Fear is one of the oldest, strongest and hardiest of emotions. Greatness is either motivated by inspiration or desperation; fear or faith. Fear has stopped and immobilized many who had dreams of greatness. It has also inspired many and jolted many out of complacency. It is easy to sleep when you are not afraid. It is difficult to stand still when you are afraid. Elsewhere I have written about fear as an enemy. However, in this installment I exhort you to embrace the positive elements of fear and use it as a powerful motivator. I learnt this lesson from Cosmas.
Cosmas grew up in the squalor of Makokoba in Bulawayo. His father had little means, a huge family and an ever growing extended family. Cosmas was always late for school. No amount of threats, punishment or reprimands helped the situation. He was deemed helpless in that respect by his teachers and prefects at Mzilikazi High School. They just did not understand something that he shared with me when we met and became friends at University of Zimbabwe (UZ). One day, almost out of tone Cosmas burst out: “Fear motivates me; I will go places.” Before I could rebuke him for being negative he continued, “I do not want to go back there where I grew up and I am too afraid to be complacent at anything I do!” He was not yet done and went on to relate his story and the power of fear as a motivator for him. He feared going back to live like a sardine. He feared having nothing to eat. He feared always having to dress in hand me downs. He feared dying uncelebrated, limited and maimed. He was too afraid of where he had come from that he could not tolerate laziness.
As we walked from the UZ library towards Manfred Hodson Hall of Residence, I listened patiently as Cosmas related how his mother passed away when he was in the fifth grade. Although his father worked hard, he had a huge family and many responsibilities and earned little. He soon had a step mother who was a diligent but also a poor home maker. There was always little to eat or wear and his fees were always paid late if no relief came from elsewhere. He never had a complete uniform. By the time he went to Secondary School, he knew that this was not the situation that he would want his own children to grow up in. A deep fear engulfed him and spurred him. He was determined to do all he could to get an education and help his siblings and lift himself out of poverty. He hatched a simple plan. He would start selling newspapers. Everyday he would wake up before 5.00 am to stand by the traffic lights and sell newspapers. He would be selling newspapers until about 8.00 am, when most people would start work. From there he would run to school and was sure to arrive after 8.30 am. He knew what waited for him daily, likely punishment for late-coming because school started at 7.30 am or punishment for not having a correct uniform item. Usually he would join the rest of the pupils in class at break time onwards or if he was lucky from 9.00 am. It was a daily but determined grind. He did not enjoy the process but he had to make a little money to ensure his fees were paid and there was some food at home. It was not an easy life for the young, but determined Cosmas. He was too afraid of what complacency could do for him that he faithfully kept his routine until he passed his A-levels and got a place at UZ. For him fear was a positive driver not an enemy. He would keep repeating that he was too afraid of his past that he would push for greatness by all means and for sure he did. He had tasted his past, he did not like its bitter taste. He strove for more.
While we were at University he took up severals part time jobs that paid him. After lessons he worked, with whatever he could find he helped get his siblings through school. When we graduated, he already had a job and had taken some lodgings in Warren Park. He was already fathering his siblings. In a few months he came by showing me his new Mazda 323. From there he was a bullet and today works for one of the leading IT organizations in the US as a Senior Vice President.
Fueled by fear, Cosmas is unstoppable and he does not want to go back to rags again. You too may have seen yesterday and its scary. Now fall in love with your dreams of tomorrow and use today with all the power and energy that you have. If you do not run, and run fast your fears will catch up with you and your complacency will trip you. Now run for your life, like Cosmas.
To your greatness!