Meet the sharp, amiable and intelligent lady, Lian Kariuki.Wachira John
I had the privilege of meeting this lady not so long ago. In our first meetings, I had already decided that I was going to interview her. I found her deeply knowledgeable and wise. The scope of what she knows cannot possibly be contained in one interview session. I am honored just the same that I got the chance to speak with her on a few issues. She’s traveled, met with people; I mean the kind of people you don’t brush shoulders with every other day but today guys, you get to meet her and explore some of her ideologies. Please meet, Lian Kariuki.
Who is Lian?
For the longest time, I found it very hard to express who I am and what I define as myself until I became more spiritual. I confidently believe my spirituality is the reason why I’ve been able to establish what I have today. So what I’d say about myself is that I strive to be peaceful, kind, caring and live a life of purpose. I wouldn’t feel that this is the person I am if I hadn’t been as spiritual as I am.
What exactly do you mean when you say spiritual?
When I say spiritual, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am religious; being religious means that you could be Muslim, Christian etc. I believe there is something positive in every religion. It’s whatever relates to you the best, that’s why I do not stigmatize people who are in different religions. If it works for you, great! However, I do spiritual practices such as meditation and praying to God. I grew up Christian, I still go to church but I consider myself spiritual. I read about other religions and have realized that all of us have a purpose and crave peace. That is huge for me because it has helped me relate to people differently.
Talking about purpose, how do you find that out?
Good question. Purpose is about realizing what you want to do and what you are here for. The thing with purpose though is it usually sounds like you have to be Albert Einstein. Sometimes, you could just be a great housewife and raise these amazing kids and if that makes you happy and content, I think that you are living a life of purpose.
You are not going to know from the get-go what your purpose is. Obama in his younger age probably did not know that one day he would be president. I think purpose is a life journey. Every single day is a new learning experience, needing God and living the moment.
I think a life of purpose is one where you enjoy what you do, whatever that could be; doing it because it comes from the heart. Often when you find yourself in that situation, you hardly need a vacation because you don’t view it as work. Of course, challenges are present; and they’re there to make you stronger and there’s always a solution. Realizing what you’re here to do is an amazing thing that could come in varied times for different people. The bottom line is it happens at God’s time which is why you need to be patient.
How do you manage your day/set goals?
I envision what I want. I believe in visualizing, for instance, if I wanted a job in New York City, I visualize myself getting that job and I think about how I’d feel when I have it. I own those feelings and tell myself that that will happen. The same principle applies to other areas in my life; personal and health goals. I then figure out what I need to do to get what I’ve already visualized. The first thing I do is set a time limit and then figure out who I need to meet up with or what resources I need to get there and those become my goals.
Tell me about the organization you founded; Adopted Dreams.
After I completed high school, encountered a few challenges. I was a teenager back then and my mindset wasn’t right, I was unhappy with myself and really wanted to find out what I am meant to do. Then I met this gentleman who introduced me to Raja Yoga and I started reading books like The monk who sold his Ferrari which talked about living a life of purpose but I didn’t know what that was at the time. However, I could remember back when I was in high school, I served on the human rights committee at the East African Model United Nations where I kept hearing about tragedies and atrocities that happened to people. I immediately got engulfed in it and wanted to solve these issues. I found out that I loved doing that.
I liked the policy side of it and decided to try that at the grassroots levels. So I worked with a rehab center in Ngara and I got my church to go and give in kind. It was such a huge turnout and that was one of my proudest moments. The joy I saw on the girls’ faces was remarkable. I then realized that giving money and food is short term and not sustainable. So I thought I should start a project that’s long term and I did it. That’s how Adopted Dreams organization came to be. So I worked in slums to enhance youth entrepreneurship skills and women’s empowerment. Next thing I know is I’m recognized by Oxfam for my work and One young world as a youth ambassador and traveled to Europe and Asia. I wasn’t doing it for recognition. Through my work experience, I realized, if you uplift somebody else’s life, yours is uplifted as well. Maybe even twice as much. Helping people is extraordinary and definitely, makes me feel fulfilled.
And that’s how you got the opportunity to study abroad…
Yes. I also got the chance to work for The Nature conservancy, UNICEF USA as a National Council Member and the Clinton Foundation. I later came back to Kenya; worked with different international projects as well as A World at school youth ambassador.
What have you learned about leadership and running an organization?
Communication is very important. Try figure out where everyone stands. Don’t be embarrassed or shy about pushing; what I mean is if there’s something you want to achieve, do whatever is necessary to achieve it. Being shy won’t take you to the next level. Just don’t upset people or do things that are unethical. It takes focus and consistency to achieve anything. For every single day, plan out what needs to be done and work towards it.
What’s your definition of a leader?
You know, a lot of people think that a leader is someone who’s outspoken and confident. There are leaders who are not confident but are leaders in their own fields. Einstein, for instance, wasn’t the most charismatic person but he was a leader in his field. Zuckerberg isn’t the most outspoken person but a leader in his field. Being a leader is about taking up what you know and knowing it well.
How do you handle negative people?
You cannot change anyone but yourself, right? I decided that I will not give in to negativity. Being negative as well does not help. So I tend to keep my distance from negative people but when I do encounter them, which is inevitable, I try to be positive and look at them from a place of understanding. You don’t know what the reason for their current state is. So I focus more on myself to be positive and understanding.
Who are your role models?
Wow, I have so many; I love Wangari Mathai. She’s an excellent example of a woman leader in Africa. I can confidently say she lived out her life’s purpose and a fulfilled great life. She went out and fought for what she loved. My other role model would be Michelle Obama, I think she’s amazing, she’s been able to overcome adversity and standardization of the industry and I really admire her relationship with her husband and her motherhood. President Kagame, who I met, I like his strength as an African leader. A lot of people would not agree with me but I like the fact that he’s very humble and he’s firm in standing his ground. I could go on and on, but those are my closest ones. There a lot of phenomenal people out there.
In your travels and interactions with people in other continents, what did you find out was different between them and us Africans?
I honestly think the biggest problem Africans have is their mindset. That’s the difference. If we had a different mindset, we’d be so far today. We have a lot of individuality, there’s no unity. Their work ethic is also different from ours. South Korea and Kenya were once in the same place. If you would stop blaming other people all the time and take responsibility for your dreams and what you want, you’d go so far. We don’t appreciate what we are and what we have. If we could stop looking and seeing that the western world is better, and it’s not, we’d be further ahead. If you love yourself, other people will love you as well. If we Africans decided to embrace what we have, then everybody else would love us.
So we are essentially the same save for the mindset?
Exactly the same.
What do you think needs to be done to change the mindset?
That’s a million dollar question. I think there needs to be awareness. People need to know their mindset is wrong. Maybe the reason people are like that is because they don’t know what’s better. The reason, for example, an expatriate has money is because he/she worked hard and hustled for that job. They’re just people who went out of their way to get a job that pays that much. Instead of dismissing people as those are ‘mzungu’s’, or that one’s rich, the attitude I think we ought to have is if you encounter people who are doing better than you or are in a position you want to be in, sit them down and find out what they did to get where they are.
I think the work ethic in America is enhanced by the hourly wage. The more you work, the more you earn and you have to be efficient at it, if you don’t do well, the next person could take your place. In Kenya, it doesn’t matter whether you work 10 or 8 hours, you get the same salary. The result of the hourly wage is that majority of Americans become work driven.
I also think exposure is very important. Americans have so many opportunities around them. We should be responsible for exposing ourselves to other people and environments; that’s why traveling is important. You see and experience more. I think it should be a requirement for kids here to travel, even if it’s just locally. Let them see factories. Sometimes kids say they want to be a doctor, and that’s fine. But maybe the reason they say that is because that’s all they’ve been exposed to.
What’s your process for learning something new?
I pay close attention; I ask a lot of questions. I do that because that’s how I know I’ve gotten that material. When I ask, I remember what I asked. I write it down, practice and revise.
Top 3 books you’d recommend to anyone.
The Monk who sold his Ferrari
The power of now
Biography books of people who you look up to.
What do you wish was on your resume that’s not there at the moment?
I’d love to have a longer work experience. Sometime in my life, I want not to have a resume to get somewhere so I want to run my own initiative. I would want to be a UN advisor, Under Secretary General or Cabinet Secretary in Kenya.
I’m noticing your plans; ambitions and personality revolve around helping people…
Yeah. I think that’s my calling, but helping them in a smart way. What makes me sad is at times you really want to help someone but they look at you like an opportunity. For example, some people would want to know how much they can make out of you or find situations to ask money from you. I would rather somebody who’d ask me to help them get a certain position, plan something or make money for themselves over the long term. I’m not saying it’s bad to ask for money. Thing is, you chase away people who have the right intentions by trying to exploit them.
What trait do you have that other people think is weird?
(Laughing) I think I’m weird. Umm, my laugh. I think I have a ridiculous laugh. I usually say that I’m going to get married to the man that falls in love with my laugh.
Live the life you want. It’s your blank paper; you decide what you want on it, no one else, just you.
If you have a person in mind you feel/think I should profile, please drop me a message via the contact form or on social media so that we all learn why they are successful.