Many of you might have heard about a guy named Samuel Zemikael who, few years back, was arrested for defrauding people and the media by claiming that his has a PhD degree and other degrees from local and foreign universities, that he is a successful businessman, and that he also got the chance to brush shoulders with renown politicians such as the Russian president Vladimir Putin. He held several interviews with the media claiming the title of ‘Dr Engineer’ and had the chance to make public lectures. Although it is a shameful and insulting act in his part to have considered the people as fools, there is also an element in him that I very much admire. And that is his strong confidence and outspoken character that made people believe the impossible. I believe that being outspoken and confident are two of the most valuable characters that most of us should develop in order to make it easily in this competitive world.
Maybe you have also watched a movie entitled ‘catch me if you can’ starring Leonardo Di Caprio. It is one of the best movies I would be willing to watch time and time again. The movie is a biographical movie telling the story of a forger named Frank Abagnale. Frank is a master of deception who managed to cash in millions of dollars by forging checks, and pretending to be a co-pilot, a lawyer and a doctor at the same time, all at a very young age. At the end of the story, after Frank was caught and served his sentence, the police decided to use his check forging skills to solve crimes related to fraudulent checks. This is a story that further proves to me that, if you have a very strong self-esteem and confidence and manage to reflect that in your personality, you can go a long way in life. People believe those who believe in themselves.
You might have the necessary skills but you may not manage to sell yourself to others. So people may not know your worth and fail to take you seriously or consider you as valuable. Aside from being confident in own skills and abilities, I believe one needs to be outspoken to sell oneself to others.
Unfortunately, being outspoken is not a character us Ethiopians are known for. I tend to think that that has to do with how we were raised. Many of us were reprimanded for being outspoken particularly in front of adults or anyone who is much older than we are. Being outspoken and opinionated is a sign of disrespect and a sign of undermining our elders who are traditionally believed to be more knowledgeable. And besides, trying to prove yourself to others (who are older or not than you) that you are knowledgeable and able is not something that is well received in the Ethiopian culture. It is simply a sign of arrogance. One has to be as silent and invisible as possible to be considered as a polite and respectful person. You might have heard people saying ‘Esswama dimtswam ayessemam, betam chewa lij nat!’, which literally translates to ‘it is rarely that you hear her voice, she is such a well-mannered person!’. So, how can one be outspoken in a culture that puts a prize on silence and invisibility?
Have you ever had friends or acquaintances who managed to lead very successful lives but who you never thought would be able as successful as they are today? You might have known these guys for instance for their poor grades in high school or campus. What these guys have is confidence, a strong ability to interact with others, an ability to sell to others the little that they have, and the ability to convince others. I believe we should teach our children to be confident and outspoken! Because, the absence of these two characters greatly limits their potentials!