Things are vanity, Learn to give: Dr Stanley Kamau, CEO of Ahadi Kenya Trust
Our organisation has helped close to two million jigger-infested people get their lives back. You cannot get poor because of giving and you cannot lose your focus because of giving. I probably would never have gone to school or made it in life if it was not for the community helping me when I was growing up.
So I have learnt that it is important to always look back and see what the community has done for you so that you can also be able to give back and bring other people to where you are, because in the next few years who knows? Maybe I will be the one who will be looking for help in old age and will probably be looking for people who support the elderly.
So it is important to always look back at where you are from. Maybe my purpose is to give back to the community. All other things are luxuries – they are vanity. There is nothing much you can do with a lot of money. What you need to do is what you will be remembered for.
Be made of rubber: Dan Aceda, founder and CEO of SemaBox
I started out singing, then became a producer. Then the pandemic came around and I had to close the studio. After a while, I started getting calls from people who wanted to do podcasts, so together with Baraza Media Lab set up a temporary studio; we would set up in the morning and pull down at 2pm. The first podcast was in September 2020. Today, SemaBOX has produced over 700 podcasts.
I think I have had many transitions in my life where I have had to leave things. My philosophy is that in the end, you will win, and if you are not winning, it is not the end. I think you have to be made of rubber – no matter how hard you fall, you have to be able to bounce back.
It is so important because many things can happen to you in life that you never even imagined could happen. It is so important to stay focused and stay positive. You could be struggling, and then the other side happens almost instantly.
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Listen to your child: Mwende Mwinzi, Kenya’s ambassador to the Republic of Korea
One of my most memorable moments is from an early age; I was actually in nursery school in Mombasa. Something happened and my hair was cut. I think there was a lice outbreak or something.
Everyone made fun of me. I was devastated. My father came to the school and I told him about it. He put me in the car and took me home and I never went back to that school. The lesson to me, especially as a mother, is that it is those little moments in your child’s vulnerability that you need to rise to the occasion.
When your child comes and says, “I need to talk to you,” listen. Take the time. Have your inner ear open because it is those moments when the child feels abandoned, in what you may see as an insignificant thing, that they remember and it shapes their outlook. How you approach things.
If you shut them out or do not respond, they might resist coming to you with their problems and they might take their problems elsewhere where they might be victimised. So always have time to listen to your children and be sensitive to their feelings and respond to them.
Most of the things you fear most likely won’t happen: Ezra Chiloba, Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya
My most prized possession is a mat that I got from Botswana in my younger days. In the early days of my career, I was more focused on environmental issues and human rights. The NGO I was working with took us on a couple of trips meant to transform the way we thought and viewed the world, so this time, we were in Botswana. The year was 2005.
Thirty of us had to spend the night out in the open, in a gorge similar to Hell’s Gate in the middle of nowhere, with a mat and a blanket as their bedding with no supper, 100 metres away from the next person. It was a place where people went to sacrifice animals, and hunt; there were wild animals, particularly buffaloes, elephants and wild cows.
Colin, the person who was speaking, said, “Once in a while, you might come across a snake. But you are going to be on your own until we meet tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock.”
So we were scattered, and the only advice they gave us was, “If you hear something strange, if you feel like a dangerous animal is coming your way, do not move. Stay put and do not move.” It was the longest night of my life!
I do not know whether I was dreaming or whether those animals came, but every time I closed my eyes I could hear them. For 12 hours, until 8 o’clock the following morning. And the sun rose, and we were still there.
Each one of us was told to carry their mat and blanket back home to their home country, as a reminder. Nothing had happened to us, we had survived, alone. So the mat became a symbol of victory for me. Confronting your fears and all the things that we went through in that particular space.
You learn that you can go through almost any experience and still come out victorious. And a lot of the things that we fear are not necessarily true. Or the things that we fear will happen most likely won’t happen. So confront your fears and live your life.
Life is difficult, but it goes on: David Gatende, Non-Executive Director, Davis & Shirtliff
One thing I know for sure about life is that it is difficult. We live in a fallen world, so just getting ahead is never going to be easy. And people get so frustrated because they plan that “When I am 25 I will have done this, when I am 35, 40, 50, 60,” and so on, but life is never a straight line. It is zig zag, and you will have setbacks. You make two steps forward, then three steps back - sometimes it is five steps forward and no steps back. That is how life is.
But the second thing I have learnt in life is that it goes on. After me, will be others who will take the mantle from me and progress things? So our responsibility, really, is for our generation. What difference did we make while we had the energy, while we had the resources we had? If we have given a good account of ourselves, then we can be proud.
You win some, you lose some: Juliet Nyaga, CEO, Karen Hospital
My mother’s favourite line, which she even taught my son was, “You win some, you lose some.” So the idea of winning everything was never there. You were never supposed to be the best in every subject in school, you were never supposed to be the best in every sport, and you were never supposed to be the best in every extra-curricular activity. You have your strengths and your weaknesses and you must accept that.
That mentality helped me get through my struggle to have a second child. My first pregnancy at 23 had been a breeze, a textbook example of how pregnancy and birth should be. So when I got married at the age of 33, I was like, “Yay, it is time to have more babies! And it is going to work like clockwork just like the last time!”
It did not. So from 33 to 39 was that challenge, that journey of not having the baby by either not conceiving or not getting past the first trimester. I did trials of IVF (in vitro fertilisation), which ended in disappointment.
In that mental capacity of saying: You win some, you lose some, I was able to say, “Get back up Juliet. It did not work out this time. Brush yourself off, let us try it again! Let us try and keep trying.”
Eventually, we settled on surrogacy. Everybody’s journey is different. And if you can accept that your journey is going to be different instead of being ashamed of it or embarrassed, you will live a happier life. Do not carry other people’s burdens on your shoulders. Just carry your own, with a sense of dignity.
I said, “Okay, it is not going to happen, I am not going to carry this second child, it has to be through a surrogate.” And that is the route I took, and I am very happy! He is going to be seven. I cannot believe it! It has been a wonderful journey.
Don’t let anyone’s perception of who you are become your reality: Emily Korir, CEO, BET Global
At 38, a year and a half after my stroke, a friend was hosting a luncheon for some ladies. She invited another friend of ours who was very supportive of me but asked this friend not to bring me along because at that time I was still drooling, being paralysed on my right side, and she felt that it would be unpleasant to have that happening at her table.
My friend was really hurt and she told me what had been said. I was hurt too and I cried for a long time. I ended up talking to my mum and my grandmother. Both of them in their own ways told me “You cannot let anybody else’s perception of you become your reality,” and I knew then that only I can decide who my friends are and what I can do. I cannot let anybody else’s perception of me become my reality.
Never feel sorry for yourself: Pravir Vohra – Director, Sarova Group of Hotels, Resorts and Game Lodges
I have been through a lot of personal tragedies, but there were a couple of interesting lessons from my father. One of them was to always be truthful to yourself and never feel sorry for yourself. Just because you had a bad day or something bad happened to you, never feel self-pity. Self-pity is the worst thing you can ever feel. That is not the mentality of a winner.
The lesson has come in handy whenever I am feeling, “Ugh, life is hard,” something tragic has happened or somebody has lost someone. I have broken many bones and I would always remember my father’s words: Never feel self-pity. If you carry out life and you are feeling sorry for yourself then you are never going to achieve what you want to achieve. Because there will always be something that you can blame.