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The Pebble in Your Shoe

One of the notable things I am certain that most people will remember the great Muhammad Ali for, was his way with words and his ability to explore the power of words, so it is arguably said that most of his major fights were half-won with words. Amidst finding out several other great and not too great things about this legendary boxer, since he died on the 3rd of June 2016, I have had the opportunity of groping at a couple maxims that were credited to him, and I thought it fit to draw and share some lessons from one in particular that I found particularly intriguing in this piece.

He is quoted to have said that; “it isn’t the mountain ahead to climb that wears you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe”. In trying to decode and fully understand this maxim, I stumbled on another version of this quote, that is attributed to the popular poet Robert W. Service who died in 1958, which says; it isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. I then discovered that an extended version of Robert W. Service’s version was published in a Forbes magazine, in 1925, which says; “it isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out- it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big worthwhile”.

In my opinion the act of climbing a mountain is one of the most plausible analogies one could use to analyze the very adventurous travails of man’s journey through life, therefore, I am hoping that we will pick up a clue or two from this piece that will help make our lives less wearisome. Just as it is with the journey of an average man’s life, climbing a mountain can be very unpredictable and full of diverse challenges that can sometimes be as life threatening as it is exciting. Pebbles are basically very small stones either rounded or not, that have been worn smooth by erosion and can easily be picked up by sandals as one walks through a dirt path. The first lesson to quickly draw here is, most often than not, one’s shoe is likely to pick up a pebble or two when climbing a mountain since pebbles are actually tiny bits broken off the mountain, thus rather than bother about the inconveniences and pains one suffers while climbing the mountain with the pebble in the shoe, one should concentrate more on getting to the top of the mountain or else one may never get to the top of the mountain alive.

Another lesson can be gotten from a slightly different of version of this maxim that I also came across which says; “Nobody trips over mountains; it is the small pebble that causes you to stumble”. To my mind, this saying essentially emphasizes the fact that the best way of crossing mountains is by taking on one pebble at a time and by the time we have passed all the pebbles in our path, we will find out that we have crossed the mountain that had seemed insurmountable. It can be foolhardy and overwhelming to focus on the mountain or the big picture of any assignment when it is possible to break the assignment into small bits or “small pebbles” as it were, and tackle them one at a time. Another related quote was given by the great Confucius which says that “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones”.

My submission is that, it is prudent for man to come to terms with the fact that our world is laden with varied categories of challenges and that to successfully travel through life’s journey, we have to find a way of managing and appropriately allocating the limited resources available in order to effectively overcome the varied challenges that life will constantly throw at us. As an ardent proponent of the African Renaissance, I have lost count of how many times I have been asked if I truly believe that Africa can overcome the myriad of chronic difficulties the continent is swamped with and I have always said ‘yes I believe, Africa can’. I will like to reiterate the fact that I am truly convinced that Africa can and has all that she needs to soar above her present wretched state. One critical step we have to take now is to stop dissipating our energies on the abysmally bad situation we have found ourselves and focus on taking on the problem one at a time from the very strategic to the less strategic. I am persuaded that if we remain focused and refuse to be distracted by the challenges that life will naturally throw at us, we will sooner than we all expect attain the Africa of our dreams; yes, we can.

Apart from the seventh edition of Inside Watch Africa (IWA) that was dedicated to the world cup held in South Africa – the first time on African soil, this edition would probably be the edition with the most sports articles yet. This is so because during this quarter, Africa lost three sporting heroes in the persons of the legendary boxer – Muhammad Ali and Super Eagles coaches – Stephen Keshi and Amodu Shuaibu, so we consider it a duty to celebrate these great Africans. I assure you that you are going to have another pleasurable reading experience with this edition as it was put together with the resilient African Spirit, Enjoy!