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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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Editorial - Build Your Own Table

In the spirit of taking time out from doing it all, here’s an Editorial I wrote a few years ago with lessons that still hold true. - FMW

It takes quite a lot these days to jolt me from my increasingly bleak view of the turbulent world around me and remember that optimism pays. While I don’t generally look to celebrities for inspiration, I found myself punching the air when I listened to Tyler Perry’s speech as he accepted the Ultimate Icon Award from the BET Awards in America.

Tyler’s speech was inspirational on so many levels: his own story is one of not only having a vision but of making it happen without asking for permission. I’m not going to summarise his speech because I think everyone should listen to ALL of it. But the following were my big takeaways:

- • ‘I’ll help you cross.’

Tyler spoke of seeing a man looking for help to cross a busy six-lane intersection of traffic while others walked by and saying to the man ‘I’ll help you cross’. Such a simple yet powerful affirmation of our ability – if we choose – to make life easier for someone. Helping someone cross takes nothing away from us and adds something that can be life-changing to someone else.

• ‘Every dreamer in this room, there are people whose lives are tied into your dream.’

If there’s a dream you’re harbouring, don’t wait for someone else to tell you it’s okay before you work towards it.

As a coach who helps my clients find their way to reach their goals and achieve their dreams, I often find that people struggle to focus on what they want. Sometimes people feel guilty or worry that their dreams are too selfish or too audacious. Tyler Perry’s words recognise that striving for our dreams inspires others to do the same. Even the fact of pressing on instead of giving up shows someone else that they can do the same. And when you succeed, like Perry, you get the opportunity to pull others along to reach their dreams.

• ‘While everybody else is fighting for a seat at the table…I'll be down in Atlanta building my own.'

For me, this was the biggest takeaway. Not waiting for permission, not fighting for scraps, not needing someone else’s validation to nurture your dream, but just doing it.

Sometimes what you’re looking for doesn’t yet exist, or in quite the way that you’d like. If that’s the case, be the solution to your own challenge – after all, that’s how so many products and services were created by other people, so why not you?

Cliché though it is, life is short. If you’re harbouring a dream, don’t wait for someone to tell you it’s okay before working towards it. If the conventional route isn’t opening for you, find your own. If you can’t get a seat at that table, well then, build your own.

Sometimes the biggest rewards come when you follow your vision instead of trying to become a reflection of someone else’s. As Tyler Perry concludes, ‘Own your stuff, own your business, own your way."


Founder & Managing Editor, ReConnect Africa

Author of Imperfect Arrangements,‘Imperfect Arrangements’ ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

*Adapted from an earlier article

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