Though I’m yet to start my own business, I have a strong interest in entrepreneurs and the challenges that they face. Recently I wrote a letter to students at my alma mater Chemu Secondary School. The letter is addressed to students, but I thought it would be a great way to encourage current and future entrepreneurs. It focuses not on trends, but on the time tested power of a strong foundation and good work ethic. I hope you enjoy it!
Chemu at 30: Creating and Sustaining a Culture of Excellence
In 2005, to my utter surprise, I won the national awards for Best Science and Overall Best Student in my SSSCE exams. I am often asked by students – from Chemu and elsewhere – how I did it. At this point, I usually put on my best ‘wise man’ facial expression and attempt to deliver nuggets of wisdom. In truth, however, I was only a small player in my success. My parents, friends and teachers played the most important roles. I can, however, speak to certain traits that, if adopted by students, can make them more likely to succeed in life and work. Teachers and parents play an important role, too, so I will suggest how they can help students to reach for excellence. At 30, Chemu has achieved enviable past successes and glories, but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We can do better for future generations of students. We should turn to our motto – discipline and hard work – for guidance. The administration, teachers and parents must work together to instill these traits in students, and students themselves should seek to build these twin values into their character. I believe this is the way forward, and will briefly hint at ways to do this.
Harry Truman, former president of the USA once remarked, ‘In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves. Self-discipline came first, with all of them”. Self-discipline is essential to success. Discipline, in the form of seriousness with tasks, ability to focus and time management, is non-dispensable for the pursuit of excellence. Hard work is the other important quality of successful people. Study what you’re taught, and more importantly understand what you study. This applies not just in the classroom but later on in life whether you have a boss or you chose to be your own boss. A successful career requires a strong foundation built on your knowledge, passion and network but even more importantly your personal attributes. Discipline and hard work make the difference between being average and excelling. Even more importantly discipline and hard work play a large part in how you confront obstacles and challenges. Being smart helps, but it’s not enough. This last point is a trap that many gifted students fall into.
Beyond what you as students can do, teachers and parents have a role to play. Teachers and parents would do well to heed a surprising insight yielded by research studies in the US - never praise a student for innate intelligence or ability! Instead, praise them for hard work. When students are praised for being clever or smart, they tend to give up easily when they face new problems, while praise for hard work makes students more likely to persist until they find a solution because they know hard work is the key. Hard work, and not just innate intelligence, is the key to success in the game of life!
The brief thoughts I’ve shared (I’ve chosen to share the abridged version of my essay) are by no means a formula for success, but I do hope that I’ve at least piqued your curiosity. Take the time to reflect on them and discover your talents and interests. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. God bless us all!
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