‘R” for Resilience

Recently I had some setbacks and it seem I could not get out of the hole on the matter. I did all I knew to do. Pray. Plan. Prepare. Adapt. And I got the same outcomes. It was frustrating but I kept going. I felt I was in an infinite loop. In computer programming, an infinite loop (or endless loop) is a sequence of instructions that, as written, will continue endlessly, unless an external intervention occurs (“pull the plug”). It may be intentional. The mathematical equivalent of an infinite loop is the recurring decimal. The outcomes were similar and never ending. Those personal setbacks were documented in my article “Built In Failure”. At the fourth attempt, I got my goal.

The process revealed me to myself. It also revealed myself to me. (Yes I know what I am writing. Just trying to show you that I gleaned some wisdom from the writings of Charlie Munger, yesterday). It was an arduous and tortuous journey to reach the destination I desired. It made me self-reflect and I recalled events that have happened in my life. One of the feedbacks I got from those who were on this journey with me was an unanimous verdict — you are very resilient. I wanted to argue with them but when 5 independent people say the same thing about thee — one should consider. My mum told me that if those that love you and those that hate you and those that are indifferent about you come up with a verdict about you — then you must consider it. As a good son of my mother, I am just following instruction.

These resilient stubs…never fruits that you would enjoy or scented roses.

Upon my consideration I recall two other events in my life that seem to create a rhyme scheme in the assessment I was given. So this third event makes it a trifecta.

Job Searching In Lagos

Lagos was the destination of choice for me to job hunt. Before finishing my NYSC, I had applied for some jobs and the interviews were in Lagos. I left Osun State, where I was serving to go and be with my parents (in Calabar) for two months. I did that on purpose. I knew it would be the last time I would have such freedom to spend 60 days with my parents. It was my gift to them because I knew that once I left that house, it was forward ever and backward never.

After that I had a meeting with my dad and told him I was heading to Lagos to job hunt. I saw that he was deflated. He did not want me to embark on another sojourn as I have just completed one from Benin city courtesy of schooling in UNIBEN. On the other hand, he had nothing to offer me. Reluctantly he gave me his blessings and I left for Lagos.

Lagos welcomed me with a downpour that enabled me to fall into a ditch the nearly swallowed me. I got to the house of my host, who was not expecting me, drenched. He was surprised to see me. He asked why I came. I reminded him that two years ago he said whenever I was in Lagos I could come to his place. I was wondering why he was not happy to see me. Now I know better. I had not informed him and he was hosting two other people in my life’s status. My life’s status — Broke Boys United. No need to explain.

I had a PWC test the next day and I was so sure that I would pass the test, ace the interview and get a job by the next week. I was brought down to reality when I got the mail informing me that I failed the test. My world started spinning in multiple directions. That was the beginning of test taking and interviews for every Saturday in the next 8 months. In those 8 months I was broker than broke. I had lived with 3 different hosts. My hosts were generous but catering for me was hard because some of them were trying to find their feet. I was like an unwanted pregnancy that you had to live with 😂. Those 8 months were long. They seem like half of eternity.

In one of those months, my dad visited Lagos. I found a way to see him. When he saw how lean I was, his face dropped. He said very little to me. He did his best to cheer me up and gave me some money. As we were about to separate, he told me “You know you can always come home. We have food and shelter”. I said nothing. I left. I knew what he meant. He was not happy that my address kept changing. He did not know whom I was staying with. Most noticeably, he knew hunger was my new best friend and nothing except a job could separate me and hunger. What he said was an offer, that would help me go back home, just in case I did not know I had a choice. I knew about that offer but I refused to activate it.

But I had the support of my friends. They kept encouraging me. Those I had stayed with kept in touch but I had no phone and so they reached out via email and folk who could see me. By month nine, I sang Alleluia — I got a job. I was so beaten up by the whole process that it took a while for it to sink in. Resumption of the job was the next day. On the streets of Saka Tinubu I made the 2 minute call to my Dad. The ecstasy in his voice is something I wish I could frame and sell as an NFT.

When the wife of one of those friends I stayed with saw me and I told her the good news. She told me about me. She told me what baffled her was the I was undaunted. “Gabriel, you refused to give up”, she said. She told me about cousins and friends who came to Lagos but left after a short while, they said it was too tough. She said I believed against all odds and went all out for what I wanted. I thanked her for her compliment and never thought about it. But at this moment, in the lyrical words of Celine Dion “It’s All Coming Back To Me”.

DUKE University MBA

The process of getting an MBA was another story in itself. I had applied to my favourite school, MIT Sloan Business School though I did apply to Harvard also because I fell in love with its buildings and campus ambience. My love was unrequited. And so I started the journey of finding a school that suited me better. I stumbled unto the Cross Continent MBA of Fuqua Business School. Waoh! This programme was made for me. It fulfilled a major aspect of what I wanted to do during the MBA — see the world in a structured way. I had to travel to 4 continents and take classes there while embedded in those culture and climes. It was great but for one reason — I hold a Nigerian passport. What do I mean by that? Well, a Nigerian is already “labelled” even if s/he is holding a diplomatic passport — live with it.

With that context, I had to be in the US, China, India, Chile, Germany and back to the US. the stories of getting the visas to these countries would fill 2 volumes of my memoir. To get the visa for one of those countries I had to travel to another West African country. I could not succeed there. My case was transferred to the East African Country representative of that country. I did not have the time to schedule things and so I went to East Africa through Ghana and then came back to Nigeria and flew out the same evening via South African Airways to Chile. It was a 56-hours trip. My route Nigeria Ghana — Kenya. Then Kenya to Nigeria. Resume the same day Nigeria — South Africa — Brazil — Chile. Then repeat. Chile — Brazil — South Africa — Nigeria. ( I feel it from here that you are already feeling dizzy 😂). It seems I had invented a new form of torture for myself.

Just in case you don’t know what we are talking about.

Apart from the admin staff that I kept abreast with where I was in the world, none of my class mate was aware of this ordeal. It was not necessary. I really don’t enjoy being pitied. When the admin staff saw me, she sat me down and told me how dogged of a human I was. I thanked her for noting my effort. She said I was resilient. Well I viewed it differently — I had no choice and so I had to do what I had to do. I had to do what was infront of me. Period.

What Made Me Resilient

I truly do not have an honest answer to this. But I can hazard a guess. I always feel that I have no option. I can only go forward or fall into the river of life. And since I do not want to fall into a river whose currents are faster than a tsunami, then I must go forward. Going forward was my only antidote to drowning and the gateway to survival.

I usually look at what I am going for and ask myself the following questions:

“Is it worth it?”

“Must I do it?”

“What can go wrong if I do not do it?”

“What will change if I get it down”

If the goal ticks all 4 boxes, then it is a “go” for me.

My inspiration for this mindset come from a biblical story in 2 Kings 7:3–4

“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’ — the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”

The lepers realized that if they sat in one place, the end was inevitable. If they went out, there was a probability of a better outcome. However, if you do not venture, you will never know and hence…let’s go. “All die na die but e better make we try”

I have pondered why sometime I have to go through these phases of life that seems like infinite loops before I achieve my goals. Must I be like Hulk Hogan? What about him? Oh you know until he receives the beating of his life, he never gets charged up to take the fight to the opposition. But it is true nah!

Dear Lord,

I now know I am resilient.

There is nothing more to prove.

Please let my next achievements come in peace. Amen.

The initial parts of this write up is here Possibilities & The Law Of Recognition, Possibility II: The Curious Case of Bassey & Word Problems, Possibilities III: “I Have A Dream” , Possibilities IV: Driving and Possibilities 5: Life In Reverse. You can check out my other works on personal development Asking, Managing Access In Relationships How To Ask, Authenticity, Life Skill: The Power of Saying “No”, Start Off; Look Up & Pedal Hard, 12 Unforgettable Leadership Lessons From The Lion King, InBuilt, Now I Arise, Life Hack: Accountability, Life Hack: Simplicity, Life Hack: Making Impact and Built In Failure. I also reviewed The Lion King and wrote about Movies That Shaped.

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