Clem Sunter

A godfather's advice to his godson

2013-07-18 11:30

Clem Sunter

I added "to his godson" in the title of this article so that none of you got the impression that I am going to pass on the advice given by a Mafia godfather about how to get rid of a troublesome rival in the neighbourhood. No, I am talking of the advice a normal godfather gave his godson at a birthday party held recently to celebrate the latter's induction into the brotherhood of teenagers. What can you say to a young man of 13? Did anyone say anything to you when you were 13 which stuck with you as you negotiated those difficult yet exciting years and which even became a mantra for life?

I love words of wisdom that come in threes because you tend to remember them unlike all the rules of golf. In this case, each pearl was two words so we are talking six words in all. Here they are:

1. Be enthusiastic

People are more likely to be a success at something they love doing. It is all about having a positive mental attitude to back up the process of converting thoughts into deeds. So many of our species waste large chunks of their life going through the motions in a game for which they have neither the inclination nor aptitude. Of course, I am not referring to calls of duty which can be stressful and unpleasant, but which are part and parcel of being a decent human being. I am earmarking a voluntary commitment to be bored out of your mind purely for money or some other material consideration. I know that the counterargument is that for many a job is a job and they have no other choice in order to escape poverty. My point is that if you do have freedom of choice, make a list of your passions and see which ones can be turned into subjects to study or sports to pursue at school or university. Thereafter, choose an occupation or business which turns you on. Strategy is all about selecting the right direction for you and you alone - it is aiming before you fire.

2. Work hard

In a world of multiple distractions caused by the advances in technology in fields such as smartphones, tablets and computer games, youngsters still have to realise that once they have chosen paths to meet the goals they desire, their progress will be determined by the quality and intensity of their input. This requires focus, resolve and time. It also demands triumph over the inevitable failures and glitches you experience along the way. These should be treated as lessons to absorb for adapting the manner in which you proceed into the future. Whereas strategy is about direction, tactics are about how to get there and there are always improvements to be made and smarter techniques to be discovered. Work hard but be clever about it so that your output grows for a given level of input. Productivity rests on work and intelligence. No star is born without an effort.

3. Be nice

There are two reasons for being nice. The first and lesser one is that it pays off. The teacher may overlook an indiscretion in the classroom. Fewer people are likely to sue you. Others may join you in reaching your goal or a shared goal if they are having fun in your company. You will make more friends and earn more respect. All kind of nice things happen to you if you are nice in return. However, apart from self-interest, the deeper reason for being nice is that you can make a difference in other people's lives. We all have one life and you have to make the most of it in a wider sense than your own success. Nobody has written on his tombstone that he made his first million dollars before he was 30. Legacy depends on ethical integrity, generosity of spirit and doing good things not because of the way you want people to talk about you after your death: rather you do them without thinking about yourself at all. That is genuine niceness.

A common phrase is the pursuit of happiness. Actually, happiness is a consequence of pursuing other ends with the three qualities mentioned of enthusiasm, diligence and virtue. By the way, the new teenager was my grandson and his godfather is my wife's nephew. Well done! I listened too.


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