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Archive for March, 2013

Mentor Inner Views Part 3

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013















This is the third in the series of inner-views on Mentoring. This time we hear from Tokunbo Ajasa Oluwa who is now Head of O2 and Bauer Media’s Go ThinkBig that supports the career aspirations of the under 25’s in the UK.

In this inner view Tokunbo shares his reflections on his journey over the course of our mentoring relationship and his time at the BBC.

What is your first memory of meeting Jackee?

My first memory was being struck at my interview by the powerful aura and presence Jackee has. I remember thinking she doesn’t seem like the average BBC employee and just had something quite extraordinary about her. Once I got onto the programme I could feel and knew I had just begun a life defining experience.

What did you learn from your time at the BBC?

Whilst there I learnt about how the different components of the organization worked. I learnt that I had a real passion for working in the media and being creative. I also learnt about the dedication it takes to make such ambitions a reality.

How would you describe your relationship over the last 18 years?

I would describe it as a safe and nurturing space where I can be totally vulnerable yet at the same time empowered. It is a real and rare relationship that has depth, substance and love. Regardless of how much time goes by between interactions it always provides me with the same positive feeling.

What has stood out most about our time together?

I think what has stood out to me is that Jackee has ALWAYS been there for me. Whether we meet in person or over the phone or email or via one of her beautiful hand written cards…she is always there.

How would you describe your relationship with her daughter Aida?

I love Aida dearly and when we do get to spend quality time I try my best to be a sounding board for her, the same way her mother has been for me over the years.

I give my opinion when she seeks it and I try to give her insight to how I went about tackling certain life decisions. Aida has grown into an amazing young woman and I’m so proud to be part of her life.

What difference has mentoring made to your life?

Mentoring is something that I simply swear by. It has made a huge difference in my life. It’s provided the guidance and encouragement to challenge myself to achieve. Following my first experience of mentoring on the BBC project, within each chapter of my life I have recruited an additional mentor to support me during that part of my life journey.

What would you advice young people to look for in a mentor?

Look for someone that has integrity. Someone that is of relevance to your ambitions and a person that inspires you. Also a person that will challenge you to explore beyond your comfort zones.

What do you believe to be the most important qualities of a great mentor?

To be a good listener,  demonstrate empathy and the ability to encourage critical thinking and motivate.

If you had a chance to do anything differently from your life over again what would it be?

Probably apply myself more during my years in education.

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Ode To The Smell Of Wood

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013










Sitting amongst a pile of work this afternoon (that I was avoiding) I was inspired by this photo of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (yes I was surfing the internet instead of working).

  • What were his thoughts in that moment I wondered?
  • Where was he?
  • Who was the photographer?

In my distracted state I came across many of his poems and wanted to share this with you on the tree blog. Enjoy.

Ode To the Smell of Wood

by Pablo Neruda translated by Jody Bateman

Late, with the stars

open in the cold

I open the door.

The sea


in the night.


Like a hand

from the dark house

came the intense


of firewood in the pile.


The aroma was visible


if the tree

were alive.

As if it still breathed.



like a garment.



like a broken branch.


I walked


the house


by that balsam-flavored



the points

in the sky sparkled

like magnetic stones

and the smell of the wood



my heart

like some fingers,

like jasmine,

like certain memories.


It wasn’t the sharp smell

of the pines,


it wasn’t

the break in the skin

of the eucalyptus,

neither was it

the green perfumes

of the grapevine stalk,


something more secret,

because that fragrance

only one

only one

time existed,

and there, of all I have seen in the world

in my own house at night, next to the winter sea,

was waiting for me

the smell

of the deepest rose,

the heart cut from the earth,

something that invaded me like a wave

breaking loose

from time

and it lost itself in me

when I opened the door

of the night.

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Remembering Debbie Ford

Saturday, March 9th, 2013














I first met Spiritual teacher, coach and writer Debbie Ford when I went on a retreat led by American Life Coach and author Cheryl Richardson in New Mexico in 2000. As part of her retreat programme Cheryl introduced us to an emerging spiritual teacher by the name of Debbie Ford who led the group through a spiritual process she called the Shadow Process. I remember the afternoon workshop as being intense and hard-hitting, which went against Ford’s stylish and almost model like demeanor.

It was not long before Debbie was a major teacher on the spiritual international teachers platforms. Sharing and headlining events with the likes of Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and many other well established spiritual teachers. For years she was one of my must listen authors on Hay House radio. She was straight talking and possessed a no nonsense quality I appreciated perhaps influenced by her own journey of recovery from a drugs and alcohol addiction.

We met again almost ten years later when she came to speak at Alternatives in the UK for the first time about three years ago. I remember her as a warm and really open teacher who stayed behind until she had taken every photo and signed very book after a full on one-day workshop. This is not a quality or generosity we see in all of our speakers and her kindness stayed with me.

I was sad when I heard last year that she revealed on the Oprah OWN TV Super Soul Sunday series that she had been battling cancer for many over ten years and even sadder when I heard she had finally lost her battle and had passed away last month.

In her time she has done an amazing work from founding the Ford Institute For Transformational Learning where she trained people in the Shadow process to leaving behind an impressive body of work, which includes nine best-selling books.

My favourite Debbie Ford product was the Best Year Of Your Life card deck published by Hay House, that I still find extremely powerful and accurate every time I work with it even now.

None of us has the power to determine when our time is up and how we will depart. But we do have the power when we are alive to decide on the legacy and the impact we will leave behind us.

With the celebration of International Women’s day yesterday on March 8th I would like to remember and thank Debbie Ford for her TRANSFORMATIONAL work, for all the wisdom and healing she provided through her work on the Shadow process. Her work here may be done but her contribution and impact will not be forgotten. Her legacy I am sure will live on.

In remembrance of Debbie Ford (October 1st 1955-February 17th 2013).

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Taking Root Wangari Maathai

Saturday, March 9th, 2013








Photo Credit: Vision Share

Yesterday was International Women’s day and I sent out a newsletter thanking all the women who have helped and supported me in a range of ways throughout my life.

Today I want to remember and thank the amazing Wangari Maathai for the incredible work she has done globally in sustaining trees across the globe and being responsible for the planting of 45 million trees in her homeland of Kenya. In the 1970′s she founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya an environmental organization that promoted the planting of trees, women’s rights and environmental conservatism. The Green Belt Movement has contributed to the lives and businesses of thousands of women across Kenya by creating rural employment in rural areas. In 2004 she became the first ever African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

I would love to have met this amazing woman and shared a conversation with her about our shared love and appreciation of trees and how much they add to the possibility of human life here on earth. When she started her work she was driven by passion. She had no idea that her actions would turn into a global movement. She was quoted as saying,

“There’s a general culture in this country to cut down all the trees. It makes me so angry because everyone is cutting and no one is planting.”

“When  I first started it was really an innocent response to the needs of women in rural areas. When we started planting trees, to meet their needs, there was nothing beyond that. i did not see all the issues that I have come to deal with.”

We do not have to see the end as many of us believe to begin. By doing and responding to what feels right can be a catalyst for great things.

Her work reminded me of a lovely book I have entitled, The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono. It’s a story of a shepherd who plants trees over a number of years and slowly transforms the barren landscape he is surrounded by where people believed nothing would grow.  Though this story is fiction the two stories hold many similarities.

Wangari passed away from cancer complications in 2011.

This blog post today is in remembrance of the great tree planter warrior Wangari Maathai (1st April 1940-25th September 2011).

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Mentor Inner Views Part 3

Saturday, March 9th, 2013















This is the third in the series of inner-views on Mentoring. This time here are the clips of a rare inner-view with my daughter Aida who met Toks, Camille and Kwadjo when she was 6 years old. They have gone onto to be great mentors, God parents and supportive friends and guides to her in her formative years. Here’s some reflection from Aida in what that journey has been like.

1. What is your first memory of meeting Kwadjo, Toks and Camille?

A vague memory of me meeting them would be at the BBC studios. Other more prominent memories are at gatherings. And it was always the 3 of them together!

2. How would you describe your relationship with all three over the last 18 years?

Real. I think of them like my big cousins. I can go to each of them for advice, receive good feedback and by the end of it laugh!

3. What has stood out most about your time together?

As I have grown up I have developed a strong bond with them. I don’t have to see them every week or speak to them every month! When we do spend time together we all reconnect naturally!!!

4. How would you describe your relationship with each of the above?

Toks- Big cousin. Good strategist. Gives me guidance on my chosen paths.

Kwadjo- Creative inspiration. Following him filming documentaries and such a go getter!

Camille- The real talker. Have such a laugh when we are together.

5. What difference has their mentoring made to your life?

It has given me a support network that I believe will be there for life. I think it’s invaluable to have such people in your life no matter what age you are for times of need and guidance.

6. What would you advice young people to look for in a mentor?

Somebody who is willing to listen with open ears. A person who is worldly and supportive. A mentor who can always see the silver lining even in bad times. You also need a mentor who you actually can get along with. It’s also important to relate to each other.

7. What do you believe to be the most important qualities of a great mentor?

Empathy, honesty, humor and kindness.

8. If you had a chance to do anything differently from your life over again what would it be?

Nothing. I wouldn’t be where I am today. Oh wait. Learn Gymnastics!

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Mentor Inner Views Part 2

Saturday, March 9th, 2013















This is the second in the series of four inner-views with three young adults I mentored 18 years ago at the BBC which charts the journey of our mentoring relationship, their personal views on mentoring and their eventual mentoring of my daughter Aida who is now almost 24. Our second inner-view is with Camille Curtis who works as a Social Inclusion Project officer in the arts. Camille is Mum to two beautiful children of her own, Maya and Dominic.

1. What is your first memory of meeting Jackee?

My first memories of meeting Jackee goes back to the first BBC mentor programme that I was a part of. I remember being in the presence of a woman that was very warm & welcoming yet professional, articulate & organised.

Jackee had a presence about her that I felt was commanding. Whether this was simply her natural beauty & stature or whether it was more than that I can’t say… But I always felt that, this woman had something very special about her.

When she talks, you listen. Her words were powerful, yet soft & nurturing.

2. What did you learn from your time at the BBC?

Firstly – it was so nice to be a part of a multicultural team (students, mentors, guest speakers etc…). That opened my eyes to just how diverse the BBC could be. I really liked having a mentor as well as having a placement.

Through this journey, I/we met so many different people who did varied work. That was beautiful to see. On reflection, I learnt that you have to work hard to achieve success, but it’s possible to break through traditional institutions and leave your mark. Various political internal issues, we weren’t privy to but would reveal themselves as I/we got older – although this is life & happens in many organisations.

The journey also confirmed to be that I did want a creative career. I was attracted to the BBC Mentor scheme originally as I was doing a Btec in media studies.

3. How would you describe your relationship with Jackee over the last 18 years?

WOW!. I almost can’t believe that it has been that long and that it has evolved as it has. Something obviously just clicked between us… I enjoyed being on the Mentor scheme so much that I became a student liaison officer for the next one just to stay in the loop. Here was where I met Toks & Kwadjo…

Now, there were so many interesting individuals on my programme as well as on the second programme which I worked on (with individuals that I’m still contact with) but I don’t know how the four of us connected in such a manner. If my memory serves me right, we just enjoyed each others company as the four of us & maybe we developed it into a focus group…

We would make a point of catching up maybe twice a year and discuss our lives, chart our goals & how we going to achieve them. Through this group we received support, guidance & ideas with how to make our dreams come true.

This was valuable to me & although my friends on the outside of the circle would also offer support there was something unique & special about this arrangement. This relationship has grown & developed over the years in the most organic, natural way.

4. What has stood out most about our time together?

What I particularly love (although I expect this is in all of my relationships) is the honesty & safety I feel that we have with each other.

I almost feel that when Jackee wrote her book and was ordained & we were invited… Our relationship stepped up a gear…. There were a lot of revelations & insight that brought us closer together I feel. This was because; it wasn’t just the three of us revealing ourselves to Jackee asking advice…

There was a turning point when Jackee went from Mentor/Auntie/Elder to Friend/confidant. Maybe we were just that bit older, mature, wiser that we were able to contribute with clear & open eyes.

We all wanted to contribute to this and that is what has made it so unique. It hasn’t been forced… It is wanted….

All I can say is… When I look at the picture of the four of us, all I can do is ‘Smile’.. It brings me so my joy in my heart it’s unreal. Thank you Jackee, Toks & Kwadjo for bringing such joy into my life. This relationship is priceless J.











5. How would you describe your relationship with her daughter Aida?

I have a good relationship with Aida but really I’m building my relationship with Aida onto a next level.

More recently Jackee has made me one of her God mothers – this is a real privilege but I need to be on top of my game and get involved. It has been pleasure for me to see & witness Toks & Kwadjo become Aidas God Fathers and to be invited to special occasions in the Holder household.

6. What difference has mentoring made to your life?

I have had many people in my life that have inspired me. This could be over a period of time or simply from hearing them speak once or twice.

Jackee in particular has offered consistency over a period of time & for some reason Jackee has a way of delivering her suggestions and constructive criticism in a way that is easily digestible.

I can be secretly stubborn but I can remember advice that Jackee has given me from the first year or two that I was a student.

Mentoring should support your journey in life, your career, your relationships & confidence.

7. What would you advice young people to look for in a mentor? 

  • Someone that you can trust but you will allow them to challenge you
  • Good aura – trust your instincts
  • Expertise or wisdom in a particular area
  • Consistency
  • Someone who genuinely is looking out for you

8.What do you believe to be the most important qualities of a great mentor?

  • Honesty/keep it real
  • Warmth
  • Can reflect themselves (they are human too)
  • Good communication skills
  • Sense of humor. Can laugh at themselves and/or life
  • Has lived a life with which they can draw reference from

9. If you had a chance to do anything differently from your life over again what would it be?

To be honest, I don’t have any regrets & every choice that I have made or has been made is for a reason.

For instance, after I did the documentary with Jackie Osei-Tutu and then got involved with MTV, I had my daughter Maya… I took a year out to be a Mother & came out of the media circuit. It was very hard to get back in. Do I regret having my daughter – Did this hinder my personal media career? Maybe or maybe not….

Due to my decisions, I’ve ended up as Social Inclusion Project Co-ordinator managing performing arts & media youth provision for young people that are socially excluded for a range of reasons.

So I’m not making documentaries about life & socially excluded communities but I’m in fact using creativity as a means to re-engage challenging young people who can hopefully have successful lives in the creative industries or simply feel good about themselves.

I find this work very fulfilling & maybe this was my destiny. Mentoring, supporting & showing love is a huge part of the work that I do…. So in answer to your question, No… Not really…

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How To Work An Inquiry Question

Monday, March 4th, 2013









Before you read the rest of this blog post take a minute to really connect and engage with the question below. Run it over as many times as you can in your mind and capture any initial first thoughts in a notebook or a blank sheet of paper.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)

I have seen this question quoted several times over in books, blogs, articles and on all over the Internet. It’s one of those questions that’s easy to glance at, to travel over each word with the eye and to send the mind a fast message that says, “Yes this is a good one and then do nothing more with the question for the rest of your days.

That is of course until life taps you on the shoulder in the form of a life event or crisis and reminds you in no uncertain terms that now is the time to pay real attention.

Or perhaps the discomfort of some part of your life or work becomes so unbearable you know that in order to move forward you must sit and be with the very question you have all these years tried to ignore.

That’s where I am right now, sitting and being with some very uncomfortable questions. Questions I want to lock up in a box and throw away the key. But like I’ve said these types of questions know how to seep through the smallest of cracks, they know how to tap on your shoulder and if you don’t listen they are experts on tugging on your hair and screaming your name out loud.

Socrates the Greek philosopher was renowned for asking what are referred to as Socratic questions that there are rumours that he was murdered for it. He would walk with his students out to the town gates asking difficult and penetrating questions. Rumour has it that he was murdered because he asked too many questions that challenged the status quo.

This is exactly what a coach does. A coach asks the type of questions that challenges the client to think outside the box, to think beyond their own status quo, beliefs, habits and attitudes into new ways of thinking and doing. Not always an easy or comfortable journey but very often a journey that is essential if we are to grow.

An Inquiry question is a powerful way of developing and deepening self awareness and self understanding which can radically deepen the clients understanding of their deepest desires, capabilities, skills and resourcefulness.

The question I pose this Monday morning came from the lips of the African American philosopher, theologian and educator Howard Thurman. This transformative question is a blend of both Socratic and Inquiry. It’s the kind of question that invites deeper reflection and inquiry and does not demand an instant answer. I invite you to sit and work with this Inquiry question for the next seven days.

Inquiry questions are reflected on and contemplated on over time. Allow your mind to freely explore the question in it’s own time as you go about your day and your week. With a notebook or audio recorder close to hand you can capture your thoughts and reflections about the question randomly as they emerge. No need to push for an answer. This is the ultimate in letting go, of opening, of allowing the answers to come find you.

They say that once a question is asked it’s purpose in some form or other begs for it to be answered.

You can work with this type of question be writing it out at the top of a blank page in your journal or notebook. Or pop it on to a new Note on your iphone or on a blank index card. Whenever your mind wanders onto the question make a note or record of what you’re thinking or ruminating about. Soon you will have a collection of data that will allow you to explore a range of different options or you maybe surprised, caught off guard by what the question poses you to think about.

The trick is holding no expectations, just see what comes. Working with questions in this way produces far more meaningful results that the quick off the mark answer or response.

What’s a great Inquiry questions you’ve come across? I would love to hear about the kinds of inquiry questions that are on your list.

I love this Inquiry question from the German writer and poet Rainer Maria Rilke,

“Live your questions now. And perhaps even without even knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”

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