It Just Makes Sense To Do So
Sometimes, my wife and I do a lot of talking about many issues while driving or walking. We basically talk about everything, but most importantly about Afrika and Afrikans. Those two topics have become the most talked about things we engage in, and that, from a place of passion to see our beloved Afrika and Afrikans become the best that God the Creator made them to be. So we do not shy away from engaging talks about Afrika.
On this day, we were walking in Nairobi CBD, going to return a faulty item we bought about a month prior to that day. As we walked, I was thinking in my head. The thought that was playing in my mind was a simple question about why people don’t do or give their best in whatever they do? So I asked her what she thinks is the reason why people, in this case, Afrikans, don’t do or give their best. Her response was quite simple and straight to the point. I asked her to make sure she remembered her answer, for I knew I was going to use it for an article. So below is her answer, with a little formatting.
“1. Learned behavior. There was no standard called ‘best’ to go by. They are raised in an environment of mediocrity, where all those around them operate at bare minimum efficiency and productivity.
2. Those who operate at bare minimum efficiency and productivity and train others to do so began to do so as a result of demotivation. Why bother being one’s best when all around them people were getting ahead i.e..being promoted, elected, getting achievements or celebrations either by cheating, or favoritism (son or daughter of so and so), or bribing or some other method that did not favor attainment of success via merit. So, why bother?
3. Those who give their best getting burnt out because there appears to be no benefit to it. They are constantly passed over, not recognized or appreciated, not thanked by those who prefer the ones with a name or with money. So basically the ones who do push to do their best give up on doing so because the best is not even valued in the society and environment around them. They don’t fit into the mould of what society embraces and accepts and celebrates. So they get passed over again and again. This wears them down, especially if their heart is looking for reward and celebration. Or it wears them down if they were hoping that their lives would begin to make a demonstrable positive impact on the world around them.
It is possible that some of those in number three become those in number two who train those in number one.”
I can’t remember the exact words I responded to her answers with, but I believe it was along these lines. I think people don’t give their best because they do not understand that whatever we do or give as humans, it’s not a reflection of the people we are doing it for or giving it to. Its a reflection of ourselves and what we stand for.
For instance, when we started this magazine in 2018, we did not have the skills required to make it happen, nor did we have the funds to hire those that have the skills to do what we needed. And knowing that the magazine was what must be done as part of how to reach Afrikans with the message of hope, we needed to find a way to make it happen. On my part, I got the software required to make the magazine designs, got loads of YouTube tutorials and buried myself in learning how to make magazine designs. For the first one week of learning, I was doing no less than sixteen hours a day at my desk. In my head, even though we knew the magazine was going to be free for all who read it, I could not make myself give below the standard I am convinced is my best. I got so engrossed in learning how to make the designs that even in my sleep, I would find myself doing the magazine. A little bit after a week, the first template of the magazine was ready for customization. My wife on her own part was learning seriously how to customize the website template we were going to use and also learning how to work around the other software that power the back-end of the magazine. It was a very crucial moment that defined what our mindset about excellence was and we gave it all that we could then. So it was not so surprising that when the first issue went live that readers were so captivated by the quality of design. We simply gave it all we could give it.
Now, it’s easy to think that giving our best means we must be able to outdo others. Not at all. Giving one’s best is really about giving the most of what you have right in your hand at the time it is needed of you. So it’s not some kind of competition to outdo others, but a competition against your own self that may want you to give less. In our case, it was easy to just do the magazine design in a shabby way since we really were not expecting money from it. But we knew that whether there was money coming from it or not, what we give or put out there will not speak of those we are giving it to, but it will speak of who we are on the inside.
What does it really matter?
I think it matters a whole lot.
I believe that giving or doing our best in any space we find ourselves has a lot to do with our personal ideologies and orientations about life and the impact we have and also want to leave around us. Personally, I am very concerned and also pay close attention to the effects of things I do on others. And I am not saying this to mean that I live my life or do things to impress others, but that I am very conscious of my actions and how they affect others around me. As a creative or someone whose head is constantly looking for the very next thing to create, be it a new song, a new design, or even a new idea in my head, I am always looking for how best to bring forth that which is brewing in my mind. And because I am conscious of the very things I do and how they affect others and everything around me, I am also very conscious about making it my best. Why is that really important? If you have the capacity to give your average and also your best, why settle for average when you can shoot for the best of yourself? I just think it makes sense to do that.
Are Afrikans lazy in their minds?
I don’t think so. I just think the diversity in Afrika also means that No two Afrikans are the same, just as no two humans are the same globally. And I said this because, while I may have the mindset that says all I do or give must be my best, other Afrikans may not have such mind even if they have the required skills to give their best. I remember having to redo the magazine template several times until it made some “excellent” sense to me.
And also to further answer the question about whether Afrikans are lazy in their minds, I think Afrikans are some of the most talented creators worldwide. Having said that, I think most people in Afrika don’t give their best because we in Afrika still struggle with the issue of adequate compensation, reward or appreciation for good talent. So why bother to give your best if you won’t be compensated adequately? And this is why I said that giving your best is about you and not the other person.
I have met some “crazy” Afrikan designers whose works for me were beyond my creative ability and I am very convinced Afrikans are excellent creators.
The question now is this, what if the world never wakes up from the effect of Covid-19 and businesses don’t return to normal, will you stop doing your best just because no client is willing to make a deal with you? Think about it and also remember that creativity is about your inner person before it is about those outside.
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Samuel Phillips is a writer, graphic designer, photographer, songwriter, singer and a lover of God. As an Afrikan content creator, he is passionate about creating a better image and positive narrative about Afrika and Afrikans. He is a true Afrikan who believes that the true potential of Afrika and Afrikans can manifest through God and accurate collaborations between Afrikans. Afrika is the land of kings, emperors, original wisdom, ancient civilizations, great men and women and not some road-side-aid-begging poor third world continent that the world finds joy in undermining.