“I was so mad that I spent five years in school and I couldn’t show anything for it based on what I was taught. I wasn’t a dull student, neither was I am an unserious student. I only followed what I was taught and had my good grades”
I became Facebook friends with Ajayi Joel after reading one of his insightful article School is a scam. You can read the article here.
I read several articles after that and became interested in his journey. I attended his paid masterclass on Breaking the Confusion and became part of his WhatsApp group-The Narrators.
His passion is to Redefine Education. This passion has led him to come up with a website, Think N Act, which will serve as a bridge between the world of work and Africans. It is a website where undergraduates, graduates, job seekers, founders, and every African will benefit from.
He is my first guest on the interview series- The Undergraduate Mentor.
Welcome. Thanks for joining us. Please, introduce yourself.
I’m Ajayi Joel by name, nicknamed Johelski. An entrepreneur
How do you structure your day?
Well, I don’t have a definite way I structure my day. I have tried to-do-lists but it didn’t work. I always have a mental picture of what I want to achieve daily a night before. This helps me focus on achieving them as early as possible so I can get to involve in other activities or take a nap.
But how do you deal with procrastination?
Procrastination has never been my friend. Seeing a lot of catastrophes it has caused me, I take some serious measures when I see a need to procrastinate. I go off social media because my tasks may not require me being online. I have some deeper measures in place for this such as a maximum chat with fifteen people a day. Any more than that is the next day. Also, I muted a lot of status on WhatsApp so that I’ll have less time to spend. I know when I want to accomplish a goal and I feel guilty when I don’t meet deadlines so most times I remind myself of the consequence of procrastinating. This has helped countless times.
Wow. Being intentional is vital. That’s good. Is school truly a scam?
The topic, school is a scam, has become a neutral ground for me because it is very subjective. Many came from villages and school made them successful while many spend hard-earned money on parents and have nothing to show for it. The real case study is if what is being learned in school is adequate to make youths relevant for the world of work which obviously it isn’t. The curriculum is archaic and doesn’t foster innovation.
So, school is not a scam but the education we receive in Nigerian schools is?
Let me quickly distinguish between schooling and education. Education is the transfer of knowledge that exposes and equips anyone to be relevant to the world of work/society at any point in time. So if you are receiving information or form of learning that isn’t equipping you to be relevant for the world of work, you’re not being educated. Although we’d still call it education by mere cliche it’s not education. School is just a location where people should gather to receive an education which is not the case in Africa we have today and around the world. It has become a place for business by school authorities and training robots. Matter of fact, a school is not the only place one can be educated.
What other ways can one get educated?
Since I have defined education as the receiving of information that equips one to be relevant for the world of work at any particular time. Then we can point out so many media through which education can be received. A major one is the internet. The structure of the world of work in this age we are in is based on specialization and what the internet offers is uncountable sources of information that can ensure specialization.
Apprenticeship is also another form of education. We can call them informal education because we have defined schooling as formal education.
What brought about the idea of Think N Act?
I saw a huge gap between the world of work and school and that the real definition of education has been bastardized to getting grades in schools rather than learning what equips you to be relevant for the world of work. After discovering this issue was a major cause of unemployment in Africa, I decided to seek a solution to it because I was also affected by the bad school system where we spend years yet unsure about our lives direction. After a year of researching and studying to come up with possible solutions, I founded Think N Act.
What were the challenges you faced in bringing it to fruition?
Having an idea is something good but not significant because bringing it to fruition is a whole different ball game. In a country like Nigeria, it is as good as having none because of the defunct economy. Power supply, internet are major infrastructures that the government should prioritize yet it’s not so. The first challenge I faced was criticism from friends who laughed me to scorn for coming up with such an idea. I also had no access to mentorship and business experience prior to that time so it was more of trial by error till I got here. That cost me a whole lot. Mental depression, debts and some that cannot be mentioned.
What do you find to be your audience biggest stumbling blocks and what ways are the best you’ve found to overcome them?
My audience are the African youths. The first problem eating up African youths is exposure. A lot have access to the internet but are not exposed.
What do you mean by ” not exposed “?
Information is scarce. The information that should make them relevant for the world of work is not reaching them. An average student studying physics in a federal university doesn’t know how physics works in the real world, the level physics has gotten to and how to fit in with the knowledge gotten so far. Another problem is the fact that there’s no connection to jobs even when they’ve built themselves. Jobs are pretty scarce and require a different approach to get which I wouldn’t talk about.
This is tragic. How does your startup plan to overcome this problem?
First of all, we built a website with the main goal of addressing this exposure problem. We’re currently running this website. Secondly, we’re working towards building an online school where Africans can learn professional skills, courses from professionals in Africa online and also get connected to jobs based on what they’re learning.
Brillant steps. You really dream big. So, who are your biggest influences and why?
My first icon is Seth Godin and his book Linchpin changed my life. I read over 20 of his books after that. I really don’t have any physical mentor but just admirers. Another one is Gary Vee, Patrick Bet David. Both are in U.S. Then, Dr Strive Masiyiwa, Olawale Ayilara and Vusi Thembakwayo.
Why are they your biggest influences?
I love people who are brave enough to question the status quo because it is what I do. It takes great gut despite being aware of the consequences.
It’s a risk to always stand out. So, what book greatly influenced your life?
Linchpin. I’d recommend this book to every youth who wants to stand out. It was written by Seth Godin. This book gave me the boldness to take the step that led me here.
If you have the book, I’d love to read. How do you relax?
I hardly do… I’m learning to. I’m a workaholic that I fall sick so often. I work myself off because there’s so much to achieve. I skip meals and all. I’m learning to balance all these. I stream music on YouTube when I really want to relax. It could be for an hour or more. Shuffling between old-time video songs and playing.
Do try to balance it all. You need to be healthy to pursue your passion. What advice do you have for the undergraduates?
Very simple advice. The situation of the country gets worse every day. You need to stop wishing or planning in your head. Take actions no matter how inexperienced you think you are.
If you were to go back to university, what would you do differently?
I’d spend more time focusing on my self development and not just make my academic performance my only priority.
Finally, what do you want to be remembered for?
That I changed the narrative of Africa and played a huge role in improving the lives of citizens in Africa by solving unemployment.
Thank you, Joel for an amazing discussion. If you enjoyed this post, share with a friend. Subscribe here to get more interview updates.