All is well that ends well with technical and emotional insights

Rounding off Women’s month, we had two exceptional speakers at the Johannesburg chapter’s August event. The two talks provided both technical and emotional insights into how to improve our speaking businesses. 

Nikki Bush introduced our first guest speaker, her “twin sister” with so many business and writing parallels, cybersecurity expert Rianette Leibowitz. Rianette is on a cyber wellness mission to save lives by taking a more holistic view of our digital habits. 

Using your fingertips to make someone’s day or to break someone’s heart was central to Rianette’s Talk: that your fingertip represents your identity. 

Rianette spoke about how there are drunk drivers or drivers without licenses on the real road but, on the cyber road, the drunk drivers are the bad actors, and the drivers without licenses are those who don’t know about cyber wellness. 

She spoke about how much offline has gone online: exercising, banking, having a coffee date with friends. She asked, “how much are you in control of it?”  

There are many different effects: intellectual (how much you learn and how much you lose), environmental (how you’re driving less, but creating so many cables), relational level (great for staying in touch and how someone with a ton of friends can be lonely), entertainment (streaming being convenient and how binge-watching has taken over), spiritual, and all of these are intertwined. How we relax is different, too.  

She encouraged us to take a step back and see how tech affects our lives. She said from the moment we are woken up by our alarms, we jump into a digital space. Digital addiction is real, and hashtags shape conversations. Hashtag moments become hashtag movements. 

Rianette shared numerous insights and tips on how to attain cyber wellness and safety, starting with being aware. Be aware of what you listen to or watch. Be aware of what your children are listening to and watching. Take care of who you follow and who follows you. Be careful of who you compare yourself to. This forms part of her first building block – YOU. Screen time is not all bad. When you use it to study, to work, to research, and to network. But do take breaks and know when and how to look after you and when to reach out for help. 

The second building block is about those in your life. Children learn vicariously, so how do you set an example for them if you don’t have self-control over your cyber habits? Teach children about online self-worth and let them know that they are loved and that they belong. Teach them how to be resilient and how to deal with the online world. Never forget to reach out for help to your partner, setting an example for children, because they match what we do. 

Speakers need to be extra careful about what we share online, because we’re influencers. Values determine our priorities and can drive a better, well-balanced life. The conversations we have with each other online affects our value system, so make sure you have a solid system set. Setting boundaries is also vitally important, and it’s tough to protect these boundaries. If you jump on your device every time there is a notification, that is a digital habit. Look at your availability, check your notifications less, don’t be afraid to put your phone on silent, and be mindful of what you share online. These lessons make up the third building block – values, boundaries, habits.  

The final building block is about technology, risks, and exposure. Know that accounts can be hacked or phished, that people distribute negative information, cyber-bullying, or revenge pornography. We need to be aware that they are masterminds at what they do. Know your technology and know the settings, and think about how your devices are protected. Change and update your settings, anti-virus, and passwords. Create a secure, age-restricted profile for your children. Be aware of your surroundings when using digital technology in public spaces, as there are cameras, and people are always watching. Be careful of what documents you leave exposed in your car with information that can easily be seen – even down to cartoon stickers depicting your family.  

Take back control and take charge of your cyber well-being. Declutter your apps, reduce the number of photos, remove your friends that don’t make you happy, and leave the WhatsApp groups that take your time and energy. Have a daily digital detox at dinner: take the time to get out of the digital space. How about a full day without tech?  

We have the power to respond to negative online comments and turn them positive to make them uplifting and nation-building. Let’s create an organised positivity movement.  

Use your fingertips wisely.

Yoke van Dam introduced Yael Geffen using a Harry Potter quote about it being a curious thing that you can take up the mantle of leadership when it is thrust upon you, and how Yael has done just that after overcoming many hardships. 

In her talk, titled “Reimagine Resilience”, Yael and shared her story of overcoming hardships. 

It was 2002 in Cape Town: she and her brother had an argument, and she got into a car to drive to Chapman’s Peak and stood there looking down… 

It was 2003 in New York, working at a new job, anxious and depressed, she was waiting for the A train when an inside voice told her “Jump in front of it”. She rushed to a GP, and said: “if you don’t help fix this, I won’t be around tomorrow”. She was then confronted with the reality that she had Bipolar-2, and started her journey towards mental health. 

Then, on 6 September 2009, her brother committed suicide. He was her best friend and the loss was extremely painful. This was while still on her medication and therapy journey, which caused issues like uncontrollable crying, exhaustion, and falling asleep in meetings. 

In therapy, she discovered she had been sexually abused as a child. This discovery and process helped her realise more aspects of her life, who she was and why she had become bulimic after her first sexual encounter. 

Yael married, miscarried, developed thyroid autoimmune disease, gained weight, fell pregnant again, and had a child. She got divorced soon after the baby was born. 

After a company event in 2016, the former CEO stepped down to deal with a criminal trial around the death of his wife. Yael was thrust into leadership. She found herself heavily involved in the business and, in 2017, became the youngest women CEO in real estate. 

With all this happening, she came from a place of integrity and authenticity in rebuilding the brand. Some refer to her as a cockroach, but she refers to herself as a fungus – and there are lots of reasons to be a fungus. They have their own systems that put the internet to shame, they make food, they make medicine, they are extremely powerful. She recommended attendees watch Fantastic Fungi on Netflix. She said the very thing that represents resilience is growing underneath our feet. 

She doesn’t believe resilience is habit-forming or formulaic, but a poverty of reimagination. She said destruction leads to constructions, suffering is universal, victimhood is optional, and pain is magic. We need to embrace resilience as the mushroom that it is. 

She provided examples of how gin distilleries became hand sanitiser producers, how snorkels became ventilators. This reimagination is genius and magical. 

As speakers in pandemic times, we forget who we are, what our value add is, and we must figure out what makes us resilient and remarkable. 

She asked us: has there ever been a better time for connecting than the convenience of all the technology and tools we have right now? New global audiences, more events, greater volume. As fungi, we need to network and collaborate and realise we are worthy of the space we hold and our voices matter. Put your hand up as much as you can and figure out our unique gift.  

Speakers will be more heard than ever before; it just takes adaptation and reimagining resilience. 

There is liberation in saying: “I’m not as important as I think I am”. Whether or not you participate in anything, the world carries on. There is no pause button. Always be learning and put your hand up for everything. Networking is much stronger than the word it represents.

The Joburg chapter’s Member Appreciation Award for the month went to Nikki Bush, in recognition of the publication of her new book, Future-proof Yourself

The fun Overachiever Award of the night was given to Webster Tsenase for using the excuse of being late because he was attacked by a bear. 

This blog post was written by Lois Wagner and Bryan Turner. It was edited by Arthur Goldstuck.