I frequently meet people who are interested in starting or being part of a creative club of hardware hackers who build extremely useful tools from everyday gadgets and simple components. They would love to be part of what I now call the Nigerian Tech Club. It will not just include hardware hackers but also guys/girls doing the amazing with software.
I have created a crowdfunding page on indiegogo for everyone willing to support and be a pioneering stakeholder in this revolutionary movement. The goal is to raise $10,000 and then I can approach my high value contacts/network to fund the costs for a conducive hub space and every other cost involved in setting it up as 24/7 home office like environment with always available food/drinks. 
Below is a copy of the funding appeal page on Indiegogo.

Nigerian Tech Club
We are creating a hardware + software tech club where extremely creative guys and girls with excellent hardware or software hacking skills can come together to build things that will meet the unique needs of everyday Nigerians, companies in Nigeria and fellow geeks in Nigeria. 
We aim to:
  • Have a dedicated hub open 24/7.
  • Have all kinds of hardware (raspberry pis, arduinos, netduinos, microcontroller chips, programmer boards, a high speed computing server, general electronics components, new tech devices, DIY electronics kits ...) and special software to program devices and do uncommon things.
  • Start the first true Nigerian hardware + software hacker space.

Why should you support this?
Your contribution will be used solely for procuring the hardware and software needs of the club. We are going to separately source for the fund to cover costs of securing a great workplace, providing the conducive work environment and keeping the kitchen always stocked with food. None of the contributed money here will be used for anything besides buying the components, software and books that the club will provide its members.And as a pioneering contributor you'll be on our Tech Hall of Fame list and you'll become a stakeholder. You will be in the loop of everything that happens and you will always be the first to be shown the amazing products that come from the club. 
Other Ways You Can Help
There are many ways you can be a part of this.
You can:

  • Help spread the word.
  • Help inform other tech geniuses you know who would want to be part of this.

You can also reach Michael Olafusi on +2348089382423 to join the administrative team.

    I recently got a consulting project that will require predictive modelling. I spent this week trying to get a feel of what the client requires from me; I spent 4 days (closing at 8pm) at the company just to get a good grip of the work scope. And now I have a big enough motivation to learn predictive modelling.

    Yesterday, I bought the following books:
    1. Predictive Analytics: Microsoft Excel by Conrad Carlberg
    2. Applied Predictive Modeling by Max Kuhn, Kjell Johnson
    3. Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking by Foster Provost, Tom Fawcett
    4. Data Smart: Using Data Science to Transform Information into Insight by John W. Foreman
    5. Predictive Analytics For Dummies (For Dummies (Business & Personal Finance)) by Anasse Bari, Mohamed Chaouchi, Tommy Jung
    6. Decision Analytics: Microsoft Excel by Conrad Carlberg
    7. Statistical Analysis: Microsoft Excel 2010 by Conrad Carlberg
    8. R for Everyone: Advanced Analytics and Graphics (Addison-Wesley Data & Analytics Series) by Jared P. Lander
    9. Learn R in a Day by Steve Murray

    image: datasciencecentral.com

    You might be amazed by the number of books and ask if I will be able to read them all. The truth is I'm not bothered about reading them all immediately; the trouble is that when I want to learn a thing I don't buy just one book. Even when I do google search, I open up to 10 different results before I begin reading one. It's really funny, especially when I'm searching for the meaning of a word. I would open results from thefreedictionary.com, vocabulary.com, dictionary.reference.com, merriam-webster.com, en.wikipedia.org and urbandictionary.com. And investopedia.com sometimes. Just to learn the meaning of a word. Even a word I could have correctly guessed its meaning. And I use the same approach in learning from books; I buy many books.

    So I've now officially joined the Big Data train. I will be learning to make predictive models and do all those cool stuff that has made Big Data the new hype. And I will not be working on dead sample data. I will be working on live data that will drive business decisions and deliver value for everyone involved. 

    I have tried learning R language and statistical analysis a few times before but I never had a commercial reason to give it my usual obsessive focus. The training I signed up for were all taught by college professors and I saw little commercial drive to learn it like I did Excel. But now I'm into it. I will be reading my eye balls out and putting to practice all I read as I have a soft deadline to meet. I have been told to help make the most out of the data bank, so I will be needing to think as creatively and analytically as possible. Both during the day and at night I will be thinking big data. Even in my dreams, like I used to dream of Excel in 2012, I will be dreaming of predictive analysis. I will be turning down some training offers to make out more time for this. Training has never been a big piece of my original business plan; consulting and building creative data analysis solutions were my original focus. But training is easier to sell and with my level of expertise, I come at a huge bargain. Even while I used to do this part-time, I did mostly Excel macro jobs and special Excel based jobs. I never tried to make money from training, the few people I trained, I trained for free (except 1).

    Soon you will begin to see occasional posts on big data and my journey into that exciting world.

    Knowing that some day all my hard-gotten skills and knowledge will make me live a rich and lively life has been an additional daily silent motivation. It's better to spend one's youth building a formidable career or business than looking for easy money. Money cannot get you skill but skill can get you money. Being the son of a billionaire can get you a car the mechanic's son can only dream of but to become a skilled driver you will have to learn like the mechanic's son. In fact, he has an edge over you skill-wise. And it's like that for all skills and valuable experience, they come with invested time and hard work. Money can't take the place of that hard work and invested time.

    There is a confidence and ease that comes with knowing you are extremely good at what you do and you control your source of income. And this confidence can only come from years of hard-work learning and perfecting your work skill. Saying no to many quick money options and spending money you could have saved on learning to be the best. You prioritize learning over earning. Your client/boss knows how extremely valuable you are and treat you with respect. No financial setback can lead to a crisis because there will be companies willing to sack one of their staff just to create space for you. And if you decide to go on your own, it's not a matter of if you will get customers but when they will begin to troop in.

    Prioritizing learning over earning makes you productively active and valuable. You create huge value in your field of expertise. And you move the nation's economy forward. The trick is to be focused and not dabble in and out of everything. Find out where your aspirations and values lie, chose a career/business path along that line and give it your best. Invest heavily, in time and resources, to become one of the best in your chosen career/business field. Keep at it and don't have an exit strategy; make it a lifelong plan. After a while your efforts and learning will set you apart. You will become a respectable authority in that field and money will come in amounts you never believed possible while you were struggling in the early learning stage but kept on.

    So for a live of relevance and financial stability, prioritize learning over earning.

    It's amazing that we all know that there is no perfect house, whether we built it or rent it, and we adjust so well to the realities of the choice we make such that it becomes very emotional for us to move to another house. None of us believes a real estate agent when he tells us he has gotten us a perfect house. We know that something will be wrong with the house, either the location or the neighbours or the electricity or the room size or the traffic on the road that leads from there to your workplace. In fact, we are not surprised by these shortcomings and won't even be at ease until we are told the shortcomings of the house.

    image: eecg.toronto.edu

    But when it comes to dealing with people we take things the other way round. We expect everyone to be perfect, their shortcomings come as a surprise to us and we don't want to accommodate those shortcomings. We treat a house better than we treat people. We would adjust to make ourselves comfortable with the house we rent and try hard to get along with the landlord. Yet the first thing we do in a new workplace is to shut out the people we have minor issues with; we won't get along with people for trivials like "I greeted him on my first day at work and he didn't respond", "I don't like the way he looks and walk" and the most ridiculous one: "My spirit just doesn't get along with him." We don't give a chance for other people's shortcomings. We won't adjust to get along with people and we act as if it's a bad thing for anyone to have a shortcoming.

    We have trouble seeing people as a package deal of both good and bad. Like a house. No one has everything great about him. Even your role model has feet of clay. You, yourself, have probably got legs of clay. No one is perfect. No one should be expected to be perfect. No one should be despised for being imperfect. People's shortcomings shouldn't draw excessive criticism from you. You should even expect to someday come in contact with the not-so-good part of every saint you know. 

    Perhaps, we should treat people more like the way we treat our houses. We should expect them to have shortcomings, and rather than looking for a perfect person we should look for one we can bear with his/her imperfections. We should be willing to adjust to live/work comfortably with others, and not always being judgemental. We should not just get along with them, but just as we get along with our landlords, neighbours and house environment, we should get along with all that comes along with them. Once you've made your decision to live/work with a person then adjust to accommodate all that comes along with that decision or simply change the decision. Everyone is a package deal.

    Occasionally we all need to take mental breaks. To stop trying to take charge and order our daily activities. To break free from our high pressure lifestyle and observe nature and the events we like to control happen without our domineering influence.

    image: guardianlv.com
    To take a mental break is like taking a vacation to refresh you mind. So many of us take vacations just to spend time away from office work, we load it with lots activities and events that we seldom accomplish all we set to do during the vacation. We seldom let go of our strict plans, our willingness to dominate our daily flow and desire to fill each day with as much tasks as possible. We seldom take a mental break. A break to free our mind and be an observer for a few days. 

    Taking a mental break helps you notice the things around you that you never knew were there. It helps you know your family, friends and those around you better. It helps you release stress. It helps you take a higher view of living, seeing the things that can't be penned on a todo list or done by planning. It helps you become more natural, creative, caring and philosophical. It brings you closer to the real you, as you observe more than reacting.

    Taking a mental break is not easy and not something we are used to doing. It can be very hard to let things go on around us without exerting our presence. It's like making yourself almost invisible. It makes most people feel like others are taking them for granted. People around you will even be surprised my your new laid back and calm attitude. But it might also be the best break you've taken in a long time.

    image: success.com
    I now get calls everyday. I'm no longer the one pursuing clients. I'm beginning to consider hiring more hands. Though cash isn't flooding in, yet, but as far as sales pipeline is concerned, mine is full. Keeping up with requests and following up with prospective customers is now becoming almost impossible. Somehow all my efforts of the past 5 months are beginning to bear fruits. For once, I can see not just with the eyes of faith but also with my real eyes that Excel can make me rich. 

    I'm no longer thinking of where the next business is going to come from, instead, I'm now bothered about how to take care of all the requests I get. My weekends are all gone. I now wish I have more than 2 days in my weekends. My current headache is creating a service system to make me turn down the fewest number of requests. It means having something for everyone. I'm already standardizing my online Excel training to cater for those who can't afford my class based training or premium one-on-one training. Everyone I have trained is assuring me of referring more people to me, they all say I exceeded their expectations. If one can cash compliments I will be extremely rich by now. My mail inbox and sms inbox is filled with head-swelling compliments.

    Just yesterday I got another full-time job offer. That is the 4th I have gotten in these past 5 months. As usual, I turned it down. This week I'm resuming everyday at a client's company to understudy their data driven operations and improve them. It first came as a full-time job offer. 

    And so now I can say with all conviction that the future is looking very bright.

    The best way to start a business is to first do it as a side hustle. Start it part time. Work on it in your spare time. Rather than think your business idea is too common and not worth starting, start it part time. Rather than only thinking about how to make money of that special skill of yours that is constantly getting you commendations, offer yourself hirable part-time, outside your day job hours. If you want to run a store selling specialized goods, it's much easier now, signup on Konga or Jumia and put up those goods for sale without having to spend hundreds of thousands getting a physical store first.

    Whatever business you want to start, start it part-time. And start it now.

    image: floridaflex.com
    Figure out the final product or service you'll be offering your customers/clients and take the cheapest route to provide that product/service. If you do it right you will discover that you can start that business part-time regardless of how demanding your day job is. 

    In my case, I wanted to start a consulting business. What is common in Nigeria is that consulting firms use a very western sounding name -- Jakes and George consulting, Royal Hilt e.t.c. -- and they get a well furnished expensive office space in the parts of Lagos that look great on business cards. But I asked myself what the cheapest route to providing the services I'll be offering is. And I found out that there will people who do not care where your office is or what your company name sounds like but care only about if you can get the job done perfectly or not. So without even setting up a company or quitting my job I began calling myself a consultant. I created online adverts marketing my services. I began getting calls. Sure I lost some businesses/customers because they wanted a company and not me, an individual, to do the job but I got many other jobs where what simply mattered was that I delivered. If I hadn't taken that leap I wouldn't have gotten any deals. If I had decided to get everything perfectly set before launching I would be launching too late and missing the useful experience I got from getting rejected by clients who wanted a company to do their work and also the skill sharpening experience from working on the jobs I secured. And after more than a year, I was getting so many deals I ended up having no weekends as I spent them on doing one client job after another and I had to make the decision to either slow down or face it full-time.

    Now, I'm doing it full-time. And because I started it part-time and know what it is people want the most as regards my company structure I'm having an easy time setting up with just the requirements I need. I don't have a western sounding name because I found out that my clients cared little about that. I rather picked a name I love to use and that I can easily brand. I didn't get an office space first before getting a client. In my line of business, people want to see your office space only after they are at the last stage of purchasing your service or even after. I consolidated my resources on focusing on what mattered most -- adverts, marketing, equipment and getting recommendations -- than doing what I see others do. And I could do this confidently because I already have a wealth of knowledge about what my clients care about, all garnered from my period of doing this part-time. 

    Having started my business part-time in a crude and almost incompetent way gave me valuable industry knowledge and a few clients that made transitioning into a full-time business easy. And I believe that no matter the kind of business you want to start, you can always start it part-time. You don't have to meet all the requirements, start from where you are, many customers will reject you and tell you why (useful information) and some will stick with you and get you referrals (building your customer base). But if you don't venture out, if you don't start at all, you will not enjoy those benefits and eventually end up starting your business the tough way.

    A lot of times we have this sudden desire to do a particular thing or buy a particular product. You feel passionate about it. 

    Well, that passion could be well engaged.

    Yes, passing provides the catalyst for learning things extremely fast. Passion makes it easy for you to give your best even when you aren't seeing results commensurate with your efforts. And with passion you can achieve more than you thought possible. It truly ignites you.

    Learning to drive is best achieved with a passion to want to be behind the wheels than without that passion. Schooling becomes a chore without the passion to want to learn. Work becomes a new form of slavery when you've got no passion for the work. And according to Psychology, what you feel for your spouse is a passionate love while what you feel for your parents is compassionate love.

    There are a lot of things/experiences where the presence or absence of a passion makes all the difference. And that's why it often said that it's better to make all your mistakes in your youth because that is the period of your life that you can summon passion at will. You can easily find the passion to do anything. It makes bouncing back from any failure extremely easy and makes going the distance worthwhile. Engaging your passion brings out the best in you. And that is why careers like being a pilot, a soldier, a politician and truck driver are impossible without a strong passion for them.

    So when next you've got strong urge to do something, maybe apply for a masters or start a business, don't take that passion lightly as long as it's something you believe you'll do someday. It's much better to do it when you've got a passion for it than when you've got a perfect plan for it. Because you'll never find a perfect plan and you can achieve more with enthusiasm (passion) in one day than you can in one year with knowledge alone. 

    Today, I'll be sharing with you the free offers I have taken advantage of online. I'll try to list all but I'm sure I won't remember a few as they are a lot and spanning the over 6 years I've been super active online.

    image: cashtactics.net

    1. Audible 1 month free subscription to buy an audiobook of my choice. It's still available and you can get yours by signing up at www.audible.com
    2. $50 free Google credit/coupon to run your adverts on Google. Now it's $75 and you can get it at http://www.google.com/ads/adwords-coupon.html
    3. SafariBooks 1 month free subscription to read books and watch training videos. It's still available and you can access it at https://www.safaribooksonline.com
    4. Free Facebook $50 credit/coupon to run Facebook ads. I got this in 2010 and I don't think Facebook still gives it.
    5. Free LinkedIn $50 credit/coupon to run LinkedIn ads. I used this to pitch CEOs and senior managers of companies I wanted to work for. Currently there's no coupon but make sure you're on LinkedIn and check your emails regularly someday you'll get the free coupon email.
    6. $250 per month credit on Microsoft Azure to host websites and cloud services. I used it to host my Excel training videos. I got $150/month from registering for Microsoft BizSpark, and all you need to be eligible is to have a young company (less than 5 years old). I got the other $100/month as part of the gifts that came with being a Microsoft MVP. You can sign up for the BizSpark here, http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/default.aspx
    7. Netflix 1 month free subscription. Used it to watch some of the movies I saw on Silverbird movies guide. You can get yours here, www.netflix.com Don't forget to install Hola too (www.hola.org).
    8. Free Google Apps and free 50 custom emails for my domain, olafusimichael.com I got this in 2009. Now it costs $600/year. It's the biggest online deal I've ever gotten. I have been enjoying it for 5 years now and there's no sign of Google ending that privilege.
    9. $500 Microcontroller C Compiler software for free just by mailing the company and telling them I needed it for my final year project and I couldn't afford it. Obviously, this is no longer available.
    10. All versions of Windows 8 OS, Microsoft Office Professional/Developer, Visual Studio Ultimate and over 1000 other software from Microsoft. Benefits of being a member of BizSpark.
    11. Camtasia Studio for making training videos, JetBrains WebStorm for professional web coding, PluralSight one year subscription for online technical training and many other expensive software. All for free as special third party offers to Microsoft MVPs.
    12. Corporate Finance by Ivo Welch. It costs $60 but the author has made it available to read online (for free), http://book.ivo-welch.info/ed3/ It helped me in my financial literacy journey.
    I can't remember the others and I need to prepare for a training I have this morning.

    It's almost 5 months since I took the plunge into the entrepreneurial pool. I almost dived head first into the shallow end of the pool. And I have spent more time beating and kicking the water just to stay afloat than actually propelling myself forward. 

    Today I want to share what the journey has been for me so far.

    image: theimpactinnovators.com

    It has been a rollercoaster one for me. Several ups and downs. None of my initial plans worked. The money I put together to start the business and sustain it till year end is all gone. This week I have eventually sold approximately all my remaining shares, liquidated my Money Market fund and Mutual Fund. I no longer have any savings or investment, everything is being pumped into my business. Though I'm beginning to see improved turnover but it's not close to 1/3rd of what I believed I would be making by now.

    It has, however, been a very exciting journey. I now pick phone calls; I just discovered that last week. My reluctance to pick phone calls has disappeared. In fact, I do call back immediately when I see a missed call. It's a really big positive change for me. I am also now less analytic; no longer trying to plan everything out before taking actions. Those limitations engineering has burned into me are beginning to wear off. In business there's no manual to read, no simulation software to practice with and the command history is useless. It took me a while to adjust to being more spontaneous and less worrying, and now I can see that I'm less rigid. Most of my business analysis is now in observing the results of the business decisions I took rather than designing the business decisions to make. I now follow the Ready, Fire, Aim principle.

    The biggest change is the calm assurance I now have, that I'm going to make it. You must have noticed that I no longer write those despondent articles that characterized the first two months of my resignation. I have seen all manners of entrepreneurs surviving and flourishing. I'm now certain that if I keep in the game and remain resourceful I will flourish in the end. 

    My entrepreneurial journey so far has been more of an eye opener, opening my eyes to the principles that govern the world of entrepreneurship. And that time is the entrepreneur's greatest asset. If he keeps working hard and creatively, with time he will see results that will dwarf his expectations.

    Some weeks ago I was shown the building of the bank that became Wema bank. That bank was Agbonmagbe cooperative bank and the bank building is still at Yaba, though no longer as a bank. No one will look at that bank building and it's name and believe that it will someday become the Wema bank of today. That bank, with time and bank reforms, grew in a way no one could have correctly predicted. Same with GTBank, when GTBank started in 1990 no one would have believed that it would someday become bigger than First Bank and also become the highest ranking bank in Nigeria. Apple made it's first breakthrough revenue from selling to a retail store, The Byte Shop. Today, The Byte Shop no longer exists but Apple is the world's biggest company. That is the power of growth. 

    image: blog.frannet.com
    It doesn't matter where you start from or how far ahead the competition is; what matters is that you never stop growing. Aim high. Be at the forefront of the revolution, be flexible persistent, keep your eye on where the ball is going to be and not where it has been, leverage technological change, understand the taste of the customers better than the competition and go further than the competition is willing to go. And soon you will be ahead of the competition. And if you don't relent, like Google, you will end up with no competition. That's how powerful seeking growth can be. It takes you from zero to the top and kills your competition. 

    Most of the top companies today started in an ignoble way. Started so small and weak that no one felt threatened by their existence. A lot started as an extension of some youth's project or hobby. Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Google and Facebook.  And the one thing they all have in common is that they grew fast and for a long period. They were all ignored by the competition, even experienced being turned down by the competition, only to end up ruining the competition. Yahoo is being rendered obsolete by the very Google it refused to buy at a giveaway price. Amazon is wiping out an entire industry. Netflix killed the very company it begged for a business partnership at the start.

    To seek growth is to keep pushing the limits, to keep attempting what no one is thinking of in the industry and to spend all you have on innovation. It's the only way companies grow and keep growing. The companies that stop innovating must spend all they have on acquiring the ones that are innovating or risk dying.

    So if the companies you invest in are growing by spending their money on innovation why should you not be innovative? Why should you not seek your own growth by being at the innovative edge of your expertise? 

    Why aren't you seeking growth?

    Identifying what drives you is all you need to build a fulfilled life. It's not going to make your life easier or give you instant fulfillment. But when you build your life on that knowledge, life becomes a fulfilling journey. You not only become better equipped to face life's challenges, you also begin to pick the challenges worth bothering about.

    image: suzifit.com
    What drives me is my desire to own my actions. On the surface, everyone has that desire too. The difference with me is that I will go to almost any length to keep that desire. It's the major reason I don't have a business partner. I value it more than making more money. I value it more than having (more) friends. 

    You might ask why. The truth is that if you look deeply within yourself and look through all that has happened in your life, you will find that there is something about you that, even though you are ashamed to admit, you value more than every other thing (besides God). Every human has it. God put it in there. And it's called: drive. 

    For some people it's money; they would jump over a cliff for an extra kobo. It doesn't matter whether they need the money or not, or whether they would spent it or not. They are like the Shylock (in Merchant of Venice) and Harpagon (in L'Avare) money is like family to them. Whether it's good or bad, I can't say but since they were created that way then what matters is how they put to work that drive. For some other people it's friendship; they love the company of people. They would do anything to be around people and make friends. They don't hold back anything from their friends. Still, for some other people it's education. They will give up getting married early, give up getting a job outside the university, give up friends and spend all the money they have on education. Their best pictures are the ones they took on graduation days. Their album is full of graduation pictures. Their favourite topic of discussion is the value of education.

    Then there are the weird ones, like mine. But the truth is everyone has got one. And paying attention to your drive is the key to living a fulfilled life. It might not be a popular life or a normal life; it will be a life you are happy with deep down within you. You'll end up bothering about fewer things. I don't bother about making the most from a business venture because money doesn't drive me. When something is bothering me and I need someone to confide in, I don't go to my friends, I simply write about it on my blog. I'm not the sort of person who gets annoyed if a friend gets married, has a baby, buys a house, changes his job and buys a private jet without telling me. Friendship doesn't drive me. Just by paying attention to my drive I end up having less things to worry about. And I get to focus on the things that really matter to me. Things like writing whatever comes to my mind without passing it through someone else for editing or fearing what people will think of it, because writing it is simply what matters to me. And also doing things my own way regardless of what the popular wisdom says, because I care more about how I do whatever I do more than the results of whatever I do. I care more about the processes I take than the end. With me, the end doesn't justify the means. If I'm not comfortable doing a thing all the money in this world cannot make up for that discomfort. And the best part of my day is the time I spend just letting my mind drift without any disturbance. 

    Knowing what drives me has made me lead a more creative and care-free life. It has enabled me to accept the real me, to live a life that is in consonance with that real me and to have no hidden worries/secrets.

    What drives you?

    Value is what a thing is worth. And against what most of us think, nothing has a fixed value. 

    image: kaushik.net
    If you take two 75cl bottled water; you give one to someone who is halfway through the 50cl coke bottle he's holding and you give the second to someone who has just come back from jogging. Those two 75cl bottled water won't have the same value. The one in the hand of the jogger will have more value than the one in the hand of the other person: because value comes from meeting a need. When you are eating, the first spoonful gives you more satisfaction than the last spoonful even though it's the same content. When you have two pens the moment you give away one the second one's value rises, you won't want to give it away.

    And it's like that in our professional life. You are only as valuable as the need you meet. You might have the same skill-set as someone else working for a much bigger company doing a similar job to yours but getting more than double your pay. It's because the bigger company values the need he is meeting more than the company you work for value the same need. If you are two at your workplace who do the same task, the day the other person leaves your value increases; even if your salary isn't increased the company will be much more reluctant to let you go. 

    How does having a price tag affects your value?
    The truth is it doesn't. Your value can never rise beyond the need you meet, regardless of your price tag. If you do a task for free or you charge for it, the only difference is that you will be able to continue doing it for a much longer period when you get paid for it, but it doesn't mean that it was less valuable when you were doing it for free. 

    We all use Google & Wikipedia. Have you ever considered buying Microsoft Encarta since you began using Google & Wikipedia? When people are not under the influence of marketers they go for what meets their need. If Wikipedia starts charging for its services, requiring you to be a paid subscriber to access its knowledge bank, it's value is not going to go up or down, this will only reduce the number of people who can afford to use it. But it will affect the value of its alternatives, some people will now see them as their only options.

    So how can you increase your value?
    It's by meeting a greater need or targeting the people that need you most. You either become the bottled water in the hands of the jogger or you become the first spoonful of every meal in your target market or you move from being an ordinary bottled water to Lucozade Sport.

    It's amazing how I now easily make friends, without even intending to. 

    image: pickthebrain.com

    It used to be that when I go to events or meet people I end up being friends with just a few of the people I want to be friends with. I was more like the regular quiet guy. No one takes special interest in me. And I often have to work hard to become friends with the ones I end up being friends with. But now things have miraculously changed. In most events I go there are always people who just take special interest in me. I can't even remember the last event (this year) I went to that some guy or girl didn't give me special attention, taking exceptional interest in me. And it's usually without my trying to even impress them. 

    It got me thinking about what has suddenly changed about me to cause this amazing feat. I began looking for patterns in my recent interaction with people at events, and what I could narrow the cause to was that I have become much more natural, simple, questioning and helpful at social gatherings. Somehow the online me has projected itself onto the offline me. I'm more relaxed and being my true self at events. I talk in a simpleminded way, ask personal questions and give helpful comments. Sometimes it gets me embarrassing attention. And it's gotten me ladies' phone numbers without my asking. It seems being simple, funnily frank and uninterested impresses people more than trying to impress. The only bad part is that I truly wasn't trying to impress. I get their contacts and don't keep in touch. So now my friends' churn rate is extremely high. 

    It's believed that there are two kinds of people -- the detail oriented people and the big picture people. But most people get the classification wrong. Being detail oriented is not same as just having an eye for detail. Everyone, every human need to have an eye for detail. Information/detail empower. But being detail oriented means you don't see beyond the detail. It's like being a finance lecturer versus being an investment banker. The finance lecturer knows the detail but he doesn't use it to do anything extraordinary, he simply teaches it to others and research more on it. While the investment banker uses the detail in ways the books never mentioned. He sees it as just a tool in his toolbox. He tries to see into the future with the detail. And you need to be like the investment banker.

    image: tfosuccess.com

    You have to see beyond now, see beyond the immediate and always aim to see the big picture in all you do. Don't kill yourself over tiny details. Don't be the impulsive type, who acts without looking beyond his nose.

    Being a big picture person isn't the opposite of paying attention to detail. No one as an excuse for not paying attention to detail. It's no joke, the saying that the devil is in the detail. The entire law industry is built on exploiting people who don't pay attention to detail. No company wants an employee who keeps making embarrassing mistakes. And no company can be successfully run by a man who has no eyes for detail. So if you have trouble with details don't ever make the mistake of thinking that makes you a big picture person.

    It's what you do with the details that separate a detail oriented person from a big picture person. A detail oriented person obssesses with the detail and won't stop turning it around while a big picture person see the detail as part of a jigsaw puzzle. He understands the detail and move on to other pieces, trying to put together the puzzle. It's a higher level of interacting with data/detail. And that's why I believe everyone should be a big picture person.

    If you've ever wondered how I come about most of my blog post ideas, then you are not alone. Sometimes, I wonder too. Everything about me is beginning to look spontaneous. My blog posts are spontaneous. My entire livelihood is now spontaneous. Every single day, hour and minute are now spontaneous. And a lot of times I do feel like I'm chasing shadows. I keep giving up the things I have for things, dreams I'm not even sure will come to pass.

    image: armin.com
    I used to wonder what it would be like to live a life that makes sense, that makes sense to me. One where I choose the things I do and choose the consequences of my actions. And more importantly I don't do whatever I don't want to do regardless of what anyone or system says. A life built completely on my own logic. Luckily, my logic is not anti-God. In fact, I consider it built on God. The things I wanted to avoid were the things considered right by the society and I considered not right by me. I wanted all my decisions to be independent of public opinion. 

    We all know that would be impossible. Every man is a product of his society, whether he wants it or not. The best he can do is to choose the society he wants to mold him. So I decided to follow that path, to choose my own society. To select my environment. I started by getting rid of the influences I don't want to be under. I stopped listening to our radio stations and stopped watching our TV stations. I only read the adverts in the our newspapers. I stopped looking up to everyone that's doing way better than me. I stopped making a hero of every very rich guy. I also became unhappy with working more than half of my weekdays for a system/organization I can't influence. I wanted freedom more than stuffs. 

    I moved on beyond getting rid of unwanted influences to surrounding myself with the influences I want. I searched for people whose thinking makes sense to me and media I feel comfortable immersing myself in. I became more disconnected with my immediate environment and more connected to a virtual one. I began chasing the shadows. I began following ideals. Seeking logic in an emotional world. Aiming for perfection in an imperfect world. 

    When people ask me what my motivation is, I find it very hard to answer. The usual things that motivate people have almost no effect on me. Money doesn't motivate me. Acceptance/fame doesn't motivate me. Even doing good isn't my motivation. The people I take inspiration from have only one thing in common -- they lived their lives on their own terms. They had ideals they followed all their lives; it didn't make them all rich as some of them died very poor and it didn't make them all better than every other person in their time. It only made them focused, vulnerable and my heroes. They spent their lives chasing shadows. Like I'm now doing.

    And it's called hard work. 

    Hard work beats talent all the time. For every extremely talented person who is getting on with minimal effort you will find a much less talented fellow who is doing much better by working his bottom off. Hard work beats talent all of the time. And if you are fortunate to be extremely talented and extremely hardworking, you have won a life lottery.

    You can have all the talent in the world but if you don't put some hard work into it, a guy with no talent but with just hard work will do better than you. In fact, when we say nothing is impossible we mean to achieve anything all it takes is just hard work and untiring dedication.

    Three years ago I was not a talented writer. And today I'm still not a talented writer. But if you took what I wrote three years ago and compared it to what I wrote three months ago you would notice the huge improvement, a somewhat miraculous one.

    The only natural talent I have is reading. There has never been a point in my life where I struggled to read, it was not a skill I acquired while growing up; it's more like a skill I was born with. Every other skill I acquired through hard work. I now brush my teeth better with my left hand, in fact, it's like I have always brushed with my left hand. And this is a skill I forced myself to acquire in 2010/2011. My impressive arithmetic skill is the product of several beatings at school and at home, till I became so good that I owed my good graduating result to the lots of Maths in the electrical electronics engineering courses. Now I can do the seemingly impossible with Microsoft Excel using the regular formulas regular Excel users know. I have no natural talent in Excel just hard work carved skill.

    Hard work in itself can make up for any lack: lack of talent, lack of resources, lack of luck and lack of beauty. Because hard work itself is a form of talent that generates its own resources, creates its own luck and have its own beauty. There is something always charming about the hardworking. People find inspiration in the success and riches built on hard work than one built on talent or inheritance. And best of all, anyone can be hard working. There is no entry barrier. In fact, challenges only make its acquisition easier, not harder. 

    And once again, a hard working woman/man is never disadvantaged. Because hard work beats talent all the time.

    We all remember last week Friday and the nationwide call for everyone to bathe with hot water and salt. Some of us remember the wonder investment houses of 2008, promising you double your investments in few months. How people sold their properties and family land to participate. Some will never forget January 27, 2002, how so many lives perished in a canal while fleeing the Ikeja Cantonment armoury explosion. There is only one thing common to all these events and it is not lack of education. Both the educated and non-educated plunged into that canal on the day of that Ikeja armoury explosion. Many lecturers were financial burned in the 2008 investment scam. And though most people don't know that common cold is caused by a virus and viruses can't be killed by drugs, yet their uneducated schemes of curing common cold work.

    image: tweetconnection.com

    The one thing that is common in all those events is simply herd instinct. The natural tendency we have to do what we see others around us doing. It's how we learned to walk, to talk and to write. Unfortunately, it is also the reason we do so many wrong things, like bribing LASTMA officials (because everyone does it and even the official fine you pay won't get to the government account). And it's the reason stock markets will always rise and fall.

    Someone came up with the idea of hot water and salt, most likely an MLM guru, told his contacts and achieved a remarkable feat of reaching all Nigerians in just a few hours. Some people got calls from their entire extended family and that was the main reason most people did it. That many people can't be (completely) wrong. PDP must be searching for the initiator, he is all they need to win elections. 

    In 2008, people saw their poor neighbours suddenly become rich. The saw friends who participated in the wonder investments become overnight millionaires. They had more than enough evidence to be convinced that the scheme works. How it works is secondary, it wasn't along the line of our expertise. We just knew everyone was doing it and getting the promised results, and everyone can't be wrong. The herd instinct. Even the professional investment managers are not immune. A Wall Street investment banker once said, "No one will pay me for correctly predicting a recession, but I will get fired if my prediction is wrong." Practically, it means you won't make any gain by suspecting every scheme but for every one you are wrong about you have lost a great opportunity. And that is what motivates us the most, we don't want to be left out. To be wrong when everyone is right is worse than to be wrong alongside everyone.

    The 2002 disaster is no different. People were running from a visible danger, and naturally they ran together, in the same specific direction. It's the same thing we do when driving along a terrible road, we follow the tire marks of the other cars. The herd instinct.

    Unfortunately, education is powerless against it. Every country has its own. What is different is the logic in the explanations we give to back our actions. The well educated will find a smooth sounding logical explanation, the uneducated will just say I was told to do so.

    Microsoft Excel is the world's most used business intelligence tool. Its knowledge is even compulsory for an MBA degree and the investment world depends greatly on it.

    This training is aimed at making you extremely good in Microsoft Excel, teaching you with live business scenarios. It's intended for Financial Analysts, Business Analysts, Data Analysts, MIS Analysts, HR Executives and Excel Enthusiasts. 

    There are just 10 slots for this month's. You will get lunch, a complimentary USB Flash Drive with the training materials and a training certificate from a registered Microsoft Partner. The training will be facilitated by a Microsoft recognized Excel Expert and the only Microsoft Excel MVP in Africa (there are just about 125 in the world).

    Call Michael on 08089382423 or email mike@urbizedge.com to register.

    Venue: Training hall, 20 Alhaja Kofoworola crescent, off Lagoon Hospital, Obafemi Awolowo road, Ikeja, Lagos.

    The training outline is:

    1)    Data Manipulation in Excel
    a.    How Excel handles different data types
    b.    Data consistency, starting with the end in view
    c.    Building Datasheets that can easily scale
    d.    Sorting
                                             i.    Cascaded sorting
                                           ii.    Sorting across rows (left to right sorting, not the usual up to down sorting)
                                         iii.    Sorting and Conditional Formatting to identify trends
    e.    Filtering
    f.     Data cleaning
                                             i.    Removing duplicates
                                           ii.    Text-to-column
                                         iii.    Grouping
                                          iv.    Data Validation
                                            v.    Conditional Formatting
    g.    Data formatting
                                             i.    Using Tables (and when to convert to tables)
                                           ii.    Formatting for printing
                                         iii.    Formatting for email
                                          iv.    Data Review and formatting for 3rd party use
    h.    Named Ranges

    2)    Charts
    a.    Chart types
                                             i.    Line chart and when to use it
                                           ii.    Column chart and when to use it
                                         iii.    Bar chart and when to use it
                                          iv.    Pie chart and it’s dangers
    b.    Combining charts; when and how.
    c.    Dynamic Charts, using filter.
    d.    Best practices when making charts
    e.    Sparklines
    f.     Power Map and Power View (Excel 2013)

    3)    Pivot Table, Pivot Chart and PowerPivot
    a.    Pivot Table
                                             i.    Default Pivot Table
                                           ii.    Tabular Pivot Table
                                         iii.    Pivot Table Filtering
                                          iv.    Making a very dynamic regular table from Pivot Table
                                            v.    Calculations and Formula use with Pivot Table
                                          vi.    Advanced Pivot Table tricks
    b.    Pivot Chart
                                             i.    Pivot Chart and its limitations
                                           ii.    Dynamic Pivot Charts
    c.    PowerPivot (for Excel 2010 and 2013) only
    4)    Business Data Analysis
    a.    Linking sheets
    b.    Duplicating sheets (better than copy and paste)
    c.    Inserting sheets, labeling and coloring the professional way
    d.    Freezing Panes and splitting windows
    e.    Conditional formatting
                                             i.    To identify patterns
                                           ii.    Using formulae
                                         iii.    To make extremely intelligent reports
    f.     Lookup functions
                                             i.    Vlookup
                                           ii.    Hlookup
                                         iii.    Looking up the last data or pattern in a particular row or column
                                          iv.    Overcoming the limitations of Vlookup and Hlookup using index and match functions
    g.    Power Functions
                                             i.    IF, IFERROR, AND, OR, ISBLANK, and others in the same family
                                           ii.    TEXT manipulative functions to make a completely automated Dashboard
                                         iii.    COUNTIFS, SUMIFS, AVERAGEIFS and others, to make dynamic summary tables
                                          iv.    MATCH and INDEX to do the impossible
    h.    Other Functions
                                             i.    Math Functions
                                           ii.    Text Functions
                                         iii.    Logical
                                          iv.    Others
    i.     Formula Auditing
    j.     Goal Seek, Scenario Manager and Solver
    k.    Excel Web Query
    l.     Most useful Excel keyboard shortcuts
    5)    Reporting
    a.    Best Practices
    b.    Excel Dashboards
    c.    Data Visualization
    d.    Having the audience/recipient in mind
    e.    E-mails and Excel reports
    6)    Excel to PowerPoint and Word
    a.    Linking PowerPoint/Word Charts to Excel
    b.    Embedding Excel sheets in PowerPoint/Word
    c.    Making a Powerful PowerPoint Presentation
    7)    Excel VBA
    a.    Recording Excel macros
    b.    Automating analysis and recurrent reports
    c.    Simple practical uses
    d.    Excel User forms and interactive Macros

    Call Michael on 08089382423 or email mike@urbizedge.com to register.

     "Michael [UrBizEdge] was instrumental in getting our staff up to speed on basic Excel, as well as more advanced skills that have already started to improve the back end of our programs. He was flexible, accommodating, professional, friendly, and was able to tailor our training to exactly what we needed. We could not have been more happy working with him, and he truly has helped our organization increase our effectiveness and comfort with database work." 
    -- Beth M., Program Manager for Kentucky YMCA, USA.

    If you prefer, you can sign up for our online Excel training class. Call or email Michael 08089382423 mike@urbizedge.com for registration details.

    You can also call us for special jobs, like helping you clean and make sense of your operations data and automating some of your data driven processes.