What’s your greatest asset?


I remember vividly. It was a Monday morning some 35 years ago in school. My Ghanaian class teacher, Mr. Appiah, had walked into the classroom and wrote this question on the board.

He turned and pointed to one of the girls in the first row, “You, stand up. What’s your greatest asset?”

Joke couldn’t answer the question. She had no clue.

“Remain standing,” Mr. Appiah ordered.

He moved to the middle of the class and pointed to our Class Prefect.

I felt relieved. Debo was a brilliant boy. He would know the answer.

But Debo shocked everyone.

He was jittery. He didn’t know the answer.

One by one, Mr. Appiah called all of us…a class of 20 students or so…and none of us could give a satisfactory answer.

To us, at that time, what asset did we have? Our dusty shoes? Our “my-brother- dash-me” shirts? Or what?

We had nothing!

The brave ones made a few attempts. Some mentioned their fathers’ farms, others indicated their mothers’ shops.

Mr. Appiah had a good laugh!

We felt ashamed.

He asked all of us to sit down, and he gave a motivational speech that remains with me till today.

In those days, our teachers were everything. They did more than teaching. They were our counsellors. They were our pastors. They were our guardians. And they were our advisers.

We trusted them.

We believed them.

Mr. Appiah paced up and down the room as he was fond of doing. He shifted his gaze from one student to the other and said (in his typical Ghanaian accent), “Whatever happens to you in life, you must never lose your mind. It is your greatest asset. If your mind remains intact, you can achieve anything.”

He walked to the blackboard and wrote in capital letters, “YOUR MIND.”

Mr. Appiah told us that our mind is our greatest asset.

He turned to face the class again and continued, “Who among you will fail to take care of his asset? If you had a beautiful car today wouldn’t you take care of it? Those of you who mentioned your fathers’ farms, aren’t they taking care of those farms? You must take care of your mind. You must nurture it. You must enrich it daily. If your mind is clear and sound, you can achieve anything in life.”

As I write this piece, I can hear Mr. Appiah’s voice clearly in my head. I can see his gesticulations. I can also see him rolling his most dreaded pankere flogging stick in his left hand.

Never lose your mind.

Nurture it.

Enrich it.

It is your greatest asset.

God bless Mr. Appiah wherever he may be today.

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