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Expand the Definition of Resources

After I wrote Envision more for yourself, a friend of mine messaged me with the following comment;

“I left Yemen because I had a choice, but sometimes I look back and see my friends and family who had less chance to travel and see the world yet their imagination stretches way beyond, and they have bigger dreams given their circumstances.
I think the problem is not that people don’t dream when they become limited in their environment because I believe at least a fraction of the population have the innate mental capacity to do so, but I think the problem lies in the lack of resources.
I once taught a leadership/innovation class in Sanaa university and I was supposed to give the [students] instructions to find engineering solutions for problems in the city and a lot of them were so creative and outside-the-box thinkers but at the end of the day, they were forced to just keep their solutions on paper because there are no resources/support to build what they proposed.”

Interesting enough, this idea was echoed in Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime where he wrote, “People love to say, ‘Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ What they don’t say is, ‘And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.'”

It’s also why African countries like Kenya are highly reliant on foreign aid and NGO’s. As entrepreneur Erik Hersman (@WhiteAfrican) said in an interview for the book Digital Kenya by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss“In a well-functioning state, most NGOs would not exist. There is only a limited role for them, because the market answers many of the problems, and the government should answer the rest. However, here in Kenya, we have one of the highest count of NGOs per capita in the world.” 

The thing is, we’re grateful for all the NGO’s that come and help locals build businesses but the one thing you’ll hear over and over again is the sad demise of yet another startup because they relied solely on funding and did not have a successful business model to make it sustainable.

That’s why I feel, we need to understand there’s more to the term ‘Resources’ than money. It’s well known that you can’t solve the poverty problem by pumping money into it. Resources can take various forms, such as;
– Teaching business knowledge and acumen
– Building collaborative communities where people are empowered
– Connecting local talent to international markets

These ideas come from Ernesto Sirolli who gave a funny TED talk on the topic of how aid workers need to start listening to the people they’re trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit titled, “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen.”

He said,”there is a secret to work with entrepreneurs. First, you have to offer them confidentiality. Otherwise they don’t come and talk to you. Then you have to offer them absolute, dedicated, passionate service to them. And then you have to tell them the truth about entrepreneurship. The smallest company, the biggest company, has to be capable of doing three things beautifully: The product that you want to sell has to be fantastic, you have to have fantastic marketing, and you have to have tremendous financial management. Guess what? We have never met a single human being in the world who can make it, sell it and look after the money. It doesn’t exist. This person has never been born. We’ve done the research, and we have looked at the 100 iconic companies of the world — Carnegie, Westinghouse, Edison, Ford, all the new companies, Google, Yahoo.There’s only one thing that all the successful companies in the world have in common, only one: None were started by one person.”

This emphasizes the importance of collaborations and building communities when it comes to sustaining thriving businesses.

Last but not least, since this whole post was just a bunch of random quotes bunched together to make you think, I would like to end with a geeky quote I came up with once, “People list solar, wind and wave energy as renewable resources but the ultimate renewable resources are within us humans and those are; creativity, love, decisiveness, honesty, sincerity, passion….”

Published inBooksLeadership
  • Kathleen ッッ Siminyu

    On the lack of resources, I lean more towards start where you are with what you have. Then talk about it! In my experience, when you just start off doing, the right people will find you, the resources you lack today, you could have your pick of tomorrow.

    The comment from the lady in Yemen, why couldn’t her students have built something with whatever was available…in addition to dreaming up and drawing the other epic solutions?