In their own words

thrive-school-main-banner

 

Thrive School is back. It’s been a journey too, starting this thing, and in the process I have been learning and one of the best things has been getting to know groups of amazing open individuals and support them as they grow, connect and learn together.

ts-final-day-june-2017-61As the new Dublin programme is soon to kick off (application deadline Aug 29th), and dates are in the planning for the next Cork programme, I thought it would be a nice thing to tell you a little more about some of the past participants, where they are now and the learning that they have been taking with them…. the people below are just a few of the gems in the mix. It such a pleasure to introduce you to….

Máirín O Grady

mairin_aoifephotos20webMáirín is one of those people who lights up a room. When she arrives she brings insight, fun, delight and a dazzling commitment to her practices of yoga and teaching. She’s been practicing as a freelance yoga teacher for a number of years, has a passion and flair for creative writing, and was seeking ways of creating a more systemic approach to her work- how to creative programmes and courses which would reach new audiences and have a greater impact. Thrive School offered her space and community to do just that… (and also teamed up with fellow Thrive Schooler, photographer, Aoife Giles to have these lovely portraits taken)

 

 

In her words: 

Thrive School has been an enlightening adventure into a more holistic picture of my life. It has offered me a fresh and reassuring perspective on how I am living my life, providing me with the space and also the structure to dream. It helped me to identify my values, my story, my why and to move from a space that honoured this and facilitated me in analysing my work/life balance and finance/life balance and in identifying what is enough. In identifying my values and my story it allowed me to see my unique offering, and to value this offering, aided by the support and feedback of Clare and my fellow Thrive Schoolers. Thrive School provided me with a license to pursue what brings me joy and excitement and to offer that to my students and clients with renewed energy. 

Máirín has kicked off this new approach with The Sunday School of Yoga, which captures her passion for yoga. Here she is again:

mairin_aoifephotos11webSunday School of Yoga is a dynamic workshop series where we come together to map our path towards inner connection, to hone our physical practice of Yoga, and to develop our skills of Breath and Awareness. It is a guided and supported journey where we build a toolkit for a sustainable and virtuous practice of care in our lives, allowing you to discover, sustain and root YOUR Yoga. It’s not a drop in class. It is a workshop. A chance to ask questions. It’s a chance to stop and reflect upon our practice. …It is a chance to pour the tea and grow as a community. Sunday School is the day where we digest, reflect, nourish, and refuel. It is the kind of school where we make friends. It is it the kind of school that teaches us the road home.  

Sunday School – Term 1 is an earthing and delicious collaboration with The Market Kitchen by the flowing river of Mullins Mill, Kells, Co. Kilkenny. 

Find out more about book online here

Niamh Gallagher

selfie-1-2017When Niamh Gallagher speaks, you listen. Her voice is melodic, hypnotic and so very wise. She speaks from a wealth of experience and an expansive reservoir of practice. With a background in fundraising, copywriting and marketing, Niamh made the transition into becoming a reiki practitioner, yoga nidra and meditation teacher, and a health coach. ‘Through my work, I want to bring people together so they don’t have to struggle alone; to provide a space for stillness, self-compassion and coming home to yourself’, she told me, ‘We are often led to believe that our struggles are either a sign of personal failure…or something that we can just take a pill to get rid of. The truth is that we are supposed to turn to each other and to heal in community. To rely on those who have been through similar struggles for support when we, in turn, need it’

Coming to Thrive School Niamh was seeking a community she could collaborate with. She dived right in, with grace and elegance, as only Niamh can….

In her own words: 

What I got from Thrive School was exactly what I was hoping for (and desperately in need of!) – community. A community of like-minded people in Dublin who were on the same journey as I was. The importance of social support can’t be underestimated when you’re starting a new business or project. Online courses have their place, but there’s still nothing like building real relationships face-to-face!

I’ve made some great friends through Thrive School and a year since taking the course, I’m still partnering with other Thrive Schoolers on successful classes and events. When your start-up business does not fit the conventional mould, it can be hard to find the support you need. Thrive School fills the gap for anyone with a vision to offer the world something soulful, healing or creative.

A very important aspect of the course for me was Clare’s coaching which helped me move through some big fears and blocks. She’s a really talented and intuitive coach and just a fantastic cheerleader. 

Niamh teamed up with some other Thrive Schoolers- Ffion and Jane, to collaborate on new meditation programmes in Dublin, and has since started a series of yoga and message. The next in the hugely popular ‘Sunday Sanctuary’ events takes place on Sunday 20th August at Fumbally Stables – deep relaxation, meditation, massage and lunch. More info and bookings here: http://createawholenewyou.com/sunday-sanctuary/

Niamh practices reiki at Oscailt Integrative Health Centre, Dublin 4. All details here: http://createawholenewyou.com/reiki

Máirín Murray

fullsizerender-3Máirín’s interests have many currents- from yoga to holistic therapies, but it is in the digital and tech realm where she is focusing her passions and interests. Since completing Thrive School she has set up the Tech for Good branch in Dublin- a group promoting the intersection of technology and social impact and is also involved with setting up an non-profit called ‘Refugees Welcome’. Her main work comes from her new business, Digital Doddle, a content and production studio for digital innovation products. It’s all taken off since Thrive School- she is scriptwriting, making digital products and working mainly in the health education sector to bring digital learning to patients and families…

Mairin was in the first Thrive School cohort and I asked her what it is she takes with her now… her’s what she said:

  1. To think big and be ambitious. No-one is served by playing things small and safe. As Marianne Williamson says when we shine our light we give others permission to do the same. This has led to huge growth for my projects, and my vision.
  2. Action has its own momentum. I learned that it is important to start now and today to do the work. The answers and insights come while the work is in progress. The important thing is to keep moving.  Small actions, consistently taken, have helped me find the work I am being called to.
  3. That having multiple interests and passions is good. I found others in Thrive School who were just like me, who do not want to pigeon hole themselves but instead contribute their skills meaningfully to make a difference.

You can find our more about Máirín on Digital Doddle, Tech for Good Dublin

Catherine Weld 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACatherine Weld is an artist and teacher living in West Cork. When Thrive School started, she jumped on board. Catherine had a dream of starting her own art workshops in the area and also getting her work out to more people. During the Thrive School process she worked on launching her website, designing a new series of art workshops and planning for more exhibitions. Just this week she has launched a new group exhibition in Schull!

 

In her own words: 

The Thrive School material helps participants identify and work with the foundations that will underpin their creative and entrepreneurial activities. Motivation and self discipline are important requirements – the monthly meetings form the framework around which the course develops while weekly checkins with other participants offer a source of support and advice. Working as a group is a very important element as it adds hugely to the potential for valuable ongoing connections and can provide access to high levels of skill in areas that are complementary to our own.

catherine-weld-a-garden

It is so very excited to witness how Catherine has been stepping up into her own artistry and fulfilling life long dreams- this is the stuff of inspiration.

You can see more of Catherine’s work here and find out about her art courses here:

https://www.catherineweld.com/courses/

 

 

Cathy Kolbolm- Kelleher

ts-final-day-june-2017-79Cathy Kolbolm- Kelleher packs a powerful punch. Literally. She’s been training in boxing. When Cathy shared her story with us it knocked us off track too. Having had health challenges as a child she was determined to change her life around. She became passionate about fitness, nutrition, science and wellbeing -and is …. an Applied Health Nutritionist, Sports Nutritionist, Exercise Scientist, Fitness Instructor, Clinical Exercise Physical Activity Specialist and Phlebotomist!  ‘I am on a mission to activate a revitalisation in health, wellbeing and performance’, she told me.

Cathy came to Thrive School seeking structure, fresh perspective and people who would ‘get’ her. Since she finished the programme in June she has gone on to seek external funding, grants and additional support from the local enterprise office, set up her business name and is very much on track to develop a wonderful business which blends her expertise in health, nutrition and fitness. She’s defiantly one to watch…

In her own words: 

I feel now I am much more clearer, structured and confident in my ideas going forward and over the course I have gone from not having clear plans, lots of chaos to something I can start to roll out over the next few months. I also found Clare’s feedback and guidance invaluable. Even from what I was able to take away and learn from the feedback from the pitch has directed me to fine tune details.

…..

The next Dublin Thrive School starts on Sept 9thFind out more over here, and apply online by Aug 29th. 

PS- Thrive School is not just for women! There have been men too 🙂

ts-west-cork-31ts-west-cork-20ts-west-cork-17

img_1162

thrive-school-square-image

 


Kyle Zimmer – Firstbook

Kyle Zimmer

 

The One Wild Life +10 series continues- these are follow up interviews with the amazing, diverse and passionate social entrepreneurs who I met on my travels 10 years ago and whose stories were chronicled in my book, ‘One Wild Life’

We are heading to the Washington DC next with First Book’s founder, Kyle Zimmer.

FirstBook’s premise is a simple one; that books change lives. It was this deeply rooted belief that led Kyle Zimmer to forgo a successful law career to run an organisation that has since gone on to distribute over 100 millions books to children from low income families and communities.

First Book impressed me 10 years ago not just for its mission, but the way it designed strategic funding and systems to drive their growth and sustainability. Many organisations start out with brilliant and bold intentions but don’t always have the foresight and skills to put the time and resources into developing the systems needed to scale their models. But that’s exactly what First Book has done: sticking to their original vision and using data and clever funding streams to build a robust and brilliant organisation…

Over to Kyle to tell us more and share some of her learning along the way…

Photo of Kyle Zimmer from GWU

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise I co-founded with two friends in 1992 to tackle the lack of affordable, relevant books for children growing up at the base of the economic pyramid.  Even here, in a wealthy country like the U.S., 32 million U.S. children – 44% of U.S. kids! – are growing up in low-income families, where the cost of books keeps them out of the hands of those who could use them the most. A recent study by a prominent researcher found one book for every 830 kids in a Washington, D.C. neighborhood – a neighborhood not too far from my office. Without access to books, there is also no culture of reading — stifling learning and failing to provide opportunity for millions of children. We established First Book with the goal of developing a systemic, market-driven solution to this enormous social issue.

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on? 

First Book’s model has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Nearly 20 years ago, we started the First Book National Book Bank, becoming the first national clearinghouse for publishers to donate excess inventory to classrooms and programs serving children in need.  The National Book Bank has grown into a major success story over the years, providing approximately 15 million books annually at present — free books to children in need.  While the First Book National Book Bank is extraordinary, over the last 9 years we’ve built a brand new, self-sustaining model that has become a jet engine for our efforts.

In recent years we have focused on aggregating the voice and purchasing power of formal and informal educators serving children in need.  By the end of this year, our online network will include 300,000 teachers and caregivers.  The First Book Network is growing fast – more than 7,000 members are joining every month. We are already the largest and fast growing network of educators serving children in need in North America and our goal is to reach 1 million educators and programs in the next five years.  

Photo of child with bookBy harnessing the power of our Network, we created the First Book Marketplace, an e-commerce site that provides brand new high quality books and educational resources for children in need ages 0 to 18 – all for free or at the lowest prices possible.  This is an unprecedented model that collaboratively disrupts both the publishing industry and the retail industry – to serve the children at the base of the economic pyramid for the first time.  

Instead of relying on donated inventory, the inventory available through the First Book Marketplace is driven by the very educators serving children in need, enabling First Book to purchase in bulk the exact titles and types of resources most needed to support curriculum, fuel learning and help inspire reading. The First Book Marketplace now carries more than 6,000 new books and resources.  And in response to educators’ requests, we’ve expanded the First Book Marketplace to also carry resources uniquely needed to serve children who show up to school cold, hungry and suffering from chronic stress.  We now carry winter coats, socks and underwear; nonperishable snacks, backpacks and school supplies, and essential needs items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.  All of our products are specifically designed to eliminate barriers to equal education.

We’re also using the First Book Marketplace to help make recent educational expertise and resources more actionable and accessible to educators serving children in need, providing research updates, tipsheets for educators and parents, and curated collections of books that support such issues as social and emotional learning and mental health.

There have been a lot of changes over the past 10 years.  For example, we’ve shifted away from our earlier volunteer model – which was expensive to support and was difficult to scale.  In its place we have built a volunteer platform called ‘Team First Book’ that better reflects the volunteer interests of the next generation.

In more recent years, we have also begun to scale our efforts globally with pilot initiatives through local NGO and corporate partners in more than 30 countries.

And finally, we’ve been able to use market-based levers to request new content from publishers, instead of being a reactive and captive market. In this way we have been able to begin to elevate diversity in children’s literature.  It’s been an amazing 10 years; I am sure I could not have predicted many of these developments when we spoke 10 years ago.

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years? 

One of the highlights is the skill level we’ve built within the organization.  Don’t get me wrong:  we’ve always been hugely fortunate to have incredibly dedicated, compassionate, smart and wonderful people here at First Book. But ten years ago, there were fewer people and we had to multi-task in areas that weren’t always our strengths.  As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to hire the skill sets we need – on staff and through outside support.

We’ve also benefitted from some incredible partnerships – including corporate and foundation funders, amazing business and community leaders and social sector supporters who have believed in us and helped us grow.

Nearly 5 years ago, we celebrated our 20th anniversary by distributing our 100 millionth book – two major milestones.  We held our celebration at the same D.C. soup kitchen where I volunteered 20 years ago, and where I first learned that so many of our children are growing up without books.

Photo of two kids readingAnother highlight for me has been the launch of our Stories for All Project, the first market-driven initiative tackling the lack of diversity in children’s books. Since 2013, First Book has distributed millions of diverse, inclusive books. In fact, educators can now access a wide range of diverse titles from First Book, with books featuring different cultures, races and ethnicities, as well as different religions, family structures, sexual orientation, individual abilities, experiences and neighborhoods.  In addition, the Stories for All Project is serving as a catalyst for bringing culturally relevant books to the retail market, so that all children have access to more diverse books. We see how necessary that is every day – not just to turn non-readers into readers, but to better understand our commonalities and our differences and to build a path forward with empathy and understanding.

But the real highlights for all of us at First Book are hearing from educators and children about the difference that First Book is making:  in classrooms, in afterschool programs, in homeless shelters, in libraries and museums, and in the lives of children and families across the country every day.

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years? What would you have done differently? 

One of the challenges has been getting to self-sufficiency.  Through our models, we are closing in on 50% self-sufficiency.  It’s been a fist fight to get there – as we challenge ourselves to reinvent our models to be as efficient as possible and to harness the aggregated power of those serving children in need to become a market driver.

But I should note that the fact that we are nearing 50% self-sufficiency is amazing in the field of social enterprise.  We are very hopeful about getting to complete self sufficiency in the next few years, given that our network of educators has grown by 500% over recent years.  Few companies – even in the private sector — experience that type of growth trajectory – so just managing that growth in itself has also been a challenge.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 

I would be less worried and more bold in the steps that we take.  I think when you’re running a smaller organization that is more fragile, you can waste a lot of time and energy being too cautious about taking the next step.  I always believe in doing your homework – writing a full business plan – and then LEAP!

For example, I had us pilot our online First Book Marketplace for several years so we could test it, work the kinks out, and see how to make it work best for educators.  It was a completely new approach for us and for the world.  It necessitated that we change our strategy, how we were staffed, and how we saw ourselves. We were really testing out the idea of becoming a market builder.  Knowing what I know now, I wish I had launched the First Book Marketplace years earlier.  My advice:  stop waiting – do your homework and then — just do it.

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

Photo of Kyle and a studentMulti-culturalism is in peril.  Fear is driving a lot of political actions, social agendas and military actions.  We have to know each other better than we do.  For First Book, those same challenges also present us with an enormous opportunity. We know that education is a key to furthering understanding, to creating a better life for ourselves and our families, for building more just and peaceful communities.  We also know that developing empathy in children elevates the likelihood of their success in school and in life.

In 2009, First Book Canada began operations; in 2013 we launched the First Book Global Marketplace; and we have been piloting new efforts with book distributions and in-country discussions with publishers and authors from India to South and Central America.

We know there are opportunities to continue to build partnerships in countries across the globe that can help us reach more children and educators with the very resources needed to unlock the future.  First Book is experimenting with ideas that will enable us to unify the terrific organizations working in countries around the world.  Stay tuned!!

Over the last 10 years, the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces? 

There are so many very pressing issues that need to be addressed, and we have to be nimble, and be willing to question everything; to innovate and try new approaches.  As the field of social entrepreneurship has gotten bigger, there is a tendency to slide back into old models.  It is a natural tendency – but we have to fight it.  We need to continue to develop new models and strive for self-sufficiency.

That means identifying models that have helped address another issue and think about how those models can be applied in new ways.  It also means applying modern business practices and approaches to rethink the social sector. First Book is using predictive analytics and big data to help make new strides in our work:  from understanding the resources that educators need most, to determining which educators are more likely to utilize First Book’s resources.  We want to fuel learning and educational equality as fast as we can, with approaches that help us reach as many children and teachers as possible, as quickly as we can.

Another social sector initiative that I am championing is that we have more dialogue around how we are failing. In fact, that we make it an expectation and place value on the discussion of failure. I’m working with a partner organization to host a series of moderated panel discussions on just this topic.  We want to create a new norm, where funders regularly request – and expect – to hear about failure and that we share those failures willingly because we know that what didn’t work is just as important as what did work to move the needle on what we can try next.  I believe this is critical if we want to further the field.

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process? 

I continue to do this work because I know this is a solvable problem.  Educated people make sure their children are educated.  That is the simple and powerful truth.  So when you educate a generation, they will make sure their kids are educated as well.  This is especially true when we invest in educating women.  And it is true in countries all over the world. This means that if we put our minds to it – we could solve this problem in one generation.

While we have a long way to go to reach every child and to solve the issue, as we approach our 25th anniversary, I’m more hopeful than I’ve ever been.  We’ve had a lot of success.  We’ve piloted a lot of things that have worked.  Now we need to amplify and build up our systems – and be part of a grand new era – where teachers have everything they need to fuel equal education for all children.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path? 

My advice would be this:

  • You don’t need to know everything. 
  • Instead, make a list of the 10 smartest people you can think of.  You don’t have to know them.  Then call them; ask them questions.  Tell them about your challenges and ask if they’ll help you think of solutions.  My experience is that 9 out of 10 people are happy to help and flattered that you asked them.  
  • Celebrate your milestones!  And then set the next ones even higher.
  • Do not fear failure. Remember:  You can fail without ever succeeding – but you cannot succeed without ever failing. 
  • Understand this:  the social sector needs experimentation and people who are willing to try.  Look at the failure rate of new businesses.  If we’re not doubling that rate to address social issues, then shame on us. 

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Thank you for the opportunity to reflect on this wild ride of the last 10 years.  As our world becomes smaller and more intertwined, as poverty, climate change and other issues reach critical stages, the role of social entrepreneurs has never been more important.  We are the mediators, facilitators, and change agents, unbeholden to political parties, military regimes or institutional priorities.  It is our collective actions, our self-sustaining models and our ability to galvanize public willpower that help achieve the social change needed to provide opportunities for a more peaceful and prosperous world. 

 

Thank you so much Kyle of long-term dedication and tenacity to keep going. It is so inspiring to read of your growth and continued commitment to the transformative power of education.

..

Want to stay in touch? Hope on over here to sign up for news, happening and resources.

………………….


Nick Moon

nick moon 1

 

It’s time to hop back across to Africa, this time to Kenya for the next in the One Wild Life +10 interview series. Next up is Nick Moon.

I first met Nick in Nairobi in 2006 when I interviewed him for the original book. He was one of the first interviews of my trip and I remember clearly his warmth, generosity and deep interest and expertise in development. We talked for hours. I liked his irreverence and humour too, underpinned by a willingness to tear up the imaginary rulebook combined with his approach to giving things a go and experimenting with new methods. This attitude has continued over the years.

Back in 2006, Nick, alongside his co-founder Martin Fisher was running kickstart.org, a social entreprise which was developing low cost farming equipment or ‘appropriate technologies’ to kickstart rural development. They had developed an oil press, a building block press and a manual water irrigation pump- marketed as ‘The Money Maker’! That organisation is still running, now focused solely on water pumps and has gone on to support 200,000 families to create successful farming businesses and help over a million people out of poverty. (More impressive stats and information can be found on their website here)

But five years ago, Nick felt it was time to move on, support others, share his expertise and expand the range of his projects. He became grandfather too, and a new father! Never one rest on laurels, I’ll let Nick tell you more …

2016 Skoll World Forum

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on? 

Has it been 10 years? Blimey. Some 5 years ago I thought that it was time to do something new. I felt that Kickstart was well and truly on its way and didn’t really need me any more, and in any case  I was getting stale. Starting something from scratch and building it up is one thing; managing a large established organization is something else. So I reckoned it was time to make a move. KickStart was and is in very good hands under co-founder Martin Fisher.

In 2011 my eldest daughter Marion Atieno Moon, who had graduated with a business degree in 2006 and had been working for big corporates, had just decided to start a brand-new for-profit social enterprise, Wanda Organic, here in Kenya. Wanda finds and brings the latest breakthrough soil health and fertility solutions to smallholder farmers. We agreed that my experience with KickStart would be very helpful in developing this new organization, so that’s what triggered a new chapter.

I am now the executive chairman of Wanda, and heavily invested financially (I sold the house) and emotionally in its growth. I am currently busy helping her set up the local production of bio-organic fertilizers in Kenya and innovating distribution and marketing strategies to develop awareness and build and serve demand.

Working with my own daughter has its challenges of course, and she is the founder, the boss, so I have to be sensitive to that. Accordingly I don’t work full time at Wanda and keep busy in other ways.

I had accepted an invitation in 2010 to mentor a young visionary Kenyan, Eddy Gicheru Oketch, as he built up an organization he had started in 2008 – in the wake of the horrifying period of “Post Election Violence” in Kenya – which sought to help Kenyan youth understand and overcome the twin pressures of poverty and the cynical manipulations of self-serving politicians who were pitting them against each other by inciting violence across tribal/ethnic lines. My advice to Eddy was that it is near impossible to love thy neighbour if you are hungry and jobless, so there can be no lasting peace and reconciliation without a certain measure of prosperity. In 2012 he asked me to help in developing and restructuring his organization to assist youth to identify economic opportunities and set up group enterprises which create employment and social value. I did what I could. The organization is now known as Ongoza (means ‘to lead’ in Swahili) and doing pretty well. We recruited a great CEO and built the team, developed the program, and are expanding outreach. I am the Chairman of its Board.

I have always had an interest in social and cultural, as well as economic, development and so am also busy – again at Board level – with The Theatre Company of Kenya, which is all about promoting skills and professionalism in the Performing Arts. We train actors – loadsa raw creative talent here – and nurture the creation and production of local performance. One notable high point for us was when our troop performed a Swahili adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” (Wanawake wa Heri wa Winsa) at the Globe Theatre in London.

greenhouse marion wanda 036
Nick’s daughter, Marion

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years? 

See above – there is never a dull moment!

I suppose the big thing was taking the step out and away from KickStart  five years ago – although once a founder always a founder, and I remain on the Board there too, and ready to expound our Theory of Change to anyone who will listen! This has meant attendance as a delegate or speaker or moderator at different high level conferences addressing economic or agricultural development in Africa – World Economic Forum meetings, Skoll World Forums, Global Entrepreneurship Summits, African Green Revolution conferences. Trips to USA, UK, France, Switzerland, China, India, South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, Uganda and other places. These have been interesting and useful (sometimes) in terms of high level policy formulation, but can also be described in some ways as “low lights” given that such a lot of time and money is spent on talking and intellectualizing, propounding and debating, passing lofty resolutions and the like. But a lot of this waffle does not get turned into practical action, or at least not as quickly or effectively as it should or could. Even so it has been a great privilege and pleasure to meet all manner of truly remarkable people at these events. One thing I have realized here is that a lot of truly good work is done by people who do not seek to aggrandize themselves, who steer clear of the limelight and just get on with stuff.

Talking of modest people getting on with stuff and not making a fuss, another highlight for me at a direct personal level has been to watch the development and growth of the 30 or so “OVC” (orphaned and vulnerable children) – almost all girls –  whom my wife supports and raises at her children’s home in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. These are girls who were once victims, and/or at serious risk, of sexual abuse, violence and other forms of exploitation. One (actually a boy – well, a young man now) will graduate in clinical medicine in December. Another has a degree in actuarial science. Another is studying economics and statistics at the University of Nairobi. It is wonderful to see them grow up and go out there into the big bad world, confident and capable, after starting off at such severe disadvanatage.  www.vumilia.org

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years?

Challenges? One is that there are so many things to do and so it can be tricky to decide what to focus on. Another big challenge in this part of the world is the high levels of corruption in government, although maybe this is just a perception based on the blatant almost unashamed nature of corruption, cronyism, nepotism, greed and so on here; I have a feeling that you will come across this everywhere, only in other parts of the world it is better disguised. Related to this, one also comes across negative people, negative attitudes rather too often – people who seem intent on why an idea or plan cannot work, rather than how it can be made to work. Overcoming or bypassing negativity takes time and energy which might otherwise be used more productively

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago? 

Don’t get yer knickers in such a twist. 

Kenzo Nov 16 (1)

(with Kenzo Shane)

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

The grim and grumbly things include:

  • Climate Change denial and how the Fossil Fools are so resistant to renewables. Fracking about, horizontal drilling, tar sands and shale gas and so on, whereas there are proven preferable energy alternatives which can now be implemented at similar financial/economic cost and very much lower environmental and social costs. That’s a big one.
  • The pharisaical sanctimonious self-regard of the banking industry.
  • Industrial-chemical agriculture’s dominance in food supply and distribution. Bad for biodiversity and good food.
  • Global corporate capitalism’s unwillingness to really recognize or accept any other value beyond shareholder value, (mealy-mouthed lip service not enough)
  • The growing gap between rich and poor – among nations and people within nations
  • Religious extremism and everything that follows on from it
  • Mendacious rabble-rousing media
  • Governments serving the interests of big industries not people
  • A growing shortage of empathy and compassion among the comfortable and prosperous

Reasons not to give up in the face of all this?.

  • Science and technology continually advancing, with new solutions/innovations in energy, health, agriculture, industry and even finance, coming along thicker and faster than ever before
  • The growing understanding, especially among young people, that we can change things for  the better if we really want to, and work at it.
  • The nascent movement toward a post-capitalist era where values go beyond the simply material or monetary to include social and environmental values
  • Immigration and transmigration of people generally – stirs things up in a good way, prevents atrophy and stagnation
  • Communications technologies and social media enabling people to be informed and get organized better, faster.
  • Plenty of courageous changemakers and status-quo challengers emerging in all spheres of life and everywhere
  • Empathy and compassion alive and well and growing among so-called ordinary people
  • Human ingenuity, adaptability, resilience, creativity, innovativeness, invention alive and well despite threats and opposition from the dinosaurs.

Over the last 10 year the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces? 

As implied above Social Enterprise seeks to upset equilibria, complacency, stases. It has evolved over the last 20-30 years for sure and done a great job in developing new (or rediscovered?) perceptions of value, and an approach that demonstrates how social and environmental benefits can be offered by a commercial entity for whom monetary profit and economic gain are not ends in themselves, but rather the means by which the other values can be sustainably delivered.

Even so, while a growing number of people and markets are learning and adjusting to these new paradigms, no cigar yet. There is need and room for a lot more social enterprise. I would hope that the theory of a ‘million little pieces’ will prevail, the realization that loads and loads of relatively small, local community-facing, social enterprises can have an aggregate impact for the better. And move away from the obsession with growing monolithic, monopolistic enterprises of any kind. Or we will fall into the ‘Too Big To Fail’ mindset/trap again where sheer size is taken as an indicator of worth. Boo to that.

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process? 

What else is there to do? And besides, its fun. How do I sustain myself? Largely by avoiding the question, and expecting that things will turn out OK. Avoid gloom and pessimism. Glass is ¾ empty? No mate, its ¼ full.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path? 

Just get on and do it. Don’t worry about the risks and costs. “Nothing ventured  ..” and all that. Just as long as your prime motivation is not money, nor fame. They might come, or not.  But if you don’t enjoy it any more, stop it, and do something else.  And don’t get too full of yourself.

 

Thank you so much Nick. So brilliant to hear your updates. Thank you for your continued work and optimism. It spreads.  

Clare x 

……

STAY IN TOUCH. 

Sign up here for extra resources, news and happenings…

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..


One Wild Life + 10: Taddy Blecher

OWL +10 template 2

 

Ten years ago I set out on a journey across the globe to interview social entrepreneurs about their life stories. I travelled for 11 months, across 17 countries, interviewing nearly 200 people. I took hundreds of photos, travelled thousands of miles, laughed, cried and learned so much about the world, myself, and what it takes follow through on a dream- mine and theirs.

That journey became ‘One Wild Life’, a book published by The Collins Press in 2009, which in turn, has travelled the globe. The stories of these change makers have reached school children, policy makers, presidents, educators and fellow entrepreneurs, among others, as the book made it’s way to people who themselves have a deep longing to make a difference. I still get emails from readers across the world who have been moved or touched by the stories in the book. This has to be one of the best feelings in the world!

So ten years on, I am curious to revisit these stories– Where are these people now? What lessons have they learned? What has changed? And what advice or insights can they offer to us as we collectively embark on a new phase of history, challenge and opportunity.

And so, I am in the process of tracking down as many of the interviewees as possible. This time it’s a little different though. I’ve sent them some questions, to which they are offering replies. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing the interviews weekly and at the end will be looking for patterns, themes and trends.

Ten years seems like nothing and forever all in one. So much has happened, so much change, so much learning, and yet the lessons from that journey are still living in me, unfolding each day at a time. The past is never really past, just a work in progress.

And so I hope you’ll join me in this current iteration of the investigation! (#onewildlife10)

……

Dr. Taddy Blecher

Maharishi Institute, South Africa

 

Dr Taddy Blecher PhotoFirst up in the interview series is Dr. Taddy Blecher in South Africa.

It seems fitting that Taddy is first in this series, as it was reading about his work that was one of the sparks for the original journey. Back then Taddy was the CEO of CIDA City Campus, which was pioneering a new model of affordable, accessible third level business education in South Africa. Since then he has gone on to be one of the leading global voice on education reform.

Soon after meeting Taddy he went on to launch a new educational institution, the Maharishi Institute, which has the aim of educating 100,000 leaders for the future of South Africa. Significantly the institute considers personal develop and work experience as central to its educational tenets. It’s “Pay it Forward” philosophy helps to ensure that thousands of young people who would ordinarily not have access to third level opportunities are now getting a chance through an ingenious peer to peer support model, which in turn is pioneer new ways in which third level education is funded and sustained.

Taddy is also co-founder of the Branson School of Entrepreneurship and is the recipient of numerous awards and honours including the Skoll Entrepreneur Award and the Global Leader of Tomorrow Award from the World Economic Forum.

Reading Taddy’s update is a huge reminder to me in the power of a big vision and big numbers, and how that vision is accelerated when embodied and conscious-raising practices such as meditation are integrated into the root of education. It was a pleasure meeting Taddy in Johannesburg back in 2006, and it is an equal pleasure to hear of his amazing progress and commitment ten years on…

And so, without further ado and with deep appreciate for his work and that of his team, over to Taddy.

How has your path shifted and evolved since I interviewed you for One Wild Life? Where are you now and what are you working on?

It is the same path but more evolved.

Ten years ago, I was in the planning stages for the Maharishi Institute (MI) – in June 2017, MI will be 10 years old and what a journey of learning and growth it has been. MI was donated a huge building in downtown Joburg, which we have been renovating over the years, and it currently is home to over 650 young people who are completing their studies via distance education with the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.

As CEO, I have moved from day-to-day operational management, to working on the long-term sustainability of the institute, with the goal of making it the first self-sustaining educational institution in the world.

Since we first started in year 2000, across all our programmes we have started, we have assisted 15,250 unemployed youth to access education and jobs. They earn close to R1 billion combined salaries per annum and we estimate they will earn R23 billion conservatively over their working careers.

Our target is to educate and train 100,000 leaders for the future of Africa, who will ultimately earn one trillion Rand over their working careers. Funds that will transform the lives of poor communities and bring them into the middle class.

20160613-IMG_2955

 

What are some of your highlights of the past 10 years?

We have held three graduation ceremonies and shortly the fourth for the Maharishi Institute, and each one is an amazingly happy celebration of achievement, success despite the odds and incredibly proud moments when parents embrace the first graduate in their family. This makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Over the past 10 years we have partnered with some incredible companies and people, and the relationships that have developed have been phenomenal. So many people truly believe in what we are doing and are willing to partner with us on the journey that it makes the trip very exciting.

A recent highlight is we have passed the ‘tipping point’ threshold from a quantum physics point of view to make Johannesburg ‘Invincible’. This is a theoretical basis which requires a group of advanced TM (transcendental meditation) practitioners. So for the population of 4.5 million people in Johannesburg, we have seen it going from the ‘murder capital’ of the world 10-years ago, to not in the top ‘50 murder cities’ in the world.

Also in development:

  • We have an MOU with the Department of Basic Education to provide technical support to the initiative of introducing a project-based entrepreneurship curriculum into all schools in the country.
  • The target over the next 15-years is to ultimately reach 12 million children per annum across 27,000 different schools. This has emerged from work I was asked to under the auspices of the former Deputy President to Chair a National Government Task Team in the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) on Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship.
20160613-IMG_2961

What have been some of the challenges of the past 10 years? What would you have done differently?

Overall its been a total joy! Every challenge has turned out to be a blessing!

There is ALWAYS a solution.

Funding is always a challenge and is becoming less of a day to day concern as we approach and manage to achieve sustainability. Aiming towards becoming self-sustainable is incredibly hard-work but I know that it will be worth it when we achieve it.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Just keep going! You are so on the right track! ☺

Graduation - Class of 2015

What do you see as some of today’s global challenges and what opportunities do you see?

With the increase in digital access, there are a lot of opportunities opening to impact people. At the same time, digital access can lose the high-touch human approach, which is one of the factors that makes MI work better than a public university.

We need a more enlightened approach to education that facilitates human Evolution at a great speed, alongside the technological revolution taking place.

Over the last 10 year the field of social entrepreneurship has evolved and got better known and supported. What would you say is the next stage of growth for the field and what are some of the main questions or challenges which it faces?

It is true, and its largely thanks to the work of the Skoll Foundation and other great organisations like Ashoka, Echoing Green, Aspen and others also playing a great role.

The next phase is for Social Entrepreneurs to support each other more, and I am a co-founder and on the global board of an initiative called Tendrel  a global organisation for Social Entrepreneurs to support each other using YPO Forum methodology. Its one year old and we are in 9 cities in the world already with over 100 members. It will grow to thousands in over 50-cities.

Also, the next phase is system change on two levels: 1) working with and transforming government policy and implementation practice; 2) Creating a tipping point in cities, states, countries, continents and globally in collective consciousness

Some research I’m interested in is how social entrepreneurs can actually be the best partners and supporters of each others’ work. SE’s can also work together enrolling key eco-system players to bring greater levels of systems change.

Another trend is the big push towards ‘merged models’ which are more financially sustainable.

Maharishi Institute building

Why do you continue to do what you do? And how do you sustain yourself in the process?

As an organisation we have a vision to create 100,000 future leaders for Southern Africa, so while we have reached more than 15,000 to date, we have a long way to go. Knowing that the future of these young people and their families are changed forever through employment, studies, and personal mastery, is a very strong motivating factor.

What advice would you share with others setting out on their own entrepreneurial path?

When you know what you really want to do with your life, then ‘jump off a cliff’. You have to just do it. Anything less is not worthy of who you are and what you were born to do.

20160613-IMG_2861

Anything else you’d like to add?

A bit more info about Maharishi Institute- to give you a better understanding

We offer University access opportunities to unemployed young people who either couldn’t afford university, or 70% of whom don’t have the school-leaving results to be allowed into University
We provide: education, books and study materials, a daily meal, work experience, counselling, job placement on graduation
The Institute offers Consciousness-Based Education, a loving, holistic student-centred approach to learning that starts with developing the inner Consciousness of every student twice daily with Transcendental Meditation and the advanced TM Sidhis programme. Our cost of this Education package is one-quarter currently of public institutions
“Learn and Earn” ensures that students work while studying to earn a stipend, and pay ‘it forward’ on their fees account; it also ensures that on graduation students have work experience making them highly marketable
“Pay it forward” is an agreement between all students and MII whereby all students commit to funding another student once they have started working to ensure that someone else (the student can nominate a family member or anyone else) is able to have the same opportunity they did.  In this way the funds are not lost and always keep re-cycling, so if you sponsor one student, in time that becomes two, then three, and so on.
We are working to become the first self-funding University programmes in the world for historically disadvantaged youth, where the institution can sustain itself without any funding from government or from the students’ tuition fees which is the traditional two income sources for a University

MI choir
BEE

** All photos courtesy of The Maharishi Institute. Photographer credit unknown.

Thank you so much Taddy- it is so brilliant to learn more about you work, impact, ideas and vision.
And yes, there is always a solution, and yes to more enlightened approaches to education, as that feeds into all growth, change and development. Onwards.

Clare xx

STAY IN TOUCH

Want to stay in touch? Sign up over here for access to tools, practices and resources for leading your own one wild life with regular updates, more interviews and news of exciting happenings!

 

 

Tune in next week for another interview in the One Wild Life + 10 series.


Learning to do Business and Life as Unusual

Thrive School main banner
As you know, starting your own project or business is not easy. It brings up a whole host of questions and challenges. It brings up internal fears, vulnerabilities and doubts. There are logistic challenges, timing issues, design issues. There are lots of ‘what’s, how’s and why’s’.

It has been 7 months since I launched Thrive School and in that time it has been evolving, and I have been evolving too. One of my benchmarks for learning is when new questions show up. If I’ve no new questions then I’m not entering new territories of growth and development. At the moment, I have a ton of new questions!

Thrive School emerged from a vision to create networks of dreamers and do’ers; people who have a passion and drive to make a difference through their lives and work, and naturally have lots of questions too. I know that the questions can be overwhelming when we don’t have support, community and a framework for asking them. So in many ways Thrive School is evolving into that- a place to ask questions, learn through them and in doing so expand what is possible for each of us. It’s a place to evolve our dreams, ideas and ultimately ourselves too.

And so Thrive School a much about how we learn as what we learn. The how is so important as is will impact on our future how- how we bring the learning from the programme into our projects and lives. Here’s a few principles behind the Thrive School ‘how’, and why we think they matter….

 

Values based development

Think of your values like the keel of a ship. Our values help to keep us upright, especially in choppy waters. They give us weight, and support, and around them we can build our ship and sail it. Gaining a understanding of your personal values and how they impact and influence the business or project you are designing is critical to your own personal sanity and the project’s sustainability. Our values help to keep us grounded and on track. They help us to value our time, ourselves, our products and our pricing. They are the foundation stone and so we start there.

Life and Learning happens in cycles

Transformational learning is not a linear process. We learn in cycles and spirals. Sometimes we need to make the same mistake a few times before we really learn how to navigate the challenge in a fundamentally different way. Learning is accelerated when we take a cyclical approach: conscious action, then review, then adaption before we take action again. This way our learning is taken out of a linear process and into a spiral. This is the learning not just of growth but of adaptability and flexibility- two key skills necessary for any business or venture to thrive.

Structures Create Flow and Freedom

So many of us strive for freedom- freedom from 9-5, freedom from debt, freedom from certain external demands. Think of a bird- for it to fly a bird needs to instinctively know and respect the structure which the dynamics of wind currents, gravity and physics impose. It’s by embracing these that flight is championed. Our ultimate freedom comes when we understand and embrace the structures which work best for us. What boundaries do we need to have around our time, for instance; or what perameters do we need have around our spending and savings to give rise to financial flow. It’s the boundaries that give rise to the freedoms that we choose.

Energy management, not time management

Life happens in seasons and cycles. There are weeks when we have more energy and weeks when we have less. There is a season to launch something, and a season for letting go. Gaining a deeper appreciation of our own energy cycles helps us to move our days in relationship with what we are creating.

Peer to Peer and non ‘expert’ driven discussion and feedback loops

We are our own experts. The age of the guru is dead. At Thrive School we celebrate and honour expertise, know we each have something to offer. No one person has the ‘right’ answer for you- only you do, but we can listen to each other, learn from each other, and each strive for our own version of excellence.

Prototype, iteration, experimentation and play

We grow our ventures through cycles of experimentation, iteration and prototyping- each one building upon the next, which gives rise to the next. We encourage early prototyping, trying something small out, then making adjustments. We dream big but understand that it will take iterations to get there.

Time is precious

Our time is one of the most precious things we have. Time for ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, our hobbies. There is a lot to pack in. At Thrive School we look at how we can best  value our time by developing business services, products and offering which respect our expertise and reflect back to us the value which we bring to the world.

Elegant next steps

Our big vision is powerful but we get there one step at a time. What is your elegant next step?… we ask this over and over of each other. And yes, we believe the process can be beautiful and elegant too.

 

These are just some of the core principles. As the school evolves, so too will they. This is learning in action, one elegant next step at a time.

… 

 

 The next 5 month Thrive School programme is about to happen in  DUBLIN.

Applications are open until noon on Tuesday 1st November.

 Apply online here now. 

Not in Ireland and interested in Thrive School? Stay in touch… I’m looking at ways to bring the material to a wider audience- it’s in evolution too. And if you’d like to offer me your input or ideas please do share with me via email: clare (at) claremulvany.ie – thank you!

Clare. xx


The Anatomy of Thriving 

The anatomy of thriving insta

 

What does it mean to really Thrive? How does it feel in the body? And how can we thrive in both business and life?

We were huddled around the table at the last Thrive School gathering when the idea of collectively creating an ‘Anatomy of Thriving’ came to us. It was a way of opening up the conversation about what it means to really thrive as we create our own ventures.

So often on the entrepreneurial journey personal wellbeing is sacrificed in the face of financial or social goals. We can drive projects onwards to the point that we may have a thriving business but we are left depleted. Or we may be so cautious about expending our own energy or stepping out of our comfort zone that we don’t manage to build the momentum needed to carry our creative energy and momentum forward. So where’s the balance? And what are the ingredients to that sweet spot of thriving?

I rolled out a long piece of paper and drew the outline of a body (which we reckoned looked more like a flat Morph than anything human, but none the less…. )

Here’s some of the thriving elements we came up with. It’s a collective work in progress, a Thrive School prototype. As it stands, a helpful guide. I’d love to hear what you’d add too….

Stay earthed: It’s that ground beneath your feet. It’s your community. It’s your sense of place. It’s your values. It’s your gravity and your gravitas. To rise one must first root.

Take the first step: You may not know the final form, but your first step will help determine it. The first step can be tiny. Take it. Reach out to another. Send that email. Ask that question.

Create boundaries: Boundaries may be conversations you need to have with potential partners, or the way you structure your time. They may be decisions  about who you share your dreams with. It may even be how much sleep you get. Your boundaries, like the banks in a river, help to give you momentum and direction. Build some. Let them guide you.

Follow your Gut: More often than not your gut is right. It’s the primary and visceral response. Does it feel right in your gut- then it probably is. Does it feel wrong or wary? Then it probably is too…

Be young at heart: Play. Prototype. Experiment. Where’s the fun in it? Fun is a signpost too. It’s there to be followed.

Try your hand: Give it a go. If it fails you can give something else a go. There is learning in that, and where there is learning there is growth.

Amplify your voice: Your story is your gold. You’re worth the weight of it. Get to know the nuances of your own story and then let your voice carry you onwards. Always.

Open your Eyes: There are opportunities everywhere. See patterns. See connections. Join the dots. Make the connections. Observe, then act.

Allow trust to infiltrate everywhere: Trust is the weave of connection between it all. Trust your gut, trust your instinct. Trust that there will be people to guide you and support you. Trust will lead you in the right direction. Trust is the currency of action. Believe in goodness.

Now over to you? What would you add? Dissect away..

Interested in Thrive School? Applications are now open for new cohorts on Cork and Dublin. Apply online here. We start in Cork on Oct 15th and Dublin on Nov 6th

Want to stay in touch? Sign up to newsletter for more updates, resources and happenings…


Time to Thrive…

newsandevents

It is time to open the doors again.

Inside, connection awaits. Learning, support, friendship, challenge and opportunity too.

Inside, there is a gathering of rich ideas and eager hearts. There is vulnerability, doubt, bravery, questioning, imperfection, courage and momentum.

I’m talking about Thrive School.

Thrive School has been running now for 5 months, and I have been learning so much. I am encouraged and inspired by the participants. Each have a spark of an idea, want a better life for themselves, and others. There is so much talent, so much potential.

Part of my learning is this:

Universally, I see that keeping momentum going is so hard. Universally, the inner critic chimes in and sets the internal sabotaging demons on the loose. To have a dream, to believe in it, and then to get up and do something about it- well that takes guts. No one said it was going to be easy. But necessary, yes…

I don’t use ‘necessarily’ lightly here. I am a big dreamer. I am always always thinking of the next thing, the next solution. What I have learned is that those dreams are like fuel for my soul and my sanity. The dream is momentum. The dream is my gold. The dream helps me to stay connected to my essence, divinity, power, energy.

Thrive School potential 3And when we are each connected to our dreams and our vision? Well, we have collective rocket fuel. We have a world which is evolving.

You see, I think we need it all now- the talent, ideas and creativity. We need people who are awake, on fire, in love, devoted. The world is going through complex change. It’s easy to loose hope, and the alternative of despair will only set us in circles. We need those dreams;  we desperately need new creative solutions.

But we don’t have to do it alone. When we share our dreams, we find allies and supporters, collaborators, clients, funders, beneficiaries, customers, partners and people who we be there for us just at that critical moment when we may be running out of fuel…

Evolve your dream and in doing so you’ll serve others. 

In a way you could also call Thrive School a dream factory- a space where people have a chance to share theirs, work on theirs, prototype parts of it, ditch parts of it, discuss and learn tools to build it. Some dreams may take wings, others may pivot into something else… but at a minimum it will have been listened to, given voice and given space to express itself.

Want to be a writer? Great- let’s looks at the support you need to make that happen, the ways you can bring in income to fund it and the ways you are going to get your voice out into the world?

Thrive SchoolYou’re a yoga teacher but finding it hard to find you niche in a community already flooded with yoga teachers. What a great challenge. Let’s looks at ways you can connect with others, design a new programme, and bring yoga into places where it is needed to most…

Your already an artist but find it so so so hard to promote your work and share it online? You are like so many others… let’s take it one step at a time, looking at how to get your work into the right places and the right story to accompany it…

Want to eventually leave your current job to develop a new creative business venture? Great – come and prototype your idea, learning what may work, refine your target audience and test your thinking before you make the big transition…

Thrive School opens it’s doors again in Dublin and a brand new programme in West Cork. 

Topics include visioning, marketing, programme development, finance and sustaining momentum. There are 15 places on each programme.

We start on 15th Oct in Cork, and Nov 6th  in Dublin 

Applications now open, and come along to the open days…

Find out more here.

And if you want to discuss more, message me and we can arrange a skype call to see if you are a good fit.

Thank you…

Clare xx


A Little Tale of Failure, or is it?

serbia-8372_5926228568_o

Failure, I have come to realise, looks very different when added to with time.

Yesterday I had a realisation that what I once thought as failure was actually a massive blessing in disguise. Twenty years on, almost to the day, the memory hit me hard.

I was walking through University College Dublin and passed the admissions building. Twenty years ago, in that very same building, I had signed myself out of college. I will never forget the feelings. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed, and thought I had utterly failed, especially my parents.

I was 17 and had entered UCD with the full intention to complete an honours Science degree. My first year subjects were Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths. I had loved Biology while in school, got an A in my Leaving Cert, and somehow thought that it qualified me to sign up to all the rest of the sciences! I was mistaken, gravely so. By Christmas I was so off track I was about to fall off. I was overwhelmed, stressed, and falling far behind. I had never failed an exam in my life but I failed all my Christmas exams, except Biology. I remember getting 18% in my Chemistry exam which was returned to me covered in red corrections. I didn’t even understand the corrections. ‘What on earth was I doing? Why was I here? And why was I feeling so utterly lost?’ Mostly I remember the feelings of shame.

I knew I needed to tell my parents. I was fearing it because they had already paid my admissions fee and in leaving college it would not be reimbursed. I was so embarrassed. I don’t remember the moment I told them I wanted to leave but I do remember the response. It was filled with so much love and compassion; so much understanding. They could sense I was on the wrong track too.

The day when I had to sign out of college my father accompanied me too. He walked me up to the admissions building, took me by they hand and told me that it would all be OK, that I’ll figure it out. Afterwards, when I had signed what felt like release papers, he gave me a hug. That was that. He didn’t say much but his actions meant the world to me. He was giving me his blessing for whatever next and in those moments I knew he trusted me. I had no idea what impact this would have on my career, I was terrified and yet I was utterly relieved. I knew I would never have to sit another Chemistry exam in my life and the thought of that shifted and lifted my very being.

My strongest sense was that I needed to travel, move away from Ireland and learn on the road. Yet I had no money. So a few days after signing out of UCD, in possibly the most embarrassing career move of my life, I took a job in McDonalds. The shame radar escalated. I mopped floors. I cleaned toilets. I flipped disgusting fish cakes. I burned myself on greasy oil. I was told I did not hustle enough. I was told I need to up-sell. I hated it, I hated it so much I would cry every day, but I was determined to get out of there quickly. Three months later I had enough money to buy myself a plane ticket. I had organised a volunteer role in Tonga, South Pacific, and so, at 17, my parents, in yet another act of selfless devotion, brought me to the airport and with tears in their eyes waved me off to literally the other side of the world. The older I get the more I realise what a remarkable gesture of trust (again) it was on their part- entrusting me to the world, and to myself.

388334758_aa3c2bc47b_o

Tonga was a revelation to me. Here I found myself in the middle of the Pacific- literally and metaphorically. I spent nine months in Tonga and three in Western Samoa (which is a whole other series of blog posts), and while there a world of possibility awakened in me; indeed the world awoke in me. I became more interested in education, learning and international issues. I realised that lack of resources does not equate to lack of imagination, and that sometimes the best innovations happens on the edges, on the margins. Travel, I have found, enriches as it shakes. In the challenges I was tested and invited to see more of myself. My so called failure had indeed been a doorway.

394725156_9ae5b0779e_o I realised that had I remained in UCD I would have been utterly crushed. I got out just in time, thanks to the love and support of my parents, and to some toilet cleaning. So when I returned to Ireland I was ready to re-enter university with a deeper sense of my interests and of my callings. I entered Queen’s University in Belfast and after three years there got a scholarship to Oxford University, staying as far away from Chemistry and Physics as I could.

Walking through UCD yesterday I was reminded of that 17 year old- full of shame, full of fear, but knowing she needed to step off track. In doing so, the world had revealed itself, and by entering into the world I entered into myself. That failure was a gift. As I walked passed the admission building, a tear swelled in my eyes, remembering my late father’s words, ‘All will be OK. You’ll figure it out’. He was right- all is OK, and while in many ways I am still figuring it out, I have learned to trust that the failures are just learning in deep disguise. My only wish is that my Dad was around so I could thank him, for walking me to that door, and unbeknownst to me at the time, opening a much deeper, richer one for me. It is a door that keeps on opening, one failure at a time.

obenaus-april-2014-3467_14078160171_o


Living Seasonally: Spring Session

Living Seasonally Spring 2016 poster

 

It is really only now that I feel like my year is beginning. As the season starts to shift into longer and brighter days, I feel ready to get going. Ideas which were planted months ago are starting to take shape, and more seeds are being sown. Emerging from the winter, there is an energy of growth around; an energy that needs support, fostering and nurture.

I am soon to launch the Spring cycle of Living Seasonally, and I must say I’m excited- because it is exactly about that- nurturing ideas, fostering community and supporting people to find what is really  bringing them alive right now.

This will be the third time I have run this course, and by now I am getting a sense of what people really gain from it. They gain new perspective I see, and it provides a structure for thinking through ideas, reframing challenges and plotting a map for making their visions tangible. But what it also offers is a tight time frame- we look at the next season ahead, and ask what vision we have of ourselves for this chunk of time.

So often I find when we dream, we dream of a distant future. I am all for dreaming but sometimes we also get addicted to the dreaming, and there is a blockage from drawing the dream down into daily reality- right here, right how. Plus it can be hard to do it alone, so gathering with like minded people, and sharing perspectives and insights can not only accelerate the process but make it clearer, and more fun too.

The course is online, over 8 days. Shared through video, audio and written medium will be a host of visioning and planning tools on a private online learning platform. There is a ‘Living Seasonally’ Spring planner to go with the process and participants are given access to a private facebook group following the course, where we continue the connection and conversation.

 Interested?  You can read more and register for the course over here. 

We start of Feb 10th and it will run until Feb 17th.

Would love to have you on board!

Clare xx

testimonial

Being led through a major transition through Clare’s Seasonal Planer was a joy – artistic, beautiful, simple yet highly effective in its approach. It helped me to kick-start working on my new projects. I was looking forward to the vidoes every day, also for the community of likeminded women through the FB group, the sharing, the safe exploring of openness. For weeks the files were a great help to keep me on track and still are.

Clare in her wonderfully down-to-earth way is a coach you can trust to guide you with focused, gentle kindness. I am looking forward to the next segment.

Esther Moser, Autumn 2015

testimonial

 


Living Seasonally Winter Session

Living Seasonally Winter 2015 poster

The months swing around. The seasons come, and go again. As the days here in Dublin get shorter and the nights longer, I am preparing for the winter.

There are practical things, like buying a new blanket for my bed and stocking up on woolies; and then there is the mental shift, understanding that the darkness has something to serve, for in the dark the light is born.

It is only really in latter years that I have started to understand the darkness more; an understanding which has been augmented by appreciation of the ancient rhythm of the celtic calendar, itself underscored with the truth of constant change. Tuning into this seasonal pull and pace is a way, I find, to steady myself and connect me deeper to the natural cycles of life. I find it a beautiful thing, for nature knows when it is time to bud, then bloom, and it knows so instinctually when it is time to rest.

We resist so much of that, with our electric cities and the constant murmur to ‘do’ and push at pace.

I have come to think of the seasons as powerful metaphors, offering us questions from which to explore our own currents, visions and purpose. The turning inwards of nature offers the questions of, ‘what is wintering in your own life?’, and then, ‘what wants to be seeded?’.

But winter is a time too for a slower germination.

I remember the first bulb I planted. I was about 6 or 7 years old and was given a hyacinth in school. But in order for it to germinate I had to keep it in the dark, for what seemed like an eternity. I hid the pot under a bookshelf in my classroom but every so often would peak a glance, staring into the darkness for signs of life. I was doubtful, very doubtful. ‘How could something grow in there?’, I wondered.

But the conditions for growth have a mystery to them, and little did I know back there that darkness was growth’s aid.

Then one day, kneeling down of the cold classroom floor, and scooting further under the bookshelf to get a glimpse of the plant pot, I spotted it. A green tuft popping out of the clay, edging towards the light. I’ll never forget that hyacinth. It turned out to be purple and had the most magnificent evocative fragrance. All born in darkness.

The winter is a time to turn inwards, to let our own hyacinths come to their gradually life. It is time for us to honour our own wintering, as we honour our own growth. It is time too to warm our hearts.

All of this; this wintering, this honouring, has led me to develop  this coming session of ‘Living Seasonally’. Over the course of 8 days, there will be a chance to gather online, prepare for the season ahead, turn inwards and trust our own rhythms. There will be time too to warm the heart- with poems and the sharing of stories. And time to find a sense of rest and renewal through meditations, journal practices and creative prompts. I’ll be sharing some seasonal recipes as we all learn to nurture ourselves, and others, from a place of connection and wisdom.

This is living seasonally for me.

We will be live from 4th- 11th November. I would love for you to join me.

Registration is now open. Head on here to find out more and if you have any questions please get in touch.

Until soon…