Today, I have three stories of three people to motivate you. Introducing Joanne, Raymond, and Patrick.
Let’s start with Joanne. As a child, she had dreamed of becoming a writer, but by age 31, things were not looking good. Her mother had died, her husband had divorced her, and the best job she had held thus far was a stint as a bilingual secretary for Amnesty International.
But that didn’t last either. Joanne now found herself in her thirties, a jobless single mother who had to rely on state benefits to feed her child. She was extremely depressed, and very often, contemplated suicide. Does Joanne’ story motivate you? No?
Ok, let’s try Raymond. Now, he never contemplated suicide, but he did live a fairly unremarkable life devoid of any sort of accomplishment for fifty years. Raymond didn’t dream of a particular career as a child, but he did dream of being rich. Try as he might however, Raymond simply couldn’t seem to make this happen for himself. He spent the first five decades of his life trying to make it in different careers, including soldier, jazz pianist, Radio DJ, and paper cup salesman.
He even worked in a restaurant for no salary, choosing to be paid with food and lodging instead. One day, Raymond woke up to discover that he was 50 years old, working as a soda machine salesman, with no prospect of ever becoming rich. Raymond’s story doesn’t inspire you either? Wow. Tough crowd.
Ok, how about Patrick? Now, he was actually a millionaire by the age of 37! He was working with a big software company, and raking in some serious dough. He was married, had just had a kid, and in spite of being African, was living the American dream.
So why was he so miserable? Why did he feel so unfulfilled? What on earth could cause a man, who had made millions applying the skills of his profession, to feel like he had been wasting his time and potential? In spite of his bank balance, Patrick wondered whether he wasn’t actually a failure. Let me guess: Patrick’s story doesn’t do it for you either, does it? Well, I confess I’m not surprised. I only told you the first halves of these three people’s stories.
Here are the second halves. Joanne fought her depression long enough to finish her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which made her the richest living author, creator of a 15 billion dollar brand, and a household name that you and I know as JK Rowling.
Raymond, after failing at everything he ever tried, eventually met two brothers who owned a restaurant. After developing and promoting the brothers’ business into a chain of extremely popular eateries, Raymond Kroc bought the business from them for 2.7 million dollars, and grew it
into the world’s biggest fast food chain, McDonalds.
As for Patrick, his true calling continued to elude him until one day, he read a quote from Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it — begin it now.” That was the moment he realised that his destiny was to change the world by transforming the future leaders of his home country from rote-learning robots into critical-thinking creators. He pushed the reset button, went back to school for a Master’s Degree, uprooted his entire family from their comfortable existence in the United States, and brought them home to Ghana, where, in 2002, at the age of 37, Patrick Awuah established Ashesi University.
All three stories are about people who were relatively advanced in life by the time they achieved their dreams. It appeared to be too late for them, but in spite of life’s disappointments, they never gave up on their dreams, and when the opportunities finally came, it didn’t matter whether they were 30 or 50 – they grabbed the ball and ran with it.
Dr. Patrick Awuah turns 50 this year. As we celebrate the life and achievements of this truly great African, his story – and those of the world’s great achievers – reminds us all that even if life diverts us from the path of our dreams, we can always find a new dream at the end of our new path, and as long as we keep striving, it’s never too late.