I will tell you a story about talent and hard work. Which should come first?
It's going to be a long read.
First thing, I will also like to re-echo my constant words that “in 20 years’ time, ‘rock bottom’ will produce famous people more than ‘privilege.’”
This afternoon, I had a chat with hubby about Olamilekan, that is the young 11-year-old who met with the President of France and drew his portrait in less than two hours.
Well, let me explain. At the Afrika Shrine, where the French President went yesterday, the boy went to work and came out with a perfect portrait of Macron. The President was so thrilled that he said “This is exceptional”.
Let's talk about Olamilekan.
He's from a poor background. Rock bottom background! To most of us who see ourselves as average, Olamilekan sees us as privileged. He's so poor that he said: “In his family, they have to toil and sweat before they can put food on the table.” So he made a portrait showing a young boy with sweat all over him putting food on his table.
Olamilekan was so emotional when he was speaking to BBC about that art work that I could sense the tears in his words. He called it his favourite.
He is barely 11 years and he understands poverty and struggle so much that he could make a picture of it. Then you need to understand where he's coming from.
Secondly, if you saw the house where Olamilekan was interviewed, you will understand his roots — his life and his story.
I was drawn to him when I first saw the interview and downloaded the video to share with my son. You will also agree that I have posted his videos here more than twice. I was touched.
Let me tell you a secret that many people don't know.
You see, Olamilekan has a mother who is futuristic. She understands the dynamics of success. Although poor, she is not blind. Olamilekan said: “When I was six, I started drawing. My mother noticed it and took me to an artist to learn under him.”
First, she understands the place of talent, nurturing, mentoring and hard work. She saw a son who loved to draw decided to NURTURE the TALENT by enrolling him with an artist, who will MENTOR and TRAIN him so that his TALENT can boom.
This attribute that his mother showed is not learnt at Harvard. As a matter of truth, the most sophisticated and learned mothers/fathers don’t have it; they are shallow. They only understand the place of academics so they put their kids in an expensive school and pay for them to do another LESSON during breaks, especially the end-of-session break that is fast approaching and bug their heads with books without any opportunity to nurture the creative in them. Every single soul on earth has a TALENT and for most of them, without proper mentoring, they will miss it.
Another thing is, she understands the role of TALENT before HARD WORK. Let me tell you another story. You remember Olajumoke and ‘Taju goes to School’, right? Well, Olajumoke became famous for photo-bombing a prominent British model’s photo-shoot and fame smiled on her. However, Olajumoke, though hardworking, has a no visible talent that we can pin her to. She is amazing and hardworking but what is her TALENT? What does she have to give to SUSTAIN the FAME?
And you will notice that where Olamilekan was recognized, Olajumoke wasn’t. Olajumoke was popular on Nigerian social media and media stations but Olamilekan got a global recognition with top media stations. One of his videos has over 4.5 million views. I was elated. I was screaming and showing hubby the statistic.
After the BBC Africa interview, BBC International showed him and Aljazeera, not wanting to duplicate BBC’s video, came to interview him too. You can imagine the role of talent. It’s like saying Olajumoke should come back and photo-bomb. It’s simply not achievable. But with talent, you can have a ‘come-back-to’ factor every time.
The Bible says “a man’s gift makes way for him and makes him stand before Kings and not mere men”. And I always tell hubby that TALENT before HARD WORK. It’s when you understand the TALENT you have that you can now put in HARD WORK.
Hard work has it reward and it sometimes comes late but TALENT is a show-stopper. TALENT catapults you into greatness. Talk about Ronaldo or Serana Williams and the many talents around us.
I keep screaming it, parents need to do more. Olamilekan may not be the most brilliant boy in his class. He may not even be going to a private school for all you know, but he has a mother who knows what greatness smells like and I tell you, greatness is not in wealth or in books but in the mental growth of everyone. The day we all realize that we need to first know the talent that God has given us and how to nurture it, that is the day we have stopped EXISTING and have started LIVING.
Olamilekan’s story can never remain the same again. He said: “I want to be like Michelangelo. and I was like ‘Tosin, how did he know this guy?’ Looking at his background, who told him the story of the great artist?
Who are the ones your kids want to be like? Who are the people your kids live up to? Who are they? What story are you relating to them? You think if his mother was telling him about Slay Queen, he will know Michelangelo? What are you saying around your kids?
And summer break is coming, some people are thinking of enrolling their kids in school again. Some are thinking otherwise.
What are you thinking? What on earth are you thinking?
I have said it million times, in 20 years, we are going to see the reward of our investments.
Mide Ayeni is the Founder of Pearl Recycling, a sustainable eco-furniture company in Nigeria. She is a US Department of States Techwomen Fellow.