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I look to You!

Whitney Houston was a child of promise taught to sing in the Baptist church choir by her choir mistress mother. And she was good.

She grew up on the disadvantaged side of life, the African American side of those days. As a teenager, she was introduced to drugs by her brothers, not Bobby Brown. In fact, the story says that she had the drugs, he had the liquor; they introduced each other to something.

Drugs did her much harm as she overdosed repeatedly till she died of it. Drugs probably chose her closest friends and relationships.

Her closest pals, however, believe that she died of a broken heart; a broken heart. She was heartbroken because she did not take good care of the body which God gave to her and that she had generally disappointed God. She was also broken by the fact that her octogenarian father filed a suit against her to claim $100m from her. He was her Manager. Hmm. Her career employed/supported everyone in her family.

There are videos of Whitney leading her husband and crew to pray before shows. And her crew members tell of singing sessions that were supernatural as she sang to God; they all felt it.

Have you heard her last song? I look to You!



As I lay me down,
Heaven hear me now.
I’m lost without a cause
After giving it my all.

Winter storms have come
And darkened my sun.
After all that I’ve been through
Who on earth can I turn to?

I look to you.
I look to you.
After all my strength is gone,
In you I can be strong
I look to you.
I look to you.
And when melodies are gone,
In you I hear a song.
I look to you.

About to lose my breath,
There’s no more fighting left,
Sinking to rise no more,
Searching for that open door.
And every road that I’ve taken
Led to my regret.
And I don’t know if I’m going to make it.
Nothing to do but lift my head
I look to you.

Her words suggest a life of promise culminating in unfulfillment.

The story in the movie “Can I be me” leaves no room for blame. Maybe if she’d grown up on our side of town, she’d have been a different person.

My lessons from her life:

1. Things are not always the way they appear; drop the blame and judgment.

2. You can’t really live your life for others.

3. You have to take responsibility for your life.

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Lead

There’s this discussion that happens in the ranks of progressive African youths. It’s about why African nations appear to be behind in everything. 

Western nations have everything working for them while African nations have almost nothing working. In Europe, a small town can be the world’s largest manufacturer of a big thing. But in Africa, small towns are first of all inaccessible. Even big towns do not necessarily have what it takes to produce small things.

I sat with some colleagues and saw how China and Turkey manufacture some products “for exports only,” while they buy the ones for their local use from Europe. This is not to fault China and Turkey, but to wonder why we can’t produce our low grade requirements in Africa; why do they have to come from China and Turkey? Why not from Onitsha or Kpone? Stated in another way, why do we need discount buses from India when we claim that what is produced in Nnewi are discount buses?

In the USA, George Washington was the first President. After the second term, everyone praised him and suggested another term. His response?

In 1796, as his second term in office drew to a close, President George Washington chose not to seek re-election. Mindful of the precedent his conduct set for future presidents, Washington feared that if he were to die while in office, Americans would view the presidency as a lifetime appointment. Instead, he decided to step down from power, providing the standard of a two-term limit.”(http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/the-first-president/second-term-1793-1797/)

In essence, he put the nation before himself. He kept in mind that George Washington was not the smartest American.

Flip and come to Africa. 

We have presidents ruling for 30 years, continually changing the Constitution because there’s no man like “Uncle Paul.” We have see this in the Arab spring nations and several others. One Grandpa in East Africa even assured that there are more than enough jails in his country to throw political opponents in: “The economy is growing and we are building infrastructure; what else do they want?

We have even seen nations who went without leadership for years. They ended up in depression and repression. This was the experience of Israel. Then Ehud arose overnight and led them in conquest. In just 2 days, everything changed.

So why are we behind?

In the book It’s Not About You, Bob Burg and co write, “At Pindar’s party that night, Claire explained, Herron had related an experience he had during World War II, as a brand-new second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers. He had been out with troops in the field on a training mission. It had been a hard day, and when the mess line was ready, he went over to eat—but before he could be served, an old sergeant took him aside.

“Lieutenant,” said the sergeant, “after your men have been fed, if there’s any food left, then you will eat. And later, after all your troops have been bedded down, if there’s a place for you to lie down, then you will sleep.”

Is this kind of progressive leadership possible in Africa?

Nothing yet something!

I flew in a helicopter

I sat by the window,

And the clouds were low

The chopper barged into the clouds and we shook

Wow! Clouds! Why not touch one?

So I stuck my finger out of the air hole.

We barged into another cloud and shook.

I withdrew my finger:

No cloud matter,

No mist.

I felt nothing.

Yet my eyes saw them and the chopper shook.

Who can make something that is nothing?

How many more nothings are something?

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning.

Have you heard that word before?

Most people have not. It is what happens when a car runs into a pool of water with considerable speed (about 56 km/h or 35 mph). 

A car’s tyres propel the car forward by gripping the ground. The firmer the grip, the better. In the event that the car runs into a pool of water, the gaps between the tyre treads are momentarily filled with water, the car tyres are lifted off the road, and the tyres momentarily lose their capacity to grip the ground and to propel the car (or to stop it)!

1. If the car has only one of its two driving wheels in the water, the wheel-in-the-water becomes like the tip of a compass tool in the students mathematical set. The wheel-on-the-ground becomes like the pencil tip, and the car sets to draw a circle–it begins to spin.

2. If both driving wheels are in the water, it is more complex. The depth of the water under each tyre, the duration of stay of each tyre in the water come into play and the car could begin an involuntary zig-zag. If one tyre gets out of the water before the other, then situation 1 above results. ie. the zig-zag develops into a spin.

Imagine what would happen with other road users, imagine the road fixtures, imagine the people in your own car, etc.

Someone around you has probably experienced hydroplaning before; some have suffered injury as a result of hydroplaning; believe it, some are not here to tell what happened.

Next time you see water on the highway, kill your speed immediately.

A delicate balance

There’s been a great concern about global warming and its attendant effects: melting of polar ice, sea level rise, loss of islands and coastal lands, climate change, etc.

Research has shown that nature was designed to take care of itself. The earth is not only to be the source of all materials, it is also supposed to be the sink of all wastes. However, there’s a limit to both capacities: source and sink. Now we are aware that mankind is running out of Gold, the oceans are being overfished, loss of herds of wildlife is leading to desertification, etc.

Western nations are working to open up legacy dams. Why? Dams prevent the mobility of aquatic life, and this prevents the reproduction of specific species. This leads to extinction and loss of biodiversity. What would be the fate of those at the top of the food chain if those at the bottom are no more.

The very interesting bit is that the earth has a mechanism for reducing global temperatures: volcanic ash.

Among other products of volcanoes, the ash circulates around the globe and decreases the amount of sunlight that hits the surface of the earth. Since the Sun is our greatest source of heat, global mean temperatures fall.

This phenomenon is not restricted to the times of the ancients. Such temperature drops have been recorded in contemporary times after volcanic activity.

The global warming effect was designed to ensure that the earth remains habitable by conserving heat in the atmosphere. It only became a concern as a result of carefree anthropodal (human) activity.

I think we are better off in the hands of God who designed the universe with a delicate balance than if we are left to the fate of a big bang.

An Inspirational Hangout (1)

I have been longing to see my friend for a while. She runs an NGO in Lagos Nigeria, Cancer Aware. We were together in Secondary School and in the University. This is the first time we are seeing since graduation.

I learnt a lot from her. I learnt about how cancer is a ravaging devourer (words carefully selected) which not only longs to kill a patient but also desires to steal the wealth and destroy the emotional stability of the family members.
Cancer Aware focuses on women, and she was able to educate me on such prevalent cancers. Cervical cancer has a pre-cancer stage at which it can be treated and terminated. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, there are too many ladies who cannot afford screening or treatment. There are those who do not even know what this is all about! However, the vaccines are expensive at about N10,000 per dose. Each lady needs about 3 doses. That’s about N30,000 per woman. Now, on one side of the Lagos “bridge”, that’s just the cost of a Friday night’s outing for one person. But on the other side of the “bridge”, it’s more than one month’s cost of living.

Rwanda, she explained, is running a project to eliminate cervical cancer by the year 2020. How? Vaccinate all girls from age 9! Why is Nigeria not doing that?

She pointed out that the cost of treatment is phenomenally higher than the cost of prevention. How so? It takes N30,000 to prevent cervical cancer. It takes chemotherapy to treat cancer without a guarantee of success. For ease of calculation, let us assume there are no side effects. Each patient needs 6 doses of chemo@N600,000 per dose. That’s a ratio of 1:120!! Shouldn’t we vaccinate every woman in Nigeria by all means possible???
For radiotherapy, there are 3 surviving centres in Nigeria: UCH, LUTH, and Eko Hospital. She mentioned the Sokoto centre which closed down recently. Another may be coming up in Calabar soon.

Cancer Aware seeks to screen and vaccinate. They try to support patients with the cost of treatment, but this cost is prohibitive; not many patients get such support. Cancer Aware also renovates oncology wards falling apart in government hospitals.

I asked what we could do to support!!
1. Our organisations can support the war against cancer as a Corporate Social Responsibility.
2. Individuals can support with little sums. About a year ago, I supported with a tiny sum. In a  few minutes, I got a “thank you” email. I screamed; many NGOs in Nigeria do not acknowledge the receipt of funds. But Cancer Aware does!
3. You can invite Cancer Aware to make a presentation at your place of work, worship, estate meetings, trade union meetings, etc.Won’t it be better to spend our 1 hour this way than to spend it mourning at a patient’s bed side?
4. Influence policy to reduce environmental pollution. The fumes of diesel and petrol engines kill in the short run and damage in the long run. Neither is a good option.
5. Everybody should undergo screening duly.

While cancer is not our portion, you know at least one person who has died of cancer right? So why not do something?
Visit http://www.canceraware.org.ng or talk@canceraware.org.ng to explore more options.

Atrophy

Atrophy is kind of a big word.

What does it mean?

…Gradually decline in effectiveness or vigour due to underuse or neglect.

I saw a gentleman with a limb in recuperation. The limb is slimmer than the other but happily getting stronger. It reminded me of the word Atrophy.

Have you heard of able bodied men who fake lameness and sit in wheel chairs to beg? If the legs are fat and firm they’re likely fake. Legs that have not been in use are slim and almost only bones.

Anything we have which we do not use atrophies: the less it does, the less it can do.

Once I worked in a four storey building. My job required me to go up and down the stairs several times a day. It was quite easy to do. But once I went on leave and returned, it would be so difficult to go up the stairs.

Anytime I’m off writing for a long time, it becomes difficult to write. Even those who stay off food for a long time do not go back to the norm in a hurry.

If you have any strong capacity that you like, you need to do more of it. If you have any capacity you want to improve on, you need to do more of it.

Anything disused or underused atrophies.

Strength in Ignorance

There was a young man who belonged to a certain Christian group. Almost all they believed in was in conflict with what other Christians believe. He stumbled on Billy Graham preaching on TV one day. He decided to listen and pick holes in the sermon of the “big guy.” This young man was very knowledgeable and could take on any “conventional” Christian. 

Billy Graham mentioned the concept of Trinity, and the young guy was happy to find a handle to take on the big guy. But then Billy Graham took a turn: he said that he did not understand Trinity though he believed in it! He explained that there’s just no way an ordinary man could completely understand the Almighty God.

“Arrgh! How is that possible?? The big guy doesn’t even understand what he believes in? We are taught to understand everything. Our tutors have all the answers!”

So he turned off the TV, but the seed had been sown. He eventually agreed that if God is as great as we claim He is, then we are not likely to understand all there is to know about Him. The young man changed the course of his faith.

The Lesson:

We will not understand everything, and we will not get all the answers; but we will have to keep following God.

What the young man above did not know was that Billy Graham once demanded full understanding of everything. He slowed down his walk with God and watched his faith wither. Finally God explained that Billy’s business was to follow, not to understand God. God once more gave Billy the choice to follow without understanding or to walk away. Of course he chose to follow. That was why he could declare on TV that he did not understand all he believed in.

Similarly, we just won’t get all the answers, but we will keep following. If you are not comfortable with being frail, you are probably still a toddler!


Waiting

One thing most of us find difficult to do is to wait. We jump queues, we push others aside, we throw tantrums, etc, all because we do not like to wait.

Interestingly, we are quick to accuse others of unwillingness to wait. Once I got a ride from a senior colleague in Nigeria’s Capital, Abuja. It was one of those rides you come out of and vow never to allow to happen again. He was such a rough and impatient driver. But all along the about 20 minutes ride, he kept talking about how Nigerians are so impatient on the road and about how everyone was supposed to wait for him to pass before them.

My first real attempt at planting (apart from bean seeds in the glass jar) was to plant yam. I must have been about 4 or 5 years of age. I got the yam set and buried it as expected; I knew it was expected to sprout. The next evening, I went to the location and dug up the seed yam to check if it had started growing. It had not. Cool! So I buried it again. Then the next evening, I went to check it again. It had not. Then the next evening, I dug it up again. Needless to say, the yam never grew. A gracious uncle later explained to me that when you plant, you walk away and wait. You are not expected to keep digging up the seed. Wait!

Have you ever had a little boy give you a toy to fix then come to snatch it from your hands again? Even from childhood, no one wants to wait.

However, life is full of processes with gestation periods. There’s no fast track pregnancy; there’s no way the education of a lifetime could be acquired in a few years; there’s no way a child could grow into adulthood in a few years.

We have to learn to wait since waiting is usually not an option; it is compulsory.

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain–first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29

 

 

(pix: http://gods2by4.blogspot.com.ng)

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

I developed this blog post from a recent presentation of mine. 

First, what is a career?

According to Google, a career is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.

In this definition, we see the importance of a career because we do not want to spend the bulk of our lives doing what we do not like, or stuck at a low level of what we like.

Let’s discuss with a few questions:

HOW DO I CHOOSE MY CAREER?

  1. By looking at your gifts.

Exodus 31:1-5

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.

Bezalel slept and woke up and suddenly found that he was enabled to do things he couldn’t do the previous day.

You must know someone who was born to fix electronics or born to play musical instruments, etc.

A look at your gifts could show you the direction to head.

  1. By looking at your path.

I know a lady who used to play lawn tennis for Nigeria. Later I found that her dad played lawn tennis for Nigeria and trained his children to play tennis right from primary school.

How do you think the Queen of England chose her career? She was simply born into it—her path led her to it!

  1. By desire.

Some people wake up with a compelling desire to do something.

You just keep pushing in that direction. You can’t help yourself. Other people are submitting CVs but you find that you are exploring with farm work, you are spending time painting, you’d rather gather the youths of the community together to teach them Physics and Mathematics, etc. I know a guy who used the engineering principles he was taught in the university to improve on his card making skills.

When we feel this urge, it is best we push for it even if as a side gig.

  1. In many cases, we actually stumble on our careers.

Today, I work as a safety person.

When I worked as a banker, I hated the job. In fact, I believed that every worker hated his job! On the other hand, banking is what some people were born to do!

I read Engineering and though I love agriculture, I couldn’t get much going in that line. I applied to every place I could get a job, etc. So I got the banking job. Then I moved to civil engineering consulting. Then I moved to the manufacturing sector. Then I got into the petroleum sector, etc.

When God was sending Moses to Egypt, HE asked him a question: “What is in your hand?” Exodus 4:2. With that rod in his hand, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness and eventually, the rod remained in God’s Ark of the Covenant long after Israel entered into the Promised Land.

But this rod had been in Moses’ hand before God called him. So what is in your own hand today?

ANOTHER QUESTION WE ASK IS THIS:

I HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING BUT I CAN’T GET MY CAREER STARTED. WHAT DO I DO?

Once I met a lady who read Broadcasting in the University. She was, however, working as a clerk in the post office. I asked why she wasn’t getting the media industry. She said it would require her to move to the capital city, and she did not want to make that move.

In Nigeria, the options are much fewer. That’s why Engineers are running after bank jobs, and accountants are teaching mathematics in secondary schools. Just grab the one that comes to you. The real issue is that there are not enough jobs to go round. The unemployment rate in Nigeria is put at 13.9%. That means that when 100 students graduate, 14 of them will not get jobs.

What could we do at such a time?

  1. Pray for God’s favour.

How did I get this job of mine?

There was an advert, but I did not believe it would be transparent. And since I didn’t know anyone, I ignored it.

My sister called to ask if I had seen the advert. I told her I wasn’t interested. She decided to apply for me. So I sent her all the requirements by email.

When we got to the test, it was the same test I wrote a month prior at a different job test. Hence, all the mistakes I made the first time, I did not make them the second time.

 There was a little job I had then. My boss suddenly decided to give me an office line so that the customers would still have a valid number to call if I decided to leave the company. One Sunday afternoon after church, my phone battery went flat. Just in an instant, I decided to put my SIM in the office handset since I wasn’t expecting any official call on a Sunday. Almost immediately, a call came in to invite me for the job interview. I was sceptical because it was a Sunday, but they promised to follow up with a letter in a few days. The interview was Tuesday! Unfortunately, I went down with fever but I managed to come to Lagos for the interview. I did not prepare at all! At the reception, there were several other guys who came for the interview. They had several pages of information printed which we all were reading. Finally, I was called in. I answered many questions correctly (because I just read the materials at the reception). The interviewer was so impressed that even the question whose answer I did not know, he kept telling me that he was sure I knew the answer that I had only forgotten!

Summarily, I got the job. There were thousands of others who did not get it—some of them, I know! I know some who did not pass the test stage; I know some who did not pass the interview stage. It’s not because I’m better, it was God’s favour.

  1. Develop yourself.

A friend of mine relocated to London to join her husband. For months, she couldn’t get a job; she was getting frustrated. She would complain and wonder if she shouldn’t just return to Nigeria. One day, I told her that the situation was temporary. She should consider it as a compulsory leave. “Read, take courses, visit friends, etc because when work starts, you will look for this season and you will not find it.”  Today, she’s working and lamenting that she needs a break.

If you can’t get work started, begin to read; take free courses online; attend meetings of relevant professional bodies as a visitor. Everything you learn prepares you for a test, an interview, or a job. These things will set you apart someday.

3. Be patient.

  1. Take the job available while expecting the job you desire.

One day, my salary was N20k. I was marketing water well drilling components. After 6 months on the job, a friend got a job in the telecoms sector, and his starting salary was N120k per month i.e. all the money I earned in 6 months, he earned in one month.

Let’s look at this story closely.

If he gave up in those 5 months when I was working and he was sitting at home, he could have lost out; we need patience.

If I gave up because he got far ahead of me with just one step, I could have given up and left my job, or I could have lost hope and stayed on a little job forever!

I am happy he moved, and I am happy I moved.

The temporary job we get will help us to finance transport, internet expenses etc. that are associated with job applications. It will also provide us with networks that could get us the job we desire.

  1. Find something handy to do.

I have friends who were doing laundry while they were waiting for engineering jobs. I know those who have worked as drivers while waiting for the real job. I know those who do home lessons for secondary school students. The point is this:

Fly if you can, or else run. If you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving!
WHAT QUALITIES SHOULD YOU DEVELOP TO ADVANCE YOUR CAREER?

  1. Youthfulness

Everybody wants to work with people that can be trained…not people that already know everything. That is why you are expected to always be under 26 years of age if you are looking for a job in Nigeria.

However, age is not the key point of youthfulness; it is the openness and willingness to learn. So if you are 30, remain open and willing to learn. If you are 40, remain open and willing to learn. Even beyond 40, you can be open and willing to learn.

Stay hungry.

  1. Be current (be up-to-date)

During my MSc. dissertation, I read extensively but I could not impress my supervisor. The guy just seemed to know everything. Then I took interest in one journal and I became addicted. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. Suddenly, I began to win arguments against my supervisor. He would tell me to use a piece of legislation and I would tell him it was obsolete.  And I would tell him when a new law was published. The first time it happened, I was surprised to see him surprised!

That was what gave me victory—reading technical news that was less than a month old!

In the same vein, be current. Go beyond Microsoft word tables, use Excel. Try your hands on Access. Use cloud applications. Know cutting edge technology. Know things for knowing’s sake; one day they could differentiate you.

  1. Believe in yourself.

Self-esteem is critical for every facet of our lives. How do you see yourself?

One day about 10 years ago, my boss was out of town and he called me to attend a review meeting in the MD’s office. I was just a little boy and my heart skipped a beat. The MD was going to make a presentation and he wanted all departments to hear and critique his presentation.

As he was presenting to us, I saw something strange on his slide: the word GLOCALIZATION. I raised my timid voice and said that there was an error. The word should be GLOBALISATION. The MD looked up, noticed me, and ignored me. He continued his presentation. I thought I was finished! In the next slide he defined Glocalisation as Globalisation + Localisation!

I was terribly ashamed of my ignorance. But guess what? The MD liked me from then on. He was always happy to see me in his meetings. I bet he knew there were many people who thought glocalisation was wrong, but they would rather keep quiet than correct the MD!

You have to believe in yourself; if you have come this far, you can go further!

  1. Overcome insecurity

Don’t consider the progress of others as a threat to you. Be happy to see others succeed. Lend a hand, share a thought. Teach; show the way!

People who hoard knowledge are soon schemed out. The idea is that what you know is not helping anybody anyway, so why not go. But those who keep sharing appear to be indispensable; everybody needs your contribution to succeed. So they will ensure you remain for as long as possible.

Finally, Career is important, but career is not everything. It is important to give what is Caesar’s to Caesar. Don’t advance your career at the expense of family or health or your walk with God.

In his book, WINNING, Jack Welch, the CEO of the 20th Century, says that the success and happiness in the homes of his children have more to do with their mum (his ex-wife) than with him. Make sure you play your part at home.

There is another saying that young men give their health to make money, then later in life they want to spend all their money to get their health back. Why lose the health in the first place??

As we advance in our careers, work-life balance is very important.

I pray that God gives us the grace to do our bit in this world.

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