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It's Not Their Opinion That Matters; It's Yours

August 04, 2018

When I was young, over Christmas holidays my cousins and I would be taken to the village by our parents to spend the holidays with our grandparents. We would spend lots of time engaging ourselves with farm-related activities such as coffee picking (my favorite activity), drawing water from the well to water the livestock that my grandparents had and also getting them napier grass to feed them. I hated the napier grass part because when it touched my skin, I'd itch, plus it used to give me lots of allergies because of that invisible dust in it.

I used to enjoy feeding the cows more than the goats and sheep. For some reason, I used to find watching the cows stuff themselves with the napier grass quite interesting. The long tongue that would coil around the grass as it was pulled into the cow’s mouth, not forgetting the big shiny nose that was always wet always jazzed me.


The one thing I enjoyed watching a lot though was how after they had eaten the grass and taken water to their fill they would just sit somewhere comfortable and start the process of ruminating on what they had eaten. I don’t understand what joy they get out of it but if you were to look at a cow when it is chewing cud, it is like it is one of their greatest joy. They really seem to enjoy that process, especially considering they always do so with their eyes partially closed into slits.


Watching them chewing cud is quite interesting, but the one thing I don’t like is the fact that they bring back into their mouth what they had already swallowed! Imagine if human beings were to do the same.... Yuck!


And it is on this “yucky” feeling that I would like to present my message to you today.


Many of us have issues that we keep ruminating on over and over again, and especially the bad stuff. Like the cows mentioned above, we look for the best spot (probably a high stool at the pub) to sit or lie down as we focus on the negative experiences or tragedies we have gone through in life. We remember what that person did to us on that day twelve years ago; we remember the negative stuff a certain teacher told us that afternoon in September when in class six; we  remember what that first girlfriend or boyfriend did to us when we knew nothing about relationships; we remember how negative our first boss was;  we remember and remember everything negative, remembering it all with great details. For (us) women especially, we even remember how the person was dressed and even the time when they did whatever it was they did to us.


Unfortunately because of focusing on those wrong and negative things that keep happening to us, many people are unable to move on from them and they end up being stuck in one place. For instance, if someone told you that you will never amount to anything, you ruminate by believing in those words until you eventually embrace them as your truth. If someone told you that you are foolish, you ruminate by living up to those words by acting and behaving in all the possible foolish ways you can under this sun. You keep ruminating on what someone else said about you and as a result you keep re-living the same pain over and over again, and as you do, you keep manifesting the very same things that person said to you. Eventually guess what happens, you become one with that situation and never move out of it.


No wonder somebody once said that many people die at the age of twenty-five but they don’t get buried until the age of seventy-five. Why? Because they allowed other people’s opinions to become their realities. No wonder my favorite motivational speaker once said, “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. If someone thinks you are foolish, then it only means that they are expressing to you what they themselves are, but you don’t have to agree with them! If someone thinks you are a loser, it is obvious they are seeing you as they are themselves. If someone says you are selfish and you know deep within you that is not true, then it means that they are looking at you from their own selfish viewpoint. Friends, don’t ever let someone’s skewed vision of you become your identity. Don’t ever let someone’s misguided opinion of you become your truth.


I was listening to Les Brown tell a story about a guy they used to call chicken man. I do not want to paraphrase the story and so I have transcribed it verbatim for you as I heard it from the source. Here below is the story...


There was one particular person that all of us knew. The children and adults and everybody used to pick at him when he came by. We called him chicken man. He had a feather in this heart, a feather on top of his car and he would drive around blinking his lights and occasionally blowing his horn and when he got out of his car he would walk down the street with a baby carrier with two dolls in it and a picture of a woman. And if you came near him or listened to him, you would hear him making the sounds of a chicken. All of us used to laugh at chicken man. We didn’t know his story.


Chicken Man woke up one morning, around 3am and his house was on fire. He panicked, and he got out of the window, left quickly, only to get outside to hear his children and wife screaming for help. He ran back to the door to go in to save them and the flames were too hot, too awesome. He tried to get in but he couldn’t get in.  He was desperate and frantic.  Pretty soon the cries stopped. They perished in the fire. 


His brother in-law came and found out that his sister had died with his nieces in the fire and he grabbed chicken man and he started beating him saying, “You chicken why didn’t you save my sister? You are a chicken! You are a chicken!” 


When the people pulled him off chicken man, they asked him, “are you alright?”  The chicken man looked at them and he started making the sounds of a chicken. He never ever overcame that tragedy. He was stuck from that experience. None of us knew why chicken man went around with that picture and his little dolls. 


What a sad story! His brother in-laws words transformed him into a chicken.


There are so many people who are stuck in a tragic time-capsule like chicken man was, and even though they don’t go around clucking and making chicken-like sounds, they are stuck in that tragedy’s time capsule. They are no different from the cows I talked about earlier because they keep regurgitating the tragedy in their minds and they keep thinking about it over and over again. That is not a healthy thing to do.


Friends, the only way to move on with life is to learn how to move on after something negative happens to you. How do you move on from a negative situation in life, someone might be asking? Well, there is no specific formula that one can use but I can share with you general principles I often use that have worked well for me...

Get out of your comfort zone– this involves taking risks and that is why many people don’t like doing this. It involves moving into an unknown territory where you have to learn new things or do thing differently. And that right there is what helped me. The fact that I was focusing on learning something new shifted my mind from the negative things I had experienced in my life. I took up writing and even thought I never ever thought of myself as a writer, this stretched me out of my comfort zone and today, through writing I have met and influenced people I would never have met or influenced.  


Change – this is one word but it is a very powerful word. Change your activities. Change your dress code. Change your zip code (if you can). Change your hair style; I actually did this. I cut my hair and dyed it completely blonde (almost white). And it felt good. Like the saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. So change whatever can be changed.


Move and Play –start a new sport like swimming or jogging – actually I started jogging and today when I feel like I am sad or depressed, jogging is my favorite anti-depressant, then comes reading.


Personal Development– this is the number one principle that has the ability to get you out of whatever hole you might be in. Personal development involves activities that improve awareness and identity, activities that develop existing and even new talent and potential, activities that gradually improve and enhance quality of life thus contributing to the realization of dreams and aspirations. Listening to motivational speakers and reading books are two of the major channels I used (and still use) for personal development.  Every day I make sure I learn something new that helps me grow as an individual in at least one area of my life.


Relationship Audit – The late Jim Rohn was often heard saying this, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. That is why it is very important to do a periodic relationship audit to determine whether the people you hang around are helping you remain stuck in your (negative) past or they are helping you get out of it. You need to decide whether you are in retrogressive relationships or progressive ones. Yes, I too had to do this and I had to make some very tough choices regarding some of my relationships. 


There are many other things I did but for now, let me stop at those five. Out of the five strategies mentioned above, the one about relationships is very tricky and needs to be addressed with meticulous attention. That is why this week in my ongoing #52BooksIn52Weeks2018 Book Reading Challenge I am recommending one of my all time favorites, “How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. It is a book everyone person should have in their own personal library to read over and over again.


Friends, I may not know what each one of you might be going through but I can tell you this, if you don’t give up, if you don’t lose hope, you can get out of that situation. I know it will not be easy but I can tell you it will be worth your try. Like George Augustus Moore said, "A winner is just a loser who tried one more time".


Don’t allow yourself to be another chicken man. Break away from your past and create a new history for yourself. In the words of Anthony Liccione, “The chains that break you, are the chains that make you. And the chains that make you, are the chains you break.” 


Be ignited. Be inspired. Be influenced. Become the best version of yourself you can ever be.


PS: This article was originally published in Tanzania's Guardian On Sunday on the 5th August, 2018, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".​​​





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