Give yourself a chance to make mistakes

  • PublishedJuly 8, 2011

Not long ago I lived in Southern Africa for a couple of years and had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people. The most memorable was Ngoni Bopoto, a fellow from Zimbabwe. Ngoni was a Shamwari – meaning friend in Shona, one of the languages spoken in Zimbabwe. He was indeed a good man and we still keep in touch, thanks mostly to his efforts. He now lives in Namibia with his beautiful wife and son. I recently remembered some of our youthful misadventures when I bumped into a girl who I knew but whose name I couldn’t recall. This, however, did not fluster me because I went into ‘Ngonimode’ and quickly thought what he would have done in the same situation. Ngoni was once caught in a similar situation when we were together and he was ingenious in his actions. While heading back to campus in a taxi one day, an ‘angel’ in the form of a beautiful young lady hailed our taxi and the driver stopped to allow her in. Ngoni was beside himself with excitement because he recognised the ‘angel’. She worked as an airhostess and had once helped him out at the airport. Typical of Ngoni, he turned on his charm and they began a conversation.

Unlike many rude blokes I know, Ngoni was polite but cocky and sure of himself and his ability to persuade. So on this particular occasion, he pretended to be too excited to even introduce me to the ‘angel’ and so he persuaded me to introduce myself. He said, “Matt, introduce yourself man, ask the lady her name or something…” At this point I happily thought to myself that the chance to get a go at her had presented itself so I gathered courage, introduced myself and so also got her name. Then suddenly and without warning, Ngoni took over our developing conversation and I was left hanging, tongue-tied and wondering why he did that.

On reaching her destination, Ngoni pulled another cunning act and told her, “no my dear I’ll get the fare – bye, ” and the usual ‘call me’ or ‘I’ll call you’ line followed. She gave an infectious smile that everyone, including the taxi driver got cold chills on their spine. It’s a good thing we were seated.

I eventually figured out why he had persuaded me to introduce myself to the ‘angel’. As it turned out, good old Ngoni had forgotten her name. And apart from getting the name for him, I also ended up paying fare for the girl, as Ngoni had no money in him. But that was the kind of fellow he was back then – a wily old fox. So, following in Ngoni’s actions, I put the fellow I was with in the same situation I was under those many years ago, when I met this girl whose name I could not recall. And it worked like magic. I thanked Ngoni for having taught me this cunning but brilliant tactic.

Ngoni’s Achilles heel was his love for beer. Every good man has one. The only one time he got into a relationship that lasted more than a week was because this girl, totally smitten, would actually lock him up in the house to ensure that he did not get any booze. It did not work for long though because he had loyal drinking pals who would pass him a bottle or two through the window. His girlfriend eventually got tired of this habit and they broke up. The point was Ngoni was much appreciated by the girls despite his antics because of his resourcefulness. He was simply like a magician, able to turn any situation into a memorable moment.

We are now in 2010 and his drinking days – at least the irresponsible drinking – are behind him and he is now a family man. I learned many lessons from my friend Ngoni. One of the most important was that there is a time for everything – times when we act immaturely and irresponsible. But with time we mature, get more exposed and become more responsible. Ngoni taught me that people must give themselves the chance to make mistakes, as this is how they learn.

So fellows do not give up on yourself no matter how many mistakes you make. Ladies, do not give up on him either. When he acts up, just remind him that if he has a brain to tell you one or two wonderful things then he has capacity to think what is good and bad for the relationship.

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