Name Your Price: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
27th Jan 2016
Some of you may remember that last year, I told you a story about a strange, unexpected encounter that taught me a great deal about myself.
Basically, I was running some errands one day, when I suddenly had the need to use the washroom, so I stopped at a petrol station. I got to the counter just before two ladies who were there to ask for the washroom key as well, but since I got there first, the key was given to me.
As we walked round the building to find the loo, I was bursting with the urgency of my need of the facility, but I still remembered what my mother taught me, and offered them the key first. One of them, who appeared to have recognised me when I was dancing from one foot to the other in discomfort at the counter, said, “Oh thanks Kojo, but we can wait. It seems you need it more urgently than we do”.
With absolute gratitude, I stepped into the washroom, lifted the lid of the WC and almost threw up. It was disgusting! Someone had just resolved their diarrhoea issues all over the inner walls of the loo, and had not bothered to clean up after themselves. The state in which they had left this public facility was just disgraceful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so nauseating in my life. Who could have done such a thing? But my bladder needs were too pressing for me to stand around contemplating profound questions, so I unzipped and did my business.
Just as I turned to exit, a thought struck me: what if those two ladies came in after me and thought I was the one who left this horrible mess? The very thought of anyone thinking I could do such a thing made me want to throw up again. Sure, I may never see the two ladies again in my life, but they would live THEIR whole lives under the impression that I was a filthy animal with no potty training.
I looked around frantically and spotted what used to be a white toilet brush. It now had flecks of brown in the bristles, and what looked disturbingly like blood on the half-melted handle. I insulated my palm with a thick wad of toilet roll, grabbed the monstrous brush and scrubbed that WC clean before I left.
Later, in the car, as I drenched my hands in industrial quantities of hand-sanitizer, I realised something. My reputation is extremely valuable to me. I have worked hard for it, and so there’s not much I wouldn’t do to protect it.
I also found myself comparing my attitude to that of some other public figures. I ran through a mental list of musicians, actors, professors, journalists, MPs, ministers, government appointees, who had been so careless with their reputations, and found themselves embroiled in scandal. It occurred to me that they may not all have placed the same value on their names as I just did, otherwise they would certainly have avoided whatever circumstances had lead to the besmirching of their reputations.
It also occurred to me that nobody else can ever place a higher value on your own reputation as you can. In spite of the hard work I have put into building my reputation as an honest person, it takes no time at all for people who don’t know, and have never met me, to call me a liar. But that’s where having a good name becomes useful, because no matter what names people may call you, if you have invested in a solid reputation, it will always speak louder than the loudest false witness.
But then again, we are all human. We all make mistakes, and not everyone in the world has the benefit of the epiphany I’d had that afternoon. But you my dear friend, have just heard, or read this message, so let me ask you two simple questions:
1. What is your name?
2. What is it worth to you?
The higher the value you place on your name, the more you will do to keep it clean. Like the Bible says in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is better than riches”. So there is no amount of money in this world that would be worth selling my good name.
My friends, however rich you are, however powerful you may be, there is nothing you own that is worth more than your reputation. Every day, you will be faced with several opportunities to choose between good character and material gain. Each time you choose material gain, you’re actually making yourself poorer, because you’re selling the only asset that never loses value, ion exchange for one that definitely will.
My name is Kojo Yankson; just look how hard I work for my money. Now imagine how much harder I would work for my reputation.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!