Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Vanessa Diffenbaugh.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

Life lessons: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Youth worker and novelist Vanessa Diffenbaugh shares her philosophies on life.

1. Stories are powerful. A professor once told me that the portal to the universal is through the particular. He knew that all the studies, evidence and statistics in the world are not enough to sway public opinion or mobilise a movement. It is stories both real and fictional that can captivate hearts, change minds and, in the most powerful examples, spur action.

2. Change is possible. Most of us have the experience of looking in the mirror and seeing our mother (or our father). But are our emotional and experiential lives as predetermined as our physical appearance? I don't think so. We can become anyone we want to become. It takes focusing on the aspect of ourselves we want to change and reflecting on the beliefs that cause us to act in ways that are counter to the change we seek.

3. Give generously. This was one of my wedding vows. My husband and I keep our original, handwritten wedding vows taped to our bedroom door, and this one has become a centrepiece of our marriage. It isn't about money. We define generosity much more broadly than in financial terms. Generosity, for us, is listening to the people around you, hearing what they need and giving what you can.

4. Talk about your successes and your failures. We have been trained to broadcast our successes and hide our failures. But the truth is this: our failures humanise us, and they connect us to one another. I am not only the person who wrote and sold a novel while raising a houseful of biological and foster children; I am also the person who wrote a horrific young adult novel that never sold and gave up on a foster child I couldn't handle an experience that still haunts me.

5. Ask for help. In my early 20s I was trying to transform a youth programme in an organisation in which nothing had changed for years. In my first year, I hadn't made any progress. "Ask for help," the chairman of the board told me. He emphasised humility and genuine need. I took his advice, and it worked. People want to help one another; sometimes we forget to ask.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 This four-bedroom villa covers 4,790 square feet and is part of a new compound in Umm Suqeim.

In photos: Beachside villa in Umm Suqeim, Dubai for Dh800,000

Taking a closer look at a four-bedroom villa in Umm Seqeim, Dubai.

 Suresh Raina is part of the the IPL's Chennai Super Kings team, which take on Kings XI Punjab on April 18 in Abu Dhabi. Photo by Duif du Toit / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Chennai Super Kings cricketer Suresh Raina spotted at Ferrari World

One of the top batsmen and bowlers of the Indian Premier League’s Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Raina spent a day at Ferrari World with some of his team mates, and seemed to particularly enjoy the world’s fastest roller-coaster.

 Shah Rukh Khan plays a shot during a friendly match between the members of the support and administrative staff of Royal Challengers Bangalore and his Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team. Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP

When the worlds of Bollywood and cricket collide

With the first game of the Indian Premier League beginning today in the UAE, we explore the league’s Bollywood connections, which are as glitzy as they are controversial.

 A rendering of People Abu Dhabi by Crystal. Courtesy People Abu Dhabi by Crystal

People Abu Dhabi by Crystal to open on Saadiyat Island

Abu Dhabi’s nightlife scene just gets better and better. After venues such as O1NE Yas Island and Iris in Yas Marina opening last year, it’s Saadiyat’s turn with the launch of the glamorous People Abu Dhabi by Crystal.

 Dumyé Dolls’s fashionable rag dolls. Rebecca McLaughlin-Duane / The National

Top takeaways from Fashion Forward and where to find them

The ideas and designs that caught our attention and where you can learn more


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National