Naturally, I'm shy and unambitious. Just quietly curious. I remember in 2004, in the university hostel room of one of my friends who did his primary and secondary schooling at the university staff school and was then doing his undergraduate in that same university, we were discussing how crazy life in Lagos is and some of the guys in the room were telling him that with his gentle and naive attitude he was not going to survive in Lagos. But guess what his line of defense was. He simply pointed at me and told those guys that as long as Michael was surviving in Lagos he was sure of he would do very fine in Lagos. He considered me more gentle and naive than himself. And he was somewhat right. Even my mum while I was about 11 years old made me hawk in the market close to her grocery shop to cure me of my naivety. And I still remember in my second job, my boss, at the start, complained that I was too gentle and unambitious.
And like they say: If one person calls you a horse you have the right to punch him, if a second person calls you a horse you can regard him as crazy, but if a third person calls you a horse then it's time you consider buying a saddle. When just too many people say the same thing about you, then there's some truth in what they say. The impression those people had of me has some truth in it. I am unambitious. You could put a billion naira in front of me and talk of sharing it with me, and not notice any difference in my reaction compared to when we discuss the weather. People are always shocked to hear that I don't have a plan of what I want to achieve or be in 5 or 10 years time. And all my business plans are not more than a few months plan, nothing seriously long term. So if you were looking for someone with a very active life and exceptionally good at something (besides books) I'm going to be among the last people you'll consider. Yet I keep on surprising people and myself by being exceptionally good at things people least expect I would even be competent in.
Who, knowing me, would think I would become exceptionally good at swimming on my back? Or that I would quit my telecoms career to become an exceptionally good Excel consultant after writing technical certification exams? Or that I would become an exceptionally committed blogger? Or that I would become exceptionally good at brushing with my left hand? The truth is that 10 years ago I never would have thought I would even know how to do any of those things let alone become exceptionally good at them.
For the most part of my life I have been only exceptionally good at book and tech stuffs. When some of my former classmates heard that I resigned a tech job to start my own business they couldn't hide their shock and told me that they considered me as of one those who would have gone straight for masters, then PhD and taken up lecturing. None expected I would give up a tech job that aligned with my skills and interest to start a business.
So how did I find out that I have talents that go beyond memorizing books and fixing tech issues?
In answering that question I would be also answering the question, "How do you find out what you are exceptionally good at?" And the answer is that you just have to try out a lot of things: both the things that interest you (like swimming, for me) and the things you just have to do (maybe at work, like Excel based analysis). It was by trying out everything that interests me and putting effort into the ones that I needed to learn out of work necessity that I ended up becoming exceptionally good at a few. I'm still poor at French even though I have been learning it since 2009. There are many other things I keep trying and I'm still poor at. But if you don't try enough things or one particular thing long enough you will not find out the things you are exceptionally good at.