Fear. It’s one of those emotions that will always rear its ugly head, and to be fair it can be a paradoxically encouraging impetus. It’s fight or flight. It’s an indication of a deep insecurity or about really caring about what you are doing. The important thing is to identify whether what you feeling is a positive or negative force, that the consequences of acting upon or ignoring the fear will move you forward, hold you back or worse destroy what you have built.
This year I have come to realise that I have been fighting mostly external fears trying to exert pressure and influence. This has affected how long it has taken to get to this point and has quite frankly razed a lot of what I accomplished in the last 2 years with my first documentary e18hteam, affected both my professional and personal relationships, battered my self-esteem and has made me question everything. The good thing is that going through the process has allowed me to identify a few things which really crystallised after I went to the BongoHive Talk Leading the Creative Spirit.
The talk moderated by Rachel Adams, founder of Narachi Leadership, and featuring leadership insight from Joseph Hundah, CEO of Econet Media, made me admit to some of the pitfalls I have succumbed to as I fought to retain my voice, values, principles and integrity. I have excused some of them when really I could have done better to avoid them. The experience, advice, lessons learnt and the leadership qualities, mechanisms and process imparted with the theory behind to further illuminate the ideas being shared, really helped reinforce things I have already been mindful of and am looking to and/or continue to improve. They also reinforced my belief that I do have something to offer, and this multimedia experiment reimaging African storytelling is my calling. I can be at the helm of the ship ZeDream Team and I are navigating through the stormy seas and we will find our treasure. And unlike pirates we’ll share with you because we care!
These are the takeaways from this year of failure and perseverance:
DON’T LET OTHER PEOPLE’S FEAR HOLD YOU BACK
Don’t let other people’s fear thwart you. Many will tell you they know what you should do, give you unsolicited advice, try to sabotage your efforts, will poo poo your ideas and what you are doing to. They will do this hold you back, keep you under their thumb as they are scared it may affect what they are doing, that they are not needed or that they will be left behind and cast aside. Worse is some people may not realise their words and actions towards you are underhanded in this way. Do not let the fear of not adhering to their views and following their plans force you into submission if that is not the path you should be taking. The truth is there is no tried and true way to make the transition from success to the next thing. Especially when its your first creative project to your sophomore offering. Any success that then leads to the next thing is difficult to navigate. I am not trying to replicate e18hteam with A.C.E. What I am trying to do is move forward with the momentum the documentary created and challenging myself by believing I can do more and be more. Most importantly the project is a response to my interactions, experiences and the inspiration the ZeDream Team have given me long before we assembled. Each of them has great faith in my abilities and what I have already accomplished and have the potential to achieve. Each of them has given me great counsel. Each of them has been non-judgmental and accepting of our differences. Each of them has connected with me on profound and multiple levels.
I AM A LEADER
I know this seems rather silly to state but I have had a hard time coming to terms with that fact. When I do the things I do, create the things I create, become passionate about my passions, it always starts from an internal catalyst. Once I have worked through the feeling or inkling to give shape and form to the idea, I then work backwards using my education and experience in Communication to figure out if what I am thinking is viable and how to go about manifesting it in the right place and targeting the right audience. A.C.E. is a personal response to those who follow me on social media and those whom I have met on the journey e18hteam took me around Zambia and the world. It is a visceral reaction to the events that have unfolded in my country and the repercussions. It is an active way of processing the world around me, and sharing with other in order for us to grow together. I may not necessarily have sought to become a leader, but in doing this I am and I need to own it. I need to commit fully to what that entails. I need to believe that I can and am already. My purpose is to create environments and content for people to be able to share, freely express their goals and fears and for us to work together to find solutions and move forward. I am leading by starting conversations so that you can add your voice. I need to be A.C.E. so we can be A.C.E together.
LEADERSHIP IS NOT STATIC BUT FLUID. WE ARE ALWAYS LEARNING, GROWING, EVOLVING
Leadership is a journey made up of many journeys, not a finite destination. There are highlights, stops and milestones along the way, as well as multiple paths to be taken, but it is a never ending process. The moment you are stagnant and stop, that is the moment you stop leading. If you never realise that you are stuck, you can have a serious detrimental effect on the people around you who look to you for direction, guidance, support and purpose. Either you will have a revolt on your hands or if you are extremely charismatic, you will lead people who will follow you blindly into the depths from whence you cannot escape. It is important to constantly check in with yourself and those around you, provide a safe space to be able to get feedback, to brainstorm and troubleshoot both for yourself to reflect and for others to engage you.
I am still in the process of learning how to lead effectively and consistently. This mad scientist luckily has guinea pigs who don’t seem to be that affected by the fact that things have fallen apart far worse than they did for Okonkwo. Luckily unlike the protagonist in Chinua Achebe’s famous tome, I have not let the universe continue to conspire against me, but have found a way to turn things around meteorically. Things are getting back on track smoothly. I have been inspired by the challenges to overcome, not to fold and admit defeat. Leadership is a commitment – if you take up the mantle, you’ve got to do the work to deserve the elevated seat bestowed upon you. You have to use your voice wisely as it will be amplified. You must use your influence strategically and not succumb to the way of the despot, becoming drunk with power. You need to respect your potency and those who acknowledge and respond accordingly. For a while I was closed off, seriously and artificially limiting my interaction with the world out of fear of things getting so bad that I would never regain control or worse, that I would have irreparably lost the relationships and access to resources that are important to my well-being and growth as a storyteller. If all that turned out to be true, A.C.E would be buried under all of that. I would have to abort before the project could be given life. Luckily things were not as desperate as they seemed once perspective was found.
ACCEPT YOU WILL BE VULNERABLE, YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES AND YOU WILL BE SCARED.
I have never been afraid of my vulnerability and revel in my humanity. Some of my biggest mistakes have led to the biggest opportunities, and the fears I have felt have spurred me on to create, succeed, to chart new paths and venture out and experience the best (and the worst) of life. However, people like their leaders to be invincible, to lay down the law, to sniff out weakness and to snuff it out. Zambians and Africans in particular have grown up with with that rigid form of leadership whether it is at home with their parents, or their leaders deciding that they will remain in a position of power from beyond the grave. Expressing and owning your vulnerabilities is not always welcome as people aren’t used to it and are afraid of what it means: sharing that your are struggling and the process of finding your way back to the surface when you are drowning. Admitting that you don’t know something. Saying that your feelings are hurt and that actions towards you have had a negative effect. These are considered hammering nails into your coffin. I however have no desire to be impervious and unflappable or to seem so. It is ultimately not a productive way to go about life. You end up spending time upholding the illusion of your power rather than exercising the power you actually have despite your deficiencies.
Though I am not scared about my second project and the inevitable comparison that will follow, I was scared of not forgiving myself for not handling the situations, feelings and people who have come my way in the last 2 years better. As everything starts within myself, I knew this would have a negative effect on how A.C.E. took shape. My fears were realised, but they have also taught me that these things happen. Things do go spectacularly wrong. I always say you can’t please everyone, but I really learnt what that meant recently. I am finally finding peace with where I am from the lessons learnt. I am rekindling my passions, become comfortable once more with uncertainty and I’m ready to lead a sojourn into the unknown. I can’t wait to find out what we will find through A.C.E. together!
A.C.E. will officially be launching early October so keep checking in for posts and follow our journey on Instagram.
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