What we cover: "Have the courage to have the courage." -- Melissa Haynes
Melissa Haynes knew from the age of six exactly who she was. She was a writer and an adventurer. She cut out the pages of the National Geographic and carried them around with her in a little basket. She wrote stories about elephants and lions. However, at a very young age, after a humiliating experience of sharing her young ambitions and feeling belittled, she put the dream aside – buried it deep where it would, essentially, fester for decades to come. She embarked on a corporate journey, and ultimately was a key player in the planning of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games and when that all wrapped, she took a good look in the mirror and asked herself some really tough questions. In particular: Where had the dream gone? Offered another gig as a corporate big shot, one most of society would drool for, she instead boarded a plane and committed to many weeks living alone in a tent on a Big Five Game Reserve in South Africa. Where, alone in the quiet she was able to dig deep and confront the resistance – the ghosts -- that had plagued her for so many years. When she came face to face with a cheetah, she knew she was not only living her childhood dreams but she was slaying the fear she had let stop her for so much of her life. Her book, Learning to Play with a Lion’s Testicles – the African slang for having the courage to have the courage – is what came out of that rebirth. It’s a celebration of the understanding that so many of the answers to life’s questions exist in nature – but we’re too busy to notice.
Melissa is a wonderfully insightful, joyful and just all round warm person. Because she’s meticulous, she followed up with me as soon as we wrapped our chat, because she wanted to clarify what the five animals are in a Big Five reserve. They are lion, elephant, rhinoceros, buffalo, and leopard. (Not unicorn or mermaid, as I had suspected.) You can drop that wee bit of 411 at parties and sound extra smart – and be sure to thank Melissa when you do.
This is one of my favourite talks ever. By the time we finished, I wanted to kidnap her and have her as my new best friend. Although, holding someone captive typically backfires when it comes to accumulating new friends. We talk a lot about this idea of ghosts – preconceived ideas, usually false, that ultimately haunt us, until we do what it takes to slay them once and for all. And she most assuredly has. This is a woman who, when in a starting contest with a cheetah, made a decision in that moment to be fearless – and I think it’s time we all do a little bit more of that. Cheetah or no cheetah.
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