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Interview: Brett Ashley talks about The Key To Unlocking Your Potential


Brett Ashley is a former executive with Woolworths NZ Ltd, who chalked up more than 47 years in the retail industry in both New Zealand and Australia. His new book, The Key to Unlocking Your Potential is part memoir, part business book and takes a refreshing approach to making the most of every day at work, especially for those tasked with getting the best from their team, as well as making fascinating and valuable reading for anyone who feels ‘locked’ into their job.


Can you tell us a little about the new book? The book is a combination of my life story and the many leadership lessons I have amassed over the last 60 years. We all have our own unique story to tell and I have found that we can experience so much richness and energy when we find the courage to share our stories with others. Although many successful leaders effectively use the power of storytelling within their business environment they mainly only do so by using other peoples examples. But the real gems in life, come from the knowledge and appreciation that we get from sharing what has happened from the environments that we personally have experienced both at home and in work. “The key to unlocking your potential” is essentially the stories about the many different environments that have helped to shape the way I believe and behave. I firmly believe that anyone can flourish in any environment if they have the desire and commitment to create a strong enough belief to do so. I have personally found that there were a number of keys to unlocking my potential and in my book I outline some of my most significant e.g. LOVE - finding someone or something to love, WORK – having a purpose to provide for yourself and for others, Knowledge – seeking continuous improvement for your mind.

I definitely had a challenging childhood and I could have let that affect who I was and easily become a victim of that environment but I chose not to let that happen. I found love and created my own positive family environment, I found my work and more importantly being a leader as it helped to set me free but once I discovered the “power of the mind” my life experiences became positively supercharged.

How difficult was it writing this, your first book? It has been a hugely beneficial but also very challenging experience having taken approximately 2 years from start to go. The actual initial draft was relatively quick and easy but I quickly discovered the immense benefit of securing quality feedback from family and friends and then the absolute essential benefits of a good editor and publishing company. The secret is not to try and rush it but also to have a solid plan and outline of what are the key messages and from what perspective you want your story to be.


What research was involved? I had to cross reference parts of my story with some of my family but it was also important to me that the stories were told from my perspective and not theirs. I had purposely over the years amassed a large amount of leadership and business information from my work journals and I was then able to conduct further online research to validate and build on them. I also have an extensive personal library that provided a great resource and reference for the personal development techniques and processes that I highlight in the book.


What was your routine or process when writing this book? As I had recently retired from my corporate roles I initially did not have a routine while undertaking my life story as I would just let the events flow naturally at anytime. But once deciding to write the leadership lessons, I became much more structured and committed to approx 2 to 4 hours per day up to 5 days per week until complete. Of course editing and refining followed as similar pattern to the business process.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany the new book, name a song or two you would include. “I want to break free” by Queen What did you enjoy the most about writing The Key To Unlocking Your Potential? Two things:

1. I really enjoyed the process, as I have learnt so much and become better as a result. I'm sure my English school teachers would be amazed and even proud that I have at least had a go!

2. On reflection I have enjoyed being able to appreciate what and how much I have done and how it has made a difference to the many people who I have been able to share my journey with. What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

We had a great family dinner and a few laughs!


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why? “Belonging” by Owen Eastwood The mix of leadership and culture principles with a Maori context was compelling reading for me personally.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

After retiring from Woolworths NZ I enjoyed relaxing and spending more time with my family and friends. The extra time also enabled me to write and publish this book, and during the process it became evident that maybe some of my life lessons could further assist others to establish their own purpose in life. Thus the book became the first step in a new plan, and I have now gone on to develop a new business venture, establishing My Purpose Ltd.


The business is designed to help educate and coach senior students and business leaders on how to create an environment where they can be at their best every day. I am especially excited about the opportunity to help senior students understand the power of the mind. I also want to break the myth that it is too hard to find your purpose in life and we all have to look to have some spiritual purpose. My aspiration is that they will become energised, empowered and committed to develop their own personal life plan that will enable them to be or achieve whatever they want.