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IWhen I immigrated to Canada on 13 July 2010, I had two suitcases and a big Balikbayan box (used to send goods home for families who stayed behind). At the immigration desk, I was asked about my show money- a money you guarantee that you have with you at the time of landing that you will survive in the next few days or weeks, or maybe if you have a lot, a few months to stave away destitution.
Where is your show money? To prove you can survive in Canada on a shoe-string budget and still feel happy with your decision to uproot yourself, your career, and your life for no apparent life-threatening reason but to improve your chances of greater success- whatever that is, a house mortgage, better education, fresher air and food, elevated status-The Great Canadian Dream.
Us, immigrants we all had it. The grim determination that we will no matter what it takes, overcome and will get that coveted Canadian passport, identity, language, and social ties under our belts at last. The folks back home will be super proud of what we have done and will say, better in Canada struggling than back home.
As I eased into the new Canadian living, the show money transformed in a different way.
Where is your Canadian experience? It's like saying that you will never make it here as a landed immigrant if you don't have the Canadian experience which is synonymous to "killing the immigrants softly." How exactly will you get the Canadian experience if nobody will take the risk of hiring you? In order to survive, they have to take survival jobs which is like a penance of choosing Canada as their home.
In my last successful job interview, I told them, " I am fresh off the boat and with no Canadian work experience at all yet but I have travelled the world-world-weary and worldly enough to be flexible and adaptable." I got the job! They sure can't believe that I have just arrived and now competing against 500 work applicants in that city. The rest is history.
The next show money question is different. It is all about in their heads, "what are your credentials that will allow us to respect you and believe that you can help?" This one is tough to crack. But, there's always a way around it.
Of all these questions, one thing is for sure, not all will be pleased and will accept who you are and what you're here for in this country, this city, this small town, and neighborhood. There will also be people like that. But as immigrants who discovered a new home, a new identity that could fuse with the old, and new relations on top of the discarded ones, suggest that we can completely write our own stories with ourselves as the main protagonists, despite the odds. I guess, striving to win every time.
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Feeling down, low, sad, distracted, depressed, or anxious.
Feelings are feelings.
You have the power to detract these negative emotions and convert them to powerful feelings of self-esteem and energy.
Everyday if you find yourself with those feelings, quickly cut it down but focusing on positive, empowering, energizing, and renewing thoughts.
Think about last challenge you overcame despite the odds against you.
Think about the last problem you solved in your organization.
Think about a difficult situation when you were able to navigate carefully.
Think about the daily wins you completed as against your goals.
Think about the love, support, and devotion you receive daily from your loved ones.
Take back the mental space out of negativity. Clear this up every time a negative thought peeps out and disrupt your momentum.
Stop consuming content that does not support your mental health. Recognize what is good and what should be abolished in your content diet.
As an experiment, I stop reading my daily news on my phone. After a week, I felt more centered, less distracted, and more energized. I can quickly settle down at night and have a good night sleep.
There is nothing that should permeate in the mind when it's not even worth a thought or two.
Try this and the positive self-talk maintenance and you will know the difference.
The quality of your work and life starts with the quality of your psychological life.
Guard it and defend it ruthlessly.
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THE HARVEST TIME
Today, I harvested 3 tomatoes from my pots. With lots of sunshine, lots of rain for August, and constant watering in-between, the plants are growing like a weed. Two weeks ago, we raided the Saskatoon berry bush in our yard. We can easily fill 5 gallons of bucket in one go. I have nothing to complain.
Anything that you focus on, magnifies in importance.
If you give attention to items that are irrelevant, your effort and the time you put in diminish in value.
If these are your priorities, the outcomes will be highly satisfying.
If you focus on the negative aspect, you will easily get discouraged and frustrated.
But if you focus on things that are working well, the protective factors, know that it will generate more positive things in return.
In business, in organizations, and in life, this principle holds true. You are perfectly capable of focusing on the good, the virtuous, admirable, in others and thing around you.
Make it habit.
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TEND TO YOUR GARDEN
Last year, I went to our community library and found stacks of books for sale, almost for nothing. I paid $ 50 cents for two books. The first book was a classic and timeless read, The Long Road to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. I thought that I was a few decades late on this and had to quickly brush up on gems found in his life, political career, struggles, and experiences in prison and beyond. What struck me was the clear and unassuming way he wrote down his some of his poignant thoughts.
This is when he enjoyed gardening in prison: “In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must tend to his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the results. Like the gardener, the leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work; try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”
One time, his cell was moved to cell 18, the farthest from the entrance where visitors come. The authorities wanted him not to be able to talk to visitors to voice out their concerns. For the sake of unity, everyone agreed that visitors should talk to cell 18 for their complaints, when asked.
As a leader in your home, workspaces, networks, groups, and communities, tend to your garden and diligently bring it up to the level of competence. Watch it grow and increase. When things fail and you have done everything in your power to grow it, let it go. Take care of what you can preserve and move forward.
The lessons of Mandela are evergreen. Note that Mandela represents the thousands of people who sacrificed and fought apartheid for decades in South Africa and in other places. Mandela is the icon, not the individual. Mandela's win is the win for the 21st century.
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GO BACK TO KNITTING
We all know that success doesn't come from improving your weakness but by working on your strengths.
Your organization should know exactly where you're good at, where you're mediocre at, and where you are failing miserably.
As mission-based, mandate-driven organizations, your whole DNA is predisposed towards your mission, supported by your values systems. This should be immune to the latest fads, trends, dogmas, and presentism.
I have known an organization who started working on many areas in their programming apart from their core service: climate mitigation, disaster risks reduction, violence against women, microfinance, sustainable livelihoods, forestry, fair trade ventures, among other things. They found out that none of these make sense if their core service needs are not fully met. In the end, they focused on what they're good at and their main reason for being: poverty reduction and education for women and girls.
Do not allow other people to tell you what to do, simply because the rest of your peers started doing it. Simply put, if knitting is your thing, stay knitting happy!
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NEED A TUNE-UP?
Do you always get a notice in the mail for your next car maintenance works? I do. Engine tune-up, wheel adjustment, tire pressure test, change oil, battery check, air filter, to name just a few. Depending on the vehicle, its age, and the uses, other more comprehensive checks are needed every year.
Ordinary people will not complain about this: they want to ensure that the car usage is extended, safety issues are addressed, and of course, avoiding paying for exorbitant repair costs when these issues are ignored.
This is the same as your organization. You might be cruising along fine. You might be focusing on some areas and delaying or ignoring other issues that beset your staff, your stakeholders, your financial health, and overall effectiveness in delivering your services. Most of the time, changes in policies, rules, and regulations, how the 'game is played' change drastically. Newer forms of public engagement, research, evaluation, policy advocacy, cross-sectoral work are now unfolding. Are you leading these change or are you playing a catch-up?
We are leaving the pandemic era in a much slower phase while considering that stronger infrastructures and systems must be put in place in organizations, communities, and systems to benefit from stress, shocks, and pressures. In reality, the on-purpose sector seems to be lagging behind in #beyondresilience.
For those who are hugely successful during the pandemic, one thing stands out. They never let a good crisis cripple them. It made them stronger and more robust. It kept them on their toes. They continue to improve and push the envelope when it comes to impact without ceasing. Regular tuning up is not an obligation but a necessary exercise to achieve excellence without breaking your wallet.
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THE CAT STORY
Our lives turned upside down for the good when a cat came into our family. A stray cat suddenly appeared and made our hearts melt. Of course, my five-year-old is the number one cat lover aside from my husband. We took him in (by subtle force), until we figured out if he's an inside cat or an outside cat.
With previous knowledge on cats, my husband both the whole gadgets in case he decided to be a home cat. A family member said and another friend confirmed, "a cat has a mind of its own."
And so, with a bit of time, we figured out that he is both. He is both an inside cat and an outside cat. When the weather is great, we let him out and when it's time to go home, he's there waiting in the yard. Sometimes, he would wait until our truck was in the other house, and if he sees the truck, he will jump right on to be packed home.
Another family member said, "He's a cat that behaves like a dog." He surely has a mind of his own. Our house is a hotel, an entertainment center, and a respite against the cold, brutal world. We're okay with the arrangements. He's just being who he is. It won't be great for other families for sure.
If you're organization is set up to be something and behaves otherwise, and people get their noses up or insist that you behave like one (because of their own conditioning), it's time to break the stereotype. What people project on your organization, may not really who you are and most of the time, they're dead wrong.
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I asked this question because many organizational executives are comfortably in a fear mode in these difficult times.
What's the next disruption that will derail, disrupt, disembowel your organization's market positioning? or for that matter, your reason for being? what is the most existential threat likely to happen in the next five years?
If it's the fear of the uncertain/unknown that drives your executives to grind down everyday, you better back up and check that the fear is a positive fear that you can control and manage.
If it's the fear of being left out/missing out in the trend-train, check the rational behind the impulse, and fall back to where you are actually generating sustainable outcomes.
If it's survival and modest growth, plan to pivot when you can transition comfortably in the next 3 years, until such a time when you have the golden opportunity to create this new future.
If it's growing and reclaiming lost ground, there is no better time, than now. Get consensus and act on what you have existing at the moment.
"What's driving you forward?" is a better question than "What drives your executives sleepless at night?"
You need to capitalize on the dynamics of forward-motion than the idealized notions of lessons learned. And I hope you're not running around a carousel.
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THE GREAT REDESIGN
I just ran an article of the same title in my January e-newsletter.
In a matter of five years, a dozen of executives I met at the mid-level positions in various on-purpose organizations had moved on, either had taken up their own businesses or transferred to careers they want to explore. Now that we're close to an emergence from the pandemic scenario, this shifting will be accelerated.
Some call it pivot, some redesign, and some heeding that second calling. If you're like me that went from a full-time employee to self-employed, you know that this is not a hobby or just a gig (as some would call it to downplay its serious requirements).
The great redesign or simply reinvention is a response to challenging economic shifts that are happening even before COVID19, the global fuel crisis, and the worldwide inflation. We are beginning to see a generational shift to the concept of work, not as drudgery but as an extension of personal and professional identity and fulfillment, with more individual choice as main driver than the need for status, wealth accumulation, or security.
In tough times, the opposite happens. People are resigning in jobs they previously would hold on tight until the storm calms down and allows them to figure out their long-term goals. Highly individualized lifestyle choices, the ubiquity of technology and infrastructures and enablement created a wider menu of options available right for a global talent are immense. My friend from Nigeria has chosen to call Edmonton home despite the lure of Silicon Valley, and other innovation hubspots in the world.
Leaping to another career, job, or lifestyle choice is an act of bravery in a world of ambiguity.
When times are great, or when you feel like you're thriving despite and inspite of circumstances, that is the perfect time to sit still and figure out your next pivot.
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THE EMERGENT STRATEGY
A year ago, in a course seminar, one of my learners told me that their organization does not have a strategy. They, in practice, have what we call an emergent strategy.
Emergent strategies do not come up from strategy retreats or top-down planning process of their leaders.
It comes from continuous patterns of behaviors, inclinations, and moves that stem from an adaptive understanding of the competitive field and the resultant effects to products, services, and priorities. Smaller organizations rely on their yearly assessment to generate the kind of strategic knowledge they need to maintain their ordered disorder. More of a 'gut thinking' than a reliance to a formal systematic cognitive process.
However, emergent does not mean not being able to define, articulate, and leverage your strategy to be able to win against competition or survive in tough times. A strategy is like an arrow in a skilled marksman. It's sharp, unyielding, and produces the intended impact, whether to defend oneself or make a ruckus. Be intentional with your target, because as "the arrow chases the target, the target chases the arrow." - Paolo Coelho.
You can be precise but completely wrong, instead adjust as you build.