Story of Our lives

Sometimes we wonder, how did I get to this place? How did I miss my way? How did I end up this way? But that is usually where our problem begin. Because we stop at wondering and we never really find answers to that question.
Therefore, history repeats itself again and after a while, you begin to wonder if what you’ve become is who you really are.

A thief, a murderer, a liar, a prostitute, a sinner, broke, uninspired, and the list goes on. But that in itself isn’t a problem. The problem isn’t that we question our identity but that we believe the wrong things about ourselves.

It is then that we stop trying because we have accepted fate. We deny ourselves a reason to try- to make an attempt. We start living a lie when we accept that lie as truth. Our thoughts then become self-fulfilling prophecies when they never should have been.

Story of your life? Perhaps yes.

Take a step back to where we started from- your wandering thoughts.

What if you don’t stop at wondering how you got to where you are. What if you find out the answers. What if you identify where you missed the road and tripped to rock bottom.

What if things can be different. What if the power to change is in your hands.

Then I believe you can trace your steps back and pick yourself up again. You may then learn from the past and history never gets to repeat itself. And when the question of identify comes up, you then don’t have to believe a lie as there are reasons to believe the truth. As long as there is hope of a better, you therefore try. You try and try and try again. And soon you get it right because you were made to do so.

A righteous man will fall several times, and several times he would rise again.

Story of my life? Definitely Yes!!

This truth liberates! Sets free!! Makes whole!!!

the blessing of a disability: a fable!

Everyone I’ve had to share this story with had a good laugh and also a great lesson to go home with. Today, I want you also to have a taste of it. Its source is not known but its morale is similar to what the bible teaches when it tells us in Rom8:28 that we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good(MSG).
The story starts with a powerful king of an ancient city and his faithful friend who seemed to have a quite disturbing problem. This friend that I’d today call tony for the sake of identification, had a problem of not being able to see anything bad in any situation. To every event and occurrence in his life, tony would always respond by saying “It is good; it is in fact very good”. This had always disturbed this powerful and sometimes irrational royal friend of tony, but he never paid any attention to it until one faithful day.
Tony on that day crossed the limit of his friend’s patience while they were on their usual hunting spree in the thick of the forest. A wild beast attacked the king and bit off his right thumb. The king struggled to deliver himself from the beast’s grip with little or no help from tony but had to settle with his thumb forever gone, and his blood spilling all over the place…. To his great displeasure, all tony responded with was his usual saying “my king and friend, this is good; it is in fact very very good”.
Not the kind of thing anyone would want to hear after losing a member of the part of his body, the king got a little infuriated rebuking his friend and his comment for as far as he was concerned, there is nothing good about losing one’s finger. But like I said, this is something Tony seemed unable to help. So he maintained his position. “This is good my king” he kept on saying.
By the time they got back to the city, the king had it full and was fed up with his very uncompassionate and unreasonable friend and so ordered him to be locked away in the dungeon till further notice. Anything to keep his friend’s constant ‘it-is-good’ nagging would be fine he thought especially when this friend has refused to be unrepentant about this.
And so many months passed, perhaps even years. Many waters passed under the bridge and the king had gotten used to being without his friend. Deep hunting was the king’s hobby and was ingrained in his character and so in the absence of his imprisoned friend, the king had to do it all by himself.
On one of those faithful days, the king encountered yet another misfortune. This time not with a wild beast, but rather with people of his own kind but who had a habit of eating people. We call them cannibals. The brave king could not fight himself out of this one and so he found himself in the cannibal’s tribe camp in front of this massive pot about to be cooked.
As they stripped him of his hunting costume and dressed him like a Christmas or thanksgiving chicken about to be launched into the cooking oven, one of them noticed that the king was thumb-less. The unfortunate day turned out to be fortunate for the king because it was an abomination for the people of that tribe to eat anything that was not whole or complete. To their greatest disappointment, they had to release the naked man to go. The king managed to cover his nakedness a bit and made his way back to his palace.
After such a dramatic near death experience, understandably, the next few days were ones of deep reflection for the king. As he settled back to his daily routine, the king remembered again his old friend whom he threw into prison. He remembered the circumstances that surrounded that and remembered his famous words that made him irrationally lock up his friend. He had now come to agree with his friend that losing his thumb that day was a good thing because that singular ‘lil-evil’ prevented him from the greater evil of losing his whole life.
With deep remorse, he asked that his friend be released from the prison for he had treated him unjustly. While the king was still contemplating in what manner he’d apologize and try to make it up to his old friend, tony sprang in once again shouting and screaming what has become his trade mark saying “it is good, it is very good”. Neither the sight nor demeanour he expected from his friend whom the king knew had by now heard of the story of how he was saved by his ‘prophecy’ years ago; tony whom the king expected to be angry and gloomy was bubbling with sincere joy and happiness. ‘My dear king, it is good!!!” he kept on saying.
“I can understand that you are happy that I’m alive and well and that is good. But it is certainly not good that I locked you up all this while for saying something that turned out to be true after a long time”. This time around, the king would demand an explanation from his friend.
Like someone who had thought well about the question while spending his lonely days in the dark dungeon where he had been locked up all these while as if he were expecting the question, tony responded with a spontaneous sporadic but yet sound answer.
“Well my king, it is good that you lost thumb that day because clearly it has saved your life this time. Also, it is also good you locked me up because that also has saved my life. If you hadn’t, it would have been both of us hunting that day….they would have captured us both. You are incomplete, I am not….they would have released you while me…….uhmmm, you know what would have happened to me!” then he added, “my king, it really is good……in fact, very, very good.”
The morale of this interesting story is this. There is always something good about everything that happens to us. In comming to terms with this truth, we’d learn to be more grateful and appreciative of the situations that life throws our way. Even when we can’t seem to see any good in those things in the present, we can believe this that good can and will come out of them in the future.
This helps us live life enthusiastically. Enthusiasm stems from the greek word entheous; which means God within. That’s the kind of force and spirit we need to live the God life here on earth and secure the God-kind of victoty over our adversities.
Let me leave you with what joseph said in Gen 50:20. “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now–life for many people.”
It’s possible that Joseph probably heard this fable too, or maybe it was tony that read the bible. But they both were able to see and focus on the silver lining in their dark skies and were both successful at the end. You too should. Have a blessed week!

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my tale of frank dunga..(my job interview)

Life they say can only be understood backwards, but we need to live it forward. I have had to live life forward these past few days and it has been one experience that will linger in my memory for a while. Here is my own frank dunga’s tale from my first job interview on Monday. It’s not really a story but rather a lesson….enjoy!

At the conclusion of my interview on monday, my interviewer asked me the lethal and sometimes dreadful interview question, ‘do you have any questions?’ After all these years of reading about interviews, and watching them in movies (and short funny clips like frank dunga on ndani tv), I had only one sincere question lingering in my heart….’ How did I fare?’ His response wasn’t startling neither was it flattering (like I would have loved it to), he simply said ‘not too bad!’

One question. Is that a good assessment or is it a bad one. Of course, I’d get differing response if I throw it to people. Beauty they say is in the eyes of the beholder. In this case, our ‘half-full’ brothers will say “that’s good stuff…be optimistic!”, while our ‘half-empty’ fellas will say “better go look for another job, you’ve lost that already”. But then I like to say, “there are some beauties that appeal to the eye of every beholder”, Just as there is a way your cup would be filled that even a lying pessimist can’t and won’t say it is empty in any way…….my point exactly is this, if he had replied “you did excellently well; I’m impressed”….we would all agree that the interview was a success.

I am here today to just possibly state how I could have done better and how I could have gotten a better answer than not too bad… as I tried understanding life backwards during my reflections afterwards, I discovered some probable reasons why he didn’t say “you did great!” Or that “you were fantastic” or something else than … “not too bad”.

First thing is preparation. Yeah, yeah, that is not something new. Any book or article geared at prepping you for an interview would have told you the same thing. I knew that too from books long before I had to go for the interview..….but today I learnt it practically from an experiential stand point and that’s why I’m saying I again. Performance is always a function of preparation. The better prepared you are, the better you will likely perform. There is almost no way you can do well at an interview if you are not prepared for it. When I woke up on Monday, I had no idea I was going to be interviewed…I thought I was going to resume to a job I had already gotten so I wasn’t prepared to answer what I would call the expected questions I was asked. (most of the questions asked were the normal questions interviewers ask…..why should I hire you, what are your strengths and weaknesses, tell us about an instance when you solved a problem, blah, blah, blah). I also wasn’t soooo dressed. I had not eaten, I had travelled a long distance, I was sweating, probably smelly, I just wasn’t that alright and so I count myself blessed and helped to have gotten a ‘not too bad’.

2. Be relaxed. These people are …….are people. Yes people. Mere people. They eat like you do, sleep like you do, use the toilet and even fart like every other human on earth. Relate with them as people. Be organized and composed. The earth isn’t about to end even though a new world is about to begin for you. Let your face reflect this. Find whatever way you can to relief yourself from tension and anxiety. One thing that can help is getting aquainted with other people around and if possible with your interviewer (a compliment on his dressing and look will most likely earn you a smile…and a smile from your interviewer should do the magic on you), but don’t cross your limit line.

Next, Pause and think before you answer. I rushed many of my answers that day and so they sounded less impressive. One reason is probably because I didn’t get past my lesson2 from the previous paragraph (being relaxed). Take enough time…be articulate, audible and exhume some sense of confidence.

Point4. Think outside the box…..don’t be limited in your reasoning…explore every option you’ve got. Any sign of restricted thinking would usually be resented and will score you low points. Most organizations are looking for problem solvers and problem solving most times requires outside the box thinking.

Know your CV. Once you enter the room and they have your CV in front of you, the first they want to do is verify all you have written there. So they’d ask you about it. For most of you that have had other people write very impressive Cvs for you, the least you can do for yourself is familiarize yourself with what they have written. You don’t have to cram what is there word for word, but make sure you know it.

Know what you are applying for. It is almost always certain they’d ask you some questions about the organization and also the post you are applying for. If not everything about it….at least some key things. They don’t expect you to know everything but they expect you to know something. It boils down to the first thing I mentioned- preparation. They expect that part of the preparation you should do for a job post interview is to learn about the job. Yes, they’ll train you after you get the job…but if they are to choose between a ready-made product and a clueless fella, I’m sure you know who they’ll pick. (not all the time though :))

Interviews are all about impressing people. It’s not a time for false humility. You need to show them why it should be you and not someone else. If you can impress well enough, you’d probably earn their approval. So don’t get all complacent with false humility and all…be competitive, give it your best shot, be on the top of your game. Interview I repeat is a game of impression and recommendations. Recommendation is a function of impression. So, When they get to your home-zone(i.e. the area of your strength and passion), make the most of it….impress them there. They’d probably still like you if they see that you know something very well even if you don’t know everything they ask you well and even if it is not what relates most to the job you are applying for. It shows that you can learn something and so you can be taught if given the chance.

You need favour… act accordingly. I wrote once about the favour/labour market(see article in previous posts). Favour isn’t something that responds to prayers only….certain things are favour magnets. Use them. One of them is courtesy, politeness, skill, intelligence, and even confidence. But you must learn to draw the line between pride and confidence, intelligence and arrogance. While one attracts favour, the other would attract dis-favour and wrath.

And to wrap this up, I’d say the God factor is also very important. Yeah yeah, I know it sounds all churchy and all, but like I love to say, I can’t separate my faith/belief from what I say, write, do and think. God helped me because despite my ‘not too bad’ performance that day ……I got called up!

Soaga Afolabi Olusegun

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extra-milling: the untold version of joseph’s tale

One of my favourite authors is Malcolm Gladwell. He is a terrific writer and I just love the way he writes his stuff. I recently stumbled upon his latest work I believe, which is David and Goliath and having read just the introductory chapter, I was amazed once again how he brought me to see another perspective on the famous bible tale of the dwarf who slayed the giant.
I’ll be doing something similar to that today with the story of joseph of the bible; the young Hebrew boy who went to a foreign land and was made a prime minister there, against all odds. Joseph is a good example of a man who rose from the gutter into stardom. A man who was one day a failure and the next a success. Who defiled all existing status quo and set new standards in a place he had no business being in the first place. An example we all in some way would love to pattern our lives after or at least pray to God to make of us as well.
Let me give a brief summarized story of joseph. First he was a boy his father loved but his brothers envied. Also he had a gift, a talent; he could dream dreams and give interpretations to them. Somethings led to some other things and his brothers envy went overboard to the extant they decided to sell him into slavery. And while in slavery, he rose up the ranks from being the new slave to being the steward in charge of all his master’s business. The bible didn’t really tell us how he did it; it only told us of the results his methods produced which was that his master saw that everything he place in Joe’s hands prospered. Hopefully by the end of this article, I’ll suggest what probably led to that. From his master’s house he found himself in prison for what he knew nothing about. And while in prison, from being the latest inmate, Joe became that prisoner that was trusted with the responsibility of being in charge of other prisoners (the lad was living like the warden). He rose again. How? We’ll soon find out.
Then on a faithful day, he was summoned by the king to INTERPRETE a dream. That night, Joe shaved his beards and prepared himself to meet the king. Then he interpreted the dream and ALSO gave a solution to the impending problem the country was about to face. And so he was made the prime minister.
Now that is only a summary. There are parts I didn’t emphasize. But growing up, we’ve always read this story and felt that the key to joseph’s success story was God’s favour. And so we pray a lot for favour. At other times, what we glean out from his story is how helpful gifts and talents could be. And so we pray for talents and abilities because as we say it ‘a man’s gift will make room for him’. Others find some other lessons that space and time won’t permit me to mention here. Now those stuffs are not wrong; but i don’t believe that’s all we can see from this story. I believe some crucial points are often not noticed or mentioned when Joe’s story is being said. Here are some:
First is his ability to recognize an opportunity and to make the most of it. When he was interpreting the butler’s dream, he didn’t have to shave but for a king, he had to look like he could provide a solution. He recognized the opportunity as a ticket into bigger stuffs and so he didn’t treat it lightly.
An opportunity well taken today will present us greater opportunities tomorrow.
Second which is my main point of emphasis is that he was an extra-miler. All he was required to do was interpret the dream of the king. But joseph having it engrained in his character to always go the extra mile and do more than what Is required, not only interpreted the dream but also, suggested a solution to the problem at hand. And so he was made prime minister not because he prayed and fasted; not even because he had the gift of interpreting dreams but more because he had a culture of going the extra mile.
That was probably his method at Potiphar’s (his master) house and at the prison that made him get promoted the way he was when he was at those respective places. Talent is never enough for greatness, hard work and diligence must be mixed with it to produce greatness. God detest slothfulness and life rewards anyone who is willing to do more and give more. Ever wondered why people are paid extra for working over-time. They don’t just get paid extra, they are paid more per hour worked because it is a principle of life. And so if all you were to cover was 10 miles to get 100 percent, an extra 1 mile will not provide you an extra 10%; but rather, it could provide an extra 100 percent where possible.
Organizations world over are looking for employees who will not only do what they are paid to do, but rather over and above that. Those are the kind of people they employ and they are also the ones that get the promotions and pay raise whenever the opportunities arise. Ralph waldo Emerson said that if a man writes a better book, preaches a better sermon, sings a better song, or builds a better mouse trap than his neighbour; though he makes his home in the forest, the world would make a beaten path to his door step.
There are obviously other things we can learn from joseph’s story, but this one I believe is crucial. So I encourage that you do that extra today and see what tremendous magic it could do for you.
Soaga Afolabi Olusegun

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