This article is inspired by an image of me and my wife that someone took in 2017 when we were recently married and in Mombasa on a visit. The image is really very dramatic and indicative of the decision we made to get into marriage without most of the things that marriage would have required at that time. You know how people go into marriage with so many things that they even get into serious debt just so their one-in-a-lifetime wedding gets the best they can give? I remember that when we got married, my wife moved into our first apartment carrying all her clothes in a black garbage bag. In fact, the apartment we stayed in for the first year and three months was a free apartment given by some of our beautiful family friends. I remember coming into Nairobi from Lagos with just 500 Kenyan shillings which I had with me on my previous visit, and then a 50 USD note. Imagine coming for your own wedding from another country with about 55 USD.
But that was the major first step which we chose to take. So, when I saw that image just a few days ago on my Facebook memory, it made a whole lot of sense and I decided to write about it.
Power of the first step
Everything in life, be it marriage, employment, business, career, you name it, all starts with a first step. And almost all the time, you really cannot tell where your new venture will take you by the looks of your first step and this is a proven truth. You know how they put it that the first impression matters a lot. Well, in this case, your first step is really not about impressing either yourself or anyone else. It’s just a bold first step to begin that which is inevitable. It’s like a baby’s first step, which is really not about impressing anyone or even the baby itself, but a necessary part of the development process. So, the baby just takes that first wobbling step, coupled with some mix of excitement and fear. But therein lies the power of a first step.
Forget about motivational speakers and their love for big words and lofty imageries, none of us has the ability to tell our complete future and thus, none of us has the complete picture of where our first step will lead us. There are those who took their first steps in business, having consulted with the best business consultants available and armed with all the projections and possible outcomes, but voila, the business folded up even before it hit the public. Meaning that the first steps are not necessarily what we do because we have the entire future figured out or because we know where the subsequent steps after the first will take us. We just take it because everything else depends on that first step and because we have no other choice.
Be bold about it, take it
If you ask me, I think we have come to the place in our world where many who are always waiting for someone to motivate them to make a move in life will be disappointed. You heard me. We have spent most of the time that we needed to get stuff done waiting for others to come and tell us it’s time to do it. We have simply wasted too much time overthinking and it’s killing us. In Nigeria, there is this informal saying “if you spent ten years learning how to be a madman, when will you start practicing madness?” What it basically means is this. If you spend so much time waiting for the right time to get something in your heart out, spending so much money for summits, conferences, and workshops on the same issue, when then will you start? Time is not always within our control; events don’t happen because we make them happen and there is no right time for anything, just the right seasons. Everything, almost all the time responds, to our readiness and not the other way around. Someone said that success is opportunity meeting preparation. But I dare add that success is when opportunity meets with preparation whose first step was ordered right. Preparation involves various first steps at something and not just waiting for manna to show up from the skies. So, if you are waiting for some motivational speakers to come and motivate you to step out and do what you have always had in mind to do and which you are clear in your heart to do, then you might wait in vain. 2023 and going forward is not one such year. You must be self-motivated and intentional in your mind about taking your first step at whatever it is you have been mandated to do. So, if you want to ask me how my family and I survived for the next six years after our marriage, with just 55USD in hand, then I will say, the first step always leads to other steps and each of those steps creates its own doors of opportunity to keep going. So, while we had no investment or cash anywhere outside of what was with me, the first step in itself created room for others (great friends, brothers, and sisters) to be of blessing to us and we were mostly sustained by those gracious blessings people around us brought us before we found our own footing. It’s a support system we still turn to in times of need. But it all happened because we said yes to the first step.
Has the journey been an easy one? Far from it. But it has been a classroom of life’s lessons and we are still learning.
Do what is required and not what makes you happy
There is this fallacy that people hear from motivational speakers, that for you to succeed you just do what you love. That’s basically nonsense, to say the least. Mind you I am not against motivational speakers, it’s just that my stream of thought in this article seems to find them and their work as good examples. To succeed, you don’t do what you love, you do what is required for such success. And while many people will do anything, even if it’s a crime against others, just to succeed, that’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is that there are mandates upon our lives that we cannot achieve by just doing the usual things that make sense to us or that we love and are passionate about.
I sometimes come across videos from the South African genius speaker, Vusi Thembekwayo. I call him a genius speaker because he really is and is also very articulate in his mental process. In one of such video where he was talking about this same topic, he gave an example of himself. He said there are times when he had to prepare for a hundred hours just to speak for one hour at an international event. He mentioned that he does not enjoy those hundred hours of studies and preparations, but it is required if he wants to make a good speech within one hour. That is exactly what I am talking about. We must do what is required for our mandate and not just what we love or are passionate about. Sometimes our mandates require us to live in a certain environment that we would not normally want to live in or require us to learn a new skill that we had told ourselves was not possible. We just have to do it. And it’s also part of taking the first steps.
We may do what we love when it’s about hobbies and passions, but even at that, it also will require a certain form of discipline, and focus to make them happen.
There is power in your first step
Your first step is powerful. I know this because I have had to walk it in many areas of my life. For example, when we were clear that we need to do this magazine in 2019, my first step was to learn how to design a magazine. I had to learn how to use professional design software that I had never used before. And because learning that design course in a regular design school was going to cost some real money, I had to “enrol” myself in “YouTube university.” I watched every single magazine design tutorial that I could find. For the first two weeks, I spent no less than fifteen hours daily learning and practicing how to design the magazine. After two weeks of rigorous learning, I came up with the first template for the magazine. That whole experience for me was like a seal of approval in my heart that anything I want to learn or do I can learn or do. I just need to take the first step.
We all have things, ideas, thoughts, innovations, businesses, and even relationships that we need to bring to life and even movements that we need to make. To some, it’s a holiday place they have always wanted to go to since they were young and for some, it’s a book to be written, published, or even read. So now, when will you start? When will you take your first step toward achieving that goal? What are you waiting for, really? Some will say they are waiting for God. I absolutely love that you need to wait for guidance from the Spirit. But what about those to whom God has already spoken for years but are still waiting for confirmation from only God knows where? We have somehow made an idol out of the concept of “waiting for confirmation” from God and we are becoming worse than infidels. Some things will never move until we move. A good example is the bible story of David and Goliath. As long as none of the soldiers in the army of Israel deemed it fit to step forward and face the mighty Goliath, God was not moving an inch on their behalf. When David moved, God moved and Goliath lost his head and his life. It’s that simple.
We all need a helping hand
I know I have said there is no reason to wait for some kind of motivation to take your first step, but what I have not said is that we all need helping hands to help us make that first step. Let me paint an example.
I watch my eleven-month-old baby start to take his first shot at walking. He grabs anything he can find and pulls himself up, but when he tries to take a step forward, he either takes just a few wobbly steps, falls or quickly squats to avoid a big fall. Knowing that he needed help in this very critical moment of his life, my wife and I always have to be close to give him some support. He needs that support like he needs food and it would be wicked not to give him that.
Same with every one of us when we want to take our first step at a new venture. In fact, for every new thing we want to do, we are simply babies in that area and we definitely need a supportive hand to help us take the first move. But what does that mean in the real sense of it?
It simply means, do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for support or help in taking your step. Maybe it’s not even shame or fear you might be dealing with, but ego or pride. It’s even worse if it’s ego or pride that is stopping you from seeking help. Shame and fear can still meet with good help in going forward but pride or ego will put a wall before you even before you start. So, let go of pride and ego, just ask for help and support when you need it.
So, 2023 is well underway, and it’s time to take that first step you have always wanted to take. If you begin now, you will be surprised at what milestone you will cover at the end of this year.
All the best with your first step.
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Samuel Phillips is a writer, graphic designer, photographer, songwriter, singer and a lover of God. As an Afrikan content creator, he is passionate about creating a better image and positive narrative about Afrika and Afrikans. He is a true Afrikan who believes that the true potential of Afrika and Afrikans can manifest through God and accurate collaborations between Afrikans. Afrika is the land of kings, emperors, original wisdom, ancient civilizations, great men and women and not some road-side-aid-begging poor third world continent that the world finds joy in undermining.