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I spend a lot of time reflecting – it’s in my nature – but probably also because I’m always agonizing over my future, my past, and my present.  Trying to figure out how to be better, how to be bigger, how to be smaller (in weight) and what it is I want out of my life.  Sometimes it disturbs me that at my age (30 something) I still question my life goals.

‘Be still’, a friend told me.  If you know me, you’d know that’s the worst thing anyone could say to me – I am that girl who is always on the move.  Be still?  What does that mean?  If I’m still, I’m asleep – I fall asleep in yoga!

Nah, being still wasn’t for me.  But I thought I’d take a break, go visit some friends and get energized.  I couldn’t afford the trip to New York (where I usually go for energy), neither financially nor time wise.  Lagos it was!  People thought I was crazy – why on earth would you go to Lagos on holiday?  Clearly they hadn’t heard Banky W’s anthem, ‘ain’t no party like a Lagos party…’

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My girlfriend and I hopped on an ET flight via Addis to Lagos.  By the way, why does it cost so much to fly inter-continental?  My airfare to London is cheaper!  Anyway, off to Lagos we went.  In my inability to Be Still, I added a couple of business related meetings into the trip.

I was in Lagos for a week, I partied, I drank, I ate, I lounged, but I never felt I was inspired.

I came back to Lusaka, feeling rested, but restless (who knew you could feel both at the same time?).  Contracts for new work weren’t signed, relationship drama, it was just making me stressed again.

Be Still, my friend said.  I had no choice at this point.  I had issues to resolve and without being still I couldn’t hear through the noise – the noise included social media, people’s perceptions, my childhood beliefs, and more.

So I sat alone, in my room, unable to sleep, as sometimes happens when I have too much going on, too much stress, too much uncertainty.  And I was still.  In my stillness I first realized I had a great time in Lagos, and I was inspired.  I met up with a woman I greatly admired – Biola Alabi, whom I first met when we were at DISCOP in Ghana together like 7 or 8 years ago.  Her candor and knowledge about her work, about the industry we both work in was so inspiring me – and she’s absolutely beautiful.  She reminded me what a strong, successful, happy black woman looks like – the kind of woman I want to be.

I thought about my friends out there – hanging out with them, having new experiences that spoke to me, made me acknowledge that there are people out there that enjoy spending time with you, sharing with you, and just staying connected.   I met new people, working in diverse industries – like oil and gas – learning about their focus, their growth, their success and how they chose to live their lives, being happy, and social with friends.

I met up with old friends – people I worked with at MTV in London years ago, and still shared a connection with – plotting how we can work together again.  Learning about their journeys post MTV, and feeding off their energy and drive.  On the flip side there were also some people that showed me they didn’t have the time of day for me – it’s interesting to see how people perceive or treat you when they can’t see what they can tangibly get from you, especially since I’m no longer at MTV.  It was an aha moment, but I wasn’t bothered for too long.  The entertainment industry is fickle – I get that, understanding where the longevity lies, where the real power is was way more interesting for me.

In that moment, I realized that Lagos inspired me more than I thought.  Not only inspired me, but taught me a lot.  Lessons were compounded a few days after I arrived back in Lusaka, while having dinner with girlfriends – a bunch of successful, strong, beautiful women.  Though I had maybe one bottle of champagne too many (champagne hangovers are the worst, think I’ll stick to wine or vodka now), I enjoyed every minute of being around like minded people who allowed you to just be you.  We weren’t worried about taking the best selfies to post on IG, or tweeting our night out.

I went back to think on the last week and the ups and downs I’d had from before going to Lagos, to Lagos, to being back in Lusaka.  My phone camera being broken definitely allowed me to be present, but during my moment of being still, I realized that my best moments, not to mention my worst, have never been lived out on social media (at least not in the last few years).  Yes, we can look at some amazing photos on Instagram that make us envious of people’s lives, but we don’t know the real story behind the photos.

When we are still, it’s easier to remember who you are as a person, what you value, what grounds you, and even the clarity of what we want in life starts to appear.  I haven’t completely figured it out yet but definitely will be still more often now, and be grateful for all I have, for the people in my life, and for the experiences I’ve been blessed to have.  So my advice to you all, be still every once in a while – life demands it.

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So this has been long coming!  Each year I try to sum up my year with some reflections, and thoughts for the new year.  This year I thought I’d do that while I was laying on the beach in Koh Samet, Thailand, sipping on a cocktail, counting my blessings.  Alas I was busy still doing work – but on the beach in Koh Samet, so I can’t be too mad!

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2016 was an interesting year for me – perhaps a year I entered into a different cycle of my life.  I ended the year completely burnt out but definitely worth it.  While 2016 was a ‘surviving’ year for most, it was a challenging year for me.

At the beginning of 2016, if you recall I blogged about this, I decided it was time to believe in myself more and push myself to do things that scared me.  At that point I had already been toying with the idea of launching a female led talkshow.   I wanted to give women a voice, I wanted to actively engage in dialogue that contributed to the development of the country and our lives, and I wanted to show that women can and do support each other.

There were many times in that process of developing the show that I wanted to quit – it was scary, not easy, not to mention costly.  But I told people about it, knowing they would hold me accountable to ensure it happened.  And it did!

The show was quoted in the Daily Mail, and now it’s airing on Zambezi Magic – across the region.  My heart literally stopped as I thought about that – people outside of Zambia are seeing my face and listening to what I have to say… it is surreal.

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But that was just the beginning of the year!

Loads of work in the middle of the year, and then my most challenging work fell squarely on my lap – Our Perfect Wedding Zambia.  The project that gave me sleepless nights and exhausted me (and had me looking like a homeless person).  Adapt the hugely popular South African show, how hard could it be?!

Hmmm.  Let me back track a bit.  The set-up of our company is usually myself and Mary write the proposal, secure the deals and client manage.  Tasha does the research and insights.  Freddy is the creative lead – he directs and produces.  We still work on the creative side inputting in character development, script, wardrobe, art direction etc.  But in a very basic way that’s the make-up.

So after writing the proposal, doing the pitch, we win the bid!  Great.  Just one small problem; Freddy is unable to direct or produce the show.  Probably the obvious decision would have been to hire someone to direct.

I like to think of myself as a business person, I looked at the numbers and realized it would be pointless for us to do this show if we hire a director.  I’d just produced and semi-directed (ha!) a talk show, how hard could a 4-day reality shoot be?

Famous last words.

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I like to surround myself with people who are good at what they do but also people I can work with.  There were a lot of people in the industry who I thought had bad attitudes and who I just couldn’t imagine doing a 52-day shoot with.  So I chose a crew I thought I could work with, mainly young up-and coming and hungry.

No one had shot a reality show before, or one of this nature.  In fact client expectations were to exceed even what the South Africa’s were doing, the pressure was immense.

I’m pretty sure I spent a lot of time crying and wishing I could quit!  But quitters don’t win and winners don’t quit.

When I wasn’t shooting, I was in editing mode.  It was non-stop.  And pleasing the client was even harder.  Some of our seasoned editors were also suffering, getting the format right was hard on everyone.

The season is coming to an end and while I can definitely agree there were some bad episodes, there were also some amazing stories and great couples – it almost made me believe in love again! LOL.

I did learn though that maybe hunger wasn’t enough, on certain projects you have no choice but to put personal differences aside and bring in the best people for the job, at least close enough to the best (though not sure they would have done it for the budget).   However, because of the attitude of some of the crew, I know I will be working with them for time to come, because at the end of the day, attitude is so important in getting ahead and moving past mediocrity.  The ones who chose to be unprofessional, well those are their career choices.

I was then fortunate to get away for 10 days to experience the sights and sounds of Thailand.  It was exactly what I needed.  I didn’t get to consciously do the reflections I needed but I think the downtime, the rest and recovery allowed my mind to settle, clear out the noise and focus.

There were things I wanted to do last year that I never got to do, my experience last year proved that anything is possible, so this year I plan on soaring, trusting in myself – in God – and taking that next step to greatness.  We can all achieve it if we believe!

Have a great 2017!  (I won’t even promise to blog more because… well life gets in the way, and I’m busy on my grind and living my life!)

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I woke up this morning to a message from a friend of mine ‘You have to watch Survivor’s Remorse SO3E08, it’s the one!’.

Thankfully for me I’d taken a much needed day off, so was easy enough to watch it immediately.

The last few episodes of Survivors Remorse have been so enlightening, dealing with important issues such as colorism, circumcision etc, in such a way that reminds me why I want to create content. So I was eager to watch this episode.

I watched the entire episode wondering where the amazing message or insightful commentary was going to come in. I didn’t get it, they were just negotiating a contract. Being an entrepreneur – and so is the said friend – I thought the message was on how to negotiate a contract, how your kind deeds are remembered for positive negotiations etc. (It is kind of true). I got to the end and then had the ‘aha’ moment.

There were great nuggets of insight in the negotiation process, but the biggest were self worth and trust.

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The last few months have really tested my belief in myself and what we (my siblings and I) set out to do. I found myself angrier than usual at everything. We met people that we thought would be great to join our team and they turned the jobs down. I took it personally. Did they not know how much they would learn? Did they not know the fantastic work we get to do, even if it’s not always publicly visible? I was crushed.

In the meantime the online views on my talkshow were getting lower each week. I couldn’t understand it, but I was also focussed on how to push my main business forward. I just couldn’t focus on the talkshow at that point, but it was equally crushing that it didn’t seem to be resonating the way I would have liked it too. Didn’t help that a few days later I met someone who purposely sought me out to tell me everything that was wrong with my show. Don’t get me wrong, I can take constructive criticism, but there was just too many other things going on – you know that quote about being nice to people because you don’t know what they’re going through, at that point, I truly understood what it meant. I thought I was at my breaking point.

That experience taught me something. As much as I’m critical of celebrating mediocrity, and boy is there a lot of mediocrity in Zambia, you have to respect the effort, and remember most people are doing things with small budgets and doing things with no experience, in industries that are in infancy stages. While I hope they know it can be better, I know and understand how tough it can be to chase your dreams, especially in this environment.

But back to Survivors Remorse. The episode reminded me to remember how much I have achieved and that while I still have a ways to go to where I’m trying to get, I can’t lose focus on my path. People, circumstances and more, will come into your life to test you, but when you reconnect with who you truly are, embrace your greatness, all of that is water off a duck’s back.

You have to believe in yourself. Not because no one else does, but because so many people, people you may not even know, believe in you, are watching you, are rooting for you. Your actions do enable others to walk through the doors you open, to follow their own dreams. But it all starts with you believing in yourself first. Use that inner strength to weather the bad storms, because it is true, the darkest hour really is before the dawn (or after the rain, the sun comes out), learn to dance in the rain and ride out the storm (OK, I’ve thrown in pretty much every cliche I can think of, but it’s true, and I can’t emphasis this point anymore!). You don’t need anyone to validate you, you are enough. If your regular cheerleaders aren’t around, be your own cheerleader!

So no matter what you might be going through, don’t break, but do take time to regroup, recalibrate and remember your goals. Namaste (I bow to the divine in you)

Recently I was asked to share my experience of TEDxEuston, it wasn’t hard to do.  It was a great experience.  Nonetheless, here is my testimonial of #myTEDxEustonStory (think you can find other stories with that hashtag on FB and Twitter).

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I share my experiences, my lessons learnt, from rising up the corporate ranks to trying to grow a business in Africa because I believe we all find lessons in everyone’s experiences. But when TEDxEuston asked me to speak on their stage, I was beyond ecstatic, if not a little afraid.

TEDxEuston is all about Africa. The Africa we wish the world would see. The Africa that isn’t about the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, because we know that narrative is yet again a single narrative, but about the many facets of Africa, good and bad. But discussed among like-minded people who share a passion for the continent makes it more of a conversation than a single truth to be believed, no questions asked.

I was humbled. I didn’t know anyone was watching the work I was doing, the work we were doing here in little old Zambia. When you’re trying to be a game-changer, you get lost in the trenches working your butt off that you don’t know that other people have noticed your efforts.

I hope to do work that not only contributes to growing the creative industry in Zambia, but to help make us a better people to develop our country, to lift our people out of poverty. Ultimately, we are the ones who will drive our countries forward, not the government, as we have seen already.

Being able to not only speak to, but engage with, people who share a similar passion and desire for Africa was one of the best experiences of my life. I knew I was not wrong in my thinking, if other people felt the same, understood my truths, then I had to be on the right path.

Having that experience not only encourages you, but gives you the necessary motivation to keep striving to achieve your goals, sometimes pursuing something bigger than yourself is hard, and can be demotivating. The energy in that room, on that one day, is electrifying. It’s a room where different stories, different narratives, many untold, are being shared by us, for us.

Before speaking at TEDxEuston I was inspired by many TED talks (still am), I thought about how many exceptional people there are in the world (still do). I also never realized or thought, how difficult it is to step on that stage and share one thought and explain it in 18 minutes!

While I still feel that I didn’t quite get my point across, I still have people, years later, who have seen the video say it made sense to them and they shared my opinion. That still encourages me.  (The truth of the matter even in conversation I can’t stick to one thought – it evolves!  Sometimes I even forget what my point was…)

The fact that those ideas can happen on one stage and then be shared across the globe through online spaces, that is extremely powerful. It creates discussion, understanding and shared values and beliefs about the potential of Africa – an Africa that can truly rise. TEDxEuston does this in a way that hasn’t been done before – as far as I know. The focus on Africa only is the power of TEDxEuston. Who else has that singular focus and discipline? What else can be more special and important. Yes, that wasn’t a question.

My journey to my goals hasn’t ended, far from it, but speaking at TEDxEuston was a phenomenal step in cementing my future dreams and ambitions. And I met some great people that I still keep in touch with!

In fact the way the TEDxEuston was organized and the way the team connected with me, and mentored me through the process of getting ready to step on the stage, helped me when it came to me helping to organize a business conference here in Lusaka.

So the lessons from TEDxEuston were not just about sharing and connecting my vision with others, but were also so many lessons I learnt, from the other speakers (many of who I continue to follow their work online), to the organisation, to the people in the audience who I had the pleasure to speak to and learn about the great stuff they were doing too. TEDxEuston was so much more than just being a platform for the speakers, but the connections you make as an attendee too!

This is #myTEDxEustonstory.

Watch my TEDxEuston talk below:

 

 

Sometimes we forget our blessings. It’s easy to do when we live in a world that is obsessed with consumerism and self-, and instant-gratification. Looking at our friends lives on Facebook we can get caught up with envy and focusing on what we don’t have in our lives. It’s easy. But yet we need to be reminded of our blessings.

I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Juba, South Sudan on a project I’m working on about using participatory theatre for peace-building and conflict resolution/transformation.

Before I got to South Sudan, I had people not only ask me ‘why on earth’ I was going to South Sudan, but also caution on safety as it’s a country still at war. I can’t lie, I was a little fearful. But I felt I needed something to do, and getting out of the country to go to a country I’d never been to before seemed like an opportunity not to be passed up.

My first encounter was the process of getting an entry permit. As we don’t have a South Sudan embassy in Zambia, UNICEF in South Sudan had to facilitate getting an entry permit that we needed to have before arriving in Juba. I literally got mine enroute to the airport. But at the airport they needed a print out before they could allow me on the plane. Have you seen a business centre at KK International? Thankfully my grown grandson (it’s a cultural thing) was there to help and convinced a lovely lady at the courier office to help me get a print out – thanks Sekani and Bwalya!

My journey to South Sudan took me via a night’s stay in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and arriving in Juba lunch-time of the following day. As I waited in the old terminal (Terminal 1) at Addis International Airport, I feel somewhat at ease that so many people were flying to Juba. Then I noticed that most of them had light blue passports – the UN passport. Still, it was better than being on an empty flight to the unknown.

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I arrived at Juba International Airport about an hour and a half later. A colleague from UNICEF Zambia had already given me a heads up about the airport but no one could truly prepare me for the chaos.

The international airport was tiny. It reminded me of the Solwezi airport (and Solwezi is our economic hub too, or was, so maybe that’s not saying much!). On arrival, as I queued to get my visa (not really sure the point of the entry permit to be honest), the first thing that hit me was the overwhelming stench of urine. This was after I already almost passed out by the extraordinary heat that hit me when I stepped off the plane! South Sudan is close to the equator after all.

There didn’t seem to be order in the way things were done but I patiently went to the section that said visa on arrival. In front of me was a white woman from the UK who was kind of flirting with the security officers/immigration officers but in a condescending kind of way. It is a thing that I notice even elite black people do – treat the ‘poor, unfortunate people’ with a friendly but condescending tone (i.e. I really believe you’re an idiot but I’ll use the simplest of English for you to understand and I’ll smile at you and treat you like a happy baby with my cooing and aaahing). I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

I finally got my passport stamped and out I went to collect my bag. There was no luggage carousel so I could easily identify my bag, have security rummage through it and put a sticker on it, verifying it had been checked, and good to go.

This was my first thought of being grateful. We spend so much time in Zambia complaining about our poor infrastructure and inefficiency but it’s miles ahead of the Juba airport! I was suddenly grateful for, or at least appreciative of what Zambia has.

I walked out of the hall, and I still hadn’t seen my pick up. I remembered the Welcome and Security Pack I had been sent that clearly said, ‘don’t get a cab, go to the other UN drivers and ask them to radio a UNICEF driver for you’. Which is exactly what I did!

The driver in that UN car was extremely helpful and offered to drop me off at my hotel that was literally round the corner. As we’re driving away we see the UNICEF driver. But the UN driver won’t let me exit the car until the UNICEF car was parked directly behind us and the UNICEF driver was out of the car – the robberies are real he said.

I was slightly startled by that – was my family and friend’s fear justified if I couldn’t just get out of the car?!

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I was three days late to getting to the workshop, and as my UNICEF colleague drove me from the hotel to the workshop venue, I looked around the city.  The first thing you notice is the amount of UN cars on the road, including UN hummers!  There was some presence of the military, not heavy, but considering the city was supposed to be demilitarized, there was a clear presence of them. I saw land cruiser pick up with army in there, and what was clearly a dead body. I hoped this was just the body of their own colleague and not some poor person killed – I decided it was best not to ask questions you might not want the answer to.

It was great getting to know the workshop participants, 17 of them representing 9 of the 10 states of South Sudan. All super friendly and ready to engage and participate. They got the methodology of the two methods of participatory theatre we were testing out, and quick to see how it could be applied to their own communities and situations. Brilliant!

As I was starting to praise these activists who all stated how much they wanted peace in their country, who felt deeply hurt by the injustices and violence inflicted on their people, that affected all of them, there was also something I noticed was similar to the Zambian participants, as we’d done the same workshop a week earlier in Lusaka; their addiction to their cellphones.

It was constant! Some at least had the decency to answer the phone out of the room, while others had no qualm answering it in the workshop room during the exercises or the facilitator explaining something. It wasn’t a big room, so all sound carried!

At first I thought, ‘how rude!’. I personally get offended when people take a phone call in the middle of a dinner or learning opportunity, just think it’s rude. I don’t know why people are obsessed with their phones. I’m not chained to my phone, I don’t stress about missed calls, people can text me, call me back or I can call them back! It’s not that serious. Hence the reason it’s called a ‘Cell-phone’ you get imprisoned by it! (I saw that on Facebook!)

Zambia was a similar thing; mainly their cellphones, but generally an inability to focus. And it led me to an overall problem we have: Indiscipline

Discipline gets a bad rap at times, probably because somehow our mind goes to the military when we think of discipline. But really discipline is about focus and self-control.

These are key areas we need to grow and develop generally. How are we going to develop or succeed if we’re indisciplined?

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To lose sight of your goal, or what you’re trying to achieve because you’re easily distracted is a bad thing, a sign of weakness. It takes strong will, determination, and lazer focus to stay on your course. You see examples of it all the time, the people who succeed have like a singular focus and drive; determination and discipline.

But generally, I see most people don’t have the focus or discipline to achieve the success we’re destined for. In fact, I think we’re getting distracted by tools and systems to stop us from achieving success – because of the power you hold when you have reached your full potential. So many people and organisations try to stop us from achieving this potential and we fall for it by not being disciplined.

Even in my own life, I realized that I wasn’t living up to my own potential because I was getting distracted by little things (and some pretty addictive TV). So when I saw the behavior of the people in both Zambia and South Sudan and thought, how can we achieve economic freedom or peace in our country if we can’t be disciplined? If we can’t focus on what we want, how on earth will we ever get it?

I believe in doing a lot of self-reflection, you can only control yourself and your actions, and becoming the best version of yourself requires constant reflection, away from external perceptions and distractions. So as I was getting disheartened by these displays of indiscipline and lack of focus, every time I went back to my hotel room, I would reflect on the day – the words I heard people say, and then think to my own life. What blessings has my lack of focus or discipline stopped? How many times do I say I want something and then struggle to pursue it, or stop midway through to pick up something that doesn’t take me further on my path to achieving what I desire?   Too many times to answer.

I’m back in Zambia now, grateful for my blessings, for my family and friends and their prayers. I’m also more focused on making 2016 the year of my making by leaving distractions and indiscipline in 2015!

Hope you’ll join me for the ride

(PS taking photos in Juba is illegal, but I took these photos before I knew that – for real!)

Someone said to me ‘If I got recognized for my work by a white person, I’d be so upset, I wouldn’t even accept it’. I laughed at first thinking they were being silly or upset by something (race is becoming more and more of an issue, everywhere).

I actually didn’t think much more about it until about a week later, another colleague in the office mentioned ‘African privilege’.   We had a huge discussion about this in the office, about how African’s have the privilege of getting away with sub-standard, mediocre products and services because the West believes that’s as good as we can do.

The same colleague cited similar examples as the guy who didn’t want his work recognized, citing people who get put on a pedestal by the West, whose ‘work’ is lauded as good, when we secretly wonder if they are dyslexic (lots of people are successful and dyslexic) or don’t have spell check on their computer (all hail spell check!) and other questionable traits.

African privilege. It doesn’t even spur us to be greater than we are, and why should we, if we still get praise, financial and other rewards by being sub-standard?

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Zambia is so different from places like Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria, not only because they have economies bigger than ours, but the nature of their work. In Zambia, so many people are making their living through government or donor cheques. But in places like South Africa, they’re not even about that life. But yet they are still getting paid!

Their work is not judged through the tainted glasses of the donor community, who paved the way for African privilege, but in the cut throat, competitive commercial world, where private sector have dollars to spend and expect to get what they paid for. In fact speak to a top South African production house about a USAID or other donor contract and they have no idea what you’re talking about ‘who or what is USAID?’ they’ll ask, while trying to negotiate their next multi-million dollar deal to do an award show.

Our private sector has not helped matters. They aren’t willing to through ad-spend to local agencies but have no problem paying top dollar for the same people we work with in South Africa to come here. Because the donor agencies are supposed to empower local capacities, they generally have no choice but to work with locals and rather than do their own due diligence they end up working with just about anyone – to be fair and all. But then complain, behind closed doors, ‘what do you expect? It is Africa, you can’t expect the same quality you’d get in the US’. Well…

African privilege. It makes the mediocre feel good about themselves, and gives us something to hide behind when we invariably also mess up – it’s hard to stay winning all the time. It makes us complacent.

Sometimes I wonder, when your work is being recognized and given accolades and all, do we laugh internally and say ‘it was pretty ish, but I’ll take your rewards anyway’, or do the same people actually think they did a good job?

I know I have extremely high standards, as my sister says, we shoot for the stars and land on the moon, but I’ll beat myself up about those missed opportunities, about the printer not printing the highest quality, about having to work with a low res jpeg.   One of my suppliers, and good friend said to me ‘your passion is not paid for nor appreciated so why do it?’ The answer was simple, because I know I can make it better.

Making it better because I don’t live by African privilege nor do I want to – I don’t plan on being on the cover of Forbes for some sub-standard crap. But I’m also learning that there is no point in my running the company to the ground because I’m working outside of the client’s budget. So in the last half of the year, I’m on some ‘If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense’, that and if you don’t want to innovate or be creative, I’m just not interested.

Life is too short to live it in beige. I also have my legacy to think about it, and it can’t be based on African privilege.

As Justin Chinyanta said last week, African entrepreneurs must run twice as hard as the entrepreneur in the West and East to just stay in the same place. I’m not trying to stay in the same place so that means running even harder.

Ok, enough ‘talk’ from me, time for me to put my money where my mouth is – see you soon!

My morning started with a 9am meeting with Adaobi and Gloria, the two women putting together the Fashion Master-class with leading stylist and fashion consultant Natalie Joos (if you watched House of DVF you’ll remember her during the challenge when the girls had to create their own photoshoots for a blog or something… episode 5 anyway).

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The meeting was interesting as we talked about the valuable lessons that could come out of attending this master class. And then Gloria pointed out a fundamental truth – ‘the problem I’ve seen is that people in Zambia don’t really like to invest in growing themselves professionally’. A girl after my own heart! It’s exactly what I’ve always thought.

It’s well known that in the West, people get degrees not only to learn stuff but to advance their career, and advancing it more so by going to an Ivy League college (particularly in the US) whose name alone sees you through the front door (remember in Suits they only hired lawyers from Harvard). In Zambia we tend to think that development ends at going to University – if you were fortunate enough (or wanted to) to go. I didn’t go to University initially and worked my way up. When I wanted to ensure my career climbing could progress and also came with the right salary to boot, I went to University to pursue my MBA (the great thing about the UK is how they value experience as much as degrees so I was able to go straight to a Masters without having done an undergraduate degree). Before that I’d taken courses in project management, in web development, post graduate diploma in journalism, management course, you name it.

Education isn’t just attained in the classroom of course, and I grabbed every opportunity I could find to better myself and therefore increase my career prospects.

In Zambia, I find that people are happy to drop hundreds on a night out, or on a swanky luxury car they probably can’t afford, than to say I’ll take a couple of days, or weeks out to learn something valuable to my career/profession/business. When I was sitting with Gloria and Adaobi, granted I’m not in the fashion industry, but I thought, what an amazing opportunity to get a masterclass from this woman! Natalie Joos! She’s been on House of DVF! Ok, I do watch waaay too much TV. So not only that Natalie Joos, but the one who has styled editorials and spreads for Vogue, and Elle, and Harpaar’s Bazaar (and yes she can still call Diane Von Furstenburg her friend – or at least call her!)

Can you imagine the wealth of knowledge you could get from her? Except for one thing… the cost of K700 (approximately $100). Last week I had a mani/pedi, a facial and a couple of bottles of wine, costing me, yup you guessed it, $100!

I’m not rushing to get a ticket mainly because it’s not directly my industry – however, if I had an in-house wardrobe mistress or art director I would for that employee! I even contemplated paying for a couple of freelancers we regularly use for them to have the knowledge that I could later benefit from, but the reality is if they don’t see the use in it already, won’t I just be throwing money down the toilet? (and why should I pay for my competitors to benefit when using that same freelancer?)

Freelancer abroad that I work with are constantly learning and perfecting their craft – I know this not only because they tell me, but I’ve seen their growth over the years – but in Zambia, because of our acceptance of mediocrity, local freelancers (and even some company owners) don’t see the need to invest in themselves. And that’s why they don’t grow and as the country opens up to the rest of the world – which it will (thanks to the instability of some of our neighbours – not that we’d ever take advantage of their misfortune! We’re a Christian nation for Pete’s sake!), if you can’t compete on a global level, you shouldn’t even come out to play.

Training and development is a big area we focus on at Media 365 because it adds value to our product offering to the client. It’s not always possible, and of course it’s scary to think of investing in someone who will ditch you as soon as they have the skills (though my experience has also shown that since they don’t value the training and development they might ditch you before you even get to train them! I’ll name no names… Ok maybe they just didn’t like working here…), but it’s always worth a try.

It’s true that development isn’t just about spending money; internships (oh I have a blog post about that coming up!), work placements, online education, reading professional or industry publications/articles, mentorships and more, are all opportunities that you get for free.

But where else are you going to ask that one on one question if you don’t spend the money to meet that person, to learn and grow? And who knows where a chance encounter will take you? I met Bill Roedy, then Chairman of MTV Networks Europe, when I was hosting a plenary session. We hit it off and two years later I embarked on my eight-year career at MTV (hashtag just saying).

 *By the way, if you do want to attend the Natalie Joos Master class on the 30th and 31st of May go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1418927278410021/ for more details, or get tickets from Vala at Foxdale Court in Lusaka

18927278410021/ for more details, or get tickets from Vala at Foxdale Court in Lusaka