By Frederick Mordi
In today’s fast-paced world, which is so full of care that often leaves humanity with little or no time to stand and stare, it may be comforting to reflect on Desiderata, a popular poem by Max Ehrmann, an American poet and lawyer.
Desiderata, which is one of the greatest poems ever written, is a Latin word that means: ‘things to be desired.’ The poem is full of insight and wisdom. It is still relevant today as it was when Ehrmann first wrote it about 100 years ago. Found in many offices and homes, the poem talks about the vicissitudes of life, the perennial nature of love, and mankind’s search for God.
The full poem is reproduced below.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Frederick Mordi
George Washington, the first President of the United States, and one of the founding fathers of the country, is reputed to be an honest man. He imbibed the noble virtue of honesty as a child. His father taught him that he should always stand up for the truth.
An incident that reportedly happened while he was growing up proved to be a test of his character. As the story is told, his father gave him a present of a hatchet, one day. Washington was proud of his small hatchet. He swung the axe around the garden playfully, and used it to trim down plants everywhere that fancied his attention. Doing this must have made him feel like a strong lad. He did not know when he cut down his father’s favourite young cherry tree.
Upon discovering that his cherry tree had been chopped down, his angry father demanded to know who did it. Shaking like a leaf, Washington quickly owned up: “Papa, I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my little hatchet.”
His father’s anger dissolved away at once. His face brightened up as he said, “It is all right George. I shall not beat you because you told me the truth.”
Another boy named George Brown, also mistakenly chopped down a tree that his father very much cherished. His enraged father thundered: “Who cut down my apple tree?”
“I did it dad,” replied the lad boldly.
Mr. Brown gave his son a good hiding for cutting down his apple tree. Still sobbing, the boy sought to know why he got smacked, even when he owned up like George Washington did. To this, his father replied sarcastically, “you are George Brown; not George Washington!”
The tale of the two Georges has a valuable moral lesson: no matter what, honesty is the best policy in life. This resonates with the words of Alexander Pope, a famous English poet, who once wrote that “an honest man is the noblest work of God.”
By Frederick Mordi
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was a dogged fighter and an enduring symbol of perseverance. Lincoln grew up in abject poverty and often went about without shoes. For this reason, he was nicknamed ‘Barefoot Abe.’
He did not receive formal education because his parents were poor. But he loved reading. He was an omnivorous reader. He read any book that he came across, often by the fireplace, as electricity was not common in those days. Little by little, he taught himself how to read and write. He eventually became a lawyer. As a lawyer, he had a reputation for being honest. This also earned him the moniker: ‘Honest Abe.’ He did various jobs including: manual labourer, railroad builder, store clerk, soldier, and surveyor, before he entered politics.
It is said that he failed several times in his political career. He was defeated when he ran for the position of Speaker; he was defeated when he tried to get nomination for Congress; and he was defeated for the Senate. He also lost the nomination for Vice President. But he did not give up, until he finally became President. Apart from politics, he also failed in business. Lincoln’s interesting story demonstrates man’s inherent ability to triumph over adversities. It proves the truth in the well-known saying often used to encourage people who are passing through difficulties in life: ‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.’
People have different threshold levels for managing adversity. Some people have low threshold, while others have high threshold levels. Those with high threshold levels are able to push on, when others give up easily. Successful people appear to have high threshold levels of managing adversity. A few examples will drive home this point.
Henry Ford’s early business ventures failed before he became successful; Soichiro Honda, the man who founded Honda, once failed a job interview with Toyota Motor Corporation, but did not lose hope; even Bill Gates Jr. founder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest men on the planet, failed in his first business. All three surmounted the initial obstacles on their path and went on to become successful.
Dr. Paul Stoltz, who has studied the capacity of people to handle adversities, coined the term Adversity Quotient (AQ) in 1997. Stoltz defines AQ as a score that measures the ability of a person to deal with adversities in his or her life. AQ is also referred to as the science of resilience. Stoltz put together his research findings in a book entitled: Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities, which became an international bestseller.
It all started during his undergraduate days at the University of California, when he sought to know from his professor what makes people win in business, sport, school and even life. The professor could not answer this question. And so Stoltz took it upon himself to find out why. It was his research that eventually culminated in the concept of Adversity Quotient.
Stoltz discovered in the course of his research that people respond differently to adversity. He found out that how people respond to adversity determines how successful they become in life. Perhaps, the most interesting part of his discovery is the fact that AQ is not fixed and as such can be improved upon. Stoltz and his team have come up with a series of scientifically backed, internationally tested, and verified methodologies that consistently drive improvements in AQ.
Currently, PEAK, an organisation that he set up to research into AQ, has helped schools and companies to increase their performance. For instance, Harvard Business School has integrated Stoltz’s AQ theory and methods into its executive education courses. Apart from education and business, the AQ concept also finds application in the field of health. A study in the United Kingdom further established that there is a correlation between AQ and optimism, happiness, meaningful engagement at work, and general quality of life. AQ is quite different from Intelligence Quotient (IQ), which measures one’s level of intelligence; or Emotional Intelligence (EQ) that relates to a person’s ability to make mature decisions.
It is important to build up your strength to be able to confront adversity, when it comes. One of the ways of defeating adversity is by refusing to give up in the face of daunting challenges. The words of Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, may serve as an inspiration as you do so: “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
By Frederick Mordi
It was a pleasant surprise for Nigerians on August 30, when news filtered in that Mark Zuckerberg, Founder of Facebook and one of the richest men in the world, was in the country. Understandably, this generated a lot of excitement in Nigeria that reportedly has the largest community of Facebook users in Africa. According to reports, there are 16 million Nigerians on Facebook. This figure is more than the population of Sweden and Denmark put together.
Although the organisers kept the high profile Zuckerberg’s visit secret, social media users in the country were not quiet when it became public knowledge. The news went viral at once on various social media platforms.
The 32-year old American billionaire was in Nigeria to attend a workshop on ‘Facebook for Developers,’ for local engineers, corporate executives and partners. The objective of the event was to explore ways of empowering Nigerian techies.
Zuckerberg had earlier visited the Co-Creation Hub in Yaba, Lagos, which is often regarded as Nigeria’s ‘Silicon Valley,’ where he talked to youngsters at a summer coding camp. “The energy here is amazing,” he was quoted as saying.
He also met with Nollywood celebrities and local software developers, and later jogged with some tech entrepreneurs in Lagos, where he savored the splendour of the nation’s commercial capital.
Apparently impressed with the prodigious talents that abound in the country, Zuckerberg has promised to use more Nigerian languages such as Igbo and Yoruba, in offering services on Facebook, which currently accommodates only Hausa language. He left for Kenya, an East African country, which has one of the best mobile money transfer services on the continent, the following day.
No doubt, Zuckerberg’s brief visit to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, and Kenya, would have gone a long way in correcting misconceptions about Africa. The handful of Nigerians who managed to have audience with the billionaire, would have discovered, as others have, that Zuckerberg is quite simple and down-to-earth.
He proves the truth in the saying attributed to John Ruskin: “I believe that the first test of a truly great man is his humility.”
By Frederick Mordi
Dr. (Mrs.) Hope Sadza, the vice chancellor of Women’s University in Africa, which is located in Harare, Zimbabwe, is described as an ‘iron lady.’ Sadza’s antecedents speak volumes for the appellation, which is usually reserved for women of indomitable character.
For instance, there was a personal incident that made her seek audience with the President of Zimbabwe, according to her, to ‘put the record straight.’ And so, she stormed the presidential villa with her letter. She refused to give the letter to the guards. She refused to give it to the receptionist. She refused to give it to the President’s Personal Assistant. She insisted on giving the letter to only one person, and that is the President himself! She threatened to make a scene if her request was not treated with dispatch.
When word about a “woman who wanted to hand over a personal letter,” filtered into the President’s ears, he felt so curious that he personally came out of a meeting and took the letter from her. It was only then that she simmered down. She got an appointment to see the President in two days!
When she was about to open the Women’s University in Africa, she met another brick wall. The minister responsible for Higher Education in that country, who knew her only too well, alerted the Chief of Police to “arrest that tenacious and hot headed women,” for attempting to set up a university without a charter.
Apparently she knew the charter had been signed but not gazetted. Not one to be intimidated by a minister, Sadza charged into the Home Affairs Minister’s office and complained about how “opening a university was now a crime” and loitering and being on the streets for women “had become a noble cause.” The matter was swept under the carpet, where it has remained ever since.
Sadza also recalled being called to the Public Service Commission to be reprimanded for owning a hairdressing salon without declaring her interests to the commission. She retorted “since when has hair dressing as a business been part of government.” She was left to carry on her duties in peace. She has been a thorn in the flesh of those who are comfortable with the status quo.
Born on 26 November, 1944, of a school teacher mother and a businessman father, who ran a fleet of taxis in Harare, Sadza is indeed any enigma to many. Her father was one of the first Africans in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) who owned taxis in Harare, the capital city. This must have made him a rich man by all standards then.
As can be expected, she had a very strict upbringing from her mother who thought girls must be married to “certificates” and not to rich men without degrees! Thus she ensured that Sadza had proper education. One of the first things that she did after she started primary school was to change one of her names which in the Shona language means “sleep.” Every little girl had laughed at that name…
She proceeded to secondary school, finished her ‘O’ level and went on to do teacher training for primary schools. After teaching for two years, she became restless because the job did not give her satisfaction. She took off to Zambia to do book-keeping and accountancy. She created a record in her school when she got a distinction in bookkeeping—the only one in the entire nation for that year.
A woman with a voracious appetite for learning, Sadza left after a stint at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Zambia, to study Political Science at the University of Missouri, in the United States, in 1975. However, she changed her course mid-stream to do a Public Administration degree which she felt would stand her in good stead at independence in free Zimbabwe, following that up with a Master degree. After picking all the degrees abroad, she returned to her home country, which was by then no longer under colonial rule.
Her first job in the new Zimbabwe in 1980 was assistant secretary in the Ministry of Manpower Planning and Development. She later moved to the Public Service Commission, which had years earlier tried to persecute her, to take up a job as a management trainer for senior civil servants.
When she introduced a separate class for management training for women, she was criticised for separating men and women who would later do the same job. But she had her reasons. She had noticed how women felt inferior and intimidated in the presence of their male counterparts. She had also observed that men and women have totally different styles of management. She felt women are more understanding than men.
This apparently inspired her to establish Women’s University in Africa, the first of its kind on the continent. Before then, she had founded the Women in Management and Development Association, winning an award as the founder of a now thriving association.
In the area of corporate social responsibility, she is quite outstanding. She has given trophies which bear her name, to top girls or women in various sections of society. A woman, who cannot suffer poverty, she once addressed a government primary school in her university grounds and noticed 10 girls in threadbare uniforms. She bought them all uniforms and “adopted” one who was HIV positive, and had lost both parents, promising to see the girl through university.
Sadza’s passion is to see mature women who failed to access tertiary education when they were young, obtain the much needed degree certificate and be self-sufficient in life. She remains doggedly committed to this cause because she believes that self-sufficiency and independence in decision-making are the hallmarks of a free woman. She also strongly believes that the world will be a better place if educated women start to take up political posts. Sadza has won many awards for education and is in high demand from colleges and organisations, to deliver speeches.
Sadza’s employment records shows that she has held a number of positions in government. Beyond the government, she has also served as part-time lecturer, Political Science and Public Administration Department, University of Zimbabwe. She has attended major seminars, both local and international, where she presented a number of papers. She is also a consultant to a number of leading organisations on management-related issues. She is member of several professional women development bodies both within and outside the continent. She is also on the board of several companies.
It was in recognition of these sterling qualities that Nigeria’s Financial Standard Newspaper in collaboration with the Pan-African Organisation for Women Recognition (POWR), the organisers of Women Entrepreneurs Achievers Network (WEAN) Award in March 2007, in Lagos, gave Sadza the trophy for being the ‘Most Outstanding Female in the Education Sector of the Year.’ It is perhaps due to her tenacity of purpose that she has been able to come this far, considering that she hails from a country that has the highest inflation rate in the world.
Sadza, who has traveled extensively around the world on government and university duties, is married to a medical doctor and has two children. Her exciting story shows that given every opportunity, women can achieve a lot.
This article was first published in Nigeria’s Financial Standard Newspaper in 2007.
Messi: Too young to quit
By Frederick Mordi
“The national team is over for me. It’s been four finals. It’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
With these words, Lionel Messi, the legendary Argentine striker, announced his early retirement from international football, last Monday. This announcement, which was totally unexpected, shocked his fans around the world. Since then, there have been calls for Messi to rescind his decision. The ‘Don’t go Lio’ campaign has gone viral on the social media.
Leading the campaign is the President of Argentina himself, Mauricio Macri, who is reportedly planning to meet Messi next week to persuade him to change his mind. “The truth is that it’s good fortune, a joy, a gift from God to have the best player in the world in a country like ours that is so football-crazy,” Macri was quoted as saying.
Similarly, charismatic Argentine footballer, Diego Maradona, has also added his voice. Maradona said: “Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion.”
Messi’s decision to quit playing football for Argentina followed the humiliating loss his team suffered the previous day, at the hands of, or to be more precise, legs of the Chileans, at the final of the 2016 edition of Copa America. The Argentines lost 4-2 to Chile in a penalty shoot-out, after the match ended 0-0 at the end of 120 minutes. Messi missed a crucial penalty kick in the match.
Having earlier lost to Chile also at the final match last year; having failed to beat the Germans in the final of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil; and having been defeated by Brazil at the final of the 2007 edition of Copa, Messi must have felt that that was the last straw. It was Argentina’s fourth major final loss in nine years.
It is too early for Messi to quit. He has age on his side. He is just 29 years old. He is still in top form and has only recently, become Argentina’s all-time leading goal scorer with 55 goals. He has the capability of playing in at least two more World Cup tournaments. Of course, his records at the club level are simply amazing. He has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with Barcelona, his club. He has also won the Ballon d’Or five times and the Olympic gold at the 2008 Games. He is unarguably one of the best players in the world today.
Perhaps, this quote attributed to one of the greatest basketball players in the world, Michael Jordan, may cheer up Messi a bit, as he ponders whether to return to the national team:
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Messi should keep trying. Champions do not quit.
By Frederick Mordi
One of the greatest heroes of the Second World War was an unprepossessing British general named Bernard Montgomery. He was of average height and slender stature. But when he spoke, his voice was like thunder. He was a maverick and a no-nonsense man, who commanded the respect of both his superiors and his subordinates.
Due to his charismatic nature, his superiors entrusted him with the task of halting the German offensive at the North African theatre of war, even though he was not the most senior military officer at the time. He eventually managed to turn the tables against the famous German general Erwin Rommel and his Afrika Korps, against all odds. Had Montgomery failed in this important assignment, historians say Great Britain would have probably lost the war.
The first thing he did when he took charge of affairs of the Eighth Army was to change the mentality of his men, whose morale was at the lowest ebb. He understood that only a ‘culture change’ could produce the kind of results that he envisioned. He gave a powerful speech full of imagery that galvanised his disillusioned soldiers into action. The speech is regarded as one of the most inspiring in history. Every aspiring leader in an organisation should learn from the speech, whose slightly edited version is reproduced below:
“I want first of all to introduce myself to you. You do not know me. I do not know you. But we have got to work together. Therefore we must understand each other and we must have confidence in each other. I have only been here a few hours. But from what I have seen and heard since I arrived I am prepared to say, here and now, that I have confidence in you. We will then work together as a team. And together we will gain the confidence of this great Army and go forward to final victory in Africa.
“I believe that one of the first duties of a commander is to create what I call “atmosphere,” and in that atmosphere his staff, subordinate commanders, and troops will live and work and fight. I do not like the general atmosphere I find here. It is an atmosphere of doubt. All that must cease. Let us have a new atmosphere. . . Here, we will stand and fight; there will be no further withdrawal. I have ordered that all plans and instructions dealing with further withdrawal are to be burned, and at once. We will stand and fight here. If we can’t stay here alive, then let us stay here dead.
“Our mandate from the Prime Minister is to destroy the Axis forces in North Africa. And it will be done. If anyone here thinks it can’t be done, let him go at once. I don’t want any doubters in this party. It can be done, and it will be done, beyond any possibility of doubt.
“I have no intention of launching our great attack until we are completely ready. There will be pressure from many quarters to attack soon. I will not attack until we are ready and you can rest assured on that point . . . I understand there has been a great deal of “belly-aching” out here. By “bellyaching” I mean inventing poor reasons for not doing what one has been told to do. All this will stop at once. If anyone objects to doing what he is told then he can get out and at once. I want that made very clear right down through the Eighth Army.
“What I have done is to get over to you the atmosphere in which we will now work and fight. You must see that that atmosphere permeates right down through the Eighth Army to the most junior private soldier. All the soldiers must know what is wanted. When they see it coming to pass there will be a surge of confidence throughout the Army.
“I ask you to give me your confidence and to have faith that what I have said will come to pass. . . I am always available to be consulted by the senior officers of the staff. The great point to remember is that we are going to finish with this chap Rommel once and for all. It will be quite easy. There is no doubt about it.”
This simple speech full of candour and devoid of pretentious phrases, replaced fear with courage, doubt with conviction, and hopelessness with confidence. Thus, he won his first victory without firing a single shot! He understood ‘atmosphere’ a term for morale, mattered a lot and he took immediate steps to create a favourable condition for the soldiers to operate in. He was methodical in his approach and he paid attention to the minutest details. This yielded dividends.
Montgomery also pioneered what is today known as ‘management by walking about’ in organisational parlance, by mixing freely with his soldiers, getting to know their problems first-hand, and offering solutions. This greatly boosted the morale of the Army. He allowed them to use their initiative unlike the rigid regime that his predecessors had put in place.
In addition, he called his commanders by name, creating a sense of belonging in them. He further chose to wear his simple trademark beret to identify with the rank and file. All these simple tactics contributed in no small measure to the decisive victory he recorded against the Germans.
In an organisation, leaders that inspire confidence in their subordinates are more likely to succeed than those who instil fear in them.
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