Scores of students were gathering outside the lecture theatre long before the official meeting start. This was a rare opportunity and students in the Faculty of Arts and General Studies or FAGS for short, felt short changed and less than highly favoured. They didn’t know it at the time…they felt less than those in the Faculty of Social Sciences where courses in Management Studies were highly sought after. But their actions this morning showed. They didn’t realize that they were sending a strong signal to the head of the faculty that they really didn’t want to be in FAGS, that they were just looking for a pass to transfer to the more prestigious Management Studies courses. Everyone wanted to start at the head of the stream when they graduated. After all that’s why we came to the University.
When the door finally opened, there was a rush, a mighty rush that saw students scrambling over each other to fill up the waiting seats. So now there were hundreds of students waiting to get on the quota list for Management Studies courses. Wow…this was the only way to become marketable it seems. This was the only way to secure a job when we graduated in three years. Yes I was in the crowd too. I was an English Major but I wanted to be able to say “English Major with Management Studies.” Hmm that had a nice ring to it. Happily I secured a seat, about 10 or so rows from the back but not quite in the middle. How come the back was so empty? Because no one wanted to sit there duh? In fact students who were late – male and female – plopped themselves down IN THE FRONT of the lecture room. Yes they were making rows and rows in the front of the SEATS.
And so when Head of FAGS, Mr. Joseph Pereira came in and saw the multitude siting before him and he had little space to maneouvre to the blackboard he became enraged. He spewed rebukes when he surveyed the room and saw that there were empty seats in the back. Clearly these brilliant students squatting on the floor thought that this would be a numbering system and that the numbers most definitely couldn’t run out on those in the front, those under the lecturer’s nose, those up- in-your face students who didn’t care about their peers who had in fact arrived earlier and were seated. They were going to get on that quota list come hell or high water and nothing was going to stop them. That’s how the corporate world works isn’t it? Climb over others, shove them out of the way to get where you are going because your success is the only thing that matters.
Wise Mr. Pereira, with one fell swoop and a sharp sweep of the hand ordered them to get out of his face and marched them away to the seats in the back. He barked at them ever so harshly because he now knew they never really wanted to be in FAGS. But even more despairingly that these upstarts thought that there was only one way to be successful…get on a quota list for Management Studies courses.
“There is NO ONE ROUTE to success,” he said sternly when he assessed the situation before him. I made a note of those words in my head. In fact I engraved them there. They are among the gems that have kept me going through life.
I was happy to see him many years later, hold his hands and look in his eyes and let him know he had a profound impact on me that day. He didn’t seem to understand the depth nor the significance of the moment then. It just goes to show the power of words to change a moment, to change a mindset, to change a life.
And today, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the novel coronavirus that is wreaking havoc on the health system in every country, turning lives upside down, causing stress and strain in every sector, many are assessing the route they were taking to their future. We are on lockdown…in quarantine. Told to maintain social or physical distance and the future is now more uncertain than ever before.
What will leaders, the world over, be forced to do? An assessment of the current route is a must. Going where no one has ever gone before is the order of the day. Church leaders are exploring services online. Corporate companies are ramping up work from home facilities. Technology has come to the rescue yet there is need to build the mental and emotional capacity of those we lead to keep pace.
What route will we carve out for ourselves as we chase the elusive concept of success?
Share your thoughts on that new wave that you are now riding as the beacon shines on your journey.