Elisha Mamman
on Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle to Success

Elisha Mamman is a John C. Maxwell certified coach, public speaker and trainer who has an average of over 100 speaking engagements annually. He is recognized as one of the most sought after inspirational speaker in Northern Nigeria and a force in leadership, success and the winning mindset. He is a TEDx speaker and has also facilitated several trainings for companies and institutions. Between 2016 and 2018, he has spoken to over 50 institutions and delivered keynote speeches in conferences in various states of Nigeria.

As a top-notch award-winning Leadership and mindset coach, Elisha Mamman has spoken on essential life mastery topics including leadership, goal-setting, value creation, decision making, and so on. He has also facilitated result-oriented training sessions for teachers and students respectively.

Mr. Mamman is the convener of The Winning Mindset, a platform committed to inspiring possibilities, initiating dreams and birthing realities in lives. This event reaches over 600 youths monthly, with an online reach of over 2000 followers. Several individuals and businesses have received grants and rewards for excellence on this platform. It is the fastest growing motivational platform in Northern Nigeria.

Elisha Mamman’s new book, The Business of Life, in which he shares principles that guided his intentional rise from the rue of lack to a place of influence, is a goldmine for everyone ready to achieve great things, break limitations and exceed expectations in life, business and finance.

I attended the January 2018 edition of The Winning Mindset and I was able to book an appointment which led to the following conversation, which took place at the Kaduna office of Elisha Mamman International, for the ongoing Surviving the Beginning dialogue series.

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TOPE AKINTAYO. How did you discover yourself? How did you move from a state of just existing to a state of living?

ELISHA MAMMAN. I think the first thing for me is the fact that I came to a point where I know that there’s more to everything. At that point, the question then was not what is available now, for I know everything is available; the question has become what do I want? And that’s what I started building on. I began to build from a place of nothing to something.

Self discovery itself is a lifelong process. You can’t discover yourself one time. You can discover a gift. But yourself? The best of you is yet to show up. The worst of you is also yet to show up. You are yet to know the best and worst of what you can do.

So for me self discovery is a process and it’s life long. But we can place a mark on a point in life where we discover, say for example, that talking is my thing; or at what point in my life did I discover that I have a great desire for success?

I think this is in sync with the mission of The Witsprouts Project, which is to inspire and empower the creation of a better life. A remarkable number of people have asked what does a better life mean? How would you answer this question?

It depends on who you are talking about. Better life could mean more money for someone and it could mean a better habit for another. For a student it is good grades and for an employee it means promotion. But for me better life means that the life I live is, on all sides, progressive. It means no matter how great the life I live today, it can improve tomorrow. There’s more.

If you’re looking for money, there’s more money. If you’re looking for customers, there’s more customers. Do you know some business people would always complain that there are no customers. Is it true that there are no customers? No! Because somebody else is selling the same thing somewhere else and they are having customers. The accurate complaint should be I’m not getting customers, so they can seek ways to progress in that direction.

So I think better for me is progression, a life that progresses towards the dream, the passion and the purpose. But you should tell me, you run a project that deals with a better life so tell me your own version.

The idea of mental life that I have is tripartite: mental, financial and physical. A lot of young people these days are facing the darkness of mental disturbances; suicide rate is high. Depression rate is on the fly, anxiety.

So I think a better life starts from being able to manage the overwhelm of the age, all the pulls from all sides to do things that we are not exactly cut out for. How can we manage to remain sane in this insane world? I think it starts from there.

When we able to manage that part then we can move to physical and financial aspect. A better life starts from being able to calm down and be at ease. So you can manage all the expectations and overwhelm with ease. That’s my current idea of a better life because, like you mentioned, the idea of a better life keeps expanding.

You are absolutely right. It has to be encompassing. Your life is in different parts and so every part of your life must be working together for you to say that your life is better. A better life is an improvement on a past. Better is an improvement on good. Once a life is progressing mentally, materially, socially then you’re heading forward.

I’m passionate about the social aspect you mentioned.

Yes. It’s important. Because you can be a mental genius and a social wreck. And that’s what we call a recluse–they are too intelligent but they cannot interact with people.

ON INTELLIGENT INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

Let’s zoom in on your social life as a leader now. You have a lot of people teeming around you and revering you, how have you been able to effectively manage your relationships despite that people are hard to manage?

I’ve discovered that how you see people will determine your philosophy around them, how you choose to behave to them and how you choose to treat them. Once you recognize that people matter, which is my second most important philosophy for life, and anything that matters to you requires you to pay attention to it and you try to preserve it. Also because people matter, I know that they are valuable. And because they are valuable, you accord to them the appropriate values.

So when I see Loretta, I see her first as a person which translates to me placing a value on her that I place on other persons. That does not mean I don’t correct her mistakes, I do, but it determines how I correct that mistake.

I heard about a person that will look upon his staff and say condescendingly, “you don’t know anything!” That’s derogatory. Even if the person doesn’t know anything you don’t have to say it that way. That statement and sentiment can better be presented as “you need to know about this” or “do you know you can know about this”.

That’s a creative alternative to the destructive.

Saying “you need to know about this” means that he doesn’t know, but I am stating the fact without hurting his feelings. Then he’ll ask “how sir” and I’ll proceed to put him through the process. That’s what communication is about.

I believe you cannot add value until you’ve seen value. I see value in everyone I work with and everyone who works for me. That’s why I like people being around me, and they feel comfortable being around me because I continuously see value in them. And because I’m not an hypocrite, if I see value in you I tell you about it, I remind you of the value I’ve seen.

There is no way you’ll tell somebody he’s good, great and he wouldn’t want to live up to that expectation. It’s psychological. If I’m always telling you that you’re a good girl every time you’re around me you’ll always act and pretend to be good. Even if you’re not really good. So I’m working on you. If I say otherwise too, you’ll be inspired to act it out. You’ll say, since I already believe you’re bad.

My book discusses the importance of people. I see value in people, whether good or bad. And I encourage value in people, so it makes it easy for me to add value to them. For example, “do you know you can learn this? Come, I’ll teach you.” It’s because I’ve seen potential value in them that I am ready to add to. That’s how I live. To my child, to my wife, to my gate man.

ON HOW YOUR LIFE IS YOUR BUSINESS

When you see people with the value that they have and you know, as you said, that they are human beings first before they are what they do. Which means they have their good and their bad attributes. This knowledge translates to the way you react with them, it translates to the way you help them grow, it inspires how you manage your relationships with them: correcting the bad attributes with kindness and praising the good attributes in love. You mentioned that this is your second philosophy. What is your first?

Your life is your business. What that means is that nobody owes you in life. You are responsible for whatever becomes of your life.

How do you deal with expectations from friends and family, expectations of grand things. Which I know is a good thing by default, but some expectations are pulling you beyond your current capacity. And how do you manage to keep your life under your control despite the external expectations?

I think the frustration comes with the fact that it was not you who set the expectations. Many time I tell people that you can’t live up to somebody’s dreams for you.

Even when they are saying things like I trust you, I believe in you, I see you become this…

They are the ones setting the goals, seeing the dreams. That’s why goal setting is about you setting goals and not someone setting it for you. Goal setting is the ability for you to determine exactly what you want and when you want it. It’s you that’s deciding it. Once you’re not the one that sets the goal, you have created room for frustration because the person setting the goals and expectations for you would always come to tell you you are not doing well. You’ll always wait for the person’s approval which will determine everything for you. But you see, life is about you. That’s why I said your life is your business.

Success is one of the most popular words in the world. We are in a world whereby success is being demanded of everyone. And this demands are coming from even people that have not taken the pain of investing in someone. Which is wrong. You should not demand from people what you have not provided environment for accomplishment for. This is why suicide rates are high.

ON UTILIZING THE STOCK VIRTUES

There’s this argument about self control that self control is a myth unless you provide environment it. You can’t say I don’t want to take this and yet surround yourself with the same thing you said you don’t want to take. We must create an environment for self control. The first half of the self control puzzle is the decision and the other half is the environment.

You can’t even have it. When you say you have something it means you own it. You can’t have self control. You use self control because it is available for everyone. When we use the word have, you’re making it look like it’s not available for others. People make use of the self control available for all. The fact that you use self control yesterday does not mean you’ll use it today. That shows you don’t have it.

I think this is interesting because it shows it’s possible for you to have self control in one part of your life and not have it in another part.

Yes. Because it’s not owned. It’s only used, and it’s available to everybody. I have my mouth, I can choose to ask you how are you and I can choose to tell you you are stupid. It’s a choice and until I’ve clarified that choice I can’t launch into action. You can’t place discipline in a matter without first establishing decision.

You know what discipline means? To do a particular thing even if you don’t want to. So if you are not doing a particular thing it simply means you have chosen not to do it. Decision precedes discipline. I can decide to be a terrible boss and I can decide to be an interesting one. I relate with my staff in a fun way and I don’t make things hard for them. I believe that the goal is to deliver on project, and who said we can’t deliver on projects laughing?

Samuel has a smart phone with him that has the capacity to do a lot of things including the capacity to stream pornography, it’s then a choice for him to say it’s not proper for me to watch pornography. Then he’ll have to use the discipline available for him. Discipline is always available, it doesn’t travel anywhere, it’s always with us but the problem is that we don’t use it.

Discipline, self-control, all good virtues are like this pen. You can carry it with you for year but you might not use it. The same mouth with which you say yes is the same one you use to say no. You choose the one to say at any given time. When we begin to be conscious of this knowledge, discipline becomes easier for us to accomplish.

ON THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO SUCCESS

In getting to where you are right now. What are the biggest obstacles you encountered and that you think that the coming generation should look out for. And how have you been able to overcome them?

One obstacle I’ll talk about is the obstacle of mentality. Everything around us, the goal of your environment, and friends and your community is to affect the way you think about you and the way you think about every other thing. And if you get this wrong everything is wrong.

I see the mind as the biggest obstacle to the achievement of success and the same time it is the most functional tool to accomplish anything in life. It’s a two way thing. If the mind is used rightly you’ll succeed and if it’s used wrongly you’ll destroy yourself.

Mentality is the way you think and the influence on it starts with our families. You might go home and begin sharing a dream with your mother and she might say, “See, be reasonable and very realistic”. She’s trying to tell you, “We want you to think ‘modestly’, we don’t have room for thinking big in this house.” That’s what she’s saying, only nicely.

How many times have you heard “you can’t”, and how many times have you heard “you can”. That’s the kind of environment I grew in, but I managed to change it.

How did you manage to do that?

First I exposed myself to books. Books are the mindsets of the authors. They help you enter into new realms. If I’m reading your books I’m interacting with your thoughts and your thoughts are the fabrics by which you are shaped.

Is it not interesting that I love John Maxwell to the point that he certified me? What other way would I be able to interact with him daily apart from his books? And the more I read, the more I realize that even cripples are successful. I found out that all I had before were excuses. The stories of the likes of Nick Vujicic made me realize that everything stopping you is an excuse. It’s not real.

Fear is not real. It’s an appearance of a danger that does not exist. It exists in the mind. Why do we always assume it’s a snake that’s inside the grass or under the carpet? Why is it always snake that comes to mind? Because it’s snakes that have been attached to danger, even as a society. We seldom think about scorpion, because our mentality has been fixed on snakes.

A wise man once said that nobody has a limitation except the one they set for themselves. “Samuel, do that!” “But sir, I can’t do that.” You said that without even trying. You already set your mind on impossibility. This is why I’m doing THE WINNING MINDSET today. I found it later in life that it was my mindset and mentality that set me on a path of success. And I was able to improve my mentality by reading books.

I have a lot of books to read and so I don’t read for competition. That’s why I don’t have goals for reading books. I have this much books, why set goals to read 100 in a month? They are all mine why set goal to read 100 a month? I have a system though: I read a chapter per day and I absorb it and take notes on everything I read.

Does it mean you’ve set aside a particular time of the day for reading?

Yes, I have a particular time for reading. When the day is going to look rough, I read first thing in the morning but when my day is not rough I read in the evening. Also during the day when I don’t have much in my plate I can take a book to read. The bottom line is I don’t believe I need a vacuum of time.

Besides books, there’s also belief. I began to believe what the books are telling me. Especially the Bible. I believe I’m not stupid and lazy because the books motivated me to.

Then there was also company. This month’s Winning Mindset is about that. Company is not friends but the intentional associations. An association with an intention, that is not carefree, that is not forced in you. You decide it.

I have a group of people with whom I have a similar intention of achieving goals. We are crazy about the future. When we sit, you’ll hear people talking about accomplishments and testimonies that will challenge you to improve.

There’s no association that leaves you the same. It’s either it makes you or mar you. They tamper with you. Makes you better or makes you worse.

ON THE THREE LEVELS OF COMPANY

When I talk about companies, there are three levels. The first level which is the upper level are the mentors. Their thoughts are higher than yours. By interacting with them you’re interacting with higher thinking, higher thoughts.

The middle level are the colleagues and contemporaries. People with whom you’re equal in the journey. They are doing well and are pursuing growth just like you’re doing. They challenge your present state.

While your mentors are pictures of your future, your contemporaries are your present.

Like your mirror?

You see yourself in them. When you want to discuss about growth, you talk with the higher knowledge. When you want to talk about sustaining what you’re doing, your middle knowledge can provide that.

Like when you want to discuss resilience and all…

Yes, talks like “we need to be diligent, we need to be faithful…”

“Remember where we started…”

I told someone that if they are a third class students they should try interact with a first class student. They’ll end up at second class. You many not end up first class but you’ll rise above third class. Because you’re interacting with a higher knowledge.

It’s said that he that works with the wise shall be wise but the companion of fools shall be destroyed. If you don’t not walk in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful, you’ll be like a tree planted by the water. It simply means that if you’re not in the way of particular people you’ll definitely be in the way of particular people.

Then there’s the lower level. Those under you. Mentees. Staffs. Earlier, you brought an idea that I celebrated. How does that make you feel?

I felt important.

It’s psychological. I did it deliberately to you can know that you have what it takes for someone higher than you to learn from you.

ON OUR INHERENT ABILITY TO IMPACT KNOWLEDGE

Does this mean that at any level you are, you’ll always have people you can mentor? I believe that young people deal with self-doubt and the feeling of “am I enough?” What do you have to say to these kind of people?

Everybody has something somebody else can learn.

Well, does it have to be deliberate?

Well, whether it’s deliberate or not somebody is learning something from you. But you should be wise enough to be deliberate because of the knowledge that someone is learning something fine you. Why? Because if you’re not deliberate someone might pick up the wrong lessons from you. The whole idea of being intentional and deliberate is that you pick up what lessons people pick from you. You are creating the perception.

The only person that has nothing to teach another is a dead person. You need to see the way I listen to my son. You’ll think he is a sage. The way I give him attention makes him have confidence when he wants to talk to me. Even when he’s saying rubbish. I’m helping him to be confident to speak his mind.

Young people should know that any level they are cost them a particular amount of struggle, so they can help another person to go through lesser struggle in reaching the same level. For example, if you are in 300 level, there’s a secondary school student that is yet to pass JAMB, but you already did, so you can help him. There’s also a 100 level student struggle to pass a particular course, but you already did, so you can help him.

There’s nobody that doesn’t not have what it takes to help another person. Everybody in every level has something.

Even if the person is a day old…

Even then. That you came to the world and you’re always crying for breast whenever you want it. You’re teaching a lesson that whenever you want something cry, ask for it. Was it not written that you should ask? When a child asks for something by crying and you don’t give it to her does she not continue to cry? What does that teach us? Consistency and persistence. That’s an important lesson for success. Can you be so consistent in requesting for your goals that the universe gets tired and eventually says, “alright, take it!”

Everybody has something to offer and that’s why I give everybody the opportunity to be able to talk. I learned something from you today.

ON VISIONS AND AVERAGES

Your definition of vision at the last Winning Mindset is so accurate. It’s so all encompassing. Can you talk a little about how you came about it?

It happened that one day I thought that we need stop defining vision as the picture of the future. Until a vision moves you to action it’s not a vision. So I began to look for key points that relate to me and success and that’s how I created it. A vision is a preview of future possibilities that inspire an adjustment in behaviour and creates momentum in the present.

It’s about the future. The future is irrelevant because it truly doesn’t exist. By the time tomorrow comes, it becomes today. It changes it’s name always. Do you like anything that changes it’s name? What do you call people who change their name every time? Frauds.

Tomorrow looks like a fraud. Tomorrow comes and becomes today, and the moment it passes it becomes yesterday. What is yesterday? A past tomorrow? What is today? Current tomorrow. And what is tomorrow? The future today.

So the whole essence of time zone is today. It’s today that becomes yesterday.

So we should focus more on today?

That’s what I focus on. The only place that tomorrow is qualified to live in is your mind. That’s where tomorrow should be, in your mind. Only today should be in your hand.

But I’m trying to reconcile these. The purpose of planning is for the future. And now we have to focus on the present.

Well, when do you plan? If you’re making plans when do you make them?

Today.

So what is important now? Whatever is important for you to succeed tomorrow, when do you do it? Today. You can’t do anything tomorrow because it has not come. You can only do things today. And the real results you want in life are in the things you do, not in the things you plan. I don’t care how good your planning is, it’s useless until there is execution.

It’s either you’re doing or your not doing. That’s why I hate the word average. There’s no middle ground. You’re in or out. You’re up or down. There’s nothing like average. Once you’ve chosen to stay in average you’re simply abusing what is possible. Average is an abuse to possibilities, because if you can become average why can’t you be the best? You were not born average, you became average. Average and excellence is an outcome of choice.

Tope Akintayo
Tope Akintayo is a traveler on the road to becoming, creator of The Witsprouts Projects and principal at The Tope Consult, a new media and digital marketing consultancy for small businesses.

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