Sunday, 11 November 2012

Your Difference is Your Strength (2)

After ending the first part of this article with, the next thing is to play ethical politics…, I was inclined to start this sequel with, playing politics without working hard is tantamount to glorified laziness. While it is possible to increase one’s influence without working hard, the legacy of diligence and purpose of work are defeated when laziness prevails. Hard work here does not mean working laboriously; rather, I refer to the performance of activities that justify the receiving of rewards. It is only when we work hard and politicise (engage our influence, the influence of other people or God’s influence) to obtain better results that we leave a moral legacy. Morality is important because it is a societal system for ensuring equity and common behavioural pattern. However, the evolution of human values is making morality a less promoted ideal in this age. Unlike morality, politics is less important because it naturally exists where people are. Even without conscious promotion, politics will incessantly exist among people. Hardly does anyone live without having to interact with colleagues, relatives or some sort of neighbours who may or may not possess the same level of financial power.

Now, the income factor is a major source of challenge to many. To earn a good income today, we tend to work harder than our grandparents and their own parents did. According to some schools of thought on religious history, Pa Adam was the first man to live on earth. He laboured hard by tilling the soil enduringly, awaiting his harvests amidst fallen sweats and hunting some wild animals in the harshest woods. He had to make his own discoveries. He had to learn that snakes and scorpions are dangerous organisms and millipedes should not be cooked with fresh vegetables. Adam had to differentiate crops from weeds. He even had to discover that before plunging into a river, one should know how to swim and watch out for hungry crocodiles. The man had to be a curious workaholic. But I do not know if he really worked as hard as many adults do these days. Comparatively, my parents had busier lives. My Dad used to leave the house before 8am and hardly returned before 8 o’clock in the night. My Mom’s work was more flexible; she worked from 8am to 4pm but got posted around the country frequently. I know folks whose work involves shifts of more than 12 hours per day or night. Though they are given some break from their work intermittently, the off-periods are usually exhausted on some other kind of work. This particularly happens when they need to increase their earnings or meet up with various financial responsibilities. In Nigeria, for instance, where basic amenities are either absent or poorly available in many communities, individuals have to spend extra money to provide and use them at subsistence levels. These needs further increase their financial responsibilities and arouse the desire to work beyond average levels. Pa Adam was a hardworking farmer, no doubt. But today, there are industrious farmers who triple as marketers and transporters. Now, that’s more hard work.

There is dirty politics and ethical politics. Dirty politics is characterised by desperation, force, misuse of authority, clear-cut deceit, belligerence and mendacity. It is the kind of politics practised by many partisan mafias within and outside Nigeria. Dirty politics exceeds the boundaries of equity, righteousness and order in its approach to attaining core objectives. Contrastingly, ethical politics is qualified by fairness, due use of authority, applied intelligence, confidentiality and regard for law and order. You can combine ethical politics with hard work and leverage on these for increased value and productivity. But first, you must identify your strength from your pool of differentiating characteristics.

Your difference is a lead to your place of strength. Exemplifying with board games, chess is my place of strength relative to my Dad. My Dad beats almost anybody that plays with him in the game of draughts. But, I beat him in chess. I beat my Mom in scrabble anytime but I do not bake as smoothly as she does. So, relative to my Dad and Mom respectively, chess and scrabble are areas of strength for me and they differentiate me.

You must find your difference and think of how you can add some value to your family, friends and the community or nation through it. Create value around this difference and it will become a strength. Find more information about this strength and develop yourself at it. Reverting to games; that I can play chess fairly does not mean I should become a chess player. I have friends who are far better at it. But my ability to play chess fairly suggests that I can think strategically and write in a unique way. Of course, there are ways to create value around these.

Think outside the range of what people who possess your kind of strength have achieved. Create or do something similar or totally unique. Make people realise that they need your product or service. Do it for free at first. But do it as though you were well paid for it. Do it in a way that will make people talk about it. Add some elements of difference and uniqueness to it. Be proud of it. Propagate it. Be the chief campaign manager for the electoral candidacy of your product or service. Continue to seek ways of developing it. And remember to combine all these with strong ethical politics. You will see positive results. As you progress, create a journal of work done (activities, experiences and outcomes). Study it and find ways of improving the interconnecting processes. Share the knowledge with other people. That is how to create a strength out of your difference.

If your place appears in many places, then find a place to call your place per time. Highlight all the things you want to do and identify the specifics involved. As humans, we grow and evolve with time. We discover more about ourselves unendingly. So, asides the things you can do, recognise the things you cannot do and exclude them. Also, identify the things you have to do but do not like to do. Point out the things you may have to change. Then, reconsider the things to be done and create a time line out of them all. Connect the dots between them. Start with the first phase and complete it. Document the lessons learnt. Move to the next phase and complete it. Document the lessons learnt. Go over the subsequent phases in this same manner.

If, for example, you are a medical doctor (or student doctor) who loves creating artworks and writing computer applications, you could create a time line that allows you to observe your responsibilities as a student or practising doctor on weekdays and incorporate it with weekends of artwork creation and vacations and national holidays of writing computer apps. Another way is to start with what brings you the fairest income first before delving into what matters to you most. You can do this by working for a good income on the short term and going for fulfilment later on. Or, you can choose to start with what matters to you most from scratch upwards and fight your way through to breaking even and breaking forth. But you must start at your own level and go at a productive pace. You will face challenges and must be ready for them. The most important thing is to start with a commitment to never give up.

Sometimes, the need to make changes will arise. When necessary, change your plans and update your line of actions. Network with people who can be of help to you within your area of strength and learn from them. They will be of help in challenging times. So, connect to them.  Leverage on your difference and add value to other lives through it. In the end, you will see your difference emerge as a strength.