Monday, November 26, 2012

Novenber 25th, 2012

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

Following on from last week’s article about motivation and ambition….

Let us consider the ‘potential energy’ that is locked up in the youth in all situations – regardless of rich or poor, urban or rural? Science tells us that ‘potential energy’ is that energy which is held in an object, waiting to be released. For example, a stone on the top of a hill, has the potential energy, bound up in it, to roll down the hill. All it needs is a push. Let us imagine for one moment that the stone is a child, and that the hill has two slopes – development and disorder. There are three possible outcomes: leave the stone where it is and hope that nobody else interferes with it (the non-involvement approach) or apply some small amount of energy to push the stone, either towards development or disorder (involvement approach). The amount of energy required to release the potential energy is much the same for either direction of travel.

The non-involvement approach leaves the child open to being influenced by other, perhaps non-altruistic, forces. Any involvement should impart energy in the right direction or disorder will result. The developed world has demonstrated this with the increasing number of young people influenced into non-socially-acceptable activities through gangs, gang-culture, drugs, etc. These unpleasant effects of the potential energy of the next generation of leaders, being released down the disorder side of the ‘youth mountain’, are far too common. In some developing nations young people may be influenced to join rebel forces, enter prostitution, smuggle drugs or commit crimes, when ambition and motivation are provided by non-altruistic influences – again towards the side of disorder and eventual breakdown of what is, all too often already, a fragile society. It appears, therefore, that effective development amongst the youth of today, and perhaps especially in developing nations, requires that an amount of energy needs to be imparted in the correct direction, to stimulate the release of the potential energy needed, for long-term development of such nations.

The consequences of non-action in the socially desired direction, will almost certainly involve the dissipation of a great deal more energy, time and resources, at a later date in order to ‘reverse-up the slope of disorder’. In brief, if we do not consistently provide potential sources of positive motivation, especially to those in their formative years, of developing nations, in such a way as to stimulate ambition for a brighter tomorrow and consequential self-motivation, we will continue to see lack-lustre results and a tendency towards social disorder. This is, after all, a simple restatement of entropy, which implies ‘All things tend towards disorder [unless energy is applied to delay or prevent it]’.

The above concepts are based on the idea that there are young people in ‘motivational stasis’, with potential energy waiting to be released through ambition-stimulated motivation, which, if suitably directed, can be inspired towards social and economic development.

How can this be done? If motivation is linked to ambition, what ambitions can be used to stimulate the ultimate goal of self-motivation? Ownership of a Ferrari is an ambition, as is being a lawyer (although I have never seen any possible reason for anybody to want to be a lawyer!), but are these relevant ambitions for the children of developing communities? Surely, the most sustainable ambitions are dependent on two basic elements: Exposure, and achievability of direction.

Exposure: Young people need to be exposed to events and people (especially positive role-models) that can be used to stimulate careers and activities that the youngster can develop an ambition for. How can you want to be a pilot if you have never seen or heard of a plane or met a pilot; i.e., know that such an ambition even exists.

Achievability of direction: Once exposed to a potential ambition motivator, the young person must then have some concept of ‘achievability of direction’; i.e., once exposed to an ambition-motivator the resultant direction of effort should be achievable.

That does not mean that the end result must be obtainable, far from it, but the direction towards it must be.

Let us imagine ‘Buzz Aldrin’ (the astronaut) went into a school in the Afram Plains and spoke about his experiences in space. The resultant ‘I want to be a spaceman’ motivator would enter the minds of many children. Although being a ‘spaceman’ is probably unachievable for the vast majority of those stimulated by the exposure to a real ‘spaceman’, the resultant driving force for children to develop their skills and interests, towards the inherent direction of achievability in order to become pilots, air-traffic controllers, engineers and for the occasional child to actually become a ‘spaceman’ – or indeed ‘space-woman’ - is sufficient to impart the ‘change-mode’ for a ‘stasis’ child towards a ‘development’ child. This is perhaps not a relevant example for developing nations – but it could be interesting to experience!

Similarly, and perhaps more relevantly for the developing nations, a doctor speaking at a school – about being a doctor - exposes the children to the exciting concepts of medicine, and just may provoke an ‘I want to be a doctor’ response that could provide stimulation towards the direction of achievability of a career in care (nurse, radiographer, biochemist, lab technician, community health educator, etc.) and with that all of the self-motivation needed to avoid teenage pregnancy, involvement in drugs and to improve both attendance and achievement at school. Perhaps just enough to succeed, albeit that the goal of being a doctor is deflected in favour of a ‘more achievable’ outcome as time progresses. Nonetheless, certain individuals may well achieve the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor, imparting the motivational ambition to the next generation.

This concept was originally presented when I did my lecturers qualification in the 1990’s. Today, I stick to this as a fact, have applied it in the field and consider this as ‘proven by experience’. 

When our aviation team of young women talks in a school or to a group of young people, there is a wave of energy that goes out, wraps around the crowd and bounces back at us. Many start to think about aviation, and its allied activities, as a career. Others see it as ‘If other Ghanaians can achieve a dream, I can be allowed to dream – I can be anything I want to’.

One school, not far from the airfield, appears to have more ‘wannabe pilots’ than the rest of the country put together – simply because they get to see airplanes, and young Ghanaians flying them, on a regular basis.

The amazing impact of aviation, and engineering, goes much further than just the aviation sector – we have seen young people take positive changes in their learning and desires to achieve in many different areas – simply by seeing ‘it can be done’.

Please, exposure your young people to opportunities and positive role-models, then let them find their own motivational-ambition. Furthermore, go out there yourself, and provide some material from your sector of activity for the young people of today to be energised in positive directions – before the less positive forces push them down the wrong slope, towards disorder.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and lead Pilot with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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