In winter the early morning sun on my veranda makes it impossible to stay in my freezing cold office on the opposite side of the house. So I bring my tools out here and remember to be thankful for the freedom to work from home, to choose my hours and to pick the exact spot in my home from which I want to work.
But here’s what they don’t tell you about freedom:
Freedom doesn’t always feel free. And it always comes at a price.
It’s a bit like Moses taking the Israelites out of captivity, where they had been enslaved by the Egyptians and subjected to the worst types of unfair labour practices. It took a lot of doing for him to get them out of there. And yet, half way through the journey to a promised land they started to feel the effects of freedom. They started to realise that freedom didn’t really feel free.
“Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What is this that you have done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11)
This is the kind of BS that every leader who has sacrificed for his people dreads. Leading people who can’t seem to catch your vision is as painful as it is irritating.
Yesterday we celebrated Africa day, which was originally called African Freedom day, a day on which liberation movements across the continent celebrated their progress and their commitment to be free from colonial domination. Yet, in our freedom we don’t always feel free. And our freedom comes at a price.
Being independent means you have to take care of your own house, set your own rules and figure out your own measures for success and happiness. Just as in entrepreneurship you have to decide your own priorities, organise your own work, develop systems and discipline yourself to stick to them. . No one else can do that for you. You also have to figure out what really makes money in your business and how to ensure there is a continuous stream of income to meet your needs. This is the price you pay for the so-called freedom of being your own boss. And let me assure you, it’s not as easy as it looks. And all that enormous responsibility certainly doesn’t always feel free.
So if you are sometimes tempted to look with envy at your friends who are “doing their own thing”, working from their verandahs and making "work from home" look like a piece of cake, remember Moses, and the craziness of of former slaves saying “It was better when we were in Egypt.” This applies to entrepreneurship, divorce, and may other types of “riding solo".
Freedom comes at a price, and very seldom feels free.
Last week was ball dropping season in our ops team. For the first time in months I failed to record and publish a podcast episode. We didn’t send out our weekly newsletter like we do every week (even though these are written and batched well in advance) and for the first time this year we didn’t host a Live on Africa business Lounge. For a team that preaches consistency as the bedrock of branding, this was pretty jolly bad.
I could tell you about a few other balls that went unattended in my personal life, but these ones are the ones that face the public and are most visible to our audiences.
It’s a horrible feeling when you don’t meet your own expectations (let alone those of others) but that is the exact point at which you have to remember who you are. Your actions or omissions don’t make you a different person.
You are not less worthy of respect and kindness in the wake of dropping a ball than you were before we knew you were capable of dropping it. Sometimes we forget this, and we allow that sense of shame or embarrassment to define how we think about ourselves. We start speaking to ourselves in tones that should be reserved for hardened criminals and we replay only the worst performing clips from our life story. This isn’t just counter productive - because it doesn’t give you the energy or impetus to do better, but it’s also dangerous because when you repeat it often enough it forms patterns that will eventually change your identity.
It is the same with performance as it is with prosperity. If you were ever able to make a decent amount of money, then you are a person who can make money. The fact that you may be having a hard time financially right now doesn’t change who you are - it doesn’t make you a person who isn’t capable of making money.
I learnt this lesson after I sustained a knee injury running in Kigali. I was off the road for more than a year, and given that I relied on running to manage not just my physical health but also my emotional and mental health, this was a major blow. I was tempted to remove the “long distance runner” piece from my bio, but I remembered that as long as I identified myself as a a runner in my head, I would always have the motivation to resume running. I didn’t want to allow that injury to change who I am and how I see myself. Thankfully after months of rest, a frustrating season at the gym, and having to restart slowly and gently, I am back on the road again - still in recovery mode, but running regularly enough to feel at peace with the idea that I am in fact a “long distance runner”.
Maybe you’ve also dropped balls, failed at something, or found yourself frustratingly unable to do things you once excelled at. My advice is to keep calling yourself by that same name - the name that speaks of your achievement or even your aspiration, because in your heart of hearts, that who you really are.
Remember who you are.
words for work
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