On “The Problem of the Black Race – James David Manning”

“There is a particular problem with every black man and that problem is inherent in his black color. There is no such particular problem in every white man and the reason why every white man does not have that particular problem is also inherent in his white color. Of all the black men that have ever lived, you cannot train any one of them to understand the world but you can train any white man to understand the world.”

Is that what the preacher is saying? If so, does that sound reasonable?
You be the judge.

Remembering the lessons from Toastmasters

I don’t remember exactly, when and how I came to know about Toastmasters International . Initially, I thought I would never find a local club in Zambia. Reluctantly, I searched for a “club near me” from Toastmasters website … there it was, information about a local club meeting not too far from where I lived. As they say, the rest is history.

Today, I wanted to share a few experiences from Toastmasters and the life lessons that we easily forget:

DO MORE OF WHAT YOU FEAR AND YOU SHALL KNOW NO MORE OF THAT FEAR

When I joined Toastmasters, I was very fearful of public speaking. Few months into it, I no longer dread it as much as I did at first. In fact I relished every chance to speak in front of my peers. What has changed? Many things perhaps; but one thing is for certain, I have become familiar with the object of my fear. I had looked fear in the eyes and was no longer afraid of speaking within the Toastmaster club setting, something I dreaded at the start.
You can READ about public speaking until your mind fills up; you can THINK about it until you turn blue, but eventually you MUST DO public speaking if you are to effectively deal with the fear. You must become familiar with public speaking.

The same principle applies to all other fears of life; the more familiar you become with what you fear, the more you master the fear and the less you fear. The fear you avoid, you strengthen; the fear you face you weaken. Familiarize yourself with the object of your fear by moving towards it, not away from it. Start with the “small” fears that cause you to shrink from your greatness and take on the “bigger” debilitating fears as you go along.

YOU ONLY KNOW IF YOU ARE READY WHEN YOU STEP UP TO THE PLATE

There are many times when I have affirmed my readiness for a speech or any other challenging role during the club meetings but it was only when I stepped forward to speak that I realized how ready or not ready I truly was.
Prepare all you want; plan until your eyes are red; the verdict on your readiness comes when you step forward to actually begin DOING.

So it is with life; don’t obsess with whether you are ready or not; you will never really know anyway… until you step forward and begin to DO. Just begin to DO. This is not to say, you should neglect planning and “trying to be ready”; it is a way of saying you should be careful never plan yourself into inaction.

FIND SOMETHING THAT IS STRONGER THAN YOUR FEAR, THEN YOU WILL CONQUER THE FEAR

This is something I experienced first-hand when I was giving my icebreaker speech. Prior to making that speech, I was really scared. I thought I was going to make a fool of myself. It was the first prepared speech I had ever given in any setting. Before that, the closest I had come to give a speech was when I was reciting bible verse in church, as a 13 year old.

But when I stepped forward to speak, I seemed to have taken on a different personality. I delivered with passion and conviction.

For the next few days, I was baffled for all the good reasons; why had I done well when I was afraid before the speech?

As I later realized, it was because … added to the fact that I had prepared adequately, I spoke about my dreams; things that are stronger than my fear of public speaking.
In life, you need to find the thing that is stronger than your strongest fears and hang on to it. It can be an idea, a person, a philosophy … whatever.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLES OF LIFE

It sounds selfish but it helps to realize that you are not alone in your struggle. During one of our club meetings, a guest (a school going kid), when asked how he found the meeting, innocently spoke of how “encouraged” he was to find that “even adults are just as afraid of public speaking and we the kids”.

So it is with life; you are never alone. Sometimes, that is all you need to hear; that “the brethren are also going through the same things”. At every point in your life there is someone on this globe going through the same challenges you are going through.*
I have found that this thought has a way of restoring your sense of self-respect and cause you take life for what it is; a journey for everyone.

EVERYONE NEEDS A PLACE WHERE THEY CAN FAIL FREELY

Toastmasters is a place where you can freely fail; it is a friendly environment that takes off the pressure of performance and allows you to try out different techniques of speech delivery without loss… because it is a training ground without undue expectations that come with the “real world” public speaking engagement.

We live in the “real world” but we all need such a place; a place where you can freely fail; a place of second chances. This is how we learn.

Toastmasters is a wonderful experience in the quest for self-growth and honing skills in leadership and public speaking. If you are not already a member I would invite you to look up the Toastmasters Website and find a club near you. You will not regret.

Reveling in Ndola, living for the Weekend

Towards the end of last week, one question started constantly popping up in my mind; what’s in a job? Before long, I was on the road to Ndola. For personal work WORK, I spent 2 nights in Zambia’s 3rd largest city.

Living for the weekendThe first night, holed up at Henry Makulu Lodge with nothing else to do I decided to get around town to catch a fresh breeze of air. Before I knew it, I was seated in a dark corner at what was essentially a night club. For 2 hours I sipped from a bottle of Mineral water, watching the Ndolan-ites take to the floor, dancing the night away. Everyone seemed to be having a good time; it was Sunday night. Who said Sunday nights are boring? Not in Ndola.

Given that the next day was going to be Monday you would think these revelers would be holding some energy back, for the dreaded Monday at their jobs, but that is not how it was coming across. From where I sat, these accountants, general managers, mine contractors, school girls etc where giving it all away.

I don’t take alcohol and you can only drink so much water in any given outing; therefore, when I could not drink any more water, I called it quits. I went back to my room.

Those few moments spent in that noisy place had been enough distraction away from my introspective nature; but no sooner had I placed by head on the pillow than the angels (or demons) of introspective thought descended on me. What’s in a Job? I began to ask myself, again.

I was tired; and there was more work to do the following day. But for the night there was no more time to philosophize. I quickly drifted into sleep.

Monday night, when my programmer day job was done I went back to the same club. And to my astonishment there was almost no one on the scene; no one on the dance floor. The music was not as loud. Where had all those people I had seen the previous day gone? They were all back at their real jobs; changing toner, fixing printers and copiers, and all the other 101 jobs you can think of.

The experience reminded me of what someone once said: most people live for weekends, because that is when they have time to do the things they really love to do.

Seeing those revelers on the dance floor on Sunday night, it would be difficult to convince even a non-drinker and non-reveler like me that those guys were not having a good time that night. I just wonder what kind of people they are Monday to Friday at their jobs. Are they able to replicate that same feeling of “having a good time” when they are changing toner? Do they enjoy it as much?

Maybe that’s too much to ask. But still whats in a job?

Why am I even doing this?

It matters less what your thing is; writing, music, poetry, painting, photography or cookery … whatever; there are times when you feel like you have reached the end; times when your head seems to be banging against the mighty wall of resistance. Times when you begin to doubt why you enlisted for the war in the first place; why am I even doing this?

You ask yourself.

Steven Pressfield gives us a brilliant answer in this short piece worthy of your time. Its not like we have a choice. Find why you must “keep gnawing” and make a fresh commitment.

You can love anything; you can love anyone.

You can love anything; you can love anyone. This is both a blessing and a curse; but it is a discussion for another day.

In my post “Teacher, talk to us about Talent”, I make the case for love; I suggest that it matters less whether or not we have innate talent (assuming that such a thing exists) in something; it matters more that we love to do it. Love alone should be enough in the pursuit of an art. This may not pay the bills but it will make us happy.

But what if you don’t have love for anything?

“Keep looking” is the answer; go out and do a lot of things out of sheer curiosity and experimentation; find out what you can love. Don’t wait for the feeling of love to pursue a creative adventure; curiosity and experimentation are enough.

Before you is a life of unlimited possibilities; the permutations of the things you can do are so unlimited that not even eternity is enough to do them all. To a greater extent, what determines the extent of your engagement with things is the choice you make regarding the things you give attention to and the things you choose not to give attention to. You have the capacity to love anything and anyone you spend time with.

There is  NO EXCUSE for boredom.

Go and find out what you love; give the things you are curious about some chance; experiment. You will be amazed at the things you will come up with.

I only offer you one rule; do no harm.

Look within, always

I recently attended a family conference at which the speaker, among many other things blamed social media in general and Whatsapp in particular for the disconnection in relationships, particularly marriages. Later the same day, I found myself seated in a room with 5 comrades; four of us were busy on our phones while we waited for a colleague to walk in for a meetup. One of my friends noticed this and jokingly re-iterated the idea that mobile internet has made us become zombies; we were busy tweeting online when we should have been talking offline.

Less than 24 hours later, I was loitering on the ‘net when I bumped into an article by one Paul Miller, the gentleman who on April 30th, 2012, at 11:59PM unplugged his Ethernet cable, shut off his Wi-Fi, and swapped his smartphone for a dumb one and set out on a yearlong journey of living without the Internet. As a 26 year old experiencing burnout, Paul says he wanted “a break from modern life — the hamster wheel of an email inbox, the constant flood of WWW information which drowned his sanity”.

After one year of living without the Internet, Paul offers brilliant insight into his yearlong experiment and what it meant to him going forward. Allow me to sum it up in a few words: The Internet is not to blame for your problems; the moral choices that you face without the internet are not different from those that you face with the Internet. You are responsible.

***

Many many years before we invented the internet and before we begun speculating about social media and how it could be negatively impacting our personal life, relationships and our society, James Allen (1864-1912) had the following to say about the human condition in general:

“I looked around upon the world, and saw that it was shadowed by sorrow and scorched by the fierce fires of suffering. And I looked for the cause. I looked around, but could not find it; I looked in books, but could not find it; I looked within, and found there both the cause and the self-made nature of that cause. I looked again, and deeper, and found the remedy.
I found one Law, the Law of Love; one Life, the Life of adjustment to that Law; one Truth, the truth of a conquered mind and a quiet and obedient heart.”

In other words, when thinking about the things that make your life a living, it is always helpful to first start by looking inside; always. Do this as a matter of policy and you will not be further from the truth. You will not get lost in symptoms, because you will be looking at the real cause.

Take heed.

Where love is present, there should be no excuse for not doing

I was a member of Toastmasters International sometime between 2009 and 2011. In 2011 I was privileged to serve as Area Governor for the clubs in Zambia. The end of my term of office coincided with a period I started making rigorous life changes and as such I could not fully keep commitments to the club. So I decided to take a hiatus.

It’s been a couple of years now … and during this period I have found love and passion in a 6 stringed musical instrument. In the last 12 months I have also been privileged to lead and hosting 2 weekly cell church meetings at my place. As a guitarist, I have also joined the praise and worship team at my local church.

I suspect that the musical adventures will continue for many years to come and they will continue to take a larger portion of my artistic gift to the world. Together with guitar and keyboard playing, I am learning to play bass. I have been collecting a wide range of music instruments. My wife and I have recently started having our own music rehearsals at our home. The plan is to get a few enthusiastic youngsters to join us for a functioning and performing band.

But I still love the spoken word. This is the love that took me to Toastmasters in the first place. It’s just that with life getting busy, I was not sure I had the time to get back to speaking at my Toastmasters club. After a few days of contemplating whether or not to go back to Toastmasters, I accidentally bumped into an old Toastmasters colleague online. As expected, we got talking about Toastmasters; and I decided I was going to get back.

I have posted this here as a reminder that my Toastmasters hiatus is ended; it’s time to get back to the spoken word. I think that where love is present, there should be no excuse for not doing.