FROM A CONVERSATION MADE PUBLIC AT MONOT, IN BUGOLOBI, AT THE JULY #ExpertTalksUg event:
A few years ago I noticed that some young people kept telling me that I was “lucky” or had been “lucky” to have a job or whatever they perceived to be ‘okay’ aka ‘doing well’ (never wealthy or rich or successful).
The idea irritates me especially with the realisation that some people out there are relying on this so-called luck for their success at God-knows-what.
Well, it’s not all luck.
Of course, there is some luck involved in getting to where one gets to – whether successful, rich or even just happy. Even lottery winners have to spend a little bit of money buying the damn ticket, so there is some work that goes into winning.
In my case, I know there is some luck involved in getting me to where I am – I am lucky that my parents met each other at the time they did, and were people who had been raised the way they were raised, therefore passing their values on to me. I am lucky they felt strongly enough about education to send me to school and see me through academics in a manner that made me learn (don’t ask how much attention I actually paid in school or what marks I achieved – that’s besides the point).
I am also keenly aware that there is luck involved in keeping me alive till now; I recalled recently how close I came to death a couple of times. Once, I tried to short-cut a sigiri lighting process by introducing petrol into the equation, and only stopped myself short because of a little voice in my head that insisted that there would be a lot of pain involved if I tried it. Another time I had a bag of bullets and was just about to throw them into a small fire to impress my friends, and again I just didn’t do it.
That is luck playing its part.
But it’s not all luck.
It’s mostly hard work; and I speak for many, not just myself.
Some people use the adage ‘Don’t Work Hard, Work Smart’ and I have always thought that to be bollocks.
We have to work hard, even when you are working smart!
I have worked hard in various ways:
- I work hard studying – not at academics in school, but studying everything that I come across in life. Some people tell me that I over-analyse certain things, but that is part of studying. The real reason we go to school is to learn basic principles that we can apply to life in order to do things better and, possibly, improve them. Studying the simplest of things is both smart and hard, because you apply thought to what you are doing
- I work hard preparing – for almost bloody everything, to the point of sometimes being irritatingly non-spontaneous even for fun stuff. Preparation is not easy at all, but it is essential to getting anything done right. There are phone calls I won’t make unless I’ve written down what I am planning to say, and what I intend to achieve with the phone call. I cannot take a meeting unless I have an Agenda in mind, and meeting notes in advance of the meeting.
- I work hard at reading – because I am a writer, and I also love reading. These days it is even harder to read because of the distractions we have around us – especially technology and the internet and the ubiquity of ‘friends’ and contacts who can reach you at the drop of a text message and demand that you respond simply because of those two blue ticks that tell them you have read what they wrote, uninvited. To hell with all that – I work hard to put the phone down and pick up a book, so that I improve my mind and cram it with more valuable texts by people who have applied some intelligence and thought into writing words in long form.
- I work hard practising – the adage ‘Practise makes Perfect’ makes absolute sense. The more you do something, the better you are bound to perform at it; so I practise as much as possible, and I make time to practise. Which is why I write every single day, even if just to practise putting words down onto paper (or into the computer/tablet/phone).
- I work hard training – which is different from studying and practising. Training is approaching something one hasn’t done before and learning it quite deliberately, I think (google it, someone, and make a polite comment about my ignorance if you dare). I like to train myself in things that I possibly won’t make use of in my regular life but that could come in handy somewhere some day, like when the world implodes and only those who know how to forage will survive. I will survive.
- I work hard paying attention to detail – because too few people actually do that these days, in both the small and the big things. In my regular line of business it is the one essential quality that I bring to the table that makes the difference between a misconstrued public statement and a lucid explanation of an issue of concern to my client and the target audience they wish to address. I know for a fact that I honed my editing skills this way, and started out as a child reading EVERYTHING that came my way and noticing whenever there were errors, and the habit runs on as you may notice if you have sent me a text message, email or letter without double-checking it…twice.
And, believe me, I have worked really hard all my life. While preparing for my #ExpertTalksUG segment, I wrote down the different jobs I recall having done for money:
True stories, all of them.
None of them made me rich AT ALL but each of those pieces of work was useful in teaching me something or the other that I have used in the next venture and in life, generally. Did I mention writing, by the way? That’s what I basically do even though it doesn’t pay me enough…yet.
One day, though, it will be my main source of income and I will be ready to die happy (don’t tell the kids).
The growing and selling of tomatoes taught me many things – I started out on the project because it promised me access to a pick-up truck during my senior six vacation, which I would probably use to impress girls after I had dropped off workers, tools and produce. I ended up selling the tomatoes off the back of the pick-up, at the old taxi park, because the two people my father had signed a contract with to supply tomatoes to their ketchup factory had died in an accident on Entebbe Road a week before our (bumper) crop was ready for sale.
Each of those jobs came with one story or another, so stand by for the book and save up so you can buy copies for your children.
It’s not all luck and it’s not all hard work either; I find consistency to be essential.
Did I mention writing, by the way?
I am looking forward to the day I can introduce myself as “Simon Kaheru, Writer”.
I have the business card (we’ll be calling them calling cards by then, no pun) in my mind.
Being consistent makes life easier and gets you closer to the point you want to arrive at – whether it’s wealth, happiness or even a physical point. If you’ve gone out jogging on one of those days you really don’t feel like it, you know that the formula is to simply keep putting one foot ahead of the other and head off in one direction non-stop, no breaks, no distractions. The moment you slow down to walk is the beginning of you turning back.
Be consistent and the rest shall be added unto you, the good article says, here at this point (four words ago).
Consistency speaks for itself, especially in my field – reputation (good or bad) is built on consistency. Perfection is built on consistency. Trust is built on consistency. Clients are lost if you are not consistent. Referrals are made if you are consistent. Relationships are broken if you are not consistent.
But getting to where one wants to be is not always about you and what you do – there are always other factors that act upon you in various ways, mostly those that knock you down. And it doesn’t matter who you are, you get knocked down one day. Either by losing a support or anchor (like a parent), or getting fired, or being dropped by a crucial client, or even just falling sick and losing time.
You get knocked down.
No amount of luck and hard work on its own will come to your aid at that point; you need to find ways of getting back up. You can’t KNOW, automatically, how to get back up; but you have to do so. Confusingly, THAT getting-back-up-when-life-has-knocked-you-down, on its own, involves hard work and all that other stuff.
But it’s a quality of its own that you have to develop. I only know how to do it for the things life has hit me with so far, and I sometimes worry about the time life gets a really strong punch in, since I suspect that it’s doing some training of its own in preparation to enter the ring again with me. When it does, I will go down but I’ve got to get back up again for the next round.
That getting-back-up-when-life-has-knocked-you-down is easier if you have an actor or grounding or a root; even from the physical point of view the logic is that you will not disintegrate fully if you’re well rooted when you get knocked down (don’t over-analyse this, please?).
My own anchors/groundings/roots are: 1. My family 2. God 3. My passions (Reading and Writing) 4. The keenness to overcome what I fear 5. Avoiding what I don’t like.
And it’s easier to get back up because I focus a lot on what I DO like. On those mornings that I don’t want to get up and go, I ensure that the first task I take up is related to reading and writing, rather than doing accounts, for instance.
It’s not all luck.
Even though I am lucky that the mantras and slogans I have been exposed to and stuck with have been useful in keeping me hard at work. Our parents told us consistently as children to “Use your imagination!” and to this day, that’s my secret weapon to problem solving (aka work); our family slogan is “Be Serious” (nothing more needed there); and my personal goal of being happy is met every single day because I work hard at it, consistently.
I don’t rely on luck.
Because it’s not all luck.