Meet Motivational Speaker Ian Njiraini: I Was Told I Couldn’t Be A Pilot So I Became One

January 25, 2021

Ian Njiraini doubles up as a motivational speaker and a pilot. He spoke to the Nairobian about his trade.

Why is it hard for people to motivate themselves?
When life beats you and you are faced with difficult situations, the emotions brought about are heavy, they dispirit and depress you. The best way to overcome it is by speaking to someone who is wiser, mature, or just listen to preaching or motivational speeches. You realise new ways to overcome problems and view them from different angles. You get inspired. You may know what to do, but to get the strength to walk out, they need someone to push, to tell them they can do it.

Motivational speaking is recent in Kenya, why is it gaining popularity?
There have been rising cases of depression, suicide, hopelessness because of pressure and expectations from society. Motivational speakers have found a way to connect with the people who feel lost because of too many options and too many things happening at the same time. They found new ways of addressing contemporary issues. People need that talk, a new approach to do things and that’s why motivation from speakers is important.

Who inspires, motivational speakers?
Other speakers, reading books, listening to preachers. I get motivated by listening to other people’s failures and success stories…how they made it is very important. Other speakers help you discover ways of tackling things.

What experience did you have that made you a motivational speaker?
Motivational speaking is a gift. It’s the power to address people and they listen or respond. I knew of my gift when I was very young, but I realised the fire in me after so many failures. I wanted to be a pilot, I was told my dream was not valid. I was told my dream was for a certain class and I didn’t have money to train to be a pilot. When I achieved it, I knew there are so many misconceptions in society by which youths are being misguided. This misunderstanding needs to be corrected.

Some motivational speakers are too young to have experience of their topics. Your thoughts?
Motivation is a gift and you can start when you are young. But it is important to address issues you went through or saw being a scourge in society. However, there are more difficult topics to discuss if you have no experience like relationships, marriage, and retirement. If you are not married you cannot talk about marriage. You don’t have the experience. A divorcee cannot advise someone about marriage because they gave up on their own. Your wisdom only comes from the things you see or go through. It is not about being young, but experienced.

Why is it that most motivational speakers only talk about success and greatness?
I think we get it wrong here. We were meant to succeed and not to fail. That’s the point and purpose of life. Motivational speakers only guide on how to get there. We promote greatness and success, but also the difficult and painful process. We encourage resilience, perseverance, patience, determination and focus.

How thin is the line between motivational speaking and prosperity gospel?
Prosperity gospel says that you will prosper if you follow God. Motivation is encouraging and inspiring one to follow their dream. People take advantage of certain teachings of the prosperity gospel: tithes and offerings to be precise. Preachers need to explain the process. Both motivational speaking and prosperity gospel can use false speeches. Even Adam was told to work. You have to work to succeed.

Women are quickly swayed by motivational speakers than men. Why?
I don’t believe so. Some speakers use the gullibility of some people to their advantage. Some speak to single women about how to get good husbands, a lot of them will come because this is a sensitive topic. Women, being more submissive by nature will listen. Women tend to open up more than men, but I get feedback from both.

 Which classes of people are impossible to motivate?
People who have failed over and over again don’t believe in success. They are cynical and negative. It is very difficult to explain to them that there are different reasons for failing. They believe in failure.

From your experience, what would you say is the right path to success?
People expect cliché answers but I am not giving that. The first thing is to know why you were born, not many people realise this. There is a misconception on the manual of life as struggling to death. Do not have small targets and vision. Secondly, nurture great thoughts for you will never go higher than your thoughts.

Kenyans are very religious, but also very corrupt. How can you motivate them differently?
Religion is man-made. A lot of people go to church to worship the pastor or follow prophets. The religious put trust in preachers, forgetting it is God who heals through them. If you’re religious but take shortcuts, you get cut short from your great purpose and potential. These shortcuts encourage corrupt deals. People love money instead of business, and just why they’re corrupt.

Young Kenyans yearn overnight success, which is not possible. But motivational speakers make it appear like it is…
There is nothing like overnight success. Young Kenyans, unfortunately, equate success to just money, there is more to it. Young people go for convenience instead of focusing on the real source of wealth. Then there is the question of ambition over ability. Youths just laze around with their ambition. True success comes from hard work and dedication. Success brings money, but money is not success. If you succeed prematurely, it will destroy or kill you. Preparation is very important, how to handle bigger fortunes during your struggle. Young people should understand that if you take things slowly, life becomes easy, if you don’t life becomes hard.

The secret of success is known. But motivational speakers have been exploiting it for years… what don’t people know about success?
Successful people face more problems than unsuccessful people. The problems of successful people keep evolving. People who are unsuccessful have the same problem: they keep failing. The difference is the ability of successful people to deal with problems, which become opportunities for growth and not obstacles.
Their ability to solve problems becomes better. The higher people go, the more the duties, the money, and titles which come with a lot of issues. The difference between successful people and losers is attitude. Failure sees a problem as an obstacle.

What is it that motivational speakers gain by motivating people?
The greatest gain is changed life. Personally, I do not earn from motivational speaking, because I am gifted and I am accountable for this gift. Changing people’s lives is my main goal, getting positive feedback from society is fulfilling.

Motivational speakers Google up solutions… that’s not very inspiring…
Motivational speakers need to research and some issues you need to hear other people’s experiences, read books, listen to other motivational speakers. Despite researching on Google, we do not read up solutions from it to people, what we tell people is our understanding, our experience, and wisdom.
Motivation is from deep within, if you can’t feel a motivational speech, then it means that a speech is being read to you.

 Any unforgettable person you can’t forget motivating?
I get a lot of feedback, people tell me I have changed their lives…I do not have a particular person, I can’t just choose one.

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