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Key survival skills every city dweller should learn


Nairobi is a fast city where good and bad people rub shoulders on a daily basis. In a bid to survive, many people have devised tactics that even the smartest detective cannot crack easily.

One time I had a neighbor whom we knew as a policeman because he was always in a jungle uniform. His son had told everyone in the flat a gun he kept a gun under the sofa. But this policeman rarely went to work save for the few night shifts he had, making us believe that he was a senior policeman. However, when our landlord decided to check with the nearest barracks, he found that the guy was a big thug and thus evicted him. In retaliation, he brought his gang that night to rob us but were spotted in good time by police on patrol who managed to avert the planned break-in that night.

There are many people who live like that in the city, but there are also innocent hardworking Kenyans who wake up early to go build the nation. Others burn the midnight oil trying to build a future for themselves and their families. Sadly, some never manage to cross the poverty line and live to struggle another day.

The trick is not in securing the best position in the best organization. It is not even in taking evening classes in order to earn the highest in your organization. Even the rich cry, or so they say. But to survive in the city, you need special skills. Here are a few:

  1. Stay updated. Information is power, and you cannot afford to stay in the dark in the city. Everything you need to know is always communicated to you in good time. Scheduled power cuts, water cuts, traffic disruptions among others are always announced in good time. You also get to identify opportunities and technologies you can tap into and make your work easier. Consider the special skills you have – you can sell them for a fortune. All you need to know is where, how and when to sell them. Everybody possesses something special that can create them wealth, but information asymmetry ensures only a few benefit.
  2. Learn how to manage your finances. There are people who earn KES 10,000 but manage to feed their families well and keep their children in school. These people are also in various chamas where they are saving for various investments. Today it is not hard to find a barber or mama mboga with a fleet of matatus or rental apartments while the middle class is busy drinking as if there is no tomorrow. There are people who earn a six figure salary but never cease to apply for salary advance every 15th day of the month. They say the more you earn, the more the expenses. Learn to keep your costs low in order to avoid liquidity issues during the month as well as boost your net worth.
  3. Have various streams of income. Do not fully depend on your salary if you are employed. And if you’re in business, try several ideas.  I have seen some people literary go mad after they were sacked by their bosses, and other business people who are always broke. Once you secure a job, you need to start developing an exit plan right away! Do not spend all your money. At all times, ensure that you can sustain your current lifestyle for about a year if you left work today. Always ensure that you can survive outside formal employment.
  4. Learn continuously. Growing stops when you stop learning. You should strive to learn something new every day. In this era of information, it is possible to master various disciplines and become an expert in many fields. Sign up for free online courses to develop your skills – not for your employer, but for yourself. Employment will never be self-fulfilling, as there will come a time when you will no longer be productive and have to leave employment. What will you fall back to? Prepare for retirement while you still have the energy. Only do what makes you happy, but do not abandon your dreams in order to build another person’s dreams. Keep dreaming, and pursue your passions.

Finally, you need to be streetwise in order to survive in Nairobi city. Learn how to spot a liar, fraudster, conman, pickpocket, thug, mugger as well as true friends.

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Linguistics graduate and seasoned online journalist, researcher, content manager and SEO analyst.



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