Growing up Zimbabwean has taught me many things but, like a silly goat, I perhaps didn’t learn to pause until quite recently. I travel a bit too much. The hurried rush of the crowds, a constant change in scenery, and an almost clockwork level of order stir up my fondness for home. It was, after all, where I learned about the importance of CQ™ – receptive and expressive intelligence – in ever changing environments.
The Zimbabwean landscape meant that there were always big skies greeting you the minute you stepped foot into the African air. Expansive plains overwhelmed me with the scope of the earth and kept me from ever becoming myopic. Being from a culture where water was the most precious resource gave me a respect for sustainability. No matter how fortunate we were growing up, we too had rations and learned to do a lot with very little. (I’ve seen a barren piece of land become lush in a single rainfall and in my mind there are few things quite as magical. Below is our farm after new rains):
© Alasdair Munn 2008-2011
But it was more than just the environment and wilderness that colored my young, curious and rebellious mind. The people and community stick with me no matter how often I change time zones. The scarcity of goods meant that currency was often less valuable than, say, hard to come by petrol or candles. It was a lesson in attentiveness that has served me well ever since. I became familiar with those areas as a child and they have, for better or for worse, shaped me as the person I am today:
1. The Sky: Sitting in an office or a plane constricts my movement, but my vision most of all. It’s sly and insidious and slowly I’ll feel that urge to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. My mind craves the same thing: to be stretched and expanded towards inspiration. Imagining the impossibly large sky that hangs majestically over every tree, skyscraper, and mountain and I won’t feel so constrained. Quite the contrary: I am humbled and invigorated all at once.
2. The Plains: In every direction, the fields were home to all kinds of mysteries. My brothers, sister, and I would go exploring, never considering what was ‘safe or unsafe’ we simply knew what time to be home to bathe and dress for dinner, so the wrath of our Nannies appeared the ‘unsafe’ boundary. We all know the whole world hides secrets waiting to be discovered, but I find we stubbornly ignore this. I try to let myself see the next meeting, or task not as a stress, but as an unpredictable challenge to be delighted by.
3. The Rainfall: With nature, you can’t plan in a place like Zimbabwe; you can only make the best guesses. The mindset of being ready for the unexpected has led me to over prepare, improvise, and to not take setbacks too seriously. There are so many factors out of our own control that, in a changing environment, you need to be both dedicated and flexible to keep your head above the water.
4. The Currency: When money is less valuable than the scarce goods, you learn not to think in terms of dollars or pounds. This allowed me to seek what people really need before I assert my own interests. Since it’s no longer about monetary gain, but about fulfilling something specific, we were more likely to have a rewarding partnership. All it took was the time to listen and learn more about them.
I hope these peeks into my childhood may be of some help. It was certainly a treat reminiscing.