The Extra Step Required for Excellence

There is a lane called pedestrian walk way which is accessible to every foot step. It leads to everywhere and sometimes no where. Then there is a hidden lane called ‘The Extra’ walk way. Only those who look for it find it. it requires patience and lots of work and self-discipline. It leads to excellence. Let’s see how Mr. Olumese Okooboh tells the story of his extra step to excellence…


…the sun was scorching as was typical of Zungeru, Niger State. The trucks which conveyed workers back to site were already blaring their horns loudly the break was over! I dragged myself out of my air-conditioned ‘hostel’ into the scorching sun as I trudged to site. My safety boots seemed heavier than usual…my helmet was trapped under my left armpit and my water bag hung loosely down my right shoulder.

At the time I was working as a Junior civil engineer with Sinohydro Hydroelectric Power Project at the Federal Government Hydroelectric power project at Zungeru, Niger State. It was August, 2014!

I wasn’t qualified, so to speak, to work at the dam as a civil engineer. I studied Building Structures! More so, I was one of the four most senior Nigerian contractor’s engineers on that site at that time and we were all but Junior civil engineers!

How did I come to work as a civil engineer on a dam project? Considering that I did “dams and coffer dams” for barely two semesters in school and that I was seeing a real dam under construction for the first time in my life?

The opportunity made me expand my capacity!

The day I went for my interview alongside my buddy Bldr. Ajayi Emmanuel (MNIOB), I was asked if I wanted to be at the office on the technical/design team or work at the construction department with Mr. Zhu who was then the section chief… the technical offices had nice Toyota Hilux vans, and the staff there only came to site occasionally…they all looked fresh as compared to the sun burnt skin of the site guys… I had done some structural designs and I was itching to see how it happened on site…so I chose site!

For my interview, I was handed drawings annotated in Chinese…somehow, I was able to explain to the section chief what the drawings were meant to achieve..but that was just the interview… if I was going to remain on that job, I’d have to teach the artisans what to do…Everyday!

So, I got drawings all labeled in Chinese and studied them late into the night in my hostel…I drew personal work programs of how I’d do the next day’s work…I brought my books from home to my hostel and made up for everything I lacked by reading.

It stretched me! The opportunity to work on that multi-million dollar project pushed me beyond my limits and expanded my capacity.Colleagues at the site couldn’t understand how I could outperform them in their own field of specialty!

For me, I allowed the opportunity to push me into enlarging my capacity rather than look for convenient or safe zones! Usually, the Chinese do not have regards for Nigerian engineers, but they couldn’t ignore me because I worked hard to bring out my best.

I am no longer with Sinohydro, but that experience hasn’t left me the same…It helped me to know that God brings opportunities our way which are beyond our capacities to force us out of our comfort zones into becoming the best we can be.

What should be your response to opportunities which seem bigger than you?

Do not try to make excuses and refer them next door. Rather, ask yourself: ‘what do I need to do to appropriate the opportunity?’ and then engage to do it.You’ll discover, sooner or later, that you have become better as you engage in it!

I believe that the scripture “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is more of a call to work rather than a declaration to make us feel good. It is meant to keep you encouraged as you engage stuff that are indeed greater than your current capacity and as you do so, you grow into them… interestingly, each time you grow into it and it becomes your comfort zone, get ready for greater opportunities.

It is a never-ending process…and its rewards are sweet!

Editors Note: Do I need add anymore? All has been said.


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