Your neighbour’s demise, your success?


There is a very peculiar behavior that I have noted in my community. Some people tend to think that they can measure their progress based on the successes and/or failures of their fellow compatriots. Unfortunately, this comparison misconception is not infrequent and in certain instances, it is actually embraced.

However, one’s demise will never be inversely proportional to the success of another. Additionally, if one’s progress is predicated and contingent on the demise of his/her neighbour, then the outcome cannot be regarded as success.

Matter of fact, any form of despair should not be a measure of growth in any aspect of life. This unnecessary and quite unhealthy competition is a baseless premise for one to adopt as a tool to define progress. Every individual is a separate entity with goals that should not be confined to the perimeter of their immediate community.

When you look in the mirror, that reflection which you see is your biggest competition, not your neighbor. When you constantly compete against others in life, you will inevitably end up being bitter; however, when you compete against yourself, eventually, you will end up being better in the aspect of life that you are focused on –health, finances, education etc.

I am not aware if this cancerous notion of success being relative to the achievement of those around you is only limited to those in the diaspora or if its roots stem from the motherland. Back in my old hood, we celebrated when fellow brethren succeeded in any aspect of life because we knew all too well that their success would perhaps open more doors for others in the community. We also knew that sometimes the best thing that you can do for poor people is to not be one of them.

Even worse of this malevolent notion is that some perpetrate and proliferate the demise of others. For instance, there are those who will give one poor advice on a particular aspect of life knowing very well that they are leading you to what is contrary to your best of interests at hand.

The subscribers of the malignant notion will happily toss one into an abyss of despondency. Some will even rejoice upon hearing the news that someone got in trouble. Common forms of unfortunate events include, but not limited to marital quarrels leading to separation and divorce; driving under the influence of alcohol (DUIs); immigration issues regarding residency statuses; financial difficulties etc.

Conversely, there are a few fellow compatriots who want to see you do well without any ulterior motives –they are a dying species however. Among those who want to see you do well are some who want to see you succeed, but they do not want you to be more successful than them. They might not tell you this, but usually their actions betray their intentions and it becomes quite apparent that they too are not fully invested in your progress.

I was at a barbecue gathering last summer chit-chatting about all topics under the sun. The subject of career paths and goals was introduced and most people chimed in on their ideal ambitions. As I was explaining what my endeavors entail, one guy abruptly who I know quite well cut me off and said that: “wewe hauwezi toboa!” which translates to “you will not make it!”

As much as I was dismayed by the profound proclamation from this fellow countryman, I knew I could not take the content of his statement seriously, but the way he delivered those words is what shook me a bit. He exclaimed that venomous statement with a level of absolute conviction that really disturbed my conscience that evening.

Of course, I did not subscribe to the man’s outrageous claim, but it reminded me of a time when I was a young boy in class three at a boarding school in the arid locale of Baringo county where a standard eight pupil upon becoming aware of my second name told me that “Kikuyus do not know mathematics, it is in our blood.” Here was a man who was feeding my young brain with negative fodder about a stereotype of his own tribe.

Unbeknownst to him, I fully subscribed to the notion of Kikuyus being poor mathematicians from that day henceforth until secondary school where my thinking started to transition from concrete thoughts to abstract thinking. Not only did I accept his fallacy, but I actually fulfilled it very well in primary school where I became a mediocre math pupil as evidenced by poor arithmetic grades.

The difference between the first man prophesying the demise of my ambitions and the second guy is that they both fed me discouragement fodder. However, after gullibly gorging it the first time, I had learned my lesson all too well when the latter came around –once beaten twice shy as the adage goes. The first guy discouraged a young boy; the seconnd one paradoxically motivated a grown man.


After I turned 25 years old some years back, a spark ignited a fire inside my soul that is going to take more than a few feeble words uttered by mankind to put it out. Even then, I will still have the desire to stand up, dust off the shoulders, keep my head high and continue on my pursuit of happiness.

Luckily, I have since corrected my mathematics inferiority well enough that one of the four colleges that I have attended hitherto offered me a job to tutor algebra to college kids. Retrospectively, it is quite comical that this is true given the fact that I despised math and all of the teachers who taught it.

Some people who purport to be your friends can sometimes harbor the most ill-conceived thoughts about you to the extent of confining your ambitions within certain perimeters that they have conjured as your limitation in their minds.

Unfortunately, at times, it only takes one negative voice to sway one’s ambitions astray. As such, it is quite imperative for one to be conscious of those within his/her circle and to be fully aware whether their intentions are fully vested with one’s interests. I have learned that it is better to have one good friend who understands and respects your potential over multiple acquaintances among who include a few or even one who will doubt, discourage and limit your growth. Mathematically, I would rather have a dollar than four quarters –same value, different forms.

Now, if you have a child, try to feed them with words of encouragement every day. Tell that boy or girl that she/he can be anything that he puts his/her mind to. Do not wait for a stranger to tell your kid that his/her people are innately inferior to matters of mathematics or that “wewe hauwezi toboa!”

If your son draws on the walls in your house, do not demonize him for being destructive. Instead, buy him some canvas, drawing paper, paint, crayons and raise the next Van Gogh. If your daughter breaks up the new toy into pieces after just a few days, do not punish her, help her rebuild it and nurture the next Henry Ford.
Your neighbor’s demise is not correlated to your success and neither is his/her success a measure of your failure!