Special Features

Life minus love equals zero

Roger James Hamilton with 3 gold medals this week, Michael Phelps is now equaling the 2,168 year old record set by Leonidas of Rhodes (in 152 BC) for the most individual Olympic gold medals and has a chance to beat it with his two final races this Thursday (200m IM) and Friday (100m fly).
This is all the more incredible, given the story of his 2 year climb from the verge of suicide, which I wrote in July. Here is Michael’s story from rock-bottom:
One night in September 2014, less than 2 years ago, Michael’s world came crashing down when he got arrested for drink driving. He says “I thought the world would just be better off without me. I figured that was the best thing to do – just end my life.”
Struggling to come out of retirement for one more Olympics, Michael’s training wasn’t going well. So he had headed out to the Horseshoe Casino to binge on alcohol and poker. At 1am his Range Rover was pulled over by police and he was arrested.
It was the second arrest for DUI in 10 years. After the first time he was publicly shamed and promised he would never do it again. Now it looked like his chances of making a comeback were over.
Out the next day on bail, he locked himself in his house for the next 72 hours, texting to his agent “I don’t want to be alive anymore.”
What caused the breakdown? After his 4th Olympics in London, Michael was crowned “the most successful Olympian in history” with 18 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze Olympic medals. He said “It’s like we dreamed the biggest dream we could possibly dream and we got there. What do we do now?”
In the two years after the Olympics, he went from the highest high to the lowest low, losing all purpose and meaning in life. Then, in 2012 he told his coach, Bob Bowman, that he wanted to try for the Rio Olympics, despite being older than any other competitor.
They started training, but Bob said “It was very difficult for him to get back in shape. I think he got discouraged. I got discouraged.”
That discouragement led to the night of his arrest and Michael wanting to kill himself.
What flipped the switch from self destruction to his record-breaking success today?
One of the first people that Michael called when he was arrested was his friend, retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Ray said “I basically told him, ‘Okay, everything has a purpose, and now, guess what? It’s time to wake up.’ ” and he gave Michael a copy of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life”.
Despite facing 18 months probation with a one year suspended sentence, and suspension from the US swimming team, Michael was moved enough by what Ray said that he stepped away from the pool, took the book and checked into a rehab centre.
At the centre, he soon became known as “Preacher Mike” as he would begin each day by reading a chapter of “The Purpose Driven Life”.
That then led to him reading more books like Viktor E Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” and Joseph Murphy’s “The Power of Your Subconscious Mind”. Instead of focusing on his body, he focused on his mind and spirit.
Michael left the clinic a changed man. Within months, he had asked his girlfriend, Nichole Johnson, to marry him. A year later, this May, they had a baby boy, Boomer.
As for the training, Michael got back in the pool with a new energy.
Realising that what he did out of the water affected him enormously in the water, he said of his previous life: “I tried to fake it, pretty much. That’s what I was doing.” and of his life today, “I’m just living a freer, happier life now. I don’t feel like I’m carrying weights around anymore.”
Michael was the youngest competitor to ever swim in the Olympics, and now he is also be the oldest to ever swim in the Olympics (At 31 he is 2 years older than the 2nd oldest at the Rio Games). Asked how he feels, he says “I’m thankful, I’m sitting here alive today.”
Maybe you haven’t risen as high as Michael, or fallen as low.
But what new purpose could transform your own success and fulfilment in life today?
What could you do differently out of the water, which would change what you do in the water?
It’s never too later, and you’re never too old.
“Life minus love equals zero.”
~ Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Original July 1st post here: http://bit.ly/
2aNjvHG )

Edward Effah leads Fidelity to 79% Profit increase

In March 2001, Edward Effah was selected as one of the best twenty young leaders in Ghana for the inaugural class of the Ghana chapter of the Africa Leadership Initiative. Since then his name has never left the top performers list. Fidelity Bank under his leadership has recorded some phenomenal successes over the years and shows promise of continuous growth. In the industry, the bank has won several awards including the prestigious Best Bank- Customer Care for the Ghana Banking Awards under his leadership. He is by all standards a high performing individual.

In 2014, the nation was faced with an economic downturn that presented a turbulent period to the financial sector. In spite of this challenge Fidelity Bank recorded an appreciable performance under the leadership of Mr. Edward Effah in 2014 when profits increased by about 79% from the previous year’s GH¢63 million to GH¢112.5 million in 2014.

At the bank’s annual general meeting, Mr. Effeh said; “In the year under review, operating income was GH¢326 million, representing a growth of 67 percent over last year’s figure of GH¢195 million. Growth in operating income was as a result of a 59 percent growth in the net interest income from GH¢117 million in 2013 to GH¢186 million in 2014. Growth in fees and commission on the other hand increased but was below expectation due to the shortage in foreign currency and decreased international trade activities in the year”. He said that effective cost savings, notwithstanding the higher inflationary environment, supported the profit performance, saying “operating expense for the year came to GH¢183 million, 57 percent above that of the previous year.”

According to a news item published on the company’s website; assets of the group soared significantly by 85 per cent from GH¢1.69 billion in 2013 to GH¢3.14 billion in 2014. The bank’s profit after tax increased by about 90 per cent from GH¢43.86 million in 2013 to GH¢83.38 million at the end of last year, buoyed by about a 71 per cent growth in operating income from GH¢197.1 million in 2013 to GH¢336.7 million in 2014.

Mr. Effah attributes the Bank’s performance to improved internal processes substantially, enhanced delivery of service to customers and increased footprint in the Ghanaian banking landscape. He said the bank brought on board IBM, a leading IT company to provide the latest technology platform to serve its customers, invested in a state-of-the-art contact center to serve customers as well as the acquired ProCredit Savings and Loans Limited to ensure expansion of its activities. These factors are largely responsible for the growth. Mr. Edward Effah noted that the integration has been very smooth and that Fidelity currently has the best combination of Human Resources in the sector.

Board Chairman of the Bank, Dr. William Panford Bray, touching on the acquisition of ProCredit noted that the acquisition of ProCredit had helped the bank to increase its footprint across the country with an extended network of 80 branches and 110 ATMs. With the integration of processes and credit methodology well integrated, The bank can now boast of customer base increase from 485,000 to 621,829 helping to improve deposit base by 31 per cent to GH¢1.8 billion.

High performance in the financial sector enables high performance in all other sectors of an economy. With the likes of Edward Effah at the helm of affairs, there is light at the end of the tunnel for Africa as the Cheetahs, slowly move to the front-line. Mr. Effah is a classic example of high performance; a person who’s very presence in any group forces change in the upward direction.  Team SPiD-UP is working hard to find out what his driving philosophy is and when this is done, we hope to bring you an inspiring article that will encourage you towards being the best you can be. In the meantime, keep brightening your corner. #SPiD-UP

Isaac Wallace and Mosquitoes

My conversation with Isaac Wallace was challenging. It turned out to be nothing near what I had expected. But that’s what you get for approaching another person with your preconceived notions. It gets even more complex when he is an authentic musician who approaches his trade with a personal philosophy. One that you may not be familiar with. Given that he reminds me so much of Lee Scratch Perry provides enough grounds for me to label the man eccentric. But that’s another thing I probably should not do. You cannot really box this man, he is his own man. You don’t define him, he tells you what he is and you simply make an attempt to understand.

His history is complex. He has and continues to work with three generations of musicians. His influence is very diverse. His philosophy is original. Put all that together and the result is ntumtum akeka me dwe—the title of his debut album. But if you think a debut album is all there is to this man, think again. In his tracks are many hits produced for and with some of Ghana’s most celebrated artist including the likes of Ofori Amponsah and Kwabena Kwabena.

He has a different view of hi-life. He argues that it is not really a type of music or even a style for that matter. It is just “high” Music and perhaps as you will get with the music of Bob Marley. I shall desist from explaining this view for fear of misrepresenting the man. Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I understood he idea enough.

Currently n tour in Australia, here is a link to the video of our conversation when I met the man recently at the Achimota retail center with . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRVBd4AcmVU


Maanaa unfolds the Black I journey

For the morally-conscious individual, it is very easy to write off dancehall music because of the disturbing lyrics (often violent and near-pornographic) that have come to characterize the genre. Those who understand the music however, will contend that this is not a true reflection of the original dancehall music that started in Jamaica as a sub-genre of the conscious, liberating and righteousness powered reggae music. Like a normal child, dancehall became more morally decadent with every step it took further away from its mother genre. In the process, love gave way to hardcore pornography and the rant for justice gave way to wanton violent lyrics strong enough to shock the unprepared mind.

The situation is however, not hopeless as the genre also benefits from the work of both young and veteran artiste who are championing what is referred to in reggae-lingo as roots and culture. This breed of musicians, are working hard to bring moral sanity into the music while pursuing the restoration of true African values that are in sharp contrast to the now mainstay. In Jamaica, musicians like Anthony B, Louie Culture, Bushman, Capleton, Buju Banton, Jnr. Gong and many others are senior officers in this Special Forces unit of the Army.

The scenario is not that different in Ghana. Since dancehall music slowly begun to gain mainstream attention, it brought along the violence and the explicit sexual lyrics. Indeed it is this kind of content that has defined Ghanaian dancehall music with the conscious soldiers having to strive harder to project the positive, progressive, youth-conscientizing, love-promoting and nation-building aspect of dancehall music. This is what can be referred to as the “clean-up exercise” now being championed by Atlanta based Black I aka Nii Quarcoo. On the Ghanaian scene, he is the commanding officer in this unit of the Army.

Black I shot onto the scene with the bellwether-ing Tininii Kwano (the right way) that effortlessly forced a fan base into place leaving them yearning for more. His latest offering; Maanaa is a love story like no other. It is a commendable reverence of the African woman through the Rastafarian cultural conduit leading to the much needed heavy dose of consciousness for the neutralization of the debauchery in the music. The lyrics glorify culture in countless ways as much as it upholds the powerful image of the African woman. It promotes the unadulterated version of her character and bares the often not so evident African man’s love for his woman. Maanaa is a masterful work of art not only in lyrics but also in sound and quality. It is a well-crafted crossover born out of a fusion of traditional dancehall and hip-hop that is guaranteed to win the hearts of even non-dancehall enthusiasts. This great piece was produced by the young Golden Kid under the guidance of the indefatigable Atlanta based Kaddafi who has been behind the many hits from the Black I camp. Maanaa is bound to shift the Black I engine into 5thgear leaving many behind as far as Ghanaian reggae and dancehall is concerned.

In Ghana and Africa for that matter, talent abounds. The bane of artist has always been character and discipline. Black is a combination of talent, discipline and sound reasoning and this is demonstrated not only in his lyrical dexterity but also his choice of sound. Maanaa epitomizes all three into one work of art. If you haven’t heard Mannaa yet, get ready to be wowed out of your skin. If you are not a dancehall fan, prepare for your baptism. Maanaa is juts that song and Black I is just that artist. Listen to maanaa here https://soundcloud.com/blackimusik

Weak gods and no gods

So I am little agitated this morning simply because I could not have a cup of tea —long story. I figured some writing therapy (works every time) might be the way out. I decided to tackle some of the issues I have encountered in my many debates on and off social media. They are mostly about religion and afro-centrism. In my many escapades, I have identified five groups;

1 Those who preach atheism and in their cluelessness confuse it with afro-centrism.

2 The pseudo-atheists/near-agnostics who are in search of a black god to emancipate them from their mental slavery and deem it fit to preach it to others though they themselves haven’t found him yet.

3 Christianity haters who do not even know why they do it so they promote anything that sounds anti-Christian even when they don’t understand it; often collapsing their own arguments even before it has begun.

4 Baby-Christians who do not understand a lot of what is being said; so they occasionally question their faith.

5 The very interesting group who have a burning need to isolate spirituality from religion. This group is very diverse and surprisingly includes even atheist. It is however, dominated by new agers and serves as a converging point for all types including some Christians who say things like; “God is not a Christian”.

While I might not be able to address all of these groups, I will attempt a general response to some of the issues they keep raising to make their comical cases often erected on wobbly scaffolds.

First it will be interesting to examine what kind of a person pressures another to abandon their faith to join them in their faithlessness. Faith forces a modification of conduct—discipline and a conformity to a set of rules. The opposite of that is chaos to say the least. A life that doesn’t believe in anything is border-less and value-deficient. This type is a personification of anarchy and manifests as a rebel without a cause and must of necessity amount to nothing. It is a purposeless life that has no anchor. Its direction is uncertain because its goal is non-existent. It epitomizes the word LOST.

Take some time to think about it. When a man tells you to leave what you have and come to nothing; take a critical interest in his motives. They are not as intelligent as they try to sound and they don’t know the things they claim they know. In my experience 90% of the people who claim they have read the Bible have not. Especially those who claim they have read it from cover to cover. So how then do we validate their quoting of scripture, warped exegesis, and distorted homiletics? Not to mention their unpardonable blasphemy against history as a discipline.

If a man of Richard Dawkins’ caliber can make a complete monkey of himself with hate comments not befitting of his intellectual stature, it is not beyond these one-book-readers who parrot utter poppycock because they heard something somewhere that justifies their carnality. If you walk past a person who tells you to love even your enemies only to go with a person who tells you to mock and hate someone who believes something different from them and then comes back and chants one love, you have MAJOR issues.

I had a conversation with a Bobo Shanti priest recently. He was busy with his burn Jesus mantra prior to that. I asked him a few questions concerning the basis on which he claims Haile Selassie as the return of Christ. After yammering about how many psalms he reads a day and what the difference between knowledge, wisdom and understanding is, we finally got to the point. For his theory of Haile Selassie second coming and kingly manifestation of Jesus to work; he first needs the same historical Jesus he was burning and claims never existed. In effect; burn Jesus and lose Rastafari. You cannot have the reincarnation of something the never existed—that’s below even basic logic. When he couldn’t explain himself any further, he resorted to cussing and called me a journalist (I never understood that part) and a trickster. So much for the TRUTH he was teaching.

There is also the “my culture” people, who are guaranteed to be shocked out of their melanin laden skins if they should learn about the causes that have formulated what they now call their culture. But verily verily I say unto you; a culture that does not evolve is doomed to failure. Nowadays I hear families are accepting ipads as part of bride prize. You might be disgusted but I say that’s smart thinking. I will choose an ipad over a bottle of schnapps from Holland any day. And if you think our ancestors were wearing kabba made from wax prints before they met the Dutchman, think again. There are some musicians who claim, hi-life is our traditional music insisting that the youth must stick to it if they want international recognition. In the mean time they themselves in their days played funk and jazz and force-labeled it hi-life: it will be interesting to know which one of the instruments they use to make their “traditional” hi-life was invented by their ancestors? If it is not the guitar then maybe the keyboard or even the drum? Perhaps hi-life started with xylophones and jembe and kpalogo drums—we really ought to know the difference. One thing is for sure; a culture that remains the same in a changing world is in danger of trailing behind the progress of the very humanity it is a part of. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised at the current state of affairs.

Then there is the “we have our own god(s) people”, I say; you do indeed. Go to Cape Coast castle and take the tour. When you get to the shrine that in all honesty is an obscenity that stains what would have been an insightful tour, ask the perpetually silent, poker-faced attendant who I guarantee will be sunbathing somewhere on the shores of hebetude a question. The guide will refer to him as a “fetish” priest and (I have never understood why he can’t just be a priest without the fetish). Beseech him to explain how it is that the god he represents did not stop the white man and his god from subjecting his people to the atrocities we are all ashamed of. You might not get a chance until you ask the guide why there is a black man’s shrine sitting in the middle of the white man’s castle. So be sure to ask. Then you will learn, that apparently, this god of ours was sitting right there on the shore when the white man showed up with his god, gun and whisky. (Talk about selling your birth right for a pot of stew) If you have ever spent some time on National Geographic, you must know that even animals defend their territories (until they encounter inhabitants of the higher strata of the food chain of course). But the white man did not just rob, rape, kill and enslave, he also built a castle right on top of the shrine in which he engineered and managed the crimes even as he worshipped his god every Sunday while our god just sat there and did absolutely NOTHING for four hundred years. He did not even call for backup(LAPD style) from the battalions of gods across the nations.

It is easy to isolate an issue and discuss it as if your perspective is all there is to it. As Platonians show with their allegory of the caves, slavery as you know it may be your reality and you might believe that what happened in the middle ages is the first encounter between the two races concerned. You might even think; as many do that yours is the first slavery story in history. But the reality is that the transatlantic slave trade is but a sub-stratum of a larger slavery problem that dates back the empires of antiquity. Unjustifiable as it may be, it is what you will see if you are willing to look beyond the shadows on the wall of your little cave. Your true character begins to show when you insist that the larger problem must be interpreted by all through your narrow perspective. Such behavior is indistinguishable from selfishness and is in fact Nazism in essence. Many of these people, I am willing to wager will be among the first to engage in the same acts they claim to hate if the tables should turn.

When afro-centric historians write and speak about the so-called glorious days of the black man, they are not ashamed to mention how the moors traded white women and how other “inferior” races were enslaved too. It has always been a norm with every dominant force to make slaves of inferior forces. You might want to look into your own traditional history and you will see it there. It is the reason many who parrot Garvey still do not understand some of the agreements he made with perceived enemies. Such thinking is beyond normal people. His was an attempt to correct the ills of humanity slavery clearly being among the worst of them. So he posits, we are not against the white man, we are seeking to better the Negro (I paraphrase), Very few people understand the difference you see. He found grounds on which he engaged with the Ku Klux Klan of all groups. There is a common cause and in this cause even the enemy is an ally. I submit to you; that the best scenario for humanity is to have all groups function at their full capacity. Race, color or creed not withstanding (maybe that will sound familiar). Emporer Haile Selassie’s groundbreaking speech at the League of Nations made famous by Bob Marley in the song; war, contrary to what many believe was more pro-humanity than it was pro-black.

“Until the color of a man’s skin is no more significant than the color of his eyes”

Regarding matters of Pan-Africanism, they don’t come any bigger than Garvey and the good Emperor. On religion, what Garvey sought to do was to blacken the Jesus that the white man has presented as white. Not to replace him with the 99 gods in Brekuso. He, together with Bishop Mcguire who argued that Christ was historically reddish brown rather than white, will later form the African Orthodox Church under the wings of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

We believe in God, the creator of all things and people, in Jesus Christ his son, the spiritual savior of all mankind. –UNIA Creed

What Garvey believed is that religion can be a powerful tool for liberation. I personally believe; if it can be used to lock the mind, it can be used to unlock it. It is an absolute absurdity, to lock something with one key and seek to open it with another. The key may look like it fits but can it open the door. If it is the church that has sold a white Jesus to our people, who better to sell a black Jesus (or better still a universal Jesus for all) to our people and indeed many churches are doing that. Nowhere in the Bible did Christ mention that he had come to save any particular race. On the contrary, did he not make it possible for gentiles to become heirs of the Abrahamic covenant and is his kingdom not universal?

The roots of Christianity are no secrets. The ills that have been committed in the name of Christianity are no mystery. The true positions of Christianity on many issues including these crimes against humanity are clearly stated in the Bible for those who are willing to read it well enough. The liberation and salvation of mankind is the very objective of the Christ way. For those who insist that religion and Christianity for that matter is a weapon of the white man against the black man, tell us what your weapon against him is. The gods at cape coast castle couldn’t stop him. If you are going to worship idols in the name of African spirituality, no one will stop you but I sure hope they bring you the mental freedom that you seem to think rest outside of yourself. Whatever you do be sure to remember that others are entitled to their preferences too and that atheism fundamentally is un-African. 

End poverty—did we miss the mark again?

I came very close to calling the World Bank End Poverty Campaign event held at the University of Ghana recently another patronizing charade. But for the fact that there were highly intelligent individuals who have demonstrated great capability in many areas on the panel, I am sure I would have stuck to my conclusion. When you have the likes of Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu   (Heirs holdings, the united bank of Africa, Transcorp, Tony Elumelu foundation); Forbes’ one of the 20 most powerful men in Africa on the panel, you tread cautiously. You might be missing something. We do not have many of such men on the continent and for that reason; we have a responsibility to protect the few we have. And yes, such men and women can be instrumental in our fight against poverty. But should we be fighting poverty in the first place?

I am in all candidness deeply concerned about the notion that agribusiness is the way forward as far as this end poverty thing goes. Apparently the figures for what they are worth, prove that young people are actually interested in agribusiness since 30% of applications to the Tony Elumelu foundation entrepreneurship program actually needed support to grow their agribusinesses (one would have thought that meant that we were already in agribusiness). This might be true but does it really support the idea that agribusiness is the way forward. One cannot help but to wonder what the other 70% of the applications were about but since we do not have the benefit of adequate information a degree of deductive reasoning must be resorted to.

Ghana’s very own Professor Nana Opoku Agyemang who happens to be minister of education on her part insisted that Women and children are the most vulnerable. Groundbreaking information! How about a more detailed analysis of the issue of poverty itself and not the group you think it affects the most? I am leaving the children out of the equation for now but is poverty really a gender issue? Is your country itself by accepted standards not poor and is that because we allowed the women to live in poverty?

Dr. Kim Yong Kim of the World Bank group (is that a Bretton woods institution or is it just me?) thinks it is the poor child living in and around rural areas between the ages of 0-5 that we should be concerned about. He insisted: “It is the height of unfairness to relegate children under the age of 5 to never being able to learn. Children have to be able to learn anything and quickly. We have to dedicate a huge portion of our operations to the achievement of this objective”. (Really? Show me) But the question is this; are we going to simply put the children in school or are we going to empower the parents to make sure they handle their responsibilities?

Dr. Kim adds ; “this is the most important thing I can tell you, the Korea of 1959 is now the Africa of 2015, we talk about Africa rising but in quiet conversations we hear all kinds of talk about impossible, you know what we hear from the prime minister about DRC lots of people were saying that’s impossible. Don’t ever believe and certainly don’t believe it by yourselves”. Erm, Africa is a continent Dr. Kim.

Mr. Akinwumi Adesina’s (President of the African Development Bank) view is not nothing near unorthodox; Agribusiness and technology is Africa’s best bet at reducing poverty. “65% of all the world’s arable lands are not in Asia, Latin America, but right here in Africa, great sunshine, great water, and cheap labour. You throw anything up, it comes down it grows”.  Yeah… thank you very much! We did not know that. Their final words did not add much;

Dr. Adesina: just end it. Well… How?
Dr. Kim: listen to young people and listen to the women.
Oh Thanks but were they represented on your panel?
Opoku Agyemang: focus on quality education delivered in the right medium. Who will do that again? And are you saying these won’t be necessary if we weren’t s poor? Bright Simons has a few words for you on that language thingy.

Tony Elemelu at least gave us five factors on getting out of poverty; “hard work, enabling environment, discipline, culture of saving, long term thinking, aligning with people with similar perspective”. The first two; sound like something from an economic text book. But one can almost be certain that if hardwork made people billionaires, 98% of women in Africa will be billionaires ahead of Tony Elemelu. Nobody pays you for how hard you have worked; they pay you for what you have produced. Enabling environment however, is another matter altogether; it just doesn’t exist but we have to at least continue our search for it. The rest are just the usual you hear from motivational speaking sessions. It will be refreshing to learn that Mr. Elemelu saved his way to billions; that will at least provide some comfort in that direction.

The source of worry is simple; one cannot be so sure what purpose an event like this with all its pomp was supposed to serve. Maybe it is just useful to keep talking but if anyone is really interested in eradicating poverty (and I have reached a disturbing level of skepticism on the matter), they must first stop telling us that agribusiness is the way out. In America, less than 2% of the population is involved in agriculture, in Africa, some 65% is. The difference is that the American farmer is a billion times more productive. Perhaps we do not need to be told we ought to be in agriculture, we are already in it, always have been. For most of Africans, we return to the land when other things don’t work out. We have always been in it and if things don’t change soon, we are seriously considering migration.

But here is the thing though, if the idea that how one thinks about something determines how he deals with it is anything to go by, then we must stop looking at what we do and start thinking about how we do things. Africans always find something to do. Our “vulnerable” women are working hard in the markets and in the streets amidst the threats to their well-being often perpetuated by government and its agents. It is how they do what they do that is the bone of contention.

Walking through one of our many slums recently, I counted 6 traditional drinks; Brukina, lamugii, Asana, Ice-Kenkey, Sobolo, Shitor-daa, Nme-daaa. I am told there are many others. None of these drinks have made it to commercial levels and they have been around for a while. There is clearly a viable market for these products. A small study of Kenkey sellers and how they do their busin6ess (and they DO NOT think of themselves as business people and potential billionaires) revealed some obstacles to wealth creation. They all insist on making their own Kenekey. It turns out most of them are not good at making Kenkey (the process is nowhere near simple) yet they refuse to buy from those who make better Kenkey and resell. Or perhaps it hadn’t occurred to them that they could do that and possibly make more money. On the other hand, those who are good at making it do not even realize their competitive advantage so they do not capitalize on it to expand by making retailers out of their weaker competitors. Because of this, Kenkey making still remains a cottage industry even in the heart of the city whiles still remaining the nation’s number one meal. These are real thought problems that when addressed can unlock the wealth trapped within communities.

It is known that the way out of poverty is a positive motivation not a negative one. Negative is flight (trying to get out of a situation) positive is fight (making your way to an aspiration). Wealth creation mentality might just be the best thought system for ending poverty. Citizens must be led to think about aspirations—what they could be and how they could be it.

One must stress the point that we are not short of things to do; our issues are more to do with how we do it. Those who insist on agribusiness must at least see if they can promote the making small mechanical equipment with the engines and hydraulics that have been developed by Safo Kantanka in the hope of improving the performance of the average farmer.

These are the reasons why we think a project like SPiD-UP extremely important. Each African must be conscious of what we do and how we do it. We must insist on being the best we can be regardless of what we have chosen to do with our lives. We must see the world standards and want to meet or beat it. This is a way of thinking and it has to be said; it was to be the new African that Nkrumah wanted to create.

Those who claim they want to end poverty must therefore, of necessity turn to performance consciousness. Without that, we will put 80% of our people into agribusiness and end up worsening the conditions. This is easy to predict with the benefit of antecedents. A change of pattern is needed and if Dr, Kim is serious about ending poverty, lets see some -more investment towards changing mindsets towards performance consciousness. 

How Prince Kofi Amoabeng stays on top

In every generation, there seems to be somebody who rises past the echelons set by society, sends a shocking wave of their arrival by the way they think and act. These individuals stand taller than their contemporaries; defy the odds and take the bull by the horns in the most unimaginable way. The story of Prince Kofi Amoabeng of UT is no different. We can comfortably refer to him as the Messi of this generation’s financial space.

I will not attempt in my mind to digress into the technicalities of his work and success, but my focus rather, is to explore those ‘little acts’, which, having observed over some time stands out as reason his organisation remains the name on most lips. The fruits of his labour are there for all to see.

My position is that, these traits, one or many, if adopted can work ‘miracles’ for all leaders and their organization irrespective of industry or location. Let me add rather quickly, that these traits are easy to forget if you do not hold them tightly, they really want to escape already.

I have wondered in my mind how Prince Kofi Amoabeng has led his team consistently, caused them to think like he does, yet leaving them to keep minds of their own. I decided to probe deeper and look more closely. I loved what i found.

My belief is that Prince Kofi Amoabeng ingested without apologies to his personal feelings, the law as set forth by Napoleon’s Hill in his book ‘The law of success’ that ‘Desire is the starting point of all achievement’. My interest here is to place the binoculars on a man who has applied stratagems akin to those employed by Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Aliko Dangote et al.

These are my findings:

Military Background: Prince Kofi Amoabeng possessed a military background thus he understands discipline and strategy. The most notable trait of any soldier is their desire to die for their country even at the peril of their lives. No doubt Prince carried that mentality onto the making of UT.

Personal work ethic: Do you know that Prince Kofi Amoabeng has consistently maintained a rule in his organization that customers must never be kept waiting unduly as they wait to access a service. His understanding is that the single demonstration that you value anybody is to value their time. He would personally ask a customer if he observed that the person had been sitting in wait for some time.

The Goose and the Gander: Are you aware that Prince Kofi Amoabeng enters his name into the Attendance Book just like any other staff. Mind you, when he arrives late to work, he pays the fine just like any other staff. This may seem a trivial matter but it counts greatly in boosting employee morale.

Just call me: It’s amazing to find the telephone number of Prince Kofi Amoabeng hang boldly at the Reception of all Banks’ branches. Not only that, he does the same at all events he attends so that those who intend to speak with him can reach him. Now, you are wondering how he does that successfully right? I have no idea, but obviously, it’s working out just right.

Awards, So?: Prince Kofi Amoabeng has never let the number of awards he’s received go into his head. He has stated several times that awards are the least of his thoughts, rather, how to serve customers better and help humanity ranks first on his mind. That is a winner’s mentality.

Position? Funny: He believes that role must supersede position. Prince Kofi Amoabeng as a practice does not allow staff carrying his bag as he enters the office. His response to whoever attempts it is ‘I did not employ you to carry bags but to think for the company’ Funny right? That’s classic and true.

These traits are not taught in the limited walls of classrooms but to be harvested from the unlimited learning of highly successful men and women across history. If you ever discourage yourself from applying these secrets or allow anyone to discourage you, well. I think of Prince Kofi Amoabeng and I see a similitude to Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.

Let me end with a quote by John Quincy Adams ‘if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader’ . Clearly, Prince Kofi Amoabeng is one.

The Great Myth of Balance

The decline of the great religions mean that there are fewer and fewer ‘universal truths’ in our world today, and what few pretenders there are lack the prestige and following of yesteryear’s great maxims.

But if there is a maxim today worthy of the ‘universal truth’ status, it surely must be the widely celebrated notion of ‘work-life balance’.

We are supposed to ‘do what we love’ and to prevent the burdens of the workplace from intruding into our ‘personal lives’. To leave work behind and not to carry it ‘home’. To nurture relationships that are meaningful and deep, which by definition must be external to our daily labours, and uncontaminated by the economic forces that rule our professional lives.

People complain of being ‘burnt out’, and workaholics are looked upon with a mixture of disdain and pity, consigned to statistics of psychiatric health and psychological well-being. Is this some form of modern conceit? After all, in those cultures where written records make it easy to trace the origin of names, we find that ‘what one did for a living’, ‘one’s place in life’ and ‘one’s purpose for living’ were often conflated and deliberately blurred. Hence such names as ‘Hunter’, ‘Baker’, ‘Falconer’, ‘Brewer/Brew’ etc.

And yet, it is curiously in Marxism, that most post-industrially modern of creeds, that we find the most sustained assault on the notion that ‘work’ can be separated from ‘life’. As Erich Fromm extracts from a summary of Marx’s work: “History is….nothing but the self-creation of man through the process of his work and his production.”

The ideals expressed in such maxims as: “dignity in labour”, and “essence through human production” etc. lies within the very bedrock of all the materialist philosophies that accept human centricity in their conception of the world. Labour maketh the man.

There are of course perversions, such as the Nazi taunt that “work makes free”. But the fundamental principle penetrates very deep into any logic that seeks to separate man from the other species.

Which is why even in the supernatural creeds, such as the great Monotheisms, we learn that God worked for six days and on the seventh day, ‘rested’. The proportion is very clear: work is pre-eminent. Man, made in the image of deities, must also respect this proportion, and must mark the Sabbath not in the glorification of ‘rest’, but to give full meaning to WORK. In fact, in the Christian tradition, the Christ appears to condone the extension of labour into the Sabbath itself, strenuously refusing to chastise the Apostles that performed a harvest of grain on the holy day of rest, in defiance of the teachers of the Law.

And when you extend the idea of labour into the broader concepts of ‘vocation’ and ‘duty’, one finds in the Christian eschatology that the Angels and other divine essences ‘worship forever’ before the throne of the Monotheistic Deity. Worship being their vocation, their “life’s work”, they are called upon to do it without ceasing, to work incessantly.

Perhaps, then, a case can be made for ‘fusing work into life’, in much the same way that family law in contemporary times appear to have done for ‘stay at home moms’ and in its reinterpretation of domestic chores. Nowadays, child-rearing, home-tending, and civic duty, have all benefited from such ‘reinterpretation’, notwithstanding the capitalist surge in the production of so-called ‘labour-saving’ devices and advanced democracy’s apathy-inducing side-effects.

Witness therefore not only the transformation of the home into a theater of labour-negotiation, but also, even more intriguingly, the emergence of full-time politicians and civic activists, some of whom now find sufficient means to live off entirely on what were once considered ‘mere passions’.

Which leads to the heart of my concern: the perverse, in my view, morality that the operation of passion works solely in one direction: you must turn into a vocation that which you love already. It seems manifest by the record of contemporary lives that, very often, the key to peace of mind is to COME TO LOVE THAT WHICH YOU MUST DO. That which is your duty and vocation. For your means of livelihood must become your “life’s work”.

To my mind, by no means the sharpest that has contended with this subject, falling in love with your duty is a performance. It requires skill. Skill that must be acquired, through daily practice and perseverance. But, above all, it requires a mind-shift. And that mindshift is the centralisation of work in one’s life. Work must define the being.

The artificial distinctions that have been erected by barefaced gurus have now come to a head in the religious vocations. Some people worry that other people earnestly work themselves into ‘religious ministry’ without a ‘calling’, wrongly construing the labour that attends the organisation of a religious mission as non-labour, and thus suffering unnecessary indignation when they discover that such activity is as much labour as any other form of work, to be harnessed by all who will to work.

That there are pastors and Imams, undercover journalists and spies, who hate their jobs as much as the next janitor or white-collar clerk is a notion unthinkable to those burdened with these delusions. To them, work is burdensome and a calling is sweet. I hate to break it to these timorous souls: here is the truth: all work is work, and there is no such thing as a distinction between vocations that are based on a calling and labour predominantly motivated, via cultural referents, by wage and service.

Understanding the preceding should open one’s eye to the harsh reality of the human condition: we must PRODUCE OUR ENVIRONMENT, and this production is the day to day NATURE OF OUR VERY BEING. From the time we wake up till we drop, we are engaged in a constant pushback to re-orient our environment. The returns we get are calibrated by the success of this endeavour, and where those returns are ‘wages’ it simply means that the struggle we are engaged with has been codified enough to be widely performed, and through the various efficiencies of aggregation to generate wealth, and thus transform the environment at a much greater scale.

One may retreat from this types of aggregation. But one cannot escape the incessant throbbing of work in search of some elusive notion of happiness, unbound from the pressure of the environment, which is one’s unending duty to produce. This is a grand delusion. Work stares into your soul, revealing your true worth.

The escape which you seek is the escape from the *MYTH of Work-Life Balance* into the universal truth of Work-Life Fusion.

Bright Simons is the Ghanaian social innovator, entrepreneur, writer and researcher affiliated with IMANI Centre for Policy and Education. He is the president of mpedigree networkAuthor Permission sought to publish this article which was originally posted on his facebook on 27th September, 2015

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