In October 2015 I had an opportunity to go back to my former workplace which I had quit 5 months earlier. My sister’s graduation party was happening near my former office and I decided to pop in and say hi to my former boss and colleagues. After going round to see my people and waiting a bit I was finally informed that the boss was ready for me. He could not hide his happiness at seeing me and before I could even sit he asked me if I wanted my job back to which I respectfully said no. Five months earlier after I resigned he had tried to convince me on three separate occasions to stay on with a better pay check as the motivation.
Before I settled well on my seat the second question came, it felt a bit strange. ‘Job, have you bought a car?’ No, I answered. He went on to tell me that I was being left behind and that my former colleagues were buying cars. I later found out that three of my former colleagues had bought cars within the period that I had left; two of them were on my level or lower.
Recently I have been thinking of how much I have progressed in life and of course I have had to ask myself what parameters I am using to measure my progress. That is what prompted me to remember my former boss; to him having a car was the sign he used to see whether I have moved to the next level. I don’t know about other countries but in Kenya, as a friend who is also a lawyer recently told me, there is an ‘unspoken sign’ of making it to the middle class, which is owning a car. If I met a college mate five years after graduation and he is driving his own car, I would most likely think that they have ‘made it’.
Taking nothing from car owners I still have questions to ask; what actually is progress? How do you measure it? Are the parameters of progress individual or communal? Can I truly feel that I ‘am there’? More questions than these will come to mind if you seriously have to think of whether you are moving forward or not.
Here is an interesting paraphrased definition of progress from C.S. Lewis, one of the most brilliant writers I have ever read. He says progress is how far a person has gone in the right direction.
How wise is that? It means that whenever I think of progress I have to think of direction. So I bought a car but was the money acquired in the right way? I am advancing in my career but am I doing it genuinely? You can apply that to all you consider progress in your life. Why does taking the right direction matter so much? Well, if you are a Kenyan then there is one obvious answer. You simply need to look at the recent banking crisis and ask yourself how far back the CEOs of Chase and National Bank have to go to find that spot where they deserted the right direction and embark on the narrow route that may not promise high profit margins and awards.
You could also take the right direction to be a good example because ‘people are watching’ but why not do it because a still voice always speaks to you every time the other direction calls, that voice that is ‘shouting’ in the peaceful part of your conscience, calling you to stand for what is right in a society whose billboards read greed. You know, considering all that is happening around us; if high profit margins, good grades, well-paying jobs and awards were the only measures of our progress then we would not be having that constant conversation of how valueless our society is becoming. Intercessors would certainly cry for more joyful reasons.
A wise lady’s perspective
But i think am making it too big a deal. There surely a simpler way of looking at it, which my wife surprisingly provided recently as we walked to work. I was thinking of this whole progress thing and decided to ask her what she thinks of it and how would she measure it. She casually said something like; ‘You look at things that used to make you angry a year ago, do they still make you angry, have you dealt with them? Do you do things on time or do you still procrastinate? Are your relationships growing? Are you better at what you do, does it take you the same time to do the same task as a year ago? Are you giving more? Are you reading more books? Are you praying more?’
At that point I was just looking at her and wondering, first of all if that procrastination part was aimed at me and secondly just marvelling if it is truly me that landed on such a wise pad. Silly me, did I expect her to say that marrying me is progress?
Do you see what is common in all the ‘simple’ things that make us progress? The answer is right direction. All those things lead us to be better people; they lead us to the right path.
If my progress doesn’t come tagged ‘right direction’ then it is futile. One day I may have to stop, turn around and go back to the junction where I left the right direction and start over. I don’t want to think it may be too late. Why not find the right direction now?
If this challenges you, it will certainly challenge your friends, so lets share…….