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The flip side of lockdown – an amazing opportunity to grow your talents

A sketch showing the living conditions of St. Josemaria and his companions during their period of isolation in the Honduran Consulate in 1937.

The first event of a series hosted online by the Alumni Relations Office was held on 16th April 2020. The Vice Chancellor Designate of Strathmore University, Dr. Vincent Ogutu was the guest speaker with a talk titled ‘The flip side of lockdown – an amazing opportunity to grow your talents.’

The Alumni Relations Office is conducting this series of online events during this period of working from home due to the prevailing global pandemic caused by COVID-19. These events are meant to increase alumni engagement and impact them with new skills in line with the life-long learning pillar of Strathmore University.

The example of St. Josemaría Escrivá

Dr. Vincent Ogutu began by narrating how St. Josemaría was able to overcome the odds during the Spanish Civil War. During that period, he and a few others were forced into isolation at the Honduran Consulate in Madrid during the months of April to August, 1937. They were obliged to live together in confinement of a few square meters and had to make do with two light meals a day.

Opus Dei, which is Latin for Work of God, and founded by St. Josemaría, was a few years old then when the war broke out. The Founder had the vision of making it a global organization. He chose not to let the unfavourable circumstance of war and isolation hold him back. With his companions, they lived each day with a set timetable and began learning new languages by offering each other lessons on the foreign languages they each knew. They came out of isolation better than they were before going into it and within 30 years, Opus Dei had spread all over the world.

St. Josemaría wrote this about character in his book, The way: 

Number 12: Let those very obstacles give you strength. God’s grace will not fail you: ‘Inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae! You shall pass through the mountains! Does it matter that you have to curtail your activity for the moment if afterwards, like a spring which has been compressed, you will reach incomparably farther than you ever dreamed?

Referring to the chance to grow on the inside, St. Josemaría wrote this in the same book: 

Number 249: The plants lay hidden under the snow. And the farmer, the owner of the land, observed with satisfaction: ‘Now they are growing on the inside.’ I thought of you: of your forced inactivity… Tell me: are you too growing ‘on the inside’?

How to discover your talent

Dr. Ogutu was keen to note that we all have gifts/talents. The difference is that some of us have not yet found out what they are good at because nobody has told them that they have a gift or they haven’t studied the self enough.

The first step to discovering your talent is by finding yourself. This can be done by asking oneself the following questions: 

  1. Who am I?
  2. What am I supposed to be doing on planet Earth?

Once you find out what your purpose on Earth is, it is time to make sure you are good at it by enrolling for a course, or by getting a mentor who can double up as an accountability partner. It’s also useful to team up with people who resonate with your purpose so that you can travel the journey together.

Books and courses’ suggestions

He suggested the following books as good reads in finding meaning:

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  2. Deep Work by Cal Newport
  3. Courses freely available on the internet eg MITx courses

The second webinar in this series was held on 21st April 2020 with the guest speaker as  Edward Mungai, an alumnus of School of Accountancy, PhD candidate at the Strathmore University Business School and CEO of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre. He spoke on ‘Staying focused amidst the uncertainty.’ 


This article was written by Jacob Mwanga, Alumni Relations Office.   

Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu