Do not ever let a “NO” ever deter you. If you only knew how many “NO’s” I have received, both in my personal and professional life you would wonder why I have not quit yet. Some no’s have been heartbreaking, some made me feel like a failure and some immediately made sense. I have grown to understand that every single no was a way to move me forward. Have you ever read the book, “Who moved my cheese?”. That is exactly what each no means; a way to move you in the right direction.
I am sure that I have now forgotten all the earlier no’s in my life. I think the significant ones that I seem to remember had such high impact, because they only come from the heartbreak that accompanied them. The deeper the heartache, the longer the memory of that no lasts. My earliest memory of a blatant no was when I was in Grade 11 and wanted to work at PicknPay Northgate as a packer… yes a packer. I used to imagine myself working behind the till, not as the cashier, but packing people’s groceries. The idea was always to make the big bucks! I have always know that I would have to work for all the money I would earn in life. It is all I could think of; that I had to have that job! One brave Sunday morning, I knocked and walked into the managers office at PicknPay. I took a big breath and put up a big smile for a person who was not even looking up from their desk and said “Hi, my name is Thoko and I was wondering if there is a position for me?”. The immediate response was “No positions here”. My heart sank. Could I have said more? Was I allowed to ask any further questions? NO! that was the end of that conversation. I said thank you and walked out of her office.
Thankfully, my mother asked one of the supervisors about packing positions and I ended up getting a temporary position as a packer for Sundays, from 9:00 to 13:00 and the job paid R240. I had never been so happy. I felt like this was a great accomplishment, and I would make sure that I made my mom very proud.
PUT UP YOUR HANDS IF YOU HAVE EVER BEEN TAUGHT THAT FAILURE TODAY IS FAILURE FOREVER! DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO UNDERSTAND HOW FALSE THIS CONCEPT IS?
There are also lessons that come along that need you to fight a “no”. When I went to University, I was told that I had failed the entrance exam and not made it for Information Technology. I was told that there was no space for me. Deep down, I knew that I had definitely passed that test. I shared this instinct with my mother. She asked to see the test results, which no one produce. She then asked for the manager, aka the Dean of the ICT department. The dean sat us down, apologised and explained that there was another entrance exam that afternoon at 14:00. She would allow me to write it, since they could not find the one I wrote. Guess what… I was admitted into the degree and accommodation. All of a sudden, there was space for me. Had my mother not pushed ever so aggressively, I would have been a political analysts at another university! Fate had it that I study ICT.
Put up your hands if you have ever been taught that failure today is failure forever! Do you know how long it took to understand how false this concept is? As a young lady, I used to be torn apart if someone said no to my requests, or if life’s general answer seemed to be a “no”! My entire world would feel like it was falling apart. Getting rejected for interviews with those wonderful “we regret to inform you”, or failing exams used to send my world into a crazy spin. It took me a very long time to understand that each each lesson was preparation of what was still to come; that the path I was trying to take was just not the right one for me at the time.
I always mention how exhausted I was when I left the corporate world. I left slightly broken and now stand here more grateful than ever that I went through that tough stage. I never talk about the biggest, most heartbreaking “no” life had for me. This is truly when the world halted for me. In my mind I had thought: “This is it… it is all over and there was no way of coming back from this one”. I had just finished my Master Degree and began longing for “professional” growth. If you know anything about me, it is that I am obsessed with personal growth! In corporate, once I fell like I have reached the roof, I start asking for the next positions or taking on new projects. At this particular company, I had performed well, won awards, and I felt that I knew everything about database administration and management. I had had enough of “go to work and do daily work things”. I felt like I was ready for the next move. Initially, I started looking for the next job. I was a mommy of two and wanted a different type of job where I would not have to constantly work all night, most weekends and away from my kids.
May I just say that at this point I found interviews easy and knew how to get “the job”. I applied and went to great interviews. None of them ever came back to hire me. I always had great feedback, but this time around I was just not getting “the job”. I felt like something was blocking this particular growth point. I started looking within the company I was working for and let them know that I was a Master’s Graduate and felt it was time for me to manage a team. I remember my energy being very pushy for this opportunity – setting up the meetings with the right people and making sure that they would create that position for me. I was not my usual calm thoughtful self. And so the opportunity came for me to lead a team! Instead of being overjoyed, I became weary and immediately overwhelmed. I just remember deciding to get pleased that I would grow in the position. Life has a wonderful way of teaching us lesson, and boy did I learn a totally different lesson this time.
The team lead position did not work even for a minute. We malfunctioned from day one with the team not being happy that I would lead them. I am being dramatic, but my memory only remembers the tasks falling apart from the first day. The team moved from silent meetings to people not doing their tasks. On top of that, the project that we had taken on was a complete failure from a management level and the third party we were servicing. My attitude remained optimistic thought. In my mind, I still thought I could pull the team together and turn the situation around. I believed that I was a work horse, the person who wins awards and hardly sleeps to get to job done. It took a good 11 months for everything to fall apart … spectacularly.
I was called into the Chief of Information Technology’s office with my usual upbeat self. I was told to take a seat amongst three white men and being told “don’t worry, you are not losing your job. You are not losing your job, but you will no longer be leading that team. “Don’t worry… it’s not you. The project was just not going to work”. I was baffled! “Excuse me!! Me? What? I have not slept all year only to be told not to worry. Only to be demoted?”
I remember being silent with words just floating in my mind “I know you did not just say what you just said to me… you ARE talking about me! I am the one who will no longer head that team. I AM the one being demoted.” I must have had 5 meetings of “don’t worry, we are so sorry, its not you” with management. Nothing was more torturous. In my mind this was the biggest failure in life and that was it. There was nothing else to define it as… it was just failure. What was most impactful (I don’t want to say humiliating) was the walk of shame the Friday after the announcement that I would no longer lead the team. I had to walk back to my desk with eyes pearcing through me. I am proud that I did walk all the way to my desk, I did switch on my laptop … but I am not sure if I ever did work as passionately for that company ever again.
The lesson learnt? My path there had ended and Nilotiqa was banging on the door. The more I went to work, the more I got depressed and the more I would stay until 22:00 to finish off work for Nilotiqa (mommy to two boys and all). This was definitely a universal NO. It had nothing to do it my ability to complete tasks or outperform anyone; or the failure I was facing at the time. It had everything to do with me pushing for a path that was not meant for me. When God has a path for you, it is not necessarily straight to destination. The path(s) may change as you go. What I now know and believe in is that that NO has led me to building my business from scratch with no experience, only God’s guidance.
A no can never be easy to hear. It just becomes more meaningful and bearable with time.