From the lion to the earthworm, the life of every animal is made up of one important feature: its niche. This refers to the position of that animal within an ecological community, as well as the function of that animal in such a community. It also has to do with the particular area within a given habitat occupied by that animal. Every animal finds and carves out a niche for its existence and survival, responding to the distribution of distributors and competitors in its habitat. An animal would thrive in a place where resources are abundant and where pathogens or predators are scarce. Employing various methods (sometimes resorting to aggression) to limit the access of other animals to its resources, and escaping from predators, forms part of a niche. Burrowing of holes by rabbits can be described as a major feature of their niche.

So it is with us humans. We all have (or are meant to have) our niche, even if we don’t want to consider the fact that we are actually higher animals. Whether we realize it or not, everyone of us has got that situation or activity specially suited to our interests, abilities or nature. It can equally be seen as that comfortable or suitable position we get to take up in life. It has a lot to do with our approach in life, as well as what we do as citizens in this planet of ours.

So you have found your niche here in this world of ours, finally discovered what you should be doing with your life. (There are those who are not so lucky, sorting that out would be something I’ll delve into on a different day.) You now know that you know how to chase some round object with 21 others like you, or make us want to stop and move our heads when you’re on the microphone, or get our attention when we see you in front of our TV screens, or make Aristide Bance look like Brad Pitt, or leave us gaping when you take those graceful strides along ”that long platform”, or simply convey your heart’s content with ink. Well it’s one thing to find the niche, it’s an entirely different thing to try preserving it. Just as animals lose their niche and ultimately their existence when they fail to take steps to protect their habitat and resources, so it is that when you fail to build on your ability, it just might slip away and your time here ultimately gets less comfortable. There are various ways to keep us loving what we do, and doing what we love. Each come in handy, at least one should.

First off, be consistent. An unused machete soon begins to rust, and so it is with ability or skill. Lack of playing time on the football field has always been known to affect a player’s fitness, and ultimately his ability (never mind that this may be out of his control.) Never pass up an opportunity to do what you love doing. Ideas have a way of evaporating, and so always get your hands (or feet, or lips) in motion. Simply put, keep doing what you do.

Next, develop yourself. It’s important to learn new ways of doing what you are good at. It’s no harm for a bass singer to try adjusting his voice to create something of a falsetto, neither is it out of place for a defender to search himself for some attacking potential, or for that make-up artist to fix in that foundation without making it too obvious. The world we live in is often harsh on the static, and as such, self-improvement and dynamism is a necessity.

Beyond that, learn to take risks and re-invent. There’s no need dropping in the cliche of not taking risks being the biggest risk of all. I.K. Omoruyi (Jnr) is a lawyer and also an expert designer of male clothing (particularly suits), but it wouldn’t be insane on his part if he tried his hands at designing female wears as well. Oscar award winner Robert De Niro, known for his roles in action movies, has delved a bit into the comedy genre, and it was a gamble that paid off (circa ”Meet The Parents” and ”Sharktale”). Think carefully and examine the terrain before taking risks though. We all know how Genevieve Nnaji and Tonto Dikeh fared when they tried to ‘stretch’ from acting to music.

Furthermore, there is the need to hang around people of your ilk. It is not demeaning to actually be an understudy of someone who’s more established in your line of career. Dr. Fiyin Akinsiku has developed her secondary ability of writing, thanks to attendance of writing workshops involving Chimamanda Adichie (who by the way, needs no introduction). Should I decide to take up baking as a career, there is no way I can avoid meeting with ”sweet hands” like Ashama Aneshe or Bernice Asibor. However, a line should be drawn between interacting, understudying and sucking up; no one ever takes a boot-licker seriously.

Yes, the need could also arise to appreciate and explore other fields of endeavour different from yours. Sometimes it’s fun to see what others are up to, what it’s like to be them, how they do what they do. It could even help in generating new ideas to improve your skill. Will Smith and Jamie Foxx are perfect examples of how one can transcend various fields back and both; both have tried out acting and singing, and have proven to be well above average in each form of art. Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson equally shuttles between acting and pro-wrestling almost at will. It need be said though that there exists a danger in being so drawn to ”the other side”, getting lost in it, and letting your first love slip. Vinnie Jones ultimately dumped football for acting.

Next, find a Muse. In Greek mythology, there were nine goddesses who presided over the arts and sciences, each serving her purpose. This is highly subjective, but there should be a female from where inspiration would be drawn. It could be a significant other, best pal, celebrity idol, or close relative. I love to write once in a while, and when I do, sometimes I get to have a lady serving as my source of inspiration (next to God, of course.)

Another important step to take is to discover those environments that inspire you, and work with those. There are locations which unleash your potential better than others. Many writers have been known to produce their works after drawing inspiration from secluded places. British rock band Coldplay had to settle for an old abandoned church in producing the album ”Viva La Vida” (2008). If as a baker or decorator you find it more convenient to do your thing in Lagos whereas you live in Benin City, you may need to take a not-so-short trip westwards, for the sake of your niche.

There’s also the small matter of finding ”the moment”. This has to do with discovering some kind of ‘force’ that makes your work tick. It could arise from a body position you take up, or an activity you carry out before setting out to work. Multiple Grammy-winning rock artist John Mayer revealed that the inspiration for his track ”Who Says” (2009) came to him ”post-coitus”. If there are any parts of this piece you don’t like, it would probably be because I wrote those parts sitting down, instead of lying down which I usually love to do. Your ”moment” could also come involuntarily, by way of an unplanned event. Rumour has it that the ideas for Adele’s Grammy-winning album ”21” sprung from relationship problems she experienced shortly before.

Apart from all that, it’s also a good idea to keep the right company. (This should be distinguished from those of your ilk.) The people around you should be those who appreciate your line of work, and ultimately love what you do. These people need to be there to do the encouraging, motivating, idolising, criticising, and in some extreme cases, the reprimanding. If you’re an aspiring model and you are surrounded with friends who have no form of admiration for the Gisele Bundchens and other key players on the runway, you may need to reshuffle your cabinet.

The tips outlined here are not all expected to be totally relevant, but at least it should prove useful applying one or more. And for those yet to carve out their niche, good luck with your search, and don’t stop for anything; there has to be a reason why you are here!!

(Follow this writer on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)

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