Master of Disaster - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Master of Disaster

About three years ago, I refused to bow down to pressure from friends who were urging me to go back to university to acquire a basic degree. I felt not only that I had passed the age of attending classes but also that I had enough talents to succeed in life. And as St. Paul advises us in 1st Thessalonians 4:11-12, I didn't want to be dependant on anyone by begging for tuition fees.

So on a post in my previous website I used to call Polly, I publicly declared that I will never go back to university but would instead use my God-given talents as my weapons of survival and progress. I winded up that post with the following modified verse from a favourite hymn of mine:
Not for ever by green pastures,
Do I ask my way to be;
But the steep and rugged pathway,
May I tread rejoicingly.
As I reflect on the last three years of my life since I wrote that post, I have realized that I have not lived up to the standard of treading rejoicingly in the face of challenges. I have on the contrary been buffeted by problems that keep propping up every now and then to the point of making me lose my vitality for days.

Like I felt terribly dejected when President Obama sent me an email sometime in 2014 saying that they couldn't accept me into the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI): a training program conceived by the Obama administration to mentor youths from Africa to be great leaders. I really felt dejected by the email from the then President of the United States.

That's just one example of how I have been buffeted by problems that keep propping up every now and then. There are many other instances which I beg not to narrate here. And it all started in March 2007 when I received a rejection letter one night from MIT, the world's premier institute in science, mathematics and engineering.

I was horribly nervous that night as I logged into my MIT account to check if I had been accepted into the institute. And then after I logged in, I became sick with disappointment on reading this letter addressed to me:
Dear Johnny,

The Admissions Committee has completed its review of your application, and I am so sorry to tell you that we are unable to offer you admission to MIT.

Please understand that this is in no way a judgement of you as a student or as a person, since our decision has more to do with the applicant pool than anything else. Most of our applicants, who like you are among the best in the world, are not admitted because we simply do not have enough space in our entering class. This year we had over 12,000 applications for less than 1500 offers of admission, from which will come our 1000 freshmen. Since all of our decisions are made at one time and all available spaces have been committed, all decisions are final.

Despite what you might think, the admissions process is not an exact science. Our applicant pool is more self-selected than most, with a very high percentage of top students, virtually all of whom have distinction in demanding academic programs as well as outstanding achievement in their lives outside of the classroom. We evaluate each applicant's materials carefully and select those we judge to be the best match for our community.

I am very sorry to bring you such disappointing news when you have worked so hard. You are a terrific student, and I do wish you the very best as you continue with your education.


Marilee Jones.
[Dean of Admissions - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.]
When I was applying to MIT, the institute had asked me in one question in their application form to tell them a nickname my friends liked calling me. I told them it was "Johnny". That's why Marilee Jones addressed me as "Dear Johnny..."

Despite the attempt by Marilee Jones to reassure me that I was a terrific student, I still couldn't reconcile with the fact that I had been rejected at MIT. I was heartsick for several days. It was like the schools I had attended hadn't prepared me for real life which is characterized by pain and disappointment.

But I am now resolving to be a man; as in to meet every triumph and disaster with equal grace. And when I die, I want future generations to be told that Thuita was a master of disaster.


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Personal Excellence: Part 2

Some people discouraged me from using the pronoun 'I' in my stories when I first began sharing my stories in the internet. Like one friend dismissed one of my stories as hocus-pocus without even reading it on account of the number of I's in it.

But I have stuck with using the pronoun 'I' in my stories because it not only makes them sound more interesting but also make me exude a mien of humility and self-respect. I have also always intended to use my stories as a tool of moulding myself into a better person; hence my use of pronoun 'I'.

When I talk of moulding myself into a better person, I am reminded of an anecdote I read in Winning with People by John C. Maxwell. I beg to reproduce it in my own words because I have long since returned the book to the owner. My modified version reads as follows:
"There was once a man who attempted to change the world. He tried repeatedly and when he realized he couldn't change it, he scaled down his ambition to changing his country. But sooner than later, he realized he couldn't change the country. So he scaled down his ambition further to changing his community.

Sooner than later again, he realized he couldn't change his community. So he scaled down his ambition even further to changing his family. But alas! He couldn't change it either.

By the time he was through with trying to change his family, he was already an old, infirm man. And then on the last day of his life, it dawned on him that the person he should have first changed was himself."
That anecdote inspired me to continue changing myself through my stories by using the pronoun 'I': that is to become more loving, more confident, more courageous, more discerning, more understanding and more at peace with myself. I am not sure if most of my readers appreciate and learn something from my stories. But at least on my part, I am becoming a better person by writing them. I call it striving for personal excellence.

I have flagged this story as Part 2. Click here to read Part 1.


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My Death

"For we are strangers before them, and sojourners, as were all our fathers." ~1st Chronicles 29:15

In his internationally acclaimed book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren advises us to think about death and live with an eternal perspective. He adds that thinking about death is not morbid.

Another author named Steve Chandler also counsels us to think about death as one of the ways of motivating us in life. So did Steve Jobs in his famous 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

I think it was such kind of thinking about death that drove Bill Clinton to success in politics at a young age because he mentions in his autobiography that his father's early death infused him with a sense of mortality that inspired him to make the most of everyday. If you didn't know, Clinton was first elected Arkansas Governor at age 31.

So I am thinking that I should also start thinking about my death. Actually, that's what I will be doing every now and then. I pray that my thinking about death will develop into a powerful habit that will instil me with a desire to leave a legacy in my family, community, country and perhaps even in the world.

Hopefully when I die, I will rest in peace of having known I made the world a better place just because I lived. I would really love the words spoken about me during my funeral to resemble those of Ted Kennedy in his magnificent eulogy for his brother Robert Kennedy who was assassinated in 1968. Ted said:
"My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world."
And when will I die? Well, I can pass on any time from now. But my prayer is that I die in my nineties. I am sanguine that if I continue working on my belief in God, on my optimism, on my physical fitness and on leading a healthy lifestyle while engaging in work I love, then I can clock ninety as a sprightly grey-haired nonagenarian.

Coo, believing that I will die in my nineties gives me hope that I still have much to experience in life! You see, I am only 29 as I finish this story.


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