Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Success is not an upward trajectory

August 2012 was a bitter sweet month. I was happy to finally complete school; the sad part was the uncertainty of what was coming next. For the first time I could do whatever I wished, but what? Was the question. I had a few conversations with my peers, lecturers and people who I thought were successful but none of them had the answer I was looking for. Perhaps it was because I was hoping someone would magically hand me a flight plan with an itinerary of everything I needed to know. But I never got it.
After final exams, I went back home and my dad thought that it was time for me to leave home. He was kind enough to let me stay an extra night before sending me on my way. The cold harsh reality was starting to sink in, that I had to find a job or create one.
The following day, he dropped me at the stage and wished me luck. All I had was 15,000/=, a travel bag of clothes and a laptop. As he sped away, I saw the clouds forming in the near distance. The view of Buziga from Bunga was spectacular.
For the next four months, I crashed at a friend’s place as I fought to get my life in order. I had hit rock bottom. I had never imaged in my life, debating between buying food or a jerrycan of water. Six months earlier, those questions would have been very trivial, but at that moment, I couldn’t believe it had come down to a life and death situation.
But I kept at it; dreaming, reading and praying. I knew what I wanted to be; rich at the time. I started sending emails to everyone I thought could get me business as a photographer and film maker. Two months later, a few jobs started coming in and I made sure I executed them to the best of my ability and kept hoping that the next job would pay better than the previous.
Then one day, I receive a phone call from Uganda Christian University, regarding a proposal for a promotional video Carlos and I had written a few months before, which in my opinion, thought  was overpriced. It was hard to believe that someone wanted to hire me at the price I had quoted, but then again, I sounded confident and accepted to do it. There was one small problem though; I needed to raise the seed money. Clearly family was out of bounds and all my friends were unemployed and broke.
With only enough taxi fair to Mukono, I went to see a friend, Mark, who had given me work before. I convinced him that if he lent me the amount of money I needed for the project, I would pay him back with ten percent interest. I clearly had no collateral, heck I might have walked back to Kampala had he said no. But luckily he agreed.
From that project, I didn’t look back, I went on to start a media company, outdoor advertising and finally investing into a tech start up.
Almost a year later, I find myself back on a desk, working for an ad agency. The three companies I started have been sold off and my former partners and I hardly see eye to eye. There is a lot of sentiment to go around about what I could have done better and I know that now. Better still, I know that nothing lasts forever and it’s the hard cold reality.
But perhaps the most important lesson of all is from a quote I read back in my dorm room by Steve Jobs, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Sometimes it’s good to fail because then the heaviness of being successful is replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again which presents a learning opportunity and therefore grow.
And as long as we are growing, even if the circumstances around us do not indicate we are on the right track, well, you are.
It’s been a remarkable journey for me, living through the highs and lows of life. But through it all, the urge to move out of my comfort zone and stay ever curious has seen me achieve things I thought weren’t possible.  Truth is, having a dream and staying curious is the beginning. As a former entrepreneur, I have learnt it also takes courage, focus and strategy to steer your team to safety.   

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