“No matter what your current condition, how or where you grew up, or what education or training you feel you lack, you can be successful in your chosen endeavor. It is spirit, fortitude, and hardiness that matter more than where you start.” -Jack Ma
This week, a friend gave me a lead to meet someone to help them solve their problem. I went there and discovered a whole new untapped industry for products. This same friend has opened several doors for me in the past. Major doors!
I started thinking about how we met. She was stranded at the airport and I gave her a lift home. I didn’t do it that day to ask for anything in return. That simple act has paid off in more ways than I can imagine as I gained “a great friend”.
I didn’t know I was pitching to her with my subsequent actions, she saw something in our company I didn’t even see. She believed in us. She believed in our simple mission: “To change the future of technology in Africa”. She trusted us to deliver on that mission.
My first BIG break in tech came from a great man named “Mr John Whitechurch”. He was the Managing Director of The Okomu Oil Palm Company in Edo State at that time. Before then, he was in UAC Farms/Foods for many years and was the brain behind the famous and largest Nigerian retail food brand — “Mr Biggs”. I believed it was his nickname, as he has a heart bigger than any I have ever met.
John Whitechurch came to Africa a young man and lived most of his life here before he retired and went back to England. He strongly believed (and still believes) in giving local people a chance to learn and prove themselves and he gave me one. I always did my best never to let him down. He gave me something that was more valuable than anything else in the world - “his trust”. That trust is what built the organization we now know as Swifta.
In his retirement at age 60+, he founded J&R Foods — the largest foodservice company in South West England. Before then, Tregidda Smokehouse. The man just never stops. He his not just a mentor, he is my hero.
Another friend, Kobie Coetzee, I had fought as a client before he became my friend. He actually canceled a contract we had once, because I refused to bring in a particular consulting resource he wanted. I didn’t hold it against him. I went to visit him after he left that job and we had great times in Cape Town. When he joined this “small company” called Fundamo that eventually became HUGE. He gave me his trust as well. I never let him down and we did everything to prove ourselves worthy of it. Fundamo opened another universe to us in Mobile Payments.
A guy asked me on a Facebook group this week “How do you do it?”. At first I rambled on about listening and friendships etc…. I later sat down to think deeply about it and it was more than friendships. It was about trust and gratitude.
I have never thanked the people who have been there for me enough. They have never asked for anything in return when they gave me their trust. I never bribed them or begged them. I just gave performance in return and it enhanced that trust. I also believe they know that I was grateful for all the opportunities they have passed my way and for thinking of me first before all the other people in their lives.
There are many others affecting my life, who are like guardian angels that I cannot mention. They are all still giving me their trust and helping us out in many ways. To all of them I say —
Thank You! I am grateful!!
Today also, I was thinking about Jack Ma of Alibaba. He tried unsuccessfully to get into Harvard but now, people in Harvard would kill to work for him and people who went to Harvard want to be like him. It made me think about opportunity and success.
Success has no formula because you really can do nothing about the nature of opportunity. You only just prepare and show up. You can however work hard at making others succeed by creating as much opportunity for them as possible. Opportunity pays back.
When we compete viciously, we create less opportunity for ourselves in the backend. The success is short term. Enemies live longer. When we collaborate, we multiply opportunity all around.
Opportunity is a multiple. It is not a destination.
Opportunity can be created in other unexpected ways. “Gratitude” and “Opportunity” are bedfellows. Professor John DeLong of Harvard Business School, first made this connection in one of his classes that I attended. He wanted us to write personal letters of gratitude to those who have helped us most in life to thank them and let them know the many ways they have helped.
I told my girlfriend then (who is now my wife) about this strange thing Prof told me to do. She took the initiative before I did, and did it on her own. She thanked the most difficult boss she ever had because she realised that her boss being tough on her was what made her better at the job and career. She would not have decided to go get an MBA from INSEAD, if not for that boss. The lady’s response was overwhelming, emotional and priceless.
Sometimes, the people who give us a tough time are also still creating opportunities for us to shine. To be our best.
To all those who believed and all those who also did not believe us and inspired us to prove them wrong —
Opportunity comes in many guises. Be alert. Be prepared. Show up!
PS: To my drivers, my housekeeper, to my colleagues, to my mentors. To my friends. Thank You!!
The day I met my wife, I almost did not want to leave the house. Mr Taego, my driver at that time forced me to. Thank you Mr Taego! Thank you Mike!! She is the very best.