My father once said that “Wealth is not the number of brick and mortar one owns...”. Yet at the beginning of every new year, people are faced with the FEAR of lack, worries about bills and where the next income will surface...There is a hunger for prosperity and a craving for abundance. Brands are strategising on how to increase sales, up their bottom-lines, acquire property and target new customers or clients. And if you are a single mom like me, you probably have to think about school fees, rent and utility bills of every kind.
To sum it all, acquiring wealth is top of everyone’s new year resolution. Except to many, wealth is the total in their bank statement. It is the cash chilling in their bank accounts. The properties they own or that new flashy acquisition blinging away....If you have enough of it - AWESOME! If you don’t, Ha ha- get ready to feel miserable all year round.
Makes me think of a portion in my upcoming Anthology with 20 other amazing women, titled “I Bared My Chest” where in my own chapter NAKED IS NOT COVERED UP...I also bared my chest about FINANCE, my own intimate struggle with abundance and what wealth really means to me. Please read the excerpts below.
Starting Out Young
I have always known the value of working for my own money and being financially independent. I started working at the age of 11 and have worked ever since, running my mother’s business for 12 years and growing it into a formidable business, creating designs, managing 22 staff all older, and working up new branches - before I decided to go after my own art and chase my own passion.
Of course as an Artiste, the reality starts to hit you, because leaving a steady income to try and build a career as an Actor, can be rather frustrating.
The Actor Knows Where It Pinches
There are no standard monthly incomes. You earn as you work. You don’t’ work, enough, you don’t earn enough…And sometimes, you don’t earn anything because you are just hungry to get your foot in the door, and many filmmakers will take advantage of the hunger, you have to make it, and survive in an industry that doesn’t give a shit about you, just so you can get your face on as many movie posters as you can.
And for some actors, it means “many-a-roles”, but no real income to show for it.
So when I started 11 years ago, I figured I could try a different approach, I wanted the winning prize for a Reality TV Show that showcased an Acting Academy some huge malt brand was creating.
It was going to be the first major reality TV project in Nigeria and I wanted to be part of the maiden edition in 2005. I was bored with my life and needed a getaway.
Let’s just say there’s a lot I could do with the winning prize, 2.5 Million Naira was a big deal eleven years ago. So, I had taken part in the reality tv show, gone past a series of audition, made it to the final 10 Housemates, chosen from over 20,000+ entries nationwide, got Nigerian TV viewers to fall in love with me and received my first big cheque I had ever personally made - for my participation on the show, even though I didn’t win the big prize money…
I got more money than the average actor ever got for their first 5 years in the business (at the time) and I thought I was going to invest that money,. But, instead I blew it. You bet I did.
By the time I was done splitting the money between my mom, my five other siblings, friends and everyone else who reminded me of how they voted for me on the show, nothing was left and those were the first signs of my lack of respect for money.
Of course, that particular instance wasn’t a big deal. Coming from a comfortable family, I always had everything I needed, and was generous to a fault. If you wanted and I had …I gave. That’s me. I don’t think twice about it. I don’t come up with excuses…I just give, but then you start to ask yourself, if that is really wise.
Never having enough money to save for a rainy day, because I was generous to a fault and never needed much as a single lady, until I became a mother…and after my separation from my husband, everything started to change. I had an extra mouth, and a 6 month old baby to feed – all by myself.
Harsh Reality Bites...
I was now mummy and daddy. And I needed to act as such.
Some days I was confident, and other days I am scared shit-less, because I didn’t know what my son, Ray and I would eat or how we would make it through the week.
And even though I had a family not too far away, and a father I could depend on, I was too ashamed to ask. Too ashamed to say to anyone, that I couldn’t even raise my son, by myself, too embarrassed to ask for help or for food.
In fact I would be tempted to ask a stranger I just met, than to ask anyone who knew me well, because I wanted to cover up my shitty excuse for a life. I had made that damned decision to come back home, and I never told anyone what really went wrong.
I never told my family of the incessant emotional and verbal abuse I experienced, or that I had been kicked hard in my stomach only 3 months after having my son through a caesarean section – a pain I beared for 4 years until that area of my abdomen started healing or that there were a few times, I was almost strangled from his road rage or slammed inside our moving car with my 3 months old baby strapped to my chest, or that heavy slap that STAMPED the impression of his five fingers on my face for hours, a shock that broke my reverie, sending me packing to a dingy hotel in the streets of Accra, as I planned how I would make my exit back to Nigeria and pick up the pieces.
I couldn’t tell anyone because, well, I hear many people predicted in the confines of their kitchen table conversation, that our whirl wind romance wouldn’t work, and those who were rooting for us, would have found it difficult to believe the ever smiling ‘supposedly’ calm gorgeous looking man could in fact, become an insecure temperamental man. How would they even believe me?
I also thought of all the nice men who had proposed to me, showed interest in me or promised me the moon and the stars,...I could picture them laughing at me, big time for rejecting them. I had ignored them and married the foreigner – What a shame! But I think on top of it all, was my fear that people will see me as WEAK and as a woman with poor judgement for picking a man who treated me like crap.
So I never said anything, I kept quiet and struggled in silence…I would cry and cry, and eventually sleep in a pool of my own tears.
The Poverty in Silence
No one to talk to, nobody to share my pain with, Even the two or three friends who rallied around me with money for diapers, baby food or just my utility bill – I still imagined them laughing behind my back. I didn’t want to talk and play the victim – but also I imagined that I may end up resolving things with my husband and I wouldn’t want to publicly dent his image and then make up. So I kept quiet.
I was alone. My father didn’t speak to me for the first six months. He was upset that I had moved back to Nigeria and wanted to get a place of my own, without my ‘husband’. I think secretly, he was worried about his image, my image, what extended family would think, what society will say, what the press will conjure.
In truth, I don’t blame him for worrying, no father, and certainly not a man as respected or as famous as mine, wants to be the father of a laughing stock – the father to a young lady who couldn’t keep her marriage. But truth, be told I didn’t care anymore - afterall, I won’t be the first nor the last. And I had to gradually wean myself off those limiting beliefs.
Poverty of The Mind - Limiting Beliefs. Check!
To put it In the African context…Limiting beliefs, dressed in colorful stripes appearing as guilt trips...It’s the part where we play the blame game...and I’m supposed to believe it’s somehow my fault for choosing to move on.
Yup! It may as well be the darn woman’s fault. Aaarggh! Don’t Laugh!
See, men don’t get vilified for being divorced, for having many wives, concubines, side chicks or children the number of a basketball team – but women? (Don’t even think about it)
Whoosh! We catch the blame for almost everything. It’s our fault for not being able to keep his penis in ONLY our panties. (Please, Tell me when you find a woman that super skilled).
It’s our fault he eats outside the home, like there’s some special thing you can do to impress your own values on another human being.
It is our fault we have ambition…And if it is not our fault, oh lordy lord - we MUST have done something so bloody terrible, to make the man want to leave us. Yeaaaah!
I remember someone asking me a few years back “Why isn’t your son’s father contributing, Alex what did you do to him?” Whaaaat? Ha ha! Hilarious! Had it been he wasn’t serious, I would have laughed so hard at how shallow and presumptuous it really was.
Okay, what about him? What didn’t HE do? Yet, I didn’t abandon our child? I took responsibility played my part, both in richness and in penury.
It’s like saying that the relationship I have with my son has to be dependent on the type of relationship I have with his father.
And if his father isn’t actively involved in his life, it’s certainly because I must have done something wrong to him, and not because the man himself might simply be acting a tad irresponsible.
But that is the society we live in. A society that doesn’t think through anything…yet sets all sorts of unrealistic double standards.
As I wallowed in silence, about my financial situation, stuck with my baby…and trying to figure how best to make this situation I never planned for, work.
I didn’t need to say much back then, and I didn’t...at least to my family, because no one ever saw or heard from my ex-husband ever again, and I think his blatant absence and nonchalance laid the foundation for the views many intelligent people now have.
The Right Focus
So while a good lawyer friend of mine, kept advising me to file a legal case and sue the heck out of him, for some good money, he’ll need to work his entire life to provide – I kept telling her and myself ONE naked truth, I wouldn’t need his damn money, If I had mine – and rather than focus my time and energy on ruining him, trying to get money off him, I chose to focus on rebuilding my life, having a career and getting some income so I can provide for my son.
And so I started to rebuild my life. In 2012, I got back on a few television soap operas, I had been filming before I took my hiatus. And started teaching myself new things…I wanted to explore new avenues. Yes, I needed to make a living.
Some days were better than others, some days, l struggled, with turning my FAME into income, perhaps even still struggle with building a dynamic template that replicates the cash stream especially as an Actor in Nigeria. You either had to have another source of income, business or step in to the filmmakers cubicle, because as an actor, you are just a contractor – You are given a role, you get paid, you do it, you get the heck out.
No financial investments there. No creative control. No sales funnel. And it certainly is a structure that is dependent on too many other people which affect your contributions.
You don’t get to work unless there is a production with a part for you… you could be super talented…and still end up a good actor in a bad film. And worst of all, be caught up in another person’s voice, because acting doesn’t exactly represent your own authentic voice.
You could be a leading actress for 20 years and no one could know the real you, trust the real you or build a connection with the real you…because over time they are faced with the ever changing characters you play, or the stereotyped roles the industry has adorned on you. Or just the MONSTER, the media has created out of sensationalising you.
So as much as I love being an actor and being in front of the camera, I knew I was faced with three options.
1) Invest my entire time/life looking for quality roles, the kind of stories I want to tell, at the risk of never working EVER (because good stories are limited),
2) Take up whatever acting gigs I am offered and dilute my brilliance for commercial success,
3) Take a Break and Reinvent myself…
Ha! What do you think? Well, I asked myself the most important question.
What was my real intention, what was my real goal…what is in fact, the big picture?
It started to dawn on me that I only wanted a medium to EXPRESS myself, to communicate with people and influence the world, yes the world, not just my country.
I didn’t want to be that MUTE little girl who only took signs or directives from others. I wanted to IMPACT and Impact loudly with my own authentic voice.
Then, I asked myself, if being an actor alone, was the only way I could achieve that goal and of course I realised it wasn’t. So I decided to start embracing my other gifts & talents I had left dormant – my writing and my speaking…I knew if I wanted to influence people and create impact, I would have to be honest and share the things I had learned the hard way.
After all, you can only sell a product you have in stock. I had gained barrels and barrels of WISDOM – and I could pass it on to others, and maybe…Or maybe not, make some bloody good money in the process. So I took option # 3.
I started journaling my feelings, and that gave birth to my blog, the blog gave birth to the radio podcast, and the radio show to my webinars, book, summit, academy, magazine and more. And as my naked philosophy started catching on and the naked movement growing in to a brand.
I started to realize how big my network had become, here little me – one woman in West Africa, reaching people in the different parts of the world with my blog, book and radio, something I couldn’t do with my acting, I mean what are the chances of a large group of people watching my home-grown soap operas or films at cinemas in China, India or Australasia? Tell me, honestly what are the chances? 0 - 3? 2-5?
Err…Wait! Is that how I intend to impact the world? Really? On a 2-5? Ha!
So I realized the value of technology and bought myself a new mini computer, something I could carry around. And suddenly it dawned on me, how my little Idea-pad had become the best investment I ever made. I joke about it all the time. But the truth is, I can no longer imagine my life without a computer, a phone or the internet.
Everything I do is connected to it. I sit in Africa and I make things happen from here, because technology enables me.
It’s not the most expensive laptop or the most popular brand – It’s a simple Lenovo Dual Mode Touch Screen Note Book, didn’t cost me too much.
It is only 3 times the price of my most expensive french bra (one of those wild unforgiving purchases I made). But somehow, this laptop device puts the roof over my head, food in my mouth and provides me gas money to move my car. I use it to implement my ideas and create the kind of impact some millionaires have never dreamed of…
Yes, having money is good, but it’s not more important than having ideas...Brilliant Ideas, because Ideas create the money, money doesn’t create the ideas…The day I realised this, my hard core fixation on monetary wealth changed. Because I discovered I had a new kind of POWER - the power of media in my hands, the power to influence change, and shape the thoughts of others as I spread whatever good message I want…I started to understand how wealthy I had suddenly become, to have such freedom, such power.
In the past for you to own a radio show, TV station, newspaper or print publishing of any kind, you had to be a powerful INSTITUTION, but with the advent of new media, I had suddenly become a powerhouse influencer.
This little investment in a piece of technology – my laptop and mobile phone, have helped me write my blogs, connect with my show guests, host coaching classes, meet new people, communicate with people and brands around the world, build a virtual community, new relationships and gain access to illimitable resources I would have otherwise, paid for.
Having it made me realise, that WEALTH is not really the amount of money sitting in our back accounts - It’s actually the accumulation of goodwill, the value of our network, our investment in people…the people we know, that know us and can make something happen for us.
And when I woke up one fine morning to the prospect of a major book collaboration with a good friend of mine Frankie Picasso all the way in Canada, or to have my good friend Maxwell Ivey in Texas, continually recommend me as a guest for top radio shows around the world (a service that costs others hundreds of dollars every month), or to see photos of myself and my virtual summit speakers sprawled up on a huge billboard on the 42nd street in the heart of New York Times Square in USA, a surprise by one of my friends and New Media Queen, Madison Jaye…Just knowing I didn’t pay for it, I didn’t solicit for it. I didn’t even know I could be in Africa and have my billboard in a big commercial city like New York…far away in another continent. Or when a respected lawyer friend of mine, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) offers to handle the legal framework for my trademark and registration of my new media company all for FREE – It reiterates that popular saying “Your Network is Your Net Worth.” And that for me is true wealth.
Today, when I look at how much investment I have made in people and how much goodwill, I have acquired over the years. It is worth more than any money in the bank. It is the kind of genuine wealth i now strive for - because the goodwill that comes from building the right kind of valuable relationships and investing your own skills and resources in others - is the kind of wealth that doesn’t deplete. So while others are fretting about the new year and cracking their brains on how to create new incomes streams. I am NOT afraid, because I have sowed enough good seeds, waiting to germinate so I can reap
What about you? What relationship investments are you making today? What does wealth mean to you? Feel free to share your thoughts with me. I’m curious to find out!
For more on the book “I BARED MY CHEST” feel free to click HERE and LISTEN to my recent Interview with my co-mastermind, Frankie Picasso on “Can We Talk” with host Myra Mcknight of Source Radio Network in the USA.
Stay Authentic & Keep Winning!
NOTE: Culled from Chapter 2: NAKED IS NOT COVERED UP by Alex Okoroji in the Soon-To-Be-Released Anthology I BARED MY CHEST: 21 Unstoppable Women Dig For Bold & Bravely Share Their NAKED Truth and currently “re-purposed” for her HUFFINGTON NAKED SERIES (HNS).
P.S : Join Me In My Effort To Change The World With My Empowering Thoughts. If You Like Today’s ‘NAKED SERIES’....Don’t Forget To Leave a Comment and Share This Article With Those You Love (Or Even Like A Lot).