SHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
Small Things Make Big Differences
By Lee le Chat; Publisher & Managing Editor
It is not enough to say that all of life is a learning process. We already know that. It is more important to be consciously aware that we are always in, and always part of, the learning process. We all have dreams. And we all struggle with our realities. This is the stuff of life. The process of turning dreams into reality depends on many, many factors, not least of which is education, awareness, upbringing, personal habits and place of birth; or more accurately where we live.
It is why I include here a favorite from my visual series of Living Skills Philosophies: Self Matters! Self Correct, Self Manage, Self Inspire. I seem to remember I developed this one after read somewhere about President Obama’s proclivity for self-correction. I’ve always felt self inspired and drawn to a distant calling. And self -management is something one learns in the process of being self-employed. But self -correct came from following Barack Obama. Our early childhood experiences often trigger lifelong habits. I was a very young boy growing up on what was known back then as the Cape Flats in South Africa’s ‘Olde’ Cape Town.
It was a hardscrabble time in a life of make-do. People were poor. But many were creative, and found ways to make themselves happy. Many decorated their horse drawn carts with flowers pinned onto the horse halter and ‘teasers’ fashioned from long strips of colored crinkle paper. I remember at age seven or eight desperately needing a ‘three-pence’ (3 pennies) to buy crayons or something. I dared not ask my parents. There was no money for “nonsense stuff” So I rustled up some colored crinkle paper. I cut up dozens of strips and tied them together onto short wooden sticks to create a ponytail effect. I knew my grandmother liked me. So of course I took them to her house and promptly sold them all to her for two or 3 three-pence, I don’t remember!
That first commercial transaction at age 7 or 8 set off a lifelong habit of mixing creativity with sales and development. A lot of heartbreak & broken dreams would lay waiting down that road. But that was in the future. It is a story for another time. I remember only being ecstatically happy on that day. The point is my grandma so many years ago triggered a lifelong career quest and possibly also my destiny.
A Quote from My Father: Small things lead to big things: Recently on a tightly packed bus with standing room only in Odessa, Ukraine I learnt a huge lesson in the value of an old Arab philosophy. Upon departure of heavily laden camel trains ready to traverse a thirst parched desert for 15 -20 days before the next water stop they would bid each other farewell with; ‘Hasten slowly.’ Another way of saying this in today’s world is; ‘Know When Less is More!’ A laptop computer with perhaps over $50,000 worth of intellectual property, precious family pictures and other memorabilia was lifted out of my pack-back. I always had in mind to back up my materials. I specifically subscribed to the cloud computer bulk storage system Drop Box for this purpose. But again I was always in too much haste. It had also crossed my mind to lock together the two zips on my backpack. I was advised to do this by a girlfriend who gave me the backpack as a travel gift. But of course I am a man in a hurry…always in a hurry! I figured I do not need it. It was my late mother’s biggest issue with me. And also with my late father in their young life together. In his old age he mellowed dramatically.
But as a young man my late father was energetic, creative, impatient and of necessity a man who wore many hats. Starting as a smallholding farmer on the scrublands known then as the Cape Flats my father was, along the way, a fish vendor, a wartime waiter, hotel cook, carpenter, home builder and ultimately a real estate developer. He was inspired, active, enthusiastic, moody, complex and always in a hurry. He liked to say: ‘Get out of bed son. The early bird catches the worm’ Then he’d haul me off in an old Fargo truck to the fish jetty where fishermen from incoming boats threw fish onto the wharf for resale. We did this from the back of our truck. On a good day there was enough money left to buy also feed for the animals, including chickens, pigs and horses. On a bad day the fish would be given away to family members. From him I picked up the habit of being a man in hurry.
All true entrepreneurs develop a sense of urgency over time. Timing can be critical to the deal making process. There is nothing wrong with this. The trick is that the urgency must be tempered especially with caution. More haste is often less speed. The old Arabs knew this. But we who think of ourselves as modern day entrepreneurs, it is us who need to sometimes step back… and take seriously the maxim that more is less speed.