We used to have debates when we were in secondary school. A wonderful debater senior is today a medical doctor. One day when he was beautifully articulating his points during a debate before the student population of over 2,000 students, the bell went off on him. He stopped and sighed. Then he said, “Time! Time can time me but I cannot time time. With all I have said…” His presentation was clear, his closing, novel, the applause, deafening! Time is most critical!
I got tired of seeing the same contact appearing multiple times on my phone due to multiple email/social media synchronization. So a few days ago, I began to merge, to delete and generally tidy up. I was amazed at the number of my contacts that have crossed to the great beyond! Just then, something seemed to whisper to me, “The number will only increase…with time!”
The last few months have been traumatic for news watchers: from Chibok, to Ebola, to ISIS, to poverty, to lack of potable water, etc. The big issue is not a problem to report, but which of the many problems should be put in the spotlight! The earth (physical system) is convulsing; the social system (world) is contorting.
Some say that Jesus is coming soon, others say that the world is about to end. Still some believe that these events are normal, just that information technology has only made us more and quicker aware of so many unpleasant events. Not sure which to follow?
In secondary school again, a year after that memorable debate, there was the news that the world would end on the 28th of October. One of my friends invited me to join a study from the 21st of October: a study of the behaviour of fellow students as the D-day approached. We would sit out and watch how fellow students behaved in class, in the hostels, on the assembly ground, in the dining hall, etc. We also noticed a few new and even brighter stars in the sky (today we know they are satellites). On the D-day, it was a Wednesday. Usually, the senior boys were unruly and never prayed during assembly, but that day everybody behaved; they bowed their heads during prayers. Kay and I were busy observing instead of praying! This says what? While we are not sure if Jesus is coming this night or the world is ending tomorrow morning or another big bang is about to happen or something, everyone is concerned about what happens after tomorrow!
It’s only the ostrich that sticks its head in the sand to hide from its fears, forgetting that the bulk of its body is not under the sand. Wouldn’t it be wise to ask for the way??
Years ago, I worked in an organisation in which, officially, a worker caught sleeping on duty twice would be summarily dismissed. While I was there, no one was officially caught twice; it was always a first time! You know, you’d walk up to a dozing colleague and wake him up saying, “That’s your first time.” We would roar with laughter and everyone would be wide awake and carry on with work.
It was a fast-paced environment both for the brain and for the feet; a senior could call you and ask why you were walking slowly like one who had nothing to do!! It was an environment in which the prime motivation for work was fear…and there was no hiding place except outside the gates! We certainly were not lazy; it was the practice to jump down from the company’s staff bus caught in traffic to hop on a two-legged to get to the office in good time. Working two shifts back-to-back was no big deal though to get paid for extra hours was highly debatable.
Let’s flip over our minds and imagine a work environment in which fulfilment is the prime motivation; where mistakes are not punished but learnt from. An environment where the boss knows the names of the spouses and children of the team members!
My mind was looking for that environment sometime ago and I found it!
I found one who is not hunting for mistakes but looks for opportunities to praise and affirm;
I found one who identifies stumbling blocks on the path and guides over them safely;
I found one who gives difficult tasks and watches proteges ignore valuable tools and embark on unsustainable journeys; what does he do? He sends the necessary help and provisions to key milestones on the path;
I found one who always knows when people are tired, and he generously lavishes rest breaks;
I found that no matter how much mankind can try, there could be no better Father than God!
I came across a book about Nikola Tesla. He was said to be the inventor of the 20th century. That caught my attention. If he was so key, how come I did not know him!
Well, he was born a European boy and he was technically inclined. He admired Thomas Edison’s inventions especially of electricity, and he proceeded to get a job in the Edison company in France. From there, he struggled to get to America, get a job at the Edison company and meet Thomas Edison in person.
Nikola had conceptualized “alternating current” and he believed it would be possible to transmit it over long distances, unlike Edison’s direct current. Edison turned down the idea and Nikola left to look for an investor.
As Nikola’s dream progressed, Edison waged a media war against him, telling America and the world that alternating current kills. Edison proceeded to demonstrate this by first killing stray dogs and then criminals condemned to death, with alternating current.
Nevertheless, alternating current won. Edison later confessed that turning Nikola down was the biggest mistake he ever made.
But then, did alternating current win? Truly, alternating current proved more efficient to transmit over long distances, but it has not eliminated the use of direct current; the world uses both. Several equipment run on alternating current, several more run on direct current. Many devices convert from one to the other.
Today, we find people and companies at war, misjudging potential collaborators as competitors. For instance, there is a community of 1,000 people with each person in need of a certain service. A businessman cashes in on the opportunity but he has the capacity to service only 250 people. After 2 years, another business man comes in with a capacity for 150 people. The two business men immediately see each other as competitors; as sworn enemies.
Out of a demand of 1,000, the sum of their individual capacities supplies 400 (40%), and they consider each other an enemy. Maybe if they collaborated, they could synergise and meet 50% of the demand or even 60%, with their profits only rising! Maybe if they worked together, they could muster funds to expand their investments, etc.
But sometimes, percieved competitors are better off as collaborators!
NB: Nikola Tesla did transmit electricity wirelessly!
When God wanted to bless Father Abraham, He told him to look up at the stars to catch a glimpse of what his progeny would look like. If we look at the stars tonight, we will not only be impressed by the quantity (innumerable), but also by the quality (various intensities of glow). Same with mankind; some stars shine brighter than others.
A professor of chemistry told us in 1997 that Albert Einstein died recently…in 1955! We roared with laughter: how could 1955 be recent!? The most impressive picture that I have seen about Einstein was one that showed several planets. On one of the planets was a poster: Albert Einstein lived here. That was planet earth. What an impact Albert Einstein made on earth that would have made him worthy of note on other planets–if they have life!
The Nigerian Federal budget for 2014 is roughly 5 trillion naira. Sharing this equally among 167million people, each person gets about 30,000 naira. Bad enough! If one or two officials steal 3 billion naira in 2014, they have deprived 10,000 Nigerians and called the bluff of their lives. Conversely, if one woman saves the lives of 10,000 Nigerians, she has called the bluff of 3 billion naira. Not only that; she has also put to shame those who live and die for billions.
Such is the impact of the great star, Professor Dora Akunyili, former Drug/Food Law Enforcement Chief in Nigeria who died on the 7th of June 2014.
About a week ago, a public officer who visited her on her death bed rightly expressed that the death of an average politician in Nigeria is celebrated. But that the thoughts of the death of Dora did send cold shivers down the spine of the average Nigerian. If there were a Presidential Cemetry, she should be buried there! History curriculum needs be updated with her story and impact–a true example of patriotism. She saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of hapless Nigerians from the lethal greed of local drug peddlers and their offshore collaborators.
Congrats to the Akunyilis whose mother has left a good name that opens doors.
Kudos to “Mr akunyili,” an epitome of security who allowed his wife to live!
I think the map of the world should show “Dora Akunyili lived here” over Nigeria this month!
Good Woman, Great Star!!
Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist in his twenties with the goal of calling the attention of the populace to the plight of the unfortunately poverty-stricken street children of England. He succeeded at it. As a journalist, he later went ahead to encourage George Muller’s orphanages by writing about the good care he saw there when he visited.
Just musing over the unthinkable plight of the abducted Chibok girls, my mind went through the years. Before this, boys were killed in a federal government school. Because I attended such, it made me shudder. I imagined if gunmen had raided our hostels in 1990…in pitch darkness. The same men who would not have escaped without casualties in the daylight would have decimated us in hundreds at night. But them boys were killed and that was all. Before this, graduates on national service were killed at the slightest provocation…but we let it go. Before this, public peace was disturbed; private vehicles were vandalized; bonfires were set on roads. Do I see a trend? A crescendo? Rehearsals for what today we bewail!
Every little vice we ignore especially because we are not yet statistically connected is a seed. If we cried out when a few guys were killed in Jos and we mounted pressure so that the perpetrators were brought to book, we would have communicated that we place high value on one another. But better late than never!
There is a lesson we must learn: If we do nothing, nothing will happen!
A second beautiful lesson is that every little effort helps! A few people were concerned that the world was looking away from Chibok and they went to worry CNN’s Facebook wall…till the whole world gave attention. Since then, every comment we make sensitizes; every #bringbackourgirls we post either embarasses or stirs some conscience!
May we have our girls back soon. Where else do we direct our efforts? What other mountain do we bore through we our small-but-mighty hammers??
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.
- MARTIN NIEMÖLLER
When I was in primary school, I read about 2 men who went to a concert. There were all kinds of musical instruments that fascinated them and they began identifying and discussing them. The more knowledgeable man pointed out the second fiddle and explained that this instrument plays more of an assistant role, and it is subordinate to the lead or first fiddle. By the way, the fiddle is often also known as the violin.
The friend listened attentively, remained silent, and finally responded, “If I played the second fiddle, I’d never rest; I’d train and practice until I could play the first fiddle.”
The moral of the story then was for us to ensure that we do everything to be the best at whatever we do. And that is fine and fair. However, what could be wrong with playing the second fiddle?
1. the 2nd fiddle could just be to fill gaps and keep an extra instrumentalist busy;
2. the 2nd fiddle could be a seasoned accompaniment that makes the work of the lead fiddle easier;
3. the 2nd fiddle could be a backup lead fiddle, working along until an emergency makes him needed.
In the course of time, I have found that the 2nd fiddle is not necessarily technically subordinate to the lead fiddle. He is only subordinate in musical arrangement! In fact, it is possible for both instrumentalists to swap roles in the course of the same musical piece, or to swap instruments in the course of the same concert!
What then really makes the 2nd fiddle subordinate to the 1st fiddle? The mind!
Many times in life, we hold on to leadership thinking that sharing power means losing power. This makes us struggle at tasks that our team members are better at handling. I admire my friend who often sits at the back with the child while his wife drives. He drives sometimes, but she loves to drive and she is better with direction. Somehow, his position as husband has not been taken from him yet.
The next time you have to assist, don’t see it as subjugation, it is an opportunity to build together!!
Oh well, this downsizing is not about companies and jobs but daily life. I read a little book last year titled Downsizing. It discusses the many things with which an average adult is cumbered today: gadgets, cars, shirts, shoes, furniture, books, and even friends. I tried to screen down on the excess luggage in my life and to drive the lesson deep into my mind. I was able to cut down my Facebook time (which supplies often irrelevant and sometimes irreverent news to one’s mind; no doubt there are many useful and edifying updates too). With time, whatsapp too got a tender axe–I could share my control strategies later!
Last week, I browsed a book. The author said he has an addiction: Time Management books. He seems unable to resist them. In fact, he buys so many Time Management books that he doesn’t have time to read them! Maybe some entirely good things also need to be downsized!
Recently, it suddenly became clear to me that I had almost 290 apps on my android! Yes, two hundred and ninety and there were only two games: talking tom for kids and cashflow mobile that helps the mind with cashflow! My mouth dropped open! How come?? When did this happen? So axing started. Apps that did the same thing…choose one! Apps that are not likely to find utility in the next one year…let them go! Apps that are useful but not for everyday purposes…take them off the homescreen and group them in folder; etc. I got down to less than 120 and I keep looking for ways to reduce them while keeping my gadget versatile!
A recent survey found 49% of adults confessing that their phones are a major distraction. One wonders in how many other facets of our lives that vital and necessary things have begun to exhude negative effects. A pastor once mentioned how he has become so blessed with many shirts that deciding what to wear had finally become a Sunday morning nightmare. He missed the days of just about 2 shirts in which if he would not wear this, then it would have to be that!
Maybe an extra piece is not necessary; maybe if one gets a newer one, the old one should be kicked out asap. Maybe we should organize swap events in which you bring what you dont need, I bring what I dont use, we take away what is absolutely necessary and give the rest to those who need but cannot afford. But my experience with 290/120 apps is that now, I spend less time looking for apps I need (increasing my efficiency), and I am better at using the apps that I kept (improving my effectiveness).
We all may need to downsize!
I learnt quite early that one way to keep myself going when I have a huge task list is to do the easiest things first. I found out that doing the difficult things first usually left me below 50% performance by the time I hit half time. That often leads to panic. I found that doing a nominal count, difficult tasks do not allow one to ‘count success’ early on the task. And really the goal of a task list is to check-off every item on it somehow!
Recently, I stumbled on a book Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber. While the book is centered on Change Management with a lovely story-line, one of the lessons is that one needs to celebrate short-term “wins”! If we set out to build a house, completing the foundation calls for celebration! Sometimes, one needs to pre-install the potential “wins” at the planning stage. For example if the goal is to build a storey building, we could break it down into laying a foundation, building the walls of the ground floor, doing the decking, the walls of the first floor, etc. This will provide encouraging milestones along the way.
On the contrary, if we choose to wait until a huge task is completed, we may miss the encouragement of celebrating short-term “wins” along the way!
With January down, we need to count some success and celebrate some ‘wins’.
A beautiful year is on! Many plans are in place. The best thing about plans is that they often come to pass!
There seems to be less drive for planning and new-year-orientation in 2014 than I observed in 2013. I only hope folks are not tired of planning. Some see no point in planning since it tends to get dropped along the way anyway!
Why do plans get dropped along the way?
There is a saying, “What cannot be measured cannot be managed” (or improved). If we make plans for lofty goals and forget to put in assessments and course corrections, it wont be long before we get off course!
The idea is that by the end of January one should have concluded, roughly, a twelveth of each of the goals for the year 2014. If by the end of January one is not on course with this, then failure clouds are gathering. However, the remaining eleven months would be used to make adjustments and cover for the month of January. If one waits till mid-year to assess, one could still make corrections for the remaining 6 months, but the 6 months may not be enough to cover up for 6 lost months. And if one chooses to wait till the end of 2014 to assess, one would only get a take-home result with neither opportunity to improve the following months nor to cover up for past months.
So what do we do?
We need to plan assessments: monthly assessments, quarterly assessments, mid-year, etc. If we plan to save $12,000 dollars this year, then by the end of January, we should have $1,000 saved! Else each succeeding month will have to contribute $1,090. If we plan to do 40 push-ups a day by December, we should be on course with 10 a day by the end of January?