Jenny: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
17th December 2015
Ei! It’s coming o! Eight days to Christmas, and the race is on to find the perfect gift for those you love. And you know what I’m going to say, don’t you? Give them a copy of Messages from the Morning Man. As a preview, here’s one of the 69 messages from the book. It’s called Jenny.
Have I ever told you about my older sister Jenny? She is eleven years older than me, and I have always looked up to her. Jenny is the Great Achiever of our family. She has a great career, great marriage, and the three greatest, most intelligent and best behaved children you’ll ever meet. In every sense of the word, our Jenny is a success, and as we all know, there is always a secret behind every success. Today, I want to tell you the secret behind my sister’s success.
For most of us, our sense of limitation is set at a very early age. We are told what we can and can’t do by our parents. The clothes we can wear, the friends we can bring home, the programmes we can watch on TV, all these decisions are made for us from an early age, and they tend to build in us an understanding of what people expect of us. Without planning to, we grow up conforming to these expectations. Are you surprised which of your classmates have turned out to be successful, and which ones haven’t? You could probably have predicted the futures of most of them way back in Primary school. We are born without an agenda, without a life plan or a trajectory. It is often what people expect us to be that we become. But not Jenny.
My sister defies expectation. All her life, people have told her what she can’t do. The schools she can’t get into, the courses she can’t read, the jobs she can’t get, the things she can’t afford. But whatever you tell Jenny she can’t do, that is exactly what she will do. They told her she couldn’t do well in class, so she aced her exams. They told her she couldn’t get into a good school, so she went to Wesley Girls. They told her she couldn’t afford to travel abroad, so she worked and bought her own ticket. They told her she couldn’t work AND study, while raising a family, so she went and got TWO Masters’ degrees. Every time you doubt her capabilities, it flips a switch in her brain, and that switch will not go off until she has comprehensively defied your expectation and proved you wrong.
Now, not all of us are like this. In fact, many of us internalise criticism. We find it hard to accept praise, but we believe every negative thing said about us. I still get self-conscious when I have to sing – even in church – because somebody once laughed at me when I hummed a tune. It’s just the way many of us are. The secret of Jenny’s success is that she has somehow evolved a different reaction to criticism. Unlike some of us, criticism has very little effect on Jenny’s self-belief, because people’s expectations of her will never be as big as her own expectations of herself.
In an ancient Shaolin Temple, a novice monk was thinking about quitting. He was tired of his fellow monks laughing at his Kung-Fu skills. Every time he made a mistake, they would take great pride in pointing it out and reminding him that he was not good enough. He packed his bag and went in search of his Master to bid him farewell. When he got to the Master’s chamber, there was a cup of water and two small bags of salt on the table. The old man emptied one bag of salt into the cup of water and asked the novice to drink it. The boy took one sip and spat it out. The old man smiled and stroked his beard. “How does it taste?” he asked.
The boy wiped his mouth and replied, “Very bitter, Shifu”
The master then took the boy down to the edge of the lake. He emptied the second bag of salt into the lake and asked the boy to drink from the lake. “How does it taste?” he queried for the second time.
“It tastes fine, Shifu”, was the boy’s response.
Master patted him on the shoulder and said, “When people doubt you, it is like pouring salt into water. How it affects you depends on whether you are a cup or a lake.
My friends, if we define our capabilities based on other people’s expectations, then we will never be bigger than cups. But if we set our own expectations higher than what the world sets for us, then we will always prove our critics wrong. Cup or lake, it’s all up to you.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and I hope I will always be better than you think.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!
(Messages from the Morning Man is available in all EPP and Challenge Book Stores, as well as the front desks of Joy and Luv FM. To buy in bulk as corporate gifts and hamper fillers, please call +233 242608824)