Several years ago as a new immigrant to the United Kingdom, one of the places I applied to in search of my first job was at a branch of the giant electrical retailer, Currys, located in Tottenham, North London.  However, for four consecutive nights, I, alongside millions of other people around the world watched on various news channels in amazement as this particular branch of Currys and many other buildings and vehicles in several parts of London were either being looted or completely burnt down by rioters during widespread riots in the city remotely triggered by the fatal shooting of a 29-year old man, Mark Duggan. Although the riots spread to other key cities in England including Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, the massive deployment of police officers eventually led to restoration of law and order.  Let me share with you 6 life-applicable lessons to pick from this unfortunate experience.

1. Never take anything for granted: Prior to the riots, London had (and still has) an enviable reputation as Europe’s foremost financial hub; a great city for tourism, civility, sporting events. That image was however partly damaged by the mayhem. The foundation for failure and descent from greatness in life is to erroneously assume that the good things currently being enjoyed will always remain the same. Never assume that the good measure of success you enjoy in your marriage, business, career, personal finance, health or any area of life will always be readily obtainable by you at your beck and call. People do not remain successful, excellent, happy, healthy, of impeccable character or at the top by default. It takes conscious and continuous application of intelligent efforts rooted in an understanding that no condition in life is permanent.

2. Insure against risks:  Most, if not all of those whose businesses were attacked at the onset of the riots never had any premonition of the impending damage to their businesses. This is how life, not just in London, but in the world of reality functions. It is full of uncertainties. Your primary concern however should not be to keep trying to ‘predict’ the future but to keep ‘preparing’ for it. Continuously take precautions that will position you to readily prevent, overcome, mitigate or recover from life’s adversities and their effects. Integrity for instance is your best immunity against false accusations and character assassination. By constantly updating your skills, expanding your knowledge-base and networking with others in your field, you position yourself to remain employable thereby enhancing not just your job-security but your employment-security.

3. Tap into the power of social media: Unlike previous London riots like the 1985 Brixton riots and the 2009 G-20 summit riots, the mob of the 2011 riots were actively mobilized by the power of such social and communication media as Blackberry messenger, Twitter and Facebook resulting in sporadic eruptions of protests at different parts of London, all happening almost at the same time. Take it or leave it, this is the Facebook generation. It was not a mere coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg, the 27-year old billionaire founder of Facebook was named Time magazine person of the year 2010. Facebook as well as other social media represent the face of the 21st century where opportunities abound. To gain influence with this generation, you need to fish where the fish are. You need to go online because the people are online, accessible by the power of the internet and these social media.

4. Manage information effectively: At the root of the London riots were rumours and more rumours. There were rumours that no senior police officer attended to those demonstrating peacefully the shooting of Mark Duggan; that a teenage girl was attacked by the police. Rumours and hearsays create room for the spread of mis-information. Psychologists generally concur that at the root of many frictions between married couples is the lack of clear communication- adults that won’t sit down and talk through issues of mutual concern to both parties- before it boomerang into greater crisis. Leaders have an obligation to communicate effectively with their people just as businesspeople need to communicate effectively their customers. Much of success in most areas of life depend on the ability manage information effectively.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: As the riots persisted into the fourth night, the leadership of the Metropolitan Police decided to mobilise for support from around the country leading to the deployment of a 16,000-strong police guard on duty. Throughout your lifetime, you will always encounter situations when you will need help from others. This is why I do not believe in the notion of a ‘self-made’ individual. Success is always an aggregate of inputs- of your own efforts and contributions from others. The pursuit of your vision, overcoming an adversity or achieving a significant success in life will always demand the input of others. Only two things will keep people from asking for help when the need for it is obvious: pride or fear. Don’t let either stop you. I love what the Chinese say; “He who asks is a fool for five minutes but he who keeps silent is a fool forever.”     

6. Adversities have advantages: The London riots threw up new debates and re-opened old ones which may never been considered had the riots not taken place. The riots also brought out the good in people. The same social media used in inciting rioters were used to mobilize people to render financial and material support to victims as well as to engage in communal cleaning of the affected areas. Regardless of the difficulties you may be facing now, always remember that those difficulties have inherent benefits. More than anything, adversities and failures offer an immense opportunity to learn vital lessons which will prove beneficial in the months and years to come not only to you but to others to whom you may relate those experiences. Your strengths, weaknesses, true character, sense of judgement and state of preparedness are exposed and put to the test during moments of adversities. (Chapter 14 of my book: A Life of Impact is exclusively devoted to ‘Handling Difficulties’)

 If you have been inspired by this article, please feel free to leave a comment or share with others. Thank you.

Written by : Ayo Adebamowo


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