Monday 22 October 2012

Lessons from Alexander the Great

I commiserate with the family of the four undergraduates roasted alive on spurious charges of robbery in Port Harcourt last week. It is saddening how fast we are descending into the abyss of heartlessness as a people. The grief is not only for the parents, but for Nigeria that just lost a part of her future. Watching the video sent jitters down my spine as I asked, ‘How did we get to this sorry pass?’ The law must catch up with the murderers so they can get a taste of their own medicine, this time from the law!

Alexander the Great was the ruler of Greece who eventually extended his frontiers to the rest of the then known world. He took on titles like Basileus of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah (king of kings) of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt, Lord of Asia.

By the time he was 30, he had conquered what was then known as the world. With the entire world literally at his feet at such a young age, he became bored and eventually took to drinking orgies. He died at the age of 32. On his death bed, Alexander summoned his generals and told them his three ultimate wishes.

First, the best doctors should carry his coffin. Second, the wealth he had accumulated (money, gold, precious stones) should be scattered along the procession to the cemetery, and third, his hands should be let loose, hanging outside the coffin for all to see!

One of his generals who was surprised by these unusual requests asked Alexander to explain why. Here is what the emperor had to say:

“I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that, in the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal. I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that everybody sees that material wealth acquired on earth, stays on earth. I want my hands to swing in the wind, so that people understand that we come to this world empty handed and we leave this world empty handed after the most precious treasure of all is exhausted, and that is TIME”

Hear what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 8:8 (Amplified version), “There is no man who has power over the spirit to retain the breath of life, neither has he power over the day of death; and there is no discharge in battle [against death], neither will wickedness deliver those who are its possessors and given to it.”

Jesus tells us in Luke 12:15 to guard against covetousness because a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. Paul the apostle also reminds us in 1Timothy 6:7 that we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we will take nothing out.

Our greatest treasure is not material wealth, as good as that is. Our greatest treasure in life is TIME. Time is the only thing that God apportions to all daily on equal basis. The rich, the wise, the weak, the strong, the tall, the short, the king and the servant, the pauper and the billionaire, all have TIME as the common currency of trade.

Time is precious because it is limited. We can reproduce wealth but we cannot reproduce time. Time is money. How we spend it determines the dividends we get from it. If you spend all your time in the pursuit of wealth and fame, you will use and lose people. But if you spend your time building value-added relationships, you will gain wealth, fame and people. A man with quality people around him never lacks. Relationship takes over when money fails, as it often does.

No one has actually stolen anything from you until they steal your time. Those who waste your time actually help you to waste your life. I detest it when people ask me for an appointment and they end up not keeping it. And worse still, they never call to explain why. I equally cannot stand it when people give me a scheduled appointment and then keep me waiting indefinitely. I have walked out of many offices for this reason.

The greatest abuse is the abuse of time. Those who value their time will always respect the time of others. Never waste people’s time and don’t allow yours to be wasted. If you will be late for or unable to keep an appointment, call to explain why.

When you give someone your time, you have given something that money cannot buy and which is irreplaceable.

Our social landscape is littered with young criminals whose parents have given more money than they needed but never any time or attention. Such children take out their bottled-up aggression on the rest of society. The best present you can give to your spouse, children, friends and others in your life is not money. It is time. Not just in the quantum but in the quality.

When you die, you are not celebrated or remembered by how many houses you built, but by how many people you built. Immortality is living in the hearts of people long after you have left the earth.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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