In the school of life I sometimes withdraw and sit back at the observers’ row. For me such times are really refreshing and enlightening because it is at times like these that I have learnt key lessons which have shaped my perspectives and approach to life.

One particular area that I have observed with particularly interest is man’s discovery of  purpose – a realization and acceptance of that thing that he believes he has been placed on earth to do. Over time I have identified it as the key ingredient that separates the men from the boys, that thing that makes the great men of this world bounce back after life deals them a heavy blow. It is that thing that sets the limits to a man’s greatness in life.

Have you ever asked yourself how a boy who grew up in a poor family amidst abject poverty could grow up to become a consultant to governments and corporations, a successful business man, the Pastor of the largest church in his country, the owner of 2 private jets, a bestselling author, etc (Myles Munroe). Or how a prisoner can grow to become a president and one of the world’s most influential individuals (Nelson Mandela). Or how a foreign slave can rise to become the most influential and second most powerful individual on the surface of the earth (Joseph the son of Jacob and Prime Minister of Egypt)? If you take a close look at these 3 great men you would see that one thing they all have in common is their humble beginning. If you ask me what the underlining factor was I would say a clear sense of purpose. I would like to discuss this using a concept I developed – What vs. Who.

In Nigeria today, if a man walks arrogantly into a room and someone sitting close to you asks who the heck the man is, you probably would say he is the MD of XYZ Company or he is the son of the Governor of ABC State. In your mind and probably in that of the questioner that is “Who” the person is and so he has the right to carry himself with such pride and arrogance. My question to such an answer would be “what if he is sacked as the MD of XYZ, who would he be? or What if his father is impeached or assassinated tomorrow, who would he be?” After thinking for a while the answer I get is “nobody”. This distorted notion of “Who” a man really is resides at the core of most self esteem issue in Nigeria today and probably the world at large.

In my opinion that is “What” he is! And that only being a temporary position in life. “Who” he is the space or position he was born to occupy – e.g. a teacher, a leader, an entrepreneur, etc. Who he is is that which he exhibits right from his childhood with little or no effort; it is that calling, that thing that sticks with him all through his life journey. Some kids are just fun to be with, they make everyone around them laugh, even in the saddest of situations. Such kids may eventually grow to become the Alli Babas and Steve Harveys (comedians) of this world. Others may find themselves automatically functioning as leaders where ever they find themselves – Class monitor is elementary school, Class Captain in Secondary/High School, Class Chairman in University/College, etc. They are leaders. That is who they are. Some people are dancers; they have rhythm in every cell of their bodies! Others are singers, writers, chefs, fashion designers, etc. That, in most cases, is the field they would function, excel and die in. That is the field from which the world would know them.

A man who must achieve his full potential and attain extraordinary heights in life must have a clear understanding of who he is; a clear understanding of the space he has been called to function in. Such a deep and complete revelation can only come from the creator. Looking else where for that definition would only grossly understate who he really is. Other sources would not know the secret weapons concealed in your being by the creator which can only be activated by him in the right season. Who would have looked at a man who stammers and say he could become one of the greatest political leaders that would ever walk the surface of this earth (Moses, the prince of Egypt). But the creator knew what he deposited in him and activated it when the time of need came. That is why it is mediocre to place value on a man based on your perception of his external condition and appearance.

Your “What” at different points in life may not count for much and sometimes may appear dishonourable and beneath you but you must always make sure your “Who” is intact and unaffected by anything external for that is your anchor. You All you need to do is discover “Who” you are and keep working at it until your “What” becomes your “Who”.

Before I rest my case I would like to take a look at Joseph “the dreamer” in the bible. While he slept the creator communicated “Who” he was to him – a great leader before whom great men would bow. At that point his “What” was a far cry from from his “Who” as he was a spoilt brat in his father’s house. Then out of jealousy his brothers sold him out and he became a slave of the Ishmaelites. He must have demonstrated some sort of leadership amongst the other slaves to have been selected by Potiphar a highly placed government official. In Potiphar’s house his “What” was never strong enough to eclipse his “Who” and as a result he became the leader of Potiphar household that even Potiphar’s wife could not help but have a strong crush on him. That crush landed him in prison. But even in prison “What” he was (a prisoner) could not eclipse “Who” he was (a great leader). The prison warden could not help but put him in charge of the whole prison. Eventually he became the great leader before whom great men bowed (including Potiphar and his elder brothers). At the point “What” he was became “Who” he was. And that was what/who he was till his death. So imagine you went to visit Joseph in Potiphar’s house, you would not be able to help but notice a bright young man with a very healthy dose of self esteem. Or in prison, he must have come across as a very graceful prisoner who is confident and oblivious of his pitiful situation. That is what a clear understanding of your “Who” would do for you.

My admonishment is this:

  1. Find out, acknowledge and accept “Who” you are as declare by God your creator
  2. Meditate on it until you become that person on the inside
  3. Regardless of your “What” on the outside, never loose sight of “Who” you are
  4. Keep working and investing in “Who” you are and one day it would become “what” you really are

Remember “What” you are is just a another bus stop in life. It is not your destination. So stay on the bus long enough and you would reach your final destination – “Who” you are.

Enjoy the rest of your week.


Deji Olatunde

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