ayo olaseinde transformed his life

“I arrived without a coat

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ayo olaseinde transformed his life

I was six weeks old when my parents and I moved to Nigeria. While growing up, I wasn’t confident; I was unable to concentrate on simple school tasks.

On my first day of elementary school, I was given 500 lines to write as a punishment because I couldn’t pay attention in class. My brain would constantly go off on a tangent. By the time I had read a page of information in the classroom, I would have already forgotten it. I also rarely understood what was happening around me in school.

As a result of that, I was bullied in school. When I’d answer a question incorrectly, the other students would pick on me. So, I withdrew and became quieter. I was not an academic person, and I failed all of my subjects apart from religious education and technical drawing.

It wasn’t surprising to me because I was used to failure. In one instance, when I was taking an exam, I opened the paper and felt defeated immediately. So, rather than completing the exam, I fell asleep.

Ayo Olaseinde Transformed his life Ayo Olaseinde pictured in his house in Stafford, in 2022. Ayo Olaseinde

Growing up in Nigeria

When I was younger, I was also bullied because of my skin color. My father is Nigerian and my mother is German, so I am of mixed heritage. In Nigeria, I was classed as the only “white” person in school. Being bullied affected my confidence, so I had a very bad inferiority complex.

My safe haven was home, but as soon as I would leave my house, I’d constantly be exposed to the outside world. I’d walk down the streets and I’d be teased because of my skin color. I’d walk as fast as I could to escape the bullies, but on the next road, I’d be met with more kids. It was a tough experience. I didn’t realize the harm that it caused me until later on in life when I became an adult.

For example, in 1981, when I was 25 years old, I applied for a role at a major men’s grooming company. As soon as I walked into the room, I remember seeing all the other interviewees dressed in their best suits. I looked down at myself and felt that my suit wasn’t coordinated. So, I turned around and walked out of that job interview. I thought: There’s no way they could ever hire me.

In my Nigerian culture, it’s typical for young adults to move to the U.K. at the age of 18 for college and a better life. England was seen as a place of opportunity. My father had also flown over to England to study when he was younger, too. Luckily, my father still had faith in me and encouraged me to follow in his footsteps by going to England for better opportunities.

Moving to the U.K. for a better life

I wanted to become successful to make my mom proud. My mom had been abandoned by her own family for marrying my father because he’s Black. She had nowhere to go, and she worked very hard for us to have a good life. My sister was also born mentally handicapped and my mom spent her time looking after her. I thought: I must get out of my comfort zone. I must move to England and make something out of my life, and my mom was the reason why.

In September 1974, when I was 18 years old, I arrived in England with nothing but £100 ($120) in my pocket with the plan to move in with my uncle.

I didn’t expect it to be very cold in September, and I was wearing a T-shirt. It had taken me hours to find my uncle’s house, and by the time I arrived at his front door, I was shocked by how cold the weather was; I was shivering.

As soon as I knocked on my uncle’s door, he welcomed me into his home and told me that he had no space for me to live with him. For three nights, I slept on the chair in his living room until I was able to figure out my next steps. He advised me to visit another family friend in Stoke-on-Trent, but when I arrived there, the family member that I was supposed to meet was nowhere to be found.

Ayo Olaseinde Transformed his life Ayo Olaseinde pictured in his house in Stafford, in 2022. Ayo Olaseinde

I remember sitting on the front porch of the house with my suitcase in front of me and I burst into tears. I thought: What have I done? It felt like I had jumped from a frying pan, into the fire.

After I met my family friend, they gave me a small spare room to sleep in for a few months, and in 1976, I moved to Newcastle-Under-Lyme in Staffordshire to retake my school subjects. After studying for a year, I failed yet again. I didn’t feel disappointed because at that point, I was so used to failure, it was almost like a habit.

I then moved to Manchester, and that’s when things went downhill for me. At that point, I was hanging out with a bad crowd, doing bad things, and living in an attic apartment. My sister came to the U.K. in the hope that she could receive better medical treatment, and I was looking after her for a year before she moved back to Nigeria.

I remember my 21st birthday very clearly. I sat in my run-down apartment doing nothing, thinking: Life is tough. At that point, I felt like I had completely deteriorated.

A New Beginning

In 1979, I moved back to Stoke-on-Trent. My friend, Ellen, allowed me to sleep on her chair. I thought: I’ve just got to get a job, and I’ll be fine. I decided that no matter what, I was going to turn my life around. Every day, I walked four miles to the local bakery and stood outside. I was told that if they were short-staffed for an evening’s work, I could get a shift.

It took me two weeks of walking back and forth every day for four miles and waiting in a long line before I was able to get a shift. Because I was a hard worker, I knew I had to show the staff how dedicated I was.

It felt good to be working because I had nothing, I even had holes in my shoes. The bakery was warm, I felt safe there, and I could eat as much bread as I wanted. After I started making a bit of money in the bakery, I’d take the bus halfway, and walk the other half because I was able to afford it.

One day, I was walking to the bakery and feeling sorry for myself, thinking: Why me, why am I in this situation? I had holes in my shoes and my socks were soaking wet. All I could hear was the squishing of my damp socks against the pavement.

I then saw what looked like a happy family in a Mercedes beside me. I looked at the car and I looked at myself and began evaluating what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, the bakery was making redundancies and laying off people, and I didn’t want to be jobless again.

Ayo Olaseinde Transformed his life Ayo Olaseinde arrived in London in 1974, when he was 18 years old. Stock image. Getty Images

Finding a new path

So, I looked at my options. I had no education and I wasn’t good at doing manual labor jobs. When looking in a newspaper, I saw an advertisement for a sales job with good pay. I came out of my comfort zone and decided to apply for the role. Within the first few months, I was so used to rejection that it worked in my favor because I was resilient and I kept going when clients would turn down sales.

Eventually, I began to get sales, and then I began working my way up into management. A year after joining the job, in 1983, I became a manager, and in 1984 I opened up my own dealership.

I must have had a knack for it because I did reasonably well. But, I also outworked everybody. If they worked five hours, I would work 15 hours, and I still do, until this today. My mom always used to say, “If you’re going to do a job, do it properly, or don’t bother.” I always put that into everything that I did. Over time, I noticed that my skill level began to increase. I looked to people who were doing well in the sales business, and I closely watched and learned from them.

Fortunately, I was also good with people. So, I began to build a team. I was still terrified because I’d never been a boss before, so, my insecurities began to creep in. That’s when I spoke to a professional. I couldn’t let my insecurities take over my life if I wanted to achieve big things.

Changing my spending habits

Towards the end of 1984, almost a year into owning my own business, I met with an accountant and saw that we had turned over £250,000 ($301,000) which was a lot of money back then. My accountant then told me that my profit was £15,000 ($18,000). I was shocked. I realized that I needed to be smarter with my finances, and I learned as I went along.

I also realized that I may have undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. In 1995, when my son was 7 years old, we were getting him tested, and as I was filling out the form and going through the assessment, I thought: This is me. It felt like everything finally made a lot of sense.

In 2004, after 20 years of owning my business and living in a nice big home with 14 acres of land, I decided to leave. Then, I got headhunted to start up another business, and became the global president of the whole organization in 2018, overseeing 60 branches worldwide.

It’s an honor to be recognized for my skill set. I come across so many successful people, and a lot of them choose not to help others. I don’t often hear of them giving any business tips and tricks, or giving opportunities to others. I feel that my legacy is to give back. That’s why I wrote a book, accompanied by an interactive workbook, about my life experiences and how to become successful, not just in business, but in your day-to-day life.

I believe that we are all born gifted, but we often don’t realize our gifts because society tries to tell us who we are. Although my mom passed away before I became successful, I am glad that I got to do this for her. She was the “why” behind my success.

Ayo Olaseinde is the president of a global organization that works in over 60 countries. He is the author of the book ‘Born With The Power To Win’.

All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

As told to Newsweek associate editor, Carine Harb.

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