Leadership Lessons - Reflections of a Young Man™

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Leadership Lessons

This is the 2006 Starehe Boys' Fire-fighting Squad which used to conduct a more than four-month gruelling physical fitness test for new members. Photo courtesy of Fred Kithikii, the 2006 Squad Commander.

Bear with me, if you will, as I recount on yet another wonderful experience I had at Starehe Boys' Centre. I am just developing a hobby of reflecting on my past days, the good as well as the buttock-clenching ones, with the aim of either gleaning valuable lessons or enjoying my life again. And that hobby, which I am finding more refreshing than watching a wacky movie, is inspiring me to live an honourable life while still a youth so that I can get to enjoy it again when I grow old through beautiful memories.

I joined the Starehe Boys' Survival Club in my first term in Form 1 back in 2002 after magically passing an interview conducted by commandos - as the club leaders were called. And with time, I came to enjoy the camps and hikes we had in the club. Well, I didn't enjoy the hikes because they involved a lot of trekking through hilly countrysides but the camps, during which some commandos wore stetson hats that made them look like American cowboys, were quite another thing in that I enjoyed them especially the night camp-fires around which we would sing funny ditties while making fun of commandos who were selected in Form 3.

Like one Survivor teased a commando on one of those camp-fire chants by saying, "You see the grandmother of Commando 'X' - she grew thin and thinner and thinner and thinner and thinner until she disappeared!"

So much did I come to enjoy being part of Survival Club that at one time, I wanted to be a commando in the club. I however gave up on the ambition when I realized I couldn't withstand joining the Starehe Boys' Fire-fighting Squad (see photo above) which Survival Club commandos were expected to join. But with all the confusion and timidity that Starehians saw in me, I doubt whether I would have been selected a commando anyway.

I therefore left the club in Form 2 but after having gleaned the following leadership lessons which I hope to apply in my future family of which I will be the head, God willing:
  • Rise early
  • Be physically fit
  • Ensure everybody in the family has a meal before sitting down to eat
  • Create some time for family fun in which everyone is free to tease each other
  • Keep disagreements with wife and bedroom affairs out of notice by children
And how did I glean those valuable lessons? Mostly in Survival Club camps in which I would observe among other things that commandos projected a spirit of unity and had us wake up early in the morning for physical exercises.

Later on in 2012, I became interested in memorizing the values and mission statements of Survival Club as they may have been outlined by the club founder in 1989. So I visited Starehe Boys' only to find that the club had been displaced from the cottage we used as headquarters in our days to a small room partitioned in an old classroom.

With that kind of change, I sensed the club had lost its glitz and glamour. I informed Ken Ogutu, one of the commandos in '02, about the change but he didn't seem surprised. He just told me they used to refer to the cottage we used as Survival Club headquarters as the Bush Embassy. I found that Ogutu's remark amusing because it implies that if you wanted to go to the bush, you first had to get a visa from the Survival Club headquarters.

And by the way Ken Ogutu, who I have approached to be my legal advisor, went on to study law at the university and was accepted at the renowned Harvard Law School for a post-graduate course. My friend, that's the end of my story, and I have had a nice time telling it. Thanks for bearing with me.


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Grace in the Morning

After leading a life of low moods in the past one week, I found myself awake early today at around 3.00am and began listening to the sound of mosquitoes buzzing around my bed. I chose to stay within the cover of my blanket, safe from the mosquitoes, since I was not psyched up to do anything at that hour. From my bed, I overheard my slightly-crippled mother asking my father if he had left the milk and sugar we needed for breakfast. And after answering 'yes', my father left for work at that wee hour of the morning. He always prefers commuting at that hour to avoid heavy traffic and exorbitant peak-hour fares.

About an hour after my father left, my mother received a call that someone was at the gate. She asked me to go find out who was there but I refused. You see, these days I don't do voluntary work; I always ask for payment for even doing such mundane tasks as teaching someone how to navigate through an android smartphone. And since Mum couldn't pay me for going to check who was at the gate, I refused to go. Period.

When our house-girl woke up later on at around 7.00am, Mum asked her to go confirm if there was someone at the gate. She went. And when she came back after quite some time, she informed us that somebody had been killed near our gate. Alarmed like an antelope that had spotted an approaching predator, I sprang out of my bed and sprinted towards the gate to confirm the sad news.

And alas! I was greeted at the gate with a sight of villagers milling around a dead body. As I approached the dead body which was partly covered with a red sheet, I saw from the protruding arms that the deceased man's pullover resembled that of my father. And that made my heart pound heavily in my chest. Could my father have been killed when he left home early in the morning? It was frightening.

My fears were relieved when I finally neared the dead body close enough to see that the deceased wore blue jeans. Since my father doesn't wear jeans of any kind, I was certain beyond doubt that it wasn't him. Composed, I inquired from one of the women guiding the scene, "Have you known who the dead man is?"

"Yes!" she replied, "He is my son!"

I was slightly embarrassed for brazenly asking such a sensitive question to the bereaved woman but I could tell she sensed my total ignorance. All I said back to her was "sorry", and joined the men in the scene who appeared less shocked. I have always tried to resist the craving to mill around accident scenes like a fly on a piece of shit. But today morning, I couldn't resist that craving because I wanted to know the identity of the dead man killed in a neighbourhood I know so well.

Those around me informed me that his name was Kinyajui but I couldn't remember knowing such a man from the home I was told he hailed from. But I figured out since I am a frequent user of the murram road on which he had been murdered, I must have known him by face - if not by the name Kinyajui. I wished to uncover his dead body to know his identity but feared angering or scaring the shocked villagers. So I chose to stick around till I got to see his face when the police arrived. But the police seemed to be taking forever to come.

I was pleased though when two confident men arrived at the scene. From their rolling gait, I could tell they were going to uncover the dead body to find out for themselves what had happened. So I followed them. Uncovering the body, they did. And I was somewhat glad that I didn't know the deceased man by face either.

With a smile in my heart, I left the scene immediately while trying to hide my joy which sprang not for mockery over what had happened but for realizing the grace of God in my life. Because as far as I could tell, I was in good health; so were my family members and close friends. For what is grace? It is a gift to enjoy life's important blessings such as food, health and friendship without having paid God for it.

For me, realizing the grace of God in my life brightened what would have otherwise been a dull day. I have felt inspired to continue striving to fulfil my dreams at this time when I have health. So I am back to Operation Lose-Weight. And watch this website! I might be posting here an inspirational song in the next one month.


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Lessons From Ronald Reagan

This is the late Ronald Reagan: the 40th President of the United States. Photo courtesy of the White House.

As my friends know very well, I have always been interested in a political career. I relish the endeavour of advancing the course of my Motherland through a leadership service rooted in duty, honour and patriotism. The kind of leadership service that Dr. Griffin (the founder of Starehe Boys' Centre, my Alma Mater) strove to instil in Starehians.

But to be honest, I sometimes doubt whether I can have a successful political career given the nature of our national politics that is marred by deceit, acrimony, tribalism and corruption. So corrupted is our national politics that in our country, the term "honest politician" is practically an oxymoron.

My hopes of having a successful political career however get rekindled whenever I think of Ronald Reagan: the 40th President of the United States who led his country to Cold War victory. Americans broke the mould when they elected Reagan as president because he was a kind, honest and good-natured person like me.

Having read much about Reagan, including Margot Morrell's Reagan's Journey: Lessons From a Remarkable Career, I have been able to glean the following virtues that made Reagan a great president: optimism, faith in God, sense of humour, love for mankind and a romantic nature. Let me briefly discuss each of those virtues.

On his optimism and faith in God, Reagan believed deeply in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. So deep was his faith that he never took off in a plane without uttering a prayer. And he believed that God has a purpose for everyone; that we might not know that purpose now but eventually we will know. That kind of deep faith in God accounted for his optimism because he never saw things darkly; he believed everything happens for a reason.

Like when he was almost killed in 1981 by a would-have-been assassin, Reagan prayed in the hospital where he was admitted. A friend visited him in that hospital and told him, "Reagan, God was certainly on your side that day you were shot." To which Reagan replied, "Yes I know, and I have made up my mind that all the days I have left belong to Him."

On his sense of humour and love for mankind, Reagan had an uncanny ability to tell stories of sparkling wit without repeating himself. Rhetoricians have labelled him as "The Great Communicator" because he spoke with confidence and conviction. And he loved meeting and interacting with people. No wonder he was voted in this decade as the most efficient American president since World War 2.

His optimism, faith in God, sense of humour, love for mankind and a romantic nature - let me now discuss on the last of those virtues. Reagan adored his wife Nancy with whom he regularly danced with in the glare of media cameras. He always sent his mother-in-law a gift on Nancy's birthdays.

At one time when he was taking a leisurely walk, Reagan passed by a garden of rose flowers. He paused to pluck one rose only to be told by one of his security escorts, 'Reagan, this is not your flower garden." To which Reagan exclaimed, "But I want to take one to my lady!" He plucked the rose and took it home to his wife Nancy.

For those admirable virtues, Reagan is one of my heroes. I am striving each day to cultivate in myself those virtues that made him a great president. And hopefully, I too will have a successful political career. So help me God.


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