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Seun Shokunbi Of Karfi On The Self-Care Routines & Practices Of Busy Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders

Uncategorized May 01, 2023

An Interview With Maria Angelova

You’ll be kind to others. The adage you can’t pour from an empty cup or hurt people hurt people basically sums up the communal benefits of taking care of oneself.

All of us know that we have to take breaks in our day to take care of ourselves. “Selfcare is healthcare”, the saying goes. At the same time, we know that when you are a busy leader with enormous responsibility on your shoulders, it’s so easy to prioritize the urgent demands of work over the important requirements of self-care. How do busy entrepreneurs and leaders create space to properly take care of themselves? What are the self-care routines of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders? In this interview series, we are talking to busy and successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, and civic leaders who can discuss their self-care practices and self-care routines. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Seun Shokunbi.

Seun Shokunbi [pronounced Shewn SHōkoonbee] is a past contributor to Fodor’s Travel, Al Jazeera English, and Face2Face Africa. In addition to publishing her own blog, Leading Like a Lady, and running a strategy consulting firm for Black/African leaders called Karfi, she’s been a speaker for TEDx, Columbia Business School, Boston College, and Startup Week San Diego. She earned a B.A. in English and Communications from Fordham University, then moved to London to complete a master’s degree in International Management (magna cum laude) at SOAS, University of London.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is an honor. Our readers would love to learn more about your personal background. Can you please share with our readers your personal backstory; What has brought you to this point in your life?

Sure! My childhood instilled in me a very cosmopolitan and Afro-centric worldview. Growing up I had a grandfather who was a diplomat, living in Egypt at the time I was born (I went to visit him there at 5 years old). I also traveled to more countries in Europe before I’d ever been to Disneyland (which I went to for the first time at 18). In addition to all of that, my Nigerian immigrant parents enrolled me in a private elementary school tied to a church that’s very important in African American history, a school that gave me foundational knowledge of Black history that I wouldn’t have gotten at my local public school. When you combine all of that, you create a very liberal-minded personality, someone who wants more out of life because she knows there’s so much more the world has to offer…and someone who is committed to giving people who look like her the opportunity to demand the same.

This is how and why I came up with the idea of Karfi, my consulting firm. My mission is to obtain and sustain resources for African leaders — Black & Brown people of the African diaspora. Africa has the fastest growing population of highly educated people, and Black women in the U.S. are the fastest growing group of business owners in their country. But both groups continue to struggle the most to build sustainable, impactful enterprises. And both groups don’t only go into business to make money — they become entrepreneurs to improve the lives of their communities. The goal of Karfi is to provide advisory services that make starting and running a social enterprise more accessible to them.

What is your “why” behind what you do? What fuels you?

I know what it’s like to want to change the world yet feel discouraged by the obstacles in your way. Even when we have confidence within ourselves or find ourselves in influential positions, social and political forces still stand in the way of our progress.

Black people, Black women, have overcome a lot already, and we’ve accomplished many feats along the way. But I can’t rest until that 500+ year gap between us and our privileged peers is closed completely.

How do you define success? Can you please explain what you mean from a personal anecdote?

Success is when you receive confirmation that you’re pursuing your divine purpose. The times in my life I’ve felt successful always involved someone confirming something I’ve prayed about doing, or someone telling me the positive impact my work had on them.

One major example is when I started the Karfi Foundation, the non-profit arm of my firm. Within 2–3 months of establishing it, I received my first grant, and two months later launched my first pilot program in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a workshop for small business owners living in Kibera, the poorest neighborhood in Kenya’s capital city. For someone who just moved to Kenya from the U.S. knowing absolutely no one there, it was amazing to see how quickly the work through my foundation began. Until today, I still have participants from that program sending me messages to tell me how much they learned and how inspired they were to take their entrepreneurship journey to the next stage.

What is the role of a growth mindset in your success? Can you please share 3 mindset mantras that keep you motivated, sane, and propel you forward?

Wow, perfect question! I do have mantras to share, but first let me say that for me, a growth mindset combines self-discipline and self-love. You need both carrot and stick approaches to motivate you to become your best self. For example, one “carrot” for me is weekend getaways I use to reward myself for a week of hard work. The “stick” is saying no to any invitation to hang out or go on vacation if my weekly benchmarks weren’t reached, due to lack of effort versus something out of my control.

The three mantras keeping me sane and perpetually moving forward are:

  1. You have the right to underperform and still live, proudly.
  2. Grow in silence, and surprise them when you win.
  3. Dress, eat, read, walk and talk like the woman you want to become.

You are by all accounts a very successful person. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I still feel I have a lot more to do, but I appreciate the wonderful compliment! My success is only measured by what goodness came from it. So if I haven’t made someone’s day easier, happier, prosperous or victorious, I haven’t been successful.

Right now, my goal is to use lessons learned along my way to success to equip Black/African women with sage advice, so they don’t have to make the same mistakes to get where they want to be. I do that through my blog, Leading Like a Lady. My favorite parts of the blog are the book reviews on memoirs written by well-known Black/African women who are leaders in their field. I love unpacking the message behind the message, finding valuable insights that they may not have written explicitly on the pages but stand out in the way they tell their stories. Reading is a fundamental part of growth as an entrepreneur, and my goal with Leading Like a Lady is to map a nearly foolproof blueprint for personal development through my analyses of these books.

Can you share a mistake or failure which you now appreciate, and which has taught you a valuable lesson?

Growing up I was very insecure about pursuing my passion. I knew what my strengths were and what I loved doing, but I’d allow people to convince me I was chasing a pipe dream. During my senior year of college, I was invited to an internship at a major publication that I’m sure would have kick-started my writing career. But I turned it down out of fear that I wasn’t good enough for it.

To this day, I still wonder where I’d be professionally if I had more confidence in myself. The invaluable lesson in that has been to know thyself. Through lots of self-care — therapy, meditation, and a consistent practice of affirmations — I’ve developed the courage to go after opportunities I want and believe I deserve them.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

One, my listening skills. This is an underappreciated and misunderstood trait. Some people think listening skills involve simply listening to people talk, and giving them a chance to finish speaking so you can say what you want to say.

Absolutely not! The key to active listening is parsing through words as someone is sharing, and choosing what you can reassert to make them feel heard. For example, when someone’s sharing a story about a recent work event, active listening can be as simple as saying “So, it sounds like building awareness around this particular cause is important to you because…” X, Y, Z. I’m constantly searching for what to repeat back to someone in the form of a question to deepen my understanding of who they are, and what they stand for.

Two, my authenticity. This is a trait that’s hard to fake. You just have to genuinely care about others, and be willing to share who you truly are at your core. Finding a way to express yourself authentically, even if it contradicts the values and opinions of others, is a critical soft skill to develop. Perhaps being the granddaughter of a diplomat made this flow naturally for me!

Three, my insatiable desire to learn. I study my professional craft, of course, because I want to be the best at what I do. But I’m also curious about almost everything, which is handy when you hate empty small talk. When I’m networking, I can bring up random facts and news stories I’ve read about to build a deeper connection with those I’m talking to. That way, they become more than just business prospects, but actual acquaintances or sometimes close friends.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting new projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I believe it’s my blog, Leading Like a Lady. It’s a simple but invaluable task to produce content that affirms Black and African women working on becoming their best selves.

I call myself the #selfesteemcoach, and I say that my content is for insecure girls tryna secure the world. I know firsthand what it’s like to fail at living up to the Strong Black Woman trope. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to aspire to, but it’s detrimental when it’s the only identity you feel forced to embody. So my goal is to show the shortcomings of even the strongest Black women we know, and do some critical analysis on where we (the women that look up to them) can learn from their mistakes to create better routines and self-care practices helping us avoid those similar pitfalls.

We fall into those pitfalls only when we fail to be honest about our fears and vulnerabilities. Leading Like a Lady is a call to redefine what strong leadership looks like in a patriarchal, capitalistic, and individualistic society.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about Self-Care. Let’s start with a basic definition so that we are all on the same page. What does self-care mean to you?

Self-care is taking care of yourself so that you don’t die, physically, mentally, or spiritually. Simple as that.

As a successful leader with an intense schedule, what do you do to prioritize self-care, and carve out regular time to make self-care part of your routine?

I’m studying the art of flow. I’m a Christian, but I also appreciate the Taoist teachings of slowing down, avoiding unnecessary competition with others, and finding your own rhythm.

It takes a lot of discipline to move at a pace that’s both right for you, and right for the deadlines and schedules you have to work around. It’s a balancing act. But since COVID and the whole world shutting down at once, I value these principles more than ever.

Will you please share with our readers 3 of your daily, or frequent self-care habits?

Things I do daily to slow down are yoga, journaling, and going for walks when I could easily take public transportation instead. This gives my brain time to catch up with my body, or vice versa so that I’m always in tune with what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That makes it so much easier to be productive.

This is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experiences or research can you please share 5 ways that taking time for self-care will improve our lives?

  1. You’ll live longer. Scientific studies show that something as simple as praying once a day consistently improves your heart health! Whatever your faith or meditative practice may be, doing it daily increases your lifespan significantly.
  2. You’ll feel happier. Science shows this as well, and I’ve personally felt more energized because I dedicate time each day to take care of myself.
  3. You’ll be kind to others. The adage you can’t pour from an empty cup or hurt people hurt people basically sums up the communal benefits of taking care of oneself.
  4. You’ll accomplish more. Using self-care routines to pace yourself and your day prevents burnout and stretches your capacity to do more in less time.
  5. You’ll become less intimidated by challenges. That’s not to say you won’t worry or feel scared, but you’ll have the optimism and the tools to tackle them.

Sometimes we learn a great deal from the opposite, from a contrast. Can you please share a few ways that NOT taking time for self-care can harm our lives?

The biggest way self-care harms us is by destroying our physical and mental well-being. If you are not feeling well, it’s nearly impossible for you to be or do your best.

What would you tell someone who says they do not have time or finances to support a regular wellness routine?

Exercise is free! Drinking water is free! Talking to a friend or a loved one is free! Self-care doesn’t require a budget. It doesn’t even require creativity. It requires thoughtfulness.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

My goal is to spend a whole day with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I would feel so blessed to have conversations with someone who embodies leading like a lady! And her book Purple Hibiscus summarized my life as a young Nigerian girl, so much so that it reignited my desire to pursue a writing career (even though I was still battling low self-esteem and depression).

As a fellow writer, I’m sure we’d have so much to discuss, and I’d have so much to learn from her.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

You can subscribe to my Substack newsletter at https://seunshokunbi.substack.com/subscribe. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn as well.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher, and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at [email protected]. To schedule a free consultation, click here.

Source : https://medium.com/authority-magazine/seun-shokunbi-of-karfi-on-the-self-care-routines-practices-of-busy-entrepreneurs-and-business-a6074d445dce


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