The 50 minute miracle that YOU cannot afford to overlook

I’m sorry to disappoint you but this post isn’t about a whizzy miracle face cream that will turn back time…. it’s about a simple yet hugely effective change in mindset that has very real and proximate potential to redefine the future of diversity and inclusion and help you on your journey to become the very best version of yourself in the process. Not bad eh?

Go on, read on; I dare you.

I implore you to LISTEN to what I’ve got to say…. to take the time to really THINK about the impact you have and the person you are today vs the impact you have the opportunity to make and person you want to and could be…. to ACT; share and promote this post- I want it to travel far and wide- comment with your views, reflections and experiences, and most importantly to SHOW; be the change you wish to see in the world, and start it now.

So, this is how it all started…..

My boyfriend was working ridiculously late which gave me both time to kill and a kingdom [well, a 400 square foot box apartment; thanks for that Hong Kong rental prices!!] to command. I rubbed my hands together with glee, and quicker than you could say ‘kidulthood’ my inner sloth had persuaded me to turn a blind eye to the decaying dishes festering in the sink, stick two fingers up to the stock of healthy food lining my cupboards [what even is quinoa anyway??!], defer my new year’s resolution to choose ‘The Discovery Channel’ over ‘Dave TV’ and drag the duvet onto the sofa, put some entertaining trash on the TV and order a lard-laden takeaway. H-E-A-V-E-N.

This is what happened next….

I claimed my rightful position on the sofa, I was suitably larded-up after inhaling my kebab, chips, and chips [no, that’s not a typo, more of an attempt to divert your attention away from the fact that chubby carb chops here ate 2 portions of chips as well as a hay-bale sized kebab…. I had to make the order up to the minimum spend somehow, right?] and it was time to decide what trash TV would be my companion for the evening.

I fancied a laugh, and then it hit me- I hadn’t watched ‘The Undateables’ for yonks [‘yonks’- does anyone even use that word anymore or do I need to add ‘down with the lingo’ next to ‘in possession of acceptable levels of cholesterol’ on the list of things that I no longer am?] and it always made me chuckle/feel better about myself- so that was that- on it went.

Fast-forward 50 minutes, and everything changed…

I fancied a laugh and then it hit me- I hadn’t watched ‘The Undateables’ for yonks and it always made me chuckle/feel better about myself”. Credit: Me, about an hour earlier.

I was ashamed to my core that this sentence was formed by me a mere 50 minutes earlier.

What kind of egotistic, self-centered, jumped up tw*t finds the struggles of these beautiful, courageous, kind-hearted, inspirational and quite frankly bloody amazing people ‘funny’?

What kind of coward uses the plight of others less fortune than themselves to make them ‘feel better’ about my own battle to truly love and value myself and allow myself to be loved by others?

Me, apparently. But not any more. The change started at that moment.

So what did I see that affected me so profoundly?

I watched James treat his dates like the princesses that they were, I laughed with along with him as he told his wonderfully terrible jokes and I realised that if the man I hope to marry has even half the sweet, sensitive soul he does then I’ll be an incredibly lucky lady.

I coveted Chloe’s beautiful emerald eyes, I thought about what a laugh we’d have if we went on a night out together and I was inspired by her wicked and insuppressible sense of adventure.

I swooned at Tom, the hunky rugby player, and daydreamed about getting swept up in his strong arms. [Note to the boyf- we’re both allowed a little crush ok…. I’ve seen your browsing history so don’t try to tell me you’ve only got eyes for me!!!]

… and I realised that regardless of who we love, how we love, when we love, where we love and why we love we are all humans connected by our desire to be valued, respected, appreciated and loved for the weird, wonderful and diverse beings that we are.

Ok… so why am I telling you this?

In the last century we as individuals and a society have taken many transformational steps forwards [and a trump-sized step backwards…. just shut up and p*ss off you perma-tanned protagonist] in understanding, accepting and embracing diversity and inclusion-both professionally and personally- but we still have so far to go.

Merely the fact that we have to actively promote, monitor and debate how we cultivate and embrace diversity shows that it is far from embedded in our culture, and I don’t like to even think of the heartbreakingly high number of horrible, shameful examples of people being racist, homophobic, prejudiced and/or judging others in any way shape or form that we see every waking day.

So what now?

Each and every one of us need to make a conscious effort to think differently about diversity- it’s not just about accepting something or someone, it’s about appreciating them and the value they add to this world. Instead of thinking ‘I don’t have a problem with this person’ start to think ‘What can I learn from this person?’

It isn’t enough to just ‘allow’ somebody who may be ‘different’ to be part of something- be it an activity, a community, a family, a friendship, a company, a team or anything and everything in between- we need to actively engage with them, seek to understand their unique interests, skills, experience, perspective and passions and work with them to ensure they’re happy, supported, and have the opportunity to thrive.

And why limit this to those who may appear to be ‘different’? We should be exploring, embracing and engaging with everyone we have the privilege of interacting with ona daily basis.

STOP only thinking about what other people can learn from us and how we can support and develop them, and START thinking about what you can learn from each other, how you can support each other and how you can develop through and with each other.

What difference will this make?

Individually- Small, probably. Collectively- Revolutionary, potentially.

To revisit my opening pitch:

I implore you to LISTEN to what I’ve said, to take the time to really THINK about the person you are today vs the person you want to and could be, to THINK about what you do have done that makes you proud and do it over and over again, to THINK about what you do/have done that you’re not proud of how you could become the very best version of yourself and help others to do the same, to ACT; share and promote this post- I want it to travel far and wide- comment with your views, reflections and experiences, and most importantly to SHOW; be the change you wish to see in the world, and start it now.

Ok so I’ll get the ball rolling by sharing something that makes me different and sometimes means I get judged and treated/viewed differently:

I didn’t go to university. Or college. [Shock Horror, audible gasps etc. etc.]

What people often assume:

· That I’m not studious

· That I don’t take my education, career and development seriously

· That I’m not academic

· That I won’t be able to do a job as well as or don’t ‘deserve’ the same seniority or opportunities as others that have a ‘better’ education than me.

The truth:

· I was forced to leave ‘home’ at 16 as both my parents were addicted to drugs and alcohol, suffered mental health problems and were no longer able to (and most would argue never did) offer me a stable or safe home environment

· I was left to fend for myself and had to go straight into employment when I left school in order to put a roof over my head and do my best to support my family- which I’d been doing since I started working at the age of 13

· I managed to achieve all A-A*s in my GCSEs despite my dad being in prison and my mum being AWOL when I was taking my exams

· I’m academically gifted and achieved an A Level at the age of 15 (as part of a pilot for talented youngsters) and my IQ qualifies me for Mensa [Apparently… I’m not convinced!!]

· My life experience has taught me things you could never learn in a classroom

· I have trained and passed out as a (voluntary) Police Officer and worked my way up to a a Banking VP at the tender[ish] age of 29 through sheer hard work and determination, and I truly believe I’m destined to achieve great, transformational things in the world of CSR; contributing to sustainable development and addressing social issues by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits through big commercial organisations.

I’ll leave you with some parting words…

Sadly my father was unable to overcome his addiction and passed away from complications relating to a drugs overdose last year. This is an extract from a tribute I wrote and shared at his funeral:

“Dad cared about others and despite battling his own demons he wanted to help people... and he did. The stories that have come out in the past week are testament to this- from looking out for vulnerable women who have found themselves homeless to helping people see a way out of seemingly hopeless situations, dad has made a real difference to people's lives and I'm proud to say I'm his daughter.

Don't get me wrong, dad was no angel and at times the physical and mental effects of his drug addiction have led him to take the wrong path and make some bad decisions... but that doesn't make him a bad person.

This just goes to show what's really important in life. Material stuff is irrelevant, it's what's inside that really matters. Money doesn't make the world go round... people do. Nobody stands at a funeral and talks about how much money somebody had in their bank account; It's not the size of someone's house or type of car they drove that people will remember in years to come. Dad was the poorest man with the richest heart and this will keep him in our hearts and minds forever more.

If there’s one thing I ask you to take away from this it’s that we should never judge a book by its cover. To some who made flash and malformed judgments my dad was a homeless drug addict and nothing more, but to [my brother] and I he was a dad, to others he was a brother and to many a friend.

We should never judge others without trying to understand their situation, and we should also remember that sometimes however hard we try we never will truly understand.

We should never criticise someone until we've walked a day in their shoes, and we should also remember that what's right for us may not be right for everyone else- we've all got different taste in shoes after all!!

Life isn't easy for any of us, and if we can all find it in ourselves to show empathy and compassion to others it will help to make those hard times that little bit easier.

Thank you to everyone who loved and cared for dad and our friends and family who have been there for [my brother] and I throughout the difficult times, both past and present. It means more than you'll ever know."

Oh, and incase you're wondering...

My mum has been sober for about 4 years. She's my inspiration and I'm beyond proud of her. See- lifes not all bad.