Life Lessons

African Business School — Fatima’s 10 Life lessons to help center you throughout the year.

The message still rings in my ears “Other people’s lotion is not used on the backside”Fatima would say, “but it is cautiously spread on the exposed areas which are most visible for the maximum impact.”To use any other way is to commit an abomination and insult the owner who so generously chose to allow you to use their lotion. More often than not this is how we approach each new year with all the advice and good intentions which rapidly disappear within the first 90 days. The same is true for a new job or new beginning, the enthusiasm disappears as soon as reality sets in, the wind drops and the oars come out and the rowing becomes the order of the day. Here’s what my mother, Fatima had to say about these 10 Life lessons to help center you and get you back on track.

1. ON EARNINGS. Never become dependent on a single income. Make an investment to create other revenue streams. No matter how small or humble. Don’t become a slave to the monthly pay cheque. If you work for someone, you are building their dreams. When you work for yourself you are building your own. Obviously when you start off 100% your earnings come from your employer, by the time you retire or sooner 100% should come from your own earnings. “A borrowed piece of clothing doesn’t stay long on the body”she would quip. If you rely on a monthly stipend and a pension when you retire you are going to have challenges during your golden years. Set up those extra revenue streams now whilst you are young an able.

2. ON SPENDING.If you buy things you don’t need, soon you will have to sell things you need. Distinguish between need and want. You want most things you don’t need. “Want is wasteful, want is wishful, want is a FOOL”she would often say. I’m often amazed how our parents provided for us all based on this simple principle. There was always enough to get by and it always just about met all your needs. The more waste that got removed the more space there was for useful and meaningful things. The true sense of less is more is attained when you spend on needs as opposed to wants.

3. ON SAVING.Do not save what is left after spending, instead spend what is left after savings. The order is important, put away the savings first then spend what is left. Of all the lessons Fatima hammered on this, “Save first, give to the needy next, thereafter spend in the manner GOD will be pleased with you.” She called this the rights given to money. When you don’t respect the rights of money there is no way you can hold to it. To this very day it is something I practice in earnest.

4. ON TAKING RISK. Never test the depth of a river by stepping in with both feet. That is gambling not calculated risk. A risk shared is a risk halved. Find partners to share your journey she would say “two heads are always better than one”.A devout Muslim she would say “Gambling is unlawful”do the numbers for every business venture you undertake. If you can’t measure it don’t do it because it is gambling. Today I measure everything, because what gets measured gets done and has a greater chance of succeeding.

5. ON INVESTMENT.Do not put all your eggs in one basket, least you trip and fall. Share the eggs, of some will hatch, of some will be rotten, of some simply nothing happens regardless of how long you sit on them. Investments are like manure she says “it’s no good if you don’t spread it around.When you spread manure, things grow. When you keep manure it one place it attracts flies, disease and causes an awful stink.” There is logic why money is spread in business and society, observe it and you will be just fine.

6. ON EXPECTATIONS. Honesty is a very expensive gift. Do not expect it from cheap people, and there are plenty of them out there. Peddling half-truths, hearsay and warped opinions. Stay clear of the stink least you start smelling. Todays social media can be a cesspool of bitter people who have nothing better to do than to troll an behave like social morons. She loved Albert Einstein’s quote “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”so be wary of the self-styled activist whose integrity is as long as the day is short.

7. ON PAPER. The past is toilet paper; the present is a newspaper and the future is a question paper. Come out of your past, control your present and secure your future. Ask the right questions no matter how difficult they may seem. Life owes you nothing! Life is about victims and victors, choose to be the victor and not the vanquished who specializes in playing the victim. There are no dress rehearsals in life, you’re on show all the time, so bring your “A” game all the time. “Life is a paper, make sure you know which one you’re writing”

8. WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN in your life, you can either let it define you, destroy you. Life does not teach you a lesson you cannot pass! Always choose strength. “When you don’t learn from a life lesson it is repeated.”It is only once you have learnt your lesson do you then overcome and move forward only to take on the next lesson. So, learn quickly so you don’t prolong the low periods in your life. Let them be short lessons which build strength no matter how dire the calamity or the challenge.

9. OUR EYES ARE IN FRONT of our heads because it is more important to look ahead than to look backwards. You cannot run a race looking backwards, you trip, fall and bump into things. As simple as it sounds this is probably one of the most difficult things to do. “Don’t hold on to baggage or issues which in turn impair your judgement going forward.” Learn your lesson and get on with it. “Life is for living going forward, that is why your age increases every year.”If you must go backward, only do so to reminisce or gain strength or momentum before launching yourself forward again.

10. ALWAYS USE A PENCIL to write down your dreams, because you can erase and change as many times as you want. Life is not cast in stone, stiff and rigid. Be the green stick, bend, twist, turn and grow. Ironically the first writing instrument placed in the hands of child is a pencil. The first lesson taught that it is okay to make mistakes you can always erase them and put the correct thing in. How quickly forget this and how quickly we lose our agility to change at the flick of a button. Today as a student of Paul J Meyer Leadership Management International, Success Motivation principles the pencil is still my tool of trade. “The astronauts only use pencils in space”Fatima would say, emphasizing the point that despite all the technology we have this crude writing tool still has a role to play.

We are whom we are today because of the strong parents who raised us with as little fuss or fanfare as possible. When you raise boys to become gentlemen in their own right, then it pays to take time out to learn some of the lessons. Besides, why pay school fees twice.

Life is a pencil

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