How my schooling in Africa affected my early outlook on life

Raised in Africa as a child, educated initially in the Usambara mountains in Tanzania at a boarding school, known to fellow inmates as the “Soni Prison Camp” even though it was run by catholic priests, I realised very quickly that life was what you made it..

….As a child I did not expect to be whipped by nuns and caned by catholic clergy with sticks with thorns still on, and endure so much cruelty that my parents never believed the stories about which I complained to them

All my parents , and also the parents of other pupils, did to justify putting us at that school was that the educational standards of the school were relatively good – they had to be – we were terrified of the consequences of failure

For example, I became a lot better at french , when I received  four strokes of the cane for a careless translation of “He is going” into french “I’l est va” instead of the correct version “I’l va”

Sleeping at night with a “Bowie” sheath knife under my pillow as a protective comfort against wild animals howling outside our dormitory walls, I felt it difficult to depend on adults for safety – I soon felt more safety in the close friendship of a select few I felt I could trust – sad but true, even at that age, and so it is with life……

With that background, it would have been easy to cave in and be just another victim, but instead it made me harder and stronger , and in some ways not showing hurt or distress is a facet that has remained with me all my life.

I certainly have vowed never to subject my son Daniel to such mindless horror, and though he has had discipline , he has never encountered violence from me.

And so it has been with my future teams and colleagues, the way I deal with them has been strongly influenced by my past, by my desire  to recognise strength of character and unconditional friendship, through to needing to show leadership to the weak and indecisive.

In sharing this, I also recognise it made me fundamentally intolerant of those who make little effort and expect everything to come to them , while remaining patient, sometimes too patient, with those who have the right attitude and who try hard, even if they do not initially produce the desired results.

Success and Attitude

One of my first learning points was to understand that everyone had different things that made them happy, and similarly everyone had a different definition of success – with some peoples success being considered failure by others.

When I look at successful friends and clients, while I recognise that some were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, in many cases I can see that even with those fortunate people most have had to make a decision or judgement call that had a potential significant downside if the  decision had gone wrong at a crucial time.

Following on from this, I have realised that those who are successful have had to show courage and belief in themselves and the people on whom they depended, but most importantly they have had to have the right attitudes to overcome obstacles and apparent failures in their lives, sometimes on numerous occasions, to make the BEST decisions, at the BEST times, to get the BEST results.

Looking back at my early life, I now recognise what an  impact it had on my ATTITUDE to life, and my strong belief in the concept of the TEAM.

I unquestionably believe in the often used motto “IF IT IS TO BE …. IT IS UP TO ME!”

I soon realised that little good happens in life unless you choose to take action and “MAKE IT HAPPEN”, but it was not long before it became obvious that I could not achieve all I wanted by myself, and just as a select few school friends became so important to me, so it has been with a few adult friends and work colleagues.

R.A.P. for Success

At school, to survive we formed close bonds and helped each other. Those never invited into the group of friends, or those who were dropped from the group, were those who basically did not play their part and did not try hard enough, happy to hang on to the coat tails of others.

And so with business and life in general, I now only am prepared to surround me with people who have the right attitude, who are prepared to take Responsibility, be Accountable, and live and work with Passion.

So What?

What has this got to do with me as a Speaker or Profit Coach?

Well one of the things I talk about is the need for us all to understand about the “filters of life” that affect us all and the way we look at life, and influence the decisions we make.

I challenge my audience to think about the way they have been raised, educated and trained, and I ask them to consider if perhaps there might be a different way with different answers to the way they have traditionally thought.

I have certainly found that my life has improved dramatically by forcing myself into systematically and avidly listening and sometimes listening again on a regular basis to others who think differently to me, some of whom are a lot more enlightened than I am.

Much of what I hear I choose to discard as inappropriate to my circumstances, beliefs or values, but I also absorb a lot both consciously and sub-consciously , and adapt my thoughts and rationale as I relate these new thought patterns to my experiences with those thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs with whom I have had the fortune to be able to help over the years, and sometimes reflect how I might have suggested things differently , if I knew then what I know now.

However, what never ceases to amaze me is how so  many people (including a few of my own friends) have disappointingly closed minds, often appearing unwilling to open even the smallest of windows into their minds, to allow fresh thought processes or beliefs to perhaps influence their future behaviour.

Some are just too busy, and will never find or make the time to think if there might just be another way – but that is their choice.

I am now in control of my life and the choices I make, and am having great fun as I continue to learn from all the experiences I encounter in my work and travels.

I have not yet achieved all my life time goals, but I know I am more likely to achieve them, the more I continue to listen and learn.

I feel privileged , and indeed honoured as a speaker and coach, to be allowed by so many to share my opinions, my beliefs and my observations and by doing so to sometimes influence and inspire them to change in however small a way to achieving more success.

I believe that the background of my childhood has made me tougher than many might otherwise believe (I certainly have had to come through my fair share of trials and tribulations – but that is another story) , and I believe that it enabled me to think more clearly to be able to help all who listen to me to find the appropriate strategies that are right for them to achieve what they want out of life.

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