Small steps, giant strides

When one of the fastest-growing universities in Nigeria, Thomas Adewumi University, contacted me through its phenomenal Vice Chancellor, Prof. Francisca Oladipo, to deliver its third anniversary lecture last Thursday (May 16, 2024), the relevant theme that came to my mind was “Small Steps, Giant Strides: Unleashing the Power of Incremental Progress”. This is because I have closely observed the incremental progress of the University since its inception.

This phrase, “small steps, giant strides”, actually derives its resonance from the words of the late American astronaut, Neil Armstrong, when he was on the moon on July 20, 1969. As he stepped on the moon, he uttered a deep and profound statement that would soon echo across the world. According to him, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In essence, what Armstrong was saying is that his first step on the moon was a small one for an individual like him, but it marked a giant stride for humanity in space exploration. True to what he said, there have been several successful explorations to the moon since then, which have engendered the development of space technology.

By taking a step at a time, Thomas Adewumi University that started with three Faculties, 15 Departments and 60 students three years ago has now emerged a leader in the sub-sector with seven Faculties and 27 academic programmes. Now among the best ranked private universities in Nigeria, with hundreds of students and a rich complement of dedicated staff, the small steps of the University are already unraveling as giant strides.

Generally, success only requires making small steps on a daily or consistent basis and the result will end up being great. For instance, a small drop of water falling on a rock every day will create a deep hole over a period of time; a grain of sand thrown into a still pond will cause a ripple effect and a small seed grown by a farmer becomes a tree providing shade and fruit for many people in the fullness of time.

It is always interesting to watch athletes compete and see the excitement on the faces of the winners and their fans. Yet, an athlete’s daily training ultimately results in winning medals and gaining fame. Even Thomas Edison’s groundbreaking invention that changed the world through the domestic use of electric light began with small experiments, which fetched him the patent embodying the principles of incandescent lamp on January 27, 1880.

In the school, a student’s consistent habit of devoting hours per day to study eventually results in expertise and excellence in the subject area. The few hours of reading, revising what was taught in the class, doing assignments and taking tests ultimately define the outstanding students.  This is why the difference between the successful and unsuccessful students lies in their habits, what they do on a consistent basis. While a successful student develops the habit of reading, studying and devoting time to academic activities, an unsuccessful student has a different habit of wrong socialisation, indolence and self-indulgence.

It is in this regard that students have to watch it. As Frank Outlaw once wrote, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words; watch your words, for they become actions, watch your actions, for they become habits; watch your habits, for they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” If you watch your steps closely, they will become your strides eventually.

Meanwhile, a core requirement of taking small steps is having focus, a sense of direction. This is where every student has to be like an eagle, a bird with a strong vision that allows it to focus on a prey from a distance of five kilometers from the air. When an eagle sights a prey from such a distance, it narrows its focus on it and sets out to get it. It hardly misses the target.

In essence, attaining giant strides requires envisioning success, identifying goals and taking concrete steps towards achieving them. As a student, these steps include believing in yourself by having the I-can-do-it spirit, attending all lectures, doing your assignments, sitting your tests, taking your exams, obeying the school rules and regulations, avoiding bad company, engaging in group discussions, studying in advance, having your personal timetable, minding your business as much as possible and using your time judiciously.