“When I was young and single it was much easier to use those last eight hours working towards my dreams, as my Mother taught me. But the last eight hours of your day, are not yours, when you have kids. You really have about three! So, I try to account for the last three hours, as much as I can,” said Zain Asher, Journalist, Author and Advocate.
How often do you invest in your potential? A lot of Moms retire their big ideas. Because growth takes time and energy. Resources many lack, managing beyond busy schedules. But Zain learned how to self-invest early in life, from her single Mom, who emigrated from Nigeria to London, with little money or formal education.
She overcame a childhood tragedy and rose, in a highly competitive field. So, she decided to share her family’s story, in her new memoir Where The Children Take Us. In it, she distills her Mother’s wisdom about intentional living and learning. You probably have a brilliant idea, right now, that feels impossible to pursue. But there are ways to make personal development an integral part of your daily routine. There are valuable lessons from Zain’s inspiring story.
Choose What’s Meaningful to you
Zain explained, “The book opens with the worst day in my family’s life. On September 3rd, 1988, my Mother got a phone call and the voice on the other end of the line, basically said, ‘your husband and son have been involved in a car crash. One of them is dead and we don’t know which one.’ It was an emotional earthquake, there’s no other way to describe it.” Heartbreaking.
Zain said, “She was 36 years old and pregnant. So, when I turned that age, I thought about what she went through a lot. It haunted me.” And often, it’s those ideas that won’t leave you, that lead to your next breakthrough. Whether it’s a book, business or movement. Ultimately, Zain decided to tell her family story, publicly.
And Share it
Zain said, “My Mother’s education was interrupted by a civil war in our country. The question I was asked the most often, is ‘how did she go through all of that?’ And manage to raise you, a CNN anchor, your brother an Oscar nominated actor, your sister a doctor and your other brother, a very successful entrepreneur?”
This idea of documenting the formula, that led to family triumph over tragedy, continued to grow. She explained, “I did a TED talk about my Mother in 2014 and the response was overwhelming. It was watched 2 million times. And I felt, especially now that I have my own children, that I really wanted to celebrate my Mother and what she did. Although I talk about how she did it, I’m not here to layout a roadmap of how anyone should raise their kids. I’m just sharing our family’s story and what worked for us.”
Let it be Your North Star
Writing her memoir coincided with the start of the pandemic. Zain said, “I work for the CNN that’s shown internationally. And they decided to consolidate programming, to show CNN America, in most of the world. It meant that for at least the early part of the pandemic, I was at home with my children.” Amazing.
She lined up support at home and immersed herself in the project. “My husband is so amazing because he helped with the kids. We have a nanny as well so, by and large, I woke up every day and I wrote and wrote for 8 hours. It was good for me to have something to focus on rather than thinking, oh my God what’s going to happen to the world? I needed to hold on to something, I remember it felt very hopeless at that point.”
Divide Your Days
Zain’s Mother was very intentional about everything. Especially teaching her kids how to self-invest. “She would make us divide our days into three equal parts. She pointed out to me that everyone generally spends 7 to 8 hours sleeping. And eight or nine hours at work, if they’re fortunate enough, to just have one job. So, the real way you distinguish yourself in anything that you want to do, is by how you spend the last eight hours of your day.” Beautiful.
To Invest in Your Dreams
Zain said, “She wanted to make sure that we spent the last eight hours of our day working towards our dreams. So, that mentality has stayed with me. I really think about how I’m spending my time.” For many of us, the days can feel like a blurry race through the to-do list. But having time, set aside for self-care, reflection or growth, changes how life feels.
She added, “If you ask a lot of people, how long did you sleep last night or how long were you in the office? They’ll tell you. But if you ask, how did you spend the last 8 hours of your day? It’s very hard to account for it. Between putting the kids to bed, cooking, commuting and watching TV, it disappears.” Exactly. But how can we shift?
Nurture Your Mental and Spiritual Health
Clarity doesn’t usually come when we’re burned out. And when asked, how she thinks about self-care Zain said, “I was raised in a Christian home. My mother, like a lot of West Africans, was Catholic. I try to take care of myself spiritually and pay attention to my inner spiritual world.” She is also intentional about her mindset.
“For me self-care means spending time in nature, actively thinking about what I’m grateful for and taking care of myself mentally. I know it sounds a bit woo but I do believe that what you focus on expands. So, I try to watch my thoughts as much as I humanly can. But obviously I’m still a human being!” We laughed.
Be of Service
Zain is an avid volunteer and considers it part of her self-care. “Service is really important. Because if I get too wrapped up in my own problems, I find being of service to others, is a great way to pull myself out of that. It sounds counterintuitive. Because the temptation is, when you’re going through something difficult, to focus on yourself. And all problems are different. But the mind has a tendency to obsess on minor things, at least my mind does. So, I try to bring myself out of it, by looking for other people to help. And it works every time”
And Learn to Rest
Zain said, “Because of how I grew up, I do not know how to sit down and watch TV, without having my laptop open and working in the background.” I nodded. Many of us from immigrant families, inherit the tenacity that brought our parents to a new country. It’s a wonderful quality but has its challenges.
“I try to account for every hour in my day, but I find it hard to relax. Which is not something that I think is great. So, I have to work on being able to sit down and watch a movie. And not feel like, oh my God I’ve got to use the last eight hours my day towards something!”
Making space for your goals, post-kids, means being intentional about time. And accepting tradeoffs. We’re making accomplishments, in every field despite the challenges. So, go on, take some space for yourself to nurture your next passion project.
Many thanks to the talented Zain Asher!
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Zain Ejiofor Asher was born to first generation Nigerian parents in South London. The third of four children, she spent her childhood in the United Kingdom and Nigeria. She attended Oxford University, where she earned degrees in French and Spanish before moving to New York to pursue a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University.
After working as a receptionist for a production company in California, Zain moved to New York, where she worked as a freelance reporter at News 12 Networks and later Money Magazine before becoming a business correspondent at CNN. She is the anchor of One World with Zain Asher on CNN International, a primetime show devoted to giving every continent, especially Africa, an equal seat at the global table. Her first book, Where The Children Take Us, is available now. She lives in the New York City area with her husband and two young sons.Tags: Achieving Goals, Book Review, Career Development for Moms, Entrepreneurship for Moms, leadership, learning, Moms Career Growth, work life integration for Moms