Thursday, August 19, 2016 9:51am/DR Tunji Olugbodi
Text of Keynote Address Delivered By DR Tunji Olugbodi, FNIM, FRPA at the OSU/OOU reunion at the Holiday Inn Express, laurel, MD, USA on Saturday july 30, 2016.
First let me thank the organisers of this epoch-making event for their tenacity and sense of purpose. I imagine that many of us are here today not just because we agree on the need to get together periodically as brothers and sisters or comrades of the same union, but because some people have taken it upon themselves to sacrificially raise and sustain the friendly structure that must have seen them spend copious time, energy and resource in organizing this gathering today.
As you might imagine, re-unions are a like a double-edged sword. There is the opportunity for camaraderie, gossip, catch-ups and pep talks. But it sometimes also reminds us of what may be missing or what could be better. It might even remind us of stories from the history of our ‘recent past’ in OSU, for some, dating back some 34 / 35 years. Like who eventually married who? Who is running what? And who is working where? Whose child is getting married, soon? Potential parental tips for some of us with kids that haven’t left the nest. How to deal with some of the emerging health challenges akin to this age bracket? And everything else in between.
When I got the invitation to speak, I said to myself what an honor it would be to share views and thoughts with my brothers and sisters from across the Atlantic. I did wonder though, what qualified me to be considered for this honor? But more important, what is there to share with friends who have had the opportunity to travel and see the world, who have in their kitties several years of experience in the University of Life from which there is no graduation day?
What will a boy from Lagos share with ‘awon ara yankee?’.
GREETINGS & LESSONS FROM AGO
But from Lagos I bring you fraternal greetings of all and sundry. Lagos , our archetypal city of a thousand identities and voices, rich in the mesmerizing din of hustlers, young and old, male and female, from far and near, who all want to get rich quick , no matter what. The street word is to “hammer” or “blow”, just in case you don’t know.
So the transformation from Eko o ni baje as a resonance for a collective resolve to ensure that things get better, to the more ubiquitous Fun Itesiwaju Ilu Eko only demonstrates the linear progression of our wants, desires, aspirations and desperations, regardless of political leaning, creed or culture. You either chase or be chased. The rat race has no deeper meaning than in the canvass of life depicted in the expression Eko e ree.
I have no doubt we have similarities here and around the globe- cities on edge, bearing the brunt of our every-day-life pursuits; pursuits that sometimes make us lose all sense of time, aspirations that sometimes call to question our sense of circumspection and value giving rise to cities that never go to sleep, literally speaking.
Distinguished brothers and sisters, it is in this metaphor that I will like to share some personal observations and nuggets with us.
Looking around at the grey hairs, receding hairlines and gracefully ageing faces, one can’t help but ponder on the different turns and twists, decisions and indecisions, paths trodden and paths not taken that have constituted our respective journeys so far. The beauty of age is the ability to reminisce and flash back, besides being rich in experience & history. Most of us bear the scars of our many battles through life.
Like the real survivors we are, some were courageous enough to take the bull by the horn, gambled on the greener pastures by seeking additional opportunities abroad, which thankfully paid off. For those who made other choices, we all come to the realization that the hustle is real, whether in Harlem or Ojuelegba, Maryland in Yankee or Maryland in Ikeja, Lagos.
One thing we cannot deny is that we live in interesting times and it is a different world from where our journeys started. Once upon a time, 35 years ago in the rustic town of Ago Iwoye, some dreams were sown that today continue to grow and germinate.
I am a proud alumnus of OSU and I have never shied away from the fact that my imagination and sense of adventure was moulded and formatted in those nascent years. Today, a lot of my decisions and opinions are tempered by my experiences in Ago Iwoye.
Like the spirit of pioneering something new and different, when my company, Verdant Zeal a communications consultancy group decided to spread to other markets in West Africa, people questioned the rationale, failing to see anything worthwhile in countries like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia. But they missed the point- it was not merely about the economic prospects but the opportunity to learn something new and be tamed by the need to respect other people’s territories and culture. How can you thrive where you have not mastered and tamed? That takes discipline. Sacrifice. Boldness. Dedication. Focus. All of which we experienced as pioneers at Ago Iwoye.
Then there is the spirit of cautious optimism and using less to do more. When most of us resumed in OSU, we remember there was little on ground to build with. The infrastructure was virtually nil, the environment pretty hostile and the mood patently unpredictable. Many did not stay beyond the 1st year before they moved on to better-established universities, like Ife and UI. But most of us stayed and toiled, and like the true adventurers we were, made a success of making things work.
Pretty much like it is in the real world - whether we are setting up homes or businesses. Although there are rules and guidelines, none offers the comfort nor recipe for guaranteed success. There are only canvasses but it is our duty to paint and design with our God given-talents. I look around this room and I celebrate how far we have come and how far God has taken us. Not because we have led perfect lives, not because things have been rosy, nor because we have been able to achieve all set goals but because we recognize that we have a bond that is not easily broken by years of separation or alternate callings.
Back to the learning from my sojourn in West Africa. That our lives are a collection of stories by which God proves Himself. I know many of us have stories about the days of humble beginnings but through it all we have a story that benefits all. One of the biggest lessons of venturing into unknown territories for me is the human connection, how our common destinies are woven and inter mingled. How we are so similar yet so different. How we are guided by common principles of survival and yet we are poles apart in our perspectives to life and living. How we have different tastes but our palate remains one. It is a mystery of creation therefore, that the more things change the more they remain the same. Is this not so?
MASTERING THE MYSTERY OF LIFE
At some point each one of us have wondered what it would have been like if we had made a different choice than the one we made, not this job, but that one, not this town/country, but that one, not this house, but that one, not this partner, but that one, or no partner. We are told that this is a fool’s game, a trap, a diversion from true happiness.
So many questions agitate our minds…like am I now officially old? (Must I give in to my creaking bones and early onslaught of arthritis?) When do I quit clubbing now that (especially we men) we keep bumping into our sons and daughters on the dance floor? When should I go natural now that I can no longer hide the whitening plain wit the myriad of white hair springing up? (At some point no amount of dyeing can hide what comes naturally!)
My career over the last 27 years has mainly been in advertising, branding and marketing communications. And I do know that some of the greatest lessons of confronting life can be found in the survival secrets of great thriving brands. They continue to win and be relevant despite volatile markets, recession, low purchasing power, stiff competition, unstable government regulations etc
Although they all have some things in common as objectives- like winning the heads and hearts of their consumers & increasing their sales off-take, four key things make them thrive :
1. Packaging: They know the best way to guarantee rich product experience for their consumers is through very attractive packaging. This gives it recognition.
2. Pricing: They know the limits of exploitation because there is a limit to how much people are willing to pay for the perceived value in a product.
3. Positioning: Unless the product is hyped and becomes a lifestyle product, it may lose its positioning in the market place.
4. Place: Where is the best place to sell at the most rewarding (and optimal) price?
We must view our lives in very much the same way and seek to procure answers and solutions to life’s challenges. Indeed, a brand’s worth is encapsulated in all of these and more. In designing strategies to answer these needs, messages are developed to capture the imagination and the minds of the consumer.
These messages are best summed up in some of the advertising messages and slogans we may all be familiar with:
COCACOLA- ‘Taste the feeling!’
AT&T- ‘Reach out and touch someone’
GUINNESS – ‘Greatness?’.
APPLE: ‘Think Different’.
MASTERCARD: ‘There are certain things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard’.
L’OREAL: ‘Because you are worth it’.
TESCO: ‘Every little helps’.
FELIX-‘Cats like Felix like Felix’
NIKE-‘Just do it!’
MICROSOFT-‘Where do you want to go today?’
SURE- ‘Raise your hand if you’re sure’.
VISA-‘It’s everywhere you want to be’.
MTN-‘Everywhere you go’.
DE BEERS-‘A diamond is for ever’.
BMW- ‘The ultimate driving machine’.
AUDI- “Vorsprung durch technik’ . (Advancement Through Technology).
McDONALD’s- ‘I’m loving it’.
JOHNNIE WALKER- ‘Keep walking’.
A deep observation of these catch phrases and the strategies behind them show that they are mostly memorable, in some of the cases they offer key benefits and in others they offer great positive feelings about their essence and outlook to life. They all seek a certain clear, distinct level of differentiation.
But did we notice that each of the brands exude a certain level of confidence in offering their promises? They have thrived, in and out of season. They continue to soldier on, no mater what life throws at them. They constantly re- invent and come out with ‘new’, ‘improved’, ‘updated’ formulations and packages. They continue to build new line extensions in conformity with what the market needs and demands of them.
They answer to our everyday simple needs by prodding, asking and investigating. They interrogate new ways of doing old things and re-present them to the market as new offerings. They constantly press refresh- so there can be no market or consumer fatigue. They offer no excuses, no explanations, no defensiveness- just direct to the point. They constantly re-invent themselves, their products and their services. Why is this so? The answer is simple. Because they all seek to be ORIGINALS. They understand that all-time famous slogan from DHL- Only one can be first. But did you notice they are all winners in their own rights
TIME TO TAKE A WALK
Oprah Winfrey once said: “ we can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are”.
One of the greatest challenges that we confront is fear. I have since learnt to accept that once we succumb to fear, we become immobilized to constructive action and reasoning. We must learn to stare fear down. We must learn to conquer the butterflies in our tummies and just ‘do it’. What’s the worst that can happen? We will, at worst, learn a new way not to do things (in case we fail). At best, we learn to overcome and step into the realm of faith activists. If you don’t have faith in what can be, you cannot win into the future. If you do not have faith in yourself, you cannot win new laurels. Simple. Like the Olympics, aim to at least, ‘participate.’
And this is the crux. We must daily take steps of faith. This is not religion - I am talking practical philosophy. But then scripture also helps. Without faith it is impossible to please God. If you are made in the image of God, you must accept the need to please Him by pleasing yourself by doing the right thing.
And what is the right thing? Learn to adapt to change. Learn to ‘keep moving’ and not let life weigh you down. Accept that the greater and best part of your life still lies ahead of you. Recognize that failure is just an event and success is only a means to an end. Accept that it is never too late and that you are never too old to chase greatness. Re-define the basis of people’s evaluation of your life. Ensure that you change the rules constantly by doing something new for the first time, all the time.
Shame those who have given up on you . Show them that love conquers all. And the first person to love is yourself. Why? Simple. Because you are an original, like all great brands. Repackage yourself. Reposition yourself. Put a premium price tag on yourself and revel in it like rare treasure. Endeavor to be in the circle of those who lift others up and not bring them down - like being in the right place where things are better valued.
Refuse to be silenced by fear, age, distractors and demagogues by friendnimies and hate-filled usurpers. Don’t be silenced by fear of the unknown and fear of the unbeaten track. Rather, be encouraged by the lives of others who have inspired others to greatness. Be encouraged like the eagle who starts a new life at past 40 after growing new wings and talons. Show them that age is just a number and there is enough sun to dry the laundry. Show them you also know the secret of great brands- that they understand some fundamental principles from the bible as found in Romans 12.2:
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
You cannot be different when you conform. You cannot win outwardly if you are already defeated in your mind and attitude.
Many ask me: “what is God’s role in business?” I tell them: “plenty”. For everyone that that believes in God, there is always a God inspired will concerning your life. And only you have the key to that lock. This can only be activated by your strong belief in God’s will for your life. Brothers and sisters I am not preaching religion - I am stating what has worked for me.
You are an original. You cannot be replaced. Your value cannot be supplanted or traded. The world needs to ‘hear’ your voice. Six billion people on earth and the probability of two fingerprints matching is virtually nil. What more proof do we need?
It does not matter what Kim Kardashian wore yesterday or what Donald Trump will insinuate about tomorrow. It does not matter what report is trending from our war mongering, war riddled and war weary world. It does not matter whether its Brexit or Netflix. It does not matter how many glass ceilings have been broken and how many are yet to be broken. It does not matter how much the Naira exchanges to the Dollar.
In our respective introspections, we might have considered exploring our home country but we often draw back when terror and insecurity stories still filter through making it look at certain times that the decision to stay away was really a wise one. You know those stories about ‘Naija yin yen!’ But is it entirely true? Nigeria in spite of its challenges is a thriving economy awash with business opportunities
The recession that hit in 2008 hit hard causing the collapse of major financial institutions and the US GDP to contract by 5.1%. While an estimated 170,000 small businesses closed its doors between 2008 – 2010, other forward thinking organizations looked for the opportunities within the volatile time and thrived.
NO MORE DREAMS DEFERRED
African American poet and one of the Harlem Renaissance writers, Langston Hughes in his poem HARLEM wrote– What happens to a Dream deferred?
Does it dry up/like raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore-/ And then run?/ Does it stink like rotten meat? /Or crust like sugar over-/ like a syrupysweet?....Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. /Or does it explode?
Fast-forward to 2016, the US is at a cross road and a controversial candidate with extreme views of government and politics is gaining popularity. This is indeed a time to reevaluate our opportunities and prep for change. A time to focus on what matters.
What matters is take a walk always on the sunny side of Life.
How do you get to do this? By taking a walk. Yes, a walk. I recently came across this incredible post, which makes a lot of sense to me. Please allow me to share it.
Walking is the best exercise:
“Walk away from….
Arguments that lead you to nowhere but anger
People who deliberately put you down
Any thought that reduces your worth
Failures and fears that stifle your dream
Opportunistic people who do not care for you
Sin and its bites
The more you walk away from things that poison your soul, the happier your life will be.
Give yourself a walk towards happiness.”
What more can I add?
Enjoy your evening ladies and gentlemen and thanks for your time.
Long live OSU/ OOU Alumni.
God bless you all.