On The Path Of Winners
BY BAYO OGUNMUPE
Cultivate The Company Of Honest People
JACK Welch, Chief Executive of the U.S. General Electric for decades once said that the most important quality of leadership is the ‘reality principle’ which he defined as the ability to see the world as it is, not as you wish it were. He would begin every meeting to discuss a problem with the question, ‘‘What is the reality?” Peter Drucker referred to the same quality as ‘‘intellectual honesty.”
Thus, if you want to be the best you can be and achieve what is truly possible for you, you must be brutally honest about yourself and on your point of departure. Intellectual honesty is the single most important ingredient of success missing among Nigerians. It is this quality that we lack that is responsible for our backwardness in the world.
Examples of intellectual dishonesty abound in our society. The first is on Alhaji Lamido Sanusi’s revelation alleging that $49.8 billion was missing since NNPC failed to remit it from Nigeria’s crude oil sales. Lamido Sanusi, as he then was, now Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano, was the immediate past Central Bank governor. After the rumpus created by the allegation, the senate requested its committee on Finance to investigate the matter. In adopting the committee report on July 10, 2014, Senate noted through the report that $10.61 billion due to the Federation Account was withheld and spent by the NNPC without appropriation. While the Daily Trust caption for that report was ‘Senate indicts NNPC over $49.8bn unremitted funds,” that of The Guardian was ‘‘Sanusi wrong over alleged missing $49.8b, says Senate.”
From the foregoing, you can measure the mindset of the reporters. The mindset of a person is determined by the level of his honesty. In journalism we say: facts are sacred, opinion is free. Unfortunately, the Nigerian, no matter his level of education and his religious persuasion, does not appreciate the difference between opinion and fact. A Guardian colleague of mine, Omiko Awa avers that our disregard for honesty is caused by our polygamous upbringing. He said that the traditional Nigerian family before the coming of the colonialist was polygamous, which does not permit candour in family conversations.
Thus, the father cannot tell the whole truth to his family for fear of being misunderstood. Sadly, modernity has not changed anything since this ingrained behavior had not been mitigated by religion, which had been commercialized by prosperity evangelists. Just as the American philosopher, George Santayana wrote, ‘‘Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,” since we don’t keep records, we nearly always repeat our past. But there is an iron law of self development. It says you can learn anything you need to learn to achieve any goal. There are no limits on what you can accomplish, except the limits you place on your own mind and imagination. If you decide to become excellent to join the top ten per cent of your field, nothing on earth can stop you from getting there, except yourself.
But that might not be easy. Nothing good comes easy. However, for you to achieve something you have never achieved before, you must become someone that you have never been before. To become the best you can be, you must ask, How do I achieve it? The fact that others have achieved similar ambitions before is proof you too can achieve it. In most areas of life, it is hard work and dedication rather than natural ability and talent that lead to excellence and great success. It isn’t education per se that leads you to success, it is awareness that leads you to success in your chosen field.
In an analysis of the Forbes 400, the 400 richest Americans, conducted in the 1970s, researchers found that a person who dropped out of high school, and made it into Forbes 400 was worth more than $330 million more than those who had completed university. It isn’t educational qualifications that lead you to success. Most of the wealthiest people world did poorly in school. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world today, dropped out of Harvard University in his second year. Basically, college education trains you to work for others, not to grant you financial independence.
You become excellent in what you do bit by bit. You move to the top step by step, skill by skill with one small improvement at a time. Nowadays, your earning ability depends on how fast you can innovate. The fact is that current levels of knowledge and skill are becoming obsolete at a faster rate than ever before. Earning ability is a depreciating asset. Never allow your skills and knowledge become obsolete. This is a choice you have to make.
In order to maintain an appreciating earning ability, you have to continuously upgrade your skills. At first it will be as if you are running a race and you are the only one running. You very soon move ahead of your pack and into the lead position. Your dedication to excellence will soon propel you to the top. To keep your rank at the top, identify the knowledge you will need and learn it, make a career move, meaning: you did another specialty to your generalist past. You are to diversify, enlarge your career. With diverse skills and competencies, you open the way for multiple streams of income.
Our champion this week is Nadine Gordimer, the South African novelist and short story writer whose major theme was exile and alienation. She received the 1991 Nobel Prize for Literature. Gordimer was born in November 1923 in Springs, Transvaal to a wealthy white middle class family. She began reading at an early age. By the age of nine, she had been writing short stories. She got her story published by a magazine at the age of 15.
Gordimer’s wide reading got her informed about the harsh life conditions in the other side of apartheid – the official South African policy of racial segregation at the time. Her discovery of apartheid developed into her strong political opposition to apartheid. She attended the University of Witwaterstrand for a year. She later devoted her life to writing, lecturing and teaching in various schools in the United States between 1970 and 1990.
Gordimer’s first book was The Soft Voice of the Serpent (1952), it was a collection of short stories. In 1953, a novel, The Lying Days, was published. Both exhibit the clear, controlled and unsentimental technique that became her hallmark. Her stories concern the devastating effects of apartheid on the lives of South Africans. These effects are the constant tension between personal isolation and the commitment to social justice, the numbness caused by the unwillingness to accept apartheid, the inability to change it and the refusal of exile. Her book, A World of Strangers, was the prescribed literature textbook for the West African School Certificate and the General Certificate of Education in the 1960s. Her novel, The Conservationist (1974) won the Booker McConnell Prize in 1974. She continued to write until her death earlier this month at the age of 90.