Growing up with the increasing liberalisation of everything, we were taught that we can be anything that we want to be, we can do anything that we desire … we must only put our mind to it. As a lady, one of the constant questions has been … can I have it all. Can I build a successful career, have a thriving family and retain my sanity? This question is now being asked of the men too? Is it possible to have it all?
The general answer is, no. After all, we have a saying that goes … one cannot have their cake and eat it.
That answer is however too simplistic for me. Even with the cake, the saying assumes that I want to have the whole cake as well as consume the whole cake. What if all I want is yummy cake – just a slice and I am happy to remain with 7/8 of a cake to admire. Won’t I have my cake and still have eaten it?
Early in my career, I decided that my sanity and my family would come before my career. As a result, I have taken some ‘bold’ decisions. When I left the practice of law, my then boss was kind enough to ask me some tough questions. Was I aware that I would be cutting back my earning capacity, was I aware of how hard it would be to go back to practice should I decide to, was I aware that I would have to forego all the reputational and status niceties that go with being an advocate? I took some time to consider these questions and realised that I was happy to pay this cost in order to find myself.
While employed, I had decided that I would not fall into the trap of being married to my job while I had a husband and children waiting for me at home. I therefore left the office at 5 sharp. What did this mean. It meant that my employers may have thought that I was not as dedicated as those willing to work till 8pm almost daily; it meant that I missed out on some juicy transactions, which meant that my targets were not blown out of the water. However, it also meant that I enjoyed my kids in daylight.
Once I left employment I decided that I would pick my kids from school (I was not happy with the lax approach to discipline on the school bus). This meant that I needed to be in school by 3:30 pm. To accomplish this in Nairobi meant that I had to leave wherever I was by about 2:30 pm; in essence ending my work day. I had to come to terms with the fact that these number of hours in a start up would not catapult me to a million dollar bottom line.
Have these decisions been easy? No! However, understanding what pain I would need to bear for the gain made my decision more practical. Having thought through the possible ‘cost’ of my decisions helped me anticipate and prepare for the tough times.
I firmly believe that the world operates in a balance – It’s a give and take world. You cannot hoard and expect to be healthy, neither can you give endlessly without replenishing your stores and expect to live. Newton’s 3rd law of motion says – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
To retain this balance, we can expect that for everything we get something will go. ‘Something’ need not be money; it could be time, peace of mind, health, family, personal goals … The beauty is, if you have taken the time to consider what the cost to you shall be, then you have no problem paying it. It also allows you to think of ways to mitigate any losses and prepare for tough times.
Using your imagination to think of some of those costs in advance will help you in the heat of the moment when a snap decision is needed. How do you say no to a request for a bribe? Are you willing to spend time in court sorting out a traffic ticket. If yes, then you are less likely to succumb to the request for a bribe.
If you know that you will feel guilty for not inviting a particular friend to dinner, can you live with the guilt? Will it lose you the friendship? Are you willing to sacrifice the friendship? Now it is easier to decide whether or not to invite your friend.
Count your cost … Know in advance what your decisions could mean, reconcile yourself to the consequences and then take the plunge.
Be brave! Count your cost!