Occasionally I ponder about the state of affairs in Zambia. It could be its political, cultural and social aspects. Often times after I have pondered I would come to some form of a conclusion. For a long time, however, there is one question that has been bugging me and I had not seemed to come up with a satisfactory conclusion until now. What are Zambians good at?
Brazilians are known for their football prowess, Kenyans and Ethiopians their marathon stamina, Indians for their mathematical acumen, French for their wine and cuisine. I do acknowledge that these may be stereotypical statements but they do have some truth. That then comes to Zambia, what is it that Zambians are stereotypically known for? I have searched my brain for an answer and as hard as I have tried I cannot come up with an answer to that. I know many people will point to football but I highly doubt it in comparison to other countries in Africa such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana who have superstar football players we are pulling at straws hoping that Charly Musonda Jr. will play for Zambia some day. Leave the lad alone. Even our lone Africa Cup win can hardly be used to as shining example of what we are good at.
Now even if I may be disappointed to not find one single thing that Zambians do exceptionally well in comparison to other countries, I may somehow have found an answer that can soothe my conscience as to why that is. The answer came to me in the form of the bestselling book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book Gladwell mentions the 10,000-hour rule. He stresses that for anyone to be an expert at something they need to be doing that thing for a minimum of 10,000 hours. He uses examples such as Bill Gates, The Beatles, and Mozart among others to show how they each invested 10,000 hours sharpening their craft. This was almost like a Eureka moment for me.
It finally made sense, who in Zambia invests 10,000 hours in anything? Take a look at our society where academic accomplishments are held as the Holy Grail. Children are scorned if they attempt to deviate into any other activities that do not include learning their times tables or learning how to spell. We assume that every child somehow has an innate ability to be number one in class. Therefore, parents and guardians hire tutors, provide extra lessons and use fear to somehow churn out these supposedly high flying pupils. This is despite the fact that some children may have learning disabilities such as dyslexia that unfortunately is rarely diagnosed. Therefore, a child may not be academically gifted but they may be artistic, athletic, or technical geniuses. But we spend so little time cultivating these talents that no one ever achieves their 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell even does admit that sometimes to accumulate those 10,000 hours someone may need to enter a special designed school programme that nurtures the talent or gift.
One can then argue that our society is not so accommodating to someone who does not have a high school certificate, diploma or degree. Individuals who do not have the necessary academic qualification are looked down upon. Anyone who tries to do something outside the accepted careers is bound to face a lot of opposition. No wonder there are few people who have reached the 10,000 hours mark. You would then think that maybe we could have done well in the academics arena but still Zambia rarely makes a blip on that radar too. There should be somewhere where we are just missing it.
I have not lost hope to find something that Zambians are good at. Until I do I will continue churning out these blogs hoping that I reach my 10,000 hours target. At the moment I think I am around the 5,000 hour mark, if I include all the other writing I do. Maybe my readers know something that I do not, what are Zambians good at?