My principles are my treasure and my wealth

There are many times when I hear people saying that the end justifies the means. I disagree with that statement in all respects. I believe that it always matters how you arrive at the end; for the journey should be as enjoyable as the destination. I do not know how my end will be, but what I can say for now, as I approach 32 years, is that I have had an enjoyable journey and I will forever be grateful to my creator for who I am.  I want to share a few incidents when people have quoted that line for me.

In 2004 and early 2005, as a freshman at Makerere University, I used to do some part-time work as a private tutor of A level Physics,Chemistry and Mathematics to the children of wealthy Asians in Kampala and this earned me some money that kept me going at the University. During this period, there were two incidents that really shocked me (Had I been more social before, I would probably never have been shocked in the first place).  One of my students was a son to one of the wealthiest men in Kampala (also of Asian origin -let me call him RK). He never took studies seriously throughout the time I was enrolled as his teacher/tutor and he always said that he can use his father’s money to solve any problem in life.

As time flies, it was not long before the Cambridge exams knocked at his door and he developed cold feet. He convinced his father to bribe me and the exam invigilators and supervisors so that I can sit the exams on his behalf and get him through to be admitted at a University of his choice anywhere in the world. His father, Mr. RK, being a firm believer in the line “the end justifies the means”, did not hesitate to ring me and put his offer on the table. He offered 10 Million Uganda shillings (Which was equivalent to about $6600 at the time). I humbly declined the offer and told him to only talk to me if he had another child for me to teach.  He threw that line at me and told me that all rich people believe that the end justifies the means. I was left with no option, but to hang up on him.

A few moments later, Mr. RK called again and offered to double the money and also assured me that he had already catered for the invigilators, supervisors and the overall country coordinator. I told him that my reputation cannot be traded, no matter the price. Am sure Mr. RK had believed JP Morgan’s line that every human being has a price, but he could not believe that a young man who had probably never held $5000 of his own could refuse this offer. I labored to convince him that I cannot enter a gamble with my reputation that I had been building for close to twenty years then. To cut the long story short, I declined and that was the last time I heard from Mr. RK and his son.

At around the same time, another old schoolmate of mine at A level brought a similar ‘deal’ and they were offering 5 million Uganda shillings (about $3300 at the time) for me to sit A level exams for somebody at the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education examinations that year! I laughed this off and reiterated my position to this man that I do not trade my reputation for anything. He pleaded so much that I had to discourteously send him away from my hall of residence at the University.

Between 2006 and 2012, I received similar ‘deals’ from friends and relatives asking me to help them use my programming  and/or ICT skills to hack into a banking system or e-mails of wealthy people to steal money. The funny thing is that most of them believed (at least then) that if you get money, it does not matter how you got it. They believed that the end justifies the means. I said no and reiterated my earlier stand that I do not trade my reputation for whatever sum of money. I also quoted for many of these people the text of Mathew 7:12 which says that “do for others what you would have them do for you, for this is the law and the prophets”.  To some of these people, am a fool, whilst to others am a conservative Christian, but it’s pretty simple; my principles are my treasure.

I have a set of principles that I never bend and two of these principles are;

  1. I can never trade my reputation for whatever price
  2. I can never succumb to any sort of blackmail, for if I do, I will allow wickedness to rule me.

All I can say is that; God has given me a realisation that there is nothing in this world worth a good name. A good name is more valuable than the wealth of the richest men and women combined. I am rich and wealthy because I treasure my principles that guide me in the reverence of the LORD and in safeguarding my reputation.




Lessons from the cycling adventure of an eleven year old

By the age of eleven, I used to help my big sister (may her soul rest in eternal peace) to operate a small retail shop in our neighbourhood in Lukuli-Nanganda, Makindye Division. At times I would be totally in charge. When we ran out of stock of some items, I would have to ride a bicycle (popularly called Maanyi ga kifuba literary translated as Chest power!) to a wholesaler in another trading centre about 2-4 km away to replenish our stock. This I did countless times and I enjoyed every bit of it because each time I tried out a new trick on the bicycle.

With time, I upped my game of doing acrobatics on the bicycle. I would ride it with my hands up in the air, at times with my legs off the pedals, at times I would ride it in a horizontal position -and attempt to make push ups on a bicycle in motion. It was all joy and fun. While doing all this, I felt that I was in total control of the bicycle and would do anything with it and I also felt that I was physically fit to ride a bicycle for a whole day (On another day, I will tell you when the acrobatics nearly took my life).

One Saturday afternoon at around 2:30 pm, as I went out to the wholesaler in Makindye, a thought crossed my mind to ride beyond Makindye and explore other parts of Kampala. I did not know what distance I would have to cover nor the routes I was to use. I went past Makindye to Kibuye to Masaka Road, then branched off and joined the ring road that goes around the Lubiri palace. From the ring road I rode to Bulange (home of CBS) then proceeded to lunguja to Lubiri SS and I found my way to Nateete.

While in Nateete, I realised that my legs could not take me any further and I was feeling thirsty, but could not spend a coin meant for shopping on anything else, so I had to endure and persevere throughout my adventurous journey. I also had no idea that from Nateete, I could just move straight and find my way in Kibuye, so I decided to go back the same route that I had used to arrive in Nateete along wakaliga road back to Lunguja, then past Mengo hospital. I later found myself in town along Namirembe road, Nakivubo stadium and Owino market (present day St. Balikuddembe market). My perseverance could only take me this far. My legs were absolutely tired and could not ride even an extra kilometre and my only consolation was that I could now easily find my way to Queens way and then back to Makindye.

I walked and dragged the bicycle along from Nakivubo through Queen’s way to Kibuye and then finally arrived in Makindye at around 6:30pm. I did the shopping and back to the shop. I could only sit on the bicycle when going downhill and then walk and push (or is it drag) it uphill or on flat surface. My sister was not around to probe the cause of my delay, but I was a worn out soul. An adventure had gone bad. Every part of my body was now aching. It felt like the equivalent of playing football for over 300 minutes. With the benefit of hindsight, I do not regret it because I took lessons out of the whole experience.

Lessons learnt

The good news is that I took serious life and business lessons out of this. One such lesson is; Passion often pushes us to do things without proper planning; without conducting feasibility studies ; without contingency planning (I should have carried a bottle of drinking water at least). Passion simply tells you that you can pull this off! Get on your feet and start right away. While this is good, one ought to do thorough planning even when you are to pursue your passion.

Second lesson I took was that when you find yourself stuck, it is always cheaper to ask. If only I had asked and somebody told me about the direct route from Nateete to Kibuye, I would have cut my losses.

Third lesson I took was that when you set out on a journey, you better look at a map and establish the distances you will cover vis-a-vis the means of transport and the resources you have. Nowadays, I use GPS/GIS solutions to handle this for me. All journeys including adventurous ones ought to be planned!

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush

The year was 2010 and we were in the fourth year of the Magezi Solutions enterprise when a certain eloquent young man graced our offices. I only remember his Christian name as Thomas. He asked me to take him through what we did and the pricing of each of our products and services and I obliged. He quipped, ‘Thank you for being cheap!’ I was speechless because I had never come across anybody thanking me for being cheap, at least not in my living memory!

Prior to coming to our office, he had seen one of our marketing materials and he indeed wanted to partake of one of the services that we provided. Having been impressed by my presentation of our products and services (he said it himself), he offered to overwhelm us with more customers and more business than we had ever imagined. I thanked him for voluntarily offering to bring us more business, but also reminded him that a certain man I had met in town (on the street – in everyday speak) taught me that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. I therefore urged him to ensure that we conclude the deal at hand seamlessly so that he feels ‘compelled’ to bring the other deals and we could also get cheaper than we already were.

To cut the long story short, the young man did not even have the full amount to pay for the single cheap service that had brought him, but because of the rapport he had established with me, I did not hesitate to give him some grace period to clear the balance. He set the date for payment of the balance himself and promised to endeavour to make good before the set date. To cut the long story short, I have never seen or heard from Thomas again to date apart from reading about him as someone who was working for an affiliate of the United Nations Organisation. I have also never got the balance from him and no other business deals materialised as he had promised. My email reminders to him did not yield fruit nor tickle his conscience.

Thomas might have wanted to sweet talk me into lowering the price to the amount that he had come along with using promises of future business, it only turned out that I was a good student of my street teacher that a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. You should never make a discount on the promise of future business – at least not for the first time customer!