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

Footprints behind us

This is gradually becoming a ritual for me. Every year on my birthday, I like to share thoughts and ideas that have shaped me and are continuing to do so in the hope that someone who reads it can learn a thing or two on how to move their lives forward.

This year, my thoughts have been around the footprints we make and leave on the surface of the earth. These prints are our legacy. They are the things that the world would remember us for. They are also the things we will be defined by and it is important to pay attention to them.

When Alfred Nobel’s brother died, a local newspaper mistakenly published Albert’s obituary instead. That allowed Alfred the dread of coming face to face with his own obituary. He was confronted with what his legacy was but was also presented with an opportunity to change it.

From a man who was to be remembered as a merchant of death who became wealthy by finding ways to kill many people fast to one remembered as the creator of the prestigious Nobel Prize. Alfred Nobel rewrote his own history.

Two ready lessons from Alfred’s story are these. First, consciously or not, we are all leaving behind a legacy either good or bad. More interesting is that many of us are unaware about what type of legacy we are leaving behind. Second and perhaps more importantly is that it is never too late to decide what we would be remembered for. We can take conscious steps today and rewrite the stories that would be told of us.

I have found that our lives are really a sum total of the decisions we make. We are no better than our daily decisions and actions. The question then is- what informs our decisions?

I believe that a proven answer to that are the values you hold. These are the things that decide what decisions you go with and the ones you discard.  They are the unseen litmus test that validate the actions we take. We are just as good as our values. Therefore, to leave behind a great legacy, we must first live out great values.

Your values are things that you must continually do and think to become the person you have envisioned yourself to be. They have such a compelling influence over your actions that they practically define who you are. They are the things you stand for and they are the things that will keep you standing.

To leave behind a great legacy, we must first live out great values.

Note that your values don’t necessarily have to be ‘natural’ to you. Why this is important to know is that we are likely to fall into the danger of thinking about our values based on our past experience- on what we currently are, both good and bad. While that is helpful, it is also important to know that we can also be forward looking when thinking about our values. In other words, they are not necessarily what you’ve always been or done; but could rather be what you will start doing and being.

It is never too late to decide what we would be remembered for. We can take conscious steps today and rewrite the stories that would be told of us.

So you see, leaving a conscious and deliberate legacy starts with identifying and committing to a set of values that align with that legacy. By committing, I mean that you take ownership of those values and you start defining yourself by them. This might require that you recite it over and over again until it becomes internalized like a software that runs your life.

You don’t have to pick every good trait you can remember, you could just pick a few that you can really commit to, and that also best align with your vision and goals. If you work well at those few values, you’d be greatly amazed at how such singular action can transform your life.

My own identified values are Growth, Love, Faith, Patriotism, Humility, Generosity and Service. What are yours?

Cheers!

Afolabi

Why you should be a Futurist too

Without being too technical in my definition; a futurist is basically a thinker who plans for the future. He assesses the trend and situation of things today and with that make judgments and decisions that will position him to lead tomorrow.

Mary Kay Ash believes that there are 3 types of people- those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wondered what happened. Futurists belong to the group of those who make things happen.

Sometimes it feels like all the big things that will ever happen in the world has happened already and there is little or nothing more that we can do. The truth is that it felt that way a few hundred years ago and look at how far we have come since then. Yes a lot has been done but yet, a lot more can still be done.

The next Bill Gates wont likely built a software system nor will the next Mark Zuckerberg build a social network platform. What will they build? That’s the questions futurist try to answer and is one you should ponder on too.

Futurists belong to the group of those who make things happen.

Regardless of whatever industry you play in, there are 3 questions you can ask yourself if you want to be futuristic.

1.     What can I expect to happen in this industry? You can draw answers from this by considering certain industry historical data and trends and then drawing predictive inferences about the future from them.

2.     What other things could be made to happen? Not everything is captured in history and trends. You need to also be up to speed on current plans within your industry. What product line are your competitors planning? What government policies are in the pipeline and how can they affect things when they finally happen? How can you be innovative and be a game changer in your industry? What can your next big move be?

Sometimes it feels like all the big things that will ever happen in the world has happened already…… it felt that way a few hundred years ago and look at how far we have come since then

3.     What do I want to happen? What would I rather have happen in this industry and how can I make it happen. Are there things I need to stop or are there things I need to join. What are the resources I need and who are the people that can help me build that future that I desire.

Our ability to provide answers to these questions will go a long way in helping us take vantage positions in the future that is beginning to happen daily. Statements about the future describe possibilities, probabilities or preferences. They help with good planning and good planning is always a good way to go.

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

what new Idea can change the world?

So that was the big question i had to answer- what is that big idea that can change the world?

I remember telling my younger brother once that-“time by itself doesn’t change anything. The only change that occurs with time is decay, and that is bad change. People and effort in time is what make things better.”

Our communities and the world in general are subject to the laws of motion. They will continue in a given direction (usually downward because there is an undoubted destructive force at work), unless an external force acts on it. People are that force that can change the world. Evil thrives when good people fold their hands and do nothing. Maybe we think that nothing happens when we do nothing. Wrong! Something happens, but not just what we want.images

Change is inevitable. We have but two choices of change to choose from- A deliberate active positive change for the better or a consequential passive change that wreaks havoc in the lives of people and our planet as a whole.

But we humans can only do what we can do. A car with any empty tank can do no good to your need to move up an hill. Such a car will remain of no good if nothing happens to it because it is also subject to a motion-like law of remaining in a given state unless change is effected from outside. People are just like that car trying to move this world uphill. All our goodwill and intention count for nothing if we don’t have gas to pedal up. We ourselves continue in a path of decay and death when we are not growing and developing. People need to be equipped and trained to make impact in their world. They need to know that they don’t have to wait for that big break as they can start with their tiny bits today.

In conclusion, my big idea is that people are the most important entities on the earth. no new idea can change the world. it is this same old species of mankind that can and will change its world. We are our biggest assets and all the change we desire will only happen when we make them happen. We are the real deal when it comes to global change; not internet, not technology, not governments or institutions; people built all that.

Our local communities should place a heavy, deliberate and purposeful focus on investing in its people; helping them to attain their best self. Imagine a world where everyone is at his best! The possibilities are endless!

Afolabi Soaga

January 2016

Plans, Purposes, and Pursuits

imagesPlanning is so important that even God in all his might doesn’t fail to plan. He always has a plan- A plan for the whole world and a plan for you and i. That’s why he is way ahead of the adversary because the next set of moves he’d make are plain before him. He is never caught off guard. (Jer 29:11)

So if God makes plans, why don’t you?

Some take consolation in verses in Matt 6 which advices that we take no thought of what we will eat and drink and of our tomorrow. But really, that verse had no reference to planning! What Jesus was addressing in that portion of scripture is worry; and even though there is a thin line between both, there is also a huge difference between them.

So if God makes plans, why don’t you?

Worry is negative. It drains you. It is an abuse of your imagination and as such should be avoided. Planning is positive. It requires you to stretch yourself, task your imagination, and exercise your faith in God and his abilities in you and through you.

In Luke 14:28 Jesus advises that whoever who set out on a project must first sit to count his cost to see if he has enough to complete it. He said that whoever fails to do so is at risk of failure and shame. Planning is a preparatory act that can’t be ignored. Opportunity only favors the prepared; the man who has planned.

Many people refuse to plan because they don’t want to risk failure. They have probably set goals in the past that they failed to meet and are afraid to repeat the same. I heard once that If you aim at nothing, you will hit it a 100% of the time. Refusal to plan and set goals for those people will never make them better. If you refuse to take risks, you might not fail, but you’d definitely not win. So I advise that you set those goals. Really, you have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

Opportunity only favors the prepared; the man who has planned.

When you make plans and set goals properly, you’d most like succeed at them. Properly means that you set appropriate and worthy goals and that you map out strategies to score them.

Other people fear making wrong plans that are contrary to what God has planned for them. In someone’s opinion, why make plans for myself when God has already made some for me? My question to that is- is that a submission to fate or a confession of faith? The former I dare to say. God indeed has plans for you but he won’t force them on you. He needs you to take those plans for yourself and work them out through his help. Proverbs 16:3 (GNB)- Ask the LORD to bless your plans, and you will be successful in carrying them out.

is that a submission to fate or a confession of faith?

My plans? I want God plans! So do I. Nothing stops you from making God’s plans for yourself. God is always trying to let us on in on the plans he has for us. Php 2:13(GNB) says God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose. Isa 55:8 wasn’t referring to you. It is the wicked man that God asked to forsake his ways. Yes, God’s thoughts and plans are higher and better than the ones we can make for ourselves. But God wants us to know that we can attain those thoughts (1Cor2:9-10). He has no glory in hiding them from us but takes all glory in us living them out.

So, don’t be afraid to make plans for your life. Set BHAGs and pursue them. Commit your desires to God who is able to do immeasurably than you can plan for yourself and watch him do wonders through you and for you. You’ve got nothing to lose!

 

Afolabi Soaga

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