| The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men. |
Charles H. Fowler
He said: “You're going to Bawku Secondary School to learn. I will not be there and no family member will be there to tell you what to do and what not to do. Whether you do well or not depends on you. Adhere to the rules and regulations of the school. Respect your teachers because they are the ones who will teach you to become a better person. You will meet many other young boys and girls from different parts of Ghana. Don't rush and take anybody as a friend. Look for the clever ones and make friends with them so that they can help you learn better. There are others who are ahead of you, your seniors. Look for those that are humble and make friends with them; they will help you in your studies. If you do what I have told you, you should do well in life, he concluded.”
I thanked my dad for his advice. It came at a turning point in my life. Secondary education is just one phase in a student's life. Before I went to bed that night I prayed, “Heavenly Father, let my dad's words sink deeply into my heart and let me profit from them.” I simply added my Dad's advice to my arsenal for getting to the top.
The long and short of what my father said was this: Look for mentors and understudy them. Think of people who have made a name in their chosen field or career. Think of great men and women. Think of people whose names ring a bell in this world. There are icons in every discipline.
Charles H. Fowler said: “The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men.” Why is it so?
We can always learn something from the lives of great men. In learning about great men and women, we are interested in those traits that have made them successful in the first place. We want to know their success habits. We want to know what they did differently that catapulted them to such enviable heights of successful achievements. If we pattern our lives after theirs, we shall become successful as they are.
Mentors are experts in their field. They are knowledgeable and have the wisdom which you lack. They have experience which you do not have. They have contacts which you do not have.
What work are you doing? What kind of success are you looking for? What do you want to become? What do you want to possess? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Advantages of mentoring
What do you do in the face of your own inadequacies? Look for mentors. They can coach you on to success. There are advantages in having mentors.
A mentor will provide the necessary guidance to help you avoid certain pitfalls. You will be taught the intricacies of your job and how to overcome the challenges that spring forth.
By entering into a mentoring relationship, you have the advantage of tapping into the wisdom and experiences of your mentor. You cannot experience everything in this world. You can therefore stand on the shoulders of your mentors to catch a glimpse of the future.
If I have made any significant progress in life, I owe it to my mentors, dead or alive, the people whose lives have positively influenced my own.
I am therefore using the columns of this paper to pay tribute to them.
I want to start with those from my family circle. My parents were my first mentors. My mother did not live long enough to mentor me; she passed on to eternity when I was 6 years old. I am however grateful to my father for his exemplary life. He taught me certain values that were essential for success in life. These were: honesty, integrity and hard work. He also told me to involve him anytime that I wanted to marry. I have to state frankly here that my father played a major role in getting me to marry the woman who has been my wife for the past 30 years.
Love and respect
The late Edward D. Songoti was my uncle. He was a trained teacher, a product of St. John Bosco's Training College, Navrongo. He was the one who helped me cultivate the interest to learn in school. He taught me Maths and English any time I returned home from school. He taught me to love and respect people. He also taught me to learn something new everyday of my life.
Habit of reading
In Bawku Secondary School, I met a tutor whose life greatly influenced my own. Gregory Owusu was my English tutor. He also taught Literature in English. He was exceptionally good in his field. Every week, he would read a novel, summarize it and discuss its content with the students. From him I cultivated the habit of reading.
At the University of Ghana, Legon, I met two lecturers whose lives fascinated me. Dr. Kojo Sena taught Penology, Sociology and Medical Sociology at Legon. He always taught with confidence, and to prove that he was the master, he taught without any books in his hand. His teachings were often interspersed with illustrations to make us understand him. He often shared his life experiences with us, warning us to avoid the mistakes he made.
Dr EY Yangyuoru of blessed memory was a Roman Catholic priest who taught Criminology to Prison Administration students. His posture and personality denoted confidence. He always lectured without books but made sure we understood him. In addition to lectures, he also served as a counsellor to both students and workers.
From the two lecturers, I imbibed the principle of doing things with confidence.
There is a saying that if a student is ready, his teachers appear. I found this to be true. I wanted to be a writer. So I had to look for good writers and I found them. One such writer was Rev T. Tryers, a Roman Catholic priest in Tamale. He mentored me on how to write articles. This helped me in my writing endeavours. I contributed many articles that were published in the Catholic Standard, a renowned newspaper in Ghana. The articles were edited and published during the time Dr Anthony Bonna Koomson, (believed to be a lecturer at Legon) was the editor of that paper.
My mentors have included some renowned journalists in this country. Mr. Andrews Awuni mentored me in writing when he was then with GNA in Tamale, then later Accra. The late Nelson Dua and Joe Bradford Nyina of the Daily Graphic were my mentors. At various times they coached me on how I could improve upon my writings. My other mentors from the Daily Graphic included Col. Mbawine, now PRO, Ghana Armed Forces, Carl Botchwey, Felix Amanfu, Kwaku Baka and Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh, Thinking Aloud Columnist among others.
I have had a mentoring relationship with Sebastain Freiku of the Chronicle, Boakye Kwakwa of Kumasi Mail, and Johnson Gyampoh of the Pioneer Newspaper.
I also want to place on record my appreciation to Mr. AC Ohene, Editor, management and staff of the Heritage newspaper for my long time mentoring relationship with them, their encouragement, support and prayers.
I remain grateful to the aforementioned journalists for their immense contributions to my life, especially my writing career.
Pastor Enoch Aminu was an inspirational figure in my life. He is the founder and General Overseer of Pure Fire Miracles Ministries Church, located at Kisseiman in Accra. His life and teachings greatly impacted my life. I have had the privilege of sitting in to listen to his teachings in his church and have also read most of his books. I have also been listening to his inspirational teachings on cassette. His teachings have given me hope and encouragement.
The lives of some great writers have also motivated me to take to serious reading and writing. Notable among them are Jack Canfield, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen, Chinua Achebe, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare, Ngugi Wathiongo among others. By reading their books, I have tapped into their knowledge and wisdom.
A mentor is someone whose life can teach you something useful. Confucius, a Chinese philosopher once wrote: “If I am walking with two other people, each of them will serve as my teacher, I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”
Everybody needs a mentor. Look for what is important in your mentor, those success nurturing habits and incorporate them in your behavior to help you reach your full potential and achieve unmatched success.
Kinds of mentors
There are three kinds of mentors. In their book 'The One Minute Millionaire' Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen identified the three as (a) serendipitous mentors (b) hands-on mentors and (c) hero/shero mentors.
There are times when you come across some people who you interact with for just a few minutes, or a day or two. If you are someone who is receptive to ideas, you can learn something useful from such encounters. The people who accidentally teach you something helpful are your serendipitous mentors. You sometimes find them during social functions such as funerals, weddings, child naming ceremonies etc. Your serendipitous mentors need not be human beings; it could be anything that happens that makes you change the direction of your life.
The hands-on mentors are easily noticed by a lot of people. For instance, if you want to learn carpentry, you must be apprenticed to a qualified carpenter. The carpenter is the hands-on mentor and the learner, the mentee. The mentor is usually an experienced person who can pass on his experiences and wisdom to the mentee.
The third type of mentor is the hero/shero mentor; these are your inspirational figures, your role models. You can find them in every discipline. They are successful people who can coach you on to success. What is so special about your hero or shero mentor? Why do you admire the person? Why would you like to be like him/her?
I have read the story of Helen Keller who was born blind and mute but was able to overcome her disabilities to become an internationally acclaimed author, speaker and advocate for the handicapped. I encourage you to read and study the lives of great men and women so that you will be inspired to work on your own life and chalk up success and achievement. Live your life for society. Rosa Parks noted, “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”
In conclusion, who are your mentors? A Chinese proverb says it all; “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth a month's study of books.”
Abundant Robert AWOLUGUTU
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF PRISONS/2IC
KUMASI CENTRAL PRISONS