Harmonization, Kigali and the Legacy of AWEC

Harmonization, Kigali and the Legacy of AWEC

The final step of the personal and professional development programme I created using the Bantu life philosophy as inspiration is called Harmonization. Harmonization enables you to use all the elements necessary to make you contribute to your business, your life and your community to the best of your ability.

An excellent Harmonization will make you feel as though all the parts of your work and life are singing in harmony in a choir set up, trained and conducted by you. When this happens, you will not only achieve success, but you will also be able to use your success to leave a lasting legacy to your community and, ultimately, humanity.

I thought a lot about Harmonization while I was participating in the leadership summit of the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative (AWEC) in Kigali two weeks ago. As we whooped, clapped and cheered a succession of outstanding speakers, I watched and wondered: will the energy, excitement and positivity live on after the summit? Will we be able to use these elements as catalysts for concrete action and collaboration? Will we grab this unique opportunity to join forces and work in harmony to make a lasting contribution to our businesses, our lives and our communities? Won’t we let these wonderful words and ideas fizzle out as we pack our bags, return to our countries and submerge ourselves in the demands of our families and jobs?

Then it hit me. Ensuring that AWEC leaves a lasting legacy cannot be a spectator sport. It was my responsibility –as well as that of other members- to make sure that this summit did not go down as yet another gathering where people came, talked, felt good about themselves for a few hours, and then settled back into their daily routine, as if this event had not happened.

 

It was up to me and my fellow members to make the most of not just the Kigali summit, but also AWEC itself. This network, which transcends national and cultural barriers, gives us the unique opportunity to practise Harmonization by channelling our different skills, experiences and abilities towards the realization of our ideas, the strengthening of our businesses and the improvement of our communities.

Since returning from Kigali, I am more inclined to reach out to other AWEC members and follow up on suggestions for collaboration. Furthermore, I am more determined to leverage the potential of AWEC to strengthen my business and my contribution to my community.

Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell, CEO, Medzan Training                  Contact Sylvie

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Happiness Comes from Your Soul, Not from the Eyes of Others

Integrity is at the core of the Bantu life philosophy. This philosophy states that as a human being, you are the beneficiary of the love, work and commitment of those who came before you and, therefore, you too have a duty to love and serve humanity to the best of your ability.

If you accept this, you will, undoubtedly, adopt honesty and uprightness as your guiding principles.

Obviously, it is not always easy for us to remain honest or upright throughout our lives. Too often, we feel compelled to subordinate truth, uprightness and justice to the demands of our loved ones, or our bosses, or the communities from which we derive a sense of identity, pride and belonging.

Nevertheless, we must strive to resist these pressures. If we have already fallen prey to them, we must resolve to free ourselves. We can hardly delight in our actions when, deep down, we know that they are unjust, dishonest and wrongful. If we view ourselves as the privileged beneficiaries, keepers and transmitters of the love, efforts and commitment of our predecessors, we would not be happy to see this wonderful legacy defiled by dishonesty, injustice, greed and so many other things that are threatening our integrity.

No soul should be above ours when it comes to preserving, improving and passing on the legacy of love, work and commitment of the people who came before us. “Ye nsísim woe wa tag?” (Is your soul rejoicing?), my grandfather used to ask me whenever he would either chastise me or urge me to think about the possible consequences of my planned actions. The happiness of our soul, not the eyes of others, should guide and inspire our actions.

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Founder and CEO, Medzan Training                            Contact Sylvie

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Envy Is the Killer of Friendship

It is bad enough for one person to resent the achievements, qualities or circumstances of another. But when that feeling of resentment is harboured by an individual to whom one is supposed to be united by a friendly bond, then the situation is truly dreadful. Yet, it is easier to be envious of a friend, confidant or companion than of a stranger. For we are more directly in contact with, and more often made aware of, their successes and fortunes.

The Bantu life philosophy offers us a way of keeping envy at bay. If we were to view our friends –and all people for that matter- not in terms of opposition, but as individuals to whom we are united by our common humanity, it would much easier for us to rejoice at their achievements or luck. If they were more successful than us, we would be delighted that thanks to their success, they are in a better position to serve humanity. The same would be valid if they were healthier, or happier, or more intelligent than us.

So, let’s make an effort and decide to stop envy from killing our friendships. In order to succeed, we should regard all positive things that happen to our friends as potential benefits to all human beings, including ourselves.

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Founder and CEO, Medzan Training                            Contact Sylvie

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You Do not Know Joy Unless You Know Suffering

How many times have we assumed that we were unlucky or even cursed because we were going through unbearably painful tribulations? How often do we wonder why bad things happen to us and not to other people? Is there a better way of handling this? Is it possible for us to learn to accept what comes into our existence?

The Bantu life philosophy teaches us that it is normal, human and OK to experience feelings such as sadness, unhappiness or discouragement when we are confronted with dreadful, horrible circumstances. However, it also encourages us to understand that we must accept and then let go of these negative feelings so that we are in a better position to serve humanity to the best of our ability. In order to be able to do this, we have to be eager to embrace the ebbs and flows of life.

Rather than seeing painful experiences as fearful circumstances that must be avoided at all costs, we should view them as opportunities to better appreciate past or future joyful occasions.  When we are undergoing sorrowful experiences, we must confront them without relinquishing or giving up seeking happiness. Equally, when we are in a state of bliss, we must enjoy it without forgetting or fearing the eventuality of suffering and pain.

 

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Founder and CEO, Medzan Training                            Contact Sylvie

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Obsessing over an Unrequited Love Demeans Our Humanity

Too often, we fall in love with a person who does not love us back. It may be because they are already in love with someone else. Sometimes it is because they are not emotionally available. Some other times this is simply due to the fact that they are not at all attracted to us. Whatever the reason for the unrequited love, however deep and strong our desire, yearning and passion for the beloved, we must not let these feelings overpower us. We must not allow ourselves to fall prey to obsession.

While we cannot control who we fall in love with, our humanity is stronger than any feeling we may experience. The Akomdo (the life philosophy of the Beti, a Bantu subgroup) teaches us that as human beings, we have supreme control over feelings because we have the power of thought and the power of mind. However much we love somebody, we can and should understand that there is absolutely no obligation on their part to desire or love us back. Instead of harbouring negative feelings such as jealousy against the partner of our beloved, or hatred because we think that we have been scorned, or uncontrollable obsession, we can channel our thoughts and mind towards more positive feelings.

To achieve this, we must understand that though our passion, desire or yearning for the beloved are circumstances beyond our control, we can always control how we react to them.  Furthermore, they are, like most circumstances, temporary states or, as the Beti call them, “belot zene” (passers-by) that will either fizzle out or morph into something else; unlike our humanity, which is everlasting and far more precious. Therefore, we must not allow our humanity to be demeaned by the negative feelings triggered by an unrequited love. The essence of our humanity is to be and remain kind, loving and compassionate towards other human beings, and committed to their welfare, regardless of our circumstances.

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Founder and CEO, Medzan Training                            Contact Sylvie

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Being Alive Is Being Wealthy

“Being alive is being wealthy”. Uummmm… Really?

It is tempting to think that this thought is not true. But as with many things deriving from the Akomdo (the life philosophy of the Beti, a Bantu subgroup), we must not take it literally. Obviously, poverty exists and there will always be some people who are rich while others endure misery, deprivation and hardship. But the Akomdo encourages all human beings, regardless of their material situation, to appreciate the free, yet enriching, fulfilling and rewarding things that life has to offer. For instance, true love, genuine friendship, and parental affection are all free. No amount of money can buy them, and no material possession, however valuable, can fill the void and the sensation of emptiness we feel when we lack these things.

This does not mean that if we are penniless, we must not strive to become rich and acquire material possessions. Nevertheless, in our quest for material comfort, we must be careful not to lose our humanity. We must always bear in mind that wealth is not an end in itself, but a tool to help us serve humanity better.

Being alive is being wealthy because regardless of our circumstances, we are all inheritors of something that is far more precious than material wealth: the love, work and commitment of the people who came before us. Whatever we do, whatever our aspirations are, we must always remember that the ultimate purpose of our existence is to cherish, improve and pass on this legacy.

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Founder and CEO, Medzan Training                            Contact Sylvie

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Overcoming Shyness and Fear of Public Speaking the African Way

I was complimented last week after my Africa Day speech at the UK Parliament. I had been briefing a group of UK parliamentarians, African Ambassadors and members of the general public about the efforts of African Diaspora organisations to promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals among African communities.

Although I was moved and pleased when several attendees congratulated me on the eloquence, passion and confidence with which I had delivered my speech, I felt like a one-eyed woman being crowned queen in the land of the blind. For I know real masters of rhetoric and public speaking beside whom I am, and will always be, a very poor amateur. The chances are, if you have ever spent some time in an African village, you know them too. They are the villagers who speak at the village assemblies, which often take place in an area called discussion tree.

Parliament 2There are no microphones, lecterns or PowerPoint facilities at the discussion tree. You can only rely on yourself –your voice, your body and your brains- to speak loudly, eloquently and confidently enough to convince people. Furthermore, there are no podiums or tables to separate you from the audience. More often than not, you find yourself eyeball to eyeball, breath to breath with individuals who vehemently disagree with you, and will let you know how they feel in no uncertain terms by shouting, gesticulating and booing.

Compared to the daunting task of speaking at the discussion tree, addressing people at a Western parliament, university or any similar setting is child’s play. This does not mean that the villagers who speak at the discussion tree are superhuman. They too are as likely to be grappling with shyness and fear of public speaking as many of us. But they have developed and adopted effective techniques to overcome these challenges.

Most of us who have received a Western-style education tend to view African villagers as ignorant and uneducated. I too did so in my teens and early twenties. But I have had the good fortune to rethink this attitude many years ago. I was, for a long time, crippled by fear of public speaking due to my severe natural shyness and self-consciousness about my foreign accent when addressing people in Spanish and English. I know for a fact that I would never have conquered this fear had I not spent a lot of time observing speakers at discussion trees in many African villages, chatting to them, listening to them and, above all, learning from them.

Based on everything I have learned from a wide variety of speakers at African discussion trees, I can sum up the art of public speaking as a combination of, on the one hand, providing yourself with the mental and practical tools you need to improve your skills, and on the other hand, constant practice that will enable you to grow in confidence as you increasingly perform better.

More concretely, here are the 6 main lessons I learned from the discussion tree speakers:

  1. Accept and embrace your shyness and fear of public speaking

Acknowledging your nervousness and speech anxiety will not deter you. On the contrary, it will make you realise that you care about the issue(s) you intend to talk about. It will also help you brace yourself to confront your shyness and fear to the best of your ability. You will, therefore, develop the mental strength, courage and determination necessary to overcome these challenges.

  1. Create and adopt personalised techniques to conquer your shyness and fear

Once you have acknowledged your shyness and fear of public speaking, you should strive to find simple mental tricks to get rid of them. Be positive, the aim is not to beat yourself up for having weaknesses –as humans, we all have shortcomings and limitations-; your goal is to mentally strengthen yourself, so that you can perform well.

Give free rein to your imagination and be as creative as possible. For instance, if you have a favourite superhero or superheroine, imagine and cast yourself as that character. This does not mean that you have to literally don a catwoman suit like Serena Williams. You just have to visualise yourself as that character confronting shyness and speech anxiety, and ultimately prevailing. Another trick you may use when preparing and rehearsing your speech is to imagine that the people you are speaking to are your favourite flowers, animals, or anything that soothes you.

Parliament 3

  1. Reframe your relationship with the audience in a positive light

The audience is usually perceived in a negative and confrontational way. We often assume that people are intent on judging, criticising and mocking us. This increases our anxiety and fear of public speaking. Try instead to regard the audience as a friendly and admiring group of people who think so highly of what you have to say that they are prepared to drop everything else in their lives to come and listen to you. If you enter a parliament, an auditorium or any conference room with that mindset, you will not be intimidated, and will exude confidence.  You may also try to view members of the audience as potential allies who care about the same things as you, and are ready to collaborate with you to achieve common goals. As one villager told me, “I do not fear speaking to people at the discussion tree since I know that they are there because, like me, they want the best for the village.”

  1. Practice, practice, practice

When it comes to public speaking, you are always in an advantageous position because you have the opportunity to prepare your speech in advance. You can choose to dedicate a lot of time drafting, improving and rehearsing it, and preparing yourself mentally. It’s your show, you want it to be dazzling and wonderful, so do not hesitate to practise as much as you feel necessary. With practice come outstanding results and confidence. Of course, there will be occasions when you may have to stand in for another speaker at the last minute. But these are commitments you should only make once you are free from shyness and speech anxiety.

  1. Include your speech in your relaxation routine

No matter how busy you are, you should strive to frequently set aside some time for relaxation. It helps you improve your mental and emotional wellbeing, fills you with positive energy, increases your productivity, and enables you to develop Parliamentthe resilience and sense of humour you need to withstand life challenges and stresses –including, of course, the stress caused by fear of public speaking.

Whether your relaxation routine involves dancing, singing, walking in the countryside, meditation, breathing exercises or physical activity, try to include your public speaking preparation in this routine. Doing so will help your mind dissociate public speaking from anxiety and stress. For instance, I often practise important speeches in the countryside because trees, plants and birdsongs make me feel relaxed and reinvigorated. Furthermore, before every public speaking engagement, I have a natural-scented bath.

  1. No passion no speech

Try to adopt a “no passion no speech” rule. That is, do not give a public speech on an issue unless you care passionately about it. Public speaking is not your destination point, only the means you use to get there. No matter how many public speaking tricks and techniques you acquire or develop, no matter how much time you dedicate to the preparation of your speech, if you are not committed to using that speech to promote the realisation of a goal you passionately want to fulfil, you will not convince people, and you will certainly not mask your shyness and anxiety.

When you decide to give a public speech because you are driven by conviction and the passionate desire to promote a greater cause, you can easily block your shyness and speech anxiety. More importantly, you are able to transcend the rough and tumble of public speaking –whether it is an angry attendee shouting abuses at you, a patronising chairperson sniggering at your foreign accent, or you forgetting a central point you desperately wanted to make. For you are and will always be safe in the knowledge that regardless of how disastrous it could prove to be, the outcome of a speech would never be enough to deter you from pursuing your goal. After all, your goal is not to deliver a successful speech, but to use a successful speech to make a positive and lasting contribution to your cause in particular, and to humanity in general.

By Sylvie Aboa-Bradwell

Founder and CEO, Medzan Training                                      Contact Sylvie

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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

 

 

 

 

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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.

SPEAKERS:

  • 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.

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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

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