Archive for ‘inspiration’

June 6, 2010

Finding Purpose in Tragedy: Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon

Be the One: Serve

In life, it’s not what happens to you, but what happens in you and through you that counts. When adversity visits your life, you have two choices: to be a victim or to be a victor. Victims allow life circumstances to get them down, and they spend their lives asking others to redress the grievances life has dealt them. Victims are needy and demand to be served. Victors, on the other hand, rise above the challenges they encounter. They rebound from life’s hardships with newfound strength, and they use their strength in service of those around them.

A Train of Tragedy

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in 1860 to a wealthy family in Savannah, Georgia. Far from the typical Southern belle, Juliette was willful and tomboyish, always in search of adventure. She was the type of person never to be caught sitting still; she enjoyed trying new things and traveling new places.

In her mid-twenties, the first of a series of misfortunes struck Juliette. Suffering from chronic earaches, she sought medical care, but doctors mistreated her. As a consequence, Juliette lost the majority of her hearing in one ear. The following year, Juliette was married, but as she and the groom exited the ceremony a grain of rice, tossed by a well-wisher, lodged in her good ear. While attempting to remove the grain, a doctor punctured her eardrum, and Juliette lost hearing in her second ear.

For someone who enjoyed an active lifestyle, deafness could have been devastating, but Juliette persevered. She moved to her husband’s estate in England where she became a favorite in social circles. Her humor and vivacity made her a sought-after guest and celebrated hostess.

However, Juliette soon crossed paths with tragedy again. Her husband’s alcohol abuse and infidelity contributed to the gradual decline of their relationship, and in the middle of divorce proceedings, Juliette’s husband died from a stroke. To make matters worse, he bequeathed his substantial estate to his mistress rather than giving it to Juliette.

Choosing to Get Up Rather Than Give Up

Having lost her hearing, her husband, and her home, you would have expected Juliette to feel bitter and victimized. However, at this very point in her life, she chose to serve. Somehow, she moved past her own tragic circumstances to see the good she could do for others.

Having befriended Sir Robin Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, Juliette became intrigued by the Girl Guides, Britain’s sister organization to the Boy Scouts. The Girl Guides program awakened passion in Juliette, reminding her of youthful adventures from days gone by. With the help of Sir Baden-Powell, Juliette returned to the United States with a notion to launch the Girl Scouts.

Over the next 15 years, Juliette devoted her life to pioneering the Girl Scouts of the USA. She founded its inaugural troop, authored its bylaws and handbooks, and solicited its startup funds. Thanks to her tireless recruiting and relentless campaigning, the Girl Scouts program blossomed. The organization was such a source of joy for Juliette that, when diagnosed with cancer, she hid the illness as long as possible in order to continue advancing the scouting movement. While she never had children of her own, by the time of her death Juliette had an “adopted family” of more than 160,000 girl scouts. Her legacy lives on today in the 3.4 million young ladies who belong to local Girl Scout troops in America.

Questions for Reflection

Where do you focus the majority of your time, on self or on service? When the hardships of life show up at your door, do you back down or rise to the challenge? On your journey through life, will you allow yourself to be victimized, or will you be the one who claims victory over adversity and serves others out of your strength?

John C. Maxwell is an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. Each year he speaks to the leaders of diverse organizations, such as Fortune 500 companies, foreign governments, the National Football League, the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the United Nations. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader. His blog can be read at
May 28, 2010

Know Thyself: Own Thy Hurt

The Greeks, those great philosophers, have a saying; know thyself. There is nothing more suitable towards self knowledge than objective introspection, which is what the Love Dares afford. Each dare acts like a sandpapering process, peeling away the known surface to reveal a previously unknown layer beneath. And in a situation where some festering has occurred, you can imagine that what is beneath will not be pleasant.

To a large extent, we all believe in self awareness, or at least, most of us do. Yet even to the most introspective of us come shocking eureka moments when we discover new facts/emotions/levels of existence which we had absolutely no idea existed. When that happens, we can either embrace the knowledge and act on it or we resist and suppress. Either way, this new discovery will not go away.

That is what I found out working through the Love Dares. I had to take a step back to acknowledge and deal with the self I was uncovering. She was not a very beautiful person, I can tell you. Yet beautiful or not, she was me and over the years I have come to love that person. This made dealing with some of the stuff I uncovered, not quite as stressful as it would otherwise have been. One of the things I am re-learning by taking the Love Dare is that love does what is best for the loved one.

With that in mind, even though I could have decided to repress or suppress these new, previously undiscovered facets of myself which I did not like, I knew it would not be the best for me so I have begun the process of dealing with them.

Something else I have discovered: if you are sincere in your quest to walk with God, He will pick you up when you stumble.

One of the unwelcome things I discovered about myself was a lingering anger; it had lingered so much it was beginning to fester. I had tried, in the interests of harmony, to bury it deep inside and to a large extent I guess I succeeded. Only, it had this habit of rearing it’s head at the oddest of moments and one of such moments was a few days into the Love Dare. Generally, I do not keep grudges. But that is because I like to talk things out with a person and let that person know how I am feeling. Once I manage to do that, I am fine.

However, in this instance that did not arise and I found myself taking out my hurt on dh. So I went to God for help – I have a happy disposition and I wanted to keep it that way. Typical of God, he stepped in. First I had to release the hurt to him. I admitted I was hurt and that I had no idea how to stop being hurt. I was also doubly hurt because I could not talk about it. Then began the slow healing. Gradually, the sharp hurt became a dull ache. I even found myself poking around it to see if it still hurt; I guess it does but it is no longer septic.

Then out of the blues, dh brought it up. I was shocked; not because he mentioned it but it was like I had asked God for help and he was going way out. Funny, that is exactly how he operates but it still takes me by surprise. He knew that the final act of healing for me would be to talk about it to someone I viewed as connected to the hurt even if that someone was not directly responsible for the hurt. So we talked.

I will not say I am completely healed – you never know those things until something comes up. But I can say two things:

  1. I do not hurt as badly as I used to
  2. From this experience, I have discovered more of myself and even though I do not like everything I am uncovering, I can honestly say that I love myself.

So, how well do you know yourself? And if you do, do you love that person?

May 8, 2010

Do You Know Any Good Online Magazine?

I am finding it difficult to blog; basically because I do not want to write anything that does not come from my heart or mean something to me personally. As I am in a different environment, that should provide enough blogging fodder right? Not quite. I cannot seem to get inspiration.

So recently, I started looking to Women’s Online magazines to provide that inspiration and I’m getting some really good stuff there. However, I need some more.

If you know any particularly good online reading: Magazines, Blogs, etc (preferably but not limited to, Female reading) please leave the link in the comments section. Thanks.

I’ll start of with the list.

April 16, 2010

How To Live The Life You Want To Live: Roz Savage

“She was so full of life! Never missed an opportunity to live an adventure.”

I turned to my right to see who was speaking. It was not even someone I really knew. . .well, I might have seen him once or twice as I went jogging early in the morning but that was it. How did he hear about today? I shrugged and moved amongst the people gathered by the graveside, eavesdropping here and there.

She held my hand when my sister died,” one lady said through her tears “And I had only started working for her a week.

On and on like that, I circled the guests there. They could not see me anyway. So I listened to different stories about what an influence I had affected their lives positively or how I had inspired them by the kind of life I had lived.

All of a sudden, it all faded and I am just sitting in front of my laptop, trying to write this post. But as I write, one question keeps popping up at the back of my head: what is my life saying to people?

That was a scene from what I would love my life to have meant to people around me. But how close to reality is that scene? If I should go today, what then? Thinking about this could inspire gloom in my heart, but I think it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said that it is not too late to live the life you would have lived or something to that nature anyway. With that in mind, I know I can still make a choice to live my life differently. But if that is not enough motivation, I have Roz Savage to emulate.

Roz Savage was a management consultant and project manager at an Investment Bank. She had a comfortable income and a house in the suburbs. One day she sat down and wrote two versions of her obituary: the first was what she would have got if she continued with her present lifestyle while the second was what she really wanted her obituary to be like. They were vastly different. In her mid-thirties, she decided to change her lifestyle and live the obituary she wanted.

She had spent her years after her Oxford law degree, pursuing material satisfaction; and she had that in abundance. She lived in a big house, had a happy marriage and exotic holidays. And she ended up having an affair. Roz was unhappy deep down inside. What is not so surprising is that she was a Preachers daughter (in her case, both her parents were ministers). Like every old fashioned PK would know, material possessions are usually short while growing up. I suppose this fueled her desire to have. It was after she left her husband that she decided to write the two obituaries. That was when she knew something had to give.

So she gave up her job and began rowing. Yes, rowing. She set for herself an extreme rowing challenge and in 2005 signed up for the Atlantic Rowing Race. The race was from the Canary Islands to Antigua in the West Indies and she was the only one to row solo. It was 103 days of self realization as she had to battle with the tail of a hurricane and nearly got washed out to sea. Although she came last in the race, she completed it. She made it to the finish line.

She came to a place where she could honestly say that her experiences

…made me realise that happiness never comes from material wealth. It comes from inside, and from experiencing the world and having adventures.

She has set a challenge for herself to be the first woman to row the pacific – solo. She has already completed the first two legs of her journey and is getting ready for the third and last leg.
This British rower had the commitment and determination to change her life and also to grow as a person. It has been an incredible journey thus far. She is a motivational speaker, author and an environmental campaigner – a United Nations Climate Hero. Her message is simple: We have only one earth. She wants people to know that every plastic bag that is used ends up in the ocean. Rowing is how Roz chooses to give back.

So maybe you cannot row, I know I cannot. But it is never too late to set your life on the course you would prefer it to take. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut and to keep doing the same futile thing day after day. It is easy. But easy is not always the way to go. It is time to take one bold step towards adventure and a fuller life. Personally I am not interested in being the first woman to row solo across the pacific ocean. However, there is something to be said for a woman who was able to halt the avalanche that was her life and turn herself around with quiet determination and a strong will. With Roz Savage as an inspiration, I know exactly what I am going to do to live that life I would love to have lived. And I will not have to leave my husband to do that.

April 14, 2009

For Women By Women

something-blue1Browsing through the New York Times website, part of a headline caught my attention. The Special Report written by Alice Pfiffer had the heading: Haute Horlogerie, Precision Engineered for women by women.

‘For women by women’ made me pause. I took time to read the article and was entranced by Giselle Rufer. I went straight off and googled Delance and Giselle Rufer. My search led me to the Delance website and what I saw took my breath away. There, on display were the pictures of the most exquisite pieces of time keeping I had ever seen. I gazed in awe.

Even more exquisite is the indomitable spirit of the woman behind Delance. Giselle Rufer is a strong woman who was raised by another strong woman. Her mother was widowed when Giselle was seven years old and through adversity, she exhibited strength, courage and determination; traits she passed on to her daughter.

Women entrepreneurs have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. And it is even tougher for them in countries like Nigeria. Although we have moved a few steps ahead (we now have womenjudit Governors and Ministers), an ambitious woman is looked at with a certain disdain by the men around and even unfortunately, by other women. In Nigeria, a woman entrepreneur has to have twice the ambition of a man but the meekness and demeanor of a lamb. She must not let her desire to get ahead show.

Giselle Rufer has dedicated time, effort and her life to the cause of the woman entrepreneur. She is a prophet or an ambassador sent to give hope to women who are losing the will to hope.

Just a few short weeks ago, if I had been asked, I would have replied without hesitation that I was not a watch person. Well, that was before I saw the picture of a Delance. Now, I ache for a Delance. Something soft which I can use every day but has the elegance and beauty of a ceremonial jewel. I love Delance and what it stands for; you see I am a woman. But more than that, I am a Nigerian and we deal in status symbols. A Delance wrist watch is a symbol of the strength of a woman’s spirit. A symbol of what one woman, with grit and determination, may achieve for other women.

white-lotusIn the words of the lady herself:

“Femininity is magic. Believe in yourself. Build your self-esteem. Be all that you can be. It is wonderful to be a woman.

My dream is for Delance to become the sign of recognition for all women who want to make the world a better place, a lovely place by creating beauty and promoting harmony.

I believe that women need recognition. They also need role models. They need esteem as much as love. And, very importantly, women need empowerment.”

January 30, 2009

One Small Touch

Today I met with the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN. It all started five years ago with one small touch.

When I was in my final year at the university, my fellowship took those of us in our final year on a retreat to Badagry, a coastal town which was one of the first slave holdings in Africa. While there, our hostess who was the Principal of a Secondary School asked us to meet with the students in her school. After meeting with the students, we asked them to form groups according to their desired professions. So I got to speak with those who wanted to study law, afterall I was almost done with the journey they hoped to begin.

When we broke up this young boy came to me and told me he really wanted to be a lawyer. I asked him how he hoped to achieve that and he said his teacher told him to gain entry into the Polytechnic. I was aghast! In Nigeria, the only way you can qualify as a Lawyer is by first studying law in the University and I made sure he knew that. I encouraged him to make an effort to go to the University and thereafter, we went back to our campus.

A year later I got a phonecall, it was the young boy. He had written the exams of the Joint Matriculation Board (JAMB) and had done well. However, due to one reason or the other it was years later before he was able to accomplish his dream.I saw him today after five years, all dressed up in a suit and a proud recipient of the BRF Scholarship award.

The BRF Scholarship Award is a joint project by the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) and Intercontinental Bank Plc. There were 50 scholars who were awarded the annual scholarship and this young man, who by the way had gained admission to read law in the Lagos State University was there standing proud. All the scholars were asked to pick a mentor of their choice who would mentor them through the years they spend in the university. While several picked icons like Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dora Akunyili, I was there as his mentor. I was so proud of him and I was touched.

It is incredible that just listening to one boy’s dreams and aspirations, one small touch, one act of kindness and five years later here I am. One never knows where one’s actions would take one. I told some young people last weekend that whether they knew it or not, they would influence people however they had a choice what that influence would be; positive or negative. This applies to each and everyone of us.