Are Afe Babalola is one of Nigeria’s finest and most successful legal luminaries. But he was not born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. His story is a classic ‘from grass to grace’ story. He did not spring up from what is proverbially referred to as the rocky surface of life. Far from it. If anything, you could say he pulled himself up from life’s quagmire. Born to peasant farmer parents and raised largely on the farm, he never had the privilege of formal, tutored education beyond primary school! But the moments on the farm gave him the opportunity to dream of beating grinding poverty through education. He sat for the School Certificate examinations and proceeded to go through the process leading to his eventual qualification at the London Bar.
Today, he has attained dizzying heights in the law profession and his law chambers is reputed to have produced the highest number of Senior Advocates of Nigeria. His lack of access to formal education fired up the passion in him for providing the platform for formal, quality education for many through his various educational institutions, the flagship of which is the Afe Babalola University, rated as one of the best private universities in Nigeria. His Afe Babalola Farms is a multi-billion Naira enterprise. Even in his mid-eighties, he still religiously goes to the farm!
His is a poster-boy story of how adversity can be turned to opportunity depending on perspective. The Afe Babalola example teaches us that your background is not what makes you poor. It is what you do with moments of opportunities that life offers you.
Moments always place a demand on us, but how we respond depends entirely on us but more often than not, that response will in time to come make a complete difference in our lives for greatness or the contrary. There are obviously several of Afe Babalola’s peers who were confronted with the same circumstances but who only chose to whine and eventually pine away in obscurity while blaming life and a system that did not give them opportunities. When life presents us with moments laden with opportunities, our response can either be of pain or pleasure. Just as moments present us with opportunities, they also present us with resources required to benefit from the opportunities they present to us.
A significant proportion of our essence and life assignment is revealed in moments of divine encounters when God inspires ideas in you. In that moment, there is an agitation that could bring you to tears. Even if you don’t remember dates, you don’t forget the encounter. In February 1992, I quit paid employment as Executive Commissioner of the Boys Scout of Nigeria in very unpleasant circumstances that left me holding the short end of the stick. I was puzzled on what would be my next line of action. I had a family comprising a wife and two children, the last of which was only three months old at that time. My initial thoughts were to sue the organization. But I could not afford the attorney’s fees. I needed to get a job or start a business fast because survival was of paramount importance. One day as I was mulling over what to do next, I heard a clear instruction to read Isaiah 43 verse 19. I quickly went to grab a Bible. What I read in the quoted scripture became the anchor not JUST of my subsequent moves but has been the momentum-sustaining dictum for me, especially in tough times.
The Give-A-Pillow Campaign with the vision of placing pillows on 10,000 public hospital beds in Nigeria was birthed in another memorable moment in July 2011 when a near-death health challenge necessitated my first ever admission in a public hospital in Nigeria. Since then, the campaign has resulted in over 2,000 pillows being placed in several hospitals in five states in Nigeria.
Moments create, reveal and actualize decisions. Every man is largely a product of his choices and consequent decisions. There are things in life that we have a significant measure of control over. Moments present us with choices that enable critical decisions that determine our outcomes in life – who to marry, who to do business with, what type of business to do, where to do it, how much to invest, where to live, what job to take, what networks to have, to walk away from a lifestyle into a new one, to develop new habits, to eat or drink or abstain, to accept God or reject Him, to become a better spouse, to love and appreciate people around you. The list is endless. What life does for us in critical moments that warrant taking a decision is to ask us value questions.
Jesus once saw a man who had been stuck in the rut of lameness for thirty eight years. He did not presume on the situation by healing the man immediately. He asked him if he wanted to be healed! He was not ignorant of the state of blind Bartimaeus whose cry for help had overshadowed the cacophony of those trying to shut him up. Yet He asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Any of those two men could have opted for an intervention quite different from what appeared to be the obvious!
Moments serve as points of transition. A man wakes up in the morning one day as a pauper. Between that time and the time he retires to bed that same day, a memorable phone call that lasts for a few minutes makes him a multi-millionaire! Mordecai in the Bible was a gateman in the palace in Persia until one day when, in one fortuitous moment, he was promoted to prominence as the king’s right hand man! In the riotous moments of profligacy after he had literally extorted his inheritance from a wealthy father, the prodigal son was the toast of the moment, surrounded by fawning friends and whorish fiends. In another moment, after he had exhausted all the wealth in unbridled extravagance, he was a social embarrassment struggling to pilfer food from pigs!
Moments produce empowering or disempowering relationships. Some people enter our lives even if only briefly and the fragrance of the encounter lingers for as long as we live because of the valued impression and impact. Some others are like the fragrance of over-diluted eau de toilette, strong and pungent at first, but only lasts a few minutes. Some we forget almost as soon as they left us!
Memories of magical moments provide us the necessary motivation for patience in tribulation and help us generate staying power to sustain momentum. This is why it is so vital that leaders learn to deliberately create memorable ones for their followers.
How do leaders create memorable moments? … continued
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!