Lessons From Ben Carson - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Lessons From Ben Carson

This is Ben Carson receiving from President George W. Bush the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States that a president can bestow. I have displayed the photo here with permission from the Carson Scholars Fund website. Copyright © all rights reserved worldwide.

Back in 2005 when I was in my final year in high school at Starehe Boys' Centre, I was having a group conversation with my classmates when my friend John Njiru mentioned Ben Carson. I can't remember what Njiru said of Ben Carson but that name stuck in my mind.

So much did that name stick in my mind that later on during a school function when a girl asked me what book I was carrying, I lied to her that it was a Ben Carson book. To which she disagreed, "No, Ben Carson's books aren't that size!" She must have been right because I didn't know who Ben Carson was back then.

It was only many months later in 2007 that I got to know Ben Carson when I purchased his inspiring book, Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential For Excellence, from a book-stand at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. Let me tell you a little about him and the valuable lessons he holds for us.

Ben Carson is a retired paediatrician who became an overnight success in 1987 for leading a 70-member team in separating Siamese twins co-joined in the head. He is currently serving in the Donald Trump administration as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

But Ben Carson rise to fame and fortune was not an easy one. His parents separated when he was 8 which depressed him as a child. His divorced mother struggled to raise her family, often working on more than two poorly paying jobs so as to sustain her family of two sons. Perhaps for those reasons, Ben Carson started off poorly in school. And in his teenage years, he had a terrible temper that almost made him commit murder when he at one time lunged a camping knife at a friend who had angered him; luckily, the steel blade struck the friend's metal belt buckle and snapped.

Despite those humble beginnings, Ben Carson changed his fate when under instructions from his mother, he reduced the time he indulged in watching television and spent more time reading books borrowed from a local library. That effort paid off handsomely because he managed to rise from the bottom of his class to the top in a short time when he was in Grade 5: a big boost to his self-esteem.

In high school, Ben Carson's grades dropped again as he tried to keep up with peer pressure. He recovered from that back-sliding and went on to get accepted at Yale, one of America's top colleges.

Again at Yale, Ben Carson found himself struggling in academics as he endeavoured to keep up with Yale's demanding curriculum and its bright students, some of whom were in the genius category. Thanks to God, he managed to survive and thrive at Yale as a result of which he was accepted at the University of Michigan Medical School.

I just like the way President George W. Bush summarized the life of Ben Carson when he was awarding him the Medal of Freedom in 2008 (see photo above). President Bush said:
"The story of our first recipient begins in a poor neighbourhood in the heart of Detroit. This was an environment where many young people lost themselves to poverty and crime and violence. For a time, young Ben Carson was headed down that same path. Yet through his reliance on faith and family, he turned his life into a sharply different direction. Today, Dr. Carson is one of the world's leading neurosurgeons. He is renowned for his successful efforts to separate conjoined twins and his expertise in controlling brain seizures. He has worked to be a motivating influence on young people. He and his wife Candy have started an organization that offers college scholarships to students across America. The child of Detroit who once saw a grim future became a scholar, a healer, and a leader."
And how did Ben Carson overcome those humble beginnings to achieve international fame? He says he thought big. And he came up with the following acrostic of what it means to think big:
T - Talents/time: Recognize them as gifts
H - Hope for good things and be honest
I - Insight from people and good books
N - Be nice to all people
K - Knowledge: Recognize it as the key to living

B - Books: Read them actively
I - In-depth learning skills: Develop them
G - God: Never get too big for Him
I am striving to put into practice those lessons from Ben Carson in my day-to-day living. And if you know of someone who is looking for a role model for his children, I recommend Ben Carson.

If you've enjoyed this story of mine on lessons from Ben Carson, you might also enjoy other stories I wrote on the lessons from Ronald Reagan and from Colin Powell and from Bill Clinton. Just click on those links in blue to jump straight into the stories.


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Developing Good Habits

Because I believe we are all meant to learn from one another, let me tell you a little about myself today with the hope that you will glean something valuable. And perhaps more importantly, I hope that you will remember me in your prayers and thoughts so that I may accomplish what I will tell you.

As you might already know if you have been reading my stories in this lovely website of mine, I have been struggling with two bad habits: over-sleeping and over-eating. And from my experiences, I have come to realize that those two bad habits cause:
  • poverty of mind, body and soul
  • unhealthy weight gain
  • missed opportunities
  • shame and guilt
  • low energy levels
  • wastage of time
  • loss of freedom
I am now striving to break those two bad habits. And which ones will replace them? Getting out of bed before dawn after about six to seven hours of refreshing sleep. Eating breakfast after about an hour after waking up. Going for a jog and walk later in the day.

Yes, I am striving to develop those good new habits. Some say it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Others say it takes God. As of me, I believe it takes both God and consistency to develop a new habit. So I have already started living my new habits while praying for strength of heart to sustain the momentum.


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Part 4: Servant Leadership

In black and white in this photo is Stephen Lenai, a sensible high school classmate of mine who also served as my house captain when I was in Fourth Form and in the Institute at Starehe Boys' Centre. He is posing here with Peter Omondi, another classmate of mine who disappeared without trace after we finished high school in 2005. To this day, no one in our class knows whether Peter Omondi is dead or alive.

I recently came across a post on the differences between a boss and a leader that one of my acquaintances posted on LinkedIn. The differences are:
Relies on authorityRelies on goodwill
Issues ultimatumGenerates enthusiasm
Says "I"Says "We"
Uses peopleDevelops people
Takes creditGives credit

When I think of a friend who exhibits those qualities of a leader, the person who first pops up in my mind is Stephen Lenai - yes, the one I have mentioned in the caption of the photo above. Why? Okay, let me narrate.

For all the time I got to know Lenai since we met in Form 1 at Starehe Boys' Centre, he never said anything negative to me. On the contrary, I found him a sensible person who occasionally advised and encouraged me while trying to draw out the best in me.

Like I remember during one lunch session in the Starehe dining hall when we were in Fourth Form, he called me aside and asked me to be controlling my temper. Believe you me, I sometimes used to erupt violently for reasons I will not explain today.

Then on our first days in the Starehe Institute in 2006, Lenai requested me to be attending the 6.00pm roll-call after I missed it when I reported back to Starehe for college education. You see, I used to feel lonely on those first days in the institute because my dreams of landing a job had failed and some of my best friends in high school had left Starehe. But thanks to Lenai who encouraged me to be attending roll-call, my feelings of loneliness began to thaw, which eventually led me to feel at home in Starehe Institute where I acquired a transformative Diploma in Information Technology.

And then later on during our time at Starehe Institute, Lenai requested me on one or two occasions to address house members during 6.00pm Sunday roll-calls. I found that encouraging because while some people saw confusion in me, Lenai saw potential. And thanks to him, I became one of the best public-speakers at Starehe.

But of all the positive things Lenai did to me, the one I will always remain grateful to him was the way he allowed me to sneak out of Starehe early in the morning on Sundays to be with my home-town Catholic Church youth group when I was in Starehe Institute. You see, nothing much used to happen in Starehe on Sundays. We were just expected to wake up at 7.00am, have breakfast and attend a mandatory church service after which we were free to do whatever we wished.

So I instinctively felt Lenai wouldn't mind my sneaking out of Starehe on Sundays provided I was back for the 6.00pm roll-call. And my instincts were right because throughout our time at Starehe Institute, Lenai never minded. I am sure if some people I know had been my house captain, they would have created hell for me by forwarding me to the Starehe administration that I was sneaking out of Starehe. Oh, how I thank God that Lenai was my house captain! He truly was a leader, not a boss.

If you've enjoyed this part 4 of my story on servant leadership, you might also enjoy part 1 and part 2 and part 3 of the stories. Just click those links in blue to jump straight into the stories.


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