One of the things that I am teaching myself these days is to drop my too-known, I-will-start-afresh attitude to progress. I realize this attitude does not bring real progress because it discards the lessons of those who have gone before too easily. And the more I try to unlearn this bad habit, the more I realize it is so very prevalent around me. Every second person I meet has a bright idea, which is good. But ask them, "hey, I heard Ama is doing the same thing, or tried to do something similar" and the response is "oh, I don't even know who Ama is, but not that it matters". Or worse still, "oh yeah, I know of Ama, but my idea is way better". Asked to describe what Ama is doing, and they draw a blank. I draw a blank.
Looking back at our history does provide clues on where I picked up this attitude--there are countless examples of "starting afresh" with no real commitment to continuity. Most fatally, we all seem to think there is something magical about us that was not present in the last generation so that if we exhibit the same traits as the past generation we will somehow produce different results. Our politics is the most rife with spectacular examples. Take education. Every change of government brings with it a new idea of education. That is good, because it shows that the new people are thinking about fixing the old things. What is not good is disruption, and playing with people's futures. Each educational "reform" attempts a clean break from the last leading to mass wastage. If you fail your exams this period, the next year will have a different format and a different syllabus. Of course, this means that your chances of success are reduced because you end up being able to use very little of what you have studied before. You probably can cite even more disturbing examples than these.
So these days I'm training myself to think thus: Jack, how does what you are doing improve, even in a little way, over what others who have come before you in the same area tried to do? If I get a good idea, the question is, how does this new idea UTILIZE what exists and builds infrastructure for others perhaps to build on? Indeed, the practical outcome of this new training means that most of my new ideas are archived because they are simply unsustainable--"a flash in the pan", if I may quote my JSS English teacher Mr Ampah.
The ideas that stick around are almost boring to describe, but they are fulfilling to complete and much more durable under my examination.