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The reality of working and living in Zambia is finally hitting home – big time. When I first moved back, just over a year ago, I loved the fact that I had a work-life balance – well, that I had a life altogether!
But now I realise that I might have more of a life and less of a career. Welcome to Africa they say, or my personal favourite TIA (This Is Africa). Time is anything but of the essence. You can spend days on end waiting for feedback, approvals, quotes, suppliers showing you their work, and anything else you need to actually make anything happen.
We signed a contract with a new client in January, which was supposed to end at the end of July, out of the four deliveries, we have just delivered on one thing, while we wait in vain for feedback to allow us to move forward – the downside of being consultants or an agency, you can’t move ahead without an approval to do so!
This waiting game means that you lose the momentum, and in some cases the drive to do it. My boyfriend laughed at my two hour gym sessions – saying it would be hard for me to find the time to do it during the week – but the joke’s on him. I can take 2 hours off – say lunch time to be on the safe side (as if), and still come back to find myself still waiting.
Yesterday someone remarked that working in Zambia is like being on holiday. Yes that it is. But the frustrating thing is that once they give their approval, they expect the product/service to be delivered the next day! Really?
And this is why I think it is important to run a business with products or services you control – because you’ll have the time to!
But seriously if this behaviour of slow moving work-place environments continues is it no wonder we’re lagging behind in development (when we used to be ahead)? Or that employees are unmotivated to function productively?
I am glad I can go spend hours in the gym, or wander the mall at lunch time, or not work on weekends etc but you know what they say about an idle mind (and idle hands!). Plus it breeds frustration on my part. I’m not used to not doing stuff, not using my brain, not… functioning. But now that I’m getting used to this sad reality, I’m working on using the time constructively – not just seeing what’s going on online (besides I keep finding stuff on Kim-Ye, which is just boring), or catching up on twitter and facebook, I’m using it as an opportunity to develop my own stuff – stuff that is time-dependent only on me.
No point in sitting around complaining is it? The world is our oyster and only we can determine our future and our legacy – go out and take it!
I was watching an edition of Extreme Make Over: Home Edition where this kid said that after being diagnosed with Leukemia and discovering his blood type was B+ he decided to make that his life motto. In my mind I thought he was talking about the average grade you can get, and didn’t really understand it – is it my over-achieving mind that led me to that? Of course he meant your attitude in life should be positive.
I’m always inspired by people who don’t seem to let anything affect them. They always see the glass as half full and nothing else. Truth be told I pretend those people irritate me, but I guess I kind of envy them. I don’t think I’m a negative person per se but I’m definitely not one of those eternally optimistic people either. Partly, I think it’s my disposition, I’m a problem solver and very driven, I don’t see challenges as an exciting hurdle to cross but yet another problem I need to solve. I guess I drain my own personal resource by doing this and frequently feel down.
My boyfriend is one of those people that never seems to let things get him down – he says that it is what it is so there’s no point getting down about it, it resolves itself always. And I can see why he’s right. Even in our relationship he says I need to focus on the positive and not think about the small negatives (which the positives far outweigh).
Running your own business it is hard to take the negatives (or challenges) and just roll with them, because there are a lot of them that can impact the success of your business. But at the same time, constantly worrying about them doesn’t help either. Every once in awhile you need to check out of whatever you’re doing and take a step back to look at the bigger picture – so that you can remember to stay positive!
Last week I did just that by going to Livingstone with some girlfriends. I didn’t take my laptop – which was a big deal for me – and I pretty much turned off my cell phone – even scarier than not having my laptop!
The next couple of days were spent exploring the mighty victoria falls – what an amazing natural beauty and so powerful. We jumped off a gorge, a 58km drop in 3 seconds – crazy, and then did a sunset cruise to observe the wildlife along the banks of the Zambezi river while enjoying a cold beverage. It was bliss. I may have been a little too social for my own good coming back exhausted but far less stressed than when I left.
Back in Lusaka and back in the office, it occurred to me how much the energy of the management team affects the rest of the team. My positive, more relaxed demeanor also allowed the team to be more relaxed and excited about the weeks ahead, and looking at our task list, it’s important to keep this attitude up as there are long days and hard weeks on the horizon.
My boyfriend and I got to a hurdle in our relationship, one that we (ok me) discussed for hours, but also kept me awake as I thought about what to do. In the end, I decided to trust him and myself and to not make the issue bigger than it was, I decided to be positive and have a little bit of faith. Was it the right decision? Only time will tell but at least I’m feeling happy and that’s what counts.
I’m still going to join the gym though – it requires a lot of energy and will power to have a positive attitude!
I love what I do. I really do. The ability to use creativity and mass media to promote social issues is like having your cake and eating it too, well for me it is.
I like working on productions that involve using media, be it TV, print, digital and these days I’m kinda getting into radio (ok not really, but I can see potential in it) but I also like like being able to contribute to how people can positively develop themselves and their communities, whether that’s through HIV campaigns to educating people to vote.
In the last couple of months I’ve worked on two campaigns that I’m really proud of, one that I have worked on for the last 2 years – being the Shuga campaign for MTV – they’re on set filming right now in Kenya! And since I moved back to Zambia, I’ve been working – with the Media 365 team – on a campaign targeted at men which launched a couple of weeks ago. Very exciting stuff.
But doing all that doesn’t come without it’s challenges. I have new found respect for people who have more than one job – and do all of them well. Finding the energy and time to do a good job – because it is in my nature, I refuse to give less than 100% – that becomes really taxing on your soul and your spirit. I feel like I’ve been giving so much that sometimes I don’t know whether I’m coming on going.
That said when I see the pictures from the set, or the finished products from the Zambia campaign, I feel so excited and pumped and that keeps me going. There is nothing like seeing all your hardwork come together.
When it’s not a product you own, but you’re doing something on behalf of a paying client, that’s another challenge. You understand the medium you’re using, the client, not so much. So finding the middle ground between pleasing the client and delivering a really good product that resonates with the audience is always a challenge.
We sometimes joke in the office that we should have a wall of our favourite (and sometimes ridiculous things) clients say – to save them the embarrassment and to reduce our pain. Some of these are – and thankfully with these two clients I’ve worked with this year have not said any of the below (well I wouldn’t very well diss them on my blog anyway!):
Upon seeing the first version of a recorded TV product: ‘Can you make her say blah blah blah instead?’ erm… no because she didn’t say it, we’d have to re-shoot that.
‘So will they pick the question out of a box?’ in response to giving client the reference of who wants to be a millionaire for a quiz format programme
Actually, I’ll leave the rest just in case I do decide to have that wall just for the fun of it!
You never quite do what you really want to do when you’re not paying for the product and sometimes clients don’t want to take the necessary risks to enhance the product. And that’s the price you pay when you are the supplier and not the owner.
Another challenge I’ve found – but then this has always been in my career so far, but maybe more enhanced as I am constantly being pushed – is managing different personalities. It’s not always that you get to work with people who are on the same page with you or have the same personalities that you have. And really you wouldn’t want to – that’s the beauty of diversity, it allows you to learn more about yourself as well as grow as a person, as long as you’re willing to listen and be open to acknowledging your own flaws and faults.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you feel that people are constantly picking at your flaws so you need to know when to listen and do something about it, or when to realise that sometimes people project their own issues on to you, and keep your mouth shut instead of react.
Building an empire is hard, but who said anything worth anything was easy to get? (except maybe in the relationship sense!)
I was excited about coming back to work with my siblings, but who knew it would be so challenging! After spending the last eight years seeing my family maybe once a year for no more than a couple of weeks, I made the very conscious decision to move back to Zambia so I could spend more time with my family.
That decision also meant working with my family to develop our family businesses. As I’ve mentioned before I am from a family of over-achievers, they are extremely intelligent and talented in many different ways. You can see where my problems might be…
My other decision was to really start focusing on my future, done with paying rent, so saving to build a house means that I’m staying at my parents home – out in the farm. Seems most of my siblings had this plan too. If you hadn’t seen where I was going before, you must definitely do now.
In short, I work and live with my siblings. I see them day in and day out. Having spent eight years abroad, I don’t particularly have many friends, so pretty much my whole life revolves around my family. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder – which is probably why I wanted to move home. And now of course I tend to think more about familiarity breeding contempt. Ok maybe not that extreme. I still love my family. But I guess we need to figure out how to not spend so much time together. But in the meantime we need to learn to stop bickering.
Everyone who meets us or works with us thinks we’re a great team to work with, so we can be great as soon as we learn to enjoy working and living together. Or the other siblings move out of the farm, because I ain’t going now (though lack of dedicated space for my shoes is very tempting for me to move out…)
Stuck at home, terrible cough (ok and I’m broke – since it’s started pouring down with rain, I’m definitely happy to be home). But this is a good thing because it’s been awhile since I just chilled – on my own. And I can catch up on my university reading – management by Boddy.
It’s been an interesting week, two of my friends have had great successes with their entrepreneurial skills; Octavia’s blog, the TwentyTenClub has been shortlisted in the Best Business blog for the 2010 Black Weblog Awards. And my other girl, Susan has had her independent production commissioned (can’t say more than that because it’s top secret), and this happened after she’s got back from a freelance gig in Nigeria with MTV base. (Slight digression: can’t believe MTV base is geo-blocked!). So good look for both of them and I’m very proud of their achievements.
Today, my former driving instructor came over to collect his last cheque. After being let go by his company for some silliness, he’s literally started his own company doing confidential courier services. He didn’t sit around wondering what to do, he just go on with it. So impressive.
I’m sitting here, thinking about reading my book and bearing in mind that I also have the Gates report to do (yikes!), and people are getting the best out of their lives. I just feel demotivated because I’ve been doing what I do well for so long, that I no longer know what I want to do with my life.
I’m obviously very passionate about what I do, a cause I believe strongly in, but is there not more to my life? How do we find the challenge in our lives?
Aaah then I also have my girlfriends giving me dating advice. Why do people put so much pressure on you to figure out what you’re doing? I’m quite content with where I am right now – or I’m too busy thinking about my career and my dissertation. I just don’t need the additional pressure to think about whether or not I’m in a relationship – is it really important?
So here I am, on a saturday afternoon, having that eternal debate with myself; what is the purpose of my life?
And also feeling sorry for myself every time I go onto twitter and see I still only have 25 followers – boohoo. Though I am enjoying it. I’d spent so long slagging off the people in the office for being on twitter – ‘isn’t it just for narcissistic people?’ – but I’m loving it. And following the right people, I’m actually learning a lot.
I think my tweets will get so much more interesting once we go into production. I could tweet about this year’s World AIDS Day programme because I’m actually quite excited, yet anxious about it. Done right, it’s going to be great.
Well I think I might take a nap, or maybe mediate for a bit – need to clear my mind – though if I meditate, I’m more likely to fall asleep!
Oh but before I forget, have to congratulate Media 365 for having Club Risky Business shortlisted for an AfriComNet Award for Strategic Communication in Health for Africa. Gutted that we nominated Shuga in the same category but weren’t shortlisted, I’m still very proud of my siblings. Please check out the newly launched site too: http://www.media365.co.zm
With the International AIDS Conference just over a month away, we’ve decided our focus for the conference is going to be on leadership – yeah, we know the theme is rights, but hey, leadership is equally important.
And it got me thinking, leadership in the fight against HIV is crucial, it just is, but then again leadership in general is just as important. And i mean this in our every day life, yet few people are willing to take up that leadership position and I wonder why?
I don’t mean leadership in the sense of ruling over the masses, but much more about taking control of your life and responsibility for your actions and the decisions we make. I find this too often in the work place, people are generally afraid to make decisions. I would understand this predicament if they weren’t empowered to do so, though that begs the question of who is not empowering them to do so?
Maybe I’ve never worked for a controlling, tyranny of a boss (because that would be me), so I’ve always had a sense of getting on with the job and making decisions. It helps to have strong convictions that you’re right!
I don’t always get it right, but I learn, dust myself off and move on. I’m not sitting around waiting to be told, I just get on with it, freeing up time for my line manager who doesn’t need to micromanage me. I don’t understand why other people can’t do this. I believe when you are given responsibility for something, a project, an event, a business unit, or even just a title, you have been empowered to take the leadership role for that initiative. There isn’t any excuse not to be a leader.
Now leadership in my personal life? Ok, that one I’m still trying to figure out, in that case I’m much more of a reluctant leader – I find it easier to make a decision on a $1million project, than what I should eat for dinner (the healthy option or the one I really want to eat despite the pounds it will add to my waistline). My conviction in my sense of self isn’t quite as strong I suppose.
Focusing on personal leadership and responsibility is so important. We can’t expect the so called leaders to solve all our collective problems, and sitting around moaning about it isn’t going to help either, but personal responsibility and personal leadership might just tip the scales in our favour. Just saying…