Lessons from the Boda Guy

The quickest and most efficient way to get around Kampala in recent times is the boda-boda. Yes! I’m sure if you haven’t heard of these, you are about to. (Well, you’re hearing about them now, but moving along…)
It is just a motor bike used commercially for public transportation. These guys, the boda-guys, they do not know limits. They are never held up by traffic or its rules and regulations. They do not stop at lights and the only speed limitation and traffic regulation they have is their current customer. The boda-boda is every Kampala City driver’s nightmare.
On the plus side, however, the boda-boda will meet you at your level. There are no standard fares where these guys are concerned. Your ability to bargain and negotiate should be your number one asset when dealing with a boda-boda man.
Also, one thing many do not consider is that there is no “boda-boda riding school.” Meaning, if its the first time you’re boarding a particular one, there is a chance that you are that one’s first customer ever, and he has absolutely no experience or idea what in the world he is doing.
Now, I got onto a boda some time on my way home, when he started a conversation, as they usually do. He was telling me about politics and his wife and kids and his family and his neighbors and here’s what caught me, his house which he was building?! No! No! No! I am this gentleman’s boss, and I am renting. He is building a house?! Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
That’s about the time I got to thinking about a couple of things about the scenario. You see, I thought that since I was the one paying him for his services, that I was his boss. How wrong! This gentleman is not employed by me. He is a self employed business man and I happen to be one of his so many customers. Not employers. CUSTOMERS! That gave me a good wake up call. My boda-boda guy is building a house, right here in Kampala, and I am building what?! My career.
So how is it he’s building a house anyway? Is boda-boda riding the most coveted work in Kampala? Is it the most lucrative investment around? I don’t think so. Many of us would actually rather be a banker or trader of sorts than a boda-boda man.
You see, we have been schooled to think that success is when you are a lawyer, doctor, engineer or some such technical profession. We have been brought up to define success by the work one does. Yet in the world of success, its not as much about what job you do as it is about how well you do it.
This is what needs to be incorporated into our education system. How to do whatever you do well.
In a recent survey, it was learned that about 52 of the world’s richest people owned as much as half of the world’s poorest. Wait! Fifty two people own as much as 3.5billion people. That’s 3,500,000,000 people. Wow!!! (Pause and calmly think about that.)
This got a couple of scholars talking about inequality and the need to balance out that scale, and the ways in which we can achieve national and global equality and you know… All that stuff. I don’t intend to rain on anyone’s parade, but there’s not going to be any such thing as equality or the balancing of that scale. At least not in the foreseeable future. What should be preached instead of equality is empowerment.
Anyway, my boda-boda guy’s strategy was not really to have as much as Dangote. His strategy was to have his home live as comfortably as possible under his care. Give his kids a good education, take care of his wife and aging parents… That’s about all he is working towards. His desire to look after his family and be a good husband and father is what drives him to be the best boda-boda man that he can be. You see, for him, being a boda-boda man is not a destination. It is a means to an end.
This should be what we teach our kids. When we bring up a child to be a lawyer, and that’s all there is to their desire, what happens when the child becomes a lawyer? For them, that’s it. They set out to become a lawyer and now they’ve achieved their life’s ambition, and at 22, when the rest of life is just starting. That’s it. Now (s)he can die a happy (wo)man, or just melt into the background of life and vanish in obscurity. Or worse, they can just begin to waste their life since in their sub-conscious mind, there’s nothing much else to live for. There are so many examples of such lives, filled with promise, but fulfilling none.
Yet we could bring the child up to be a leader, a helper, a provider, one who brings change into the lives of others. So that being the lawyer is not the end; being the doctor is not the destination; being the pilot is not all there is. It is simply another stepping stone for them to achieve their real dream and ambition. These are the kind of visions and ambitions we should instill. Ambitions that live on; ambitions that birth drive; ambitions that keep an individual going.
You see, while I probably have higher academic qualifications than my boda-boda man, I had more than a thing or two to learn from him.
In the world of success, it is not so much what you do but how well you do it.
(Please leave your comment in the comment section below. And share this article with your friends and followers.)

One thought on “Lessons from the Boda Guy

  1. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your article!
    It’s very interesting, informative and inspirational!
    Totally like your writing style…looking forward to more posts!

    (On a separate note, your ‘About’ page is also very well-written)


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