In the part of the world I live, 40%of the population which translates to more than 80 million people live below the poverty line. But that’s not all, many of those who are fortunate to not fall within this bracket are only marginally doing better. One chronic illness and they are down to the dreaded penury group. Little wonder we are all about what to eat, how to survive, how to stay afloat amid the unending challenges that plague citizens of a consumer nation. Lofty ambitions are a luxury; in Nigeria, it’s all about being able to afford basic living expenses and keeping the kids in school.
When I heard the news of Elon Musk’s emergence as the richest man in the world, one of the things that came to mind was how many Nigerians could afford to dream that high. I asked myself if I dared to envision myself in his position, not because I am interested in being the richest human but because I know that I, like many others, are stuck in the race to remain solvent.
The life of living from paycheck to paycheck carries way too many risks: one shakeup within the system and you are back on the streets; one pandemic and you become an unemployment statistic. It’s this realisation that is responsible for the desperation to “make it”. People with a ravenous appetite for wealth and a skewed outlook on how to acquire it—a most dangerous combination.
But this essay is not about illegal money-making ventures and the ills they do to society, rather it’s an attempt to provoke thought in the line of what to do to escape the crazed lifestyle of constantly chasing the paper.
It’s not enough to flaunt our knowledge of current affairs by recognising who and who constitute the wealthiest folks around, we must be able to draw lessons from the things they did to attain such a feat.
And not because we want to grace the cover of Forbes (not to say that that is such a bad idea) but to at least live a life free of basic financial worries. From Musk to Bezos to Gates to Zuckerberg to Winfrey and even our own Dangote, there are lessons to learn, and I’ll highlight a few of them.
Your Background Hardly Matters
Elon Musk did not come from a poor family, but he has had his fair share of family issues. He was born in South Africa and not the US. His parents got divorced. He loathed his father. He had to deal with bullying. He’s had to face lawsuits and earned criticisms for some of his opinions. His fellow billionaires all have their sob stories, the same stories that have seen some of us stuck in the same place for years, blaming our parents for having us in Nigeria or not giving us the same opportunities some of our contemporaries had. If you and I are going to quit the rat race, we must elevate our thinking beyond the circumstances of our existence.
Know What You Want
Musk was determined to move to the United States instead of staying back in Pretoria where his father wanted him to attend school because he was convinced it was where he could achieve his dreams. Oprah did not become the “Queen of all Media” and one of the most influential people in the world by taking on too many things like many are wont to do in the quest for success. She focused on being the best in the media world. Bill Gates jettisoned the law his parents wanted him to study for software development. By all means, discover what you would like to spend your life doing, and then pursue it with relentless vigour.
Be a Maverick
Mavericks are non-conformists. They own up to their quirks and are comfortable being different from the average person. The billionaires we tag “Goals” did not do what average people did. They charted their own path and took risks many of us are too scared to take. They did not take a job and stay at it for 30 years hoping that their savings would one day amount to a sum large enough to live a lavish lifestyle. No, they explored, experimented, invested, collaborated, gave, inspired, and innovated. And at the time they started juggling all these balls, they had no inkling they would one day be super-rich. Doing what the average person will not put you in this circle.
Live for a Higher Purpose
In the end, contentment is the antidote to an unfettered desire to accumulate. Remember, the wealthy also attain a height where the acquisition of substance stops being attractive. At that point, they are on the search for meaning, something that gives lifelong fulfilment because they know that money does not translate to happiness. You should crave to get to that point too, only then will you have transcended the rat race.