By Donald PenPrince
So I have this friend. He works for one of these tech companies in Silicon Valley. He’s a programmer. He earns thousands of dollars yearly, drives a Benz and lives in a house that’s the size of the one my father built after working all his life till retirement in one of the best oil companies. This guy is in his early 20s meanwhile. He’s ‘ballin’, doing all the fascinating things. I know what you want to say, he’s into internet fraud(yahoo yahoo) or something sinister. No he’s not. The idea that every rich Nigerian is, is wrong. Some of us can be smart, clever innovators.
So he’s smart. I know because I lived with him for a long time. He’s one of the most knowledgeable people I know. I even wrote a story about him.
So before Silicon Valley, before the Benz, before the house and beautiful girls, he was studying Forensic science and doing tutorials for white chicks abroad, also heavily in debt. And before this he was living with me in Abule Oja and we were drinking garri for days and brainstorming on how to change the world while struggling to get by. We had to share clothes and a couple other things. And no, not girls you pervert.
So I am opening an article about winning with this guy’s story. Is he winning? That’s subjective. But most of you would agree that a guy who drives a Benz, lives in a huge house and goes around with beautiful women is. Me, the part I pick is that he’s doing something we always talked about, making money from his trade, his craft, something he always dreamed about. And that’s what I consider winning. Doing the things you always dreamed of. So long as your dreams are worthwhile. Also of note is that he’s very young. Still in his early 20s now. And that’s young by Nigerian standards. I mean, we develop late here. Early 20s is not a bad time to be writing Jamb so I think he’s doing particularly well. I’m sure you do too. I mean, the Benz.
So me and this dude are still in touch. Still close. We talk all the time, he sends me money every now and then. And I asked him one day. How do you win? How did you? And the answer he gives me is one sentence; find something to do, start it and keep at it. What??!! That it? Too simple. It sounded nonsensical to me who was looking for a magic-elixir answer then. It Sounded like typical Naija people telling you how they made it. ‘The Lord did it.’ But was that what he was doing? No. He was telling me the simple truth. It was a bit more complicated. But he wasn’t one for many words. I had to break it down over the years and I am now trying to explain what I got in so many words.
Find something to do, start it and keep at it. That time I thought, wasn’t I already doing something? So I just had to keep as I was already doing, nothing new? I wasn’t happy with that. I wanted to be told what to do. A specific action that would take weeks and then I would ‘blow.’ When this my guy bought his Benz, not his first car by then, the caption that went with his Instagram post of it was the famous Drake line ‘all it took was patience.’ Is that really all it takes? Mostly. If you have found what to do and started it. Not magic or secret wisdom. Sure those help too. If you can pay the price for magic. Even secret wisdom takes time to discern.
So this my guy. I’ll tell you a bit about his background in an attempt to disambiguate his answer on how to win. His dad was a Shell worker. They lived in Shell estate. One of the things he had access to early was the internet. He spent a lot of time on the internet. At a time when the internet was an extreme luxury. You had to spend thousands for a few hours and go for overnight browsing in cafes. Before then even. You needed millions to set up a browsing cafe. Most of us saved to use the internet then and only for a few mins. He had unlimited internet this early. The results, like I said he was very knowledge. He was also very savvy. He understood trends. He didn’t read books so much but he was very knowledgeable as I said. He knew a lot about everything and could give you indepth info on almost anything
He was a science student and I was the arts, the writer. But I recall he had more technical knowledge of writing and arts than I did. I think if he wanted to write he could have gone further than me. Not written better but gone further. Like I said he was knowledgeable. He understood trends. Not just trends. Things generally. Indepth understanding of .how they worked. But that wasn’t his biggest asset. I think the greatest thing he got was learning how to learn things from the Internet. This dude could teach himself anything from the internet. Tutorials and what not. He learnt how to produce before production was hot. He made beats, recorded songs himself, shot videos using a small camera we bought, learnt editing, edited them, learnt promotion and put out these videos which had thousands of views.
He also learnt programming, before it was a thing. Before this, he had this music database site where he uploaded thousands of gb of data daily. You see he had found something, his thing early on and had been doing it from the start. His thing was tech. I remember this idea he had. He said it would revolutionize the music industry. So he drew a plan we carried our bags. We were going to see the people who would make it work. Just like that. We walked into the offices of Kennis at the time. We said we had a plan to change the music industry. So they ushered us in. The board of DaarSat were having a meeting. And they heard us out. And they said what they thought of the idea, what they liked or didn’t like about it, what would make it work and why they wouldn’t buy into it.
The point is, they listened. All these important people whose time was worth millions. Billions maybe. It was a feasible idea. Something he cooked up randomly in his room while drinking garri, his favourite food at the time. I was already a fan before now. But I tell you my mind was blown. This was only one of his myriad ideas. This guy had greatness in his head. Anyway, before the DaarSat office, we had visited Coson, NBC office and a couple other places with our idea to change the music world. Somebody had directed us to somebody who directed us to somebody else who directed us to somebody else. It was the same thing after the DaarSat office and Kennis. Eventually, he abandoned the idea. Exams were coming up. He wasn’t ready to go Zuckerberg or Bill Gates yet and drop out. So we quit chasing the idea and went back to Yaba. After exams he found out some foreigner had gotten a contract with the government to implement the same plan. Someone he couldn’t compete with. He wrote to the person saying he wanted to work with him and all. But that never happened. It was at this point that he decided he wanted to travel abroad and Nigeria wasn’t the place for him. Whoever was slated to implement that idea still hasn’t done so now by the way.
So I am trying to demystify my friend’s mysterious answer on how to win with all these stories. I’m the many words guy like I said. Do you get it? Let me tell you something about my own self briefly to buttress the point I am trying to make with these stories. I am a writer. Lately I feel like I am making some headway. Won a few awards, worth hundreds of thousands of naira, been shortlisted, longlisted for several more, been published both home and Internationally, in some of the best magazines in the world and paid unbelievably well for it. I am now angling for some of the hugest awards and my seven figure deal. It could be 8 but seven is ok too. I’m not high-minded, don’t hope for too much. Now this is the current and future position. Before this I was a readaholic. My own story is not so fantastic as my friend’s. But here it is.
I grew up in the library. I and my siblings. We lived next to the local library. So we used to get dropped off there daily when our parents were busy and picked up when the library closed. Then we borrowed books to take home and continue the reading at home. Before long we exhausted the library’s novels. My elder brother started reading the encyclopedias. He read them page by page, volume 1-10. He’s doing his PhD on a scholarship in the UK now bdw. A scholarship worth thousands of pounds. Anyway that’s his story. This is mine. I focused on fiction, novels. After this my siblings went to a boarding school, Kings College in Lagos and I was home alone in Warri. My parents wanted me close and on hand because of my fragile health. So I was lonely. What did I do with that? I read. My brothers used to come back every holiday with dozens of second hand novels they bought from Yaba and CMS. These were what I read after they had gone back. I usually finished them long before the next holiday and eagerly awaited the next batch. I loved my brothers but at some point, I started to look forward to the books more than their coming. The times they didn’t get too many books I wondered why they even came.
So that’s the abbreviated story of what spurred my writing. Books were to me what internet was to my guy. How do you win again? You find something, not just anything but something you have flair for, are good at, and you do it. I had to tell all these stories to be able to explain it this way. My guy is a programmer, I’m a writer. You see, in everyone’s childhood, upbringing, experiences is something he or she has been exposed to that gives him an edge, that prepares him, confers on him the ability to win. You have to find it, and do it. For my guy it was the internet. He was exposed to internet. For me it was books. Different people have different things. It may be growing up in a family of lawyers. It may be having a social media account with thousands of followers. It may be your looks. Though I don’t advice that. You will just be hooker or aristo 😃. Just kidding. There is modelling. I had this friend who could draw. She became a fashion designer and is featured on @asoebibella regularly. It could be your ability to run, jump, converted into sports.
For some it’s the ability to fight. They become martial artists, then gymnasts or gym instructors. You have to find the thing/things you are uniquely suited for and start them. Don’t do the most lucrative thing or the fanciest or the flashiest or the coolest. Do that thing that is yours. It could be comedy. It could be jokes. It could be acting stupid on social media No matter how good I was a writer, how much it benefited me, My friend never attempted to be one. It wasn’t his thing. And no matter how fascinated I was by tech I never tried to be a programmer. It just wasn’t for me. Everyone has a thing they can do well with minimal effort. Better than everything else. Most people jump on the bandwagon and end up jumping out after a short period. You find that thing, that is yours and you start it. So you find, you start, and you keep at it. That’s what my guy said right? Yes. We have explored two. Finding and starting. The last part is the hardest. Staying the course. We mentioned how jumping on the bandwagon is bad. This is why. If it’s not your thing, if you don’t have flair, love for it, you won’t stay the course. If you don’t find it easier than everything else you will quit. It was their thing, that’s why they could say all it took was patience. But that’s not entirely true. It actually took blood, sweat, tears and other fluids. They just didn’t know when they were bleeding.
About the last part, keeping at it, after finding and starting it, that’s the key part. You see even if it’s your thing, you love it, you have, flair, talent, whatever, when you start a thing, you start as novice. I don’t care how good you are. It’s time that hones that ability. You gotta do it for a long time. Then you start to adapt, adjust to the ways that work. No matter how dumb you are, if you do a thing long enough you will get good at it. I have been writing for 15 years plus. But my actually sensible part of my career is like a year old. If I had quit even two years ago I would not have found what I did or gotten to where I am. That’s where staying the course is important. My guy was into tech a dozen years ago. But he started making headway a few years ago. So after finding and starting, you gotta stay the course. Even when nothing good appears to he coming out. You are learning, growing into an eventual winner. That time will refine your craft, help it adapt, evolve.
So that’s it. We are not billionaires or anything. You can go read a Donald Trump or some other financial book written by some rich guy and I am sure they have other things to say. But if your father doesn’t have millions of dollars to fund your ideas and government connect to get contract in a nation that’s the world’s biggest economy then this is how you win. Is it guaranteed? No. That we will all die is the only thing guaranteed. But as near as I have discerned, and I have discerned., observed a lot, it’s the way that’s worked for most number of people in my, our shoes. And that’s all we can offer. Not the best way but the way that’s been tried the most and worked the most. And if you want to win, isn’t it sensible to play the hand that’s won the most? So that’s it. Go ye out there, find your thing, and win.