“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
Nairobi is a vibrant city. It seems like it doesn’t sleep. Being back in Kenya after some seven years I had expected sombreness after the Westgate Shopping Centre attacks, but there was an energy and a purposefulness about life. People seemed focussed and committed to moving forward. Nothing reflected this more than the chaotic traffic scenes; the hurried, almost frenetic approach to travel. This past Friday I experienced this part of Nairobi life to the extreme.
After finishing training at 4.30pm a couple of us decided to take the opportunity to do some shopping in the Westlands, the far side of Nairobi, before then meeting up with some of our colleagues in the city centre for dinner. Well that trip, that on a quiet day should be a 40 minute round trip, took 3 hours, only 30 minutes of which was shopping. Let me tell you more.
Our drivers decided to take us on a detour to avoid the peak city traffic and so we did a wide sweep through the countryside. In spite of that we encountered blocked roads, endless road humps (ironically called ‘traffic calming’ in SA) vehicles passing both on the left and right side of a single lane road (including us). The trip included near misses, a range of detours in search of less congested roads, seldom being able to travel at the designated speed limit, continuous hooting and moments of congestion where we could have covered whole blocks on foot faster than we did by car. Yet it was for the most part, worth it. We saw more of Kenyan life on the outskirts of the city. We saw lush lands and subsistence living. We saw beautiful scenery and life away from the city. We found our trinkets and gifts at the village market and we saw the tell-tale signs of urban poverty. I flew home yesterday reflecting on that experience and was glad that I had pushed through and gone ahead with the outing, in spite of knowing it was going to be, in some ways, a harrowing time.
Life is very much like that 3 hour trip. All week I had wanted to find a typical Kenyan market as well as visit the site of the horrific massacre of a month back at Westgate Shopping Centre. I knew what I was looking for and was determined to find it. I had set some goals and was willing to pursue them no matter what. I was willing to sacrifice relaxing at my hotel after a full day of training. I was willing to endure bumps in the road and gridlocked traffic circles. It was something I had looked forward to and would have felt my trip to Kenya wasn’t complete without.
Too often we set some goals that are seemingly important to us, yet when we review the cost and effort to achieve them we back off and settle for less.
Dr. Ari Kiev said, “From the moment people decided to concentrate all their energies on a specific objective, they began to surmount the most difficult odds. The establishment of a goal is the key to successful living.”
I need to firstly be willing to take the journey and have clear goals to drive me forward.
Secondly, the journey to success is littered with bumps in the road.
A small girl had been promised the privilege of climbing to a nearby hilltop where her brother enjoyed playing. But when she came within sight of the steep, rough path, she drew back in dismay. “Why, there isn’t a smooth spot anywhere. It’s all bumpy and stony!” she exclaimed. “Yes,” said her more experienced older brother, “but how else would we ever climb to the top if it wasn’t? The stones and bumps are what we step on to get there.”
There is struggle, pain, hardship and frustration at every turn. There is no easy road. But be willing to take the journey anyway.
Thirdly, there will be detours and unexpected roads travelled. As we zigzagged through the streets of Nairobi, none of them took us straight to our destination, but they took us closer. Not all the detours were helpful. After all, we didn’t know what was around the next corner, but we just kept on heading in the right direction, learning lessons as we went. Detours were often surprises.
Alev Oguz said, “Surprises are the joy of living. Surprises directly touch the soul. Good surprises energize and bad surprises teach.”
Fourthly, together with the bumps in the road come wonderful experiences. Learn to see the great experiences and focus less on the obstacles. Happiness often depends on being able to enjoy the scenery when you have to take a detour. One of the things I enjoyed on our trip was seeing how the scenery and experiences changed as we drove through different suburbs and down different roads. We probably experienced four or five different worlds in that one journey. We passed simple structures of brick and mud and a few minutes later drove through an area of sprawling mansions and sheer opulence. We saw towering office blocks and small rows tiny street shops, the size of a double door cupboard that was a livelihood of someone; often his sole source of income. I whispered a prayer of gratitude that my bumps in the road were small and insignificant compared to his. It was a reminder of my many blessings.
Fifthly, the journey is much more fun and at worst, much more bearable when shared. As we travelled we talked about what we saw, reflected on some of the scenes and laughed at some of the delays. I don’t think an experience is ever the same if encountered alone. Who have you taken on your life journey? Who are you sharing the richness and the struggles of your life with?
Finally, no goal is achieved without pushing through.
On the shores of the Baltic Sea, after a great storm has passed, the fishermen go down into the water and rake the beach for the precious ambergris (a whale secretion mostly used for perfume) which has been cast up on the shores by the tumult of the waves. Life’s storms have their treasures that they bring with them, and we are wise fishermen if we go out after the great storms have been raging and gather up the life’s ambergris. Who knows but this is the real treasure that we are intended to glean in life, instead of those lesser things we so value but the possession of which brings us no lasting joy.
Former American Senator Dwight Morrow searched in vain to find his railroad ticket as he was on a train leaving New York City. “I must find that ticket,” he muttered. The conductor, who stood waiting beside him, said, “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Morrow. We know you had a ticket. Just mail it to the railroad when you find it.” “That’s not what’s troubling me,” replied Morrow, “I need to find it to know where I’m going.”
Do you know where you are going in your life? Are you willing to face the bumps in the road and the detours that real living brings? Are you sharing this journey with anyone? Live your life to Maya Angelou’s mantra.
She said, “Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will be able to treat life as art.”
Trust me; it’s a journey worth taking.
Have a wonderful week
If you have any questions or feedback about “Bumps In The Road” please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to hear from you.
Antony Jennings is an international trainer, consultant and motivational speaker based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Antony writes this free weekly mentoring letter to support and encourage those who are serious about taking charge of their lives. You will find an archive of his letters at www.antonyjennings.com or www.zifundise.com