‘Gbe Body E’: The Action Imperative
Every day in the jungle, a gazelle wakes up knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion if it is not to become food for a hungry lion. Every day in the same jungle, a lion wakes up knowing that it must outrun the fastest gazelle if it is not to die of hunger. Whether you are the gazelle or the lion, when a new day dawn, you better be running! – An African proverb
Popularized by Nigerian contemporary pop singer Zlatan Ibile, the expression “Gbe body e” in the Yoruba language simply means, “move (or carry) your body”. In the context of simply moving the body, the slang can easily be interpreted to mean that one should move one’s body to the sound of the music, a pedestrian move that anyone who is not deaf can make. However, when seen in the context of “carry your body”, it is an injunction to get out of complacency or hibernation mode and begin to take meaningful action if you must achieve anything significant in any sphere of life.
Action is the bedrock of success. The more massive the action, the higher the likelihood of success. Every goal or plan is only as good as the paper on which it is written, if at all it is written, unless it is backed by corresponding action. With every action you take in the direction of your goals, you increase your chances of attaining them. Destiny is only a few significant and relevant moves away!
In life, to catch a train, you must go to the train station. Even if the station is at the back of your house and the train literally runs through your backyard, you must get up to catch it at the station. No matter how much you pay for a First Class seat on an aircraft, the plane does not pick you up in your bedroom. You must carry your body to the airport and pass through a boarding process. No matter how influential you are, your influence stops at the checking in process. No one can board the plane on your behalf!
Far too many people have been raised on the entitlement mindset that makes them believe that the society, their parents, their employers owe them something. My wife and I raised our children on the understanding that we owe them nothing, talk less of the larger society. Therefore, they must be grateful for whatever they get from anyone. If they want more, they must be ready to earn it! The parable of the unfaithful servant in the Bible bears eloquent testimony to the fact that contribution through action, not consumption, is what guarantees sustainable livelihood! The universe only owes you a harvest commensurate with what you sow into it. Whatever you are unwilling to pursue, you most likely don’t deserve. Whatever you desire in life, your body must become the number one ally of your dreams. The success you have in your imagination will become a nightmare unless legs are given to what you have imagined.
A talent can only be developed through action. I have had several people ask me how they can write as well as I do. On interrogation, I discover that many of them have never written anything outside of the examinations they sat for in school! My immediate answer to them is that no one becomes a good writer who does not first begin to write! I wrote this piece in the little spare time I had in the midst of a back to back schedule in Nairobi. Others with whom I came on the trip have gone for a safari tour but I chose to take the time to write this! I have musical talents and for years, I have loved the saxophone and desired to play a real one. Last year, I bought a brand new saxophone, took a few lessons but have not been consistent on practice. My saxophone is still glistening in its case, its potentials buried in the labyrinths of the complacency of an uncommitted student. I desire to be a good saxophonist. When I see good saxophonists play, I am enthralled and imagine myself playing like them. But it won’t happen if my present attitude to learning does not change. In the next ten years, if I don’t create the time to actually do it, I will still be a saxophonist, but only in my dreams!
Every salesman that desires success must learn to knock on doors, make sometimes long phone calls and pay follow-up visits. In short, he must seek every avenue to be in the face of people. One thing I constantly teach people in sales is that to make two sales, you must make ten calls. In other words, you must be prepared to have eight rejections out of nine calls without losing your enthusiasm. No good product sells itself. People sell good products.
Procrastination is the mother of complacency. People have called it the thief of time. I call it the assassin of destiny. The body is very comfortable in hibernation mode. Most people simply don’t like to commit in any direction. Yet medical science tells us that a significant number of diseases are caused by a sedentary lifestyle!
One of the Hebrew words for money is the word ‘kesef’. Its etymological root is from two words, ‘hands’ which also translates to ‘creativity’ and ‘feet’ which translates to ‘movement’ or ‘transport’. In other words, whatever the hands create, the feet must transport to the relevant market before it can translate to wealth. No matter how skillful you are, if you don’t market your skill, you will die a pauper and people with less capacity but who can be in the face of people will become stupendously rich! Stop complaining and start moving your body to do something. Perhaps you have made several moves that don’t seem to be working. Better to act and learn what does not work than to be static and never experience the possibility of success.
Let me end this with a poem I wrote on the subject lately.
Responsibility is the price of liberty
Gbe body e brother
Nobody walks backwards into the future
Gbe body e sister
You cannot climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pocket
Gbe body e uncle
True wealth is generated by value creation and movement
Gbe body e auntie
You can’t solve a problem you don’t confront
Gbe body e Prof
There’s no breakthrough till you move against an obstacle
Gbe body e cousin
You don’t deserve a future you cannot embrace and own
Gbe body e young man
Success begins from the point at which you recognize that NOBODY owes you ANYTHING
Gbe body e bae (slang for ‘girlfriend’)
If you are not shifting something, something is shifting you
Gbe body e boo (slang for ‘boyfriend’)
One right move makes sweet lemonade from sour lemons
Gbe body e Mama
Think. Strategize. Pray. Study Consult. Polish your hustle.
But if you must achieve anything worthwhile
Waa gbe body e meeeen! (You will have to carry your body)
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!
—By Tope Popoola