It is my sincere desire that young people will heed the call of excellence in spite of the prevailing mediocrity around them today. Regardless of the culture of underperformance that is being celebrated and dignified today, they must make a personal commitment to stretch the limits of their commitment, the quality of life they live and work they produce.
Excellence is not an attitude that can be turned on and off. Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore an habit, not an act.” If we reason along this line, is it not true by the long history of mediocrity in Nigeria that we have an ingrained habit?
A lackluster approach to life, politics, work and business has prevailed long enough that excellence though unconsciously desired, is likely to come across as shocking. Because mediocrity flourishes, we are accustomed to making little demands of ourselves and of others and we roll out drums for underachievers.
In Nigeria, Politics is characterized by half-hearted commitment to development and at best, cosmetic projects and policies. At work, competence and quality crumbles under the weight of nepotism, superficiality and cheap office politics.
Our educational system is such that students can get by with superficial knowledge and their lecturers cannot challenge them to excellence because most are themselves gold standards of mediocrity. Businesses treat innovation and excellent Customer Service as burdens because they have been able to reap huge profits over the years while doing just the minimum requirement.
Let us face this truth – WE CAN CHANGE. In the absence of institutional frameworks that foster excellence or leadership that exemplifies it, we must demand excellence of ourselves and carry out a personal crusade against mediocrity. And this we must do. This is because even though we are potentially equal, life is designed to separate people and nations over time along the divide of excellence or mediocrity.
Our global competitiveness as young people lies in our response to excellence. Our best must regularly prevail in all that we do. You can be good in a Nigerian system that allows for mediocrity but you can never be great in the context of a global economy and social system where meritocracy is the determinant of relevance. The implication of my thought here is that those who scorn excellence will always live to regret it.
Another way to arrest this culture is a lifelong dedication to growth and learning, whether we are out of school or not. Failure in our attempt at the school system should not define our efforts in other critical avenues of learning in life. Young people must be trained in the fundamental field of knowledge acquisition and application. They must embrace the strength of mind and character needed for this undertaking. They must learn to embrace mental exertion. The brain must get into the habit of sweating through rigorous use, for that is how it will grow to heights of productivity and depths of insight.
This is your personal responsibility! Our survival as young people and as a nation is in a paradigm of EXCESS, a bold and countercurrent swim against the tides of mediocrity. We need excellent students, doctors, business men, teachers, lawyers, engineers, consultants and artisans.
Excellence will start when we begin to ask ourselves these questions – Am I performing at the highest level possible? Is this the best I can give?
It no longer takes uncanny insight to see the weak and popular variables that define most young people. This includes sexual prowess, parties, clubbing, money, clothes, cars, fame, acceptance, approval just to name a few. It is in the midst of this errant crowd of competing values that destinies are lost and lives utterly destroyed. They are quick to forget that the choices of today are the creators of the happiness, pain and regrets of the years ahead.
Young people, get this straight – It is impossible to live recklessly today and then hope tomorrow will turn in your favour. We must invest a significant amount of positive reasoning and meaningful sacrifice in today if we are to reap prosperity, joy and lasting peace tomorrow.
Some ladies who fail in their attempts to find a good husband have forgotten the days of rebellious living and selling their bodies to men. Some men wonder why they have still not yet achieved their dreams but don’t acknowledge their clearly refusal to harness their youthful energy to produce productivity, efficiency and relevance at mid-life. Some are now recluse as their generation left them behind because they refused to do the needful when it matters the most.
My own life story has shown me that regardless of the depth of error, yesterday’s fool possess within him or her the power to embrace the requirement for today’s wisdom, to lead a fresh and new life of hope and transformation. I must not forget that providence has been gracious to me in restoring my lost years and using my failures as my stepping stones to relevance. I say this because I have friends in jail, psychiatric homes, and some dead who ignorantly abused their youth and have not risen from that quicksand. If they knew the end of their youthful folly, they would have made a better choice. But like I said, providence shielded me.
I wish young people will be cured from a destructive mindset focused on the present alone, heaping up pains and misery as years persist without a change of mind. Some of them refuse to take responsibility for their future but instead, ignorantly, they work hard to hurt their future. They refuse to be held accountable and will rebel authorities that try to curb their destruction. It is their way or no way.
I wish they would stop faulting everybody but themselves. I wish they would stop cooking up excuses for misbehaviour. I wish they can see the making of an unfruitful life best described as children in adult bodies. I grieve when I see these attitudes because another failed life, another weak future, and another crashed destiny are in the making. My greatest desire is that young people will see the impact of their today’s behaviour on their tomorrow.
Let me say this to you, young man or lady – truth is higher than your opinions or views. While opinion is a creation of man, truth is a creation of time and has been existing before life began. I say this to you because if we will be someone the world will reckon with even in death, our everyday must be seen as an opportunity to change our personal lives and be better.
Never forget that you are responsible for the outcome of your life; that today counts and must be maximized to arrive at the future you desire. This is the Life!
One of the goodness of failure is its capacity to instruct on hindsight. As I look back on my own experiences and seek to share about my past failure, I hope you learn a thing or two about the folly of self-conceit. No where does this folly show itself greater than in its self-assured ignorance, disdainful and close-minded attitude to knowledge and the wisdom of other people.
Growing up as a young man, I was naturally gifted with a philosophical, analytical and persuasive skill, a posture that allows me to somehow be ahead of my peers in general interpretation of issues as well as in identifying options. The early recognition of this gift required mentoring and guidance that would have made it more objective, usable and rewardable.
For many common reasons including youthful exuberance, I ignorantly, sincerely and zealously abused this gift. Now I understand that the brewers of evil are not necessarily evil people. They are usually those who were outwitted by evil to do unto themselves the greatest damage, even though sincerely. A warped mindset produced an over confidence that blinded me to the vital channels of truth and development that I needed so badly. Instead, I looked for the solutions only within myself and my obviously limited experience. I acquired a blindness to the wisdom of others and the curiousity it deserves. This was my undoing!
In no time, I became hooked on drugs, girls, parties, fashion, joined the cult and was failing academically. All these culminated into my leaving the University 2 months to my final exam. Hmmm! This slowed down my journey in life, incurring a price of misdemeanour I’m yet to fully recover from in spite of my present enviable status.
I have come to learn that the best of what we will become is not necessarily in us nor within our own opinions alone. Though always within our reach, it is never always within us. We owe it to ourselves to stretch beyond the limit of our personal experiences to find our greatest humility and connect it to the strength and unique advantage that only others can provide.Most of the solutions to our problems and complexities must be greeted with a fact-finding, probing and research posture. We must seek to understand the nature of things, not as they appear to be but as they really are.
Our first contact with new knowledge should be with humility and curiousity, not prejudice, bias, sentiments and self justification. This is because the knowledge that will deliver or create destruction are both rarely recognized in their true capacity at first contact. That is why LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT is subjective as it is not based on actual knowledge of the object of affection. There is a short-sightedness that comes with the arrival of a new experience that makes it difficult for mere men to embrace prescience except by divine interventions. Prescience is our capacity to anticipate future events, or more like this – seeing the end from the beginning. Because of this limitation, It is therefore important that we withhold judgement when coming in contact with old and new knowledge from within ourselves and especially from others.
We need an openness of mind that gives the entrance of knowledge a soft landing. This attitude doesn’t mean approval or acceptance but surely, it creates a platform for clarity. Afterwards, probing and questioning then become tools for fairly judging the veracity and credibility of the new knowledge.To ignore this commitment is to schedule seasons of sincere self-initiated attacks against one’s destiny and an unconscious self-sustained effort to slow yourself down.To go far in life and achieve destiny, I advice you stay open always and embrace the humility that says all of what I know is great, but all of what I must learn is even greater.
When the mind is not directed along these lines, the automatic experiences are losses, pains, regrets, and a life which learning never translates into a knowledge of the truth. And this is a terrible place to be! No matter who you are or what you do, as a rule, please stay open, stay curious and fact-find. Be quick to hear and slow to speak, calm in listening and slow to judge. Refuse to err on major matters of life by seeking guidance instead of experimenting.
Always remember, personal experience is always limited experience and wisdom necessitates an ability to stay open to knowledge and leverage the collective experiences of others to enrich your perspectives. THIS IS THE LIFE!
Welcome to today’s snippet of LESSONS from FAILURE with OLAKUNLE SORIYAN aired on SMOOTH 98.1. My focus on the show this morning was on PROBLEMS. I have said again and again that few have failed as much as i have. I’ve lost a lot to failure and i have also gained a lot from it. Failure has given me a mental posture towards so-called problems. I learnt it the hard way but it’s free for you here. You see, the three most important things in life after God, are PEOPLE, PLACES and EVENTS. The inter-play of these three creates your life; and correctly interpreting them is arguably the critical difference in people. These three variables create your reality, and when reality is wrongly interpreted, we naively create what we call PROBLEMS. If problems do exist, our most noble commitment should be to master how to solve them…every time. Problems are NEW EXPERIENCES. Learn this, there is always a significant level of DISCOMFORT, UNEASINESS and sometimes FEAR and ANXIETY that comes from the FRESHNESS of a NEW EXPERIENCE, or contact with the UNKNOWN. When you think you have a problem, it is because you have (either by your own foolishness, ignorance, unguarded outburst or untactful-ness or those of others) found yourself in a place your world-view terms as negative, shameful, painful or embarrassing. Whichever way, that place is a place you have not been before or was a nasty experience the last time you were there or you heard or knew someone was there. So we call it a problem. No! It’s not a problem; it is a NEW EXPERIENCE. A NEW EXPERIENCE is a necessary ladder to your next level of relevance; and It is the human duty to hold it to be completely true and self-evident within us that what we call problems are what actually define the relevance and meaning of solutions. If pain is not a reality, then victories and testimonies will be meaningless; as we ONLY celebrate a victory and sing songs of testimony because the situation initially held a potential for pain, shame, embarrassment or even death. Don’t forget that whatever you are going through now can get worse if you don’t get the right thinking and perception. Truth is, we all possess the power to make anything what it will be. It is in your hands!