There is this quote by Vinnie Rege that I love and it says – “Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people. If I’m not there, I go to work.” Some of us live our lives like Rege. We want to get to the top. We have a set goal, an expectation of where we’d love to be. However, we ask ourselves every day, what’s the formula for making it to that desired place? How do I make it to the Forbes list of world’s richest men? We wish we have the formula for wealth.
We all know what a formula is, but let’s see some definitions of the word ‘formula’ to help us in this discourse. A formula has been defined as:
1. A set form of words, as for stating or declaring something definitely or authoritatively, for indicating procedure to be followed, or for prescribed use on some ceremonial occasion.
2. Any fixed or conventional method for doing something.
3. A recipe or prescription.
I am sure the above have been helpful, however, without any claim to being a wordsmith, let me state what the word ‘formula’ means to me – the secret code that helps you solve a problem. That simple, time tested key to arriving at the right answer. Like Hadan Gula, the grandson of Arad Gula in Goeorge Clason’s classic, ‘The richest man in Babylon’ who discovered his grandfather’s secret key to the golden shekels, we all wish we have the formula of wealth! We wish we know that ‘something’ that simplifies our effort, that assures us of success if we adhere to it. My question is this – do you know that complete formula for wealth???
Some of us are at that point in life that people call “real life” (no more make up or film trick, just pure and raw action). That time in life when you’re out of school and the only thing you get from your folks is encouragement and love, not cash; when you leave home at 6am and return at 8pm and at the end of the month you get ‘rewarded’ with an alert. You are grateful to God, because it’s not everyone that has it that good. It’s not that you are ‘there’ yet but you are glad you are making progress, especially in a society that has many odds staked against you.
At that point in life, you know it’s not yet uhuru. You understand that every contribution you make today adds to your tomorrow. Every step you take takes you closer to your destination because every step counts in the dash race. Oh, life is not a dash race, but a marathon! All the same, every lap adds up to your success in the marathon. Probably, you have heard people say that ‘you can never be rich working for another’? The Yoruba people believe so much in this saying and one of their popular adages puts it this way, “ise omo alaseje, owo omo alasela,” a rough interpretation of that is that ‘you work to survive, but you only get wealth by being enterprising’. And, because you don’t just want to survive but hit it big, you begin to think – how can I be enterprising?
I love reading motivational books, but more importantly, I love reading real life stories. In a motivational book, the author interprets the story to suit his message; in real life stories, I try to bring out the success secrets embedded in the story. In a motivational book, the author sells to us what he believes is the reason why the dramatis persona of his story hit success or why failure hit him; from real life stories, I try to figure out for myself why I think the person got it right or wrong, the inferences are mine. With the new secret learnt I go to work on making myself better and on reaching for my goal faster. I love reading the stories of great men because I have heard that great men may not share their secrets with you but they will tell you their stories. And, the secrets of great men are hidden in their stories! So I encourage you to read the stories of men that have gone ahead. And, don’t limit yourself to just the stories of the rich, read those of the wretched too. If God could encourage us to learn from ants, why can’t we then learn from other human beings who made efforts but just didn’t hit it big. My people say, ‘ogbon o’logbon ni kii je ka pe agba ni were” (be open to learn from all). Learn from the rich and learn from the poor.
So, today I read the story of a man born in the 1930s in a small village in Ogun State. This man so much loved the good life that he was popularly referred to as ‘chop life’ which seemed to suggest that extravagancy and flamboyancy was his way of life as a youth. After completing his secondary school education in 1955, because of his love for the fast life, ‘chop life’ shunned education rather than continuing with his ambition of studying law and toeing the good path of his elder brother who was pursuing a degree in pharmacy. In 1963, when he finally thought of doing something for himself all he could come up with was to open a pool shop. Hear him in his own words, “having no capital, I looked for a business that required little or no capital and what came to my mind was to be a pool agent, because to be a pool agent, what you just need is to get a table and your pen.” Today, ‘chop life’ is back to his village! With the little glimpses from the story of this man, I’m sure you can pick one or two things that he did wrong and contributed to him retiring poor to his country home, right?
But alas, ‘chop life’ is not wretched today, he has never been! Even with his seemingly unorthodox approach to life, ‘chop life’ is a success story today. He is today regarded as one of the ten (10) richest Nigerians alive, ‘chop life’ sits atop a multi-million naira lotto company popular on the streets of Lagos and Oyo states. People believe ‘chop money’ made his money from a lottery win!
I’m not telling you to start or continue living a life of flamboyancy, no! Neither do I encourage you to try out your luck with ‘baba Ijebu’. I have never played it in my life and have no plan to. But this is one story that seems to defy many of the formulae for wealth being peddled about. So I ask again – what is the Almighty formula to wealth? I am not trying to cast aspersion on the protagonist of our story, no. I love his story and I am using his story because unorthodox climb to the ladder of wealth such as this supports the saying of the author of Ecclesiastes in chapter 9 verses 11 of that book that: “… THE RACE IS NOT TO THE SWIFT, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but TIME AND CHANCE HAPPENETH TO THEM ALL.”
I have an idea of the components in the formula of wealth. Motivational writers and speakers do too, that’s what they try to share in their books and seminars. However, none of them can clearly tell us they have the full ‘recipe.’ That explains why we have many ‘success’ books and people still continue to write on the topic. I know that having God in that equation is an added advantage for HE says in Isaiah 48:17 that ‘I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit.’ I also know that wealth is not tied down to a particular religion, tribe, race, colour, creed, age group, sex or trade. From the stories of greats like Thomas Edison, Colonel Harland D. Sanders etc, I know that persistence is in the equation. From the story of Roger Bannister and the Wright brothers (Wilbur and Orville) I deduce that the recipe has no respect for prevailing world opinions because they did what their respective worlds thought impossible. I also know that diligence in work must be factored in, the Holy Book in Ecclesiastes 9:10 says ‘whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might’ and then the benefit stated in Proverbs 22:29 – of standing before great men will follow.
Let me state my own humble opinion. To borrow the words of Lord Alfred Denning,I believe that wealth, just like life itself and everything in life, is not a subject of mathematical precision. I may be wrong, so I look forward to hearing your own opinion. While growing up, one of the shows I used to watch on the now defunct NTA 7, Tejuosho was “tan mo?” (Who knows it?). When a question was asked, the audience would burst into the programme’s theme song: “tan moooo? Ko wa so, ni kiakia ko wa so” (whoever knows it should come out to tell us). So, friends, I throw the question open to all: do you know it or by chance know someone who knows it?