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I was thinking about hate and this pull him down syndrome we have in Zambia. When I refer to hate I generally mean the act of being jealous of someone’s talent or success.
Now that I’ve cleared that up let me get back to my thoughts on this. I understand hate. Today was a real eye opener for me, after I got so upset about someone who I’ve known for a really long time, tell me that our show Love Games isn’t having an impact because no one is talking about it or watching it. I was really hurt because I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not the best product, but it’s definitely a lot better than what is currently on TV. Now that isn’t a reason for us to rest on our laurels, as I’ve said time and time again, we must always be doing better than our last work, so that’s why I appreciate the feedback good and bad. But sometimes the bad is just hater speech.
Anyway, back to my point. After I calmed down I thought about this some more and I thought abut the people I surround myself with and the people I’ve come up with. Imagine you all start out together. But a few years later, someone in your group – maybe more than one – is much more successful than you – maybe not financially, maybe through reputation, or education attainment, or happy family, whatever it might be that you find lacking in your own life. You can either be happy for their success or be bitter with hate.
Too often people choose bitter with hate. And when you explore the reasons it is because of something they are lacking in their own life. I’ve been there so I understand. I have these great friends, who are really successful in their lives, one recently was in Forbes Most Powerful African Women under 40 – I mean, what an achievement! Another started a new website that has made waves and headlines – another trendsetter to watch! And here I am in my lil corner in small Zambia. It would be easy for me to hate on their success – maybe they know a writer at Forbes, or she’s not that clever she ripped an idea or she slept with someone, or whatever other lame excuse haters find to bring someone down. But instead, these women inspire me. They inspire me to keep on doing what I do because we all have to start somewhere (and I have a few more years in me before I hit the big Four O).
But more importantly I’m proud of my achievements – they might not mean anything to anyone else, or deserve recognition from the public and the media – but I worked really hard, and still see the distance I still have to go to achieve the success that I want. And even more so I’m proud of these amazing friends of mine, who I surround myself with, who are doing incredible things in their lives, paving the way for other little brown girls to say, I can do it too! Why would I want to hate on that?
After having this thought on haters, I decided that I’m no longer going to give any thought or mind to them – I mean I rarely did but occasionally one managed to break into my thoughts – like today. The more we focus or even pay mind to them the more it perpetuates the cycle. If each one of us would focus on the positive, surely we could end this talk of haters – we’re just giving life to them. So that’s my conscious decision is to focus on the positive, surround myself with my supporters, and cheerleaders (they really help), and keep doing me. I hope you choose to do the same today, because it’s time to let our light shine.
Maybe one of my strengths is that I’m not that precious. I mean the type of person who is a diva about everything. I can take criticism, I might not like, I might go to the toilets and cry (not really), but I won’t throw a strop and need my employers or anyone else (except maybe my boyfriend) to come and throw a pity party for me or coddle me to get what they hired me to do.
Sadly, I’m coming to the reality that maybe in Zambia this is what we need to do for employees here. I don’t know whether it’s because in the west – certainly the US and the UK is becoming like this too – there is such a huge push for excellence, and being the best of the best. Slacking isn’t an option, well it is, but it’s looked down on.
In Zambia, maybe because we weren’t a capitalist society and we were on the everyone is equal tip etc we don’t really encourage people to aspire for greatness and more importantly, to actually work hard to make it happen.
That’s the struggle I’ve been having. Media 365 have recently been commissioned to conceive and produce a 26 part drama series around women and AIDS. I’m so excited about it. We needed to put together the team to work on the production, as we don’t have all those internal resources. Our plan was that the team was going to be the best of the best, people we could work with on a long term basis and they would understand how we work. I have to be honest, it’s a year later but the current team we have at Media 365 are among the hardest working you can find in Lusaka. But it wasn’t always like this. As the leaders, as managers, you set the example for how you want to work and how you want work to be done. And now they are a pretty reliable, professional and efficient team. I trust them to get the work done.
This new team… well it’s been a challenge. Simple things like showing up to work on time, adhering to their confidentiality agreements and presenting their work as their best quality work. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.
And the demands! I laugh when I think about what production companies in the UK used to go through, working in TV is not a glamourous thing, certainly not behind the camera, yet here people want to be treated with kid gloves and like they are the stars.
I have spent long hours in the office, here as early as 7am and leaving past midnight, yet some of the hired crew rock up at 9am (their contracted hours are 7.30-6) and stress about leaving at 8pm. But I realised that the more I shouted, pulled my hair out, cried (for real this time), and lectured about attitude (ok that was Jeff Sitali the director, but I agreed with it), and my own (stolen from Freddy) verses on the power of greatness within all of us, the pride of delivering a high quality show like never before seen on Zambian TV, I realised as it continued to fall on deaf ears that I was the only one who was stressing. To be fair not everyone is like this but you know what they say about a few rotten apples.
I have come to realise that in Zambia it’s the exception rather than the rule that provides those people that do want to be better than good, that do stuff for the passion and recognition rather than the money, but I’m still hopeful that we’ll bring up generations after us that will be the rule rather than the exception. Our country can’t possibly develop until that happens. I’m learning to exercise patience – if you know me, you’ll know that’s really hard for me – and I’m making a note of who will be people I’ll continue to work with, bring them into the Media 365 family, and who won’t step foot on any of my productions again. In life there aren’t second chances so why should I do that in business?
Maybe it’s also because we’ve chosen to work largely with a production team of young people. I am passionate about giving young people an opportunity, partly because I am still a young person, but partly because I have faith in young people. As a young person who was given an opportunity to live out my dreams, and been a success (if I must say so myself), I’m a firm believer in bringing up those behind you – specifically young people. But sometimes young people think they know it all, or can’t see an opportunity when it’s right in front of them. But you can’t get mad at them, at the end of the day it’s their career, they need to decide where they want to go in life.
It could also be an issue we have with long term planning and long term goals – for whatever reason we seem to be a short sighted bunch of people. I don’t know if that’s just young people, or people in Zambia as a whole. When we got the contract to do this drama series – and like Shuga, it’s been about two years in the making, we didn’t jump for joy thinking let me do a cheap job on this, do a one man shoot and pocket enough money for me to buy a new car. Nope, we did jump for joy, but because we realised that this was the opportunity for us to make the production we’ve all wanted to make for years. One that was going to be of high production value but also tell the kind of story we’d want to watch on TV (ok don’t buy into that myth, unless you pay for it yourself, it will never be the story you really want to tell!). But it was also an opportunity for us to improve our product offering by reinvesting into the company.
I love everything about TV, I live, sleep and breath it. Other than having my own shoe store, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but TV… ok maybe I could consider designing clothes and handbags, oh and running my own restaurant/cocktail bar…Ok, so maybe I could do other things. But I truly love TV. I love how you can create something that can impact millions of people, I like the power of TV to change your way of thinking. Really TV can do a lot more good if harnessed correctly. So while Media 365 doesn’t only do TV production, we do print, radio, digital, research etc, my passion has and will always be TV. And all us co-founding directors knew one thing, we did not want to be a here today, gone tomorrow business. But to ensure longevity you have to have the right systems in place, and the equipment and technology to do it. In Zambia it’s all about chasing the money, even at the detriment of repeat business – people don’t understand that it’s cheaper to retain clients than get new ones.
The last couple of weeks have been a real challenge for me and been a rollercoaster of emotions, but at least I know for sure that playtime is over. Doing business in Zambia is by no means easy, the rewards are there, but to reap them, you need tenacity, resilience and faith. And be prepared to work damn hard. Bring it on I say.
And watch out for our new shows coming to local TV soon!
The last couple of weeks have been in crazy. First I took more or less a 24 hour journey to Seattle to attend a one and a half day meeting and now I’m wide awake at 5am in a Nairobi hotel (though I’ve been awake since 2am willing myself to go to asleep, alas at 4.30am I gave up on that).
In between I’ve been working like crazy at my own company, about to launch a new TV show that I’m really excited about, while also managing new aspects of the Shuga project in Kenya. Crazy, stressed and hectic is how my life has been recently. Needless to say I’m exhausted. But my brain won’t quit, probably the reason I’m wide awake now, as I think about the multitude of things that need to be done – rolling out the media buy for the Brothers for Life campaign in Zambia, developing the new timeline for Shuga’s new components, writing reports to clients, casting for our show, oh and did I mention we’re about to sign on two new clients in Zambia – one to be the biggest that we’ve ever had. Not to mention when I find time in my spare time, I co-manage (marketing only) one of Zambia’s hottest artists. It’s exciting stuff but not for the lazy that’s for sure.
Last weekend we were doing our first open auditions for presenters we were looking for, for a new young and hip show we’re doing. I was less than happy with the results. It made me question what is going on with ‘our youth’ of today. I remember when I was 17 I had already launched an organisation with my sister and we were planning our first edition of Trendsetters. I researched everything I needed to do before going down that path – knowing that print journalism wasn’t something I knew about, but I read magazines to find a style that worked for me and for what we were looking for for the magazine. This seemed to be a foreign concept to the people that came to the auditions.
But I don’t entirely blame them, as my friend wrote in his blog, mediocrity has long been accepted as a way of life in Zambia. While I agreed with his post, I also thought it was a cop out. As an individual you can choice not to fall into that category and certainly not to accept it – which is what I strive to do in my life. These kids that came to audition should not have looked at our national broadcasting channel and thought that was all there was to presenting. Knowing that this is a show for young people, and that we were looking for young, dynamic, full of energy type of people, they should have looked for references to imitate. At one point in the interviews, the judges, including myself, got fed up and literally told people to leave if they were going to come in with low energy and no confidence. Yeah I know that’s mean considering I can be low energy, but hey, I wasn’t auditioning!
The truth that a lot of them spoke about was the lack of opportunities for them, opportunities to nurture their talent, and while presenting might not have been their strong point, some of them could kill it with their singing! But we weren’t doing Zambia’s Got Talent. Though some did have access to DSTV to see international shows like Oprah and Tyra (not really the style we were looking for), the majority of them watch local shows, which frankly, are still in the 80s. This was their only reference point. This was a clear indication that the media in Zambia needs to switch it up, provide new ideas and inspiration to young people. Not to toot our own horns, but nothing is around to do this the way Trendsetters did.
In Kenya, I met a group of young people taking part in our Shuga Rising Stars mentorship programme. They basically get the opportunity to work with the some of the core people across the Shuga initiative from the award-winning director, to the marketing people, through to the public health partners. As I’m a strong believer in mentorships, myself being mentored by Aaqil Ahmed and having my own mentee, I thought this was an amazing opportunity for anyone on this project to be a part of. In a hard to break into industry like the media/creative field, this was an opportunity these young people couldn’t pay to be a part of it.
But after sitting with them, and I did think they were lovely, I just didn’t get the sense they understood the magnitude of what they were a part of. Sure, they recognized they got some great contacts and learnt some new skills, but I wasn’t sure if they could see how it could fit into the big picture of where they were trying to go. OK, me and my I’ll give you my advice even if you didn’t ask for it self did share my thoughts on how they could really own this opportunity and make it work for them. Though, after our one hour talk and I asked them if they had any questions – again, not to be more than who I am, but I’ve also been in the game awhile, not everyone has access to my knowledge (did that really come out as conceited as I think? Insert smiley face) – I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have any questions. I’m not one to give up on young people who are determined to make it in their careers, so shared my contacts for them to reach out to me whenever they wanted to. I don’t see why everyone has to go through the hard work unnecessarily, if someone can help you out, that’s why I believe in giving back, each generation has to do better than the one before right? I do believe that, but I’m not getting much hope of that with the young people I’ve met in my six odd months in Africa so far.
I won’t give up on them, without seeing what role I can play – like everyone else – to continue to develop Africa and nurture great talent coming out of the continent. I hope the work I do in Kenya and Zambia will impact them and see new directors, writers, marketers and more coming out of the continent, along with our more traditional career options of educators, doctors, lawyers etc.
I’ve been up for more hours than I’d like to think of and my alarm just went off, so I may as well get up, hit the gym and watch the sun rise over the city of Nairobi.
Until next time.
Demarco’s song I Love My Life is definitely my new theme song. And it’s fitting that I’m listening to it right now, on Zambia’s 47th Independence Day.
The last few months have been full of learnings, both good and bad, but on this day, I feel like I have a lot to appreciate, I’ve learnt a lot and I still have so much to look forward to.
Today, we had some family friends over to visit my dad, and I was so happy when I heard him tell them that he had accepted that he has cancer.
I think the cancer diagnosis was hard on all of us, but even though it’s still early days as he still does more and more tests to figure out the best treatment options for him, I’m happy that he isn’t letting him get down.
At his age (70 something), he has lost a good number of his friends and he says he is grateful to have lived as long as he has. Which is such a great and positive attitude to have, but I hope it doesn’t meant that he won’t fight his disease anyway. As annoying as he sometimes can be, I’m definitely grateful to spend these days with him, especially now as he opens up to his life during Kaunda days and before independence – he actually is enjoying having a captive audience these days. Though sometimes I worry about him giving his opinion willy nilly. Right now the country seems to be split – you’re either PF or you’re not. The point of an opposition hasn’t fully sunk in to everyone – but that’s a side bar.
I digress. My father’s illness has been one challenge. The other challenge has been running our business Media 365. I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than owning your own business, especially if it’s something you are passionate about (though can be equally rewarding to work for a company that is unlike anything else ). But it is no easy feat! It comes with all sorts of challenges and sometimes I feel like I’m out of my depth – my almost complete MBA did not prepare me for this! Just when you think you can’t swim any longer and it might be time to sink, something comes up that makes it all worth it.
I’m so excited about the new opportunities that have come our way and that in the next few months will really test us but will be the beginning of a very exciting path for us. The thing that stands out to me about our business is that we don’t just care about the money (though we do want to make it) but we truly love what we do. We have been blessed with the ability to follow our dreams, and now it’s just about putting in the hard work to make it reality. And boy is it hardwork!
I’m also learning to put myself first now, for real, I know I say it all the time, but I do think I’m getting there. Slowly but I’m definitely getting there. It’s about learning to prioritise your needs and getting people to work around that – no more guilt trips for me! The reality is that I’ve been able to work this hard and get to where I am in just over eight years, then why haven’t you? We all have the same opportunities – in different forms, but opportunities nonetheless – so what have you done with them? We’re all born with some talent or another, how have you used them to your advantage? Only you can determine how you shape your life, don’t think the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. And frankly, neither do I. I just made the decision that other people’s problems are not my priorities, as adults you make the decisions in your life and you must live with the consequences of those decisions.
I’ve also learnt when it comes to family that perhaps not everyone’s priorities are the same, and I can’t blame people for doing their own thing, but I’m also not going to be the glue to hold it together. You either want to do it, or you don’t. That’s just how I see it. Anyone with a (large) family will know what I’m talking about, whether it’s emotional support, financial support, or just communicating with your family.
I’ve also learnt to let go and just relax, not always analysis everything or need a definitive plan for where my life and areas in my life are going. This is really working well with Mr Mature, 4 months strong and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a huge learning curve, but like he says, we’re both learning, so we take each day as it comes and just see where it leads. I can honestly say, I’ve never been in a relationship like this before and that’s a good thing. For now, I’m just going with the flow.
On this independence day I also vowed to myself that I will get my financial goals in check and really begin to work on them. Paying off my debt and building my house will be my biggest priorities. I’ve already got some plans in mind for my house – it’s not going to be my dream house just yet – maybe if I ever get married that will be my project with my man – but for now, it will be something that I can call my own – and that Mr Mature can spend the night at, because sneaking him into my parents house would not be cool! My worry is that the rainy season is coming soon, so I have to work fast – at least get the foundation done. So fingers crossed I get all my cash in hand in the next few weeks (hope springs eternal!).
Right now, I feel like I’m in a good place. I might not be in the best place financially but emotionally, I think I am. And sooner or later, the finances will come together too! For now, I’m enjoying the moment and living in the present – it is the gift of today!
Have a great week ahead and don’t feel bad to put yourself first. You do matter!