Lois Strachan – Inspirational Speaker
It feels somewhat strange to say this, but I’m travelling again. The reason it feels a little peculiar is that I’m still processing all that I experienced on my trip to Europe six weeks ago. Not to mention how odd it is for me to travel twice in such a short time after almost three years of hardly leaving my house.
This time I’m in Mauritius, visiting Global Rainbow Foundation, a disability-focused organisation. I’m sure I’ll soon be sharing more about Global Rainbow Foundation and the amazing work they do to assist persons living with disabilities in Mauritius, but for now all I’ll say is that I’m learning how the foundation operates and am speaking at the Enable Mauritius conference taking place later this week. So there’s plenty for me to do while I’m here.
Of course, it would be silly to go to the beautiful island of Mauritius and not take advantage of the time there to relax and enjoy the beaches, entertainment, and delicious food that’s on offer. So we’re taking an extra week to help us recover from what has turned out to be a particularly busy year.
Once I’m back I’ll continue sharing stories from my travels to Europe, and then probably dive straight into sharing a few of my experiences from this trip.
In the meantime, wish me success with my presentations at the Enable Mauritius conference. It’s going to be such fun to speak there!
You’d be amazed how often people ask me what I think my life would have looked like if I hadn’t become blind. I usually shrug and tell them I have no idea. But for some reason, I’ve been thinking about it recently. To be honest, when I do think about it, I tend to have more questions than answers. So, here are a few whimsical musings on my (possible) alternative life…
I was in my final year of my Bachelor of Arts degree when I lost my sight, studying English literature, ancient history and law. I had a vague idea that I might become an archeologist. Considering that I’m not an overly outdoorsy person, I guess it is more likely that I would have landed up in academia, or perhaps working at a museum of some kind. But maybe not. Because who knows what might have happened…
Would music have played such a major role in my life if I hadn’t become blind? Well, in some ways yes, because I almost certainly would still have loved listening to music. But it’s unlikely that I would have joined a band as a singer, keyboardist, and guitarist. Because it was only after I lost my sight that I had the courage to follow that particular dream. I struggle to believe that would have happened if I had remained sighted. But perhaps it would have. Who can tell…
The same is true about writing. The idea of becoming a writer had never even crossed my mind. I probably would have laughed if anyone had told me I would publish even a single book, let alone the six I have authored so far. Besides, since all my books relate to blindness and disability, I would have had nothing to write about. AT least, I don’t think I would have. But you never know…
And what about my professional speaking? Again, until I became blind I wasn’t interested in standing in front of an audience and sharing my story, or training, or facilitating workshops, or coaching, or any of the work that I do now. In fact, though I might have had other life stories to share as a speaker, depending on where my life had taken me, those stories would have been totally different. Somehow I think it’s unlikely that I would have become a speaker. Which means I probably wouldn’t have become part of Toastmasters, the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa, or the Global Woman Speaker Mastermind that have all been such fundamental parts of my life. But, you never know…
And of course it’s unlikely that I would have got to meet the wonderful friends and colleagues I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years. I would almost certainly have had a totally different circle of people in my life. With the exception of my family, because I’m almost certain they would still have been part of my life regardless. Well, almost certainly. One never can tell.
One thing that’s for sure, I wouldn’t have been partnered with my three gorgeous, wonderful, beloved guide dogs, Leila, Eccles and Fiji. And my heart hurts just a little even thinking that I might not have had them in my life, walking beside me.
I would almost certainly still have been a voracious reader. It’s one thing that has been constant in my life. Apart from the first two years after I became blind, when I didn’t know how to access books. I felt that loss, until I learned how to find accessible audio and digital books. So I would certainly have still been a bookworm.
It’s also hard to know if I would have landed up living in Cape Town. Who knows where my life and my work would have taken me? It’s a question I have absolutely no way of answering.
I know I can’t answer any of these questions. But it’s been fun speculating.
Which isn’t all that strange, since alternative history and speculative fiction are amongst my favourite genres of book.
But now it’s time for me to reel in my wandering imagination and come back to reality… because Fiji has just nudged me to remind me it’s time for her and her doggy siblings to have supper.
Hello everyone, it’s me – Fiji!
I know I don’t usually write for Mom’s blog in the middle of the month, but Mom has been so busy recently that I thought I would help her out by blogging for her. After all, I am a guide dog, and my task is to help her where I can.
I’m not overly worried about how busy Mom is, except when it gets in the way of the things she needs to do to look after me and my doggy siblings. I mean, last week Dad had to feed us supper twice because Mom was in meetings. Usually supper time is 5:00 PM, so I did begin to worry when it got to 5:15 PM and we still hadn’t had supper. Till Dad came to the rescue and everything was fine again.
So, while I’m not overly worried about how busy Mom has been, I am curious about what is taking up so much of her time. I decided to put my nose to the ground and sniff out what’s been going on.
One of the projects Mom’s working on has something to do with blind photography. She’s working with a professional photographer who is visually impaired. Her name is Karren Visser and you can find out more about her at www.karrenvisser.com or on her new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/KarrenMVisser/
Mom is also busy creating content to update her website. It seems to be taking a long time, but I hope she will manage to find the right words for everything she wants to say. I overheard her talking to Dad and it sounds like the new site will be launched in October, so that’s something to look forward to. I wonder if they’ll have a party for the launch like they did for my book? Because that would be fun!
Mom is also planning a workshop for writers who want to turn their books into audio books and sell them through the major audio book retailers. She did that with her own book recently and wants to share her experience to help others. I guess that makes Mom a bit like a guide dog, too – because she is happy to show other people the way to go. And maybe I can ask her if we can make my book an audio book, too, if I wag nicely.
Those are the main tasks that are keeping Mom tied to her laptop, but she’s also busy with other things as well.
She’s been looking after my doggy sister Allie, who has had a soft tissue injury in her paw and has been hopping around on three legs. Mom is trying to limit the amount Allie runs around and it seems to be working. But I think Allie feels a bit silly only being allowed to go outside if she’s wearing her new super long leash so Mom can control her movement.
Allie almost pulled Mom over a few days ago when she suddenly leapt away. Mom was busy on her phone and was taken totally by surprise. Of course, the phone went flying and, though I tried to show Mom that it was under the table, she insisted on looking on the ground and everywhere else first.
Anyway, I thought I would help Mom out by writing her blog for her for this week. Hopefully her life will be a bit quieter and she’ll be able to update you herself next time. In the meantime, I’ve been watching her draw up her To Do List for today and it’s exhausted me so I’m going to take a nap.
Wags from me and my doggy siblings, Allie, Emily and Onyx.
Two professional speakers with disabilities were recognised at last month’s annual conference of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa.
Motivational speaker Nicky Abdinor, who has spoken at events globally, was recognised with the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame award for 2022. This award is presented to professional members of the association who have delivered excellence over a period of years speaking to diverse audiences as a keynote presenter. And Nicky certainly has done that in her many local, national and global speaking appearances.
As an aside, Nicky was the first person I knew of who presented internationally online, way back in the 2010’s.
Disability advocate Nick Smit was awarded first place in the annual Speaker Factor contest, where he competed against the top associate level speakers from the PSASA chapters across South Africa. Nick’s speech, called D.A.N.C.E Your Destiny was well received by both judges and audience.
Nick, also known as the Rebel Ninja, is a passionate disability advocate and teacher and his company Smergos is active in promoting disability awareness and inclusion.
Another link between Nicky and Nick is that they have both been guests on my A Different Way of Seeing podcast, back when I was focusing primarily on accessible travel.
I featured Nicky Abdinor back in January 2019, on episode 05 of the podcast, and Nick and his wife were my guests on episode 50.
You can find those episodes, as well as my full library of past shows, at https://iono.fm/rss/chan/3715
If you’re looking for a fantastic speaker for your next event, you can’t go wrong with either Nicky Abdinor or Nick Smit. Here’s where you can find out more.
Nicky Abdinor: https://nickyabdinor.com/
Nick Smit: www.therebelninja.com
I am excited to let you know that more of my books are becoming available on Bookshare.
So far, my memoir “A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way“ and the first of my illustrated children’s books, “Missy Mouse Goes to the Park” are already in the Bookshare library and the remaining books in the Missy Mouse series will be there soon.
I have been so impressed by the team at Bookshare India/Africa, who have been converting the Missy Mouse books and making them accessible to those who cannot read in the usual manner. I had always thought it wouldn’t be possible to add them to Bookshare because of the need to describe the illustrations, but the team at Bookshare have done a remarkable job of adding the descriptions to the text so that blind and visually impaired readers can learn what is happening in the images.
So, if you or anyone you know is a registered member of Bookshare, you can access some of my books – with more to follow soon.
And it won’t be long before Fiji’s book “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog” will be there too!
If you would like to learn more about the Bookshare library, you can hop onto Bookshare.org or listen to the interview I participated in with members of the team from Bookshare India/Africa for the Global Rainbow Foundation, at https://fb.watch/bBQZIcmWar/
In many ways I feel as though my year has only just started. For some reason I seem to have lost the last two months. My brain feels as if 2021 ended with November and 2022 only really got going this month.
There are reasons for this. My plans for December were derailed when I came down with COVID-19. So my plans had to be put on hold for a week or two while I recovered. Having said that, I’m immensely grateful that I wasn’t seriously ill as a result of the pandemic, just immeasurably tired most of the time. So my productivity plummeted.
The strange thing is that January wasn’t a whole lot better for me. And I have absolutely no excuse for my general apathy and lack of progress on the projects I’ve been working on. Somehow they just didn’t seem to happen.
In contrast, the first half of this month has been wonderfully and crazily busy as my year has finally got going. I published my speaking show reel after having it waiting in the wings for almost a year. I also published a book promo video for Fiji’s book “Paws for Thought: Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Guide Dog”, which was a fun mini-project that Charlie Dyasi created for Fiji and me.
I’ve started making a few changes in my business, thanks to incredibly valuable coaching from Heather Cresswell, from Business Brilliance. At least part of my flurry of action is the result of the shifts Heather’s coaching is creating in my life and business.
Now that my year is well and truly underway, you may be wondering what I have planned for 2022.
I’ve realized how much work I’m doing within the disability sector, speaking, training, coaching and mentoring. And it’s work I love doing! Being able to support others with disabilities, especially those who like me have a sight-related condition, is probably the most rewarding work I can envision doing. I am grateful to have so many opportunities to interact with people around the globe and encourage them to reach for their dreams. So I plan to build this aspect of my business this year.
In terms of my writing, the honeymoon period following the publication of Fiji’s book is over and it’s time I sat down to consider my next writing adventure. I’ve been chatting on and off with a friend, Meiki Motshabi, about a possible collaborative book project but we haven’t yet settled on the details of what that might look like and who might be involved. So, you’ll have to wait to find out more as our plans develop. Needless to say, writing will definitely remain one of my major activities in 2022.
There are also big changes happening in the podcasting work I’m doing. But more on that next time…
All told, I think it’s clear that I have managed to shrug off whatever lassitude affected me over the past two months and I am finally diving into 2022 with a wildly wagging tail… much to Fiji’s confusion since wagging tails are usually her responsibility.
And if you’d like to watch Fiji’s book promo video, you’ll find it at at https://youtu.be/y3rqzxUFbV0.
It’s taken me a long time to hit the publish button on this video, but I am excited to finally share it with you.
If you are looking for a speaker for an event – online or in person – then please take a look at my latest YouTube video, where I share a little about the work that I do. You will also have the chance to hear what a few of my previous clients and presentation attendees have to say about my talks.
Even if you are simply curious to learn more about who I am and what I do, this video will hopefully answer those questions. And it’s only 5 minutes long!
So, here it is:
Reach out if you’d like more information – you can contact me on whatever platform you are reading this and I’ll respond with more details.
And watch this space for more announcements in the near future – there are lots of changes happening in my business!
Last month I was honoured to be a speaker at the HerStory Women’s Global Empowerment Conference. The conference and the HerStory platform are the brainchild of Zimbabwean-born Getrude Matshe, who has been building the concept for the past few years, first as in-person conferences and currently as online summits.
My 15-minute presentation was on the topic of independence and it’s meaning for me as a blind person, touching on the need for greater inclusion of persons with disabilities into society and the workplace.
You can watch the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqLQvX5vnMs
I am regularly startled by the mails that arrive in my in-box. Thankfully I’m not referring to adverts for things that I neither want nor need, though I do receive a few of those as well – but remarkably few thanks to my anti-spam software.
Rather I’m referring to a number of incredible opportunities that have come my way over the past few months – like an invitation to appear on national TV… but more about that as the details emerge. And opportunities like guesting on some wonderful podcasts. Like the Phemale Phoenix Podcast with Lauren Deal.
The Phemale Phoenix is a podcast about women who have overcome challenges and, to quote the podcast show notes, “turned their mess into a message”. It turns out that Lauren read one of my Beyond Sight blog posts and decided I would be a good fit for her audience.
It was wonderful to chat to Lauren earlier this month. Her podcasts are usually 15 minutes since she wants her audience to be able to slot the episodes into their busy lives without too much difficulty. And the topics she covers address a number of issues faced by women across the world.
Here’s the interview we did: https://thephemalephoenix.podbean.com/e/episode-20-lois-strachan-unseen-ambition-in-a-sighted-world/
If you have a story to share with Lauren’s audience, why not reach out to her and see what is possible.
2020 is now almost over and I’ve been reflecting on the year that has been.
My year got off to a great start. I had planned three main projects to move me forward in my business. Those intentions were to release my audio book, complete a marketing show reel for my speaking business, and to totally revamp my website.
Then COVID-19 happened and, like everyone else in the world, my plans changed.
At a first glance, it would appear I achieved little this year. While I’m about 75% through the show reel project, I’m only 33% of the way through the recording of my audio book, and my website revamp hasn’t even started. To be honest, I was feeling pretty dismal about my progress.
Then I attended a seminar facilitated by Lesley Callow and she got me looking at my year completely differently. By challenging the way I was thinking, Lesly got me to focus on what I had achieved. More than that, Lesley also got me to acknowledge that I hadn’t been celebrating my successes because I was so busy beating myself up for not having completed the tasks I had set myself. And suddenly my year looked very different.
Sure, I may not have made the progress I had hoped on the three projects that had been my focus when the year started. But I had achieved a large number of other wins instead – I’d published the second edition of my book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an Ordinary Life in an Extraordinary Way, which I hadn’t even known was a requirement for me to release the audio book. More than that, wit the work I and my ARC Team (Advance Review Copy) did prior to the launch, my book became a No1 bestseller in two Amazon categories for at least 5 days (it might have been more as I had stopped tracking the ratings).
Like most speakers I’d been forced to shift my business online and, while I had perhaps not done as much speaking as I might have wished, I’d grown my online speaking skills significantly.
And I’d been busier with my music than I’d been in many years – doing 4 lockdown gigs on Facebook Live, and performing for several conferences, and fundraising events. And I’d been a feature artist for an arts festival run by Artscape Theatre. Shifting my music online had been remarkably easy!
There were many other smaller successes that happened during 2020 but those were the ones that I’m most proud of. So even in small ways I’ve continued learning and growing through the crazy year that has been 2020.
We can’t know what 2021 will bring, but it’s almost time for me to start setting my intentions for the coming year. And, whatever those intentions are and no matter what the year throws at me, I’m confident that I will continue moving forward.
Huge thanks to Lesley Callow for transforming my perspective of the last year. If you’d like to find out more about the work that Lesley does, you can contact her on [email protected]