FREEDOM

What is Freedom?

Who is free?

Yes, you are not a slave

but really, are you free?

When you choose

is it really your choice?

Yes, you have options

but, are they really ALL the options?

What is Freedom?

Are you free?

Do you do what you do because you CAN?

or is it because you CAN’T do the alternative?

Freedom is when you can choose

and also have real options to choose from

that is freedom

ARE YOU FREE?2(11)

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What is True Wealth?

Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” (Luke 12:15 MSG)

Let’s imagine a scenario together.

You have been lost in the desert for more than a week. You are thirsty, hungry, tired, and almost short of breath.

Then heaven smiles on you. You reach a junction with two roads that lead to ‘bliss’. You can only choose one of the 2 options.

Option A leads to where you will find a million dollars in cash, water and food, then nothing else. You will remain trapped in the desert but you will have water and food and will become a million dollars richer.

Option B leads to water, food and a ticket back to your current life in whatever city you live in.

Note, they are one-way roads and so once you go in any of the directions, you can’t go back. You are either a million dollars richer and trapped in the desert for life or you return safely back to your current life with no extra cent to your name.

So what will you choose?

This picture helps me to understand that the only reason an extra million will make any sense in my life right now is because of the other things that I have that don’t cost me money.17(1)

Things like Love, Joy, Family, Friends, Community, Peace, Health, Faith etc. These are my real treasure. They give meaning to everything else I possess. It is only because I have these already that more money becomes useful and meaningful to me.

Really think about it…Your car, house, money, clothes, shoes, etc. are not the best things you have in your life right now. If these are all you have, how will life be?

I am learning to be grateful for my current realities. The best things in life are truly free.

My life is not defined by what I have, even when I have a lot.

18(1)

Live & Learn II

There is this tale about a sage and his pupil who had sought him out from the big city in the secluded monastery to learn from him. After spending some time with the ancient sage, the pupil felt he wasn’t learning enough from the master. It didn’t seem like he was improving and so he sought to find out why.

Do you want a cup of tea?” the master asked as the pupil walked into his room that faithful day. “Yes sir I do!

The sage poured and poured, and kept pouring even after the cup was full. Soon the tea started to spill on the table. Irritated, the pupil drew the attention of the master to the tea that was beginning to waste.

Ha ah! Here is the answer you seek my child. This cup can’t take any more tea because it is full. To take more, we have to first empty it. There is no lack of new tea, but as long as the cup is full, nothing new will come in.”

Hmmn…There is no lack of new things to learn, however, if you remain full, valuable lessons will keep spilling off and you’d never grow. Your mistakes become wastes when they could have been useful tools for making better decisions.

There is no lack of new things to learn

And what makes our cups full? Assumptions!

Assumptions make our cups full. Our opinion on what is true and what works is not always correct. But as long as we hold on to them, they will take the space that knowledge is supposed to fill.

Therefore, to learn, you must be able to distinguish between an assumption and knowledge. Then you can know what to discard and what to keep; what to pay attention to, and what to let through the leaks.

Another tale worth sharing is about a man who one day eventually got frustrated with the amount of food his wife wastes anytime she needed to fry fish.

He noticed she’d always cut off the head and the tail of the fish before she fried it. He just couldn’t understand why.

One day he summoned courage (as I assume you would need courage to challenge your wife on delicate matters such as this. LoL) and asked her why she did so. “I don’t know” she replied. “But whenever my mother fried fish, she always cut off the head and the tail. This is how we do it in our family for as long as I can remember”.

Luckily, her mother was alive but she too gave the same reply when she was asked the same question. Then they found the grandmother and asked her the same question. This time, they found the knowledge they sought.

“I never had big pans to fry big fish back in the days. The only way the fish could fit in the pot was if I cut off the head and tail. But now that I have a big pan, I fry the whole fish. But you had left for your own home so you didn’t get to see me fry it this way”

If only someone had asked the right question much earlier. If only someone had challenged the status quo. If only someone had questioned the assumption. Many fishes would have nourished the bellies of many generations rather than waste.

Ask new questions and challenge old knowledge

The morale is this, to learn you must ask questions. Don’t just accept everything you are taught. Try to know the reasons behind the theories; know the background to the knowledge; Only then will you be wise enough to apply knowledge correctly.

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So two things I have said – You must learn to distinguish knowledge from assumption and allow assumptions leave so that new knowledge can come in. You must seek new knowledge by asking questions and challenging old knowledge passed down to you.

Life is really about learning. When we stop learning, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we invite decay and consequently death. You must understand that learning is deliberate. Being taught might not always be in your control, but learning is always up to you!

Cheers to a better you

Afolabi

Live & Learn

Did you know?

The human mind is bombarded with as much as 32g of information every single day. A study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Diego, revealed this.

If it were a computer, it would crash in no time.

It is believed that man has never been exposed to this much information in all of his history. We are continuously exposed to data from our cell phones, computers, television, etc. Even face-to-face interactions leave the mind with several things to process.

That is why a proverb concluded that life is a teacher; the more you live the more you learn.

I have a slightly different opinion. I believe that the more you live, the more you are taught. Learning is optional.

This I believe is why history repeats itself in unpleasant ways. Experience teaches its lessons, but men refuse to take them.

Experience teaches its lessons, but men refuse to take them.

Ask yourself, of the 32g of information that you were exposed to yesterday, how many have you retained today? Of course, not all information is useful to you. But while you say that in your defense, again I ask, in sieving what is useful and what is not, how many valuable information have you allowed to slip through the cracks?

Many won’t have an answer to this. Why? What you don’t know, you don’t know that you don’t know it. But what you don’t know, you can know, if you will learn. Remember, life always teaches, but it is up to us to learn.

What then are the barriers to learning? How does knowledge slip through your ears? What is between the current you and a better you.? Your life is speaking, will you live and learn?

This and more in the concluding part of this series. But first, what are your thoughts on this. Lets have a conversation in the comment section.

Click here to read the concluding part of the series- live and learn

Afolabi

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The Brand YOU

Answer to your first opportunity with competence and consistently to the rest with character

The whole concept of you as a brand isn’t novel any more. Today, a good number of people understand that they have a reputation/brand that they have consciously or unconsciously developed and that this reputation to a large extent decides how much opportunities people throw their way and how much success they achieve in life. However, I have come to know that strong brands are built deliberately and on purpose and good success is always intentional.

How then exactly do you build a strong personal brand? How do you ensure that people know you for what you want to be known for? How do you make certain that you are not mis-communicating your brand and that your brand isn’t being misunderstood by the people who interact with it?

The place to start is to engage the power of focus. Focus isn’t just the ability to stick to one thing; it is likewise or even more importantly the ability to say no to everything except one thing. Strong brands are built on the significance of one; their ability to be the first associative name when that thing is mentioned. Let me give you examples, when I say nation building, Fela Durotoye comes to mind. When I say change (good or bad), APC comes to mind. When I say soft drink, your mind easily remembers Cocacola. That’s the power of one. So first, identify your one thing.

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After identifying that thing, build your expertise and make enough noise till someone gives you a chance. One grave mistake to do in life is to wink in the dark. You have both wasted your effort as well as denied others the opportunity to experience something good. Yes it’s true that opportunity eventually finds the prepared, but sometimes it finds the fool who isn’t ready for it first especially if the prepared does nothing to be noticed. You must be ready to do all it takes to promote yourself and whatever it is that you do. Stop at nothing to raise your voice; to raise your work!

When opportunity eventually shows up, make sure you exceed expectations. Surprise them and give them more than what they bargained for. One thing that would do is that it will bring them back again. The second time they come, show them they can trust you by being consistent with the experience you delivered the first time.

It takes character to treat every honour as a privilege

However, you can only achieve this if you understand that the first time you get an opportunity, it is a privilege; the second and subsequent time, it is an honour. You must nonetheless be willing to treat every opportunity as a privilege so that you always give your best, thereby always earn the right to more honor.

Obviously, it takes character to treat every honor as a privilege, and character is the end product of a life lived completely on values. Your values are the things that you stand for. They must be invaluable to you because once they have a price tag, someone will pay you to compromise. Do you have values?

So here is the flow of thought:  Values will form your character. Character will enable consistency and competence. But competence should be specialized. Specialized competence should be promoted so as to attract opportunity. When opportunity shows up, character must not die; answer to your first opportunity with competence and consistently to the rest with character.

Afolabi 2(1)

Stars not Kettles

Let me tell you a rather personal story about pots, kettles and stars.

I visited the Ikeja City mall recently. Like most days, a particular brand was having an activation to sell its products. They had mascots, models, video games, music and obviously dancers. The dancers I believe drew the most attention and even I was at some point carried away with what they were doing. But as I was about to step into the main complex, I heard the security lady say in vernacular about the dancers something along the line of “after all these, you will need to take Paracetamol for your headache. Better go find a better job for yourself”. Typing it in English makes it look like she gave a rather kind advice. But NO! This was no advice at all. It was a statement said to scorn the dancers who were doing a really good job at their own work.

 

I remember walking past her thinking to myself, what a classical example of a pot calling a kettle black. To be sure, I did a little research before writing this. The average roadshow activation dancer earns about N5,000 in a day as opposed to a security guard who earns an average of N40,000 every month which scales down to about N2,000 for a day’s job. But the wage difference isn’t really what concerns me, but that a person will look down at another person for doing excellently at a legitimate job is just rather obnoxious.

It leaves me certain questions I’d like you to think through. First, is it really wrong for a pot to call a kettle black? Has the pot that called a kettle black lied? Is there really anything wrong in being black? I am not providing answers to these here but i’d like you to take time to think about them.

So, this article would have had no proper end if not for another incident that happened just the next day. This time, I had just finished visiting my mother at her house and as I approached the bus stop I could hear someone shouting at the top of her voice, “wazo, wazo, fifty naira, wazo; if you love your husband wazo, fifty naira wazo”. As I moved closer to the bus stop, I could see the woman trying to sell her products and it turned out she was someone very familiar. But, as she saw me, she stopped shouting and so we exchanged pleasantries. However, she did not resume until I had left. I saw in her face that she wasn’t proud of the work she was doing and so waited till I left before she continued. That was sad! She should have been proud!! She should have seen that she was a star not kettle!!!

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Where is dignity in labor?

At her arrival in London, Princess Diana of the Hollywood Blockbuster movie wonder woman tasted the goodness of an Icecream for the first time ever. The ice cream was so well made that she turned to the seller and said, “this is really good, you should be proud of yourself”. That for me was very profound. If you are doing legitimate work and you are putting your best effort into it, then you should be proud too. We might not all do great things, but we can all do small things in a great way. And that’s what matters the most.

This is what i would like you to leave with – Don’t let anyone look down on you because of the work you do, and never look down on yourself either. As long as you put your heart into it and do it excellently, then you should be proud of yourself. President John F. Kennedy was visiting NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961. While touring the facility, he introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA.  The Janitor gave the most remarkable answer; “I am helping to put a man on the moon”. Now that’s whatsup! Be like that janitor!! See the bigger picture always and be proud of yourself. Even if you are black, you are a star not a kettle.

Ciao!

PS: Please remember to share this post with other people. I also look forward to your own kettle-to-star stories and feedback in the comment section.

Afolabi Soaga

 

WHO ARE THEY???

Fela Durotoye (FD), nation builder, leadership expert and CEO Gemstone group, shared an interesting story with me during our time together recently. The story was about “they” and the lesson in it was quite remarkable.

Who or what are ‘they’ you may ask? You just read on a little further and find out!

One time, he had arrived at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos; and the place was really hot. He moved close to one of the air conditioning systems and realized that the temperature was set at an inappropriate 30 degrees.

FD recalled that he drew the attention of an airport official to this issue, saying: “Sir, this place is hot because the temperature is set at 30 degrees. If you press this button right here to reduce the temperature to about 16 degrees, this whole place will become more conducive for everyone”

The official however responded in our conventional pidgin English saying; “Oga, that is how ‘they’ set am”. FD wondered who the ‘they’ in question were, just the way you wondered when you started reading this piece.

I mean, if anyone was in a position to do something about the temperature inside the airport on that faithful day, the airport official was one such person and here he was practically refusing to do so because of some ‘they’ somewhere that no one knows about.

FD then went on to adjust the settings of the AC by himself. While he was at it, the official kept saying that ‘Oga, if it spoil, they go hold you o”.  Once again FD wondered to himself: “Who are they? Where are they? Why should ‘they’ stop you from doing what you ought to do?”

Most of us are like that airport official. There are certain things we have decided not to do anything about, not because we cannot, but because we are too concerned, we bother ourselves too much about “what ‘they’ would think, say, do, or how ‘they’ would react”.

You might wonder, “If I quit my job, ‘they’ would say I’m crazy?” “If I leave this abusive relationship, ‘they’ would think I cannot suffer long” “If I start my business, ‘they’ will not patronize me”. “If I forgive, ‘they’ would probably do it again”.

Now I ask you, who are ‘they’?

FD adjusted the AC that day and ‘they’ never showed up. ‘They’ didn’t show up because let me shock you; ‘they’ don’t even exist! Even if they do exist, they are never as powerful as we make them to be in our minds.

If there is something that needs to be done, go ahead and do it! Regardless of what others may do or think. For all we know, They are not real! They are not powerful enough to stop you!! You are the one stopping yourself. Only YOU can stop YOU!

This is to challenge you to just do it like Nike. (If you just pronounced that as Nike, the girl that sells Indomie down your street; please know that I am praying for you. LOL). But really, you need to rise above whatever is holding you back, above those things playing around in your heads.

You are powerful enough to make that change happen!

Go for greatness!

Afolabi.

Scars of War

I want to start by congratulating myself on finding such a dramatic title to this piece. Although it sounds like the title of a blockbuster Hollywood movie, this is far from fiction; this is everyday life; this is the story of my life.

Nod your head if you have never failed in life. If you didn’t just nod your head then please read on because you are exactly who I had in mind when putting this together.

My first year in the university was my most challenging one academically. I had the uncommon privilege of scoring all the grades possible in just my first semester. Once again, it felt like I was watching a movie every time I went to the result board those days. I told myself this just can’t be me. More annoying was that I scored an A in a 1 unit course while the F was in a 4 unit course; the way the grade system works, I would have just been better off with 2 Ds in both courses really.

After the first semester, I couldn’t just settle for the result. I am brilliant chap no doubt. My secondary school results were pretty good and I felt I deserved better. I spent some time attempting to contest the result but for the advice of concerned strangers who warned me against it. You have four more years in the university ahead of you, buckle up, do it again and you’d be just fine. I’m glad I took their advice

The real gist was an event that happened in my second year. I was placed in a position where I had to publicly declare what my CGPA was. Though I can’t remember why o was asked to, but I can’t also forget how miserable it made me feel.

This was church event and I couldn’t possibly lie.  I shared my poor 1.87 CGPA with everyone in attendance and that went down as one of the most embarrassing days of my life but also a very decisive one. Looking back, there are 2 quick lessons to pick

First is that one event that goes wrong in your life doesn’t define your life forever. Often I feel that all eyes are on me at all times and I know we all mostly do feel this way too. Note, this is 2pac and not scripture so it can’t be true. Even if it was true, after a while, people forget about your embarrassing moment because they have their own to remember and think about. So don’t go kill yourself over it. I still remember that day fondly but I doubt if many other people that were there that day do. And yet, as at then it felt like I had let the whole world in on my top secret at that time.

One event that goes wrong in your life doesn’t define your life forever

The second is the big idea of this article- if you don’t take responsibility for your failures; how on earth would you be responsible for turning things around.

I went on to graduate from that same school with a second upper division with every semester GPA surpassing the previous one back to back despite starting as a mere pass student. I believe that would not have been possible if I lived in denial all through my campus life.

If you don’t take responsibility for your failures; how on earth would you be responsible for turning things around.

The concept of failing forward is based on your ability to realize that failure is just an event as well as an opportunity to begin again more intelligently. If you have ever failed at a thing, you need to know that you didn’t fail, the thing did and if you can take responsibility for it then you also can rewrite your story and tell a testimony. Don’t play the blame game, don’t give excuses. Rather, own up, buckle up, and go at it again.

Failures are your scars of war. They show that you lost a battle. When handled properly, they can also become your mark of victory that will be proof that you won the war.

Selah,

Afolabi.

Dont just take NO for an answer, ask WHY!

Several research studies have revealed that most non-routine sales occur only after 5 follow-ups. This means that it takes at least 5 continuous and consistent follow up efforts after the initial sales contact, before a prospective customer agrees to patronize your product. That’s an equivalent of 4 NOs before you get 1 YES.

This highlights the importance of a list of things. Top of that list is persistence; but also important, though not often spoken about, is feedback.

Here is what I mean, 4 NOs don’t always ordinarily guarantee a YES at the 5th trial. It is foolish to do things the same way and expect a different result. What you do with rejection is what decides what happens at your next try. The issue is that often, people don’t make an effort to find out why they are being turned down. They just turn away without asking for feedback.

What we ought to do when a prospective customer refuses to patronize our business is to find out why he/she didn’t. You ought to take every rejection moment as a learning opportunity- What did I get wrong? What can I make better? What extras can give me an advantage in my next outing? What can I do to change this customer’s mind? Why do you prefer my competitors to me? Don’t just accept being rejected, ask why!

This finds its application not just in sales. Whether it is a prospective lover turning down your advances, or a prospective employer showing you the door after an interview, sometimes what you need to do to guarantee that you don’t get rejected again is to ask and receive feedback.

Don’t just accept being rejected, ask why!

In some cases, you’d find out that what asking that all important question does is to make the prospect see that they really don’t have a reason for rejecting you. Their inability to point you to your flaws could bring to the fore front their own bias and in certain cases cause them to rethink on their decision.

Whatever the case might be, whether there is a flaw identified, or a bias revealed, or even neither of the two, we are presented with a winning opportunity when we choose to ask questions rather than accept fate when faced with rejection.  This winning opportunity might perhaps be the reason why you don’t need to try 3 more times before you get your desired ‘YES’.

 

A Reason to Hope

I listened to Bernie Sanders speak in the days after the historic US election that saw the unlikely Donald J Trump emerge as the president-elect of the United States of America. I heard him say that he was very hopeful and optimistic about the future of their country even as he has written in his new best selling  book ‘Our Revolution’.

However, his enthusiasm has little or nothing to do with Trump’s election but everything to do with the young, vibrant, beautiful, and enthusiastic young individuals he met as he traveled across the United States during his own campaign to be the Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

Then I thought to myself, if Uncle Bernie is hopeful about America because of THIS reason, then we have even more reasons to be hopeful about Nigeria and Africa at large. Spread across our great land are young, energetic, dynamic and bright individuals who are passionate about the future of our country.africa-green-ring

Young men and women who are awaken to the fact that our leaders can do little to help us. Therefore, we must now take it upon ourselves to do everything we can to help them. We will hold them accountable on how they lead and govern us. We would participate as much as we can in the affairs of things. We would create businesses and opportunities for ourselves and the people around us. we would use whatever resource we have to build our nation.

Young men and women who are awaken to the fact that our leaders can do little to help us. Therefore, we must now take it upon ourselves to do everything we can to help them.

Consciously or not, we are beginning to see that we don’t need titles or positions to lead. We can do our own bit starting from where we are. If there is not so much our country can do for us, then there is so much we can and will do for our country.

We won’t relent till we see Nigeria become great again and Africa take a leading position in world affairs.

I am very hopeful about the future of Nigeria and you have reasons too.

Stay believing.

Afolabi