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

9(1)

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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

Our Wrong Approach to Innovation

In our quest as a nation and continent to stop being BUYERsellers but rather SELLERbuyers, the drive and push to create and innovate things is greater now than ever. People are being encouraged to look past the theory they are being taught in school and get practical with the knowledge they get; to look past seeking jobs where there are none to creating jobs others can find. We are in the long awaited era of creative and innovative African entrepreneurs.

We’ve gone past the period where we thought that creativity and innovation was a white man’s thing; that the answers to our problems will only come from outside our shores as a nation and continent. We now know that it is our duty to take responsibility for our growth and development and that it is dutiful for us to contribute to world development for we have the capacity to do so.

Yes we now know, but knowledge has never been enough. How do we then make the change, what course of action should we take? What is our strategy? If we have a strategy, are we doing it the right way and what are our chances of success with our present direction?

Yes we now know, but knowledge has never been enough

Typical innovation news we hear in Nigeria goes like this- 7 Unizik students produce automobile bus with local material; Enugu boy builds airplane without engine, 3 Kwasu students built a rocket prototype, etc. while these are all credible achievements that are perhaps worth celebrating, they are still a far cry from the best we are capable of. They are good enough, but good enough they say is never good enough. Those stuffs are good enough for museums but not real life markets.

Innovation-Africa

A good footballer doesn’t go to where the football is; he goes to where the football is going. The problem with those inventions we are celebrating is that they are not even where the world’s ball is at the moment, the world has far gone past those things. It’s like we are playing catch up with the past. How are we ever going to make progress that way?

It’s like we are playing catch up with the past.

We need to stop creating what others have created and stop solving problems that have already been solved. That is not innovative, it is only being re-inventive. While that isn’t a bad thing, I believe that we are capable of better things. Worse still, these catch-up products of ours are still of no quality based advantage when in comparison with the originals we copy.

Our university system also has a similar problem. Final year students are encouraged to work on thesis other people have worked on before. So it’s a copy-and-paste exercise for them. They are not encouraged to champion new frontiers and make new discoveries. They are trained to follow rather than lead. (Again, most of these research works end up in shelves somewhere not really contributing to global knowledge or advancement in their field)

Africa has unique problems; Africa can produce unique solutions

All these can change. Africa has unique problems; Africa can produce unique solutions. To really get to the level we are capable of as Africans, we need to do these things

  1. Stop playing catch up with the past– We need to be charge up our curiosity and ask questions- questions about the future; the future of any field we are playing in. We need to figure out where the ball is going and map out ways and means of getting there before the ball does. Only then can we be reckoned with as good players and only then can we score innovative goals
  1. Even if we’d tackle the same problems that others are tackling; We should do it better. I understand that some needs are universal and generational. People would always have to eat, move around, shelter and cloth themselves. But we don’t have to solve these problems the way they have always been solved. We can solve them in a more distinctive, efficient and timely manner. Our offerings become more valuable that way.

Great new innovations are usually high on two things. The first is the solution or value they provide; second is their divergence from the norm. You and I are capable of creating such solutions; we are capable of delivering on our duty towards world development and prosperity for all of mankind.

Be Great!

Afolabi Soaga

 

 

 

Baby Again: the future of the African child

Fear and the inability to take risks are man created. We were not born that way. We were informally trained to be afraid, to lack courage and to avoid risk. We were brought up to think that it’s best to always play it safe. But I have come to realize that although a ship in the harbor is safe; that’s not what ships are made for. They are designed and purposed to sail the high seas and surf through the turbulent storms; and they are specially designed to serve that purpose.

Risks are a part of life; boldness i  s often essential and it is innate. Fear though seems natural, it isn’t our default setting. We picked it up along the way and dropped the courage we were born with not realizing that although fear will take us to a destination faster and safer; often it leads to the wrong one and at when best, to a destination far lesser than where we ought to and could reach.

Take a look at a baby. Regardless of who her father is or how uneducated his mother is. Even if the baby is an orphan from theimages (1) poorest of families; when you place him or her in a room filled with the most honourable and noble dignitaries of the world, the baby would still end up doing whatever it is it wants to do. If it wants to cry, cry it would; or smile or make noise or cause trouble. A baby acts without inhibition and without fear. They are a great example of courage and boldness.

And each and everyone of us was once like that baby. We were all born that way. And that’s what we need to get back to being. Fear is a habit we learnt while unlearning courage and we need to reverse that to unlearn fear and relearn courage.

We were born that way for a reason. The world we are in is one filled with opportunities. But despite the huge opportunities that lie around, what we find also is great inequality.  The resources available are not equally distributed and no matter the kind of socialist system any government tries to run, they can never be. Resources are not necessarily scarce; or let me say scarcity is relative. Resources can go round but it just won’t.  I believe that an interplay of fear, faith, courage and boldness is what decides who gets what and how much of the resources available gets to a person.

It takes the bold and courageous to stretch forth and reach for his own share. It takes a lion heart to have a lion’s share. And that courage lies within your heart. You just need to find it.

And to young parents and intending parents especially my fellow African people i have this to add: We tend to teach our children not to speak where elders are instead of teaching them how to speak where elders are. We teach our daughters to be subservient to their male counterparts rather than making them know how to be achievers in themselves as well as humble afterwards. These are the things that sniff out the boldness and courage we were born with. Little wonder we are the way we are. I believe it is important that we change some part of how we train our children. No doubt our system has given birth to really strong and defiant people and time won’t permit me to name examples, but like always said, there is always room for improvement.  Ability to adapt and to survive are not the only things we can have. images (2)Courage, confidence and boldness could be added to the character of the African child.so we need to adopt systems that would model these traits in our kids. We need to make them start seeing that the white man isn’t better and that the foreign land isn’t more blessed. That they can compete against anyone in the world because they are equally as good as anyone else of any skin type. Our children must see beyond their immediate environment; beyond their history, they must see their future. The must see that they also have a role to play, an impact to make ; a contribution to give towards making the world a better place. They have a share in greatness, and we must show them the path that leads there.

I believe in the future of the African child. I see a future where we also contribute positively to the growth and development of this world. Where we are not just a spectator as to what happens; but rather active partners in change. But to reach that future, we must re-become what we were; re-discover the baby in us and find that boldness, faith and courage God equipped us with for the prize of greatness he has destined us for.

O dabo

Soaga Afolabitumblr_ngbu62KOXQ1rrnn7po1_1280

enviroment-conduct-performance-paradigm

I have often heard people say stuff like ‘if I was in so and so place, or if I had so and so opportunities, or if I was alive during so and so era, my life would have been so and so better’. Chances are huge that you too have said such at some point in your life. Most of the time, when we encounter failure by performing below what is celebrated or below what we really wanted, we tend to fall into one of these 2 extremes.

The first is a state of complete loss of belief in oneself and ability. This is when we come to accept failure and as such tag ourselves as failures. This is the root reason why many people drop out from school. When we fall into this mind-set, we stop seeing the need to try again and as such we simply just decide to quit and sometimes not do anything again; or quit to take up a different route and challenge.( example of such people are those that transfer from science related studies in school to the less tedious administrative courses. Of course, at times this is the wisest resolve to take on)

The second category consists of those who decide to give excuses like the ones in the opening paragraph. I heard someone describe an excuse as the tool of the incompetent and a monument of fools. I like to call it an unjust justification of failure. An excuse given is a failure tolerated and so excuses should be avoided at all cost.

The both categories are not good responses to failure. But somehow, I believe the latter is worse because it places you in a fool’s paradise where deceit is forcefully and foolishly accepted as reality. And many people especially in the school I come from like to take this option.

I finished from Obafemi Awolowo University which is arguably the best university in Nigeria and one of the best in Africa. We are notoriously known for being tough and difficult and we boast of having the best human products to show for it. The curriculum there is tough and so not too many people finish with first class honours. It is in fact believed that employers rate a second class lower honour from OAU higher than a second class upper from most other schools in the country. These facts and many more is what forms the basis why many students who don’t perform too well in my school console themselves with the idea that they would have struck better academic fortunes in some other schools.

I don’t believe this is always true and I would prove that with the knowledge from a concept in the field of marketing called the structure-conduct-performance-paradigm.

Well, it has been a proven fact that a first class student from OAU would most likely repeat same fortune in any other school not just in Africa but in fact, any other school in the entire world and that a first class student from many other schools might have to struggle to clinch a first class or even second class upper honours in our school. But I am not in any way convinced that a 2:1 student in OAU will automatically translate to a 1st class student in any other school just as much as a 2:1 student in those other schools will not automatically translate to a 2:2 or 3rd class student here.

Let’s do a quick little lesson in marketing. Under the structure-conduct-performance-paradigm approach of understanding market situations, performance of the market is usually a function of conduct in the market; while conduct is a function of structure of the market. Therefore, invariably performance is a function of conduct and structure. Now let’s apply this to our foregoing discussion.

Your performance anywhere and at anything is a function of your conduct and attitudes in as much as it is a function of your abilities. It could be argued even further that performance at anything is more influenced by attitude and conduct rather than innate abilities. Like the saying goes, it is your attitude that determines your altitude in life. There are several tales of geniuses who never went far; men of great potentials that ended as non-entities in life…. There are also great stories of ordinary men who achieved extraordinary feats and natural men who achieved supernatural results. These stories are everywhere; in movies, books (I recommend Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers), in sitcoms, history literatures, the bible, etc. so we can say directly that performance is determined by conduct (or action); and also that attitude more than ability influences your conduct and actions.

In the same vein, attitudes and conducts are also a function of environment (except in extreme cases which we would look into later on). In the bible we are told that when King Saul got into the company of prophets, he also prophesied (1Sam10). This is a classical biblical example of what I’m trying to establish.

The implication of this is that, when we get to certain places, we tend to behave the way the people there behave, i.e. like the environment requires. This has been termed in some literature work as the ‘joneses effect’. The field of economics also has some stuff to say about this in its explanation of consumer behaviour. We are more likely to be influenced by external factors than internal ones especially when it comes to social behaviour.

Now to those second class students who like to make those lofty claims….the reason why you behave the way you behave and study the way you study so hard, is simply because you are in a relatively tougher school. If you were in a relatively less demanding school, you would most likely have behaved differently. And since performance is a product of conduct, your results might not have been any better.

The only time when your claim and boast could have been right is if and only if after being trained and conditioned in a more demanding environment (like maybe after you finish your first degree in the ‘tougher’ school), you move to the relatively less demanding school, you could then with the superior culture and conduct that your previous environment had accustomed you to, act superiorly and differently to produce different and superior performance.

The highly contemporary the message translation of the bible reads Roms12:2 as “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking ……” because it is just how we naturally tend to be. Humans are generally adapters and conformers and as such act like thermometers which respond to the temperature of its surrounding rather than being thermostats that dictate and regulate the temperature of its surrounding.

And so the bible in that same verse advised that “Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out”. This implies a subscription to God’s own culture, system and training. Only then can you act differently and as such produce outstanding results. Therefore, it is clear that if you with a higher culture move to a lesser environment, you would most likely perform better because you have being shaped by a different environment.

Without stretching things any further, a 2:1 student in Harvard I believe is not an automatic 1st class anywhere else because if you had been in any of those less rated schools from the start, you would have been like one of them. They are not all dunces and perhaps truly, schools like OAU in Nigeria can boast of having better brains than most other schools in the country, but the truth I believe remains that If some of those brains have been conditioned in the any of those other schools, because of that environment and its easiness, you might not have given any better or reached your deepest potentials and so you might not have performed any better.

Performance is a product of conduct and conduct is usually influenced by environment. The only time when environment or external influence doesn’t affect conduct is when there is a strong internal conviction, culture or force that is strong enough to wade off the external influence. (This doesn’t justify you’re the claims and excuses I have thus far tried to disproves because if indeed you have that strong internal strength in the first place, it would have made you a first class student even in the seemingly ‘tougher’ school).

SOAGA AFOLABI OLUSEGUN.

why i DONT hate school and love education

Let me set the record straight first. I am a big fan of Sulli Breaks work and this is in no way an attempt to rubbish it or even dispute what he has said. Rather, this is a message that seeks to reinforce his message but at the same time address many folks I have seen that might want to take that message out of context.
Listening to chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made me learn the danger and ills of listening to an incomplete story which she called a single story. It is the same error done when we make dangerous conclusions about a mountain based on just one view. For a ski-diver, that could be as expensive as human life; it could cost you your life. Many young people today are repeating that mistake as regards their education and schooling and I hope this can somehow help us see a different perspective.
Let’s look at the argument. Steve jobs, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, henry Ford, Stephen Speilberg, Bill gates; none of the above mentioned people ever graduated from an higher learning institution. And we don’t need Google to tell us that they are very successful and wealthy.
Point 1. A lot of the wealthiest people the world knows never graduated from a college. But have you also considered the fact that same can be said about the world poorest people. They too never graduated from an higher learning institution. Dropping out of school was not their good luck charm. It never was, it never will.
Hypothetically speaking, a larger percentage of drop outs fail in life than those that did complete school. The examples given above are probably exceptions and it is simply foolishness and not faith to make an exception the rule.
Those people are not successful today, because they didn’t graduate from college. Some didn’t graduate from college because they were already successful. Many others didn’t graduate because they didn’t have the opportunity to.
What I am trying to get across is that school is not the evil, maybe some specific schools are; but school generally isn’t. So we shouldn’t just categorize schooling as evil and then choose to run from it. In truth, your success in life isn’t really based on whether you have a degree or not, but having a degree is also very well NOT a licence or route to failure. (This applies also to many others who claim having a first class isn’t what guarantees success; having a first class doesn’t guarantee failure either. Plus I would rather have a first class and be successful than have a second class and be successful.)
Education indeed is the key. But what are you really in school for. Isn’t it to get educated? Instead of running away from school like it is a one-eyed monster seeking to devour you, why not take it serious and ensure you are getting educated while you are in school. Schooling and education can go together and I am a living proof of that fact!
Pro 17:16 It does a fool no good to spend money on an education, because he has no common sense.
Pro 4:13 Always remember what you have learned. Your education is your life—guard it well.(GNB)
If you are opportune to be in school, my submission is that you shouldn’t waste it. Many have regretted doing that and many more worlds over are wishing they have the kind of chance you have. And while you at it; give it your best shot. Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.
Let me conclude with a nursery school rhyme I learnt long ago:
Good better best,
I shall never rest,
Until my good is better,
And my better best!
I hope with these few words of mine, I’ve been able to convince you on why I DON’T hate school, and love education.
Succeed. No matter how crowded the top is, there is always an extra space to accommodate YOU.
PS: in case you are still hell-bent on dropping out, please at least, make sure you are dropping out for something. But I trust you wouldn’t even bother.