How public speaker ended up a writer


Readers looking for a fountain of enthusiasm would be well advised to seek out Petronilla Muriuki Musau. There is never a dull moment in her life and her passion in the pursuit of happiness and success is simply infectious.

Interestingly, her journey into the world of public speaking began almost by accident. Petronilla, an accountant and engineer, had everything going for her.

She quit a well-paying job in Kenya to pursue a Master’s degree in Australia and then settled in Botswana where her husband, Jack Musau, runs a business among other engagements.

One day, however, all that changed when she discovered that her eldest son had a speech impairment that was only discovered when he started schooling, while her second son broke his lower jaw in an accident, leaving him with speech difficulties.

Petronilla MM — as she calls herself because her international audiences have difficulties pronouncing her Kenyan name — quit employment to look after her children.

But because there were no schools that could offer specialised education for her two sons, her family moved to South Africa. It was during that time, as she helped her sons to overcome their challenges, that she started writing.


“It is in times of hardships that we are introduced to our true selves and sometimes even our destiny is subtly revealed,” she writes in her first book, Have Your Cake & Eat It Too!, which was published in Canada.

Indeed, while working in a home for the aged in Australia, Petronilla says she spent hours by the bedside of a wealthy man who was dying yet his family could not make time to be with him in his final moments.

“I asked myself: What choices did he make? What ghosts of unfulfilled dreams and potential were dancing around his bed? What walls of life did he scale and were they the right ones?”

The reflections would later form the germ of her future pursuit as a life strategist.

“We are not here to merely make a living, to earn, accumulate and spend,” she writes in her exhortation for readers to consider what legacy they will leave behind when they die. “We are called to enrich the world, enabling our fellow men to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.” She insists there is a world of difference between being a life and leadership strategist and a motivational speaker.

One asks hard questions that can set one on the path of unlocking their potential and persists so that the enthusiasm and commitment are not lost even after the motivation speech has ended.

Today, Petronilla gives talks in corporations and helps leaders to become more effective.

“I come without hang-ups,” she says, explaining her candid approach when working with organisations that seek to transform their cultures. “I tell the people to forget their titles. I address them directly as individuals.” She challenges her audiences to identify tangible goals and make commitments about achieving them in a specified time.

From her experiences as a mother, Petronilla started wondering what others whose children had disabilities were coping. This inspired her to start writing her second book, I am Mama, due to be published next year.

Over time, as her son overcame his speech impairment, she started encouraging him to speak in public about his experiences in the hope that this would encourage others not to give up hope on their children.

The speaker will this morning address 40 women in Nairobi on living with children with special needs and plans to host another in March.

However, those looking for Have Your Cake & Eat It Too! are unlikely to find it in bookshops. The author has partnered with a perfume distributor to sell the book in Nairobi. A copy costs Sh2,200.