Telling the time in Ethiopia (aka “One More Factor”)

They do a lot of things differently in Ethiopia.

One of them is telling the time. So whereas the “Western” new day starts at midnight, the Ethiopian new day starts when the sun rises. So the Western 7 am is Ethiopian 1 am.

With me so far? Hang in there. It gets easier.

So the scene is rural Ethiopia, and I’m chatting with a small girl. She’s dressed in probably her only clothes. No shoes. Remarkably smart watch, and I’m looking at it.

Me: “Wow, is that the time?”


“Ah, stupid of me, of course not. It’s Ethiopian time.”



“Watch is broken!”

Ah. Yes, that would do it.

It’s a great example of thinking you’re smart and know what’s going on. But you really don’t. There’s something else you don’t know about (imagine!).

Let’s call it OMF. One More Factor. The thing you don’t know about.

OMF plays a huge part in our failure to understand people, the situation, the world.

Sally is behaving this way because of this and this. Well no actually, Sally is behaving this way because of something you don’t know about.

I once saw a very large boy coming out of a sweet shop at 8 in the morning (Western time!) on his way to school, devouring a huge chocolate bar.

“I can see why he’s the size he is” I judgementally opined to the person I was with.

“Well, actually, he was starved by his family until he was taken away by social services, and now he can’t stop eating” came the response.

Ah. Right. Talk about “one more factor”.

One thing I hope I’ve learned from 14 years coaching is not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Wait. There could be an OMF just around the corner. Give it time to come out.

“Watch is broken”. Ah yes, that would do it. Didn’t think of that.