Thursday, 12 October 2017

How climbing up the rungs of failure was my ladder to a successful career

Thoughts on how I was taught
If I had the charm and the gab, I probably would be in a professionally different place, but it really does not bother me, I love what I do.
It is strange that in deciding on a career, the many ideas that came to me were not so inspired by some passion, but by example, the example of the passions or decisions of others. I dreamt of being a brain surgeon or an avionics engineer, I never really caught the bug for the grades, especially in additional mathematics, my teachers did not have the tinder that when lit caused me to combust to a cinder.
How I would have loved to master French, I was teaching myself from a book in primary school until we landed in the cane-wielding tutelage in Mr Okonji in secondary school, his sadistic pleasure was to see us parrot French phrases contorted in pain from the beating he generously administered urging us to study. His nickname became Study-Study, he was a nasty piece of work and a bad teacher.
Wailings and failings
After secondary school, I toyed with the idea of Quantity Surveying after a brilliant uncle but ended up on a Chemical Engineering course by the persuasion of an old student. I did not get far with the course; one lecturer was so German in speech and mannerism than to be understood and more than half the class failed mathematics that the engineering department had to lay out special classes to pull us up.
Gbenga Daniel who eventually became the governor of Ogun State was the acting Head of Department and besides learning chess and playing Scrabble, I made nothing of that year. I, however, learnt enough to realise that I was more interested in Electrical Engineering as a gateway to electronics and computing, so as I failed that year and was asked to withdraw, I was admitted as almost the youngest in the class at another more prestigious polytechnic.
After three years there, student politics, religion and somewhat undiagnosed depression, 4 years after secondary school I had no further paper qualification beyond secondary school in Nigeria where the comparison with other failures was the persuasive force towards greater achievement. I was a lost child.
Mentored by one who knew the way
A year out and away from the overbearing influence of my very successful parents, but a ward of an uncle who knew failure young and with luck, good fortune and opportunity had become one of the leading insurers in Nigeria, I began to build my life again, not out of comparison to other failures, but in the spirit of knowing what could be possible for me, if I put my heart and mind to it.
The belief in me, culled the depression, managed the anxiety, emboldened my daring and sense of adventure and though, on my first day back at school, my junior in secondary school was 3 years ahead of me, I neither flinched nor shirked, I faced what I had to do, with dignity and purpose. The little detail that this junior was the very person I first wielded the power of secondary school seniority on, was a minor lesson of karma that I refused to allow consume me.
This was my second spring, no more the youngest in class that I had been from primary school through secondary school into two years of school after, I was a mature student with more knowledge of how tertiary education worked than most of my colleagues. I led the class, represented my colleagues and brooked no nonsense from either veteran students or lectures. Some came to respect the confidence and authority I exuded. In controversy, I was as measured as I was revolutionary, persuading rather than being confrontational. It served me well.
Mastery in immersion
I graduated with good grades, 7 years after secondary school and I landed in a job market without the influence peddling or favours I once could call upon out of the patronage of my father or the precociousness of my youth. Well shod for the roads of Lagos, with the choice of the industrial motors or stepper motors, I chose the latter and every computer outfit I could find I walked into asking for a job.
I had decided, I was the only one who could best represent myself and that is how I walked into this building that housed IT Systems and I was offered a job there and then. Like a sponge for knowledge, I learnt all I could about Personal Computers, repaired circuit boards, fixed software problems, taught myself desktop publishing and within a year, I went into self-employment consultancy and no one thought was a smart thing to do.
It was the smartest thing I ever did, it is strange to know that in 29 years of working in the computer industry, I have only been in permanent employment for 7 years, I suppose I have never been a corporation man, like my father was or anyone else that could have been a mentor, I was also not an apparatchik, my entrepreneurial skills are hardly top notch, but I hope I have been able to sell a skill that helps organisations achieve goals of efficiency, usability and affordability of computer solutions.
Questioning and listening
That is what I enjoy about my job, big problems reduced to simple solutions, thinking in ways that could be silly, mad and interest, being the clown and exhibiting the furrows of a frown and then we go to town with something of renown. In large and small firms, meeting with people from all walks of life, I have made many friends and encountered the occasional prick of a manager, probably twice.
I guess that is part of the occupational hazard that weaves into a raconteur’s milieu. In that, I looked forward to new challenges, the opportunity to tackle a new subject, meet new people and craft amazing solutions. I am still excited when something works as it should and tenacious when things do not produce the expected results until they do.
My curiosity still has that childlike inquisitiveness, I have questions, I seek answers and much as I can be a fresh pair of eyes, those eyes come with eager to listen ears, each new day is fresh for learning things, tricks, truths and tips. Sometimes, it looks like I stumbled into this career, maybe I was right on course, just not by well-trodden paths.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Angels and strangers roam on Twitter

Stranger than fiction
“I know you well enough from Twitter! You need a good rest!”
This was an assessment of my Twitter activity given by someone I did not know was following me. A complete stranger who last night saw the predicament I was in having missed the last train to Manchester because of a late-running train from Norwich into London.
As I was being played irresponsibly like a political ball of railway franchise ping-pong between Virgin Trains that would have handled the London – Manchester leg of my journey from London Euston Station and Greater Anglia Trains that handled Norwich to London part that ran 45 minutes late, leaving me less than 20 minutes to make the tube journey between London Liverpool Street and London Euston. I faced the prospect of a night on the streets somewhere in London.
The best Virgin Trains could offer me was a supplementary ticket to travel in the morning, the alternative being a train to Wolverhampton some 75 miles from home. Between Greater Anglia Trains and Virgin Trains, considering I bought the ticket from the latter’s website, they should have arranged a means to me to my destination or accommodation for the night. Neither tried hard enough, it took the easy road without informing me of my rights.
Good Samaritan values
I learnt through my conversation with Virgin Trains that Euston Station closes at 1:30AM, but the King’s Cross St. Pancras Station is open overnight with some coffee and food shops open too.
Making for King’s Cross, my stranger friend asked me to come over on Uber, I was in more straitened circumstances than to take up that offer and I thanked him and bid him goodnight. He did not relent, over the next 90 minutes, he enquired about my welfare, my whereabouts and much else, my assurances not deterring him.
Then, he said he was coming to get me, he drove over from Putney in South West London and brought me back to his home which he shared with his wife and two friendly dogs. I had some mint tea and retired to the spare bedroom along with information for connecting to their wireless network.
Consideration and more
Between daring and trust, I slept well and I woke up to a breakfast, meeting his wife and a discussion that covered as many topics as we found interest to think about. When we arrived at his home at just before 3:00AM, he dipped his hand in his pocket and gave me some money, saying he did not want me to think about that issue.
I got dressed and I was given a lift to Putney Station, I arrived at London Euston Station in time to catch the noon train to Manchester. Fred is a friend, a friend indeed, to me he was an angel, kindly, generous and exceedingly considerate.
Our encounter came from certain views, expressions or opinions I have posted on Twitter, whatever that was, he decided to follow me and by that, out of the blue, on a day I desperately needed help, he was there to offer more than I could have imagined or wished for.
He was a stranger to me, I was no stranger to him, my Twitter conduct had made enough an impression to have him accord me the offer to spend a night at his home. Invariably, your conduct and conversation on social media matters, friends and enemies observe you, the family sees you, angels and strangers notice you.
Thank you, Fred, for your kind-hearted, magnanimous and generous friendship, I am in deep gratitude to you. Thanks.

Thought Picnic: Once upon a time, he had no care at all

Once, it did not matter
I have history, I used to be a man without a care in the world, anything considered was met with the resources and means to manage, control, and handle any situation.
This year has however presented challenges that have tested my resolve to extents that make me wonder whether I have the resolve to weather the storms that swirl around me.
Yet, I want to count my blessings by telling my inner self that you have come a long way, you have face situations and threats graver than what the present throws at you, you are coming through this.
Close to broke, but not broken
Some of my recent writings might have been showing strains, like one is almost at breaking point, even if supply comes in to ensure one is neither crushed nor broken. There is a spring within that enlivens in the midst of the desperate and the difficult.
I cannot live in the past to then use that to overwhelm my present in pity, much as that nudges ever so close to my sense of calm. To imagine there was a time when where I find myself tonight would have meant nothing more than logging onto a website and booking a room for the night, without worrying about it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing today to meet that challenge.
Then again, it happens
It is as dire as not even having the means to take up a generous offer of a bed, counting the hours to the dawn have begun on a hard bench in a train station getting less busy than usual.
I boarded a train in Norwich that was to arrive at London Liverpool Street at 21:55, giving me 65 minutes to make the London Underground tube journey to Euston Square Station which is just 5 minutes from London Euston Station where I would have boarded a train home to Manchester Piccadilly Station at 23:00.
As I have so patiently suffered at the hands of the Greater Anglia Railways with late or cancelled trains, the train ran 45 minutes late, giving me less than 20 minutes to make my connection, I arrived at London Euston just as the train to Manchester was departing and that was the last train for the day until the morning.
Living life like life sometimes is
This is where I would not have bothered but settled into a hotel nearby. Alas! I cannot even use my free nights because I cannot cover the taxes. Then having not informed anyone of my coming through London at this rather late hour, I am somewhat stranded. The generosity of strangers beckoning me leaves me almost listless in delirium.
That I am in a bind is because of choices I have made and those choices I do not regret, where between denigration and dignity, I chose the latter and walked. The greater shame is in the fact that trust reposed in some and promises offered by others have been poorly served.
When faced with these things, I look to put it all down to experience. This with all its unpleasantness is called life and people live it, I have been granted the opportunity, though far from favourable to me, to live life on a spectrum of unfamiliarity. Even that inspires writing.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Thought Picnic: Find your holy river in which to drown

[The video where he dove into a pool has been taken down, sadly.]
Let's go down 2 the holy river
If we drown then we'll be delivered
Courtesy of AZLyrics.
These are the first two lines of the lyrics of The Holy River that I probably heard so many times before when I received Emancipation, the 3-CD compendium of prolific songsmith genius by Prince.
Looking beyond ourselves
This is where many of us find ourselves, the need to go to a place where we can lose ourselves in the awesomeness of something so beyond ourselves that we are born anew. To imagine and believe that the in drowning there is a beginning of deliverance rather than the termination of death is to have faith in wonder that defies explanation.
It is without a doubt that when I look over events in my own life, I have stories of visits to the holy river where I dared to drown, to lose myself to the danger of the loss of life only to emerge delivered from a fate that once seemed ready to overwhelm me.
In times of untimely birth, or when I was within inches of becoming roadkill completely oblivious of the vehicle passing in front of me at full throttle on an expressway, and a life-threatening cancer diagnosis just a day under 8 years ago, I became a pilgrim to the holy river.
Escape self-deception
U can try and try but there's nothin' 2 hide
U can't run from yourself and what's inside
U got 2 find the answers 2 the questions that U most fear

So over and over U ask your soul
Why'd U come down 2 a world so cold?
And the voice inside says 2night the truth will be told
I will make no grammatical corrections of these lyrics by Prince because he writes his songs in this manner and that is the way things are. And so here I am with myself and the realities that so scare the wits out of me, yet in the darkness that attempts to engulf me, I strive and strain to see some light, a light the lights of the path to redemption.
The grace that has been granted me to live through things I could never on my own strength endure is unquantifiable and in such abundance, that as I appear to faint, I am revived. The day my sleep deserted me for the troubles of lack of supply in money, options and excuses necessary to liberate me from the quagmire and pressures of all corners I could face almost sapped me of all resolve.
Give despair no place
Worry solves nothing nor does it offer any ideas for the better, that truth became a revelation once again, even as the issues weighed heavily on my mind that it was almost a supernatural feat to avoid being distracted from the focus I needed to have on the assignment I had to hand.
U surrounded yourself with all the wrong faces
Spending your time in all the wrong places
Puttin' your faith in things that only make U cry
People say they love U when they wanna help
But how can they when U can't help yourself?
The more they say they love U, the more U just wanna die
So here we go again, the self analysis
Have another glass of Port and uh.. forget this
The band's playin' at the club 2night and they're bound 2 groove
At which point you are on the verge of lamenting that you are a lost cause, the cause and course you chose looking like the ignorant and unschooled you have become. The question rings out in self-flagellation, what have I done with my life. Bad choices, lost opportunities, rotten decisions, irrational angst and stupid advice all computing a result about to print out a 7-letter word that is the antonym of success.
Find your holy river in which to drown
It is enough to turn to drink and seek the solace or succour of escapism, even if in reality you have hardly escaped that circumstance.
And then it hit 'cha like a fist on a wall
Who gave U life when there was none at all?
Who gave the sun permission 2 rise up everyday? (Ooh, oh yes)
Let me tell it (Go'n)
If U ask God 2 love U longer
Every breath U take will make U stronger
Keepin' U happy (happy) and proud 2 call His name (Go'n and say it)
Jesus (Jesus)
One must remember, the source of sustenance that does not submit to rational thought, yet it makes a difference that no words that so readily explain. Why do I speak in tongues, words that escape my lips daily in a language I have no comprehension of? I pray for a difference, for liberty, for freedom, for security, for happiness, for companionship, for another with whom to share and bear the burdens of living and life.
Indeed, I want to go down to the holy river and take more than a sip of the crystal life-giving waters, I feel ready to drown in the swell that sweeps me off my feet and delivers me to the other bank lifted, resuscitated and refreshed by angels that strengthen me with every supply to be well beyond what my even my dreams could never contemplate.
Let’s go down to the holy river, if we drown then we’ll be delivered. My deliverance is here.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

The consequence of weight on the weight of consequence

Big Bertha puffed and panted quite indeed,
She leant as her walking feet disagreed,
Her hand to shelf and trolley did exceed,
The moderate quotas we accede.
With myself I always plead,
Don’t give in to that sprite of greed,
That makes you chomp and overfeed,
On things you never really need.
For Bertha could have one-time heed,
The helpful hints to follow the creed,
That if you ran that your soles did bleed
You’ll never be a poet’s seed.
Then so to us that would be freed,
From old-age labours that impede,
Should we become a sporty breed,
And there a healthy life to lead.
This was inspired by my seeing a lady who could be much less a burden of herself but filled her trolley with biscuits she did not need and so the result of her tired and heavy breathing, panting like she was going to pass out, leaning heavily on her trolley and almost praying for dear life.
In that, I saw a lesson for myself, in that, I like rich foods, but have cut down on sugar which I no more have in either tea or coffee, my doughnut cravings are reduced to probably one every two months, I rarely have fizzy soft drinks and would rather make milkshakes at home from fruits and nuts.
I don’t do as much exercise as I should, but I do a lot more walking if all I have to walk is less than 3 miles and I know my way. I am concerned about my weight and my body, and some of what my circumstances are helping keep that in check. Too many of us are piling on weight we could do without and it strains the heart and lungs whilst being stressful on the knees.
I am the last one to give health and fitness advice, but I see enough people suffering quite visibly because of what they are carrying in weight, it is an uncomfortable issue that needs some frank and honest discussion.