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 16, 2010


COMMENTARY - Realise your potential - Part 1

I HAVE related that I became self-employed after searching unsuccessfully for a job for eight months. If you have never been faced with such a situation, you will not appreciate the mental and emotional pressures that are associated with not having a job and hence income on one hand, and seeing your living expenses and commitments such as school fees and house rent on the other. It is tormenting to see your kids watch other kids eat good food while they live on kaukau and biscuits because their parents cannot afford to buy good food.

Today, ten years later, I can testify that the eight-month ordeal has done us a lot of good. One important consideration for me is that if I had not been unemployed then, I would still be labouring for other people today. I would be using my time, talents, skills, knowledge and experience to make them rich at my expense.

I thank God for the pressure I went through then, which helped me to begin thinking about becoming self-employed. The prospect of getting evicted from the house we were living in, the children staying out of school and so on prompted me to really think hard about working for myself.
"Create Your Own Job If Nobody Gives You One" is the title to Chapter 11 of my book Success After Graduation. This title encapsulates the thoughts that came so forcefully to me at the time. The dominant thoughts were: "You better create your own job because nobody is going to give you one."  And I am glad I did.

Necessity is the mother of invention
I had the potential to make a living apart from depending on a salary. But as long as I worked for my employers, my mind was closed to the possibility of working for myself. It did not even enter my mind at all that I could survive without a salary.

When the salary got cut off and there was no hope of getting another job, my mind began to go to work. I started thinking about who I was, what I had in my hands and life, what I could do with what I had, etc. It was during this period of contemplation that my hidden potential, which had lain dormant all along, began to stir. I did not realize that I could live without a salary until I was pushed to the corner. It is said that, "Necessity is the mother of invention." I can testify that this saying is true.

The potential to do something for yourself, or be your own boss, definitely lies in everyone. It was in your ancestors, all of whom were self-employed. And it is in you. But as long as you depend on a job, that potential will lie dormant. Your potential is alive but is sleeping. The shock that comes with getting terminated or not having a job can awaken it.

The potential of human beings
American psychologist Professor William James has said this: "Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use."

Saint Augustine is said to have made this statement about human potential: "Man travels hundreds of miles to gaze at the broad expanse of the ocean. He looks in awe at the heavens above. He stares in wonderment at the trees and fields and mountains and the rivers and streams, and then he passes himself by without a thought. God's most amazing creation!"

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "What lies behind you and what lies before you pales into insignificance when compared to what lies within you."

What we can say is this: You have been designed for success; I have been designed for success; we all have been designed for success. Or as the Bible says, "We have been fearfully and wonderfully created." Do not believe the evolutionists. We are not a product of chance or of evolution. We did not come from monkeys. God created each one of us in His own image to live to the fullest and to live forever.

But even though all of us have the same make up regardless of the colour of our skin and cultural backgrounds, only a few succeed in realizing a greater measure of their potential while the majority throughout the world struggles all their lives. One of the main reasons for this is that most of us do not believe in ourselves. We live with an inferiority complex most of our lives.

Changed thinking is necessary for success
To realize a greater measure of your potential, a change in thinking is necessary.

Here is what Michael J. Lowe has stated in his book Mission Possible about how our thoughts and beliefs affect how successful we are in life: "If you are certain that something is impossible or beyond what you are capable of producing, your mind will immediately go into search mode to find reasons to support this particular belief...once a disempowering belief is entrenched within your subconscious mind, your brain will fail to even question its integrity. That is why so many people live within a prison of self-induced limitation. They are unaware of their own potential because they are prisoners of their databanks. Sadly, many people destroy their birthright of success because they consistently focus on what they cannot have or do, when the only thing actually worthy of their belief is why they can!"

Positively engineered, negatively geared
One of my favourite sayings is: "We are so positively engineered but are negatively geared." I coined this statement when preaching a sermon in the church on being positive about life, and I have repeated it at many gatherings because it is so true.

We have been engineered, constructed and wired to live prosperous and successful lives, but we normally live in defeat mainly because of the way we perceive ourselves. Every time something happens, our minds quickly imagine the worst possible that could happen. We quickly shift into reverse gear. We are quick at jumping to conclusions which are adverse against ourselves. We become fearful and worried. We think loss. We think defeat. We think death. We think we cannot do much or be somebody. We normally think and size ourselves by what we have been in the past and what we are at present, not in terms of what we can be in the future.

Have you noticed that in your own life? I have, and I struggle to deliberately think positively. As a Christian, I know the Bible says that everything works for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). This is a favourite verse for many people, but most of us struggle to see the good in every bad situation or circumstance. We usually focus and gaze at the negative so much that it overwhelms us.

A study was carried out in the United States involving thousands of people. Respondents were asked what their biggest fears were, or what worried them the most. A few months later the researchers returned and asked the same respondents whether what they had been worried about and feared had actually taken place. What they discovered was very interesting: Ninety percent of the people responded that the bad things they had worried about did not take place.

The researchers concluded that most of us worry unnecessarily. They also concluded that the majority of people live with a negative mindset most of their lives.

Motor vehicles are engineered to move forward
If you think of a motor vehicle, its makers have designed it to move forward at different speed levels. Most light vehicles today have five forward gears, but only one reverse gear. The reverse gear is only used for the purpose of positioning the vehicle so that it moves forward in the right direction. But essentially vehicles are engineered to move forward at different speed levels.

This is a good picture of man. We are so positively engineered. We possess the potential to succeed at anything we desire to achieve. As with vehicles, we are engineered to move in the five forward gears but the majority of us quickly shift into reverse gear most of the time. We are so negative about ourselves and our prospects. We view life with a negative mindset most of the time. For example, when we are faced with challenges, we wallow around our comfort zones or give up too easily. When we face setbacks, we give excuses why we should not press on, or we tend to look for people to blame.

No wonder we struggle to move forward in life. We attempt to move forward, but our minds are in reverse gear. Our faces and eyes may be looking forward, but our minds are looking backwards. So we actually remain stationary or move backward more than we go forward, because usually what we do and where we go is determined largely by where we are looking and what we see in our minds' eyes.

The need for survival exposes creative ability
People who do not have regular income or are pressed to the corner with needs become creative. If you look closely at how people in settlements conduct themselves, you will notice that they do the best with what they have. They are very industrious and creative. Nothing is useless. What well-to-do people throw away is useful to them. Their eyes and minds are more open because they do not know when their next meal is coming from. They can turn a piece of trash into treasure.

When you do not have a job and are faced with the pressures of life, I believe that the chances of you becoming creative and innovative are greater. Being employed induces a degree of complacency and mental laziness.

Employees comply with standard operating procedures
Most employees are not allowed to use their imaginations and creativity. Instead, they are expected and even compelled to follow established ways of doing things, technically referred to as standard operating procedures. These procedures were set in place by people who developed the systems.

Employees are so engrossed in following standard procedures that they do not think even about making improvements to those procedures. In any case, why should they? Whether they find ways to improve the ways of doing things or not, they still get paid. There is really no incentive to think of better ways, because the pay comes as long as they consistently follow the procedures.

The worse thing is that junior employees who intentionally or inadvertently improvise and take short-cuts to the established systems and achieve results get penalized by their superiors, who are usually employees themselves. These people are penalized not because they have not achieved the desired results doing things differently, but because they have not complied with standards procedures. So the system creates fear for creativity and reinforces the forces that work against innovation.

Some employees who have seen different ways of doing things but have not been allowed the freedom to do so by the established systems, have resigned and ventured out on their own. They have competed with their former employers by introducing improvements, and have usually succeeded. In fact that is another good thing about getting a job. You can learn about the business you are employed in, with a view to starting your own in future.

Let me conclude with this: You have a greater chance of realizing your potential when you work for yourself than when you work for others.

Next week's article is on the fact that when you are self-employed, you develop your natural instinct for survival. If you have any comments, email them to secos@global.net.pg or text me on (675)7688 0033 or (675)7280 4588.

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