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Opinions Tue, 20 Dec 2016

Greatness abhors conformity

By Qarboo Nathans

In these times of increased technology, rapid transformations in economy and world business coupled with sophisticated education, one would have expected that Africa would see more people thinking and acting outside the box in order to bring about major transformational revolutions in their individual lives as well as those of thousands, perhaps millions who are directly or indirectly linked to them.

But rather, young people in Africa have not been able to live up to their full potential due to the pressure to conform. Right from birth, African traditional society places a huge limitation on the critical thinking and analysis prowess of young people. We are made to accept everything hook, line and sinker without any room whatsoever for questioning the status quo.

Hence, a lot of people grow up with a certain tendency toward timidity and lack of assertiveness which for me, has had dire consequences on our general output as young people who are or at least are supposed to be the beacon of hope for the older generation. My idea of conformity is the trend where everybody wants to join a wagon rather than stand out and do something that has unique value.

The western world is physically more advanced than Africa and perhaps Asia, because the people there are trained with a certain inclination towards probing things and happenings, irrespective of how perfect the situation probably already looks like.

We live in a world of endless opportunities and resources and therefore, we never run out of options. I see a lot of young people register to attend seminars and symposia on various platforms. But the mind-boggling question is that, what is the practical effect of those educative and insightful programs on the lives of the young participants.

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Every year in Ghana, probably more entrepreneurial seminars are held across the country (Ghana) than employee workshops. Yet, in spite of all that, there are just a handful of entrepreneurs in this country as compared to young people who have refused to think outside the box and so have settled for things far less than what they actually deserve. Of course, not every single person is cut out for entrepreneurship and that is okay.

But the key point here is that, even if you find yourself employed with a firm, one must always strive to deviate positively from the norm and put in more quality effort in order to yield unprecedented results for your establishment of employment. There was a time in Ghana when teaching was the profession of the day and every tom, dick and harry were eager to become teachers so as to enjoy the prestige and other privileges that accompanied it at a time.

At a point, the profession became saturated and it was no longer attractive. Therefore almost all the benefits that came with it vanished into thin air overtime. Interestingly, the very few people who opted for other less known professions at that time, such as nursing and medicine have now become very lucrative professions.

My point is pretty much simple; young Africans need a radical paradigm shift from the norm of conformity (doing what everybody else is doing). We hate struggle. We hate endurance. We hate pain. We fear rejection. But every single person who achieved something worth celebrating in this life has had to endure a bit of all these things. The road to success is a very thorny one and we must develop a sense of mental toughness in order that we can stay unique in spite of the naysaying we are bound to encounter.

In fact, the most painful part of this situation is seen clearly in the kind of leadership offered by our African leaders. Conformity is still very rife among them. Why do I say this? When African countries are hit bit major economic shockers, they do what is normal; go to the IMF and the World Bank for ‘killer’ loans and grants, when they actually have the ability to sit and look at how to harness indigenous natural and human resources in the bid to find lasting solutions to their problems.

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Our leaders always want the easy way out and at times end up mortgaging our future for loans that would probably end up being expended on building two classroom blocks. We are joking. ECOWAS probably meets more times every year than the G-8. But who produces more results? I guess we all know already. In that regard, this brings me to the issue of how can one stand out among peers and not just conform?

Be Original

A lot of people are living imitated lives and that is why they would live the rest of their lives as chickens when they actually are cut out to be eagles. The order of the day now is what my Nigerian brothers normally refer to as ‘follow follow’. Something comes in vogue today and boom….we all jump on it like a bevy of houseflies struggling over a new carcass.

Look, if you would ever be great, then the concept of originality must come to be an integral part of you. Young Africans must learn to set the pace for other people to follow rather walking in another person’s shadow all the time. Originality would take you places that boot licking would not. Do not just see something on TV and fall for it. Even if you must do it, create your own way of arriving at the same end result. Trust me, aside the recognition you would get, it makes you so very proud of yourself.

Be daring

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Timidity would get you nowhere rather than confine you to the comfort of your own nest for the rest of your life. I know you have plans, business ideas, lifestyle changes, dietary changes and a lot more to implement. But perhaps, you have been stuck with your brilliant ideas for the past seven years because you are afraid. You are afraid not only of failure, but of the initial rejection and tribulation you are bound to experience.

Therefore you have confined yourself to your comfort zone, because at least, even though you know you are living below your potential, you can still make ends meet from there. This kind of thinking is bogus is highly detrimental to your personal development. The movers and shakers of society that we see today are mostly risk takers. Life is programmed in such a way that the higher the risk involved in something, the bigger the benefits as well.

We all have a certain inherent fear when getting into something new. However, the distinctive character between achievers and non-achievers is that, the earlier feel the fear but do it anyway. Sometimes, all you need to do is start. Deciding that you would stand out and not conform is not an automatic guarantee that you would succeed at what you choose to do.

However, you have to learn to want it more than you are afraid of it. Let your fear of regret outweigh your fear of failure. Dare to be different. It pays more than any job you can ever take.

Probe until ‘further notice’

In order to be great and unique, you must learn to probe almost everything that happens around you. For it is only by probing that you can find out new and efficient ways of getting things done. Read books. Make friends who stimulate your thinking. If you must watch movies, they have to be insightful. Knowledge is the most viable key to wisdom. That is why even in court, the jury make their judgement based on evidence (knowledge). Hence, if you want to succeed at that something unique, you have to read about almost everything that has a connection with where you are going.

Dear reader, you must resolve to do0 what feels right instead of what feels easy. Many a time, life puts us in tight corners where it looks like e just have to tag along and do what everybody is doing. But there would be nothing great about doing what everybody does because at the end of the day, people would have seen what you are doing now being done by countless other people and it would not be so special.

Develop a mindset that bucks the system. Place your faith in your struggle and work every minute of your life trying to succeed. Trust me, the world needs more of such people to make it a better place to live. Always remember, the greatest enemy if greatness is conformity. God bless you.

Writer's e-mail: teegeenathans@gmail.com

Columnist: Qarboo Nathans