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Work hard, smart, learn from failures :: Kenya

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I have heard so many sayings around working hard and working smart. Those sayings seem to suggest that you can only do one or the other, never both. In my view we should do both.

Take for instance the guys who built telephones. They were working smart. Instead of sending someone for two days to deliver a simple message, you can now just make a phone call and your message is home. Working hard is when the messenger is expected to deliver the message in two days and the feedback in another day or so.

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We are often blinded by our perceived ‘competitors’ and as a result, we end up losing our vision. Remember you did not start the race with your so called competitor, so there is no need to compete with him/her.

A few days ago in an interview, I was asked to justify that theory. I posed the question: “Did you know there is a difference between seeing and paying attention?” You can definitely see what your competitor is doing but don’t pay attention as it might distract you.

And I do apply this seeing versus paying attention in my daily life. When asked who is my competitor, I say: “The yesterday me.”

Let me break it down. I own this vision, even though once in a while I come across articles or news about the people I am in the same field with. Yes, it is good to know about the new advancements in your field which now applies to everyone because, trust me, your competitors do face the same problems, and they definitely have meeting points.

If it is music, all musicians are affected by piracy, the Music Copyright Society of Kenya and the like. In my other businesses I am affected by tax, which equally affects my competitor.

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Once you have figured the problems affecting everyone in your industry, you can now go back to the drawing board and compete with your ‘yester you’. Ask yourself: “What did I achieve last week or yesterday?” then figure out how you can top that.

In the beginning I was paying attention to the wrong details. I was busy looking at my neighbour. And I feel that’s what most entrepreneurs do, they are putting their energy in the wrong place. You end up pursuing someone else’s vision and maybe he/she is planning to close shop in the next year and open a new business. Does that mean that will you also close shop when they do? 

Remember life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forward. Since I realised that I started self-evaluation. Take a piece of paper and write all your achievements in the past six months, also write your failures and project your next six months.

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Achievements

Focus on the items you have listed as achievements. What actions and patterns led to you achieving them, and can you put more energy, so that you achieve more?

When we achieve, we follow the same patterns over the years and that means that in the next few it will not work for there are entrepreneurs who are busy studying your steps. Before you know it you are out of business. So your main focus should be how can you evolve.

Failures

Your failures are important, embrace them. Failure is like walking in the dark and and falling into a pit. On your next trip through the same dark alley, you will prepare by either getting a torch or look for an alternative route.

I have failed many times but people only count the number of times I have achieved. But the only way you will fail is when you try new things. We are often afraid to try out new growth ventures. Never get comfortable. So every time I feel like I have failed, it excites me for my next attempt may be an achievement.

Projection

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Since most entrepreneurs are self-employed, meeting deadlines has to be a matter of discipline. The advantage of employment is that you are paid on performance key ins. With self-employment, you have the power and freedom to control your daily activities. But that also means if you don’t work on yourself you will fail. Always know your next move and fight for new spaces, that will challenge you. All the best.  

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