Friday 18 July 1997 was a day full of mixed emotions for me.

On the one hand, there was a fresh new member joining our ever-expanding Mmari family, which was of course, extremely exciting (the more the merrier right?). However, on the other hand, I was involuntarily relinquishing my extremely coveted title as The Last-Born Child, after an impressive, long-lived run of exactly 5 years 4 months and 7 days.

This is the cuteness that I was up against

The process of being replaced certainly wasn’t easy for me or my ego to deal with. I loved all the attention that came with being the youngest child in the family, I loved being the individual that everyone had to think about, I enjoyed being the trophy constantly being paraded by my parents at family gatherings for everyone to see, and I took full advantage of always being given the benefit of the doubt when it came to arguments and fights with my older siblings. But alas, in life, all good things come to an end, and on that fateful Friday in July 1997, my winning-streak was over. On Saturday morning, I was subsequently downgraded to the black sheep of the family (a position I excelled at), and it was time for my new baby brother, Isaac, to shine.

And shine he did. Isaac took up the mantle of being The Last-Born Child, and he ran with it like the pro that he is. With his infectious energy, pure soul, chubby cheeks, glowing skin, and radiant personality, he brought a newfound joy to the family, and even though he booted me off the top of the podium upon his arrival, he quickly established himself as my new partner in crime.

So despite the fact that he:

  1. stole all the attention and glory away from me,
  2. was about 10x cuter + at least 35x more adorable than I was as a child, and
  3. instantaneously shifted all the family resources towards his direction from the moment of his conception,

it goes without saying that his addition to the family was definitely one of the best things that ever happened to us as a collective, and to me personally, as an individual.

The dynamic duo

Even though he is my younger brother, and there is a +5 year age difference between us, there are plenty of occasions where I have looked towards Isaac for direction, support, and guidance. I can recall numerous instances over the previous 3 years in particular where I have turned to him for advice and support when faced with difficult situations in the realm of relationships, finances, and my career.

So today, to mark his 23rd-year of being on this planet, I’d like to share a few life lessons that I have learned thus far from Mr. Isaac Kirango Mmari.

1. Be yourself - don’t give in to the pressures of society

This is one of the most important things I have learned from my brother, and it is something that I tend to resonate even more with, the older that I get. From a very young age, Isaac has always had this profound ability to stick to his values at all times, never relenting to the pressures of the outside world, not even for a second. Something that I failed to do for the majority of my teenage years, going into early adulthood.

For instance, when in a new or unfamiliar social situation, Isaac will comfortably go for lengthy periods of time being completely silent, passing time by, minding his own business, not doing or saying anything out of character. Whereas I, on the other hand - partly due to my acute levels of social anxiety - always tend to feel pressured into doing or saying things that I likely wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. When I look back on my life I can pick out numerous occasions where I’ve had this persistent urge to try my best to fit in, even if it meant momentarily sacrificing who I was. Only to kick myself afterwards, as I later regret committing the treasonous act of going against my whims and trading in my sense of self, all for a fleeting, ephemeral feeling of pseudo-belonging.

Over recent years I have consciously taken a few pages from Isaac’s book and held on firmly to my idea of who I am and what I want, at all times, regardless of what I think the outside world desires from me. It’s much better to know and be yourself than it is to present an idea of yourself that you think other people will be comfortable with.

2. Take care of yourself - know your worth

My brother has had quite a remarkable “glow-up” over the recent years. He has always been cute/handsome so nothing major changed there, but his sense of style and fashion improved exponentially. He went from being the chubby boy who wore three-quarter shorts, long socks, and baggy striped T-shirts, to the young man who will never be seen without a fresh haircut, and a well-thought-out outfit, that always suits the occasion at hand.

Isaac’s pre-glow-up, thug-life ensemble: A striped T-shirt, baggy 3-quarter pants and long socks

Even if he is just driving 4 minutes down the road to the petrol station to buy a loaf of bread and a carton of milk. He’ll be rocking his Gucci cologne with his expertly matched attire, finessing from head to toe. Contrast that with me, who would happily drive to the same petrol station dressed in worn-out pajamas, socks, and slippers, covering my uncombed hair with a multi-colored beanie that I found laying around.

Isaac’s: “I’m off to buy bread” outfit

Since Isaac’s transition from a simple commoner to a celebrated fashion icon, it has been quite daunting to go anywhere in public with him, because he constantly OUT-DRESSES ME EVERY SINGLE TIME. However, ego-aside, I have gradually learned to appreciate the value that comes with dressing up well and consistently taking care of your image, both publicly and privately. It’s pretty simple really: if you look good, you will feel good; if you feel good, you will look good.

The way you dress is an extension of who you are. It forms part of the story you are telling the outside world, and, ultimately it portrays how you value yourself deep down inside. And just from looking at my brother on any day of the week, you can immediately tell that this is a man full of confidence and self-worth. Traits that are located towards the top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Qualities that all human beings desire to attain.

Post-glow-up Isaac, casually color-coordinating with Mother Nature

I have since accepted that he is a man with an eye for beauty, and I have come to make the most of his supreme taste and vision. Nowadays when we go shopping, I make sure that everything I buy has been given the Isaac Mmari stamp of approval before I even try it on.

My short-term goal is to develop a solid sense of style that is unique to my personality - as he has done - and my long term goal is to consistently out-dress him on a daily basis during our next family holiday. Yes, Isaac, you outdid me in Brazil-2019 and in Thailand-2020, but you should watch out for 2021, because I have been buying nice clothes ...and I will wear them.

3. Express yourself - life is limitless

I have a distinct memory of Isaac and myself at home as kids drawing cars or robots or something random like that, and then at some point Isaac started crying for one of my drawings. Why? Because I drew a really nice picture, he wanted it, and he just couldn’t draw as well as I could, #facts. It was at that specific moment when I knew that between the two of us brothers, I was the talented one, gifted with all the creative skills and artistic abilities...

Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

That day was the first and the last time that I did anything worth being deemed ‘creative’ better than my brother. To make myself feel better, I have convinced myself that on that day, in an attempt to get back at me, Isaac committed himself to spending the next few years of his life amplifying the latent abilities of his right-brain, and boosting his capability to creatively express himself. Because as we fast forward to the present day, I literally can’t think of anything creative/expressive that he cannot do.

As I sit and write this article, this insanely talented brother of mine is proficient in the following:

  1. Playing the piano.
  2. Playing the guitar.
  3. Directing, acting in and producing music videos, skits, documentaries, and animations.
  4. Drawing cartoon comics (as a child Isaac created a whole hilarious, satirical and extremely witty series of comics focused on a character called “Golden Guy”, and this was the sole product of his wild imagination).
  5. Designing and modeling entire buildings.
  6. Designing clothes - that he actually wears.
  7. And as of very recently, even designing and building web sites.

Ok, fine, so he is the creative one, but as a tech entrepreneur, I’m the only business-oriented one, right? WRONG - Isaac also runs his own company, Mmari Productions - a design agency that he has built from the ground up. Another thing in his life that was once just an idea, that he has skillfully managed to manifest into reality.

The multi-faceted service offerings of Isaac’s design agency: Mmari Productions

Over the years I have witnessed my brother seamlessly master one skill after the other, seemingly effortlessly. I would bet my life savings that if you were to hand this guy a ukulele and a harp today - two instruments that he has never played before - he will return next week with a fire mixtape, a record deal, and an MTV Music Video Award nomination. I don’t know how he does it. I’m not sure what exactly it is that he is eating, or what bi-weekly, full-moon rituals he is performing. But what I do know is that through my brother I have learned that there are no limits to talent, creativity, skill, and ability.

As cliche as this might sound, this guy is really a living testament to the fact that you can literally achieve anything that you put your mind to. Life is a blank canvas and you decide what to paint, how to paint, when to paint, and while painting - you can alternate between the brushes and colors of your choosing.

4. Enjoy yourself - don’t take life so seriously.

The meaning of the name Isaac is “he will laugh”, and I will be the first to attest to the fact that he does indeed laugh, a lot. There are numerous occasions where we are all gathered together as a family and Isaac and I are passing comments between ourselves, making ridiculous references, and laughing at farfetched inside jokes that only the two of us will ever understand.

Based on what I know about myself and my upbringing, I am pretty certain that had I actually remained the last born child, my life would not be as exciting, optimistic, and colorful as it has been with Isaac in the mix. I tend to get extremely caught up in my thoughts and constant philosophical reasoning about life and I end up taking life a bit too seriously at times. I am quite risk-averse and I always choose to be on the safe side of situations. Isaac, on the other hand, is an imaginative, creative, comical and extremely adventurous individual, who’s thoughts and ideas are not bound by time, space, or even reality as we know it.

Isaac is also a professional and experienced liker of things, and I have - on numerous occasions - benefitted greatly from his you-deserve-the-best/do-what-makes-you-happy nonchalant approach to life. He has taught me not to settle for anything less than I desire, whether it relates to jobs, finances, relationships, material objects, or holiday destinations etc.

He refers to himself as “The Deliberate Creator”, and through watching his life unfold over the years, I have witnessed, first-hand, the impressive results of a life lived with focussed intention. Isaac's approach to life is a testament to the power that we have to speak and think things into existence. A power that we all make use of on a daily basis, whether we are conscious of it or not.

Isaac and I, liking things in Rio De Janeiro, snorkeling with a pufferfish that we named “Bob”

Anyways, there you have it, 4 life lessons that I have learned from my brother, the OG himself, Mr Isaac Kirango Mmari:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Take care of yourself
  3. Express yourself
  4. Enjoy yourself

Happy birthday, bro.

Thanks for the lessons.

Proud of you man.

Love you much.