THE CONVERSATION THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF HIS LIFE FOREVER

Ikechukwu graduated with a 2nd class from University of Lagos after studying Economics for 4 years. He was posted to serve in Ondo for his one year compulsory National Youth Service Scheme.
It was while in Ondo he had the encounter, a conversation that changed the trajectory of his life.

Ikechukwu was posted to a secondary school and was assigned to teach Business Studies in the Junior Secondary classes. It was a beautiful Tuesday Morning when he walked into the principal’s office to tender a complaint regarding his assigned classes.

Mr. Jide was calm and attentive as he allowed Ikechukwu pour his grievances. He has always encouraged his staff and students to be free to talk to him about anything. He was someone who truly cared about the lives of everyone in his care.

‘Sir, I am tired of these students. They don’t seem to be willing to learn.’ IK lamented. ‘I’m not sure I can continue like this sir.’

Mr. Jide encouraged Ikechukwu not to give up yet on those students. He also shared some tips and ideas with Ikechukwu that he believed will help him achieve better result with his classes.
Ikechukwu felt relieved and encouraged, and was ready to return to his duty with renewed zest when he heard the principal’s husky but calm voice.
‘Do you have a class now?’
‘No’ came the reply, looking abruptly at his silver wristwatch. ‘My next class is in about 2hrs from now.’
‘Beautiful. I like us to talk for a little while.’
Ikechukwu was a bit jittery. He was wondering if he had done anything wrong. Mr. Jide sensed the look of worry on Ikechukwu’s face.
‘No no. There’s no problem. I’ve just been looking for an opportunity to have a heart to heart chat with you.’
Ikechukwu felt relieved.
‘You see, from the first day you stepped into this school, I knew this day will come. I see it as responsibility to contribute to the progress and success of everyone that God sends my way. I can’t let you come all the way from Lagos and go back the same way. ’
Now Ik was getting more interested in whatever Mr. Jide was about to share with him. Somehow, he had a feeling that this was going to be memorable moment.
‘Can I ask you a question, IK?’ Mr. Jide began.
‘Yes sir. Go on sir.’
‘Your service here will soon be over. What do you plan to do after service year?’
‘I have always desired to work in an oil firm. I should start sending out my CV before passing out from here.’
‘Interesting. I’m glad to know you have started giving it some thought. But why oil company?’ Mr. Jide queried.
‘Hmmn. Well, who doesn’t want to enjoy oil money? Who doesn’t desire a good life?’ They both let out a good natured laugh.
‘But seriously, is it about the money?’ Mr. Jide was curious. He reclined back at his rocking chair, his pen tip to his lips. ‘What else sir? Why are we working if not for the better life?’
‘This is where many young people miss it today.’ Mr. Jide started. ‘They think
It’s about the money. So they focus their energy chasing after the money.’
‘I don’t understand sir.’ Ikechukwu looked confused.
‘You see, money is not an end in itself. Working just for the money is a dead end. Many people get to find out when it’s rather too late.’
‘You mean I’m not supposed to work for the money?’ Ik asked, bemused.
‘Yes, Ikechukwu.’
‘What then am I to work for? What’s the point of working?’
‘Something bigger than money. Purpose. Vision.’
‘Can you explain sir?’
‘Ok. Think about it this way. Why will you work if you have all the money in the
world?’
‘Hmmmn’ That got Ikechukwu startled.
‘When God created man originally and placed him in the garden, his basic needs were the least of his concern. Food and shelter were already provided. He really wasn’t meant to hustle for those things. It was after the tragic event of the fall that things got turned upside down.’
The principal paused a while before he continued. He wanted to be sure Ikechukwu was getting his point.
‘God placed man in the garden to tend the garden and to keep it. God put man in charge of the administration of the earth. Man was meant to govern earth on behalf of God using his gift of creativity. So you see that it was about a vision, an assignment. It was about purposeful work.’
‘Wow!’ exclaimed Ikechukwu. ‘This is the first time I’m hearing this.’
‘I understand Ikechukwu.’ Mr. Jide smiled. ‘Only few people know these things. We have become so blinded, so caught up in the hustle and bustle of making a living that we don’t know how to make a life; two different things entirely. It’s why too many people are unhappy and frustrated. They’ve lost the zest for life. The spark they used to have in their eyes as children had long been put out. Many of them are even making tons of money but they’re not fulfilled. They wake up each day knowing something is amiss but they just can’t place their hands on what it is. You don’t want to be caught in that trap, Ikechukwu.’
‘Chai! Quite thought provoking sir. So how do I avoid that trap sir? What’s your candid advice?’
‘Good question. I was just about getting to that.’ Mr. Jide was delighted at Ikechukwu’s receptivity.
‘You have to take a step backwards and ask yourself: what am I living for?
What’s my purpose? What’s my vision? How can I contribute meaningfully to my community and world at large?’
Mr. Jide paused to allow that sink in before he continued.
‘In answering that question, you will need to reach deep down inside of you.
You will need to pay attention to your deepest desires and dreams. You will need to respond to the passion that resonates in the deepest parts of your soul. And more importantly, you will need to trust God to guide you through a path less trodden.’
Ikechukwu’s face was flushed as he soaked it all in.
‘Do work that lead you in the direction of your answers. I assure you, you are going to be scared many times, but you’re taking a risk that will radically change your life. You will live a more fulfilling and meaningful life.’
‘But what about the money? Isn’t it important?’ Ikechukwu cut in, somewhat confused.
‘The money you need will come along the way. Provision follows vision. When there’s a compelling dream, the resources needed will be attracted to bring it to fulfillment. You may not have all the money in the world, you may not be among the richest people of the world but you will do purposeful work. You will leave a mark on the sands of time. Your life will be fuller and richer.’
‘Hmmn. I see.’ Ikechukwu nodded in the affirmative.
‘What’s the point of having money just for the sake of having money? Money is
just a tool, a tool to achieve vision.’
Mr. Jide looked at the wall clock hanging on the wall of his office. ‘We’ve already used close to 2hrs. I guess you should be on your way to prepare for your next class.’
‘This is mind-blowing sir. I have learnt a whole lot. In fact you have totally changed my orientation about work. I really have a lot to think about already.’
Ikechukwu was beaming with excitement and bewilderment at the same time. ‘Thank you so much for your time sir. I will be forever grateful to you for this day sir.’
‘My pleasure.’ Mr. Jide smiled, fulfilled at the transformation God had just wrought by his hands.
Ikechukwu left the principal’s office not so much concerned about his class which is to begin in just a few minutes. He was much more preoccupied with thoughts of what he just heard, with his life beyond service year. He walked away a forever changed man.
* Tony Olatunji