The Power of Together

Life is not a race. It’s a journey to be enjoyed in the company of others.   There’s an African proverb that says “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.  In my opinion, the keyword in this proverb is the word- together.   People who do life together…with family, with friends, can achieve much more than people who do life alone. Why? How do people inspire others to greatness?  Some call it friendship, encouragement or love. I’m going to call it the “Power of Together”.  I have been inspired  by others several times in my life.   But I can never forget the three times that I experienced the power of together  through companionship, mentorship and inspiration.

When I was a teenager, my family went through some tough financial times. My sisters and I were always coming up with business ideas for a little extra cash.  I vividly remember our 1st attempt at Business. We decided to make and sell pies at the community high school concert. We had no idea that it takes a lot of courage to sell anything.  When D-day arrived, and we quickly found out it was not cool to be selling pies.  I still remember us standing there- in a corner of our concession stand, desperately wishing that we were not there.  Our friends kind of pretended that they didn’t see us. No one was buying.  We felt like throwing our pies at them!   Just as we were about to abandon the pies ….everything changed.

The most popular girl at the high school  spontaneously decided to be our marketing manager. She stood by us, and declared that these were the best pies in the world!   She made up a jingle and got all her friends to sing it.  Pie pie, me oh my! No better pies , oh me oh my, You better buy pie , oh me oh my. Pie! my oh my, I love pie!   The pies were sold out in no time. On that day, I learnt the power of having someone show up, stand with you in your corner. Sometimes, they don’t even have to say a word. Just knowing you are not alone on your journey is enough to give courage. That is companionship.  That’s the Power of together.

Fast forward a few years later, I was preparing for the University entrance exams, mostly on my bed.  Three days to the exams, my elder sister,  who was already in 1st year of University realized that I was not going to pass those exams with my level of preparation. But she did not tell me that.  Instead, she came up with a plan; “I need to study really hard for an exam over the next three days.  Since you are also preparing for an exam, can we study together at the University campus?”    I thought it would be cool to study at the University, like an undergraduate student, while helping out my big sister, so I agreed to the plan. Every day for the next 3 days, my sister would wake me up at the crack of dawn . She would have packed up breakfast, lunch and dinner for 2 and then we would head out.  She would sit in the furthest corner of the room from me, and ignore me when I wanted to chat instead of study.  Can you imagine how I felt when, at the end of the third day, I found out that she had no exams? She had been reading a novel the entire time!  I passed those exams by the skin of my teeth  and I know I owe that success to her. Sometimes in our journey, we need someone to step to our shoes and walk a mile with us, when we lack  the strength to go any further or the wisdom to know that we do not know.  That’s mentorship.  That’s the power of together.

Many years ago, I was struggling to complete my PhD program..  I remember feeling so discouraged, that I was ready to quit.. So, I called up my mum, to prepare her for the bombshell.  I gave her a 1000 reasons why I could not go on. She listened to them all without saying a word.  Then, she said,  Hmm, Pele, someday, one of your sons will  want to quit working on a something really important. You will want to encourage  to hang in there and not give up. Then, she asked two profound questions.“What will you say to him? What story will you share with him  to inspire him not to give up?”.She did not have to say more. I knew she was sharing her story with me. You see, my mother started her PhD program at age 40 in a bid to earn more money to support the family. By then, she had 5 children, worked full time and ran a small business on the side. It took her 8 years to complete the program but she did it.  I started to cry because she gave me no way out.  I knew that come hell or high water, I was going to complete the PhD program.  I did complete it.  What changed? My mother simply gave me a reason to care that was beyond me. Sometimes in your journey, all you need to push through at work, in your relationships, and with your personal goals is a reason to care that is beyond you. That is inspiration. That is the power of together.

 In South Africa,  the word “Ubuntu” is used to describe humanity.  It translates to, “ I am what I am because of  who we all are”. As you journey through life, ask yourself, who is in my corner, who is my companion, who is my mentor and who is inspiring me and finally, who am I inspiring?  Friends, no man is an island. We can go fast all by ourselves, but we need companionship, mentorship and inspiration to  go far.  There are 7.5 billion people on earth today.  Find at least one of them and experience the  power of together.

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Finding my voice again- 1st Toastmasters Speech

On Speaking Out

My name is Pelé Williams. If you all were Yoruba language speakers, I would have introduced myself as Pèlé Williams. Try pronouncing that, if you can.  There’s a kp sound in there that is not an English phonogram. Pelé is the Canadian edition of Pèlé. Having a name like Pèlé was not easy, even when I was growing up in Nigeria. You see, Nigerian names often have a meaning. When a child says her name, adults can often decode what it means and why the name was given. For example, “Bose ” means, “I was born on Sunday” and Tokunbo means, “I was born abroad”.
But my father selected- Pèlé – a name that no one could decode. Each time I was asked: “What is your name?”, I braced up myself for a speech. My name is Pèlé . The next question I would get is “ Do you mean Pèlẹ́?” You see, Pèlẹ́ means “I’m sorry” . Offended, I would respond , “No, I mean Pèlé.”  The next question will be- “Pèlé?? Where are you from? and “What on earth does your name mean “? So, in a culture where children are seen and not heard, I learnt to speak up and engage my audience, each time I defended my name.
Another reason I had to speak up was that I was left-handed in a culture where being left-handed was considered rude and just plain wrong. Without meaning to, I would offend by simply passing along an item with my left hand. I needed courage to challenge the norm with my teachers and my elders each time I interacted with them.
I grew in a family of five girls, in a society that said “Something is amiss if your family does not have a son”. I had to find my voice each time someone said- “You don’t have a brother?! Wow, how unfortunate! “. I became a feminist child. My decision to get a degree in Engineering was strongly influenced by my desire to prove that “what a boy can do, a girl can do better”. I was one of 6 girls in a class of 60. I took great pride in excelling at school.

CAT AND TONGUE
Help! The Cat’s got my Tongue
I arrived in Canada for graduate school approximately 14 years ago. Though I had been speaking English all my life, I had to re-learn conversing in Canadian English. I got blank stares when I introduced myself as Pèlé . No-one could pronounce the name! So, I re-named myself. I become Pelé – the Brazilian soccer player or Pele – the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire, depending on the mood I find myself.
To be understood, l quickly learnt alternative words and phrases: When asked, “How are you?” I replied, “I’m good!” instead of “I’m fine, thank you”. I used the word, elevator instead of lift, truck instead of lorry, pants instead trousers , underwear instead of pants, Mad instead of angry, cookie instead of biscuit, fries instead of chips and soccer instead of football.
I was baffled that, even though I still had a lot to say, I did not always know how to articulate with my “Nigerian accent”. I did not always understand conversations and jokes.
Thanks to PowerPoint, I survived graduate school. I got really got good at organizing and delivering my message. I would rush through the slide deck at high speed. My only goal was to get the talk over with. Everyone said, Pele, that was good, but you talk too fast! To which I would reply, “ But so do you!”
Once out of graduate school, I gravitated towards roles that required little or no public speaking. At one meeting, I remember being asked to speak up because I was whispering without realizing it.

Re-discovering my voice
Over the years, I gradually became more Canadian. I also learnt to rely on my faith in God to survive the palpitations I get during public speaking events. I started practicing with the youngest audience I could find, doing something I had always done. I began teaching kids at the Sunday school nursery, and worked my way up to grade school as my kids got older too.
I stepped out of my comfort zone, when I took on my previous job two years ago . In that role, I was constantly required to listen and communicate to both small and large groups. My opinion was not only welcomed, it was required, and usually on-the-fly.
I was fortunate to be working in an office on a floor where a Toastmasters club meets. Every Thursday at lunch, I passed by the Toastmasters placard on the wall and thought, “these folks most be quite vain to spend their lunch hour practicing how to deliver grand speeches”.
However, in my search to improve my communication skills, I realized most excellent communicators have had to work hard to perfect their public speaking skills. So, I decided to check out the toastmasters club. I have grown immensely as communicator since my first club meeting, in April. 2014 I suddenly discovered , that I no longer have palpitations when I speak on-the-fly in public. I still have palpitations at planned speeches though. But I’m working at it and I’m super-excited about re-discovering my voice again.

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Toastmasters

Toastmasters-International-logo

In May 2014, I decided to join a Toastmasters club that meet once a week, at lunch where I work. It’s been the best decision I’ve made since I said “I do”.  Not that wonderful, exciting things haven’t happened to me since I said “I do”, but they’ve typically just done that… “happened to me”.  I didn’t necessarily make long, drawn-out decisions about them- like having both of my kids, for example. But’s that a story for another day.

Anyhow, since I joined this club I’ve delivered  six speeches and won one speech contest. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually beginning to love public speaking,  rather than being terrified of it.  It hit  me today that I can keep this blog alive by posting my Toastmaster speeches. You know the typical “Pele-ish” way of killing two ( or three) birds with one stone…he he he!

So, this is a come-back post to let you all that know this blog will be coming alive again, thanks to my new-found love of writing and delivering speeches.   If you didn’t know already, Toastmasters is the best kept secret for the improving your communication and leadership (yes, leadership!) skills and having fun while at it. Stay tuned…

Happy Friday…make it a good one!

Cheers,

Pele

 

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FACEGOD NOT FACEBOOK

I’m reblogging this post with the kind permission of Apostle Tone, my big brother. I think the phrase FACEGOD is brilliant, especially because in pidgin English, it means, “focus on, give all your attention to God”. It’s amazing the amount of time we spend on facebook interactions. For many people, FACEBOOK  time has taken over real-life, meaningful connections that ought to happen with friends, family and God.  Friends, the word for today is FACEGOD!

MUCH AS I’D LIKE IT TO BE OTHERWISE WHEN IT COMES TO THE SOCIAL MEDIA I AM WHAT YOU WILL CALL A CAVEMAN.

facebook
On Facebook for years, I rarely use the darn thing. But yesterday, I had  an unusual surge of inspiration. So, I made a concerted effort to drag  myself into the 21st Century.

Mucking around on Mark  Zuckerberg’s (photo above) mind blowing invention, I realised I had  immediate access to so many people from my past that I haven’t heard  from in yonks.

Begging bowl in hand,  metaphorically speaking, I subsequently asked about a gross people to befriend me.  The response I had at best was a mixed bag.

A handful  acquiesced to my demand of friendship immediately. Which was nice for my ego. A trickle was soon to follow. A fair number simply pretended they  hadn’t heard from me and altogether ignored my desperate plea for companionship. That was more  than a tad painful.

But what I found most injurious, were a gaggle of people I thought were friends offering me the  ‘privilege’ to follow them, instead of a fully blown friendship status.  Basically, they want to tell me everything they are up to, but do not care a jot about me; or for that matter whatever it is that I was up to.

What arrogance, I erupted. Hurt and on the  verge of invoking diverse plagues on the houses of those who had slighted  me, the Holy Spirit intervened. ‘Steady on, Apostle!’ Beginning to feel  mocked, the Helper assured me He was not in the mocking game.

Indeed, as it transpired the Holy Spirit had a very serious message to impart.  ‘The problem is not following. The ultimate question is whom are you  following?’ To Peter, and the other 11 disciples, Christ  said: ‘FOLLOW ME.’ Now, that sure is a Friend worth following!

Brethren, it is FACEGOD time and not Facebook. Friendship with God is the  quickest way of filling the void in our lives that often force us to  seek friends where they don’t exist. God’s only offer of friendship  though stems from a meaningful relationship with His Son. John 3:16.  Apostle Tone, Making Christ Known. Romans 1:16.

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What’s your limit as x approaches 0?

I spent some time going through my kids’ toys this week, making room for the newly-acquired toys from Santas everywhere.
We sort all toys in three piles: Keep, Give and Toss. My husband and I were quite amazed as some toys (that were highly coveted, not so long ago) got thrown into the Give pile with no remorse from the boys.
Just a few years ago, I remember searching high and low for Mr Potato head (it had to be the one that talks back at you with an attitude and falls apart when you yell at it). Now, he and all his falling parts were sitting, forgotton, in the Give pile, waiting to make another child happy. Mr. Potato head had been replaced in the boys’ hearts by Legos of all shapes and sizes. My boys are growing up, alright.
It suddenly occured to me that we will all pass through this ritual with everying we own. We outgrow it, lose it, gift it, break it, finish it, smash it or x it ( insert your word for x here). The bottomline is that x approaches 0 -zero always (yeah, that’s calculus).
So, folks, the word today is: What’s your limit (attitude to stuff) as x approches 0?

Sorry, we ain’t leaving this gig with a thing!

Limit as x approaches 0

Limit as x approaches 0

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Everyone’s Santa, Baby!

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I’ve had a pretty busy week, scouring the malls looking for that perfect Christmas present for all the peeps on my list.

When the kids were much younger, it was pretty easy pulling off the “Santa came down the chimney with the gifts while you were asleep” tale. This year, my kids half-believe in Santa. However, they realize it’s important to keep  playing the game, no matter what!  So, I’ve gotten at least  6 – 7 wish list revisions from each child. Mummy, can you please  pass this on to Santa? That’s ok dear,  as long as you remember that “Santa” does not always grant all your wishes 😉

The bigger challenge we’ve got this year is that, the kids are getting pretty good at “discovering” the presents in our established hiding zones around the house! It’s pretty hard to keep the magic alive, after such findings.

After a rather hectic day, my 6 year old son was handing me yet another version of his Christmas list, when I suddenly blurted out, “Everyone’s Santa, you know”. The boy looked stunned. I knew I had captured in his expression at that moment, the end of the faith-in-Santa era.  Oh, well. 😐

So, I quickly followed up with: “Remember that you are getting a gift for your brother and it’s going to be a surprise? So, for that gift, you are his Santa! Doesn’t it feel wonderful to be Santa?” I linked that statement  to the message of Christmas, and the life of Saint Nick. Then, I wore a Santa hat all day to buttress my point, and left the rest to his imagination. Q.E.D.  😉

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Love is patient OR Love is kind

I’ve been working through this text in the good book :

      Love is patient, love is kind.

     It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

     It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

     Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

     It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

     Love never fails.  (1 Cor 13)

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My life goal is to be able to substitute insert my name for the word Love in any of these sentences, especially with respect to my immediate family. I’ve been stuck on the first sentence for quite a while now :-(.  I’m currently looking for a path forward. I’m not getting any younger, ya know.  

The other day, the geek in me tried to solve this problem.  What boolean operator does the comma between  “Love is patient, love is kind” translate to?   I’m pretty sure it’s an AND, but on most days, only the OR will do.

I’ve got no qualms being patient, while seething with rage, waiting to pounce like a lioness, as the kids run off the walls. And I’ve can be extremely kind, but don’t push your luck for too long, boys. Fall in line or else…!

 It’s truly divine to be patient and kind at all times with those you live with and care about.  That’s kinda scary, since my life goal has at least 13  more virtues to be concatenated to these two. Wish me luck (or rather, grace). Sigh!

 

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