Perhaps you’ve followed the current conflict playing out in Ethiopia. I’m talking about the situation regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project – the largest hydro-electric project in Africa. But before I start into that discussion, I have a great thought I want to leave you with today. It’s a great, three-paragraph discussion laid out by Arthur C. Brooks on what we might call, “Life’s choices – our priorities – and where they lead us.” Here’s what he said.
“The first step is an admission that as successful as you are, were, or hope to be in your life and work, you are not going to find true happiness on the hedonic treadmill of your professional life. You’ll find it in things that are deeply ordinary: enjoying a walk or a conversation with a loved one, instead of working that extra hour, for example. This is extremely difficult for many people. It feels almost like an admission of defeat for those who have spent their lives worshipping hard work and striving to outperform others. Social comparison is a big part of how people measure worldly success, but the research is clear that it strips us of life satisfaction.
The second step is to make amends for any relationships you’ve compromised in the name of success. This is complicated, obviously. “Sorry about choosing tedious board meetings—which I don’t even remember now—over your ballet recitals,” probably won’t get the job done. More effective is simply to start showing up. With relationships, actions speak louder than words, especially if your words have been fairly empty in the past.
The last step is to find the right metrics of success. In business, people often say, “You are what you measure.” If you measure yourself only by the worldly rewards of money, power, and prestige, you’ll spend your life running on the hedonic treadmill and comparing yourself to others. I suggested better metrics in the inaugural “How to Build a Life” column, among them faith, family, and friendship. I also included work—but not work for the sake of outward achievement. Rather, it should be work that serves others and gives you a sense of personal meaning.”
Certainly, we can stipulate that if we are supporting our family and building a solid career, we need to work, make a living, and pay the bills. And, it’s certainly true that we set an example of productive industry to our kids and others when we get up in the morning and head off to work. But I think the point Brooks is trying to convey is, that there are other important facets to our lives that we must prioritize if we are going to be happy and have meaningful relationships with those we love and cherish.
So, back to Ethiopia. In 2011, work began on a dam project for the Blue Nile. The location of the project is about nine miles from the border with Sudan. When the dam is finished, Ethiopia will have completed one of the largest energy producing projects in Africa – a dam that will not only bolster the economy of Ethiopia, but will supply power to countries in the area. Problem is, when you construct a major dam, the folks downstream may take issue, and that is the root of the problem happening in Ethiopia.
To visualize the situation, you have to understand that the Blue Nile supplies roughly 80 percent of the Nile watershed during rainy season. The Blue Nile begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia and runs north into Sudan where it combines with the White Nile at Khartoum. From there, the Nile flows on into Egypt.
The Egyptians rely on that water from the Nile to not only power their country, but feed their agriculture all along the waterway. Without that water supply, their economy would crumble and people would die.
After nine years of work on the dam, the Ethiopians are ready to fill the reservoir – a process that takes some years to accomplish. And that’s where the countries involved are conflicted. Egypt knows that the reservoir-filling process will likely reduce their water supply downstream. Ethiopia states it won’t be as big a problem as Egypt claims. And Sudan – well, they’re happy to be getting some cheap energy in addition to having better controls over problems during flood season. The three countries are working out the details and will be successful in compromising – the conclusion of which will bring prosperity to Ethiopians and bolster the collective economies and livelihoods of all involved parties.
But you have to know, there’s always a wrinkle in the best laid plans; there’s always an outlier who keeps the pot stirred. In this case, it’s none other than Donald J. Trump. A few days ago, in a three-way call with Sudan’s Prime Minister Hamdok and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, the conversation came around to the Renaissance dam project and Trump inserted the following dialogue regarding Egypt’s side in the issue, “It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way… I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”
In response, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Ahmed said, “Ethiopians will finish the dam project. Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind. Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future. Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law.” He went on to say that the concerned countries will resolve their issues without involving the military.
Look for this conflict in Africa to be resolved soon and the giant reservoir to begin filling. And in the long term, look for Ethiopia’s economy to flourish and its people to recognize greater prosperity as a result of seeing this dam project finished – the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
And, can I just say, I think Donald J. Trump’s words on this issue reflect his immature character and inability to be a sound, diplomatic leader on the global stage. Perhaps the U.S. masses will see to it that he is fired on November 3. We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned!