When we face an existential threat it is not time for petty fights, settling domestic scores, or apportioning blame. It is said that when the mighty Titanic sank, the band was playing, the passengers were mindless in celebratory dance and some of crew members were busy rearranging chairs on its deck. It does not look like normal behavior but it keep happening world over. We have to choose growth over fear. Facing reality instead of wishing it away. We have to play to win and not just to be seen to be playing. We have to rethink the game we have been playing and what results mean. We have to rethink our values and the meaning of success. We have to think differently about the way we think, otherwise we will become extinct.
Many times in life, we find that we have been so busy driving hard, trying to make everything work except for one thing – we have not had time to get fuel. Amazing that we can be so busy, yet lose focus on what really matters. We can rush our climb, only to find that we are climbing the wrong tree. This is a season to look deeply at our priorities, policies and practices at all levels. We have to look at how we are doing life and business, and get back to base and sobriety. We may have to disengage from that which does not work and engage new gears. We may have to reverse and revise our path. We may have to recharge, refocus and reboot. Whatever happens, the future cannot be handled like the past and our models have to change.
In school, I was one of those that were put off by the corrections that followed the teachers’ red corrective markings. Some teachers had the nasty habit of writing at the top of a page: “See me!” One of my English teachers would circle a miss pelt word and ask you to re-write neatly the word at least ten times. This exercise then seemed like bullying, torture and narcissism. In my shallow reasoning then, it seemed to be a type of learner-abuse. Little did I realise then that it was necessary training and needed discipline because repetition is the mother of all learning. As the Readers Digest would recommend, using the right word at the right time is rather like wearing appropriate clothing for the right occasion: it is a courtesy to others, and a favour to yourself – a matter of presenting yourself well in the eye if the world.
A few decades now, since leaving school, I now look back and see that what I thought was cruelty, was actually love of a learning kind. When wrong habits take root they need stubborn remedial action to correct. The reworks and corrections were drills in good spelling, gramma, syntax and diction. The discipline of using the right word, at the right time, in the right way is a special asset because nothing is as powerful as thoughts expressed clearly and simply. Communication is not a matter of heaping a series of hard words, with complicated sounds on unsuspecting hearers or readers. Sloppy language makes for muddled thinking in the view of Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950), who is better known by his pen name George Orwell and his biting satire. Orwell once wrote: “The English Language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
Words are worth respecting, and using them well is a type of self-respect. The best I can say today to all my teachers is: Thank you for making me do corrections. You taught me to give attention to detail, to write and speak well. I still get some things wrong but I keep trying and live with my dictionary within reach. Hardly a day passes without me reaching for it.
Greatness is having the courage to begin again as many times as necessary until you get there. It is best expressed in the noble quality of humility. Humility does not in any way imply humiliation. Not at all. It is the strength of character to be able to receive correction, self-introspect and when necessary admitting that you have lost the way. John Dickson puts this better in his book Humilitas, when he says: “Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself. More simply, you could say the humble person is marked by a willingness to hold power in service of others.”
The past few weeks have been days of soul searching and much challenge. It has been as though one is standing right before the greater Teacher of the universe and seeing through our exercise books marked in embarrassing red. It is a time to rethink, review and search our souls. Some priorities that we have held dearly have been purely insane. Some habits that we have acquired do not help us much. Some ways of thinking and doing lead only to a dead end. This season has struck through all masks to the heart of stark reality.
Get back on the horse
A friend was once thrown off a horse and I visited her while in hospital. She shared a big horse-riding lesson that I had not been aware of. She said when learning to ride a horse, if the horse happens to throw you off, quickly get back on the horse (unless you are fatally injured). This is because if you put off, this act, gathering the courage to ride becomes harder. Once fear sets in, courage starts winning off.
We should not be discouraged because we see all the areas where we had “fallen off the horse.” We have to be prompt in getting back on the horse, without feeling embarrased that we fell. We have to reverse the gears, if you have to. We have to repent in your ways, where we have to. We have to reflect on our values. We have to revisit our priorities and practices. What is clear is that we cannot keep on the same trajectory as before. No ways and God forbid! This season has been a great wake up call. The big challenge is what we do after we wake up. We cannot simply press snooze and hope that all will be well. We cannot continue engaging in unsustainable thoughts, selfish ways and unhealthy behaviours.
Never allow yourself to wallow in self-pity or start playing petty blame games. Whatever is not good for the hive cannot be good for the bee. Things that matter most cannot be at the mercy of things that matter least. It is time for us to get up, swallow hard our pride and start getting real. One day wonders are only found in movies. This is not short journey and we forget. It a monumental season of change and taking new paths.
Do not run away from your challenges. Face them. Pride is an enemy if it stops us from going towards noble goal. Fear is an enemy if it stops us from trying and leaping forward. Pick up your goals and dreams. Review, revise and reflect. Never let today’s disappointment be a death sentence. There is a great future that is waiting for the bold and brave.
What are you afraid of challenging again? What are you afraid of? What goals is getting you scared to death? What is your fear doing to you? What would you do if you were not afraid? Take some action today, it may be your tenth attempt but who cares? Do not stop until you get there.
Let us continue this conversation on Twitter:@MiltonKamwendo.
Committed to your greatness.