Starting something — Lionesses of Africa

by Thembe Khumalo

I am a person who likes to start things – conversations (if I hear anyone in the supermarket speaking Ndebele I feel compelled to join in), friendships, projects, songs, businesses, stories…. I just love the energy that comes with new beginnings. The planning and preparations, putting tools, and people and ideas together, all give me a high that is unlike anything else I have experienced.  And so of course, I tend to start a lot of things.


Anyone who knows me well knows that surprises upset me – even if the surprise is good. You see, I feel robbed of all the excitement of planning, which in many ways for me, is the best part. I love brainstorming and seeing something develop from a simple thought to something tangible, audible, edible. But then – I get bored. These tendencies are not all that unusual for creative people. We thrive on the energy of creation, and can, if not managed well, lose interest when processes become more mundane and repetitive. 

So how can one succeed as a creative entrepreneur?  How do you generate enough of the spark that sets ideas alight, but also maintain the discipline of doggedly doing the mundane – accounting for resources, keeping people honest, managing teams, performing preventative maintenance on your business, or building or vehicle?  Here are four tips that work for me:

1. Be inspired, not motivated

If you have ever listened to a motivational speaker – and who among us hasn’t, now that we have YouTube, Instagram and even Netflix churning out motivation by the truckload – you will know that the effects of such a talk don’t last very long. This is because of the simple truth that words don’t teach (more on this another time). Only revelation teaches. And once you are operating in the realm of revelation you are no longer motivated, but inspired. Inspiration lasts because it comes as a response deep within when something resonates with who you truly are. Find out the things that trigger your inspiration and do them often, expose yourself to those things and those people. I am inspired by beautiful stories, by big conversations with smart people, by creativity in all forms, and I find that when I immerse myself in these things often enough, I work diligently, even at tasks that would otherwise be boring. 

2. Work with purpose rather than passion

You’ve probably heard it said enough times that you should pursue your passion. Thats fine for a while, but what the passionistas didn’t tell you was that in the same way that inspiration trumps motivation, purpose trumps passion. When you are driven by purpose you have the impetus to keep going even when things are tough (or boring). Passion can run out any time, but purpose is a lifelong commitment to a certain set of values, a certain way a of being, a certain aim you have for your life. When we work with purpose, we can do hard things. This is why when we build brands, we always start with purpose. It’s one of the most powerful drivers for staying on course (even when you’re bored). 

3. Set up systems

Systems help us by making repetitive tasks less onerous.  This is a godsend for people like me who do not do well when it comes to repetitive work. By putting the task, or set of tasks, on auto you eliminate a huge chunk of the pain associated with setting up, thinking, planning and doing something over and over again. We can think of habits as automations.  (If you haven’t read James Clear’s bestselling book Atomic Habits, I urge you to get it today). Habits help us automate repetitive and/or onerous tasks. Once something is running on auto in your life, you barely have to think about it, so it doesn’t have the opportunity to bore you. 

4. Surround yourself with fabulous people and give them space to shine

If there is one prevailing truth in my life, it is that I attract the best people. At home and at work, I am surrounded by stars. And because the people in my life are fabulous, I don’t struggle to share my responsibilities with them. Delegation is often frightening when you aren’t sure if the person you are entrusting the important task to will actually do it. If you have a fabulous team then you have less to worry about. And remember – they don’t have to do the job the way you would do it. They just have to achieve the same result. This means you have to be willing to let go of your own personalised “how” and accept the possibility that someone’ else’s way might be just as good or even better than yours.

Starting things is so much fun, I can’t imagine a life in which I couldn’t from time to time treat myself to the adventure that beginnings give me. But I also value the benefits that come with experience, repetition and expertise. These things come, not form starting things, but from staying with them. And so I hope that these four tips I have shared will enable those of you who are creators to do both – start some fun things, and then see them through to completion.

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