When I was young and ready to take any wisdom that would enable me make it in life, I heard this often-repeated line – ‘land is not sold or bought from the kitchen’. To the uninitiated, this is simply a way of telling a man that he cannot acquire wealth if he keeps to his house without frequenting places where owners of property congregate. In other words, men! It tells you that if you don’t go to where men are, you will be left out when deals are being cut. And there is some truth to that.

But more directly, this is a call to men to frequent bars. With the justification that you can’t buy land by cuddling with your wife all evening 24/7, but through sharing a drink with fellow men who will tell you where and who is selling land, it is easy to “put sense” into any young man’s head to make him look for bars in his neighbourhood.

And so in my younger days, I frequented bars to spend time with other men itching to get wealthy. True to what I had heard, the topics discussed ranged from land to savings, real estate, deals at the stock exchange and many other wealth creating ideas. I always went home feeling like I had found the secret to wealth creation… this of course wasn’t hard after the fourth beer.

The next day after work would see me back in the same bar to continue receiving the wisdom that I and other young men so much needed. All we were supposed to do was buy a few rounds.  And what is a bill of Ksh 640 spent on alcohol compared to the wisdom one received? But it was during one of those evenings (more of night) that a man I had bought a few rounds told me something that would later change me forever.

“Maina,” he said, his drunken eyes piercing into mine, “njohi ndiakaga (alcohol does not build).” I could have dismissed the man as one who had had one too many but could not ignore his message. This drunk could have a point, I thought on reflection. Alcohol does not build! Before I could air my point of view, the man continued: “We are just spending money that will only end up as urine. It is not like buying iron sheets or paying school fees. If you count the money you spend on alcohol each month and then imagine what you could do with that kind of amount, my friend you would slide into depression.”

I wanted to tell him that it was a small price to pay for all the bar ‘wisdom’ but he won’t let me say anything. He continued with his lecture: “Alcohol wrecks families… Some people go straight to the bar from the office without caring if the wife and children are well. Some don’t see their children for days on end because they are asleep when they get home and still asleep when they leave for the office…” Then he stopped talking and continued sipping his beer totally ignoring me. I thought alcohol had taken the better of him.

I ignored the man’s ‘words of wisdom’ and continued visiting the bar, of course still splashing money, until I met the same man long after at a function when he was completely sober. He came to me with the same advice: “Reke ngwiire Maina, njohi ndiakaga (Let me tell you Maina, alcohol does not build)!” I didn’t go to the bar that evening but instead went home and reflected on the words of this middle-aged man. I slept thinking about him – why did he still drink if he was aware that alcohol is destructive?

As I was having breakfast the following morning, I did the math. My average intake was four to five beers during each bar visit and I would buy a similar amount for my drinking buddies. It was then that I realised how much money I had been wasting, money that could have put into good use. It dawned on me that I was poorer because of my frequent visits to the bar, ostensibly to gain knowledge. Add to this the sleepless nights my wife went through waiting and worrying about me.

And so I decided to try a month without alcohol. Not only did I have some change in my pocket at end month, but had also not borrowed soft loans from friends and colleagues to “push the month.” But more rewarding was the quality time I spent with my wife and children. For the first time, I supervised my daughter’s homework. The rewards were too many for me to go back – I said goodbye to bar visits.

A few months later, I was able to invest in a piece of land of course using the savings from bar life. And the longer I stayed out of the bars, the more savings I made and the more our investments grew. Our quality of life improved, we were a much happier family.

I recently met the man whose wisdom changed my life and was curious to know why he takes alcohol. “I only started taking alcohol after I had made my wealth and my children were all grown, finished with school, and independent. I can afford to take one or two bottles of beer but you, young people, begin drinking even before your first salary and you don’t know when to stop. I talked to you that night because I could tell you were a fine young man but headed in the wrong direction,” he told me.

He was happy when I told him that his words made me change my life and I stopped wasting my money in bars and now only have a drink when I go out with my wife. I also told him of the investments I had made with the savings from alcohol. He was so delighted but was not done with ‘lecturing’ me. “Go find some money and come I sell you a heifer as it is not good to keep the land you have bought idle!”

My brother, if you spend your time in the bar, go do the math. You will thank me for it, like I continue thanking this bar acquaintance who put sense into me.