I could feel the enthusiasm of fellow corps members as we departed NYSC passing out parade ground. Like most of us, I had the untamable enthusiasm to get out there and take dominion over what lies ahead; like Pinky and the Brain – trying to take over the world.
I had submitted my CV to almost all establishments in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State. Nothing was going to stop me from getting a job as soon as possible; not even a spell from the ancestors.
But fate had a different plan.
If anyone had told me that I’d spend up to one year after NYSC without a reliable source of income, I’ll have him eat his words. But it turned out that 1 year without a job would have been a blessing.
Hustling before Youth Service
Back before NYSC, while waiting for my call-up letter, I couldn’t tolerate idleness. I was desperate to get busy doing something.
When a Nollywood Movie producer told me about a film they were about to shoot, I quickly accepted to work with the movie crew as the Props and Set Manager. The movie featured the likes of Desmond Eliot, Chioma Chukwuka, Emeka Okoro and others.
Well, I never got paid for that job, but the experience was worth it.
Few weeks later, I met a movie marketer who needed someone to market their movies at a Trade-fair exhibition at Enugu State. It sounded like an opportunity to learn and gain some experience; and for me, any experience is better than apathy. To add to that, I’ll hardly say no to challenging offers like that. So I accepted the job.
What followed was my first visit to Enugu, and more so, to a trade-fair exhibition as a marketer. It was a challenging but worthwhile marketing experience.
Few months afterwards, I got a phone call from my friend Chukwudi, who was serving in Benin, Edo state. Chukwudi had just discovered a business opportunity; sales of Jewelries in Benin City. He needed my help to find a good source to get Jewelries at cheap rate in Lagos.
Then, I thought, “What stops me from buying and selling these stuffs here in Lagos?” A new business emerged. I started buying and selling jewelries – selling from office to office, bank to bank.
Introvert guy turns salesman
I am introverted by default but that is when nothing is at stack. When something needs to be done, I keep my temperament aside, put on my super-suit like Clark Kent and do what needs to be done. When the dust settles, I revert to my calm nature.
I believe that, ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’ is ours to choose; and that with the willingness to learn and the right experience, we can become a better version of ourselves. Moreover, life is too short to let one’s self conform to social experiments.
“The first question the sage commander will ask himself in any situation is not ‘What should I do?’ but ‘How should I be?’” Sun Tzu, the Art of War
Jewelry business continues
My customer base kept growing as I explored more commercial areas in Lagos. One day, I met a lady who is also in the business. She told me how I can get more quality stuffs – Jewelries, wears, wristwatch etc - at cheaper rate from Cotonou, Benin Republic and make more profit.
I made a couple of profitable business trips to Cotonou before I finally got my NYSC call-up letter. Then I made a grievous mistake; I abandoned my business entirely for one year NYSC in Bayelsa State.
After serving my country in an isolated part of Nigeria, I couldn’t get myself to resume the business again. It was time to try something else; hopefully get a job for a start.
The job Hunt and near-success syndrome
I’ve always wanted to run my own business, but I needed a reliable source of income and a learning environment for a start. Hopefully, with a job, I can gain experience, save money and start my own business later or on the side.
But Man proposes; God disposes.
I combed the whole of Yenegoa and submitted my CV everywhere I had the chance. Afterwards, not a single phone call came from that effort.
Within the next year, I visited 3 states in my job quest; Lagos, Port Harcourt and Anambra; and yes, Ogun State. That makes four states. However, my persistence was plagued with "near-success syndrome". On several occasions, I got called for interviews, got called after interviews for being a qualified candidate, got called to expect appointment letters. And in each situation, I ended up not hear from them again. And the more I try to re-establish contact, the more I realize that the job opportunity has been lost.
This happened several times; coincidences that defile my comprehension.
Working as a Building Construction Engineer
With my 6 months industrial training and one year NYSC, I had exposed to practical experience in building construction.
A close relative, an architect, had just graduated and was starting his construction company in the eastern part of the country. I was ‘joblessly’ available. At that time, I spend most of my time at the cyber café and on my phone – I didn’t even have a laptop.
I agreed to offer my service without pay – it was a startup and according to him, “there is no profit in this job. I just want to build my profile for now” So I worked a free job for the next, close to one year, while I write online at my spare time.
I’ve always had one leg on the internet (Café and Mobile), trying different online business programs with nothing to show for it. In fact I spend my entire savings from NYSC at the cyber café, and worthless seminars (though not so worthless because they taught me what doesn’t work).
While working as a construction engineer without pay, I tried several ventures from Real Estate agent, job hunting, and submitting business proposals to Hotels, to acting as middle man for anything that has the sign “For Sale” on it.
At this point, I was dining on the diet of isolation, disappointments and frustration. I am not one who is good at giving up, but I finally got to that breaking point where I could not take it any longer.
Finally, I get to give up
“I am thankful to all those who said no to me. It is because of them I did it myself” Albert Einstein
I woke up one morning in late 2009 pissed off at everything. I couldn’t stand being pushed around anymore. I picked up my CV and B.Eng certificate, pulled out a drawer in my room tossed it in and never applied for a job ever again. And no more jack of all trade.
You may say, “Well, a lot of graduates spend up to 5 years or more searching for a job. Why give up so soon?”. I’m not comparing myself with anyone. Moreover, I can’t imagine whiling away that much time in the name of being a job applicant.
So what did I do next?
I asked myself a question that turned my life around; “What do I have right now that I can start with?” No money; all I had was my Nokia 3230 mobile phone, basic writing skill and, of course, my sanity. That was all I had to start with.
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. Whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward” Martin Luther King Jr.
Resuming my writing career
I decided to start writing and updating my online platform with the kind of information people are searching for online while I work for free at the building construction site. I lived on the satisfaction of doing something that was benefiting other people.
To grow my online platform faster, I decided I was going to write an ebook for my site audience. But how could I do that without a personal computer? Well, I had to use what I had; my phone. I gave myself 3 weeks deadline to research, write and compile an ebook with my Nokia 3230 mobile phone. I completed and published the 86 page ebook within 4 weeks.
If you are curious, here is a link to the book that has been downloaded over 13,000 times. Note don’t expect a master piece from a book written on a phone in 2010. 😉
By late 2010, the site has grown into a consistent source of income. By 2011, I had earned enough money to comfortably relocate back to Lagos; and the income continues to grow. More importantly, the site has impacted thousands of lives and brought me several contacts and partnerships.
Although, I have diversified to other online and offline businesses, none of my business will ever replace writing. Other businesses may come and go, but writing has come to stay with me.
What’s holding you back?
As I write this, I’m not thinking about a mass of internet audience or a group of stray spectators. I am thinking about that single person who is at the point of making a life changing decision. You who deserve more than you had settled for.
- You who wants to start a business but is held back by fear of failure or lack of resources
- You who is thinking of writing a book, but can’t get yourself to start writing
- You who believe you have a destiny to fulfill; that you have a purpose beyond just getting by each day, but trapped in the dreadful race rat
- You who dream of financial abundance, when everything around you suggests broke-ness and mediocrity; dealing with struggles and self doubt daily
It is because of you that I share this story; not as a guru but as a youth like you who, against all odds, refuse (in present tense) to settle for less.
I am not trying to entice you or to feel like I am better than you or to boast – very far from it. God has always been my source of strength and inspiration, and I have no reason to be boastful. My envisioned and present standing are still wide apart but I am thankful to be on the right track; and it has been a good start.
Regardless, one thing I will like you take away from this is that it is ok to have fears and doubts; it is ok to try and fail at several things. Failure, fears and doubts are all fine and well. The problem comes when you don’t keep trying.
You see, there are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your idea because of fear, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. You will never learn from this kind of failure and such timidity will destroy you.
The second kind comes from the bold and venturesome spirit. This kind of failure may hurt but you will heal. Repeated failures will toughen your spirit and grant you experiences that will make your future actions more profitable.
Do you want to complain about how everything is working against you; the government, the society, the environment, the economy? Be my guest if it makes you feel better. But don’t stop there. Take responsibility for your life.
Do you want to become a writer, an entrepreneur, an artist, a teacher ? You own it to us to bring out that God-given talent in you. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven”
Life is a daring adventure or nothing!