Be like Water, People! Be like Water!

Maria Sarungi Tsehai
4 min readNov 25, 2020


Image by MartinSTR

The word “change” always fills us with Fear even if we do not acknowledge it. As humans, we love the perception of continuity, of everything remaining as they are. Thus, when with time we realize that changes have occurred we reminisce for “those good old days”. But the reality is that Life is Change. And Change is perpetual. So the Maria of today is not the Maria of yesteryears — and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Of course for vanity purposes, we would all like to remain ‘young’ but again that is not really a good thing. So what does this have to do with water and leadership and politics?

Political leadership is focused on power, and the competing political sides in reality compete for power. Yes, there are ideological arguments offered but at the end of the day, it is about power. However, once a new group usurps power then it is not always about Change in the real sense but a swap. Who is the guardian that ensures that a society is constantly changing for the better and that Change is truly implemented? It is the citizens or us the Preamble of our Constitution clearly states, “We the People”. The most difficult part is how do “We, The People” do this? And this is where the Eastern Philosophy that advises “Be like Water” comes handy.

Water is the sign of life and a vital element of Life and our world — planet Earth. Earth is covered 71% by water, our bodies are 60% made up of water, our hearts and brain is 73% water, while our lungs are 83% water. There is a whole list of scientific facts that I wouldn’t like to pretend to know or understand regarding why Water is the single most important element for humans and for Life.

Bruce Lee’s famous quote captures the power of water, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

Yet not only do we hear leaders claim to be solid or hard as a rock but seldom, if ever, do we hear political and national leaders aspire for people or themselves to be like water. To be like water is not a desirable quality apparently. Why?

Consider this: science, not only Bruce Lee, tells us that water is powerful — it is soft, you can’t carry it with bare hands, has no scent or shape.

How can we see the Power of water? Oceans, rivers, streams erode land even the most solid cliff; water can suddenly engulf land in a tide and extinguish life like during a Tsunami. Yet even when water levels land, overruns it in a tsunami, it eventually goes back and allows for new life to form, thus water is also ‘wise’ and favors Life.

How is water indestructible? Water changes form but is not destroyed and each form it takes can be just as impactful — snow, ice, steam. Water can seep through any material — it is just a matter of time. Water also changes form depending on its surroundings, in cold it becomes ice or snow, in extreme heat it becomes steam, It readily gives up its physical appearance without losing its core elements that make it up — hydrogen and oxygen.

Water doesn’t resist change but adapts and persists.

As a society, in my humble opinion, we should strive to be like water — calm, persistent, seeking change with least minimal open resistance, but rise up suddenly and engulf any destructive force or element in society that seeks to destruct the very fabric that unites us. But we should like water be acutely aware that when we do manage to rise then we also should fall like the tide, to allow renewal.

As water, we should also be nimble and ready to change when the circumstances change, adapt without losing our fundamental core elements as a People. We should not resist Change because it is inevitable and what distinguishes societies is how they cope and manage Change.

As saying goes, “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins -
not through strength but by perseverance

Be like Water, People! Be like Water! IMHO

This was published in the Citizen newspaper in February 2020 — but is no longer available online. You can also listen to my podcast



Maria Sarungi Tsehai

Media and Communications expert, #ChangeTanzania #GoodTrouble maker activist