Action Woman Ronni Kahn answers Ten Questions.
The first time I met with Ronni Kahn, CEO and Founder of OzHarvest , was in 2009 at her home. I was seeking advice for a project I was working on and Ronni kindly invited my friend and I into her beautiful home for a cup of tea and a chat. I was immediately struck by her strong sense of style and self and I knew that this was a woman who got things done. Ronni spoke to us briefly about OzHarvest and I was impressed. My first International Women’s Day event was around the corner and I knew that Ronni would inspire women and speak from her heart. I wasn’t wrong. Ronni had the women entranced and her speech has not been forgotten over the years. So it feels completely in synch that Ronni should be WonderWomen’s first Ten Questions woman. Ronni is also WonderWomen’s patron but more about that on the WonderPatron page … Thank you Ronni!
What is the essence of being a woman?
I think the essence of being a woman is using our gifts wisely because I think we have gifts that men don’t have. I think it’s our emotional intelligence, I think it’s intuition, I think it’s sensitivity but I also think it’s strength. We have the capacity to multi task and weave all of those soft strengths and hard strengths into something incredibly powerful. The feminine energy is extraordinary. It’s the fusion of our maleness and our feminine energy but using it in the best possible way.
What do you feel unites women?
I think our capacity to share is one of our strongest qualities. I watch men and I feel so sorry for them. They are so isolated within their friendships. They seem to struggle with how to communicate deeply and honestly. I think the honesty among women and that ability to connect deeply so very quickly is a uniting factor. I’ve met women that I didn’t know before but felt like I’d known all my life and within minutes we were sharing deep and intimate secrets . Our communication is so good. That’s what unites women, our capacity to break through barriers very quickly to get to the essence of things.
How do you stay strong, assertive and feminine?
I think that’s easy. I think strength and assertiveness come from knowing who you are, knowing what you want to be, living with intent, living an authentic life. And that never means losing sight or dominating anybody else. It’s only about being strong within yourself. So I don’t think there’s a conflict. Strength is about being comfortable with who you are, being at one and being fulfilled. When you are in alignment you are all those things and it just means that you are able to achieve whatever it is that you set out to achieve but not at anyone else’s expense.
What and who inspires you?
Action. Talk is really easy. I meet thousands of people who should, would, could, might have, maybe one day will. I am inspired by people who do stuff. Whether it’s artists, whether it’s in a social context, whether it’s in a political context, it doesn’t matter. But action allows things to happen. That concept of action inspires me.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Mandela are my heroes, but when Clinton wrote a book on giving, that’s extraordinary. People who do stuff, people who don’t just talk about or don’t just think about it. And some do it quietly and some do it loudly and I don’t think it matters. I think being a leader without a title is as important as being a leader with a title because it’s what you feel your role should be. My friend Selma Browde, she has been a deep inspiration to me she’s 88, and for all her life has been a thought leader and an activist. She has been recognized. She lives in South Africa, but she’s an unsung hero because nobody really, you know, the world doesn’t know about her. That is not ever what motivates her.
There’s a principal at a school who is doing amazing things, every day I am inspired by people who do amazing things.
I’m really inspired by passionate people and it’s not necessarily people who are doing good in social issues but who are actually getting out there and doing stuff whether it’s building the best house or changing the world because they’re transforming lives.
How do you live your life so it has meaning?
I think it’s living in truth. It’s being totally aware that actually we don’t have another life, we don’t have a life in the future and we’re only as good as what we’ve done in the past and today. So I’m very much about living in the present. For me, it’s by being aware in every moment that I’m being the very best that I can be and keeping that awareness. I’m consciously aware that I want to know right now that whatever I’ve done today I’m happy with having done.
What contribution would you like to make to benefit humankind?
There’s absolutely no doubt that I started OzHarvest because I wanted to leave a legacy, I wanted to feel that my life had been worthwhile, purposeful, so I’m very comfortable that I’m on that road, and on that journey. But it’s a journey and I’ve got a lot still to do. So I think being aware and knowing that I want to make a difference and just finding whatever it is that works for me. For me, it is now building OzHarvest but growing. Our core business and our purpose was rescuing food. Our new purpose, our new refresh, is nourishing our country, so under that comes education, feeding, teaching, learning, providing life skills – anything and everything. So I’m particularly lucky, I believe that I am incredibly fortunate to have found both my purpose and the building blocks to get there. I hope that I will continue to build on that. It’s never enough to just say ‘well I have done this’. It’s ‘what more can I do’.
How do you stay calm under pressure?
By doing my best and staying aware. It’s not even about thinking and planning because I’m an incredibly intuitive person, I’m incredibly opportunistic and entrepreneurial. But I think that you have to be comfortable with who you are. I do a lot of meditation, I do a lot of yoga, I do a lot of physical exercise, I do a lot to balance the frenetic life that I’ve chosen for myself and I think it’s all about choice. When somebody cuts me off on a road, it is my choice to decide, am I going to get myself hysterical, get upset and curse them or am I going to say gee, that person must have been thoughtless and it’s ok because I can keep driving. It’s about self control and it’s about awareness and I work very hard at being aware. Mindfulness, awareness and a conscious choice. There are always things that come up at you and it’s how you deal with them in that crisis.
How do you move from dream into action into completion?
My life for the last 30-40 years has been about making things happen and I do think that there are some people who that’s easier for and some people who that’s not. I’m incredibly fortunate that for me being creative and seeing fruits of my labour whether it was in an extraordinary event or whether it was the result of a conversation. I’m pretty goal orientated and I’ve often done things that have a short time frame. So I think it is about setting goals and working through the steps to reach those goals. But for some people that’s a really methodical, plodding way of doing things. For me it’s quite quick. I see what I want to get to and I see it done before I get there. I knew exactly what OzHarvest would look like. I visualize it and then it happens. Visualization is an enormously powerful tool. We just forget that we have the skills to actually achieve what we want to achieve. I think it is about having beliefs, it is having goals, it is knowing what you want to achieve, it’s not always knowing how you’re going to get there but knowing where you want to get. And then there’s lots of ways to get there. It’s about trial and error and taking risk – I think risk is an enormous part of being brave and courageous and bold and I think that’s what is demanded of us.
Three words to describe how you maintain a life balance.
Life Balance = Love. Connection. Action.
If you could ask any woman one question, what would you ask?
For men and women – Are you being the very best that you can be?
Final note –
I would hate for people to think that I believe that life is just easy, no challenges and life is just a breeze. I just think it’s how we react to the challenges. How we react to the obstacles is really what makes the difference between a life that is smooth or a life that is absolutely bumpy. It’s not that things have come easy to me, it’s just that I have learnt along the way.
What do you think has helped you learn not to react?
I think I have a very strong self-belief and I don’t know where that came from. I certainly didn’t always. I was the shiest little person and people just laugh when they hear me say that. I still don’t like networking events because it’s really hard. But I think you get confidence. When you succeed in one thing, it does give you the confidence to step out and do the next thing. And so you’re less bruised when it doesn’t work exactly the way you thought it would and so you can navigate through life not absolving oneself of responsibility but certainly not just taking on all the blame,. It’s not being a victim – it’s taking charge of your life.