In 2003 I took part in a tournament organized by the martial arts community in the Lagos State University (LASU). I was still a fresh black belt holder then, and I was pretty sure I was good enough to win and get the prize. Unfortunately I was very inexperienced in the psychology of fighting, and I still had some doubt in my abilities. So when I met one of my opponents before the actual fight I was totally unprepared for what transpired. His name was Yemi, and he was an overweight freestyle fighter who had a reputation for being a thug and a bully. He looked me over and told me point blank that there was no way I would last a full round in the ring with him. Yemi taunted and bullied me, and made jokes about how skinny and slow I was. He got inside my head and his words did a lot of damage to my confidence and made me afraid. By the time our fight was announced, I was so scared of fighting him that I kept stepping to the side and trying to avoid taking a hit without making any effort to attack. Yemi scored a series of easy points against me, and I eventually lost that fight. Looking back now I’m quite sure that if I hadn’t allowed my fear to dictate my movements that day, that fight may have turned out to be one of my most conclusive victories because Yemi was slow and lumbering and he kept dropping his guard like a rookie.
Everyone has a fear. No matter how strong a man or woman is, or no matter how bold and confident a person is, there is always something that they are mortally afraid of, something that puts them at a disadvantage. As children the sight of a cane was enough to fill us with panic and send us running and screaming; as we grew older our fear of corporal punishment was replaced with other fears and anxieties, depending on who we are and how fully our personalities formed. For many people their greatest fear is the fear of being alone and without family or friends or someone to love, while for others it is the fear of poverty and lack…and this fear pushes them to do whatever evil thing possible to make money. For others still their biggest fear is the fear of the world seeing them for who they really are. These people go to great lengths to present themselves as the complete opposite of what lives within them. Yemi made me feel fear, and because of that fear I was defeated even before I even stepped into the ring. The trick to overcoming fear is to remind yourself that the fear is in your head. Jesus reminded his disciples that even though they would have troubles and difficulties, he was always with them and he would send them a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Whenever things begin to go bad for me and I find myself gripped with fear I remember Deuteronomy 31:8 and most of the time that is enough for me to grin and surge ahead.
I like to present myself as bold and confident in the face of difficulty. Sometimes I tend to overdo it and come across as cocky…even arrogant. This is not usually my intention, but I have come to discover that in life the admission of fear or the succumbing to fear often brings about the circumstance that we are afraid of. Don’t let your fear dictate your actions or define your thoughts. Remember your creator and hold onto whatever word or teaching in your religion that deals with the overcoming of fear. Surround yourself with people of courage and face your fears squarely, and you will find that fear is just a bully without any real power to hurt you. For me, my biggest fear is the fear of failure, but I face that fear every day and continue to do more and more. Face your fear today, and I promise you that you will surely overcome it. Check me out on www.ifeanyiubawords.com for more messages that deal with courage and confidence. Cheers!
I can never forget the first day I stepped into a martial arts dojo; I was awed by the sight of my late master Vincent Makanju holding up a pair of kicking pads, while master Chris and master Nekan took turns hammering away at the pads with lightning fast, and very powerful kicks. I knew right away that I had to become a fighter and be able to throw beautiful kicks like them. It wasn’t easy to learn though; the training was tough and painful, and I sustained quite a few injuries in the process. The fact that I had trainers who demanded nothing less than 100% effort, 100% of the time made me want to quit more than a thousand times. But I didn’t quit for 3 reasons: first, I had been bullied a lot in secondary school and I wanted to learn how to fight back…like my heroes Bruce Lee, Donnie Yen and Muhammed Ali: second, I had the best teachers and mentors who believed in me and put me through hell to make me better: and third, I had rivals like Olakunle and Blanka who saw me as an opponent to defeat on their own road to greatness. No matter how much pain I was in, I knew that my rivals were right there with me suffering the same pain and learning the same lessons. And if I let up, they would surpass me.
Whenever I teach a class – it doesn’t matter what I’m teaching:
it could be financial management, personal effectiveness, or even martial arts or creative writing – I always stress to my students the importance of mentors, role models and rivals. If you are ever going to be the best at anything in this life, you must have all three. Role models give you something to aim for – something to aspire to…an absolute value of greatness that you want to reach, and if possible surpass in your lifetime. Lebron James and Kobe Bryant saw what they wanted to become in Michael Jordan. So you must see the target you are aiming for in someone else.
Mentors set you on the road to greatness. These are people whose lifestyles and work ethic give you a template to follow to success. They teach you what they know and encourage you to do more. I have always been blessed with excellent mentors and teachers who took me under their wing and molded my talents into skills. They showed me what was possible, and how I could attain it in the shortest amount of time possible. Without mentors we find life harder and our goals more difficult to achieve.
Rivals keep you on that road to success. The thought of losing to someone of equal ability is hard for most of us to bear, so we compete. We challenge, and we struggle not to be outdone because second place is never as nice a place to be as the top. Unfortunately society now rewards marginal efforts and mediocre results. We need to train ourselves and our children to see the importance and benefits of healthy competition, so that with the image of our role models in mind and the help of our mentors to guide us, we can strive to outdo our rivals and go in search of new ones.
So, which are you? As a rival you have a duty to bring out the best in yourself and in your competitors. As a mentor you are bound to teach and train your protégé to become great, and as a role model you must uphold the standards of excellence which you have provided for those of us who seek to become as great as you. I encourage you today to continue towards excellence; find yourself a role model to be like; seek out a mentor to help you; and pray for rivals. Because let’s face it…
…it’s just not fun throwing kicks at a bag that doesn’t kick back!
Recently I started going to the gym again. I had been on hiatus for over a year, and not only was it telling on my weight, it was also telling on my moods and lifestyle. So when my cousin Iyke invited me to join him for early morning workouts at the local gym, I gladly accepted. The first few times I tried to go up on the treadmill, I quickly got tired after just a few minutes and stopped. I told myself that the reason why I quit so early was because of the problems I have been having with my knees in recent years. But I knew that I was not doing myself any good by not exercising, and nothing else would return me to the fitness level I enjoyed years ago. Stubbornly I went back and cranked up the treadmill again and got on. After a couple of minutes of brisk walking I was out of breath and getting tired. But I adjusted the speed slightly, and continued. Soon I was really breathing heavy and needed to stop because my calves and thighs were getting tired. But I kept at it and after about 15 minutes, I felt my chest expanding and my breathing became easier. I was filled with new energy and I found that I could go another half an hour before I got really tired, but I had covered even more distance than I originally planned. Pretty soon I discovered that whenever I used the treadmill or any other machine for a cardio workout, my second wind comes much earlier than it did that first time, and it now takes much longer before I start to feel the effects of fatigue.
There have been many theories and reports detailing the study of the second wind phenomenon in athletes. Some scientists believe the second wind to be a result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. Others claim second winds are due to endorphin production. Whatever it is that causes us to catch our second wind when we exercise, I want to tell you that the same thing applies to every other pursuit in life. Whether you are studying for an exam or trying to succeed in business or employment, you will find it difficult in the beginning and may quickly become discouraged. But if you keep at it and pace yourself, and keep your mind on the goal you want to achieve, you will soon pick up speed and eventually hit your stride. It is usually at this point that you become noticed and celebrated and people begin to talk about your success. They don’t see or know about the time when you struggled with whatever it is that you have mastered.
Many people quit or give up at the first sign of difficulty. We have been conditioned to fear failure so much that even the mere thought of the possibility of failing is enough to discourage most of us from even trying at all. That is when we begin to look for someone who will do it for us, or search for shortcuts to circumvent the system. Any top athlete will tell you that you must push through the difficulty and find your second wind before you can be assured of any type of success in what you are doing. So don’t quit when it starts tough, hold on, push through, find your second wind, and make that success happen for yourself. As for me, I’m still learning to apply this principle to all aspects of my life and work. Watch out for my upcoming book 360 DEGREE MASTERY, and check out my blog on my website www.ifeanyiubawords.com for more inspiring and thought provoking messages and leave me a comment if this message strikes a chord with you.
10 years ago today, I was on my way home from work. My colleague had dropped me off on top of Eko Bridge, and I was walking down towards Apongbon, searching for a bus to take me home. Now there had been reports of people getting stabbed and robbed by thieves who hang around the area for unsuspecting victims, and it was almost 10pm. Thinking that I would quickly find a bus or a cab as I walked along, I was dismayed when a shadow fell over me. I turned around to see 2 robbers standing just a few feet away. They must have snuck up on me while my back was turned, and I saw that one of them had a knife. I quickly weighed my options; they were spaced too far apart for me to consider rushing them, and if I ran they would give chase and would certainly catch me, because I was carrying my backpack with my laptop in it. It was a no win situation, and the scenarios I played out in my head all ended with me stabbed and bleeding on the ground, and my valuables gone. I was about to become a victim.
The one with the knife spoke in Yoruba and told me to surrender my bag or they would stick the knife in my throat. I thought fast; losing my laptop was a small price to pay for keeping my life, but then again, I had heard stories of people getting maimed by thieves after giving up their money, to prevent them from giving chase or screaming for help. Deciding to take my chances I took off my backpack and held it out in front of me. “Come and take it” I said, with a broad smile. I was scared beyond measure, but I managed to keep a smile on my face as I dangled the bag in front of me. The robbers hesitated, because my reaction was totally unexpected. They were expecting fear, but instead I was calmly smiling and beckoning them to come and take my bag. Maybe they were inexperienced, because the other one told me to drop the bag on the ground, but I shook my head and continued smiling. “If you want it so badly, come and take it” was my response. We stood like that for a few seconds, while I desperately prayed for a miracle and hoped that more hoodlums wouldn’t appear out of the night. In an instant a lone motorcyclist appeared out of nowhere. I flagged him down and jumped on, keeping my eyes fixed on the robbers and we zoomed off. That was how I miraculously escaped being robbed that night.
Any number of things could have happened to me that night, but looking back I would say that what bought me the precious time I needed was a smile. A smile could well be the most potent weapon you have in your arsenal, because it disarms people like nothing you can imagine. If you think about it you will realize that the people you like the best are those who smile often and frown less. A smile can open doors for you and diffuse tension in most situations. A smile is like a ray of light that warms the heart of both the giver and the receiver. You are more likely to get a call back from an interview when you smile, and many a business person has discovered that the secret to selling is a sincere smile and a cheerful disposition. In the arena of worship when you approach the throne of God with a smile in your heart and praise on your lips regardless of your situation, you open doors into the miraculous that the devil cannot close. The bible even talks about how God loves a cheerful giver, so the power of a smile is supernatural.
Finally, a sincere smile confuses your adversaries and frustrates your enemies. It delights your customers and employers, and draws people close to you. They remember your smile long after you are gone, and negative people learn to avoid you. A smile completes your dressing, and clothes you in blessing. As for that night, the fact that I hold several belts in martial arts, and that I had a screwdriver in my pocket didn’t matter, because I would rather deploy my most potent weapon before I resort to violence. So work on smiling today…we just might run into each other. Cheers! check out my website by clicking here
In martial arts one of the very first things you learn is how to stand and position your body, your arms and your legs. This is called a “stance” and stances are very important in every fighting style. Boxers need to keep their feet close together for balance and their arms protecting their face, whether it be a cross arm cover, peek-a-boo block, orthodox forward or southpaw, your stance will determine your entire strategy for the fight. Karate-ka use rigid forearm blocks and extended low stances to maximize fast upper body strikes and powerful kicks. Muy Thai experts use a raised knee stance with elbows and fists cocked to deliver deadly hits from their iron hard joints, while Taekwondo-ka like me utilize an ‘L’ stance with more weight resting on our back legs, enabling us to throw lightning fast kicks while still maintaining our balance. Even those of us who have no knowledge of martial arts can recognize different Wushu (Kung-fu) styles when we see them on TV; Snake style for precision strikes to specific nerves and muscles, Tiger and Eagle claw for power and brutal technique, or even the gracefully unpredictable Drunken Fist and the deadly Praying Mantis and Monkey Fist for distance fighting. The point is that how you stand will determine how you will fight.
Similarly, your stance as a Christian determines what you believe in, where your focus lies and what direction most of your prayers will take. Old time Pentecostals believe in aggressive prayers and holiness above all, and their speech, dressing and lifestyle shows that. Orthodox Christians believe in submission to God’s will and intercession for lost souls along with corporal works of mercy, and we can see this in their doctrine and their passion for helping the poor and needy, as well as the prisoners and sick. New age Apostolics believe in freedom of spirit and embracing the word of God in whatever form it comes, as well as a visible and audible praise and worship lifestyle. There are so many other spiritual stances out there and they are all valid, but they are not all for you. some of us have a passion for lost souls and so we find ourselves worshiping with people who pray a lot and stand in the gap for our generation; some of us believe that our place is to take the battle to the devil everyday and maintain a Spartan existence like a true frontline soldier, so we locate ourselves with the old style Pentecostals; while some of us are mature enough in spirit to be able to live right there in Sodom with the sinners and not be influenced by the sin, but spreading the gospel with a smile and changing cities from the inside out. You need to find out your spiritual stance and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in the direction of your divine assignment, where you will do the most damage to the kingdom of darkness.
Before I fight someone, I look at their fighting stance. From their fighting stance I determine where their power lies, and where their attacks will focus on. Then I make them change their stance: if you are an outside fighter I close the gap and make you fight me close quarters; if you are an inside fighter I dance you around and make you come to me, if you are right handed I stay on my left and neutralize your advantage. This is exactly what the devil does; he makes us change our stance so that we cannot fight him effectively, and end up confused and spiritually frustrated. But thank God for the Holy Spirit, who directs us and shows us what to do. Check your stance today, and if you find that your arms have dropped and your legs have become wobbly, brace up and get back into the fight! (read 1 Corinthians 12-14) Cheers!
A couple of Sundays ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of thunder and heavy rainfall. I told myself that if the rain persists my family and I may not be able to attend the early morning service, like we always do. With that thought in mind, I turned over and went back to sleep. A few hours later my alarm goes off, and I get out of bed to find that it’s still raining heavily. The roads will be flooded, and the car would probably develop some major problem from wading through water; we’ll most likely get soaked and catch cold; and then there’s the traipsing through mud and sludge to get to church…yuck! I explained to my wife that it might be better if we just wait until the rain stops, and attend a later service. She seemed to buy the idea, and with a smile on my face I lay back down to continue my sweet Sunday sleep. But a couple of minutes later, she tapped me and told me that her spirit just wants her to go for the 6:30am Mass. I could have simply vetoed her spirit and gone back to bed, but on a hunch, I reluctantly got up and went to boil water for a bath.
It turned out to be as bad as I thought. The roads were completely covered in water; we got wet even before we stepped out of the gate and due to poor visibility, I managed to enter every pothole on the road from the house to the church. By the time we arrived I was complaining and berating Chinelo on her decision to drag us all through this punishment. I was not in a worship frame of mind as we took our seats beside equally soaked churchgoers, but then the priest began to preach the sermon, and something happened. He seemed to be speaking directly to me. The message that day was the answer to a burning question I had been asking God in my prayers for weeks regarding a career decision I was about to take. As the sermon went on I felt chastised, comforted and encouraged in succession. I had my answer, and a firm promise from God to go with it. By the time service ended, I was energized and empowered to proceed. The rain had since stopped, and the first person I greeted outside church said the magic phrase that brings out the best in me; “I need your help with something…”
Sometimes we are faced with decisions that test our commitment to a person, cause, or principle. With such decisions there is always a choice to either stick to what your spirit tells you, or opt for a simpler, more sensible alternative. I’m pretty sure that going to another service that day would not have been wrong, but I might have missed the tailor made session God had planned for me that morning. I choose to believe that God wanted to test my commitment that morning by sending that heavy rain, and sending a message through my wife to invite me to His presence. It’s not for me to question…just to go along or go around. Make no mistake friends; your devotion will be tested from time to time. Be it at work, at home or at school, you will be required to make a choice that will define who you are at that moment. It is easy to profess, but the true test of character is sticking to your profession, even when logic and convenience points you to the contrary. My daily prayer is for the grace to be who God wants me to be, even when it makes me stumble into a difficult situation. So let us relax our minds, and rest in the faith that when the time comes for our devotion to be tested, we will have sufficient grace to stand the test and reap the rewards of our loyalty.
Meanwhile, I haven’t thanked Chinelo for waking me up that second time. Learning to listen to your spouse is one of the keys to mastery that I talked about in my upcoming book. Check me out on www.ifeanyiubawords.com to know more. Happy Sunday!