Bordering on Luck

This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies
And lads and girls;
Was laughter and ability and sighing,
And frocks and curls;
This passive place a summer’s nimble mansion,
Where bloom and bees
Fulfilled their oriental circuit,
Then ceased like these.
Emily Dickinson

This poem best expresses my thoughts on the sight of the lifeless little boy washed up on a Turkish beach not to mention the thousands of other refugees who have suffered the same fate. At some point in their lives there was love, laughter, friends, happiness and dreams of the future but it has come to an ill-fated end. We have become desensitised to their plight through the TV screens, forgetting they are human beings no different from us.

We can only imagine what a mother and father are seeing and experiencing for them to conclude that such a torturous journey is the best option for their family. It struck a chord with me because I recognised that the difference between me, that little boy and all the others lost is nothing except luck. As an immigrant, I took a look at the key pillars that managed to bring me here (England) and they were completely out of my control, it was just luck. It was luck that the war in my country ended 7 years before I was born, it was luck my parents were not poor, it was luck to be sent to a respectable school, it was luck that my sister could fly me over here and pay for my university education and luck that someone gave me a chance to start a life here. Despite my own individual efforts and actions the foundations were placed through divine action and, most importantly, other people’s love and understanding. No personal virtues control us being born in peace, privileged and fortunate so let us remember that those who need our help didn’t choose the absence of them

No one willingly chooses to face starvation, barbed fences, tear gas, the cold sea, victimisation and the prospect of losing their lives, let alone that of a child. We shouldn’t let media or shrewd individuals teach us that those who differ from us threaten our liberty, homes and jobs. We need to remember that they seek so as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in peace and with purpose. We have to look at the privileges we protect as our own when drawing borders and remember many of us are descendants of immigrants. The gates could have easily been closed too, on our forefathers and we could have been born in very different circumstances.

All Black Legend

Why do we look for heroes? It is because we feel less than perfect and hence we are always seeking a source of perfection. A person who can do it better than we can; a person who offers us an example of what we can do or achieve when we try. That is why Richie is important, he gives us that hope and example of being more than we can be.

Bitter sweet occasion today, most capped rugby player and last home game in the black jersey. ‘What a tackle!’ It’s a turnover!’, ‘Captain Fantastic’, ‘How does he do it!’ and ‘ There he goes crashing in’. All words we have heard thousands of times describing Richie McCaw as he has captivated hearts and minds of people the world over.

Although I am Zimbabwean; I have been glued to the TV for a decade watching All Blacks test matches, never missing a single one because through them and particularly their captain my life was given extra meaning. I learnt to play rugby very late in my life (18), so there was a lot of catching up to do and trying to figure where exactly I fitted in a team. I remember being laughed at for making a lot of mistakes on the wing, and to be quite honest I sucked at it, but I just didn’t know where else to place myself. So I decided to start watching the best team in the world to learn the tricks of the trade. I remember not having cable TV and having to go to my friend Victor’s house to watch the games and have him record them on tapes (yes tapes) so that I could replay them at home. I watched these tapes so many times I could still tell you the commentary in particular sequences of play. Even my mother and sister would say at times ‘Is there nothing else we can watch o TV’. Unfortunately for them there was nothing else, I was drawn to how Richie played, he was everywhere, all the time causing havoc. He was so good I eventually heard my mother and sister asking ‘Is Richie McCaw playing today?’(although Carter was their favourite, no surprise there), they too became fans. At a time in our country when there wasn’t much to smile about; watching the All Blacks play was something we all looked forward to as a family and the captain made it even more special.

Then one day after a year of playing on the wing (I don’t know how I lasted that long there) the coach asked if someone could play at number 7 because we were one player short. I hesitantly raised my hand and said I would give it a try, I put on my scrum cap and off I went. That turned out to be the best game I had ever played, i was so good that at the coach came and asked me where I had learnt to play like that and I remember saying… ‘Richie’. People came and shook my hands, it was surreal, I felt like I had played there my whole life. From that point I started to mimic what I thought were the principles of Richie’s style of play into my own game (for as long as my fitness allowed off course), tackle and get up immediately, don’t enter rucks or mauls unless you can influence the outcome, predict where the ball goes next, always be in support and leave absolutely everything on the field. I became a much better rugby player because of him and I loved every moment I played. Despite the fact I cannot play anymore; I learnt noteworthy life lessons from merely watching Richie through New Zealand’s victories and losses (RWC 2007 I was inconsolable) that apply well beyond the rugby field. These are; defeats are an opportunity for improvement, be a difference maker, will conquers all, don’t get drawn into petty battles, give 101% and be humble. Richie is a man who supersedes any sporting accolades he achieves, he is a tremendous role model. His character is what truly makes him legendary.

I had the privilege of meeting my hero; it was in 2011 in Harrods when some All Black players came for signings after the World Cup. I was in awe; I pretty much turned into a little boy. I am not sure how many of you have met your heroes but it is a bit awkward (may it is just me) because no words seem right or adequate to say, it all sounds generic or cliché even though the feelings behind it are true. What I probably really wanted to say to him was because of you I discovered what it felt like to be good at something and because of you Zimbabwe was a little happier for my family, thank you for being an inspiration on and off the field.

None the less as he plays his last game on home soil, I hope the cheers and applause of 4.5 million New Zealanders will carry not only the team but one of its greatest sons to victory on this significant occasion. For the All Black players setting foot on the field tomorrow, I hope you play for the pride of your nation and your captain. Give it blood and sweat, leave it all on the field and nothing to chance because Richie has given it nothing less for 142 times.

Congratulations Richie

Go All Blacks

The Good Farmer

Imagine there is a farmer who has a very fertile piece of land. What he decides to plant in his field is entirely his choice; the land does not choose for him. The farmer has the choice between two seeds, one is for corn and the other is for rosary pea (a deadly poison). Whichever seeds he decides to sow he will reap; he cannot plant the rosary pea and expect a bumper harvest of corn. It would be and impossibility and against natural laws.

Now I want you to think of your mind as the field; fertile, rich and waiting for you to plant the desired seeds. If you plant seeds in of positivity, success, determination and hope it will reap those results. If you choose to go down the opposite path of planting negativity, self-pity, and fear then there should be no surprise that is what you will reap.

Choose the thoughts you entertain wisely

Be the Uncommon Man

Come Fly with me

Whenever I take a flight I always like to book a window seat. The reason for that is I still like to marvel at the phenomena of flying. I like to look out the window and observe the flaps on the wings readjust, the turbine engine and listening to the wheels as they fold in. That is the beginning of a thousand mile journey inside a flying metal container, it’s crazy. Many take it for granted now and fail to appreciate the wonder of flight, over mountains, canyons, deserts and oceans. But what always strikes me the most is I am inside the Wright brothers’ vision. It all starts with a vision.

Rainbow Nation

On our family holiday to Cape Town we were walking around and my wife said to me ‘It’s crazy to think that a little more than 20 years ago we could not walk around here together because of apartheid’. After that I then became very aware of what was happening around me, black, Indian and white people together playing on the beach, eating at restaurants and clubbing together. It struck me that I was walking inside Mandela’s vision of his nation. It all starts with a vision.

We choose to go to the moon

I was listening to President John Kennedy’s secret tapes and on them you can hear him arguing with NASA official James Webb on going to the moon. Webb (an expert in the matter of space) can be heard saying to the president that there is no certainty man can survive the weightlessness on the moon and there is no information on what the moon surface is like. But Kennedy is adamant that the moon landing is happening and it is the top priority. I found this fascinating because the guy with the knowledge saw impossibility but the man with the vision wasn’t preoccupied by what is currently possible. It all starts with a vision.

Let beliefs guide what you see, not the other way round

These moments above and many others unmentioned of visionaries taught me that there are two types of men. The common man lets what he hears and sees govern her beliefs. While the uncommon man is not so preoccupied by the status quo, he lets his beliefs or vision govern what he sees and hears. Everything we see around us was once only a thought but through time, dedication and passion that thought grew was into existence. The naysayers will criticise your vision but remember it doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s a continuous work in progress for you and future generations. If you believe in something strongly I want you to remember that is the foundation for all great things.

I leave you with this quote by Albert Einstein “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

There is very little to say really about today’s shooting of Walter Scott by a police officer. As a black person I could not help but weep because in watching that short video it was a painful reminder how little value my life has in the eyes of others. I hope next time a police officer draws to act as judge, jury and executioner upon another “dangerous” black man he realises:

We have loved ones
We have dreams and aspirations
We love our children and want to see them grow
We want to see the sun and the moon
We want to live our lives in peace and happiness too
Our lives have value too

Rest In Peace Walter Scott

Aim for progress not perfection

Since it’s my first blog of 2015 I will start off by saying happy New Year, although I know by now it feels like just another year. I am sure a few of us made some resolutions for the year which maybe starting to fall apart because we didn’t quite realise what it takes to change varying aspects of our lives. I am just going to say some points that I hope will put some wind back in your sails.

Separate you from your actions – Most important point to remember ‘Failing at something does not make you’re a failure’. There is a difference with failing and being a failure. I promise you are not going to get things right all the time but you are always better off trying. Success and losing come and go but effort is never questioned because it is between you and yourself.

Don’t wait for a perfect time – Many of us are caught in the ‘When this happens, then I will do this’ loop. That is a never ending cycle because you will never find a perfect moment or opportunity in life. You create the perfect times and the perfect moments; remember that perfection is the enemy of progress.

Ignore the naysayers – There will always be people waiting to feed negativity and doubt into a new journey you want to embark on. It’s important to remember that people are usually like this because they are frustrated with their own failure and inaction so their resentment of you is about themselves. Believe in what you want to do firmly and don’t enter arguments with negative people to prove you will succeed; it makes fools of both of you. Just do it and let the results speak for themselves.

Tackle that fear – when you don’t act on a fear it only grows, and so does its hold on you. One of the first things I was taught in rugby was when tackling a man (especially a bigger man), run at him so as to meet him half way. Don’t let him run at you because you are scared of tackling him, he is only picking up more momentum and becoming unstoppable. Same rules in life, attack things and don’t let them come at you or get bigger.

Don’t hide behind others – The age old trap of saying things like ‘My children need me’,’ My wife fills my head with negativity’, ‘My boyfriend doesn’t support me’ and ‘My friends get in my way’. The excuses are limitless but I hate to break the news that nobody owes you anything in trying to make your dreams a reality (not a wife, husband parent or friend), that is your responsibility. When you hide behind people you will only resent them at the end because you feel they held you back from your full potential .But actually you held yourself back, there were no chains there. People who truly love you will enjoy watching your transformation and support it.

Never give up – You will fail repeatedly when pursuing your dreams. I want to reiterate that point because I think it is emphasised enough. Don’t be fooled by what you see in movies that you will fail a couple of times, maybe 3 or 4. The reality is you may spend a year failing but you only truly fail when you quit. Accept shortcomings of that day but always fail better tomorrow. Change strategies and tactics but be as stubborn as the problem you want to solve. Tell yourself this is not over until you win!

Make your vision to a daily habit – coming up with a clear vision of what you are meant to be (not who you are told to be) is difficult, but creating a mechanism of getting there is even harder. Making something a habit is one of the most powerful things you can do because you are eventually placing it into your subconscious mind. I suggest breaking it down to vision- strategy – tactic – habit. Sounds a bit complex but I will try help with an simple example

Vision (The ideal) – be a great computer programmer
Strategy (How you get there) – need to know coding
Tactic (Technique to do it) – take up a computer science class
Habit (How it fits into your daily life) – class between 6 and 8 after work. Read book for 1hour at lunch in the morning

Obviously the bigger the vision is, the more things that go into the strategy tactics and habits. But remember you can’t do everything at once so prioritise the most important parts first.

Live your life – my last point is you have to die to leave this life (sounds depressing I know), no amount of caution will preserve your life forever. Remember to live it, be bold and be daring.

Life is a journey not a destination

Careful of the facts

Property of Bruce MacKinnon

I wrote this story a few days ago and almost did not share it because of the events that then happened in Ottawa, Canada. The events broke my heart as an innocent young man lost his life to a barbarian, it filled me with such anger that I thought this article is pointless and I am the one lost. But I decided to share it anyway and let you be the judges.

I was sitting at the back of the bus on my way to work when a woman wearing a burka got on accompanying her children. As she walked past me to find a seat I did something subconsciously which was despicable, I shook my head in disapproval of her religion. Although she did not notice almost instantaneously another part of me said… ‘What have you done, how dare you resent her for that’. It was something that weighed on me for days that followed because firstly it was so out of character and most importantly I had become a bigot. Where had all these ill feelings come from?

It made no sense because I grew up in a home based on opened mindedness and a country without religious divide. When I arrived in England those values remained and I did not bear any hostility or resentment towards any religious group. I believe (or believed now because I am no so sure) that despite outward appearances the fundamentals of all religions are based on peace, love and respect of your fellow man and hence I had a diverse group of friends. But obviously something had changed how I perceived Muslims subconsciously in order for me to behave so abhorrently. It all came together the week that followed when I was speaking to my little sister on the phone (who lives in a different part of the world) and she made a remark that ended with her saying ‘you know what Muslims are like, they kill people who disagree with them’. That comment upset me so much, and as I was about to give her an earful I realised what I had done earlier on the bus put me in no position for moral speeches. We both held these views and considering we are in opposite parts of the world it became apparent to me that the information we were exposed to was the only similarity. It had managed to change our perception of an entire religious group to something awfully narrow minded. The process of how this could have happened took me back to a conversation I had some years ago.

I once met up with a friend of mine in the morning for breakfast. As we were debating on choices I said to him for some bizarre reason I really craved McDonalds’ breakfast. We both found that unusual as I rarely crave fast food, let alone for breakfast. But as someone who worked in marketing and branding he told me something most of us never think of when exposed to information. He said people are bombarded with advertising messages from different companies’ daily and think that there has been no effect on how they then perceive that brand. But the desired outcome is occurring at a subconsciously level, best demonstrated sometimes by how we find ourselves singing commercials we didn’t think we knew or thinking of coke when you hear a can crack open. Your mind makes associations and once that is done it is hard to reverse. In my particular case it had associated breakfast with McDonalds. He then said it doesn’t work on everyone the same, but the aim is for it to work on enough people to create a demand and also to get those who have succumb to the advertising blitz to influence friends and family (the most important takeaway.)What does this have to do with Islam?

What is happening in the press in regards to Islam is not advertising but the effect is no different. We see terms like Islamic terrorist, Islamic murderers, Islamic state killing and Muslim terrorists, infinite negativity. I am not going into get into the debate of whether the information is true or false but it is still being absorbed. I once read it is not about the facts but what you make people THINK are the facts, which is something entirely different. The word being tainted is Islam as a whole and our minds are generally going to associate an entire religion with an extremist minority who would still be dysfunctional people regardless of what religion they followed. Some may be lucky enough to see the bigger picture all the time but then there will be those who are generally nice and normal people, who will be influenced otherwise and spread the ‘facts’. This will be particularly detrimental in multicultural societies that have Muslims populations as it will further ostracize them and leave them vulnerable to extremist teachings.

For such an outcome to be avoided it would be expected to place responsibility on the media, for them to report balanced news, but as we know the press always has its own agenda. So to evade this hazardous path of hate I would employ each individual in times of doubt to think of the best Muslim they know and not the worst. You will then come to the realisation which had been lost in my own subconscious which is these are terrorists who happen to be Muslim and not terrorists because they are Muslim.

Rest in Eternal Peace Cpl. Nathan Cirillo

Act today to save tomorrow

Imagine it is the middle of the night; you and your family are soundly asleep in your home when you are woken up abruptly by a loud noise. It sounds like something has been knocked over onto the floor. Possibly it could be nothing to worry about because your dog has collided with things before at night when it is spooked by shadows. But on the other hand it could be that somebody has broken into your house! This is an inconceivable thought because the first rooms the intruder could easily walk into are those of your young children who are soundly asleep. You have two choices at this point; to go back to sleep because you definitely think it is the dog, as it has done this on many other occasions, or choose to go down and check to make sure everything is ok?

Every person (male or female) I have played this scenario out for gives me the same series of answers….

‘Even if the dog has done it before I have to check for the sake of the children’ ‘It is one of those things you always have to remain paranoid about’ ‘What if I don’t check and it isn’t the dog this time, it could be a catastrophe’

Everybody chooses action over inaction because it is better to be eliminating that doubt.

This is how I feel global warming should be viewed in a nutshell. We hear various interests groups arguing with scientists and politicians on whether global warming is really happening or not. You here things like…. ‘It is scientific conspiracy’, ‘It is based on no definitive evidence’ or ‘The liberals are fear mongering’, an endless amount of ways to try discredit any insight in the issue. It was the same way tobacco companies attacked medical researchers and doctors when they were trying to prove that smoking kills. How many people especially children had to die from smoking related illnesses while the world waited for perfect information? We need to remember that perfection is the enemy of progress.

Like the noise at night scenario, there is far less to lose for mankind if we are a little paranoid about global warming. The worst that could happen is that sustainable measures are implemented more aggressively, the consumption of natural renewable resources slows down, the air quality improves, climate may become less volatile and our children can enjoy the future. But if we choose the path of inaction and wait for absolute evidence while the global temperatures rise, draught along with famine increases, and the air becomes filthier to then discover at the end the evidence was true and it is irreversible. It would have violated the most important thing about being human, laying the foundation for future generations.

We have to start taking more solid measures now (it’s bigger than just reusable shopping bags) that can hopefully change the course we are on right now because the comfortable choices have been exhausted. But even after that we may not see the fruits of change in our lifetime but maybe it could be different for future generations.

The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!’

Always ask why


I read something very interesting in my favourite author Paulo Coehlo’s book Zahir which I thought would be great to share……

‘I went to a train station today and learned that the distance between railway tracks is always 143.5 centimetres, or 4 feet 8½ inches. Why this absurd measurement? I asked my girlfriend to find out and this is what she discovered. When they built the first train carriages, they used the same tools as they had for building horse-drawn carriages. And why that distance between the wheels on carriages? Because that was the width of the old roads along which the carriages had to travel. And who decided that roads should be that width? Well, suddenly, we are plunged back into the distant past. It was the Romans, the first great road builders, who decided to make their roads that width. And why? Because their war chariots were pulled by two horses, and when placed side by side, the horses they used at the time took up 143.5 centimetres.’

So what is the lesson from this seemingly harmless story?

It really resonated with me because it showed that in life if we go by unquestioning rules or convention we will limit ourselves to obsolete scripts of the past. We all start out with huge dreams and aspirations but end up being surrounded and overwhelmed with ‘practical information’. Where this information has come from nobody knows and nobody questions. Never simply take people’s word or advice for things no matter how well intentioned, always stay curious and ask questions of what is the status quo. Trying things for yourself and even failing is better for you because you come to your own conclusions. If you don’t, you will find that your life will take a form that is governed by others and the rules they set for….THEMSELVES!!

Make sure your world doesn’t end up 143.5cm wide

What it means to be young

I was sitting on the bus on my way home after work when suddenly I heard two ladies who were sitting behind me at the back of the bus start to gossip about a girl who had just got on the bus. They were older than her and their tasteless comments were directed towards the younger girl’s youthful appearance, with the conversation focusing on how she will not look the same when she gets older. There is obviously nothing wrong with a little jealousy every once in a while, even I find myself every once in a while glaring at my younger counterparts in the gym who can get by on mediocre (yes I am being catty) 30 minute workouts and get great results while I can no longer have dessert without my body saying ‘You sure about that’. It is the unfortunate part of getting older, you lose some things (while gaining a new waistline). But my thoughts drifted away from mere vanity but on what it really means to be youthful.

It is our absolute duty to maximise on our abilities when we are still young and filled with vigour and vitality, as the adage goes, ‘There is a time and a season for everything’ . You do not want to look at a young person and be jealous or resentful of the possibilities ahead of them or the potential they hold because you wasted your own youth and opportunities. You have to live the life you were given fully and exploit all the resources available to you because honestly you are not going to make it out of all this alive anyway so why not. I dare you (and myself) to have the willingness to change, to risk for the unknown and hope for the uncertain because that is part of being youthful. This is so when one day you pass by a young person in your ‘mature years’ you should be able to admire the possibilities ahead them but not want their potential for yourself because you turned yours into meaningful actions (I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt). They will look at you instead with envy because when it was your time you proved that the inconceivable was possible, they now need to step up to the plate.

Look back at the story of your youth as irrevocably etched in stone and not irretrievably lost.

Now for some dessert, I think I have earned it.