Saturday, 27 October 2012

The African Dream- Part 2

Dry sand-Namibia-Sussuvlei

Source: http://africanphotos.gm



After my last visit back home I had come back more focused and patient; knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I applied vigorously to a lot of big companies and was fortunate enough to be granted interviews which meant that I was on the right path. But after some time I realized i was probably traveling a path that leads to a dead-end.

I had to try something and of  which I did. A lot of people thought it was incredible and encouraged me and gave me advice on how I could make it work. Buoyed by the positive response; I was enthused to  make the project a success and I worked hard towards that objective.

The project had brought a new light to my life and opportunities were starting to become more open and clearer..But after sometime everything started to fade away. The limited access to internet had finally caught up with me again. I couldn't reply to emails send by people  who wanted to work with me or help  after coming across my article. Most importantly I couldn't work further on my project to really create a winning product. I had received a lot of positive feedback to improve the project but couldn't take advantage of it because it required reliable internet access.

Slowly I started to see my dreams fade away but I couldn't give up when the finishing line had looked so real. I just kept up the believe  like everyone I had seen succeeding around me. I kept programming and doing market research, offline.

One day while I was hanging out with a couple of friends from my neighborhood, my phone rang and it  was my friend whom I had last spoken to in a couple of years. He had called to offer me to come to Namibia where he was now working as a land surveyor.We had been both at the same university and things had worked out for him. There were more opportunities than back home; their education system
is not able to produce enough skilled personal thereby creating opportunities for foreigners like us.

Besides that access to internet is far much better and affordable. He just thought things will work out much better in Namibia than home. I was a bit hesitant- having never left Zimbabwe before, but  I finally decided to take a wild leap of faith and experience a new environment and culture.

After a couple of weeks I finally boarded the bus and began my journey to Namibia. The journey which is approximately more than  3000 km, was very tiring. I spent most of it imaging and wondering how life was going to be. As we entered Namibia I couldn't help feel sad leaving our beautiful country and not being be able to contribute meaningful to the economy.

When I finally arrived I was dead-tired but was on the other hand received warmly by my friend. He picked me up and took me to his house. While on our way I couldn't help but enjoy the beautiful landscape on which Windhoek is built on. During that moment I just felt things were going to work out fine for me.

I have been here a couple of weeks but the people having been incredible friendly that it already feel like home. The internet access is far much better; electricity is also available all day. I have been working on my project and in a few works I would be ready to launch the new version of the website with improved features and better content like music. The African Dream is alive and well!!!



















Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The life of an aspiring tech startup entrepreneur



First of all, just like artists you can only be called or recognized as entrepreneur after you have only started a very successful business. Before then it doesn’t matter whether you are currently working on your business full-time; if it’s not successful no-one will recognize you as an entrepreneur.

Unless you have had the luck of raising millions of dollars, shining your shoes and putting on a tie is something you would have to get used because you would have to work. It doesn’t matter whether you like the job or not; it’s something you would have to do just to pay bills.

Friends and family are going to tell to just get a decent job and stop wasting your time on dreams that may never come true. They may-be right but you would have to ignore them and hope you are darn right.

The ability to keep a stable relationship will be foreign unless you find a very understanding partner.  This is all because you are going to find little time to spend with you time because you will have to put in long hours working on your idea. Besides that the unpredictable nature of starting business won’t bring stability to your life which will make it difficult to have a stable relationship.

Failure something you would also have to embrace when starting out. You will make a lot of business mistakes; create a product that’s not market-fit. If you don’t give up everything will get easier and clearer with time, but you will have to learn. Thus with time you will be able to make smart decisions, create killer products.

Creating a business is a long and unpredictable process and it’s something you will have to learn also. Dreaming is something you will have to continue doing even though things might be going side-ways, because one day not tomorrow, today or anytime soon everything will be as you planned or better.

 

 

 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

The 4 most successful African technology startups ever



African internet usage has been on the rise with an estimated users of  about 143 million-13.5% of the the total population. While African internet users are only 6.2% of the  total internet population, it is the the growth rate of the internet access that has been impressive with in some case as high 110%. in a year. Everyone has been looking to Africa for future growth While most people are interested  they have been in dark about the startups that have been started in Africa and went on to be successful.

To give a quick background of African startup scene  I have compiled  a short list of startups that was started in Africa and was very successful. The list contains  however some that may not be considered startups in the usual sense but have been included because they closely resemble startups and the ideas that they were successful were relatively new also.

1.Thawte Consulting
Website: http://www.thwate.com
Founded by Mark Shuttleworth in 1995 whom you probably know because of Canonical Limited who happens to be the company behind Ubuntu. Thwate initially founded and run out of his parents garage in South Africa is certificate authority (CA) for X.509 certificates and is the second largest public CA on the internet.It was however sold to VeriSign in 1999 for around  $575 million dollars.
More from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thawte

2. Mxit
Website: http://www.mxit.com
Mxit is free internet messaging application founded in South Africa by Herman Heunis a Namibian in 2005. As of  February it had 50 million users in 120 countries with 10 million active users in South Africa. The service has a sign-up rate of 50 000 users a day. 750 million messages are sent and received via the network daily.
More from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mxit

3. Ushahidi
Website:http://www.ushahidi.com
 Ushahidi is non-profit software company that develops open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. Ushahidi which means testimony in Swahili, was created to keep track of the Kenya's presidential 2007 elections violence sent by eyewitnesses via mobile phone or internet. It has since been used in 2010 to track the earthquake in Haiti and also during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008 .
More from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushahidi

4. M-Pesa
Website: http://www.safaricom.co.ke?id=257
M-Pesa is not exactly a startup but the idea was something new. It is a venture by Safaricom- the largest mobile network operator in Kenya and Tanzania . M-Pesa allows  subscribers to transfer or withdraw money using a mobile phone without the need of a bank account. The success of M-Pesa the first such service in the world has actual made it famous with the western media.
More from  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-Pesa

These startups have arguably been the most successful startups and I believe we will have a whole lot of success stories especially in the mobile phone industry in a few years.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Internet Business Model




I had told a colleague that I had created a web application.After the usual congratulations about building something, an inevitable question followed.  "How are are you going to make money?"  I have since gotten used to this question; almost everyone asks it.

Well I told him the usual form of making money online like advertising and charging for the service. He seem to understand the advertising method even though he had doubts about it's viability given the limited presence of businesses in Africa on internet. You just don't see them advertising online thus his skepticism.

About charging for the service he just couldn't understand how one could charge for the service given the limited availability of online payment methods available local. Besides that he also pointed some of the most useful websites like Facebook are free and even if he had the payment method he wouldn't pay.

I just couldn't find a way of convincing him of the viability of the internet business model that I had told him. What he thought was the business model for companies like Facebook and Google is that telecommunications pay them according their use. He argued that telecommunications are the one who make money by charging for internet access; something which they do exorbitantly. They should be having some form of agreements on revenue sharing with the developers of the applications, he continued reasoning.


When I told him there are no such agreements he was baffled and  told me that he still felt that telecommunications must share their revenue with developers. This idea I have found is shared by many people in Africa. Everyone you have discussion with always suggests this showing that internet business model is still unfamiliar  to a lot of people here.

The idea of internet business is still confusing here and it will be a long way before the ordinary people can understand it. This means that raising money from friends and family is going to be very difficult. Even raising  money from prominent business people is still a long way. Africa will have to wait for foreign investors who are also still skeptical of it.

Winning is not everything



The very objective of playing any game is winning. Losing always leave you disappointed, depressed and demotivated.  Startup game is no different at all.  Well, I used to believe that every time you do something you should get the desired results or it’s not worth the time and effort you spend.

Whenever we are starting something new; there is always that pressure to succeed or the idea is labeled as a bad one. But if you put things into perspective; you might get a lot of positives out of your experience. Sometimes that experiences and lessons you learned might be what you need to succeed with your next venture in a way you never thought possible.

The Experience

When I started http://www.mixdem.com , I expected it to really blow up and hopeful be one of the next success stories out of the Southern Africa region; it’s still possible but I would have to create a solid product and that I am going to do with my limited resources. It’s going to take time to build a solid product but I won’t give up. When I launched I got a lot of feedback, but little activity on the website. I even thought my idea was not good. But the fact that I got a lot of valuable feedback was enough validation of my idea. I couldn’t just quite clearly see it at the time; feedback is one step closer to making the product people want and with the right product success inevitable come.

Besides the feedback I met a lot of people and got a lot of opportunities. The experience you gain is something you can only get from trying. What should be important is the effort you put in trying to make things happen. I believe if you show the right attitude and you keep on fighting eventually one day will come when you will get your desired results.

The Story

This other day, I watched a movie; I have forgotten the name, about an American college which had lost some members of its football team in a plane crash. They had taken some time away before they could play in the league. When they finally got back into the league everyone was excited and emotional about the prospect of watching their team participate. Many felt winning was the perfect way honoring those who had perished in the crash.

The day came when they played their first league game. They lost horribly and everyone was disappointed save for the coach. Tension rose in the team. The whole town was in turmoil. The college principal‘s job was on the line. Everyone felt it was better not play than playing and losing; in their minds it was dishonoring the memories of the victims of the plane crash.

The coach was the only one who was not worried about losing. While he was addressing his players; he said something which caught my ears and attention. “Winning is not everything; but what matters most is how you play, because if you play with all your heart eventually one day you will win.”  He also convinced that if they play with all their being, it wouldn’t matter whether they lose or win; they would have honored the victims of the crash.

These words were enough to spur the team to hard earned victory which eventually put them on a winning streak. They way they played were inspirational; they looked like they were losing but fought and eventually won the game in the last seconds.

Conclusion

From the movie which is based on a true story I could clearly see that one should not be worried much about winning or being successful in your endeavor but instead should put every effort you can in making it a success. It’s better to fail with honor than just giving up easily and besides there are lot of things you can learn from the experience.

 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The importance of gratitude


Growing up I never quite understood why my parents would reprimand me if I just accept a gift without thanking the person who had given me the gift. It did not stop there, I was supposed to thank whoever had prepared and served me with food irrespective of whether it’s their job or not. To me it was just something that I had to do; I never gave it much thought.

The Experience

During my internship  at Midlands State University I was the system administrator of  the computer laboratory, Hellenics Hall- the biggest at the university. The lab was located off-campus- to be specific in the  CBD of Gweru City.

Besides me and my supervisor, the laboratory had also non-technical staff, security and janitors.  These non-technical  staff were supposed to report to my supervisor and sometimes they would have to  report to me if the supervisor is unavailable.

These people worked really hard and of the time I worked with them I appreciated the work they did and always thanked them whenever they cleaned my office or anything they are supposed to do as per their duties.

Because I treated them with respect and show gratitude for anything they did for me; these people became my friends.  During that time things wre really hard, the economy was bad,  but most of them  would buy me lunch. They would also give me advice and share interesting stories. I really enjoyed my internship because of the people.

When my internship ended; I was back to being a student again at the university.  Whenever I wanted to use the laboratory- even at odd hours, the security would still let me through. Even during the times when students where not allowed, they would still let me through. After I graduated from the university I continued using the university resources at will. During that time, I never really thought about why they were nice to me but it’s clear to me now.

The Lessons

Looking back now I understand the importance of showing gratitude and the valuable lesson my parents taught me. For every effort we make as human beings for others we sub-consciously feel the need to be thanked or acknowledged for our efforts. While the cook, maid, janitor e.t.c, may not show their feelings they still need to be appreciated for their efforts even though they are paid for the services.

I have since realized showing others gratitude helps you become a better person and will help you in developing relationship with others. People like to be around a person who acknowledges what others do for him/her or just their friendship.

The act of showing gratitude also makes you humble and less selfish. This helps you become a more rounded person who approach life with humility which may help you make better decisions without many illusions about how much better you are than what you really is.

Showing gratitude also makes you learn to appreciate the little things in life. You learn to appreciate the fact that you are still breathing, you have a roof over your head, good health, loving family, a good job etc. Appreciating these seemingly little things improves the chances of your happiness as you realize how blessed you are to have those things in life.

Making another person smile has got an effect of making you feel good and happy. Appreciating other people’s efforts has just got that effect. The funny thing is that sometimes it does not cost anything other than putting on a smile and a warm “thank you”.

Conclusion

Showing gratitude just does not strengthen your character, making you a better friend, workmate or anything. If you are business it strengthens your brand and increase customer loyalty which may lead to increased sales and a successful business. Expressing gratitude should be a habit as it makes us better people and businesses in life.

What I found about having good discussions


“This is the most stupid thing, I have ever heard.” “You must be an idiot.” “Where do you live, a cave?”

These unkind statements and words are usually said when people have strong opinions, but can’t seem to get others to agree with them. Sometimes these heated arguments may degenerate into fist fights and other forms of brawling. The best technology company in the world, the right religion or who is better Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi: are just some of the issues people can’t seem to agree, but love to discuss with more or the same results-quarrels.

Acknowledging that avoiding argument turning into quarrels is very important, and in this article I will try discuss how one can and why they should learn to avoid such a situation based on my experience.

One way, one should approach disagreements is that feeling strongly about any issue does not make you right. Just because you think that your religion is the right one does not make it right, probably only the dead know. Having this mindset will make it easy for you to accept that you may not always be right and others may be right –which reduces the urge to convince others to agree with your opinions even if they do not.

Arguments lead to quarrels, and quarrels are not good for your relationship. Realizing that arguments may adversely affect your relationship is important because it might help you learn when to amicably quit a discussion before it has degenerated into a full scale war of words. Every time you have an argument, think about your relationship, you always find yourself withdrawing from an argument or careful choosing what you say to the next person.

People come from different backgrounds, culture and are by nature different so about have different opinions on issue. One may think that classic is the best type of music and it would be no use trying to convince that hip hop is the best type of music to that person- it’s completely unnecessary and na├»ve to even think that way because music is subjective. Understanding that will help avoid unnecessary arguments on things you may never agree.

Also understanding that if other people disagree with you, it does not mean that they think you are stupid, will go along the way in helping you agree to disagree. Attaching your ego to discussion may make it difficult to listen to any point that seems to disagree with what you think, as it may seem as an attack on your intelligence.

Moreover, acknowledging that discussions may widen your horizon of thinking may help avoid turning discussions into a must win affair. Approaching discussion with an open mind may help learn and realize new things that you haven’t thought about or observed. In trying to win discussion or trying very hard to prove that you are right you may end  up missing a lot of insights that you might gain.

Learning to be respectful of other people’s ideas, feelings and opinions is very important in avoiding discussion turning into scuffles or worse. Even if the other person is completely, ruthlessly dismissing what they have said with scorn will most of the time lead to other person being emotional-which cause scuffles. Careful choice of words is helpful when you want to disagree as most of the time if put across nicely your point, no one will get emotional.

Why we may feel the urge to argue, get emotional over issues, we must exercise self-control in order to avoid destroying our relationships, fights and all other negative effects of heated arguments.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Solving the skills gap problem



Unemployment seems to be on the increase in many countries, a number of companies and industry has complained about the lack of skilled personnel.  Universities and tertiary institutions have considerable increased over time; which makes you wonder, how can there be a shortage of skilled labor?  One more thing that’s mind boggling is that the world economy had even gone in recession; which means it can’t an increase in demand. Which leaves only one scenario, decrease in the supply of skilled labor.

The shortage of skilled labor has been attributed to lack of the willingness of the companies to train graduates from the universities and colleges. I agree to that notion, and I completely resonates well such a situation; I am also a graduate who can’t seem to find a job. The problem is that companies are looking for someone with a tonne of experience which someone graduating from college obviously doesn’t possess. Given this barrier to entry; the industry’ skills pool become limited to those already in. This scenario doesn’t do any one a favor. Companies are left with limited supply of skills which skyrockets the price of labor. Graduates are just left to waste; with most ending up taking jobs that do not match their skill set and level of education.

Without skilled labor, I don’t see how a company can have a shot at success. The solution in my opinion is very simple. Companies must hire with the future in my mind. It should not just look at meeting their short requirements only. That is they should create a situation where they won’t need much skills from outside when the time comes, when they need this skills.

In order to implement this solution companies need to develop a trainee programme. In simplest terms they should just give the graduates the experience they are looking for. While many may argue that it can be expensive to train people other than just hiring people when you need them. I think it’s much cheaper to get people who haven’t had a lot of experience and then train them, than hiring experienced people comfortable somewhere else. You would need to convince them; in other words make them an offer they can’t refuse. Sometimes the cost of hiring these experts can be just ridiculous; a lot of money is required to pay human resources agencies and sometime in case of technology you might need to buy a company for just its labor.

Given that it’s probably easy to estimate the skills requirements of a company in the future; I think it’s cheaper to train people yourself. It’s inevitable that you are definitely going to lose some employees to retirement, death and other factors. So to me its fool hardy to wait for it to happen and then try to look for replacement; I would say good luck. Given a lot of tools available, I believe companies can easily predict their labor requirements.

Obviously there are very few companies willing to invest in training people. Others are just big sharks waiting to capitalize on the hard work of others. So if a company decides to employ such a solution they almost employ tactics to retain the hard earned skilled labor. Attractive salaries, benefits, offer opportunity for personal development and fostering a great culture; are just but something of the things they can do to retain skilled labor.

If most of the companies invest in training and offering graduates an opportunity to acquire skills everyone benefits. The increase in supply of skilled labor would reduce the inflated cost of hiring. Unemployment would obviously drop, putting a smile on the graduates, governments and society at large.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

What African startup scene needs?


 

Africa has come a long way from the times of tribal wars, slavery and colonization. Even though great strides towards a better living environment have been made, there are still a lot of challenges. Poverty is still common; Aids is taking its toll on the continent; Malaria too, corruption is very high; unstable political environments; civil wars and brain drain. This has led to many commentators painting a gloomy future; with some even declaring that African will still remain the “dark continent” and remain undeveloped forever.

To Africans, reports that African economies are growing faster than the rest of the world is sweet music. Some analysts have projected that Africa is going to be a major drive of the world economy. The say it’s steadily on the path to achieve what the Asian economies have achieved in the recent years. The growth of economies have brought hope that Africa is on path of self-sustenance and reduce the level of poverty, political instability  and over –reliance on donor funds.

Because of the optimism in the growth and development of in African economies, a lot of effort and discussions has been made on what needs to be done to continue on this promising path. Interested stakeholders, local and international, having been working hard to identify and also find ways to develop different sectors of the economy. One such sector that has offered signs of growth and interest is Information Technology (IT).

IT has grown very fast and is showing no signs of slowing down. The telecommunications sector has been the major force behind this growth. Adoption of mobile technology has grown quite unbelievable with almost 90 % of the population owning some form of a mobile phone. From the feature phones to smart phones, this technology is now in everyone’s hands. Besides putting the mobile technology in the hands of masses, the telecommunications has created a lot of indigenous billion dollar companies and made its owners billionaires and millionaires.

The infrastructure the telecommunications companies put in place have laid foundation for wide adoption of internet.  The low cost of mobile phones have allowed a lot of people to access the internet and also made it viable for the companies to offer it at affordable prices. Many people have gone on to discover internet without even having owned a computer. This has lead many to say Africa has leap-frogged the desktop era.

The wide adoption of internet has led to the growth of a startup ecosystem. A number of successes having been registered that include South African company MXit which has gone to become a multi-million business. With hundreds of millions of potential users; the market is obviously lucrative. Web startups are less capital intensive and as such are very important in the growth of African economies; capital is really scarce in Africa.

This realization has resulted in a number of efforts by governments and private institutions in trying to kickstart an ecosystem like Silicon Valley. Startup challenges are now common phenomena. Legislations that support startups have been put in place. Technology cities have been built and funds have been availed to assist those who want to create technology companies. To sum it up a lot has been done to make it conducive for people to successful start technology companies.

While a lot has been done to create a successful startup ecosystem there have been very few successes that have been made towards realizing this objective. Besides the growing mainstream international media interest and the realization among many that probably that the next big thing might come from Africa, there are very few people on the ground willing to take the risk.

In my opinion no matter how conducive the environment is made conducive; a lot of people are still going to stick with finding jobs in traditionally lucrative sectors like mining, banking and tourism. Without skilled people willing to take the risk, chances of creating a startups ecosystem are next to none. Another problem is that most of these sectors don’t require programming skills; they just shop the software they need. Most IT personnel working in those sectors end up doing maintenance work.

Even if one decides that they would like to start a web company, there is high probability they lack the skills. One solution that I think would solve most of these problems would be to aggressively market the success stories to technology students while they are still in college. These would incentives students to learn the skills needed and also take the risks when they graduate. Everyone wants to be rich and if you can point out and show how others have done it through technology; you would have a lot people trying to do the same.

This might require a lot of lobbying with the African media which has not been playing an active role but I think it’s the only way Africa is going to create a vibrant startup scene that can grow to become one the important drivers of its economy.

 
 

Monday, 15 October 2012

What’s wrong with wanting to make money?



The main purpose of a business is making profit, online tech startups included, unless you are starting a non-profit organization. Going through startup advice available online, most of the advice borders on the line-forget about making money and instead concentrate on gathering yourself an army of users. How you can do that without the money to build a solid product, advertise, legal services, office space, internet and employee salaries; is still a puzzle to me.

While many argue that initial you may need to just concentrate on improve your product and gain some traction and try to raise some investment. To me it’s a valid point, but one that fails to put into perspective the business model. Unless you can get more funding your company faces a risk of suffering still-birth. Having a solid business plan from the beginning sounds logical to me, even if you get more funding, making your own money makes it easy to project when you can stand own and how much you need from the investors and more still whether it’s a sustainable business model or not , early on.

Unless you are rich already, you live in Silicon Valley and have raised a boatload of cash; I don’t how one is supposed to earn a living doing what you love. Without money to pay the bills, I don’t see how one can even concentrate on the idea; getting a job might be a good idea. Entrepreneurship is supposed to be a liberating, but how can you do that without the ability to make your own money?

Also ordinary users do not seem to mind at all, your monetization efforts. Almost the question that always comes up with most people, how do websites like Facebook make money? In Africa some people have never seen ads on Facebook and it puzzles them when they read about how it’s making its owners billionaires and millionaires. I overheard someone suggesting that every time you get on Facebook, the money you get charged by the internet provider, they also get a share. Obviously this sounds ridiculous but the fact of the matter even the users expect you have some form of a monetization plan. If the users do not mind, why not try it?

I maybe totally wrong to think that the main purpose of starting a business should be making profit, and before you can start thinking about anything else you should have a business model on how you are going to make money.  I would like to hear what you think and hopeful understand what I do not seem to be getting through.

I learnt the importance of experience the hard way


No wonder why most job openings requires some form of experience, at least 2 years for most of them. Before I couldn’t quite understand why experience was that important, I though all you required was amazing talent and you can just good as anyone experienced. That was until I learned my lesson the hard way.

While in college I had quite a reputation as one of the few who really loved programming. I played with a number of languages and read a lot of books. I aced most of the programming exercises that I came across while studying these books. I had no trouble understanding programming concepts like object oriented programming, functional programming e.t.c.  I was quite confident of my programming abilities; a bit arrogant.

While during my intern programme, I met a business man who offered me an opportunity to freelance for his small business. He ran a business consultancy firm. Back then, 2007, only a few businesses in Zimbabwe had gone online. There were a few web development agencies in the country and none in Gweru, where I was located. Business that wanted any programming related work done for them had to rely on freelancers who were also mostly non-existent. Employing students like me was probably the only option at their disposal.

His main object was to create a website that would allow him to bring in new clients and also communicate effectively with his existing customers. Also he wanted to bolster his brand image. The website was obviously going to be a database driven website. He wanted each customer to have its own account. Customers would be able to send him messages and he would be able to do the same. He wanted also to be able to have a feature that would allow him to sent one message to lot customers at one time. He would also require a form of content management system to allow updating the content of the website.

I agreed to his project proposal without giving it much thought. He wanted me to complete the project in a month. I didn’t see any problem with this; I had started to learn PHP and it was really easy.  Every exercise I did was just ridiculously easy. Then there was HTML, JAVASCRIPT and CSS   which just even more easy. With this background, I thought it was just a walk in a park. I charged a couple of million dollars (Zim Dollars), 3 million dollars, a paltry figure.  He paid a down figure, 2 million dollars, and I began on my project. 

I started with design which I thought was going to be very easy. I had no experience other than books that I have read. I did not know I required some image manipulation techniques which I didn’t have. Also even though HTML seemed easy, I was quickly forgetting some of the tags required and my depth was just narrow. I ended spending more than a week, 8 days, just trying to get a decent interface. It was quite a nightmare.

I moved on to the core programming in PHP. The loosely natured of PHP had tricked into think it was going to be easy. I quickly found out that a lot of effort was required to tie the loose ends together; PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS and MySQL. To tie it all in one framework that can produce a working foundation to create a fully functional project took me another week. I was now left with only two weeks to complete the project and I hadn’t done anything of note.

I thought things were going to be little easier now but it wasn’t to be. He would call on me to explain progress and I would assure him that everything was going according to the plan. I worked very hard to allow for the creation of customer accounts and also the authentication of accounts. This took me about 8 days. I was now starting to feel the enormous weight of the pressure on my shoulders. I had less than a week to complete the project, yet I had not even gone halfway through the project. I had the messages feature and a content management system, something that would require its own project.

The deadline quickly arrived and I had managed to barely finish the messages feature; I couldn’t manage to finish the broadcasting part of it. There was still the content management system part of it. My client was understandably very disappointed and couldn’t give me the rest of money until I finish the project. On my part I was just exhausted and I couldn’t imagine myself going through this again with content management system. I wanted a break so I just told him I wasn’t going to be able to finish the project.

My confidence plummeted and I just felt like I had lied to myself about my capabilities. The truth of the matter is that I had grossly underestimated the importance of experience. Firstly I had grossly underestimated the time and complexity required to complete the project. I had also obviously over estimated my skills. The result was a disaster. I should instead have started with smaller and less complicated project and pick up larger ones with experience. However my technical skills improved much than before; I learnt more from this project than from all the books I had read. 

Work consistently hard



It’s just a fact of life; some are born with amazing natural talent. That pretty sums up why certain individuals achieve levels of success that’s difficulty to surpass for many years to come, the type for history books. Pele, Maradona, Zidane, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Tupac, Michael Jackson are just but few examples of people who have made history in their different career choices.

While talent is very important, it needs be developed to realize one’s full potential. This includes practicing and learning new things to enhance your talent. Take for example if you are an aspiring and talented software developer you would need to practice and make software if you are to realize your potential. The same goes for soccer players, they need to continue training and playing soccer. Entrepreneurs too, they also need to practice and learn new business practices.

One more thing, environment is important for nurturing talent. While environment might be something beyond the control of an individual, one needs to take full of advantage of the environment they are in. If you happen to be at Manchester United FC football academy, there is high chance that you are going to be great footballer and so is everyone there. The same is also true if you are a talented aspiring software developer in the Silicon Valley.

If you take full advantage of the environment that you are in and work very hard you would be achieve success that few can dream of.  Usually this level of success is only the beginning of what you can achieve if you are talented. Founding a web service that goes on to be used by hundreds of thousand of people is no small feat. But if you can manage to scale it hundreds of millions of users is incredible; it’s incredible very hard and those who can keep those users for long, seal their place in the history books. The same  applies to footballers, playing for the likes of Barcelona is incredible but  a top goal scorer in these top leagues is wonderful; if you can continue being a top goal scorer for a number of seasons , you just would sealed a place for yourself among the great.

 Achieving initial success can be tempting to a lot. The reality on the ground is that mostly you wouldn’t have realized your full potential. Instead of working very hard most would tend to slacken. The end result is that you end up being average, slightly above average or even dropping to below average. Another thing is that there are lots of people equally talented who are striving to be equally successful, so if you don’t raise your game by working very hard, you just end being overtaken in these competitive environments. From this it’s clear one needs to be on initial success and work even harder.

Also in order to be consistently successful one needs to stay humble. If you start regard yourself as a great you might end up losing your work ethic and focus; because in your mind you would have achieved everything whilst you have not. More over being humble make it easy for you to learn from others. No matter how talented and skilled you can become, you can become more successful if build on top of the foundation others have laid before. It’s quite clear if you can learn from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates you would have chance to become an equally great technologist or even more.

While talent is enough to bring you initial success, one needs to continuously work very hard and continuously try to improve yourself. Getting to the top-level of your career is an achievement, but staying there for a long is what makes legends great and that’s what realizing full potential mean. Michael Jackson was not one hit wonder  and so was Steve Jobs  and other great professionals.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Realistic Expectations



It is only normal and natural for us human beings to expect certain results, actions or events to happen. The conviction that your favorite team is going to win the match or tournament, a child that expects to be bestowed with presents or gifts, an entrepreneur expecting his /her business to be successful; are just but a few examples of expectations that we make in our lives . Expectations have got the ability to evoke powerful emotions whether they are met or not.

If we surpass or meet our expectations, there is high likelihood of being very happy, overjoyed or any other positive emotion. These positive emotions give us a huge boost of confidence in the undertaking of our endeavors; this increases the chances of success in whatever we are doing.

However if we do not meet our expectation, there is high likelihood of being disappointed, depressed or any other negative emotions. Being unable to meet our expectations is more likely going to be demoralizing and in turn have detrimental effect on our self confidence and ability to be successful in our endeavors

Being able to form realistic expectations is of paramount importance, because failure to do so might have detrimental effects on your self confidence. When setting expectations one should have enough information and experience in order determine a much more realistic expectation. I am of the opinion that when you are starting a business or doing something new that you have no or limited experience, it would be wise to set your expectations low and just give it your best shot and see what happens next.

Also even though you might be experienced being conservative with your expectations might be something helpful in preparing for an unpleasant outcome. The fact of life is things do no always go as planned or the usual way; taking that into account will make our expectations much more realistic. While many maybe against setting your expectations low because of the argument that it tends to make you less ambitious, I still think if one develop a habit of giving their best effort and acknowledging that possibilities are endless; they will still be able to ambitious and increase their chances of success.

One more thing that I have since realized is that as much as the chances of success maybe sometimes very high, you might end failing in an unexpected and spectacular fashion that will leave you baffled. Preparing yourself for that remote chance of failure might be a good idea and realistic way of forming expectations.

Setting yourself  very high expectations is one thing that I feel strongly against because sometimes it tends to cloud or blur your achievements; you might feel you have not done well but whilst you might have done incredibly very good. When I received my Advanced Level results back then in 2004 I was disappointed and depressed for a very long time. I had gotten a B in Mathematic, B in Economics and another B in Management of Business. The truth of the matter was these results were very good by any standard to get myself into any university anywhere in the world. I was so disappointed because I want ed 3 straight As which I still have no doubt that I was capable of doing and of which I got so close. I had failed to take into account that things might not go my way probably maybe because of things like my very bad writing which I had been warned of, errors or just bad luck.

Instead of taking  advantage of the good result that I had got, I spend a lot of  time feeling depressed and disappointed  whilst others who had similar results than me were busy applying for scholarships to study abroad of which some were successful in doing so. Even when I started my degree I was less pessimistic of high level of success so I ended putting less effort in my studies.

 

The emotions that expectations evoke are very powerful and may have insidious effects on our confidence and emotional health which are one of the important things in the startup journey or any endeavor. Forming realistic expectations is something we should learn to do to avoid falling into a trap we would have created. All the suggestions that I have made is what I have come up to conclusion through experience and careful consideration of my life and those around me but I would be willing to hear your thoughts and learn more about how to deal with expectations.

What’s your excuse?



Sometimes in life, certain hindrances are thrown your way. These hindrances or setbacks might tempt one to just give up on their dreams. After all if the environment in which you are trying to achieve your dreams is not conducive, isn’t it enough reason to fail and quit?

To put things in to perspective, I grew up in a rural setting; one of the most underdeveloped and remote areas in the country. Everyone around me was just poor. Most of my schoolmates didn’t have shoes, yet alone proper school uniforms. It would suffice to say that 98% of the pupils at my school didn’t have the basics in life; things like food, clothes etc.

Because most of the families relied on subsistence farming, some students had to work up very early and work in the fields before they go school. With this background I don’t think anyone in their right minds would blame students from this background if they fail to get decent results.

Fortunately for me, I wouldn’t say that life was tough for me. My father a teacher at our community school, made sure that I had the basics in life. Despite attending a resource challenged school, I had access to quality books. I even had educational toys and games. Also my father would conduct extra lessons at home. Not to mention access to solar energy; which would ensure ability to listen to radio and watch television.

With this huge difference over other fellow pupils one would expect that my results were far much better than the rest of the students. But the truth of the matter is that I always had to play second fiddle, to the stop student. Occasional I would be the top student but even though, the difference in our results would be close.
My performance in school was really good by any standard. I was scoring on average 90% in all subjects. Which begs the question, how could anyone get better than me despite my background and results? The answer is simple; they worked much harder and efficient than me. 

They would take notes while the teacher was teaching; this was at a primary level. They also had study groups where they would go over past exam questions and help each other. They were not shy to borrow me books. Also they were very active in class, making sure they ask the teacher questions if they didn’t ask. These guys were just effective and hard work at a very tender age. I couldn’t just match their work ethic even though I had better resources and access to information.

For secondary education, I was at a boarding school. But still my former school mates, who were at a local secondary school, were still producing incredible results. There was not much difference with the results the top students at my esteemed school were getting.

Even up to this day, there is not much difference. Most of them had graduated and gone on to work for top companies around the region and the world. There are doctors, managers, accountants etc., among them.
I have to admit that every time I failed to achieve something, I was quick to blame lack of adequate resources and the environment. For example, I would think if I had gone to world class university like Harvard I would be more successful. The same goes with building startups. The truth of the matter is that it’s easy to say “if it was like that”. But the reality on the ground is that someone with far worse conditions has achieved your dreams. So really, what’s the excuse?

Power of dreams


NB: The story is based on a true story but have been altered to protect the identity of the person who this story is about.


“Shut up,” our teacher shouted. A deafening silence followed. “Anything is possible, if you believe you can achieve it. There is no need for you to laugh at Mike. He can be a doctor if he believe and work hard to achieve it,” he continued. The teacher had asked a routine question, “When you grow up, what do you want be?” Mike (not real name), my close friend, had said he wanted to become a doctor. It was particularly fun considering that Mike was just an average student and even though at primary level everyone knew or thought average students don’t become doctors. Most of the people we knew who had become doctors were very intelligent and it made sense to think Mike was just fantasizing.
Although I did not laugh because Mike was my friend, I did not believe he would be eventually become a doctor. Firstly Mike’s parents were poor and did not afford to send him to a good school with a strong science background. Also Mike’s grades were just not good enough to earn him a place at such a school. Given all this, it was a good bet he was not going to become a doctor considering the type of secondary school that he will eventually go, without even mentioning his unimpressive performance in school.
“Munyuki, what is so funny about me wanting to become a doctor,” Mike quizzed me at break-time.”Don’t mind them, losers,” I offered him words of encouragement; even though deep down I didn’t think he would. “I will show them one day,” he finally said after a moment of silence. We just left it there and continued to enjoy our break-time, which was soon interrupted by the bell signaling the beginning of classes.
Time passed on and Mike would occasional fantasize about being a doctor; telling me how he would perform complex operations and how he would help save lives. I would listen attentively to him while he spoke his dreams and hearsay stories about medicine. I started to buy into his dreams even though I didn’t know how it would be possible.
We eventually wrote our grade seven exams. I passed with exceptional results, one of the best results around. Mike passed too, but his results were just average. He was a bit disappointed but still optimistic of his dreams. He enrolled at a local community secondary school. I went to a catholic mission school, St Anthony’s Musiso High School. Even if I hadn’t passed exceptionally well, I would still have gone to a better school than Mike. My father was and still a teacher; he afforded to send me to a good school. Mike’s parents didn’t work and the little they could get from subsistence farming was hardly enough to pay the fees at a local secondary, heavily subsidized by the government, he was attending.  Time came for us to attend our new schools and it was very hard as we had to separate for the first time since childhood.
Mike’s school didn’t have science laboratories and even a library. In addition to that their pupil per- book ratio was very high, sometimes 1 book per class on important ones. At my school all these things were no problem; it was just there. First term holidays soon arrived and we finally could exchange stories and play together. I had passed well but it was just average compared to other top students at my school; I really wanted to use the holiday to improve my grades. Mike had worked very hard and came out surprisingly the top student at his school. He still wanted to be a doctor and he told me that’s what drove him to work extra hard. We had a good time and the holiday wounded up with Mike being the one assisting me with the studies.
Years passed by and Mike consistently improved to a level where everyone was now regarding him as a genius. I also improved greatly but not like him. We soon approached ordinary level and Mike wasn’t slowing down. He took physics and chemistry on his own; his school did not offer those subjects. I would offer him my notes and help him understand these subjects, but most of the time he would be on his own. We eventually set for our o-level exams and the results would come after a couple of months. Mike had passed beyond anyone’s wildest expectations; he even set a record for the school. He had straight As including physics and chemistry save for English which he had a B. Myself, I did good, had a couple of As and Bs.
News traveled fast and he soon became everyone’s hero. Everywhere you go you would hear people, the young and old, talking of his achievements. Those who didn’t believe he would become a doctor were the one now wishing him to become one. He still wanted to become a doctor and unfortunately he couldn’t continue at his school, they did not afford science subjects at A-level, necessary for one to enroll into a medical school.
All hope seemed lost and Mike was very troubled and sad. For the first time, he felt like giving up and pursue something within his reach. He couldn’t ask his parents to send him to a boarding school; he knew they did not afford to do so. He had given up hope on his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. Just a few weeks before Form Five opening, his mother unexpectedly told him to go look for a place at a boarding school. He told me he even protested on how they were going to afford the feed but his mother just told him to worry about getting a place.
Together we embarked on a search for a school; I no longer wanted to go back to my previous school. I wanted a change of environment. We both got accepted at the same school. His mother had to brew and sell traditional beer in order to afford the fees. It was hard times for her but she couldn’t watch her son’s dream go up in a smoke.
He worked very very hard to excel in his studies; he didn’t want to disappoint his mother. He chose Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry; I chose Mathematics, Economics and Management of Business. We both did well in our studies and I must admit he was a driving force in my need to do well. We would compete for the top spot in Mathematics, which I must admit ended being an even battle with both of us taking turns to be the best Math student.
Our A-level continued smoothly, save for few struggles Mike faced in paying fees. Time for our final exams and soon the results would come out after a few months. I disappointed a bit, had 3 Bs. Mike was at it again, this time 2As and B. He was on the verge of realizing his dreams; these results were good enough for the University of Zimbabwe Medical School. He was very happy and again news of academic conquests traveled fast.
Personally I was not enthused by my own results but I was happy with Mike’s achievements. With both applied for university places and got accepted at different universities  Mike got accepted at the University of Zimbabwe to study medicine. I went Midlands State University of Zimbabwe to study Information Systems. Mike’s dream was just now half-way and almost certain to be fulfilled. We would see little of each other after that except for the occasional moments were we would happen to be both on holiday.
Our respective degree programmes progressed well and from what I heard he was doing fine.  He no longer had problem with fees, government paid them at university level. I finished my degree in 2010 with flying colors. A year later, Mike fulfilled his dream of being a medical doctor. He had overcome all the odds, he had dared dream and he had set an example for all to see. As I looked at his photos, in a white coat at work, I couldn’t help but smile at him and I just thought about that moment when everyone had laughed at his dreams. Indeed Mike had aimed and hit the moon , not the stars.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The importance of social skills in your career and business


 

We were seated at the bar. My uncle had insisted I accompany him to the bar. As matter of fact it was an exclusive club; the ones you get an invite. The club was full of distinguished members of society. After introductions I came to know who these people were. Among the people that I was introduced was a town clerk and even a government minister. Not to talk about business executives and rock stars doctors.

“Just look around and see the type of people in here,” my uncle instructed. I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. “Why do you think I come here,” he continued. “To drink and hang out,” I replied. He laughed for a couple of seconds. “Business is why I come here.”

My uncle is veterinary doctor. He freelances sometimes to farmers and people in general. I had never thought about how he got clients but I could clearly see why. Most of the members were rich and did some form of farming. Besides that, these were the kind of people who owned pets. My uncle was socializing with his potential customers!

“How do you think I got invited?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I replied. “Well, a friend invited me,” he continued. He went on to compliment me on my work ethic and ambition. “You really work hard young man.” This time his friends had also joined the discussion. “Unfortunately it’s not enough .To be successful in the real world; you need connections,” he continued.  Others who were close-by echoed those same sentiments.

The reason why my uncle had brought  me to the club on this particular occasion, was to try to show me the importance of socialization. During that time I was staying with him while doing my internship. I had grown into the habit of working very hard and sometimes late in the night. Even on weekends I would still go to the computer laboratory to work on something.

So to be honest, I had little or no social life. I just didn’t think it was important. Besides that my social skills were terrible. I found it difficult to start or engage in conversations. I just couldn’t do it. My uncle coming from a science background had quickly identified the problem. The problem was even if I was introduced to someone who might be able to help I still couldn’t take advantage of it. He told me initial at the beginning of his career he had mad the same mistake.

“Look how got your internship position”, he pointed out. I had gone the internships mainly because well his friend was the IT Director of the institution at the time. It was really difficult to get a good internship based on your results due to the economic meltdown. But I got a lot of offers from different top companies because of his connections.

“It’s pretty simple. Working hard will get somewhere but your social skills will get you very far,” he paused.”You need to pay attention to your social skills. Learn to talk to people,  even strangers,” he finished. Even up to this day he continue to remind me and I have also found the most effective way of looking for a job is through people; that’s what’s gotten me the interviews that I was invited to. Besides that, my observations of very successful business people confirm that.

 

The African Dream

My parents’ homestead, our homestead, lies beneath a small mountain. This small mountain is called Chemazizi, which loosely translates to, “filled with owls”. At night you can hear them howling without shame. A meandering river lies to its left, a few meters away, roughly 30 meters. This river has got its origins in the mountain and ends into a nearby dam, a few kilometers away. Throughout the year its usual dry and experience flowing water during the rain season, actually if it’s a really good season because our village, Rutanhira, is part of Zaka district which is in Masvingo province, an area which falls in Region 5, a very dry and hot region.

Our homestead, has a big modern 6 bed roomed house, a thatched round house which served as a kitchen, a well,  a henhouse; on the outer edge there is a shelter for goats and a cattle pen. It covers about 100 acres of land, mostly rock. It is also fenced using barbed wire. South of our homestead lies a huge tract of land, which basically is a bunch of farming fields for the village and it includes ours. North, lies much of the village, with the closest homestead about 50 meters away. These homesteads are sparsely separated and most of them are thatched with a few resembling the modern houses you will find in towns.

Our village is some 30 kilometers from Jerera growth point- which basically is a smaller version of a town. In between lay a countless number of villages. Connecting us with Jerera is what is left of the dust road after erosion; I can’t call it a road because of its miserable state. Jerera is where modern civilization ends, tarred roads, electricity, running water, health care and supermarkets; save for education and cell phone network access which is the same across the board. Jerera thus serve as our connecting point with rest of country and also as our “capital city”. To sum it up all, our village is remote.

I was home after a long period of time. After completing my primary education, I had been shipped to a catholic mission school, St Anthony’s Musiso High School, which is near Jerera and also happens to be one of the best high schools in Zimbabwe. I would come back during the holidays, usually a month.

After completing my ordinary levels, I changed schools and went to Pamushana High Schools which is much close to Masvingo, the city. It was also about the same time my parents bought a house in Masvingo, to make it easy for me and my siblings to access extra classes during our holidays and also prepare for exams. It became my sanctuary and I would rarely go anywhere else for the holidays. Having spent most of my childhood in a rural setting, I was enthused by the glamour of the city and the idea of spending more time at our rural home began to sound remote.

Soon, I finished my A-levels and enrolled with the Midlands State University of Zimbabwe, located in Gweru. While in university, my visits became sporadic and I remember spending more than two years without setting foot back home.

On this occasion I had spent more than a year and half; I had completed my degree and it was almost a year after finishing my degree.  I woke up early in the morning; I had arrived in the evening, washed my face and greeted my father who was on his way out to a nearby school where he is a teacher.

At home it was just my father and I, with the rest having gone to boarding schools and my mother having gone to our city house. As my father left, my eyes followed him until I could not see him and in the path which he was using I could see school children in nice uniforms making their way also, to the school. I couldn’t help but remember the feeling, the feeling of hope and a better future. Education in this part of the world is highly regarded, and as such part of the stories you would hear everyday, are success stories about so and so who have become a doctor, an accountant with a big firm or someone who have gone overseas on scholarship. Almost everyone would give their all in their studies because they understand its importance. The success stories are everywhere and you can’t just ignore them.

As time passes there are no more students to be seen. It’s a sunny morning promising to be very hot in the afternoon. Being summer, no one would be working in the fields and there would be very few people walking around, it’s rather quite. In no time I start seeing people most of them going to fetch water at the borehole. Some of them notice me and are very happy to see me after a long time. A lot ask about whether I have gotten a job and the elders express displeasure at my long absence. One must not forget where you come from, is the advice that each and everyone keep telling me. Besides that the warmth of the people is refreshing and humbling, quite a contrast to the hustling and buzzing of the city.

I decide to stretch my legs and while also at it pay a visit to my grandparents, about 200 meters away. Within a couple of minutes I arrive. My grandfather, now late, is visibly excited and very happy. After exchanging greetings, I narrate the progress or the lack of, happening in my life. My grandfather explains to me that I should be patient because things will work out fine in life if you keep faith. We talk about a lot issues and eventually going back into history where my grandfather who himself had never gone to school, had taught himself to read and write and also how he had worked hard to make sure his children get the proper education in life- something he had done incredibly well.

 My father being one the first teachers around, probably because it was the best career path available for black people during colonial time, my grandfather had not done a bad job. Also considering that almost all my uncles have gone to have their degrees and professional courses with one of them becoming a doctor, it was such an outstanding achievement considering their background. I just feel so privileged to have grown under better conditions with more opportunities.

The conversation became less serious. My grandfather was 88 and I, 24 years old. Despite him being old, he was sharp. I enjoyed a very good relationship with him and most would complain of his favoritism towards me, most probably because I was named after him. Time passed on and I had to go back home.

I went back home and spend the rest of the day listening to music on the radio. My father soon came back in the evening and we had supper. We discussed a lot issues that included economy, soccer and history. Eventual we went to sleep and as I lay in my bed, in my bedroom, I couldn’t help but reflect on the first day of my two week stay. While reflecting I realized a principle that I had forgotten for a long time, working very hard to achieve your goals despite difficult circumstances and never stop believing in a desired result. Looking at my own family, the people around who have made it despite extreme poverty, I thought this defines the African Dream-making it to the better life despite the odds.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Persistence is the key to learning


 

In our professional careers and lives we have to continuously learn new things. Whether it’s learning a new programming language or playing a guitar for fun. This process can be daunting and uninspiring in some circumstances. It can also be easy and fun; that it is if it all comes natural to you.

However it is when you can’t seem to understand whatever it is that you are learning that’s very important for today’s discussion.

It’s really frustrating to be unable to learn and understand something  you really like and need. This disappointments can tempt you to think that,  maybe you are just not intelligent or talented enough to learn and understand whatever you want or need to learn. This might lead you into giving up.

I remember quite well the shock I felt when the school authorities told me I had to do Mathematics at A-Level. A lot of students where shunning the subject; the school needed to meet a certain number of students. They ended forcing students who had good mathematics results at o-level to study it. The truth of the matter is that I had struggled with mathematics at ordinary level, but in the end I had pulled myself together and ended getting on the best results.

The problem was advanced level mathematics was a different ball game. I had seen a lot of bright students fail. I begrudgingly took the subject. Unfortunately advanced level mathematics did not disappoint; it was just difficult as I thought before. I worked very hard to improve myself in mathematics but unfortunately I couldn’t quite do it. I failed most of the tests that we were given.

I began to think that maybe I wasn’t just cut off for this. I couldn’t  get what  other bright student easily picking up what I couldn’t just understand. If I had been given an opportunity, I would have given up. Fortunately there was no way out; I wouldn’t have discovered an important lesson. It was barely two months and I was already feeling like giving up; very weak.

The other subjects that I was studying, economics and management, were going incredible well for me. Actual I was the top student in both of them, constantly scoring the highest marks in the tests. Only mathematics was threatening to spoil the party. I wanted excellent results at the end of the course and it wasn’t going to happen if I  continued to fail mathematics.

After a lot of soul searching, I decided that I wasn’t going to fail no matter what. I was going to work very hard to turn this around. I just told myself I wasn’t going to give up if I fail to understand something. So if I fail to solve a certain mathematics problem, I would do it again until I got it right. It was really matter of firing lot of bullets until you hit the target. Whatever natural ability I lacked, I compensated with sheer determination and persistence.

Time passed and I was improving slowly but not enough to say I was now really good. By the second term I had improved greatly but I still thought I wasn’t good enough. I would even surprise myself when we finally sat for the end of term exams. Everyone was complaining how difficult the exam but I hadn’t felt it. I just thought maybe I had gotten comfortable writing the wrong answers to the extent that I hadn’t felt the difficultiness  of the paper.

When the results finally came, I got the biggest shock of my life then. I had scored a cool 80% and the next best student had 65%. I was the highest and the best mathematics student in the class by a wide margin. The paper we had wrote was by admission of the teachers, one of the most difficult papers they had seen. The paper did not follow the standards which were supposed to be used. This was mostly because our teacher was just starting out having recently graduated a year before.  Nevertheless I had scored a mouth-watering mark in a paper three quarters had failed. It felt really good; I would never forget the feeling.

I became quite confident and mathematics just felt natural to me. I never had problems again with it again; instead I was constantly pushing its boundaries. I would later use this technique when I was learning C++ and any other thing that I found difficulty, and worked with much the results. It’s now quite clear to me that persistence is what is required to learn anything that’s difficult.

Nobody wants to hurt you



Sometimes when you are starting something that you truly believe like a business, most of the time you are not in a position to listen to advice that may seem negative or not inline with what you expect to hear. Besides that, most of startup advice you will find online about startups will be, just stick with what you believe and ignore anything that does not seem to share your vision.

What you may fail to consider is that sometimes you maybe treading on the wrong path. Just believing something is right, unfortunately does not make it right. While it is a good habit to stick to what you believe is the right thing do, but sometimes you maybe clouded by the excitement of your ideas that you may fail to careful consider the situation and then make the right decision.

People who are more likely going to give you advice are your friends and family. These people care about you and would want you to succeed just as much you want to succeed yourself. Whatever they are going to advice will be after careful consideration from their own observations which maybe wrong or right. Many people make the mistake of thinking anyone who criticize or give what may seem like negative advice wants to pull you down. This is not always the case and understanding that people who give you advice, care enough to try to help you make more informed decisions.

Even though you might eventually do whatever you believe is right, it is a good idea to careful to consider the merits of each and every advice. This helps to make you informed and balanced decisions because sometime you may have missed what others can easily see.

While some advice is going to be wrong, you may find some quite useful and helpful; I believe it’s important to listen to it and allow others to help you.