“Our society doesn’t prepare us for failure and that is wrong.” – Kwame Sarpong Asiedu
My first decade was uneventful but one thing was drummed in, you cannot fail. So right from the start, I was primed to be competitive. At the end of that decade, I took my Common Entrance Examination and ended up in Adisadel College a choice I couldn’t fail at.
My second decade saw me mostly in Cape Coast where I took my Ordinary Level with one option only “Adisco or suicide” as we used to say. Since death wasn’t an option, I returned to “The Hill” for my final two years.
This decade saw my first confrontation with failure if I could call it that. My A’ Level results were withheld, a situation I wasn’t prepared for. My initial response was horror, then disgust and finally apprehension. Fighting through and confronting WAEC, I eventually got my results but not after I had lost a year through litigation.
Thus, I entered my second decade in 1992 jaded and mistrusting of officialdom at a time when Ghana was entering democracy. University beckoned and that came with confrontation. There was a disconnect between what my family aspired for me and what my ambitions drove me to. This confrontation made me reject Medicine for Pharmacy.
Enter my third decade. That was my first confrontation with real failure. My first relationship failed whilst midway through my undergraduate education. This crushed me and made me realise I was never prepared for failure. Truth is, our society doesn’t prepare us for failure and that is wrong.
Towards the end of my third decade, I had failed repeatedly, mostly in relationships and social aspects. Yes, academically and professionally I was still flying. I had qualified as a Pharmacist and was a Lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology by age 27.
My third decade again came with its own spectacular failures. Everything simply failed. However, it proved to be my learning curve.
This was when I began to learn the value of failing. I began to learn what the phrase “batten down the hatches” meant. I had to learn to accept failure and use that as a fulcrum to rebuild. By my fortieth birthday which I never celebrated, I knew my scares were going to be the genesis of my rebirth.
Ten years from that day, I don’t know where the time has gone. In the last ten years, I have failed more than I wish I had. On this day as I turn 50, I am more proud of how often I have failed and my scares than the little success, I may have achieved.
Bring on the next 50-years, I will fail more but in doing so, my failure will become my library for giving back to society. The key is to fail, learn and improve quickly. I may have turned 50 today and that’s great but my focus is on telling my failure stories so others can learn from my missed steps.
For all who have reveled and pleasured in the fact that I can fail and felt that will epitomise me, thanks but no thanks. You made me stronger because you made me learn that failure ain’t the determinant of a human’s destiny. In your small way, you have helped me get this far.
As I enter my sixth decade, I can only say, I appreciate you all. Thanks for being part of this journey…
Days, after my appointment was confirmed as a lecturer in the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at KNUST, I had a close shave with death. I was driving from St Michael’s Hospital Pramso where I lived with my brother Menronz to Kumasi. We were using separate cars which wasn’t the norm.
Just as we approached Pramso, it started to rain heavily making the driving conditions horrendous. This required careful defensive driving. Just as I approached the brow of a hill around Abidjan Nkwanta, I saw to my horror a motorbike at a top speed overtaking a convoy of vehicles and approaching me head-on.
I had no time to react and even if I did my choices were grime. It was either I swerved into the convoy or went off the road into a ditch. Both choices were a recipe for disaster. Suddenly, everything went into slow motion as the biker lost control, climbed my bonnet, smashed my windshield and somersaulted. How I managed to avoid the convoy with airbags inflated, I still don’t know.
When my vehicle came to a halt, the health professional in me said I should go to the aid of the biker though I had injured myself and was bleeding. Fortunately, I didn’t have to as the convoy was that of the Ashanti Regional Minister and DCE from Bosomtwie returning from a funeral. They reassured me and took over the responsibility of providing first aid for us. Ironically, my mother who was then Director of Education for the District was in that convoy too.
My car was wrecked and the extent of my injuries was unknown. We were both rushed to St Michael’s Hospital where the biker later died. I was struck with grief for a person who hours ago had recklessly tried to end my life. At no point did I feel bitterness towards him or the losses I had incurred.
Looking back I learnt two things
1. A human can fail even when they are trying their best to stay safe. It is not in our gift to always predict failure.
2. In life even when you have the right of way, you should have your defences up so should failure come, you stand a better chance at restarting.
This is one of the useful lessons my decade of failure taught me, the art and craft of failing forward whilst still remaining human.