**My friend Billy Hanyabui asked me to share this for the New Year. Enjoy this excerpt from Sebitically Speaking. Happy New Year!**
I have had a long debate with my friends on what exactly should be the right expression in Twi used to wish one another a happy new year. Literally, in Sikaman, we exchange greetings to express our appreciation for seeing another year, in experiencing the full cycle of another year. So in Twi, we say that afe akɔ asani abɛto yɛn, meaning ‘the year has gone (round) and met us again’ (in good health). Therefore, afe ɛkyia yɛn nhyia pa. So is the right expression Afe-nhyia-pa or Afe-hyia-pa?
Whichever one it is, Happy New Year. May another afe (year) go and come and meet us again, in good health, for us all and our loved ones.
The beginning of the year is always a special one for my family and I. Our dad Bombay focused more on celebrating the first of January than Christmas and would strive to have us in our hometown, Wasa Akropong, for annual reunions.
Incidentally, it was on his way back from the town centre after buying biscuits for a children’s party he was organising in Wasa Akropong that he was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver whose overtaking went wrong. He was declared dead on arrival at the district hospital in Akropong on 31 December, 2005. So at the end of each year and the beginning of the next, we remember Bombay and the influence he had on us, his children. I am sure he is sitting with his brother, Wofa Kapokyikyi, reading this right now. Bombay, nnipa nsɛ hwee . Da yie . We remember you.
In my book Through the Gates of Thought, I reflected on the unit of time; and how it appears that time itself was getting shorter, leading to the question which became the subject of one discussion: Are the days and years getting shorter? I mused over the fact that time “comes to pass” whether we are stressed, relaxed or doing nothing, whether we are overworked or underworked.
I recall one Monday in August 2005 during my postgraduate studies in Nottingham, UK, when I was contemplating the sheer amount of work I needed to do before the end of that week. I had three major assignments to submit and I had absolutely no idea where and how to start almost all of them! I felt really stressed. Our course Director and lecturer for our Desalination class, Professor Nidal Hilal, asked me in a casual conversation as we waited in the corridor before the start of class, how things were going, and I remarked to him that there was just too much to do before the end of week. His response was deep – that we always underestimate the capacity of the human body to withstand stress and the capability of the human brain. He assured me that I will certainly survive that week, and I did! I am here, to tell my story! Of course, that week passed.
The lesson from Professor Hilal has always challenged me to look at how I can fully utilise my days. The late motivational speaker, Myles Munroe, famously asked his listeners to ensure that they go to the grave empty, emptied of all the potentials they can possibly explore on earth. Our days can always take an extra bit of initiative and activity and, as we start this new year 2015, I wish to challenge you on some kpa-kpa-kpa-solutions (resolutions to help your ‘hustle’) this year. Kpa-kpa-kpa comes from an interview of a guy who indicated that it represented the hustle to make ends meet on a daily basis in Sikaman.
My writer friend, Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng explains that kpa-kpa-kpa “strictly excluded stealing and included legitimate means of ‘hustling’ by piecing this and that together to keep body and soul together”.
The analysis and reflection of how time passes was the subject of a telephone conversation in the last quarter of 2014, with my good friend, Dr. Moses Ademola, who practises in Ireland. We chatted about general life issues and got to the topic of building houses for our families. I argued that building a house can be a long-term project that needs steady progress once you start, even in a small way, indicating that averagely, it takes about ten years for people to build their own homes. Moses countered that a period of ten years was too long and one should save enough to build quickly in about two years. My counter argument was that in most West African countries, the value of one’s savings are usually wiped out by inflation and so it is almost difficult to save enough to build because the increase in the prices of building materials would render the amount saved inadequate when one is finally ready, so the best way is to start building, phasing the stages out. I ‘killed’ the argument when I reminded Moses that it had been eight years since we both completed our studies at Nottingham University. He was amazed that this was close to the ten years he said was too long!
In 2011, I encountered one of my lowest points, triggered by too much thinking and self-assessment. One of the main points of disappointment with myself was that contrary to the advice of my first boss, Auntie Aba, I still hadn’t started on the project of stopping the payment of rent. What I argued about with Moses was my action plan. A long-term plan based on small steps and actions will always get results. In Unilever, we were taught to have a bias for action and to appreciate the wisdom in the mantra that small actions everyday make a great difference. My personal mantra has been as follows: ‘Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast’. This year, get started on building a house.
There are a lot of other ideas you have and have been waiting for the right time to start for years. Remember that the first time someone ever did something, s/he did it as an amateur. Start. Brown leaves fall, green leaves fall too. Don’t over-analyse to paralysis. Move. Do it!
My boys told me in late 2014 that they would be attending Universities in the UK and US. I took a mental note quickly and this year, I want to start a long-term plan for investment for their University fees. Fortunately, I have about a decade to do that. This year, plan for your children a decade or two from now.
In 2012, I realised that working away from my family, I would have some spare time especially in the evenings and could finally make time to study for a professional course in Supply Chain as I have wished to for years. I set myself a target of three years to complete it and made a budget to fund the course over thirty-six months. That led me to an online course with Liverpool University, comprising eight modules plus a dissertation. As I write now, I just started the seventh module and I have nine more monthly payments to do. As explained earlier, the time passed even though I filled the cup that represented my day with gravel, sand and water!
A lot of people are taking courses online and adding to their knowledge. A number of full-time workers are taking evening courses and doing part-time studies. Don’t sit and complain and say no one is appreciating you at work when your worth is not appreciating because you are learning nothing new. Start a course. Time still goes by whether you are too busy or not.
This year, make time to sit with at least two of your mentors and pick their wisdom to guide you. If you don’t have any mentors, get at least two and engage with them. As you do this, get them or other close friends to give you feedback on how you did last year and what you need to do better.
This year, if you promise to return a call, keep your promise especially if you are a businessman or woman. And keep your promises to your friends. A promise kept is the first indication of respect.
This year, plan a trip to one of the regions in Ghana with your family. I suggest the Volta region or the Northern region. You will enjoy it and the children will learn. You will learn too.
Take the children to your hometown. Don’t break the link with your roots.
This year, try and speak your local language with your children. They may not learn enough to speak it fluently but they will learn it well enough to understand it. That would be a good start.
Success in life is not just about the destination, but the journey itself. Make time to smell the roses, make friends, create memories, and enjoy the moments.
A very Happy New Year to you!
Till I come your way with another sebitical, I remain: