The Power of the Devil’s Advocate
When I was 20 years old, I became obsessed with a bold dream to start a basic school. With a paltry monthly salary of 25 cedis at the time, I managed to save and buy over 70 pieces of timber in preparation for the school construction. My whole idea was to make so much progress that eventually an adult will see my effort and give me some support. That never happened and unfortunately I gave up. Giving up on that dream is one of the few regrets of my life. But let’s go to the main story.
During my preparation for this project, I met with a corporate executive and shared my dream with him. He responded by asking me hard questions about how I intended to manage the school, what I would do if a teacher raped a student, how would I raise money to pay the initial salaries of my teachers etc. Very hard questions. In my zeal I hadn’t considered such difficult stuff. I left the meeting upset and a quite irritated at the man for trying to discourage me or so I thought.
In my father Albert Ocran‘s book Building Your Dream Business, he tells a similar story of how when he and his partner began a business in university they also met a similar person who provoked them with questions about their intention to export their products to South America. Like me, the young entrepreneurs did not understand this. Contrary to the man’s advice they went ahead and did the export. To cut a long story short, they lost all their investment.
The problem with many of us is that when we share our dreams with people we don’t want to be challenged. We want to be massaged and praised. But we don’t want to be asked hard questions. We feel that those who try to probe the issues and ask us difficult questions are trying to discourage us. No. That’s not the case.
In life and business especially, we need people who will help us by asking the difficult questions. Being asked difficult questions helps us to think deeply about our dreams and what we want to do. They may be people who seek to discourage us but there are others who mean well and want us to succeed. That’s why they ask the hard questions. If you are going to achieve anything, someone needs to play the devil’s advocate and point you to all the things that could possibly go wrong with your idea. It is not to discourage you. It is to prepare you to handle greatness. Keep pushing the wheels of destiny!