Zachary Aldwin Milkshake in the Boardroom
The 2006 movie “Blood Diamond” is known for two things in its portrayal of the Sierra Leone civil war: one is Leonard Di Caprio’s horrendous accent, the other is a line he quotes to describe the reason for the situation he finds himself in “T.I.A This is Africa.” The phrase for many becomes the resigned excuse for any negative experience in dealing with the continent. Bribe requests and corruption, unnecessary delays in obtaining paperwork, power-cuts in the sub-region can all be brushed away with “This is Africa”. I would love to see a situation where the phrase is turned about to be a positive one. “Here is your permit ahead of schedule Sir, of course it is early — ‘This is Africa’. ‘This is Africa’ — we don’t take bribes here.” Even if changing people’s perception of Africa seems a little far away; how about we just start with how people view Zimbabwe. If that seems too much, then just let us just start with ourselves; our businesses, our departments, our families, our lives.

Cinderella’s fairy tale gives us some insight here. Cinderella wants to go to the ball, her fairy godmother conjures up a carriage from a pumpkin for her to go in, she steals the heart of the price but has to flee at midnight when the magic runs out and she has to dive out of her carriage as it turns back into a vegetable. Every day the “magic” — the input, the effort that you have put into creating something amazing in your business — is going to run out at midnight. There is a need for new input in the morning. In the same way that a marriage needs daily commitment and daily winning of your spouse’s heart to flourish, so does your business.

You can dream of the day that you can leave your business to run itself and you just reap a profit at the end. Keep dreaming. At some level you and your staff will need to fight the natural tendency of entropy that has systems breakdown and causes relationships to degenerate. It takes effort to keep inventory in stock, to chase debtors that are letting you down, to hold a creative and positive environment at work. Realise that at that moment when you reach a point where you could step back and hand over your business that you face the opportunity to get bigger, to provide more, to work even harder, and produce even better work.

Your life and your work will not get better because of one magical day that changes it all. It will get better as you embrace the daily discipline of working, of building, of making each day magical. Yes you may get a breakthrough and strike a life changing deal with a client, but you still need to maintain that relationship and meet the conditions of the deal.

Collaboration levers your own effort with someone else’s to do more than you could both independently achieve. Cinderella’s charm and beauty may have won the prince’s heart but she needed help in getting a dress and shoes. Our reluctance to collaborate is born out of a selfish desire to want more for ourselves and a need for recognition for what we have done. It stifles our own growth when we do not interact with others and share ideas without care for who gets the credit for them. An environment that allows for sharing ideas without care for credit is also one where due credit is given and ideas are not stolen for selfish gain. Working as a team like that takes daily commitment and drive.

Today pick one thing that you can do to improve your work or someone else’s life. Perhaps it is buying a round of coffee for your staff who are working later than normal. Maybe it is reviewing your customer contact policy or drafting your top client a letter of gratitude. Pointing out where your client relations are not up to standard and encouraging your staff to maintain or go beyond the set standard. There is always something you can do. Then tomorrow do something else.

We can dream of a better future. We can dream of a better nation. Our dreams need to motivate us to take action everyday. Everyday that we put effort into our lives and businesses, every day that we fight the pull of second-rate and corruption, every day that we spend not settling for the excuse of “This is Africa” is one day closer to seeing that dream come true.

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