‘How did your day go? What did you guys do?’ Was the regular slew of questions that proceeded from our YPARD counterparts, to which I responded with a general run-through of the day’s activities. ‘We learnt how to pitch and write a lean business plan,’ I replied, not really delving much into the nitty-gritty.
Why? Because the reality of the matter was that the transformation we underwent behind said closed doors, well, that type of transformation was not easily articulable over a cup of Birchwood hotel coffee. No, this kind of transformation was profound and irrevocable. The stuff of legends.
Day One of Training
I remember sitting down to an introduction by Michelle Kovacevic, YPARD Mentoring Co-ordinator, and thinking, ‘We’re actually here!’ But this sense of elation quickly gave way to uncertainty and nervousness when our first activity,‘The River of Life’, forced us out of our neatly packed comfort zones. The sheer agony.
‘The River of Life’ is a brief exercise that asks participants to share significant moments of their lives in the form of descriptive drawing. In our case, these were the moments that directed us down our entrepreneurial paths—what we hoped for in the future and how we felt after the first day of mentoring.
Let’s just say the activity involved a whole lot more introspection than I and maybe all my fellow YAPs had anticipated. Don’t get me wrong though, we weren’t just sitting around a projector singing Kumbaya and passing around the talking stick. We got knee-deep into How to Pitch, Lean Canvases, Cash Flow Analysis, Risk Management, Social and Environmental Return on Investment and sessions on Qualities of a Good Mentor, but for me what struck me most were the segments in the sessions when we were asked to be most vulnerable.
The Vulnerable Wizard
Successful entrepreneurship conjures up the image of a ‘Wizard of Oz’ type of persona. All knowing, all powerful…all awesome. What we have to remember though, is that there is usually a less-than-awesome little man behind the curtain. If only the Wizard had been brave enough to step out of his comfort zone, admit his insecurities and face the Ozlanders / Ozians / Ozitainians/ People of Oz (you take your pick), imagine the trouble he would have saved himself (not to mention energy bills)!
What I am trying to get at here, dear reader, is The Mystical Power of Vulnerability, a lesson that although was inadvertently taught through the mentorship sessions, resonated deep within.
As an entrepreneur, vulnerability enables you to humanize your story and allows users or customers to relate. It also so happens to be not only the foundation of creativity, innovation, and change but also the defining trait of great entrepreneurs . When vulnerable, you are able to trace the genesis of your need to solve a problem and, stepping out of your comfort zone, you will be able and willing to successfully convey that.
Another comfort zone (also aptly named the ‘terror barrier’) prodding exercise that we undertook had us list ten life-altering moments over a span of four years and then chart how these have led us to GCARD3. Imagine reading this list out to six strangers. Comfort zone annihilated. Game, set, match.
The Thriving Zone
As an entrepreneur, you need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. You need to enjoy, be thrilled with the prospect…your heart needs to beat for the love of rolling up the proverbial sleeves.
In my own case, my next three months of sleeve-rolling will entail building and monitoring my prototype greenhouse, sourcing a market for our produce, and then replicating the model in a school that was previously part of a school-feeding program. In one word, ‘Thrilling!’
GCARD3 boasted brilliant minds from the full range of agricultural fields, a few of whom I was able to delve into a deeper conversation with about my initiative. A common question everyone posed was, ‘What role would women play in this?’ It was evident that all believed, as I did, that women would be the lynchpin to our success. This simple, yet key observation cemented an initial intention of mine: to have women from marginalized pastoralist communities act as our project managers.
Being a YAP finalist has granted me the opportunity to create a project with the potential to help bring Africa’s hunger and dependence to an end. It means a chance to bring impact and change to the absolute bottom-of-the-pyramid. This knowledge fills me with profound zeal which, albeit tainted by a few specks of atychiphobia (look it up!).
So, my great takeaway from behind those closed doors, dear reader, is that ‘A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there,’ and that, as cliché as it might sound, life does indeed begin at the end of your comfort zone .
I hereby dedicate my ‘Year-of-YAP’ to not only living but thriving where the magic happens.
Watch Lillian introduce her project at the #GCARD3 conference:
Blogpost by Lillian Beauttah – limobachi(at)gmail.com – one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD. The YAP Finalists launched their projects during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016.
Read her original YAP proposal here.
Photo Credit: Oklanica on Flickr