Linda Ikeji’s N600,000,000 House: The Law of Compensation, The Streisand Effect etc.

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Last year, I blogged about Linda’s purchase of a 24 million Naira car and how she was such an inspiration to young people. In the blog, I told a story of how Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo suggested that blogging wasn’t a job when political blogger Omojuwa told him he blogged for a living. Linda’s latest acquisition of a N600,000, 000 (You read that right, six hundred million Naira) mansion in Banana Island is proof that just like Ota farm, blogging can make one a billionaire. How did Linda go from a thirty-year-old broke hustler to a thirty-five-year old billionaire (I guess it’s safe to assume she’s worth that much)?

The Law of Compensation
In this 2012 interview with Toolz, Linda told a story of how she started blogging as a hobby with no intention of making money from it. According to her, after blogging for several years and as her readership grew, she started getting inquiries from businesses about her advert rates. After she overcame her shock that people were willing to pay her for doing what she loved, she asked around and was surprised at how much people made from blogging. She felt guilty asking for the going rate and instead told the businesses to pay her much less than the industry rates. Given her recent acquisition however, I am sure Linda has let go of her guilt.

As Linda’s story shows, most successful people set out to serve and provide value to others and are often amazed when riches follow as result. Chimamanda Adichie once said that she hasn’t lost her sense of wonder that she is making money from writing. She said that even if she never got published, she would have been somewhere writing in addition to whatever her 9-5 job happened to be. A corollary to the proposition that success follows service is the Law of Compensation.

The Law of Compensation states:’Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them.’ Since, reading about this law, I have a better perspective of why celebrities make more money than common folks. So, while an actress like Kaley Cuoco makes one million dollars for each episode of Big Bang Theory (The show has huge ratings), a Certified Nurse Assistant who does an obviously more noble and valuable job earns 12 dollars an hour. The Law of Compensation is the reason inventors like Mack Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are among the richest people in the world–Facebook has over one billion users.

Now that you understand the Law of Compensation, you see how invalid the argument that Linda couldn’t have made all that money from blogging is? That even though it may seem unfair that Linda made so much money from gossiping and literally copying and pasting posts from celebrities’ social media accounts, she earned it. Each day, hundreds of thousands of people visit Linda Ikeji’s blog. Arguably she has a wider readership than many of the mainstream media outlets in Nigeria. Her blog is probably even more influential. Because millions of people visit Linda’s blog every month, advertisers seek her out to sell their products. While writing this post, I visited her website and saw adverts from big name brands like MTN, GTB,LG,Dettol,Sky Bank, UBA etc. Linda is successful because her blog is serving millions of people. So if you want to become rich, find a way to make your business serve more people. For example, you can advertise more to acquire new customers.

On Linda’s Decision to Make Her Success Known
Some people opine that Linda’s announcement of her latest acquisition is ill-advised. While I understand the concern for her safety and the fact that modesty is a great virtue to have, there are other consideration that may have informed Linda’s decision to announce. First, Laura, her younger sister had hinted to the new house via social media. Apparently, she couldn’t contain her excitement that she was would soon become Mike Adenuga’s neigbour. That said, Linda had her own reasons too. Anybody in the blogging business knows how traffic to one’s website determines the success or otherwise of one’s blog. That alone is an incentive for even the most modest to do a blog that will yield more customers. As proof, the post in Linda’s blog announcing the Banana Island house has about ten times more comments than an average post on her blog. People who didn’t know about her will do now and will become customers and that means more money for Linda.

Moreover, Linda told her story to inspire young women. In this very inspirational post where she showed her house to her fans, she wrote about how only five years ago, on her thirtieth birthday, she turned to God broke, sad and depressed. It’s hard to imagine that she’s had such financial success in only five years and that is why she chose to encourage young people struggling to find financial stability. Linda has never wavered in her determination to encourage women to make it on their own without looking to men to provide their financial needs. Her ‘I’d rather be self made’ project is only one of her several projects aimed at empowering young people and rewarding her readers. While there may be valid reasons to keep her success secret, I applaud Linda’s courage in making it known.

On the Theory that Nigerians are Obsessed with Wealth
In one of the blogs celebrating Linda’s success, a non-Nigerian observed that Nigerians are obsessed with wealth. They ((I don’t know the gender) questioned the validity of the argument that Linda’s success is an inspiration and a good example to youths. They wondered why we don’t place more emphasis on non-tangible values. While I agree that Nigerians place too much emphasis on material wealth, I also realize that having enough money in the bank is very important. Even if one doesn’t aspire to richness because of the comfort and relative peace of mind it provides, one may aspire to it for altruistic purpose of helping others. I once read that with all his good intentions, the rich Samaritan in the bible couldn’t have helped the wounded man if he had no money to take the man to the hospital. So no one should feel ashamed of their desire to be rich and successful. It is a valid dream to have.

Why Linda Must Now Protect Her Assets
Shortly after Linda bought her car last year, Google shut down her blog following allegations and complaints of copyright infringements. I expect that following her recent disclosure, Linda may face a couple of setbacks and probably lawsuits. Nigerians are becoming more aware of their rights and thus more litigious. Recently, Abike Dabiri filed a N500,000,000 lawsuit for defamation against Diamond Bank and Punch Newspaper for publishing her name as a debtor. Chaz B’s widow hired lawyers over allegations that St. Nichola’s hospital were negligent in treating her husband which led to his death.

Given the possibility the Linda will get sued, Linda should first, hire a good lawyer; second, make her blog a separate entity so her personal funds won’t be reached if a huge verdict is given against her blog ; and lastly, get a good insurance policy to cover her liability in case she gets sued.

On the Ethicality of Her Blog
Some have said Linda cannot attribute her success to God when her blog is premised on gossips and false rumors that hurt other people. But if you watch her interviews, Linda seem to be a humble and nice person. However, several months ago, I made a personal decision to stop visiting Linda Ikeji’s blog for the same reason I stopped watching TMZ and Wendy William’s show – at that time in life, I felt they weren’t helping me get where I wanted to be professionally and personally. In place of Linda’s blog, I started reading Bellanaija because it aligns more with my preferences and interests.

That said, Linda is an inspiration to me and she has explained that her conscience guides her in what she publishes and what she censors–she doesn’t publish comments she finds in her judgement to be harmful to others. If that is the case, it would be unfair to judge her. Moreover, even when one have reservations about the content of her blog, one cannot discount its entertainment value.

On Why Celebrities Don’t Sue for Defamation
Many celebrities including RMD have chosen to reproach Linda via Twitter rather than bring a lawsuit for defamation. Here could be the reason they choose not to see. First: The Streisand Effect which is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. In other words, suing Linda for a defamatory remark will make more people aware of the defamatory remark. For example, I didn’t know that Abike Dabiri’s name was on the debtors’ list until she filed a lawsuit to clear her name–her lawsuit made more headlines than the debtor’s list.

Second reason a celebrity may choose not to sue for defamation is that truth is a defense to defamation. So however disparaging a story is, if it is true, the aggrieved party cannot win in court. Moreover in some jurisdictions, a public person have a higher burden of proving that the defamatory remark was not just negligently published but with malice or reckless disregard for its truth. So it is easier for a private person to win a lawsuit than for a celebrity who makes a living by living in the public eye.

Third, the money and time spent in litigation may not be worth it especially because attorney fees in Nigeria are not contingent on the attorney winning a client’s case. (I hope to do a blog on why that law should be relaxed). On the other hand, a well contested litigation may hurt a public figure as the trial may necessitate the party airing even more of their dirty laundry.

Finally, opinion is not defamatory. So if Linda posts: ‘A smokes weed’, it may be defamatory if A doesn’t smoke weed. But if instead Linda says ‘Could A be Smoking Weed?’ and goes on to post a picture of A with something like weed wrapped between her fingers, leaving it to readers to draw their own conclusion, it is not defamatory even if turns out A was merely holding a rolled harmless sheet of paper. Same Story. Different legal consequences.

Once more, Congratulations to Linda on her blog. She is such an inspiration. And you, please keep the law of compensation in mind in whatever your business might be. I hope you too will get to the top! Ciao!

Handsome Goat: A Funny Short Story To Help You Understand People Better

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Sometimes, less is more. So I will make this post short. I hope it passes across the intended message: That most conflicts stem from misunderstanding. Below is a comment I saw in a Bellanaija blog about being politically correct. By the way, Atoke is one of my favorite bloggers; I love her works.

‘So I offended a friend of mine who is a single mum last week. She put up a picture of her son who’s about 10-11 or so and he looked so cute and adorable! I gushed in my normal way and typed: ‘such a cute puppy!’ Come and see how babe flipped! That I’m calling her son created in the image of God an animal. I tried to explain to her that it’s only a metaphorical statement and that it’s meant to be a compliment. Normally when I see cute children or people whom I find adorable, I call them bunny, teddy, puppy, kitten, doll, etc. But she got even more offended and told me my own son is a handsome goat (btw I don’t have kids). I quickly apologized and took back my statement. I tried to call her to apologize over the phone, but she kept cutting the call.

I was surprised at her outburst but I tried to understand. As a mum she was trying to protect her son, and some people generally more sensitive than others. I have a male friend whom I call puppy because I find him adorable, and he loves it! My colleague calls people she adores Baby Monkey, This is actually the first time I ever got an outburst for calling someone what I considered a pet name. So please guys, do you think I took it too far (politically incorrect), or is the mum overreacting?’

Like I said, I read the above comment in another blog. I shared it to help us learn from it.

20 Fun Facts to Remember on the Twentieth Anniversary of O. J. Simpson Trial

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1. The case has been described as the most publicized criminal trial in American history.

2. Simpson was acquitted after a trial that lasted more than eight months.

3. Robert Kardashian (Kim Kardashian’s father) was a member of Simpson’s defense team.

4. Over 20 helicopter joined in the police chase that led to his arrest and the chase was watched on live television by over 90 million viewers.

5. When the chase ended in Simpson’s Bronco home, the police found “$8,000 in cash, a change of clothing, a loaded .357 Magnum, a passport, family pictures, and a fake goatee and mustache.

6. Neither the footage of the Bronco chase nor the items found in the Bronco were shown to the jury as evidence in the trial.

7. The 1995 criminal trial of O.J. Simpson was televised for 134 days. The TV exposure made celebrities of many of the figures in the trial, including the presiding judge, Lance Ito.

8. The prosecution opened its case by playing a 9-1-1 call that Nicole Brown Simpson had made on January 1, 1989. She expressed fear that Simpson would physically harm her, and he could be heard yelling at her in the background.

9. The jury for the trial had 10 women and two men, of which there were nine black people, two white people, and one Hispanic person.

10. Simpson’s defense, dubbed the “Dream Team” by reporters, was said to cost between US$3 million and $6 million.

11. On June 15, 1995, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran goaded assistant prosecutor Christopher Darden into asking Simpson to put on the leather glove that was found at the scene of the crime.

12. The prosecution had earlier decided against asking Simpson to try on the gloves because (according to prosecutors) the glove had been soaked in blood from Simpson, Brown and Goldman, and frozen and unfrozen several times.

13. The leather glove seemed too tight for Simpson to put on easily, especially over the sanitary gloves he wore underneath. Uelmen (member of the defense team) came up with and Cochran repeated a quip he had used several times in relation to other points in his closing arguments, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”.

14. Fears grew that race riots would erupt all over Los Angeles and the rest of the country if Simpson was convicted of the murders. As a result, all L.A. police officers were put on 12-hour shifts, and a line of over 100 police officers on horseback surrounded the L.A. county courthouse on the day of the verdict, in case of rioting by the crowd.

15. At 10 a.m. on October 3, 1995, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, after only three hours of deliberation.

16. An estimated 100 million people worldwide stopped what they were doing to watch or listen to the verdict announcement. Long-distance telephone call volume declined by 58% and trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange by 41%, water usage decreased as people avoided using bathrooms, and government officials postponed meetings. So much work stopped that the verdict cost an estimated $480 million in lost productivity.

17. In post-trial interviews with the jurors, a few said that they believed Simpson probably did commit the murders, but that the prosecution failed to prove their case.

18. In 1997, relatives of the victims brought a civil suit for wrongful death against Simpson. During the civil trial, evidence regarding Simpson’s failure of a lie detector test about the murders was introduced. In addition, a photo of O.J., taken while he was attending a Buffalo Bills game in 1993 was produced and showed him wearing Bruno Magli shoes, the same type of shoes which investigators stated the killer of Goldman and Brown was wearing when the murders were committed. The photo was then presented as evidence against him, as O.J. had previously denied ever wearing such shoes.

19. The jury in the civil trial awarded the victims’ families $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

20. On December 5, 2008, Simpson was sentenced to a total of thirty-three years in prison for unrelated charges of kidnapping and robbery which took place in September 2007. Simpson is presently serving the sentence.

I hope this post piqued your interest enough to make you want to refresh your memory or familiarize yourself with the facts of the most celebrated case in America. Here’s is a Wikipedia Link. I hope it also gives you an insight into how the judicial system works. Like a Judge said recently during a Settlement Conference I attended, the ends of the judicial process in not necessarily justice, but finality. I guess only Simpson will ever know if he did it.

P.S: The standard of proof in a criminal case is proof beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, in California for example, all twelve jurors must assent for there to be a conviction.On the other hand, the burden of proof in a civil case is preponderance of the evidence (balance of probabilities), therefore, only nine votes are required in California. The difference in the number of juror votes required for a prosecution verdict may explain why there was a verdict against Simpson in the civil case but not in the criminal case.

Forget Your Skills and Resume; Here’s What Will Land You That Dream Job

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Earlier today, I spoke with a younger family member who recently landed her first job, less than a month after wrapping up her National Youth Service Corps. Besides congratulating her and telling her how elated I was that she’s got her career going, I inquired if she now knows how to touch-type (She works as a secretary for a Chartered Accountant). I also asked her to let me in on how she got her job so quickly when there are reportedly thousands of applications for one job opening in Nigeria. She told me that her boss, who also has seven other employees, told her during the job interview that though he got several applications in response to the job advertisement, the primary reason he chose her was that her application showed that she was from the same local government area as the boss.

Recently too, another relative got two separate job offers in one week despite having been to tens of job interviews in the past year that proved unsuccessful. What he did differently in the last two interviews was that he mentioned that he lived close to the prospective workplaces to the interviewers. One reason I believe that the ‘proximity line’ played a role in his been hired, besides his solid skills of course, was that after one of the job interviews, a member of the panel who he ran into outside the interview area commented on the proximity line and how that was a factor to consider for the location the job was situate. While I am not outrightly suggesting that living close to a prospective employer’s workplace will land you the job, my relative’s experience taught me that it is a good idea to mention all the reasons one should get the job over other candidates during a job interview as something seemingly irrelevant as the location of one’s residence may be the deal or tiebreaker.

While employment agencies will tell you that having a well-formatted resume, wearing your best suits, being clean-shaven, given the interviewers a firm handshake, etc, will land you your dream job, there are some other things you need to know.

First: about 80% of jobs are landed through networking. ( I know that sucks especially if you don’t have a Godfather somewhere or influential friends and relatives, but that is the reality. See this post for my view on Nepotism). I got my present job, my first in the US, through a kind contact I met from blogging. What is more, the two most recent jobs my employer filled in my office were filled with people current employees already know. Why take out a Craigslist advert and be inundated with hundreds of applications from strangers when you can use old-fashioned word of mouth to get a trickle of quality applications from people for whose skill and integrity existing employees can vouch. If networking plays such an important role in job placement, you see how if you don’t tell that your aunt who works with a federal parastatal that you are looking for a job, she may not remember you when her organization has a job opening in your field.

Second, with internet and social media, you have more opportunity now than ever to land your dream job. Many young people (in Nigeria and elsewhere) have created a career for themselves by harnessing the diverse opportunities made possible by the internet. Yagazie Emezi is landing magazine covers by taking pictures of sunsets and Lagos skyline (she does more than that; I admire her because she uses skills we often overlook); Linda Ikeji is making millions of Naira every month by culling pictures and stories from celebrities’ social media presence to create content for her gossip blog; I have made a mental note to retain Arese Ugwu as my financial adviser in future when I have resources to make an investment; Every week I visit SisiYemmie’s blog/vlog where she creates a weekly video documenting her life in Lagos (watching her videos make me miss Nigeria more); Uche Pedro shies away from the media but her Bella-Naija, a celebrity and fashion blog, draws more than ten million views every month.

While most of the people mentioned above have become entrepreneurs and most employers can no longer afford them, anyone can create a quality online presence with a view to finding employment. Blogging doesn’t cost a dime. All it takes is your free time and a free domain from WordPress or Blogspot. You already waste hours everyday on social media updating your knowledge of who got married and who gave birth, why not make it translate into an opportunity and money-making venture for you? You can also start small by creating industry-related insightful content on your Facebook page. A lady whose expertise is photography got contacted and was offered a job as a photographer by someone who saw pictures she took on her Facebook page. A few months ago, I saw in the news that a woman got a job as a sign language interpreter by posting an interpretation of one of Eminem’s song on Youtube. In other words, leverage the power of the social media to showcase your talent. Besides a strong online presence being an asset to a future employer in industries like marketing, by creating quality content that attest to your skill and character, an employer will readily hire you than strangers who he would have to vet and only hope for the best after employing them.

Although social media can help in your job search, it can also mar your chances of getting employed. Your not-so-decent Facebook photos not only lead people to cast aspersions on your character but may also create a doubt in a prospective employer’s mind in your ability to perform the job. A few years ago, a married girlfriend told me she was looking through my Facebook friends to find someone to recommend to a young man who was seriously looking for a significant other. So don’t underestimate opportunities you can get from Facebook and how having a less than reputable Facebook persona will make people pass you over. Anytime you want to post a message that may harm your career, quickly remind yourself that thousands of people have lost their jobs over something they posted on their social media account, and then reconsider if the post is worth it.

To sum up, in addition to whatever advice you have been given on job search, do the following: network, create insightful career-related content on your social media accounts, and edit your online reputation for negative content. And when you get invited for an interview, research the panel if you know the members’ names ahead of time. Casually mentioning your love for Kobe to an interviewer that is a Lakers fan,or failing to do so, may well be the difference between your making a slam dunk or throwing an air ball.

Loved this post? You may also like this.

PS: How did you land your first job? Please share your experience and advice for job seekers in the Comments Sections. Are you surprised to learn that 80% of jobs are filled through referrals? Other readers and I value your contribution.

You Risk Jail Time If You Maltreat Or Don’t Pay Wages to Your Domestic Servants

About five years ago, when I was living with my parents in Aba, Nigeria, a young child who lived a few houses away from us suffered burns from a hot water her ‘Madam’ poured on her. I thought of calling the police but didn’t follow through. Neighbors would think I had no reason to interfere because it was not my business. I pray I don’t find myself in such situation again but if I did, I would definitely interfere.

On another occasion, while walking around in the neighborhood I grew up, I saw a lady (I will call her Amaka) I knew from childhood selling meat pies from a transparent plastic bucket she was carrying on her head. About fifteen years before, She used to be a domestic help in one of the households on my street. Her hosts were also related to her by blood. At the time I saw Amaka selling meat pies, she was still a domestic servant. On the other hand, her relatives in the same age backet were university graduates and one (who was much younger than Amaka) was married to a man living ‘abroad’. I was sad to see Amaka in such pitiable state. I remember thinking that when she was a child, she must have had the same aspirations we did, but by reason of accident of birth, regardless of how intelligent, beautiful, decent, hardworking etc, she was, her lot in life was decided. She could not get access to a good education which would have in turn attracted the right suitors. (Unfortunately, despite what you see in Nigerian movies about Genevieve Nnaji marrying wretched Ramsey Noah despite her Father, Pete Edochie’s, disapproval; people often marry from their class). Amaka ended up the way she did because of this misconception in Nigeria that bringing a poor child to the ‘town’ is in itself a huge favor to the child and that her host family need not do more.

But we need to reconsider the way we treat domestic servants in Nigeria. Nigerians living in the US often cringe at the way their Nigerian peers treat their domestic helps when they visit Nigeria. Because domestic abuse(domestic abuse in a loose sense, not one perpetrated by one intimate partner against the other) is prevalent in Nigeria, even otherwise conscientious people seem numbed to it and either engage in it themselves or turn a blind eye when they see a victim of domestic abuse. Sometimes, otherwise good people ease their conscience by justifying their silence; they reason that the domestic servants had it coming. But the truth is that domestic servants are often not worse behaved than ‘children of the households’. It only seem so because domestic servants are often the prime suspect for any pilfering that goes on in the house and ‘Madams’ seize every opportunity to expose their vices. But even more egregious conducts by children of the house are covered up and discussed in muted tones. Children of the house get a pass and their bad behaviors are attributed to mere juvenile delinquency.

For me, the rule of the thumb is: if you bring a child younger that eighteen to live with you, treat them like you would your child. Give them a good education and make sure that by the time they leave your house they are set up in life to become independent and productive members of the society. If they are adults, then pay them monthly wages as workers. Above all, do not inflict corporal punishment or abuse them emotionally by telling them how they are no good. Treat them like you would like to be treated.

I am hoping Nigeria lawyers step up in issues of child abuse. While one cannot legislate morality, one can at least help enforce the existing laws to protect weak members of the society. That is how civilized Nations do it. Below is a story of a Nigerian living in the United States who got convicted for treating her domestic help the way most Nigerian women do. She was convicted for involuntary servitude. During her sentencing, despite her claim of innocence, the Judge told her that although she may come from a culture that allowed the kind of behavior for which she was convicted, there was no room for it in the U.S. I have redacted the names of the parties and slightly edited the content for privacy reasons and to focus solely on the subject under the discussion.

‘The facts underlying Mrs Xxx convictions are as follows. In 1996, Mrs Xxx and her husband induced a fourteen-year-old girl (“the victim”) to leave her home country of Nigeria and to enter the United States. The Xxxx’s promised the victim and her family that she could attend school in the United States, and that he would send payment to the victim’s parents for her help in caring for the Xxxx’s children.

‘The victim lived with the Xxxxs from October 1996 (when she was fourteen) until October 2001. During that time, the Xxxxs required her to care for their children, to clean their house, and to cook for them. The victim testified at trial that she was also required to work in Mrs Xxxx’s medical office, where she performed multiple tasks, including answering the phones, preparing patient charts, verifying patients’ insurance information, and cleaning out medical examination rooms. The victim received no compensation for her work. The victim’s father testified that he received only “[o]ne piece of cloth and a bag of rice.” The Xxxxs never enrolled the victim in any school.

‘During this time, the Xxxxs subjected the victim to repeated physical and emotional abuse. In particular, at trial, the victim testified that Mrs Xxxx hit her with an “open hand, and sometimes her fist, and then sometimes she would use her shoe.” She also testified that Mrs, Xxxx threw things at her, and that Mrs Xxxx “would twist and pull [her] ear.” During one particular beating, the Xxxxs forced the young girl to kneel and raise her hands above her head, after which Mrs Xxxx beat her in her sides with a flexible wooden cane, and Mr. Xxxx struck her in the hand with the metal part of a belt. After the beating, Mrs Xxxx forced the victim to continue kneeling for an additional forty-five minutes. This beating left the victim with marks on her sides and breathing difficulties. During another beating, Mrs Xxxx struck the victim with a shoe, causing her wrist to be dislocated. The victim never received any medical attention after any of these beatings.’

In aggravation, Mrs Xxxx brought the victim to the United States illegally. Mrs xxxx was sentenced to prison for seven years and three months and ordered to pay ‘$110,249 to her former domestic help.

While writing this, I also came across this very insightful post by someone researching on abuse of domestic servants in Nigeria. While I know that most of my readers are too civilized to engage in such primitive oppression, I hope we become more proactive by enlightening our peers who engage in such conducts. Where they fail to reason with us, please let’s find a way to rescue their victims. Let’s be the change we want.

PS: If you are a victim of domestic abuse in the US, you can email me at annemmeje@yahoo.com. I work for a law firm that practice Employment and Immigration Law. Your oppressors probably tell you they will deport you if you report them. But the truth is that they have no such power. If anything, reporting them will help you get a green card because the federal government have provided avenues to help victims of abuse get a path to citizenship.

Please share your thoughts.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, And It’s All Small Stuff

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This week, someone gave me a book by the above title written by Richards Carlson, PH.D. It’s fun to read and contains anecdotes which show that most of the things we fret and worry about in life are small stuff, and how if we put them in perspective, we will live a less stressful life. I am halfway gone reading the book and I thought to share two touching anecdotes from the author’s personal experience as narrated in the book.

‘Recently, my wife and I were discussing a business idea that had turned out really well. I was talking about ‘my’ idea clearly taking credit for our success! Kris in her usual manner,allowed me to have all the glory. Later that day, I remembered that the idea was actually her idea, not mine, Whoops! When I called her to apologize, it was obvious to me that she cared more for my joy than she did her own need to take credit. She said that she enjoys seeing me happy and that it doesn’t matter whose idea it was. (Do you see why she’s so easy to love?)’

The other anecdote: ‘About a year ago, a foreign publisher contacted me and requested that I attempt to get an endorsement from best-selling author Dr.Wayne Dyer for a foreign edition of my book You Can Feel Good Again
And I told them that while Dr. Dyer had given me an endorsement for an earlier book, I had no idea whether or not he would consider doing so again. I told them, however, that I would try. As is often the case in the publishing world, I sent out my request but did not hear back. After some time had gone, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Dyer was either too busy or unwilling to write an endorsement. I honored this decision and let the publisher know that we wouldn’t be able to use his name to promote the book.I considered the case closed.

‘About six months however, I received a copy of the foreign edition and to my surprise, right on the cover was the old endorsement for the earlier book from Dr.Dyer. Despite my specific instructions to the contrary, the foreign publisher had used his earlier quote and transferred it to the new book. I was extremely upset,and worried about the implication and the possible consequences. I called my literary agent, who immediately contacted the publisher and demanded that the books be taken off the shelves.

‘In the meantime, I decided to write Dr. Dyer an apology explaining the situation and all that was being done to rectify the problem. After a few weeks of wondering what his response might be, I received a letter in the mail that said the following: Richard,there are two rules for living in harmony. #1 Don’t sweat the small stuff. and #2, It’s all small stuff. Let the quote stand. Love, Wayne.”

I hope the above stories got you interested enough to get the book. In the section titled ‘Choose Your Battles Wisely, Dr Carson mused ‘Does your preference of which restaurant or movie to go matter enough to argue about it? Does a small scratch on your car really warrant a suit in a small claims court? Does the fact that your neighbor won’t park his car on a different part of the street have to be discussed in your family dinner table? These and thousands of other small things are what many people spend their lives fighting about. Take a look at your own list, if it’s like mine used to be, you might want to reevaluate your priorities.’

Dr. Carlson’s book apart, I find that making excuses for people and trying to find the rationale behind their actions help me understand them better and reduce my anger and stress level. Once, I was waiting at the red light when the car behind me apparently impatient kept honking their horn. Once the light turned green, they overtook me and sped past me as if to show me how pissed they were at my (sluggishness?). For some reason the thought came in my head that the driver probably had his wife in the car going through labor and they were rushing to the hospital. Once I thought about that possibility, every bitterness (and possibly low self-esteem) I felt went away and I was happy for the rest of the day.

People may not be in a position to explain to us why they do the things that get to our skin but if they did, I believe that about 75% of the time, we would find that there is really no reason to be mad at them. That if roles were reversed, we would probably do the same. So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of giving in to road rage you may rationalize their action by remembering that they may be running late for a job interview.

Finally, I lost my mum-in-law in June. She never sweated the small stuff. In my tribute to her I wrote that ‘when she had a choice to be right or to be kind, she chose to be kind.’ Another daughter-in-law wrote ‘she was a mother-in-love, not mother -in-law.’ May God grant her eternal rest. She was Mrs. Bridget Mmeje.

P:S What works best for you in dealing with stress? Please share and let’s learn from you.

No 1 Thing on My Bucket List – Visiting Christ the Redeemer in Rio

I heard about the statue is a TV series some years ago. Since then, I fell in love more with the statue with each picture I saw. The image of Christ overlooking the city, like the Redeemer and good shepherd He is, evokes a deep religious feeling in me. I hope they inspire you to visit Brazil.

Another reason you should visit is that the 2016 Olympics will be in Rio. The iconic image of Christ graces the Olympics website here. It is refreshing to see Christ play a central role in a world event.

If you will like to read more about the statue, here is the Wikipedia link.

Here are some pictures of the statue.

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Phone Etiquette for Answering Your Business Calls

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Last year, I needed to get information from several Nigerian universities. For most of the institutions I called, I got off the phone without getting much help. For some of the institutions, the phone numbers listed on their websites were no longer in use. When the phones worked, people on the other end of the phone routinely answered the calls like they would their personal phones. For an institution located in Abuja, the phone was picked up by someone who told me he was out of town and was therefore unable to give me any useful information. Some of the people who answered the phones sounded distracted and others were downright impolite.

The institutions I had the above experience with were establishments I expected a degree of professionalism from, yet they were lacking. I figure then that the smaller businesses probably aren’t better. So here are some ideas on how to improve your business’s phone etiquette. You can use them for your mom and pop shop or suggest them to the big organization where you are employed.

1. Have a Customer Service Staff
While it may be impractical for a small business to have an employee dedicated to answering the phones, it is important for an organization that serves a reasonable number of people and deals with high call volumes to have at least one person whose job is to answer the phone calls and take inquiries from customers and potential clients. The upside is that the phones are more likely to be answered professionally and with less distractions. Moreover, from answering the same set of questions over and over again , a customer service staff can field questions by potential customers more effectively and this gives the impression that your organization knows its onions.

2. Introduce Yourself
Even if you cannot afford dedicating an employee to customer service, knowing the basics of answering business calls and instructing every member of your staff to do same will help improve your company’s image with customers and potential customers. The first thing you should say when answering business call is your business name. Saying a ‘hello’ and leaving it to the caller to inquire if she is speaking with so-and-so company is discourteous. For example, you can answer the phone by saying: ‘Dimples and Giggles. Good morning. How may I help you today?’ Using this opener saves time that would have been used establishing identity of the business and helps channel the discussion to the purpose of the call.

3. Identify and Solve the Caller’s Problem
It is frustrating when you get a person on the other end of the phone whose response to an inquiry gives you the impression that in relation to the company, they are a fish out of water. While some of the institutions I called especially the Nigerian Law School had people who were knowledgeable about the questions I asked, some others didn’t offer any information and insisted I must come down to the school to get any meaningful information. One institution told me that they wouldn’t be able to give me any information for something as basic as how much fees was required to make a certain application.

Granted that a new employee, for example, may struggle with answering every question a caller may have, it is unprofessional to have someone who does not know answers to the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ answer the phones. In the very least, the information should be within the reach of the person answering the phones, like on the computer or posted on the wall, so they can easily refer to them to get information needed to answer questions. If a caller calls the wrong department, for a example the Registrar’s office instead of the Exams and Records for transcript-related inquires, they should either be transferred to or given a number to call the appropriate department.

When ‘My Oga at the Top Scandal Broke’ in Nigeria, people weren’t necessarily peeved at the interviewee’s ignorance as much as they were by his unpreparedness. There had been a scam where a fraudulent website posed as the Civil Defence Corps and extorted money from people who thought they were making job applications to the Civil Defence. Civil Defence granted the interview to get the word out about the scam. Yet, when the interviewee was asked the legitimate website address for the Civil Defence, he floundered for sometime and was unable to come up with the right answer. His unpreparedness threw the Defence Corp in a bad light.

4. Speak Clearly and Politely:
Fielding calls from people from diverse background can be a bit challenging. It may involve dealing with people with accents who may be unable to communicate effectively. Listening carefully, paraphrasing the caller’s questions to ensure you understand their questions, and speaking deliberately, are some ways to ensure an effective communication. While anybody can be trained to be a customer service representative, people with a background in mass communication may fare better as their education already prepared them for it.

There is also need for you to be calm and not fret when answering business calls. I learned that taking a deep breath and smiling–even though the caller cannot see you–helps you realx and put you in the right mood. Because you will occasionally get the difficult caller who may not know how to channel their grievance, and who in the heat of the moment will forget that you do not make the company’s policy (if you work for an organisation), you must always remember to maintain your cool and speak as professionally as you can. One way to not respond in like manner to a rude customer is to imagine that your boss is listening from the extension.

5. Take important notes
Answering a business call is of no use if it is not followed through. So once you pick up the call, get the caller’s name and phone number. They may be prospects who will need to be called back or they could be calling for someone who may need to return their call. Particulars like name, address, purpose of call etc should be taken down accurately. If the person they are calling for isn’t available, politely ask if the caller will like you to take a message.

Finally, before you end the call, ask the caller if they need help with any other thing and thank them for calling your organization.

You don’t have to work in a big bank or telecommunication company to have good customer service unit. With the five easy steps above, you can set your organization apart from the crowd.

So what has been your experience with Nigeria companies regarding phone etiquette? If your company doesn’t already implement the ideas above, will you consider suggesting it to them? It is a subtle way of communicating to your employer that you care about your company not just your pay check. By doing so, you add value to your company and make yourself indispensable to them.

P.S: Dimples and Giggles is a small business in Lagos that specializes in kids wares. Want to patronize them? email me and I will send you their contact. If you hate haggling, you will like them because they give you the lowest price available upfront without turning you into the Hesitant Haggler.

How to Get a Certificate of Good Standing from the Supreme Court of Nigeria

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As an attorney, leaving Nigeria to live and practice in another country is not always an easy undertaking. In addition to studying and getting acquainted with laws that are often times different from Nigeria’s, you will also be required to get proof of your admission and current good standing with the Nigerian Bar. Not being physically present in Nigeria, the latter can seem to be an uphill task. It need not be. I got mine without much difficulty. To get a certificate of good standing without going to the Supreme Court, simply write and send a letter of application for same addressed to: The Chief Registrar Supreme Court of Nigeria 3 Arms Zone Aso Villa Abuja FCT Nigeria

The Letter
The letter should contain the date of your admission to the Bar and your enrolment number. You can see your enrolment number on your call to bar certificate (SCNO….) but if, like me, you were called around 2008, your certificate may not contain your enrolment number. However, if you took part in the data verification exercise conducted in 2011 by the NBA for the building of the Nigeria Lawyers database, your enrolment number should have been given to you then. That was when I got mine. You may also want to mention your branch of the NBA if you practiced for a while in Nigeria and whether or not you have had to appear before the disciplinary committee. The information helps in processing your application. Finally, state the jurisdiction that requested the certificate and their address so that the Supreme Court can address/send the certificate to them. Don’t forget to attach a copy of your certificate of call to bar because that is the only way to verify your identity as the person making the application.

Fee and Processing Time
At the time I applied for my certificate ( February, 2012), no fee was payable for obtaining the certificate. I hope that is still the case. Mine was ready within two weeks and an email was sent to me by the Information Technology Unit of the Supreme Court to notify me of that fact. I had my brother pick it up from the Supreme Court and mail to me. The Jurisdiction I submitted mine to (California), did not require direct delivery from the Supreme Court. If however you want the Supreme Court to send it by courier to any destination, you will bear the cost of the delivery.

Change of Name
For those who may want the certificate to bear a name different from the one on their call to bar certificates, they will have to apply for a deed poll and that will cost them some money. I didn’t go through that so I do not know the procedure. The Supreme Court does not accept newspaper publication as evidence of change of name. Though I had married and changed my name since my admission to the bar, the jurisdiction I submitted the certificate accepted a certificate of good standing bearing my maiden name. If you need the deed poll, you can contact the Supreme Court with the contact below.

Applying from Abroad
For those outside Nigeria, you don’t need to mail a hard copy of your application. Just scan your call to bar certificate and email it with your application to: chiefregistrarscn@gmail.com Follow it up with a call to +2348091318059 or +2348152576253.

Good luck!
I hope you are as lucky as I was. I applied from the US, paid no cent and had mine ready within ten days. I still remain grateful to those diligent civil servants who processed my application without much hassle. I hope others learn from them what it means to be truly at the service of others. God bless them and goodluck to you!

Important Update: I wrote this post in 2012. I understand from recent reports that the phone numbers and email address no longer work–Nigeria problem. In any case, if you try getting your certificate and are unable to, email me at annemmeje@yahoo.com.

Five Reasons Why You Should Send Your Kids to Ivy League Schools

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A few weeks ago, a 17-year old Nigerian kid living in the the United States, Harold Ekeh, made headlines for getting accepted into all eight Ivy League schools including Yale, Harvard and Princeton. Before the news broke, I had read that one’s chance of getting into an Ivy was harder than ever and that except one was a Sasha or Malia Obama, they had to face stiff competition to get an admission into any one of the Ivies.

In 2013, Harvard University accepted only 5.8% of its 33,531 applicants. It was followed by Yale University, which admitted 6.72% of its record-high 29,610 applicants, and Columbia University’s acceptance rate was 6.89%. While Standardized test scores and good grades will get a student in the door to have their application read by the Ivies, an applicant’s extracurricular activities, leadership experience, exceptional talents, recommendation letters and personal essays are what set them apart from the rest of the equally brilliant and talented hopefuls.

To show you the quality of applications the Ivies get, here is an excerpt of Harold’s college essay–he migrated to the United States with his parents when he was eight–that guaranteed him a place in the Ivies:’Through my experiences, I discovered my inner resilience. I had been brought up to never give up when faced with adversity but to face any challenge head-on and put forth my best effort. Like a tree, uprooted and replanted, I could have withered in a new country surrounded by people and languages I did not understand. Yet, I witnessed my parents persevere despite the potential to succumb. I faced my challenges with newfound zeal; I risked humiliation, spending my recesses talking to unfamiliar faces, ignoring their sarcastic remarks. I wanted to absorb my new environment, embrace the mysterious white flurries that fell on a cold winter’s day, embrace the golden hues of autumn, and melt into the cultural cauldron of New York. Soon, my efforts were being rewarded as I began to thrive among a new set of friends in a new school’. If his brilliantly articulated essay was not enough to convince any of the Ivies that Harold was an Ivy type, his 100.5% GPA and Intel Science Award recognition based on research for combating Alzheimer’s did.

Kwasi Enin, who got a nod from all eight Ivies last year also had an equally compelling resume. Kwasi played three instruments for the chamber orchestra, sang in an acappella group, threw shot put and discus for his high school’s track and field team, participated in student government and had a lead role in school plays since the ninth grade.

Considering how expensive and competitive Ivies are, why are they highly sought after? Here are some of the reasons:

Caliber of Students:
Because Ivy Leagues are highly selective, they admit the nation’s brightest who eventually go on to run the world. It is only in an Ivy, in this case Harvard, that you will have a Ted Cruz (future US senator) and a Sheryl Sandberg (who would later become Facebook COE and worth about one billion dollars) live across the hall from you. If you want to be in the same Alumni Association as the president of United States (Harvard) or the First Lady (Princeton and Harvard) then, Ivy is the way to go. Attending an Ivy league presents one a rare opportunity to make life-long connections with people who have the potential to occupy important government positions or make groundbreaking inventions. And knowing that one belongs in the same club as these important people motivates one to believe in oneself and propel oneself to success.

Moreover, because Ivies strive to make their student body as diverse as possible, when you get accepted into an Ivy, you get opportunity to interact with people from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. This changes how you view the world.

Further, because of the quality of the student pool–the most brilliant and studious from the United States and abroad–Ivies challenge their students with more work and material unlike Public universities who have to ‘dumb it down’ to accommodate every student and not have the class get lost. Someone, who had a stint at an Ivy before enrolling in a Public school had this to say: ‘My biology courses at Ivy league School were much more rigorous than the same courses I now take at a Large State University. The books/material are similar, but more is expected of students at the Ivies. For example, a problem set will be collected and graded at an Ivy, but at State School, you’ll waste an hour “going over it” in class, because many of the students didn’t understand it. So at the Ivy, you have time to talk about actual research applications of things in class or extra material, while at the state school, most of your time is spent just trying to get through the textbook material’.

This poses the chicken and egg problem: Are Ivies popular because they admit the best and most hardworking students who naturally go on to be successful in their careers or are Ivy alums successful in their careers because of the reputation and quality of education they receive at the Ivies? I read that there is actually a joke at Harvard that Harvard need not lift a finger to educate its students as the student-to-student interaction and competitiveness will suffice.

Access to Limitless Resource Materials:
Because of the reputation Ivies have for engaging in groundbreaking researches, Ivies attract huge amounts in endowments, grants and concessions. They don’t pinch pennies. If an Ivy does not have a book any of its student needs, Ivies place an order for them. Contrast this with what is obtainable in some public schools where students buy most of their books and those who cannot afford them have to compete for the copies available in the school library. Also, Ivies have access to primary resources and not just textbooks. One cannot underestimate the difference between say, reading the original works of Darwin on his theory of evolution and his thought processes and reading a textbook by a twenty-first century author on the subject.

Networking and Job Opportunities:
Recently, I met a woman whose daughter, a Harvard alum, works as an adviser in Newyork to one of the Big banks. The woman commented on how going to a top school opens door for graduates. She was right. Ivy grads are so hot that many of them have a job lined up before graduation. Being a product of an Ivy League comes with many assumptions including academic excellence. A resume that contains a Yale, Princeton or Harvard instantly stands out from the rest.

Moreover, because of the many connections Ivy universities have, they are able to connect their grads with potential employers. Whereas students from lesser-known schools have to get in to prestigious firms through hard work and extra effort an Ivy degree automatically opens the door to the most sough-after corporations.

In addition, because the very rich and the super smart–the only group that get accepted–get to meet at Ivies, there is ample opportunity to meet valuable people that will connect one to resources that will help them succeed in life.

Quality of the faculty:
Ivies routinely have Nobel Prize and Pulitzer winners in their faculty. To be a teacher in an Ivy,one has to have qualification, publication and reputation. And there is definitely a benefit to having someone who have experience teach one. Having been there,done that,they know what works and what doesn’t.

Also because most of the people in Ivy faculty are always involved in one research or the other,Ivy students get opportunity to be part of innovative researches that have the potential to change the world. Seeing what they accomplished as undergrads with the help of their faculty,Ivy alums go into the world knowing they have the power to change the world.

Teaching Methodology:
When you have the best and must studious student pool, the most accomplished faculty members, and unlimited resource materials, there in no limit to the academic excellence that can be achieved.

Where the lesser-known schools only aim to teach their students ideas that have been developed by others, Ivies task their students and faculty to engage in researches and find solutions to problems.

This excerpt I got from Harvard Univertity’s website said it all:
‘The range of research activities at Harvard is broad and deep. Harvard scholars conduct research in almost every field, and seek to expand human knowledge through analysis, innovation, and insight. Research is supported by more than $800 million of sponsored research funds each year, and it is carried out both in the departments of the thirteen Schools and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and at more than 100 research centers, on campus and around the world. Researchers include faculty members, visiting scholars, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate and undergraduate students, and they collaborate with colleagues across the University, at affiliated institutions, and at other research institutions.’

In other words, Ivies produce what public schools, for want of a better word,consume.

So there you have it. Five reasons you should send your kids to an Ivy. This post only covered ‘Ivy League’ schools in the true sense. But what I wrote about Ivies goes for other top schools. In Nigeria for example, I find that students from premiere schools like Obafemi Awolowo and University of Ibadan are better taught than those in the state universities. Even at the secondary school level,I find that top schools like Loyola Jesuit who are quite selective of the applicant pool are Ivy-feeders. Moreover, I understand top private universities in Nigeria have relationships with some US schools who award scholarships to the best candidates in the WAEC exam.

Having established that there is prestige in attending an Ivy League school and that with the sheer amount of resources that all of them have, one will most likely get a top-notch education there,I also think it’s very possible to get a good undergraduate education at a much lower-ranked state school if one is willing to work hard. So,not being privileged to go to an elite school is not an excuse for mediocrity. You could be a diamond in the rough and can shine through with a little effort. There are resources that can help one be as refined as their Ivy League counterparts. If for example you want to write like an Ivy product,you can try reading Robert Bernstein’s The Careful Writer and The Chicago Manual of Style.. They are on my wish list.

Finally, because I always want to leave you with something to help you grow, go to this link if you want to have a Harvard certificate. It is free. All you need is an internet connection and couple of hours each week for about eight weeks. Harvard offers courses including in computer and health areas. You study at your own schedule and get a certificate upon completion of the course. I have a friend who already got one and can’t wait to flaunt it in her resume.

Good luck out there! So do you think it matters which school you send your kids? Let me know in the comments section.