Progress Not Perfection

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My new friend Mary Louise and I, meeting about women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship.

I am in week three of Africa Healing Exchange’s (AHE’s) Community Resilience Training Trip. Most American team members have headed back to the U.S. and I have a few days left here in Rwanda to reflect on the work we have done, to consider additional partnerships and collaboration, and to plan next steps. I find myself continuously being reminded to stay in the present moment and to resist the natural tendency for any manager to map out the future.

I believe my greatest lessons to learn in this lifetime are patience, letting go of the outcome, and unconditional love and acceptance for self and others. I am grateful to attract people who help me to work through these things, and opportunities appear each and every moment as long as I am connected with others and practicing Ego-Balanced Leadership ™. Too many organizational founders get caught up in the minutia of development, timelines, projections, and expectations based on personal desires. It is possible to remain true to your original mission and vision while also being flexible with the steps required to get from A to Z. Moreover, it may be even more effective to forget about A to Z and to begin viewing the steps and process of reaching a goal as one that is circular rather than linear. We Westerners tend to be much more task-oriented than some other cultures and I do not think it is necessarily better.

Coffee farmers from COOPAC, a cooperative I have been corresponding with since 2007, long before I could even predict how I would meet them in Rwanda one day.

Coffee farmers from COOPAC, a cooperative I have been corresponding with since 2007, long before I could even predict how I would meet them in Rwanda one day.

When I am working in Rwanda and am in flow, i.e. aligned with what I perceive as the universal life force energy that guides each of us effortlessly if we are willing, it is incredible how much is accomplished. I can do in three hours what the average worker might produce in a couple of days. I build ground-breaking relationships and connect in with individuals from our hometowns, in similar fields, serving roles that are complementary to my own, in seemingly random ways. It is shocking to some if they are new to how AHE rolls, while the founding team members have come to expect these miracles and synchronicities.

I met someone yesterday whom I have been corresponding with via email for about eight months. He and his wife are counselors and are building a foundation to help mothers and children living in poverty in the Rwandan village where he grew up. In our discussion I learned that he perceived AHE to be a huge organization, staffed with many people and funded with large grants, with operations in multiple countries. When he learned that we were in fact a start-up nonprofit, primarily driven by volunteer efforts and led by myself and a few committed board members, he was shocked. “But how are you doing so much? I am working with these other organizations that, well, okay, they do something but I do not see the real difference they are making…this work you are doing is really incredible and I think it may help people all around Rwanda!”

Akagera National Park: Call on giraffe when you want to know what is coming in life.

Akagera National Park: Call on giraffe when you want to know what is coming in life.

Just as I was about to go into self-critique mode and to consider how we might want to do things differently – ways to improve and get bigger, better, faster – I am reminded of the progress we – I – have made. Someone holds up a mirror to let me know that I am on the right path and that the efforts are making a major difference. Yes, time takes time. Three years is a drop in the bucket really and we all know that the greatest movements of all time have started out slowly and with a mere idea. I hope that I might inspire other entrepreneurs and social change agents to stay true to your vision and to take time to sit back and enjoy the ride, watching how the path unfolds in front of you and how your work is being fully supported by the universe when it is meant to be. Keep goals and deadlines in mind but stay open to how it may look along the way. Be mindful of your language when evaluating your work, yourself, and those around you, and please be your biggest advocate.

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Pace Strategy

“The moon moves slowly but it crosses the town.” African Proverb

Turtles have been all around me. My son’s new favorite stuffed animal is a little turtle he was given at the doctor’s office. He has aptly named him ‘turdy’. I grew up with turtle figurines throughout the house and in the gardens, my mom’s touch. Essentially I have been book-ended with turtle energy, given it is the primary animal totem for both my mom and my son. They are tight. They see eachother infrequently and were just reunited today. When they come together it is like magic, and the love between them is palpable. They will spend the month together in Vermont, while I am working in Rwanda.

Turtle tells me to slow down and to tune into my inner self, my surroundings, and to the needs of those closest to me. The creature shows up when I am most distracted and have determined that I am too busy for that which is in fact most important: relationships with self and others. During such times, when the task master is in full force, ‘turdy’ is literally in my face to tell me to stop and get still so that I can reconnect with source. When I do not listen, I start to get worn down, sick, tired, anxious, distracted, and accident-prone.

Aldabra giant tortoise who nearly sliced my finger off, Prison Island, Zanzibar

Aldabra giant tortoise who nearly sliced my finger off, Prison Island, Zanzibar

I went on my longest run ever this morning: 50 minutes. I did not know that I could run for that long and I could have even continued, through the 30 degree damp air and with a headwind on the way back. Instead of a 7 minute mile, I forced myself to slow way down, and I paid attention to my form, to my breath, to my thoughts, to nature all around me, to the pounding of my feet, and even allowed some slow music to come through my ear buds.

I have grown to enjoy running, though I up until recently I viewed it as a means to an ends, as something to rush through so I could finish and get on to the next thing. I was a sprinter in highschool and I had little endurance for long-distance. I pushed myself to the breaking point and quickly quit due to shin splints and lack of interest. Ironically turtle is teaching me how to really run for the first time, and it is a metaphor for life.

When I posted this week on Facebook that ‘my’ red-tailed hawk totem had shown up just in time for a new journey to Rwanda, a friend commented, “Jeez and all I have is a lousy turtle for a totem!”. Turtle is a powerful animal and is one of my greatest teachers at the moment. I will be sharing more about my research findings in the coming months. Please email me if you would like schedule a Pace Strategy coaching session this spring. Happy running – slow down and go far!