Of Guns, Grief and Creative Violence: the inside story of my 2021 [review]
I started 2021 with both of my parents.
I’m ending 2021 without my Dad.
My Dad was the most courageous person I had ever known. He was brave and blunt.
Dad led by example and was honest to a fault. He was also a terrific storyteller. Dad would tell stories about his career and his upbringing with photographic details and dramatic suspense. Never mind that He may have shared the story before; every time He shared one of his stories, He mesmerized his audience and passed on a lesson.
As the son of a storyteller, I have shared deeply personal experiences, professional milestones and life hacks that helped me navigate the year. I shared my review in the years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020 with you to hopefully inspire you to make a dent in the universe.
Here is how my 2021 went down:
The biggest reason I achieved more personal goals in 2021 is that I found an accountability partner (or She found me). I certainly was not looking for an accountability partner. It just happened that Esther was flooding my Facebook stories with cute pictures, and I kept commenting. Then we took the conversation to WhatsApp. And then, out of the blues, She suggested we become each other’s, accountability partner. Our Sunday accountability meetings force me to execute my goals because I do not want to give excuses during the meeting. It’s really refreshing to be vulnerable and open to feedback. If you would like to have an accountability partner in 2022, pick someone you respect a lot. Your accomplishments, ambition and drive must match, else you won’t be able to help each other.
Thank you, Esther.
2021 was the year Grant Master took off.
Our 2021 revenue was 10x our 2020 revenue. And in 2022, we are gearing up to make each month, what we made in 2021, combined.
But I get ahead of myself. Very early in the year, we moved from our tiny office at Akobo to the topmost floor of a complex at Bashorun. It cost an arm and a leg to set up the office, but the entire team is absolutely delighted about our new workspace. When we had power issues and got tired of running on Generator all day (asides from huge Petrol costs, the noise was irritating), we set up solar. We now have power all day, every day.
Grant Master got to the semifinal of Techstars, but we did not get in.
Grant Master won Banghabandu Innovation Grant and Anzisha Prize. We won several grants for several clients (including our sister brand, Epower.ng).
Our client list includes brands like IITA, Tech Advance, Gricd, Emergency Response, Moneymie, Money Africa and Crop2Cash.
As the CEO of Grant Master, I personally wrote 3 winning grants. That number will be 4 by January (we are expecting confirmation from a funder: the proposal was very, very badass).
We launched Creative Writers Fellowship, our signature program that trains creative writers into grant writers.
We registered Grant Master in Nigeria and in the US.
We set up a team of world-class advisors (Ife Oyedele who co-founded Kobo 360, Lekan Olude who co-founded Jobberman, Wale Salami who is an enterprise account manager at Amazon, Mene Blessing who has won over $2 million in grant funding and Femi Iromini who consults at World Bank).
I met 3 of our advisors and a number of clients through Premia Business Networks (an exceptional invite-only business networking group founded by Bola Lawal). Thank you, Bola!
We ordered audio & video gear and we have been shooting awesome videos ever since.
We experimented with radio and released jingles at Inspiration fm.
If you want to win grants in 2022, you should team up with Grant Master already. Hire one of our top rated grant writers here
Books, Movies, Documentaries
I saw a ton of documentaries in 2021 and this was possible because I watched the clips during meals. I find it very difficult to read books while I am eating (because I need my hands to eat, and I need the same hands to scroll through the book). Watching a video requires very minimum use of my hands. It’s impossible to not eat when hungry, and by pairing what I need to do (eat) with what I want to do (learn), I was able to see very insightful videos.
As for books, I rearranged my schedule drastically. I slept earlier and woke up by 5 am daily. This gave me about 60 mins to read each morning before heading to work.
Here are the best books, movies, and documentaries I saw in 2021:
Elon Musk’s 2014 documentary: How I became the real iron man.
Elon is a voracious reader. At a young age, He ran out of books to read and started reading the encyclopedia! He launched and sold 2 companies and used the money from each sale to launch an even bigger company. He never rests on past laurels, and He strives to change the world and make a lasting impact. He thinks big. He stakes his money on his ambitious, crazy ideas. His net worth was just $6 billion in 2013 compared to nearly $300 billion right now. Elon faced extreme challenges but pulled through each time by betting on himself.
Grant Writing For Dummies
This book is the bible of Grant Writing. For small business owners or NGO founders who cannot afford to hire a grant writer at Grant Master (yet), reading this book is your next best bet. It breaks down the basics. A Terrific masterpiece!
The Billion Dollar Secret
This book showed me the habits of billionaires and I found that all billionaires read. This book inspired me to rearrange my schedule so I could read 60 mins per day.
This is a completely crazy book. It provides intricate details into how Jeff built Amazon into a colossus.
The Kunle Afolayan movie showed the difficulty of life in Lagos in the ’60s and how 2 young ladies struggled with sexual harassment and job insecurity at the office. They met a drug dealer by chance. Rose died trying to smuggle drugs. Tolani nearly did but (thankfully) backed out. Tolani’s fiancé came through at the last minute and returned her life savings (that He lent from her long ago). Asides from the obvious lesson that patience and hard work trumps crime and fast money, it was a very happy ending for Tolani as far as happy ending’s go.
Ready Player One
If you want to understand the Metaverse, you must see Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. The storyline was intriguing. Virtual reality was as real as the real world. The actual characters had significantly enhanced abilities in virtual reality. Player one won the game and solved all of Halliday’s puzzles with the help of his team. Defeating IOI and preserving the OASIS came at a huge cost (He lost his aunt at the beginning). What a fantastic storyline.
This is the book you read when you want to raise money for your startup. Written by VC’s with input from a top entrepreneur, Venture Deals is the real deal.
How to sell to Nigerians
It is perhaps the most important marketing book I have ever read. Written by a Nigerian businessman and lawmaker, Otunba Akin Alabi really outdid himself on this one. Full of practical tips and relatable mind-bending stories, How to sell to Nigerians is the marketing book you didn’t know you needed but suddenly can’t do without. If you want to sell to Nigerians in 2022, you have to read this book.
‘A closed mouth is a closed destiny’
‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force’
In 2021, certain brands decided to mess with me and increase my blood pressure by some points. In nearly every single case, I got a satisfactory outcome. Here is how the drama went down:
If you’ve ever tried to buy something directly from Amazon as a Nigerian living in Nigeria, then you know Amazon’s delivery fee to Nigeria is very high. I started looking for a workaround and found GIG Logistics offering this exact service.
The first 2 times I used GIG logistics, it worked mostly well except they did not deliver to the pick-up terminal I selected. I always pick Iwo Road terminal but they kept delivering to ring road (quite far from Iwo road). Of course, I protested. They apologized and promised to fix it (they did not).
Now, spending an extra N1,000 to N3,000 to pick up the package at a different destination is bad enough but that is not even the main story.
I received an invoice for my latest package on September 2. I paid on September 3. My package did not leave Houston until Sept 15 and would not be delivered for another 2–3 weeks! I emailed to convey how urgent the delivery was, but I was ignored repeatedly even when I threatened to take it to Twitter. I then followed up on my promise and did a Twitter thread on the terrible customer service. I got the package within 24 hours.
Once I discovered my mattress was beginning to cave in, I went to a Mouka foam dealer and bought a new mattress. The dealer assured me it was good for my back. Barely 6 months later, this new mattress started to cave in. I went back to the dealer who then told me the mattress I bought had no warranty. This was news to me. I even learnt that the mattress was not appropriate for my body weight. I took my complaint to Mouka foam on social media. I was told I could swap my current mattress with an orthopaedic mattress (by paying extra). I was ok with this arrangement. Hours later, the lady from Mouka told me the regional sales rep was in town and that we should meet. I go to meet him at the dealer’s and the meeting was very unhelpful. He offered a paltry discount and I thanked him for his time and walked away. The lady called again and told me the swap was off the table. The conversation was going nowhere. I issued a 24hr ultimatum: come back to me with a better offer or we will meet on Twitter. I also sent a link to the Twitter thread I did on GIG logistics so Mouka Foam can know I always follow through.
Barely 1hr later, Mouka Foam offered the original swap deal. A little violence can go a long way.
I will not mention the name of this brand but if you are good at solving puzzles, you can probably figure it out. I wrote the grant and we won the grant in May but they simply would not release the money. In November, they asked for shocking details like “birth certificate”.
I wrote a strongly worded email to the organizer to register my displeasure at the numerous failed promises and attempts to not pay Grant Master, alongside the other international startups.
I stated that failure to receive payment by a certain date will force me to tell this sad story of gross incompetence and failed promises to as many international media outlets as are willing to hear me out. The payment was made on that deadline.
I participated in a contest where I stood a chance of winning a prize. I put in my entry then met silence. I later got an email saying I made it to the top 10 and would get a certificate but I wanted to know if I won the top prize. I sent several emails over several weeks, which were not replied to. I then sent a strongly worded email and copied the people I knew in the organization. I got the certificate on the very day I sent this email (so, my violence worked) but my email blew up in my face big time because
1: I had access to other people in the organization. I could have picked up the phone to reach them.
2: They felt I could have been more diplomatic. I was having none of it (I later apologized).
So, before you get creatively violent, you must ask yourself 4 questions:
1: Have I exhausted all possible avenues to reach this brand, and to resolve this issue?
2: Am I ready to forfeit this opportunity? (If you are not ready to lose it all, do not get creatively violent)
3: Is this brand taking me for a ride or are they dealing with other issues? (Sometimes, you need to cut people some slack)
4: Am I likely to work with this brand again in the near future? (If the answer is yes, give them a very long rope)
If you are yet to sign up for health insurance, let me inspire you:
I spent 50% less on my health this year compared to last year simply because of health insurance. Do not wait for your health to break down before you get health insurance.
I am so excited that we are going to be offering health insurance to our team members at Grant Master in 2022 (it’s long overdue).
If you’ve been complaining about back pain, before you turn to pain killers, check what you’ve been sleeping on. I changed my mattress twice in 2021. My previous mattress was caving in and I had to get an orthopaedic mattress with a cover and topper. Let’s just say my back is getting the best support money can buy. You will sleep better with a better mattress.
In total, I spoke at 30 events/conferences in 2021.
Here are the most memorable ones
Taught marketing strategies at SOZO’s Bootcamp: it was an absolute masterclass! And then, I delivered the practical tips with contagious energy.
Gave an explosive interview on unemployment at IATV.
US department of state invited me to share on a panel at the YALI summit!
I led the YALI clean up Oyo team and delivered multiple speeches across multiple events
For the first time ever, I had 3 back-to-back to back media interviews in a single day. And it was the same topic: the Twitter ban. I had fun.
Had a fantastic time sharing with UI students at Casor Business Conference on ‘5 Habits of highly effective entrepreneurs’. Such a motivated and super smart audience.
Was on a panel session at Livingspring Chapel’s Dominion city: Leveraging the digital economy to promote financial independence and security. The panel had a business coach, a YouTuber and a crypto expert. I gave my all. The response was immediate.
I shared with Raising new voices fellows on grant writing at Osogbo
I had interviews on BCOS TV, Impact Business Radio, Oluyole FM and NTA Network.
In case you are wondering how I got these invitations; I did not lobby for them. The reporters and organizers found me. When you are loaded, you are needed. And you are needed to the degree to which you are loaded. I basically share my thoughts on social media and whenever I am invited to speak somewhere, I over deliver. Keep putting yourself out there. Someone will find your ideas exciting enough to interview you or host you.
I founded The Orphan Empowerment Society (TOES) in 2016 after seeing firsthand, extreme poverty and neglect in an orphanage home in southwest Nigeria. Since then, TOES has been working tirelessly towards a goal of empowering 1 million orphans in Africa and end orphan poverty in Africa.
Here are the things we did in 2021:
1. We Set up & branded TOES office HQ in Nigeria
2. We shut down inactive state and country chapters
3. We raised & donated about N2 million ($4,000), with N1 million in December alone.
4. We empowered over 500 orphans with free medical care, vocational skills, and food across 12 states in Nigeria and 4 countries in Africa (Nigeria, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone). In other words, these orphans will rely less on aid and rely more on their newfound skills to start small businesses, and with their improved finances, access better feeding & better education. A major step towards ending orphan poverty in Africa
5. We employed full-time staff
6. We opened bank accounts for all state chapters in Nigeria
7. We got featured in local and international media outlets
None of this would have happened without our incredible volunteers, partners, donors, caregivers & orphans across Africa. There is so much work to be done & we need your support. You can volunteer here. You can donate here.
I finally learnt how to drive!
At 31, I am not proud it took me so long to learn but better late than never.
During week one, my instructor kept saying “stay on your lane”.
After donkey weeks of waiting, I finally got my temporary driver’s license.
Robbed at Gun Point
Sometime in June, around 2:00am, armed robbers descended on my compound. They tried to break in by hitting my door with an axe and cutlass. They broke into some rooms but did not break into mine. Instead, they tore my net. Next, I heard a loud bang, one of them pushed my fan to the floor. With a gun pointing through the window, they asked for my phone. I gave it to them while begging them not to shoot. My atm was inside my pouch and I did not remember to remove it before giving them my phone. Before I could remember to block my account, the bad guys had emptied it. Let’s just say I was lucky that I didn’t have much inside that account at that point in time.
The traumatic experience made me consider relocating outside Nigeria for the first time in my adult life.
Lost my Dad
My Dad was the most courageous person I had ever known. He was brave and blunt.
Dad led by example and was honest to a fault. He was also a terrific storyteller. Dad would tell stories about his career and his upbringing with photographic details and dramatic suspense. Never mind that He may have shared the story before, every time He shared one of his stories, He mesmerized his audience and passed on a lesson.
Dad taught me how to be responsible. Instead of just sitting still and expecting someone else to do the work, I grew up seeing Dad inspect the house, fix things by himself and contribute to developing the community either by leading the collection of security levies or fixing the dusty untarred road in front of our house (before it was tarred).
I visited my parents several times in 2021 and looking back now, I am glad I spent quality time with my Dad.
Dad had been losing weight since the beginning of the year and I kept tracking his progress alongside my siblings. He had been struggling with his Prostrate for nearly 2 years and on the 12th of November, He passed on at UCH. I truly believe He is in a better place.
We buried him 24 hours later according to his wish. I am grateful for friends and family who came around despite the very short notice.
I will continue to miss you Dad.
Looking forward to 2022
In preparing this review, I leveraged heavily on my life events diary, daily to-do list, daily personal financial diary (with formula’s plugged in), goals planner, as well as my speaking engagement calendar.
If you would like to plan better in 2022, find templates of all my personal planners here.
And it’s important to note that I did not start writing this review until I was done planning for 2022. I personally think you have no business hosting friends, visiting friends or surfing the web if you are yet to plan (or at least start planning) for 2022.
Life is short. Make it count while you can.