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Can we Unlearn?

December 12, 2012

Finally it is December, and the examination marathon in the region finally comes to an end. It started in October for Tanzania Secondary school then later primary schools and finally in Kenya the same happened. Since October, there has been lots of drama with some student giving birth in class and another having no choice but to do the exam in a hospital bed, while under the surveillance of policemen. Well, to all the students out there, I hope you did well in your exams and hopefully when your results come out you will not say they don’t belong to you.

Speaking of memory, remember the postures we used to adopt in class when doing exams? Putting your left hand over your paper, to obstruct the student sitting on your left from being a peeping Tom? And if there was someone sitting across from you, then you would be forced to find a different sitting posture to make sure neither the one on the left, nor the one across from you would get a chance to read your answers? Looking back now and knowing what I now do, I can’t help but wonder, why were we doing that? I obviously was not in class with the students who recently sat their exams, but I can guarantee you 1000% that they were hiding their papers to ensure their fellow students did not get a chance to see their papers.
 
I believe this is a habit that was instilled in us by our teachers, right from that early age when we were growing up. We were taught that to be competitive and to stay ahead of the pack, in order to outsmart everyone around us and maintain the number one position, we cannot afford to share what we know with others.  At that point when we were in school it may have seemed like a simple matter; after all, its just the examinations we were talking about, right? I don’t know but sometimes I can’t help but ask myself whether some of us took those lessons too seriously to the point of carrying them forward to other aspects of our lives…
 
The reason I ask this question is because after observing people for a while now, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of humans are self-absorbed, self-centered and self-oriented; its all about their success, their power, their wealth, their popularity, etc. Taking the business world as an example, very few successful personalities will stop to extend a helping hand to new entrants into the market.  Instead, what is common to see is these successful people using their muscles to ensure they remain in control of the market. 
 
If it is in the office setup, how many times have we seen innocent parties losing their positions in the office because of office politics?  How many times do we see deserving individuals not getting that most deserved promotion at work, just because someone else used some devious way of ridding them off that opportunity? How many times have we seen/heard people setting others up for a fall, just to make sure they get rid of competition in the office? Going to the extend of staging murders and “accidents”, all for what?
 
The more I think about it the more I believe that the reason why the most successful people in the world today made it is because they realized one very important secret; the art of sharing. Successful people share their knowledge with their teams; they share their visions, their skills, their mistakes and most importantly their successes. They set the pace and help their teams follow that pace, giving them pointers and tips on how to keep up with them. In short, they offer help and have no fear that by sharing what they know, they will create more competition for themselves. Think of anyone successful, starting from Oprah Winfrey, Clint Eastwood, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Robert Kyosaki, etc. The more they have helped, the more successful they have become! Even in his absence, Apple is still at the top of its league because Steve Jobs did a good job of imparting what he had in himself to his team and as a result, it is safe to assume that his legacy will live on.
 
So, what lesson do we learn here? My takeout of all this is that if only we can stop thinking about how much I can achieve as “ME” and start thinking about what else we can do as “WE” then all of US (you and I) will have a greater chance of bettering our lives and creating a more harmonious society to live in. Like Dr. Allan Fromme said,  "People have been known to achieve more as a result of working with others than against them."
 
One of my favorite motivational speakers passed on recently. The late Zig Ziglar in one of his books said, “You can have everything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”. What this simply means is that life is not always about what you want or need, it is about what you can do for others without requiring them to do anything for you. As a reward, life gives you what you wanted and more. Besides this, what most people do not understand is that the more you help others, the more you gain deeper understanding and expertise in that particular area. You tend to specialize by default, making you a formidable force to reckon with.
 
It is time to un-learn the selfish habits we may have picked up as we grew up. I encourage us all to let go of selfish interests and intents and work together to make a difference. I can’t remember who said this but he was right when he said, “if you want to go fast, then walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk together with others”. Let us cultivate a culture of togetherness and teamwork because even though many of us may be more capable than some of us, none of us is as capable as all of us working together. 
 
Together Everyone Achieves More…. That is what the word TEAM means.
 
PS: This article appeared on the 9th December 2012, in one of the Weekly Newspapers in Tanzania, "Guardian on Sunday", under my column known as "Thoughts in Words".

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