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When You Are Stuck

Every decade in a man’s life records a significant, often life changing event. Few men are prepared to the surprises that life springs at them.

It can be the birth of your child in your 20s, a divorce in your 30s and a death in your 40s or a confirmation of a lifestyle disease. It doesn’t always follow this pattern.

Another constant feature in most men’s life is best captured in Newton’s First Law of Motion: if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by an external force.

I am keen on the resting bit of the Law:

At some point in a man’s life, you will be stranded. You will be stationary for a considerable amount of time. Sometimes it recurs periodically.

It happens when you lose your job and you are stuck at home, sometimes with no income. There are several men caught in this phase presently with this Covid-19 madness. It happens when your business collapses. It happens when there is a huge setback, like a heartbreak, or a divorce. Sometimes it is disease.

It is a period of great anxiety. The future is at best uncertain, and at worst super bleak. It can last from several months to several years. A friend recently commented in one of my posts that he lost his job in 2007, and it wasn’t up to 2014, he got his next better job and in between he had to scrape through.

Often it is a period of transition. And transitions are painful.

The period makes men very vulnerable. Men like a predictable lifestyle. When faced with an uncertain future, they are predisposed to make bad judgements. The bad judgements come from the pressure of the family, the wife, or the personal unmet expectations. What most men stuck in a transition soon realise, every decision or move they make invariably yields horrible results. Partly because, the moves are motivated by fear. And man, fear and hope are horrible strategies.

A few years back, a friend was stuck in this phase. He had been sacked because of some fraudulent activity at their bank. He took his small savings and bought a second-hand matatu. He got all the necessary certification for the matatu and hoped that it can keep him going. Only to realise that weekly, the cops made more from the matatu, and constantly, he had to report to Nairobi Area Traffic and part with a few thousands. The conductor and the driver were untrustworthy too. Soon he realised he was actually maintaining the matatu on the road out of pocket. He sold the matatu for a loss.

He opened a Wines & Spirits and could not believe the amount of paperwork needed and the various licensing fees to open a kiosk where one sells cheap gins and vodkas. Soon he realised cops have to collect tax daily, but even worse, he woke a month after he had spent a fortune to soup up the kiosk to find the Kanjo had swept the makeshift containers away, along with the stock. He was crushed.

As I said, when it is a transition, every move you make, seems to make things worse. It is like some spiritual warfare is going on in your world.

It is a period you will be misunderstood, doubted by family and friends, deserted by some, and gossiped a lot and it will hurt a lot. It is also a period of regrets. Of so many ‘what ifs’. It is a period that needs the support of friends, family and an understanding spouse, if you are married. The men who get support during this period, get out of it, better and stronger.

I saw a Tweet where some woman said,

“Most women don’t have a problem with a broke man… they have a problem with men who are comfortable being broke…”

And a gentleman replied to her, “no man is comfortable being broke, only that sometimes it takes longer to get out of the rut, and few women have the patience for that…”

Very true.

The same applies with family and friends.

When you are in a state of inertia, as the law states, for you to move, there is a need for an external force. If the external force is negative (being pressured by those close to you to take a wrong job or start a bad business, or to move out of the country prematurely can be counterproductive.)

Sometimes the best way around this period is doing nothing at all. Sit it out as you weigh your options. Seek divine guidance if you are a believer.

The other alternative is to quit or give up on bad projects, like my friend who tried matatu business and the liquor store. Sometimes, don’t go with the sunken cost fallacy: where you want to carry on with the project of the previously invested resources (money, time and effort). Quit.

Inertia can also happen to guys who are doing well. You may be having a job but stuck in some rank with no promotion or salary increment. Sometimes you maybe having a good job and all, but you have a general dissatisfaction with it. You are not fulfilled. You loathe the job. Sometimes, it is the marriage. You may become fatigued of your wife and even children. Suddenly, you are moody, withdrawn and you may even be violent towards your spouse.

At this level, you need wisdom to navigate the muddy patch where you are stuck. It is this time some men take the second wife, or some slay queen hoping to solve their boredom at home. It rarely cuts. It is this time that you hear some guy has quit some managerial job to set up a construction business, only to regret six months later, when it hits them, Jubilee has messed the economy and nobody is immune.

So, what do you do when you are stuck without a job, or without a promotion, or bored with your marriage?

First, don’t do anything that can make a bad situation worse. If laid off, don’t squander your savings out of panic, trying to set up a business. Setting up a retail business in Kenya is very expensive. By the time you are done paying for the licenses, painting the premises, you will be drained. The amount of goodwill being asked out here is crazy. If you have a job, don’t quit until you have a new one. If you are tired with your wife and children, don’t think a mistress or a second wife may make you happier. Maybe, find other meaningful distractions to keep some distance from your wife and kids and work on how to rekindle your affection.

Secondly, sit it out. I can’t overemphasize this point. Sitting out is not inaction. You chill and monitor the situation as you wait to cash in on opportunities that will pay off. You can apply for jobs, find other things to do, to put food on the table, but avoid foolish, impulsive moves motivated by panic and fear. Understand it may take a while. Communicate to those who care about you about your situation, so as to get their support or understanding.

Thirdly, stay sober. Don’t get into alcohol or drugs. When stuck, you can be idle and desperate, a very toxic combination for anyone. This is the stage some men let go off themselves. Don’t. Use the period for self-improve. Read good books. Watch good movies. Travel if you can afford. Try your hobbies. Stay on course. Actively, look for solutions for your present predicament.

Fourth, even when you are sitting it out, smell for opportunities and be proactive. This when you decide to switch careers, move out of the country, move out of a big city etc. But do so, when you are certain.

Whatever you do, just have a sense of awareness of what is going on. And whatever move you make, make sure, it is driven by a positive external force. Only that can push you in the right direction. If you act out of fear, peer pressure, or your own impulses, you may find yourself being conned or wasting money in projects that will not take off.

So, as we begin the second quarter of the year, reflect on where you are. If presently stuck, relax, and be smart about your choices. You can make risks, from time to time, but let them be calculated. Understand as a man, you have to go through these periodic episodes of being stationary. Search for the right push out of that rut. It makes a huuge difference.

Happy New Months Folks and Happy Easter to the Christians who celebrate the holiday.

Take care Kings.


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