By: Nodumo Fikile Magadlela, SE Entrepreneur – SE Outreach 2016
I found myself standing inside the Uppsala Cathedral. Behind me the choir was singing a beautiful song that lifted the spirit as high as the building’s columns. It was in that moment that I understood why my life’s journey had let me to this place. How a boy who grew up in the dusty streets of Nkulumane in Bulawayo had found himself standing in this sacred cathedral thousands of miles away from home.
The pieces of this puzzle started taking shape in December when I got the email that I had been chosen to represent iBoni Bike Share in Sweden. The SE Forum team had chose iBoni as one of the 8 start-ups from around the world to participate in the program in Stockholm. It was raining that day but I put down everything and I went outside and cycled. I had to cycle. I had to find a way to express my joy, pent up between the rage and shame of not being able to pay my rent for that month…
But all of this didn’t matter now because I was standing in this amazing cathedral, built hundreds of years ago. It didn’t matter that this was my first time going overseas. It wasn’t important that before this I had only been on an aeroplane on a very brief domestic flight. All that I could hear and see was the majesty of this structure.
The struggle that will define my life is that of articulation. I’ve always felt a capacity to create and to influence humanity, but I’ve always lacked the tools to articulate my potential into the world. This building in its grandeur and opulence resonated deeply with my internal conflict… All of the things I know I can do in this world, all of the things I know I can create for the world…But never knowing how or when. To sum up this experience I tried to take a photograph of this structure but even standing from a distance the roof was still cut short in the frame… It represented to me the unimaginable size of what I felt inside of me and my constant battle to acquire the experiences, knowledge and skills to best describe it and bring it forth into the world.
One evening at a dinner event we were asked to pitch our businesses briefly between the courses being served and rotate around the tables to meet all the investors and entrepreneurs that were there to meet all 8 of us. We moved around the tables in pairs and after a few tables I got tired of pitching and I could see one of the gentlemen was exhausted with all the listening he had done before we sat at the table. So I offered to listen to him instead… I asked him questions about his business and the problems that he was facing at the moment. I’m so glad I did this because this conversation marked one of the highlights of my trip to Stockholm.
He began narrating the challenges of having one investor who had invested $90 Million in his business. This is what we discussed at that table before the bell rang to move on to the next table. I remember looking around that table and part of me still in shock about what was being discussed but on the surface I was very calm and actively engaged in this discussion about the politics of handling over a 1, 5 Billion Rand! That night after the event I was lying in my hotel room, reflecting about my life, thinking about how the price tag of that night’s dinner could make a considerable difference in my life at this stage. I fantasized about how I would pay my landlord with just the price of the starter that was served that night.
There are certain experiences that stretch your spirit beyond what your ego can comprehend. What ensues is a delicate negotiation between one’s identity and this new awareness… This very scary awareness of one’s capacity. Lupita Nyong’o said it best: ” Inadequacy is seductive.” It’s so comforting not to be good enough, not to have the right education… Its so seductive to have the right excuse and to crawl back into it for comfort… That night I came across a glimpse of my potential and ever since I have been I have been doing this very delicate negotiation. Acceptance is such a humbling process because the ego is a fighting animal. Over the past three weeks since my return I have been thinking very deeply about what all of this means for me. I am a creative person and therefore I feel a lot of things and I see a lot of things and sometimes they fester and hurt if they can’t find an outlet.
The first thing I did when I got back to South Africa is to cycle down that same street I cycled down the day I found out that I had been selected… This time it wasn’t raining but I noticed something in the familiarity of the trees that line up this street. These very trees I had come to for months on end during the darkest periods of 2015 when I was contemplating giving up on my dreams… These trees that seem to know all my fears and all my pains… I looked up at them and I realised that my life had changed!
I’m in an interesting place in my life right now. I feel so capable. I feel for the first time in my life that there are no excuses that I can ever give myself that can take away from what I know now about myself. As I head to the USA in the next month I can not wait to practice all that I have learned in Sweden and to see where this journey will takes me next. After one of the intensives classes with Lena Ramfelt on how to analyse business opportunities I exclaimed “ I now know the formula!!!” And that’s exactly how I feel right now. I now know the formula! I now know the secret to creating the magic that I have always admired in the work of some of the leading entrepreneurs in the world.
My lessons in Stockholm were not just in the classroom but the entire experience became a life lesson for me. I feel very privileged to have been selected for this program.. and over the coming years as I continue to get better at this I have all the confidence that I will be able to create products and services that will reach places around the world that I’ve never been to. This has always been my dream. To have an impact on humanity through the ideas that I work on. And I feel like I have finally been afforded the opportunity to begin this journey.
When I return to Stockholm in September I look forward to connecting with all my new found friends from around the world and sharing all of our triumphs and experiences during this four month period to implement the lessons we got in Stockholm.