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So this has been long coming!  Each year I try to sum up my year with some reflections, and thoughts for the new year.  This year I thought I’d do that while I was laying on the beach in Koh Samet, Thailand, sipping on a cocktail, counting my blessings.  Alas I was busy still doing work – but on the beach in Koh Samet, so I can’t be too mad!

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2016 was an interesting year for me – perhaps a year I entered into a different cycle of my life.  I ended the year completely burnt out but definitely worth it.  While 2016 was a ‘surviving’ year for most, it was a challenging year for me.

At the beginning of 2016, if you recall I blogged about this, I decided it was time to believe in myself more and push myself to do things that scared me.  At that point I had already been toying with the idea of launching a female led talkshow.   I wanted to give women a voice, I wanted to actively engage in dialogue that contributed to the development of the country and our lives, and I wanted to show that women can and do support each other.

There were many times in that process of developing the show that I wanted to quit – it was scary, not easy, not to mention costly.  But I told people about it, knowing they would hold me accountable to ensure it happened.  And it did!

The show was quoted in the Daily Mail, and now it’s airing on Zambezi Magic – across the region.  My heart literally stopped as I thought about that – people outside of Zambia are seeing my face and listening to what I have to say… it is surreal.

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But that was just the beginning of the year!

Loads of work in the middle of the year, and then my most challenging work fell squarely on my lap – Our Perfect Wedding Zambia.  The project that gave me sleepless nights and exhausted me (and had me looking like a homeless person).  Adapt the hugely popular South African show, how hard could it be?!

Hmmm.  Let me back track a bit.  The set-up of our company is usually myself and Mary write the proposal, secure the deals and client manage.  Tasha does the research and insights.  Freddy is the creative lead – he directs and produces.  We still work on the creative side inputting in character development, script, wardrobe, art direction etc.  But in a very basic way that’s the make-up.

So after writing the proposal, doing the pitch, we win the bid!  Great.  Just one small problem; Freddy is unable to direct or produce the show.  Probably the obvious decision would have been to hire someone to direct.

I like to think of myself as a business person, I looked at the numbers and realized it would be pointless for us to do this show if we hire a director.  I’d just produced and semi-directed (ha!) a talk show, how hard could a 4-day reality shoot be?

Famous last words.

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I like to surround myself with people who are good at what they do but also people I can work with.  There were a lot of people in the industry who I thought had bad attitudes and who I just couldn’t imagine doing a 52-day shoot with.  So I chose a crew I thought I could work with, mainly young up-and coming and hungry.

No one had shot a reality show before, or one of this nature.  In fact client expectations were to exceed even what the South Africa’s were doing, the pressure was immense.

I’m pretty sure I spent a lot of time crying and wishing I could quit!  But quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit.

When I wasn’t shooting, I was in editing mode.  It was non-stop.  And pleasing the client was even harder.  Some of our seasoned editors were also suffering, getting the format right was hard on everyone.

The season is coming to an end and while I can definitely agree there were some bad episodes, there were also some amazing stories and great couples – it almost made me believe in love again! LOL.

I did learn though that maybe hunger wasn’t enough, on certain projects you have no choice but to put personal differences aside and bring in the best people for the job, at least close enough to the best (though not sure they would have done it for the budget).   However, because of the attitude of some of the crew, I know I will be working with them for time to come, because at the end of the day, attitude is so important in getting ahead and moving past mediocrity.  The ones who chose to be unprofessional, well those are their career choices.

I was then fortunate to get away for 10 days to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand.  It was exactly what I needed.  I didn’t get to consciously do the reflections I needed but I think the downtime, the rest and recovery allowed my mind to settle, clear out the noise and focus.

There were things I wanted to do last year that I never got to do, my experience last year proved that anything is possible, so this year I plan on soaring, trusting in myself – in God – and taking that next step to greatness.  We can all achieve it if we believe!

Have a great 2017!  (I won’t even promise to blog more because… well life gets in the way, and I’m busy on my grind and living my life!)

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I woke up this morning to a message from a friend of mine ‘You have to watch Survivor’s Remorse SO3E08, it’s the one!’.

Thankfully for me I’d taken a much needed day off, so was easy enough to watch it immediately.

The last few episodes of Survivors Remorse have been so enlightening, dealing with important issues such as colorism, circumcision etc, in such a way that reminds me why I want to create content. So I was eager to watch this episode.

I watched the entire episode wondering where the amazing message or insightful commentary was going to come in. I didn’t get it, they were just negotiating a contract. Being an entrepreneur – and so is the said friend – I thought the message was on how to negotiate a contract, how your kind deeds are remembered for positive negotiations etc. (It is kind of true). I got to the end and then had the ‘aha’ moment.

There were great nuggets of insight in the negotiation process, but the biggest were self worth and trust.

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The last few months have really tested my belief in myself and what we (my siblings and I) set out to do. I found myself angrier than usual at everything. We met people that we thought would be great to join our team and they turned the jobs down. I took it personally. Did they not know how much they would learn? Did they not know the fantastic work we get to do, even if it’s not always publicly visible? I was crushed.

In the meantime the online views on my talkshow were getting lower each week. I couldn’t understand it, but I was also focussed on how to push my main business forward. I just couldn’t focus on the talkshow at that point, but it was equally crushing that it didn’t seem to be resonating the way I would have liked it too. Didn’t help that a few days later I met someone who purposely sought me out to tell me everything that was wrong with my show. Don’t get me wrong, I can take constructive criticism, but there was just too many other things going on – you know that quote about being nice to people because you don’t know what they’re going through, at that point, I truly understood what it meant. I thought I was at my breaking point.

That experience taught me something. As much as I’m critical of celebrating mediocrity, and boy is there a lot of mediocrity in Zambia, you have to respect the effort, and remember most people are doing things with small budgets and doing things with no experience, in industries that are in infancy stages. While I hope they know it can be better, I know and understand how tough it can be to chase your dreams, especially in this environment.

But back to Survivors Remorse. The episode reminded me to remember how much I have achieved and that while I still have a ways to go to where I’m trying to get, I can’t lose focus on my path. People, circumstances and more, will come into your life to test you, but when you reconnect with who you truly are, embrace your greatness, all of that is water off a duck’s back.

You have to believe in yourself. Not because no one else does, but because so many people, people you may not even know, believe in you, are watching you, are rooting for you. Your actions do enable others to walk through the doors you open, to follow their own dreams. But it all starts with you believing in yourself first. Use that inner strength to weather the bad storms, because it is true, the darkest hour really is before the dawn (or after the rain, the sun comes out), learn to dance in the rain and ride out the storm (OK, I’ve thrown in pretty much every cliche I can think of, but it’s true, and I can’t emphasis this point anymore!). You don’t need anyone to validate you, you are enough. If your regular cheerleaders aren’t around, be your own cheerleader!

So no matter what you might be going through, don’t break, but do take time to regroup, recalibrate and remember your goals. Namaste (I bow to the divine in you)

I’ve been reading a lot across social media platforms around Zambians (specifically) talking about not doing work for free.   I read it with keen interest.

As a person who has had to pay for services of another person, and have also had to charge out my services, I hasten to caution that the not working for free does not apply across the board. I’m a strong believer in knowing your worth, therefore you know when and how much to charge out your time to, but don’t have an exaggerated belief in your worth.   This blog is more for people coming up in the industry, still wet behind the ears, as opposed to those established as I feel the ones coming up are feeling they are established out of the gate.

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So before you refuse any zero paying jobs, consider these points:

Is It Really Not Paying?

Money is not the only currency for success. Sometimes you do things in order to get exposure, network or add to the portfolio. All of which will make you make more money, or gain more skills, which will make you earn more money. So it still comes back to money.

I’m always eager to learn and try new things. Sometimes this means that I don’t get paid for it, but then I have it under my belt and next time round I can charge for it. So I look for the ‘what’s in it for me’ before I say no, and equally before I say yes.

Sometimes I take on projects that don’t pay me because I want an opportunity to work with a key person, a cool creative collaboration with like minded people, or to network, or it’s a charity I believe in, or because it just seems like an awesome project! But I ensure I’m still working with people who appreciate the value I’m bringing and not just exploiting me.

Know Your Worth

The great thing about living in a global world is that anyone can hire anyone regardless of location. The problem with that is that you’re no longer competing with just people in your locale, or your borders only but people everywhere in the world.

So when you’ve taught yourself how to use photoshop, or how to shoot videos via youtube masterclasses (not hating, there are some good tutorials out there), your skillset will still not be as great as those who went to school for three years to learn.   But yet you’ll want to charge the same rates? True story, I have encountered this a couple of times in Zambia – I remember a Zambian DOP asking for the same daily rate as the guy who shoots with Spike Lee! I couldn’t believe it, ‘You’re having a laugh mate!’ Of course flying him in and paying his accommodation and per diem adds up, but the result of the product would still be night and day.

Before you demand your fee, make sure you’re worth it – and not just in your head, but from your body of work and your skillset. In the same regard, don’t underprice yourself, just know what you’re bringing to the table – what is your value add? You might be expensive in one area but your knowledge, or skill might save the client money in other areas, and not because you’re just greedy.  And always remember to be professional.

Know Why You Do What You Do

We hear it all the time: you need to love what you do so you’ll never work a day in your life. And we also hear ‘ultimately you have to pay the bills’.

I think you need balance. I believe when you love what you do, you seek out opportunities to be better, to grow. When you are better, ideally the best, the money comes. How will you ever be the best without practice, without seeking out new ways of doing things, without exposure? And trust me, just because your five friends tell you you’re the best, that doesn’t mean ish. Awards too are great – definitely a move in the right direction, but again, doesn’t mean much, unless it’s from a super respected and noted body. Being on lists is also a move in the right direction, again note who is the author of the list.   And they all add up.

You know you’re the best when not only do people seek you our, but actually you’re in the position where you can control doing things for ‘free’ because you make enough money to choose to do what you love, and to give back to those who need you to do it for free, or reduced cost.

However, what is paramount to all of this, is clients who can afford to pay you, must pay you, regardless of what your thinking around doing work for free is.   There is a difference between being exploited and someone genuinely not able to afford you and needing your help. And don’t sour a relationship just for a few Kwachas, there’s always give and take, who knows where you’ll be tomorrow, who will be willing to help you, and who will be waiting to push you down. Though people who know your worth, will also understand your position – ultimately free doesn’t pay bills.

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.

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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…

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Yesterday I felt like I was falling apart, today I feel like I’m on top of the world!  It’s not just that I have a manic personality, but I did some soul searching before I went to bed last night and again when I woke up at 4.30am.

Despite getting almost two weeks off work (a staycation nonetheless), I came back to the office feeling like it was the end of the year, not the beginning.  While everyone else (across social media mainly) were elated about the promise a new year brings, the opportunity to get it right, I was still reeling from the aftermath of last year.  Fear was setting in.

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How were we going to tackle our plans, as grand as they are?  How were we going to add value to our current offering?  How were we going to meet our shortfall?  What were we going to do about staff, replace them or do it all ourselves, or hire consultants?  So many questions, not enough answers. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, my personal life was overwhelming me too.  I’d never been in a situation where both my personal and professional life felt this out of control.

So I decided to take a step back.  I turned off the music as I was working out, and actually talked to myself to get to the root of the problem of it all.  

Yesterday my friend sent me an article about Black girls loving themselves and it really struck a cord.  I spend so much time saying yes to people in my life even if it’s at the expense of my own ‘yes’.  I’m a giver.  And professionally, I’ve always lived by the ‘fake it until you make it’ motto, without stopping to think of when I did make it! 

I just have never found the opportunity to be still and listen to my inner self – not the self depreciating inner self.  But the one who says, ‘hold on, why are you so worried?  you have countless successes, that you did.’  The one who says ‘don’t listen to the haters, don’t worry about what other people think, you don’t need validation because you ARE good enough’.

We all have that inner voice that we suppress, wanting to listen to the critical, harsh voice instead of the nurturing one that speaks of our strength.  That is what it means to love yourself.  It’s to recognise the wonderful, beautiful, capable, strong person that you are – even if no one else sees it.

This world is filled with so many people who hate themselves and want to pull other people down (ugly people I call them), why do it to yourself?  Be one of the beautiful people, not just to the people around you, but to yourself too.  And then take care and nurture yourself too.

A friend of mine once said to me that she didn’t know what had happened in my life to make me this strong, this focussed on my career, but yet so critical and hard on myself.  And I do think there are things in life that try to break us, or indeed break us, and we react to it.  But we don’t have to.  Those things aren’t who we are, they aren’t what we are, and they shouldn’t break you down.  As Whitney (Houston darling) said, ‘I was not made to break’ and neither were you.

Being in love with yourself (aka loving yourself) is an every day journey.  Look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself – seems weird, but when I look in the mirror and say ‘I love me some her’ (as I think Tamar Braxton would say it), it puts a smile on my face and I can hold my head up just a little bit higher.

As women we look for love in so many places except inside ourselves.  Why are you waiting for a man to tell you how beautiful, special, extraordinary, amazing you are?  How much he loves you, and you make him that more of a person because he has you in his life?  What for?  Tell yourself these things because they are true about you to yourself.  YOU complete You!

My aim is to start this year (which for me is starting now, I’ll ignore the first 7 days when I felt overwhelmed and anxious!), with some inner self-reflection, and some inner self-love.  Taking care of me.  Besides if I love myself and take care of myself, I have more to offer others too – which is ultimately what I like to do – I just won’t do it at the expense of myself, of my soul, and of my well being.

I love me some me.  I’m going to date me.  I’m going to mentor me.  I’m going to trust me.  I’m going to be the me I no longer need to fake.  I have nothing to prove to anyone.  As Drake says ‘I’m a worry ‘bout me’.

It’s not selfish – I think we tend to worry that this way of being is selfish.  It’s not indeed, it’s self-love.  Embrace it, embrace you, and love you like the amazing person you are!

The last week has been an interesting week for me. I have spent the last two years working on this project and finally seeing it come together … well to be honest, I didn’t appreciate it until the last minute. You spend so much time working on something, being one of the people behind the scenes, putting out fires, trying to get your point across, accommodating views that you don’t really agree with, it is in essence a thankless job. But I wouldn’t have traded it for the job that would have had my name in the headlines, because I do what I do because I love it, and I’m good at it. Maybe I’m also not really the person who likes being the center of attention. Sometimes I do get frustrated that people have no idea who I am, or what I do, and treat me like some insignificant person. Then I realise that it’s always more important to focus on the positive and knowing my end-goal.

Even when I worked at MTV, I was never the one to be at the parties, trying to meet the celebrities, I was in the office trying to get to the next level on my career trajectory. And maybe it’s my age and experience, but I was from the school that only you can be responsible for your own opportunities, no one was going to do it for you, but hard-work, luck and your social networks could take you wherever you wanted to go. Doing the opposite could also have the opposite effect, but only you can make that decision for yourself. This last week showed me that not everyone feels that way.

This last week I have met some people who have had the most wonderful opportunity, it wasn’t all roses, there were some unforseen thorns in this opportunity, but rather than turning the lemons into lemonade, they focussed on the lemons in their hands, without a clue of what to do with them. I found myself getting mad at first, and then offering my words of wisdom, but hold on, who am I? Their fairy Godmother?

I do find myself often in this situation giving people advice – probably because of my beliefs (stated above) and also the fact that I do think we should be helping bring each other up – the pie is big enough for all of us, no need to have crabs in a barrel syndrome. However, at some point I did get a bit irritated, because these people had come to me with some disrespect (in my opinion), yet I swallowed it and was the bigger person. In my mind, I’ve made up my mind about those people, and while I won’t share it, I know where I stand with it. Never underestimate the power of your social capital.

But on a good note, I made some great connections. Again, I focused on where I want to see my career and the things I believe in, and I met some really talented amazing people. We talked and we share similar beliefs for the future of creatives in Africa. I’m looking forward to finally working with them on some of my Zambia projects. Watch this space!

I believe one of my biggest flaws is empathy. Especially when it’s people that I’m close to, friends, family, and occasionally people who’s stories I’ve followed in the media.

If a family member is hurting or in need, then I find ways to alleviate that pain or help them in their time or need. But when you’re constantly giving it drains you. I remember when I used to be in therapy and my therapist asked me why I helped people, including family members, and I replied, like it was a no-brainer that because if I didn’t, who was going to? I was in a position to help so shouldn’t I? His response was no, I didn’t have to, not if it ultimately hurt me more.

At first I couldn’t understand this. We should help, if we can, with no expectations of anything in return, that was the right thing to do. But after awhile I realised that what he meant was sometimes you have to put yourself first and ask if you can afford – emotionally and/or financially – to give of yourself. Actually the more I think about this, it’s not sometimes, but always. You have to for the sake of your soul.

After awhile I began to resent my family. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them, and knew that deep down, but I felt very alone from them. I was the first one people called when they needed help because I always came through, but when I needed help, I didn’t know who to turn to. I have been blessed to rarely need financial help, but emotionally, when I’ve been at cross-roads, and I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve suffered from mild depression (people told me to never admit it, saying it was career-suicide, but there I said it). I have been lucky to not have had severe depression, but even mild ones are hard to deal with, you really have to fight to stay happy and positive, which is draining, and difficult to do, especially alone.

But I overcame it, I got to a place where I was happy with who I was and happy with the decisions that I was making, really listening to what my heart and soul was saying, to keep me happy. As I’ve gotten older, gotten ‘successful’, I’ve realised that nothing can replace happiness.

I continued to give of myself, because I thought I could afford to. After awhile, I started to feel unappreciated – probably one of the things that furthered my depression – and felt that everyone took from me, but no one gave. I know that my friends and family love me and I would never question that, but I did wish that someone would stop and say, ‘I wonder how Cathy is feeling? And what does she need that I can give her?’

It never happened. It finally dawned on me that the victim mentality I was plaguing on myself was also not contributing to my mental health. Why should other people care about you? And why should you care if they don’t? Do we not have the capacities to be responsible for ourselves? We came into this world alone and we’ll leave it alone, so what is this need to have people focus on you?

It’s not me being cold or indifferent by any means, I simply mean it as a survival mechanism. If you are always giving, sooner or later there will be nothing to give. You will be tired, bitter and miserable, and then what good are you to anyone?

You have to put yourself first to keep your soul intact. If people around you can’t appreciate that, then that’s their loss. Because when you feel you are sacrificing for someone else, or being considerate of other people’s needs, while giving a piece of yourself, then you are only hurting yourself. Life, and indeed, relationships are about give and take. For everyone to be happy the scales have to be balanced.

It’s not a selfish attitude to take care of yourself first, it’s a healthy attitude. And it’s one I’m trying to do more and more, I might lose some people along the way, but then, that’s just a consequence I need to deal with to get myself to a better, healthier, happier place, and that’s my priority right now.

I’m one of those people who likes clothes on other people, but terrible at putting on a half-way decent outfit myself. Ok, not that bad, but enough for me to think, what am i wearing? (Half the time) So with my up-coming move to Zambia, I decided that my current wardrobe is not going to cut it.

This is partly because at MTV I can get away with wearing thigh high boots and a mini dress (not that I do wear that), whereas in Zambia, I have to be a little bit more conservative at work, especially with the clients I’ll be working with. I may have the shoes to make any outfit fly, but I still needed some key pieces.

Lucky for me, Manenga, a friend of mine is considering launching a career as a stylist – so I willing volunteered to be her guinea pig. She looks fly all the time, so was an easy decision for me. I think you need to sell yourself with yourself. I don’t want you to be my stylist if you look a hot mess, or be my hairdresser if your hair isn’t on point. Of course there was still the risk that just because she can put herself together, didn’t necessarily mean she could style me.

I was willing to take the chance anyway, especially when I realised the best part of it was that I didn’t have to do any shopping – you can, but as I hate shopping for anything other than shoes, I thought I’d rather pass. The style transformation began by talking through the look I wanted, colours I liked, all over a glass (or two) of bubbly, I gave her money and off she went shopping. Within a few days she brought me three outfits, none of which I would have bought myself, but every single one looked great on me.

I never thought I worried about getting older, but after looking at her pieces I realised I have been worried about getting older and that’s probably why I’ve still been rocking curve hugging outfits. But the outfits she brought me, still flattered my body and made me look classy, professional and trendy and cool at the same time.

I’m now excited about getting the remaining pieces from her, and rocking a whole new look, that really will take my image to a whole new level. Something that I’ll need as I move to the next chapter of my life. It’s like a mini re-invention of myself.

And yes, when her business is up and running, I’ll share her site so everyone can look fabulous!