Shake the Dust

Shake the Dust – a poem by one of my favorite spoken word poets, Anis Mojgani. I hope you find brilliance and courage in his words, as I did. 

Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you
That your heart, it beats 900 times every single day
Do not settle for letting these waves that settle
And for the dust to collect in your veins

Shake the dust, and take me with you when you do
For none of this has ever been for me
All that pushes and pulls, and pushes and pulls…
It pushes for you

So, grab this world by its clothespins,
And shake it out again and again.
And jump on top and take it for a spin
And when you hop off shake it again.

When the world knocks at your front door
Clutch the knob tightly and open on up
And run forward and far into its widespread, greeting arms
With your hands outstretched before you

Fingertips trembling, though they may be.

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You can find more artistic inspiration (poetic, visual and musical) here.


Inspirational Person: Toju Adelaja, Equal rights advocate


Toju Adelaja is only 14, but is already a strong voice for gender equality. She believes this topic is of utmost importance, not only to women, but to the world at large. She currently lives in England, but grew up in Nigeria.

Toju, at such a young age, you seem to have really explored the issues facing the world today, and have been courageous enough to tackle some of them, such as gender equality. Where was your passion for gender equality born?


My passion for gender equality was born at home. Although I love my family, I was told that I should move and compromise my life – all for one ultimate purpose, to get married. That was the spark. I simply couldn’t (and still can’t) understand why that standard wasn’t held for my brother.  I will devote as much as I can to help with women’s rights, because it is the right thing to do.


What is one success story that has inspired you recently about gender equality, and why did it inspire you?


The story of Margaret Keane, which was recently featured in the film Big Eyes. She was an artist in the 1950’s whose husband took the credit for her work. After many years, Margaret decided to expose this deception, going through both a divorce and lawsuit in the process. It made me realize that, in a time where women standing up for themselves was unheard of, Margaret had the courage to push forward for what she believed in. I’m growing up in a generation which is much more progressive (although certainly not perfect). Who am I not to stand up? I have nothing holding me back.


What are some initiatives that could help to encourage gender equality


Schools could educate about human rights and gender based discrimination. I go to an all girl’s school, an environment where you would think that women’s rights would be at the forefront, but this isn’t the case. I remember an instance where we were taught some rapists go without charge because their victims were wearing short skirts (in an attempt to influence students clothing choice). To encourage gender equality, girls should be educated about their rights and working towards solutions to real world issues that will affect them. Equally important is boys education in gender equality, sexual respect, and expression of emotions. Inappropriate sexually aggressive jokes are still socially acceptable, education is essential to help them understand the implication of their actions.


Who are your role models, who are making a big difference for gender equality, and what do you appreciate most about them?


I have quite a few role models actually:
  • Emma Watson recently was the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, launching the HeForShe campaign. Prior to this, she inspired me as despite her great success as a actress and model, she decided to go to renowned Brown University, unlike many of her peers.
  • Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate (17). She managed to turn a tragic situation around. Instead of being a victim, she used her situation to inspire so many including young women like myself. She is just an ordinary girl, who wanted to make a difference, so went ahead and did.
  • Chiamanda Ngozi Adichie: is from Nigeria, like me, novelist and short story writer, as well as well known for her TED Talk on why everyone should be feminists. I lover her approach, as well as her collaboration with Beyonce which helped to make feminism a global topic.

Finally, if you could imagine a world where gender equality was achieved – what would it look like? How will we know we’ve gotten there?

It would be more peaceful and balanced, I think. Women would be encouraged in politics, more respected in society, better represented in media, achieve equal pay, and have the same educational opportunities. When we get there, there will be no need for campaigns, as each gender will respect and support one another.

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{Interested in other Q&A’s with Inspirational People? Check them out here}

Choosing Beautiful.

I have been reflecting on what beautiful  means to me. It has been an evolution – a distant glimmer at times and an engulfing warmth in others.

Through focusing on gratitude as part of my Happiness Project, I have become increasingly aware and thankful for the beauty in my life.

Real beauty to me is compassion, authenticity, curiosity, gratitude, courage. It is the love filled daily effort to find and focus on the positive in all things – our world, our lives, our friends, our family, and in ourselves.

Beauty is not who you are on the outside, it is the wisdom and time you gave away to save another struggling soul, like you.  ~Shannon Alder

Let us reclaim this word. Let us restate our worth.
Let us #ChooseBeautiful.

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Promise or Pay: Creating social change through individual action


Promise or Pay is an innovative social platform whose vision is to transform personal promises into wide scale social change. It uses a combination of publicly declared promises and pledges to charities (if promises are not kept) to ensure a win-win outcome with guaranteed impact.

I was absolutely inspired by this concept created by founder Jay Boolkin, an Australian social entrepreneur who used behavioral and motivation research to create this concept. He explains:

Research shows that making a formal declaration of your intentions increases your chance of actually achieving your goal by 33%, and by 72% if money is put on the line.

By using the power of social media sharing as leverage, his aim is to inspire millions of people from around the world to be the best (and happiest) they can be, while encouraging and promoting donations to worthwhile charities.

I recently created my own promise – to exercise 5 days a week (next 3 months) or pay $50 to a mental health charity (Open Minds), inspired by my Happiness Project. Consider sweetening the deal, by becoming one of my supporters, or better yet creating a promise or pay account yourself! You can also check out their free resources (like a 30 day program on how to build a lasting habit).

What goal would you like to accomplish? Did you make a new years resolution that needs refreshed attention? Are you following your own happiness project? Share your ideas below – or links to your own promise or pay pages!

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My Happiness Project: Stage 2


This year, I made a resolution to explore initiatives to create an atmosphere of positivity and balance in my own life – an initiative I am calling my Happiness Project. My plan is to introduce 3 new tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me!

I’m excited to announce the three new happiness tactics (for April to June) are as follows:

  • Invest in 5 meaningful and intentional relationships – It has been said, that we are the company we keep. Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people, and create a significant impact on your own outlook. Additionally, a sense of connection with others has been shown to increase happiness. Take time to really consider the people in your life – your friends and family – and determine 5 key relationships. If you can’t think of 5, it’s time to get out there and meet them! Find ways to invest in these people often: carve time out of your day to ask and listen to them, organize dinner parties, arrange coffee dates, go on nature walks, tell them how much you appreciate sharing moments with them.
  • Exercise daily – Getting our bodies moving, helps keep our emotions in check. Be kind to your body, and get started regardless of your current activity level. Go for a walk around the block (perhaps with one of the people above), check out the 7 minute workout, start a yoga practice (free on youtube), or integrate exercise into your daily commute (like biking).
  • Create a happy music playlist – Find the songs that make you feel peaceful, happy, or joyful. Listen to it often, and specifically when you are feeling down.

From January to March, we focused on: daily identifying 5 things we are grateful for, meditating, and removing one negative thing from our lives. I implemented all three and have noticed a shift in my awareness and level of stress.

One tool I discovered that I cannot say enough positive things about is Headspace, a tool for meditation. I especially liked the metrics (like tracking your meditation day streak), ability to keep track of friends meditation activity, and best of all if you purchase a subscription they provide one free of charge to someone who needs it.

For those of you who implemented happiness initiatives in past 3 months, share your insights below! Which songs make you happy? Do you have tips for including exercise in your daily life? What are things that you are thankful for (list 5 below)? Join the Happiness Project with me!

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Empowering Sustainable International Development


In an ideal collaboration the International Sustainability Club (ISC) at the leading school for sustainable business, Presidio Graduate School,  partnered with Zawadisha to analyze and provide insights for  Kenyan women’s entrepreneurship in environmentally conscious products.

Zawadisha is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower, entrust and expand opportunities for women through micro-lending, preventative healthcare, and education. They accomplish this through funding micro loans which address the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) – such as water tanks, and solar lamps.

Allyn McAuley, a MBA Candidate at Presidio whose focus area is in the development of software solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social problems, explains the success factors of Zawadisha’s approach:

Zawadisha’s approach differs from many micro-finance organizations because their eco-product ideas come from the women that they serve (their members), not from the organization. In addition, Zawadisha works solely with women’s groups, as opposed to individuals, because groups provide the support and accountability necessary for successful lending and repayment of loans.

The ISC students assessed the financial, social and environmental impacts of the micro-loans, including the Grameen Foundation’s Progress out of Poverty Index. The information collected was used to visualize and identify opportunities within the network.  Outcomes included storyboards (individual and organizational), money management training modules, as well as the incredible opportunity to share knowledge on how to address social and environmental issues from one set of business leaders to another.

I cannot help but feel a sense of hope that widespread solutions are within reach, if we continue to share expertise and work together to create worldwide change.

Have you participated in a micro-loan program? Where do you see the largest opportunities for business to solve social and environmental issues today? Are you involved in supporting those who are pursuing positive change? Please share links to other worthwhile projects below!

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You may also enjoy other articles on how business or investing can create change: Q&A interview with Impact Investor, William Doll OR Sustainable Investing for the Future.

My New Years Resolution (2015): To Be Happy

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I was watching a home video of an interview with my Nanny. She was being asked a host of questions, including what she most wanted for her children – and without hesitation, she said confidently and with a great deal of love…

To be happy.

The pursuit of happiness at times gets a bad rap for being fake, selfish, or an ultimately futile goal. However, what could be more important than creating an atmosphere of positivity and balance in your own life, regardless of circumstances? How can you truly support others, or have the ability to make change in the world if you are not at peace yourself?

This past year my Telfer MBA team did a data analysis project on the Happy Planet Index (incredibly, US ranks in the lowest category of HPI, Canada is middle of the pack, while Mexico is  one of the highest). We compared HPI to a large number of factors – including life expectancy rates, war deaths, alcohol consumption, etc – with little correlation.  We came to the surprising conclusion that happiness is not heavily dependent on what is happening to and around you.

So what do happy people do differently than the rest of us? I plan to go on a mission to figure this out – and will be periodically updating you on my findings. I will pursue it, like I do any other goal, with tangible actions. I plan to try 3 different happiness tactics every quarter of 2015, and I invite you to join me! The tactics for January to March are as follows:

  • Find 5 things you are grateful for everyday – This could be a morning reflection you whisper to yourself while rolling out of bed, or a journal entry  on the good things that you remember from the day. The way you choose to recognize the 5 things is completely up to you, but the key thing is that it happens daily.
  • Remove one negative thing from your life – Create some breathing space by letting go of something that is currently toxic. This could be an activity you no longer enjoy, an energy sucking relationship, or a self-destructive habit.
  • Start meditating – I meditate every once in a while, but I want to make this an unshakable part of my daily routine. This can take as little as 5 minutes a day, so it is manageable for even the most packed schedule.

Make happiness a priority this next year with me, and improve not only your own life, but those close to you as well. Keep me updated on your experiences below!

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