By Francis Ewherido
There are two beings we must never tell lies to. The first is God, because He is all-seeing and all-knowing, so telling him lies is an exercise in futility. The second being is you. Even if you habitually lie to your spouse, family, friends and all others, be real to yourself, be brutally frank. Even if you live a lie, still be real to yourself. Unfortunately, many people lie, willy-nilly, to themselves, and that is a tragedy of monumental proportion.
When it comes to human accomplishments, or lack of it, I am a firm believer in the Pareto 80/20 Principle. You are 80 per cent (substantially) responsible for your successes or failures. Only 20 per cent (a small portion) is external. That is why people say you are the architect of your misfortune (fortune). This comes in form of the various choices we make, our actions and inactions, the opportunities we grab and our opportunity costs, etc. So every man (and woman) ought to look at his life thoroughly and be able to explain why he is where he is, negatively or positively. That principle remains valid even for those who believe that life is 90 per cent how you take it and 10 per cent how you make it. Whether taking or making, you have choices and options with which you must work.
But some people blame everybody except themselves for their state of being. They blame others for their poverty, lack of education, childlessness, homelessness, ailments, marital status and just about every wrong thing going on in their lives. They blame witches, wizards, family, friends and acquaintances; they blame God and the gods and everything external, but nothing internal.
My focus today is not these people in the blame game per se, but the effects of their poisonous behavior. Many of such people are inevitably and unfortunately parents. As children grow up, parents need to mentor them. What kind of mentorship do these people give their children: poison! They feed their children with negative stories. They tell them how the actions of parents, siblings, school teachers, uncles, aunts, etc., destroyed or inhibited their lives and prevented them from reaching their full potentials. But I will not blame only the hate mongers. Must you take everything your parents told you hook, line and sinker? Your father is blaming his father for his underachievement, meanwhile, the old man gave him the same education and opportunities he gave his other children; ask your father what he did with his. If you do not learn from your father’s mistakes, thunder will strike one place twice and you will end up like him or worse.
Every parent, who genuinely loves his/her children, needs to take a journey of self discovery. Literally strip yourself naked so that you see yourself as you truly are. That way you can give your children brutal mentorship. Tell them why you are where you are, why you made certain mistakes, so that they do not fall into the same pot hole. Tell your children not to allow your circumstances, if you are not satisfied with any aspect of your life, shape their worldview.
Nobody gets sanctioned for dreaming and the son of a driver should be able to dream of being more successful than his father’s oga. But if the father confines the son’s thoughts and all he wants is to grow up and take over from his father or in turn drive the children of his father’s oga, there is a problem. Some of the most successful people today are children of peasant farmers, cooks, stewards, labourers, etc., but their parents vowed that their children will not walk the same path they walked and/or the children refused to be caged by their father’s circumstances. They dreamt big and pursued their dreams. We should inculcate the virtue of hard work in our children, but we should not tell them life is tough. Life is not always fair and does not always add up, but it is easy. Life is only tough because of poor planning and wrong choices. If you have the skills, teach your children how to plan and take right decisions.
There is another set of people who make me wonder. Normally, the experts advise us to learn something new every day so that the “you” of today is better that the “you” of yesterday. If this is true, how come some people after occupying a position respond that they will act exactly the same way if they were to occupy the position again? I think such people are either “chronic learn nothing” or “stupidly arrogant.” There are always better ways of doing things and as we advance, we find out that we would have done a few things we did in the past differently with the knowledge now at our disposal. To acknowledge this fact does not diminish us, it only shows our humility and maturity.
Humility and maturity are two essential ingredients we need to give our children effective mentorship. No need behaving as if we are super human to our children. That only creates disconnect because they are humans looking for a fellow human being to enlighten them more about their humanity. I learnt a very valuable lesson when my two eldest children were still in primary school. It was June 25, 2010, Michael Jackson’s first anniversary, and a radio station was playing his tracks one after the other. Jackson is (not was) my favourite musician and I was dancing ferociously with my head and upper body while driving. My children were wide-eyed; they had never seen this “wild” part of me before. Then I said to myself, “who do these children think I am, God?” While I want to be a good role model, they must see me as I a regular human being with all the human frailties.
Since that experience, I have taken deliberate actions to ensure they connect well with me. As they grow older, I tell them relevant portions of my life history that will be useful to them. Sometimes they get uncomfortable and turn away or shift in their seats, but the message registers and that is what is important to me. We must take responsibility for our lives and encourage our children to do same. Sometimes mentorship needs to be “brutal.”
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