McClintock AcSmhour came to me during the break when we were running one of our Spar Upskill workshops at the African Christian College in eSwatini. Shyly he asked if I would mind taking a look at a proposal and strategic planning he had put together for an initiative to help the unemployed youth back in his home country of Malawi. I immediately agreed and he brought out his laptop. It was fine proposal, beautifully put together. His idea was to present workshops for unemployed youth, bringing in business leaders and other individuals to impart practical and life skills to improve their lives. I was excited by it, as I always am whenever I meet someone who is passionate about uplifting the lives of others and making a difference. It was a fantastic concept. All he needed, he told me, was to find the right people in order to create the team to make this happen.
No, no, no I said. Just start. He stared at me. Just start. From where you are, with what you have. Don’t wait. Get a group of youth together and begin. Build it from there. He asked if I meant start now. Of course I did, there is huge need everywhere in Africa. Practice here, find young people who will be willing to participate and put the ideas into action.
That conversation happened back in May this year. As I write this McClintock and the team he put together in eSwatini are now on at least their fourth or fifth workshop. They are reaching out to youth through churches and high schools, teaching them self-awareness and life skills. He keeps me updated, excitedly reporting that each time they present a workshop, they receive emails and calls to run more. McClintock has also reached out to a global network and has identified 7 people in other African countries willing to be involved in his initiative “Foundation for Business Development in Africa”. By the time he returns to his home country when he has completed his studies, he will have had plenty of practice, his confidence grown in leaps and bounds. He will have made some amazing connections, ready to take his project to the next level. I told him I want a personal invitation to the official launch of FOBDA in Malawi. He’s promised me a VIP seat.
All because he “just started”. So often I have people approaching me with an idea, saying they cannot start without funding, or need this requirement or that; or they caught up in fancy written proposals or plans. My reply is nearly always the same. “Just start”.
I have seen how this has applied in my own life over the past couple of months (hence the reason for an absence of my blog), in particular when I was faced with packing up 22 years of life on our farm, days after my husband passed away. As I sat facing what felt like a monumentally overwhelming task – we had accumulated a LOT of stuff – I thought of my advice to McClintock a couple of months earlier. Just start. That advice has kept me going as I moved into my new home alone and had to deal with the various formalities and legalities that come with death and moving, as well as coping with the grief process. That mantra of “just start” has sometimes been the only thing that got me out of bed, got me going.
On social media I see people coming up with many good suggestions for improving the communities they live in. At the We Are White River Conversations back in June there were some wonderfully innovative ideas around tourism and attracting visitors to our town. I wonder how many have seen the light of day? Who “just started”?
It is only now, as I write this blog that I realize just how powerful my advice to McClintock was, not only for him, but for me. I have watched the unfolding of his journey with delight and awe, because when we “just start” – as the founders of We Are White River did back in 2014 – magic happens.
Like I did with this blog, what do you need to “just start”?