Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Life Is Short - Invest it! - Part II

“ Teach us to number our days, that we may have a heart of understanding”

When you learn to take life by each passing day, each passing hour, each passing minute and seconds, you will realize indeed that life is short. Many people waste life. Several others just spend it. Only a few invest it. I sincerely hope you are part of those who invest your life, especially for eternity.

Can I go back to the illustration I used in the 1st part of this write up?

Remember that we had assumed that you’ll have 30,000 gallons of water in your tank if you’ll live to be 82. If you live in Africa, the sad news is that you have less than 30,000 gallons of water. In Nigeria for example, the average life expectancy is about 45, so, you only have about 16,500 gallons of water. How are you handling this….in a desert?

It is important to note that there are things all around us that attempt to punch holes…big holes….in the tank of water. Let’s go through a few of them

1. Smoking

To be candid, it’s really silly to smoke. It’s one of the best ways to shorten your life. You can easily diminish the quantity in your tank by over a third when you smoke. Smoking gives a lot of short term and long term health issues and makes your breath stink. This is aside the money you waste purchasing cigarette sticks.

Take for example someone who starts to smoke at age 25. If he lives to be 50, he’ll have spent 25 years smoking. Let’s assume he smokes on average a pack of cigarette everyday, he’ll have consumed almost 10,000 packs of cigarette in his lifetime.

2. Drug addiction

And then there are drugs and drug addiction: heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and all the rest. No successful person uses drugs. That is a fact of life. Drugs make you stupid for long periods of time, and that limits your potential for success.

The promise of drugs is a "high" or a "feeling of euphoria." For example, heroin causes a euphoric "rush." I have heard it described as "better than sex." I have heard it described as "like being in heaven." All kinds of things. The problem is that the feeling always comes at a cost once the high ends. The cost is a feeling of depression of greater magnitude. You cannot have the high without the despair or depression. You can safely ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. So you are forced to either maintain the high or absorb the despair. Unfortunately, the despair lasts far longer than the high does. So what have you gained?

3. Too much TV!

I hope some people will not ask for my head with this point. This is one of the most deceptive ways to waste time and waste your life!

One thing you will notice about successful adults is that they watch far less TV than unsuccessful adults. A successful adult thinks, "Life is short! Who has time to waste it on TV?"

If you spend an average of 3 hours in front of the TV set everyday (many people I know spend more), and you live to be 60, you’ll have spent 7.5 years in front of your TV set! That sure looks like a waste. Doesn’t it?

I’ll like to throw this open at this stage.

I’ll appreciate if all my readers can contribute to this article by discussing what they think can punch holes in the tank, in their own opinion, and any other comments.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Life Is Short - Invest it!

Let’s say you are standing in a desert. You are standing next to a gigantic tank that holds 30,000 gallons of water. The tank is 11 or 12 feet in diameter and about 40 feet tall. The tank is full to the brim. This is your drinking water. Every day you drink about a gallon of water.

Let’s say that someone walks up to you and says, "Hey, can I have a gallon of water?" Your response would probably be, "Sure, why not?" In fact, if someone asked you for 100 gallons of water, your reaction might be the same. You’ve got 30,000 gallons after all, and there is nothing for you to do with it but drink it. What do you care? If you spill a little water, it doesn’t matter either.

As you go through life drinking about a gallon of water a day, you begin to notice something. Each day it doesn’t seem like you are taking anything out of the tank, but over time you can see that the level in the tank is getting lower. You look in one day and the tank is only half-full. Then it is only a quarter full. Then there is only an inch in the bottom of the tank. At that point, how much would a gallon of water be worth to you? Quite a bit, because now you can see that your water is scarce: you can see the end of the supply looming in the near future. One fateful day you extract the last drop from the tank, and you realize that today is the day you will die. You are, after all, standing in a desert. And that night you die.

The number 30,000 is significant. If you assume you will live to be about 82, there are 30,000 days in your life. Right now your tank of water is full. If you are 15 you have only used about 5,500 gallons, so water seems to be plentiful. In fact, the supply of water seems to be infinite and you feel immortal. However, each day you live you drink a gallon from your tank, and there is no way to add any more once you use it. When you are 40, you will have used up about 14,700 gallons of water. Then, you will be more conscious of the level of water and more cautious about life.

What you often don’t realize as a young person growing up is that there are a lot of easy ways to put holes in your tank or spill large quantities of water on the ground. As you are spilling the water you don’t really care because you have so much water it seems infinite. However, you can easily spill 20 or 30 years of water as a young man or woman. That water will be extremely valuable later in life. When you get older there are going to be lots of important things that you will want to enjoy: your children, your grandchildren, your spouse, your friends, your retirement. At that point water will be extremely valuable to you, and you will realize how foolish you were to spill it as a young man or woman. But at that point there will be absolutely nothing that you can do to get it back.

In the 2nd part of this article, i will be sharing with you things that can consciously or unconsciously diminish the water in your tank.

Until then, stay right on top! There is enough room there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Opportunities and You

“Be careful how you act; these are difficult days…..make the most of every opportunity”

God, the creator, gives every human being on the planet opportunities to fulfill his/her destiny. Everyman is, in embryo, a possible hero. All that is needed is the opportunity and time for development.

Opportunity is a favourable time, chance, occasion or set of circumstances for doing something. It is taking full advantage of a situation or circumstance to achieve a goal. One other interesting definition of opportunity is this – It is the preference of what can be done to what should be done.

The difference between the poor and the rich, between a success and a failure is how they manage opportunities that come their way. It is called OPM – Opportunity Management Skills. In this session, permit me to share with you how you can improve your opportunity management skills

1. Watch out for opportunities

There is something interesting about opportunities. They are everywhere! They are all around you. Watch out for them. Infact, every problem presents an opportunity for a solution. In other words, there are more opportunities than are problems! Opportunities mostly come disguised as problems. The problem of electricity was Faraday’s opportunity. The problem of nuclear energy was Albert Einstein’s opportunity. The list is endless. Look around for problems around you and see them as opportunities for greatness. Recognizing opportunities is sure the beginning of making the best of them. Most times, opportunities wear an overall labeled “WORK”

2. Go for Opportunities

Success is not just how many opportunities that comes your way. It is dependent on the number of opportunities well utilized. Explore every opportunity that comes your way. Don’t just wish for opportunities, work it!

3. Respect Opportunities

A lot of times, people despise small things. They disrespect certain opportunities to their own perils. Never you underestimate an opportunity, no matter how small it may look. Give every opportunity your best shot! I have discovered that one opportunity well utilized, will give birth to at least one other. Opportunities are like chain reactions linked to each other. If you disrespect a seemingly small opportunity, you may be eating up your destiny for lunch

4. Prepare for Opportunities

The importance of this cannot be overemphasized. The reason why many people remain where they are is that when opportunities appear, they are not prepared for it. Listen. If you are trying to be ready when you are supposed to be ready, you are already late! It is better to be prepared and not have any opportunity, than to have an opportunity and not be prepared. Men of purpose always prepare for opportunities. They cannot afford to waste time, because to them, even time is an opportunity. How prepared are you for your opportunity?

There is a principle I call the P6 theorem. Proper Prayerful Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. When you fail to prepare for your opportunities, then be prepared to fail! It’s that simple.

I like the way a wise man puts it. He said “the secret of success is to be ready for opportunities when they come”.

If you use these principles, I am sure you will improve your Opportunity Management Skill and will be a better individual.

You are a miracle. Go and happen!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Quality Matters

About 2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity of spending almost the whole day at Wild Waters Park, Dubai, UAE with my family. It was an interesting experience. At first, I thought the gate fees were on the high side. When I was leaving, I had a different impression. I would pay twice the amount I paid to get in again! The quality of service we got was superb. From the gate, to the changing room, and to the rides, everyone was greeting you with a smile and asking what they can do to help. At a particular time, we were wondering which of the rides to go on next when one of the top guys there noticed. He personally took us through the map of the place again and walked us to the place where we’ll take the next rides! The quality of their service was so satisfying.

Why will I be willing to pay double what I paid? The answer is straightforward I guess – Quality Matters. People are willing to get the highest quality of product or services for the lowest price. However, most people are also willing to pay a little extra to get a better quality. Quality is not a small matter at all, whether in your personal life or in business. Whatever you do, mark your work with excellence.

Every job is a self portrait of the person who does it, so autograph your work with excellence!

Let me share a story to illustrate this point “An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer, a building contractor, of his plans to leave the house building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by.

His employer was sorry to see his good worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter said yes, but it was easy to see that his heart was no longer in his work. He had lost his enthusiasm and had resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end his career.
When the carpenter finished his work and his boss came to inspect the new house, the contractor handed the front-door key to the carpenter. "This is your house," he said, "my gift to you."

What a shock! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently. Now he had to live in the home he had built not too well”.

Can I challenge you to improve the quality of your services? Can I ask you to demand more from yourself? Whether you run your won business or you work for someone else is not the issue. The issue here is…what quality of work is coming out of you and out of your desk? Are you consciously improving the quality of work every single day?

One of the greatest ways to loose your customers is to place a low value on quality. If your customers are not satisfied, they simply look for alternatives! They are not very tolerant, and rightfully so, when it is a matter of quality. They define what quality is/should be as it pertains to your product or service. There is no way to excel in anything you do without paying a great deal of attention to quality.

"Little things make for perfection but perfection is not a little thing"

May I ask you to commit yourself to a high level of quality service throughout this year? You just do it and see the results that will undoubtedly follow.

Have a splendid week.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Best Time To Plant a Cocoa Tree

Do you know the best time to plant a Cocoa tree? If your answer is less than 10 years ago, then you are wrong! If you planted a cocoa tree 10 years ago, you will be reaping the harvest today. Indeed, you will.And in 2-3 years time, you will be harvesting optimally! Your harvest could even continue for another 10-20 years! Are you wishing you had planted cocoa 10 years ago?

Let me ask you another question? Do you know the 2nd best time to plant a Cocoa tree? The answer is “Today”! Yes, Today – not tomorrow, not next week, not next month, not next year, but today!

Today is the first day of the best days of the rest of your life. How are you going to use it? Many people bother themselves about yesterday. They are tied down by their past. They are held down by their past failures and shortcomings. They have allowed events they cannot change hold them down. A lot more worry about tomorrow. They are apprehensive about what the future holds and what tomorrow brings. They spend a lot of time and energy preparing for tomorrow’s rain that they forget to enjoy today’s sunshine! What a loss.

Yesterday is a cancelled cheque. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is cash. Today is the only day you can spend /invest as cash. Today is what you have in your hands. A song writer once said “Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never be mine. Lord, help me today to take one day at a time”.

I am a strong advocate of proper planning. I have written several articles and spoken at length to a handful of audience on planning for the future. This is great. However, you must realize that today is the best day to create a better future. Infact, the way you spend today has a direct bearing on your tomorrow. In the words of popular author, John Maxwell “Everyone has the power to impact the outcome of his life. The way to do it is to focus on today….Today is the only time you have. It's too late for yesterday. And you can't depend on tomorrow."

Most of us look at our days in the wrong way. We overexaggerate yesterday. We overestimate tomorrow. We underestimate today. The truth is that the most important day you will experience is today. Today is the only time we have within our grasp, yet many people let it slip through their fingers. They recognize neither today’s value nor its potential. Making today your masterpiece is the key to success.

If we want to do something with our lives, then we must focus on today. That’s where tomorrow’s success lies. I believe that everyone has the power to impact the outcome of his life. The way to do it is to focus on today. Benjamin Franklin rightly observed, “One today is worth two tomorrows; what I am to be, I am now becoming.” You can make today a good day. You can create the kind of future you want starting from now. If you use everyday well, starting from today, then you future is guaranteed!

Let me close with the words of a wise man “String the days together like beautiful pearls and make a lovely necklace.”

May I also let you know that the way you spend today does not only affect tomorrow? It affects the whole of eternity. Today is an investment on your eternity. Wouldn’t you rather invest well?

I hope you will have a splendid day today, and everyday!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Shoot for the Moons

A young man who was discontented about the uncertainty of his future and in a quandary as to which direction to take with his life, sat in a park, watching squirrels scamper among the trees. Suddenly, a squirrel jumped from one high tree to another. It appeared to be aiming for a limb so far out of reach that the leap looked like suicide.

As the young man had anticipated, the squirrel missed it’s mark –but, it landed safe and unconcerned, on a branch several feet lower. Then, it climbed to its goal and all was well. “A squirrel takes a chance. Have I less nerve than a squirrel? They’ve got to risk if they don’t want to spend their lives in one tree”, the young man concluded

The moral of the story is clear – Shoot for the moons. Even if you miss it, you will land among the stars! If you must dream, dream well and dream big. It doesn’t cost a dime.

The ball is in your court and the choice is yours. What will you rather do? Spend your whole life one tree? Or, take a chance? Get out of your comfort zone and jump. It is risky not to take a risk.

Of all the people I have ever known, those who have pursued their dreams and failed have lived a much more fulfilling life than those who have put their dreams on a shelf for fear of failure. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic! One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at. “You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take” says Wayne Gretzky.

I like the way Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it. He said “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fight Back!

I just finished seeing the film “United 93”. It’s a film about the September 11, 2001 hijacks in America. That day, 4 planes were hijacked. Three hit their targets but one did not. United 93 tried to show what happened to the one that didn’t hit its target. It is a powerful and provocative drama honouring the memory of 40 passengers and crew on United Airlines Flight 93. As the hijackers pilot the doomed flight to their target, the passengers stands as one and find the courage to fight back!

It was almost unbelievable. As it dawned on most of the passengers that that hijack was not a normal one and that they were doomed to crash, they decided to do something about it. They analyzed their situation and decided to do something about it! Partly out of fear and a resolve to live, they got all the weapons available on board with the help of crew members (mostly knives, hot water, fire extinguishers and what have you). They were able to disarm the hijackers and actually took down 2 of them. There was a pilot on board who had experience with 1 engine planes. He was determined to land the plane if they succeeded in getting to the cockpit. They did get there but it was too late. The plane was almost touching the ground, since they hijackers decided to land the plane anyways. They all died. Yes they did. But not like others (as far as we know). They died on their feet. They died while trying to live. They did something about the situation. And who knows how many more lives they saved – the plane was targeted at the White House! To all these man, I throw a salute!

I don’t know if thee story is as interesting to you as it was to me. Can you imagine how this people fought to live? They didn’t just give up. They didn’t just throw in the towel. They didn’t leave their destinies in the hands of the hijackers. Note that they didn’t have much choice. They were thousands of miles above sea level. They had heard the news of 2 other crashes at the World Trade Centre. However, they wouldn’t be deterred. It was better trying than not doing anything at all.

As I write this, I remember a story I once read. I guess it sums up my point.

Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl. One was an optimistic soul. But the other took the gloomy view. “We’ll drown," he lamented without much ado, and with a last despairing cry, he flung up his legs and said "Goodbye."

The other frog with a steadfast grin said, “I can't get out but I won't give in, I'll just swim around till my strength is spent, then I'll die the more content.” Bravely he swam to work his scheme, and his struggles began to churn the cream. The more he swam, his legs a flutter, the more the cream turned into butter. On top of the butter at last he stopped, and out of the bowl he gaily hopped.

What is the moral? It's easily found...

Will you stand and fight back? Will you keep on keeping on, until you reach your goal? Or, would you give up on yourself and on your dreams and resign to fate?

See you at the top!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Raise The Bars!

Let me start this by asking you a question. Have people ever complained that your standards are too high – to the point where they feel they can’t measure up? Or have you ever been accused of just being too average?

In your quest to have a better 2007, I want to challenge you to raise the bars! Raise your personal standards. Be dissatisfied with the status quo. Don’t accept anything less than the best. Average is not good enough for you. The first step to raising the bars on yourself will be to make a commitment to do so.

One of the greatest injustices you will do to yourself is comparing your standards with those of others – especially those you think you are better than. I have heard many people pride themselves about being better than others. What consolation will it be to you that you ate a better-than-average diet when you’re diagnosed with cancer? Will you be comforted by the fact that you had a better job than your friends after pouring years of your life into unfulfilling work? Is it OK that your marriage is a dud because most of your peers are divorced?

Comparing yourself to other people is a waste of time. It’s only going to get you stuck in mediocrity. If you compare yourself to those who are much worse off than you, you’ll look like a king. The standards of other people are totally irrelevant. What matters is that you listen to your own intelligence, set your own standards, and do the best you are capable of doing. The only question that matters for setting your standards is this: Are you doing your best? If the answer is yes, you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of, regardless of how your results stack up against other people. If the answer is no, then you’ve got to raise the bars. Your standards can still be better!

Raising the bar on yourself requires that you start noticing things that were previously below your level of awareness. You need to be aware of what to change. Change is the only constant thing in life. To be better than you are now, some things will have to change in you and around you. You might need to change your habits. Raise the bar on your habits. You might need to change your relationships. You might need to your thought pattern. Things need to change around you.

Hold yourself to high standards. Nothings less than the best is good enough for you.

Stay on top!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Begin Again.....But More Intelligently

One of the greatest opportunities that a new year presents to us is an opportunity to start again….more intelligently. It’s like life giving us a fresh page to begin again on. I am of the opinion that there is a tremendous power in a new beginning. If well utilized, it will act as a catalyst or springboard, propelling us to greater heights.

One of the most important keys to a new beginning is Preparation. May I ask you a question? How prepared are you for this year? Are you prepared at all? Do you have plans? Do you have goals? Do you know where you are headed? If you fail to prepare then you should be prepared to fail! A wise man got it right when he said “success is preparations meeting opportunities” Proper prayerful preparations prevent poor performance (P6 theorem).

In her book Teaching a Stone to Talk (New York: Harper Collins, 1988) Annie Dillard reveals a sad, but poignant story about what happens when we set out unprepared. She tells of a British Arctic expedition which set sail in 1845 to chart the Northwest Passage around the Canadian Arctic to the Pacific Ocean. Neither of the two ships and none of the 138 men aboard returned.

Captain Sir John Franklin prepared as if they were embarking on a pleasure cruise rather than an arduous and grueling journey through one of earth's most hostile environments. He packed a 1,200 volume library, a hand-organ, china place settings for officers and men, cut-glass wine goblets and sterling silver flatware, beautifully and intricately designed. Years later, some of these place settings would be found near a clump of frozen, cannibalized bodies.

The voyage was doomed when the ships sailed into frigid waters and became trapped in ice. First ice coated the decks, the spars and the rigging. Then water froze around the rudders and the ships became hopelessly locked in the now-frozen sea. Sailors set out to search for help, but soon succumbed to severe Arctic weather and died of exposure to its harsh winds and sub-freezing temperatures. For some twenty years, remains of the expeditions were found all over the frozen landscape.

The crew did not prepare either for the cold or for the eventuality of the ships becoming ice-locked. On a voyage which was to last two to three years, they packed only their Navy-issue uniforms and the captain carried just a 12-day supply of coal for the auxiliary steam engines. The frozen body of an officer was eventually found, miles from the vessel, wearing his uniform of fine blue cloth, edged with silk braid, a blue greatcoat and a silk neckerchief -- clothing which was noble and respectful, but wholly inadequate.

The big question is "Are we, too, prepared for the lengthy voyage we've embarked upon? The year is still young and we still have some 363 days to go. Have we made ourselves ready for all that will surely await us?

To embark on a journey unprepared can set us up for disastrous results. But the good news is, we can still prepare for ours. And in large part, the success of our voyage will be determined by our regular and systematic preparation.

Are you ready?

Bon Voyage.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Happy New You!

I am sure someone thinks I made a typo with the above topic. No I didn’t. I think it’s too early in the year to do that. I know the normal thing to do today is to wish you a Happy New Year. Rather, I am wishing you a Happy New You. I am sure you want to know why. I will tell you.

A few hours ago, there were wide spread celebrations, fireworks and fun fare all over the world as we count down to the year 2007. From Sydney to Hong Kong, from London to Rio De Jenerio, from America to Africa, there were several fire works. In central London alone, more than 350,000 people witnessed the fireworks that ushered in the New Year, while about 1 million people witnessed same at the Times Square in America. It was, to say the least, breathtaking. It occurred to me however that exactly the same things were done last year, to usher in 2006. It has become a tradition all over the world and I am not about to break that (not that I could even if I tried!).

Let me state categerogically here, and without playing with words, that there can be no Happy New Year without a Happy New You. A wise man once defined insanity. In his words “The greatest definition of Insanity is doing the same things in the same way and expecting a different result”. In other words, the New Year will be nothing special if nothing about you changes. Believe me. After the euphoria of the New Year celebrations, what happens next? I can predict that if I know what is happening to you. If you are going to be the exact person you were last year, then, expect nothing significant to change!

There would be world wide changes in a lot of ways in 2007. World economy, global politics, weather conditions, amongst others, will not be the same. This will obviously have its effects on everyone. However, they will not be the major change that will happen in our lives. The greatest difference that will be in this year will be changed people! I remember a story I read some years back (you should know I tell a lot of stories by now). It was about a man in his early 20’s that wanted to change the whole world. He was praying and trusting God to be able to change the whole world. When he was 40, he discovered he has not done much and then changed his prayers. “Lord, help me to change my immediate environment, my family, friends and nation”. At 60, he discovered that he has still not done much, so he changed his prayers yet again. “Lord, help me to change myself”. That should have been his first prayer. If you are the same person that you are last year in the year 2007, then I have bad news for you- nothing much will change for you.

In 2007, you need to make conscious efforts to be a new you. You need to repackage yourself. You need to improve your skills. You need to take new responsibilities. You need to develop that gift. You need to generally improve on yourself. You need to have a brand new “you”. It is only then that you can pray and believe God for a Happy New Year.

It’s a year of great opportunities. May your eyes be open to those opportunities.

Once again, Happy New You! Happy New Year!!
You are destined for the top of the topmost top! See you there!!