“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
– Psalm 90:12 (KJV)
Dele was born to peasant farmers in a rusty town in Nigeria, his father sired many other sons and daughters and coupled with the fact that he was poor couldn’t send his kids to school. By dint of brilliance and hardwork Dele sees himself through school and ends up becoming rich, one of the richest in the country. Familiar story, right? Stories of rising from lack to plenty, from penury to wealth, from humble beginnings to a height of prominence like this abound in our country and the world over. This kind of people with little or no help from parents or relations who go on to achieve success despite the odds stacked against them are seen to be self-made. You agree? But I know someone who disagrees. His name is Malcolm.
I was in a training last year and people kept mentioning the book “Outliers.” I felt it was highly over-rated. This year, I got the book and wanted to read just to get those people off my back. I read it and oops, I found it to be one of the best books I have ever read (if you haven’t read it, you should.) We have all read all manners of success books and motivational writings and there is usually a pattern, the stories focus on intelligence and ambition, the author of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different. He believes there is nothing like being self made, he says,
“In Outliers, I want to convince you that….People don’t rise from nothing. The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities .” (Page 19).
And I think he did a pretty job at convincing us.
I didn’t have a problem with the book’s theory because it aligned properly with my belief. Here is one of my favourite Bible verses,
“I returned, and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, neither is bread to the wise nor yet riches to men of intelligence and understanding nor favour to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. ” – Ecclesiastes 9:11 (AMP).
It says what we achieve in life can be explained by the advantage of ‘time and chance.’ Sometimes we look at what we achieved in the midst of obstacles and feel like saying to our souls like the rich man in the parable of the rich fool “you have done well for yourself.” We want to take all the glory, forgetting that there is nothing we have that we didn’t receive.
Ours is a country where a lot is stacked against the individual who doesn’t want to
use long leg play ball. The society is corrupt and the odds are much, everything here comes in very short supply and people almost always go throat-cutting to get what they desire. If one is able to achieve his goal without an input from any other person, he might be tempted to say “I did it.”
Today, I’m taking stock and I have several instances where I may be tempted to say “I have tried for myself” but good sense tells me that isn’t wise. Let me share two of those instances with you:
Admission to study law
I was rounding off my secondary school education and looking up to getting admission into the university. It was (and still is) the era when over a million candidates wrote UME and only just about 100,000 were offered admission by the available universities. The odds were high enough. It was even made higher by the fact that I was seeking to study law. More often than not, the few slots available were sold to the highest bidder and there I was not wanting to “bid,” I just wanted to get it on merit.People felt I shouldn’t write JAMB the same year I wrote WAEC, they said I needed to really prepare well to be able to ‘fight’ against JAMB; against all odds, I wrote the UME and with that first and only UME, I gained admission to study Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and I made the merit list. That looks brilliant, doesn’t it?
Many of my friends would go on to say they weren’t surprised because “I had it in me.” I could have agreed but I knew (and still know) more than that. Not that I want to sound humble, but truly it wasn’t me! Don’t get it wrong, I wrote that exam fair and square.
Job after three months
In our clime, we hear that there aren’t jobs. Its not just a panic, even the government admits that jobs are scarce and unemployment high. You know how folks get scared every time they are about to graduate from school, because the future looks bleak and they even get scared the more when they are about to end their youth service programme. At the tail end of my NYSC a friend and fellow corps-member told me of how people go the length of extending their service year just because they want to still get the assured meagre allowee rather than plunge into the labour market that not only isn’t ready to accommodate new entrants but was letting go of some of its own. The things people go through to get jobs in this land are appalling. Yet it was against that background that I got my first letter barely three months after passing out from the NYSC scheme. And it wasn’t just any letter, it was from one of the best organisations in this country and it was purely on merit, too. My friends would say again, Seun deserves it. Who doesn’t?
I’m not trying to list my accomplishments here. I didn’t accomplish them. And I’m also not trying to play humble. I’m being real. I have only been a beneficiary of time and chance. True.
Why am I doing this? Tomorrow (26th October 2013), I would be a year older! And I’m just looking at my life and how good and faithful God has been to me, despite my unfaithfulness. All I have just tried to do here is to show gratitude to the father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has made time and chance favour me in several ways of which I have only mentioned two here. When I look at all he has done for me in these last twenty- seven years, I know its just pure grace (ore ofe) and I’m saying thank you for all He has done and trusting Him for the others He will still do. I’m also sharing this to encourage someone out there trusting God for something, He’s still in the business of making time and chance count for us.
If you wish, you could drop a sweet message here and I would really appreciate it.
I am @seunalade.