You Need a Cobweb Remover on Your Path to Personal Development

When I was growing up in Cameroon, one of the worst things that could happen to you was to be picked as a cobweb remover. The cobweb remover was the person we children would choose to walk ahead of everybody else on our way to the fields.

Our parents or guardians (in my case, it was my great-aunt) would leave at dawn to do as much work as possible before the scorching midday sun. We would follow them about three hours later with breakfast.

It did not matter in the slightest that in reality, the adults who had gone before us would have removed any cobwebs from the path. The idea of being laughed and pointed at as the cobweb remover was just anathema to us. So much so that we had to come up with ingenious tricks to pick someone and force them to fulfil that role. One of these tricks was to agree, when we played games such as hide-and-seek, Statue or Hopscotch (which we called pousse-pion), that the loser would be the cobweb remover the following morning.

I smiled as I remembered all this a few days ago. My outlook on many things relating to my childhood has radically changed, and my perception of the notion of cobweb remover is a case in point. I now view it as a positive concept. Far from being mocked and ridiculed, this role should be praised, cherished and applauded.

Make no mistake about it: no matter how gilded, pleasant or wonderful your life is, you will need a cobweb remover sooner or later. Life cobwebs are the challenges, fears and doubts hindering your personal development and the achievement of your goals. Some are so crippling and overwhelming that they are effortlessly identifiable and, paradoxically, easier to start tackling. For once you identify and acknowledge a problem, you can begin to devise and implement a strategy to overcome it.

Other life cobwebs are more subtle and insidious and, consequently, trickier to tackle. More often than not, you will need someone else to not only perceive but also start to confront them. You will need a cobweb remover.

What triggered my smile a few days back was a sense of relief and gratitude, as I realised that a lady, whom I hardly knew, had unwittingly acted as my cobweb remover. She and I met when we were both selected as mentors in a leadership development programme for young African women. She e-mailed me the same day, expressing interest in learning more about my leadership and personal development Beth and Sylvieprogramme, which is inspired by the Bantu life philosophy. I e-mailed her back a few hours later, and sent her a copy of the first chapter of my manuscript – about 5,000 words!

I regretted doing this as soon as I pressed the ‘send’ button. I felt that I had, once more, failed to take the time to get to know someone before sharing with them things they could find too intense, uninteresting, perplexing, boring or even offensive. This has happened to me on so many occasions that nowadays, I often strive to abide by a self-imposed ‘no wave, no weight’ policy: unless I have checked that an individual and I are truly on the same wavelength, I should not make them endure my deep thoughts.

Obviously, I miserably failed to follow this rule in the case of my fellow leadership mentor. But I needn’t have worried. Not only did she get back to me with one of the most positive feedbacks my programme had ever received. She also shared with me so many inner feelings, and revealed such a deep identification with, and understanding of, the Bantu teachings that I felt as though I had reconnected with a long-lost best friend. Furthermore, we met up last week, and agreed to design and implement concrete projects together.

Personal development is, like life, a journey, a constant process, not an event. It lasts as long as you are alive. Beth, for that’s the name of this wonderful lady, has turned out to be a cobweb remover on my path to personal development. I am grateful to her because she has removed a huge cobweb from my path: the insidious fear of spontaneous human exchanges that had been gnawing at me for some years now. She has restored my faith in the marvellous power of honest and yes, deep conversations with people you barely know.

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell         Contact Sylvie





Mandela Day Project Launch 18 July 2017


MandelaWe are delighted to invite you to the public presentation of Lead4Hope  on Mandela Day (18th July). Lead4Hope is a project that aims to promote the social engagement of young people in Medway, South East England.

The youths will receive one public speaking and leadership training session per month, to be delivered by the CEO of Medzan Training.


  • Debbie Ariyo OBE, Director, Africans Unite Against Child Abuse
  • Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell, Director, Policy Centre for African Peoples
  • Rehman Chishti MP (Chair) Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham


Date: 18th July 2017


Time: 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm


Venue: House of Commons


Further details to follow.

Discover Your Roadmap to Success -12 July 2016 -7pm London EC2A 3EA

Photo of Sylvie Aboa-BradwellJoin Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell in the City on 12th July 2016 to discover how you can improve your professional development in 6 simple steps.

Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell is a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, think tank founder, writer and international speaker. Her company, Medzan Training, specialises in providing professionals with innovative and effective techniques to help them fulfil their career goals.

At this workshop you will learn:

  • How to identify and overcome your weaknesses
  • How you can boost your self-confidence and resilience
  • And how you can use 6 simple steps to become more resourceful, adaptable and effective.

Also speaking at the event will be:

Photo of Keith BoyfieldKeith Boyfield
CEO of the City firm Keith Boyfield Associates (event’s Chair)
Photo of Martin Armitage-SmithMartin Armitage-Smith
CEO, Cedar Tree Coaching

Date: Tuesday 12th July 2016

Time: 7pm -9pm

Location: Amnesty International HRAC, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA

Price: £15 (including light refreshments)

Registration: Click here to book your seat

My Roadmap to Success by Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

When I tell people that I am, at once, a leadership and self-development trainer, a writer publishing works in English, Spanish and French, a think tank founder and director, an educator and international speaker, as well as a mother of 2 teenage children (one of them with ADHD), some usually look at me with scepticism, others, admiration, and some others, envy.

Scepticism because, at first sight, it may seem that nobody can successfully do so many things at once. Admiration because some people may assume that I am a superwoman with an extraordinary ability to undertake many tasks at once. Envy because some individuals may think that I have just been lucky.

In truth, I deserve none of the above feelings. For there is a simple, very simple explanation for my “impossible feats”, or “extraordinary ability”, or “luck”, or whatever you want to call it.

At the risk of revealing that I am no longer a spring chicken, I will tell you that for well over 25 years now, I have been applying a very simple 6-step programme I created to achieve all my goals.

It enabled me to overcome my ADHD and graduate with top marks at a prestigious Cameroonian university, though I come from a family of poor Cameroonian villagers. It helped me surmount the linguistic barrier when I arrived in Spain in 1994, as an illegal migrant who could barely utter a few words in Spanish. It did so to the extent that by the time I left in 2002, I had several degrees and diplomas from the Complutense University of Madrid, including a Master of Philosophy, and many pieces of writing published in Spanish.

It helped me when I arrived (legally) in the UK in 2002. I could hardly speak English then. But within a few years, I had managed to work for several high profile organisations, create a think tank, publish several essays, short stories and books in English and gain access to mainstream UK media, while also having and raising my children.

Furthermore, it gave me the strength and inspiration to create a company, to mitigate the negative impact of the 2008 economic downturn on my family (my husband, a tile and stone trader, lost almost all his American, Arab and European customers). Furthermore, it enabled me to overcome the sudden loss of my mentor and godfather of my daughter, Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem. He was killed in a traffic accident in 2009, at the young age of 48. His death affected me so much that for a while, I took refuge in eating and became obese. But within a year, I had pulled myself together, and lost dozens of kilos, going from size 20 to my current size 8.

My 6-step programme towards the achievement of my goals has never let me down. Indeed, it has proved extremely successful so often that I call it my roadmap to success.

I will tell you more about it in my next post.