By Donovan Chimhandamba
Delivering a keynote speech to a group of award winning people is a great responsibility. So I pondered for weeks, what could I possibly say to people who are winning awards when I did not even make the nomination list.
So I cast my mind to find a befitting story I can tell to a group of people. People who are nominated to win awards.
Only dawned on me now that the only story that can explain the journeys most of you have been on, can only be a story of pursuing a dream even when everything else tells you to quit.
Because you are not quitters, today we are here to celebrate and recognize your resolve in pursuit of excellence, and with these great strides you have taken, today you have been nominated for these prestigious awards.
To give context and personify the journeys and battles the nominees have gone through, let me begin by sharing with you a short story of myself.
I was born in a little town called Karoi, lived in Mhangura at the copper mine where my father as a metallurgist was working as a Plant Manager. At the age of 8, I lost my father to cellebral malaria and like that was not bad enough, a year later my mother died in a car accident on her way to Harare from Chinhoyi.
I was the eldest in a family of four. With my younger three siblings, we moved to stay with our grandparents in a rural village of Masvingo called Zimuto where our father hailed from. I did my O levels at Zimuto Secondary school, enrolled for Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry for my A levels at Kwekwe High School and found my way to National University of Science and Technology (NUST) where I completed my first degree in Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering in 2003.
Later on in 2006 I completed my MBA with the University of Pretoria’s business school called Gordon Institute of Business Science commonly known as GIBS).
In terms of my career, my breakthrough was my first job on graduation in 2003, where I got employed by Engen Petroleum refinery in Durban as an Industrial Engineer. From there on, I progressed to work in senior management roles for blue chip companies such as PPC, Vesuvius International, Group Five and then became a Private Equity and Project Finance professional when I became the Head and Fund Manager of the National Empowerment Fund.
Managing a R9 billion Trust Fund
The urge to become my own boss propelled me to start my own Private Equity and Venture Capital company called Arkein Capital Partners in 2011. This I did so with Anglo-America’s mining community Trust Fund where I managed their R9 billion Trust Fund on their behalf.
Arkein Capital is the company that I operate from and we have seeded some of the projects we are proud of such as our $350m Richards Bay project called Nyanza Light Metals, which will beneficiate titanium slags to produce the highly sought after paint ingredient called titanium.
More recently we seeded and co-founded the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group (DIDG), which jointly with Transnet recently won the $400m tender to recapitalise and rehabilitate the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
That’s my story and that story is very common amongst the many here in diaspora. Though sounding easy in the abridged two minutes, the real story is a story of the hustle. The hustle that many of you here have endured in your own journeys to get where you are today.
What you are today is a reflection of how bad you wanted to get out of your quagmire or quandary, similarly to me when I didn’t want the rest of my life spent on grieving lost parents in a remote hut in the rural setting of Zimuto.
Not having fear of failure, and not being afraid to look stupid
As a person hailing from such beginnings and now the Chairman of DIDG, I am deeply humbled by this prestigious honor, an honor to stand in front of such a distinguished group of people of the diaspora and share ideas, visions and beliefs of what our future Zimbabwe holds.
The future that not only you and I prosper, but a future where our collective efforts as diaspora can change the direction and prosperity of our Zimbabwe.
Talking about winning, the only thing that stops you from getting what you want in life is the discouraging stories you tell yourself why you cant have it. People only want the success but not the process and hardwork of getting successful.
People care about what you already have, and not how you got what you have.
Here is the thing! People will respect you for going out there and trying the hardest. Its not how you actually perform that earns you the respect of your peers, but the fact that you actually went out and did it. That’s the difference.
Not being scared to fail. Not having fear of failure and not being afraid to look stupid. We have this awful fear as human beings of not wanting to look like fools and yet sometimes you have to look like a fool to make progress.
You have to drill it into your head that yes you can do something great. Drilling it into your head again and again and again and again, until your head just clicks, and all of a sudden using the unconscious part of your mind, which is infinitely more powerful than your conscious mind you start to naturally do things that are seemingly audacious to others.
There is no embarrassment in struggling nor is there in failure. There is just not. Embarrassment is in quitting. Embarrassment is not trying the hardest when you could have. You have to try the hardest you can.
You have to know where you are, where you want to go, and how you going to get there
Don’t blame your boss, don’t blame your job, and don’t blame your industry you are in. There is no successful person who doesn’t have a history checkered with failure. Failure teaches you just another way of not doing something. The more you fail, the more you learn and the more the reason why you should get up and try again.
It is virtually impossible to live and not fail. Unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived. In which case you fail by default. Failure teaches you more about yourself and the will to fight through challenges.
Failure lets you recognise which friends are worth more than the price of a dollar, friends that will stick it out with you even if it means going months on no income chasing the dream.
You will never truly know yourself or the strengths of your relationships until you have been tested by adversity. Without failure you would never know this. Real degrees are attained when one tries and fails. Not the ones we got sitting in a classroom analysing other people’s stories.
There are three things that you always got to know. You have to know where you are, where you want to go and how you going to get there. Let me repeat; you have to know where you are, where you want to go and how you going to get there. Those are the 3 things you must know to take advantage of any opportunity. Where you want to go is simply the vision.
Part of being a great leader or entrepreneur is having that vision. Being able to create a vision and then sell that vision to other people. A vision that gets buy in from people around you and inspire them to take risks with you.
A vision that gets people to sacrifice their time, that gets people to put in their hardest effort and sweat to help you achieve your vision.
Lets make Karoi a little Dubai
This vision has to be something more than just goals. A vision must challenge the mind and intellect beyond the obvious. Have a vision. Owning a Ferrari is not a vision. define your vision correctly.
A vision that says I want to own a Ferrari doesn’t inspire people. People get inspired by things like: lets make the city of Karoi a little Dubai: Let’s make Binga the largest exporter of medicinal marijuana?
Owning a gucci or louis vitton bag is not a vision nor is going to Dubai for shopping a vision. Popping them bottles at a nightclub is not a vision. If you wake up everyday thinking or planning on popping bottles, shopping in Dubai or throwing fancy party’s then you need to relook at your priorities.
At DIDG our vision is this: “To bring Zimbabwe’s infrastructure to world class standards”. The next question is how we going to get there. A vision without the how you are going to achieve it is meaningless too. Here is our how as captured in our mission statement: We will achieve our vision by using our diaspora collective financial and technical resources to finance, rehabilitate and operate Zimbabwe’s critical infrastructure assets”.
That’s our purpose in this life. We believe in this vision and we have put our necks on the chopping block and our bodies in front of a firing squad. We have put everything we have into achieving this vision.
If thinking outside the box is not your thing, ignore the box and just start without a box
Those of you nominated for these awards are a testimony to the levels of commitment one needs to achieve their vision. You created your vision and sold it to your colleagues. Convinced someone to put some time and money with you on your difficult but rewarding journey.
And it all started by knowing those important 3 things: knowing where you are, where you want to go (the vision) and how you get there (the mission).
Doing something great requires you to be audacious, daring, bold, enterprising, industrious, diplomatic, everything you can imagine of a great leader.
You have to think outside the box to make things happen when it seems impossibly difficult to make anything happen. If thinking outside the box is not your thing, ignore the box and just start without a box.
You have to take action when others hesitate. Think big when others spend time on small things. Challenge yourself and dare to dream of greatness when others fear it. Grow a thick skin, take criticism and negativity and use it to fuel your journey to greatness.
Always know that whether you win or lose, you will learn life lessons no one else can give you. And know that you will succeed maybe not immediately but absolutely in your lifetime.
The great difference between a somebody and a nobody very often comes down to who is willing to take action, who is willing to put in the work, the grind even when the prospects of failure are high. The question is, are you willing?
In the same way a boy from Zimuto soldiered on even at great personal sacrifice and ridicule, it is in the same way that those who aspire for a prosperous Zimbabwe should soldier on.
Diaspora should not be afraid to be the trailblazers and we should not wait for other countries to lead the project of rebuilding Zimbabwe.
For those who watched Black Panther, as King T’challa’s saying goes, I say to you our diaspora: “Diaspora must no longer watch from the shadows of Zimbabwe. We cannot and we must not.”
Let me close by saying this. As diaspora, we are the dreams and hopes of the Zimbabwe we aspire for. Zimbabwe has seen its darkest moments and let not those dark moments discourage you from the opportunity that’s in front of us.
It is only in darkness can one see the shining stars. Zimbabwe like the phoenix, it will rise again. The sleeping giant has started stirring from its slumber.
Let us stand together as diaspora, and with great determination, let’s be bold and take the mantle to lead the efforts of rebuilding our Zimbabwe. That is our legacy to defend as diaspora.
I thank you.
Chimhandamba was speaking at the 2018 Zimbabwe Excellence Awards
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