20-20 Vision

You are not what you think you are.What you think,you are.

Lessons From The Years. — November 25, 2016

Lessons From The Years.

In a little over a month, I will be 32 years old. I don’t fuss about my age as much as I used to in the recent years. Maybe it is the realization that life ought to be lived one day at a time and that even though I can learn from others – I don’t have to live in competition with the experiences of others.

I have learned some very valuable lessons in my not-at-all-illustrious almost 32 years – especially in the last decade; the decade in which I transitioned from the university into the work world.

1. Have A Vision
This to a greater extent is shaped by your belief system – which of course varies from person to person. Where there is no vision or definite goals of what you want to achieve in life – your time and talents will go to waste and making key decisions will be so much harder. I went the way of entrepreneurship and whereas I may not be anywhere near my set targets, the journey so far has shaped me as a person in more ways than I can count. Ultimately it is who you become, not what you achieve where the greatest fulfillment is.

2. Love Learning
Yes, develop a love for learning. Read, listen, watch and learn. We can learn from everyone – rich or poor, educated or not, good or bad. Learn because the best students make the best teachers. Learn so you can become more resourceful. Learn your trade and be so diligent at it that when people think of excellence in that field, you are one of the first people they think about.

3. Act
Hundreds of people have the same brilliant ideas you come up with daily. What makes a difference is those who act instead of succumbing to the paralysis of analysis. I am not saying don’t plan, but the person who builds a boat to cross a river will get to their goals faster than the ones who waits to build a bridge. Take every chance you get.

4. Go Social
Build a network of social and business contacts because, cliche as it sounds, no man is an island. At some point or other you are going to need other people’s input to succeed or to get you out of the doldrums. And this is two way, be helpful too. Have a genuine interest in people – not just in how they can be of use to you. Don’t value things and use people, it should be the other way round.

5. Celebrate & Appreciate
I am one of those people who, once I have succeeded in completing one assignment, I am already thinking about the next ten – never taking a moment to celebrate the success and appreciate the people who have helped to achieve it. Appreciate people, this is very VERY important.

6. Failure Is Feedback
Failure is feedback that you got some aspect of your strategy wrong, it is NOT a final verdict. Every time you fail, learn your lesson, make changes and try again. A string of failures is like the rungs of a ladder, if you keep taking one step at a time you will eventually get to the top. Enjoy the process of trying and failing because it is what gets you to success.

There are more that I could add to these but this is all I could muster on the fly; hopefully I will share more lessons in my next post. Maybe I’ll even share with you the lessons I learned from quitting employment. Bye for now.

An Unexpected Lesson. — July 2, 2016

An Unexpected Lesson.

The year was 2011. Still the most hectic year of my life ever though this year is a close second. It was one of those pleasant clear, bright and warm Kampala mornings; the ones where you wouldn’t blame yourself for falling into and out of reveries just sitting there enjoying the gentle caress of the sun’s rays on your skin and the whole of your being singularly beaming, “Oh what a beautiful day!”

It was on exactly such a day that I learned what has proved to be one of the most enduring lessons of my life – and I couldn’t have seen it coming. I drew it from an incident so nuanced I’m sure it doesn’t even occupy any space in the memory of the other people present at the time it happened. That’s the beauty of life I guess, its spontaneity, the way it just blindsides us at every turn in the road. At that time, I was living with a family called the Ssempas – working as a personal assistant to the husband and helping around the house when I wasn’t too busy running his work errands.

On this particular morning, the beautiful morning I have just told you about, Mrs. Ssempa wanted a chest from the girls’ bedroom, where they kept their playthings, clothes and stuff to be taken to town for some minor repairs. It was already outside and it was supposed to be packed into the van, along with other stuff that needed to be taken into town. Mr Kato the driver and Ronald the shamba boy were struggling to find the best way to fit it into the van. There was quite a bit of clutter on the compound since we were then preparing to start moving house to their new home.

Chest.jpg

I was seated near the front entrance steps, half of me watching Mr Kato and Ronald’s attempts, the other half somewhere in one of my reveries when Mom – for that is what we all called Mrs. Ssempa who had just walked out of the house – yelled, “Hey, Brain! Wake up! Engage!” When she was sure she had my full attention, she added with her characteristic hint of a smile on her face, “You’re just sitting there! You are the brain here, direct them on what to do!” I didn’t wait for further instructions – I didn’t need them. I sprang up and got involved and in no time we had fitted the cupboard in the van, safe and secure.

When I sat and thought about it afterwards I asked myself how many moments in my life had passed like that when I am physically present but totally not there. When I have the solution to the challenges people around me are struggling with but I am so oblivious to the fact or annoyingly indifferent – just sitting there lazing the moments away in my nothing box – instead of focusing my mental energy on helping find a solution. It was like looking at my passivity straight in the face in a mirror. As I like to put it these days, I saw my life in 3D!

I would like to tell you that I have since changed and that I am now a hyper-pro-active guy but sorry to disappoint you – I am not. I still catch myself being around but not present. Only now the difference is when it happens, I hear that voice again, “Brain, Wake Up! Engage!” and it spurs me to action.

Tell me. What is your experience? Or is this just my circus alone?

Memoirs — March 1, 2016

Memoirs

“This boy Iga!” said Mr Okello-Nam Victor in his grave voice and with his characteristic disapproving frown, “This boy Iga is operating at excess capacity! He likes to play play, always making noise,he is not serious at all!” The year was 2004 and this was just one of many times our school headmaster was upbraiding me, a senior six student, in front of the school assembly. Incidentally or not, he was my teacher of economics too. Excess capacity in economics is used to refer to a firm that is not fully employing all its resources to produce – meaning it has some extra or excess capacity that if it used – would blow its productivity above and beyond the current level.That was his total assessment of me. The only problem with it was, I didn’t agree.

School was boring enough without my having to be all too serious about it – the standard curriculum at least. If at the end of the term or at least year I had a good report and promotion to the next class – my dad would not complain. If I could wing it to that, fair deal! So I always did what was enough to get by. Didn’t care much about being top of the class though I was that for a while in primary school. My best friend Michael, on the other hand, was the model student. Always one of if not the best performer and never broke a school rule – apparently. I have to give credit to him because many times he got me to sit down and concentrate and get work done when all I would rather do was just crack jokes and throw disses in my free periods. That is why Fine Art class was my favourite.

art class
That was the feeling!

You see, the fine art lessons were more like free periods because the teachers were not around most of the time, they just left you assignments to finish. Mr Kiberu, who was somehow always busy elsewhere and the likeable gentle Mzee Okello who occassionally begun the lesson by asking me, “Iga, are you eager to do art today?”; definitely enjoyed the poetic statement he had coined. A pencil or Compo pens and colored pencils, an art board, a plain sheet of paper to be dream on plus I didn’t have to always sit within the four cream colored walls of the classroom; give me that any day! And it was pretty much the only class where we could talk to each other, look at and critique each other’s work and just plain have fun. Those were my moments of freedom from the drudgery and I always looked forward to them. There were still those guys who took that class so serious like Ochen a.k.a Ocean and Odoch Umah Tete a.k.a Capi who treated it like a career.  More power to them. I was in it for the fun. In fact, that is why I was always one of the last to hand in my work.

I spent many an afternoon in the school library, which at the time was nothing more than a yellow shipping container  just in front of and to one side of the main school building. I read until the bell reminded me it was time for change of period or the end of the school day. It was the only way to “waste study time” while looking serious. I would pick up a random encyclopedia and read up on anything that tickled my curiosity; technology, science, history, and even philosophy. That’s where I first encountered Carl Sagan’s weirdly interesting book “Cosmos” – and learnt from it that there was such a cool, in my view, career as being a theoretical physicist especially in the area of astronomy that always held this aura of mystery and left me with a sense of wonder.  Well, there was the small matter of my physics grades not measuring up to my passions. I loved “modern physics” (stuff like radioactivity,the solar system blah blah) but I had to grudgingly do all the other boring parts too like the optics and mechanics practicals. And the only university I ever thought of going to, Makerere, did not have any such course. So I would have to pursue something along the lines of another field I had a penchant for, computers!

No wonder it felt like Liberation Day, that day I sat for my last UNEB exam at Bishop Cipriano Kihangire SSS. I was finally going to the university where, as I heard, I would be free to wildly pursue my interests. I was so wrong.

last day.jpg
Freeedoooooom!

To be continued…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Beginning… — October 22, 2015

In The Beginning…

I know the key to writing is to simply begin; get pen to pad or your fingers on the keyboard. All the same writing today has not been easy. I could blame my busy schedule this week but also a bit of apathy and not a little confusion on where to actually start. So I decided to just start typing and see where that takes us. As Hobbit prudence warns at the beginning of J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring”, roads are dangerous things. You follow one and it leads to another and another and you just never know where you’ll end up. Okay then, let’s start our journey about 16 years ago.

road

The year is 1999 and I am a diminutive boy of 13 in my senior one class at St. Charles Lwanga College (it is actually a secondary school) in Koboko, yeah, right there at the North Western corner of Uganda, bordering South Sudan and The Congo. Koboko was still a county of Arua then, not a district of its own. Matter of fact, people mention district names these days and I’m thinking, Is that even in Uganda?! Like for real? Manafwa? Back to the story; this was going to be the longest time yet in my life that I would be away from my family. Why did my dad decide to take me to a school so far away when I had never been to Arua except for a few visits to our village home in Maracha? Perhaps because that was his alma mater, I don’t know, I’ve never asked him.
You’d think I’d be sad to be going alone and so far away from the only place I’d known as home for all my life. Far from it, luckily for me, I was born with a healthy dose of wanderlust. A journey for me means new sights, new adventures, new stories, new experiences and definitely new friends. Of course, I missed my family a bit, especially when I was broke. Don’t laugh. You know the struggle was real. In those days travelling to Arua was a whole project. Not just the expense but the insecurity caused by the forays of Joseph Kony’s LRA rebels in the Murchison Falls National Park area made  it something you had to think carefully through before starting. I think I got visited only once the whole year by my mom – and she didn’t even find me at school. My time on and off the school premises was split almost 50-50 anyway.

My first day at school was fun. That’s when I first met that funny guy Patrick Idringi now popularly known as Salvador. He was in S.2 and immediately took a liking to me when he found me in the Embassy Dormitory which he resided in –  and more so because I was a new kid from Kampala since he had been to Kiswa Primary School. Being the story-teller he is, he narrated to me two movies in a single afternoon (Remember those movie narrator guys in schools? The ones that made you see it in 3D? Priceless!). His friend Problem Alex took a liking to me too but for different reasons altogether. He took me under his wing and being the clueless newbie that I was, I entrusted him with the keys to the padlock on my metallic suitcase. Dude depleted my supplies within two weeks!

snake

Anyway, Patrick and I eventually fell out when I outed his friend and moved to Cifaldi Dormitory and then finally Tiger Dormitory, chief rivals of Embassy. In short, I was not loyal and I was an impertinent “njuka”, which is what nyongos or year ones were called there. I cared less, and I had some big form six footballer guy called Kizito who liked me and would protect me from anyone who attempted to intimidate me. I was tiny with an attitude, that njuka who spoke better English than many of my seniors and therefore couldn’t quite be teased.

Let me warn you beforehand that I tried to attend classes but secondary school effectively began in Senior Two for me. 1999 was pure unadulterated fun! A teen boy couldn’t have asked for more! Lessons ended at 1:30pm and after lunch we were free to go roam Koboko Town- just a stone’s throw away – as long as you got back by 6:00 pm. The school had the official and unofficial calendar. Allow me to introduce you to the unofficial one first; First term was for us to go to the villages surrounding the school foraging for Borrassus Palm fruit that locally is wrongly called coconuts. Second term, which is when the mango season falls was, naturally, for mangoes. There was a forest of mangoes near the Congo Border – about 4kms from school – that we called Kukuana Land (the name possibly was picked from that H. Rider Haggard novel “King Solomon’s Mines”). After lunch pretty much the whole school went on an exodus to Kukuana Land and the trees were so many that the rule was – No Sharing Of Branches! You ate, had your fill, and then carried some back to school with you in a backpack or kaveera. The total population of students was roughly 500 and very few, if any, ever missed the trek for mangoes.

sanyang-area-55
We even had something of a free trade zone developing near the school. According to the rumours I heard, some boys would steal cassava from the school farm or teachers’ gardens, sell it to some women in the village near the school, and the women in turn boiled and sold it back to the students for breakfast.

Now for the official Calendar. First term was for athletics and second term was for football!. Athletics was never my thing. I played football a bit but I was never really talented at it. The school had about 4 football pitches and the most interesting one was called “Shauri Yako” which basically meant that participation was at your own discretion. Anyone could play there, wearing anything; whether you were barefoot, wearing spiked boots or those army boots with a thick sole and very hard metal at the front – a senior or a junior. Some guy was so rough that whenever he got the ball is when everyone else suddenly felt the need to go sit down and take a rest. If you could shine in Shauri Yako then you could be considered for the school team. Anyway after, as usual, beating other schools in the county like our arch-rivals Nyangilia SS against whom victory was always sweetest, we would travel to Arua Town for the District championships perched on top of our beloved green Tata lorry affectionately named “Mami”.

The district championships always took place at Barifa Stadium in Arua Town – which frankly speaking – is just a field in the middle of Barifa Forest Reserve. The main attractions were the noise, the fanfare, the colours of different uniforms of students from dozens of schools, the rivalry – excitement reigned king! The Ediofe Girls belonged to us “Lwanga Boys”, and the Muni Girls belonged to the Ombaci boys. Crossing those invisible lines was enough to instigate a scuffle between the rival schools. We didn’t win that year but boy was it fun! Disclaimer, I didn’t have any Ediofe Girl. Me I was still too young for that stuff. True story. It was our friend Karayi who wrote love letters like a Casanova even at such a tender age! He would let me proof-read them and I would literally hold my stomach in fits of laughter.

love letter

And then there were school events like the inauguration of new prefects where there were dance performances and one of the few times we were served bread for breakfast. In the local economy, the coolest guys were the ones who had the most Lingala dance moves. Of course we had the weekly bull dances every Saturday night in the main hall where we lesser folk could pick up some moves from the illuminati of this thing! The hall was only lit up with a few hurricane lamps since these were the years before electricity in Koboko so I remember there was a night some hater(s) dropped red pepper on the floor of the dance floor. Not a fun experience. Then there were those guys you’d see walking by the hall to the classes with a lantern, to read when everyone else was having fun. We called those “Ja-Warriors”!

This whirlwind of a year did come to an end. I said goodbye to the friends I had made that year as I prepared to head back to Kampala with a not so impressive report card and looked forward to yet another year of fun. I was near the tail end of the class in performance yet I had been top of the class or thereabouts in primary school. Of course my parents were not impressed and decided that I was not going back – no matter how much I protested. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my first real experience of Arua. Maybe, just maybe, that is how I first fell in love with this place. Where did all these words come from? I warned y’all about starting journeys, see where this one brought us?