Saturday, January 23, 2010

What Does Success Mean to You?

Hi Dad,

 I am participating in a program with my school called success for life where they take us to 5 different buisnesses over the course of 5 weeks and have recently completed the first day of it. They asked us to do some homework for the next session in a week's time and one of the assignments is to ask a successful adult the folowing questions:

What does success mean to you?
What three traits/skills are needed to be successful?
Could you arnswer those two questions for me please?

Dear Sons,

Thank you for asking me these important questions and for thinking of me as a successful adult. I am so proud to know that you think of me this way and I can tell you that you and your brothers and sisters will be even more successful than me because you are standing on the shoulders of successful giants, so you will see farther than your father can. Thanks sons.


Look at the spelling first. We cannot spell it without U. In fact, we cannot spell you without U. So the most important definition of success is that it means that YOU achieve the goals that YOU set for yourself, provided that the goal is good and not harmful. In short, success means good goal attainment.

I will add that a successful goal attainment implies that the goal is a positive one and not a negative one. For instance, Voldermot succeeded in killing the parents of Harry Porter but You-know-who cannot be said to be successful even as a wizard because little Harry could whip his ass with good magic. Harry is a hero but Voldermot is a villain.

Another villain was Hitler who killed millions of people but who remains a failure as far as political leadership is concerned. Nelson Mandela is a hero even though he lost more than 27 years of his adult life in prison for asking that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity. Mandela is a success because he set himself a progressive goal while Hitler is a failure because he set himself an evil goal.

In business, some companies set themselves the goal of making huge profits and refuse to treat their workers right or to take care of the environment. Such unethical businesses could make lots of money on the short run but before long, their dodgy business practices will catch up with them and their company would collapse. For example, in the US, there was a company called Enron that was very successful in making profits for the share-holders by using false accounting to inflate the value of the company stocks. They also tricked their workers to invest all their retirement savings in the company stocks to boost the value. At the same time, the directors of the company were selling their own shares and cashing out huge bonuses just in time before the shares of the company collapsed. The company was also an energy company that did not care about renewable energy to help save the earth from climate change. In the end, the directors of the company were sentenced to long terms in prison to show that they failed as business leaders.

A good example of successful business leaders would include Bill Gates and Younis, the Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Winner. They both made a lot of money but use the money to pursue some good for the rest of humanity. For instance, the Bill Gates Foundation gives millions of dollars every year in grants to researchers to help to find cures for diseases in poor countries. Younis set up a micro-credit bank to give small loans to poor women and men in Bangladesh so that they could set up their own small businesses.

So what does it take to be successful? TEAM: Together Each Achieves More. None of the really successful people ever did it on their own without a team. Even Warren Buffet could claim that he did it all by himself but he had workers working for him and he had a wife who supported him and children who also gave him support. Anyone who claims to be a self-made person is not telling the truth because everyone is the product of elaborate team work.

Of course, some people do not know this secret of success and continue to try to do everything by themselves. They may have heard that what it takes to be successful is lots of hard work. I disagree. What it takes to succeed is smart work and team work is one of the smartest ways to work and achieve success.

You must remember when I used to coach your soccer team in Indiana. I taught you to touch the ball once to control it and the next touch would be to pass it to a team-mate in a better position to score. That way, we scored lots of goals but a few of the kids did not understand the method and tried to be the hero who beat everybody to score but they almost always lost the ball. You still see this error even in premier league except in clubs like Man U, Chelsea and Arsenal where the two-touch maximum strategy in team play makes for maximum success. Liverpool still has good players like Steven Gerald who believes that he alone can win matches for the team and so they are crap much of the time.

The same principle applies to academic success. Work smart and not hard. Your team for academic success includes your parents and teachers as your coaches, your brothers, sisters and classmates as your team mates. You share the home chores, you give each other support and advice, you want to see everyone succeed and together each achieves more.

Apart from teamwork, another key to success is time management. You have to spend your time wisely because a stitch in time saves nine. If you spend too much time watching television, hanging out on the street corner, drinking and chasing the opposite sex or doing drugs, fighting or simply playing computer games, then you will have less time to spend on your studies or on your business planning. The same way that your school has a time-table showing what activities must be engaged in every minute of the day, that is the way successful leaders parcel out their time showing how many hours they would spend studying English Language, then mathematics, then reading for pleasure, then cleaning the house, then speaking with friends, then playing a game with the family and so on. Plan to read for at least 45 minutes everyday and plan to write something every week to improve your skills and your critical thinking skills.

Also connected to time management is effective planning. In business, it is always important to have a business plan. The same goes in academic success - you need a research proposal before you start your research project; plan to go to university and study for a degree, plan to join a political party and participate in the formulation of policies for your country, volunteer in your community to help the less fortunate, learn useful skills, play in a team sport to learn team-building and team work skills, join a debating society to sharpen your critical thinking skills, start a business of your own. Learn how to save money for your business plans and investment.

Finally, some key skills necessary for success in any field is to learn to take good care of yourself. Always start the day by doing a poo, then stretch and exercise for 30 minutes, then breakfast and poo again (usually a bigger poo the second time) then brush your teeth and shower without soap and use soap only once in a while, have a light lunch or fruits snacks for lunch and drink lots of water (no soda and rarely juice) and do not eat a heavy dinner just before bedtime, and brush your teeth before bed. A heavy lunch will slow you down during the day and make you sleepy. Always plan to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night - early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise!

Finally, sons, remember that the most successful people in the world are not always the richest people. For instance, who is the most successful Englishman of all time? William Shakespeare. Who is the most successful German of all time? Karl Marx. Who is the most successful Jew of all time? Albert Einstein. Who is the most successful Russian of all time? Lenin. Who is the most successful Ghanaian? Nkrumah. Who is the most successful Indian? Gandhi. Who is the most successful American? Martin Luther King Junior. Who is the most successful African? Mandela. None of them was the richest person in their era but they made important contributions to knowledge and to humanity and so thousands of years to come, people will still be reading about them when we may have forgotten about who was the richest person at any time.

So the best key to success is to aim to offer intellectual and moral leadership to make the world better in all your endeavours and in all the teams you build or work in.

Lots of love sons. I know you will be among the most successful men of your generation.