Monday, January 19, 2009

Higgler Times

This is the first of a three-part series titled 'The Art of Living'which focusses on new approaches for accelerated evolution.

Creative Enterprise
The era of creative enterprise is upon us. Higgler, hustler, entrepreneur or sitting duck - which one are you? Let's break it down. When you size it up, the higgler, hustler and entrepreneur all part of the same package. They are all businesswomen armed with an arsenal of skills requisite for operating in the most demanding business spaces.

We know them well, but how often have we stopped to consider what it is that keeps them in the game? The higglers - female, enterprising, courageous and tenacious - are a firmly entrenched Jamaican trading tradition. Their history in Jamaica speaks of origins in slavery days where rural slaves tended crops to feed their families and the surplus would be sold at high traffic crossroads that became Jamaica's first markets.

Small-time trader
Over the years, the higglers have become a cornerstone of a wealth-creation network that is less prone to recession battering than other so-called 'stable' jobs.
Generally, however, despite their sizeable contribution to Jamaica's economy, the higgler is typically regarded as a small-time trader. Even those who travel overseas to buy and sell wares, named: informal commercial importers are quietly assigned to a lower-calibre level of businesswoman than her suited peer rolling in an SUV.

Not to be outdone, some of our modern-day higglers have evolved their outward appearance and are on level pegging with the SUV crowd but they retain a fiercely independent core. The SUV businesswomen are probably regarded as a different class of entrepreneur because of the business school certificates, access to formal trading sectors and a different approach to doing the business itself. No doubt, those that are successful are also resilient, hard-nosed and intuitive.

So, apart from the obvious infrastructural differences - an office to a market stall, a computer to manual counting system - what sets the higglers apart? Self-reliance.

This side of the world, the higglers find their equals in the 'Mama Benz' a.k.a. the market mammies, who have garnered a reputation for rigorous business acumen and an unmistakable, flamboyant style. Like their sisters in Jamaica, they also run things in their marketplaces through various countries across West Africa, stretching from Senegal to Cameroon, down to the Democratic Republic of Congo and across to Somalia. Southern Africa also has a network of female traders who work on all levels informal, home industry to import and export.

Skilful creativity
In these times of economic instability, they are riding the storm with skilful creativity. The fact is, taking on the challenge of free market trading is a voyage into the unknown, no matter the size of your pocket. The risk of fallout is, of course, the rub.

However, what anchors the higglers/Mama Benzes is an approach which is incisive and calculated and built on a foundation of self-reliance. They have abandoned notions of secure employment or other illusions of security in order to exploit the boundless possibilities available to entrepreneurs who create their own realities.
In these times, in the quest to create economic survival mechanisms, we could learn a thing or two from our beloved higglers.

Flowers of the (R)Evolution

An avid Flair Fe-Mail Ties reader, once chided me for undervaluing the youth of today. Just shy of her 20th birthday, she lamented the fact that I almost always place more value on generations gone by and traditions of old, and more often criticise modernity. Her stance was that young people today are doing the best they can and that they should be applauded for the strides they're making in these challenging times.

Pause point
As the first few days of the New Year roll by, her words echo in my mind. Word is that New Year resolutions are démodé; but nonetheless, the end of the year is certainly a pause point where it makes sense to stop to evaluate where we've come, in preparation for where we are going.

Amid the celebrations, I observed many well-intentioned people planting new seeds of hopes and dreams for the future. As the struck 12 on New Year's Eve, showers poured down on Johannesburg. As the good-wish SMS messages came in, many prayed that the rain would wash away all the bad memories of 2008, rinsing the slate clean for a new day. If you could start all over again, what would you change? How would you operate in the new day without the lessons of yesteryear? I always look to the past in affirmation of choices that I can make today with a view of tomorrow.

A few days into the new year, I hosted the first 'Earthseed Matriarch Dialogues' for 2009, where a group of Jamaican mothers and daughters gathered to talk about their evolution as women. As the circles of life from daughter to grandmothers spin, we searched for anchors which grounded our life evolution as women in the 21st century. These were always found in the past.
As we explored various facets of the journey to womanhood, we squirmed as our mothers shared with us how they handled their 'monthly' bulky squares of white cotton unimaginable in today's high-tech age of G-string shaped sanitary towels complete with wings!

Public exposure
As we considered the indignity of the public exposure of the squares on the washing line, we noted with reverence the dignity with which they shared their memories. We saw the joy in their faces as they described some of the tougher moments and the skills they have honed into nuggets of wisdom that only age and experience can bring.

So when we, 'matriarchs-in-training', some now mothers, spoke of our journey to womanhood, we all noted with interest the cyclical nature of life. Our challenges were their challenge, a different era, a different solution - or so some thought. We saw that from mother to daughter, those seeds of hope sometimes only blossomed a generation later.

So as we attempt to wash our troubles away, take time for a moment to consider the valuable insights those who have walked before us can offer. Take time to consider also that those bad experiences are the seeds which flower into your personal evolution. So let it rain and nurture but not wash away the seeds planted in celebration of life.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chalking up de dutty tough

So, we made it through to 2009! As we herald in the New Year, many are breathing a sigh of relief as the curtains go down on 2008 – and what a performance it was! In truth, it was a roller coaster ride which tested us all to the core.

As we look back, was it ever as bad as the economic pundits said it would become? Granted, it was tough but the world hasn’t come to an end. If anything, 2008 was a year where we had to dig deep and (re)discover aspects of our character that rarely see the light of day because life is so, well – great!

I remember the rash of 2000&gr8 (great) messages that flooded my inbox twelve months ago. Six months down the road, I recall the 2000&gr8 energy had evaporated. I asked the question then as I am now, what will make this year greater than any other?

The doomsayers were having a field day; telling us to tighten your belts and calling us to revert to almost frugal living. They sent hoards of people spiralling into quicksand.

Collective meditation
Almost paralysed with fear, the world began a collective meditation through anxious sleepless nights of what ifs. Baffled as to how we got to this space, as the established world order crumbled, it was all the more scary because we were ill prepared and worse still, ill equipped.

If you think about it, we’ve been here before, in our lifetimes and in our fore parents’ lifetimes. Furthermore, we survived! We came through to triumph because we were forced to learn new skills and re-discover our true ourselves.

Out of 2000&gr8 came the US President Elect Barack Obama. He speaks of the audacity of hope. How audacious are you when it comes to assessing how great 2008 really was.

Would you dare to see, even if for a minute, how resilient and resourceful you have been forced to become? In those 60 seconds, could you glimpse incredulous moments, the endless possibilities of a new dawn that you could create?

As we hurtle into 2009, ushering in a new cast of actors brightly dressed in unfamiliar costumes, are you seated in the front row, gasping for air from scene to scene, or are you writing the script?

Whether we like it or not, we’re all writing our own scripts no matter the economic backdrop or the curtain call.

Looking across the oceans from Africa to the Caribbean, I see and hear a call to retrieve our creativity. In seeking to author our destiny let’s reclaim our deep seated passions and take guidance from our soul.

It starts with acceptance of what is. For it is through the stillness of acceptance that we are able to release pent up angst which blurs our vision and literally incapacitates us. Take it head-on! Chalk up the dutty tough experiences and capture the opportunities that turbulent times always offer.

I’m hearing it already, now 2009 is 2000&shine or 2000&mine. Whichever you choose let your life script nurture seeds of rampant possibility. It is ours for the making.