If you run a google search for “Salary is the bribe quotes”, you will get about 33,600 results in 0.33seconds.
Salary is the bribe the employers pay you to forget your dreams.
For years, I listened to motivational speaker after motivational speaker vilifying employers and their establishment and painting career employees as spineless individuals who are unable to take risks. I started out always wanting to be an entrepreneur but for some strange reason, I just found myself progressing in my career. Some people say its my attitude to work, some say it’s the can- do spirit but the more I moved up in my career, the more I wanted to leave to run my own thing. I was finally able to transition in 2020.
These days, when I meet former colleagues, the conversation is mostly about how they would love to be in my shoes, about how they want to quit their 9 to 5 and transit to entrepreneurship like me and how their job has held them back from accomplishing their dreams.
Well, this was me back in the day so its OK
But if you are reading this write up and wallowing in self pity about how your job is holding you back, please STOP IT! Do not let anybody make you feel like a second-class citizen just because you chose a career path or to serve someone else. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel like you are wasting your time.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in entrepreneurship and setting up, running and owning a business as the natural progression after a career as an employee but I do not think that a 9 to 5 is a deterrent to achieving your goals.
I do not believe that a Salary is the bribe that they pay you to forget your dreams. On the contrary, if you play your cards right, you should be grateful to your employer for a tuition free MBA and an allowance while you are at it.
Okay that may be going too far but hear me out
When I resumed at Stanbic IBTC in January 2014 as Corporate Communication Manager, I didn’t know what to expect. I had been told that Stanbic was not like other Nigerian banks and that the culture was a healthy one – and indeed it is but coming from my previous life as Public Relations Manager, Samsung West Africa where I would travel to CapeTown together with my MD Brovo Kim, and Management team for a phone launch and we would party together to “Uber gangnam style” all night to a commercial banking environment was a huge culture shock. I struggled to adjust. The decision-making process, the size and complexity of banking operations was on a different scale. In Samsung there was Mobile, IT and Electronics – Stanbic IBTC on the other hand, had 11 subsidiaries, each with its Chief Exec and Management team and numerous departments in addition to shared services in Nigeria. This is asides the matrix system and manager that one had to contend with from South Africa. I struggled to connect the moving parts but could not and it showed in my performance.
Then in 2015, the organization decided to upgrade its core banking software (I forget the version now) but it was a big deal. An enterprise-wide project that had people seconded from different parts of the business as this core banking software was the backbone of the bank’s operations. It was like the nervous system of the bank.
I was seconded to this project as communication lead.
I felt like an outcast. The project was a make-or-break one. If successful, we would be heroes. If it failed, heads will roll.
I resumed at the project office with mixed feelings but when it we launched the project officially under the leadership of one of the most amazing leaders I have ever met – Wole Adeniyi, I started to meet and make friends with great minds like Wole Adesiyan, Ruby Onwudiwe, Ehia Erhanor, Solomon Ayodele, Cletus Imimion, Vivian Aigbe, Tunde Majiyagbe, Odinaka Ikejigbe, Victor Adewusi and a host of other great personalities from different parts of the organization.
Being at the centre of project communication allowed me to meet with and rub minds people with and understand how the different moving parts of the project and by extension, the organization worked. My friends from the project were always happy to answer questions on the organization from operations to risk to audit to sales to finance to admin to innovation to financial control to investor relations.
In the end, the project was hugely successful. We all got recognitions and I was promoted but best of all was the priceless opportunity to understand systems and make lifelong friends. One way or the other, these learnings became useful in setting up and running Friska.
The opportunity to learn how a system works is one lesson that every employee should be grateful to their employer for. The opportunity is there but most employees will not take it. They will rather do their work and go home. I have seen many talented people focus on only their role because they do not want to do more than they are paid. In their selfishness they lose the priceless opportunity to understand how a system works.
A study of some of the most successful individuals showed that they all had this skill in common -the ability to detect, understand and replicate patterns. But they only truly became successful when they were able to create systems that automated this process.
Systems run everything
Human beings are made up of systems
The earth is made up of systems
A system is what differentiates a roadside shoe maker and the owner of a shoe making company. The same output but different levels of operation.
The ability to detect patterns, understand them and build systems that create them is the bedrock of any great organization. You can learn how to build systems from the best business schools but you will never really get it first-hand if you don’t immerse yourself in a working system.
Dear 9 to 5er. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and blaming your job for holding you back from your dreams of becoming the next Elon Musk. Focus on understanding the systems that run that organization.
Make friends across departments. Ask questions
Understand how Admin, Operations and Sales work together to deliver value to the customer. If you are able to understand this and apply it to any side hussle that you decide to pursue, you will one day feel guilty for ever collecting a salary from that employer.