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The First Impression Lasts

April 28, 2018

"If a man is called to be a street sweeperhe should sweep streets even as  Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I always end my articles with a quote but today, I have decided to start with one. The stories experiences I am about to share with you truly require that I set their backdrop using the above quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

Sometime last week, I visited a certain school somewhere in Dar Es Salaam. It was the first time I had been to that side of the city and because I didn’t know exactly where I was going, I had to keep asking for directions. As fate would have it, somewhere about 3 Kms to the school, I was stopped by a traffic cop. I was happy when he stopped me because I was intending to “stop” him myself and ask him for directions to that school. Unfortunately the cop had his own seriously warped ideas, a situation that led me to stay there by the road (with him in my car!) for a whole hour. Well, whatever he wanted from me he didn’t get but he left with the word of God and a lot to think about his morals.  

He however did do one good thing; he directed me to the school and I got there safely.

I was meant to have arrived at the school by 3:20pm but because of the delays caused by that cop, I ended up getting to the school at 4:30pm, which according to the gateman was after school hours. I requested him to call the headmaster of the particular school but he said he could not because it was after working hours. Despite my trying to explain to him what had happened, my explanations fell on very deaf ears. Actually before that I had asked him to send someone and without mincing his words he told me to stop teaching him his work. So I decided to talk to one of the teachers who was heading to the parking lot hoping she would help me, which she “supposedly” did, by calling the headmaster and telling him I was at the gate. The feedback she gave me was that he said he would call me later.  I tried to call the head teacher himself for the “nth” (can’t remember how many times I’d already called him) time but he didn’t pick up.

Eventually I just decided to get into my car and drive off. Just as I got onto the main road from that school, the head teacher called me and when I explained to him that I was going to write about his school, he became all furious saying I was being unfair to him and the school. Of course I did make it clear that I was not going to mention the name of the school in my article as I am not in the business of naming and shaming, but in the business of improving attitudes. Long story short, he had me going back to the school.

Instead of him meeting me, he sent someone else to meet me, even though when we spoke on phone he told me he’d be waiting for me. At this point I was livid, and the personal conclusions I made about that school are best left unvoiced.  

But I have to say this, the ambiance of the school is awesome and I believe the kids enjoy the learning environment. On the outside the school looks great, but when you throw in the gateman’s attitude.....frownfrown

Unfortunately like they say, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. The impression I got of that school the first time will always be etched in my mind, thanks to the gateman.

I have to admit however that the person I met in place of the headmaster was a very nice and kind hearted gentleman. You know it's strange, but to date I don’t know why I believe it was the same guy I was supposed to meet but he decided to prank me because I didn’t know who I was meeting. All he same, the two hour meeting I had with the “wrong guy” was worth my going back after the incident with the chubby gateman. He (the gateman) looked like he was about seven (7) months pregnant; maybe that’s why he was moody. Anyway I digress.

I left the school thinking about how much people lose in life because of having a wrong attitude. 

Now compare that experience with the one I am about to share.

A few weeks ago, I happened to have gone to this huge building in Boko called Domi House to visit a client, and while leaving her office, I saw this very stylish barber shop. Actually what caught my attention was the name and the brand. At first I thought it was a pub but then I quickly realized it wasn’t even close to that when I saw the branding on the windows. You know I am into branding and advertising and so when something is good, it always grabs my attention. While I was marveling at the branding, a gentleman saw me from inside and quickly came to talk to me. He introduced himself to me (in English!) and asked me whether I’d like to see the place. I was so impressed by the way he was so proud of where he works, and what I saw when he took me round to see the place that I made up my mind I’ll try out their services soon. 

And when I eventually did go, they didn’t disappoint!

Red Dove Spa in Boko is not your usual saloon or barber shop. This is a place where you go to have an experience, not just a service. From the way they receive you at the door, to the way they serve you, and the ambiance within the place, etc, you leave there feeling like a million bucks yet their rates are actually more reasonable than some saloons I have visited in the past. I have no idea who the owner of that place is, but whoever he or she is, I salute them. They took time to study what a customer looking for their kind of services would need, and they went to great lengths to ensure they fulfilled the desires of their customers. 

For instance, for someone like me who likes taking advantage of my passive time, as I was having my hair shaved and dyed, I was comfortably reading my book. But how were you doing that Liz, wasn’t hair falling all over your book, someone might ask? No my friends it wasn’t. Why? Because they have come up with a brilliant solution to that challenge.

Like I said before, I have no clue who the owner of Red Dove Spa is but whoever he or she is, I got to give it up to them for what they have done with that place. Needless to say, they have a new customer, one who is likely to be looking for any possible excuse to go experience their services. 

Now, compare the first experience with the second one. What is the difference? It is something small yet big called ATTITUDE.

Friends, I don’t think I will ever forget Charles (the guy who served me at the saloon), but I can also tell you I will never forget the gateman at the school I visited; I don’t even know what his name is and I never bothered to ask him. Charles made a very impressive first time impression on me the first time I met him and for that reason I made a mental note to visit the saloon the next time I needed the services they offer. On the other hand, the gateman left a very distasteful experience in my memory, and now every time I go to that school I will be hoping he’s not on duty that day. 

Each one of us has a role they play in society. Be it being a neighbor, or a bar tender, or an ice cream vendor, or a driver, or a bus conductor, or a traffic cop, or a doctor at some hospital, or a teacher in a school, or a guard at some institution, or a personal assistant to some big shot, or farmer, or a shoe-shiner, or a receptionist, or a [.................] you can fill in the gap there. Wherever it is you are, ask yourself whether you are a “Charles” or the gateman.

Whatever role you have in society, always bear in mind that you define that role by the character you exude while playing it. I am sure the gateman is not the first one to behave the way he did, and if I asked you to share your experiences I am sure you would have many. Is it a wonder then that many people have concluded that gatemen or “walinzi”as they are known have a wrong attitude?

The story would have been completely different if the gateman had been nice and kind to me by going the extra mile. If the phones were not working, he could have taken a much needed walk to the headmaster’s office to tell him I was there and to get further instructions. If he had been alone at the gate I would have understood, but he was not alone; he had a colleague with him, which means he just didn’t care.

Having the right attitude will open more doors for you than having the right qualifications ever will. You might have great papers but if your attitude is wrong, those papers mean nothing. What is formidable is having a great attitude accompanied by equally great papers, now that is a force to reckon with. With that wrong attitude the guard had, it is possible that he will never rise up to being anything else other than a guard, but with the great attitude that Charles had and still has, he is very likely to rise into being a business owner.  

Like Zig Ziglar said, “your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude”. 

Having a right attitude will take you from below to the top but having a bad attitude will bring you down from the top. If you can’t be kind and nice to people when you are a gateman then don’t expect that you will be good and kind to people when you become the MD or CEO of whatever company. How now?

That is why my recommendation this week in the ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018 Book Reading Challenge is a book by Napoleon Hill called, “The Master Key To Riches”.  This book will help you gain insight into the principles that made people like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie the prosperous thinkers and businessmen they were in the twentieth century. 

So as you go about your roles this week ask yourselves this question; am I being the best that I could be in this position? Am I exuding a positive or a negative attitude? Like Winston Churchill said, Attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference. Let’s hope your attitude makes a positive difference for you wherever you are.

Be Ignited. Be Inspired. Be Influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 29th of April, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".




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