Life’s work

Life’s Work: 1 on 1 with Joseph Mutumba, a life changer

Joseph empowers others through teaching. He transforms lives. He took time off his busy schedule to share his life’s work with us. Teaching is one of the noble professions I know of. It is a calling of helping people find their true north – to self-discovery. Teachers are always on the lookout for the small light in people and make it shine – always helping others to excel.

Life’s work insights like this provide practical career guidance. They are actual stories of one’s life choices and lessons learned. Many people fear to write their stories because of the lack of transparency in their success. Join me to give a vote of thanks to Joseph for sharing with us the following insights.

Mustapha B Mugisa (MBM): Briefly, tell us about yourself?

Joseph Mutumba (JM): I came across a beautiful message that made me make a fresh reflection about life’s work. Many scriptural quotations refer to our life’s work e.g. Colossians 3:23-24; Proverbs 12:11, 13:4, 14:23, 16:3; Ephesians 4:28; etc. I particularly liked the one from Col. 3: “Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as done for the Lord and not for human beings, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving”. In the said reflection, I realized that our entire life is or at least should be one piece of work, even though it may entail many or different occupations, jobs, tasks, and sub-tasks. It should be a work that seeks to serve God who is in all people and things, everywhere, every time.

I am a visual artist and teacher of the same subject area.

I facilitate students to acquire art and design skills; something I have been doing since 1996, just after one year from my undergraduate course at Margaret Trowell School of Industrial Fine Art – Makerere University.

I majored in painting and minored in graphic design. After almost 13 years of teaching, I did my Postgraduate Diploma in Education, then undertook development studies at the master’s level from Uganda Martyrs University. I worked with a community project-based school with Youth Alive as a youth formator/trainer (1996 – 1998), then with Kamwokya Christian Caring Community (1999 – 2012). From 2009 I joined St. Joseph’s Girls S. S. S. Nsambya, one of the leading girls’ schools in the country.

I grew up in a humble home, spending most of my early childhood years in Lourdel Village of Nakasero II. We were 11 siblings, six of whom went to be with the Lord Jesus, and I am the eldest. I went to Shimoni Demonstration Primary School (original campus), then to Sts. Joseph’s and Gabriel’s Junior Seminary Nswanjere, St. Joseph’s Seminary Nnyenga, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, then to tertiary institutions as aforementioned herein.

In school, the games I played included: volleyball, basketball, table tennis, and chess as well as long-distance running in high school. I was not among the top brass in the school teams, save for the long-distance running, where I was among the top 10 in the school at the time.  Regarding winning or losing, I learned that meaningful participation is foundational. This is so, because without it one may not talk about losing, let alone winning! However, personal resilience is paramount, especially if one is to up the game beyond participation to go to the level of winning.

 

I remember in Higher Secondary College (HSC) or Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE), two colleagues of mine were such encouragers; and at times I would go running our 10 km stretch not because I felt like doing so, but because they encouraged me to go. In life, we all need such people – who tell you what to do even when you may not want to hear it at that time.

MBM: In your profession, how much of your success is attributed to good parenting Vs luck?

JM: I attribute 80% and above of success in my professional work to parenting. Luck is a void unless one takes advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to him/her along life’s journey.

John Maxwell presents this very idea by contending that one creates one’s luck. It is in the home setting where I learned the value of work, honesty, respect, and many other values. This parenting was not and should not be about any rocket science but doing the very basic things like giving time – being there!

MBM: What top two skills would you say one must master to succeed and why?

JM: Self-management and communication. I link or tag all the other requisite skills to the former; for instance, physical and spiritual discipline, creativity, open-mindedness, integrity, and many more.

It is self-management that will help one to take complete charge and responsibility for all one’s life affairs.

The latter drives or brings about the success of whichever project one undertakes, whether at an individual or corporate level.

MBM: As a leader, how do you identify and prepare a successor?

JM: Looking out for a person with the right attitude, potential, and capacity to move things are important, among other aspects. Part of the initial preparatory steps includes giving this person some special tasks or projects to undertake. At the ripe time, conscious coaching may be undertaken. As a teacher, I have noted that when students come to school, some take initiatives to research and read on their own. Others wait for the teacher to tell them what to do. As a leader, my focus is on empowering others by giving them tasks, showing them where to find more resources, and when someone is ready, you see it. They begin doing work better that you would have expected. Such surprises are what make us as teachers love what we do. Always looking for those special people who do not believe in the ceiling.

MBM: If you are to share one life’s lesson: what would it be? Why?

JM: One life’s lesson is ‘Never give up’.

Following my interest in music, I was given corporal punishment in both of the primary schools I attended for attempting to play the piano in one, and the harmonium (pump organ) in another.

In O-Level, I was able to learn from the seniors in the school and that was exciting. After secondary school, the youth group or band I was playing with (The Blood Brothers) took about 3 years to begin getting an establishment at the time.

In one gig, at Nile Grill then, the audience shouted at us to get off stage due to the very poor sound of the equipment we were using. Later on, this very audience sought for us! Then, at the time I needed to learn how to play chord music on keyboard/piano, I took between six (6) months to a year before I meaningfully embarked on that task.

Within that time, I had to persistently see my trainer (Mr. David Ssebulime, a seasoned Ugandan Jazz musician) once a week until the instrument we had to use was returned to his home. During all these visits he would talk to me and share different stories and musical analyses. One day he took pity on me and said, “You man you have walked, I have seen that you have what it takes to learn”.

He eventually introduced me to what I yearned to learn when he got his instrument. God used my keyboard playing skills to open doors to my workplaces, beginning with Youth Alive in 1996, without prior applications and interviews.

MBM: What is your biggest fear and why?

JM: There is a big challenge regarding values today, moving from the personal, corporate to the national, and even international levels. The picture in this regard is flipped or upside down – where it has become common to hail wrong practices as good and vice versa. I think we may need the same time as it has taken to undo this flipped situation at the various levels.

MBM: With hindsight, what would you advise young people about money, marriage, power, sex, and religion?

JM: There is a common adage which says, ‘Money is important but it is not everything’. Many young people are supported by their parents regarding their financial needs. But the behaviors and attitudes about money and what is most needed in a given situation should always be brought in perspective; because sometimes it is misused even when the provider(s) could have been well-intentioned. It is commendable to learn to save and invest when it is still early.

Marriage is an institution that is a lifelong covenant between a man and woman and is society’s cell that brings up people in all the other vocations of life. The keywords here are: ‘covenant’, ‘man’, and ‘woman’.

The power of young people is surely recognizable and many older people and systems could easily tap into it for both positive and negative objectives or intentions. However, this power should be directed and used in a way that initiates change and behavior that promotes life and development – be it in education, leadership, politics, economic activities, etc.

Regarding sex, there are very many voices and debates that continue to bombard young people’s minds. The best thing is to stick to the foundations: that sex is a gift from God which is a preserve of a marital relationship.  To cultivate integrity, it is important to be chaste because we are all temples of the Holy Spirit.

Concerning religion, there several religious fronts to young people. I would like to zero down these to have a meaningful and personal relationship with God. This is vital to bring all the other aspects of one’s life to order. Surely, without God, we can do, but NOTHING.

MBM: Who is your role model and why?

JM: Bishop Christopher Kakooza. He was my teacher and Rector in O-Level. His simplicity ethos to life was and still is inspirational. He also taught and encouraged me to develop my musicianship at the time – a co-curricular activity that shaped my relationships.

MBM: What do you love most about your life?

JM: Knowing that there is God who loves and cares in all things – faith and hope.

MBM: What do you hate most about your life?

JM: The times I have humanly fallen short of God’s expectations. Since our God is ever forgiving, I always seek for penitence. It is an ongoing test of life.

 MBM: If you are to advise young people about career, what would you tell them?

JM: Career spans one’s life and it therefore evolves. The best thing is to do what one enjoys and can do it well. Sometimes, especially here in Uganda, young people are increasingly being circumstantially pushed into careers by their parents; something that jeopardizes their livelihood prospects.

MBM: How would you advise someone about how to overcome worry, failure, or fear?

JM: Different anxieties may cause one to worry, or failure may trigger worries or fears. In all this, one has to have a mindset to deal with the situation at hand and then treat oneself kindly. However, as I may have alluded earlier, the springboard is faith and hope. Generally, all life’s failures, worries, and fears have been experienced by someone else who in turn overcame. It is these lessons that we should draw our lessons from too, be it in scripture, family, school, workplaces, or communities.

MBM: Any other lesson or message?

JM: Here on earth, we only see, love, and serve God through the people around us in the various walks of life. So, if we want to be treated fairly, we should then treat others fairly. And there is a limit to the amount of money or wealth one can accumulate. The best thing is to be comfortable with what you have as long as you achieve it through the right means, it will be enough.

Thank you!

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