How to Win

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.



You can live, now

So I am sitting down in one restaurant like this in Abule Oja where I went to eat unnecessarily expensive food for 600 and drink bottled water 100 naira just so I can charge my phone. Because, electricity has become like menstruation, coming once a month. My regards to Ambode. No hate speech because that one carries death penalty and I am not ready for that yet. In fact you can see the title of this article.

So anyway I am listening to old jams I have on my playlist. And the Live your life song by TI and Rihanna song comes on. And what TI is saying and a couple things I have been thinking about lately propel me to write this article. So the song starts and TI does his shutouts and all and says something.

Be thankful for the life you got.’

I know you have heard that a lot. From pastors and motivational speakers and your mothers. But it goes on

Stop looking at what you ain’t got and start being thankful for what you do got.’

That’s the part I found poignant. And what I want to add to that, even though I am not a super rich and successful rapper and I’m just a humble writer is

Make the best life out of what you have.’

In other words, live your life, now. Or as another rapper, Nas put it in his song, Live, now. You might wonder why I am making so much of this. Several things that have been happening for a while and some more recent events made me really think of it and realise lots of us aren’t living. And even more worrying is the reason.

So I have this friend, who hasn’t had a girlfriend in like 5 years. This is not a problem normally if he didn’t want one. But he did. I have nothing against young people without girlfriends believe me. If you have your reasons. Perhaps, religious, or otherwise. But that wasn’t why. This guy was a rapper. He loved women and girls. In all shapes and sizes and colours. He talked about them all day everyday for five years now. And I am forced to listen. I believe that gives me the locus standi to write about him.

So he loves females. Human females but has never had a relationship with any in as long as I can remember. I ask him why one day and he tells me the reason. I can’t believe it even though I have heard it from several other people. The reason is ‘he doesn’t have money.’

And that is the problem. Not just him but a lot of people believe that you need not just money, but a lot of money to be in love or have a romantic relationship. Not just relationships, but everything. A lot of Nigerians have this fallacious, idea. And yes it is wrong, false and as I said before, fallacious. Look at the girlfriend issue. There’s a girl/female for everyone/situation/condition/creature/person. I know broker people than him with girlfriends. Myself I didn’t get one because I struck gold and found a lot of money. I mean I still don’t have a lot of money now.

You see, he could have gotten a girlfriend that wasn’t materialistic. He could have gotten a rich girlfriend that didn’t require him to spend on her. There are a number of inconceivable ways around the issue. And don’t say all girls are materialistic because that is not true. And on rich or independent girls being hard to get, being the provider is even harder. It’s one or the other. So if you can’t get one, you can get the other. That’s the beauty of life. There’s always a way to get what you want, to live.

Don’t get this wrong. This article is not about girlfriends or getting one. You don’t have to unless you want to. And that is what this guy wants. But he won’t live his life because is convinced that he needs a lot of money to do so. He has given up on himself and won’t make any effort, even try. This reflects the attitude of most young Nigerian men.

I was talking with another friend, almost the same day. And he said randomly that one of his dreams was skydiving and ocean diving(whatever that is really called). So he says this is his dream, and one of the things he really wants to do and he will do it someday when he has ‘a lot of money.’ You see what I am saying? Someday when he has A LOT OF MONEY. That right there is the problem. This one too has given up on himself without even attempting to live his dream or life. He has convinced himself that there is no way to do it without plenty of money. This is horrible. He has never tried to find out. I mean it may be expensive. I don’t know. But if it was my dream I would find out, the price of diving gear, parachute, paying an instructor. For all he knows, these things cost under a hundred thousand naira, money I know for sure he spends on things he doesn’t want as much as he wants this.

So like I said, he might be able to get these things at second hand value, if he can’t get new, I don’t know. The point is, he never even tried. This like I said is the mentality of most Nigerian youths. It’s a very materialistic society and this is being encouraged by all of us unconsciously with our expectations and attitudes. A lot if us have convinced ourselves of the false fact that we need plenty of money for everything when in fact we really don’t.

You see, there are myriad ways to do/achieve what you want without ‘plenty of money.’ It merely requires that you may have to work, save, plan, hustle, be dexterous or creative. You could downsize your goals. For example, instead of ocean-diving, you can go river diving(if that’s a thing. I’m no expert. Like I said, that’s not my thing) So you can downsize, you can still do what you want, though you might have to sacrifice some other thing or things. You might have to compromise, say forego having flashy clothes or a gadget for something else you want.

There’s a company somewhere in the world offering a discount for that service you want. There’s a person somewhere waiting to discard that item you crave so badly. You just have to search, find a way to get it, live. And even if you don’t, you gotta try. TRY. That’s the point. Don’t give up on yourself, even if the Nigerian government has given up on you.

So whether by dexterousness, finding discounts, saving, compromise, sacrifice, downsizing, there’s a way out there for you to live your dream/life. You really do not need ‘plenty of money’ to do so. Who is going to give you plenty of money anyway? White people who believe they have met an African Prince? Naa. Don’t do that. Everywhere I go I see that most of us have convinced ourselves we need plenty money to live. And this is a very harmful, dangerous mentality.

Dangerous? Harmful? Yes. How so? You see firstly you will die brokenhearted because plenty money will never come from anywhere. You keep hearing people not doing anything saying life is turn by turn and ‘their turn’ to have money will come. But that’s not how it works and their turn never comes. They die having never lived even for one day. If a broken heart was all that was involved I wouldn’t worry. But these people that don’t live are a danger not just to themselves with their mentality but to others as well.

There are a lot of frustrated people being horrible out there. The waitress that gives you and your gf attitude when you go to eat because they think you are enjoying and blame you for their not doing so. The civil servant who thinks you are a spoilt kid because you are simply well dressed. Bro and sis we are all just civil servants and waiters. Some people just want to live. So you owe it to yourself to live, and to others to not be a wet blanket and piss on them while they are having their much worked for life.

If broken heart and disgruntlement was where it ended it would still be nothing. But the danger is still greater. When most people have spent their lives having done none of the things they wanted and with the firm conviction that they need lots of money to do so, they become desperate. So time is going. You haven’t done anything because you need ‘lots of money’. you start to try to acquire that ‘lots of money’ fast. Before you die, you gotta live. So you will do anything to live. ‘Yahoo yahoo’, MMM and other ponzi schemes and fraudulent activities, things that will hurt both yourself, your friends, family and society.

All this, starting with a simple false but innocent thought that ‘plenty money’ is the crux of life. Sure there are things we can all use plenty money for. Me, I would like to propose with a Bentley, bring Taylor swift to sing at my wedding and go to the moon for honeymoon. Believe me people are doing that now. Out of this world huh? I know right. But if I don’t earn plenty of money, I will still find a way to do the things I want, in the best way I can, with what I have.

This really doesn’t mean YOLO. Don’t die trying to live. Quite the contrary, live the best you can without dying to do so. And nothing will kill you faster than trying to speedily acquire ‘plenty money.’ It’s counterproductive really, if you think of it, a snake biting its own tail. Some of the things we even think we want or need to be happy, we don’t really want. But you will never know if you don’t try on some level, measure to live that thing you want. So in the end you could be trying to steal, cheat, get plenty money fast to do something you don’t really want. Or want as much as you think you do. I mean, what’s the difference between the guy who goes to a classy hotel or restaurant on his birthday and the rich yahoo boy who lives there? It’s the same experience. And sometimes one day is all you want, can stand. But you’ll never know if you don’t try that one day.

So pls brethren. Go therefore, and live. For your sakes, your friends, family’s, nation and single white people searching for love’s sake, live. Live now, in the way that you can. Live before you die and don’t die or kill to live.