The 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!