Think outside the box? I’d say break the box!

Something interesting happened over the weekend. I had a chat with a lady who wanted to start a business and we were discussing about the services the business will offer. As she told me about her business, I noticed that the lady’s scope of thinking was limited to the ‘Nigerian market’ and I asked her why. “Well, I have to start small. I cannot afford to be thinking of an international scope now.” I tried to make her see why this was a wrong way of thinking but she just couldn’t see things my way.

This is what I told her: “You cannot grow beyond a certain level if you think ‘Nigeria’ only. Are you telling me that the best way to set yourself apart from your competitors is to limit your scope of thinking? How about where you plan to take the business in like 5 – 10 years?” She said she would cross the bridge when she gets there and that’s just really sad to me. Anything that is worth doing or investing in requires you to give it all you’ve got. Why would anyone want to build a business where there is no vision of crossing the borders of Nigeria? I’m not saying that you have to create international businesses by all means but please think big. It helps you to set yourself apart in your field. Most importantly, it keeps you on your toes when it comes to excellence. If only you can see what great things people out there in the world are doing…you will know that what we are doing here in Nigeria is child’s play.

When I attended a strategy meeting for a church a few months ago, we had a group of churches as our benchmark. These churches are great churches, excellent at what they do and I started to use them as my benchmark in my work. Then I got bored. I get bored easily especially when my mind isn’t challenged. It wasn’t as if we had reached their level but in my mind, I felt I was limiting myself. It took me a while to figure out why I kept feeling stuck with my work. Then one day after I got home from work, I decided to use the rest of the evening to research. Wow. My eyes were opened that night! I didn’t sleep until 3am. I was busy going through various church websites and ministry materials. I found some awesome blogs too that challenged the ideas I had in my head previously. Something sparked within me. Ever since that day, ideas have been flowing. I have a much bigger picture in mind than the mandate that was given to me and that challenges me. It fires me up.

I understand that not everyone loves challenges. But you cannot grow if you are not challenged. That’s why your everyday 9-5 job is something I cannot do. I can never be content with delivering the same result over and over again all in the name of getting a frequent pay check. Even in terms of my business, I’m looking at what the world out there is doing and not just what is being done in Nigeria. Of course not everything that is done out there will suit your target market but this is where the beauty of customisation lies. You can always tailor it to suit your market.

And can I tell you something? The world is far ahead of us in this country. Take this online shopping thing that is now big in Nigeria. I’m not moved or as excited about it as some other people are. Why? It’s because the phenomenon is not new to me. In Uni (and I finished school in 2010 by the way), I bought all sorts of things online and they were delivered to my house, including my groceries! Whatever I wanted, I could find online. So we’re about five years late here. Thank God for the people who had the guts to push the barriers of traditional shopping models. If not for them, I’m sure we won’t have this online revolution that we have now.

Be ready to push the limits. Challenge the status quo. Shake things up a bit. This is one thing I love doing. I love changing things up. I love experimenting; with food, my hair, my room design…anything really. I remember when I was younger, I used to break my toys apart and try to re-assemble them. I am very curious and I always seek for a better way to do things. That is how to excel in life. So whatever you are doing right now, have a bigger picture in mind. You design clothes for students now…have you thought about what will happen one day when a celebrity patronises you? Is your product as it is even good enough for a celebrity to wear? Can I take it a bit further; would Michelle Obama ever wear your designs if she ever saw them? Think about it. They say you should think outside the box. I say, “Break the box and allow your mind to be free.”

I pray God will cause your eyes to be opened to better ways of doing things. Remember, you will always need God to show you the best way so don’t leave Him out of the equation!

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