A while ago, I sat around and thought of what I’d be doing if I had everything I needed and didn’t have to work another day in my life. Well, as much as I’d love to give you an impressive lineup of pseudo-retiree activities, honestly, I’d probably be doing one of the following:
But of recent, it turns out that I might be considering a new activity…
And here’s why.
One Friday evening in my final year in the university, while taking a few junior students a ‘technical tutorial session’ on web design, I got a small note from a lady who was reading at the back of the class we were using. It read these words exactly:
“I don’t really know you, and we haven’t spoken before, but I’ve seen you around, helping and teaching people. I’ve got to say well done. Your reward might not be right now or right here on earth, but it’s definitely in heaven.”
Needless to say, I still have the note till today. (to put this miracle into context, I don’t even know where my NYSC certificate is. I came home, dropped it on my table and slept off. It disappeared.)
Maybe mother took it. But who knows?
In the past month, I’ve been privileged to do some interesting stuff. Firstly, in what I’d consider as personally record-breaking, I taught my first guest-lecture to a class of over a thousand university students. Then, told my little life-story to a classroom full of secondary school students. Next, graced a mentoring session for students who were about to start, or had started out in business. Finally, yesterday, I was on the panel of judges for a school business pitch contest.
Awesome month? Awesome feeling? Most definitely.
Let’s call it ‘October Rush’
But as much as I’d love to go on and on about how satisfying and rewarding it was, I’d also let you in on the work that came after:
In the past month, I’ve also had to reply over 100 follow-up Emails from students who had questions, business ideas or just needed some form of clarification on stuff they were working on, and spent over 5 hours on the phone doing the same. And it still goes on. Somehow, it hurts when an email goes unanswered for more than 24 hours due to my weird work schedule.
Now, for a little throwback.
During my service year, I was posted to a state government school as a computer teacher… actually, the only computer teacher in the entire junior school of over 1,500 students. Oh, gosh, was it an experience. I remember setting my first test questions for the JSS3 students and thinking ‘Oh, yes. These guys are in for it’. They’re what we call ‘theory’ (in your own words) questions. But, oh boy… it wasn’t until the class captains came to drop the test scripts that I knew I was in trouble. To cut the long story short, as we weren’t allowed to recruit students, I spent over 3 weeks personally marking that test, and got a healthy dose of laughter from the other teachers for setting difficult questions. Needless to say, from then on, all my tests were highly-basic ‘objective’ and ‘fill in the gap’ questions.
What I found interesting about my service year was the amount of satisfaction I got from seeing the students learn new things, or when a student I personally challenged got better grades… and even from coming up with simple initiatives that exponentially increased learning. For example, since I have such terrible grasp of my native language, I taught in
flawless English, and had the students who understood only Yoruba form a circle where a fellow student helped me translate.
Looking back, I now understand why, even with the pressure of running a business, I still chose to stay dedicated to my job as a teacher. Always in school 4 days a week, I never told my principal about other commitments. I remember going MIA for 3 days due to an intensive exhibition in another state – and another 1 week because we had 3 meetings in 2 Northern states – and not being particularly fond of the fights with my principal that ensued after.
But I would never have traded being a teacher for anything else.
Because they say you can only connect the dots looking backwards. And honestly, looking back, I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and I’ve figured out that a teacher’s job is truly one of the most critical jobs in the world. And it needs to be taken seriously. Teachers wield a huge amount of influence over the learners – And so, can’t afford to misuse that privilege.
With the right teachers, I believe we can truly change the world.
So, on a final note, here’s to all teachers… but first:
And, finally, to you. Because I believe you can take a minute out of your busy schedule to teach someone something today.
Like a final puzzle piece,
It all makes perfect sense to me…
The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity.
The smartest thing I’ve ever learned
Is that I don’t have all the answers,
Just a little light to call my own.
Though it pales in comparison
To the overarching shadows,
A speck of light can reignite the sun
And swallow darkness whole.
“With great power, comes great electricity bills…” (black humor, but couldn’t be any more true…)
At Grappleline, we’ve been privileged to take up a number of interesting and audacious projects lately. And we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. For this, I’m really excited.
A particularly impressive project would be our most recent one – an Enterprise Software Deployment for the Power Sector. Lots of buzzwords, right? I could go into details, but I’m still very much of a newcomer. My partner Tega would be the subject matter expert in this scenario. (I’ve got my other strengths, okay? So it’s not that bad.)
But first, allow me to take things back a bit…
I’ve gotta admit that when we kicked off at Grappleline, we were quite shortsighted. And that’s normal, especially when you start a company right out of university. It’s difficult to see the world beyond your basic line-of-sight. The basic ingredients were there – passion, dedication, commitment (wait… don’t they all mean the same thing? Now you see why I despise buzz-words), but honestly, without a clear, objective view of the possibilities that existed beyond what we knew, it was quite difficult to establish a clear-cut direction for the company, and that really affected us, in no small manner.
But things are changing.
So, back to the story.
In the past 2 months, we’ve had to more than double our staff capacity. All software developers. We’ve spent nights and weekends staring at computer screens, battling glare and chugging down coffee (or anything else that keeps the developers awake). Oh, it’s been an incredible experience. And in between driving over to the clients’ for review meetings, keeping our people happy and meeting deadlines, I’ve learnt a few lessons about running a company:
But that’s actually not the main story.
I’ve fallen in love with Energy.
Wait. No, I’m not talking about some sort of ethereal definition of energy… I’m talking about actual Energy. Yes, Power. Electricity and stuff.
In the roadmap of Nigeria, I believe the power sector is about to get better, more organized and relatively more efficient. As a regular citizen, that might be quite difficult to believe, but if you’ve been in our shoes for the past few months, it’s easier to understand why I made that statement.
(Side Note) – Gosh, we need better power in this country. I had light for a few hours today and ended up binge-watching Studio 1.0 on Bloomberg. Learnt a lot. Imagine if there was light for the entire day.
So, here’s what might happen. In the next few years, through the combination of big data, smart grids, standardized energy efficiency indices, stakeholder organization, giving a semblance of control to actual end-users, (and let’s not forget the all-too-important role of government policy), I believe we’re heading for better days.
And at Grappleline, we’re excited about that.
So, in our own little way, we’re driving that change. Firstly, by conducting basic research on the possibilities that exist in the sector. Then, moving forward, to the best of our capacity, we hope to take actual strides to do things that really matter. It’s all quite hazy, but I’d keep you updated, okay?
So, on a final note…
Between building our strengths as a Software/Digital Media/Mobile Company, streamlining our product pipeline and then researching into new possibilities in the industry, I think we’re making good progress. We’re not a tad-bit where we’re supposed to be, but I’m glad the journey has started. In the next few years, we hope to build a more powerful company.
But we know all too well, that with great power, comes great responsibility *cue Uncle Ben from Spiderman here*.
So, I sincerely hope we’re ready to be responsible enough to give it what it takes.
Taking a quick, retrospective look at the things I’ve been privileged to learn in my few years alive, I can’t help but notice the incredible, formative power that stories wield…
Let me bring things a bit closer to home.
In the past 1 year, I vividly remember just about 3 of all the books I read. Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ and ‘What the Dog saw’ would be a classic case in point. If you’re familiar with Gladwell’s writing style, you’d recall the fact that he mostly recounts real-life experiences of people, remarkable or regular, and then he does something strange. Just as you’re about to figure out what the bottom-line of the story is, he leaves you in this unnerving limbo, which, in trying to make logical sense of what you’ve just read, your mind frantically starts putting fragmented pieces together, searching for some sort of meaning. The final arrangement of these separate pieces could have a thousand permutations, enough to create millions of unique narratives/lessons for each individual that reads his literature. I particularly remember sitting and staring blankly for about 20 minutes on my bed after reading the final chapter of ‘Outliers’. It was, to say the least, a revealing learning experience. And I still haven’t gotten over it.
Same thing goes with such books as Ofili’s ‘How Stupidity saved my life’, C.S Lewis’ literature and John Kotter’s ‘Our Iceberg is Melting’, albeit that writing styles are significantly varied from one author to another, first being lifestyle, second, Faith and third, business.
Now, where was I going with this? Okay… yes. I remember.
Well, personally, I’m highly of the opinion that this life we lead is just too complicated… interestingly beautiful… too magnificent… too diverse… and too flanked with constantly alternating, dynamic variables for anyone to claim to know it all… or as a matter of fact, claim to know anything at all – not to talk of flaunting our opinions as supreme or foolproof. Why? Because our experiences, situations, exigencies and configurations differ, and most times, do so by more than just a long shot. I, for example, would most likely live an entirely different life from some other guy who shares the same birth-date, time & place with me. Yes, it goes that deep.
So, all this begs one simple question – For anyone burdened with the highly indispensable role of knowledge transfer… a parent, teacher, writer, blogger, sibling or leader… what are the best ways to go about creating relational, interpersonal or social influence in a way that is void of bias and can relate to any target audience?
Well, I think the answer might be quite simple.
We need to tell more of our own stories.
Those real, honest, transparent and unbridled stories.
We need to be a bit more vulnerable, sometimes laying down our entire psychological line of defence… gently cracking open the oyster not minding whether there’s beauty within or not… We need to share the good, the bad and the ugly side of our stories, sometimes in reversed order. We need to, for once, get off our high horses and our incessant creation of make-believe mannequins signaling the flawed fact that we have everything figured out, or that the world works our way, or that we’re incapable of making mistakes.
Now, the creative outlets for these stories might differ – it could be a pen or a keyboard, a tongue or braille, across social media or across the dinner table… But if we look to make true impact, the message within our narratives need to remain the same.
So, what do I know? Well, I’m not sure. But here’s what I think.
I think we’re called to be a little less judgmental and self-sufficient – to be unafraid of coming across as ‘imperfect’, ‘damaged goods’ or ‘less than ideal’. And to do this, we’ve gotta tell our real stories, pacified with even the slightest glimmer of hope that in this brief journey called life, by sharing the very essence of what makes us ‘be’, we could, perhaps, find the very thing that we have been searching for all along…
Our true selves.
In a land there’s a town…
And in that town there’s a house…
And in that house there’s a baby…
And in that baby there’s a heart I love…
I’m gonna take it with me when I go.
– JJ Heller.