Growing Up

There's a Reason to Believe

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This is a powerful song from my current favourite, Arch Enemy. This is a song that basically encourages you to keep on fighting whatever battles you’re fighting. I found the name of this track to be the perfect title for today’s topic – failure.


There are three things that frighten a tiny kid:

  • Monsters
  • Mr Sweets (that’s a codename that African parents and teachers use to describe anything used to discipline you)
  • And the word “NO”

Monsters are portrayed to be scary mythical beings. Being afraid of them kinda makes sense because the movies make these mythical beings look quite real. Mr Sweets is not a pleasant “guy” to be around. The word “NO” is a strange entry here. After all, it is just a combination of two letters…or is it?

It turns out that we are conditioned to be liked. Most normal societies encourage the people within them to get along. We are taught that the only way for people to get along with us is for them to say “YES” to everything we ask them to do. We are also taught that the only way for us to get along with other people is to say “YES” to everything people ask us to do.

This is very wrong.

The Chronicles of NO: Life

Imagine you are in the magical world of NO. A land where people are actually allowed to say “NO” to stuff you ask them to do. That would be a terrible world right? Many will say “YES! That will be dreadful!” Unfortunately for them, this magical world is real and its called life.

You have dreams and goals that you want. Each idea you have about your future is the present you asking life to play along and give you what you want. Sometimes life doesn’t feel like playing along and decides to give you the dreaded “NO.” How does it do so? Through a thing called failure.

When you try something and it fails, its life that’s saying no. Many people then internalize this failure and think the worst of themselves. Why? Because they think NO is a bad thing. They think that failure is a dreadful thing that ought to be avoided.

Before we move on, I want us to get a few things straight.

  1. No means NOT YES. It doesn’t mean that you’re a horrible person who ought to be shot with a cannon. And it doesn’t mean you’re ugly. It’s just the absence of the word YES.
  2. Failing doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It just means that you were NOT SUCCESSFUL. Life threw a NO at you. That’s it.
  3. Failing twice could mean that you got unlucky. It does not mean that you are a failure. It does not mean that you’re dumb.
  4. Failing the same thing over and over probably means the process you are using to try and achieve success isn’t the most effective. It does not mean that you are a failure. It does not mean that you are cursed.

Why Does NO Exist?

The word “NO” exists because we exist on this planet for a finite amount of time. We are not meant to live forever. It is impossible to say “YES” to everything if you are a finite being. This word helps us to focus on the things that are important to us in the moment. If you are a person who always says “YES” to stuff and you end up finding yourself doing stuff that doesn’t align with your vision then use the magical two letter word. It was made to be used.

Why Does life give us NOs?

That is a question that philosophers have written books about. The answer depends on the person’s view on life. I believe that life gives us “NOs” to test us and see whether we are hungry enough for whatever dream we have, and to prepare us for our dreams if we are still unprepared. Let me explain through a long story.

Two years ago, I wanted to become a blogger. In my previous post I mentioned how I was one of the poet’s part of the team, “The Real Zimbabwe” Having felt how amazing it can be to get stuff published on the internet, I sought to start my own blog and get my own audience. I bought bundles, googled how to setup a free WordPress website and after a lot of cursing, I went to sleep. Everything I had seen that night was bewildering. I read about these strange things called “domains,” “themes,” and “plugins.” My brain failed to process this new jargon. And there it was. I failed.

After two days, I decided to try again. I repeated the same process and managed to get to the WordPress “Sign Up” page. I tried to create my own site, but failed. The site kept saying “Username already present.” I remembered the admin of “The Real Zimbabwe” once telling me that she had added me as an “Administrator.” I never knew what that meant. Now here I was failing to create my own site. I tried to login to see if I could remove myself as an administrator and create my new site, but there was a big problem. I didn’t have my password. It was now around 3 in the morning and I was incredibly sleepy. I decided to call it quits.

Many attempts later, the first version of the maputiatota blog was released. The first post on my free maputiatota blog was about food and I got my first views. Many moons later, I bought a proper domain and developed this blog into what it is.

Lesson Learnt:

  • You’re either going to cry a lot or curse a lot. That’s pretty normal.
  • You need really good music to uplift your spirits when you fail. Which is why I love rock. Its perfect for that.
  • Try, try, try again. If it does not succeed, change your strategy. Then try again.

My Tiny Business: Charakupa Designs

I joined my first Hackathon many moons ago. I had a really positive experience and immediately fell in love with them. Last year, the aim was to get into as many Hackathons as possible. I applied for every single Hackathon and competition I came across. Oh and I also applied for workshops & random internet opportunities. Here are the Hackathons I applied for last year.

When applying for each Hackathon, I noticed that they asked for a link to my “personal website.” It would be ridiculous to put but hey, I didn’t have an option. From the list above, I only managed to get selected for the following.

11. Nutrition Hackathon (but failed to attend because of other commitments)
13. 1K Challenge
22. Freelance Writers Zimbabwe
23. Fiverr

This means that everything else was a great big NO.

Lessons Learnt

  1. Each time I got a NO, I would have a quick audit. And where possible, I would ask for feedback asking for areas to work on in the future. This would make me 0.1% better prepared for the next opportunity. It is through this audit that I learnt that you really need to have a personal website and a professional email. And it is through these failures that I managed to learn how to create websites & professional emails. I also setup my tiny business, Charakupa Designs where I make pretty good websites for people. Get your website now while I’m still cheap : )
  2. You will eventually get a yes. Those four opportunities listed above said “YES” to me.
  3. Everybody uses google forms. There are very few opportunities that I applied for that didn’t need me to enter in stuff into a google form.
  4. There are a lot of kind people out there ready to tell you where you got your act wrong and where you need to improve.
  5. Gmail is incredibly unprofessional.
  6. To succeed in the digital world, you need the following skills: be social media savvy, know how WordPress websites work, have a personal website, get good professional photos (or get somebody with a good phone + good picture taking skills), and to know how to write good messages that get straight to the point.
  7. You really need to be organized when applying for stuff. You may actually get selected. And you would have lost the document which had your brilliant idea/concept. That would be terrible, and unprofessional.


Failing does not mean you are a failure. There is a reason to believe, again.

See you next week Wednesday!

Psst! Still here? Well, go through my other articles and have fun. Don’t feel like doing that? Well then, head over to twitter @maputiatota and follow me : )

Arch Enemy - There is a Reason to Believe Official Music Video