By Nonso Okpala
“You have less than 100 years to make a mark.”
Three years ago, I started searching for a table based on two basic considerations.
First, I wanted a functional table to get work done-one that wasn’t too high or too low but would lend support to my posture and allow me work for long hours easily. The second consideration was more complicated but can be summarized in a single word — Legacy.
Legacy means what you inherited from the people before you — your dad, mum, relatives or loved ones. The flip side, seldom contemplated, is that legacy also means what you bequeath to people after you — your children, wife, siblings etc.
When I started searching for a table, I had three people work individually on the task. I was certain that they would deliver but unfortunately, none of the options made the cut. So my search continued until last Friday.
Over three years later, and I finally found the table for me-a table with such immense beauty.
For the purpose of context, let me create a clearer picture for you. Post my midlife crisis (check my medium article re “Midlife Crisis”), I came up with 21 core rules to mitigate the effect of midlife crisis. In this article, I will dwell on one of those rules, which is the “legacy script”.
Legacy is a consolation prize for our inability to achieve immortality — if you can’t live forever, try to be remembered forever or at least for some time after you leave (die).
Following this core rule, I started searching for ways to build my legacy. Before I turned 40, it was all about making money. I never really thought about what I would do with all that cash when I finally made it but I just knew that I wanted to be insanely successful. Some people equate this to having insane amounts of cash but I think otherwise. Very few men have been immortalized by purely amassing wealth. We see instances where after men like this die, their wealth is scavenged and they quickly become forgotten once that well runs dry.
But a legacy built on more than just cash can endure. It is easy for exceptionally talented folks to build a legacy on their bodies of work but men of capital and wealth don’t easily achieve that status, hence my quagmire. It meant that even if I succeeded in making enormous wealth, there was no guarantee that I’d also have a legacy that endures.
The legacy script is the definition or outline of what you want to leave behind or how you want to be remembered when you are gone. It is more or less what becomes your brand, post existence. I dare say that life is an art form and like artists, we all have the opportunity to paint the picture of our lives, our legacy, and the first step to achieving that is articulating your legacy script and ensuring the following:
1. It is relevant to and serves humanity — Functional
2. It is acceptable to most — Acceptance
3. And can be built into the consciousness of humanity — Consciousness
Let’s evaluate one of the greats with a remarkable legacy, Nelson Mandela. He served humanity by advancing the course of freedom and equality (Functional). The concept was acceptable to most, though progressively in the course of the struggle (Acceptance). And the entire story of his life has been summarized in a powerful way makes his brand endure (Consciousness). In the moment of victory, he was gracious enough (or wise enough) to show compassion and opt for reconciliation, not retaliation.
Another person with a powerful legacy is our very own Fela. He had the benefit of making remarkable music — of course as a result of talent and extraordinary hard work, which grabs the consciousness of humanity. But he applied his gift and resultant attention to advancing the course of humanity and freedom for his people.
The last component of this legacy script, “consciousness” requires a bit more explanation. You may achieve a great deal, but if it doesn’t grab the consciousness of humanity, it blunts the impact of your legacy. The significance of your legacy is reduced, because the lack of consciousness prevents the legacy from contributing to moulding and influencing society’s ideas/ideals and truly inspiring the next generation.
For musicians and truly talented individuals, the task of legacy consciousness is easy. Burna Boy, who in my view became the biggest African Artist ever, has grabbed the consciousness of humanity and the question now is what he does with it. On the other hand, mere mortals like us, regardless how much you are worth, you have to first check the “functional” and “acceptance” boxes and then push for consciousness. This is direct opposite for a talented individual, e.g. a musician.
The art of building consciousness can be mostly achieved through the following:
1. By telling compelling stories. Authentic stories based on “functionality” and “acceptance”
2. Creating symbolisms through visual arts and acceptable mediums
3. Music and all forms of entertainment that can hold and project your message
The list above is not exhaustive, but the ideas border on symbolism and the Arts, which brings me back to my story of the “Table”. I aspire to build and support companies that will collectively form the basis of Nigeria’s economic emergence. I am positive that with VFD Group Plc and its associated subsidiaries, we will achieve this. It is a compelling story thus far and it will be way more compelling as we go along but that in itself doesn’t grab the consciousness of humanity.
“Being a mere billionaire is boring and holds no consciousness; you have to combine it with something more humane, something more impactful on humanity and inspires generations.”
What this quote is basically saying is, you have to lace your actions with symbolism to truly make it a legacy. The table is one of such attempts. The table is functional, acceptable as a means of getting the job done but the artistic dimension is what loads it with the right type of message to, alongside other things, grab the consciousness of humanity with the aim of inspiring.
It is not just an ordinary table; it is an assemblage of works by various artists that was fused to form a functional table. The core of it, the surface, was crafted in 1987 by Owie S. E. and it depicts the culture and history of Nigeria and its various ethnic groups-a stunning beauty but now a symbol of a possible Nigerian economic emergence.
The consciousness of legacy is deeply rooted in arts thus any society that doesn’t reverence artists, living or dead, loses the opportunity of projecting their individual and collective legacy. This a story for another day as I have been told that my last article was “way too long”.
The concept of a “legacy script” is based on the fact that if we all, individually and collectively, strive for a higher purpose that serves humanity, the world, our continent, countries and immediate communities will be better off.
What is your legacy script?
Nonso Okpala is the GMD/CEO of VFD Group (Viadaz FD Limited), a financial services holdings company in Nigeria with interests in foreign exchange, debt investment, international remittance, real estate and payment businesses.