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Stinking Thinking

June 20, 2013

There are some days when I just don’t feel like leaving my bed, not because I’m so sleepy, but simply because the prospect of dealing with the same people, the same situations, the same attitudes over and over again kills my mojo.

I don’t know when or how but majority of the people I come across on a daily basis have such a twisted perspective of how things should be that it is unbelievably annoying. Take for instance on Thursday evening. I used one of the mobile networks to send mobile money to someone who needed bus-fare to travel from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam. Unfortunately we operate different networks but that should not have been a problem because it is possible to send money cross-network. The only downside to this is that you are charged more.

After I sent her the money, I expected to receive a text message from the network confirming my transaction. Unfortunately, I did not receive the message and neither did she. The only messages we both received are the network alerts that fleetingly appear on your screen and after you press any key they disappear. Being on different networks, she needed that message in order to take it to the relevant network agent for her to retrieve the money. I called the customer care department of my network and as expected, I was put on hold for 23 minutes. I gave up. I called someone I know who works for that network but as much as he wanted to assist me, he couldn’t because it was 5.05pm! Just five minutes after closing hours but I could not get help, and yet, these facilities are supposed to be making our monetary transactions easier… how ironic!

This is the kind of attitude, I was talking about in my intro. What I gathered from that response was the fact that people in that company are motivated by money in order to deliver services to clients. What happened to the genuine desire of wanting to exceed a client’s expectation? Unfortunately this attitude is the norm in this country. From hospitals, to supermarkets, to saloons, to corporates (like the one I’m referencing), to police stations, to the government offices; in short, everywhere! Very few people want to go the extra mile, unless of course the extra mile comes with benefits. I can almost count the number of places I have ever gone to and received a service that wowed me. Of course since slow and crappy service is the norm not the exception, I always get surprised when I get good service and naturally, I always want to know the person who served me. Without mincing my words I’ll say it as it is: most of the times these people are NOT Tanzanian.

Does this mean that only foreigners can do things the way they ought to be done? Nooo! I believe anyone can be anything they want to be; it all depends on what you have fed your mind, you mentality so to speak. It is so common to hear someone saying, “I cannot do this because I am a Tanzanian. We are naturally lazy and do not have the same kind of aggressiveness you Kenyans have!” Now that is total crap! I can give you names of pure Tanzanians who are so hard working and have made it to the top through their hard work. The difference between them and you who is sitting there with your backward mentality is their mindset. They identified their weakness, looked at their strengths, and did whatever they needed to do in order to make it in life. If you ask them, the idea of “this is the way things are done here” never really featured in their minds and as a result, they are where they are today. Those I have spoken to have one thing in common: they always went the extra mile without waiting to be told about “benefits.”

Whenever I have a chance to speak to the youth fresh from college or just recently employed I always tell them one thing; when you are young, earn to learn. Let your motivation be the need to satisfy your hunger for knowledge, the need to sharpen your skills and acquire invaluable experience, and not monetary gain. Applying this attitude in your work then makes it very easy for you to surprise your clients because you are not doing it for the money; you are doing it to learn and in the process, you give them a great experience.

I meet people every day whose mindsets need to be adjusted. If you spend two hours in the morning taking breakfast and another one hour reading the newspapers, on your employer’s time, then you need a mindset fix! If you keep taking off-days from the office every other Friday or Monday (so as to have a long weekend) in the pretext that your neighbor’s great grand-mother died, you need more than a mindset fix; you need deliverance to stop lying and “killing”. If you have to wait to be told to do something at the office just because it is not part of your job description, dude, you don’t need a job; go home and become a coach potato until you get the right mindset. As for you who comes strutting into the office after the official opening hours, with no feelings of regret or remorse, you not only need a mindset fix, you also need a new clock that tells you the correct time. I will not spare the social media addict either; I wish you would spend the same amount of time you spend on Facebook and Twitter edifying yourself and learning new tricks and skills to make you better at your position.

It’s about time people changed their mindsets. It’s about time people said “enough is enough” to mediocrity and the overated mentality of “this is how things are done here”. While we are speaking about mindsets, it’s about time YOU stopped expecting the government to do something for you and instead ask yourself what you have done to help the government (And don’t talk about taxes; pay Ceasar what belongs to him, without whining) .You can start by keeping the traffic police in check and stop bribing them for mistakes you have done! Take responsibility and ownership for your traffic offences, and if you don’t want to be accountable, then don’t commit any. Period. Something else you can do is stop littering the roads with garbage from your car! In short, if you want to see any change, then you be the change you want to see!

As I come to the end of this article I leave you with this short story:

As my friend was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages, just a small rope! It was obvious that the elephants could at anytime, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. My friend saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. "Well," he said, "when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size of rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free."

It’s all in your mind. You can break away from your mindset any time you decide you’ve had enough of it. Remember the definition of insanity? It is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But then again I'm sure you already knew this. 

I wish you a renewed mindset from this day going forward.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 17th June, 2013, under my weekly column"Thoughts in Words"



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