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Don’t give up – success may be just around the corner

Jun 10, 2012 Success, Sunday Nation

Picture water dripping onto a large rock. The drops of water seem utterly ineffective in making even the slightest dent on the rock, which is sleek and solid and immovable. The water keeps dripping, for days, months, years. Yet there is no effect on the rock.

One day, however, that rock will crumble completely.

The drops of water do have an effect. The only problem is that the effect is very, very slow; and it is not visible. If the drops of water had consciousness, they would probably give up, imagining that dissolving the rock is not possible.

So it is with much of life. We struggle with so many things that seem to have no effect, no impact. No progress can be observed. To persist seems futile, to abandon the project seems the best course. And yet, if we have been diligent in our efforts to date, the crumbling of the rock might be imminent.

Success is like that. To achieve proper success, without shortcuts and moral compromises, takes a long, long time. One has to persist for years doing the right things: building unique skills; deepening knowledge; experiencing the twists and turns of life. During that initial period, not much personal progress is observed. Others seem to get ahead sooner.

Then, one fine day, all the good work you have been doing results in a breakthrough. After that, advancement might be exponential, as success breeds success. The years of being the steadily dripping water pay off. The rock that was in your path is gone.

If you are the only one doing the right thing when everyone else around you is doing the wrong thing, it is easy to despair. You can feel like the person dripping inconsequentially onto a huge unyielding rock. But here’s the thing: whenever a community does the wrong thing for too long, it eventually crumbles. Once its ethics are gone, a society will consume itself. Once law and order and decency are abandoned, chaos will ensue.

When that rock crumbles, the people who still uphold values and integrity will be charged with the rebuilding. So do not compromise. Someday, doing good will be valued again and will be rewarded. Don’t take my word for this; just study the history of civilization.

Raising children is no different. Parents can often think their exhortations fall on deaf ears most of the time. Kids are notoriously dismissive of their parents, especially as they get older. But if you have maintained the drip-feed of good messages about life, gently instilling good values and pointing out the difference between right and wrong, you have been building a human being who will make you proud. Someday.

In Kenya, we are poised in a peculiar place. We have done some of the hard work that is needed to allow us to take off as an economy and a people. After decades of struggle, we have a new constitution. After decades of neglect, we have new infrastructure and connectivity. The water has been dripping positively, and the results are imminent.

Yet the results will not come unless a further set of changes is made. We may have worked on laws, but we have neglected the culture needed to value and obey those laws. We may have invested in infrastructure, but we have not nurtured the personal values needed to ensure that all of us benefit from those roads, ports, power and undersea cables.

And so we observe new roads but no new movement; new laws but no new discipline; new faces but no new behaviour; new developments but no new benefits.

So if you are one of the few still dripping the water of decency onto the rock of impunity, do not despair. Keep going. That rock, ugly and unyielding though it seems today, will crumble.

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