First of all, my wife (Anyele) and I humbly acknowledge that “15 years is nothing” compared to our parents’ (both sets) over 40 years of marriage and the 70 years some awesome couples we’ve come across have done! Wow! That’s incredible! Yet at the same time “15 years is something” considering that we’ve also come across marriages that were done, finished, caput, in months. In our short 15 years we’ve seen so many do shorter than five years, let alone 10. Fifteen? We’ve tried. We’ve even been used by God to salvage some marriages but have also heartbreakingly seen others dashed right before our eyes despite our efforts.
Secondly, I’m very wary of ‘3 secrets,’ ‘7 keys,’ ’10 ways,’ ’12 steps’ and what have you. So why am I sharing ‘3 Secrets to Lasting 15 Years in Marriage’? Well, Anyele and I just clocked 15 years on August 12, 2021. For us, the bottomline is God’s grace–and right from the start Prof. Kwaku Osam of Legon Interdenominational Church had told us during our pre-marital counselling sessions that “there is a grace for marriage” and we claimed it–in good measure. Maybe it’s true after all, but the thing about grace is that it works; and it has to be worked. Allow me to share three means of that grace for marriage that have made us largely survive (and even thrive in certain specific areas). No, I wouldn’t saddle you with ’15 lessons I have learned in 15 years of marriage’ so be grateful for just three (Lol!).
When we clocked 10 years the main thrust of our marriage lessons thus far was that marriage is the greatest character-forming school ever–even more than med. school. I’ve been to both marriage school and medical school so trust me, I know what I’m talking about! We called it the #1 Marriage Lesson That Nobody Talks About Much. That blog really seemed to resonate with the 50,000 or so it reached within weeks, thanks to social media, and was reproduced on some prominent news agency websites. It made me realize I shouldn’t play down on these key lessons, no matter how few and unwow, no matter how seemingly insignificant, no matter how humble they may be. You might scorn them; they might be life-saving for someone else.
Between year 10 and year 15, we have seen many people get married. Sadly we’ve not only seen many separations first-hand, we’ve witnessed more finalized divorces than within our first 10 years–real people, not just statistics. These three things I’m going to share have been a means of grace for us to do 15 years, especially the last five: Caring Counsellors, Close Cohorts, Cool Tools.
The most stupid thing I’ve done in marriage has been to not seek professional counselling till after year 10. We certainly have never brought any marital issue to any of our parents–it’s a no, no for many reasons that warrant a whole blog. I’ve come to realize, though, that there are certain issues that can never be well resolved between just the couple without a third wise party who is close enough (caring) yet far enough (outside the cleavage of man and wife) to be able to see clearly and share candidly. The notion, or even culture, that suggests that seeking professional counselling means one is weak or sick is toxic, it kills. Even if one were weak and sick, that’s fine too (everyone is at some point in our frail humanity and wretched world). We have seen people reach out when it was too late to salvage a totally hitherto salvageable situation (in our opinion).
Whether it’s through our conversations, their conferences or media (from books to YouTube videos), we really want to thank God for giving us the benefit of having Pete & Geri Scazzero (see picture above), Gerry & Kathy Kraemer, Carsten & Linda Pellman and indeed Shepherd’s Heart Ministry.
Apart from the listening ear, emphatic heart and vulnerable sharing of these caring counsellors, the ‘cool tools’ we’ll be sharing shortly have largely been learnt from them. An underlying paradigm that has buoyed everything else has been the Scazzeros ramming into our heads and hearts to lead in ministry and the marketplace out of the strength of our marriage, not out of the stress/strain of it–or even the death of it.
Of every single one of the divorces I’ve witnessed at close range, the couple did not have clear, regular, serious mentoring relationships. It’s worse when the man especially submits to no one on earth and is a law onto himself. Ha!
You think the things you’re going through are unique to you until you are vulnerable to share with a close community of others. This must be a close community you can be vulnerable in because you are contemporaries (all in a similar stage in life), and are all truthful, honest and committed to the institution of marriage and the principles that make it work.
On WhatsApp, Anyele and I have labeled that close cohort, “inner circle.” We inspire, encourage, teach, tease, correct, rebuke and hold each other accountable. On occasion we meet in person (see picture above). God bless Nana Yaw & Beth Offei-Awuku, Victor & Esi Obeng, Amos & Evelyn Kevin Annan, and Franklin & Amma Eleblu. Franklin is my best friend, was my best man when we got married and soon after became my brother-in-law too!
“Love your wife, Yaw.”
“OK, thank you very much. I would like to.”
“Just do it! Obey the Bible.”
One thing I like about Westerners is their propensity to develop tools to make life a little easier. The Physics I recall says a tool is something to make work easier, any work, but especially hard work. Marriage is work, hard work. How then do we dare think we can make it without tools? There are many marriages that shouldn’t have ended if only the two involved had some of these cool tools.
This year I decided to run Family Foundations Masterminds and share some of these tools like the Community Temperature Reading, 10/10, Genograming Your Family, Family Vision & Mission Statement, Mapping out Emotional Needs & Action Points etc. Even in fighting, there is a tool to fight cleanly! The Kraemers, Scazzeros and Pellman’s, together with Shepherd’s Heart Ministries have blessed us with all these tools! People, we’ve got to invest time, attention and finances in our marriages to obtain and utilize such tools.
On this occasion of our 15th anniversary, it’s really a celebration of Ubuntu–we are because YOU are. Anyele and Yaw will have no marriage but for the community of caring counsellors and close cohorts with cool tools. We’ve not made it because we’re super smart, über skilled and have impeccable character. No. We feel overwhelmingly thankful for the cool tools and community of counsellors and cohorts–three secrets to lasting 15 years (and more) in marriage.
PS. You may find a seven-minute video of the essence of this article here.
It gives me great joy that a number of high-flying professionals have chosen to pay up and show up at this year’s Family Foundations mastermind. The interesting group contains two professors (of marketing and microbiology), a couple of finance people (one of them works at the central bank of Ghana) and connecting online from three countries.
I admire their zeal and humility to jaw-jaw about family matters but something in me also makes me quite sad: Why are some of the most important things in life, like family and finances, not adequately taught in school, if at all?! Mind you, this current Family Foundations mastermind cohort has three people with doctorates, two PhDs and an MD!
The major thrust of this mastermind is to cause a paradigm shift on the prime place of family for us personally, for society in general and even for posterity (in other words WHY family matters) but even before delving into that everyone is being exposed to WHY a systematic study of family itself is necessary in the first place. Here are seven reasons why:
1. To understand SELF better.
“A systematic study of family will enable you to untangle your emotions from your understanding of family. An objective look at the varieties of families will better equip you to understand your own family relationships. This will allow you to bypass your preconceived ideas about marriage and family, come to a better understanding of yourself and your role within your family, and make more informed choices regarding future relationships.” (Riggs & Tweedell, pg. 2)
2. To understand OTHERS better.
“Taking a systematic view of marriage and family life will enable you to better comprehend the world in which you and your family operate.” (Riggs & Tweedell, pg. 3)
3. A way to uncover and derail MISCONCEPTIONS and MISPERCEPTIONS.
“People enter marriage and family relationships with a wealth of misconceptions and misperceptions… some common myths about mate selection, marriage, and parenting. With an objective understanding of marriage and family life, you should be better equipped to prevent or derail disillusionment in your future relationships.” (Riggs & Twedell, p.3)
4. To positively IMPACT your world.
We are “called to make a difference in the world. What better place to make a difference than within your own family? Most people are not called to a foreign country to perform mission work; they can find mission work right in their own communities. By understanding the varieties of ways of “doing” family, students can help those around them actualize the best marriage and family relationships possible.” (Riggs & Tweedell, p.3)
5. We need to get down to the core of all our beliefs, values and behaviour: WORLDVIEW.
6. Some of the most important things in life, marriage and family, are not adequately TAUGHT IN SCHOOL, if at all!
We’ve got to find these through an attitude of lifelong learning and a pursuit of informal and semi-formal growth opportunities like masterclasses and masterminds.
7. There are ancient THEOLOGIES, modern THEORIES, and practical TOOLS that make family work.
In the end, nothing works until you work it! And we have no right to say something doesn’t work unless and until we have worked it the prescribed way. I agree with Mark Twain that schooling and education are not the same. No matter how much schooling you’ve done, perhaps it’s time to get yourself an education on why family matters and how to make it work.
Riggs, Barbara A. And Cynthia Benn Tweedell. 2010. Marriage and Family: A Christian Perspective, 2nd Edition. Marion, Indiana: Triangle Publishing.
One of the most stupid things I’ve ever done is to travel 10 whole years into marriage before ever seeking formal post-marital counselling. After the several pre-marital sessions lasting many months in 2006, Anyele and I went in the power of that for a decade until we felt we needed further formal, external help. Why on earth did we do that?
Come to think of it, every 5,000 km or so we were changing the oil in our car and getting it serviced yet not so with our marriage. Doesn’t every marriage need regular marriage maintenance? Why wait till we’re sick before we see a doctor when we can at least do annual check-ups? In fact, I would say we came from a culture where seeing a counsellor connoted there was a pathology; and not so much a maintenance thing.
Friends, I’ve had several conversions since August 12, 2006 that have better aligned and further fortified what I thought were already ‘excellent foundations.’ Sometimes there’ve even been foundational cracks I’ve had to fix (and God knows I’m not done). For time to time I’ve come across new information that has caused me to repent, have a change of mind, and realign our foundations to keep this family building strong and lasting.
EXAMPLES OF FAMILY FOUNDATIONS TO REVISIT
Feel free to say “shame on you Yaw” but I had never heard of a family genogram until barely five years ago! How could such an important tool and exercise not have been part of our foundations when we set out a decade-and-a-half ago? And if you’re asking “what the heck is that?”, then trust me, you don’t even know you need one until you eventually discover it. Afterwards you would wonder how in the world your family had been surviving without one. I say ‘surviving’ because you will then notice that what you thought was ‘thriving’ wasn’t quite so.
Then there are basic tools for connecting with spouse and children on a deep emotional level we only received in the last five years. We learnt the 10/10 from the Pellmans and Temperature Reading from the Scazzeros. “Love your wife,” yes I want to. “Respect your husband,” yes she wants to. But how? The Kraemers also gave us tools for this.
And all this is for a good-looking couple who had a pretty solid family heritage, coming from a few generations of good Christian homes, being smart, leaders of our church youth fellowship who had lived virtuously and gotten married as virgins. We even themed our wedding “a celebration of purpose, passion and purity.” Alas! We who ‘had it all’ have realized there are family foundations everyone needs yet almost no one lays. The very marriage mentors who have been blessing us with these paradigms, praxes and practical tools are passionate about their ministry of marriage mentorship today precisely because they themselves didn’t have these when they were our age!
Family is a BIG deal. It is the basic unit of society, just like the cell is for all biological life and the atom is for all matter. Yet the thing about family foundations is this: just like finances, very little about how to make it work well is taught in school about it. If one isn’t fortunate to have a spiritual community that provides quality family life information and formation, you’re in a hard place. There are many divorces that are preventable, if the foundations could be reconfigured. There are some we’ve been able to help save by God’s grace; and others… well… too bad, too late.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART
Few will argue against the assertion that the most important part of a building, or anything else that is built for that matter, say a marriage, is its foundation. A ton of things have been said about foundations. Gordon B. Hinckley asserts, “You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure.” Adding his voice, David Allan Coe says, “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.” The greatest teacher of all time, Jesus Christ, classifies life builders into two categories, wise and foolish, purely based on thee foundations they lay: the foolish build on sand, the wise build on rock.
My beloved mentor Peter Scazzero talks about foundations a lot in the Emotionally Healthy Leadership paradigms he teaches. And no wonder, since like the typical New Yorker he is, Pete is ever so familiar with the skycraping towers of Manhattan. This is how he explains the importance of digging deep foundations if we are to build life’s tall towers of significance:
Manhattan consists almost entirely of bare granite, a very hard and strong type of rock. To carry the weight of a 75 or 100 story skyscraper, foundations known as “piles” are used. These are concrete or steel columns hammered into the ground with a massive crane until they penetrate solid rock.
Some pilings go twenty-five stories under the ground. The heavy weight of the skyscraper is then distributed through each of the deep “piles” in the ground below. Together they are capable of supporting the structure’s enormous weight.
If the pilings are drilled in poorly, cracks eventually appear in the structure. Entire buildings may lean. Then they must be torn down or lifted completely so the piles can be reset – a costly and time-consuming process.
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS MASTERMIND
As you might be aware from a previous blog, “a mastermind group (often shortened to just ‘masterminds’) is a peer-to-peer mentoring group used to help members learn together, solve problems, birth new ideas and gain clarity with input and advice from the other group members.” For eight weekly sessions, from April 4 to May 30, I shall be walking along with a dozen leaders who want to re-examine their family foundations and receive new paradigms, praxes and practical tools to finally fix faulty family foundations. Inputs will include several book chapters, videos, articles, practical exercises, discussions and debates. Two special features and benefits will be FREE membership of an online chest of over 20,000 resources and a FREE DISC Personality assessment with a 37-age customized report!
You can be sure that “mastermind groups are great in holding each other accountable for the goals and outcomes each member comes up with themselves” (see here). Outcomes and outputs of this particular Family Foundations Mastermind are as follows:
- Paradigm Shift on the Prime Place of Family
- Ancient Wisdom Applied
- Current Family Systems Theories Tested
- Practical Relationship Tools (for emotional connection, communication, forgiveness)
- Family Genogram
- Behavioural Assessment
- Emotional Needs List & Action Points
- Family Mission Statement
- Hierarchy of Priorities Configuration
- Integrated Life Exploration & Commitment
Register here and let’s go back to basics. Let’s finally fix faulty family foundations that everyone needs to but hardly anyone does.
My mentor likes to say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true but there is something even more fundamental that all leadership itself rises and falls on. I say, everything rises and falls on family first. At least five reasons come to mind why:
1. CREATOR PERSPECTIVE | God is Family
“In the beginning, God…” That’s how the entire holy scriptures begin in Genesis 1:1. I have a theistic worldview as a bonafide African, and a Biblical one at that as an African Christian. My understanding is that everything is created by a Supreme God and that He created human beings in His image and likeness. That tickles my theological senses a lot because according to the Christian view, GOD IS FAMILY. At the centre of the universe is family–Father-Son-Spirit. At the core of cosmos is a love, relationship–Love, Lover and Love itself. Everything rises and falls on love, everything rises and falls on God, everything rises and falls on family.
Of course we could go into how God created the first family after declaring “it is not good for man to be alone,” how throughout scripture and history God chooses a person and their family to work through, the many scriptures that seek to protect, preserve and promote family etc. Even when God decided to wrap Himself in human flesh and move into our human neighbourhood in the person of Jesus Christ, he chose to implant himself in a family–Mary and Joseph’s. Everything rises and falls on family.
2. CRADLE PERSPECTIVE | Parents shape world shakers
Have you ever heard the proverb, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”? That is 1865 wisdom unleashed on the world through the refrain of a William Ross Wallace poem that praises parenthood as the preeminent force for change in the world (see here). Of course, at the time it was written, nearly two centuries ago, the work of raising children was mainly seen as the role of the mother but we know all too well it takes two to tango. Both father and mother have a role in rocking the cradle, even procuring that cradle in the first place. Parents and the wider family, shape the people who would shake and move the world, for good or ill. These two PhDs Barbara Riggs and Cynthia Tweedell don’t mince words in their Marriage and Family textbook: “The strongest influence in your life will stem from family.” Period. Everything rises and falls on family.
3. CELLULAR PERSPECTIVE | Family is the unit of humanity
So yes, “it is the hand the rocks the cradle that is the hand that rules the world” but alas! today, everyone wants to change the world; no one wants to start at home. The irony! Not only does everything rise and fall on family because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world but also the family is the basic unit of society just as the cell is the basic unit of biological life or the atom is for all matter. Yet somehow we think we can flourish in the corporate world, government and such without adequately addressing the lowest common denominator!
If you think one cell gone bonkers is no big deal think again about cancer. That’s all it is. Cells gone bonkers, multiplying unhealthily–and eventually spreading that craziness (metastasis). Sooner or later a whole monarch or president or parent dies, all because of a cell gone awry. Everything rises and falls on family, that one cell.
4. CALCULATION PERSPECTIVE | Hindsight is 20/20
Today’s C-level executive claims “It’s not the quantity of time but quality that I spend with my family that matters.” This is a fallacy. Family costs what it costs and it doesn’t go on sale! The question is if we are willing to pay the price.
Even for the richest and most popular of leaders, when they assess their lives, doing a calculation of all they’ve spent their talents and energies, time and finances on, the truth remains that, “There’s no one who on their deathbed has been heard to say, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”” What folks should’ve known first, they only find out last: Everything rises and falls on family.
5. COVID-19 PERSPECTIVE | The only place to be/go has been home.
When our all-important selves on our all-important endeavours were brought to a screeching halt by the latest Coronavirus pandemic, where did we all head? Home! When literally every economy and society locked down, where did we stay put and be safe: with family! I’ve never seen so many advertisements on primetime television asking people to stay home in my life! Heroes, according to the World Health Organization, stay home! Ha! Who would’ve thought that day would ever come!
Even high-flying pilots have been grounded, literally, at home. I haven’t flown in a year–that is crazy considering that there were times in the last few years when I did as many as 70 flights in the year! My VIP airport lounge passes and platinum airline and hotel statuses have been rendered useless. The only thing that has mattered most has been the people many of us paid the least attention to prior to COVID-19: family. Of course, some families have turned at each other and self-destructed because of the very forced proximity that should’ve been a blessing!
Crucibles reveal what’s most important. After this pandemic is over, we would need insignia to remind us, lest we forget, everything rises and falls on family.
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
So why then do many, too many, in our generation tend to put family on the backburner? What if we all invested in our families the same degree of seriousness we put into our professions or in climbing the corporate ladder? I’ve been amazed at how many C-level executives are executing vision and mission statements and strategic foci for their organizations but have not given a thought to forging a simple family mission statement yet alone execute it.
Granted, some people really want to give their families their best shot but they just don’t know how or don’t have the tools to. Since Anyele and I welcomed our seventh child into the world, we’ve had so many puzzles and questions thrown our way that we’ve decided to hold a free online session from time to time for various folks to share our hearts, heads (ideas) and hands-on stuff (skills) about family, theirs and ours! Would you believe after our first 2021 15 Laws of Growth Mastermind through January and February the one thing that made all these participating professionals vote for an extra/bonus Mastermind session, which I obliged to facilitate for free, was family?
In one of the quarters of each year, my coaching company will run a 60-day journey through powerful principles of family foundations in a paid mastermind group for healthy family growth, based on ancient wisdom, current family systems theory and practical tools that work! This will be targeted at C-level executives comprising weekly 90-minute online sessions for eight weeks with lots of readings, video clips, assignments, inspiration, encouragement and accountability throughout the weeks! Each week, a unique practical skill will be learnt to better our relationships.
Family: everyone has one–no matter how dysfunctional or atypical. Even if we don’t form one of our own (family of procreation), everyone comes from one (family of orientation) that we didn’t choose. I confess that being a very goal-oriented, high achiever myself, I never thought the day would come when I would see and treat family with the sort of ‘first placeness’, centrality and reverence I have for it today. Perhaps if others also had a paradigm shift that everything rises and falls on family, everything would change too.
What do you think?
In my late teens when I was introduced to the whole area of personal growth and success I started practising a number of things successful people do without necessarily knowing why. One of them was that they always took their receipts upon purchases. That became an adopted habit for about 10 years before I really got to understand why (that will be for a different day and blog).
One other thing that really fascinated me was the notion that successful people are predictable, consistent; or if you like, plain boring. This was not only in the sense of living a principle-centred life and holding unswervingly to their values but that they had fixed routines. You could literally ‘time them’ and ‘assassinate’ them because it was predictable where they would be, when, and what they would be doing literally every day of the week. That’s precisely what I mean by “successful people are boring.” Same. Same. Same. Same.
So I began to adopt strict routine in many areas of my life including consistently waking up at 4am to spend time in scripture and prayer, thinking, reading and writing. And I have done that consistently for over 25 years now. By the time the rest of the world wakes up and gets going, I would’ve had a 2-3 hour headstart and been über productive.
But now I understand why that consistency breeds success. This is in line with a number of fundamental, universal truths, three of which I would like to share here.
1. RIDING THE LAW OF CONSISTENCY
The Law of Consistency, which leads to growth and success states, “Motivation gets you going; discipline keeps you growing.” Anyone who gets a spark of inspiration or motivation overcomes the law of inertia momentarily but really how long does it last? I heard someone complaining about how transient the umph one gets from motivational talks is. A seasoned motivational speaker responded, rather tongue-in-cheek, “Of course! So are breakfast, lunch and supper!” Like meals, morsels of motivation also need to be taken in reasonable doses several times a day (and in a week) to jumpstart us but what really keeps the wheel of success turning always is discipline. Discipline is doing what we need to do even when we don’t feel like it. And that is the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t. E.M. Gray was spot on: “The successful person has the habit of doing the things that failures don’t like to do. The successful person doesn’t like to do them either, but his dislike is subordinated to the strength of his purpose.”
Disciple is hard; but what makes it more bearable is having a strong WHY, a strong end in mind. The other thing that makes it more doable is discovering your personality (eg. through the DISC behavioural assessment) and linking how you’re wired (what motivates you naturally) with the act you need/want to be consistent with. So for me, being a high D and loving to be in control, I’m greatly motivated to take charge of my morning knowing fully well that no one would be up to disturb me and I can get stuff I want to do done. You’ve got to a find a way, man, for success lies in our daily routine.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” is famously attributed to Aristotle. What he actually (originally) said was, “As it is not one swallow or a fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” The essence of both statements is the same. John Maxwell pulls no punches here: “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.” What are you like E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y; what do you do E-V-E-R-Y-D-A-Y?
2. RIDING THE LAW OF MOMENTUM
People who are consistent with routine don’t waste precious time and energy figuring out every single day what to do with themselves. If you don’t have a menu, for example (my household does), you know by now how much time and energy can be consumed just by the question: what am I going to eat this afternoon? I have spent an hour on that useless exercise before!
Just like Newton’s first law of motion states, every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. What is true in Physics–and we tend to appreciate physical laws much more than the unseen laws of life–is the very thing that makes habits so powerful! “Once you pop, you can’t stop” says the Pringles advert. Success can become a habit; so can failure. In fact, Vince Lombardi once said, “once you learn to quit it becomes a habit.” Let the Law of Momentum
When John Maxwell launched 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth in Atlanta, I was there in person. A privileged few joined him for an intimate lunch session. I couldn’t believe the degree of his consistency when talked about his “daily five.” He said, “Everyday I read, I write, I think, I ask questions, I file.”
“Everyday, John?” we asked?
“EVERYDAY,” he responded.
On your birthday, John?
“EVERYDAY,” was his reply.
“On Christmas Day to0, sir?”
3. HOW GENIUSES ARE MADE
It was my fellow Canadian, Malcom Gladwell, who first brought to my attention in his book Outliers, that 10,000 hours of practice of any skill makes one a genius. Most people, he said, would’ve done 10,000 of practice within 10 years. During an ongoing Growth Mastermind I was almost envious of the surgeon among us who says everyday he operates; e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y. Imagine his success in 10 years’ time when because of this consistency he has such gained ingenuity! What worthy thing are you doing everyday? Until you’ve done it consistently for 10 years, don’t give up on success just yet.
Something you are doing EVERYDAY is determining your future. Conversely, something you are not doing EVERYDAY is determining your future also. More often than not, motivation is overrated. Motivation gets you going but discipline keeps you going, keeps you growing. What will you say is your single most consistent practice (everyday) that has brought you where you are in life today? Please share.
Truly, truly, “you must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.” The author of The 15 Laws of Invaluable Growth calls this principle the Law of the Mirror. Author Denis Waitley put it another way: “Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time, and energy needed to develop yourself.” Investment in your personal growth yields interest–not simple but compound interest–and it is a great deception to not significantly invest in yourself under the guise of ‘self-sacrifice’ for others when the real truth is that you do not see significant value in your own self to make that investment in you.
You are of immense value. This is not based on your net worth or network, salary or social status. It has nothing to do with your height or weight and whether or not you are photogenic and have a great social media following. You and I are of immense value simply because we are human, made in the image and likeness of the Great One. Theologians call this notion of being made in the image of God, imago Dei.
When as coaches we speak of adding value to your life, therefore, we are not implying you could be worth more or less as a human being but that you could develop the innate gifts, passions, dreams and personality traits you have to maximise your potential and impact. Many people, sadly, do not realize they are of immense value and worth that investment. They run around all year, every day, adding value to others through the goods and services they produce as workers but don’t make the time or put aside the money to grow themselves. I repeat: it is a great deception to not significantly invest in yourself under the guise of ‘self-sacrifice’ for others when the real truth is that you do not see significant value in your own self to make that investment in you. Not all so-called ‘self-sacrifice’ is actually ‘noble.’ Yes, “you must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.”
CHICKEN OR EGG
So which one comes first? Seeing value in ourselves and so adding value to ourselves or adding value to ourselves first and then beginning to see value in ourselves? John Maxwell says, “It doesn’t matter which occurs first. One feeds the other. What matters is that the cycle of value starts.”
In addition, adding value to others, making a difference in their lives, has been documented to lift our own self-esteem. As Maxwell puts it succinctly, ‘It’s hard to feed bad about yourself when you’re doing something good for someone else.” Under normal circumstances, “adding value to others makes them value you more” also. In fact, another aspect of seeing and appreciating our own worth comes when we add value to others. Hence the value cycle below.
THE REAL CAP AND REAL KICKER
Herculian governments, Machiavellian bosses, helicopter parents (and the list goes on) can all put a ceiling on our potential but by far our own self esteem is the most significant lid on our potential! Psychiatrist and self-esteem expert Nathaniel Branden put it succinctly: “No factor is more important in people’s psychological development and motivation than the value judgments they make about themselves.” “It is the lid on your potential,” Maxwell chimes in. “If your desire is a 10 but your self-esteem is a 5, you’ll never perform at the level of a 10. You’ll perform as a 5 or lower. People are never able to outperform their self-image.”
And the real kicker is this: the value we place on ourselves is usually the value others place on us. “If you put small value on yourself,” again says Maxwell, “rest assured the world will not raise the price.” I remember being interviewed for the presidency of a Canadian charity and the board requesting that I move my family from one end of the country to the other (and don’t forget, Canada is the second widest country on earth!). I did not feel that was the best move, literally and figuratively, for my family, our God-given purpose in the city of Montreal and even for my vision of expanding the organization beyond where it had been limited to in 25 years. Knowing my value I said “No, thank you.” I politely but clearly and strongly said to the august board: “If this move is that important to you, then I’m not your man for the job.” Needless to say, they went along with my decision and I had the privilege of serving in the role for eight years.
When I mentioned on social media this notion of how others (and indeed life) will only treat us according to the value we place on ourselves, my childhood friend Samuel in Minnesota, USA reminded me of a classic Jessie B. Rittenhouse poem that succinctly captures this principle:
I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;
For Life is just an employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.
SO WHAT’S YOUR WORTH?
Everyone needs to find the happy middle between being selfless (as if only other people count) and being selfish (as if nobody else counts). If you don’t like what you’re reaping in life then check what you’re sowing. Do you see in yourself the value the Creator does? Do you believe in that value enough to invest in yourself to see grow exponentially, flourish and bless others? For real, there’s a whole wide world waiting to be impacted by you but truly, truly, “you must see value in yourself to add value to yourself.”
There are just too many people stuck in a life determined for them twenty years earlier by an unaware and uninformed teenager obliged to choose a career course in high school or university. Yes, changing direction is a risk… but what if you don’t change? Which risk would you rather live with?
Do you like what you are doing now? What would you really like to do? As we delved into those soul-searching questions (and more) in exploring the Law of Awareness, the notion that you have to know yourself to grow yourself became crystal clear. “There is no point continuing to just do activities to fill my days,” said a U.S. Naval officer who has decided to suspend courses he was going to enrol in to now do a full and fresh audit of the direction of his life and examine his passions and gifts.
In the ensuing discussion a McNulty Prize laureate and serial entrepreneur shared how following her reflections at 40 she had just given up her Africa-wide regional role in a rich Europe-based NGO to start a new African impact investment venture with zero money! Why would anyone do that? Of course I also shared how I left medicine to pursue my passion for leadership development and Christian mission. It’s been more than a decade since and I have no regrets, none.
If a person sets out to run a mile, and three quarters of a mile ahead there is a cliff, should that person try to finish running the mile just because he started out to do so? As you ponder that question from the content of the 15 Laws of Growth mastermind group that all the people I’ve mentioned here are a part, I hope it becomes apparent how ridiculous it is to be bound to a trajectory determined twenty years earlier by an unaware and uninformed teenager obliged to choose a career course in high school or university. This is the time for true self-awareness and new growth. Yes, changing direction is a risk…but what if you don’t change? Which risk would you rather live with?
JACK WHERE ARE YOU?
Have you ever gone to a huge place, say a large mall of six floors, and wondered “what’s where and how do I get there?” Whenever I have, whether it’s in the huge malls of the USA, South Africa or the Philippines, I would hunt for a map of the place, typically mounted on each floor at vantage points. If you’ve used one of those before, the most striking marking and boldest text on it tends to be not the various potential destinations and routes but the sign that says, “YOU ARE HERE.” That is a huge inadvertent lesson in self-awareness. A big gap in my personal growth has been overemphasising goal-setting (where I want to go) and often overlooking self-awareness (where I am right now). I’ve almost always looked at the map and been nearly obsessed over where I want to go and not taking enough note of “YOU ARE HERE.” Yet in the words of Denis Waitely, “No one can produce great things if he is not thoroughly sincere in dealing with himself.”
The following are at least four pairs of things one should be aware of, first, and then align. Like a fork and knife, they should go together but often don’t. Yet unless they align, forget about the kind of exponential growth that leads to sustainable success.
1. WHAT YOU WANT & WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
What you dream of and/or desire must match with what you can do well. To be crazily successful you need to be doing what you’re good at so only entertain a dream in that direction. The key is to “discover your uniqueness; then discipline yourself to develop it” (Jim Sundberg). It is a curious observation from my mentor Dr. Maxwell, that “some people have an inherent ability to know know who they are and who they’re not. Others have to work hard to make those discoveries.” Poet and critic Samuel Johnson put it well, “Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess.” Are you still wasting time? No more! Get coached!
Although I realized a long time ago that my calling was leadership, communication and education, it took the significant crucible of a fatal road traffic accident to catalyze my resolve to move more fully into my purpose. It isn’t good enough to live out one’s purpose part-time because of a full-time job that pays the bills. When I coach, write, speak or train and make a difference in people’s lives I feel most alive. I feel “I was born for this.” I was! Claremont professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in positive psychology, put it simply eons ago: “Find out what you are good at and what you like to do.”
2. WHAT DRIVES YOU & WHAT SATISFIES YOU
Many of the things that drive us are externally given or measured, like money, but these should align with what internally satisfies us as well. That is über powerful! Harvard professor Bill George lists things such as having power, a title, public recognition, social status, winning over others and monetary compensation as extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivations, on the contrary, says George, “are derived from your deepest inner desires, not the world’s adulation. They are the basis for your True North and are closely linked to your life story.” These include personal growth, satisfaction of doing a good job, helping others develop, finding meaning from efforts, being true to one’s beliefs and making a difference in the world.
Your sweet spot is the place where what drives you (extrinsic motivator) and what satisfies you (intrinsic motivator) align and synergistically combine with what you want (dream) and what you’re good at, for sure!
3. VALUES and PRIORITIES
Everyone has values, overtly or covertly; what we consider good and valuable. Unfortunately these are often violated by how we actually do life. As mentioned before it takes things like the accountability of a coach or mastermind group to gather the power to make the quantum leap from valuing something to re-prioritizing things in our lives to own it (action!). See here. When values and priorities converge, powerful things happen!
4. PERSONAL VALUES AND PRIORITIES & ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES AND PRIORITIES
The majority of people spend most of their waking hours at some workplace or the other, physical or virtual. The challenge is that, as Maxwell asserts, “if you and your employer are working at cross-purposes, success will be difficult to achieve.” Again, in an earlier blog on personal and corporate values, I was unequivocally clear: “I strongly advise individuals to make sure that their personal DNA aligns with the corporate DNA of whatever organization they work for/with (or seek to work for/with).”
SO! WHERE WERE WE?
First, find what you really want and align it with what you’re really good at! Then, align your extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. Thirdly, harness your values and priorities and finally make sure these personal values and priorities jive with your organization’s. Align these four pairs and you’re en route to a sustainably successful life, one of deep fulfilment and significance with no regrets. These are four pairs that must be aligned for prosperity but as you can tell, it all begins with a keen self-awareness.
By now you should know for yourself that the widest gap in life or in the world is between knowing and doing. If we all put into practice every right thing we knew, our lives would be remarkably different, incredibly successful. Here’s why we don’t and what to do about it, especially in this season of ‘new year resolutions.’
What do a Microbiology PhD, Obstetrician, Civil & Environmental Engineer, Hotel HR Manager in Ghana, Marketing Executive at Ogilvy, Dentist in the United States, Consultant at Accenture, CEO of a Savings & Loans scheme in Uganda and a U.S. military personnel stationed in Italy have in common? And on top of all that, situated in three different continents on the surface not much; except these were all in the same room at the start of 2021 with one desire and purpose: to grow.
There’s no gainsaying that the dozen people constituting the first 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth mastermind group with YAW PERBI in 2021 know a lot. The combined expertise in the room is astounding; it is an honour just to be seated at the table with a leader with 18 years experience at Ghana’s Food & Drugs Authority and the rest of the crew.
We had all chosen to invest the time and money to be part of this mastermind because as Maxwell’s first Law of Growth makes plain, what he calls The Law of Intentionality, “Growth Doesn’t Just Happen.” In fact, “growth is [about] the only guarantee that tomorrow is going to get better”; that 2021 will be better than 2020. Although all these amazing professionals had a hint of this fundamental law of the universe, hence signing onto the mastermind group in the first place, by the end of the first 90-minute session this was so abundantly clear and weighing on us that my personal ‘statement of the day’ came from the FDA leader: “Growth is hard work.” Yes it is! And I’m so proud of these folks who are making an intentional, informed, sustained choice to grow themselves into success and significance!
SECRET TO CLOSING THE GAP
Perhaps no generation knows more, or at least has access to more knowledge in all sorts of media, than this current one. Yet by now you should know for yourself that the widest gap in life or in the world is between knowing and doing. If we all put into practice every right thing we knew, our lives would be remarkably different, incredibly successful. Richard Biggs says “the greatest gap in life is the one between knowing and doing,” a statement similar to John Maxwell’s, who puts it this way: “the greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing.”
While these already very knowledgeable folks will be even adding further to their professional knowledge vital new information about the Laws of Growth, what will catalyze and even guarantee their change and growth isn’t the HEAD stuff per se. Of course that’s where it begins but the problem is when it ends there, which is more often than note the case.
Considering the above Wendy Seidman simplification of Bloom’s famous taxonomy, the secret to the mastermind participants moving from abundant knowledge to abundant living by doing what they know they ought to do to grow will be as follows (this is the same for you if you intend to finally do something with all you already know you ought to do):
1. AWARE: This is a HEAD thing. Many of us begin from not even knowing what we don’t know, right? “Oh! So there are Laws?” ”Ei! And there are Growth Laws in particular?” right? How can people plan to do what they don’t even know in the first place?
2. PONDER: All of us are going to have ample time in between meetings to THINK about these laws but especially when we meet, as the facilitator I’ll be applying the major tool of a coach–questions, questions questions–to help clarify and deepen the pondering process. I say understanding is the product of pondering. Many times we don’t do because we don’t understand. But thus far, this is all still a HEAD thing.
3. VALUE: When folks actually begin to value that thing they’ve become aware of and have pondered, this is when things have travelled from the head down to the heart. It’s now a HEART thing. “Hmmmm… it must be important.” “Hmmm it may be a good thing oo…” A value is what you value, right?
I tell you, if “the greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing,” then the longest distance in the world might be between the head and the heart! Anatomically it’s only a few centimetres apart but metaphorically, that’s another matter. Yet it is necessary to value a thing, and feel it to move us to do anything. Do you see the word ‘motion’ in emotion?
Yet after our new awareness and pondering have dropped into the heart , there’s still a GAP—nothing changes in our action or behaviour, yet. It’s still not a HAND thing (action or behaviour) until usually with the help of accountable relationships (like coaches and mastermind compatriots) you gain the quantum energy to scale the action/behavioural gap to the land of re-prioritization. This is the longest and deepest gulf in the world, contributing the most to the gap between knowing and doing.
4. RE-PRIORITIZE: When you re-prioritize, you actually re-organize yourself, move others and things around you to make that new pondered and valued awareness actionable! Until you have re-prioritized, usually evident in the commitment of time, money (and other resources) and energy/effort, nothing changes.
5. OWN: I can give you an example of an area in which this entire process from awareness to ownership happened in my own life. It took me about six years to finally re-prioritize and start taking a proper weekly sabbath (not just a day off; to really stop all my work, rest, contemplate on God, delight in Him and his gifts). I can assure you that if I had a consistent, formal coach or mastermind group I was accountable to, it wouldn’t have taken me six years to make the quantum leap I needed to.
After seeing all these long distances and deep gulfs, can you understand why doing what we know is so hard. Come to think of it, who climbs the highest peaks in the world alone? You need a buddy if you’re to make it! That’s why this 15 Laws of Growth mastermind is a blessing! As co-travellers, we’ll all be AWARE of the same laws, PONDER these things (especially through the clarifying questions we’ll all be responding to), we will be expressing what we VALUE to each other’s hearing … and here’s the trick: we are there to encourage each other and hold each other accountable to make the leap to the other side of RE-PRIORITIZING and OWNING our growth and success.
Already, within the first 24 hours of the start of the mastermind, with everyone’s consent we formed a WhatsApp group through which we keep informing and reminding, pondering, valuing, and holding one another accountable to re-prioritize and own our growth journey to success over the next 60 days.
A sure way to close the widest gap in the world is accountable relationships to make the leap from merely valuing new knowing to re-prioritizing things in our lives towards new doing. So now you are aware why we generally don’t do what we know we should or even say we would–and what to do about it–especially in this season of ‘new year resolutions.’ Happy new year!
This is so counterintuitive that I don’t beat myself too much for almost completely missing it earlier in my life. I’m glad I have clinched that now: to grow an enterprise, grow people; to hit your goals focus on growing yourself and on the growth process.
Like most people I know, I love the word potential. Potential is the difference between who/where you are now and who/where you could be. Success, then, would be getting to who/where you could be. Being a go(al)-getter, one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in life has been to keep the target or goal so much in mind and trying to figure out various strategies and timelines to hit it but neglecting the most important thing and most important one: growth and me. John Maxwell puts it succinctly: “To reach your potential you must grow. And to grow, you must be highly intentional about it.”
No matter the systems and structures, tools and technologies, courses and cash one gathers to hit a goal, unless there is investment in the growth of the person(s) involved, the goal is unlikely to happen. To achieve a goal, invest in growth of those the fulfillment of the goal depends on. To grow an enterprise, grow people.
Try something else in the new year: keep the goal in mind but focus on you (or whoever it depends on) and focus on a growth process. Let’s see what happens. I take my mentor John’s counsel seriously: “If you focus on goals, you may hit the goals, but that doesn’t guarantee growth. If you focus on growth, you will grow and always hit growth.” This is how to win, 100% of the time!
Here’s a paragraph from John’s 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, which at the start of the new year I take a selected few through, that makes the point:
“If you want to discover your purpose, you need to grow in self-awareness. To become a better human being, you need to grow in character. To advance in your career, you need to grow in your skills. To be a better spouse or parent, you need to grow in relationships. To reach your financial goals, you need to grow in your knowledge about how money works. To enrich your soul, you need to grow spiritually.”
In similar fashion, as James Allen wrote in his classic As a Man Thinketh, “People are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.” Get it? To get your goal you’ve got to grow.
GO WITH ME
Now, assuming you’ve agreed with me that you’ve got to grow to succeed, then the next logical question (in all probability) is how do I grow?. Well, you need to know the principles (laws) governing growth and have a plan and process to grow. Key to this plan and process is, again, people.
They say “we become the combined average of the five people we hang around the most.” Take a quick inventory right now. Depending on who your average five turn out to be, you must be pretty excited or pretty disappointed right now.
Apart from becoming a growing person yourself (towards your goals), you also need growth people, to stimulate, guide and guard your growth. This may be in the form of an accountability friend, a supportive spouse, an executive coach, or a small group like a mastermind.
I like to say that where two or three come together ‘magic’ happens. It is true. No matter how brilliant the ideas I think I have are, somehow when I meet with a group of people to discuss it the final outcome is much much better than my best ideas. It goes without saying that all of us are better than any one of us, any day! That is what Napoleon Hill discovered (mentioned in his 1925 book) and called a” mastermind”–when two people come together they create a third, invisible mind which is greater than the sum of the other two.
So for ideation, encouragement and accountability, everyone needs someone to come alongside them in their growth journey towards goal-getting.
To goal or to grow? That is the question. This is so counterintuitive that I don’t beat myself too much for almost completely missing it earlier in my life. I’m glad I have clinched that now: to hit your goals focus on growing yourself and on the growth process. Even if you don’t hit your goal, you will hit your growth.
Be goal-bound (as in, headed towards your goal) not situation-bound (as in, stuck where you are) by being growth-bound (heading towards growth and sticking to growth). Set your goal alright but then focus on the growth it will take. To hit goals, focus on the person(s) involved and on the growth process. To get your goal you’ve got to grow. This is how to win 100% of the time!
If you want to see if there’s still room for you in the 2020 Growth Mastermind click here.
“The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to ”get through” for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat Covid-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a “little ice age”—a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years,” says Andy Crouch et al. I concur.
Just before Christmas 2020 my lawyer-banker friend and fellow John Maxwell Certified Trainer/Coach, Samuel Anim Esq., asked that I join him do an autopsy of the pandemic year 2020 live on Facebook/Youtube to draw leadership lessons. I was honoured and humbled. Honoured because it is a privilege to offer thought leadership and there is a myriad of leadership experts to choose from. I was humbled because not only do I not know all the lessons from Covid-19, I am still evaluating and learning from what I would perhaps call “the strangest year of my life.”
Nevertheless I managed to throw a few of my reflections together and gave it a funny title. Since around that time of the year there is the traditional Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols I thought of making this a Festival of Nine Lessons & Corona. Certainly there are more than nine leadership lessons from this Coronavirus pandemic year but here are some:
1. EMBRACE PARADOX
Perhaps no one and nothing captures the paradox of 2020 like Charles Dickens and his classic phrase, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (from A Tale of Two Cities). This same 2020 year, over 1.67 million have died and 42.6 million have recovered. You may have lost someone to COVID-19 but you are alive. I’ve been stuck at home but I’ve had the longest unbroken quality bonding time with my family ever! We lost our family’s physical library services business but gained online business five times the physical capacity. Whole old industries, like aviation, have been decimated but whole new industries have emerged and are booming like Zoom. 2020 has been catastrophic yet catalytic.
Welcome to leadership. Embrace paradox. Think of the paradox of a servant leader, as a prime example of leadership paradox. True leadership is almost always straddling two seemingly opposing worlds, something Bob Fryling describes as “the leadership ellipse” because an ellipse “is defined by two distinctly different focal points that are of equal importance. One point is not inferior to the other, and both are needed if there is to be an ellipse.” I previously blogged about this in more detail here.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” ― Charles Dickens, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’
If leadership has always been about managing the tension of tasks or people, money or mission, the present or the future, inner spiritual longings and the outward needs of the group we lead, being and doing, community and cause, truth-telling and putting the right spin on things, to live in the world without being of the world, to be faithful or fruitful etc. then all of these have been put on steroids in a para and post-Covid world.
I have said before and I repeat: “the degree to which one is able to be comfortable with and live, love and lead well in the tension of this and that, yin and yang, determines their ultimate leadership success or otherwise. From my little experience and research, the best leaders in the world are those who are not only able to get comfortable with being uncomfortable living in such tensions but mastered the art of dextrously handling both well.” The post-Covid world leaves us no choice. Embrace paradox or die.
2. MAINTAIN THE MISSION, MUTATE THE MEANS
You and yours don’t want to end up like the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. It was initially built in 1930 and reconstructed in 1996 to withstand tough weather conditions, including hurricanes. Well, two years later, in 1998, the bridge did prove its mettle, withstanding the category five storm, Hurricane Mitch, that devastated Honduras. Buildings were destroyed and roads wiped out but the bridge survived in near perfect condition. The only problem was that there were no roads for it to connect to anymore (roads wiped out at both ends) and the strong winds of the hurricane had caused the river to carve out an entirely new path that no longer ran under the bridge!
Think about it: a bridge connecting to nowhere and no one; and over nothing! If a bridge is no longer a way or a means to a desired end, then what is it? Similarly, if your pre-Covid means are no longer effective post-Covid as ways to deliver your mission, then of what use are they?
You certainly don’t want to lose sight of your vision or your grip on your mission but when it comes to your strategies, your ways and means to accomplish your mission, you don’t ever want to be dogmatic about that. In matters of mission, be as solid as a rock; but regarding the means flow like a river.
THE OTHER SEVEN LESSONS
3. Global community is the real deal context of leadership
4. Capitalize on era of Business without Borders
5. Heed the Harm to our House (Earth)
6. Inequities, Inequalities, Integrity-lessness will be exposed with time
7. Reflective lifestyle is the must-have rhythm of leadership
8. Become and raise agile “VUCA Prime” Leaders (VUCA is an acronym for Volatile Uncertain Complex Ambiguous)
9. HOPE is the real vaccine.
For further details of each lesson, watch the full video here.
If there is any one of these nine Covid-19 life and leadership lessons you need to grow in for a more successful 2021 you’re in good company. Join me. Come to the growth table. Join the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth January journey in the form of a mastermind group of just 15 high level executives. Register right now here. The way COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our world means we all need to radically change the way we do life and leadership too. And that requires new growth. Will you grow or die?
Earlier in the last quarter of the year I shared my faith-based Covid-19 reflections vis-a-vis Christian mission with pastors and church leaders here.