I remember this favourite quote pasted in a childhood friend’s photo album “do not be afraid of greatness, some people are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them”, William Shakespeare. As a child, I sensed inside me that I was born great but it was not evident at that moment. I always wondered how the Creator, created me and my family the way He did. We simply lacked many things. This always caused me to trouble my parents with a lot of probing questions. Such as;
- Why are we living in a village whilst there were towns and cities around us? As a child, we walked about 45 minutes to get to town for school, church service, market etc.
- Why were we farmers when there were many noble professions around us? Note that in Ghana, even today, farming is not viewed by many as an honourable profession compared to say banking, politics, trading etc. though it pays.
- Why do we suffer lack and want whilst people had more than enough of what they needed? As a child, I admired some families who always brought candies to church for their children and they enjoyed it whilst church service was on-going.
- “Do you know that we are serving God very well and God is pleased with us”? I believe till now that flesh and blood did not reveal this to me as a teenager when I made this comment to mum and my siblings. She didn’t know what to say till date and my siblings often remind me of this statement after almost three decades.
I never had the luxury of kindergarten or nursery education. I started primary school at age eleven (11) together with a step sister (now deceased “Mawukoenya” in our Ewe language meaning “only God knows”) and a nephew, Isaac, alive and living at Kasoa, a suburb of Accra, Ghana. I was blessed as my elder siblings and neighbourhood friends taught me how to write my name, how to read and write ABCD…Z and a few other things before I started school. It was one bright and sunny Tuesday morning in 1982 when we started school. And as usual my mother also came to market with our farm produce to sell and buy basic necessities like soap, fish, kerosene, salt and matches for the family. Our big brother took us to the popular schools in town in search of admission but to our surprise, we were told there were no vacancies. After matching round all the schools in the town in futility, we were left with only one last option which was Kadjebi L.A Primary “B” School (aka Zongo School, aka Allotey). It was as if it was not the first choice or second choice or even third choice of any parent in the town. Good thing was that we were gladly welcomed and admitted there. And looking back today, I am proud of my alma mater since this was where my journey to greatness all began.
At least it was a good feeling that, at last Albert has started school. But sadly there were no furniture in the classroom, neither was the floor cemented, so it was dusty. The dust was brown, I still remember the colour. As if that was not enough there were no doors in place hence we daily carried our mothers’ kitchen stool to and from school (don’t know how to explain what a kitchen stool is to those of you who are reading in America, Europe, Australia, Asia and even parts of Africa etc. who do not know it, but it is a stool used by our mothers in the kitchen) .This lack of doors placed the school pupils, the teachers and everyone at the mercy of the bad boys in the community who took over the school in the nights and smoked there leaving behind the cigarette butt. They even often left behind “human droppings” and would cover it with the loose brown sand and stuck the butt into it for us to clean the following morning before we could use the place. It was smelly and nauseating. I remember one time our headmaster had to call a strike as a protest against the bad behaviour of those boys.
When I told my children that I started school barefooted and without school uniform, they exclaimed and asked “Papa is it true?” Of course it is true. I agree the contrast between my life those days and my life today is sharp. Today my children go to school with lunch packs, nice clean uniforms, one set of uniform and shoes per day, Mummy or Papa or Nanny drops and picks them from school, they never went to school empty stomach, they are never sacked from school for non-payment of school fees, so indeed my situation is changed and is still changing. I am getting hold of greatness, bit by bit.
I wore school uniform for the first time at class five. That was five long years of looking odd and enduring it.
Looking around us at that time, and looking at our lives, I saw no visible advantages or nothing to write home about. Nothing made me proud about life except our hope in the Creator. In the midst of all that, I knew I was much more blessed more than most people. In my primary, I was always first in class, when we progressed to Junior Secondary School Kadjebi LA J.S.S; I was second or third as the competition grew stronger. I also remember my hand writing was always praised and teachers would ask me to write on the blackboard or chalkboard (I know most of you use something Formica board or even projectors in your classrooms) for the rest of the class to copy.
At the Basic Certificate Examination (BECE) I had aggregate ten just as I asked God a year earlier to enable me to obtain. I was among the best in my school.
Though I excelled in the BECE, my dad was scared by the cost of Senior Secondary education so he advised me to learn a vocation just as he advised my elder brother who refused and persevered through school and he is now in the military and serving in Lebanon. Like he did, I flatly rejected the idea, knowing my life’s dreams. My mummy did everything possible and saw me through secondary school. In the first year I won the Best Student in Economics and I was entitled to a package which never was because I was not present at the Speech and Prize Giving Day event which was held on a Saturday. When I came to school two days later and went to the Headmaster’s office to claim my award, he told me because I failed to present myself at the event, he would not give me the parcel. I believe I have received my well deserved parcel in another form, yes that is my believe till date. As a matter of fact, I decided to spend that Saturday to go to farm to harvest palm fruits for sale to supplement my parents’ efforts to pay my school fees and this was the opportunity cost for me. I remember in my senior secondary school days it was particularly very difficult for us to pay my fees hence there was hardly any term that I was not sacked from school for overdue school fees. Sad to say that despite this proactive step I took and the huge opportunity cost I paid, something urgent pressed my father and he borrowed the little resources I was able to raise towards my fees so I eventually sacked from school that term for overdue fees.
But the Lord saw me through it all and the suffering and deprivation could not stop my pursuit of my dream. One of my discoveries is that you can see far with your heart than your physical eyes can see. I passed my final exams at the Senior Secondary Certificate Exams (SSSCE) in 1994 to enter the university. I was the first person in my family to achieve this feat. Family friends said university was too much for me as no one in my mother and father’s families has been to the university before. It came with a lot of struggles. It took three long years before I finally got admission in 1997 to further my studies. At the peak of my trials, I remember one Sunday I got very drunk with alcohol together with other struggling friends. I felt so bad and thankfully, that was the worst I ever got with alcohol. Glory to God, since 21st June 2009, I have not tasted alcohol and I don’t intend to ever do so. I now fellowship with the Holy Ghost on daily basis.
At this point, my late father made the greatest sacrifice for my education that very few fathers can make; he sold one of his farmlands to pay my admission fees and that I never forget. But he passed on without even sitting in my car. I remember the day I drive my car to the village, it drew tears from all over the community. Oh your father did not live to see this! Tears! Tears!! And I also join in the wailing.
Though my mummy worked very hard, she was overwhelmed by the sheer number of children to take care of. A dozen children from her alone to my father is no joke you would agree with me and I am the 8th baby for my mother and father. My late father often travelled out to seek greener pastures but he never actually procured a decent livelihood for us. One of my prayer points is that Lord; do not let me face the financial lack and want that my late dad suffered all his life. And the Lord has granted me this.
I remember at about age thirteen, I told my mum when I grew up, I would live in a city and would not be a farmer like she and my father. She would tell me to learn hard in school and that my dream was possible. She recognises my potentials and dream.
After graduation, I chose to teach during my national service ( national youth service as some call it) to enhance my communication skills and general engagement with people as I knew I was shy and reserved and knew that was a setback for me as a marketer.
The next thing was that a friend who was selling insurance products then as a Sales and Marketing Executive arranged for me to join his work and we worked on the same team selling life insurance products across many regions of Ghana for three years.
After three years of tremendous success on this job, my confidence, persuasive and communication skills were further bolstered. From there, what I never dreamt of happened in my life i.e. I landed a sales job in a multinational Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company. Insurance sales people believe that if you are able to sell life insurance products, then you can sell any other commodity. From there I was given a vehicle, and ever since, it had been one brand new vehicle to another. In fact since 2010 I have been driving a new vehicle each year with the current year’s number plate and the aging one is passed on to my team members or lower ranks. With my Postgraduate Certificate at hand, I just realised I still have more to study than I have studied so far, all in sharpening myself for the assignment God has for me. One thing I always wonder is, what is it that people study in Philosophy, Science etc. that make them think that they created themselves, they do not need God or there is no God? But I know that science only studies physical things and is helpless when it comes to spiritual or supernatural things. (I will deal with the helplessness of science when it comes to issues of the Spirit or the supernatural in another post).
I must say it’s been the favour of God after another. I have led teams for over ten years with some members having achieved greater academic qualifications than I. I have appraised them each year and promoted the deserving ones and even exited some.
The Lord also blessed me with a wonderful woman for a wife and we are blessed with three extraordinary children, with great destinies. The Lord told me they would do much more than I. My children are greater than I.
In 2009, I learnt for the first time that the Lord has an assignment for me. I was shocked. I said, O Lord, what trouble are you starting like this? Wouldn’t you allow me live my life? There are many servants of God already, why me too? And the Lord began to work on me day by day. He was revealing the assignment to me stage by stage. He told me about the international dimension of the assignment (symbolized by the 7 colours of the rainbow) Speaking, teaching and writing the word of salvation! I admire God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon and David in the Bible. That is why they were able to write so much and impact Christianity so much with the Proverbs, Song of Songs and the Psalms.
And now my formula for embracing greatness is;
Step 1: Catch a vision of God’s purpose for your life. Before you were borne, He knew you and decided on your purpose and recorded it in His book. Find it. Your heart sees farther beyond where your physical eyes cannot. Engage the power of vision. What you see, you possess, you become.
Step 2: Be passionate and unstoppable about your vision. Execute the vision with all your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your might and move with zeal. You then become unstoppable.
Step 3: Work diligently at it. Prepare, sharpen your skills and be smart at the vision.
Step 4: Don’t quit in the face of odds. Our Lord Jesus is my example. He excelled in keeping His eyes on the crown waiting Him so the heavy sufferings could not stop Him. Once I didn’t quit on what I saw as a child, I have become and I am still becoming.
Steps 1-4 make you achieve your God-given vision and this delivers true greatness into your hands.
Achieving God’s purpose for your life is true greatness, nothing greater than this. Every truly great person is an achiever of God’s purpose for his life. “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. Acts 13:36 (NIV)
I now know I was born great though my environment and circumstances contradicted this truth at the beginning. But “Believe you can and you’re halfway there”–Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919). But for the seed of greatness God has put in me at creation, my poor parents would have stopped me with the obvious excuse of “we don’t have the Ghana cedi or kwacha”, my disadvantaged geographical location would have stopped me, the Zongo school environment and all the odds I scaled would have stopped me but NO! NO! I am born with greatness in my makeup and so are you. So don’t be afraid of greatness, embrace it. This is how to become great.