Madalitso Mulando is an expert negotiator. She’s already obtained her first round of investors. And by the way, she’s 15.
In the October series, Compounding Good, we’re looking at powering through adversity. When you hear “adversity”, does your mind jump to the external “if”? “If only I’d get that promotion…” “I’d be happy if we were dating…” “If the stock market would improve, I wouldn’t worry about money.” Maybe the answers aren’t outside of us. Are we sometimes the blocker to receiving Good?
Mulando lives in Zambia. She is fascinated by biology and dreams of being a doctor. There’s one big problem: money.
Enter Kathleen McGinn, a professor of negotiation at Harvard Business School. Professor McGinn had heard about the dilemma faced by Zambian students. She explains, “In the U.S., it’s illegal to take your kid out of school. In Zambia, you have to pay to keep your kid in school.” Mulando needed $150, an incredible sum for a modest household.
Professor McGinn and her colleagues Nava Ashraf and Corinne Low understand what’s at stake. Statistics show that women who complete their education often change their financial status for life. Getting a diploma is more than an exciting milestone. It can be the turning point of absolutely breaking the poverty cycle, especially on a generational basis.
For Mulando, the consequences of failing to obtain her tuition were all too real. She had already missed a term of her 9th grade year when her parents struggled to find the funds. Her choices were clear: find a way to continue in school or bow to the societal pressure to drop out and marry early.
She put her negotiation skills to good use. First she convinced her cousin to support her: $55. Then she asked her older sister: $70. Her parents were able to scrape the last piece together: $25. Success!
But what about her books? Her uncle, Neba Mbewe, was the best candidate. As the Managing Editor of a prominent newspaper, he had the means Mulando needed.
Making the request was more than a little awkward. Difficult conversations, especially those where women ask hard questions, are discouraged in Zambian culture. Additionally, her uncle had helped her family on more than one occasion.
Her family was skeptical about his response. Mulando’s mother tried to keep her expectations low by warning her, “If he says he doesn’t have the money, don’t get hate.” Unexpectedly, Mr. Mbewe was delighted by his niece’s determination to complete her education. He wrote the check.
A provocative quote popped up on my Pinterest feed: “We carry our prisons with us.” Compounding Good can require pushing back on your situation rather than waiting for the conditions around you to shift. This kind of resolve is a crucial Soul Boss principle – the willingness to do the work.
Why wait for the “if” moment to enjoy life? This is the week to experience freedom, even if you only take it in small steps like Mulando. Walk away from the prison you’ve been carrying and compound your Good.