My father taught me a very valuable lesson about time, money and speed, a lesson that has served me well over the years as I have gone in pursuit of my personal and professional goals.
I spent my high school years in a beautiful boarding school on the hills of a town called Thika in Kenya. My father had an affinity for schools run by catholic nuns because they had great administration, were highly organised and once your were in and the gates were locked there was no getting out – without supervision or until the school term was over. My school sat on well-kept grounds on top of this hill where the air was fresh and the journey back down was inspiration enough to stay in school.
Every beginning of term in Kenya, parents with children in boarding schools take them shopping to ensure they have enough personal and study supplies to keep them going until the once-a-month visit allowed for family and friends. At our school, we lived for those visits!
It was a few days before the beginning of a school term and I needed new shoes. The ones I had were not too bad but they were scuffed. An inter-school drama club event was scheduled for the new term and there was a boy in a neighbouring school I liked. The scuffed-shoes look was not appealing.
He was a very organised man, my father. So organised that he paid most of his bills a year in advance and had a filing cabinet at home with a folder for each child containing school reports, medical reports and accomplishments. Those are some of my parenting goals. Juggling a hectic work schedule and young children meant he had to find ways to balance both. It became our joy to accompany him to his office on evenings or weekends when he had lots to do. He would get on with his work whilst we got on with our homework, read or took the write-a-letter-on-the-secretary’s-typewriter challenges he gave us. I think this was his way of spending time with us as well as teaching us work ethic and commitment simply by being in his environment and watching him negotiate or listening to him speak on the phone. Everything was scheduled and anything not in the schedule would not happen.
The day before I was to go to school, my father asked me to meet him in his office in Nairobi at 2pm so we could go shoe shopping. I left home early knowing how pedantic he was about his time. Save for minor traffic near his office, I made it there at 2.05pm without any issues. His secretary, who was used to seeing us just before school started, said hello and asked me to sit with her because my father had just stepped out. 2.05 turned to 3.05pm then to 3.30pm before I realised there would be no shoe shopping because the work day was about to end and Mr. Makosewe was nowhere to be seen. I was not pleased.
Making my way back home using public transport in the height of Nairobi’s crazy traffic in 1995 was not fun. I awaited his arrival from work eagerly because it was unlike him to break agreements and my dream of new shoes was fading fast; school started the following day and nobody relished driving up that school hill more than once in the rainy season.
He was very chirpy when he got home and greeted the family with his usual cheer. I did not waste time.
Me: “I came to your office, Dad.”
Him: “Oh, you did? I didn’t see you.” (Obviously)
Me: “I really needed those shoes, Dad. Now I have to go to school with these ones.” (Sad face)
Him: “We had an agreement, didn’t we?”
Me: “Yes.” (Feeling justified)
Him: “What time was the agreement for?”
Me: “2pm!” (Feeling even more justified)
Him: “What time did you get to my office?”
Me: (Pause… Deer-in-headlight-moment) “2.05pm” (I remembered because I had looked at the clock)
Him: “Was that the agreement we had?”
Me: “No.” (Humble as a doe)
Him: “Well, I kept my end of the agreement. I was in my office at 2pm and you were not. You will have to make do with the shoes you have now until next term.”
I was a teenager then but this was the only lesson I ever needed to learn that…
I learnt that you can loose a valuable opportunity by a split second or a few minutes. My worry then might have shoes, but in my adult and business life those few minutes could cost me more dearly simply because of the value I have placed on my goals and dreams. My father later told me that he had left the office intentionally at 2.01pm. Most of his life lessons did not require much speaking; they were experiential and left an indelible mark in memory – so mistakes were very rarely repeated.
How about you? What is valuable to you at this point in your life? What does it cost you when you move slowly or procrastinate? What is the price you will pay for not taking quick affirmative action to accomplish your goals? Even more importantly, is the price you have paid so far enough to inspire change?
Is personal or business growth on your agenda for this year? If so, then there is need for speed. Not speed based on fear but speed in the context of quick affirmative action taken towards achieving goals and dreams. That may mean taking action more quickly, responding to emails sooner, responding to calls quicker, following up enquiries from clients quicker or simply taking the idea you have now and working on it steadily until it comes to fruition.
If you are ready to increase your performance and productivity so you can take your life and business to the next level, I invite you to click the button below and schedule a no-charge Discovery Call to find out how I can help you.
PS – I polished my old shoes with black polish and made them shine for that inter-school drama event.