Vera: Congratulations on your book ‘’Whose Shoes are you wearing’’ on personal transformation. How do you define personal transformation and would you say it’s an organic process or more deliberate process?
Julian: I believe personal transformation is the deliberate process of getting to really understand who you are, why you’re here on earth and how to bridge the disconnect between who you are and who you were destined to be. I would say that this type of growth is more deliberate than it is organic because it requires a level of consciousness that forces you out of your comfort zone and into your commitment zone.
Vera: The book is ostensibly a fresh take on the subject. What would you say are the now insights you share?
Julian: What we’ve heard from most of our readers is that the book was a very easy and practical read, but was uplifting, funny and relatable. I think many self help books present the subject in a very abstract manner, whereas my sister and I made a very conscious decision to reference very personal stories along with each of the chapters in the book. We also spoke very openly about how the African culture we grew up in influenced how we saw ourselves. Even though we were speaking from an African perspective, the issues we raised were universal and touched at the core of the struggles we each have as human beings to learn to love and embrace all of who we are—imperfections and all.
Vera: You raise the issue of “Self love” which no doubt is foundational to moving oneself to a better place. What’s your philosophy on that and why is it so important to personal transformation?
Julian : Self love is necessary if you want to find real contentment and fulfillment in your life. Otherwise, you’ll always look externally for what you can only find within—divine love. I believe you can only truly love others in the same manner in which you love yourself. I don’t remember who it was that said, “You teach others how to treat you.” Whatever you feel, think or believe about yourself, is going to manifest in your life—good or bad. If you want to transform your life, it starts with your mindset and with your relationship with yourself.
Vera: You also talk about ‘’Keeping it real by removing the weave, the lashes and the heels’’(very visual!) I imagine many women would feel find this unnerving. What are the real issues you are zoning in here and for women who want to heed your advice, how can they practically do this?
Julian: As women, most of us enjoy dressing up, shopping, putting on the makeup and rockin’ those sexy heels. However, if you’re in a place where you are unable and/or unwilling to ever let your guard down and the authentic you shine through—without the weave, the lashes or the heels—then there are bigger issues than fashion at play here. I love using Oprah as an example of the amazing things that can happen in your life when you decide to make authenticity a core value. She’s made billions from being relatable, real, and allowing us to see and even experience many of her struggles with her.
In this day and age of social media and reality television, I think most people are tired of the fakeness and superficiality that is prevalent in much of society. The first step to getting of the treadwheel, is to recognize you’re not being authentic and to understand what it’s costing you. We do some crazy things when we’re insecure about allowing others to see us for who we are underneath all the accessories and makeup. Once you recognize the issue, then it’s up to you to gradually start peeling back all those layers and let the real you start shining through.
Vera: We live in a noisy world and many people strive daily to rise above the noise. You make an important point about learning to listen to the still small voice- to ‘’do the hard work on the inside’’. How does one do that with all the noise?
Julian: The only way to learn to listen to that still, small voice is to consciously and deliberately remove yourself from the noise. It’s like getting off of a merry-go-round in order to catch your breath and figure out which ride you want to jump on next. You don’t go flying off the merry-go-round and jumping on to another ride before it stops. But that’s what we often do when we jump from relationship to relationship, job to job, situation to situation—we don’t stop and allow ourselves to BE STILL. It is only in that stillness that you’ll be able to tap into the wisdom which already lies within you.
Vera: From your work with women, what are you learning about why some hesitate to put themselves out there even when they know they have great gifts and how can they embrace what you call “shameless audacity?”
Julian: The reason many of us stay too long in our comfort zones and in boxes that are way too small for us is simply because of fear. Fear causes you to doubt your gift, your greatness, your purpose. You get so caught up in what other people are doing and accomplishing that you avoid figuring out your own purpose and walking in it. The Bible says that “your gifts will make room for you.” I truly believe that. Shameless audacity means that you put yourself out there and follow your spirit regardless of the fear.
Nothing great ever comes from comfort zones. When you think about all of the most life-changing inventions that have ever been created—the airplane, the cell phone, the computer, and so on—someone had to have the audacity to think up something that never existed. They had to have a vision that allowed no doubt or fear to deter it. They just did it. That’s shameless audacity.
Vera: You’ve certainly been audacious yourself having run international campaigns and chaired star-studded events. How did you find the courage to “stand on such huge stages’’ and what did that teach you about what it takes to become fearless?
Julian : I’m blessed in that, for most of my life, I’ve always known what I’ve wanted and just gone for it. I think some of it was the invincibility of being young, but most of it came from an internal knowing that whatever I put my mind to, I would accomplish without doubt because I could see it in my mind’s eye. Being fearless is just that—it means you have less fear, not that you have NO fear.
Without some level of fear, faith would be unnecessary. Even Jesus feared dying on the cross, but He did it anyway because He knew that there was something greater and more important that lay beyond His fear. He focused on the long-term vision instead of the short-term pain. I believe that to achieve anything, we have to operate in the same way and be willing to make sacrifices in the short-term in order to realize the bigger vision for our lives.
Vera: You’ve obviously had your own transformation and been quite frank about what you call “trials’’ you’ve had. What was most challenging and how did you overcome those?
Julian: The most challenging trial I’ve had was my divorce more than 10 years ago. I talk about it more in my book, “Whose Shoes Are You Wearing?” but I would have to say that the feeling of pain and failure at something I thought would last forever was the most difficult to overcome. Three things helped me get through that tough time: prayer, knowing that I had to set a good example for my daughter, and a close circle of support. I had to also rebuild my life and create a new vision for me to focus on which helped me to heal and move on.
Vera: Of the 12 steps to personal transformation in your book, which would you say has been the most meaningful for you and why?
Julian: I would have to say that the most meaningful step in personal transformation for me was learning to be real and authentic and allowing others to see the real me—my mistakes, my faults, my imperfections, my failures, my vulnerabilities. This is why this was the first chapter in “Whose Shoes”, because you can’t experience real transformation until you get real with yourself. There’s something very freeing about letting your guard down and allowing how you overcame your challenges and your trials to be used as a tool for others to get through what they’re going through and transform their own lives.
Vera: Where is your bold and fearless spirit leading you next?
Julian: Launching Bold & Fearless in 2013 as an online magazine and lifestyle brand for professional, purpose-driven women has been a blessing for me as I’ve seen the impact it has had on so many women. I will continue to build that brand and create content and products to inspire and empower women. I’m also very passionate about doing transformational work in Africa. It almost doesn’t matter where on the continent (I’m originally from Uganda and Rwanda but consider myself a Pan-Africanist) because there’s so much work to be done. Whatever I do, it will involve entrepreneurship, technology, creativity and purpose.
Julian B. Kiganda is a dynamic branding and marketing strategist with nearly 20 years of experience helping transform, build and grow brands for international organizations, Fortune 500 corporations, multi-million dollar nonprofits and small businesses. She founded Bold & Fearless in 2013, an online magazine and lifestyle brand for professional women of Africa and the Diaspora who are passionate about discovering and living out their purpose. Julian is also an active public speaker and mentor and who has been featured in numerous media including ABC News, NBC News, The Washington Post, Essence.com, ARISE Magazine, Voice of America Africa and NPR. More about Julian at www.boldandfearless.me
For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.