My friend Adewale, fondly called ‘Dewale Alapere (meaning ‘Dewale the basket weaver), grew up on a farm in southwest Nigeria. He was raised by parents who could only afford to live in a mud house and sleep on bamboo beds. It was only when he left for the University of Ilorin that he had an opportunity to watch television.

He and his family were classified as poor while he was growing up, but ‘Dewale has a passion that circumstances could not deprive him of. While his siblings were eager to receive Christmas clothes and looked forward to the luxury of once-a-year rice and chicken, he would insist that his portion of the fund be diverted to purchase his schoolbooks. As a young boy, his main desire was to improve.

Today, ‘Dewale is a highly placed leader and excellent manager of resources in one of the top foreign banks in Nigeria. His dedication to personal improvement has impacted his community, family and the organizations he worked at. I have been told that ‘Dewale would often meet his business target latest by the third quarter.

The last time I visited him, and checked his personal library, it was impressed upon me that personal transformation is impossible without private responsibility and the desire to improve one’s knowledge. This is the reason why notable people, in any economy, are usually people of “notes and table”. They sit, study, strategize and execute. ‘My friend has moved beyond ‘Dewale Alapere, whose job was to weave baskets, to a PhD holder who works with a top performing Nigerian bank.

Tough Times For Cocoa Bean Counters

The story of my friend can be compared to an average start-up in many parts of Africa. Seeing a start-up grow into a profitable business is often like seeing someone walk on water. Africans are incurable optimists, but are not quick to embrace mental development. We desire big breakthroughs while not being willing to cultivate our minds. In reality, the journey from rags to riches, grass to grace, is an internal one.

Similarly, the law of progress says “first within and then without”. All progress remains at a state of rest until a mental force is applied. Emphasis has to be on mental work; it is this that gives value to physical work.

In any organization where individuals do not improve mentally, its cutting-edge potential will be blunt. With this in mind, it is important for African entrepreneurs to invest in personal improvement.

A business’ slow growth and a country’s underdevelopment is the result of society’s neglect of the principle of progress. The principle of progress gives creative power and leverage for everybody, irrespective of location, race or gender.

Timing Is Everything

An entrepreneur needs to consciously work on a variety of things things, such as professional skills, soft skills, business image, personal image, market share, marketing strategy and business processes. It is good to set goals in these areas.

Irrespective of the level of success, it is important to have an attitude that celebrates the present while creating a better experience for tomorrow. When others see the best local brand, you should see the best international brand.

There can be no progress for an entrepreneur whose knowledge base is struggling to catch up with the present business sphere. It is smart to research, develop ideas, and work on projects.

Research shows that smart entrepreneurs are committed to daily improvement for many years. If you study for five more minutes each day, you’ll amass an additional 1825 study minutes in a year. Every tiny effort can catapult you towards success.

An African Darling For Investors

Every human’s brain has the same potential. The most successful people have stretched their minds to achieve what others feel impossible. They are the billionaires we celebrate.

My personal belief is that if they can achieve it, then you and I can. We can all walk on water. – Written by Victor Mamora