"Nothing turns on this." Through all the noise, quietly discern what really matters.

By Strive Masiyiwa

Those who work with me have heard me say, time and again: "Nothing turns on this." Let me share with you where it comes from:

In 1995, after waiting for nearly two years, we finally managed to get a hearing before the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe, the nation's highest court. It was a daunting moment to see those esteemed judges in their gowns and wigs sitting before us!

The Minister of Telecommunications was represented by one of the most celebrated barristers in the nation's history, an advocate called Chris Anderson SC.

I was represented by a South African advocate and constitutional expert called Wim Trengove SC. He was considered one of the most brilliant legal minds, and also represented President Nelson Mandela when he came out of prison. 

Finally we had our day in court!


Chris Anderson went first.


He referred me as "the prince of freedom of expression," but it was not meant to be complimentary!


He attacked me personally and viciously. I was totally shocked as he questioned my suitability as the holder of such a license.

It was relentless and my wife sitting next to me began to weep silently. Some of my supporters in the gallery were shaken but most just prayed. 

Although I was not being cross-examined, he would often turn towards me with a menacing sneer on his face!

Sitting behind Advocate Trengove, I began to write furious notes denying these false allegations against me. To my surprise, he just never seemed to care about what I was giving him! The attacks continued for almost the entire first day. 

During the break I confronted my lawyer: "You really must defend me! You have not interjected once to challenge these lies he is saying against me!" I complained bitterly. "This guy wants the judges to think I'm some kind of crook, and even a risk to national security!"

Then Advocate Trengove said something that changed my life forever:

"Nothing turns on anything he has said up to now. I'm not here to defend you personally; I'm here to win a constitutional matter over freedom of expression. As long as he continues on this line, you will have your license." And with that he politely excused himself and returned to attend to his papers.

The following day Advocate Trengove laid out the constitutional case in a quiet tone, never once raising his voice. There was no jeering or sarcasm, just a polite deferential style.

You could almost feel the force of his humility.

Lesson #1: Advocate Trengove stayed laser-focused on his objective which was to win a Constitutional Court case. So many people easily get sidetracked by things that are not central to the issue at hand.

I watched as each of the judges wrote copious notes. It lasted less than two hours.

Then finally the Chief Justice spoke for the first time: "If we rule in favor of your client, what order would you like to see?"

"I would like to confer with my client your honor." 

We were given a recess and we drafted a single paragraph: "Econet shall have the right to move traffic within, into and from Zimbabwe." 

The judges passed it around. Chris Anderson read it, and looked down to the floor.

The case was over. Within months, the court upheld our application. It would be another two years before we opened our doors to the public, but every time something was done to delay us again and again, those words rang in my heart:

"Nothing turns on it."

A key thing I learnt from that particular experience is that it is important to focus on the "substance" of what someone is saying rather than the "form" (style of delivery). If someone comes shouting and screaming or hurling insults, learn to ignore it, and extract substance (if there is any). 

I also learnt that the most effective people are not necessarily those with soaring rhetorical style or have the best command of English or any other foreign language. 

# In life you will always be confronted by situations in which people will seek to provoke you or even try to detract you from your set purpose. 

# You must train yourself to have such a presence of mind that provocations do not force you to lose your cool.

If you are going through a tough time right now, turn to someone next to you and say: "Nothing turns on this." 


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User's Comments:

Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 1. "An evil hearted man is filled with venom, and his speech reveals it." (Matthew 12:35/TLB). Don't use foul, arrogant and threatening language to communicate your point about any issue.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:10 a.m. Reply
Aplonia nyahwai mudzviti

Point taken sir. I will definitely keep that in mind. Just communicate my point politely no arrogance. Thank you Sir

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:12 a.m.
Afra vanessa kunda

A wise woman builds her home, the foolish tear it down, scriptures have many interpretations and this comes to mind, our businesses are our homes to, and our mouths can either build or tear them down, I mean who wants to work or associate themselves with arrogance!

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:13 a.m.

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July 1, 2021, 7:10 p.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 7. Some of the best things that have happened to me were not pleasant when they were happening! I call such situations "school fees." I got my first degree at the "University (of Hard Knocks)" in Zimbabwe and my PhD at "Cold Comfort" University in Nigeria. In both cases I got a distinction. # It's a mindset.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:14 a.m. Reply
Bradley t makoni

I think it's metaphorical, implying the legal battles he had to go through first in Zimbabwe as a beginner and finally in Nigeria after he had gained lots of experience and in both cases he came out of the battles distinguished.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:27 a.m.
Amos ayodele adeleke

Funny but thoughtful! My country Nigeria has produced many Ph.D students from all over the world, one of thereasons why we are where we are, today! Sir, though you are not presently having business in Nigeria, but I am glad to say that you are raising generation of business men who will transform Nigeria and Africa. God bless you, Sir.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:31 a.m.
Omelu-jerry freeborn

"Cold comfort" wow! Nigeria oh Nigeria why have thou always chosen to represent us thus! We the youths of Nigeria must rise to the occasion of rewriting history and righting the wrongs of our leaders! See what they almost denied us, such man of great wisdom and understanding, who is so open to warmly share critical information. Without the internet we the young ones would've lost him forever. Not to worry the revolution is finally here!

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:33 a.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 2. "The purpose of God is not established through the anger of man." A good leader knows that the worst decisions are made when he or she is angry, or reacting to being offended by the words or actions of another person. "Lead from humility," means you don't respond in anger or injured pride.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:16 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 3. Explaining what had happened in court that day, one of my legal team said: "Good judges know that lawyers who bang on the table have no case." This does not just happen in court cases.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:17 a.m. Reply
Kiogora gikunda

I have seen one attorney in Kenya who is always calm and composed. He never shows any signs of anger and no matter how big the matter his he maintains his cool, need I say he wins his cases. Thanks a lot for all the info you always give us. God bless you.

Nov. 3, 2017, 12:01 p.m.
Afra vanessa kunda

So true, this is like Reader vs Non-reader..we know who's yelling and whose looking on with his calm collected self. Readers will always be leaders. And I can bet you have a library in your house.

Nov. 3, 2017, 12:05 p.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 5. When I was in my last year of high school, I was chosen to run on the track team which would make me eligible for a place on the provincial team. When I told my mother, she was mad and she shouted at me in my mother tongue: "Don't forget what you travelled for!" I immediately pulled out and never ran again, because my mother and I had a simple deal: I had to get the best results, and secure a scholarship to go to university. The future of our family was riding on it. I did both. End of story, no regrets.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:18 a.m. Reply
Mershack kabu aklie

Nzube Okonkwo I read a lot of comments but was touched by yours. Have a role model and listen to the advice by your parents... and begin to do something. Thanks and may God bless you

Nov. 3, 2017, 12:07 p.m.
Strive masiyiwa

#Breaking News from Kenya! If you want to follow these developments download the Kwese App, and use it to access live TV broadcasts on KTN News. This is how I was able to follow the elections on a daily basis, as I travelled across Africa. You can do the same. Kwese does not charge for this platform. For those of you with a decoder, there are 13 News Channels, and almost all of them are following these developments. Don't forget to pray for Kenya. It's important that there is peace, as they return to the polls.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:19 a.m. Reply
Patrick okumu

Sir.This is bringing a new light into my thoughts. I have failed terribly on my first venture and I almost gave up on business and even tried to find some employment. But this post has revived my hope again and the entrepreneurial fire in me is ignited. Thank you so much for referring to your own experiences. It gives a lot of hope!

Nov. 3, 2017, 12:14 p.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought: #NothingTurnsOnThis: Means "this is not going to change the outcome concerning my destiny. " If you have just failed your exams,lost your job, or had a setback in your venture: Declare: NothingTurnsOnThis! And get back into it. Don't give up!

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:19 a.m. Reply
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 6. Sometimes a detractor can be well meaning, but it is nevertheless a distraction if it deviates you from your stated objective. People will even flatter you by suggesting you can achieve something else even greater. Carefully weigh such suggestions, and just be careful you don't end up on a complete tangent!

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:20 a.m. Reply
Steve maina

I have been a victim of this since I graduated from the University in 2013 but recent updates from your site have helped me to focus on my field. Time and again I have thought that my friends and neighbors are grazing on a greener grass. I have ended up wasting alot of time and energy

Nov. 3, 2017, 12:16 p.m.
Afra vanessa kunda

Sir, no wonder you say you pray before you post, this was me today, since the devil has heard that I'm officially making plans to "go get my customers" a very attractive offer comes up today.. But I never swayed, despite trying to indirectly convince me to stay, I'm an entrepreneur at heart and an employer not employee, behind my own desk making my own money, making the changes I want to see..that been said I was smart enough to go the freelance route, I will help you make your dreams come true but not at the cost of mine.. never, to do that is to deny the very core of me..firm believer of purpose

Nov. 3, 2017, 12:17 p.m.
Strive masiyiwa

Afterthought 4. Years after that, I ran into Advocate Chris Anderson and he heartily shook my hand: "You were truly a worthy opponent." After that we became friends.

Nov. 3, 2017, 11:21 a.m. Reply
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In one of your old posts sir,during those legal battles in the 90 's you said there was a time when you were kidnapped by 2 men whilst walking in the street,you promised to tell us what happened then.Now that you have touched on the subject may you share what transpired then.

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