A couple of days ago, I called a magazine publisher friend of mine to discuss a project I’m working on and his response took me aback. “Hey! Michael! I’ve been trying to reach you! I’m so glad you called!”
Now, I like a warm welcome as much as the next guy, but I figured that this was just the usual banter between people who haven’t spoken for a while. “Oh, really?” I said, a little sceptically, “Maybe you called while I was away. But what about email, Facebook, Instagram..?” Unperturbed, I moved on to the reason why I was calling and we had a very productive discussion, which ended in an agreement to work together on a project.
With that out of the way, I was just about to wrap up the call when Kelechi reiterated, “I was really trying to reach you a few weeks ago. I read your blog and thought it was fantastic, and I told my editor to read it as well. He liked it so much that he wanted to publish one of the posts as an article in the magazine. The only problem was that I couldn’t reach you.” Now, he had my full attention.
“Anyway, we were going to press,” he continued, “so the editor decided to take the chance and put it in the magazine anyway. He figured that since I know you, I would contact you eventually.” As the news slowly sank in, I was fascinated by the timing of the whole episode. Only a few weeks before, spurred on by a number of my readers, I had fired off a couple of emails to a newspaper that I thought would be a good fit for this blog. Nothing has resulted yet, but this unsolicited outcome coincided perfectly with my decision to seek a wider audience with an established publication. Was it just a happy coincidence or was there something deeper at work?
My experience tells me that it’s way deeper. Some people call it ‘The Secret’, while others say that these experiences are a result of ‘favour’, meaning God’s favour, or the result of applied faith. What I do know is that such occurrences have become commonplace in my life, ever since I started to apply a set of principles. These principles are drawn from a number of sources – books, tapes (remember those?), videos, seminars and workshops – and people like Anthony Robbins, who are dedicated to personal development and the notion that we can become whoever we want to be.
Over the years, I’ve worked on improving my ability to reach specific goals and found that this particular method works for me every single time. I believe that if you really want something, you have to do more than wish, hope, plan or even pray – you have to DECIDE. Once you decide that this goal MUST happen, you graduate to a higher level of belief or faith. That certainty, coupled with action, moves you towards your goal faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced. And here’s the cool thing: as you move towards your goal with certainty, it begins to move towards you. The first time I heard that, I didn’t understand what it meant. How on earth does your goal move towards you???
Honestly, I have no idea and frankly, I don’t care. I just know that it does and it’s always fascinating to watch it happen. But, many people ask, how certain do you have to be? Well, you have to be so sure, that you no longer hope or believe that you will achieve your goal – you KNOW you will. To illustrate the difference in these levels of belief, often I use a biblical story – one, because it’s a familiar tale and two, because nothing convinces my church-going friends more than a good Bible story! The only problem is that they rarely recognise themselves in the narrative. Anyway, here goes.
Walking on water
It’s a well-known story that takes place after the ‘feeding of the five thousand’, a momentous feat achieved with meagre resources. You would think that after witnessing a miracle of such magnitude that the disciples would be quite confident in the power their leader possessed. However, in a few short hours, they found themselves on a boat, in the middle of a lake, being buffeted by the wind and waves. Seemingly oblivious, Jesus is still on land praying. When he appears, walking on the water, only Peter is bold enough to test this power for himself by asking to join Jesus on his aquatic stroll. At that point, he knows that he can walk on water – and he does – although his faith deserts him and he starts to sink. The others, like most ‘believers’, remain in the boat.
I haven’t walked on water yet, but I have walked on fire – red-hot coals, at an Anthony Robbins seminar some years ago. We were prepared carefully in the auditorium before stepping out into the chilly London air. The wood on the fire-walk had been burning for some time and it was glowing orange. Tony went first, then, one by one, we followed. When it was my turn, all I could think was, “If they did it, I can do it.” So, off I went, with measured strides, the coals crunching under my feet. I emerged unscathed and, unlike Peter, I didn’t need the help of the Master or the emergency crew standing by.
That was the beginning of my understanding of that higher level of faith required to achieve extraordinary things. Since then, I’ve proven to myself, over and over again, the power of this simple process – decide, move towards your goal, know ‘it’ will happen. That ‘it’ doesn’t have to be too narrowly defined, like a sum of money; it can be a lifestyle goal that contributes immeasurably towards your happiness, even as you discover new and wonderful things on your journey.
Testing the theory
That’s exactly how I came to be in Calabar, Nigeria. For years, I had dreamed of living and working in different countries and I envied the expatriate consultants I saw living ‘the good life’, contributing to developing countries and enjoying great weather and new experiences. Later, having learned this principle of ‘move towards your goal and it will move towards you’, I decided to put it to the test. After all, what did I have to lose? Already, I had tried traditional goal-setting, routine career planning and good old-fashioned praying.
So, I decided. Then I declared it. “By next year,” I told anyone (supportive) who would listen, “I’m going to start travelling a lot more and working with clients abroad.” Then, I started moving towards my goal with purpose. I pulled out every business card I could find with a foreign address, mostly collected on trips to the USA for conferences, and started calling and emailing. I got myself back on the mailing list for events at the Jamaica High Commission in London; something I had abandoned a couple of years before. Finally, I talked to my clients with foreign head offices to scope out opportunities. Nothing came of any of these efforts and the year ended as it began.
And then, something amazing started to happen. In January, a London-based client who did no overseas business called and asked for a favour. She was short of her target for a government-funded trade mission and needed me to attend, to make up the numbers.
“Where’s the mission to?” I queried.
“Paris,” came the reply, “you would be doing me a really big favour.”
“Oh, alright then. Why not?” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. The truth is that, in a career of over 20 years, no one apart from a previous employer had ever paid for me to travel abroad.
And so it began. Some weeks after the Paris trip, the phone rang and an Australian-sounding lady introduced herself, saying, “We’ve never met but I’ve been asking around for a PR professional who knows Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora in the UK, and your name keeps coming up.” The wonderful Judy McCluskey invited me to her office and within half an hour of meeting, she declared, “We need to get you on a plane.” Within weeks, we had prepared and delivered a PR pitch to the Jamaica Tourist Board in Kingston, and had won the bid. As part of the team, I had to take British journalists to the island at regular intervals.
By the end of that year, I had done so many trips that I decided to forego my usual Christmas visit to Jamaica. After all, January was cheaper for flights and I wasn’t exactly missing home. With just a week to go before the 25th, I got a call from the London Notting Hill Carnival office. Apparently, there was a carnival in Nigeria that had sent an invitation and I was the only director that hadn’t declined yet. Having already told my wife that we wouldn’t be travelling, I didn’t think I could get away with it. So, there had to be two tickets – and there were. That was my first visit to Carnival Calabar and the beginning of another fascinating chapter in my life.
Just over one year later, another unsolicited invitation, another pitch and another contract. Now I had to be in Calabar every month for a week or two as a tourism consultant, and in Jamaica 3 or 4 times a year. Nothing I had done seemed to have worked but somehow I had surpassed the goal I set for myself. Inexplicably, the goal had moved towards me. That was all the proof I needed. I knew that it worked.
Sometimes, when things get tough, I am reminded of how I came to be here. When I’m at my lowest ebb, I manage to remain calm. I remember to smile and be gracious to others. I still choose to give, even when it feels like I have nothing left. Those who know what I’m going through wonder how I weather the storm.
Here’s how. If you believe, I mean really believe. If you are certain of the outcome, regardless of the prevailing circumstances. If you’ve seen it done and realise you can do it too.
You can walk on water.
For my Nigerian readers: see the August 2015 issue of Style Mania magazine for the article ‘Self-hate: real or imagined?’ Otherwise, the original post is available on this blog.