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Reflecting on 2021 and the Next Decade - Yield to the journey

BY: Yaw Sompa
Reflecting on 2021 and the Next Decade - Yield to the journey
Yaw Sompa, (Learning Partner, AFRICALEARN Limited)

My journal on Thursday, December 23, 2010, read; “I honestly look at where I live and the beauty of my life is humbled… The misery of where I sleep is a 10 by hand measure room, walled with an open curtain; exclusively my chambers!”.

I was a young man who had gotten an entry-level contract job with UT Bank as a clerk. I had completed my national service with ZoomLion Ghana Limited and was brimming with hope for wealth. I had completed Actuarial Science as the foundational president for the Society of Actuarial Science Students and a prayer secretary of the National Union of Presbyterian Students. I had high hopes of changing the world and had pursued my aspirations with proposals for National Service to the National Insurance Commission. The hard work to secure national service at a reputable place had been botched unexplainably and that was my proper welcome and initiation into the real world.

Before my contract with UT Bank, however, I had interviewed for a job with the MD of Vanguard Assurance at the time who after the interview advised that I find a career in politics and not Actuarial Science (Although it sounds funny now, it wasn’t that complimentary). I had only gotten the UT job after a considerable struggle as I was inexperienced for the ‘Premium Financing’ Project and thus they reasoned, the bank will be better off with a national service person rather than me. I settled for a contract as a clerk just so that I may get my feet at the door with a salary of GH¢471 when the average entry-level pay was about twice that amount.

I had left Duayaw Nkwanta for greener pastures in Accra and I was committed to finding a flourishing vegetation irrespective of all necessary sacrifices. It has been ten years along this arduous path of holding unto the dream and the spirit of the creed; ‘Fearless Revolutionary Optimism’.

I remember the wife of a pastor friend of mine asked me when I was coming to Accra that, what if you do not get a job, what will be your options? I said I could write, talk and act and believed I could make a living out of that but I was more committed to a corporate life and was determined to find one.

Well, I have written all these years, spoken, and tried acting but it would have been one hell of a task trying to make a living out of these gifts, I have however honed these gifts and are prepared to make meaningful contribution to humanity with these gifts. The intent of this new year’s article is however a bit more than announcing an intent to do what I have always done with my natural inclinations. The goal is to trade inspiration to a young person who may be finding the journey of life daunting: a heavy cross which makes the Messiah’s burdens a jog with a side pack. As a merchant of inspiration, having found cause to keep believing and to keep working, I pass on lessons I consider useful on this journey:

  1. Mental Models and Ideas are more important than ‘Realities’. The modern culture is almost at the brink of trivializing this sacred truth under the cliché of motivational chants. I however reckon, my friend, if there is any golden and sacred key powerful enough to transform any life, it is this truth: ‘Things seen are temporary- ideas unseen are permanent’. The human being is wired to follow a path of reasonable cause. For example, we were sold the narrative that, if one goes to school, he/she will become employable and thus rich. Sounds like a simple statement of fact, right? Well not exactly. It is a mental construct and an idea of how things should work according to the proponent of that idea, one that many millennials who have completed university are figuring is quite an illusion. Everything we submit to and pursue is because we believed in a mental model and an idea someone sold us as a cause. We all are nudged daily by these ideas and constructs we have believed; ideas such as gravity, demons, social classes, and value. None tangible, yet these ideas containing the seed for material realities have produced miracles. Ideas are powerful mental constructs that dictate how we perceive and live in time thus they become the unseen forces that curate our reality. If I believe my writing is valuable as an idea, I will keep writing irrespective how sacrificing it may task me. Value must be believed before it can be communicated so clearly that the value becomes intricately wired to others perception of reality. I therefore do not write in pursuit of value but I write in response as a believer of value to communicate. Again, if someone believes they belong to a lower social class, they will condemn themselves to their caste and have no inclination or fortitude to manifest the reality of a higher social class. So as we begin the new year and the new decade, let us ponder all the mental constructs and ideas we have believed; let us refine them for wisdom, wealth, and honour as what is reality only is by merit of our collective belief. This is extremely significant, do all you may, dear reader, to understand!
  2. Humanity is innately and incurably social. The success of social media should teach all of a basic human truth – almost everyone wants to be recognized, seen, liked, and even loved. In that human fact of sociability are two important lessons: First, people will just do anything not to upset their social likeability. The majority will thus follow the cultural template just so they are not defined as deviants. Social ostracism breaks the heart of the strongest so be minded that, many things are happening not because they are right per se, but because the social satisfaction has primed conformity. A status of acceptance and belonging is fundamental to our species and so people conform. This lesson is important because when you are zealous about a path, understand the sociocultural narratives around that passion, what idea does society project as a standard for agreeability, as that will guide your actions. The second lesson is closely related to the first, if people follow the set ‘norms’ for sociability then you must learn the skills of leadership necessary to set and reset these ‘norms’ and to garner following along your journey. Understanding nonconformity in a socially admirable way is important but more so necessary to give your ideas the fighting chance of becoming reality. Forget about wanting to journey alone, however, that path of leadership requires that you are not scared of your shadows, learn to turn loneliness into solitudes as that is necessary condition for not giving up. Learn to collaborate with others but also learn to work alone when necessary; build communities around the ideas you have come to treasure but yet again learn to travel alone so you may inspire new sojourners.
  3. It matters that which you leave behind; that which you pass on is more important than the lots you are handed at the beginning of the journey. The reasoning for our sociability is because we are not only genetically related but the effects of one’s actions ripple many generations in the universe, so be minded beyond yourself and ask what is the legacy you will pass in this circle of life. Valuation of human life is ultimately based on what is perceived to be passed on; so be responsible for your narratives and legacy. As you pursue a meaningful legacy, do not forget there are thresholds to breaking different levels of success. What may impress one community may barely meet the minimum standard for another but be persistent to learn and to grow. Refine your ideas continuously for valuableness and sociability. Be relentless in pursuing the ideals you find valuable as your contribution to our specie. If it gets tough on the journey, remember growth is exponential but yet a function of performance over time.
  4. Unintended events and consequences can still be beautiful if you are disposed to harnessing everything for a good legacy. Because social acceptance is foundational to our existence and consciousness, rejection is brutal. Also, our belief in ideas naturally defines ‘our expectations’ and thus unmet expectations question our rationality and the validity of our human experience. Rejection and disappointments thus are two enemies we must confront on the journey of life; even more so is the fear of rejection and disappointment. Be humble enough so as not to question your identify by your rejections: Be courageous enough to embrace rejections without giving up. Also do not feel entitled but be grateful enough such that disappointments can be rechanneled as learning points without it unnecessarily draining you. Rejection and disappointment can be vexatious but use them as thermal energy necessary for the lift.
  5. Be authentically you yet seek growth. People will abuse you with the aim of making you normal as they mentally construe normal. We love averages as normal distributions are the premise for even our science. This means that, standing out will cost you. Seeking to be different and even extraordinary will threaten norms which will fight back. Even bosses and others you may have believed and submitted to their ideas will trivialize your existence and contribution when you begin to assert your difference, but that is alright. Understand that, to many, you are only to be used and discarded when better alternatives exist. Do not let this human proclivity for violence paralyze you, let it empower you to be the king of your board. Be intentional as a grandmaster, minded of every stroke, curating a checkmate where legacy that furthers humanity wins. Do not be anybody’s pawn. Do not allow yourself to be used although you may play into others’ expectations and ideas sometimes. You must make those moves not as surrender but as an exchange in prudence. Never forsake the idea that: You are King, in the image and likeness of God Himself.

As 2020 and the last decade winds down, I look back to the 10 by hand measure room behind the shop I slept and I am grateful. I am even humbled by the possibilities in 2021 and the next decade. I am minded this thing called life is not a sprint but a marathon and although it is important to win temporary and be socially likeable today, I dare to treasure building a legacy for when I am 85 years old. And speaking about 85 years old, 2020 gave me a walking stick for its last three months; An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. ACL injuries are common amongst footballers and sportspersons. I am nothing of a sportsman, yet I suffered an Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear recently. The only reason I escaped a knee reconstruction surgery is because my knee does not earn me as much money as it does for sportspeople. The mechanics of the injury were such that, a couch saved my head from being a mashed potato and that accident has added to my resolve to treasure the little things such as walking, those things so common to us that we do take them for granted.

So in conclusion, be grateful and wise, even courageous, and have dominion. Let God’s grace anoint us unto righteousness that we may fulfill our purpose and uniqueness as human beings. I appreciate your friendship, likes, followership, and community that promotes these ideals as God has given us.

The writer is a lawyer, an Enterprise Risk Professional and an author of two books: 2021 and the next decade shall be our exceedingly successful years yet, hope those are your ideas too? Happy new year my friend. 

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