When I was a college sorority pledge a (lotta) few years ago, my line sisters and I had to repeat this mantra regularly: “Excuses are the tools of the incompetent. Those who use them often have nothing more to give.” As small business owners, we sometimes conclude that others have special talents or training that makes it possible for them to be successful at something we'd like to do, while we don't have the same skills.
This is true in some cases, but many times, it's simply a mighty convenient excuse that lets us off the hook. After all, if we don't have the special training, no one will hold us accountable for not doing what we say we want to do, right? Not so fast. When you enjoy this video and you'll see what I mean.
It's an interview of William Kamkwamba at the 2007 TED Conference. At the time of the interview, William was 19 years old. He traveled to the TED Conference from his home in Malawi, a landlocked African country which has endured years of continuous drought.
William was just 14 years old when, as he says in the video, he went to the library and found a book about making energy. After the reading the book, Williams says in the video:
I try and I made it.
When he said those words, the audience erupted in applause.
As you can see from the photos in the video, William used plastic pipe, a pulley an old bicycle frame and other assorted “trash” to assemble a windmill that provided enough wattage to power 4 lights and 2 radios in his tiny home.
So next time you think you don't have the special knowledge or advantage, consider William Kamkwamba who, without either, simply sat down and tried.
My favorite part of this video comes at the very end, when the interviewer thanks William for being a part of the conference. As the interviewer thanks him, William immediately begins to exit the stage. He thought his moment was over.
But when the interviewer gently touches his shoulder and turns him toward the audience, William is shocked to see that they are all looking at him, just waiting for an opportunity to praise his amazing spirit. Look at that face, look at the glow, look at the smile.
I suppose William thought he'd just built a windmill, and that's true. But he really did more than that. He inspired me. And I hope he inspires you too.
You can visit William's blog and also listen to his interview on yesterday's Diane Rehm Show, where he was a guest with the co-author of his newly released book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope