Tag Archives: change

A Beautiful Word-No

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If you find that you say the word “No” a lot, would you qualify to be labelled as mean? I reckon my ability to say no unflinchingly is the reason why one of my students asked me why I am so mean. If you went through the 844 system you must be wondering in what universe are, students allowed to tell their teachers what they really think about them. My answer would be in the same universe that a child decides they don’t want to go to school in the morning and the parent actually let’s them stay at home. As a special needs teacher in a non conventional education system, I have lots of stories to tell but I will spare you and focus on a beautiful word we all know as “no”.

One of the reasons I love the word “no” is that it is ironically so simple. It is monosyllabic, so brief that it costs merely a breathe to say it and yet requires so much strength to be spoken. As far as words go it might be an underdog. I mean they did not make a movie titled “The No Man”. It would be confusing right? It would be difficult to get one’s head around it. A movie about saying “yes” to everything, that’s more like it. It sounds interesting; it even has the potential to be hilarious. After all is that not what “freedom” is about? Who is more free, liberated if you will: the person who says no to a lot of things or the person who says “yes” “yes”, “yes”! I leave that to you to decide.

Freedom and liberty are wonderful things no doubt but when I think of the word no, revolutionary comes to mind. I confess my grasp of all the major world revolutions is scanty at best but I imagine it all starts with a simple word: no. When Marie Antoinette said the infamous words “if they cannot have bread let them have cake”, I imagine (which saves me from reading volumes of history) someone heard this and his mind was screaming NO!!! How dare she be so inconsiderate? Things cannot go on like this. Like I said I am operating from almost ignorance but I do hope anyone out there who is more history savvy will fill in the blanks. The point is for the most part revolutions seldom start with agreement with the status quo. It starts with a No! Then, it continues with I will not stand for this then, revolt!

I don’t know about you but I love (looove) me a revolutionary. If you think about it, you do too. Remember when Ché Guevara merchandise was in vogue? If you didn’t buy the t-shirt you probably envied someone who did. I think one of the reasons we love revolutionaries is there is a little revolutionary in every one of us. Deep down, somewhere in there, you disagree with so many things but often courage does not come so easily. Deep down, there are things you wish you could change in your own life, in your community, in your country… but change is not so easy. So when we find that person who is courageous enough to stand up and say no! We applaud. I bet even those who are opposed to some of these changes admire the guy’s guts even though they will publicly portray a different picture. We love a revolutionary because we can live vicariously through them and to be honest it is a lot safer. I mean tying myself in chains to a gate knowing well the police will get me out, keeping in mind that police brutality is very real, is risky business. I would rather wait to see it in the news and say “wow, I wish I had his guts”.

While it is all fine and dandy to live vicariously through other revolutionaries, it is a new year and my challenge to you, to me is to go out and be a revolutionary. I don’t expect us to start another uprising, because the Middle East already took that bus. What I am hoping is we can all learn to say no every once in a while and maybe more often. I would begin with saying no to myself. I read a quote (which I paraphrased): people often want to change the world but no one wants to change himself. Yes it is the prince of clichés but change begins with you. What are some of the things we can say no to in our own lives? We can say no to excesses and things that are just plain harmful. That extra (caffeinated, alcoholic or carbonated) drink, the extra plate of deep fried something or bowl of sugary goodness which will lead you to a doctor sooner rather than later, that extra work you carried home from the office depriving you of rest and engaging with other human beings, that extra hour of pointless internet surfing and TV watching which makes you wonder what happened to the time, that extra illicit relationship that is killing your soul ever so slowly…. I could go on and on but I will not. Truth is you know what you need to say no to and the reasons for saying no are innumerable.

We also need to say no to people especially friends and family. This is a hard one because most of us are wired to please people. For some of us the thought of disappointing someone is harrowing.  Here’s a thought: you can’t please everyone ergo you have to disappoint some people. Now with this mind just say no. An outright no may seem harsh (but it’s more fun to say) but there are subtle ways of doing it like “I am not sure I can do that” or “I can’t do it”. I welcome more ideas on how to say no nicely. It is especially important to learn to say no to children especially if they are trying to get their way using tantrums. Think of it this way, giving a child what they want after throwing a tantrum is like negotiating with a terrorist. In my line of work I have seen tantrums that are monumental at best and I can assure you even when the child cries bullets and you stand your ground the child will respect you and they will not love you any less. It is equally important to give reasons for your answers. Some people will argue with you but that’s an opportunity to practice standing your ground. If children argue with you (politely of course), look at it as negotiation. Let the child develop negotiation skills, we all know negotiation skills go a long way in the real world.

I am sure there’s a whole long list of things we can say no to but I would rather read from you. What have you successfully said no to? What would you add to the no list. Let me know. I look forward to reading from you. Now go on be a little revolutionary, just say no.

 

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Embrace Discomfort

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Sometime last year my friend was driving us to a place close enough to the CBD. See we live in a country where traffic in the central business district is a complete nightmare so drivers avoid it like most people avoid pumpkin in a meal. For those of you who are confused right about now, pumpkin must have bribed its way into becoming a pet name if you ask me or other pumpkin averse people. So as he was driving us we passed some gorgeous houses on Dennis Pritt Road and State House Road and these houses are the stuff of dreams. Then he said the most interesting thing: he said he likes to drive around the “better” neighborhoods because it makes him uncomfortable with his current status quo. I found that very interesting and yet it made sense.

Discomfort is not something anyone enjoys (I mean its discomfort). It doesn’t get any more enjoyable than that but yet there is a point to it. I dare say we should embrace discomfort. Look around you at most of the successful people you know or have heard of. What do they have in common? They all grew up in discomfort and that is putting it mildly for some. They had to contend with less than the prescribed three meals a day. They did not have the best clothes. They may have had to walk long distances to school and luxuries that some of us consider so basic were just fantasies for them. Discomfort has a way of reinforcing our desire to change the status quo and it does more than that it causes us take action. Just think if you were wearing an ill-fitting pair of shoes and it was the only pair of shoes you owned, would you not want to work harder so you can afford another pair of shoes that fit better?

A few weeks ago I read an article and it made me uncomfortable. It was about rich Kenyans under 40. There are people on that list who are 27 years old. I am going to be 27 in the not too distant future (God willing) and after reading the article and pondering I need a miracle. But that is beside the point; what can we do to reduce our discomfort about things? Well, one of the things I have learnt over the years is that hard work is a huge factor in getting to the place you want to go. Besides working hard you need to work smart. Working smart is the best option because sadly because some hard jobs don’t get people pay that is anything to write home about. Instead people would rather toss the letter in the dust bin rather than send it home. To get out of discomfort you might have to get your hands dirty (and I don’t mean soiling your hands with shady business). Quite a number of people on that list started in agri-business. Allow me to digress a little. For the longest time my dad has decried the decline of agriculture in the rural areas. The young people in rural areas have been made to believe farming is a dirty job (literally) and they would have better luck coming to the big city. As a result farmers have a difficult time finding farm hands.  Yet what I find amazing, is that there is an emerging wave of graduate farmers who are taking it upon themselves to feed the nation.  I have to confess all the times my dad mentions Jembe and I in the same sentence I chuckle but I kid you not I’m so proud of graduate farmers everywhere I will soon join them: watch this space.  Another thing I learnt is you need guts. I went to a meeting last weekend and guts was defined as Getting Used To Sneers. You might choose to do something that people will not think too highly of and that is too put it mildly. We have innumerable stories of people who did very unglamorous work in the beginning but years later became the subject of envy. Whatever you are doing don’t let anyone despise you. The truth is you need to start somewhere. It was said at the meeting if you get used to sneers you will get used to success. It still spells G.U.T.S.

I have gravitated a lot towards enterprise and money but it does not stop there. I don’t care what people say there is more to life than money and quantifiable success. Are you uncomfortable with your relationships with family or friends or significant others? It’s ok. What are you going to do about it? The natural response by us mortal ones is to complain about the other person not doing this or that, not understanding where I’m coming from etc. This is selfish! Yeah I said it. Please don’t think I’m writing from some lofty horse. I am guilty of being selfish too. When it comes to our relationships, time for self-reflection is an underrated necessity. When you self-reflect you will see that you have been selfish in one way or other unless you don’t have a pulse. Feel the discomfort of your selfishness and work on it. Once I read a quote that I will paraphrase that said “everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves”. I know it has been said so many times it’s a cliché (people please find another line but) “change begins with you”. Think about it one it only took one person to decide eating meat was bad and now 1% of the French population is vegetarian. <Random fact of the day> The French love their meat so much that a vegetarian association had to lobby the government to get a more diverse meal plan for their schools. Would you like other people to be kinder, be kind that’s one kinder person in the world; a couple billion to go but still minus one mean person.

I think we are still in the season of making resolutions and one that makes the top ten lists is “I want to go to church more often”. Mi thinks people make this resolution because they are uncomfortable about their spirituality. I challenge anyone who has made this resolution to do one better. Resolve to know God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Going to church is great but knowing God even better. I was watching a spy series and the male agent never liked to read the manuals of electric machines because he preferred to figure it out on his own. The result was the percolator caused the coffee beans to come out in an explosion. Don’t be that guy. God gave us a manual called the bible. You don’t have to figure stuff out all on your own. I find that when you read the manual you might even discover how to use the extra features on the machine. Who knows what else you percolator can do.

I finish with asking you to watch the movie Rio. Blue was a blue macaw (go figure) that was found by an American girl after he was smuggled from a forest in Rio de Janeiro. Being found was great because he got to live a cushy life in a house in America. His cushy life contributed to his not learning how to fly. The story went on and he went to Rio because it was thrust upon him to save his species by joining with a female macaw, something he did not want to do. A lot of times they were in danger and mostly because he couldn’t fly and he kept bringing the female macaw down. To cut a long story short, Blue had to save his female macaw friend from the hands of the smugglers and since she had hurt her wing he had to carry her and fly. The moral of the story is when we are too comfortable we don’t invest in skills (among other things) which we really need. However life throws discomfort in our way so that we can use our wings and fly.