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I’m addicted to watching Brandy and Ray J’s reality show “A Family Business”, not only because I like Brandy as an artist, but because there is so much to it that I can relate to.  The fights, the love, the tears, the laughter, the support, the division.  Running a family business is a reality show on it’s own!

I have always liked the thought of being part of a family business, because I am so family oriented and I like working for myself, and why shouldn’t the money be kept in the family? But I didn’t realise how hard it would be, especially after you’ve been apart for so long.  

Families are still made up of individuals.  These individuals might have different values, work ethics and perspectives from each other, which obviously can cause challenges and friction within the business.

As a family we’ve never been good with confrontation, we shy away from it and hope that the problem with resolve itself, without us having to do anything.  But like with any conflict, resentment and frustration is bound to build.  The good thing about a family is that you can overcome these feelings, because your love for each other usually is the over-riding factor.

However, from my experience over the last 11 months I’ve been in the company, I’ve also come to realise that the things people love about a family business can also be it’s downside.  There are certain things you allow people to do because they are family, whereas if that was done in a public owned corporation for example, they’d be fired for.  I always remember one episode in A Family Business, when Ray J rocks up for a management meeting late, drunk (or possibly hungover) and completely derails the meeting by either falling asleep or strumming on a guitar (I can’t remember which).  We haven’t had exactly the same experience but similar…

I think for any start up to flourish – family owned or otherwise all the business partners must be committed and have a shared goal or vision (more than to just make money) and have to put the time and effort to realise that vision.  If you don’t all do it, then that’s when the resentment starts to build and you have to nip it in the bud before it overcomes you.

Know each other’s strengths and respect it, but make decisions based on what is best for the business and not what is best for the individual, there might be an m and an e in team, but there really isn’t an I.  Sometimes as the ‘team leader’ these decisions seem hard but you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand, not if you want your business to grow.  And other times you have to let go of the business, because it might be the right thing to do for your health and your sanity.  Find like-minded people to work with, who will want to succeed as much as you and put in the effort to do so.

These are my learnings from my own family business – there are so many successful ones out there so it’s best to learn from those to really grow and be sustainable.  But always remember that the business should be before the family – unless the business is just a hobby for the entire family!

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!

It’s funny how when situations change, your feelings about stuff can change too. The last year I have felt that I wanted to be in a relationship, but never quite got into one. I lamented this situation for ages, wondering when it would happen, but also believing that God would bring someone into my life when the time was ready.

One of my closest friends insisted that the only reason I felt I wanted to be in a relationship was because I was lonely.

There could be something to be said about that, because since I’ve been back in Zambia around my family, I’ve never felt so happy. And so not in need of being one half of a relationship.

It could also be that my priorities have changed. As I see all the opportunities here in Lusaka, I’m thinking of my future, 5 – 10 years from now, and all that I can achieve if I focus on that. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll have time to focus on a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, if it happens, it happens, but I’m not looking for it.

Right now, I’m having fun, remembering the good times with dating and flirting, but not taking anything too seriously. Though, I have met an adonis, but good looking men do bring more trouble than their worth, so I’m definitely not taking this too much to heart. Eye candy is always a good thing, so for now, it’s all good.

Maybe when I get to where I want to be with my career goals, or get frustrated with my family :), I might then go back to wanting to be in a relationship… Until then, bring on the adonis.

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…)

Who knew those last couple of weeks in London were going to be seriously hectic? Though I do put most of it down to my sister, who came in 10 days before I left and changed all my plans – she later conceded that my way would have been best.

But now I’m back in Lusaka, or the ‘berg as it’s affectionally called (shortened from Lusberg), and exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt my first few days in town. I literally collapsed into my seat when I boarded that 10 hour flight. I’m slowly adjusting to getting up at 5.45am – ok, haven’t done it yet, the alarm goes off and I manage to get up by about 7am. Between school runs, living on a farm and the horrendous traffic that seems to be taking over all of Africa, you have to get up at 5.45am to get to work on time.

Moving back into my parent’s farm has been great, but doesn’t come without it’s challenges. For example sharing two bathrooms between five people all trying to get to work or school on time. Currently only two cars in the house means if you miss the carpool, you’re calling a cab to come and get you, or walking the 3.5km to the main road, and in my 4 inch heels, I don’t think so. So I’m patiently waiting for my car. Except, I packed my ownership documents into my air-frieght and have to wait for that to arrive before they can even ship the car! duh!!! Boy have I learned a lot about relocating. Might even share my lessons learned – one day, it’s still exhausting thinking about it. All I can say is hire packers and make lists of all you need to do, and do it as soon as you can and don’t think you have time to do it.

It’s really lovely to be home though and be around my family, even my anti-social brother (thankfully he doesn’t read my blog), who prefers watching movies in his room than hanging with the rest of us in the living room. Then again we are women heavy, maybe he doesn’t want to hang out with all the ladies! lol.

I’m also really excited about all the opportunities that are here and really focusing on that. Of course, I’ve only been here less than a week, so the realities of TIA (this is Africa) hasn’t yet sunk in. But for now, I’m being optimistic.

There are few things in life I hate more than asking for help. It’s just not in my nature. I’m not talking about help for a chore or a project, those are things I can live with. But asking for help in terms of emotional support – that’s hard for me.

I don’t like to be seen to be vulnerable, or ‘weak’. I always feel like when you’re vulnerable that’s when people take advantage of you, and I don’t like to not feel in control.

As I get older I’m starting to realise that emotional support and strength is important for your self-development and that we all need a network of support we can call on when in need. This network should be made up of people who you trust, people you know love you no matter what. That way you’re not afraid to feel vulnerable in front of them – knowing they won’t judge you if you fall apart.

This last week has been an emotional roller-coaster for me, and I’ve found it quite difficult to deal with all these emotions – there hasn’t been enough neat little boxes to put them into. I’d also asked my sister to come and help me move back to Zambia, when she said she didn’t think she could it really hit me hard.

Today as I thought about why it was so important for my sister to be here, I realised it was because I needed her. We’ve grown apart in the last 10 years or so, but she’d always been my best friend – we shared everything, our lives had been so intertwined. But more recently it was more her life I knew about and she knew next to nothing about mine.

Have her come and be here with me wasn’t so much so she can help me pack (who am I kidding, I’m hiring packers – no packing up for me!), but more about having her share the of this chapter of my life, so that she could experience a part of it, even if it was just the last part of it. I also hoped that it would be an opportunity for us to bond again, see if we can get back to being best friends. And even if we can’t, maybe we could just bond, I do miss my sister-friend.

My therapist asked me why I don’t tell her this, rather than keeping the hurt and disappointment in me – but that emotional conversation is not easy for me, not easy for me to tell someone that I need them. He said it would be a great learning opportunity for me to do something different as I try and move my life in a new direction. I was psyched about the opportunity. Couldn’t wait to get home and call her.

I did call her, but didn’t tell her how much I needed her or how much I missed her. Instead I gave in and agreed to stay in London 10 days longer, so that she can do what she needs to do in Zambia and then come to London for 11 days. I can’t say that I’m thrilled but at least she’ll be here right?

So I might have missed out on that opportunity to open up, but I think I’m going to start doing it with my inner circle. I have more to gain than to lose by doing it. And let’s be honest, no man is an island, sooner or later I will really need someone and it’s nice to know that that circle of support exists and that I can tap into it.

I also know that I’m blessed to have the family (including my non-blood family of my close friends) that I have, so I need to start letting them into my life a little bit more, and actually respect the bonds for what they are. Our relationships are what we make them, and to develop we need to start strengthening those bonds – our emotional beings require them.

Yesterday I felt hurt. It’s not something that I often feel, or at least admit to feeling (must be a combination of hormones and lack of sleep). In the last seven, almost eight years, I’ve lived in London, I have felt prejudice and minor racial insults. You know the usual, ‘I didn’t recognize you because you’ve changed your hair’ kind of stuff – despite the fact that I am the only black girl in the team. I guess white people look the same when they change their hair, yet black people look completely different. Or is that just code for ‘all black people look the same’?

I’ve always brushed it off and not taken it too seriously, though I did make a mental note to ignore the person the next time if they insisted they hadn’t met me before. I was then accused of being aloof. Go figure right.

So anyway, yesterday, this woman who I’ve known for pretty much the entire almost 8 years I’ve been here, comes to the office bearing gifts for the whole team for a project we’d pulled off successful but guess who didn’t get a present? Yep, somehow I was forgotten. Not my team mates who only joined 18 months ago, but me. Ok, I suppose on top of being black, I am kind of aloof after all, so I guess you could be forgiven for not noticing me in the corner…

Still it hurt my feelings, it’s not nice not to be noticed. Little, brown girl in the corner.

I try not to let external validation affect me. My purpose in life is not to have other people tell me I’m great, I need to know and believe that myself. If we look for external validation we might never be happy. It also makes us forever unsure about our skills and accomplishments, leaving you feeling insecure and over critical or unappreciative of your successes.

But as I firmly believe, the universe provides your signs to show you your purpose and even validate your feelings, if you will. Recently I was feeling down. No matter how many wins I’d achieved, I didn’t feel it was enough, still felt not completely sure that I was good at what I was doing, or making any difference. Because I was looking for that external validation.

Then something happened. I opened up my facebook page for pretty much anyone to find me. I had a whole bunch of people I didn’t know requesting me as a friend, I thought most of them were requesting me because of my MTV affiliation. Imagine my surprise when a good number of them sent me a message saying how much they admired my sisters and I, how we really changed their life with Trendsetters.

My sister

I was honestly overwhelmed. We hadn’t published Trendsetters in a good three or four years, yet people still remembered it and regarded it highly. It was Zambia’s first publication for young people and unlike some of the stuff out there today, we weren’t trying to tear anyone down but uplift a generation of young people. We profiled positive young role models and provided inspiration to young people to encourage them to aspire for greatness and to protect themselves by not contracting HIV. The magazine was informative, yet educational.

I couldn’t believe after all these years and my many years at MTV, people still valued the work I did when I was 18!

This wasn’t the main decision that made me look deeper to find my personal legend, but it did help me stop and take stock.

I’d spent many years looking for this external validation, when it was in me all along. I knew I could be successful at anything I put my mind too. But I also knew that my family and helping people be better were the things I cared about the most. I could achieve part of this at MTV, but to do both, would require some changes. So, the first part of my journey was to make the conscious, yet painful decision, to leave MTV. Having handed in my resignation, makes the unknown both scary and exciting.

I’m happy to be on this journey though, as deep down, I know it’s time I put me first and find my way, with my family around me.

My brother died a year ago – 29th June 2009, we buried him on the 2nd of July 2009. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year, in fact it feels like it was just yesterday when I got the call that he was dead.

Because we’re split across continents and with my other brother getting married next year, we’re going to do the proper memorial next year. So I spent the day at home, doing some quiet reflection, my sister sent me some Bible passages to read and I spoke to my mum – to make sure she was ok. Like a true African woman, she was being strong, more worried about everyone else, then allowing herself to publicly mourn. I’m not good with emotions, so I played along with her, and talked about other things – like the birth of two calves at the farm.

Everyone in the family is dealing in their own way, though it is difficult for all of us. I think it’s always difficult to lose someone in your family because you feel like you lose a part of yourself. For me, it’s been even more difficult because my brother and I fell out. His drinking made me ashamed of him. He was extremely intelligent but he’d become an alcoholic, who roamed the farm area with the local farm hands – and I was embarrassed. It never occurred to me that he felt comfortable with him because they never judged him. Whereas I was just worried about what everyone else thought (Zambia is a classist society). We never seemed to connect after that. For that I feel the most sad.

Even when he was diagnosed with HIV, I never wanted that to be the reason for us to patch up our differences, but now I wish I had. I just didn’t want him to think that the HIV made him a different person. I didn’t want it to define him. I thought we’d have more time.

And sometimes I feel like I’m a fake because my job requires that I push out messages of hope, but I worry that we don’t tell the complete truth. Maybe we need to start talking to the families of people living with HIV too, HIV doesn’t only affect the person living with the virus in their body. Sure HIV doesn’t define who a person is, but it is something that makes us realise that we are mortal, that life is short. HIV shouldn’t be a reason to mend bridges with your loved ones, but helps push you in the right direction. Otherwise you live with the pain of, ‘i wish i had…’.

It’s easy to be angry with the virus, but anger keeps you stuck, especially when you internalise that anger. My brother’s death has helped bring my family closer together and made us more aware of what is going on in each others lives. It’s also made me realise how important my family is to me, they drive me insane, but they are my first priority and I’ll do what it takes to make sure we’re ok.

The experience has changed me. I’d already lost a best friend to this virus, and that hurt, but losing family, that’s a lot to bear. In my case two brothers. Enough is enough. So it’s strengthened my resolve with my work. It’s not enough to have the most creative and visually arresting programme, it’s got to have an impact, even if the impact is getting people to talk. HIV is not something we should be ashamed of, but it’s not something we need to pretend is a virus that is even remotely easy to deal with.

In the meantime, I think I’ll stick to the gym to work out my internal struggles. Thanks for listening, I needed to get this off my chest.

Today my sister said to be that the silence around HIV in families kills. Despite the fact that my sister usually is a bit of a drama queen today I thought she was actually right.
A family member disclosing their HIV status is a scary thing – for both the person and for the family. In the last few years I’ve personally been affected by HIV more than I ever would have considered possible. Not sure why, I am from a country where 1 in 5 people are HIV+.
Some of these relatives are openly positive, others, while not in denial, not really talk about it or acknowledge it, no matter how many times it puts them in hospital. So what are you supposed to talk about? I don’t think talking about it is easy, and sometimes I do wonder what you’re supposed to say. This is yet another problem with the virus, its become an inaccessible topic.
We do need to be talking about management of the disease, what sort of support our friends and family need, but often we don’t know how to bring this up. Almost fearful of the elephant in the room. There’s available information out there for people living with HIV, but what about for the immediate family and friends?
We want to help, we want to be supportive, we want to talk, but we don’t know how or where to begin.
Even now, having lost two brothers, I always wish I had said certain things and now it’s too late. I don’t want it to be too late with other relatives. So I guess you just take a deep breath, open your mouth and just speak.

Interestingly enough the circumcision issue brings up a lot of debate – people feel very strongly on the issue. But the problem with – and therefore what is great about – the internet is that it’s free range for people to voice their opinions. Some opinions also hurl abuse, while others are informative. It’s almost like people forgot their social manners when it comes to online space. I had someone comment on one of my posts – saying my stance on circumcision was irresponsible. I have allowed other comments of people who are opposed to my view because it’s informative – we should have a space to discuss issues – and they weren’t plain rude and offensive – and since it is my blog, I decided to have my own rules – freedom of speech that isn’t obnoxious.
I think I was also slightly peeved because I don’t write these blogs just for fun. Yes some may be humorous, but actually this issue is very real for me. Being from a country where approximately 16% of the population is HIV+ (down from 20%), I know enough people, including my own relatives who have lost their lives as a result of this virus, and many more, some extremely close to me who are still living with the virus. I don’t want to lose anyone else, even if it is inevitable for those already infected, but there is nothing worse than losing a loved one to a disease like this. Or any terminal disease I suppose.
So when I’m sharing these thoughts on what the top health bodies are suggesting are key to stemming the spread of HIV, I’m not doing it as joke, but hoping to share opinions on it and understand the issue, and hearing both sides of the debate helps this.
I don’t know if the person who chose to send the comment has ever lost someone to HIV or if perhaps he is living with the virus himself, but I think not having discussions on different aspects relating to HIV and AIDS is irresponsible. I think not talking about the realities of HIV, whether you’re infected or affected, is irresponsible. However, if he thinks that my comment about men getting circumcised if that means they won’t have to use condoms means that a whole bunch of men will go out and get circumcised, well then he clearly thinks I have more influence than even I could have imagined! (And clearly it would be a whole bunch of people who can’t really read because I’d already said that even if a man is circumcised he’d still have to use a condom. Sigh)
My point is that these blogs are my thoughts on the issue, that I want to share, because I care too much about this issue to sit here not doing all that I can do, and if that makes me irresponsible, I guess I’m happy to wear the title.