Want to be Like Mwangi?

Everybody wants to be somebody. I am sure everyone has at some point imagined themselves on a deathbed and the thought of feeling regretful always sucks just as bad each time. Perhaps this and the other motivations (think joblessness) have led you into thinking you will do fine running a business.

Yet, you don’t want just any business. You want one that will touch lives and be as big as big things get. Nobody has time for the small, ordinary and unexceptional things, right? And so you take out the red pen and crs out all the poultry business, rental apartments, maize supply and all other pedestrian business ideas that have sunk people’s money each time (don’t get me wrong, I suffer the misfortune of meeting only poultry farmers who have made massive losses from disease outbreaks except of course the ones I see on TV).

The trouble with scrapping out pedestrian ideas is that you’re now left with uncertainties. The risks are huge and almost nothing is guaranteed. Everyone you know can’t relate to your challenges because they are buying chicken feeds or trying out water melon farming.

Sometimes, your peers win you over. You can no longer handle the ridicules and if anything, you can’t even defend your ideas well enough because of ignorance. You have tried to read up all the magazines and articles you can find but you don’t just feel comfortable enough to proceed. Sometimes you’re right – only a fool invests their money in something they don’t know.

But there are some people who have dared to gamble too much. They have tried (forgive my understatement) to execute an idea, pursued relentlessly what everyone least understood, made enough mistakes to master the ropes and have gone on to invent industries.

The above people are called entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are all about risk. People who are comfortable leaving their comfort zones, people who dare to risk it all for something they don’t quite understand too well – zero guarantees. Entrepreneurs want a change, they can smell an opportunity in a change.

This is different from the me-too poultry farmers that feel like they can make just as much money as the fictitious Mwangi they read on a newspaper. It’s not, and I repeat, it’s not like joining your fellow mamas in retailing sukuma wiki. It’s not buying an overpriced plot in a remote place that nobody cares (if Somalis steal it, nobody would know).

Have an entrepreneurial weekend.

Something Great About You

An average human being today is good at something. They could be having some good dancing skills, can talk so well or can even swing on trees better than monkeys. Yet,  with all this mix of abilities in our societies, only a few people are widely acknowledged to have been great while they lived. That’s to say, most of the people you see today are average – good in this and that and not just great.

There is always one thing that you can be amazing at. I’m imagining the sewing skills if mother Teresa and the cricket abilities of Mahatma Gandhi and I bet there is really nothing to put in a book there. Yet these great personalities had something about them that immortalised their names for centuries.

So then, what can we learn about this matter (by that I mean how much have I learned from my books and movie binges)? Greatness results from focus. It’s about losing your attention on several things and investing it in one of your greatest strengths or what I will call the “the thing”. I prefer to use the word focus here.

Think about that successful business person that came from the cents that poverty is about to billions of dollars in assets. Rarely do you find them excelling as ladies men or as athletes as well. Most of them are divorcees that are not so good at many other things. Yet, they’ll be lost without their businesses. They have made their lives all about their brands that they have had to sacrifice some parts of their lives.

You’re therfore not going to be great if you want everything like every average person. You must make a choice to pursue “the thing” regardless of the cost to self. The cost might be that pretty girlfriend that steals your mind when you need it the most or the very job that helps you pay the bills.

That’s why “the thing” must be something you really love. You can’t make all the heavy sacrifices unless it’s for something you enjoy. The thing must be a combination of fun, meaning and ultimately,  service to humanity. This is something you can do for free.

Lastly,  most people die without finding the thing. These people are commonly  known as average people which is what describes the man on your church benches or the guy at the park. To have and discover the thing is perhaps one of God’s best gifts to a human being. If you haven’t found it, keep pushing yourself and you will soon find something truly great about you. But first, learn to let go of things you’re merely a spectator about.

Making Deals for Food

I have had a very notable struggle with hunger throughout my life. From my early days growing up to this day, hunger is never too far away. When I was a little boy schooling in a primary school fairly far from home, school work wasn’t as much a challenge as hunger was.  I remember having to walk home after school  (mtu akiniomba fare nitamlaani) begging God for help. My prayers were often simple and so were my expectations. I was simply asking for ready food at home and no stories after that. You know those times you get home and have to do some work before you eat? That was the satanic future I prayed against. 

I grew up to join high school and I don’t remember being served enough food at the dining hall at all. There was always too little food that was also very bad. The only times I had a great meal over there was when I bought a full bread and threw a one-man party for myself (quite a grandiloquent description of a small boy engulfing bread in less than a minute).

I also had to, on many occasions, change cloths after a disappointing  meal and hide in the queues for a second serving at their dining hall. This was never easy, the risk of embarrassment was very high – God knows why I cared about the little boys  whereas I was just trying to survive anyway.

I got to campus and things hit a new low. Starvation was always a reality waiting to happen especially after all the money goes to fun. The food I could afford, which was the little servings at the campus mess (great name by way), just never helped me for a moment. I was hungry in campus to say the very least.

After I was done with the mess situation, I swiftly graduated to having to deal with mama nitilie and those vibanda people. Those people have no intention of getting you food – their only motive is money (sobs). Let’s start with some of the research I did for this article: according to article 2a of the bill of rights, it’s OK to commit suicide if you eat your food on a plastic cancer plate by the way.  Alternatively, maybe you should consider learning some cooking.

Speaking of cooking, I’m  not this person you can accuse of being too gifted at the art but I make quite a terrific critic. That, including the fact that I don’t like foodies that much, explains why no one has yet to commit themselves to cooking for a wiseguy like yours truly. That leaves me with the sole option of trying to make things work out with every other food seller within my reach. I don’t know, maybe some people are good omena spinners and others prefer bargaining for cooked food. Maybe I’m good at making deals: like Donald Trump.

My Previous Employer

The word mercy means many things to most people. However,  I prefer to remember the word in light of one Mercy that I knew back in college. She was an aptly named person,  a cheerful and supportive young lady with a giant heart. She was an embodiment of a common church phrase “cheerful giver” with a natural and genuine liking for people .

No one misses such characters in this economy, especially when you’re a very broke University student. From a few casual greetings,  we moved quickly from acquaintances to friends,  and after a few great conversations, she asked me to tutor her in English grammar. She was then an undergraduate student studying English and literature and she must have made the assumption that I was studying the same given my then obvious superior mastery of the language. I’m not exactly a liar but I agreed to sessions (especially now that she was paying) without letting out the inconvenient truth that I was only an enthusiastic user of the language and not particularly a student of the same.

Following our small agreement,  we started meeting under a dimly lit area where I shared a few tips on English grammar like an amateur would. Our sessions were full of fun and games because they resembled ordinary friendly conversations with minimal formalities. Perhaps the ease with which we took what would have been tense learning sessions is what led us to finally becoming an item – a few weeks into my then very fulfilling job. I confessed to her that my lessons were actually mere remains of what I had learned in high school thinking she will start hitting and screaming. True to her name and character,  she responded with gratitude mixed with understanding. This same incredible treatment was to go on for over a year.

I can’t exactly count the number of times she came through for me in bleak times. I can only recall that she was more than a friend, a girlfriend and God knows, she took care of me like she owed me something. She is one of those people that could tolerate lots of crap from one person – and still smile while at it. Unfortunately, life got between us and we lost contact. I’m sure she is a blessing wherever she is.

Was it a Terrorist Attack?

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal”. This definition is largely borrowed from the origin of the word and is fairly accurate. The term “terrorism” comes from French terrorisme, from Latin: ‘terror’, “great fear”, “dread”, related to the Latin verb terrere , “to frighten”. The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105 BCE.

This brings me to my point, isn’t our CS for internal security giving too much credence to Al Shabaab by referring to their attack on our soldiers as terrorism? To do so is to imply that our adversaries in “just war” that we declared are capable of instilling fear in our soldiers through an attack during the proceedings of such a war! This is both disrespectful to our soldiers and loose usage of a word that has been defined in our laws. Yet, he is hardly the only one.

Bruce Hoffman noted: “terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore. (…) Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization ‘terrorists becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending largely on whether one sympathizes with or opposes the person/group/cause concerned.

Every Kenyan should and probably regards Al Shabaab as a terrorist outfit, and rightly so, having been affected by the many cowardly, unquestionably in this case, terrorist acts on civilians. Their actions, which targeted innocent unarmed people, were by any definition, acts of terror causing fear among civilians (for some funny course I don’t understand). However, the same cannot be said of our soldiers without hurting our national pride. Our soldiers can get hit at war but fear is never a part of it and can therefore not be terrorized. The recent attack is therefore, arguably, not a terrorist attack.

Having said that, I don’t in any way mean that posting pictures and publicizing such images that hurt our national pride or the families of our soldiers that have been hit in war is anything other than stupid, unpatriotic and insensitive – it is probably just not illegal.

Let’s Pray for a Bungalow

Every one aspires to own some real estate in Kenya.  Some trouble makers may want to know who said so; well now you’re hearing it from me (tweet please). We are such that if you keep acting busy all the time with some sort of job, the only success we want to see is a kaplot either developed or not.

The irony is that some people have built hundreds of flats, bungalows, townhouses, bungalows, castles and other types of houses while others struggle to pay rent for a multi-functional 10 feet by 10 feet single room. I was thinking it would just be easy if banks gave out loans to these poor chaps and have them build a decent place for the many kids they tend to have.

However, and very unfortunately, lending money to the poor folks contravenes the Kenyan Banking Act number one of firsts section 101 – only lend money to people who don’t need it at all. People who need money tend to not to pay it back. This is not necessarily due to inability but because they needed it in the first place – who wants to give away something they need? I think Imperial bank must have broken this rule when they fell for a butchery owner’s tale and did an unthinkable 10billion loan for him – Keroche Industries could only qualify for half of that from a different bank according to recent reports.  It’s not really clear what the lucky butcher must have said but the rest of the bankers took a longer look at imperial bank after the unusual gesture and closed them down.

That explains why an ordinary person isn’t doing very well in the real estate realm. Landing the kind of money that buys land and builds a nice house remains a dream to many. In fact, for some, it has been on the list of New Year resolutions for too long that it has understandably been scrapped for the last few years.  It is now a matter of luck, winning some lottery some day. Even that has a complication – the winnings these days are too little to cover land expenses and the family and friends excitement that come with them.

SACCOs are making a killing promising people easy huge loans. But even for those, they are pegged on one’s income and savings, a factor that is not going so well for random folks.  Yet people are building all over. Nice houses left and centre. You pass them each day, praying, fasting (sometimes not so willingly) and hoping that someday, in an inexplicable way, you will be the proud owner of a bungalow or whatever those  big houses are called. You will be a proud resident of a place that’s arguably not a slum.  My prayers are with you.

My date with the interviewer

There is quite some scarcity in employment right now. There are just too many people who are either unemployed or underemployed and hence the ballooning army of jobseekers. People are starving out there. Frames are getting smaller and sending flash back texts is becoming too much of an only use some phones might be having.

The most telling indicator of just how bad this situation of landing a decent gig is the many applications are sent in when a single job is advertised.  A friend of mine once asked me to apply for a job. Hoping that the guy had the connections to get me, i did a good job in submitting a good cover letter and cv. A few weeks later I call him up to inquire and he lets me know that he is not in charge then he tells me the very thing I knew, the company had received over a thousand applications for just that single position. As you can imagine I had to forget about the whole issue altogether.

A few weeks later, I got the call and you wouldn’t imagine my surprise, I had just won the interview to heaven, or so i thought. It was when I arrived at the interview venue that i realized there was nothing special about me. There were about ten men in their forties waiting nervously for questions about whether they liked watermelons or preferred porridge instead. I also got to learn that the position was far much smaller than I thought it would be and was only six months long.

This was me thinking but you should have seen my colleagues! They looked literally hungry in ill-fitting suits and their faces showed misery.  Ok for now I will sincerely advise everyone who can’t really afford a proper suit to avoid those things – they give away a broke man too easily.  But i digress.

At first i didn’t think i stood a chance against people who have more than three times my experience but something told me this folks might not be a threat.  This gave me the confidence to go through the whole thing and return to my life. Well that was the best I was going to get anyway – those guys looked to serious about getting the job; I could hear a few continuous prayer recitations from each.

Well, the day passed, I had lunch and the call regretting that I was the best…but we won’t hire you came and that was it. I didn’t get the job but I learned something, life is hard. People are going through stuff out there trying to make ends meet. The fact that someone can summon ten fully grown men to a job interview says a lot about how people are starting to take job seekers for granted. The interviews have become a place where some people travel and spend all day in small time discussions about petty things that wouldn’t mean anything in the real world. This situation has made people even more and more frustrated at joining the rest of the economy in going to work with suits and owning stuff.

My suggestion is someone or people need to seek and support entrepreneurship or some other solution that reduces this dependency on employment.

Surviving the Job Market

The Abraham

I remember in 2008, Obama was my greatest inspiration. His speeches seemed to open doors for me, they had a bigger effect on me than a huge part of the then American audience I suppose. The same feeling was hardly anyway near me this 2015 on his much publicized visit to his fatherland I happen to live. I probably found out over time that speeches and a great feeling can’t change anything. The reality is the sad and difficult toil i have to put up with to experience any worthwhile good.  In fact, I now prefer the much blunt Donald Trump.

A lot happens after every step beyond the hype. This is what goes on when you finish college and get stuck in being a perpetual unpaid intern. Even after you finally get someone willing to pay something for your services, they just feel don’t ashamed offering 10,000 shillings to starve with every month…

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Surviving the Job Market

I remember in 2008, Obama was my greatest inspiration. His speeches seemed to open doors for me, they had a bigger effect on me than a huge part of the then American audience I suppose. The same feeling was hardly anyway near me this 2015 on his much publicized visit to his fatherland I happen to live. I probably found out over time that speeches and a great feeling can’t change anything. The reality is the sad and difficult toil i have to put up with to experience any worthwhile good.  In fact, I now prefer the much blunt Donald Trump.

A lot happens after every step beyond the hype. This is what goes on when you finish college and get stuck in being a perpetual unpaid intern. Even after you finally get someone willing to pay something for your services, they just feel don’t ashamed offering 10,000 shillings to starve with every month. Yes, Mr politician, life is that hard, Instagram photos notwithstanding.
As a person with first hand experience, I can with with lots of authority, give some advise regarding this pitiable situations you might be finding yourself in.

Firstly, I want to start by saying, the economy is f’ed up and nothing other than sweat and brains can get you through. Nothing is actually easy for the majority sons and sons of peasants. So please know yourself and know that – your problems are from the village you come from and shaking them off isn’t easy.

Having known that, stop living like you are not. You might want to cut down on the expensive Tuskers (yes there is such a thing puppy), the expensive girlfriend, and the multi-bedroomed house (when you have been sharing a room with ten siblings all your life). Please don’t get comfortable with money. It’s what you don’t have. If anything, you have to cut costs to get anywhere with your peanuts. In case you have a problem, just remember that your dad had a decent salary but still blew it on alcohol and other poverty seeking habits.

Whatever you do, make sure you put away something for the rainy days and something worth mentioning in a drinking party back home (I’m not talking about the oversize suits I see in church though).

This discomfort will also put you in a good position to keep your job seeking business up despite the futility it keeps showing itself to be. I can’t emphasize this well enough, finding a good job is very difficult, but keep trying while getting very good at your shitty one. It is never easy.

Lastly but very importantly, please have fun. Nothing is as wrong as being a sulky underpaid person. Look at the carwashers, the bodabodas and the mjengo people. They have fun at their jobs and everything, what are you sad for? You have things that happy people don’t have. So thank God and make merry, of course without blowing away any hopes of advancing financially. Don’t also forget that only prayer will push you, pray and be very thankful while at it.