Positive Quote For Today

"The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself."— C. JoyBell C.

Refraining From Exaggerating

With permission, I have extracted this picture-quote from a website called Quote Fancy. All rights reserved worldwide.

About five years ago, I came across in our home library an old Newsweek magazine written for teenagers and young adults. The magazine offered advice on how to find mentors and what college applicants should do and not do while applying to American colleges. Unfortunately, I have forgotten much of what I read in the magazine. The little I remember is the magazine advising college applicants not to exaggerate their achievements.

That piece of advice had me reflecting on the applications I made to several top American colleges in the years 2006, 2007 and 2009. For today, I will focus on the applications I submitted in 2007 because that was the year I was properly prepared and motivated to apply to American colleges.

The colleges I applied for admission in 2007 were MIT, Yale, Harvard and Stanford. Applying to those colleges was a rigorous process that entailed filling out forms, writing several essays, sitting for the SAT exams, and getting recommendation letters from three of my high school teachers.

While I avoided plagiarizing other people's writings when I was applying to those American colleges in 2007, I must confess that I did a lot of lying and exaggerating in the materials I submitted for review. Okay, let me tell you more.

In the application forms, I lied that I won a Physics award in senior high school. I told that lie to impress the admission officers that I was excellent in Physics, the subject I wanted to pursue at one of the colleges. And to create the impression that I had potential for leadership, I lied that I had been the chairman of Music and Wildlife clubs in high school.

In the recommendation letters I got from three of my high school teachers, I had one of them mention that I was among the few outstanding students she had ever taught in her long teaching career. If today you asked that teacher who Thuita was, she would most likely not remember me at all. And that goes to tell how her recommendation information was an exaggeration.

Perhaps the parts of my application materials that I told the most lies and exaggerations were the essays I wrote to the colleges. In one long essay, I narrated how I grew up in a remote village in Kenya called Ole Murkuku where I grazed my father's cattle, how I constructed small huts from wild grass while grazing the cattle, and how such creative ventures improved my aptitude for Physics.

The truth is, there is no village in Kenya called Ole Murkuku. Ole Murkuku is just the name of a Maasai man who owns huge tracts of land next to a primary school I attended. And while it is true that I did graze my father's cattle when I was a boy, I never constructed huts from wild grass; it was my immediate elder brother Paddy who did the construction. I just lied and exaggerated the details in the essay.

In another optional long essay, I narrated how, as a small boy in primary school, I would overhear older schoolmates discuss about MIT, Yale, Harvard and Stanford while on our way home from school, and that from the way they spoke highly of those colleges, they made it sound to me like the colleges were havens for geniuses. Then I added in the essay that "little did I know I would one day apply to those colleges for undergraduate admission".

The truth is, yes, I used to overhear older schoolmates discuss interesting stuff while on our way home from school. But never at any one time did I hear them speak of MIT, Yale, Harvard and Stanford. In fact, with the exception of Harvard, I never got to know of those American colleges till I was in high school at Starehe Boys' Centre.

Come to think of it, I don't know why I had to embellish my application materials to American colleges with lies and exaggerations while I had a number of high school achievements under my belt. Achievements such as giving speeches, playing volleyball, going for hikes, accompanying the whole school on the piano, tutoring hymns to my house choir, participating in the Kenya Music Festival and volunteering to work at the Attorney General's Chambers in Nairobi.

Those high school achievements would have been impressive enough to land me at MIT, Yale, Harvard or Stanford if only I had the eloquence of diction and poetry of imagination to express them in a captivating manner. Surely, there was no need for me to lie and exaggerate in my applications to those elite colleges.

If you are a teenager applying to top-flight colleges in America, I encourage you not to exaggerate your accomplishments because most of the admission officers of the colleges don't suffer fools gladly. They can sense a phony after reviewing several of a student's application materials.

Stanford in particular advises its applicants to resist the urge to sound like a Stanford student since no two Stanford students are the same. They are all different in their abilities and backgrounds. Basically, what Stanford tries to inform its applicants is not to exaggerate anything, a lesson we can all apply in our lives regardless of our age or profession. Adieu!

NEW! NEW! NEW! If you missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn titled "Not Ashamed". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the hymn and listen to it.


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Becoming an Entrepreneur

This is me during my days at Starehe Institute where I pursued a transformative diploma in Information Technology. I was carrying a voluminous computer-programming book in the white nylon paper-bag.

Starehe Institute has always held a special place in my own memory. It was during my time there in the years 2006 and 2007 that I learnt how to use a computer efficiently. I became so adept at using computers that I could navigate through the Windows Operating System without using a mouse.

It was also at Starehe Institute that I started developing a sense of who I am and what I believe in. I attribute that improved self-awareness to the inspiring quotes and motivational books I devoured while in the institute. Boy, didn't I enjoy reading quotes by prominent figures in history!

But my Starehe Institute experience that I treasure most was the entrepreneurial initiative I embarked on with my classmates Stephen Mutevu and Kennedy Munene. The three of us, after learning how to design websites, banded together to create an educational website we called Gskool.com. Our mission was to offer on the website quality lessons in such subjects as Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Geography.

Soon after we set up the educational Gskool website, Mutevu and Munene applied for Google ads. Their application was approved, and sooner than later, we had on Gskool.com a number of Google ads that could earn us money depending on the number of visitors clicking the ads.

Now, Google states clearly that website admins are not meant to click Google ads on their websites. They are not even supposed to test if the ads are working. Ad clicking is a preserve of website visitors, not admins. Mutevu, Munene and I didn't get to know that back in 2006.

So when we had Google ads on Gskool.com, Mutevu and Munene began clicking them in earnest. And their excitement mounted as they checked Google ads account for Gskool and saw their earnings rise. They must have thought they were destined to become rich while still teenagers in Starehe Institute.

But alas! A few days into their ad clicking venture, they received a bombshell from Google that the ads account for Gskool.com had been disabled because the ads' clicks were coming from the same location, what Google refers to as invalid clicks. Mutevu and Munene, clever as they were, just couldn't outfox Google's software engineers.

To be honest, I was actually happy to hear that the Google ads account for Gskool.com had been disabled since both Mutevu and Munene had denied me access to the Gskool admin portal in spite of me having contributed a substantial amount of content for Gskool. Much of the stuff in the Physics section of the website had been my own work.

But my efforts in founding Gksool.com were not in vain because when I was applying to MIT, Cornell, Stanford and Dartmouth in 2006, I sent CD-copies of the Gskool website to those top American colleges. I did that so as to impress the admission officers.

Even when I went for my MIT interview, which was conducted in Nairobi by an MIT graduate named Eston Kimani, I mentioned my work in creating Gskool.com. A week or so after the interview, Eston phoned me to inquire if I was the one who had created Gskool.com. He seemed impressed by the website. Unfortunately, I wasn't accepted at MIT or in any of the other three American colleges I applied for admission in 2006.

Our entrepreneurial initiative in founding Gskool.com left a lasting impression on me. Later on in 2011 when I was dropping out of the University of Nairobi, I wanted to set up an educational website similar to Gskool.com. I envisioned it to contain engaging content in the school subjects I was knowledgeable in: Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Geography and Economics.

With time, it crystallized in my mind that what people need is stories. I therefore eventually changed my plans and created a blog for sharing human-interest stories. Since hymn-singing is one of my passions, I added on the blog a videos' section for sharing the hymns that I produce. I also created a pop-up window for inspiring my blog visitors with the quotes that invigorate me.

Setting up this blog has been a challenging but exhilarating experience. I have encountered so many technical hiccups as well as rejection and criticism from people. But thanks in part to the transformative education I received at Starehe Institute, I have weathered the storm and created a blog with such original content that Google approved my application for displaying its ads on the blog.

Now that the blog is running smoothly and attracting visitors from around the world, I have faith that it shall flourish like flying termites after an evening rain. Or to borrow the immortal words of King David in Psalm 27:13, I am confident that "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". Hooray, I am an entrepreneur at last!

RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the above story about me becoming an entrepreneur, you might also enjoy another one on "Blooming Where Planted" that I wrote several years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.


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