Lessons I learned from the Founders Connect Documentary Filming.
I have had a very eventful week and I thought to document some of the things I learned. As I grow older I have come to value experiences over theoretical knowledge, and this week reminded me why.
I met my boss, Peace Itimi for the first time on the 29th of June, 2022. I was really excited because we’d worked together for a few months without ever having met each other. She came to Nigeria to shoot a documentary, so I moved in with her for a week. It was a really long week of shooting players in the Nigerian tech ecosystem. From OGs, to VCs, talent and more, and I learned a couple of things:
1. Stories Move the World.
On Thursday we filmed a couple of founders for our show, Founders Connect. I found this experience exciting for two reasons. First, I got to see the BTS of how these amazing interviews occur. Secondly, I could tell that the founders had put in so much work to get to where they had gotten in life through the stories they shared. They all had a story to tell because they had built something; and that in itself is a story.
Stories are important because they make us see the possible. Joan Didion says that we tell ourselves stories inorder to live, and as dramatic as it may sound, it is true. All knowledge is passed down through storytelling. Our forefathers preserved whole civilizations by passing down information from generation to generation. Storytelling preserves culture and preserves life.
Storytelling also spurs people into action. When you learn that someone was able to achieve something you didn’t think possible, it gives you the confidence to try to achieve the same. This is why the role of the media is very important, and why there has been a clamour for more minority representation in film. Few things are as inspiring as hearing the stories of people like you that achieve greatness. It may not be a conscious realisation, but something clicks in the brain that makes the image of you doing the same much more easier to conceptualize.
Black Panther, Paystack’s exit, Barack Obama winning the Presidential elections; these stories and more have shaped our lives in more ways than we know. And so by hearing these founders tell their stories, I felt very inspired to keep on working and to keep sharing as well.
The lesson here is: add to the collective. Tell your own story. You never know who you’re inspiring simply by doing so.
2. Be Honest about your Struggles
One of the founders we interviewed shared an interesting perspective I had never heard before. He confessed that he had an issue with staying consistent, so had to come to a contractual agreement with his cofounders to run the company for a period of set years, after which if it didn’t take off, he was allowed to leave. I liked it because usually when people share their success stories, they tend to portray themselves in the best light. Even when they share their flaws and shortcomings, they prefer to share the ones that are more socially acceptable, like “fear of failure” and “being too hard on yourself.” You know, the type of flaws you share with potential employers so they don’t see you as a red flag; the type of flaws that inspire pity, not distrust.
I liked how honest he was about his struggles and how he invented practical solutions to solve them. I also liked the fact that he addressed one of the biggest issues we have as people living in the 21st century: staying power. I feel like in our generation we’re very big on leaving experiences at the slightest discomfort because we think we will find something better. The internet has made the world small, and it takes a great deal of character to choose to stay and build even when things are hard. We do this with people too. We have issues and we throw the entire relationship away instead of trying to understand each other and find a middle ground. I don’t know if that’s the best way to live. Personally, I think it pays to be honest with your struggles and devise ways to fix them.
3. Consistency is Hard, but so is Magic.
I met Mitchelle, THE Designer Babe during this visit. She was preparing for a live event that held on Saturday the 2nd of July and we got to spend some time together. Anyone who knows Mitchelle knows how big on consistency she is, and from spending time with her I could tell that it had paid off.
During her event, Mitchelle shared how taking her design career seriously helped her move from being a makeup artist to a product designer in Flutterwave. Her consistency and willingness to learn also helped her get a really cool job overseas, after applying to 80 different companies. I thought that was amazing. I probably would have given up after the 10th application.
On one of the shoot days, a really big operator in the ecosystem came for an interview and Mitchelle introduced herself, along with the cool place she currently works in. However, the lady fixated on her brand as Designer Babe and spoke about how much she’d heard about her. I thought it was amazing that the lady cared a lot more about Mitchelle’s brand than her place of employment, simply because Mitchelle caught a vision, took her work seriously, started running and never stopped.
‘Consistency is key’ is more than just a catchphrase. It’s truth.
4. Be Intentional about Your Work.
I think the hallmark of a successful person is intentionality. I saw it in everything we did. An incident that stood out to me was on the final day when Tito and Joyce were working on the setup for the last interview. They were really particular about how the blue light was going to reflect even though I felt its significance was aesthetic at best. They took about thirty minutes trying to get it right. Mitchelle was also very intentional about the quality of the items she was giving to the people who attended her Wine and Design event. When the shirts were printed in poor quality, she had them redone even though it was a day before the event.
Being excellent means being intentional about the quality of the work you put out, and it pays.
5. Desire without Work is Dead.
Adia Sowho, CMO of MTN shared how she wanted to get a job at a particular telco company and didn’t have the email of the CEO. Knowing his first and last name, she fabricated about ten email addresses, hoping that one of them was his, and sent a mail to each of them with her CV attached. She said she watched each of the emails bounce back until one of them was finally sent. I was amazed. I don’t think it is normal for people to think that far inorder to get what they want.
I have realised that we talk too much. We are always ranting about the type of life we feel we deserve, the type of things we want to buy, do, and be, but a lot of the time, it stops at talk. We don’t take any extra steps to get it. And even when we do, we play it safe, comfortable effort.
But life doesn’t usually work that way. You might get lucky, but basing your future on something as temperamental as luck is probably not the best idea. Sometimes you have to show craze, you have to exhibit a huge amount of boldness inorder to get what you want.
6. You don’t have to wait for Everything to fall in place before you Move.
The perfectionist in me is screaming, but it is true. Peace showed me some of her throwbacks from back in the day, and while I found them funny and cute, I remember thinking that Peace started where she was with what she had. If she had waited until she had the latest iPhone or the coolest clothes, she probably wouldn’t have achieved as much as she has today. She moved, and as she did, she levelled up.
I saw this with the documentary too. Despite how much planning and iteration it took us to shoot, we didn’t have everything figured out before we started filming. When we started, we figured things out as we moved. A lot of things happened impromptu that ended up working for our good, none of which would have been the case if we had decided to fold our hands and wait till we had everything figured out first.
The lesson here is: start. As you do the work, things will work out.
7. You need People. Community is Power.
The way we functioned like a well-oiled machine, with each person contributing their quota to the success of the documentary reminded me (again) that community is power. You need people to execute the wonderful things you want to do with your life. As an individual, as an entrepreneur, as a professional, etc. you need to be in a place where you are watered and you feel supported. It is in the little things. From being commended for questions you wrote, to being asked if you’re okay, if you’ve eaten, if you slept well. The project wouldn’t have been a success if we didn’t all play our part in ensuring that Peace’s vision came to life.
You need people to fulfil your assignment on this earth. So surround yourself with the best ones. People that water your soul.
Learn from them, be there for them, and grow with them.
8. Step into the World with your head held high.
When you spend time with your idols, you realise more than ever, how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. It demystifies success for you. You see that putting in the work, showing up, and connecting with others are actions that compound over time, yielding success that is celebrated at large. I think this week I learned the importance of confidence because I could see how it had played out in the stories of the people we interviewed, and in the lives of the people I worked with.
I also learned that it is easier to step into the world with your head held high when you are doing something. When there is work that speaks for you. Do not underestimate the power of social proof. As you do more good work and share it, you find people who value what you do, and when they communicate this value, it encourages you to keep doing good work. Like that, a cycle is formed that compounds over time. You realise that because you did it once, you can do it again and even better. It’s like learning how to walk. A baby’s first steps are uncertain. But they take enough steps and suddenly they can walk really fast, and even run! That’s just the way it is.
Omo the lessons choke!
I’m really thankful for Peace, she is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. I am thankful I got to work with her this past week, I am thankful for the team, I am thankful for everything I learned, and I am thankful for me, because my head dey there.
Thank you for reading.