Below is a speech I gave at the combined Grade 10 and 12 Graduation of Kitip Secondary School in the Western Highlands Province on Friday 12th November 2010.
I am very thankful to the Graduation Committee for giving me the opportunity to address the 28th Grade 10 and 6th 12 Graduation Ceremony of Kitip Lutheran Secondary School. The last time I came here for the same purpose was in 2008.
My speech today, which is from my heart, is titled “YOU’VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED IN LIFE.” It is aimed at both graduating and continuing students, as well as other young people who are in the crowd. I must warn that some things I say today may not go down well with your way of thinking.
Have you ever wondered what the basic ingredients which you need to become a successful person are? Many people think that to be successful, you must be educated to university level and hold a high-paying job. Others think you must be born into a rich family, or get married to someone rich. Some think people who gamble live good lives, so they spend their money in all forms of gambling, hoping to hit the jackpot one day. Some even think that they can live good lives if they sell drugs, or steal and rob, or ask for bribery before they perform services they are already paid to carry out.
What I want to tell you today is that every one of you, regardless of whether you are a student, a drop out or someone who has never been to school, already possesses the six basic ingredients necessary for success. Every one of you can become successful, regardless of how relatively uneducated you are, or how poor your backgrounds are, or how young or old you are. And there is no distinction between male and female here.
Let me share with you the six ingredients of success.
Firstly, you have SOUND MINDS. Your mind is the greatest asset which is totally misused and underutilised. Scientists say that the average person uses only 10% of their brain capacity between the cradle and the grave, or birth and death. 90% goes to the grave unused. Most of us don’t really think hard enough. Our thinking is very shallow. I normally say, “We think that we think, but we don’t really think”.
The main difference between people who are successful and those that fail lies in how efficiently and effectively they use their minds. Education only opens our minds to the options that are out there, but success comes from the way we think. That is why you will see that many uneducated people are successful, while many educated people are failures. Some of the most successful people in the world such as inventors have been school drop outs or people that have never been to school. But they are people who have used their minds more.
Related to our minds (and this is the second ingredient) is COMMON SENSE. All of us basically know what is right and what is wrong; what is good for us and what is bad. Common sense is what we are born with. You certainly don’t need to go to school to learn it! Today, common sense is uncommon. Most young people make decisions without thinking about the likely consequences on themselves or the rest of society. Most of the problems we face today can be traced to misuse of our minds. If you utilise your common sense (meaning that you do what is right and good for you), you will succeed in life.
The third ingredient for success is TIME. Time is an asset. There are two things about time: Firstly, God has allocated each one of us an equal amount of time. All of us have 24 hours in a day – 12 hours of daylight and 12 of night, or 8 hours for sleeping, 8 for working and 8 hours of free time. Secondly, time is something we cannot conserve for later use. It comes and goes. We either use it to our benefit, or lose it for good.
The world operates on the principle that “time is money”. However, in PNG, we waste a lot of time, and as a result, we waste many opportunities on all sorts of unfruitful endeavour, and we live in self-imposed poverty in a very rich country. Just imagine what our country would be like if everyone of us did an honest day’s work, for ourselves or for others.
Time, like the mind, is a resource which is most misused, especially by young people. For instance, a lot of young people go into town and waste the whole day just walking up and down the streets. If you sit in a particular spot for a certain length of time, you will see the same group of young men and women several times, going from town to the market, back to town and the market again. That is a complete waste of time and life.
If you desire to succeed, either as a student or as a young person, use your mind and your time wisely.
Fourthly, you have HEALTH and STRENGTH. Many of you young people take your strength for granted and apply it wrongly. For instance, many young men engage in unlawful activities. You need to realise that every night you go to bed very tired and worn out, but each morning you wake up with new strength to face the day’s challenges and take advantage of the opportunities each day presents to you. Do not take your health and strength for granted. Recognise them as your assets and use them for your benefit.
Fifthly, each one of you has NATURAL TALENTS which lie dormant in your lives. Talents are skills which you are born with. I am sorry to say this, but one thing about the education system is that it does not focus on helping students to develop their natural talents. If you look within yourself, you will be surprised at some of the things you can do are things which nobody has taught you. They are in-built, a part of your make-up. If you focus on developing these, you can become successful. Some of the most highly paid people today are movie, music and sports stars. These are people who have developed their talents to such levels that other people pay to see them in action. In my village is a grade 6 drop out who can build round houses so beautifully that today he builds houses for people on contract basis and earns at least K1,000 per house. That is an example of someone who uses his natural talents to make a living.
On top of these five – SOUND MINDS, COMMON SENSE, TIME, STRENGTH and TALENTS – in PNG we are very fortunate to own LAND. We are among a few countries in the world where nearly 100% of land is owned by the people. In most other countries land is owned by the State. And when we consider that land is the basis of wealth, we can say that Papua New Guineans are born rich and wealthy! Unfortunately, because we do not realise the value of land, we are becoming poor. People in some countries are born poor and become rich, but we in Papua New Guinea are born rich and become poor.
Papua New Guinea is a very rich country. Ours is the only country that has been described as “a mountain of gold floating on a sea of oil, and powered by gas.” The country is literally a gold field. Unfortunately, there isn’t much gold, copper, oil or gas in Western Highlands Province. But we have very fertile land on which we can produce food. In fact Western Highlands Province can become the “food basket” of the country, if only our leaders provide the people with the right incentives, and the people are willing to work. If you young people humble yourselves and work the land, you will become rich.
Students (and young people in the audience), I am telling you that if you combine your MIND, COMMON SENSE, TIME, PHYSICAL STRENGTH, GOD-GIVEN TALENTS and LAND, you can become successful in life. What you need to realise is that you have all these ingredients available to you RIGHT NOW!
Notice that I have not included EDUCATION, a high-paying JOB or MONEY as ingredients for success. Let me explain why. Taking education first, let me say this: YOU DON’T NEED A UNIVERSITY DEGREE TO SUCCEED IN LIFE. How do I know this? By observing that the majority of university graduates are failing financially and in other areas of life, while the relatively uneducated are succeeding. That tells me that being highly educated does not automatically equate to being successful.
You see, the purpose of education is not to enable you to get a paying job. So many of us make an automatic connection between school and jobs. This is wrong. And this is why we have so many young people becoming frustrated all over the country because they cannot get jobs. No. The purpose of education is to provide you with information and knowledge. When you possess knowledge, your mind becomes open to the many options that are out there, so that you can see several ways of making a living for yourself.
GETTING A PAID JOB IS JUST ONE OPTION IN LIFE, NOT THE ONLY OPTION. In fact, IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A LOT OF MONEY, A PAID JOB IS THE LAST OPTION YOU WOULD CONSIDER, NOT THE FIRST. Why do I say this? Well, if you look around, the people making the most money are not people who work for others; those who make the most money are those who work for themselves. And many such people are uneducated.
Now let’s look at money. In my list of assets you have to possess to succeed, I did not include money. THIS IS BECAUSE MONEY IS JUST A BY-PRODUCT OF APPLYING YOUR MIND, TIME, STRENGTH, TALENTS and LAND. Many people think they need money to succeed, but this is incorrect. If you combine what you have, money will come. YOU DON’T NEED MONEY TO MAKE MONEY; YOU CAN MAKE MONEY WITHOUT MONEY – PARTICULARLY IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
As some of you may know, I am an advocate of SELF-EMPLOYMENT. I have written a book on the subject called Be Your Own Boss and I have been sharing my ideas in the newspapers. I am glad to report today that many Papua New Guineans are catching the idea and are starting their own businesses. I believe that is the way to go. The country needs many small business people who create jobs. We have too many job-seekers. We need to take our economy back from large multinational corporations and foreign businesses that are mushrooming all over the country.
With the LNG project and other resource developments taking place all over the country, the environment is right for us local people to start small businesses. Let us not leave the playing field wide open for Asians to play the game. We must not complain when they succeed under our noses. We must get in, play the game, and beat them.
So my friends – students, parents and teachers - I am sorry if I have messed up your minds by what I have said today, but before you dismiss it and stick to the old way you have been looking at life, I urge to you think deeply about what I have said today.
I would even go so far as to suggest to you that if you do not make it to Grade 11 or a tertiary institution next year, BE VERY GLAD, NOT VERY SAD. Take it as an opportunity to do something with your time, mind, strength, talents and land. Don’t rush to upgrade your marks or look for other options to further your education. Consider the option of starting a small business instead. Be committed to it, and I can assure you that in 2-6 years time when your colleagues who have continued up the educational ladder start looking for jobs, you will be a few years ahead of them financially . When you have the money, you can always go back to school if you feel you need it.
Let me end with a Bible story. In the book of Exodus Chapters 3 and 4, we read about the encounter Moses had with Jehovah God, where God calls Moses to go to Egypt and rescue the people of Israel from bondage. Moses tries to make God change His mind by giving excuses as to why he is not the right person to carry out the assignment. But God insists that Moses is the right person for the job. He tells Moses, “I will be with you.” Then He asks Moses what he has in his hand. Moses replies that he has a shepherd’s rod. God tells Moses to throw the stick onto the ground, and when Moses does so, the stick turns into a serpent and Moses jumps away from it. God instructs Moses to pick the snake up by its tail, and when Moses does so, it turns back into a stick. God tells Moses, “I am going to perform many miracles, signs and wonders with this rod, and deliver the Israelites from slavery.”
Notice that to Moses, the rod was just a rod; to God, it was mighty instrument of signs, wonders, miracles and deliverance. God already saw what Moses had in his hand, but yet He asked Moses what it was. Why did God ask Moses? So that Moses could realise that what he had was more than a shepherd’s rod. It was something greater than Moses thought.
One thing we can learn from this story, which is relevant to my message today, is that sometimes the things which we think are insignificant are the very things that can help us succeed in life. We tend to overlook them, because we think our success ingredients are in some other place or in some other people.
So students, in closing, let me reiterate: YOU’VE GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED IN LIFE! You possessed the ingredients before you came to school. Now that you are educated, you have increased your chances for success, because now you possess not only a sound mind and common sense, but an educated mind. You should succeed regardless of whether you continue on to further education or the system pushes you out. If you find out next year that your name has been dropped from those who will be entering a tertiary institution or Grade 11, don’t worry about that. You may not be able to obtain a tertiary qualification, but you can still succeed, because you have what it takes to succeed.
To graduating students, CONGRATULATIONS! To everyone, an early MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
God bless you all!