I was talking with my roommate, Belema when he said he enjoys going home for holidays-so he can spend time with his father, discussing deep things. I couldn’t agree more, and I remember saying “that means you have a good father. If you want to talk with him so often, he must be a wise man”
When I became 13 years old, I went to the beach on my birthday.
It was the first time I rode on a horse, the first time I had a beef burger. It was also the first time that thinking at an intelligent level consciously began. I still have the Polaroid- me in a white and blue check shirt, with those foolish lettering popular among boys my age then.
When I got down from the horse, we took a walk down bar beach. And one man started telling me about how life is all about choices. We got into the car, and as we drove down Marina, He showed me a “danfo” driver and asked – “What’s the difference between me and that man? Why should I be driving this Nissan and him a rickety bus?”
Of course I drew a blank but I went for “because he didn’t go to school?” He answered me by telling me it was more to that. School was not exactly a guarantee of success or failure, but a serious determining factor. He said,
“It’s all about choice. Life is about choice. Choices have consequences. Consequences shape your future. Tell me, why is it that some people go to Tantaliser’s, Mr. Bigg’s… and someone’s job is just to open the door? If others have money to go in and enjoy themselves, why should I be the one to open the door for them? During the Olympics, Is it everyone at the stadium that gets a medal? And you see 30,000 or 50, 000 people cheering as if they’re being paid. I did not come to this world to be a spectator; I came to play in the arena and to win. The choices you make today will determine whether you’ll be a spectator clapping for others throughout life, or a medalist receiving the applause”
That was the first discussion I ever had with my dad. Not that we didn’t talk or anything, but beyond moral upbringing and scolding for breaking a glass/dish (it was a big deal back then), we had never communicated on this level. He was talking about how I needed to get my mathematics grade above “F” level. That talk kept ringing in my ears. Every time I passed the security man at the gate of my school, I remembered that the difference between the principal and the gateman was education, opportunity and luck.
Luck? My dad says “there’s no such thing as luck. Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”.
And all those my teenage years when the hormones were raging, when I’d spend long nights chatting, skyping, facebooking- he’d tell me repeatedly, “Son, time (like money) is a fixed asset. The more you spend on one thing, the less you have to spend on something else. If you spend so much time on Facebook, what time do you have for your books? ” It was not the most pleasant thing to hear repeatedly but he told me all the same.
One day, My dad called my sister and I into the study in the Port Harcourt house. He said, “there’s something I call ‘Differential Manhood at Noon’. The people you started nursery school didn’t go to the same primary school with you. Same with primary, secondary school and university. Life begins to differentiate between you and your peers. You need to have something in your hand to work with, for that ‘lucky’ break to favour you. Opportunities are wasted because when they come, the people concerned aren’t ready”
He encouraged us to take training courses, to develop skills especially when we were on holidays. I took a course in Visual Basic programming and he paid (even though it wasn’t really relevant to my field, law). When I wanted to take a course in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), he gave me the money without questioning me. He said “This is the kind of thing you should be doing. With this qualification, you are setting yourself apart from your classmates who graduated with you. Invest in skills, acquire them , no matter how much it costs you- it’s a sacrifice for your future. What I enjoy now is as a result of my own father sending me to school – when education was not popular, when he could have married more wives and loafed around town feeling cool!”
Even when I was having some emotional conundrums in my tiny heart, the psychologist picked it out. He said “My son, if a woman rejects your love, don’t victimize her. It doesn’t make her a bad person- her only crime is that she doesn’t feel the way you do. If she turns you down, don’t disappear or hate her or anything. Just show her love- not because you’re trying to get back at her, but throughout life, she’ll NEVER forget you. You become the standard by which she judges any man that comes her way. If for any reason she doesn’t get any person better than you, she’ll live with the regret that she let a good one get away”. Then he went ahead to tell me of the first girl he loved (and actually did something about it). I felt consoled, and the advice he gave me helped me live through the brutal rejection I just got. (actually I’m still living on that)
Funny enough, I was still a teenager when he started allowing me to handle projects for him. He got me to supervise a building project in Abuja- first a renovation then an actual building (plastering, ceiling, German flooring, tiling, wells, fencing and all that stuff). I was honoured that he trusted me with such a serious thing. At first it was tiring- travelling that distance, taking bikes on a very bad road, sitting at a construction site bored to bits and inhaling cement. But it was a rewarding experience. I had learned to handle unskilled labourers, account for every single naira spent, plus my pidgin English vocabulary expanded!!!!!
When I was done, he thanked me for doing the work. He said “that’s what I call sacrificing your comfort of today for tomorrow. A lot of people are poor and miserable because they ate their tomorrow today. A lot of other people are miserable because after inconveniencing themselves today, they foolishly distribute their tomorrow to people who refused to plan their lives”.
A new dimension of talk started; it moved from basic choice-making to long-term planning. He’d tell me, “begin to picture where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, 50 years. Then you make plans to achieve what you have dreamed up. You might not get it all 100%, but with God on your side, you can’t get it wrong”
He summarized it thus, “Plan your life, or you will fulfill another man’s destiny. If you don’t write the script for your life, someone will write it for you in his/her advantage, and make you act it out”
Today this man that has become my success coach over the years turns 52. He probably looks 10 years younger. This golfer, husband of one wife, father of 6 children, seasoned Journalist, PR consultant (and many other things) has provided a bright light for me to follow. I have never followed a word of advice he gave me (which did not work). I have watched him grow from strength to strength; I have watched his principles tested and trusted. Incidentally we share the same names- and if that’s any indication of how my life will be, I’m glad to believe that I have a very bright future ahead of me.
Happy Birthday, Dad