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Your Attitude and Your Destiny

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Matunda Nyanchama

Remarks to the International Youth Fellowship (IYF) meeting

Kisii University, Kenya

April 5, 2019


A few years ago, I came across a quote by Charles Swindoll that went thus:

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Think about it for a few seconds and reflect on the meaning of this.

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

In fact, the quote is an extract from a larger extract from the same Charles Swindoll where he says that:

“We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

According to the definition, attitude refers to a settled way of thinking or feeling about something. Attitude pertains to ‘something’, and that ‘something’ can be an idea, an object, a person or situation. … and your thinking (attitude) about that ‘something’ can be positive or negative. … and once you chose one way or another to perceive that ‘something’ you have made your choice. Indeed, our attitude towards things leads to the choices we make about those things. …

Example: I could perceive Kemunto as a good person, she helps others, therefore, I can work with her. … on the other hand, the way I could see Otwori in a negative light and, therefore I will keep away from him! …this can lead me to work closely with Kemunto while the avenues of working with Otwori would be closed.

As a young boy schooling in rural Nyamira, I could encounter situations that were both positive and negative. For example, my parents were always emphasized the value of education and how education was important for our future; they always asked about our homework and helped encourage us to perform well; where we did not perform well, they would examine the reasons why and identify the mistakes we made; they then emphasized that to do well, we needed to learn from those mistakes; and by making fewer mistakes each time in the future, we improved your chances of success.

On the other hand, there were some teachers that made one feel that school as a prison. No sooner would they spot a mistake in your work, than they caned you with abandon! In fact, some of those beatings were so severe that they left one with bruises, sore muscles, and behinds that one could not on …

…there is nothing we could do about these teachers or people around us with negative inclinations! … they were our teachers and were in school to stay. …

… and we had choices to make: endure the pain hoping for a better future or drop out of school and lead a life of greater uncertainty than if we stayed … let me confess that some of our friends did indeed take the choice of leaving school; …

…however, many of us (supported by those teachers and parents with positive disposition …) endured the negativity. … believing that the caning and other punishments will one day end, we prayed every day for a better tomorrow; … and, encouraged by positively inclined teachers, parents, and community, endured the punishments … and passed and the caning ended as we moved to higher levels. By that time we had moved up a step higher in the ladder of education.

… so what happened to those of our that had a negative attitude? … despite the potential they held, they never progressed much beyond where they dropped off; … their potential locked away and unexploited, they denied themselves and us (the society) the contribution they would have made. Who knows? They could have become teachers, engineers, doctors, pastors, church leaders or even community leaders. As a community and the world, we are that poorer today because of the choices our friends made.

What we must learn is that attitude dictates choices and those choices have consequences. A positive attitude would usually lead to good choices and positive outcomes; a negative attitude, on the other hand, would likely lead to bad choices and inevitably lead to negative consequences.

Let’s revisit Charles Swindoll’s assertion once more where he says that:

“We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

It is often the case that attitude is what we can change; .. Question: how often do you examine your attitude towards things you encounter? How often do you assess how you respond to and treat your friends? How often do you examine the way you treat your junior at school, work, church, community, …? … … and in how many of those cases would you indeed profess that you presented a positive attitude.

Let’s remember that choice of attitude can build or burn bridges, it can entrench existing relationships and give parties to new connections; it can lead to other horizons where you can discover new possibilities and gain new opportunities. …attitude can determine how much you can achieve in life.


Take the case of discovering new horizons, new lands, and new knowledge spaces.

More than one decade ago, I was one of the guests at a graduation ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA). On the same podium was my friend Prof. Justus Ogembo. His speech left indelible remarks that I recall to date. It was about growing up in the backdrop of the hills of Nyamiranga.

As a little boy, he said, his world view was confined by the hills of Nyamiranga. It was the horizon of his being. The hills of Nyamiranga presented the end of the world, according to the child he was. He continued that, over time, he came to realize how much more existed beyond the hills, more like a revelation! And this ‘new world’ unfolded as he traveled to the tea-growing estates in the Kericho region, courtesy of relatives that worked in the plantations. Here, he ‘discovered’ another world, of people that spoke other languages; men and women that offered their labour in exchange of wages (rather than farming their own lands) and others from foreign lands, with a different skin colour – Europeans that ran the tea estates and factories.

Just traveling beyond the hills of Nyamiranga had opened a new world and extended the horizon of his being, he confessed. And indeed, the more he traveled the further this horizon extended.

Had he remained confined by the hills of Nyamiranga, he would probably have never become the professor he is, even when his horizon keeps extending as he walks new paths and discovers new worlds.


The ability to go beyond the horizon will be dictated by the attitude you hold and the willingness to take risks. With a positive attitude, you are likely to go beyond your world.

And there are many horizons that confine us: they are physical (like the hills of Nyamiranga in the case of our friend) and mental (like in the case of where people say it cannot be done). And it is often the case that when we face difficulties, we revert to the attitude that ‘it cannot be done’.

A positive attitude, however, increases the chances your of success even in the face of the worst adversity. One’s attitude impacts everything. It directs one’s thoughts, one’s energy and most of all, one’s actions.

Your attitude is indeed the difference between success and failure.

I see this as, perhaps, the most open secret that we fail to see! And it is hidden in plain sight!


So now we know that attitude is important and can be central to our success or failure.

How then do we use this knowledge for the betterment of our lives? How do we use this understanding to help those around us? How do we use this information to make the world a better place than we found it? … and yes, how do we use this fact to ensure a better future for our children, their children, and their children’s’ children?


Here are a few practical tips that I picked from reading books and the Internet; many have been modified to suit this conversation:

  1. Anchor yourself in a vision:

At any one time, you need a vision of who you want to be; you need a vision of where you want to go, and you need a good idea of your mission in life. … so develop that vision and use it to anchor your actions.

Your vision is like your lighthouse, the beacon that you use to navigate the sea of life. As such every time you are confronted with difficulties, connect with your vision. … assess the direction you are taking; compare with the direction you ought to be taking; … if you find you are off course, adjust your sails and sail in the direction of your lighthouse. Remember the old adage that:  if you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there.

  1. Keep the Company of Positive People

It is important that the people around you be men and women of positive disposition; such people will reinforce your positive character. Positive-thinking people will strengthen your successes, celebrate with you and support you to conquer new horizons. … in a mutual relationship with positive thinking people, you can all conquer the world.

A positive atmosphere reduces life stresses, it generates optimism and harnesses your energy towards an achievement.

Scientists tell us that we spent more energy managing negative environments than we spend managing positive milieus. And positive energy reinforces the value of life: it is worth living! Choose your company wisely.

  1. Be on the lookout for opportunities

Every situation presents opportunities and risks; indeed every problem situation has opportunities within it; … even in the face of setbacks, there is a chance to learn from the situation … as one saying goes: there is no failure in life, but a series of experiences. Another one says that every cloud has a silver lining! …look for the opportunity in every hardship! The silver lining in the dark cloud.

  1. Embrace Challenges:

You have you believe in yourself and that you can face hard situations and overcome; that you can take challenges head-on and win! … so go beyond your comfort zone! … explore new horizons and face the new challenges in the new environment!

You have to believe that you can do it! With a positive mindset, you can handle even the most difficult challenges; and that if you are hit by adversity, you can overcome. And if you don’t succeed the first time around, remember the experience you gain that will serve you in the future.

Simply said: you can do it!

  1. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Like one singer says:
    • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger
    • Just me, myself and I
    • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
    • Stand a little taller
    • Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone


  1. Take Responsibility for your actions:

With a positive attitude, you will act with the best intentions. …however, it is not always that things will turn out the way you expected; it is not always that you will get the results you planned for. … so take responsibility for your actions, regardless of whether things turned alright or not.

Know that your life is your business; you are responsible for your life. No one can live your life for you. You are in charge. No matter how hard you try to blame others for the events of your life, each event is the result of choices you made and are making.

  1. Always be Grateful

Life will not always be a bed of roses; there are hills and mountains to climb; at times you will win but you will also lose. … despite what happens and what the situation turns out to be, there will always be something you can be grateful for.  … if not anything else, be grateful that you have a life! Be grateful that you are alive.

As the saying goes: every cloud has a silver lining! ; and in Kiswahili, we say:: baada ya dhiki, faraja. ..after hardship, comes relief. … there are no permanent situations!

  1. Be Good to Others:

How often do you walk past the security person at the case without caring? How often do you sneer at the conductor in a matatu just because you don’t like him? How often do you sneer at that annoying colleague at work or school for even the pettiest of reasons?

Did you know you could act differently?

Suppose you said something good to them? Would the world come crumbling down? Saying something nice to such people would make them feel good. And because a positive attitude is infectious, you too will feel good!

So find something positive in people. And say it; it will make them feel good; it will make you feel good and reduce your stress.


  1. Work with a mentor

A mentor is usually an experienced and trusted adviser; note the words: experienced so that you can learn from him or her; trusted because he or she has your best interest at heart. Interacting with a mentor will help shape your thoughts, adjust your vision and make life’s perspective real.

As the saying goes: what a young man can see standing, a wise man can see more while seated.

Let me conclude thus:

Your destiny in life is in your hands; your attitude will determine where that destiny would be. A positive attitude will lead you to achieve more; it will help you overcome adversity; it will bring into your network men and women that will help you succeed. A positive attitude will help you explore new horizons, discover new lands and climb up many ladders. … a positive attitude is essential for your success.

Let me remind you of this:

Every person is born with certain potential: these are the possible things the person can be; they are the possible things the person can achieve; it is a myriad of possible roles the person can play in society. .. this potential is a lot with respect to any person.

… however, what we actually end up becoming is based on how we play the cards (or seeds) that life has given to us! …life gives us a few seeds that we can choose to plant or not; if we plant, then we can hope to harvest. However, in order to harvest, it is not simply that we plant, but also that we plant the seeds on fertile soil, that we water the plants, add fertilizer! Only then can we have a rich harvest.

With a positive attitude, we can understand that potential in us; we can nurture our being and grow to be society’s rich harvest. …and all through: our attitude to life.


Allow me to leave with the worlds of  Charles Swindoll that:

We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

As they say: one word for a wise man is enough!

Thank you for lending me your eyes and brains!

NB: Dr. Matunda Nyanchama consults in ICT, Information Security, and Risk Management, in addition to publishing books. He can be reached at  

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