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Are you doing something, or just posing?

Grace Mungai, a reader of this column, sent me an impassioned email recently. She asked: why are we reducing important occupations or undertakings or positions to ‘brag words’ – things we pretend we are doing, rather than actually doing?

Her practical analogy: you can read about, discuss or look at treadmills and rowing machines all you like; but until you actually get onto one, nothing will change. You can pose in gyms next to nice equipment and Instagram the result, but your body will remain as out of shape as ever. Until you climb on and actually do the work.

I wrote something similar on this page a while back: true success comes from yourself, not from sharing inspirational quotations every morning; not from listening to endless celebrity talks; not from being mentored by that look-at-me entrepreneur who’s on all the talk shows. You can gain inspiration and insight from others; but ultimately you have to step up and do things for yourself, try things out, fall flat on your face, shake yourself up, and keep going with renewed determination and new wisdom.

The posing that Grace referred to is a growing phenomenon. Too many folks are actually in a pose all the time. They pose as accomplished entrepreneurs; pose as happy spouses with lovely children; pose as do-gooders whose only interest is the uplift of humanity; pose as highly concerned citizens who are fed up of the nefarious shenanigans of politicians.

These poses often hide some harsh truths.

Truly successful businessfolk rarely want to flaunt their success to all and sundry. Those who have actually put in the hard work and generated the acumen to enjoy success know they have to keep going; momentary success in business is nothing to be proud of; it can change in a moment. The posers, on the other hand – narcissists, tenderpreneurs and the like – are mostly there to sell a myth.

Those who are in happy personal relationships know this is also nothing to brag about. It is something to feel very lucky about. If their key relationships are just fine right now, they know they should be happy and be quiet. There is nothing to showcase to the world; things can go wrong, people can change, the unexpected may happen. Posers who want to put families and bonds on display are getting some strange, dubious thrill from the show.

Those who are really devout are rarely to be found exhibiting their pieties. Their reward comes from the results of their devotions, not from the claps of onlookers. Those who must keep reminding us of their dutiful service and their humility before the divine make us wonder: why do you need to strike this public pose every day?

As for being fed up of politicos and the ruin they cause: hey, we all are. But it’s really your call on what you do next. Having earnest chinwags and then crafting worthy public statements for press conferences may be better then sheer apathy, but is it enough? What’s the next step? Will you actually work for long-term change and support reform? Will you influence those in your circles to move away from primitive ethnic voting? Will you give time and money (and your vote) to those who actually try to offer fresh thinking? Or was the pose you struck for the cameras the end of the matter?

Social media platforms have made the world a perennial pose-fest. Some folks pose to show you their edginess and cultivated rudeness; others pose to show you their bold embrace of every taboo out there; yet others are posing as doing something they don’t actually do. Like entrepreneurship. Or devotion. Or charity. Or public concern.

Real achievers don’t feel the need to be on every chat show or social feed because they don’t have the time for any of that. Because they’re too busy doing their thing to talk too much about it. They don’t need to pose, because their work and their lives communicate everything you need to know about them.

We are, of course, a connected race. I communicate things all the time, and so do you. That will never change. But let’s stop getting taken in by those who only communicate; who have nothing actually going on; whose income and fulfilment derives from striking poses, not striking new paths. Too many of us are being hoodwinked by illusionists.

(Sunday Nation, 12 November 2017)

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