It is a Marathon; not a Sprint!!!

Wealth creation is a Marathon; not a Sprint.

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While the Agĩkũyũ held the wealthy in high esteem, they also at the same time were cognizant of the fact that the accumulation of wealth or prosperity was not a fast and easy thing. They knew that wealth creation and prosperity is a process that requires knowledge/skills, time, effort and patience. They came up with proverbs that were meant to counsel the younger generations to be patient in their quest for wealth creation. The following four proverbs are an example of such counsel.

Ũtonga ndũhanyũkagirwo: Do not be in rush to become wealthy

Ihenya inene riunaga gĩkwa ihatha: being hasty when digging/harvesting gĩkwa (yam) can lead to one breaking one its branches.

Kahora, kahora karĩ ido: working consistently over a period of time will yield results.

Njũki Ndĩambagia na igua: A bee does not start off with a whole honey comb; it builds it bit by bit.

The first and the second proverbs are cautioning against the temptation to rush the process of wealth creation. The second one based on the gĩkwa is warning that if one rushes the process one is very likely to make grave mistakes. Among the Agĩkũyũ, the gĩkwa was a prized commodity. It was so prized that it was only men who could dig them up. It was even considered a taboo for women to attempt to harvest gĩkwa. Even for the men, it was a skill one had to learn: know how to make the digging stick (mũro) from appropriate species of trees; learn the digging technique, which consisted of digging a wide hole around the yam tree; slowly digging towards the yam to avoid injuring the supporting roots; digging under the tubers to inspect them for readiness for harvesting; and, carefully breaking of the ready ones. After harvesting the ready ones, leave the hole would open for a few days to air the base of the plant after which you would cover it back for the remaining yams to mature.

The third proverb is like an assurance that as long as you have a plan that you meticulously and patiently implement, you are going to make it. Slow but sure! The last on the Njũki (bee) is really a call for one to study the workings of the bees. The bees live together in large, well-organized family groups consisting of: a queen whose function is to lay the eggs: drones whose role is to fertilize the eggs; and, worker bees that are responsible for nest/honey comb building, food collection, and brood rearing. For the prosperity of a bee colony, each individual bee – and there are thousands of them – knows its role and carries it out diligently. During the igua (nest/honey comb) building, the worker bees will one by one bring in the wax and build the honey comb piece by piece until complete. They will then bit by bit bring in the nectar (the food for the young ones that will hatch) until the honey comb is full. It is only when the colony is guaranteed that the young ones have enough food that the queen and the drones can do their job and bring forth the next generation of the colony.

These are lessons that the current generation, especially the middle class, can learn from and apply in solving the dilemma that a sizable proportion is facing. This is the dilemma of the youth wanting to live the lifestyle of their parents without having to work for it. For instance, the younger generations – X and Y – of the middle class have been brought up in relative comfort: living in up market estates; driven to and from school; allowances for weekend outings, and so forth. On entering the job market, they still want to live the same lifestyle – the lifestyle of their parents. They forget that their parents had in their earlier life spent many years working towards affording the lifestyle. It has become common, therefore, to find young men and women in their late twenties and thirties (sometimes even forties) still living with their parents. Worse are those who want to take shortcuts, sometimes even illegal shortcuts, to quickly afford flashy lifestyles.

The reality is that on whole, a wealthy person who has built their wealth honestly, will have done so over many years. Except the few who have made breakthroughs in technology such as Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the majority of genuinely wealthy people are usually old people. The Forbes list of the world’s richest people is illustrative: eight out of the top 10 richest people eight are over 60 years; the ninth is 52, while the last and youngest – Zuckerberg – is thirty two.

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