Al Kags

#OdeToYouth Lesson 13: Take time to do something – while you have it


It has been a while since I last posted something on this series that I started months ago. The delay is a combination of things – the difficulty of managing an ever demanding schedule of two leadership jobs, of learning, of taking responsibility for family and co-workers and so much more. I reflect lately that I look with envy at people who have found some kind of routine, some way of organising their minds and their time so that they can still write, contribute, paint, sing, dance or share of themselves in some way. I read the blog post of one of my work colleagues – who I admire for finding time to write deeply often – who says, “Every morning I transcribe one entry from an old journal, and at night I’ve been reading the insanely detailed and addictive memoir by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard.” How I wish I could say this of myself.

I look with envy at this article that I have seen of President Barack Obama, who is considerably busier than me, and yet, I understand, still finds time to read and reflect every day. This article suggests that Obama is in fact not mostly catching up with work when he stays up late most nights – as is the case with me. For me, even reading a good book has become a challenge lately. Carving out time to write something reflective has become so hard. I love poetry and history, but I have so little time to write some lately. Every time I think of it, I dream of retirement on a beach, where I would spend my days writing and reading and performing spoken word.

But enough about my venting about my not having time. I am not special – or even remotely remarkable in that light for many people my age. Most of us have young families and young kids that we are working hard to bring up as we balance the demands of our work and the almighty hustle. Many people wake up at 4am to battle with traffic and commute for 100kms to get to a job that they leave at 6pm to battle with traffic to go home – focusing to pay bills and contribute to extended family problems, all the while making time for the investment group or chamaa, and trying to have some kind of social life.

It isn’t news: life is hard for everyone and we all don’t really have control over our incoming (the job, the politics, the worries, the bills…) . What we do have control over is our outbox.

This past week I have encountered a 20 year old who moaned for 15 full minutes how tough his life is. He has to balance 5 hours of college three times a week and 3 hours helping at his mum’s shop every day, so she can go home early to cook for him, his dad and his siblings. So I asked him, “What time do you wake up every morning?”

“Between 9am and 10am.” His parents wake up at 5am every day. His mum’s shop is open at 6.15am without fail.

This week, I have found myself feeling exasperated with one of my colleagues who seems overwhelmed by the work that they have to do. But I give credit to her, she has been stoic about it. She does give it all that she has even though she hasn’t mastered herself yet, I have great hopes.

I could never say it enough. All of our opportunities are wide open in our twenties and progressively diminish over the years. If you are twenty now, then just take a moment to realise that you have big resources that you will never be able to use unless you use them NOW.

Lesson 13a: Use your time like you are about to lose it – because you will

There are 24 hours to a day. Lets assume that you use 10 of these at your work, or school or whatever formal thing you get up to. You are left with 14. Let’s assume a further 4 are spent eating, showering, helping around the house, hanging out with your pals (if its more than that, check yourself, dude). You still have ten. I cannot imagine any reason why a 20-something year old person would sleep for more than 5 hours. So you still have an extra 5 hours in the day to learn, to experience, to experiment, to try. Don’t sleep – you’ll sleep when you are old. Manage your time carefully, its the one thing you will regret if you don’t.

Lesson 13b: Everything you do is NOT wasted.

We interviewed interns this week and one thing that I found interesting in many of the people that I met was the vast amounts of time people spend writing applications. I was amazed by a 27 year old who didn’t value the time that he was helping his parents in their supplies business as work experience. I am always chagrined to speak to a young lady of 24 years who does little – spends much of her day indoors because she does not have a job. “I have applied everywhere,” she says desolately yet I know that she is incredibly talented and she could do many things.

Listen. Get out of the house. Do something – anything. Do it for free. Walk to a busy restaurant and say to the owner, “Hi, I would like to come and work for you during your busiest hours for free. If you like how I work, then you’ll pay me.” And do as amazing a job as you can while you are there. I did it once. I had nothing to do, and I walked to this restaurant and offered to spend my time there busing the tables and serving customers, free of charge. I attribute at least 2 years worth of income and a lifetime of friends from that restaurant near Kenya Cinema. No time you spend serving others is wasted. Believe that.

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