Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jason Njoku, founder of Iroko Partners and NollywoodLove, where he shares his inspiring story about how he failed for 5 years before succeeding with his online ventures.
I was having a discussion with a friend of mine recently. He is about to launch his company and is in preparation mode. We were talking about Failure. He said he wasn’t afraid. That whatever happened he would learn something.
I smiled. Replied.
When I was a kid, I was naturally competitive. When I lost at football. I cried. When I lost at most things. I cried. That stopped when I was 15, though. It reminds me of a quote: “Show me someone comfortable with losing and I will show you a loser.”
Most people have never really failed before. Like really failed. I’m not talking about in structured environments such as Education or Karate. I’m talking about fundamentally pouring all of your Emotional Capital (excitement, energy, money, time, relationships, reputation, etc) into something and failing.
Publicly. Failing in Life.
I have. A number of times. Actually I failed consistently from the year 2005 (my graduation) to the year 2010. Yes, five years! Five long years of being broke, as in, ass-of-the-world-broke. It was brutal but has shaped everything I have done and achieved thus far. And forever forward.
Back in 2008, I couldn’t pay rent and for 9 months begged friends to hit their couch and ended up living in 6 different places. One was an empty apartment where I slept on the floor. Not a mattress. A floor.
I owed money to everybody – friends, family, employees, banks, suppliers. Some even called me scum. At one point I missed payroll at Brash (my magazine company) and all 6 members of staff walked out. I was left to edit, design and put out a magazine. Alone.
I discovered the dark arts of how to survive on £15/week in Manchester and London. Its possible.
After getting a 2:1 (second-class upper credit) from University of Manchester with 67% grade average; at 29 having to move back in with my mum. I had originally left in which big dreams in 2002. Ego-destroying.
Driving a company car and running out of fuel. Walking 3 miles to the nearest petrol station to buy fuel and a fuel can, only to realise I had £5.50, the fuel can was £3.95.
Being the butt of pretty much all of my peers jokes, where most thought I was bat-crazy, stupid or had some weird delusions of grandeur.
Girls disregarded me. Brutally. I don’t blame them. Who wants to date the broke guy. Especially Nigerian girls (but that’s a whole new post).
In the end, it didn’t matter. I am rich now, more so than 99.9% of my peers. I have achieved things that most (including me) would never have thought I would achieve in a lifetime.
For me it was my right of passage. It was my MBA. It was important in shaping me into a person who never complains, but just gets on with things. I never had money to indulge in consumerism so don’t suffer from its afflictions.
Someone who has settled into finding happiness in waking up and having control of my time and life. Poverty has fundamentally humbled me. Brought out my humanity.
I will always fight for the little guy. Because this time last year and for 5 brutal years, I was the little guy.
When I grow up. I want to be the little guy.