In the footsteps of giants

A few weeks back, I came across a TEDx video on YouTube by Tai Lopez. The title was extremely intriguing; “Why I read a book everyday (and why you should too)”. I must confess that I really love books and endeavor to read a new book every month.

A few weeks back, I came across a TEDx video on YouTube by Tai Lopez. The title was extremely intriguing; “Why I read a book everyday (and why you should too)”.

I must confess that I really love books and endeavor to read a new book every month. However, the prospect of reading a new book every day seemed outright impossible!


After watching Tai Lopez’s video, my attention was drawn away from the intriguing title to the substance of the video; how to get “the good life”.


Looking back in history, mentorship was always a way of life. Sons of fishermen became fishermen and those of blacksmiths worked metal just like their fathers before them.


The advent of modern education in trying to provide a level field to all inadvertently destroyed the tradition of passing down skills by way of apprenticeship.

Today with only a few exceptions, it’s not unusual for children to know nothing about what their parents do beyond memorizing their job titles or workplace addresses.

This creates a peculiar problem for the youth who are lucky enough to have successful parents; they would love to drive the fancy car and live in the beautiful house but they can’t see how to get there on a salary of Rwf500,000!

Things are only made worse when these same youth are reminded that they have had an easier ride to where they are; no bare-footed 15km walks to school, three free meals a day, and all school answers are on Google!

Steve Jobs, the iconic founder of the tech giant Apple, once said that “it’s impossible to connect the dots forward”. What he meant was that however smart you are, there is no way of working out what you need to do as a 20 year old to get where you want to be in the future.

It is essentially a ‘try and error’ business. All you can do is either try out many things till you find what works or stick to one thing till it works out. To do the latter you need to be both exceptionally gifted and persistent.

A few people with the two traits come along every generation and they are known across the world; that’s where great scientists, artists and sports personalities belong. The average person, on the other hand, is going to have to try out many different things before enjoying a taste of durable success.

The secret sauce to perseverance on this uncertain path is mentorship.

A mentor is ideally a person old enough to be your parent (or at least 15-20 years older) that has achieved some things in their life that you aspire to.

The mentor must understand the needs of the person who they are mentoring and be willing to spare time regularly to meet them.

The relationship is two-way and it is critical that the mentor finds value in spending time with their ’apprentice’.

Mentorship has the reward of creating a legacy for the mentor that can be seen through the passing on of knowledge attributed to them by their ‘apprentices’.

The future success of the young people one has mentored is always a source of pride and is possibly the greatest gift in old age.

Who initiates the mentoring relationship?

While it’s common for elders to take a keen interest in promising youth, mentorship works best when the younger person identifies who they want to be their mentor.

It may take a bit of shopping around to find someone who is willing to spare their time but the rewards of having a compatible mentor make up for whatever time is spent on finding them.

Successful parents (for those who have them) may seem like an obvious choice but the emotional connection may blur the relationship. Most parents believe that pushing their offspring to be go-getters is helpful in toughening them up. However, the average young adult already feels enough societal pressure ‘to be someone’ and, as such, they need people who will create perspective for their challenges and remind them that everything takes time.

The work you put in today will only bear fruit 10-15 years down the road.

The 24-hour news culture and the explosion of social media have created the illusion that there is such a thing as ‘instant success’. That is a myth that needs to be attacked and destroyed ruthlessly.

The mushrooming of sports betting shops is a symptom of the belief that you can ‘strike it rich’ by watching sports all day! Indeed you will be hard-pressed to find a ‘moto’ rider on a Saturday afternoon with a live premiership match being broadcast; such is the ambition of some of our youth today!

The youth must believe that the bright future envisioned by the leadership of this country is theirs for the taking and set out to work on their big personal dreams regardless of their current circumstances.

Only a generation ago, the majority of Rwandan people in their fifties now lived as youthful refugees across the world. If you dared tell them then that in 30 years’ time they would be looking at peaceful retirement in their homeland, many would have cursed you as one just making fun of their plight!

In the words of Steve Jobs, you can never connect the dots forward…”

The author is a consultant and trainer specializing in finance and strategy. He lives in kigali.

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