One of my favorite poems as a young school boy growing up in Africa is a Yoruba poem titled “Ise l’ogun ise,” translated Work is the medication or antidote for poverty.
The first “Ise” means work and the second “ise” means poverty or lack. “Ise” and “ise” are heteronyms—having the same spelling but different pronunciation and meaning. “ogun” means medicine.
Whenever I get lazy, procrastinate, or thought of watching the news instead of making the news, I remember this poem and it gives me another dose of determination. Here is my translation from the original Yoruba poem, “Ise l’ogun ise.” I hope it encourages you continue working hard on yourself:
Work is the medication for poverty
Continue to work hard my friend
Work leads to greatness.
If you don’t have anybody to help you
People might think you are lazy
And if you have nobody to rely on
Continue to work even harder on and for yourself.
If your mother is wealthy
And your father very rich
If you depend on their riches
You will be very disappointed—I tell you.
The things you do not labor for
Will not last long
The things you work hard to achieve
Are what really lasts.
Your arms are your family
Your elbows are your relatives.
If people like to you today
As long as you have money,
They will continue to look for you.
If you are in an enviable position
People will respect you with smiles on their face.
If you lose your wealth and become poor
The same people will start to mock you.
Education can also take you to the top
Do everything to get educated
If you see a lot of people joking with their studies
I beg you not to join them in doing the same.
A person that will not seek wisdom will suffer
The one that is wasting his youth will cry in the end
Don’t joke with your youth my friend
Continue to work hard because time is running out.