Articles Tagged Life & Society

Oct 03, 2021
Age gracefully, and leave your toys behind

A fond memory from childhood popped up in my head the other day. The neighbourhood kids were all out playing, as was the norm back then. There were no “devices” available to us other than makeshift toys, perhaps a ball or two. Entertainment was confined to a single cartoon show from the Voice of Kenya […]

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Sep 26, 2021
How much is too much? We seem to have no idea

This gentleman once had a big corporate job. He was an executive director at a large business, at global level. Finding his work bereft of meaning, however, he didn’t last. He catapulted himself out of his office chair and into a life of doing the work he actually loves—studying, teaching, guiding, advising, writing. James Suzman […]

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Sep 19, 2021
Should we let go of outdated dress codes?

Some years ago, I stood up in a boardroom to address the assembled directors. I had been asked to speak to board members on trends in governance and strategy. Before I could speak, however, a hand was raised. A visibly peeved director asked me why I was addressing that room, a gathering of the high […]

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Sep 05, 2021
When to persist, and when to desist? A booklover’s tale

Nilanjana Roy is a wonderful columnist for the Financial Times. She is, like me, a devoted bibliophile. She revels in her love of literature and enrols many in the cause of reading. She recently penned a piece that really got me thinking about how I read books. My why, as regular readers of this page will know, is crystal […]

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Aug 22, 2021
Why I was unmoved by Messi’s tears

Lionel Messi cried. A lot. Football’s leading icon showed up at a press conference to announce his sudden departure from his beloved club, FC Barcelona, after two glorious decades there. As he stood to make his speech he faltered, his voice breaking. Then came the flood of tears. After recovering, he went on to say […]

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Aug 08, 2021
Rush-rush, busy-busy – but why?

Nairobians have made a fetish of being rushed off their feet and of being perpetually busy. We always have to be somewhere else, and we are always late; we always have to be busy, and be seen to be busy, and talk about being busy. Our self-esteem and self-regard seem to ride on it. What […]

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Jul 25, 2021
Less is more. A life lesson

Less is more, good people. Less is more. If you’re about to give a long speech, cut it in half. If you are presenting a slide deck, reduce it to a third of what you planned. And cut away all the superfluous text on every slide as well. Why? Because when you overdo it, it’s […]

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May 16, 2021
Education must escape the tyranny of the clock

It has taken me decades to learn how to eat slowly. I tend to gobble down my meal and finish in just a few minutes. This is not a good thing. Modern nutritionists advise that we eat and drink slowly and carefully. So why am I like this? The genesis of the problem is high […]

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May 02, 2021
What football’s moneymen have forgotten: community

The owners of the elite European football clubs seemed to plunge themselves into a collective sudden-onset madness a couple of weeks ago. 12 top clubs announced they were to be part of a breakaway European Super League, to replace the UEFA Champions League on their calendars. The difference? The elite clubs would run the new […]

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Apr 18, 2021
A new world of hybrid work is loading

One thing that this pandemic has done for us: it has dispersed work. What used to be done together in one place is now being done all over the place: in homes, in cafes, in far-off locales. Except for those most acutely affected, the work, by and large, has not stopped. It’s just relocated. Once […]

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Apr 11, 2021
Relationships are better when you don’t keep score

Don’t keep score. That’s the advice professor Scott Galloway gives people, often imparted on his podcasts. He refers to the habit of tallying that bedevils our closest relationships. Some of us mistake relationships to be merely a series of transactions. You were good to me, so I can return the favour. You were generous yesterday, […]

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Mar 28, 2021
A tribute to those who smile through adversity

First hide from your own shadow Then, you may cry. Turn down all the lamps Then, you may cry. What do most of us do when we suffer adversity? We spread it around. We offload. We look for our nearest and dearest and our kith and kin, and even complete strangers, to complain about our […]

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Mar 07, 2021
To deal bigger, start small

The classic novel Siddhartha was first published by Hermann Hesse in 1922. It is the story of a man on a journey of self-discovery. He tries everything to seek wisdom. He renounces material possessions and becomes a wandering ascetic. He reverses into sensual pleasure and material accumulation. He then wearies of the game of life […]

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Jan 03, 2021
Let’s go back to school – but let’s do it differently, please

After a blighted year, the children are going back to school in 2021. Never before have so many youngsters stayed away from school for so long. The pandemic year should be seen as a petri dish in which we conducted a long experiment about the nature of education. The results are in – and there […]

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Dec 27, 2020
The real lesson of 2020 is about your mother

My last column of 2019 was about respecting nature. Little did I know then what the natural world was about to unleash on us in 2020. But I did know this: “Each and every day, a beautiful sunrise occurs. The birds strike up their orchestra to herald another day. The light streams through the leaves; […]

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Dec 20, 2020
As this unusual year ends, let go of the search for more

I recently gathered some of the alumni of the leadership programme I founded, to reflect on this craziest of years. My question to them in this virtual congregation was this: yes, we were all caught napping by the pandemic; yes, we all achieved some remarkable business pivots; but what are the lasting lessons of this […]

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Dec 13, 2020
The man with the hammer is about to disturb you

The man with the hammer is ready to start work. He is employed on a construction site. His job is to attach metal sheets to steel girders. It is a very noisy job. A high-decibel racket is about to ensue. The site is on a quiet residential road in Nairobi. The time is 12 midnight […]

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Dec 06, 2020
Let’s record the heroes of the global pandemic

When there’s a crisis on, sometimes you just have to laugh out loud.  The best cartoon I have seen depicting the pandemic situation (by Arghxsel) showed a hungry wolf facing a herd of sheep, and looking perplexed. “You know that I am a wolf,” he asks the sheep. “Why won’t you run away?” Because “there […]

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Nov 29, 2020
Stand up to be counted during this global crisis

There’s a global pandemic on, for crying out loud. I say this because some of us seem not to understand the gravity of the situation. Some of us seem to regard this thing as a minor irritation, a temporary encumbrance, to be ignored or wished away, so that something called “business as usual” can continue. […]

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Nov 22, 2020
Why the pandemic won’t kill globalization

A Brazilian visitor uses his Uber app to hail a Toyota taxi in Nairobi.  You watch a German series on Netflix, sitting on your Kenyan sofa, using a Korean TV, while eating takeout food from a local restaurant, ordered via a delivery app. Which country benefits from these various transactions? All of them.  The coronavirus […]

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Nov 15, 2020
We are at our best when we give without receiving

Amidst the drama of the US presidential election last week, a significant development may have escaped your notice. The Fox News Channel turned on candidate Trump. Fox News and Donald Trump have been kindred spirits for a long time. Fox’s anchors and opinion leaders have supported Trump through thick and thin, backing him to the […]

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Oct 25, 2020
The two deadly viruses working with corona

The coronavirus is the worst virus most of us have encountered in our lifetimes. It has killed more than a million people worldwide; it has brought entire economies to their knees; it has changed the everyday lives of billions. Even as we thought we had a grip on it and managed it and flattened its […]

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Oct 04, 2020
Which way for the university degree?

It’s almost an article of faith: if you want your children to be something in this world, you have to do your level best to get them a university degree. That’s how we’ve been brought up; that’s how we’ve all been pushed by our parents and teachers; those are the standards we’ve set for ourselves […]

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Sep 06, 2020
How the virus masked and unmasked us

Face-masks? Who apart from a few knew about them before 2020? Now they are a daily necessity, a wardrobe item. Most of us may think we never put on a mask before this pandemic, but actually we did. I refer not to the triple-layer protection we now sport, but to the masks humans wear by […]

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Aug 16, 2020
How I travelled around the world in a pandemic

A confession: I have been travelling far and wide in 2020, even though there is a global pandemic on.  For example, even as that city locked down amidst one of the most challenging periods of its history, I was in New York, in the company of a troubled teenager who went on a 48-hour drinking […]

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Jul 19, 2020
We are in this mess because of our assaults on nature

Before 2020 I did not, I am ashamed to admit, really know what a virus was. I knew a little bit, certainly. I knew that viruses are bugs that seem to come out of nowhere; I knew that they cause some terrible diseases; I knew that antibiotics don’t work on them and we really just […]

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Jun 21, 2020
My 900th column: notes from a pandemic

A few months into the lockdowns and slowdowns caused by a pandemic, perhaps we should pause. This is my 900th column for the Sunday Nation, so let me commemorate the occasion by sharing some personal reflections from my own experience of recent reversals; of isolation and distancing; and of thinking about the world to come. […]

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Jun 14, 2020
Use the pandemic to seek the best version of you

People really reveal themselves in a crisis, and the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most challenging global situations in human history. The health crisis has morphed into an economic cataclysm. And it will reveal who we really are. When times are good, we can all look amiable and generous. When times are bad, whatever […]

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