This year, I am turning 28 years old. Born and raised in Rwanda, a beautiful country in the East-African region. Every year, I do find myself reflecting on my life. During my time here on earth, I lived and survived harsh life in refugee camps. The majority of my teenage years, for 7–10 years total, I survived living on less than one dollar a day. The truth is I never thought I would make it this far. Life can be very unpredictable. From the beginning, I missed out on the so-called “lottery of birth”. Being born in Rwanda, in early 1990’s was not a good time a young kid would have chosen to be born.
At 4 years old, there was a terrible genocide in my country that claimed 1 in every 7 people in the country. My family escaped and lived in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) for 3-years. At 7 years old, at the peak of the war in my country, my dad was shot dead in front of me and my siblings. From there on, my life became tough, but I hustled and rose my way out of extreme poverty together with my family ( Mom, brother, and sister); thanks to education, hard work, luck, and determination.
This is my family photo in 1998. The only one we have left together as a family ( Myself on the right, brother, sister, and mom). All other souvenirs prior to that were lost during the turmoil period in my country.
Fast forward this December 2017, this is our family photo this past Sunday in the peaceful new Rwanda! We decided to take the same photo as we did 20 years ago. We are very thankful for our lives. I am an engineer, my sister and brother are both registered nurses, saving people’s lives and taking care of our mom, co-founder, and CEO of our family.
Today, we have no complaints. Life is so much better than it is used to be back then.
Below are my best Lessons Learned so far:
- Life is NOT and will never be fair.
Whatever life situations you find yourself in, do your best to rise upon your challenges without making too many excuses. It starts with where you are born. The so-called lottery of birth. Do you think it is fair to be born in Aleppo, Syria right now with missiles and bombs flying around your head? or Some kid getting born from wealthy parents versus others from poor families?
- Depend on and trust yourself only.
Never rely ( heavily) on your friends or family too much. In every aspect of your life, you can control yourself and yourself only. Friends and family might and will change over time. If you want to control your destiny, you will have to rely on yourself, and not others.
- Love and cherish your life. Life is a gift.
At any time, you can die. Accidents, diseases, wars, and conflicts take people’s lives every day. Never take your life for granted. Cherish every moment you have with your family and friends. Once you are gone, they will mourn your life for a few weeks, maybe months, but after some time, they will all move on by their busy lives. Few will still remember you after a year.
- Always be thankful for what you have. No matter how much little you have, there is always somebody wishing they had what you have. No matter how bad your situation, there is always somebody in worse conditions than you.
- Never complain or make excuses. Complaining is a recipe for a disaster and personal mediocrity. Be accountable for your actions.
- Professionally, nobody is interested in your personal issues/problems.
That’s what close friends and family are there for. Your employer or customers are only interested in the value you bring to them. ” The marketplace is not interested in your needs, it is only interested in your seeds”. Jim Rohn. Do not bring your needs to the marketplace, rather bring your seeds. Nothing else. Use your issues/problems to instill the spirit of hard work and determination to achieve your personal goals. That’s what I have done and it has worked for me.
- When you start complaining, all of the sudden, you have reasons not to wake up in the morning and get to work.
- When you start complaining, all of the sudden, you start to worry about things that are out of your control. You get depressed and start feeling like a loser and a failure.
7. Do not be poor; it sucks!
If you are born poor, work your tail off and do not die poor. Being poor is oftentimes not about being lazy. Life circumstances just happen. Your family background, where you were born and raised, and many other unfortunate living conditions. The bad seasons will come. One day, you have a good job and next time you notice you are out of work. All of the sudden, you cannot make your mortgage payments, student loans can’t be paid, etc. Whatever your condition is in any country. Not affording your basic needs will stress you out. I still remember when we could not afford lunch or dinner. We would go to bed and wake up the next day ready to get to work. Those days were tough, my friends.
8. Whatever happens in your life, never complain or feel like a victim.
Even when you think you have a reason to complain or feel like a victim, never feel like somebody else owes you something. I don’t know where I got this skill from, but most likely from my mom. She found ways to make sure that we never complained. My siblings and I learned by example. Through it all, we kept working day and night. Mixing school and labor work until we made our breakthrough.
9. Bad times will come, what matters is how you react during those hard times. From all the life circumstances, “20% is about what happens to you and 80% is determined by how you react to it”. This quote used to confuse the heck out of me, but now, I truly believe in it. Sometimes, life will come at you like a high-speed train and hit you hard. You will fall down, but whatever circumstances, try to get back up again. Never feel like a victim, you are better than that. You are special than that.
10. Never quit, never settle! I truly believe that!