By Frank Dappah
Updated 12:43 PM ET, Sat. September 5, 2020
This article is an excerpt from my new ( soon to be available) book: "' Zero to Sixty"
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” - Friedrich Nietzsche
It all goes back to our childhood, am I right? I mean it is crazy how much of what ales us or drives us can be attributed to the type of upbringing we endured or enjoyed, depending on your unique experiences.
This, I have come to realize is an inescapable reality of the human condition. Even as we get older, go out there and try to build relationships and form bonds, truth is, there is no greater story told about a person, none more impactful than the story of their childhood. If we humans are in fact a sum of our experiences, then I must say that our earlier ones ( experiences) seem to be the ones that lay the groundwork for what we do with our time here on earth. A great deal of what we do (or don’t do), how we feel about change, compromise, sharing, diversity, all have its roots in what happened to us as children.
I have always been a big fan of self-exploration and behavior modification. Digging deep into one’s mind to figure out how to rid thyself of as much bad juju as possible. I also think that at times, what we deal with goes beyond the physical and into the chemical and spiritual – if you are into that kind of thing. For this reason, I continue to be a fan of psychotherapy and pharmacology.
I feel one must do what they have to do to live a full, happy life. There is nothing wrong with seeking the help of those that are equipped to help us deal with what we do, whether short-term or some deep, deep-rooted stuff. I feel as black people, we don’t do this often enough.
Over the years, although some have accused me of being too analytical, I have often tried (and still do) to delve deep into things that relate to my mindset, behavior, and overall mental health. I try to live a happy life.
An honest, productive life. I by no means have all the answers. I have found out that the first step, my first step, was to first discover who I am, try to work on the parts I find unhelpful to me and/or my loved ones, and try to be as comfortable as possible with the Ghanaian in the mirror.
A good start
Challenge me to sum up my entire childhood in one word and I would have to go down a list. I would have to make my way past joyous, stop for a second at funny, scroll down through religious, strange, uninhabited, and finally settle on unorthodox. Yes, that sounds about right. Mine was a childhood filled with laughter. Oh! and movies.
All we did, it seemed was watch movies, sit around and laugh about stuff. My parents worked from home. Well, let me rephrase that: Mom and pop were Co-founders of a small kitchenware manufacturing outfit. They ran their company from home and didn't let the fact that at some point, they had over 50 employees stop them from working from home. So, there I was. The fifth of six. Immersed in an endlessly chaotic world.
A world filled with numerous siblings, a string of assistants who all day did everything but assist anyone with anything. Various personal drivers, and many other employees, "Workers" as we called them. And that is even before we get to the church folks. So, I feel like this would be the perfect time to tell you that my mother, being the busy body that she is, was also an active member of our local Methodist church.
Not the A.M.E - screaming and yelling type. Nope! ours was the church of " you stay out of our business, and we stay out of yours" type of congregation. I remember a lot of singing. My mom was a member of the church leadership team, although, to this day, I am still not sure exactly what she did for the church.
I just remember a lot of drama. I say all this to say that my childhood was unusual. If I had to identify a single consistent parenting style my folks employed in raising me and my kin, I would have to say, for better or for worse, they raised as all as unique individuals.
Allowed to be me
This allowance for individuality and unrestricted display of one's own style is what I think has helped shape my worldview, among other things. You see, my mom despised those without "their own minds". I share this “quality”. For better or worse, she saw pride in doing things for your own reasons. If you robbed a bank with your buddies, sure, she would be freaking pissed. Even more so if you just went along and weren’t the brains behind the entire scheme.
This was her thing. I thought it was strange how often she stressed that we act as leaders rather than just following some idiot who often times has no clue what they are talking about. She also stressed being a team player if and when you believe in what the team is doing and can be honestly, wholeheartedly committed to the mission.
These are some of the teachings, her teachings that have guided my actions during the course of my life so far. My dad, on the other hand, taught me how to be process-oriented. He was, and still is a tinkerer. A builder’s builder. I remember him being there to help me build all types of contraptions as I made my way through the various movie genre-inspired phases of my childhood.
We acquired a boatload of toy guns during my Rambo years. He drove me to Taekwando practice every Saturday morning during the Jean-Claude Van Damme years. We also made many swords when I decided that the life of a Ninja was the only life I saw myself living.
In fact, I always thought of my mother as the parent and my father as the dude I built things with. The guy who would take me on some unplanned road trip rather than make our way back home after picking me up from school. We spent quite a few such occasions looking for scrap metal at the Valco facility.
An essential part of some machine he was building that he believed was sitting somewhere just waiting to be discovered. He bought some equipment but built a great deal of the machinery at the factory.
My "builder" side is one of those that I lean on heavily today as I venture into various business projects. Growing up in that type of environment makes one see the untold possibilities out in the real world. One can dream of building their very own services, products, and so on, with a background like mine.
The ability and will to build things, I think is essential to success. I am talking about all types of success. Sucess in business, marriage, school, and life in general. Various elements of each conqauest may differ, but the main principles remain the same.
We must all invest ourselves, take risks, and venture out to try to create things out of the void. This attitude, I have found, is one that defines entrepreneurs (in commerce) and also weighs heavily in the realm of personal traits that are likely to help you succeed.