Abiola ‘Champ’ Salami (Mr Champ as he is fondly called) is a Social Entrepreneur who uses his exceptional oratory, critical thinking, playwright and the musical art to inform, educate and entertain individuals, organizations and communities across the globe.
His career started in a Non-Governmental Organisation to Health Maintenance Organisation to Banking and IT where he became a Manager at the age of 28 years.
He is an internationally published Author and Africa’s number one Spoken Word Inspirational Music Art. As at March 2013, his tracks have played in over 50 countries across the globe by over 12,000 people.
In 2011, he landed himself an acting role on Tinsel, Africa’s most watched Soap Opera. In March 2012, He was awarded the status of a Competent Communicator by Toastmasters International. In 2013, Toastmasters International awarded him the status of a Competent Leader.
Today he is featured as our Valour Man of the Moment.
Tell us a little about yourself, starting from background to present
My name is Abiola Salami, I grew up in Ibadan, one of the largest cities in Nigeria and perhaps in the world as well. I grew up with my two parents who were civil servants. I grew up in a family of five children and I have the privilege and responsibility to be the first born. We were not wealthy and not poor. Until I lost my dad, that status changed but it was fun all through and I learnt a lot. I understood leadership from a very young age, because when you have younger ones, (the way it is in Africa) especially when you are the first born, and you are a man, the responsibility is upon you to provide leadership for your younger ones, sometimes when you even need to be led aright. It was fun all through!
A lot of people are unhappy with their jobs. A recent poll found that 87% of workers across the world are more frustrated than fulfilled. What do you think is responsible for this and what can be done about it? How would you relate this to your personal experience?
I have never been unhappy with my work and it’s about attitude, about the things you choose to do. Every professional is got to understand the true meaning of being proactive because it is about energy, there’s a concept in energy psychology that every thought generates about 8 watt of energy, so when your energy is negative, you start to depress yourself the more and when it is positive, you start to empower yourself the more. So with that understanding, I have never been unhappy with my job. Have I had it always rosy? No! Have I had times when I thought I was being maltreated by my superiors? Yes. Have I had times when I did not achieve my targets, not because I did not try? Yes. Did that leave me to resign in anger? No!
We assume you read all this from books…
Well, there are many sources of gaining knowledge! The important thing is that we all need to gain knowledge and the proof that you have knowledge is the change in attitude, it is not information that leads to transformation, it is the conversion of information that leads to transformation, there are many knowledge sources, that shows there are many information sources. From radio, TV, books, newspaper, from even internal inspiration, there is a spirit God has given to us which is telling us and instructing us. There are multiple sources of information. Well, it’s not enough to be informed, it’s also important that you convert the information, that’s what leads to transformation; that’s what influences your actions. You did something in a particular way yesterday, but today you know better, and because you know better, you tend to apply what you know to your situation to make you improve on your attitude.
What’s your attitude to reading; do you advice people to read books?
Well I don’t advise people to read books because reading is not an option; you have to read if you don’t want to be stale. One of my favourite quotes is from A.W Tofler who says the illiterate of the 21st century is not those that can neither read nor write, but those that cannot learn, relearn and unlearn. We need to commit to lifelong learning. My mentor is 84 this years old, his name is Dr Christopher Kolade. Anytime I meet this man, he has something to share that he has just learnt. If this man who is 50 years older, still learns, I see no reason why any person should not learn.
You are an accomplished man…what advice would you give to others coming up?
You said I am accomplished, I wonder what you mean by that. If what you mean is a successful person, if it means that you discover your purpose and ensure it benefits others then I’ll take that. So if I’ve discovered my purpose and I’m doing it to benefit others, my advice to others is to just do it! It’s important in life that we get the true definition of success. Some people define success based on money, they are prosperity-centred people, some define it based on fame, and they are popularity-centred people. The definition of success really is the fact that you are fulfilling purpose, not fame or prosperity driven. It’s about looking for one problem within your environment and committing to solve it Q.E.D! So as a young person that wants to be notable in life, be an achiever in life, look for one problem in your community and commit to solving it. As a young person wherever you are in the world, whether you are in Beijing-China, Ontario-Canada, Melbon, Paris-France, Ikeja, Lagos. If you want to be an achiever, there’s one thing you need to do, look for a problem and start to provide solutions to that problem immediately. People may not believe in you, they may not agree with you, they may say you are too small, but what you need to do is to dream, that problem you have discovered to solve, start doing it, and you’ll become the champion you dream of.
Can you tell us about your qualifications? We have it on good ground that you read sociology, tell us how it helped shape your worldview?
Going into the university, Sociology wasn’t my choice, I really wanted to study Economics, because I was told that if you read economics you would make money, but I thank God I did Sociology because eventually I found myself as a square peg in a square hole because I’m naturally wired to engage people. Economics is about money, there’s a people part but it’s not the core. The core is the GDP, GNP, Econometrics and all of that. So I found myself in Sociology and that in many ways have shaped the way I think, that got me interested in psychology and life coaching as well. I’m a UK certified life coach. That got me interested in diploma and a whole lot that is about developing human beings and the core is about helping people to get better.
What’s your driving passion?
One thing that has gotten me this far is the drive to see people’s lives change. In doing what we do, I always say this, not that we have all the resources that we need to achieve our dreams and our goals, not that we have all the resources to host hundreds of people at the Muson centre for the Game 2015 free of charge, free lectures, free food, free health check, free everything. Not that we had all the resources, not that we had all the resources to reach out to all the secondary schools and universities that we reached out to, not that we had all the resources to reach out to over 600,000 people that we reached in 2015. The thing is that at every point in time when we get the testimonials of people, when I hear of people whose lives have changed by virtue of the things we do, a gentle man who attended one of our conference and started running a training for people in the arts, that’s an inspiration! When I think of a gentleman who has a cake business who learnt about the concept of residual income who has grown an income in that area until his life became better, that gives a motivation, when I think about a lady who sent me a message about a week ago, who said something like, ‘Thank you for the free programmes you organised, I am on another financial note, God bless you’, that keeps us on the right track, so the testimonials of people whose lives are getting better, and that is just the goal of raising champions, making people become champions from ordinary people.
What are your personal values and how have they impacted on your love life, career and general way of doing things?
Number one is excellence and I believe that if every human being has only one life to live, then we should commit that life not to mediocrity but to excellence, it is having the mindset of an innovative person. Excellence is one of my core values. The other one is persistence, the fact that you have the staying power to grow it, to fight for it, to go for it. The other one is diligence! Everyone close to me must be diligent. Anybody that does not have any of those things, I distance myself from them. There’s always a commitment required for you to achieve success at any level. Integrity is also there, it is about character. It’s about the fact that what you said to someone 10 years ago, it would still be the same now; I’m talking about issues of life. For example I lost my first job due to integrity, at that point in time, my boss wanted us to share one money that the organisation gave us to advance towards some people who helped us on a particular project and it would have been a very sweet deal because there was no record, there was nothing to sign because the people involved didn’t know how much they were supposed to receive, but I said I won’t sacrifice my name on the altar of that, because at every point in time whether you steal money, how much of your problem can that solve? Your name is very important; don’t compromise on your character.
Are you romantic, because African men have been accused of not being romantic?
I’m African in colour and global in mind-set, like I always share with people that whether you are in Mushin or Michigan, whether you are in Alaba or Alabama, you can thrive and survive, so I’m not restricted to any African incompetence because it is good for us to have a global mindset. As long as the skin is black, the blood is red you can also have a global mindset because everyone in the world has a red blood.
If you are given the opportunity to change one thing, what would you change?
It is mindset! We need to understand that the greatest resource we have is not petroleum, it’s not coal, timber, it’s not any of those natural resources, the greatest resource we have is between our ears, that’s between our left ears and our right ears; that’s our minds! And we need to concentrate effort in developing that thing as it is apparent that because we have not developed our minds, we are underdeveloped with our resources, so it is important that we develop our minds. There are other places that don’t have the resources that we have, we are blessed immensely in Nigeria, but because our mind resource is not as open, as blessed, as disciplined, as learned to fully maximise those resources to be real stewards of those resources God had bestowed on us. What we need is a change of mindset, not a change of government, not a change of people, not a change of jobs, not a change of other things, but a change of mind.
How do you relax?
One thing I want to get back to is to play video games. I dropped it many years ago; I think I’ll get back to it. Once in a while, in my estate I jog around, I used to like lawn tennis as well, but what I really do now to relax is music, if you catch me on a grand piano, I can stay there till forever!
What’s your favourite holiday spot?
It is in a place in the US. It is Houston, Texas. Houston is not necessarily a popular place for holiday. I remember the last time I visited, I had a swell time, it was just so cool, it rained and there was a way the grass held the water, and I liked the feeling of my feet on the grass that morning and I will like to have that feeling again.
You can find out more about Abiola ‘Champ’ Salami on http://abiolachamp.com/