Humans of ALA: Sean Karanja

Humans of ALA is a series that spotlights members of the ALA community.


“I learnt how to be a shark.
I learnt how to ask for what I wanted, and if they said no, I learnt how to get what I wanted.
I also learnt how to work hard. I was talking to the founder of Draper University, Tim Draper – billionaire, wonderful guy. He told me about the 40% rule. It’s something that the US Marines believe in, and it’s the fact that at any one point when you’re doing an activity, whether it’s physically tasking or not, whenever you reach that point when you’re like “I can’t anymore”, you’ve only reached 40% of your full capabilities.
You’ve only given it 40% of your all. There’s still space to go.

So since then, I’d wake up every day, I’d look at myself in the mirror and I’d just scream “YES! YES! YES! YES!” Like four or five times because I’d keep telling myself that whenever I’d reach that block, I still have space to go. As a result, I learnt how to push myself like crazy.

For the third lesson, I learnt how to lead when you’re not in the ideal position to do so. I learnt how to get people to be on my side, how to get people to back me up, how to get people to accomplish certain tasks and be motivated while doing so, even if I wasn’t the ideal person to be in that kind of situation.
For example, I’ll start off by saying that when I was at the program, I was literally the youngest person there. Everyone else was older than me, and we had people in their twenties. They were mostly university students; and a lot of them had even graduated.
I wasn’t even meant to be accepted into the program in the first place because I was too young but again – I pushed for it and I got it; and getting there, being the youngest, I quickly had to learn how to push for what I wanted, how to talk to people to get what I wanted and also how to just be able to see team dynamics and to reason with other people.

All of those are very key aspects of leadership that I felt I didn’t know before I got there because a lot of the times you’re made group leader and at some point we were taken into the wilderness where we did some insane stuff, and you’re left in a position where people will go hungry if you don’t sort things out, your team will get lost in the middle of the ocean if you don’t sort things out; and your objectives will not be met if you don’t sort stuff out. I had to learn the hard way – by actually getting things done. Yeah, but I made it through and I did it.”

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