Super User

Super User

This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Six-Figure Side Hustle series, where people with lucrative side hustles break down the routines and habits they’ve used to make money on top of their full-time jobs. Got a story to tell? Let us know! Email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It took Rodney Melton just over a year to build a six-figure side hustle.

In March 2021, Melton started molding, engraving and selling headstones for pet memorials on Etsy. He’d long worked with concrete and stone as a hobby, while working 60 hours per week as a maintenance lead at Mars Pet Care.

He already owned a $15,000 engraver. Plus, he could work in his self-built workshop behind his home in Alma, Arkansas, a town of less than 6,000 people on the edge of the Ozark Mountains.

At first, it took Melton two or three days to set the headstones in molds, then another five hours to engrave them before his wife added epoxy filling. As his side hustle grew, revenue started pouring in — so he used a combination of proceeds and savings to invest another $51,500 in other tools, like a sandblaster, granite saw and chisel, and laser engraver.

Each new piece of equipment minimized Melton’s production time, allowing him to sell more headstones. In May 2022, his Etsy shop brought in nearly $20,000, and Melton left his full-time job. Now he works fewer hours and spends them with his family, after hiring his daughter and daughter-in-law last summer.

Last year, the four-person operation brought in more than $207,000 on Etsy, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It. About two-thirds of that is profit, Melton estimates, and he’s on track to make roughly the same amount this year.

Here, he discusses how he built his business, why he likes working with family members and what you might need to replicate his success.

CNBC Make It: Do you think your side hustle is replicable? What do you need to get started?

Melton: Anyone can do this. I’d say you need $10,000 or less to get started. That’s for cement molds and sandblast equipment.

It’s just a matter of having the passion for it. My mom passed at the end of 2020, and my dad and I were taking it really hard. I started making things, like concrete crosses, 3D roses and plaques. Just little memorial pieces that turned out really nice.

Then, my friend Carlos lost his dog Molly. I think those things had a lot to do with the direction I went. My heart has been in it for the people [who lose their pets]. But by result, if you serve more people, you make more money.

Have you had to set any boundaries working with your family?  

Not really. If you have an alpha personality and are really assertive, it might clash with some of your family members. But if you let everybody have a part it in, things can run smoothly.

In the beginning, my wife and I would meet my daughter Kristen for lunch, one day a week. We would just sit there and talk about things and brainstorm. She came up with an idea for a concrete mold shaped like a dog bone. We’ve sold thousands of dollars’ worth [of them] since.

Now, Kristen has taken over a lot. She keeps me in line on what needs to be done. I’ll go out [to the workshop] and there’ll be a sticky note that says, “Dad, you need to pour seven beige stones today.”

How has creating pet memorials full-time impacted your work-life balance?

My wife, daughter and daughter-in-law, we all work about five hours per day now. I work 75 feet out my back door — it’s freed up so much time and given me the opportunity to just be with my family a whole lot more.

I like to sleep in and work into the evening a little bit. I’m my own boss, which has its downfalls. But it still isn’t a full-time job. I can mow the yard, clean the house.

It’s helped all of us. My daughter wasn’t happy with where she worked at the time. My daughter-in-law, who helps us design the stencils, was a stay-at-home mom and wanted something to do. She makes a few hundred bucks a week, and instead of paying for daycare, stays at home with her kids.

I can make a good living shipping everything the way we do now. If I were in my 30s, I would probably gear up and do big headstones for cemeteries. But those are much bigger items.

I’m in talks with a local monument company to start updating shared headstones in cemeteries. Maybe we’ll go in that direction next year.

 

CNBC

The United States District Court in Northern Illinois has given Chicago State University (CSU) 48 hours starting from Saturday to release President Bola Tinubu’s academic records to an opposition candidate in Nigeria’s February presidential election, Atiku Abubakar.

In a ruling delivered on Saturday, the judge, Nancy Maldonado, after dismissing Tinubu’s objection, gave the university until 12 noon on Monday to release the documents to Atiku.

Maldonando dismissed Tinubu’s objection to the 20 September decision of a magistrate judge of the court, Jeffery Gilbert.

The judge on Saturday fully affirmed Gilbert’s ruling ordering the CSU to release Tinubu’s academic records as requested by Atiku. She insisted Atiku had the right to have access to the records.

“For the reasons stated in the Court’s accompanying Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court overrules Tinubu’s objections (44] and adopts Judge Gilbert’s recommended decision [40] in full.

“The Court therefore grants Abubakar’s application under 28 U.S.C. § 1782. [1],” Maldonado ruled.

She said the CSU must complete all necessary filings with regard to the release by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

“Respondent CSU is directed to produce all relevant and non-privileged documents in response to Requests for Production Nos. 1 through 4 (as narrowed by Judge Gilbert and adopted by the District Court in its opinion) in Abubakar’s subpoena, by 12:00 p.m. (noon) CDT, on Monday, October 2, 2023.

“The Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of CSU’s corporate designee must be completed by 5:00 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, October 3, 2023,” the court ordered.

Atiku had asked for the documents for use in Nigerian courts to support his argument that Tinubu forged a diploma certificate he claimed to have obtained from CSU in 1979 and submitted to Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, for the 2023 presidential election.

This, Atiku argued, goes to the root of Tinubu’s qualification to contest the last presidential election.

Although Atiku lost his case against Tinubu at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which delivered its judgement in early September, he hopes to reintroduce the issue backed with the documents from the CSU in his appeal which he is pursuing against the election court’s decision at the Nigerian Supreme Court.

Atiku had told the US district court that he had up to 5 October to file the documents from the CSU against Tinubu at the Supreme Court.

Tinubu mounted stiff opposition to the release of the documents to Atiku, arguing that “the Nigerian election proceedings and the Nigerian courts” had explicitly rejected the documents Atiku sought to obtain and tender in his case aimed at overturning the results of the 25 presidential elections.

Tinubu’s second reason is that Atiku’s request “is unduly intrusive because it allows Applicant (Atiku) to conduct a fishing expedition into Intervenor’s private, confidential, and protected educational records.”

Court order not confirmation of Atiku’s forgery allegation

But dismissing Tinubu’s objection on Saturday, Maldonado said she was only affirming Atiku’s right to have access to the CSU documents, not confirming the merit of his allegations against the Nigerian president or his comments on the validity of the country’s presidential election.

“In reaching this conclusion, the Court emphasises that it is expressing no view on the merits of Abubakar’s underlying claims regarding Tinubu or his graduation from CSU, or on the validity of the Nigerian election.

“Nor is the Court taking any position on what any of the documents or testimony from CSU may or may not ultimately show. The Court simply finds, on the narrow question before it, that Abubakar is entitled to the production of documents and testimony that he seeks from CSU,” a summary of the judgement read in part.

‘No more order of stay’

Given the time constraints Atiku has to file the CSU documents at Nigeria’s Supreme Court, Maldonado cautioned Tinubu not to bother applying for a stay of the order, as such application would be denied.

She said his only option is to take up such an application for a stay of execution at the US Court of Appeals.

“Given the October 5, 2023 filing deadline before the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the Court will not extend or modify these deadlines.

“Further, the Court notes that at the recent emergency hearing, the possibility of a stay pending an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was raised. The Court cautions Tinubu that any request for a stay before this Court will be denied, as the Court finds any stay impracticable in light of the fast-approaching Supreme Court of Nigeria deadlines.

“Tinubu is, of course, free to request a stay directly from the Seventh Circuit should he file any appeal. Judgment is entered in favour of Atiku Abubakar.”

As of Sunday morning, it was not clear if Tinubu had filed an appeal at the US Court of Appeals.

Tinubu’s CSU documents ordered for release

The court ordered CSU to release four sets of documents relating to Tinubu as requested by Atiku.

They are true and correct copies of:

*An exemplar of a Chicago State University diploma issued to President Tinubu in 1979;

*Mr Tinubu’s diploma issued in 1979;

*Any exemplar of a Chicago State University diploma that “contains the same font, seal, signatures, and wording as contained in Exhibit C to the First Liu Declaration, which purports to be a CSU diploma issued to Tinubu on or about June 22, 1979″; and

* The CSU documents that were certified and produced by Jamar Orr (an associate general counsel at CSU) as well as communications relating to these documents.

 

PT

Here is the full speech of President Bola Tinubu on Nigeria’s 63rd independence day anniversary.

Dear Compatriots,

It is my unique honour to address you on this day, the 63rd anniversary of our nation’s independence, both as the President of our dear country and, simply, as a fellow Nigerian.

On this solemn yet hopeful day, let us commend our founding fathers and mothers. Without them, there would be no modern Nigeria. From the fading embers of colonialism, their activism, dedication and leadership gave life to the belief in Nigeria as a sovereign and independent nation.

Let us, at this very moment, affirm that as Nigerians, we are all endowed with the sacred rights and individual gifts that God has bestowed on us as a nation and as human beings. No one is greater or lesser than the other. The triumphs that Nigeria has achieved shall define us. The travails we have endured shall strengthen us. And no other nation or power on this earth shall keep us from our rightful place and destiny. This nation belongs to you, dear people. Love and cherish it as your very own.

Nigeria is remarkable in its formation and essential character. We are a broad and dynamic blend of ethnic groups, religions, traditions and cultures. Yet, our bonds are intangible yet strong, invisible yet universal. We are joined by a common thirst for peace and progress, by the common dream of prosperity and harmony and by the unifying ideals of tolerance and justice.

Forging a nation based on the fair application of these noble principles to a diverse population has been a task of significant blessing but also serial challenge. Some people have said an independent Nigeria should never have come into existence. Some have said that our country would be torn apart. They are forever mistaken. Here, our nation stands and here we shall remain.

This year, we passed a significant milestone in our journey to a better Nigeria. By democratically electing a 7th consecutive civilian government, Nigeria has proven that commitment to democracy and the rule of law remains our guiding light.

At my inauguration, I made important promises about how I would govern this great nation. Among those promises, were pledges to reshape and modernize our economy and to secure the lives, liberty and property of the people.

I said that bold reforms were necessary to place our nation on the path of prosperity and growth. On that occasion, I announced the end of the fuel subsidy.

I am attuned to the hardships that have come. I have a heart that feels and eyes that see. I wish to explain to you why we must endure this trying moment. Those who sought to perpetuate the fuel subsidy and broken foreign exchange policies are people who would build their family mansion in the middle of a swamp. I am different. I am not a man to erect our national home on a foundation of mud. To endure, our home must be constructed on safe and pleasant ground.

Reform may be painful, but it is what greatness and the future require. We now carry the costs of reaching a future Nigeria where the abundance and fruits of the nation are fairly shared among all, not hoarded by a select and greedy few. A Nigeria where hunger, poverty and hardship are pushed into the shadows of an ever fading past.

There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago. I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.

My government is doing all that it can to ease the load. I will now outline the path we are taking to relieve the stress on our families and households.

We have embarked on several public sector reforms to stabilize the economy, direct fiscal and monetary policy to fight inflation, encourage production, ensure the security of lives and property and lend more support to the poor and the vulnerable.

Based on our talks with labour, business and other stakeholders, we are introducing a provisional wage increment to enhance the federal minimum wage without causing undue inflation. For the next six months, the average low-grade worker shall receive an additional Twenty-Five Thousand naira per month.

To ensure better grassroots development, we set up an Infrastructure Support Fund for states to invest in critical areas. States have already received funds to provide relief packages against the impact of rising food and other prices.

Making the economy more robust by lowering transport costs will be key. In this regard, we have opened a new chapter in public transportation through the deployment of cheaper, safer Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses across the nation. These buses will operate at a fraction of current fuel prices, positively affecting transport fares.

New CNG conversions kits will start coming in very soon as all hands are on deck to fast track the usually lengthy procurement process. We are also setting up training facilities and workshops across the nation to train and provide new opportunities for transport operators and entrepreneurs. This is a groundbreaking moment where, as a nation, we embrace more efficient means to power our economy. In making this change, we also make history.

I pledged a thorough housecleaning of the den of malfeasance the CBN had become. That housecleaning is well underway. A new leadership for the Central Bank has been constituted. Also, my special investigator will soon present his findings on past lapses and how to prevent similar reoccurrences. Henceforth, monetary policy shall be for the benefit of all and not the exclusive province of the powerful and wealthy.

Wise tax policy is essential to economic fairness and development. I have inaugurated a Committee on Tax Reforms to improve the efficiency of tax administration in the country and address fiscal policies that are unfair or hinder the business environment and slow our growth.

To boost employment and urban incomes, we are providing investment funding for enterprises with great potential. Similarly, we are increasing investment in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Commencing this month, the social safety net is being extended through the expansion of cash transfer programs to an additional 15 million vulnerable households.

My administration shall always accord the highest priority to the safety of the people. Inter-Service collaboration and intelligence sharing have been enhanced. Our Service Chiefs have been tasked with the vital responsibility of rebuilding the capacities of our security services.

Here, I salute and commend our gallant security forces for keeping us safe and securing our territorial integrity. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice. We remember them today and their families. We shall equip our forces with the ways and means needed to perform their urgent task on behalf of the people,

We shall continue to make key appointments in line with the provisions of the Constitution and with fairness toward all. Women, Youth and the physically challenged shall continue to be given due regard in these appointments.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate the National Assembly for its role in the quick take-off of this administration through the performance of its constitutional duties of confirmation and oversight.

I similarly congratulate the judiciary as a pillar of democracy and fairness.

I also thank members of our dynamic civil society organizations and labour unions for their dedication to Nigerian democracy. We may not always agree but I value your advice and recommendations. You are my brothers and sisters and you have my due respect.

Fellow compatriots, the journey ahead will not be navigated by fear or hatred. We can only achieve our better Nigeria through courage, compassion and commitment as one indivisible unit.

I promise that I shall remain committed and serve faithfully. I also invite all to join this enterprise to remake our beloved nation into its better self. We can do it. We must do it. We shall do it.!!!

I wish you all a happy 63rd Independence Anniversary.

Thank you for listening.

May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), say its members will join the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in the planned indefinite nationwide strike. 

Labour had threatened to go on an indefinite nationwide strike from October 3 over the removal of petrol subsidy by the federal government and its attendant impacts on Nigerians.

Specifically, Labour is asking the government for tax exceptions, allowances to public sector workers, reduction of cost of governance, and wage awards following the removal of the petrol subsidy.

Last month, the NLC had embarked on a two-day warning strike after which the federal government was given a 21-day ultimatum to meet its demands.

The ultimatum expired on Tuesday without the government attending to the requests of the union.

Also, the meeting between the federal government and leadership of the NLC scheduled to hold on Friday to prevent the planned nationwide strike by the unions failed to take place.

Aligning with the labour unions, NUEE, in a statement signed by Dominic Ogwebike, acting general secretary, directed its members to commence full mobilisation to ensure compliance with the directive. 

“Hence, we are to totally withdraw our services and participate in street protests and rallies until the government responds to our demands,” the statement reads. 

“To this effect, all National, State and Chapter executives are requested to start mobilization of our members in total compliance with this directive.

“Please note that withdrawal of Services nationwide commences from 0.00 hours of Tuesday, October 3, 2023.”

“The employees are encouraged to work with the leadership of state executive councils (SEC) of the congress in various states with a view to having a successful action.”

‘PENGASSAN JOINS LABOUR UNIONS’ STRIKE’

On its part, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) in a recent statement, directed members in the formal and informal sectors of the Nigeria oil and gas industry to commence full mobilisation for the indefinite strike. 

The union directed its members to ensure unwavering compliance with the directive of the two labour centres to all affiliate industrial unions to embark on a nationwide industrial action from October 3, 2023.

“The leadership of NUPENG finds it so disturbing and unfortunate, that the federal government of Nigeria and other tiers of governments are so insensitive to the excruciating and debilitating socio/economic pains Nigerians are passing through as a result of very harsh and sudden economic policies taken by this administration without any accompanying socio/economic policies to ameliorate and cushion the immediate effects and impacts those difficult and harsh policies are having on the citizenry,” PENGASSAN said. 

The union said the “apparent lack of regard and respect” for cries and yearnings of the organised labour, civil society organisations and the general public by the administration, is worrisome.

MORE TRADE UNIONS DECLARE SUPPORT FOR STRIKE

At the moment, more trade unions have declared their support for the planned strike.

The Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) has directed its state councils to immediately commence intensive mobilisation of members “in total compliance to the indefinite strike, peaceful protest and rallies as has been declared by the organised labour”.

Also, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) in a circular by Peters Adeyemi, its general secretary, instructed its members to “embark on total and comprehensive strike action as directed”, with a view to getting the federal government to react positively to the demands of labour.

Others unions are National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM),  the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), the Television, Theatre and Arts Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU), and the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUHAP).

Presidential Candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 elections, Peter Obi, has said Nigeria needs political office holders who have identity and authentic credentials.

Obi said this in the United States where there is an ongoing case on President Bola Tinubu’s academic record.

Recall that former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who contested the presidential election on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is digging for the academic and personal records of Tinubu, from Chicago State University (CSU).

A court ruled in favour of Atiku, ordering CSU to release Tinubu’s record, but the Nigerian president filed an appeal against this.

Speaking at the Chinua Achebe Symposium at Princeton University, US on Friday, Obi said Nigerians must start working towards a country driven by competence and commitment to fighting corruption.

He submitted that leaders in Africa’s biggest economy must be committed to the rule of law.

“We must have leadership that is committed to the rule of law… that has an identity and credentials that can be verified. We can start thinking of a new Nigeria with competence, and capacity that is committed to fighting corruption. Is it possible to fight corruption? The answer is yes!

“The trouble with Nigeria is self-inflicted. If Achebe was alive, he would have taken back the book. When he wrote it, there was no trouble. Now, there is real trouble in Nigeria. Rascality has become a measure of success in Nigeria. That must change.”

Obi is one of those who filed an appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge the tribunal’s ruling that upheld Tinubu’s victory.

 

Daily Trust

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

British defense chief wants to send UK troops to Ukraine

In his discussions with the Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, Shapps also reportedly said that Britain’s Navy could play a role in “defending commercial vessels” the Black Sea, according to The Telegraph.

“Britain is a naval nation so we can help and we can advise, particularly since the water is international water,” he said without elaborating what kind of help he offered Zelensky.

The UK military conducted an official operation to train and arm Ukrainian troops since 2015, which has since shifted out of the country. British Royal Marines also conducted several high-risk “discreet operations” in Ukraine last year, according to one general, but officially London never admitted to having any significant presence in the country after the conflict with Russia escalated in 2022. However, several classified US military documents that leaked online earlier this year suggested that some 50 British special operatives were still active in Ukraine.

The open deployment of British military personnel would be yet another escalation, after the UK became the first NATO country to supply Kiev with depleted uranium shells as well as long-range cruise missiles which Ukraine has since repeatedly used in attacks against Russian infrastructure.

Moscow has repeatedly described the conflict in Ukraine as one between Russia and the “entire Western military machine,” while Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that there are entire military units in Ukraine “under the de-facto command of Western advisers.”

British intelligence experts were also involved in studying ways to blow up Russia’s Crimea Bridge using divers or maritime drones, according to independent news website The Grayzone. Last year’s attack on the bridge was carried out using a truck bomb, rather than the options discussed in the UK analysis, but in July Kiev used two suicide sea drones in a deadly strike that damaged a span of the road and killed two civilians.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused UK and US intelligence agencies of helping to coordinate the latest Ukrainian strike on Sevastopol, Crimea, which targeted the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

The newly-appointed Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, has unveiled ongoing discussions about expanding the UK-led training program for Ukrainian troops and potentially relocating British instructors into the country itself, as well as offering Kiev unspecified naval support in the Black Sea.

“I was talking today about eventually getting the training brought closer and actually into Ukraine as well,” Shapps told The Telegraph after a visit to a Salisbury Plain training ground, on Friday.

During his trip to Kiev earlier this week, the new defense chief, who got his post in a government reshuffle a month ago, apparently saw an “opportunity” to “bring more things in country.” Shapps explained he meant “not just training,” but also weapons manufacturing, as he praised the British arms giant BAE Systems for its plans to localize in Ukraine.

“I’m keen to see other British companies do their bit as well by doing the same thing. So I think there will be a move to get more training and production in the country,” he added.

** US Congress passes bill to fund government without aid to Ukraine

The US Congress has approved a bill to extend the funding of the country's government for 45 days (until November 17) without providing aid to Ukraine, according to the vote broadcast on the website of the upper house of the Congress.

The initiative, which includes $16 billion for the elimination of natural disasters in the US, was supported by 88 lawmakers, while nine opposed it. Earlier, the House of Representatives approved the bill.

Lawmakers in the upper chamber of Congress spent several hours debating the initiative approved by the House. Senator Michael Bennet (Democrat from the state of Colorado) delayed its approval, saying that the document lacked a provision to support Ukraine. He demanded a commitment from Senate leaders that lawmakers would pass a separate aid bill for Kiev in the coming days. Before the vote, the Senate's Democratic majority and Republican minority leaders, Chuck Schumer of New York and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said they would seek approval for additional funding for Ukraine. In addition, Bennet told reporters that there would be a joint statement from Senate leaders after the vote.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine shoots down 30 drones over south, centre, officials say

Ukraine's air force shot down 30 out of 40 Iranian-made "Shahed" drones launched by Russia in an overnight attack on central and southern regions, regional and military officials said on Saturday.

The South Military command said that 20 drones were shot down in the central Vinnytsia region and another 10 over the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions in the south.

Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the southern command, told Ukrainian TV that Russia continued to attack port infrastructure, including on the Danube river, and was also attempting to strike critical infrastructure facilities in other Ukrainian regions "to impact the economy".

Russia has intensified air attacks on Ukrainian grain export infrastructure on the Danube River and in the port of Odesa since July, when Moscow quit a U.N.-brokered deal that allowed safe Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.

Serhiy Borzov, the Vinnytsia regional governor, said that an infrastructure facility was hit in the region, causing a powerful fire. He gave no other details about the damage.

Regional authorities also said that three people were injured in the southern Kherson region which is close to the frontlines and frequently comes under artillery shelling.

** Ukraine lures Western weapons makers to transform defence industry

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday he wants to turn Ukraine's defence industry into a "large military hub" by partnering with Western weapons manufacturers to increase arms supplies for Kyiv's counteroffensive against Russia.

He was speaking at a forum his government convened with international producers to discuss how to jointly develop industrial capacity to build and repair weapons in Ukraine despite constant Russian bombardment.

"Ukraine is in such a phase of the defence marathon when it is very important, critical to go forward without retreating. Results from the frontline are needed daily," Zelenskiy told executives representing more than 250 Western weapons producers.

"We are interested in localizing production of equipment needed for our defence and each of those advanced defence systems which are used by our soldiers, giving Ukraine the best results at the front today," he told the forum in Kyiv.

Zelenskiy said that air defence and de-mining were his immediate priorities. Ukraine also aims to boost domestic production of missiles, drones and artillery ammunition.

Kyiv began its counteroffensive in early June to try to recapture territories seized by Russia, which still controls about 18% of the Ukrainian territory. Kyiv reported advances in several directions and liberated over a dozen villages, but so far has not managed to retake any major cities.

Ukraine critically depends on Western financial and military support and has had tens of billions of dollars of such help since the start of Russia's invasion in February 2022. But the war created a constantly growing demand for arms and ammunition.

Executives from weapons producers from over 30 countries attended the forum. Some said they were depleting their stocks quickly and had struggled to find supplies to be able to ramp up production to meet Ukrainian demand.

Ukrainian officials see the development of domestic defence production as a boost to the economy, which has shrunk by about a third last year due to the war.

Several leading Western producers like Germany's weapon production giant Rheinmetall and Britain-based BAE Systems have already announced plans to team up with Ukrainian producers.

The Foreign Ministry said Ukrainian producers signed about 20 agreements with foreign partners for joint production, exchange of technology or supply of components to make drones, armoured vehicles and ammunition. It did not identify the companies.

The Ukrainian government plans to create special economic conditions to draw Western investment into the domestic defence sector including a fund to support new technology development.

"It will be a mutually beneficial partnership. I think it is a good time and place to create a large military hub,” Zelenskiy said during a separate meeting with U.S., British, Czech, German, French, Swedish and Turkish weapons producers.

Humour and laughter often serve as a powerful tool in driving home words that may otherwise be difficult to communicate. An example is Nigeria celebrating her 63rd anniversary and yet enmeshed in several dysfunctions that cannot be explained. One of the many popular jokes about the Nigerian crisis available on the streets has attempted to humourize the ailment and drive home the complexity of the Nigerian problem. It goes thus: “There is absolute (turmoil) – economic collapse, political commotion, wars, social dislocation, tsunamis, etc – in the world, and all nations decide to meet God in Heaven to ask for when their great tribulations would come to an end. Every single country that comes before God does so in sublime supplication and with torrents of tears, pleading for knowledge of when its problems would come to an end. The Almighty obliged each country, telling it when all would be well. Some got 10 years, others were promised 25 years, others about 50 years. When Nigeria staggers before the Almighty to ask God for when her problems would be over, God bursts into tears…”

Although an engaging comic, the humour speaks to Odolaye Aremu, late Ilorin, Kwara State Dadakuada musician’s song. Odolaye sang that when a calamity grieves the heart beyond measurable limit, even tears become incapable of articulating the tragedy, precipitating the need to employ laughter as well. “Oro t’o ba j’ekun lo, erin laa fi rin”, Odolaye sang. Perhaps, God later laughed? He had endowed Nigeria with too much potentials to warrant her getting this stuck in the mud.

Today marks Nigeria’s 63rd Independence Day celebration. In the midst of all diseases that ail Nigeria, apart from the need for gratitude to God by her citizens over their individual existence, there is hardly any cause for cheer. When a situation appears hopeless, the babalawo’s words become poignant in his bid to articulate the sorrowful climate. He says birds have refused to chirp as they are wont to, and rats have lost their squeaks. This equation appears to be Nigeria’s. Nigerians are agreed that today, there is no reason for celebrations.

If anyone ever doubts that there is a synchrony between living and non-living things, dead and the living and that life can be better lived if we take lessons and messages from situations around us, Late Alagba Adebayo Faleti reinforced this binary. In Saworoide, Mainframe International’s satiric movie, a critique of bad leadership that has become a pestilence in Africa, Faleti played the role of an elderly palace staff called Baba Opalanba. Opalanba is a Yoruba name for broken bottle. Anyone who ever once mistakenly stepped on smithereens would remember the discomfiture and pain shards inflict. A knowledgeable and respected thespian and broadcaster steeped in, and a repository of Yoruba culture and tradition, Faleti’s role in this movie was that of a sage. His lacerating words, delivered through music, chastised evil and evil doers. Opalanba demonstrated that music can be used to straighten the curves of bad leadership. Pretending to be asleep while chiefs gathered to hatch details of their evil plots, Opalanba deployed his sagely musical lines to chaperone them off their path of destruction. He warned that birds that perch on rooftops don’t do so merely to rest their aching legs but to gather information. He expressed this as, “Oro l’eye ngbo, eye o dede ba l’orule o, oro l’eye ngbo o.

Nigeria must be one of the most researched countries in the world. Scholars have dissected her stunted growth from all prisms. At inception, the country held huge promises for the Blackman all over the globe. Three months into Nigeria’s independence in 1960, in its December 5, 1960 edition, the Time magazine, super-excited about her prospects, had written, “In the long run, the most important and enduring face of Africa might well prove to be that presented by Nigeria,” while adding that Nigeria was a “sober voice urging the steady, cautious way to prosperity and national greatness.” On the front page of that Time edition, the picture of Queens English-speaking Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s Prime Minister, adorning his native babariga 

announced to the rest of the world that the Blackman had arrived the global scene. Gradually, like the destructive cells of cancer, Nigeria began to destroy every of those potentials.

Since the destruction started to manifest, from military rule to civilian dictatorship, different theses have been propounded on what led to the quashing of such massive investments of hopes. Not only has Nigeria proved to be a total letdown to the rest of the black world, she has been a major letdown to her citizens themselves.

So many descriptions have been coined to express the colossal letdown that Nigeria is. My teacher at the University of Ibadan, Eghosa Osaghae, labeled the Nigerian fall as that of a crippled giant. Karl Maier, American-born ex-African correspondent for the London-based newspaper, Independent, in a locus classicus biography of Nigeria’s rot, said it was a house (that had) fallen, even remarking that, “(w)ith the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that such optimism (the like of Time magazine’s) was naïve” and that, in retrospect, Nigeria was “the bastard child of imperialism.” To the duo of Nigerian scholars, Wale Adebanwi and Ebenezer Obadare, “Nigeria is the predicted ‘giant’ that has become a disappointing, even aggravating Lilliput.”

In the case of Nigerian rapper, Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, professionally known as MohBad, and his fatherland, there may be a synchrony, some kind of Faleti’s bird that perches on the rooftop to gather information that will serve to reinforce its essence. A few weeks to today’s Nigerian independence anniversary, specifically on September 12, 2023, hitherto sparsely-known Mohbad suddenly died, aged 27. At death, MohBad seized the klieg like a pestilence, calling global attention to the life he lived, the state of Nigerian music and the ordinariness of death in Nigeria. Apart from being a rapper, he was a singer, songwriter and formerly signed to Naira Marley’s Marlian Records. His hits that have since shot him to top ranking dancehall charts are PonmoPeaceBeast and Peace, Sorry, Feel Good and KPK (Ko Po Ke).

Mohbad’s convoluted death has evoked all manner of theories on what exactly could have led to his untimely departure. From suspicion of his having been poisoned, gas-lighted to his grave or probably remote-controlled to his death through native talisman, the likelihood of resolution of the cause of Mohbad’s death, even after the release of an autopsy report carried out on his exhumed body, may be slim. However, at death, Mohbad’s hidden glory became manifest. By September 15, three days after his sudden death, his Beast & Peace, which was the opening track of his Blessed album, oscillated at Number Four and his Feel Good track flicked at Number Five of global music ranking. In the same vein, between September 12 and 14, a space of two days post-death, his streams peaked at 702%, from 990,000 to 8.02 million. During the week of September 2023, 

Peace, one of his tracks, debuted on Billboard’s Hot Trending Songs chart, occupying its prestigious Number Two. Equally, on September 18, 2023, Blessed 

peaked at Number Four, and Light hit its first on the chart entry, becoming Number 20 on the Nigerian Official Top 50 Albums chart. On September 21, streams of Blessed 

catapulted to the top by over 530%, while on September 23, Mohbad rose to become the 46th best-selling digital artist, sidestepping recognized international artists like Nicki Minaj, Eminem, 21 Savage, Lady Gaga and Chris Brown.

Though not as beloved alive as in death, the rash attempt to beatify Mohbad, both as a brand and due to the tragic circumstances of his death, has made apportioning him blame for his own death very unpopular. The truth however is that drug addiction among Nigerian youths and specifically, among musicians, played a major role in the circumstances of his early passage. From testimonies about his life, it was obvious that Mohbad got trapped in the puddle of that destructive belief that drug consumption was an enabler of musical inspiration.

Drug consumption has, from time immemorial, been the bane of music and musicians. It is an affliction that didn’t just start today; it has dragged many notable musicians down the sepulcher, in their scores. Even outside the shores of Nigeria, there exists this subsisting but notorious notion that drug consumption contributes highly to artistic inspiration. While scientific studies locate a liaison between these two, no study has been able to strictly confine inspiration strictly to drug consumption. In other words, there have been artists who got to the topmost height of their careers but who did so while maintaining wide social distancing from drugs. What this means is that, yes drugs can be enhancer of inspiration, other less-dangerous pastimes can evoke even higher inspirations as well. You could count artistes, in remarkable number, who never had any consonance with drugs.

In my book, Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend (2020), I drew on a canvas the tragic life of Ayinla, an equally highly talented Yoruba musician whose life was cut short in his prime in 1980. While drug consumption, which he was notorious for, couldn’t be strictly isolated as the cause of his death, it was obvious that if Ayinla had escaped the bar-room violence that eventually took his life, another death lurked in the backyard for him in his addiction to drugs. Many of today’s musicians are enmeshed in a binge of drugs consumption. A couple of years ago, the name of hip-hop singer, Davido, was identified in a messy puddle of group drugs allegation, when some of his friends were caught with the substance, a pastime that claimed the lives of some of them. For this gang in the musical and showbiz world, it is almost an anathema not to be involved in the culture of drugs, which I once dubbed “the water bottle culture.” This has proved to be the graveyard of many in this category.
Whenever the issue is about drug addiction, one musical star close to my heart, which dimmed unceremoniously and whose fatal life I always cite, is Brenda Fassie. A highly talented South African singer, who was so talented that the great Nelson Mandela was not only fascinated by her song and danced with her on the dancehall, Madiba and million others, including me, were her fans. Born on November 3, 1964 in Langa, Cape Town, Brenda was a wonder to watch. Her album, 
Memeza (Shout), which was released in 1997, is rated as the top of her musical success. It went platinum on the first day of its release. After Yvonne Chaka Chaka, arguably, no musician from that country possessed Brenda’s waltz and voice. She also made a huge contribution to Miriam Makeba’s famous hit, Sangoma, as well as Harry Belafonte’s anti-apartheid song, Paradise in Gazankulu. She was once voted 17th in the Top 100 Great South Africans. Unfortunately, Brenda was a suicidal drug addict and addictively wedged to lesbianism.

Brenda was not only talented but possessed the tantrums of divas, so much that the Time 

magazine dubbed her the Madonna of the Townships. The world, however, began to notice hiccups in her life when her weird passion spilled into the limelight in 1995. Brenda was found in a hotel room with the remains of her lesbian partner, who passed on during an orgy. She had died of an apparent drug overdose. Brenda herself must have gone in and out of a rehab for about 30 times and on one occasion, sure she had overcome drugs, screamed, “I’m going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible!” A few years after, Brenda reportedly collapsed in her brother’s arms, flung her last cocaine straw on the kitchen floor of her home in Buccleuch, fell into coma and died on May 9, 2004, shortly after suffering from a brain damage. Postmortem report even claimed she was HIV-positive.

Today, hundreds of musicians and emerging stars, especially in Nigeria, are trapped in waltz of drugs. Their excuse is that it is a performance-enhancer. They however fail to come to terms with two facts: one, that you could perform resplendently without drugs and second, drugs could cut your life short at the cusp of stardom.

While hopefully, autopsy should tell us what actually killed Mohbad, the fact that this talented artist stomached innate, bountiful glory in him for 27 years of his earthly existence, while glorying in peripheral stardom, is an area of interest to me. At 63, scholars, spiritualists, international agencies, comity of nations, etc. who speak disappointingly of Nigeria’s Mohbadglory, even as she is bedeviled by underdevelopment and bad governance, have not ceased to marvel.

In the same way as what led to Mohbad’s death and his stunted glory while alive has been a subject of intense debate, in the last 63 years, no conclusion has been reached on what actually led to Nigeria’s stunted growth. For instance, scholars who sought to unlock the secret of the Nigerian crisis, like famous writer, Chinua Achebe, in his The Trouble With Nigeria, have submitted that leadership is at the cusp of the crisis. Osaghae, in Crippled Giant, follows this same conversation. So also did Wole Soyinka, who, while conducting a postmortem on General Sani Abacha, reckoned that Nigerian leaders have “no idea of Nigeria (and) no notion of Nigeria.” Some others even said that Nigeria was such a queer contraption that “it is within disorder or adversity that many social actors in Nigeria have derived profit or advantage.”

Some other scholars locate the Nigerian stunted glory in what they called the “resource curse” thesis, in that the oil find in Nigeria ruined her growth. This thesis is padded by a joke which allegedly transpired in the 1950s between the Nigerian economic minister and the Prime Minister. The minister had told the PM, “I have some good and bad news for you” and the PM asked for the good news first. When told that Nigeria had just discovered a large swathe of petroleum buried deep in the bowel of her soil, excited at the immeasurable possibilities for growth of the find, the PM then asked for the bad news. He was told that, “The bad news is that we have just discovered vast reserves of petroleum!”

To some others, Nigeria’s Mohbad-like stunted glory is due to the fact that blood was not shed in the struggle for her independence, as was done in South Africa and some Southern African countries. I disagree with this thesis because our forefathers indeed sacrificed their lives in the cause of the 1960 independence. Yet, some said that the quality of the led is Nigeria’s problem. This appears very profound because the havoc which followers have wrecked since independence is indeed colossal. To some, it is a sustained history of corruption in Nigeria that has made us a Mohbad.

I tend to agree with those who concluded that Nigeria’s major problem is leadership. We thought 2023 would give us what has clearly posed a stumbling block to our growth. The last four months have been very opaque and do not speak to any hope in the horizon. We still need to continue to search for that leadership. French historian, Fernand Braudel, has argued that “any nation can have its being only at the price of forever being in search of itself.” Unfortunately, Nigeria hasn’t begun or is hypocritical about the search. Leadership makes a huge difference in the life of a people. A comparison is often made about a Nigeria that seems to be free of natural disasters like cyclone, earthquakes, hurricanes and tremors which afflict other countries at the drop of a hat. When such disasters happen in those countries, leadership comes to their rescue. Nigeria, on the reverse, seems to be afflicted by a more tumultuous and deadlier disaster – leadership.

Yet, many others have predicted that it is only when Nigeria dies, like Mohbad, that her glory can materialize. It is then that all her trapped glorious stars (nations) will reach for their utmost heights. This is after she may have been granted opportunity to breathe as independent entities.

Good night, Mohbad.

For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed ~ Isaiah 50:7.

Introduction:

Focus is very important in anything you do. It is a major key to progress, and a quintessential elevator to higher performances in life. Those who focus on what they want to achieve, prosper; those that don't, struggle all through life.

Lack of focus is the main problem that stalls many people in their journeys in life. Those who have lost focus rarely arrive at their desired destinations. If they ever do, it won’t be on time and it’s most unlikely that they will arrive in top shape because they would have expended so much energy and resources on managing distractions.

Once your goals in life are well defined and your perspectives are right, being focused is the next priority thing you must do to become unstoppable. Hence, the world's most successful people take the subject of focus seriously (Joshua 24:14-15).

Nevertheless, there are many things the devil easily flings to occasion distractions, and make people lose focus. Two of his most subtle implements of distractions are mockery and discouragement, which may sometimes come from close friends and acquaintances.

Whenever insults and mockery come, ignore them and channel your energy towards more profitable ventures (Isaiah 51:7). Winston Churchill said: “You will never reach your destination if you stop to throw stones at every dog that barks”.

Oftentimes, when a man is on a destiny-transforming journey, or an organization is engaged in projects that could produce major breakthroughs, the enemy strikes with subtle distractions through naysayers who could skillfully trade in unkind words and discouragement.

When the Jews wanted to rebuild the broken wall of Jerusalem, Sanballat, Tobiah, with the support of the Arabians, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites emerged to distract them from the noble task by making jest of them.

Fortunately, Nehemiah, their leader refused to give attention to those mockers. He rather took the matter to God in prayers, and made the people focus on the task before them, and the wall was built (Nehemiah 4:1-23).

If you can only keep yourself busy with your assignments, the distractions won't even get to you, let alone get you down. Remember Paul (Philippians 3:12-14).

Harnessing the Incredible Power of Focus

There are many common pressures that every working-class believer faces: time pressure, financial pressure, work-life balance, etcetera. However, it generally takes grace, plus maturity and a good grasp of royal ideas to master and scale over them.

Firstly, those who are looking forward to developing excellence in their lives and in their walks with God must intentionally promote and adopt godly habits as a lifestyle.

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do”. Your habits today determine the quality of your future. You must choose to eliminate bad habits and replace them with godly ones. Yes, this may take some time, but building goodly habits is ever crucial to an excellent life.

Secondly, the types of relationship that surround you matter. Positive relationships can have upward spiral effects, effusing success; while toxic relationships are spiritually, mentally and emotionally draining. Please, choose your friends carefully.

Thirdly, being intentional in your day-to-day actions is important in helping you achieve your life’s goals. Procrastination is usually a symptom of loss of enthusiasm, faith, courage, energy, confidence or passion. It is also an unmistakable label of laziness.

Be decisively focused on what matters to your destiny now and hereafter. “Tomorrow” is the name of the road that leads to the city called “Never”. Undoubtedly, procrastination is a stealthy enemy of destiny.

Give serious attention to your heavenly calling. Develop and deploy your natural endowments and capabilities. Cultivate and invest your energy and corporate strength, wisely.

Most importantly, focus on Jesus Christ, and insist on leading a balanced Christian life, habitually. Focus on Him without ignoring other areas of spiritual importance, like your family life and your career.

Stop running helter-skelter, or looking hither and thither, if you don’t want to be overwhelmed with human disappointments. The face of God is the sure cure of shame (Psalms 34:5). When you seek God’s face, His Hand will deliver you.

He fed three million people for forty years in the wilderness without any hitch. Certainly, you can’t have any debilitating need when you look up unto Jesus Christ, the Owner of all things (Hebrews 12:2).

Focusing for Decisive Victory

You are a victor and not a victim! No matter what you have been through, you're still here on the platform of victory. You may have been challenged, hurt, beaten and betrayed, but nothing has defeated you. Your victory is ever secured in Christ Jesus!

However, once you lose your spiritual sight, you cannot follow Jesus Christ on His pathway of blessings and victory (Mark 10:52). That’s why Satan wages a continuous battle against focus, and sets to vengefully attack the believers, particularly at decisive moments in their lives. 

Immediately Saul became King, Nahash thought it was the best time to attack Israel, setting a very ridiculous condition for peace: “Your right eyes or else!” (1 Samuel 11:1-11).

Why the right eyes? Surrendering the “right eye” is a dreadful recipe for defeat and servitude. In those days, warriors used their right eyes for military advantages: to accurately sight the enemy without getting too close, aiming and shooting without missing. So, Nahash wanted them to surrender the right eyes so as to make them helpless against his naked aggression.

In today’s world, the enemy still constantly looks for the "right eyes" of people to pluck out, spiritually speaking, so they won’t be able to discern it when he launches his wicked attacks against them from the pit of hell, nor even sense the gracious move of God around them (Job 9:11)!

Believers should be sensitive concerning things of the Spirit, and be prepared to strike accurately against the hordes of darkness (Joshua 22:31; 2Kings 4:9). However, once a believer loses his focus, his vision becomes blurred, fuzzy, meaningless and downright confusing.

The serious consequences of this is that he cannot “see” the enemy diverting his blessings into satanic warehouses, while he is left wondering why so many of God’s promises are not being fulfilled in his life (Proverbs 29:18). 

Friends and brethren, whenever you notice you’re no longer sensitive to what’s going on in the spirit realm, immediately declare a spiritual state of emergency, and rise up at once in prayers to disrupt, disappoint and dismantle the plans of the enemy (Job 5:12).

Let’s heed this red alert! The new faces of the invisible satanic aggressors today are ignorance, lukewarmness, lassitude, self-deceit, nonchalance, casual sin, prayerlessness, disloyalty, disobedience, pleasure seeking tendencies etc.

Dismantle them in your life outrightly! The “walls” of your defense will become strong again and, sooner than later, you will begin to reap the rewards of success, and enjoy evergreen victories without sapping your health and happiness. You won’t miss these, in Jesus name. Amen. Happy Sunday!

____________________

Bishop Taiwo Akinola,

Rhema Christian Church,

Otta, Ogun State, Nigeria.

Connect with Bishop Akinola via these channels:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bishopakinola

SMS/WhatsApp: +234 802 318 4987

A third of trans children treated with puberty blockers had their mental health deteriorate while on the medication, a new analysis of a landmark study reveals.  

The original study found that 44 children, aged 12 to 15, who took the controversial drugs experienced no change — good or bad — to their mental health. 

This report, produced by experts from the NHS's Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at Tavistock and University College LondonHospitals (UCLH) in 2021 eventually led to a lowering of the age children could access puberty blockers. 

But a fresh analysis of the data used in the report found 34 per cent of the gender-questioning youth saw their mental health deteriorate while using the drugs.

This compared to 29 per cent who had their mental health improve and 37 per cent who experienced no change.

The reason for the difference in results is the original study looked at the overall average of participants' mental wellbeing over a 12-month period.  

This resulted in patients whose mental health deteriorated and improved essentially cancelling each other out, producing the overall no change finding.

The re-analysis instead tracked individual patient scores to produce its results and showed greater variation among participants taking the medication.

According to the authors, this method allowed a finer sense of how individual patients were faring in a study and is approach that should be adopted in the future. 

'It is possible, using this approach, to look at patterns, such as who is benefitting and who is not,' they wrote. 

'We recommend that these approaches be incorporated into new gender dysphoria services being established in the UK as well as new research studies being designed.'

Like the original study, the new analysis is limited.

It concerns an overall small group of participants for which there was no control group, a cohort of children not taking puberty blockers.

As such, while children's mental health could change while on puberty blockers, it cannot be proven this due to the medication and not other external factors. 

The new analysis, which was uploaded to the preprint service for health studies medRxiv, has yet to be peer reviewed.

Puberty blockers are a controversial medication used in treatment of trans children to stop the physical changes of puberty like breast development or facial hair. 

They are given under strict criteria for children with gender dysphoria, a condition where they suffer unease or distress from their gender identity not matching their biological sex.

Feelings of gender dysphoria can become heightened during puberty as the body undergoes changes in tune with the person's biological sex.

Puberty blockers are also the pathway for teenagers to eventually be given opposite sex hormones to change their bodies to fit their gender identity. 

The NHS acknowledges that little is known about the long-term effects of puberty blockers on children. 

Although the physical effects of pausing puberty can be reversed if medication is stopped, the psychological effects are still unknown.

There is also some concern about the potential impact of puberty blockers on the development of the teenage brain and children's bones. 

In June, NHS England announced that puberty blockers will now only be given to adolescent gender dysphoria sufferers as part of clinical research.

The announcement was made as part of the health service's new gender incongruence service for children and young people, which will replace the clinic at Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.

Tavistock was heavily criticised in an interim review carried out by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass in July last year, which called its model 'unsustainable'.

The clinic has been accused of rushing children onto puberty blocking drugs by former patients who feel they weren't challenged enough. 

Dr Cass has called for 'rapid' research on the use of the drugs after she found 'insufficient evidence' on their benefits. 

Tavistock is due to close in May 2024, to be replaced by two regional hubs in the north and south of the country. 

The Cass review was commissioned by NHS England in 2020 amid concerns there was 'scarce and inconclusive evidence to support clinical decision making'.  

There have also been concerns about the sharp rise in referrals to GIDS. 

More than 5,000 referrals have been made in recent years, compared to just a few hundred a decade ago. 

On the new analysis a Tavistock and Portman Trust spokesperson said: 'We are grateful to all of the clinicians and academics who have contributed to this study over the years, and we welcome new peer-reviewed analyses of the evidence around how to support these young people.

'The analysis plan for the original study was independently produced by experts in medical statistics, and the underlying data was published so that other researchers might conduct further analyses.'

While the Cass Review has put out an interim report to the NHS a final version is expected by the end of this year.

A spokesperson told MailOnline the new analysis would taken into account in its final recommendations.  

 

MailOnline

Have you ever talked to someone who, every time you shared something, would twisted the interaction around to make it all about them?

You may have encountered a "conversational narcissist."

The term, coined by sociologist Charles Derber, describes a person who often dominates the conversation, with little regard for the viewpoints of others.  

Hogging a conversation could reflect inflated self-esteem or even deep-rooted insecurities, and it can be draining to be on the other end.

Don't miss: If you answer these 10 questions correctly, you have higher emotional intelligence than most people

As a Harvard-trained behavioral scientist, here's exactly how I spot — and respond to — a highly narcissistic person:

1. They don't ask you questions.

You ask someone a question and they happily dive into a monologue about all that's happening in their life. When they're finished, rather than reciprocating, they move on to a new topic.

How to respond: Gently steer the conversation back to a more balanced dialogue. Use a technique called "conversational threading" to pick up on keywords or topics that they mentioned and incorporate them into your response.

For example, "That sounds like an action-packed weekend. Mine was similar …" This creates a natural segue for you to re-enter the conversation.

2. They're oblivious to their excessive chattiness.

You're talking to someone who is so passionate about what they're speaking about that they seldom pause to gauge your reactions. You end up feeling like a convenient audience member for their latest monologue.

How to respond: Use tactful lines like, "I have a few thoughts on that, too," or, "I'd love to share some of my own experiences." This is an assertive but polite way steer the conversation towards a more mutual exchange.

If that doesn't work, prepare an exit strategy. It could be a pre-scheduled phone call or a meeting you need to get to that conveniently cuts the conversation short.

3. They always bring it back to their own interests.

The moment the conversation veers away from them, they find a way to redirect it. You share your excitement about an upcoming holiday to Spain, for example, but without fail, they bring up the trip they took to Italy three years ago.

How to respond: You could use the "I need advice" technique, which involves asking a direct question and prompts the other person to stay on topic.

For example, "It sounds like you had a great time in Italy. Do you have any travel tips for me to keep in mind as I prepare for Spain?"

Or, use the "acknowledge and segue" approach: "That sounds great! What I was trying to share about my own situation is …"

4. They constantly talk down to you.

A friend or colleague uses patronizing or condescending language — it may be unintentional, but sometimes that can be hard to gauge — and it feels like they want you to see that they are the most knowledgeable person in a room. 

How to respond: Set clear boundaries and resist the urge to respond defensively. You could say, "I'm happy to continue this conversation as long as we keep it respectful."

If you're in a group setting, you could facilitate someone else to enter the conversation with something like, "Jess has experience in this area, too, right? What are your thoughts on it?"

5. They repeatedly one-up you.

Whenever you share an accomplishment, they counter with their own bigger and better win. You might share, "I finally got that promotion I've been working so hard for!" And they reply, "When I got promoted, it came with a corner office and a company car."

How to respond: Confronting every instance of one-upmanship can be exhausting. But calling a narcissist out is often the most effective approach.

You could say, "I've noticed that whenever we talk our conversations turn into competitions. I'd really like it if we could share without trying to surpass one another." Remember, you're never obligated to continue with a conversation that feels unfulfilling.

 

CNBC


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