Thursday, June 25, 2009

What Difference Does It Make Anyway?

I have had a rather busy day today. I have had to shuttle between family commitments and work and I must confess it’s not been easy. I feel so tired and worn out. I really feel like jumping on my bed now. However, my heart desires something else. It desires to write. Since I do my best to follow my heart, I am compelled to write.

I was travelling from Lagos to Ibadan earlier today by public transport. I met a lady in the bus I travelled in that amused me. She really looked like a very “tush” girl and that was the 1st impression I had about her. She was actually in the bus before me and was helping herself with a Chicken Republic meal. Shortly after I sat down, a guy came beside the window where she was seating, trying to sell her a skirt, “Do I look like a househelp?”, she blurted. “What’s the designer’s label on that”, she further probed. Of course, she left the guy confused. I didn’t know whether to laugh or confront her. She was really mean to the guy. Anyway, that further proved her “tushness” to me. However, in less than 15 minutes, I changed my mind about her. As soon as we set out on our journey, she started throwing everything imaginable out through the window right on the expressway – the bones of the chicken she was eating, the serviettes she used to clean her hands, the nylon bag, the spoons and the drink bottles! I couldn’t take it again. “That’s not right” I finally said. “Why don’t you put everything in that nylon bag? We need to keep our nation clean” I continued. Well, she didn’t agree with me! According to her, “This is Nigeria. The Roads are already dirty anyway. Whether I throw that out or not, the place is already a mess”. What an interesting submission. Have you heard people around you say that? I have heard all sorts –“If you don’t take that bribe, someone else will. The nation is corrupt”. “Why are you bothering yourself obeying the traffic lights? No one else is obeying it!” “You cannot be a successful business man in Nigeria without bribing your way through”. I am sure you can list a dozen more.

What do you do when the “little” you are doing in your corner doesn’t seem to make sense? What do you do when right seems wrong? What do you do when you are being abused by other roads users because you are trying to obey traffic rules? What do you do when you feel that the little you are doing doesn’t affect the overall outcome anyway? I recommend that you remember this story – it’s one of my favourite stories. It is the story of the star fish.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man that used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

I am sure you get the morale of the story. What you are doing may not make sense to others and may not affect the whole nation, but it may affect an individual and change him for life. It can affect a community. When your young son is sitting beside you, while you insist on obeying traffic rules, you are laying a great foundation for his future. When you refuse to accept bribes, despite the fact that others are doing it, you are touching someone at least. When you do things right, someone is watching…and that someone can be positively affected for the rest of his life. To that one, the little thing that you are doing makes all the difference!

Now, sleep is beckoning and I must respond now! Hope you have picked up a thing or two from my ramblings.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

As You Like It

I just got back from Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University) some minutes ago. I actually wanted to write this in the car on my way back but the ride was too bumpy for me to concentrate. I think I need a four wheeler.

I was privileged to share with groups of Final Year Students who have a semester left before they face the “world”. In as much as a lot of them are eager to see what the future holds, they are also afraid of what is waiting for them out there. Hence, the program “Beyond Ife” was put together to help equip them for tomorrow. It is a 4 week program and I was scheduled to speak on week 2, along with Steven Chiazor, Head of HR for Virgin Nigeria. To say the least, it was a blast. I had a good time and the responses after the meeting was overly encouraging.

I spoke on the topic “As you like it”. Let me start with a story I shared. It’s fictions anyway. There once lived an old man who could answer any question rightly and correctly. He could tell you whatever you wanted to know, even what you ate the last time! In the same place, there lived two young lads who decided to take the man up and ask him a question that he will get wrong. They wanted to prove to him that he was not the “all wise” after all. They went to the bush and shot a bird, leaving the bird half dead. They then thought within to themselves that they will take the bird to the man and ask him if the bird they are holding behind them is dead or alive. They reasoned that if the old man answered that the bird is dead, they will bring it out half alive and would have proved him wrong. If he answered otherwise that the bird was alive, they will snuff the remaining life out of the bird and present it to the man dead. Whichever way, they were going to prove him wrong by all means. The plan looked so perfect and water tight. So, they did what they had planned and went to see the old man. “Old man”, they said when they got there, “can you please tell us what we have behind us”? Without turning towards them, the old man answered calmly “My children. Behind you, you have a bird, whether dead or alive, it is as you like it!” What an answer.

The message of the story is very clear. Life will deliver to you whatever you like. You have in your hands a great future ahead of you. What eventually happens to you is what you make out of it. You can achieve excellence in life and at work if you really like it. There are always challenges in life, and rightfully so. Life is full of challenges. Infact, God never called us to a challenge free life. He didn’t call us to a burden free life. He called us to a burden light life. “Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” says the scriptures. Listen to me friends. I have discovered that any coin with one side is a useless coin! Now, due to several challenges that will come your way in life, the odds are against you that you will not succeed. Yes, you heard/read me right! It is very likely that you will add to the statistics and be among the 90% of the world population that will not succeed. There is only a slim 10% chance that you will make it! How then do you position yourself to be among this successful 10%? Read on.

Attitude – the winning edge

Any regular visitor to my blog knows how often I write about having the right attitude. For me, it gives a winning edge. It compensates for many other things. Attitude, more than aptitude, determine your altitude. How you respond to things is, in my opinion, more important that your intelligence. It is not what happens to you that really matters. It is what happened in you as a result of what happened to you. All things being equal, attitude wins. All things not being equal, attitude still sometimes win! I encourage you to be an incurable optimist. Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.

Skill – the cutting edge

In a world of accelerated changes and overwhelming complexities, you need to sharpen your skills, in order to remain competitive. What can you do with your hands? This is what will give you an edge over others. My most popular character in the Bible is Joseph. An analysis of his life is a celebration of improved skills. First, we saw him dreaming and dreaming. Then, he moved to interpreting dreams for others. By the time he was done, he was not only interpreting dreams but also proffering solutions for the dreams interpreted! Amazing. The difference between 1.000, 10.00, 100.0 and 1000 is just the position of the decimal point (the dot). May I put it to you that your skill is that dot! It is what gives you value. Again, what can you do with your hands!

Hardwork – the breakthrough edge

In the school of success, the only substitute to hardwork is a hard life. Make your choice. I see so many lazy Christians blaming the devil. “Golden opportunities are nothing to laziness, but hardwork makes the commonest chance golden” says a wise man. May I say point blank that the dignity of labour is the greatest of all dignities. Everywhere else in the world, except in the dictionary, “work” comes before “success”. Have you ever heard about being an overnight success? Probably yes. What you have not heard is that those who become overnight successes worked throughout the night. Put your hands to work!

Relationship - the missing edge

Never underestimate the power of a relationship. It would be a big mistake. We live today in a global village. You are 5 persons away from everyone on this planet. You don’t necessarily need money to make money. All you need is an idea….and the right relationship. Relationships can open doors for you that money cannot open. I can predict where you will be in another 5 years if I know the value of the relationships you are cultivating today. Yes, I can, with precision. Your friends are more strategic to your destiny than your enemies. I advise you rather focus on that than wasting your precious time on your enemies. Cultivate right relationships and you will be on your way to the top.

Favour – the divine edge

Having done all….you need God! Favour separates you from the crowd and showcases you. It is the divine edge that makes you shine above your contemporaries who are working as hard and are also skillful. It is the God factor that comes to bear on your behalf. It is God adding to “extra” to your “ordinary” to make it “extraordinary”. May you enjoy the favour of the almighty!