It’s been a year since I quit my job and here’s what I’ve learned. Entrepreneurship is tough.
I have to pave my own path not knowing what the end result will be or if I’m even going in the right direction. I work longer hours than I did as an employee and I’ve learned to protect my dream and focus, focus, focus, no matter what’s going around me.
But for the first time in my life, I’m doing work I absolutely enjoy and jump out of bed every morning eager to start my day. I’ve got five books out since December, have hit a few best seller lists and already see results which are amazing.
I’m normally a happy and healthy person. Over the past four years, I’ve managed to start and maintain several behaviour modifications in all areas of my life. I now exercise every morning, eat vegan, get good sleep and wake up feeling grateful to live in one of the most beautiful parts of this country—a move I purposefully made.
But there’s still one area of my life I haven’t conquered yet. It’s the most difficult part of my life journey so far and it’s been bugging me quite a bit lately.
Almost every day, I struggle with niggling little worries like: What a crappy chapter. No one’s gonna read this. Will I even make it? I’ll end up making no money, running out of savings and going bankrupt. Who am I kidding anyway? I’ll die a lonely death and get thrown in an unmarked grave or even to the sea. And on and on and on.
Science has shown that negative thinking (just like negative people) can ruin a career, relationships, even life. Negativity reduces the brain’s ability to think clearly and stay productive. It’s lowers our body’s defence mechanisms and triggers sicknesses. Plus it’s a massive waste of time.
My anxieties aren’t about what others think or say or do or whether someone else is getting ahead or not. I cured that problem after working in places like NATO. A few weeks there and I’d already had the hide of a rhino! No, my worries are all about how I feel about me. I am my own worst enemy.
There’s a saying that it takes a positive attitude to achieve positive results. As Victor Frankl shows in Man’s Search for Meaning, events are neutral. It’s our choice how we respond to them. The decisions we make today determines our lifestyle tomorrow.
Okay, but how in the heck do we control the mind then?
Today, I decided to try an experiment. A low-tech one. Every time a negative thought crosses my mind, I’m going to drop a red bean in my brand new Stinking Thinking Jar.
Here’s the plan.
Whenever a negative thought pops into my mind, I’ll ask myself if that thought has any benefits to me, anyone else in the world or if it’s aligned with my core goals. If the answer is no to all three, then in the jar a bean will go.
Every night when I journal about my day, I will add up the beans and post the number in a corner of the page. This will measure this activity in concrete terms—i.e. number of red beans—so I can’t bluff my way out or hide from the truth. I know the competitive nature in me means I will very quickly try my darndest to decrease the number of beans in the jar so I can “win.”
And that is what will reduce my stinking thinking behaviour.
I’ll update this post in 30 days to share my results. I’m confident I can do this!
In the meantime, here’s an amazing video compilation that I know will inspire you.
This week, many of our brave sisters in Iran are risking their lives by standing in public without their mandatory – legislated – head covering. Yes, a woman not covering up is tantamount to a criminal activity, not just in Iran, but in other parts of the Middle East and Asia. Yes, this is 2018 and we’re still dealing with these barbaric and backward practices. Depressing, isn’t it?
But there’s something that depresses me even more. I have a hard time understanding why some Canadians and other Westerners – many who call themselves liberal and open, and bend over backward to be politically correct – vociferously defend face, head and even fully body coverings that are usually dictated by archaic traditions and customs where women are treated as second class commodities, with very strict rules and roles to follow.
Such women are usually told the coverings are for their “safety” – as twisted that logic is. This kind of sentiment is not just degrading to the women, but disrespectful to those men who are more than capable of controlling their impulses and live in society as normal, law-abiding citizens.
If this practice is so “noble” – as some purport it to be – then why is it only forced upon women? Why is this practice enforced in communities where women must sit in the back of religious institutions while the men sit at front? Is this what egalitarianism looks like?
Yes, there are some adult women who dress a certain way willingly, as a sign of their beliefs and faith – and to those women, I offer my respect for their freedom to express themselves as they wish.
But a majority, especially girls and young women, are coerced by their own misguided mothers, patriarchal fathers and brothers, as well as community and religious leaders, and told if they will be ostracized if they don’t comply. As we, humans, typically live in group environments and seek validation from our community, these young girls follow through, not wanting to be punished or be seen as not being dutiful.
Remember that young woman in Quebec who wanted to cover her full face in public institutions? She was never without her male guardian. Then, a journalist asked her if, just like she wants the freedom to cover up fully anywhere here in Canada, would she confer that same freedom of dress to her sisters in Iran and Saudi Arabia who are currently fighting this oppression enforced by legislation. Her answer? “No, they MUST cover up.”
The hypocrisy is deafening.
Yet no one raises their voice to defend this type of subjugation that comes from misogynistic practices common a thousand years ago. No one wants to offend these cultures. If we acted with the same mind-blowing apathy about other issues, we’d still have slavery in America and apartheid in South Africa.
For those who say “but it’s their culture,” I’d like to remind you that girls are human too, regardless of their culture, race or background. They have feelings and dreams, and desire freedom of speech, dress, movement and education just like any of us. Don’t take away their dignity by treating them like some alien race.
Your silence only thickens the age-old cultural veils behind which blatant human rights abuses hide. Your silence allows these backward practices to continue today. And that’s really a shame.
If you want to learn more about Iranian women’s fight for their rights, here is a great place to start: http://mystealthyfreedom.net/en/
EDIT – 1 February 2018
Some have asked why I wrote what I wrote here. Here’s why.
There’s a group of almost a million determined and brave women who have gathered under the banner My Stealthy Freedom and who are fighting for their basic rights and dignity in Iran. I’ve been quietly reading their stories for the past two years, feeling lucky that I have the opportunity to live in the free world.
Then, on Tuesday these women came out in force and asked on their forum whether we – those of us living in the West – care for women’s rights around the world. They asked if we even know what’s going on and asked why we’re so silent? That made me sit back and think.
I know many of us who look away and pretend nothing’s wrong, lest we offend another culture. Many have chided me for bringing international women’s issues up because that can be construed as “racist.” This mindset, I believe, only aids and abets the abusers and enables heinous crimes to carry on under our own watch. I certainly want no part in that, so I told these women that I’m a writer and that I will write.
I told them that what I’ll say will not be popular, but my feelings of discomfort or any concern for losing popularity are nothing compared to the human rights violations these women go through. So I wrote this to open everyone’s eyes. And I did so unapologetically. Because I’d never want to get to the end of my life, knowing I remained a silent coward while others suffered.
If speaking up for women’s rights and for the most vulnerable population on earth makes me a racist, so be it. I will wear this badge proudly.
To my sisters around the world, I say, stand strong. Even if no one else will, I will stand for you.
Every morning, I do my exercise routine at home listening to motivational talks from a Youtube playlist called Top Ten Rules, and it just happened that I clicked on Martin Luther King today – on his 89th birthday.
I write stories based on how young women around the world are mistreated by their own families and communities, and I realized as I listened to Mr. King that the struggles these women, and especially girls, face in these traditional cultures are no different to what African Americans faced during his time. Forced marriages, honour killings, female genital mutilation, suppression of freedoms of movement and of speech are just the tip of the iceberg. These practices are shockingly entrenched – yes, even in 2018.
Then I heard Mr. King say this: “We must come to see that social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts of persistent work of dedicated individuals. Without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. So time is always right to do right.”
I felt my chin lift a little higher and I stood a little straighter. Yes, we must not be too complacent, hoping one day these societies will modernize. We must never be too fearful to speak up for fear of offending other cultures. Human rights violations are human rights violations, regardless of where or when they occur.
As much as we’d like to think all traditions are sacred and cannot be criticized, we should never fear to speak up when we see atrocities, especially when the victims are girls, mere children.
Immigration is not the answer to the world’s problems. It’s a band aid, feel good (for some) solution that does little to progress the planet as a whole. And I say that as an immigrant myself.
We must empower people within their own nations and force their leaders to value their own people. Having lived on four continents and travelled to countless places now, I’ve observed and experienced, time and time again, gut wrenching corruption, unbelievable nepotism, mass scale and at times legislated discrimination against women, entrenched abuse against the poor, the disabled, and LGBTQ community and other marginalized populations. These problems are rampant and chronic.
There are many countries where young girls are still subject to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour killings—barbaric acts perpetrated and upheld by community and political leaders. You’d be surprised to know this happens even in our own backyards, within communities that quietly engage in these stone-age practices. These happen because we allow it to happen. These happen because we’re too afraid to offend “their culture,” and turn a blind eye to blatant human right violations.
Just like we rallied against apartheid, we must call abusers out even if it means losing trade or business opportunities or make us “politically incorrect”. We must hold foreign leaders and community leaders accountable to how they treat their own people and not reward them with charity, aid or business which only lines their own pockets, while the majority struggle to make a living.
It’s astounding to see the ruling families of some countries been driven around in luxury super sedans while right next to them are slums where their own people scrounge for food. It’s heart breaking, frustrating, maddening.
There’s something inherently misaligned when we’re solving some of the biggest science and technological problems and even considering becoming an inter-planetary species by populating Mars, while girls here on earth are still denied an education by their own families and children don’t have enough to eat everywhere.
We must stand up for what’s right and do so unapologetically. We must stop tolerating the intolerable.
Against all advice and logic, and to the confusion and consternation of everyone around me, I bowed out of my corporate job on Monday. I will no longer be forced to travel on red-eyes, lead a bickering national team or track multi-millions of dollars which everyone wants to get their hands on. This also means that finally, I’m free of my migraines. What an absolute sense of relief. Thankfully, I’ve got so much vacation left (that I probably should have taken earlier), I still have a few months until my paycheck stops. After that, I’ll be relying on two years worth of savings. That’s it. The end of my runway.
The trigger for this move was a series of life-changing events on the personal front, including a sad divorce and a cancer scare, but if I really think of all this clearly, none of this happened by chance. These events merely woke me up from a stupor. This is but the culmination of more than two decades of hard work, frugal living and planning ahead. This is what I’ve been dreaming of and planning all along in the back of my mind, ever since I stepped out of high-school and into adulthood a long time ago.
More than anything right now, I’m simply grateful I’ve been able to have this experience, to say goodbye to that phase of my life and start this new and exciting one.
Last week, I received heartwarming and encouraging feedback from my beta readers who said they like my work, enjoyed my book and asked how they could join me in my mission to empower girls and young women around the world. Last night, I spoke with an entrepreneur incubator here in Vancouver and got advice on my business and financial plans. They actually think I should have jumped out earlier.
There is only one road ahead of me now. My calling is calling, and the pull is strong. It’s high time to do the thing I want to do, the thing I dream to do. I want to leave a legacy when I die, one that says at the very least, she tried to leave this world a better place than when she found it.
For those who wonder, yes, I’m anxious about this decision. Yes, I’m nervous about the uncertain future. And yes, I smell the fear in between those euphoric moments when I wake up to a day that’s mine and my own to do what I’ve always dreamed of. But now my motto is: feel the fear and do it anyway.
There will be steep mountains to climb on this journey, and there will be high cliffs off of which I may roll, but that’s life. Whenever I fall, I plan to get back on my feet, dust myself and keep on walking. Because that’s what it will be like to live a life without regrets.
My stories are about girls from around the world kicking ass and beating evil men, while still enjoying the things girls love, from fashion to food to cute guys. And why not? Life’s not just about survival, but about growing and thriving and laughing and living, isn’t it?
I’ve lived in seven countries in four continents and traveled to countless more since I was a baby, so I write from my own experiences and observations. I write to entertain, but more importantly I write to empower girls, especially those who live in the darkest corners of our planet. These are sad places where a girl is born with few rights. If any. Their rights are taken away by archaic customs and traditions, by their own families and communities and in some cases even by law.
Did you know that in some parts of the world a little girl can be bartered in exchange for clemency when a male member of her family commits a crime? That little girl is “married” off to the other family only to be abused in horrific ways that if we truly knew how, it would keep us all awake at night for the rest of our lives. Hard to believe this is happening today, in the twenty first century, under our own watch, isn’t it?
Contrary to some beliefs however, girls aren’t disposable or useless or a burden. In contrast, girls are the greatest untapped resource on earth. The greatest untapped resource on earth.
Did you know:*
Women operate a majority of small farms and business in the developing world
Each extra year of a mother’s schooling cuts infant mortality by between 5 to 10%
When girls over 16 earn an income, they reinvest 90% in their families and communities, compared to men who invest only 30-40%
Every 1% increase in the proportion of women with secondary education boosts a country’s annual per capita income growth rate by about 0.3% points
Picking just one country – if India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. Imagine
Did you also know:*
38% of girls in developing countries are married before the age 18, with 15% of all girls married before 15. Yes, you read that right. Married before the age of 15 usually to men 20, 30 or more years older.
In a single year, an estimated 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence, and 50% of all the sexual assaults in the world are on girls under 15. These are our children.
The number 1 killer of girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide is pregnancy & childbirth complications. These are our children having children.
Women and girls make up 80% of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked across national borders annually with the majority trafficked for sexual exploitation
100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation, also called cutting. Most go through this between infancy and 15 years old
In sub‐Saharan Africa, girls aged 15–24 are eight times more likely than men to become HIV positive. Imagine being 15 and being HIV positive?
There are 65 million fewer girls than boys in primary school today. Girls’ primary school completion rates are below 50% in most poor countries because they’re pulled out by parents for domestic work or to be married off
More girls under 16 years old are in domestic service than in any other type of work
Heart breaking statistics.
Let’s not forget behind all these numbers are real live girls with blood pumping in their veins, bright eyes that look up to the skies in wonder and hearts filled with feelings, wishes and dreams. They are just like how you and I were when we were little. But as you can see here, so many girls have their hearts and bones broken on a regular basis around the world.
This horrifies me. And it should you too. It’s for all these reasons I write. And also because I was a little girl once and know what it’s like to grow up in this world as one.
I have heard that feminism is a dirty word now, one that is isolating and choleric. I fervently believe in the equality of all – women, men, boys, girls, gay, straight, transgender, bi, black, white and everything in between. But, if even one girl is forced to drop out of school and marry a man she’s never met with no one uttering a word in her defence, then I say feminism is not dead. If even one little girl is taken to the back shed to have her clitoris cut while she screams for mercy, then I say feminism is not dead. If even one young woman is robbed of her identify and restricted in her movements by being forced to cover up for so-called safety and ‘honour,’ then feminism is not dead. When those of us sitting in the comfort of our living rooms whisper to one another “Oh, but it’s racist to talk about it. We must not offend,” and pussy foot around serious human rights violations, then I say feminism is not dead.
As long as we, in the name of misguided multiculturalism and perverted political correctness, allow honour killings, forced marriages, wife beatings and female genital mutilation, to continue, then, I say feminism cannot die. When so many today defend such vile practices as “cultural, “part of a heritage,” or “a tradition,” then no, feminism cannot die. There is still much work to be done.
For those who still wonder why we must care, I have a simple poem for you. A poem I hold dear to my heart.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller, German Anti-Nazi Activist
Regardless of where you identify yourself in the political spectrum and whether you agree with any of the organisations mentioned in this poem or not, one thing holds true. The day we stop fighting for what’s right, is the day we give up on ourselves and on humanity.
My message to all the vulnerable little girls everywhere is to stay strong, fight for your rights, find ways that allow you to learn and become who you truly dream of becoming. With all the advances in technology and reach of information these days, there has never been a better time to be bold and grab onto your dreams. So yes, you too can grow from the little acorns you are now, to magnificent, giant oak trees.
Anything is possible, my little sisters.
I also want to you know you’re not alone in your endeavor to claim your rightful place as human beings, to be respected and valued like any other. We will change this world together. We will make the world aware, and we will make them care.
And if no one else will, I promise you, you’ll find me standing with you, always.