Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Interview with self-help writer Nekesa Ouma-Namulu

My special guest today is writer Nekesa Ouma-Namulu. She’s talking about her new self-help book, The Michelangelo Effect: Keys To Extraordinary Success For Ordinary People.

Nekesa Ouma-Namulu describes herself as a 'true citizen of the world,' having the privilege of calling many places home. She was born and brought up in Nairobi, the capital of that picturesque nation on Africa's eastern coast, and moved to London where marriage and career made Europe her second home for almost two decades. Her career as a Computer Networking Systems consultant, which included a year with Cisco Systems, saw her spend many happy hours in data centres all over the world, fiddling with fibre-optic cables plugged to huge data switches alight with dozens of different blinking lights. Work saw her set up camp in Mexico City, Seoul and most recently Paris, which led her to conclude, "no-one does a strike quite so thoroughly as the French." Nekesa has published a computing book, which sits happily next to others in UK libraries, as well as a children's fable. Today, Nekesa and her family split time between homes in Kenya, Spain and the UK.

Welcome Nekesa. Please tell us about your current release.

This book's mandate is simple. To tell a simple truth:

"Whatever your present difficulty, your brain can find a way out of it."

No-one is really taught how to use their brain. Most people think of it as a mechanical automaton they have no control over. Indeed, most are amazed that this underrated organ can be mastered to perform the near-miraculous in their lives. Rote-learning at school and pre-packaged 'information' have dulled this magnificent asset, resulting in defeated, miserable lives. We've got to a point where we don't even dare to hope for better.

The book examines the single common denominator behind the new wave of personal success stories sweeping across the globe. Slum millionaires, uneducated patent princesses, Third World Forbes shortlisters, village entrepreneurs and activists with a global impact, billionaire composers (who cannot read music)...‘unattractive’ folk finding amazing life-partners, people who previously lacked confidence finding, meeting and keeping friends...these people do not seem to be at the mercy of employers, clients, market forces, looks, economic meltdowns, politicians, house prices or interest rates, personal or global history, geographic location, age, weight, [fill in your personal challenge], whatever. They are clueless about motivational workshops and all self-help staples, have never heard of The Law of Attraction, never paid for a wealth creation seminar, and don’t bother to look any different what they always have. They are from all backgrounds and every ‘demographic,’ with every known disadvantage bafflingly represented.

It is my hope that by the end of the book, the reader gets to understand the true nature of success, and how they can effect their own real and lasting personal transformation. That is the promise I dare to make at the start of the book:

"Whatever your current difficulty, there is a science to it. A science that explains exactly how you ended up where you are. There is a pattern to your inability to pay bills, live where you want to, find love or use your talents to your benefit. A mesmerising storyteller has pulled a pretty screen across the entire mess, shielding it from view. It is my hope that this book pushes that curtain so far back that you are never again pulled by anyone's strings but your own".

What inspired you to write this book?
The idea for this book started to develop some time back, I'd say about ten years ago, when I still lived in London. Around that time, almost by accident, I started to mentor acquaintances on how to launch careers in what was then the very lucrative Computer Networking Systems industry I worked in. A pattern began to emerge. With no change in actual circumstances, they, including some who'd been totally unable to get work, even with good qualifications, all started to ace entry exams and interviews, wow employers and go on to do spectacularly well in their new careers. The shift worked just as well with those in other careers, and its effects extended to other areas of their lives. These people were becoming successful. Yet, nothing tangible about them had changed. Nothing but their thinking. Not just positive thinking; this was a fundamental deep-from-the-roots complete overhaul of the way they worked their brains. This book is a distillation of the method that changed their thinking, and therefore their lives, as well as mine.

The idea that you need to purge something horrible from within you to be okay is a cruel, cruel lie. There is a huge difference between recognising personal responsibility and assigning personal FAULT. Responsibility calls us to take action while looking for faults takes us down the destructive road of self-loathing, with its attendant purging, self-flagellation, and deep misery with NO resolution of the problem we are trying to resolve.

Blaming entire communities for the ills of society also does not work. To believe that a single group of people, loosely defined by some easily recognisable attribute, can be responsible for ALL of society's problems is a delusion that takes us back to the witch-hunting craze of the 16th and 17th centuries. Recognising and identifying individual perpetrators of specific offences regardless of arbitrary characteristics works better, simply because it's closer to the truth.

Like the villagers who believed they had to be rid of something amongst themselves to solve their problem, today we find ourselves constantly directed to find fault with ourselves instead of looking about us to find the real cause of our difficulties. I'm not advocating a culture of blaming everyone for your problems. That would be a mistake. But if you are not the cause of your problems, it is also a mistake to blame yourself. Of course we all have emotional bumps and bruises collected along the way. But we must remember that we were built for an imperfect world. Wounds heal; our delicate brains are encased in bone. Someone knew we'd be in for a rough ride. It is NORMAL to have dents, both physical and emotional. That something happened to you DOES NOT mean you are damaged goods or flawed. It just means you are a citizen of this world where some god-awful stuff sometimes happens.

So if the self-loathing that you've cultivated has got you absolutely nowhere, perhaps it's time to consider the possibility that there's nothing wrong with you after all, and begin the real work of finding what's really going on in order to remedy it. For good.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I'm working on the Kindle version of a children's fable I wrote some years back called "The Eternal Dreamer." This is a project that is very close to my heart. It uses a dream to explore ideas of divinity and our place in the world. I was very lucky to work with some of our best contemporary artists. The artwork I was allowed to use in the book is breathtaking.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It feels like I have always been at it. I remember submitting a story to a children's writing competition as a child, and later, as a teenager, sending essays to a national newspaper, one of which was quite astonishingly, published! My first 'real' book however is a computing manual that was published in London. I still get a thrill when I see it on shelves in public libraries in the UK.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
By day, I am a technical consultant specialising in computer networking systems. What that means is that I spend a lot of time fiddling with routers, data switches and fibre optic cable in data network centres all over the world. It can be very demanding so I deliberately took time off to write this book.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I use two different laptops to write...at the same time.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A pilot!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I am touched by the phenomenal response I am getting from readers all over the world. I'd like us to start a narrative around the themes discussed in the book, and have started a blog at my website to this end. I'd love to hear from them!

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