On 18th October 2008, I was invited to go and speak at a youth seminar in Lusaka, Zambia. The age group of the youths to attend the seminar was between seventeen and thirty. I got a letter of invitation a month before the seminar. After carefully analyzing the invitation I humbly turned down the request to speak at the seminar because I was not very comfortable with the topic which I was given. The topic was, “youths and politics”. I was not comfortable with the topic because in less than two weeks, Zambians were going to elect a president after the demise of Dr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. At that time campaigns by the presidential candidates had reached the climax. Since most of the youths who were going to attend the seminar were eligible to vote, I did not want to be seen as if I was campaigning for a particular candidate. I explained the reasons to the organizers why I turned down the request. They got my point but told me that the offer would still stand in case I changed my mind.
Just a week before the seminar I got a phone call from one of the organizers, he wanted to find out if I was still not ready to speak at the seminar, but I told him that I would get back to him in less than an hour. After critically thinking about it I accepted their request. I changed my mind because I realized that the main module of politics is leadership, therefore, I would just go and speak mainly on youths and leadership.
During my presentation at the seminar I requested the participants to write on the piece of paper how many hours in a day they spent watching television and sleeping? They were seventy-two participants and after I checked what they had written, I was shocked to discover that more than sixty said that they spend an average of four and eight hours watching television and sleeping respectively. Therefore, an average of twelve hours a day is spent on watching television and sleeping.
Mind you, that is half a day which means if God blesses you with sixty more years, then you will spend thirty years (half of sixty) watching television and sleeping unless you change for better.
In life change is very important, not just change for the sake of it. I’m talking about the change which is going to add value to your life. The change which is going to help you fulfill the purpose which God has given you. If you want to see progress in your life it’s very important to develop the desire to change in all areas of your life. What is true about those youths who attended that seminar is also true about most leaders including you my reader. It might not be your wasting of time on watching television and sleeping, but you might have developed other routines which you are busy wasting time on, for example beer drinking among others. Are the things you are spending time on adding any value to your life?
In this information age we cannot afford to remain in the rear as leaders. As you have started this New Year I do believe that the resolutions which you have made have to be attached to change. Fred Smith once said, “You are the way you are because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different, you would be in the process of changing right now.” When you want to have something you have never had, then you have to do something you have never done- that’s change. But the trouble with most of us is that we are very much comfortable with what we have or where we are. As novelist Mark Twain once said, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” I have heard many people say, “the devil you know is better than the angel you do not know.” People who believe in this saying are those who are not ready to change.
As important as change is, it’s difficult, painful and expensive. It takes a lot of effort, time, and tremendous amount of energy, perseverance and desire to change. Sometimes you even lose friends because of change. I do believe that if change does not cost you anything then its not real change.
One day I came across this story called A Grain of Rice. It goes like this: The daughter of the Chinese Emperor was ill, and he promised riches beyond compare to whoever could cure her. A young peasant named Pong Lo entered the palace. With his wit and bravely he restored the princess’s health, and won her heart. As his reward, Pong Lo asked for her hand in marriage. The Emperor refused and asked the peasant to think of anything else he would like.
After several moments of thought, Pong Lo said, ‘I would like a grain of rice.’
‘A grain of rice! That is no sense! Ask me for fine silks, the grandest room in the palace, a stable full of wild stations- they shall be yours!’ shouted the Emperor.
‘A grain of rice will do,’ said Pong Lo. ‘But if his majesty insists, he may double the amount everyday for hundred days.’
So on the first day a grain of rice was delivered to Pong Lo. On the second day two grains of rice were delivered. On the third Pong Lo received four grains, and on the fourth day, eight grains.
On the fifth day- 16grains.
On the sixth day- 32grains
On the seventh day- 64grains.
On the eighth day-128grains.
By the twelth day the grains of rice numbered 2 048. By the twentieth day, 524 288 grains were delivered. And by the thirtieth day 536 870 912 grains were delivered and requiring 40 servants to carry them.
In desperation the Emperor did the only honorable thing he could do and consented to marriage. Out of consideration for the Emperor’s feelings, no rice was served at the weeding banquet.
We can learn a lot as leaders from the story above. At first when Pong Lo requested for the grain of rice the Emperor called that nonsense. He thought that Pong Lo was not serious with what he was requesting. That is what happens in the lives of many individuals, when a habit is being developed it starts as a grain of rice. Even a bad habit develops in the same way.
After some time, the Emperor realized that what Pong Lo asked was something serious. I do not know how many grains of rice the Emperor was going to deliver to Pong Lo by day one hundred- you can calculate for yourself. That’s what happens to people who do not want to change for the better.
But one good thing the Emperor did was to change his mind before he even reached half way of the accord. That’s what must also be happening to a leader who wants to become a great leader – change before they lose much.
But the change of mind of the Emperor costed him the daughter into marriage – that’s what real change does. That’s what I denote when I say that change is difficult, expensive and painful. I’m sure that’s how the Emperor felt when he let his daughter get married to Pong Lo.
Its not too late to change, you can make a decision like a Swedish chemist called Alfred Nobel who made his fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives used for weapons? When his brother died, one newspaper accidentally printed Alfred’s obituary instead. It described the dead man as one who became rich by enabling people to kill each other in unprecedented numbers. Shaken by this assessment, Nobel resolved to use his fortune from then on to award accomplishments that benefited humanity. Today many people in the world have received the Nobel peace prize just because of Alfred Nobel who long time ago decided to change.
Today as a leader find something which you think you need to change in your life and focus on it. Do not be afraid of what you are going to lose because of the change but I do believe that the benefits of your change are more meaningful than not changing.
Lastly but not the least, I would like to thank you for taking interest in reading this article and thanks for the critics and encouragements that I have continued receiving since I started writing this column.
1. Dr. Myles Munroe, The Spirit Of Leadership
2. Jamie McIntyre, What I Did Not Learn At School But Wish I Had.
3. Dr. John C Maxwell, The Road Map To Success.
4. Ron Jenson, Higher Ground.