Charging People For Our Services
A few years ago as I was taking a walk in my hometown of Kiserian, I passed by a crowd of people milling around a man who was towering above the rest because he was walking using two poles attached to each of his legs. The man was wearing a long pair of trousers that covered the poles, and he had shoes on the ends of the two poles touching the ground. So a small child would have been forgiven for thinking the man had very long legs.
I stopped for a few minutes to also watch the "tall" man who was frightening some people when he went near them to solicit money. And being the mischievous young man that I sometimes am, I approached the man and said to him in Swahili, "You are so tall; can you see tomorrow?"
"Yes!" the man replied, "There will be rains next week." (It was rain season that time here in Kenya; the man was acting clever by telling me there would be rains the following week.)
After replying to my question, the man begged me for some money while walking towards me with his long legs. I have to admit that I felt scared as he came towards me. And the fear I felt led me to disappear into a nearby building without giving him the money he was begging from me.
When I remembered that man today, I have realized he was very wise to ask for money from the people who had gathered to watch him. He was simply charging for his services of entertaining them. I have also realized that I haven't been as good as him in charging people for my services despite all the knowledge I have gained from books.
Yes, I haven't been such a streetwise young man over the last thirteen years since I turned eighteen. There are so many times I have offered free services as if I don't need money. I would have loved to tell you about them all but to keep this story shorter than a novel, let me tell you of only three instances. Only three.
Early in 2006 when I was in Starehe Institute, I joined a network-marketing company called GNLD. Several weeks after joining the company, I managed to convince someone to buy the company's expensive products. One afternoon, I accompanied him to the bank to deposit money for the products and then took him to GNLD warehouse. But imagine despite all those efforts, I didn't make even a single coin from the sale. Instead of selling the products at the recommended retail price and pocketing some profit, I sold them at exactly the same amount the company was charging. How foolish I was!
Then in 2011, I landed an opportunity to teach Geography at a small school in Nairobi called Mathematics Institute of Kenya. But I took up the job without agreeing with the head of the school on how much she would be paying me for my services. I taught for several weeks and left the school without asking for a stipend - another proof that I have not been a streetwise young man.
And then that same year in 2011, a lady I met at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi wanted me to teach her and her grandchildren how to play the piano. When she inquired from me how much I would charge her for the services, I told her that she only needed to pay for my fare to her home. Imagine that - teaching the lady and her grandchildren while charging her only for fare to her home! Isn't that foolish for real? It's like I never needed money.
The truth is, we all need money during our sojourn in this grand and beautiful planet that is the Earth. Money to pay for our needs and to enable us lead a decent life. I just like the way Wallace D. Wattles put it in his book The Science of Getting Rich. He wrote:
Whatever may be said in praise of poverty, the fact remains it is not possible to live a really complete or successful life unless one is rich.So as for me, I have resolved to be charging people for my services appropriately, just like I saw the "tall" man in Kiserian do. I will always be careful not to repeat my past weaknesses of offering free services as if I don't need money. That's all I am saying.
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Book Review: 'Long Walk to Freedom'
There are books I always look forward to reading once I begin devouring them. Books that leave me wishing I had the knowledge and writing prowess of their authors. Nelson Mandela's delightful memoir Long Walk to Freedom has been one of those books.
Well, I had always desired to read Mandela's autobiography ever since I was at the university in JKUAT in 2007. But it wasn't until two weeks ago that I managed to lay my hands on the book after I found it on sale at a bookshop in Nairobi. I hastily bought it, and wow! Once I began reading it, I could hardly put it down.
Mandela wrote the autobiography in a voice I can relate to. The kind of voice I have always yearned to possess in my writing. He starts by telling us about his childhood years in a village in South Africa. After his father died when he was nine, Mandela moved to a more sophisticated place where he was raised in the house of a regent who encouraged him to pursue a good education. So he was taken to school.
A born leader, Mandela was bestowed with leadership positions while in school. He also seems to have been a born troublemaker because at one point while at the university, he was expelled for failing to comply with regulations.
When he was expelled from the university, Mandela went back to the regent's house where he had been brought up after his father died. And you know what? He was greeted with news that the regent had arranged a woman for him to marry. Not one to fall into the vicious trap of an arranged marriage, Mandela ran away from the regent's home and travelled to the city of Johannesburg to begin a new life and carve a niche for himself there.
Life in Johannesburg was tough for Mandela. But through resilience in the face of difficulties and through the lasting friendships he formed in the city, he was able to wither the storms. He finished his university degree while working in Johannesburg, and then established a lucrative law firm. He also married a woman he loved called Evelyn.
While in Johannesburg, Mandela started getting involved in the political struggle of his people against oppressive white rule in South Africa, even after someone advised him not to. That involvement in politics led him through many trials like divorce from his first wife. It also led him to hide from authorities. Eventually, he was found out by the authorities and arraigned in court where he was sentenced life imprisonment.
As it turned out, Mandela didn't spend all the remaining years of his life in jail. He was released in 1990 but after having spent more than two decades in prison - twenty seven and a half years to be precise. His many years in prison appear not to have been wasted because they earned him fame and honour all over the world.
From his autobiography, I was able to deduce the following traits that made Mandela a great man:
- Love for learning: Mandela was an avid reader even though he didn't enjoy the freedom to read whatever he desired for much of his life.
- Being diligent: Mandela was an early riser. He was such a hard-working lawyer and politician. At one time in the '90s, the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher advised him to slow down.
- Having courage: Mandela risked his life to fight for the rights of his fellow countrymen who were being oppressed by a prejudiced regime.
- Passion for physical exercises: Mandela enjoyed boxing, running and tennis. He believed that physical exercises are the key not only to good health but also to peace of mind.
- Love for people: Mandela loved people from all walks of life. He was especially fond of children.
- Having a forgiving attitude: Mandela forgave all those who imprisoned him. I have noted how, in the autobiography, he spoke so well of the two wives he divorced, which implies he was never a bitter man.
- Love for nature: Mandela took great pleasure in observing nature. In prison, he developed a hobby of gardening which brought a feeling of fulfilment to his soul.
All told, Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom is a gripping autobiography written in a series of short chapters that make it easier to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who craves to understand the genesis of greatness.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this review of mine on Nelson Mandela's autobiography, you might also enjoy another review I wrote on Ben Carson's Think Big. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.