Death is a subject we seldom discuss yet we know it is inevitable.

A few years ago I attended a requiem mass for a relative at the Holy Family Basilica in Nairobi. It was a teary and somber service. A sniff would start in one corner, a pain-laden sigh in another and soon, the entire building would erupt in wailing. 

The celebrant took to the rostrum. After a measured pause he asked;

“How many people here want to go to heaven?”

We all raised our hands. 

He then asked;

“How many people want to die?”

No one raised their hand. Realizing the irony, we burst into laughter. He presided over the sermon uninterrupted. 

I recently read a book by Dr. Ralph Pausch aptly titled The Last Lecture. Dr. Pausch was a professor of Computer Science at the Carnegie Mellon University. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2006. In 2007, it metasized into stage four cancer. Bummer – He had at most 6 months of good health. He passed on soon after.

In his Last Lecture , he talks of brick walls:

The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show us how badly we want something.”

He was referring to a point early in his career when Disney Land rejected his application to work for them. A few years later, after consistent attempts, they hired him as a consultant. 

It got me thinking, we all face setbacks [brick walls] at some point in life. For Mandela, it was 27 years in prison. For Jack Ma and J.K. Rowling it was several rejection letters from Harvard and publishers, respectively. For Malala, it was an unassailable militia and a bullet through the head. 

What makes these people (and many others) so inspirational is their fortitude to share their story of brick walls and how they surmounted them. 

I’d like to know, what is your story of a brick wall and how did you surmount it?

What is someone’s story of a brick wall that you have read/heard/witnessed  that inspired you to surmount your own? 

PS: It doesn’t have to be as grand as 27 years in prison! No pressure!

68 thoughts on “BRICK WALLS

    1. Brick walls scare me a lot, but they let me know what I really want. If something scares me, but I know I still want it, it’s always a sign to me that I should get it regardless.

      Great article! I always enjoy reading your content! There’s always something new to learn.

      1. Thank you, brother. Your words me so much to me 😊

        Indeed, brick walls really make you ask yourself, “How bad do I want it?”

        Keep climbing those walls 💪🏿

    2. I am glad to hear it 😃

      When a brick wall story pops up, please remember to share! It would be a great inspiration to us.

      I look forward to sharing more stories 😊

  1. So many brick walls billy. Getting out of bed in the morning is usually the first one 😂. Seriously though – I was bullied everyday for years in high school. It led to years of depression and anxiety. To overcome that. Become a pilot for one of the worlds best airlines. To be a happy functioning father of two and loving husband to one. That’s been the major brick wall that I’ve overcome in this life Billy. Great post – wishing you well 🙏

    1. AP, brother 😀

      Now that’s an inspiring brick wall story 🙌🏿🙌🏿

      I am so happy you kept climbing and eventually got over the top!

      I wish you more success and happiness 😊

      May your brick wall story continue to inspire millions 👌🏿

      Stay safe, brother 😊

    1. Wow. The first line of this writing had me on edge, but phewks thank God for creative writers. One of the major brick walls I have encountered is discrimination, coz of my height, education, tribe and one instance skin colour. I have found a way to knock down the walls and not feel intimidated by what I can’t control. Winning is my motto.

  2. There is a business deal I have been pursuing since Jan 2020! We had talked with the director of the company everything was set then Covid hit. At around Oct when it was dying down the guy travelled abroad. We talk around Dec. Jan 2021 we met talked. Hope this time it goes well. I think I was led here for a reason. Thanks for the article. It has a great lesson on it

    1. I happy to hear it😃

      More importantly, thank you for sharing your brick walls story.

      I am optimistic that you shall surmount it! When you do, please come back and share that story too😊

    1. I am glad to hear it😃

      Keep climbing those walls and remember to share your story. It may just be the inspiration someone needs to climb theirs💪🏿

  3. Wow! Brick walls are to our benefits from my view. They help us adapt to any condition we might face in future. Especially here in Africa, fellow Africans are our brick walls, and will never run away from them

  4. When I was a child all I wanted to be was a nurse. As a teen I was told I can’t, for a lot of reasons, one being lack of high enough grades. So I studied anatomy and physiology while I worked as a volunteer in the local hospital, just to do all I AM capable of, and the nurses there told me I have a natural aptitude and coaxed me into applying. Eventually I did, and to my surprise got instantly accepted.
    Years later, after I came top in my class throughout my training at university, I found myself at the top of the ladder in my chosen career (as the ward sister!). Ever since the I’ve strongly believed anyone is capable of anything if they really want it, and that you can’t argue with a compass; if our compass finds true North we will always return to the path of our deep-seated desire, even if it takes a long time to get on the right track for us to get there!

    1. I am so happy you surmounted that brick wall😃

      Oftentimes, I have discovered that gatekeepers are human. With feelings and aspirations. Good days and bad days.

      That, if you keep scaling that mountain, not even the gatekeepers can stop you!

      Well in, Loving Summer!

      Keep climbing 💪🏿

  5. So true! We all want to get to Heaven, but none of us want to die. I am focussing on living before the dying, but have to confess to building my own walls around me most of my life. Being adopted, walls were my protection, or so I thought. They were actually my prison. I imprisoned myself within my own walls as protection from getting hurt. Thank you, you have just given me my subject for my next blog post. Blessings, Joy

    1. Hey Joy😃

      Your brick wall story is so inspiring!

      We seldom stop to ask ourselves about the walls, as a society, we put, inadvertently, against the people we are trying to protect.

      I am so happy that you scaled those walls.

      I look forward to reading you next blog post.

      Keep climbing 💪🏿

    1. Hey Aimee!

      I am so sorry about Jace!

      It’s a disturbing reminder that legal systems are all across the planet are far from perfect!

      I wish you strength and courage as you continue to scale this brick wall!

  6. Wow! Great piece Mr. President. Brick walls are meant to test how prepared we are to get want we want! So many brick wall stories touch me. But today what comes to mind is the story of little Waris in the book, ‘Desert Flower.’ It’s a story built in a misogynistic society. Like many other ladies of substance however, Waris chooses hope. Today we know Somalia’s Waris Dirie as one of the women that have held lucrative positions in the United Nations!

    1. That’s an apt illustration, Kiongozi! Indeed, women like Waris Dirie, Maya Angelou, Wangari Mathaai and Oprah Winfrey, have had to surmount the walls of racism, misogyny and the innocuous patriarchy, to leave an indelible mark on this life!

      May we all follow in those footsteps!

  7. I liked that you referred to Dr. Ralph Pausch’s death as “passing on” because I believe this life isn’t the end of our existence.

    My “brick wall” seems to be an ongoing one. So far I’ve cheated death three times. The second one was profound leaving me disabled. I don’t seem to have a preference for either life or death since the second time I faced the end of life and I feel I have a better sense of each moment as it occurs. Do other people experience this change in them?

    1. Hey G. J. Jolly! Your experience is the most profound I have read thus far.

      That you have reached this sharp level of awareness is in my view, testament of your resolve to interrogate life beyond the usual parameters of success. A new level of awakening, if you will.

  8. My brick wall(s) have been health issues since Paul died. He was a primary care physician and to be diagnosed with problems without him were daunting. However, I am grateful I sensed something was wrong and went to the doctor right away. Two trips were to ER and hospital stays! I am fortunate to have caught things myself. Over that and on to the next adventure!

  9. What a thought-provoking post, my friend. There are so very many walls across a person’s lifetime. Mine? Hmm. The biggest is probably the judgment and expectations of others. I’ve had a lot of pressure from multiple forces to be this or that, and my rejection of other people’s plans has not been without challenges. But I’m determined to live my own way, you know? Thanks again for this insightful piece. 🕊

    1. Hey Snap 😃

      You are spot in! These brick-walls are in every area of our lives.

      Society’s expectations, as you rightly put it, is one of those brick walls that we encounter, without even knowing it’s a brick wall. Largely because of its ubiquity.

      The only way I have found to scale that wall is what you aptly do-Live life my own way!

      Thank you for making time 😊

  10. When I actually think about it, almost everything we do in life can be termed as climbing over brick walls.
    There are days when simply getting out of bed is a brick wall or going out and interacting with people without feeling like you’re drowning in anxiety.
    I think for me, learning to say what’s on my mind and communicating my feelings is a brick wall that I’m learning to surmount every other day.
    I dare say, brick walls bring out the best versions of ourselves because how else can we build character and resilience!!

    Always an insightful read.

    1. You’re spot on!

      Resilience is built from enduring our brick walls. From the seemingly infinitesimal ones like talking to strangers to the life-changing ones like surviving 27 years in prison yet emerging not with a heart full of vengeance but with a heart of love and forgiveness.

      Thank you for making time 😊

      Keep climbing those walls 💪🏿

  11. There’s something about the brick wall metaphor I am not buying, sorry. The universe is fundamentally chaotic. There is no magic in either attaining or failing to attain our wants.

    Some might argue that being accepting of brick walls is OK; I would argue understanding them and seeing them as illusory is a slightly more accurate view of reality.

    Where some people see walls, I see the universe unfolding.

    As to wanting to go to heaven … no thanks. Not waking up tomorrow morning? Not yet, please!

    1. Hey Rom😃

      For some people, part of our brick walls is genuinely listening to those who see things differently.

      On that note, I want you to know, I hear you, Rom.

      1. Billy … if I may
        On your requiem story, while I might not have raised my hand when asked, who wants to die? But on the inside, I definitely would have. Similarly I would not have raised my hand on wanting to go to heaven. Even on the inside.

        This concept of heaven is definitely a white western concept of heaven. Heaven and, I suppose, hell are not places; they are how we see ‘now’.

        “Eternity” is not forever or even a long time. It is “now”, and even now is a bit of an illusion.

        Our ancestors seem to have understood this, but religions of today seem to obscure this reality.

        Go well.

      2. Hey Rom 😃

        You raise intriguing philosophical questions.

        If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?

  12. Good read and straight to the point.
    Brick walls…
    That requiem story is scary but makes you think twice.
    I live through pain every day to the point where I’m becoming numb to somethings.
    Sometimes I think it’s making me heartless or even a bad person but from another angle, I think it also makes me stronger, makes me hold on more as I keep getting over my brick walls.

    1. Mr CEO!

      Thanks for making time.

      Your brick wall story is one of resilience and endurance!

      I doubt many people can go through that and still have enough energy to live life.

      You are a true inspiration 💪🏿

      Keep climbing those walls 💪🏿

  13. I’ve picked up a couple things I didn’t know from this read, about Malala etc..

    My brick wall has been my own field where skill is everything and at times I feel like I am just not enough and somehow this tends to pull me closer rather than push me further, I would give up tonight only to come back tomorrow wanting it even more!

    As I read that section about the last lecture it brought a quote to mind from Johnny Depp as Richard in the last lecture.

    “In each and every moment we’re composing stories of our lives, let’s aim to make it a meaningful read… or at least an interesting one.”

    1. Malala is a courageous woman🙌🏿

      Your brick wall story is one we can all relate to. The ever lingering question: Am I good enough?

      Jordan asked himself that when he went against Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

      LeBron keeps asking himself that every time he’s compared to Jordan.

      Yet, that’s what keeps them coming back. Hungrier, more determined!

      As I am sure you do!

      That quote by Depp is deep😉

      Thank you for making time 😊

  14. This is such an eye opener!!
    After a lot of soul searching, I think my brick wall has always been self-sabotaging and it’s something I’m still working on.

    1. You are halfway there😃

      Often what makes brick walls seem unassailable is that we don’t even seem to know what they are.

      That you have acknowledged yours shows that you are well on your way to scaling it 💪🏿

  15. I personally don’t have a brick wall story to share at the moment, not to say that I haven’t experienced any because I’ve had my fair share but for today I’ll give a friend’s perspective.

    There’s this friend of mine, she ails from rheumatic heart disease and because of this physically she hasn’t been at her best. She’s often in and out of hospitals and I can imagine how draining it is for her. Despite this she has managed to pursue her passion and she’s still going hard at it. I guess for her, her condition would be her brick wall and every day she has to wake up to scale it and she never disappoints, does it with the most delightful smile there is.

    She is one of the reasons I face my brick walls with a strong resolve to tear them down and go beyond to what awaits the other side. I hope she inspires you too to do the same😄

    Thank you for the wonderful article Rais!

    1. Her story is so inspiring!

      We need there potent reminders. We complain about our shoes until we meet people with no feet.

      I wish her strength and resolve as she continues to scale that brick wall!

  16. That requiem mass story makes so much sense. When a person dies, we cry and feel so sad to a point we forget it’s the journey for us all but before then, live a day at a time.

    I think one of my brick walls is my focus on the future to a point I miss the ‘now’. The today. The current moment.

    Your story and the comments are so inspiring. Thank you Billy.

    1. Hey Terry 😃

      Indeed, that’s the path for all of us. As Shakespeare said, we are all actors on this stage of life. We play our part and move.

      Your brick wall is one I can relate to. Planning, visualsing the future, so much so that we rob ourselves of the joy of what’s happening in the interim!

      That you acknowledge that shows that you are well on your way to surmounting that brick wall.

      Keep climbing!

  17. Currently I’m on my way to breaking down some Brick Walls, editing my first novel manuscript and building courage to submit it to publishers.

    A Brick Wall story I’ve heard in the past year is about how long it took for The Queen’s Gambit to be made into a show. Took the producer 30 years to get it made and look how successful it is now! Perseverance pays off.

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Hamish!

      Perseverance builds resilience!

      I am glad you are scaling the brick wall of writing. Every time I think it’s not worth it, I remember that JK Rowling was rejected countless times by publishers. Yet, just like the producer of Queen’s Gambit, because she saw that brick wall as a challenge to be surmounted, she’s now one of the most successful authors ever!

      I wish you the very best in editing and submitting your manuscript!

      Keep climbing those walls!

  18. My brick wall was built by my mother, an abusive amohetsmine addict, frustrated jazz musician who was a victim of her biology. Rising up in the world of jazz as a drummer, singer and piano player, she got pregnant by a handsome young firefighter who was charming and wanted a family. She did not. I was never held or comforted by her. My father was just the opposite and eventually gained custody of me. This led to a life of alcoholism and drug addiction until finally becoming sober at the age of 40! I’m involved in the recovery community in my community and use that experience to help others who struggle with substance use disorders. So I’m over the wall and pulling others up with me!

    1. Hey Hubbydogme!

      Your story is so inspiring 👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿👏🏿

      Congratulations on surmounting on your brick wall👏🏿👏🏿

      I am even happier that you are helping others get over it as well!

      I wish you strength, courage and joy, as you continue helping others!

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