Scared of Success

This weekend I read a post about some fun things about adulthood that have been destroyed or made unpopular by millennials (Gen Y type of people). In the last two weeks Nigeria was pleased to welcome Facebook’s founder to Lagos where he met with some of his (age)mates struggling in the tech sector of Nigeria. I saw a thread to tie the two in my mind and here you are reading about it.

Some young Nigerians (especially those who have no appreciation for Facebook) expressed their groans over all the fuss about Mark Zuckerberg’s visit. Young, excited techies went on and on about how beneficial his visit would be to Nigeria’s tech scene until the rest of us hit back with the traditional abeg! Na today? (nothing new to see here, false hope).

To me I was fascinated by it all. I have followed the Facebook world domination plan to reach the next 1 billion techies in undeveloped parts of the world before Google or Apple. It was intriguing to see it play out in the strategic visit by Zuckerberg to experience conditions first hand in one of the hardest places the strategy would have to be deployed to be successful. 

Do we Nigerians have world domination plans? Can we spare time for long term thinking? Are we just barely trying to survive today and stay afloat? Do we even have the headspace to think about what we need to do to get ready for the world of tomorrow?

In the earlier parts of my life I had two stages, one where I struggled and the other where I sailed. The period where I sailed I had a lot of pre work/prior exposure to the new things I had to learn. I identified this as something crucial to my success: seeing something similar ahead of time. 

It goes without saying except you’re in Nigeria. You have to plan and execute a plan to succeed, rather than just being blown around by winds of convenience and circumstance. Zuckerberg is executing a plan. There are setbacks to this plan and in the countries those setbacks have been identified, there are actions being taken to address them ahead of time. 

The contrary is the case for many young people in Nigeria. It seems that because things are so uncertain we shy away from being deliberate for fear that our plans will be set aside anyway and we will suffer heartbreak. Best not to hope or plan or try to execute, lest you suffer disappointment. To be honest we don’t intentionally choose this. It’s often an unconscious response to the initial disappointment of things not going according to plan. 

Why have all these meetings and briefings if the actions won’t happen? Why plan if execution will go awry? But this is so dangerous. The opposite of a failed plan is not no plan at all. The opposite of a failed plan is a successful plan. If failing hurt you so much, don’t be too proud to admit the fault was with you. Often young people would say they did their best and it wasn’t good enough so they will stop trying their best.

No. You did not do your best. You did not think your best. You didn’t come close to 10% of your best. You’re much bigger than this. You make sure this failure disappointment doesn’t happen again by taking responsibility for the failure and trying to do it better next time. Not by throwing your hands up and vowing never to plan or try again since you’re in the wrong country. 

If everyone thought they were in the wrong country and stopped trying, you would end up with a country called Nigeria.

The path to success is beaten through the bush. The idea is not to come out of the bush and look for the cleared path, it is to beat through the bush and keep beating through till you get through the bush. So if you keep running from trying and failing, from the beating about in the bush, you will find yourself running from success. 

Surprise surprise. Being afraid of failure is actually being afraid of success.


I love to learn. I love to teach. For me the two are the same.


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