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I spend a lot of time reflecting – it’s in my nature – but probably also because I’m always agonizing over my future, my past, and my present.  Trying to figure out how to be better, how to be bigger, how to be smaller (in weight) and what it is I want out of my life.  Sometimes it disturbs me that at my age (30 something) I still question my life goals.

‘Be still’, a friend told me.  If you know me, you’d know that’s the worst thing anyone could say to me – I am that girl who is always on the move.  Be still?  What does that mean?  If I’m still, I’m asleep – I fall asleep in yoga!

Nah, being still wasn’t for me.  But I thought I’d take a break, go visit some friends and get energized.  I couldn’t afford the trip to New York (where I usually go for energy), neither financially nor time wise.  Lagos it was!  People thought I was crazy – why on earth would you go to Lagos on holiday?  Clearly they hadn’t heard Banky W’s anthem, ‘ain’t no party like a Lagos party…’

bestillblog

My girlfriend and I hopped on an ET flight via Addis to Lagos.  By the way, why does it cost so much to fly inter-continental?  My airfare to London is cheaper!  Anyway, off to Lagos we went.  In my inability to Be Still, I added a couple of business related meetings into the trip.

I was in Lagos for a week, I partied, I drank, I ate, I lounged, but I never felt I was inspired.

I came back to Lusaka, feeling rested, but restless (who knew you could feel both at the same time?).  Contracts for new work weren’t signed, relationship drama, it was just making me stressed again.

Be Still, my friend said.  I had no choice at this point.  I had issues to resolve and without being still I couldn’t hear through the noise – the noise included social media, people’s perceptions, my childhood beliefs, and more.

So I sat alone, in my room, unable to sleep, as sometimes happens when I have too much going on, too much stress, too much uncertainty.  And I was still.  In my stillness I first realized I had a great time in Lagos, and I was inspired.  I met up with a woman I greatly admired – Biola Alabi, whom I first met when we were at DISCOP in Ghana together like 7 or 8 years ago.  Her candor and knowledge about her work, about the industry we both work in was so inspiring me – and she’s absolutely beautiful.  She reminded me what a strong, successful, happy black woman looks like – the kind of woman I want to be.

I thought about my friends out there – hanging out with them, having new experiences that spoke to me, made me acknowledge that there are people out there that enjoy spending time with you, sharing with you, and just staying connected.   I met new people, working in diverse industries – like oil and gas – learning about their focus, their growth, their success and how they chose to live their lives, being happy, and social with friends.

I met up with old friends – people I worked with at MTV in London years ago, and still shared a connection with – plotting how we can work together again.  Learning about their journeys post MTV, and feeding off their energy and drive.  On the flip side there were also some people that showed me they didn’t have the time of day for me – it’s interesting to see how people perceive or treat you when they can’t see what they can tangibly get from you, especially since I’m no longer at MTV.  It was an aha moment, but I wasn’t bothered for too long.  The entertainment industry is fickle – I get that, understanding where the longevity lies, where the real power is was way more interesting for me.

In that moment, I realized that Lagos inspired me more than I thought.  Not only inspired me, but taught me a lot.  Lessons were compounded a few days after I arrived back in Lusaka, while having dinner with girlfriends – a bunch of successful, strong, beautiful women.  Though I had maybe one bottle of champagne too many (champagne hangovers are the worst, think I’ll stick to wine or vodka now), I enjoyed every minute of being around like minded people who allowed you to just be you.  We weren’t worried about taking the best selfies to post on IG, or tweeting our night out.

I went back to think on the last week and the ups and downs I’d had from before going to Lagos, to Lagos, to being back in Lusaka.  My phone camera being broken definitely allowed me to be present, but during my moment of being still, I realized that my best moments, not to mention my worst, have never been lived out on social media (at least not in the last few years).  Yes, we can look at some amazing photos on Instagram that make us envious of people’s lives, but we don’t know the real story behind the photos.

When we are still, it’s easier to remember who you are as a person, what you value, what grounds you, and even the clarity of what we want in life starts to appear.  I haven’t completely figured it out yet but definitely will be still more often now, and be grateful for all I have, for the people in my life, and for the experiences I’ve been blessed to have.  So my advice to you all, be still every once in a while – life demands it.

At the end of 2015 I decided I was going to live life to its fullest potential and start really following my dreams, because up until then, I realized I’d spent a lot of my time pleasing people. My work was not what I considered my best because I was constantly compromising and conforming to meet what the client wanted. I had become all about ‘if they pay, they say’ and stopped arguing with them over ‘ugly’ products. Though don’t get me wrong, if they pay, they still say, I’m just more wary of which clients I take on – if they’re not ready to excel, or innovative, I’m not about that life.

But before I made that decision, it ate at me. I looked at some of my past work and remembered the high I got from being true to my inner spirit – the spirit that some times runs wild but appreciates nice looking things!

2016 was going to be about me, and doing things that I wanted to do, throwing caution to the wind! Or so I thought.

Herstory bts

January 2016 I decided to embark on a passion project. Before I could even get started, we suddenly had more work than expected – Q1 is usually very slow, with things only really picking up around April/May.

While I was counting our blessings, I was also wondering what would happen to my passion project, pushing it to the back of my mind, ‘we’re too busy’, I told myself.

And then a friend of mine said ‘you’re scared.’ I was going to protest, instead I walked away annoyed by the comment – do I look like I get scared?! But deep down, I knew she was right.

I had minor panic attacks worrying about whether it would work or not, I reached out to several friends and people I knew in the industry who I felt had more experience than me for advise. Some came back, most didn’t. I focused on that. If I couldn’t get the help from these people, how on earth did I expect to make this work, what would I do?

But I also had so many supportive people in my corner – people I didn’t even know where there, including some incredible women who I am beginning to believe God brought us together for a reason.

Yet there was still a lot of back and forth on my part. First I was scared it would be lame – I’m not about mediocre. That thought was spoken by someone in my inner circle – ‘you are not the type of person to allow mediocrity, why would it be now?’

Of course I could point to many a times I thought I was involved in mediocrity, though it wasn’t of my doing so, fair point.

I had a1001 excuses not to do it. After awhile I realized that my fear was not of just being mediocre but actually of doing a good job. It seems weird to have such a fear but there is just a much pressure with being good and maintaining or exceeding!

And on my mum’s birthday I decided to bite the bullet and just do it! It seemed fitting to do it on her birthday – she is an extraordinary woman to me, so good time to ‘jump’.

It was a great experience! Ok it was running late – another story. But when it was done, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t freaked out, only messed up my lines once. It was awesome.

I might not use it – despite me appreciating I don’t have to be fantastic all the time, it can be better so why not do better?

The important thing for me was to let go of the fear and listen to my truth, and follow that truth – good things await those who are true to themselves!

It may not be the dream exactly, but it’s a step closer, without doing this, I would have been so much further from all I imagine for my life. And that’s what’s the most important thing.

Coming soon…

after the show

I feel like 2015 was a pivotal year for me. It brought so many lessons and learnings for me.

Sometimes, we don’t always like the lesson or what it’s teaching us, and it can be painful to have to go through it at the time. But when you come out the other side, you appreciate the process. Life is not always going to be easy – no one has ever said it will.

December is the perfect month to reflect on the year’s experiences, to help in your growth and preparation for the next year.   I have always been the type of person who chooses self-reflection to help me be a better person, always aware that we can only be responsible for ourselves.

This year I’ve realized I’ve made lots of bad decisions, decisions made at the expense of myself, my happiness, my joy, my ambitions, in order to accommodate other’s happiness. Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t think this is a bad thing, but sometimes, it’s equally important to say no, and to put yourself first.

2016 isn’t about me not giving of myself the opportunity to make others happy when I can, but rather ensuring I’m taking care of myself, so that I can have those opportunities to give to others.

The aim is to live a life without regrets, so though so many things I wanted didn’t happen in 2015, I don’t want to dwell on what wasn’t but rather focus on making 2016 be the best year for me. With my cheerleaders around, I think it’s very possible to make that happen – just takes learning to say yes to myself first, and not to doubt my abilities.

I’m looking forward to a very different year and I hope you’ll carry on being part of my journey.

Have a great, fun-filled, prosperous and exciting 2016!

 

Stay Blessed!

Sometimes we forget our blessings. It’s easy to do when we live in a world that is obsessed with consumerism and self-, and instant-gratification. Looking at our friends lives on Facebook we can get caught up with envy and focusing on what we don’t have in our lives. It’s easy. But yet we need to be reminded of our blessings.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Juba, South Sudan on a project I’m working on about using participatory theatre for peace-building and conflict resolution/transformation.

Before I got to South Sudan, I had people not only ask me ‘why on earth’ I was going to South Sudan, but also caution on safety as it’s a country still at war. I can’t lie, I was a little fearful. But I felt I needed something to do, and getting out of the country to go to a country I’d never been to before seemed like an opportunity not to be passed up.

My first encounter was the process of getting an entry permit. As we don’t have a South Sudan embassy in Zambia, UNICEF in South Sudan had to facilitate getting an entry permit that we needed to have before arriving in Juba. I literally got mine enroute to the airport. But at the airport they needed a print out before they could allow me on the plane. Have you seen a business centre at KK International? Thankfully my grown grandson (it’s a cultural thing) was there to help and convinced a lovely lady at the courier office to help me get a print out – thanks Sekani and Bwalya!

My journey to South Sudan took me via a night’s stay in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and arriving in Juba lunch-time of the following day. As I waited in the old terminal (Terminal 1) at Addis International Airport, I feel somewhat at ease that so many people were flying to Juba. Then I noticed that most of them had light blue passports – the UN passport. Still, it was better than being on an empty flight to the unknown.

wfp plane

I arrived at Juba International Airport about an hour and a half later. A colleague from UNICEF Zambia had already given me a heads up about the airport but no one could truly prepare me for the chaos.

The international airport was tiny. It reminded me of the Solwezi airport (and Solwezi is our economic hub too, or was, so maybe that’s not saying much!). On arrival, as I queued to get my visa (not really sure the point of the entry permit to be honest), the first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of urine. This was after I already almost passed out by the extraordinary heat that hit me when I stepped off the plane! South Sudan is close to the equator after all.

There didn’t seem to be order in the way things were done but I patiently went to the section that said visa on arrival. In front of me was a white woman from the UK who was kind of flirting with the security officers/immigration officers but in a condescending kind of way. It is a thing that I notice even elite black people do – treat the ‘poor, unfortunate people’ with a friendly but condescending tone (i.e. I really believe you’re an idiot but I’ll use the simplest of English for you to understand and I’ll smile at you and treat you like a happy baby with my cooing and aaahing). I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

I finally got my passport stamped and out I went to collect my bag. There was no luggage carousel so I could easily identify my bag, have security rummage through it and put a sticker on it, verifying it had been checked, and good to go.

This was my first thought of being grateful. We spend so much time in Zambia complaining about our poor infrastructure and inefficiency but it’s miles ahead of the Juba airport! I was suddenly grateful for, or at least appreciative of what Zambia has.

I walked out of the hall, and I still hadn’t seen my pick up. I remembered the Welcome and Security Pack I had been sent that clearly said, ‘don’t get a cab, go to the other UN drivers and ask them to radio a UNICEF driver for you’. Which is exactly what I did!

The driver in that UN car was extremely helpful and offered to drop me off at my hotel that was literally round the corner. As we’re driving away we see the UNICEF driver. But the UN driver won’t let me exit the car until the UNICEF car was parked directly behind us and the UNICEF driver was out of the car – the robberies are real he said.

I was slightly startled by that – was my family and friend’s fear justified if I couldn’t just get out of the car?!

view from the room

I was three days late to getting to the workshop, and as my UNICEF colleague drove me from the hotel to the workshop venue, I looked around the city.  The first thing you notice is the amount of UN cars on the road, including UN hummers!  There was some presence of the military, not heavy, but considering the city was supposed to be demilitarized, there was a clear presence of them. I saw land cruiser pick up with army in there, and what was clearly a dead body. I hoped this was just the body of their own colleague and not some poor person killed – I decided it was best not to ask questions you might not want the answer to.

It was great getting to know the workshop participants, 17 of them representing 9 of the 10 states of South Sudan. All super friendly and ready to engage and participate. They got the methodology of the two methods of participatory theatre we were testing out, and quick to see how it could be applied to their own communities and situations. Brilliant!

As I was starting to praise these activists who all stated how much they wanted peace in their country, who felt deeply hurt by the injustices and violence inflicted on their people, that affected all of them, there was also something I noticed was similar to the Zambian participants, as we’d done the same workshop a week earlier in Lusaka; their addiction to their cellphones.

It was constant! Some at least had the decency to answer the phone out of the room, while others had no qualm answering it in the workshop room during the exercises or the facilitator explaining something. It wasn’t a big room, so all sound carried!

At first I thought, ‘how rude!’. I personally get offended when people take a phone call in the middle of a dinner or learning opportunity, just think it’s rude. I don’t know why people are obsessed with their phones. I’m not chained to my phone, I don’t stress about missed calls, people can text me, call me back or I can call them back! It’s not that serious. Hence the reason it’s called a ‘Cell-phone’ you get imprisoned by it! (I saw that on Facebook!)

Zambia was a similar thing; mainly their cellphones, but generally an inability to focus. And it led me to an overall problem we have: Indiscipline

Discipline gets a bad rap at times, probably because somehow our mind goes to the military when we think of discipline. But really discipline is about focus and self-control.

These are key areas we need to grow and develop generally. How are we going to develop or succeed if we’re indisciplined?

view from the lobby

To lose sight of your goal, or what you’re trying to achieve because you’re easily distracted is a bad thing, a sign of weakness. It takes strong will, determination, and lazer focus to stay on your course. You see examples of it all the time, the people who succeed have like a singular focus and drive; determination and discipline.

But generally, I see most people don’t have the focus or discipline to achieve the success we’re destined for. In fact, I think we’re getting distracted by tools and systems to stop us from achieving success – because of the power you hold when you have reached your full potential. So many people and organisations try to stop us from achieving this potential and we fall for it by not being disciplined.

Even in my own life, I realized that I wasn’t living up to my own potential because I was getting distracted by little things (and some pretty addictive TV). So when I saw the behavior of the people in both Zambia and South Sudan and thought, how can we achieve economic freedom or peace in our country if we can’t be disciplined? If we can’t focus on what we want, how on earth will we ever get it?

I believe in doing a lot of self-reflection, you can only control yourself and your actions, and becoming the best version of yourself requires constant reflection, away from external perceptions and distractions. So as I was getting disheartened by these displays of indiscipline and lack of focus, every time I went back to my hotel room, I would reflect on the day – the words I heard people say, and then think to my own life. What blessings has my lack of focus or discipline stopped? How many times do I say I want something and then struggle to pursue it, or stop midway through to pick up something that doesn’t take me further on my path to achieving what I desire?   Too many times to answer.

I’m back in Zambia now, grateful for my blessings, for my family and friends and their prayers. I’m also more focused on making 2016 the year of my making by leaving distractions and indiscipline in 2015!

Hope you’ll join me for the ride

(PS taking photos in Juba is illegal, but I took these photos before I knew that – for real!)