A 50-year quest for answers


I STARTED helping Papua New Guineans in business back in 1970 with mixed results. Some became rich but the majority could not sustain their success, and as a result many of the people I helped became poor again.
Worldwide statistics indicate that 90 per cent of all new businesses fail within five years. Only 10 per cent are successful.
This bothered me greatly. Why can’t Papua New Guineans become rich and stay rich? What is the elusive solution to this phenomenon of 90 per cent business failures worldwide?
Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources, yet why are its people poor? Are Papua New Guineans really stupid? Are there deficiencies in the academic education system and also the religious system of preaching? Are there hindrances from their customary socialist culture and clan system? Or is it because of colonisation and plantation capitalism established by the British (Papua) and the Germans (New Guinea) in 1884?
Gradually, I began to form the concept of a viable person. Viable businesses need viable people to make correct decisions to maintain sustainability of a profitable business.
But how do we develop viable people? I searched the world for appropriate training courses and business education but I could not find anything to develop the viable person. This means I have to find answers to develop a business-class education system, which will develop commercial entrepreneurs.
It was not until 1995 that I was given the opportunity to do something about this universal problem. In 1995, the late Rev Samson Lowa, pastor of the Boroko United Church, now Rev Sione Kami Memorial Church (RSKMC), asked me to help members of his congregation especially those who are poor, jobless, frustrated and stressed out with poverty and a bleak future or a non-existent future.
Einstein said on Oct 15, 1931, “the aim (of education) must be the training of independently thinking and acting individuals, who, however, see in the service of the community their highest life problem.”
True education
True education is mind development. But I was told by many expatriates that it was impossible to educate Papua New Guineans in a holistic manner (physical, mental, spiritual, emotional and financial) and business-class education to develop commercial entrepreneurs. Only one expatriate gave me 50-50 chance of success, the rest gave me no chance. Impossible, they say.
Their conclusion is based on conventional perceptions. Papua New Guineans are just coming out of the stone-age with little formal education; they are basically undeveloped, their customary culture (wantok system) is a major hindrance to business and business is a foreign concept.
Furthermore, many Christians believe that making money is sinful. Under this scenario, it is not possible to bring Papua New Guineans out of poverty and into prosperity within one generation, so they say. Many countries take centuries to evolve into developed-nation status. The UNDP ranks PNG around 160 on the Human Development Index.
But there is no denying the fact that everyone wants money, including governments and churches, not just entrepreneurs and business houses, not just Asians and foreign investors.
Mission impossible
Little did I know it was the beginning of Mission Impossible. Once I embarked on this journey, I knew I had to find the answer to poverty, impossible or not. Looking back, I think the word “impossible” was the catalyst that drove me 24/7 to find solutions to poverty.
Originally, I gave myself five years to find the solution. I may not have started this journey if I had known it would take me 25 years to realise my mission. And I made many mistakes along the journey.
I thought if I impart relevant knowledge to people, this will improve their living standards. Not so. It was after 10 years of teaching before I realised it’s not going to work.
Theory first, and action will follow did not work. I guess most people view education in classrooms only. So I reversed the order. Action first theory second because our “classroom” is actually the market-place, where you learn about supply and demand.
When I taught simple accounting, with chalk and blackboard, to calculate net profit and balance sheet statements, my students tell me they understand. When they implement income-generating projects, they could not write up their actual profit and loss statements and balance sheets. Why?
Most Papua New Guineans are not mathematically inclined, especially in decimals and percentages. So, I started teaching “Grassroots Math”. But that did not work either.
When I started teaching commercial math to help students calculate what is required to make profit in any income-generating project, everyone wants me to provide the formula to calculate financial asset break point, quantity asset break point, start-up capital required, gross and net profit percentages, etc. The thinking skill to develop mathematical formula is not there.

Papa Sam presenting a certificate of excellence to Florence Saia who broke the K1,000 barrier within seven trading days using only K10 as start up capital.

I did not realise most Papua New Guineans are frightened, shy, embarrassed, or incompetent to discuss money. They rarely negotiate business opportunities because of this profound reluctance to discuss money.
I also did not realise business and commercial terminologies are foreign to most students
So, I started to develop “games” to train people how to play the Game of Life and Money and Business, which enable praxis (students) to USE PV knowledge. And I started coaching people to think and act for themselves.
Through these trials and errors, I began to formulate in my own mind the deficiencies of the current education, religious and economic systems.
Banks focus on viable projects or businesses and not the viability of the person.
Academic education prepares students for formal employment, not to prosper in life.
Churches preach the Word of God, but do not demonstrate how it applies to prosperous living.
Possession of knowledge does not make people rich. There are many poor teachers, professors and academics in this world. In Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad Poor Dad the poor dad is his own father, who is the head of the education department in Hawaii. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “he who learns and learns, and yet does not what he knows, is like the man who ploughs and ploughs, yet never sows”. It is the intelligent use of knowledge that makes people rich.
Possession of resources does not make people rich. There are many poor resource owners in PNG. It is the intelligent use of resources that makes people rich. Even loans and savings do not make people rich because most people borrow or save money to spend and there are many poor lottery winners in this world. It is the intelligent use of money that makes people rich. True education is mind development.
People cannot connect knowledge with application. That is why there has to be action first before theory because with action, students connect with their projects, tasks and everyday activities. People read the Bible but they cannot connect the teachings of the Bible to everyday life.
There are four stages of learning how to think: Unconscious incompetence; conscious incompetence; conscious competence; and unconscious competence. Most people do not know what they need to learn to prosper in life. They think possession of knowledge, money, resource, talent etc will make them rich. They are unconscious that it is the organisation and use of resources that makes people rich. Unfortunately, most people are unconscious of their incompetence and are liabilities to themselves, family, communities and employers.
CV vs CC, duty statements vs performance track record, goals vs tasks: CVs do not indicate whether a person is an asset or liability. Character and competence (CC) indicate whether a person is an asset or not.
Architectural plans vs building plans: People, generally, know what they want but the “how” to deliver corporate vision, mission, purposes and goals is definitely missing.
Work hard versus work smart: Most people work hard from the neck downwards. The rich work smart from the neck upwards.
Project Me, or the preparation of a viable person comes first, before the viable business.
Therefore, my conclusion after 50 years of teaching, training, searching and coaching is this: True education is mind development to learn how to work smart, how to organise and use resources including human, natural and universal resources, time, money, knowledge, talent and how to have do and be whatever you want in life.
I thought it would take me five years to find the solution to alleviate poverty, but it took 25 years, from 1995 to 2020. Originally I thought the solution was relevant business-class knowledge. But I was wrong, the solution is the organisation and use of relevant knowledge. Knowledge can be imparted, but independent thinking to organise and use knowledge cannot be imparted. Thinking can only be learned and it took me 25 years to design a learning system based on performance and action learning.
After 25 years, this is the real break-through for PV because Florence Saia proved my conviction that Papua New Guineans have the capacity to learn how to think and act independently to use and prosper with PV education.
In the past, most people think only Asians can prosper in business, so I really need some Papua New Guineans to demonstrate that anyone can prosper in life, with or without formal education.
The main features of Captain Florence Saia and Team Eagle are that:

  1. Florence developed the Eagle mastermind organisation and record after record kept on tumbling.
  2. Eagle leaders made up their minds to think and act for themselves, instead of waiting for assistance and handouts. From this decision, initiative after initiative followed in abundance.
  3. The Eagle team established a self-funding system to finance members into PVBS Levels 1, 2 and 3.
  4. They invested heavily in the ‘Bank of Wisdom’, and the return on investment is mind-boggling even in such a short period of time.
  5. They competently organised a profitable coastal fishing business.
  6. They love, care, support and always adding value to each other thus developing teamwork and human assets, which is the best business capital.
  7. Their personal power provides the forward momentum and high positive energy.
  8. The spirit of PV is surely upon the Team Eagle.

Track record
On Oct 18, 2019, Florence Saia was the first person to break the K1,000 record scoring K1009 in seven trading days with K10 start-up capital because she used PV knowledge. More than that, she lives and breathes PV, she believes in PV philosophies and she actualises the spirit of PV.
As of June 2020, there are now 43 Club 1000 members and the new record-holder is Dec Isaac, who made K7,191 in seven trading days.
As we celebrated the 24th PV anniversary on Sept 16, 2020, there were also Level 3 records broken.
Coincidentally, in 2020, a young woman, Carol Aigilo, scored a perfect score in grassroots math, for the first time in 20 years.
After 50 years of helping Papua New Guineans, since 1970, and after 25 years of the PV journey from 1995, I have now realised part of my “mission impossible” thanks to Mama Eagle, Florence Saia and the Eagle Team.
It is now up to the rest of PNG to follow the lead of Team Eagle. Mission impossible is now partly accomplished. But the work is not over.
Mission accomplished is when a praxis graduates from PVBS Level 5, the commencement of commercial enterprise.
We now need to spread PV education throughout PNG and to the world, especially developing nations to help alleviate poverty. We need to make PV education affordable and easily accessible, using modern technology to create an online education programme.

  • Papa Sam (Samuel Tam Snr) is the founder of the Port Moresby-based Human Development Institute which teaches Personal Viability (PV) Business Class Education in PNG and a number of other countries.