My final year in school, in 1958, was memorable. As a good student, I was appointed a house prefect. Only those who were academically sound, trustworthy and obedient were considered for leadership positions. At the end of the year, the principal issued testimonials to support the West African School Certificates. I was among those that made Grade One. My own testimonial highly commended my character, diligence and leadership abilities. He concluded with my sporting abilities and performance, saying, “He also ran.” He was right because I did not perform well in sports and games. I actually took part in compulsory ones and dodged the optional ones. I was taking part only to fulfill all righteousness. My interest in football and hockey waned when I fractured my left wrist in the football field. Coping with school activities, with plaster of Paris on my hand for months, was not easily forgettable. I associated the discomfort and inconvenience with football.
In the early seventies, I joined the Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, even though I was not a sports enthusiast, a beer drinker orsuya eater. Consequently, I did not benefit much from the membership of the club. Going there was only for the purpose of taking the children for relaxation and playing around. After many years of renewing my membership dues, which kept increasing, I decided to drop out.
In 1978, I took a marketing course at the Tufts University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and there I was not happy that I did not enjoy the sporting facilities provided for the participants. In fact, I regretted it so much that I bought some sports kits to participate actively in games at the Lagos Country Club, on my return to Nigeria. But the situation did not change. The lethargy persisted.
Indeed, what the principal wrote in my testimonial was true and prophetic. I thank God that I attended the Dennis Memorial Grammar School (DMGS), Onitsha, and passed through wonderful and dedicated teachers, who gave us good foundations for life.
The truth is that “I also ran.” I never engaged in any serious sports to impress anybody or to win a prize. With that mindset, I was far from excelling. At best, I was a mediocre.
This attitude of mediocrity is the main reason many people do not prosper in what they do. They do not perform to excel and be the best. Instead, they are satisfied with being average and getting lost in the crowd. They make insignificant and unimpressive contributions and leave no footprints, as they move along. I am impressed by the attitude of Apostle Paul to his ministry when he declared, “Do you know that in a race all the runners compete, but (only) one receives the prize? So run (your race) that you may lay hold (of the prize) and make it yours…Therefore, I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary” (1 Corinthians 9:24-26 AMP). Paul was determined to succeed in his ministry and leave indelible marks before his death. He did not want be an “also-ran“.
I believe that everyone has a definite contribution to make. There is a purpose for everyone’s life. But that purpose cannot be achieved without striving. By striving, you must perform to win. Winning a prize demands adequate preparation, determination, perseverance, commitment, concentration and focus.
There is competition in everything we do and there is need to gain competitive advantage, in order to be a leader or winner. Of course, in business, those that aspire to win must cut a niche for themselves. But some businesses are just coasting along, with no desire to lead. The danger in this attitude is that if you are not progressing, then you are retrogressing. You cannot remain at the same spot for a long time. If you do not ascend, you will descend.
My principal’s remarks were truthful. We used to run cross-country race –thelongest and toughest, through narrow prefabricated bridges, bush paths and shallow ponds. I took part but by the time I returned to the starting point, the winners were rejoicing with their admirers. But I consoled myself with “after all, I also ran”.
This life is a race which is compulsory, not optional. While some are running to win the race, others are just running for the sake of running. They are just shadowboxing or beating the air. The running has no definite purpose or direction. It is aimless. This creates a life of frustration, uncertainty and ultimate catastrophe. What does it profit a man, if at the end of the life’s race, he is disqualified. God forbid. The unfortunate testimony will be, “He also ran.”
In the cross-country race, some students missed the track and wandered into the bush. This happens today in real life. Some people have completely gone off the right track and are just wandering. They have lost their guides and their bearing. They will continue to drift and, of course, eventually land somewhere, sometime. The only remedy is to retrace their steps and follow the guide. Psalm 32:8 says, “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.'” This is a great promise for those who have derailed and sincerely want to return to their destiny.
In whatever you do, don’t pray to receive a testimonial that reads, “He also ran”.Instead, do it to excel and succeed. Success follows competence, diligence and skill in your work. “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mere men” (Proverbs 22:29).