Before leaving home this morning I told m wife I am looking forward to the day when I would wake up, pray, have breakfast at about 7:00 AM and then sit out in the balcony to read a good book. At about 10:00 AM I would go to consult with a large company and earn $10,000 for working with them for an hour. At about 2:00 PM I would go give a talk somewhere and earn another $10,000 then be home by 4:00 PM to do some writing. All this could be a daydream or a possible reality (a reality that has already manifested for some people my age in this same world anyway) depending on what I do with today.
It is important that we paint a picture for our future and keep that picture in front of us consistently. Let it be the driver for our routine tasks. Let the vision be the determinant of our engagements. Let the vision be the reason for how we spend our time. How much is today’s activities contributing towards to vision? Can you see five years from now? Ten years? Twenty years? Or are you just taking one day at a time as it comes. I know it is possible to predict the eventual outcome of our lives to a reasonable degree of accuracy because people have done it already. Why not us? Are you willing to take the necessary steps to make the picture in your mind a reality? Think about this deeply.
The thoughts in this post are further developed in my upcoming book It I Were to Live Again. #IfIWere2LiveAgain
The route from my home to the office runs over a railway intersection at a place called Avenor in Accra Ghana. Once in a while I see a middle-aged man using a pickaxe to remove the deposits of sand choking the steel rail. The first time I saw this I wondered to myself if this was the best way to do this> This bothered me because the rail line tended to be a bottleneck because of the fact that the railway sleepers had been badly damaged thus creating a sort of pot hole at that point on the intersection.
In my layman’s opinion, solving the traffic problem at that spot could just be a matter of filling the portion in between the two steel rails with gravel but I guess this might negatively impact the trains. But the more reason why I am doing this post today is that when I passed there this morning (21st May), it occurred to me that the gentleman cleaning the rail line was just doing what he was told. He probably had no idea why he was doing what he was doing.
The man at the railway crossing is not alone in this quagmire. A large number of individuals who work for large companies also find themselves simply doing as they are told. This passive approach to work arises from the fact that most people are working simply to get a salary, they bring nothing new into their routine tasks, ask very few “WHY” questions and have no long term vision asides from looking for how to please the boss enough for a promotion.
Do you find yourself in this mediocre group? I hope not. Bringing passion, thoughtfulness and innovation to your job is a gift you give yourself. The most valuable takeaway you will gain from your current workplace is knowledge and experience. Being fully engaged will give you that.
A friend of ours asked us in a WhatsApp Group about a certain new pyramid scheme that promised a lot of money. To most of us it just seemed like another Ponzi scheme so we advised against it. Part of what came across in the question was the desire for more money (which most of us naturally have) and the natural tendency of human being to fall into other human beings’ tendency to take advantage of their friends and acquaintances.
Multilevel Marketing has been around for a long time and many people are already full abreast with the basics. Many people have also tried their hands on a number of options and gotten stuck or scammed along the way. Typical challenges are the unwillingness of people to join after a while, bad experiences of those who have gotten themselves involves in fake schemas and the high cost of the products marketed by companies using Muti-level Marketing.
Both Dave Ramsey emphasize that many people give up along the way. (But think about it, many people give up or fail in every kind of business). They also both emphasize two key things about Multi-level Marketing:
* Valid Multi-level Marketing companies ALWAYS have a high quality products that create profit which pays members
* What really makes successful Multilevel Marketing Ambassadors is people who can recruit and train other members
One key conclusion that I have come to is that you must be very cautious when exploring Multi-level Marketing opportunities so you don’t fall into the wrong hands and if you discove r that the system is not for you, move along and find what suits you. If you are already involved, then make the best of it but do not be dishonest about the realities and challenges and please do avoid turning all your relationships into transactions.
If you would like to learn more about a specific opportunity that I am involved in, do send me a private message. Please note: it’s not for everyone.
Living in a busy city like Lagos you may have noticed how hard it is for drivers to give way to pedestrians trying to cross the road or other drivers trying to join a major road. It didn’t take long after I moved to Accra to realize that the attitude on the roads was quite different here. In Accra, giving way to pedestrians is such a strong culture that pedestrians consider it a right. Giving way to other drivers when they need your help is considered civil. It is simply all a way of life that has been cultivated.
Have you ever been on the road in your car and someone gives you way by allowing you come in from an adjoining road to the main road. There is a sense of responsibility that act of kindness gives you. It makes you feel obliged to give way to the next driver who needs such a gesture. This is the same case for most other acts of kindness, the recipient of the act becomes a giver automatically. In societies where such acts of kindness have become the natural course, I believe It has become so because of the ripple effect of such acts of kindness.
The next consideration in view of the above is then how does it all start? How can one change a society that is more inclined to hedonistic behavior than otherwise. I think it can be achived by consistent acts of kindness whether they are reciprocated or not. Kindness can have a ripple effect and it may be even more powerful in environments where such acts of kindess are not considered normal behaviour.
Most acts of kindness take hardly anything away from us. For example letting someone in front of you on the highway cannot stop you from reaching your destination. Letting a disadvantaged person in front of you on an ATM queue will not stop you from getting your money out. Besides, you actually feel better after doing such things! How about starting a ripple of kindness today?
More than once, twice or thrice in my work place I have had situations where management wanted something and I insisted that it was either not possible or too difficult to invest energy in. There were other times where I or a colleague in the same team insisted that a particular problem was not within the scope of my team. More than once or twice we would later find new ways of delivering what management wanted or in the case of incidents found that the root cause was actually traceable to our area.
Attitude is a very critical component of problem solving in any discipline. We must search ourselves and ask whether we really want to solve a problem or we simple don’t want to be found culpable. Some work environments contribute to an attitude which says “It’s not my problem so why bother?” but whether the cause is a flawed workplace culture or otherwise, we can solve more problems if we are more open, and more willing to try harder, learn more and work as a team.
Having the right attitude tends to open up our minds and help us think outside the box. Thinking more broadly produces new ideas. A defensive posture blocks our minds and the minds of those we are defending ourselves against. When everybody is playing “defensive midfielder”, nobody really attacks the problem to the point of delivering a solutions. We should also be aware that there is a world of difference between explaining why we think the problem is not ours and real, productive brainstorming with other teams. When we focus on explaining why the problem is not ours, we are leveraging on what we already know and forget that there are many things we do not yet know.
Let me conclude by recalling a story from my previous workplace. We had a certain issue with licensing on BMC Remedy AR System which indicated that the MAC Address on a blade servers Network Interface Card had changed. A number of “IT Professionals” laughed me to scorn when I sent emails indicating that the server’s MAC Address had changed because “everybody knows that MAC Addresses don’t change. After thorough investigation it turned out that when certain options are setup, pulling a blade out of its slot and pushing it back in actually changes the MAC address. We had to go all the way to the OEM to learn this. And it took someone with an open mind to go that far and teach us all something new.
Please forgive the excessive jargon in the last paragraph. It’s just buttressing the thought earlier communicated. Have an open mind when given new tasks or when you need to solve new problems. You are likely to solve the problem faster and learn something new in the course of it.
I killed an ant today at the back of my house today while getting some water in cans. It was a large ant and it could have hurt me if I let it. This means I can argue that I killed the ant in self-defense! I killed the ant because I could. I am bigger, I was wearing footwear and the ant was different from me. The ant could not have called for help or called the police or brought out a gun. I could, so I did. And I have a valid excuse.
A few weeks ago in Ghana, certain unscrupulous Nigerians kidnapped young ladies and apparently wanted to use them in ritual murder. I am not sure whether those girls have been found as at the time of this writing. The case is so serious that the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana is involved and other innocent Nigerians may be paying for this crime in some parts of Ghana. Some Nigerians in Nigeria have become quite concerned about their relatives in Ghana this period because of rumours that Nigerians are being asked to leave Ghana or being attacked.
Over the weekend during the Nigerian Elections, certain unscrupulous fellows sympathetic to a certain political party in Lagos were nabbed in Okota, Lagos trying to snatch ballot boxes. Reports have it that one person was killed or seriously hurt. The response from the Odua People’s Congress, a well-known Pro-Yoruba group is that there will be retaliatory attacks on the Igbos who killed their brother.
The last two incidents I cited are similar to my killing of the ant in certain ways. One side or the other, a killing was executed because one party thought they had the power to kill and the reason to kill. The third common factor is the key issue in this post – difference. Nigerians are different from Ghanaians, Yorubas are different from Igbos, blacks are different from whites, Hutus are different from Tutsis, Moslems are different from Christians and so forth. Depending on the level of granularity we decide to descend to, we will always find that we are different from each other in one way or the other.
We are justifying our intent to kill one another on the basis of our differences but I think while doing that we ignore our real problems. Is the problem with kidnapping in Ghana cause by the presence of Nigerians or by the presence of kidnappers? Is the killing of an OPC member in Lagos cause by Igbos or by those who want to flaw elections? Are xenophobic attacks the solution to South Africa’s employment problems?
We can always make up excuses for our inherent hatred for our fellow man but that doesn’t really solve our problems. We need to sit back and really contemplate who the enemy really and what the solutions to our problems really are. If we do not do this, particularly in Africa, we will pass our problems over to our children and teach them the same hate we practice.
A few years ago I worked under a very meticulous and committed boss who taught me a number of important things about how to take work seriously. He told me a story once about the impact of a simple ATM to real life. I will repeat the story here but I will extend the thought for the purposes of this article. A fellow we shall call Kwaku rushes his wife to a hospital somewhere in Africa on a Sunday evening and the nurses refuse to attend to her emergency until he makes a deposit of let’s say GHS250.00 (about fifty dollars). The woman is dying and after arguing with the nurses, the callously insist that he must pay something before his wife can be given a bed. They point to him an ATM machine about four blocks from the hospital and he rushes out to try the ATM paying he still has enough money in his account. The ATM delays for several minutes when he enters his PIN and finally responds with the familiar message “Your Financial Institution is currently unavailable“. He gasps and looks around while pulling out his ATM card.
Kwaku rushes over to a Mobile Money operator by the road side attempts to withdraw the GHS100 had left on his phone. Maybe the nurses would listen to him if he had part of the money. The Mobile Money Operator looks away and insists that she had closed for the day. He begs her stating he had an emergency at the hospital and she replies “Please, don’t make your problem my problem! I have closed! Go to the ATM over there!“. She hurriedly closes her kiosk and Kwaku sights the second ATM belonging to another bank. He tries the ATM but is disappointed with another message: “… temporarily unavailable to dispense cash”. He calls al taxi who takes him to another ATM about five hundred meters from the hospital and returns with the money but by that time his wife is no longer breathing. AT the sight of GH250.00, the nurses rush his wife to a free bed and begin trying to attend to her. She is confirmed dead twelve hours later.
Who should be blamed for the death of Kwaku’s wife? There are many responses which the various players in this story can give to this question:
Nurses: “This is hospital policy. We cannot attend to anyone without assurance that the person can pay. Do you want me to lose my job?”
Server Admin: “I have worked all week and you also want me to be bothered that the Core Banking System is down on a Sunday evening? Please we will look at it tomorrow. Today is Sabbath!”
Mobile Money Operator: “How is that my problem? Am I the only Mobile Money Operate in Accra? Let him use the ATM na”
ATM Custodian: “How many people live in that area by the way? How can they be exhausting the money in the ATM every few hours? Please I am tired! Let them come back tomorrow? What are they buying this evening. Don’t they rest?”
This reminds me of another example given my Dr. Mensa Otabil regarding the building of a cathedral. Three masons are asked the same question: “What are you doing?”. One answers, “I am laying bricks!” another, “I am building a wall” and the third, “We are building a cathedral. It will seat 10000 worshippers. The structure is designed to last one hundred years”. You see all three were masons but one had much deeper understanding of what the team was doing and what his role was. That understanding did not come from his pay cheese, it must have come more from his attitude. And I can tell you, one way or the order, attitudes can change pay cheques but pay cheques are not guaranteed to change attitudes. You know it’s easy to turn this on another person but take a step back and think like a customer waiting thirty minutes on the queue at a bank because the system was slow. You start yelling at the teller forgetting you just advised your brother who works at the Tech Company that supports that same bank that he needed to slow down and not work so hard!
How do you understand your role at work? Do you understand the full impact of your day job, whether you work for yourself or for a large company? Do you understand how your skills affect the lives of others? Are you just earning a living or are you actually making a contribution to life? It’s simply a way of thinking. I hope you can embrace it.
Often when working in the office at night I find myself irritated by colleagues playing “Shaka Zulu”, P Squared, Stonebwoy, Sarkodie and the like in the office without using earphones. I would typically ask the person politely to use earphones if I couldn’t stand it anymore. Conversely, I realize that if I play any sound in the office, I am bound by my own rules to also use earphones because the person sitting next to me may not like my kind of music or whatever it is I am listening to. As I write this, I am watching Church online and it also follows that I must use earphones and not assume that I am sharing the gospel with colleagues by letting my computer play the service to the hearing of everyone!
Any genuine effort to share the Gospel with another person must come with the person’s consent and we must be ready to also demonstrate that what we are peddling is superior to what the person already has. This may imply learning about what the person already has and being ready to discuss beyond dogma. For example, If I invite a friend to church and he attends as an inquirer, I must be ready to also attend when he invites me to a Mosque, a séance, the singing of the HU, a Pongal festival, a voodoo ritual and so on. If I give him a copy of the New Testament to read and he reads it, then he may expect me to also ready when he offers me the Quran, Vedas, excerpts of the Bhagavad Gita or even Lonsang Rampa’s books. My willingness and confidence to expose myself to such ceremonies and materials while my potential convert exposes himself to the Gospel will show my authenticity and absolute assurance that what I am sharing is superior if I really believe that it is.
Modern Christians are often afraid of being contaminated by demons or sinful practices of exposed to certain ceremonies or materials but I think this is the case because of the institutionalization of Christianity. When Christianity was not an institutional religion, Paul would get to a city and preach by the beach where all sorts of people came to pray to whoever, or he would be found at Mars Hill where the Greek Philosophers gathered, or in a Jewish Synagogue. The power of the Gospel had no restrictions and could not be intimidated by anyone or anything. Moses, Joseph and Daniel all had their confidence in the one true God tested in the courts of Egypt and Babylon, some of the most advance religious systems of their time. And they prevailed.
I think that our authenticity and absolute confidence in what we believe as Christians must make use willing not only to share the simplicity and power of it without offence to any man but to also have our beliefs scrutinized and verified to be true. A convert who has challenged the claims of Christ genuinely and thoroughly is often the most powerful kind of convert.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” I Peter 3:15
sat down, half-sliming and taking a sip of a cup of smoothie she had just
picked up from the counter. From the corner of his eyes Kevin noticed the
attendant at the counter staring at them. He must have thought to himself, “Are
they married? Are they ‘committing sin’?” Just then Mr. Koku walked in,
staggering. The way he walked one feared for him that he would suddenly fall
apart. “He must be ill or something …” Amanda thought to herself. Kevin didn’t
see him until he turned around from the counter. He was both shocked and upset.
How could he intrude so rudely? Did he need money all the time? Kevin received
money in six digits every month so he had no way on understanding that Ten
Cedis every week was very difficult to live on particularly when someone was on
may we help you, Sir?” he snapped, giving Mr. Kokou a very hostile stare,
straight in the eye. The old man was not a bit perturbed. He let out a little
forced cough and softly responded in a cracked voice:
am so sorry to disturb you Sir…” He dipped his right hand in his breast pocket
and out came a doctor’s prescription for some lung infection. “…I have to by
some medicine… you see I used to smoke a lot before so it affected my lungs and
created all sort of diseases in my tracheal system. I don’t have anyone to help
me… please just Twenty Cedis to buy my medicine…”
first instinct was to ask what had happened to his extended family. How was it
possible that he did not have anyone at all to help him? On second thoughts, he
felt there was no need inciting another long story about the old man’s life. He
needed to spend time with Amanda who was just smiling at the old man. He handed
him a Fifty Cedi note and Mr. Kokou thanked him profusely.
must be the second time this week you are giving someone something to dismiss
them rather than out of Christian compassion!” Amanda said, sipping her smoothie
“Unless of course you have other beneficiaries…”
Kevin stared at her. She always seemed to get him thinking more seriously about his spirituality.
do know he still smokes, right? Probably Indian Hemp!”
laughed aloud. She could not believe the depth of his naivety.
dark lips, bloodshot eyes, desperately agitating for small amounts of cash… he
is what you call a junky. Does that make you regret giving him money?”
course!” Kevin snapped, visibly upset.
laughed again, practically reeling. “You don’t want your money used for unholy
purposes? Anyway, I think you just weren’t paying attention the last two
encounters you’ve had with him. You might have noticed if not for a certain
tall dark lady you were thinking about”
you! And I suppose you know the name of that lady, huh?”
rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. Kevin watched her, strongly attracted to
her sassiness. Her boldness in saying her mind. Her brain that matched her
“On a more serious note, Kevin, I think most people in our churches these days are simply too much into their own selves. I am avoiding using the word selfish but that is just what it is. When I was young, we were Catholics and a lot of emphasis was placed on helping the poor and less privileged. Why should the fact that a junky comes to church to beg for money bother you? Who did Jesus die for?”
I recently listened in passing to a commentary about leadership that struck me. While not just referring to those in leadership positions, the speaker stated that real leaders have a habit of listening to those they are leading. Listening is a valuable character trait of natural leaders. Change is inevitable in government whatever the reasons for such changes could be. We should expect changes and often when such changes come from leadership, it is indeed possible that they are necessary considering the fact that leaders see a much bigger picture than followers or at least they are expected to see a much bigger picture.
In recent years there have been a few changes in our beloved Nigeria that people generally question. Late last year there was a whole lot of clamour about the fuel subsidy removal up until the bold announcement on its implementation in early January 2012. The reaction to the announcement was as expected generally not favourable. In Lagos state in particular there was also the long debate about toll gates built along Lekki-Epe express. Interest groups protests were met with counter-protests, alleged arrests and finally, the toll gates now stand declaring victory for the state government on the matter.
Recently there has also been talk of introduction of new naira denominations that could make it easier to handle cash in banks (as well as in drug cartels, armed robbery gangs, smuggling gangs and so on). A lot of people are of the opinion that this could lead to inflation and further devaluation of our currency. The possible introduction of ‘coins of large value’ also brings in a certain degree of complexity to the situation.
While one side or the other may never be completely correct since the full effects of some of these decisions only unfold in the long run, what we want to point out here is the fact that leadership in Nigeria has to show very clearly that the opinions of the people, the masses not just the elite, matter in government’s decisions. Without that, the average citizen’s sense of belonging and commitment to the development of Nigeria will keep tunnelling downwards. Each person needs to know that his opinion matters.
Listening to people who have a different viewpoint, people who are not sitting in the same aloof-from-reality towers as you are often helps you review your thoughts as a leader if you are sincere about sustainable development. We do appreciate the depth of experience and intellectual prowess exhibited by the young, dynamic and adept officials in government but I do think that we still need to move from ruling to leading in our practice of governance. Listening is key to leading.
This post was originally published in September, 2012