Life Lessons-Abimbola Olashore

Prince Abimbola Olashore was among the over 90 bank Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) that got removed from the financial services industry landscape, by the guided tsunami championed by Prof. Charles Soludo, a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Only a handful of those displaced banks’ chief executives have been able to re-navigate their way back into the system.

Olashore is among the lucky few. He has creatively leveraged the ashes of the misfortunes that have terminated the otherwise thriving careers and ambitions of many, to create another thriving financial institution (Lead Capital). He has also transformed himself into an educational reformer, stretching the legacy of his late father to unimaginable heights.

I spent a night with Olashore in Iloko-Ijesa, in Osun State, which has been turned into a tourist centre that houses a first-class secondary school, Olashore International School, a five-star guest house, a classy golf course under construction, and many other world-class facilities.

Olashore is in high demand in the speaking circles. When I asked him during this interview in his Victoria Island Lagos office what he was up to next, here is what he said: “From now on, I want to be doing what I consider very close to my heart: helping organisations to solve one of the major challenges bedeviling corporations, especially in Nigeria, which is how to implement their strategic plans.” He is offering that service which he considers giving back to society through Lead Advisory Partners Limited, his latest firm.

Enjoy his insights.

Lesson 1
Go with your instincts.
There is so much noise around that you sometimes question if your instincts are telling you the right thing. Therefore, as a person you have to follow your instincts. You must be very clear as to what you want to do. I will tell you why I chose that as number one. When I was in St. Gregory’s College for my secondary school, I was very good at Mathematics and Sciences, and the assumption then was I would either become a doctor or an engineer. Once you are good at Literature and Arts, it is assumed that you are going to become a lawyer. I didn’t like Biology so being a doctor was out of it for me. And everybody will naturally guide you, if you are good at Chemistry, Physics, go and become an engineer. I filled in a JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board) admission form; I was barely 15 when I first applied through JAMB for a place in University. My first choice was engineering and second choice was Accountancy. My parents looked at me and said you must be a confused man, how do you combine the two as Accountancy was not seen as science based course to study. I was admitted into the University of Ilorin to study Engineering. My parents said, you are still too young and not sure what you want to study. Go and do A-Levels. The following year, I came back and applied through JAMB again, I then turned it around, first choice: Accountancy; second choice: Engineering. My father said, I can see you are still confused, go and continue your A-Levels. Eventually, I was admitted to study Electronics Engineering in United Kingdom (UK). But immediately I started my course at the university, I knew I had made a mistake.
The day I graduated, I sold all my books and made up my mind to pursue a different career. I did not follow my instincts.
After graduation I returned to Nigeria, joined an accountancy firm, Deloitte, and trained to be an accountant. I excelled in the ICAN (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria) exams winning a number of prizes, and have had a successful calling as an accountant. My advice: follow your guts feelings regardless of who believe you or don’t believe you.

Lesson 2
Go at your own pace.

It is one thing to follow your instincts but you should go at your own pace. Taking Seven years to become an accountant that I could have done in four years made me realize that delay does not make you less successful. You do not need to work at somebody else’s pace.
I was on the board of a bank in my Twenties. At 28, I was the acting CEO, at 32; I was a substantive chief executive of the bank, one of the youngest. I guess the four years studying Engineering must have prepared me for challenges of the subsequent ten years.
I was out of a Job at 40 but that experience also made me a better adviser with the companies I am currently consulting for.
Some people will be millionaires at 20, some at 30. Leave everybody and do not be envious. You will all get there. Move at your own pace.

Lesson 3
You must believe in something: Have a purpose in Life.

You don’t just go through life without believing in something. There must be something that is propelling you.
Whatever you believe in guides your decisions in life and gives you a moral compass. Some people are driven by their love for money and power so they do anything to get power and wealth.
It is important to believe in a higher cause and that is where faith comes in. Faith plays an important part of my life and guides my decision making process. It is that belief that helps you go through life’s ups and downs without complaining. Therefore, you have to believe in something; it is extremely important.

Lesson 4
Family is very important.

You will never appreciate the importance of a good family structure until you are down. When you are down, you would realise the only people around you are your family members. Never lose your family because they are the ones that will be around in your darkest moment.
In life when you are successful, you don’t know who your friends are because everyone flocks around you. Trying moments exposes fair weather friends. So in your journey through life, make your family your number 1 priority and build relationships with friends that stick with you through thick and thin. My setback would have been devastating without a solid family base. Don’t focus on build a career alone, build a solid family along; it would save you from disaster.

Lesson 5
Expand your horizon.

What shape your outlook of life are those around you. To have a balanced view in life, mix with people from different religions, cultures and tribes, so that you can appreciate and understand the diversity of views that exist in the environment. This is important in our multiethnic/ multicultural society.
If you mix, you acquire different experiences, and these will affect your decision-making process because whatever step you are taking you will consider how it is going to affect other people. I have friends from all the critical areas and ethnic groupings.

Lesson 6
Live a balanced life.

Ultimately, health is wealth and you must balance it. In a 24hr period balance all your activities through exercise, good eating habits, relaxation and sleep. I try to do the recommended 10,000 steps a day through an early morning walk, eat a light breakfast, good lunch and avoid late diner. I drink loads of water and try to be in bed by 9pm.
Managing your ambition is also a very important part of managing stress. Make sure you take a holiday with your family to charge your batteries intermittently.

Lesson 7
Pursue happiness.

At the end of the day, make sure in all your undertakings you are happy with yourself and the consequences of your actions. A lot of people pursue power and wealth, achieve it and at the end of the day lose all that will give them joy. Some lose valuable relationships; some lose their health all in a quest to gain wealth and recognition.
It is better to die happy than to die full of regrets. Nobody has ever died and said: ‘I wish I worked harder.’ There is nothing like that. You will be wishing that you had spent time building relationships.

5 Best Pieces of Advice.

1. Learn to be truthful. What I have discovered is that people like telling others what they want to hear which can be different from the truth. Don’t be afraid of telling the truth. This is one of the things I picked up from my father.
2. Do not be boastful. Your achievements will speak for themselves
3. Try not to be a debtor. Pay off all your debts, financially or otherwise at the earliest possible time. Do not borrow to fund a lifestyle.
4. Don’t abuse relationships and take people for granted.
5. Maintain value-added relationships.

Worst mistake/decision I made.

Investing without due diligence with somebody I do not know based on the recommendation of a trusted older friend. This is most embarrassing as I did not follow the investment advice I have been giving out to others that formed the bedrock of my investment banking career. Most embarrassing moment

Most embarrassing moment
That was losing my bank. It is embarrassing because I was adviser to so many other banks; I was doing the documentation for the merger of three other banks, and not knowing that there was fire on the mountain. It is like a priest having a failed marriage. Interestingly that experience also brought out the best in me. I was able to reinvent myself through it.

Books

From Third World to First World by Lee Kuan Yew
21 Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
‘In an uncertain world: Tough choices from Wall Street to Washington’ by Robert E. Rubin