Still on that journey…

It is about two years since I told my not so surprised boss I was leaving my job to chase a dream. He was very supportive, and to date, I think he is one of the most incredible people I have worked with.
This month is always one of great self-reflection for me. At first it was because it was my birth month, but now, it is also a reminder of the fact that I am really an adult. Really!

2 years
Here are a few bits and pieces of this experience.
Mixing business with pleasure
I never had a choice really. I did not know where 4040 was going and as such, I started with the low handing fruits, my friends. Along the way, others joined and also became family. It is fun. It is difficult. It is exasperating. It is love. I would actually not advise anyone to go into business with their friends. It is not for the faint hearted. In my case, however, I am not sure ‘robots’ looking forward to their next pay cheque would have driven the organisation to where it is today. Ours is a unique blend. We have won some and lost some. Along the way, there is a glue that has kept us (mostly) together. I can hardly find the words to describe that glue. We are often our own greatest strength and weakness. It is an oxymoron really but we own it.
Of uniqueness
I try to learn from as many organisations and people about different things. Management, organisational structures, charity, business and the like. I am yet to find anyone doing ‘exactly’ what we do. This means we are often inventing a wheel. It can be quite challenging but perhaps a decade or two from now, there will be mini organisations learning from our struggle. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Bagala alina, gende okole (Loosely translated to mean, people like those who have, go and work)
I met Linda last year through a mutual friend who thought it would be great if we worked together. She was disinterested and it showed on her face. Nonetheless, I later sent her a message about future correspondence and possible partnerships. She did not respond. Last month Linda called me for an ‘urgent meeting.’ I was a bit shocked but my gut told me she wanted something. I agreed to meet her. She started by asking several questions about the organisation and I kept thinking “When will she tell me why she actually called me here.” Though shielded, it finally came out. She had seen a picture of us receiving an award from the first lady. I was finally worth something! It turned out she needed help with an upcoming project and thought I’s be the right person to consult. Yes, this is the point where you become the bigger person, even if it kills you.
Disguised lessons
About a year before I started 4040, a friend from school came up with a business plan. It was a great idea but from the onset, it showed that it would take a while to pick up. When it did, however, it would soar. I honestly supported him simply because he was my friend. He had a graphics person, a numbers person, I would be part of the PR. It was pretty solid. We met every week and contributed an amount to the company’s fund. His closest friends often missed these meetings and had a general aura of laxity but I believed in him, along with a mutual friend. I believe he and I did one pitch before the company dissolved without so much as an explanation. I guess it wasn’t its time. He is doing quite well for himself now. Sometimes, I sit and wonder if I would be this dedicated to something someone else began. I remember that experience and realise that I gave it my all even when I had no idea where it was going. How dare I give up on this baby then? It came with its own lessons.
Letting go
I am a hopeless optimist, often to a fault. This means that I give several chances to people and situations because I envision a happy ending. Needless to say, life does not always operate like that.
As a result, I have had to learn to let go, even if it may not come naturally. I have watched the people closest to me betray my trust and the most distant of strangers hold my hand when it counted. If like me, you have let some people stay in your life longer than you should only for them to steal your happiness, don’t beat yourself up about it. I shall tell you from experience that it takes time to ‘change’ but once you do, it comes with great benefits. In the meantime, treat every loss as an experience worth learning from. It really is.
A promise is just that, a promise.
Have you ever lent someone money? They tell you they shall pay on Wednesday so you mentally plan for all the things you have to do on that day. In fact, you probably also promise another person you will pay their hospital bill on D-day because you are sure. Wednesday reaches and the debtor is nowhere to be seen. If you are lucky, they shall pick up the phone and feed you with a story. You are disappointed but you have to disappoint someone else. It is a mess.
In our line of work, people will make pledges, often out of pity, guilt, pretentiousness and a host of other sentiments I fail to explain. Back in the day, (adult speak yo) thee pledges counted as a reality for me. I’d start making plans based on those numbers. Shock! Horror! Coming to the realisation that most of them were simply promise that may never be fulfilled. I was ‘bitten’ enough. I try to treat everything as a miracle and leave a nice, spacious red margin for disappointment. This does not mean you become 100% numb of course….but it helps.
Speaking of  differences..
My friends and I attended an event recently. We were excited to support this group of youths since we are all in the ‘struggle’ together. We arrived early and got ourselves a nice corner to make noise in comfort. Imagine our shock when one of the organisers came to ask us to move. Turns out the nice corner was for sponsors. The problem was there was no ‘reserved’ sign or anything so we couldn’t have known. We grudgingly carried our drinks to another table. Just as the ranting began, something occurred to me. Simply because we do not have VIP seats at our events, we had forgotten that it is the norm for most events. We made the best of the night anyway.
Humility
I am constantly praying that we remain humble in our ways. Several experiences remind me ever so powerfully, how easy it is to forget.

crying Janet
I look at this photograph from time to time. It reminds me of everything I felt from the very core of my soul. It represents several feelings engulfed into one moment. I wept with reckless abandon, oblivious of the cameras. This journey is not about the photo ops or the perfect make up, it is not about how many people recognise you on the street or which media house covers the story. It is about the work and the people it impacts. Everything else is a plus. Unfortunately, the side shows can get to one’s head, so much they forget what it is really about.
On Leadership
I do not consider myself a natural leader, more like an accidental one. There are people who have it engrained in their DNA, you know?  I am not one of them. People have these ambitions all their lives, I didn’t. Here I am though. I don’t always do it right. Half the time, I am thinking with my heart instead of my brain. The other half finds me clueless trying to figure things out. I am surrounded by amazing people though. We are learning and sailing. As long as we continue, it can only get better.
You are only human
If you are in a position of leadership, planned or accidental, remind yourself that you are not God. You can make mistakes. You are allowed to cry. You will inadvertently yell at a colleague. It happens. Forgive yourself then do that which you were called to do.
Protecting your brand

Do your best to protect your brand, but understand that somethings are not in your control.
Early this year a tabloid picked up a story on social media that involved 4040. They called me for a comment on a Sunday. I declined. The next day, it was on their front page and I had a paragraph on page 2. Knowing the story was going to run kept me at night. I stressed my poor mother to the extent she bought the paper by 7a.m the next day. The reporter had not even attended the event. I know people say that any sort of publicity is good but tabloids irk me. They make sales out of people’s misery and sadly, the readers continue to ensure they are profitable. I would love for our work to speak for itself. No publicity is actually better than those media houses that make it their life’s purpose to peddle lies. Argh. Moving on…
Rome was not built in a day
Four years ago, 4040 was not anywhere in my 5 year plan. According to my version of dreams, I am supposed to have started a family. If you think about it, I already did, just not the kind I had in mind 🙂 When you meet people, they have several questions, numbers, sustainability, the future. Gosh, it is all there! They are valid questions too. I don’t think there is anyone who contemplates all these issues more than I do, almost daily. There are moments when I am worried about all this and more but I remind myself that this is not about me. It is a grander picture and sometimes you need to be still. Nothing I have accomplished has been on my own accord, none of our milestones were a result of an extraordinary mind in a single day. It has been a process and will continue to be. Always allow yourself to breathe, to grow, to just be.
Criticism
I keep thinking I have heard it all, and then something new comes up. I convince myself words can’t bring me down but the truth is, some will. You just need to decide who or what is worth your pain.  Some of this criticism is helpful. A good chunk is simply disgraceful.A clear conscience is incomparable, listen to it.

I have learnt plenty over this period and something tells me, it isn’t even 20%. I am ever so grateful for the wonderful people who have made this journey worthwhile. More importantly, I am awed by the fact that God chose me to be his vessel and then blessed this dream in unimaginable ways.
P.S: Join us for our inaugural event, Hoops for grace this Saturday from 9 a.m. Entrance is only 5,000 and there is fun for kids and adults alike. Let’s complete this dormitory! See you 🙂

 

Hoops 2015 poster

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Cheers to the future

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new year, a new chapter in my life.

Unlike past birthdays, this was the first one where my mindset switched from “Where did all the years go?” to “I cannot wait for what the next few years have to offer.”

This past year was also one of growth and maturity (or so I hope) and I have learnt a few things, noticed others that hitherto silently passed me by but mostly I am grateful for  several things that will probably not all be tackled in this post.

Providence, family, friends

I didn’t think that I would quit my job for my passion and I did not know if I would last. I did it anyway..and here we are.

It is one thing to believe in something so much you will give anything for it, it is completely different to have people believe with you.

I have been blessed by God in countless ways but the most important gifts he has sent have come in form of angels that I call my family and friends.

We do not always agree or even pretend to. Many of them saw what could go wrong with my choices, and continue to remind me how precarious it is, but they stay anyway.

What we all deserve is someone/some people who are willing to put their doubts aside and support us, if for anything-just because it is what we need.

 

The will, the drive, the strength to carry on

 

I am not a morning person mostly because I get very little sleep at night and then actually begin to rest just before sunrise so conversations, phone calls, work that start this early often mess with my system and I avoid them when I can.

Nevertheless, I do them anyway. There are t.v interviews I have had to do which involved getting there before 7a.m, appointments with people who have no time besides those early hours and I can’t begin explaining my issues.

So, that boda has to be flagged down and the cold braced. When there, sense has to be made even if you are there only in body.

The rain has showered me from time to time but I think of them as hazards that come with the job.

What is most challenging is the fact that there are no ‘direct results’ and even if they come, they take a while. Unlike the early bird who will get to his stall and  target those heading to work to increase sales, I will talk till I am out of breath, meet everyone I can to sell this dream and the wait. Simply sit tight and wait.

I am grateful for the patience to wait, and to have something that I believe in- to wait upon.

When it comes to strength, even I have no idea where it comes from. Sometimes 36 hour days occur and you can’t explain to an ‘ordinary person’ what it is you were up to, many times not even yourself.

It is funny how people are so quick to judge based on physical appearances.

Big=strong, Small=weak. What is worse is that they openly admit it.

“You are Esther? I didn’t expect you to be so young and this small.”

Me: I had no expectations of what you should look like but that is just me.

The 40/4o team recently participated in the cancer run.The idea was that we stick together whether we have to jog, walk or crawl, and we did. I had not eaten well for the past few days but I didn’t give it much thought. That was until my stomach started to act up after we reached the 5km mark or so. When my friends would say, let us run downhill, I would gesture that I was right behind them but the truth is I was barely managing.

Somehow, I grabbed one of them and told them the truth on one condition- we finished the race no matter what. We did 🙂

I want to say size is not everything but it would be redundant.

The mother’s ‘motoka’ eh!

I learnt how to drive when I was about 18 and I thought at the time it would be a nice skill to have for the ‘future.’

Driving was easy but road users were not. I got so many insults for being ‘mu kintu,‘ coming from the ‘privileged side’ or simply for being young and a woman. This would mostly happen when stuck in traffic especially next to taxi. I started to always have the window up no matter what or pretend not to understand Luganda.

The skill did come in handy! Before long, I was the go to person to pick that relative arriving at 5a.m or drop another to the bus station at 12a.m. Was this the reason driving school fees were paid? Well played.

No but seriously, I did my duties grudgingly but with a lot of love 🙂

Fast forward to the past year, after worrying about her daughter’s late nights and endless meetings, events and appointments, the mother decided to give her blessing. If I was coming late, I needed a trusted chauffeur or her very own car. That is how the ‘small’ woman above ^^ began to worry less about those constant meetings, pick ups, deliveries and for that I am truly grateful!

40-40 registered, complete with an office and bank account

There was a time when Banura and I would have millions of shillings for a particular projects. We could not bank this money in our personal accounts because, you know and then keeping it was also not the best idea.

When your friend in the UK says they have sent 100 pounds, you run to western union and withdraw it. You get to your favourite restaurant and a menu with scrumptious meals is brought before you. You check your wallet and look at the crisp new shillings you got from the exchange and none of them are yours. So you order for mirinda fruity, with ice instead. Don’t ask about the ice, it is a long story.

Those days are now over, no more nightmares about missing funds that were meant for the children. Temptations are fewer.

As`we hunted for banks, one Relationship Manager told us ’40 days over 40 smiles’ sounded like a forged name. That did bite quite a bit, but when I look at our registration certificate,the office, that one dedicated employee and a bank statement- I am more than thankful. Also, I know that this will make for a good story one day 🙂

Sleep/Rest, when it does show up

I am very thankful for the gift of sleep. It might not always be there but when it is- ooh the joy!

Sometimes I wonder if I had a boss what I would say. “Sorry I came in at 11, the sleep only came to me at 6. You understand, right? Thanks”

My schedule can be crazy but at least it is on my terms, okay mostly it is. When I wear myself thin, it is my choice and oh how I cherish the ability to blame myself for my own bad decisions.

I know who I am

The first thing that comes to me is the gospel song “I know who God says I ma, What He says I am, where He says am at, I know who I am.”

When you really know who you are, to the extent that you are not shaken by what people think or say of you, you are walking a fine road.

I can’t pretend to have got to that level,more so when it comes to people I care about being on the ‘other side.’ However I am comfortable in what is within, knowing that it belongs to me and I am in control of it.

Everything else that is external shall come and go with age and time but the soul is eternal.

In William Ernest Henley’s words, “I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul.”

My Mony

This lady right here came to my heart and never left.

When I get out of bed and the folks are already at work, I first find her, ask how her night was and then my day can begin.

We have whined, prayed, sang, shopped and pretty much done everything together.

When she finds me meddling in the kitchen, she will ask what I need and fix it, especially those days when a meal is the last thing on my mind.We have an inside joke that even if you have had a meal at a 5 star Hotel, you will still come home and have at least something.

She has loved my family and I and all those who have walked through our doors. Quite frankly, I do not know what we shall do without her.

For now though, I must maximise her calm, generous and prayerful self 🙂

There are so many things to be thankful for and beautiful lessons that have not come easy but have come nonetheless.

Your dream won’t let you be still

The most used ‘app’ on my phone is the ‘notes’ because there is always a new thought,idea or reminder to make 40-40 better. This is on top of the hundreds of notebooks I own (each with different contents I might add).
You can’t stop. You won’t stop. Once the dream begins to grow, you want everyone to feel the way you do, the adrenaline, the pain,the passion, if not for this dream- then for something else because you can’t imagine anyone living without at least one thing that makes them momentarily insane.

The dreams and nightmares too:P

It is one day to Hoops for Grace. We have planned it for a while and we hope it will be massive.  We can only do our bit. Some people on the team started having dreams about it as far back as last week, sleep is becoming elusive and of course there is that drama from within and without that will always be there.

It is funny when it isn’t sad. I would love for it to work, to show the dedicated people that even a handful of people can make huge impact and that their work did not go to waste.

Mostly, I want it to work because the children at Akiba Foundation need a home that has no sign of cancer except the meds that shall be hidden in shelves.

This Saturday, come to bush court and change a life! If you can’t, feel free to make a donation to the worthy cause.

hoops poster

What goes around comes around

So many incidents come to mind but the one that I have recently been musing over occurred sometime back.

The manager of a restaurant we were having our meetings scolded me for having meetings where our consumption reduces each week. It was in a good location since the office was too far for most people.

I asked him to let us know if he wanted us out because we would do it.

Exactly two weeks after he called me back. I knew my bluff had been called but alas. “I have realised that you are good at mobilising people. Can you help us get more clients using your networks?”

I needed several moments to recover. A few months later, he was no longer employed there. Perhaps he is in a better place:)

As soon as religion comes to dominate, it has as its opponents all those who would have been its first disciples

How true is that? Replace ‘religion’ with any experience you have and see that loyalty is ranks highly on the the world’s ‘endangered species’

I read a story once of a dog that had been going to the cemetery where its master was laid to rest, everyday for years and the caretaker always waited till it had left before closing the gates.

I might not understand people who leave their wealth to animals. However, I imagine after dealing with betrayal from the human race, a loyal dog or cat may not be such  a bad idea.

The strongest people crumble and fall, the most fickle also have their days of victory.

I have learnt that forgiveness is a gift to yourself. I have also seen the power in silence. When you are wrong, admit, and once you see that you are right, save everyone the ‘I told you so.” The person you are telling knows you told them and so do you. ‘Riyalle’ save that breath for like a Uganda Cranes match.

People will give you 2% after you have invested 100% but if it was never about them anyway, then you march away with your head high and your 100% that they may never find anywhere else!

We have digressed but..we go.

The past year was a good one, even in its bad times-it was good.*We are strongest when we are weak* I mean,even the stone that the builders threw away became the cornerstone 🙂

We ought to be as wise as the man who built his house on a rock.

My birthday month is now gone *tear* but I have beautiful memories to last me a lifetime.

Everyone of you who made my day great and the days before or after, you know I love you and I try to show it rather than say it. The real rebeauty though, is in all the years ahead of us.

Every gift,cake,message, song that I got from those that know me well has a story. Those are the stories I want to build on with each and everyone of you, for a lifetime 🙂

cake 1 es

cake 2

 

cake 3

I might add I didn't sit at the front in school but eh!! *breaks into song...meet me at the river*

I might add I didn’t sit at the front in school but eh!! *breaks into song…meet me at the river*

See you at Hoops for Grace on Saturday. I can’t wait for the blog post when I tell you how amazing it was!! 🙂

Xoxo