Growing up in Nigeria

9 Feb 2024

7 Accidental Lessons I Learned Growing Up in Lagos Nigeria

Growing up in Nigeria was not that bad! Of course, it’s different from growing up in other countries in Africa and other continents. There are so many lessons you learn about growing up in places like Lagos, Nigeria, and growing up in a unique background like mine. Lagos is popular and known to be a no-nonsense city. Lagos is fast-paced and unique and a ten-year-old from Lagos can compete and out-work a teenager from other parts of the country. Growing up in Lagos Nigeria is entirely different from other parts of the world (at least from the cities I have been to). I am incredibly thankful for my background and Lagos stories. In this article, I want to share what I learned growing up in this mischievous yet incredible environment. I called these lessons accidental because I would not have intentionally learned them without several situations occurring.

Scarcity or Poverty Mindset: Lagos, like most parts of Nigeria, has very limited resources for the number of visitors and residents who reside in her. Having limited resources means that the available resources must be sorted after (fought for in some cases) and more commonly be conserved. Having a conservative mindset is the number one thing I learned when I was younger. What you have today is not guaranteed to be for much longer and will never be enough so it must be used carefully and wisely. That was how I mostly think or react to things. Although a scarcity mindset helped me to be where I am today, I had to let it go and embrace a mindset of abundance.
Growth Mindset: Despite growing up with a scarcity mindset, I knew that I had to give up some things to attain some other things. Due to the population and available resources, people sought different and other legitimate ways to excel, I was part of the group of folks who wanted more. I learned that hardworking and unyielding efforts must be given if I wanted to be prosperous and change my family tree. The only way to grow was to take up new challenges, learn from them, and use them to forge ahead in life. I still maintain this mindset today — it keeps me growing.

Resilience cannot be taught without experience: I have been incredibly blessed to experience some not-so-good things in life. My experiences have shaped my approach to the pursuits of life in good ways. Resilience is probably the most important lesson I have learned in life. I truly believe I would not understand resilience if I had not hit rock bottom several times. When you come out victoriously from a hopeless situation, your resilience and patience level increase.

Over-preparation is good but may not always be appreciated: This is an annoying lesson to write about. I learned during the days of trying to secure admission into a Nigerian university that one’s effort can be undermined by several uncontrollable factors in life. I was not the best student in my pre-secondary school days, but I decided to put in my very best to merit admission, I took several examinations and passed most of them but got a lot of Nos from the admission offices. Unfortunately, someone with less performance was admitted. This lesson is still relevant today as I over-prepare for work and school-related activities. Being over-prepared is still highly encouraged despite my experiences.
Being Average does not sell: This is closely related to my previous lesson. Despite one’s over-preparedness not being appreciated or rewarded, being mediocre is not also welcomed either. I learned later in life (while in Nigeria) that I was not a threat to anyone and my desire because I always settled for the minimum. When the light bulb came (when Ben Carson’s Think Big book changed my life), I realized that nobody wants to deal with an average person in the academic world and certainly in the business domain. This lesson is still as vital today as it was in 2007. The less possible effort does not sell anymore, we must go beyond the average to be considered for basic tasks especially in 2020 when the competition for the simplest task is higher.

Nothing can be left to chance: Until today, I strongly believe and have been driven by this simple yet powerful phrase “If you design your life as you want it, it will not follow the default path”. Growing up with limited resources, opportunities, and information meant I had to leave my comfort zone. I had to be intentional with my drive in life. I set milestones and worked hard towards them. There was no room for hoping without working. Better still, having faith without the necessary work to match up was not an option. I had to pray, plan, prepare, and just be persistent until things changed.

Work makes wishes come true: The best place to go when you are broke is work! Every wish I had (and still have) had to be initiated by work. I learned this at an early stage of my life. Talking about your desires is just a waste of time and resources. As a young man in Lagos, I had to do a series of “hustling” to ensure I got what I wanted. My hustle included working on construction sites, teaching peers for pay, working as a temp car wash guy, etc. All of these made me stronger and most importantly made some of my wishes come true. My first international passport cost was paid for by working at construction sites and teaching peers; Microsoft applications. I am tremendously blessed to be a Nigerian who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria.
The lessons above continue to shape how I manage my relationships with people, money, and life pursuits. One can learn any life lessons at any age and in unexpected locations. Do not underestimate the good thing that surrounds what you are going through.

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