Day 20: Yusuf

Really grateful to Adepero for this incredible opportunity to reflect over the year – despite how much I have tried to elude her in previous years 😅. To be honest, I usually have myself to blame for procrastinating doing this exercise each year; missing out on such a vital opportunity to chronicle my experiences each year and learn from them. All I can say is Thank You Perry’s Tots for 31 Days 31 Voices.

The year 2019 has had virtually everything- the highs, the rock bottom lows, the victories and struggles as well as the good, the bad and the ugly. To make this an easy read, let’s do this in sections. Shall we?


The Beginning

It was already anticipated to start out tough at the beginning when I ended 2018 by quitting my full time job at a hospital to focus on building my Start-Up – Neo Childcare. For me it was a drastic pivot but a very exciting one! I knew it was not going to be easy but I remained reassured in the belief that God had me covered. Imagine moving from being a salary earner to salary payer in this dwindling economy with nothing else to rely on but the grace of God, family and a few savings…whew!

I was privileged to begin this journey with a wonderful colleague – Toyosi, whose attitude to work was absolutely terrific. I remember how we started learning everything together about building a business from scratch – learning by DIY, consulting and experimenting everything. It was an exciting way to begin the year and it taught me many salient lessons – sometimes when you let go you allow yourself to be caught by grace and that’s exactly what happened.


The Struggles

One of the most difficult things about struggling or going through trials is the fact that people hardly know half of you are going through. Even when you tell them, they refuse to believe you because someway somehow they seem to think you have your life all figured out. In this social media world where we post smiley pictures or celebrate our achievements, people hardly believe the amount of paddling we have to do under the water to keep our ducks afloat. There were times when I doubted myself and the validity of my dreams. There were times when I honestly didn’t know which way to go. At those times, I relied on lots of counsel from the right people.

There were times when I was worried about where the next meal or money to fuel my car would come from. Sometimes, I had to decide which was priority – poverty is real o! I was dead broke and at some of my lowest ebbs financially this year. Still, I needed to cater to my employees and make no excuses at the end of the month. I needed to keep going with the various social impact projects that depended on me. I just had to keep doing that which brought my heart joy.

If you know how much I hated it when people made comments like “a whole you, how can you be broke?” or when there are responsibilities in family and they ask “don’t you have any savings?”. If only people knew…

The Wins

Perhaps, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the reward…

I doubt any other year has presented me with as many wins as 2019. It still amazes me when I reflect over everything and I cannot help but remain in utmost gratitude to God for everything. From winning the Nigerian-American Partnership Award for the Best Team for the hard work of my team and I on the Carrington Fellowship to pitching Neo Childcare on various stages and winning and then climaxing with a surreal experience at the UNLEASH Global Innovation Lab in China where I bagged two awards alongside my team (amongst over 1200+ talents) and met amazing young people from all across the world, God has been more than faithful. I also watched my team – The Neo Child Initiative grow in leaps and bounds under the leadership of Dr Cassandra Akinde, needing much less of my influence than before.

I have seen hard work pay dividends this year and most importantly seen how much God can come through for you if you stay grounded.

2019 was also the year where I made the difficult but inevitable step relocating from the country. It was emotional for me because I had a lot going on back home and was deeply connected to my teams and family but after 1 year of reflecting and fighting back the prospect, it was only logical to succumb. Being surprised with a send off by the TNCI and Neo Childcare family still counts as one of my best memories yet – they totally got me! And their eulogies of me were almost unbelievable.

I had to readjust to life in a new country with new people, rules, weather and food (I still miss my dear Amala) whilst managing to sustain the work from my organisations back home. It hasn’t been the easiest but I have been learning and adapting still.

Perhaps, what counts as my biggest achievement this year is meeting the love of my life and realizing I was at my last bus-stop. If you ask me, maybe that has been my secret to triumph this year and I really can’t wait to see what the rest of my life would look like with her in it.

The Lessons

Among the many lessons to draw from 2019 are the following:

1. Do not be afraid – many times, what really holds us back from success are the uncertainties we face and our fear of what lies outside of our comfort zone but like I shared with someone recently, nothing worthwhile happens easy. You need to take that leap of faith, close your eyes, let go and allow yourself to be caught up in God’s expansive grace when you fall.
2. Take time to sow, Harvest will come – many times, we are too in a hurry for quick results or overnight success. Beneath all the humble achievements I made this year were years and years of preparation and hard work. It will all pay off, just in time. Keep at it.
3. Reach Out and Seek Help – when you have struggles and challenges and you don’t know which way to go, don’t be shy to ask for directions or wise counsel. I look back now at all the meetings and consultations I had this year with very meaningful and how they continue to shape what I learn and I’m becoming.
4. Stay Grounded, your Hustle is Valid – whatever it is that you did, so long as you believe strongly in your inner core that it is valid, never anyone convince you otherwise. Be flexible, take advice and criticism but only constructive ones but be persistent enough by putting in the work. It was a year of many late nights and starved bellies for me but I am grateful about where the hustle is headed.
5. You will Win! – With all the above, always remember, no matter how many times you lose or get a rejection, someday, you will win!

Take this mentality into 2020!

I hope this was of benefit.


Yusuf Shittu.


Season’s Greetings from Perry’s Tots.

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