Man from Zambia: A tale of anxiety

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I am not a big fan of the copious amounts of marriage related photographs that inundate my timeline. Captions such as; ‘She said yes’, ‘I finally did it’, ‘ala we danced‘- are not my cup of tea. In addition, I don’t have a problem with the ‘hustlers’ who craft elaborate Facebook posts thanking God for their new business deal. In fact, I will occasionally chime in with a ‘you winner!’, ‘good for you’, ‘it was well deserved’,’ woohoo!’

So, as you can see from my contagiously positive disposition, I really don’t mind when people reach milestones I have barely glanced at.

Nonetheless, in my heart of hearts, these disparities trouble me. And despite what seems to be a basic case of jealousy, I don’t know whether I am disturbed because I have been conditioned to feel this way, or because I have a legitimate problem that might need medical attention. However, with a high degree of confidence, I believe you will be hard-pressed to trace this neurotic condition on my person, or based on the way I carry myself in public. Yes, with the social dexterity of a Kardashian, I try my level best to make it as difficult as possible to be perceived as a loser with a PHD complex. To add some imagery; I am as bothered as a make-up artist shedding tears in the rain.

Nevertheless, the great forces holding our world together have seen to it that my never ending supply of insecurities flows bountifully at all times. And, I have numerous sources; whether it is friends making more money than I am, former high school juniors getting married and having kids before me, or how David Chitundu can bench my whole body weight- I am never running out of worries to be preoccupied with.

Conversely, before the thought of me possibly being a psychotic misanthrope lodges itself firmly in your mind, I do have some ‘normal’ characteristics. Case in point; I love watching king of Hearts with my girlfriend, I really like Yoyo snacks, and I am extremely passionate about media and the power of storytelling. So, I am not completely mad.

Yet, the fact that I am capable of harboring such unhelpful thoughts is unnerving. It feels like I am sharing a 4 by 6 cell with a weekends worth of garbage from Club Vegas, every day. As you can imagine, such a life is a bastion of suffocation. I desperately need to breathe.

Therefore, hell bent on finding answers, I recently embarked on a fact finding mission designed to help me get a better grip of my situation. Naturally, I began with an investigation of my current circumstances. You see, this April (2017), I turn 29, and that is a ‘big deal’. When I was younger, I imagined that by this age; I would be married, with kids, and living in New Kasama, where Enock Kavindele Senior and I would enjoy a weekly spot of fishing, on my private man-made lake.

Splash! Splash!

As you read this, I haven’t yet been graced with the privilege of even being in a ten step radius of that gallant man, neither have I orchestrated a romantic ambush suitable for a woman of my girlfriends’ caliber. And as the plot of what seems to be an Owas Ray Mwape picture thickens, my ambitions fade into the sunset. The same sunset I should have been enjoying as I caught Nile perch with EKS.

Frankly, I do not know how I developed most of these grandiose aspirations, and why. My closest guess would be that my upbringing caused me discomfort. I grew up feeling like I was surplus to requirements because of how my family struggled to sustain me. I remember often telling my grandparents, my mother and my aunts that I would one day buy them everything their hearts desired. I thought I would be the economic savior of my family, and this mission has preoccupied my mind for the bulk of my short life on earth.

However, life happens. We grow into beings too complex to be imagined by a naive 8 year old boy. Resultantly, being preoccupied with changing circumstances, the identity crisis that ensues from adolescence, mixed in with a huge dose of unpredictability proves to be terribly overwhelming for some of us.

Now, with social media playing a big role in our day to day lives, the concept of failure is amplified. Heckled by the mob, people who have not reached socially accepted standards of achievement are looked down upon. To be clear, I know that social stratification is not a new phenomenon, and to an extent I can see the value it has on society. Meritocracy appeals to the competitive part of human nature and this could be one of the reasons we even have civilization. That is not my focus. I am concerned with the quality of life many Zambian men are living. When you ask a man you know how life is; he will more often than not proceed to narrate this semi sob story about how it’s tough, and say something vague like ‘we are trying’.  We are trying? How does one try to live? Unless there is a set standard you are trying to reach, there is no try.  Even though the explanation is that you dream big, those moments between living in a one room flat in itezhi-Tezhi and elevating to a mansion in Bali are still meaningful, right?

The culture of suffering is so deeply ingrained in our society such that it has become an accepted way of life. And, we view people that choose not to indulge as either being hedonistic or mediocre. How can one justify some of the weird shit men do in response to this pressure?

For instance, my ‘jealousy’ as portrayed above is deemed as normal. Partly, I am sympathetic to that view as I think that discomfort helps us raise our standards. But, there needs to be a line, we cannot live in a state of perpetual anxiety- always looking for something to be worried about.

Perhaps this problem partly explains ‘injustices’ against our women folk, the boom in the fashion industry, the re-emergence of beards as a look of choice and the importance social media plays in our lives. Maybe, peace is to blame, and we must learn how to deal with the consequences at our own pace. Regardless, I think we must live a life of appreciation. We must value each and every fleeting moment as we are not guaranteed a second run. To do this, we must find ways of reconciling the good parts of anxiety with our true value as human beings. So that, when you finally schedule your proposal photo-shoot with Balistiq photography, it comes from a good place.

 

 

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A trail of distraction: The tools I use to avoid work.

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About two years ago, I took a week long entertainment Sabbath in order to loosen the evil grip of information overload. I made my declaration of war in this one paragraphed piece and after licking my wounds shared tales of the battle a week later here. Fast forward to the present day, you can tell that this audacious adventure has not successfully spilled over. My week in the mountains did not translate into an inspired overflow of creative output. I have not garnered world-wide acclaim, best seller status or wealth. To the contrary, I am now a prolific status updater  whom I would like to believe gives off the vibe of being on the verge of something great, at least.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have done some work I am really proud of especially in what I would like to call ‘moments of glory’. But sadly, these efforts are not enough. In this regard, most of us are aware that when detrimental exceptions become the norm, it is our way of life with the problem. A person with intent on telling stories and helping others share their own must do everything possible to make this happen right? Well, it seems my love for community and sharing is stifled by an even greater fear of actual implementation. ‘But Daniel, just the other month you were talking about not dying and what not’. That is true, I have the right religion (as Gary Vaynerchuck calls it) down packed but I am still battling a few demons here and there. Albeit very stubborn buggers.

 I often ask myself, ‘What’s on the other side of a complete book or project?’ Is it more books/projects? Or is it happiness?  I obviously wouldn’t know. This is so because I’ve never written one word of a book but I do know what not writing one looks and feels like. It sucks. And this applies to other projects like my podcast and the general usefulness of this blog as well. When I am not doing what I need to in order to fulfill my mission I am attacked by bouts of anxiety. However, instead of doing the thing that I feel must be done, I opt for the following crutches;

  • Being a bird on the wire

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This year, Prince and Muhammad Ali died. Beyoncé released a collection of songs about infidelity and Taylor Swift can still date who she wants. Apart from that, people are still outraged by Donald Trump. Advocates for an equal society that tolerates all sexual preferences, races and beliefs are even angrier seeing as they don’t tolerate intolerant people. Locally, there is a lot of activity in the political sphere; load shedding, water problems and traffic still retain a permanent fixture in our threads.

Thanks to the nifty gadget in my pocket, I have access to a lot of rarely urgent news. That is, things I can’t do anything about except form an opinion. I get worked up about the things my social media friends get worked up about. Unlike people with type-A personalities, I have a very limited amount of energy to be exerted and when I get sucked into the merits of Boity’s SAMAs outfit I am left drained. Although I justify my constant presence on these screen platforms as a form of research, my tunnel vision when I arrive is blinding.

Therefore, tired and cranky after a hard day of twork I find that I don’t have time for any making of things. The social media isn’t to blame though. The easiest option between creating and consuming is obvious. I recently learnt that the amygdala a prehistoric part of our brain responsible for helping us identify danger or conserve energy still operates like we are apes with bad periphery vision. What this means is that the prospect of sitting for hours with a creative problem is not biologically attractive. That is why the option of talking about how other people solve their creative problems is easier to handle. Further, we still associate failure in an everyday effort with immediate death. In the past, if you don’t identify the predator in your midst you’re dead. These days the predator is in the back of our heads.  Go figure.

With increased enhancements to the user experience on social media platforms, the attention engineers at Facebook and twitter find numerous ways to keep me on the loop because it’s their job. Deep work (as Carl Newport calls it) is replaced with the novelty of consuming constant new information. Before you know it, its 3 am and you can’t start work on your magnum opus before you rest. Next day, repeat. In the words of Seth Godin, twitter is not meant to make you a better person, it is meant to make twitter money.

It seems I have discovered ways to abuse social media to my detriment. Instead of using it as a tool for connecting with old friends and interesting people and ideas, it has become a crutch for my avoidance of doing the work I must. With the way human brains are set up and the big bad entrepreneurs MO it seems the world and my lesser self are conspiring to keep me sad ;( boohoo.

  • Honoring the nights watch

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I recently made a list of my favorite lead characters from some of the most popular television shows ever created. In compiling my list, I highlighted their main attributes and what I think makes them special. It turns out, as being human goes, these starring’s are very similar.  Characteristic of most of these protagonists is a dark past, a prominent vice such as alcoholism or infidelity and an inalienable focus on their work.

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I immediately understood why I identified with Don Draper from Mad Men. He is a dark, mysterious man with a fondness for solitude and he works in advertising where ideas on storytelling reign supreme.  With my friend Bornwell’s help I got access to over three seasons of the show which I promptly binge watched.

With every episode, I started feeling like Don, more so because that happens to be my dad’s name. Patriarchal fixations, anyone? But something was not right, I am not Don Draper and watching the show does not make me an ad man. However, the rush of living vicariously through the portrayal of a high achieving Renaissance man felt stronger than my drive to reach my own milestones.

I have also seen this happen with many other people I know. My friends love watching Suits and Luther because they see a part of themselves in these characters. They see an interesting, brave version of themselves whom instead of going out to emulate click forward to the next episode. This falls back to the idea of perfect preparers, a concept I learnt from Neil Strauss. Watching shows makes me feel like I’m getting an extra edge on everyone else which could probably help me in my future endeavors.

In essence, I am trying to mitigate the risk of living. By watching shows, reading more than I am doing etc. I am fundamentally hiding behind a cloak of preparation. It’s like I’m Preparing to consume more than I create with the hope of one day making something that matters.

  • Freezing to death, and more

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By now the drill is clear; my fear is masked by these activities in my life. Like how I readily find time to chill instead of write. Or how I conjure tension with people and get preoccupied with that instead of create more art.

This is not to say that I don’t understand the importance of decompressing. I think one cannot live a life of constant seriousness and be ultimately happy. There must be room for spontaneity and nothingness.

However, because I have mastered the art of relaxation without a doubt, I decided to also find ways to ensure I leave more than a trail of distraction by mastering the art of productivity as well.

These are some of the useful tools and hacks I have found and I am learning to utilize;

  • Work space

I was always under the illusion that productive people who can’t work anywhere they are placed are just lazy. But environment matters. Because our minds thrive best on routine, setting up a place specifically meant for work will prime you to experience the full extent of the task at hand. Therefore, writing from bed, the toilet or on the bus might work for some time but you might not experience deep work. Deep work is unlike live tweeting. This is the type of work that requires all your mental faculties and has the highest ability to make a difference in yours and other people’s lives.  If you are unable to find a space in your cramped up flat or noisy homestead, you can visit Bongohive, where they rent out spaces for a reasonable monthly fee.

After finding a good space to operate from the temptation is to binge work and make sure the whole day is utilized in productive stupor. This might be retrogressive. We all know that feeling of having new perspectives in the morning with a noticeable deterioration toward the evening right? In Zambia, especially after eating nshima, we kind of shut down and are not as productive as we think we possibly could be. This is very true for me and I was especially delighted to come across Paul Grahams essay on working routines. The founder of Y combinator states that it might be prudent to have your day divided into two parts; the maker and manager schedules. The morning is dedicated to creating new and meaningful work and after lunch the emphasis is admin stuff like meetings, emails and such. Of course, circumstances vary and people might not have the leisure of setting such a pace for their lives but I tried this ever since I quit my government job and it has been great so far.

  • Meditation

I personally don’t know anyone who meditates. In fact, I always ask any one I get a chance to, whether they practice mindfulness. I recently started with guided meditation sessions I downloaded off Tara Brachs site. I know this sounds woo woo but it has been considerably helpful. On days that I meditate I feel in control of the day and I am not as reactive as I am most times. There’s a certain level of gratitude I approach the day with which I find particularly useful.  I am still exploring this practice; however, I have come to identify prayer has similar benefits. Whatever it is; prayer or meditation, it is important to practice some form of mindfulness. It definitely helps me!

  • Screen time

To regulate my screen time I have abandoned attempts to use willpower and maturity. I use Screen time an app meant for children to make sure I stay on track. I allocate a certain amount of time to be online and I can’t go beyond an allotted period. Apps like stay focused help as well and it is also great if you have a third party enter a password that you won’t be able to crack. Mobile devices are the devil, don’t get behind them.

Conclusion

We all want to achieve and it’s important to be more deliberate about this. Life is fleeting we all know but it’s the moments we make count that matter. In the end we all die but for the sake of our culture as humanity, I think it is better to leave beautiful traces of generosity and not a trail of distraction.

How do you avoid distractions?

 

 

 

 

The Politics of awards

 

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A completely rational life is a mundane affair. Such an existence would entail reasonable thoughts and actions at every turn.  The questions that are birthed by culture would go unanswered and people would be left to the vice of common sense. In fact, it is difficult to fathom how far our species would go without our curious nature.  However, because things are not as Socrates envisioned in Plato’s republic we are left to deal with this beautiful chaos we call life. Notably, one of the most interesting constructs of our own doing is the establishment of awards.

Considering the monotonous nature of most human activity, one of our ancestors decided it was not enough to be the court jester; we would also have to evolve to gathering in large groups and honour the best one amongst them. At present, man honours the most beautiful woman, the best dressed man, the best cook and many other categories of human endeavour. Clearly, awards are now a complicated affair exacerbated by the current increase of human connectivity. Awards have made known the limits of human endeavour, but more often than not, we hear pleas by numerous players in society aimed at the facilitators of these recognition rituals. The people want award show organisers to further democratise the processes and in essence make the giving of awards less subjective.

With the populous leaning toward the belief that anything democratic is good, what’s happening instead is the allure and beauty of awards is being diluted by bickering. The ordinary human being is distracted by everything but the intrinsic benefits of recognising another person’s excellence. Awards are good because they help us raise our standards, ask more questions and respond in a way that further improves our culture and indeed our way of living.  So, why aren’t we focusing on re-igniting that old illusion? Maybe the challenge seems arduous. Macky 2 wants to be paid for his performances and in this plea puts the corporation in a bad light with his thousands of social media followers. The whole situation is messy.  Consumers of popular culture are being let in on too much information about how the sausage is being made that we can’t really relate to the achievement when it has been recognised. We are being drawn in to pick sides in a situation that is not necessary to our existence per se.

What we need, are people to recognise the essence of awards to human culture. Big organisations sponsoring awards and people being honoured are responsible for how we feel about the whole situation. They are creators of a narrative in collaboration and not against each other. It is the duty of both parties to make this a success and the moment either feels the need to sway from the idea of creating a show, everybody loses.

The 4 reasons I sub tweet and other stories of indirectness

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Have you ever lied about your real feelings toward a situation and lived to experience the consequences? If you fit this bill then welcome to the club, we have jackets. Going through such an ordeal automatically qualifies you for an understanding of what sub tweeting feels like. In essence, this is a form of expression most common on twitter that manifests itself through a vague and general message directed toward an unnamed target. This method of communication thrives on implication and attacks the conscious of your target (hopefully). I have admittedly used this gimmick unsparingly on more than one medium. It has been a worthy companion as I offer unsolicited advice, review music; complain about individuals and much more on this journey called life, that has become increasingly louder and more public. The beauty of this form is in its indirectness. I get to tell my truth without the inconvenience of discourse that might (god forbid) sway my position on an issue. However, sub tweeting and general indirectness has created a malaise in me. There is something flawed in this way of communicating that has left me saying more and connecting less. Therefore, with the hope of redemption, I decided to search for the reasons I endure such a disposition. Below are four of the reasons I seem so comfortable being indirect, in no particular order: –

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1. I secretly want to be your friend

It has become increasingly apparent that snide remarks and passive aggressive commentary is not an end in itself, at least not in my life.  If I did not care about an individual’s opinion I would not acknowledge them. Instead, what I am really saying when I express myself indirectly is; your point of view does not match mine right now and on most cases it does, why are you doing this to me? Further, I will not mention your name because I am keeping the possibility of an unending friendship open but letting your conscious know that I am displeased with you (I hope). Additionally, there is a value in seeming contrarian that resembles peacocking in the world of seduction. The deal is as follows: I express my divergent views so that I can stand out from the crowd of ass kissers and then your conscious will signal my worth as a friend. At an existential level; we are all trying to be part of a group, displeasure in status quo cannot exist in a vacuum. With that said, I see the purpose of all forms of communication being connection, even when I do it indirectly. So, whenever you witness a self-righteous expression, by me or people in your circles, understand what’s really going on, all we want is your friendship baby.

2. Everyone wants me to be so proper.

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These days life seems to be characterised by more ‘esms’ and ‘itys’ than we can bear to handle. We are all in one big melting pot and the gatekeepers are trying to regulate the thoughts of individuals who have a diverse array of influences. Tolerance is the world’s new buzzword even if it doesn’t accommodate the so called conservatives who also happen to be citizens of the world. Notably, the benefits of a tolerant society are significant. We can all see the positive implications of the provision of equal opportunities for different races, sexual orientations and other groups to mention a few. However, the very attempt at curtailing some people’s voices leads to them seeking more indirect means of expression. Man always finds a way after all. For me, my thoughts on issues like homosexuality or weaves confuse me but I would never dare search for clarity in the public, directly. My fear of being attacked for my genuine curiosity far outweighs my courage on the matter and so I am forced to choose a side in debates that are very grey. The very world that was created by curious people is being told to hold in their questions and general misgivings or concerns on issues because we must not offend certain groups. Perhaps, the belief is that such freedom might degenerate into chaos. And maybe they are right, however, freedom is freedom and without real tolerance I am afraid we might be creating passive aggressive people with the penchant for sweeping real concerns under the rug.

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3. I am too lazy to dialogue

Processing different views is too much work for my brain. Like most parts of the body, my brain finds effective ways to work and this results in the compartmentalisation of ideas, beliefs and general thoughts. When I hear a different perspective on an issue, I compare this with my perspective and under normal circumstances I do not readily agree or even try to reason with this way of looking at things. Must I find out what you are really trying to say? Well, that might lead to the creation of additional neural pathways and my brains first impulse is to conserve energy in case of an attack by a shark that might be at Fridays corner. The thing is that inherently, we are curious beings and we notice the feasibility of an opposing view. However, at first instance instead of seeking more flesh to the carcass we have been presented with, most people will defend their view first in a defensive stance that ensures they can still countercheck a position whilst maintaining there’s. I have done this numerous times and surprisingly when I am well fed and rested I have less of the impulse to do so.

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4. I need to protect my Ego

I regard myself as a man who leads a life of the mind- I think I think a lot. This is so much so that I usually erroneously associate my being with the knowledge I have accumulated.  The problem with such a mind-set is that it implies finality and as regards knowledge there is no such a thing. We are always learning and if you believe otherwise, just think about the person you were ten years ago in comparison to what you are now. No changes? So, when I come across something that brings my way of viewing the world in question my impulse is to protect myself. Certain people have mastered these base behaviours but I have found great difficulty in implementing.  I am certain when I am ready for a switch in paradigm, what used to be farfetched will become my new modus operandi. The ego is a necessary defence mechanism in very dangerous circumstances such as running from wild animals. However, in a world where we have harnessed most real dangers I have found that we preoccupy ourselves with lesser ones such as what Michael or June don’t know about feminism and how I am going to teach them, indirectly (I hope).

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So there you have it, some of the reasons I indulge my lizard brain. I believe these traits are not beyond redemption as it would just take a healthy dose of; patience and awareness mixed with some deliberate habit formation. Perhaps the idea of connection is wrong and true freedom might be an ideal worth curtailing. However, I do know one thing, being indirect sucks. It creates a heaviness and darkness that drains our resources mentally and physically.  Sub tweets push people that would be great resources in our overall life experience away. Under certain circumstances, perhaps we must speak indirectly. What we must not do is let this way of living infiltrate our souls. With a view to be a good person that does good, directness can make a return as the ideal. It is after all, the backbone of truth. And who doesn’t like truth? Alternatively, maybe we must write in our diaries a lot more and if we have the means consult a therapist about the many issues we find fault with. I might try this out, not everything must be expressed after all. Maybe this will help us connect adequately, what do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Embrace the Familiar

I love these thoughts by my brother Kasapo!

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The reason that concepts like “hiding in the open” or “advertisement blindness” exist is because we take the familiar things in our lives for granted and sadly sometimes it’s people too. We use Google every day but know not all the colors of the letters or in what order they appear (blue, red, orange, blue, green, red), we hear songs we like but don’t listen for their intrinsic meaning. Point is with everything familiar, I think, is that when you feel you have plateaued in the process of knowing it learning about it you do like Bedsty’s Mr. Shawn Cory Carter said and move… “onto the next one”??. I guess songs, information or things today can be considered as dispensable especially in the age we’re living in. With the constant availability of newthings we are left with insatiable desires that not only leave us chasing the wind but leave…

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On uniforms

The education system has a mandate of teaching young people skills to live life, or does it?

Uniforms are a metaphor for what most schools do to the curiosity within most people.  They put our minds in a confinement and make us play with a select amount of ideas. But life is not a tournament,  all we need as man is the opportunity to contribute,  not beat each other.

College kids and employees have uniforms too. Hoodies and ties,

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anything that makes you feel like you belong to a certain group is a uniform. But the point isn’t an attack at wardrobes but at regimented minds. We need to recognise what’s happening when it’s happening and why.

We need a switch in order to recognise the opportunity before us, Zambia is ripe for so much development if only we took off these bloody uniforms.

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Selfies with books: Why you must read Zero to One

This book will help you understand your position in the world. The essence of vertical innovation above globalisation.  Technology is key and everyone who understands this will lead the future.

The book explores the fundamental characteristics of good founders and what makes a business succeed on the current landscape.  More than a business book, Zero to One is the single most comprehensive book I’ve ever read and it will take only take you an afternoon to read. I’m mind blown!

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Save the heterosexual male ( Man-day)

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When you think of a Zambian man what is the first thing that crosses your mind? My guess is that you have two perspectives characterised by the following features; a philandering, heavy alcohol consumer with a disregard for fitness. Secondly, an ambitious well balanced gentleman with a proper understanding of his role as a man. Perhaps am overreaching but it seems to me that the former is a much prevalent variety despite the complexities he might possess inside his beer belly. So why is this the case? Are we allowing boys to grow into uncertain animals with no idea of what their role in society is? How did we reach such a place and what can we do about this?

Noticeably, we are living in an age where society is extremely sensitive about offensive behaviours and remarks. Because we are living in a time more peaceful than any generation has ever experienced a lot of time has been freed up for social observations and discussions aimed at keeping and making sure that everything is nice and tidy as far as propriety is concerned. That is why we have feminist movements, gay rights activists and more. These advocacies are very progressive and necessary additions to the cultural landscape and on most occasion fight for noble causes. However, I think we need to relax on some of the unfounded man bashing. The idea of intimidating heterosexual men to the point of submission causes a malaise that characterises young men with confusion and psychological trauma. All this bashing is harming the heterosexual male. We need to save him!

Therefore, what we need is a group of men’s rights activists. And what I am advocating is not the current craze of keeping beards, wearing suits and driving big cars as a show of masculinity. These visual displays are meaningless in an economy that has made the production of clothing, media devises and the access of loans easier than it has ever has been. So no instagram men talk here. What we need is lessons for real men on the characteristics they must pursue. I know that because we are living in the most peaceful time man has ever experienced it seems unnecessary to reach for such an end. But if you look in the paper and see how most crimes and despicable acts are performed by men you know we need this more than ever.

I have found myself squandering money on silly pursuits, clubbing more than I should be and being a subpar boyfriend (in the past) and in those silent moments alone an itch develops and one wonders, why bro? And in my search it seems one of the causes is this issue we are faced with! No one gave me a handbook on being a man! So now before it’s too late my aim is it to curate a reservoir of lessons I can use for myself with the ultimate aim of passing it on to the youngsters. Who is with me?

Some of the benefits that will accrue as a result of a refocus onto the male include an increase in honesty, less heartbreak, more money in everybody’s pockets and much more. Join me every Man-day as we try to explore how we can become better men, better fathers and essentially better people. Everybody is invited to contribute on how the male species can be saved! “Save the heterosexual, save the world”.

 

 

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How to make your business not suck- for free!

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Did you know that your company does not have to spend large amounts of money on restructuring or advertising to ensure repeat business? That’s right! All you and your employees (if you have any) need to do is involve your face in a simple act called smiling.

I know the word on the international streets is that Zambians are friendly and no one has experienced such hospitality before blah blah. But when it comes to business is this generally true? When you walk up to the counter in ShopRite do you feel warmth? Does that bus conductor on the chelstone-town route make you consider using this form of transport more often?  Speaking for myself the answer is no to both questions. Despite the rare occasions that I do experience unsolicited smiles the case more often than not is Zambian businesses just don’t smile. So, before I am viewed as some sort of freakish smile collector I will attempt to show you the value this simple act can have on your business.

But first some history…

The ancient art of smiling was invented about the same time as human faces and it has united man ever since.

The end…

Fast forward to present industrialised and technological times smart businesses everywhere else are thriving and growing on the premise of a smile.  Great examples of this phenomenon are Uber and AirBnB from the USA. You see, these success stories have understood that making your client happy and being happy doing it is the essence of any enterprise. Surprisingly, despite the clear evidence of the value of a pleasant customer experience many businesses ignore this. This then translates to those awkward conversations with your entrepreneur friend about how bad business is meanwhile you know that the chap is a Grinch. Well sally the secret lies under your nose, and it’s so apparent it hurts.

Why businesses don’t smile as much as they should

2015 has presented the country with an unprecedented array of socio- economic problems. Having constant electricity and water cuts is something that can surely drain the optimism even from Forrest Gump. In addition to this, the soccer situation is in oblivion and personally everybody but you is getting married. Generally, the situation seems very hopeless, and I’m sure some business owners agree that there is nothing to smile about right?

Wrong!

From my basic understanding of business the short definition implies that enterprises solve problems. Therefore, an environment rife with disadvantages is essentially one full of opportunity. Why then do we encounter businesses full of gloomy employees instead of enthusiastic people ready to remove the sadness from their client’s faces?  Perhaps we overlook the resources available to us because we concentrate on what the competitor has. In fact it seems that most businesses would rather imitate others instead of tightening their own operations; this is unhealthy and clearly expensive. I know your job is not to be my therapist but when I choose your product or service over many others do not make me regret the decision because of a lukewarm reception. In fact even if I do not purchase or hire your services make me feel like coming back when I am ready to.

Basically, this is the time for serious entrepreneurs to reinforce their customer service delivery. Your organisation needs to understand that you are creating relationships with the people you are serving. You are responding to a client’s needs beyond the direct benefit of whatever service or product you are providing. Your company is reiterating the correctness of my choice by smiling and generally being pleasant and because of this I will share this experience with my social circle and your business will benefit from this in one way or another. Don’t you want that?

You see Mr Entrepreneur; a simple smile has the potential to drastically change the dynamics of your business life. However, it is apparent that most Zambian companies lack a deliberate smile policy. I always get the feeling that most staff I have encountered are not drilled on the simple dynamics of a business transaction. What this transaction simply entails is said employee making money willingly leave my pocket. However with an understanding of how much competition exists these days a personal connection must be created as well. And this point is totally missed when I speak with a person with more frown syndrome than Robert Deniro.  

We are in such desperate times that I think Mubita Nawa must have a conference or something on the simple act of smiling. But before this happens here is a short treatise you can use immediately for your contemplation or indeed implementation.

How to smile

A smile is a very personal experience which stems from the crevices of our souls and seemingly cannot be conjured. In view of this, what I am advocating is not a variety of condescending facial positions meant to easily get through the day.  My appeal is that we genuinely feel pleased to interact with those who put food on our tables.  What a smile represents transcends the sphere of business and delves further into the existential realm.

Therefore, business owners must understand their employees and the driving forces behind their continued subjection to this cool servitude. We must understand from the get go that an employer should not consider financial incentives above all else. Clearly, looking at what thrusts your work force forward is highly advantageous as a smart company will thus be able to create an environment that is conducive.

Secondly, make sure your whole team is on-board as regards the mission of the organisation. With a proper understanding of why and what they are doing people can be very inventive and more often than not look out for the best interests of the company.

Also, business owners must lead by example. On some occasions I have witnessed the manager of a restaurant scold his staff in full view of their guests and quickly realise why I will not be coming back for overpriced spare ribs and chips. If you expect a happy environment create one and don’t expect people to use their willpower for some joy, this can be very tiring.

Another way people can smile is by just taking it easy. We all have problems, business owners, employees and clients alike.  However a provider of solutions bares a heavier burden as others pay you in order to rid themselves of some of these anxieties man inevitably experiences. So smile, be pleasant. The day will be over and you will have to do this again, don’t make a mountain out molehill.

In conclusion, businesses must return to humanity. Quarterly obligations and yearly targets may be important but let us not forget what we are doing this for above financial incentive. The overwhelming nature of reality can be harnessed as has been shown by people of note since time immemorial. If you embark on a mission to sell me local buns you are solving my problem of hunger despite the extra unwanted calories I might gain. In short what I am saying is just smile alright?! When I walk into your establishment, when we speak over the phone and when we share email correspondence-smile. It has been made abundantly clear how an upside down frown makes a huge difference. And if you do not see the benefits on your bank balance I trust you will definitely have one in your soul. Smile 🙂

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EGO

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It’s hard to be wise all the time. The truth is we can’t always be a paragon of civility. But in our moments of trial or even dormancy  we have an option of behaving with either lightness or the incredulity which ego brings. Ego is that bag you don’t need to carry. I think anyone who intends to go anywhere should really consider leaving it behind.

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