Assess. Readdress. Progress.
Today I’d like to start this article by thanking all those who wrote back to me to wish me a quick recover after finding out I was unwell. Thank you all so very much for taking the time to check on me. I don’t take that for granted. May God bless you loads.
On another note, I’d like to address another set of readers who seem to be having very complex questions that don’t seem to have answers... “What am I doing wrong? Why is everything I do seem to hit a snug every time? I’ve seen other people do the same thing but when I attempt it, it backfires on me, why? Does it mean I am not gifted in doing business?
These are some of the questions I get in my inbox from people who follow my column on Guardian and my blog. Of course you can tell from the tone used that these are very frustrated people, people who are almost giving up, if they already haven’t.
These questions reminded me of a story I read on the Internet a while back, which I had a chance to read again when it was sent to me on whatsapp this last week. Here it goes…
An army barracks had four soldiers guarding a concrete slab in front of the barracks at all times.
Different commanders came and went but the tradition remained; the soldiers changed shifts guarding the slabs.
After 80 years, a new commander was assigned to the barracks. Amongst the things he did was to ask why things were done the way they were.
When he asked why soldiers were guarding the slab, he was told, “We've always done it this way. It's our tradition. Our former commanders instructed us to do that”.
The commander was bent on finding out the reason for this practice. He went to the Archives to look for answers and came across a document that had the explanation. The document was very old. It had instructions written by one of the retired commanders who had even passed away.
The new commander learnt that over 80 years ago, the barracks wanted to build a platform where events could be performed. When the concrete slab was laid, wild animals walked over it at night before the slab would dry.
The soldiers would fix it the next morning but when evening came the same thing would happen. So the commander ordered that four soldiers should guard the concrete slab for three weeks to allow it to dry.
The following week the commander was transferred to handle another assignment elsewhere, and a new commander was brought in.
The new commander found the routine and continued to enforce it without asking any question.
And since then, every other commander that came did the same.
Thus, eighty years later; soldiers continued guarding the concrete slab. An assignment that was ordinarily designed to last just three weeks. . . 80yrs of ignorance with hard labor has passed.
Let’s take a moment and internalize what we just read. If you could be very honest with yourself, is there a chance that there are some things you do today that you inherited from those before you that you never even bothered to ask why you should do them but you STILL do them anyway? To be more specific, is there a chance that you are carrying on obsolete beliefs, attitudes and traditions that were relevant to certain people at a certain time, that have no place in our society today?
I know I might come under flak for this, but let me point out something I have always found very disturbing in our society. There are some tribes that have very retrogressive traditions, for example, wife inheritance. In this day of AIDS/HIV among other transferable diseases, why would people still engage in this? I believe this tradition served its purpose those centuries ago but in light of civilization, exposure and women empowerment, why do these tribes still enforce this on women?
Then there is this other tradition of not marrying from certain tribes if you are from a certain tribe, or being estranged from your community if you marry from a certain race. Come on people, we are not in Stone Age any more. The world has become a global village. How far do you think you will go if you are still stuck with your Stone Age practices?
Zeroing in on you individually, what is your OWN opinion about yourself? Do you still hold this mentality that you cannot do certain things because nobody in your family ever did them? Every day I talk to people and almost 95% of them will say something negative about themselves like, “there is no way I can drive a car because after all, I don’t earn enough money. Besides, I never went to university and in our family, no one went beyond standard seven”. So what? Your life is your own and unless you decide to take the initiative to make a difference in it, you will continue watching over a slab and waste 80 years of your life like the soldiers did.
Friends, you have your own life as an individual. I believe in the one-box-per-person policy which states that you came into this world by yourself (even if you were born twins, you didn’t come out at the same time) and you will be buried alone, in your own coffin! What do I mean by this? I mean that every one of us has his or her own life to lead. You do not have to lead the same kind of life your great-great-great-great-grandmother led! You do not have to live and die a pauper just because that is how everyone else before you did! You can choose today to alter the course of your life by changing your mindset like the army general did. He did not want to continue doing something just because everyone else before him did it. He decided to dig back into history to find out why there were guards guarding the slab and what he found out is that the country had incurred unnecessary losses for 80 years just because those before him did not want to do the hard work; in other words no one wanted to change “things are done”.
How many of you are suffering in bad relationships because “in our culture or region separation or divorce is not allowed”? How many women are ready to settle down with morons just because their biological clock is ticking and there is pressure from parents and society in general? On this note please allow me to address my fellow women. Ladies, do you realize that none of those people who are pushing you into marrying that man will be there when you are crying yourself to sleep or putting on a brave face to show the world that everything is super duper at home while on the inside a little bit of you dies every day? Is it really worth it? You need to really think long and hard before some stupid traditions cause you to make a mistake you’ll regret to your grave.
I know of people who even though it is not doing well now, they have stuck to a certain line of business because “it is a family business” and they cannot deviate from the norm. Listen friends, if you are still thinking like this, then you need to take some time off from your thoughts and read a little bit about companies like BlackBerry and Kodak. They were once the companies to go to but look at what happened! Rigidity happened. I can’t remember which one of his books it was but Anton Myrer had this to say about being rigid: “Inflexibility is the worst human failing. You can learn to check impetuosity, overcome fear with confidence and laziness with discipline. But for rigidity of mind, there is no antidote. It carries the seeds of its own destruction.” If you cannot rethink your business strategy, if you cannot rethink your product bouquet and tweak it because you do not want to go against your family traditions, then my friends you are on a destruction path.
Friends, can you genuinely look at your life today and say you know why you are doing what you are doing today? Are you genuinely happy with how your life has turned out to be? Or, like the readers who asked the questions I mentioned earlier, are you looking for progress that seems to have eluded you over the years? If you want progress, you will need to reassess and readdress your situation.
Unknown to you, you might just be guarding a concrete slab, and without a conscious decision to deviate from the norm, progress will never be possible for you.
Think about it...
PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 16th of October, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".