COVID-19, Throw the Cow over the cliff

The advent of the COVID-19 disease has redefined numerous things in our lives over the past 20 months. It has not only led to massive unemployment and the shut down of businesses but also a drastic change in the world view of many.

A friend I talked to recently intimated to me how his employer had not been in position to pay salaries as expected for 8 months now. The company he works for is a respected software development company.

This reminded me of the adage “throwing the cow over the cliff” that emanates from the story of a Philosopher who was strolling in a remote area with his disciple. They came across this family living in a dingy house all dressed in ragged and dirty clothes. On asking them how they manage to survive, they pointed at the cow and narrated how it provides for their daily milk supplies which they use at home as well as barter for other commodities at the nearby town.

Upon departing, the Philosopher tells his disciple to go get that cow and push it over the cliff. The disciple apparently filled with sympathy thought that was a very heinous act but had to do as he was told. Despite his rumblings, the Philosopher never went ahead to explain why.

This experience haunted the disciple so much that many years later he decided to secretly go back alone and check on this family. On reaching the place, he found a big farm with all sorts of amenities, tractors, a big farm house, storage silos, a new car parked in the yard among other things. He quickly knocked at the door and asked the gentleman who opened where the ragged family that once owned that place had gone.

The gentleman responded, “They still own the place. Well, we used to have a cow, but it fell over the cliff and died,” said the man. “Then, in order to support my family, I had to plant herbs and vegetables. The plants took a while to grow, and so I started cutting down trees to sell the wood. Then, of course, I had to buy saplings to replace the trees. When I was buying the saplings, I thought about my children’s clothes, and it occurred to me that I could perhaps try growing my own cotton. I had a difficult first year, but by the time harvest came around, I was already selling vegetables, cotton and aromatic herbs. I had never realised how much potential the farm had. That cow dying was a bit of luck really!”

We have been led to toe the line that reassures us that for as long as we have an assured salary per month, nothing else beats that. This has even made many not look beyond the horizon. I keep coming across the “get me a job” mentality that is rife in society. Not that it is bad but it serves a purpose for a limited time and thereafter it is prudent upon someone to widen their prospects.

Today I speak to you that has notched ten years plus as a celebrated corporate. Dig into yourself and compare yourself to that “poor family” that relied on a cow to live a wretched life. What do we learn from the story?

The family was content with poverty because it was comfortable with the status-quo that gave it certainty. You may be in your own form of poverty (not necessarily financial) and have never woken up to the fact that there is alot more in you. Maybe you have failed to tap into numerous skillsets that lie latent currently. Probably you have failed to tap into networks at your disposal, and much more.

The philosopher came across them with his disciple and within a flash, assessed the family’s problem. The Mindset. I bet people have walked into your life, spoken a few words and left you flabbergasted and at times confused as to whether you are capable of toeing the line they have proposed. Ask yourself deeply, “What is my mindset?”

I was once shocked to listen in to a conversation a friend of mine running a recruitment firm and heard him speak to a prospective client that had once worked for a leading Government parastatal where she earned not less than UGX 80 Million monthly in salary and benefits for nearly ten years only to leave after so much intrigue. She sounded desperate for a new job. Did she need a philosopher in her life?

The poor family woke up one morning only to find that their prized possession that kept them alive thus far had died. Like COVID-19, you were taken by surprise when your employer begun reviewing the payroll, employee structure among other moves aimed at scaling down. You probably lost your job and are stunned like a puzzled sheep or your perks have grossly been reduced and are finding it hard to even survive. You ask yourself, where will School Fees come from? How will you afford to pay that hefty rent? How will you pay the Golf membership and maintain the routine of members? How shall you pay up that bank loan you got to buy a car/land/house?

Like this poor family, you probably think it is the end of the road. I am here to tell you that it is the beginning of the road instead. The poor family quickly begun making the requisite adjustments. There was a conversion of profession from animal rearing to crop growing as well as lumbering. This definitely required re-skilling, something that is hard for adults to do usually but when s**t hits the fan, you ought to do what you ought to do.

We all have Cows that need to be thrown off the cliff if we are to achieve those dreams we harboured right from our youthful days. The start is hard and like the poor father stated that he had a hard time in the first year, you too should not expect everything to flow smoothly. There is going to be a moment of walking on thorns but when the harvest starts rolling in, you’ll be all smiles. Remember, there is no sweet without sweat.

This reminds me of a flamboyant marketeer that once worked with one of Uganda’s leading Telecom companies (Every Where You Go) close to eighteen years ago. This then young man was the perfect embodiment of his company’s brand. He was always the subject of the only available gossip column then in the New Vision called ‘Have You Heard.’ He was every babe’s dream guy simply because he had the money to flaunt around, a big company guzzler to drive anytime he wanted to and the assurance of a salary many could only dream of. One day, he went on leave and in his absence, quite some dirt was uncovered of his underhand dealings. Upon returning to office for work, he was gently requested to hand over all company property in his possession and just like that, he fell from Grace to Grass. Walking out of his employer’s air conditioned building, he looked for the next boda boda (motor bike) to take him back to his upscale rented residence. Out of the blue, he fizzled into obscurity, never to be heard of again.

This marketeer’s story is one of a cow being thrown over the cliff but it’s ending is full of uncertainties. The difference between him and the poor family is that this then young man probably never had as much thirst and desire to survive and overcome his predicament when compared to the poor family. However, maybe he has re-invented himself after these nearly two decades, if he is still alive.

You might be in a similar situation, COVID-19 has messed you up big time, on the other hand, you’ve wanted to make that move, you know too well that the job you are doing only enables you slide through life with a smile but deep inside your heart, you would rather be elsewhere.

Don’t deny yourself and your heart’s desires because you are definitely going to regret in future not having taken the step at the time when it mattered most.

As one of the soft drink companies says, You Only Live Once (YOLO). The scare of not being able to meet your bills might over weigh your desire to pursue your first love but am here to encourage you and tell you that COVID-19 is giving you a good opportunity to BITE THAT BULLET. The challenges you are likely to face are part of your future story since you can’t have a testimony without a test. Everything is being redefined from the way we do business to the way we solve problems.

I know that for you to read this far, you have definitely considered throwing the cow over the cliff before but backed out. This is your time, this is your day this is your season. Discover your unlimited potential, THROW THAT COW OVER THE CLIFF !!!!!

Wire James
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