The West Has Many Distractions: Focus on That Which Is Important Not That Which Is Urgent

Part 10 of the 10 things I wish I knew before I came to Australia

This post is about questions. Who has the answers? YOU. As you go through this post, take a moment and answer as many of these questions as you can honestly. It’s not a quiz so don’t worry about being right or wrong.Hopefully these questions will be the seed that will trigger something special in your mind. We begin with the question:


What Did You Do Today That Really Mattered?

Seriously? Look back over the last 24 hours and ask yourself: ” What did I do today that will matter ten years from now? What did I do today that will make my life and the lives of my neighbors better over the next few years or decades? If you answered, nothing, be scared but don’t be terrified.

Be scared because the last 24 hours have just passed by and they will never return and you did not do all that you could to make the last 24 hours magical. Don’t be terrified because you are not alone, hell, you’re in the majority.

Distractions: There are So Ma….Boy I’m Hungry

Beer advertisement

Recently, I watched a presentation in which I learned that in a given day the typical westerner is exposed to 3000 marketing messages A DAY. That is 3000 different messages all being sent to you with the intention of taking away your time, attention and money.

Now add to that the various methods of communication. First of all, there’s the Internet, where you can spend literally hours everyday editing your Facebook profile or sending hi5 friend requests or pimping your Myspace profile using videos from Youtube. Then there’s instant forms of communication like cell phones and instant messengers.And really how much of all the stuff that gets communicated through these means really matters?

Facebook profile

But of course we are Africans and human beings so eventually we have to meet up and talk face to face. What do we talk about? How to make this world a better place? No, but we will spend hours complaining about what’s wrong with it. How to have better relationships? No, but we will talk about other people’s business and how messed up their relationships are. No, but of course we talk about our lovely continent of Africa and how we will use all that we have learned in the West to make Mama Africa gorgeous? Hell no, instead we spend hours feeling self-important by spouting complex ideas and theories about how the continent is messed up and how we will take advantage of that to make a quick buck.

In short, if you want to live a life where you move from distraction to distraction, it is extremely easy. You can literally live from the cell phone to the gossip session to the Internet to the television and then to bed only to wake up, rinse and repeat for the rest of your life.

You Are On Your Death Bed

Death bed

But if you were on your death bed would you tell your wife to make sure your hi5 profile picture shows you in the best light. Will you ask your son to make sure he records Desperate Housewives and sends you the tapes in heaven? Will you ask your best friend for gossip about the latest person who has been deported so you can meet the Grim Reaper being up to date on community gossip?

The Pareto Principle

My belief is that in life, the number of areas that truly matter are probably 10 or less ( I have never done an official count). These few, out of the many that exist are the ones that will probably reminisce about in your death bed. I believe they are:

a) Health and taking care of your body; your temple.

b) Emotional health; Creating many barriers to being unhappy and making it as easy as possible for you and everyone you encounter to be happy and have piece of mind.

People having fun

c) Relationships; You, your family, your community, your country, your continent, your world. How do you relate to it? What do you mean to them? What do they mean to you? Are you a servant to humanity or a liability to society? Are you God’s gift to women or more annoying than a yeast infection? Are you a reflection of just how beautiful one person can get or are you the drama queen whose fault it never is?

d) Having a purpose in life: Why do you get out of bed? What if you had all the money in the world? What would you do then? I heard a story about a man who was the CEO of a large firm that used to buy and sell companies for 100s of millions. Eventually it came time to retire. So he had his party, had his cake and said his goodbyes. Do you know what this man did the first day of his retirement? He went to look for a job. He had no purpose. No life! He was nothing outside of his work. This story could be a good one because he had something that he was so passionate about that he couldn’t bear to live without it or sad because he never really worked on having a life outside of work. What do you think of the story? Do you want to be like him? Don’t you?Why?

Is your work your purpose? Why? Do you have more to your life than just work? I don’t want to answer these questions for you, I put them here to get you thinking.

e) Your spirit: We all know that there is something that lies beyond our understanding and controls the universe and keeps it running like a well oiled clock. How connected do you feel to your God? To your spirit? To that part of you that isn’t your body and isn’t your mind but is always there watching?

I remember a now deceased singer once said that he will not be the next revolutionary but his music will spark the mind of the next revolutionary. My hope is that this article sparks your thinking and begins a revolution within you. Never forget, millions of Africans suffered and died so you could be able to immigrate to the West and learn like the Westerners do and experience what they experience. What will you do with this great gift? Will you use it? Will you abuse it?

Smiling maasai child

As I said, this post is about questions. The answers all lay with you. Anything to add? Leave a comment below or email me at Until the next post

Be blessed + Bless others,



  • By Hussein Musa, February 3, 2008 @ 11:43 am

    Thanks for your article it certainly got me thinking.Also you are spot on about us african being very negative you hit it on nail.You must be very spiritul person to come to these conclusions. Whole point of creation is answered by asking simply questions.Then to best of your ability to make the best of it.My only worry today is that all my plans of returning back home in kenya is in jeorpady due to conflict that is raging on and on.

  • By akiey, February 3, 2008 @ 12:03 pm

    You have a neat site with very good content. You got a friendly, easy to relate to writing style and your use of images/imagery is something I couldn’t avoid noticing.
    It’s obvious you spend your free time on worthwhile, creative endeavors. Keep up the good work and will most definitely stop by for more reads.

  • By Mwangi, February 3, 2008 @ 3:44 pm

    Hey Hussein, I am glad my article moved you :) My personal belief is that problems such as the one at home are chances for people to step in and become heroes by serving their fellow man and also a chance for our country to re-evaluate where we are going and chose a new direction better than the one we were moving in before. Maybe this is the time you are meant to return home and serve….anyway, who am I to say, I am sitting snugly in Melbourne.As for my spirituality; I, like many of us, am caught in that weird place between being materialistic and spiritual.Looking forward to seeing your comments in future.

  • By Mwangi, February 3, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

    Hey Akiey thanks for the compliments really appreciated. And I stopped by your site, I like, I like. It’s always nice to get visits and compliments from people who have been blogging since way back. Makes me think I’m on to something here. You are more than welcome to stop by as much as you’d like.

  • By Cheryl, February 4, 2008 @ 2:19 am

    Mwangi, I am not a displaced African, and I live in the US, but I can surely relate to what you are writing here. Yes, be scared, because the last 24 hours will never return. Every moment is precious.

    Thank you,

  • By Mwangi, February 4, 2008 @ 2:24 am

    I am glad you could relate to the post. I have checked out your blog; I share exactly the same goal. This is the year that I become totally financially free though my purpose for doing so is to free up time for what I think are much more important pursuits than chasing the dollar. Are you a fan of Timothy Ferriss and his work?

  • By Cheryl, February 4, 2008 @ 2:33 am

    Thank you for visiting my blog! Best of luck to you, Mwangi, we’ll have to compare notes as our year progresses. Every day I do at least one (more often more than one) to bring me closer. I was not familiar with Timothy Ferriss, so I googled him and found his blog on the 4 hour week. I am going to read more.

  • By Mwangi, February 4, 2008 @ 2:38 am

    He has a few videos on google videos and youtube as well; absolutely phenomenal thinker. We definitely have to compare notes; I am looking forward to hearing your updates. Please tell me what, if any impact, Mr. Ferriss has on you. I am very curious as to what your opinions will be of Tim’s work.

  • By sunny, February 4, 2008 @ 4:42 am

    I like the way that you view the things that matter. Will definitely stop by again…

  • By Mwangi, February 4, 2008 @ 5:35 am

    Thanks sunny,
    I just checked out your blog and I agree with your mission 1000+%. I honestly think more people should adopt your philosophy of sustainable self-development without the handouts. Consider me the latest subscriber to your blog. Looking forward to your comments in future.

  • By Sherri, February 4, 2008 @ 8:24 am

    You are absolutely right.

    I pray that everyone in the world finds the most important things in their lives and takes action on them. I pray that everyone finds the work they love and will never retire from, and keeps it in balance with the other important aspects of their lives, like family, friends, community, etc. Work should fit around and into your life, your life should not fit around your job.

    A great book to get to this point is “48 Days to the Work You Love” by Dan Miller. There’s a link on my site to it. It’s about what you said in a “how to” format.

    If more people lived their dreams and made the changes they feel need to be made, the world would be a much better place.

  • By Mwangi, February 4, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

    Thanks for stopping by Sherri. It’s pretty cool the type of people who I am meeting as a result of being drawn to this article. When I first wrote it, I wasn’t sure people would want to read a whole bunch of questions but the reaction has been pretty cool. Thanks for adding to the body of knowledge by telling me about Dan Miller; I will Google him and see what I can find.
    So far we have Timothy Ferriss and Dan Miller. To add one other great thinker, who I will write about more later on; Erwin Mcmanus from the Mosaic Group. About six months ago they did a series where they asked the question, “What would the world be like if everyone did what they loved?” I can’t find the podcast right now but if you head on over to, I am sure it should be somewhere in the archives.
    Be the change you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandi; great name for a website.

  • By Shiroh, February 4, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

    Yesterday me and a friend just sat down and chat for a whole 6 hours. Nothing gained but it was really just a cool way to pass time without techs. I refuse to have internet on my phone.

  • By Mwangi, February 4, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

    I envy you Shiroh. I haven’t sat down like that and just chatted to anyone in months. How cool is it when you can just sit with someone and have a convo that flows for what feels like forever?

  • By Karen (Karooch from Scraps of Mind), February 6, 2008 @ 8:38 am

    A powerful article Mwangi.

    And some real food for thought there. Thank you.

  • By Mwangi, February 6, 2008 @ 9:24 am

    You are more than welcome Karen. Thank you for stumbling my article

  • By Samantha, February 7, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

    I like your blog and will come back soon

  • By JoLynn from The Fit Shack, February 8, 2008 @ 3:45 am

    Hi Mwas,

    I love your post and I completely agree with the fact that your health should be your #1 priority…..if you don’t have that, everything else falls apart.

    I also love the reminder that there is so much stuff that you can easily get caught up in and twiddle hours away with online. Keep up the great work here!

  • By Mwangi, February 8, 2008 @ 11:44 am

    Hey JoLynn. The article I wrote immediately following this one is exactly in line with what your website is about. Your website is fantastic btw.

Other Links to this Post

  1. 10 Life Changing Tips from an African in the diaspora » The Displaced African — February 3, 2008 @ 8:59 am

  2. Apathy, Criticism and Ignorance are Bliss, But Is That the Type of Life You Want to Live? » The Displaced African — February 17, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  3. My Heroes (Bonus): Dead Prez » The Displaced African — March 18, 2008 @ 3:16 am

  4. How to Set Realistic Expectations » The Displaced African — March 28, 2008 @ 2:40 am

  5. Accommodation, Purpose and Awareness: How to Immigrate to Australia Within a Week » The Displaced African — April 8, 2008 @ 3:56 am

  6. What Everybody Ought to Know About Immigration and Njeri’s Guest Post » The Displaced African — June 26, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  7. Meet Tony Mwangi – Kenyan/Australian Blogger – The Afropolitan Experience — April 1, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

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