By Patrick Achitabwino:
There are times the odds may be seen to be against you. You look around and see that your colleagues seem to have added advantages in everything they do. In general sense, all your strategies seem to be at the peripherals of failure. At such times, giving up seems a more possible option. After all, giving up is easy as it requires no effort.
Turn your eyes away from the meteoric rising of your compatriots. It is not them that can determine how you reach your destiny; it is how you collect bits of your competencies and use them to your advantage that can make a difference.
The year 1960 had little promise for Indian athlete Milkha Singh. At the hostile environment in Lahore, Pakistan, the Pakistan President General Ayub Khan was witnessing an Indo Pak Meet he had organised. Thousands of his country men and women had filled the stadium to give morale to their outstanding athletes. India’s Milkha Singh was there and had to compete in 200 meters against the iconic Pakistan athlete Abdul Khaliq whose tremendous new record of 10.6 seconds in 100 meters race at the Asian Games in manila saw Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru christen him ‘the flying bird of Asia.’
Milkha Khan had to face Abdul Khaliq the flying bird of Asia who had beaten him more than once in international races. Further beyond, Khaliq was enjoying a distinguished career in athletics. On top of winning gold in Manila, he was won gold and set records in Tokyo in 1958 and even at the first Indo Pak meeting in Dehli, India, Milkha Singh’s homeland, in 1956. Khaliq was in all measures a mountain impossible to climb by Milkha Singh.
Was Milkha Singh fazed by the successes of Khaliq? No. He had respect for Khaliq but opted to concentrate on what he himself was better at and that he capitalised on. In front of thousands of spectators in Pakistan watching in the stadium and millions more glued to radios in Pakistan and his homeland India, Milkha Khan defeated the revered flying bird of Asia. Pakistan came to a standstill; the impossible had happened.
How did Milkha Singh perform such a miracle? He himself answers: “When the race began Khaliq took an initial lead as he was a 100 meters sprinter. My strength was my stamina and I overtook him at 150 yards and won the race by about seven yards.”
Even the Pakistan President General Ayub had no choice but to salute Milkha Khan and he said, “Milkha, you did not run, you flew.” From that moment Milkha Khan was given the title of the ‘The Flying Sikh.’
It is imperative that you appreciate that others may have considerable advantages but that does not make them unbeatable in other areas. It is in those areas that you must show your prowess. The humble and ever smiling director of technical and membership services at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi did the power of the flying Sikh philosophy at a tender age.
In those years, national secondary schools were a great pride where only the cream of students were selected to and were admired. Those that were considered less intelligent would take the Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE) route where they used teaching materials called ‘sets.’ You needed to have great courage to walk with sets on the streets.
Young Chimpeni had to go through the sets route. Those with sets were dubbed ‘akalulu’ and it was a demeaning term. But from the same sets and akalulu education, Charles Chimpeni made it to the Polytechnic where he pursued a degree. The reality is that not all those that were considered bright and selected to national secondary schools eventually ended up being selected to colleges.
Chimpeni capitalised on the power of the wealth of knowledge in the sets. Further beyond, the subject ‘principles of accounts’ was not common in national secondary schools but MCDEs and had a well written set. It is that great knowledge of accounts that gave Chimpeni an extra edge when he was in the university and even as he went further to become a chartered accountant.
Chimpeni recalls: “You could not even chat with girls from national secondary schools; their boys would mock you that you are kalulu. It was painful but I eventually made it to the Polytechnic of the University of Malawi”
Never overlook on your competencies; they are raw diamond only in need of polishing up. Look at opportunities and tell yourself with unwavering conviction, ‘I am the flying me.’