See the World Through My Eyes

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Investment Advice from Successful K9s

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While I was going about my business sniffing here and there, marking a bush or two with my pee, I kept wondering if there was a new way to hide my heard earned bones other than the traditional dig-a-hole-and-bury method.  Where could I put my bones and watch them grow so I didn’t have to keep scavenging like the stray dog that I am? How could I become the most successful and happiest dog in the neighborhood just like Bosco the smooth furred happy-but-scary bulldog down the street? What did he do to become that confident and powerful? He sure is very ugly but why is his bowl always full? Why is his pack that big?

I decided to face my fears and confront the happiest and most confident dogs [that I admired] in the neighborhood and ask them what their secret was. I was surprised how warmly these happy dogs received me. You see as a dog you get used to being constantly chased off marked territories with your tail right between your legs so you can understand this was new to me. Anyway I asked them how they did it and they gave me five investment options to making my pile of bones grow and most of all being a happy dog.

Invest in yourself, the Bulldog said
Investing in yourself should be your biggest priority. How good are you at fetching? Can you sniff better than the next dog?Are your teeth constantly clean? What do you know about catching a rabbit mid air? Do you practice? As a dog you are constantly in a state of growth. The only difference between you and the next dog is your rate of growth. If you don’t grow you become irrelevant over time. Growth starts from knowledge; how to run without tiring, how to know what to chase and what not to waste your energy on among the things you should master. Knowledge becomes power because it changes the way you act and react. When you put an effort into gaining more knowledge you have understood the first rule of investing in yourself.

Investing in yourself should be your biggest priority. You wish you had a few less pounds so you could run faster? Or you with you had more muscle so you could be the better dog in the fight? Invest in keeping in shape by knowing how your body works and embarking on a training program that will suit you. Keep your fur clean so you can be confident. Keep your teeth clean and sharp and avoid eating leftovers. In our world dogs are attracted to unique dogs who posses unusual capability. What is the one unique thing that you posses that a pack will identify you with? Is it how you sniff? Is it how you hunt? What are you good at? Surely you don’t want to be the poor lonely pup that no one remembers for anything! Invest in your uniqueness and the world will reward you for it.

Invest in Family the, Pug said
I know a dog who knows a beagle who dedicated his life to fetching and collecting bones and in the process became very successful… and lonely. During his quest for tasty bones he paid little attention to his bitch and puppies because he convinced himself that he was doing everything so they could enjoy a never ending supply of food in the future. Now his puppies are all grown up and are always turning down his generous gestures because they feel like they are being bribed. His bitch left him and married an average retriever whose big heart compensates for his often empty bowl and they are quite happy. Our rich beagle is forever lonely and what’s more sad is that all the friends he has right now are there because of his pile of bones. It’s good to work hard, but it is also good to share your time with family.

Invest For Yourself, the Rottweiler said
After trying my paws at the numerous hunting ideas I got through friends and family, I have come to the conclusion that I will always sleep hungry when I follow another dog’s hunting idea. My point is, if the prey is not in your kill zone you can always let it go and hunt it another day. All in all knowing that a good hunt is hard to come by, it is very important to keep something for yourself because the future is never a kind friend especially if you didn’t hide your kill well. As with all forms of bone hiding, there are rules and the biggest one is don’t hide all your bones in one hole. To hunt you need energy and this can only come from the bones you saved from the last hunt so you can eat and share but always keep some for yourself.

Invest in Faith, the Poodle said
Yes I was surprised to hear this from a pampered dog that I have never seen hunting. But her point of view raised a very important point. You need to believe that the hunt will be successful. The success of the hunt must first happen between your flappy ears before it can be real.  There are certain events in your life; good and bad that serve as evidence of a power that is always watching over us. Be thankful in advance and acknowledge the greatness of this power. Take time to feed your spiritual self by meditating on a successful hunt. By doing so you can strengthen your faith and live the quality of life you want. Faith is the beacon that always keeps us in the right direction regardless of the situations we face in our lives.

Invest in the Pack, the Terrier said
Along the way you will find canines of strategic importance. One of the dogs I interviewed was a terrier named Swish. He told me the main reason for his success was his pack. He likes making new friends and he has realized that every time he’s on an hunt he’ll always find dogs willing to help him track down and catch new rabbits. Why? Because he realizes every dog is unique. Some are fast, some are brave and others like him are smart. He genuinely cares for his friends. He will always visit a member of his pack and offer him a bone for no reason. He will call out his pack for a run in the fields just so they could feel the wind on their flapping tongues together as one. You see, being in the pack is not just about hunting, it’s also about family and support. Just because of investing in his friends, Swish’s pack is the biggest and most successful of all. They eat well and their furs are forever shiny.

 

Oh This Woman!

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I have always been a spoilt kid. Apart from reading me story books at bed time (oh yes she did until I was 10!) my mother has been the voice in my head all my life. Despite our ups and downs as a family, she has been our rock and the strong glue that holds us together. This woman happens to be a thousand years old in wisdom. She passes wisdom in a way that is funny, reflective and unimposing. I credit her for installing in us this ever present homing instinct that guides us back to consciousness every time we get caught up in life’s complexities. I’ve been in serious trouble a couple of times in my life and it is her words that brought me back. I have deep respect for all mothers and the role they take in shaping who we are. Everyday is Mothers Day.

On Humility
She said “My son, to work is worship God. Even the lowest of jobs has to be done by someone. You were born a prince but also a servant. Let no title be too big for you and let no humble task be too low for you to carry out because humility is an expression of confidence and gratefulness. A humble man is a powerful man. He can stand confidently before Kings and be trusted to lead by the poor”

On Love
She said “Love is first an attraction then a choice. If you find someone you truly love, hold on to them. Love is loyal despite betrayal. Love forgives despite hurt. When you love someone you stand by them unconditionally. Love is what you make it to be. You can be happy if you choose to be happy. You can never be sure of the character of a person you love as it takes time but in the meantime you can trust. But look for a person who loves God because only a person who loves God can truly love another human being. The rest are details. You will fight over the tooth paste tube and the socks you left at the door but you will never fall out of love.”

On Being a Man
She said “A man is only as good as his word. The character of a man is built of his action. A man never complains, he finds solutions. He takes care of those he loves and offers help to those in need. A man is honest and industrious. A man does not give up. A man is not scared to love and to say sorry. In the face of adversity, a man stands his ground. A real man knows that sometimes to win he has to lose. A man is the high priest of the house. A protector and warrior who lays down his life for his family.”

On Industry
She said “As long as you have breath and are of sound mind, God has given you everything you need to succeed. From the deepest holes on the ground come the rarest diamonds. Never work for profit because this type of gain does not last. Work to fulfill your purpose because real wealth comes as a by product of a passion fully lived. Do not spend your gains on eating like a King but spend them on the moments that count. After all they are the most eternal of all investments.”

On Sincerity
She said “To be sincere is to conquer yourself. To conquer yourself is to conquer the world. Know what you like and what you dislike. Know what you want and what you need. Know thyself. Be honest with yourself and you will know the reason why you are here. Be sincere with everyone especially the ones you love. Sincerity is the deepest and most profound expression of love.”

On Frugality
She said “ Son, the pain of work should be a reminder that nothing comes easy. Take care of the little you have. Water it and let it grow but most of all use it wisely. The bible says ‘A fool and his money are soon parted’. Thriftiness shows gratitude and it is the ultimate sign of responsibility. To be frugal is to be the master over money and not a slave to it. Before you spend, think. Do not spend your hard earned money to please others who add no value to your life. Every coin you spend should be an investment. Remember the story of the servants who were given talents?”

On Selflessness
She said “I would be sad if I heard that you did everything just so your own belly would be full. I would be ashamed to hear you saw suffering yet you turned a blind eye when you could have ended it. We are all here to take care of God’s Children. God gives you strength and wealth to take care of others. You my son are just a tool that He uses. You can never be too good to serve others. I love you but I would be proud to hear that you met your last day giving up your life so that another would live. After all, what is it in this world that I cannot give up for you?”

On Devotion
She said “ If I was laying on my death bed today waiting for my last breath, I would only have one instruction to give you. Love God and devote your life to Him and you will receive measure beyond your wildest dreams. It is only a fool that says God  does not exist. There are many questions that make you doubt if He is really there so devote your life to seeking Him. God is not on trial so as to be expected to prove His existence. Pay attention, look close and in your silence you will find Him. I have felt his presence and I have seen his work and I am still in awe of his greatness.

On Dreams
She said “In your time, life will be tough. Misery and hopelessness will be the order of the day. But you my children are special. You have the world under your feet. Write your dreams down and make it a prayer to God to bring them to life. God will grant you the desires of your heart but first you have to be clear of what you want. Dreams do not come to us by chance. They are the distant echo of destiny. It is sad for a man to die without fulfilling his purpose. Let your dreams be devoid of boundaries and let no one tell you that it can’t be done because it hasn’t been done before. Dreams become thoughts and thoughts become things.”

This woman is amazing. 

The Young Man and the Old Newspaper Vendor

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The young man looked at his watch. It was only 2 pm and yet Monday seemed to have lasted an eternity. He looked through the huge glass windows down thirty floors onto the streets below. What he saw just made him more sick. There they were, people just like him. Shuffling back and forth like ants trying to get to their appointments and miserable jobs. He knew exactly how it felt, after all there was no difference between him and the people down below. Everyone was going about their business just because they had to; not because they loved what they did.

He had come out top of his class and that’s how he got this job. The pay was good and he always looked sharp in his neatly tailored suits. His family was proud and his friends were ever envious. It always seemed to swing girls his way whenever he mentioned what he did for a living. He was in a comfort zone. But even with all this flare the young man was not happy. He was good at numbers and after a couple of promotions in the company, he knew his life was set and he would never end up like his father.  All the same, this definitely didn’t feel like what he was meant to do in life. However there was one thing that always held him back whenever he started down this road, fear.

You see over the years he had observed his father fall from grace and spiral into a abyss of drunkenness and hopeless fear and  pessimism. He always seem to have a volume of reasons why this or that idea wouldn’t work. He was a proud man and therefore would not stoop low to venture out and find work; not after he had been an employer in his previous life. So he spent his days reminiscing about days gone by when he was ‘the man’ whom everyone wanted to be associated with. To the young man, his father’s attitude disgusted him but he knew all too well that people always have a high likelihood of inheriting the failures of their parents. He wanted something different for himself.

So the young man embarked on a quest to find out what his purpose was.

He first asked his mother what she thought he was good at and her answer made him sad. You see mothers always know when a man is toying around with the idea of making a drastic move and so naturally, she assured him that he was already doing what he was good at. The young man regretted asking his mother for such advise as he knew she was naturally protective of him and wouldn’t want him to make a mistake. She also was afraid that he would end up like his father who years before had made a gamble and lost everything he had. After that, she was always cautioning all her children against taking risks.

The young man then asked his girlfriend, “What if I quit my job to follow my passion?”
She was dumfounded and couldn’t believe his foolishness. She was proud that her boyfriend had a god job, flashy car and had everything looking up for him. She always made sure she told her friends how important and successful her boyfriend was in the company. Now here he was harboring the foolish thought of quitting a well paying job to to pursue a utopian ambition! She made sure that he understood that if he made such an unwise decision, their life together would be over. After all, who would want to be known as the girlfriend to the guy who dropped a great opportunity to follow a stupid passion?

The young man thought about asking his friends what his purpose was but he knew their answer. Over the years, he had lost the friends that he had before the job, and now his only friends were people who never knew the slightest detail about his private life. They were superficial and always in competition as to who had the best car and who was dating the hottest girl. Deep down he had sadly accepted that if he lost his job, he would lose his friends too.

So on a fine day after coming from having coffee with a client he stopped to buy a newspaper a few blocks from his office. The vendor was an old man probably in his late seventies who was clad in a dirty heavy coat even though it was sunny. As the young man paid for the paper he noticed the old man squinting at him through his thick pair of glasses.

“I know that look”, said the old man. “I had it through out my youth”.

The young man was baffled. “Pardon me?” he asked politely thinking that the old man was probably talking about his suit. But the old man went on as if he hadn’t heard the young man.

“I knew that I was meant for something bigger in life and yet I ignored the feeling all my life. I was afraid of letting go of what I had, to chase an urge that I couldn’t understand. I was afraid of losing and suffering the consequences of my choice. I was always afraid.

I kept giving myself more time to ‘be sure’ and asked advise from everyone I knew only to be discouraged. In the end I decided to stick to what I had because I thought  it’s what I deserved. That was the biggest mistake I ever made. I became miserable and never once did I enjoy my job or anything else in my life.  Can you imagine living like that for sixty years knowing you were meant to do something else?

So here I am, selling you a newspaper. I always wanted to travel the world and see new places, but now I can only read about them. I ended up doing this because when I was young I always dreamed of being a writer for this newspaper but I kept procrastinating to send a sample of my writing to the editor. I was afraid it would not be good enough so I never sent it. Now I can only admire the young writers who conquered their fears and are now living their dream. In the end my fear to lose my comfort is the curse I will have to die with.” And suddenly without warning he said “Read page three! I hear they are about to raise the parking fees within the business district starting tomorrow.” And with that, he went on selling his newspapers.

As the young man got into the elevator, he opened the newspaper and flipped to page three hoping the old man wanted him to find a clue. There was no story about parking fees but a basic full page advertisement by some furniture shop announcing a discount sale. The young man smiled and took a deep breath. He finally understood that finding his purpose was a journey he was going to take on his own.

***

This post is dedicated to you. You feel uninspired and out of place but are afraid to open that door that will lead you to a happy life filled with passion. For how long can you live like that?

10 Lessons I Learnt from a Billionaire

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When I first showed up at Capital FM for work I didn’t know what to expect but I knew what I wanted. I wanted to learn how to be successful. In my mind, there was only one man who I could learn this from, Chris Kirubi. This part of my life story started 5 years before when I was working for Tedd Josiah. He is one of the most iconic Kenyan music producers from whom I had learnt invaluable lessons that I still apply today.

It so happened that one day we were cleaning the studio offices at Blu Zebra Records when a card fell out of a magazine stack. On picking it up, I noticed that it was no ordinary card. It was ivory in color and it had an emblem that was raised on the card’s surface in some sort of waxy print. It looked sophisticated and the texture gave off a rather luxurious feel to it. The name on the card read Chris Kirubi and the details were arranged in a simple and neat manner that was laid-back-confident. The name was familiar, I knew this was one of the top businessmen in the country and I also knew what most people at the time  knew about him; that he had a court case going on where he was being accused of having fleeced a state owned supermarket chain and cab company. Regardless, I held on to the card and went about researching all I could about his empire and what kind of man he was. In my quest to know about him I couldn’t differentiate what information about him was true and what was myth. In the end, I decided I would meet him one day and find out why he was successful.

Fast forward 5 years  later, I was seated at the Capital FM reception waiting to be interviewed for a graphic designer position by the then marketing manager Angelique Bennaars. She took me in for the interview and later told me I had had been accepted into the company and that I was to start immediately as an apprentice under one Mark Mwera. I was led to my workstation that was tucked away in a corner. It was stuffy and hot but it was where I got my first lesson from ‘Chairman’ as everyone at the station called him.

1. Know your people
You see, CK has a habit of always visiting his businesses without notice and you would be surprised to know that he knows all his employees personally. On my first day as he was passing my corner on his way to the studio, he stopped and looked at me and asked me, “Who the hell are you and why are you using my machine?” I was dumfounded, and for a moment I didn’t know what to say. “I’m the new designer…” I replied in a scared voice.

“Did I interview you?” He asked now with his voice raised.

“No. But I was interviewed by Angelique”, I said trying to assert myself.

He came over and ordered me to leave my machine and get off the premises because he didn’t who I was. Anyway this scene replayed over the next few days until he realized I wasn’t going anywhere and so he let me stay and work. He also warned that he would throw me out the window from the 19th floor if I didn’t work hard and deliver outstanding work. In the end I got to understand the concept behind his actions because this is how  he runs his empire. He makes an effort to know his people. From that time, he never forgot my name and made it a point to know what my life goals were. To date he remembers I told him I would accomplish more than he ever did [the challenge is still on]. I also realized that the man knows everyone who works for him, be it in his corporate businesses or even manufacturing plants. It’s hard to find an employee in any Kirubi’s companies who hasn’t interacted with the Chairman. As a result I have learnt that as a leader when you make an effort to personally know the people working for you, what you get in return is a sense of ownership towards your organization by employees. One feels motivated to perform when you know that your boss knows you personally and appreciates the role you play.

2. Only Buy Into What You Would Like to Own
On asking him what I should consider when buying stock his answer was simple. He said, “My approach to choosing the company whose stocks I will buy is based on a simple objective; owning the whole company. That way, my decision will be based on logical thinking and not emotion or speculation. When buying always ask yourself, is this the type of company I want to own? Does it’s business model appeal to me and is it easy to understand?

Over the few years I worked in his company I studied his investment patterns and I realized the reason why he was successful in the stock market is because his investment style was long term and the motivation was to be the majority owner of the company in question. Later he would say “I don’t invest to make a quick buck because doing so defies the laws of nature. When you plant, it is only natural that you nurture your crop  and patiently wait for the crop to mature. Harvesting before the right time will be robbing yourself off the greater potential of what you would have gotten out of your investment. This has always been CK’s approach when purchasing anything not only stocks. This year (2015) he made Kshs. 2.8 billion from the sale of his UAP Holdings stake after waiting for 10 years.  Read the story here

3. Be Your Product’s Best Salesman and it’s Most Loyal Consumer
You will always catch CK selling and hawking his products shamelessly regardless of where he is.

Once we were having dinner in a posh restaurant and the waiter brought us a certain  brand of bottled water which visibly offended CK. You see, CK is a shareholder of Nairobi Bottlers, a bottling franchise of the Coca Cola Company which produces it’s own drinking water known as Dasani™. The water the waiter had served us was another brand that was a competitor and CK’s loyalty to his brand is the reason why he was offended. Anyway he went on to ensure that the restaurant changed their brand of drinking water by selling the Dasani™ brand to the restaurant owner. The condition he gave was simple; if he was to dine in that restaurant again they had to be his customers first. It was the ultimate statement of loyalty in business.

On normal days, you will always catch CK stopping women on the streets of Nairobi to ask them if they have used his Haco hair products and what he can change or add in his offering. One of the most memorable quotes I got from him is ‘A good salesman will be rich. A good salesman who sells a product he can stake his life on will own the world’. As for his lifestyle brands, one would expect CK to use imported sophisticated expensive brands but you’d be surprised to know he uses the very products that he manufactures as proof of their quality. Check any Haco products and you will see his signature. It’s that serious.

4. Loyalty is Not a Word You Throw Around
After almost a decade working for this great man, I decided to move on and put into practice what I had learned. It was the hardest thing to do and I ended up leaving a big part of my heart at Capital FM. These are the people I spent most of my time with and eventually they had become my family. Nevertheless it was time. I had tried quitting many times before but would always change my mind the last minute because of one thing – loyalty. I had been treated well and the company had made huge sacrifices for me even when I didn’t feel I was worth it. What I learned from Dr. Kirubi is a lesson that every leader should take very seriously. Loyalty is proactive. You offer loyalty first before demanding for it. I remember one day out of the blue CK interrupted a Digital Media Department meeting and said “It would make me sad if even one of you turned out to be a failure in future. I will do everything in my power to empower you, be it in your work here at the company or even in your personal business” He then paused and added “Anyone who works for me is my friend and family and I am loyal to them regardless of what role they play in the company.” In the years I have worked for him, CK has always shown loyalty to his employees especially in their time of need. Even now after leaving Capital FM he is still loyal to me and it is the one reason why I will always answer his call and be ready to show my goodwill.

5. Every Member is Important
Every year in his companies, CK always gives what has come to be known as the chairman’s speech. It’s a special event for everyone who works for him because it is the occasion where he declares his stand. It has become a tradition that I strongly believe has played a vital role in his success. One that would recommend for every company. During this speech he reminds all his employees [whom he prefers to call team mates] of the vision of the company and the state of the business. He always assures his people that regardless of the state of the economy or business, he will do everything in his power to protect everyone’s job. In one of his speeches which I came to regard as my best he said “I feel rich and wealthy not because of the money we have made but by the fact that through you I have played a major role in bringing up all these families. That is the reason why I look forward to every new day”. He will always finish his speeches by mentioning every person by name (regardless of their position in the company) and telling the rest why this person is important to the business. This however is just a small part of what he really does on a daily basis. CK will always make impromptu visits to his companies and randomly pick on any employee with an aim to motivate them. He is one of the most powerful motivators I know and it is because of one small detail. Every member of the team regardless of their role is just as important as the next. His actions speak louder than his words.

6. First Get the Numbers Right. The Money Will Come.
CK says the difference between the current crop of young people and the young people of yesterday is attitude towards patience. We want to invest very little but have big returns and in a shorter than normal timeframe. When we first started developing the digital arm of Capital FM his first directive was for us to build numbers before we started selling our product. At the time we thought it was a risky move to spend three years just building and testing the platform while we looked for a strong audience base. It just didn’t make sense at the time because it meant putting money in and not expecting any returns for a long time. A four years later, we were probably the only digital media outfit making money from the internet locally. You see, many digital media companies don’t get to break even and it is very hard for them to admit. The reason is hidden in the numbers. When you have a big audience to talk to, your return on investment grows automatically. When you have a steady supply of quality content your profitability is extended by virtue of repeat usage and referral. We learnt this hands on. I later came to realize that this is how he approaches all his business ventures -Take time to prepare, test and fine tune your product as you increase your customer base and in the end money will be a by-product of your offering.

7. Your Presence Should Be Felt
When I was working for him I saw how CK carried himself in the presence of individuals who may be wealthier and more successful than he is and I learnt one big lesson. You are as important as you feel and people will treat you as importantly as how you present yourself. Most likely you will never be able to tell if the person CK is talking to is more successful than he (CK) is. Why? Kirubi walks with his own atmosphere and always owns any gathering he attends. He dresses fashionably and his scent always seems to denote power and influence. He makes sure he is the centre of attention and is eloquent so that his every word is solid and full of confidence. When visiting his businesses he will always put on one of two masks; rebuke or praise – employees usually cannot predict which mask he will walk in with. What this does is it creates this undeniable presence of a man whose every decision will have a heavy impact on everyone’s life. He can call anyone and ask about the progress of a particular project just to show you he never forgets. This keeps employees constantly focused on their deliverables without putting unnecessary pressure on themselves.

Asserting his presence ensures CK always has the upper hand in any deal and negotiation.

8. Your Life is Your First Business
Chris Kirubi will never involve himself in something where he does not stand to gain. Secondly he will never live beyond his means. One day he took a workmate and I for a drink at the bar downstairs. He started by clearly stating that we were only going to drink for an hour since he had guests who he was supposed to meet later. As we ordered our drinks I noticed him frown as I made my order and I instantly knew I’d done something that he didn’t approve. You see while he and my workmate had ordered a beer, I had gone ahead and ordered two doubles of a single scotch whisky.

“How can you engage in the same nonsense that the young man seated behind us is doing?” He barked while pointing to a guy in his thirties who was busy entertaining two digger looking type girls with a bottle of rum on the table. “You should never order a drink you can’t afford. I’m not saying you won’t be able to pay for this but I am telling you ask yourself what percentage of your salary you will have used to buy this drink.” I got him loud and clear because I knew he lived by this principle. In every aspect of your life you need to live within your means and this will be your best motivator to work hard to move to the next step. Likewise every action one involves themselves in should lead to an outcome of positive gain failure to which it will be time wasted.

9. A Leader Does not Delegate
Yes you heard me right. In the years that I worked for the man, I never saw DJ CK delegate work even once. Instead he used his skills as a salesman to sell ideas to his employees. He would come up with an idea or a challenge and start breaking it down himself in excitement. It was always fun to witness how his mind works. The surprising result of his proactive nature was proaction by his employees. Everyone wanted in on his project because he had sold it to them first and not ordered them to do it. Soon every team member would assign themselves duties and the job would be completed half the time it would have taken if we had followed a conventional format. It somehow always reminded me of the show ‘Pimp my Ride’ where the garage owner sells his idea to his team members who in turn share what their contribution will be towards restoring the featured car. I acknowledge that every company is different but I believe for any person in management, this principle will get you great results that are good on time and quality. When you delegate you are forced into an uncomfortable zone where you have to rely on mediocre business systems to drive your machines (workers) to produce.

10. The Eagle in the Sky Holds the Sharpest Vision
I have always been interested to hear people talking about the companies in which they work. One of the things that strike me is how frustrated many people are with their jobs. One would expect that these frustrations are caused by poor pay but surprisingly they arise from lack of a clear understanding of one’s duties and roles in the company. This is caused in turn by a leadership that lacks a clear vision that is easy to understand  and explain. Many people often find themselves in roles they are not supposed to be playing and are not passionate about – this has become the source of their misery. CK has always had a clear vision of what he wants and how he will get it. He is always reminding his employees why they are in his business and the roles they have to play to achieve his vision. In addition to that, he is always asking employees to have a clear vision for their own lives. If you were to walk into Capital FM offices today, all you will find are happy faces of people who know what role they have to play towards the vision of the company which is clear and simple to understand.

There are many lessons that I have learnt from this man that would constitute volumes if I were to write them down, so this is just but a start. What have you learnt from your mentor lately?

 

Have You Found Yourself?

purpose One of the biggest challenges of our generation is knowing what our purpose is and how to achieve our dreams.

I’ve talked to many people but sadly most of them don’t seem to know their purpose and what they want from life. I too have struggled with this question all my life and I still am. I hate that it has become the monkey on my back and I hate that I have to wake up everyday to look for myself. I can’t concentrate at anything I do and I have turned into a hopeless scatter brain. I feel like time is running out and the prospect of growing old and miserable, haunted by dreams that never materialized scares me. It makes me go into panic; a miserable state that can be observed by looking at how many things I’ve tried in my life.

I have tried starting my own business more than once and I have tried going up the ladder in my career and still, there is this nagging feeling that I am just not where I want to be.

When I’m at work I find my mind wandering to distant places and I am fearful that maybe those places are where I should be instead. I observe other people and suddenly it looks like everyone is getting onto their path. They seem happy and everything they do looks deliberate and based on a well defined purpose.

So is it that I have failed in finding my path or am I expecting [unrealistically] too much from life? Do I have the wrong paradigm of how life works? Is my purpose locked in this ‘uneventful’ job that I don’t seem to give the appreciation it deserves? Am I part of those who will never amount to anything? Is that my destiny?

On the other hand I also see many people who are like me. People who don’t have a clear plan of what they would do if they won a million dollars today. People who procrastinate and are always anxious because they are not sure of the future. One day you are excited about this new idea you’re pursuing and the next day you’re not sure if it is what you want. Your life goes in phases that come and end as fast as a flame on a matchstick. First there is the ‘I need to buy land phase’, then comes the ‘I need to start saving phase’ and today you’re on the ‘I need to start a business’ phase and the cycle never ends.

I’ve heard people say that you are always in the path that God wants you to be but I am beginning to doubt that. Why? because if this is where He wanted me to be, why am I not happy? Why do I feel like I am in limbo?

I have seen many of our parents live their lives in simplicity and mediocrity; retiring at sixty five and immediately going into the last phase of life where they miserably wait for their sunset. Somehow it has always felt wrong because [I believe] life is not meant to be a mere existence and a process that is predictable as to how it ends. What happened to dreams? At what point do dreams die? Is it to late for my parents to start dreaming all over again? Why I’m I getting sucked into the same cycle of broken dreams and surrendering without a fight? Why is this the more comfortable path to follow?

I’ve had a good career so far; it would be ungrateful for me to ignore that. Learning new things has been the best part of it all. Being challenged to do the impossible has kept my adrenaline pumping and like a junkie, I want more. I want more because there is this strong unshakable urge inside me that tells me I have a higher purpose. Something I can write my name on. That THING that I can do for free and not worry where money will come from because it will be automatic. That purpose that will make my life count for something. I want to be remembered for something great!

I have looked for it everywhere and I am willing to do everything to know why I am here. Sometimes I wish God would use my friends, family or even a stranger to tell me what is it that I am good at so I can dive into it NOW. Or maybe that’s not the way He speaks, maybe it is. But at the end of the day I just want a nudge in the right direction. Or maybe I have already been nudged but was too distracted to feel it? Where is that ONE clear hint that will show me which door to knock? Or maybe a hint is not supposed to be clear after all?

Whatever and wherever my purpose is, I have decided I’d rather die trying to find it. I can no longer sail blind in this darkness. I need to find a beacon and I need to find it sooner than later. I hate losing sleep over things I can’t decipher. I hate to be a person who always changes his dreams because he doesn’t know where he is going. One thing I am sure though, is that I am here for a purpose. What it is, I don’t know. So I’m going to start my search and I will hunt down my purpose to the ends of the earth if need be.

Last week I decided I will put all my dreams on paper because I had a feeling they will lead me to my purpose. It was a challenging experience to decide on what I want for my future, but it’s a start. After pasting cut-out pictures of what I want in life on a white page, I am starting to have this strange experience that I like. For some reason, I feel like I am on to something good and long term.  For once I am pretty clear on my dreams and when I would want to achieve them. How I am going to achieve this is the billion dollar question. Whether this yields anything only time can tell, but I can’t shake off the conviction that this is probably what I should have done years ago.

You see when I was young, my mother taught me this trick and it got me my first car. She told me to write down what I wanted in future and keep it where I could see it every day. I bought a car a few days to my twenty fourth birthday -which is the date I had written down. When you are a child belief is raw and unadulterated, but as you grow older logic gnaws at your dreams and suddenly they become fantasies. I guess somewhere along the way I forgot the basics; that you have to visualize what you want because it’s the first sign that you can and will most likely get it.

It’s time I started all over again. After all, maybe life isn’t about finding yourself but creating yourself.

I’d like you to take a moment and ask yourself this simple question. Have I found myself?

Heirloom

heirloom

My grandfather was a young boy when he first saw them. They had six digits on each limb and very smooth skin that glowed unlike normal humans. Though they looked human, they spoke without opening their mouths in a way that was clear and a language that could not be described. They said to him that they meant no harm and that they were from a place far away in the stars…

They say children observe without inhibition. To my young grandfather, these strange people were a subject of curious fascination. They would speak to animals an even plants. They would do very unusual things that are impossible for a man to do. A few months before he died, he whispered to me in a way that was almost incoherent that he had seen them again. He said he had been walking along the stream that ran at the foot of his land when he saw them standing by the boulder that marked the last beacon of his land. He claimed they hadn’t aged at all. He hadn’t seen them since that time in the forest but it now seemed like they had never left after all. He had spent all his life trying to tell people what he saw. Naturally not one ever believed his fantastic tale. You see when he was young, my grandfather had a habit of creating these imaginative tales to entertain his parents and siblings. At one point, they started worrying that spending months in the forest herding cattle with his great grandfather had started wearing him down mentally. Eventually, they gave in to the realization that these stories were a part of his personality.

His great grandfather was also a man with a reputation of telling strange tales. Contrary to modern theory, he claimed that the Kikuyu had come from the far north, a place called Nekemte. Disease and constant attacks from the tribe of tall and dark people from the west had forced his ancestors to break into small bands and head south. The common understanding was that they would later regroup at the foot of the mountain of God. It took them many years and by the time they reached the mountain it had been five generations. They later came to settle at the foot of Koraba that is now known as Mount Kenya. In his narration he claimed that on reaching Koraba, they found these strange looking people with six digits on each limb; who did curious things. On consulting with God, the tribe seers declared these creatures evil and a danger to mankind. They directed the clan to organize themselves in readiness for war. They engaged these beings in a battle that lasted one hundred moons. In the end, we won and killed them all. At least that was the narrative according to the legend of the time.

When my father was a young boy, he too went herding cattle with his grandfather for months at a time in the forest. In those days, the land was still wild and so vast that they had to place beacons everywhere they stopped so they could find their way back. These journeys were long and lonely at times. After all, there’s only so much two people can tell each other after spending months trekking through the forests and wastelands. My grandfather would always tell him that if he ever saw anything strange and frightening the best thing to do was to keep calm and still until it [whatever it was] passed. My father was to later see many frightening things like lions but never anything strange. He too considered my grandfather ridiculous with his ludicrous strange tales.

Times changed and following the invasion by the british my grandfather went into the forest to fight as Mau Mau. The war lasted many years and many of our people were killed in what later came to be known as the struggle for independence. He had seen many of his comrades in arms die in the most undignified ways. He had experienced the horrors of war in an involving way that would be etched in his mind for the rest of his life. When he came back, he was a changed man. A far cry from the story teller he had been in his better days. The forest was gone, and all he had left was a five acre piece of land and a wife and children that he hardly knew and needed to reacquaint himself with. Of all the stories of war that he later would tell his children , one stood out. When he was in the forest, he always felt like he was being watched by the strange beings from his childhood. On dark silent nights, he would feel their presence. It was they were always watching him. The day before he got out of the forest he thought he heard them call out his name. They spoke in his head and just as before it was clear.

In the years before he died, he was a shadow of his former self. He was quiet most of the time and unable to feed or clean himself. He would come out to meet the sun sitting in his favorite colonial era chair just staring into space as if in a trance. I believe he got tired of speaking to a world that would not take him seriously. He still had that strange light in his eyes of a boy who had seen something incredible. He died still holding on to his tale.

During my grandfather’s funeral, I noticed these two strangers who were standing by the grave. They looked ageless and their skin was smooth and it seemed to glow. Their faces showed no emotion but strangely I felt their sorrow. Deep and hollow. It was a feeling I had never felt before. When they looked up, our eyes met and for a moment the earth stood still and and I felt my knees give way. I collapsed on the ground. I could hear a woman’s voice in the distance telling mourners to give me space to breathe. I felt them loosen my shirt and they started fanning my face. When I came to, the strangers were gone but I knew who they were.

Though this is a work of fiction, I dedicate to the memory of my grandfather whose tales captivated my mind ever since I was a young boy. He died before he could tell his story.

If they Ask

whiskey

Some people have mentors others have role models. I have godfathers. This particular one loves whisky and the occasional cuban. When the ice starts splitting in his glass you can be sure what he says next will change your future.

After clearing his throat, my godfather proceeded to tell me a story he had told many a young man before me. A story that I heard from my other godfather on the day of my wedding.

The story is about a man and his wife who lived in their mud and thatch homestead on the edge of a thick forest. The wife did everything around the house. She cooked and cleaned while the man tilled their land, split firewood and looked after their tiny herd of goats. The couple worked hard and were thankful for the simple life they had created for themselves. However, they were the laughing stock of their village because it was abnormal for a man to help his wife in work. Villagers considered him a weak man for openly caring for his wife and helping her with work. After all, a real man is supposed to enjoy the ‘benefits’ of marriage. Men would wake up late and head to sit under the great tree to enjoy traditional brew while they waited for sunset.

One day as the man was splitting firewood [so the wife could make them a meal], a huge venomous snake slithered out of the firewood and poised itself in an attacking stance. The man was terrified and let out a loud scream. He ran off screaming into the kitchen hut and jumped into the ‘itara’. [This is where firewood is stored in the roof of the hut to keep it dry.]

The wife was plucking tomatoes when she heard her husband’s desperate screams. She immediately rushed to where she had left him splitting firewood and found the snake still erect and ready to strike. Instinctively, she picked up a thick piece of firewood and started beating the snake’s head while screaming. She swung her stick until she was sure she had squashed the snake’s head completely.

Their neighbors heard the commotion and came rushing to help. When they got to the compound they found the wife sitting on the ground crying.

She said, “I was chopping firewood when this big snake attacked me. But my strong fearless husband came to my rescue and beat it to death. He fought it with such courage that it stood no chance! In fact, he has just gone into the kitchen to bring kerosene and some matches so we could burn it.I would be dead were it not for my husband!”.

When the husband came out from his hiding place, he was stunned beyond words. There stood the whole village cheering him for his bravery. He was after all the real man of the village and his wife was the luckiest woman in the world.

You see the woman knew she had married a coward but she also knew she had married a good man nonetheless.But this snake ordeal was their secret to keep.

When two people spend time together, they start discovering their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, these [strength and weakness] aspects defy the expectations of society.

I have seen men who’ve lost their jobs and agreed to stay at home and watch the kids while their wives brought the dough. I have seen women who have the guts to protect their families while their men go into panic because they lack the courage in adversity. Most of all I have seen couples who still love each other despite these ‘unusual’ and overlapping strengths and weaknesses.
Some women can’t fry an egg while some men can’t install a light bulb.

While I advocate for every sex to try their best to learn and improve on their natural roles, I also acknowledge that for some it may never change. We all come from different backgrounds so it would be unfair to judge the one you love based on your idea of the man or woman of your dreams. Love ignores such details.

The most important learning is how you talk about the one you love in their absence. This is the PR in a relationship. When you talk negatively about the man you’re with to the world. You cut off his feet and deny yourself the chance of ever making a good man out of him. Someone once said, ‘A wise woman knows the importance of speaking life into her man. If you love him; believe in him, encourage him and be his peace.’

The same applies to men. Like us, women come into a relationship with many faults that need fixing and adjusting to. This is natural. We’re all raised differently and have had different experiences that shaped how we behave now. Instead, always try to understand the genesis of that particular trait that you don’t like. You will be surprised that you’d have turned out the same given her circumstances! When you talk about her to others, paint her as the perfect picture. After all, perfection is how you choose to look at it.

In the end you will realize that the world feeds on your shortcomings and soon your words work against you. Be careful what you say about the ones you love.

The Little Voice

cotton

Your gift will be your burden until the day you make the decision to follow that little voice that first spoke to you when you were a child. You will learn that people will always be ready to pay you to enable them accomplish their objectives but never yours. Therefore you will forever be a slave because of your fear of doing it on your own. A fear fueled by the threat of sleeping in the cold, hungry, naked and in debt.

You are gifted. A professional at what you do. You work confidently and diligently running your master’s ship but you are still uncertain of your ability to row your own boat. How then can you claim that you feed and clothe yourself? Is it not your master that owns the shirt on your back?

Every evening your master goes happy to bed and thanks the Lord for the blessings bestowed upon him. He smiles because he knows beyond a shadow of doubt that you will show up tomorrow early to till his land. Another step closer to his dream. Deep in his heart he knows that God created all men with an equal chance at happiness. Only some chose the hard road and the rest chose to embrace the warm bosom of mediocrity.

In mediocrity, there are three meals and a warm bath at the end of the day. These good tidings are not for a celebration but to sooth and rejuvenate your aching bones for tomorrows till. In mediocrity there is pride in being called a faithful slave and their is gladness in being trusted by the money lender. A slave; you feel accomplished and respected when the master places you in charge of other slaves.

Your gift will be your burden until the day you make the decision to follow that little voice that first spoke to you when you were a child. Now you have nothing to call your own. Your horse and brick house are the lender’s. A lender in a secret pact with your master to make sure your work to their benefit until your crown is grey. It is how the world works. Your horse will grow feeble and die before you have fully paid for it. Your brick house will crumble before you realize you were never meant to own it. And all the while the master and the lender’s children will be waiting to take the little you have left. Just like the vultures that prey a dying old toothless lion that lacks the strength to fight back.

As you watch the sunset in the squint of your weak eyes, you will always be in deep thought. A mixture of regret and despair. Were you not the slave that new the seasons by heart? Was it not your position to distribute rations to the other slaves? Didn’t the master always say that it is you he trusted the most?

Oh you good slave. Your gift is now your son’s burden because you didn’t follow that little voice that first spoke to you when you were a child.

Why We Will Kill Again

violence

We are living in fear and our lives are under threat. Insecurity has demonstrated that it doesn’t matter where you are but as long as you are within kenya’s boarders you are not safe. I hate to break it to you but we are to blame. We are getting paid for the sins we have committed as a country. We allowed ourselves to be compromised and now we are crying. For a long time I was bitter with the colonialists because I believed they found us living in peace and disrupted our way of life. I have since had a change of mind and I now believe the blame should heaped on us and our founding fathers. I respect the many who fought for our independence and I strongly believe they had the best intentions. However, when we got independence the few [that we call our founding fathers] got into power messed it up for the rest of us.

The colonialists herded  us from our ancestral lands into reserves and grabbed our fertile lands for themselves. But after independence, our founding fathers grabbed and bought the same lands [formerly our ancestral lands] from the colonialists for themselves. They never repatriated the indigenous Kenyan people to their ancestral lands instead they conspired against us. THAT is the first crime they committed against us. Many of our forefathers and their cronies became wealthy by buying off land soaked in blood and the tears of Kenyans. All the while, Kenyans suffered from disease and poverty in the reserves. We lost our dignity and our cultures. We have lived in lands that we didn’t feel comfortable in. We lost our integrity and took up the same traits we saw in our corrupt founding fathers. We got into the cycle of grabbing and stealing because we knew we had no one fight for us. From fighting together against colonial we turned to fighting each other because the resources were not enough. There was not much land to go around. Since our founding fathers knew system they had engineered would eventually turn against them, they made us hate each other. It made more sense for them to uses Kenyans to kill Kenyans to achieve their selfish gains.

Their ploy was a success. We started comparing ourselves to each other and we suddenly realised the Maasai had huge herds of cattle and tracts of land. Knowing that made us feel inferior. It made us uneasy that the Luos were more learned and assertive. We suddenly assumed that the Kikuyu were all thieves because most of their leaders were in power and they had wasted no time in stealing resources from their fellow countrymen. We were taught to be cautious with each other. And like a lover scorned, we let these notions simmer in our hearts because we were afraid of talking to each other. Our forefathers  had managed to deflect our attention from them and they gained whenever we fought. They held on to power and won elections whenever they made us spite each other. They marginalised us and made our ambitions to be based on our ethnicity. They are still winning. The sad truth is, our forefathers had made us think they were tribalist just like us but unreality, they were partners in crime. They were united by wealth and the secrecy that is bred in shared ambition. Their children attended each other’s birthday parties and even shared bank accounts, businesses and property. All the while, the poor Kenyans were busy sowing the seeds of mistrust between their children and the children of other ethnicities. They taught us to step on each other’s heads to climb the various ladders in life. They taught us that the only way our tribes would exist is if all the others ceased to exist. That was the first massacre.

Our current crop of leaders were the first children of our forefathers. They became our leaders because they had the resources needed to ascend to power. They had learned well from their fathers on the secrets of power. They are sworn to each other on secret pacts. They understand what it means to keep the wealth in their families. They know what it means to use us to remain in power. Since this is the lingua franca of politics and power in our country, anyone who comes to power is forced to play by these twisted rules or risk losing their keep. We have become addicted to politics of tribe and not merit and that is why any leader who ignored tribal politics never makes it far. We always blow in the direction our seemingly caring leaders blow us. This is why we will always fight and kill each other.

Lately, there has been a wave of partriotism that seems to be working albeit a slow pace. We have started shunning tribal politics but it is still not enough. There’s much more that remains to be done. However, the ruling elite that runs the country’s affairs behind the curtains is growing uneasy. They know that their institutions of ethnic politics are under threat. This is precisely why they are switching to religion based politics. They know that next to tribe, the other thing that most Kenyans hold dearest to their hearts is faith. This has the potential of turning into our worst nightmares. The big question here for us Kenyans is whether we can see through this ploy.

So what do we do to get ourselves out of this nightmare and bring peace and prosperity to our nation?

To our president Uhuru Kenyatta, you can end this by dealing with the issues that were the genesis of our current woes. First and foremost, find a way of giving back to Kenyans what they lost. I’m talking about land and resources. Let there not be a Kenyan living in misery because of the sins our founding fathers (yours included) committed. Surely we have enough land to settle disgruntled communities and enough to provide food for the hungry masses! Have we ever rewarded those that fought for our independence? You assume that all their children want is money and since they must be many we cannot afford it but I say let’s give them something better than money! Let’s give them scholarships and let’s make health be affordable for them by waiving medical costs for all of the documented freedom fighters. Look around! Even developed countries may have their own problems but  never forget their veterans. As it is, we are an ungrateful nation and that is our undoing.

In regard to the poor who live in slums and survive on crumbs,  it is common knowledge that if the government wanted to pull down all the slums in Kenya and replace them with decent housing and infrastructure it would. Let’s take away the very misery that our politicians use to win elections. Poor people will always lack the power of choice as long as they lack empowerement. Empowered people can never be held ransom because they are a free people. Let’s pay the same people to build their own decent housing and to improve their living conditions. That’s the first job creation exercise that will be much welcome. Decent housing brings equality and suddenly poor Kenyans won’t have to fight over space, water and money.

Of insecurity, let us re-design our approach. Mr. President, at your word, you can disband our security apparatus and replace it with a tailor made outfit because you really don’t have any other option [unfortunately]. What we have now doesn’t work because it is deeply rooted in cultures that were established pre-independence. Our security officers are corrupt to the core and this will forever be a thorn in our side. I say disband all the disciplined forces structures and let’s start on a clean slate. Let’s start with patriotism at the primary school level. We should do away with the scouts movement [that was established by a white supremacist] and replace it with life skills and patriotic school clubs and syllabi. By so doing we will have changed the perception of any young person that joins our disciplined institutions at childhood. At your word, make it the burden of the state to make sure anyone in the disciplined forces will never have to worry about housing, health  and life insurance. A poor, sick and homeless person lacks dignity and loses his power of choice. By providing the above, corruption will wither away and patriotism will be nurtured; the state protects you and you protect the state.

Still on insecurity, let’s find out why our people are turning against their own to carry out acts of terror and crime. Is it a lack of purpose in life? Is someone else taking advantage of a void in society? That is what we need to address. Confronting internal homegrown terrorism with force is a temporary fix and it almost always fails in the end. I say we confront it with a strategy that will give the youth a sense of purpose. It takes longer but the results are long lasting. As long as our young people lack purpose, they will always be internal mercenaries ready to fight for any cause that gives them a sense of belonging. Let’s also investigate why a people displaced in one county get to be resettled in another. To me, that sounds like a cause for conflict. We are all Kenyans but let’s be honest with ourselves, location matters. In the recent Mpeketoni massacre a few things stood out. First the population is largely made up of a community that was resettled on donated land. My big question is, did this resettlement come at the expense of the local indigenous peoples? Did this resettlement have a negative impact on the cultures of the existing peoples? Is there a reason why these formerly displaced people could not be resettled in their original lands or a place close by? I believe that any resettlement should be planned delicately to avoid future conflict. Let’s shoot straight. We know the underlying cause of ethnic violence. It is our leaders. Both the leaders that are the cause and those that take advantage to meet their own ends.

On our invasion of Somalia (yes I said invasion) I say we bring our troops home now. We have seen through experience that this was not our war. We know that there’s a bigger war going on that is based on neo-colonialism. You can imagine what would have happened had we gone into Sudan to ‘liberate’ the Sudanese. In African culture when your neighbour and his wife are fighting, you should know better than to come in-between them. They will eventually make up but they will label you as their enemy. Let’s concentrate our resources in making sure that our people are safe within our borders. I understand why we went into Somalia in the first place but I also understand that by doing so we unconsciously became part of someone else’s bigger plan. Did Somalia need liberation? My answer is no. We didn’t act on a consensus from the Somali people. We also didn’t act on the consensus of the Kenyan people. We live in a country where a few individuals have the script of what’s going on while the majority are meant to just tag along. Therefore I strongly say we committed a mistake in invading another nation. We broke the nature of our relations with other countries. We are supposed to be a neutral state but we gave that up for more suffering. We might have had great successes in bringing down the strongholds on terrorist organisations in the horn of Africa but we have suffered more as a result. We have been attacked within our boarders more times in the last decade that any time before. We live in fear yet we are supposed to be the beacons of hope to people of other nations who flee their countries in fear. It is not too late to change our mind. Let’s just bring our brave soldiers home and put our house in order first.

On corruption, let us agree it is the mother of all our problems. I have a simple suggestion to our leaders. For once, do the right thing. Agree to end corruption. As with most challenges, the devil is in the details. Our justice system has serious flaws. A person who steals a chicken receives a harsher sentence than a person who steals peoples retirement money from a scheme. Bribing with a policeman with kshs. 10,000 will always be a better option than sleeping in a cell, going to court and paying a hefty fine of kshs. 100,000 because of overlapping. You are to blame for creating these ‘revenue streams’ for corrupt poor and homeless policemen. I think this situation just requires common sense so I will not dwell on it; just fix it.

We have become a nation of ranters and experts on everything (I included) but I hope this article will be read by our children if not you. Maybe through them I will change our country. This is my contribution to our freedom. Tell me yours.

How to make a Rosemary, Garlic and Tomato Focaccia

michaelngigifocaccia31 Have you ever had those days when you’re on a break from work, weather’s gloomy and there’s basically no plan for the day? Well, last week I woke up to one of those days. I’m used to a long work day and so naturally, a free 12 hours with nothing much to do will always throw me off balance. So this time instead of dismantling and trying to put back my old car (as is my norm) I decided I was going to do something different. I decided to make a Focaccia (pronounced fokacha). I called my boy Brayo who also happened to be on a break and invited him over to document the whole process. Well, I have to be honest I had to lie that I was calling him over for whiskey. We set up our lights and cameras and we set about making the ultimate brunch, focaccia. As we filmed and got creative on a modest 3 year old bottle of Knights, I couldn’t help learning life’s lessons from the cooking process. Apart from enjoying the woody taste of this bronze award winning liquid, here are the lessons I learnt.

1. It takes the simplest and easiest-to-find ingredients to make the ultimate focaccia

500 grams white wheat flour, 100 grams brown wheat flour, Salt, Cooking oil (preferably Olive oil), Black pepper, Chillies, Garlic, Tomatoes and Rosemary.

michaelngigifocaccia1 The  same applies to any relationship in life. Be it with your family, friends or spouse. At some point we’ve all been guilty of complicating our roles and expectations when relating to the people we love and care for. We never stop to realise that sometimes all these people need is our presence and concern. A person who truly loves you will tell you that most of the time they just want you to be there and just to listen. That is far more valuable than material gifts which may never fully satisfy the needs of a person. Your parents don’t need you to build them a fancy house to show them that you care. Sometimes all they want is a visit from you. Your girlfriend or wife loves the finer things in life but if she were to choose between that and good company she would go for the latter. So slow down and go back to basics. Reach out to the ones you care about and you will have the best quality of life.

2. The flour is most  likely clean, but sieve it anyway. It helps the final product cook evenly and turn out surprisingly soft.

Sieve the white wheat flour in a mixing bowl and add the brown wheat flour (without sieving). michaelngigifocaccia2   michaelngigifocaccia3 Whatever your situation, always check and recheck before sending your work or opinion out there. After 10 years as a creative, I can tell you that sending out work before checking and rechecking is career suicide. This also applies to all other situations in life. Never do or say anything unless you are sure that it fits the intended purpose. Have you ever sent out an email to someone that you later wish you hadn’t? You end up feeling dumb and miserable and sometimes there’s nothing left to salvage. When your chances are clear just step back and recheck. It could be the difference between a life of misery and that of happiness.

3. Add yeast to the mixture. You do want soft, puffed up and nice textured bread don’t you?

A table spoon of yeast will do. michaelngigifocaccia4   It goes without saying that goals in life start as an idea. An idea is dead if it lacks motivation. Motivation is the yeast of future success in life. It is the promise of a bird that is not yet in hand. Motivation keeps an idea alive and natures it into fruition. Motivation may come from anywhere but it will always be procrastination if it does not come from within you. That is why most of us have a history of starting things that we never finish. In the words of the legend Bob Marley, Lively up yourself – motivate yourself.

4. Mix the brown and white flour with the yeast, create small ‘well’ with your fingers and add water to fuse consistently.

The water should be warm and for even better results, add some olive oil to it and stir before pouring into the mixture. michaelngigifocaccia5   In this day and age we often find ourselves pursuing so many things that in the end our lives become one huge rat race. There’s too much to be done and so little time and resources. In the middle of this confusion we end up losing ourselves. If you ask me, I think we lack the very ingredient that is meant to keep our lives from coming apart; spiritual nourishment. You can always tell when you are spiritually malnourished. It is when excitement and calm are the things you long for. You become successful yet still unhappy. You love your family and friends but still it is not enough. If you want everything and still be able to enjoy your life, you cannot ignore your spiritual self.

5. Knead the mixture.

Do this gently for about 10 minutes until the dough’s density is consistent. Add water or flour to ‘tune’ the mixture to a soft dough. Test the dough by hanging it horizontally from one end. It should drop slowly. Finally dust your table surface and knead the dough into a sphere. michaelngigifocaccia6 michaelngigifocaccia7michaelngigifocaccia9michaelngigifocaccia10michaelngigifocaccia11michaelngigifocaccia12   Challenges in life are important because they serve a purpose. Out of these challenges we become stronger and wiser in our approach to similar challenges in future. We need pressure in our lives because we are created to constantly seek a better life for ourselves. It is in this pressure that we learn to appreciate and to take care of the little we have.

6. Place the dough in a clean bowl and seal with clear wrap (it’s easier) and proof for 30 minutes.

I didn’t have clear wrap so I improvised by taking brown food wrapping paper and tying it using my shoe lace. So if you lack clear wrap, just be creative. Allow the dough to rest in the sealed bowl for half an hour. This allows it to rise due to fermentation by the yeast. michaelngigifocaccia13 michaelngigifocaccia14 Looking back at my life, I regret the many times I have had an excuse for not being able to perform a task. I remember at one point I said that all I lacked  to execute a business plan was capital and so I shelved the idea. Another time I said it was too involving when all I needed was to make do with the little I had. Many times I had knowingly ignored the conviction to improvise where I lacked the right resources. Instead I complained and gave excuses. Improvisation coupled with patience (proofing) would have seen me be at a better place than I am right now.

7. As the dough is allowed to rise, prepare the vegetables and oil the baking pan.

Chop tomatoes into large dices and crush a couple of  garlic cloves. You can also finely chop some chilli if you savour spicy hot flavours. After this pour some olive oil into your baking pan and season with salt and black pepper. michaelngigifocaccia23     michaelngigifocaccia20   So you have put in the work and you are patiently waiting for the results. In the meantime, get off your ass and do something! At the least, prepare for success. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius as you  prepare for the final step of your cooking. By this time, your dough has risen. Take the dough and place it on your oiled baking pan and spread it evenly by gently massaging it with your hands. You might want to oil your hands prior to this.    michaelngigifocaccia22   8. Top with garlic and tomato and season with salt, black pepper and rosemary. For our focaccio, I used my fingers to press in the toppings (garlic first) into the dough. I later sprinkled it with salt , blackpepper and rosemary. Lastly, I splashed olive oil on top of this already sweet smelling dough. michaelngigifocaccia27 9. Throw the dough into the oven for 30 minutes at 200 degrees.

Make sure you keep checking on it so it doesn’t burn. Turn the oven off when the focaccia attains a rich golden brown colour. michaelngigifocaccia15 michaelngigifocaccia28   Books have been written on how to live a productive life and how to achieve goals. There’s always someone somewhere who knows the steps to financial success or the 10 habits of successful people. And while it is recommended to take in good advise, it is also important to know that you are different. You are allowed to tweak your plan. At the end of the day, no one else can beat you at being yourself. Therefore not all rules apply to everyone. So always cook while you check your results until you are satisfied.

10. Finally, I present to you rosemary, garlic and tomato focaccia!

Drip some honey on the now sweet smelling focaccia to give it that tasty explosion. This goes well with wine or whiskey. michaelngigifocaccia32 michaelngigifocaccia33 michaelngigifocaccia34   Sometimes all you just need to do is sit back and enjoy what you have worked for as you think of what you can conquer next. Something out your comfort zone. In this case, who says a man can’t cook complicated things? Any way the whole reason for making this focaccia was to do some food photography for our design portfolios. Food Photography by Asaph Brian Change and myself. Check out my photography portfolio on www.michaelngigi.com

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