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. 🙂

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. 🙂

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. 🙂