SMOOTH-LIFE with Olakunle Soriyan.
Today is Monday and on smooth 98.1,my focus is on those at the top and those seeking to get there. There are four words I love so much because of a kind of energy they ignite in me. They are Purpose, Passion, Vision, Sacrifice. These words creates a stirring within the soul of any visionary; they are the very reason for existence; they form the intangible but potent characteristic through which they hope to change the world.
From ancient inventors of thought like Adam Smith to inventors of software like Bill Gates, the Nigerian Philip Emeagwali, impact have been the same. In 2005, my company ran a survey with Businessday Newspapers on why the 5 richest men in the world were still working. In an age of retire rich, retire young, we were quite interested in why these stupendously rich men, who obviously need not put in one more ounce of effort for the rest of their lives, were still busy creating, competing and contributing.
A part of the results we found revealed why African companies and individuals were yet to be named amongst the top five or ten wealthiest companies and individuals the world over, and why they may never be if they sit up not.
The challenge of Third World Africa in producing the relevant innovation necessary to drive economic advancement is rooted in its past, present and prevailing experiences of economic backwardness. Having had to endure grueling years of oppression, poverty and pain, the average African is trained from his childhood, through symbols and experiences, to value and pursue a comfortable and convenient lifestyle.
Growing up, we were pointed to and encouraged to aspire towards the status of the rich Uncle or Aunt, neighbor or friend of the family, who kept a good white collar job, drove a fancy car, lived in a plush neighborhood and took vacations every summer. These symbols set the standard for all our pursuits, and our quest for material freedom became the predominant motive for productivity. A success lid was successfully implanted into our psyche that practically stifles our creative potential. I mean, in this part of the world, our career choices are determined, not by a sense of purpose, vision or passion, but by material prospects. Even our desire and choice to start a business or pursue an idea or drive a career is equally motivated, purely by profit or a self-serving gain. Thus we sacrifice the possibilities inherent in our true potential for the luxury of material comfort. This places a lid on our productivity and competitiveness, globally speaking.
The extent of our pursuits however, will be determined, largely, by our perceptions of success. If we employ the wrong standards in measuring success, then we are bound to face a fundamental challenge. If comfort or material wealth is the goal of our pursuits, and if that’s what we see, then at best, we’ll achieve that and recycle that status the rest of our lives. No one pursues more than he sees. If success is determined purely by the volume of material possessions at our disposal, then as soon as we attain a reasonable level of material wealth, there would be no further motivation to increase our productive capacity, truncating further innovation and damming our creativity.
True success however, cannot be measured by what we have achieved [material or societal status notwithstanding] rather, it must be measured by what we have achieved compared to the true value of our potential. It is imperative we rise above Money, Fame, Glory and comfort, if we must pursue, compete and achieve globally. This is a key reason Bill Gates is still fervently working. He has refused to be limited by his material achievements and is using the dividends to drive the kind of commitments society can be grateful for. William H Gates III did not set out to be the richest man in the world.
On the contrary, becoming that the richest man in the world was the by-product of a much larger goal, to change the way the world conducted business and life; a goal which has been expressed in his commitment to continually advance and improve software technology, and to make it easier, more cost effective and more enjoyable for people to use. He is the highest giver to any cause—amongst those giving to the gospel, islam, terrotism, and what have you. The world has never been the same again. One man’s vision, larger than his appetite and quest for comfort, has contributed critically to the individual and collective advancement of generations. This is nature. This is God’s plan for success. This is the definition of my four words: purpose, Passion, Vision, and Sacrifice.