How I Missed MTN’s Surprise Package – By Manasseh Azure Awuni

When the Master of Ceremony, Mr Kafui Dey of “Who Wants to be Rich?” fame, announced that MTN had surprise packages for some lucky people, I started cursing my stars for not dropping my call card when I registered.

When I arrived at Movenpick Ambassador Hotel that morning, I saw a bowl of call cards on the table where I registered. I saw a few people drop their cards but I didn’t have mine. I actually did not come there with a call card. And I did not see the need to drop one. What for?

Those being dropped were cards with weight: contacts that could be followed up and lead to the signing of heavy contracts. And who will be interested in mine: the card that bore only my name and “Reporter” as the portfolio? “How many of the CEOs would be interested in the call card of a reporter?” This was the question I brushed off as I joined the high profile business executives, who were sipping coffee, fidgeting with their Blackberry phones or working magic with their Ipads, the latest fad in town.

It was the 4th MTN Business World Executive Breakfast Meeting, and the boy from Hon. Albert Abongo’s Bongo Constituency was handed a complimentary ticket, thanks to the kindness of MTN. The meeting was dubbed “Getting Your Finances Right” and the speaker was no less a person than Sharon Lechter, a co-author of the international bestseller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Sharon Lechter, who is an internationally acclaimed financial educator and author, also served on President George Bush’s financial advisory team.

So the organisers could not have settled on a more appropriate person. And she came with her husband, who interposed midway through her delivery with some practical insights. They are into the same trade. Call them the American version of Albert and Comfort Ocran and you’re more than right.

For a young man about to establish a career, Sharon Lechter’s delivery was very revealing. This was because I could relate most of the things she said to myself. It was as if she was talking to me. I’ll tell you why.

She talked about financial independence and suggested that Ghana should consider introducing financial literacy into our educational curricular. She talked about how to get rich, but unlike those who only emphasise savings and investment, she went further to talk about how to have a successful career with emphasis on one’s personal equation as:

([Passion+Talent] X Association + Action) + Faith = Your Personal Equation.

Back in Krachi Senior High School, I studied the wrong course. I did Business Accounting instead of General Arts. I managed to pass even my Elective Mathematics, but if you fear Maths than I, then you qualify for a place in the Guinness Book of Records. I can read and write all day, but put figures before me and my poor head will begin to throb as if it is playing host to a retinue of agbadza drummers paying homage to Awomefia at a royal durbar.

But the above equation should not scare us even if we hate calculations. Let’s forget about the addition and multiplication signs and concentrate on the variables:

In life you ought to have passion for your chosen career. I used to think money was the motivating factor until I got a job immediately after school. I resigned and went back to journalism, where I was bound to receive less than I was being paid in my former job. The difference was that I had passion for journalism, which also gave me the opportunity to express my talent, the second variable in the equation.

Yes, journalism is a talent. Education enhances that talent and sharpens the rough edges for responsible practice. So I listened to Lechter with keen interest because she seemed to reinforce the fact that I had made the right decision.

The third variable in the equation is Action, which I think I had done enough. I started contributing to the media two weeks after I gained admission into the Ghana Institute of Journalism and have not looked back. I even established my own monthly newspaper, the Secondary Times, for students of senior high schools. It became the toast of students but I had to fold up after four editions because of resource and time constraints. Action is important. With enormous talent and passion, if you fail to take a step, you’ll forever be where you are.

She also talked about Association. In business or whatever endeavour you choose for yourself, you cannot operate in a vacuum or on a lonely island. You need others. You need contacts and connections. And you need to make good use of them to succeed. I recognised my weakness here, for I’m yet to learn how to make good use of my contacts.

The last element in the personal success equation is faith. The bible teaches us in Romans 14:23 that whatever we do without faith is a sin. That aside, we need faith to excel. People may give you a hundred reasons why you are bound to fail in your endeavour. But apart from God, no-one knows you better than yourself. People will either overate or underrate you. But you alone know what you’re made of and faith in yourself is what will carry you far in your career.

Sharon Lechter did not only talk about making money. Her delivery, especially the latter part of it, subtly but powerfully gave a great insight into how to live a purposeful life. That aspect was summarised in two powerful quotes by Napoleon Hill: “The richest persons are those who give the most in service to others,” and, “Remember that real wealth can be measured not by what you have, but what you are.”

I have always maintained that no matter how high and mighty one becomes in life, there comes a day when all that will not matter. And while that piece of useless clay awaits to be dumped somewhere, a host of dishonest people will gather around to read beautifully crafted poetic fiction to eulogize the deceased, even if he or she was the devil’s direct grandchild. But the real tribute is often in the hearts of the people affected by your actions or inactions while you still had breath.

That encounter with Sharon Lechter, I’m sure, was like the ten blind men who felt the elephant and went back to give varied descriptions based on which part of the huge animal’s body they touched. Someone may not have enjoyed the session; others might have enjoyed more than I. But my disappointment came after the presentation.

The MC announced that MTN had surprise packages for some lucky persons at the function. MTN had three Blackberry phones and an Ipad to give away for free. IMPC also had one iphone to give away for free. When I saw the MC clutching the bowl containing the call cards, however, my soul sank.

The Member of Parliament for Evalue-Gwira Constituency, Hon. Catherine Afeku, was called to pick the winning call cards after they were shuffled. If your name was mentioned, you would walk away with a Blackberry or iphone. Even though I needed these items badly, I did not regret for not dropping my card because I’m never lucky with lottery.

When I was to ballot for residential accommodation last semester, I told the friend I was walking with that I would not get because I had never been lucky with balloting. And true to my word, I picked “No.” I was so desperate that I decided to go with other students, who did not want accommodation but were eligible to ballot. If they picked “Yes”, they would give it to me to register in my name. But all the three of them picked “No”. So I knew I would not be lucky with another balloting.

The biggest surprise, however, was that the most precious item at stake that morning was not balloted for.

The Ipad was handed over to one Rev. Dan Tagoe without balloting. The reason was so simple. He was the first person to arrive at the function. The programme was billed to start at 8:30am, but he was there at 7:00 am.

This was where I started cursing myself. I have always wanted a Blackberry, an iphone or ipad. And here was a cheap way of getting one without months of saving.

The programme reminded me of the need to adhere to time. Since I started practising journalism, I started disregarding time on programmes. This is because any programme you’re assigned to cover often starts with an apology for starting late. Some programmes start as late as three hours after the scheduled time.

I’m not sure I’m alone in this. But this MTN surprise package, which I lost painfully, has thought me that it pays to adhere to time. And I think Rev. Tagoe got this surprise package not because he had nothing else to do that morning. It may be his habit of strictly adhering to time. And that paid off greatly this morning.

He is, perhaps, one of those few and disciplined Ghanaians who have no respect for the so-called Ghanaian Time. You and I must change our attitude to time, not only to win ipads. We may pay dearly for being Ghanaian with time.

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