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.

4(1)

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)

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.

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

What CRACKS have you adpated to?

Feedback can be either constructive or destructive depending on how it is either given and/or received. A feedback could be constructively given but wrongly received and as such be unproductive and another could be poorly stated and yet be productive in a case where it is properly received.

So this piece would be from two perspectives.

The first is that if you would give feedback, do it right. Lots of people give criticism just to feel better about themselves or worst still, to make other people feel bad and guilty. If your purpose or intention of giving feedback is any of these, you shouldn’t bother giving it. But if your motive is to help people get better, then you should ensure that your feedback reflects this intent. Your tone of voice, point of emphasis, manner of approach, delivery of information should all tilt and be constructed in a way that it is without doubt that you do not think less of the criticized person but rather you are only suggestive of ways things and he or she can be better.

The second is that when feedback is given to you, regardless of how impolite or unconstructive it may be, always seek to use that information to be better rather than be bitter and pick up fights. Even in cases where you feel that the criticism is unwarranted, there is a saying that there is always an iota of truth in every rumor, there would be one or two things to learn from the feedback. If at all nothing, you can at least decide not to give occasion for your work or person to be criticized again by doing your best work possible and be one step better than you are at the moment.

Feedback helps you see such cracks that you have adapted to and as such allowed to remain in your life and work.

When we first moved to our house, an incident occurred that led to a window getting cracked. For the first few weeks after the incident, the crack was all we could see when we entered that room. After a while, it became as if it was never there. We had become comfortable in our discomfort. Feedback helps you see such cracks that you have adapted to and as such allowed to remain in your life and work. It might not always be a good experience like a bank credit alert on your phone, but its benefits are without any doubt great! so give it well when you give it, receive it in good spirits when it is given to you. bottomline, be better and help others do so too.

Be Great!

 

Afolabi Soaga

AOC Generation

I don’t really know how it works these days, but I remember well that while I was in secondary school, we had a habit of always asking our teachers whenever exams were approaching for what we called an AOC.

AOC is acronym for Area of Concentration. The idea is that, if we were taught 8 topics during that term or semester, and the exam will only cover say  4 topics, the AOC tells us where to focus our reading efforts on such that rather than read the entire 8 topics, we can focus effort and attention on the 4 guaranteed exam topics.  Good way to save energy, focus energy and increase efficiency!

While AOC proved to be a good idea in some cases; in some other cases, it wasn’t. There were times when certain ‘wicked’ teachers decided to mislead us by giving us wrong AOCs. So he says read topics 1 to 4, and then he ends up setting topics 5 to 8 in the exam. I’m sure you know that the result of that is usually not pretty. Someone reading this must have had such nasty experiences too. So early enough, I’ve learnt not to be an AOC dependent student; when I have an examination, I leave no stone unturned, master all I should; and in retrospect, I think it is a good idea that has worked well for me.

Being an AOC person is too risky as a student in school and even more importantly, as a student outside school. Many people want to know that ONE thing that they can do to become successful, that ONE thing they can do to make a first class in school, that ONE thing they can do to make more money, that ONE thing they can do to land that dream job, that one thing that will make their marriage heaven; just that ONE thing!

Newsflash- there is hardly a one-thing-to-do! Instead there are usually SEVERAL things to do. Success in life and any endeavor is rarely an easy-one way-formula. If it were, everybody would be successful. Further still, what works at a particular level might not at another level. To crown it all, life as a teacher doesn’t give AOCs… it doesn’t even have an examination timetable. You have to ALWAYS be prepared and not only that, you also have to be FULLY prepared.

You have to ALWAYS be prepared and not only that, you also have to be FULLY prepared.

In conclusion, examinations in life and other specific circumstances are not just given so that you can pass them. There are there so that you can become something by reason of them. There are there to certify that you have learnt enough if not all of what they are about. AOCs are good, but they only make you half baked. Sooner or later, questions will pop from areas outside your AOC. The question then is- will you be able to tackle them?

Afolabi Soaga

Dont Let a Crisis go to Waste!!!

Crises are very important. As much as we don’t like them, we honestly owe many of the progress we’ve made as a people to it. The greatest things have happened when things got messed up. Necessity is reputed as the mother of creation and crisis I believe is the mother of necessity. A crisis reveals in clear terms that something needs to be done and that certain things need to change.

It is obvious that Nigeria and the world at large are in a crisis state. Economies are heading for recession, the climate keeps surprising us by making certain things we only imagined in Sci-fi movies our daily realities, terrorism is on a record high, and things are just not ideal as we’d have loved them to.

So what do we do with all these crises we have at hand? What do you do with the punches that life is dealing you? Do you just do so well to dodge as many as you can and hence survive; or do you learn from these crises and confront them and hence thrive?

Crises are no doubt opportunities in disguise. Though its good to pray for opportunities, but not this kind. They rarely respond to your wishes and prayers. They don’t need an invitation from you. They have their own agenda that they are running and sooner or later, it will be your own turn. They are like summer and winter; your opinion is almost irrelevant to them. You can curse, nag, complain, be bitter etc. but you’d still have to live with them.

What you can and should do really is PREPARE for them. If we save in the days of plenty, we won’t lack in the days of famine.

In confronting a crisis, there are 3 things that are needful.

The first is to change something; one of the worse things you could do is to try to act in denial by refusing to change when confronted by a crisis. What crises do is that they change things around you and when things around you change, you also have to change. Change requires change. In the face of a crisis you should ask yourself the big question-what do I need to change about myself? That’s where the solution starts from! Do I need to spend less, save more, work extra, change environment, beef up security, form new alliances, break off certain relationships, form new habits, play less, pray more, etc. What do I need to do differently? If you try to do it business as usual, you’d end up worse off. Those who insist on the status quo when change arrives will find themselves on the wrong page of history.

Change requires change

The second is to develop tough skin. Crises are like seasons, they come and go. So eventually, it will pass away but only if you hang on will you not pass with it. When the going gets tough, only the tough gets going. In tough times, you have to develop tough skin. You shouldn’t back down or break down at every sight of discomfort or challenge. You have to be resilient and tenacious. You have to engage active patience; a patience that doesn’t just wait for dawn to come but that fights darkness while it awaits a new day.

The third is to stay hopeful; Do not let the candle of your hope burnout. Always keep hope alive. When a cup is broken, it will struggle to hold water. At that point, It differs not from a basket. You are not a basket and you can avoid becoming one by keeping the bond of hope alive. Against hope, keep hoping. Believe that better days are ahead. Find that silver lining in your stormy days and hold on to it till it dispels the clouds and brings you the rain of abundance that you desire.

Believe that better days are ahead

A crisis is indeed a veritable tool of progress for those who can handle it. A crisis is raw material for greatness. Never let it waste, make the most of it!

Afolabi Soaga

Increasing your influence Level 2

So we have identified leadership as Nigeria’s big problem; and we’ve identified influence as the surest route to it. This post is a continuation of the last post and Its about 4 things that will get people to like you and thereby grow your influence over them. Please read the last post here

Being liked isn’t gotten on a silver platter too; it has to be worked for. Here are the big 4:

  1. Excellence: John Gardner is noted to have said that excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well. It will win you hearts. From the way you walk, talk, dress, smell and live your life, try to always put out a personal best. Consistency is important. Don’t be great today, and shabby tomorrow. But if you wont be great everyday, try to be it today. But then, I like to say that everyday is showtime. Put up a good show!
  2. Like people: The golden rule cuts across virtually every principle. So if you want to be liked, then care for others as well and show it. Actions they say speak louder than words. One of the ways you can really show that you are interested in people is to use personal data. It works like magic. Call people by their names and they’ll like you. Its not easy to remember people’s names….so it shows that you put effort into it. People recognize and appreciate such efforts.

    index
    Photo credit: Google
  3. Be a Master-Communicator: Communication is a 2 way street too. It should flow in both directions. You’ve heard it being said that God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth so that we can listen more and talk less. True. But you see, you have to do both. Be a listener; lend people your ears and they’ll lend you their hearts. Good deal if you ask me. But you’ve also got to speak and use words well. One of the best ways to use words is to affirm people. Say good things to them and about them. Dale Carnegie says being hearty in approbation but lavish in praise will win you friends and influence.
  4. Be Nice: Tracy chapman identified 5 love languages people speak. Most of them have to do with you being nice. From doing kind acts, to giving gifts, or saying nice words. Most people respond well to these little things. They are the little things that mean so much to people and doing them will endear you to their hearts.

everyday is showtime. Put up a good show!

So in conclusion, influence isn’t so difficult to have. People who love and respect you will respond to you. Also, you don’t have to sacrifice respect for likability…they are not mutually exclusive. Have fun, be nice, be good, be Great!

Afolabi Soaga

Increasing your influence Level

What is Africa’s biggest problem? If you are thinking its poverty you are wrong. What is Nigeria’s biggest problem? If you are thinking its corruption, once again you are very wrong. You see most of those stuffs you might be thinking about are not the real problems we have. They are products of it. And like someone said, if you don’t like the mangoes a mango tree in your yard is producing, rather than pluck off all the mangoes, get rid of the tree.

Quite frankly, Africa has a leadership problem. Unlucky the land whose king is a young pup – Eccl 10:16 (MSG). In other words, poor leadership often leads to calamitous consequences for a nation or people.

ERFA-Logo-no-backgroundWe often debate why the youths today aren’t allowed to take active part in governance in this part of the world. Fixed in this article is a picture of former Nigerian head of state, General Yakubu Gowon exchanging a handshake with young Justin Trudeau in the 70’s. Today Justin is Canada’s Prime minister.  But from the picture, Gowon was quite young then; but his fellows from that generation have remained in power because we have a cultural problem that attaches more importance to positions and titles than to leadership via influence. This is proved in the recent drama that happened in the Nigerian Soccer team. See my post about it here

we have a cultural problem that attaches more importance to positions and titles than to real leadership

So moving forward, how do we change this? Starting with you and I, we need to start modeling the LWT principle. To do that, we need to build influence.

There are two broad routes to building influence. The first is respect and the other is likability. Which of the two is more important? Perhaps none. The good news is that, unlike what many people may want you to think, you don’t have to substitute one for the other. You don’t have to sacrifice being liked for respect and vice versa.

Neither is gotten on a platter of gold. You’ve got to earn being respected and being liked.

4 ways of earning respect and building influence thereby are

  1. Respect others: Respect is reciprocal. This is so true. Some call it the yellow rule of life. Respect is like a two way street, it usually flows in both direction. So wherever it seems like respect is lacking, you open up a way for it by generously giving it to others and it will make sure it finds its way back to you. So have good manners, say thank you, don’t use curse words, value people’s personalities, choices and opinions.

    12105974_1058114634231340_3100945207053990519_n
    photo credit: Google
  2. Respect yourself: Quite honestly, people won’t treat you any better than you treat yourself. Likewise, you are not capable of treating people any better than you treat yourself. So before you can truly respect others, you’ve got to have some respect for yourself. So value yourself; celebrate yourself. Funny thing is that self-respect isn’t earned, it is deserved. Also, it is a choice. choose it because you deserve to be respected.
  3. Exhibit Integrity: Integrity is a social capital. Basically it means you being true to your words; being somebody people can vouch for. This isn’t so hard to be. Its as simple as not promising what you can’t deliver and you delivering whatever you promise. If that is hard, then don’t make promises. Simple!
  4. Achieve Greatness: This is key. Once you are a person people can identify with success, they won’t find it hard to pay you respect. The point is, for every success you achieve, every victory you get, every breakthrough you make, you earn the right to people’s respect. They owe it to you and in most cases, they wont be able to help but respect you. The only other option they have is to hate and that will age them faster. That’s a greater loss than paying respect to who it is due.
self-respect isn’t earned, it is deserved. Also, it is a choice. choose it because you deserve to be respected.

So in this link you’d find the other part to this post. They are 4 things that will get you to be liked and thereby build influence. I hope you find time to read it too.

Be great

Afolabi Soaga

Oliseh, Enyeama and Captainship

The recent drama that ensued between the new Nigerian soccer team head coach, Sunday Oliseh, and the ex-captain of the team, Vincent Enyeama, who also announced his retirement afterwards, is nothing short of epic as far as I’m concerned. One can create a multiple award winning movie out of it but then, I’d just stick to making this article around it.

To Summarize the whole story from at least one party’s point of view, the new coach wanted a new team captain because he believes that’s what works best for him. The then present captain, who also is the most experienced and capped member of the team didn’t like the idea. He wanted to remain captain. Conflict arose and someone had to leave the team for the other to remain. end of story

One can understand the ex-captain’s position a little bit. Being stripped off the captain band after committing no offense could be a little hard to deal with. Nevertheless, its no reason to cause drama or react aggressively.

It all boils down to one thing. Misplaced values.OLISEH-ENYEAMA

Here is what I mean.  There is a philosophy called the LWT. LWT stands for Lead Without a Title. The center idea around this philosophy is that you don’t need a title or a position to lead a group of people.  That means you can lead from wherever level or position you are in any unit od society you find yourself.

To do this however, one would have to have influence. Influence is the ability to sway a person or group of person’s thoughts, beliefs, and actions towards achieving a goal. According to Leadership expert John C Maxwell, Leadership is influence (and consequently, influence is leadership).

There are two routes to ‘affecting’ people’s decision and actions. One is through authority/position/title. The other is through influence and charisma. Our society today places more value on the former than the later. That’s why we have people jostling hard and doing everything possible to get into positions without realizing that in leadership, authority without influence will fail, while influence without authority will succeed; The reason why the same old people who have led our country in the yesteryears are still the same people running for political positions today. Its because we think that there can be no leadership without a title. We think that we lose leadership and relevance once we lose position. This is false.

In leadership, authority without influence will fail, while influence without authority will succeed

They say musicians don’t retire; they only stop singing when there is no more music in them. By reason of being an ex-captain, and the team’s most capped player; I have no doubt about the fact that Enyeama had a level of influence in that soccer team that he could have leveraged on. But because he valued the position than his influence, he felt he just had to hold on to it. That of course has caused him an early retirement despite he still having a lot of music in him.

We must learn to have our values in order and give more importance to what is more important. Young men and women should not necessarily kill themselves over positions and titles which will not always go round, when they can spend that time and effort building influence. Influence can fetch you more authority and positions than positions can fetch you influence. Often time, other people decide what positions we are picked for, but no one can place a limit to what extent of influence you can build and have.

Influence can fetch you more authority and positions than positions can fetch you influence

Be Great!

Afolabi Soaga

PS: You can learn all about the LWT principle from robin sharma’s book -“the leader without a title”

Image Source: Google