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Money Is A Tool, Not A Noose

In anticipation of this week’s article, people who follow @findreach on social media were asked to select what they most valued when choosing a career. The options were money, personal growth, professional status, and collegial happiness. We asked the same question around this time last year in a similar poll. The answers couldn’t be more different. But then again, the world has since changed dramatically.

Last year, 76% of young Nigerians cited personal growth and development as their main driver when choosing a career. By last week, the figures had shifted dramatically. Money had gone from being a 16% consideration to 43% of respondents saying money was a primary factor in determining their choice in a career.

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With most people laid off or their salaries significantly reduced, it is no surprise that money is at the forefront of many minds. But even in a pandemic where cash is king, people still want to elevate themselves.

How then should you balance the concerns you have about making money with your desire to continue your personal growth and development?

1. Prioritize Productivity Over Title or Status. In the pursuit of money and personal growth and development, odds are, you will be doing this in the context of a business organization. Nothing is more fulfilling than seeing your work come to life. Assuming you have begun practising two of the three evergreen skills discussed in last week’s column, your next task is to set yourself up for productivity.

Productivity here means you are seeking ways to put out as much work product as you can in the shortest amount of time. For most businesses, this output is measurable. It might be in how many deals you close, products you release, customers you onboard, you name it.

At every stage of your career and even before you land a job at your dream company, find out what makes that company succeed and align your productivity and outputs to that metric. Once that happens, you have at least guaranteed yourself relevance. Now that you’re relevant, we move to phase two.

2. Become Indispensable. Assessing indispensability at an organization can be boiled down to two questions. First, what role do you play? Can you clearly articulate your company’s targets and the role you play in getting there? Second question, to whom is your role important?

Is your role important to company leadership, your peers, and subordinates? These are internal stakeholders. Or is the role relevant to regulators, customers, the company’s main source of revenue? These are external stakeholders. To be indispensable, you must connect your role to at least one external and one internal stakeholder.

3. Master Your Expenses. Money will always be important to living a good life. But our poll already shows us that financial pressure is a poor motivator compared to genuine excitement and curiosity. The sooner you master your personal finances, the sooner you free yourself to discover excitement and curiosity in your career. Pursuing these opportunities will in fact open more opportunities for you to make money.

There are 4 main parts to personal finance mastery:

a. Track your expenses and inflows;

b. Put your money to work toward goals that expand your life, influence, and net worth;

c. Build a community that motivates you and keeps you focused;

d. Learn how to use and repay credit and insurance responsibly to even out your cash flows.

In the coming four weeks, I will be diving into each of these four building blocks. See you then!


Every Monday, JR discusses topics focused on career and money management, seeking to highlight the lessons being learned by young professionals navigating similar paths. If you would like to submit a topic or question, please send a DM to my social media handles – jrkanu on Instagram or email


JR Kanu is the creator of the app, REACH: Expense & Money Manager – This app has helped thousands of young people across Africa to better understand and manage their money. He is also the author of the book, Money Brain: Career & Money Management in Your 20s and 30s. He lives in Lagos with his wife and son.

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