How To Live Full and Die Empty

How To Live Full and Die Empty

‘I came here because I want you to die…’

No, that’s not a line spoken by a James Bond villain. It’s the opening of a leadership talk by the late, great Dr Myles Munroe.

The moment he said those words, the audience’s nervous laughter rumbled around the auditorium. Dr Munroe smiled, then chuckled. Then his face took on an earnest look as he finished the sentence: ‘Empty… I want you to die empty.’

I had the privilege of meeting Dr Munroe, and hearing him speak, at a Leadership Conference many years ago. The best-selling author, transformational leader and teacher was passionate about people maximising their potential: living full & dying empty.

Before you read further…

YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS this 5-min. INSPIRATIONAL BITE:

WOW, right? I love how he starts with: ‘The wealthiest place on earth is not…’

And then, when he revealed the richest place on the planet – were you as astounded as I was?

How fired up are you right now? Every time I listen to one of Dr Munroe’s talks, or read his books, I am inspired, motivated and challenged to KEEP GOING – keep dreaming – and fulfil my potential.

Is that what you want?

I hope so. Because, if you’ve read my blog post on WORTH, you will know that:

No one else will ever be able to play your role on this earth in this lifetime.

You are the only one who can fulfil your purpose – a purpose as special, as unique, as you are. And you know what’s amazing? Once you start living on purpose, YOU will be fulfilled! You will wake up every day and JUMP out of bed, eager to get to work.

‘The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.’ Dr Myles Munroe

Are you bored with life? Depressed with your work situation? Lacking joie de vivre?

Time to change things up. Discover your purpose and I promise you, you will have a new lease on life.

And by the way…

As long as you’re still breathing, IT’S NEVER TOO LATE.

This is coming from a 50-year-old Dreamer who has yet to achieve her life goals. Then again, I am hooked on hope.

Because, you see, I know that…

It’s all about timing.

Some people can handle success at an early age. Many cannot.

What if you’re meant to grow first? What if you’re not ready for success just yet? Ever thought about that? There are countless stories of people who became successful – and weren’t ready for it. The result? They fell. Hard. And then the arduous uphill climb began. Or didn’t.

I can think of at least ten child actors for whom fame came way too soon. It nearly destroyed them. And that’s just an arbitrary example. There are so many people in various careers who’ve achieved success – and with it, wealth and fame – and they weren’t ready. (By the way, success doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with gaining money, power or fame.)

Some gave up entirely. They left home and started living on the streets. Others turned to crime. Others ended up in the wealthiest place on earth – and never, ever realised it.

Others dusted themselves off, swallowed their pride, and started again.

Then what happened?

They grew. And became successful again. This time, though, they were ready.

Still think you’re too old? That your time has passed?

Think again.

There are many stories about people who only achieved success later in life. But a lot of these stories, I’ve found, skew the truth. They neglect to mention that many of these people had some type of privilege – the right schools, money, contacts… All of which make a huge difference.

I’m not saying these people didn’t work hard to achieve their dreams, or that they didn’t deserve the fame. Not at all. They’re just not relatable to me.

Maybe you feel the same way? Maybe you, like me, prefer the stories about people who had none of those privileges. Because then…

Anything is possible.

Here are three of those stories…

 

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a wife, mother and teacher who longed to be an author. But she only began writing at 43.

Although she received rejection after rejection from publishers, she refused to quit. She kept on writing, improving her craft.

At age 65, she fulfilled her dream: Little House in the Big Woods was published. From that book came the best-selling ‘Little House’ series, followed by the successful TV series, Little House on the Prairie.

 

Kathryn Joosten had always wanted to be an actress; however, she became a nurse instead, to support her family.

And then her marriage ended. As a newly single, 42-year-old mother, she decided it was time to follow her bliss. She took on odd jobs and started out in community theatre. Many years of hard work, bit parts, ups and downs, disappointments, and a ton of rejections followed. Until she risked it all. She relocated to Hollywood – at the age of 56.

People called her crazy. She had no agent and no connections whatsoever. But she had a dream. And she also had the vivid memory of her mother dying with the angry regret of not having pursued her dream.

The gamble paid off. Within five months, Kathryn started acting regularly on TV shows. Success followed. At the age of 60, she got her big break. And at 65, she became a household name, having landed the recurring role of Mrs McCluskey in Desperate Housewives – for which she won two Emmy awards.

 

‘Grandma Moses’ was a farmer’s wife who spent decades selling homemade food to support her big family.

She was 58 when she started dabbling in painting; and her first materials were a piece of fireboard and leftover house paint. Art was merely a hobby she enjoyed in her spare time, until, at 67, she started devoting more time to her craft.

Her big break arrived when she was 78. An art collector saw Moses’s work in a local shop – and bought every piece. Success followed. This self-taught artist began exhibiting professionally, her paintings gained popularity, and she followed her bliss until her death at age 101.

Her paintings now sell for over $1 million.

 

I have to apologise. These three stories are female-biased. But there are many, many more out there. Just Google and you’ll see. Then again, keep reading. Men get their turn, too, later in this post.

These women were determined to fulfil their dreams. That’s what kept them going. They raised families and worked at ‘ordinary’ jobs. And they pursued their passion in their spare moments. They sacrificed time and luxuries. Because the pursuit of their bliss fulfilled them, filled them with joy, and gave them purpose.

They kept going until they had completed their work, refined their craft; until they had something to show. And then opportunity knocked. And they were ready.

Are you ready?

That collection of artwork – have you completed it?

That novel or that non-fiction book – have you finished writing it? Not just the first draft, but the polished, ready-for-publishing, proofread, brilliant final draft?

That invention that, once completed, is going to be a world-changer? That idea that popped into your mind one day and won’t leave? The answer to poverty; the cure for a disease; the solution to homelessness…

Keep working at it. Because what if opportunity surprises you one day by knocking on your door – or window – and you’re not ready?

Don’t NOT be ready.

‘There is a treasure within you that must come out. Don’t go to the grave with your treasure still within you.’ Dr Myles Munroe

Build it. Finish your work. Keep going, despite failures, disappointments, setbacks. Start emptying out that treasure inside of you. Then opportunity will come.

Now I know there will always be those who feel they have no special purpose. But I can assure you, that’s just not possible. If you’re feeling unfulfilled but you don’t have a burning desire to follow a particular dream, or you’re asking yourself how you can possibly fulfil your potential when you haven’t a clue what it could be… I urge you to read The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren’s bestseller. It’s a life changer.

And here’s something for you to think about…

It’s possible that your purpose isn’t clear to you yet – because the world isn’t ready for it.

In which case, I’d be pretty darn excited.

DID YOU KNOW…?

Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

All you need is one groundbreaking idea.

C.S. Lewis was 16 when, out of nowhere, a picture popped into his head: a faun carrying parcels and an umbrella in a snowy wood. He did nothing with it until decades later, when this image became the starting point for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the first book in the wildly successful Chronicles of Narnia series.

J.K. Rowling’s lightbulb moment happened on a train. The picture of a young boy wizard just appeared in her mind. Like magic. And the Harry Potter series was born.

Dr James Watson won a Nobel Prize for his 1953 ‘discovery’: that the structure of DNA is a double helix spiral. This was a feat other scientists had found impossible. But the answer – an image of a spiral staircase – had come to Dr Watson in a dream.

Niels Bohr had a vivid dream in which he was sitting on the sun, watching the planets hiss around him on tiny cords. His gut instinct told him the image was the nucleus of the atom with electrons revolving around it in prescribed orbits. After dedicating his research to proving his theory, he won a Nobel Prize.

Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion, was experiencing a slump when he had a dream he was playing golf better than ever. On waking, he realised his dream self had gripped the golf club differently than he did in reality. Mimicking the dream grip vastly improved his golf swing, and he came back with a vengeance.

 

I hope those inspirational bites are as motivating to you as they are to me. As you work on discovering your purpose – so you can live full and die empty – may I suggest something?

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, use them. Use whatever time you have to Dream, Plan, Visualise. And then figure out a way to make it happen.

A final thought…

EXPECT FAILURE.

Photo by Ying Ge on Unsplash

Actually, scratch that.

Embrace failure!

Because how will you know you’ve succeeded unless you’ve failed a few times?

Ask me, I know. I’ve failed over and over again. In a variety of ways. You can read about a few of them. Just click on any of the four links on my WORK page.

A lot of my failures are not that obvious. But the fact remains: I’ve been pursuing my dreams from an early age and I’ve not achieved them yet.

Do you find yourself in the same boat?

Be encouraged by this guy:

‘I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.Michael Jordan (aka ‘the greatest basketball player of all time’).

 

Go on. Grab life with both hands.

Live full…

So you can die empty.

With Love,

Vx

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

The wealthiest place on earth is the graveyard.

No one else will ever be able to play your role on this earth in this lifetime. 

‘The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose.’ Dr Myles Munroe

Timing is Everything.

Anything is possible.

The only real regret is not having tried.

EMBRACE FAILURE.

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my previous blog posts can be found on the main BLOG PAGE.

 

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

Finding My Father — a true story

Finding My Father — a true story

I’m often asked why I’m so darn happy all the time.

I always find this funny because, well, I’m not. How can I be? I am human, after all. I experience deep emotional pain; I sob my heart out; I am no stranger to the lure of depression. However, I do have something…

An incomprehensible, inexplicable, deep-seated, everlasting JOY that never ever leaves me – no matter what life throws my way. (And it hasn’t all been Champagne and roses, I assure you.)

Here’s my story.

Up until the age of eight, I had the best childhood. Life was great, and both my parents were loving and caring. Then, out of the blue, they asked me, ‘Who do you want to live with?’

What a ridiculous question. Of course I replied: ‘I want to live with both of you.’

It was impossible for my young brain to comprehend that they were getting divorced. When they explained they would no longer be living together and then told me I’d have to choose with whom I wanted to stay, I cried my little heart out.

Eventually, I decided that because my dad had another daughter (from a previous marriage), but my mom didn’t have anyone except me, I would go and live with her. But it was a tough decision; I loved them both so much.

Within a year they were divorced. 

And my dad cut off all contact.

After a blissful childhood, where my mom and I had had more than enough, suddenly she was a single mother and I was a fatherless child.

The worst part was: my dad was still in touch with my stepsister. She not only received birthday and Christmas presents but she also got to spend holidays with him. I didn’t even get a phone call.

I couldn’t understand it. After much deliberation, I concluded it was because I’d done something wrong. Because I’d chosen my mother over him, maybe? But no one explained anything to me.

I was hurting. Of course I was. But I was not broken. Because something had happened a couple of years before that had prepared me for this.

Something that would impact the rest of my life.

I’ll come back to that.

My mom soon remarried. But her new husband was not a father to me.

The next seven years were emotionally and psychologically challenging. Our house never felt like a home.

Then: a revelation.

Just before I turned sixteen, my mom revealed that the man I’d called ‘dad’ was not my real father.

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor.

Tears cascaded down my mom’s face as she told me she’d married my ‘dad’ when I was two years old, and he had adopted me. My real father was someone she’d loved very much when she was nineteen; and he’d moved away before she knew she was pregnant.

My mother was embarrassed and upset. She’d kept this from me for sixteen years and had no idea how I’d react.

Me? I was overjoyed! It was like finding treasure! First of all, the ‘dad’ who had abandoned me wasn’t even my father, so it didn’t really count. Secondly, I had a real dad out there somewhere who didn’t even know I existed. I was thrilled.

The last my mom had heard, my real dad was living in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was quite a while ago. No internet or mobile phones. Imagine! As we were living almost 1,000 miles away, in Cape Town, and we didn’t have a car – and public transport and flights were too expensive to consider – there wasn’t much I could do about this revelation at the time. However, I was content to wait.

I was nineteen when I finally met my biological father.

I’ll get back to that in a moment. Remember I mentioned that something happened a couple of years before my ‘dad’ and mom split up? It was – and always will be – the most significant event of my entire life.

When I was six, my aunt Margaret said to me, ever so casually, ‘Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?’

Just like that. Like she was asking what sandwich filling I’d like.

Now I have to clarify: my aunt was not wanting to know if I was interested in joining a religion. She was asking if I had a relationship. With God.

Bear with me… 

I knew about Jesus because I went to Sunday School. (I think my mom sent me every week so she could get some peace and quiet.) I knew Jesus was God’s Son, and that He loved me so much that He came to earth as a man to die for my sins; and then He rose from the dead and went back to Heaven. So saying yes to a relationship with God was an easy decision.

We knelt right there and then, on the floor, and she led me in a simple prayer, and I gave my life over to Jesus. And at that very moment, I became a child of God. He adopted me as His daughter and became my Heavenly Father. Best of all, He promised He would never, ever abandon me.

In His Word, the Bible, God says, The moment you accept My Son, Jesus, you become My child – no matter how old you are – and I’m your Father in Heaven. Forever.

Even though I didn’t have the greatest examples of dads, I had God as my ‘Papa’ from a very young age.

Without Him I would not be alive today.

That’s the honest truth.

God is amazing. His timing is always perfect. He knows every detail of our lives, from beginning to end. He knew the divorce was coming, so He ensured I had a perfect Heavenly Father to take the place of an imperfect earthly dad before I even realised I needed Him.

He knew that at the tender age of ten, my childhood would be stripped away. So He made sure I knew Him, so I could turn to my Papa God for comfort and healing.

I went through a lot of ‘stuff’, especially in my teenage years.

Several times I seriously considered suicide.

But God carried me through every single moment of my life – and He still does.

The past few years have been filled with challenging seasons; there have been many dark days. But God always gives me the strength to endure anything that comes my way.

See, He’s promised to work ALL THINGS – every detail of my life – into something good. And I believe Him.

And you know what else? He even gave me the love and forgiveness for the men who abandoned me, the men who let me down… And I mean total forgiveness. 

Do you have any idea how free I feel? It’s wonderful!

The most important thing is: I have peace.

Peace that surpasses all understanding.

Throughout my life, God has been there as my Heavenly Father. Whatever He’s allowed me to go through has only served to make me stronger. So when I found out that my real dad was out there somewhere, I was OK to wait on God’s perfect timing.

Almost four years later…

I was nineteen and had just arrived in Johannesburg to be a missionary with a performance group. So, I picked up a telephone directory (no Google, remember?) and looked up the name my mom had given me. And there it was; the only one. It had to be him.

Feverishly I wrote a four-page letter: my life in a nutshell. I ended it by saying that I didn’t want to mess up his life. I knew nothing about him. For all I knew he had a family of his own, and I could just imagine how life-wrecking a nineteen year old turning up on your doorstep and claiming she’s your daughter could be. So I said I just wanted to see him, to meet him once. And then he could go on with his life. I was OK with that. I told him that I didn’t harbour any ill toward him; I understood that he didn’t know I existed.

Three days after I posted the letter, I received a phone call.

I will never forget that call. His voice was like honey. He was in shock. The conversation started with him saying, ‘But I don’t have a daughter.’ And at the end of the conversation he stated, ‘I have a daughter!’

It was a magical, unforgettable moment.

We arranged to meet, and he brought his wife and their two little boys. It felt surreal. We stood staring at each other for a long time.

Meanwhile, my heart was beating like it was trying to escape.

His wife was the first to speak. All she said, with no doubt in her voice, and a serene smile, was: ‘This is your daughter.’

I cannot tell you how overjoyed I was.

And guess what?

The timing of all of this was perfect!

Firstly, the letter arrived on the last day the postman would deliver to my dad’s street. From the day after, it would be post boxes only. And as no other address had been listed in the directory, if I had mailed my letter even one day later, I can’t say it would have got to him.

Secondly, my dad and his wife had just come through a rough patch. If that letter had arrived any earlier, they weren’t sure their relationship would have been strong enough to handle it.

When my dad explained all this to me, I smiled. God is amazing. He never comes too early or too late.

And the best was yet to come.

No earthly dad is ever going to be perfect, but I can’t imagine a more fabulous human dad than mine. He is amazing. And his wife is so much more than I could ever have hoped for: my best friend, older sister, mother, spiritual counsellor, all rolled into one. She’s beautiful, inside and out, and the relationship I have with them is incredible.

So that’s why I’m so darn ‘happy’ all the time. Because…

I am grateful.

I have been blessed, blessed, blessed by God. And I don’t deserve any of it.

My Heavenly Father, out of no motivation except pure love, looks after me, looks out for me, and brings me back to Him whenever I stray off the path. He is unfathomably compassionate and kind and the most perfect ‘Dad’ ever.

The reason I’ve shared this? I just want you to know: Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done – you are loved by the Creator of the universe. He loves you so much, He sent His only Son, Jesus, a perfect man, to die a horrific, undeserved death – so that you can have a FULL life; life in abundance!

I promise you – no matter what your circumstances are – if you hand the reins of your life over to Jesus, He will turn things around for you. I’m talking:

A night-and-day difference.

No matter what you are going through, what you’ve been through, what’s ahead – you have a sure way to endure it all and to come out the other end stronger than before. Ask me, I know.

Surrendering your life to Jesus Christ is the best decision you will ever make. I’ve never regretted it.

As if that’s not enough, when your short time on earth comes to an end, if Jesus is your Lord & Saviour, you are assured of Eternal Life in Heaven. This is God’s free gift. You just have to take it.

As Paul the apostle says in one of his letters: ‘These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:17, The Message translation of the Bible)

So now you know why I’m so darn ‘happy’ all the time:

I’m a prisoner of hope.

A hope-aholic.

And there’s no reason you can’t be too.

This song pretty much sums it all up.

With Love,

Vx

P.S. If you have trouble thinking of God as a Good, Loving Father, I highly recommend The Shack (movie or book — they’re both amazing). Watch the trailer.

Have you made a decision to follow Jesus? I would love to hear about your journey! Share your story or a part of it in the comments section, below.

If you want to know more, please do get in touch. I’d love to introduce you to my Best Friend.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

‘In ALL things God works for the GOOD of those who love Him.’ Romans 8:28

God’s timing is perfect.

God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

#livinglifetothefullest

‘”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you a hope and a future.”‘ Jeremiah 29:11

God is the only One who will never let you down.

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS can be found on the BLOG PAGE.

 

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

How Much Are You Worth?

How Much Are You Worth?

*Salvator Mundi is the most expensive painting in the world.

Leonardo da Vinci created this work of art (not shown in this article due to copyright laws) sometime between 1490 and 1510. It disappeared from public records for many decades; and by the time it resurfaced, it had suffered so much damage, it was undervalued.

Mistaken for a copy – and at one point, transported in a plastic garbage bag! – this original masterpiece sold at Sotheby’s in 1958 for a mere £45.

The moment its originality was no longer called into question, the painting’s value soared.

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia purchased Salvator Mundi for $450.3 million.

bin bag

How much are YOU worth?

upset

I’m not talking net worth, as in how much you have in your bank accounts or in fixed assets.

I’m talking your true VALUE, in the big scheme of things.

The other day, a friend of mine broke down in tears. Her daughter’s selfishness had hurt her deeply. In that same week, her husband had said unkind things to her. Feeling unloved and unappreciated, she was at an all-time low.

My heart went out to her. She has no idea how amazing she is. This woman is one of the most generous, caring, loving people I know. She finds her worth in the giving of her time, of herself, to her family and her friends. So when her love is not reciprocated in a way she needs it to be, naturally she feels insignificant, devastated . . .

Worthless.

This made me wonder: Hey, how many others are feeling the same way?

Too many women and men are wading through life without realising their true value.

Are you one of them?

DID YOU KNOW . . .

When you allow other people to validate you – to determine your worth – you will always be disappointed.

We human beings all have BUNDLES OF FLAWS and imperfections. Not one of us is perfect. So we will, at some time or other, let people down. And they will, in turn, disappoint us. It’s human nature.

So what’s the answer?

How about . . .

Appreciating who you really are. Understanding your actual worth.

Hear me out.

You – yes, you – are a one-of-a-kind original work of art.

You are worth so much more than that $450.3 million Old Master painting, or any other artwork made by man (or woman).

You are priceless.

Believe it. Because you were created by the Master Creator of Old Masters.

Woah! I hear you say, I don’t believe in God.

OK, then. How about science?

Science has proven that you are unique. Special. Invaluable.

One in a million . . .

Or to be more accurate: you are 1 in 7.9 billion!

There is no one like you on this earth. Never has been; never will be.

Not even if you’re a twin or a septuplet.

9 UNIQUE PHYSICAL TRAITS distinguish you from everyone else.

Your fingerprints are distinctive, as I’m sure you know. But did you know that the chance of two people having the same fingerprint is 1 in 64 billion?

Pretty awesome, considering the earth’s current population is only 7.9 billion.

toe prints

Your toe prints are just as unique.

Your palm print sets you apart.

hand print
iris

Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

Your irises (the coloured rings around the pupil of your eye) have distinctive complex patterns, and not one eye colour is exactly the same as another.

They’re even more unique than your fingerprints!

 

If you read or watch crime novels or series, you’ll already know that you can be identified by your bite.

Your teeth are like no one else’s.

bite mark

Photo by Amr Taha™ on Unsplash

bite mark

 

Your tongue.

Every single person possesses a unique tongue print.

Weird but true.

 

Your kiss has got to be pretty special too, because your lips are a one-of-a-kind pair.

 

Your ears are shaped differently to everyone else’s.

Not even identical twins have the same ears.

 

Finally, your heartbeat.

Yes. Every single person on earth has a completely unique heartbeat.

Pretty symbolic, don’t you think?

You are special: inside and out.

 

It’s plain to see.

Your body was formed with care and love, and incredible attention to detail.

As was every part of your being.

Purpose Driven Life

 

In Rick Warren’s phenomenal bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, he delves even deeper, to show us just how unique we are, outside and in.

You are set apart from others by a unique combination of:

    • Your talents, gifts and abilities

    • Your heart (your passions, desires, interests, hopes and dreams)

 

    • Your personality (introvert/extrovert; sanguine/driver, etc.)

 

    • Your experiences (your family, education, vocation, etc.)

 

All of these traits together make YOU unique — and shape you for a special purpose.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Think of who you are in your entirety, and realise:

You are special.

There will never ever be another you.

You are not a mistake or an accident.

You have a purpose.

There is a reason you are alive.

 

This is important to remember. Because whenever you compare yourself to others, or wait on others for validation or appreciation, you’re forgetting something:

No one else will ever be able to play your role on this earth in this lifetime.

 

Read that again.

 

Once this sinks in, you will begin to get an inkling of just how invaluable, how priceless you are.

Unsplash pic

So, please, whenever you feel unloved, unappreciated, undervalued, unworthy . . .

Look in the mirror and see WHO YOU REALLY ARE:

A rare work of art.

A diamond.

A masterpiece.

Every morning you should remind yourself of these things. You are special. You are so loved.

And if you do believe in God, you’ll know:

You are WORTH DYING FOR.

Don’t take my word for it. Take this guy’s.

(By the way, this can be applied to MEN TOO. wink)

With Love,

Vx

P.S. Can you think of anyone who could benefit from hearing this message? Go on, then: share this blog post with them. Be an encourager. Let them know just how special they are.

 

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

 

*Salvator Mundi (translation: Saviour of the World) depicts Jesus Christ holding the world in His hand. See the painting & read the Guardian article.

More in-depth reading into just how special you are:

Read this AtlasBiomed article.

Sources & Recommended reading:

The Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren (found in all good bookstores & on Amazon)

This Health Digest article.

For more encouragement, follow @jonjorgenson on Instagram.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

Never let anyone mistake you for a copy. You are a one-of-a-kind original work of art. 

Allowing others to determine your worth ensures your disappointment. 

You are one in 7.9 billion!

There will never be another you. Live like you believe it.

You are worth dying for.

Be an encourager. Be kind. Be love.

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this post, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

More uplifting content!

If you subscribe to my monthly news blurb (it’s free, and brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Links to all my PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS can be found on the BLOG PAGE.

 

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

THIS IS WHAT A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE LOOKS LIKE. . .

THIS IS WHAT A PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE LOOKS LIKE. . .

‘I find myself wanting to say something profound, but Haven of Hope makes me speechless! There are no words to describe just how awesome this place, these people and these horses are.’

Haven of Hope team

Haven of Hope Equine Aid Centre in Brackenfell, South Africa, offers horse riding and horse-related activities for children with disabilities, special needs or trauma.

Founding member, Maryke du Boisson, runs the stable of eight equines with the assistance of horse groom, Lamec. A team of extremely devoted volunteers assists with the riding.

equine therapy

Maryke, how did Haven of Hope come about? 

Many years ago I was a student at the University of Stellenbosch and a member of their horse riding club. We once had a group from Huis Horison (a Home for individuals with primary intellectual disability) come for horse riding. I was amazed at the horses’ gentle and accommodating attitude towards our guests (they could be quite a handful at times), and I realised that something very special was happening between our guests and the horses. That’s where my dream began. If I could devote my life to bringing horses and special needs individuals together… 

A dream for which I did not have the resources. 

For many years I was sidetracked by the issues and responsibilities of life, while struggling with God about what His specific call for my life was. I had this dream, this passion, but no money, no horses, and no special training. 

Many times I asked the Lord to take this dream away from me, and for a while it seemed He did, only to bring it back even stronger than before. He confirmed the vision to me through Scripture, people, and even a radio broadcast! 

In 2010 things started coming together. And on 9 February 2011 my friend, Juanita, and I adopted the first two horses from the SPCA and started with one special needs rider. 

boy and horse
HoH horse riding

How they have blossomed through the love of a hoofed friend!

Any memorable moments you’d like to share? 

Right at the beginning, someone in KwaZulu-Natal offered to donate two horses to us. Getting them down to Brackenfell, however, took almost a year. Therefore, in the interim, we adopted two from the SPCA. 

Usually when looking for a horse, their temperament, size, and age would be some of the important things to keep in mind. Yet when I heard about these two gift horses, all I wanted to know was, ‘What are their names?’ What they looked like didn’t matter to me at all! 

I had to wait months for the reply. And when it finally arrived, via email on my birthday… I almost fell off my chair. 

The mare’s name was Thembi and the gelding was called Jabu. I was dumbstruck. God could not have given me greater confirmation that we were doing His will with this project. I knew enough Xhosa to realise that Thembi meant Hope — and Jabu meant Joy or Praise. I then realised why I’d been so adamant to know their names. God is so faithful. Since then, Thandi (Love) and Musa (Mercy/Kindness) have also joined our team. 

Any memorable moments you’d like to share? 

Right at the beginning, someone in KwaZulu-Natal offered to donate two horses to us. Getting them down to Brackenfell, however, took almost a year. Therefore, in the interim, we adopted two from the SPCA. 

Usually when looking for a horse, their temperament, size, and age would be some of the important things to keep in mind. Yet when I heard about these two gift horses, all I wanted to know was, ‘What are their names?’ What they looked like didn’t matter to me at all! 

I had to wait months for the reply. And when it finally arrived, via email on my birthday… I almost fell off my chair. 

The mare’s name was Thembi and the gelding was called Jabu. I was dumbstruck. God could not have given me greater confirmation that we were doing His will with this project. I knew enough Xhosa to realise that Thembi meant Hope — and Jabu meant Joy or Praise. I then realised why I’d been so adamant to know their names. God is so faithful. Since then, Thandi (Love) and Musa (Mercy/Kindness) have also joined our team. 

HoH horse riding

How they have blossomed through the love of a hoofed friend!

Tell us about a few of the children for whom HoH has made a difference. 

J, an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and blindness, has been riding with us for the past four years. For months he cried every time he was on a horse. The farm sounds, our voices, and the movement of the horses were new and terrifying to him. Hats off to his dad who persisted, continuing to bring him every Saturday. Today J loves horse riding! His laughter while on horseback is so contagious, one cannot help but laugh with him for joy. 

E, an eight-year-old girl with physical disabilities as well as heart failure, is passionate about horses and aspires to assist me in caring for them in the future. Her smile — her joy and passion for life — is so humbling. 

Some of the foster kids who have come to us have at first been fearful, angry, unsure… How they have blossomed through the love and care of a hoofed friend! 

horses bring joy
equine peace

When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all you need.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to make a big difference? 

Don’t try to do it alone. There were so many aspects of starting up and registering as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and public-benefit organisation (PBO) that we did not have a clue. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is good to have a team around you for insight and support.

And remember, when God calls you for something specific, He is the one who qualifies you — not the standards or expectations of this world. 

 

Did you require any specific education for this role? 

Although my passion for, and years of involvement with, horses is definitely an advantage, I am not a therapist; therefore we only offer informal riding and socialisation with the horses in a safe environment on the farm. Our riders benefit from the interaction with horses as well as the riding.

What advice would you give to those who aspire to make a big difference? 

Don’t try to do it alone. There were so many aspects of starting up and registering as a non-profit organisation (NPO) and public-benefit organisation (PBO) that we did not have a clue. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. It is good to have a team around you for insight and support.

And remember, when God calls you for something specific, He is the one who qualifies you — not the standards or expectations of this world. 

 

Did you require any specific education for this role? 

Although my passion for, and years of involvement with, horses is definitely an advantage, I am not a therapist; therefore we only offer informal riding and socialisation with the horses in a safe environment on the farm. Our riders benefit from the interaction with horses as well as the riding.

equine peace

When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all you need.

What was your steepest learning curve? 

Trusting God for finances. This is still an issue sometimes. Also: trusting Him to send us the right horses for our needs.

In the beginning, Juanita and I selected horses we thought would be suitable for special needs riders. (God had to work quite a bit on our pride as we liked the good-looking, flashy ones.) None of those worked out, and they had to be rehomed. But those horses that were donated to us, the ones we thought would never work, were exactly the ones God had chosen and sent. 

 

Any nuggets of wisdom for people struggling with trusting God? 

For anyone who confesses Jesus as their Saviour, as we do, God is their/our Heavenly Father. He supplies all our needs. So it is mostly a daily confession of a lack of faith; and laying everything at His feet again. 

Don’t look to people and what they can offer; people will come and go in your life. When God has called you for a purpose, He will provide all that you need. Trusting that Haven of Hope is His, we know He knows our needs, and we recognise that He often supplies in different ways than expected.

equine care
feeding time

Where does the financial support come from? 

We rely completely on donations. We do not break even every month; often the volunteers or board members (of which I am one) need to chip in to keep us afloat. 

 

How did COVID-19 affect Haven of Hope? 

Unfortunately we lost some of our regular sponsors who could no longer contribute. But since we do not charge for our services (we only ask for donations), we were not dependent on rider income during the pandemic. The horses missed the interaction with the children, however, and of course the apples and carrots!

Where does the financial support come from? 

We rely completely on donations. We do not break even every month; often the volunteers or board members (of which I am one) need to chip in to keep us afloat. 

 

How did COVID-19 affect Haven of Hope? 

Unfortunately we lost some of our regular sponsors who could no longer contribute. But since we do not charge for our services (we only ask for donations), we were not dependent on rider income during the pandemic. The horses missed the interaction with the children, however, and of course the apples and carrots!

feeding time

Who are Haven of Hope’s greatest supporters? 

Afreshventure Durbanville provides us with eight bags of drought feed every month; Indwe Risk Services sponsors 50% of our public indemnity & liability insurance premium; our church makes a small monthly financial contribution; and parents and volunteers often assist with building or fixing paddocks, shelters or any work that has to be done. 

Pre-COVID we organised workdays where people could sign up for a variety of tasks that needed to be done such as fixing paddocks, tack cleaning, building projects, etc. We would all pitch in and do the work, and then braai (BBQ) together. By the end of the day we’d be bushed, but joyful for all that had been done. I love the Haven of Hope family and miss our workdays. 

breast cancer awareness
horse riding

How can the public help? 

We are always grateful for donations of, or funding for, horse feed (oat hay, teff and lucerne). And always looking for volunteers who can assist regularly with riding, feeding the horses, and, every second weekend when the groom is off duty, cleaning of paddocks.

We need businesses to get involved as well. (All financial donations are tax deductible as we are registered with SARS as a Section 18A organisation.)

 

Maryke, you are such an inspiration: a true example of a purpose-driven life. May God mightily bless you & Haven of Hope!

 

READERS: If you’d like to know more, or if you want to support Haven of Hope, pop onto their FACEBOOK page.

How can the public help? 

We are always grateful for donations of, or funding for, horse feed (oat hay, teff and lucerne). And always looking for volunteers who can assist regularly with riding, feeding the horses, and, every second weekend when the groom is off duty, cleaning of paddocks.

We need businesses to get involved as well. (All financial donations are tax deductible as we are registered with SARS as a Section 18A organisation.)

 

Maryke, you are such an inspiration: a true example of a purpose-driven life. May God mightily bless you & Haven of Hope!

 

READERS: If you’d like to know more, or if you want to support Haven of Hope, pop onto their FACEBOOK page.

horse riding

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT. 

WHEN GOD CALLS YOU, HE QUALIFIES YOU. 

PURSUE YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR HEART. 

GO FOR IT & NEVER GIVE UP! 

WHEN GOD HAS CALLED YOU FOR A PURPOSE, HE WILL PROVIDE ALL YOU NEED. 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT TIME on The Hopeaholic blog: 

That’s it for February. I’m taking a week off to ensure our house move goes smoothly. And then, from March 2022, I will only be publishing one blog post per month, as I’ve made the decision to focus on my novels and screenplays. Until then, take care of yourself & each other.  

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

HOMELESSNESS: IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

HOMELESSNESS: IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE

My life has changed. I’m still a regular at Sanctuary — only this time as a helper. All thanks to the volunteers who care about the homeless.’ — John, former Sanctuary ‘guest’

Sanctuary Reception

Gravesham Sanctuary, a charity supported by Churches Together in Gravesham, UK, provides a free overnight shelter from October to April for the local homeless community. Their service includes: a safe place to sleep during the winter months, hot food and refreshments, showers, clothing and laundry, and help in getting paperwork ID.

But that’s not all. They also signpost rough sleepers to agencies and local groups who can assist with long-term accommodation, employment, physical and mental health, repatriation to their home country, and help them make the most of their life as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian organisation, they believe that one experiences fullness in life when entering a personal relationship with God. However, they do not ‘Bible punch’, and they welcome anyone of any race or belief.

Sanctuary’s Project Manager Stephen Nolan says: ‘It is through our actions and love for mankind that we demonstrate the lifestyle we hope others will adopt.’

Shelter Entrance

Much of our Learning has been in the Doing

Steve, why, how & when did Gravesham Sanctuary start up?

Sanctuary started in December 2015. It wasn’t my idea. At the age of sixty, after thirty years in the police service and a further eight in local government, I was looking to retire. 

At the time I was involved in a church that had an outreach to the community, and part of that was finding the homeless on the streets. In supporting this initiative we found people sleeping in doorways, in tents, behind bins… 

Our then pastor suggested we attend a meeting in Dartford for a winter shelter starting their third year. Initially I said, ‘No way’. I had no intention of getting involved. Besides, I had another meeting to attend that night. 

Well, it seems God had other ideas. My meeting was cancelled at the last minute, so I ended up going to Dartford with my wife, Lorna. We listened to the views of volunteers and all the churches involved, and we thought: How hard can it be? 

If only we had known… 

Gravesham Sanctuary was born five weeks later.

Did you require any specific education for this role? Or did your former job give you the insight and skills needed?

Undoubtedly my former training as a police officer, dealing with all manner of incidents and problems requiring, sometimes, fast thinking and understanding, combined with Christian compassion, helped me to adapt to the skills required to oversee the shelter. 

To be honest, much of our learning has been in the doing over the years we have been involved in this project. We never call ourselves experts, but in the doing we have learnt an incredible amount about the plight of homeless people.

fellowship over a meal
fellowship over a meal

Did you require any specific education for this role? Or did your former job give you the insight and skills needed?

Undoubtedly my former training as a police officer, dealing with all manner of incidents and problems requiring, sometimes, fast thinking and understanding, combined with Christian compassion, helped me to adapt to the skills required to oversee the shelter. 

To be honest, much of our learning has been in the doing over the years we have been involved in this project. We never call ourselves experts, but in the doing we have learnt an incredible amount about the plight of homeless people.

Being Homeless Is Stressful and Unsafe

Trivial Pursuit

Any highlights you’d like to share?

There are quite a few. We took in a schizophrenic man once. His dog was his whole life, which changed our perception of how important personal belongings are. We smuggled the dog in so they could sleep under a blanket together. Not something we’d normally do, but God created not only man but our pets too. 

Our faith plays an important role in how we help and support those in need. We offer prayer, and we’ll reconnect family members if required. We find that, with gentle persuasion, guests usually request contact with their parents, just to inform them they are safe and well. One of my memorable moments was seeing someone from a different faith trying to persuade her eighteen-year-old son, who was in our shelter, to come home. He did not want to, and she was so upset, and problems like these cross faith boundaries; so my wife consoled and hugged this lady as she battled with the love and despair she felt for her son. The good news is: he returned home a week later. 

Working at Sanctuary, we can become ultra-tired: early morning and night shifts can be a killer; plus the forty to fifty hours a week tend to take their toll. What makes this enjoyable is the laughter when a chess game, or a giant jigsaw, is finished; the transformation when someone is clothed and clean and happy, and content to be called by their given name. When a guest weeps at being reconnected with a family member, or at being able to return to their country of origin… It makes the role worthwhile. 

Many of our guests are vulnerable and struggle with their mental health — being homeless is stressful and unsafe. We love it when change occurs and we see the weary person laugh. Being clean and well-fed, and knowing they are cared for by people who have their genuine interest at heart, makes a huge difference.

Can you tell us about a few of the Sanctuary Guests whose lives have been transformed?

There are so many. One woman immediately comes to mind. We’ll call her ‘A’. A spent four years on the street and lost her child as she was considered an unfit mother, so she resorted to drug use. She ended up alone in London with no one to call upon… Today, A is a completely different woman. After spending time at Sanctuary, she started selling The Big Issue magazine at a regular pitch, and saved her money. And now she has a council flat, which she’s furnished, and she responsibly manages her rent payments. She not only has a job, she also provides support for others as a volunteer. Best of all, she’s in touch with her now grown-up son. 

Then there’s an older ex-veteran who used to be our guest. He now resides in a council flat with supportive living access; he cooks and manages his life; and he’s joined SAFFA and a local ex-veteran group from his old regiment.

news article
news article

Can you tell us about a few of the Sanctuary Guests whose lives have been transformed?

There are so many. One woman immediately comes to mind. We’ll call her ‘A’. A spent four years on the street and lost her child as she was considered an unfit mother, so she resorted to drug use. She ended up alone in London with no one to call upon… Today, A is a completely different woman. After spending time at Sanctuary, she started selling The Big Issue magazine at a regular pitch, and saved her money. And now she has a council flat, which she’s furnished, and she responsibly manages her rent payments. She not only has a job, she also provides support for others as a volunteer. Best of all, she’s in touch with her now grown-up son. 

Then there’s an older ex-veteran who used to be our guest. He now resides in a council flat with supportive living access; he cooks and manages his life; and he’s joined SAFFA and a local ex-veteran group from his old regiment.

tattooed hands
airbeds

Do you have any advice for others who aspire to make a difference?

Be Bold. God works when you least expect it. For example, the moment we knew Sanctuary was going ahead, we put out a call for volunteers. Initially it was just to run an overnight shelter with evening meals, three nights a week. In faith we laid out 60 chairs… And what happened? 180 people turned up! 

The best advice I can give is: just learn from our experience. My wife and I had been looking forward to a gentle retirement… but God had an opportunity in mind! We were willing and able, and we learnt a huge amount about homelessness by doing what we set out to do: seeking the lost, feeding the hungry, offering shelter and, above all, supporting those who want change

We are realistic and have Hope at the forefront of our mission. We are there in times of crisis, in the good and bad moments, and we never give up — something other charities and statutory agencies may have to do, due to lack of finances or time. 

We listened to others, travelled around to find information, sought advice from those who had set other shelters up, and joined Homeless Link and Housing Justice (a Christian-led charity for the homeless). 

The Bible says: ‘Share your food with the hungry and give shelter to the homeless; give clothes to those who need them.’ (Isaiah 58:7) Jesus reminded us of this in the book of Matthew. The way we see it: if Jesus says to do this, then so should we.

What was your steepest learning curve?

Being able to understand with compassion the stories we heard from our homeless guests. Until we encountered people sleeping rough: living in bushes, under tarpaulins and in encampments, we had no idea of the prejudice and safety issues they struggle with daily. We learnt very quickly, sometimes after having crawled through bushes to reach them, that homelessness is hidden away

One of the testimonies we heard in the early days from a guy who had been homeless was: ‘Most people as they grow up have hopes and aspirations in life: a family, a home, nice clothes, car, holidays… The list goes on. But if you’re homeless and on the streets, you have none of these. The only thought you have is: How do I survive the next two hours on the street… and the next two after that? And so it goes on.’  

Is it any wonder that some (not all) turn to drink and/or drugs? Wrong choice, of course, but you can well understand why. We have heard some heartbreaking stories over the years. There but for the grace of God go I.

eating area
eating area

What was your steepest learning curve?

Being able to understand with compassion the stories we heard from our homeless guests. Until we encountered people sleeping rough: living in bushes, under tarpaulins and in encampments, we had no idea of the prejudice and safety issues they struggle with daily. We learnt very quickly, sometimes after having crawled through bushes to reach them, that homelessness is hidden away

One of the testimonies we heard in the early days from a guy who had been homeless was: ‘Most people as they grow up have hopes and aspirations in life: a family, a home, nice clothes, car, holidays… The list goes on. But if you’re homeless and on the streets, you have none of these. The only thought you have is: How do I survive the next two hours on the street… and the next two after that? And so it goes on.’  

Is it any wonder that some (not all) turn to drink and/or drugs? Wrong choice, of course, but you can well understand why. We have heard some heartbreaking stories over the years. There but for the grace of God go I.

colouring in

What would you like to say to people struggling with compassion for the homeless?

We think our main role as ambassadors for the homeless is myth busting and breaking taboos. Homelessness can happen to anyone. Having to sleep on the street can occur at any time in someone’s life — and can have devastating consequences.

Where does the financial support come from?

Running the shelter is costly, so we rely on public donations throughout the year. We are constantly amazed by, and always grateful for, people’s generosity: a jar of sweets from a family, a Christmas dinner from a major retailer, ten quid from a pensioner, good-quality clothing from a school, sugar and teabags from a local shop… As the advert says: ‘Every little helps’ — and we make use of every bit we get. 

New underwear and toiletries are essentials for our guests who, after a hot shower, need fresh clothing. We see ‘little’ donations as a blessing and the bigger ones as the providence of God. 

We are supported locally by several schools, churches, Rotary Clubs, Women’s Institutes, small businesses and the community. And when the pandemic started, the government stepped up with a donation through Housing Justice, which saw us through the last two years.

storage room
storage room

Where does the financial support come from?

Running the shelter is costly, so we rely on public donations throughout the year. We are constantly amazed by, and always grateful for, people’s generosity: a jar of sweets from a family, a Christmas dinner from a major retailer, ten quid from a pensioner, good-quality clothing from a school, sugar and teabags from a local shop… As the advert says: ‘Every little helps’ — and we make use of every bit we get. 

New underwear and toiletries are essentials for our guests who, after a hot shower, need fresh clothing. We see ‘little’ donations as a blessing and the bigger ones as the providence of God. 

We are supported locally by several schools, churches, Rotary Clubs, Women’s Institutes, small businesses and the community. And when the pandemic started, the government stepped up with a donation through Housing Justice, which saw us through the last two years.

Dominoes

How can the public help?

Besides funding, which is always a constant challenge for us, we would be grateful for more volunteers. Many of our volunteers are members of the public — you and me. 

We can all help in so many ways: cooking a meal; playing board games; just listening to our guests, and treating them with respect, can improve the lives of those sleeping rough. We can be their support and their encourager.

Steve, thank you so much for giving this interview. You and Lorna are pillars of the community. May God continue to bless your endeavours!

 

Gravesham Sanctuary is a registered charity (no. 1181817 in England & Wales). If you’re local or nearby, why not look them up and see how you can help? Having volunteered there with my husband, I can categorically state that you feel completely uplifted after a shift at Sanctuary! Making a difference in people’s lives is what it’s all about, right?

Connect with Gravesham Sanctuary on Facebook, or Instagram, or on their website.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK.

BE BOLD. TAKE ACTION NOW.

WHAT IS LOVE? FEEDING THE HUNGRY. SHELTERING THE HOMELESS. CLOTHING THE NEEDY.

HOMELESSNESS IS HIDDEN AWAY. LET’S DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS!

HOMELESSNESS CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE. THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD GO I.

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog: 

Want to see what a PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE looks like? Don’t miss next week’s interview! 

Inspiration. Hope. Joy. You’ll find it all here. 

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

LIFE-SAVING ‘A-LISTER’ MOVIE NEEDS YOU!

LIFE-SAVING ‘A-LISTER’ MOVIE NEEDS YOU!

‘A-list’ actors are breathlessly awaiting confirmation of funding for My Good Side, a feature film produced by an independent production company of the same name. Its goal? TO SAVE LIVES.

My Good Side is about a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who must find the daughter she gave up for adoption before her time runs out.

Although fictional, the movie raises awareness of the reality of breast cancer, emphasising the life-saving importance of early detection and diagnosis.

With a £1 million crowdfunding target, filming is planned to take place in and around St Albans, Hertfordshire in April/May 2022. My Good Side will be shown online initially, in October 2022, followed by screenings at independent cinemas, with the premiere at BAFTA.

Action Time

Sharon Axcell, a former rocket scientist (yes, really!) and project manager, and now the producer of My Good Side, took time out of her hectic schedule to give this interview.

She says: ‘The crowdfunding route is a great way of raising awareness of the film’s underlying message. We’ve already had some fantastic pledges from supporters, which gives them access to an array of benefits including director’s screenings. They can even pay to appear in the movie. But we have a long way to go until we hit our target — early support is essential!’

 

So many are discovering this disease too late. Let’s support this worthy cause. Let’s make a difference and raise awareness on all levels.

You’ve got 11 days…

The KICKSTARTER campaign ends on 15 February at 8 p.m.

 

My Good Side fundraiser

Sharon, tell us where it all began.

Reaching my forties, breast cancer suddenly seemed very prevalent, with so many of my friends, and friends of friends, being diagnosed. Yet I still forget to check for cysts, lumps… All the things we’re supposed to do to ensure we’re not falling foul of the disease.

In 2018, with the devastating news of yet another friend’s diagnosis — and then another’s death in 2019 — I suddenly felt helpless.

There are so many things we take for granted, such as power, preservatives, convenience foods that potentially have an impact on the prevalence of this disease and others. I suspect we, the human race, are becoming more susceptible. And we don’t even know it. We must become more aware. We must take action by checking our health regularly.

I originally wrote My Good Side in order to portray this message in a way that was non-clinical and informational, but designed to be engaging, to touch people’s hearts and minds. People tend to take more action when they feel compelled to do something — make a difference — rather than just follow a rationalised instruction.

breast scan

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Writers and Producers

How did My Good Side progress from there? 

The project was then developed by a team of us, all of whom attended a screenwriters’ ‘boot camp’ in 2018. We discovered that 90% of the attendees were affected either directly or indirectly by breast cancer. The day after the course ended, one of our team revealed she had also been diagnosed with the disease. In her words, ‘You couldn’t make this up!’

This encouraged us to make the film and reach as many people as possible. Through the power of screen drama, we’re aiming to encourage women (and men) to self-examine and get screened regularly — all of which will increase the likelihood of those affected surviving breast cancer. With 1 in 8 women diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime, and 11,500 people dying of breast cancer every year, this film is intended to have a huge impact and reach a large audience, with the aim of compelling viewers to take prompt action.

Now I know you studied aerospace engineering before moving over to project management… When did you embark on your filmmaking journey?

In 2005 I attended an ‘Unleash the Power Within (UPW)’ self-development workshop with Tony Robbins that kick-started the thought process around ‘What do I really want to do with my life?’ The answer came to me: I wanted to be a writer–director!

Following that, I quit my job and went to L.A. to train for a year with the best. What a ride! But the economic crash in 2008 forced the industry to go ‘on hold’; and so, to ensure survival, I reverted to my original training of Project Management.

Since then I’ve been slowly returning to the film industry, finding it challenging to gain a real foothold, as so many in our industry do. I focused on screenwriting while my family was young, and now I’m moving back into directing with two feature films on the cards to shoot this year.

DoP
DoP

Now I know you studied aerospace engineering before moving over to project management… When did you embark on your filmmaking journey?

In 2005 I attended an ‘Unleash the Power Within (UPW)’ self-development workshop with Tony Robbins that kick-started the thought process around ‘What do I really want to do with my life?’ The answer came to me: I wanted to be a writer–director!

Following that, I quit my job and went to L.A. to train for a year with the best. What a ride! But the economic crash in 2008 forced the industry to go ‘on hold’; and so, to ensure survival, I reverted to my original training of Project Management.

Since then I’ve been slowly returning to the film industry, finding it challenging to gain a real foothold, as so many in our industry do. I focused on screenwriting while my family was young, and now I’m moving back into directing with two feature films on the cards to shoot this year.

camerawork

How did COVID-19 affect the movie’s pre-production timeline?

We actually launched our original crowdfunding campaign in 2020. Two days later, the first UK lockdown was issued.

We decided to pull the campaign at that time and I ended up working for the NHS, recruiting nurses and other health workers from other industries to help on the frontline. So the movie had to take a back seat for a while. 

The pandemic essentially delayed the movie for two years. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! It gave us a chance to revisit the script — again. And now it’s even better than before. In addition, the experience gained through the second film I’m directing has been employed on My Good Side, and we’re much further ahead than we were last time.

Do any highlights come to mind?

My biggest highlight is working with my writing team. I devised a way in which we could all continue learning while on the job, with me in the lead and the others following a structured rewriting process I devised. It was entertaining and fun — certainly the best and most fun part of the process to date. 

When we filmed the promo video, just before the first lockdown, it was so nice to be together, working towards something as a team. The socially distant working hasn’t changed that, although we are an international group. But we’ve been sharing each others’ highs and lows throughout the process. It’s a great team!

teamwork
teamwork

Do any highlights come to mind?

My biggest highlight is working with my writing team. I devised a way in which we could all continue learning while on the job, with me in the lead and the others following a structured rewriting process I devised. It was entertaining and fun — certainly the best and most fun part of the process to date. 

When we filmed the promo video, just before the first lockdown, it was so nice to be together, working towards something as a team. The socially distant working hasn’t changed that, although we are an international group. But we’ve been sharing each others’ highs and lows throughout the process. It’s a great team!

diagnosis

Any lightbulb moments during the writing of the screenplay?

The main lightbulb moment came from honing in on what we were trying to say. The movie could easily expand to a TV series with all the character development we did and the storylines that evolved from the core story. But we needed to make sure we were getting our core points across.

The scariest moment came immediately after our first meeting, when one of our team revealed she had just been diagnosed with the disease. That was the moment we knew we had to make this movie.

 

What’s been your biggest disappointment so far?  

The delay in people donating to the Kickstarter campaign. People verbally promise they’ll support us, but inevitably wait until later in the campaign. Whereas an earlier contribution would help us no end.

Best nugget of advice you’ve been given?

That’s a tricky one, because the best advice may also turn out to be the worst!

The advice was: Just start. And it made such a difference. Starting enabled conversations which then brought people on board with the project, even without a guarantee of it getting off the ground successfully. Or the promise of payment (immediately, at least).

Where it might turn out to be the ‘worst’ advice is where the plan we devised for fundraising may not be enough. Even with the thousands we expect to reach, there are still so many things that have to go our way, including the timing, the level of interest from the public, and the competition with other news going on. But we still feel good about doing, making progress. And with the universe at our backs, who knows what can happen? It’s amazing who steps up to help out!

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Get clear on your story. Enlist the help of a professional screenwriter. It won’t go anywhere without it, because that’s the thing that makes the project. (But then I would say that — I’m a screenwriter!)

Use the Nudge Method

breast cancer awareness
breast cancer awareness

Best nugget of advice you’ve been given?

That’s a tricky one, because the best advice may also turn out to be the worst!

The advice was: Just start. And it made such a difference. Starting enabled conversations which then brought people on board with the project, even without a guarantee of it getting off the ground successfully. Or the promise of payment (immediately, at least).

Where it might turn out to be the ‘worst’ advice is where the plan we devised for fundraising may not be enough. Even with the thousands we expect to reach, there are still so many things that have to go our way, including the timing, the level of interest from the public, and the competition with other news going on. But we still feel good about doing, making progress. And with the universe at our backs, who knows what can happen? It’s amazing who steps up to help out!

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

Get clear on your story. Enlist the help of a professional screenwriter. It won’t go anywhere without it, because that’s the thing that makes the project. (But then I would say that — I’m a screenwriter!)

Use the Nudge Method

women unite

What would you have done differently?

Used the seed funding we managed to obtain in a different way: we would have purchased a quality PR/marketing service to help with the fundraising; got the professionals to help out. But we can still do this again. We’re learning from our mistakes, and we may achieve our fundraising goals yet! 

What was your steepest learning curve?

Fundraising — as a producer. It’s interesting…. I’ve been working as a project manager for 25+ years. Hence I can deliver (produce) projects easily. And I can write and direct. But enticing people to invest is a totally different talent. I still have so much to learn. And with the industry changing so quickly, inevitably it feels like two steps forward, one step back. 

Keep on keeping on’ is so important. And as film producer Eric Fellner suggests: use the nudge method. (This is where you nudge each project forward just a tiny bit each day until one finally takes.) I find it difficult to work that way: I’m very much a ‘Do it now!’ kinda person. Forage the energy and get it done. So that’s been a challenge, too!

Movie Premiere
Movie Premiere

What was your steepest learning curve?

Fundraising — as a producer. It’s interesting…. I’ve been working as a project manager for 25+ years. Hence I can deliver (produce) projects easily. And I can write and direct. But enticing people to invest is a totally different talent. I still have so much to learn. And with the industry changing so quickly, inevitably it feels like two steps forward, one step back. 

Keep on keeping on’ is so important. And as film producer Eric Fellner suggests: use the nudge method. (This is where you nudge each project forward just a tiny bit each day until one finally takes.) I find it difficult to work that way: I’m very much a ‘Do it now!’ kinda person. Forage the energy and get it done. So that’s been a challenge, too!

typed words

Words of wisdom for anyone struggling with that same aspect? 

When it comes to crowdfunding, don’t start until you already have 60% of your funds verbally committed.

Be clear and strong in your pitch. Why you’re doing it. You will find people who want to get involved. Just keep on keeping on. And do it in volumes, with urgent intent. It makes a difference. 

What are your hopes for My Good Side ?

Our intention is that many thousands of people will see the movie and be motivated to take action in the form of self-checking and screening for breast cancer. This will, in turn, save lives through earlier detection and diagnosis.

What’s interesting is the number of men who are supporting us, keen for their partners to be safe.

cancer check
cancer check

What are your hopes for My Good Side ?

Our intention is that many thousands of people will see the movie and be motivated to take action in the form of self-checking and screening for breast cancer. This will, in turn, save lives through earlier detection and diagnosis.

What’s interesting is the number of men who are supporting us, keen for their partners to be safe.

Call To Action

How does the Kickstarter campaign fit into this plan? 

Kickstarter helps spread the word earlier, as part of our marketing campaign, with its exposure. Each person will effectively pre-purchase a copy of the movie as well as, we hope, talk about their involvement and share on social media. It means that we will achieve our distribution targets a lot quicker and more easily, without large sums of money being given to other distribution companies when it could go to better use.

People and businesses can support the project by donating to the crowdfunding campaign or by sponsoring film production elements such as locations and equipment.

 

Sharon, thank you so much for your time. We wish you & your team all the best with what I believe is an exceptionally worthy cause!

 

READERS: Check out My Good Side — and sign up for regular updates. You can also follow the movie’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.  And if you want to make a difference by supporting their Kickstarter Campaign, better hurry. It ends on 15 February!

For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact Sharon Axcell at:  sharon.axcell@mygoodside.org  or on tel: +44 7808 078395.

 

By the way, I’d love to hear from you: Do you check your breasts regularly? If not, what’s stopping you? Fear? Can’t be bothered? No judgement here. I just really want to know! Add your comments below.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK.

JUST START. THE NUDGE METHOD WILL GET YOU THERE.

CHECK YOUR BREASTS! IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE.

KEEP ON KEEPING ON.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRY & TRIUMPH… IS JUST A LITTLE UMPH!

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the people, businesses or charities on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A life-changing Sanctuary for the Homeless…

Inspiration. Motivation. Hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

SICK & TIRED? LOST YOUR MOJO? WE’VE GOT JUST THE TONIC!

SICK & TIRED? LOST YOUR MOJO? WE’VE GOT JUST THE TONIC!

‘You’ll never lift weights again,’ the weathered nurse said matter-of-factly. ‘You might manage a light grocery bag, but…’

‘Not even a lightweight dumbbell?’ Jo’s lower lip trembled. She swallowed back the lump in her throat as the nurse smiled kindly.

‘Depends on if you want to fully recover.’

‘But…’ Jo took in a deep, shaky breath. The stringent smell of hospital disinfectant assaulted her, turning her stomach. She exhaled, focused on keeping the nausea and tears at bay. ‘I’ve trained in the gym since I was a teenager. I’m a personal trainer now!’

‘I’m sorry.’ The nurse nodded, pressed her lips together, and consulted her notes. ‘Now…’ Her eyes returned to her 33-year-old patient. ‘This surgery will hopefully remove the breast cancer. I know you’ve been through a gruelling six months with the chemo. But it was worth it: the lump’s as small as a pea now. So we’re hoping…’

Jo heard nothing more. Her mind was consumed with the sound of her dreams crashing around her like gigantic waves in a storm-tossed sea…

Fast-forward four years. Today, miraculously, Jo of Tojo Fitness is lifting heavier than ever before and is aiming to compete in a bodybuilding competition by the end of this year!

Motivation

In 2018, Jo’s body had been in a menopausal state with severe muscle atrophy. She had a long road ahead of her, but she was willing to take it slowly to avoid any permanent damage to her left breast and arm.

Whilst back in training, Jo’s confidence began to grow again and she felt passionate about helping others who were on the same path. In her words: ‘The show isn’t over until the fat lady sings, and right now I can’t see any fat lady. And she definitely isn’t welcome on my shift!’ 

Jo’s clientele grew quickly, and consisted of those on a similar path as the one she was on, as well as people with medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and M.S. Jo beamed as she stated, ‘It was fantastic to see so many people not taking no for an answer!’

 

Tom & Jo Griffiths are Tojo Fitness: a UK-based holistic health-and-fitness couple who are deeply passionate about equipping everyone to live a long and happy life physically, mentally and spiritually.

They offer a variety of services, including online programming for one’s fitness journey, bespoke meal plans and accountability, 1-2-1 personal training, sports massage, and meditation lessons. And they cater to absolutely everyone: from the super-fit and healthy to those with medical conditions.

post chemotherapy

Jo, Tom, is this something you’ve always felt passionate about? 

Yes! We both began a long-term relationship with health and fitness in our early teens. Even before starting Tojo Fitness we were both extremely involved in the gym and enjoyed a healthy holistic lifestyle. So for us it was a no-brainer to turn this into our livelihood. This is something we live, eat and breathe; it has become a way of life.

 

How did Tojo Fitness come about? 

Jo had been a qualified personal trainer for almost a decade when, in 2017, she discovered she had breast cancer. For some of this journey it was a little touch and go, and we knew that if Jo came out the other side, life wasn’t going to be the same again — it was going to be better!
In 2019 our circumstances changed dramatically. Out of this season of change, Tojo Fitness was birthed. Jo took the leap of faith in July 2019 to start up the business, and Tom joined her shortly thereafter.

We knew we had to live out the passions within us; still, this change was a huge leap of faith — and we’re still enjoying the ride!

 

What’s it like, working together as husband & wife? 

We love working together. Tojo Fitness only works because there is To-Jo (Tom & Jo). We each have different strengths, and we complement each other well.

 

Were your start-up costs affordable? 

Gosh, our start-up costs were hefty! We’d budgeted a certain amount each month towards the set-up costs. And then throughout lockdown, with the gyms being unavailable, we had to invest in our own equipment in order to train clients in the park.

Was your age a hurdle in any way? 

Within the fitness world, we’ve discovered that our experience and ages work in our favour. (Tom is 52; Jo: 38.)

 

How scary was the plunge into self-employment? 

Becoming business owners was a steep learning curve: a life-changing experience. Combine this with relocating (in 2019 we moved to Thanet, leaving our clients behind and having to start all over again) — and the start of COVID… Scary is not the word.

The March 2020 lockdown was one of the most daunting moments for us: it was sink or swim. 

You can do it
You can do it

Was your age a hurdle in any way? 

Within the fitness world, we’ve discovered that our experience and ages work in our favour. (Tom is 52; Jo: 38.)

 

How scary was the plunge into self-employment? 

Becoming business owners was a steep learning curve: a life-changing experience. Combine this with relocating (in 2019 we moved to Thanet, leaving our clients behind and having to start all over again) — and the start of COVID… Scary is not the word.

The March 2020 lockdown was one of the most daunting moments for us: it was sink or swim. 

online training

How challenging was the transition from ’employee’ to ‘Boss’? 

Tom took to it like a duck to water. Jo, not so much. She’d been used to being an employee, so was not used to being her own boss and making her own rules. This took time to get used to, but now she wouldn’t change it for the world. Being self-employed works for us: we love the freedom; we get to decide what appointments to make and when — an incredible feeling!

 

How did COVID-19 affect your business? 

The pandemic had a beneficial effect on our business. Many people wanted to do something positive for their health, and we took our existing clients online. And due to chiropractors and osteopaths being shut, we saw a huge uptake in people with back pain getting the attention they needed by way of flexibility and specific stretching to alleviate the pain. Online was our playground! Our YouTube channel also started to take off.

Where & how do you promote your business? 

We promote our business via Instagram, Facebook and our local gym (War Machines Gym in Ramsgate.) And our existing clients do the selling for us by word of mouth to their friends and family.

 

Any highlights that stick out in your minds? 

We experience regular highlights: when our clients start transforming their body, mind and spirit. We usually begin with clients when they feel at their lowest; it’s such a privilege to see them start to fly and feel that life is for living, not just surviving.

Another highlight for us — and it was a miracle — was how word started to spread and Tojo Fitness began to grow. We trusted the seed in the ground. This didn’t take away the concern as to where our next client was going to come from; but worry doesn’t get us anywhere. We believe you just need to keep sowing the seed of your business, and the fruit will come.

bodybuilding
bodybuilding

Where & how do you promote your business? 

We promote our business via Instagram, Facebook and our local gym (War Machines Gym in Ramsgate.) And our existing clients do the selling for us by word of mouth to their friends and family.

 

Any highlights that stick out in your minds? 

We experience regular highlights: when our clients start transforming their body, mind and spirit. We usually begin with clients when they feel at their lowest; it’s such a privilege to see them start to fly and feel that life is for living, not just surviving.

Another highlight for us — and it was a miracle — was how word started to spread and Tojo Fitness began to grow. We trusted the seed in the ground. This didn’t take away the concern as to where our next client was going to come from; but worry doesn’t get us anywhere. We believe you just need to keep sowing the seed of your business, and the fruit will come.

fitness fiends

We Only Have Good Days!

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running? 

A major aha moment for us was the birth of Zoom. We could take training online! Our business grew more and more online, training clients 1-2-1 via Zoom, than we ever saw on the gym floor. We’d found a niche and this is still a niche to this day. We are extremely thankful for this turning point and continue to try and stay ahead of the game to ensure our ongoing income.

We also realised that qualifying as sports massage therapists would be a natural upsell for us; it certainly has enhanced our business model.

 

What setbacks or disappointments have you experienced? 

Sometimes clients move away, or, for various reasons, are unable to carry on. This is always tough for us on an emotional level. We build relationships with our clients and always find it hard when they are unable to continue. However, we accept that people come and go: this is the way of the seasons of life. 

Who has been your greatest support? 

Our family has been a fantastic support — our cheerleaders — especially pertaining to our online presence. The biggest support we’ve both had is each other.

 

Who inspires you? 

Tom’s greatest motivator and inspiration is the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, for his dedication to the sport of bodybuilding but also as a person. Jo’s biggest inspiration is Dana Lynn Bailey, for her business model, physique, and dedication to the sport of bodybuilding, as well as for her character. Jo lives by one of Dana’s favourite mottos: ‘We only have good days’.

 

Best advice you’ve been given? 

Find your niche. It may look different to everyone else’s — that’s why it’s a niche.

 

Any nuggets of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Allow your dream to become a part of you. If you do this, your dream will start to play itself out, starting from inside you. It will give you the passion, drive and staying power when starting your own business. There may be times you need to find your grit, but stick with it. Live simply, to take the pressure off, and enjoy the ride!

Our life and our business are quite integrated: we live and love what we do. However, there are times when the business can become quite admin heavy, which can be a squeeze to fit in around 1-2-1 clients. Diarising time is key, as is ensuring we stick to those diarised tasks, treating them as important as a business meeting.

Also: be prepared to work extremely hard in the beginning. We knew that times would be tough in the first few months as we built up our client base, so we took our outgoings back to the bare minimum — which at times meant beans on toast. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to build your business!

War Machines

Live Simply and Enjoy The Ride!

War Machines

Live Simply and Enjoy The Ride!

Who has been your greatest support? 

Our family has been a fantastic support — our cheerleaders — especially pertaining to our online presence. The biggest support we’ve both had is each other.

 

Who inspires you? 

Tom’s greatest motivator and inspiration is the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger, for his dedication to the sport of bodybuilding but also as a person. Jo’s biggest inspiration is Dana Lynn Bailey, for her business model, physique, and dedication to the sport of bodybuilding, as well as for her character. Jo lives by one of Dana’s favourite mottos: ‘We only have good days’.

 

Best advice you’ve been given? 

Find your niche. It may look different to everyone else’s — that’s why it’s a niche.

 

Any nuggets of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Allow your dream to become a part of you. If you do this, your dream will start to play itself out, starting from inside you. It will give you the passion, drive and staying power when starting your own business. There may be times you need to find your grit, but stick with it. Live simply, to take the pressure off, and enjoy the ride!

Our life and our business are quite integrated: we live and love what we do. However, there are times when the business can become quite admin heavy, which can be a squeeze to fit in around 1-2-1 clients. Diarising time is key, as is ensuring we stick to those diarised tasks, treating them as important as a business meeting.

Also: be prepared to work extremely hard in the beginning. We knew that times would be tough in the first few months as we built up our client base, so we took our outgoings back to the bare minimum — which at times meant beans on toast. Be prepared to do whatever it takes to build your business!

Dancer pose

What would you have done differently? 

We would’ve researched building an online presence earlier into our business.

 

What was your steepest learning curve? 

Our biggest paradigm shift has been the concept of self-employment: realising that we are our own boss and we now answer only to ourselves. This was one of the hairy-scary moments, but also wonderfully exciting at the same time!

A gigantic learning curve for Tom was having to master coding, so he could build our website. He worked for hours on end, learning and creating, until the finished product was of a standard he was happy with.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those struggling with similar aspects? 

Concentrate on a couple of things at a time; don’t try to do too much, or you’ll spread yourself too thinly. And don’t try to conquer all of your to-do list in one go.

 

What are your future plans? 

We would like to break into the American market with online programming. We also have plans to compete in a bodybuilding show, which will give us a way in to prepping other competitors through their own shows.

 

Sounds like a fabulous plan! I wish you both all the very best in all of your endeavours. You truly are a Power Couple.

Do you have any words of wisdom for those struggling with similar aspects? 

Concentrate on a couple of things at a time; don’t try to do too much, or you’ll spread yourself too thinly. And don’t try to conquer all of your to-do list in one go.

 

What are your future plans? 

We would like to break into the American market with online programming. We also have plans to compete in a bodybuilding show, which will give us a way in to prepping other competitors through their own shows.

 

Sounds like a fabulous plan! I wish you both all the very best in all of your endeavours. You truly are a Power Couple.

READERS! For a chance to win 3 months of online programming plus a meal plan, just do the following 3 things by midnight on 4 February 2022:  (1) FOLLOW Tojo Fitness on Instagram & Facebook; (2) show some love & SHARE this blog post; and  (3) either TAG Tojo Fitness (or Tom/Jo) in your exercise/meditation pics – or COMMENT on the blog post with the tagline: ‘Get your mojo with Tojo’.

 

By the way, I’d love to hear your views: What does ‘spirituality’ mean to you? And what about ‘meditation’? And ‘wholeness’? Add your comments below.

 

Tom & Jo Griffiths are both accredited, qualified level 4 Personal Trainers, as well as low back pain specialists, nutritionists with the Royal Society of Public Health, and level 3 sports masseurs. Their list of additional qualifications includes Pre- and Post-Natal Exercise and Nutrition.

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

NO ONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MY LIFE BUT ME.

WORK YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR BLISS. 

KEEP SOWING THE SEED OF YOUR BUSINESS, AND THE FRUIT WILL COME.

FIND YOUR NICHE. IT MAY LOOK DIFFERENT TO EVERYONE ELSE’S — THAT’S WHY IT’S A NICHE.

LIVE SIMPLY. LOVE MUCH. LAUGH LOTS.

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A Rocket Scientist (yes, really!) turned movie producer who’s on a mission to make a difference in the world of breast cancer.

Inspiration. Motivation. Hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

Want a Healthy Life? Just Follow Your Bliss!

Want a Healthy Life? Just Follow Your Bliss!

Photo by Millo Lin on Unsplash

Four years ago, Chief Financial Officer Alison Stevenson was a tired and overworked 40-year-old who took no time for self-care and had no social life.

Then she discovered Zumba®.

In Alison’s words: ‘Zumba® isn’t just a business for me, it’s a lifeline. A way of life. A celebration of life.’ 

Want to know how you, too, can follow your bliss? Read on & be inspired. 

Corporate look

Ally, how did it all start?

It all started when I began experiencing headaches as a pre-teen. The doctor recommended I take up a hobby, because I ‘worried’ a lot about things that did not concern me as a child. Very quickly, dance became one of my favourite after-school activities, and I got my kicks from clubbing. But although it made me feel good, I didn’t realise the full benefits until I was much older.

What was your lightbulb moment?

The moment I stepped into a Zumba® class, I felt alive. Invigorated! My mind switched off from the constant planning and chatting, which was a refreshing change in my then constantly busy life as a working mum. By the third class I knew I had to be an instructor. I had found my second passion in life, which I hadn’t thought was possible.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

Very affordable, as one only needs to do the initial Zumba® instructor course and have a good portable music system. Hunting for suitable halls to accommodate my class was slightly challenging as I was new in the area, but I had lots of help from the locals and secured two great halls very quickly.

Was your age a hurdle in any way?

All that is in the mind. I’ve seen instructors as young as eighteen and as old as seventy-five. That is the beauty of Zumba®: it is for everyone.

Is your Zumba® business doing so well, you could quit your fulltime job?

Business is great, but I started from scratch and had a lot to learn over time, which has been very exciting at my age. I earn much more than expected from what most people would consider a ‘sideline hustle’ — but I’m only offering classes three times a week in the evenings. My class has been steadily growing, but I have a few more projects on the go, so not quite ready to quit my fulltime job yet. Being a CFO is my first passion after all.

What steps did you take to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was take a break from fulltime work in order to explore other options for my life. I’d just moved from the UK to South Africa, and having discovered this exciting new dance opportunity, I was very fortunate that the timing was right and I could plunge myself fulltime into Zumba®.

It was amazing learning the ropes of running my own business. I began by visiting various gyms offering my services. Meanwhile, I tended to all the necessary start-up administration, advertising and promotional work.

I started with morning classes only as I thought my target market would be stay-at-home mums. After eight months, however, the numbers levelled out to around ten students per class, so I returned to fulltime work and used my free time to figure out a better plan.

It was disappointing when the classes didn’t increase to the level I’d hoped for. But it helped to get my name out there, and allowed me to secure halls and make decisions as to which slots to offer. I also realised I had a lot to learn in terms of instructing. This was one of the reasons I went back to fulltime employment. Now I only offer evening classes to mostly the working mums, and one Saturday morning session.

Ally grins
Ally grins

Is your Zumba® business doing so well, you could quit your fulltime job?

Business is great, but I started from scratch and had a lot to learn over time, which has been very exciting at my age. I earn much more than expected from what most people would consider a ‘sideline hustle’ — but I’m only offering classes three times a week in the evenings. My class has been steadily growing, but I have a few more projects on the go, so not quite ready to quit my fulltime job yet. Being a CFO is my first passion after all.

What steps did you take to get your business up and running?

The first thing I did was take a break from fulltime work in order to explore other options for my life. I’d just moved from the UK to South Africa, and having discovered this exciting new dance opportunity, I was very fortunate that the timing was right and I could plunge myself fulltime into Zumba®.

It was amazing learning the ropes of running my own business. I began by visiting various gyms offering my services. Meanwhile, I tended to all the necessary start-up administration, advertising and promotional work.

I started with morning classes only as I thought my target market would be stay-at-home mums. After eight months, however, the numbers levelled out to around ten students per class, so I returned to fulltime work and used my free time to figure out a better plan.

It was disappointing when the classes didn’t increase to the level I’d hoped for. But it helped to get my name out there, and allowed me to secure halls and make decisions as to which slots to offer. I also realised I had a lot to learn in terms of instructing. This was one of the reasons I went back to fulltime employment. Now I only offer evening classes to mostly the working mums, and one Saturday morning session.

Fit and fab

Who has been your greatest support?

My husband has been my rock. He is now a homemaker, which allows me the freedom to explore different options for my business and enjoy my various passions. He never questioned when I decided to take a break from work and try new things through the Zumba® business. He helps me achieve my goals and is always on hand when I go on various courses. He supports me with regard to the friendships I form too. And now that I have an online offering, he posts my class on the Zumba.dance platform and distributes it to my regular customers every day.

I also had lots of support from my mum and my sister, especially at the start. They came to every single class despite the fact I had no customers, or sometimes only one or two. And Zumba® has been a great support too. They provide their instructors with enormous resources to start our own business. 

How did COVID-19 affect your Zumba® business?

I was very lucky to have my fulltime job as CFO when the pandemic hit, and I could offer online Zoom and pre-recorded classes. Zumba® was incredibly responsive to our plight as instructors during lockdown. They supported us fully by offering various courses, which enabled us to successfully start up online.

My usual evening class had had a regular attendance of around twenty students. This dropped to five or six per Zoom session. However, I was also able to earn money with pre-recorded classes from students all over the world, which opened up a different demographic. 

Learning how to do online and pre-recorded sessions was exciting. It forced me to focus on mastering new skills, which kept my mind off the negative aspects of the pandemic. I used this time to improve as an instructor by taking all the courses Zumba® offered, as well as connecting with Zumba® instructors all over the world. This would not have happened in the past, and I’m grateful that so many positives came out of the pandemic.

Where do you promote your classes? And how important is word of mouth?

I use Facebook (my Zumba® group has a community of more than 500 people), as well as local advertising groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Word of mouth is very important, as someone might bring a friend or cousin or colleague. My class has become a buzz of people having chats before the session starts — a fantastic atmosphere.

Any highlights you’d like to share?

My best moments are when people send me personal messages thanking me for the energy in the class. How my classes helped them through a difficult period, especially during the pandemic. I also love that Zumba® has a lot of social benefits: I’ve made a lot of good friends.

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

Whether you only have a handful of students or a full class is not important. What is important is that you give the best class possible, as the energy you give off during the session is vital in securing future students. So far, four people who attended my class have become Zumba® instructors.

Have you experienced any big disappointments?

Big ones? None. I am in the business of fun after all. No matter if I have one student or thirty, I love to dance and instruct and will continue to do it as long as I’m having fun.

Zumbalicious
Zumbalicious

Where do you promote your classes? And how important is word of mouth?

I use Facebook (my Zumba® group has a community of more than 500 people), as well as local advertising groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.

Word of mouth is very important, as someone might bring a friend or cousin or colleague. My class has become a buzz of people having chats before the session starts — a fantastic atmosphere.

Any highlights you’d like to share?

My best moments are when people send me personal messages thanking me for the energy in the class. How my classes helped them through a difficult period, especially during the pandemic. I also love that Zumba® has a lot of social benefits: I’ve made a lot of good friends.

Any lightbulb moments once your business was up and running?

Whether you only have a handful of students or a full class is not important. What is important is that you give the best class possible, as the energy you give off during the session is vital in securing future students. So far, four people who attended my class have become Zumba® instructors.

Have you experienced any big disappointments?

Big ones? None. I am in the business of fun after all. No matter if I have one student or thirty, I love to dance and instruct and will continue to do it as long as I’m having fun.

I’d lost what makes me ME — and I didn’t even know it.

Ally and students

How has this addition to your work/life affected you?

It has given me a new lease on life. Before Zumba®, I went to work, came back, helped sort the kids with hubby, sorted the house, watched mindless TV, did the shopping, and so on. As a working mum, I didn’t really have a social life with girlfriends or any strong interests outside of work. I’d lost what makes me me — and I didn’t even know it.

Dancing has always been something that’s given me life — but I didn’t connect the dots that I could teach and get such a kick out of getting fit.
Mentally it helps me switch off, like meditation. When I learn a new song, I’m smiling, even laughing, at the antics of presenters who teach us new choreography. And physically, I am fitter now than I was in my twenties. The energy I used to expend in long working hours is now spent making a difference, helping others have fun and get fit. Learning new music is such fun!

I now make time every day for me and my passions (other than work). You know, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that God places hidden talents within us to find. And it doesn’t matter what age you are; people should expect to find different passions at any age. For example, once I started teaching, out of the blue I discovered another passion: writing poetry. A new pathway in my mind has emerged and I am so grateful. 

My plan is to create a life from which I don’t need a holiday.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

My mum. She had her own businesses over many years while raising seven children mostly on her own. She always encouraged me to do the same. (I wanted the security of working for an employer. Now that I have this, I can explore my own business too. I have the best of both worlds.)

What is the best bit of advice you’ve been given so far?

Your energy in delivering your service is key to making your business successful. And a saying that always applies: Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you are right.

Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Believe in yourself. You have a power within you that is greater than the power out in the world. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

What would you have done differently?

Nothing. Each experience brought me to where I find myself today, which is in a much happier place than when Zumba® was not in my life.

What was your steepest learning curve?

Knowing who my target market was. This was quite a learning curve and at first I felt a bit sad that I could not service the ‘morning class’ market — but seeing the numbers increase much faster in my evening classes has made the change worthwhile.

Do you have any advice to pass on to aspiring Zumba® instructors?

As an instructor I’ve learnt to prepare myself in advance for classes, even when I didn’t have any. I practised and practised almost every day for two, sometimes three, hours. I visited live classes and taught a few songs with fellow instructors. I attended many events and, as I practised, I imagined myself in front of a crowd, teaching the class.
I would say the key is to prepare yourself well — as though you are presenting. When opportunity comes, you will be ready. Stay active in your trade and perfect it while you wait for your opportunity.

What are your future plans?

I am very happy with the size of my business; I plan to gradually increase it over time. However, I am currently finalising my poetry book based on A Course in Miracles. This is helping me grow emotionally and spiritually as a person, which I think is very important when offering this type of service.

I plan to publish this poetry book later this year. I also have another Fitness Instructor course scheduled for the end of this month (Strong Nation — HIIT exercise offered by Zumba®). This fitness course is mainly for my personal development and to ensure my body is toned as I age gracefully. I may offer Strong Nation to my students later this year as well, but I haven’t firmed up that decision yet.

Right now, my plan is to create a life from which I don’t need a holiday. My main focus is balance within my family life while offering one or two more classes during the week.

Anything else you want to add?

I am so grateful for the journey that brought me to Zumba®. It’s not just a business for me: it’s a way of life. A philosophy of being in the business of fun.  Sometimes one forgets how far one has come: from someone who was not interested in any fitness other than walking to now being a dance fitness instructor on my way to level up — and at my age! That’s the bit that makes me so happy.

Ally, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. What a Zumbalicious Lioness you are!

 

Alison has been a licensed ZUMBA® dance instructor since April 2018. She currently offers several online pre-recorded one-hour or twenty-minute classes (on demand), available 24/7 on www.zumba.dance. (In the search bar, type: Alison.) She also offers live classes in Monte Vista and Goodwood (Cape Town, South Africa).

To get in touch with Alison, pop onto her Facebook group: ZUMBA® with Ally or contact her on tel: +27 65 918 7258 (South Africa).

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

YOUR ENERGY IN DELIVERING YOUR SERVICE IS KEY TO MAKING YOUR BUSINESS SUCCESSFUL.

DANCE FOR YOUR HEALTH!

WORK YOUR PASSION. FOLLOW YOUR BLISS.

CREATE A LIFE FROM WHICH YOU WON’T WANT A HOLIDAY.

MAKE TIME DAILY FOR YOURSELF.

WANT A HEALTHY LIFE? FOLLOW YOUR BLISS!

WE ALL HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF TALENTS. OUR JOB IS TO FIND THEM.

Just so you know…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people or businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

A Power Couple who just won’t quit! From cancer victim to victor — a walking miracle. Impossible is not in this couple’s dictionary.

Inspiration, motivation, hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

14 INSPIRATIONAL TRUE STORY BITES THAT PROVE EVERYONE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

14 INSPIRATIONAL TRUE STORY BITES THAT PROVE EVERYONE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

I know the last two years have been extremely challenging for most people. Devastating, in a lot of cases. As if life wasn’t challenging enough, in walked COVID.

What amazed me was the resilience of many. To see how different people dealt with financial hardship, mental and physical health issues, and the like, was an eye-opener.

I am a hopeaholic by nature. A cockeyed optimist, sure. Absolutely. Always will be. No matter what happens to me, I am keenly aware that there are countless others who have it much, much worse. It’s all about perspective. Right? But for a lot of people – creatives especially – negativity, depression and, oftentimes, hopelessness, are the norm; and seeing things from a different perspective seems impossible.

I find that when life threatens to get me down – and believe me, I am no stranger to the hypnotic lure of depression – it helps to see the beauty in nature. And the kindness strangers still show each other. The goodness that still remains in this world.

You know what also helps? Being grateful. There’s so much we take for granted… until it’s no longer there.

Every day I wake up and thank God for the air in my lungs – being able to breathe without difficulty. Being able to smell the jasmine and vanilla notes of my favourite perfume, and taste the freshly baked brioche and that occasional Starbucks eggnog latte. The ability to see the burnt orange of sunsets and the myriad stars above me. And hear my cat Tallulah pitter patter into the bedroom on the wooden floor (and then miaow at me – a new sound from her, at thirteen!). I have so much to be grateful for. My husband. Family. Friends. Being able to follow my passions (despite the lack of income from them at present). My faculties (organs, brain, body) all in working order. My health. The lack of worry in my life. Peace in my soul, no matter what…

I’ve volunteered at various places around the world, including: homeless shelters in the UK; a leper camp, a prison and an orphanage in rural India; and centres for troubled youth and disadvantaged families in Africa. As a result, I am keenly aware that so many people don’t have access to even the most basic living requirements: a roof over their head or a warm bed, or fresh, clean running water, or hot showers, or even one solid meal a day; many don’t have the freedom to be who they are or to speak freely; many are denied education or the freedom of religion… I could go on and on.

January on my blog is all about New Year, New You. An Attitude of Gratitude! Perspective. Something we could all do with a change of every once in a while, don’t you think?

I know that countless people are suffering from mental health issues that have seemed insurmountable during this pandemic. The links I’ve included at the end of this post all take you to fabulous sites full of anxiety-free news from around the world. Doesn’t that sound great? Uplifting true stories that are excellent for our mental health.

I thought I’d give you a few samples. Fourteen bites of delight, if you will.

Come with me and enjoy this delicious High Tea of uplifting story appetisers. Just enough to encourage you to keep going. Sustenance, joy and motivation for the week ahead.

 

Ready? OK, let’s dig in.

 

Have you heard about the restaurant owner who used to be a mechanic? In honour of his father, he fixes up used cars and donates them to those in need in his community. Isn’t that wonderful?

And then there’s the veterinarian who regularly searches dark alleyways and underpasses for homeless people – so he can give their pets free medical attention. Knowing that their pet is their ‘home’, he’s helped over 400 animals so far. Mostly dogs, some cats, and one python!

And what about US rapper Logic’s suicide-prevention song ‘1-800-273-8255’? It appears to have made a life-affirming impact. There were 245 fewer suicides during the 34-day period when the song received considerable public attention. Wow, right?

Say what? You’ve not heard about the mystery couple who came from poverty and so they anonymously pay the restaurant bills of people who look like they could do with a helping hand?

And what about this: A sixty-year-old janitor who took three buses then walked two miles to get to and from work every day was given the surprise of his life when his co-workers gave him the keys to a new truck. They’d raised $7,000 by pooling their money and organising an online fundraiser to buy the vehicle. The janitor was so overwhelmed with gratitude, he dropped to his knees and cried as he hugged them.

As far as unsung heroes go, I can’t leave out the more than two dozen volunteers who braved -40 degrees Celsius to travel for seven hours on snowmobiles trailing sleds laden with provisions for a COVID-quarantined indigenous community.

They say animals are therapeutic. I wholeheartedly agree. Take, for example, the service dog provided for an autistic boy who cannot be touched. His mother burst into tears of joy as she watched her challenged son voluntarily lay his head on the animal’s belly, their bond unmistakable.

I must admit, I’m such a sap. I can’t watch these videos or read these stories without bawling. One such story has to do with someone who adopted the oldest, sickest dog in the pound. When they walked into his cage, the old dog didn’t even look at them; he’d given up hope. Then they hugged him and told him he was going home with them, and he looked up at them as if he was seeing an angel. Now he sleeps on their lap, content, his joy complete.

Have you heard of ‘Cleaning for a Reason’? It’s a service in the US and Canada that cleans homes of cancer patients for free, leaving them time to rest and heal. Since 2006 these wonderful cleaners have helped over 40,000 people.

And as far as seemingly ordinary people go, I have to mention the pastor and his wife in India who rescue abandoned babies from dumpsters; and then not only do they raise them in their orphanage but they also educate them and prepare them for life as adults. Talk about making a difference!

I bet you’ve not heard about the policeman and his wife who, although they already had four children, including a ten-month-old, selflessly adopted a homeless woman’s heroin-addicted newborn.

OK, this is another one that got me deep ‘in the feels’. When coffee shop staff and patrons noticed a woman – a stranger to them all – celebrating her birthday all alone, they all left their seats and stations and surrounded her, clapping and celebrating and overwhelming her with love.

See how easy it is to make someone’s day? It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive gesture. Just taking time out of your schedule to spend a moment with someone who is alone can make a huge difference to them.

These stories are proof. Proof that everyday, ordinary people are capable of so much more than we realise. Little acts of kindness, a word of encouragement, a compliment, a helping hand to someone in need. We are all capable of these things, if only we would step outside of our own heads, rise above the challenges that plague us, and take a look around.

Keep an eye out for someone in need. You never know when YOU could be the person making the difference. Saving someone’s life.

 

I’m going to end with two stories about famous people you may have heard of…

 

Nick Vujicic – a man born with no arms or legs – is a huge inspiration. There is nothing this man cannot do. His book is titled Life Without Limits – Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life. Now if a man without limbs can have a ridiculously good life – why can’t everyone? If you’re needing a change of perspective, Nick is just the tonic. From his website: ‘Nick faced tremendous obstacles in life, from living life without limbs to being bullied at school and fearful for his future with no purpose in sight. Without hope, his feelings of helplessness and isolation led him to attempt suicide. Nick persevered through life’s challenges and discovered key principles which enabled him to find his purpose and turn obstacles into opportunities; making him one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world! Millions of people have found hope, purpose and the strength to overcome their challenges through Nick’s inspirational speeches and powerful coaching.’

Pop over to Nick’s site to get weekly inspirational videos.

Have you ever read the book Run Baby Run? Or maybe you’ve seen the movie The Cross and the Switchblade? It’s the true story about notorious ex-New York Gang Leader Nicky Cruz, whose life was changed by an encounter with a meek street-preacher called David Wilkerson. Over time, David disarmed Nicky, using just one weapon: relentless brotherly love. Nicky humiliated him, beat him up and, once, seriously threatened his life. David retaliated by turning the other cheek and coming back for more. Then, one day, Nicky listened to what David had to say. It changed his life. Since then, Nicky has dedicated his life to setting people free. As his website states: ‘Dignitaries and countries looking for solutions to the violence and hopelessness ravaging their communities seek him out.’

You can read Nicky’s incredible story on his site.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for joining me for Inspirational High Tea. I hope you’re uplifted, motivated and energised!

To keep your batteries charged, I highly recommend following some of the sites listed below. Get your daily dose of energy & joy in seconds. (And you could subscribe to my blog too. For your weekly dose of sunshine directly into your inbox!) 

On INSTAGRAM:

@upworthy

@the_happy_broadcast 

@goodnews_movement 

@DelightfulNews

@AllThingsGood

Can’t afford to keep a pet? Pop over to @theDoggoDose for beautiful and cute doggie videos.  (And as soon as you’re ready and can afford a pet, remember: #AdoptDontShop – OK?)

Need a belly laugh? A neat guy called Goodwin makes me laugh out loud every day. He’s the host of ‘Mornings @ Home’ on 106.9 HOME.fm – PD/MD @ 106.9 HOME.fm & 89.3 The Arbor. And his Instagram posts are hilarious & feel-good. You can find him @GoodwinOnTheRadio

 

On TWITTER:

Check out @MarshaWright for uplifting, inspiring, motivational tweets every day. Or just search for the hashtag: #ThinkBIGSundayWithMarsha

 

On FACEBOOK:

Two of my favourite go-to pages are:

Weird, Wonder And Strange

And Good People News

Not on Facebook? Just pop onto the Good People News website.

 

And for those of you who, like me, are Believers (followers of Christ) – or if you’re merely intrigued by the celebrities who profess to have a relationship with Jesus, like Chris Pratt and Mark Wahlberg – the site GodUpdates will surely appeal to you.

There are so many more. Something for everyone, and too many to list here.

Do you have awesome, inspirational, encouraging pages or sites you follow? Or maybe you’ve got a short, inspirational story to share? Comment below and let us know.

(If it’s a long story, I’d love to hear it too. Get in touch with me – pop over to my Contact page – and send me an email.)

Until next week, take care of yourself and be kind to each other.

With Love,

Vx

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

IT’S ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE 

HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS GO A LONG WAY

BE KIND — YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT SOMEONE MIGHT BE GOING THROUGH

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS WHAT LIFE’S ABOUT

ADOPT DON’T SHOP

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward or commission for promoting any of the people/businesses/websites on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this article, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog. . .

Do you have a passion you’d love to turn into a money maker? Take a leaf out of this South African woman’s book: she decided to follow her bliss and hasn’t looked back. 

Inspiration. Motivation. Hope. You’ll find it all here.

If you subscribe to my weekly news blurb (it’s brief, honest!) you’ll be in the know. wink

Did you enjoy my blog? Please Share the Sunshine. 🙂

STEPPING OUTSIDE THE BOX

STEPPING OUTSIDE THE BOX

At age 19, Ru Fitzhenry opened her first dance studio.

At age 45 she lost EVERYTHING.

But a lioness doesn’t go down without a fight.

Inspiration. Motivation. Hope. You’ll find it all here…

SteppingOUT pupils

SteppingOUT Academy of Dance in Wellington, South Africa, is a dance studio specialising in modern, tap, jazz and hip hop, as well as Pilates. Its principal, Ruanda Fitzhenry, is an international choreographer, teacher and dancer extraordinaire.

I met this South African fireball twenty-odd years ago, and I can say with 95% certainty that she is a vampire. That’s the only explanation for the incredible volume of accomplishments in her life (she obviously doesn’t sleep), as well as her ridiculously ageless face. (Jealous? Me? Never!)

Seriously, though, I love this woman. A loyal friend, a beautiful soul, and a fabulous Joy volcano! By the time you’ve finished reading Ru’s story, I bet you will be inspired. I know I am.

 

Ruanda Fitzhenry

Ru, have you always felt passionate about dance?

It’s complicated… I started with ballet classes at age three because I was so severely pigeon-toed, I struggled walking. (Most people are unaware of all the benefits of dance. Besides the obvious pros, e.g. confidence building, it can also fix a number of body problems. Hence anatomy and corrective work being two of the major subjects when studying dance.) So, ja…..it was just something I always did.

It took me closing my studio and stopping dance completely when my son was almost two years old for me to realise it’s actually who I am. It’s my blood, my air… It’s what keeps my soul alive. Needless to say, this ‘break from dance’ didn’t last long.

When did you become an entrepreneur?

When I was nineteen, I moved from Port Elizabeth to the Western Cape to open my own dance studio, and to study dance. I’d heard there was only one dance studio in Stellenbosch, so I decided that would be a good place to open up. Even though I only knew one person in the whole town and nobody knew who I was. Yoh! Nineteen and fearless!

How scary was the plunge into self-employment?

Nineteen and fearless, doll. There was no thought of failure, consequences or even success. I just jumped in and knew I would love it as I got to dance my own choreography. And remember: no drama queen is complete without her stage.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

I’ve been fortunate in that student fees, shows and end-of-year functions have always covered all costs.

Was your age a hurdle?

Only at the beginning, when I first opened. It’s pretty natural for that line of respect to be a little vague when your child’s dance teacher is only nineteen.

What was your lightbulb moment?

No lightbulb… I’m blond (giggle). For all the really big things in my life I just had a brain fart for a few seconds and then immediately set about following it through. Nineteen and fearless.

How long did it take you to fully qualify as a dance teacher?

I am internationally qualified, so I first had to finish all my dance exams, which took ten years, and then I studied for three years.

Boys who Dance

I Am Woman! I Am Queen!

Boys who Dance

I Am Woman! I Am Queen!

How scary was the plunge into self-employment?

Nineteen and fearless, doll. There was no thought of failure, consequences or even success. I just jumped in and knew I would love it as I got to dance my own choreography. And remember: no drama queen is complete without her stage.

Were your start-up costs affordable?

I’ve been fortunate in that student fees, shows and end-of-year functions have always covered all costs.

Was your age a hurdle?

Only at the beginning, when I first opened. It’s pretty natural for that line of respect to be a little vague when your child’s dance teacher is only nineteen.

What was your lightbulb moment?

No lightbulb… I’m blond (giggle). For all the really big things in my life I just had a brain fart for a few seconds and then immediately set about following it through. Nineteen and fearless.

How long did it take you to fully qualify as a dance teacher?

I am internationally qualified, so I first had to finish all my dance exams, which took ten years, and then I studied for three years.

Ruanda

How Do I Find Time? That’s God’s Job.

Having become an entrepreneur at such a young age, were you motivated to start up any other businesses?

Ooooh, doll! I am woman! I am queen! I conquer every brain fart I have with a vengeance. I should probably also mention I’m a hyperactive Gemini. So yes, whilst owning my dance studio I constantly took on new challenges. My ex-husband was a builder and they had this three-ton truck just lying around. So I took that truck and started a rubble removal company. I had four trucks within two months.

I also started my own kiddies clothing range: KangaRU Clothing. And I had a pottery business as well. And then there was the time I met someone who was importing stock from Bali — and the next thing I knew, I had opened a shop. Oh! I’ve just remembered: I had another little business called The Perfect Hostess, where I would stage parties and personally do all the catering.

I did all of this whilst teaching fulltime and studying. Did I mention that I’m a little crazy?

Do you run SteppingOUT alone or do you have help?

My life partner (aka love of my life) runs the business side of things. This is incredibly important as it’s so hard to play bad cop when you’re the one building a relationship with parents and students.

Where & how do you promote your business?

Our website does most of the work (and we’re on Facebook), but word of mouth in our small dorpie (town) spreads like wildfire.

Do you currently run another business alongside your dance academy? And what about your other roles in life? How do you find time to do everything?  

Oh yes. I’ve been staging events and booking gigs for my muso friends since I was twenty. And I’m a mommy and homemaker, life partner, friend, child of God, cook, fur mommy, daughter, sister… and all of my dancers are my ‘kids’ (I’m their other mommy). Also, I’ve always been passionate about my charity work and would stand making pancakes in the middle of town to either raise money for all the street kids or feed them.

How do I find time? That’s God’s job. He never gives me anything I can’t handle. Though I’m pretty sure He spends a lot of His time rolling His eyes at me as I keep Him very busy. Well, the way I see it, He made me like this so now He gets to deal with it, LOL.

Ruanda Dancer
Ruanda Dancer

Do you run SteppingOUT alone or do you have help?

My life partner (aka love of my life) runs the business side of things. This is incredibly important as it’s so hard to play bad cop when you’re the one building a relationship with parents and students.

Where & how do you promote your business?

Our website does most of the work (and we’re on Facebook), but word of mouth in our small dorpie (town) spreads like wildfire.

Do you currently run another business alongside your dance academy? And what about your other roles in life? How do you find time to do everything?  

Oh yes. I’ve been staging events and booking gigs for my muso friends since I was twenty. And I’m a mommy and homemaker, life partner, friend, child of God, cook, fur mommy, daughter, sister… and all of my dancers are my ‘kids’ (I’m their other mommy). Also, I’ve always been passionate about my charity work and would stand making pancakes in the middle of town to either raise money for all the street kids or feed them.

How do I find time? That’s God’s job. He never gives me anything I can’t handle. Though I’m pretty sure He spends a lot of His time rolling His eyes at me as I keep Him very busy. Well, the way I see it, He made me like this so now He gets to deal with it, LOL.

red dress dancer

Tell us about your setbacks — your lowest moments.

I had just moved to Wellington with no intention of opening up my studio again…

Let me go back a few steps. I got divorced, and became a single mommy with a business. Looking back now I can finally see that it was challenging and heartbreaking. At the time I was in overdrive and just did what I had to do, with no thought or acknowledgement of what I was going through.

Around the same time, I snapped both Achilles tendons. Just like that, life changed. I went from an incredible high — from successful business owner, international choreographer, and lecturer at an arts college, qualifying pupils in dance — to the lowest of lows. My business took a huge knock and all my contracts got cancelled. No more international choreography gigs, no more college, and my pupils started dwindling.

I then found myself in an abusive relationship with a narcissistic alcoholic. I could write a whole book about this as you will fall over if you knew how many women go through this. Yes: even strong, independent women like me.

At forty-five, I ended up losing my home, my car, my job… EVERYTHING.

Then I met my deksel (my ‘lid’), my love, and moved to Wellington. And here’s the truth, as strange as it might sound. Opening a new dance studio in Wellington was nowhere in my plans. It all seems like a blur. God did what He does best and He did it all!

You know, doll, throughout my life God has given me a lot of slaps on the wrist — but I would just carry on under my own steam. The way I see it: He needed to allow something radical to happen to me, so He could bring me back to Him and make me start listening! And I will always be grateful for that.

What would you have done differently, if anything?

I would have got help for anxiety and depression instead of dismissing it and packing it away deep inside a cupboard. Because it affects every aspect of your life, including your business.

Who or what gave you the strength to climb out of that valley and overcome the challenges you faced?

The support of an incredible family, child, and friends, as well as Bible study and counselling. And then I started pet sitting and taking doggos for walks. They helped heal my heart and that’s how I met my fur child, Lacey. She literally saved my life.

Who has been your greatest support?

Hands down, my dad and my family, as well as friends who have been in my life for donkey’s years, and my son.

Ru onstage
Ru onstage

What would you have done differently, if anything?

I would have got help for anxiety and depression instead of dismissing it and packing it away deep inside a cupboard. Because it affects every aspect of your life, including your business.

Who or what gave you the strength to climb out of that valley and overcome the challenges you faced?

The support of an incredible family, child, and friends, as well as Bible study and counselling. And then I started pet sitting and taking doggos for walks. They helped heal my heart and that’s how I met my fur child, Lacey. She literally saved my life.

Who has been your greatest support?

Hands down, my dad and my family, as well as friends who have been in my life for donkey’s years, and my son.

Not Quite Burlesque

How did COVID-19 affect your business, and what did you do to adapt?

COVID forced us to think outside the box. Get closer to the people and things that matter. Be creative. And it gave us a klap (smack) against the head to wake up to all the blessings we were taking for granted.

My new dance studio in Wellington was only open for one month when lockdown happened. And ja, God took care of us right through! I started teaching classes online, and some pupils still paid their fees during lockdown, enabling us to keep up with our rent payments.

And where are we now? Growing constantly, and already practically at full capacity and needing bigger premises. We are now also in the process of opening our drama, singing and music division.

Tell us about your career highlights.

Yoh doll, I’m getting on now; I have a lifetime of highlights. But if I had to pick just one, I think co-choreographing the Opening Ceremony of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana was definitely a memorable moment. Working with a cast of 4,700 was certainly a new experience.

Besides that, I would have to include absolutely every time I got the opportunity to perform on stage with my dancers: from the Artscape Theatre to The Baxter (both well-known, high-profile theatres in Cape Town), and every venue in between. I loved every single moment! And I got to share the stage with my son. Huge highlight!

Who is your greatest inspiration?

Ooooh, doll! If you’re going to get me going on Bob Fosse and my two dance teachers, Ellen Bunting and Brigitte Reeve Taylor, then you must know it’s going to be a long night! Let’s just say they made me the dancer, teacher and choreographer I am.

Not Burlesque

You Cannot Keep Everybody Happy.

Not Burlesque

You Cannot Keep Everybody Happy.

Tell us about your career highlights.

Yoh doll, I’m getting on now; I have a lifetime of highlights. But if I had to pick just one, I think co-choreographing the Opening Ceremony of the African Cup of Nations in Ghana was definitely a memorable moment. Working with a cast of 4,700 was certainly a new experience.

Besides that, I would have to include absolutely every time I got the opportunity to perform on stage with my dancers: from the Artscape Theatre to The Baxter (both well-known, high-profile theatres in Cape Town), and every venue in between. I loved every single moment! And I got to share the stage with my son. Huge highlight!

Who is your greatest inspiration?

Ooooh, doll! If you’re going to get me going on Bob Fosse and my two dance teachers, Ellen Bunting and Brigitte Reeve Taylor, then you must know it’s going to be a long night! Let’s just say they made me the dancer, teacher and choreographer I am.

Dancer pose

Best nugget of advice you’ve been given?

Let go and let God!

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do what YOU want to do! Know it’s going to take hard work, passion and a sense of humour. It’s up to you how much work you put in, and that will impact directly on your success. (Wine helps too, LOL.)

Oh, and enjoy your bad days. Cry and own that moment. How are you going to know how good the good days are if you don’t go through the bad ones?

Steepest learning curve?

Jeepers, you really ask the difficult questions, neh? Realising I cannot keep everyone happy; it’s impossible. I have to keep reminding myself that even though my dance pupils are incredibly important to me, they will come and go. I have to stay true to myself and my child and family. They are the most important.

What advice would you give to those who are striving to keep people happy?

Best have another glass of wine, haha! Seriously, though, keep reminding yourself: You cannot keep everybody happy! You’re only human. No one person is the same. Embrace others and just stay true to yourself.

What are your future plans?

World domination, of course. Pfft. (Wink wink.)

Friends Forever
Friends Forever

What advice would you give to those who are striving to keep people happy?

Best have another glass of wine, haha! Seriously, though, keep reminding yourself: You cannot keep everybody happy! You’re only human. No one person is the same. Embrace others and just stay true to yourself.

What are your future plans?

World domination, of course. Pfft. (Wink wink.)

Ruanda, I believe we’ve only skirted around the edge of your life story, and I would love to hear more. Sadly, our time has run out. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to add?

You know, I was this little five-year-old, blond, curly-haired tomboy with bruises all the way up to her knees, singing Hopelessly Devoted To You on the roundabout and introducing myself to everyone as Sandy… I was obsessed (still am) with Grease, and convinced I was going to marry Superman. My life plan did not include divorce, miscarriages, cancer threats, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, two snapped Achilles and losing everything I’d worked so hard for, and, at 45, having to start again from scratch. But how blessed am I? God gave me the opportunity to restart my life with a clean slate. And then, on top of that, He finally gave me my superman and my dream life.

 

Well, I don’t know about my readers, Ru, but I will be the first to buy your book, if you ever decide to write one. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. What an inspiration you are!

Tweetable TAKEAWAYS:

THERE’S NO SHAME IN GETTING HELP WITH MENTAL HEALTH.

TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT LIFE COULD THROW AT YOU.

YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF.

LET GO & LET GOD.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAM & WORK YOUR PASSION.

YOUR DREAM IS GOING TO TAKE HARD WORK & PASSION TO BECOME REALITY. (A SENSE OF HUMOUR HELPS.) 

 

FYI…

I don’t receive any reward/commission for promoting any of the businesses on my blog. I just want to inspire & motivate as many people as possible to fulfil their purpose & potential.

 

If any other key points stood out for you, or you just want to let me know what you thought about this interview, feel free to comment below.

NEXT WEEK on The Hopeaholic blog . . .

Inspiration. Motivation. Joy. Another uplifting post to help you through the daily grind.

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