Growing up in Mindelo, Cabo Verde, Janice da Graça was a tireless kid, refusing to sleep and reading storybooks into the late hours of the night.
“I remember reading by flashlight long after my mom had tucked me in,” Janice recalls. “I especially loved adventure novels and would dream up adventures for me and my sister.”
Today Janice is a life coach, mentor, and arts educator in Cabo Verde. A student of social policy, Janice made the transition to arts education after observing a great dispassion among her peers.
“There were a lot of people I knew in and out of school dealing with depression,” Janice says. “They were like prisoners to themselves; they couldn’t be free.”
“I noticed that they fell into two camps: one of people who didn’t believe in themselves because they never had someone to motivate them, and the other people who had opportunities but lacked something inside that gave them the power to be what they wanted to be.”
To counter this, Janice now works with young adults throughout the country to help them to discover their passions and to pursue meaningful careers.
“The key is education,” Janice says. “I can’t help everyone discover their true calling, but I can point them in the right direction.”
Janice advises others in search of a new project to seek out a community of like-minded colleagues, individuals who care about the same issues they do.
“It’s important to surround yourself with people who share your ideas, who think like you,” Janice says. “You have to trust them that when you put your thoughts out there, they will listen to you and want to join. You’re creating an environment where creativity lives.”
Janice also stresses the importance of independent study when launching a new venture.
To her, this involves, among other skills, close reading of seminal texts in a new field.
“I advise people to read as much as they can about a topic that interests them,” Janice says.
“That, in addition to talking with experts, is the best way to understand the field and where it’s going.”
Janice also urges young leaders to return to the ideas and the environments that first inspired them. For her, that was her childhood home where her father, a lifelong painter, created his work.
“I can still smell the oil paints and turpentine,” Janice says. “When friends and family would visit, they’d tell stories and we’d imagine the characters together.”
Today Janice is creating similarly evocative worlds for youth in her community, enabling young leaders to arrive at their calling along the way.
“You have to remember, your passions aren’t just your own, they’re a means to help someone else,” Janice says.
“That’s what makes a great leader: helping others to be their best selves.”
Inspired by Janice’s work? Learn how you can create, innovate, and prosper on the YALIEntrepreneurs page.