Change Agents PEOPLE

TedxAccra 2015 Speaker- Kwame Leslie Dougan

Kwame L. Dougan is a former refugee who discovered as an adult that he had a learning disability.   Initially Kwame’s disability felt like a curse. He now understands that it can be a “blessing,” since it has forced him to be innovative in every aspect of his life. Kwame graduated magna cum laude from York University in Canada, earned a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and a law degree from Columbia University.  He also learned to speak fluent Mandarin, a language considered one of the most difficult for non-native speakers to learn.  Each achievement was borne of fear of returning to poverty. His fear drove him to work in traditional jobs, as a banker, insurance broker, and eventually, as an attorney on Wall Street.  A few years ago, Kwame decided to eschew traditional careers and embrace fear as his partner. Today, Kwame invests his capital where others are afraid—in Africa.

Why you should listen to his talk?

Even with my training, achievements, and experience overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, I remained fearful.  I have been afraid of disappointing my mother, who risked everything to give me an opportunity to succeed. I have been afraid of embarrassing my friends and family, those who proudly call me Lawyer Dougan.  Most troubling is that I have been afraid of myself. This last fear is what my talk will focus on, because self-doubt has been the most debilitating yet liberating fear that I have ever encountered. Self-doubt is that soft inner voice, a djembe drum pounding, “why you?” and “c’mon now, how?” Crucially, I learned to re-invent myself, and after dancing to the beat of the self-doubt drum and I uncovered my deepest fear: Becoming significant. I feared losing my cherished wealth (and my talents) by investing in other Africans.   I had seen success, but had been scared to reach for significance. We all face this fear, and I will share my story of how I learned to use it.

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