I never miss Marketer’s night. Why? Scrumptious food, good looking guys and seriously inspiring women. I also want to be able to rock a 10 inch heel and bombard keynote speakers with intelligent questions. As things are currently, I just tiptoe in, exchange a few cards, listen to the speakers as hard as my attention span will let me and wait for dessert.
Sometimes, I also dance.
The last topic was the role of the board in driving corporate excellence. There was some noise about what goes into the choosing of a board member, whether or not marketers need to be included on boards and other things. Maggie Kigozi disabused the audience of the fantasy that to be a board member is a lucrative thing. Apparently, they get zero pay for a truckload of work. Perhaps like writers, they get paid in ego and free meals? I don’t know.
The person I was eager to see and hear was Dr. Wale Akinyemi, a business strategist, consultant, author and inspirational speaker who had been flown in from Nigeria to deliver the keynote speech.
Now either Nigeria has some of the richest proverbs in the world or Nigerians have done a better job than the rest of us at preserving and incorporating their proverbs into day to day conversation and life in general. The multi-layered goodness of these phrases, the humor and power all packed into one short line.
Proverbs in a story are like spicy currants, treats that I look forward to encountering whenever I begin a story.
I have even been inspired to start collecting Acholi proverbs for use in my own writing.
Wale Akinyemi is loud, dramatic, eloquent and highly successful. He delivered so many wisdom bombs that night, some of which I will attempt to reproduce below:
You have the power of process. Of all animals on God’s green earth, humans have the most power of process. Don’t squander it. If you do, you are a mumu (fool).
Don’t confuse activity with productivity: Wale gave a wonderful analogy to describe this, but I can’t remember his exact words, only the sentiment behind them. I will make one of my own. Say you are tilling the land. If you are a mumu, you dig in one spot with all your might and sweat very much, but what you’re really doing is creating a pit that eventually you won’t be able to climb out of.
On the same theme, he said, “You think you are thinking. You are not thinking. You are a mumu, rotating blocks of ignorance around your mind.”
In response to those in the audience who had been demanding explanations about why young people are never put on corporate boards. His advice was: develop yourself. Study everything that you can in the field where your biggest dream lies and then you can truly use your intellectual power to progress. He summed this up perfectly with, “If your knowledge doesn’t produce tangible results, you are useless.”
Akinyemi is writing a book about the advice his mother gave him that didn’t work, for example: slow and steady wins the game. He told of how for the longest time he was going real slow, and real steady, frustratingly so, but nothing was happening. He was still losing. He abandoned that mantra and now goes with “Fast, focused and consistent wins the game”.
Clearly, that has worked for him. That’s right people. Cliches actually work.
I will end with the words of Sanaa Gateja, one of Africa’s greatest artists. He says, “The wonderful (and terrible) thing about dreams is that they all come true.”
Grow yourself to meet the capacity of your dream.