In this month’s chapter of our ongoing discussion of how to overcome your roadblocks to being unstoppable, Liz Forkin Bohannon of Sseko Designs breaks down how to take a dream or desire and turn it into a tangible reality. Think back on your own life. Do you have anything you wish you could have pushed to pursue? Is there something that you keep daydreaming about, hoping that one day it will be more than a wish for your life? Maybe Liz’s words this month will be just what you need to take the next step!
You can listen to this entire conversation with Liz on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.
This month, 4word is focusing on the idea of taking a belief or dream and turning it into a tangible destiny. What are some “beliefs turned to destiny” moments from your life?
One that comes to mind is a very deeply held belief that we were created on purpose. None of us—with all of our quirks, gifts, vision, unique perspectives and lived experiences— were an accident. We were created on purpose and we were created for a purpose. God created us and so graciously invites us to be co-creators with Him. We get to participate in building the world we want to see and be part of stories of redemption, adventure, and community. This isn’t something that just happens to us or is forced on us; it requires our participation. But part of being a co-creator is that we have autonomy and get to show up and say “yes” to this invitation to create something really beautiful.
What do you think are some of the biggest things that might be holding somebody back for making a dream a reality?
For starters: we are just terrified. We’re terrified to fail. I’m of the belief that so many of us are walking around with these just precious egos and we’re orienting a lot of our life around protecting that ego. “How am I gonna look? Am I gonna look successful? What are other people gonna say?” I say “precious ego” because I have learned to have a lot of compassion on myself and my ego that says, “Don’t do that. You’ll fail. That’s too big of a risk. You’ll look stupid.” I’ve learned that that voice is really just trying to protect me. But that voice will also keep me, and the story I’m a part of, small in a way that I don’t think God intends.
I also think that we’re pretty misguided in thinking that people care more than they do. We think that people are thinking about us more than they actually are. At first, this realization might seem like a little bit of a bummer. It’s not that no one cares about you, but acknowledge that people are not walking around wondering or asking what you’re going to do next. Coming to this realization about how others are really thinking about me has been very freeing for me!
You only get one wild and precious life to live, so you might as well have some fun, try some things, say “yes” to invitations, and be less concerned with what you think other people are going to say. And guess what? Other people are having the same internal conversation about themselves. They’re trying to think about how they’re going to get from the board meeting to their kid’s soccer game and still feed their middle child dinner in the midst of it. Our lives are so busy and full that we just don’t actually have that much space to be thinking about other people’s success or failures, and that can actually be a really freeing realization.
Do you have any dreams you wish you could have made a reality in your life?
I have plenty of dreams that have not yet been realized. I think the word “yet” is a very magical word. It’s this idea that you’re always leaving possibility. It’s very rarely “too late” to do the thing. I think that idea is something that trips a lot of people up, like, “I missed my chance, I missed my opportunity. It’s too late.” If instead, we say, “I haven’t done that yet, I haven’t learned that yet, I’m not good at that yet,” you leave yourself open to a lot of possibilities.
Yes, there are a lot of things that I dream about that I have yet to make a reality in my life. Travel has been such a beautiful, important, and informative part of my life. I have friends and have worked in different contexts globally and have these amazing relationships and experiences. I love how living and working in a different culture teaches you so much about the world, about God, and about yourself. I have so much gratitude for that really meaningful part of my life, and I would love to figure out how to bring my family into that same kind of meaningful experience abroad. I’ve got three boys, ages six and under and I love dreaming about what it would look like for my kids to be invited into that part of my life.
In a recent sermon at Gateway Church in Texas, Pastor Robert Morris preached about Joseph and his journey from dream to destiny. Pastor Morris shared a few tests that we, like Joseph, will go through if we strive toward a destiny that’s created out of a dream. One of the tests is the “perception test.” After you graduated college, you had to choose between pursuing the journey of a working woman in the US, or following your passion and calling for the women in Uganda. Did you ever wonder, ‘What will other people think of me if I go to Uganda?’
I didn’t wonder because I already knew! I was pretty clear-eyed going into this decision that I would be disappointing some people in my life. I felt like it was pretty straightforward that, if I went on this path to Uganda after college, I would be disappointing people. There were people that I knew would be supportive of the journey, and I’m super grateful for them.
Early in my life, I didn’t have a season where I thought, “Maybe I could take risks, follow my passion, go on a little bit of a more non-conventional journey and still make everybody happy.” I felt like I had to come to terms with that really young and I’m super grateful that I did because the last 15 years have really tested that understanding. We are always going to be disappointing folks, which is kind of hard because we’re humans and we don’t like disappointing people.
Get in the habit of asking yourself, “Who am I willing to disappoint?” When I ask myself this question, I always come back to the idea of having an audience of one—the Lord. When I remember this, I then ask myself, “What is God inviting me into? Am I moving towards or away from this invitation that I’m sensing from God?” I don’t want to live a life where I please everybody else and then really disappoint myself. If you’re going to live this life that you feel you’re being called to, you’re going to have to learn to ask the question of who are you going to disappoint and are you OK with that? Can you make peace with that?
Personally, I’ve gotten pretty clear on whose voice I’m welcoming in when I’m making these major choices in my life. I need help in discerning my path! I have given that authority to a very specific group of people. I can’t keep people outside of that small group of trusted voices from having an opinion, but their opinion is not going to get to have a driver’s seat or be a forcing function in my life. The older I get and the more I get into my journey, the more I understand that I if you run around just trying to please everyone all the time, you’re going to really disappoint yourself, and likely the Lord, in the end. And that is not what I want for my life.
Did you ever have a moment where you second guessed your decision to go to Uganda?
I hate to answer this question honestly, because I honestly wish the story that I could tell was dramatic and something I had to overcome! But my answer is that I don’t remember there being any “freak out/panic” moments, even when I was in the midst of wondering, “What am I doing here?” Now, there was a long season where I thought I had no purpose, that nobody wanted me there, and I had no plan. All of my friends back home were getting legitimate jobs and starting their careers. And then there was me, thinking that I was an aimless loser who didn’t really have a plan or a vision for her life right then…and this is where I’m supposed to be. There was kind of an undercurrent of peace with that confidence in my life at that time, that I don’t remember there being a season where I was thought I made the wrong decision. Mm-hmm. Outside of maybe some like, fleeting moments that obviously ended up not really not really winning. Yeah.
What do you think built up that confidence in your decision?
I think it probably comes down to being in touch with my own desires. I had experienced a very brief glimpse of the alternative “safe path” of choosing a corporate career after graduation. As soon as I graduated from college, I got a job at a corporate communications firm. I had a great reputation and it was a big deal to get the job in the height of the recession when a lot of my classmates were just struggling to get employed. Everyone was so impressed and told me I had done such a great job in getting this “in.” But like two months into that job, I started to think, “I have a suspicion there is more to life than this.”
Wherever you are right now, look 10 steps down the road and ask, “Do I have a vision and a desire in my soul to be where that version of me is?” So many people don’t ever do that thinking exercise. They’re working hard towards a thing and putting in long hours and being really committed and never really stop to ask, “Do I want that person?”
As a 22-year-old in her first taste of a corporate career, there was really just the sense of, “I don’t think this is it for me.” Now, I do think I had a lot of clarity in my early twenties that there would never be an easier time to take risk. I was poor, I had no life experience and no obligations. I didn’t really see how things could go down right from there, so why not just go have an adventure? Being exposed to the alternative life path in the corporate job was really helpful. I tried on the corporate thing and it was not a great fit for me. I had a sense that right then, in that moment, that wasn’t where I was supposed to be, so go try on the next thing. And the next thing for me just so happened to be moving to Uganda without a job, any money, or any plan, which ended up being a better fit!
Liz Forkin Bohannon is the founder of Sseko Designs and the author of the book Beginner’s Pluck: Build your life of purpose, passion and impact now.
Sseko Designs is an ethical fashion brand that works to educate and empower women. By providing employment and educational opportunities, Sseko enables women to continue their education and become leaders in their country.
Liz graduated from the University of Missouri with a Master’s degree in Journalism. In 2008, she moved to Uganda where she met an incredible group of talented young women who were struggling to finance their higher education.
After traveling the country by motorcycle to find raw materials and learn how to produce footwear by hand, Liz hired three young women and started Sseko Designs. Since then, Sseko Designs has grown from three women making sandals together under a mango tree, to an international fashion brand that provides employment, educational opportunities and entrepreneurial training to hundreds of women in East Africa and across the globe.
Using her unlikely story of a journalist-gone-shoe-maker, Liz shares her passion for social enterprise, conscious consumerism, social justice, creative leadership and gender-equality.
Liz and the Sseko story has been featured in dozens of publications including: Vogue Magazine, Redbook Magazine, O Magazine, Inc, Fortune and others. Sseko has appeared on national broadcasts including ABC’s Shark Tank and Good Morning America.
Among other notable honors, Liz was recently named a top three Transformation Leader by John Maxwell and Bloomberg Businessweek named Sseko as a top social enterprise. Forbes named Liz one of the top 20 public speakers in the U.S. Liz’s powerful, disarmingly authentic and witty voice captivates and inspires her audience.
She now splits her time between Uganda and Portland, Oregon, where she and her husband Ben run Sseko Designs and raise their two young sons.
Join us for 4word’s 8th annual Gala celebration, presented by Toyota. This year we’ll feature New York Times bestselling author and Founder of it Cosmetics, Jamie Kern Lima. Jamie will be moderated by 4word’s good friend, author, speaker, and founder of Sseko Designs Liz Bohannon. Click here to purchase your tickets today!