Your Next Best Self Conference 2020 — My Learnings

Writing this piece more than a month after the event probably embodies the phrasing ‘life comes at you real fast’. Isn’t that what the COVID19 pandemic has been in general? I had promised myself and probably said it a bit too loud around my friends that I will write about the experience of ‘Your Next Best Self Conference’ soon after it was done. The conference took place on 7th November , 2020 at Villa Rosa Kempinski, Nairobi and virtually as well. Here we are now, about six weeks later ready to share my reflections from the conference.

Dr. Patricia Murugami on stage addressing the attendees in the 2019 Your Next best Self Conference (Source : BLT website)

Be an Intentional Finisher

Dr. Patricia Murugami , the convener of the conference and the CEO of Breakthrough Leadership Transformation (BLT) Group mentioned that language matters a lot. Giving an example of how we talk about school/college dropouts and the negative connotation it gives. She challenged us, how about referring to people as ‘intentional finishers’. To further explain the concept she gave us an example of her long winding journey to complete her Masters degree which took many years. As I type this, I am carrying with me the spirit of an intentional finisher — I purposed to write and no matter how much time has passed I am determined to finish this piece.

We plan a lot of things everyday, weekly, monthly, yearly but some plans fall through the cracks. There are varied reasons why things don’t get done as planned but what I learnt especially from my writing engagements, you have to be extremely intentional and committed to follow through. I can’t claim mastery of this concept but I can attest that my few attempts have left me fulfilled — I finished something I started/conceptualized about.

Be patient with one another, be patient with yourself

When one of the panelists , Clara Masinde spoke about her experience during the COVID-19 pandemic ,I immediately realised that during a prolonged and uncertain crisis such as this one, patience is such a precious thing. Clara described how she noticed her sons were giving her a hard time after being suddenly holed up in the house. But she quickly had to figure out the problem through their own views and her key take away was “ my sons are not giving me a hard time , they are going through a hard time”. With this change of mindset together with her husband they were able to find workable solutions of engaging them in sporty activities for example which they had really missed and other things to make life away from their usual routine bearable.

That phrase alone made me rethink about how I can be quick to misjudge a person as difficult or just being hard on myself. It reminded me that a lot of things are not certain in 2020 , having an income/a job, good health, life, completing projects — all these are not certain and therefore people will have different reactions to the situation and we have to try to be patient with one another and with ourselves.

Clara finished up by saying , “In times of uncertainty, you cannot plan too much ahead. Be agile — ready to take on whatever comes your way”. What better experience to explain this phrase than how the initial convening of this conference was abruptly postponed on 13th March, 2020 having been scheduled for 14th March 2020. The agility and the patience of the BLT Group and even more the attendees made it happen 8 months later on 7th November. If you are in doubt about your ability to be agile, especially if you attended the conference, think of this moment as one of them.

Second chances

Have you ever imagined yourself in prison?In a cell in the police station?Being handcuffed? These are probably not thoughts a lot of people think about, but in communities where there is constant police or army surveillance , this is a reality they know too well. They know that one small action or inaction can set them to the ‘wrong side of the law’. After some conversations with my friend Nyambura a few years back, I have been a keen follower of prison abolition particularly through the lenses of USA abolition activists. Among other things prison abolition aims to sensitize on decriminalization of poverty as perpetuated by prisons and prison systems and the abolition of said systems.

Teresa Njoroge, one of the speakers at the conference, was a victim of wrongful imprisonment. Her story re-ignited in me why tackling criminalization of poverty needs urgent attention as she rallied us to think about these issues more often — to know that finding yourself in prison can be anyone’s reality. She founded an organization , ‘Clean start solutions’ that supports women who have been to prison and are re-integrating back to society.

I remember how passionate she was and hilarious at the same time as she told her story. The story was heart wrenching, shocking and insightful . She ended it by saying three things:

Setback can be overcome

I can rewrite my story

I have power to pick myself up again.

Second chances await us on the other side, even when everything seems so grim.

As Winnie Maina, the executive assistant at BLT group said : There was no better time as today to have the ‘Your next best self conference’.

As a second time attendee, it is a conference I would recommend to any woman who needs a pick me — up session for about 5 hours enjoying the company of other women and listening to riveting panelists.

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Winnie Rabera

Educator|| Social and internet Justice enthusiast||Multidisciplinary scholar||- Currently churning out knowledge in occupational health|| Mozilla contributor.