On the week that I was to write my next blog post, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen sat on top of the billboard Hot 100 charts. It went on top almost a month earlier and stayed for another month after my missed post. That’s a really long time at the helm of the billboard charts. It’s the equivalent of an Atwoli at COTU or Amos Wako as AG at a spot where Rihanna’s Diamonds could only manage two weeks. Call Me Maybe reached number one in 18 countries in 2012 and was the year’s best-selling single worldwide. It seems unfair that as one Japs’ experiment with words collapsed, another Jeps’ experiment with words peaked.
I was fast approaching my thirties. Starting to make some money at my new job and what that means in Nairobi is that you drive a screaming red Mazda Demio fitted with a frequency expander to help you catch Maina Kageni in the morning, contribute to the top trending topics on twitter at least three times in a month, live within a 20 km radius from the CBD (Rongai is too far. Hehehe) and you are trusted well enough, at least by the waiters, to be able to drink on bill at Mojos, your office local, Oakley Base, your real local, Sailors, your other local and a string of bars, half the size of a decent bedroom, in Nairobi West.
You quickly settle into that lifestyle. Early hungovered mornings that start with you diving into Sonford on Moi Avenue to feast on a kuku thigh drenched in vinegar in a futile attempt to erase the wringing around your eyes. Morning meeting with the manager. Wish friends an emotionless HBD on Facebook. Mid-morning meeting with colleagues to make fun of managers and share tales from the pub last night. About thirty minutes of work. Lunch with Lucy, the new marketing intern from 4th floor, whom you kissed at the company retreat two weeks back but has skillfully evaded the dinner invite at your house. Pretentious banter in the lift with the Group Financial Controller about the revenue prospects for the second half of the year. You’ll promise heaven, he’ll promise support. Nobody will remember that conversation one hour later. Afternoon reports. Ignore the fourth call from the shylock, Kama, who still hangs on your promise of sending Mpesa in thirty minutes half a day later. Mojos at four thirsty p.m. Coffee with your number one on Wednesday evenings. Friday nights at practically all the bars and clubs you know. Late Saturday mornings. Sunday service at Mavuno, Mamlaka Hill or Nairobi Chapel. Tithe once in a while, mostly on the occasions when a deal went through and you are trying to bribe God to keep that tap flowing because the deal pays five times better than your job. Repeat.
It starts feeling like this is what you’ll have to live with, and then one Tuesday, after Uhuru and Ruto have run away with the main prize, you and your gang are on your third beers, right about that moment when beer starts tasting like paradise, and Kwach jolts everyone, ‘Baba, forget the elections. People are dealing. What are we doing?’ Then you’ll insist on calling Lanx in from his voluntary graveyard shift and start a conversation that will entirely change your life. You grab a piece of paper and sketch a way forward and because you are eight people you’ll order two Glenfiddich’s to celebrate this small victory. The beers will be left wondering if it’s suicidal to taste like paradise. One week later, five members of the gang will have moved on from this conversation and the three of you will set on a journey that will with several twists and turns get us to today.
I am not the same person I was when I last wrote here. Not the same person I described in Analysis. Most of the things I wanted to achieve in Coming Home have come to pass and the others are within my sights. I stopped drinking and smoking and got married to Gypsy. I started doing my own thing. I’m building something that will outlive me. I discovered God. No. God found me. I wake up earlier now, so that by the time Myra and Pilot start their show on Urban Radio at 6 AM (90.7 FM in Nyanza & Western Kenya) I’ll have taken a shower and read my morning bible verses. I now drive a German machine that belongs to my wife which is important because it means I don’t feel like I need to have my own car and it helps her keeps tabs on me. Hehehe. I suspect that she has hidden an alcohol and smoke sensor in that car. I do whatever I say I’ll do. The only thing I lie about is how I stopped drinking because most people who ask are already settled on what they think made me quit (or if I have actually quit) and I have so much fun spinning a fresh tale every time. Nobody seems to believe that I quit by prayer (my wife’s and mine. Mostly, my wife’s.) I check my prejudices at the door. I didn’t build that house I talked about in A Stubborn Heart but as I said in Let’s Make A Toast I’ve always thought of this blog as a space that I would use to record my stab at success so that the growth is not lost on anyone who’s interested in such things and more importantly, that success is tied to God.
This is what I have learnt from first-hand experience in those three short years I’ve been away, in no particular order.
You Probably Don’t Know A Thing About God
There’s absolutely nothing you can do for God. Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Jesus was/is the only sinless human being. We sin because we are fallen not because we’re human. We live by God’s grace. The bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God. The bible doesn’t contradict itself. All God really wants you to do is to love him ( Matthew 22: 37 – 42) and value others above yourselves (Phillipians 2: 3-4).
You walk around as an adult holding on this concept of God from Sunday school, CRE, your family, friends, preachers and hearsay then one day you join Pathway at Mamlaka (a theology class) and start unpacking your beliefs. It’s unbelievable. A new vista opens right before your eyes. You’ll be shocked how many familiar verses don’t mean what you always thought they meant. Here’s a word of advice, if you are blessed with the gift of literacy please study your bible. Study it the way you would study for a bachelor’s degree. Start small, maybe 30 minutes in a day. It will change your life.
Fear No Man
People are just people. The president is just that desk mate who makes head boy in fourth form. Don’t let fear of another man cripple you, whether it’s a client, a boss, a politician, a policeman, a criminal, etc. You all face the same fate in the end. Fear only God. Respect men (and women) who deserve your respect. Please do not respect idiots especially those who think they are important just because they have money.
Be Comfortable in Silence
You are stuck with your company CEO at the back of his car on a ride that feels like eternity to the company’s end of year party. You blame Pascal the insurance salesman whom you were waiting for outside the lift on the ground floor when the Big Boss grabbed you. Or it’s this hot ex-celebrity, whom you had a crash on back when Mr. Nice was on Nation TV’s The Beat, who slides next to you at a church pew at All Saints Cathedral because you are both early for BSF and even though it’s just the two of you she whispers ‘This January weather is a little off, don’t you think?’ Or it’s your first cousin, ten maybe fifteen years your senior, the coolest member of your extended family, back from the US after 20 years and asking you questions about your childhood hood Arina Estate in Kisumu which you moved from in 2007 when you joined Egerton, Laikipia campus. Do not rack your brain looking for something witty to say. Try to have a normal conversation but if the words fail you, it’s ok to be silent and not feel guilty about it. If anyone thinks the silence is awkward, let them break it. Let them be the funny one. Do not underestimate the virtue of listening.
Wake Up Early on Saturday Mornings
The accurate quote is actually, The secret to success in your youth is waking up early on Saturday Mornings. I came up with that. It could be because the biggest deals I’ve closed yet happened on Saturdays but it’s mostly because this quote is representative. A metaphor. I’ll explain. My first point. Preparation. Success loves preparation. To wake up early on Saturday Morning, you’ll have to choose carefully what you do on Friday night. What do most young people do on Friday nights? You get it, right? How you prepare for success will play a very huge part in whether or not that opportunity arrives. My second point. Self-initiative. Waking up early on Saturday morning means you are waking up early on a day you don’t have to. On a day nobody will punish you if you overslept which is to say this second point doesn’t apply if you work on Saturdays or observe your Sabbath day on Saturday. Especially if you observe your Sabbath on Saturday because then you should wake up even earlier. Only you can drive your success. My final point. Most people will sleep longer on Saturdays. Success happens when other people are sleeping. You are unlikely to derive success from inventing something the world has never seen. Your most probable route to success will be through taking up opportunities that other people don’t, or are too lazy or scared to take, or ‘sleep through’.
Value of A Book
If you haven’t read a good book yet it’s because you haven’t retired your hatred for your literature teacher yet or your Facebook timeline is full of long tales from daily mirror, kahawatungu and ghafla, or it could be because the right font on well blended words and punctuation with a small dash of imagery has not delivered as great a Tom Junod serving as ‘Taylor (Swift) is the J.K. Rowling of pop music, singing songs for 13-year-olds that are also irresistible to their mothers, Beyoncé the Oprah or the Whitney Houston who instead of marrying Bobby Brown married President Obama.’
A book is so premium, God chose it to deliver his message of redemption to the world. Ama you think he could not put it in a DVD if He wanted to? You can’t argue with God, man.
Read. Read the Bible. Read Malcolm Gladwell. Read Daniel Kahneman. Read Nassim NicholasTaleb and Toni Morison and Maya Angelou and John Grisham and Tom Junod and Chris Jones. Read Chimamanda Adichie and Jim Collins and Onyango Obbo and David Ndii and Jackson Biko and Yvonne Owuor. Read for knowledge, read to be transported to other places and times, read to laugh, read to explore but most importantly read because a book crams a lifetime of knowledge and experiences into just a few pages.
Get Out of Your Own Way
When you set out one day to do phenomenal things and things are not quite playing out according to plan, stand in front of the mirror and chances are the problem will be right in front of you. Check yourself man. Check your prejudices. Check your attitude. Check your reactions to situations. Something as simple as an unreachable phone can keep your dreams out of reach. Do not let something you can do or undo keep you away from your dreams. I think the younger people would tell you, ‘Keep it 100!’ Then let the world deal you its cards.
Don’t Say Everything That Crosses Your Mind
You’re a married man? You’re welcome.
Never Ruin A Happy Moment
A junior accountant has royally screwed up the financials that form part of your end of year performance presentation to the board. The directors have chewed your head off. The former PS, a certified accountant, whom your board tapped only recently to add depth, and whom you were particularly hoping to impress, has questioned your level of seriousness. You feel like your job is slipping away. You come back to the office foaming at the edges of the mouth and just as you are about to scream, ‘Joshua, my office now!’ you notice everyone is gathered at the water dispenser. ‘What’s going on?’ you ask no one in particular. It’s Joshua. He has just passed his section six exams, CPA. Guys are celebrating him. Don’t ruin that moment. Don’t say something like, ‘Joshua, is this true? Have you passed your section six exams? Yes? KASNEB has lied to you young man.’ People hate that. People never forgive guys who ruin happy moments. Always join in the happy moment. War can always wait.
Write it down
As surely as the sun rises, you will forget it if you don’t write it down. Write it down.
You Can Both Be Right and End Up With Different Results
It’s the way the world works. Just because we adopted your idea and achieved the set objective does not mean that the path we didn’t take would not have given the desired results. Or just because a competing idea failed doesn’t mean your rejected one would have worked. It’s not that simple.
The Person of Many Sins Loves Much More
There’s a verse that captures this aptly. Luke 7:47. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.
That is Jesus Christ speaking by the way.
Happy New Year!