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I hate how lukewarmness feels on me…

Lukewarmness can have various meanings depending on the context. But the word doesn’t usually have positive connotations. For example, most people don’t enjoy a lukewarm shower because the water temperature has to be just right or cold if it’s a hot summer’s day. People don’t enjoy lukewarm food, it either has to be hot or cold depending on the type of food. The worst kind of lukewarmness occurs in behavioral form. Usually we tend to dislike people who are lukewarm because they present unpalatable qualities. Example of these qualities are, people who are indecisive, uncertain, indifferent, uncommitted, unresponsive and wishy-washy.

Another kind of lukewarmness is one that happens inside of you, where you feel like you have lost enthusiasm and zeal for life. I am by default a very optimist person but of recent, I have been having an internal emotional battle with this.

I have been feeling so overwhelmed and I have been sharing with my friend about how tired I am. In a quest to regain my strength, I read through old notes as reminders that every situation eventually passes. Yesterday, I bumped into a note I had written, shared by a speaker at a conference I was attending. The note read, “people are not tired, they just uninspired”. As I read this I just thought to myself, ‘wow, what a timely word for me’. According to the vocabulary dictionary the word inspire comes from the Latin word that means to “inflame or to blow in to”. “When you inspire something, it is as if you are blowing air over a low flame to make it grow”. As I battle this feeling of lukewarmness, I realised that at the root of my feeling lukewarm is an existential crisis. I am at the brink of entering my thirties and I have placed pressure on myself to have certain things sorted.

I want my fire back because lukewarmness doesn’t feel like home and shouldn’t be home.  I guess part of the reason for writing this piece is my initial step towards finding healing and a resolute. I hate how lukewarmness feels on me because it undermines the beauty of the gift of life. I hate how lukewarmness feels on me because it makes me forget that I am divinity inside and I have a significant contribution to make in the world.

I am writing a love letter to myself, reminding me that it’s okay to take time out to breathe, to take it easy and to not give up on pursuing those things that set my soul on fire…

 

Article image courtesy:https://alukewarmmess.com

The back to you Revolution

I fondly remember growing up in the township and attending various social gatherings. In these gatherings, our greetings will go along the lines of “Sawubona mtanami/ sis wami, unjan kodwa? Kukuphi ekhaya? Or uZalwa kabani?” Loosely translated this means,“Greetings my child or sister (former used by the elderly and latter by peers) how are you? Where is home and to which family do you belong to?”

I used the word fondly in my opening statement because the greetings we exchange nowadays are not so fond. I loved the greetings we exchanged in our communities in my early years because they centered so much on who you are and your family roots.

I have noticed a trend in our current society and how the more “sophisticated” we become, the more we complicate life. Nowadays introductions are shallow and superficial assignments just to tick the ‘Yey, I greeted a human today box’ and thereby feeling good about ourselves.

In my opinion, we have lost the ability to connect on a truly human level. I’m so exhausted by social and business gatherings because greetings go along the lines of “Hello, how are you?” Then there is this unwritten expectation to always say we are good or we are fine even if we not. I once said “I am not good” just to test the waters and the person asking me, didn’t know how to deal with that and changed the subject. That’s why I stand on the assumption that, this has become a tick box exercise.

But the most interesting and now bordering on annoying for me, is the obsessive question of “So, what do you do?”. There is nothing wrong with that question per se, the only challenge I have with it, is that depending on the response you give, people will begin to treat you based on that. I don’t like this because people begin to define us by WHAT we do as opposed to WHO we are.

I love how author Rick Warren in his New York times best-selling book (The Purpose Driven Life) wraps up the thought beautifully when he says, “we are human beings not human doings”.  

The back to you revolution I’m advocating for, sees life through the lens of God, it embraces people for who they are; not what they can do for you. It is a revolution that encourages people to simply be themselves and enjoy life to the fullest.

I’ve termed my revolution “Back to Bongeka” and I am in a period where I am rewriting some rules, bending some and even breaking some 🙂 . I live with the peaceful conviction that Almighty God, who is my Father, is far more interested in WHO I am than WHAT I do.

As I pen my final thoughts on this, I am reminded of Whitney’s Houston documentary “Can I be me?”. In the documentary they interviewed those who were close to her.  They shared that throughout her life she struggled with living out who she was versus what people wanted her to be. So, she would constantly be heard saying “Can I be me?”.This was a cry out for her to be herself. To me, she was the greatest voice we were blessed with, but society robbed her of her true life for many years. I always wonder what would have happened to her if she had “been herself” in the early years of her fame and whether that would have influenced her to make different decisions. We may never know, but we can always take a page from her life and recognize that the cry to be ‘ourselves’ cannot just end on the lips but as the word revolution holds, we have to forcibly overthrow things in our culture that undermine the very essence of who we are.

 

Image courtesy: http://sivinkit.net/2008/07/08/one-life-revolution-is-back/

 

Joie de vivre: Rediscovering and repositioning joy

I recently read an article that truly changed my life. The most mind and heart-blowing thing the author mentioned was:

“You are joy. You are joy itself. Causeless, reasonless, careless joy”.

 Three years ago, I would have struggled with this phenomenon – is this person saying that joy is a human state of being? What about the need to work hard, endure hardships, make tough decisions and sacrifices – all of which do not involve joy? Today, I can appreciate that joy is a choice I make (or not make) but it is something already in me and not something out there. I am learning that even through the most ‘unjoyful’ life episodes such as grief and loss, joy is always there, waiting patiently for one to live it out.  Let me share my story…

There was a time in my life when I felt that joy was lacking. The strangest thing was that I appeared to be doing fairly well in life. I was on a great career path and turning into a seasoned consultant, earning good money. I had a good romantic relationship, my family and I were healthy and strong. Why then, was I not content nor fulfilled by my life? Why did I feel a sense of dread on Sunday nights when I thought about going to work? Something was not adding up.

As a reflective person, I continued to think about this until it led me to a vision board I developed a few years back. My personal mission statement at the time, which surprisingly I still hold dear was: “to appreciate the nuances that make people great for participating in a productive, divine and joyful life”. Adjacent to that statement was  ‘Obtain PhD before 30, abroad somewhere’. Eureka! That was the missing link. It made complete sense that this was where my joy was! So I put all my trust in this concrete goal to pursue the loftiest task ever, an entire doctorate. Little did I know that it was the process of pursuing this goal that unlocked greater joy overtime rather than the achievement at the end. Fast forward to today, three years later, I have made a paradigm shift. Joy is not the outcome accomplished through achievement, but the approach to life amidst the highs and lows of your journey.

Do not be misled, this is not a linear process. Through this journey, I’ve had to deal with some unmet expectations of living abroad.  I’ve struggled financially, experienced a failed romantic relationship, fell ill at a critical time on the verge of completing my degree and I still deal with a lot of uncertainty. Moving towards joy took hitting myself on a brick wall a couple of times. When I started to see the light, I became grateful for what I had , allowed myself to indulge in simple pleasures and that resulted in creating joy for others which has become my priority.

Joy remains a childlike part of me that wants to live itself out fully. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we do not consciously choose joy. I’ve heard these statements way too often:

“I need to just get to Friday, then I’ll be happy”- could we not approach the week with a more joyful state?

“I need to grind hard for 10 years and then I’ll enjoy life” – could we not allow for some moments of enjoying life in between that?

“I’ll put up with this unsatisfactory relationship because it’s the best I’ve had so far” – could we not live a full life as a single person?

I am in no way, making small the comprehensiveness of life’s experiences. However, as the author Claire Dimond puts it: “ We are joy itself. And when we know this we can grieve, weep and suffer knowing that all of it is there to be experienced. When we don’t have this wisdom, the slightest sadness becomes magnified and intolerable”. This is an approach to life I hope to always remember. I’ll leave you with this final thought:

Do you know that you are pure love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom? That there is nothing, you can do not to be? Or do you believe you are what you think you are? An isolated, separate being, here on earth to find love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom?”

 

About the writer:

Dr Siphokazi is a Durban-bred global psychologist and educator who is passionate about building the future of Africa and her people. She is a scholar-practitioner and life-long learner in the field of leadership on matters that intersect transforming education, African renaissance, organizational behaviour and culture.

Problem proof is overrated…

In an article by Melanie Curtin, “The 10 Top Skills That Will Land You High-Paying Jobs by 2020, According to the World Economic Forum…” (https://www.inc.com), Melanie unpacks a study conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF), with 350 executives across 9 industries in 15 of the world’s biggest economies to generate – The Future of Jobs Report. The key findings of the study were the top 10 skills that will be most desired by employers by 2020. The top three skills were, Complex Problem Solving (no.1); Critical thinking (no.2) and Creativity (no.3).

I read this article and I laughed thinking, ‘If problem solving is ranked the number 1 skill that will be required in 2020, then why are organisations right now not encouraging of a problem-solving culture?’ I’ve heard people in organisations utter statements such as ‘We don’t want any problems in this project’ or ‘Let’s minimise mistakes or problems’ to a point that when we make mistakes we are crucified.

I could be wrong, but in my opinion, I have come to notice that organisations are obsessed with creating problem proof environments. And yet I realise that great business ideas or innovations are born from problems. I think of two cases that have always fascinated me;

Example 1: The Wright Brothers innovation of the air craft

The Problem: The Aircrafts built before the first Wright Brothers aircraft could not be controlled in the air. Before flights became commonplace people could only travel in just two dimensions, north and south, east and west.

The most common way to travel from one continent to another was via sea travel. Sea travel meant months and months of travelling; it also meant nausea commonly known as sea sickness. This is by far the worse travel related sickness. Sea traveling also meant the weather can restrict your movement.

The Solution: The invention of the air craft enabled air travel to solve some of the disadvantages of sea travel. Air travel has made the world more interconnected. It has advocated for economic and technological advancements. Air travel saves us time and it has given way to the entire aerospace business, the largest industry in the world (http://www.wright-brothers.org).

Example 2: The Airbnb story

The Problem: Two unemployed art graduates found themselves living in a three-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, and where on the verge of being kicked out because they couldn’t afford rent. They wanted to provide alternative lodging for people who couldn’t afford hotel lodging.

The Solution: Created an online lodging platform that has become, in under a decade, the largest provider of accommodations in the world. They also wanted to create a space that offered better price rates than mainstream hotels & lodges, yet still providing descent lodging that have a touch of a hotel experience and a homely experience. This came at a critical time during the recession when home owners were stretched financially thus were offered an avenue to make extra money by opening their extra home spaces for public consumption (https://www.penguin.co.uk).

There are millions of other examples of problems birthing great ideas that revolutionised the way the world operates. If problems can generate such billionaire dollar ideas/businesses, then why do we frown upon problems? Even in our primary and secondary schooling system, we don’t fully invest in encouraging a culture of ‘problems are okay, in fact we should embrace problems.’

In a way I appreciate some elements of the higher education system, because I recall that during my time as a humanities student, my University opened a whole new world of endless possibilities for me. We were constantly encouraged to re-imagine and challenge the very world we lived in. As a student we were constantly sold this notion that, you could change the world. But when I got to my first job, in one of the biggest, if not well managed Parastatal organisations at the time, was a serious reality check. I soon realised that the real “Corporate World” was not what I thought it was.

One of my biggest frustrations with corporate was it inhibited my creativity and was obsessed with problem proofing everything.

I realise that this thing of obsessing over controlling outcomes in organisations and problems is overrated. I believe that we should foster environments that thrive on making problems a norm thus fostering a culture of problem solving through creativity.

Image courtesy of http://www.armslist.com

It’s in our individual difference that we make a difference…

“i love myself.’

the

quietest.

simplest.

most

powerful.

revolution.

ever.”

Nayyirah Waheed

I came across the above poem on Instagram a while back and instantly it grabbed my attention and I was so amazed that such simple words could carry so much power.

I think more than anything, what drew me to the poem was the first three opening words “i love myself”…and the reason why those three words made such an impact was based on a recent conversation I had with my friends. I had shared with them that; it always amazes me how society is more welcoming of negative affirmations of ourselves; if I say “I talk too much”, “I am impatient”,”I am not easy to get along with”. Though on the negative side, these will be more acceptable. But as soon as you use positive affirmations of yourself;  If I say “I am incredible”, “I am a great human being”, “I am good at my job”, people often think you are arrogant or glorifying yourself. Because as people we often want to “fit in” we find ourselves saying more of the former and that is detrimental.

So I want to challenge these societal abnormalities and adopt a different approach. I believe that – you can never give off what you not full off. We are all giving off something in the world, whether its our expertise, our charity, our time, our love, our hate, our incompetence, etc…but there is something each person gives off in the world.

But I also do know that most people, at the core of their existence is an overwhelming desire to leave the world better than they found it. And I truly believe that to love and serve the world well, you must love and serve yourself well.

Thus continuing to choose you is the foundation of making the real difference. A young man at church said “it’s in our individual difference that we make a difference”. I really love this statement because it carries a peaceful realisation that, it’s okay to be different in the world, sometimes we think being and acting the same is ideal, but actually we should all aim to be different. It’s in choosing to be different that our effectiveness in our different vocations and avocations will be born and cemented.

I AM BECOMING HER…

I remember reading an article by Milisuthando Bongela in the May 2017 issue of Destiny Magazine titled “In Praise of Feminism”.  I admit that just like the author, I once had a misguided understanding of what feminism really is.  Growing up I somehow related feminism with images of male-bashing, angry women who very seldom experienced vulnerability and who most certainly did not find much joy in being in intimate relationships with the opposite sex in the same manner that many “normal” women in society did. That was of course until I truly started to experience and engage with the world, reflecting on where and who I was as an individual in a society that already had a script of who I ought to be as a young black South African female.

Perhaps one of the most important realisations that I made was how many women have internalised this script, believing it to be true and natural and not really understanding how it impacts how we show up in the world, how we show up for others and most importantly how we show up for ourselves. I am reminded of Karl Marx’s theory of Alienation which expresses how the features of society, even though they seem natural and self-regulating, were created by past human actions. In as much as we are shaped by society, we have the ability and power to in turn also shape society.

As women we need to first truly start seeing and thinking of ourselves outside the confines of societal expectations and allow this thinking to effect positive and purposeful change. Yes, it is a fact that women are socially, politically and economically underrepresented and this is largely due to a long history of patriarchy and devaluation of women. But in today’s 21st century where we see women taking on leadership roles in various industries and others becoming successful entrepreneurs, many women still see themselves through the lenses which devalues their abilities and contribution to society. Nelson Mandela, in The Long Walk to Freedom, wrote “blacks must first liberate themselves from the sense of psychological inferiority”. Women in general and black women in particular need to liberate themselves from a sense of psychological inferiority. An inferiority that relates to our capabilities, value and overall existence. Yes, you can be a mother, wife and run an empire at the same. These things do not need to be mutually exclusive. Yes, you can choose to have a family later in life or choose not to have children at all. Your value and contribution to society does not diminish.

I urge us as women to not only recognise our power but also learn to stand in it. Feminism, I believe, starts with knowing and believing that we as women are valuable, powerful, talented and have a purpose. And then in truly knowing and believing this, creating platforms through which to fight for and establish equal opportunities of active engagement in an unequal society. In the words of Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie…We Should All Be Feminists!

Article image courtesy of: https://www.cellsdividing.com

About the Writer: Zamakhoza Khoza

Zamakhoza Khoza is a Human Resource specialist with a background in Psychology and Branding. She currently resides in Durban. One of her greatest passions, along with writing, is helping people reach their true potential through creation of a positive self-concept. She regards herself as an open-minded student of life.

Continual Responsibility…

Constructive criticism is a great gift, but depending on where you are in your life, it can sometimes come across as a great pain. Recently someone was giving me feedback about something very dear to me. The feedback came packaged with both positive and negative comments. As the dialogue progressed, there was a moment where I felt that my character/ability was being challenged rather than the idea. Generally, its very difficult to “detach” yourself from your work but I was reminded during that moment that we have a continual responsibility to live life wide open for growth. In many ways when people take time to thoroughly apply themselves and give feedback about our “craft/s” it is because they are well meaning.

In my opinion, our traditional socialization is not geared towards growth. However, we have a continual responsibility to lean towards progress, and the greatest challenge is that it requires us to open yourselves up to “expert” voices that come in different forms. Sometimes it’s not easy to hear what you are not doing well because as people we often just want to feel good about what we do.

When someone takes time to be forensic with you, perhaps we need to begin to see that as a great compliment. I am learning that growth is not a destination but a part and parcel of my lifetime. So, for us not get emotionally scarred by some solid feedback we need to adopt certain practices;

  • We need to understand that we have a continual responsibility to not default to the natural temptation of over focusing on the bad in the feedback loop.
  • We have a continual responsibility to decide that despite the difficulties that come with growth, we are not going to quit.
  • We have a continual responsibility to reprogram our minds so that we part with beliefs that hinder our progress and embrace those that propel us to be better versions of ourselves each day.
  • We have a continual responsibility to be kind to ourselves in the days when we don’t do everything right, but to never stop trying our best each day.
  • We have a continual responsibility to not always default to doing things because we “feel” like it. The great people we celebrate did not build great lives and accomplish amazing things because they always felt like it, but they pushed themselves beyond the emotional sphere. Someone wrote “your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel” The Idealist.

My dear friend, you have a continual responsibility to just be you. The you that is continuously evolving to be great.

The rewards will come…

If you have been following PenTheVision, you know that most of what is shared is every day experiences and drawing wisdom from those. I love being authentic in my writing so that those who read may be able to relate and we able to dialogue about our very real human experiences.

So recently, I was having a conversation with the Lord about my life and some of the difficulties I am encountering. I was like, “God, it’s so hard to keep pursing purpose when you not seeing any tangible benefits. I asked, how do I keep at it and continue?”

A gentle voice in my heart reminded me that rewards don’t come to those who do ordinary things but to those who accomplish extra ordinary things. If it was easy everyone would do it. I was reminded that ALL hard work will bring rewards.

I had such peace after hearing that and I related the depth of that truth to examples I have witnessed of extraordinary rewards being bestowed to those who stepped out of the narrative of ordinary.

If you conduct research or ask most people, what prize/award comes to mind that has global recognition. I am certain the Nobel Prize, the Oscar and the FIFA soccer world cup will come up a few times.

If you look at the Nobel Prize, the Nobel Prize has been honoring men and women from all corners of the globe for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and for work in peace. The prize was introduced in 1895 when Alfred Nobel wrote his last will, leaving much of his wealth to the establishment of the Nobel Prize.

The Oscars are handed out every year to actors, directors, producers and film professionals who worked on the previous year’s best films (https://www.cristaux.com/blog/most-famous-awards/). The FIFA Soccer World Cup is awarded to the football team that managed to get through all the stages of the competition and demonstrating a formidable and consistent game strategy throughout.

The point is, none of these awards/prizes come easy and it is only those who push ordinary boundaries; take big risks; sacrifice a lot of pleasure that attain these things. Ordinary events are easy (e.g. taking a shower, eating, going to the toilet) no one gets rewarded for this. The only time in a human life that one gets some sort of applause for the above is, when you are a small child and you begin to do these things without the assistance of adults.

A reward is something that is given for a person’s merit, service or hardship. Its people who have stretched themselves beyond the norm. I find that the greatest and most difficult barrier in us transcending to great heights, is the one that happens on the inside of us. So, I am making a commitment to continue to pursue my destiny and I believe one day I will pen all the rewards I will be enjoying…till next time my friend ?

Crossing Over!

The past weekend was probably one of the best weekends of my life. My friends and I were together, in a beautiful upmarket apartment right in the heart of Houghton Estate, Johannesburg South Africa. The apartment embodied class and sophistication at its best.

We loved every minute of being there as we laughed, danced, cried, watched Netflix, ate, and prayed.

Every moment with my friends was refreshing. What stood out the most for me was the great spiritual connection we experienced on Sunday morning. It was so unplanned, so unexpected and yet so life changing.

The snippet of our conversation was about the journey of crossing over. Crossing over in “our” dictionary means, the journey that we take in becoming the best versions of who the Almighty God has called us to be.

This concept was highly influenced by the book and movie Eat Pray Love. The main character- Elizabeth Gilbert’s central theme was that of “attraversiamo”. This is an Italian word meaning “let’s cross over”.

As we engaged in deep thought provoking conversations with my friends, we reflected to say “attraversiamo” to us is a holistic journey of becoming better each day spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially and financially. There is power in knowing that this is an individual journey of not comparing yourself to anyone. But the process of crossing over is flooded with obstacles.

I really love how Reverend Katie McKay Simpson puts it when she says, “our life is rather a series of daily “crossings”—crossing over from one thing to another, discerning individually and in community about where our next steps will take us” (https://youngclergywomen.org).

Our greatest realisation in our “daily crossings” was that, to successfully cross over you must be “clothed” with the right spiritual and mental tools because each day you will engage in an internal war. You will wrestle deep rooted unhelpful beliefs, you will wrestle your internal critics, you will wrestle unhealthy misconceptions about yourself and the list goes on.

But each day that you recognise these and surrender them at the feet of the Almighty God and just say “Lord, I trust you each day” the process of crossing over becomes smoother because you get to recognise that no matter what you face…Everything will be alright…all things will work out for your good…

My metamorphosis…

As I write this, I just got off the phone about a very interesting opportunity. The gentleman who called me had seen my CV on a career site on the internet. He shared with me that one of the big research companies are looking for a combination of skills sets for a 3-month project. One of the skill sets needed to deliver this project was Change Management, which happens to be my area of expertise.

What is interesting about this project is that, it is not your typical “corporate” project but rather a research project and the findings of the research will feed into what becomes part of Organisational design and culture transformation literature.

As I sit here writing, I am just reflecting about my life and how in 2015 I was convinced that consulting was not for me. I had tried it for about 4 months and things just didn’t go according to plan. At that time and where I was, it felt like the money mattered more than the person.

As they often say in the corporate world, I really felt like just a “resource”. Though I was part of a team, it just didn’t feel like home and I yearned for a sense of belonging. And I was convinced that a “proper” corporate job will give me that sense of belonging and thus enable me to thrive in my job whilst contributing to the organisational success.

I must say, the opportunity I received after that short consulting “trial”, gave me more than that. I am so blessed by that opportunity and when I reflect, it has thus far been the highlight of my short working career.

Fast forward to November 2017, I have developed a much deeper love for consulting. Which was a surprising discovery even for myself. To me consulting had always been a big risk! I had a bad experience with it in the past and honestly, I had always viewed myself as a very “corporate” person, until the greater part of this year.

I suppose there were many factors that lead me to see consulting this way. Firstly, it came at a time when I needed it and I believe I am much more mature and much more comfortable in my Change Management expertise than I was in 2015. And for some reason, I just don’t have the appetite to report for duty from 8-5 pm, Monday to Friday. Another big plus about consulting is that the money is good. ?

Over and above that, I am loving the flexibility to do some of my stuff, the late nights of being focused on only project-related work and giving it my all. The thing with big corporates sometimes is that you can get lost in all the “millions” of activities which don’t always help us achieve great results and there is no day-to-day politics. As a consultant my focus each day is to deliver great results. Because if I don’t work, I don’t get paid! Hahaha…

I am not saying this is how things will always be, but right now, at this stage of my life I am embracing every opportunity that the Lord brings my way. I am allowing peace to guide me each day and I have this scripture that’s always in my heart “Commit everything you do to the Lord, trust him and he will help you.” Psalm 37- 5.

I realise that for as long as I live, I will be where the Lord wants me to be and I will do what he wills. So, if it’s consulting for now, then so be it. The next 5 years of my life could unfold very differently, and you know what I am looking forward to the amazing adventure knowing that all things will work out for my good…

 
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