Lucas Marang'a

A man at 40

Top Cream.

I grew up on a farm. It was an extremely leafy neighborhood. Well, more like a leafy farmland. The farms vanished with time and have been replaced with palatial homes. The area is now considered a leafy suburb.  We had cows, chicken, a few sheep and several dogs. Oh, and rabbits too. I was a serious rabbit breeder back in the day.  I even picked veterinary science as one of my campus options when leaving high school. Imagine me a vet. I can now confirm that not all dreams are valid he he. Life was simple. My brother and I attended primary school a few kilometers away from home. We would walk home after school because our parents worked far from home. Far in this case was Dad in Nairobi CBD and mum in Ruaraka on Thika road. There were no bypasses then to hasten road travel.

Our version of neighborhood drama then was rumors of an escaped lion or crocodile from Nairobi National Park. We would be afraid to walk home from school, so we had to wait for mum or Dad to come and pick us up. Those were long and boring waiting periods but like typical kids we would make use of the monkey bars and see saws in the playground to kill time.

I remember our first cow. She was a short and fat Freshian cow named Sunday. I cannot remember how that name came about. She was adorned with large black and white patches, a wide pink nose and long eyebrows to shade her big brown eyes. Sunday was more like a pet that we milked. We learnt how to milk by practicing on her and were required to feed her every so often. I like the work ethic we grew up with. Why I’m I struggling to apply the same with my baby sharks? I need to up my game.

I’ve mentioned here previously of a rough time I went through last year on a board I sit on. Being naïve and working for the common good yet some of my colleagues were busy manufacturing and peddling dirt on me. It was a difficult time but a lesson worth learning. I’m a bit wiser now.

I remember after one stormy meeting, a buddy of mine who was in attendance called me to encourage me. He was empathetic and, in an attempt, to lift my spirits said something that stuck in my mind like graffiti sprayed on a matatu. He encouraged me to rise above the accusations because they were driven by malice and not objective at all. I even considered resigning from the board, but he advised against it. He assured me that my performance and track record will surface with time for all to see. I asked him how sure he was about that. Then came the clincher. With confidence in his voice he said, ‘’My guy, because cream always rises to the top”.

I didn’t get that immediately, but it has sunk with time. A visual that helped me fully grasp that statement was memories of milking Sunday back at the farm. I loved how white froth would form at the top in the milking bucket caused by the high pressure with which the milk was squeezed out, especially when done by Lawrence our farm caretaker.  I still drink almost as much milk as my baby sharks do up to this day. I developed the taste early in life.

Cow milk needs to be boiled to be fit for human consumption. We would boil the milk in a big sufuria and let it cool down slowly before we packed it in bottles to store in the freezer. Once the milk had cooled down, I would notice this yellowish thick cream at the top. Mum taught us how to scoop it out and separate it from the milk underneath. We used the cream as butter on our bread and even cooked with it sometimes. It was delicious.

That flashback brought my buddy’s statement to life. Even Steve Jobs emphasized it when he said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected”. Folks when we are driven by the desire to simply do a good job and follow through to the end, that will attract both praise and criticism. From my experience in public service so far, I am learning to focus more on my deliverables and ignoring the side shows. Its not easy but necessary.

You will find that the more excellence you put in your responsibilities; the more opportunities will come your way. That’s because you will gain a reputation of reliability and resourcefulness and it is evident that we have a shortage of such humans. Some of those opportunities that will come to you will be answers to your prayers. Maybe even answers to prayers you never made.

Wanjiru Mbugua – Karani is a great example of cream rising to the top. She was always a sporty girl from campus days and has been involved in Kenyan lawn tennis probably since we left college. I follow her on Facebook and over the last year or so she has been appointed to some senior positions in the game. Hers is a picture of consistent performance with a smile. She’s the current Secretary General of Kenya Lawn Tennis Association and was recently appointed to the Women Sport Commission 2020 / 2021. That sounds huge to me. I’m sure she has had her fair share of matope thrown at her but here she is doing her thing and attracting some good attention and opportunities.

Folks just like cream from boiled milk if you do your thing well you will inevitably rise to the top. And when you do other gaps will open and surprise you. Just like the cream from the milk got other uses back at the farm that I didn’t anticipate. However, you just must be able to withstand the heat as temperatures rise and stay put especially if you know that you are doing right. Once the noisemakers are tired of hearing their own voice you will rise for the world to see and make their judgement.

Folks, at 40 we should all be at the top or rising to the top so that we can feed the world with the sweet cream that we have accumulated over the years.


Friday, May 15, 2020 | Leadership, Musings |

10 thoughts on “Top Cream.”

  1. Collins says:

    Wow…refreshing and amazing content just what I needed.

    1. mlucas says:

      Karibu Collins.

  2. MG says:

    Yes indeed Lucas…as to the cream the milk had to be boiled for it to come to the top. And it’s the same with us. We are tested (boiled) for our cream (strength and character) to rise to the top.

    On a side issue, the article made brought back childhood memories of my gran’s favourite cow, her name (the cow, not my gran 😁) was Jessie.

    1. mlucas says:

      Wasn’t growing up so refreshing. I miss the tea with smoky taste from shags. Anyway every generation forms its rituals.

      1. MG says:

        Oh yes. I loved that tea. The one that had the sugar was already put in.. And one drank it out of an enamel cup which in my part of the world we called “fifteeni”

  3. George Muya Nuthu says:

    Thanks Lucas. Now that you talked about Sunday I remembered I got a cow last year who my mum named QUEEN 😜.

    1. mlucas says:

      QUEEN… was she freshian breed by any chance ?

  4. Anne says:

    As always, a good read! Thank you for sharing your life lessons with us every Friday.

    1. mlucas says:

      And thanks for reading Anne.

  5. Sam says:

    Excellent and I like the way you draw the analogy between cream riding to the top and your own career in golf, writing and now photography. Let’s make butter now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *