Color image of a great blue heron in flight about to lift above the green African bushes into the blue sky.

Ubuntu, I Am Because We Are – The African Philosophy that Can Set Me Free

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To say that I was utterly inspired by the documentary “The Playbook” on Netflix would be an understatement. The first episode highlights NBA basketball coach Doc Rivers, who speaks about the coaching challenge he faced when the Celtics signed three star athletes in their 2007-2008 season. Doc had to figure out how to convince three leaders to, “buy into being a team.” While he was attending an unrelated board meeting, someone randomly came up to Rivers and introduced him to the African philosophy of Ubuntu (oo·boon·too). The woman said, “It’s not a word, Doc, it’s a way of living. Look the word up and become it.” And Rivers did just that. The team began to eat, sleep, and live Ubuntu.

Here is how Doc explains Ubuntu in the documentary: “A person is a person through other people. I can’t be all I can be, unless you’re all you can be. I can never be threatened by you because you’re good, because the better you are, the better I am. This is what saved Africa.” That year, the Celtics beat the powerhouse Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA Championship in their home city of Boston, Massachusetts.

Hearing about Ubuntu felt like Doc had introduced me to my philosophy soulmate. I could physically feel my heart growing in my chest. And, like Rivers, I immediately had to learn everything I could about Ubuntu. While I began to recognize the power of this philosophy all around me in the months to follow, it wasn’t until recently that I truly saw how I could actively practice Ubuntu in my own life.

If I believe deeply in the philosophy that the better I am, the better you are, I’m holding us both back when I make the choice (and it is a choice) to focus on my problems rather than my blessings. If I mindfully look at my life as “we” rather than “I,” what’s best for everyone is that I work through my fear and embrace my blessings…without guilt, fear, or Magical Thinking

The first thing I want to do when I receive something new or learn something new is to share it with other people. This blog is a perfect example of that. If I spend my time locked in fear and guilt, I’m thwarting the growth potential that comes with spreading love and goodness to others. While I may have no issue with taking joy away from myself, I’m not going to take joy away from the people I love most.

There’s a lot more to unpack with Ubuntu. Next week, I’d love to talk about the other sneaky fear that can stop me from living a life based in Ubuntu. Until next week… 


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  1. Thanks for the enlightenment. You are, in fact, making us all brighter.

    • Christopher, you are TOO kind.
      I truly appreciate your comment and thank you for taking the time to check in~

  2. Love this. I think every morning that how I talk to my husband first thing will start the day in a good direction… or not. If I am positive, then there are positive vibes in the house. And Vice Versa. Anyway. Love this… I need to watch the Netflix special

    • Oh, I sooo agree Ginger…we can completely get off on the wrong foot.
      Sometimes I can hear myself going through the day and the first thing out of my mouth is almost, “Did you call that guy like you were supposed to?”
      And then I have to pause and say, “Good morning. How’d ya sleep?” instead 😉

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