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No (Wo)Man is Self-Made

April 13, 2019

“There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.” George Burton Adams


I used to say I am self-made, until I realized how arrogant, egoistic and full of pride that sounded. Every single thing I have achieved today is not just my own effort and knowledge, but it is the compounded effect of many different people who have touched my life in one way or another.  


I think back as far as the care-giver who took care of me when I was a little baby until I was old enough to go to school. Then there are the teachers who took over from my care-giver, the teachers who taught me how to hold a pen for the first time; they taught me how to read and write; how to write my name; the nursery rhymes, etc. To-date I still have some fond memories of my nursery school days.  From there I went to primary school then onto secondary school, then various institutions of higher learning, then to my first job, and my second, and a few other jobs along the way, and now I am here. At every point of my journey, there have been people along the way who have held my hand in one way or another. 


I still have people holding my hand even today, my Mum being my number one helper. She not only carried me in her womb but she continues to carry me today through her incessant prayers and words of advice and encouragement. There would be no Liz today had it not been for Mum. She is my pillar of strength and support.


Listen, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, but at the end of the day you will need people to work with, to do business with, and most importantly, you will need people to relate to. I remember I once wrote an article where I said that even if you are selling chicken feed or dog food, you will still need to talk to people because you don’t expect the chicken or the dog to come to the shop to buy its own food. Well, maybe the dog might come but it will definitely have been sent by a human being. At the end of the day, whatever service or product you are offering, there will need to be a human being somewhere along that chain.


You are probably reading this article right now and you are a student, and maybe you are thinking to yourself that since you are not in any kind of employment then maybe this does not really apply to you. Newsflash! It does. At the point of looking for internship or your first job, guess what you will need? References. And where will you get those references from? From people who have associated with you in one way or another and they know you enough to deserve that position of being your referees. 


Then there’s the whole concept of mentorship and apprenticeship. I never knew this before but now that I do, I realize that it is very important for every person who wants to advance in their profession or career to have a mentor. I don’t recall ever hearing this in school or even in college, but if I was to write the school curriculum today, I would incorporate a few life-skills into that curriculum, amongst them, how to be a mentee and later a mentor.  Though I didn’t realize it then, I am where I am today because I have had many mentors correcting me, guiding me and driving me insane along the way as they pushing me to become responsible and accountable for every one of my actions. All said and done, I now realize all this was necessary for me to grow into the person I am today. And I still have mentors even now.


There are times I look back at my life and wish I knew about this mentorship concept when I was still a teenager, I would have taken it more seriously. There are many mistakes I have made in my life that I would have avoided had I been under the deliberate mentorship of someone. But then again, I didn’t even know who I wanted to be at that point in my life so it might have been difficult to find a mentor when I didn’t know what path I wanted to take. 


When I think about mentorship, I think about Warren Buffett. As powerful and as wealthy as he is, he would not have gotten to where he is today had it not been for three people in his life; The late Benjamin Graham who was Warren Buffet’s mentor and author of The Intelligent Investor, then there was David Dodd who was Benjamin Graham’s collaborator, and then there was Phil Fisher who influenced 15% of Buffett’s investing style. The remaining 85% of his investing style was influenced by his mentor, Benjamin Graham. I guess from those figures you can see how powerful a mentor can be in someone’s life. 


You can read more on how these three men influenced Warren Buffett’s life in a book called The Essays Of Warren Buffett.


My point is, mentorship and apprenticeship is all about people and relationships. Remember, nobody is a self-made man or woman. We all need help along the way. That is why building strong relationships is very important, an area I have been failing miserably and one I want to improve immensely this year. In his book Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, the author gives very detailed approaches one can use to build new relationships while enhancing the quality of existing relationships. It is from this book that I have learnt the concept of Relationship Equity. You can download a soft copy here


The son of a small-town steelworker and a cleaning lady, Ferrazzi first used his remarkable ability to connect with others to pave the way to Yale, a Harvard M.B.A., and several top executive posts. Not yet out of his thirties, he developed a network of relationships that stretched from Washington’s corridors of power to Hollywood’s A-list, leading to him being named one of Crain’s 40 Under 40 and selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the Davos World Economic Forum.


Ferrazzi’s form of connecting to the world around him is based on generosity, helping friends connect with other friends. Ferrazzi distinguishes genuine relationship-building from the crude, desperate glad-handing usually associated with “networking.” He then distills his system of reaching out to people into practical, proven principles. Among them:

Don’t keep score: It’s never simply about getting what you want. It’s about getting what you want and making sure that the people who are important to you get what they want, too.


“Ping” constantly: The ins and outs of reaching out to those in your circle of contacts all the time—not just when you need something.

Never Eat Alone: The dynamics of status are the same whether you’re working at a corporation or attending a social event—“invisibility” is a fate worse than failure. 

Become the “King of Content”How to use social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to make meaningful connections, spark engagement, and curate a network of people who can help you with your interests and goals.


Do you want to get ahead in life? Climb the ladder to personal success? You need to read this book and get the inside scoop on what distinguishes highly successful people from everyone else is the way they use the power of relationships—so that everyone wins, i.e. Relationship Equity.

This book was my third read of the year, and I am definitely recommending it as a must read in the ongoing #Lhw52BooksIn52Weeks2019 book reading challenge. In the course of this book, Ferrazzi outlines the timeless strategies shared by the world’s most connected individuals, from Winston Churchill to Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan to the Dalai Lama. It is full of advice on handling rejection, getting past gatekeepers (personal assistants, secretaries, bodyguards, etc.) and a lot  more.


Having read this book I realize that the problem we have in our society today is that instead of seeing each other as potential collaborators, we often see each other as competitors.  Reading this book has made me realize that it is actually possible for businesses that are doing the same exact thing to view each other as collaborators and get more business done, while those in different industries can work as complimentors which again provides a platform for both businesses to gain from that relationship; again, relationship equity.


I am reminded of something the former governor of California, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger (aka The Terminator) said during his commencement address at the University of Houston sometimes last year.  He told students that community is crucial and that there is no such thing as a "self-made man. "The concept, he said, "is a myth." He also said, "It's important to recognize that at every step of the way, I had help. It's important to acknowledge that," and added, "As soon as you understand that you are here because you had a lot of help, you realize you need to help others." "Don't just think about yourself," he said.


Allow me to leave you with a very old adage that took me a long time to understand its full implications...."No man is an island. And I add, no man or woman is self-made. We all make (or break) each other.


Let’s all learn to collaborate with and compliment each other. We will definitely have a better and happier world to live in.


Be ignited. Be inspired. Be influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.




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