by Joe Gacheru
I would like to share a story that I heard when visiting Nairobi Giraffe Centre in 2016. According to the story teller, a baby giraffe never go to school, but they learn a very important lesson rather early in life. The birth of a baby giraffe is quite an earthshaking event. The baby fall from its mother’s womb, some eight feet above the ground. It shrivels up and lies still, too weak to move. The mother giraffe lovingly lowers her neck to smooch the baby giraffe. And then something incredible happens. She lifts her long leg and kicks the baby giraffe, sending it flying up in the air and tumbling down on the ground.
As the baby lies curled up, the mother kicks the baby again. And then it kicks again. Until the baby giraffe, still trembling and tired, pushes its limbs and, for the first time, learns to stand on its feet.
Happy to see the baby standing on its own feet, the mother giraffe comes over and gives it yet another kick. The baby giraffe falls one more time but now quickly recovers and stands up.
Mama Giraffe is delighted. She knows that her baby has learnt an important lesson: Never mind how hard you fall, always remember to pick yourself up and get back on your feet. Why does the mother giraffe do this? She knows that lions and hyenas love giraffe meat. So unless the baby giraffe quickly learns to stand and run with the pack it will have no chance of survival.
Most of us though are not quite as lucky as baby giraffes. No one teaches us to stand up every time we fall. When we fail, when we are down, we just give up. No one kicks us out of our zones to remind us that to survive and succeed, we need to learn to get back on our feet.
The road to success in life is never easy. It is a path riddled with obstacles, and everyone in this world hits a roadblock from time to time. But whether it is professional or personal, a roadblock, and the inevitable detours that come with it, can lead to greater success. Learning to win in life is quite like learning to ride a bicycle. As you start to ride, you might fall and get bruised. It doesn’t matter. You need to get back up and continue to ride. Fall one more time? Get back up again. That’s all it takes. Learn to get back up every time you fall.
Very much like a baby giraffe, never giving up. “Nana korobi, ya oki” is a Japanese proverb that roughly translates to: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” It is my understanding that Japanese culture and ways of thinking cannot be adequately addressed in a short space, but this Japanese proverb reflects an important and shared ideal: “Nana korobi ya oki” (literally: seven falls, eight getting up) means fall down seven times and get up eight. This speaks to the Japanese concept of resilience. No matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up again. Even if you should fall one thousand times, you just keep getting up and trying again. You can see this ethic reinforced in all facets of Japanese culture including education, business, sports, the martial arts the Zen arts, etc. It is especially important to remember the sentiment expressed in this proverb when times are dark.
There are no quick fixes in life and anything of real worth will necessarily take much struggle and perseverance. Success does not have to be fast—what’s more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent. Failing at something is not necessarily a bad thing. You do not always have to win, but you must never give up. While others may encourage you to give up— the real spirit of “not giving up” comes from within. This is the spirit of the baby giraffe, standing up every time it falls. When we have this spirit, it forces us to grow and try things that are out of our comfort zones that we wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Oftentimes, people take failure as an absolute extreme. If one has never failed anything in his or her life, then how are they ever going to learn humility and learn from their mistakes? If you fall, learn to get back up. If you fall down this time, learn to fall forward the next.