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Never judge a car by its size ...

September 13, 2013

It is a small car, one you can easily ignore on the road, until it teaches you a lesson or two in humility. The first time I had an encounter with the almost un-noticeable Toyota Opa was during a road trip I made from Dar Es Salaam to Kisumu via Nairobi and back to Dar Es Salaam. I remember I was driving along the Moshi - Same route from Nairobi at a speed of 140km/h, when this little thing passed my car like I was parked. I couldn't believe my eyes and though I was driving a 4x4, I couldn't catch up with that little grey metallic Opa even after almost hitting 180Km/h.

The best way I could explain what had happened was that the owner must have modified the engine for that thing to be moving so fast and so effortlessly; one minute it's overtaking you, the next minute it's varnished, and you can't catch up with it. From then onwards, it's like everywhere I looked I'd see a Toyota Opa, until one day I decided to ask a friend to let me drive his, just to get a feel of it. Well, I discovered the vehicle is indeed genuinely very powerful in it's own little way and since then I have learnt this lesson; never judge a car by its body/make/model. The Toyota Opa earned my respect since then.

Then two days ago, I had yet another Opa experience. This time round I wasn't the one on the receiving end, meaning I'm not the one who felt embarrassed; actually I don't even know the guy who was being helped. To cut a long story short, there is this 4x4 vehicle that was parked on the side of the road. The battery had failed and was being jump-started by.... yeah, you got it right! It was being jump-started by a Toyota Opa.

The image presented by the two vehicles was very funny; picture a small car helping out a big 4x4. If I was a cartoonist I would have had a field day capturing that scenario; in fact thinking about it right now gives me a few cartoonish thoughts. But aside from the cartoonish thoughts I got that day, I have to admit that seeing those two vehicles facing each other, the small one helping the big one, printed a very profound message in my mind.

Every so often, regardless of how big in status or society we think we are, we find ourselves with not enough juice in our battery to reach our intended destination. The problem is that most of us are too proud to seek help. Either that or we are too choosy and picky when it comes to asking for help; we can only seek help from certain people (read powerful people). Please do not misunderstand me. I'm not saying it is wrong to seek help from the high and mighty. No. If you have access to them then by all means get all the help you can from them, as long as it is legal, it doesn't require you to join the illuminati and most importantly, it leaves you (the one being helped) intact physically, spiritually and emotionally.

The truth is, we cannot help everyone, but everyone has the capacity and ability to help someone at least once in their lifetime. The problem is, sometimes people miss out on that opportunity to be helped because it comes looking like a Toyota Opa, and not a Land Cruiser V8. You look at the "smallness" (read class in society) and assume that because that person is not of the same level as you, they cannot possibly have a solution to your problem. As a result, you end up prolonging the time you spend in your situation just because the help you needed didn't come looking like you expected. And even after you swallow your pride and accept that "small" person's help, you are still skeptical as to whether it will work. Indeed like Thomas Jefferson said, "nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude..."

Unfortunately such scenarios are played out in our lives so many times, especially where women are concerned. For instance so many men would rather not take advice from the so called "weaker sex". According to them, they insist that a woman's place is in the kitchen and bedroom, and not the boardroom. They live by the old adage that says, "it's a man's world"; and I add, "that's what's wrong with it". Well, to the men who still have this awkward mentality, it's about time you wake up and smell the coffee. Women have now been empowered to perform just as men, if not even way better... Will pick up that storyline another time.

Another scenario is where older people ignore the advice of the younger generation. We see it in offices every other day. Just because you've been working for a certain organization for donkey years doesn't mean you know everything. You need to be open to suggestions offered by the younger generation, then use the experience you have amassed over the years to decide whether or not it can work for your company. The truth is, the longer you stay in one position, the more brain dead you become, unless you constantly apply personal development tactics, as well as synching yourself with the latest technologies. Stop being paranoid when we bring in fresh ideas. Give us young people the opportunity to prove to you that our "young" ideas can work even better than yours. Why? Because we are the digital generation aka known as the .com generation.... Anyway, that's a story for another day.

I cannot forget to mention the family setup, where parents believe they know everything. This may be true but the truth is, you cannot use the experiences you had when you were our age and apply them on us now. Things were very different then. You didn't have the resources and technologies we have now. For instance, you used to use telex and telegrams, whereas we now use fax (though it's almost obsolete) and emails to communicate. You probably had Pen-pals; we have Twitter Followers and Facebook Friends now. You had those LP players for your music; we have an iLifestyle now that comprises of iPod, iPad, iPhone, iWatch, iTorch, iETC. I believe you get my drift. What I am saying here is that parents, as much as you have the power and authority over your children, the times we are living in now require you to use a different approach when advising them, otherwise you lose them.

On the other hand, you as parents also need to realize that even your own kids can advice you, especially when it comes to using new technologies and strategies. For those of you with family businesses, and are privileged to have young adults in your families, give them a chance to share their ideas with you. You might be surprised at what their young minds will have to offer you.

In conclusion, let's not forget that we don't know everything. Someone else out there will always know more than we do, and that's how life is. Remember, the key to success is to never stop learning; the key to failure is to think you know it all. And don't forget that you can learn or get help from someone way beneath your so called class. Respect everyone and you will learn from them.

Wishing you all respect today and always.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 8th September, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

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