by Sanuja, March 2004
Meeting Anjou MacPherson is like bumping into an old friend. At the club lounge of the Ritz-Carlton Millenia in Singapore, Anjou is in a frilly top and black mini-skirt with her thick black hair framing her face rather than in the corporate get-up, I expect. She looks a little tired but relaxed. Within minutes, Anjou makes me feel comfortable. She breaks the ice by asking me how long I have been in Singapore. I tell her I am a Singaporean, and we chat briefly about how I related to her introductory talk the night before on the Goldzone seminar, which is coming up soon. I told her I related to her comment about the term ‘Nice’ and how entrapping it can be.
“Women of our culture and Chinese women tend to be suppressed by the advice that they have to be nice,” she suggests. “Asian women,” I counter. Pondering a little, she says, “Women in general.” I also mentioned that I found her advice to select an area of your life that you’d like to be extraordinary and focus on that valuable and inspiring. “Which one did you pick?” she asks. When I say “spirit,” she says, “Good. That’ll get you there (help you reach your goals in different areas of your life) faster.”
We move on to the countries I’ve visited, and she asks which my favorite is. “Paris,” I say unhesitatingly. “It’s the atmosphere and beauty of the city,” I venture, and she adds, “It’s the culture, freedom, openness, and authenticity that makes it vibrant.”
Anjou and her partner Harrison have spent the last three years traveling around the world doing research and interviewing people. They have had CEOs, Hollywood people, artists, and vocalists among the clients. Anjou calls herself a lifestyle educator – it’s a new niche in personal development. “Human potential is too limiting, so is business development and metaphysics. We do all of these things and what we wanted to do was create a comprehensive system for leaders. That’s how it started. The focus is on leaders and leadership. Most people start from the shallow end and go to the deep, and I’ve done it the other way around.
“Years ago, that’s what I decided. I have been working with leaders to support them, their vision, and their focus. In their personal life, their partners sometimes don’t support their purposes because leaders have huge purposes that can conflict with what members of the family might want. Family members might want to spend more time with them, and most leaders give most of their time to the world. The world seems to have a lot of support for the needy and support systems for people who are victims. There’s not very much support for the winners. I made a decision ten years ago to empower a few people in a way that serves a greater purpose because I can do either, but there are not many people who can hold a space for top people, and one of my niches was that I was in the corporate world.”
Having worked as an executive in an oil and gas company, Anjou is comfortable dealing with corporate types. At the same time, this vibrant lady is also in tune with her spiritual self. Her spiritual journey began 20 years ago when she decided there was more to life at the pinnacle of her career and embarked on a search for meaning. She has been on seven-day vision quests in the mountains with no food and worked with shamans and Tibetan lamas. “I understand spirituality at a level where I could disappear and not miss the material – that’s my training and could be my personal preference. That place is easy for me – to be in a meditative state, eat very little food.” Referring to Buddhist teaching, she explains that you have a choice when you reach nirvana — you can disappear or go back and support others to reach theirs.
In Anjou’s case, she has decided on the latter. A significant moment was her stay at a resort called Nirwana in Bali, where Anjou and her partner, Harrison, enjoyed the beauty of their surroundings and the excellent service, which gave them a sense of fulfillment, a feeling of needing nothing. They contemplated bringing that feeling into the world when the bomb went off on the island. That catapulted them into action. “We said, That’s a message from Great Spirit. It’s time to go and do what we’ve been preparing to do for many years in a wider sense.” They opted to launch their products in Singapore.
Noticing my questioning gaze, she says, “Singapore’s easy to get around, it’s multicultural, the mindset is not psychically impinging. Singapore is just Singapore and isn’t caught up with imposing itself on anything or anyone else, so we don’t feel like we get pulled into anything when we are here. When we are in London, we get pulled into London. In New York, we get pulled into New York. They have a strong sense of who they are and who the world should be.” Having found credible Singapore partners is an important reason, as she aims to form global partnerships. The model she favors is global thinking with local integration. Her idea is that if each person can be empowered and realize the importance of Lifeforce (otherwise known as chi or prana), that is more important than the material.
“I’m not a guru, but I will make a few gurus. I have had outstanding teachers that have taught me to avoid that place, so I go out of my way to avoid that. It’s not about me, and it’s about the energy called Lifeforce. I’m the best person to deliver the information right now, but our goal is that there’ll be at least 100 people worldwide to deliver it with their authenticity, style, and cultural niche.”
Singapore, she feels, is an excellent place to do this because it is the gateway to India, China, and Southeast Asia. The government is interested in attracting foreigners, and what she has to share will support that goal. She points out that it may not offer all that someone coming out here is looking for as Singapore stands now.
“On the one hand, everybody is buzzing with the terminology of creativity and innovation, yet the rules of the game here, the context doesn’t encourage risk-taking. If an entrepreneur in the US falls on his face, he’d go bankrupt and start again. It would be, ‘Oh, they tried; let’s support them again. Here in Singapore, the conversation is ‘Let’s do it here, let’s be more encouraging of risk-taking, but it takes more than just saying that in words. More than having the intention, it takes an emotional, spiritual way of making people feel safe, encouraging them to speak their truth.
“People here are very self-conscious of promoting themselves, and it’s seen as arrogant, self-pompous behavior. Those doing well tend to play themselves down. If Singapore wants to graduate to the next level – being this buzzing hub of art and creativity and all the things they want to promote – where that energy comes from is the people, not the leaders. The leaders have to be the ones who draw that out of the people, and most of the leaders here are pretty suppressive.
“Businesses here tend to hire foreigners as leaders, and they take the training and leave. What does it cost to retain high-quality people? You spend so much money at the front end acquiring them, training them. That talent is gone because what it takes to sustain quality, talented, fully alive people is different from what it takes to maintain somebody who is just reaching for mediocre. The same applies to retaining locals who are going overseas. We have solutions to those fundamental issues.
“Business is the gateway of the world’s future, and it’s the entrepreneurs who make or break a place. There are a lot of incentives here. On the other hand, who controls the air? There are things you can do to your workplace environment to balance out the air pollution but are businesses willing to spend money to create a better workplace for employees not when they are looking at the bottom line and efficiency. So what does it take?
“If a businessperson says he will create an innovative, creative environment, you need to look at that and say, ‘Where does art, design, creativity, beauty come from?’ Begin by looking at how to change the immediate environment where you want people to be great designers and creative artists. You have to create the context to have what you say you want. If you’re going to look at the design, look at Italy – what’s in Italy that’s not here? You have to look at the qualities and create that. The quickest way is to change the environment, and the people will always come up to speed. I have 100 percent of the time witnessed people coming up to the play when leaders are willing to create the environment.
“Creating the environment includes being nurturing, supportive, not invalidating, switching language patterns, having more truth and being willing to take feedback, getting out of the way if you’re not the appropriate leader, openness, receptiveness. I have worked for some dot.com companies in Silicon Valley, and they have a juicy environment. They are willing to work till two in the morning because they feel part of something big. That is a basic human need – the feeling of contribution, that you matter. Put that into any business environment. It will create a result, if you suppress people, contain people, have them being timid, that can’t coexist with creativity and full-self-expression.”
When it comes to promoting Singapore, instead of changing the country dramatically, she feels it would be better to enhance the qualities it has. “People are very co-operative, very polite – you can pretty much do anything here because teams will be co-operative. I would play that up.”
Her in-depth system, which she plans to use across various countries, is applicable in different contexts. As she says, the struggles relationships go through are universal with few variances. The ACT (the way you project yourself to others) is as great here as elsewhere, and it’s just a different act. The struggles women go through are universal.
“What we do is we approach it differently in each place but get the same result because people aren’t different. What they want is universal, and they feel inferior and superior. People everywhere want to be loving, contribute, and want romance in their relationships, intimacy, and live in a beautiful space – that’s universal. No culture is complete on its own – everyone has a piece of the puzzle.
“Most seminars are about one thing. Ours deals with every aspect from every point of view. We create a platform where people can play to their highest potential. We are creating new stuff all the time – better and faster. The content keeps changing, and the context is the same.” Her vision is to have 1,000 leaders teaching and delivering what they have to offer to 1,000 centers.
Towards the end of the interview, I feel like I’ve had a wonderful chat with a close friend. One who is full of life. I think to myself, “I’d like to hug her.” A handshake would be inadequate for what we have shared. At the end of our 2-1/2 hour session, Anjou asks, “Can I hug you?” Her embrace is warm, and I feel loved. There are no half-measures with Anjou.
On a personal level, she remarked that many men were having affairs, and many women were putting up with it. She then comments that it is an exciting place for single women, and I interject with, “There’s a lot of them here.”