Life Long Purpose

Charles Sekwalor childhood with mum and sister

The other day I was walking through central London with a friend when she asked me.. “how did you end up here, given your background and where you grew up”. I started thinking of an Instagram Reel moment – motivational background music and a deep voice-over by yours-truly with a narrative stitched around “Hard Work, Dedication, Vision, Resilience”. Then I caught myself – ‘get over yourself Chale’; I responded “I don’t think I played much of a role – it was my parents work and I picked up the baton – their choices, their decisions, the environment they created, the self-esteem they helped me develop. My Mum and Dad played completely different roles but it seemed to come together ok.”

She asked – “What did your mum do? I see my children evolving everyday based on what I do and there are so many different paths to take” .. I tried to break it down but after a while it dawned on me – I didn’t actually know – I only saw that which existed on the surface – “You know – you should just speak with my mum, – yes you should”.

Over the last couple of years one of the most difficult emotions I’ve had to deal with stems from watching the decline of my parents through poor physical health – and there’s an even deeper mental illness accompaniment that is not often spoke about. From active, hard-working, knowledgable and principled, formidable pillars of society and masters of their domain into ‘dependent burdens with nothing to think about other than pain’. My parents like many others (not excluding those who did not have children) have so much to give, so much wisdom, energy, stories, inspiration and yet every day I see them disengaged, not contributing and lacking a genuine sense of purpose – and I feel powerless to change it. It’s the one area of my life where I regularly feel like a failure – ‘how have you allowed it to get to this?’.

Last year when my mother was hospitalised I would visit twice a day and after a week I realised, I didn’t ever see anybody visiting the other five cubicles; every day it was very hurtful to see her fellow patients lie in bed with no visitors, nothing to do, yet with so much to offer, so many stories to share, so many lessons to impart. Loneliness and the accompanying absence of purpose is an epidemic, a stain on our claims of progress, and a complete failure of society to function equitably and effectively, irrespective of whether you are applying a social or economic lens. For example, despite decades of technological advancement, productivity in advanced economies is at an all-time low and falling- at best it’s stagnant, and I believe a disconnecting of our senior talent is big reason for this. Every year the talented, gifted and experienced simply drop off a cliff edge and disappear from the value-added economy because we are bad at redeveloping and repurposing talent. We have failed to embed life long learning and life long purpose into society sustainably – we need to change this.

Productivity growth over time by country, 1871–2016, %

Productivity growth over time by country, 1871–2016, % - source McKinsey & Company
Productivity defined as GDP per hour worked. Calculated using Hodrick Prescott filter. Drawn from similar analysis in Martin Neil Baily and Nicholas Montalbano, Why is productivity growth so slow? Possible explanations and policy responses, Brookings Institution, September 2016. See technical appendix for details on methodology. Figures may not sum, because of rounding
Source: McKinsey & Company

I want to solve for loneliness and sustaining purpose amongst my parents’ generation – help me. What if we could find a way to reintegrate our senior citizens back into society replicating the level of agency, freedom and purpose they enjoyed once upon a time. What if we could create ‘Boards for Life’? The irony being there exists a minuscule portion of senior citizens who get paid incredibly well on Boards and in Governments for their life long lessons and experience. We know the value – yet we have again failed to recognise this experience has broader application across every facet of society.

So what next? I am connecting my friend to speak with my mum. I invite others who want to bounce parenting ideas off a sounding board to get in touch. I’ll be inviting others who believe their parents / loved ones have something to offer to get them signed up to join the movement. Let’s create a network of giving and sharing that benefits all of society, creates purpose and strengthens connectivity with those who have come before us. Who’s with me?

McKinsey Alumni Center- Focus on Founders: Charles Sekwalor brings talent – and economic development – to Africa with Movemeback

Movemeback aims to drive social and economic development in Africa by connecting leading talent with distinctive career and entrepreneurship opportunities – both on the continent and with each other – for meaningful collaborations. Charles, a self-described “eternal optimist,” recognizes the interconnected, complex challenges facing development in Africa, but sees just as many solutions. And his ambitions for Africa don’t stop with business: a lifelong Formula One fan, he dreams of one day bringing the prestigious auto race to the continent.

This is the twenty-eighth in our ‘Focus on Founders’ series of articles about alumni entrepreneurs.” Read more on the Mckinsey Alumni website

Source: McKinsey Alumni Center- Focus on Founders: Charles Sekwalor brings talent – and economic development – to Africa with Movemeback

Everyday leadership – ‘to change the world, don’t aim to change the world’

It’s 00:45 and I’ve just left the office in solitude after a fairly challenging day. Fortunately, I drove today and before long I’m in the cockpit – a place I where I feel invincible and typically find comfort, safety and peace. Usually, after a long, tiresome day – I find no more desirable avenue for release than some motivating, hard-hitting bass with funky melody and vocal amalgamation turned-up on loud, complemented by a clear road and perfectly timed navigation through green lights. Today was different. Today I made one small change. And when I reflect on this one small change and the profound impact it has had on the conclusion of my day I can’t help but realise the parallels with the contents of Drew Dudley’s TED talk; which I dragged myself to stream from my phone and play over the car stereo Bluetooth, abandoning the default option.

It turns out today I was reminded that the smallest of actions or changes can have the most profound impact. If only we could motivate ourselves to celebrate and congratulate ourselves on the small changes, then perhaps we would focus more on those small changes, small steps, small decisions and those small changes or steps would exist in greater abundance and lead to big changes and affect the lives of tens, hundreds, millions, a continent, a universe. Perhaps….

So I briefly turn my attention to #leadership … the topic of Drew’s talk. Drew reflects on a throw-away moment in his life he cannot recollect, which led to the most far-reaching implication for the life of another and he almost looks back in regret that perhaps his finest of moments (in terms of impact for another) also represents his most negligible in terms of his own personal awareness and recognition.

This ties greatly to Drew’s argument that as a people we have become obsessed with placing leadership on a pedestal – a highly coveted yet somewhat unachievable feat reserved for the most epic and gifted of men and women. And so with the efficient souls that we have become, if you cannot attain, why extend your arm, try to reach and waste energy on something that’s best left to the more equipped individual.

The reality is leadership is being exercised around us every day  in such simple terms, and as Drew alludes to, in the words of Marianne Williamson we need get over our fear of how powerful we can be so we can move beyond it!

On that note I turn a closing thought to my own work at Movemeback and the source of my late departure and midnight roamings. One of the core tenants of our work is affecting talented individuals and young entrepreneurs of tomorrow, to take the platform we present to them, to take charge and one small step at a time to mobilise themselves to drive change social and economic change on the African continent. Today’s lessons serves to remind us that all too often we defer to the ‘better, more qualified individual’ to take charge and attain the unattainable. Let us reassess our relationship with leadership, let us celebrate our ‘everyday leadership’ and lets start today with the small which will lead to the big.

And what better way to sum this up but through quoting Drew’s own powerful statement

“As long as we make leadership something bigger than us, something beyond us, make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it from ourselves and from each other”

Oh and look its 02:25, and the one small act of change at 00:45 is already spiralling out of control. Check the history – my first blog post in years!

Enjoy the talk!

Happy New Year 2014

Happy new year beautiful people

Let this be a year filled with sharing of new and meaningful experiences, new friendships, repairing & solidifying of old friendships, unbounded trust and faith in others and above all fearlessness..

My humble learnings of the year gone tells me that this year we must again work hard to keep fear (in all forms) to a minimum in our lives. It is the driver of so much negativity from world conflict, hatred amongst loved ones to missed opportunities.

Continue reading “Happy New Year 2014”

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