In mid December 2012 I attended a conference at the United Nations Campus in Bonn, Germany. After the conference I had to take a flight from DŸsseldorf. For me to catch the flight I had to take a train to Kšln and another train from Kšln to DŸsseldorf. Knowing that my knowledge of the German language was zero, I made every effort to muster the directions before I left the hotel. I studied the maps as well as the train timetables and the names of the different stations. The challenge that I faced was that most of the literature was in German.
Once I had convinced myself that I had all the information I needed I embarked on my little journey. Although the information at hand was to the effect that the journey would take approximately two hours, I gave myself an allowance of four hours just in case there were delays along the way.After travelling for about a kilometre I was joined in the train by a group of American tourists who had a German guide in tow. The German guide seemed very knowledgeable. He knew the language, knew the route; knew the timetables and indeed almost everything that was essential for the journey. Although I was not part of the touring team, the presence of the German guide gave me much confidence. From the various conversations that he held with his team I learnt much about the place as well the different stations. Naturally, I became a silent but uninvited part of the team. The train made various stops at different stations. At these stations some people would get onto the train and others would disembark. There were many different people. Some people had so much luggage that one wondered where they were coming from and where they were going to and why they carried so much baggage. Some people would be in jovial spirits but some would also be downright sullen and unfriendly. Some of the stations were magnificently built while others were small and insignificant. About an hour into the journey we came to a very big station where many people disembarked. My newly found American friends and their guide also disembarked. It was as if everyone was leaving the train. Without giving it a second thought I grabbed my light luggage and also disembarked. Once on the platform I figured out the direction in which most people, including the touring team was taking and followed suit. Before long and only after the train had already left did I realise that I had alighted from the train too soon. This was not my destination; mine was about another 20km away. I went back to the platform and waited for the next train. As I sat on the platform studying the maps again and waiting for the next train, I made a few notes on the lessons that I had learnt in my moment of folly. As I went about this seemingly simple exercise I realised that indeed I had committed many mistakes that many people commit on a daily basis and sometimes with very grievous consequences. What are these lessons?
Know your destination
The train of life is continuously in motion. It carries us all along the journey. Sometimes it speeds up and sometimes the pace can be agonisingly slow. One thing for certain is that it is not stationary. Each passenger has his destination. I have mine and you have yours. The Americans and their guide had theirs and I had mine. It is very easy to be misled by the charisma of the companions and adopt a destination that was never meant for your. Everyday many people are casting away their dreams, aspirations and callings and following after other people's pursuits. The question that I should make haste and ask is: "Whose life are you leading and whose dream are you pursuing?" Enamoured and enthralled by the knowledge of the tour guide, I disembarked at a station that was not meant for me. I was not coerced into doing this, but it was of my own volition. Next time I will be wiser and will establish my destination carefully and not follow others blindly. There are many people who are achieving magnificent things in their lives. I can learn from them and even ask for directions and counsel from them but I need not follow them where they are going. I have my destination and I must stick faithfully to that destination. Likewise your gifts, talents and aspirations are pointing you to a certain destination. Be faithful to it.
Do not despise your station
Some train stations were very small, and yet others were very grand in outlook. What matters in the journey of life is not the glitter or the glitz at the station, but whether you are at the right station or not. The right station is the one that is linked to your purpose. It may not necessarily be the most beautiful but it is certainly in the right direction. It is very easy to lose sight of what is important and pursue the glamorous temptations of this life. It is even easier to be side tracked and to fall by the wayside. Other people's success does not translate to your failure. If others arrive at their destinations before you get to yours, it does not mean that you have failed or that you are not doing well. Always remember that you are not running the same race. Benchmark yourself with the best practices but not with people. Compare your ways and methods with other people's methods and learn from them but do not compare yourself with them. There will always be greater and lesser people than you; you can learn from them both without becoming vain. Finally, always remember that to be delayed is not to be denied. My mistake delayed my arrival but did not deny me access to my final destination. Setbacks, failures, detours and mistakes can delay us for a season but they will not sabotage our journey unless we allow them to. I am not my mistake and you are not your failures.