Thursday, 26 February 2015

"If not you, then who? If not now, when?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a run in with some of Nigeria's finest (or should that be unfinest?). I'm talking about those individuals who are armed and stop members of the public at checkpoints. Long story short, we had a major standoff that resulted in me standing on the roadside, for 3 hours on a Saturday night, because they illegally impounded my car! Before you question my sanity (you'll have to get in line for that) let me assure you that it wasn't my plan at all. I'd just got off a flight, after a 12 hour flight and all I wanted to do was get home and go to bed. But when it came to it, I was so incensed by the behaviour of these individuals that I thought to myself "you know what? I'm not going to be harassed and bullied by you today!" 

Today's blog is a bit different from my usual ones. I'm in a bit of a pensive mood. I'm thinking about the state of the country (Nigeria); the postponed elections; the mass murder being perpetrated by Boko Haram in the north of the country and the blatant poverty and inequality in the society. All that pondering (apart from giving me a headache) have made me ask the 2 questions, which are the subject of this week's blog.

My first question is "if not you, then who? Sometimes, when we hear about people who've done amazing things or come through tough situations, we have the tendency to think they are superhuman, able to overcome anything. As I think about some of these people, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing that separates us from then (apart from lurid spandex pants and a cape) is resolve and the ability to ask this important question.  Before I had my beloved daughter, I had multiple miscarriages. And as you can imagine, at some stage , I started to ask "why me?" Not in any genuinely enquiring fashion, merely a whiny, self pitying kind of a way. I started going through all of the reasons why it shouldn't happen to me. Reasons like: "I'm a good person",  "I am kind to children and old people" and my personal favourite "I go to church regularly". One day though, as I was getting ready to rehearse all my reasons, another question dropped into my mind and it was "if not you, then who?"  It was like a million lightbulbs went off in my head. To ask "why me?" with all my reasons, was in fact to say that there were some other people out there, who deserved multiple miscarriages. Thinking about it logically now, I'd have to ask myself who are these people and what could they possibly have done to deserve such pain and heartbreak? This is a personal example, but in the context of being a citizen of Nigeria, a violence against women activist and just a human being, this is a call to action.  What do you see around you that is driving you to distraction or making you foam at the mouth in fury? Now that you know what that is, my next question is what are you doing about it? Not your neighbour, not the politicians, you. I love the online petition organisation You do get a few dodgy petitions, but what I love is that ordinary people can get a petition going about issues that matter to them. When you have a couple of thousand voices all saying the same thing, it's a lot harder to ignore. A petition may not be what is called for, in your case, but there is always something that we can do. A lot of us are geniuses at pointing out what is wrong.  Not so great at actually doing something about it. This is not about being superhuman, it's about understanding that in our little way we can take a stand and resolving to do just that.

My second question is "if not now, when?" As well as being geniuses at pointing out what is wrong, a lot of us are also master procrastinators. How many times have you sat down to write out a super duper plan, complete with bells and whistle, looked at it and said "I'll do that later?" Too many of us are living our lives on hold. Our speech is littered with phrases like "I'll be happy when..." Or "when this happens, then I'll..." I'll admit to more than more than my fair share of such phrases and I'll also confess that it hasn't got me very far at all.  The truth of the matter is that it is a colossal waste of our time to ignore the present and base our happiness on a future that we don't know. None of us know how long we have to live, but we squander what time we do have, when we live our lives on hold. The late Chinua Achebe said it more elegantly than I ever could, when he said "I cannot live on the bank of a river and wash my hands with spittle". In other words, recognise the resources you have available to you and use them. I don't even want to think about the opportunities we miss, because we're scared it's not the right time or we don't have what it takes. Speaking as someone who likes to be sure that she has all her ducks in a row, before stepping out, I regret some of the chances I didn't take, because I listened to the voice in my head that said "you're not ready yet" or "that idea isn't developed enough yet". The average man shares his thoughts and opinions, whether they are fully formed or not and even when he hasn't got one duck to put in a row! As women, I think we could learn a lot from that approach.

So, as I end this week, I ask again: "if not you, then who?" And "if not now, when?" Opportunities are all around us. They are either coming towards us or going past us. Let's resolve to grab a few more of them, take a chance and just do it.

Until next week, go well.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

...hold on, change is coming...

Back in the day, when I had a regular 9-5 gig, one of the things I used to dread was coming back to an overflowing inbox. You know the kind you get, when you've been out of the office for a while? Now I'm working my own gig, it's nothing like it used to be, but sometimes it does feel like my own inbox is trying to drown me! Being on a couple of mailing lists, really does add up (why can't I get mine to work like that????). Recently, in a moment of exhaustion, I briefly contemplated unsubscribing from everything. It was tempting for like a nanosecond. Why just a nanosecond? Because it occurred to me that my inbox would be emptier, but I would definitely be poorer, for not having those useful nuggets of wisdom dropping into my inbox anymore. I weighed the value of those pieces of wisdom and how they inspire me, keep me going towards my goal, or give me inspiration and I decided I was willing to deal with a full inbox.  Sometimes though, it can feel like in spite of all the wisdom we have, our pace of change is criminally slow. This week I'd like to share 3 nuggets of my own about why we should keep going, despite how slowly we think we are making progress.

My first nugget is that "the speed of of the journey is not the issue, it's about the learning along the way". It's a very exciting time for my 4 year old. She is learning all kinds of things at the moment: how to read, how to spell, how to do sums (so you know I'm back in school too). Sometimes she grasps the concept quickly and makes huge strides. Other times it's like we've covered the same ground a hundred times and it's just not happening.  What I've noticed from watching her is that if you don't give up, no matter how many times you get it wrong, you will get there in the end. She constantly surprises me with her doggedness. I actually didn't think a 4 year old would be so determined. The more important thing though is that each time she does it over, it's clear that she has learned from her earlier 'failures'. And that is something that we as adults could do with remembering, irrespective of how long it takes us to reach our goal, as long as we kept learning along the way, we haven't failed at all.

My second point is that "as long as you're heading towards your goal, the size of the steps you take to get there don't matter". If you've ever watched a child learning to walk, you'll see that they have all kinds of little tricks to get to where they need to go. Some crawl most of the way and then 'walk' the last few steps. Some kind of lurch forward, grabbing onto anything they can, on their way. Others seem to get the hang of it immediately and swan about gracefully. My point? Whether you're a crawler, a lurcher or a swan is irrelevant. What matters is that you stay focused on your goal and keep heading towards it, no matter how undignified you look along the way and no matter that sometimes baby steps are all you can manage.

Finally, always remember that "it's your journey and no-one else's". You do you and let them do them.  Too many of us, waste valuable time, checking out the next person's journey, wishing we we're on the next person's journey or even crashing the next person's journey (Kanye West anyone?). When we do that, apart from it being a waste of time, we miss out on the beauty and uniqueness of our own journey.  There are some painful lessons that I learned that are helping me to fulfill my goals now. Speaking from experience, the only thing that eyeing up someone else's journey ever gave me, was a crick in my neck and a detour to some place I wasn't meant to be! We are all unique. Even identical twins have different fingerprints. So why spend time, energy and money trying to be like the next person. My advice? Show up and be present in your own life every day. Do what you are uniquely shaped to do and things will fall into place. Will it always be easy? No. Will there be challenges? Absolutely? Will you be a better person for it? Yes.

If some of this sounds familiar, it's probably because I've said it in the past. I say it again, because it's important. I say it again, because sometimes, we can only hear certain things when we're ready to hear them. Maybe, you've heard these things before, but you weren't ready to hear them. That's okay. Is this the first time you've heard them, but you're not ready to hear them? That's okay too. Just keep moving forward, towards your purpose and you will find everything you need for the journey along the way.

If you've heard some things here, but don't know how to move forward, then why not give coaching a try? Contact us by phone on +234 706 335 0864 or through the website

Until next time, go well.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

...the gift that keeps on giving... that time of the year has been and gone. That day when we buy overpriced gifts, lurid cards and eat dinner through gritted teeth, because hey it's Valentine's Day and we're in lurrvve! (never mind the screaming argument we had 2 minutes before dinner). Now before you start thinking I'm some kind of killjoy and have lost that loving feeling, I think it's great to celebrate love and relationships. What I'm saying is that celebrating them just once a year is missing a trick on two fronts. Firstly, love comes in many different facets: parental love, sibling love and the love between friends are just three that come to mind. These other facets could and should be celebrated more often. When and how did Valentine's Day get reduced to just romantic love?
Secondly, what about the other 364 days? Aren't we in love on those days or is it that we just can't be bothered to show it?

This year, I've been thinking about more than just February 14th and more than my husband. This year I'm celebrating all the women out there who have made me the woman I am today. The women on whose shoulders I stand; the women who join hands with me, to tackle violence against women, the women who tell me that I can be so much more than I am today. Truly celebrating other women, makes us better women ourselves, because it takes the focus off us and places it on others. Others who are often unsung and sometimes overlooked. Sisters, this one's for you...

The first set of women I want to celebrate are those women who aren't afraid to be women, whilst they handle their business. I know that there are still some strange people out there, who think that to be a violence against women activist, means you don't shave your legs, you swear like a trooper and you hate men! Well, there may be some activists who are like that. On the other hand, there is a plethora of other activists who look like ordinary, everyday women. We wear make up, we wear nice clothes and we may or may not swear like troopers. What makes us different is not what we wear, it's what we believe, what we carry inside us and what we fight for. We believe that violence against women is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality (thanks for the nifty definition UN). We are more than what we wear and being women doesn't make us weak!

The second set of women, I'd like to celebrate are the women who have gone ahead of me. The women on whose shoulders I stand and without whom I could not stand nearly as tall.  The women who fought for the right to vote, the women who were an active part of the civil rights movement, the women who fought for reproductive rights. Closer to home are the women all across the world, who are part of the women's rights movement. Women who fight everyday to make sure that our daughters do not lose precious rights. Women who fight in the face of those who think we shouldn't be allowed to vote; that we shouldn't have the right to education; that we should undergo FGM; that we should be killed in the name of 'so called honour' and that we should have no say over our reproductive rights.

Finally, I'd like it to celebrate a most quiet and overlooked group of women. The women who celebrate other women's success, without being threatened by it. Women who see and acknowledge other women's brilliance and make room for them to shine. When we celebrate  other women's creativity and brilliance, we become better women ourselves. It takes humility, courage and a certain 'bigness' of spirit to be able to appreciate another person's accomplishments without feeling diminished by them. Perhaps you know just that kind of woman? One who always has an encouraging word to say, but who isn't afraid to check you, when you need it. A woman who has the knack of always making you feel special. A woman whose quiet wisdom always makes you feel much more certain about the path you are travelling. I hope you know such women. I hope you have such women in your life. Above all, I hope you celebrate those women, because they are truly precious. I have some of those women in my life and I plan to tell them what they mean to me-throughout the year and not just on February 14th.

Until next time, I wish you love, joy and creativity. I celebrate you and your uniqueness.

Go well.