“You are not poor because you have potential”

My overnight flight to Kigali on Tuesday was supposed to be a sleeping opportunity, since I would be kicking off my secondment to VSO’s Rwanda office the next day. Sadly, this wasn’t meant to be.

I pride myself on being a good listener and I will listen to, and talk to, anyone. I’m grateful that people, like my neighbour on this plane, tend to open up to me and tell me things, because there is little I love more than learning about people and hearing a good story. Sleep is up there too, though. Oh well.

In this instance, the stranger beside me rapidly morphed into a shrewd, entrepreneurially-minded property owner, who also happens to drive a London bus. The child of a Rwandan father and Burundian mother, he grew up in Uganda and was now taking his entire saved-up annual leave to peruse the enticing investment opportunities that are cropping up all over East Africa.

We ended up talking at length about that ‘mind for business’, that I find myself doubting whether I possess, each time I look at my non-existent savings.

But my new friend was keen to point out that, “money is mostly an idea”. If you have an idea to offer, then that is real, tangible value, which is just on its way to being realised.

In other words, and my favourite pearl of wisdom in this discussion (which also covered whether it’s OK for men to cry, the neuroscience of memory and our guesses of how plane wings work):

“You are not poor because you have potential.”

Perhaps it was just said in sympathy, but I will try and remember that one next time I’m down to a £5 a day budget.

Joking aside, whilst I don’t think that would give comfort to many of the people living in poverty thanks to political and market forces beyond their reach, it is a useful way to think about yourself.

Our greatest value in is the ideas we have. In many fields, and certainly in media, communications and creative industries, bringing new ideas or solutions into the world is real value. Perhaps doing all you can to help those ideas crystallise and grow is the same as choosing the right type of bank account to put those savings in.

I guess being reminded of all of that was worth a few hours of sleep. Well, at least I can look at it that way now! Plus, thanks to my new contact, I now know what to do in order to see guaranteed returns off the back of Kigali’s recently green-lighted new airport – if I can ever scrape together a stake 😉

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