O’s Success Tips: Get To The Top

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“Who got there first?” the workshop facilitator asked with a sly grin. I must admit I had no idea what the answer was. My gut feeling told me it was the man, after all elevators were typically the fastest way to ascend a building. But my thoughts where abruptly interrupted by the rumblings of the man next to me. “The dog,” he said. The dog? I remarked, that seemed believable. After all a dog could run quite fast. But before my thoughts could settle, I heard a woman from across the room yell out frantically, “the monkey!” Now this was interesting. Climbing up a drainage pipe was quite tasking, but if achievable, then surely she had a point. The monkey could make it up the building faster than both the dog and man. At this point, I had returned to my initial state of confusion. The monkey? The dog? The man? I was lost and confused and the entire room seemed to share my exact feelings. The only exception was the facilitator who kept grinning the entire time. And he had the right to, because he had the entire room befuddled with his question…

“A man, his monkey and his dog are visiting New York one day when they get into a fierce argument over who could get to the top of the empire state building in the fastest time. The man is so confident that he can get to the top faster than both the monkey and dog that he puts down a $40 bet. The man believes that he could win the bet because he is the only one smart enough to operate an elevator. The monkey initially balks at the idea of the challenge. But, out of the corner of his eye, spots a drainage pipe that runs from the bottom of the building to the top.  The monkey from his experience climbing trees believes he could climb the drainage pipe to the top of the building faster than the man in the elevator. The dog on other hand can neither climb the drainage pipe nor operate an elevator. However he believes that with hard work and pure effort he can run up the stairwell faster than the man and monkey.

So one hot summer afternoon they all set out to race. All three huddle up just outside the building and at the stroke of noon start their race to the top. The man hurries into an empty elevator and presses the button to the top floor, while the monkey jumps onto the drainage pipe and starts his ascent. The dog heads into the stairwell and start running up the stairs. All three make it to top, but “who got there first?”

“Do you want to know the answer?” the facilitator asks finally, the response was a deafening and almost desperate “YES!” The answer is this he said:

“Tt does not matter who made it to the top first. All that matters is that they all made it to the top!”

When I was 13 years old in Nigeria, I was struggling to pass my junior high-school state exam. Hundreds of miles away in the northern Nigeria village of Hinnah, Hauwa Ibrahim, also 13 was fighting for a chance to get an education. Unfortunately, her already difficult task was exacerbated when her parents offered her hand in marriage to an older man. Not just any man, but one old enough to be her Father! Against history and tradition, Hauwa refused the proposal. A bold stance that caused her to be kicked out of her home and forced to live with an uncle. While staying with her uncle, she was able to fulfill part of her dream by attending both elementary and high school. However, Hauwa’s ultimate goal was to graduate from a university. But, in a society mired with hints of sexism and classicism, Hauwa’s dream seemed hopeless.

One day, while doing her chores, Hauwa stumbled upon a lady on a TV program. The lady spoke about her desire to assist young girls who longed to obtain a university education. Hauwa, determined to obtain a university education located the lady’s office. But every attempt she made to see the lady was thwarted by the security guards stationed outside of her office. But, Hauwa never gave up. After more than 30 failed attempts, the security guards finally relented and allowed her to visit the lady. Through her visit, Hauwa was able to get the necessary support and funding to attend university. In 1988, she finally accomplished her ultimate goal of graduating with not just a Bachelor’s degree, but a Law degree from the University Of Jos. However, unlike most of her peers, Hauwa celebrated her achievement alone. None of her family showed up for her. Not one single person. In their eyes she had defied too much tradition.

Despite her unconventional and tumultuous journey, Hauwa Ibrahim never gave up. She never stopped running and never quit fighting. In 1996, she became the first female lawyer in Nigeria to address a Sharia court; a brave act undertook while defending Amina Lawal, a female plaintiff that had been sentenced to death by stoning. Displaying the same tenacity and persistence she had showed in her earlier years, Hauwa was able to defend and save the life of Amina Lawal; and subsequently the lives of many others. Today she continues her fight against injustice and persecution, a tireless endeavor that has earned her respect, recognition, and numerous awards. Including the 2005 European Parliament Sakharov Freedom of Thought award; an accolade given to a person who has contributed significantly to human rights. A fitting memento of Hauwa’s rise to the top.

At the end of the day, it did not matter that she had been unceremoniously kicked out of her family home, it did not matter that she had been rejected multiple times at the University office and neither did it matter that her family was not in attendance at her graduation ceremony. All that mattered was that she made it to the top.

The question now is will you make it to the top?

Okechukwu Ofili
Africa’s #1 Success Coach
Copyright © 2008 Ofili Speaks, Inc. All rights reserved



Words by Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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