Here was my final message to my District team as I neared the end of my service as District Director for Toastmasters East Africa in June 2020. The team went on to achieve extraordinary results despite disruptions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and emerged as the top 3rd district in the world out of 125 districts.
In August 2019, a month after I had started my term in office as District Director my wife Wanjira and I received the wonderful news that we were going to have a baby. We were elated and celebrated the good news for a nice long moment. Our small celebration would have gone longer, had reality not then rudely knocked on the door. Behind it were the doubt and fears which had been held back at the fringes of our mind. And as we cranked the door open, all of them crudely burst through.
How were we going to manage a new baby?
Wanjira was the new District Administration Manager, a role she was well suited for as a Human Resource practitioner and with her detailed-oriented personality, but which would now probably fall to a lowly third place after the baby and her job. I had seen how otherwise very committed Toastmasters, had to take a break from the program to attend to being new mothers. Being an expectant mother or mother to a newborn is a serious and important responsibility that demands time and attention, and one I would rightly encourage and support Wanjira to follow.
My situation also had its challenges. I was in the middle of a one year diploma program at the Kenya School of Law, preparing for a bar exam that was notorious for its high failure rate. Only two years previously, only 9% of the candidates had managed to pass the bar exam. It was additionally challenging because the last time I was in a law class was 13 years prior at the university. 13 years of not practicing or being actively involved in legal studies. I was working half day in my business and spending the rest of the day in class or the library.
We knew things would only get harder, as the exam date drew nearer, the baby’s due date came closer, and our Toastmasters responsibilities increased.
Under any circumstance, our situation would have been challenging, but this was also coming on the backdrop of a call to action that I had been repeating over and over and sent out to all Toastmasters. Do the Most I exhorted, Leave Nothing on the Table I pleaded.
It did make us pause but not enough for both of us to entertain thoughts of quitting. We would make our case to the District to explain the situation. Toastmasters is a nice program, a cool place to meet like-minded people, learn new things and have some fun. But surely it could not be more important than our family, our finances, and our future?
Surely they would understand, surely they would see that it was not possible for all of us to juggle these responsibilities and still serve the District? Maybe, we didn’t have to really quit, just add a qualifier. Do The Most… when it’s convenient, Leave Nothing on the Table…unless it’s too much.
Anything else was impossible!
Or was it?
On 12 October 2019 in Vienna's Prater Park, World Record holder in the Marathon, Kipchoge Kipchoge ran a marathon in 1:59:40. He became the first person in recorded history to break the two hour barrier over a marathon distance.
At the end of the run, he declared “I want to inspire many people, that no human is limited”
By extraordinary good fortune I watched Kipchoge complete this challenge during a break at a speech contest at Simba Toastmasters. It was a Saturday morning, and I had attended with my seven-year old son who was curious about what he called his Daddy’s job – Toastmasters.
As Kipchoge crossed the finish line, under the 2 hour mark, there were ecstatic cheers from everyone. The mood was electrifying, many eyes were wet with pride and joy. Such was the inspiration that the feat of a man facing impossible challenges but overcoming them could conjure from others.
In my heart, I repeated the phrase. No human is limited. Even if you’ve been out of school for 13 years. No human is limited. Even if your wife is expectant and serving with you at the District, No Human is Limited. Even if at the end of each day, you crash tired, aching and exhausted in bed with a 100 things on your to do list, No human is limited.
Leaving Nothing on the Table was my marathon. Not only in Toastmasters, but with my Family and with my Career.
I woke up even earlier to go to school, earn a living, and attend my meetings; I spent even more speaking with my District team, advising, guiding, encouraging; I somehow even spared time to have long talks and long walks with Wanjira.
But just like Kipchoge, it wasn’t something I could not do alone. I too had my pacesetters. Gladys on my right, Anthony on my left, Rozy running ahead of me, Wanjira right beside me and many more all around. They kept me focused, motivated and energized enough through the challenges.
And things started falling into place, our DCP goals were slowly but gradually inching upwards, my results for the bar exam came in and I had passed on my first try, our baby’s due date approached without complication.
And then the universe seemed to decide, this is too easy. The COVID-19 pandemic struck. Once more, everything was thrown into a tailspin. But this time it was different. My earlier stumble had shown me that no challenge that had been overcome before, couldn’t be overcome again.
I was now a firm believer of the proverb. What man has done, man can do. Once a thing has been done, however difficult or dangerous it may be, it can be done again. Rolling up my sleeves I repeated in my heart, no human is limited.
And so I gritted my teeth, looked right, left and in front and all around for inspiration and kept on moving.
Two months after COVID-19 struck, our newborn baby girl, is a bubbling bundle of joy. My law career is moving, albeit slowly, but moving. And our District is on course to be a Smedley Distinguished District.
Just like me, you too might be looking at what is left to accomplish before June 30 and see it as insurmountable or impossible? It might be easy to label it this way, but I wish to tell you that no human is limited.
As difficult as the goals might seem to be, if it has been done before, it means that you too can overcome it. Look to your team, your friends or history for inspiration, for motivation.
Face therefore these last days of your term, as an opportunity to push yourself harder than ever, a chance to be unshackled from your limits, a way to inspire others that will follow. A final shot to leave nothing on the table by achieving your goals. For what man has done, man can do.