Sunday, June 18, 2017
1. Stop believing that someone else has already defined “success” and the path that must be followed to get there.
When I was growing up there was a silent yet unanimously agreed upon definition of what success looked like in my family. Although it was never openly discussed, it was implied through various conversations and decisions I was directly or indirectly included in. The bottom line is that, although challenging, giving up other people’s definition of success is incredibly liberating and ultimately leads to the fullest expression of who you are. Just think about it…Other people aren’t going to live with the results of your choices. So why would you live according to their contrived definition of success? Have you ever honestly asked yourself what success means to YOU? Or have you simply adopted your definition and beliefs from everyone around you? For far too many us, the answer is the latter. By understanding the essence of your goals and how YOU define success, it’s easier to give up other people’s contrived definitions and beliefs. And remember, the point is not that one measure of success is any better or worse than another. The point is that you get to choose how you define it for yourself. Simply recognize that the more conscious and deliberate you can be about what success means for YOU, the more empowered you will be to pursue the path that’s true for you.
2. Stop believing that you should feel more confident before you take the next step.
Most people misinterpret how confidence works. They think confidence is something they have to possess before they can perform at their best. So they make a (subconscious) decision to wait until they feel more confident before taking the next step. But waiting around isn’t a confidence-building activity, so they never feel more confident, and they never take action. Let this be your wake-up call… Confidence is not a prerequisite to present and future performance. Rather, confidence is a direct bi-product of past performance. For example, if you start your day on the right foot, you’re likely to have improved confidence throughout the rest of your day. Conversely, if you start your day poorly and fall flat on your face, that prior performance will likely lower your confidence for a little while (until your confidence level inevitably cycles again). But the real kicker is the fact that today is tomorrow’s past. Your confidence going into tomorrow is directly dependent on you taking positive action today and learning from it. And this means two things… You can leverage your present actions to improve your future confidence. Forcing yourself to take the next step is the first step to feeling more confident. So whenever you catch yourself waiting around for more confidence to magically arrive before you start working on the task in front of you, remind yourself of how confidence works, and then force yourself to start before you feel ready. Today is the day! It’s time to set your plans into motion and make a daily ritual of generating small wins for yourself. Do so, and I guarantee that your small wins will add up quickly, and you’ll grow more confident and closer to what you ultimately want to achieve with each passing day.
3. Stop believing that more (and more) planning and thinking will yield you better results.
Just as you don’t need more confidence to take the next smallest step forward, you don’t likely need more planning and overthinking either. Stephen King once said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I have that quote taped above my work desk. It reminds me that while proper planning, strategizing and masterminding is important as you move through a project, it’s also extremely easy to lose yourself indefinitely in doing so. When our great ideas are still just concepts floating around in our minds, we tend to think really BIG. And while thinking big isn’t inherently bad, the downside is that it often makes the barrier for taking action quite high. In other words, we tend to overthink our projects to the point where they seem more complicated than they actually are, and so we stall again and again to give ourselves more time to prepare for the next step. To avoid “big thinking paralysis,” pare your ideas down into smaller, immediately testable activities. Can you trial-run the idea of a larger scale conference by hosting a series of smaller local events? Can you take an idea for a book and test it by writing several related blog posts? Can you draw it before you build it? Can you prototype it? Once you’ve tested your idea on a smaller scale, you’ll have the insight and data you need to take your idea and project to the next level. Small, repeated, incremental efforts will get you there. It doesn’t happen in an instant, but it does happen a lot faster than not getting there at all.
4. Stop believing that focusing more on your goals is the answer.
Goals don’t make positive changes happen, daily rituals do. Seriously, meditate on that for a moment. Because too often we obsess ourselves with a big goal – a big end result – but are completely unfocused when it comes to the ritual – the recurring steps – that ultimately make the goal happen. And so the weight of this big, unrealized goal sits heavy on our mind and brings our progress down to a crawl. Does that sound at all familiar? If so, it’s time to shift your focus AWAY from your goals. Think about this… If you completely ignored one of your goals for the next few weeks and instead focused solely on the daily rituals that reinforce this goal, would you still get positive results?
5. Stop believing that you must always be right.
To be successful on your own terms, you have to not mind being wrong in the short term. You have to take a stand, test your theory, and then admit it if you realize that your theory was wrong. It’s a process of trial and error that helps you discover what is right. And finding out what is right is a lot more important than always being right. The process of trial and error is an essential part of any effective person’s life. Truth be told, when any human being executes a new idea for the first time, the outcome is rarely glamorous. The important thing is to synthesize the lessons learned during the process to refine the initial idea, and create a new-and-improved strategy, and perhaps a new and improved daily ritual that supports it. The bottom line here is that expecting to get it right the first time is an exercise in futility. Prototyping, testing and iteration is vital to transforming a decent idea into an outcome of value. Rather than being discouraged by your “failures,” watch closely and learn from them. Then use what you’ve learned to build something slightly better. And then do it again and again – small steps. Sooner or later, you’ll find the level of success you had envisioned.
6. Stop believing that you have to say, “Yes.”
Besides the intelligent art of getting the right things done, there is the often-forgotten art of leaving the wrong things undone. You must practice saying “no” even if it feels foreign to you. Your time and energy is not infinite – in fact, it’s incredibly limited. Seasoned achievers who live on their own terms know they must guard their time and energy (and their focus) closely. Always keep in mind that you don’t have to accept every great opportunity you’re invited to. When you’re in execution mode, remember that new and unexpected opportunities can also mean distraction from your core objectives and priorities. Saying “no” is an essential part of living effectively on your own terms.
7. Stop believing that you have enough willpower to overcome the limitations and temptations of an unhealthy environment.
No matter how much determination and willpower you have, if you keep yourself positioned in an environment that works against your best intentions, you will eventually succumb to that environment. This is where so many of us make life-altering missteps. When we find ourselves struggling to make progress in an unhealthy environment, we somehow believe that we have no other choice – that positioning ourselves in a more supportive environment, even for short intervals, is impossible. So, rather than working in a supportive environment that pushes us forward, we expend all our energy trying to pull the baggage of an unhealthy environment along with us. And eventually, despite our best efforts, we run out of energy. The key thing to remember here is that, as a human being, your environment immensely affects you. And, consequently, one of the best uses of your energy is to consciously choose and design working environments for yourself that support and facilitate the outcomes you intend to achieve. For example, if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption, you must… Spend less time around people that consume alcohol. Spend less time in social environments that promote alcohol consumption. Because if you don’t your willpower will eventually collapse.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
This week, I want to share with you a fascinating Ted Talk I stumbled upon. In this talk, Chris Abani tells stories of people: People standing up to soldiers. People being compassionate. People being human and reclaiming their humanity. It's "ubuntu," he says: the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me. It is a fascinating speech and one that resonates with me.
Sunday, June 4, 2017
For many of us watching from the African lens, the emergence of 39 years old Emmanuel Macron as president of France (a first world country) was the stuff of dreams. In a continent where grey hair is a pre-requisite to climb the defied political ladder, the hysteria was to be expected.
In the wake of Macron’s victory, the Nigerian youth has been brought forward for immense backlash. The critics argue that while a vast majority of our youths’ frolic around political godfathers for mere crumbs, Macron provides an example of how it should be done. The point sounds plausible upon arrival but a deeper reflection shows it is tantamount to turning logic on its head; it is a single story. Macron was an outlier, similar to Trump. It is a testament to the democracies of the United States and France that outliers can emerge into mainstream politics without having to float their own parties or run as individual candidates. The case is not same in Nigeria and the constitutional premise put the youths at a disadvantage. It is stipulated in Section 131 of the 1999 constitution that a key pre-requisite to holding the office of the presidency is that the individual must have ‘attained the age of forty years.’ This very clause lampoons the Nigerian state. Many of the third world countries are still very deluded on the concept of age, while the rest of the world have moved on. In Nigeria, age is grossly overrated. It is worth mentioning that a Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s founder/CEO), even though he is only 33, might have better wealth of experience than the 65-year-old Nigerian university professor who has only taught management and entrepreneurship in the classroom for 40 years. It is not the years in a man’s life, but the ‘life’ in the years that counts. In addition, our political set-up is very nascent and hostile to accommodate for genuine participation. The system is like a vicious circle that resists anyone not in its original chain. Political parties are not founded on ideologies and money is a key currency in making your case. Party nomination forms to run for top political positions run into millions, in a country where the minimum wage is still a paltry 18,000 naira. Make no mistakes about it, the odds are stacked against the Nigerian youths.
Having said all that, apathy cannot be the answer. The Nigerian youth clearly has to do more. History is laced with tales of how power is never relinquished on a platter of gold. The reality is that majority of our youths are too gullible and ready ‘puns’ in the hands of the political godfathers and so called kingmakers. Too many are contented with receiving handouts; a malady we must partly blame on a stifling economy. Then, there are the internet activists and warlords. Men and women who remain behind the keypads, conjuring and articulating their cases. From crass vitriolic of political alignments to crude ethnic sentiments, these ones are unrelenting. They can make the case of why the politician they support is the best thing since slice bread, but they are never concerned with participation. It speaks volumes of the vast majority of Nigerian youths that there are merely a handful of them involved even in strategic private sector leadership. There are just a few leading the way in the cream de la cream of entrepreneurship. The youth might argue that he is powerless in the face of the current environmental challenges but that reason pales in solidity when one considers that there are a few other Nigerian youths who have managed to defy the odds. Young people in this country must take advantage of their numbers and must do more in changing not just their individual plights, but that of the nation at large.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
1. The vast majority of our struggles are self-created, and we can choose to overcome them in an instant.
2. We fear the judgments of others, even though their judgments about us are rarely valid or significant.
3. In many ways, our past experiences have conditioned us to believe that we are less capable than we are.
4. Real pain, heartbreak and failure are outcomes that can help us grow.
5. We have to give some things up to get what we ultimately want in life.
6. Passion is not something we find, it’s something we do.
7. There will never be a better time to start than right now.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
When he walked through the revolving doors at Stamford Bridge, few touted him as the real McCoy. Miles away, somewhere in Manchester, resided the main event. It was all about the ingenious tactician, Pep Guardiola, and the serial winner, Jose Mourinho. They were the dual box office beside which every manager and every other pre-season story had to pale in comparison.
Make no mistakes about it, Antonio Conte did not arrive in a quest to have a surgical operation on his ailing career. He had won three Serie A titles on the bounce and had led his team to a Champions League final. More importantly, he left Juventus in the best possible healthy state going into the future. It was Chelsea who needed an operation. A season of indescribable little but fatal foxes had led to a league season finish of 10th place, after being champions the previous. The reality was that Conte’s arrival to the Bridge inflated hopes but it was an appointment that still had its many critics. With player power being the crux of the matter in Jose Mourinho’s exit the previous season, the Italian had his job well cut out. He had to get the house together, steer a direction and lead them through. Reason demands that one mentions that despite the calamitous state of Chelsea last season, the team still had a fantastic squad. The spine of the victorious 2014/2015 team was still very much around. Having said that, Conte has done a fine job, and that is putting it mildly. Fourth place finish would have been good enough but to win the league at a canter, and achieve it in the manner he did makes him the real deal.
When the intoxication from a champagne-filled weekend gives way to some introspection for Conte, he will do well to pick the moments that made it a sublime year for him. The three nil defeat to Arsenal on September 24th will be the watershed in that inquest. It was mid-way into that match with Chelsea trailing three nil to the Gunners that Conte decided to discard the 4-3-3 formation for his more favoured 3-4-3. The immediate altercation did not change the outcome of that game, but it was to lay the platform for a 13 game winning streak; an amazing record run that meant the walk to the league was a procession (forget the Spurs challenge – it was a desperate fabrication of the media). Yet, there was more to his masterstroke than a formation switch. The revival of Victor Moses and his excellent man management of the Costa/China brouhaha in January were sterling examples of his brilliance.
The most beautiful thing about what Conte has done is the manner he went about it. When he was dragged into flimsy mind games, he looked away. When the media was beginning to ask questions on his tactics, he remained consistent. When the heat was partially turned on by a few blips, he stayed true to his methods. He was a fine man with a genuine passion. His intensity on the touchline on every match day was a joy to behold. He wasn’t a man to give away so much in his media conferences; a blessing partially inflicted by his lack of command of the language. In all, he was a good man. The gesture to applaud the Middlesbrough fans in the aftermath of their defeat at Chelsea with relegation sealed for the Riverside team, was a class moment. Whatever happens in the summer, he will be remembered and revered fondly. Abramovich’s revolving door have made the Russian some sort of a cult hero and ruthless owner to the Chelsea fans, but his method has brought immense success. 5 premier league trophies, 1 champions league, 1 Europa league, 4 FA cups, 3 Carling cups and 2 Community Shield medals makes for a densely populated cabinet for 13 years’ work. The last eulogy should fittingly go to John Terry. He has indeed been a captain, leader and legend. Anytime his name is mentioned, it will elicit a polarization of opinions, but no dissenting voice could deny that he was a great footballer. His longevity, one-club man status, achievements and shenanigans will forever make him a demi-god on Fulham road!
Sunday, May 14, 2017
(Excerpt from my book: The Path Less Travelled. Can be found on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Path-Less-Travelled-Reflections-Learning/dp/1540663507/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494697301&sr=1-1&keywords=samuel+okonkwo)
You may think you have the will power and discipline to rise above the influence of your friends. You don’t. If you spend time with people who are in shape, you’ll be in shape. If you spend time with lazy people, you’ll be lazy. We all want to belong to a group and we do so by appearing similar to the group we want to belong to. Choose wisely who you spend your time with because it’s who you’ll become.
One conclusion I have come to today is that a large amount of how successful you will be in life comes down to the people you spend time with. This is why: ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ Jim Rohn. This quote is one of the most powerful ones that I keep reminding myself over and over again. I am the average of the five people I spend the most time with. Others around me determine how I think, how I act and ultimately how successful I will be. It is a huge determinant that is often undermined.
Whether you want it or not, this is how it works I believe. The people you spend the most time with make you. You are their average. Do you think that’s true? Who are you spending time with? Are they the people that you want to be the average of? Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make crooked straight. Friends make us, friends break us; friends destroy, friends define. The good thing is that unlike the choice of family which is entrusted to us without our consent, friendship is solely up to us.
Don’t be afraid to lose some friends, support from your family or anything else if that means you start surrounding yourself with the right people. Instead of becoming the average of some average people, dip with the best. I will give the closing words on this to Frank E, who shared his personal story: ‘I believe I’m someone who took longer than most people to understand this concept. I clung onto relationships with people far too long. All of them were great people, people I respect like I want to respect every other human being. Yet, I always knew, these are not the people that are dying to be incredibly successful, incredibly happy and doing no matter what it takes to chase their dreams. Today, the people I spend time with are just 2 people. Joel and Tom. They are most likely the smartest people I have ever worked with before. Both have a focus and determination I’m constantly blown away by. I cling onto their enthusiasm, try to learn from their skillset as much as I can and get myself lifted onto the next level: purely by being in the same room with them whilst working away on buffer. There is no one else I spend as much time with, as Joel and Tom. That’s it, 90% of my daily interaction happens with these two guys. The power they have is therefore incredible. I’m highly influenced and seek to be from them and their input. I know, because of their actions, experience and daily work, the only impact this can have on me is a positive one. It is pushing me higher and onto the next level every day.’
Sunday, May 7, 2017
1. Too often we use “too busy” as an excuse for poor time management.
There’s a BIG difference between being busy and being productive. Don’t confuse motion with progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but never makes any forward progress. Don’t be a rocking horse! Truth be told, 99% of all your busyness is simply a mismanagement of your time. And at times, you have to say “no” to good things to be able to say “yes” to important things. You simply can’t do it all. So be mindful and choose wisely. Manage yourself! Focus on your priorities! What you focus on grows stronger in your life. At every moment, millions of little things compete for your attention. All these things fall into one of two categories: things that are top priorities and things that are not. You’ll never get more done by blindly working more hours on everything that comes up. Instead, you’ll get more done when you follow specific plans that measure and track top priorities and milestones. So if you want to be less busy and more successful, don’t ask how to make something more efficient until you’ve first asked, “Do I need to do this at all?”
The bottom line is that feeling like you’re doing busywork is often the result of saying yes too often. We all have obligations, but a comfortable pace can only be found by properly managing your yeses. So stop saying “yes” when you want to say “no.” You can’t always be agreeable; that’s how people take advantage of you. Sometimes you have to set clear boundaries. You might have to say no to certain favors, or work projects, or community activities, or committees, or volunteer groups, or coaching your kid’s sports team, or some other seemingly worthwhile activity. I know what you’re thinking – it seems unfair to say no when these are very worthwhile things to do. It kills you to say no. But you must. Because the alternative is that you’re going to do a half-hearted, poor job at each one, be stressed beyond belief, and feel like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of failure and frustration. You won’t be getting enough sleep, your focus will get worse and worse due to exhaustion, and eventually you’ll reach a breaking point.
2. We spend lots of time talking about our priorities, but not nearly enough time actually working on them.
When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Let that question sink in, and then remind yourself that the last six letters in the word “attraction” are “action.” If you want to attract positive changes into your life, you have to act accordingly. If you have an idea about what you want the next chapter of your life to look like, you have to DO things that support this idea every day. An idea, after all, isn’t going to do anything for you until you do something productive with it. In fact, as long as that great idea is just sitting around in your head it’s doing far more harm than good. Your subconscious mind knows you’re procrastinating on something that’s important to you. The necessary work that you keep postponing causes stress, anxiety, fear, and usually more procrastination – a vicious cycle that continues to worsen until you interrupt it with ACTION.
And remember, you can’t lift 1,000 pounds all at once, but you can easily lift one pound 1,000 times. In repetition, your little actions have great power. You become highly skilled at whatever you do again and again. Every day offers you the opportunity to develop a ritual of success, regardless of your priorities or how you personally define success. So from this moment forward… May your actions speak louder than your words. May your life preach louder than your lips. May your success be your noise in the end.
3. We mistakenly prioritize near-term comfort over long-term fulfillment.
Think about the most common problems we deal with in our lives – from laziness to lack of exercise to unhealthy diets to procrastination, and so on. In most cases, problems like these are not caused not by a physical ailment, but by a weakness of the mind – a weakness that urges us to avoid discomfort. Most of us dream about the reward without the risk. The shine without the grind. But we can’t have a destination without a journey. And a journey always has costs – at the very least, you have to give up a little time and energy to take a step forward every day. So, instead of dreaming about what you want right now, first ask yourself: “What am I willing to give up to get it?” Or, for those inevitably hard days: “What is worth suffering for?” Seriously, think about it…If you want the six-pack abs, you have to want the sore muscles, the sweat, the early mornings in the gym, and the healthy meals. If you want the successful business, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business deals and decisions, and the possibility of failing twenty times to learn what you need to know to succeed in the long run.
If you want something in life, you have to also want the costs of getting it! You have to be willing to put in the effort and go all the way! Otherwise, there’s no point in dreaming. This could mean losing stability and comfort for a while, and maybe even your mind on occasion. It could mean not eating what you want, or sleeping in, for weeks on end. It could mean stretching your comfort zone so thin it gives you a case of the chills. It could mean sacrificing certain relationships and daring yourself to make new ones. It could mean accepting ridicule from people. It could mean spending time alone in solitude. Solitude, though, is a gift that makes great things possible – it gives you the space you need. Everything else is a test of your determination, of how much you want it. And if you really want it, you’ll do it, despite discomfort and rejection and the odds. And every step will feel better than anything else you can imagine.
You will realize that the struggle is not found on the path, it is the path, and it’s worth it! So again, if you really want it, go all the way! There’s no better feeling in the world – there’s no better feeling than knowing what it means to be ALIVE.