Originally published on BellaNaija.
Happy new year, everybody!” the presiding pastor announced joyfully at exactly noon. Immediately he announced the start of a new year, it seemed like I was in a movie as I watched everything happen before me in slow motion. I watched how family members hugged each other and how people jumped, excited to see 2020. I turned back to check the clock at my local church. “So, we are truly in 2020”, I thought to myself. As people carried on with their celebration and fireworks littered the sky, I sat down to reflect.
While reflecting, I realized that 2019 was not as bad as I thought. For a guy who spent an hour crying on his knees on New Year’s eve, I found it hard to believe how good the year had been. Although I experienced a lot of emotional breakdowns and personal issues, it did not change the fact that in 2019, I:
- Bagged an International Diploma
- Got international internships
- Went from having 0 to 25 working experiences
- Became a contributing writer for five different platforms
- Got recruited for the largest plaintiff law firm in Texas, United States!
- Got my first international job
- Had my first viral tweet
- Had my first digital marketing internship
- Bagged over 13 certifications
The list is almost endless and I smile as I type those achievements because challenges and life had made me forget how good they once made me feel. Before 2019, I did not cherish the idea of announcing my success on LinkedIn or any social media network. However, last year, I realized the importance of documenting my journey. If I ever want to truly inspire people, I must celebrate my little wins and failures too.
When I started announcing my wins on LinkedIn, Twitter, and WhatsApp, I noticed a surge in the number of people complimenting how ‘impressive’ my LinkedIn profile is. Other times, I got questions asking how I did it. While I tried my best to answer these questions, I couldn’t answer all because it was time-consuming. Similarly, my tweet regarding my diploma went viral. Throughout that week, my Twitter inbox was in flames as people kept asking questions about how I bagged over 11 international certifications at the time. I tried to answer them all, but I couldn’t. It got tiring.
Initially, I was hesitant about writing about how I did it because I realized people wanted the noun, not the verb. They wanted the crown, but they didn’t want to partake in the struggle to wear the crown. Still, here I am, writing about how I achieved what some people call a great feat – although I don’t totally agree.
When people see my achievements or view my LinkedIn profile, they assume I did something extraordinary, or I’m only lucky. Others think I have connections. The truth is, everything started working out in late 2019. It seems hard to believe, but the first half of 2019 was a depressing, challenging, and bitter experience.
Before my life took a positive U-turn, I was a freelance writer who was earning peanuts from outsourcers. The picture of how empty my LinkedIn page looked remains in memory. I can still remember having less than a hundred connections at the beginning of 2019. No one wanted anything to do with a mere undergraduate who did not have an ‘impressive profile.’
I was not optimizing my potentials. I restricted my possibilities as I continued living with the belief that my smartness was enough to guarantee my success. From my primary education to the high school level, people labeled me ‘intelligent’ and ‘smart’. In senior high school, this smartness was on a whole new level as I topped the class continuously. My teachers consistently praised me, and I let their praises intoxicate me. The fixed mindset of being the best and feeling entitled accompanied me until I entered the university.
Upon my admission to study law at Obafemi Awolowo University, I learned the bitter truth: No one owes me anything. If I was ever going to make sense, I needed to be deliberate and intentional about my life goals.
In 2018, I tried my best to ‘make sense’, but I failed woefully. Ten times! The several organizations I applied to rejected me ten good times! So, I assumed it was not my ‘destiny’ to have working experience at a young age. Although it was not deliberate, I unconsciously settled for less. Starting in 2019, the optimism and thirst I had for success disappeared. Occasionally, I felt motivated to continue with this dying energy (especially when I read self-help books), but it did not last. Faux motivation became a similar nature to my identity.
Still, I tried my best to gain knowledge. I developed an interest in Digital Marketing as I took the course on Digital Marketing Garage for Africa. After that, I took a long break from learning. Slowly, I returned into the shell of unproductivity. Like many average people, I waited for a ‘big break’. I waited for that opportunity that would change my life at the speed of light, without working for it.
As Kelechi Udoagwu rightfully stated, “You cannot solve a problem until you recognize it is a problem.” Not recognizing that I had a problem contributed to my stagnancy at the beginning of 2019. I did not realize that my laxity and the inability to sustain my motivation was a significant obstacle to my progress. All these continued until I hit rock bottom.
On a fateful Saturday, in July, tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down my face. I heard my sobs, like a distressed child, raw from the inside. The inner walls that held me up and made me strong collapsed.
I realized that my lack of productivity was a problem. Not only did it make me consistently experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), it made me sink into depression. At that point, I decided to address this as a problem. I was not going to live at the mercy of my predicament. The next day, I continued a course on Google Analytics (which I had abandoned for about five months). And since then, I have taken several steps that have led to a more successful and productive life. Even when I seemed to be getting it right for a while, I almost hit the rock as I had a bad academic year. Nevertheless, it did not stop me from moving.
Previously a mere undergraduate with no working experience, I’ve been able to garner over 25 working experiences (mostly with foreign companies) with 13 international certifications. Some of the steps I took to achieve this success are:
Strategic use of social media
I never realized how helpful social media apps like Twitter could be until 2019. The majority of my present employment and opportunities link back to social media. Since I’ve become strategic about people I choose to follow on Twitter, my life has been spectacular. Not only have I received life-changing opportunities (from people like @momentswithbren), I have also received amazing pieces of advice from (@moechievous, ojayansola) and met great people.
Take advantage of MOOCs
Massive Open Online Courses have contributed to my success far more than the degree I’m currently pursuing. Since I started exploiting the benefits inherent in online learning platforms like Udemy, Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, SkillShare, I’ve learned several courses that have deepened my specialization in interested fields. These courses and certifications have also exposed me to lots of job offers. Employers are often impressed by the MOOCs that I’ve enrolled in. Not only do I enroll in these courses, but I also practice what I learn by interning in a related industry.
Forming and leveraging on mentorships
I’ve listened to different talks about the importance of mentorship at conferences, webinars, LinkedIn, and the likes, but I never practiced what I heard until September 2019 when I interned at a top tier law firm. At this law firm, I realized the benefits of having a mentor. Through the advice and guidance of my mentors, my career has accelerated than expected because they’ve guided me enough to avoid the mistakes they made.
No matter the field you choose, you would cost yourself a lot if you don’t tap into the benefits of having mentors. It was one of my mentors, Mary Imasuen, who enlightened me about ways to accelerate my writing and digital marketing career. Kelechi Udoagwu gave me the platform for my first significant internet writing. Damola Oyekunle taught me a certain invaluable knowledge in digital marketing. When you have great mentors, you won’t need a hundred thousand naira to learn what you could get first-hand, for free.
Conquering the fear of rejection and aggressively applying for opportunities
Before I started receiving several internship opportunities, I had a lot of rejections. Gradually, these constant rejections led to a rooted fear of rejection in me. For about three months, I discarded the thought of applying for internship positions, which I felt I qualified for. I had attached my self-esteem to these rejections. Thus, I avoided applying for any role. This explains my laxity and severe procrastination at the beginning of the year.
When I read books and received uplifting advice, I realized that avoidance will not solve the problem of constant rejections. If I want ever want to advance my career, I must engage in trials and errors. At first, it seemed like a suicide mission, but I did it anyway. I applied for about 30 roles in the space of one month. Unfortunately, I received several rejections. Luckily, I experienced a breakthrough with Thomas J Henry Attorneys, which compensated me far better than most internship positions would have. I also had several internships in multinationals, which I had to turn down.
Trusting my guts and standing by my dreams
Trusting my guts helped me land one of the opportunities that completely changed my life in 2019. Before resuming a life-changing internship, I encountered several obstacles from people around me. The energy was highly toxic that if you weren’t strong-willed, you would give in to the pressure.
Nevertheless, I had my eyes on the prize. I realized that the internship position was not for my parents or relatives. It was for me. I came off as ‘stubborn’, but it eventually paid off as the internship paid far more than I anticipated. More than standing my ambition, I trust my guts enough to know when to stop. I trusted my guts enough to know when not to do too much as I recognize the importance of good grades. I’ve come across several job offers which I rejected simply because my guts felt it would affect my academics. Surprisingly, I got far better job offers than the ones I turned down.
This here is my mini-success journey in 2019. It is refreshing and elating to finally share my experience with other people without resorting to the usual Nigeria catchphrase “it’s God.”. Note that despite what seems to be a great feat, I still fail. Sometimes, I find it comical how we seem to get things right for a while and life hands us a couple of Ls later. Life is rude; it doesn’t give us the respect to enjoy success for a long time without bulldozing us with losses.
I’m sure you expect that this is the point where I go all motivational and inspire the heck out of you to become a better version of yourself. Well, you’re right and wrong. Life is not a Disney movie, and there is no ever happily after story for anyone. You cannot see the light without having your share of darkness (a total PHCN kind of darkness). Despite my ‘impressive’ career development, you should know that I still face regular life challenges. I was not exaggerating when I mentioned spending an hour crying on the New Year’s eve.
I don’t mean to come off as demotivating (after the seemingly motivating success story) but the truth is that a good job, internship positions, certifications, and an impressive LinkedIn profile would not come in the absence of challenges. Experiencing the pains of disappointments make these accomplishments more interesting. So, what do you say to the god of rejection? “I’m going to risk you anyways”
Now is the part where I use the motivating tone: I hope my story makes you realize how ‘easy’ it is to become the best version of yourself. More importantly, I hope it inspires you to stretch more than ever. This is just the beginning for me. There is more to achieve, more to become, and more to do!