Helen Hill, Unlikely Genius
Helen is lovely. It’s that simple.
She’s an award winning author, a creative learning designer, an environmentalist, a podcaster, a coach and mum to the most adorable lion head buns! She’s also co-founder of Be The Future; a business that’s encouraging families to rewrite our climate story.
Helen is someone who really inspires me; and did I mention she’s really lovely?
Who are you and what’s your super power?
I’m Helen Hill, the multi-curious business owner of UnlikelyGenius™️, Falling Off The Ladder and co-founder of Be The Future. In other words, I’m a business coach, educator, designer, award-winning (!) author, imperfect environmentalist, podcaster and slightly obsessed diva-bunny-mother.
Given most people’s reaction when I list what I do, my superpower should probably be my creativity and managing many things at once… though I’d also say my curiosity and love of learning is my superpower as it fuels everything else and leads to continual developments, opportunities and growth.
What inspires you?
Oooh, I can find inspiration in so many places, usually when I’m not prepared and don’t expect it. My brain wanders so much, it’s amazing what random images, words, conversations or situations can spark something in my brain (which I usually forget two minutes later).
I’d say the most common brain-prodders are books, audiobooks, podcasts, conversations with other business owners, and any situation in which I’m learning or experimenting. Though about 90% of my decent ideas come whilst in the shower or, in a recent development, driving over a very specific bit of the moors where we live. And Pinterest is still a big source of inspiration for me for anything visual.
How do you deal with burnout?
Initially, there WILL be tears. A lot of them. And much hyperventilating. After an exhausted sleep I will start to deal with it.
Burnout is an ever-present threat for me with managing so many things at once and my very curious nature, however I know once I get to the tearful stage I need to do something about it and step back before it gets to all-consuming full burnout. I constantly need to do a lot of work on prioritising my time and projects and I’ve recently realised how important creativity is for me – as I felt I had lost a lot of that. Getting that back into my day and rediscovering the joy in it has been very important – as is going to the gym to do weights and my new hobby of photography as they get me out of the house and away from the laptop… but they’re also usually the first thing to go when I get stressed or exhausted.
What’s the worst piece of advice you got given as a freelancer?
I’ve managed to have quite a level head so far and know when something is right/not right for me – plus I’m an awkward sod and don’t tend to do what people tell me anyway so I think that’s prevented a few mishaps.
The only thing that hasn’t worked is a coaching platform I’ve invested in which is just not living up to what was promised and so a wasted cost. Luckily it wasn’t too expensive as they’re a start-up company so it’s not thousands down the drain, but was still quite a kicker at a really unfortunate time.
When you’re not working, what do you like doing?
I’m as much of a multi-hyphened nightmare there too – I love all things creative, anything that I can get totally absorbed in. The main current ones are crochet, weaving, and resin crafts, but I’ve also recently done workshops in everything from upholstery to whittling and pottery. I also generally hoard more books by the day, and am starting to think I have a real problem. I blame Graham putting me on a one-in one-out policy a while back – it just added fuel to the fire. Having recently taken a photography course, I’m trying to hone my skills there ready for a trip next year – prepare to be bombarded with 7,938,726 pics of sloths.
I’m also a very amateur archer, and have recently taken up weights and a personal trainer to stop me injuring myself anymore in silly sports like netball 😂 They are not a good idea for this clumsy fragile crumpet.
I love the theatre, a good musical and live music. Plus I’m a massive child and so love a day at the zoo or anywhere I can get giddy around animals. We do lots of animal experiences and of course, I’m also chief slave to Tiffin and Strudel – my two lionhead bunnies.
What’s on repeat on your spotify/itunes acc?
At the moment, Lady Gaga is a pretty permanent fixture, especially at the gym. Plus Kawala, Kensington, Bears Den and Jack Savoretti (hummuna hummuna mmm-mmmmm… gawd, I love that man). Or whatever random indie music Spotify throws at me and I get hooked on each week.
<Drifts into a Jack fuelled daydream>
Who’s your dream client?
David Attenborough and/or the BBC Blue Planet/Planet Earth series. I would love to create something educational with the Mighty Dave and the Beeb. I would sacrifice myself to a hungry lion just to get 5 mins working with Attenborough. And if I ever got to swim with and film whales you would find me hyperventilating and more emosh than I have EVER been.
What’s the best advice you could give someone wanting to break into your industry?
Which one? Ha-ha.
Though that well timed bit of sarcasm does actually bring me to a piece of advice that worked wonders for someone I was coaching recently – don’t feel like you have to settle for ONE thing. We’re told all our lives to pursue one interest, pick one career, but you can have varied interests and make it work. In fact, that’s my superpower.
(Oh wait, back to question 1 I should go…)
But honestly, you can’t work in learning, education or professional development without having a passion for learning and developing yourself. So keep learning, keep experimenting, don’t be afraid to get it wrong, and ask for help when you need it. A second set of eyes on something can often help you fix something in a tenth of the time it would take alone or give you a whole new perspective.
What book are you reading at the moment? And would you recommend it?
As usual I have many on the go, but the best one I’m reading right now is Burnout: Solve the Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski. It was recommended to me a while back by a podcast guest and I’ve only just got around to it… and the timing couldn’t be better. It’s intriguing how they explain stress as a cycle that needs to be closed to avoid burnout and overwhelm, and written in a lovely conversational manner.
What are your plans for the future? If any.
Oooh, now that’d be telling! 😉
In reality – I’m not 100% sure and have generally gone with the flow for 4 years. I’m not a planning kinda gal.
HOWEVER, that said… I’ve had a very exciting idea of how I would like to shape UnlikelyGenius™️ which would also make it align with my other businesses more and really focus on the wellbeing space and inclusive education. It’s very early days of thinking this through so I am currently exploring the possibilities and actually having to plan with this one. I’ll keep you posted.
For Falling off The ladder I’ve just finished my coaching training but I will continue to develop my skills and training in the Transactional Analysis, Positive Psychology and Neuroscience spaces as I think they’re most valuable for the freelancers and business owners that I want to work with.
Right now, the behemoth that is Be The Future is gathering serious momentum and we will have our first book and game out early in 2023. This is a dream come true for me – to be a children’s book illustrator – so is a BIG focus for me right now. I must get this right!
<Imposter syndrome barging through>
What’s your go to cake?
Mmmm…well…if it’s cake, this girl wants it. Anything without nuts and it’s going in.
But my faves are Tiffin (hence the rabbit’s name) and Tiramisu – but wait, they’re more desert than cake… so I’ll also go a good slab of chocolate fudge cake – warmed with ice cream obvs (I’m not an animal!). And I love the birthday cakes you get from the supermarket with their illuminous uniform icing – I don’t need nowt fancy.
Can I have them all?
What’s your ultimate favourite 90s song?
One of my fave ever songs is I’m Kissing You by Des’ree. It’s a beautiful song from one of my fave films as a teen/ever (Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet). Oooh, how it builds in the middle…a beaut.
What would your theme song be?
Lady Gaga, Born This Way. I couldn’t stand Gaga until recently, but I’ve totally changed my opinion of her and seen a different side. I’m in awe when someone changes my mind like that, and this song couldn’t be more perfect, especially with my health issues and experiences in employment.
Tell me your favourite joke
I’m so bad at jokes, I can usually only remember the start OR the punchline but not both.
So, I’ll tell you the one Graham messaged me to cheer me up when I had flu when we had just started dating. Believe it or not, the joke was so bad it won me over…
“There were 2 snowmen in a field. One turned to the other and said ‘D’ya smell carrots?”
THIS IS WHAT I LIVE WITH.
You don’t need to judge me, I judge myself.
If you could be any friends character who would you be and why?
Who wouldn’t want to inhabit Phoebe’s world? And I have always had a thing for Paul Rudd which may or may not have influenced that answer (see earlier response about Romeo and Juliet for the beginning of that guilty pleasure).
Crazy Rich Asians is my guilty pleasure movie, what’s yours?
Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove is a pretty frequently watched pleasure for me. I love the humour and can be regularly heard exclaiming “llama faaaacccee”. Another is Lost in Translation.
And finally, who do you think I should speak to next?
Penny Brazier, Ange Lyons, Tom Garfield, Graeme Piper are some great suggestions who I have really enjoyed interviewing for the book launch and podcast. Oh, and Gareth of That Content Shed is always brilliant.
I’ll be posting more blogs, interviews and case studies so be sure to check back here soon. Follow me on social media for regular updates, handy hints, tips and design inspiration! See you soon!
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