I’m just a guy. You wouldn’t take notice of me if we walked past each other in the street. I look like anyone else you might see in your life. Someone sitting at the airport waiting for their plane home. Sitting next to you on the train in the daily commute. Just a guy.
I love what I do. I love what I do at home and I love what I do for a living. But I am a guy who doesn’t believe in a job in the way many people would think of a job. I am my job. What you see in my work is what you see at home. A little crazy but I love what I do. I seriously love what I do. And like my life because of the people around me. People who make me think and push what I do to the edge. How can we do it even better? How can we push the boundaries? How can we make a real difference? How can we make it better together?
That ubuntu – I am because we are. It is so true. I am at work because of others. They inspire me and they drive me. They ignite the flame inside me that makes me who I am in life and in work.
This is really difficult to explain… Let me put it in another way…
I am pretty good at what I do. I know that. I know that because people tell me so. And I know I am good at what I do because I have no clue why I think the way I do! But I also know that I am good at what I do because I challenge myself constantly. And I somehow always find an “angle”. I am proud of what I have achieved and I am proud of what I stand for. But not proud like in full of myself. I know I am only who I am because of others. I would not have achieved a thing without others. Every person and every team made me better and taught me new ways of thinking. Ebrahim Patel was a genius who taught me how to think on my feet. How to find new angles and solutions to problems that no one else even considered. Martin Kalungu-Banda taught me about being humble and a manager at the same time. How to be subtle about leading others by inspiring them and finding the best in them. Oh man, so many people made me better and made me who I am today.
The names just flash by – Adrian, Demba, Sophia, Sumi, David, Patricia, Cunningham, Herbert, Chris, Gordon, Vernon, Sahra, Robert, Jane, John, Siviwe, Peter, Themba and so many others. Names to you. More than just people and faces to me. They made me.
I hardly said thank you. But I hope that me just being me and opening up to them showed that I did appreciate every single minute they gave to me. Every single day that they helped make me who I am.
I love what I do because of some of the people I have had the pleasure to work with in my life. They are not clients and they are not colleagues. They became friends. They are people I want to have coffee with. People I just want to hang out with. And sometimes it happens that they want to hang out with me as well.
They are me. No. They make me better than what I am.
Here is another thing. Most people go out in life and find things in other people they don’t like. That is easy. It is easy to find the things that we don’t like and the things that are different from ourselves. It is easy and it is lazy. It is life with blinkers on. The people I have met along the way have taught me something else. Finding the things in people I like and building a relationship based on what we have in common. And celebrating the differences as the bits that make us unique. Those differences makes up the rainbow of life – flavors and tastes for everyone to share. It is one hell of a way to meet new people and learn from others. I am one lucky guy to have been able to celebrate these differences with others. One damn lucky guy.
But I can only do this by being myself and being true to myself.
All we can be is ourselves. Nothing but ourselves. We can hide behind a mask or be ourselves. I picked the “be myself” way of doing things. I don’t think about it. I just do it. I don’t think of the consequences and I don’t think of the reasons. I just do it by being myself. Like breathing.
But we all have good times and bad times. And sometimes you doubt yourself and your style. Should I not be a little bit more like this or a little bit more like that? Should I wear a suit more often? Ha! But you sometimes question your style and the way you work. Do I need to be different? But it won’t work. It’s just not in my blood. All I can do is be myself. And I like it that way. I am who I am. And it works for me.
Hell, I really don’t know how to write this…
So I go through life and I make friends. It’s just one of those things. I make friends because people inspire me. They truly inspire me to be the best I can be without even thinking about it. They inspire me because their genius touches me and teaches me. And I can only have these relationships because I am who I am. And you never ask whether it will pay back or whether it has any benefits. You just do it. You are just you.
And then you get an email from someone that really makes you realize that we live in a pretty good world with damn fine people in it.
I left out many names in that list at the start of this blog. Recent names. I did that on purpose. I am to sh*t scared I leave someone out! But there are many other people who have touched me and who have become friends of mine. People I hold close to me no matter what the distance is between us. Good people. Geniuses who make me better.
I got an email from someone not on that list who would in another life be seen as a “professional relationship”. But she isn’t. She is a friend. A good friend. And she emailed me and had these really kind words about me. It was really a bit of a shocker as I don’t do what I do to get credit or to make myself feel better. I just do it because I like it and I like most of the people that go with my life. They all somehow made me a better person for just knowing them and having worked with them. She reminded me that who I am is what drives me. I am a better person because of people like her. People like her allow me to be just me.
I won’t share the whole email but these words really hit home. I’ll give you a little bit from her email. Edited of course…
“small world my friend. i was having dinner the other night with some folks at X… i was ranting to them about all sorts of things we need to do…
somehow i mentioned your blog and X said — “wait a minute, you know (him)?” then he told me they had been talking with you… i of course waxed poetic about your big brain, smart savvy approach and your ability to get (people) to think about how to push to the ‘brave place’ rather than just the easy place.
seriously, it was a glowing endorsement. …and we could light things on fire.”
That last sentence says it all for me. “… we could light things on fire.” It’s about the “together” isn’t it? It’s not about me. It is about us. I am because we are…
I wrote her a thank you email. And this is part of what she wrote back…
“you don’t owe me, you earned it. it’s the whole kizmet / karma / destiny paradigm. you… make real connections and it all comes back to you.”
She reminded me of the good people I have met along the way. And she reminded me why I enjoy the hell out of what I am doing. She reminded me that I do what I do and I am who I am because of people like her. To that person and everyone else I have met along the way. Thank you. Thank you for being my friend and my teacher. Thank you for allowing me to just be me. A guy who likes what he does and who likes hanging out with people like you.
I owe you a life of living. You are my ubuntu – I am because we are.
Now let’s have a coffee together…
Make mine a four-shot skinny Venti latte. (I’m getting all fancy and checking my weight!) A Starbucks Ethiopian Sidamo, please and thank you. Strong and deep like Africa with a fleeting aroma of floral left behind from the men picking flowers when they return from another hunting trip. A little spicy and a touch of chocolaty taste to go with our sweet tooth. Hum… Some of us also recognize a bit of wine in there! And to give it a bit of a bite and round it off nicely, the best Sidamo coffees have just a hint of lemon. Who said us Africans can’t have a feminine side? First sip… Aah… That’s much better. Wait! Better still. Just hook it up to an IV and I’ll be just fine…