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THE COURAGE TO LEAD

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On December 21, 1620, the voyaging Mayflower dropped anchor in Plymouth Bay, with Captain Christopher Jones, at her helm. It had been a gruelling voyage, taking the 120-ton capacity ship 66 days to make the perilous crossing. There had been diseases, anxiety and childbirth among the 102 courageous passengers.
Furthermore, they arrived on the black New England shore during a hard winter, which ultimately claimed half of their number. However, when spring came and the Captain of the Mayflower offered free passage to anyone desiring to return, not a single person accepted. According to Alfieri, “Often times the test of courage becomes rather to live than to die.” Like the fabled courageous 300 Spartan soldiers who defended Sparta at the battle of Thermophylae; knowing full well that they will all die, they took a decision not to retreat until the last blood is shed, and they wrote their epitaph in advance: “Stranger, go tell Spartans that here we lie still obeying their orders.”
Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise was asked to address an anti-Nazi meeting in Brooklyn. As a result of his acceptance, he received a number of threatening letters. Some of the writers told him he would be killed if he addressed the rally. When the day finally came, Wise mounted the podium and said this: “I have been warned to stay away from this meeting or be killed. If anyone is going to shoot me, let him do it now. I have to be interrupted.”
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Her challenge came when the company she had served meritoriously for 11 years told her she would be replaced immediately; thence, she embarked on an imminent maternity break. For a woman who had  her first baby, she knew her priority too well and offered to resign.  But unknown to her was the fact that God had a hand in it to launch her into a new phase of destiny – entrepreneurship.
From being a mother and out of job, she began packaging a few businesses with a monthly allowance for her husband, Folu Ayeni, who she confesses is the driving force behind the organization’s wheels. Then, she discovered an opening in the fast food business. As she puts it, “It was a meeting of interest and opportunity.” In venturing into the fast food business, she wanted to run a small business that could provide service, pay her salary, her driver’s and get on with life. But her husband, ever the motivator, came in and showed her the big picture, urging her to dare to dream big and play big. Thus her dream of operating a fast food outfit was born.
It did not, however, take off on an easy note as the banks they approached for funding all said, “Sorry, we don’t finance start ups.” It took a friend who gave them a personal loan of N2million to get it started. She still maintains that she would have started anyway if the assistance hadn’t come, but “it would have been more painful”, she adds.
Today, banks are doing everything possible to get the accounts of Tantalizers (with a powerful Unique Selling Proposition ‘USP’every bite, a promise kept) with more than 10 outlets and staff strength of over 1000. Her name? Bose Ayeni.
Douglas Macarthur once observed, “Last, but by no means least, courage – moral courage, the courage of one’s convictions, the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It’s the age – old struggle – the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other.”
When he wanted to launch a 24-hour radio station, many people said, “that is crazy, how will a radio station work for 24 hours, who will be listening to it at midnight? “Today, many radio stations in the country have followed the example set by Ray Power FM.
As if that was not enough, he announced that he would launch a 24-hour service television station. People laughed at him and asked, “How is that possible? Does he think that it’s a radio station?” He rejected their rejection because he believed strongly in his dream and went ahead to launch a 24-hour ‘Africa Independent Television (AIT).’ Just recently, AIT was launched in the United States of America by President Obasanjo. His name? Raymond Dokpesi.
Sidney Smith said, “A great deal of talent is lost in the world for want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves obscure men whom timidity prevented from making a first effort: who, if they could have been induced to begin, would in all probability have gone great lengths.”
He is a man whose name may not ring a bell instantly, but his accomplishment cannot be ignored. He rose to the peak of his career in the financial sector of the economy. He resigned as the Deputy Managing Director of Citi Trust Merchant Bank and started his own financial outfit, Devserve Financial and Security Limited, that later became a holding company for several other companies, including a Mortgage Bank, Devserve Home Savings and Loans Limited.
However, a few years after, he was caught in the crisis that rocked the financial sector of the nation. The Mortgage Bank and the finance house were shut down. Consequently, he became a regular visitor to various police stations. While his creditors besieged his house like a swarm of bees every day, all his friends abandoned him. He sold his houses to offset the debts. He sold his household belongings, but he still couldn’t meet up: feeding his wife and eight children was a major problem, they could hardly eat.
He was subjected to all forms of harassment and humiliation from his creditors and uniformed men, including police officers, soldiers, naval men, presidential task force on financial malpractice, touts, etc. He lost his reputation that had taken him several years to build, he lost his houses and became a tenant. He practically lost everything, apart from his intrinsic values like fortitude, perseverance, hope, etc. However, he never gave up. He sought help from all the wrong places out of desperation, but was continually disappointed.
In the year 2000, after six years of untold hardship, without a bank account anywhere, without a car, or a personal office, two banks decided to give him an N850 million loan to finance a real estate project. Today, Goshen Beach Estate, Victory Estate and the Beautiful Gate Estate, three sites developed by Grant Properties Limited, Lagos, to house Nigerian staff of US Embassy and others, stand as a result of rejecting all the rejections that came his way.
The estate is said to be Nigeria’s premier private estate, and two other estates, both more than twice the size of Goshen, are in progress. His name? Rev. (Dr.) Olajide Awosede.
Oliver J. Hart once prayed “Give us the fortitude to endure the things which cannot be changed, and the courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to know one from the other.”
Courage means taking risks. It means letting go of the status quo and striving to create something that different parts of your psyche may doubt. It means facing hardship, ridicule, embarrassment, possibly failure, and, worst of all, your own internal criticism. Mark Twain observed, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
We face great pressure to conform to established norms. Often, we are threatened, shamed, or punished for defying conventional viewpoint whenever we avoid confronting painful situations or problems; we inflict damage on our souls and compromise our integrity. Erica Jong remarked, “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”
Courageous actions require full commitment of time, energy, effort, and the willingness to risk your ego. Until we act on what we believe and know, and express what is in our hearts, we merely observe life instead of living it. The courage to act is the mark of wholehearted living, and it forms a profound relationship with the soul.
Success is never final and failure never fatal, it’s courage that counts. Remember that!
Shalom!

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