Today I broke down in the car as I was driving to work. I surprised myself. For some reason I thought it’s been too long since you left me hanging on hope that you would pull through. At least once every year I get overwhelmed by this deep and helpless feeling of sorrow. But today was worse. I couldn’t help myself. So I cried and banged my fists on the wheel in rage not caring if the people in traffic could see me. You always said that you’d be surprised if I had any tears at all. You said my face made me look cold, disinterested and criminal so yes today I cried.
I have never forgiven myself for not calling you in 3 months yet you were my secret best friend. I hate the memory of calling you only to be told by your mother that you were in hospital. I can still remember how weak I felt when I came to see you at the hospital. I never imagined I could see you helpless. I thought I’d come in and you’d sit up and immediately ask me why my hair wasn’t shaved. You always wanted me to look neat and organised. For some reason I liked that I could handle your OCD.
I never understood why a beautiful soul with such a bright future would be taken first. I sat there at your bedside and for a moment my heart skipped when your heart monitor showed that my presence had gotten you excited. But you were trapped. I could see you fighting to come out from behind your tearing eyes. I could feel you trying to move your hand to touch my face. For a split moment I knew you just wanted for us to have coffee like we always did every couple of days just to talk and debate about anything and everything.
I have never forgiven myself for not being able to say anything all the times I came to see you. I was scared. I felt like you had abandoned me. I tried to speak but my throat always turned into a tight knot. I didn’t know how to talk to someone who was not able to respond. I felt angry and sorry to see you twitching and drooling all over the hospital sheets. I hated that for once I couldn’t fix it. I hate that we were so broke that we couldn’t afford you better care; I couldn’t shield and fight for you like the first time we met.
We were friends and we liked to keep it that way. We never dated and we never even saw the need of talking about it. I knew where your heart was and you knew the chaos that was my life. We were two sides of the same soul yet different in every way. But here you were, crying out for help. Trying to tell me something I will never know. There I was, trying to stay hard above my tears and trying to convince you that you’d get well.
I hate the day when I walked through the hospital gate and instantly knew in my heart that you were gone. Suddenly I knew all the things that I wanted to say to you but it was too late. We were born on the same day and hour so you know why it’s always been hard for me to understand why you were gone before our time.
I didn’t look at your face in the funeral. I didn’t cry. I didn’t want you to see me that way. Even now I find it hard to visit your grave because I know that’s not where you are. I want to hold on to the music, the laughter and the conversations that made everything okay. The best way I can honour your memory is to tell everyone around me about that brief moment in my life where I found a friend that promised she’d one day make me cry and delivered on it.
Tonight I will find a quiet spot and raise a glass to you.
– For Georgina Maxine Mueni, 1978-2007
To get my second gig, I had to convince a shopkeeper called Mwangi in our sleepy town centre that I was the best sign writer he would ever come across. The year was 1999 and I was 16. I told him that his kiosk didn’t have a name and that he was losing potential customers as a result.
To come up with a name for his kiosk I charged him 100 shillings ($1). To write the name of the shop I explained that I would charge him 10 shillings ($0.1) for every letter. Soon after I tabled my offer, I realised that my final pay depended directly on the number of letters I painted on his fascia board.To maximise my revenue I suggested that we name the shop Mwangi Shop & General Supplies Store Kamulu. That would give me a total of 470 shillings ($4.7) on completion of the job.
Mwangi agreed and I set off to work preparing the board and sketching out the text in pencil. But something inside me felt guilty about the the offer I had just made. I knew I was giving Mwangi a raw deal. I knew it would work better for him if we’d just named his kiosk ‘Mwangi’s Shop’ as this was easier to remember and as a result good for his business.
I had to make a decision. Should I do the job and walk away with my self serving pay or give Mwangi a good branding for his business by creating a memorable brand? I always walked past Mwangi’s shop everyday and so if I didn’t give him a working solution I would have to face my mistake everyday. Everyone would know that it was I who wrote that long sign that was hard to remember. And at that moment I realised that the money wasn’t as important as the outcome. I knew that if the board worked for Mwangi, I would get referral business from that one job and I would be proud to be known as the sign-writer who made his business flourish by giving it a memorable name. On the downside, this meant that I would now make only 200 shillings ($2) from the entire job; half of what I hoped for. Despite this, I chose my customer’s interests first.
The decision to choose integrity over my personal interests proved to be the best business decision ever. Mwangi’s shop became a known brand in the town centre. It even became a referral name for a bus stop which was very useful for a place so far out of the city. I got to write signs for several more shops in the area at a price of 30 shillings per letter and 200 shillings for images. I was 16 and just halfway through high school so this money was more than enough for me.
I learned what became my best lesson in design. That if you put your personal needs before the needs of your client, you will only profit once, no more. But if you put your clients’ needs first you will never run out of opportunities.
Secondly, learned that it’s hard to convince people to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first.
Thirdly I realised that I had to re-think how I billed my clients for creative work otherwise one day I’d be forced to sell my kidneys to make ends meet.
Once long ago there stood a giant tree where there now sits the great stump. The tree was magnificent and could be seen from far and wide. It’s branches were strong and it’s roots ran deep through the earth down to the rock beneath. Towering over the whole forest, this was certainly the tallest tree in the land. So big was the tree that it cast a very dark shade underneath it and not other tree would grown under or near it for many miles.
This tree was home to many birds who were ruled by an old, evil, giant eagle. Every bird feared the eagle because of his sharp beak and powerful claws. So terrifying was the eagle that it was said he had eaten his own family. He also had a reputation of killing any bird that defied his orders. The tree was his kingdom and the old eagle guarded it and it’s inhabitants fiercely.
To keep the birds submissive, he would eat their eggs and their young to his fill whenever he pleased. The birds were unhappy but there was nothing they could do.
Since the tree was the only home the birds knew, none of them had an idea what lay beyond the thick mist. The birds lived a miserable life and wished that one day the old eagle would die. Eagles live longer than most birds, so sadly the inhabitants of the tree knew the evil eagle would outlive them all.
One day, the birds saw many humans on the forest floor milling around their tree. They were making great noises and moving about in a disturbing manner. One of them stood in front of the tree and was shouting to the rest of the humans. Afterwards they moved on and it was peaceful once more.
Two young weaverbirds [a male called Loki and a female called lulu] that had been observing the humans became very curious as to where these strange creatures had come from. Since no bird had ventured outside the tree except the eagle, the two weaverbirds were filled with an urge to find out. They became very restless and as they discussed the strange creatures they had seen, they wondered what else lay yonder. They hatched a plan to fly in the direction the humans had gone. They agreed to turn back if they felt they had gone too far and could get lost. So there and then they made a deal that they would start their flight at first light the next morning.
Anxious and excited, the two weaverbirds could not sleep that night and at daybreak, they started their journey. Following the path they had seen the humans take, they flew into the dense mist until they could not see the great tree behind them. They flew on despite their fear of getting lost. They had never flown this far from the tree and were terrified; but something about this trip made them feel free and excited. After a long flapping their tiny wings,they got tired and were scared that they had gotten lost.
Lulu started crying “Loki I’m scared! I’m afraid we are lost and we may never be able to get back home!”.
Though scared, Loki gathered his courage and tweeted encouragement to Lulu,
“Push on, we’re almost there”.
And suddenly without warning,the mist opened up and they came to the most beautiful sight they had ever seen since they were hatched. A breathtaking forest with the most colorful trees they had ever seen. There were sweet looking fruits and insects on every tree. This was nothing like what they had anticipated. They flew into the trees and danced around the branches pecking on the sweet fruits and tasty insects. This was heaven! They wished they had made this discovery much earlier.
Without wasting time, they ate to their fill and set off for home to tell the others what they had found. At first, no one would believe their fantastic sounding tale but eventually some birds did and went and came back to tell the others.
In the end all the birds moved from the evil eagle’s tree leaving him weak starving and starving since there were no more eggs and nestlings to eat. The birds had also discovered that the eagle could not fly as he was too old and his feathers had fallen off.
As the old eagle perched on his [now quiet and lonely] tree staring into the horizon, he felt sorry for himself. He had no friends and now it dawned on him how miserable he was. He thought the tree was his greatest possession but without the birds it was just a cold and empty place.
A few days later the humans came back and cut down the tree. Initially they had decided not to cut the tree because they felt sorry for the birds but now there were not birds living in it. The old eagle was killed as the great tree came crashing down on the forest floor. As for Loki, Lulu and the rest of the birds; they went on to thrive and live happily ever after. The forest had everything they needed and they also knew that they could always fly into the unknown if they ever got unhappy again.
You will never discover new forests until you gather the courage to lose sight of your great tree.
Dedicated to you, the person stuck in a place or situation that you can’t seem to get the courage to get out of.
There’s always that one friend who inspires you just by how they live their life. From them you get wisdom, perspective, focus, inspiration and of course entertainment. Such people exist to remind you that every thing happening in your life could be an opportunity or a challenge depending on how you look at it. They are normal people just like you and I but [they] live an extraordinary life, because they choose to make extra ordinary decisions.
They are characterized by their constant effort to play outside their comfort zone, and their ever present cheerful attitude regardless of the obstacles they face. They are a different breed because their life is based on ambitions that are simple, selfless and unique. These people keep at it making small progressive steps which often turn into big gains because of their consistency. To the normal person, they tend to come off as lucky and undeserving but in reality their lives are littered with more failures than success. The only difference is that they keep their dreams alive through constant effort.
I find the majority of these people to be very good natured and somewhat charismatic. They speak more of optimism than pessimism; they see the good in things that to a normal person, would seem of little value. They make a conscious effort to see life through a positive eye. This makes them very loyal and annoyingly honest friends; but then again, isn’t it what we all so desperately need?
These people work hard and the world pays them for it by giving them wealth, satisfaction and happiness. They are forever consumed by their dreams and it is no wonder they always seem to be doing the same thing year in year out!
Looking at my friend this year I have learnt one big lesson;the world will always step aside for you as long as your ambition is honest and selfless. We are human and so we are bound to make bad decisions every now and then but we will always succeed if our aim is positive and true.
For a while now, I’ve been fascinated by Einstein’s theory of relativity where in my understanding, it is very difficult for an object to move faster than light. But WHAT IF we could move faster than light? The theory states that the universe would adjust by expanding at the same rate so it would still be impossible to achieve the fit.
In the same breath I believe that a person whose ambition is true and selfless has a solid positive future, and as long as they consciously keep trying to do the right thing they will arrive at their destiny. They will make mistakes numerous times (because we are human) but the universe will always adjust to accommodate these failures because there are laws that dictate destiny.
Such people do not come into our lives by mistake. As humans we are created to always strive to be better, and one of the ways this is meant to happen is through inspiration. Inspiration triggers action and ensures that the human race is better equipped to survive as a species. We respond better to inspiration from live examples (especially people we know) than from books and movies. This is why we all need that one friend who stirs up our creativity and gives us the reason to believe in our dreams.
It is also the same reason why we need to be that ONE friend that inspires others by striving to be better everyday.
Maybe my friend doesn’t know it but I intend to keep them around for a long time.
Do you have that ONE friend?
Hi my name is Michael and I am creative director at a leading marketing firm.
It’s 6am and I am watching the sunrise at the waterfront on the beach with my laptop wide open and a blank page staring back at me. I feel inspired but not sure what to write about. I am on a fact finding mission to understand two different consumer groups on behalf of the organization I work with. With the information I collect, we will be able to generate insights that we we use to develop creative strategies for our clients. This is what sets us apart as one of Africa’s fastest growing below the line agencies. Personally I can’t help feeling lucky and undeserving because deep down I know that anyone can do the job that I am about to do.
Some people are born artistic; that I totally agree. But the notion that some people are born creative is the thing that I will never concur with. I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative and I also believe that regardless of what profession or walks of life we come from, we all need creativity because it’s what sets us apart in everything that we do.
Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and one of my greatest influences of my life was my mother. You see, when I first showed her something I had drawn, she immediately told be it was the best drawing she’d seen in her life. That made me very happy and I can only remember that from then on drawing became my oxygen. I’d draw everyday and everywhere just so I could make people happy. Looking back, I think the first drawing I showed my mom was the most horrible sketch ever. She just happened to know the secret of inspiring talent. She knew that her response should ignite a spark that in turn would open up a world of possibilities for me. And that is exactly what happened.
As I grew up I realized that the world was flooded with artists and good ones at that. In my three decades, I have seen amazing talent often unsung and appreciated. You will always find them in art centers and street corners, broke, spiritual, conscious and unmotivated. In the art circles we are always joking that an artist only becomes rich and famous when they die. Ironically this is true most of the time. As painful as it sounds, the world really doesn’t need art if it [art] doesn’t address any challenge. So art without purpose just breeds artists. Art with purpose gives rise to creatives and problem solvers.
When I was 18, I decided I would be a graphic designer. Upon trying it out I realized that it was harder than I had earlier imagined. The responses to my work were more brutal and hardly encouraging. This is because design is all about addressing challenges. I discovered that being good in art wouldn’t just cut it if no one saw it’s usefulness. The world wanted something that addressed ITS challenges. I was used to making art straight out of my heart and this was new ground; I had to create art that needed to address the needs of others. To save my budding career now under threat, I decided I would try to understand what it is that successful designers did different.
I discovered that successful designers had one thing in common. They were always seeking to understand the dynamics. I realized that all along I had been seeking to understand myself and that is why I produced work that only made me happy and thus ended up seeking only positive encouragement from others. This was my eureka moment that changed everything.
Nowadays I get offended when someone calls me an artist because I don’t make art, I solve problems. I am a creative.
To harness creativity, I learnt that I needed to absorb knowledge from the environment. Yes, it was as basic as reading the paper everyday or asking everyone the most awkward questions; always seeking to understand who everyone else was and what they needed. I noticed the change immediately as I started realizing how the world is overwhelmingly filled with opportunity.
I’d passed by the shoe shiner’s everyday just so he could tell me what was going on in the city. The newspaper vendor always knew the politics of the day and what was going to happen tomorrow. I discovered our teal lady at the office always had an opinion on the challenges women were going through and all this information just opened up my eyes to a world I had been blind to since birth. I began to understand why companies and brands were going down while others succeeded within the same environment. It became my purpose to always seek information. It changed my paradigm and made my work better and as a designer. I had started making real impact.
I realized that as a creative designer, my work determined the bottomline for the organization I worked with and also the value of the brands I worked on. As a result I firmly believe that in creativity, knowledge is power. The key to creativity is understanding the dynamics of the situation in question in great detail and using this information to produce fresh, exciting and impactful solutions. This realization has been my lifestyle since then.
I believe that regardless of what your profession is, creativity can give you positive results and lasting impact. Whether you are a brand manager, accountant, actuarial scientist, doctor, janitor you name it. The principles of creativity work in the same way. Everyone has the ability to be creative. First get to understand the dynamics well, then ask yourself how you can do it bigger, better, different and with a more lasting impact. Creativity expands the playing ground and increases opportunity. With creativity you have competitive advantage and an improved bottom line. To be effective, creativity needs to be part of our daily life. Creativity is not rocket science but rather a power that is within reach to all of us. Creativity makes what we do enjoyable because it fuels passion.
So everything you have put down on your to do list today is essentially an opportunity to tap into your creative potential. That my friends is creativity lesson 101.
Next time I will write about how we can inspire creativity in organizations for better performance.
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 hard 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.
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.
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”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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?”
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?”
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.
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 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?
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?
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?