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It’s time to name names…

Today I’m going to name names.

Last month I realised that this SIM-card registration thing is serious, and that I had a data modem that required registration. I was passing through a shopping mall, and found that Safaricom had set up a special table outside their customer-care centre to conduct SIM registrations.

Just one table, mind you, manned by just one lady. The queue was long, with most people in it obviously irritated by the whole exercise. The lady had an unenviable job, filling the same form repeatedly with banal details for a seemingly unending stream of customers – not to mention dealing with their ignorance and impatience. And doing this entirely on her own. Not a job I would want even for a single day, I can assure you.

But here’s the thing: the lady I encountered was doing this job-from-hell with a constant smile on her face. She was polite, courteous and unflustered. She took her time to deal with the imbecilic and the irate in turn, never once losing her composure. I observed the obvious joy with which she did this work, and I felt inspired and uplifted. In the melee, I was unable to ask this stranger her name. But I did ask Safaricom later, who provided it.

And so I’m naming her. She is Mary Wanjiru Isaac, and I record my high regard for her.

Later, I visited my bank. There is a lady there who is not unlike Mary. She is dutiful and efficient, and makes every effort to complete every instruction given by a client. She, too, does it all with a smile – no matter how flustered and overworked she is. Let’s name her too: Mercy Yahuma – stand up and take a bow.

Why am I naming these people, who are strangers to me? Simply because they are rare, and they are important. Employees like these who have inbuilt motivation and take joy in their work, no matter how mundane, are like gold dust. Most people clock in to their jobs, pay lip service to the ‘values’ espoused by their company, stick around for as long as it suits them, and then jump ship at the first opportunity.

People who love their work and get intrinsic fulfilment from it are different. They experience a daily reward – the joy of doing something well. This is a mental attitude more than anything else. It is not linked to financial reward. People who only work well when the money is good never actually work well. They join you for the money and they leave you for the money. They are generally miserable and always sniffing around, despite the money.

Kahlil Gibran famously said: “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”

Too many of us waste our entire lives working with distaste. We hate our work and imagine we would love something else, if only we got the chance to try it. This is usually a delusion. Work is a necessity, just like breathing is. It helps us earn a living; learn a skill; experience personal growth; build a career; and pass the time given to us constructively. Being able to love our work is a great advantage in life, one that few are able to exploit.

The formula is simple. Find out, as early as possible, the work that best suits your personality and aptitudes. Do this work with great commitment and zeal, and give it your best shot every day. From this attitude great things often emerge. That is why I am naming Mary and Mercy today: to inspire more of you to do what you love, and love what you do.

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