Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Journey

the-journey

One of my favorite animated movies is Ratatouille, a movie about a rat and a clumsy orphan boy. In the movie, Remy the rat dreamed to be a chef someday like his idol Auguste Gusteau, but all odds were against him—a detestable little rat. Remy became separated from his family and started to live in the sewer pipes in Paris, France while he scrambled to find food.  He eventually found himself at the skylight overlooking the great chef Gusteau’s restaurant.

Remy saw a young man named Alfredo who got hired as a garbage collector spill a pot of soup and was trying to recreate it with disastrous outcome. Remy came to the rescue and fixed the soup to perfection. Alfredo caught Remy cooking and was confronted by the restaurant owner. While the restaurant owner was yelling at Alfredo for spilling the soup, Remy’s soup got accidentally served and became a huge success. Skinner the restaurant owner orders Alfredo to kill the rat, but he could not because he discovered Remy’s intelligence and his passion for food. Remy and Alfredo decided to work together. Through their partnership, Remy uncovered information about Alfredo’s late father—Gusteau, which made Alfredo the rightful owner of the restaurant. But Remy was soon exposed and Gusteau’s restaurant closed down. Remy, Colette and Alfredo teamed up to form a new bistro, “La Ratatouille” and became successful.

Even though the story in the movie Ratatouille is fiction, the message within is just as powerful as any real life stories we have heard or seen. I find it very interesting through my own life’s circumstances that help came from the most unlikely places. We tend to underestimate and dismiss people who do not seem to carry value because of the way they look or based on their status in life. Time and time again, our perception of what we think of others is challenged when we see those we look down on excel in what they do.  Or maybe we doubt our ability to help others and ourselves excel.

So what can we learn from a rat and a clumsy young man? A lot.

My spiritual mentor spoke a lot on the importance of bridge building. He said never to underestimate anyone based on what you see or how you feel because you never know if the person you just met might be one of the bridges you have to cross on your way to reach your destination; maybe even your only way out of a situation.

When I was younger, I doubted my ability to sing, let alone tour the world. I saw kids my age with great vocal talents who could have started groups that toured the world. I did not see myself as someone who could sing until I was told that I had a good voice. There were people who were more qualified and talented than I was and could have easily attained everything I attained. And yet, here I am, having traveled the world and sang in schools, churches, and for presidents.

I met my friend Daniel in Sunday school who later introduced me to his friend Vusmas. We created a singing trio that traveled around Zambia. When our talent was discovered, we started a vocal group which became famous and toured the world. Five other groups were formed and toured under the vocal group. A lot of people have benefited and a lot of talents have been discovered in the process. On the flip side, Daniel and I could not have done everything we have done without the help of the guys in the vocal group. Together we accomplished a lot and many people have been impacted.

In the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of mentoring couple of computer science graduate students on a web project they were working on as part of their internship with College of Business and Technology.  One of the students was offered an internship position by a local business as a developer upon his graduation. He consulted with his professor and me whether he should accept the job. He was offered an entry-level pay with good benefits. We advised him to take the job so he could gain some much needed experience. He decided to decline the position because his family wanted him to move to a bigger city where he could find a job as a developer with a six figure salary. He is still looking for a job.

A lot of times, we think about the destination, rather than focusing on the journey. Sometimes, we forget we have to prove ourselves before we can go to the next level or even before someone can discover our talents. When I started to work for the university, I accepted a position as an educational support tech, which was not what I went to school for. I made the best of it even though it was not a web programming position. I didn’t know how long it would take; I just did what I needed to do with excellence. I even developed a help desk web application for the department to keep track of trouble tickets and inventory even if it was not part of my job description. Someone started to take notice, and before long, I was offered a position as a web developer creating web applications for the university.

I love the quote from Saeed, a character, in my wife’s book, Secrets Kept, “Sometimes the journey is greater than the destination.” This quote nails it for me. When you look at the journey of some of the great minds of our times; people who helped shape our world. They all have one thing in common – determination. They were determined to make the best out of what they were doing and knew they needed others to help them reach their dreams one step at a time. Some had to take odd jobs just to make a living while pursuing their true passion. In the end, someone took notice and was willing to give them a chance.

Not everyone is willing to work for the life they want to live. Life’s journey is not as simple as following the seven steps from a prosperity book or getting degrees from acclaimed universities. It is a journey that is uncertain, full of challenges, yet beautiful as we find our talents and help others in the process.

What’s your life’s journey? Do you remember people who helped you reach your destination, or are you just getting started?

The Digital Bubble

The world is in a digital bubble

The world  through the eyes of digital media

If we were told 100 years ago that we would be able to send little packages of information through cyber space faster than the speed of sound, we would have thought the whole idea was ridiculous. We had some ideas of how technology would revolutionize everything, but not to the extent of which we see it today. Technology is growing and changing faster than we have time to comprehend and catch up with it. I remember the simpler times growing up as a little boy in Zambia when we only had one broadcasting station for TV and two local radio channels. Some of my fondest memories were when we gathered around the radio, and we would listen to songs, the news, story tellers, and skits that captivated our imagination. The news was told like it happened and without experts throwing around their opinions – it was simply information and the listener was free to come up with his/her own conclusions. We had social gatherings which were face-to-face conversations and interactions.  For many who did not have a home telephone, the only mode of distant communication was through word of mouth, snail mail, or telegraph.

The last 20 plus years has seen a rapid increase in technology. The race to personalize products for individual consumers is on. It’s now all about your life, your happiness, your device, your personal computer, your profile, your timeline; you can’t live without your social media or electronics. Companies like Apple have come up with clever ways of naming and marketing their products – iPhone, iPad, iTouch, iPod, I this, I that. You are the center of attention and it’s all about you.  Thousands of apps are developed everyday for almost anything we can dream of. Some tech companies have even hired psychologists who study consumer behaviors so products they develop will resonate with buyers. Google and Facebook have developed complex algorithms to track browsing habits of their users so they can create personalized ads and suggest information they think users wants to see — creating a digital bubble.

Is the advancement in networking and communication bringing our world together or creating a virtual wedge between us?

From the palm of our hands, we are able to get in touch with family and friends everywhere anytime; get the latest news of what is happening around the world from TV, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets.  GPS enabled smart devices help friends or potential enemies track our every move. We have developed technology that syncs to every device we own, providing us with information we want from any place with internet connection. The world is getting smaller and smaller everyday – we can travel around the globe through cyber space in seconds. Even remote places in the world are getting connected through the use of battery powered cell phones. I saw an article a few years back in the National Geographic magazine with a picture of a young man in one of Congo’s rainforests climbing a tree to look for a cell phone signal. Technology will continue to change our way of life, and there is no going back unless some technological catastrophic event happens.

Most of our interactions are done online nowadays. Take for example, our smart phones. We think we cannot live without them. The first thing I check in the morning is my phone, going through my emails and social media. And before I go to bed?  Well, you guessed it; I’m on my phone. It’s addicting, and we are becoming more and more uncomfortable interacting with people in person than online.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with using technology or social media. I am very thankful for the internet and websites such as Facebook which has made it possible for me to connect with people I lost touch with, and staying connected with family and friends around the world. The affects of social media are not limited to just our personal lives. Like in Egypt. Tired of political upheaval, the people connected through social media and organized demonstrations against tyranny that eventually toppled their dictator.  A lot of injustice has been exposed. Organizations that help others have had a big boost. Great talents have emerged out of social media. And the list continues.

While the internet has connected people, improved business transactions, and made it easier to research, it is also a source of false information, a virtual highway for predators, and has created a pseudo reality for many. Many online communities have emerged where people interact with each other through chat rooms, gaming, and video conferencing. For the most part, these are great opportunities to meet others who share similar interests. But we can become consumed with the virtual world, and neglect our responsibilities and the people around us.

Remember the story of the teenage boy who died playing online games for more than 24 hours without taking breaks? He did not want to give up his winning streak but ended up losing more than the game – his life. This troubles me greatly. His sad story illustrates the reality of how addicting the internet can be. We can be locked up in a virtual world such that the real one becomes boring.  Unfortunately, many young and adult alike have a hard time separating between the reality and fantasy. This has brought a lot of grief to families. People have even lost jobs and have had relationships torn apart.

And the damage is mounting. We see young kids who lack adult supervision getting sucked into the digital bubble. Our kids are more vulnerable to potentially harmful information on the internet or online predators now than in the past few years.  They are bombarded with garbage and information overload from TV and the internet. They face a greater challenge interacting with peers than we did growing up.

The digital bubble has created a false sense of friendship by making us feel we are connected with a lot of people, yet we are not.  Divisions have derived from us posting our feelings and our frustrations about people we don’t agree with, and sometimes we say things that are hurtful without caring who will read them. The name calling. The fear mongering. The political bashing. Some of us are out to create controversy by posting things that stir up heated arguments. All for what?

We need face to face human interaction; a time to go eat out with friends or family. My wife and I have enjoyed spontaneous outing with dear friends; playing games and just plain old fashion face to face conversations. Building friendships that goes beyond the superficial. Building relationships that matters – all done outside the digital bubble.

So, how do you get away from this digital bubble and connect with people on a more personal level? Maybe sharing here can help us all find ways of turning off our smart devices and spending precious time with friends and family.