Unlearn. Unstick. Unleash. Be.

Ayelet Book A month or so ago, my friend Ayelet Baron, sent me the manuscript of her book, called "Unstuck" (you can read the book here Getting Unstuck - by Ayelet Baron) .

I read the book while on a trip in Guatemala. There, sitting by a gorgeous pool and surrounded by a wonderful breeze, colorful flowers and peaceful energy, I started scrolling through the pages. By the end of the preface, I decided to do something I have never been able to do while reading: I put on music. I always write with music, but I am normally not able to read with music. Very strange! In any case, in this situation, I put together this playlist and went back to my reading. That is when I experienced something a bit surreal: a situation in which I had goose bumps all over my body, filled with emotions, crying sometimes even.

I think what was happening is that Ayelet was talking to every single part of my being with her book. Every page, every line, every word resonated with the life I have come to embrace 6-7 years ago. A life in which I decided I would not wait for anyone to validate me, a life in which I would create and live by my own rules, be my own original self, following my passions and dreams. I had decided to have the courage to "Find out who I am, and do it on purpose" (Dolly Parton). Ayelet's book is amazing in the sense that it does not follow traditional book writing style. You can start it at any page and it still makes sense. It is authentic, with the unforgiving wittiness of a woman who has gone through enough and is now determined to follow her own path from here on. I think that as humans we all crave the freedom to be ourselves. Ayelet's book shares the lessons of the journey of a woman who took the leap of no return towards herself so to completely deprogram and free herself from society's chains. Hopefully, you will not wait for a flight gone terribly wrong (in Ayelet's case) or the death of your soul mate (in my case) to realize that you only have ONE life and it is about time to make it YOUR life. May you find in her book the same comfort and encouragements I found. I salute Ayelet's courage.

My Biggest Fear

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivUs5uWvuOI&w=560&h=315]  

This video, made by a handful of African students in Germany I've never met (except for  the great Micha Ru  I met online, thank you FB), is one of my favorite YouTube videos.  I'm honored to have been included by them.  I feel accountable to this generation of young Africans around the world who are looking to mentors and models to remind them that the future will be different.

When Dambisa Moyo writes Dead Aid, or I write about Jeff Sachs, we are not criticizing foreign aid or its advocates merely to be critical.  What those who "care" don't understand is the profound injuries to the pride and self-respect that results when our only role as Africans is to be pitied.  The fact that these young Africans somewhere in Germany acknowledge me as worth mentioning in their paean to African achievement and self-worth gives me an immense sense of responsibility towards them and the future of Africa.

I know, I know, I know.... It's been ages since I wrote here. I have been extremely busy with the next phase of my company, Tiossan. We went through a complete rebranding and also opened our first retail store in Hudson, NY.  All of that happened as I continued doing something I really love doing: encourage and empower as many people around the world to follow their passions, especially as they relate to entrepreneurship and just "find out who they are , and do it on purpose" as per Dollie Parton. Freshly back from a an emotionally nerve wrecking time in Nigeria (in the good sense) and just recently Gabon where I spoke at the NewYork Forum Africa and the Dialogue For Action Africa (I had a talk each day for three days), preceded by talks at MIT and Yale. I am so passionate by what I do and sharing my vision for the world with the world that it always feels to the audience that I was born with this ability to speak in public, that it is effortless. But if only they knew that I cannot sleep for hours after I deliver a talk or speech. Indeed, when I speak, it all comes from my core, the depths of my guts and all that I am and who I am. I have this vision of a better world, a vision so pure and wonderful that I am in a complete state of ecstasy! I get such a rush of adrenaline pumping through my veins, I can hardly sleep for hours (sometimes days) after such interventions.

In any case, tonight I am back at my computer to write. Someone I know from Facebook sent me a comment saying that he intends to write a book on humans greatest fears and wanted to know if I had any words for him. This is a very compelling subject and I confess that I have often asked myself the question "What is my greatest fear?".

I think it varies from person to person but I also think there is a common feeling most people think their biggest fears have to do with fear of personal failure of some kind:  financial failure, professional failure, romantic failure, etc.

But fear of not living up to our potential is even scarier, because with all external failures one can always blame someone else, something else, some kind of circumstances.
Not living up to our potential is a failure for which the only person who can possibly be responsible is oneself.  Moreover, the only one who can know whether you have lived up to your potential or not is you (and God).
That is a very scary situation, isn't it ?  No one to blame - but yourself!
So does this change how you choose to live on a moment-to-moment basis?
It  should.
For my part, I, Magatte Wade, am VERY  afraid (actually terrified) of not fulfilling my  potential by not having the impact I want (namely transform perceptions of Africa, create many jobs, create fabulous schools to prepare the next generation to be spectacular).
Even if I became famous, if  I don't make real stuff happen I'll be disappointed when I render my last breath.
Thus if I became famous like some freaks I will not name here or for some BS, I would not be happy, at all.
It has to be real - I have to make those goals actually happen. And THAT is the source of my infinite energy and limitless passion. It is contagious and I hope you get infected.
P.S.:  With love and gratitude towards George Ayittey, who has been fighting this battle on behalf of all Africans for many decades now, and whose TED Africa talk on Cheetahs vs. Hippos will forever remain a classic.

We grow old by deserting our ideals

Tonight, I found in my inbox a poem that a very dear friend of M (and through him, of mine) has sent. These words of Samuel Ullman (1840-1924) are wonderful! Enjoy (thank  you, Leif Smith).

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. 

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. 

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

A Model for How to Commit to a Meaningful Life While Young

Tonight I want to write about an amazing young woman. Her name is S. I met her at Columbia University when she came to me after I gave  a keynote for the 2010 Africa Conference there.

I will never forget about the first sight of her as she was simply stunning: tall, svelte, gracious, fashionable, and grave, in one word she was regal! What attracted me most to her was this feeling of seriousness and determined will that emanated from her . Her whole aura was exuding PURPOSE! But purpose for what? I became very intrigued.  Because of her bearing, she stood out among all of those who had gathered around me.

She joined a conversation I was already engaged in. I don't remember what we talked about. The day after that talk, I fell ill, completely overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response I had received from fellow Afropolitans. It was wonderful, but so scary at the same time!

In any case, few months later, I saw her again as I attended the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival for  a documentary  featuring the genocide.  At the end, she found her way to me. There again we talked, but everything was so busy we did not get a chance to speak in-depth. But at least that night, I got to know that she was from Rwanda, and in a very strange way  I "felt" what she was all about in my bones. The documentary, the presence of all of this history and her presence in the middle of all of that gave me the clues. I finally grasped why this young woman felt so grave. And I developed a huge sense of admiration and care for her. She has gone to the place of no return: she had gone and tasted the world of Purpose! Eventually we had to go to another gathering that night, and I left full of wonders and wanting to know more .

Little did I know that God would give me that opportunity. Indeed few months later M & I went to visit  Rwanda . There we met her at a function.

Few days later, we had dinner in Kigali and that is when my heart finally translated what was going on to my mind. S lives and breathes JUSTICE. She wanted to devote her life to tracking those responsible for the genocide in her country and those who committed heinous crimes. And while I thought it was a tremendously laudable goal, I also had the sad feeling inside that this bright star of life might get her soul and heart crushed in the process of tracking down former genocidaires. I insisted that there was another way to see her country move forward, one that would not demand for her soul to be sacrificed in the process. I could see a solution in which she could use her skills, youth, person and beautiful aura to focus on the present to build the future she wanted for her country rather than chase demons of the past.

After that dinner and as we flew back to NYC, I did not see her for some time and soon stopped hearing from her as well. I feared that maybe I had been too focused on my work to maintain a real relationship. But I am so passionate about my work that it could not have been otherwise. I thought of her often wondering how and where she was and hoping she would find peace.

Well last week, and more than a year later, I got an email. It's from S. And she is telling me that she actually took my advice and left behind the past.  She then began focusing on the present and the future.  I very much look forward to seeing her happier as a result of her decision to focus on building a better future.

Transcend negative stereotypes with real value and cool fun

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuYyq_7KhjA&w=560&h=315]  

I command her talk and the questions she finally decided to ask herself. But at this point, the only way to transcend this massive, negative and reductive view of "Africa" that the world has of her and her people, is for a critical mass number of "Africans" to step up to the plate and dazzle with their actions and accomplishments. For that my personal strategy remains branding. No need to patronize people, even if you are preaching the Good. Offer real value, make it fun and cool and they will join in :)

Must See this weekend: "Elevate" the Movie

Today, I received the most beautiful news about my beloved  SEEDS Academy in Senegal (SEEDS stands for Sports for Education and Economic Development in Senegal). Michael and I have been good friends of Amadou Gallo Fall (the incredible and wonderful visionary behind SEEDS)and advisers for SEEDS for several years.

Anne Buford, an all time amazing supporter of SEEDS directed a documentary, "Elevate", on SEEDS and how it is allowing athletically and academically skilled young men in Senegal to earn college scholarships in the United States and Europe . The movie has been winning many awards at various prestigious film festivals. And today, the New York Times just gave it a well deserved review.

It is a dignified representation of our country, our boys and our culture of hard work in general. See this video for a quick take on my culture from Anne.

And I could not agree more with the author that my dear friend Amadou  "is the real hero here"!

The movie opens today in New York and Los Angeles. Make sure to go see it!

African Entrepreneurs Taken Seriously

Until now I have never devoted a blog post to an event I will be speaking at. Not sure why, just something I don't think about I guess.

This time is different.  Because this is more than an event. It is a way of thinking AND behaving that I so truly, deeply believe in. Actually it is one of the very few forms of "development" that the proud African woman do-it-first-and-they'll-show-up  I am  can accept and does respect.

Convergence Africa simply states its vision as "where capital meets opportunity". I say "YES! YES! and YES!" (singing). When I see and hear those words of "where Capital meets opportunity" right next to the word "Africa", well it brings tears to my eyes.

Africa's time has come, I'll never say it enough. And the world will be better for it.

So I cannot wait to join this global community of folks who take African entrepreneurship seriously. I can't wait to hug again fellow warriors friends like Claude Grunitzky and Jacqueline Musiitwa and greet other fellow warriors I have not met  yet, but whose work I have been following and cheering for along the sideline like Fred Swaniker and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu .

It will be refreshing to participate to a convergence where the crowd is made of representatives of a healthy eco-system an entrepreneur needs with topics directly related to the entrepreneur's toolkit (ie. legal framework for a business, execution, securing financing, training of the next generation of leaders and talent, channelling african creativity for new business opportunity, etc).

I also cannot wait for the Gala dinner at which the  2011 Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship will honor  outstandingly deserving change agents. While the hippos are fattening themselves into a pond that they can't get out of anymore and slowly drowning in it, the cheetahs are creating, innovating and enjoying the run of their lives. We have not given up on our Continent, and we are using entrepreneurship as the Master Tool to create better lives for ourselves, those around us and those to come.

The War of Art

Few months ago, on a Saturday morning, I felt really down and discouraged by the task before me. I had not launched my new Company, Tiossano, yet and was freaking out bigtime because I have been without inspiration for few days.

As I was wandering around the house frustrated and unproductive, my Beloved suggested I read this book a friend, Brian Johnston,  had sent him to get his thoughts on it. The book was titled the "the Art of War" by Steven Pressfield.  The title was intriguing enough, but most importantly Michael's comment was "give it a try, I have a feeling it will talk to you". Still grumbling and in a terrible mood, I decided to give it a chance.

And WOW! My fingers were burning to turn the pages, my soul was drinking every word and my brain was concurring. I finished it in one breath!

As it turns out, "the art of War" was about that very exact force that has taken over me for days, interposing itself between me and my work: that force he calls it RESISTANCE! The book is brilliant, concise, clear and without any pretension, and super funny at times.

I like to "criticise by creating", and Pressfield just reminded me how Resistance is the enemy of the creator, and most importantly he walks us through simple steps to fight the demon. When I got to the end of the book, I jumped out of the couch, took a long shower and went to war, with a powerful jolt of energy. My Beloved just looked at me with a "you're welcome, dear" smile on his face.

"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got" ~ Steven Pressfield

The newly rich and inventive Africans

"Think of technological change this way. Even if you time-travelled back to 1980 with your modern salary, and found yourself far richer than most people, you still could not find wheeled suitcases, mobile-phone signals, hepatitis C vaccines or decaf mocha lattes on the high street. Likewise, time-travel forward to a prosperous 2040 without a wage increase and you might find yourself relatively poor. But think of the products you could find there, some of them supplied by newly rich and inventive Africans. Other people getting rich means other people working to invent things for you." ~ Matt Ridley from "The Rational Optimist"

You can read more here.

Welcome To The Century of Meaning

An article just came out from CNN asking the question of "Are Jobs Obsolete"?

I smiled while thinking "Knew so" and also as it reminded me of something that happened a few years ago.

Back in september 2008, few months after he had met me for the first time, my Beloved and now husband, wrote what he thought to be a provocative sketch about the future:

 
"Are Women Entrepreneurs Real Entrepreneurs?   A Whole New Mind, A Whole New Gender, A Whole New World

The world of entrepreneurs is a male-dominated world.  The great entrepreneurs of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century were industrialists, inventors, and salesmen:  Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Henry Ford, Thomas Watson, the railroad builders, the retailers, the newspaper publishers, etc.

The great entrepreneurs of the second half of the 20th century were tech entrepreneurs and media moguls:  Hewlitt and Packard, Intel's Noyce, Moore, and Grove, Jobs and Wozniak, Gates, Ted Turner, Richard Branson, etc.

First we were a manufacturing economy, then we became an information economy.  In both cases, the world we lived in and the wealth that transformed our standard of living was largely created by men.  In a recent survey ranking history's great entrepreneurs, the most highly ranked women were Mary Kay Ash and Oprah Winfrey:  both highly successful, but make-up and a talk show about relationships?

Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind" makes the case that in the 21st century, the most important growth industries will be in the realms of beauty, empathy, harmony, and other aesthetic and quality of life values.  He makes the case that Asia, Automation, and Abundance will dictate this transformation.  Low-cost manufacturing in Asia has already displaced much of the manufacturing base in the developed world, and even some of the manufacturing in Latin America.  Meanwhile, automation of manufacturing is continuing at a rapid pace, such that fewer and fewer human beings will be required in manufacturing processes in any case.  And, finally, due to abundance, most of us in the developed world are already at the point at which we really don't need any more stuff.  We have enough quantity.  From here on out, quality will matter far more than it has in the past.

The successful entrepreneurs of the future will be those who can improve the quality of the products and services we consume, especially insofar as those improvements result in improved quality of life.  The growth industries of the future will be led by entrepreneurs who specialize in excellence in beauty and design, in style and fashion, in taste and elegance, in better lived environments and better social environments, in more harmonious workplaces, more empathetic and patient-respectful health care, in more humane education, etc.

Pink's notion of "A Whole New Mind" refers to a future in which both the left brain, analytical, and the right brain, intuitive and holistic, will be more valued than they have been in the past, especially when used together.  Although it is not politically correct to make gender generalizations, precisely because in the past women have had to prove their proficiency in a male dominated world, it seems likely that the future will favor women entrepreneurs to a greater and greater extent.  Now that we have enough big cars and powerful computers, maybe we need more wonderful environments in which to live, work, and socialize; better human interactions with our colleagues and from our professional service providers; more design, beauty, style, and taste incorporated into every object we use, every thing we taste, every surface our eyes see.

Most business training is 100% oriented towards the analytical side of business.  It is mostly by men, for men, to create male businesses, even when occasionally women go through the pipeline.  But what if the next generation of business training is far more focused on art, design, style and taste, and on improving the quality of human interactions?

What if women are the real entrepreneurs of the 21st century, the ones who create not only the wealth, but more importantly the well-being, that we all so crave?  What if they are the ones that finally shift us from a world based on quantity to a world based on quality?  From a world based on ugliness, aggression, and stress to a world based on beauty, empathy, and peace?" - By Michael Strong

I found it so beautiful and told him so. To which he sent me the following email:

"dear m, i get dizzy when you say nice things about me. literally you are the inspiration for many little things - flossing and running every day but you are far more deeply the inspiration for very, very big things it will take you many, many years to accept all that i see in you but despite any number of fights, arguments, and challenges to our friendship, at some point you will know and accept my profound belief in you and you will know that my belief in you was based in good judgment and some part of you will feel content and secure with great love and respect, m" 

I just had to share. A new era has come, I so profoundly believe it. Let the robots do what we have created them to do and enhance our lives. They and technology in general are freeing our time. Let's use the new gained time to build and create which that only humans can create: more meaning for richer lives. So no, jobs are not obsolete,  just the idea that a "job is just a job".

Be a coward & Surrender or Be noble & Live your life

"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.” Ayn Rand (Russian born American Writer & Novelist, 1905-1982)

All Woman?

Just FYI, this is the track I was listening to while writing this blog post.

This article on Lynn Tilton in the New York Magazine was a real treat for me.

An interesting man with whom my Beloved and I have befriended, forwarded it to me. And I must admit that I am a bit confused as to why he felt compelled to send it to me. Did she remind him of me?  A part of me recognizes that this woman could easily be a cartoon version of me. I had never heard of Lynn Tilton before. But as I was reading the article, I was going from "WOW!" to "WTF?" back to "Yes, Woman!" but again to "Are you freaking serious?"And if nothing else, I am simply compelled by the stories of unusual entrepreneurs.

Like Lynn Tilton, I am bold, mouthy, a control freak, extremely sexual, love business (which I view as the greatest force of good in the world), adore my femininity/sensuality and playing with it everywhere all of the time (especially when men fall willing victims of it :) )

I still have not made up my mind on this woman and where she is trying to go, but I can share what I like and do not like about her:

LIKE, +++++, PROs, SHE ROCKS

  • She is a full woman ("an all woman" in her own words). I am profoundly disturbed, annoyed and saddened by all the mutant females that inhabit corporate boardrooms and meetings nowadays, all these so-called women who are consumed in their efforts to imitate men so much that the only thing they have left of being woman are breasts, literally! She understands that there are other ways to stand up to men so that they get "I'll be your girlfriend, but I won't be your b****" . I want to see women bring more beauty and sensuality to this world.
  • She gets the power of business, especially industry and manufacturing-based economy for a country.  She takes seriously how employment ensures peace and a happy society. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS are critical, everywhere!!! It is funny-annoying how too many people take it for granted in this country, so much they get bored just thinking about it, but without it, we can't even begin to be a sustainable society. And that is true for African countries, all of you do-gooders out there - unless you are so in love with "indigenous people" that you want to keep us poor just for kicks!  Just like water sounds like the most boring thing to  and is under rated by most , without it there would be no Life the way we know it. Well jobs to me are to any sustainable society what water is to Life! Lose them and watch everything die around us, including us humans.
  • She perceived that the intellectual notion of business needs to be defended so that we can get more business friendly policies. For my part, I realized few years ago that being a good business person and creating jobs is not enough. Unfortunately "crapitalism" (term used by Gene Epstein, econ editor of Barron's to describe what happens when big business goes to bed with government ) has spoiled the well in people's minds. They think that the corrupt crapitalism that we see everywhere is capitalism - but it is not.  Most of us love small businesses for they are created by people like you and I, providing much-needed services and products to people who need and want them. Most of us admire such folks, and the fact they provide jobs that sustain entire families, help their communities thrive. And it is all based on free will. You buy from that company if you chose so, you work for it if you chose so, and so forth. We all love those principles. Those principle are what I call "capitalism", simply. Are those principles not worth defending for everything they have given us and how they improved our lives? Well if any one is still doubting, I am absolutely ALL OUT to defend those principles. The development of my country Senegal, and beyond that the development of the world depends on it. And right now, unfortunately , I am afraid that a lot of young people are being taught at universities (primarily) by misguided anti-business professors to hate and compromise those principles using the wrong examples. I am sadly seeing how these tenured professors at these well endowed universities, front row beneficiaries are teaching the children, grand-children, great-grandchildren of their greatest benefactors (business people who ran successful businesses who turned around and made donations to allow for those universities to be and function) to despise the very powerful forces that allowed their existence in the first place and subsistence to this day (even the way endowments works means these universities have to place their money in equities, i.e., real businesses). All of this just to say that I feel lucky that I opened my eyes early, which is why I am working at both level: being a real entrepreneur, as well as being an evangelist for business. I do not want to be like a lot of current business people who are just now realizing how our work is taken for granted and how much the anti-business people have managed to own the moral high ground on these issues. They were preaching against the healthy principles of business while we entrepreneurs were busy creating real value for all parties involved. The name of the game must change and we must DO and PREACH right now! We must win the moral high ground because that will allow for faster change, quicker! There is no reason why billions of people must remain poor and live in inhuman conditions for one second longer because a very few select group of people are too petty to recognize they have been wrong all along! I am furious! The "criticize by creating" is my mantra...ZEN....
  • Her spiritual beliefs. I love people who are still connected to the power of the Earth and the Ancestors who came before us. At the end of the day, the journey must be more about than just our little selves, because we are each a part of something so much bigger. So by the time I am hopefully peacefully about to give my last breath, I would like to be smiling feeling in my heart "God, I played my part. I am ready to come home now".
  • She is her own person and definitely not a sheep. At this point of my life, may God help the person that will try to tell me what I can't, nor shouldn't do. I am the ONLY qualified person to determine who/what I can, should or want to be/do!
ARGH!, CONs, But WHY?
.

  • She is too bling-bling in her appearance and her lifestyle. Again for me true class is when money is not a factor because you have so much of it who cares or you have none and who cares.
  • She has gotten a very dirty mouth. While I love mouthy people I believe there is a true art to it, if not you are just a dirty mouth and there is nothing beautiful about that and you know how much I care about beauty. As a matter of fact, one of my upcoming blogs will be on the art of insult, inspired by the classy insults of back in the days, when there was no need for nasty "f" words and such yet you could still elegantly  make your point like Charles, Count Talleyrand's "In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily".
  • Being an all woman should not mean harassing men all over the place.  Gross and distasteful!. There is nothing more fun and sensual than to ensnare a man in a web of love. But that is all one needs to do: build a web of love, an irresistible one, and they will come. Trust me :) So this below is just crazy, just as I thought I could not read worse about this woman's lack of class, taste and manners.
"This employee also says that Tilton perceives all of her male employees as being in love with her. Which is perhaps the reason that, holding court in a conference room during her 50th- birthday party, Tilton offered her male employees a choice: They could take a Jell-O shot off her stomach or lick whipped cream off her breasts. “The crazy part was, she saw it as morale building,” says one person present. “People were hiding in the bathroom.”"
If you have not left the building yet and want to read more, see the full article here.
By the way and at this point of my post, I must say that despite my dislikes about Lynn Tilton, I do appreciate and respect her. She has got what matters when it is all said and done: love, smarts, courage and sensuality.

Sufi Love

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKAylJYBNb4] Youssou Ndour is a friend, fellow countryman, and one of the best ambassadors of Senegal, at least on the artistic front.  One of the things that it is important to understand about my country is that we are a deeply religious country, committed to our Sufism, which has allowed us to be one of only two African nations never to have experienced a coup or civil war since Independence.

What do I love so much about the man? He is serious about Peace, real Peace, Love, real Love, and a Better World For Women. I love the fact he decided to stay home, in Senegal and prove that it is definitely possible to be a gigantic international star, straight from Africa! Most of us in Senegal feel that we are blessed with a "gene" of Peace, Tolerance and Love, that preserved us throughout times.

This is one my favorite songs from him, and you guessed it, it is all about  LOVE. Part of the song goes like this:

"Love is so good

Trust Us

I love you, and no one can extinguish that fire

Love, Love, O Love

Love is the making of God

Love comes out of a heart and goes into another heart

Love: no one can sell it and no one can buy at the market

Any two people you see, love binds them and God puts its blessing on it

Love has no religion

Love has no color for in the world of Love, there is no black person, and no white person"

We Senegalese Sufis are consumed with Peace, Tolerance and Love, when it is all said and done.

.

My Charming Saudi Princess: Perhaps one of the Most Beautiful & Edgy Women I have ever Met

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4a8QtvOkBQ] It 's been a while since my last post. It was not a lack of inspiration, but rather a surplus of it. Michael (and before him my beloved late husband, Emmanuel) always says "why take pictures when the real thing is in front of you, to take in, unique moment that no technology could ever capture". I have lived a lot of such moments since I last posted on this blog.

But there is one moment that has been so overwhelming that I could not sit with it on my own much longer. Indeed and  although I rubbed elbows with many famous people in Saudi Arabia, including Bill Clinton, the most powerful experience I had in  Saudi Arabia was having tea with a charming young Saudi princess.  Princess ******* (she will recognize herself), at the age of 19, shatters all stereotypes most of the world may have of Saudi women.  She is poised and sophisticated, cheerful and smart, beautiful, casual and elegant all at the same time.  She takes edgy fashion photographs of her friends, she loves Lady Gaga and fashion from London's Dover Street, and she told us of an occasion on which she provoked Tony Blair with her questions on his policies towards Palestine.  He was so embarrassed and lost he had to call in his advisors for rescue, LOL. We discussed the role of showing female skin in the West and in Saudi Arabia, and the fact that we both respect tradition and modesty, on the one hand, and yet love beauty and fashion, on the other.  Just as I willingly respect the norms of Senegal when I am there (for instance my husband and I do not hold hands in public there), she willingly respects the norms of Saudi Arabia, walking with her head covered in public spaces - but taking her hood off and letting her hair down in private settings.  She loves her brother and argues with her father, whom she also loves, and successfully combines modernity and respect for her culture.  A true delight!

The Saudi men were exceptionally kind and warm to both me and my husband, and we both loved our time there.
But again the most surreal experience of all was tea at the Riyadh Four Seasons with the fascinating future of Saudi Arabia.
This is for you, my princess, perfect incarnation of the Tiossano Femme!
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Luxury is not Chic... Tiossano ç'est Chic!

I spent these past two years creating the mesmerizing scents for my upcoming line of Tiossano body care  products. I have been immersed in the world of scents and initiated to the art of perfume. I have been blessed to learn from some of  the world most renowned noses.  I also read from some of the most enlightening specialists. Amongst them is an interesting character, Luca Turin.

Luca Turin (1953 - ) is a biophysicist with a long-standing interest in the sense of smell, the art of perfume, and the fragrance industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luca_Turin

A quotation from him in English that perfectly describes what my brand Tiossano draws from:

The French like luxury, but what the French call luxury is actually call-girl chic.  Put it this way.  After finishing secondary school at sixteen, I went back to Paris to go to university, Paris XII, Pierre et Marie Curie.  I rented a room from Madame Clouzot, the sister of the film director Henri-Georges Clouzot, right near the Champs Elysees.  She explained that there were only two great French perfume makers, Guerlain and Caron.  Guerlain, she said, was for cocottes – kept women.  Caron was for the duchesse.  But in fact it was 1880s cocotte style that passes for chic in France.  What the French consider 'chic' is actually kept-woman vulgarity. . . . Caron, on the other hand, is absolutely proper, proper chic. . . .  Chic is, first, when you don't have to prove that you have money, either because you have a lot and it doesn't matter or because you don't have any and it doesn't matter.  Chic is not aspirational. . . Chic is the most impossible thing to define.  Luxury is a humourless thing, largely, and when humor happens in luxury it happens involuntarily.  Chic is all about humor.  Which means chic is about intelligence.  And there has to be oddness – most luxury is conformist, and chic cannot be.  Chic must be polite and not incommode others, but within that it can be as weird as it wants.

Stay True To Your Dreams

Paul Coelho is one of my favorite writers, with the Alchemist & Brida at the top of my list when it comes to his books. His story is a fabulous real world example of the importance of staying true to your dreams.

"Paulo Coelho was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.[1] He attended a Jesuit school. As a teenager, Coelho wanted to become a writer. Upon telling his mother this, she responded with "My dear, your father is an Engineer. He's a logical, reasonable man with a very clear vision of the world. Do you actually know what it means to be a writer?"[1] After researching, Coelho concluded that a writer "always wears glasses and never combs his hair" and has a "duty and an obligation never to be understood by his own generation," amongst other things.[1] At 17, Coelho's introversion and opposition to following a traditional path led to his parents committing him to a,mental institution from which he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20.[2][3] Coelho later remarked that "It wasn't that they wanted to hurt me, but they didn't know what to do... They did not do that to destroy me, they did that to save me.[4]

At his parents' wishes, Coelho enrolled in law school and abandoned his dream of becoming a writer. One year later, he dropped out and lived life as a hippie, traveling through South AmericaNorth AfricaMexico, and Europe and becoming immersed in thedrug culture of the 1960s.[5][6] Upon his return to Brazil, Coelho worked as a songwriter, composing lyrics for Elis ReginaRita Lee, and Brazilian icon Raul Seixas. Composing with Raul led to Paulo being associated with satanism and occultism, due to the content of some songs.[7] In 1974, Coelho was arrested and tortured for "subversive" activities by the ruling military government, who had taken power ten years earlier and viewed his lyrics as left-wing and dangerous.[4] Coelho also worked as an actor, journalist, and theatre director before pursuing his writing career.[7]

In 1986, Coelho walked the 500-plus mile Road of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, a turning point in his life.[5][8] On the path, Coelho had a spiritual awakening, which he described autobiographically in The Pilgrimage.[9] In an interview, Coelho stated "[In 1986], I was very happy in the things I was doing. I was doing something that gave me food and water -- to use the metaphor in "The Alchemist", I was working, I had a person who I loved, I had money, but I was not fulfilling my dream. My dream was, and still is, to be a writer."[10] Coelho would leave his lucrative career as a songwriter and pursue writing full-time.

Writing career

In 1982 Coelho published his first book, Hell Archives, which failed to make any kind of impact.[7] In 1986 he contributed to thePractical Manual of Vampirism, although he later tried to take it off the shelves since he considered it “of bad quality."[7] After making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1986, Coelho wrote The Pilgrimage. The following year, Coelho wrote The Alchemistand published it through a small Brazilian publishing house who made an initial print run of 900 copies and decided not to reprint.[11]He subsequently found a bigger publishing house, and with the publication of his next book Brida, The Alchemist became a Brazilian bestseller.[11] The Alchemist has gone on to sell more than 30 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling books in history, and has been translated into more than 67 languages, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author.[7][12]"

Sheep Souls, Cheap Rewards

Michael and I love to be together. He does not want to go anywhere without me so we usually travel everywhere together. Our common and almost religious devotion to The True, The Good and the Beautiful (for him, The Noble for me) is a powerful garden within which we cultivate and watch our souls blossom, irrigated and fed by the power of our love. And if you see us, chances are you often times will hear us engaged in a profound conversation, him with a sexy beaming reason and me with a persuasive passion. We are the Ying and the Yang, truly "seemingly contrary forces interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn". And we also write to each other, almost all the time. The whole thing is so intense I feel we will be speaking to each other way past our time on this Earth. I find our communication powerful because we are honest with one another, and we keep each other honest, and hold ourselves accountable to one another.

Michael is an accomplished philosopher of life who I feel no one can deter from his goal of living a life of meaning. On the other end, I am still a young disciple of Life, sometimes whining about the difficulty of the path I have chosen to live MY life, no matter what and no matter who.

But although I am very conscious and aware of the fact that only such people bring innovation and newness to the world, I do whine sometimes :(

It was after I wasted valuable time complaining about the world, people and life, in general, that Michael sent me this letter, reminding me of what I know all too well: that Sheep Souls get Cheap Rewards.

"Reality is a really, really tough cookie.

It is much easier, either in France, Senegal, or the U.S., to be a Mandarin: Go to a good university, and then get a good job in the elite hierarchy because of your degree and the friends you made at the university. You are then a sheep, but an elite sheep. You have financial security and status security. Everyone knows that because you went to such and such a school and now have such and such a post (whether in government or the corporate world), that you are deserving of such and such respect.

The problem is, both you and I believe that this entire system is more or less total bullshit.

Neither you nor I could live in that system if we tried. We would do anything to avoid living in that system.

But most of the world believes in that system.

Bummer!

Major bummer!!!!

Dammit, we have to create our own world, our own enterprises, find our own money, our own markets, our own customers, our own team, etc.

Much, much, much harder to do.

But it is the only way, the ONLY WAY, that either you or I can look ourselves in the eye each day and respect ourselves.

It doesn't mean that we absolutely have to start our own companies. But it does mean that we have to work for organizations that:

1. Produce something of real value.

2. Are based internally on real merit.

And most old organizations, government or corporate, are not really doing that.

So mostly we'll end up either working for or starting new orgs, where there is no security financially and no security status-wise.

But, in the end, much, much greater rewards."  -Michael Strong

 

"Screw the girl power of the 90s, Give me some woman power"

I often times write with music in the background. So get the full experience and click here to listen to the Lady Gaga track I was listening to while writing this.

Q: What do you think the following people have in common:

A very handsome middle-aged  litigation attorney in an elevator ride to his San Francisco office, A gorgeous voluptuous big lipped  red hair woman at an antique sale, A sexy married indian man dancing with me at a party, A young and dynamic saleswoman following me around in a hip clothing store, My "no-words-in-the-book-to-describe-him" husband, Michael, every time he gets a chance, And countless others...

A: They all whispered to my ear: "What is your perfume? It is driving me crazy!". I smile with delight and whisper back "Poême" (de Lancôme).

Poême has been my most reliable companion since 2002, while on one of my many trips to Tahiti. I worship Tahiti for the incomparable beauty of her islands and magic of her people. Anytime Life throws a big challenge at me, that is where I go to regroup and recharge before fighting back.

I never understood my attachment to Poême. It is even more strange given I could not even tell you what it smells like (I can' smell it on me anymore), but I would recognize its scent out of a million! Michael is convinced that the chemistry between the two scents (Poême and my skin), creates an even more wonderful and unique smell.

In the end, this review of Poême could have come from me for I so relate to it:

"I’ve recently rediscovered this 1995 release by perfumer Jacques Cavallier (via Now Smell This) and it’s just as sumptuous as I’d remembered it. It’s not the most well loved of Lancome fragrances, and small wonder at that. For all the thick, cozy warmth, it’s nevertheless so strong that it hits some folks like a bitchslap in a mitten. Poeme’s composition is so chock full o’ notes that it reminds me of how Givenchy’s Amarige can be received: No two people will notice the exact same notes at any one time. On me, Poeme seems front-loaded with peach and tuberose, with a distinctly smokey undertone of woody amber and what I keep imagining is “violet leaf.” My nose lies to me, because I think my “violet leaf” is supposed to “vetiver.” I like my husband’s impression of Poeme best; When asked his opinion of it on my wrist, he shook his head ruefully and said, “That is what you wear to crush the competition in a room.” Ha! And maybe that’s why I like it. Screw the girl power of the 90s, give me some woman power." More here."