Today is 1st July, and its Republic Day of Ghana. Social media has been buzzing with the #OccupyFlagstaffHouse hash tag seeking the head of the President Of Ghana. Ghanaians on social media (i.e. Facebook and Twitter) are lamenting about the economic conditions in the country presently and the constant increment of fuel prices and utility tariffs. Well, the Level 400s in many of the Universities have graduated from School, the Level 100s, 200s like myself and 300s are doing or starting their summer internships and WASSCE and BECE graduands are also sitting at home, awaiting their results.
But the thing is, I have often wondered why somebody with a University degree will leave school and all they can think about is to look for a job. That is the mindset of the average African parent: grow up, get a degree, look for a comfortable job, marry, have kids, work, work, work and retire on some pension scheme.
Frankly, I have a major problem with this mindset. Most african parents feel like, they own our destinies and they are the best when it comes to career choices, but this should not be the case. After all, who is going to sit down 5 days a week, selling his or her soul to build an empire of a man who cares little or no about your wellbeing except to pay your monthly salary??
Well, I have this friend back at school. Call him Michael. Michael and I usuallly sit together during lectures and he is a nice person. One time, I asked him about his plans after the degree- He replied “to work” I further inquired- “What kind of work?” He replied “Any kind of work man, as long as it pays well” Right there and then, I knew Michael was coming from a home like my home, where the “Get A Degree” message was preached everyday.
Degrees are good. Degrees may be important but frankly, degrees don’t measure intelligence for me. Graduating the University with a first class degree, does not mean you are a brainiac, a genius, a thinker, book maniac or anything. Abigail (a girl in my class) had 0.87 GPA in Level 100 First Semester. After threats of probation and withdrawals, she clocked 3.78 GPA in the second semester. Just hard work and sheer determination can help you get first class.
But to many people, their picture of success is getting a degree, finding a job, becoming a suit-and-tie dressed person with a nice car, great family and being able to afford a good meal at a fine restaurant. That is a very narrow picture of to draw about life.
I know some are even doing courses, they don’t enjoy but it was imposed on them by their parents. Firstly to become extremely good at something, you have to love it. Develop a passion for it. That is when you will enjoy it and give off your best at it. Some rather prefer to do the courses they don’t like, get the degree, get a job they don’t like and then spend the rest of their lives constantly postponing going back to school and actually reading a course they will enjoy. African Man Mentality!
On June 12, 2005 when Apple Founder, Steve Jobs (1955-2011) delivered an Address at Stanford University, he crowned it off with an awkward advice. He told the graduating students that his wish for them was to “stay hungry” and “stay foolish” Jobs was not calling for a hunger strike from the students when he gave them that advice.
What Jobs implied was that, if you want to pursue meaning and significance in life, you will be hungry and deemed foolish. Instead of merely looking for a job that pays good salary and gives you a comfortable life, you should pursue that which gives you meaning. Jobs dropped out of Reeds College after only 6 months.
Why he dropped out? He told the Stanford Audience why: “After 6 months, I could not see value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how College was going to help me figure it out. So I decided to drop out and trust, it would all work out OK! It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out, I could stop taking the classes which did not interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.”
I am not suggesting, you quit school. No! don’t quit school. Why shouldn’t you quit? Here is why: Jobs admitted “It was not easy. I had to sleep on the floor in friends’ rooms, sold coke bottles to buy food and walk 7 miles every Sunday just to get free food from the Hare Krishna Temple.”
That was Jobs’ path and it was very foolish for him to have left the University. And he paid dearly for that. No degree. No accomodation. No sweet meals. No comfort. No dignity. Foolish and hungry he really was. But that was only for a while. Ten year later, a business he started in his parents’ garage at age 20 was worth $2 Billion with over 4,000 employees. His business gave the world Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iMac, iPad and rumours are flying around, he dreamed of an iCar before his untimely death.
Yes, he was hungry and foolish initially but it paid off. His hunger and foolishness was the initial price he had to pay to achieve greatness. Who knows? Some of you are probably, sitting on multimillion dollars ideas which can change the world and make it a better place, but the “Chasing the Degree” mentality is limiting you to one place.
In Ghana, the norm is that, after graduating from school, you must get a job which pays good salary. Many graduates believe the Government and Society owes them a job. The African Family expects that once you have graduated from school, the next thing is to get a job and start dishing out the blue notes, green notes (red notes are banned!). No Uncle Kwaku, no Auntie Mansa, It does not work that way.
We are caught in the web of living our lives with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinion drown out your own inner voice. And like I keep saying, you are your biggest fan, if you can’t cheer your own team up, no other person will. Have the courage to follow your heart. It somehow already knows what you truly want to become in future. Everything else is secondary.
Getting a degree is nice. Getting a job is great but do you want to spend the rest of your life building somebody else’s dream? Discover what you truly love and what gives you true satisfaction in life. After that you can get the degree, look for that job or create your own job out of it.
Stop Chasing The Degree. Chase The Dream.