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Real difference makers will not always get a standing ovation and it’s okay…

According to the free online dictionary the term making a difference means “To do something that really makes a difference in your community. People don’t realize that their vote can make a difference”. (www.thefreedictionary.com)
I think we can all agree that of late, there has been a tremendous focus and awareness on the idea of making a difference.

There are normal people and then there are above average people. I have come to notice that the above average people generally have a sense that there’s more to their lives than just their normal day-to-day routines. And when they are thinking of making a difference – they think; really redefining the status quo. I have had a lot of conversations with people and I can safely say 70% of people I converse with really do want to make a difference and I think that’s a very good thing. The problem I have picked up though is that a lot of influential, popular people; mostly celebrities always broadcast their difference making. I sometimes question the genuineness of the difference we trying to make if we always are wanting the world to see it and applaud it. My view is that there are a lot of genuine acts of excellence in business and in our careers, that will go unnoticed and that’s okay.

Making a difference isn’t an event, it isn’t a means to an end, but it is the very essence of a life lived fully. Health and gym fanatics always say that diets are not sustainable because in a way they disrupt our default mode as humans. They advise that what is sustainable is making healthy choices that become an essential part of one’s lifestyle. When you go to sleep, no one says ‘wow, well done’; when you eat no one comes and gives you an award for finishing your meal. Yet we can’t fully survive without these normal day-to-day activities.
Likewise, our difference making should not be an out of the ordinary phenomena but every day should be an opportunity to do good…

Maybe what our world needs is “Sticky” people…

Someone once said, “One day our tombstone will read our date of birth, our date of death and a dash separating the two. What matters most isn’t necessarily the date of birth and the date of death. But it’s the dash. The dash, as unimportant as it seems on the tombstone – is a true reflection of a person’s life”, and he asked “what will your dash say?”

This statement challenged me two years ago when I looked at my life holistically and realised that there were two areas of my life, where I was not fully realizing my potential. So, I decided to change these areas. One area I can say was changed. The other area, well at first it seemed like things were going according to plan, until things took a very unexpected turn. That’s when you realise how people have such an interesting way of handling life’s unexpected twist and turns. Based on some of the conversations I have had with people, I deduce that to some people viewing my life, they see confusion, they see failure, they see difficulty and maybe many other unsaid “sad” things. Yet to others, they see great faith, they see destiny being chased and they are excited to see how this story unfolds. Yet in both these interactions there is always some undertone suggestion that perhaps I was wrong. “I’ve heard people say “maybe you just don’t want to give up on this dream of yours because you have invested so much effort into it, but not necessarily that it is what you should be doing. Perhaps give up on this and consider investing in this other alternative to get where you want to be.”

I’ve tried to defend my cause to a point where I decided to keep quiet. I can never explain why I want “this thing” so much. But of late I know that wisdom called out to me and said Stick-ability. I was reading an interesting book on some simple steps on financial management and one of the things the author touched one was this concept. In financial terms, he referred to Stick-ability as “a necessary quality on the long road to financial success.”

I looked up the concept further and loved the Oxford definition. They said “Stick-ability – a person’s ability to persevere with something; staying power. The secret of success – Stick-ability” (www.oxforddictionaries.com).

Contributor for Forbes online magazine, Kevin Harrington, said, “It’s no secret that successful entrepreneurs have something special that sets them apart. Every business venture runs into obstacles, challenges and setbacks. Sometimes they come from the outside world, and sometimes they come from inside the organisation or even ourselves. We all make mistakes from time and time! But the secret ingredient that makes some people succeed when others fail is the ability to keep going even after things go wrong and that quality is referred to as Stick-ability (www.forbes.com).

I don’t know if you still need any further convincing my friend, but maybe you will explore this notion further with me. In my humble opinion, I am tired of this overwhelming need to always have an explanation when things don’t go according to plan. What if the wisdom that life keeps teaching every generation is that the magic is in the madness. What if life is saying over and over, things will look bad before they look great.

I believe everyone one should possess the quality of Stick-ability. We should have the discipline to wait and see things through. If you have committed to a process, just see it through even if things don’t seem to be working out at first. I think ask yourself this question. “Did I make the right decision even though I’m not seeing the intended results?” If you at peace with the answer, then see this thing through and join me in deciding to be a “sticky” person.

This is one of the reasons why I love being African…

A few weeks ago my two friends’ and I embarked on a short trip to the beautiful Kingdom of Swaziland. Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa and it is a landlocked country. We filled up the tank and drove for about 8 hours, making two stops along the way. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the way, we had great conversations, great music going, and yes we did ruffle each other’s feathers here and there but overall our road trip was amazing! We finally arrived in Swaziland late in the evening and we were so tired and hungry. Since we only had a breakfast booking at the lodge and we were on a tight budget, we really couldn’t afford to waste money on restaurant food. But fortunately, one of my friends mum had been so kind and cooked us Breyani to enjoy for supper when we arrived in Swaziland Friday night.

But we encountered a slight problem. We arrived a bit later than planned in Swaziland and the Breyani was cold. When we asked the lodge staff to heat it up for us, they indicated that was against hotel policy. We were obviously irritated by this and one of my friend’s who can be dramatic at times (you know who you are, lol) kept insisting that they will not eat cold food. So, with our Tupperware container filled with Breyani in hand, we decided to go to the nearest shopping centre with the hope of finding a Woolworths food. The strategy was we were going to buy something at Woolworths that we could heat up in the customer microwave. We were going heat that up, and then quickly sneak our Breyani inside the microwave whilst we surveyed the place, making sure none of the staff caught us. Needless to say, we got to that shopping centre, we didn’t know where Woolworths was and we were too tired to go around looking for it. The closest place we could see was Shoprite. We had a bit of a discussion on who would be brave enough to ask the people at Shoprite to heat it up for us, I don’t recall an agreement per se, but all I remember was here I was with the Tupperware container in hand, charged with the responsibility.

So here we were at Shoprite, two of us because the other friend decided this was too embarrassing and she will disappear into the supermarket to get a few cosmetics. So we went by the hot foods section and of course we couldn’t just ask we needed a strategy here as well. Our strategy; first we had to pretend like we were interested in buying some of the hot foods, we looked and the cheapest thing we could buy was ‘vetkoeks’ (doughnut like cakes). We ordered, the lovely lady gave them to us and then she asked, “Anything else?” of course that was our opportunity. I tried to have a poker face as I explained our predicament and asked if she would be so kind as to heat up our food in the microwave. She looked at me and looked around, there was a moment of hesitation in her eyes I could tell, and then she finally gave in – she agreed. She did a rushed job but I suppose she wanted to help but was afraid of what her colleagues might say, so the Breyani was not heated to our liking. We had to have another game plan as I couldn’t ask her to heat up again but thanked her for her kindness.

To cut the long story short, we saw a Mugg & Bean just opposite Shoprite, ordered coffee and hot chocolate and when our waitress asked, “Anything else?” My friend grabbed the opportunity to ask them to heat up the Breyani for us.

We finally enjoyed our Breyani back in our hotel room and laughed about this incident and never in our wildest dreams did we think we will heat up a home cooked meal in a fancy coffee shop in another country at that. But as we laughed about this, I love the lesson my friend shared and she said, “This just proves that there’s still goodness in humanity. Despite the fact that we have crossed the border, we don’t even speak the language well, they don’t know us but they willingly went out of their job duties to satisfy us their customers.”

When I got home and was thinking about the highlights of the trip, from the road trip, to the wonderful hike/workshop we facilitated on Saturday unlocking greatness in Africa’s future leaders. The hospitality at the Saturday afternoon event we attended, and of course the gorgeous boutique hotel we stayed at on Saturday. I just started reflecting generally on the warmth of the Swazi people and the warmth of the people from some of the African countries I have visited. I recalled Mahatma Ghandi words, “The greatness of humanity isn’t in being human, but in being humane”. And as I prepare to enter the global stage, I will parade with great humility and realise that this is one of the reasons why I love being African.

At some point we all have to ‘do our time’…

I’m sure you can agree with me that most of us have heard the phrase “doing time” or “do your time” being uttered as part of popular culture lingo. The phrase “doing time” is slang for spending time in a jail or prison (http://onlineslangdictionary.com). I was reading one of my favourite women magazines a while back and I was particularly touched by the stories of the extraordinary women who had graced their cover for that month. I think what touched me the most was the depth of their characters and the wisdom they all shared. I also, kind of felt a little guilty after reading their stories because initially I had judged them by their outward appearance. Before I read their stories I just thought they seemed too perfect. They are absolutely beautiful, they have perfect bodies and one of them had graced our television screens for many years before going into business. Now here they were, being interviewed to share about the great business empire they had built and are continuing to build and what trials they had encountered. I was particularly touched by the main founder’s story, as so many of its elements spoke to my personal journey towards fulfilling my destiny. Even the alone conversations she had when she had failed in one of her first business ventures sounded so much like mine. But after reading the entire feature, a faith filled up in me that said, “You will also fulfil your purpose but you’ve got to do your time first”.

Ladies and gentlemen, their story is obviously no different from many people we know who have faced trial after trial in their pursuit to fulfil what they believe is their purpose. I know in popular culture lingo the term “doing time” specifically refers to going to prison. But as I was contemplating on the journey of trials which all human beings encounter, I couldn’t help but think that we all at some point in our lives are going to “do time”.  I’ve only been on this earth for 28 years, I know they are people who have been here longer, but in these few years of my existence and based on the observations and conversations I’ve had, I see life unfold in a particular trend. There will be a period where you will engage in all that you were socialised to do (e.g. completed school, got a degree, got a job, got married, bought car/house etc.), the list is endless. These are the things that are considered social norms and we all meant to partake in them at some point. As you are living within these social norms, you may encounter a period where you begin to feel a bit uneasy on the inside of you. It’s that very subtle but persistent voice that just won’t leave you alone. You hear a whisper that there’s more to my life and when you zoom into the “more” and realise what you should be doing, you come alive. The discomfort part will lead to you taking crazy life risks like quitting your job, relocating, removing yourself from certain people & environments, etc.

As you journey through life, trying to balance out the social norms and listening to that inner voice, you will encounter a period where life will ‘imprison’ you with challenges and you have to “do your time”. This is where you experience a “real baptism of fire”. This is the period where the voice that told you there’s more to your life and showed you great visions of the future, is silent. The trials come from every angle, it’s the most confusing period and when you in it, it seems like it will last forever. But the good news is there is always light at the end of each tunnel. And of course the amazing thing about life is that you will enjoy and be rewarded the fruit of your persistence.

I am aware that life is not static and I am not saying that all human experiences will be the same, but in most ways they are very similar. Our social upbringing, does not prepare us well for trials, obstacles and failure and yet, these are such an inevitable part of our lives. Maybe instead of only attending conferences on Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Project Management, etc…We should pair these conferences with tangible truths on learning how to fail well. This should start from the time we children, because our education system is built on the premise that you always have to pass and that if you fail, that failure becomes ingrained as part of your self-worth.

My enjoy life tip is this – We need to live with consciousness that “doing our time” i.e. going through the journey of our individual trials and challenges is part of our human right. I know it’s not an easy thing as even in my own life waiting for God hasn’t been easy, often it seems that he isn’t answering our prayers or doesn’t understand the urgency of our situation. But maybe when we in our “doing time” period we should realise that this is a season of renewal, refreshing and reaffirmation about our life purpose. So do your time well…

Tolerance has an expiry date…

It’s Idols season again in South Africa and I think most people in South Africa and across the world would agree that Idols is one of the biggest and most loved entertainment franchise shows, in the globe. We particularly love the discovery of new talent and of course the untalented through the wooden mic contestants. These are the contestants who seem like they are ‘intoxicated with something’ (excuse my language) that convinces them they can actually sing.

What I love and have come to observe about the audition stages of the show is that families are able to enjoy watching this hilarious entertainment together. Watching these wooden mic contestants also serves as an ideal ice-breaker, if you left in a room with someone you not that close too and the small talk starts running dry.

But after those few audition episodes and once the judges have done their sifting, there’s no more time to play. As consumers of the show, our tolerance appetite takes on a new form. We don’t want any more wooden mic performances on our screens; we want to see great singers. Every evening we tune in, use our airtime to vote for those who bear their heart and soul on that stage. We want to see the contestants improve from their initial auditions. We expect them to bring their best in every performance, but also being sensitive to the fact that they human. All we want to see is that they are trying their best. But unfortunately, as the saying goes “you are only as good as your last performance”. We will forgive one slip up during the live shows, but if it happens again, chances are we may not tolerate it.

Tolerance in most factions of life has an expiry date. I also started thinking about this in the context of poor performance at work. When an employee is reported for poor performance, good HR practices involve ensuring that the employer always acts in the best interest of the employee to avoid CCMA charges. HR will probably have engagements with the employee and their manager to zoom into the cause of the poor performance. If it’s a skill issue, they will probably place the employee on a 6-12 month development programme and monitor progress. If it’s a resource issue, they may give it month or two by ensuring that they provide all the necessary resources to enable the employee to perform optimally. If it’s a well-being issue (i.e. personal issue affecting work) they may bring in professionals like psychologists to assist the employee over a period of time. However, if all these different solutions are tried over a significant period of time and the employee’s performance still does not change, the employer has every right to terminate employment. Tolerance for poor performance is only acceptable to a certain point. It’s really not about perfection but progressiveness.

When you keep making excuses about certain things and not take accountability for your actions and your future, it will eventually catch up with you. Even the physical or physiological body has an expiry date. If we keep not eating right and not exercising, one day we will have damaged our body beyond repair and it would not be able to tolerate it any more. Tolerance has nothing to do with whether you love someone or not. Sometimes you walk away from people you adore and environments you adore because your tolerance level has simply expired. Even people, who occupy influential or leadership roles, need to be careful how they treat people, because if people are not treated well – their tolerance will eventually expire.

 
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