I recently attended a personal development course and my one key takeaway from the course was this: There is what happened and then there is the story one creates around what happened. I will illustrate by example. Your boss walks into the office and finds you standing at the photocopy machine talking to 3 colleagues. He glances at you briefly and keeps on walking to his office. That is what happened. When you narrate the story to your spouse that evening you say that your boss walked into the office that morning, found you at the photocopying machine talking and made a mental note to himself that you do nothing better with your time than stand around the office gossiping with your colleagues. That is a story you have created.
This was an a-ha moment for me as I started to see very many stories that I had woven in my day-to-day floundering across the tortuous path that is life. A story is your creation. It is your interpretation of an event that has occurred and may be completely different from someone else who witnessed or participated in the same event. The key is to be able to differentiate what your perception is from what is simple fact and to appreciate that your past experiences may help to create a biased lens through which you define events around you. Enough said. I’m happy to report that I can now see very many stories that need to be unwound or completely deleted from my inventive misinterpretation of events.
A man walks into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport some days ago and manages to bluster his way past the ticketing agent and onto an aeroplane without properly identifying himself. The flight is unable to depart as there has been a serious security breach. That is what happened. However, as I saw it, a conceited, supercilious, bumptious and highfalutin legislator fervently subscribes to the former and highly disgraced deputy chief justice’s school of thought of “You should know people”. He then forced an entire planeload of innocent and law-abiding passengers to deplane in order for him to be ejected from the flight with dignity. That is a story I have created. I apologize profusely to the man who does not know that I even exist for being presumptuous, drawing condemnatory conclusions and thus being judgmental.
Story 2: I have undertaken multiple projects in the last six months that require different kinds of artisans. As a result the “F” section of my contact list on my phone is full of Fundi Tiles, Fundi Rangi, and every imaginable artisan required where a building repair project is underway. I have probably met over ten fundis multiple times to buy raw materials or receive a quote. Without exception, every single fundi I have met is always on time. Bang on time. In fact, many appear even ten minutes before the appointed hour. And every single one of them does not own a car. They come to the meeting venue using a matatu. That is what has consistently happened. However, as I have slowly come to conclude, many of the meetings I have with people who drive themselves (or are driven) to the venue will typically find me as the first to arrive. The other person or people are very often late. Ten minutes late, fifteen minutes late. Some, God bless them, even thirty minutes late with breathless text messages (no one usually has the temerity to call and say they are running late even though it’s cheaper to call and make that 10 second wheezing statement than to text). The story I have now woven in my tardiness hating brain is that their time is more important than mine. That the fact that they drive a car has elevated them to a level of such self-importance that arriving on time is deemed to be a sign of desperation, hunger even. The story I have woven is that punctuality is conversely related to ownership of wheels. That fundis, in their unflinching desire to put food on their own tables, value the concept of time and presenting themselves as if they value their customer’s time more than their own. That’s a story I have created. I therefore apologize to all the friends and colleagues who have kept me waiting for them with no apologies preceding their dilatory habits. Your time is more important than mine.
Story 3: A few weeks ago, a mobile telephone company that has the biggest money transfer service together with a commercial bank that has the fastest growing and largest customer base were both summoned before a parliamentary committee. That’s what happened. However, every large corporate institution that does business in this country and others that might have been thinking about doing business in this country felt a collective shudder of horror. A country as developed as Kenya, with strong regulatory institutions and a functioning judicial system, now has a legislature that is so morally bankrupt as to poke its unwanted nose in matters that do not concern it under the mistaken notion of representing “the people’s” interests. The story I have created for myself is that the parliamentary committee in question has the capacity to singlehandedly change the business landscape in Kenya and make us a very unattractive destination for both local and international capital. I apologize profusely for purporting to think that such parliamentary committees are made up of individuals bored out of their skulls with nothing better to do than to harvest where they have not sown and opine on matters that are far beyond any comprehensive capability that they could collectively muster. I have created a story based on my very biased view of those honorable members of parliament whose unquestionable contribution to Kenya’s economic wellbeing and growth has undoubtedly been the best in Africa. For that I am truly sorry.
Here’s to a life filled with acceptance of facts rather than fictions of my fertile imagination.