Friday May 3rd was my 28th Life-aversary. I was asked why I celebrate the day I was diagnosed rather than the last day of treatment. My life forever changed the day I was diagnosed with cancer. It was probably the most significant day of my whole life. I'm very proud to say I survived 28 years post Ovarian Cancer. I don't think many people get a chance to say that. It's an event to be celebrated!
I also had another reason to celebrate this year. I had my official graduation ceremony from my Small Business Management course at Te Wananga o Aotearoa. I was asked to be the student speaker for the ceremony. It's been many years since I spoke in front of a large crowd. I used to love the adrenalin rush and being in the spotlight but over the years of not using my gift, I became a shrinking violet. I even started to develop a stutter. My self confidence plummeted. This is a great opportunity to get back out there and reconnect with my voice and start sharing my story again.
|I had an honorary chair on stage.|
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is one of New Zealand's largest tertiary education providers which offers a comprehensive range of certificate to degree level qualifications to New Zealanders of all ages and walks of life.
Guided by Māori principles and values, they take great pride in their nurturing and inclusive learning environment.
The ceremony was very special. We were greeted in Maori and there were beautiful Maori songs sung before the ceremony started.
I was invited to sit up on stage as the honourary speaker. I sat there thinking, "How on earth did this fair haired Canadian get asked to represent a Maori institute?" I practiced my Maori pronunciation over and over in my head.
And then it was time to deliver my speech. The subject was "Whanau (meaning Family) - Transformation Through Education"
E nga mana, e nga reo, rau rangatira ma. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
To the respected people, speakers and leaders gathered here. Greetings, greetings, greetings.
It is an honour being asked to speak to you all here today. You’ve all taken a big leap, some to completely change your path and others to enhance the dimly lit path of yesterday. Change can be incredibly scary.
I stumbled onto my career early in life. Even before graduating with honours and winning the Gold Medal for Highest Average in 7th Form, one of my teachers saw my potential and secured me an internship with a prestigious law firm. I turned it down. I also turned down a scholarship to study medicine. Law and Medicine were far too stressful career options for me. To the shock and horror of my mentors, I chose to enrol myself in a 2,200 hour Massage Therapy program to buy myself some time until I figured out what I REALLY wanted to do.
Two years later I emerged, passing the government board exams and became one of the youngest Registered Massage Therapists in Canada. I was just 20 years old when I started my business in Toronto, Ontario in the mid 1990’s.
My naivety was an advantage. I was fearless. I didn’t care about money. I was doing it for the love of the art and to help people feel better. I didn’t know a thing about business and I didn’t really need to. Word spread fast. Within the first year my phone was ringing off the hook. While my friends were whittling their money on university educations they would never use, I was earning more money than I knew what to do with and I was spending most of it on clothes.
Ah to be so fearless and naïve and have such passion for something you are genuinely talented at. That is the best indicator to know when you know you are on the right track. But I was too young to recognize it. Sometimes we don’t know we’re on any track at all.
For me, freedom was more important than getting caught up in the mundane day to day, the “work treadmill”. So when things got too busy and it started to feel like “work”, I decided to give the business away to someone else. I found a young single mother who I knew my clients would love and who would appreciate the work. I took off, travelling through Europe on my own to get in touch with who I was and the direction I really wanted to go. I was just 23 going on 24. Massage was my career but I knew I needed to balance my life with my gift of healing and with my purpose which was working with young people and cancer. Every summer from the age of 16, I volunteered for two weeks as a camp counsellor at a camp for children with cancer. I lived for those two weeks. I wanted more of THAT. They were my Whanau.
You see, I had childhood cancer. A rare type of ovarian cancer and I was not expected to survive. Coincidentally, it was May 3rd, 28 years ago on this day that I was diagnosed. I understood early on that my life’s purpose was to be there to support others. I can’t have children but that just means I’m able to give my time to hundreds of them. My massage business filled my wallet but my charity work filled my soul.
My lifestyle in Canada was too focused on material THINGS so at the age of 29 I chose to leave that life for a simpler existence here in New Zealand. I made a clean break, sold all my possessions in a garage sale for $1,500 – enough for a one way ticket - and me and my old cat travelled across the globe for a fresh start nearly a decade ago. I came here with nothing. It wasn’t easy but life isn’t meant to be easy, it’s meant to be lived. For the past 9 years I have devoted the majority of my free time to charity work, mostly with CanTeen. They have become my new Whanau.
I say YES to everything. My friends and family think I’m nuts. I’ve always lived my life a little on the edge. Some people have even remarked that I don’t value my time enough because I give it away so freely. But my soul feels differently. My business continues to pay the bills where my focus is on what fills my soul.
For 18 years I ran a business without any direction. I began to lose interest in it so I felt it was time to take it to the next level and create something I didn’t just want to “give away” to someone else. Doing the Certificate in Small Business Management really gave me the tools I needed to understand just where my strengths and my weaknesses were. As you can probably figure out, money has never been a big motivator of mine.
To me, making money is just the bonus to living the life of your dreams. Having your own business should give you the satisfaction and freedom to be yourself and share your talents… (hopefully finding a way to feed your family in the process or in my case, buying cat food and a new pair of shoes every now and again – which are more of the jandal variety these days).
After applying the modules from the course to my business, I felt an immediate sense of achievement. Each week I was making headway and completely transforming my old business model. I had hit a rut and now I was moving forward again. I added a few other passions of mine, yoga and meditation to the mix. I’d been doing these things most of my life and encouraging my clients to incorporate them into theirs. They wanted ME to teach them. So I thought, “Why not?” So last year I also did a Yoga Teacher Training Course. It was a busy year.
Each week I found new inspiration in others as they were exploring their passions and taking their own fearless plunges into the unknown. Our teacher Ra, encouraged and supported us when we got stuck or off track. I was personally surprised at the sudden fear I felt after so many years of ignorant bliss. Not knowing HOW I was doing it seemed to work for me. I resisted. It brought up insecurities I didn’t even know I had. Ra helped pull my head gently and encouragingly out of the sand where I had been stuck for what felt like a thousand years. What can I say? Some of us work better in the dark.
Ra told us at the start of the course that by the end of it, we could end up on a journey we didn’t expect to take. As the course was wrapping up and I was accepting this new direction my business was heading toward, things went on a totally different course just as Ra said they might. “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans for something else.”
Out of the blue, I was invited to join an expedition to climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest peak and the tallest free standing mountain in the world - for Ovarian Cancer. I said YES before I could even think about what I was saying yes to. Not because it was on my bucket list or because I have nothing else to do. I knew in my heart that this was the next step on my journey. I felt that fearless excitement knowing that THIS is going to take me closer to the direction I am supposed to go.
So I am now finding myself applying everything I learned in the course to raising money for this massive event. This is so very clearly my purpose. My own business continues to tick along effortlessly which in itself is a gift. I don’t need to waste my attention on something that already works. I took this course to learn how to apply it to something bigger… and I didn’t even realize it.
Whatever YOU do, it should feel as though you are giving of yourself. Your heart must be in it, otherwise it’s just another “job” and those of us who run our own businesses know, it can be easier working for someone else. Going in and having a 9-5 and weekly paycheck is a regular fantasy of mine. But we also know the deep satisfaction of the freedom of expression, in doing what we love. It’s not about money. It’s not about taking. It’s all about sharing and giving and being creative and passionate about what YOU do and possessing the knowledge of finding a way to get paid for it. When you are working until 2am on something you absolutely love, without getting paid – now that’s when you know you’ve hit the jackpot. If you don’t love what you do, you might want to rethink the game plan. Life is too short to be miserable and unfulfilled.
But if that IS what you have found, then you will be rich beyond your dreams and making your mark on the world as you know it. Get out there and share your gift. Be the change you want to see in the world.
In closing I’d like to thank Te Wananga o Aotearoa and especially my Kaiako Ra for seeing my potential and for giving us the tools to transform ourselves.
No reira, Kia kaha, Kia toa, Kia manawanui.
Therefore, be strong, be victorious, be of strong heart.
|A few of us from Small Business Management|