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Motivator with a difference

PEPE MINAMBO is a motivational speaker and author who desires to inspire people to success. He spoke to PETER MUIRURI

Pepe Minambo terms his life course as a simple story of an ordinary man with extraordinary determination.

It’s the tale of one who grew up in a simple background surrounded by social disadvantages despite being born in the Democratic Republic of Congo — a country endowed with natural riches of immense proportions.

Yet, when I meet Pepe at a Nairobi hotel, he is anything but simple and ordinary. The 37-year-old is a seasoned motivational speaker as well as the founding director of The Motivator Forum, an inspirational capacity building organisation.

In his 15 years of residency in Kenya, Pepe has toured the breadth and length of the country, speaking to managers and employees of many a blue chip company and students in learning institutions.

PEPE MINAMBO

In 2010 alone, he made over 100 visits to various schools in Kenya, speaking to more than 78,000 students. Last year, he made 78 such visits while his diary for this year is filling by the day.

However, life for Pepe has been one hard and treacherous struggle that began in Mbandaka, a settlement lying along the mighty Congo River. His polygamous father was a successful civil servant who secured rewarding jobs in the rich minefields of the DRC in addition to a rewarding career in the country’s judiciary. However, his 15 children had little to show for all his deep pockets.

Absent father

"He wasted all his hard earned cash on his many concubines. He was always absent from family functions including schools visits. I hardly miss him and I’m yet to visit his grave," says Pepe.

Such deprivations almost made him and his siblings sink into a social quagmire. He vividly recalls an incident in his home area in which a relative of the then President Mobutu Seseseko laid out a lavish party at a hotel inviting the entire neighbourhood. Sadly, Pepe, then a ten-year-old lad, was turned away for showing up in shorts, which was against the hotel policy. He did not own a pair of trousers.

Years later in 2008, Pepe was to meet up with yet another tragedy, this time of his own making. He had travelled back to his home country hoping to cash in on the famed gold and diamond business. With the escalating global recession, the timing was bad and Pepe ended up losing his entire investment running into millions, some of it borrowed.

Writing about the bitter experience later, Pepe said: "Contrary to the Midas touch theory, mine was the opposite story — every gold I touched turned into charcoal. I felt suicidal most of the times."

But such incidents only encouraged him to dream on and never give up on himself.

His break came in 2003 while he was serving as a missionary with the Vineyard Group of Churches in Mombasa. Dr Ken Blue, a motivational speaker with San Diego Consulting Group in the US, visited the church in Mombasa for a seminar with the local business community. Pepe was the coordinator and MC.

Ken was amazed by Pepe’s prowess in capturing the attention of all in attendance.

"You can add value to your substance by becoming a motivational speaker," said Ken. Then he added a rider: "You can actually do this better than me."

Though Ken and his friends saw great potential in Pepe, he initially brushed off the idea. He did not think he had what it took to motivate people through speech.

Just before he left, Ken handed Pepe a hundred dollar note with instructions to print out business cards as soon as possible. Ken also promised to help him set up a website.

"Can you believe it that when Ken called me several days later, the dollar bill was still warming my pocket? He was a bit disappointed and that was when I decided to get serious," recalls Pepe.

With the cards printed and a website set up, Pepe, with the help of other close friends, was up and running, introducing himself to companies and organisations –– the beginning of a career that has not only revolutionalised his life but those of many others.

Today, Pepe is not just a motivational speaker but also an author with several titles to his name. Among these are: Be Inspired Before You Expire; You Can Dream Again; How to Inspire Students for Remarkable Performance and The Greatness Syndrome.

In Be Inspired Before You Expire, Pepe decries the influence of what he refers to as an expired person. Like out of date medicine, such a person has the ability to contaminate minds with their negative thinking.

Average mentality

Such people see difficulties in every undertaking, giving "thousands of excuses as to why a task cannot succeed."

"How then can one avoid becoming such a person?" I ask him.

"One should always avoid the average person mentality. An average person has an average brain that only absorbs some average information in school leading to average grades. Such a person will live an average life and die an average death with average mourners in attendance raising average shillings to cover funeral expenses," says Pepe.

To succeed in life, Pepe encourages a reading culture that lacks in many African societies.

"Rarely do people just read books to increase their knowledge and scale new heights of intellectual understanding How will Kenya attain its Vision 2030 without a reading population? Vision 2030 may remain just that — a vision," says Pepe.

He, however, has great admiration for Kenyans who he terms as optimistic, hardworking people who are fond of visitors.

"Many do not believe me when I say that I did not know a word of English when I came here. Kenyans, however, encouraged me to try and read the Bible in English, which I did. Unlike French-speaking individuals, Kenyans do not make fun of you when you make mistakes in grammar," says Pepe.

Kenyans, he says, work better when given a good lead in any endeavour.

His work, though, is not without challenges, the topmost being coming up with new and interesting material.

"This requires a lot of reading as I must be relevant to the different groups I address in any single day," says he.

Pepe wants to preach water and drink the same. Just as he inspires others, he also aspires to maximise his potential by becoming the best speaker who will still be relevant 70 years from now.

Nothing gratifies him more than getting positive feedback from those who have turned their lives around after listening to him, some of whose experiences are documented in his writings.

Pepe concludes the interview with his favourite quote: "Either live a cerebrated life or a tolerated life. The choice is yours."