Monday, April 28, 2008

Lessons From Across The Sea

As I write this, I am on board a South African Airline from Johannesburg to Lagos. I have been away from home in the last couple of days. It’s been like months away from my family. I miss my wife and daughter so much I can’t wait for this plane to touch down (Well, I’ll have to wait if I want it to touch down at the right destination. Don’t you think so?)

I am a student of Learning. I believe so much in continuous learning. Infact, I believe that all the years we spent within the walls of the University are just teaching us how to learn. We were just learning to learn! I mean, how many of us can really remember the things we learnt in Year 2 or 3 in the University? Well, for me, I remember I was thought something on Laplast transformation/equation, Navier Stokes equation, and all, but I am not sure I have ever used them nor will ever use them! The most important things was that learning them thought me how to learn.

..the cheapest way to be free from all burdens – financial, moral, spiritual, physical e.t.c, is by learning.

Do you know something I found out? The best and quickest way to liberate people from bondage, sickness, poverty, frustrations, failure and any other vice is giving them knowledge. It is getting them to learn. The greatest teacher that ever lived gave this advice to all humanity. “Come to me, all of you who labours and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Come, and learn of me….”. Did you see that? Are you going though a heavy burden? Are you going though trying times? Are you going through storms of life? Jesus recommends a tablet for you. He said, “Come and learn of me”. Don’t come and cry to me. Don’t come and complain to me. Don’t come to me looking morose and melancholic. Come and learn. It’s very clear from here that the cheapest way to be free from all burdens – financial, moral, spiritual, physical e.t.c, is by learning.

The more you know, the better life becomes for you. A wise man said “If you know better, you will live better!” He can’t be more correct. In my opinion, there are no special problems in life. All we have is special ignorance. A man who lacks financial knowledge feels that poverty is such a great problem. He feels he needs a “special force” to solve his poverty problem. What he needs is light. It is knowledge. When he learns and applies the principles of prosperity, he will realize how cheap it is to bid final farewell to poverty. Little wonder why great nations of the world put a lot of value on education – the vehicle of learning.

...there are no special problems in life. All we have is special ignorance.

While in South Africa, I was ready to learn as usual. I observed well enough to learn so I can be better. Here are a few of the things I learnt

Pay Attention to Details

As simple as this sound, so many people have lost great opportunities by not paying attention to details – by not crossing the “t’s” and dotting the “i’s”. I knew before I left for SA that yellow fever vaccination was a requirement for entry into SA. I got a yellow fever card (didn’t actually get the vaccination) and checked to be sure it was stamped. Armed with this, I was sure that I will have no issue with immigrations at all. I was wrong. When it got to my turn, I went confidently to the counter and greeted the immigration officer with a lot of confidence. “Good morning maam. How are you doing today”? “Well, I am fine” she replied. “Can I see you passport and vaccination card” she requested. “Here they are”, passing them to her confidently. After carefully checking through them, she said “Sir, I am sorry but your vaccination card is not dated. I am not sure of the day when you took this vaccination. I cannot allow you into SA now”. Are you kidding me! How can something as small as dating a vaccination card prevent me from going into SA? I was given 3 options. One, to return back to Nigeria immediately. Two, to remain quarantined in SA for 2 weeks before I gain entry. Three, to go to the airport Clinic and pay $85 to get the yellow fever injection and the vaccination card. You can guess the option I took. I lost $85 by not paying attention to details.

I know there are people reading this that will identify with opportunities that have missed by not paying attention to details. I am sure it would have cost you more than $85. The question is, have you learnt from it? Will you let it rob you again after now?

If in Doubt, Ask

Many people, especially men, think that asking question belittles them. They’ll rather guess than ask. Sometimes, we end of embarrassing ourselves. On my return trip, a guy, who obviously was travelling for the 1st time was on board. He didn’t know anything about travelling in an airplane, not even how to get his seat number. He wouldn’t ask. He was looking for seat 68G and good enough, he located it. Someone was already seating on seat 68H and on his own seat were his headphone, pillow and blanket. “Excuse me, you are sitting on my seat” he said to the guy in seat 68H. “No, I am not”, the guy replied. “Why are you putting your entire load on my seat? Please remove them because I want to sit down”. Of course, everyone around had a good laugh! He talked to the guy very impolitely about something he could have simply asked. He ended up embarrassing himself. If in doubt, please ask. There is no harm is asking. There is no pride in not asking!

There is no harm is asking. There is no pride in not asking!

I took a taxi from Johannesburg to Midrand. I asked the driver if he knew where I was going and he answered in the affirmative. When we got to Midrand, he seemed lost. We were just driving around the place. Guess what? He had a map in his car! I suggested that we consulted the Map but he didn’t see any wisdom in that. “Don’t worry. This is my territory. I will get the place” he said. Needless to tell you that we spent more than an hour in Midrand without locating the place. I got tired of him and pulled a call through to the office that I was heading to. They gave me a simple direction to the place and in 5 minutes, we were there. We have passed through the adjoining street twice in the last 1 hr. Asking would sure have prevented the loss of time, money and energy.

Make it Simple. There is great power in simplicity

I went to SA to write a professional exam. I already had a picture of what the organization of the examination will look like. However, I was positively surprised. It was a simplified approach to doing things. It looks really very simple.

You know sometimes we think that something has to be complex to make sense. That’s wrong thinking. Simple things make more sense and achieve better results

Author John Maxwell writes, “There is great dignity in simplicity. Most of the immortal works of literature not only have the brilliance of brevity but also the dignity of simplicity. The Lord’s Prayer consists of only 57 words, none more than two syllables. The declaration of Independence, which revolutionizes the thinking of the entire world, can be read by a fourth grader in less than five minutes. Simplicity is eloquent; it speaks loud and clear without insulting the intelligence of the listener.”

I hope you have also learnt from the above lessons.

Never stop learning. When you stop learning, you stop growing

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Have You Got Excellent Reasons For Failure?

It’s my birthday today. I have received several calls, emails and text messages from my family, friends, colleagues and well wishers. As at the last count, I had received about 54 calls, 34 text messages and 9 emails. Some of the text messages are simply wonderful. I was close to tears while reading some of them. Let me use this opportunity to say a big thank you to all of you who sent in a text, a mail or called over the phone. My world is a better place because I have friends like you. Special thanks to my lovely wife, who sent in a lovely cake to my office. I wonder what I would do without you. Not much I guess!

Today has been a day of reflection for me. I was just thinking about the last couple of years – where I have been and where I am coming from. It’s been a long rough ride! Believe me when I say that. However, it’s been interesting all along. I have seen a lot. I have experienced a lot. I have learnt a lot. I have grown, to a good extent I suppose. Along the journey, I have also realized that I had good reasons, very good reasons to give for failure. I was talking with a colleague some time last week. He told me of a chat he had with a former boss, who was advising him to put in his best at work. He told him something that in my opinion is very profound. He said “Every reason for failure in --- (name of the company) is always an excellent reason”. How true?

There is a young man that inspires me in the scriptures. His name is Joseph. Permit me to talk a bit about him today. Permit me also to call him Joe. Joe was a good guy who had very good and lofty dreams. He dreamt that one day he will be head over all his households. He dreamt great dreams. You know, I realize that it’s a dreamers’ world. Today’s dreams are certainly tomorrow’s realities. Dream well and dream big, it doesn’t cost a dime. Everything you see around you today, started as a dream in someone’s mind.

Joe was faced with a lot of odds however. Odds that stood against him and his dreams. A study of these odds will show that we still face similar odds today. Let me share a few of those with you as I drive home my point.

Background –

He was from a polygamous family where a lot of jealousy and hatred was the order of the day. He was also one of the youngest. You know there are some of us that are from the backside of the desert. Infact, we are from the interior of the inferior! What will you do? Will you sit down and complain about your disadvantageous background, or do something about it? Listen. Your background does not have to determine your future. You can rise to the top in spite of very low backgrounds. History is littered with the testimonies of those who went from terrible backgrounds to enviable heights. History also has records of those with great and wonderful backgrounds but end up with little or no reckoning. Need I mention names?

Environment –

At an early stage in life, Joe found himself in a strange land and in a strange environment. He found himself far away from home where godly values were not taught. There are a couple of us who thinks that they can only succeed in Europe! Nigeria and Africa is too tough they say. The environment is not conducive. While I agree that you need the right environment to bring out your best, I make bold to say this “It is not in the Land. It is in the Mind”. God told Isaac to remain in Gerar, the land of famine. Isaac obeyed, stayed there and reaped in the same year, a hundred fold! You will not become an instant success even if you move to Europe, except your mind witnesses a transformation. A lizard in Africa can never become a Crocodile in Europe! At best, it will be a international lizard! In spite of the environment prevailing around him, Joe made the best of it in his rise to the throne. Will you do same?

A lizard in Africa can never become a Crocodile in Europe! At best, it will be a international lizard!


Have you heard people complain about their bosses as if they are the very roots of all the woes? Joe had every reason to blame his boss, and most importantly his boss’s wife. He didn’t. He served Potiphar with all his might. He was “The Servant”. He was so committed that Potiphar committed everything he had to his hands. “Do you see a man diligent in his work? He shall stand before Kings and not before ordinary men” says the holy creed. When a man is diligent in anything he does, he will surely do that “thing” for kings! The reason why you are not progressing is not your boss, no matter how tough he/she is. It all depends on you!

Inspite of all these reasons, Joe never craved in. He didn’t hide under the cover of any. His dreams and goals were set before him and he will stop at nothing to achieve them. Remember that the world don’t want reasons. They want results.

Joe went on to achieve his dreams, and even better. He became the Prime Minister in a foreign land, second only to Pharaoh. What an amazing story.

There is no reason good enough for failure.

Let me ask you a question? After all said and done, what will be said about you? Will you let prevailing circumstances drown your goals, visions and dreams? Or will you rise up to the occasion, and say to yourself “inspite of all these, I will achieve my dreams”. You will go through all you are passing through. Surely and certainly, you will get to the throne.

There is no reason good enough for failure.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Negotiate A Better Future

Every single second of the day, we are all involved in negotiations. You may not realize it, but you are involved in thousands of both formal and informal negotiations everyday. We are all product of negotiations. You wouldn’t be here in this world if there was no negotiation between your mum and your dad! If you got up from your bed today (and I bet you did), your were involved in a negotiation. You had a choice to continue in bed but you gave up this “pleasure” for something.

We are all product of negotiations. You wouldn’t be here in this world if there was no negotiation between your mum and your dad!

In negotiations, you give up what you have to get what you want. Someone has time and needs money. Another have money and needs time invested to do a work. Negotiation takes place when they each give what they have to get what they want.

Negotiations are very important because they determine your future. There are several negotiations taking place that has a direct effect on your future. Infact, the quality of your life tomorrow is dependent on the negotiations you are making today. While going through my notes earlier in the week, I came across a negotiation I read about and studied some years ago and the lessons I learnt from this account. This negotiation is documented in the holy creed. Can you spare a moment to read it?

“And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die; and what profit shall this birthright do to me?”

This verse is very rich. Here, a negotiation took place. Very informal negotiation. Right in the family compound. But with far reaching consequences. Esau, the older of the twins in question had gone hunting earlier in the day and returned home with nothing to show for it. Jacob on the other hand was at home and he had cooked a stew. Now, Esau returned home hungry. He needed food. He had the birthright. Jacob had food. He needed the birthright. So, a negotiation proposal was put forward by Jacob. What a proposal it was.

From this negotiation account, there are very vital lessons to learn

1. Do Not negotiate on an empty stomach

Avoid negotiating when you are hungry or tired. It put’s you at a disadvantage. Many great footballers had sold their future to their managers by signing contracts when they were “hungry”. For a young man coming from a club in Africa paying him $1000 a month, a juicy contract of $10,000 a month in Europe sounds too good to be true. Without studying the contract papers, he puts pen to paper immediately only to find out he had sold his future to his agent/manager. He negotiated on an empty stomach. He will realize later in future what a terrible negotiation he had made. A young girl who is “hungry” for a job negotiates away her virginity only to realize the colossal loss. What a shame.

2. Do Not Underestimate what you have

I said earlier on, that in negotiations, you give what you have to get what you want. In the story we are considering, Jacob simply underestimated the value of what he had. He had the birthright and the blessings associated with it. However, it meant nothing to him. His value system was wrong. According to him, stew was much more valuable than his birthright! Before you point accusing fingers at Esau, how is your value system? Are you underestimating what you’ve got? Do you value your skills and talents?

3. Do Not “overvalue” your problem

There is no problem that you currently have that is peculiar to you. The worst damage you can do to yourself when you are negotiating is to over value your problem. Look at what Esau said “ …I am about to die…” The truth is that that was far from the truth. He wasn’t about to die. Worse case, he had missed breakfast and lunch for that day. There is no way that can equal “near death”. He was overestimating his situation. No wonder he couldn’t negotiate down. Listen to some people talk about their problem/situation and you will know they are magnifying the problem. During negotiations, you will have the advantage when you learn not to overstate your problem

4. Negotiate Down

In the above negotiation, Esau didn’t do anything to negotiate Jacob’s offer down. He could have at least tried. If I were in his shoes, I would have tried negotiating for dinner for the rest of my life if I needed that food that badly. At least, dinner for the rest of his life in exchange for the birthright (though still a foolish choice) would have been a far better deal that just a one time stew. Beat the offer down. Negotiate down.

Winners do today what others won’t do, in order to have tomorrow what others won’t have.

5. Negotiate for the Future

Whatever you do, please negotiate for the future. Don’t only look out for what you will gain/lose in the immediate present. Look out for the future. What will be the consequence of the negotiation you are doing doing now on your future. Friends, I have since realized that the future is less expensive than the present. It makes a lot of sense to buy the future now. It pays to negotiate for the future now than later. A friend once told me how he spent his 1st salary of 70,000 naira. He invested 35,000 to buy a sophisticated phone and 35,000 to buy IBTC shares. He took a stock of both purchase 4 years after. The phone he bought was stolen 3 months after. The shares he bought is now worth over 250,000! Buy the future. Negotiate for the future. Winners do today what others won’t do, in order to have tomorrow what others won’t have.

In the negotiation we are looking at, it was like nothing happened afterwards. Negotiation completed. Both parties went their separate ways. However, the result of that negotiation that took place in the family compound had far reaching consequences. Esau sold his birthright….his blessings. He later sought for it with tears, but it was too late. He sold out his future while enjoying the present. Winners will rather forfeit a prefect present in order to create a perfect future. Do you want to be one?

You are destined for the top of the topmost top! See you there!!