Driven by passion! Engineering lessons from China

Fear is a powerful emotion, albeit negative. Especially powerful is the fear of the unknown. Its only antidote is an equally if not more powerful emotion; passion. Else, fear is the most powerful obstacle an entrepreneur has to face and overcome in starting own business.
Sam Kebongo
Sam Kebongo

Fear is a powerful emotion, albeit negative. Especially powerful is the fear of the unknown. Its only antidote is an equally if not more powerful emotion; passion. Else, fear is the most powerful obstacle an entrepreneur has to face and overcome in starting own business.

As Dr. Michael Gordon says, ‘…feel the fear but do it anyway!’ You are concerned that you do not have adequate financial resources; you will lose money if the business fails, that you will risk your chosen career path among others.

These are all legitimate fears, but you must overcome them. We look at two engineering lessons from ancient and modern China.

The Great Wall of China is just as the name suggests, great. It is the only man-made feature visible from the moon. It runs 8,851.8km from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Lake in the west.

The wall covers a distance from Kigali to Tunis, Tunisia… and back. The wall was built for defensive purposes, from 5th century BC and still stands today. This was at a time when there were no forklifts, excavators and other heavy machinery! Very little detail is known about the actual construction itself.

It is said that up to a million workers were involved in the construction. The Wall’s very existence is a testament to the marvels of the human will.

Hangzhou bay bridge is one of the world’s longest maritime bridges. Initially, you had to drive for 400 kilometres from Ningbo to Shanghai. This is because of the drive took you round the Hangzhou bay.

There was need to shorten this route between China’s second busiest port and its major commercial centre of Shanghai. The construction of this bridge reduced this distance to just a two hour drive (184 km).

It took over 600 experts 10 years of planning before the work began in 2003. They had to consider how they would put in proper foundation in the seabed such that it would not be compromised by the salty sea water.

There was also the small matter of Typhoons and the annual tide that forces the Yangtze River delta to flow upstream and rises to a height of about 6 metres in some places.

These would potentially destabilize the bridge as well as have a negative environmental impact in the area and affect tourism. Then, just as work began, toxic methane gas (like Lake Kivu’s) was found under sea in some places only 50 metres below the sea bed.

The Hangzhou Transoceanic Bridge was completed in 2007 and has been operational since 2008. Its life span will be 100 years. It can take 52,000 vehicles per day in its six lanes.

These cases represent people treading uncharted territories; attempting the impossible and redefining it. Were they afraid? You bet! But they faced their fear. They confronted it and worked through it. What helped them do this was passion to succeed.

Passion, the powerful compelling emotion to succeed is the most important ingredient that you need to enable you to succeed in entrepreneurship and in cases in life where you have to take the uncharted territory and be the pathfinder.

When (not if) you want something so badly, you will get it. The passion will keep you focused on your goal and not on the obstacles (fear). It will enable you to size up obstacles and overcome them.

Entrepreneurship is about risk taking. Like Hangzhou Bridge it is about looking for success in the face of apparent impossibility through innovation. It is about trying and trying different ways till you succeed. It is about passion!

So, can you teach passion? Yes! You could by being an example of passion; going about our duties passionately or you could advise someone to fall in love!  As Malcolm X said; a man who has nothing to die for has nothing to live for.

Sam Kebongo teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. He also is a Director at Serian Ltd that provides skills and business advisory services consultancy. Email: sam.kebongo@gmail.com

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