Begin with the End in Mind

On Entrepreneurship

By Dale Dawson

In his best selling book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey describes the discipline of “beginning with the end in mind” as the habit of personal leadership. By developing the habit of imagining life’s long-term goals, a platform is built from which to make wise decisions, avoid distractions and be productive. This habit also improves the chances of ending up where you want to go.

Africa is rising and young Africans are being encouraged to become “job creators, rather than job seekers” – a perfect mantra for leaders determined to build the private sector, expand the middle class and spread prosperity. The energy to accelerate Africa’s transformation clearly lies with its talented young people. They are imbued with a global perspective and convinced that while good government has a vital role, it takes entrepreneurs and private businesses to create jobs and sustainable economic growth. For the most committed and ambitious, the urgent question is: “How do you actually become a job creator?”

Young Africans are redefining success and rethinking traditionally accepted career paths. Historically, the surest road to success in Africa was to accumulate the most university degrees from the most prestigious international schools (right through to a doctorate with a fancy PhD title) and then get a secure position with a government or global NGO. This career path works well for job seekers in no-growth countries that have weak business environments and are dominated by heavy-handed governments comfortably dependent on the charity of others. Africa’s future job creators realize their careers must be more creative and daring if they’re going to be prepared to meet the needs of a free market and the opportunities of the new emerging economies.

The globally accepted standard for being “well educated” includes completing a dozen or more years of primary and secondary school, followed by four years of university undergraduate studies to obtain a bachelors degree. It’s the same predictable track and outcome for just about everyone – everywhere. As a result, for most of today’s successfully educated people, it is only after they earn their bachelors degree that life becomes truly creative. Like standing before a blank canvas with a palette of paints, for the first time recent college graduates have real career choices and the freedom to define success on their own terms. It is at this moment that the value of Covey’s habit of “beginning with the end in mind” really becomes clear.

For those called to be Africa’s job creators, college graduation is the perfect time to launch a career that prepares you to manage a profitable business; lead a team of people; create solutions for which customers will pay; and convince lenders and investors of your enterprise’s future success. These are just a few of the skills of an entrepreneur. Most are not learned in a classroom, but rather by working in the marketplace and usually for someone else at first. Don’t miss the opportunity to imagine your end and design your own bold path.

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