By Soji Imoran
Picture an image on the television, of a bird in the sky, let’s call it the TITANIC BIRD. Beautiful and large with outstretched wings; the wind blowing through its feathers as it weaves to the left and right. Glorious image right? You may wonder where the bird is flying off to so gloriously… Now imagine that the camera pans out and you see more of the bird… but rather than the bird being in the sky as you imagine, it’s actually standing on a cliff’s edge mimicking flight, wind gusting at it but not actually moving anywhere. Shocking!
A lot of us are like that bird… standing still, mimicking flight, a flurry of activity and side projects blowing around us but our feet still very much on the ground.
Growing up, I heard the phrase, “failure to launch” a lot; it seemed like a prison sentence. How could I have a great business idea and not be able to start or good grades and not be able to get a job? It created a weird kind of panic in my chest so I felt anything would be better than standing still at the starting line.
It got to a point that I would do anything, take any job, just to avoid the idea of being seen as jobless. Ha! JOB-LEH-HEESSS! There is a way African parents can enunciate the word to make your whole heart sink into the ground.
So I would busy myself; I took jobs I was over qualified for that paid me next to nothing. I ran ranging and innumerable errands for “aunties and mummies” who tipped you less than the value of your transport money because, “you should just be grateful for something to do, Dear, after all when I have a big job I will remember you and use you again”… and I would return home to an empty bank account to cajole my pride, telling myself I was just investing in future relationships… it would pay off one day.
Here’s the thing, while I don’t endorse idleness, there is a massive difference between being lazy or idle and waiting or preparing – preparing to launch right, preparing to take off into the sky and move in a particular direction and never look back. These kinds of movements require a singularity of focus that you can’t find if all your energies are spent on battling the flurry of odd errands and half jobs you may be tempted to take in the interim.
Fact is no one can value you or your time if you give it away for free; and at the end of the day, living at the whims of a “grateful customer or boss” is like a man blinding himself and sitting on a river bank praying silently for someone to ferry him across… it could happen, but why go that route.
It’s not an easy decision to make, to wait, but there are a few tips to not being the Titanic Bird.
I had to learn to answer for myself- ‘No, I don’t have a job at the moment, I specialised/studied/am good at ??. No, I I’m not interested in being a ??.’
Not every project that passes your desk is for you… there is a saying, “pay it forward!” Here’s what this means: Someone calls you at your marketing job to ask if you want to sew a dress for them because they like the handkerchief you made yourself… are you a tailor? No! Aspiring to be one? No! …Then why take the job? Why not pass it along? Call a friend you know who is a good tailor. Too often, we focus on building relationships with the customer, but forget you can also build relationships with fellow service providers.
Preparing doesn’t mean being idle… this is important, because people come away from criticism or job interviews with the wrong attitude sometimes. Your interview went well but you get a call saying you didn’t get the job – compose yourself, ask calmly, “thank you of the consideration but is there anything else I could have done to have gotten this job?” Listen and take action. For the aspiring Small business owner run mock investor meetings with friends and ask them to review your pitch and if you don’t have friends to ask find a mentor.
Practice new skills. Practice.On.Yourself. You made a chair at home. Brilliant! That does not make you an interior decorator. Don’t go outside and over-sell yourself and risk damaging your brand before you even start. There is nothing wrong with admitting to a potential client that you are perfecting your craft before you bring it to market. Delayed gratification is better than risking instant displeasure!
Lastly, believe in yourself, not just because often times no one else will do it for you, but belief is contagious. Walk and talk with confidence. Like the bird, you probably have all the right tools to succeed, you just need the focus and patience TO ignore all the nonsense/faux offers/well intentioned advice that will fly at you – to launch on to YOUR right path at YOUR right time.
Don’t be a TITANIC BIRD.