Quiet Confidence: Mahube’s Silent Adventure


After his mother passed on due to cancer, he decided to do something to help people who are suffering from cancer.

The belief is always that to have an impact in your community you need to be well known, articulate, attend big and “important” events, talk big and do big.

The challenge with him is that he is an introvert who wants to do work that matters in the community.

Mahube Mpugwa, General Manager of Puma Energy Botswana and a TEDxGaborone speaker shared his journey of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Everest camp base as a way of raising funds for people who are struggling with cancer. It is his mother who passed on from cancer.

As an introvert, growing up surrounded by Kalahari sand dunes and no mountains in Botswana, Mahube ventured to climbing mountains for a cause he believed in.

Mahube is not a big talker, but a big doer. His swag is doing work that matters, not talking about work that matters.

At the outset of a predominantly extroverted world, we are urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons, as a way of outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society.

Today we tend to think that becoming extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people.

We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.

Hence Business Schools, such as Harvard, Cambridge, GIBS are called the “Spiritual Capital of Extroversion.” Good luck finding an introvert in these institutions. If you do find them, they are bitter introverts, because they are constantly challenged open up.

As a lecturer to MBA students, I encourage my students to talk when they feel it is really important, not because they feel they have to show off. The idea is to have a conversation not a class debate.

The essence of MBA education is that leaders have to act confidently and make decisions in the face of incomplete information. The age old question being: if you don’t have all the facts, and often you won’t, should you wait to act until you have collected as much data as possible? Or, by hesitating, do you risk losing other’s trust and your own momentum? The answer is not obvious.

MBA students love the sound of their own voices because they have been trained through what is called “class-participation” where marks are allocated by how intelligent you sound in class. If you keep quiet, you score low marks.

Business schools try hard to turn quiet students into talkers.

Harvard University even hosts live information sessions and web pages on how to be a good class participator. Their mantra is “Speak with conviction. Even if you believe something only 55%, say it as if you believe it a 100%.”

For introverts, socializing at Business Schools is an extreme sport.

People go out at night like it is their full time job.

If countries were to be classified as introvert or extroverts. USA is an intoxicated extrovert and China is a serial introvert.

In China the emphasis is on listening, on asking questions rather than holding forth, on putting other’s needs first.

According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, China will surpass USA’s economy by 2026 or reports say by 2018. If or when this happens, the world will be lead by an introvert country.

In sharing the challenges and pain of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Everest Base, Mahube Mpugwa says the following in his TEDxGaborone talk:

“The pain and challenge of mountaineering was temporary for me, but for a cancer patient the suffering is part of the daily experience. Days without a shower, limited oxygen, adverse weather conditions from mother-nature were nothing compared to what a cancer patient has to go through.

He concludes his talk by saying:

“As an introvert, I overcame my insecurities by challenging myself, I contributed to a worthy cause in the process and I believe that I have made a difference in my small but significant way in someone’s life.”


Picture: Mabube [right] together with his partner Moraki Mokgosana [left] climbed Mt Everest Base Camp as part of raising funds for the Cancer Association of Botswana.


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