Friday, 28 November 2014 to be real...

You know when you watch a cartoon and a character walks over the edge of a cliff, but seems to survive unscathed? As a child, you don't realise that's impossible.  As an adult though, you know that the law of gravity stops for no man and if you try walking off a cliff, you're going down!

For me, that's a bit like how we look at domestic abuse sometimes.  We hear the stories of the abuse, but somehow, it doesn't seem to register.  It feels a bit unreal. As a jobbing prosecutor, I tried plenty of cases, that seemed stranger than fiction. For the next two weeks, we're going to switch things up on the blog. We're going to take a scenario, based on real life events and look at what it means to experience financial abuse. This is a collaboration between myself and finomics 101, my very clever, financial guru co-blogger.  We'd love for you to join in the conversation, by sending in comments, tweeting (@b2bbeautiful) and sharing with your networks.

The first part of our scenario is below and we've come up with some questions underneath, to help get the conversation started.

Mrs. A: “My friend, my friend, you know I am waiting for you to make your financial commitment to the women’s empowerment symposium I’m organising. As my person, you have to be there o.
Mrs. O: “I would really love to support you o my sister…” {shifting uncomfortably}
        “The truth is I can’t afford to pay for the access pass.” {tries to avert her gaze from Mrs. A}
Mrs. A: “Haba Mrs. O! Pay day was just yesterday now.” {frowning at her friend}
        You know I have the liberty of knowing that your performance bonus was also paid this week. If you don’t want to be a part of the symposium let me know, abi how can N1,500 stop you from being a part of it?  Please find another excuse jo.
Mrs. O: “My sister it’s not like that now, you know I always have your back and have encouraged you up to this point.” {Sighs}
        “How do I tell you this… the thing is my salary gets paid into my husband’s bank account as I don’t have a bank account of my own.
Mrs. A: “What?!  You don’t have a bank account?  You can’t be serious… with all the options of accounts being offered by the banks these days?   The account opening process is no longer onerous.  Not like it used to be.  In fact I will take you to my bank - my account officer will take care of everything.
Mrs. O: “Hmmm…  My dear, it’s not that simple o.
        {she contemplates for about a minute}
        “Ok, I will let you know what’s been going on.  Please let’s go somewhere private.
{They find a quiet place where the two of them can speak in private}
Mrs. A: "My friend what's going on?" {looking at Mrs. O with a lot of concern}
Mrs. O: {sighs}
"It is Mr. O o."
Mrs. A: "It is Mr. O that did what?"
Mrs. O: "It is Mr. O that won't allow me operate a bank account of my own."
{Mrs. A opens her mouth in shock}
Mrs. O: "Mr. O says it is better if he is control of all the money we make, that is why my salary gets paid into his account.  He takes care of all the household expenses and ensures I get a stipend."
Mrs. A: {barely managing to pick her jaw off the floor} 
"Stipend ke?!" {she utters in amazement}
"Hmmm...  Ok.  But what has this got to do with you owning or not owning a bank account?"
Mrs. O: "Ehn, to make it easy for us to ensure he sees all the money coming in - multiple bank accounts will make reconciliation difficult."
{Mrs. A is staring at her friend in amazement.}
Mrs. O: "Why are you looking at me like that now? It's because he loves me and does not want me to worry myself about these money matters."
Mrs. A: "Ehen... Ok o... But you were just paid yesterday now, shouldn't you still have your stipend? Abi you've spent it all in 24 hours ni?
Mrs. O: {fidgeting uncomfortably}
        “Remember when I told you I was going to the other side of town last month to see my Aunty when my cousin informed me she was in the hospital?  Well, I had to borrow the petrol money from Mr. O…  We agree that he would withhold that amount from my stipend as repayment.
Mrs. A: “Ha!
Mrs. O: “It’s ok, really… I just need to really watch my expenses this month so I do not get into any more trouble.” {attempting a smile but not quite succeeding}
{Mrs. A now realises that her friend may be in a seriously troubling domestic situation.}
Mrs. A: “Come here.” {she pulls Mrs. O towards her and gives her a big hug; Mrs. O suddenly breaks down in tears}
Mrs. A: “There, there… You really need to be at the seminar… We’ll work out a way that you will be able to attend without incurring any more expenses.  I have so many questions to ask o, but it doesn’t appear like you will be able to give me any answers just yet.
{rustling in her purse for some tissue}
Here - wipe your tears; you can quietly slip into the bathroom to compose yourself - I’ll help you get your make-up purse from your bag.
Mrs. O graduated as one of the top 5% in her class in the Banking & Finance department of one of the country’s top universities, and she is a middle-level manager in one of the new generation banks in town.  She met Mr. O during her national service year, and they got married upon completion of her national service programme five years ago.  Her compensation package includes a N500,000 monthly take-home salary, a car, and health insurance.  She receives a N25,000 monthly stipend from her husband, while he keeps the rest of her salary.  He directly pays for all household expenses, and demands receipts for any purchases Mrs. O makes on behalf of the household, which he would scrutinise.  He has given her a mileage allocation on her car (i.e. how far her car is allowed to travel, each month) and he periodically goes himself to check the mileage on her car to confirm whether she has been in compliance; whenever he considers that there has been a breach, he punishes her by withholding some or all of her stipend or banning her from going out with the car to “pay back” the miles.

So, I guess some of you are wondering at this stage: how did she get here? why does she put up with it? is this really abuse?

We'd love to hear from you? Your comments and your questions. Join the conversation on the blog, twitter and your other social media channels.

Until next week, go well.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Dream big, start small

My daughter is learning how to read. She's doing great so far, but now she's running into some tricky words that don't work phonetically.  Those words she just has to learn and we do that by going over them again and again (much to her annoyance!). It's a bit like the three tips, I'm sharing with you this week. They aren't new. In fact, you've probably heard them a gazillion times before. The thing is, sometimes it takes a while for things to sink in. You might have an 'aha' moment, the first time you hear something. It might take someone else another 8 or 9 times, before it begins to mean something to them.

For a few weeks now, I've been talking about the importance of living your best life. Living your life in such a way that it represents the best you there is.  Too many of us have been living small lives. Bent out of shape, because we've been trying to fit a mould that's wrong for us. Or living our lives, weighed down by the stress of other people's expectations of us or their opinions. That was the 'what' part of our conversation.  This week, I'd like to touch on the 'how'. How do I live a big life? Where do I start? What do I need to start this adventure?

Firstly, break your dream down into manageable bits. In other words: 'dream big, start small'. Let's say that like me, your dream is world domination. Clearly, that's not going to happen all at once, so perhaps you start with your neighbourhood. Once you're successful there, you start thinking about taking over the whole town. After that, world domination is a doddle don't you think? Although that was me, just being facetious, the system works for any goal. Start with the big picture and then break it down into smaller, achievable steps. You need to do this, so that you don't end up being overwhelmed by the size of your dream. Also, succeeding at smaller goals, builds your confidence and helps you keep going, when the journey gets a bit rocky. Everyone likes to feel that they have achieved something and having small goals, along the way, helps us to do that.

Secondly, I'd say, if you need help, get help. Somewhere along the line, a lot of us have bought into the myth that we are wonder women, who can get everything done by ourselves. Newsflash: we can't. Well, actually we can, but not without wearing ourselves out and leaving ourselves open to the very real risk of a nervous breakdown! So, I say again, get help. You can collaborate with someone who loves to do the things you hate.  I used to work with someone who loved numbers and data and all that sort of stuff, but wasn't so keen on text.  I, on the other hand hate numbers and data, but love text.  We used to divvy up anything we had to comment on, so she did data and I did text and we were both as happy as Larry! If you don't know something or need to learn a bit more, you can take a short course, do a webinar, read a book or surf YouTube. I am a big fan of YouTube. It has democratised knowledge in a most awesome way. Sure there are some cranks/quacks out there. But there are also some generous individuals who just want to share what they've learned and you can benefit from that.

Lastly, when is failure not failure? When it's a learning experience.  You know those strange individuals who are always perky and thankful (I know, very strange right?). I think they are able to be thankful, because they have learnt that failure is not failure, just the universe giving you a lesson. They've learnt that failure is not an event, it's a process and more importantly, it's not an inevitable process either. You get to decide whether you want to fail or not. What do I mean by that? Let's say you mess up big time on one of your small goals. You have the choice then to declare yourself a failure and stop trying to reach your bigger goal. Or, you could pick yourself up, work out where things went wrong, put things in place to make sure you don't make those mistakes again and then move on. And that my friends is the difference between failure and a learning experience.

I don't know if this is your first 'aha' moment, where these points are concerned. I don't know if it's your 10th or 15th 'aha' moment. Some of you might not even have had an 'aha' moment, more like a 'pah, heard it all before' moment. What I do know, is that we only have one life and we owe it to ourselves to make it the best that we can. I'm getting to experience life again, through the eyes of a 4 year old and let me tell you, it's great. The awe and excitement, with which she approaches even the most mundane of things, makes even the most curmudgeonly person crack a smile. I mean, who else but a 4 year old, would think it amusing to cover her face with soapsuds and pretend she's a polar bear, while she's having a bath???

 If you have a big dream and don't know where to start, or feel like you've lost your way a little, then contact us, through the website and we'll help you get back on track.

Until next week, dream big, start small and go well.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Live before you die...

If you thought today was the day you were going to die, what would you do differently? On Monday morning, I woke up to the news that Dr Myles Munroe and his wife had died in a plane crash. Dr Munroe was a pastor, gifted author and much sought after speaker, who impacted my life and the lives of countless others across the globe. Clearly, I don't know what his thoughts were, the day he died, but I wonder if he and the other people on board with him, thought "this might be the day we die". As I reflected on the tragic news, I thought: even though most of us don't start the day, thinking it could be the day we die, maybe we should.  Not in a morbid, panicky kind of way, but in a "I'm going to go out and wring everything I can, out of this day" kind of way. Too many of us are living small lives. Lives constrained by fear, guilt and worry about what other people think about us.  I don't know about you, but I'm thinking I really want to live before I die.  This week, I'd like to encourage us to be bold enough to live our best lives and 3 things that I think, get in the way of us being the best we can be.

The first and biggest stumbling block for most of us is fear.  Fear is a clever little critter. It sometimes comes disguised as caution.  How many of us have found ourselves in the position where we know what we want to do; we've done all our homework; we've done all that we need to do, but when it comes to taking that final step, we hold back? We tell ourselves and others that we're just being cautious and re-checking, but in reality we are actually petrified of taking action. It's easier to stay in the safe place of talking about our dreams, rather than risking failure by taking action. Friends, there is no perfect time to move forward with our dreams. If we look hard enough, there will always be a reason not to go for it. Having everything we need to pursue our dreams and not going for it, is like being Clark Kent all the time, without ever morphing into Superman!

The second thing that keeps a lot of us living small is the opinions and sometimes the disapproval of people around us.  I touched on this in my last post, but I want to reiterate the fact that not everyone is going to approve of what you are doing and that's okay. One of the joys of being an adult is that you get to live your life and let others live theirs.  Dr Munroe had a wonderful phrase "if you want to know the purpose of a thing...ask the manufacturer (Maker). A lot of us are being bent out of shape by people who either don't know or don't understand our purpose. Our responsibility is to find out our purpose, not to make sure everyone agrees with it.  It's our purpose, not theirs. We just need to find that wonderful thing which we were created to do and do our utmost to live it out. No more forcing yourself into a mould that doesn't fit. Trying to wear someone else's shoes will only give you corns!

Finally, don't let guilt stop you from living your best life.  If you've clocked up any number of years on this life, chances are you've done some things you feel guilty about.  Here's the thing though, feeling guilty and not doing anything about it, is like standing in the pouring rain, with a closed umbrella. Sounds pretty pointless doesn't it?  My advice? If you've done something you feel guilty about, firstly, see what you can do to make amends and do it. Without grumbling or complaining or making excuses. Secondly, forgive yourself for what you did- you're only human; forgive the other person- they're only human too! Lastly, move on. Using guilt to beat yourself about the head is not only painful, it's not helpful either. It's far more constructive to take responsibility for your part, make amends, extend forgiveness and then move on.

So there you have it, my top 3 things that keep us from living our best lives. What are your top 3? Is your life bent out of shape, from trying to live as small as possible? Or are you out there making every second count?  Either way I'd love to hear from you.  Let's get the conversation started here or on Twitter (@b2bb)

Until next time, live big, live courageously, live well.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? … Who are you not to be? … We are all meant to shine…
Marianna Williamson - Founder of The Peace Alliance