Saturday, December 24, 2016

Lessons From The Wisemen

It’s that time of the year again when everyone around the world celebrate Christmas –a day to mark the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some celebrate because they know the significance of that day, while several others do so just for the fun of it. As another Christmas is here, I have a question on my mind. Do people really understand the true meaning and essence of Christmas? Do they understand what they are celebrating? It reminds me of the story of ants that I read some time ago. A group of ants were marching towards a place all together. The one at the extreme end touched the one in front of him and asked “Johnny, where are we headed?” “I don’t know”, replied Johnny, “I just saw everyone moving and decided to join them!” You will agree with me that this journey will end nowhere. This is the exact way some people celebrate Christmas. They do not know the true essence of it. They are celebrating because others are. They are celebrating the day because it is a national holiday. May I ask you why you are celebrating this Christmas?

Christmas without Christ is just an ordinary mass! Period! Can you imagine going for a birthday party without the celebrant in attendance? I am not sure it will be a great party. The true essence of Christmas will be missing if Christ is missing in your heart.
Can you imagine going for a birthday party without the celebrant in attendance? I am not sure it will be a great party
Thousands of years ago, a group of people, who witnessed the maiden Christmas didn’t just let the day go by. They made a great significance of the day. They were a group of guys with humble beginnings. I like the way St Luke introduces them in Luke 2: 8
Now, there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
They were just ordinary shepherds. They were not people in the top echelon of the society. They sat silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

There was another set of people - Magis they were called. There were "wisemen", men of means and men of substance, who left their all and went in search of the saviour. I read their story again today, and will like to share with you some learning.

Realized Vision

In Luke’s account of the story, the angel of the Lord appeared to these wisemen with the glad tidings of the birth of the savior. The angel told them that they will see a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Immediately the angel left them, look at what they did.
So it was when the angels had gone away from them into heaven that the shepherds said to one another “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us”. And they came in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger - (Luke 2: 15-16)
These men immediately acted on the vision. They followed the vision that God showed them. They sought for guidance as they pursued their vision. In Mathew’s account, they encountered series of hindrances from Herod the king, but they did not allow these to blur their vision. There was no account whatsoever that they stopped to rest on the way. Not until they realized their vision

What vision do you have in your heart? How are you pursuing it? Are you acting on it or giving excuses why it can’t be realized? The wisemen didn’t do this. If you also want to be wise, then act on your God given vision NOW.

Real Worship

My wife and I were discussing of late on the topic of real worship. Today in churches, you see people dancing to praise worship and you wonder if they are really doing it unto the Lord, or to get noticed. Praise worship leaders climb the pulpit more interested in very nice music arrangements, rather than leading us to God’s presence. We see a gradual dearth of real worship. The wisemen here worshiped in Spirit and in truth. The Bible says in Mathew 2: 11
….they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they had come into the house, the saw the young child with Mary His Mother, and fell down and worshiped him
There was nothing systemic about this worship. No music. No drums. No pianos. I am not sure there was any sound. Only real worship. These men fell down. They literally threw themselves at the saviour! They worshiped with reckless abandon. In the Jewish custom, this was only done to a King. The acknowledged Christ as their Superior King.

May I ask you this question? When last have you truly worshipped Him? When last did you throw yourself at Him in reckless abandon? Selah!

Remarkable Giving
…And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh
Not only did these wisemen worship the Lord, they also gave out of their treasures. They gave in abundance. Notice that they didn’t know this family before. They angel never told them to give. They were not under any obligation to give. However, they opened their treasures and gave abundantly. Those gifts were not mere gifts from shepherds. It must have cost them a lot. They gave generously.

One other thing struck me about their giving. They gave significantly. The wise men…recognizing Jesus as King of Kings wanted to give their best as well. Each of the three gifts given had both a symbolic meaning and a practical use.

•Gold, as it is today was very valuable. To find gold you have to dig underground and find which was very difficult back in Bible times because you didn’t have the tools you have today.
•Gold has always been a means of exchange…something that for Mary & Joseph would come in handy as they would soon travel to Egypt and would need food, clothing and shelter.
•Symbolically Gold represents kingship. The King that Christ is for us. It also represents the purification process we go through in our trials as a Christian.

•Frankincense is made by cutting a tree named “Arbor Thurisfrom” found Persia, Arabia and India. It’s like a sap that is gathered and then dried for 3 months and becomes a like a hardened resin or gum.
•Frankincense is used as a perfume but mostly it was burned as sweet incense during worship. During the Exodus Aaron would burn Frankincense at the altar as a sweet offering to the Lord.
•Practically Frankincense would be a familiar smell to baby Jesus as this was the same God that was worshiped in the Old Testament. It would also help it getting the stable smelling better with all those animals in there with them. You could say that Frankincense was kinda of the Yankee Candle of that time.
•Symbolically Frankincense represented the divinity of Christ because as mentioned Frankincense was burnt as an offering to God.

•Myrrh, like Frankincense, also is the sap from a tree that is hardened and then used. However, unlike, Frankincense which is sweet…Myrrh has a bitter taste to it.
•Myrrh was mostly used to embalm the dead because it had the property to preserve. It was also used as a perfume, an ingredient of holy ointments mentioned in Exodus but it’s most practical use for Mary & Joseph would be it’s medical uses. Today Myrrh is used today in toothpaste, mouthwash and make-up.
•Lastly, Myrrh represents the bitter cup that Christ had to drink in suffering for our sins and the healing for us that his death brings.

When celebrating with your loved ones this holiday season, take a moment to remind yourself of the first Christmas and the impact that it has had on the world in which we live. Any wise man today will still do what these wisemen did. Wise men still seek Jesus!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Nigeria - We Still Have A Part To Play

It’s independence today. Just last week, someone made a comment, and said “I believe in, and I am very proud of Nigeria”. I recall thinking and saying to myself “No way! I believe in Nigeria still, but I am NOT proud of Nigeria at this point in time”. I believe a number of people will agree with me, for obvious reasons. Our country is in a state. The last couple of months have been particularly tough for us, almost on all fronts, especially as it pertains to the economy. Our currency is receiving daily bashing in the Forex market. Many companies are shutting down and leaving the country. People are losing their jobs in large numbers. Prices are sky rocketing in the market place. Majority of people are groaning.  I know we are in a difficult place as a nation, and I am not proud of that.

I listened to one of my mentors (Robert Morris) speak a few weeks back, and I believe the thoughts he shared are very relevant to our nation (and indeed most nations of the world) at this time. As Nigeria celebrates her 56th independence anniversary, permit me to share those thoughts.

1.       God is still in Control – He is sovereign. He knows what is happening to us as a nation, and he hasn’t lost control of Nigeria. He knows the end from the beginning. Nothing that has happened has caught him by surprise. Nothing that will happen will. Believe me honestly, things will be much worse if he wasn’t in control.

2.       Jesus is still the answer – This is very important to note. Our political system has failed us, and will probably continue to. We turned to a political class in the last election, and we all know what is happening. The answer is not in politics (in as much as there is a part we have to play). The answer is not in Oil and oil prices. The answer is beyond science and technology. It is in Jesus Christ.

3.       We still need to do our part- This is perhaps the most important point I want to make. The reason is because this is the part where we need to take responsibility. Nigeria is where we are today, not just because of our leaders, but because of the followers also. Are you doing your own bit? I understand the excuse you’d put up. I understand that you feel frustrated because the system doesn’t seem to support doing the right things. But, to change our country, we need to continue to do what is right. We need to embrace “Change starts with you” because it truly does. We need to continue to vote for the people who we believe will provide us with the right leadership. We need to continue to obey traffic laws, even if it seems we are the only one doing it. We need to do things right, and do the right things. We still have a part to play, and it’s a pretty big part.

May Nigeria be great again, in our lifetime!

Happy Independence Day.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Being A Person Of Excellence - Part II

A couple of years ago, I had a need for a large book shelf, as the books in my study were growing out of proportion. I got a referral from a friend to use a carpenter. He came highly recommended and after showing him exactly what we wanted (my wife did the most of that bit) from a magazine, I was pretty sure he would deliver. After agreeing on price and delivery date, I closed the deal. Not too surprised though, the guy could only deliver 2 weeks late! He had this story about being ill and all that, and he didn’t deem it fit to call and negotiate his commitment. But that wasn’t what pissed me off. What really pissed me off was a tiny detail that he didn’t pay attention to. Can you imagine a book shelf where all the legs were not balanced on the floor? One leg was slightly shorter than the rest, causing a sort of imbalance. When I confronted him with this obvious defect, all he could say was “ It is just a small defect. It is nothing major. Since you are putting it in a rugged room, it won’t be a big deal”. I told him I wasn’t going to accept this, and to my amazement, he got angry with me! I mean, he really got mad at me that I would accept nothing less than what I had paid for. Needless to say that we live in an environment with thousands of folks like this, who will never autograph their work with excellence! What a tragedy!

Contrast this with a story I once heard from Harvey Mackay, (Business Motivational Speaker). He told a wonderful story about a cab driver in Chicago. Harvey Mackay was waiting in line for a taxi at the airport when a cab pulled up. The first thing Harvey noticed was that the taxi was polished to a bright shine. Smartly dressed in a white shirt, black tie, and freshly pressed black slacks, the cab driver jumped out and rounded the car to open the back passenger door for Harvey. He handed him a laminated card and said: ‘I’m Wally, your driver. While I`m loading your bags in the trunk I`d like you to read my mission statement. Taken aback, Harvey read the card. It said: Wally`s Mission Statement-To get my customers to their destination in the quickest, safest and cheapest way possible in a friendly environment.This blew Harvey away. Especially when he noticed that the inside of the cab matched the outside. Spotlessly clean! As he slid behind the wheel, Wally said, `Would you like a cup of coffee? I have a thermos of regular and one of decaf. ` Jokingly, Harvey said, “No, I’d prefer a soft drink.” Wally smiled and said, “No problem. I have a cooler up front with regular and Diet Coke, water and orange juice.” Almost stuttering, Harvey said, “I’ll take a Diet Coke.”Handing Harvey his drink, Wally said, “If you’d like something to read, I have The Wall Street Journal, Time, Sports Illustrated and USA Today.” As the taxi pulled away from the curb, Wally handed Harvey a laminated card and said, “These are the stations I get and the music they play if you’d like to listen to the radio.” 

As if all these weren’t enough, Wally told Harvey the air conditioning was on and asked if the temperature was comfortable. The driver then advised Harvey of the best route to his destination for that time of day. Wally also let Harvey know that he’d be happy to chat and tell him about some of the sights or, if Harvey preferred, to leave him with his own thoughts.“Tell me, Wally,” the amazed passenger asked, “have you always served customers like this?”Wally smiled and looked in the rear view mirror. “No, not always. In fact, it’s only been in the last two years. My first five years driving, I spent most of my time complaining like all the rest of the cabbies do.” Wally had the chance to listen to a personal growth guru on customer service and excellence and committed to excellence going forward. “I take it that has paid off for you,” Harvey said.“It sure has,” Wally replied. “My first year as an eagle, I doubled my income from the previous year. This year, I’ll probably quadruple it.” While excellence may appear costly at first, it eventually pays out! People are willing to pay extra for an excellent service.

In the 1st part of this article, I listed a couple of steps that should be taken by anyone who wants to be a person of excellence (I recommend you read it up). Here are a few more thoughts:

Pay attentions to details: "The magic behind every outstanding performance is always found in the smallest of details. “If you long to accomplish great and noble tasks, you first must learn to approach every task as though it were great and noble. Ultimately, the key to excellence in every aspect of our lives is doing little things correctly, all the time, every time, so that each action produces an excellent result. When every detail is lovingly attended to, and each step in the process is given complete and careful attention, the end result inevitably will be of the highest quality.

Demonstrate Consistency: To be a person of excellence, you need to be consistent. Doing things right today, and changing your mind tomorrow will just make people perceive you as being rather sloppy. Your goals and values must be consistent. Your behaviours must be consistent and most of all, your results must be consistent. Commit and over deliver, each and every time. Build equity with your team and your customers. Whenever they think about you, they need to think of excellence.

Never stop Improving: People of excellence will stop at nothing to improve themselves. Nothing but the very best is good enough. They improve on their skills and knowledge every single day. They maximize every opportunity to learn.

Always give it your best shot: Do everything you do as well as you possibly can! Don’t do less than your best. Hit it with your best shot. Whatever you do, give it your best shot! Autograph your work with excellence…..always.

Will you dare to be a person of excellence?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Being A Person Of Excellence

We live in a society where mediocrity is the norm. So many people do just as little as they have to in order to get by. They are always looking for the easy way out. They make commitments that they can’t keep. They are always late to work. They don’t pay their bills on time. They dress shabbily. They have lazy and sloppy attitudes. Are you one of those employees who arrives 5 minutes late to work and clocks out 10 minutes before close of business? Are you one of those shoppers who accidentally knocks a display of cans to the ground and conveniently walks away from the mess, thinking it is the responsibility of the store employees to clean up because after all, they get paid to do it? Do you think nothing of saying little white lies throughout your day? "But everyone lies, everyone leaves work early, everyone gossips, everyone makes a mess and leave others to clean up. What's the big deal?" you may protest. The road to mediocrity is wide, comfortable and paved with compromises, lies and the refusal to do anything extra. 
The road to mediocrity is wide, comfortable and paved with compromises, lies and the refusal to do anything extra.
God didn’t call any of us to be just average. He doesn’t want us to merely get by and do what everybody else is doing. He has called us to be cut above! He has called us to stand out from the crowd, to be people of excellence. He has called us to come up higher. A person of excellence goes the extra mile to do what’s right. He keeps his word even when it’s difficult. People of excellence have integrity; they pay their bills on time; they give their employer a full day’s work; they don’t come in late, leave early, or call in sick when they are not. When you have an excellent spirit, it shows up in the quality of your work, and the attitude with which you do it.

God's greatest concern and search in every generation is for people whose greatest quest is to move from average to excellence, and are willing to pay the price systematically and delightfully. I want to challenge you today to start making the better decision, not just the okay decision. I want to challenge you to make the more excellent choice. Make the decision to do what you know is the right and give it your all. I like the way an old friend, Brother Paul puts it in his epistle to the Colossians (Chapter 3:17) 
And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. (New Living Translation)
We are called to strive for excellence in order to be the best testimony for the Lord that we can be. People are watching to see what kind of a difference Jesus is making in your life, and you can point others to Him by being diligent in your tasks and being above reproach in your ethics. Daniel exemplified this spirit during his service as a highly regarded administrator in a secular environment. The Scripture says that "he distinguished himself among the administrators . . . because of his exceptional qualities" so much so that "they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent" (Daniel 6:3-4). 
You can run into mediocrity accidentally but you have to purpose to be excellent.
 Joyce Meyer once said, "Excellent people exceed expectations." In other words, they go the extra mile, they do more than is asked, and they take extra steps to ensure the highest quality. If people were to describe your work, would excellence come to mind or simply mediocrity? Joyce declared that "You can run into mediocrity accidentally but you have to purpose to be excellent." Thus, exercising minimal effort will lead to a mediocre performance at best, but really going above and beyond the call of duty takes a conscious effort.

Being excellent is not about comparing yourself with others. It is not about trying to outdo the other person. It is all about being the best that you know you can be. When you go out each day, you should look the best that you possibly can! When you go to do something, you should do it with you whole heart, giving it your best effort!

To be a person of excellence, consider the following steps:

Take pride in what God has blessed you with. 

No matter how small what you currently have is, take care of it! Your house may be small, but you can keep it clean. You can mow your lawn and make sure junk isn't piled in your front or back yard. Your car may be old, but you can take a few minutes each day to keep it looking nice and presentable. Don’t leave it looking like a junk yard. You may have only a few nice clothes at the moment, but take good care of them. Take extra care of whatever God has blessed you with at the moment! Be the one to stand out among the crowd, the one who will be faithful in the little things. If you can take care of what you have right now, God will bless you with something better.

Make excellent choices, even in the mundane. 

When you are done with the cart from the store, don't just dump it wherever you want in the parking lot. Make the effort and bring it back where others carts are stacked. If you accidentally drop a blouse from a rack, don't just walk away and pretend you didn't see it. Pick it up and put it in its rightful place. If a cashier gives you more change than you are supposed to get, don't pray he or she will not notice and walk away. The money is not yours. Give the money back and don't try to fool yourself by saying God wanted you to have it. God doesn't bless people by taking something away from another in a wrong manner. Those things may seem small, but they are the areas where the most compromises, excuses and justifications are made.

Be willing to pay the price for doing the right thing

Excellence comes at a price, and it is not cheap! Be willing to pay this price. If you are in a group where people tear others to shreds with mean-spirited comments, walk away. If everyone in your office lies and cheats to get ahead, don't get caught up. Be determined not to fall in that trap. You may think you won't have a friend left, but if you are faithful in the little things, God will reward you and bring better friends into your life. Don't be deceived: the bad choices people make will eventually catch up with them. Doing the right things may put you at a seeming disadvantage in the short run, but I bet it will eventually pay out on the long run.

Treat other people's property with respect

I remember how I used to handle hotel facilities when I started getting the privilege from God to stay in top class hotels. I will leave the room with things ON. “Well, I am paying a lot of money anyway, and these people need to earn their money” I reasoned. It was not an excellent way of thinking. It is expedient we treat other people’s properties with respect. If you walk by a house, don't step on their lawn, thinking it is all right as long as they don't see you. If a person was gracious enough to let you borrow a book, a tool or an item, treat the items with care and don't keep them longer than necessary. The people you borrowed the things from may have forgotten about it, but return everything to them.

Be committed to living a life of excellence.

Everyday, be determined to give life everything you've got. Don't cut corners. Don't compromise. Don't lie. Don't gossip. Don't accept mediocrity. Go the extra mile. Put in the extra effort. Do a little more than what you have to do. Remember, you are representing God. Get rid of sloppiness, laziness and move to a higher level. God will beam down on you and reward you beyond anything you ever imagined.

The true goal of excellence is to do the best you can with what you have at every moment. Jim Elliot once said, "Wherever you are, be all there."

Friday, July 1, 2016

2016 Vs You - What's The Score At Half Time?

One of the most unimportant statistics in a football match is the score at half time. I can share with you several examples, and you probably know some yourself if you are a football enthusiast. A recent one comes to mind – Premier League 2011 match between Arsenal and Newcastle United. Arsenal was coasting to victory with 4 beautifully taking goals in the 1st half. They went to the half time break with a 4 goal advantage and the only question then was how much more they’d score. But all that changed in the 2nd half. Newcastle came back and leveled the match in the 87th minute of play. Last night/early this morning, the half time whistle for this year sounded on all of us! The referee has called for a time out, and it provides a wonderful opportunity to review the strategies of the first half, and decide if we will still continue with it, or make some changes.

Every new day, new month, or New Year, provides us with an opportunity to start again, but more intelligently. Today presents such a wonderful opportunity - to look back at the last 6 months and evaluate how far, or how not far, we have gone. I encourage you to take time out in the next few days to do a thorough evaluation of the last 6 months. I can predict to you what will happen at the end of the year if nothing changes now. You will get exactly the same results that you have got in the last 6 months! Remember the definition of insanity. It is “doing the same thing in the same way, and expecting a different result”. My question to you as you read this is – do you like the results coming your way in the last 6 months? Are you satisfied with the level of success you have enjoyed in the 1st half of the year? If your answer is NO, then, something needs to change in the 2nd half. Once this happens, the result at half time will be immaterial.

Take Stock

May I encourage you to balance your account for the last 6 months? Take stock of the important things in your life. How have well have you done in your relationship with God? How well is your finance doing versus your budget? Are you making considerable progress?  What were the goals you set at the beginning of this year? How well are you doing compared to that? What are the things you wanted to start, or stop doing? Have you made any progress?  One of the smartest ways to progress in life is to take stock at intervals. That’s what a smart football team does at halftime.

Focus On Your Strength

When people evaluate themselves in this part of the world, there is a great tendency to always focus on their weaknesses. Let me explain using this example. If you have a child that came home with the following scores - English Language (85%), Mathematics (92%), Physics (87%), Biology (50%) and Chemistry (90%)- which subject teacher are you likely to recruit for him/her soonest? My guess is that you will be recruiting the best Biology teacher in town to help your ward become “all-rounder” by improving his/her Biology scores. This may be far from being right! While I am not advocating that you close your eyes to obvious opportunities in your life, I am insisting that you should also place close attention to your strengths. In the example above, the child in question can go on and become the best Engineer we have ever seen, without improving much in his/her Biology scores! What are the things you did so well in the 1st half of the year? What are the things that brought you’re the best results? Plan to focus on them and repeat them, even in a better way, in the 2nd half of the year.

The greatest definition of insanity is this - doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result.

Improve On Your Opportunities

Like I said earlier, I am not asking you to close your eyes to your opportunities. You will need to do something about them too. Write down somewhere the list of things that didn’t go your way in the 1st half of the year. Write down the things that didn’t work so well. What are you going to do about them? What skills are you going to acquires to do better? What relationships are you going to cultivate to improve in those areas? What seminars are you going to attend to bridge the knowledge gap? What habits are you going to bade farewell to in order to reach your goals? My advice is that you pick 1-2 opportunity areas that you want to focus on and deal with them squarely.

Adjust Your Sail

Have you ever wondered what goes on in the dressing room at half time? Anyone who has played a team game will remember those half-time discussions with the coach when things have gone badly and everything depends on going back out for the second half and turning the game around. It’s like being on the sea during a stormy weather. Survival depends largely on how well you can adjust your sails accordingly. Sometimes, you change strategies in the dressing room. Sometimes you change people or players. Sometimes you change the pattern of play. Sometimes, you just motivate the people to use the same strategy in a better way. Eventually, for any change to be effected in the 2nd half, something has to change in the dressing room. Do you need to change your strategies? Maybe it’s your association that needs to change. Maybe it’s just down to your attitude. Adjust your sails accordingly

Give Thanks

Many times, we think about the things we do not have and forget to appreciate God for the things we have. Someone who doesn’t have a car yet is angry. He is not thankful that he a pair of legs to walk! He is taking the ability to walk for granted! Someone is angry that he doesn’t have a job yet. He should be thankful at least that he has an opportunity to go to school and get a degree. I know you are behind on your dreams and your goals but be thankful for the ability to dream in the 1st place! Don’t forget the many things that the good Lord has done for you. He gave you life, and that alone is worth every other thing in the world. Count your many blessings. Don’t discount them! When you learn to thank God for what he has done, you compel him to do what is left. Have a thankful heart.

As we begin the 2nd half of this year, I commend you to the hand of his Grace. May the almighty God add the “extra” to your “ordinary”, so it becomes “extraordinary”. Remember that you have another opportunity to start again- albeit, more intelligently. All your sins/mistakes/errors of the 1st half of the year are hereby forgiven. Go and sin no more!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Laws That Made Nations Great- Part II

No matter how much a nation prays, when the principles of greatness are violated, the nation is weakened considerably, and its growth is stunted at best. My strong opinion is that most African nations are 3rd world because they have not obeyed laws that make nations great. The greatness of a nation is not determined by its military might, land size, or size of the economy. Nations become great when they show great character and stand for justice. They become great when they follow certain principles that guarantee greatness.

In the 1st part of this write up (which I encourage you to read if you’ve not done so already), I shared a few of these principles and would continue now. Let me share a few more here.

The Principle Of Integrity

This is perhaps the greatest bane of our nation. Our nation is in short supply of men and women with personal integrity and honesty. With more sophistication, it’s even easier to throw integrity to the garbage bin. From the salesmen on the street to the CEO of multinationals, from the Student Union Executives of colleges to the National Assemblies of our nation, people have undermined the importance of consistently living up to a set of ideals. What a tragedy!

We live in a world that has become so obsessed with quick success and material wealth at the expense of all else. It’s very rare to see men and women of integrity who would hold on to their righteousness or values by all means. “The end justifies the means” is now the motto of several people, all in a bid to amass wealth.

The single most important quality you can ever develop that will enhance every part of your life is the value of integrity. Integrity is the core quality of a successful and happy life. Having integrity means being totally honest and truthful in every part of your life. By making the commitment to become a totally honest person, you will be doing more to ensure your success and happiness in life, on the long run, than anything else you can ever do. I mean that in every sense of it!

Will you stand up to be counted with men of integrity?

The Principle of Respect For Credit

A couple of years ago, the whole nation was startled by the news of distress in our banking sector. After an audit by the Central Bank of Nigeria, it was discovered that many of the “big” banks were practically at the brink of collapse. Amongst other problems, there was the issue of people not returning money they had borrowed from the banks. People were borrowing large sums of money, and were not fulfilling their commitments of refunding as at when due. The list of “big” debtors was published in many dailies. I was saddened by our lack of respect for credit in our nation.

This of course makes it very difficult for Nigerians to get lines of credit outside the country. Our fellow Nigerians have proven, time and time again, that we lack a culture of respect for credit lines. I heard that in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Nigerians schooling in the UK had easy access to credit. You could practically walk into any bank, and without any collateral, borrow money to pay through school with just a promise to pay back. Your word/promise was enough "security" for the loan. By the mid 80’s, it was almost impossible to even open an account in the UK if you carried a green passport, not to mention applying for a credit line! What happened? You guessed right – majority of Nigerians who took loans never paid back!

Disrespect for credit is a killer. It is one of the reasons we are backward as a nation. Most people will not do serious business with Nigerians except you are paying cash! You can’t imagine how many wonderful business deals pass us by because of this limitation. Even at individual levels, this cancer eats deep. Have you borrowed someone money lately? What was your experience? I sure do hope that your experience was better than mine. People come back to you with all manner of reasons and excuses why they can’t pay back as at when due. Of course, this eventually limits what they can get from you in future. It’s very difficult to borrow people money today without signing a legal agreement. You just may never get the money back.

For any individual or nation to become great, we must have a deep seated respect for credit. We must become disciplined enough to make our word our bond.

The Principle of Respect For Human Lives

All humans are sacred and holy. All people from the womb to the tomb have inherent dignity and a right to life. All human life is precious, with no exception.  It is not greatness inclined when we have utter lack of respect for human lives. How many times have you passed on the highway and seen dead bodies lying there unattended to for an extended period of time? Who cares? Have you been to a public hospital lately? You are likely to shed tears. 

I personally believe that more than 50% of people who die daily in Nigeria should not have died, if we as a people and as a government had respect for human lives. Check out every great nation – the life of 1 of their citizens is worth a lot. It is worth fighting for. This is not the case with our nation. Some events even make you wonder if the life of a cow is not more important than that of a human. What a pity.

Respect for the dignity of the human person is the foundational principle of any just society. Do you know why a building contractor will cut corners and build with substandard products? He doesn’t have regard for life. A politician will steal money meant for a capital project that will benefit others, because he doesn’t have any consideration for human lives who would be beneficiaries of the complete work. That’s the same reason why fake drugs are imported into the country, and somehow they find their way through regulatory agencies that should stop them. Human life is perceived as cheap around here, and if we must progress as a nation, this must change. We must start to place a huge value of the life of every human – starting with our neighbors, colleagues and our community.

Again, life is governed by laws. You can’t disobey these laws and expect their rewards. We will progress as individuals, and as a nation, if and only if, we have due respect for laws that makes nations (and individuals) great.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Laws That Made Nations Great

I just came back from a trip out of Nigeria. I travelled to a city that is perhaps the neatest and the safest city I have ever been to. While I had a great time, there were moments when I almost suffered from depression. Why can’t our nation be this great? Why can’t we do things properly? Why can’t we witness a semblance of this type of development? I asked myself so many questions. As I pondered on this, I remembered a paper delivered passionately by the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osibanjo (who was then the Attorney General of Lagos State) on the laws that made nations like America, Britain and China great. Just like then, I sincerely wish that I could force them to listen to his thoughts at the next Federal Executive council meeting in Abuja. I wish I had the power to force every State house of Assembly not to seat until they have listened to his teaching 3 times over! He was so spot on. Most importantly, I remember thinking to myself “All future leaders of our dear country need to start thinking of this now, even before they get into office”. This is what is motivating me to write this, sharing some of his thoughts, and spicing it with what I have learnt and seen about these principles. I know that most of you reading this will one day, not too far from now, be playing key roles in the leadership of this country. Most importantly, these laws and principles will work for individuals as much as it will work for a nation.

Life is governed by laws and principles. When these laws and principles are followed, then you have no choice but to reap the reward of it. When they are not, the same happens – you reap the reward! Principles are no respecter of persons. They are true anywhere, anytime and to anyone wherever you are in the world. Take the principle of gravity for example. Anything that goes up must come down. It doesn’t matter if you are the President of America or just a poor wretch by the road side. If you jump up, you will come down! Except overpowered by a greater law (for example, the law of aerodynamics), the law of gravity hold true for everyone, everywhere. You can pray more than praying mantis. You can speak multiples tongues, but all these are subject to principles that govern life. Most of us are not progressing as individuals, and our nation is backward compared to others, because we have little or no respect for life’s principles! An average Nigerian will rather pray than obey simple principles. Permit me to share with you some of these simple, yet profound principles that will certainly catapult us, as individuals, and as a nation, from where we are now to where we have always wanted to be.

The Principle of Hardwork – Rewarding Excellence And Merit And Not Quotas
I've always worked very, very hard, and the harder I worked, the luckier I got. Alan Bond
Many people think that hardwork is a curse. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Hardwork is the only substitute to a hard life. Either your work hard or you live hard. The choice is yours. Golden opportunities are nothing to laziness but hardwork makes the commonest chance golden. Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top. Believe me.

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.

As a nation, we breed laziness! Research shows that a Chinese worker is about 6 times more effective that a Nigeria worker! I am sure you will believe that even without any research. You can see it all over the place. Have you been to a government Secretariat lately? Have you tried getting a 1 page letter signed from any ministry? You just wonder what the people there are doing and why it will take 1 week to get a letter signed. I am afraid to say that our nation will not change much until we adopt the pay by the hour culture. This is what happens in the developed nations of the world. They pay according to the hours of work you put in! Here, once you are on the payroll, you get paid for working 8 hours per day even if you don’t show up. It’s a shame.

I took statistics of public holidays in Nigeria in 2007. The ratio of work days to holidays between Jan and April is approximately 8:1. It’s like having a holiday once every 2 weeks! For me, that is an invitation do disaster. It’s a reflection of the state of our economy. Our over-dependence on oil gives us liberty to declare public holidays at will. Whether people are at work or not, the oil wells are producing!
“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”  Vince Lombardi
To worsen matters, excellence is not rewarded. We will rather reward people according to quota system instead of merit. In a football team, we MUST have representations from all geopolitical zones of the country, whether they merit it or not. I am tempted to mention names but i won't. Lol! We must obey federal character. Have you seen the list of those that were honoured with national awards of late? You will cry – governors disgraced out of office, politicians with integrity issues, and people who have spent a very long time in service (their contribution is immaterial). Until we start rewarding excellence and merit as a nation, we are not yet ready to become great! It is that simple.

The Principle of Frugality

Frugality is the practice of minimizing waste. It can be related to the idea of being conservative or conserving resources. It is getting more done with less.
“Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything”. Benjamin Franklin
One of the greatest problems we have in our nation today is that people live beyond their means; they spend more than they earn! I have worked for a multinational for the past 13 years. Despite the fact that I feel that the company pays fairly and competitively, I am always amazed whenever the month is drawing to a close. People are constantly checking their emails for payment notifications. Most are waiting anxiously for their salaries. They’ve even finished spending it before the earn it! Most times, it is even spent on frivolities, liabilities and things that are just status symbols. This is a major evil. No one becomes great without learning to spend less than he earns!

The same is true for our nation and continent. Do you know that Africa has 40% of the world’s natural resources, despite the fact that it has only 10% of the world’s population? Amazing! We need to ask how these resources are being managed. What happened to the gold mines of South Africa? How are the rich oil wells in Niger Delta managed? Aren’t we a prodigal nation? Any wonder why we export crude and import it back as petroleum products?

According to a recent report in a national weekly newspaper, the country currently spends about $1.7 million (N200 million) to maintain a senator, while about N150 million is spent on each member of the House of Representatives annually. For instance, a former Senate president had 32 cars in his official quarters! When a state governor is travelling within the country he moves with a large convoy of vehicles — mostly bullet-proof cars — and a large retinue of officials who are usually quartered in the best hotels in town at the expense of taxpayers. According to the report, a former governor had three different houses on one street in an expensive suburb of London, whereas John Major, former British prime minister, left No 10 Downing Street, his official residence as prime minister, and went to rent a flat somewhere in the same neighborhood.
Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality” .John Tyler
What % of your income are you saving? From my experience in the school of success, you are not yet ready for greatness, until you are able to save/invest about 20% of your income on a consistent basis. This is what great individuals and great nations do. Despite having a net worth of $62 billion and being the world’s richest man, famously frugal investor Warren Buffett still lives in the same home he bought for nearly $31,500 some 50 years ago! I am not sure you can say anything close of any Nigerian!

Let me pause here for now. I will share a few more principles in the next post. Till then, think about this - how will I contribute to the greatness of Nigeria?

Friday, April 8, 2016

Take Responsibility Or Write Two Letters

A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of having dinner with my boss at his house. We talked about several things over dinner, including personal and work related issues. While I took many things away from this session, a fable he shared with me stood out and is still fresh in my mind till date.

A certain politician had just ran out favour with his people who were all clamouring for a change – for a new person in charge and all that. The old politician gracefully allowed them to pick a new kid on the block, who they felt could solve their problems. During his handover to this new guy, the old politician gave him 2 letters, instructing him to open them only when there was an uproar among the people, and he didn't have any idea how to fix. Each of the letters would guide him on what to do, at different times of crisis. 

This new guy got into power and things started to work. The people loved and respected him. After the 1st 18 months, he ran into the first crisis. The same people that wanted him in now wanted him out! He tried all he knew to do but got no solution. He then remembered the 2 letters written by his predecessor. Off he ran to where he had kept them and brought out the 1st of the 2 letters. He opened it nervously, eager to know what was written in it. “Blame it all on me”, the 1st letter read. He was excited to get this hint. He then addressed the people and blamed all the current problems on his predecessor. He told the people how his predecessor “messed” up everything and how he had great plans to fix them. Interestingly enough, this seemed to pacify the people, and they let him be for a while. The 1st letter seemed to do the magic. He was very grateful. 

Sooner than later though, he ran into a new set of crisis, and there was another uproar. The people were vehemently calling for his removal. He remembered the magic that the 1st letter did, and decided to seek help with the 2nd letter. He went to his safe and brought out the 2nd letter, hoping that the instructions therein would help him again. The 2nd letter read “Now, write your own 2 letters”.

The fable's morale is quite simple – you can only blame others for so long. If you do not take personal responsibility for your life and your future, failure is guaranteed. Responsibility is the price you have to pay for greatness. A man will undoubtedly be on his way to the top when he learns to take responsibility for his actions, or his inactions.

 In my opinion, Africa is behind all other continents because we have not taken responsibility for our lives and our future. Haven’t you been around a man who continually blames his uncle for not getting a job? I once heard a 34 year old man complained bitterly about how wicked his uncle has been. Can you guess what his crime was? He didn’t pay for his wedding!Everything is someone else’s fault. Every problem is explained away with reasons about why they can’t affect the situation or the outcome.

You are totally responsible for your life. This is the foundational principle you must embrace if you plan for happiness and success in life and work. People who take complete responsibility for their lives experience joy and control of circumstances. They are better able to make choices because they understand that they are responsible for their choices. Indeed, even when events that are not under your control go awry, you can at least determine how you will react to the event. You can make an event a disaster or you can use it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to cherish your faith, to hold loved ones close.

The most important aspect of taking responsibility for your life is to acknowledge that your life is your responsibility. No one can live your life for you. No matter how hard you try to blame others for the events of your life, each event is the result of choices you made and are making. Listen to the little voice in your head. And, observe yourself talking with coworkers, family members, and friends. Do you hear yourself taking responsibility or placing blame?

The “it’s not my fault” cry is heard everywhere. It perhaps originates in childhood when siblings get into a squabble and each proclaims, “It’s not my fault!” When we see an altercation on an athletic field, the athletes generally point the finger of blame at someone else. We see it in the court of law. The Menendez brothers explained that because their parents treated them brutally, the “had” to kill them. Thieves say, “It’s not my fault- I couldn’t get a job.” The list is endless.

The truth is that there will always be something or someone to blame if you look hard enough. Always. The first man that God made, Adam saw something to blame for his mistakes. He passed the buck to his wife, Eve. And guess what? Eve passed it down to the serpent. I am sure if the serpent had a choice, the blame would have been passed to someone or something else. Too bad there was nowhere else to pass it.

My challenge to you today is this – take responsibility for your life. It's the price you have to pay for greatness. 

I will give the same advice to the ruling party in Nigeria now (APC). Take responsibility for the nation, or get ready to write your own letters too.

Have a splendid weekend folks.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

5 Philosophies Of Life

How do we enjoy life and get the best out of it? 

My mind goes back to a few years ago, when as a trainee engineer in one of the top oil servicing firms in Nigeria I was asking the same question. I jotted down some thoughts/reasonings then in my notes.  Let me share with you my thoughts then. They are still valid even now. I have titled it “The 5 Philosophies of Life”

Life is Short – Invest It

When you learn to take life by each passing day, each passing hour, each passing minute and second, you will realize indeed  how short life is. Yes it is. We are not eternal. Only God is. No matter our vision and plan, we have a time frame to make it happen. Even in societies with advanced health and medical care, life still has a limit. No wonder a wise man once cried out “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of understanding”.

Since life is so short, there is only one thing meaningful to do with it – invest it. It’s possible to waste it. Many people do. They wake up one day to discover that they are already 70 years old and close to their grave without anything to show for it. They’ve squandered their lives on drug addiction, smoking, too much TV or social media, too much sleep and other distractions
. Some other people just spend life. They just go through life as it comes. Those are the type of people that ask the day where it has gone. To get the best of life, do not waste time. Do not just spend it. Invest it. Invest it in things that will outlive you.

Life Is Small – Be Kind

It’s a small world afterall. I have established several times on this blog that you are about 3-5people away from everyone on the planet. It is amazing and almost unbelievable how close you are to everyone on the face of the earth. Pay close attention to the people you meet today, do business with today, live with and lord over today. You will most likely still meet again. Please, be kind to them. You can never tell where else you’ll meet. It may not even be them. It may be with their families and friends and you’ll be amazed how much small favours you’ve done for them can open giant doors for you. It’s a small world and I recommend that you should be kind…to all.

Life Is (or Could Be)Complex – Be Wise

We live in a time where someone has described as the era of 3 C’s – Accelerated Change, Overwhelming Complexities and Intense Competition. Life can indeed be complex. You need wisdom to deal with the complexities of life.

When you want to be successful in every area of your life (and I assume you want to), you’ve got to be wise. It’s not the default. The default is that you succeed in an aspect of life and fail in the other aspects. How many successful business men have a successful home? Quite a few. Most traded their families' success for their business success. I know a lot of people who are successful in business but failing in their health. Really, it could be complex handling all these areas together – career, relationships, spirituality and health. You need wisdom.

Do you know how to get this wisdom? I know how. It will take another write up to tell you how but let me give you a tip. Wisdom is not a “thing”, it is a person! Yes. I will prove it sometime soon. Stay connected.

Life Is In Phases – Be Sensitive

This is one part that people do not really comprehend. They are more comfortable with the status quo and just want to remain in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. Life is in Phases. There is a time for everything.

Look at it closely. Your childhood was a phase of life. You were largely dependent, weren’t you? You enjoyed things being done for you. Then comes the teenage phase where you crave for independence. It’s another phase of life completely, with new lessons and challenges. Getting married and settling down with your own family is yet another phase with its own challenges. Moving from phase to phase successfully requires sensitivity. You need to be sensitive to the changes going on in you and around you and make the necessary adjustments.

If you are using yesterday’s ideas to do business today, you will surely not be in business tomorrow. Be sensitive to things going on around you. Life is in phases and men are in sizes. Identify the particular phase you are in and be careful and conscious about living it.

Life Is Interesting – Enjoy It!

I had a challenging time growing up. Because of my 'humble' background, I learnt to save a lot and delay gratifications. I grew up with this 'scarcity' mentality and even when I started doing pretty well, I still saved quite a lot. I wasn’t even buying things for myself. I was only preparing for the future. One day, as I was reading a book, a powerful truth dawned on me when I read a quote “many people prepare so hard for tomorrow’s rain that they forget to enjoy today’s sunshine”. That described me in its totality - I was lacking the balance to also enjoy life.

Listen to me folks. Life is interesting. Don’t be too hard or tough on yourself all the time. Enjoy every moment. Celebrate little successes. Take yourself out to lunch. Take that vacation out of the country that you’ve dreamt of. Reward yourself. Pay yourself. Celebrate yourself. I remember once after having a great speaking engagement, I did a celebration for my mouth! Yes, I did. I told myself “you’ve got to celebrate this mouth. It has brought you this far and it will take you to where you are going!” Stay balanced and Enjoy life!

When people ask me how I am doing, one way I answer is to say “I am enjoying where I am preparatory to where I am going”. Will you join me in saying and meaning this confession?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lessons From A Marathon

A couple of weeks ago, I had the rare privilege of covering the Lagos Marathon as a backup photographer. My wife was covering for a group and I tagged along. As usual, as I took photographs at different points, I also looked around to take in a few lessons. I have discovered that when you observe, you learn a lot. “To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe”, opined a wise man. I was able to draw some analogies between the marathon and a marriage relationship. Let me share with you some of my observations and learnings.

 1. There were 2 sets of people who took part in the marathon – those who were prepared, and those who were not

Yes. Some people had prepared for the marathon for months, while some others had never even completed a 5km race prior to that time. They just heard about the marathon and decided to participate. The same is true in a marriage. Some people come into it well prepared, while others just stumble into it. Those who took time to prepare had a much better chance of finishing compared to those who didn’t. For example, the Kenyan who won the race in 2.16.21hrs practices every single day of the week. A colleague of mine too, who finished quite early also runs 10km almost every single morning! You don’t win or finish a marathon by accident. A lot of work and preparation goes into it. 

The same is true of a marriage. You are better off prepared. Of course, I know some people who finished the marathon without much preparation but it will take a lot of grit and determination – and of course, you’d be well behind others. In case you stumbled into marriage, or you were ill-prepared for it, the good news is this – you can still finish strong! You’d have a lot of learning to do, and a lot of catching up to do, but it is not a deterrent to finishing strong.

As I thought more about this, I believe that our generation owes it to the next generation to help them prepare well for marriage. Most in generations before us perhaps didn’t do a very good job at this in my opinion. And we seem to be doing exactly the same too, or even worse. The best gift we can give to those after are examples of marriages that works! A great preparation for a young man for instance is to see how his father loves, respects and treats his mother. If you are reading this and you are a father, you have a lot of work to do, believe me. You had better start now.

2. Not everyone who started finished. Not everyone who thought they would finish eventually finished.

Over 20,000 athletes registered for the marathon but only about 10% of them made it to the finish line. Guess what? That’s about the success rate for marriages these days – I mean the percentage of those who truly lived happily ever after – not just staying together because "of the kids”, or "what would people say?" but really fulfilled. A lot of people started the marathon with energy, excitement and high hopes. There were lots of “wishes”. But hopes and wishes don’t win marathons. I have heard stories about people going into marriage relationship with excitement and high hopes. As important as these are, you need more to succeed in marriage – a lot more. 

3It takes strength and stamina to finish a marathon.

In the same way, it takes staying power to finish strong in marriage. By finishing strong, I mean that you are fulfilled, faithfully and happily married to 1 man/1 woman till death do you part. In today’s world, the chance that you would finish strong is just about 10%. There are many ambushes on the way to having a truly successful marriage. There are many odds against you. Not everyone who crossed the 10 meter mark (maybe equivalent to 10 years of marriage) made it to the end. Not everyone who reached the half way line finished. Marriage is like a marathon. You need stamina for it. You need to keep going even when you don’t feel like it – when your partner is getting under your skin and you are about to throw in the trowel; when things are not going exactly the way you had them planned;  even when the “weather” is not favourable.

4. Some were greatly influenced by others to finish

There is something that comes with running with a group of like-minded people. It gives you an unbelievable lift. It gives you encouragement. This is the reason why the geese fly in a V formation. When they do, they conserve a lot of energy, and just ride on the “corporate” energy of the formation. This works similarly in a marathon (albeit slightly different), as well as in marriage. The group we were covering gave us a brief that they were expecting about 7 people to hit the finish line. More than double that number finished! I believe it was because they ran together. There is a way that seeing someone else you know or practice with run, that encourages you to do the same. It pushes you to do a few more kilometers. A colleague of mine ran with his wife and his wife finished before him. He told me he didn’t even consider stopping, as long as his wife was in the race! How could he?

In marriage, you need positive influence also. You need to be in the company of those who are determined to finish strong. I am not talking about perfect people but people who have their eyes on the finish line. You need a lift every now and then, and “flying in formation” will help. Who are your friends? Those who beat up their wives and brag about extra marital affairs? Those who disrespect their husbands and run them down? Or those who talk about how to make things better? Whichever group you belong to, you will get a lift – wither positively or negatively.

5. The Water Stations were very helpful, even to the most athletic

During the marathon, the organizers made provisions for water stations every 2.5km to cater for dehydration. Nutritional drink stations were also available every 5km. It was a delight to watch people arrive at these stations, and refresh. Even the most athletic would stop by to take a drink, and pour much more on his/her head. These breaks were very well needed to finish strong. In marriage, we sometimes get weary. Even the best of marriages go through their dull moments. I believe that there are also water and nutritional stations to help marriages. A seminar together. A movie night without the kids. Reading a book together. Taking a vacation together. Praying together. Talking together. Just do whatever will refresh you both, and give you the energy to go a few more kilometers. Utilize the water breaks. Don’t just run past them.

As I write this, my prayer for every married person reading this, as I pray for myself, is this – May you finish strong, and leave behind the legacy of a strong finish to the coming generation!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Don't Worry. Be Happy - Part II

How many of you reading this thinks or feels that your life would be better if you worry a lot more? I bet none. Whether you know worry as an occasional visitor or a constant companion, whether you find it to be mildly uncomfortable or intensely painful,  or whether you experience worry as a slight distraction or as a force that completely immobilizes you, we all would like to worry less (except for those only seem happy when they’re miserable), wouldn’t we?

I started sharing in my last post a few thoughts on what we can do to be free from worry. I would encourage you to read it up, if you haven’t. I shared 2 thoughts in that post and will share 3 more here.

1. Cast your cares upon God

2. Develop an attitude of gratitude

3. Plan and Work Hard

One of the best cures for worry is proper planning and work. Most worriers are lazy people. Consider the story about three servants who were given trust over their master's investments. The third servant, who hid his master's investment in the ground because of all his worries, was judged not only as "wicked," but also a "lazy" servant.

Planning for the future is fine. Most people worry because of lack of proper planning. A lady who is getting ready to be married but has not planned well is set to be worry ladened all through the week of her wedding. A man who has plans for his retirement will worry less than one who doesn’t. Proper planning delivers you from worry!

4. Live one day at a time

My advice is that you live in day-tight compartment. Take one day at a time. People living through a tremendous crisis soon learn that they have only enough energy to face today. 'One day at a time' becomes their motto. 

Do unpleasant tasks now. Get them out of the way. Forgive other people quickly. Have some 'time out' for stillness and quietness each day. And live the serenity prayer: “God give me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Forget yesterday. Plan for tomorrow. But live today. “Yesterday is a cancelled cheque. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is cash!” Spend it well. Don’t let worries about tomorrow deny you the pleasures of today. Like my good friend said “ Some prepare so much for tomorrow’s rain that they forget to enjoy today’s sunshine.” Live one day at a time!
5. Use your mind. Be rational

It's important to develop coping strategies for worry - learning to think more realistically. Most anxiety is a distortion in the way we think. We would solve a lot of worry problems if we think more logically and creatively.

Astronaut Jim Lovell was in command of the Apollo 13 spacecraft when it experienced an explosion on its way to the moon. Their oxygen was almost gone; their electrical system was out, and their spaceship was plunging toward lunar orbit. They were destined to be lost in space, thousands of miles from home. During a press conference after their safe return, Lovell was asked; 'Were you worried?' and he gave an answer that surprised almost everyone in the room. 'No, not really.' He continued, 'Worry is a useless emotion. I was too busy fixing the problem to worry about it.' Use your mind!

Another idea is to limit the amount of time we allow ourselves to worry. I read about a guy who had so many things to worry about, he set aside one day each week in which to worry. As worries came to him, he wrote them down and put them in his worry box. Then, on Worry Wednesday he pulled out each worry and read it - and discovered that most of the things he was disturbed about had already settled themselves or had been taken care of in some other way.

Do you remember the Bobby McFerrin song "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? When it hit the top of the charts, it was criticized as being too simplistic and naive. However, it has some very important sentiments! Don’t Worry. Be Happy!

Stay blessed. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Don't Worry. Be Happy - Part 1

Of all the living things that God created, human beings are the only ones that worry. And we worry about everything - petrol prices, the stock market, taxes, jobs, paying the bills, marriages, relationships, parents worry about children, children worry about parents. You name it, somebody is worrying about it! If you are from this part of the world, then you even have a lot more to worry about – bad roads, electricity, safety and security. Worry seems to be legitimate around here.

Near the end of his life, Mark Twain said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Always remember that the outcome of a situation will still be the same whether you worried about it or not! 

Worry wastes a lot of emotional energy. Have you realized how few of the things we worry about actually happen? One survey says 40% of the things we worry about never happen; another 30% of our worries are in the past, and we can't do anything about them. 12% concern other people, and are really none of our business anyway. 10% are about sickness which we can do very little to control. Only 8% of the things we worry about are actually worth worrying about! In my opinion, even the 8% can be challenged.

Listen to the advice of the creator of the world.

"That's why I'm telling you to stop worrying about your life-what you will eat or what you will drink-or about your body-what you will wear. Life is more than food, isn't it, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky. They don't plant or harvest or gather food into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. You are more valuable than they are, aren't you? Can any of you add a single hour to your span of life by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies in the field and how they grow. They don't work or spin yarn, but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. Now if that is the way God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and thrown into an oven tomorrow, won't he clothe you much better-you who have little faith? So don't ever worry by saying, 'What are we going to eat?' or 'What are we going to drink?' or 'What are we going to wear?" (Mathew 6:25-31)

A wise man once said “Worry is interest paid in advance on something you may never own”. How true! Worry indeed is like a rocking chair. It gets us nowhere!! Worry never climbed a hill. Worry never paid a bill. Worry never dried a tear. Worry never calmed a fear. Nothing wears faster than worry.

What then can we do to be free from worry? Let me share a few thoughts with you.

1. Cast your cares upon God

One man took a paper bag, wrote 'God' on it, and taped it high on the back of his kitchen door. Whenever he prayed about the things he was worried about, like his job or his family, he would write them down on a piece of paper, and put it in the bag. Then he made a rule for himself. If he started worrying about a matter that he'd turned over to God, he had to climb up on a chair and fish that paper out of the bag. He said it was pretty revealing when he saw just how much time he spent sifting through those scraps of paper. You see, we can trust God to be there, to care for us, to provide for us. That's the good news, so why worry?

So let's pray about our worries. As someone said, 'If our worries aren't worth praying about, they aren't worth worrying about.' I read about a theological college student who had a sign on his wall: 'Why pray when you can worry?' Hmmm. Read 1 Peter 5:7 and Psalm 55: 22

2. Develop an attitude of gratitude

Can I tell you a story? I call it the story of two buckets.

A traditional well always has two buckets. As one is going down, the other is on its way up. Long time ago, there lived two buckets in the same well. It was noticed that no matter what happens, one was always sad, whining and looking morose and melancholic. It was always complaining about the situation of things all around. The other however, on the contrary, was always happy and motivated. No matter what happens, it was always in high spirits. Both buckets used to wonder what was happening to the other when they meet somewhere along the line in the well. The sad bucket was always wondering “why is this guy always happy? Are we not going through the same experience? Are we not faced with the same difficulties? The happy bucket on the other hand was always wondering aloud “what in the world is wrong with this guy? Why is he always looking morose and melancholic ? One day, they decided to talk and ask why the other was reacting differently in the same situation. The happy bucket asked first “why is it that you look sad and morose all the time? Is anything the matter? The sad bucket replied. “Everything is the matter! I am not happy here. Can you imagine, no matter how full I come up from this well, I always go down empty!! I am living an empty life!” “Waoh” replied the happy bucket. “Do you know what? This is the very same reason why I am always happy. No matter how empty I go down into this well, I always come up full!!!! I am living a fulfilling life!

An attitude of gratitude will deliver you from worry. Be grateful for what you have and you will soon get what you want. Count your blessings, name them one by one. During your times of trouble, dwell on good things. Think about God's blessings - his provision and care.

To be continued......