By positivepressagency, April 6, 2016.
The idea entered my mind like a lightning bolt cracking a dark gloomy sky; bright, to the point where it was almost blinding, but impossible to discern as good or bad because it lasted in my thoughts for only a flash. “Start a media company that aims to promote all the positive aspects in society in order to mentally save those drowning in the waves of negativity flooding our senses thanks to the 24/7/365 news cycle.”
We have thousands of thoughts a day, many which are useless, negative, depressing and unconscious. Technological advancements in how we consume information has left many of us unable to quiet our minds, disabling our ability to differentiate between our own thoughts and those planted by others; namely the media.
This realization came to me one morning while I was in Kenya, unsuccessfully trying to find a job in the country’s highly competitive and alarmingly influential news sector. Unlike the other thousand thoughts, this one stuck with me and became an obsession, a goal that would leave me uncomfortable every moment I wasn’t working towards achieving it.
At the time, I didn’t realize that I had successfully gained the spirit of an entrepreneur. I had identified a problem in society that was deeply personal to me and my loved ones, an issue that perfectly aligned with my academic training and life experiences, and in discovering this dream, I had unknowingly stumbled into my purpose. The first step in becoming an entrepreneur is identifying a problem and then working your ass off to find a solution.
So I started with my means in order to bring my purpose filled dream to life. I was unemployed, spending hours every day sending out resumes to prospective media companies, but I didn’t use that as an excuse. Instead of thinking, “I’ll wait until I have a job, then I’ll pursue my true passion”, I decided to act.
“Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Start taking action, based on what you have readily available: who you are, what you know and who know.”
I started a blog and immediately got to work. With new eyes, I began looking at my immediate environment in search of opportunities. I started venturing out every morning in search of a story that I could share on my blog. Every article I read online served as inspiration for a story idea, whether it was positive or negative. If I watched something horrible on the news, I would write about why the story wasn’t as important or valuable when compared to a story that would leave viewers feeling positive, happy, engaged, motivated and inspired. I had found a life mission and I wasn’t going to wait for anyone to validate my dream with a paycheck, a title or any other form of approval that we’ve been conditioned to seek and readily accept.
My family in Kenya has been blessed to live in one of Nairobi’s safest and financially stable communities. Before moving back, I had never lived with a maid, two cars or a security guard making sure that our gated community stayed safe. The sudden realization that I was now part of the upper class in society left me feeling guilty. I appreciated the perks of being “well off”, but I felt an innate desire to give back to those less fortunate. I quickly forged a deep relationship with our security guard, who informed me that he had recently become a new father to twin girls. My heart broke when he told me that he walked more than 10 miles to work everyday rain or shine, worked more than 12 hours a day protecting my family and neighbors, for less than 5 dollars a day. My heart skipped a beat when he told me that his two girls were battling pneumonia and his family was living in one of the worst slums in all of Kenya.
I immediately sprang into action, using my blog to tell his story. I borrowed my dad’s camera and accompanied him to his home in order to visually document the ordeal his family was living through. I spent night and day composing a story that would leave my readers inspired to help by sharing it with their networks and donating their time and money, while urging others to do the same. I didn’t do it to get likes, or to make money. I didn’t do it for my own glory, I did it because another human being was in pain and I was in a position to help. I did it because it was right and I did it because I felt that it was my responsibility as a journalist to share his story, not just to elicit pity or warm prayer, but to enthuse people to act.
“Leverage contingencies. Embrace surprises that arise from uncertain situations, remaining flexible rather than tethered to existing goals.”
I reached out to family and friends, both near and far, urging them to contribute however they could. I spent my nights editing and writing, while my days were spent with the security guard and his family. I forgot that I was unemployed or broke. I lost myself in my work, a job that paid more than any boss could afford to pay. In the process, I realized how interdependent we were as human beings. The security guard needed help, so he leaned on me. I needed help in order to save his daughters, so I leaned on others. I learned how to form partnerships.
“Form partnerships with people and organizations willing to make a real commitment to jointly creating the future – product, firm, market – with you. Don’t worry so much about competitive analyses and strategic planning.”
I started with my family and friends, who donated money, sent prayers and shared the story with their own networks. But soon, I realized the power of a positive story. Strangers began donating and sharing the story, sending their prayers, which I passed along to the security guard and his family. One kind woman who happened to see the story randomly, offered to pay for the escalating hospital bills. In just one week, I had raised thousands of shillings for the family by asking people online to donate, while also getting my step mom to reach out to our affluent neighbors for financial assistance. The feedback that I got from people was tremendous. I realized that my power and purpose as a journalist was not only to diagnose the world’s issues, but to offer a solution that everyone could be a part of. I had learned how to create opportunities.
“When you make the future happen by working with things within your control and people who want to help co-create it, you don’t need to worry about predicting the future, determining the perfect timing, or finding the optimal opportunity.”
Unfortunately, despite our combined efforts, it was too late to save the two girls. They passed away, which left me in unimaginable pain. The security guard and his family had come to me for help and I was unable to do enough to save their daughters. I was confused and questioned God for putting such a deep burden on my soul, but I saw His grace the very next week when I was called to a job interview with one of the richest men in Kenya, who happened to own the most popular digital media company and radio station in the country. During the interview, he didn’t even let me speak, spending the 15 minutes working to convince me on why his company was the perfect fit for me. At the end of the interview, he offered me a job to be a business journalist and I started working the very next day…which also happened to be my mom’s birthday.
In my eyes, this sudden change in my fortune was an obvious sign from God that I now had two new guardian angels in my life. As entrepreneurs, we go through ups and downs; pursuing a life that most times feels like you’ve latched yourself to a roller coaster that twists and turns while ascending, before reaching incredible speeds during it’s descent. Entrepreneurs have to develop incredible faith in themselves and their purpose. They can’t be obsessed with what they’re doing, rather they must become obsessed with why they’re doing it. Then they have to use the inner fire developing within them to inspire others to enthusiastically join them along for the ride. It’s both thrilling and terrifying, but that’s what makes it fun to be an entrepreneur. Going to a 9-5 job, doing the same thing every single day for the same pay doesn’t make us happy. Job security, although important, isn’t enough to pledge our lives to following someone else’s vision that we don’t wholeheartedly believe or even recognize as right.
My personal entrepreneurship journey is still in its infancy, but that idea that initially came into my mind to change how news is told and consumed, is fully grown. The next step is to gain technical knowledge on how to bring it to life so that it can turn from an idea, into a successful business that hires people who are just as inspired to follow their dreams.
Entrepreneurs: saving their dreams one action at a time.