We are in this world for a purpose, which must be fulfilled before we return to our creator. Inside each one of us are coded messages, hidden talents or potentials and our prayer, always, is for us to be able to decipher these messages before we expire. However, as we keep trudging on the life journey, we face challenges that can, if not properly handled, derail our purpose. Amid the ever-changing times, we find ourselves walking a delicate tightrope between hope and despair.
The challenges we face are multifaceted and far-reaching. With aspirations becoming forlorn, hopes fading, disappointments becoming rampant, love disappearing, economy wobbling, incomes shrinking, insecurity rising, family and personal needs increasing, there is a tendency to throw in the towel in resignation. This tendency is evident in the stories of suicides, depression, broken homes and relationship, aggressive behaviour (sometimes with fatal consequences), instability, and sudden death.
The circumstances of our environment, with prolonged mismanagement of resources, have deepened people’s lack of trust or belief in themselves and their innate ability to overcome the soaring challenges and keep their heads above the waters. For many of us, this is our story, and it is important for us to know that the “dice is still rolling”. It is not finished yet; you can still have the desired “double six” and the narrative will change thereafter, even dramatically. In the face of adversity, hope persists as a guiding light, urging us to embrace success amidst failure, and discover opportunities hidden within challenges.
According to Thomas Edison, the legendary American inventor, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” The immediate task before all of us, therefore, is to overcome this weakness in the face of life turbulence and ride the storm to success.
When we examine the tapestry of nations, we witness remarkable tales of resilience, diligence, determination, and hope. These stories demonstrate that even in the most trying times, countries can and do rise above nation-building challenges and achieve greatness.
In 1983, Nigeria deported up to one million Ghanaian and other African immigrants, when Ghana was facing severe drought and economic problems. Many of us will remember the period preceding the deportation, when Ghanaians, as economic refugees, flooded our streets and schools, as labourers and teachers. Today, the story has changed, and Ghana can stand on her own, with an annual GDP growth average of 6.5 per cent from 2000 to 2023.
In 1994, a fratricidal and bitter war broke out in Rwanda, leading to the death of about 600,000 people (mostly ethnic Tutsi) in what is now known as the “Rwandan genocide”. One would have thought that it was finished for this country but today, Rwanda has undergone significant transformation, with a GDP growth average of 7.6 per cent, as reported by the World Bank between 2000 and 2019. Rwanda has emerged from the ruins of civil war to become a beacon of hope for other African countries and a model of development, under the focused and determined leadership of Mr Paul Kagame.
The lesson of South Korea’s miracle on the Han River is also there for us to learn how not to give up when the tide rises against us. South Korea emerged from the ashes of war to become a global economic powerhouse, with a GDP per capita increasing from $67.7 in 1962 to $31,846 in 2019. Through unwavering commitment and dedication, South Korea transformed its economy, surpassing many developed nations. This remarkable journey of hope and progress showcases the extraordinary potential of a nation that refuses to succumb to despair.
In Nigeria’s history, we find stories that exemplify the indomitable spirit of hope. From the struggle for independence, led by visionaries, to the peaceful transition of power in recent democratic elections, Nigeria has demonstrated that hope can pave the way for progress, unity, and societal transformation.
Today, things have gone from bad to worse, with fuel price hike and outright devaluation of the local currency, driving a surge in inflation, high cost of staple food items and mystery. It is not time to give up on the nation but to remember and act in line with the eternal words of Vince Lombardi, the American football coach, who said that “winners never quit and quitters never win”. Nigeria is destined for progress and prosperity, and we must never give up on our country because of the current situation. We must remember that “the dice is still rolling”.
In the realm of business, we know of corporations that navigated through turbulent waters, prevailing against all odds to remain afloat and competitive. Tesla, led by Elon Musk, revolutionised the automotive industry, with its visionary pursuit of sustainable transportation, amidst scepticism and challenges. Today, Tesla is the biggest automaker in the world, with a market capitalisation of $569.95 billion, being in multiples of those of its major competitors like Toyota ($181.6billion), Porsche ($110.03billion), etc., as of March 2023 (Statista 2023). Tesla’s visionary approach and unwavering commitment to a better future propelled it to unprecedented success, challenging the status quo and inspiring hope.
The amazing story of hope is reflected in the trajectory of other successful corporate organisations. Harriet Beecher Stowe, an American author and abolitionist, put it succinctly that we should “never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
At that critical time when you think it is over, if you persevere and push a little harder, it may be the tipping point, when things will change or tilt in your favour. Afterall, failure, itself, is fundamental to our growth, if only we can learn from what went wrong and do everything possible to avoid a repeat occurrence or introduce some factors that will result in a better future.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) founded by Colonel Harland David Sanders, now boasts of over 23,000 restaurants in more than 140 countries, generating billions of dollars in revenue annually. The company rose into fame and wealth from the ashes of failure of its founder, who had failed 1,000 times to sell his chicken recipe. It wasn’t until his 1,010th time that he got someone to take a bite, and the narrative changed from that point onward.
What if Sanders had given up on his enterprise? The story of the fast-food industry would have been completely different from what we know it to be today. Sanders did not give up but rather followed the advice of Conrad Hilton, the founder of Hilton Hotel Chain, who said that “Successful men and women keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”
Rovio, a gaming company, is a leader in its industry and is admired today as one of the most successful corporate bodies. But Rovio did not start as one with success in its DNA but as a serial failure, until the tide changed in its favour. The company had developed and released 51 games in the past and all of them failed to catch the target audience’s attention to become hits. However, the company’s developers did not give up and success came with the 52nd game – the “Angry Birds” franchise – which has been a staple of mobile gaming since its release in December 2009 and remains a favourite till today, with over five billion downloads, as of April 2022.
For Steve Jobs and Apple, the story took a slight turn because there was a tremendous success at the beginning before the company got hit with failure. The story however changed in 1997, when Apple was just months away from bankruptcy and Steve Jobs returned to the company (he had been forced out in 1985). By 2011, Steve Jobs had not only turned Apple into the world’s biggest company, but had fundamentally changed the computing, music, and smartphone industries, with the introduction of the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone. Can you imagine, for a spilt second, what the “tech world” would have been today, if Jobs had allowed his setback to get the best of him?
We have to answer the question posed by the American operatic tenor, Robert Breault, who said, “If you knew that hope and despair were paths to the same destination, which would you choose?” I will choose hope over and over again.
At the individual level, the struggles between hope and despair are deeply personal, and stories of triumph over adversity serve as beacons of inspiration. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former President of Liberia, demonstrated remarkable bravery and determination in leading her country through a tumultuous period. She took office in 2006, becoming Africa’s first elected female head of state. Despite inheriting a nation devastated by civil war and economic collapse, Sirleaf successfully implemented reforms, promoted reconciliation, and fought against corruption. Her leadership and unwavering commitment to rebuilding Liberia earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, making her the first African woman to be so honoured.
The legendary American President, Abraham Lincoln, failed many times in his bid for political posts between 1832 and 1858 but refused to give up; and by 1860, he was elected the 16th president of the United States of America. He went on to become one of the notable and most respected presidents and will forever be remembered for his laudable acts, including the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on 1 January, 1863, which declared freedom for slaves within the Confederacy.
Hope plays a vital role in navigating the complexities of daily life. It is within these bonds that individuals find support, strength, and the determination to overcome challenges together. Whatever your circumstances are today – rejection by close friends, associates and family, dwindling financial fortune, business downturn, inability to attain a desired position, molestation by those you regarded as friends, etc. – please, remember that it is not finished yet. The dice is still rolling, and it can be your turn to win tomorrow. According to Albert Einstein, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
In conclusion, let us embrace hope and determination in the face of life challenges. Let us look at the examples of nations, companies and individuals who have overcome adversity, and let their stories inspire us to keep rolling the dice until we achieve greatness. As the tide of hope and despair leads to the same destination, let us choose hope, time and time again. It is in hope that we find the strength to endure, the courage to innovate, and the resilience to triumph over life’s trials and tribulations.
With input from Mr Venket Subramanian Thiagarajan, a Distinguished Pharmaceutical Executive based in Lagos.