I had not heard the story of the Choluteca Bridge, the bridge with no river, until today.
If you have read or heard about this bridge, probably you know something about the dynamics of nature. This suspension bridge was built with all good intentions, but it no longer serves the purpose for which it was built. It is a perfect metaphor for the ever changing circumstances of life, especially in business.
Lying deep inside the city of Choluteca in Honduras, the bridge now looks like a suspension rather than a conduit.
The Honduran government constructed the bridge in 1930s with the help of undisputed architects and engineers from Japan. It was later refurbished in 1996 with the same design and dedication. The bridge was magnificently designed to withstand all kinds of hurricanes in the vulnerable city of Choluteca.
The bridge was indeed able to endure extreme weather conditions, but it was not designed to adapt to change.
With significant risks of hurricanes and strong winds in Honduras, the bridge at River Choluteca served as a lasting route to the city. It enhanced business and transport in and outside the city of Honduras. The bridge was once a state-of-the-art access point to the city, but it would soon outlive its usefulness.
Indeed, when Honduras was hit by the notorious Hurricane Mitch in 1998, the entire Caribbean was devastated. Honduras was ruined and all buildings and subways were destroyed. All bridges in Honduras were chastened, but the Choluteca Bridge stood tall and unshaken.
It was an unrivaled architectural achievement; a great solution to the most disturbing natural disasters. Or at least it was intended to be. Not for the Mother Nature, though. One solution led to a new problem. The river curved its way around the bridge rather than going under it.
Now Choluteca Bridge has no river. It is standing in the middle of nowhere. What used to be a bridge to the city is now a bridge to nowhere. All because it was not prepared to adapt, but to withstand storms.
Life is just like River Choluteca. You prepare to withstand storms, but it brings new challenges. Rather than preparing to withstand challenges, you should plan to adapt. Planning for change is much more rewarding than planning for success.
Choluteca Bridge was built for success. And if success was measured in terms of how the bridge could withstand strong winds, then the bridge was successful. But is it?
If your life was a straight line, it could be easy to predict and prepare for obstacles. Like River Choluteca, life is not a straight line. It goes in zigzags, and sometimes in circles. To navigate your way to success, you need to adapt, not to withstand.
Most of us persevere through difficult situations such as death of a relative, job loss, and unemployment. However, we have no buffer for these difficult times. We have designed our bridges to serve straight rivers, not meanders. We have not allowed room for curves and bends, ups and downs.
In business, storms come in different faces. We often learn to deal with competition and financial obstacles. If we are savvy enough, we go an extra mile to develop a portfolio of assets to spread risks. However, we rarely prepare for a change in the nature of business.
Ten to twenty years ago, you could make a lot of money selling basic phones. The market has now shifted to smartphones and tablets.
Look at companies like Motorola, which was a household brand merely 15 years ago. It has now been rendered obsolete by the emergence of smartphones. Reason?
The company was not built to adapt. Samsung and Apple emerged as successful tech companies because they were prepared to adapt to changing consumer needs.
Politicians like Ruto, Uhuru, Kibaki, Moi and Raila have been able to survive in politics because they have been able to adapt. They have killed parties and formed new ones. They abandoned single party systems and created a multi-party democracy. They left alliances and created new ones.
In their game, they know that they cannot survive by being stubborn like Miguna Miguna who has refused to bulge. The General, as he calls himself, is standing in the middle of nowhere like Choluteca Bridge. He has no allies, no support, and no direction. He has refused to adapt.
Some careers obey the allegory and the metaphor. Bachelor of Commerce and Economics were highly marketable in Kenya prior to the new Millennium. The millennial group can no longer find jobs in the field; but they can use their acquired skills to build business empires.
NOW is not the time for anyone to blame government for unemployment. Just as much as we cannot blame Honduras for building Choluteca Bridge.
We should learn from this bridge. It makes no sense waiting for the storm to come and withstand it, but move nowhere. We should plan to adapt. When there is no employment, create one. Design a plan to adapt.
Look around you and find a new opportunity. Where the river curves, curve with it. Where the river bends, bend with it. Sometimes we are able to identify new behaviors and problems, but we simply choose to ignore them. Then we get punished.
Do not stagnate merely because you are a graduate and can’t find a job. Do not say, “This job is not for me.” It is. The seasons have changed, and life is no longer how it used to be. River Honduras has changed course, it is no longer flowing under the bridge. Adapt to the new realities. In economics we say supply creates its own demand.
Start a new thing driven by evidence-based research, which can solve the emerging challenges and needs of the environment. Do not stand aloof like the Honduras Bridge. Bulge, lie down, bend, stretch, adapt.
You can put an image of the Choluteca Bridge on your office desk to keep reminding you that life does not move in a straight line. Keep it on the colorful walls of your home sanctuary to remind you to build a career or business that can adapt to new circumstances.
Otherwise, you will age with a wonderful bridge. A bridge with no river. A bridge to nowhere.