Paul Kiage
Charting Paths


Charting Paths

Building Starts With And is Sustained By Believing

Building Starts With And is Sustained By Believing

Paul Kiage's photo
Paul Kiage
·Feb 22, 2022·

9 min read

Sitting in a contemporary open-air shorefront restaurant - with ambient sounds of pulsing electronic music, undulating waves washing up on the shore, the breezy wind blowing through the trees, and fits of laughter flourishing animated conversations - we envision electrifying futures. Progressive house music plays, and palm trees seem to sway to the rhythm with us. Looking into the distance, past the trees, we zone out, gazing into the horizon. The conversation continues. We're in the zone. It feels like together, we can achieve anything.

Driving on country roads, we're vibing to versatile vibrations. Propulsive polyrhythms propel us forward [1]. The journey continues, and the playlist transitions to polyphonic textures and cross-rhythmic percussions, creating an evocative environment eliciting riveting discussions [2]. The music's modulation and momentum feel akin to our journey. We sing along, identifying with and aspiring to timeless lyrics in a way that creates esprit de corps - based on our shared values and alignment in aspiring to advancement [3],[4].

While learning Entrepreneurial Leadership (EL) at the African Leadership College, Mauritius (ALC), I came across the concept of BUILD - "a unique curriculum framework for teaching youth entrepreneurship as a way of fighting unemployment and engaging youth to lead solutions to local problems " [5] - in the first unit of the first week. My appreciation of BUILD (Believe, Understand, Invent, Listen, Deliver), particularly the first step of "Believe", has increased nearly six years later.

I've learned that sustained belief encourages the self-efficacy, grit, and learning required to succeed. Moreover, the strength of belief can be amplified by community and self-transcendence.

We grow in and into positions of impact and influence to be the types of people that will lead ourselves and others to progress. A formative experience on this was using a performance-first rather than a learning-first approach.

I assumed that the best way forward was to demonstrate ability rather than grow into it. While the former approach can be stunting, the latter facilitates continuous growth - rather than emphasizing the current output; it focuses on the function and inputs to get the desired outcome. Furthermore, the former is rife with preconceptions of success and what it'll take to get there - this runs the risk of i) a timorous approach that overlooks resources one already has or ii) patronizingly plodding down the wrong path as a "know-it and have-it-all."

Believing i) "we can do this - we will win" and ii) "I can contribute to advancing this - to victory" enables kickoff. Sustaining belief sees things through.

Moments similar to those by the shore and on the road create sparks. The sparks need to be fanned into a consuming fire to create a consistency that spreads to inspire, or else it may expire.

High levels of belief at kickoff may result in biting off more than you can chew at the time; believing after kickoff prevents choking under pressure.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all, when there was doubt

I ate it up and spit it out

I faced it all, and I stood tall

And did it... - My Way

Belief encourages a bright, refreshing, flexible, dynamic, indefatigable, and adaptive mindset of "this is a great opportunity to learn and grow with others" - and being in the zone - rather than a stuck, sullen, suffocating, and overthinking mindset and approach.

This stance isn't antithetical to demonstrating competence and expertise - especially when the consequences of failure are too dire to accept failing [6]. It's an argument that preoccupation with one part of the equation curtails cognitive resources required for peak performance [7]. Setting goals emphasizing progression towards an objective and the growth gained getting there better prevents failure in outcome and process.[8] Moreover, focusing on learning and growth facilitates composure and implicit learning during training that manifests itself as equanimity and a higher likelihood of undisrupted performance during difficulties. [9],[10]

One of their questions was, "Weren't there times when everybody, or at least a few people, just panicked?" My answer was, "No, when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them." - Gene Kranz

Furthermore, this argument doesn't support unnecessarily making errors and repeating mistakes - the cost of such is at times too great to bear. The aviation industry has a quote that "regulations are written in blood" - we should avoid significant losses, especially preventable ones we should have learnt from.

When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore: it's a decision. - Paulo Coelho

Lessons are repeated until they are learned - and learned once applied. While it's best to learn from them the first time and when the stakes are low - it's better to try again and effectively learn from each trial rather than quitting prematurely, not putting in enough repetitions, and missing learning opportunities if appropriate given the risk profile, difficulty, and learning from each trial. [11]

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. - Thomas Edison

Learning from lessons and having sustained belief in eventual success results in eventual success by facilitating continuous improvement and preventing giving up.

Learning principles from lessons facilitate preventing mistakes and errors from happening again or the first time. The focus on learning encourages a collaboration, flexibility, and proactivity that prevents belief inflicting blame games, freezing from fear, and inappropriately punitive measures. [12],[13],[14],[15]

Believing is not about obstructive overconfidence stemming from unconscious incompetence - it's about deciding to grow into continuously higher performance. It's about having a belief that facilitates learning & development. [16]


Figure 1: Microsurgical Wisdom (technical adequacy – competency – proficiency – mastery): perceived versus objective ability demonstrated in modified microsurgical Dunning-Kruger (DK) Effect graphs [16]

The concept of growing into new levels implicitly argues for breaking down challenges into a staircase to climb - using lessons learned from climbing previous steps to climb upwards and onwards through deliberate practice [6], [16],[17].

Believing facilitates the ascent - agentic, intentional individuals get things done by believing that their actions can actualize their aspirations [18] - this belief unfetters cognitive resources, consequently nurturing a curiosity that voraciously seeks and grows from learning opportunities.

Belief infused with purpose propels us forward with courage and the conviction that we'll make progress in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. [19] Our ripples can create waves of change. Our seeds will bear fruit and create a shade

And to run where the brave dare not go


And I know

If I'll only be true

To this glorious quest

That my heart

Will lie peaceful and calm

When I'm laid to my rest


And the world will be better for this

Oh, that one man, scorned and covered with scars

Still strove with his last ounce of courage

To reach ... the unreachable star


Yeah, and I'll always dream

The impossible dream

Yes, and I'll reach

The unreachable star - The Impossible Dream


Community and reciprocity can be a surging source of strength supplementing personal belief and a mission. [20] However, it's important to remember the strength of community requires the strength of individuals - especially in the face and prevention of frenzy, trepidation, alarmism, and debilitating doubt. [21],[22].

Healthy community and reciprocity are not about codependency and excessive dependency but rather strong ties, collaboration, and synergy. The latter facilitates i) sharing information and demonstrating ability that increases belief on what's possible, ii) working with others that have recognized complementary ability further increases belief - knowing someone's covering your blind spots and weaknesses - and, iii) the resulting elevated performance increases belief even further. [23],[24],[25]

Religion and spirituality such as Christianity go further in creating belief in our ability to perform by advocating relying on omnibenevolent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God - this is a powerful perspective if you believe in God. A popular Bible verse on this is Philippians 4:13. [26]

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13

References & Appendix





[5] BUILD on the ALA website website.


[7] Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function

[8] Reconceptualizing goal setting's dark side: The ethical consequences of learning versus outcome goals

[9] The wu-wei alternative: Effortless action and non-striving in the context of mindfulness practice and performance in sport

[10] The Wu-Wei Paradox: Striving Less Generates More Success

[11] Quantifying the dynamics of failure across science, startups and security

[12] Investigating written procedures in process safety: Qualitative data analysis of interviews from high-risk facilities

[13] Error orientation at work: Dimensionality and relationships with errors and organizational cultural factors

[14] Errors Versus Mistakes

[15] Collective Intelligence of Peer Learning: Promoting Culture of Learning and Improvement Among Radiologists

[16] The Dunning–Kruger effect: Revisiting “the valley of despair” in the evolution of competency and proficiency in reconstructive microsurgery

[17] The Eighty-Five Percent Rule for optimal learning

[18] In their own words: Curiosity as depicted in autobiographies of scientists and inventors

[19] An affective neuroscience model of boosting resilience in adults


[21] If - Rudyard Kipling


[22] Desiderata - Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

[23] The Strength of the Strongest Ties in Collaborative Problem Solving

[24] How does shared leadership affect creativity in teams? A multilevel motivational investigation in the Chinese context

[25] The influence of team-member exchange on turnover intention among student-athletes: the mediating role of interpersonal self-efficacy and the moderating role of seniority

[26] Philippians 4:13

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