A SHORT GUIDE TO GUARDING YOUR HEART

I really love this verse because of what it means in relation to having a good year. It means that it is what flows from your heart that determines your life, not what happens to it. ‘..for out of your heart flows the issues of life.’  Based on this verse it’s not what’s ‘incoming’ during the 365 days, but what’s ‘outgoing’ thats running the show. Many people get upset or excited about the past or future 365, but another 365 days is not a guarantee of better days or worse. Another 365 days, is exactly that; another 365 days!

One thing that’s worth doing, is keeping an end of year journal. For me, this unconsciously began  when I started my blog and youtube channel. I can track ‘my end of year heart state’ all the way back to 2015 because of my coinciding posts. This could be a journal for you, or notes on your phone. By doing this, you will discover some reoccurring things about yourself.  Very importantly you will get an inclination of your ‘end of year heart state’. Where you disillusioned? Why so? Where you happy? 

So what exactly ‘does guarding your heart’ mean? 

I think the answers to that can be found in pondering the different versions of Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ( NIV)

Guard your heart above all else,  for it determines the course of your life. (NLT)

Above all else, guard your affections. For they influence everything else in your life. (TLB)

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. (AMP)

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (GNT)

Above all else, watch over your heart; diligently guard it because from a sincere and pure heart come the good and noble things of life. (The Voice)

These are just a few bible translations worth meditating on. From these we can see different areas of our being coming into play such as the mind, the will and emotions. The verse also suggests that one can be proactive in guarding these areas. Over the years, I have come to appreciate this verse more and more and today, I would like to share what this verse translates into, for my everyday living.

So here’s my short guide to guarding your heart for the next 365 days…

1. Read the psalms; often! I do this as ‘therapy’ to get through real time emotions. The book of Psalms is found in the bible. Many of the Psalms were authored by King David and other contributors include Moses, King Solomon and Asaph. It is a very honest book about human emotions and difficultly. I liken reading the psalms to sitting in on someone’s therapy sessions and being able to relate and learn.  Everyone is prone to  anxiety , discouragement , disappointment and betrayal, and the psalmist expresses these things to his therapist (God) without holding back. It’s also a good book for people who feel intimidated or frustrated by prayer. We see someone clearly expressing himself to God about 101 things. The psalmists lets you know that he did indeed receive comfort and help from the therapist (God). He has both ‘bad sessions’ with complaints and tears and ‘good sessions’ with thanksgiving and praise, until the next session where he comes back to God, asking for help from backstabbers. Haha. It’s actually very real and interesting. And so, whatever happens throughout the year, I learned to approach God, as my therapist. Like the psalmist, I have both bad and good sessions.

2. Find a creative expression. It’s amazing how much joy can come from developing a talent or doing something you have always wanted to do. I tend to try to find mine. In 2014, I started writing my blog and started exercising consistently. It was mentally gratifying. In 2016, I started consciously walking long distances. In 2017, I started my Youtube channel and started to progress my sewing skills. In 2018, I read so many books, that I surprised myself with the total number at the end of the year. Quite naturally, I am a creative person who had a lot of time on my hands which is why every year, there tends to be something new, but this does not have to be the case for you. You just need to start one thing that  feels effortless and brings you joy and spend a little time doing it and building on it.  It will work wonders for your heart.

3. Say less, but be clear and concise in your communication. Communication both yours and others can cause a lot of emotional distress. One can go from sadness to anger to confusion because of a lack of discretion in communication. 

  • Saying less – I once had a good friend ask me about a private matter at a  birthday party among other friends. I call this ‘finding yourself in an episode of ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians.’ Interestingly, I found that I knew next to nothing about the private challenges of these people. You can end up going from an audience of friends to a large viewership. Even in your absence, the strangest or most delicate things become a subject in idle conversation. Which if I am honest, we are all guilty of, therefore am not judging and neither am I encouraging living a secret life; but say only what you need to say to who you absolutely need to say it to! That my dear  reader is probably top 3 of my life lessons thus far.  You will always need a support system but don’t be afraid to redefine this, otherwise you risk your heart being overwhelmed by many other emotions than what you started off with. For me, ‘support system’  now means, ‘God and two or three close prayerful friends.’
  • Being clear and concise in your communication – Don’t spend a  a lot of energy explaining yourself over and over. I was surprised at how tiring many of my relationships where becoming. If I said, ‘No,’ some people still felt that there was room to convince me otherwise, again and again and again! Now I focus on short and concise communication. If I say, I am not coming, I will not entertain you calling me every week to try and get me to come. If you find yourself in these situations, like me you probably had a huge role to play. It means people think you enjoy talking and they will apply this judgment  in every situation. It’s entirely up to you to introduce another style of communication in to the equation.

4. Work hard at minding your own business. It’s not that I previously went looking for gossip, it’s that many things tend to land on my plate and I lacked discretion on what to dissect and what not to dissect, so I would end up wasting time dissecting futile things. 

A good example is once when a married friend  told me, the husband’s needs always come before the children’s. My immediate argument was that, young children can’t feed, clothe or teach themselves whereas a grown man can! This argument took up a great deal of our lunch. In hindsight how does a grown woman’s household arrangement matter to me?! Not in one single way. Imagine having three or four of such long winded conversations with different people in a week. How pointless and exhausting! I used to do this constantly. One remark about natural hair would set off a whole debate. It’s things like that, which am consciously moving away from. They take up so much time and emotional space. Sometimes they even upset friendships and this is so unnecessary. I learned the importance of internal nodding and moving on in conversations. Be choosy in what you eat, some things need to stay on the plate! They are not even worth cutting up.

On the contrary if a friend tells you they are in an abusive relationship or need your in put on something serious , don’t gloss over the conversation.

Simple as they sound, these four things have shaped my day to day and resulted into so much peace and solitude, and I hope they help you shape the next 365 days.

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Coco. xx 

6 LESSONS FROM MICHELLE MONE’S ‘MY FIGHT TO THE TOP’

I wasn’t particularly encouraged by the online reviews for My Fight To The Top. One reader said, ‘There’s not much to learn on business in this book,’ inferring that it was much more of a biography than anything else. To be honest, the lessons are not obvious but that does not make it any less interesting. There is  much more ‘between the lines’ than there is in blatant outline. It’s Michelle Mone’s rags to riches story and while there might not be a million lessons in business there’s quite a bit for any person in business. In her own words, she shares her  personal journey from growing up in poverty in the East End of Glasgow, to building Ultimo, the £39 million pound bra empire.

The book starts off with her childhood days. She was born in the Gallowgate area and grew up in Dennistoun, Glasgow. Being Glasgow based myself, this made the book immediately engaging. I lived in Bridgeton for several years, which is a stone throw away from Dennistoun, and so I could easily ‘map’ her childhood stories. It was tough. Her bedroom was a cupboard and her mother had to take her to the  Whitevale baths to get washed and to do laundry about once a week. Yes, you read right, once a week! Her childhood in Dennistoun is clearly the backdrop of the tenacity and drive in her adult life and business. It was there that she was beaten black and blue by a gang of girls, there she survived a possible sexual assault, there she began her first business selling papers (Daily Record) and employing other kids, and that is also where she got her first job working for a fruit shop. Often in the book when she writes about a predicament in her business, she ‘travels’ back to her days in Dennistoun and borrows particular traits she developed then, and uses them to overcome.

 

My Fight To The Top, Michelle Mone

Here’s what stood out to me:

    1. Everything can be figured out. How does a woman with two young kids, no fashion experience, no degree or contacts build the Ultimo bra empire? She figured it out! The idea came to her at an evening occasion where after much fidgeting with her uncomfortable ‘cleavage enhancing bra,’ she announced to the table, ‘ I’m going to design a bra.’  From then on, there was much traipsing and calling around stores in USA while on holiday there, looking for bra fillers and manufacturers. Eventually she became the distributor for the in demand ‘chicken fillet’ bras and the ‘bra tycoon’ was born. When she needed to learn how to manufacture her own bra, she took on a job that enabled her to get inside knowledge on how to do that. If it came to her mind, she found a way to do it.
    2. Train your mind to persist and to dream big. ‘Training your mind is vital for success because once you get your mind sorted out, you can do almost anything you want to do,’ Michelle says in her book. Even in the book, she constantly gives herself a pep-talk. ‘Your family needs you. Your business needs you. You need to fight your way out of this.’ On training her mind to see a bigger and better picture , she says, ’I kept dreaming and dreaming. Every night I would wake up and take more notes.’
    3. Business is not the place for a facade and getting to the next level often involves putting all you cards on the table, even the bad ones. To sell her first ‘chicken fillet’ bra samples, she ran around boutiques in London with a suitcase filled with samples. To get her first bras sold in the upmarket Selfridges, she showed up desperate, and unannounced at their buying office on Oxford Street in London and begged them to try on her samples. After somewhat of an emotional breakdown by the pregnant saleswoman, they ordered over six months worth of stock. 
    4. The book is also a great reminder that having money does not solve all your problems. Despite the success of Ultimo, Michelle battled personal problems just like everyone else. Her weight was constantly fluctuating, there was depression, parental insecurities, a failing marriage and a lot of financial pressure business-wise. 
    5. Money can change you for the worse. She became a self confessed diva, citing, ‘Nothing was ever good enough. The hotels I was staying in weren’t good enough and the restaurants I was dining in weren’t good enough. I once asked to change rooms at the Dorchester because I didn’t like the way it was decorated.  I found fault in everything. In the same way, I bought more things because I thought they would make me happier….Very expensive things.’  It took an intervention  from her parents to force her to face the person she was becoming. This leads me to the last lesson.
    6. Hold on to the honest and trustworthy people you have, few as they may be. Between her parents and best friend, she managed to keep her feet on the ground and always circle back to what was important. When it came to business, for a long time, she could lean on the honesty and advice of Sir Tom Hunter.

    She shares a lot of things that do not necessarily make her look good. For example, she manages to make an enemy out of one time close friend, Rod Stewart, by hiring both his current and then ex wife as spokes models for Ultimo, a move which caused a media frenzy. Although this garnered great publicity and sales for Ultimo, it does come across as unscrupulous and calculating.

    The book also details the incident in which she was robbed at knife point plus the decline of her tumultuous marriage, that she alleges, ended in adultery between her husband and one of her most trusted employees. 

    Eventually, Michelle sold all her shares in Ultimo by the end of 2014, but not before being made a Conservative peer by David Cameron, being appointed an OBE for ‘services to the lingerie industry’ and amassing £50 million fortune.

FOR REAL, FOR REAL.

For real, for real…
Forget what they told you, sold you..
This world doesn’t own you, needs to quit trying to mould you.
‘To thine own self be true!’ Why does that always sound new?

Life was given for you to find you, not buy you!
No one knows the true price of you. Not even you!
Look at the stars? Who did their maths?
Taught them to shine? Told them they look fine?

Who sold them their dreams ? How much do you think it cost them ?
Zero! No Dinero.
Doesn’t cost them a dime to dazzle on time.
Look how bright they shine!

I bet when they speak to each other, they say, ‘God made!’
For real, For real , am saying no deal!
No more shop bought dreams!
That’s how I feel.

You can’t tell me the price of me.
That’s a done deal; God made!
Am saying, let all else fade.
That’s the old phase.

Right now, it’s time to blaze.
Right next to the stars that shine,
Am thinking, ‘Me too; God made’.
For real, for real, that’s how I feel!

6 LESSONS FROM SCREW BUSINESS AS USUAL BY RICHARD BRANSON

If I had to summarise this book in one word I would use the sentence, ‘Just do it, but do it considerately.’  The book issues a serious challenge and warning to entrepreneurs which is that business is not all about profit and that going forward we all need to work on balancing the equation of profit and both environmental and social responsibility, otherwise we are just selfishly creating a long term mess of this beautiful earth for everyone and everything in it, at the cost of a short life time of profit. While I thought the book would be a medley of financial tricks and clever business negotiations, it took my mindset on innovation in a completely different direction! When we think of innovation, we tend to think ‘new, faster, slicker, more sophisticated’, however this book redefines it (for me) as ‘creative means by which we benefit ourselves, those around us and the environment.’ It’s quite an inspiring book really. Richard Branson definitely has his finger on the pulse of socially and environmentally conscious businesses and shows his efforts to model his Virgin business along this line . The book is riddled with narrations of people he knows personally making a difference in ‘sustainable ways’ around the world.  I am blown away by the details of his involvement in social enterprises across South Africa and Asia. We know there exists a high level of poverty in these parts of the world but the book also shows that there also exists a high level of creativity and opportunity in these areas and this perspective is what offers an opportunity to create the shift in purpose of entrepreneurship Richard is talking about. It offers behind the scenes stories of several sustainable initiatives, from concept to fruition for example; Grameen Danone, a social business enterprise in Bangladesh that was the brainchild of Franck Riboud, CEO of french multinational food production corporation, Danone, and a social entrepreneur and later, a Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. An idea conceived during lunch at a restaurant that has gone on to change the lives of adults and children in Bangladesh. It makes a fantastic case for responsible entrepreneurship. It’s not just a just about profits any more a.k.a business as usual.

Here’s six lesson I learnt.

  1. Business is not just about money or profits. Rewards can and should be much bigger than money. It is about the people between the money and the product or service, in one case in the book, it was about giving a great employee who is dyslexic  an opportunity to  be manager at a very lucrative restaurant and shifting responsibilities about to make things work.
  2. Entrepreneurship is more of an answer to poverty than aid handouts. He narrates a different vehicle all together for doing charity. Which is by equipping entrepreneurs to kick start the economy and also utilise their creative talents. Through finance, support and guidance, we read of several individuals in South Africa achieving self sufficiency this way. 
  3. Together is better. When I read how he is involved in some 400 companies and manages to have enough time for family and fun, my immediate question is, ’How?’ Does this guy have 72 hours in a day?! Upon reading through the book, I realise he cleverly makes use of partnerships and collaborations. It’s amazing that for almost every idea he mentions in the book, he manages to almost serendipitously connect with someone with a similar idea, or a close enough idea for them to work together on, birthing another venture.
  4. Just do it. The number of times he has agreed to an idea at early stage of the concept in the book is shocking. People at this level tend to be overly pendantic. Hello Dragon’s Den. Lol! According to Richard, ‘Being overly cautious doesn’t make for a good business man or woman. You have to be bold while not being foolish. Quickly weigh up the odds , but don’t gamble is the best advice I can give to a new entrepreneur.’ 
  5. Innovation in business is not just about how we can provide the latest and sophisticated. It’s also about innovating ways to deliver in the most environmentally friendly way and disposing of waste. Take that Silicon Valley and Fast Fashion Chains! Currently, there is a huge furore (apparently not huge enough) about the damage fast fashion brands are doing to the environment. I watched an eye opening documentary on BBC (Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets) two weeks ago that showed factories that  big brands use for production in Indonesia, are pouring chemicals in a river that locals rely on to bathe their children and cook food. Pollution in this particular river is causing incurable skin diseases so much so that a local said she has to buy water to bathe her baby. Further more, it revealed that a staggering amount of water, over 15,523 litres of water is required to produce one pair of jeans! Currently, our British High Street alone churns out a new season almost every three weeks. Imagine the impact of a  number of stores worldwide and the number of products involved in this ridiculous level of unnecessary production.
  6. Use your ‘business voice’ to speak up. One of the several inspiring moments in the book, is when Richard Branson speaks out against then president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki’s stance on the HIV/AIDS endemic in South Africa. At the time, Virgin had several ongoing ventures in the country and doing so could have caused a shutdown and excommunication of his various teams from South Africa. Instead it opened up a dialogue with Thabo Mbeki.

The book is very much an interesting portfolio and in the hands of an entrepreneur will inspire some serious ‘business soul searching’. Incase you feel overwhelmed by the current state of events, Richard Branson also shines a light on other fantastic initiatives and business leaders making an effort in various sectors such as; Shell (Oil), Ben & Jerry’s(Ice-cream), and Innocent smoothies who trace their water footprint and work with farmers in Spain were they source strawberries and Kenya where they source mangoes to reduce the amount of water used. There are in fact, entrepreneurs at every level all over the world, working to use their businesses as avenues of community and worldwide contribution in many innovative ways. You could be part of them or you could join the business as usual for profit squad. Entrepreneur, you decide! 

It also means we have to question the businesses we interact with in our day to day lives. More on this later. 🙂

‘You can let the overwhelming odds defeat you, or you can see it as a challenge with a solution’- Richard Branson.