Posted: Monday 9th June 2014 at 7:31 am

Why Rome Was Built But Not In A Day

1cdd298099536 666461 Why Rome Was Built But Not In A DayWe love to quote the saying “Rome was not built in a day” but we fail to remember that Rome was eventually built, and it must have been so magnificent that when people admired it, they were told that it didn’t happen in just a day. The question, then, is: if Rome was not built in a day, how was it built? Answer: It was built everyday.

I started my career with Unilever Ghana in June 2000 and one of my early influences in the Tema outfit was a tall white Zimbabwean who looked very much like Abraham Lincoln and this resemblance must have affected how he inspired, even if in a subtle way. He was our HR Director.

Norman Swanepoel made it a point to share a provoking message, either via song or word, at every company-wide briefing; town hall meeting, I believe we called them. The entire workforce, from the Board to the lowest grade of unionised staff, attended. These nuggets from Norman touched me greatly as a young assistant manager in his mid-20s.

Today, I woke with one of the song Norman loved playing on my mind, titled “Proud”. The main line in the song was “What have you done today to make you feel proud?” Norman asked us to reflect on this song everyday as managers and as Ghanaians, to question ourselves before we retired to bed what we had done in the day to make our company, our country and our lives better, for which we were proud.

When I schooled for a year in Nottingham, what struck me was the realisation that anytime I went to the city centre, some work was going on and by the next time I went, it would have been done and another started. Sometimes, road repairs would happen overnight, a tramline would have been laid where it wasn’t before, little projects but then, almost unperceivably, the city centre was changing before my eyes. Building Nottingham, just like Rome, a day at a time.

The one-day-at-a-time concept, little steps for which one can be proud, is one key lesson I picked from Norman. It was Confucius who said that “be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still” and that reflects for me how Rome was built: slowly but surely. However, once there is forward movement, incremental momentum builds and acceleration ensues.

Nkrumah declared that we faced neither East nor West but we faced forward. But, see, we can face forward and just look at the horizon. Sometimes, as I think of Ghana, I am tempted to believe that we kept looking East and West and never made up our minds, so we just stood still. And I have countless examples of sectors in our economy and nation building where instead of building everyday, we have demolished.

Our railways. Our museums. Our libraries. Our schools. Our educational system. Our parks and gardens. Our films. Our writing. Our road infrastructure. Our electricity supply. Our manufacturing.

Our lives.

Ghana will not be built in a day. But it should be built everyday and the hands that will ensure this is done are owned by the body which houses the eyes reading this.

PS: In 2007, I spent a month on short-term attachment in Unilever South Africa and traveled by road from Boksburg to Durban to visit my friend Gary Jones. I spent a night in his house. One main highlight of my visit was a breakfast with the retired Norman Swanepoel.

PROUD – by HEATHER SMALL

I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears I know I’ve left behind
I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I’m on my way
Can’t stop me now
And you can do the same (yeah)

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It’s never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Still so many answers I don’t know (there are so many answers)
Realize that to question is how we grow (to question is to grow)
So I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I’m on my way
Can’t stop me now
You can do the same (yeah)

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It’s never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

(yeah) We need a change (Yeah)
Do it today (yeah)
I can feel my spirit rising
(change, yeah) We need a change (yeah)
So do it today (yeah)
‘Cause I can see a clear horizon

What have you done today to make you feel proud? (to make you feel proud)
(let me hear ya X3)So what have you done today to make you feel proud?
(yeah)’Cause you could be so many people
Just make that break for freedom
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?

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