Insights from Visionary Leader Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Mohammad Yunus

The world needs visionary leaders more than ever. One visionary leader who has changed the world through microfinance is Dr. Muhammad Yunus. Dr. Yunus from Bangladesh is a banker, economist, social entrepreneur and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner. He is the author of several books including, Banker to the Poor.

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Yunus speak as part of a panel at a microfinance and microcredit summit. Dr. Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in the 1980s. Grameen means village bank. Since that time the Grameen Bank has loaned out over 1.5 billion (USD) in microloans mainly to women who are 97 percent of the loan recipients.

In Bangladesh, these microloans are often between $30.00 (USD) to $35.00 (USD) and have helped women start microenterprises. These loans enable women in Bangladesh to change their entire life’s trajectory. When they start businesses, the women who are loan recipients are able to pay for their children’s education and give back to their local community. Entire villages are improved because of these microloans. The loans also have a high repayment rate of 97 percent.

Since the Grameen Bank started in Bangladesh more than 9 million women have received microloans. These loans have in turn impacted between 40 – 45 million people which includes the women’s families and local communities which is remarkable. The Grameen Bank model is now operating outside of Bangladesh in several cities, including New York City. In the various locations, the model is similar in providing microloans to the poor and people who traditionally would not be able to qualify for a loan to start a business.

There were several major takeaways from the summit. Dr. Yunus spoke about the “three zeros,” which are the targets that the world should be aiming for in order to improve the quality of life for everyone. They include: zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero net carbon emissions. Now these targets may seem like an impossible dream. If we work together as a global community on initiatives to improve the quality of life for every human on the planet who is to say that one day these targets might come true. That is what true visionaries do. They envision possibility for a better world despite what currently exists. Visionaries also take action to make their visions a reality. For the zero poverty target, we all know that there are more than enough resources to go around world wide for everyone. According to Dr. Yunus, people don’t choose to be poor. It is the prevailing economic systems that keep people in poverty even when they are willing, have the skills and want to work. That is why entrepreneurship is so powerful. Starting a business can help lift people out of poverty through their own ingenuity, skills and talents.

One of the major takeaways from the summit was that entrepreneurship is not the purview or the domain of a select few. Another target the world should be aiming for is zero unemployment. Again this is linked back to entrepreneurship. According to Dr. Yunus, “human beings by birth are entrepreneurs.” There is a prevailing myth that only certain people can be entrepreneurs. Dr. Yunus believes that each one of us has the capacity to use our skills and talents to create a business.

In other words, we were not designed for drudgery in a job or career that we don’t love or are not passionate about where we can’t make a difference. In Bangladesh, when women were advanced loans they were able to start businesses with no or minimal business training. They used their creativity, ingenuity, skills and leveraged their village network in order to create profitable microbusinesses. In addition to zero poverty and zero unemployment, zero carbon emissions was also a target discussed in order to make our planet a healthier place to live.

The panel was excellent and included leaders from the Aboriginal Community who reinforced the fact that there are so many talented and skilled Aboriginal people, especially youth who are doing amazing things in the community. Microcredit will continue to help revolutionize the developing world and help marginalized people in the developed world. By providing access to smaller amounts of capital, the poor and marginalized communities can start businesses to elevate their circumstances. It was an excellent summit and a true honour to listen to Dr. Yunus and other visionary leaders who are helping to change the world.

Interviewed on the Silver Linings Storycast

I was recently interviewed by Debbie Horovitch who is the Publisher and Editor of The Silver Linings Storybook series. The interview was for the Silver Linings Storycast podcast. In the interview we talk about business, the creative struggle, making an impact in the community and everything in between! The interview is for the Toronto edition of The Silver Linings Storybook series in which I will be a featured contributor. It is a very exciting project as the proceeds will benefit a local charity or non-profit organization. You can listen to the podcast interview here! Silver Linings Storycast Interview

The Art of Empowerment: Practice Compassion

The world needs more compassion. A bold statement indeed, yet I’m sure that many of you would agree with that statement. Empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling and compassion takes it one step further through action to help alleviate suffering. When I was a child, my first major lesson involving compassion occurred when two homeless teenage girls came to live with my family.

To complicate the situation, one of the teens was pregnant. It was my mother who encountered the teens and had learned about their plight. She invited them for dinner and through circumstances they ended up living with my family for well over a month. They stayed with my family until they could get permanent help. They teens eventually with my mother’s help found an apartment and the pregnant girl had a beautiful healthy baby.

I believe that having that experience early in my life permeated my consciousness and left a deep imprint. It informed some of the volunteer work that I do as I believe that it’s important to give back to the community. The experience helped me to realize even at a young age that on some level, call it the spiritual level, we are all connected. If we’re connected, then it makes sense to reach out to our fellow human beings in times of need.

We can perform compassionate acts, yet compassion really is a practice. Just as we can have an exercise routine or a meditation practice, the same applies to compassion. The more that we exercise our “compassion muscle,” the easier it will be for us to be compassionate. I believe that compassion can teach us several life lessons. The first one is that compassion involves a willingness to be open to see pain or suffering in our midst. Helping someone may not be as dramatic as helping two homeless teens get off the street. It could be in our homes, workplaces or among our circle of friends where compassion is needed. It is easy to get insular and not be concerned about people who may be going through a difficult time.

Another lesson that compassion teaches us is to be nonjudgmental with the people that we are reaching out to or trying to help. When we act compassionately we do the best that we can in the situation and then as much as possible detach from the outcome. Lastly, being compassionate teaches us to operate from our hearts and not the rational mind. You may encounter a situation where it does not seem rational to act yet your heart is compelling you to move in that direction. I invite you to look for those moments in your life where you can be compassionate because you never know the life changing impact that you can have in another person’s life.

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (October 2016 issue)

Powerful Lessons from the Legacy of Dr. Wayne Dyer

The one year anniversary occurred this past August of the passing of Dr. Wayne Dyer at the age of 75. As a prolific author, teacher, and lecturer, Dr. Dyer’s work positively affected millions of people around the globe. His body of work has impacted me throughout my life. He was compassionate, kind and truly wanted people to succeed and evolve our consciousness so that every human on the planet could thrive.

At the Hay House Conference, I attended in May, a special tribute was dedicated to Wayne Dyer, as he was a big part of the Hay House family. The tribute showcased his teachings that reflected his philosophy of life. From the tribute, I’m sharing with you several key lessons from his work with some of my personal reflections. They are:

1. Want for others what I want for myself. If you want peace, happiness, wealth, good health and success for yourself, wish those things for others. Having positive vibes and wishing blessings on other people can have a powerful effect on you and how you show up in the world.

2. Think from the end. Be determined to live a beautiful and generous life, a life in alignment with your spiritual core. Have a vision for your life and how you want to serve. Work on bringing your vision to reality by breaking down your goals into manageable parts to make your dreams and vision unfold.

3. Be an appreciator. Instead of examining what you don’t have, appreciate all the you DO have. When you examine what you do have, you realize that you have been blessed with much in this life.

4. Stay in rapport with Source Energy. As God is our creator, staying in alignment with the energy of love, gratitude and peace helps us navigate challenges and keep focused on our priorities.

6. Contemplate myself with conditions that I wish to have. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have focus on the things that you want to bring into your life. Visualize, meditate and contemplate those things daily.

7. Be skilled in the Art of Allowing. You are a gift. Stop fighting and resisting who you are. Own your power and your brilliance. Allow God to come in and support you in all that you do.

8. Practice humility. Each of us is doing the best that we can at any given time. No matter how high you rise in life, practice humility. Absolutely be proud of who you are and your talents. At the same time, remember that we all live on borrowed time and be kind to each other.

9. Be in a constant state of gratitude. Does anything else need to be said? The fact that we are alive and can experience life is a blessing. Let the gratitude flow.

10. Stay away from judgment. While easier said than done, as much as possible learning to be as non-judgemental as we can, is well worth the effort. You will have greater peace of mind to take action on the priorities that are important to you.

11. Play the Match Game. Match with what you want in this life not with what you don’t want. If you are a positive person and there are negative people or influences in your life, minimize or eliminate your time spent with them.

12. Meditate. Meditation is a powerful tool to connect with God. Cultivating a daily practice can help you develop inner peace.

In addition, here are a few of my other favourite sayings from him. They are:

Be independent of the good opinions of others. You don’t have to justify how you lead your life as long as you are not hurting anyone. In other words, as Dr. Dyer would say “Don’t complain and don’t explain.” How you live your life is no one else’s business.

On your mind place a “Do Not Disturb Sign.” This is another one of my favourites. Do not allow anything to enter your mind that is not for your higher good. Be selective of the thoughts that enter your mind and ensure that they are positive to help you lead the best possible life.

Thoughts are energy. How you think is very important. Ensure that you are cultivating positive thoughts both to yourself and other people. The type of thoughts you develop will be the basis on which you take action. Therefore, if you think negative, self-defeating thoughts it will be challenging to take positive action. Learn to develop loving, peaceful, forgiving and grateful thoughts and see how your life unfolds.

Learn to go from Pissed to Blissed! As humans we feel the full gamut of emotions from love to fear and everything in between. Learning to take control of our emotions can help us with daily living. The way that we do that is through cultivating a practice where we can connect with the Divine and allow space to feel our emotions. You can do this through meditation, prayer, walking in nature or anything that helps you to live a more peaceful and blissful life.

At a conference in Toronto a few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Dyer. It was a life changing moment. Out of all of his lessons, the most important that I will always take away from him is to nurture my connection with my Eternal Source i.e. God. Nurturing that connection to the Divine Source can help you to stay connected to the things that are most important to you and that which you desire to bring forth in your life.

A quote that I love that Dr. Dyer would often use from Einstein is: “Do I live in a friendly or a hostile universe.” Think about that question for a moment for yourself. The way that you answer the question reveals your outlook on life and your perspective really can determine your outcomes in life.

Dr. Dyer’s powerful lessons and beautiful legacy live on through the millions of lives he touched through his books, lectures, videos, meditations and various programs. We are truly blessed to have had a spiritual teacher like him. If you have not been exposed to his work yet, I highly recommend, The Power of Intention to start with or his meditation book called: Getting in the Gap.

The Art of Empowerment: Your Imagination is Powerful

Do you remember what it was like to be a child? You had the freedom to play, to explore, to just BE. On a summer’s day or on the weekend, you could play for hours with your friends. The day would go on like it would never end. As a child, your imagination ran wild and you used your imagination to dream. You enacted the scenes that you saw in your imagination. You could play “make believe,” where you were your favourite superhero, singer, sports figure or whoever you imagined yourself to be. Remember what fun and joy that was! Your dreams felt limitless.

As adults we often forget the joy that comes with letting our imaginations run wild. After all, it is our imaginations that help to fuel our dreams. It is our imaginations that conjure up the possibilities that can occur in our lives. Every invention that has ever existed was once in someone’s imagination. It was a dream that hadn’t manifested yet. Once the imagination was activated and the dream took hold, the person did the work required to bring that dream to fruition. Indeed, humankind has been propelled forward by both biology and the power of imagination. How else would we have been able to explore the depths of the ocean, the vastness of space or the intricacies that make up the human brain without the power of imagination?

What about you? Do you let your imagination run wild with the possibilities that can occur in your life? Or do you shut down the minute you start to think of something new that you want to bring forth into your life? Do your dreams that have yet to manifest, fill you with excitement every day? Or do you think of every conceivable way that your dreams can’t happen? Some of us become so conditioned by society to conform that we reign in our imaginations and therefore limit our capacity to dream. Take heart, we can never lose our ability to use our imaginations. The ability to imagine and dream are spiritual gifts that we can never lose and we can always increase our ability to use them anytime we choose.

Visionaries are people who understand the power of the imagination while doing the required work to bring their visions to reality. Imagining that your dreams are even possible is an important initial step in manifesting your dreams. I encourage you to dedicate some time daily to using your imagination to power your dreams. As a visionary, you know that just thinking about your dreams is not enough and that success involves taking committed action. Always remember that along with Divine Guidance and your commitment to take action, your imagination is always there to help propel your life to new heights.

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (September 2016 issue)

The Art of Empowerment: Communicate Your Message

Creating a life that you love requires that you step into your authentic power as a leader. As a visionary leader, the ability to communicate effectively in front of audience will help to get your transformational message out into the world. When you make the decision to invest in yourself, it will pay more dividends that you could ever imagine. Learning how to speak effectively in public is a skill that is essential to your success.

Being able to speak effectively in front of an audience ensures that you can capitalize on opportunities. If you have not been taking your speaking development seriously, now is the time to start doing so. The first place to start is to do an assessment of your communication skills, in terms of your strengths and challenges. Every time you deliver a presentation you need to capitalize on your strengths. One of the most effective ways that you can get a sense of what your strengths are is to compile data through feedback and by recording yourself on video to determine how you present.

On the opposite side of knowing your strengths, you also need to examine your communication challenges. Feedback from people that you know and trust can help you in identifying your strengths and the areas that you need to improve. Once you identify the areas that you need to work on, obtaining a mentor or a coach can help you improve your communication skills. Also investing in a program like Toastmasters, a self-directed communication and leadership training program can help.

If you want to learn to speak effectively in front of a group, learning the fundamentals of public speaking is important. Some of the fundamentals include: knowing your speech purpose, knowing your audience, learning to develop great content, using your nonverbal language effectively and being conscious of your language usage. When you know the purpose of your speech you are able to connect with an audience. Doing demographic research helps you to identify who your audience members are and craft your presentation to meet their needs. When you learn to develop great content, you can connect with your audience with storytelling techniques and relevant research. When you organize your speech effectively you take your audience on a journey. Learning to use your nonverbal communication like body language, gestures and facial expressions effectively all play a role in connecting with your audience. In terms of your language usage, use powerful words as they do influence the audience’s perception of you.

As a visionary leader, you have gifts, talents and skills that the world needs. Learning to become a powerful speaker can help you to get your life changing message out into the world to help transform lives!

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (August 2016 issue)

The Art of Empowerment: Be Audacious!

Say it out loud the word audacity! It feels good, doesn’t it? The general definition of audacity is boldness. I would say that is it boldness taken up a notch. Are you an audacious person? Do you have the audacity to be seen, to be heard, for who you truly are? Can you own your brilliance? In other words, can you embody that boldness that is required to start a business? Or be vulnerable? Or to step outside of your comfort zone to speak in front of an audience to demonstrate your talents and expertise.

People are scared of stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying something new. They are fearful of being ridiculed or of being judged. Public speaking and communicating effectively are essential skills you will need to learn in order to get your message out into the world. If you don’t learn to be audacious, you’ll miss out on many of life’s opportunities.

In life, I believe in being respectful and treating people with dignity. Sometimes in life though being a little edgy in a good way can help you move towards your goals. If the circumstances in your life have prevented you from pursuing your goals or you feel stuck perhaps it is time to bring boldness or audacity back into your life. Many of us are people pleasers who look to others to approve of the choices and the decisions that we make in our lives. If you want to live a life that you truly love realize that it is only you who needs to approve of the decisions and the choices in your life. We conform by seeking approval because we want to be accepted. Learn to accept and approve of yourself. You don’t need anyone to determine your worth. You were made by the Divine. Breaking the bonds of conformity and being truly who you are requires audacity. You are being audacious when you stand in your authentic truth.

Be audacious and commit to owning your power. Owning your power means taking the full responsibility for the choices and results in your life. Conformity is not your friend. When you listen to Divine Guidance you will know what steps to take to make the life of your dreams come true. Listening to Divine Guidance will allow you to be that audacious person who stands fully in your power. When you are audacious enough to fully own your power, you know that you have the power of choice to make your goals and dreams come true. Know that you are worthy to pursue your dreams. In other words, it’s time to start owning your brilliance and the value that you bring to the world. Be audacious and let the love and gifts you bring to the world shine in all their glory!

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (July 2016 issue)

The Art of Empowerment – Your Life’s Mission is Unstoppable

As a visionary woman you are committed to manifesting your dreams. There is something very powerful about a woman who knows her values, has a vision and is committed to taking the required action to achieve her goals to live an authentic life.

When you take committed action to manifest your dreams and you start making progress, three interesting things (in no particular order) will occur. The first one is that you will start making accelerated progress towards your dream without making a huge production. One day you’ll be going about your daily routine, when you realize in the midst of it that, oh I’ve been in business for a year or oh I just finished the first draft of my book. You will feel a sense of pride of accomplishment when you realize that instead of talking about your dreams, you took strategic, committed action to make them happen.

The second thing that often occurs when you work on your goals is that your doubts and insecurities will arise when you begin a new project or venture. This is natural and is to be worked through. The third thing is that you will start to build your “tribe” which are the people who gravitate or are naturally drawn to you. For the people in your tribe, they are interested in how your life experience and message resonates with them. In other words, how can you help them to live the best possible life. Your tribe will also include the people who support you like mentors, coaches and collaborators. They are your support system and your cheering squad.

On the other hand, you will also attract people who are critics. Each of us is living on borrowed time and it’s our responsibility to live the best life that we can using the gifts and talents that we were given. Sometimes critics do have legitimate reasons for weighing in on an issue in our lives and sometimes they don’t. Be very discerning when it comes to accepting feedback and so called constructive criticism. Always examine where the feedback is coming from. Is it coming from a place of love or support, genuine good intent and the desire to help you realize your dreams.

When we start moving towards our dreams this can stir up insecurities and anxiety in other people. People will often project their fears and limitations on to you because they are not moving towards their dreams. The solution is to wish them well, bless them and if required limit your contact with them. Your life and mission are too precious to let critics and detractors stop you. After all, you are a part of the Divine and your mission is unstoppable!

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (June 2016 issue)

The Art of Empowerment: Envisioning Your Future…and Take Action

As a powerful woman who wants to manifest the life of her dreams, you know that life is about taking committed, focused action. Your choices ultimately determine how your life evolves. Collective habits and beliefs can be described as a paradigm. In other words, a paradigm can be thought of as a filter or mode of operating that you use in order to navigate your world. Sometimes the actions that you take may not be as effective as you would like because of your out of date paradigms.

Our paradigms were established when we were small children. As we become adults, many of us don’t challenge our established paradigms because they are so familiar to us. When you take action and make progress towards your goal, your paradigms are serving you. When your paradigms don’t serve you, you may not be as willing to take the action steps required that will push you towards your goals. Therefore, the actions that you do take may not be as effective. Negative paradigms often make us fearful or scared to take risks in order to grow.

This is where the power of envisioning your future can help you to take those baby steps towards the future that your heart desires. Along with working with a mentor or coach, visualization is a powerful tool. Don’t underestimate the power of visualization. Envisioning your goal actualized can help you take action. There are numerous academic studies that reveal that visualization can be a powerful aid along with practice. Numerous Olympic athletes and business professionals use it as a tool to help them prepare for sporting or business events.

One of the key things to remember about visualizing goal achievement is that you must fully immerse yourself in the experience. When you visualize reaching a goal, for example, envision vivid imagery, color, sound, and taste. In order to form a new habit, it can take anywhere from 21 days or longer to override an older established habit. This is due to the way that our brain works. Our habits form neural networks that are like well-worn grooves in our brains. When we are trying to establish new habits, we are attempting to override established patterns. For example, if you are a runner and your dream is to complete a 26-mile race, you have to run on a regular basis. In addition to running, visualizing yourself successfully completing the marathon will help guide your thought process on how you can achieve that goal.
It is challenging to change habits. Visualization can help along with taking action. Envisioning the future that you want on a daily basis is a powerful tool to help reinforce positive beliefs and establish positive habits.

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (May 2016 issue)

The Art of Empowerment: Claim Your Power

When you are a visionary leader, you simply cannot play small in your life. The call to lead comes from deep within your soul and beckons you to be authentic. The people you lead, look to you for guidance. You learn to remove any social masks that you wear, that block you from true connection and transformation. A visionary leader like you, steps forward and claims your power with grace so that you can make a difference in the world with your gifts.

Claiming your power means that you know that you are worthy of your dreams. I have met many people in life who are talented, gifted even, beautiful, kind and compassionate. Yet, they don’t feel worthy of pursuing their dreams and achieving their goals. They feel powerless in their lives to affect change. As a leader, claiming your power means getting straight with your internal psychology. It means recognizing that you are worthy of success and are worthy of leading others as well.

In order to claim your power, you will have to examine your belief system (which can be complicated) to ensure that it is serving you. Our belief system involves our upbringing, our socialization, our schooling, the messages we absorb from society and the media. All of which can impact our feelings of worthiness to lead.

Realize that in this moment, that God, the Divine has provided you with all that you need in life to succeed. So many of us go looking for approval or permission to be successful. Who? Who is the person who is going to give you approval to be in your zone of genius or permission to be brilliant. You! You have to say yes to yourself before others can truly believe in you. Claiming your power means that right now you are worthy of all the success that you could possibly imagine.

Another thing that will help us to claim our power as leaders is to clarify our value system. Values are our guiding principles in life. We know that life can be very challenging and sometimes life throws things at us that we can’t possibly anticipate. Our values are what help us to navigate the challenging times. You know what happens when you are not clear on your values. You are like the proverbial leaf blowing in the wind. As a leader, your values keep you rooted in your integrity.

Claiming your power is not about being authoritarian or autocratic. Rather, it is about knowing that true servant leadership is about creating an empowering environment where people can thrive. As you rise in your life, you help others to rise as well.

As published in Sibyl Magazine: For the Spirit and Soul of a Woman (April 2016 issue)