Ugali Beans & Bullets & the Fail Fast Doctrine

blog julie

“Ugali, Beans and Bullets!” he said.

Wow! It was profound!

“Ugali, Beans and Bullets!” I thought… Hmmmm.

I was in a meeting with Robert Kabushenga at the Lillian Towers Hotel in Nairobi’s Central Business District. A fellow Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative and the Aspen Global Leadership Network and my Ugandan media brother, Robert is fascinated with military leaders and, as the child of a military man myself, so am I.

We have shared books and fascinating stories on military strategy but this one was possibly the most profound of the lot. It was simple but brilliant.  The genesis of this story was a discussion we were having around a media plan, and as I suggested more research and networking before implementation, Robert said in that lyrical Ugandan-English accent…

“Julie, No! As long as we have ugali, beans and bullets we are ready to go! You know the Ugandan army does not wait for procurement for uniforms and boots like you Kenyan fellows! Eh, once we have ugali, beans, bullets, we go!”

It was funny, it was brilliant!
It clicked. It made sense.

Nothing is ever perfect in life and you can prepare for every eventuality only to miss the boat.

I got it, and in the simplest terms it meant, just do it!


It’s is a week later and I am in Geneva. I have just moderated the opening plenary of the World Trade Organization Public Forum and the words of one of the participants keeps ringing in my head.

“In Silicon Valley,” he said, “there is a mantra, Fail Fast. Let us be bold. Let us be provocative. Let us learn and grow.”

I get it!

Go for it!
Be ambitious!
Go for it!
Be fearless!

But there is more depth to this doctrine and it is even more profound. We often seek success and in doing so fail to hit the mark dismally. Perhaps then we should seek the opposite… Why?

Seek to fail…
and therefore learn from that failure, for there is no experience more educational and instructive than that of failure.

Seek to fail…
for it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all. The sad truth is that fear of failure is the greatest hindrance to entrepreneurship and innovation. So, instead, get up and seek to fail.

Seek to fail…
and put all your heart and sinew into your effort, for then how much sweeter will your eventual success be?



In so many ways all this reminds me of one of my favorite poems, nay, I must admit it is my favorite poem as, like good old friend, it has carried me through some of my toughest moments in life… the poem is IF by Rudyard Kipling, and some excerpts apply to these two doctrines:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
~Rudyard Kipling~


And so as we traverse this journey of life there may be moments when we must stop and face these two highly controversial doctrines that speak volumes to the strategic mind: the doctrines of Ugali, Beans and Bullets and Fail Fast.

The question to confound even the most brilliant of minds is, when to embrace them and when to shy away.


“The more you are motivated by Love, The more Fearless & Free your action will be.”

~Dalai Lama XIV~

Afro-optimist * Wife * Mother * Child of God TV Host * Writer * Producer * Entrepreneur * Philanthropist

9 Comments on "Ugali Beans & Bullets & the Fail Fast Doctrine"


    When you climb to the top of the obstacle that is blocking your view, you are able to look at your situation from a different perspective.

  2. Paustine Mogotu. says:

    Very encouraging. Love u Juile .

  3. James says:

    Wow! Cannot add anything else. Great piece of blog

  4. Fgitonga says:

    Wonderful article, you just gave me a way forward this beautiful morning.

  5. Stephen Ndung'u says:

    Hey Jullie, adding anything is like covering the best book title with a cover.

  6. Githua says:

    Thankyou for all that you are doing for the African child we will always call you OUR mom.
    Mom I have a question for you..
    How do you manage a smile with all this responsibilities?
    you are really a great and a strong woman.

  7. Githua says:

    Thankyou for all that you are doing for the African child we will always call you OUR mom.

    Mom, I have a question for you..

    How do you manage a smile with all this responsibilities?

    you are really a great and a strong woman.

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