By Wale Akinyemi
I went to a privileged school full of extremely wealthy children. Now that was a problem. My parents were not wealthy, and so from the beginning, I felt like an outsider.
My schoolmates seemed to have everything. They travelled abroad for holidays. As for me, my journey would be to the village to visit my grandparents.
My schoolmates wore designer clothes bought from designer shops during their travels abroad. I wore clothes made by a certain ‘Uncle Tunde the tailor’, who made clothes from the cheapest fabrics possible. For some reason, the clothes were always ill-fitting.
My friends at school used the nicest smelling colognes. The closest I could get would be the near empty bottles from my uncles.
I may have felt odd then, but looking back, being an ‘outsider’ was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. I had to think creatively to gain the respect of those whom I considered to be the insiders. To do this I had to look inside me. There was something inside me that could command the respect of the world outside me.
That was the beginning of creativity fuelled by a great drive – the very drive that has helped me to defy a lot of odds in my life. It birthed the entrepreneur in me at a very young age.
I have sold fire wood, mangoes, bottles, old newspapers, and leather bags among other things on the street. Today, I am grateful for these experiences. They shaped me and made me what I am today.
You have a choice if you identify with the outsider feeling. You can decide to close up and deprive the world of the best of you. You can decide to silently feel sorry for yourself and wrap it up in pride. This pride will express itself in you pretending to be in control, not opening up to anyone, always wanting to prove a point and living in suspicion. It is a deceptive state of living because you feel you are strong when the reality is that you are weak.
On the other hand, you can choose a totally different path by looking to a future you can change and being grateful for the past that you cannot change.
Look for an ember. Once you find it and you fan it enough, the light will shine in the darkness. This was the beginning of what has become my pattern. Living grateful.
I am grateful for the teacher who constantly failed me in English because I was not expressive enough. She forced me to write from my heart and not from my head.
I am grateful for not having the money like my friends had when I was small. It forced me to work out a grand design for my life.
I am grateful for my relationship that ended after three years. Through it, I met the queen who has been my wife for the last 21 years.
I am grateful for all those who rejected my proposals when I started out. It sent me to the drawing board and I had to learn how to write winning plans.
I am grateful for the people I considered my friends who betrayed and hurt me many years ago. It has taught me that there is life after betrayal.
I am grateful for my earlier failures in life. They formed the foundation for my success today.
I am grateful for my losses. I became so poor that even the poor called me poor. It built the hunger for knowledge that I have and it also created in me a passion to help people.
Come to think of it: Without the haters, the sceptics, the critics, and the rejecters, we probably wouldn’t be at our best, would we?
Have a very thankful weekend!