We continue this week with the encounter my mentor had with Dele. As my Mentor continued to pour out his heart, explaining each of the principles he listed, I noticed a deep sense of relief on Dele’s face. Although, he was recording the entire conversation, he was still busy making copious notes. I was happy as well. Only on few occasions had my Mentor been in such a state of complete absorption. I was startled by few of the insights he shared.
After a while, he stopped talking and asked for Dele’s comments. Dele responded at once.
“Sir, I must thank you immensely for these deep insights. I have been richly blessed by everything that has come from your mouth in the past few days. But I have a concern. I have lost my job, but that is no big deal as you have said. The problem is where do I start? Is it possible to make enough money from composing music, which is an area I have discovered I am gifted in? Where else can I make money? I need to get out of this financial embarrassment quickly. I am not getting any younger. That is my dilemma, sir and I know God has given you an unusual insight into these problems”.
“Your concerns are reasonable, my brother”, my Mentor responded, “but they are for a wrong reason. And many people have fallen into the same trap of allowing money to drive their career decisions. I thought you got my message. Let me drive the point home the more with this powerful line from Rick Warren, author of Purpose Driven Life: ‘Nothing matters more than knowing God’s purposes for your life, and nothing compensates for not knowing them- not success, wealth, fame, or pleasure. Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction, and events without reason. Without a purpose, life is trivial, petty and pointless.’
“That is powerful, isn’t it? The starting point is to take inventory of your skills and begin to use them for the glory of God. Let service, not money, be at the centre of everything you do and before long, God will single out some skills He wants to use in you. That is when money comes. If you go into business solely for the money you can make, you may end up chasing shadows. But if you go into any business for the purpose of service, for the purpose of blessing humanity, as long as you are dedicated to that service, money will flow in your direction sooner or later. Remember Henry Ford did not start out to make money. He wanted to solve transportation problems for the lowly placed and in doing that extremely well, money came in torrents.
“The question of which skill to develop should not arise. God said you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. That is a powerful message. If only you knew, you are a living miracle and a bundle of talents. God is waiting for you to bring them out. Let me shock you with this: Did you know that as you are sitting now, you have between 500 and 700 skills you can develop and use in your lifetime for the glory of God? Now let me ask you, how many of the skills have you used?
“My friend told me only last week how he discovered a new skill and I suggest that he shares his experience with us again so that you can appreciate what I am saying. You are capable of doing far more than you are doing at present. Over to you,” my Mentor said as he nodded in my direction.
One thing I have learnt from my Mentor is that if you want God to use you in more areas, you have to develop the habit of sharing your experiences with people, no matter how embarrassing you think they are.
God can use your most embarrassing problem as a step to lift you up. What I had shared with my Mentor was how I stumbled on public speaking. Here is my story. “Naturally I am an introvert. I like to withdraw into myself either reading or writing. Facing people to speak was unthinkable. As I grew in status in my profession, however, unfortunately, I discovered that I had to solve that problem, but there was no solution in sight. I creatively rejected all the invitations to either review a book or to address an audience. But I was boxed into a tight corner on one occasion and there was no way I could dodge.
“In 2000, shortly after we started a national financial newspaper, I was invited by a federal parastatal in Abuja to speak on how to report privatisation.
The event, which was well attended by journalists from all over the country, was at the Hilton Hotel, Abuja. Besides, so many dignitaries were in attendance. I was on the high table with them. The night before, in my hotel room, I had memorised everything I was going to say and recited it to myself standing in front of the mirror. I was to speak immediately after the DG had given his opening address. As his speech drew to a close, I was already visibly shivering. As a matter of fact, I had to excuse myself to the toilet. The anxiety still did not go away.
Eventually, I was called to the podium after a flattering introduction by the host. It was the most embarrassing moment of my life and I prayed at that moment that the ground would just open and swallow me up. I feared the moment more than death. For more than three minutes after the microphone was handed over to me, I could not say a word. I just drew blank. I could not retrieve a single word from what I thought I had memorised. I had to quickly pull out my jottings, read them quickly and in less than ten minutes, I was through. My talk was to last for an hour. The hall was silent. There was no comment, no applause as I managed to drag myself to my seat. I could sense that my colleagues were embarrassed beyond words.
As soon as the event was over, I dashed to my room. I did not participate in the lunch. Alone, I vowed never to accept any public invitation to speak again. I travelled back to Lagos the same day instead of the following day as scheduled.
Six months after, I was boxed into another corner again. The Nigerian Economics Students’ Association, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, invited me to give a speech during one of their programmes. I could not dodge it. I had also prepared and memorised what I was going to say. I was on the high table with the Head of Department for Economics, a lady. It was my turn to speak and the problem started again. I was shivering. The HOD noticed it. She did what I did not expect. Before handing over the microphone to me, she asked everybody in the hall to stand up. She requested everybody to point in my direction and pray for me so God can use me to speak to them. She asked them to pray for all traces of anxiety to disappear. The students and lecturers prayed loudly for me. While they were praying, some speaking in tongues, it appeared as if I heard a voice asking me to ignore what I had prepared and instead I should share my experience while I was on the campus. Instantly, I felt an unspeakable calmness come over me. The nervousness disappeared and suddenly I started to speak without looking at my notes. I spoke for approximately one hour, thirty minutes. I shared the experience of how I missed my final exam and how God used what I considered to be a problem to reconnect me to His plan for me. The hall erupted. I got a standing ovation from everybody. Students rushed after me to autograph books for them. A miracle had just happened. I withdrew quietly to a hotel in town to meditate on that experience. I analysed what happened, what I got right and what went wrong in my Abuja encounter. A sentence came to me: “To be a great speaker, you have to speak to your audience’s heart and you have to share your experience.” I put it down in my diary and there and then, I reversed my earlier decision not to speak in public again. I continued to accept invitations to speak. And they kept coming from different sources: churches, companies, student groups, corpers, clubs, and associations.
Surprisingly, I have also received a few invitations to speak outside the country. I received a very fat cheque a month ago from an organisation at whose function I had spoken. I couldn’t resist the tear of joy that rolled down my face. I am not yet a powerful speaker, but at least the stage fright is gone forever. Surprisingly, I also discovered five other talents I did not know I had. God is good,” I concluded.
“That is incredible,” Dele said. “Then what am I waiting for?”
“That is the point”, my Mentor interjected. “As Rick Warren puts it: “God can do amazing things with the rest of your life, too. God specialises in giving people a fresh start.” I am very sure you have heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken founded by Colonel Sanders. He had retired from the army before he discovered that he had a unique culinary skill. He became a multimillionaire shortly after introducing KFC. So my brother, it is never too late to start. A thousand years is like one year in the eyes of the Lord. So I encourage you to wake up, use whatever gift you discover and God will bless you through it”. He stopped speaking to sip some orange juice.
•Sometimes your present job may be a temporary stop where God wants you to learn few skills for your next assignment.
•Evaluate your present job and ask yourself: is this my assignment or a stepping stone to my assignment? You have to be sensitive to know when to move to the next level.
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