See Life As A Marathon

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Guess what Obama sees when he looks at Nigeria? A giant slum that houses 160+ million people. And it's even better than what some other foreigners think. Some think this is where Theodore Roosevelt hunted elephants, and that it hasn't changed. A forest. But we in Nigeria are busy looking down on people living in Chibok and looking up to people living in Banana Island. To us one is hell and the other is heaven. But to someone outside Nigeria, we all live in the same slum.

Then lets go one step higher. Guess what the community of old trees think about the human race? They have seen what the world was 200 years ago and have a better idea of what it will be like 100 years from now. When they see one man threatening another, they see two dead men. When they see one man piling up wealth upon wealth, they see a classic idiot. To them, all the difference between one man and another is the noise level. One makes more noise than the other. And that's all.

Then lets go still one step higher. Let's look at the world and mankind through the eyes of history. Then we will discover that life is a marathon. And the real fun in life is starting slow and going steady; you end up enjoying the race and getting far.

I have seen a couple of people who see life as a sprint. Their life plan is to find something quick and easy, then do it again and again, and again. Like running a sprint over and over. And I have seen some who see life as a car race, they keep speeding to nowhere. What matters to them is that, "I'm going faster than you". But history has consistently shown us that life is a marathon. The people who's lives have become part of the world's history are those who started slow and went steady. They slowly and steadily pursued a goal that often outlives them. They didn't go repeatedly after the easy. They didn't speed after the unknown, obsessed with buzz. They carefully picked a goal, then slowly and steadily went after it. They were focused on one race and it was a marathon.

I'm still trying to break free from the "life is a car race" mentality. It all began in my Nursery 2 class at the age of (maybe) 4. I was bottom of the class, and it stamped my extreme quietness as extreme dumbness. I had to do Nursery 2 twice. My mum had to change my school when they wanted me to redo Primary 3. The race was slowly beginning. I just had to beat everyone else in the class, every 3 months. My dad, whom I can't remember ever buying me any toy, promised me a bicycle if I could just take between 1st and 10th position. I took 10th position, and shared it with one other girl. We were two who had 10th position that term. I was in J.S.S.1 (or 2). And I'm still waiting for the bicycle.

Then slowly I learned to use the other gears. I went from gear 1 (paying extreme attention), to gear 2 (reading a lot), to gear 3 (memorizing/cramming), to gear 4 (teaching) and, more recently, to gear 5 (making money). In the beginning, my competition were my classmates. Based on whatever metric the school was using, I must speed past them. Then after school the metric changed to money, and the competition became everyone. Then one day I accessed my progress and found out that I'm not going to go far unless I work for a company that pays (as my former colleagues call it) "armed robbers" salary or I started my own business. After doing some intense research and thinking, I decided starting my own business is the better path. And that day in 2011, the flame of entrepreneurship was kindled in me. In May 2011, I printed my first business card. I was earning 100k + N12,000 daily allowance as a Radio Access Engineer trainee at Nokia Siemens Networks. Every month end I got N460,000 credit alert and I didn't spend up to half. Then so many other things happened. Fast forward 3 years, I finally quit my job and started my own business. And for once, I owned the race car I'm using. I could take off the parts I felt were slowing me down and even rebuild the engine. It's now "may the best man win". And the goal? The finish line? No one knows. All that matters is you're behind me. And the best part of starting young is everyone is starting at almost the same point. And it's just a matter of time we overtake our mates who are collecting "armed robbers" salary. No offence intended.

Ever wondered where conductors get their energy from? Or the hope that fuels the numerous Usain Bolt's hawking gala in traffic? I now know it, it's that intoxicating hope an entrepreneur wakes up with everyday, the hope that today is a new and better day. That he is going to max out every opportunity that comes his way. If you need evidence, try getting a taxi in the rain. You would think the car is not an ordinary car. Maybe it's a flying car.

The problem is that there are no rules. And there is no goal. Only noise. Little signal; little value. Everything disappears as fast as it appears. It's like chasing a cloud. You get there, it shifts. And in the end, no one is going to remember you. They will be busy cheering the celebrity of the year, the footballer of the year, the Time 100 most influential of the year, the entrepreneur of the year, the this and that of the year. All the buzz you once got will be gone. And to have spent your whole life on getting them. Very sad. 

But if you lose the crowd and set yourself a true goal, one that resonates with the true you. You will end up enjoying your life more and going farther than buzz-chasing. You will be in a marathon, going slow and steady. And if you're lucky, history will reward your unprecedented efforts.


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