In the 2007 movie American Gangster, Denzel Washington’s character Frank Lucas survived a hit on his life when gun men rolled up on him and his wife on the streets after a social outing. Apparently Nicky Barnes (played by Cuba Gooding Junior) had tried to eliminate Denzel out by putting out a hit on him, so as to corner his market share of the very lucrative New York drug trade.

A disturbed Denzel later confided in an acquaintance Mafia boss Dominic Cattano (played by actor Armand ‘Gotti’ Assante) who gave him the following gems: “Your success took a shot at you. What are you gonna do now? Are you gonna kill it? You gonna become unsuccessful? Frank, you can be successful and have enemies. Or be unsuccessful too and you can have friends.”

These great words are so relevant to lots of situations we find ourselves in everyday life. Success forms the perfect analogy for any positive steps we have taken in life, love, business or career or any achievement that warms our hearts.

Sometimes people expect you to make apologies for your success, or for putting your best foot forward, for “getting stuck in”, for offering your absolute utmost in any ventures you undertake. You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be always.  If unjustified criticism, or backlash created by scorn and petty jealousies come your way, it means your success took a shot. So what are you going to do? Become unsuccessful?

Everybody’s success takes a shot at them – if they are in positions of affluence or influence. Do not be afraid, a shot does not always kill its target. The target could always become wiser for it.

I once heard someone say that success is like the girl with the biggest boobs.

People may believe that her 36D Cup is artificial and may write her off for being superficial, even if they are real. If detractors are not claiming that the girl’s bosoms are man-made, they are also criticizing the girl for not knowing how to keep them covered decently. The big boobed girl may be called a promiscuous lass who is out to use her twin towers to reign terror on all male-dom, attached or single. She may be boxed into a difficult position, from which she can never win. Derided as not being fashion-forward for covering up, criticized as slutty for exposing.

And there are people who believe no one can achieve success by fair means.  To them, a magna cum laude student must have gotten her degree by straddling and pleasuring a professor in a filthy faculty back office. That self-made millionaire earned his fortune by committing murder most foul – so there are literally skeletons in his cupboard. That brilliant investment banker has a godfather who is a director in the bank.

 At the office, there may be some vitriol directed at you because of the type of degree you have – a lot of professionals with foreign degrees from US, UK and Canada have complained about this, which makes their integration more difficult. Their success takes a shot at them. A friend of mine who returned to Nigeria around the start of the recession had a difficult time in his first job as a financial analyst in a city bank in VI. Whenever he came up with intelligent ideas that would increase efficiency, some of his co-workers would get upset that he was trying to curry favour with management, and make his immediate manager look bad?! If he kept quiet at meetings, so as to take in as much information as possible, he was accused of being un-intelligent and not worthy of his foreign degree.

Should you hide the fact that you have a post-graduate degree from, say, Cornell University and graduated top of your class? Do you dumb-down or play down your intelligence or academic and social backgrounds, so as to please people around you? You could even have finished with a third-class from your state polytechnic and have your success shot at by SSCE holders.

So you have a boss who has decided to make your life a living hell because she believes your promising career is a threat to her position. Or there are town-criers who go about warning people about your make-up/make-over business, claiming that you once impaled a client’s cornea with an eye-pencil because you were distracted on the job.

If your success takes a shot at you, what are you going to do? Become unsuccessful? Or pick yourself, brush the dirt out of your shoulder, and keep it moving?

In Nigeria, your success takes shots at you every day.  Or makes close attempts. Every day, someone will attempt to play a fast one on you to make a quick buck at your expense. Artisans inflate prices; market sellers automatically charge you a higher fee because you drove through Tejuosho market in your flash Mercedes.  Those are simple examples. Your expertise and track record in your chosen field or line of business is always called into question, even by the uneducated or un-exposed.

It is a cycle that never stops; Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a popular book “The Prince” on manipulating one’s enemies. Once you find success, out of every or any thing you have ever wanted in life, the next step is consolidation because success is about length of consolidation. Rock stars and pop idols have fought this battle for years. The press, changing trends and tastes of the listening public, other musicians and the spectre of the dread sophomore jinx have all conspired to take shots at successful artistes. Mariah Carey had a very tough period in the late nineties to mid nougties where the albums Charm Bracelet and Glitter failed to sell volume and were critically panned. She rode the storm and returned with 2004’s successful Emancipation of Mimi.

You cannot afford to dwell on the negative.

Competitors will slander your expertise. Friends become enemies, enemies want to become friends. Everyone has a hidden phone camera, or video camera or a hidden agenda. The circle of life is rife with many Bermuda triangles.

You can be successful and have enemies. Or be unsuccessful too and you can have friends.

I know which I would rather have. Between living in a smart Ikoyi town-house with a few relatives and business competitors that hate my guts, or living in an Ajegunle shanty with no plumbing and a leaky roof but plenty of well-wishers. You decide.

As Common once said – Life is a teacher, you are gonna get tested.


“Know you would rather see me die, than see me fly”

Puff Daddy (Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems, 1997)


I dumb down for my audience/

And double my dollars/

They criticize me for it/

Yet they all yell “Holla”/

Jay Z (Moment of Clarity, 2003)


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