I be home soon…

I be home soon….                                                                       October 15, 2014

I started this post Saturday morning, but events preempted completing it by Sunday evening (more about that below).  Here is how it started Saturday morning:

It’s Saturday morning and the beginning of my last week in Accra.  I’m struggling to put this amazing 7 ½ month experience in perspective.  The best I can say at this point is that it has been part of my journey to explore “who I am” that has been a rewarding, intense, learning experience exposing me to new ways of thinking and a different perspective on people.  It’s also been a mini MBA refresher, 43 years after the original.

As the early readers of my blog recall, my motivation for writing one was to provide a record for my granddaughters (Lucy, age 3 and Audrey, age 9) to explain why “Papa” left them for 8 months.  I hope when they’re older, they will go back and read my posts allowing me to share with them my experiences in a part of the world I knew little about.

Twenty plus years ago, I recognized there was a difference between “who I am” and “what I did”.  While my career as an entrepreneur and business builder was rewarding and consistent with who I believe I am, it was also limiting.  Because of my inability to maintain balance, I put so much time and energy into my career, it limited my ability to explore other aspects of who I am.  It was only after leaving the full time work force that I began this journey.  It began with spending more time with my family.

My experiences is Ghana and Nigeria have been almost the ideal way to live “who I am”…except for the most important part of me—my family.  The tug of family and friends is stronger than the joy I experience being a business coach to some amazing entrepreneur-business builders I’ve had the great pleasure to work with.

Upon returning home, and after reconnecting with Kathy and my family, I’ll begin my search to find other ways to balance my love for my family, and engage with and contribute to others.

Friday was a fitting reminder of my comment in my first post…”if you can learn patience, you will experience unimaginable joy”.  I volunteered to lead a “Design Thinking” workshop at the Leadership Conference of the National Society of Black Engineers.  Aaron, a fellow coach and I arrived a little before the workshop was to begin, only to learn that the supplies that were critical for the workshop had not been purchased.

I was told “no problem”, that they would buy the supplies at a local store which we assumed would take less than an hour.  We finally began the workshop 3 hours later.  But this was not time lost as we watched a scholastic bowl-type STEM competition, similar to the old “College Bowl” TV series between 3 regional senior high schools.  The teams consisted of two all boys teams and one all girls team.  All the students were impressive in their range of knowledge from biology, chemistry, physics, and information technology, but the girls blew away the boys with the final score 74, to 50 and 39.  The winners:

P1040058CroppedBlog We then got to review the science projects other high school students had developed.  These included a robot built with legos using an optical reader to sort rice grains by color (which has commercial value), a robot that automatically navigates a path for an emergency rescue vehicle, and a client server intranet built with public domain software, including Apache server software.

Finally the supplies arrived and we began the Design Thinking exercise.  The purpose of the exercise was to show people they are creative and to teach the participants the importance of “customer empathy”.  At the beginning of the exercise, only 1 our 36 people raised their hands when I asked them if they were creative?  After the exercise, 3/4th of them said they realized they were creative…a success and more joy.

After the program, I shared with the girls high school team and a woman engineer who attended the Design Thinking exercise a quote from an article in a recent Stanford GSB Alumni Magazine.  The article, an interview of the 2 male authors of “Scaling Up Excellence” (a book we use in the SEED program), was titled “How do you build a culture of excellence?”

One of the questions was “How do you build the right mix of people for positive growth?”, and the response was  “…you should make sure to have as many women as possible, because the more men you have in a group, the dumber it gets, controlling for their IQ.”

Big smiles spread across the ladies faces as they read.  They knew they brought special value and were pleased to see it recognized in writing.  Unfortunately, they were also resigned to the fact that their male counterparts wouldn’t accept the statement as feminism hasn’t yet reached Ghanaian shores.

As a result of my participation in the Leadership Conference I was given a gift that I would have never guessed I’d be wearing— a T-shirt for the National Society of Black Engineers—that I’m wearing as I post this.

As this will be my last post from Ghana, I would like to thank the SEED Accra staff that have provided much help and support.  Specifically, I want to thank Emmanuel, Flora, Maame Efua, Melissa, and Winfred.  I also want to thank our drivers, Annan, Dodoo, Henry, and Obed, our “supper club” chef, Mark, and our “house boys”, Ernest and Prince.

I also want to thank my “supper club” fellow coaches, Corinne, Jim and Kweku who are now good friends and helped me be a better coach.  The last group I want to thank are the “new” coaches, Aaron, Andy, Grant, and Hans, who will be carrying on the legacy of the coaches that proceeded them.

20140922SEEDCoachOffsite  There’s one more group at the top of my “thank you” list—and no surprise, it’s my company entrepreneurs who made this experience so rich for me.  I can’t express how deep my admiration and appreciation is for Chioma (Karen Happuck), Carl, Godwin, and Michael (African Concrete Products), Gideon and Kofi (Nsano), Charles and Tilly (International Community Schools), Annie, Evans, John, and Samuel (Agrana Ghana), Baffour and Benedicta (GHS Housing), and Richard (Richard Brainsworth).

Lastly, I want to thank Marilyn Bardet, Kathy’s longtime friend, for suggesting I write a blog to my granddaughters.  It was definitely a stretch for me, but I’m glad I accepted the challenge, making my experience deeper and more rewarding.

I return home feeling mentally younger, but physically a bit older, with only 2 specific goals—to reconnect with Kathy, Robin, Amy, Dan, Audrey and Lucy and my friends, and to see if I can find some way to stay connected to Ghana without living there.  Beyond that, I hope to find new ways to continue to live a life with meaning.

So why didn’t I get out my post on time?

As I get ready to leave, there’s so much I want to do, including my Saturday morning drumming lesson, meeting a Nigerian student at the Accra bus station at 11:00 PM Saturday night as he visits Accra (I met him through Corinne in Lekki Market in Lagos when I first arrived in West Africa), a Sunday afternoon party Carl organized at his home for “my” entrepreneurs and the coaches to say thank you, a Sunday dinner party at our apartment put on by Vencentia, one of Corinne’s entrepreneurs, to show me again how to cook kelewele, and my last company meetings Monday and Tuesday with the new coaches who are taking over “my” companies.  This is an emotional time for me as I think about reconnecting with my family while also leaving my new Ghanaian and Nigerian friends.

I fly to Dubai Saturday evening where I’ll spend 2 nights.  This is the view from the room I booked on Airbnb.

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So excited to see my family and friends soon.

It was party time Saturday night in 5A!

It was party time Saturday night in 5A!                                                 Sunday, October 5, 2014

…which included chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream for desert!SONY DSC

Corinne and I had a “learn to cook Ghanaian” party Saturday night (actually it was Corinne, the master party planner, who had the idea, and did most of the organizing and prep work which anybody who knows me already knows) where 2 of Corinne’s entrepreneurs taught her Ghanaian cooking.  But I paid close attention to the kelewele (fried plantains with special spices) as that’s my favorite Ghanaian dish.

Here are our chef instructors, both entrepreneurs in the SEED program.  Linda, on the left, runs KAD Manufacturing, a manufacturer of school uniforms who is also a judge on Ghana’s Most Beautiful that I wrote about in an earlier post.  She is also a fashion designer as you’ll see from Cadling Fashions’ Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cadling-Fashions/621414364540949).  She designed clothing for Michelle Obama that she wore during her 2013 visit to Ghana, and Linda designed some clothing for Kathy and me, although you won’t find mine on Cadling’s Facebook page.

Vincentzia is an executive in Nkulenu Industries, a food processing company started in 1942 by her late mother. Vincentia lives in Southern California but returned to Ghana for an extended period to be more involved in the family business, participate in the SEED program, and strengthen the Nukulenu management team.

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The guy’s job was to make the cookies—chocolate chip cookies using the Nestles’ chips I brought back from my California visit in August.  Linda’s husband Carl, a UNESCO employee, their daughter Nywurama, and I divided up the cookie work—I read the recipe and gathered the ingredients, Carl did the hard work, Nywuama taste-tested the chocolate chips to be sure they were of uniform quality, and I was the oven man.

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After hours of preparation, the food was ready to be served…tilapia cooked & served 2 different ways, chicken, jollof rice (a spicy rice that is also one of my favorites), white rice, groundnut soup, banku (made with maize flour and grated cassava cooked in water to form a thick dough-like paste), kelewele, rice balls, roasted peanuts as an accent, tomato sauce (that you find in some form at every Ghanaian meal, including breakfast), string beans and a green salad.  I report humbly that by the end of the evening there wasn’t a cookie left…darn it!

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This was a typical Ghanaian party—we started with the idea we could fit eveyone around our dinner table, but as is true for every Ghanaian party, the invite list grew over time…YEA.   You see the kids above, here are the rest of us who got to enjoy this “brilliant” feast.

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On a much more serious note, I have been following Mr. Duncan, the first ebola case to be identified in the US.  It was inevitable as it only takes one irresponsible person to infect a country.   Nigeria’s first ebola case started with another thoughtless person who was a US citizen as well as a Liberian, traveling to Nigeria from Liberia.  This is a world problem and I hope both the East and West recognize they have to work together to address this.  It’s unfortunate it took so long and we now have to deal with it on US shores.

We discussed this at last night’s party.  From the Ghanaian’s point of view, the most discouraging thing is that the US press paints all of West Africa with the same brush, implying that all of West Africa has ebola virus cases which is NOT true.  ECOWAS, which stands for Economic Community of West African States, consists of 15 countries as reflected below.  Only 5 of them have reported any ebola virus cases—and according to US health authorities, the ebola virus “has been contained in Nigeria and Senegal”.  Thus, only 3 of the 15 countries have the ebola virus today…but we are all holding our breadth.  My hope is the longer we keep it out of Ghana, the better the chance that we can sustain that since more and more actions are taken to prevent it from reaching Ghana.  The 3 countries that are still fighting a deteriorating condition are Liberia, Sierra Leon, and Guinea.  They share a common border in a rural area where there is no border control.  These are three of the poorest countries in the world with little health infrastructure and no prior experience in dealing with ebola.  The initial case was discovered in Guinea in December 2013 (when did we first hear about it?), yet WHO didn’t designate it a public health emergency of international concern until August 8.  It’s discouraging to think that if the world can’t come together to address ebola quickly, how will we ever unite to address climate change.

The ECOWAS countries:

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We are a connected world and cannot build fences around the US to protect us if we want to continue to be a thriving economic power.

I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends soon, but also already missing my new Ghanaian and Nigerian friends, some of whom are like family.  Next week will be my last post from West Africa.

Yea Giants!!!!!!!!!

Yea Bears!!!!!!!!

Ops Cardinal !!!!!!!!

Musings on Patience

Musings on Patience                                                                              September 28, 2014

When I was accepted for the SEED program, I set a few personal goals.  One of them was to become a more patient person.  As my time in Ghana quickly comes to a close, as you might expect I’m in a reflective mode.

I thought living in a developing country would give me plenty of opportunity to develop my patience gene…and I was right.

In reflecting on patience, I realize it’s not something that you have one moment and lose the next.  Rather, for me patience is a way of living and a state of being.  It’s not just a state of mind at a specific point in time.

I’ve concluded that to become a more patient person, it’s much easier for me to achieve and sustain if I develop a number of other attributes to support my patience gene.

For example, being adaptable makes it easier to be patient.  I encounter patience challenges every day, so adapting to life and accepting the challenges makes it easier.  Since I am constantly tested, it also helps to be resilient and not let the challenges grind on you.

For me, it’s easier to be patient when I’m selfless.  Patience in an inward looking feeling.  I find that by shifting my focus outward, it’s easier to be patient.  And it’s easier to be selfless when I’m engaged.  Caring enough to see the world through another person’s eyes helps me stay patient when faced with tests.

I’ve concluded there’s an inverse relationship between patience and frustration.  The more patient I am, the less frustrated I am…and vice versa—the less frustrated I am, the easier it is to be patient. Patience is the driver on the upside, and frustration is the driver on the downside.  So one of many the benefits of patience is reduced frustration.

I’ve concluded there’s a direct relationship between patience and joy.  The more patient I am, the more joy I experience.

To reduce my frustrations, i.e. to make it easier to be patient, I’ve worked hard to accept what I can’t control and not let it frustrate me.

But, being patient does not mean I don’t have a sense of urgency.  It only means that when faced with obstacles, I don’t let them turn into negative energy.  You can show patience yet not be “laid back”.

Patience is NOT something that once mastered is never lost—it’s not like learning to ride a bike.  Even if I master all of these other emotions, I don’t think it will mean that I won’t get impatient.  The key is what I do when I get those feelings.  Remaining patient is something I have to work on every day by turning the push toward impatience to something positive.

The test for me will be when I return to my more comfortable surroundings.  I hope a “Type A” person can continue to exhibit patience in my “new” world.

The pictures that follow are great examples of the relationship between adaptability and patience.

This a cattle truck on the way to market.  You won’t find a scene like this in the US where the roads are smooth, but in Ghana, even the cattle have to adapt.  The roads are so rough that you couldn’t possibly transport livestock while they stand.  But this is also a reminder that you can be too patient.  You can imagine what will happen to these animals once they reach market.  😦

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The first picture was taken by one of my new fellow coaches, Aaron, where you’ll find it on his wife’s photo blog at http://catandfinch.tumblr.com/ where she is documenting her experience in Accra, having now been here about 5 weeks.  Check it out as she is a “brilliant” photographer.

Here’s a saying I found at www.pinterest.com that expresses my thoughts well.

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I close with a quote from my daughter Robin’s Facebook page for her Yoga Teacher practice.  You can find the link to her photos at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-D-Yoga/112845288808955?fref=photo&sk=photos .

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A Coaches’ Day Off

A Coaches’ Day Off!                                                                                       September 22, 2014

As I mentioned last week, our companies and their coaches were pushing pretty hard last week and weekend to deliver their transformation plans.   The plans are in and the first 3 days of this week will be an offsite with the SEED people from Palo Alto to see how we can improve the program.

Last week I included a quote from one of my entrepreneur’s Transformation Plan.  Here is a quote from another one of my entrepreneurs, perhaps less eloquent, but just as impactful.

“Even though I was initially sceptical about the SEED Program, it has proven to be the most important phase of our lives as a business.”

With the Transformation Plans submitted, and without feeling guilty at all, 3 of the coaches, Corinne, Jim and I took comp time on Thursday to venture into the Eastern Region which is pretty much north of Accra—go figure!  We hired Tony, a driver who we had worked with at SEED and headed north through rolling hills to Koforidua, the capital of the Eastern Region that is known for its Thursday bead market.   “Chevron Trade Beads” which you see below were traded throughout the world from the late 15th century.  In fact Christopher Columbus is said to have taken beads for trading on his discovery of the “New World”.  These glass beads were introduced into Africa by the early Dutch merchants, with the first specimens created by glass bead makers in Venice and Murano, Italy.  They were used for barter and thus their name.

The beads in the picture below (www.ezakwantu.com) match closely the bead designs we found at the market and that I’m bringing home for Christmas presents, but don’t tell the women in my life.

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Here are a picture of the market (borrowed from the internet without attribution) followed by Corinne and me with one of the merchants.

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These kids caught my eye as they came into the market with the younger girl balancing a load of sugar cane.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t fastest enough to catch that picture.

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After sharing a few Cedi with the merchants, we headed further north into rolling hills through lush green tropical flora to Boti Falls just outside the town of Huhunya.   These Falls are one of the loveliest waterfalls in West Africa situated among a dense forest.  The Falls’ vertical drop is about 100 feet and they are at an elevation of more than 800 feet.

After Tony dropped us off at the top of Falls, we hired a young guide and said good bye to Tony with the assurance that he would meet us in a couple hours at Umbrella Rock.  After visiting Boti Falls which were at the bottom of 250 steps, we headed back up to begin our real “hike”.  The hike was not long—a little over an hour—but the lush terrain was rugged, steep and treacherous.

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The plateau above the Falls, also borrowed from the internet without attribution.  Me bad!

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We paused about half way under a big overhang for a photo op.  As you can see, we were both hot and wet.  Our guide explained that the cave was thousands of years old and served as shelter for the early cave men.

 

 

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This gives you a sense of the steepness of the terrain.  We had just come up this ascent but Jim decided to go back down to get a better picture from below.  If we had hiking sticks I’m sure we would have bounded up this trail…NOT!

Yea, Tony was waiting for us at Umbrella Rock as promised!

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Not far beyond Umbrella Rock, we reached the plateau and Asiafo Amanfro Village, a small 10 hut village, which was home to the Three Headed Palm.  The sacred stump under the palm tree serves a special purpose—it is believed that women who sit on the stump will give birth to twins.

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This village was the most rustic village I’ve encountered in all my travels.  The huts had no windows or doors, there was no electricity, water came from a bore hole that was drilled less than 6 years ago (prior to that the residents had to make the climb down to the valley floor and then complete the climb that we just made), there was a single outdoor fenced in open air latrine for the village, and the central kitchen was outside under a corrugated roof as you see below.

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The kitchen..

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Tony pumping water from the bore hole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This village is home to the Akaa Project, a community based organization with offices in the US and Ghana started by a young College of Wooster grad, Lauren Grimanis, who wants to make a difference.   I met Lauren at the SEED Center through a common acquaintance.  As you’ll see below, she is an amazing, highly dedicated young lady.

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The Akaa Project focuses on creating an environment in the Eastern Region of Ghana where rural children, families and communities have access to quality education and healthcare.  Here is the summary of their education initiative from the website www.theakaaproject.org/initiatives/education.

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“Children in the Akaa area did not have access to education preceding the involvement of the Akaa Project. In 2008, the Asiafo Amanfro Community School started with a mud walled structure with a palm-leaf roof. Each day three teachers rounded up the village children for school. The interest grew and so did our school. In 2009, the community built a new school, with a tin roof, provided by Wayland High School (Mass., USA). Since then we have expanded in our efforts of creating quality education and continue to expand the school.”

Today the school which you see below has 104 students from the surrounding villages in grades K to 5.  A focus of the Project is to make the school self-reliant.  Lauren is working with the parents of the students, requiring all of them to contribute in some way, whether it be time, produce or hand goods that could be sold, or to donate cash.

I encourage you to go to the website www.theakaaproject.org where you’ll find many more pictures.  You can also make a donation that is tax deductible.

The village houses a small computer lab consisting of a few tablets which you see below, a small library with 100 books at most, and a room where volunteers visiting from the US can sleep in mosquito netted hammocks.

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I close with an apology for getting this out late.  As I said in the opening, I am at a 3 day offsite with the SEED team from Palo Alto and Accra.  The meeting is the first “West African Regional Business, Processes and Portfolio Review Meeting” and the internet at the hotel where we are meeting has been down for 24 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing “transformation”

Sharing “transformation”                                                                      September 13, 2014

Our entrepreneurs’ final exam is a take home final, also known as a “Transformation Plan”.  They are due Monday so this is a full weekend for our entrepreneurs (at least those who use to pull “all-nighters” in college) and their coaches.  One of my entrepreneur’s finished up her “final” early so I want to share parts of her introduction.

These are some of her comments about the program.  I’ve eliminated her company name to provide anonymity, but if you’ve been following my blog, it won’t be too difficult to identify her.  She said it was OK to share this:

BEING ACCEPTED INTO THE SECOND COHORT OF THE SEED PROGRAMME IS A HUGE TURNING POINT AND LANDMARK IN THE HISTORY OF THIS “TRANSFORMER”.  THE BENEFITS SO FAR HAVE BEEN IMMENSE, PERSONALLY FOR THE CEO AND FOR THE COMPANY IN GENERAL.  IT HAS BEEN A WONDERFUL AND IMMENSELY REWARDING EXPERIENCE.

She goes on to talk about her fellow “Transformers” and how she and her company have been transformed:

I HAVE NOT SEEN A GROUP OF PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, PLACES, FIELDS OF ENDEAVOUR, BACKGROUNDS AND CULTURES, PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN TO EACH OTHER, BOND AND BLEND OVER SUCH A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME.  WE SURE HAVE MADE LIFE-LONG FRIENDS BEYOND THE CAPACITY BUILDING AND NETWORKING THAT SEED OFFERS.

FOR THE CEO:

  • AFTER 10 YEARS OF SETTING UP AND RUNNING THE BUSINESS, I ONLY UNDERSTOOD THE KIND OF BUSINESS I HAVE BEEN IN, THE OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN THE BUSINESS AND THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EXPANSION AND IMMENSE GROWTH AFTER SEED.
  • I HAVE LEARNT THE IMPORTANCE OF DATA DRIVEN DECISION MAKING AND TAKING AS A CORE STRATEGY IN MY ORGANISATION.
  • I NOW IMMENSELY APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF TRAINING IN AN ORGANISATION AND HAVE INSTITUTED IT AS AN ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE.
  • I HAVE LEARNT THE VALUE OF NETWORKING, THE IMMENSE VALUE IN BEING COACHED AND MENTORED AND WOULD LOVE TO BE ABLE TO EXTEND AND PASS ON WHAT I HAVE LEARNT TO FUTURE GENERATIONS OF ENTREPRENEURS.

FOR MY COMPANY, WE HAVE ALREADY STARTED THE PROCESS OF TRANSFORMATION:

  • DATA DRIVEN ANALYSIS ENABLED US TO STOP AN INTENDED INVESTMENT WHICH WOULD HAVE ADDED NO VALUE AND WOULD HAVE BEEN A WASTE OF OUR SCARCE RESOURCES.
  • WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO REMOVE BOTTLENECKS ON OUR PRODUCTION FLOOR USING METHODS ACQUIRED FROM SEED LECTURES THEREBY INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY.
  • WE HAVE STARTED POSITIVELY ENGAGING WITH OUR CUSTOMERS AND GETTING POSITIVE FEEDBACK TO ENABLE MEANINGFUL GROWTH AND EXPANSION.
  • WE NOW HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW TO PRESENT OUR FUNDING REQUIREMENT JUSTIFICATIONS TO POSSIBLE INVESTORS/FINANCIERS.

You’ve heard me talk about the joy I experience as a business coach and the appreciation I receive every day—I’m so happy to be able to share this with you.  It can’t get much better.  If this were my only “transformer”, her comments are sufficient reward for my efforts…but I expect to receive 4 more “take home final exams” before the end of the day Monday.

After Monday evening I’ll begin to think about going home.

I’m both blessed and conflicted—blessed to have my family and friends to go home to after such an amazing experience—and conflicted to leave these warm, engaging people I’ve had a chance to meet and work with the last 6 months.  I may have said it already, but I can’t say it too often—I’ve made new friends for life.

And this is what I’m going home to…to spend more time with my grandchildren, family and friends.  Here’s a picture from my early August visit with Audrey and Lucy in Portland.  Who looks the most satisfied…3 real Duryea’s.

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Don’t let Stanford know I wore a Cal shirt.

Reflections

Reflections                                                                                                            September 7

As I type this, my companies are finalizing their transformation plans which are due next Monday—an indicator that my time is West Africa is coming to an end.  I’ll spend the week reviewing them and working with my entrepreneurs to strengthen them.

I’m torn—I enjoy what I’m doing immensely, yet I’m also giving up a lot being away from family and friends.  Our “Coaches’ Supper Club” seems to be traveling less which gives us time to talk, reflect and share our feelings, discussions I enjoy very much.  One coach who expects to settle in West Africa long term commented he’s doing exactly what he wants to do—isn’t he lucky!

I’ve been in Ghana exactly six months and during that time my older granddaughter started 4th grade—the same grade I was in when I met Kathy, my younger granddaughter started French emersion school, my older daughter started a new full time job with significantly expanded responsibilities, my younger daughter moved into a new home, and my son-in-law had to replace a partner who left his medical practice which meant he was on call every other week during most of this time.  While all this is happening, Kathy has been busy planning a 2015 trip for us to Australia and New Zealand.  I can’t imagine all that’s happened in my friends’ lives which I’ve lost track of.

This is a time to reflect—what could I have done to be more effective with my entrepreneurs? …and worry—will my new friends continue to think differently—bigger and bolder—as well as deeper about their businesses?  will they be able to transform personally and implement their company’s transformation plan? and will they be able to find the capital needed?

I hope to have many of my new friends will visit us in the Bay Area and Portland so you will get a chance to meet them.  They all have an open invitation.

I ask this last questions because transformation implies growth, growth requires capital, at least working capital, plus capital for equipment purchases.  Yet capital for small and medium businesses is almost nonexistent in West Africa, especially on any type of reasonable terms.   Microfinance loans are easier to secure than growth capital loans.

Recognizing that my remaining time in Accra is disappearing fast, I’m taking advantage of the remaining days to try to understand what’s below the surface of daily life for the bigger population.  I live in a bubble in our neighborhood, although convenient because water and power are more reliable and it is much easier to deal with life’s basics, it gives me no more than get an opportunity for a photo shot, you’ve seen some of them, of what life is truly like for most.

I wanted to include a couple stories I’ve heard but they are too complex for this post.  The common theme in a few of the stories is “sometimes life requires you to do things you don’t want to just to make progress.”  These people are not talking about working long hours under difficult conditions which many do, or anything that inflicts hurt on others, but they are talking about having to compromise their values to support their families.

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As I mentioned in my last post, Corinne and I went for a walk through what I think of as a poor area not too far from our apartment.  We encountered a young girl with a big smile walking toward us.  We stopped to say “hi” and Corinne asked if she could take her picture.  Afterward, the girl followed us for a while and then asked if we had any extra money.  After giving her my loose change, she continued to follow us. As we passed a hedge, she plucked off a big fresh green leaf and handed it to me, the most impactful thank you I’ve ever received.

 

In my quest to discover new parts of Accra, yesterday’s walk was through the main campus of the University of Ghana.  Schools starts Monday so the campus was just beginning to come alive.  The first picture is the Kwame Nkrumah Institute of African Studies.  (Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, was elected in 1960 and overthrown in 1966 in a bloodless military coup.  The US was behind the coup as part of our Cold War strategy because Nkrumah was moving too close to the USSR.  Many of the Ghanaians I work with feel much of Ghana’s success today, including the fact that the many tribes live and work in harmony, is due to policies implemented by Nkrumah.)

P1030898CroppedBlog You can see it’s a lovely campus with many of the individual colleges off this main drive and a dormitory at the far end of the street.

P1030902CroppedBlog And the Library

P1030901CroppedBlog They were having a children’s event this past Saturday at the local boutique grocery just down the street…looks like kids throughout the world enjoy the same thing—my granddaughter and a local Ghanaian girl.

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Ready to begin my review of the next draft of the transformation plans….

Tags:  University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah

I never thought I’d have a post like this…”What I’ve been reading”

I never thought I’d have a post like this…”What I’ve Been Reading”       August 31, 2014

I’ve read a couple blogs for years and used bits and pieces of those as a starting place for my first post. They each had periodic posts titled “What I’ve been reading”. I never thought I’d have a post like that since my readings tends to focus on short articles I find on the internet or in Cal and Stanford alumni magazines, newspapers, or “work” related articles. In the past, the only time I read novels or real books was on holiday. I guess that’s why I call this my “stretch year.”

Just before I left for the States in July, I picked up a book, ‘Fall of Giants’, that I found on my apartment bookshelf. This is the first book in Ken Follett’s “Century Trilogy”. I was quickly engaged—what a great way to learn history more deeply than I ever got out of college as an engineering student. I especially enjoy the insight into what it was like living in that period—I’ll read a lot more of this genre in the future.

The historical “Century Trilogy” covers the entire 20th Century where it follows five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English and Welsh. Fall of Giants covers the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage in the UK. I bought the second book, “Winter of the World”, when I was in the US. It covers the rise of the Third Reich, the Spanish Civil War and the great dramas of World War II, and ends with the explosions of the American and Soviet atomic bombs marking the beginning of the Cold War. I was disappointed to learn that the third in the series doesn’t come out until this fall so I’ve switched to Kathy’s old Kindle that I loaded with a couple books before I left.

I’m now in the middle of “Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown. I’m probably one of the few rowers in the US who hasn’t read this, and the only among those that rowed at Cal or University of Washington. This real life story flows nicely from “Winter of the World” since it covers a similar time in history. As a former Cal rower it has special significance since much of the first part covers the Cal—UofW rivalry. There was even a quote from my freshman coach.

What’s even more amazing for those that know me well, I’m actually reading 2 other books at the same time. These are books Kathy gave me as Christmas presents over the years. One is “Einstein’s Riddle” by Jeremy Stangroom and the other is “Geek Wisdom—the Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture”, edited by Stephen Segal.

While I don’t really qualify as a geek as the book describes one since I’m not into myths and science fiction, I think Dan, my son-in-law, does so I think of him often as I’m reading. He’s introduced Audrey, my older granddaughter, to the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and StarTrek fantasy cultures. Even the first 5K race they ran together was a “super hero” race.

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As an analytic, I enjoyed a quote in the Geek Wisdom book: “There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.”

I do a couple problems from the Riddle book and read a couple one page stories from the Geek book before bed each night to relax.

I believe the fact I’m reading more is a reflection of a shifting of my emotions as I live this fantastic experience—with its highs and lows. My focus in this blog is on the highs of which there are many. I’ll save broader comments on my experience until I’m home and have had a chance to reflect, putting the total adventure in perspective. And while there are lows as is to be expected, this is an opportunity of a lifetime and I’m fortunate to be able to live it.

What is consistent through my first 6 months in Ghana and Nigeria is the energy I get from my companies and the people that run them. I very much value this opportunity to enjoy the Ghanaian people and learn about their culture.

Last night the current and new coaches with their spouses went to the National Theatre to see “Unforgiven”, a play by Ebo Whyte. This is the second Ebo Whyte play I’ve seen and both were inspiring. He combines humor, music, religion and a message, all with a surprise ending. The message in “Unforgiven” is respect for women. Each play challenges Ghanaians to think more about the world they live in and the contributions they make to it. Six years ago Uncle Ebo Whyte committed to write a play every quarter and since then he has written and successfully directed 24 plays.

To add color and a bit more local flavor to this post, here are a couple pictures I took a few months ago when out for a Sunday walk through a Muslim neighborhood. This mosque is huge, sitting on a hill overlooking a Muslim neighborhood—I love the ingenuity of the house decoration.

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P1030569HousesCarCroppedBlogP1030611CropMomBalanceMuslimBlogCorinne, my apartment mate and I took a walk in the same areas today. Here are some pictures of the people we met. I love the smiles of the Africans—an orthodontist would go broke in Ghana.

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I’ll sign off with a picture Lucy, my 3 year old granddaughter, drew of the two of us—she gave it to me when I was in Portland during my recent visit.

 

Happy Labor Day to all !!