Lessons Learned: Personal Costs

Fetching Water

Fetching Water

I was lucky that Shirley agreed to come with me to Ghana.  I can’t think of many women who would agree to give up all the conveniences of living in a developed country to live in AFRICA!

Fast forward two years, living here is taking a toll on both of us for several reasons.  First, we feel we are missing out on the social aspect of living.  Facebook reminds us of the countless weddings, birthdays, weekend hangouts with friends, and holidays with family that we’ve missed to get our business off the ground.

At least for me, my parents are in their early 70s.  I’m fortunate that they still have their health and have no major ailments.  But I can’t imagine trading more time with my parents for a successful venture in Ghana.

Being friends with people requires you to show up.  Living apart means opting out of all of  these experiences.

Second, investing a portion of your life and a significant sum to starting a new venture imposes more stress than when I ever worked for a company.  The line between business and personal becomes blurred.  For instance, counting the number of customers every month always feels like a report card on me  — not my business.   I prefer to let my staff make the count because they can do it objectively.  Every decision’s importance is magnified because for the foreseeable future you are “all-in” on this company.

Third, Ghana is not like living in a developed country.  (I know this is stating the obvious but I have Ghanaian readers as well.)  All those things I complain about — unreliable water, power, Internet — are things you get used to.  I’ve gotten accustomed to slow pace of life, how words don’t mean anything, and how every stranger seems to want to scam me.  I’ve built up defenses for that.

Nonetheless, I sometimes ask myself, “Why should I live like this?”  I know Shirley probably asks this more often than me.  This was an exchange I had a couple of weeks ago with Teresa:

“Don’t you have to fetch water [to bath]?” asked Teresa, the office manager. I explained to her that I used live on the 20-something floor of a high-rise.  No one has to fetch water because we have a pipe and pumping system that takes water from a reservoir tens of miles away, filters and sanitizes it, then pumps it into my faucet.  You can even drink it.  Sometimes it’s hard not to be condescending.

Former residence

Former residence

In summary, I’ve decided that even if this business is wildly successful but takes 10 years to get there, I don’t think I would stay because the personal costs are just too high.  Missing all the mundane moments with family and friends, dealing with the pressure of running a business while being so isolated, and living without modern conveniences makes it very clear that it’s all not worth it.

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