Unforgettable encounters of greatness

30 May, 2021 - 00:05 0 Views
Unforgettable encounters of greatness

The Sunday Mail

Milton Kamwendo
Hunt for Greatness

There are mere meetings with people and then there are great encounters. It is in ordinary encounters that extraordinary things happen.

There are people that you meet and your life changes. Somehow the way they look at life, the path they have walked, or a perspective that they have mastered grabs and inflames you.

Live every moment alert to greatness and awe. Do not let the beauty, wonders, and opportunities of this moment escape you while you doze in negativity and allow opportunity to pass you by.

I would like to share some insights from some of the great encounters I have had.

Some ordinary conversations have left extra-ordinary footprints in my mind. Learning opportunities and teachable moments should never be wasted.


Facilitating a workshop in Zambia, Borrotto. He was from DRC and was working for an international organisation. As we were talking about addressing poverty in Africa and making a difference in the rural space he shared a secret that he has been practicing for years.

He said that every time he gets an opportunity to travel he makes a point of buying a cow back in his village. Today every one of his cows is a memorialisation of the travels he has had.

Knowing him his cows are likely named after each trip. He felt that he had a duty to posterity to contribute to his village in this way. Every dime he could save on any trip would translate into a beast in his rural DRC home. As I walked away from the dinner meeting, I was grabbed by what I started calling “The Borrotto Principle”. Do not wait until you have mountains of resources before you can make a difference.

One large pizza could easily be a goat back in the village. Start with what you have and make a difference. Do not be so blinded by the bright city lights as you travel that you forget your village. Every time you get to earn make a point to buy a cow, goat or develop a little aspect of your village or community.

If you are no longer connected to your village, make a difference still in some rural or poor space. You could pay school fees, buy a few textbooks, or contribute in some way. Small steps taken consistently birth great impacts.

It is up to you to take responsibility, develop the rural space and reduce the vagaries of poverty among our people. It is irresponsible to abandon this task to some NGO or some multi-lateral agency.


Back in Secondary School we were classmates with Admire. He was tall, hardworking, and brilliant. He loved chess, he was driven and had great imagination. Admire was always at the top of the class with outstanding marks. After one particularly difficult Physics test, I had to ask him how he studied.

I had been awake for half the night and had received only modest marks. He then asked me what Chapter of the Nelkon and Parker Physics textbook I was on. I thought that was a joke. I remarked that we were all on Chapter Ten. He shot back and said, that was my reality and not his.

While, following the crowd, I was still cloistered in Chapter 10, and he was on a different path guided by his dream and vision. He was on Chapter 18 and I was stunned.

Admire proceeded to challenge me by saying that his exam marks and performance did not depend in any way on any teacher’s attitude, presence, absence or performance.

He said that he put himself under far more pressure than any teacher could. He demanded more from himself than anyone else.

As a result, no teacher could put him under pressure or negatively affect his intended outcomes.

It’s been more than 30 years since that conversation we had with Admire as school boys.

However, the lesson that I learnt that day has never left me. Demand more from yourself than what other people demand from you. Ask for more than what others ask of you. Just save the excuses for the mediocre.

Put more pressure on yourself than the pressure other people put on you.

If you are only waiting for pressure from other people you will be a mere wheel-barrow that only goes as far as it is pushed. External motivation makes you a mere monkey, but internal motivation paves the way for your greatness.


Facilitating a workshop at Haile Resort in Awassa, Ethiopia on the last day of this staff Retreat, Mr Haile Gebrselaisse, the celebrated runner came to address the group.

His presence in the room was electrifying. One of the participants asked about his secret of success in life and business. Apart from his exploits on the athletics field, he is a notable investor in Ethiopia and an astute businessman.

Haile responded by telling this eager group that all that he had learnt in life and business he learnt through running and by running. Two particular lessons stood out for him: finishing the race and the value of time.

When he signs up for any race, he determines before the race that he will finish the race and the place that he wants in that race. He said this thought had sustained him and gave him staying power.

He makes a point to finish the projects that he starts. He is a finisher not just a good starter.

In any race or project at the starting line the adrenaline is pumping and everyone is excited. Towards the end of the race, the energy is low and the muscles are aching. A good athlete knows well to stick to the fight when hardest hit.

The Haile shot — keep running even when you are exhausted.

Like Haile be a finisher and have grit and staying power. Look around your life and organisation and get on a finishing crusade. Finish all the initiatives that you started. Closets with unfinished business are accidents waiting to happen.

The second lesson from Halie is the value of time. He said that many people say that time is money but do not fully understand what that means because they are not athletes.

He said for him as an athlete time is the most important element of the game. A few seconds could mean the difference between carrying home a million dollar prize or going home with a consolation prize that simply covers his airfare.

He said that some people that he meets and works with work have too much “tomorrow.”

They are always postponing things to tomorrow. Today is race day, not tomorrow and finishing in time matters. You do not run at your leisure. You are not just competing against others, you are also competing against your previous times and chasing your vision. Run to win and pursue your goals until they are begging for mercy.

Stopping seeing other runners in life and comparing yourself to mediocrity. Run in your own lane and break your records. Refuse to park on yesterdays.

Keep moving ahead and challenging your limits. Value time like an athlete and finish what you start.

Like Borrotto, make a difference where you are and with what you have. Do not wait for piling resources before you make a difference. Small, small always leads to big, big.

Do not wait for mountains of resources before climbing a mole hill near you. Make a difference with what you have. Do not forget your village, neighbourhood and others who have less than you have and make a sustained difference there.

Be diligent and consistent. Small steps taken consistently are better than one big jump contemplated.

Like Admire, accept and make no excuses. Put your best foot forward. Demand more from yourself than what others demand from you. Do not feel pity for yourself and start “listening” to your aching muscles.

You can be more and you can do more. Challenge your limits and compete with your potential. Do not let other people’s mediocrity or faults become yours. Determine to excel and hold yourself up to that lofty standard. Determine that you will be great despite your circumstances or excuses.

Life is this giant textbook and primer filled with lessons and hacks. Be alert to the lessons of life. In conversations, listen with an eye to learn and ear to do. Wisdom is everywhere.

Someone you will meet today will have something to teach you. Life is full and beautiful. Be open and receptive. The quick formula for greatness is: Learn and apply, then repeat.

Committed to your greatness.

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