Turning tragedy into triumph
The loss of a loved one is enough to demoralize anyone. But for Emmanuel, he decided to turn his tragedy into triumph and even overcame his detractors to excel at his new workstation. In the second installment of our ongoing series, Ritah describes Emmanuel’s initial months as an employee and the challenges that came with it.
At his new posting, Emmanuel soon realized that he was the only African in the entire team of thirty people. While some welcomed and oriented him through the system, others bullied him. He chose to focus on improving his skills and performing optimally, grateful that he had finally found a job. A very curious employee, he made sure to research every spirit and wine he came across, always asking questions along the way, in the quest to perfect his art.
Three months into his stint he had learned a lot about the business and would at times help the bartenders to make drinks, besides carrying out his bar back duties. Due to his hard work, he was promoted to a bartender after only six months. Being the only African meant things were only going to get tougher, but he remained steadfast. He would be pushed back by his fellow bartenders, while others made fun of him, but this was all child’s play compared to the environment he had grown up in.
One day, he received a call from home that his son was unwell and they needed money for treatment. The child had been diagnosed with cancer and they needed 25,000 Dirhams (6,800 dollars) for an operation, money he was yet to make, neither could he get an advance of that amount from work. He didn’t even have half of it. He tried to reach out to his well-off relatives to assist him financially in a bid to save his son’s life but none came through for him. He tried all the avenues that he could think of since he didn’t want to lose his son but they were all dead-ends. Sadly, he lost his son soon after.
Emmanuel felt discouraged and weak, blaming himself for having let down the most important people in his life, first his mother and now his son. He felt useless and saw no point in flying back to hustle in Dubai when he had just buried his son. “What is the point of working abroad when I can’t even afford to save the life of my own?” he asked himself. Luckily, his father was there to comfort and encourage him to accept the ups and downs of life and to pick himself up and get back to work.
He was given a book in which he used to write his goals when he was young, which included being his sister’s pillar, changing his family’s legacy, being the first to fly and staying out of the country, and being a successful businessman. This reminded him of the determination and never-give-up attitude he once had. Emmanuel admits that he is who he is because of his father who has always been his motivation, often praying and advising him tirelessly.
He came back to work a completely different person, working with even more zeal than before. He turned a deaf ear to the bullies and focused on his job, fueled with a hunger to achieve more and educate himself. He bought a laptop and taught himself how to use it, using his self-acquired knowledge to assist the bar manager in work scheduling, pressing bar orders, and other management tasks, at no extra charge. He took it as training. The bar manager liked him very much because he made his work easier and was eager to learn, so he made sure he taught him everything he knew about alcohol. The smart Emmanuel emulated the manager’s teachings which proved beneficial since it helped him outshine the other bartenders in the company.
He even represented the company in a national coffee competition, emerging third out of five thousand barista contestants, something that earned him even more favor at work. He was now confident that he would grow beyond the bartender’s position.
However, all this progress just seemed to fuel his colleague’s animosity toward him since he seemed to be outgrowing most of them. They tried to get him fired by implicating him in theft cases and making up lies about him, all of which were proven to be false when the managers investigated the CCTV recordings and found out that it was the employees who were involved. They got fired instead. The managers realized that Emmanuel’s success had won him many enemies so they decided to transfer him to another branch, the company’s biggest, where we met.
In hindsight, I’m thankful to the bullies who influenced Emmanuel’s transfer to this branch because we wouldn’t have met. He is one of the smartest people I have ever met in my life. There has never been a day when I have not learned something from him.
In the next installment, I will share my personal experience with my Zimbabwean mentor.