Thursday, May 26, 2011

Determination = Strong WILL + Stronger WON'T

On Tuesday this week, SavvyKenya [one of my favorite bloggers], shared some 17 Tips to boost one's productivity. Reading through the tips, I found the following tip quite interesting:
15. Keep a “Stop Doing List”.
Most of these lists usually contain things that one has to start doing, so I take notice the few times I come across something that one has to stop doing.
The aforementioned tip reminds me of Jim Collins's article about Resolutions. In this article, Jim Collins asserts that we no longer live disciplined lives, ours have instead become busy lives.
In such a situation, there is no time to pause and ask if whatever we are doing is indeed the right thing.

He therefore proposes that one come up with a stop doing list and make this the cornerstone of his/her New Year resolutions, be it for company, family or self.

For one to be able to stop doing something however, self control and restraint are paramount.
It all boils down to delaying gratification, with a view of doing the right thing, and thereby cultivating one's moral intelligence. We highlighted the same in an earlier post.

This is what Joachim de Posada was talking about in his famous 'Don't Eat the Marshmallow Yet' TED Talk above.

All in all, determination to me is more of a stronger WON'T than a strong WILL. It is harder to stop doing something one is already accustomed to than to embark on new things.
As I get ready to do a searching and fearless inventory of my life as I do every end month, I'll be keen to set aside those things I need to stop doing. I already have a list as we speak, only that a discussion of my personal life is beyond the scope of this blog and I cannot therefore share my list ;)
What about you? Anything you need to stop doing from now on?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Africa Day: Something to Think About

"The city and the country,
Alarmed at one common danger,
Came forth to meet it."
- Barack Obama [on his Jan 20, 2009 inauguration Speech]

Today is Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Currently known as the Africa Union with 53 member states, it seeks to bring together the African continent to collectively address various challenges. These include, but are not limited to poverty, armed conflict, disease epidemics, political upheavals, basic needs and poverty. More Africa Day info...

As an African, it saddens me to realize that many of the above challenges still face Africans. Even worse, not much is being done both at an individual and collective level to address these concerns.
For those who dare try, policy makers often fail to offer support or even become a stumbling block, thanks to corruption, bad governance, patronage and self interest.

One way we can improve Africa is through self realization, and strongly believing is our own ability to make things better. When we first believe in ourselves as individuals, and do the needful with the goal of amelioration, we can then collectively make Africa better.

A few years ago, Gidigidi Majimaji released the Ismarwa album. Prior to this, they had released Unbwogable and Many Faces albums.

Fikira is a poem is Ismarwa, which challenges Africans to wake up, stop despising ourselves and start believing in our ability to sort out our own issues.

Following is the full text:

Afrika tumelala
Tuko kwenye ndoto, ndoto ya ajabu
Tutalala mpaka lini?
Amka Afrika, amka kumekucha.
Haujashtuka, haujagutuka

Hebu jiulize
Nimetoka wapi, na ninaelekea wapi?
Kila kitu si changu,
Sina ninacho, na ninacho, sina.
Gari ninalopanda, sikuliunda,
Nguo ninazovaa, sikuzishona,
Vitabu ninavyosoma, sikuvibuni.
Nikitaka amani, naomba msaada
Nikitaka fedha, naomba msaada

Tutaomba mpaka lini Afrika?
Tumekuwa watumwa
Tutajidharau mpaka lini Afrika?
Mbona hatujiamini?
Amka Afrika.
Listen to a preview of Fikira or get the entire Ismarwa album on iTunes.

So fellow African, what are you doing to make both your life and Africa a better place?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Times and Seasons

In a recent Email , my friend Kellie wrote:
Life is made up of seasons, and what we take out of each season is what matters in the end.
Her words are indeed deep. I therefore took time to think about them and their attendant application in our lives.

You see, everything happens for a reason. In fact, my dad has on so many occasions reminded me that everything happens in its time [o undu na ihinda riaguo].
Furthermore, the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3 begins by emphasizing that
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. [Eccle 3:1]
That established,
the best thing we can do is to always enjoy life, because God's gift to us is the happiness we get from our food and drink and from the work we do. [Eccle 3:12-13]
Beyond Ordinary 

Still thinking about seasons, I remember listening to Times & Seasons, a Gospel album that was released by Commissioned in 1999. It features such great tracks as One Love, Testify, Believe, Walk Right and Thank You for Loving Me... among others.
Ordinary Just Won't Do, is one of the songs in this album. It has some enduring lyrics which I proceed to share below:
A quest in order to find
What lies in my heart, in my soul, in my mind
Sometimes serenity
Sometimes there's misery
So many weaknesses and faults I've got to learn to
Share the inner most and secret thoughts
The ordinary person just won't do
The End of Something. The Beginning, of Everything
In light of the foregoing, we all need to realize that there is a reason why things change. There is a reason why endings have to be in place to herald new beginnings.
What matters in all these then, is whatever we learn from it, and whether or not we become better persons as a result of the change.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

True Friends, People Who Light Up Our Lives

"What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends..."

Today's post goes straight to the point. I guess that's because it touches on something that is only relevant when it emanates straight from the heart.

It is about true friendship.

Late in April this year, I took time to examine the kind of friends I have. Interestingly, there is no shortage of fair-weather friends - those who are invariably there when all is well. Genuine friends however, are few and far between.

A Brighter World
True friends brighten our lives. They add value. They inspire. They motivate. They are worth our while.
They may not seem to have much about and around them, but they also bring out the best in us.

And Kelis says it best in Lil Star,
If it seems like I'm shining brightly
It's probably a reflection of something you already are...
It's surprising how inspiring
It is to see you shining
Cause in the dark of the night you're all i can see
and you sure look like a star to me
This is definitely a most awesome song that you should listen to every now and then.

In view of the foregoing, are you a true friend?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Essence of Struggle

Not all alegends are about vicory,
Some legends are born out of struggle
- Harry 'Red' Newman [Legendary]

Cluck, cluck
On both Saturday, 30th April and Sunday, 1st May 2011, I had the opportunity to watch a number of chicks hatch at my place.
Admittedly, this wasn't my first time to witness the first day of a chicken's life. It however struck me that we can learn a thing or two from chicken, besides appropriating their eggs and meat.

For 21 days, I had watched one of my hens sit on the eggs. It simply stared, and rarely moved or ate. It patiently incubated the eggs, waiting for the day the chicks would hatch.
That eventually happened on May 01.

Back to the hatching chicks, I noticed that they first crack the egg shell with their beaks. I assume this enables the chick to take in oxygen from outside and around the egg. Refreshed and somewhat strengthened, the chick now starts kicking with its legs. Ultimately, this kicking is what cracks open the egg for the chick to emerge and say hello to the real world.

Interestingly, the mother hen does not interfere in this process at all. It takes no part in opening up the eggs, inasmuch as the chicks begin calling out while still within the egg. All the hen does is keep cluck, perhaps assuring them that it is well outside the egg.

To me, this initial struggle the chicks have to successfully endure is what makes them able to live once they exit the egg. It is their first test in a world that only favors the strong. In my case, two chicks which were fully formed but inadequately warmed up died during this struggle.

A few days ago, I watched Legendary, the 2010 WWE movie starring John Cena, Patricia Clarkson, Danny Glover and Devon Graye. It is the story of Cal Chetley, a young class nerd who confidently stands up to bullies, seeks the help of his emotionally distant brother in becoming a better wrestler, and finally brings his family together.

It is worth noting that Cal didn't win in the final match, but his struggle finally paid off and earned him respect from the entire school community, including the bullies who previously picked on him.

Made Stronger
The thing with struggle, is that it makes us stronger. Coupled with purpose, struggling raises our hopes. It enhances our positive outlook. And sometimes, it makes us legends - even if it be only in our minds.

In closing, we take another look at what Harry Newman said about struggle:
Not all legends are about victory. Some are about struggle, finding out who you are and your reason for being.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Open Up and Face Your Fears

Today's post is an amalgamation of past posts on The Walkabout, which I feel will better convey my message today.

The Things We Don't Say
Exactly two weeks ago, I read this moving post by @JacqueNdinda. It made me both very sad and livid to no end, and I said as such.
The fact that sexual offences continue to happen to people around us is a pointer to bigger ills in our society. What I find especially  worrying about these types of crimes is that the victims are adversely affected for the rest of their lives.

Screw Fear
Back in April 2009, I wrote about the need to overcome fear and doubt in discovering our inner potential. What may not be apparent in that post is the undeniable fact that doing so is never easy.
Sometimes, the circumstances behind that fear may seemingly be out of control.

Yesterday, I visited Faith*. At one point during my stay, she confided that she was recently raped by someone known to her. The trauma has so far made her fearful of men, even those in her family.

I was so taken aback my the pain in her voice and written all over her face, largely because sexual abuse had prior to yesterday, never happened to someone I knew really well. It was always another girl, another lady, another elderly woman, another baby - but never a person close to me.

Cries From the Heart
In his book Cries from the Heart, Johann Christoph Arnold addresses those who struggle in their search for hope and meaning in life. Individual chapters focus on many of life's situations such as emotional suffering, despair, illness, remorse, unanswered prayers etc [see a chapter listing in our blog post].
While some seek understanding in the sciences, technology and varied belief systems, others search within. Still, others seek answers from the supernatural or from a higher power. All these are Cries from the Heart which have continued since time began.
The search for meaning can at times wear someone down, and the frustrations of elusive meaning and delayed solutions make him/her feel drained.
At this point, one wants more.

Thankfully, someone has written a book that features stories of people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and emerged victorious.

All in all, opening up provides a way to start facing and overcoming one's fears. And better still, when in the company of those who can help, and upon reading stories of others who struggled and eventually overcame, it becomes much easier to endure the pain, to have hope, to unrelentingly struggle, and to eventually make it on the other end - victorious.

*name changed to maintain her anonymity.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Overcoming Bad Habits

We need a resolution
To some people, this post might be more appropriate at the end or beginning of a year when they are making new resolutions.
However, it is imperative that character defects be addressed as soon as it becomes necessary, the time of the year notwithstanding.

Peter Bregman, in a blog on the Harvard Business Review, recommends the use of fear, incentive and reward to effect behavioral change.

In the song Breaking the Habit by Linkin Park, the following words characterize what many people feel and go through as they battle bad habits every day:
I don't want to be the one
The battles always choose
'Cause inside I realize
That I'm the one confused
And say what I don't mean.
I don't know how I got this way
I know it's not alright.
So I'm breaking the habit,
I'm breaking the habit
 What to do

As previously observed, we are creatures of habit. We are both progressive and regressive. It is therefore instructive that a habit be used to overcome another habit.
A very effective way is to start new habits. To overcome oversleeping, simply make it a habit to wake up an hour earlier. While it may be difficult to fine-tune your body to the new hours in the beginning, you will get used in a matter of weeks.

Speaking of new habits, it is worth noting that persistence and determination are needed to attain one's stated objectives.
The challenge
Do you have some habits you need to drop? The most effective way to do so is to pick up new ones to replace them.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How High should You Rise? - The Parable of the Fern and the Bamboo

"Rise up, and don't you fall down again,
Rise up, it's time we break the chains,
I try to fly so high, up to the sky...
...My dream is to fly over the rainbow, so high,
My dream is to fly, over the rainbow so high."
- Yves Larock [Rise Up]

The following post was originally published as a Facebook Note on November 29, 2008. It was predicated on Cock and Bull Stories on Ken Njuguna Ngishili's blog, a place to go for inspirational and reflective posts any day.

Following are some enduring excerpts:

One day, I decided to quit. I wanted to quit my job, to quit my relationships, to quit my spirituality; I even wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God. “God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”

His answer surprised me. “Look around”.....

“When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.” ....

.... “In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. I would not quit.”

“Then. in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern it was seemingly small and insignificant. But just 6 months later the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge they could not handle.” He said to me.

“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you! Don’t compare yourself to others. The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful. Your time will come,” God said to me. “You will rise high”.

... “Yes.” He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can. And remember.. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. I will never give up on you. I will never, ever quit on you.”

What do you think?

P.S: Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth.

 * * *

I like to think about the man in the arena... whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...
In essence, he rises again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Love, Relationships and Violence

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living wih the results of other people's thinking."
- Steve Jobs [in his 2005 Stanford commencement address]

Self Righteousness

When I watched Jonathan Haidt's TED Talk about Morality and Openness to Experience, it became clear to me that being subjective in any decision making is the primary reason we are rarely open minded. In other words, objectivity can only prevail when we do not take sides.

Unfortunately, every one of us thinks they are invariably right.
This is why it is very difficult to tell someone that s/he is making the wrong decisions in life.

Abusive Relationships

That said, I took time this morning to listen to Jam 316, hosted by Frederick Njiiri on Radio 316. Listeners were calling in to share their views after a lady called in, wondering what to do since her husband beats her up.

When asked if she has shared her predicament with her family or close friends, she said that she hasn't, because she will be embarassed when others know that she is a victim of domestic violence.

As I listened to divergent opinions from other listeners who called in or shared on the show's Facebook page, I was vexed by two things:

  1. a majority has gradually accepted that physical abuse by one spouse in marriages and relationships is a perfectly normal, natural and ordinary thing.
  2. victims of domestic violence are unable to leave abusive relationships because of kids, stigma and a dependence on the abusive spouse or partner.
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

I find it really hard to understand why people

Granted, I am not married nor in a relationship, those are situations I have opted to stay out of as long as possible for reasons that are beyond the scope of this post.

My question however remains: Are the people we closely relate with really indispensable?

Is it so hard to leave a situation that adversely affects you? Is there a shortage of spouses and partners in life, that I unaware of? What happened to freedom and choice? Is continually living with some people really worth the trouble?

Self Deprecation

Stephen King, in The Dark Tower, writes
True love, like any other strong and addictive drug, is boring—once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome.
. . except, of course, to those who share the kisses, who give and take the caresses while every sound and color of the world seems to deepen and brighten around them. As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners.
And, as is true of any other strong and addicting drug, true first love is dangerous.
His words somewhat explain the irrational behavior that many people exhibit when they are in relationships.

The Idea of True Love

I subscribe to the Christian faith, but I contend that some definitions hold true universally. In her song My Idea of Heaven, Leigh Nash concludes that being with family is indeed her idea of Heaven.

In my mind, families are predicated on relationships. Family should therefore be the last place where one should be harmed - especially relationships and families that we get into voluntarily through dating and marriage.

Furthermore, I have always maintained that things don't get bad over time, they start bad.
1 Corinthians 13 provides us with a very good definition of love. Have a look at it and should you be in a situation that falls short of this, my advice is that you should get out of it as soon as possible. It surely isn't worth your while.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Knowing when to Stop

In recent times, we have been inundated with media reports of every manner of vice. In my home district, I was shocked to read about a jailbird who raped and then killed a 91-year old woman.

Dirty Dancing
During the Easter weekend, a concert held at the KICC featuring RDX of the Bend Over fame, gave Kenyans something to talk about for the better part of last week. The Nairobi Swaggerific concert quickly became an orgy of sorts, characterized by shameful and deplorable dirty dancing acts as captured in these videos.

In other news, we woke up today to the news of the killing by American forces, of Osama Bin Laden, the international fugitive and leader of the Al Qaeda who has occasioned the needless deaths of thousands of people across the world.

Many often wonder about wrong-doing, and why people still continue doing what is both undesirable and wrong.
Reading The Nature of Violence by Eric Fromm, who authored The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness I became convinced that violence has existed for as long as human beings have. In an earlier post titled The Nature of Violence, how to Reduce it on The Walkabout, I listed some salient points from Eric Fromm's Encarta article.

It turns out, human beings are both progressive and regressive. During one of her breakfast shows in her earlier years at Kiss 100 FM, Caroline Mutoko said,
after human beings get what they want, they next indulge
Her words keep reminding me of Mr. Brooks, a movie I watched back in 2008, the same day a violent encounter nearly took my life [of course I was the victim ;)]. A celebrated businessman, Mr Brooks has a secret habit that he just can't stop. Thanks to "persuasion" by his bloodthirsty id Mr Hurt, he is a serial killer.

Just Once More
The fact that we always want to try just one final time even when we'd like to stop our errant ways, and the assumption that we are in control of our lives is a key reason why we do not know when to stop.

As a solution, I contend that we should all purpose to put a stop to whatever it is that needs stopping. Not tomorrow but right now. Not after the next one final time.
The time to stop is right here, right now. And what better way to effect change than starting today?


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