Day, Night and the Second Day

(c) Nobel Prize Website

It’s already the 2nd day of January — and you’re probably reading this close to the end of the day. Even though the news channels are still beaming the stories of how the whole world celebrated the entry of the new year (at least for those who use this same 12-month calendar), the first page of the 365-day calendar is gone forever — it was day, then night, then the second day. I have spent a few minutes of the day thinking through what I have been able to add to the 100% value that 2007 holds, noting that 0.3% of that 100% is already gone (do the maths and 1 out of 365 will be about that), and I am wondering if you’re also on the same page.

In 2006, one of the most recurrent questions I got from hundreds of young people is: “how can I move from insignificance to significance?” The question came in many modes but had the same string running through it. We seem to have people out there who wish to be better than they are, but are always caught doing the same things. It was a wise man who said that “it is folly to do the same thing over and over again, and expect a different result.” As it were, we are all products of our repeated actions, and there’s no way we can break away from what we intentionally create. Let me quote my senior colleague: “an object will continue in a state of rest or constant uniform motion unless otherwise acted upon by a force.” That was from Isaac Newton, in his popular First Law of Motion. It is reality to state that we can not change from regular to significant if we keep reading the things we read, spending time the way we do, and knowing only the things we are taught within four walls.

In much of my public speaking career, I have illustrated the various categories of people on earth with a triangle. If you draw three equidistant lines to create 3 segments, you will notice that the lowest part has more space — and we’ll refer to that as Level A, where the majority of the world’s population dwell. There, it is a jungle, and only the rough may manage to survive (meanwhile, survival is even way below existence, which is a step below living). At that level, occupied by people I usually refer to as Anywhere Belle Face (ABF) (the pidgin variation of anywhere is good direction), it is normal to spend the day without any thought of what you want done by the end of the day. It is even usual to utilize your resources without a care in the world about what value you add to yourself. Permit me to move very quickly to the next level, Level B, where the space is still sizeable and the situation is not very much better than level A. Those who are in B are those who, in their own eyes, are very okay with where they are but know little about the greatness that lies ahead. This is the level where complacent people find their domain, and when others are sighted anywhere above them, they are quick to say, “ain’t that guy lucky?” It’s not luck… you are simply too lazy to move on and pay the price they have willfully paid. It’s the price of moving beyond the ordinary or complacent to the level where there are few that dare.

Leaning on Pareto’s Principle, we know that the last level of the triangle, Level C, has only about 20% of (or much less than) the entire population of any people-group. This level is where those who dare to challenge their status quo ante eventually migrate to. A mentor described this level as the Concentric Circle of Conspiracy, a region where no one really cares about who you are (as defined by background, education, status, etc) but they are inspired by what you do — and to them, that is really who you are. This is the level where every great man or woman whose (auto)biography makes you wow live(d) their lives. Mention names like Nelson Mandela and you can be sure he sits atop this section of the triangle — as not many people remember if he ever made any mistake, but focus on how his name is such a powerful brand that any nation, organization, project or effort would pay anything to get his endorsement. How about the man named Bill Clinton, of whom the world thought an end had come when a certain Monica showed up in his life? Odds are that you don’t even remember Monica’s surname, but you cannot doubt the fact that Bill Clinton’s name brings up good memories of how one man can lend his name to change in the world!

I have always been a big fan of Prof. Wole Soyinka, from the days when his literary work adorned my father’s library to the day we met in 3D — and even now. I have had to read a few books and spend quite some time online to dig up his entire story, but ask an average journalist why every word of his makes headlines and their answer will not be far away from how he lives in Level C. Each time someone sees his name in the reference of my resume, they go: “are you really sure this segment of your resume is not a lie?” And I am not surprised, so much that one of such people sent me an eMail that I was unemployable seeing that I had such a man in my life! Yeah, right! How about my career mentor, Philip Emeagwali, the man whom a few people have spent a better part of their lives trying to disprove his brilliant exploits, but have only added to his prominence on varying fronts? Just a mention of his name and a visit to his website and I was awed — and decided I was going to meet him to explain how inspired I was. Though we have exchanged eMails and almost met 2 years ago (I missed an event where he was to hand me an award plaque, no thanks to a certain embassy:)), my story in ICTs will not be complete without mentioning how his story inspired an angry young man who would not stay at any level below C.

Much more has been written about these people, and I can spend the entire year speaking about this region called the Concentric Circle of Conspiracy, but let me move on to the koko (if you don’t get that, you need to listen to more Nigerian music). While we may admire the likes of Mandela, Clinton, Soyinka, Emeagwali, etc (and you may even dislike one or two of them, but can’t disregard their importance), we must not fail to realise that the complex interplay between their gift of time and how it is spent is what sets them apart from the rest. If Martin Luther King (Jr.) spent his time like every one else (even in the civil rights movement), we would not refer to him today as the face of distress-time motivation. What would you spend the last 364 time-gifts on? Trouble begins when you don’t even have an idea of what you want to arrive at by the end of this year (or by a certain period in your future), but you must settle down to that task ASAP. After a fair idea of what the target is, time comes for systematic steps in that direction. What weaknesses do I need to address this year? What opportunities must I not miss this year? What books must I read? (“A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink, “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman and “The Google Story” by David Vise were my top 3 in 2006.) Who are the people I must connect with? Which of my many talents must give way for the sharpening of another?

As we continue the walk through the year 2007, each day will turn to night, and then the next day will arrive. One day down the road, it will be December 31, 2007. What must you have added to yourself before then?

Just Like That…

(c) BBC News, 2007

It tickles me how every year, especially in the last few, as I begin to get text messages saying “Happy New Year, the new year is here” even before the clocks in Nigeria get any close to 12 midnight of the 31st of December. Yesterday, one of such messages from a location 3 hours ahead of Nigerian time (GMT + 1) said, “… this is my first text message in the year 2007, I can’t believe that 2006 is gone — just like that…” Each nation, region and time zone arrived the new year over a series of moments. 2006 is gone, just like that. But was it a well-spent year for me? You?

A few days (365, to be precise) ago, we were welcoming the year 2006. To a friend, “it was a very long year that had a fast first month and very slow days until mid-December”. Thrills, disappointments, near misses, close-to-achieving-it experiences, celebration-worthy achievements… and of course, the list goes on. Just like that, the young year became old, died and has now been archived in the history of all mankind (well, except for the few countries that have 2 more hours before the new year 🙂

For me, 2006 was a radical year. It was radical in terms of my involvements in processes that I hold very dear to my heart — all towards the improvement of both myself and those around me. But the usual question people ask is, “what’s up with the new year?” That is a pregnant question… which I have had the chance to answer over the past few days. Every year, I spend the last 2 weeks thinking over my past year and how it fits into the overall plan for my life and then spend the last week planning the next year — with a very strong focus on correcting the failures of the outgoing year, and also ensuring that the plans for the new year fit into an overall long-term goal.

For 2007, I had my 2006-2015 plan to consult, and it was interesting to note the few things that will characterise the year for me. Practical application of ICTs in socio-economic development, proof-bearing youth-led social entrepreneurship, sustained participation in nation-building, clear leadership in regional development and an informed role in global opportunities are the keay words that mark my year, 2007. How about yours? The real question to ask is, “what would I wish to see on my done list by December 31, 2007?” The beauty of planning is that when the year ends, just like that (to many), you would be able to sit back and count your gains — and of course, plan to make up for your losses.

Where are you headed in life? What can you do with this new gift of 365 days that can help you move your life in the direction of your dreams? Family, career, academics, name it… you now have the rare opportunity of 365 days (fast becoming 364) never lived by anyone else, during which you can recreate the image you see when you look into the mirror, and that men percieve when they hear your name. 2007 is my own year of Deliberate Progress and in terms of my involvements, I have a few surprises (pleasant ones) up my sleeve and will of course share with you through this platform.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your pen and paper (or laptop), and write what the next 364.5 days can add to your life. At the end of the year, it will be easier for you to know if you belong to the class of those who will — in the next few years — tell stories of how they are related to very successful people; or if you will be the one whose stories will be on many lips — not for vanity, but for the impact of your life on theirs. Hapy New Year, and please add the blogs of my friend Adeolu Akinyemi (www.deoluakinyemi.com) and mentor, Prof. Pat Utomi (www.utominotes.com) to your must-read before the end of the day.

Welcome to 2007… happy new year! And I trust that when it will be said of 2007 that it has gone “just like that,” you will have reasons to smile when remembering the laid out plans that have been met with action. To some, you will be called lucky but you can bet that what they call luck is a reflection of the interplay between your preparation (from the first day of the year) and the opportunities that will show up (all through the year).