I have been learning about the art of possibilities lately. Something about radiating possibilities seems inspiring to me these days. I was gifted the book ‘the art of possibilities’ during my program with altMba. I never really opened the book until this weekend. I can’t seem to drop it down. It all started with making preparations for my Tuesday class. We are focusing on fears with grantwriting, including my Rule number 5, or ‘remembering that failure is an option.’ I wanted to update my lecture a bit, to include contemporary prompts that would motivate my students to move beyond fear to accept failure as an opportunity.

The book Radical Candor initially came to mind. I love it’s take on caring personally and challenging directly. I am truly radical with how I approach grantwriting. It shows in the way I grade assignments. Some students like my tough love stance. I say it comes from a place of caring deeply for what they seek to do, with a heavy dose of challenging directly. You are not writing to me is also what I say. I maybe your teacher in this course, but I am also a grant reviewer for NIH. Write to that hat I wear, not your professor. Like I said, some students love it, others, well, let’s just say they get used to it in the end per the reviews I get. I care personally. I am all for bringing out the best in students, not being loved. So radical candor makes sense to me. But that was last year. This year (and not to tone down on radical candor), I wanted to inject a bit on seeing failure as an option, an opportunity, a possibility even. Enter the book by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander below.

From the beginning, we are informed that this is a how-to-book of an unsual kind. I was intrigued. The objective: to help the reader lift off from the world of struggle and sail to the vast universe of possibilities. I was sold. Can a book really do this is all I kept asking myself? Can a book help me harness failure for example as a possibility waiting to be brought to life?

Couple of things I read were truly inspiring and will be tried in my grantwriting class this fall. Like giving the entire class an A from the beginning. It’s radical indeed and the premise is that freely granted A expresses a vision of partnership, teamwork, and relationship. All of this is required for success with any grant. Looking back, merely putting a grant together is an automatic A so this makes sense. In the absence of a vision, we are each driven by our own agenda. But when we grant A in all our relationships, grant writing process for example, we align ourselves with others, because the A sustains any life-enhancing partnership.

I am learning that every day. I recently failed with a major grant I wrote. The failure was gut wrenching and it really made me depressed. The failure also happened while my sister in-law was transitioning from this world to the next, so the depression was real. But so to are the steps I am slowing taking to make sense of what I do, make sense of grant writing for example. I may have failed with that grant, but since learning about rule number 5 and giving myself an A for evening putting that grant together in the first place, the possibilities are endless. I am truly sailing to the universe of possibilities and beyond. The failure was excess stone that needed to be chipped away. Doing so slowly, one failure at a time, is revealing the graceful form within what I do. Like a diamond in a rough, I get better with grant writing with each failure. The possibilities are endless when I remember rule number 5. Only a matter of time before all of this makes sense.

In the meantime, I have shared previously that I was taught early in undergrad that research is a viable career path. So most of my junior and senior years were spent earning credits not in lecture halls but in research labs as an undergraduate researcher. All my experience were automatic A. In fact the easiest way to earn A’s in college is to become a researcher for class credits. It propelled me to a universe of possibilities with research. I was able to move for example, from a bachelors degree to a doctoral degree with no masters degree in between, but fully earned A’s as an undergraduate researcher. So I recognize the value of freely giving students an A. Will I try it out? Yes. Will keep you all posted how students react to this at the end of the semester. For now, here is to hoping it lifts my students off into the universe of possibilities with grant writing.

When the gates of new possibilities are opened for children, they go through. My daughter is a prime example. For her, reading is life. I have watched over the years, how it continues to transform her consciousness. I see it’s power through her lens. I see it’s push to higher spaces through her commitment. What I didn’t expect was the ways it would keep her responsive and alert to her own unique possibilities. Often we don’t see this transformation. Often we truly do now know that exact moment when a child becomes an author, when a child picks up a pen and starts telling their own story, when a child awakens to their own possibilities. I am living in that moment.

I have had the privilege of being a witness to this transformation with my daughter. Writing for her started passively, something to keep her busy with during the unprecedented summer of a lifetime with the start of the pandemic. In a pre-pandemic era, we read to oblivion. She earned her way through reading. I have no problem admiting that it all started when she was 6 and I promised to give $100 dollars for reading 100 books. She did and I paid. I have tried this same tactic with her brothers to no avail. So I pressed on with her. The following summer, the same charge, 200 books for $200. She did it again. And so our summer reading behaviors solidified and I of course was happy. Until the pandemic. One way to make up for all the books we needed was to go the library. The pandemic closed her abilities to use her library card. In a rather feeble attempt to keep her busy, I casually stated, why don’t you start telling stories then. What I didn’t realize at the time was the power of the word. That parents can birth new dreams in their children with words is astounding to me. I gave her the gift of possibilities.

She went away to that special place that writers tap into for inspiration and wrote her first short piece, illustrated by her and published by me. I have written about it in an old post focused on writing like a child (here) In fact the first lengthy piece that stretched my own writing when my keeplist began was my reflection of her first storybook Kaylin and Little Foot. I was stunned that she would take my request on and work on a story she would like to read. Since then, she has been writing and journaling non stop. I have pressed on too with my writing. She reads this keeplist. She also awakened me to my own possibilities with writing. When I recently asked why she continues to write, she said is because I do the same. She has made me more responsive and alert to the power of my words and action. Often we don’t hear this direct stuff as to when writing begins in childhood so pardon my focus on it.

But my keeplist today isn’t even about my daughter’s writing from the past. Rather, I want to talk about the future and how she represents what I know would be great ahead. A little over a week ago, I gave her a little blue book to keep her busy again. Her school was beginning Spring break for the week and she wanted things to do. I said let’s read. She mentioned she has read all her books and needed new ones. While we were talking, I was busy cleaning the house. As if on cue (the universe and it weird ways), I found a little blue book full of empty pages while rifling through materials I was cleaning. I tore away the used portion and said, why don’t you go write stories again. Be open and take us on an adventure. I left her to decide how to approach this assignment. I expected it to keep her busy. Little did I know that it would awaken the possibilities in her.

Enter, ‘The Golden Sapphire.’ How she comes up with her titles and table of contents is mesmerizing to me. How my words take her to a place where anything is possible is sterling to me. How she chooses to be open in this manner is what I intend to keep, for it is beautiful to me. I don’t know what the future holds, but the possibilities of it are there, if only she continues to do her part to see the richness of her ways. And she is stupendously rich. The unexpected dimensions of her ways keeps me alert to her future, one that personifies that word Nkiruka, what is ahead is great. I am keeping this here because I have no idea what I have done to awaken this in her. Like I said earlier I have tried and failed with her brothers, though the verdict is still out and I know they look up to her. Speaking visions of possibilities to our children is the most generous investment we can make. One that I intend to keep for myself and gift to her always.

Even as I share the images above, I am only using them here for emphasis as it’s the current story she is busy working on. Kaylin and Little Foot went on to become a chapter series, about 12 of them. Then there was The tiny, tiny team below, a short story collection illustrated by her, and a host of other collections. What I have learnt through this experience is that the ultimate gift we can offer our children is possibilities. The richness of it all is there, if only we help them discover it’s unexpected dimensions for themselves. Of course they must go through the door themselves. But the thought of bursting open, the gate of possibilities, the thought of awakening her to her potential, the thought of empowering her creativity, is a keep worth celebrating. It also a reminder to keep seeing the possibilities in children.

This one is heavy. I cried today. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I passed through it and cried. Nkiruka or what is ahead with life is greater. So too with the COVID-19 vaccine I received today. I cried when my turn arrived. We have been waiting for this day for awhile that I almost belted this is the day that the Lord has made. My possibilities with life are endless so pardon me as I rejoice.

My Moderna Vaccine.

About a year ago today, I was scheduled to travel to Washington Dc. I was part of a review group charged to review grants for their scientific potential and impact. I was also 6 months pregnant. News about the pandemic was every and nowhere. We were told it wasn’t as bad as we should expect it to be. I had literally returned from South Africa a couple of days before the trip. Little did I know that it would be my last time traveling. I remember arguing with my husband about my obligations with the review group. He told me my life was more important. I said the virus isn’t really here. He said it was. I said this is an opportunity of a lifetime. He said there would be more. We went back and forth like this with me justifying why traveling even while pregnant with a looming pandemic was okay. He argued it wasn’t.

Looking back, of course his arguments were as sound as they were empathetic. There I was thinking about work and willing to jeopardize my health and that of my unborn baby to prove my productivity points and all he kept saying was that this virus was a disaster looming on the horizon. Of course he is a frontline worker and he had up close and personal encounters with the virus. I relied on what I heard in the news and nothing then was coherent about the pandemic. I remember sending an email that morning against my better desire to cancel my appearance at the meeting. I apologized, asked if there were other ways to participate and looked forward to more opportunities. My husband was relived. I felt sad. That is until I received an email almost immediately from the organizer that the meeting was potentially going to be canceled. That I wasn’t the only one that sent an email. That he was waiting for confirmation from his boss to go ahead and transition the meeting virtually. That more details were forthcoming. Again here I was willing to jeopardize my health for a meeting that the organizers were gearing to cancel anyways.

My husband relishes I told you so moments like this. I often learn a lesson in humility. I didn’t know the pandemic would be devastating. My perception of risk at that time was low. I had just returned from South Africa while pregnant. So how bad can a trip within the country be, I would argue. That I am alive with a health baby to tell this story 12 months later is a phenomenal to me. That I took my first shot of the Moderna vaccine fills my heart with joy. This is the day that the Lord has made. That this journey comes full circle 12 months later is emotional for me. My last in person meeting was canceled exactly a year ago. The pandemic upended so many things I love, so many things I took for granted like the ability to travel or purchase a magazine whenever I traveled. I was so emotional when I saw Harvard Business Review at the grocery store yesterday. It is my go to magazine for long distance travels. To think I haven’t seen one in a year brought tears to my eyes in the middle of buying groceries. The pandemic took so much.

But Nkiruka. What is ahead with life is still great. The pandemic also gave birth to many things I now love, like questions my children ask, our focus on more beautiful ones, listening, inner silence, writing about notions of motherhood along the margins, all life’s many silence, many struggles, many survival, and of course this blog of things I intend to keep. I will keep drawing strength from all of my experiences post the pandemic. I will keep finding my voice, keep writing about the art of motherhood. I will also keep focusing on what matters, how I plan to date greatly, build strongly, adapt well, while securing what matters for me. But for now, Nkiruka. The best is still yet to come. The possibilities with life are endless when you keep the vaccines in mind.