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The way life works

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There is a discernible pattern of how things happen in our lives.

From birth, we embark on the road of experience, in which one event leads to another. In every field of human endeavour, this pattern is constantly at play.

As a person becomes cognizant of this never-failing working of life, he will approach the future with calm confidence.

He will put in his best effort to everything, while placing matters in the hands of the power by which everything and every creature came into being.

This was brought to my awareness for the first time by David Imonitie in 1978. He had come from America to play in the All-Nigeria Open Tennis Championships which he won.

I was with him as he packed for his flight back to New York. He gave me the Guilder glasses he had won and shared some thoughts about life.

The substance was that the greatest things that happened in his life were not things he planned or schemed. Evidence? He had not set out intending to be a tennis player, let alone a champion.

He hadn’t planned to go and study in America. He did not scheme to meet his cherished wife. All these were events that unfolded sequentially.

Based on this recognition, he had learned to place matters in the hands of the Creator, while putting in his best effort in everything. He endeavoured to educate others to be calm and not panic but to put their trust in the Creator.

That was the foundation for observing how activities opened up for human beings, with one thing leading to another.

Life does not require man to conquer the world. He must ensure his survival. If he has to seek employment to earn the means for supporting himself and others, he should accept the responsibility.

This is the lot of many. He should follow his inclinations and the biddings of his heart in all naturalness. Often, man’s reason for doing something is different from life’s intended purpose for the experience.

It is only over expired time that man realises, in retrospect, that perhaps what he pursued with a survival instinct or pleasure motive had a deeper purpose. Everything man needs to experience has been laid out on his path, in chain-work, like rungs in life’s ladder.

As one phase ends, another begins. The test for him is how he handles each segment and not the contents thereof.

When he becomes conscious of this reality, he will approach the future with calm confidence, in the certainty that the pattern will continue. This is confirmed by the life history of every man or woman.

Thanks to David Imonitie, whose remarks planted the awareness within me. It became crystallised for sharing with others as a perspective, a viewpoint, an individual’s reading of the workings of life.

Again, for this, another friend gave me the phrase that concretized that which had been but an unstated knowledge in the reservoir of general awareness.

I was visiting Robert Nogrady, a Senior Vice President in his office at the investment firm of A.G. Edwards in Smithtown Long Island.

We discussed the phenomenal rise of Michael Bloomberg in the global media business. My friend spoke about his own path from one career to another, until he came into the world of financial management.

With the enlightenment he has found in his quest for understanding the meaning of existence, the profession of creating wealth for others gave him much joy.

Michael Bloomberg’s life is worth touching upon because it is illustrative of the way life works.

In youth, his choices were based on human motivations. He excelled in the activities of the Boys Scouts, where his sense of community found union with his inner devotion to personal excellence. It was at a summer job that a technician recommended Johns Hopkins University.

There, he passed his exams but had his heart in organising people. He applied to Harvard Business School because it was just the next thing to do.

Most members of his graduating class went on to post-graduate studies. On graduation in 1966, he stepped forward to be drafted for military duty, during the Vietnam War.

Though in perfect health, the Army Recruitment doctor turned him down because he had flat feet.

His persistent efforts to be accepted, in spite of what he described as a ‘podiatric deformity’ were fruitless. Then that war ended.

It was a friend that suggested he should apply to the Wall Street investment firm of Salomon Brothers at a time when trading in securities was considered a second-class occupation.

He began his career there in a routine job of physically counting securities returns despite his Harvard MBA degree.

Then came the displacement of routine which always preceded a move to a new tempo of activities.

Being a man with his own mind, he was not particularly liked by some of the executive partners who managed the firm. What are the lessons? Know your friends and enemies.

Seek favours from friends, and never place yourself at the mercy of your enemies.

At one time he was sent to head the Computer Department instead of the more lucrative bond trading section that was to be headed by someone who wouldn’t work with him.

Eventually, when the executive partners planned to merge with another firm and had to retrench, he was one of those dropped.

To inform him, they invited him to a luncheon in Tarrytown in the highbrow New York suburban county of Westchester and gave him a pay-off cheque for $10 million.

Naturally, his ego was bruised but he would later have cause to wonder, “what if I had not been fired from Salomon Brothers?”

What would he do next? His many years of doing routine work and the last stint in the information services section had shown him that stockbrokers and investment bankers needed to have information packaged for effectiveness.

It was about how technology could be applied to help managers, traders and sales people. That was an area of business opportunity derived from the field of his competence.

With a start-up capital from the parting windfall, he started a company called Innovative Market Systems which was renamed simply Bloomberg.

He would later pontificate that: “To succeed, you need a vision that’s affordable, practical and fills a customer need.” He and his team (Bloomberg, MacMillan, Secunda and Zegar) started business in a small one-room office.

Their first job was a 6-month study for Merryl Lynch.

From the contacts and trust built in that assignment, they got approval for their proposal to design, write a programme and build a customized computer terminal for Merryl Lynch, Years later, Bloomberg terminals were to be found in every country and also in the Vatican.

The expanding Bloomberg stable includes worldwide television in multiple languages, radio, publications, and news service to hundreds of newspapers.

The conglomerate is in the fore-front of customized radio and television, customized printed news (all exclude crime reports).

The package is: “what you want, when you want it, and where you want it, convenient and independent of others’ demands.”

It is a demonstration of the abundance in the universe, out of which the individual man or woman receives only what is focused at.

Any wonder that Rupert Murdoch described Michael Bloomberg as “the most creative media entrepreneur of our time, and, with Bill Gates, perhaps the most successful”? As Robert Nogrady and I discussed the life of Michael Bloomberg, he said. “that is how life works.”

All the thoughts skirting around my mind suddenly flowed in as basic ingredient for sharing this awareness with others.

How did I come by Bloomberg? During the Media Tournament at the 1998 US Open Tennis Championships, as my partner, Neil Glass of ABC News and I won our matches from round to round, a few spectators showed interest in our progress to the final prize.

These included CNN’s Myron Kandel, Boston Globe’s Bud Collins and Bloomberg’s Philip Boroff. These contacts were the manifestations of the workings of life.

Then, in the working of life, David Imonitie and I linked up within a few days of the discussion on Long Island.

I reminded him of the impact of the words he spoke to me in his room in the Adejumo Fam Guest House at Fashoro Street Surulere Lagos, then always made available free of charge to tennis players who came from abroad to play tournaments for their country.

He didn’t remember the words in the exact detail as I did but he confirmed that he would have definitely felt that way and also that the pattern has been consistent in his life.

At every opportunity, he would tell others to banish panic and fear from their lives. Just as in the game of tennis, one must play the routine shot, and let the rest unfold.

Fulfill what lies in your power and ability. Take good care of your body and do not destroy it through any harmful activity.

Mankind needs knowledge of the workings of life, by which every man or woman came to be. The vast power of the media should be used to bring this necessary enlightenment to mankind. This is a role that Robert Nogrady describes as “giving insightful analysis of unfolding world events, as they affect the individual, the family, the economy, politics, nations and the whole world.”

That is news of value, reaching deeper than the routine of making money for sustenance and for the ephemeral things of this world. For the writer who is conscious of this noble calling, it is serious work.

It gives true joy, much deeper than any fleeting pleasures of the flesh. It deals with the core of the human entity, the inner immortal spark, the eternal spirit.

This article was first published in The Guardian, December 22, 1998


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