Don’t Mock Me, Teach Me

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“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” – Proverbs 12:1

How often have you heard people say, I can’t marry a woman that doesn’t know how to cook? Or I can’t be with someone that doesn’t know the difference between your and you’re (grammatical errors)? I reckon that these have led to the demise of many promising relationships.

First and foremost, I love food. Ah! Food is life. In Nigeria, there is a common saying that “the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” so I do believe a woman ought to possess great culinary skills.

However, as I grow older (and wiser I hope), I have come to accept that not every woman produces magic in the kitchen and not everybody is grammar-savvy. Nobody knows it all and we all have flaws; even the shortcomings of the genuises among us may come easily to those with the lowest of IQs.

As a consequence, I have come to realise that everybody has something to teach you and what really matters is being teachable. So the most important question ought to be is she willing to learn how to cook? Is s/he eager to know the difference between your and you’re?

Teachability is not something you can force on anyone; it is a choice. We choose whether to react positively or negatively to other people’s views and ideas. Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong once said, “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t teach them.”

Naturally, we abhor criticism and negative feedback. No one likes to be criticised so we tend to develop strong resistance and reluctance to it.

This problem is often exacerbated if one possesses any of the six things that can make people arrogant: power, fame, intelligence, affluence, talent and beauty. No matter how powerful, famous, intelligent, affluent, talented and/or beautiful we are, if we are unteachable, it will be hard or almost impossible for us to reach our full potential in our endeavours, careers or relationships.

Hence, being teachable is crucial in self-development and self-education; it is the most important skill in life. Teachability is linked to having an unquenchable thirst and deep appreciation for knowledge.

Your immediate contacts, friends and family are always willing to share their information/knowledge if you are willing to learn from them. Every coach/manager from all walks of life loves anybody that is teachable. They are often happy and eager to help anyone who is not conceited to ask questions.

So go ahead and ask questions for everyday is an opportunity to learn something new. And if someone doesn’t know what you know, try correcting/teaching them before mocking them.

The Godfather: Lessons

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I watched the classic movie adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather for the umpteenth time last week. Twenty-five years after the last of the triology was released, the movie is still interesting and captivating. So let’s look at the lessons one can pick up from the movie.

1. Anger truly rests in the bosom of fools.
“Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people.” – Don Vito Corleone

Don Vito Corleone’s first child Santino (Sonny) was hot-headed and that was his undoing. He smashed cameras, yelled at the Don’s consigliere Tom Hagen and publicly beat the sister’s husband, Carlo to a pulp. In the end, he became predictable, manipulable and was massacred.

2. Money is always an issue even amongst friends.
“Friendship and money. Oil and water” – Michael Corleone

How often have we heard people say “don’t mix friendship with business”? Friendship tends to take a back seat in business because everybody is out to make profits. It is all about personal interests and this can put a strain on a friendship.

3. Wisdom is better than strength.
“The sicker you get, the wiser you get” – Kay Corleone
“Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.” – Don Vito Corleone

Initially, Sonny was perceived to be stronger thn Michael but in the long run, Michael proved to be a better don with his wisdom. Sonny was temperamental and acted on impulse whilst Michael was wise, intelligent and calculative.

4. Power intoxicates like wine.
“Power corrupts those who do not have it.” – Calo

Vito Corleone built the Don Corleone empire on friendship, humility, loyalty and family. This earned him respect, love and power. He was never power drunk or money conscious; all he asked in return was friendship and loyalty. However, Micheal was the complete opposite. He focused so much on power and money, and succeeded in legitimising the family business but lost all the friends and family around him. He drove his wife, Kay, away, murdered his brother Fredo and his sister Connie’s husband, and questioned Tom’s loyalty – the only person that was ever present for him. He ended up alone and abandoned in contrast to Vito who died at an old age in the midst of family and friends.

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5. Violence is the last resort.
“Once war erupts, lives are lost, business close down or completely halts. I don’t like violence Tom. I am a business man. Blood is a big expense.” – Don Sollozo
“I hoped we could come here and reason together. And, as a reasonable man, I’m willing to do whatever’s necessary to find a peaceful solution to these problems.” – Don Vito Corleone

Despite being a movie centred on the Italian mafia, it is interesting to note that diplomacy was chosen over violence throughout the movie. Don Vito Corleone was always diplomatic and always made an offer you can’t refuse.

6. Family is everything.
“A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man. The only wealth in this world is children, more than all the money,  power and wealth” – Don Vito Corleone

The movie depicts Vito Corleone as a family man who gave everything for his family. He adopted Tom Hagen as his son just like the Abbandando family adopted him after he fled Sicily. He repaid the Abbandandos, by making Genco Abbandando the first consigliere of the Corleone family.

7. Keep your business private.
“Never tell anyone outside the family what you are thinking again.” – Don Vito Corleone

Every family has secrets that are exclusive to them. It’s best to keep your business private. Don’t discuss your personal or family issues/business to outsiders. Someone may use the information in their favour or for their own personal gain.

8. Afford people some level of privacy; don’t meddle in their affairs.
“Sonny don’t get involved.” – Carmela Corleone to Sonny after he tried to break the fight between the sister Connie and husband Carlo at the dinner table.
“It don’t make any difference to me what a man does for a living, you understand.” – Don Vito Corleone

Everybody wants a little privacy. Try to mind your own business. Don’t take aspirin for other people’s headache. Giving personal advice on personal matters is a no-no unless your opinion is sought for.

9. Emotions cloud your judgments.
“Never hate your enemies. It clouds your judgment.” – Michael Corleone

People often get emotional and take sides in every situation and become biased. The emotions cloud what they think they see. Don’t make decisions when you are angry and don’t make promises when you are happy.

10. Don’t mix business with pleasure.
“I’m here on business I leave tomorrow now get rid of them. Come on, I’m tired. Get rid of the band, too.” – Michael Corleone to his brother Fredo after the latter offered him some girls.

We all struggle to maintain focus in our daily lives. Mixing business with pleasure can derail your focus and make you lose the big picture. Michael was a very focused business man, which helped him to come up with a solution to problems at a quicker speed.

11. Respect is earned not given.
“Now you come and say “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me “Godfather.” – Don Vito Corleone

We often delude ourselves that we are owed respect because of our talent, money, fame, beauty, intelligence etc. The naked truth is that no matter how awesome you may think you are, no one owes you shit..you have to earn it. Don Vito Corleone earned the respect of people in his neighbourhood by making sure he addressed the concerns of the people unlike Don Fanucci who terrorised the neighbourhood and let them weak his beak a little.

12. Health is wealth.
Good health is the most important thing. More  than success, more than money, more than power – Hyman Roth

This is just to reiterate what we already know. A healthy man is a wealthy man. Just because you are trying to make ends meet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your health and take care of yourself. Exercise often and watch what you consume.

13. Don’t cry wolf too often lest people will doubt your sincerity.
“He’s been dying from the same heart attack for the last twenty years.” – Michael Corleone

Regurgitating your words will make it hard for people to believe whatever that comes out of your mouth overtime. Hyman Roth kept complaining about his deteriorating health to a point that no one believed him anymore. Michael eventually got tired of his complaints and made him sleep with the fishes.

14 First cut is the deepest.
We all carry emotional and physical scars from life battles but first cut is the deepest. And it will always be. Our past will always determine the way we act in the present and see the future. Don Cicci massacred young Vito Corleone’s family and made him an orphan. He only escaped because the mum held a knife to Don Cicci’s throat and let him abscond. He never forgot that and returned to Sicily years later to kill Don Cicci.

15. Jealousy is for the weak.
Movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger once said ‘Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn .’ We only feel jealous towards others when we think we are in direct competition with them. Fredo Corleone was annoyed by his father’s decision to make Michael the next Don following the death of Sonny. Hyman Roth played on Fredo’s weakness, naivety and jealousy for his younger brother, Michael and used him as a pawn in an unsuccessful attempt to eliminate the Don.

What did you learn from the movie that I omitted? Please do tell.

Game of Thrones: Lessons

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As the season 5 of the popular TV show, Game of Thrones (GOT) comes to an end, let’s look at the possible lessons we have learnt so far.

1. GOT has completely changed how we view Mondays. New episodes are often released every Monday hence making the often dreaded Monday a day to look forward to. Thanks to GOT, “Oh God! I hate Mondays” is now “Thank God it’s Monday.”

2. Wisdom is better than strength.
“Wisdom oft comes from the mouth of babes”

Tyrion “dwarf” Lannister had little or nothing to match Stannis Baratheon’s army during the latter’s invasion of King’s Landing but he had a good head on his shoulders and a chemical that could kill thousands. With combination of these, he was able to defeat Stannis.

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3. Family is everything.
“Whatever you may believe of me, Lady Stark, I promise you this – I never bet against my family.” – Tyrion Lannister
“It is the family name that lives on. Not your personal glory, not your honour..but family” -Tywin Lannister

GOT depicts how powerful (the names of) families can be. The Lannisters, Starks, Tyrells, Martells, Targaryerens, Boltons all fought to protect their families and married each other to form an alliance and strengthen their authority over the 7 Kingdoms.

4. Think before you make a promise.
“A Lannister always pays his debts” – Tyrion Lannister

A promise is like a bond; don’t take it lightly. One of the quickest ways to lose respect and power is to make promises you can’t keep. Going back on your promise can result in unexpected situations. Walder Frey never forgave Rob Stark for not honouring his promise and slaughtered him, mother, wife and unborn child at the Red Wedding.

5. Knowledge is power.
“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge” – Tyrion Lannister
“Knowledge is a weapon, Jon. Arm yourself well before you ride forth to battle.” -Maester Aemon to Jon Snow

Lord Varys and Tyrion knew their weaknesses and focused on acquiring knowledge. In this information age, knowledge is everything. We are lucky to have abundance of information at our disposal, thanks to Internet. Knowledge, wisdom and a broad perspective are just some of the things one can gain from reading. These help one see to the world more objectively.

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6. Learn from your experience.
“A bruise is a lesson…and each lesson makes us better” – Arya Stark

Everyday we experience things that change us. Bad experiences, whether mental, physical or emotional, teach us more. The scars definitely hurt but don’t dwell on them rather focus on the lessons.

7. Winter is always coming and usually defines your character.
“Chaos isn’t a pit, chaos is a ladder. Many try to climb, fail and never try again. The fall breaks them.” – Lord Baelish
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” Brann Stark asked; the father Ned replied “That is the only time a man can be brave.”

Everybody maintains his composure when the going is good but it takes a person of character to rise above obstacles against all odds. There’s always some form of evil lurking in the dark. Tough times reveal the true strength of every individual; effective leaders keep their heads up and never give up. Pray for the best but prepare for the worst.

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8. Never appear desperate.
“A true man does what he will, not what he must.” – Cersei Lannister

You make yourself an easy prey when you appear desperate. Stannis was desperate to take control of the 7 kingdoms and sought the help of God of light (religion). He ended up killing his brother, Renly and burning his only daughter. The wife committed suicide afterwards. Lest I forget, Stannis still didn’t get the Iron Throne.

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9. Friendzone sucks.
This is just to reiterate what we already know, getting stuck in the friendzone fucks you up big time. Just ask Ser Jorah.

10. Life is not a straight-line graph.
“Every man must die Jon Snow. But first he must live.” – Ygrette

GOT, unlike other fairytales, seem more realistic because in reality you can’t predict what life will serve you the next minute. Life is unfair and full of twists & turns; bad things happen to good people all the time. The only thing certain in this life of uncertainty is that all men must die. VALAR MORGHULIS 

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11. Be modest; let others praise you.
“Any man who must say I am king is no true king” – Tywin Lannister

There are five things that can make one arrogant: fame, beauty, affluence, intelligence, and talent. If you possess any of these, it is important to maintain a cool head and let others praise you.

12. First impressions are often shallow and wrong
“When Jon Arry named you master of coins no one cared. Always been a grumby job, why not let a grumby man do it.”

Sometimes what we hate end up being the best things that ever happened to us. Many hated the title, “Master of Coins” but Lord Baelish yielded more power as master of coins than he/others expected and ensured Joffrey assumed the throne.
The best love story in GOT remains the one between Khal Drogo and Khalessi however many forget the beautiful story started with a forced marriage and rape.

13. Everybody wants you to do well but not better than them.
Listen to this convo between Lord Baelish and Lord Varys.
Lord Baelish: “It is flattering really..you feeling such dread at the prospect of me getting what I want.”
Lord Varys: “Thwarting you has never been my primary ambition, I promise you. Although who doesn’t like to see their friend fail now and then.”
Need I say more? Ok! Maybe one more.
“It is not those foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back.” – Melisandre

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14. Power intoxicates like wine.
“Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” – Lord Varys

Power is something everybody yearns for however being power-drunk, like Joffrey, or lust for power, like Cersei, are recipes for disaster and discontentment respectively.

15. Self-belief/self-pride, not self-obsession, is required for success.
“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like an armour and it can never be used to hurt you.” – Tyrion to Jon Snow

If you do not believe in yourself, how do you expect others to do? Never underestimate yourself. Our minds and brains are like transmitters, people pick up what you transmit. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work hard to develop/magnify the former and diminsh the latter. Despite the famous saying, “you know nothing Jon Snow” he grew to be the leader of the Night’s Watch.

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16. Love is powerful.
“The thing we love destroy us everytime lad. Remember that.” – Jeor Mormont to Jon Snow
“Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.” – Cersei Lannister

Everybody longs to love and be loved. Love makes everything beautiful and gives humans drive and purpose. Virtually every character in the show is driven by love. Khal Drogo lost his life and power cos of his love for his wife and never born child. Theon Greyjoy’s infamous love for the female genitalia was his undoing.

17. Listen to elderly people, they know the short-cut to life.
If Brandon Stark had listened to the mother, he wouldn’t have been thrown off a cliff by Jaime, which led to his father,Ned, travelling to King’s Landing to seek justice and ended up losing his leg and subsequently his head.

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18. Everybody wants something; don’t be afraid to take a risk.
“Everybody wants something and when you know what a man wants, you know who he is and how to move him.” – Lord Baelish

Give and it shall be given to you. One must be willing to give in order to take. You don’t always receive when you ask; people aren’t God but you increase your chances when you offer help to others.
Cersei and Tywin Lannister wanted Tyrion to pay for Joffrey’s death at all costs, Tyrion took a huge risk and demanded trial by combat even when all odds were against him. Take risks, you might surprise everyone including yourself.

19. Don’t get too attached; learn to let go.
Humans often grow intemperate likeness for people and things, including TV shows. GOT teaches one that all good things come to an end. Do not, I repeat, do not get attached to a character in GOT lest he/she may end up dead.

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20. If a woman asks you if she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. Just say Yes, your life might depend on it. Never trust anyone especially someone who loves your partner; just look at Ned Stark and Lord Baelish. Your child may end up like Joffrey, a king, if you decide to give him everything. No woman born of a woman is immune to flattery; flatter that lady today. The street is military and only the strong survive; all hail Lords Baelish and Varys. Never believe anything anyone says before a but...”you know my brother once told me nothing someone says before the word “but” really counts” – Benjen Stark to Tyrion on the wall.

What have you learnt from the series that I omitted? Please do tell.

Success

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What is success? What does it mean to you? Does it entail money/wealth, fame, academic and career achievements, titles and health? What about family? In all honesty, success means different things to different people. One’s definition of success gives an insight into his mind and perception about life.

Being born and raised in Nigeria, where everyone is crazy about titles and money is everything, it is quite easy to understand why many believe success is all about money – having lots and lots of it and academic titles/job promotions/political appointments. Dr Chris Kwakpovwe, the writer of the popular Bible reading guide Daily Manna once wrote, “Titles may enhance us but they aren’t our identity.” Indeed titles are not our identity. Think about this; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Microsoft, Apple and other products we consume today are owned and created by persons, such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and late Steve Jobs who have/had no title. Would you say they are not successful because they lack titles? Don’t misconstrue my point, titles are awesome but they are useless if you don’t put them to great use.

I know a lot of people reading this are already asking themselves, what does a young man in his 20s know about success? What has he really achieved? I am still light years behind, both in age and achievements, but I have experienced joy and sadness, success and failure, and had it both good and bad. My success made me have a quasi-outlook on life; because things were quite easy for me, I struggled to comprehend when people complained about same things being difficult for them. However, nothing changes a man like failure and I am no different. Failure changes one’s outlook on things; it emboldens you and makes you hard-bitten.

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Let me paint a mental picture for you. Close your eyes and think about the best and worst relationships you’ve had. Which of them taught you more – the good or the bad one? Hear Robert Kiyosaki, “Inside every problem lies a gem of wisdom, a gem that makes us smarter, stronger and able to do better regardless of economic conditions.” Failure, in its own right, is success coated with indelible lessons, only if you learn from it. My failure and disappointments made me appreciate life and success more. John Maxwell once said, “The greatest lessons in life are from our losses. Everyone experiences loss but not everyone learns from it. Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is.”

Each and every one of us have experienced (or will still experience) something that changed our lives and we have never been the same ever since. Jonas Guiterrez, a rich Argentine professional footballer, who is living the dream of many said after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, “I think the most important thing in life is health. Health and happiness. Sometimes we get into a lot of trouble for things that aren’t significant.” Sometimes we get caught up or engrossed with frivolities such as acceptance and fame on social media (virtual world), fashion trends etc. Thanks to satellite TV and social media, everyone is “close” to the fabulous lives of their favourite celebrities and yearn for their lives.

Numerous chats with people down the years made me realize most youths long for success but a few are prepared to put in the effort. Regardless of your definition of success, one thing is certain – it is a long continuous process. Even Kim Kardashian, who is often criticized for lacking talents apart from her beauty and good derriere, works hard to maintain her success. Success does not fall on one’s laps – like manna from heaven. It has to be earned through hard work, perseverance, persistence and determination.

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Michael Wardian, after becoming the World record holder for 50km on the treadmill said, “I think about my goal. Don’t give up because it gets hard or something gets wrong. It is the middle that’s tough. People cheer at the starting and finish line. The middle miles need mental toughness.” Oh Yes! Everybody likes to be associated with success; failure is an orphan. In other words, who no like to embrace the winner? Cast your minds back to when you got accepted into the University, everyone was ecstatic for you and you became an overnight celebrity at your matriculation ceremony. The same thing reoccurs when you finally graduate and everyone adds Dr, Barr, Engr, as the case may be, to your name. However, only a few understand what you had to go through to obtain that degree – the mental, emotional and psychological stress heightened by sleepless nights.

Every successful person you know today has had it rough but never gave up. If you aim at being excellent at what you do, you ought to be willing to sacrifice a certain part of your life. You have to do the work; dot the ‘i’s and cross the‘t’s. Tim Gower wrote in his book, RELENTLESS:  “There is no privilege greater than the pressure to excel and no greater reward than earning the respect and fear of others who are in awe of your results.” He further described three types of personalities in the book; the coolers who let others decide whether they are successful or not, the closers who feel they are successful once they get the job done e.g. African footballers in Europe and the cleaners who never feel as if they have achieved success because there is more to do.

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the easiest examples of cleaners today. Debate about who is better than the other has divided the football world. Despite what these two football greats have achieved, they don’t rest on their laurels. Their hunger for success is what drives them and they have created a legacy for themselves.

Our environment determines our path; it is the most powerful teacher of all in our success quest. If you aim at being successful in your chosen field, it is pertinent to identify the right environment that allows you take advantage of your three brains – right, left and subconscious – to achieve your dream. Crowd mentality can’t get you to the sky, where we all believe is our starting point but by creating a niche for yourself in your field and proving everyday why that niche deserves to be yours.