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The Titanic - Was it an accident?

November 12, 2013

African names are really funny, but I think the African people are even more interesting and funnier considering how they act and reason. For instance, I don’t understand why I was named Wachuka (pronounced Washuka). Is it because my mum loved wearing shukas when she was pregnant with me? Or is it because the person I was named after loved shukas? I know you are probably asking yourself why I haven’t asked my mom. Well, I did and all she told me was that the name has no specific meaning. However, that hasn’t stopped people from applying some “creativity” to my name and calling me names such as Wablanketi, Wabedsheet, Wapanda, and many other Wa-names that according to them would be synonymous or antonymous to my given name.

Then there’s this very good friend of mine whose name translated from Kiswahili to English means loaves of bread. When I first met him, his profile picture on Facebook was a loaf of sliced bread, with a few slices lying away from the main loaf. Since that time any time I see him I always think of bread; sliced bread to be precise. Of course now that I am thinking about it, I am wondering a few things; is it that his mum loved eating bread so much (or maybe she hated it) while she was expecting him? Or maybe the dad was working in a bakery (I almost called it a bread-factory). Whatever the case, I am sure this friend of mine will read this article at some point and soon enough, he will demystify his name for me.

Then there are those names that truly define the person to whom they belong. For instance, there’s this lady I know whose name is Happy. This lady is always bubbly and jovial, with this infectious smile and contagious laugh. Indeed she lives up to her name. Then there’s another one called Amani. I’ve never seen a more humble and soft spoken Accountant in my life. This guy is so peaceful it’s amazing. Looking at Happy and Amani makes me conclude that the name you give your child somehow influences who they become in future. Of course this is not a scientifically proven theory, but like I’ve said, this is my own personal theory.

This whole name-thing was triggered on Friday morning when as we were dropping our son to school I saw this little tiny girl wearing a red t-shirt written “Titanic”. Knowing how the school uniform policy is, I believe this meant that the girl belonged to a class-team called “Titanic”. As we pulled out of the school compound I couldn’t help but ask myself why anyone would name anything Titanic and expect it to be successful. The last time I checked, both the first and second Titanic sunk and affected enough lives irreparably, hence my saying that it is a bad omen naming anything, be it a team or a club, Titanic. I sincerely hope there is no parent out there who named their child “Titanic”. I know some have named their kids Facebook, Pavement, Goalpost among other “incredulous” names, but that is a story for another day.

Going back to Titanic, I never watched the first movie, but I watched its sequel, thanks to my teenage kids who forced me to watch it with them. I don’t mean to be a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t watched either of them yet, but the two vessels sunk after hitting dark and rough waters coupled with some pretty hard and sharp icebergs. In both instances, the ship owners were caught saying that “the ship cannot sink”, and in both instances the ships sank, taking with them many lives that didn’t deserve to sink with them.

Looking at both scenarios, the question I beg us to answer today is; what sunk the Titanic(s)? Was it shear and genuine back luck? Or was it because the ships were not prepared to deal with the unexpected wrath of mother nature? Or could it have been because the owners were too over confident? Or maybe someone will say it was a case of “human sacrifice”. Like I started by saying, Africans have an interesting way of viewing and analyzing issues and so this last option could very well feature in some conversations.

In my view, the ships sunk due to a combination of many reasons, not exempting ignorance, over-confidence and unpreparedness. To start with, the owners of the ships assumed that their ships were too expensive, too modern and too solid to sink. And that was their mistake number one. In life, nothing is a guarantee. Nothing is solid. Nothing is indestructible. Life can change in the twinkling of an eye and no matter how prepared you are, you might need to deal with the possibility of a sinking ship. However, by applying a few right strategies and by always thinking ahead, you might be able to stay afloat until a lifeboat saves you. Never allow overconfidence to get the better of you in any way. Overconfidence is often a recipe for disaster and like Toba Beta said, “Overconfidence precedes carelessness.”

Mistake number two was that both ships had more people on board than the lifeboats on the ship. Again, this could have been because the owners were overconfident about their vessels. Or they were just careless and ignorant of the dangers of not having enough rescue tools. The biggest lesson we learn from this mistake is this; never bite too much than you can handle because like somebody said, “nobody looks attractive spitting it back out.”

Unfortunately we have very many “Titanic wannabes” sailing on dry-land today. We see them ignoring the red signs flashing right in front of their eyes, then BOOOOM....! they hit an iceberg. Today we have organizations that once upon a time used to be among the movers and shakers of our economy but today, they are a mere shadow of what they used to be. What happened to them? They hit huge icebergs of overconfidence, arrogance, complacency, ignorance, carelessness, among others, thus ripping their ships apart and causing them (read companies) to sink. Such organizations are run by egoistic managers, managers with a know-it-all attitude which eventually brings the company down because they are too emersed in their egos and wrong attitudes to see or hear the alarm signals being sent by those they lead.  Such people are a perfect example of how not to run a company, or better still, how to ruin a company.

How about in our personal lives? Do we have any potential icebergs waiting to sink our ships? You bet there are. Lack of personal development for instance. How do you expect to stay afloat in this world that has turned into a sea of competitiveness if you do not invest in personal development? How do you expect to take yourself to the next level if you do not keep abreast with latest technologies and ideas in order to stay at the top of your league? If the only certificate you have is your nursery school graduation certificate, how do you compete with the upcoming crop of university graduates who graduate with three degrees at one go? I know nothing can replace experience, but that doesn’t mean that experience shouldn’t be complimented by knowledge acquired from learning in college or university. Like I said before in a past article, avoid complacency at all costs. Never get too comfortable, always challenge yourself. Comfort oftentimes creates conditions for complacency. Go harder, dig deeper and push until something new gives.

This goes for relationships too. Those complacent attitudes, overconfident and lazy tendencies are potential hazards to our relationships. They are icebergs waiting to hit and sink your (relation)ship. Why wait for that to happen when you can very easily sail your ship to safe waters? Why wait until you have to use a lifeboat such as a marriage or relationship counselor when you could have avoided this scenario in the first place?

In conclusion, we need to be alert and on the look out at all times for potential icebergs in our paths. Can they be avoided? I believe they can if we are keen enough. We can circumvent them and move over to calmer waters. Does that make us cowards? I believe not. It makes us more prepared to deal with unexpected circumstances and situations that come our way. Could the sinking of the Titanic(s) have been avoided?  Maybe not, but maybe the deaths of all those people could have been avoided if the ships were better equipped with enough lifeboats and if the owners would have been less overconfident.

As you go about your week keep this in mind: Confidence is good but over confidence always sinks the ship.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 10th November, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

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