Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Secrets of Accomplishment (II)

Consider this for a moment. You are on the soccer pitch in a capacity filled stadium. You are about to take the last shot in the finals of a game that would be determined by penalty shoot out. The hopes and aspirations of a whole nation rest on your shoulders. The game had been intense. Both teams have put in their very best for 120 minutes without a winner. Now, 80,000 fans at the stadium, and several millions watching across the globe are all focusing attention on you – some hoping you’ll score and others praying you’ll miss. You place the ball on the penalty mark, and take 3 steps backwards. The noise is the stadium is deafening and your heart beat is doing a double summersault! What a moment this can be! Whatever happens, your name will go down in the history books as the one who took the game winning shot, or as the one who caused the country to lose. It is a defining moment.

Every one of us, at different point in life and career, are faced with defining moments! A lot depends on how we handle our defining moments. A lot depends on what we do at those moments, or what we didn’t do. A lot depends on our actions and inactions; our decisions, and indecisions. Our lives are a series of defining moments, strung together by passing time. Surrender fully to this moment, because it is not the moment that defines us, but how we chose to live it!

I was faced with a defining moment sometime in 2006. I had just finished my Ordinary National Diploma in one of the polytechnics in Nigeria. I was privileged to finish as the best graduating student in my class, winning the Rectors’ Award for that year. Shortly after, I was interviewing with one of the best oil companies in the country and was offered a job. The salary (as of then) was intimidating to say the least. I thought to myself “this would solve my problem and my family’s forever”! In the same week, I got my admission letter for a direct entry to a University, and was faced with a big dilemma. You may not understand how big this decision was if you didn’t know my family background. I needed the bucks so much at that time and anyway to get it would have being a good way. It was a big defining moment. I was going to play a shot that would later determine a lot of things in my life and career. Looking back retrospectively, I am glad I put the shot far beyond the reach of the goalkeeper (lol). One more than one occasion, I have also faced defining moments at work – changing departments at short notice, taking up additional responsibilities, saying “NO” to some request e.t.c. Listen. Defining moments really defines us, and what happens to us, now and in the future. Be sensitive to such moments.

I have discovered that life is not as difficult as some people make it look it. One song writer puts it in a way that I really like. He said “ Life is not difficult to anyone who believes that life is not difficult”. It is that simple. When you learn to play by life’s rules, you will excel and succeed in great measures. People who are excelling in life and in career have discovered certain secrets that they are exploring. They are secrets, not because they are hidden somewhere, but because you have not discovered them! When you discover what they have discovered, and practice it, you will get the kind of results that they are getting. Success is surely sold in the open market. Anyone can buy, who is willing to pay the price. Are you?

Let me continue sharing with you some of the secrets of accomplishment that I have found, and that has helped me over the years. Recall that we shared 2 of these in the 1st part of this write up (I encourage you to read it up, if you have not done so already). Here is a list of some others:

Be Diligent and Hardworking

It would take me several write ups to conclude a topic on hardwork and diligence. To put it simply, the only substitute to hardwork is a hardlife! The ball is in your court – work hard or live a hard life! There are too many lazy people blaming the devil for their woes! One of the greatest problems facing our nation and our continent is that we have too many people who are not working. Some may even go to work but are still not working (visit some government secretariat and you will need no further proof). We are lazy people both in the use of our hands and of our minds. This is a tragedy!

The dictionary is the only place in the world where “success” comes before “work” just because of the alphabetical arrangements of things. Work always comes before success, anywhere in the world. Show me a lazy man and I will show you a man who has kissed success goodbye. A wise man puts it in a wonderful way “show me a man who is diligent in his work, I will show you a man who will stand before kings and not before ordinary men”. The diligent and hardworking hand will always bear rule.

Many believe that success is just being lucky. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Success comes by consistent hardwork. I like the way Alan Bond puts it. He said “I've always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got” If you believe so much in luck, it’s important to remember that hardwork increases your chances of being lucky.
The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.
In the words of Vince Lombardi “I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle-victorious” .In the school of success, there is no substitute to hardwork. Nobody becomes great without hardwork. Nobody! So, get ready to work. Everything works for him that works!

Have the Right Ability to Make Decisions.

Decisions determine destiny. Decisions also mars destiny. In life, our choices and decisions determine how far we go. We 1st make decisions, and then, decisions in turn make us! Where you are today is a function of the decisions you made yesterday. The decisions and choices you are making today, will determine where you will end up tomorrow. Don’t just wake up tomorrow, and be wondering how you got in there.

I have discovered that success in life is not a gift. It doesn’t just fall on people like ripe pawpaw! It is a decision that you have to make. You are a direct product of your decisions. You are going to live tomorrow with the consequences of today’s decisions and choices. The choices we make today will colour the spectrum of our life in the future. It is futile to squander today and hope for a generous tomorrow. Everything that happens in your life-both what you are thrilled with and what you are challenged by-began with a decision.

An average person makes about 350 decisions in a day. However, in prison, inmates are restricted to only 8 decisions daily! That is nature’s way of punishing them for the wrong decisions and choices that brought them there. Isn’t that interesting? They are not been trusted again because of wrong decisions they once made.

Let me as you a direct question. Have you really decided to succeed in your life? I am not asking you if you wish to succeed, because I know what your answer to that would be. But, have you really decided to? Not taking a decision is already a decision. Not taking a decision to succeed is already a decision to fail. Not taking a decision to live a life of excellence is a decision to live a mediocre life. Not deciding to be rich, is a decision to live in poverty. Wouldn’t you rather make a conscious decision?

Henry David Thoreau sums it up well when he said “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of a man to elevate his life by a conscious endevour.

Don’t Give Up!

Sir Edmund Hillary was the first man to climb Mount Everest. On May 29, 1953 he scaled the highest mountain then known to man-29,000 feet straight up. He was knighted for his efforts. He even made American Express card commercials because of it! However, until we read his book, High Adventure, we don't understand that Hillary had to grow into this success. You see, in 1952 he attempted to climb Mount Everest, but failed. A few weeks later a group in England asked him to address its members. Hillary walked on stage to a thunderous applause. The audience was recognizing an attempt at greatness, but Edmund Hillary saw himself as a failure. He moved away from the microphone and walked to the edge of the platform. He made a fist and pointed at a picture of the mountain. He said in a loud voice, "Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I'll beat you the next time because you've grown all you are going to grow... but I'm still growing!" A year later, he succeeded where he has failed.

I have learnt something about successful people. They don’t avoid mistakes; they handle it. Peter Drucker once said "The better a man is, the more mistakes he will make, for the more new things he will try. I would never promote into a top level job a man who was not making mistakes…otherwise he is sure to be mediocre."

A number of years ago, an aspiring writer interviewed Thomas J. Watson, the President of IBM. Watson gave him this advice: “It’s not exactly my line, “he said, but would you like me to give you a formula for writing success? It’s quite simple, really. Double you rate of failure.” “You are making a common mistake. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. Failure is a teacher – a harsh one perhaps, but the best. You say you have a desk full of rejected manuscripts? That’s great! Every one of those manuscripts was rejected for a reason. Have you pilled them to pieces looking for that reason? You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So, go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that’s where you’ll find success. On the far side of failure.”

That is profound and full of truths. Failure is a friend, not an enemy. Failure is a school teacher, not a taskmaster. See it as such and you will benefit immensely. I am always thrilled by the definition of success I saw somewhere. It says “success is moving from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm!”

Again, success is sold in the open market. Let anyone go and buy, who is willing to pay the price. You will succeed!

See you at the top!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Secrets of Accomplishment

Earlier in the month, I celebrated my 9th year in the corporate world. It’s been interesting spending 9 whole years, in just one company (definitely one of the best companies to work for in the world). While I am far from where I want to be, God has helped me to make very modest achievements in the corporate world. I have been privileged to work under 8 different direct managers, from 7 different nationalities! I have also managed hundreds of people, from different nationalities, including an American. I have had great times, good times, just okay times, and a couple of bad times. All in all, it’s been a splendid 9 years. I have won several awards (the last one was just this week), including a final showing for the “Young Professional of the Year” award in Nigeria in 2008. For all these, and most especially for the people I have been privileged to mentor, coach, and touch in different ways, I am indeed very grateful to God. To a good extent, I am living my dreams.

Years back, while still on campus, I had taught severally on the Secrets of accomplishments. I simply taught from God’s word, and from revelations I had from books that I had read. Then, I could only practice those principles within certain confines, but was sure they’ll work anywhere. I taught those principles as if my life depended on them. I am sure some people would have reasoned that it’s easier said than done! Over 10 years after, I can say categorically that they do work! I am a living testimony to this fact. I have handled, tried, and tested all of these principles, and they will deliver when followed. They work in the corporate world as well as they would in the spiritual work, in the market place, as an entrepreneur, and practically anywhere else.

May I please share them with you, yet again?

Let God be Your Source:

To put it bluntly, there is no true success outside God! I know a couple of those reading this will question me and say “Common, what about all those who are succeeding and do not know God?”. That is exactly why I used the word “true” to describe the kind of success I am talking about. True success takes it’s roots, and it’s depth in God. Success is much than possession. It has a lot to do with your position with God. I like the way the Message Bible describes 1 Sam 2: 9. It says “He protectively cares for his faithful friends, step by step, but leaves the wicked to stumble in the dark. No one makes it in this life by sheer muscle! “

Remember the story of the rich fool? “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” What a story that that nails home my point. If it must be good, then, it must be God!

When the root of your success or accomplishment is not God, then, I can predict that you’ll only be in the limelight just for a while. Very soon, the foundation will crumble, and the building will no longer hold. Years back, I read about the famous 1923 “Who is Who in Industry” gathering at the Edgewater Beach hotel in Chicago, USA. There was a meeting of nine of the world's richest people at that time. Combined, these people had more wealth than the entire U.S. government at that time!! They were all very successful men, well respected and looked up to as people who had "made it". Newspapers frequently wrote articles about them, and many college professors had used these men as examples, to teach their business and finance classes, "how to make it" in the business world. The list includes:

Charles Schwab, the president of the largest steel company in the world and the first man in American history to make a one million dollar a year salary!!,
Samuel Insull, the president of the world's largest utility company,
Richard Whitney, the president of the New York Stock exchange,
Leon Frazier, the president of the Bank of International Settlements,
Jessie Livermore, a very successful stock market giant,
Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm,
Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator,
Albert Fall, member of the President's Cabinet,
Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.

Even by today's standard, these were VERY rich men, and most people today would LOVE to be in their shoes..... or would they?? Let's look at how all 9 of these men, the most wealthy, powerful men the world, wound up at the end of their lives.The first man to make a million dollars a year, Charles Schwab, died in bankruptcy just twenty five years later, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. Samuel Insull had died penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. Richard Whitney spent time in Sing-Sing prison before his death. Leon Fraizer, Jessie Livermore, and Ivar Kreuger all committed suicide because they were so unhappy with their life. Howard Hopson went insane before his death. Arthur Cutten died completely broke. Albert Fall was sentenced to prison, but was released early so he could die at home broke and alone.

Need I say more?

Start With What You Have:

It is intriguing sometimes that a lot of people focus their energy on what they do not have! I really do not know why, but I have come to realize that most people do themselves a lot of harm by putting a lot of focus and energy on what they need, and not what they have. In simple terms, what you have is the key to what you need!

In 2 Kings 4: 1-4, there is this story of a certain widow who came to Elisha for help. Her late husband was a prophet, but didn’t leave much to be desired for her and her sons. Infact, he left them with a huge debt, so much so that they creditors had come to pick her two sons as slaves! Just like most people, she rushed to the man of God for help! I perceive she must have been looking forward to getting something tangible from Elisha. Elisha himself spoke her mind when he asked “ What can I do to help you”? It is surprising however, that Elisha didn’t allow her to answer this question, before asking another. “What do you have at home”, he asked. Elisha realized that the key to meeting her needs was in understanding what she had. Despite the fact that the woman despised what she had at home (just a jar of oil), this was sufficient to meet her needs!

What do you have? What can you do? May I challenge you to start doing that, until you find what you think you want to do? I challenge you never to underestimate what you have. Put it to use.

Some time back, I discovered that I had a special skill in passing my message across with a bit of humour. You’ll be laughing while I deliver the point. I was dead broke in those days, and I needed money to pay for my school fees. I offered what I had to some evening classes around my house then, and it became a instant hit! Soon, I was teaching “humorously” in 4-5 different evening classes while the success rates were improving. I became a household name as I was different from many other teachers. You would think it was a comedy club (lol)! Up till today, I still deliver training with a high sense of humour that leaves my audience captivated. I offered what I had, and started getting what I needed….and I am still doing that till now.

Do not despise what you have. Do not underestimate the gifts you carry. There is glory in the ordinary

To be continued.....