Wise Women Wednesday: Zithobile Nxumalo (Zitty)

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Q. Who are you? What is your background? 
A. My name is Zithobile (Zih | toh | bih | leh), which means meek/calm and teachable in Xhosa – the southern African language spoken in the Black Panther movie. Woot!! Zitty/Zithi has always been my nickname. I was born in Swaziland (Ask Dr. Google) and my family moved to Greensboro, NC when I was 4 years old. I’m a lifelong truth seeker, and my truths have shifted more times than I can count. More than anything, I want to live a life that is powerful and true. That desire has come with a lot of mistakes, painful lessons, and breathtaking opportunities. The rest is in the making…  

Q. What is your work?
A. I own a company called Deftable®, LLC (pronunciation is similar to “capable”). I love the word “deft.” It’s an adjective meaning skilled, clever, or agile. Everything we do – events, courses, and coaching – is designed to help clients cultivate their own deftness in communication and authentic leadership.

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Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. This summer, we launched a series called Storytime and Wine (S&W). Envision a casual group conversation (facilitated by yours truly) with great snacks and wine. We began hosting these events with the intent of cultivating a community of diverse people from Greensboro (and surrounding cities) who are willing to engage in honest conversation about important topics like healthy masculinity and generational wealth. It seems that as a society, we have a glaring lack of ability to respectfully listen to perspectives that differ from our own. Through S&W, we teach and learn concepts like active listening, interpersonal communication, and intercultural engagement. We’re hosting the last one of 2018 on Friday, November 30. You should come!!

Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. On September 24 this year, I defended my doctoral dissertation and became Dr. Nxumalo. Craziness!! My topic was An Exploratory Case Study of Authentic Leadership in Entrepreneurial Startups. The night before my oral defense, I thought I’d pass out from the angst. This Ph.D. was the culmination of what feels like a lifetime of education and experiences. I’ve been in A LOT of classrooms and conferences!!

Great news… I did not, in fact, pass out. Immediately after successfully defending, my fear was replaced with overwhelming excitement about the next chapter of my life. I want to challenge the perception of intellectuals as haughty and disconnected. I enjoy knowledge, and I am deeply passionate about loving and supporting people’s personal growth, healthy boundaries, and authentic leadership. My hope is that these fresh credentials will give me access to audiences and platforms that I otherwise may not have been able to engage.

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Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you? 
A. I could literally spend all my days having meaningful, transformative conversations with people. In business, this shows up as training, coaching, and event hosting. My most memorable “AHA” moments have often come by way of wonderful and jarring conversations. I also LOVE going to great parties at great locations with great people!!

People have a major “truth problem.” My work involves sorting through fluff (my own and others’) to get to the truth that can transform us for the better.  

I was drawn to authentic leadership as a subject of study because, in general, certain populations have had much greater difficulty being engaged and accepted authentically. In fact, I’ve found myself unconsciously conforming to relationships and environments that didn’t seem ready to welcome all parts of the real me. That pattern of conforming is exhausting, so I make a choice to give it up every day. Some days are better than others. The truth is shifting my life, my relationships, and my business in massive ways. 

As I have been prioritizing my own authentic servitude in this world, I want to be part of the solution to our truth problem. I try to surround myself with people who celebrate the realest parts of me, and who are unafraid to respectfully challenge me when I need it. I am committed to providing healthy levels of celebration and challenge to every one of my clients, and to reciprocating high levels of care and respect in my personal relationships.

I’m an immigrant, a woman, and a person of color. Historically (and presently, quite honestly), the world hasn’t been very kind to people who look like me. Still, I never want to give up on the hope of leading a life of extraordinary and loving impact as a teacher, coach, speaker, writer, and facilitator. The only thing that would stop me from this work is an inability to create a sustainable living. I don’t want my strengths and passions to become mere hobbies because I’m forced to do work that I hate in order to pay the bills.

Sometimes I get tempted to re-enter the workforce in a salaried position. I won’t ever rule it out because I believe there are infinite ways to serve in this world. I also don’t believe entrepreneurship to be better or worse than employment. After all, someone has to run the business. “Employee” is not necessarily a bad word. For now, entrepreneurship is my chosen path.

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Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Girl!! Chill out. Things will work out. You’re a people pleaser, so be careful with that. Everyone isn’t going to like you. That’s ok as long as you stay true, own up to your mistakes, and never stop striving to be better. You were never intended to fit in with the crowd, so stop trying to force it.

Rest when you need to. Slow down… your speed and your words can get reckless when you’re stressed. They can hurt the people you love the most. Slow and silent is sometimes perfect.

Pay attention to what people tell you about yourself… and know that YOU ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO AGREE. The people who adore you and want the best for you will always honor your truth, even if it contradicts theirs. Multiple truths can (and do) exist… so listen to yourself, trust your instincts, and never let anyone else’s projections cause you to doubt the greatness that exists in you. Love hard, and do not feel guilty for wanting to be loved in return. Balance, truth, trust, and reciprocity are real things, Babe!!

Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. Befriend your darkness to effectively shine your light. Don’t be afraid of the dark. Life has a way of serving up pain and darkness when we least expect it. Learn to feel the pain AND examine it for clues. Understand your darkness to more readily welcome your light.

Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. I’m addicted to joy and laughter, both of which have been experienced in friendships, romance, classrooms, workplaces, and some of the least expected places. Creativity has always ushered me back into joy and laughter. For my quality of life, I must create. So when I hit a low season, I’ve learned to allow myself to fall, cry, pray, talk, sleep, dance, Netflix and chill my way back into a space that allows my creativity to flourish again. I’m learning to pay closer attention to what I need on days when I “don’t feel like it.” Those needs vary from day to day, and I’m ok with that.  

Q. What's your favorite yoga pose? 
A. By far… Malasana – deep squat. I try to spend time in a deep squat every day. I’ve been a dancer for most of my life, and was introduced to yoga when I attended Governor’s School at Salem College in the late 1990s. It sucked at first, but by the end of that summer I had fallen in love with Sirsasanas (headstands) and Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dogs).

I discovered the power of Malasana when I participated in a dance intensive in Los Angeles during summer 2014. I didn’t realize how much my hips are connected to my emotions. When our dance instructor guided us through different hip opening exercises, including Malasana, I found myself so overcome with emotion that I had to leave the studio and cry outside for an hour!! I feel things very deeply, so dance, yoga, and others forms of movement are a vital part of my self care practice. I have to move my body to help process my emotions. And the need is amplified further because of the work I do.  

Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A.This question is very tough for me.

On one hand, I am celebrating abundance in the form of goal achievement (finishing my Ph.D.), relationships (some have ended while others have been strengthened), and clarity of purpose (I’ve finally created a business through which I can do the work I love).

On the other hand, I am in the thick of leading an entrepreneurial startup. The financial abundance I desire is yet to be realized. This is the dilemma I hear about over and over again – entrepreneurs who risk financial abundance for the hope of creative freedom.

That said, I am doing everything I can to reconcile these things. I want both – financial abundance and creative freedom. When I get afraid or discouraged, I have several go to activities – I take some deep breaths, take a nap, eat a tasty snack, say some prayers, cry, call a friend, meditate, or take a bath… Anything to show myself that despite the circumstances, I am worthy of safety, love, and an abundance life. Then, I write down my burning questions so that I can discover (or create) the answers. Somehow, abundance always returns.