Thursday, October 29, 2009

"How Wonderful!! How Noble!"

Over the thirty-five plus years of my work with charities around the world, I cannot even begin to recount all the times I have heard people say to me, “How wonderful! How noble!”

Okay. But without the donors there is no charitable work. Someone had to generate (read: earn) that money, before it was donated to the charity.

It seems to me that the men and women who work so damn hard to earn the money that they, then, give a percentage of to charity, are all too often left out of the accolades: “How wonderful! How noble!” And even when the donors are praised and thanked, it is with nowhere near the depth and intensity of the gratitude given the charity. And this, I believe, is wrongheaded on at least two counts:

From the perspective of the charity, it is counter-productive to not give sincere and full-hearted praise to its donors. Why? Long-term donors are those who see and feel themselves to be part of the team. They have a kindred vision with the charity and its leaders—e.g., as with the charity they support, they want to see poor people fed or the sick cared for or the children educated. If donors are not made to feel a part of the team, they will find a charity that will do so.

But, to my way of thinking, a larger problem is the gradual undermining of the concept of the nobility of work and the pursuit of success in our chosen careers. When people are constantly made to feel like second-class citizens or worse, like evil-greedy-bastards, because they are out in the marketplace earning a living while the really good guys are in Africa caring for orphans, or in pulpits preaching, what happens?

They begin to believe there is something less-noble or even morally reprehensible with generating wealth, thus undermining their zeal for success which, in turn, hurts us all via fewer jobs, smaller donations and, egad, a shrinking tax-base!

One of the tenets of the Protestant Reformation was the sacredness of all callings: that the blacksmith’s work was as “holy” as that of the priest’s, which would include the High Priests of today, politicians. It was this mindset that shaped the foundations of Western Civilization, unleashing the potential of men and women of all gifts and callings to serve God faithfully, and with their heads held high. In short, there aren’t any second-class citizens whose contributions to society are somehow less valuable to God.

So, when we make people feel less-than because, rather than sweating over orphans in Africa, they “merely” send charities a percentage of the rewards of the sweat of their brows, we are not only undermining the foundations of civilization, we are denigrating what God calls “holy.”

Or so I believe …

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Training in Nakuru, Kenya

Our focus in this training was the need
for these entrepreneurs to continually Be Aware
—to Pay Attention—
of their surroundings, businesses,
customers, selves, and, of course,
for opportunities of increasing their cash flow!

As I have explained before, these are not
seminars where teachers download information
into the brains of participants, leaving them with a
notebook full of data that they
will probably never use.

What we offer are experiential training modules
that breathe life into the training content.
These structured experiences focus on
making learning fun, easy to access,
and have a longer retention factor

A profound point,
profoundly made ...
I hope!

For example, at the beginning of the training,
I walked up to the front of the room,
and proceeded to unload briefcase, move chair,
play with camera, adjust tripod,
and a so forth and so on.

I then turn to participants and
instruct them to write down everything
I just did ... in the precise order I did them.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to be paying attention.”

“I didn’t now the training had formally begun.”

Welcome to real life!

Not wanting to have other's think
that their question was elementary or
"stupid," questions would often
appear written and lying on a
table in front of the room!

Here, Davide is addressing the question,
"How do you know when it's time to
shut your business down?" This
led to a lively discussion regarding
Why Are You In Business?
Answer: (Altogether now)

Amos Manyara is the Director of
Farming Systems Kenya,
the organization that facilitates and oversees our
micro-enterprise loan program.
(The photo I took of Amos was so blurred
you couldn’t even tell if it was of a
human or not. Think: Denzel Washington
with a MBA.)

Amos had this to say about our trainings:

“The training approach has been quite different
from the conventional seminars approach
but is yielding more than we expected,
as it trains people to think outside the box,
questioning things that have not been working
and eliciting the beliefs and attitudes that would
create the desired change. Initially it looked
after the first and the second training tremendous
results and changes in the ways of doing things
amongst the trainees have been witnessed.”

Notice the multiple usage of the word “strange”!
Much like here in the States, Kenyans are
accustomed to a classroom setting and structure
where they hear a speech, take notes,
and go home. Our contention, however,
is that unless there are the necessary
adjustments to mindsets
—beliefs, attitudes, psychological states—
the skills being “taught” will never
be as effective as they could be.

As Amos notes, it is the trainings
coupled with the micro-credit
that is fueling the success of the program:

“The FSK’s micro- credit program
has grown since last year.
To date we have over 150 entrepreneurs
who are receiving credit from the program.
Credit coupled with trainings is making
a big a difference in the lives of the entrepreneurs.”

Over and over again, Davide and I heard
testimonies as to how past trainings
had equipped the young entrepreneur
for the success they were now experiencing.

Did I mention that over 95% of the loans
are being paid back on time? Amazing stuff!

One of the keys to success here is
letting go of the fear of Being Wrong,
and Making Mistakes.
When you have a culture that
is defined by Risk Aversion
it is no wonder that so few
experience success in business …
or in relationships, for that matter.

Motivating the participants to
stand up,
show up,
and risk having others thinking
you are wrong, foolish or arrogant
is one of the keys to preparing these
men and women for future success.
And man-o-man do they really
get into showing up,
once they see how critical it is to all of life.

The second training was with business
leaders and CEOs of NGOs there in Nakuru.
Part of the motivation for offering this training
was to begin creating a network for our entrepreneurs
that would provide wisdom and opportunities
to expand their customer base.

The theme in this training was
Discovering Possibilities for Success Through Crisis.
Not only is Kenya experiencing the same economic
downturn as the rest of the world, but
is also suffering through a terrible drought.

Our conversation centered on paying attention,
the need for increased sensory acuity,
and the importance of managing the
story you are telling yourself
as to the “meaning” of this crisis.

Does the story you are creating
shut down faith and hope?

Does the story you are creating in your mind
open up more personal resources
or shut down any thought of
your being able to not only weather
this crisis
but find opportunities for success?

The feedback from these
business leaders was very positive,
and they are already contacting Amos
as to how we can proceed in the future.

This is such an incredible project:
rather than merely passing out
food and medicine,
actually providing people
with the wherewithal
to support themselves ...
with the goal being
that they will never ever again
need the help of some
or NGO.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Samaritan Group: The Usual Suspects + 2

Cj and his dad, Colonel Doner,
listening to reports

Mike Bresnan
Mystic Revolutionary

Karnak the Magnificent

Wally McCall with our newest
member, Betel Lopez, CEO and Director
of Emmanuel Ministries in
Juraez, Mexico.

What I really like about this photo
is that, if you look closely, that
is Colonel speaking into Wally's ear ...
Wally, have you checked the numbers on ...
Wally, call the Germans ...
Wally, what's happening with the CFC for ...
Wally ... Wally ... Always Wally ..
Can't ... get ... him ... out ...
of ... my head. ARRRGH!!!

The other new member of our group,
JR Young.
We decided it would probably be
helpful if we had an adult
on Board. Okay, Wally is an adult
but she is more like a Dorm Mother!

Derek and CJ
Derek is like a brother to me
(and one of a number of Uncles to CJ)

Last Lunch: La Playa Hotel

Joseph Spiccia (on the left). It
feels as if we have been friends
for most of my adult life.
Come to think of it ... we have!

Joseph is doing the heavy lifting of
streamlining structures, processes, and policies
for the various organizations.

What a place for a wedding!

I have been tied up
(not as exciting as it sounds)
so haven't gotten to the report on
our trainings in Nakuru.
Promise to have it up by Wednesday
of next week.

Sunrise on Carmel-by-the-Sea

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nakuru: Micro-Enterprises

Back in Nakuru, Kenya,
and its magnificent Lake
Nakuru, and the thousands
of beautiful white and pink

The first day was spent driving around
visiting people that have received
some of our micro-enterprise loans.

We wanted to hear and see first hand
what these loans have helped these
people to achieve.

The very first person we visited was
Elizabeth Nyambura,
who, as it turns out, is probably
going to be our Poster Person
for what can happen when you
get capital into the hands of people,
train them,
and offer ongoing advice
and council.

Well, in Elizabeth’s case, she is the
one now giving advice and counsel
throughout her small village
outside of Nakuru.

With her first loan, Elizabeth purchased a cow.
It was obviously a Cash Cow, because,
with the profits from the milk she sold,
she managed to support her children,
construct a water tank,
complete with piping from
a water source up the hill
2.5 miles behind her house,
No, she didn’t hire anyone
to lay down the pipe:
she did it herself,
with the help of her 10 children.

Elizabeth is a widow.

Not long after doing this,
Farming Systems Kenya,
who oversees our mirco-enterprise
program in this area, chose Elizabeth
to be part of its dairy-goat program.

With this goat, she was able to sell 7 kids,
thereby paying for a daughter and son’s education,
constructed an iron sheet roof for her kitchen
(replacing the grass thatched one),
and bought another goat and 2 kids.
Her flock is now at 18 goats.
The milk from these goats
supports her family, and especially,
the ongoing fees for educating her children.

O, did I mention that she
also has 30 acres of corn
and sells honey from
her bee- hives?

As you can see, the corn is
parched from the draught the
nation is experiencing. Amazingly,
Elizabeth smiles and simply
looks around for other avenues
for generating cash.

Next up, Elizabeth Wangui Ng’ang’a
Here with her husband and daughter

Elizabeth owns the local hair salon.
Given the severe drought that Kenya is suffering,
her business now barely provides
for her family’s monthly needs.

She applied for a loan, from which she
began purchasing indigenous chickens,
which brings higher profits from
eggs and meat than exotic chickens.

From a loan of just over $200
she purchased 30 chickens,
and has a goal of 70 more.

Being a forward thinking person,
she used part of the loan to erect a fence
for her chickens, so as to deter any
temptation of thievery,
and to better control what the birds eat.

Always on the look-out for
new ways to generate income,
Elizabeth charges around
ten cents per charge.
While most of the people
in her village have cell phones,
few have electricity.

John Kiiru. No, this is not John: it is his wife.

As John was off purchasing fodder for his cow,
I took this photo, expecting to take one of him, later.
When we finally sat down with him, I became so
enthralled with his passion for dairy farming
and being an example to the members of his church
(John is the pastor of a local church),
I forgot to take a photo.

John was in our training last year
and couldn’t thank Davide and me enough
for how the “attitude transformation” jettisoned
him toward the success he is now experiencing.

Having $250, John attained a loan for $800
so that he could purchase a Holstein.

Within a month this beauty
calved down and, with selling
around 20 liters of milk per day,
he was able to pay off his loan with ease,
while providing for his family.

He is now in the process of receiving
another loan to purchase his next Holstein.

Anthony Maina Gethi.
Anthony was off generating income elsewhere,
so his wife was tending the store.

With a loan of around $500,
Anthony expanded his stock,
which enabled him to provide for his family
and pay off the loan (he only has
two more payments),
in spite of the severe
economic conditions in Kenya.

Anthony says that through our training
on transforming mindsets regarding possibilities
and opportunities for success,
as well as how to create rapport with customers,
he his been able to attain and
maintain a loyal customer base.

(Photo is lousy. Sorry about that.
Probably should have put on
my glasses.)

Two of Anthony’s friends, Dickson Mwangi and
Ibrahim Ndungo, witnessed his success,
received micro-loans and started
own grocery stores close by.
Within a short time,
other people also started businesses
through micro-loans, and,
we now have a strip mall!

A profound example of the shift
in mindsets that are occurring in our trainings
was when Ibrahim offered us a Coca-Cola,
free of charge.
Rather than being need-based
—I am poor, I need a loan—
Ibrahim saw himself as having value,
receiving value,
and now offering added value,
thus generating even more value.

His offering us a free coke was
not about showing gratitude,
but, rather, a mindset that knows
if you offer added value
you will continually generate value.

One of the encouraging things about
this trip is seeing the tangible results
of our trainings.

Poverty is a mindset.

Wealth is a different mindset.

While there are certainly people
around the world who are struck down
by horrendous events such as typhoons and war,
overall, people are quite often poor
because of the consequences of their choices,
which are guided by systems of belief and attitudes.
Help these same people make the
requisite changes in their mindset,
teach them some skills,
and offer them an avenue for attaining capital,
and the results are simply amazing.

The children here have seen
very few Muzungu (Roughly
translated: White Guy, although
I have also heard it meant
Wanderer, as the first White Guys
were explorers. Then again,
I have also heard it means
Taker-over'ers! But the latter
could be a redaction...
Not that it isn't accurate,
mind you!)

One of the younger children
saw me ... and took off
screaming. I called them
into the grocery store
where I bought them all

White Guys are not all bad!"

I held my camera waist high
... and then ...

"Hmmmm White Guys
are tricky."

I depart Nairobi for Atlanta, later today.
Will be home one day, then
off to meetings in California.
I will be posting a report
on our two trainings in Nakuru

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

AKA Ziva David on NCIS, about the only show I watch when I am home ... other than ESPN and FOX News' Red Eye. This was from season 6. Ziva rocks, as Mossad assassin on loan to NCIS. And who knew that Mark Harmon's career would last longer than playing Morgan Fairchild's husband in the soap opera, Flamingo Road?

How many of you knew that Mark Harmon is married to Pam Dawber? You know ... Mindy ... as in Mork & Mindy?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ayn Rand: Speaking From the Grave!

In response to my last blog, two of my readers sent me (the first two cited here) quotes by Ayn Rand (1905-1982), to which I added some of her other bon mots ...

Do not ever say that the desire to "do good" by force is a good motive. Neither power-lust nor stupidity are good motives.

Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone.

Individual Rights
The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.

We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think.

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

Every man is free to achieve as far has he's able or willing, but the degree to which he thinks determines the degree to which he'll rise.

Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Is it Greed ... or Success?

Okay … I am headed to airport today and off to Africa. As I haven’t had time to follow up my post on Consumerism, I thought I would at least address some of the questions that came via e-mail. While most of the notes were very supportive, a few people were wondering why I didn’t come down harder on “the sin of greed.”

There are plenty of spiritual gurus out there holding forth against greed. It’s an easy target to hit, and a highly popular one to boot, as who among us can be “for” greed … other than Gordon Gekko, that is.

If by Greed people are referring to an obsession with acquiring material goods without working for these goods--without exchanging value for value—or to that spiritual malady where individuals value things above God, I say, sure, greed is evil: It is a psychological and spiritual cancer that sucks the life out of our souls. However, it appears to me that today when people denounce greed they are, more often than not, referring to those individuals who have spent years mastering their skills, have superior decision-making processes, have sacrificed sweat and sleep for years, and are now enjoying the rewards of their labor.

Financial success is not proof of greed or that others have been cheated or otherwise abused. On the contrary, in the majority of cases, wealthy people acquired their wealth by being quite good at serving others.

As the war against consumerism is usually a war against freedom of choice, I think much of today’s blather about greedy people and corporations is actually a war against both individual wealth and freedom to pursue your own happiness.

One e-mailer writes:

“But Monte, we must sacrifice for the common good. Shouldn’t other’s come first?”

I don’t even know where to start here.

The fact is that all of these greedy executives and corporations have provided millions of jobs, isn’t that all for the common good of America? Moreover, when these people—usually politicians—talk about sacrifice they obviously aren’t volunteering their wealth to help out the poor. I mean, have you seen the average percentage of income these cheapskates give to church or charity? Abysmal.

Speaking of charity, the citizens of the USA are far and away the most charitable people on the planet. The thing is, however, most of the citizens prefer giving to charities that are actually making a difference here and abroad, rather than throwing it down the bottomless pit of some Federal boondoggle or, even worse, a United Nations project.

For many of our politicians, Sacrificing for the Common Good is only a rhetorical device for saying, “Pay more taxes, as we know best how to spend your money.”

Really? How’s that 50-year war against poverty going? And tell us about all the Social Security money just sitting there waiting for the gazillions of Boomers that will be retiring over the next decade! Managed that account quite well, didn’t ya’!

Anyway, when did God die and leave someone else—or something else, such as the Federal Government—in charge of telling me how much money I am allowed to make, how to spend my money, or how to live my life?

When politicians begin speaking about sacrifice, one of the questions we must ask is, to whom do we sacrifice? Who or what is it that will be receiving this sacrificial offering? As a Christian, I embrace Christ’s command to love others in word and deed, of being charitable to the destitute. However, as I understand the biblical idea of charity, it is a free-will offering not a demand placed on me by others.

Money taken from me by force is not charity it is thievery, even when the Federal Government does it via confiscatory taxes.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009