leadership

Michelle Bridges will get you fit. Can she help your career?

Angela Priestley /

Like many Australian women, former Governor General Quentin Bryce is a Michelle Bridges fan.

Bryce said as much after appearing on stage at the Women’s Leadership Symposium in Sydney on Thursday, declaring her interest in Bridges’ famous 12 Week Body Transformation program. Another prominent Australian, Ita Buttrose, said Bridges is “an inspiration to Australian women”.

“it’s all a rather humbling experience,” Bridges said at the Symposium, while accepting the NSW award for excellence in women’s leadership. “I’m a girl from Newcastle, sitting amongst leaders in the community, and being acknowledged for my work.”

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It’s especially humbling considering how quickly Bridges has transformed from a girl with a “big dream” to one of Australia’s best known trainers, and now one of our most successful female entrepreneurs.

Her story is one that proves self belief can do a lot more for a career than money and education.

Bridges first came to major public attention in 2007 as a trainer of the “red team” on the Australian version of The Biggest Loser, before going on to build a major fitness and nutrition empire — including books, DVDs, and a range of clothes sold in Big W. Her digital start-up featuring a range of online exercise program, 12WBT, has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, and gone international.

Earlier this year, she joined the BRW Rich Women List for the first time, with an estimated net worth of $53 million. She employs around 70 people in the ‘MB Team’ office in Sydney, with a “core team” of eight to ten.

Accepting the state award on Thursday, she said she started her career with very little, arriving in Sydney in 1996 with all her possessions in the back seat of the car, $300 in the bank, and no contacts other than a place to stay for a couple of nights.

“I had a really big dream and truckloads of self belief because I was passionate about what I could do,” she said.

She recalled her grandfather telling her to always keep moving and being “prepared to dig into the trenches”, and her grandmother telling her to never be, “One of those girls who is always asking, what’s in it for me?” On stage, she vowed to continue to ask who she could be to the community.

Meanwhile, she said it was her mother who gave her the gift of resilience. “It’s a priceless commodity.”

But resilience is not simply a matter of being able to bounce back quickly.

“Resilient people don’t bounce back. They find healthy ways to integrate the setback into their lives.”

“I ask myself not to be afraid of failure because it’s going to happen. Any leader in any field has failed. We at team MB experience fear. It’s normal to be clenching butt cheeks in the office! But fear shows us we’ve chosen work that’s worth doing.”

This article was originally published on Women’s Agenda.

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Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

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