Archive for the ‘Thought Leaders’ Category

Fundamental Optimism

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

No man demonstrated greater leadership in the 20th Century than Nelson Mandela – that icon of a man who was jailed for more than twenty years yet stayed focused and came out to break apartheid’s back, becoming his country’s first black president. In his book, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela has a quote that I have always enjoyed reading. He says,

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature of nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lay defeat and death“. (p. 377)

Leaders face many unique situations. There are times when their vision is clouded by present circumstances and it is so easy to give up and throw in the towel. There are times when even driving the process of change becomes a weary task and their motives and judgements are brought into question. All leaders experience those times when they are surrounded by situations that don’t seem to align with their purposes and plans. It is in those situations that true leaders thrive. True leadership demands an optimistic attitude. If you are going to achieve that which you set out for, you must stay focused and continue to believe in the vision. That is the key to success as a leader. 

The Pareto Principle

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

The Pareto Principle,  founded by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1895 is one of the most helpful concepts in leadership and management. It is also called the 80/20 rule. Pareto noticed that people in his society seemed to divide naturally into what he called the “vital few,” (the top 20% in terms of money and influence) and the “trivial many,” (the bottom 80%). He also applied this theory to all economic activity.

For example, this rule says that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results. 20% of your customers will account for 80% of your sales. 20% of your products or services will account for 80% of your profits. 20% of your tasks will account for 80% of the value of what you do, and so on.

This means that if you have a list of ten items to do, two of those items will turn out to be worth as much or more than the other eight items put together. Here is an interesting discovery. Each of these tasks may take the same amount of time to accomplish. But one or two of those tasks will contribute five or ten times the value as any of the others.

Often, one item on a list of ten things that you have to do can be worth more than all the other nine items put together. This task is invariably the one that you should do first. That’s what Pareto is trying to teach us. Apply this principle today.

Does Day-dreaming Work?

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

In January of 2000, I sat in an economics lecture at the University of Nairobi in Kenya with my eyes on the Professor and my mind on a land far away – “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I vividly remember that day, because later on in the day I opened a free email account with yahoo – for the first-time ever – and sent an email to a leadership internship organization in Texas, the Honor Academy. At that time, I had only five months left to the completion of my course-work and eleven months to my graduation from the Univeristy.

On December 4, 2000, I caught myself day-dreaming again. On that day I was seated among the graduating students of the Class of 2000 at the University of Nairobi. While everyone was shouting excitedly about their new status, my mind was in a land far away, far across the seas and oceans – “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

On both occassions I was fully in the moment. I paid attention to my Professor and I enjoyed the commencement speech and my graduation. However, on both occassions, I had a healthy discontent and dissatisfaction with my present situation. I fully appreciated where I was in life at those particular times but I also knew that there was the potential for more.

To cut the long story short, I’m now in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. So, I pose the question back to you: Does daydreaming work?


Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.

T.E. Lawrence
Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Mark Cuban says I’m intoxicated

Friday, December 15th, 2006

In my morning reading today, I selected Dallas Mavericks owner and billionare Mark Cuban’s blog. In his entry for December 11th, he makes some interesting comments regarding starting a business and the spirit of entrepreneurship. He says, “There are few things more exciting than starting a business and getting things rolling. The fear, the adrenalin, the excitement, the hope that every entrepreneur feels, are all intoxicating. In fact, very often they are TOO intoxicating. Very often, along with some success comes the feeling of invincibility. I have been in situations where I have told myself that Im smart, I know what Im doing, that I will figure things out as I go, so its OK to take on this new opportunity.” (Emphasis mine).

I couldn’t agree more with this thought leader’s statement. Being at the point where I’m just starting my own organization, Better Life Company, I’m feeling exhilarated. It’s deja vu for me. When I was in college at the University of Nairobi, I started the Center of Knowledge as part of the SHEBA partnership (Stephen Herman Eternal Brotherhood Association). The Center of Knowledge was a resource unit that provided lots of personal growth materials to students at my college campus. Stephen was and still is a very close friend who worked with me in equipping so many young people back home in Kenya. Both organizations lost traction when I left Kenya and came to the United States but I can’t forget the feeling of invincibility I felt as I walked around the campus and toured the country speaking at high schools. 

Mark Cuban’s article is very insightful. He talks about the ‘fear’ of starting a new business. Last night I was speaking to my wife about the fear of the unknown and the uncertainty of the future. I shared with her that one of the books that greatly influenced my thinking when I started the Center of Knowledge was “Feel the fear and do it anyway” by Susan Jeffers, PhD. This book helped me conquer so many fears in my life as I attempted to create at that time what was a huge undertaking for a college student. This morning as my wife and I were chatting about the same topic, she shared with me her hopes and dreams for the family business and how she was ready to take the leap into the future. I shared with her how I believed that our successes through the transitions of life are determined by what happens inside of us. Think of the process of metamorphosis. When I was a kid growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, we had lots of ladybugs in our part of the country. I used to enjoy watching the process of change that happened as they metamorphosised into adult insects. At the larval stage, few people can tell that it will ever turn into anything that can fly.  Soon it transforms itself into a pupa and makes a cocoon around itself. The final stage of maturity comes when changes happen INSIDE the cocoon. The larva BREAKS OUT of the cocoon and becomes a beautiful ladybug. 

Nothing excites me more than embracing positive changes. Every single change I have embraced over the past seven years has completely revolutionized my life. I moved from Africa, to Texas, to Colorado, to Massachussets, to Tennessee, to Omaha and now I’m getting ready to move to Cincinnati, Ohio, which will be the US location for the offices of the Better Life Company. While this might seem like too much change, it’s been a journey towards the ultimate. I thrive on change! I’m intoxicated! Opportunity has knocked on my front door and I won’t be caught raking leaves in the back yard. I’m ready! All systems are tuned up and ready to fire. As Robert Schuller said, “You can’t fire a missile from a canoe!” If Mark Cuban will define my spirit as intoxication, I’ll accept his definition based on the context.