How to Maintain Your Shelf-life, By Emeka Oparah

ABUJA (Sundiata Post) Have you wondered why some people remain relevant till they die and some even after? Forget politicians who do all sorts of desperate things to be relevant, like jumping from pillar to post, a euphemism for moving from one political party to the other. But even that is wonderful, when you imagine how some politicians have remained on stage, like actors, some from the 60s and 70s till date. Some of them served in the military administrations and served again during the civilian and are still serving.

But politicians, as I said, are not the best examples because they often achieve those by guile and not by merit. So, let’s look at it from a professional or normal every day regular life perspective. How and why are people relevant over a loooooooong time?

There are five reasons I can readily think of. One, they are intelligent and always have some value to bring to the table. Two, they are always re-inventing themselves so they are current and as my young nephew would say, they know what’s up. Three, they have deliberately built a network of friends who always remember them and keep recommending them. Four, they have invested in people who feel obliged to repay them. Five, they have invested in younger people, who ensure they are not forgotten or abandoned when they start getting old. There’s a sixth: legacy, but leave that for another day.

See, my friends, when you’re young, active and playing at the top, try and build a network comprising your peers, your elders and the younger ones. That’s what my primary mentor, my late father, told me. While you rub shoulders and compare notes with your peers (contemporaries), you draw inspiration from and tap the wisdom of older friends while you renew your “blood” or sustain your shelf-life (relevance) with the younger ones.

I once shared my encounter with a much older professional colleague, whom I invited to our VIP event, last year, on the prompting of my CEO. The old man, grateful for the invite, tutored me on why I must invest in friendships or relationships with younger folks. “Emeka, at our age, it does get boring, you know. There’s not much to do than go to the club house, attend some meetings, go to church and then come home to flip TV channels and quarrel with Madam!”. A very funny yet sagacious man, he advised me to carefully build a network of younger friends, who will provide the platforms necessary for sustaining social and professional relevance.

There’s nothing as demoralizing for a retired professional as becoming extinct or irrelevant both in the professional and social circles. The reality is that the invites, which some of us currently struggle to keep up with and, therefore pick and choose from or delegate, sometimes, to junior colleagues will certainly reduce or peter out, if we are not careful. And that’s what the egbon (the elder, I referred to above) was talking about.

I started reading and seeing photos of Dr. Christopher Kolade as a kid-and he’s still there, making news, making headlines, as a matter of fact. Ditto gentleman Gamaliel Onosode of blessed memory until he passed away. Chief Emeka Anyaoku still struts the social circles and delivers powerful lectures. Pat Utomi has kept himself relevant ever since he came under the snow in the early 80s. Chief Michael Omolayole of Unilever fame and Biodun Shobanjo, Steve Omojafor, Ebitu Ukiwe are there and so are several others I do not even know, who have stayed on top of the shelf by dint of hard work and by the grace of God and the networks they built over time. The media also helps-and you must learn how to use it (wisely).

OBJ is probably the most relevant ex-head of state in Africa today. He’s worshipped and adored, literally, in most parts of Africa. He keeps one of the busiest speaking , travel and social schedules in these parts. Even at his age, he’s still involved in many projects and activities locally and internationally. Now, compare his to other former Nigerian Presidents…! He’s worked extremely hard for relevance. Folks like him never really die.

Money is NOT everything, ladies and gentlemen. Some folks have money yet they seek relevance. They literally beg for or buy invitations to events and make serious effort to be photographed with personalities just to appear relevant and powerful. Meanwhile, there are others who have done very well and are, therefore, highly sought after to add credibility and confer class to social and professional gatherings.

It is NOT rocket science to be like these role models listed above. They knew what to do and did what they had to do and,today, they are on the guest lists of any serious event-not for the cash they would bring but for who they are. Even so, they attract those who can bring the cash! Do you know some people are offered board appointments not because of their investments but the clout, knowledge and experience they bring? Mr. Onosode was invited to chair Vmobile later Celtel and Zain not because he had a dime in the business but because of his clout. Remember that, at a time, he was chairman of over 30 companies-mostly by invitation. Class.

Now, are you thinking of how to stay on the shelf for a long time? The younger folks you mentor, you invest in, you help get a job, you help to the top, you inspire and motivate will help you stay top of the shelf in future, when your lights starts to dim. Start today, if you haven’t done so.

Have a wonderful week!!!

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