Articles Tagged Life & Society

Apr 14, 2019
So digital, so analogue

You approach a junction, and see some swish-looking traffic lights, complete with digital countdown timers. Nice, you think. Except no one is looking at the lights. There is a traffic policeman on duty guiding the vehicles, badly, even as the lights do their thing above his head. No matter how much was paid for those […]

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Mar 31, 2019
Who created the story your group believes?

For the past two weeks I’ve been discussing the stories of the mind on this page: the stories that our narrating self propagates and embellishes, in defiance of our experiencing self – the one that records facts and stays objective. The narrating self holds sway most of the time – and that makes us vulnerable […]

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Mar 24, 2019
The fictions we create about ourselves can imprison us

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay Suppose you are a physically attractive person. You are known for your looks. You were the belle of the school ball, or the hunk on the sports team. Being attractive becomes your identity, your calling card, your unique position in life. It’s what gives you self-esteem. Looks don’t last, though. […]

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Mar 17, 2019
The person you call ‘I’ may be a fictional character

A few years ago I wrote here: watch out for the stories your mind is capable of spinning. You will easily believe lies are truth, and the truth is a lie. Consider the example I gave you then. You are deep in sleep, and immersed in a vivid dream. A sound from the outside world […]

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Mar 03, 2019
Are you living your life in denial of your own death?

As a young boy sitting in temples and community halls I would wonder why almost everything had some human’s name on it. A hall, a library, even the folding chairs. Someone’s name would be there, preceded by the words ‘donated by…’ or ‘in memory of…’ Anthropologist Ernest Becker wrote a remarkable book around the same […]

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Dec 30, 2018
Who’s waiting for your ‘funeral’?

As we close the year, here’s a thought for you: “Science advances one funeral at a time.” That was stated by Paul Samuelson, the man who taught me economics without my ever meeting him, through his landmark book. Samuelson was in turn paraphrasing the thoughts of the legendary physicist, Max Planck: “A new scientific truth […]

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Dec 16, 2018
The fallacy of grading humans

There are numbers attached to every human being, numbers that follow us around all our lives. These numbers – our exam grades, our performance appraisal results, our bank balances – purport to measure our achievements. But do they? Yuval Noah Harari is the author of the moment. This mild-mannered professor of history has become a […]

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Nov 25, 2018
Those were the days – or were they?

I tweeted a visual joke recently. It involved people making the connection between an audio-cassette tape and a pencil. Most people on Twitter, in these parts at least, are too young to get it. Heck, most are too young to know what a cassette is… Yes, young ones: once upon a time the most common […]

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Nov 18, 2018
A life where money is the tool, not the target

Last week I discussed why our relationship with money is so toxic: because it is ruled by fear and greed. We are driven to daftness by money because we are afraid of losing it or not having enough. But what if we could conquer those emotions? What if we could quell our fear and shackle […]

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Nov 11, 2018
What if you could change your relationship with money?

Photo by Lucas Favre on Unsplash Money deranges us. We never seem to think we have enough, and the pursuit of more distorts and damages our lives. Yet we persist in our madness. Steven Harrison wrote a remarkable book a few years ago. It was called Doing Nothing. As someone who wonders why most of […]

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Nov 04, 2018
Whose child do you choose to be?

Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash I have just finished reading my 55th book of the year. So I am well ahead of schedule in my #50BooksIn2018 challenge. How are you doing? There is still time for a late burst. Allow me to give you another reason to keep reading books. Consider this remarkable wisdom […]

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Sep 23, 2018
How will you look back on your life?

Last week I wrote on this page about the importance of saying NO many times in life – of not chasing after every vaguely interesting thing; of setting your own priorities and agendas; of understanding the power of focus. It’s funny how serendipity works. A day or so after writing that column, I found myself […]

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Aug 26, 2018
What marks out the life well lived?

I have spent a lot of time in hospital lately, with a patient close to me. On one of the days I was walking up a staircase and stopped halfway up. At the top was the intensive care unit I was heading to; at the bottom was the maternity wing. Up there, faces were sombre […]

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Aug 19, 2018
Don’t buy – just subscribe?

Photo by Umberto Cofini on Unsplash If you’re a certain age, you probably have a whole bunch of music CDs lying around, gathering dust. (If you’re even older, you may have a pile of audio cassettes and LPs too – but we won’t go there.) Most of my music collection was once in the form […]

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Jul 29, 2018
The taxi driver with advice for presidents and prime ministers

Kamran is a taxi driver in Dubai. I met him on a recent trip and found him a little different from the norm. Despite doing a difficult and demanding job, and one that does not offer the best reward, he stays upbeat and positive. So much so that I engaged him exclusively on a daily […]

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Jun 17, 2018
AI is right here, right now

I recently received an email from the folks over at Medium, an online publishing platform I subscribe to. Here’s what it said: “Hello! It looks like you’re into artificial intelligence, so we rounded up a few of our favorites for you this week. Because you’re a member and an avid reader, we want to make […]

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Apr 29, 2018
How to understand introverts (part three: in the workplace)

Let’s conclude this short series on introversion and extroversion with how it all plays out in the workplace. If you’ve been following the series (this is the third part; part one is here, and part two here ), you’ve understood the essentials about introversion vs extroversion. Here’s a beautifully concise summary, from Concordia University’s Dr […]

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Apr 22, 2018
How to understand introverts (part two: socially)

Who wouldn’t like going to a lively, energetic, fun-filled party? Introverts, that’s who. You may have heard the old joke: someone once organized a party just for introverts so that they would be comfortable with their own kind, but no one showed up… Last week I introduced this short series on introversion by offering a […]

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Apr 15, 2018
How to understand introverts (part one)

I tweet about introverts every once in a while. The responses are always very interesting. Introverts will like and store the tweet; extroverts will often be confused by what’s being said. A few months back I tweeted that I would write a Sunday column about understanding introversion. The response was immediate: do it like yesterday! […]

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Apr 08, 2018
Why good practice matters in business

Nairobi is a building site, wherever you look. Cranes and scaffolding everywhere, countless office blocks and apartment buildings coming up one after the other. New ground is broken every day, even though many of the properties built years ago remain largely unoccupied. The dearth of tenants does not seem to matter to the developers. But […]

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Apr 01, 2018
Facebook and the dark side of new tech

What kind of company can have $60 billion wiped off its value in just a few days – and still be around? The Facebook kind. Facebook has more users than China or India have citizens, and therefore it is just fine – for now. But the Cambridge Analytica scandal – the revelations that the misuse […]

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Feb 25, 2018
Kindness, the underrated virtue

Why are some people so important in our lives? Who is it we remember with fondness long after they are gone? What counts when we measure a life? When my grandfather passed away, I was living overseas. I returned to Nairobi for the funeral, and when the body was brought home for final prayers, a […]

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Feb 18, 2018
Are you teaching your kids to cheat?

In the game of cricket, there is an honour system. A batsman can be officially ‘out’ (sent back to the pavilion) in a variety of ways; but he can also choose to ‘walk’ if he feels he was out but no one noticed. A parent recently recounted an experience in this regard. Her young son […]

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Jan 21, 2018
Is your culture really yours?

I spent some time at a holiday location in December, and I thought it would be interesting to engage some friends in a digital guessing game. I sent them selected photos of my locale; they were then to submit guesses of where on earth I might be. These were the pictures I took and submitted: […]

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Jan 14, 2018
Road safety? Start with purpose

Kenyans are perplexed again by the upsurge in road carnage that takes place every December. The holiday period inevitably brings about even more horrific deaths and injuries on our roads (again). The public inevitably is outraged (again). The government inevitably promises a raft of new measures (again). See you here in January 2019 when we […]

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Jan 07, 2018
How many books will you read in 2018?

How will you measure your achievement in the year ahead? Will it be in terms of money earned? Promotions gained? Holidays enjoyed? Friendships made? Learnings achieved? Kindnesses imparted? I have a simple measure for you to aim for in 2018: books read. Believe me or not: for many people that simple activity – reading books […]

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Dec 10, 2017
Which pain are you willing to embrace?

An alum of my leadership programme recommended an unusual book to me earlier in the year. Its title was a deterrent: it is called The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A ****. As this is a family newspaper, I won’t spell out the bleeped letters, but you get the gist. It’s a strange book. The […]

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Nov 12, 2017
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 […]

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