I spent a very long time, trying to figure out what message to share with you today. We’ve shared so many inspirational stories here together. We know the story of Seth Ocran, who had to drop out of school feed his 20 siblings when his parents died, but still turned his life around and became the multi-millionaire owner of Yoks Investments.
We know the story of Daniel McKorley, who started off selling Kerosene in Labadi, and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become the most successful Ghanaian shipping magnate of all time, and king of the McDan Shipping empire. We’ve shared the stories of Esther Ocloo, Nii Kotei Dzani, Patrick Awuah, Yaa Asantewaa, Kwame Nkrumah, Jerry John Rawlings and many others whose lives inspire us because of their resilience in the face of adversity.
Resilience. That’s the thought my mind finally settled on as I sat down to write this message. You see, I realised it’s not enough to simply hear a story about how someone overcame obstacles to become successful. That is hardly enough to make you a success too. You can’t exactly pass your own life’s tests by using the past questions from someone else’s life. No, you need to have something deep within you that bears you through your own unique challenges. You need … resilience.
Resilience is defined as the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape – the ability to bend and not break. Elasticity would be a good synonym. The strongest objects are not rigid. They are flexible. They bend to carry the pressure, and in so doing, they do not break.
When Seth Ocran’s parents died, he didn’t say “I am a privileged student of Augusco, I don’t deserve this”, and hang about waiting for someone to hand him what he felt entitled to. No, he bent with the pressure – in fact, he bent as low as becoming a trotro mate, just to make ends meet, and with time, his burdens stretched him more and more, but he did not break. Eventually, his resilience won the battle against his challenges, and today, Seth’s empire is worth millions of dollars, employs thousands of Ghanaians, and continues to grow as we speak.
My dear friend, the pressure on you is immense. I know. It’s not just the financial pressure, which is hard enough – customers evaporating, salaries dwindling, opportunities non-existent – but when you add all the other pressures – the stress of work, the torture of relationships, the indiscipline of our fellow citizens, the threats to our personal safety… sometimes, it can feel as if the weight of the world is on your neck. Sometimes, it feels like far more than your spine was built to bear. Sometimes, life’s burdens threaten to break you into two.
As a nation, we are in the same condition. The obstacles can feel insurmountable. Debt is making us modern slaves, galamsey is poisoning our water, rain is killing our citizens, we are drowning under tons of filth, terrorists are threatening to bomb our churches, militia groups are holding our democracy to ransom, tribal conflict is ruining our peace, corruption is infecting our institutions like a cancer – even the very institutions set up to fight corruption… it can get overwhelming sometimes.
I know many of you have said to yourself more than once, “I give up”, “the tin, e no go be”. And if you have, I understand. I know how you feel. You are at breaking point. You have had your fill. You’re up to your limit. It feels like, at any minute, our collective backs are going to snap like a blow-dried twig in the harmattan wind.
But this is when we must be elastic. This is when we must bend. Just flex your frustrated spine under the weight of your troubles. Bend, don’t break. Don’t let them see you bleed. Don’t let the enemy win. Don’t let your circumstances crack your resolve. You are made of far stronger material than you know. You are a man, a woman of steel, forged in the fire of adversity. And though you may bend, you will not break.
Your challenges demand your flexibility. And make no mistake, this is not an impossible demand. Others have done it. From Nelson Mandela to Yaa Asantewaa, from Seth Ocran to Sir Sam Jonah, from Singapore to the UAE, It has been proven time and time again that a bit of resilience is all that’s needed to weather any storm and triumph over any adversity. How else would Rwanda – a country that, just a few years ago, was the very face of genocide – turn itself around and become the model nation for social development on our continent? All it took to change their narrative was a little bit of elasticity.
It’s Friday. Another tough week has ended. The challenges may have bent you, but they WILL NOT BREAK YOU. You will come back, guns blazing on Monday morning to tackle life’s problems afresh, because you’re unstoppable, you’re unbeatable, you’re unbreakable.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!