It is Time to Normalize… my 15 personal reflections from my life & leadership experience
June 2021 has been a special month in so many ways. Its been a month filled with heartfelt gratitude for life. I specially thank my personal board of directors for celebrating this milestone with me. June has also been a deeply, reflective month as many have lost loved ones in my circles – may those who have gone ahead of us rest in Eternal Peace. It’s been a month of giving as many of us are in the sandwich generation, taking care of loved ones who are unwell & are facing the risk of caregiver’s burnout. Yet, I have realised its such an incredible honour and privilege to selflessly serve our family members and friends when they are unwell and to patiently nurse them to good health- spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. I have also learnt the critical lesson to laugh often and seek to enjoy each precious moment of joy and life. Life can get pretty serious and we all need rib- cracking, tear- wiping laughter often.
Half 1 2021 has been a big chapter in the book of life. I am not sure if you have found it harder than 2020, but many in my global networks have felt so. Maybe its because we thought C19 would be in the past and we faced this year with so much hope. I have had to relook at life and here are 15 personal lessons I have learnt and would like to share with you. Its a big act of vulnerability to be writing this ( thanks Dr Brene Brown for your research & mentorship on vulnerability) so here we go:
- It’s time to normalize saying & celebrating our age & life ( especially, we ladies) . Lets stop feeling shy about growing older. When I learn that too many people die young, I intentionally decided to always celebrate birthdays in my family and friendship circles as well as for our current clients. Stop looking at what hasn’t worked in your original life plans. Stop wishing you were younger. Being older is such a gift in multiple ways especially in the experience-meter. Looking back, so many parts of my life have not gone according to my life plan. To cope, I have habitually tried to practice acceptance & surrender to God.
- It’s time to normalize the idea that finding your why takes time. Our unique purpose is already in within each of us since our moment of conception, waiting to be uncovered & discerned. There is a lot of talk about urgently finding your purpose now. Breathe. Your purpose is already in you, you are probably already working on it subconsciously. It takes time to see it clearly by connecting the patterns in your life backwards. It took me over 3 decades to figure out my why & purpose. And it will take me the rest of my life to make it consistently come alive in different creative ways depending on the seasons of my life. Take time to reflect and sense-make any patterns you see in your life that link pain points and your passions ( Ref: Rise) Usually that points directly to your purpose which is always going to be about solving a problem thats impacts many others and is bigger than us.
- It’s time to normalize having large families. I have met too many mums who are bullied and stigmatised for having children back- to- back & having big families. Let’s learn to celebrate life. It’s also time to normalize investing hard work into our families as we invest into our careers. Nothing comes easy.
- It’s time to normalize getting married & being open to having children immediately if that is God’s will for you. Too many women suffer infertility later on & regret not being a mother sooner. A child is always a blessing.
- It’s time to normalize that women should never have to be forced to choose between work, life & family. Both are critical to her and the family. Lets make workspaces more progressive for all human being as men also struggle with this tension. Lets learn from the lessons of working from home to render this lose- lose choice between work, life and family obsolete and focus on thriving and life -work integration.
- It’s time to normalize that being a parent means being a work in progress throughout (maybe we become experts when we are grandparents?). That as parents we need to keep learning & seek mentorship in the parenting arena. The same applies to leading in crisis times, no leader is an expert in these dynamic times. Be wisely vulnerable that you don’t have all the answers & allow emerging leaders and solutions to evolve. Leaders, give yourself permission to ask for help and learn to allow experts to guide you in all aspects of your life from colleagues to coaches and other experts who enable you prioritise self care unapologetically. You cannot be all things to all people. Ever.
- It’s time to normalize getting married young and getting married when less-young. Too much pressure is put on women and men when they marry young or marry when older. They do not need that pressure. What is important is to help them invest in their marriage more than in the wedding. Small weddings have become the norm now and that hopefully gives the young married couple time to discover who they are in their marital context and build strong roots while investing in marriage programs.
- It’s time to normalize that when a married husband and wife cannot seem to have children despite wanting them, that their marriage is still fruitful and that as a couple they are already a complete family. I have seen too many marriages fall apart due to the scourge of family and society’s pressure on the couple. It’s time to normalize how critical family bonds are during and beyond a crisis and to strengthen these bonds requires an intentional investment of time, money, energy, prayer and resources.
- It’s time to normalize the leadership thinking that boards should have diverse board members representing different ages, expertise, functions & perspectives just like the markets they serve. It beats me, that for instance, a global board of a company selling home and food products is dominated by a male demographic (usually composed of members of the proverbial old boys club) who do not reflect the end users of their products and who also do not reflect the budget owners of these products who are 80% female. And we need to normalise having at least 30% of the minority members on the board for a sustainable impact eg at least 3 women and at least 3 professionals from a range of diverse levels of functional expertise. Its not only the human & inclusive thing to do, it also makes exceptional business sense. )Ref: https://www.theceomagazine.com/business/management-leadership/the-power-of-three-why-we-need-more-women-on-boards/)
- It’s time to normalize the idea that you can start your career all over again after 40 & you can reinvent your career in the 30’s, 40’s & 50’s. You will not be starting from zero, you will be starting from a position of experience. But, you cannot do this alone, you would need a tribe of mentors, certified coaches and leadership positioners as well as a coachable spirit which gets rarer the older we grow unless we are intentional about it. ( Ref: The leadership accountability circle I describe in RISE)
- It’s time to normalize going back to school or starting higher learning, leadership or grad. school later in life. Its time to become a perpetual learner and to give yourself permission to be a beginner in the school of life. Congratulations to all our clients who have a high learning agility and have invested in our Breakthrough Leadership & Mastery Circles as well as in the Your Next Best Self transformational leadership coaching in these last 5 years and specifically in these last 12 months when the learning experience had to be more creative and enabled digitally. Haven’t we achieved significance beyond success? We at Breakthrough Leadership Transformation just turned one a half decades old since inception and we are deeply proud of our clients hidden and visible growth (Ref: www.bltgroup.co.ke).
- It’s time to normalize provision of free sanitary towels instead of many other free items we are constantly bombarded with. The data shows us without access to proper education, resources, girls are often forced to stay home from school during their menstrual periods. This leads them to miss anywhere from 10-20% of school days (Can you imagine this? No wonder the leadership pipeline is already negatively skewed against them) Sometimes, they drop out of school completely. UNICEF has estimated that roughly 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school because of their periods each year. In many developing countries the numbers of girls missing school are astronomically high due to cultural taboos and poverty (Ref: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/menstrual-hygiene-day-education/?template=next) The case in prisons in Kenya is even more appalling when it comes to menstrual health. Something needs to change and urgently.
- It’s time to normalize alternative criminal justice practices as is being heroically & strategically championed by Clean Start and COFIW Africa. At this moment in history, very few prosecutors’ offices would consider a non-incarceratory sentence for some crimes. It’s also time to stop normalizing criminalising poverty. Its time we learnt from the prison reforms in Scandinavian countries which are moving towards ways in which holding people accountable for their crime need not include dehumanizing or abusing them. As long as it does, prosecutors and judges cannot possibly claim they are able to determine how much time in prison is appropriate. They also cannot verify the positive impact of prison sentences on behavioural transformation of those incarcerated and communities they come from. No amount of prison time is appropriate if the conditions are inconsistent with our values. No child is meant to be in prison with their mother – 60% of children of imprisoned mothers are children below 10 years (Ref: https://cleanstartkenya.org/). Albeit the criminal-justice system, undergoing significant reforms in some countries recently, the system requires far more extensive change. Globally, criminal justice systems, our learned legal friends, magistrates and judges must do better when determining sentences to women. Progressively-minded prosecutors in some jurisdictions are working to tailor responses to crime by addressing its underlying causes and reducing our reliance on prisons while still encouraging accountability for those who cause harm. They are looking to public-health and harm-reduction models as they try to keep many people out of prison and to identify ways to carefully tailor the appropriate amount of prison time for others. ( Ref: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/urgency-prison-reform-and-what-prosecutors-can-do-about-it/596884/) And its working and its normal in Netherlands where 23 prisons have been closed https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2019-05-13/the-netherlands-is-closing-its-prisons.
- It’s time to normalize the fact that the human spirit is much more courageous and resilient that we give ourselves credit for. Human beings possess what some researchers call a psychological immune system, a host of cognitive abilities that enable us to make the best of even the worst situation. I want to honour women in business who are running honest businesses that they are disrupting and pivoting beyond the pandemic. I salute each of you. I also honour leaders who chose to be more humane and chose to invest in enabling their teams grow and thrive despite the pandemic effect. As we look ahead to the world’s next great challenges—including a future pandemic—we need to remember this hard-won lesson: Human beings are not passive victims of change but active stewards of our own well-being. This knowledge should empower us to make the disruptive changes our societies may require, even as we support the individuals and communities that have been hit hardest. (Ref: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/covid-19-did-not-affect-mental-health-way-you-think/619354/)
- It’s time to normalize that the inner uncomfortable quest to become our next best selves is part & parcel of our human experience. We can all do this by intentionally committing to breakthrough and rise from our past and current circumstances. This is possible if we start by re-examining our beliefs, letting go of inner limiting mindsets, detaching ourselves from shame and using guilt as a catalyst for positive learning & growth. It is possible to Rise by opting to grow by reading and listening to life-giving thoughts, messages and grounded research. It’s time to normalize being kind rather than being only smart and surrounding ourselves with those who can help us grow and those we can help grow. It’s time to normalise raising ourselves and our businesses for a higher purpose. Its time to normalise rising as you lift others for that higher purpose. As St Josemaria Escriva said, let us begin again and again often in our lives without becoming discouraged.
Consider it a God-incidence that this newsletter has come through to you on the first Sunday of H2 -2021 which is also the 4th of July – Independence Day in the USA. Maybe its time to commit to breakthrough from whatever is holding you back from becoming your next best self.
What do you need to normalize from the above 15 reflections to make the second half of 2021 better than the first?
Global Leadership Catalyst and Advisor