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Your Opportunity Is Just A Challenge Away

November 20, 2012

If you missed the recently concluded Tigo Mama Africa Circus that was held in Dar, then you have no idea what you missed. The sponsors did a good job of promoting the event but I guess many people ignored it thinking they’ve outgrown such events. I'll be honest and admit that I too had chosen to take the "ignore-route" until a friend visiting from Nairobi tweeted a photo of some "impossible" stunts being done by the performing artists.

After seeing that photo I made up my mind to go see for myself that photo-shop had not been used in that photo…..And going I did, and after seeing the things that were happening on stage, I needed something to hold my jaw in place because it kept falling.  Truly speaking, it was hard (still is) to believe that those guys were human. There was a combination of acrobats, dancers and contortionists, not forgetting an incredibly talented hula-hoop dancer.  They were simply unbelievable.

In my view, those guys were either "boneless" or if they did have bones, then they must have been plastic (if that even makes sense.) I mean, how does an adult man go up almost a 10-foot pole like a bat or a cat climbing a wall, without any ropes to hold him in place, or hooks to plant his toes in? How do you explain a whole grown man doing things that would make you think he is a snake? Last I checked snakes have no bones...in a nutshell these guys were beyond amazing. They were simply unbelievable and if the famous Ripleys Believe it or Not show knew about them, I'm sure they would have the Hakuna Matata Acrobats from Tanzania on their show.

Crazy stunts being pulled by the acrobats
Speaking of international TV, I remembered having seen them on either BBC or CNN, (can’t quite remember which) about two or so years ago. I remember them vividly because they scared the living daylights out of me when I saw the stunts they were pulling, but I never got to know which country they were from, until I saw them early this month at the New World Cinemas.  That was a pleasant surprise. That time I say them on TV they were competing for a slot in one of the street-dance competitions in the west. Like I mentioned earlier, their stunts were crazy, especially considering they had no safety gear such as a high density mattress to cushion their fall, no helmets, no gloves... probably not even insurance! The mzungus judges on the show were so scared they even expressed their fear on stage, but the confidence these acrobats exuded was impossible to ignore and eventually the judges had no choice but to give them a slot in the competition.
Anyway, after seeing them live and being the curious person I am, I decided to seek audience with one of the acrobats after the show, just to find out why and how they do what they do. What I discovered from that conversation are life changing lessons, the first one being that life provides learning opportunities every second, every minute you are alive. And the lessons could come from the most unexpected sources.
I realized from talking to this young acrobat that he spoke and understood very little English, but he had managed to travel to several countries, some of which I only see in the world map. He also told me that he had a very humble upbringing, and actually never went beyond class four, but he has sat and dined with people I only get to watch on TV. I also got to learn that what they do gives them enough money to take care of more than just their basic needs; in fact, he said he has bought a lot of assets through the money they make from entertaining people all over the world. Speaking of  “all over the world” I need to mention that he told they had just come back home for a brief holiday before they start a tour in about a month’s time. Of course at the mention of the word holiday I had to ask myself a question, have I ever had a holiday in my life?  How ironic!
To me the moral of this story could best be portrayed by something Michael Jordan once said “Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”  No pun intended, but these acrobats can literally climb up walls. 
They had enough obstacles facing them, starting with limited education, language barrier and a poor background. They had every reason to sit and feel sorry for themselves but instead they opted to do something different; they opted to see the hidden opportunities their challenges presented. Eventually, those challenges were dwarfed by the successes these young men acquired thereafter, and are still acquiring as time goes by. Napoleon Hill was very right when he said “Opportunity often comes in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat”. The problem with most of us is that we dwell so much on the negative that we can’t see the positives beyond.
Back to the young man I was talking to, when I asked him how long it took them to be able to do the things they were doing, he responded to me humbly in Kiswahili saying, “we are still not perfect. Though we have done this for many years, we are still bettering ourselves”. If that is not being humble and modest I don’t know what is.  Besides being modest, these acrobats clearly understand the danger of complacency. They keep pushing themselves every time to outdo their last performance.  They discovered that in order to remain successful, they must forget what they did yesterday and device new ways of remaining fresh and unpredictable in each one of their performances. Now that is a tall order considering that sometimes they can have three shows in a day.
I also found out that they keep a very strict rehearsal regimen. Whenever they meet for rehearsals and normal practice, they always have a new act to add to what they already have. However, if they are going for a show the next day, this new act is never show-cased until they are all very sure and confident they can pull it off without messing. This is to mean that for shows they expect to showcase in November next year, they are planning for them now.  I guess they do this to avoid an experience Baruch, Bernard M.  describes in his quote, “Whatever failures I have known, whatever errors I have committed, whatever follies I have witnessed in private and public life have been the consequence of action without thought.”
In a nutshell, the Hakuna Matata Acrobats lived up to their name, which if translated to English would mean “No Worries/Problems”. Indeed they have shown that a positive mental attitude, coupled with a desire to beat all odds and be different can bring about immense change to your life.
As you start another week please keep this in mind, “Obstacles are opportunities turned upside down...” 
PS: This article appeared on 18th November 2012, in one of the Weekly Newspapers in Tanzania, "Guardian on Sunday", under my new column known as Thoughts in Words.



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