Archive for June, 2014

Life’s Lessons – The hard way

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2014 by kola

So I recently through social media met a former officer of the French Legion and in our interactions he’s been telling me about the stuff these paramilitary types are made of.

One thing I’ve learnt thus far is that some of us have had life the easy way and with his permission he shared his experiences which is as follows.

There are life’s lessons for us all.

Basic FL (French Legionary) training is 15weeks of long torturous runs in the soft sand, midnight swims in the cold water, obstacles courses, unending calisthenics, days without sleep and always being cold, wet and miserable.

It is 15wks of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors who seek to find the weak of mind and body and eliminate them from ever becoming a Legionnaire.

But, the training also seeks to find those trainees who can lead in an environment of constant stress, chaos, failure and hardships.

To me basic FL training was a life time of challenges crammed into 15weeks of intensive training.

So, here are the ten lesson’s I learned from FL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.

1)
Every morning in FL training, the instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in the barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s FL  talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened Legionnaires.

But the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and then another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

Lesson….If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2)
During  training the students are divided into boat crews. Each crew consists seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy.

Every day your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surf zone and paddle several miles down the coast.

In the winter, the surf can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in.

Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.

For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.

Lesson….You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help— and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3)
Over a few weeks of difficult training my FL class which started with 87men was down to just roughly 35…

I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of the little guys— The Munchkin Crew we called them—no one was over about 5-foot five.

The munchkin boat crew had one Indian, one African American, one Polish, one Greek , one Italian , and two tough kids from the mid west.

They out paddled, out-ran, and out swam all the other boat crews.

The big men in the other boat crews would always make good natured fun of the tiny little flippers the munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim.

But somehow these little guys, from every corner of the world, always had the last laugh— swimming faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us.

FL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed. Not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education and not your social status.

Lesson…..If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4)
Several times a week, the instructors would line up the class and do a uniform inspection. It was exceedingly thorough.

Your hat had to be perfectly starched, your uniform immaculately pressed and your belt buckle shiny and void of any smudges.

But it seemed that no matter how much effort you put into starching your hat, or pressing your uniform or polishing your belt buckle— it just wasn’t good enough. The instructors would find “something” wrong.

For failing the uniform inspection, the student had to run, fully clothed into the surf zone and then, wet from head to toe, roll around on the beach until every part of your body was covered with sand. The effect was known as a “sugar cookie.” You stayed in that uniform the rest of the day —cold, wet and sandy.

There were many a student who just couldn’t accept the fact that all their effort was in vain. That no matter how hard they tried to get the uniform right—it was unappreciated. Those students didn’t make it through training.

Those students didn’t understand the purpose of the drill. You were never going to succeed. You were never going to have a perfect uniform.

Lesson…….Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform you still end up as a sugar cookie.

It’s just the way life is sometimes.

If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5)
Every day during training you were challenged with multiple physical events—long runs, long swims, obstacle courses, hours of calisthenics—something designed to test your mettle.

Every event had standards times you had to meet. If you failed to meet those standards your name was posted on a list and at the end of the day those on the list were invited to a “circus”.

A circus was two-three hours of additional calisthenics—designed to wear you down, to break your spirit, to force you to quit.

NO ONE WANTED A CIRCUS..!!!!!
fuck I hated this part…

A circus meant that for that day you didn’t measure up. A circus meant more fatigue—and more fatigue meant that the following day would be more difficult—and more circuses were likely.

But at some time during FL training, everyone—EVERYONE—made the circus list.

But an interesting thing happened to those who were constantly on the list. Over a period of time those students who did two hours of extra calisthenics got stronger and stronger.

The pain of the circuses built inner strength and also built physical resiliency.

LESSON….Life is filled with circuses.

You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful. It will be discouraging. At times it will test you to your very core.

But if you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6)
At least twice a week, the trainees were required to run the obstacle course. The obstacle course contained 25 obstacles including a 10-foot high wall, a 30-foot cargo net, and a barbed wire crawl to name just but a few.

But the most challenging obstacle was the slide for life. It had a three level 30 foot tower at one end and a one level tower at the other. In between was a 200-foot long rope.

You had to climb the three tiered tower and once at the top, you grabbed the rope, swung underneath the rope and pulled yourself hand over hand until you got to the other end.

The record for the obstacle course had stood for years The record seemed unbeatable, until one day during training , a student decided to go down the slide for life—head first.

Instead of swinging his body underneath the rope and inching his way down, he bravely mounted the TOP of the rope and thrust himself forward.

It was a dangerous move—seemingly foolish, and fraught with risk. Failure could mean injury and being dropped from the training.

Without hesitation—the student slid down the rope—perilously fast, instead of several minutes, it only took him half that time and by the end of the course he had broken the record.

Lesson…..If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first. TAKE A CALCULATED RISK

7)
During the land warfare phase of training, the students are flown out to an Island which lies off the coast .

The waters off  the pacific are a breeding ground for the great white sharks. To pass FL training there are a series of long swims that must be completed. One is the night swim.

Before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the trainees on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters of the coast..

They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark—at least not recently. But, you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position—stand your ground. Do not swim away. Do not act afraid.

And if the shark, hungry for a midnight snack, darts towards you—then summon all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away.

Sounds funny right non but then my life depended on that advice. Whether it works or not I will never know because I never encountered a shark. But the thought of it while in the waters freaked the hell out of my nuts.

Lesson….There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim you will have to deal with them.

So, If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8)….
As Legionnaires one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training.

The ship attack mission is where a pair of divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over two miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.

During the entire swim, even well below the surface there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you.

But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight—it blocks the surrounding street lamps—it blocks all ambient light.

To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the centerline and the deepest part of the ship.

This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship—where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.

Every Legionnaire knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission—is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

Lesson…If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

The 10th week of training is referred to as “Hell Week.” It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and—one special day at the Mud Flats—the Mud Flats are where the water runs off and creates a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you.

It is on Wednesday of Hell Week that you paddle down to the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive the freezing cold mud, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors.

As the sun began to set that Sunday evening, my training class, having committed some “egregious infraction of the rules” was ordered into the mud.

The mud consumed each man till there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud if only five men would quit—just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold.

Looking around the mud flat it was apparent that some of us were about to give up. It was still roughly about  eight more hours till the sun came up—eight more hours of bone chilling cold.

The chattering teeth and shivering moans were so loud it was hard to hear anything and then, one voice began to echo through the night—one voice raised in song.

The song was terribly out of tune from a Jamaican but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long everyone in the class was singing. We knew that if one man could rise above the misery then others could as well.

The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing.. But by now we had known them well enough to know if they were serious…. So the singing persisted.

And somehow—the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.

Lesson….If I have learned anything in my time working for the FL, it is the power of hope. The power of one person…..one person can change the world by giving people hope…

So, if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10)
Finally, in FL.. training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see.

All you have to do to quit—is ring the bell. Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 4.30 in the morning. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims.

Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, —and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training.

“Just ring the bell..”…. That’s what they kept begging us to do…

Lesson….If you want to change the world don’t ever, EVER ring the bell.

My friends, family and readers, in your journey through life, to change the world for the better is not easy. IT WILL NEVER BE EASY… But you can affect the lives of millions of people…

1)Start each day with a task completed.

2)Find someone to help you through life.

3)Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up.

If you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today….

Those are the basic  lessons I learned as Legionnaire in the FRENCH LEGION.

I’m sure the lessons shared applies to us all and like I always say it begins with YOU!!

Life’s Lessons!

Single Mothers are Fathers Too

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 25, 2014 by kola

Recently on one of the social media sites I belong to there was a debate with regards to how Fathers Day was turning into a day not only to celebrate fathers but also to celebrate single mothers. 

Apparently a group of people were pissed at the women usurping the day for honoring fathers and claimed that women had already had a day dedicated to them and as such didn’t need another day, which wasn’t theirs anyways to take over and overshadow their male counterparts. 

But truth be told don’t these women deserve more than just a mothers day? It’s fast becoming a global phenomenon where there is an increase in single parenthood. This phenomenon has been under study for a while now among other phenomena. It’s has become increasingly apparent that there are more female single parents than there are men. 

Research has tried to find the cause of this increasing phenomenon but the reasons are many and varied. For me, it all boils down to the African proverb that only a mother knows the true father of her child.

Definitely a mother conceives the child and carries it to term in nine months and as such develops that bond with the child. A father is said only to contribute his sperm to the union and he gets to choose whether to be a part of the child’s life or not.

The mother has no choice but to raise the child on her own and by any means necessary. Raising a child alone in this modern world is not going to be easy especially since it’s apparent modern day children are intelligent beyond their years and coupled with the sort of influences they encounter, a parent has an onerous task of trying to mold the child in any particular way.

Talking to a couple of single mothers and listening to their stories shows that it’s not an easy road raising an African child. African children, unlike western children, are raised communally. It’s only recently that the western way of raising children is creeping into the cosmopolitan aspect of our society especially in our capitals. Could this be because of the influence of the returnees and expatriates? That’s not the subject of this write up.

Between rising exorbitant education costs, feeding costs and taking care of the needs of the children, single mothers have to find a means of livelihood to pay these bills whilst taking care of themselves too. It is here that if your support system is not working then a single mother is done in for.

Support system comes usually in the form of maternal relatives usually the child’s retired grandmother who gives care so the mother can go about her daily activities.

One is tempted to ask where the fathers of the children are in such in a situation but then I mentioned earlier that fathers can choose to be part of their children’s lives or not. Some fathers will be concerned about the lives of their children and would want to support whilst others wouldn’t take any interest because they didn’t want the children in the first place (one of the reasons).

So well kudos to those responsible fathers who against all the odds take their responsibilities to their children seriously and also to all the single male parents out there for doing right by their children.

But it is important that we also acknowledge the efforts of the many single mothers who act in the capacity and roles of both mother and father in their children’s lives and even if they have to piggyback on the world day reserved for fathers then so be it.

I believe for their efforts they deserve it and to acknowledge them won’t change their gender into fathers, they are still women and they always have a special place in our hearts.

Africa needs more responsible men and since the family is the basic unit of society, it is important that more and more people own up to their responsibilities in taking up to bringing up our future leaders. African children are a communal responsibility and one person’s child is your child too. We all men are fathers whether biological or not and we all need to pitch in to raise the future leaders.

Like I always say it begins with YOU!

#Fathers Arise

City Life in Retrospect

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2014 by kola

So I recently spent almost a month in the capital and I dare say, some of you have heard me say it several times, that I can’t ever live in Accra anymore. Not after relocating out of it for over a year.

Some of my friends think that I’ve only been out a year and I’m having unjustified feelings about the capital but ask even my parents and you’d realize that I’ve always known I wasn’t made to stay or live in the capital. I’ve always taken weekends away from the capital and also taken sight seeing and pleasure trips just so I could experience how life is different outside the capital.

I remember when some days I would just get out of my house and go to the Metro Mass station in Kaneshie and sit in the first bus that was almost full with a total disregard for its destination. Armed with my curiousity and a novel off I went. This is how I discovered the towns of Winneba and Swedru and what those towns held.

Did you know that dried fish costs cheaper in the Swedru market than at Winneba? When the fishing port is at Winneba?

Fast forward to nowadays. Young people in the capital are all chasing the bucks and there is no time for anything else. It has become a competition into who has the latest flashy car, the best contacts, most items in their rooms for comfort (everybody has a plasma screen now) and the prettiest girlfriends.

Even the sporting activities that we used to do for exercises have become competitive social gatherings to show off expensive jerseys and boots or sneakers latest released on the market. the focus is no more on the physical workout/ exercise.

Meanwhile work ethic is seemingly high and stressful. Talking to a few friends I made them realize the importance of checking their blood pressure constantly. Young people tend to assume that they are young and some diseases such as hypertension and blood pressure “is not their portion”.

But especially not when your diet is full of carbohydrates and fats and plenty sugar which needs to be converted to energy and when it doesn’t, becomes more fat clogging the arteries. Also not when you spend a considerable part of your day in traffic doing almost  nothing.

And then they try to take all these traditional medicine that are purported to ensure fitness but in actual fact only worsen the situation if not taken in proper doses.

Active outdoor sports have become less at a time when there is an increased intake in junk food high in cholesterol. Young people don’t see the need to eat fruits and nuts and even vegetables (only for animals they say). Computer games have replaced jogging and outdoor sports but we all know those don’t help in any exercise only task the brain some more.

Why do you think telenovelas and series have become a multi million dollar business because of the patronage. Accra has become super cosmopolitan and you’re considered backward if you don’t move with the times.

So you ask why young people are dying off like dead leaves nowadays? The answer lies in the lifestyle. We Africans are not built to be inactive and once we are chasing the corporate and cosmopolitanism with the rest of the world then we should also be prepared to also meet the mortality rate that comes with it.

We can have the lifestyle we want but let’s not forget we’re African and the body is built for action so it’s not only sex that will make a young person active but active involvement in a sport or a physical activity that speeds up the heart rate.

Invest in a good gym and stick to a strict diet regimen with vegetables and nuts. We’re lucky we are surrounded by all this naturally organic foods yet we buy food supplements from abroad when we could be taken the foods direct.

I have said my piece. I play sports four times a week and I’m watching what I eat (not seriously though).

It is never too late to start now. As for that work that you think puts food on your table and sponsors your active cosmopolitan lifestyle, when you get sick or die, you’d be replaced immediately. The work will go on.

We need to cultivate the mentality that health is wealth, cliche is it may sound, and like I always say

It begins with YOU!

STAY HEALTHY!! 

Dawn Musings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 18, 2014 by kola

So I wake up this fine morning and I got myself thinking. Yes thinking, a very rare thing for me to do but lately since I’ve been in Accra for almost a fortnight I find myself doing that a lot.

So I’m thinking. What is wrong with this country? Where did we go wrong?

With all the resources available to us and the expertise (Yes even human resource especially) what happened to this nation and why did it get so bad?

I have a feeling I’m not the only one thinking this and there are others like me, awake in the dark on a cold morning bathed in their own sweat from a night of having no electricity.

Where did we go wrong?

When the dam was built it catered for the nation and we even exported the extra. Now the population has increased and we’ve added more people to the grid. When did we expect to add another source of electricity to the one our founder left as a legacy. It baffles me how previous governments have touted plans to expand it yet never did.

And then we discovered oil. Sometimes I wonder if the oil is a blessing or a curse.

If care is not taken we might pretty much end up like our neighbors Nigeria who produce high grade oil but still has fuel related problems. One is tempted to ask where all the money is going but you don’t ask questions you already got answers to until you want to be spat on in the face.  Tweaaa!!

Where did we go wrong? As a nation who forgets four years of suffering when items such as rice, chicken, vegetable cooking oil, money and tee shirts are flashed and sometimes distributed on in an election year to us. By the time these items are consumed and by products sent to Water Closet kingdom, we’re standing in line ready to thumb approve the givers another four year term of “service”.

What do you call it when mature educated men and women are being illogical and simply sycophantic when they have to explain very simple things in black and white that even children can understand.

What is the correlation between dwarfs and the falling cedi or how come mobile phones are now to blame for the deficiency in power supply because mobile phones use this much power? Furthermore how does a legislator justify calls for an increment in his salary because he has to organize funerals. Since when did our legislators become morticians?

Should I hold my head in shame as to the kind of people we put in leadership positions or the kind of leaders imposed on us by appointment?

Where did we go wrong as a nation when we have debts to pay our patriotic national workers we don’t but decide to spend that selfsame amount of money on greedy ingrates who are already millionaires in their own right so they can be comfortable and then expect that selfsame starving patriot to be in the stands shouting his support to this selfsame bad haircut millionaires whilst they go about a duty they should be proud of doing as nationalists but rather seems as if they’re doing the nation a favor by doing it.

So as I lie in my wetness, bathed in my own sweat, I’m thinking where did we go wrong with this nation. It will be a travesty if I should think further than I already have in this article because then I’d be depressed the whole day. I’d start almost justifying why the Ghana Police are so aggressive in Accra to make that extra bucks, why it seems everybody is in a money grabbing mode, why people will even sell their mothers for extra money, why you see a motorcade pass by and everybody just chuckles, why it’s only when they’re discussing the increase in their allowances that our legislators have their minds in tandem. It’s not a debate anymore.

It’s pretty obvious that there is a problem with leadership and policy and these 2 are central to whatever the problem is. Where did we go wrong as a nation? Are we not tired of hoping and praying it will get better?

We individuals make up the nation so it is important that we search ourselves and find out what we can do to correct the wrongs that we might have committed. 

Like I always say it begins with YOU!

Yes YOU!!

Relocation Retrospect

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 3, 2014 by kola

The month of May 2014 has been one of the toughest and most terrible in my life. Things have hit an all time low like never before and in every aspect of life there have been challenges.

Interestingly enough the same month has carried some untold blessings that have carried on to at least assuaged the low points and cause some highlights in the month.

Maybe it is because it is the anniversary month of my relocation of Tamale or it’s a general sense of foreboding that overshadows such activities. It could also be that I expected more from my relocation and it has proven to be a blowout.

I had my misgivings about the relocation but thinking all things being equal it was a new environment. The best of all being that I will have my sweetheart by me the whole time. No need to shuttle between cities ten hours apart just to get to snuggle with each other every other month or so.

I am pretty sure too things would have been different if the various factors were aligned together and going according to plan. Heck! These hardships will be none existent in the first place because it is true that money is the lever that pushes activities and it is the same money that acts as the grease.

With cash flow problems, it has become very prudent to be frugal in existence when being a city dweller I was so used to the blatant expenditure of cash for one thing or the other then later purchases or expenditure proved unreliable or unwanted in order of priority.

Truly I find myself looking at things in a different way and valuing more the quality of cash and how much goods and services I can exchange that cash for. My high school economics is seriously at play here now than ever.

After all it is not only me but it is the whole Ghanaian economy that is suffering. Mineral prices are going high, essential commodities cost more and the currency is devaluing faster than a giant cursed by a witch to become a dwarf.

Since it is a general problem I won’t say much about it but as I await my birthday I will find ways of surviving in this terrain and so should you. No need to wait for government policies and initiatives (we all know how that usually ends) but as individuals take the bull by the horns and survive for yourself.

Like I always say it begins with YOU!

Gear Up!

Life!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 3, 2014 by kola

What is it with life
What is all this struggles we go through
Our inner most demons fighting
What is it with us
Being our own enemies

What is it with life
What is it with battles we brew
Others with success we always sighting
What is it with us
Being our friends’ keepers.

But in all this
The universe dictates
We sure can make it better
But who do we imitate
But the giver of life Himself.

What is this with this life
When struggles hit you in face
But to trudge on and survive
To look up to the Heavens
With the eye on the prize.

Destiny Reflections

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 3, 2014 by kola

It is funny how situations happen and you get to think about your whole life all over again. Here I am sitting behind my computer and wondering what exactly to write.

I have learnt that the best way to write what you feel is let your emotions take over and write the truth even though you will be shy of it but people will relate to it better because that is the truth. Truth always stands.

Recently there has been a worrying phenomenon and this is that I think too much. Becoming a thinker is affecting everything I do and by so doing offsetting the balance of nature. You probably won’t understand but having taken on more responsibility to my readers I have come to realize that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

It is a thankless job to live in the world we live in today and have the mindset that I have. God put us on this earth for a reason and this reason we all ought to find and fulfill our purpose in life which is not only to glorify Him but to do His Will.

Allah hu Akbar!

Like I always say, it begins with YOU!

Get out there and make a change – one person at a time