Two world famous, greatly accomplished and very inspiring people have died in the past week – Wangari Maathai and Steve Jobs. I can’t seem to get enough of all that has been written, sang or said about them. I have watched/read the links i share below countless times. Everything about them fascinates me. Their families, upbringing, education, life choices and I can’t help feeling like they were born for this; born to be more than just ordinary. I admire, perhaps even envy them greatly. For their larger-than-life accomplishments, for following their hearts’ passions, for making tasty lemonade from lemons thrown at them, for living out their lives so very well. They have each died empty; used up all their potential; given the best of their gifts for the good of the universe. How extraordinary!
Soon after I started this blog, I made a friend who is absolutely convinced of my extraordinary nature. Every day they identify one more thought, perspective, or attitude that they see as extra-ordinary. I laugh about it, it’s cute (read: imaginative) but presently without factual backing. Then i offer to pay for their griot services, :-).
(Griots are a west-African phenomenon. Historically they were skilled musicians and poets that told the stories of the greats; they existed purely to sing the praises of extraordinary people around them. Today their songs basically target politicians and other wealthy people in the hope of getting kick-backs. Still, majority of Senegal’s musicians are from griot families.)
Who in this world wants to be ordinary? We are born wanting to be extra special. We grow up hoping that we have some valuable talent or soon to be discovered genius. We celebrate the child that can run faster, sing sweeter and do better at math than their compatriots. Though never giving up the approval-seeking behavior, those who rarely end up top begin to accept their ordinary nature. Reading Wangari’s and Steve’s stories is reigniting a spark, reminding me that ordinary can turn into extraordinary. Maybe I just need to find what I love and run with it.
When I was little, my extraordinary thing was reading; I read my first four-hundred page autobiography at the age of seven. It was no wonder that I wanted to be Christiane Amanpour; I was curious and talkative and everyone agreed that I’d make a great journalist. Then I went to journalism school, tried it for a while and instantly knew it was not for me. It’s hard to explain how. The French say, tastes and colors cannot be disputed, some things just are. I was not meant for news journalism, that I know for sure.
Recently I remembered my Christiane Amanpour dream, or more precisely what I loved about her. It was the way she interviewed people, the way she asked questions and got answers that even the interviewees never knew they had. She helped them tell their stories; she created a narrative, a context that made each one of them stand-out from the ordinary. That’s what I really loved, still love about her.
I have always loved storytelling. My parents often had friends, neighbors or young people they were mentoring come over late in the evening, when the kids had gone to bed. I loved hearing their stories. So I pretended to fall asleep then later got up and stealthily climbed down the stairs to eavesdrop. (I wonder if they knew this, I guess they do now 🙂 ).
I love a good story, be it book, audio or film. I love listening to the tone, the choice of words, the emotion and the hard-to-believe twists… especially directly from the horse’s mouth. Autobiographies are my absolute favorite write-ups; in fact, I dream of someday writing my parents’ memoirs, perhaps even a family chronology.
I want to write stories that inspire; stories that redefine the world for a future 16-year-old version of me, just like the late Margaret Ogola did. I want to tell stories that give hope, that remind us that we are human and that God loves us anyway. Stories that make sense out of confusion, that remind us we are not alone. I want to put out words; my words, others’ words, words that will live on long after I find my way to the grave. I want to tell a story that leaves the world immeasurably better because I did.
Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish – Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs’s highlights are well-known: adopted, dropped out of college and, at 21, started a computer company in his parents’ garage; a multimillionaire by 25; on the cover of Time magazine at 26; and thrown out of the company at age 30, in 1985. Today he died internationally recognized as one of the greatest and most visionary CEOs that ever lived.
Here is a link to some of Steve’s jobs greatest quotes, and below the 2005 Stanford graduation speech that inspired the world.
Be a Humming Bird – Wangari Maathai
I admire her guts…how she organized people and stood up against the government;
I love the way she offers practical solutions to Africa’s problems;
I love the way that she spoke with clarity giving examples out of her daily experiences;
I love her tough as nails yet super positive and always smiling attitude;
I love that she had the courage to be the first in so many instances;
I love that none of that got into her head (a mark of a true leader);
I can go on and on, she accomplished all this and made it look so easy to attain;
But then again most extraordinary people do.
Here are two of my most favorite memories of Madame Wangari; a lengthy exclusive Interview with Wangari Maathai and the other a short video where she paints a beautiful picture-story of what motivated her.
Song of the Week – Mandisa – Born For This (From the Bible Story of Esther)