jewellery.

A series of other events led Danielle to open Plumery, a fine jewellery business in Canberra. She qualified as a gemmologist, got hooked up with wholesale jewellery contacts and began a new path in life.

I wanted Danielle to share her story at the Network of Possibility because we can all learn from the experience of others, both personally and professionally.

Many professionals I coach, or who take my workshops, see losing control as a weakness, and they try to put energy they don’t have into fighting it. They inevitably crash and burn out. My advice to anyone on a career path is to embrace vulnerability and be open to aligning yourself with who you really are, not who you think you should be. It takes courage, and Danielle is a great example of this. She’s also a fabulous example of how life can take a major turn and keep going—for the better.

At the Network Danielle described how she opened Plumery directly next door to her husband’s medical practice. She kept her GP license and now works part time with him (he is an Orthopaedic surgeon). She also works part-time at Plumery, alongside her daughter (one of her five children, which includes two sets of twins). She says she’s happier than ever, even though she has abandoned any drive to become a Secretary.

I get a real buzz out of working with professionals as a coach to get them to make changes when unhappy—before they’re forced to do so. So often they don’t believe they can, but then I see them embrace it wholeheartedly when they learn about the possibilities. We put plans in place and slowly but surely things become clear and positive change is made.


Kim Vella

What you see is what you get with Kim – and that is why her clients love working with her. There is no corporate persona, just a personable executive coach who engages and empowers talented leaders to break through the “inner game” – self-sabotage and self-limiting thoughts. Her extended multicultural family warms her heart and her Whippet, Oscar, keeps her on her toes!

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