Chasing pension or chasing passion

When I grow up I want to be a doctor, a neurosurgeon, a pilot, a CEO of a big company etc. These are the dreams we had when we were young and our children continue to have and tell when asked the question: what do you want to do when you grow up? Society and our education system preach the gospel of success that is defined by titles, palatial homes, wealth and power. We live our lives knowing this is what will get us a name in that great book of life. In primary school, I worked hard to get into a national school because I was told anything less than that meant I would not achieve what I wanted in life. Students who went to national schools had already qualified in the great book of life. Unfortunately, I did not cut national school. No one in my school did but that’s a story of another time. It meant I had to work twice as hard to earn a ticket to the successful forever after story.

So I woke up every day for 4 years at 4 am and slept at midnight. This wasn’t the difficult part of this pension chase. My school had no water so we had to run 2 kilometres away from the school to a pond to fetch water, shower and run back through a dusty road with pebbles and thorns. All this was to be done within 30 minutes. The result is, of course, you were as dusty as you left. We had white shirts and games shorts for uniform in a school with no piped water. Am yet to know who came up with this design. But it is what it is. Drinking water was supplied in a 200ml cup and was to last you the whole day. The scientists who talked about drinking 2-5 litres a day to remain healthy had not visited my high school because we were as healthy as Francis Atwoli in his younger years. I did not achieve what I wanted at the end of the 4 years but I left with an A- and a tree I planted in my name. I wonder what that tree would say if it met me today. Of all the places you thought of planting me, you had to choose a semi-arid region and specifically a school with no water. Am sure the roots would strangle me if they saw me.

The last few weeks were a lot similar as my childhood because we were asked what we wanted to do and since the school needed to look good, the top students had no choice but to pick the courses that required higher admission points. Which school wants to be known for sending 100 students for teaching courses or marine biology? They want to be known for sending to university the highest number of doctors, actuarial scientists, computer scientists and engineers.  I managed to be sneaked into the computer science gang at The University of Nairobi. The pride of coming to the big city where the school had water and I could do whatever I wanted was like a dream come true. I did not have to wear any white shirts or worry about 200ml drinking water per day. There was no frog jumping and sweeping the dormitory on Sundays. I was finally free but was I? I still had to work hard to get into the great book of life and this I was promised would be the last mile. So I needed to finish strong. No human is limited and I was in the last 10 kilometres of the full marathon.

Chase your passion, not your pension! Be inspired to learn as much as you can, to find a cause that benefits humankind – and you’ll be sought after for your quality of service and dedication to excellence

Edward Olmos

First-class honours here I come. Bring on the assignments and the textbooks to read. Bring on the research work and double classes to go through 230 PowerPoint slides (Death by PowerPoint). Just when I was preparing my admission speech into the great book of life I discovered it was a bunch of nothing. All it was, was a great book of illusions and magic to ensure you focus on pursuing what the master magician needed you to do. That’s how most if not all feel about the 8-4-4 system when they cannot get jobs or unlock any opportunity once they finish this great marathon. The promises of being in the great book of life now seem like an eternity affair. Where did we go wrong?

By the words of Denis Waitley when he recapped the commencement speech by Edward Olmos. Olmos stood up, removed his cap, and regarded the graduates. "So we’re ready to party?" he asked. "Yeah, let’s party!" they answered in unison. "I know, thank God it’s Friday," he resumed. "But commencement means to begin, not finish. You’ve had a four year sabbatical from life, and now you’re ready to go out there and earn. You’re only beginning Real World 101 in your education. "One more thing before we leave," he continued. "Please never, ever work for money. Please don’t just get a job. A job is something that many of you had while you worked your way through college. A job is something you do for money. But a career is something you do because you’re inspired to do it. You want to do it, you love doing it, you’re excited when you do it. And you’d do it even if you were paid nothing beyond food and the basics. You’d do it because it’s your life."

Many of us will go out and try to get the highest-paying job possible, regardless of the industry, regardless of the opportunity, regardless of the service or product the company may provide. If you chase money, it may catch you – and if it catches you, you’ll forever be its slave. By letting money pursue you but never catch you, you’ll always be its master. By always doing what you love, loving what you do, delivering more than you promise, you’ll always be underpaid – which is how it always should be. For if you’re paid more than you’re worth, you may be restructured, reengineered, replaced, fired, declared obsolete, disposed of. Overpaid people are overdrawn in their knowledge bank account. People who are underpaid for the level and quality of the service they provide are always in demand and always ahead of the money in their knowledge and contribution. So money and opportunity are always chasing them. Olmos concluded with a charged voice and moist eyes. "Chase your passion, not your pension! Be inspired to learn as much as you can, to find a cause that benefits humankind – and you’ll be sought after for your quality of service and dedication to excellence”.

This passion will make you oblivious of quitting time and to the length of your workday. You’ll awake every morning with the passion of pursuit, but not the pursuit of money. Those who do more than they’re paid for are always sought for their services. Their name and work outlive them and always command the highest price. Chase your passion, not your pension!"

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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