Break that tradition!

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Lanre Amodu


I’M excited to have you back on this column today. Last week, we started a conversation on traditions. We adopted the Cambridge English Dictionary definition, which say tradition is “a belief, principle, or way of acting that people in a particular society or group have continued to follow for a long time”. Traditions are very valuable because they foster constancy, identity creation, the strengthening of a movement, and protective boundaries. If you want to build to last, you need to develop a tradition that can be imbibed and passed on for generations.

Unfortunately, humans tend to abuse every good thing and take it to the extreme. When we love a movie, we watch it until we can’t stand it anymore. When we love a delicacy, we eat it until we lose taste for it. When we love a person, we become overprotective. And when we have a good tradition, we make it a law cast in iron. Traditions evolve, which means they become refined with time. Traditions are established as a means to an end but with time, we tend to make the means bigger than the end. Traditions as building blocks usually become stumbling blocks when they:

  • become outdated: a couple of weeks ago, we shared the story of Kodak, the company that ruled the photography industry for years. The company had a brilliant business model- if people can purchase a camera that is cheap, they will not mind the continuous purchase of films, papers and chemicals. While they will buy the camera once, their purchase of consumables is only limited by their passion for pictures. Imagine building a marketing campaign around customers having fun by taking more pictures and not necessarily buying more cameras! The model must have work from 1888 when the company was founded until the late 1970s when digital technology started to take over. For the fear of losing income from the sales of film, the company ignored the first portable digital camera invented in 1975 by its own engineer because it was filmless. Of course, the company lost its place and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Never allow your tradition to become outdated or you will lose your competitive advantage.
  • focus too much on the past: if beliefs and principles are handed down from one generation to another, there is a tendency for the custodians to ensure that people are chained to the past. Some organisations still practice some traditions while they are no longer in touch with how or why they were established in the first place. Some parents still insist that their children should observe some traditions that were passed to them by their own parents, without being able to explain the reason for the traditions. Understanding is what empowers tradition. No one should be compelled to adhere to a set of principles without first being inducted into its purposes and functions. When you know why you do what you do, your faith will not be based on someone else’s conviction. Knowledge will drive you towards the future while ignorance will chain you to the past.
  • assume too much: when traditions become rigid, they fail to take into consideration that the only constant thing in life is change. Rigid traditions assume things will remain the same way indefinitely. Kodak assumed that there wouldn’t be a future without film but it was wrong. When traditions are sustainable, they establish principles for a generation without robbing future generations of the opportunity to establish theirs. Amazon changed forever the way books are sold. As revolutionary as the Amazon business model is, you will be mistaken to assume it would still be relevant in the next 10 years. If for instance you adopt “excellence” as your tradition, you must not box yourself into a corner by limiting your definition to the highest standards you currently observe. By next year, what you do would have become common and a new standard would have been set.

Are traditions good? Absolutely! Are they sacrosanct? No! Tradition should respond to and evolve with the purpose for which it was created. It must never stand in the way of progress. Never hold onto a tradition until you become irrelevant. Compromise is when you change your goal to suit your tradition. Progress is when you change your tradition to suit your goal.  Thanks for reading my article today. I would really love to hear from you. So, do share your views with me by sending SMS to 07034737394, visiting and following me on twitter @lanreamodu. Remember, if you can change your mind, you can change your life. Grow your mind and every other thing will catch up!