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Advice for Aspiring Leaders

Ruth Kagia: There are no shortcuts for hard work

Ruth Kagia

October 21 2016

“You can be what you want, anywhere in the world. You don’t have to be limited by geography or history.”

Ruth Kagia, Senior Advisor to the President of Kenya, has a remarkable story of growing up in relative poverty, finding a way to continue her education, and then assuming leadership roles in the World Bank and now with the office of the President of Kenya. 

She shared some of her remarkable vision born of love and respect for the human family and our planet, with Tim Nixon for Thomson Reuters Sustainability, at the second United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.

Tim Nixon for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: What would you say to young people right now? What advice would you give young people?

I wish I was young today. There are so many opportunities that we didn’t have. Opportunities in technology that I wish I had when I was growing up. In terms of broadening the mind, in terms of self-actualization. I think it was Eric Erikson who said that “Youth is wasted on young people’s shoulders.”

So what I would say to them is “Don’t waste that youth!” – because the millennials are really in unprecedented territory in terms of the opportunities they have. Globalization – you can be what you want, anywhere in the world. You don’t have to be limited by geography or history.

But I would say two things. One –

…there is no shortcut for hard work. It doesn’t matter what opportunities there are. Hard work still carries the day.

And when you look back at the history of everybody who is successful, the jobs they get, you look at the incredible amount of time they put in to get where they want. Too many people are looking for shortcuts.

There are no shortcuts for hard work.

Second, there are no shortcuts to integrity. And I’m talking about integrity in a very simple sense. Integrity in terms of doing an honest day’s job. Integrity in terms of being true to oneself. Integrity in terms of reaching out for your dreams irrespective of what other people may think. Not doing something because others want you to do it, but because you genuinely want to do it. I see those as very fundamental, particularly when one is working in cross-cultural, national environments.

And finally, perhaps, there is no greater joy than giving back, because the reason I am here is because somebody sacrificed for me. Somebody made a space for me. Somebody provided me guidance at critical decision points, and the least one can do is to give back in whatever way opportunities arise.

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