I have been getting asked one question consistently at events I speak at and when paraphrased it boils down to something like this:
"Why bother to be a voice today if the world is overwhelmingly negative right now? Every day, we see horrific headlines and more and more leaders appear to be utterly incompetent so what's the point of even trying?"
At least, that seems to be the sentiment and I get it. I completely understand why that thought exists BUT then I think of my hero, the late Nelson Mandela who spent 27 years in jail for his cause and inspired me while I was living in a military dictatorship. I think about how hearing about his story and hearing him say this on TV made me feel.
" I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
I am also reminded of the comics I read as a child. Particularly one of my favorite superhero, Superman who is so powerful that he can do almost anything he chooses, yet he fights for humanity. Or what about Oprah, my other hero who was born to an impoverished teenage mother, suffered abuse at the age of 9, became pregnant at 14 before subsequently losing her child. All this before the age of 21 and now she is the Oprah we know.
I think about all this and my response to that question becomes: If not us, then who? If not now, then when? This mindset shift brings me back to my original purpose of creating platforms for people to connect across cultures.
So if you're ever doubting the power of your voice, I want to share two emails with you that I received last year.
When I got this message last year, I completely burst out into tears. It's not the first email i've received from someone who follows my work and it's not the last I've gotten but something about this email really got me emotional. It took me back to when I was her age and I was dealing with my identity crisis and how I looked for inspiration everywhere just so I could feel heard or understood. I wondered what my life would have been like if I didn't have my parents, the late Nelson Mandela, Superman's story or Oprah.
How many people are we missing out on inspiring by silencing our voices? It's like Martin Luther King Jr once said, "our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"
That AMAZING conference wasn't done with me though. Here is another letter I got after delivering my keynote.
ANOTHER HUMBLING MOMENT!!!
People are always looking to be inspired. Imagine being told that what you say and do doesn't matter. Imagine living in a world that doesn't give you enough heroes for you to identify with. Imagine being told that no matter how hard you try, you will never amount to anything.
Now I want you to understand that that reality exists for more than half of our world today and we have a responsibility to be louder and braver than all the evil that exists around us. Our voices DO matter and you never know who is watching or listening so don't take for granted the platforms you have and the spheres of influence you operate in right now.
Tupac Shakur once said, “I'm not saying I'm gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” That ability exists for you as well. Our voices collectively and individually matter so go out and use your DIFFERENCE to make a DIFFERENCE!