Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How old are you?

(Strictly for the young)
A friend sent me a text on my birthday last weekend. It read, “You know you are growing old when the candles are bigger than the cake”. I thought the bigger test was whether or not you were able to laugh at the joke. I half laughed, which means I am one leg in, and one leg out.

While only three people know my true age, it is fair to say I might be ticking the other side of 25. You know those boxes that give you options, which go from 21 – 25, to 36 – 40, to over 40... as if being 40 and over was some incurable disease.
Irreversible, maybe, but when did getting older become such a bore and fear?
I remember growing up and wishing I were older.
Back then, I would laugh at those who said, “A woman never reveals her age”, saying mine proudly! I thought it was silly to celebrate 21st six times... I mean! Your age didn’t matter that much did it?
Wrong! I was again.
Now I understand everything, even as I struggle with a reluctance to admit how old or young I am.
The truth is, our ages may not bother us personally, but it sure bothers society, and they are determined to put us in boxes according to our age. Not personality or ability. But age.
You can’t get into school before a certain age, you cannot work in a bank after a certain age. If you are a certain age, you should either be married, or at least, suitably upset that you are not, and when you are at a certain age, then you should face your studies, and no member of the opposite sex!

In some countries, permission to drink is granted based on age, and others determine criminal responsibility based on age. Here in Nigeria, as at when I was in Law School, anyone under the age of 7 could not be prosecuted for a crime because they were not seen by law as able to commit crimes!
For those in the entertainment, fashion and beauty industry, the rules are tighter!
‘Old’ is not when you need to line up for pension. Old is when you count in two digits from 25.
I remember a certain audition I did not go for because the person had to be under 21. I later found out half of the people who auditioned had lied about their ages, Who knows if the winner gave their real age. I realised I should have just lied jo! But I have not had cause to ... yet.
So, here I am. Grateful for the extra twelve months I marked. The new experiences learnt, the mistakes made, the pain and love shared. But worried that, I could be deemed irrelevant. Not because I no longer think or function like I used to, but because I now tick the wrong box! Poor those who attempted to find out my age. I either eyed them, or told them I was the same age as my tongue and a little older than my teeth. And the poor dude, who saw a picture of mine from last year and said I look older and less innocent now, his ear-drum must have healed by now... I hope.
In the end, I look to His word for the comfort.
Nay. The race is never to the swift, but time and chance.
So, I will cut my next birthday cake with grace and smiles. But no candles. There’s no need to go there jo!

Judge not
(Just Life)
I WAS singing her favourite song to her as we walked, or more precisely, as I carried her while I walked. She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye as she waited for her favourite part of the song where she has to join to say, ‘ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah,’ although she actually modified it somehow by just singing a long ‘aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh’ instead. When we got to the part, she opened her mouth as wide as she could and did her bit. I laughed out loudly and she responded by resting her head on my shoulder, trying to hide her face in my neck as though she was shy, we both knew she wasn’t.
A lady was walking towards us. I hummed the song as I stroked my baby’s back, she snuggled even closer. We walked on. Just as we got close to the lady I looked up and noticed that she was looking at us. I assumed, wrongly, that we were going to do the African thing and greet each other even though we didn’t know each other.
I was about to say ‘good morning’ when her words stopped me short.
She said, ‘Baby, don’t mind her, ‘you hear.’ Don’t mind your mother.’
‘What? What is it you imagine I did to my baby?’ I demanded to know.
‘Is it not your fault? She has plaster casts on her legs.
Are you not the one who let her get wounded like that?’
She responded, giving me the kind of daggers I hadn’t received for a long time.

‘Wait a minute, you think that some accident happened and ...’
‘Yes now, why did you let ...?’
‘Look, what she has is a congenital birth defect, which we are trying to correct. She has not been in any accident of any sort.’
‘Oh, I am sorry oh, I thought ...’
‘Yes, I can just imagine what you thought, but you really shouldn’t make assumptions about people and situations you know nothing about.’
‘I am sorry,’ she said again as she quickly got into her car and made to drive off.

We walked on, silently this time. How it is that someone would imagine that the average mother would harm her own child? Would anyone deliberately be careless with a baby?
Another thing that puzzled me, was how someone could be so judgmental to condemn another person without bothering to ask any questions about the situation?

Thinking of it, I realise we all do it, sometime or another. We see an elderly man in a car with a young girl (whether she is pretty or not, looks like him or not) and most will think ‘Hmm, useless man! That girl is probably his daughter’s age!’ and chances are she might just be his daughter. Most believe all politicians are rogues, youths from the riverine areas are militants and kidnapers, Igbo boys are ‘419ners’, and so on and so forth.

Mothers are usually condemned or praised by other women for whatever happens to their children. If a child is ill, it is the mother’s fault; if the child becomes president then the mother did some things right.

Anyone who has gone through the process of begetting a child, I believe will do all she can to care for and protect her child, and only a woman who believes herself to be the perfect mother would feel that she has the right to condemn or judge another. But is there anything as perfect mother? I really cannot say, I do know that whatever steps we take towards perfection are by the grace of God.

Shared offices
(GOOD manners)

SHARED offices are as much a part of modern corporate culture as are suits and shoes. They come in different hues and settings.

There are offices shared by two or three people. Others are open plain offices with many tables — the corporate equivalent of dormitories.
Some of the permutations have senior/junior teams while others are of equal colleagues. Some have all male or all female members while others are mixed.
In which ever one of these you find yourself, the basic rules of decent conduct remain the same.
After you have moved out of the office, how do your former colleagues remember you —noisy and inconsiderate or well-organised and decent?
Do they remember your body odour or pleasant perfume? What jokes and gossips are bandied about and behind you?
The major virus at the root of most poor conduct in inter-personal relations is selfishness. Even an offensive B.O is not so much a personal hygiene issue as it is a selfishness one.
The antidote to selfishness in inter-personal relations is sensitivity.
If you set out to be considerate to others, your internal alarm will alert you the moment you are about to get selfish. That is sensitivity.

ONE of the issues in shared offices is the respect for boundaries. Without an exclusive room, the table with its surroundings becomes one’s territory.
Don’t go about barging into another’s territory without ‘visa’. Say ‘excuse me’ before you ‘borrow’ a pen, stapler e.t.c. from another’s table and make efforts to return the item after use; even if it’s the office’s own.
Many facilities are shared in offices. These include, the air conditioner, fridge, intercom, water dispenser, photocopier and even electric sockets. It is selfish to be on the intercom for long as other calls to and from your colleagues are thereby cut off.
If you have some voluminous stuff to ‘download’ from another department, let it be sent online or go over physically instead of playing landlord of the intercom.
Again, loud conversations with visitors and callers are better done along the hallway not even in the waiting room or reception.
This is a way of saying they are not welcome in the office. In a room of four people, one person may be feeling cold from the a/c.
What to do — vote on the issue? No.
Balance the risk involved: the cold person can develop a medical condition from that but the three others are not likely to die from less cold.
Water dispensers are supposed to cater to instant thirst. It is a poor attitude and a selfish one at that to use a bottle to empty water from the dispenser for keeps.
The grab-grab mentality of our leaders has permeated so much of our consciousness. But you don’t need to make a gaudy stack of everything in advance when it will still be available as the need arises.
Even if the water will finish by the time of your thirst, it should not warrant a private storage arrangement in advance.
Use of private electronic gadgets at the office should be open to censure. Having both ears plugged with earphones while nodding away like some agama lizard can only be permitted for an executive with exclusive office and who doesn’t receive visitors. I have been to government offices where secretaries play DVDs on their office systems.
Seniors in shared offices are known from the size or position of their tables. They should be able to call the “class” to order like house captains in dormitories whenever there is some stepping out of line.

Applying secrets of the rich
(Biz tool Kids)
AT the end of these series, my desire is to create in you a hunger for financial education. I do not despise academic and professional education. All I have been trying to say is that individual’s financial literacy will determine if he or she will end up poor or rich.

The rich have the following abilities, which are practicable and can be duplicated:
Ability to make more money. The rich know how to make more money than most of us do. Our academic and professional training raise us to be specialists, thus restricting us to making money from only a source. The issue of money is not so because we all have different talents, abilities, personal skills, etc, which can be exchanged for money without necessarily disturbing our professional or academic training. Again, there are needs in the society begging for solutions, and the guy who can meet these needs is the same guy to whom your money and my money will go to. Therefore, the number of problems you can solve, needs you can meet, quality of products/service you can supply and the backend offerings of your business can help you increase your ability to make more money.
Ability to protect your money. When Mike Tyson was declared bankrupt some years ago, he alerted the press and whoever cared to listen how his close friends, even his manager were among many people who stole from his money. Well, that could be face-saving in itself, but a closer look shows that any rich fellow who fails to protect his wealth or riches will end up having his money and assets pilfered, burgled and in some cases taken away from him through the legal system. So, you need to understand that it is not enough to make money, you must also endeavour to protect money made.
Ability to rightly budget your money. Budgeting should not be the preserve of corporate institutions; individuals are supposed to also budget to manage their resources. Budgeting rightly is critical to your financial status. A budget is simply a plan for the coordination of resources and expenditures. Like Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad noted, “Most people use their budget as a plan to become poor or middle class rather than a plan to become rich.” Most people operate their lives on a budget deficit rather than a budget surplus. Instead of working to create a budget surplus, many people work to live below their means, which often means creating a budget deficit. A budget deficit is simply excess expenditure over income, while budget surplus is excess income over expenditure. If you want to change your financial story, you must aim for budget surplus, which means excess income over expenses without having to live below your means.
Ability to leverage your money. This is one aspect very important for us as business people or individuals seeking to increase our financial intelligence. The rich don’t necessarily have more intelligence than you and I do; they have better financial intelligence. They don’t buy all the assets they own using their own money. By leveraging their relationships, financial support from financial institutions, venture capitalists, better banking records, etc, they open the door for better financing for their ideas.
Ability to improve your financial information. I interviewed Mr. Sunny Ojeagbase, the Publisher of Complete Sports and Complete Football, few years ago for my TV programme. Having risen from grass to grace, he confidently told us (production crew) that he had no more money problems. However, he made a comment I will not forget in a hurry. He said, among many other things, “… Supposing I lose everything I have achieved so far, as far as I can sell pure water or (do some business) … I will bounce back.” Isn’t that funny? This is a guru in sports journalism, who has been blessed by God in his trade. I believe this great Nigerian and philanthropist made that statement based on the quality of financial information he has. Today, you are what you are financially because of the financial information you have. If you want to go to the next level, change the quality of financial information you have.
All these I’m sure have exposed you to the way the rich think and act. It’s your turn for a financial turnaround!
Olotu is the CEO/Lead Consultant, DEAIM Innovative Resources Ltd.

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