In Follow Your Dreams

Have you ever been right in the middle of one of those self-pitying, woe-is-me moments when you hear about someone who has it way, WAY worse? Yeah, I was having one of those recently…and then I read about war survivor, Zainab Salbi.

Her father was Saddam Hussein’s personal pilot and in her young life, she’s seen more than violence and loss than anyone should ever have to. Amazingly, her turbulent life didn’t stop her from following her dream or making a positive impact on the world. Instead, her hardships motivated her to start Women for Women, a nonprofit organization that helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives and contribute to their societies. The organization has helped over a quarter million women worldwide since its inception in 1993. She also wrote Between Two Worlds, a memoir about her life in Iraq and growing up as “the pilot’s daughter.”

So what did she learn from living and working in war zones and crisis areas? She recently shared four lessons in her keynote to Michigan University’s Ross School of Business’ graduating class:

Don’t Wait to Live Your Truth
“Do not wait until you have enough money to live your dream. Do not wait for the time you will retire. Live it today and live it fully. I would not be standing here if I did not do that when I was 23 years old.”

Own Your Fear
“I had so many fears: of poverty, displacement, failure, and ridicule. No one was going to liberate me from that fear but myself. I grew up in the inner circle of one of the worst dictators in the 20th century. I was convinced that if I told anybody I knew Saddam Hussein that my identity, my values, and my accomplishments would all disappear. It took a lot of work to own that fear. I have to fight it by exposing myself fully and saying: ‘This is who I am.'”

Do Not Be Attached to Outcomes
“Two weeks ago my family united for the first time in 20 years. When we sat together as a family, we had nothing of what our parents had accumulated. But we had our peace. The house we grew up in went from being an execution center to a brothel to a military center. A few months ago the government returned it to us with only the bare walls as witness to everything that had happened. Never be attached to any outcome — only your inner peace, your own values, and your own truth.”

Enjoy the Process of Living
“Life is cruel. Sometimes it is magnificently beautiful. I’ve worked with women who were pinned to a cross and raped while rebels drummed and danced around them. I’ve worked with women whose legs and feet were cut into pieces in front of their children. And these women dance every single day and say, ‘Don’t look us at victims. Look at us as resilient women who have thrived and survived despite our circumstances.’ And if they can dance and if they can sing, who are we not to? Dance in the process of living life and don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Don’t worry, reading Salbi’s words of inspiration helped me put my meager little problems (which are really inconveniences, not problems at all) into perspective and reminded me how powerful inner strength and the right attitude can be.

To read Debra Holdship’s full article about Zainab Salbi, click here: http://www.bus.umich.edu/NewsRoom/ArticleDisplay.asp?news_id=19340

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