Three Things to Remember While Reinventing Your Life

When you’re reinventing your life as I’ve been in the last three months after the UAE sent me to my home country Kenya after 3 decades of staying as an expat there, I’ve learnt a crucial less….The skills and mindsets I’ve garnered in life are more important now than they’ve ever been.

Have a student’s mentality. I’ve been a student my whole life until May 2017 when I graduated with a PhD. So if there’s something I know how to do, it’s how to have a beginner’s mind. After being catapulted back to Africa, the significance of the skill of learning how to learn was highlighted in how I’m trying to pick up the details of the business environment in the country, and the correlation between that and the political system. I reach out to people who are experts in various fields I’m interested in — education, technology and energy — and ask questions journalist-style. I also try to add value by asking them about any personal or business challenges they’re facing, and if there’s any way I could help, even on a voluntary basis. Doing something that simple — offering to help others — has opened a multitude of opportunities for me.

Do the best with what you have, where you are…I know a lot of people who were in my position — removed from the Gulf countries to Africa who spend days applying to return back in the Gulf. I don’t waste my time exploring that avenue, because I don’t believe the grass is greener on the other side. Instead, it’s greener where you water it.

And because I know that the difference between where you are and where you want to be is a function of the books you read, the people you meet and the things you do, I focus greatly on these three things.

One of the most validating moments happened when I met a relative who’s been living in Nairobi their whole life, and told them about a tech company in town, and their comment was, “I never even heard of it. How did YOU hear of it?”

Other validating moments happen when people ask for a contact in a certain field, and I go through my list and say, “I think I know someone…”

To which they might laugh and say things like, “You’re pretty aggressive…You just got here!”

I still haven’t found a ‘proper’ 9–5 job, and to be honest, I’m still in building-a-network mode so every paying contract I’ve picked is part-time and allows me to work from home. It’s less pay of course, but I believe in playing the long-term game because the moment I get into a 9–5 job I wouldn’t be able to network the way I do given that traffic here tends to eat at least 3 hours of your daily routine.

Set up a system which allows you to be a pro and grow. I wake up every morning at 5 am, and after going through my morning routine, I take my laptop to a local coffee shop, buy hot chocolate and engage in deep work until 1 pm. After a break, I go to the meetings I set up for the purpose of networking. I tend to schedule those after 2 pm — if possible — because as an introvert, meeting people tires me. So if I had them in the morning, my productivity would be affected for the rest of the day. My system’s been working beautifully. I’m disciplined. I’m mentally engaged most of the time. Most importantly, even if I take one step forward each day, that translates to 30 steps per month, and I believe that progress is better than perfection.

Results: Around 45 people know my name and story right now and I sometimes get calls from people who heard about me and want to help me somehow. For someone who just entered the country and had a network that consisted mainly of family members and a handful of people I knew from twitter, this is not bad progress for 3 months’ work.

Also, for someone who doesn’t have a ‘proper job,’ my schedule gets really busy as I try to discipline myself to work in the morning and meet people in the afternoon. Most importantly, every time I have a conversation with someone about Kenya in general and Nairobi in particular, I fall in love with my home country a little bit more. Despite what you see on the news about the election crisis, the people are kind-hearted and generous, the country is very beautiful…

Most importantly, even though I spent 3 decades of my life in the UAE, I’m starting to forget it… I’m optimistic about the future, and while the UAE has helped transform me into the woman that I am today, I’ve seriously closed that chapter with the belief that let the past be the past.

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