How to Really Start from Nothing to Create Riches Today

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Here is a humbling realization – about 99 percent of your life is determined by your genetics, your upbringing and your early environment. And these are things you have zero control over. Most of what you are going to be and do is driven by who you are at the core. This is backed by different scientific studies; we are largely influenced by nature and nurture. A child that loves music, who has access to a musical instrument and raised in an environment that encouraged him to practice consistently, will be miles ahead of someone that decides to try music in their 20s. So the odds are stacked against the majority of people who are not sure what life wants from them, didn’t get the early start on the right path and aren’t built to withstand pressure and difficulty in a tough world.

Despite this overwhelming reality, many ordinary people have gone from living a life of victimhood to create a life that many can only admire. In this post, I’m going to share with you how to start from nothing to achieve a rich life.

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First, let me share a personal story with you. Towards the end of my national youth service; a one year compulsory program before graduates are allowed into the labour market in Nigeria, I had a discussion with a group of corps member about what next. Everyone seemed to have their life planned out; which city they’ll be moving to; where they were going to work and all that. For me, I had no idea what next. I was just going to throw myself into the world and figure things out. I didn’t pick up my certificate from the university. I started from scratch. It wasn’t a straight-line journey. But if I had to bring it down to actionable steps for going from nothing to building something worthwhile, this is what you should do.

First figure out who you are

The first step is to know who you are. This is genetics. No matter how hard I try, I cannot be the life of the party. So I don’t have to waste my energy trying to be one. Not everyone can be a writer or a business executive. Also, not everyone can sit in a small cubicle and work on a laptop 10 hours a day.

The best way to know who you are is to go out and start trying things. Since I left school, I’ve been involved in a lot of things from working in the movie industry, and selling home movies to working in construction, selling imported goods, writing, programming, publishing, and offering consulting services and training. Some of these activities lasted for few months, some few years and other have remained with be. The most important lesson I learned from all these activities was discovering who I was; what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to. If you don’t know who you are, you cannot know where you can excel. So, if you are starting from scratch, you want to know the type of career or business that’ll best suit your personality.

Know what you have

Quoting from the Holy Bible, “To whom that has, more shall be given to him; to whom that has not, even what he has shall be taken from him”. This saying is truer today than ever. The first step to start from nothing is to acknowledge what you have.

Many people hold the belief that the world today is harder than it was for our fathers. They think life is more difficult today than it was 50years ago. But this is a very ignorant belief. Never in history had there been a time when achieving financial success has been more democratized. Never before had people, in spite of their genetic, upbringing and environmental disadvantage, been afforded the opportunity to grow from nothing to succeed.

If you will take the time to study and understand how the world has really changed to your advantage, you will stop looking for who to blame and start using what is already available to you. The internet is overloaded with free tools, free information, free access to people. You don’t need to have anything to start today because a lot has already been given to you.

I started my business with my Nokia 3230 mobile phone. The rest of the tools I had I either got for free or for a little fee over the internet. People have spent thousands of hours building software and tech tools and making them available for free. If you are reading this, then at least you have a phone. I can bet most of the apps on your phone are free. You have access to millions of free videos for free on YouTube to learn anything. Thousands of students have won scholarships, competitions and business funding all from the information they got from our website – If you are mentally stable, physically healthy and do not live in a war-torn zone, you have no excuse to remain poor.

Think about this. If you were born in the 19th century, you might only travel to 10 cities all your life. Today, you can travel to 10 cities in a month. Abraham Lincoln had to walk for miles to borrow books to read to become a self-taught lawyer. Today, you can access thousands of books from the phone in your pocket. The wealthy people of 50 years ago had to hire thousands of factory workers to create products on large scale with huge startup capital. Today, you can start a business with $100 and reach thousands of people from across the world. With all of these advantages, there is really no such thing as starting with nothing because you have a lot already in place.

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Pay your dues

You can’t teach anyone how to endure difficult times; some people are better at it than others. But you have to learn how to persevere. You have to pay your dues. The one mistake most people make when they start something is expecting to be good at it in a few seasons of trial. I remember when I started playing lawn tennis. The first six months were terrible. I was so bad at it, that at some point I thought this game wasn’t for me. But as I continued to observe other players, and nurture my skills I got better at the game. Then I hired a coach, and my skill got good enough for me to enjoy the game. Note that no matter how much I affirm, visualize and meditate, I’ll never be in the position to play Roger Federer. But I can get good enough to enjoy the game. You need deliberate practice to get good at what you do.

There are no secrets to getting financially successful overnight. What you need is repeatable, proven systems. What you don’t get from nature, you can get from nurture. And nurture is a product of repeated instructions, actions and effort. Don’t expect to be good at first. Put in the long hours. Don’t envy people who are already there; you’ll be shocked at how much time they had invested. Focus on investing your own time. As someone puts it, “find out the price you have to pay for success and start paying the price”.

Understand the power of leverage and Choice your leverage

In one of my early business adventures, I went to trade shows to sell home made movies. I had to travel for 8 hours on the road to get to the venue, struggled to get a stand and spent 10 days trying to sell these items. In another instance, I was selling jewellery from office to office. It was pure hustle; hard work but not very smart. When I learned about the opportunities in digital technology, that was the game-changer for me. I couldn’t believe how much effort I was wasting without taking advantage of these opportunities.

The euphoria of sitting behind a screen and creating something that reaches thousands of people many miles away was captivating. You see, cannot achieve much with your two hands, two legs and one brain. You need leverage.

My friend’s wife started an e-commerce business with zero capital. She decided the products she wanted to sell, researched the market for suppliers, took pictures of the items and uploaded them on a local e-commerce website adding her profit to the cost. When she gets an order, she alerts the supply to supply the items. She was simply acting as the middleman – you could say middle-woman. Today, she has created her own website and spending into other product lines. She leverages existing e-commerce platform to get her business off the ground.

Seek out the right connection

A few years ago, I got to invest in the business of someone I met on the internet. We met on Facebook after I left a comment on one of his posts. We exchanged contacts. At the time, he was a good writer who loved to write, but he didn’t have knowledge of how to make his skills profitable. When he saw I was already doing what he was hoping to do, he reached out for mentorship. He literally went from nothing to running a highly successful business today. When he presented his plan to scale his already profitable business, I was confident to invest in his business despite that we had only met one face to face. That has been a profitable investment until today.

You don’t want to spend a long time trying to figure out everything by yourself. That phone in your hand gives you the opportunity to connect with people from anywhere in the world; if not in person but through the knowledge they have shared freely. When you connect with the right network, you will get access to new ideas, new knowledge, and new information. This will help you make better decisions; which leads to growth.

Remember, to go from nothing to create wealth

  • First, figure out who you are
  • Know and appreciate the value of what you have
  • Pay Your Dues
  • Understand the power of leverage and
  • Seek out the right connection

If you found this piece helpful, we’ll appreciate if you’ll share it with someone. If you are yet to subscribe to After School Africa, now is a good time to do so. Until next time, YOUR SUCCESS MATTERS!


  • Ikenna Odinaka C. is a Writer, Career Development Professional, Entrepreneur, Educator and Investor. He is the founder of, and He has also co-founded other businesses in Education, technology and media industry. He is passionate about the future of work, entrepreneurship and helping young people explore opportunities to develop their financial capability. You can read his best content on and watch his insightful videos on YouTube