Saturday, September 11, 2021

On Turning Thirty...

It was a bright and beautiful Sunday ten years ago when I turned 20. It was the last day of Missions, a week-long event organized by OAU’s umbrella association for Christian fellowships, and it was my last Sunday as Secretary of the association. Shortly before noon, the pastor told thousands of gathered worshippers that it was my birthday and asked them to please sing for me. And they sang. I covered my face with my hands and turned as red as my dark skin would allow.

Missions is held early in the second semester. After handing over the office that Sunday, I had three months of university left. Except for a strong desire to not be broke, I was not really clear what I wanted from my life. At an event to mark my birthday that evening, someone asked what I thought I’d be doing in ten years. I thought about it for a while and told them I had no clue.

When I read the things I wrote in and around 2011, some themes begin to emerge. I was obsessed with “making the most of every opportunity”. I did not want to have many regrets. I was trusting God for clarity and direction, following which I “wanted to step out in faith”. And I wanted to “fulfill my potential”.

You see, all my life I had been told I had a lot of potential. After choosing me to read the news in Primary School, my proprietress told me she thought I could someday read the national news. On my last day of Secondary School, my Principal told my dad I had the most potential of any kids he had worked with recently [but that I needed to “stop being so playful”]. When I graduated from OAU, my Head of Department told my parents I had a lot of potential [but likely “not as an Engineer”]. When I last quit a job, a global C-Level Leader told me I had so much potential and was on a “fast-track to MD” – never mind they waited until I had resigned to start acting like it.

These were all kind people who saw something in me and mostly meant well. And there were good sides to knowing so many older and experienced people believed in my potential. It challenged me to reach for more and I sometimes felt like I could do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. But I was also burdened by all that expectation. And the distinction between my potential and other people’s expectations had become blurry. I would ask myself if I was living up to all this potential people said I had. I remember telling someone I used to look up to that I was going off to INSEAD. They wrote back, “but you’re potentially Harvard material”.

And there it was again. Potential. Or was that expectation?

All this eventually resulted in a mini-crisis. Rather than focus on who I had become and what I was doing, I began to focus instead on who I had not become and the things I had not done. I would think to myself, “I am about to be 30 and I have not…”

One Saturday, I dug out my old hard drive and read through my birthday goals over the past decade. I also read everything I had written leading up to my 20th birthday and afterwards. What I found set me free. I realized I had lost sight of how much my life had changed, and the many things I had done that once seemed out of reach. Not only had I achieved many things I had long aspired to, I also did not have the things I did not want. I had grown accustomed to my life and began taking it for granted, but nothing about it had been a guaranteed outcome.

It was a fitting lesson to learn in my 20s and one that will stay with me for the future. What matters is what I do relative to what I am capable of. Not what I do relative to what other people do or expect; I don’t have their life context, dreams, or calling. I am not them. Or like St. Paul put it: “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.

Two other things struck me as I clicked through those old notes from my 20s. The first was about how my deepest dreams had evolved. Where they were once almost exclusively about me and the things I wanted, they had increasingly become about other people and what I could do for them. That made sense. As my “strong desire to not be broke” receded into the background, my paradigm increasingly became that of a conduit for blessing others. The second was how I had become increasingly confident in my own skin: embracing my personality, learning what my strengths were and how to play to them, and figuring out how to address my weaknesses.

I am excited to be bringing all this growth and self-knowledge into my 30s. And I head into my future confident that it holds better things than my past – because God’s light is shining on my path. I’ll be working to keep the same promise to myself as in previous years: to live, to execute the ambitious plans I make, to help others rise above their limitations, and to step out in faith.

Happy birthday, Koye.


1. It’s now 20 years since 9/11. My thoughts are with the good people who lost their lives on that day and in the wars that followed. May their families be comforted.

2. I've setup a Substack to manage email subscriptions to my blog, because Google is sunsetting Feedburner. If you're on a computer, you may use the widget in the top right corner to subscribe. On a mobile, you may use this link.


  1. Congratulations, Koye!

    Your story and your personality inspires me.

  2. Happy birthday brov, you've done so well for yourself and I'm proud of you. Greater heights I pray for u IJN. Keep the trail blazing, you are an inspiration 👏👏. Cheers to more wins bro.

  3. Happy birthday once again Koye, reading through this, I called my 5year old son, showed him your picture and discussed about how so much you've achieved at just 30 (as far as he can understand at his age). I told him i've found him a role model, a reference point to set his path right in life.
    Koye, you are an inspiration to so many of us, a blessing to our generation and generations yet unborn. Keep smashing goals, keep making us proud, the lord is always there to direct and lead you. Enjoy your day.

    1. Awww, you are very kind. Amen, in Jesus name. Thank you very much.

  4. Happy Birthday Mogbekeloluwa. You life has transcended potentials and is a testament to possibilities. Keep shinning

  5. You are indeed an icon to be reckoned with. Keep basking in greatness. Happy Birthday!

    To the families of those who lost their lives during the World Trade Centre attack on this day 20 years ago, may God continue to comfort and uphold them. Amen.

    Congrats once again, podi mi. Cheers!

    1. Amen. Thank you so much my dear brother and old friend <3.

  6. Happy Birthday Koye! Keep flourishing in Jesus Name.

  7. Koye im always a fan rooting for you and sharing a hope that is beyond what we can imagine. In Jesus mighty name I great you a blessed birthday.

  8. Happy Birthday dearest Mogbekeloluwa �� You are such an inspiration to us. May your life continues to shine and filled with great achievements. Keep soaring Son and have an amazing decade �� ��

  9. Happy birthday Koye, you have always been an inspiration.