Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones, by definition are an undertaking or event that helps one to make progress toward a specified goal. Now looking at our lives, it is clear that they are filled with Stepping Stones...

As babies, crawling is the stepping stone to walking, and walking is the stepping stone to running. As kids we use kindergarten as our stepping stone into the education system and then each grade there on after is a stepping stone to the next. We then venture into the "professional world" and use each job, each role, each responsibility as a stepping stone to the next in the hope of one day reaching our "dream profession". And in between all these milestones, each friendship, each relationship, each battle, each growing pain is just a stepping stone meant to prepare us for the moments we have dreamed, wished and waited for.

Ironically enough, this little African adventure was meant for me to be a stepping stone into the next phase of my life. The phase where I say goodbye to all the things I thought were once true and venture into a new life with a new perspective, new hope new confidence and new set of goals. I say Ironic because the organization i have been working with is "Stepping Stones International". And while the founder of this organization focuses on providing a foundation (a stepping stone) for orphaned and vulnerable youth, she is also providing a foundation for each and every employee and volunteer that walks through her doors.

It would be impossible to say that this woman is anything short of an inspiration to everyone around her. For me, I walk through her doors everyday and sit at a table where I witness her being a loving mother and wife to her four children and husband, a mentor, friend and advisor to her staff and a believer for the children that she is working so hard to provide a stepping stone for. And its crazy, how she can be all these things at once. Especially when as women we are often told that it is nearly impossible to have it all - the career, the kids, the life you always dreamed of. But if there is anything I walk out of work thinking each day now because of her, its that IT IS POSSIBLE. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE...and wasn't that the theme song for this little venture - ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, by Ellie Goulding?

It's all rather ironic, but at the same time all makes sense. And if I didn't admit that there isn't anywhere I would rather be then right here right now, I would be lying. Which would also mean that I have accepted all the stepping stones that led me to this very moment and now through the eyes of this inspirational lady I not only know, but believe that the best is really yet to come....

To learn more about Stepping Stones International and how you can either get involved or help please visit -

Til next time

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What's your Gobi? An ode to a very inspirational man...

The theme for this weekend, is letters, plain old simple and honest beautifully scripted letters.

Prior to leaving for Africa, I was lucky enough to come across the "Lean In" blog, that had a special feature for father's day, entitled "Letter's to my daughter". The concept was simply beautiful. "Famous" father's were given a chance to blog a letter full of their dreams,visions, hopes and wishes for their daughters as a leave behind that they could revisit for as long as they pleased.

I of course sat and read through most of these letters, while grasping onto a tissue box - disaster - but none the less was inspired and couldn't help but think of how awesome this concept was. Whether we write letters to our daughters, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends and Anyone's in between. The idea of just writing out your thank you's and leave behinds is simply beautiful. And while I have gotten a lot better at my verbal communication, I have forever always relied on the power of the pen to articulate my most deepest sympathies, apologies, love, laughter and anything else you can imagine, which is why I thought my blog would be the perfect forum for me to write a letter to a man that most recently has inspired me more than he will ever know.

So the preface... About a year ago I was fortunate enough to attend the TEDx conference in Toronto. As I sat in the audience bright eyed and busy tailed, soaking in every single inspirational word that I could, out emerged Stefan Danis, a CEO of a large organization that was ready to share with us his adventures through the Gobi Desert. Shortly after the TEDx conference, I was searching for a speaker for a work event and in my short list of speakers, Stefan Danis's name emerged. After contacting him and realizing that scheduling issues would prevent him from sharing his story with my colleagues, he mailed me an autographed copy of his book that scripted every waking moment of his Gobi desert adventure. I am not going to lie, while getting the book was an amazing surprise, I brought the book home and left it by my bed side for quite some time. Then shortly after reading the letters to my daughters blog post, I came home and looked at the book by my bed side and thought, I wonder if this would have a leave behind for his daughters. It was that night that I picked up the book for the first time and started to read it. And I continued to read it, unable to put it down. This book traveled with me to Africa and has come on many of my adventures since I got here. And while I have soaked up every word of this man's story, it wasn't until the end of the book when he re-caped his lessons learnt that a light bulb in my head went off that will forever change my life from this point on.

And now to the letter..... 

Dear Stefan,
Thank you for sending me a personalized copy of your book about your Gobi Desert adventure. My only regret is not opening the book sooner, even if I believe that timing is everything. After all I am in the midst of my Gobi, and enjoying every minute of it, lol.
Reading your story of how you and the other's in your book first determined that the Gobi Run would be the best challenge to take on as a method of helping deal with other areas of your life, really resonated with me. After all this is how I encourage all the CA Candidates I coach to get over their exam fears. I always tell them to start with a list of 5-10 things they want to accomplish that they never thought they could and ask then ask them to pick three and focus on them. And while none of my students have the bandwidth to take on the Gobi Run during their exam schedule, I believe that they all learn something so profound from their experiences that allow them to better equip themselves for the CA Exam beasts. I mean I did, so I can only imagine that they too have had the same valuable experiences.
Now while, your whole story was quite inspirational, it wasn't until I got to the end of your book where you re-caped the lessons learnt that I really felt as though something had clicked in my head. I will paraphrase the exact lines for reference  -

" For me, comfort is the buffer zone between fear of failure and fear of success. I always knew I was afraid of failure. I hate failing and I work hard at not failing. It is what has given me most of what I have. But during the race I was confronted with the possibility of actually winning. Strangely, in a sense struggling is my comfort zone. I know that I almost always find a way to kick into another gear and find a way out. In the desert I saw more clearly than ever that when I do well, I am uncomfortable and almost apologetic about it. A misplaced sense of humility robs me of my own power.
It has been fascinating for me to become aware of what stopped me. For five days, "I danced like no one was watching" and then I stopped. It is a subject I am exploring right now, hoping to feel worthy of winning and removing this self-imposed ceiling altogether or at least raising it higher."

Reading these lines made me feel as though everything that was in my own head, had come to life. After recently living through something that has seemed like deja vu when compared to past years of my life, I was forced to take a long hard look at my own life and the patterns of my thoughts, actions and everythings in between. It was this exact lesson that I came to learn about myself. I am really good at coming back from a fall, but am horrible of believing that I actually deserve a win. For years I have had people tell me I was beautiful or worthy of the good things happening to me and for all these years I have uncomfortably smiled and come up with some sort of a Witty remark or excuse for why its so. I have been my worst enemy, I have imposed the ceiling on what it is exactly that I deserve. Which is why I have allowed myself to be disrespected, unappreciated and worst of all ignored. I have made excuses for everyone else's bad behaviour and scolded myself for good, simply because I haven't felt worthy enough and it just hasn't made any sense. Until I realized the very same words you wrote.

Maybe I needed someone else to admit that they felt the way I did, until I could believe it. But regardless I finally see it and like you am working on making sure I no longer get in my own way. Actually yesterday someone told me I was beautiful and had an awesome personality, and I smiled from ear to ear and said thank you with out inner voices going banana's in my head. I think it's because I finally believe it or at least believe that I deserve the compliment.  

There are so many events that led me to your book, and while there are moments along the way i wish I hadn't had to live through, I wouldn't change a thing. Thank you for being the voice in my head and an inspiration to keep chasing after my Gobi.

As a token of my appreciation, I have asked the couple I am staying with in Botswana to leave my personalized copy of your book by the bed side so that your story and your inspiration can leave footprints in other people's hearts as they travel through this home.

Here's to hoping that your story, words and inspiration continue to spread around the globe. Thank you again.

For everyone out there in cyber space, I encourage you to google Stefan's story and set out to find your Gobi :)

Til next time

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When was the last time you simply ASKED for something?

For as long as I can remember, kids always have a way of getting what they want. It's either they stare at you with the most awesome puppy dog eyes, throw an annoying tantrum, or cry and cry and cry til you cave. And I know we all know this to be true, because let's face it we were all once those very kids.

And while as adults we lay our heads low in shame of how easily we are suckered into doing just about anything, we should all take a second to learn from these little culprits because they are onto something. The "Power of the ASK" that is.

Think about it. How often as an adult have you wanted something and followed the easy route? And I mean just asked for it. Not beaten around the bush, danced a little dance around the topic, waited patiently for someone or something to fold, instead just plain out ASKED for it, like an order of MacDonald's french fries. HOW OFTEN? I bet not many. Hell, I will be the first to admit that I'm like a 0.0000001% on the ask scale. And likely because I am ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED of hearing the word NO. I would rather sit, arms folded waiting patiently then be rejected, like a massive B#%^H Slap across the face. WOULDN'T YOU AGREE?

But what if for every five times that you asked for something you got a couple of Yes's. And I mean Yes's that were massive massive WINS that would trump all the rejections. Would you ASK then?

NO? Because I know about a million NGOs that would say YES to those very odds. In fact, welcome to the wonderful world of Non-For-Profit work. Where rejections and door slams are the norm, but where risks of rejection are taken day in and day out all in the hopes of that potential YES. That YES that is often far few and between.

It's incredible, actually awe inspiring to be surrounded by people that live and breath their lives by the " IT AIN'T OVER TIL THE FAT LADY SINGS " motto. The amount of blood, sweat and tears that go into everything that is done for these organizations is absolutely insane. So in insane that it often makes me look at my cushy corporate job and wonder if I am doing enough. Which is likely, how I ended up in the middle of Africa.

And now that i am here, I believe it's time I, like the little kiddies and inspiring people I am working with learn the POWER OF THE ASK. No more dancing around topics or waiting for seasons to change, from this point on only bluntness at its finest. I will ASK FOR EVERYTHING I WANT...After all even the bible stuck it to me:  

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek; and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. [Matthew 7:7-8]"

The question is will you NOW get of your  A%$ and just ASK - ask for that raise, the promotion, forgiveness, that date, you know anything your little cyber heart desires? What do you have to lose? You already know what the word NO looks and sounds like :)


- A

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What are your ANCHORS?

An an-chor /ˈaNGkər/ (noun), by definition is a heavy object attached to a vessel by a cable or rope and cast overboard to keep the vessel in place either by its weight or by its flukes, which grip the bottom. And while I do love the water, and believe that in a past life I must have been some sort of an exotic fish or dolphin, I am not sharing this definition with you all in cyber space for that reason. Instead I am asking you to stop and think of this word and its accompanying definition and ask yourself - What your Anchor(s) is/are? What are those things that hold you back? That keep you stagnate and afraid of inching forward?

Now don't think for a second that I am putting this all out there for you to all think about and not do it myself. I may try to appear inquisitive and ask a million questions of those around me to avoid talking about myself, but there is a huge part of me that knows that during this little African Adventure, I must also ask myself some of these questions and figure out how to ensure that I am no longer held back by the things that keep me stagnate, my anchors.

So here it goes. My anchors, are ironically things that tend to allow most people to move forward in their lives, they are my dreamy, naive, child-like nature. I believe in the good in people, the truth behind what is said and the realness in intimate moments between people,  you know all that fairy tale stuff us girls were made to believe when we were younger. They are the things that keep me believing and holding onto the people around me - whether good or bad. And while its refreshing to realize that my anchors are so positive in comparison to the things that keep most of us anchored in one place  - i.e.  the "baggage", "negativity"or things alike from past years of life that stop you from believing that things can be different and different good - they are still anchors that are stopping me from inching forward and grasping the awesomeness that at times is in front of me. 

So now what? Now that I have realized this, am I supposed to continue to let my anchors keep me stagnette? Or do I cut the ropes that keep my anchors in place and take that giant, scarey step forward? 

OBVI, I had the chance to debate this paradox :) And as I sat around with my African crew last night at one of the local hang outs sharing awesome stories and laughs. I realized that at this point in my life, there really is only one way to go. And it most definitely is the later of the two.

You see, there is a time, place and moment for our anchors to serve there purpose. They are meant to keep you stagnate so that you can re-evaluate, grow and learn. But once you have faced the excuses you have come up with to avoid massive, scary leaps of faith forward, you need to take that long hard look in the mirror and just agree to cut those anchors off and have some faith.

Truth be told, that Mother Teresa likely said it best:

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” 

Let us begin to face those anchors head on and than in as dramatic as a moment as you need, cut those ropes, release those anchors and walk away light as a feather ready for the awesomeness in front of you.

Off to enjoy the blasting African sun, ex-pat life and every adventure in between.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Why do you do it? Why do you get up every morning and follow that same morning routine? You know the ARGHHH just 10 more minutes PLEASE, the let me drag my feet across the floor to the bathroom to stare at my tired eyes and bags in the mirror, the eeek!!! I am getting into the coldest shower ever so that I can freeze myself into believing that being up this early is NORMAL and the constant go, go, go til I manage to get myself into that office, no matter what it may look like or be. Why? What is that reason that gets you up? Why even bother?

It should be because you LOVE what you do. But do you? I mean how many of us are actually doing what we LOVE? And have any of us ever really taken the time, to think about what that even is? Or what that even looks like?

I know in our world it all comes down to the monetary stuff, the things we like, the lifestyles we have all gotten accustomed to living and all that stuff in between. I am just as guilty as the next in believing that sometimes it's okay to not LOVE the day to day, because the "STUFF" is worth it in the end.

But sometimes it is so refreshing to sit across from someone and have them tell you how much they love every second of the job that they have. In fact to them it doesn't feel like a job, it feels like fun, like every day is worth something absolutely phenomenal. It actually becomes infectious and contagious and makes you turn around and LOVE what you do, even if you are reading the same document over and over and over again, it somehow makes the most mundane tasks feel absolutely amazing.

That's what I love about this AMAZING CONTINENT. No matter what people do for a living, they absolutely love every second of it. A job doesn't just pay the bills and put money on the table and buy them stuff. It stands for the hard work they have endured to get where they are, it stands for the family they are able to support, it stands for the fact that they are spreading some sort of happiness, it stands for the fact that they have the chance to meet so many different people, it stands for their self-worth, their pride, their belief in themselves and everything that comes in between it.  A job is how you spend your life and every moment that people are alive here, they are enjoying it, they are happy and all of that emotion and good energy, is incredibly addicting.

Today I looked in the mirror after having one of the best conversations, with one of the sweetest ladies ever and smiled literally from ear to ear and out loud I said "Thank you big D. Thank you for letting me see that these skills and things that I know sometimes seem so incredibly boring, have brought me here, allowed me to fix something that already seems so amazing and in the end allow me to be touched by such an awesome, awesome group of people."

I know what you all are thinking, I have seriously drank the African kool-aid. But in all seriousness when was the last time you said thank you for the fortune that you have had? You know those mundane jobs that we usually complain about?  When was the last time you thought, "actually, you know what? I'm pretty damn lucky"?

I used to envy people who were living out those childhood dreams they had - you know the pilots, the singers, the movie stars, the teachers, the doctors, the everyone's who were doing exactly what they said they were going to do when they were in first grade. But today, that envy stopped because secretly I realized that I am doing exactly what i want to do and have wanted to do for years and soon enough those bigger dreams are going to come to fruition.

So what about your dreams? Do you even know what they look like? And if you don't, maybe it's time you thought about it? So that you too can feel infectiously happy the next time your morning alarm goes off.

Back to working on my Setswana (i.e. obsessing over my new love for suits) :)

- A

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What has your Fortune Cookie told you lately?

"You will soon be crossing great waters" Now how fitting was that fortune cookie as I waved goodbye to #JFK and embarked on what seemed to be the longest flight of life. At the time, I placed that fortune in the pocket of my jean shirt, but as I unpacked in my new apartment, I took that fortune out of my shirt and sat back thinking, that #signs really do exist.

I know as we get older we tend to become cynics. I mean why believe in signs or the universe guiding you along a path when logic and reason exist? We forget too easily about how open minded and full of hope and faith and belief we were when we were kids and / or even young adults and instead just become these older robots that do things because our parents said it made sense, or because it is rational and logical and everything that the norm would say makes sense. But why? What causes the change? Is it because when we think freely and believe in things like fate and signs we get burned? Or is it because following such a way of thinking leaves us so completely vulnerable to the world as we let go of the control we have over our lives and literally leave it all in the world's hands?

If you asked me these questions a year ago I likely would have gone with the cynic answer. But the truth is after being faced with a reality that I just never imagined, I am going with the later of the two. My nerves the night before my flight or even at the airport as I had a tearful goodbye with my parents, wasn't because I was freaked out about my soon to be unknown surroundings and way of living. It was because for the first time in my life I was embarking on a journey that had no structured plan in place. That flight, this adventure, this journey for me, represents that first step into a phase of my life that is not bounded by a 2, 5 or 10 year plan. Instead its guided by all the things I know I want and the trust that I have in the universe to just lead me down that road.

A few months ago, I read a book that changed my life. Dramatic, I know, but again would you expect anything less? And the reason it changed my life was because it forced me to understand that this idea of signs and fate really do exist, you know that idea that everything does happen for a reason. And while I never wanted to believe it as I read the book, I decided to put the lectures that it was presenting to me to the test. And the truth is, I haven't looked back to that cynic ever since. The way things have fallen into place so easily and so effortlessly make me really believe that this whole weird thing we call life actually has a purpose, as long as we are willing to believe :)

So are you willing to believe? To trust in your  real gut instincts and not the fear that masks them? What's the worst thing that could happen if you tried? Go on, I dare you all in cyberspace.

A very #jet-leg and delirious dreamer signing off for now
- A

Saturday, August 3, 2013

So long Part 1, Part 2 is enroute to begin :)

As I sit here, staring at the packed bags in the corner of my room, while listening to Ellie Goulding's - Anything Can Happen on repeat, I am beginning to wonder WHAT THE HELL I AM DOING WITH MYSELF!!!!!!!!!! T-Minus 8 hours til my flight departs and I begin part 2 of the African Adventure I began about 3 short years ago....EEEEEEEEEK!!!!!!!!

Who would have really thought that I would be venturing back to this amazing continent? I mean even if the parting words I got when i was leaving were "You are not done with Africa, you will be back, this I know" - I just never believed. Or maybe I believed, but I had no idea how, what, where or why I would return. It's not like taking a weekend trip to NyC or LA, ITS FREAKIN AFRICA!!!!! And besides that, the path my life took when I returned, never really left space for me to think that it was possible. I guess in the teachings of the Secret, the Power and all other books and schools of thought alike, I just put the idea out there and let it go and let the Universe lead me to it.

And now here I am, breathing into a paper bag every so often, rubbing my sweaty palms on my pj's, while attempting to calm my mind down enough to write this post and perhaps get some sleep in before I depart.

The funny thing is, it's not the new and different surroundings, people and atmosphere that are causing me to hyperventilate and have mini-panic attacks. It's the everything else in between - the idea of knowing that for me this adventure is my full-circle moment. The chance to finish what I started and begin the next chapter of my life. Dramatic? Of course, but would you expect anything less? LOL.

I really do believe that as you get older, your sense of intuition and just knowing grows so strong that while you may never be able to predict what will happen next, you always know when things are about to change. And so as I begin the writings of the last chapter of Part 1 of my awesome life story, I am holding on tight to my seat because Part 2 is about to start, in full swing - Anything could happen, thanks Ellie Goulding for writing a song that is so fitting for this exact moment in my life.

Here is to sharing Part 2 of my African Adventure with you all in cyberspace. After all my love for blogging, writing and putting it all out there began during part 1, so it's only fitting it continue this way.

- A