Al Kags

OdeToYouth Lesson 6: Run your own race, Keep you eyes on your ball


Its Christmas. And what a year it has been.

A couple of months ago, I made a commitment to write 30 blogposts about what I have learnt these 35 years of my life. Life & Work got in the way these past few weeks but I am now in a position to continue.

Remember the Servants Quarters I mentioned living in for years in an earlier post? One thing that is true about that room is that it represents one of the most precious periods in my life. I lived in it for 6 years. All I had in there was a mattress (I love sleeping on the floor to this day and I don’t like high beds), a carpet, a table and a lot of books.

The reason that room was precious is because it represents that period in my life when I learnt the most diverse things. From politics to technology and the economy, to agriculture and music and history – boy, did I pick up knowledge! I had few distractions in those days – I only worked and when I was home, I read. I had no TV and a very minimal social life. I did like meeting a few friends and going to the Intercontinental on the odd Tuesday evening for Karaoke which was hosted by Regina Re and later by Kaz Lucas.

In that time, most other young men I knew moved on up in the world and moved into larger flats, bought cars and for me that represented a lot of pressure to keep up with the Jones’s. I took matatus when they drove Toyotas and by the time I drove an old Toyota, they were driving the Mercedes Benz. I didn’t buy trendy cloths and shoes. At that time, I had my own priorities. I needed to build my career, I needed to learn all I could (especially since for much of the time university was not an affordable option), I needed to see the world.

Based on my own priorities,  I chose to live differently. I worked like a horse, I travelled as much and as far as I could, I wrote voraciously and I learnt like my life depended on it. The trade off is I lived in my little SQ and did not go out drinking with my friends as often as I might have liked.

Lesson 6 (a): Run your own race: It is really tempting to try and keep up with your peers – buy the things they do, try hit the same life milestones as they do, chase the same lifestyle. Instagram and Snapchat don’t help either. There is real pressure to keep up. Accept where you are and what you can do. So you can’t go to university right now, learn anyway – everything you can. So you can’t get your dream job, there’s no shame in waiting on tables in a restaurant for a while, or washing cars in the neighbourhood. If all you can do is be a nanny, then be the best nanny you could ever be. The truth is, you will never catch up with the Jones’s and you know what? You can’t win your race when you are watching others.

Lesson 6 (b): Keep your eye on your ball: As you stick to your lane and run your race, don’t feel discouraged because your friends are hitting the life goals you wish you were hitting. Don’t stress over the knowledge that your peers are now driving while you are still riding the matatu, don’t agonise over the fact that they have moved to a nicer neighbourhood. Do your own thing – save for that house you want to buy. Focus on the knowledge you need right now instead of the car. Remember that if your car had no fuel, or you have no food in your house, the Jones’s will not chip in.

The result of my living these lessons? I drive a car that is the envy of many of those peers. I have been to more than 120 countries so far and I intend to go see all of the rest over the next 35 years.

At the end of the day, I can sit and write this blogpost on a verandah with the view in that photo.

Merry Christmas!

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