What drives you? (Part 1)

Caltex once had a worldwide advertising campaign with the tag line “What drives you”. It really resonated with me at the time as I was beginning to identify my main motivation for the things that I love doing. I believe there are a lot of people who feel stuck in jobs they hate simply because of the money. It is all too common to hear people talk about how they hate their job or their boss but they have to hang around since “it pays the rent”. Someone once said that the ultimate in poverty is spending the most productive years of your life doing what you hate so that you can then retire and finally do what you like. By that time, you are too old, too exhausted to do it well or to even enjoy it. Seems to be such an obvious thing but so easy to miss. I am convinced that unless what you do for a living is something you would do without any salary then you are yet to find what drives you. Take a moment now and ask yourself, do you enjoy what you do for a living enough to want to do it with no pay at all? Many employed people I know seem to have what is known as a side-hustle. A job or business that they do in addition to their “job, job”. Sometimes what you do on the side can be an indication of what drives you. All of us have something we can engage in and later say “wow, is that the time? I had no idea so much time had passed”. That something, could be a hint about what drives you.

A word I have avoided so far is passion. Passion is what drives any venture. A driving, compelling emotion, enthusiasm, abundant desire, strong motivation. I think you get the point. I don’t want to define it too passionately (!). Passion can be positive or negative, good or evil, constructive or destructive, but it will always be strong and unrelenting. I think just judging from the sheer energy that passion requires, one cannot be passionate about too many things. You may end up doing so many things and appear to have many passions but I think for most people, all the things they do can be grouped together into at most three. As you look into all those activities you will be able to identify similarities in the goals aimed at.

You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”
-quoted from the movie “Serendipity”

“You never achieve success unless you like what you are doing.”
— Dale Carnegie

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.”
– Christian Friedrich Hebbel

“Tell me what your passion is, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
-John Little Prince

So what am I passionate about? What drives me? There are three things I know beyond a doubt that I am extremely passionate (can there be passion that is not extreme?) about.

My first computer was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum around 1983.

Image: www.geek.com (click to see full size)

It was about the size of an iPad. But that is where the similarities end. You had to hook it up to a TV using a co-axial cable, then to a tape recorder. The TV would then become the monitor and you would save stuff (programs) onto a cassette tape. I cannot tell you how many nights I stayed up playing around with this gadget. My greatest achievement was to do a program that would play the full Kenya National Anthem using the BEEP command. Heaven I tell you!

I started spending a lot of my time at a shop on Moi Avenue called SJ Moore. They are the shop that later became Micro City and moved to Westlands. I would stay there sometimes the whole day just ogling the gadgets that they had in stock ranging from a printer, so that you could print your program in case the cassette tape got chewed while you were saving your word, to the unbelievably more powerful (64KB RAM!) Commodore 64. I would assist customers as to what is the best accessory to buy. I remember once being thrown out of the shop by the owner as it looked like I had employed myself there as a customer service rep! I will never forget the words the Asian owner asked me one day “Young man, you think this is home?” Now as I think about it, I was a bit obsessed as I used to stand outside the shop sometimes through lunch time waiting for them to re-open after lunch. Up till today, about 30 years later, my fascination with computers, programming, gadgets like phones, has not reduced at all. In fact I think it has worsened. A lot of the fights I have with my wife even today come when this obsession sometimes get out of hand. For example, she says I spend too much time on my iPhone or Blackberry and gets upset when I refer to my laptop sometimes as my first wife! (surely, who would have a problem with that?)

Cars and Motorcycles

I was a non-resident for the majority of my studies at the University of Nairobi. I used to operate by bicycle to and from class. We used to live at Kariokor Flats. I have always had a healthy disrespect and fear for public transport. My life as a student cyclist was not without its many mishaps. But the near misses were far worse! I remember once cycling near City Hall behind a small pickup truck that suddenly braked and I couldn’t stop quickly enough. I hit it and was catapulted to the back of the pickup and had to quickly bang the sides so that the driver could stop! I got off, picked up my bike and what was left of my pride and continued my journey.

My first job was with the American Embassy and that is when I bought my first motorcycle. It was a blue Honda 185XL. The six minute (sometimes as long as nine minutes!) ride from my house in Ngummo, to my office at Bruce House and back was easily the highlight of my day. Sometimes when I was feeling low, all it took was a fast ride up Valley Rd and by the time I reached the roundabout at the top of the hill, I was, well, quite uplifted!

Image: www.bikez.com

I also love cars. In fact my two dream jobs are 1) Testing computer games for thrill and addiction, and 2) Test-driving new cars and bikes on long distance trips.

I am beginning to see this passion for cars in my two sons James and Victor. Whenever I am on the road with them they are always on the lookout for what they call “noma” cars. Victor can identify a BMW from so far you will not believe it. They even have names for models of cars. So when you drive with them and you hear them say “Shrek, Ben, Bill, Donkey” don’t look out for movie characters. They mean Toyota Premio (new shape), Toyota IST, Toyota Vitz and Toyota Probox! James who is becoming a very gifted artist has drawn more cars in his 10 years of life than many of us ever will.

So those are two things that I am passionate about. I would spend, and indeed I have, many many hours playing around with computers, bikes and cars over and over. Fixing them, programming them, testing them just staring at them. If you had an Audi Q7 you wanted driven from Mombasa I would do it for you at no cost. You wouldn’t have to pay me a single cent. Of course you may have to call the cops to get it back from me!

What is your passion? What is the one thing (or two or three) that you cannot stop thinking about. What would you do for no pay at all? Just before doing this last bit of this post, I took a break and watched Capital Talk on K24. Jeff was interviewing Benard Otieno, the career sports newscaster. It was fascinating to see Benard’s passion for what he does. He really does eat, sleep, drink sports. I could also see so much about Jeff’s passion for pulling out good stuff by asking good questions. One was talking about his passion, the other’s passion was getting this stuff out. When you are living out your passion, it seems so effortless. Amazing!

Next week, I will reveal to you my third passion, that is if you haven’t figured it out by now. I believe this is the biggest of them all. In fact I believe that these first two passions serve this third one. It is so big that it deserves a post on its own. It is even the main reason for this blog. Until then, stay tuned.

PS: I have noticed that some of you have subscribed by pressing the orange button at the top of this page. This is a good idea as it ensures that you do not miss a single post since you will receive it by email hot off the press. I encourage as many of you as read this to do so.

PS2(!). You may have seen the post on Friday with the link to the funny speech. I am thinking of having a Friday multimedia post in addition to the Monday post. Here I will leave a link to music, movies and other things that are not my original work but has nonetheless brought a smile to my face in a thought provoking manner.

Till next week

Tuendelee kuongea