Reporting From The Other Side

cropped-pimp-my-bizz-pic.jpgThe past two years saw me writing quite a number of heavy blog posts that equalled public action; I made quite an effort to mainstream the topic of entrepreneurial failure in South Africa, shared details of my burnout and my journey to wellness. I thought it only fair to write from a place of abundance and lightness. This morning when making flapjacks while dancing in the kitchen filled with joy I did some reflection on my lessons learnt through difficult times and crossing over to “the other side”. Here they are:

Liberating my identity from attachments: recognizing and acknowledging that my startup and I are separate entities was the hardest thing. I realized that my mission is deeply ingrained in me and will manifest in different forms throughout my lifetime. It can be liberating to explore how else your identity shows up in a physical, spiritual and mental way. Reviewing neglected hobbies and gaining new ones forms part of the goody bag too.

Don’t compromise my value: everyone makes mistakes; some are just better at bluffing. Don’t let clients, funders, donors, business partners or your temporary lack of confidence tell you that you don’t deserve to be paid fairly or that your skills are not on par or beyond what the market requires when you know you’ve put in the work. Also, offers may come your way so be careful that it’s not accepted out of desperation; it may be tempting when flattering but not necessarily aligned to your goals.

Grab that lipstick: I’m not the greatest believer of “fake it ‘til you make it” because I think it clashes with my value of authenticity, but there is something about making an effort with outward appearance that tricks your mind into going on another day. Becoming a slob when depressed does not attract positive people and opportunity so keep your chin up and stay at the table allowing hope to rise.

Know that my current state is temporary: when ending a relationship or closing a business, it often feels like the end of the world and nothing could be better than what you had. What I have learnt is that one needs to let go (whether ready or not) to create space for something new to emerge. Either your head, heart or hands (action) will be ready first and the others will catch up. What I’ve come to understand through personal experience and observing others is that all your knowledge, skills, resources and experience will be plugged into the next advanced opportunity. It is all just a stepping stone to the next possibility of realizing your full potential.

In vulnerability is my strength: society expects us to be strong all the time and is less kind to emotion. What I have seen though is that the more I shared in appropriate places, the more people opened up to share with me. Sure there were some hardened people I came across, but I choose to no longer work with them as it’s not good for my wellbeing. When I work from a place of authenticity then I allow others to do the same. Looking at the amount of surprise suicides going around, I’m all for authenticity and mental wellness.

Stay gracious: some people will treat you based on your current social status and bounce back when you’re on the up. See this as an opportunity to make sure that you invest time in people that matter most to you – in my case, my family and a few friends. I also need to make sure that my ego does not lead me to be mean-spirited when their weather changes, but to simultaneously assess my boundaries of engagement.

Walking my faith: there’s been a part of me that’s probably shied away from publically expressing my faith. The truth is that my absolute belief and reliance in God has gotten me through so much in recent years. So many people have let me down and it’s only my Maker that’s consistently been there for me. I feel more congruent now that it’s “out” that I’m a practicing Christian.

Determine my own shade of ethics: I’ve come to see that there are so many loopholes when it comes to policy and many protocols that are to be written. I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with the Executive Director of Corruption Watch, David Lewis a few years ago; we spoke about how one makes reporting corruption sexy.  I think there is so much work to do in the social sector about dealing with public funds and genuine transformation that goes beyond colourful reporting. There is much that you can get away with, but opportunity is sustained for those with a strong morale compass.

Content and personal brand: this topic is relatively fresh on my mind and I’ve recently started incorporating it in my talks and will probably continue doing so for a while to come. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good, but it can so easily promote narcissism too. While my fragile ego is not exempt from it, I do want to caution us all about chasing online celebrity. I’ve tried working with people who state their values online, particularly when it comes to empowerment and have been bitterly disappointed by the outcomes. I have started challenging myself to make sure that my grasp of legitimate content far outweighs my social media engagement. I am also determined to support young people who have a keen interest in personal development and specialization; they’re often the ones who deserve acknowledgement the most so I want to shine a spotlight on them.

Life is cyclical and while I don’t think I’ve “made it” or self-actualized, it’s good to be in a happy, joyous space. I’ll keep learning and sharing along my journey. Be well!

I no longer want to be Awesome, I want to be Well

Chateau De Millemont

I’m not sure if it’s symbolic that I’m writing this blog post on 1st May, being Workers Day (Labour Day). I can think of many an entrepreneur (including myself) using this day “off” to catch up on work uninterrupted.

This post is however a reflection on my past week spent in Millemont, France on retreat with the Wellbeing Project. The Wellbeing Project is a 3 year project co-created with Ashoka, Esalen, the Fetzer Institute, the Skoll Foundation and Synergos. We are a global community of diverse people, institutions, organizations, networks and alliances involved in the project, collectively focused on cultivating a culture of personal and inner wellbeing in the field of social change.

The Wellbeing Project believes that Wellbeing inspires Welldoing so over three days, fourteen of us spent time reflecting on what wellbeing means to us on a personal, organization and a social change ecosystem level. It was super clear from get go that all the participants are considered rockstars in our individual fields of work and impressive profiles can be found by a simple google search on any of our names. Beyond the profiles, what impressed me most was the humility, openness and non-judgmental way everyone showed up. From an Iraqi-American working in Lebanon, an architect transforming how schools work in India, a French-American working with youth in Switzerland to those nomads working in philanthropic organisations or supporting social entrepreneurs, we each have our own stories to tell. Some have recognized burnout and have already undertaken a journey of change to those living on the edges speaking of family killings in unjust and unequal systems. These are a few comments that came up in our time together:

  • Society and media are singing our praises when we are at out worst; traumatized. I feel helpless about our ability to make change
  • Travel is my coping mechanism
  • Sometimes you just want to cry; it’s not always about the political (process)
  • I couldn’t get out of bed; I didn’t think I had anything further to offer
  • I want to fill others up but I’m depleted
  • I stopped meeting people because when we’d meet they’d want to take my project on and want me to support them
Picture credit to Vincent De Coninck

Last year I shared my story of journeying with burnout; what I know now is that making change is not a once-off action. You never “arrive” but need to constantly work at sustaining and increasing mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. As a group we will over the next 18 months deepen our collective understanding on what wellbeing means to us as well as the required changes that we need to make to get there. These are however some of my immediate reflections:

  • Just because we take social action, it doesn’t mean that we’re perfect or have all the answers; please join us in this experiment and gently forgive where we make mistakes in service of humanity
  • There is a season for everything; one of starting new projects, handing over projects and in some cases closing off projects
  • Nobody is going to give you permission to take care of yourself; sometimes it’s the bravest thing that you can do
  • Society wants super heroes and we respond to it either because of ego or to attract resources to our projects in dire need of support. When seeing someone in the media or up on stage then please be aware that they have a story that’s not necessarily public.

The terms mindfulness, well-being, self-care and mental health are used interchangeably. I won’t spend time on definitions here but I’m glad that these topics are starting to creep into mainstream conversations with many mobile apps and literature to call on for practices of support. We need to make sure that everyone has access to wellbeing; it’s not just for the rich or middle class. Mental health is not up for conversation in many of our cultures and considered “white people’s things” so there’s lots of suppression and trauma with limited healing taking place. In the entrepreneurial community and amongst high achievers in general stories of divorce, alcoholism and disconnect from family and friends due to workaholism is a silent whisper.

For now, I’m trying to figure out what it means to slow down and take focused, authentic action in the next phase of my life and work. In the meantime, being awesome can take a backseat; I aspire to be well. IMG_4799

Are SA NGOs MoneyMaking Schemes or Agents for Meaningful Impact?


I was a guest this morning on the Frankly Speaking Show on with hosts Rorisang Tshabalala and Andrew Levy. This is how the topic was framed:

There are over 200,000 NGOs in SA all tackling the same set of issues yet it would appear that we aren’t really moving the needle on resolving those issues while NGO execs continue to get paid large sums and build up their personal profiles through all sorts of fellowships, lists and international travel, living lives far removed from the lives they are supposedly trying to impact yet using the experiences of those they are supposedly trying to impact to build up their own currency.

This post is an opinion piece summarizing highlights that stood out for me during the conversation, with some added thoughts that could not be conveyed due to time restrictions. Here’s a link to the podcast of the show.

NGOs are not homogenous
Most people set up NGOs with good intentions. For various reasons things may or may not work out as originally intended. All NGOs do not have the same beliefs or value systems and may even conflict with each other. An example is that one NGO may be pro-life and another pro-choice; they both may comply with the principles of an NGO as per the Department of Social Development, but have an opposing purpose.

Funders are not homogenous
The funding community is vast and several have conversations with NGOs around the complexity and timeframe of outcomes so there’s realistic expectations. On the other hand, we see too many funders swayed by current interest and do not commit to the duration required for change to occur, which often in itself can be an uncertain period of time dependent on the nature of complexity.

What’s exciting for people who have the money to fund problems?
Last week we saw articles about companies taking civic action in the US being rewarded for their good deeds. This included companies like Starbucks pledging to hire refugees at a time of migration bans lead by President Trump. It’s fantastic that corporates want to come onboard and I encourage it, but when the marketing and CSI (corporate social investment) functions are interlinked, then we see unsustainable flavour-of-the-month investments. These investments also tend to be Band-Aid solutions and don’t address systemic problems.

How are people getting money without showcasing and reporting impact?
This is very troublesome. A few thoughts:

  • Too often we have people, NGOs (registered and not) creating on the ground real impact but don’t have the skills or tools to package their work in an appealing way to funders. We also have university (and even ivy-league) educated NGO leaders who know how to polish up attractive funding applications through storylines and numbers that aren’t that meaningful at closer inspection
  • There is a lack of standardization and professionalism in the impact measurement sector. There lacks agreement across funders on reporting methodology and we have the risk of impact being exaggerated or claimed without evidence. Like an auditor, assessors should be accredited as well. The SROI Network (Social Return on Investment) provides accreditation to users of its methodology
  • While we may argue that NGOs have boards to keep them accountable, we need to interrogate how active the board is and if it’s made up of qualified individuals who can make informed decisions on financial priorities. I’ve seen NGOs with beneficiaries on the board who are grateful for the opportunity and whose livelihood depended on this position, but are clueless about budget allocation decisions and reporting.
  • Funders tend to move on when they see that organisations are not creating the intended impact or they have not moved to sustainability. These NGOs and (social enterprises) eventually die if they don’t transform and local funders are increasingly communicating to each other both formally and informally about the funding experience of some entities. Unfortunately, we still find organisations selling the feel-good startup story and successes to international funders that keep them around longer

The outcomes vs. output debate
Corporates and government as funding sources LOVE numbers and want to be associated with success stories through numbers. This leads to the spewing out of digits (which are often impressive) without evidence that the lives of the intended recipients have been transformed. There is also usually a huge time gap between the intervention and intended outcome which adds significant complexity on how to measure impact whether positive or not. The NGO needs to be super clear on whose agenda is being driven here, all too often it’s the one who keeps the doors open.

Do non-profits follow the money or follow the need?
Access to funding primarily sits in cities, far removed from rural and often peri-urban settings with the highest need. NGOs often start work in communities that they are most familiar with and later branch out to outlying places. Unfortunately we do not have sufficient examples of scaling stories that have penetrated these communities. Building relationships that are driven by its local context is critical for a sustained intervention. Hopefully it will also end martyr-syndrome as the local community has true ownership of the intervention.

On intentions, salaries & the celebrity factor
We still have a huge heart and skills gap in the impact sector. We need NGOs to function well and retain talent; a well paying salary that’s proportionate to impact created is one way of doing so. I am however reminded by Dambisa Moyo’s book Dead Aid where she reminds us not only of the harm of Aid, but how the aid industry can be self-serving with well earning salaries and no systemic change.

Doing this work is damn hard and we all set out with great intentions to make a profound difference in the world. This sense of purpose gets us out of bed in the morning, often questioned by family and friends on why we just don’t get a normal well paying job. When we stay connected to the “why” behind the work we are able to push on until we find models that work. The world also needs good stories and heroes so the changemaker gets celebrated through awards, fellowships, speaking engagements, international trips and media attention. These forms of affirmation encourage us to go on. They’re great when they inspire others to take action and advance your work but only until we lose sight of our intended purpose and get caught up in these superficial trimmings of doing the job.








Parking Pride for Startup Hustle


Tis the season of conferences galore in the entrepreneurship, innovation and impact sector both locally in South Africa and internationally. While these are good spaces to understand new knowledge creation from the past year, for both the budding and seasoned entrepreneur it is also a platform to “see” and “be seen” as being relevant to the ecosystem so great for strategic networking.

Many of these conferences are however hugely expensive for startup entrepreneurs and in the past few weeks many have contacted me to ask for help in getting free access. While I too believe that many of these spaces of potential opportunities has a high barrier to entry for a key beneficiary of our entrepreneurial ecosystem, I do believe that startups can buy their ticket through a show of ingenuity.

I’ve long discovered that conference organizers are often open to exchanging services for free or discounted tickets. These are a few ways that I’ve gotten and given access in the past:

  • Managing the registration desk
  • Photography and/or videography skills
  • Report writing for the conference
  • Finding paid participants
  • Social media management

Whatever your offering is, the point is to offer something of value and not just expect to get in for free. The business model also needs to work for the organizer, but with sponsorships they can often create a few free spaces. As a startup low on cash-flow you can garner more respect when not merely asking for a freebie but presenting yourself as an asset which could ultimately position your brand for further opportunities.  For the emerging entrepreneur that may have come from a well paid corporate job this may be an awkward conversation to have. Bear in mind that the worst you can receive is a “no”; this would only be one moment of many rejections that come with doing business so park your pride and flex your hustle muscle.


Unsustained Glory – journeying with burnout


(Sharing a deeply personal journey in the hope that others will avoid making the same mistakes. I am now ready to share.)

Through a random series of events including a missed return flight home, I found myself having cocktails at a beach café in Cape Town on Friday night with a few new girl friends. After hearing my story and with encouraging nods of support, one declared that I should read Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive because “you need it!”.

After a fall due to exhaustion, Arianna’s “aha” moment took her on a journey to redefine success beyond money and power, adding a third metric that creates a life of well-being, wisdom and a sense of wonder. While I am grateful for this book, it is taking me on a journey of reflection on the events leading up to my very own burnout and my journey to recovery…

To begin with, I live a pretty glorious life. Not always easy, but pretty glorious. I do the kind of work that I truly believe is my life’s calling, providing me with new experiences almost daily and taking me to distant lands I wouldn’t have imagined I’d possibly travel to. The journey of a first generation entrepreneur in your family is one of the toughest paths that one can choose. Nobody before you is fronting startup capital or buffer income to live off until you generate a profit and it does not come with a great social network of contacts to broker strategic deals. It’s a tough struggle and the risk of failure comes with dire consequences.

Despite this upward battle, I managed to have successes along the way, including awards, loads of recognition through media coverage for my work, great feedback from those who have benefited from my offering and I get invited to be part of awesome opportunities. Along the way I did however lose myself. With a steep learning curve and low on resources, I allowed circumstances to slowly start chipping away at various parts of me for the sake of the business. Not only is pulling all-nighters or sleeping for four or five hours at best over-glorified in the entrepreneurial community but I let go of all my hobbies one-by-one. My spiritual life took a beating and I was never available to friends – either because of being too broke or busy the calls slowed down and eventually stopped. I always felt guilty for not being available to family, but kept prioritizing mounting deadlines anyway. When not working I was mostly out at networking events with the lines blurring between friendships and acquaintances until hardly any identity remained beyond a work context.  My most meaningful relationship was with my business partner and when that relationship disintegrated, it followed a huge depressing void, but the fight needed to continue despite the loneliness and skills gap – and so it did.

I have never been a sickly person but in the past three years I have been battling allergies and when I get ill, I’m wiped out for about a week. I got first stage shingles when my business partnership fell apart and somehow still managed to travel and speak at conferences, wearing long-sleeved shirts to cover the evidence of painful boils. At some point my doctor put me on a six-month immune booster and encouraged me to “take it easy” as I suppose they all do. My life literally came to a crash when my car got hit by a bus with me in it, missing the driver’s door which possibly saved my life but the car was a write-off. The accident was no fault of my own but I do believe that God was trying to give me a wake-up call. What did Lesley do?….. well, I had my car moved and got a ride to my next meeting (face palm moment). Soon into the meeting I had a migraine which lasted for a week. I forced myself to work only to get a kidney stone a week later. Lying alone on my bathroom floor clenching my belly, throwing up and with the most excruciating pain I would not wish upon anyone was eventually my “aha” moment.

Journey to recovery…

After closing shop last June, I went to Calitzdorp in the Klein Karoo to look after the farm of my old priest for a week. I forgot my cellphone charger in Joburg (thanks God) and spent the week praying, meditating, journaling, reading and taking the dogs for long walks through vineyards, olive groves and the valley. I spent five months mostly sleeping, crying and starting my recovery from burnout with the help of a few sessions with my psychologist, gifted business coach, priest and five remarkable friends who allowed me to be depressed without judgement but also gently (and sometimes harshly) spurred me on. I say “starting my recovery” because I feel like an alcoholic in the sense that you can’t ever stop managing it.

The second half of 2015 was about reconnecting to God with a sense of wonder, appreciating this blessed life that I get to live. With this core in place, I can now re-imagine the kind of life that I want to live. It is essential that I start my day giving thanks and I have recently started taking up yoga again. I’ve never been a jogger but after a three-day hike in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia where I realized just how unfit I am; I’ve started doing it at my own pace – small steps while taking deep breaths. I am trying to alternate between hiking and biking over the weekends and can see my guitar giving me the side eye from my bedroom corner. Who knows which hobbies I’ll discard and pick up again. I am rebuilding me. My weight and body shape may never be what it once was but I appreciate this vessel for carrying me thus far.

Work pressure is always there but I now consciously try to see my family weekly, make time for unexpected new and wonderful friends I have been gifted while at the same time guarding my time and heart by letting the worthy in. While difficult, I am attempting to be disciplined by not going out two nights in a row; I am simply not effective and tend to be grumpy if I have less than seven hours sleep for two nights in a row. In the end this is counter-productive to quality work output anyway. It’s also great to have an open heart for dating when the brain goes beyond the daily checklist 🙂

I do not claim to have now mastered self-care but it is a daily practice that I have to prioritize. I now understand why the flight attendant says “own mask first” because I am of no use to anyone if I am not abundantly refilled. I’d like to give from a place of joy, not depletion. I’d love to have a sustained glorious life.

*A special thanks to Thokoza Mjo, Norma Young, Rosie Motene, Freda Isingoma, Debbie Donaldson, Pascal Frohlicher, Simon & Jen Cashmore, Kevin Naidoo, Jason Ross, Christoph Birkholz, Davina van Wyk and Family for being gems in my life in 2015. Your wisdom, support & grace carried me. I am eternally grateful 🙂

Sagas of a Freelancer – Contracts Matter!

freelance picThe last time I had a full-time job was at the beginning of 2005. Going out on my own was an exciting, yet scary time for me, what I would imagine it to be for a baby bird leaving its mother’s nest. When calling or emailing on behalf of the Gordon Institute of Business Science, it would seem that doors would magically open up for me. However, having a different encounter with the same individuals and making that same request from your own brand would not garner the same response. I now understand that startups need to develop credibility through excellence and longevity.

I have since moved abroad, done freelance work in over two dozen countries, represented two international brands and developed credibility within the various hats I’ve worn. Having said all this, one would think that I am immune to ineffective contracting.

I am very appreciative of Symphonia’s invitation to their Flawless Consulting workshop a few years ago. The workshop focused on Peter Block’s work around effective contracting and how to enter these contractual relationships as equals for the ultimate pursuit of the project goal. I remember doing very tough role-plays for different contracting scenarios and while I have not implemented the lessons step by step over the years, it was a definite guide as I entered client relationships over the years. What I took for granted however was the increasing brand strength of Impact Hub Johannesburg when I entered negotiations. In hindsight, I could have followed clearer process with freelancers that I sub-contracted, but the outcome was always based on relationship, a spirit of collaboration and with a win-win outcome.

On 30th June this year we temporarily closed Impact Hub Johannesburg to upgrade the space and services with a re-launch set for 2016. After several years of focusing on building the institutional brand, I am once again operating from my own name. I write this blog post because of two unsatisfactory new client relationships I’ve since entered into which led to me recalling decade old lessons that I’ve compromised on but re-instituting and hoping that it will encourage other freelancers on their journey.

My freelance principles:

  1. You are a brand; do not shy away from it: the quality of your work gives testament to what you have achieved so own it!
  2. Do not negotiate from a point of desperation: we tend to do this when broke, but feel compromised and yucky afterwards – ever hear that freelancers say they feel exploited? This practice breeds that feeling
  3. Only you can give yourself a promotion: unlike employment, you determine your pay grade, the kind of work you’ll do and the clients you associate with. Excellence, credibility and reputation supports this journey
  4. Share knowledge and experience: while many new freelancers tend to hold their cards close to their heart around pay rates, structure and process, I choose to enter into peer-mentoring relationships where we collaboratively influence the field. Nobody else has my unique set of skills and experience anyway so there can be no threat. Abundant thinking expands the pie and I want to play that game
  5. My work is relational: if I cannot see myself entering into a long-term relationship with the institution I am working with or influencing their journey then the work will not be meaningful for me as it’s void of a greater purpose
  6. Sign a contract before commencing work: this protects both you and the client, as expectations are clear. A deeper courting period often helps this phase, but the paperwork seals the deal of the relationship regardless of how trustworthy they seem. Many sleepless nights could have been avoided if I was a purist about this as I could hold them accountable to payment rates, terms and process when it shifted. Even a simple one-pager would suffice
  7. Educate but be prepared to walk away: do not assume that clients are experienced or even professional at contracting. If the contracting phase is painful then the execution phase will feel like extracting teeth. Even if you have a shared vision, trust your instincts and walk away if you do not feel honoured in the deal.

The Colour of Money

Every so often I need to check myself to see if I’m not defaulting into a stereotypical race lens when not treated fairly or respectfully – because that’s what we do in South Africa, see things through a racial lens. In these attempts to self-correct my thinking and shake off the feeling sticking to me like a bad odour, I can’t help but think that it’s not just me. That was indeed a racial jab.

I hate pulling the race card, would love injustices of the past to remain in the past and typically “get on with it” living my life and career as if there were no racial or cultural bias. Now you may say that I’m being naïve but this attitude has gotten me to rise above seeming limitations, opening doors on an international scale. When I experience discrimination I become super focused on achieving my goals. Unfortunately, until the playing field is equal for cultures all around the world to access opportunities regardless of where we come from, it’s up to my generation to be more mindful and work extra hard, strive for excellence and receive from merit. Creating a new kind of legacy will leave a more just inheritance for future generations.

Unfortunately my glorious vision and daily reality are still far removed. I also believe in keeping people accountable for how they treat me, so that they can reflect and hopefully it will result in behavioural change on an individual and institutional level. This is the reason for my post.

Two Saturday nights in a row I partied at Churchills, a bar lounge at Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. Given the location and positioning of the place, I was more attentive of my attire and prepared to spend more than usual on the night out. Last week was my cousin’s birthday celebration and about twenty family members came out for the night. We had a good time despite receiving a nonnegotiable no from the manager when my cousin asked a few times if we could move to the lounge area because we were too many for the booth. She acknowledged that we should have made a booking for a larger number, but still, there was an entire lounge area empty that we could see from where we were sitting. When we asked the waitress about it, she had more fear for the manager than achieving customer satisfaction. Now, my uncles love a good whiskey so were spending on the good stuff, surely this would have covered additional cleaning costs as a result of moving us?

I returned to Churchills last night with two highly accomplished black female entrepreneurs. With it being a celebratory girl’s night out, I was in great spirits and dressed to kill in my little black dress. At the door, I asked the doorman what the minimum amount of people is required to reserve a table. He said typically six but they could come down to four people if I was here to spend. It left a bitter taste in my mouth when he added “we like coloured money”. Now you see, up until that moment, I was a Woman Of The World who had gone out on the town with my girls, later to be joined by my New Yorker friend who had just brought an international artist to the country. There was a major disconnect between my perceived self-worth and what the doorman reduced me to. While Churchills has diverse clientele, the attitude and reception of my first encounter represents their institutional view.

One of my friends who was the first to arrive last night asked a waiter if we could sit in the lounge and not table and was met with that nonnegotiable no. We carried on with dinner, drinks and dancing but then realized that all the people going into the lounge were white. We were well into our third bottle of expensive champagne so knew that we were spending quite a bit and surely qualify for VIP treatment. After taking it up with management and insisting that we be moved, we finally got to the holy grail of the place – their VIP lounge. As we ordered two more bottles of champagne, we noticed that the other two groups were not spending on anything special or ordering much for that matter. I am now stumped, because I don’t know what qualifies you for the lounge area of Churchills. When one of my friends called the manager/owner over once again to ask why we could not get in earlier his response was that he did not want riffraff sitting in the lounge. She then asked him what he sees when he looks at us beyond the color of our skin (we were dressed up after all and were having good clean fun) he got very uncomfortable and just said “I don’t want to go there”.

Discrimination is a disease and we need a strong vaccination to kill it on a societal level. Most people do it unconsciously, but it aggregates to institutional racism when not addressed. I have had two bad experiences at Churchills now, but like the place enough to return. My point is not to shutdown or boycott places – this is but one where I happened to have had a bad experience 100% of my visits. My intention is to raise consciousness of discrimination, transform society and promote business practice where all clients can experience great service in an equal society… also, I just want to be a girl out on the town having fun without this crap hanging over me!

Brave Soul On Display

Yesterday I went to a Writer’s workshop at Rosebank Union Church. The guest speaker was Lucy Gannon, renowned British playwright, television writer and producer. She shared with us her writing journey, challenges and even the design of her lifestyle that supports her work. It hit a nerve when she said, “As a scriptwriter you’re out there dodging bullets everyday.” You spend your days in meetings, doing re-writes, and need to put up with constant criticism.

Now I’m no scriptwriter and consider myself an amateur writer at best but do identify with the risk of sharing your life’s work. As entrepreneurs we pour months and most often years into our offering to the world. This is our form of art that obsesses our thoughts of every waking hour. In our vulnerability we need to display confidence. This is what the world expects from us, even though a product is never truly finished or perfect. We know our flaws; there are more naysayers than cheerleaders that surround us. Yet, we are taking the risk to try something new. If it works, the world will be a better place for it and we have the responsibility of using our God-given talent to make it happen.

I have a number of friends who are filmmakers and watch as the excitement of their creation hitting the big screen turns into anxiety of what the critics and audience may say. I appreciated Lucy Gannon reminding us to be gentle to our fellow human being who mulled over exact words for months over fifteen or more drafts pouring their hearts out. I see entrepreneurs going through the same turmoil when doing an investor pitch. I’ve been there, will be there again and many times find myself as the judge on panels giving feedback. On reflection, I may have been a cocky bastard at times relentless in my feedback. This does not support anyone; we need brave souls stepping up to innovate. They need encouragement.

In response to my question about when to publish in a world of regurgitated thoughts on non-fiction topics, Lucy encouraged me to write whatever is burning in my heart. I need to step up to have my voice be heard, sharing my perspective while reaching new audiences. With that, I shall continue to display my soul (with often reluctant) bravery and WRITE ON!

The Experimental Journey

Throughout my adult life I have been part of many intentional networks that have shaped not only my career, but my worldview and circle of friends. I find that it is often easier to state your values with conviction when the risks are low and you have been relatively unexposed to various scenarios that life may throw your way.

With each passing year, we tend to navigate through increasing complexity. We may be swayed by a stage of life, be it the liability of student loans, sick parents, an increase in material desires or childbirth. Some may call this maturing, some an evolution in priorities. Whatever it is, there is an underlying component of what identity means to you at any given time. When in the Pioneers of Change network, we hosted a monthly meeting called The Hypocrites Club. This was a form of confessional if you like, where we shared stories on how we sold out on our beliefs…. just today a  former fellow vegetarian was surprised to hear that I ate meat for lunch.

I do get sad when I meet up with what was once a fiery doer-activist, only to see glassy jaded eyes look back at me with feedback that they’d given up. I also get frustrated by mentors who respond to a request for advice with. “I don’t know, but you seem to be on the right path.”

The truth is that none of us really know. Sometimes it takes sitting on the balcony with a cuppa tea and journaling without judging yourself. Take a deep breath and risk your next uncertain step. As author Meg Wheatley, during a workshop once invited “Live life as an experiment, make it up as you go along.”