I recently did a personality test called strengths finder. One of my top five strengths is WOO (winning others over). I consider myself a relatively grounded fellow, but the truth is, sometimes I catch feelings easily and I doubt my ability to win people over. In the recent past I’ve been uncomfortable with an organization I serve in. The siasa is vicious and some people there are scheming on how they can outwit each other. Their motivation here is driven by personal interests. I feel caught in the crossfire because all I had was psyche to work and deliver results roho safi. It seems I have unknowingly stepped on a live wire in the process of kazi.
My taking matters at face value has earned me some enemies. So, I’m like a young sailor learning how to work the waves in the murky sea of public service. The only consolation I’m hanging onto is that I’m meant to be here and that this is part of a bigger plan for my future. I’m in the school of hard knocks, literally. If I wasn’t certain of that, I probably would have considered leaving the group.
Maybe I’ve grown up shielded from toxic environments to a great extent. Having run my own business, I was able to choose and create the environment I wanted to operate in. I’m sure there were politics in Kenya Golf Union, the body that I was heading till May this year, but it hardly got to me. Maybe the reason I didn’t take note of it was my position. I was high up and that may have protected me to some degree. I started hearing some rumors after I had left office. I guess it does get lonely at the top sometimes when guys keep stuff from you.
It takes some thick skin (and blanket too) to get to the point where you sleep at night with the knowledge that folks you know (and considered pals at some point) have been peddling untruths about you. Luckily, I have some tried and tested pacesetters (but not 159 of them) in whom I have confided. They have made it clear that being authentic in public service (and maybe in life too) ranks up there in the list of extinction, right next to white rhinos.
So, the dilemma I face now is, how do I live out my mission statement of impacting lives and communities and at the same time deal with what I consider unnecessary politics? The conflict here is that I’m being recalibrated from a life of getting mainly for myself to a life of giving to others. I feel like I must choose between remaining myself (and building on my authenticity) and becoming this sly and cunning schemer who always has one up on everyone or so it seems.
I’m finding myself in circles where I feel like I know nothing and everyone’s so far ahead of me. This forces me to act like a mjuaji and I hate the feeling that follows. Like I’m a fraud. What feels worse is the fake view that I’m not good enough. If I rent a lot of space to that thought in my mind it might end up becoming a horrible landlord over my life. Now that’s tragic.
I’m currently reading a book by Brene Brown called- The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s a timely read because it encourages me to embrace who I am and to let go of what I’m supposed to be. I love the line in the book from Leonard Cohen’s song ‘’Anthem’’ that says, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Powerful.
Folks, lets be proud of the cracks (imperfections) we have in our lives. With the right attitude about them, they may just let in the light to mulika where we want to go. It may feel awkward being yourself fully, especially if folks around you are busy changing their surnames to join the Joneses family. Don’t we admire people who are comfortable in their own skins? They have this aroma of an expensive limited-edition perfume that we can’t resist.
It’s important to know our blind spots, especially if we are in leadership positions. That way we can reduce them and increase our visibility moving ahead. I’m still a work in progress and refuse to let a toxic environment change who I am. Of course, it’s easier said than done but as Eliud proved to us on Saturday, no Human is limited. A pal shared a past newspaper headline where Paul Tergat said no man can run a marathon in under two hours. Today he must be eating humble cassava pie quietly in his house.
Stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle puts it well when he says, “The hardest thing to do is to be true to yourself, especially when everybody is watching.” I believe once we cross that barrier then we are the most fulfilled and beautiful version of ourselves. And if being true to ourselves feels harder than climbing Mt Kenya in Bata Ngoma shoes, then take heart from Trent Shelton who said, “We are all a little broken. But last time I checked; broken crayons still color the same.” Color the best version of yourselves good people. You owe it to the world.