Today I woke up early to write this blog post because I wanted to share the fundamental yet simple life lessons I learned from my 89-year-old father, as he lies on his deathbed.
As my family and I take care of him in his last days on Earth, I ask myself these questions, “What did I learn from this man who has been with me for the past 34 years of my life?”
“What did I learn from this man who has been a husband, a father, and a formidable entrepreneur?”
“Is there anything at all that I can tell about his story, his journey in life and business that could impact somebody’s life out there?”
And so that’s why I’m sitting here this freezing-cold winter morning, to share with you just seven of the exceptional business and life lessons I learned from my father.
Let me start by saying that for obvious reasons I couldn’t share with you an image of his in his last few days. The image you see above was taken a few weeks before he passed on.
So, with that out of the way, let’s get started.
What Are The Seven Life Lessons I Learned From My Father?
Here are the best life lessons I learned from my father, George Maitse Moloi:
1. Have a Strong Vision
The first of the seven lessons is vision.
My father has been a man of vision all his life. In his society, he was always the sore thumb that stuck out.
There was nobody like him. No one could relate to him, because he had his unique way of thinking.
He was a lion living among sheep and you couldn’t help but notice that he was different. And what was so different about him? He had a vision, a clear and solid one. He knew where he was going and he was prepared to work very hard to get there.
And work hard he did.
His vision was to feed his community and amass a lot of wealth in the process.
This may not seem like a great vision for you but for someone who lived in a third-world country with none of the infrastructures that we take for granted today, it was HUGE!
This is why he was nicknamed – ‘Mohoebi,’ translated, ‘The Businessman’.
Clear Take Away: One of the best lessons in life is to know where you are going and diligently search for the path to take you there.
2. Have a Strong Resolve
To make his vision a reality, my father had to move mountains by faith.
Let me explain why every challenge he faced would seem like a mountain to you and me today.
First of all, he lived in a very poor country you’ve probably never heard of – Lesotho.
For those of you who don’t know where Lesotho is, it is a small African country completely landlocked within South Africa. And yes, we may be surrounded, but we are fully independent.
This is where we are on the map.
So, in this small country that is but a dot on the world map, my father built his legacy.
And he didn’t live in the most favorable part of the country either.
You see, Lesotho is divided into two main regions, the Highlands and the Lowlands. The Lowlands are generally a little more modernized and have better infrastructure than the Highlands.
My father didn’t just live in the Highlands; he also lived in the most rural part of this region.
Where there were no roads and consequently no vehicles of any kind, no electricity, no telephones, no water supply system, and almost all of the bare essentials that we would deem necessary for any kind of a business to be established.
But none of these challenges stopped him. Without all of these fundamental resources, he started his business anyway.
He opened a shop and planted a super-sized garden that would feed not only his village but even the neighboring villages.
He took a bold step forward, not because the odds were in his favor but because he had a strong burning desire within that he couldn’t ignore, and a strong resolve to turn that desire into reality.
Clear Take Away: Be determined to take the first step in the pursuit of your dream no matter how impossible it may seem from where you’re standing right now.
3. Dream Big But Be Willing To Start Small
Let me tell you why this is one of the most important life lessons to learn from my father.
To get his store started, he had to purchase stock, from a nearby town, Qacha’s Nek which was over nine hours away by foot.
So if there were no roads or vehicles, what did he use to transport his stock from the town to his village?
Wait for it…
And trust me, I’m not exaggerating!
That was what he had and that’s exactly what he used.
The Stocking Process
In those days the road only extended from Qacha’s Nek to a village called Tsoelike. Having bought the stock from the wholesalers in Qacha’s Nek, he would use public transport to transport the stock from the town where the gravel road ended.
He would then load it onto his 20 donkeys and take it to a friend’s house in the village to keep it for the night.
My brother tells of how they would often have to work late into the night unloading many bags of stock from donkeys and packing them on the verandah of one of my father’s allies.
After all that work, they would wake up early the next morning to load the donkeys again, now driving them to the Senqu River, which they had to cross to get to our village, Ha-Molomo.
Upon arrival at the river, they had to offload the donkeys and then load the stock onto a small boat that would take them across the river. As you can imagine, the boat had to make several trips to and fro across the river to finish all the stock.
As for the donkeys, they swam across and would then be loaded again on the other side of the river.
Now the real journey would begin.
My father would drive the 20 donkeys for hours along the Senqu River, and sometimes the journey would continue late into the night.
Occasionally, one old donkey would stray away from the others and vanish into the woods unnoticed. He would leave the 19 in one spot and go back to look for the missing one. He often found it leaning against a rock with the load still weighing it down.
Upon arrival at home, it would take more hours to off-load the donkeys and then pack them onto the shelves in the store.
The store itself was nothing more than a small African hut that was always fully packed with basic grocery items.
And this process of replenishing stock took several days to complete.
Starting a Mini Farm
What about his mini farm that would feed more than five villages? Well, when he started there was no water supply and not even any soil on the piece of land he was going to use. All he had was bare rock stretched out on a 2-kilometer square radius.
And how on Earth was he going to make a farm out of a rock?
While this may have seemed like an obstacle to many, it was not to my father. What many would call an obstacle, he called a challenge. And one of his traits was that he welcomed every challenge and faced it head-on.
He saw into the future; he saw not just what was but what could be. And his belief, his strong faith in what could be propelled him to do the impossible, to pull the glorious future that he could see into his present.
So how did he solve this one?
Well like many African men, he had lots and lots of livestock, cattle, donkeys, horses, and sheep. So he used his cattle to haul tons and tons of soil from the veld to cover the bare rock. He was then able to plant his mini farm and orchard, which went on to feed more than five villages.
Clear takeaway: Learn how to use what you have to get from where you are to where you want to be.
4. Be a Trailblazer
The fourth of the seven life lessons was to be a trailblazer, a pace-setter.
By the time I was born more than 3 decades later, there had been a major shift in his business. A few landmines had been established through a lot of hard work and dedication to the course.
And this is one of the most important life lessons.
Things never remain constant, life is always changing, either for the good or for the bad.
So, never allow yourself to be stagnant.
From Donkeys To an Aircraft
My father no longer transported his stock with donkeys, but he now used an aircraft.
Yes, you heard that right, an aircraft.
In a small village where hardly anybody could spell or even pronounce the word ‘aircraft’, my father could afford to hire a private aircraft to deliver his stock.
His store had grown so big that the small aircraft had to make 2 and sometimes 3 trips to transport all of his stock.
From No Water To a Privately Owned Water Pipeline
Lesotho is a country with lots of clean water, so much so that we even supply our neighboring country, South Africa with 780 million cubic meters of clean water every year.
Yet in my father’s time, many Basotho still struggled for water. His entire village got water from a well and washed their clothes in a nearby stream, Lebakeng. But, unlike everyone else, he had not only a tap in his yard but an entire water supply system!
He worked for months upon end to build his pipeline. First, he had to dig a well at the source with pixels and shovels and then build a reservoir large enough to supply his family and his supersized garden.
He then laid out pipes that stretched out for more than 5 kilometers and connected the reservoir to the tap in our yard.
As you can imagine, it took a lot of focused effort and years of dedication to get this established.
And eventually, because he had clean water in abundance, he could water his garden, as nobody else could.
He watered his garden in style!
My father was the first African man I know who used a sprinkler to water his garden.
With lots of clean water and rich manure from the animals, it is no wonder that he produced lush vegetables in abundance and fed his community.
He produced cabbage, carrots, beetroot, and a few other vegetables.
In some years the cabbage heads were so huge that his customers would sometimes thresh away the leaves to ease the weight. It was just too big and heavy to carry up to their mountainous villages.
That’s how lush the produce was.
Clear takeaway: Your dream may seem impossible in the beginning but it’s not. Never be afraid to dream big, because the mountains that you see today can be moved by your faith.
5. The Team Makes The Dream Work
Another lesson I learned is that every vision needs supporters. No, man accomplishes great things in life all by himself.
This is why I get a little irritated when I hear successful people brag about how they are ‘self-made millionaires.’
No one… I don’t care who you are or where you come from… no one is ever self-made!
There’s an African phrase that says ‘Umuntu umuntu nga bantu!’
What it means is that a person is who he is because of other people.
And this statement was true for my father as it was for everybody else.
He had a strong team behind him that backed him up and labored endlessly in the manifestation of his dreams.
The Integral Part Of The Team- My Mother
My mother, ‘Maoetsi Moloi was his number one supporter. She saw her life as a seed in my father’s life and worked harder than any paid worker ever would.
She told many stories about how she had to start her day at 5 am every day and work tirelessly every day.
Among many of the stories that she told, this is one of those that touch my heart. When the pipeline was established, she had to carry the steel pipes on her head and walk for more than six hours to get them from the taxi stop to our home.
Apart from making sure that the shop was running smoothly, she was also responsible for preparing food for the team of dedicated laborers who were always working for us.
The Dedicated Team
My father was the only one in his village who had employees. There were five of them and they were all well paid.
All of my father’s employees would do anything he wanted. They obeyed all his bidding. You see, in those days, there was no set of rules, job descriptions, or anything of the sort. So they did anything that was required of them without any complaints.
Whether it was taking care of the big herd of cattle, working in the garden, digging the pipeline, or hauling stock with a sled from the runway after the aircraft had dropped it, they had no problem at all.
They served him with total commitment and he in turn took care of them financially.
These workers were always present at our home. So much so that at my young age, I thought they were a part of the family.
And so, on top of taking care of her six children, my mother also cooked for these men every day. And she took care of their families, too.
Their wives had a friend in them and their families were among those who were making it in the community, simply because they were supporting the vision of a strong leader and visionary.
Clear takeaway: It takes a team to achieve greatness.
6. Be Persistent
While there are no easy lessons in life, there’s no doubt that persistence is one of the hard life lessons to learn.
There are a lot of stories I could tell you about my father’s persistence. It was a big part of his success. Well, I’ll just choose one.
Success attracts both the good and the bad, friends and enemies. One day, on a very rainy day, lightning struck and set the store on fire. At the time the hut was filled to the roof with stock!
Water and milk were poured into buckets to try to put out the fire to no avail. Within minutes, the hut caved in and the entire inventory was either burned or destroyed.
And in one day, what he had taken years to work for blew up in flames.
He cried helplessly as he watched everything he had worked for get destroyed in a flash.
What would you have done?
Give up perhaps? I wouldn’t blame you.
But what did my father do, hang his boots and call it quits? No, he didn’t. He went on to build an even bigger store, probably four times bigger than the one he had lost. And this time he made sure that it was not thatched with grass. It had still roofing and was partitioned into two.
Even at that, there were still many challenges that he would have to overcome in the pursuit of his dream.
Clear Takeaway: Be relentless in the pursuit of your vision.
7. Leave A Legacy
And what is this mystery man living behind? His marriage was blessed with six children, of which I’m the last. And to all of us, he has been an example of true entrepreneurship. He has shown us what it means to have a vision and to pursue it with all you’ve got.
All his children owe him gratitude for the lessons that he has taught us in life.
No one could have guessed that the child of an African man who lived in the most underdeveloped part of a third-world country would study abroad and run a successful global, online business.
But today that is my story.
And so, I dedicate this blog to my father and mother who paved the way for me and made me believe in the impossible. Because of the foundation that they laid for us, my sister and I are leading a team of global entrepreneurs who work hard daily to positively impact, not only our country but our world.
Clear Takeaway: Leave a footprint for the next generation.
Let me close off by answering some of the most common questions about life lessons.
What are the best life lessons?
Some of the best lessons to learn early on in life are to know who you are and where you are going.
What’s an important life lesson?
A lesson that impacts your life and inspires a major shift in your perspective of life is a very important one.
What are some life-changing lessons?
All of the 7 life lessons listed in this blog post can alter the course of your life forever if you put them to work from today.
What’s a life lesson?
A life lesson is a valuable experience that teaches us something about ourselves or the world around us. Sometimes these lessons are learned the hard way, but they can also be positive experiences that teach us to appreciate life more.
So, to all you entrepreneurs out there, here are some life lessons to help you on your journey, not from me, but my father.
Be willing to work hard and be committed to your vision. Surround yourself with dedicated supporters of your dream and in turn, be committed to their well-being. In the process of time you, together with your team will see that dream unfold into reality.
PS: Just 4 days after the writing of this blog post, on June 30th, 2022, my father passed on and was laid to rest 16 days later.
We thank God for his life.
PS: I don’t know who I’m talking to with this brief personal story, but if it’s you I’m talking to, then please share it on social media, so that together we can inspire and motivate other entrepreneurs out there.
We could all use a little motivation to keep us going.
Thanks for reading; I hope you found these inspirational life lessons helpful.
To your success!
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