Dr. G. Ayorkor Korsah (née Mills-Tettey) and I shared many hearty laughs at the VIP lounge after Ashesi University’s impressively inspiring commencement ceremony last Saturday, June 3, 2023. She is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and Robotics, and as department head, Computer Science & Information Systems, she was in her element dolling out degrees to deserving graduates. But we have a 28-year history of rivalry.
This wasn’t our first meeting. Nearly three decades ago, in 1995, we were impassioned opponents. Each of us was part of a trio representing our high schools in the semi-final of the Brillant Science and Maths Quiz on national television. Brillant was what it was called, yes, no typo there. That was the name of the blue bar soap by Unilever that was the title sponsor OF the competition. Much has changed since then. National Science and Maths Quiz, it’s now called. Very appropriate. Prime Time was in its prime, producing this feast of brilliance. They seem to have kept their shine, now in the hands of the next generation of Mensah-Bonsus.
THE LADIES WERE LOVED
Our battle was held and filmed at the Great Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon. Technically, this should’ve been a ‘home match’ for me, in my own territory, since the venue was barely a mile from my home, No. 14 Legon Hill. But no. Everyone was rooting for the über smart all-ladies team from Wesley Girls. Can you blame them? Even now they would be a delight; how much more in those medieval ages of STEM in Africa. Come to think of it, the now-ubiquitous ‘STEM’ term for Science, Tech, Engineering and Math had not even been cooked yet. The STEM acronym was only introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Girls in Science were hallowed in the 1990s. Even I admired them, but my mission was to win for my school. No distractions.
My Achimota School team was made up of three boys, the three musketeers, although we are the first co-ed public school in the country as far back as 1927 and had science girls who rocked. Needless to say, the competition against the Cape Coast chics was fierce. We had both earned our way to the penultimate in the southern zone.
We inflicted what is arguably the most painful defeat Geyhey has ever suffered at the science and maths quiz. It was veeery close. Even the camera crew were downcast when the celebrity girls lost, visibly disappointed. We made enemies that day. Some couldn’t even hide it.
SOME OTHER LADIES, SOME OTHER TIME
But as it turned out: it’s not the whole word that hated us. Some girls loved us. I was the recipient of umpteen letters of adulation from young ladies all over the country. They happily introduced themselves, sometimes with atrocious photo inserts, and poured their admiration on me—about my intellectual prowess among other things which will distract from the point of this article. Now I’m not sure all of it was appropriate for seventeen.
Even the Weygeygey girls became friends later when things cooled down. After all, “if you can’t beat them; join them,” as they say. That’s how I ended up with the various names in that year group, some of whom became colleagues at the University of Ghana Medical School, as friends. Zanetor Rawlings, first daughter of the then Flight Lieutenant-retired president of Ghana, even visited me in Achimota School at some point. Like me, she would later pursue Medicine too; but in Ireland. I once warned her at a party in Nana Ama Barnes’ home on Legon Campus that if she dared ended up schooling outside Ghana after her revolutionary dad had messed up (yes, teenagers are fearless!) our educational system so, I would be really mad. I guess I’m still mad. A little. She has since returned and been admiringly serving as a Member of Parliament for the Korle Klottey constituency of Accra. In any case, seeing affliction metted out to a certain young man who hang around her at the time, involuntary hair-shaving at the Osu Castle and all, it might have been providence that I stayed at arm’s length.
NOTHING BUT ADMIRATION AND RESPECT
But I digress. Back to the main lady Gertrude, as we called Ayorkor then. She was and is brilliantly brilliant. We only beat her team by strategy and a stroke of luck. Call it grace, if you like. Those girls were on fire! Ayorkor, after 1995, went on ahead to pack up four degrees including two Bachelor’s, a Master’s and a PhD. Dr. Korsah grew up in Ghana and Nigeria, and as a child, she wanted to be an astronaut and an engineer. Ayorkor didn’t join the majority of us that continued to Ghanaian tertiary institutions but went to Ivy League Dartmouth to major in engineering. She attended Carnegie Mellon University for her doctoral work in computer science, obtaining a PhD in 2011.
Ayorkor Korsah is all-round passionate about the artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, algorithms, and programming courses she teaches on the Ashesi Hill but so is she about expanding robotics education in Africa for every Kofi and Amma. That’s why she co-founded the African Robotics Network (AFRON) over a decade ago with a robotics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Ken Goldberg.
Anyele my wife and I really found a common sweet spot with Ayorkor last Saturday when we coincidentally discovered our common passion for literacy. Being someone who has shared with the BBC how humans and machines can collaborate and combine their strengths, Ayorkor once, over a dozen years ago, experimented with an automated reading tutor in the quest to improving child literacy in Africa. She has a paper on it in the Information Technologies & International Development journal, vol. 6 no. 2, 2010. We are keen to collaborate with her and her bright Ashesi students at our EdTech company, Perbi Cubs, for bigger, brighter and better outcomes for Africa’s precious cubs.
NOT A BOUT
Ayorkor beat me to full-time lectureship and will most likely beat me again to professorship (she so deserves it). But as she, Anyele and I continued our hearty conversation, including recruiting some of her students to practice what she teaches at our Edtech, we got to know she has two little ones of her own, younger than our last two. And we have seven. We beat her to that, fair and square. She even just married, in light of our sixteenth year, and transitioned from Mills-Tettey to Korsah.
Enough of these beatings! Really we’re all grown now and know, for sure, that life isn’t a race against each other. Nor is it about a bout. Rather than compete like we did in our teens, we now learn to complete one another in our adult years for the greater good—the Good Society. In lockstep, we will keep producing holistic emerging leaders, formally like Dr. Ayorkor Korsah does with degrees at Ashesi and informally and semi-formally like I do at The HuD Group. Ashesi turned 20 last year and we turn the same this year. Patrick Awuah, our mutual founding friend of Ashesi will be keynoting at The HuD Group’s presser on June 16, 2023. I was telling him that maybe I should’ve started a Uni too instead of going the CSO (Civil Society Organization) route. But nay, to each one their own. And we compliment, collaborate and complete each other as we all strive hard and long towards the Africa we want.
And as if by divine design, one of the Presec folks who beat our Achimota team in the finals of the Brilliant Science and Math Quiz 1995 southern zone competition ended up as my Biological Sciences course mate and even my room mate at Legon Hall, University of Ghana. We both competed for the few slots at med school available to our Leviathan-sized cohort and made it–from the same room!
There’s a time to compete and a time to collaborate. For me, to complete and not compete today as professional pals and fellow family framers of the same generation is a no-brainer. Here’s to answering life’s real tough questions and quizzes together. Congratulations, Dr. Ayorkor Korsah, for continually raising the bar.
And oh, Anyele and Ayikai, Ayorkor’s engineering whiz kid of a younger sister, have been tight friends for a quarter-of-a-century, going way back to their Wesley Girls days.
Most people who are abreast enough with current affairs and know that “It’s the family, stupid” is a play on the famous slogan for the 1992 Bill Clinton election campaign (“It’s the economy, stupid”) will not know that today, and every May 15, is the International Day of Families. In my world it has never gained the popularity of, say, International Women’s Day. If it was so-scheduled to leverage Mother’s Day then it’s had the reverse, untoward effect of drowning it instead.
The Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly exactly three decades ago, in 1993, with resolution A/RES/47/237. According to the U.N., it’s supposed to reflect the importance the international community attaches to families, provide an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.
At Perbi Executive Leadership Education (PELÉ), we celebrate everything LIFE–Leadership, Integrity, Family, Entrepreneurship–and even currently have an ongoing Flourishing Families Masterclass running for the entire month of May. Whether it’s the more intensive Family Foundations Mastermind or the shorter and lighter Flourishing Families Masterclass, the following six perspectives are offered as a foundation for why family is ultra important (these are extracts from an e-booklet I’ve put together for the mastermind and masterclass):
1. CREATOR PERSPECTIVE | God is Family
God is family. Father-Son-Spirit. Note the familiar family terms, father and son. Having created humankind in His image and likeness to reflect on Earth what it is in Heaven, human family is huge deal. At the core of cosmos is a love relationship—Lover, Loved 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. Centres of Influence | Every sphere is filled, fuelled and influenced by home
What do all of society’s centres of influence–Arts & Entertainment, Business, Science & Technology, Education, Government, Media, Religion–have in common: human beings! Without family there will be no human beings at all to fill, fuel and influence all these other centres. The only sphere that produces human beings is family. Most schools of thought include family itself as one of the centres of influence in society but I wonder whether family should even be included in the centres at all or just made to underlie all of them.
Family is literally the pivot of centres, symbolizing how everything truly revolves around it. Every centre rises and falls on family.
3. 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. 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.
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.
4. CELLULAR PERSPECTIVE | Family is the basic 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 and humanity 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. Individual cells gone bonkers, multiplying unhealthily—and eventually fatally spreading that craziness to other parts of the body (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.
5. 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.”
6. 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 recent 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. At the time of first writing this down for the initial Family Foundations Mastermind we run during the pandemic, I hadn’t flown in a year—and that was incredible, 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 mattered most was the people many of us paid the least attention to prior to COVID-19: family.
Crucibles reveal what’s most important. Now that this pandemic is over, we would need insignia to remind us, lest we forget, that everything rises and falls on family.
These are my compelling six cases for why family is absolutely a big deal, in every nation and generation. I long for the day when marketplace leaders will recognize the prime place of family and ensure their work(place) empowers families rather than diminishes them. “It’s the family, stupid.” Everything rises and falls on family. Happy International Day (Month is better) of Families.
At Easter, I threw a challenge to the leaders in my network: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. This challenge was triggered by inspiration I received when I had just returned from a college graduation the week before Holy Week. Although it had been a season of graduation ceremonies in Ghana across many tertiary institutions, this was a special one, a very special one.
About six years ago, our family travelled to Ghana from Canada on furlough. We had planned to stay the entire period at my parents-in-love’s residence in Accra. Being a reasonably big-sized big family (the children weren’t even seven yet!) we obviously needed some domestic assistance. We were glad to welcome a promising young lady, Benedicta, as our new house help after a couple of failed trials.
As we lived with her and observed her initiative, diligence, smartness, humility, kindness and care we took an extra interest in what her ultimate dream was. She had the potential to be like any one of us high income, high impact professionals and not necessarily having to be confined to a vocation of domestic assistance her entire life. We found out about her high school final grades and thought they could be improved. And so we (my wife and I, parents-in-love and other family members) decided to invest in her, everything from extra classes through re-sit examinations. Even when she was finally given a shot at college my mother-in-law would get her books and do mock interviews with her to prepare for the entrance interviews. Long story short, she made it into nursing college.Now, that is the graduation we went for that day.
Today, Benedicta is a nurse. She graduated from the Nurses & Midwives Training College in Teshie, Accra, Ghana. From house help to nurse; and that is what brought me to the Easter challenge because at Easter, we see the ultimate leader Himself laying down His life for the people He saw value in. At the risk of sounding holier-than-though, the previous family she left to serve ours was just about to invest in her to be a fried pork seller by the street.
Everybody knows John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But what a lot of people who are not schooled in Trinitarian theology don’t realize is that this scripture is basically saying that God so loved the world—God so saw value in you and me—that he gave Himself for us, because God is Father-Son-Spirit. The ultimate leader laid down Himself for our uplifting.
This giving of Himself or laying down His life for us is spoken of by St. Paul’s to the Church in Philippi in such humble and humbling terms. He begins in Philippians 2:5 by exhorting that “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Let’s take Eugene Peterson’s contemporary version:
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” 
Wow! God becoming a man was not just humbling, it was humiliating. Yet even when formed and found in appearance of a human, he could’ve been a very proud man but no! He was down-to-earth and mingled with tax collectors and ‘sinners’. In fact, it was on the night he was betrayed–during Holy Week–that He washed his own disciples’ dirty and stinky feet and wiped them with a towel around his waist.
The way up is down, for because of this humble attitude and action, “God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.”  Even those who are not voluntarily honoring Jesus now will bow one day, compelled. All shall bow to the one who first bowed the lowest and is now raised the highest.
As a leader, I want to challenge you to choose one person, choose one thing to do this month (we’re still in the month of Easter) that involves laying down your preference, time, or money, sacrificing something, dying a little so that someone can live, graduate, have a better life etc. I challenge you to do that because that is the essence of ultimate leadership. Leadership is not about us, it is about those who take inspiration, follow, and learn from us who we get to empower and guide; those around us.
It’s sad to see so many places in the world, especially in Africa, where government official think it is all about them. Unfortunately, even in the church there are a myriad instances where pastors are doing extremely well socioeconomically and there are congregants who are not faring well, at all. Sometimes these leaders are literally fleecing the people, milking them dry till they bleed. That’s not leadership at all, and certainly not servant leadership. Leadership is laying down our lives, laying down our gifts so that others will be blessed. It is going down to pick the downtrodden and lifting them up.
Cecelia Chan poignantly put it this way: “Instead of laying a red carpet for yourself to walk on, lay a bridge and let the young people walk over to you.” This is my challenge to you, at Easter and beyond: lay down yourself for someone else’s uplifting. God bless and honour you too as you learn to lead like Jesus.
 Philippians 2:5-8, The Message
 Philippians 2:9-11, The Message
Let’s talk about apologizing properly. Some people are too prideful to apologize when they err (including me, sometimes). That’s so wrong. But even for those who know they are in the wrong and want to make things right, they often still get making things right wrong.
Imagine my shock, when l was scheduled to have a meeting with one of the top CEOs in Africa and l kept waiting and waiting and waiting and… this person wasn’t showing up. So I signed off from Zoom about 20 minutes later and sent a message: “I hope you’re okay…” etc. etc.
It wasn’t until the next day when this leader sent what was supposed to be an apology. All this person said was, “Apologies.” End of story. What?! I was shockprised. “Is that how to apologize?” I soliloquized. Then l began to understand why only a couple of weeks earlier one of my close friends who is also a top executive of a Ghana Club 100 company shared with me how one of my daughters had totally shocked him. Apparently, she had stepped on him or something of the sort (l forget) but that wasn’t the source of the shock. It was how she apologized. That so astonished him and he said to himself, “I’ve got to learn how to apologize this way.” He is now actually teaching his family that this is how to apologize properly henceforth, when you do something wrong.
This is the way to apologize, for acts of commission (doing what you’re not supposed to do) and omission (not doing what you’re supposed to do) alike:
- Mention the fellow’s name: “Anyele.” “Frankie.” Mentioning a person’s name calls their attention, makes it personal, and connects us to the caller.
- Spell out your offence: “l missed our appointment” or “l did not put the money in the bank like you had asked me to”
- Acknowledge you erred, openly admitting it: “l am wrong”
- Let them know you regret it, verbally articulating it: “I am sorry”
- Ask for their pardon: “Please forgive me.”
- Wait for their response (hopefully they can process right there and then and also give you a response in the affirmative).
- Thank them (no matter the response).
So here’s an illustration of how my CEO friend should’ve apologized: “Yaw. I totally missed our appointment and stood you up. I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” This is the way to apologize properly. Just saying “apologies” or a half-hearted “oh sorry” in a huff doesn’t cut it. I am learning to do this better and better because I realize that sometimes when I’m not really really sorry I don’t want to go through this process and certainly don’t want to make the above string of statements.
Giving the other person the opportunity to forgive you by saying “please forgive me” is very empowering for the offended party. It kind of disarms the offender simultaneously too. I hope you’ll practice this and that true transformation will transpire because you are truly deeply sorrowful for what you did wrong even if it’s the slightest thing. Remember, “Ms. ABC, I did XYZ. I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Then await their response and thank them. This is the proper way to apologize. Some even go an extra length to state what they’re going to do to make things right and/or renegotiate the promise.
I am wary of people who are not self-aware enough to recognize they’ve done wrong, whether upon self-reflection or via feedback. And I don’t trust those who won’t say sorry after they’ve been made aware of it, and do it seriously and sincerely. I won’t do business with them because they have low integrity. Of course ,the first layer of integrity is keeping one’s word. But when inadvertently through extenuating circumstances one is unable to, to keep one’s integrity we still need to acknowledge that our integrity is unraveling (not just pretend we never gave our word in the first place) and then still honour our word by apologizing in the above manner and renegotiating.
Apologizing properly is not a trivial matter. It has saved personal relationships, families, communities, organizations and even nations. Let’s begin to take apologizing properly and sincerely seriously: on a personal level, then in our families and communities, ultimately in our corporate world and national life. Now, go and do likewise and teach the people at your workplace, on your team, and even your spouse and cubs to do same. That’s the way to go.
Years ago, there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate. The widowed, elder man looked on with satisfaction as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
Distraught and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer. On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home.
As he opened the door, he was greeted by a soldier with a large package in his hand. He introduced himself to the man by saying, “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the soldier told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his, not to mention his father’s, love of fine art. “I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.” As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the son.
Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail. Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture over the fireplace.
A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went well above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given. During the days and weeks that followed, the man realized that even though his son was no longer with him, the boy’s life would live on because of those he had touched. He would soon learn that his son had rescued dozens of wounded soldiers before a bullet stilled his caring heart.
As the stories of his son’s gallantry continued to reach him, fatherly pride and satisfaction began to ease the grief. The painting of his son soon became his most prized possession, far eclipsing any interest in the pieces for which museums around the world clamored. He told his neighbors it was the greatest gift he had ever received.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in anticipation! Unmindful of the story of the man’s only son, but in his honor, those paintings would be sold at an auction. According to the will of the old man, all of the art works would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift. The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many claim “I have the greatest collection.”
The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent.
“Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked.
Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the good stuff.”
More voices echoed in agreement. “No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?”
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke, “Will you take ten dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.”
“I have ten dollars. Will anyone go higher?” called the auctioneer.
After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.” The gavel fell, cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these treasures!”
The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced the auction was over. Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? We didn’t come here for a picture of some old guy’s son. What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! I demand that you explain what’s going on here!” The auctioneer replied, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son…gets it all.”
Puts things into perspective doesn’t it? Just as those art collectors discovered on that Christmas Day, the message is still the same: the love of a Father, a Father whose greatest joy came from His Son, who went away and gave His life rescuing others. And because of that Father’s love, whoever takes the Son, gets it all.
We live in perilous times. Don’t you sometimes feel like the world is spinning out of control ? One of the most important things we must cherish and hold on to is family. Every single one of us has a family–no matter how (dys)functional and emotionally or geographically removed. The family is the fundamental unit of human existence. Nothing good happens on Earth if it is broken or destroyed. A society is only as good as the families that constitute it.
It is not only the concept of family that is important but also the actual living out of what family should be. Humans are described as social creatures. We make friends, live in communities, and connect with strangers based on common elements. Social media has recently emerged as a new way for people to connect with childhood peers, friends of friends, and even strangers. Nothing is more central to social life than the concept of family. Our families represent our earliest and, often, most enduring relationships.
Earlier this year, a Family Foundations Mastermind was held, with a sizeable number of couples (and some individuals) participating. All present could see that there are important things everyone should know, be, and do about the family yet no one had done! How can we expect family to be strong and stable if we ignore the fundamental roles of human existence? As a result, a popular request has been made for it to be repeated, even though we had planned this quarter to run a Financial Whizzdom Mastermind, which many were anticipating. We apologize for any inconvenience, but signing up for the upcoming Family Foundations Mastermind would never be a mistake.
With what is going on around us in this LGBTQI+ era, there is an urgent need to apply ancient wisdom and put current family systems theories to the test. The abiding questions in the 19th century hymn Priscilla Owens come to mind:
“Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain, will your anchor drift, or firm remain?”
We encourage everyone to participate in this mastermind as it will be both enjoyable and educational. We will explore:
Why a systematic study of family itself is important
The prime place of family (get ready for paradigm shifts!)
Ancient family wisdom (we’ll apply these)
Current family systems theories (we’ll test some)
Basic tools for emotional connection
Essential communication tools
The forgiveness exercise
Unique emotional needs and how to fulfill them
Mapping out your family genogram
Drawing up a family mission statement
Prioritization: Recognizing the place of work, family, friends, church/community, and other responsibilities that require your attention.
The idea of the integrated life over the notion of balance
And much more!
Note that this is not a masterclass but a mastermind. Inasmuch as there will be some core teaching, more central will be the concepts and tools that are put on the table for everyone to contribute their perspectives and experiences and practically learn together things together that no one could have taught us. Dr. Yaw Perbi is a guide by the side in masterminds rather than a sage on the stage, typical of a masterclass.
WHAT’S SUCCESS GOT TO DO WITH FAMILY?
Everything. As John C. Maxwell poignantly puts it, success is when the people who know you the best (family) love and respect you the most. Join this journey of growth to discover the real roots of success and significance. Family is essential. Whatever we see in society has a direct correlation with family. The family is the fundamental unit of society and humanity. We can discuss all seven sectors of life or spheres of influence, but only family actually produces human beings. Come learn how to be a better family member and how to be/do family better.
We are excited to have you. Register via this link as soon as possible. First come, first guaranteed.
A special shout out to Naa Anyele Perbi, my wife, economist-entrepreneur and CEO of Perbi Cubs. It’s my wife’s birthday (October 3), my wife of 15 years and counting, and as I celebrate her it seems to me that the rest of the world could benefit from 4 F’s that are critical in building a lasting marital relationship a.k.a. life partnership. Marriage is tough in and of itself and so starting with the ‘wrong’ partner is literally starting on the wrong foot. Anyele and I have been asked “how do I know for sure this is the right life partner for me?” so many times that we’ve distilled the answer down to a simple 4 F criteria. Of course, you could have 100 characteristics of the (wo)man of your dreams–why not?–but if you get these four wrong, forget the other 96!
Now, this is not just for young(er) people. Increasingly many people are getting married later in life but not just that, stuff happens. There are those who marriages end sooner than they had hoped and choose to remarry–and want to have a partner that will last this time. Here are our four: faith, future, friendship and feelings.
Faith is number one because it drives everything else. I’ll explain: people do not realize that our entire existence and behaviours our shaped, driven and undergirded by values, which in turn are determined by our beliefs (or as some call them, ‘faith assumptions’) which at the very core come from our worldview!
There is a lot of talk about values-based this and values-based that but values are only fruits of the tree; the roots are fundamental beliefs in the fertile soils of worldviews. So what kind of faith do you subscribe to, or no faith? I know people try to cross faiths, like Christian and Muslim marriages, but we really believe it is important to share a common faith because then you have a common worldview, common belief system, and common values which should lead to common behaviours to do life together that lasts, with unnecessary tensions and fight.
The apostle Paul, who incidentally never got married, waxes lyrical about this to the Christ followers in the ancient Greecian city of Corinth. He pulls no punches as he gives it to them straight up: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” For Christians who are true disciples of Christ, the reasons and reasoning I’ve provided above which must’ve informed this command, in additional to spiritual reasons he gives in the text, may be useful to know but obedience nevertheless is the highest value in the kingdom of God. It’s also known as love for God.
You may be two people of the same faith (so values, beliefs and worldview are in sync) but if you are going in two different directions in life, it’s not going to work. First it’s a tension and soon it’s a tear. And this has nothing to do with someone being a ‘bad person’ or the other having ‘no love’ but just because you have two different life purposes that aren’t complimentary let alone synergestic. By future we are talking about purpose compatibility. Two people may have common faith but if they are traveling in two different directions because they were made for two different destinations and destinies, the marriage partnership won’t work. I like the way a friend put it: “we are good; but we’re just not good together.”
Everyone has a specific God-given purpose that must not only be discovered but developed and fully deployed if we are to feel fulfilled. It doesn’t mean both must be doing the same sort of work or in the same field even (all they better if they are). It just means they have the passion and compassion (and perhaps even talents) to contribute to the purpose. Being fulfilled can be described as getting oxygen, and you know how any human being will instinctively fight for air if they are being choked. A life partnership will never work even if you are two people of the same faith yet moving in opposite directions, or towards different destinations and destinies.
It is critical that you discuss the future and truly understand what you are getting involved in during courtship. During courtship, the lips are for talking primarily, not kissing. You can never suck information from the mind of another no matter how much you French kiss a loved one! Decide to go into details about where you’re headed and how you envisage life in the coming years. It is not for nothing the good book inquires, “Can two people walk together unless they agree?”
Friendship is the cornerstone of a lasting relationship, and a good friendship is intentionally formed over time. One of life’s greatest pleasures is friendship. Friendship is wonderful because it is one of the few relationships in life that fosters equality and mutuality. Almost every relationship in the world has a power differential, someone one higher than the other; not so with friendship.
If the creation account is true, then man and woman were made for each other for companionship (friendship) even before parenting for their life’s work (‘future’ above) or procreation. The other thing is that emotions come and go, but friendship endures and transcends the passage of time. Affect(ions) alone cannot always sustain a marriage. Friendship with all it entails is a truly priceless relationship. Life can become monotonous if we do not have some true friends to share it with.
It’s so cute to find an elderly couple who are truly friendships–the body language, the mannerisms. I’ve met many people, especially young ladies, who somehow seem to believe that they will never be able to marry their friends. Au contraire! Marrying your friend is the best decision one could ever make!
Finally, feelings are the icing on the cake of a life partnership that literally lasts a lifetime. Emotions are extremely important and should never be overlooked. They are powerful. They are called e-motions for a reason. They move us. There is a need to feel and this is a requirement for you and me to be exceptionally attracted to our partners. There must be a special thing that draws you to the individual and creates a natural flow between you two. Call it ‘chemistry,’ if you will, or that the person lights your fire. There is a need for connection and a spark between the individuals. It is key because you’ll be waking up by the side this person almost every morning for the rest of your life–you had better get some kick out of that!
There tends to be two extremes when it comes to the role of feelings in choosing a life partner. There’s the feelings don’t matter camp which gets it wrong (of course they do!) as well as the feelings first (or even feelings only) base as well. We absolutely need the feelings to make any life partnership last, but I won’t make them first or foremost. Take a look at Hollywood: more than half of the hunk-ness, über beauty, sexiness and extreme marriage proposals (on helicopters and such) result in divorces within months. Months!
Feelings are important but there aren’t everything. I remember learning 25 years ago when I was a World Vision Youth Ambassador that generally people in the West marry the one they love (have feelings for) while those in the Eastern hemisphere love the one they marry. Even arranged marriages can work if they get the first three F’s right. The fourth ‘F’ can eventually come along. In fact, many of them outlast the so-called “love marriages’ which largely focus on just the fourth ‘F.’
Many people I know have a long list of life partner criteria. Every one of those lists can be divided into two: essentials and desirables; or non-negotiable and negotiable. You can add a whole list of both categories to Faith, Future, Friendship, and Feelings but these four are non-negotiables. You can have an expanded list of 100 criteria but you cannot do without these four–not if you’re serious about a life partner for a lifetime. Ascertain that these 4F’s are in place for a future with your partner that has a lifelong glow and not just a shooting star. The quality of the information you have directly impacts the quality of the decisions you make. You are in charge, therefore, make the best decision. See you at the summit!
Please share your thoughts and experiences too!
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.
The story is told of an anthropologist who introduced a game to the children of an African tribe. He placed a basket of delicious fruits near a tree trunk and told them: “The first child to reach the tree will get the basket.”
When he gave them the start signal, to his astonishment they were walking together, holding hands, until they all reached the tree. They simply shared the fruits and happily ate them! So baffled, with a furrowed brow he asked them, “Why did you do that when any one of you could get the basket only for yourself?”
They answered with glee, and to his amazement, “Ubuntu!”
“How can one of us be happy if all the rest are miserable?”
“Ubuntu” in their civilization means “I am because we are.” It is Xhosa from the African continent. The venerable Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains: “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. It is about the essence of being human, it is part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I inexorably dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”
TEAMS THEME LIKE A BROKEN RECORD
Together Everyone Achieves Most Success. The theme of teamwork just won’t go away! To those around me, I must’ve sounded like a broken record over the period. Ah! But broken record will soon take on another important meaning. Read on. It began a couple of weeks ago as I was finishing a write-up for our 4D assessment (image above) at YAW PERBI. The TEAMS portion of the assessment posits that TEAMS should consist of at least one each of a Theorizer, Executor, Analyzer, Manager and Strategist, that idea itself also forming another acronym for TEAMS. No one has all six. Even if they did, they wouldn’t be able to function optimally when all are needed simultaneously. Whatever you don’t have, the Creator has put in someone next to you in your ecosystem. A network is about nextwork, basically a net of next workers.
This became very apparent to me when over these same couple of weeks I happened to be reading the old jewish book of Nehemiah, the guy in diaspora who returned to Jerusalem to lead a rebuilding campaign. The dominant word in the text about the rebuilding is “next.” An array of people, from priests to perfume-makers, male and female, built the next session of the broken walls of the city, some right in front of their house, until walls that had been down for over a century were rebuilt in only fifty-two days! Indeed, teamwork makes the dream work!
Former U.S. President Lyndon Johnson put it another way, “There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” Going east, the Chinese have a proverb too that says, “Behind an able man there are always other able men.”
BETTER TOGETHER, FOR SURE!
Again over these same couple of weeks, my mother-in-law forwarded a video to me, featuring a passionate speaker who was emphasizing the power of building together. Incidentally, I happened to know the man–pastor Forbes of The Gambia, whose church in Banjul I had the privilege of speaking at about a decade ago. I quickly sent him word that he was trending. And he was. Forbes made a terrific point about how the fastest man in the world remains Usain Bolt of Jamaica, with a 2009 world record he set at 9.58 seconds remaining unbroken by any other human being for a dozen years now. Yet the 4 x 100m relay record by Bolt and three others stands at 36.84s, meaning an average of 9.21 seconds per runner. Get that? That’s a whole 37 seconds better than the best man in the world! That’s the power of team work, of synergy. All of us together, are better than any one of us, even the best of us, any day!
Take the game of soccer too. It doesn’t matter what a great goalkeeper one is, no one wins the game without good strikers who score goals (not to talk of the rest the complimentary forwards and midfielders). In the same way, one may be the best goalscorer in the world but without a strong defence, including goalkeeping, you will be outscored and lose the game. Great leadership assembles a great team of diverse people in gender, ethnicity, age etc. but especially in thinking styles and task orientation.
Every team member has a place where they add the most value. You don’t want to put the best goalscorer as a goalkeeper or vice-versa. You’ve got to know yourself and where you have most value, in order to know where you lack and who to bring on board. Likewise, everyone else on the team should know their niche. In The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, John Maxwell puts this essential need to have the right people in the right places well on TEAMS as follows:
- The Wrong Person in the Wrong place = Regression
- The Wrong Person in the Right Place = Frustration
- The Right Person in the Wrong Place = Confusion
- The Right Person in the Right Place = Progression
- The Right People in the Right Places = Multiplication
IN THE END…
All of us together are better than the best of us, any day, every time! Even better than a Usain Bolt! Ubuntu! I am because we are. What is the Theorist without an Executor? What would an Analyzer do without a Manager or Strategist? TEAMS is the way to go. The children of Africa know it. Do we? Together Everyone Achieves Most Success!
One of the most sold yet least bought commodities in the leadersphere is integrity. There’s hardly a set of corporate core values one comes across without it showing up somehow. What’s even more intriguing is how mystical people make it sound and look. In fact, I’ve heard politicians throw it about in a way that’s made me wonder whether even I understood what the heck it is. But hear me good: integrity is not that complicated.
Although there are so many definitions of it, I’ll share with you one that is as simple as primary school math and then show you a simple litmus test of integrity. Integrity comes from the Latin root integritas, which means whole, complete, entire, unbroken. It’s the same word from which we get the word integer. See, I told you it’s as simple as grade school math! What are integers? Positive and negative whole numbers.
Integrity then basically means you’re whole, not divided. The opposite of that would be fractions; not whole. You’re fractionated, broken up.
What’s the litmus test I speak of? Integrity is not that complicated. How can you tell I’ve got it? How do I know you have integrity too? I don’t need a KYC (know your client) form or a testimonial from a referee or even your long list of impressive achievements. Integrity is keeping your word–not letting your word fall to the ground, not breaking your word. Integrity is being what you say you are and doing what you say you’ll do.
BEING WHAT YOU SAY YOU ARE
Let’s consider two guys, Kofi and Yaw. If Kofi says, “I lie, I deceive, I steal.” Kofi has low morality, by that particular society’s general standards of acceptable behaviour in that era. When Yaw says, “I abhor lying, I don’t deceive, I never steal,” he has high morality.
BUT, if Yaw goes on lying, deceiving and stealing then Yaw is not a person of integrity. He doesn’t keep his word. However, if Kofi goes ahead to lie, deceive and steal, although he has low morality he actually is a person of integrity (albeit in a very twisted way) because he keeps his word. He said he will do these things and he does. Integrity is being what you say you are, being what you say you will.
DOING WHAT YOU SAY YOU’LL DO
Again integrity is keeping your word, this time, by doing what you say you’ll do. I still remember the shock of a new friend I made when I showed up at her place exactly when I promised I would. She was brutally honest with me that she wasn’t expecting me to keep my word. I was hurt that he would think so lowly of the human race, more specifically the XY chromosomic Homo sapiens, and even more specifically a Christian gentleman. But you couldn’t blame here–she had experienced too many people promising and failing to deliver all too often.
Integrity is keeping your word. Of course, sometimes we give our word and due to extenuating circumstances we’re not able to keep it (we can’t control everything, especially the elements and emergencies). If you are a person of integrity, however, although you are not able to keep your word you still honour your word by reaching out in advance (preferably in advance), apologizing for not being able to and renegotiating to make things right.
My editing team for the weekly PEP Talks I do expect my videos to get to them by Sunday night each week. I had such a long day last Sunday that I realized there was no way I was going to be able to make a good video to send at the end of the day. To keep my integrity, however, I sent a note to the team saying, “Hey, it’s been a very tiring day and I wouldn’t be able to give this video my best shot. I’ll work on it tomorrow instead and send it to you.” I was unable to keep my longstanding word, but I did well to still honour it. I wish that were always true. Sometimes I’ve failed to keep my word and gone on with life as if I never gave my word in the first place. That is not integrity–not matter how much I claim to have it!
I get amazed how many people give their word with no intention whatsoever to keep it! And then there is the category of people who give their word intending to keep it but when they are unable to don’t see the big deal in still honouring their word–apologizing and redressing it. I’ve had to correct several people I work with to the point that now they not only keep their word, but if for some reason they are not able to, they now honour it by apologizing, letting me know and re-negotiating.
By the way, when we make plans and don’t keep it (even if they don’t involve anybody else), we violate our integrity. Many of us do not take our own word seriously; we don’t take ourselves seriously. I insist on 100% integrity with my coaching clients when they give their word about what they commit to doing in between our sessions.
Inasmuch as I want to keep this article to the personal level, I cannot help but take a swipe at politicians who are notorious for giving their word during political campaigns only to take office and not only fail to keep their word but sometimes even pretend they have no clue what the citizenry and civil society organizations are reminding them about and trying to hold them to account for! There is a joke about how before elections they call us “the masses.” When they win and we make our demands of them we become “them asses!” In my short lifetime, on both sides of the Atlantic, I have met very few politicians worth their salt. Politicians with integrity are almost extinct.
So integrity isn’t this highfalutin, mystical, metaphysical thing. It’s not that complicated. It is as simple as primary school math: integers. What shows you have it or not is as simple as keeping your word. Period. Nothing more, nothing less.