Akinwumi Reju: What I Will Tell My Younger Self

Dear young Akin,

I have a lot to say to you, but I will only share with you what I perceive to be the seven most important life nuggets, not in any particular order, that will guarantee your success in life. Keep them in your left hand and never exchange them for anything!

1 . “Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” ~Pope Francis

Many great ideas start as a vision, a dream. Now don’t mis-understand me, I don’t mean that you necessarily have to sleep and dream that you are a CEO or top of your class; of course, nothing wrong with that. However, I am talking about having a Vision, a purpose in life. Your vision about your life is precious; it will most probably be unique to you and you are the only person who can achieve it. I want you to see your vision as your purpose in life, what you have set out to do or the difference that you can in life. Without vision, you will lack motivation to pursue your dream or plan for life. I see many people wanting to be like others or trying to do something because someone has done or is doing it. Many are trying to please their friends, colleagues, siblings, or family members, in doing so, they totally lose their vision. But do not be like them, as they say, “fingers are not equal.”

We are all unique and we have in-born ability to excel. There is nothing wrong is trying to excel where others have failed but do not let your vision or dream be polluted or destroyed by the negative ambition of showing you are better than someone else. There are always many routes to any destination, and you do not have to try your hand on what someone else has done to show relevance. You can chart your own part. Many men and women become disillusioned, confused and they ultimately fail because there is no vision, therefore, no passion. They ultimately fizzle out.

To bring your dream alive, change the way your mind thinks, create positive affirmations about who you need to be in order to make your dream a reality. Create realizable actions, steps or action items. Study and read autobiographies of great achievers, learn about their visions, their plans, learn about their strategies, their failings, their recovery and their achievements. Find a mentor! I did not do that early! I will conclude this nugget with my own quote: Do not kill your dreams; dare to be different like Joseph the son of Jacob, follow your vision and go where it leads.

2.  “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” ~J.C

Towers are very wonderful structures to behold, they rise up from the ground and “grow” far into the sky; their tops are not visible from the ground unless you deploy a drone or sit in a chopper.  Quite interestingly, when a tower is being built, you must be patient, it may take long before you see anything rising up from the ground. To build a tower, the structural engineers will first drill holes for several meters into the ground, the higher the tower is meant to be, the deeper and stronger the foundation must be. They need to pile it by driving steel or other material deep down. They pour concrete and other stabilizing materials. Due to the sheer engineering feat, a tower builder needs to put many things into consideration. The current world’s tallest structure stands at over 500 meters (the Burj Khalifah towers); it is said that the taller a tower is meant to be, the deeper the foundation needs to be.  Building a career, family or business like building a tower calls for planning and careful estimations. Never underestimate the wisdom of planning. Never break the protocol of life by jumping into things without planning.

After dreaming your dream or “seeing” your vision, you need to think about what you need to do to ensure that the dream materializes. So, after the Vision comes the Mission. The Mission looks at the step by step ladders you must build to support the vision. The story of two brothers who got different prophecies about their lives is an important case study. A seer said that one of them will be a king and that the other one will serve the “king”. Due to proper planning and dint of hard work, the one who was supposed to be a servant turned the table around and became the king. The other who was supposed to be the king turned out to be the servant due to his failure to plan. Quick recap of this nugget – Write down your vision, make a Plan, Set realizable Goals, Reflect on goals, Act on It and Review for possible adjustments.

3.  “I don’t care how much power, brilliance or energy you have, if you don’t harness it and focus it on a specific target, and hold it there you’re never going to accomplish as much as your ability warrants.” Zig Ziglar

It is good to make plans and follow them, but you must always remember that there is a lot that can be done, but you must sharpen your focus on your specific target; do not attempt to do everything or go into every venture you see or are invited to participate in. You must learn how to say politely and firmly “No”. Following everything the eye sees or mind thinks will make you lose focus. This is a recipe for failure!

Many people spread themselves and resources too thin whilst trying to do everything. This holds true in making career plans, life or other family decisions. Specialization leads to expertise in a particular field. Even if you have the ability to do everything, you can not have the time or resources to do everything. Many have tried to expand the number of hours in a day to over 24 hours, however, nature has a way of catching up on all of us. You need to see your own ability and decide on what to concentrate your time, effort, and resources on. Better be an innovator instead of standing only on what others have done. Discover your talents and giftings and carve a niche for yourself. There is always a prize for innovation. “Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all of our resources on mastering a single area of our lives.” Tony Robbins. My conclusion; Be Intentional.

4.  “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Never underestimate the importance of hard work. “Hard work” however does not have to be hard labor; it is really talking about tenacity and diligence. You can pick up the autobiography of any great man and read about their visions, plans, pains, losses, dashed hopes, and expectation. You can put your brains and brawn to work to ensure the achievement of your goal(s). You may have to invent a machine for performing physical tasks, but you still have to work to innovate it. The achievement of your vision will task your patience, you need to withstand the “heat” and the pressure. You have to water and polish the “product” before finally displaying it for all to see. This means you need to cut, trim, scale before you show it off. We have learnt that before pure gold can come forth, you have to go through several refining and purifying steps, you have to apply tremendous heat. Most of the time, the best of one’s ability comes when proper pressure is applied.

We live in a fast world, everything must happen now, it is a world of microwaves, supersonic jets, supercomputers; the faster, the better. However, Robert Anthony says “moving fast is not the same as going somewhere”.  I do not have anything against being fast, but I prefer diligence coupled with passion. Tommy Hilfiger said the road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive, and passion, it is possible to achieve the American (or your own) dream.

5. “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”  Jack Canfield.

Mr. Abraham Lincoln taught us a good lesson in defining success or failure. It is on record that he had many failures, sicknesses, loss of home, failed to become the Speaker of his State’s Congress; failed to become an Elector; failed thrice to become a Congressman; failed twice to become a Senator; failed once his party’s Vice-Presidential nomination in 1856; but finally in 1860, he was elected the President of the United States of America. So, beware of how you define failure. At the end of the day, you need discipline. Abraham Lincoln concluded by saying “Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”

Failure happens when you quit and give up. The light bulb would probably not have happened if Thomas Edison gave up. He tried about 10,000 ways to develop the light bulb, it didn’t work. To his scoffers, Thomas Edison was reputed as saying “I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” This statement demonstrates he was not afraid of “failing”.  One of my favorite literature books is “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. I see the tragic flaw of the hero, Okonkwo, whose life was shaped by the deep and foreboding fear of failure. His father, Unoka, was a total failure by the standards of his clan. He was derided and castigated by the whole clan; his poverty was legendary. Okonkwo worked really hard to not end up like his father. He nursed a secret that he was afraid of telling anyone, he had the fear of failing. Speaking about Okonkwo, the writer said “… But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness…” Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart). At the end of the day, the man who was known to be hardworking and a hero, became a villain and he died with ignominy, due to his foreboding fear.

Walter D. Wintle will give you the nugget here; “If you think you are beaten, you are
If you think you dare not, you don’t, If you like to win, but you think you can’t, It is almost certain you won’t. If you think you will lose, you’re lost. For out of the world we find, Success begins with a fellow’s will It’s all in the state of mind’

6.  “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  Thomas Edison

Opportunity is the chance of a lifetime and they are programmed to cross the way of every man and woman probably once. There will definitely be openings that you can walk through in life, but there is one that trumps all. This is the life changer and the defining one. Procrastination is a report card of laziness. Comparing yourself to another is an admission of failure. It is not a wise thing to do since you may not know what the other fellow has had to cope with.

When people deride achievers by merely saying they were lucky, I think it is unfair. There is no such thing as plain “luck.” My definition of luck is when you have prepared fully and an opportunity comes, then as they say, success is inevitable. Ernest Agyemang Yeboah said “We yearn for opportunities; we pray for opportunities and we seek for opportunities. The good news is that we meet opportunities. The bad news is that we miss the opportunities only to come to a later realization of missed opportunities.”

My nugget here is that you need to be prepared and be ready to take a good shot at a chance occurrence. Sometimes, you are waiting for an opportunity, but you fail to recognize it when it’s by your side. Winston S. Churchill cautioned us that: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Opportunity is only a chance, you still have to work at it!

7. Take Joy in Your Achievements

My last nugget for you is never to beat yourself for what you think you have not achieved, instead, take joy in what you have achieved, celebrate yourself and your achievements. Do not be too hard on yourself. Quit worrying and be happy. Learn from what has not worked, but do not stay down, that is the definition of real failure.

Be grateful for what you have, there are many who would prefer to be you, but you know what? You are You and you are unique!


Older Akin Reju

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