Since I can remember, my goal in life has been to be successful. It meant having a good university education, a good job and financial stability. While I am proud of my accomplishments, I have come to realize that my goal was misguided and that success is overrated. So, I am raising my son not to be successful, but to be great.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them”. William Shakespeare
What is greatness exactly and how is it different from success? Glad you asked. I know the answer because I googled it 😏. Success is about achieving quantifiable goals and objectives. Greatness is about making a difference to others. Great people make life better; they make life more fulfilling, more rewarding… more complete. They make a difference! Greatness may be born out of success but success in itself is not a measure of greatness.
Great men are not born great; they grow great. Mario Puzo, the Godfather.
Now that we’ve gotten the “theory” out of the way, let’s talk about why I’m putting this burden on my innocent 13 month old who just wants to empty drawers and flush the toilet all day. It may seem like a lot of pressure but let us not forget that great people are also flawed (sometimes deeply flawed) human beings so there is no pressure for the little one to be perfect.
I’ve come to learn that it is never too early to start instilling principles of greatness. This means that I have to purposefully think about role models for my son; the type of books he will read; the type of school he will go to; who he will associate with, etc etc. It also means that I need to get my act together rather quickly and be a good role model. Children learn by imitation. It is important that he sees me in action making a difference.
I will not be surprised if my son’s second word after “mama” is Mandela or Madiba. Every time we walk past my study, I point out the Mandela poster on my wall to him. Watching him smile and soak it in just warms my heart. Soon, he will know about other continental greats like Nkrumah and Tutu and global heavy weights like Obama and Malala.
He will also learn about and be inspired by your everyday “Joes” who make a difference. People like Jason Arumburu whose innovation helps East African farmers to grow more food sustainably; My good friend, Bouba, who created a global movement to promote peace and unity amidst conflict in Mali; Michael, who finds time to be actively involved in sickle cell advocacy and of course my own mother, who is spearheading a breast cancer awareness campaign that has literally saved so many lives.
There are also countless social media gurus who are great influencers and make a difference in shaping minds and touching hearts. I recently discovered Gareth Pon, Africa’s top instagrammer and winner of the 2014 and 2015 African Blogger Awards. He influences, builds communities, educates and inspires, one photo at a time. And then there are countless people who volunteer their time in churches, under privileged schools and other important social causes.
“The greatness of humanity is not in being human but in being humane.” Mahatma Ghandi.
I would like to see my son join the club of greatness and hope that the joy he brings me will one day be felt by so many people.
Peace and Love!
Sources: selkerlead.net; forbes.com