I’ve got a birthday coming up tomorrow and as I was thinking about birthdays I was reminded of a story told by Zig Ziglar that I have always loved.
The population of Ghana has many tribes of people living within its borders. The largest is the Akan tribe, which makes up about 50% of the entire population. The Akan have a tradition of naming newborn children based on the day of the week they were born. If you are born on Monday your name will include “Kwadwo”, which is related to peace. If you are born on Friday, your name would include “Kofi”, which is linked to fertility and abundance. You now know which day of the week Kofi Annan, the past secretary general of the United Nations, was born.
Here is where it gets interesting. Social scientists started to notice a pattern. Those born on Wednesday were given the name “Kwaku”, which is linked with deceit and shiftiness. As it turns out, almost 40% of the violent crimes in Ghana were committed by men born on Wednesday!
Conversely, those who are born on Saturday are given the “Kwame”, which is associated with God, or godliness. Now guess what day of the week a majority of the religious leaders in the country were born…that’s right, Saturday.
How in the world does this make any sense? It all comes down to the expectations that are placed on us or that we place on others. Imagine when a young little Kwaku makes a mistake or does something mischievous. The first thing he hears is, “Well of course you would do that, you’re a Kwaku.” And he hears that over and over again throughout his life. In the end, a lot of them live up to the expectation that has been placed on them. They start to believe it. They think to themselves, “I’m a Kwaku, this is what we do.”
Now imagine the little boy growing up as a Kwame. People tend to overlook their mistakes because they are gushing over the good things that little Kwame did. He receives consistent praise every time he does good or goes to church. He starts to become more religious because he has had so much positive reinforcement and high expectation.
Do you ever notice doing the same thing with your kids or spouse or co-worker. Have you ever labeled your kids as, “The Quiet One”, “The Good Reader”, “The Handful”, “The Shy One”, “The Troublemaker”, etc.? When we form these labels for people around us, we set the expectation. When the trouble-maker does something nice, we act surprised. When he does something bad we say, “You’re always doing this.”
Many have experienced an adult coming to talk to their child and the child gets quiet or hides behind their parents legs. And what do we say to the other adult, “Oh, she’s really shy.” That toddler will hear that 100 times growing up. And then we seem surprised that our kids don’t become outgoing or put themselves out there in front of people. It is because they were told from the time they were young that they were shy.
Did you know that 89% of criminals in one prison can remember their parents using the phrase, “You are going to end up in jail some day”, or maybe “If you keep this up, you’ll be in prison before you’re 20.” Is it because they were bad from birth or because they have grown into an expectation placed on them?
Food for thought on this Wednesday (In case you wondered, it’s “Yaw” if your child is born today and it means “earth”)
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