Quite often, things don’t go the way you planned or the way you expected. Things appear to go awry. You appear to be the lonely man in the theatre, or the lonely voice in the wilderness. You seem to be alone in the train, because you have missed the road. Nothing can be more frustrating than to be making rapid progress, walking majestically, outpacing everyone you meet on the way, receiving the applause of everyone, only to discover you are on the wrong road. Perhaps after exhausting your resources, your energy, your inner strength and indeed your fund of goodwill, you discover that you are on the wrong direction. You ask yourself in anger or sadness or deep frustration, why is this happening?
I recall an incident that happened to me as a Geology student under great Professor Mitchell-Thome, at the Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria. It was a field work. Each student has been given a carefully annotated map, with elaborate compass directions, and a sturdy compass. No 2 students had the same map but all the directions given to the students would lead them to the same destination, after 90 minutes. Each student was on his or her own.
I left the take off point with so much confidence in my ability to do accurate compass readings, do accurate map interpretation and arrive at the destination on time. As I went on reading the prismatic compass, I began to feel that something was wrong. The readings on the compass were accurate. I was following the directions given by the compass. But I was not seeing the landmarks indicated on the map. Of course, after 90 minutes, I had not arrived at the agreed destination. Something was definitely wrong. I asked the local people the way to the destination. I found I was miles off the target destination. I was angry. I believed that the Professor must have given me wrong directions so I can miss road. I thought I was deliberately set up for failure. When I eventually arrived at the destination in public transport, I expressed my anger and frustration. The Professor was baffled. He was sure that the figures and readings that I was given were accurate. He could not understand what was happening. Suddenly he looked up, and asked, “were you wearing a pair of glasses I answered in the affirmative. He took the glasses and looked at them. He then explained that I was the cause of my failure. Why? The rim and handles of the glasses had embedded in it a thin string of metal. The metal deflected all my compass readings all through. That was why I missed the road to the destination.
If I had been careful in my confident preparation, I should have known that the metal string will distort my readings. A lot of people miss their goals because of inadequate preparation. Or because of the use of defective instruments or equipment. When you find yourself suddenly on a road to nowhere, it may be because you yourself have not carefully defined a vision or a goal for yourself. Warren wrote a beautiful book on THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE. Every human life must have a purpose, a vision or indeed a goal that is driving it. A life that is not geared towards a goal, a destination and indeed a purpose, is indeed a useless life that is blown here and there, to no definite goal. It’s like a leaf, being tossed up and down on a gushing rain storm water.
When you have defined a vision for your life, you will have to be sure that you have competence for accomplishing the vision. Competence will include such necessary things like appropriate education, relevant skills, appropriate training, knowledge and expertise, exposure and experience. Competence may require multiple skills, multiple talents and multidimensional training. You need to acquire the necessary competence so that you can fulfill your vision. Without competence, you may be stranded on the way. You may become lost, unable to create a path towards your goals. You may be unable to process required data, information and materials for appropriate decision-making.
In addition to competence, you will need appropriate character traits, values and attributes. You cannot be a leader if you don’t have the appropriate attributes. You must have those values that will make your followers to actuate your goals through their actions. Your character make-up must be such that inspires others, motivates them, mobilises them into action, builds trust in them. Of course there are common values such as integrity, honesty, truthfulness, reliability, dependability. There are things like being able to work in a team, being cooperative, not being disruptive, being able to adapt, adopt, interpret and absorb new ideas. There are attributes peculiar to chosen professions. These unique values vary depending on professions or careers. Without the appropriate character and value mix, you will be like a fish out of water. You will be like a bird without a song.
When you suddenly find yourself stranded and you begin to wonder what is happening, don’t start by evaluating and analysing what is wrong with others. Start by examining yourself, against the three major pillars of vision, competence and character. If you are satisfied with yourself after a clinical analysis, you may begin to analyse the environmental and external factors.
If you do this faithfully, you are surely on the path to the better days.