On the wall, behind Beth Wanjiru Thuo, is a painting. It says, “success and joys will prompt you to thanksgiving and to realise that you do not live for yourself but the service of others”- Josemaria Escriva.
Beth is Vice President for Consumer Banking at SBM Bank and has worked in the banking sector for 18 years.
“This is what I have gradually come to believe; that we exist purely to be of service to others and not-self, ” she says.
She is a Business and IT graduate from United States International University— Africa and is a lover of art. She is also a member of the Circle Art Gallery.
She spoke to JACKSON BIKO over Zoom on her new-found ethos of life that has been evolving slowly over time and has been made clear during this Covid-19 season.
What is happiness and what does it mean to you?
That’s a big one, eh? (Pause) It’s a state of mind, a perspective of calmness, and living in a hyper world it means a semblance of peace, of balancing home and work, and making peace with the choices I have made. When I pray, I pray for peace, incidentally.
If you were to be stripped off motherhood, being a wife, being a professional, what would we find?
You’d find a very creative person, very artsy. I might not necessarily express that side but I appreciate art. I don’t know what that means seeing as I studied computer science, I understand binary. However, I like to be out there listening to good music. The last concert I attended was in Cape Town, for Toni Braxton. Getting to the show was the universe aligning everything to make sure that I watched her perform. Generally, I dislike disharmony, I want to appreciate life in all its forms.
When in your life were you at most disharmony?
When my values and the values of the environment I was operating in did not align. And when that happened, I found no peace within so I had to up and leave. My value system is everything for me and when that is challenged I can never be at a place of comfort. I teach children’s ministry at Nairobi Chapel, Kiambu road. I do it because that’s one day I got to spend with my children.
What has teaching children taught you about life and yourself?
Simplicity and wisdom. There is a stark difference between the main service and the children’s service. There is a simplicity in the message that I love in the children’s service; the wisdom that comes through from that is purer.
What’s the most profound thing you have learnt recently?
(Sigh) Covid-19 diaries, right? I have learnt that human beings have an innate desire to survive if you put them in a difficult and stressful situation. It brings out the best in people. I have learnt during this time that comfort creates complacency. I have observed with joy brands evolving and people evolving to survive this new face of humanity.
What do you wish you knew about your career years ago when you started that you know now?
(Pause) So many things, but the key of them is that your career doesn’t and shouldn’t define you. I belong to a leadership cycle which has taught me that you are more than just a CEO or a director. You are much more than what you do from 8 am to 5 pm.
What’s your greatest fear?
Living a meaningless life. What will my life amount to in the end? Will I just be a speck that existed for the heck of it? That scares me to imagine that I’m going through the motion of life and I will have made zero impact at the end.
Are you reading anything interesting?
I’m re-reading Sunny Bindra’s ‘The Bigger Deal’. During this Covid-19 period, I have questioned a lot the meaning of existence, of life and purpose, of meaning. This book sort of puts everything in that perspective.
Is there a particular book that has shaped how you engage the world?
‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’ by Greg McKeown. It’s essentially about how you spend your time especially if you are caught in the tyranny of now. It also teaches you how saying ‘no’ is more important than learning how to say ‘yes.’
Is saying no more important and why?
As you go up ranks, things will come your way and more often you have to choose. Someone said, ‘saying no is a strategy.’ You have to spend your resources well, on things that matter and create value and impact.
Your children are seven and five years old, do you find that as they grow older motherhood becomes easier or harder?
It certainly doesn’t get easier. It may become easier from the perspective of mundane activities like changing diapers but it gets more challenging when you have to make decisions that shape their lives. I think teaching your children to be good humans is a much better and useful lesson for them than anything else. Being kind and faithful.
What moment in your life would you like to freeze?
When I was 24 and had the luxury of traversing Europe, experiencing a new world.
It was profound, visiting most of those countries and learning about culture and people. There is a sense of freedom and independence when you are at that age, mostly also because you don’t have any responsibilities.
You have one chance to change something about your life?
To be less hard on me. Sometimes we are the biggest critics of ourselves.