As a kid, I read every storybook I could lay my hands on. I had a particular fascination with mythical creatures. Unicorns and centaurs, elves and goblins… My favourite was the Phoenix. This magical bird finds its roots in Greek mythology and has the power to rejuvenate. After living a full life of over a hundred years, the Phoenix doesn’t just die.

It bursts into flames and burns to a crisp. Then, out of the pile of ashes, a brand new Phoenix emerges, younger, stronger, and with a fresh plumage of the most beautiful feathers you’ve ever seen. I think my young mind was enthralled by the idea of a better, stronger creature emerging from the burnt-out ruins of its older self.

But I have to say, it was last night, while writing this message, that the significance of Phoenix mythology really crystallised for me.

What kind of laptop do you use? Mine is an HP. It’s a pretty solid machine that has served me well for over two and a half years without any major issues – until last night, when it froze up completely. I had written quite a bit by then, so I panicked somewhat, and called my friend in Cape Coast, who knows everything a human could possibly know about computers. He solved my problem with three simple words: “restart your computer”.

Have you noticed how that is almost always the first thing the IT guy tells you to do when they’re troubleshooting? “Restart your computer”. It’s like those herbal concoctions they sell in trotros that can cure 99.9% of all diseases.

So anyway, while I was waiting for my trusty HP to restart, I asked my friend how come rebooting was such a silver bullet for tech problems. “Well, to carry out any task”, he explained, “your computer’s brain has to follow a specific series of steps in a specific order. Imagine it as a path of commands. When your computer freezes, it means it has encountered an obstacle in its “path”. It can’t go over, under or around it, so it’s stuck. To get it working again, you have to return it to an earlier point, before the glitch occurred, so it can start a new path, with no obstacles”.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? I certainly thought so. In fact, that simple explanation by my nerdy friend helped me gain the most profound clarity around recent events, and I just had to share it with you this morning.

How many of you have set off along a path in your career, your education, your love life, and hit a dead end? How many of you have set yourselves a goal and fallen short of it? How many of you have started a business venture and lost money? How many of you have embarked on a diet and lost the battle against a bar of chocolate? How many of you have tried to kick a bad habit and relapsed? How many of you have been working hard, striving for success, perfection, righteousness or redemption, and suddenly hit a brick wall, slipped and fallen? Well, I know I have. Several times.  

It hurts when we fall, and it burns when we make mistakes. Hitting a brick wall in any of our endeavours can be the most soul-suckingly demoralising experience. We can’t go over, under or around it. We just feel stuck, wrapped tight in a blanket of helplessness that totally deprives us of options. Well, my friends, today, I bring the solution: restart your computer.

Let’s not be defeated by our mistakes. Let’s see them for what they really are: opportunities to start afresh. Resit that exam. Re-apply for that visa. Re-write that report. Renew those vows. Restart that diet. Return to the gym. Rededicate yourself to God. Reboot your life, and start a new, obstacle-free path.  And do it now.  What better day for a new beginning than today?

My name is Kojo Yankson, and I can’t emerge stronger from the ashes if I never get burnt.