The Kenyan Nomad

The Kenyan Nomad

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Robin Sharma's Rules

This was definitely worth sharing! Sharma is an extremely inspirational author, and I hope that all of you get a chance to read something of his at some point.

Black Hole

"It's a time warp you see,
Whatever you put in will come out eventually.
You'll get it back, honest!"
That's what you remember,
That it felt good to give.
Pouring yourself into that space, that place, that time,
You didn't want much, didn't expect much just gave.
And on the other side,
I took.
I could return it, reciprocate some.
But it's so hard you see.
It takes some effort,
And I'm feeling so very lazy today.
You're still giving and giving and giving.
And I'm going to expect you to keep giving even more.
See, I don't realise what this takes away from you.
Drains your energy,
Weakens your resolve,
Shakes your faith.
And one day,
I'm not going to realise what I had till it's gone.
But I'll be too late. 
-Roshni Walia

Monday, January 27, 2014


I was studying at my desk earlier, and happened to look up at a picture I have on my desk. It's a photography project I had done for a class I took earlier, and related to the concept of home. The project I put up on had a different picture, but the one I'd originally used was this one.

The text that accompanied this picture was:
"Growing up, I always took the places around me and related them to home. I'd see reflections of the outside world in my home.
Coming to Sewanee I realised it was actually the other way around; I carry pieces of home wherever I go, because it's about the people and things that matter, and not where I physically am. As I travel to different places, I will be asked where home is, and I'll say Nairobi. But I'll be secure in the knowledge that I can be at home far away too, and I'm cool with that."

This got me thinking about what home exactly is for me, and I realised that this was more than just a place that could be defined by an address. 

When I think of home, the first place that I think of is my home with my parents back in Kenya, and I feel that that may always be the case. Unfortunately though, this means that I am only at home for three months a year, and probably even less once I graduate. Am I homeless for the other nine months? It's kind of shocking to think about it that way...

When I'm at Sewanee though, when I talk about going home most days, I'm talking about my dorm room. It's not a big space, but I've made it my own, and it's the place I go to in order to feel comfortable and get more in touch with myself. Other times, when I'm away from Sewanee, home is my sister's apartment. I know I can be comfortable there, and entirely at ease with myself. 

What did I take away from these musings?
Home is more than just a physical place: it's a place that has memories, and the potential for more; a place you experience all sorts of emotions at; a place where there is love; a place that sets you entirely at ease. 
I've learned that it's both comforting and empowering to know that I have the ability to create a home wherever I go!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beyond the Gates: What Exactly is It?

College is a place where you learn lots of math and science that you'll never use again, but are left ill-equipped to deal with life after graduation right? Welcome to Sewanee, a place that completely defies this stereotype.

Beyond the Gates is a weekend hosted by Sewanee's Career & Leadership Development office that takes place the weekend right before the spring semester starts. The purpose of this weekend is to equip juniors and seniors with various valuable skills and pieces of advice that'll help us after the much dreaded graduation; these include anything from which wine to order at a business dinner, how to interview effectively, how to negotiate an apartment lease, and even how to get noticed in the workplace. One of the most fantastic things about this workshop is that it is entirely free of charge. Various alumni and parents of students of Sewanee: The University of the South fly down at their own expense to participate in this workshop on a volunteer basis.

Students are paired in small groups with a mentor, and attend various practice interviews, networking breaks, and panels over the course of the weekend. The Friday dinner this year had an exceptionally inspirational speaker who was a former Sewanee student, Maryetta Anschutz, who spoke about how she'd gone on from a privileged background to opening a school that would take in the rich and the poor alike, and her journey along the way. The applause at the end of her talk was loud and strong, and yet another reminder of the incredible potential that students here have, and that Sewanee fosters.
The next day at lunch time, we got to hear from recent Sewanee graduates and how their experience has been.

Personally, this was my second time attending this weekend, and I had a fantastic time both years. The person who was assigned to be my mentor last year has remained in touch, and has been an extremely valuable resource over the course of the year, in helping me identify various job opportunities and polishing up my resume and LinkedIn profile. One of my interviewers last year learned that I was interested in being an entrepreneur eventually, and paid for me to have a year-long subscription to a magazine for entrepreneurs. This year too, I got to network with lots of great alumni who gave me great feedback that I will be using during my job search.

It was fantastic being able to meet so many people who even years or decades after graduation, still have such obvious affection for this place and the greater 'Sewanee family' as some of us like to call it.
I may be about to graduate, but I know that I can't wait to be here for Beyond the Gates as an alumni already!

(This post is also on Sewanee's Office of Admission blog )

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beyond the Gates: Advice from a Recent Graduate

Sewanee has a great weekend for juniors and seniors the weekend before the spring semester starts, called Beyond the Gates. It's a great weekend that brings a lot of alumni and parents of Sewanee students to the campus to talk to current students about anything and everything that we should expect once we graduate. One of the lunch speakers, Jay Morgan, is a graduate from the class of 2012. His speech had a lot of great advice, and because I'd known the speaker as a student his transition to a 'real-life employee' was much easier for me to relate to. I felt that the advice he had to share was definitely something that would be helpful to other people around my age who're figuring out where life is going to take them after May, so I've included parts of his speech below. Enjoy!

Those of you who have seen ‘Elf’ remember when Santa tells Buddy:
“Well, there are some things you should know. First off, you see gum on the street, leave it there. It isn’t free candy.”  

I was a lot like Buddy when I moved to Denver. I was a kid who had spent his whole life in small towns and all of a sudden I was alone in a city 275 times more populated than Sewanee. Those of you that know me know that I’m a very social person. I went from knowing what felt like everyone, to knowing almost no one. Needless to say, my first months in Denver were very humbling, which leads my first observation.

(Observation #1): After graduation, you will likely be more vulnerable and overwhelmed than you have ever been before. Nothing truly worthwhile is ever easy, and you may come to appreciate this newfound vulnerability. You will soon become one drop in an endless ocean of millennial graduates. It’s a shock to realize that although you have worked very hard to get where you are now, you still must stand out from the rest of this ocean of your peers.

My first day at my workplace, I thought that because I had an undergraduate degree from Sewanee and secured an internship, I had accomplished a new level of personal success. I quickly realized that while my foot was in the door, nothing but hard and often tedious work was going to keep it there. This leads to my second observation.

 (Observation #2): Internships are nothing but very long interviews. Thankfully, this one gave me a chance to get a good idea of the questions and answers that would be asked during the job interview to follow. Don’t get comfortable in an internship. It is your purgatory. Everything you say and do is being assessed before the final judgment.

This leads me to my favorite and final observation;

(Observation #3): Perception is reality. While this is not an actual fact, it should always be applied when you’re around people that you don’t know. While this will prove true throughout your career, you should be especially mindful of this rule as an intern or entry-level employee. You are under a microscope, and everything you do or don’t do can mark either for or against you. Therefore, don’t say anything in the workplace that you wouldn’t say while looking your grandmother in the eye.
You want to be perceived as someone who takes good care of yourself. You’ll hear people say things like “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” If you can’t be responsible for looking and sounding your best, both in person and on paper, you shouldn’t expect to be given more responsibility.

Obviously you want to work hard and work smart, but it won’t matter if no one notices. You need to be perceived as someone who works hard and works smart. Those behind the microscope may not take the time to know that you’re the one who spent 4 hours preparing that executive summary on quarterly earnings if Carly Rae Jepsen is blaring through your headphones as you crouch in your cubicle with your back to a group of executives passing by. Be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t be that guy.

As a general rule, if you have to question whether a certain behavior is appropriate, it probably isn’t.

Now that I’ve mentioned some observations, I’d like to recommend a few things to pay attention to.

Recommendation #1: Keep promises to yourself.
While in school, workloads ebb and flow and there are periods of quiet. Professors dictate your workload, and you have a cut and dry ability to meet their expectations. The workplace can be a bit more complicated. It’s more of a steady bombardment of continuous deadlines. There is no month long gap to re-group after exams. There is no summer vacation. There is just work.

At Sewanee you don’t set the expectations, you meet them. At your future workplace, you’ll be required to set and meet expectations. You will likely need to set most of your own goals and meet your own deadlines. Don’t expect any coddling. Chances are that your boss will be fifty times busier than you, and therefore incapable of micro-managing your work. Know the boss’ expectations and set personal deadlines accordingly. This will take some getting used to, but it’s also very nice to be your own boss some of the time.

Since I moved from Denver, I’ve been working remotely from my home office when I’m not travelling. Therefore, I’m the only one who can truly judge my day-to-day performance. So, as you can imagine, it’s imperative that I keep promises to myself that keep me working throughout the day, every day.

Recommendation #2: Read 
It sounds almost too obvious to mention, but read continuously. Study your business. As a matter of fact, read everything that you can get your hands on. I barely did any reading that wasn’t assigned at Sewanee, and honestly I missed out on some of the assigned stuff too.

The bitter irony is that when I no longer had reading assignments, I realized that I actually love to read. So, I recommend that you set an amount of time away each day and comb through trade journals, newspapers, and any other pertinent material you can get your hands on.  It’s amazing how much big business comes down to small conversation. You don’t want television and your immediate environment to be the only knowledge you’re bringing to the table.

No matter the problem, someone out there has experienced it, solved it, and written about it. Reading is the best way to stay fresh and ahead of the curve, and the benefits far outweigh the effort spent. If you don’t get into the habit of reading more than your emails and the ticker on the television, you’ll be surpassed by your peers who do.

Recommendation #3: Listen more than you talk.
As you start out, a good rule of thumb is that if you can’t write a succinct paragraph on the subject matter, you probably shouldn’t talk about it. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but I’m often the anti-model for this recommendation.

Discussing topics that I’m not fully aware of simply proves how much I don’t know. Truly listening is particularly hard for those of us who are extroverted. By opening my mouth without a clear understanding, I not only make myself look bad, but I might also take away a chance for a real subject matter expert to teach me something that I obviously don’t know. 

So, to wrap-up, after graduation you will likely be more vulnerable and overwhelmed than you’ve ever been. If you’re stepping into an internship, try to remember that it’s just a extended interview. And also remember, perception is reality.

You will never get enough feedback, particularly the positive kind, so you’ll need to learn to constantly self-evaluate. Yes, you will feel discouraged; yes, you will feed underutilized; yes, you will be exhausted, but something about freedom and a paycheck can settle these negative feelings. Just try to keep the promises that you make to yourself, read tirelessly, and listen more than you speak.

Thank you.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Follow up 1: Friendship Despite Place and Time

Here are a few choice words from Charlie Hughes, the current student body president at Sewanee that I felt would resonate with a lot of readers. Enjoy!

The strongest friendships that I have had in my life thus far, developed through concurrently shared experiences, have been more like partnerships really.  Their value lies in between the two friends, in the space between the two planets around which everything seems to orbit.  Whether in high school, college, on an athletic team or at work, knowing that someone else enjoys your company can feel like the ultimate satisfaction, motivating you to get up in the morning, go for a run, to succeed.  Sometimes your friend decides to take a different exit on the highway, and you look around, having forgotten how you arrived where you are, but yet still holding that specific motivation in your hand.  Much in the way that time is said to fly when you are enjoying yourself, Maya Angelou once said that people (friends included) "will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” You never forget the motivation that friendship offers.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Friendship Despite Place and Time

The recent cold spell in the Northern part of the USA means that I am currently housebound, and as such, have a few quiet moments to think about some of the more important people in my life.
riendship is one of the perpetual things that exists in our lives, yet I doubt that many of us actually have moments of clarity where we reflect upon it and feel grateful for it. Growing up in Kenya, and having done my undergraduate degree in Tennessee, I have come across a wide variety of people, some who I'm lucky to call my friends, whereas others have reserved a place as passing acquaintances. Naturally, this separation of  place means that I don't get to see some friends as often as I'd like, and while we all like to say that our friendships do not change despite being far and not seeing each other often, the stark truth is that they do.
Fortunately, I've found in my own life that distance and time have actually served to make those friendships worth having even more worth it, and in a way, have brought some people closer.

At times, it can be easy to fall into a trap of believing that the only close friends you have are those who are close to you in place, and those you get to see extremely often. Yes, it is true that ease of accessibility can make being around these people so much simpler, but at times frustration can arise when we feel that these relationships are not headed in the direction we hope. This reminds me of one of those anonymous quotes that we often see floating around the vast sphere of the Internet "Never struggle to chase love, affection, or attention. If it isn't freely given by another person, it isn't worth having." While this is true to an extent, it implies that friendships don't need any work at all. Some do and some don't, whereas others may require it from time to time. However, we should remember not to let our friendships be bounded by place, time, or even age.

One of my best friends is someone I've known for roughly ten years now. We both study in different countries, and don't get to catch up as often as we'd like, but we do make sure to share life's most important things with each other, and when we're together, it seems as though no time has passed at all. I could almost say that she knows me better than I do myself!

Another is a close friend who now lives in Australia; in high school, we saw each other every day, but now, I haven't seen her for four years. We've stayed in touch, and this has been helped immensely by our recent new trend of letter writing.

One of my close friends goes to Sewanee with me; I practically live with her, and get to see her almost everyday, and yet, I feel that we still get to know each other better as time goes by.
I'd love to hear if anyone has stories about memorable friendships that they share with others!
Have a friendly day, won't you!

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