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Inspiration Bomb – Fabian Dattner


When I was fifteen years old, I had a small role in the school play. At the end of the night as we were packing up,  this beautiful dark-haired lady about twice my age approached me in the stalls and said something along the lines of “Clare, I’m Fabian. I’m your friend’s aunty. Anyway listen, I have to tell you something. You’ve got a spark. I felt it from the audience. It’s rare. It’s precious. You will do great things in the world with it. Come for dinner some time! Good night”.

As far as I recall, Fabian was the first random stranger who ever displayed any recognition in my potential as a creative person. That was huge for me (not that I showed it, or even told her how much it had meant to me, until about a decade after it had happened.  The secret life of teenagers.). It hit me in the heart like a shock of happiness. I think about it often, especially in BHB world. We all want to mean something. Fabian reminded me that I did, and I could. I guess you could call her my first ever “Frentor”*.

If I were to describe her in a few words I would say that Fabian is fiercely loving, deeply professional, a generous bohemian millionaire, friend of domestic animals, an independent thinker, and always honest. She works as a social entrepreneur mostly supporting big businesses, and little people who she takes a liking to. Her honesty, it should be noted, is not always comfortable, but it’s always delivered with kindness and considerable skill, as you will hear today. Her vision – one of finding common values between “creative” and “systems people”, and helping them stand and work shoulder to shoulder – is rare to come by, and that’s why I think you’ll get so much from this Bomb.

Her ideas have always been well ahead of the times: she’s been talking values and ethics and business and women and creativity and the responsibility of business to contribute to a better world for a long time, and it feels to me like the world is finally catching on… but slowly.  We forget here in our bubble at BHB that our way of talking about and actually building our businesses is still the absolute anomaly. For years she has said to me “There is no shortage of clever people in the world. What we need more of, is kindness”. She’s right.

Also worth noting: Fabian doesn’t deliver her words from a glass tower. Like all great entrepreneurs, she knows what it means to have failed (many moons ago, Fabian was the leader of a high-profile family business that went under, spectacularly. She wrote a couple of books about it).  It’s what she learnt from that failure, and how she now applies it to her real life, that makes her such a fascinating subject.

But I also really want to hear from you: what is one thing you’re going to take away from Fabian’s Inspiration Bomb today? Write your comments in the box below and you’re in the running for a copy of Beci Orpin’s latest book, Home.

Big Love,

CB and the BHB Crew xo

*Cheesy BHB lingo meaning “Mentor and Friend, all rolled into one”. More common than we think!

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  • Catherine Mollica

    Inspiring and illuminating, this bomb just blew my mind! Starting with the shared vision, values and methodology for constructive collaboration between “creative” and “systematic” types; the importance of removing labels; that engaging and involving women is a sustainability issue; to the cyclic nature of women’s growth and development. Mind. Blown.

    • Fabian Dattner

      Thank you Catherine (I thought I had replied to you but now seemingly not – sorry). I’m glad your mind is ‘blown’, which usually means there is a lot to think about. I think that reaction stems from the fact that you are hearing things that at a fundamental level you believe to be true yourself. constructive collaboration is the path forward (if you have time, go and visit http://www.oneworldatlast.com. It is a tool for educating people on how to work/collaborate more effectively together. And as for labels – they are so hurtful, and all too often dimish both labelled and labeller. I’d rather focus on what we are able to become. xxx

  • thank you for sharing this inspiration bomb. As a creative person who created an online counselling service for people with diabetes (having lived with type 2 since I was 12) which is a not for profit, I have become successful by winning a major grant which has enabled my organisation to thrive, yet now I am here in this place of “success” I feel shackled and choked by systems and processes- it is as if the creativity and joy have been taken away from the work for me, from this thing that I created. To add to this, working in the charity world for 13 years has made me jaded when it comes to money…having to continually ask for and seek this to keep my service free to users and not knowing even now, what will happen when the money runs out. I have therefore started a creative pursuit blogging outside the health sector with a sustainable interiors and lifestyle blog, focusing on healthy planet, healthy people, healthy home. I have also started studying my interior design (although I am also part way through a PhD – research is FAR too system based for me!!) and feel much more empowered again in my whole working life. It feels funny to be asking for what I am worth in this more commercial world…. One is now feeding the other, yet somehow the now very systems dominated charity sector work still feels so less creative and harder to hang onto with the shimmering delight of my completely self driven and self controlled creative journey. I have taken many messages from your talk today about space, about collaboration and about valuing who you are and what you do. thank you!

    • Fabian Dattner

      I’m not sure how I missed responding to you. I’m sorry. Working in the NFP sector is hard but it is also some of the most rewarding work any of us do I suspect. Have you read Good to great in the social sector – Jim Collins? If not read it. Genuinely inspiring and practical. Chasing $s is painful and debilitating and an ever present challenge in our world. So I’d ask what the rewards have been and how you are finding those again working for yourself and your current creative challenge. Self awareness, combining quality feedback and honest disclosure are essential now, to ensure the lessons of the past inform where you find yourself now. Do you get feedback from trusted others about how you are approaching what you do? Would be worth it.

  • Laura Douglas

    Absolutely what I needed to hear! Thank you so much. Have been putting off welcoming this new year and today just started a blog, and in the process of that… I feel excited. Thennnnn… along comes BHB. Love it, thank you. You give back (:


    • Fabian Dattner

      BHB is one of the most inspiring things I’ve been linked to and I am a serious Clare Bowditch groupie. Usually just seeing her makes me feel better. Here’s to a stunning year in which we will all play a part.

      • Laura Douglas

        Thank you Fabian (: a wonderful new year to you. I posted a reply to you, but it was a bit rambly, so maybe flitered by the universe (thanks for that!)!

        One way you helped me more specifically, is… I have had a definite block in my mind for about the past fifteen years about SYYYYSTEMS and really, all structure and business workings. I cannn do it, and really actually love organisation, but my creative (artist, grapho) ends up turning all my straight lines wavy (or into horses!!). When I listened to your bomb, I was so very inspired. All of a sudden I could see that there were actually systems people and creative people… that some people are better at things than others. I understand this is such a simple point, but you spoke about it in such a matter of fact way, and with such value for both. It really moved some cogs in my mind, and I think I was able to realise that I can do systems without becommmming a systems person (: Big shining light. THANK YOU!!!!!

        I am currently the coordinator of an nfp arts project in Aus, and honestly Im doing a very shoddy job. I have the heart to do it so well it means so very much to me, but I have had a block thinking I need to do all the systems things for the whole thing… I realise now that I can partner with a systems person and we can work together. That is a wonderful thing (: Not thinking that I am lacking what it needs, knowing I am just what it needs, with someone else to work together (:

        Thank you for your honesty and depth. And conviction. What life is all about (: Goodness to you (:

        • Fabian Dattner

          Hi Laura, belatedly! Great series of insights. Women are very clever and able. Sometimes we end up feeling we have to be everything to everyone and not only is that not necessary, it is simply not possible. If we can suspend judgemen about good and bad/right and wrong just a little, we make space for thinking of smarter ways to collaborate, to make use of and value the diversity around us. If you have a passion for something you are half the way there. A good systems person, however, might not only help you to do the task, but simply working with them puts joy into the learning journey again. Warmest Fabian

  • Fabian Dattner

    Wonderful to read these comments. I’d love to know specifically what was most useful, and if you have any questions that have been nagging you. Happy to talk. Warmest Fabian

    • Jasmine Mansbridge

      The valuing your work & involving children in your work ( which although challenging is also rewarding) and turning passion into a financially viable thing!

      • Jasmine Mansbridge

        Ps I paint from my home studio & have 4 children 🙂

        • Fabian Dattner

          Great, because valuing wok and involving children is also about helping them to belong, and to be supportive of their parents. It is not to isolate them from this working world where they have nothing to contribute.

        • Laura Douglas

          Jazzhands! You mean, you paint awesomely from your home studio (; This is a most wonderful community. And what an inspirational bomb to get the new year moving (: Nice seeing you on here. x

  • Fabian Dattner

    I endeavour to post useful stuff on the Dattner Grant facebook and @fabian dattner for those wanting to pursue any particular aspect or question separately. I am always available on email fabian@dattnergrant.com.au.

    • Jasmine Mansbridge

      Thank you! I really need to incorporate more long term structure & vision into my work… I so easily stay stuck in the present nature of making!

  • Jasmine Mansbridge

    Wow, I have tears in my eyes, give me an hour Fabian and I think you may change my world xxx

  • Kelly

    Thanks Fabian + BHB. Fantastic inspiration bomb! Really enjoyed it. The one piece of advice that resonated most with me is the ‘era of women’. I am about to return to the workplace after having my first child, and I am dreading it! Mainly because of mother’s guilt, the dreaded ‘part-time mum’ label and an expectation that I will be shelved as an inconvenience rather than an asset to the workplace. I’ve always looked at family and work as being two separate elements. Instead, I will take Fabian’s advice on board and try to integrate the two to achieve a balance that works for everyone. Thanks!

    • Fabian Dattner

      Thoughts for you; ditch the balance metaphor; it sets us up to feel unbalanced. You are making a choice for many good reasons to go back to work And you are a mum. There is no either or. They are a seamless part of life. Without children we don’t move forward. Always remind yourself of the ‘why’ for what you do (both creatively, going back to work and as a mother). Second thought: you will be a mother to a small child for a very few years; you will be a critical role model and impossibly close friend to your child for 70 to 80 years. Role model clarity, role model self awareness, role model growth and learning. This is what our children need from us most. Wonderful you. We have worked for countless eons while having children. Hold your space and be clear about what you want and need as a woman and a mother and help create those changes at work. xxxxx

      • Kieran

        Thank you so much for sharing your insights! How refreshing it is to reflect upon our cyclic natures, and the concept of necessary and natural integration of mothering and my work. Although I often work from home I mostly attempt to keep the two worlds separate – what an unnecessary tension! To think instead that I am modeling creative drive in the making of an integrated working life is a revolution. Your generosity is much appreciated. Happy new year 🙂 Thank you Fabian, CB and Beci (love your work!)

  • Jordan

    Oh my goodness that was amazing. I love her conviction about the balance of men and women in the workforce – the main point that women are vital BECAUSE we are different is the what I’ll be taking away from this. Wow. Sharing this and listening again. (And I LOVE watching Beci work, she’s an inspiration).

    • Fabian Dattner

      Beci is an inspiration. Thoughtful and light touch. My conviction about men and women is born of a deep belief that without our different skills, our sameness will overwhelm us and we all know that while there are brilliant things about our world, there are many that should and do concern many of us. Our planet is clever, creative, diverse, impossibly innovative. At the same time we are less happy, the environment is degrading, our home is dirty, our children and the elderly are displaced. It should stand out like the proverbial bulls- you know what- that those gaps in our world are very much the reflfection of lack of feminine voice at the decision table. Too much competition, too much personal achievement/self aggrandisement at the expense of community. One moving forward and leaving others behind is not how communities prosper. Warmest Fabian

  • Jovena Watson

    Everyone has it in them to do greatness. You just need to run with it.

    • Fabian Dattner

      10% talent, 90% determination, courage, conviction, self awareness and a willingness to learn. If not you, then who?

      • Clare Bowditch

        Can I quote you on this?

        • Fabian Dattner


      • Sallyanne Hartnell

        Thank you Fabian (and Clare) for this IB. I’ve got the talent (haven’t we all?). I need now to believe in the journey and my ability to travel the path – with that other 90%. To get over the self-doubt, gather the courage, be determined, garner my willingness to learn and find the right people to teach / help. Deep breath….. Here I go!

        • Fabian Dattner

          Sally don’t be afraid to seek out help. We can’t be all things to all people. One World Atlast – the journey, was developed to bring the best help possible, for as little as possible, to people like you (www.oneworldatlast.com). Most great ideas (and CB is a brilliant example of this) require collaboration with like minded people. The trick lies in engaging them to the xpression of your talent, where you see it fits and who will want what you do/make/provide, and then how to turn the idea into a reality over time. All wind in your sails. xx

  • Julia Telford

    Great messages Fabian, thank you for sharing them. Do you travel and present? I am involved with women’s groups across south west Queensland who would greatly benefit from hearing from you! My email is juliatelford@bigpond.com if this is something you would be interested in discussing! thank you xox

    • Clare Bowditch

      Fabian does both of these things: I’d suggest checking out her website Dattnergrant.com.au – get in touch there x

    • Fabian Dattner

      Thanks Julia, yes as CB said, I do both of these things. Let’s connect. Best through my assistant Shani on shani@dattnergrant.com.au (I’m fabian@dattnergrant.com.au); only because she controls my diary and knows my movements.

    • Laura Douglas

      The people you see on here!! Hello Julia sweet Telford x
      So wonderfully inspiring isn’t she? I know we women of the west would love to see her!!

  • Katie Alexander

    “Money follows vision”, thank you Fabian for the reminder and the encouragement!

    • Clare Bowditch

      So true huh? x

      • Fabian Dattner

        It is as true for the organisation as for the individual. Not everyone can generate an original vision, but we have the right all of us to be part of something visionary or worthwhile, that genuinely adds value to the world

  • Kelly Morgan

    The idea of family being part of your work, rather than something separate that creates a need to balance things – so true. I don’t have kids but I think this is about those things that are “home” for me rather than family, perhaps. Those things that make you who you are outside of work, and when they collide but don’t mesh well it comes as a real shock. Thanks for reshaping and redefining some of those concepts.

    • Fabian Dattner

      Pleasure. I think this is one of the biggest challenges we as women face, to redefine the notion of what is a legitimate working space. I am fed up with the separation. We have worked with our children beside us very effectively for eons (and many parts of the world continue to do so). I often ask people when they think we came to believe that it wasn’t possible, and most are surprised at how recent this is.

  • Áine Tyrrell

    There are so many nuggets of wisdom that I took from this and have been digesting it since Friday… WOW… I have not commented yet as I can’t chose what hit me the most. It was the complete package of what you said and that you speak my inner thoughts and dreams with such truth, conviction, and beauty. You make me think this world that I dream of is possible… In 14 minutes you made me believe in me, believe in humanity, and believe that the world my girls and boy will grow up in is going to be infinitely better knowing you are out there inspiring so many! Thank you and now off to your website where I can find more… 14 minutes was not enough! xo Áine

    • Fabian Dattner

      Darling girl, what a wonderful, inspiring and nurturing comment. If we can conceive it we can believe it. We are only limited by our intention to act. And we (particularly we women) have to remember that talking about something isn’t doing it. I know in my heart that women see and feel many similar things about what i possible, all over our world – as do enlightened men. The challenge is to move into and take up our space, knowing that it won’t always be easy, but it will always be right. I tell a story about a gardener, and one about the Arabian Prince and the sparrow in One World Atlast. It’s all there – how to do it and why. This is not a big sales spiel. Early days for One World Atlast but I know it will help many people.
      Never forget, in all the challenges of our daily lives, by the way, that words of encouragement and kindness, like yours are fuel to the heart. xxxx

      • Áine Tyrrell

        Moving into the space seems to be easier for me than staying in the space and feeling I have a right to take up that space? Does that make sense. I can’t speak for all women here, but I think I am great at having the idea, the inspiration… then going for it 100%, but when once there doubt kicks in, self sabotage really and the struggle I find is to continue to occupy the space! After years of this and giving up on my passion… I jumped back in the space heart first and now I just try to do something every day that keeps me in that space.
        I look forward to your anecdotes about Sparrows… I love sparrows. Just been looking at your Compass leadership programs as well… look amazing! As does One World Atlast. So many Fabian adventures to chose from. You also look so familiar… we have either met in a past life or passing in this one! 😉

        Happy to bring a bit of sunshine to your evening as you brought much to mine listening on Friday.

        • Fabian Dattner

          I wonder if it is possible NOT to take up our space? Maybe it’s jsut that when we are taking it up we are unaware of why we are there. Every spaces teaches something about the value and effectiveness of the choices we make, neither good nor bad. They and it just are!

  • Amanda Stephens

    Thank you Fabian, Beci and the BHB crew for another great inspiration bomb. I’m in the process figuring out my true passion and purpose and how to combine them. Fabian’s words have been very encouraging – I’m going to check out the website now!

    • Fabian Dattner

      And I and the Dattner Grant and One World Atlast team are real people deeply committed to helping where we can. Just email or ring

  • Donna Fearne

    Frentor, what a lovely term. Each week that we receive these I have taken something on and explored it so in the last year or so I have started a blog, website, facebook page and set up my studio as if I really meant it………this bomb has come at a time that I am breathing out from all this activity and trying to get a handle back on what I am actually doing…….I have found it challenging to blog, not because I’m being lazy but because I genuinely rarely have anything to say, or what I do have to say couldn’t possibly be of interest to anyone else. Likewise, the webpage, I rather like hanging on to my work until it is finished so the whole relationship with your audience as you are creating thing doesn’t feel very comfortable…….so how to do this communicate with your audience/promote yourself thing when it is totally alien to how you think/feel/work, not because I’m precious just that I’m something of a hermit artist……….I’m not saying it’s not all good/interesting/inspiring, just that I’m trying to work out how to tailor it to feel right for me, obviously communicating about my work is not my strong point, maybe I can outsource that!!!…….I remember the ‘get over yourself’ message in the first IB or two, but the feeling of self indulgence persists especially when I’m not out to change the whole world, just my little corner where it would be rather nice to create my work and have the odd person buy it to keep me in materials & food..not sure how much this has to do with this weeks bomb but it got me thinking! Happy 2014 xo

    • Fabian Dattner

      I grew up in Eltham, surrounded by artists. I remember Freddy Williams giving advice to the younger Burt Tucker, saying ‘always remember mankind moves forward on the back oaf diference. OUr world changes inevitably as you change. xx

      • Donna Fearne

        good point! I’ll wallow in my hermit-ness for a couple of months and see where I’m at when I pop my head out again… Eltham….I went to Montsalvat for the first time last year…..very idyllic, now there’s a place to curl up in a corner and create! next stop will be Heide……. many thanks for sharing your advice with us all 🙂

        • Fabian Dattner

          My pleasure. Monstsalvat’s a great place. I grew up in and around it.

  • Wow! Had to remind myself to listen as I was absorbed in Beci’s process. Simply beautiful.
    This has come at the perfect time for me as I debate going back to full or part time work and battle mothers guilt. I have run my own business over the last four years from home with kids but I am now recognising that I work best in a team environment. It was great to realise that working in an environment that utilises, encourages and promotes my skills can not be a bad thing or reason for guilt. I still love to run my blog and not feel guilty for sharing knowledge and inspiration for free – which I cannot do running my own business. Altering my path as I grow and get to know myself is not failure, it is efficiency. Thanks!
    PS I am so using Frentor all the time now – the perfect way to describe my inspiring, wonderfully talented friends and colleagues.

    • Oh yeah…. And bring on the Age of Women!

      • Fabian Dattner

        Great thing to adventure in life, try things out, some work, others don’t but eventually we get that little bit clearer about what matters, what suits us.

  • Kirsty Bryson

    These words “I deserve a fair return for my efforts” will become my new mantra!… Wow! I so needed to hear these words right now!
    I am a creative trying to find my place in this world!…So glad I stumbled across this inspiration bomb!

    • Fabian Dattner

      It’s a crucial observation, particularly for creative people who so often live on the smell of an oil rag, and come to hold every dollar precious (which it is) but over time, at the expense of knowing how to charge fairly for what they do. If other businesses are on the receiving end of this ‘generosity’, they come to factor their profits in on the back of what is very cheap labour (i.e. film industry, music clips where everyone donates so much time and effort and imagination to support an artist and so often the only people who get a fair income are those who work for the record lable – an admin person, or operations manager working on stock levels earns more than the talent that created what the company sells). This happens in many businesses where profit expectations can be distorted by how we value labour input.

  • Phoebe Maroulis

    Intensely inspiring. Speechless as I digest. Thank you.

  • Kelly

    What struck me the most was Fabians words on Women and our worth, that like me Fabian has 4 children and has not allowed her vision to fade. I drew great inspiration from this. Thank you Fabian

  • Natalie Keane

    Thank you that was profound, and very inspiring, I have goose-bumps all over!

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  • Lynda @HomeleaLass

    I could listen to Fabian talk all day, she is a true visionary.