I woke up this morning thinking of Oscar Bimpong. I’ve known Oscar since our days at Katanga Hall. Oscar calls himself the mindset revolutionist. Back then Oscar nicknamed Ostikay, did not come across as someone who will even become a motivational speaker let alone an international one. He was just a normal Joe – verbose, vibrant, versatile and full of vitality. Not only has Oscar has written a book on Mindset, but he has made it his life’s mission to change the mindset of the youth. I invited him to have a session with our staff a few days ago. The issues that he talked about were so relatable and I hope my team picked up a lot of important lessons.
Apart from Oscar’s book titled “Mindset Revolution”, I have also read the famous book on Mindset by Carol S. Dweck and a couple of other books on the subject. As I pause for a little introspection on all of these and juxtapose it with where we are as a country, several questions fill my thoughts. Images of young men hanging around various soccer betting outlets hoping for a win, many of whom are unemployed keeps popping up and down my memories as if watching them on a large advertorial screen. I project 20 years into the future and wonder what sort of society we will live in.
Why is Ghana going round in circles and not making a head way in almost all facets of life? What will happen to all these unemployed people? How about the many others we are half- educating in secondary schools yet to be churned out to join those already being carried nowhere on this conveyer belt of unemployment? How many will remain unemployed? How many will be under employed? How many will have left the country through the desert heat of Mali and Libya in search for non-existent greener pastures in Spain and Europe? What can the society do differently? What can each do for himself?
As I contemplate, the word Mindset which has circled with a couple of other words in my memory and doesn’t seem to want to leave my immediate train of thoughts, dropped again with a big bang as if it was held by a yarn made of ice that just melted away. I immediately settled to put my thoughts together. A person’s mindset is nothing more than an established set of attitudes the person holds. It is what separates winners from losers and victors from victims. Ghana after 65 years of independence is a still a loser and a victim in terms of growth and development. Ghana is not a person so obviously we can’t fault the nation, but we can raise a finger at the people who have lived in it. Our fortunes as a country is a sum total of our individual contributions. This is not a political commentary, or another write up directed at leadership. It’s a look at the citizens and what we can do to change the narrative – one man at a time. I want to focus on the mindset of the youth – those with a lot to lose if Ghana continues on the same trajectory it is still on at this moment in time.
Before I am accused of making sweeping statements or being stereotypical in my descriptions, let me make a disclaimer. I doff my hearts off to all the many young Ghanaians who live in Ghana, have excelled in their fields of endeavor, and have blazed trails for themselves into a future of hope amidst the general hopelessness around us. They are the ones who have squeezed water out of stones and have created opportunities in places none existed. They are the ones whose parents look at them with wonder at their level of creativity and the extent of innovation that has carried them thus far. I refer to the many who have exhibited outstanding creativity in the most unexpected industries – technology, finance,
health, the arts, business etc. I am more than convinced that these ones are guided by a different set of perspectives and mindsets. They are the hope of the nation, persons worth celebrating. They are not the ones referred to in this piece.
In my few years of engagements with the youth (and by extension the average Ghanaian) I have concluded that young people of today appear to be guided by a mindset that rests on four foundational pillars.
- A great sense of Entitlement
- A disregard for hard work and planning
- A disconnect between choice and responsibility
- A believe in Faith without Works
A GREAT SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT
The average young person of today thrives on the premise that the world owes him something. Not only is that a huge flaw in thinking but this premise creates the biggest of all expectations – ‘whatever the world owes me must be made available to me here and right now no matter what’. This sense of entitlement knows no bounds. Our sense of entitlement permeates all streams of life. We expect our politicians to make our lives better. Students expects their teachers to help them to pass their exams irrespective of whatever commitments they make to their own studies. Kids expect their parents to give them everything they want irrespective of the abilities of the parents. Pastors expects their congregations to make their lives better even at the expense of their own comfort. Public officials expect the country to make their lives better at the expense of the public purse. Employees expect their employers to make their lives better irrespective of whatever contributions they make to the fortunes of the company. There seem to be an ending chain of expectations and a profound sense of entitlement. There is nothing wrong with having an expectation. If that however translates to a sense of entitlement where you develop an attitude, rant, rave, blame and even castigate another person for not being able to deliver what was expected, then we really have a big problem. I think being measured in one’s expectations in life is a key attribute we must cultivate if we are to make any progress. Of course, I’d make exceptions in cases where there are explicit contractual obligations between the engaging parties - where each must deliver to the spirt and letter of the contract or agreement. But for all other implicit social arrangements, expectations must be guarded. A society that reinforces and promotes a sense of entitlement is one that uninstalls a must-have human skill called self-reliance. We trade that for dependency and breed expectant citizens with nothing to contribute to societal good but everything to wish and wait for.
I keep wondering if the word Hard work has been taken from the young man’s vocabulary or dictionary in today’s Ghana. Talk to ten young people and they will all echo concisely that “Hard work does not pay in Ghana”. Everyone says they have stopped working hard but are now working smart. Whatever that means, I guess I do not fully comprehend it. Maybe it means one must do the little she can for the most gains she possibly can. Does that implicitly support why betting is on the rise and scammers are all over the place? And employees of most SMEs are stealing almost everything from their businesses – money, time, clients, ideas etc?
To be successful in any field one cannot dissociate Hard work from planning. I define Planning as the ability to forecast into the future and allocate your resources prudently, to allow you to maximize your own potential and that which the future will present to you. It’s about knowing how to use resources – time, money, strength, ideas, relationships, etc. Across board, our ability to plan even on the political front is suspect. Short term thinking undergirds most of our actions and expected outcomes. I remember a chat I had with one young man about his finances a while back. After I had spoken for a long while he just smiled at me and sung me song in a jovial way “Doc,… Haaaappiness, if I broke na my business”. I guess the youth anthem is “live for the now, tomorrow may not be yours”. Afterall If he runs out of money, his parents, his siblings, his friends, his uncles etc are all there to support. Maybe they’ve all learnt from Ghana’s playbook. If the country itself goes broke, we always run to IMF for support or go borrowing from international shylocks with no intention to ever finish paying. In such a quagmire, who is who to advice the other to be prudent with his finances and do any proper planning? Simply put we have become insouciant about our today and of our future.
Foundation pillar number three is closely connected with that of pillar number two. Our disregard for hard work and planning means we have left our choices under the firm control of the now. A person can only make a good choice when he feels a sense of responsibility for the expected outcomes and has a good view of future possibilities. Making people accountable for the choices they make, indirectly throws a chain of responsibility around their neck. In a country where people mis-manage state funds with no accountability, who will be responsible for anything? And if we are not responsible even on the national front, who dares who to tell a young man or woman to be responsible. Teaching has always been a “Monkey see, monkey do” phenomenon. How can leaders show images of opulence and expect frugality among their citizens? How does a pastor’s life preach vice and expect virtues from the congregation?
Ghanaians in general believe so much in the supernatural if not the magical. In our kind of worship and interaction with our maker, our religious leaders have done a fantastic job with how they have treated the subject of miracles. We’ve become students of miracles more than students of the bible. Our idea of faith in God starts and ends with God of miracles – We believe for miracles when it comes to childbirth, for travelling mercies, for protection against armed robbers, for goods to be bought, for our businesses to thrive and even for our presidential candidates to win an election. Our belief in faith goes with no corresponding works. One can be careless and still get God’s protection against armed robbers. One can be lazy and still expect Gods favor for promotion at work. I can steal and still pay my tithes so God will open the windows of heaven for me. I can abandon my shop and go to church all week and expect that I’d make the same level of sales for the few hours I open. Dare tell a young ‘chrife’ that God will not reward him with grade A’s in his exams if he keeps praying all night without learning and you will be labelled a demon.
I dare to say that these four pillars have shaped the vision of our young men and women and molded their attitudes. It has created the right energy which will prophetically lead to later to corruption, despondency, ingratitude, laziness, theft, poor maintenance culture, short term thinking, greed, envy, ‘get-rich-quick’, and all the infamous behaviors that will not be difficult to find tomorrow. These are just the products of a warped mindset.
We can commit all the funds we receive from external donors into every project we want but until the people’s mindset is changed, it will be an effort in fruition. We can commit all our soldiers to the fight against Galamsey but if the mindset change does not happen, we will watch our forest turned into unusable lands. We can give free education even up to the University level, but nothing will change without a mindset change.
In conclusion, I think Ghana does not lack in opportunities for the youth. What we lack is the right caliber of people of young people with the right mindset to take these few opportunities, harness it and turn them into bigger breaks for all. The future belongs to those who do not feel entitled, those who value hard work, those who plan for their today and tomorrow, those who believe that every choice goes with a responsibility and those who believe that faith must go with works. A change in mindset could drive the change we so desire in this country so blessed with a country could ever hope and dream for.
By Dr Dan V. Armooh
Managing Director, Acacia Health Insurance Ltd