Who are they, and who says you can’t beat them? Simply do this…

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It is in the very nature of the crowd to be unreliable. For instance, the same crowd that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna was the very same crowd that led that same Jesus to the cross with chants of Crucify Him. Again, the same crowd that hailed Caesar for leading Rome to many military conquests was the same crowd that honoured Brutus, Cassius, and the rest of the conspirators for slaying that same Caesar on the Ides of March until Mark Antony roused them to mutiny. Yet again, the same Nigerian crowd that clamoured for change and expressed it eloquently at the polls in their choice of the Buhari-led administration is the same crowd that is “destructively criticizing” the very same change it clamoured and voted for.

The crowd also has the notorious reputation of being a force to reckon with. In this regard, majority, they say, carries the vote. And we see this play out in all settings where voting is called for – especially at the polls and houses of legislation. In this light, too, the crowd may constitute a frustrating force; tyranny of the majority it is called. Remember the case of blind Bartimaeus, whose repeated attempts to reach Jesus was repeatedly frustrated by the crowd that journeyed with Jesus from Jerusalem to Jericho. Thank God Bartimaeus knew better than they and had the day by his breathtaking persistence.

On the moral front, the crowd has a way of deciding what is moral and immoral, and she does this by casting the popularity vote. The definition of indecent dressing, for instance, has evolved over time in response to fads and fashion. Here, the popular gradually becomes the acceptable, hence the normal. And what follows is that those who insist on the old order are branded nonconformists, anti-communal, non-cooperative, etc. And the crowd can go the extra mile of seeing to it that the one who swims against the current or opposes the new order is bought over – if buyable, frustrated – if persistent, or eliminated – if insistent. The Jesus-Caesar examples always stand out. And this is the backdrop against which this age-old saying leans: If you can’t beat them, join them. Simply explained, this saying advises that we throw in the towel whenever the crowd proves to be insurmountable on a particular issue; join them.

Come to think of it, who are they? Have you ever dared to inquire into the composition of a typical crowd? What, for instance, was the composition of the crowd that opposed Bartimaeus? Aside being loud-mouthed, arising from its being a commonwealth of many mouths, what credential did they posses that qualified them to shut him up? In my candid estimation, they weren’t qualified one bit to shut him up, given that they didn’t even know Jesus enough; the same crowd that would desert him when he later gave an unpopular teaching – that his flesh is real food and his blood real drink. Imagine the sort of crowd composed of fanatics, zealots, illiterates, celebrity-worshippers, spies, etc. It is safe to say that there was no time when that crowd was qualified – individually and collectively – to shut Bartimaeus up.

And so, why join them if you can’t beat them? Who even told you that they are unbeatable? Who are they, even? We can already learn from the story of Bartimaeus that as simple as persisting long enough can see one through to not just beating the crowd pants down but also winning them over to one’s side.

Finally, Henry David Thoreau gives us a formidable way forward with the crowd. For him, and for me, and possibly for you, “Anyone who is more right than his/her neighbour constitutes a majority of one.” Yes, the crowd is definitely a “quantitative majority,” but you surely can beat them pants down by being a “qualitative majority” – a majority of one.

Be so good at what you do, be so convinced about your opinions, so much that you move the crowd. You may just not even need to beat them; move them!

Something to note about “second chance” and how it is very unreliable

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Bill Gates, the richest human being on the planet, once said, “Life is unfair. Get used to it.” Yes, this is true, and even much truer. Life can as well be nasty, messy and brutish. What do we say about being born deformed, for instance, and why do bad things happen to good people? Why on earth would a strong lion go hungry on a day that lazy baboons are feasting to their souls’ content and even going home with takeaway? To say the least, it just doesn’t make sense; not even one bit of sense. To these and many other questions bothering on the unfairness of life is one simple answer: grace.

Grace means unmerited favour; it gives sense to that which doesn’t make sense. The reality of grace also accounts for why some people get things on a platter of gold, things that some others can only get by the might of their arms and the sweat of their brow. In one word, grace confers an unfair advantage – to whomever it chooses! Else, why would Nigeria be so endowed with natural resources with the likes of England having so little? Of the many virgins in Israel – the average Israelite was a virgin – why was the Angel Gabriel sent to Mary in particular and not another? Even the measure of grace she got is enviable, “Full of grace” or “Most highly favoured of God.”

There is a peculiar form of grace that is of particular concern here, one that my friend John Bosco chose to call the grace of second chance. And this comes into play when those things that naturally happen once get to happen again for some people, affording them, as it were, the chance to act differently for the better or to correct an already-made mistake. Put differently, the grace of second chance avails one the opportunity to rewrite the record. For instance, first impression is supposed to be made once; some people get a “second chance” to correct whatever bad first impression they had made, or even to confirm the good first impression they had made. Why this is a big deal is because most people don’t get to be availed this grace; they just get tagged or branded this or that based on the first impression already made – and they live and die with it. Another example: having spent his entire life in sin, the thief who hung by Jesus on the cross got a second chance to make heaven, and he did make it – in one day!

The problem with second chance is that it is very unreliable. And its unreliability rests on the very nature of grace, whose recipient is whomever it wills. This implies that it may never come to “Mr. A” and may always be available to “Mr. B.” Else, how come a particular thief is never caught until he repents and possibly becomes a pastor, and the one that went stealing just once in all his life got shot dead; how come a particular commercial sex worker of 10 years or more experience is without an STD, turned a new leave and got herself good man for a husband, and a virgin in the neighbourhood got pregnant on the very first outing and remains a single mother ever after; how come a man and his wife remarried after their divorce, and the other man and his wife got a second divorce in their respective new marriages; how come a man gets a second chance to rebuild his business after a colossal failure, and the other man got a perpetual date with poverty?

The way forward: ignore second chance; live as if it doesn’t exist. Come to think of it, is it any wise to bank on something that is unreliable? It is like taking a gamble on something, which opens one to the chance of winning or losing. No doubt we are wont to hoping for the win-case scenario, but what if what repeatedly comes knocking at our door is losing?

By extension, I advocate that we throw in our very best to anything we have to do every single time we have to do it. We should do this in the hope that, one the one hand, we would have little or no need for second chance, and, on the other hand, if we do have need for the grace of second chance and it doesn’t show up to our rescue, we can strike our breast and confidently say, “We did our best.” For instance, whenever we have to make a first impression, we should so make it as if that first impression were our last impression; we should put in our all to it. If we did put in our best, we would most likely make a great first impression. If it turns out a bad first impression, then one of two things would happen: the unreliable second chance comes to our rescue or we simply content ourselves with the fact that we gave it our best shot.

Playing by the Rule of 5, and leveraging on “mirror neurons”

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Life’s got rules and principles and laws. And playing by these rules and principles and laws is the surest way to knowing prosperity and good success. Remember the law of gravity and the law of karma? Time to add the Rule of 5 to that list.

The Rule of 5, what does it mean exactly? Simply, it reflects the reality that we’re the average of the 5 dominant people in our lives – be they our parents, spouses, teachers, siblings, friends, mentors, neighbours, bosses, colleagues, roommates, etc. The length of time we spend around them is the defining element here; we’re the average of the 5 people we spend most of our “ear-time” with. It is important to immediately pinpoint that this Rule of 5, like other rules, principles and laws, is binding on us whether we like it or not, believe it or not, subscribe to it or not; it’s independent of our ignorance and irrespective of our opinion.

It is also important to add that since nothing is hard and fast in life, the number 5 in the Rule of 5 seemingly reflects the ideal, and since ideals are not always attainable, it can as well be Rule of – 4, 3, 6, 7 or even 1; any number of persons one spends most of his/her time with. 5 is just fine; Rule of 5, it remains.

Yes, there is just this astonishing way in which we turn into those we always hand around or hang out with; we assume their thought pattern, mimic their words, clone their actions, adopt their habits, reflect their character, and may just be headed to the same end – destiny. Little wonder birds of a feather flock together.

Since we’re all both different and unique, how does this come about, one may wonder. Simple: we humans have an inbuilt capacity for that; the mirror neurons of the brain are responsible for that. True to their name, mirror neuron, they mirror or reproduce the environment, and especially get taken over by the signals fired at them by the mirror neurons of other people. Already stated, these mirror neurons act on – even without our permission. And this already say volumes about the much talked about “environmental factors.”

With this revelation, I expect that the better thing to start doing right away is to be way stricter in choosing our company; don’t put up with any character you don’t want to become, because that is exactly what you will end up becoming, whether you like it or not, if you hand around or hang out with them long enough – and your permission is not needed.

We don’t get to choose our parents and siblings, but we can decide how much time to spend around them if they have bad attitude and questionable character; no apologies. Oh, we squarely get to choose our friends, our bosses, our spouses, etc. We should be darn strict in choosing them.

Then, also, we should smuggle ourselves into the company of those we aspire to be like. We should also take this into consideration when choosing a neighborhood, a church/parish, clubs, etc.

Good luck.

Only the performer is good enough. And this is how to join the league of performers

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“You’re a performer; you’re the man. Cheers.” That was the part of the phone conversation I heard, and it really got me thinking. And that part of the conversation made meaning to me because we were all in the middle of a situation; those words were a thank you to the guy that fixed it – the performer.

Now, here’s what happened. We were in a motorcade headed to lay the remains of a certain 95-year-old to rest in his ancestral home. His age already says it was the case of a celebration of life, and his son was hell-bent on giving his late father who’d had enormous influence on him a befitting burial. One way to give this celebration a touch of pomp and pageantry was to get those who do it best involved. His choice was APAMS, an elite funeral services outfit. The long and short of it all is that the exotic ambulance in which the remains rode broke down in the middle of nowhere; far from home and far from town. And no attempt to locally arrest the situation worked; the exotic car needed an exotic fixing. However, it was clear to Uncle John that the plan to give his late father a befitting burial wasn’t going to change one bit, and all he needed was a performer to step into the situation. And this performer showed up! In no time, another exotic ambulance zoomed into the scene of the situation with the speed of light. This was the point where that call was made, and since I was standing next to him, I heard him loud and clear: “You’re a performer; you’re the man. Cheers.”

The performer was the manager of the funeral services outfit, I suppose. And he had immediately swung into action as soon as he received the very first call that his ambulance had broken down in the middle of nowhere, leaving his client stranded as it were. To say the least, he did rescue the situation.

Without much ado, let’s quickly look at what it takes to join the performers’ league.

Performers are situation-oriented

The first trait of a non-performer is obsession with protocol, due process and maintenance of status quo. Non-performers can be so annoying, and you find them everywhere. In a hospital, you find them asking a dying patient to wait for their turn or pay for this or that before being attended to. In this case, they are more concerned about upholding hospital protocols than fixing the dying situation. The performer would break protocol, defy orders, ignore rules, and even go the extra mile to fixing a situation. I can already imagine the orders given to the driver of the rescue ambulance by this performer-manager: “You’re permitted to kill yourself getting to Isuikwato; fly on land and ensure you get there in no time.” This imagination is induced by the speed I saw him drive on; bullet-speed is the word.

Performers don’t do the blame-game and they abstain from excuses

The second trait of a non-performer is the trading of blames and giving of excuses. Non-performers are darn good at those. On the contrary, those in the league of performers know that excuses absolutely change nothing and that casting blames on others is no part of the canonization process; no one becomes a saint trading blames. Performers take responsibility for every single thing that goes wrong, and then leave no stone unturned in the bid to fixing them. It was pretty easy to start lashing it out on the driver of the broken ambulance since the situation would have been avoided if he had done one or two things differently. But the performer-manager knew that wouldn’t help the situation one bit. And I’m sure he didn’t stuff his client’s ears with a thousand and one excuses; that obviously wouldn’t get his father’s remains home. Instead, he did the only thing that always works: take action!

Performers privilege value over cost

APAMS is so big that doing a refund of the money plus compensation wouldn’t have been a problem. But the performer-manager knew that the point in question was way beyond cash; a refund plus compensation wouldn’t have made his client richer. He knew that value was the point in question; he knew that he was an instrument at the service of a befitting burial for a dear father, such that he couldn’t afford not to deliver. And deliver he did.

 

You wish to join the league of performers? Confront situations, steer clear blame-gaming and excuse making, privilege value over cost. That’s how it works.

Are you ready?