There is a ranch in Japan that produces the best beef in the world. At any given time, there are no more than 1000 cows on the ranch. All the cows graze in the same valley, and every single plant – every blade of grass in that valley is known, catalogued and deliberately cultivated by the owners of the ranch. The water they drink comes from wells that have all been sunk within this same valley. The same water is used to water the grass every day. There is a lab on the ranch that analyses everything that goes in or comes out of the cows. The animals’ urine and stool are tested to ensure they have the right mineral levels at all times.

The ranchers take disinfectant showers before and after they come into contact with the cows – in fact, an automated system of gates and alarms have been installed to automate the movement of the livestock in and out of the grazing areas to minimise human contact. They have created a system that is so regimented, and have paid so much attention to what goes into their products that their beef tastes exactly the same, no matter which cow it comes from. They put the time and money and research to ensure that the very best goes into their beef. So their beef is the best in the world.

I confess I was utterly fascinated by the simple idea of producing quality food by feeding it quality food. There were other examples – chickens that were fed the very best quality corn, pigs that ate nothing but apples, oats and mint leaves – so many illustrations of the simple universal truth; if you put in the best, you get the best.

If you know anyone who owns a high-performance car, observe how they treat it. They service it regularly every few months, they change the parts and the oil – even when they’re not yet due for a change, they buy the best quality tyres, the most powerful ceramic brakes, and they never fill the tank with regular fuel. It’s always the high octane option for their precious rides. As a result, their cars are always running at their optimum levels, giving their owners the very best performance for the longest time. They put in the best, and so they get the best.

My friends, this simple principle applies to you and me also, but it’s sad to see how much we disregard this rule, even as we claim to be on a quest for success. They say you are what you eat. It’s not just a clever saying – it’s a scientific principle.

How many of us dream of excelling in one field or the other, but have never read a single book about it? How many of us have every intention of going to heaven, but haven’t opened our bible or Holy Qur’an in years?  How often do we stare at our over-spilling midriffs in the mirror and promise to eat healthy, only to step right out of the house and have ‘banku’ for breakfast? How many times have we declared our national aspiration to Upper-Middle Income status, while we continue to borrow ourselves into HIPC status?

If you wish to be a great writer, you must read. If you wish to be fit, you must exercise. If you wish to get good grades you must study. If you wish to be wealthy, you must invest. There are no shortcuts around it. The path to success is linear. What you put in is what you get out.

Now, are you a parent? Let me ask you this: you want your kids to become doctors and lawyers, right? Well, what are you putting into them? Let me share something with you. Children from ages 2 to 18 will watch an average of 3 hours of TV a day. Now, of all television programming, children’s shows depict the most violence. A typical cartoon will depict, on average, 20 acts of violence per hour (as opposed to 3 acts per hour in regular primetime programming).

So by the time your child is 18 and ready to head out into society on their own, they would have witnessed 16,000 simulated murders and observed about 20,000 violent acts on TV. Now ask yourself: when you leave your future surgeons and architects in front of the television for hours every day, because you’re too busy working to spend time with them, do you know what you’re turning them into? Are you producing the best beef in the world? Or are you letting your precious cattle graze on trash?

What you put in is what you get out. This is a universal truth, my dear friend. It is as true for cows as it is for Christians, careers and children. So today, let’s all take another look at the dreams and goals we’re pursuing, and if we find that we’re not progressing fast enough towards them, let’s ask ourselves; are we putting in our best?

My name is Kojo Yankson, and only the best quality fuel goes into my tank.