Today, I would like to share the stories of three men – Isaac, Vincent and Albert. They were each born in a different country, and each of them was a total loser.
Let’s start with Isaac. He was born in England. From day one, things did not go his way. He was a premature baby, small enough to fit inside his mother’s quart milk mug.
By the time he was born, his father had already been dead for three months, and it wasn’t long before his mother got married to some new guy and traipsed off to live with him in some other town, leaving poor Isaac to live alone with his grandmother.
School was a challenge for Isaac. He never did very well. On top of that, he was bullied mercilessly because of his rather small size. When he turned sixteen, his mother decided that trying to educate Isaac was a waste of everyone’s time, and the only way her son could ever hope to make a living was as a farmer, so she put him in charge of their family farm. Big mistake.
Isaac didn’t know the first thing about farming, and within a year, he had pretty much bankrupted the family business. For the sake of sanity (and probably to remove him from the range of his mother’s back-hand slaps), Isaac’s uncle sent him off to study at Trinity College in Cambridge, where he spent the rest of his life with his nose in all kinds of books. He never married. All in all, a loser.
Vincent was born in the Netherlands, and he didn’t start life all that spectacularly either. His parents didn’t even bother finding him a name. They simply recycled the name they had chosen for his stillborn brother.
Vincent, however, had upper-middle-class parents, so he got the opportunity from an early age, to travel across Europe with his family.
But young Vincent was a miserable little git. He didn’t get along with anyone in school, he didn’t make any friends, he didn’t talk much. He just sat in the corner with his drawing pad, doodling all day long, while his friends paid serious attention to the business of being carefree children.
Vincent had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he settled on a career as a teacher in England. He was still a quiet, reserved, utterly weird fellow, whose only real friend was his brother, Theo. They exchanged letters all the time.
All through his life, Vin was a lonely, frustrated person with no real dreams or aspirations. He still liked to draw and paint, but nobody else thought he had much talent. In his entire life, he only ever sold one painting.
It soon became clear that Vincent’s quiet spells and moodiness were symptoms of some sort of mental imbalance when for reasons best known to himself, he shot himself in the chest with a revolver.
He then walked all the way to a nearby town where two physicians saw to his wound, but couldn’t remove the bullet. They left him in a room, smoking his pipe until his brother Theo came to find him. Soon after, he said, “the sadness will never end”, and then he died. He was 37 years old.
Finally, the story of Albert. He was born in Germany. His father was an electrical engineer and owned an electrical store. Albert’s father had hoped his son would become an electrical engineer, but he had to give up that dream when he realised that his little boy was not developing his mental faculties as fast as other kids.
Albert didn’t speak until he was four years old, and couldn’t read until he was seven.
He was eventually expelled from school, and failed to get admission to Zurich Polytechnic. All in all, everyone was pretty disappointed in young Albert.
Middle-aged Albert spent time and money trying to emigrate into the United States and spent two years as a refugee. Old aged Albert died of internal bleeding, and his doctor gave his body back to his family without an important body part.
So there are our three losers. All of these three were what you might call “late bloomers”. For many years, these great men were considered failures in their chosen fields. They were discarded, discounted and devalued.
Isaac Newton, the good-for-nothing failed student and failed farmer went on to become the discoverer of gravity, and the inventor of Calculus.
Vincent Van Gogh, only ever sold one painting in his life, and even that one was bought by a friend of his. Today, one of his paintings has been auctioned for 152 million dollars.
Albert Einstein is quite simply the smartest scientist of our time. Which why a doctor would think it a good idea to harvest his brain after death, in the hope that technology will one day provide the means to explain his genius.
“My friends, I tell you these three stories to remind you that the beginning is never like the end. Some of us had to nurture our dreams for years, biding our time, looking for an opportunity, doing what others said we should do, living within other people’s limitations while your dreams seem to recede into the distance with no hope of you ever catching up with them.
Please, if this is you I’m describing, then today, hear this: If Isaac Newton was once a failure, then you too can succeed. If Van Gogh was a madman, then don’t worry when they call your dreams crazy. If Albert Einstein started off as a retarded child, then, seriously, what excuse do you have?
My name is Kojo Yankson, and it’s not about how I start – it’s about where I end.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!
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