Socrates, the great philosopher, was sitting under a tree sunning himself after a huge meal when a young man approached him. “I have a problem,” he declared, bringing the great sage’s peaceful siesta to an end. “I can’t seem to succeed in life. Can you tell me the secret to success?”
Socrates glared at the young man for a long minute, running through a long mental menu of swear-words and invectives with which he might repel the noisome upstart and get back to his glut-induced snooze. But there was something in the face of the gormless young fellow that stirred some long-unused sentiment of sympathy in the great man’s chest and caused him to take a rather atypical action.
“Come with me”, the great thinker growled, as he rose from his comfortable nook under the breezy olive tree and headed down the hill towards the river. The young man followed. They got to the river, and Socrates just kept walking, straight into the river, clothes, sandals and all.
The chap paused for a moment, wondering whether the old savant had finally lost his marbles, but Socrates just kept going, so the man had no choice but to take off his sandals and tunic, and follow him into the cool water.
Socrates waded on into the deep, with the curious young man in tow, until the water was about their shoulders. Then suddenly, Socrates turned round, grabbed the young man by his neck, and ducked his head under the water.
The man was taken by surprise. What was going on? Was there something he was supposed to see under the surface? But the water was filthy, and he could see nothing. He tried to stand up straight and ask Socrates what this whole game was in aid of, but Socrates had an iron grip on his neck, and the man could not stand up. He started to panic.
He struggled and strained, but Socrates wouldn’t let him up for air. He tried to grab onto Socrates’ robes, but the old goat was smart as well as strong. He kept himself out of the man’s reach, and kept applying more and more pressure to his neck, keeping his now blue face permanently under the river’s surface. The man kept on struggling with everything he had. He flailed about, kicked, grabbed, pushed, shoved, dodged, dipped, dove, ducked and dodged some more, until eventually, the old man’s arm started to hurt, and he stepped off, letting the young lad up for air. Coughing, spluttering and swearing in several different dialects, the young man screamed at Socrates: “You almost killed me, you crazy fool! What’s the matter with you?”
Socrates smiled and stroked his spray-soaked beard. “Tell me, while you were under the water, what was the one and only thing on your mind?”, he asked the angry young man with a serene smile.
The man caught his breath after a few moments and said, “I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just wanted air”.
Socrates laughed and clapped the man on his water-soaked back. “That, my friend, is the secret to success. When you want success as badly as you want air, that is when you will get it.”
My friends, today, the lesson is simple. There are some things which you cannot do, no matter what – like turning into a helicopter, or sneezing gold nuggets out of your nostrils – but most of the things we aspire to achieve are completely doable. In most cases, others have done them before us. All we need to do is want it badly enough, and we can make it happen. When two people go after one goal, it is the one who doesn’t give up first, who wins it. Your dreams are exactly the same. If you want them badly enough, and you are willing to stay up as long as possible, learn as much as possible, work as hard as possible to achieve them, you will.
So take another look at where you are in life. Do you wonder why things aren’t going well? Does it feel like you just can’t get ahead? Perhaps it’s because you don’t really want to… well, you don’t want it enough, anyway. But the minute you start wanting it like you want air, there is nothing you won’t t do to get it.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and until I breathe the air above the surface, I will never stop climbing.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!