perseverance: apply for everything all the time


LAST year I met a most amazing fellow who chose to settle in Uganda after getting here by way of more work, money and experience than the vast majority of us will ever know, living an existence that the vast majority of us almost cannot stand.

Paul Anderson would confuse the average Ugandan. When I met him he was dressed as casually as a backpacker and toting the type of bag and envelopes that make most be-suited, neck-tied Ugandans roll their eyes and look the other way to avert requests for jobs and other favours.

A few minutes into our conversation I began to notice that he was quite different, and probed further. His story is really, really long and fascinating – including the millions of United States dollars he has made over time versus the choice he has made to live a life that costs a couple hundred dollars a month in various parts of Uganda that many of you struggle to avoid.

His entire life story is not the subject of what triggered these particular thoughts; there was one bit of our discussion that morning that returned to me last week when a young lady I admire posted a tweet that deserves a lot of attention.

Paul Anderson is an author and philosopher, having studied life in a very deep manner. I am still on standby to get involved in one of his projects, and left him that day with many thoughts bouncing about in my head.

One of these was his astonishment at the lack of energy among some of our youth and the need to make them realise it.

In one example, he told me of an otherwise intelligent and seemingly capable young lady he met who was in despair at having failed to secure a job a couple of years after completing her university degree. She had studied a banking-related course and was eager to work in a bank at some level.

Paul asked her how many applications she had put out and her response was, something like, “About six.”

“In two years?”

She confirmed so. See, she explained, the banks she applied to were simply not responding or giving her the job(s), and the others hadn’t advertised any.

He was unsympathetic. She could have applied to three times that same number and still didn’t deserve sympathy, he said.

If she really wanted to work in a commercial bank, he told her, what she needed to do was to list all the commercial banks and financial institutions in Uganda and then apply to ALL of them. After doing so, she needed to run a time-table and visit each and every one of the banks to secure personal audience with a manager and ask for a job.

“With a degree in hand, the right attitude and the right amount of persistence, even if nobody offered her a job they wouldn’t chase her off outright,” he reasoned. After that, he said, she needed to write them a follow-up email, wait a few months, and then go back to ask again.

With all the commercial banks in Uganda, she needed to pester them consistently using her time table until one of them gave in and offered her something – anything!

That approach has stayed on my mind for a while and I believe it could work more times than fail – especially since it involves slogging until success is achieved. Just two weeks ago I wrote the big word “Perseverance” on the blackboard of a classroom of wide-eyed eight-year olds, then explained it to them.

Hence my stop-and-think-hard-then-applaud-loudly reaction last week when @Kemi_stry – full name Kemiyondo Coutinho – tweeted:

“I apply for something every week. Yup. Every week. Now think of how many things I announce that I have actually gotten. I hustle for more than I receive. As it should be. You never know which one is the door. So keep trying that key in all of them.”

No wonder, I thought to myself, she does so well.

I have only met her properly once, in circumstances I cannot go into right now and trust she won’t ever tell anyone about (Madamoiselle/Madame/Boss – PLEASE DO NOT!), but I have interacted with her online for a long, enjoyable time.

She is in the business of Creative Arts and Entrepreneurship and is on a roll right now. Last week, her short film “Kyenvu” won the Best Narrative Short Film Award at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival 2018!

She is teaching the world the meaning of the Luganda word “kyenvu” (google it!) – which puts Luganda up there on the list of languages being used globally to describe colours and emotions and milkshake flavours. I have proof – the word now exists on http://www.imdb.com, the website where all movies of note get listed.

Thanks to @Kemi_stry and her team, there is a whole cast of Ugandan names up on that site as well, together with Ugandans who produce, direct and score movies to global standards!

I haven’t yet watched “Kyenvu” but I can tell that it tackles important themes squarely – sexual harassment – and raises one’s attention to subliminal ones – such as race issues in our settings.

I am not surprised that “Kyenvu” is winning awards because @Kemi_stry is that type of go-get-em person. Once, in the past, we had a very short conversation about her joining the national broadcast system. The discussion was understandably very, very short due to the candid but positive approach we both seem to take most times.

She went her merry, determined way, persevered, and today, in the age of the “Black Panther”, she has the world at her feet and is choosing what colour to make it.

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