The Sunday Mail
SIGNIFICANCE is not about where and how you will be buried. That is death, not life.
It is about the contribution and difference that you make in the lives of others. You may forget, but they will never. The first step to doing anything is to try and keep on trying. Trying is always like breathing. When you stop breathing, you die. When you stop trying, you cease to matter. Even if your breathing is shallow and painful, breathe anyway.
Even if the steps you are taking are hard, painful and challenging, take them anyway. It is not the size of steps you take that matter, but the fact that you take action. Failure is not defeat; not trying is true defeat. Whatever happens, do not stop trying and do not give up and abandon your dreams. Keep trying, even if the times are trying.
I recently had lunch with a friend who brought along another friend who had a special story to tell. As we dug into our lunch, this new friend started sharing passionately his life story. Abruptly, he declared that when he dies he wants to be placed in an unmarked grave. I marvelled, because most people are so obsessed with self-preservation and self-aggrandisement. Without stopping, he went on to say that he wanted only one inscription on his tombstone: “He tried!” He said that everyone he meets is trying. His passion and calling is so big that the only thing that he can do is to get up everyday and try. Whatever the obstacle, he will not stop trying to reach more people and make a difference in their lives.
Fixing his deep and fiery gaze at me he said, “Milton, keep trying and don’t stop trying!”
As I walked away from the lunch, the words, “He tried; keep trying” continued ringing in my mind. Many people talk about how hard things are and how impossible it is all becoming. They are not wrong, but this is only part of the story. It is easy to give up and stop trying. Hopelessness is not a strategy. Never give up and stop trying. Every blow, inch and step that you take makes a huge difference. If at first you do not succeed, do not throw tantrums, do silly things and give up. Just try again.
If you fail at the second attempt, do not hang your head in shame and think that the whole world is laughing at you. It is not. The last laugh belongs to the one who does not stop trying regardless of the chorus of naysayers.
The world may be admiring you and admitting that at least you have the courage to dare. That inner fight in you is a precious commodity. Keep trying. It is better to fail, after trying and trying and trying, than to succeed at fearfully doing nothing. Try and try and try on. These stories of rising and rising and rising are just burden fiction. You will not have finished all the available tries before your breakthrough comes. If you die trying, at least at your funeral they will all say: “He tried!” It is better to die trying than to be known as someone who failed and gave up. That is not your story line.
Rotary International is a global voluntary organisation that is committed to doing good in the community.
At the centre of the Rotary belief system is the four-way test. This test is made up of four key questions that every member should always ask in daily conduct and honest self-examination. The questions are: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Based on this core belief system, Rotary harnesses the potential of people to do good, uplift their communities, promote fellowship and uphold good business ethics. Rotary International through its clubs scattered world over keeps trying.
I had the privilege in 2010 to be selected by Rotary International to be part of the group study exchange programme that took me and five others from District 9210, which covers Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe on a month-long study and cultural exchange tour of Texas and Oklahoma in the USA.
While on this tour, I had the privilege of visiting a rare place to take any visitor. It was the Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, Texas. At this cemetery, my host took me to two popular graves. The first one was one grave where the tombstone is a statue of Jesus in cowboy boots. This statue is now so popular that if you have not seen Jesus in cowboy boots you have not been to Paris, Texas. What I liked there is the humour. It does not matter what you go through, there is always a little space for a good dose of humour. What took my heart though is one very big and beautiful tomb that was made out of marble stone in a brilliant bright polished maroon colour.
The person who commissioned the tomb called Johnson, was not dead yet, just preparing. He did not want to leave his tombstone or his death to chance.
He decided to do up his grave to his taste and liking, then relax and get on with the business of living, knowing that when he dies this would be his resting place. No guesses, nor unnecessary worries. Instead of worrying he tried to do something.
Elsewhere in my writing I have spoken about the virtue and wisdom of patience. Indeed, great things happen to those who wait. However, there are times when you have to move with speed, before you are ready and do what you must in order to progress.
You cannot just wait for death, marriage, fate, change and suspend all living. Johnson’s grave taught me that I should not wait for death before planning the details of my life. Life is to be lived and not just waited for without any action. You cannot afford to suspend your life and just wait for a wind that you cannot control. That would be like waiting for the old Harare bus service. You cannot just wait at the proverbial bus stop of life doing nothing except worrying.
I miss the old bus service in Zimbabwe, the Harare United Omnibus Company. Those were the days before Zupco was born. We used to wait at the “stop bus” as we used to call it, for the buses with the maroon stripe. How the language reversal used to take form I still can not tell. Popular words then were, “guard body and basin sugar.” You knew that the bus travelled on time, every hour or 30 minutes. You could not just stop at any place and hope to get a lift, you had to be at the bus stop. Whatever happened to urban bus time timetables and organised bus services I can not tell. To be sure it is not a global problem, but our problem. While you wait, you must never forget that the world is not waiting. There is someone somewhere who is trying. With every try, there is an increase in the chances of success.
Life is not for those who wait but those who take action.
They try even if they do not have every resource. They just keep pushing, pushing and pushing. Never wait for all the traffic lights to be green before you pull off your driveway. There are no perfect circumstances. You cannot wait for perfect circumstances to launch.
You cannot wait for golden spoons to be shoved into your mouth in order to start eating. Opportunity does not just come to you, you have to swim towards it. If your cows do not come home, you go out and look for them and herd them home. Quit being in limbo because you are waiting for a perfect season, a silver bullet and a perfect wind. There is no perfection in an imperfect world. If you do not make it in these circumstances, you may suspend living to find that life passed you by while you were waiting. Get up, put on your boots and do what you must. Keep trying.
Do not give death so much credibility and worship. You cannot afford to be paralysed by the fear of dying. You cannot afford to be so obsessed with dying that you are always worrying about it instead of setting some big and inspiring goals of living and then getting on with life. If you are worried so much about death, try the Johnson formula, then take your mind off death and start thinking life. Live with a bold vision and great inspiring goals. Every day, wake up to try.
Move towards your goals by an inch, kilometre or more. Whatever you do, do not stop trying, thinking, believing and taking action.
There is no failure except in not trying. True death is when you can no longer try. So long as you can still try, you have hope and you can do miracles.
Greatness is not noise making or dust raising. Greatness is a matter of the courage to get up and try even if everything around you is negative and gloomy.
Some days are truly tough. Courage is that little push at the end of a terrible day, when you would rather give in and disappear.
It is that little push that dares you to say, “I will try again tomorrow!” Trying times are not the times to stop trying. If ever you failed, that is not evidence enough that you should give up and stop trying. May your defining trait be: “He tried!”
Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a strategy and innovation consultant and leadership coach. His life purpose is to inspire people to release the greatness trapped in them. He can be reached at: [email protected] and on Whatsup at: 0772422634.