Tuesday, August 27, 2013


It is old news. Stephen Kiprotich last week won gold in the World Athletic Championships in Moscow. Like in London a year ago he took on the favourites – this time the Ethiopians, run them into the ground before strolling to a much deserved victory. 

For fear of stating the obvious Kiprotich is a national hero. But more importantly we can glean important lessons to apply to our daily lives.

So here goes my top four list of lessons to learn from the double gold medalist

#4. Aspire to substance over style

Life they say is a marathon not a sprint. You can’t blast out of the blocks and have nothing left over for the next 42 km.  You have to pace yourself. Though he comes from a humble background it means forgoing the home comforts of home with his family for weeks on end. It means logging hundreds of miles in the freezing cold of the Kenyan highland, running on nothing more than siturungi (black tea) and a half a loaf. It means battling through nagging injuries, flagging morale and frequent setbacks. It means pushing yourself beyond what you thought was humanly possible. To last the distance you have to have a higher goal than just attaining the simple luxuries of life, looking good around your friends or even winning gold. “I want to be a legend,” he told us before the London Olympics. One gold, or even two, do not a legend make.

#3. Ignore the illusion that you have arrived

If Kiprotich was a mere mortal like many of his Ugandan countrymen after bagging gold in London last year he would have hung his life size portrait on his seating room wall, put up his feet and begun to live “the” life. Thankfully he did not. He weathered the distractions of the post Olympics celebration to explore his potential further. Since the Olympics he has won a half marathon in Amsterdam, came in sixth in the London Marathon and now won the World Championships.

And if the young man is to be believed he is not done yet, “I know it’s not easy. But I want to become the first Ugandan to win these competitions twice,” he said referring to the Olympics and World Championships.

#2. No one is going to do the work for you

There is a lot of lack in Uganda. We lack good roads. We lack good leadership. We lack money. We lack shoes. The easy thing to do is blame our inadequacies on our lack and roll over and die. But Kiprotich has shown that lack is not an excuse. He had a dream and has gone about creating it. When his full story is eventually told -- the struggle, the despair, the pain, everything he has gone through the rest of us whiners, will shut up. US rapper 50 cent in reflecting on what Barak Obama has done for African Americans said, “Obama has taken away the excuses.”

#1 Repeat over and over again

There is method to his success and since he has done it himself and has shown he can reproduce the formula there is no reason we shouldn’t expect more of the same. That is how enduring success is created you search and search for a method that works for you, and when you do find it, you repeat it over and over again. But if we are always looking to short circuit the process, to find short cuts or are in pursuit of that “one” deal that will solve our lives problems for good, we will miss the benefit of the process and even if we enjoy some success when it fades away we will not know how to reproduce it.

In the 34 million Ugandans I am sure there are many more heros. Kiprotich is lucky – where luck is opportunity meeting preparation, to have his success celebrated by the whole world.

But yes, as a model of keeping nose to the grinding stone, ignoring friend, foe and even family’s initial skepticism about his dreams and remained steadfast in the wake of initial success, there are very few around we can show up to our children and say “Yes! Be like him. That is what a good man is made of.”


  1. Great Article Paul. Huge truths you highlight in there. Indeed, No more excuses. Thanks.

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