Originally written in https://meltwater.org/blog/ By Stella Ngugi, on Monday October 31st, 2016. Rewritten today for International Women’s Day.
“Here’s to strong women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” –Unknown
“To tell a woman everything she cannot do is to tell her what she can.” –Spanish Proverb
“Well-behaved women rarely make history.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
What it takes to get to the top!
My dear girl,
Tonight I write with a different conviction in my heart. A conviction about the journey to success. Many have written about this. Millions of books have been sold worldwide that talk of the ten, five, twenty steps to success. Here’s my take on it. Inspired by a group of amazing women who came to share some insights with us this week at MEST Africa.
I’ll compare this first stage with baking a cake. Just like with baking, we have an end goal — a beautiful vanilla birthday cake, or whatever it may be. So we have a starting point. But we just don’t wish for things and poof a cake appears! We have to work and bake. We find out what’s needed to make this cake, how long will it take, who can help, whether we have all the information needed concerning the recipe or ingredients, etc.
This can be the messiest and most confusing but important stage of the whole undertaking. Preparation is key. Even great chefs take extra time to prepare. Failing to plan is planning to fail. This is where the real magic happens. Though we don’t feel it at the time. The pressure, fights, team breakups, tears, and despair, all work to help us prepare for what’s coming ahead.
As the sister-to-sister group mentioned, “The obstacle is the way! It's not blocking the way. It’s not happening to you. It's happening for you!” You are being prepared for what’s behind the curtain. The next battle is going to be bigger than the one you just won. Every level has a new devil. It gets harder before it gets easier. You will need to have daily rituals to ground yourself. And you have to remember the bravest person is the one who asks for help. The greatest skills you will develop here — grace & discipline.
See most of the time we ask for big things, pray, and even beg God! But as Joyce Meyer once described Joseph’s story from the Bible, sometimes God answers wait or no. Why? Because He’s preparing us for what He has planned for us. Joseph was being groomed to be a nation’s leader. But he couldn’t just be born with the ‘ingredients’. He wasn’t ready-made. Through thorough whisking and beating and heat, he came out sweet, strong, and beautiful. He deserved the crown because he had built the character needed to hold it.
This is the second best part — Vision. Simply put — Be intentional about everything that you do. My former boss would say. ‘Stella, you always have to think strategically’. As described today in class, your vision will pull every aspect of your being. It will wake you up at night. It will encourage you in your low days. It will motivate you in your highs. To remind you that the best is yet to come. Your vision should be bigger than yourself. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. Have a laser focus, however. Focus on all things that pull you closer to your dreams and nothing else. Remove all distractions and build stamina to overcome any obstacles.
Build a strong network that will encourage you in your pursuit. Find a team of people who share your vision. You will need nourishment. A fuel to keep you burning for long. To keep you on track, you will need to surround yourself with people who are connected to something similar. “Our contribution together to the world is far greater than ourselves or our entire lifespan. We feed off each other.”, said the Sisters.
Because your network is your net worth, surround yourself with people that you can’t put a value on. Spend quality time with the people that can build you. If you know them, you will trust them and then like them. Work to build relationships. Connect relationships with every aspect of your life. See yourselves as collaborators, not competitors. Remember, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. You will prove you’re a leader when you try your best to help your weakest link. Build an inner circle where nobody gets left behind.
But you first have to start a movement within yourself. You don’t pick your dreams. They pick you. And just as I responded to mine, I hope you hear your calling soon and clearly and say ‘Yes’. Even as we play different roles here at MEST and eventually in the world, we all support each other. You will not be able to pull off your dream on your own. As TD Jakes said, “If you can accomplish your dream on your own, your dream is too small.” And so when someone holds your hand along the way, remember to hold back theirs. To support their vision too.
Most importantly, what do you do when you get what you’ve been looking for? It’s hard to get to the top. But it’s even harder to stay there! You will need extra ingredients for this one. For your critics and evil people will say you didn’t deserve it. You see, they didn’t see your messy kitchen. They didn’t see your long treks to different markets in search of what you needed. They didn’t see the many cakes that went wrong. But many will work hard to pull you down. Sometimes you will feel like an impostor. Why me? Do I deserve it? YES YOU DO! Own it!
Just like Queen B does. Arguably one of the best musicians of our time, Beyonce shines on stage! She owns it. It’s her playground. She’s worked hard for it. She radiates power, confidence, pride, and success. You see my girl, when they call you out on stage, do not be afraid.
What’s the worst that could happen? And most importantly, what’s the best that could happen? What if you become the best that ever was? What if you win a million dollars in investment? What could happen if we choose to let go of our fears? To listen to God. To say YES to the dream. To the millions of lives, we will impact. To those who don’t have a voice and are counting on us to be brave for them.
All in all, I am enjoying every day at MEST. I am humbled every day by the thought that one man, Jorn, saw hope in Africa’s youth and decided to invest in them. I am inspired by my mates. I am challenged by them. I know even though God has a big vision for me, I cannot work on Africa’s issues alone. I am just one in a billion. But I will support the one who fights cancer, inequality, ignorance, terrorism, poor health care, unemployment, etc. I will hold my friends’ hands. Because if corruption wins and health loses, then nobody wins. Tell each other ‘I am going to support you no matter what’. And when someone says we can’t do it, I always ask “WHY NOT? SAYS WHO?” I am prepared to be uncomfortable now. Uncomfortability is a threshold you can overcome. I do not think out of the box. I choose to see no box.
And lastly, SHINE! Own that stage! Be who you are. Be Michael Jordan. Beyonce. Ronaldo. Obama. The world is your stage. Load well. Aim rightly. Take the shot!