Yesterday I watched a part of the movie Rogue Trader. Based on true happenings and one of the worst bank tragedies. It's about how a young man worked his way up in one of the world's oldest merchant bank, Barrings Bank, and through greed got the bank bankrupt. He singlehandledly caused the collapse of UK's oldest private bank. And how? By trying to make money without creating value: speculation.


Speculation is when you try to get more than you give. The popular forms are gambling, day trading and currency trading (popularly known as Forex in Nigeria). But there are other less popular but common forms of speculation. Email spamming is one. I'm constantly getting mails from eCommerce and news gossip sites in Nigeria that I didn't subscribe to. Someone is harvesting people's emails online and selling them to companies and people so they can flood our mail inbox with news we are not interested in, news about what Kim Kardashian did yesterday, and e-fliers of products we are not interest in buying. That someone is trying to make money without creating value. He is speculating. And like most speculators, at the start he is making easy money. But soon the businesses that benefit from him will face a similar fate as Barrings bank. Gmail, Yahoo and other email providers will mark their domain as spam generators, and even the legitimate business mails they send will always end in people's junk/spam folder. Then when they don't desist, their domain will be blacklisted and their online reputation will be irreparably damaged. When you go to their website your browser will show you a warning that the site is linked to malicious activities and ask you if you really want to continue. When you send them an email you will get a mailer daemon telling you that the domain is blacklisted. It's not going to happen in 5 months or even 1 year, it happens when things couldn't have been rosier for them. When they begin to put in all they have in hope of sustaining the growth they are experiencing. Then, like all inevitable endings, it happens like a thief getting caught at the job he planned to make his last, everything comes crashing down. Years of dedication and work comes to naught. Like gambling all gain and more is lost. 

Speculation is not illegal, most aren't. Speculation, like playing the lottery, isn't bad, wholly. It's just that the gains of speculation are often short-lived and the pain of those gain, in the end, can be killing. Killing businesses and destroying wealth. Even in stocks, just as you shouldn't set aside a part of your salary for gambling, you shouldn't have a portion of your portfolio dedicated to speculating. In all you do, as an individual or business, avoid speculating. Always be in the business of creating value. Don't be involved in transactions where someone has to be ripped off or make a loss for you to make a gain. Or where the gain you seek is greatly out of proportions with the value created. 

Though it's much harder to make gain purely by creating value and painful at the beginning, it has an end that is more desirable and non-destructive. It's like building a house, if you take the huge pain to dig deep and work hard at having a great foundation, you can peacefully, even if slowly, build a mansion on it. But the guys who want immediate structures will have trouble keeping a mansion on a weak foundation.

Last week I came across an article on Forbes, an interview of Deepankar Rustagi, the founder of VConnect. I was expecting to hear him talk about how Nigeria is a promising market and give figures to support his venturing into founding one of Nigeria's most successful startups. But I was pleasantly disappointed. The idea of starting up VConnect occurred to Mr Rustagi while he was travelling along Lagos - Ibadan expressway and witnessed an accident. Everyone around couldn't say for sure where the nearest hospital was. Even almighty Google had no clue because no one had taken out time to create a directory of businesses, organizations, hospitals and schools in Nigeria. Then, searching for provider of services in Lagos would often take you to Portuguese pages of service providers in the Lagos that is in Portugal.

To say the least, I was inspired by that story. VConnect started as one man's decision to fix a problem that affected everyone. Most people wouldn't have seen beyond the bad road and the inept government. But he saw something that could be done to prevent such accidents from turning to disasters, and that could also help connect people to the provider of the services they need. So after reading that Forbes article I went on LinkedIn, searched for Mr Rustagi and sent him a LinkedIn connect request. Luckily, he accepted my request to connect. Then I sent him a message requesting for a 20mins interview session with him, which he kindly granted.


Yesterday was the interview day and below is the transcript of the interview.

How did VConnect come into existence?

So you have read the story in the Forbes interview. Basically, I grew up here in Nigeria. I've spent more than 15 years in Nigeria and I did my schooling here in Ilupeju. Slowly I came to realise, via incidents around me, that you couldn't just survive on the knowledge of the businesses you are aware of. There are times you would want to know the best business around that could provide you a specific service. So if I go to Abuja today, I will want to know how to hire a cab, which hotel is close by, which nearby restaurant to eat it at and the closest laundry firm to my hotel. But when I searched on Google, in those days, there is hardly any content online providing these information. I searched for a restaurant in Lagos and I was taken to a website in Portugal. There is a place called Lagos in Portugal. 
After the incident along Ibadan road, I decided that someone has to take a step to connect businesses to buyers. And we made it a goal to help small and medium scale businesses connect to buyers at negligible cost. And that was how VConnect came into existence. We named it VConnect because we had the objective of connecting buyers and suppliers in Nigeria.

How has VConnect been impacting lives and businesses?

We get a lot of testimonials from businesses who have been getting orders via VConnect. Especially small scale businesses who while registering weren't expecting so much from using VConnect. We were once contacted by a man in his late 50s who runs an upholstery business in Iyana Ipaja. He is extremely good at his craft but was relatively unknown. He contacted us because he got a very big order from a hotel. And he landed that order because of a referral from one of the clients who contacted him via VConnect and was impressed with the quality of his work. He sent me an email and it was very touchy.
On a daily basis we contribute value to more than 16,000 businesses. These businesses make a portion of their revenue because of us. Though if the quality of your product is not good, VConnect cannot help you. But if the quality of your product or service is good and you want to be discovered, VConnect will work great for you. You register your business on VConnect and when people search on the web for the services you provide, your VConnect page shows up in the search result, sometimes in the first 3 results.

How have you been able to overcome the difficulties of running a successful business in Nigeria?

We have been lucky. By the grace of God, things fell into place for us. When we started there was no online portal providing this directory service, the few attempting didn't have good quality reliable data. We placed a priority on the quality of data we provide. And wide coverage too. As we covered and verified more businesses we earned the trust of users online and they began to rely on our data. This helped grow our traffic. 2 million people come to our site on a monthly basis seeking reliable information. 
One of the challenges we still have is most businesses use mobile phone lines and they change phone numbers often, so we are investing more in keeping the data updated always.
We were lucky in the sense that we got investors at the right time. And businesses began seeing the value we create for them and became more receptive to the services we provide, becoming paid users for a longer period of time.

What advice do you have for people trying to take up big business challenges like you did?

We conduct business forums and we've found out that it's easy to start a business. But it's very difficult to sustain it because of high financial cost. Let's say you start your Excel training or PMP training business but if you don't get people registering for paid training after six months you'll change your plan.
We created a lead generation module on VConnect to help businesses. We get leads, customers for you, and all you have to ensure is that you provide a great service or training to them. We take the burden of finding customers off you. So if you put up your Excel training on our Deals site, it's our job to get people to register for your Excel training and you won't have to bother about whether people will come or not. You just have to ensure that even if 5 comes today, you train them in the best manner possible so that they go back and tell 5 more people, then next training you'll get 7 people. Then 9, and 12. That is how it progresses.
We want to become a sales partner for every small business who can't heavily invest in marketing. And we are already getting amazing feedback from partner businesses.

Mr Rustagi told me they are starting a communications arm and require the services of passionate and good bloggers to come on board, full-time and part-time. He has asked me for recommendations. So if you feel qualified send me your CV and 2 sample articles and I might forward your application to him. He also wants a Twitter geek, so shoot me an email too if you feel qualified for that. They are all paid positions and you are getting a chance to have your CV among the first he examines. My email is michael(at) 

And that is it for today's special post. And don't forget to check out the VConnect Deals section if you run your own business, provide a service or sell a product and you want VConnect to be your sales partner. Getting you customers. Here's the link: VConnect Deals

Disclaimer: This isn't a paid publicity or a way to get VConnect customers. It’s just my own way of pointing the light at people who are doing great things and we could get inspiration from. Rather than providing foreign examples all the time, I decided to look out for people doing inspirational stuff in Nigeria. People we know and can more easily relate to.

Is just an excuse away. Yeah, everything we want is just an excuse away.

Excuses are the bridges that connect us with the things we want. When you want to find the best way to get what you want just examine the strongest excuse for not going after it. It even goes beyond things. If you want a girl and you just can't make yourself to go after her, take a look at the strongest excuse you have because in it lies the solution. If you are finding it hard to send that pay raise request email to your boss, again, the answer you need lies in your excuse for not sending it. If you've given up your ambition for a masters at a dream school, look into the eyes of your main excuse and you'll find the flame rekindling. Everything you want is just an excuse away. Face that excuse, walk over it and it will take you to your aspirations.

Growing up, my excuse for not asking a girl out was "What am I going to say?" Then I faced that excuse, I told myself I'll say whatever comes to my mind. Then the excuse changed to "Whom am I going to say the whatever to?" For years I'm still trying to find answer to that excuse. Maybe this is a bad example. Let's try another.

When I started this blog in 2009 every post I made took days and weeks to finally publish. I envied those who blogged more frequently. My excuses were numerous. I had 3 blogs, then later, 5. There was no way I could blog daily with 5 blogs. I compose my blog posts from original contents, they are work of pure inspiration and technical work. Inspirations don't come daily or else they won't be called inspiration. I once spent 2 weeks making one very detailed blog post that got me a moment of fame in the world of Linux geeks, I was getting quoted on Chinese blogs and stackoverflow. There was no way I could keep that level of quality up if I posted daily. And I had other things to do -- looking for work, working, overworking and finding another job. Then I took up learning French, swimming and becoming more sociable. I had valid overwhelming excuses.

One day, I decided to take on all the excuses. I pulled the plug on my remaining 4 blogs to focus on this one. I lowered my standards, and quit waiting for inspiration. When I can't generate any original content I share someone else's great content. Remember the posts on Abraham Lincoln's letter to his son's headmasterShooting an Elephant and Meet Colonel Sanders of KFC? Yeah, they were the product of my lack of impressive original contents on those days. I quit my work too, not because of blogging but it did help. I've stopped swimming regularly but it's because I'm on a shoestring budget. And I'm as sociable as I want to be, which reduces the chances of someone taking over my day. So by taking on each of my excuses I achieved my desired goal of blogging daily. 

I'm planning on applying this same principle to one more thing, but won't be sharing that soon.

Happy Eid al-Fitr to my Muslim friends. I'm yet to see your hands, fortunately, it's not late yet and I'm on a weight gaining diet.

In the startup world it is said that if you are not ashamed of your first product, you released too late. To make it big you have to aim bigger than what you have resources for. You have to believe in yourself even when the world laughs at you or, worse, doesn't notice you.


Sylvester Stallone was born with partial facial paralysis due to the unprofessionalism of the obstetricians who dragged him out of his mom's womb using forceps. He struggled through life: bullied at school, attended over 14 schools, had to take up a despicable movie role at age of 24 being homeless and having slept in a bus station for 3 weeks, and while writing the script for Rocky his wife was pregnant, he had only $106 in the bank, his dog was starving and he couldn't pay his rent. But his belief in himself was stellar, he kept pushing forward and he eventually hit his goal with that movie, Rocky. I particularly love the way he explained it to a journalist on November 1, 1976:

"There are certain parallels: Rocky had drive, and intelligence, and the talent to be a fighter, but nobody noticed him. Then when opportunity knocked, everybody said, 'Hey, there's Rocky, he's good.' That's what happened to me. The fact that we both went the distance when we were finally given the opportunity, that's the main parallel.
''It's funny, there's a great herd of people who were holding back compliments for years that are now coming forth and saying, 'I like you.' It happened to Rocky, too. I feel like saying to them, 'Where were you when I was living in Hotel Barf, eating hot and cold running disease?' They say, 'Oh, we were holding it back, Sly [Sylvester], because we didn't want you to get a swelled head.'''

Then there is Roman Abramovich who lost his mum before the age of 2 and his dad at age 4, and didn't get a university degree. He believed in himself and while Russia was in turmoil he began building a small trading business. Now he owns Chelsea Football Club and is the 50th richest man in the world.
So how do you believe in yourself?

I'll start with what believing in yourself is not. Believing in yourself is not in not exposing your work for fear of criticism or fear of failure. No. Having that kind of attitude and expecting to make it big someday is simply wishing. Believing in yourself is acting like Sylvester Stallone, going all out and putting the extra effort in your work. Not wishing or waiting for an angel. You have to put your work out there, take the criticism, horn your craft, be prodigious and always focus on what matters.

The world is filled with people who stumbled on success. They write a book that amazingly became a bestseller, then they spend the rest of their lives talking to TV cameras and large crowds. They don't write more books. The people who believe in themselves don't stumble into success (or stay that way), they keep writing books like their life depends on it. They write till the day they die. They are people like James Patterson. Believing in yourself is in not resting on your oars but going for the seemingly impossible. Believing in yourself is in disregarding the society and the resources at your disposal, like Roman Abramovich, and going for whatever you want. That is believing in yourself.

Reading through the lives of hundreds of entrepreneurs has opened my eyes to how great achievements are made. That everything, no matter how big, started very small, like a seed. And that the secret of all greatness is growth, persistent growth.

Everything in life is like life itself. We all start the same way, a weak helpless tiny baby. And the growth begins. Some are lucky to have parents with more insight and resources, they prioritize the growth of their children above all else. They spend huge amount of money, time and human resources to ensure their children enjoy an all round growth that is persistent. They introduce their children to every influential community they are a part of, they involve their children in the family business, they turn themselves to the ladder their children climb up to great heights. 

Then there are some who aren't lucky to have much to inherit from their parents, all their parents could give them isn't enough to ensure a persistent steady growth in all areas of their lives. Some didn't even get the luxury of parents, they had no ready-made ladder to climb. 

But whichever category your start of life falls in, in the end it doesn't matter. Everyone still have to face a hard life, born rich or not. Where the real difference in what you end up as lies is in what you did since taking charge of your life. When you became an adult. Did you delude yourself into relying solely on your parents' affluence, pulling the plug on your growth? Or did you let go of how you began life, great or grim, and placed priority on ensuring a steady persistent growth towards your idea of a fulfilled life?

As far as success is concerned in life, what matter most is knowing where you are going and how much time you have to get there. If you've ever employed the services of a financial adviser, those are the two key things he'd want to find out from you before giving you any financial advice. And it's like that with not just the financial aspect of our life but our life in its entirety. At birth no one is better than the other. By the time we become young adults all the difference between us is the result of what our parents/guardians had in mind for us. But in the end, all the difference between everyone of us will be the result of the individual life goals we set and pursued.

If you take time out to figure out where you want to go in life and start early with a steady growth in the direction of that life goal, only death can stop you. It doesn't matter how you began life or where you ended up as a young adult, all that matters is having a clear life goal and going for it with diligence. And better if you give it your all. It will be like aiming for the moon and landing among the stars; you will definitely exceed all expectations the same way a growing baby does.

Like companies, you are better off starting lean. Start with as few responsibilities as you can. Don't spend your youth trying to match your friends and neighbours. The cream always rise to the top. Let your outside catch up with your inside. Growth is faster when you are leaner. And in the end you will have everything, the luxuries you've always wanted, and most importantly a fulfilled life.


Meet the man who has the ambition of colonizing planet Mars. Of placing 80,000 people on the Mars.

If you are a big fan of Richard Branson and his crazy business adventures, then you would love Elon Musk. I consider him crazier than Richard Branson. None of his business ventures is a regular one. He co-founded Paypal, something extremely revolutionary they had to pay people to use it because it was basically creating an entirely new industry. Everyone said their business model was unsustainable and that they will fail. At a point, they were losing $10 million a month. Just bleeding cash. And that's the kind of businesses Elon Musk builds, businesses that everyone thinks will fail. 

He took his  $165 million share of the booty from the sale of Paypal to Ebay and started another crazy venture, a space exploration technology company called SpaceX. And here is his crazy motivation for trying to make it easy for people to go on space vacation: 
"An asteroid or a super volcano could destroy us, and we face risks the dinosaurs never saw: an engineered virus, inadvertent creation of a micro black hole, catastrophic global warming or some as-yet-unknown technology could spell the end of us. Humankind evolved over millions of years, but in the last sixty years atomic weaponry created the potential to extinguish ourselves. Sooner or later, we must expand life beyond this green and blue ball—or go extinct."

He says his ultimate goal is to enable human exploration and settlement of Mars. Crazy, right?

But he is not stopping there. He is also spending his money and other people's money on building the world's most advanced electric cars. He is currently spending $5 billion on building a gigafactory for electric car batteries. Even people in the US think he is nuts. But when you consider his other ambitions, like colonizing the mars then you'll realize that he was born nuts.

Finally, he is trying to fund another crazy venture -- a conceptual subsonic air travel machine called Hyperloop. It is theoretically a magnetic levitating train suspended in a vacuum and can travel at speeds up to 1,220 km/h. Even some transportation engineers think it's not feasible. But he is planning on spending $6 billion on it. A crazy guy.

He is also a workaholic, he works about 100 hours a week. As the CEO of Tesla he earns $1 per year as his salary. And he is frequently compared to Tony Stark of the Iron Man movie series.

Time is that resource we have in life that, if wasted, can't be recovered. And for people my age, it is our biggest resource. How we spend it makes all the difference between living a fulfilled life and wishing we could turn back the hands of time.


So how can you avoid wasting time? That's a tough question and I'm not old enough to know the answer. But I do know a few guidelines that can help you make the most of time.

And they are --

  1. Prioritize learning over earning. Among the richest men in the world, the ones who wield real power are not the ones who made their money through luck or a hot talent, they are the ones who amassed a wealth of knowledge on their way up and built their success on that solid rock. When disasters come they rebound fast. They are not afraid to say if all they have is taken from them and their knowledge is left, they will regain their wealth. In spending your time, value learning over quick gain.
  2. Some experiences are timeless. Like being there at your child's birth. And most other rare family moments. Those time are timeless. They are worth more than every other thing. They should have unrestricted access to your time.
  3. It's never in the number of years. William Shakespeare died at the age of 52. Joan of Arc died at the age of 19. If they could change the world forever with a not-so long life, then it proves that it's not in the number of years. What matters most is to spend your time doing the things you are most passionate about. 
  4. Go on adventures and take up challenges. Ever wondered why the movies we enjoy most are not the ones about how the super rich spend their money but movies about adventurous people, men of action and regular people taking up tough challenges? It's because that is where the most fun in life lies. Spend your time living the kind of live you would like to watch a movie about. 
  5. Don't count your loses. Every second you spend regretting the past is eternally lost. Learn to always move on as fast as possible. What is gone is gone. Mistakes made are already made. Opportunities lost won't come back through grieving. Even our very life is not ours, let alone the things we amass. The easiest way to waste time is to spend it brooding over the past.
  6. Put smiles on people's faces. Do as much good as you can. It's the easiest way to change your world, for good. And one of the best ways to spend time.
Those are the few guidelines I could come up with, I hope it helps you make better use of your time.

If historical patterns matter then I think I'm going to become a great salesman, better at sales than I am at Microsoft Excel. In 2011, if you had asked me to name 100 things I was good at, Microsoft Excel wouldn't be on that list. In fact, if I had gotten a Microsoft Office that had no Microsoft Excel I wouldn't have noticed let alone complain. Then something happened, I got a job and I needed to use Microsoft Excel for the job. The first 4 months at the job was miserable for me. For once in my life I was sure I was doing a job I wasn't cut out for, a job that matched with none of my top skills and required skills like Excel which I had none. Just to do well at my job I learned Microsoft Excel. Fast forward 3 years, I quit the job that matched all my skill set, the job I quit the Excel one for, to become a Microsoft Excel consultant. Now, if you ask me to make a list of 100 things I'm good at, Microsoft Excel will show up at least 10 times in that list.

I went from struggling to thriving at Microsoft Excel just because I wanted to deliver at a job I wasn't sure I was cut out for. And now I'm struggling at the one thing my life, business and success depend on -- Sales. My savings are draining faster than I planned; I don't have any of the top attitudes of a great salesman -- I'm an extreme introvert. Rather than going out there to get sales I have been staying indoors waiting for phone calls emails. I enjoyed recording training videos on Excel than calling potential customers. I would read programming books and practice hard what I read but when I read sales books it was like reading a Sci-Fi, impracticable. Then the few times I force myself to go out, I go to tech meetups and events for techies, I go to all the wrong places, places I will never meet my ideal clients. And four months since quitting my job I'm yet to successfully turn a cold lead to a deal. In fact, I can count the number of cold calls I have made and the number of face-to-face meetings with interested leads (prospects). And most of the cold calls happened this week, to be precise, two days ago.
But I can feel myself undergoing that birthing process, already pressed against the wall that changes everything. I'm beginning to see a salesman emerge. I have stopped waiting for emails. Now I'm making sales calls, daily cold calls. I have figured out an ingenious means of reaching all the companies in Lagos that may need my service. And more importantly I have begun reaching them. I have been calling the companies, getting through to the decision makers, sending them my proposal and searching for that magic number in sales. The number of calls it takes to make a sale. I know this is a permanent progress, I'm gifted at making a daily routine out of things. I turned blogging to a daily stuff, I read my French book daily, I read the bible daily, and I pray daily. This is going to be easy, I'm going to make sales calls (cold + warm) every workday. I've already, through trial and error, figured out a great call script. It works like magic, it gets most of the leads I call to request for my proposal and give me their emails. Today is going to mark my day 3. I have started modestly, calling about 10 people a day. In a few weeks time I hope to be calling 60 people on my sales day (any day I'm not having an appointment). And before the end of the next month I should have landed a sales deal and gotten the magic number. Then in 3 years time I should have become a badass sales guy, with sales showing up 20 times in the list of 100 things I'm good at.

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." That's probably the most famous quote by Albert Einstein, a man whose name has become a synonym for high intelligence. And he is saying you are a genius. 

Though none of us sees himself/herself as a moron, most of do not actually see ourselves as a genius. When we make the classifications in our minds, using the common criteria, we are sure that we are just a regular guy/girl. That there is nothing significantly special about us. But we are wrong and that quote by Albert Einstein explains it all.

As sarcastic as it sounds, it's also true: The unique thing about everyone of us is that we are each unique. There is no average man. It's only when we group everyone together and divide by a criterion that we come up with the notion of seeing some as average, another some as below average and a few as genius. The educational system judges by book knowledge and classifies the egghead as a genius. The corporate world judges by revenue and classifies the guy who is able to generate an unusual amount of it as a genius. The political world judges by followership and classifies the folks with the largest followership as geniuses. But these systems of classification are wrong, they are like judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree. That's why the book genius is rarely a political genius. Unfortunately, we have only few famous classification criteria. Some of us are geniuses at things people aren't aware of. Within some of us lies a new field of study, a new kind of sport, an unusual invention, and a new criterion for detecting geniuses.

And like the fish we need to find our own pool. We need to stop trying to climb a tree. We need to stop accepting the labels the society puts on us. We need to figure out our special ability and max it out. We need to start seeing ourselves as a genius. It doesn't matter if no one thinks there's something significantly special about us. What matters is that there's definitely something, significant or not, special about each one of us. Whether we've discovered it or not. And when we discover it, we should make it significant. We should give it a front row in our lives' procession. We should let our lights shine. 

Everyday of your life you should never consider someone else better than you, you shouldn't let anyone or group of people make you feel less, you shouldn't let anyone judge you by a wrong criterion, you shouldn't let anyone treat you like trash, you should stand up with shoulders high and chest out anywhere because you, my friend, are a genius.

I think the most powerful word in the world is "No". If we really want to live a life we can truly call our own; if we truly want to follow our dreams; if we truly want to build a fulfilling life we will need to be good at saying no.


Saying no to a lot of things, to a lot of people and to a lot of our cravings.

Everyday we are barraged with a lot of yes seeking requests from strangers, co-workers, friends and family. People will call you up only when they need something from you and then forget you till another need arises, and they always expect a yes from you. Some friends will take you as a greater fool, someone they could sell their bad business to. When they buy a shirt or shoe or car or phone or book and feel like they've been ripped off, you come straight to their mind; they try to sell it to you and act like they are doing you a favour. And there are relatives who see you as a cash machine. The one to pay for every bad financial decision they make. Then there are strangers who feel it's right to ask for what's yours just because they feel they need it more than you do; they will curse and call you names if you deny them the request. Everyday we're prompted to say yes to a myriad of requests.

And everyday I make sure to say a lot of no. 

As children what people think about us greatly influence our lives. Our favourite subjects are the ones taught by our favourite teachers, the teachers who thought well of us. But as adults it's not so; what greatly influence our lives is what we think of ourselves. Not what a stranger thinks. Not what your colleagues think. Not what your friends think. Not what your relatives think. In the real world your choices make you. The things you say yes to and the things you say no to. People are going to want you to say yes to a lot of things, so in the end, the no you say matters a lot more than the yes you say. Yes is almost always the default answer, the path of least resistance; while no is the tougher answer to give. No is an answer that defines you. Like it's been said, "The worth of a man is not in the things he says yes to but the things he says no to, the things he can't stand."

To begin to realise your potential, you will need to start saying no to all the things that make your life seem like it's on a treadmill. Lots of activities, same spot. You're running, you're busy and you're working, yet when you look beyond the activities you feel your life isn't really progressing. It shows you're saying yes to too many things. You need to realise the power of NO.

Even if I give up this entrepreneurship adventure, it would have still been a success because it has improved the one aspect of my life I have always wanted to change. My (non-existing) sales skills. I am already beginning to see myself as a salesman. And in this post I'll be sharing the ways I have been improving my sales skills.

1. Watching Sales Movies
Funny? Yeah, and also serious. When it comes to some things the best way to learn is by watching a pro. So I have on my movie list:

  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • Boiler Room
  • Tommy Boy
  • Lord of War
  • Suckers
  • Cadillac Man
  • Thank you for Smoking
  • Jerry Maguire

2. Reading Books on Sales and Entrepreneurship
There is always a difference between reading about what you're doing and reading about what you plan to do someday. Suddenly all the sales and entrepreneurship books I have are coming alive, speaking to me in ways more intimate and forceful than I have ever heard them before. I now hang on every single sentence in those books and put to practice the useful tips they give me.

The books on my reading list are:
  • The Cold Calling Secret by Mark Boardman
  • Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier
  • How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger
  • Founders At Work by Jessica Livingstone
  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder
  • Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Kit for Entrepreneurs by Norm Brodsky
  • The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie
  • The Learn Startup by Eric Ries
  • How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Intelligent Entrepreneur by Bill Murphy
  • Dig Your Well Thirsty Before You're Thirsty Harvey Mackay
  • The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino
  • Building Your Network Marketing Business by Jim Rohn
  • Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
  • The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
3. Professional Networking at Conferences and Meetups
Before now, I don't talk much about myself at conferences and meetups. I'm always doing the listening part. Now, I do almost all the talking, telling anyone I consider a potential client all the amazing things my company can do for his/her company. And I talk so passionately I always get a good audience. The new problem I have is applying the follow-up mechanisms I read in books.

4. Calling and Visiting Prospects
This is the one that gives me the most joy. I now find it much easier to call prospects and propose to come visit them to discuss more. I'm now learning to be a bug and not feel uneasy about it. I have one sales goal, at the moment, and it is to pitch everyone in corporate Lagos. It's easier to measure my success and meeting the goal is as easy as talking to everyone, one person at a time. I'm already planning to sell my remaining shares in the stock market and fund my sales goal. I know that I'm a fast learner, if I can become a good salesman I will make it big in life regardless of what side of the employee -- employer divide I am.

When you live in Nigeria where you'll need to work for a multinational, have a good first degree and have more than 3 years work experience before you'll be able to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage in some other countries, the last thing you would want to do is to pay N50,000 for Microsoft Office and N45,600 for Windows 8. 

AutoCAD costs $1,200
Adobe Acrobat Professional costs $450
Adobe Photoshop CS6 costs $1,400

Then all the books you need that you can't see in a Nigerian bookshop will each cost you $20 and two months to ship to Nigeria, after paying full retail price as you are not eligible for the most of the used book sales. The movies you want to watch cost N4,500 in The Palms and the few other malls that sell original movies. Buying online will cost you expensive internet access and $15. The music you want to listen to will cost you $12 per album or $1.30 per song. 

You will have to be insane like me or extremely rich to not own a pirated media (software, music or video). For over 4 years I was using a pre-release version of Windows (Windows 7 & 8), I relied on Linux alternatives for most paid Windows software and I bought the ones I just couldn't do without. You can count all the music and movies I have on your fingers and toes. All paid fully paid for. And it has been extremely tough to avoid piracy. I think the only reason I have succeeded is because I'm gifted at the finding and sticking to the hard way of doing anything. I remember for my final year project, I had to write the software manufacturer that I couldn't afford their software and I needed it badly for my project. I got lucky. One of the sales manager replied favorably to me and sent me a free copy of their latest version. I think we are now connected on LinkedIn. He saved me $500. Or not. The truth is he saved me from getting the pirated copy. There was no way I was going to get and pay the $500 that software cost.

Why am I so against piracy?

The answer is a selfish one. Someday, all my work will be something you could copy onto a flash drive. There'll be nothing I'll create that can't be pirated. From the books I'll write to my Excel training packs and to my software products. I know how much money, effort and time it cost me to make the little I have made so far. I know that all my present sacrifice and future earnings is on the hope that I'll make money from these intellectual properties that has cost me almost all to build up. In fact, my ultimate aim is to make premium software and consulting solutions. To charge people an arm and a leg for them. I'll do my best to avoid business at the commodity level. Luxury cars account for just about 12% of the global car sales, yet it accounts for over 50% of all the profit in the car industry. In the watch industry, only the Swiss luxury watch makers are raking the profits. In business, you can never win if your product is too price sensitive. You'll end up building an uphill kind of business. Like the telecoms companies, you'll make money at the beginning when competition is less and start losing money when the product has been commoditized. Every kobo difference in price determines who gets the customer.

Why is piracy bad?


Piracy is same as going to Computer village and stealing the computer hardware and accessories you want. It's the same as going to Chicken Republic and not paying for the meal you eat. It's the same as sticking a knife into the side of that musician, that software company and that movie director you love so much that you downloaded all the work without paying a kobo. And happily shared with your friends. Piracy is simply taking another's blood and sweat for your own pleasure. Unfortunately, we often have genuine understandable reasons -- we can't afford it, we are just a speck in the consumer market, we wouldn't have bought it anyway, the prices are unreasonable, they know people will always pirate the software, they will make their money from corporate clients, and this is Nigeria, I'll be the only one losing out. But, still, piracy is bad.

There used to be a popular belief that blacks were intellectually lazy. That we loved to try out easy ways only. And that was why we invaded industries like music, basketball, and numerous other industries that do not require high intellectual work. You would hardly find us inventing any new technology, running a developed country (or turning a developing country to a developed one), starting a business that competes successfully on a global scale, or doing anything that requires a combination of high intelligence and risk-tolerance. We would rather leave our country for greener pastures than water our own pasture. We would celebrate mediocrity as long as it's got hype and money, anyday anytime, over ingenuity. We were satisfied with being in the shadows of the other races rather than aspire to rise above them. We would rather leave the planet's running and progress to the other races. We didn't see beyond rising above our fellow black man.

Unfortunately, things haven't change much. We still run the music industry and the basketball world. We are nowhere to be found on the high tech radar, no black nation is in the community of developed countries , and we are still obsessed with migrating to greener pastures. However, one bit changed. We now have a black man running America. We have blacks running a couple of the world's best companies. And today, I will be telling you about a few Nigerians who are among these blacks running the global corporate world.

1. Adebayo Ogunlesi
Adebayo Ogunlesi is the Chairman and Managing Partner of one of the world's biggest Private Equity firms that specialize in infrastructure investment, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). The company owns Gatwick Airport, UK's second largest airport and the world's busiest single runway airport; London City Airport and Edinburgh Airport.
He is also the only black on Goldman Sachs board of directors. He was once named the 7th most powerful black Executive in the world. He is extremely popular in the US investment banking world, and has been referred to as extremely intelligent with a deep global understanding of the investment world. The year he got into Harvard, he was one of the only 3 non-US students that got in that year. He, with another black colleague, were the first Africans to be editors of the Harvard Law Review. On graduating from both Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, he became the first non-American to clerk at the US Supreme court. He is probably the most successful investment banker from Nigeria, and he's doing exceptionally well on a global scale.

2. Onyeka Nchege

Onyeka Nchege is the CIO of Coca Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (CCBCC), the largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in the United States. Ordinarily, I wouldn't put him in this list but he's not just a CIO like any other CIO. He is a CIO who's doing what most other CIOs are scared of doing. You can read more about it here 

3. Dr. Victor Ukpolo

Dr. Victor Ukpolo is the chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans. He's probably the first native-born Nigerian to head a university in USA. In 2012 the Carnegie Corporation selected Ukpolo as one of 45 naturalized citizens of the United States for Carnegie's Americans by Choice award.

4. John Agwunobi

John Agwunobi was US Assistant Secretary of Health from 2005 to 2007. He oversaw the US Public Health Service and its Commissioned Corps for the Secretary. Then he resigned to become Vice President for Professional Services at Wal Mart.

These are the few I could come up with. But I'm sure there are a lot more.

There are some of us who wouldn't learn anything intensely unless there's a certificate to be gotten in the end. They, oftentimes, pass up the amazing opportunities to learn for free that abound, as only few of those free opportunities provide the luxury of a certificate.

Today, I'll be sharing with you a couple of the amazing ways you can learn for free. 


Cousera gives you free access online to over 600 courses from 100+ universities and organizations in the world. I have taken some courses from the University of Michigan, University of Melbourne, Duke University, University of Toronto and John Hopkins University. You get taught mostly by professors with decades of experience teaching at those universities and are trying hard to match the quality of teaching they give to their offline/regular students. All for free to you. 
I owe a large part of my knowledge of world history and corporate finance to courses I took on Coursera. I consider it the number 1 way to learn from University professors for free.

If you want to learn web programming, codecademy is the number one place to start. It has a fail-safe method of teaching web design, Javascript, jQuery, Python, Ruby and PHP. You learn by doing, via an ingeniously simple way. There's almost no way you cannot absorb and retain the knowledge codecademy with impart to you. And it's 100% free.

Microsoft has put together a huge collection of well organized training for IT and all Microsoft's technologies. Without paying for anything, you can learn C#, VB, HTML5, Javascript, Microsoft Azure, Windows Phone App development, C++, Game Development, Windows App development, Web Apps and Web Development from industry experts.

HP Learning Initiative For Entrepreneurs (LIFE) offer free training for entrepreneurs worldwide. You learn for free the Finance, Marketing, Operations and Corporate Communications education you need to build a world class company, with lots of free extra support from HP.

5. Khan Academy
Khan Academy, like Coursera, provides lots of courses for free. The difference is that while Coursera focuses on University courses, Khan Academy on both high school and university courses. And it's courses are available year round, unlike Coursera's which are available at specific periods of the year.

6. Memrise
Memrise is your perfect free solution to learning any (major) language. It has the best research-backed effective interactive means of learning a language. It's free and have full featured Android and iOS apps. It will take you from the beginner's level in any major language to a proficiency level, and you will be amazed by the depth and breadth of the language learning curriculum it has. I use it for my French learning. You can also learn German, Spanish, Chinese and many other languages on Memrise.

There's almost nothing you can't find a how-to video on in YouTube. 

8. Google
Lastly, Google is your biggest partner in learning anything for free. 

There is only one way to finding your inner genius -- by working yourself hard, far and wide.

We are like diamonds, our beauty can only shine through cuttings and being hammered. The finest diamond is simply the one with the finest cutting, a well hammered diamond.

If we don't stretch ourselves we will never discover our inner genius, the one thing we can have an absolute advantage in. Meaning that one thing we can become as good at as anyone in the world and thoroughly enjoy the process. For me, teaching is that one thing. With spoken or written words, I can share my knowledge on anything and achieve a near 100% comprehension by my audience. I can write under any circumstance that doesn't have my hands tied. I am currently writing this blog post on a blank A4 paper at midnight, to hurriedly type out on my low battery PC (no thanks to PHCN) before I sleep. As naturally shy as I am, even before joining Toastmasters, I have never been shy explaining what I know. In fact, I have often spend my own money to teach others what I know that may be of value to them. When I joined the UN online volunteers, I only got accepted by an online university as a faculty admin (lecturer). In April, via, I was matched with a US NGO to train their staff on Excel. I got lots of thank you mails from the organization's senior manager, and ended up getting a public recommendation that is only rivaled by the recommendations I got on LinkedIn from my former colleagues (at work and school). There is hardly anything I know that I haven't tried to teach someone else. And it's probably the reason I never run out of what to write on my blog daily.

But why do you need to work hard, far and wide to discover your inner genius?
I'll answer one part at a time.

1. Why Hard?
Working hard on anything leads to one of 3 outcomes: you give in, you give up or you keep screaming game on. You give in when you reach a point where your performance begins to degrade severely, more effort from you yields negative result (negative progress), and you decide to stop completely. You give up when progress is painfully slow and you are sure that you don't want to bear that pain anymore. And it's game on when every increase in difficulty amazingly brings about an enjoyable increase in your performance. Like you are playing your favourite game. You see everything as a pleasant challenge. And that's where your inner genius lies. Unfortunately, you'll never know for sure till you push really hard and find yourself in an unending trend along one of those 3 outcomes.

2. Why Far?
To be sure that the state you are in is a permanent one, you'll need to go very far. There are some activities you'll engage in that will be daunting at first and you will want to give up but as your persevere it suddenly becomes game on. And there are still some others that seem pleasurable in the beginning but becomes unbearably boring after some time and you give in. So the distance matters. You need to go far.

3. Why Wide?
Obviously, you will enjoy and go far in most of the activities you excel at at. But it's only in your inner genius that you will go as wide as possible. Many people enjoy singing and attempt to sing all songs, but only a few go wide (and wild) with singing. Only those whose inner genius is singing will give up everything to pursue a career in singing. They are the only ones who will attempt ceaselessly to sing before everyone. They go wide with it. And that's what seals a talent or ability as your core genius. But you will never know how much you love an activity or how much you are willing to give up for a talent if you don't work hard at it and go far into it.

And these are why you need to work hard, far and wide to discover your inner genius. To find your inner genius.

I bought this book by R. T. Williams titled, "How to write a business plan."

The book is just 5 pages, so it's not easy summarizing without plagiarizing.

Here's my trial at summarizing it:


  1. Cover Page
  2. Executive Summary
  3. Table of Contents
  4. Situation Analysis
    • Market Summary
      • Market Description and Attributes -- Geographic, Demographic, Psychographics & Behavioural
      • Market Needs
      • Market Trends
      • Market Growth
    • SWOT Analysis
      • Strength 
      • Weakness
      • Opportunities
      • Threats
    • Competition
    • Product or Service Offering
    • Critical Issues and Keys to Success
    • Historical Review
    • Macro-environment -- Demographic, Economic, Technological, Political, Legal, Social and Cultural environmental factors that may impact your business
    • Channels of Distribution
  5. Operations
    • Product or Service Manufacture
    • Facilities
    • Location
    • Maintenance
    • Inventory
    • Distribution
    • Customer Service
  6. Marketing Strategy
    • Mission Statement
    • Vision Statement
    • Marketing Objectives
    • Financial/Sales Objectives
    • Target Markets
    • Positioning Statement
    • Marketing Mix describing Products/Services, Price, Promotion, Distribution and Marketing Research.
  7. Financials
    • Break-even Analysis
    • Sales Forecast
    • Expense Forecast
    • Net Profitability
  8. Implementation and Control
    • Implementation Plan
    • Organization Plan
  9. Exit Strategy (Sell or leave for your children)
  10. Appendices and Supporting Information

I hope this helps you give sense and flesh to your business idea. You can buy the full book for less than $1 on Amazon

When I quit my job 4 months ago I thought I was going to be able to finally take a leave and go on a vacation. All my few years of working as an employee, the only time I took a vacation was when I got fired from my first job. I went to Cotonou to practice French for one month. And the only time I have gotten a leave was when I had a Unix training to conduct for senior NEPA staff in Osun state. I took just one week leave. Now things are much worse, everyday is a work day for me, no weekend. Taking a leave is just not possible. Not because I won't get paid while on the leave; I'm not even getting paid while working 18 hours a day. The major issue is running my business has been like climbing mount Everest, and taking a leave will be like going back home to rest and hoping to come back refreshed to start climbing the mountain from ground level again. Simply put, I would be undoing everything I have done so far and might probably just give up the whole entrepreneurship struggle. And vacation? That one is completely out of it: I don't even know how I will survive till year end and I'm already cutting down on everything that costs me money. For 2 weeks now I have been convincing myself that my blazers can go one more wear before dry-cleaning. Spending N4,400 on 2 blazers has suddenly become a big expense.

The only gain I have made since working full-time for myself is me. There has never been any other 4 months in my life that has changed me half as much as the last 4 months have. I remember my ex-boss asking me if I built my company website myself, after I made an Excel macro for him to automate one of the tasks I used to do for the company before leaving. And when I told him I built everything myself, he was surprised and said he's sure I won't go hungry for long. I set up quickbooks myself; I set up a comprehensive CRM tool that tracks my calls to leads, my emails to potential customers and my sales pipeline; I learned to build Windows Phone apps and already published 2; I built my website from scratch and redesigned my company blog; I setup a creative way of training over 450 people Excel online at once; I learned to overcome the challenges of electricity and internet availability; I set-up a premium email service with google to ensure that my mails to clients don't land in their spam/junk folder; I now know more about business than I could ever have known had I not quit my job; worrying about how to survive for the rest of the year has made me immune to peer pressure (even my parents have stopped talking about me getting married, it's now how is business going); I'm now an expert at telling people "no" and not feel sad about it (in business, targeting everyone as customer is same as suicide); I have learned to think always in the long term, to let go of short term gain in favour of a sustainable brand with long term gain; I have stopped trying to impress people, I only care about my paying customers; I'm now anyone and everyone's equal, I don't seek favour from anyone; and, most importantly, I am already learning the one skill I completely lack -- marketing. I have invested in myself.

So how do you invest in yourself?


First, it's not by quitting your job and diving head first into the (shallow end) of the business pool. The way to invest in yourself is to keep testing your limits. Keep challenging yourself to do more than you are absolutely sure you can. Let a large part of your life be faith-based. Learn to ride the waves of life. Give yourself some trouble, don't leave it all to circumstances. Add practice to your reading, focus to your practice, depth to your focus, and top it all with some craze. Don't let all your self-development stop at acquiring and reading books. And if you are not the reading type, I'm sorry, there's very little self-development you can achieve. Nigeria isn't really the type of country where people can learn to be good or great by watching others or soaking knowledge from the society. Reading, and doing it a lot, is the first step to self-development. Then putting to practice the knowledge you acquire from books is the second step. Putting passion/focus into your practice is the third step. Going deeper and deeper is the fourth step. And stretching yourself to the limits, doing crazy stuff with your knowledge (like risking all your life savings on an idea) is the final stage. 

And so I challenge you today, go invest in yourself!