"Be a deliberate person. Take charge of your future." - Capt. Budu Koomson at Commencement 2013

“Take charge of your life or something or someone will take charge of it”

I am always happy when I see young graduands, brimming with hope and enthusiasm and ready to be let loose on the world to achieve their dreams.  My heart goes out to you and I congratulate you and wish you all well in your future endeavours.

As surely as we sit here, we all yearn for success. After all, the Ashesi Goal is to educate African leaders of exceptional integrity and professional ability. If you are being groomed as leaders, and yearn to be successful, then I guess we have here a group of future successful leaders.  If so then I will give you a great tip: “you will have to take charge of your life or someone else will take charge of it.” You will have to be a deliberate and proactive person.

One thing I have come to appreciate and value in life is the inspiration from elders, parents and superiors when we are young and impressionable.  It builds an emotional foundation for life’s challenges ahead.  It gives you early insight in life and there’s no premium that can be put on that. I have been privileged in that I have had a few mentors early in life.

Now if you would want to be successful, what is it that you would want to be successful at?  Wish it, dream it, visualize it in your mind’s eye, speak it and live it!  Write it down into a mission statement for yourself and burn it into your heart.  Napoleon Hill wrote in his book – Think and Grow rich – that “desire is the starting point of all achievements; it is the first step to riches!”  Again he says, “a burning desire to be and to do is the starting point from which the dreamers must take off.  But these dreams are not borne of indifference, laziness or lack of ambition.”

As surely as we all sit here, all 116 of you, I hope you will stay together as an alumni group of sorts.  You all wish success and greatness for yourselves but by the time you have your 25th reunion, or 40th, you will see the differences amongst you. You will be wondering why you are all no longer the same. What happened?

Unfortunately, too much emphasis is laid on our intellectual or academic intelligence to the detriment of our emotional intelligence. Intellectual intelligence or competencies, simply put, is what you are basically learning in school, which helps you to think and understand ideas and information. It is the basic threshold competencies that you need in order to get a job done.  These are the basic skills needed to carry out the tasks associated with a given position.  On the contrary emotional intelligence refers to your capacity for recognizing your own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing our emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.  These abilities and skills are described as the distinguishing competencies; the capabilities that set star performers apart from average ones. 

It is said that many people who are smart but lack emotional intelligence end up working for people who have lower IQs than them but who excel in emotional intelligence.

That said, what are some of these skills and capacities?

  • Self-awareness:
    Know how your feelings affect your job; how candid and authentic are you?; speak openly about your convictions, emotions and vision; know your 
    limitations and strengths and when to ask for help; have self-confidence

  •  Self Management:
    Stay calm and clear headed under high stress and crisis situations; openly live
     your values; admit mistakes and faults, and learn from them; confront unethical behavior; learn to juggle multiple demands – but stay focused; have an achievement mentality; take initiative, own your destiny, create opportunities; be optimistic 

  • Social Awareness:
    Have empathy; detect crucial social networks

  • Relationship Management:
    Create resonance with people; influence people; mentor or coach others; 
    manage conflict, etcetera.

  • Build Capacity:
    Have relative knowledge and experience

  • Reality Check
    Is owning a business right for you? Are you cut out for entrepreneurship? Is this
    idea, dream, the right thing to do? Can you really operate independently, making all the decisions and shouldering all the responsibilities? Are you willing to work hard and make the sacrifices it entails? Do you have the self-confidence and self-discipline to persevere?

Now that you have had grand plans and wishes as to what or who you would want to be, and hopefully been mentored and done your reality checks, you need to work out your own plan to take you there.  Be a deliberate person, plan and take charge of your future.

Do not leave anything to chance. Prahalad, in his book – Rethinking the Future – wrote “Change is inevitable to maintain continuity. If continuity is of value in society, then change is a prerequisite; if you don’t change, you die.” Can you imagine going through such a turbulent life without a mental compass to orient you to your destination?

To be what it is that you want to be, there are certain character traits and attitudes that have to match your aspirations. Even if you want to be a failure, you will have to work for that result; you must be lazy and indifferent. But I guess if you want to be successful, you will want to at least put in an honest hard day’s work.  You will need to be truthful and empathic. You cannot disrespect everyone around you and hope to be successful. 

Be thankful for God’s little blessings.  Again I quote Robert Ludlum (Scarleti Inheritance), “Take the moments and find joy in them, if only to forget; for those brief moments. You want to be bold and courageous (God to Joshua), challenge yourself and the status quo.

Strangely enough, it is the unknown of tomorrow and the surprises life throws up at us that urges us on to live yet another day.  It is that, that makes success all the more sweet.

You will have to be flexible in your head and heart to accommodate life’s twists and turns.  With that wish or dream and an end station as your focus, you can then use your plan as a compass to orient you around obstacles and keep you pointed at all times to your target.

It is axiomatic in the military to say, “no plan survives intact upon contact”.  Be ready to adapt to changing times and scenes, and bide your time!!

Finally, have a strong will and belief in yourself that you will ultimately succeed.

But ultimately and finally you need the Old Man Upstairs to watch over you and shower his mercies and grace upon you.  In John 15:4-5, He is very emphatic:

  • 4 – Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
  • 5 – I am the vine: you are the branches.  If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing”.

Ladies and gentlemen, have a DREAM, work your PLAN and exploit your LUCK.  Be a deliberate person.  “You will take charge of your life, or something or someone will take charge of it”.

There are Presidents amongst you, Ministers, Business Chiefs, Academics, Doctors and what have you?

What will you be?  May God bless us, so that in the near future we will have the occasion to meet again to see how God has blessed and differentiated us, and give Him praise and glory in all things.

Thank you and God bless you!