The Sunday Mail
Milton Kamwendo Hunt for Greatness —
There are people that you meet and your life is never the same. Somehow, the way they look at life, the path they have walked or a perspective that they have mastered grabs and inflames you. It is in ordinary moments that extraordinary things happen.
It is the routines of greatness that birth greatness. Live every moment with alertness and awe. Do not let the beauty, wonders and opportunities of this moment escape you while you doze. I would like to share some insights from people that I have met.
I will glean from ordinary conversations that have left extraordinary footprints on my heart. I am sure you also have had moments like these. It could be what you mother said, your teacher’s favourite quote, a professor’s insight, a proverb or a story.
Teachable moments should never be wasted. Gems of conversation should be preserved and shared.
I was facilitating a workshop in Zambia when I met an unforgettable gentleman called 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. He always feels that he has a duty to posterity to contribute to his village in this way. Every dime he can save on any trip will translate into a beast in his rural DRC home.
As I walked away from the dinner we had, 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 dinner could easily be a goat back in the village. Start with what you have and make a difference.
Do not be so immersed in the bright city lights as you travel that you forget your true cradle, the village. Every time you get to earn make a point to buy a cow, goat or develop a little aspect of your village. If you are no longer connected to your village, make a difference still in some rural space.
You could pay school fees, buy a few text-books, or contribute in some way. It is more about your imagination and mindfulness. 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.
We were classmates with Admire. He was hard-working and brilliant. He loved chess, he was thoughtful, driven and had a great imagination. Admire was always at the top of the class with outstanding mark and a satisfied look. 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 physics textbook we were using, written by Nelkon and Parker, 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 class, I was cloistered in chapter 10, he was on a different path guided by his dream and vision. 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 presence 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. It’s been more than 28 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 from you, save the excuses. 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.
I was facilitating a workshop four years ago at Haile Resort in Awassa, Ethiopia. On the last day of this staff retreat, Haile Gebrselaisse, the celebrated marathon runner came to address the group I was working with which numbered about 150. After sharing a few things that he felt were important, he invited questions from the participants.
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.
Two particular lessons stood out for him: finish your race and the value of time. When he signs up for any race, he determines before the race that he will finish the race. He says this thought has sustained him and given 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.
Like Haile, have the power of a stamp – stick to your envelope until you reach your destination. Be a finisher and have 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 quip that time is money but do not fully understand what that means. 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 a million dollar prize or going home with a consolation prize that simply covers his airfares. He said that some of the people he works with have too much of “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. Stop 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.
Christina is a long time all-weather friend. At college her results were outstanding. She would get distinctions. One day she shared her secret to success. She said often what she felt on the inside affected what she did on the outside. For instance, when faced with an exam, she would dress her best and put on some make up.
She was determined to do her best and therefore prepared and presented the best of herself. Your attitude affects what you do and determines your altitude. Prepare your best and put your best foot forward, always. What you do in private determines what happens in public. Like Christina, dress up for your examinations.
Put your best foot forward and never be so casual with life to appear unprepared and unkempt. Like Borrotto, make a difference where you are and with what you have. Do not wait for mountains of resources before climbing a mole hill near you. Make a difference with what you have.
Small, small always leads to big, big. Do not forget your village, 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. The very person you meet tomorrow will have something to teach you.
Life is full and beautiful. Be open and receptive. When the hack you were waiting for comes, arise and receive it. The formula for greatness is: Learn and apply, then repeat.
Milton Kamwendo is a cutting-edge international transformational and inspirational speaker, author and coach. He is a cutting strategy, innovation, team-building and leadership facilitator. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634