Learning how to see can be difficult when you are emotionally immersed in a situation.

During the height of apartheid in the 1970s, prosecution of the black native for infringing the apartheid laws in South Africa was rife. The most popular law was that of blacks always having to carry their dompass (Identification Card), a prominent black lawyer and one of the first black lawyers in the country Advocate Duma Nokwe was arguing an apartheid case. In the courtroom was Walter Sisulu, one of the struggle stalwarts, you would probably say he was number 2 after Nelson Mandela during the Robben Island imprisonment.

Walter Sisulu, was an unassuming, quiet, shrewd and smart gentleman. He is the man who had the foresight to see the potential between Mandela and OR Tambo and introduced both gentlemen to each other and that combination was one of the most instrumental combination in the fights against the apartheid government.

Back to Walter Sisulu and Adv Duma Nokwe, as the advocate was fighting this case in court and the emotions were getting heated, the magistrate decided that they take a tea break. During the tea break, as Duma Nokwe was about to enter the tea room with other lawyers, he was turned away from entering the room because the tea room was for whites only. Furious, he threw a tantrum and wanted to lodge a formal complaint and take the matter face on.

In the midst of this storm in a tea cup, Walter walked to Adv Nokwe and said to him:

“We are fighting one of the biggest cases in the country, a case that will make a mark against apartheid and instead of focusing on this case you want to be destructed by a small matter of being refused entry into a tea room because you are black.”

The message was clear, focus on the big case, win that case, by doing that you would have won a small matter of being refused entry to a tea room because you are black by default.

Walter Sisulu has learned to see.

As entrepreneurs, we tend to be self-absorbed and easily get destructed by small matters and don’t focus on the big picture. Like Advocate Duma, who is one of the best legal brains South Africa has ever had, we are human and tend to want to deal with injustices as and when they happen. And there is nothing wrong with that except that they destruct us from the major goal.

The bank rejects our loan application, our customers don’t embrace our products/services, our assets are repossessed, all these are emotional and sometime traumatic incidents, but as an entrepreneur you need to develop a thick skin and the ability to focus on major goal in the midst of all the destructions.

Mario Puzo in his better seller book and classic movie The Godfather, paints a picture of how Don Corleone “The Godfather” would sit in a negotiation table and negotiate a difficult deal for hours on end, he would be stern about what he wants to the extent that the opposition negotiator would hurl all kinds of insults at him in an effort to get him emotional with the hope that this will scupper the negations and both will walk away without a deal, but Don Corleone would remain calm and resolute, brush aside the insults and emotional outbursts hurled at him and focus on the goal he is trying to achieve during the negotiations until he achieved it.

“Never get angry, the Don had instructed.”Never make a threat. Reason with people.” Anger and and hate cloud your own judgement. 

As entrepreneurs we may have to ignore all the unsavoury and negative comments of our friends with all good intentions tell us that our idea is not viable, and that it is ludicrous.

A company declines to sponsors your event. Family members feel your product is not viable, or that you are too young to compete against big businesses. Sometimes they are right, maybe you need to go back to the drawing board and relook at your idea, but that should not destruct you from the big picture of being an entrepreneur and searching for innovative solutions.

The small matter of being refused entry to the tea room because you are black is nothing compared to the big case that if you win you will have won the small matter as well. Focus, focus and more focus.

it is important to learn to see the woods from the trees. To see and understand a situation clearly even when you are too involved in it.


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