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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Woolgather Wednesday: Kindness Ate The Quail

Kafue Bridge,  Kafue, Zambia
 George Mutale

I hear you say what ate the what? And what has that got to do with this very eeriely arresting and beautiful image of a bridge?! What drugs am I smoking right?  Have no fear, this is Woolgather Wednesday: hallucination, rumination and seriously profound excogitation from interesting angles, not LSD trips and caterpillar hookah smoking Alice in Wonderland style high-ness, is the order of the day.  All will be revealed - trust me and skip (yes skip like a little girl in afropuffs) with me down head trippy lane.  I promise I will take you out of Kansas and all the way to Oz safely and responsibly without the need for sparkly red pumps or hallucinogens he he he.

So let me start at the beginning.  I was having a conversation with my Mummy about what it takes to do the right thing, to be a good person,  to live life with purpose, to affect the world positively and to interact with people personally and professionally without getting burned.  One thing led to another and she uttered a Bemba proverb to comfort me: 

Uluse lwalile inkwale: Kindness ate the quail.

I, like I am assuming you, was like what does that mean??!!! Niceness or kindness ate what? I didn't even know inkwale meant to add to my already discombobulated mind. I really did not need to be confused, I do that quite well on my own. My mother then let me know what it meant and I was like Mummy what drugs have you been smoking?! She hushed me and proceed to tell me that the proverb stems from the story of insoka yalile inkwale: the snake that ate the quail.  I shall now enlighten you, and yes you will feel I should have prefaced the proverb with story, but it is the Zambian and African way to do things backwards and in circles to deliver sage words and concepts for growth and learning - the old confuse to enlighten jedi mind trick:

There was a snake that was in distress and a quail walked by and seeing another in need, decided to be a Good Samaritan and helped the snake out.  Once the snake was out of danger, instead of thanking the quail, it proceeded to have the bird for dinner. Yah, the snake ate the quail! 

The moral of the story is that you can be kind, but that doesn't mean you will be rewarded for your benevolence.  In fact, you can be taken advantage of and end up worse for wear. So in the end you can feel like you have been eaten like the quail after you direct your kindness to snake-like people and/ or situations.

I know, DEEEEEEEEP man!  And if I ever meet that snake I have some choice words for it and will not hold back with the expletives...

Okay, so what has this got to do with bridges? Well I thought about this and I realised that lately I have repeatedly allowed myself to be eaten like the quail that was eaten by the snake.  Good thing is that I have recognised the situations and people that have contributed to the feasting, taken responsibility for my part, learnt from my actions and thankfully also am determined to rise like the phoenix a better person and wiser for it and so have come to this conclusion:

The important thing is to be kind to yourself and that is not selfish, it is paramount to survival. And also be kind for kindness sake and don't expect anything in return which, is also being kind to you as being a good person is never bad.  Expecting things that are not guaranteed however is not being good to yourself, that's just setting yourself up to be unnecessarily hurt.   If you are kind to yourself and for kindness' sake, you are less likely to become the quail and be eaten by the snakes out there.  And sometimes that means letting bridges burn: letting people fall out of your life and cutting off avenues for negativity and problems from elsewhere to bleed into your life.  

Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind because being nice allows the snakes to crawl in with malice, to writhe and wreak havoc in your life. And you don't want to be nice: nice people are too concerned with people liking them and not with whether they are doing good or are good.  Be a troll sometimes: if people do not measure up to pay the toll and/ or if the situation you are faced with will cost you more, under no circumstances should you allow passage for any of that to play a part in your life.  Being kind to yourself means you will be kind to others because you will be happier, and wont want to hiss and lash out with the venom that comes with being bitter from what you let into your life.  When kindness eats you, you become a snake too.  

So don't be a quail, or a snake - be a troll and guard your life's bridges with kindness.

I have vowed to only write about things if I can put a positive spin on them, especially if there is negativity or criticism involved.  And when I write motivational posts, many times it is to hold myself to being better as once out there, I can shame myself when I do not honour my convictions and take my own advice.  And if there is anything that anyone else can gather from it, that's an added bonus.

I hope that this post is as kind to you as the woolgathering sojourn from my mind, to transforming my thoughts into the 1s and 0s I have written and you have just read, has been kind to me ;}

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Woolgather Wednesday: Are You the Last One Standing? (MUNTU Zed Series)

Sipho Phiri is a proudly Zambian businessman.  He pursued a career in
banking and finance , with experience from the UK and Zambia.  After
two decades in the industry, he decided to take the plunge and explore
 his entrepreneurial side.  His current ventures include Leopards Hill
Memorial Park, Mukamunya Estate, and a hydroelectric
plant in Western Province.
© BongoHive 

Last Tuesday I attended BongoHive's Insaka featuring Sipho Phiri, a respected businessman renowned for his financial acumen and his shrewd understanding of how to navigate and profit in the Zambia's bureaucratic and at times frustratingly and unnecessarily hostile business environment. 

There were three main points that stood out to me in his talk:

1. Zambia is THE land of opportunity.

We are constantly hearing about how Zambia is one of the top 10 investment destinations on the continent.  We have a desireable political climate, great incentives for FDI and have an abundance of land and resources to be exploited.  For some reason we Zambians do not care to take advantage of this and gripe and complain when we see others come in and make their fortune.  Granted, the government does not have favourable policies and laws for local businesses to exploit, but the fact that there are so many gaps in the market to easily take advantage of and create opportunity far outweighs the hell you need to go through to make it happen.  This leads to the second point...

2. Do you have what it takes to be the last one standing?

Many of us start businesses or have an idea of what to do, but when we actually set forth to create and achieve our goals we fall short and then give up all together.  Either we do not want to partner and collaborate because we are afraid that our fellow Zambians will do the stereotypical thing and steal our ideas and set up something else on their own and take demand with them, or we get so tired of all the hoops we have to jump through to make our businesses viable that we remain moribund and ineffective for years, or we just close up shop altogether without really assessing what could be done different to be profitable and useful in the market.  We aren't willing to put in the work to formulate ideas or make them a reality either :(.
People just aren't willing to put in the time and work required for the kudos, respect and riches they have decided they are entitled to.  Half the time they neither have the experience, education, work ethic, product or service quality, and/ or the right to think they should have what they want and are willing to do insidiously clandestine things to get ahead because of their deficiencies.  So self motivation is really important to not lose hope and to continue to find the right people to collaborate with and the right entities to partner with.  

© BongoHive 
Sipho pointed out that you need to be the last one standing.  So many people will come and go in the arena you decide to play in, but in all likelihood they will not have the stamina, the mettle, the drive, the passion, the determination, the skill, the experience, the innovation, the creativity, and most importantly the overwhelming need to succeed.  So stick it out.  It will be hard.  You will be broke often.  You will not always know what to do.  But if you really want it, help will come just when you need it.  That breakthrough will happen when you least expect it.  Believe. Work hard.  Stay focused.  Remain steadfast.  It will come to pass.  Although painful to hear that it will probably not get any easier, it was comforting to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

3.. There is nothing wrong with staying small.

A lot of the times, when people create businesses they believe that we all have to be moguls.  We want to be billionaires so bleeping bad. Not everyone is meant to be a ridiculously wealthy.  Not everyone has to be as you don't necessarily need to be that loaded to accomplish your professional goals and live the lifestyle you desire. Economies of scale do not necessarily follow with upscaling.  There is an opportunity cost to artificially stalling growth as well as to swiftly expanding operations.  There should be a reason for being an SME or to becoming a huge corporate entity.  You need to ask yourself what works best for you, what works with your style of management, with the vision you have for your company and your employees and how you want to serve your clients.  You size determines the quality of what you want to achieve.  Big does not always mean better: you can lose a lot by expanding: your profit margins may shrink, and your personal rapport with employees and clients can be lost.  At the same time, you may not be able to serve without bringing in more people and to produce greater profits to keep innovating and creating you may have to attract more business.

Here is Sipho's entire talk at BongoHive:


For more information about upcoming talks follow BongoHive on Facebook and Twitter.

I have also now changed MUNTU format to accommodate changes in the blog, so anytime I write about someone I will add them to the tag and this post is part of the Zed Series about inspiring Zambians.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Twit Tuesday: Inspire Abantu

© Chosa Mweemba of Fiahlink Photography
This photo was taken during #BeautifulLusaka Photowalk
around Lusaka's CBD in December 2013.  To find out more
check out Beautiful Lusaka campaign  Facebook and Twitter
and tfind out more about upcoming photowalks with
photographer Dan Hartwright

Inspire Abantu (abantu in Bemba means people) is a new Zed tumblr focused on putting out inspirational words, pictures, videos and art from Zambia to affect the world.  I was asked to write some uplifting words for the blog and happily obliged.  I am all for putting out positivity into the world.  Maya Angelou believes you should pick your words carefully as when you unleash them, they affect in ways we still do not fully understand, so be mindful of the damage they can do.  I write to soothe my soul and to quieten my spirit in the hopes that they may offer solace, healing and inspiration to others too.  Hopefully every now and again my amashiwi (words) have a positive effect :).

For my attempt to Inspire Abantu, click on the link below:

For more MbA inspiration check out the The MbA Way and  Inspirational/ Insightful Quotes tags on the blog.