In an era where there is a lot of misplaced identity, especially within the youth, Damilola Oluwatoyinbo is in a league of his own.  Intelligent, daring, and versatile, this young and upcoming author/motivational speaker is already making waves and impacting his generation.  In this interview with connectnigeria Damilola, amongst other issues, explains some of the problems encountered by our modern-day youths and ways to overcome identity problems. CN:  Can you tell us how you got started? Damilola:  You know, someone asked me that question earlier today and I said I’ve not even started (laughs).  I’m still rehearsing; I’m still learning the ropes, as it were.  But I think that many of the things that we attribute as factors of our success stem from things that we picked up as young people, as kids—our passion, our desire.  I usually tell people that there were three major things I wanted to do when I grew up.  I wanted to be a soldier, I wanted to be a chief, and I wanted to be a pastor.  Interestingly I thought I had to study, you know, go through school, get a degree, and then say, “Oh, you’re now a soldier that’s your first degree”. Then after my second degree I’d become a pastor.  What I understand now is that when I said I wanted to be a soldier I meant that there was an inner desire for me to champion a cause, to initiate a revolution, to spark a change, to make a difference.  And when said I wanted to be a pastor, I wanted to help people get to know God a lot more, engage them spiritually, provide support, succour, and guidance.  Right from my childhood I’d started thinking, I’d started helping people, I’d started speaking—reciting poetry, casting the school news, and engaging in debates.  Somehow things have happened in such a way that more doors of opportunities have opened up.  One thing has led to another and here we are today. CN:  Interesting.  I believe that even if you’re not a soldier in the military, you are a soldier of Christ.  What has been your inspiration doing all of these? Damilola:  My inspiration is God and that’s the truth of the matter.  I believe that there is nothing you have and there is nothing you can get outside of God.  Some may say, “It’s because I’m intelligent” but where do you get intelligence from?  Others say, “It’s because I have a wealthy background” but how did you choose your background?  It’s entirely God and I believe that God is not some mystical being who doesn’t have a connection with human beings; I believe that He inspires us through different people.  He inspires us through mentors.  I usually say that if all you needed was God, then you should have “Godtors” and not mentors.  You really can’t fulfill a mandate without having a man who gives you a date.  So God inspires us through people.  Look at people who have come ahead of me, some of them are dead. Like the great Martin Luther King Jr.—he’s a strong channel of inspiration for me.  Look at the way he was able to create a revolution, start something fresh in America.  People like Barack Obama still lighten up the waves with his inspirational speeches.  And I can’t fail to mention Pastor Paul Adefarasin who is my spiritual shepherd and my life coach.  My parents are there as well—huge hands of support and encouragement. There are other people who inspire me through their work, people like John Maxwell and Max Lucado.  I read their books and I draw a lot of wisdom from what they have to say. CN:  Very recently you were on the Moments with Mo show where you spoke a lot about leadership, transformational leadership particularly. What impact are you looking at creating especially for the youths? You’re still quite a young man. Damilola:  (Laughs) I like to believe that I’m still young but we’re all growing by the day.  The interesting thing is that leadership has been such a theoretical concept to us, especially in this part of the world, parts of Africa and Nigeria specifically.  We just talk about “leadership”.  I define leadership as a process of developing and influencing people, to achieve a pre-determined objective.  This means that you can’t really talk about leadership except you have vision and a sense of direction and a commitment to develop people who will help accomplish that vision.  Now, we’re talking about impact.  One of my major beliefs in life is that you can never have national reformation until you have personal transformation.  So if we’re dealing with reformation and national skills, continental skills, and global skills, it starts with us as individuals.  A couple of things that I do regularly are to invest in people, teach, coach, train, and organize workshop.  Some of them are paid but many of them are free—that’s my own commitment to my generation, my commitment to the people I have a connection with, the people I have a responsibility for.  I write articles on my website.  I strongly believe that it starts from a personal perspective. Here’s the deal: if I can’t influence anybody personally it will be extremely difficult for me to strongly influence people if I have a political title, if I have a political platform, so it starts with the individual. The areas where I have immediate influence and an opportunity to impact: that is my title, my platform, and my political party.  It might start out as insignificant but when you keep it up, it’s like dropping a pebble in the middle of a stream.  Originally, it looks like you’re doing nothing but, if you watch closely, you’ll see that the ripples will reach the banks, and that’s where it starts.  It’s the ripple effect.  You start with one thing and you get the chain effect. That’s what I’m working on. CN:  Good stuff.  Just listening to you reminds me of Mr. Fela Durotoye.  He’s one very, very reputable leader who has trained several people in all strata.  What do you make of it and is he the model leader you’re looking up to and the one who youths should also look up to? Damilola:  I strongly believe that Fela Durotoye embodies many of the values and attributes that many of our leaders need to imbibe and reproduce.  I’m talking about integrity, vision, purpose, passion, personal productivity, and inspiration.  Those are subliminal but highly important imperatives when it comes to leadership.  He’s a role model and I dare say he’s one of the few role models we have in Nigeria. The truth of the matter is that people become what they see.  I believe he exemplifies many of the attributes that young people need to imbibe.  It’s unfortunate that we have very few people like that.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t have many political leaders who have taken up responsibility regardless of the resources they have.  It’s unfortunate that individuals now have to go the extra mile and work against a system that does not support it.  I applaud and celebrate him and, as I grow, I’ll like to be like him. CN:  Now let’s talk about your participation at the debaters last year.  Should I say it was unfortunate?  Did the experience change anything about you, during the show and afterwards? Damilola:  Definitely.  I usually tell people that those three months were some of the greatest months I’ve ever lived.  The opportunity to pawn my skills, develop myself, and network on a greater scale; to reach in deep and perfect my oratory skills professionally and, also, the opportunity to impact millions of people.  Viewership was estimated at between five- to ten million people.  That was a massive platform in terms of exposure, experience and opportunity.  We had coaches teaching different parts of oratory, debate, and persuasion.  These are things that you can use in any sphere of influence: leadership, governance, business, politics, and finance.  It was a wonderful time and then it also gave me the opportunity to study.  If you speak often the tendency is that you hardly have time to catch your breath and to prepare high-quality content to feed your audience.  Within those three months we were not allowed to go anywhere except remain at the academy and research at British Council.  It was a time when I had the privilege of getting more information from different fields.  In life it’s not just about what you get out of a competition but what the competition brings out of you.  What you bring out of it can be taken away from you but who you become through it is something that you’ll always live to remember and that was a wonderful experience for me, regardless of the eventual outcome. CN:  I’ve got your book, and it’s quite inspiring.  There’s this quote that got my attention, it says, “Faultfinders are never Pathfinders; Blame Shifters are never World Changers”.  Could you comment on it? Damilola:  That’s a guiding principle for those who are going to be super-achievers.  In life you’ve got to find something but it’s your responsibility to determine whether you’re going to find a fault or a path.  To find a fault is to say what most people say:  “Oh, this is not working”, “There’s corruption in Nigeria”, “PHCN is not working” and all that.  Everybody knows. The question is what are you going to do? Do you engage your mental faculty in playing the blame game—which happens to be the only game in the world in which nobody wins, everybody loses—or are you going to try to look for solutions?  Play your own part.  What solutions can you provide?  Even if you’re not in the position to deal with it decisively, there must be something you can do and steps you can take to make things work.  Here’s the interesting thing: it takes just as much creativity and energy to find a path as it does to find a fault.  So, rather than pointing fingers, why not point out the right way; rather than cursing the darkness, why not turn on the lights; and rather than blaming the odour, why not spray some odour neutralizer. CN:  For those interested in the book, it’s titled ‘Just Do It’.   It’s a really fascinating book.  How can those who are interested get it? Damilola:  The first thing you need to do is go to my website,  Second, leave your name and email address and you’ll have a complimentary electronic version.  You’ll also be sent updates and given a number of addresses where you can pick up a copy.  Apart from that, you can find it on this fantastic platform,  It’s one of the most brilliant portals Africa has ever witnessed.  It is Nigeria at your finger tips, and anything that is in this nation you can find on this portal. CN:  We’ve been talking about inspiration; a lot of people will want to know how you started.  Tell us a bit about your background. Damilola:   I believe that every global leader is first of all a local follower.  Before the great opportunities came there was actually a lot of background work, starting from the family.  My parents are fantastic leaders (in church and in their work place) and they were able to teach us those basic rudiments of leadership—honesty, integrity, vision, drive, motivation, communication, and team work in various subliminal ways at home.  I think that my first opportunity to lead was when I became the class captain in primary three or four.  Later I became the Timekeeper and I was also a prefect in my secondary school.  I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos.  I was speaking to someone a couple of days ago, a lady from Malawi who contacted me on Facebook.  She watched the Moments with Mo show and she was surprised when I told her I studied Chemical Engineering.  Interestingly, two months ago I was speaking with some other lady who runs a fashion outfit and I was talking to her about online strategies she could employ to get good exposure for her business and she said, “I can’t believe it, I thought you studied Engineering” and I said, “Yes, I did” and she said she didn’t know half of what I was talking about.  There is a difference between formal and self education.  Formal education may give you a living but self education will give you a life.  There’s a disconnection from what I studied theoretically and what I’m actually using practically.  However, studying Chemical Engineering helped me to reach in deep and to engage my mental prowess; to think theoretically and to analyze and see things from an empirical perspective.  I didn’t study Inspirational Leadership (laughs), like I mentioned earlier, I’m a student of life.  I learn from everybody.  From many people I learn what to do but from most people I learn what to never do.  And when you have both streams of knowledge, you have a formidable balance in life and you are able to go lot further without making a lot of mistakes. CN:  Just listening to you, I’m thinking.  You could be working in the Oil and Gas sector with what you studied.  The reason we have people sticking to a particular field, and getting stuck with it in the process…could it be the educational system didn’t prepare them very well?  Or is it because of parental influence of some sort?  If you think so what steps do you think can be taken in order for the individual to come into their own and do something great in life? Damilola:  That’s a fantastic question. One of my key areas, especially when I speak to young people. You have individuals who go through education in Nigeria spending six years for a four-year course.  There are many factors that contribute to it but one of the key factors is identity crisis.  Most people don’t know who they are, what they have, or what they can deliver because the system does not encourage self development.  People should know what is their potential, what is their purpose, how should I prepare myself to perform ultimately because, in life, it’s not just about your potential but your preparation.  I tell people that potential is over-rated and preparation is under-rated.  Now someone who has average potential and extra-ordinary preparation would over perform someone who has massive potential and poor preparation.  People need to be encouraged to discover who they are.  It’s often better to follow a career that fits into ones skills.  In my own case, I wanted to study Architecture but my parents said I should study Chemical Engineering.  Incidentally, I discovered that my greater passion was actually to speak.  God has structured the world in a way that if you put your mind on one thing you’ll begin to see opportunities for expression. It may not start out very easy at first but the more you do it, if you persist, you will see what you couldn’t see—persistence always overcomes.  I challenge everybody to take an inventory of their skills, something they enjoy doing without too much stress, irrespective of the monetary aspect.  Life is not measured by duration but by donation and it’s better to be deep at one thing than to be wide at so many things.  I feel that if we do that, we can now say, “study Medicine” or “study Law” or “study Whatever”.  I think America is one of the wealthiest countries, irrespective of the current economic crisis.  I think they have a massive reservoir of wealth in terms of the human capital.  The fact that one can stand out there and do well as a basketball player, a musician, a graphic designer…there’s a lot of premium placed on your natural talent. Your formal education is important but secondary, because your education is tied to a curriculum, a life span.  The world is progressing and when you develop yourself, you gain a high level of confidence and you can become the best at what you do.  It’s better to be the best at a little known field than mediocre at a well known field; the world would always reward distinction and excellence.  A Nobel Prize is a Nobel Prize—whether it’s for peace or paw-paw peeling!  The world will always celebrate the best! C N:  Do you have any advice for young ones who’ve read your books, those who look up to you, who want to become motivational speakers, who want to change Nigeria and the world? Damilola:  A few major things.  The first thing is the principle I picked up from Anthony Robins book ‘The Lurking Giant Within You’.  I read that book about ten years ago.  One of the things that struck me was CNI: Constant and Never-ending Improvement.  The principle is this, no matter how good something is now, you can improve upon it; no matter how big it is now, you can add another mound to it; and no matter how sophisticated or swag it seems, it can be improved upon.  We live in an environment which celebrates mediocrity, which enthrones comfort and forgets about conquest.  The average person just wants to have enough money to travel out twice a year, buy five cars, live in a four-bedroom mansion with a swimming pool and that’s the end of it.  But, there’s a greater donation to that, which means I want to move from a level of personal comfort to a place of global significance and the only way I can make that transition very smoothly is when I embrace the principle of CNI.  I can improve on my grades; I can improve on my diction, on my outlook to life, on my business and on anything at all.  It all depends on me.  The principle shifts from ‘what’s going to be will be’ to ‘what will be is up to me’.  I take personal responsibility for the outcome of my life.  The second thing is that you will remain where you are except for two things—your associations and your information.  And both of them have a synergetic relationship.  In other words, your association influences the amount of information you have access to, and the information you have has an impact on your associations.  Who you know affects what you know and sometimes what you know will affect who you know.  By associations, it’s not just who you know but who knows you.  So, the information you have, the books you read, the websites you visit, they matter. I’m a web junkie; I’m always online because I want to know what’s happening now and what will happen next.  They say, “The smartest players don’t go where the ball is, they go where the ball is going”.  Information positions you for the future and your associations will help you optimize the benefits of the information you have, because sometimes you know where the door is but you need to know who keeps the door, who knows the combination of the lock on the door.  Go out of your way, use Facebook for more than just gossip; build long term strategic relationships that will affect you, not just in the next ten minutes, in the next ten years.  Information is very important because you can read in forty five minutes what would change your life in forty five years.  It’s important for us to be selective with our information, it is the food for the mind and you need to have good food that will nourish the body.  You need information that will nourish your soul. If you can build the right association and embrace the right information then the world is your stage. CN:  I know you’re a very busy person and you’ve spoken a lot about what you do. How do you go about your daily routine? Damilola:  The exciting thing is that it changes often; it depends on where I am.  However, I don’t sleep early especially when I want to write or think or plan or pray.  If I sleep by 12 midnight, that’s very early for me.  Most of the time, I sleep by 3:00 a.m. and wake up by 7.30 a.m.  When I wake up, I go into coaching, sometimes group coaching, sometimes one on one.  Though there are few things I don’t joke with, like my personal meditation on the scripture.  I try to update my blog, send a message broadcast to my personal email list, get in touch with a few clients, and do a bit of information marketing via the internet. These are things I do on a daily basis. The timing can change based on where I am. CN:  This is a very personal question.  How old are you? Damilola: (Laughs) I’m too old to be young and too young to be old.  I’m in my twenties. CN:  How would you like to be remembered? Damilola:  That’s a fantastic one, I’ll like to be remembered as the person who poured himself into others, who emptied himself into others for the sake of God’s kingdom. CN:  What is your favourite quote? Damilola:  I’m not sure that I have a favourite quote but what comes to mind at this time is: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, might and soul.  The sum total of the entire universe is Love.  It is the greatest force; the Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins”.  It says, “Love is kind, it is gentle, it is not proud”.  Anything that causes trouble does not stem out of love and anything that will bring an end to trouble is something that stems out of love.  If you can love a God you can’t see, then it’s easier to love people and even faith works by love. CN:  It’s truly inspiring being with you. Damilola: It’s wonderful to know.    You can get Damilola Oluwatoyinbo’s book, as earlier mentioned, on his website at also here on  Watch out for soon-coming inspirational and motivational articles by Damilola on this website.

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This article was first published on 27th June 2011 and updated on June 30th, 2012 at 7:07 am

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