By Lanre Shonoiki
2002… My little brother was about 10 years old when we saw Drumline, the American Movie, for the first time. He, like I, enjoyed the decent storyline, the lovely snare cadences and Devon’s final victory. It about ended there for me; for him, it didn’t. Psyched, Kunle began his quest to become a snare-drumming pro. Soon, he bought two straight canes and made a fine job of carving drumsticks out of them. And then… he went on rampage. Over the next nine months, the whole family had to wear ear plugs as he beat cracks into the bottoms of 6 of the 8 buckets that served the house, beat frays out of the surface of his leather school bag, joined his high school’s drumming band, developed a minor case of RSI* and mastered every Travis Barker demo he could download from the internet… or so he thought he did. The facts that the house suddenly enjoyed all-round quiet for a full week and our new Mr. Miles wore a grave look unbefitting someone on leave prompted me to press his best friend for answers. I learnt that Liz, his adolescent crush had given him her honest opinion about his yet poor drumming skills, two days before the school band left him out of the Independence Day March past. His nine-month career had ended… badly!
2006… Towards the end of my JAMB-enforced gap year, a craze for motivation swept over the Nigerian populace. I watched from a psychological distance as sweet-talking men made millions off desperate Nigerians who somehow connected guarantees of success in business with reading motivational books and listening to successful entrepreneurs.
In all fairness, the masses did get what they paid for; truckloads of motivation. But then, they missed out on the vital garnishes these motivators were either not so willing to share or just knew nothing about. A little vector mechanics, a pinch of statistics, a firm understanding of Darwin’s theories and a honest assessment of the Nigerian business environment would have put the motivatees in better shoes for trekking the long haul motivation was about to take them. I bet you’re wondering, “Vector Mechanics?” Sure! Direction was the greatest flaw in the whole motivation scam. The average Nigerian didn’t know what he wanted to do, what he could do and what the nation would let him do. So, he just accepted in good faith Mr. Kiyosaki’s perfect formula for success in business. Problem is, more often than not, his latent talents say otherwise and a conflict of directions is created. So, the opposing vectors cancel out and the rigid body called Mr. Somebody has barely moved an inch. But who’s to be blamed? Barely 200 years ago, Charles Darwin did a remix of Statistic’s all-time best-selling track We can’t all be successful and titled it The Theory of Natural Selection. He sold over a million copies in our Social Studies textbooks. Did we even listen? No? Okay, I’ll simplify. Almighty nature suggests that the much-coveted top of the pyramid is super-small; just enough crawl space for very few people… survival of the fittest. This coupled with the adverse Nigerian social structure, I doubt Donald Trump would have made it through high school if he had been raised in Bariga… You dig?
2010… For the past five years, I’ve watched a lot of us swat biannually in the direction of the 4.5 mark as funny grading systems and damnable study conditions snapped at our feet, pulling us down the GP ladder. Too early, too late or just at the right time, many of us gave up and settled in our comfort zones with exclamations like “I can’t kill myself” and “O boy! Na hose dem dey take suck this my GP o!” Funny? The hardest lessons are learnt that way. (WARNING: You are strongly advised to stop reading here if you’re not in your finals.) Lesson one: A number of us were never graduating 1st class even if we sold our souls to the devil in exchange. It’s not that we are lazy, retarded, under-motivated or anything of the sort. It’s just Darwin’s Natural Selection at work. And life is like that; it’s not what you work hardest at that you succeed in… It’s what you’re cut out for. We’re like trains; running on tracks that aren’t suited to us might slow us down and eventually derail us. Lesson two: Success is not a path function; it’s a state function. Earning good grades is not the only way. Your best bet is to find the path to the top, that best suits your talents with the least cost to your soul and body. Entertainment, sports, art, commerce, even motivational speaking; the options are plenty. By the way, Kunle is in his second year in Medical school. For him, gunning for Ben Carson’s status would neither be a tall order nor a wrong call because I believe he has found his niche. Find yours and make all that motivation count.
*RSI: Repetitive Stress Injury: a painful condition affecting some people who overuse muscles as a result of regularly repeating an activity such as operating a keyboard… or incessant drumming in this case.