Weekly Commentaries

This is Sunday Chronicle's weekly commentaries on various issues of interest affecting the country. All individual commentators are done by elite Papua New Guineans from diverse educational backgrounds.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Develop your "survivor instinct"


There is a fighting spirit in all of us

WHAT we need to realize is that there is a fighting spirit in all of us. That spirit lays dormant most of our lives, and awakens only to challenges and threats. The need for survival brings that spirit to the fore.

In my book Success After Graduation I tell the story of the man who scaled a high wall when chased by a huge dog. The fear of being torn into pieces by the dog awakened the "survivor's instinct" in him that he was able to scale the wall. When he tried to do the same under normal circumstances, he found that he could not.

It is said that during the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco, United States of America, invalids actually got up and fled for their lives. These people had lain helpless in bed for many years but the fear of getting burned plus the desire to live caused their limbs to straighten and strengthen such that they could get out of bed and run away from the blazing fires.

I recall an incident where we chased a wild cow. It had been pursued by a neighboring clan and we had taken on the chase when it entered our territory. The animal must have run a long distance, and we could see its legs becoming wobbly as it ran through our village. Some of us thought we were very close to catching it when it seemingly ran out of breath and strength. Suddenly it stopped running, turned around and began stomping towards us with fury in its eyes. All of us expected the animal to continue running, and none of us expected it to start chasing us! The moment we saw anger in its eyes and its nose puffing spit and turning red, we knew we were in danger. All of us fled for our lives, and the cow just strode back with ease.

I learnt a valuable lesson that day. It is that when you are pursued, turn around and fight back instead of taking on your heels and running. Your enemies, who may take all kinds of forms, could be pursuing you because you are running. They like looking at the back of your head and heels when you take flight. The moment you stop and stare at them in the face, they will melt, because they can sense the fighting spirit rising in you. You will be fighting for survival, whereas they have been pursuing you because that was easy for them to do with you running from them.

The survivor's instinct in man is multi-faceted
If you chase a pig or a dog into a corner, the survivor's instinct in it will awaken, and it will strike back. The same survivor's instinct resides in human beings. But unlike animals, whose instinct is either to fight or flee, the survivor's instinct in man is multifaceted, creative and innovative. Sometimes it attacks, which is a manifestation of the crude part of that instinct. At other times it finds more creative ways of dealing with threats and challenges.

The human mind has the ability to develop new ways of handling threats and needs within a very short time - in fact on the spur of the moment or in an instant if need necessitates it.

Paid jobs make people mentally lazy
Entrepreneurs and those who venture out and take risks see this potential come to the fore more often than those who wallow around the comforts of a paid job. In fact, a job makes people comfortable and complacent, and to a great extent lazy, when it comes to using their minds.

Creative thinking is the hardest of jobs
Scientists say that the average human being uses up only 10% of their brain capacity all of their lives. The remaining 90% remains unused until the person dies and goes into the grave. It becomes food for maggots. We do not use our mind to its full potential.

Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Corporation, is said to have stated: "Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why not many people engage in it." One of my sayings is this: "We think we think, but we don't think." Our thinking is very shallow and superficial. It lacks depth and width.

If you think about all the inventions of man since the dawn of creation, it has all been the product of the mind. What was invented actually existed in the inventors' minds before the items became tangible. God did not create the aeroplane, for instance. When He breathed into the nostrils of Adam, He imparted something of His creative ability into man. He provided man the ability to invent the principles of flight and perfect it over time until he was able to fly as the birds of the air.

The mind of man has much greater potential than man has been able to utilize in his lifetime. It has the potential to think up solutions to the most pressing problems facing mankind. Its ability to accommodate, assimilate and process information inputted into it by the five senses has yet to be matched by the most advanced computers in the world.

A thinker, an asset
I once read an interesting story. It was about this expert who was engaged by a company that was facing problems - one of those so-called "corporate doctors". He was asked to review the entire organisation and recommend measures which in his expert opinion would, if applied, see the company experience a turn around in sales and profitability. So the expert went to work. He spent several weeks in the office going through all the systems, positions and people that made up the organisation.

The story goes that every time he went up to the top floor where the owners usually had their offices, he would notice this fellow lying back in his chair with his feet up on the table top. Sometimes he was absent for days. The expert wondered who this person could be. When he checked the payroll files, he was very surprised to learn that this person was the highest paid in the organisation. The expert noticed that this fellow earned even more than the owners.

When the expert finally presented his report to the directors, he recommended that the company should be downsized, a good number of positions and their functions should be merged or chopped, and the people who occupied those positions should be laid off.

At the top of the list of people recommended for dismissal was this fellow in the top floor office. The expert's reasoning was that he had seen this gentleman napping at work all the time he had been reviewing the company's systems and procedures. He was really a liability to the company, seeing he was the highest paid.

It was when he was presenting his report that he truly learnt about this seemingly unproductive gentleman's work. The owners told the expert that his recommendation for the gentleman to be relieved of his services would take the company down rather than help it to rise, because the guy he had seen "napping" was actually the person who had developed the ideas for the products the company had come to be known for. One of the directors told the expert, "He is the brains behind the company. We pay him to think!"

Imagine the shock the expert received! He had made the biggest blunder of his professional life when he recommended the sacking of the person whom the company owners considered their biggest asset, because he was a thinker. He went to the office and sat in his chair, or went to some quiet place, and used his imagination to think up products the company could design and sell to the consuming public. The fact that the company paid him highly is an indication of the success they experienced when they took his advice.

Many organisations now have "think tanks" or "master mind" groups. These are groups of people who meet to talk about solutions to problems. They are a group of people who are considered to be thinkers. They are highly paid, and their advice is highly sought out. Some "think tanks" are private organisations which are established to conduct research into problems and develop solutions, which they sell to governments and companies for large amounts.

Everyone can think but only a few think creatively
Everyone can think, but not many engage in active and creative thinking. That is why "consulting" is one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. Most people, especially politicians and bureaucrats, are too busy with life's issues that they leave research, analysis and serious thinking to consultants, who charge hefty prices for their advice, which are the product of their minds.

In fact it has been said that the hottest products on the market today are "info-products" or information products. In the Information Age, there is an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge and information. Everything happens so fast that those with the latest information are able to outdo the competition. That is why CNN's motto is "Be the first to know." Researchers, analysts and thinkers are tapping into this info-products market and are becoming very rich without too much sweat.

I believe that most people who work for a regular salary do not really think. They do think, but what I mean is, they do not engage in the kind of thinking that is creative, lateral, outside-the-box. The regularity in the salary provided by the employer is a major factor that induces this mental laziness and complacency. They are not pressed to think, because, once again, whether they think hard or not, they still get paid.

In comparison, entrepreneurs and self-employed people tend to think more actively as well as deeply. Their thinking has width and depth. They allow their imaginations to devise ways out of their situations. They do not have money coming in regularly, so they are forced to think hard. And they do come up with creative solutions which serve a lot of people, thereby making themselves richer but also taking the rest of society forward.

Self-employment brings out the hidden potential in a person. It engenders creativity. It creates an environment that is conducive for the imaginative and creative ability of man to come alive. It helps people to think hard and deep. It awakens and develops their "survivor' instinct".

If you want to know what you are really made of, consider becoming self-employed. You will become aware of strengths and abilities you did not know you possessed until you do so. Your "survivor's instinct" will emerge more often and readily than when you work for others.

Our next article is titled 'Protect your assets'. If you have any comments on this week's article, email them to me at secos@global.net.pg or text me on 7688 0033 or 7280 4588.

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