Day #803:How to Become Indispensable

My mother worked in NITEL, the Nigerian telecommunications company. At it’s best, it was one of the best places to work in Nigeria. The incentives and perks were lavish and generous: good salary package, health insurance for you and your family when most Nigerians did not have insurance coverage.Getting to work for NITEL back then was almost equal to working for Google in today’s world. People who worked there believed they had their future and their family’s guaranteed.

Suddenly, things changed. The Nigerian government introduced the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) into Nigeria in 2011. NITEL, the company that had monopoly over telecommunications in Nigeria suddenly found competition with more agile companies like MTN, Globacom, Etisalat, etc. Because of NITEL’s arrogance and lack of preparation, the company became insignificant. The company suffered from mismanagement, ignorance, corruption, failure to anticipate and prepare for the future and soon, it had to close down. My mother and thousands of her colleagues who had dedicated years to the company were suddenly left with nothing. They got paid gratiuties of course but that was nothing. Most of those people could not find other jobs because most of the skills they had while working for NITEL were non transferable skills. More importantly, never thought one day, the ground would give way beneath them. They failed to anticipate and prepare for the future just like their company.

These people had done nothing wrong, they followed the instructions, went to school, paid attention, studied diligently, got the job, showed up everyday and gave their share of hard work from 9-5 everyday. They had insurance and pensions and they relied on the promises made by the system.

This System is Broken
Most people I know today are following the same pattern, and might fall in the same trap my mother and her friends fell into. We are doing what our parents, teachers, religious leaders are telling us, ‘go to school, study hard, get a good job and your future is guaranteed because your job is secure’. This system is broken. This worked in the past 50 years but it’s not working anymore. There are more people to jobs and high unemployment rate. And technology is making sure what was once done by 4 people can be automated and done by just one person. Soon your job is going to be done by a robot or out sourced to someone who could do it 10 times faster with a quarter of the salary. Already, there are robots performing complicated surgeries on humans. If they can do that, how much more the spreadsheet you work on every day at that job of yours.

The point is not to scare you or create a picture of gloom, this is just showing the facts. There are no guaranteed jobs you can do for 30 years anymore. Job security doesn’t exist anymore. The notion that if I just show up, work hard and do my work, I will be fine, is not a guarantee anymore.

One morning, a lot of people working in banks had their jobs taken away after the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced a new recapitalization rate for banks. Most of those people who had to lose their jobs were good people and they were probably diligent at their jobs. That was not good enough. Today, being good enough, is no longer good enough. To survive and succeed in this ever challenging work place, you need more than a few certifications and showing up diligently to do whats on the job description. You need to approach your life as a Start up. A company run with investors and customers who are waiting for you to deliver value.

So what should you do?

The first step is the time tested career advise given by Jim Rhon:
“Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job”

Most people spend hours everyday working on their jobs so they can get 5% increase in salary after they get promoted at the end of 12 months of hard work. But they never work on themselves. So when the job leaves them, they are home and dry and have to start all over. How do you work on yourself?

1.Learn. Study to improve not just for the paper: There’s never been a time when learning a new skill is as easy at now. With the internet, you can learn anything from complicated spread sheets and formulas to coding, writing, painting, training or developing marketing strategy. The following companies offer top quality accessible ways of learning something new. What you need is a plan. Set aside 1 hour everyday to learn something new.
Check out:

Cousera: Coursera offers you course from some of the best universities in the world for free. It has a payment option if you want the certificate. Now you have no excuse to say you didn’t learn because you didn’t have access to top quality education.
Code Academy: Coding is one of most essential skills in today’s world and would even become more relevant in the coming decade. Being able to code will soon be akin to being able to type 20 years ago.
Udemy: Udemy offers course in different areas of life to learn any skill you have been thinking of learning.Perhaps it’s how to write better, or improve your knowledge of Project Management. You will find courses there that would greatly help you.
Khan Academy: Khan Academy started as an idea by Salman Khan to teach his cousins in India maths through Youtube videos. Today, it’s one of the bst places to improve your maths skills. Bill Gates’ makes his kids learn math by watching videos from Khan Academy.
TED: is collection of some of the most intriguing ideas shared by some of the most brilliant minds in our generation. It’s a great place to learn something new everyday.

These are my favorites, you can learn more by doing a search online by yourself to fine something you want to learn. No matter what it is you want to learn, someone already has some youtube video done on it. Find it.

2. Read: I have people say,’ I don’t like reading’. What a shame. Given that you can read. Having the ability to read but saying; ‘I don’t like to read’ is like having legs to walk and sitting in one spot. Soon, you will never be able to use your legs. Reading is like food and exercise for the brain. When you refuse to feed your brain, the neural pathways diminish and the muscles atrophy.

Most people hated school, so their brain links reading to school and thats not interesting. Reading,getting an education and going to school are not the same. We all know a lot of people who spent years in school but are not educated.

Reading is one of the most fundamental ways of developing the mind. It is akin to sitting with someone and having an opportunity to pick their brain. Can you imagine how glorious it is, to be able to have a conversation with Aristotle, Plato or get into the mind of Marcus Aurelius one of the greatest Emperors who ever lived by just reading his ‘Meditation’? There is no short cut to success. If you want to succeed, you have to read. If you don’t want to read, you are not ready. And it doesn’t have to be so complicated. You can spend the one hour you use scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, to read something new even if just 20 pages on your phone. There are ebook reading Apps like Aldiko you can have on your Android phone and read any book you want when you want.

This article is part of a weekly newsletter to a group of friends. If you will like to get signed on, send me an email to with subject- ‘Add Me to #DesignYourLife Newsletter

One thought on “Day #803:How to Become Indispensable

  1. Great write up. While the point isn’t nitel’s fall, the introduction of gsm was due to nitel’s fall, not the cause of it. Nitel was doing bad all by itself, as we say, before gsm was introduced around 2000/2001, not 2011 😉


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