Fun and meaningful stories.

Nelson Mandela Passes, Gillian Larson remembers

I grew up in South Africa during Apartheid, learning–from our white community–that there was a terrorist in jail, called Mandela.

I also grew up hearing stories from my wonderful Nanny, Mabel, about a man of passion and vision for our country who was in jail, called Mandela.

“Is that what a terrorist is?” I wondered.

Mabel instilled in me an African heart, as she taught me many African songs and what she and many saw as a future for our country inspired by this man they knew had a destined path that they should all follow.

“Madiba” as he was known, was to become one of the greatest men in the world, a man who would leave his mark.

As a child he said “I hoped and vowed then, that among the treasures that life might offer me, would be the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to the freedom struggle.” His vow became his dream that he spent his life fighting for, and for that dream, Nelson Mandela spent 28 years in prison.

I stood outside of his cell in 1999 and could feel that charisma that was his, despite the diminutive size and sparseness of his cell where he lived for so many years.

All of the guides running the tours were once political prisoners. Our guide, Patrick, showed us around, reflecting the same gentleness and humility that their leader had shown in the many years he spent among them.

When asked how Patrick could be so forgiving, his answer, “One will never right a wrong with another wrong. We were taught by Madiba that to make it all right now is to just tell the story, so others will know, and to let it go for our own and our countries inner peace.”

In 1998 I was privileged to be several rows away from Mr. Nelson Mandela as he became the 3rd person in history to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate not in a Commencement ceremony. George Washington was the first. I remember every moment of that magical experience as the Harvard Choir and the African choir the Kuumba Singers sang in unison and harmony all 3 versions of the South African National Anthem. That was so significant and symbolized what Mr Mandela had strived for. A unified country for all the peoples of South Africa. Towards the ceremony’s end, the ancient bells of Harvard pealed out adding to this significant and magical time.

One regret I have from that day was I did not attempt to approach him as he told a story of a little girl who was “cheeky enough” to have asked to be invited into his home for tea. I was “Cheeky enough” to ask to shake his hand but I didn’t. “Fear is temporary, regret is permanent,” as I always say.

Nelson Mandela has always been my hero, and on every Survivor Show application, I put him down as such. I have always tried to follow my dreams and to make a difference where I can and if he could do that for his entire life despite all the hardships, I could do it in a life that is basically easy. Mr. Mandela once said, “It would be very egotistical of me to say how I would like to be remembered. I’d leave that entirely to South Africans.”

Mr. Mandela, in your humility you may never know the incredible impact you have made on millions.

We mourn your passing but celebrate your life. You will be remembered, and let us all do so by making a difference where we can. I try to follow his philosophy “Always try to inspire others to be greater than they think they can be.”

I challenge you to do the same.

Press coverage:

Nelson Mandela Passes, South African born Temecula Resident Gillian Larson remembers


12 Speaking Engagements in 5 days in Canada. What a priviledge.

Leigh Sherry of LJS and Associates in Bradford, Canada booked me to speak to 12 different groups in September 2013.  What an honor and privilege to get in front of so many to share my message. “Dream it, Believe it, Prepare for it and Do IT !!” I am so energized by this privilege I have had since Survivor that I have endless energy and could have spoken to more groups. A major part of why I do speaking engagements is to thank my audience for all they do in their lives and the difference they all make in the work they do. We all cannot be a Mother Theresa or a Nelson Mandela but we can all touch our immediate world and make a huge difference in what we do around us for others. Thank you to all of those attending my 12 engagements for all you do. The LJS and Associates  motto is ” Be the Bridge” Tag line. Taking YOU across the bridge from where you are today to where you want to go. I love it. My talks certainly match that.

I spoke to 5 different  groups in the Children’s Aid Society in Brandford. Single Moms, Teen Mom’s, Foster Parents, Staff. I know I touched a chord in many and do know that something I said watered their seed of desire in their hearts and they left with a renewed flame burning inside of them.  Several shared with me in the group what is did for them and tears were the testament. I spoke to 3 different student classes at Laurier University where I fit right into their school motto “Inspiring Lives” The students were engaged and had many questions. I know that what I said will take many through their journey of life starting on that lecture bench. I spoke to an assembly at the Niagra Christian College  to students from many countries who come to Canada for High School. Such a pleasure talking to students from China, Japan and other far away places. The Best Western Hotel Staff wondered why they had been “assigned” to hear me speak. ” What do I need to know about Survivor’ was one pre speaking comment. The post comment was ” Wow, was that powerful and exactly what I needed to hear. ”  I spoke at a staff meeting at Braemar School and I know the faculty enjoyed what I had to say as much as I enjoyed sharing. I shared my story with The Brandford Hospice Volunteers and toured their wonderful facility and spoke to Staff. What an amazing job they do and we are so lucky there are people in this world that can help us take the last steps with our families as we leave this world.    I highly recommend Hospice Care to all who have that need where ever they live.

I was the keynote speaker at the LJS and Associates Client Appreciation Reception. The Jazz band and delicious horsdoevers set the stage for a great evening. Wine, food, inspiration and an audience. What more could I ask for !!!!

Thank you Adam and Crew from Atomic Spark for co-sponsoring the event and for capturing my talk on Live Stream to the world. See one  evening video in archive.

Thank you Leigh Sherry of LJS and Associates for the pleasure and privilege you opened up for me in an amazing week.

Thank you Tyler Masur for being my excellent Personal Assistant and driver all week. It was such a pleasure knowing that you had all the details, helped set up, ran the AV and took the photos. We were always on time and were a dynamic duo where ever we went in a tightly packed week. Thank you. You will go far in life. You have “Got It !!!”

To book me for your organization see

Please give me the privilege to be in front of “your people.”


“Never Give Up”

When I do my speaking engagements and in all I do, my message is of persistence, belief in oneself and ones ability. To always  “Dream it, Believe It, Prepare for it, DO IT !!!” I hear from many who hear me or read what I do how I was an inspiration and helped them move towards their dream. I encourage others to share their stories and to know that everything we say can and does have a ripple effect. We may know where some of those ripples touch but it is mind boggling to think that our ripple may travel far and wide and touch many.  I feel it is my honor and a privilege to have that possibility.

One of my ripples reached all the way to Canada several years ago. Julie Comeau was following what I do and it watered her seed of her dream in her heart. She had been struggling with many physical problems and decided she would  “never give up” and she would come out of the other end of her struggles and have her story to share and inspire. She did. She came out the other end of her dark tunnel with a powerful message of “Never Give Up” which she wrote in her book. Her book can be purchased to help you come out of your tunnel and be inspired to do what you are capable of.

This was her comment to me

From Julie Comeau, Author of Never Give Up – The Inspiring Journey Of A Real Life Survivor

[quote]Gillian is one of the most amazing woman that I have encountered, her strength and her determination inspire me to keep moving forward no matter what. In all she does and through all the people she helps she not only touches one life, she touches thousands at a time. Gillian touched my life back in 2009 when I had lost all hope and wanted to give up. Just by seeing how determined this amazing woman was made me feel energized and rebooted in a way like no other. Her compassion and her dedication is remarkable in so many ways. The effect that Gillian has on people is lifelong and in all that she sets out to do she accomplishes with great determination and her uniqueness makes her one of a kind. Having Gillian touch my world has truly been life changing.[/quote]

Thomas Edison penned that well. “If we did what we were capable of, we would  totally astound ourselves.”

Golden Retriever rides to victory in California dog Surf-a-Thon

A young Golden Retriever and semi-pro surfer, Ricochet, rode the waves to victory on Sunday at a California annual dog Surf-a-Thon, but it was a novice therapy dog that emerged from the water as a new star to watch.

Bo Diddley, a 5-year-old therapy dog, sat his way to a second place finish on a longboard in the extra-large dog heat in his first foray in the San Diego canine surfing scene, delighting his owner and his trainer. READ MORE

More from the Surf Dog Ricochet website.

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