The first time I ever set my eyes on him was sometime in March 2010, when he showed up to claim his University of Nigeria Alvan 111 bed space. I was a freshman (100 level) at the time and he was in his penultimate year (300 level) – History and International Relations. And the last time I saw him was sometime in 2011 – his convocation. This is 5 years afterwards and it seems like forever already. In “Just” 5 years and Sammie has gone on to claim his pie of the good life – and still climbing.
March 20, 2016 was the first day of the rest of my life. Guess what happened? I met Sammie again. On Lagos Island. And the next 3 hours with him, in the company of Paschal and Raphael, was a rebirth of some sort. To say the least, when I saw him wave at us, signaling the car he was driving in, I immediately felt I was in for quite a day – a day with a difference!
“This appears to be your first time, am I correct?” he asked. “Yes, actually,” I answered. It was my very first time of visiting Lagos, a trip I’d spent all my life looking forward to. Yes, Lagos has always meant so much to me because methinks it is the residence of the spirit of Nigeria; there can be no meaningful engagement with Nigeria without knowing, first hand, what happens in Lagos. Truth be told, in Lagos, more than in any one part of Nigeria, the Nigerian story runs in one single piece; a “balance of stories,” to say the least. And I’m happy I saw it all in this one visit; Sammie saw to it. “Then let me give you a tour of the Island.” That was Sammie’s response when I concurred it was my first time.
As we drove off Teslim Balogun Square, TBS, Sammie already started pointing me to the big places: Sterling Towers, his Shell office, and I’ve lost the name of the tallest structure in Nigeria he’d showed me, etc. And we were just headed for Victoria Island: Intercontinental Hotel, Eko Atlantic, Eko Hotel…. Then an appreciable tour of Ikoyi was done, the most expensive neighborhood in Africa. Of course, we needed to drive past where the Lion of Bourdelion, Tinubu, lives.
And then came what mattered most: the lecture. As he’s always been, my great teacher, Sammie sat at table with us to share with my friends and me the most important lessons he’s learnt in the course of his life. The intriguing thing about this encounter was that Sammie was insanely generous with the details, which gave his talk some touch of magic. At some point, to be sure I wasn’t alone in this transforming moment, I looked at the faces of Paschal and Raphael and got the confirmation that we were all on the same page.
At this juncture, I’m obliged to go straight to the point! To share with you the awesome lessons Sammie shared with us. Yes, I spread the pie for maximum impact.
1. Background weighs little
“We were so poor that even the poor called us poor.” Those were Sammie’s exact own words. But at the time of speaking, he was lodging at the most expensive hotel in Nigeria (Intercontinental Hotel), flies first class on every single trip he makes on his job. Of course, with a salary to match. What does this tell? Inasmuch as one’s background counts for something, it actually weighs so very little. In fact, a disadvantaged background should be more of a motivator than a disadvantage. Chinua Achebe created a perfect example in his Things Fall Apart. Unoka’s celebrated failure was the reason for Okonkwo’s outstanding success. Sammie even told the story of the night he flew first class with the likes of Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, TuFace Idibia, Babatunde Raji Fashola, and Linda Ikeji around him. If background really mattered, then how come Sammie is on it?
2. The good life is up for grasp
Wealth acquisition is so democratic; anyone who wants to can. Here Sammie was emphatic in saying that the good life is not the exclusive preserve of anyone. This was the killer point he made in this respect: You only just have to want it badly enough. Of course, wishing one had it is far from the truth. One only has to pay the price. What is this good life? Call it luxury, call it anything. That Linda Ikeji bought herself an N500million worth of house is just no big deal for Sammie. She’s paid the price. She’s got the cash. She’s got to spend it the way she knows how to. It’s just not a big deal. It never was. Don’t forget that it’s a long time coming for Linda; she wanted the good life badly enough when it wasn’t there. And she got exactly what she wanted, such that she earns so much from her blog.
3. “I owe it all to ‘The Wonder of Books’”
I had a copy of my newly published, The Wonder of Books, for Sammie. As soon as I presented him his copy, he took it up from there. He too, like the guys I featured in my book, owes every single thing in his life to the wonder of books. He goes on to tell us his recruitment story. Quite a story I must confess, one that qualifies for the front cover story of every magazine worth its name. Shell had only 2 openings and 42,600 people who met the minimum requirement came for it. When the number was cut to just 6, Sammie was up against 5 foreign trained applicants. Not just foreign trained but from the Ivy Leagues – Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Manchester City. These guys were also the best in their classes, with higher degrees in human resources (the position advertised). Where did Sammie come from? He just studied History and International Relations in the University of Nigeria. He didn’t even have a first class; just first degree. Without mincing words, one of the interviewers asked him: “What makes you think you stand a chance?” Sammie told us it was The Wonder of Books. Sammie’s readership is now so badly good that he does 4 books at a go.
4. Cultivate the skills for seeing and seizing opportunity
Sammie is vehement in holding that the ability to see opportunity and the strength to seize them are two different skills that are a conditio sine qua non for success. He said that one thing about opportunities is that they are not just always there, but are always up for grasp – only to those who can. He talked about the fact that he gets bombarded with CVs by family, friends and fans, being human resource personnel at Shell. The problem, however, is that many of these people really don’t know what they ask for, and those that do, really don’t know that they can’t carry what they ask for. Those skills are just too essential; they hold the key to everything.
5. Defy convention
At this juncture, Sammie was all warning. He warned us never to follow the bandwagon. The bandwagon is directionless; the bandwagon is a bloody liar. It tells us we can’t get it for so and so reasons that are more or less unfounded. It chooses to talk about the negatives, how the number of unemployed youths runs into the millions, how the Nigerian situation is devastating… It doesn’t tell us that side by side this sorry state of affairs some people out there are not just making it but making it big!
6.Define your success
This is critical because after all said and done, where fulfillment will come from is the realization of one’s inner yearnings. And it also follows that once a personal definition of success is on ground, things naturally begin to fall in place. Trust me, he said, it wouldn’t really be about what you have or what you haven’t in, say, 10 years’ time, but about what you always wanted.
7. Success is all in your routine
Sammie said that success is not really what ensues some day in the distant future, but about what we choose to do every single day. Of course, these add up into the big thing in the future. The implication? Focus on this “24-hour day” you have today. That’s what matters. That’s all there is! Choose to do those things that really and truly matter, no matter how little they appear. Success is today. Failure is today. And there are no two ways about it.
8. Understand the “Cash” and “Impact” relationship
Cash does not automatically translate to impact. No, it doesn’t. But it really does make impact way easier. In essence, Sammie told us to go out there and make all the money we can. What informed his own choice of Shell was that he wanted where the cash will pour in like rain. And with all his gets, he makes a difference in other people’s lives. Emphatically, Sammie said that success actually begins at the point where you’ve transcended living just for self and family but for every other other.