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Tobi Owolabi - Life Coach, Motivational Speaker, Founder of O-Line Security & Operation Save the Kids & Cyber Security Analyst

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Since I was in elementary school, I watched my mom work so hard so that we could have more, so that we could be more, and be able to provide more for ourselves. I watched her do all of these things, for us, not even for herself. She was never worried about herself, she was never concerned whether or not she was getting enough sleep. She just knew she had three boys raise. Due to that, there were numerous sleepless nights of her grinding for a cause, us. During the day she was in school, at night she was at work, if she wasn’t at work she was taking care of us making sure we didn’t struggle, making sure we had no idea what a struggle was.

And we didn’t necessarily struggle, however, at the same time I couldn’t get everything I wanted. I couldn’t have all the nice clothes and shoes everyone in middle school was wearing. It seemed as if everyone but me was coming to school with nice phones and watches. I couldn’t have most of what I wanted and I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do. Especially in high school.

My freshmen year in high school I wanted to join the basketball team, I wanted to play football, I wanted to hang out with friends after school, I wanted to get a job and make my own money so I could get what I wanted but who was going to watch my little brothers when my mom was at work? Who was going to make sure we were ok? I was the oldest, so the responsibilities fell on my hands. It was hard to hold these responsibilities as a teenager.

What was also difficult was trying to live up to everyone’s standards and expectations. Growing up in a Nigerian household, being the oldest means you have to be the example, you have to be perfect, you can’t make a mistake, you have to lead, and you don’t have a choice. If you don’t do these things then entire family, even family you don’t even know will be on your case. Imagine a kid growing up with all these responsibilities, all this pressure that eventually felt like a burden. It was difficult. It was to the point this burden distanced me from my brothers. For years, I barely spoke to them. We lived in the same house, all I would say is hi and bye or get into an argument which led to a fight. It was as if all we did was fight. Then when I saw college coming around the corner I was ready to go, I was ready to leave and not think about anyone or the standards they wanted me to hold.  

College was the first time I had freedom, the first time I could worry about nobody else but myself. The first time I could do something and not have to worry about who was going to watch my brother. They were older so they didn’t need me to babysit and watch after their every move. I barely even came back home to check on them. I barely even called to speak to my mom. I was free, didn’t have to worry about a thing but myself and my academics.

I was working hard academically. I knew how to study, my mom made sure of that. I was a scholar. After my freshman year, I knew I had the academics under control so I explored and adventured into everything else I could possibly think of.

I joined the track team, pledged, became the president of two organizations, and established a name for myself within my major and all the activities and groups I participated in. I was working and making my own money, something most of my friends weren’t doing at the time. I was having the best time of my life. No burdens, nobody else to worry about, just me and my decisions.

Then it was almost time to graduate and reality hit me. I realized it was almost time to go back home and be with my mom and brothers again. I wasn’t upset, by that time our relationships were better than ever before. However, that wasn’t my concern. My concern was life after graduation, in other words, my career.

I took on all these things in college, president of organizations, internships with lawyers, getting ready to graduate amongst the top of my class but still no hope of employment, nobody was offering me a job. Nobody was offering the student who went above and beyond to stand out amongst his peers a job.

It just seemed as if I was going to end up where I started; back at my mom’s watching my brothers. But this time with a degree and nothing to show for it. When I realized and acknowledged this I mentally, broke down and started crying. I actually almost dropped out of school my senior year after this episode. But after a few life-changing moments, I began to come to reality with a few facts. The very people I strayed away from were the very reason why I couldn’t give up. My brothers did need an example, they did need a leader, they did need to see me succeed. If I gave up, they would find it easy to do the same. If I gave up, all of my mom’s hard work would have been pointless. All of her sleepless nights and sacrifices would have gone to waste. Even when she was doing all that she could, she never gave up. In fact, when I thought she was doing all that she could, she would always surprise me and find more to do. Whether it was picking up another shift or another job after not sleeping for days, she saw found more.

As soon as I understood that, I stopped crying over what did not happen yet. I started applying all of the principles, skills, tactics, and processes I learned through all that I did during my time in college and held myself accountable to do more until I had more. I was 21 years old when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. I was 24 years old when I landed a six-figure salary. Today, through my experience, trials, and tribulations: I preach, motivate, speak, and passionately advocate on doing more even when you think you’ve done all you can, despite what obstacles may be in the way, despite what may be going on, despite what expectations and standards people have for us.

Social Handle: @IAMTOBIOWOLABI
Website: www.iamtobiowolabi.com