Call it cliché, but I like to think that each of us is here for a reason. Whether it’s a pre-determined path, a calling, your soul’s purpose, intuition or a deep sense of desire.
It’s the little voice inside you that says – “what if?” – or “imagine if you could...” That little voice that dares to dream and imagines the future you’re destined for. That little voice is hinting at your path. Nudging you towards your greatness. We are often far more capable than what we believe.
And for me? Well, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I know that many people struggle deeply with their sense of purpose and finding their passion, but I was lucky enough to ‘find my path’ eight years ago, after a whirlwind trip to Sierra Leone, West Africa.
And to be honest, it was completely unexpected. Violence, sex slavery, child marriage and rape are just a few of challenges a girl will face when she grows up in a country like Sierra Leone. After meeting girls in some of the most difficult situations in the world, I wanted to do something about it. Prior to that, the only thing I’d cared about was whether my hair looked nice and buying new clothes for the weekend. After Sierra Leone, that ‘little voice’ inside of me was so loud, in many ways, I felt I had no choice. I HAD to do something about this.
I’d found my path.
For the last 7 years, I’ve been the very passionate and determined CEO of One Girl. An organisation dedicated to educating 1 million girls across Africa.
Education - it's the one thing that I truly believe will give girls a chance of a better in life in some of the worst places of the world to be born in a girl.
One Girl - a little idea that started on the floor of a lounge room – our first fundraiser involving a gargantuan amount of Cadbury chocolate. It took six months to sell and netted us a profit of $700.
And now, almost seven years on, we’ve raised close to $3 million, we’re on track to give 20,000 girls access to education by the end of this year, our community continues to grow, and we’re having a bigger impact around the world than I ever could have imagined.
Sounds amazing right?
Well, I guess in many ways – it is.
So why did it feel like I'd chosen the wrong path?
I used to jump out of bed in the morning and say ‘Fuck Yes’ to my day. I never wanted to STOP working on One Girl, I was obsessed.
Yet at some point what used to be a ‘Fuck Yes’ to my path morphed into a plain old ‘Yes’. Then almost without realising I slid into the ‘Maybe’ Zone.
And all of a sudden. It was a ‘No’.
My ‘Fuck Yes’ became a ‘No’. My ‘Fuck Yes’ path had taken a turn off somewhere and I was still walking the old one.
For a long time I struggled with why. Being the CEO of One Girl is an extraordinary job. And an extraordinary opportunity. Our team are the most passionate and committed bunch of people I’ve ever come across. We spend a good percentage of our time in the office laughing and having fun. We work on things that matter. The stories we hear from our community in Australia can bring me to tears sometimes. I travel around the world and get to spend time in places like Uganda and Sierra Leone, where I see the work we do transform lives. The world in many ways is my oyster.
And although the journey has been a roller coaster, I had never doubted that this was where I was meant to be. Through it all, “I knew.” I knew this was the path I was meant to be on.
Until it wasn’t.
I can’t tell you exactly when it happened – it wasn’t a light bulb moment, but rather, a slow burn.
A few months of coming home and realising I was consistently feeling exhausted – that my creativity was waning. I thrive on chaos and startup madness, but I could see that the organisation needed something different. Order, process, systems and some fresh eyes. And slowly, over the course of almost 1.5 years, I began to get an inkling that this path was no longer meant for me.
I remembered the quote from Steve Jobs...
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
My only choice was Change.
And let’s be honest – change is scary. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. Oh, and and let’s add in a dash of pain for good measure.
After all, so much of my identity was built around this organisation. If helping women and girls across the world wasn’t my calling, then what the hell was? This is all I’ve known. Who was I if I wasn’t the girl on ‘this path’?
And I’m sure you can relate to this.
From a very early age, we’re pressured by society to ‘fit in’. The perceived expectations of our family and friends can weigh heavily on us, and for the most part, straying from ‘the path’ that is deemed safe by the majority can leave you feeling like an outsider. In fact, some will think you’re downright crazy.
And although it varies from culture to culture – we all have our version of ‘the safe path’.
You know what I’m talking about..
Go to school, get good grades, go to Uni, travel a little, get a grad position, work hard until you get a good job, perhaps change jobs every 2 or 3 years while you climb the ladder, meet someone, buy a house, have some kiddies and on you go.. until you retire and die.
"So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. – Jim Carrey"
I used to envy those who had chosen that path. From the outside – it looked so easy. But these days, I’m not so sure.
I watched my friend’s face light up with joy he was accepted into Law at university. It was what his parents wanted for him and he did everything he could to make them happy.
He fought tooth and nail to complete the degree despite hating almost every second of it – then moved into a career which was just as horrendous as the degree (hint: hating your degree usually means that you’ll most likely hate the career it prepares you for) – he was so attached to the idea of ‘being a lawyer’ - that satisfaction, contentment and living a life he loved doesn’t even come into it.
Perhaps at one point, that path as a lawyer was right for him. He told himself that’s who he was. And the more he said that, the further he walked down that path and the more difficult it became to change.
So can this story have a happy ending? When you’re so used to playing it safe, or sticking with the status quo, what happens if the path you’ve chosen slowly starts to eat away at you? How long does it take before you’re willing to let go of ‘safe’, and step into the void of something new? Something unknown?
Some of us cling to the old path way past it’s used by date. You hold on, kicking and screaming, not trusting enough to step into the void and let the universe catch you.
It takes courage to trust that when space is created, something will step in to fill it. Perhaps something even better than what you're leaving behind.
And in the end, that’s all you can really do. Let go and trust.
So after months of inner conflict – months of questioning my own worth - asking what was wrong with me that I could have such an amazing opportunity in front of me but want something else...
I realised I had to let go and accept that my path had taken an unexpected detour. One I hadn't planned.
Relief flood in.
Finally, I was listening.
The inner conflict was gone.
And... I resigned.
As I began to make plans with our board of directors to recruit a new CEO, I discovered that nothing would ever change my commitment to supporting women and girls across the world.
My ‘calling’ was right all along. It was just simply the vehicle that needed to change. I’d outgrown the One Girl CEO car, and needed to find a new myself one.
And that’s exactly what I mean about stepping into that void. I would have been unable to ‘reinvent’ myself if I’d clung like a baby to the old instead of stepping into that unknown (terrifying) space.
"You can never cross the ocean unless you have courage to lose sight of the shore."
Just last week we began our recruitment for a new CEO.
We’ve already received some amazing applicants. And I have no doubt we’ll find someone extraordinary to lead One Girl into the future – someone whose path aligns perfectly with where we need to go.
So where to now?
Well, late last year I launched a new business. I’ve been a little quiet with it as I’ve been working full time at One Girl as well.. but as soon as we announced that we were looking for a new CEO, the universe gave me a secret high five. I suddenly received $500 in bangle orders in just four days. With no marketing or advertising at all.
I’m excited by the first step on my new path - Be. A business that inspires women across the world to believe in themselves (and helps One Girl too).
Despite the fear, I’ve done the right thing. I never ‘lost’ my calling, I just had to find the courage to step out of the old car, find a new one and start driving down a different road.
I can’t say that this new path is going to be easier or more comfortable than the other one I was on before. But I can say that it feels right. And that perhaps it the best feeling of all :)
To celebrate the start of a new chapter, I’m offering 10% off the beautiful 'Live What You Love' bangle – (the one I’ve been wearing non-stop). Just use the promo code "livewhatyoulove" to get the 10% off the 'Live What You Love' bangle the next 7 days.
I get my machete and hack my way through the obstacles to reach a more desired path. I sometimes wondering though that in my hacking haste have I missed a fork in the road that could have led to something amazing. But when I’m a woman on a mission, I cannot see reason or be slowed.
Good on you Chantelle. It’s always hard to know when to hop off the treadmill – especially when you’ve been working towards something for a long time. But in my experience, making that decision to close the door on one project, usually frees up energy to open another door – a new project with opportunities to learn new lessons.
I have no doubt you will give Be. the same commitment and energy you gave to One Girl for so many years.