The Sunday Mail
Hunt for Greatness
You become what you think about. History gives you thinking raw materials and tools. Critical thinking helps you understand the thing, behind the thing, which is the thing. Worlds of thought weave the works that we are taught. Look closely at history to understand trends of thought.
What you think is affected by what you know, your angle of view and your blind spots. Widen your perceptual view, and enrich your thinking by taking a wide angle view of history. Study your own history to ground yourself in the realities of your context and culture.
Study the history of the world, to gain a granular understanding of current affairs, world events and the big agendas that are shaping the world. When you study history you understand more clearly that neutrality, and objectivity are myths, and mindsets and narratives are shaped. Study economic history and you will broaden you understanding of money, wealth, and capital. Lessons of history do not disappear from your reading list because you are too busy to learn them. What you know is influenced by your appreciation of history. Every school should teach history. Do not learn the history of others while forgetting to learn your own history. When you do not know history you easily become a shell without a soul, a rebel without a cause, a spirit without a body and a voice without conviction or a coherent message.
History is a living and inspiring subject that teaches you how to think critically, see multi-dimensions and evaluate the information that is presented to you. Teachers who teach history as a dead subject and that do not inspire critical reflection should consider an early career change. History grows daily and matures with time. History keeps revealing shades about the past that you could have never imagined existed. Depth is relative, and deepening your study of history will illuminate your path and challenge your faith.
We read history not as it is but as we are. What you are hearing today is never the whole story nor the sole voice. No one author of history owns the full story. What you are seeing is not all that is happening. Take the study of history seriously and you will deepen your wisdom and improve the quality and sobriety of your decisions. The lessons of history are not limited in application or relevance.
When you make decisions, invest in a little more thinking by taking a little more account of history. If you do not think deeply about history before a decision, you may have a lot to think about afterwards when you are history. History will help you reflect with context, patience and sobriety. You can rush to get to the future, but history cannot be rushed.
Do not think forever, do think and then act with resolve. As you think guard against the herd mentality, whereby you just do what others are doing and sing the chorus that others are mindlessly singing. History teaches us that new songs may not always be new messages; new clothes are not new hearts.
History punishes parrots with consequences that rhyme with the past. Think about the past because it has the mould that shaped the present. Never think you own the present, especially without the benefit of hindsight and gaining a good grasp of the past. Until you understand what motivates people, you will be frustrated by their illogical actions that seem not to tally squarely with your picture of the world. Critical thinking is a rare commodity. History always acts with a hard heart and harsh hand against the arrogant. Think about the present despite that it is usually emotionally charged. History helps you think a little more clearly and increases your self-awareness. History helps you develop emotional intelligence if you are willing to internalise its lessons.
Head knowledge is important but it is never sufficient. Memorising dates alone is not a mastery of history. Thinking critically is important and acting intelligently is even more important. The study of history prompts you to develop the emotional intelligence, stamina and depth of character to navigate towards greatness.
Greatness without emotional intelligence is a hollow victory. Greatness is not an easy walk in the park without challenges that easily take an emotional toll on you. It is not what you build that matters but what gets built in you in the process. As you study history, your mind stretches a little more. Intelligence helps you acquire and apply knowledge and skills, while emotional intelligence gives you the ability to deal with other people with wisdom, emotional maturity and sobriety. Emotional intelligence helps you not to just think with your emotions, but to take level headed action even in moments of intense emotional pressure or pleasure.
Daniel Goleman, has done a lot of work and written extensively on the subject of emotional intelligence. You cannot get the equation of greatness right when you miss out emotional intelligence. Goleman explains that there are five key elements of emotional intelligence, namely self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.
Always think critically about the future by taking time to appreciate the lessons of history. Self-awareness means that you know and understand yourself better and understand how you interact with others. Self-regulation means that you are able to direct your own behaviour and stay motivated despite life’s roller coasters. Life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent what you decide to do regarding that which happens. You could express this in this way: Life is 10 percent what happens and 90 percent the way you choose to behave. One of the lessons of history is that you will have to account in soberly for whatever you did when you were emotionally charged and driven by irrational behaviours.
With a good appreciation of history, think about the future because you will soon be living in it. Read biographies and you will grow. On the stage of life, casts change, costumes change, dates change but history seldom changes her playbooks and storyline. Studying history improves your strategy, and helps you read the gambits at play. Think seriously about those that you are dealing with especially if they have a historical record that is worth understanding and noting. Never forget that someone is always watching and the drama of life is always in full glare.
Reading history will help you to connect the dots. It helps make the links that you need to understand confusing events and twisted narratives. On June 12, 2005 Steve Jobs gave a speech at a graduation ceremony at Stanford University. In the speech he said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Look at the lessons of history to help you connect the dots and make the links to give meaning to events, strategy and behaviour. History is a living subject, sometimes about dead people.
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and growth mentor. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: [email protected] and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634. His website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com