Book Review: A Manual for Conquering the World

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Solomon Elusoji

Book Title: The Seven Secrets in the Conqueror’s Mind

Author: Tony Agbamu

Publisher: Blue Partners
Year of Publication: 2019

Everyone wants to succeed at something. Whether it’s at getting a good job, making money, keeping fit, attracting a love interest or becoming an expert at a skill. But how does one go from prospecting to actualising, from deciding to pursue something to eventually being in possession? A lot has been written already to answer this set of questions. In Think and Grow Rich, a classic of the genre, Napoleon Hill lays down the rules of success, focusing on belief and careful planning. Richard Templar is famous for his advice-driven books. In Nigeria, a life-coaching industry has spawned a huge number of books from authors who claim to understand – and can explain – the principles of success. In ‘The Seven Secrets in the Conqueror’s Mind’, Tony Agbamu sets out, also, to add to this ever-growing literature of winning.

The book is short and doesn’t meander. But it doesn’t have a consistent structure as thoughts overlap across chapters in a back-and-forth manner that flummoxes the not-so-motivated reader. The principles in the book are explained through stories drawn from history, popular culture and current affairs. Perhaps this is the book’s strongest attribute – its engaging narratives which are, even if not instructive, but educative.

What are the seven secrets in the conqueror’s mind? The book doesn’t give an explicit answer to this question, but provides three stages of success: Capturing, Conquering and Consolidating. Like most literature in this genre, this book has little, if any, scientific utility. For example, one of the stories in the book is about the tech giant, Apple. The company is adjudged to have gone through all three stages, but is this also a comment on Apple’s future? In one of his books, motivational and leadership expert, John Maxwell profiled Lance Armstrong as a talented individual who, through perseverance and hard work, had conquered the world of cycling. But years later, Armstrong was adjudged to have cheated – using banned substances – during his triumphant races and was stripped of his titles and status. So, what was responsible for Armstrong ‘success’ wasn’t his ‘hard work’ or ‘perseverance’, but his willingness to cut corners.

The book’s prescriptions are familiar. To succeed, one has to have good communication skills, be persistent, be cunning, be bold and willing to take risks, understand human psychology, be humble, be ambitious. One must also not be complacent and must be dynamic. Some of the prescriptions are polar opposites. For example, when should one be patient rather than impulsive? The book doesn’t teach timing – most motivational books don’t. And perhaps it is a credit to the author for recognising this: “So, luck; timing and destiny play huge roles if the person, country or company wants to move successfully from the process of capturing to the stage of achieving conquering,” the author notes. But recognition is not enough. Acknowledging the ‘luck’ factor is similar to capitulation, the idea that man is not the captain of his ship. That, obviously, is not in tandem with the motivational creed. So, the author also notes: “it is said that a man makes his own luck.”

It is ridiculous to conclude that the book has no value. While it doesn’t say anything astoundingly new, it is a reminder of the possible ingredients of success. Someone who is ambitious and never gives up is more likely to be successful than one who does. This is common sense and the book reminds us of certain natural laws like this. But it doesn’t go one step further to, perhaps this is impossible (since life is a dynamic and ever-moving target), set out the conditions on which success is assured, regardless of circumstances or innate ability.

Meanwhile, the book’s briefness has very little to do with cleverness or skillful economy. Some parts are reproduced in other chapters and there are hints of copyright negligence – some stories in the book had sentences lifted from news websites; these websites were not cited anywhere as reference. The book also concludes abruptly, as if it could not wait to end.