Building Dreams to Burning Bridges

Jun 1 , 2024
By Eden Sahle

I know a few individuals who have successfully built businesses from scratch as new graduates. One of them was a young man I met five years ago who had a passion for technology and video games. He was particularly confident in teaching young people about website development and design. Despite the crowded field, his creativity and computer science background helped him stand out, appealing to many parents. He also worked on international projects that earned him foreign currency.

He was in his early 20s and had just graduated from Addis Abeba University when I met him. He came to my office looking for a tech project. We did not hire him because he did not know the programming language we were using, but his enthusiasm and project proposal impressed us all.

I recommended him to other employers. He secured multiple projects from those contacts, who later thanked me for the introduction, praising his performance and creativity. Even though we never worked together, he kept in touch with me through email and social media. I admired his big ideas and ambition to bring them to reality. I was thrilled for him when he opened his own company and successfully managed different projects. In no time, he bought a car, hired five people, and moved out of his parents' house to live in a suburban apartment.

He exemplified professional qualities and unique traits that could greatly influence other young people with similar visions. He was kind and soft-spoken, able to explain complex concepts simply. He generously mentored young children, drawing them into technology.

Unfortunately, his grand and bold ideas were left in vain when he succumbed to drugs and alcohol. The companies I recommended him to sent me long complaints about his dishonest behaviour. Despite being financially comfortable, he did not know how to use his resources wisely. The young man who once shared innovative ideas on social media now posted pictures of himself smoking and drinking excessively.

It was shocking to see someone with such potential fall so drastically. He did not manage himself or his company well, losing two major clients. The ideas he once passionately pursued no longer mattered. He became pale and severely thin, his facial bones visible. His social media turned into a destructive reality show where he wasted his potential and harmed his health.

I reached out to check on him and inform him about the complaints regarding his unprofessional conduct. He was somewhat remorseful, but the young man I met was long gone. He said he was exploring a new lifestyle and believed he could stop the dangerous behaviour anytime, despite what medical research says about the typical addict’s struggle. His company closed, and he moved back to his parent's house, unable to afford living on his own. He joked that his parents kept his bedroom as if they knew he would return. The few years of success had gone to his head, and he lost the ambition and confidence that once drove him.

Many young people dream of owning their businesses to establish themselves as entrepreneurs and perhaps create an environment they can control and lead. But it is important to remember that at any point in life, distractions can cause us to shift our focus temporarily or permanently. Many who fall into addiction lose the wisdom and values they once held, leading to lifelong regret. Like the young man, our poor choices can make our achievements slip away faster than we can imagine.

I felt sad for him because rebuilding a shattered reputation is much harder than creating a new one. Working back to an aspirational phase while dealing with addiction is incredibly difficult. Mishandling short-term success can impede long-term achievements. The young man traded dedication, hard work, experience, and lessons learned for something destructive. The qualities that helped him create something valuable are now lost.

While professional success is a piece of the puzzle in life, how we handle ourselves through the process determines other aspects of our lives. Life goals are self-created, and it is up to us to maintain focus. Nurturing our traits is key to building on what we have established. Creating something is great, but much of the skill lies in keeping it going.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 01,2024 [ VOL 25 , NO 1257]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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