Lenox Lizwi Mhlanga on Saturday
I once wrote an article some years ago about the high incidence of general lethargy among my tribesmen, for lack of a better word. When I arrived from self-imposed exile as an economic refugee in Botswana, I found that my home city had hardly developed after the best of five years. In fact it seemed as if time had stood still.
I lamented that the label of us being cry babies was hanging around us all like a bad smell. What going out of the country taught me was that self-introspection was necessary for one to re-examine what it is that one wanted and how to get it.
First, I had to re-discover myself. I realised that I was busy living and achieving other people’s dreams and not mine. I was in a constant state of negativity. I remember, when in Bulawayo, we used to congregate outside a certain coffee shop and complain until the proverbial cows came home.
What we lacked were solutions. I was always someone else’s fault and that we would gain a degree of satisfaction from the blamestorming sessions we held on a daily basis. But when I came back and saw that my crew members were still in self-destruct mode, I and family packed our bags and set out for the capital city.
For my former colleagues in gripe, that was the ultimate insult to their collective conscience. I, among many who have taken the high road to the north, were labelled sell-outs. But looking back, I have realised that it was among one of the best decisions that I ever took. I have had some hard lessons drummed into my obstinate head. These I shall share with you today.
First, the world should not revolve around where you stay, or let us say, where you are stuck. It takes a lot of courage and sacrifice to get out of one’s comfort zone, but it’s necessary. Nigerian author, the late Elechi Amadi called it the herd instinct. If you share a position, get others to agree with you or get buy-in, you end up believing it’s justified.
The reality is that while you are stuck in a groove like a scratched vinyl record, the rest of the world is moving on without you. Others are spending sleepless nights looking for opportunities in the worst of situations. It’s the law of the jungle. Survival of the fittest.
Coming from this, I learnt the law of the concrete jungle: Survival of the fastest. If you snooze, you lose. Basically, this law says that it is not only know-how that wins the day, but know-who. You start building networks that will lead you to people who can make your dream a reality.
This does, and cannot happen if you are living in self-imposed darkness, being fed manure like mushrooms.
The late Vice President John Landa Nkomo, with whom I spent countless hours picking each other’s brains, would say, “Walala, wasala,” literally translated as you snooze, you lose.
The second lesson was learning that it was not always about me. Any form of selfishness has its costs. It’s a moral lesson that when you have people lifting you up in this journey of life, never forget them when things come right.
My late father laid the foundation to that lesson. I discovered that being generous, particularly to those in need, is a blessing.
God rewards those that help others when they have the capacity to do so. I quickly became aware that for as long as I was self-centred in the way I approached business or life in general, things seemed to get tougher. But the moment I started to treat money as a means to an end and not an end in itself, being hopelessly broke became a distant memory.
I discovered that one can be rich even when money was not part of the picture. There are so many valuable things that this short life has in store for us. Only if we stopped and cared to listen and observe. I have learnt to take long walks to take in the scenery and watch the world go by especially in the morning.
It also allows one to review the previous day and gear up for the coming one. You clear your mind through meditation, something that I mastered on the mountains of Kanye in Botswana. We allow too much chatter in our minds to the extent that it crowds out that tiny voice called your conscience.
Our minds have been programmed by a toxic combination of years of superstition, assumptions, suppositions, old wives’ tales, rumour mongering and prejudice.
The major lesson is that the world is what you make it, the same way if you substituted the word ‘world’ with ‘party’. I would have kicked myself to have missed such a glaring fact. A party that one person said to be boring, would be the best party of the year for another. It’s just a matter of perspective.
In much the same way, where people are complaining of lack, there are those who see opportunity in that lack. The business that survives the test of time is the one that actively seeks solutions to life’s challenges. Instead of mourning and complaining, one should be asking, how can I make money solving this problem. And inspiration comes to those who exercise their minds.
This is the kind of mindset that has propelled me to make business from the talents that God gave me. They say that when you move closer to your calling, the universe conspires with you. You start meeting the right people, the one’s that use their talents to meet yours to create a win-win situation. Am I just being crazy or inspired or what? Take your pick.