A time of recession is a time of imagination. Necessity will not stop being the mother of invention.
Many of the world’s great achievers would have died uncelebrated if not for a challenge. It could be hunger, physical disadvantage, fear of failure, desire to impress a woman, rejection, or whatever.
Some people were told by their parents, teachers or uncles that they would never excel in singing, acting, writing, playing football, or that they would never be useful in life. Many refused to accept that “prophecy” and turned it into false prophesy, while others believed it and simply fulfilled the prophecy.
For Joe Girard, author of How to Sell Anything to Anybody, it was his desire to provide food for his wife and children. Having failed in almost everything he ventured into, he was thrown off balance by his wife’s question to him about what the children would eat. He was haunted by that question (What will the children eat?) and went out subsequently to look for a job that would give him money to buy food for his children. That was what made him world’s greatest salesman for 12 consecutive years.
Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a fictitious story but the hero of that story became one of the greatest men in his clan because he was afraid to fail. Okonkwo was ruled by the fear of failure and fear of being thought weak. His father, Unoka, lived a worthless life, a life anointed and consecrated by failure. His corpse was even rejected by the earth and consequently thrown away into the evil forest. Okonkwo was afraid of turning out like his father. That fear was the motivation he needed to rise above his peers. But regrettably, his fear of being thought weak became too consuming that it ended up being his Achilles heel.
George Frideric Handel was challenged by debt and depression to produce in 24 days the oratorio, Messiah, considered by many as the greatest feat in the history of musical composition. By 1741, he was neck-deep in debt and it seemed likely he would land in debtors’ prison. He was also considering retirement from music and leaving England for his country Germany. Then, that year a wealthy friend of his, Charles Jennens gave him a biblical libretto on the life of Christ to set to music. Handel locked himself up and produced the masterpiece, the Messiah. During that period, he ate little, slept little and rarely rose from his desk. His servant, who brought him food, was said to have walked in one day during his composition of the very popular Hallelujah chorus to find his master engrossed in his writing, with tears streaming down his face. Handel said to his servant: “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”
The Messiah was premiered on April 13, 1742, as a charitable benefit, raising 400 pounds and freeing 142 men from debtors’ prison. The impact of the composition did not only hit the public; it also hit the King of England, George II. At a performance of the Messiah in London in 1743, the King was present. Immediately the first note of Hallelujah chorus rang out, the King sprang to his feet and remained standing until the end of the song. In line with protocol, once the King stood up, the audience stood up too and only sat down after the King had done so. That tradition of standing up when the Hallelujah chorus is sung remains across the world today.
The late business mogul, MKO Abiola, suffered abject poverty. He swore not to be poor. That desire made him the richest man in Nigeria in his lifetime.
The belief of many is that a disability is a disadvantage. But the truth is that it is not. Rather, a disability is an advantage. If two people were to position themselves at a corner, 10 feet away from each other, with one on wheelchair and the other without a physical disability, selling the same item, who would sell more? Without uttering a word, without moving an inch from the spot, the person on wheelchair would outsell the other. A person with a disability gets sympathy fast. If the person is seen trying to undertake a venture, every sane person with a heart who sees such efforts tries as much as possible to assist and encourage that person with a disability. In addition to the support of people, people with disabilities who want to make a difference in life are never presumptuous or laidback. In their bid to work hard to meet up with those without disabilities, they go the extra mile and achieve extraordinary results.
If Louis Braille did not go blind as a child, would he have been known all over the world? Maybe. Maybe not. According to Wikipedia, Louis Braille became blind at the age of three, when he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl. He rubbed his stabbed eye and then rubbed his other eye and an autoimmune disease called sympathetic ophthalmia spread to his other eye, therefore blinding him in both eyes. In 1821 Charles Barbier, a former soldier, visited his school and shared his invention called “Night writing” a code of 12 raised dots and a number of dashes that let soldiers share top-secret information on the battlefield without having to speak. It was a bit complicated for the young Braille. That same year, Louis began inventing his raised-dot system. What tool did he use? The same tool (awl) that caused his blindness. In 1824, when he was only 15 years old, he had invented what is today known as braille, which has made it possible for blind people to read and write. His system used only six dots and corresponded to letters, whereas Barbier’s used 12 dots corresponding to sounds.
What if Cobhams Asuquo, Ray Charles Robinson and Stevie Wonder were not blind? Would they have been famous in music?
John Foppe was born without arms. That condition made him to turn his legs into arms and become a world figure.
Polio attacked the legs of Cosmas Okoli as a child. But he was determined to make a mark in the affairs of the Nigerian nation. He has achieved that and is still striving for more.
When Cameroon were drawn against the defending champions Argentina, which had Diego Maradona as a member, at the 1990 World Cup, not many gave Cameroon a chance. Matters looked worse when Cameroonian Andre Kana-Biyik was sent off 61 minutes into the match. Cameroon had 10 men against Argentina’s 11 men. But six minutes later, Francois Omam-Biyik scored a goal for Cameroon. Many feared that the Indomitable Lions would not be able to hold on to that one-goal lead. But they did. Even when Cameroon were reduced to nine men through another red card to Benjamin Massing, they still went ahead to beat Argentina.
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, described his case thus in his book, Losing My Virginity: How I’ve Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way:
“At the age of eight, I still couldn’t read. I was soon being beaten once or twice a week for doing poor class work or confusing the date of the Battle of Hastings.” He added: “Perhaps, my early problems with dyslexia made me more intuitive: when someone sends me a written proposal, rather than dwelling on detailed facts and figures, I find that my imagination grasps and expands on what I read.”
Not everybody has the ill-fortune of losing his or her eyesight, speech or limbs. For those who don’t have such a challenge, the solution is for them to create something that challenges them. This recession is enough challenge. And beyond merely surviving it, we can find ways to achieve success and fulfil our dreams in it.