Speaker: Hayley Lewis, Commonwealth, Olympic and World Champion swimmer, Small business owner/operator.
Hayley shares her story during Safe Work Month 2020 and talks all things mental health, resilience and reflects on the highs and lows of her career.
Talking mental health with ex-Olympian Hayley Lewis
Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to our very last Safe Work Month event, talking mental health with small business owner, TV personality, and ex-Olympian Hayley Lewis. And isn't it ironic that a former darling of the pool will bring us home in Safe Work Month 2020. I'm Chris Bombolas from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, and I'm thrilled to be here today to talk about the importance of mental health. There will be an opportunity to ask Hayley questions at the end of the presentation, and thank you to those who've already submitted questions via our registration form. And if you'd like to ask a question of Hayley or give us a comment, please use the chat box to do so. I'd like to begin today by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today. And pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. I'd like to extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples watching today. Well, here's a little story about Hayley Lewis. Hayley captured the hearts of Australians by winning five gold medals at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games at the ripe old age of 15. A year later, she went on to become one of Australia's youngest ever world champions by winning the 200 meters freestyle at the Perth World Championships. In 1992, at her first Olympics, Hayley brought home a silver and a bronze, followed by more medals at the '93 Pan Pacs, the '94 Comm Games, the '95 Worlds, and the '96 Atlanta Olympics. After a short break, she returned to swimming in 1999 and achieved her goal of making the 2000 Olympic team as well as the 2001 World Championship team. Hayley became the first athlete ever to compete for her country in both pool and open water swimming at the same meet. She went on to win a bronze medal and officially retire at the age of 27. Since those heady days, Hayley has opened a swim school, hosted five seasons of the reality show, The Biggest Loser, authored a small business book, "Dream, Belief, Create," and had 18 years experience as a small business owner. While juggling her business in Balmoral, Coming up Roses, and it is nearing its 10th year of trade, Hayley has been busy studying and is now in her third year as a psychology student. It gives me great pleasure to welcome the former Cannon Hills student and former Brisbane State High School girl, Hayley Lewis.
Thank you Bombo, that was a lovely introduction. Made me feel a bit tired listening to it really. But, welcome to everyone who has given me the pleasure of their attention here today. It would be nice if it was in-person, but unfortunately this is the way we all have to deal with life at the moment. But it is quite an honor for me to be here as part of Safe Work Month and in particular Mental Health Week. I guess for me, you know, mental health is an extremely important subject for me for a number of reasons. As Bombolas said in the intro, I am in my third year studying psychology. So it's obviously a big focus in my life at the moment. And while I'm, you know, not a high distinction student, I've certainly learned a lot about psychology in the past three years. So I've only got one year to go, so I'm not quite there yet. But you know, I guess as well as studying psychology, mental health is extremely important to me for a few reasons. As Bombolas said as well, I have been a small business owner now for 18 years. Eight of those years, I owned a swim school at Carindale at Westfield Carindale. And it would probably still be there today, but Westfield demolished my swimming school and built a Coles shopping center instead. So, I had to find a new venture and I'm almost in my 11th year of owning a retail store at Balmoral. So, you know, everything happens for a reason while at the time, you know, it was extremely difficult to lose my swim school. I think being in retail and connecting with customers is something that I've always had a passion for, and it was something that I guess I learned about myself at the swim school is connecting with those people and working in a team environment, which I do today in my retail store. But apart from my business, and as you can imagine, working in small business for 18 years, I've probably employed at least 100 people. And they range from ages of about 15 to 65. So you can imagine, men and women. So you can imagine in the, you know, the diversity in ages, personalities. So I guess for me, it has been a learning curve and a real understanding about having to, you know, treat different personalities a lot differently. And while I had the same goals and the same process put in place for which I wanted to achieve at the swim school and at my shop, learning about different people's personalities and really taking the time to understand each individual that was working for me and work for me now, is an important, really important part of my life as a small business owner. But from a personal point of view, and I'll try not to get upset. But from a personal point of view, it's been 16 years ago now, since you know, that fateful phone call that a lot of families have had to take during the years. And for me, my family, it was something that we have never dealt with. Mental health back in, I guess even 16 years ago in the early 2000's, was something that was very much a stigma. If you were having mental health issues, you were probably seen as not being able to cope. And you were, you know, you definitely put on a facade, but you know, for our family in May, 2004, my eldest sister, Toni, took her own life. And that was something that our family had obviously never dealt with. And we're talking about a 34-year-old girl, three little kids, she was a PA teacher at Cav Road High School. She was a cyclist. She actually started Brisbane City Council's Gone Walking program. And I guess being the eldest of us, four kids, she was someone that our three siblings looked up to. She was the person that we went to when we were in trouble. She was the voice of reason. She was tough, she was strong. So for that, for our family to lose her, I guess really made us reflect on, you know, could we have seen signs in her situation that we didn't pick up on? And I guess from that point on, I really wanted to learn more about the mind. But back, you know, when all of this happened, you know, I was 30, I had the swim school, two little kids, and I just obviously didn't have time to study. But now obviously being a little bit older and my kids are older as well, I have the time to put into studying. So that's why I've chosen in the last three years to study psychology, and I've got one year to go. So, you know, in doing so I won't say, you know, I'm the smartest third-year psychology student out there, but I've certainly learnt a lot about the mind. And I've learnt a lot about why we think, act, behave, make decisions the way we do. And it's certainly, you know, is a passion of mine to really, I guess look after the people that are in my family and my friends. But also, I guess, as a small business owner, it's really getting to know the people that you work with. And I guess if I reflect back to my sister, she was like the leader of our family. And I guess now when I can reflect on it, leaders really need help too. And you know, shouldn't be afraid to ask for help themselves coz often, you know, they're the last people that do ask for help because they're always helping other people. So I think, you know, during my talk today, it's definitely things that I have learned during my swimming career and being able to sort of transfer into my life as a small business owner is sort of understanding the importance of being part of a team. And I guess you could say I'm a team leader. But, you know, I need help sometimes too. So it's having that understanding that there's nothing wrong with asking for help. And these days, thankfully, there's less of a stigma about mental health. So that's why I'm here today. And that's absolutely the focus of my talk, and I'm so grateful to have been asked to be part of your speakers here for Safe Work Month. So I guess one of the questions I get asked a lot is, why swimming? How could you possibly follow a line for 27 years? Why would you do that and how would you do that? Didn't you get bored? And, you know, I must get asked that weekly, how could you possibly stay determined and have that drive to do something so boring? But when I can reflect back on my life, I guess that certainly having that determination is something that I developed as a child. I grew up in a household where I was the third girl of four kids. And I wanted to be like my sisters. I had two sisters, two and four years older than me. And they were faster, stronger, smarter, fitter, leaner, everything. But to, I guess, add, I guess, hardship and resilience to my upbringing was the fact that I looked completely different to everyone in my family. My two sisters and my dad had the reddest hair you could possibly imagine, and the fairest skin and the greenest eyes. And they were so tall and skinny. And then when I was born, I was this very, very dark skin girl with this dark hair, dark eyes, and I was quite chubby. So, you know, I've learned through psychology that you can probably remember back to as early as about four. And you know, my earliest memories of, you know, being a kid was, I was just so desperate to be a part of my family because I felt very disconnected. Everywhere we went, people would say to my parents, you know, how it's so lovely that you've adopted this little girl. And my parents would get so upset and they'd say, no, she's ours. And they would say, "Oh, she looks like you've fostered her." And then of course it didn't take too long for my sisters to pick up on the fact that I was getting upset from this. So whenever we'd have a fight, they would say, you know, mom and dad found you at the front door one morning, so they felt sorry for you, so they had to keep you. Or we went for a picnic one day and you're in a basket on the picnic table, so mom and dad had to keep you. So I think I grew up with this feeling like at any stage mom and dad were gonna get rid of me. So having that real desperation to be as good as my sisters was something that I had from a very, very early age. And I remember when I was probably four, mom and dad were worried about my weight. And mom took me to the doctors and the doctor said, you know, "Mrs. Lewis, we really need to get her into some activity." And mom said, "She does, she, you know, she doesn't stop. "She's got so much energy, but you know, she just eats "and eats and eats and eats. "And you know, we just don't know what to do." So I guess there's a little kid as well, it was very hard having these really skinny sisters, who could eat anything, and I was this chubby girl. And the doctor said, "Well, you need to get her "into maybe something like swimming." And he said, you know, I should be good swimming coz fat floats. And I still remember that. And I think, oh my God, you know, it's such a horrible thing to hear when you're a little kid. But, you know, so mom and dad who were having my two siblings taught to swim, you know, said to the teacher one day, you know, "Can Hayley hop in?" And mom had bought me these bright green togs. So from day one, my nickname was frog because I had these green togs on with this really huge stomach. And literally the doctor was right. I got in the water and I floated and I went really quick. I just, I desperately, I was in the class with my six-year-old sister and I just wanted to keep up with her. And it wasn't long before, you know, I think about the age of five, I was put up into the highest squad with my nine-year-old sister. And then there was just no looking back really. I knew from a really, really young age, probably five or six, that swimming was the place that I felt like I was at home and I felt, I guess, safe because we grew up in a household that was really tough. Mom and dad didn't have a lot of money. And mom and dad, I guess, as children as well, grew up in very, I guess, tough love environments. And that was something that myself and my sisters and my little brother, when he was born six years after me, it was you didn't complain, you didn't, you just, you know, sort of sucked it up and you just had to work hard. And I think when I got to the swimming pool, I would just unleash. I trained so hard, even as a little kid and I just got an absolute thrill out of going to swimming carnivals for Cannon Hill Swimming Club and just coming home with these blue ribbons from these Saturday carnivals. And it was probably when I was around about six, my brother was born. I remember my mom went to the hospital to have him, and back in those days, you know, the dad doesn't go and the kids don't go, and you all don't wait at the hospital. I remember we went to school that morning and mom was, had my brother that day. And I knew she was coming home that afternoon. And I remember running all the way home from school. And my mom was in the kitchen and I just said to her, what color hair does he have? Does he have dark hair? Is he dark? Does he have red hair? And mom said, "Look, I don't want you to get upset, "but you can open up the nursery door quietly," coz he was asleep. "But I don't want you to get upset. "And I want you to know that you weren't adopted. "We're not gonna get rid of you, you are part of us." But I still remember opening up that door as a six year old. And I've never seen a baby with fairer skin than this kid, longer legs than this kid. And he just didn't have red hair, he had orange hair. So you can understand, right at that point in time, I had this idea that right, if I could be the best swimmer in the world, there's no way mom and dad would get rid of me now being, looking like I do. So anyway, but yeah, I can just remember it being a pivotal thought in my mind that I just had to swimming would, you know, I'd be able to stay in my house. Which when I look back, I think my God, that was a lot for a little kid to take on. But, you know, I trained hard, kept going to carnivals and winning these ribbons and putting them in my little shoe box under my bed. But I'd say another really pivotal point in my knowing that I wanted to be a swimmer was I was fortunate enough for my dad worked at the Courier-Mail, so he won tickets to see the Commonwealth Games, which are here in Brisbane. And we were fortunate enough to win swimming tickets. And my hero in those days was Tracey Wickham. Everyone loved Lisa Curry because she was engaged to Grant Kenny, and she was this blonde-haired, blue-eyed, brown skin, tanned, quintessential Australian female athlete. And I think I really liked Tracey because she had red hair. She didn't, she just, I think she reminded me of one of my sisters, but she wasn't tall and skinny, she was little. She just didn't look like someone that should be a swimmer. And I think that's the way I felt as well. I felt like I was a swimmer trapped in this body of this short little tubby girl that shouldn't have been really been a swimmer. So, dad was able to get tickets to see Tracey's 400 freestyle. And we had, our seats were positioned right down towards the dice and where the medals were. And I still remember her walking out behind the blocks and she had this green and gold tracksuit obviously on, of Australia, and she was so tiny. And I remember saying to my dad, you know, how can someone so small, how is she gonna go against these, you know, these really big English and Canadian girls? And my dad just said, "Look, obviously she's got a massive heart. "So, you know, let's just see what happens." And she dove off that block and she was gone. She was like a rocket. And I just remember thinking, that's exactly what I want. I want to win the 400 freestyle exactly like Tracey. And then to see her walk around the pool in that green and gold track suit and stand on that dice and watch the Australian flag being raised, and the queen gave her, her gold medal. It was something that I can't even express to you all, how that made me feel. I absolutely wanted to wear the green and gold back in, like I said, back in when I was little, we didn't have a lot of money. So, Christmas presents for us, we're getting a track suit. So to see this green and gold track suit that Tracey Wickham was wearing, was like the ultimate Christmas present to me. I thought, if I ever had the opportunity to represent my country, then I'm gonna give everything. And I, you know, as an eight-year-old, you know, it was a pretty powerful thought to have, you know, and a goal to have, even at that age. But I remember we were driving home in the car and it was only my dad and my sister, Jo. And I said to Jo, you know, I'm gonna do that exact thing. And she said, "What?" And I said, "I'm gonna win the 400 freestyle. "And I'm gonna wear the green and gold track suit. "And the queen's gonna give me my medal," because the queen had given. And she just laughed all the way from Chandler to Cannon Hill. And I said, I don't understand why you're laughing, you know, I'm a good swimmer. And she said, "Yeah, but you do like 25 meters "and you swim at Cannon Hill Swimming Club. "You know, to be the best in the Commonwealth, "you have to not only be the best in Cannon Hill, "you have to be the best in Brisbane, Australia. "And then you've got to go to the Commonwealth, "and you've got to swim against everyone in the Commonwealth "in the 400 freestyle and the queen's gonna be there. "So you think all of that's gonna happen?" Anyway, so when I got home, I, you know, got my little piece of paper out and did what I always did, which was write my goals up on this piece of paper and I'd put it up on my wall. And I still remember, I wrote 400 freestyle, green and gold tracksuit, the queen. And I shared a room with my sister, Jo. And I still remember she saw it and she laughed and laughed and laughed. And the next day, anyway her swimming carnival, the whole of the next day, and when I got home, she was sitting in the driveway and she looked quite upset. And she said, "How did you go?" And I said, "Good." And she said, "Did you win more blue ribbons?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "Well, I felt really bad about laughing at your dreams. "Coz I know you don't laugh at my dreams "of being a Hollywood superstar. "So, I did something for you today to apologize, "it's up in our room." And I said, okay. So I went up to our room and during the day, her and my dad had gone to the local hardware store and bought some red, white and blue paint. And they'd taken the door off our bedroom door and painted it the hallway down with an Australian flag. And she said, "You know, I want every day "for you to walk through our bedroom door and know that, "you know, you're gonna represent our country. "And I believe that you will do that. "And I'm really sorry for laughing, "but I do think you will swim the 400 freestyle, "but I'm never ever gonna say to you "that the Queen is gonna be there to give you that medal, "coz that's just ridiculous." And I said, I know she'll be there. And my sister said, "Okay, well, let's make a deal. "You know, if she's there, "then I'll say that you're the smartest person in the world "for the rest of our life and vice versa." And I said, yep, okay. So, that was when I was eight, 1982. And, you know, that was my goal. I, you know, I didn't know that the Commonwealth Games was gonna be the first time that I represented Australia. But you know, it just so happened that I did go the 1988 Olympic trials as a 13-year-old. And I came third in the 400 freestyle at the trials and they only take two. So unfortunately I missed out on going to an Olympic games in '88. But you know, I kept going and I thought, right, the Commonwealth Games, 1990, that's what I'm aiming for. So, you know, I went to trials and really only wanted to go for the 400 freestyle. But my coach at the time, Joe King said, "No, we've gotta have a backup plan." So he gave me five backup plans. So I went over swimming five individual races and a relay. And he said, "Look, I know that you really only want that 400 freestyle, "but, you know, I think you've got a real chance "in the other ones." So I went over there and I still remember the morning that I left, the Today Show was on. And Laurie Lawrence was talking about, you know, who was gonna be swimming and who to watch. And we had, you know, Liz Hayes and Steve Lehman. Some of you might remember, some of you were probably too young, but you know, they said to him, "You know, so there's this young girl too, Hayley Lewis. "She's only 15 from Brisbane. "You know, everyone's very excited about her. "So what can we expect?" And Laura said, "No, no, no, Liz, "I wouldn't worry about Hayley. "She hasn't been to a big meet before, "so she might've been swimming well, but you know, "I don't think she knows what she's got herself into. "She's gonna do six events. "And you know, "this kid hasn't been through anything tough in her life." And I was just sitting there watching it and I thought these guys got no idea what I've been through with these red heads in my house. So I thought, you know, it just was another reason to go over there and just kick butt and do my best. And I trained so hard, so I knew that, you know, I just had to go over there and relax. And I had the work under my belt and I had the desire. So, I went over there and it was like a domino effect. The 400 freestyle was actually the last race of the meet. And there had been a buzz within the swimming pool that potentially the queen could come and watch one of the nights, which was also, I knew for sure that it was gonna be that last night of course. Coz she had to be there for my 400 freestyle. But you know, like I said, it was a domino effect from that first night, I shouldn't have won that first race. It was a 400 medley and I had two Australians who were faster than me going into it. I had a State High girl, Jodie Clatworthy, who went to the '88 Seoul Olympics, she was in the race, plus the Canadians and English swimmers. And swam a really good heat, and I probably got fifth fastest going into the final. And I don't know, just, I think it was a combination of everything that I'd been through as a young kid and being able to stand on those blocks and think of those tough years when I, you know, I was told that I didn't have the body shape, I couldn't possibly do it. My mind was just far stronger than people knew. And yeah, at that first race, I just went for it and actually broke Jodie's Commonwealth record and it was just after that, it was, I felt like no one could stop me. And, you know, I got to that last night, the 400 freestyle, the pivotal, the most important night of my life at that point. And there was a buzz coz the queen hadn't turned up any night, so I thought, this is it. How, you know, I think I secretly, as I got older from that eight-year-old, I thought, okay, I think I have to admit that the queen is not gonna be there to my sister. But I thought, no, I'm not gonna admit that I think that she was right and how dumb was I to think that the queen was gonna be there. But there was this real buzz. And I remember still walking out behind the block and I wasn't nervous to swim. I was nervous wondering whether the queen was watching or not, now when I think of that, I was like, okay, you need to focus. But I hit the water and like Tracey, I just, my whole plan went out the window and I just, you know, channeled what she did back in 1982. And I dive off those blocks and I just went for it. Even though my coach had said, "Don't go for it, "you need to just not get too excited." Because he knew how much I wanted to race, win this race. But, it literally got to the 350 meter mark with 50 meters to go, and both Australian girls, Julie McDonald and Janelle Elford, who'd both beaten me out of the Olympics two years earlier while mowing me down, it was like, I felt like I was swimming that last 50 meters with a piano on my back. But I thought I have to win because I've got this bet going with my sister and the queen, hello, she has to give me the medal. So I held on and I did 4:08, exactly as Tracey had done, Julie and Janelle came second and third. And then I just had to, you know, the puzzle was all obviously falling into place and we still didn't know if the queen was there. We couldn't spot her anywhere. And we went and got our track suits on and we're told for the first time we needed to comb our hair because it was a very important person who would be presenting the medals. And we were so excited and we were all saying, it's gotta be the queen, it's, you know, and I was like, oh my God, this is happening. I thought, how am I ever gonna keep on swimming after this? When I have just ticked off every single box that I ever wanted to in my life. And as we walked out from behind the dice, this very royal music came on over the speakers. And I was so nervous. I, you know, now when I look back at the VHS, you know, you can just see my face. I'm just so nervous that I'm actually gonna meet the queen. And you know, they said, you know, and now walking out to present the medals is Prince Albert. So, you see my face. And it was like, someone had stabbed my heart. I was so disappointed. It was like my world came crashing down and it is funny to watch coz my face was just like this 15-year-old girl, who had just been told that she can't go out with a boyfriend or something. I don't know, it was like my heart was crushed. But anyway, I got over it and I received my gold medal. You know, I felt like saying, where is the queen? I don't wanna meet you. You know, I'm so disappointed to meet, but you know how ridiculous was that, I was meeting a royal one, you know, I was upset about it. But you know, I had to obviously make the phone call to my sister after that night and say, you know, you're right. And she said, "So I want you to say the words." So I said, okay, you're the smartest person in the world. And she said, "Look, all jokes aside, "you've done a great job, "but you know, I hope, you know what you're coming back to." And I said, what do you mean? And she said, "Well, you know, here in Brisbane "and especially Cannon Hill, "but here in Brisbane and Queensland, "you know, Australia and Queenslanders, "have just done so tremendously well "in not only the swimming, but all sports. "And you know, since you started swimming a week ago, "our house is like an absolute shrine to you." And I said, Jo, come on. And she's like, "No, I know what you're like, "and you're shy and you don't want anyone to make a fuss. "So I'm actually quite concerned that when you come home, "you're not gonna be able to deal "with what you're gonna come home to." And I said, Jo, come on, you're starting to scare me. And she said, look, get mom and dad to call me because they need to know when they get home, that things are gonna change for you, because there's, people camped intense outside our house, watching you through our curtains on the TV, watching me, watching you. And she said, you know, I've been doing radio interviews, TV interviews. I'm on the Today Show tomorrow morning. She was loving it coz she was a very big extrovert. And she said, you know, I can't even walk down to Cannon Hill came out without getting mobbed by everyone. Admittedly, she was wearing a shirt that said, I'm Hayley Lewis' sister. But you know, that's what you have to deal with. But ,you know, I still thought, we're in New Zealand and there was nothing written about Australians doing well in New Zealand. So I obviously had no concept that that's what was happening at home. So, you know, when we did come into Brisbane Airport, it was something that I wasn't ready for. Back in those days, there was no psychological help for sports people, really, in terms of how to deal with people being interested in you. We had like a media liaison officer, but there was no one really to take you aside and help you mentally. And as a 15-year-old girl who, you know, I guess grew up in a very humble environment and was sort of encouraged never to act like you are better than anyone else or make it out like you were better than people. It was very hard for me to accept that maybe what I had done was something special, you know, coz I had mom and dad saying, you know, you've done this, but you're still Hayley and you can't act like you're better than anyone else. So I think that in a way was confusing because I felt like I couldn't be proud of myself in a way because I had to downplay what I had just done. So to come home to Brisbane Airport and there'd be a swarm of people, was something that emotionally and psychologically I was not ready for. And you know, they followed us all the way home to our little house at Cannon Hill. And you know, when I got out, it was definitely a swarm of people wanting autographs, getting photos, journos wanting to interview me. And I could just feel myself getting more anxious as time went by. And you know, after everyone had dispersed, you know, my two sisters sort of had sort of said, okay, we're gonna sort of wrap things up now. And they took me inside and I just started crying. I ran to my room and you know, my sister Jo, who is, you know, loves being in the limelight. She said, you know, what's the matter, you know, this should be the most exciting time of your life. You know, why are you upset? And I said, you know, I just don't know if I can deal with it. I don't, you know, I've just won five gold medals. How can I ever possibly repeat that? You know, because during those interviews, outside my house, I did have, you know, people saying, you know, are you gonna win five gold medals at next year's World Championships. And at that point in my bedroom, I'm thinking, I don't even wanna go to the World Championships at this point. I just want to start year 11 at State High, be a normal girl and just be a normal kid. But, my life had changed and there was nothing I could do about it. And, you know, I had to learn really quickly how to grow up, which was unfortunate. I look back now at that young girl and I think, you know, I'd never really had the opportunity to do things normal girls my age would do. And it's not like I, you know, I love everything that I did in my swimming career, but from a mental point of view, I didn't really have any support. And that was, I guess, the beginning of certain things that had happened to me during a teenager in terms of people's expectations of me, that, you know, I found it very hard to deal with. And back in those days, you know, you couldn't say to someone that you felt like you weren't coping. It's, you know, like I said, I grew up in a household where you didn't complain, you didn't, you got on with the job. And I still remember saying to my mom one day, you know, I think that I'm really struggling. And she said, don't say that, you know, you can get through this, you can, you know. So I think it was that whole era where you just didn't talk about the fact that you weren't coping and, you know, I guess even more so when you were young and you didn't have the responsibilities of a job and being an adult, you didn't talk about not being able to cope even more so. But, you know, I got through that year and then it was just, you know, pretty much my whole swimming career from '91 to '96, was the sixth session of eight swim sleep repeat. And I certainly, you know, I went through some highs and some lows. And definitely I'd say the worst thing that happened during that first year after the 1990 Commonwealth Games was I not only had, I guess the expectation of the public to swim well, I had my own expectations. But something really pivotal happened, which I've never spoken about before. But I thought I should, because we're talking about mental health. I also had a responsibility at my swimming club whereby I guess we had a sponsor for the first time. And you know, the more we could get our sponsor out for the club, the more better facilities we could get at our pool, the better gym gear. And so after I got back from the Commonwealth Games, I was always asked to do these interviews for magazines and wear my togs and, you know, get the sponsor's name out there. And I remember this one day, I just turned 16. I went to the pool and my coach at the time who was 76. So very old school would say to journos, whatever popped into his mind about my life. He said, look this magazine is gonna come to the pool today. So I don't think they really wanna do a big interview with you. It's mostly gonna be with me. But they are gonna get a picture. So if you can wear your togs, your club togs, it'll give the club. And I said, oh, what magazine is it? And he said, oh, I'm not really sure. So I did, you know, I did the picture and they got me, which was weird standing on the block, you know, with my hands on my hips, which is always embarrassing when you're a 16-year-old girl and you're standing in front of your peers getting a photo taken. And he said, okay, that's all we need from you. We're gonna talk to your coach. And I said, okay, no problem, got back in the pool, and started training. Actually forgot about the interview because at that stage where I had to do so many. And then one day the phone rang, would have been months after. And my mom's face just turned white. And I said, what's happened? And she said, oh, nothing, I'll be home in about five minutes. And so she came in the door with this magazine tucked under her arm. And I said, oh, what's that? And she said, oh, nothing, just something that I'm very disappointed in. And when she got angry, you know, you shuttered. And I said, show me. And she said, well, I will show you anyway, because you're gonna find out about it. But it was, I guess, a men's magazine you could say, I don't even know if it still exists, but it's called Picture. Does that still exists? I don't know, but it was Picture magazine, which I guess in the time, maybe it's, I don't even know if it still exists. But back in those days it was a real pornographic magazine. And I said, well, I haven't taken nude shots. And she said, well, look at this. And I'm 16, and I open up this magazine and I won't tell you the headline coz I'm too embarrassed to. But you can probably piece it together. It was, the headline was growing, will be the pits. So growing will be the pits. So this is when I'm 16-year-old girl. And the whole magazine article was about me growing up, being a girl, my hormones and my coach talking about how girls weren't meant to be swimmers because how our bodies change. And like, I think I started to think in that moment, you know, do I really wanna do this? Mentally, it really affected me and still affects me when I think about the fact that, you know, my youngest is 17, he's a boy, but you know, he swims with girls these ages now. And I think about, you know, those, it wouldn't happen today. But you know, if they had to go something, through something like that today, the effects that could have on them mentally today. So I think from that obviously, I developed a very wary personality. I was untrusting of a lot of people. I was defensive and I definitely went from being very happy kid to yeah, just a defensive, very untrusting person. So, you know, it took a lot to change I should say, but that was probably a point in my life where, you know, it really changed who I was as a person. And you know, back then I should've got help. I wish I had have had someone to say, look, this is really affecting you mentally, you need to get help. But I didn't. But anyway, from '91 to '96 kept going, went to the '91 World Championships the following year, didn't win five gold medals, but I did come home with one. And that was enough for me. I went over there thinking, you know, if I come back with a World Championship medal, you know, I'll be happy, but you know, to come back with a goal was something that was probably one of the most, not my favorite events and I guess accomplishments in my swimming career. But I kept going right up to '96 and by '96 at the age of 22, I was already engaged and I wanted to start another life. And after the '96 Olympics, I got married to my childhood sweetheart, Greg, who I'd been with since the Commonwealth Games. And we had a baby the following year in '97. And in the following year '98, I got an interesting phone call from my manager who, you know, it was weird coz I'd always been sort of sponsored by people like Lucozade, I don't even know if that exists anymore I'm so old. Lucozade, Reebok and sort of sporting companies. But you know, after I had a child, it was more about, I was then sort of spruiking companies like S-26, and formula and baby stuff. So this phone call, I thought, you know, it's obviously going to be another baby company. And he said, look, I've had an interesting call from a company. And they've seen you on the cover of Woman's Day magazine with little baby Jacob. And they thought you might be interested in being their ambassador. And I said, okay, who is it? And he said, look, I don't want you to get offended. And I thought, you know, I've been offended pretty a lot before and been upset a lot before, so about my weight. So what could it possibly be? And he said, Jenny Craig. And I said, am I fat? And he goes, no, no, no, you just, you know, you admitted you put on 40 kilos with your baby. So, maybe you were just a little bit on the chubby side. And I said, look, I don't know if I can do something like that to me, you know, I'd spent most of my swimming career trying to avoid situations where I was exposed. And I think that went back to that initial magazine. I didn't like getting photographed. And I said, okay, look, I'll have to think about it. I'll talk to my husband. And you know, I just need to think about it, it's a little bit sudden, I don't know if I can do something like that. And so I talked to my husband, he said, look, you've always loved setting goals and having something to work towards. So, you know, maybe this is something that, you know, would be good for you and good for your self-esteem. And so, you know, I don't have to spruik Jenny Craig now, coz I'm not with them. But to say it was a real turning point for me and how I felt about myself, would be underestimating the positive effect it had on me. And I think a lot had had to do with the fact that when I went on the program, I went back to swimming. And for the first time I was swimming for fun. I wasn't swimming to be the fastest person in the pool and it didn't take very long at all before I'd lost the 20 kilos that I wanted to lose in the 20 weeks. And I started to get faster and faster. I'd go up to Holland Park State School pool, and in their adult squad. And before long, they said, you need to go to another adult sport. We don't want you making us feel bad, you know, adults sport anymore. So, I rang my old coach, who was coaching Kieren Perkins. And I said, can I come back to swimming? You know, this was 1999. He said, are you gonna make a comeback for the 2000 Olympics? I said, hell no, I just wanna get fit. So, he, and you know, the fitter I got, the better I felt within my mind, I felt, I don't know. It's that old cliche, that exercise makes you feel like you it's the endorphins and it makes you mentally feel just a bit freer. And I guess, you know, being a swimmer my whole life, I had missed that. I'd miss sort of diving into the pool and feeling like I could do more than 50 meters without feeling like, I was gonna have an asthma attack. But he said, yeah, sure, come back. And you know, I said, I don't wanna be in the fast lane so don't put me in with Kieren, you know, put me over in with the slow people. So he put me in with the triathletes, not saying triathletes are slow, but they weren't quite Kieren Perkins' stage. And ,you know, I started doing three sessions a week and then five sessions a week. And before I knew it, my husband, who was a physio, he had decided to go part-time so I could train more. And he said, you know, you starting to train more, are you thinking about the 2000 Olympics? And I said, look, at the moment, it's at the back of my mind. And you know, it was something that was a dream, but I never in a million years would have thought that I had a chance. But I went to the Olympic trials in 2000 and I don't know what it was mentally, I think. And as we all know, if you're mentally feeling in the zone, then it can definitely make you think that anything is possible. And I wasn't, I physically shouldn't have won that race, the 800 freestyle. There were girls in that race that had won the Commonwealth Games that were 12 years younger than me, fitter, stronger, hadn't had a baby. But I think because I was mentally so strong, that's what won me that race. And, you know, that and that 200 freestyle that I won World Championships, was definitely the two most important races that I swam and looking back, they were the two swims that I did that I mentally, totally laser focused on what I wanted to do. So, you know, it was also, the only two races in my career, where I physically would visualize myself winning. I hadn't really done that at all during my swimming career. So, you know, I guess it really taught me at age 26, that the power of the mind is so important to what we achieve in our life. So went to the 2000 Olympics, didn't make the final, because I was old and slow, but I continued on to the following year where I came third in Fukuoka in the 5k. But then, you know, I will start sort of fast forwarding now coz the times ticking by. But I finished in 2001 at the age of 26 and I already had a plan of what I wanted to do, which was open up a swim school. When I went to the '94 Commonwealth Games, I visited this shopping center in Victoria, in Canada, where they had this swim school inside a shopping center, which Australia didn't have. So, I had the guts to go to Westfield Carindale management one day and say, hey, are you interested in putting a swim school inside the shopping center? And they said, leave it with us, we've never thought about it, but it sounds like a good idea. So the next day literally, the leasing manager rang me and said, "Look, we think it's a great idea. "We know where we can put a pool. "We know the size of the pool that you can put in there. "We know what can hold this size pool "with this much water in this area." And literally it was like a domino effect of getting this all sorted and getting a pool in there. So, you know, it was less than a year later after I finished swimming that I started the swim school. And to say that that was the hardest thing I've ever done, would be an understatement. I had never had a job before. I had never worked one day in anything whatsoever. So to start a swim school and have staff and responsibilities was something that was really, really difficult. And I had to learn very, very quickly because I had families to look after, safety to look after. It didn't even occur to me that the safety aspect of having a swim school was vitally important. And then I think the biggest eye-opener for me, even though I'd been on teams my whole life, where you have a vast array of personalities, I didn't factor in that when I had staff, they would have such fast personalities. And I learned pretty quick that you couldn't treat a 15-year-old staff member, like you treated a 60-year-old staff member. So it was trying to really, I learned pretty quick that I had to get to know my staff really well. I learned pretty quick that some people needed constant feedback, whether it was good or bad. Some people didn't need any feedback at all. But I think the thing that I learned most at the swim school was that everyone appreciated the fact that I always spent time trying to find out their different personalities and what they needed as staff members and as people. And, you know, I went through the death of my sister, only two years of being at the swim school. When you know, it was really two-year teething program. So I was really starting to get going and really had everything in place when my sister passed away. And, you know, I remember ringing my manager at the pool and saying, you know, this has happened. And he just said, sorry, I won't get upset. He said, sorry, it's why I bought tissues. He said, "Don't worry, we got this." And that's when I knew I had put the right team in place. They had my back. I didn't have to worry about anything. I'm good, don't stress. I've got it strong. You know, they did have it. And it was all because I had faith in my team and they all banded together. And I knew that I didn't have to worry because I had people on my team that I could rely on, I could trust, I could depend on. And I had been there for them in times when a lot of them had been through tough times. And this was a time that I really needed them as a team leader and as an owner. And they were there for me. So, I'm good, it's all good. I'm telling myself that. Mentally visioning myself being happy and I've got Bombolas here, so he's smiling. But you know, it was, we all go through tough things. So I'm not gonna pretend that I'm standing here and the only one that's been through something terrible. But, you know, we all go through life and something really terrible happens. And we wonder if we can get through and we can pick ourselves up. But you have to learn to coz there's other people around you that need you. When, you know, my family had two little kids, they needed me and my rest of my family needed me. We all needed each other. And I wanted to get back to my swim schools. So, you know, it was six months, you know, I'm still not over it clearly, 16 years on, but you know, six months I probably spent wondering why? Wondering how I was gonna get through it. Wondering if I was ever gonna feel like myself again, but I did. And, you know, thank God for my team. That's all I can say. That, you know, I guess from there, that was 2004, and then by 2009, two things I guess really altered my life and where it was headed. I loved my swim school so much. It was packed to capacity. I had a thousand families and of those thousand families, I'd seen mothers walked through my door when I first opened my swim school, who were pregnant. And I now had these kids at my swim schools eight-year-olds. So, I knew families at my swim school that had become a big part of my life. So, I still remember the day, the same leasing manager walked into the swim school. And this about the start of 2009 and said, "Look, we probably should tell you "that we're going to demolish your swim school. "And we're actually building a Coles." And I said, oh, can you do that? And he said, "Did you read the demolition clause in your contract?" And I said like the 1000-page thing that you gave me eight years ago. And he said, yeah. And I said, well, right at the end, there's a demolition clause. So maybe you should go home and read it. So I read it and sure enough, it said, you know, at any time. And I think we're quite confused as well, because I'd never had a swim school in their shopping center. So, it wasn't like I had a few racks of shoes. I had actually dug a massive hole and put a pool in place. So they said, look, we're not saying you're gonna leave because it's, we wanna find you somewhere else because you are good for the center, you bring a lot of people to the center, but we've just got to work out where that was. So, that was really tough. It was having built up something that I loved for eight years. And then being told that it wasn't, you know, exist anymore. So as I was going through that process, I got another phone call from my manager and he said, I've got something interesting for you. And I said, I'm not doing Jenny Craig again. And he said, it's not Jenny Craig, it's The Biggest Loser. And I said, no, no, I'm not doing TV. I can't deal with TV. I don't want to be on TV. He'd always try to get me into TV. And he said, "Look, you know, you love this show. "You've had your own struggles. "You know, I think you would be really good in the show. "You're an empathetic person. "I think you would be really good." And I did love the show. So I said, okay, what would I have to do? And he said, "Look, a lady's just gonna come to your house, "meet you and she'll decide if she likes you or not." And I thought, God, is that how they choose people on TV? It sounds pretty easy. So this woman came to my house and she spoke to me about the show and my own, I guess, struggles that I'd had with my weight. And she said, okay, so we're gonna go away now, I've got to see 19 other people. So I'll sit down after I see the 19 other people and work out who I liked the best. And then we cut that down to eight. And if you don't get a phone call, you know, don't feel bad. It's just that you weren't one of the top eight. And I thought, you know, when someone says that to you, you think, hmm, I don't know if I wanna be one of the top eight. So I was a bit like, well, if you don't like me, then you're a crazy woman. Anyway, so, I sort of had it in my mind that I wouldn't hear back from her. But, you know, a couple of weeks later, my manager rang again and said, she liked you. And you're now one of the top eight. So now you've gotta come down to Sydney into a real interview, a real sort of audition. So I went down to Sydney and to say, to try to describe the setting for you. I traveled down from Brisbane and I was the last one to arrive out of the other seven girls. There was eight of us. And it was like walking into a room with seven of the most beautiful specimens you could ever possibly imagine. And I walked in with my sewer sandals on and a track suit and I was going for the sporty vibe. And I had no hair and makeup. Well, I had done my hair and makeup, but not to that extent. And a lady came up to me and she said, you must be Hayley. And I said, why must I be? And she said, so do you have like people coming with you? And I said, oh no, it's just me. Was I supposed to bring other people? And she said, I thought you might have people to do your hair and makeup. And I said, I have done my hair and makeup. And she went, okay. And she said, "Look, we'll get someone to fix that up. "So you'll actually the last one of the day." And these other seven women had voice coaches and people helping them, people dressing them, makeup, wardrobe, everything. And I just remember sitting there thinking, where can I get outta here? I was just completely in the wrong environment for me. Anyway, I rang my husband and I said, I don't think that this is a good idea. And he said, why? You know, we've done so much practice, you know, you've done all your reading with me, you know? And I said, no, I just not feeling like TV is the right fit for me. And he said, look, just do the audition, get in the cab, come home. And at least you can say you auditioned, it was an experience. You know, not everyone gets to audition for something. And so I was at the end of the day and the whole day I was trying to learn my script. And so I had my hair and makeup done by someone who was kind enough to do it for me. And I walked out and there was a room full of sound, lighting, producers, you name it, execs, channel 10 execs. And I just totally lost it and just froze. And I had my little piece of paper and I was, you know, shaking like anything. And you know, when you, I don't know if any of you have done a talk and you just completely go blank. That was me. I had learnt this script so thoroughly, but I thought my mind is just going blank. And I remember standing on a little plinth and the director said action. And I, of course didn't say anything. And that happened probably three or four times. And then he came over to me and grabbed my arm and he said, let's go for a walk. And I thought, God, this doesn't sound good. So we took me away and he said, how are you feeling? And I said, not great. I just feel like I shouldn't be here. I'm sorry for wasting your time. And he said, can I let you in on a little secret? And I said, sure. And he goes, you're our favorite? And I thought, I said, how bad is everyone else? And he said, "No, you're the worst. "But we like you because, you know, your not TV "and we're not looking for a pretty girl." And I thought, oh, okay, okay, am I ugly? And he said, "oh no, that's not what I meant." And he said, and also you kind of talk, you know, a bit. And I said, I don't know. And he goes just a little bit bogan. And I said, what? And he goes, oh, it's not your fault, you're a Queenslander. And I thought, man, I feel like I've just been sucker punched like three times with the insults. And I just said, look, I don't think this is for me. And he said, look, we won't do any more auditioning because obviously that's a waste of time. And he said, look, we've got a lot to think about. We really like you. We like the fact that you're genuine and we're looking for an empathetic, caring person and we're not necessarily looking for a polished person. So I thought, yeah, now he's trying to make up for like insulting me. Anyway, got in the cab, called my husband. And he said, how did you go? And I said, well, I'm ugly and I speak like a bogan. And he said, come on. And I said, no, they actually said that. And he said, you get in that car, you come home, you don't need that. Anyway, I got in the car and went home and a couple of weeks later, I remember I was at the swim school and my manager said, you've got the job. And to say are shocked would be an understatement after what had happened. And he said, they are going to get you to go to UQ and do some speaking practice. So I went did the speaking practice. And I said, well, I can't change how I look. So what are they gonna do about that? And they said, well, they said that it's nothing hair and makeup can't fix. I think I just went into it thinking, you know, I can't change me. So I'm just gonna be who I am. But, you know, to take my whole experience at The Biggest Loser and wrap it all up. You know, it was five seasons of literally meeting some of the most amazing people I've ever met. These were people that, you know, were crushed souls. They were people that I'd never met. For my whole life I had been surrounded by people that had goals, direction, were positive. We were, I'd been told my whole life to be positive and, you know, have a good mindset and be strong and be tough. And I think I loved that show because I, not how I looked, how I spiked, but I really cared for the contestants and I still do. And to be amongst people that had no direction and were so I guess, mentally and physically damaged was something that I really learned about myself that I didn't know. I thought my greatest strength was my resilience, having been what I'd been through. But it turned out that I think my best strength was my empathy. And that was I guess another reason why when in 2014 I made the decision to finish The Biggest Loser because my son, elder son was about to go through year 12, in 2015, where he had quite important leadership positions and I didn't wanna not be there for him. So I had to sort of finish up at The Biggest Loser and I'm glad I did coz it was obviously a big year for one of your kids to finish year 12. But look, I think, you know, the psychology came about because same type of thing. I dropped him at Dutton Park at the walkover bridge at UQ one day and he at that stage, he was third year of uni and he was also had his own maths tutor group. And he was walking, I was picking him up one day and he was walking over the bridge with what I would say was an old lady, found out she was younger than me, but I thought she was old. And I said, oh, who was that lady that you were talking to? And he said, oh, she's one of my students. And she was, I thought she was 50, but he said she was, you know, 40s and I'm 46. And I just thought, you know, maybe it's not too late for me to go back to university, oh not even go back, go to university. And that's when I decided in 20, at the start of 2018 to start doing my bachelor degree in psychology and I've got one year to go. And it's the best thing that I've ever done. I've definitely learnt, I guess, a lot about myself and I guess about how important it is to support people. We don't, I've had my retail store for 11 years nearly, at Balmoral. And you know, sometimes when people come in, in a bad mood or, you know, they're a bit abrupt to something, you know, how you always used to think, you know, why is that person in a bad mood? You know, I'm trying to be helpful and happy. And now I guess, you know, the last three years doing psychology, I certainly understand that, we don't know what people are going through. And, you know, it's easy for us all these days to put up this facade, like we, everything we've got life worked out. But I think that the thing that I've learned through my degree and also being a small business owner and from my years at swimming and from doing Biggest Loser, is that we all need support. And when it was too much for me, about five years ago, Jacob was in year 12 and my husband and I took him to his formal and we were in the car on the way home. And we were both, I guess, emotional about, you know, our eldest being in year 12. We decided that we didn't want, we have a 17 year old as well, but we thought we should have had more kids. So we had this great idea that we would try for more children. So this was weird coz I had an almost 18-year-old and a 13-year-old. But you know, I think the thing that really affected me at the end of that year, and it's the reason why I went to a psychologist is because I had a miscarriage. And I guess, you know, at 41, you know, and it was the first time I'd seen a psychologist. I realized I should have done it years ago. I should have done it during my swimming career. I should have done it when my sister passed away. But it was still this idea that you had to pretend like your life was perfect and you couldn't get help. But now I guess, you know, even five years ago, thankfully the stigma is dropping with mental health and there's nothing wrong. In fact, it's quite liberating to go and get the support from someone else and be able to sit there and talk to someone that doesn't know your story about the struggles that you're going through. So, in seeking help, you know, it definitely gave me a peace of mind, definitely made me, I guess, a more relaxed person. And that only helps me as a wife, mother, and an employer of a lot of people at my retail business. So, you know, I guess my, I'm finishing up my talk today, but I guess, you know, I just wanted to wish everyone who's watching the best of luck. And if I could give any advice, which believe me, I'm still definitely very much a work in progress is, you know, just be mindful of a shift in anyone's personality around you. Because if I could go back in time, you know, knowing what I do now, is I wish that I could have seen those things that had shifted in my sister's personality to be more aware. And you know, that's what we all need to keep an eye on is, you know, the people that we do say to, are you okay, we really need to keep following up with them. And for team leaders really keeping an eye on your workers. And workers, you know, really keeping an eye on your team leader. You know, everyone needs support. And you know, I'm very, very grateful that I've been asked to be a part of Mental Health Week and Safe Work Month. And now you can ask me as many questions as you want. Here's Bombolas.
[Chris] Thanks Hayley. And we do have a lot of comments and a lot of questions already. And the girl from Cannon Hill. And let me just declare nice and early that I also went to Cannon Hill State School and to Brisbane State High. So we share something in common there.
[Hayley] I was following you.
[Chris] Yeah, you were following, 15 years is not quite following. There is a bit of an age.
[Hayley] I thought this guy's worked out pretty good. So I'm just gonna do whatever he's doing.
Thanks, I'll take the rap. Look, just quickly before we get into the comments, just picking up from your presentation. An introvert like yourself, you know, you've had a couple of occasions where you came back from the Commonwealth Games, you're in this spotlight all of a sudden, and then fast forward you go to The Biggest Loser. And you're suddenly the introvert is now working with lost souls, with people who are broken. How was that? I mean, how did you find that personally, that, you know, you've gone from the introvert, but you're still pretty much an introvert, even though you've shared your story with us, to working with lost souls.
Yeah, it was really difficult. I think I wasn't the greatest host in the world, let's be honest. You know, it took me, I guess, a season to really find my feet and learn that, you know, I had an ear piece in it the whole time. So, I had to direct questions to the contestants that were really, really personal, hard questions that I would never in a million years ask someone, let alone do it on a camera, in front of a whole crew, to a person that was standing there crying in basically a pair of sports wear with everything exposed.
[Chris] Not exact looking glamorous.
No, so it was definitely, it took me a season to work out how I could get through, especially those weigh-ins, where someone would try the whole week and get on the scales and lose 0.1 of a kilo. You've been through your own weight loss journey. So you know how that can really mentally set people back is, you know, I tried so hard. How can then that be the case? And you know, to have someone there crying and I have to say to them, well, what happened, didn't you work hard? I would never say that to someone. So, you know, I think because it wasn't live. I think I was able to do it as an introvert, but yeah, look, I loved doing it mainly because when the director said cut, I actually became quite close to all of the contestants. So I felt like I was just as lost as them, to be honest. I had no idea what I was doing. And you know, being on TV with people like Michelle Bridges and Shannan Ponton and Commando. They knew what they were doing. And they weren't, you know, sort of scared to do anything or say anything. Whereas I was a bit, I didn't wanna come across as I was a horrible person. Because it wasn't who I was. So there was that inner struggle to protect the contestants and myself, but I also had a job to do. I was told, you know, we hired you because we need you to ask these questions. So when we say to you ask blah, blah, blah, why don't you feel comfortable taking your clothes off in front of your spouse? It's not something that is a natural thing you would ask someone so.
Yeah, some tough talk from, well, the bogan who speaks like a bogan, the girl from Cannon Hill who speaks like a bogan. Now I won't hold that against you. Let's go to some of the comments coz there have been wonderful comments, okay. We've had lots of lovely comments. Here's a selection supporter for you says, I hope you have seized the opportunity to meet the queen. Have you?
I did. There was a footnote, but I, you know, I didn't, I built up the story, so I didn't want to ruin it by. But it was actually the swimming finished and the swimming is always in the first week of a Commonwealth Games. So we're allowed to stay for the second week to go to different events and support. And two days after the swimming finished, the queen visited the accommodation athlete's village. And I was chosen to represent Australia to have lunch with the queen. So, you know, we were obviously told that, you know, she'll come along the different countries and we were to curtsy and that we were told not to say anything. That she'll speak to us if there's gonna be any discussion whatsoever. So we weren't to get all crazy. And I thought, how am I gonna contain myself? Coz this is someone that--
From age 8, you've wanting to meet this person.
And purely because of, it's not because I'm like a royal fan or anything, it was purely because of that image of Tracey Wickham getting the medal from her. I thought it would just piece the puzzle together if I met her as well. And she came along the line and the guy said, "This is Hayley Lewis. "She is representing Australia." And so the queen said, "you're the girl that won the five gold medals." And I, you know, you told not to say anything. So I just said, yes, ma'am.
That was it?
And that was it like I had--
That was the end of the conversation.
And then she obviously knew how nervous I was. So she just moved quickly on to the next country. But, you know, I guess, you know, while it was my sister technically still won the bet, I kind of--
Did you get on the phone and say, hey, I have met the queen.
Well, it was a picture on the front page of the Courier-Mail the following day. And it was a picture of us having lunch. And I was sitting sort of parallel to, or sort of diagonal to the queen. And so, I got the paper and circled it, now, obviously I put it on a wall with me, circled me pointing to the queen. But my sister, you know, doesn't count.
Doesn't count, right footnote. Michael says nicest bogan I have ever had the pleasure to listen to.
Thank you Michael. Thank you, yeah. I don't know if it was like the bogan or the Queenslander that there was more of a, I was like--
Typical you sound polished now bogan Queensland--
Well, I did say, give me an example of what I'm saying. And he said, well, for example, you're saying commando, but it's commando. And I thought--
Tomato, tomato, potato, potato, what is it.
Does that make me a bogan? Well, I don't know.
Lauren says, thanks for sharing so openly. You never know what someone else is going through behind closed doors. Pat Watson, fantastic life story, a real life story. What a great way to conclude Safe Work Month. Thank you for sharing your story, Hayley.
Thanks Pat, that was nice. Yeah, really nice.
Yeah, right, I appreciate that. Thank you Pat and everyone for your comments. We really do appreciate them. Let's get into some questions. This one's from Rachel, has your experiences shaped? How has your experiences shaped you as a leader and what are your top three tips for selections?
I actually had them written down to be fair. Let me get this. So I had them written down, I don't know why I forgot considering that's like wrapped-up my talk. To look after your own mental wellbeing. You know, and like I said, in my talk, you can be the greatest leader in the world and you know, you can come across to your team as you've got everything worked out, but you know, we don't know what's going on, like Pat said in people's lives. And one of the comments, we don't know what's going on behind the scenes. And I definitely know in 2015, when I went to a psychologist, I just felt like I needed to, coz it was just a built up of swimming, my sister's death, just having a miscarriage. You know, seeing a psychologist, I thought at the time, I'm admitting that I can't deal with things. But then after I saw the psychologist, I realized that it literally changed my life. She pointed out things to me that it had never occurred to me. Things about growing up and things that I'd been through in my swimming career that I didn't know had had a detrimental effect, the way that I thought about myself. And, you know, people would always say to me, oh, you're so lucky, everything you've done you're so lucky. You're so lucky. And I think to myself, you know, I don't feel lucky, I feel a bit sad, you know. I feel like I didn't, you know, I look back and I'm so grateful for my swimming career, it really did open up a lot of doors obviously. I met my husband whom I've been with since I was 15. My son swims now and I love, you know, the whole culture of swimming. It is a real team atmosphere, but, you know, there were definite lows that I needed to go and see someone. And it was the best thing I ever did because I certainly became a more, I guess more calmer person. And I wasn't reflecting on things that had happened in the past, which we all do. You know, a lot of us go through real trauma when we're young. And that if we deny that that happened or try to push it under the carpet, it just keeps developing and developing. And a lot of people just never recover from things that have happened when they were little or as a teenager. And, you know, that's what I've made sure that if anything that has really come out of things that I went through, is I made sure that when I became a mom to two boys, that my boys were always going to feel like, if they were going through anything or upset or sad or worried or stressed, that they were to always be open and honest and never feel like they had to deal with things or be tough. And I think that's the thing with men too. Men feel and males feel like they need to be tough a lot. And you know, that's why I've tried to bring the boys up to say, if you're worried about something, you know, we can always be, we can support them and.
And taking it one step further. You've obviously, you know, make them feel comfortable that they can talk to you guys about anything and bring it up. Don't feel like you have to contain it within. And then you guys have taken the next step by not being embarrassed or afraid to seek professional help. Because we're not all experts. We can't deal with all these problems, but if we seek help, professional help, then those problems may not be as big as we think they are.
Alright, look, I can vouch for it. I've been from what felt like at times through hell and back. And, you know, it really affected my life. I never thought I'd get over some things that I had to deal with. And when my sister passed away, I carried that for a long time and thought, well, I won't see a psychologist because I've got a great family unit, my husband's great, you know, what am I gonna get from a psychologist that I'm already getting? But best thing I ever did, like it was just getting support from someone that didn't know what--
Professional knew what they were talking about. And, you know, hopefully through psychology, doing my degree, I can be that person one day.
Cool, Craig says with you being a student and someone with a busy life, do you have advice maintaining a balance while studying and all your other responsibilities, a mom, a wife, a business owner, you know, the star of the internet.
Let's not go too far. To be honest, I don't get high distinctions. So, you know, I come from, I guess, you know, with my family, some really smart people. And, you know, I guess I feel very average, but you know, I wasn't proud of myself, my swimming career for a very long time, you know. People used to say, you know, you must've been so proud of what you achieved, but I think because it was peppered with these highs and lows, I couldn't look back totally and be proud. And I guess, you know, it took me to do psychology and I'm not a natural student, but to have not failed yet, I'm actually really proud. But to get back to your question about the balance, I guess I have been able to do it because I am super organized and it comes back to my swimming days. You had to have a bag packed with spare everything that you can imagine, you had to have spare kit bag full of goggles, caps, togs, just everything.
Did you do it all the night before, so that you could get up at the--
We had to do, we had to do it the night. So we were taught as little kids and growing up, you couldn't be five minutes late. If you were five minutes late, that was seen as you were being disrespectful. So, I guess it was growing up almost like, I won't say like the army, coz I can imagine it's definitely more regimented coz you've got people's lives at stake, but it was definitely that whole organization. And, I'm far from being OCD coz now studying psychology, I understand what OCD is and it's not OCD, but I think it's definitely being extremely organized. And as a result, my two boys are very organized and they're never late. I was early here today by 20 minutes coz I don't like letting people down. I was just brought up an environment where--
Were you having a short of Nick is always 20 minutes late.
Oh, you hadn't noticed.
No, I didn't notice. But you know, and it's not, I'm not sort of tooting my own horn, but I guess that's the only way I can explain the balances. You know, if I have an assignment due, then I like to get it in two days before it's due because I don't like being stressed. So, I think it's having that sort of childhood experience, teenage experience that you had to be early otherwise it was a major disrespect to people. You had to be organized otherwise you'll get to a swim meet and totally freak out before your race, if you don't have everything that you need with you. So, I think it's just being super organized, but also putting emphasis on the things that really matter. If you get asked to a barbecue and you're literally exhausted and you have to be honest with the person, I can't come to the barbecue on the weekend because I'm literally exhausted or I have an assignment due or it's making really important decisions about what's important to yourself and your family. So, yep, yeah.
Emma Blackburn asks, there's been so much in the news about elite athletes' mental health, at the moment, that's at the forefront, particularly in the AFL and the NRL. And the need to support developing sports people appropriately. Hayley, what are your thoughts on how things are now? And do you think it's improving? Are we getting better?
I think so. You know, it's hard for me to say, coz I'm not in the thick of it. And certainly in my day you just didn't see a psychologist. If you saw a psychologist, you weren't dealing with things. So I know these days, there's so much in the media about mental health that I hope people are seeking the help. But I guess a firsthand account, my son who's 17, he's a swimmer, he swims out at St Peters with Ariarne Titmus, Mitch Larkin, a whole host of Olympians.
I was at the shop one day. This is when COVID hit. It was March 20th, so it was just before everything closed. And he was gearing up, their team was gearing up for Olympic trials, you know, which were coming up in June for Australia. And my son, he was 16 at the time. He was their whole sort of age group was gearing up for their big meet, which was the age nationals. And my son had literally trained his battle for, we were all going to Perth in April to see him swim. And he rang me at the shop one day in March, late March. And said, can you come and pick me up? There's no training this afternoon. Our coach has told us all to go home. And I said, oh, just you young kids or everyone. He said, no, literally everyone, Anne's gone, Ariarne Titmus, Mitch, everyone's gone. And my first thought was, I hope Kai, my son, is okay mentally because he had trained literally his butt off to go over to Perth.
It's a huge disappointment.
And then I thought to myself, I can't even imagine being in an Olympian's shoes, who are about to go to an Olympic trials, who had spent the last four years training for that event. And you take Ariarne Titmus, she won the World Championship the year before, beat Katie Ledecky, so was going into the Olympics as a possible. Her first Olympics, we're not talking about, this was gonna be her first Olympics. A little girl that had trained her whole life to go to Olympic games was told you can't even get in a pool anymore. So I know first from firsthand, coz I've seen it. Coz now they're back training, is some of them have coped really well, and some of them haven't coped well. Some of them have thought, well I'm 24, 25 years of age, I've literally deferred uni to go to the Olympics this year. Can I go on another year? So, there's been, I know some real sort of meltdowns and I'm hoping that they've got the support that they've got. And I honestly am grateful for the fact that my son's 17 and he's got his swimming career ahead of him. And it would be very hard to be in a family where you had a situation where you potentially had someone about--
Where the door is shut really.
The door is shut, but not even be told you can't even get into a pool. So I can't even imagine the mental. Our son was so desperate to get into a pool. We had to take him over to the Gap, to a fast lane pool, which is one of those tiny little spar pools because he just wanted to get in the water. And our pool is like five meters long and he had one of those. And I just said to him, you know, can you just have a break? And he said, mom, I just wanna feel like I'm moving. So we, you know, we went out there with him a couple of times a week, but, you know, it just mentally would have been very hard. So to answer your question, hopefully there was some help for the people that struggle. Some people loved having a break so, and have got straight back into it. And swimming times that, you know, we'll definitely get them on the Australian team.
Speaking of the pool, let's rewind. And you spoke a lot about your days with black line fever. Did Laurie Lawrence ever apologize for his comments earlier in your career when he, you know, basically went through his form guide and said, no, Hayley Lewis put a live through her, not ready, can't win. And you come home with five gold medals.
Laurie's idea of an apology was, he was trying to gee me up. So no, he didn't say I'm sorry. And you know, I think it was because Laurie was like, he is so sweet. Like, you know, I've spent--
He's passionate too.
I've spent many years with him and he is lovely. However, Laurie is the most competitive person I've ever met. And he had swimmers like that first race where I won the 400 medley and I broke the girls' Commonwealth record. He had a swimmer in that, that was Jodie from State High. She was in my race, and then Julie McDonald, she was in a 400 freestyle. And you know, if he wasn't trying to completely psych me out, like he had Julie McDonald and majority of my swimming career trying to psych me out. And that was basically because she was the master. She was the student of the master of just such, you know, I need to win. So no, he didn't really apologize. He just said, I was just doing it as like a reverse psychology thing. I'm thinking, yeah, that's the best I was gonna get from Laurie.
That'll do, we'll take that as an apology. Darren asks, what's the best piece of advice you have received either from your swimming days or outside of being a professional athlete.
I've heard that a lot.
So it does sound cliche and it's something, you know, we all throw around, but you know, life is really too short to waste time on doing something you don't enjoy. And also, I guess what I have learned from doing psychology and working in a team environment as a swimmer and now as a small business owner, is you really do need to have people who are working with you and working for you that are enriching the team and not bringing the team down. And, you know, it's that old saying, you're only as strong as the weakest link. And I mean, that is true, but I believe now knowing what I do, that the weakest link needs to be supported and encouraged and developed rather than we give up on them. So I guess that's the best piece of advice is you need to have fun, but you also need to have only people around you that make you feel good about yourself, and want to be in the workplace. So, I've been very fortunate that the vast majority of people that it worked with me at the swim school and at my shop at Balmoral have wanted to be there. And another thing is you gotta work hard. Like people say to me, when they come into my gift shop, you know, oh, you must love it in here is candles. But I'm literally there sometimes seven days a week. You know, I put my heart and soul into it because I love it. It truly is the place in my life where I feel most at peace. And I, for example, I had a woman only in there yesterday and we got to talking and I said, is this a gift? Would you like me to wrap it? And she said, oh, it's actually my birthday, so it's a gift to myself, so there's no need to wrap it. And I said, happy birthday. You know, I hope you're gonna have a nice day. And she said, yeah, this is the only thing I wanted to do, was to come to your shop because I just feel so special when I walk in the door and, you know, to get a compliment like that. And you know, I've had, for example, women in who have suffering from postnatal depression, who will come into the shop because it makes them feel happy. And you know, these are women that wouldn't have come out of their house for two months because they're a bit scared to they've got depression and you know, the first place I wanna come is my shop. So, you know, I think that's why I do what I do and why I have the people working there that I do because they're lovely bunch of people and they really care about the customers and we all work well together, so yeah.
So if I come to Coming up Roses, I would get served by an Olympian.
Absolutely, most of the time people say to me, did you use to, did you used to work at Myers. And they got to know your face. Why do I know you face so. Look, majority of people know who I am because I've been there 11 years, but I think it's been some people out because they don't expect me to be wrapping their present.
So, yeah, but I am, and there's not many small business owners out there that wouldn't be at their business at least six out of the seven days a week.
And look, we could go on forever chatting, but time is on the wing and we've already run over time. But let's squeeze in one last question.
All right, this is from Rachel, she asks, would you say that being authentic to who you are is a valuable lesson for business and personal life, especially I'll add a bit here for you Rachel. You having shared your story about the team that looked after you when you were in a personal crisis and you had their back at various times and that connection that you guys had.
Absolutely, I'm not gonna start crying. But yeah, look, I think anyone who has met me, knows that I'm, you know, I'm normal because, you know, for a long time, I didn't think that what I did was anything special. And so it was very hard to feel like you were any different, when you didn't think that you had really done anything out of the normal anyway. But yeah, I think that people these days can see if people aren't being authentic pretty quickly. So, you know, I think that's why I did well on The Biggest Loser was because I loved the contestants so much and I still do, and I still keep in touch with them. And it's because they knew that I really cared for them and I wanted them to do really well. And you know, it's the same for the people that work for me. They know that they can come to me for anything. They never have to be embarrassed about telling me anything. And I think it's actually the same with my customers. I think my customers feel like they can talk to me about anything as well, because I don't judge people. And you know, how can you judge people when you've got your own stuff going on? No one's perfect and that's why these days, especially with COVID and everything that's happened, we all need to take the walls down and ask for help if we need to, and really, really support the people around us. And you know, you can meet someone that you think has got it all together, but you still need to make sure that they're all right as well.
And speaking of that in one of our earliest sessions at the beginning of Safe Work Month, Dave Burt from New Zealand gave us a great line that would be a great way to connect with somebody. A simple five words, what's happening in your world. What do you reckon?
You know, because some people do, you know, when you say, hey, you're going, your natural response is to say all good. Yeah, everything's great. When you're thinking inside, it's not great, it's not. I thought it's weird that you say that coz the thing I say to my customers is what's happening. What's going on like. The more you make it as conversational as possible, the better it is.
I have two quick questions to ask you. These are from me. So there'll be hard hitting coz you know, we do have history back in your sports days. I still haven't forgiven you for not, you know, when you came home with five gold medals, not doing an interview one-on-one with me, but anyway, that's, I'll have to get therapy for that and get over it. Look, I wanted to ask you, what's a VHS? You mentioned that in your talk before, what is that?
You know exactly what that, you know what that is more than I.
I never heard of it before in my life. It is a form of, you know, recording for the younger members of the audience.
The younger members of the audience might not even know what a CD is.
And the one, I want you to apologize, Hayley Lewis, to all those people who were swimming at the Holland Park State school, in the fast line. And then all of a sudden you turned up to get fit and the superficial was next to them in their lane.
Yes, I apologize. I apologize to all the people that I demoralized. But look, once they knew who I was I don't think, it was weird though, coz as soon as I would jump into the pool, people would try to rate me. And I was like warming up and I'd be like, you do your main set, I'm just warming up over here, yeah.
Thanks very much for joining us.
Thank you so much, thanks for having me.
It's been fantastic. Everyone I hope you've enjoyed this session talking about mental health and we really do appreciate that Hayley has opened up, talking about her struggles and how she's dealt with those. For us here at Workplace Health and Safety, it's a wrap, as we draw the curtain to Safe Work Month and Mental Health Week events for 2020. We hope you've enjoyed the mini and varied virtual presentations that we've been privileged to bring to you. Remember, you can still access a full catalog of industry and topics-specific video, case studies, podcasts, speaker recordings, and webinars and films. To help you take action to improve your WHS and return to work outcome. These resources and most of our Safe Work Month and Mental Health Week digital events are available for free for you to access any time. All you have to do is visit worksafe.qld.gov.au and check out Safe Work Month under the campaigns page. So there's a little bit of navigating, but you can get there and they're all available. For those that missed out on any of our earlier presentations during the month, the team are working very, very busily on uploading sessions that were recorded online. So you can rewatch these along with a handy delegate book, outlining key takeaways and further resources from each of our presenters. Again, thanks for supporting Mental Health Week and Safe Work Month. And remember work safe, home safe.