Scarier than the day I ran into a pride of lions on the Okavango. And just as beautiful

Note: this is the music I was listening to while writing this post. Earlier today, I was looking for something and stumbled upon this video of the highlights of the Global Competitiveness Forum I spoke at in 2011 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My panel was called "The power of Unreasonable People" and I come at around 4:46.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfk1sFvIwq0&w=560&h=315]

It reminded me of a horribly scary situation I found myself in at the same Forum 2 years prior to the 2011 one. Something happened that could have aborted my speaking career on such prestigious stages.

So what happened? I am very embarrassed by it, but I am one who likes to laugh about and share my misfortunes once the stinging stage has passed.

When I received my invitation and saw the list of speakers, I first thought there was a mistake in my being invited. I mean the list was full of titles like CEO of Airbus, Chairman of Goldman Sachs, CEO of 3M, Former Prime Minister of Canada, Former Prime Minister of Great Britain, and so on and so forth. And then me, Magatte Wade, this very young woman, barely out my 20s, President of a small company, with my name on a list of the Who's Who of world leaders. I remember turning to M and saying "Could they not find a better African token? This is ridiculous!". To which M responded: "I do not think that is what is going on. You need to give yourself more credit. And even if it was, you will show them that you earned your presence there". I liked that!

And then, I learned I was set out to debate Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the Chairman and former CEO of Nestle, on the importance of Organics. It turns out that the organizer was 100% sold to my commitment and engagement in sustainability.

I remember coming on stage full of confidence. After all, I had nothing but disdain for Nestle and most of their practices. They were one of the reasons I started my first company. I remember how in front of a crowd of several hundred of the world’s leading movers and shakers – at one point, in the midst of a passionate debate on organics, I turned and pointed to him saying “I believe in criticizing by creating.  You are one of the reasons that I created Adina,” a line which pleased the crowd greatly, putting him on the defensive from there on out :). I was doing good until our moderator, Riz Khan (prominent BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera journalist) asked me the question that almost ruined everything. He asked a minute long VERY technical question on water. Water is one of Nestle pet peeves and Brabeck's specialty. M had wanted to prep me on that topic and I brushed it off because I found it too technical. Poor M, he was listening on via Skype through my computer that I set up next to me. He was cringing, but there was nothing he could do for me anymore at that particular moment.

In any case, and as Riz Khan was finally finishing his question, I realized that I had no viable answer for him. I felt a horrible feeling of disappointment growing in me. I had no place in being there in the first place. The fact I had no relevant answer to this question was the proof. Big swollen tears started to form , and as I was getting ready to get up and leave the stage crying, the miracle happened. Brabeck, who had been stung by what I told him earlier, lost all his manners and did not let me answer the question, but instead went into defending himself from my attack of him earlier. Riz Khan tried, as a gentleman, to give me a chance to answer his question, but then the same thing happened again. By then, I just told him :"It is okay, Riz! Let's move on."

And from there on, I just picked up the ball and pulled them all back into my turf, one that I knew I controlled very well, because Organics and sustainability is something I live for and believe in in my core. Brabeck was so mad he blurted out "Organics is just a marketing gimmick!" Wow! Really?!? From the man who had declared that his Chairmanship would be under the sign of "Organic & Fair Trade". He was lucky Twitter was not en vogue yet...

A few years later, the Forum's Director emailed my husband the following:

"You know, the highlight of my 5 years doing this GCF was the year Magatte spoke and just before she went up on stage, on a session in which I had deliberately placed her and the Peter Brabeck-Lethmate, she looked at me and said something like, “Ray, this is real drag. I’m going to liven it up a bit.”

That was even scarier than the day I ran into a pride of lions on the Okavango. And just as beautiful.

Sometimes, all you need is luck!

 

 

All Woman?

Just FYI, this is the track I was listening to while writing this blog post.

This article on Lynn Tilton in the New York Magazine was a real treat for me.

An interesting man with whom my Beloved and I have befriended, forwarded it to me. And I must admit that I am a bit confused as to why he felt compelled to send it to me. Did she remind him of me?  A part of me recognizes that this woman could easily be a cartoon version of me. I had never heard of Lynn Tilton before. But as I was reading the article, I was going from "WOW!" to "WTF?" back to "Yes, Woman!" but again to "Are you freaking serious?"And if nothing else, I am simply compelled by the stories of unusual entrepreneurs.

Like Lynn Tilton, I am bold, mouthy, a control freak, extremely sexual, love business (which I view as the greatest force of good in the world), adore my femininity/sensuality and playing with it everywhere all of the time (especially when men fall willing victims of it :) )

I still have not made up my mind on this woman and where she is trying to go, but I can share what I like and do not like about her:

LIKE, +++++, PROs, SHE ROCKS

  • She is a full woman ("an all woman" in her own words). I am profoundly disturbed, annoyed and saddened by all the mutant females that inhabit corporate boardrooms and meetings nowadays, all these so-called women who are consumed in their efforts to imitate men so much that the only thing they have left of being woman are breasts, literally! She understands that there are other ways to stand up to men so that they get "I'll be your girlfriend, but I won't be your b****" . I want to see women bring more beauty and sensuality to this world.
  • She gets the power of business, especially industry and manufacturing-based economy for a country.  She takes seriously how employment ensures peace and a happy society. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS are critical, everywhere!!! It is funny-annoying how too many people take it for granted in this country, so much they get bored just thinking about it, but without it, we can't even begin to be a sustainable society. And that is true for African countries, all of you do-gooders out there - unless you are so in love with "indigenous people" that you want to keep us poor just for kicks!  Just like water sounds like the most boring thing to  and is under rated by most , without it there would be no Life the way we know it. Well jobs to me are to any sustainable society what water is to Life! Lose them and watch everything die around us, including us humans.
  • She perceived that the intellectual notion of business needs to be defended so that we can get more business friendly policies. For my part, I realized few years ago that being a good business person and creating jobs is not enough. Unfortunately "crapitalism" (term used by Gene Epstein, econ editor of Barron's to describe what happens when big business goes to bed with government ) has spoiled the well in people's minds. They think that the corrupt crapitalism that we see everywhere is capitalism - but it is not.  Most of us love small businesses for they are created by people like you and I, providing much-needed services and products to people who need and want them. Most of us admire such folks, and the fact they provide jobs that sustain entire families, help their communities thrive. And it is all based on free will. You buy from that company if you chose so, you work for it if you chose so, and so forth. We all love those principles. Those principle are what I call "capitalism", simply. Are those principles not worth defending for everything they have given us and how they improved our lives? Well if any one is still doubting, I am absolutely ALL OUT to defend those principles. The development of my country Senegal, and beyond that the development of the world depends on it. And right now, unfortunately , I am afraid that a lot of young people are being taught at universities (primarily) by misguided anti-business professors to hate and compromise those principles using the wrong examples. I am sadly seeing how these tenured professors at these well endowed universities, front row beneficiaries are teaching the children, grand-children, great-grandchildren of their greatest benefactors (business people who ran successful businesses who turned around and made donations to allow for those universities to be and function) to despise the very powerful forces that allowed their existence in the first place and subsistence to this day (even the way endowments works means these universities have to place their money in equities, i.e., real businesses). All of this just to say that I feel lucky that I opened my eyes early, which is why I am working at both level: being a real entrepreneur, as well as being an evangelist for business. I do not want to be like a lot of current business people who are just now realizing how our work is taken for granted and how much the anti-business people have managed to own the moral high ground on these issues. They were preaching against the healthy principles of business while we entrepreneurs were busy creating real value for all parties involved. The name of the game must change and we must DO and PREACH right now! We must win the moral high ground because that will allow for faster change, quicker! There is no reason why billions of people must remain poor and live in inhuman conditions for one second longer because a very few select group of people are too petty to recognize they have been wrong all along! I am furious! The "criticize by creating" is my mantra...ZEN....
  • Her spiritual beliefs. I love people who are still connected to the power of the Earth and the Ancestors who came before us. At the end of the day, the journey must be more about than just our little selves, because we are each a part of something so much bigger. So by the time I am hopefully peacefully about to give my last breath, I would like to be smiling feeling in my heart "God, I played my part. I am ready to come home now".
  • She is her own person and definitely not a sheep. At this point of my life, may God help the person that will try to tell me what I can't, nor shouldn't do. I am the ONLY qualified person to determine who/what I can, should or want to be/do!
ARGH!, CONs, But WHY?
.

  • She is too bling-bling in her appearance and her lifestyle. Again for me true class is when money is not a factor because you have so much of it who cares or you have none and who cares.
  • She has gotten a very dirty mouth. While I love mouthy people I believe there is a true art to it, if not you are just a dirty mouth and there is nothing beautiful about that and you know how much I care about beauty. As a matter of fact, one of my upcoming blogs will be on the art of insult, inspired by the classy insults of back in the days, when there was no need for nasty "f" words and such yet you could still elegantly  make your point like Charles, Count Talleyrand's "In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily".
  • Being an all woman should not mean harassing men all over the place.  Gross and distasteful!. There is nothing more fun and sensual than to ensnare a man in a web of love. But that is all one needs to do: build a web of love, an irresistible one, and they will come. Trust me :) So this below is just crazy, just as I thought I could not read worse about this woman's lack of class, taste and manners.
"This employee also says that Tilton perceives all of her male employees as being in love with her. Which is perhaps the reason that, holding court in a conference room during her 50th- birthday party, Tilton offered her male employees a choice: They could take a Jell-O shot off her stomach or lick whipped cream off her breasts. “The crazy part was, she saw it as morale building,” says one person present. “People were hiding in the bathroom.”"
If you have not left the building yet and want to read more, see the full article here.
By the way and at this point of my post, I must say that despite my dislikes about Lynn Tilton, I do appreciate and respect her. She has got what matters when it is all said and done: love, smarts, courage and sensuality.