What do you consider to be a successful life? Having a huge bank account? Owning massive property? Or is it career advancement? Would you consider yourself successful because you have a happy family? Or trustworthy and reliable friends? All these are some of societal measures of success.
It is true that one may think another is successful because of ‘what they own or how they conduct themselves.’ The flip side is such a person may be feeling anything but successful. In fact, if you asked them, they would give you their own definition of success, which is nowhere closer to what had been thought.
The threshold of what an accomplished life is differs from one person to the other. The youth have their own idea of a fulfilling life, and so do members of the older generation.
This week, myNetwork engages young Kenyans who share their views on success and sacrifices that they make towards making their lives successful. They also share the deal breakers in their pursuit for an accomplished life.
CHRISTINE WAIYEGO, 20
Waiyego is in her third year of study at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, pursuing a bachelor of science degree in industrial chemistry.
For Waiyego, success is not complete without “a beautiful life of good health, punctuated by wealth and happiness.” To her, success is achieving her childhood dreams in her adulthood.
She says: “Happiness and health are the most important components of success. They are inseparable.” On wealth, she argues that every human being works towards economic fulfilment. It is human nature, she observes.
In her pursuit of financial well-being, Waiyego juggles her studies with a part-time network marketing job at AIM Global – to stay afloat.
In her world, material possessions, professional achievements and inner fulfilment complete the package of a successful life. That said, she considers inner fulfilment as a more important element, owing to her Christian life teachings.
“Even without all what human beings desire, with inner peace, one is able to live well. I may not have any material possessions and professional achievements worth talking about now, but it is the satisfaction derived from the hope for a better future that has enabled me to live a happy life for 20 years,” she reasons.
“Being absorbed in a quiet religious environment, having a loving life partner, inspirational friends and the ability to make a just living is all I desire in life.”
Waiyego has had her fair share of awkward moments with men. Coming from a not-so-financially-stable family, her secondary education dangled on a thin strand after Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). Had it not been for the intervention of a government officer who knew her family, she could not have proceeded to join high school.
“I was enrolled into a government scholarship programme, courtesy of the officer. This enabled me to complete my studies without any disruptions,” Waiyego recalls.
Her friendship with the man flourished by the day, and even after she joined university, she saw him often and was a recipient of his unusual generosity. But like all predatory men, her benefactor started making sexual advances towards her, to her disbelief.
“He wanted to exploit my weak point by offering me money and to start a business for me. It was an enticing offer, but I turned it down for the sake of my dignity and for respect for his marriage. That effectively ended our relationship,” she narrates.
While she has a robust appetite for success in life, Waiyego distrusts shortcuts. “I would never join a cult, engage in fraud or sex for any end. Ethically, my qualifications and not sex should secure me a job. If sex is the threshold, why then do we have to go to school?” she poses.
She adds: “All these are quicker routes to riches. But they all fall short of providing inner fulfilment. They also have terrible consequences later in life. There is no need to be enslaved for something you can acquire through just means.”
She argues that nepotism and tribalism are the biggest threats to young Kenyans, saying that few companies uphold utmost integrity.
“Dishing out jobs on who-knows-who basis, makes it harder for people who merit such positions to secure them. The process should be competitive to allow every candidate an equal opportunity,” she proposes.
FESTUS CHESARO, 23
To Chesaro, unless one has thrived holistically by being accepted socially and having genuine and supportive friends, flourishing in one’s education, being economically sound to lead a happy life, theirs does not fit the bill of success.
“There are no better ingredients to a successful life than being passionate about what you do, being ambitious and having an appetite for bigger accomplishments beyond mediocre feat,” he says, adding that industry is the most critical cog in the wheel of pursuit for success.
A graduate of commerce from Kenyatta University, Chesaro set out to own a car before he left school, a dream that he realised thanks to his own hustles. To him, this is a personal conquest.
The young investor in shares and budding careerist believes that education advancement is invaluable.
“Being a male student, unlike some female students, you have no choice but to work hard to earn your grades. Some of my classmates were sexually involved with our lecturers for various reasons such as skewed award of marks,” he reveals.
If stealing, fraud and sexual favours were the only way to an accomplished life, Chesaro swears that he would rather his life remained unchanged than get tainted by these vices, owing to his “firm Christian foundation”.
He concludes that winning in life is for people who train, endure pain and never complain.
“Nothing comes easy. The willingness to sweat it out, discipline and, above all, fear of God is the surest formula to be an accomplished millennial”.
DANIEL MBUGUA, 26
Mbugua is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Communication and Journalism at Moi University, which he enrolled for, immediately after his graduation in 2015.
"I aspire to pursue higher education to the doctorate level. I am glad I am on course in this pursuit, having submitted the first draft of my thesis for review. This is my personal success for which I am very delighted," Mbugua says.
He observes that the age of social media has remarkably shifted the perception of what accomplishments are.
"People post dramatised success stories on social media. They fake experiences by filtering reality and enhancing their photos to create certain deceptive impressions. On social media, people with the most likes, comments and followers are considered to be the most accomplished," he notes.
Besides education, having a family, and investing in arts (he believes that there are several niches in music and arts that he could explore) would make him content.
He adds: "Growing up, I thought a successful life entails owning a car, large tracts of land, livestock and building a big house. How I would get those things didn't concern me."
All this has changed over time, he says. "Today, I view success as being able to advance professionally, helping improve the lives of other people in the community, nurturing talents and transferring skills to those in need. Success should not be self-centred but people-centred," he says.
Mbugua thinks that soliciting sexual favours in exchange for opportunities is unethical, ungodly and unforgivable. "There is no explanation for such behaviour other than disregard for morals and integrity. Such should not be tolerated, especially among professionals," he argues.
On why he thinks young people bribe and offer themselves sexually for certain ends, Mbugua says that easy money, easy jobs and ‘socialite’ lifestyle have become a bait. Citing a 2017 report by the East Africa Institute of Certified Studies, he terms it as unfortunate that half of Kenya's youth do not care what method they use to make money as long they do not end up in jail.
"There is no harm in doing an honest job for an honest gain. The youth ultimately have the power to change how success is defined and attained," he says.
HELLEN SHIKANDA, 21
Hellen is in her final year of her communication and journalism degree course. Her idea of success is finally being able to realise the dreams that one has been nurturing over time.
"If you have always wanted to be an author, being able to finally have your book on bookshop shelves is success. Or better still, your book winning a literary award," she says.
Hellen does not consider herself successful yet, but she believes she is firmly on course.
"I have desired to be a journalist since I was in primary school. That I am now pursuing a course in journalism delights and reassures me that my dream will become a reality soon. To that effect, I am studying a couple of foreign languages, including French, in order to become a multi-lingual journalist," she says.
"In school, I am a member of several clubs related to my profession; some of which I have led, which helps me to build my confidence, create networks and strengthen my portfolio as I court success," she says.
Her outlook of success, she says, has largely been shaped by the people she looks up to, societal standards and the pressure to do well in her life.
"We belong to the ‘woke’ generation, and as such, we are constantly on our toes to keep up with the rest, lest we lag behind in the race of trends," she says.
"As young people, we attach more importance to the "here and now" as opposed to long lasting accomplishments. We want to wake up one day and realise our dreams without putting in the work. Those are mere fantasies," she says, adding: "We need more mentors to guide us as we get into this critical stage of our lives."
If she could choose three things to accomplish in life, Hellen would use her success to positively impact the people she interacts with, motivate young women and change the notion that "women must sexually buy their way to the top".
CECILIA OGUTAH, 23
CHEMICAL AND PROCESS ENGINEER
Cecilia's understanding of success is the positive outcome of a given work. This, she says, has been influenced by her belief that anything one has set their eyes on is achievable, a philosophy she says is supported by her readiness to embrace any change that takes her closer to her goal.
She already considers herself successful, even though she has not achieved her ultimate career goal of being a product manager.
"I am already enjoying my career. I am happy that I am involved in planning and inventory reconciliation which is vital as a production manager. This is what I always wanted to do," she says.
To her, satisfaction derived from what she does and the impact of her work is more fulfilling than the rewards she may get from such involvement.
"Happiness is part of success and that can only be achieved if I am satisfied with what I planned and executed," she notes.
On the sacrifices she has made to be where she is, Cecilia has made it a practice to go beyond responsibilities assigned to her and being precise in her performance. This way, she has earned numerous appraisals and performance bonuses in the two years she has worked. To her, nothing could be more fulfilling.
Has she ever been tempted to engage in a professional malpractice for a selfish gain? Like most people, she has. "I attended to a customer and created a sale out of our interaction. This was, however, out of my area of responsibility. When I asked for a commission, it was denied by the company. I was told that mine was a conflict of interest," she narrates.
Does she think that the society's notion of success is misinformed? In nearly all ways, she says. "Success should be seen as the little achievements that someone makes as a result of working toward their goals in life and not the amassment of wealth," she argues.
"I would not take a well-paying job if I am not happy about it. Our parents put so much pressure on us while at school to attain high grades and to pursue certain courses and professions even if we are not passionate about them".
She says that even when a person flourishes in an endeavour they lack passion about, the resulting ‘success’ cannot be satisfying. "True success is the combination of talent, passion and performance," she concludes.