1. The destination is in the journey
I have learnt that life is not all about aspiring to a certain future in the distant ‘tomorrow’. No. The destination is achieved in bits. It’s in the learning, the small steps, the stumbling and standing, the things we learn along the way. You must also take out time always to celebrate yourself and the strides you have made along the way. Success is indeed not a destination. It’s the milestones in the journey that makes a successful life.
2. Life gives everyman his own share of pain
As the cliché goes, everyone is fighting something. Life gives each man his own fair share of troubles, hurts and demons. No one is spared. Don’t let appearance or status delude you, we all have issues in our lives and we all have that one thing we struggle to tell anyone about. Some of us have just made a mastery of dealing with it diligently and astutely without finding sympathizers.
3. There is Power in Un-clarity
This year, I listened to one of my mentors (Obinna Anaba) deliver a profound speech at the TEDxOloboiri event. The speech was titled ‘The Power of Un-clarity’. It doesn’t do it justice to only rehash part of the speech here but space is a constraint. You can see the full thing on YouTube. However, the hallmark of the speech was: ‘Can un-clarity be good? I believe it can. My story suggests it can. My story is about not knowing where and what the end is going to be but pushing on anyway. My story is about the power of not waiting to find out; the power of one day at a time; the power to let it flow! It is about not allowing myths and stereotypes – those powerful roads well-traveled that sometimes present themselves as clarity and convention (or conventional knowledge), – to define what is possible!’
4. Not giving up doesn’t mean holding on when you’re wrong
When you know what you’re doing is right, but you’re not sure if you’re going to make it or want to give up because it’s too difficult, that’s the time to persevere. When you know you are wrong, but you want to hold on because you don’t want others to think of you as a quitter, it’s time to pivot.
5. The tussle with the next man is never personal
This year I learnt a great truth about dealing with people. You need to learn to stop taking things to heart. Everyone just wants to get by, and in a dog-eat-dog environment like ours, everyone wants to survive. When all is said and done, it is not personal; it rarely is. Understanding this will free you from the shackles of un-forgiveness.
6. It is okay to be vulnerable
You don’t always have it together. Nobody does. So it’s fine to feel vulnerable at times, to seek help when required, to lean on a shoulder when you are exhausted. See, even the pope needs some words of encouragement for himself. No one has it all figured out. So, stop hiding your vulnerabilities so others don’t judge you. The truly successful men of our days have mastered the act of calling for help when they are clueless. However, the caveat here is that you can’t be vulnerable before everyone because some might use it against you in their uncanny foolishness. Trust should be the watchword in expressing your vulnerability.
7. The Power of Appreciation
It’s a word rife with negativity; a world that is always falsely telling you that you are superior to the next man. A thankless world. This year, more than ever before, I have learnt to be grateful for everything. The little things, the big things and the sad things. Saying thank you is a priceless gesture and will do wonders for you. In simple terms, the next time someone makes a comment, before you shoot him down with your ‘all-knowing’ wisdom, acknowledge that it took some thinking and courage for him to voice that comment, and do well to appreciate that effort.
8. You don’t always have to have an opinion
At times in life, you don’t always have to air your opinion. You don’t always have to want to prove a point. There are times when accepting feedback and keeping your opinion to yourself saves you from today’s problems and tomorrow’s challenges.
9. Keep an open mind
Life has taught me that my way is not the only way, and to be fixated in my own viewpoint is to see the world from a shallow lens. You must understand that life’s biggest discoveries and inventions were stumbled upon with this mindset. You will go far in this thing called life if you keep an open mind to issues, places and people. A view from another vantage point might just make all the difference.
10. Don’t Let Others Judge You
This year, I watched a commencement speech delivered by Actor Ed Helms at the University of Virginia, and it formed one of my biggest lessons in 2015. He ended the speech thus: “As you go out in the world, you’ll find that people are always quick to define you, to pigeonhole you, to whittle you down to their preconceived notions—which brings me to my point: Never let others define you. Define yourselves.”
11. African writers’ rock!
And yes, this was a fundamental lesson that was reinforced in 2015. Having been a fan of the famous good old Chinua Achebe, Ngugui wa Thiong’o, Ayi kwei Armah amongst others; this year, I fell in love with the emerging pen pushers of today. From Eghosa Imasuen’s ‘Fine Boys’ to Sefi Atta’s ‘Everything Good will Come’ I found a deeper love for African Writers Series.
12. Don’t Stop Learning
Life has taught me to keep reaching, keep seeking, keep using my abilities to bring out the best in those around me, and let them bring out the best in me. You have to understand that no one is the finished article. We all are striving to acquire more knowledge and arm ourselves with requisite information. One of my mentors in a departure gift before he proceeded to an assignment in the Middle East this year left this words with me ‘Whatever you do, whatever you become, keep learning’. Nothing can be truer.
13. Travelling is a wonder
A friend of mine once told me: ‘Sam, if you must do one more thing in this life besides living for God, it is travelling the world’. This is clearly an outlandish thing to say, but the sense should not be lost in the exaggeration of the statement. This year, I ventured out, not entirely around the world, but to some cities around the world. I had some of my life greatest moments of inspiration and fun in travelling, seeing new places, learning new languages and just observing the world not as I see it only, but as ‘the rest’ sees it.
14. You are who you spend your time with, whether you like it or not.
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.
15. Grace can make all the difference.
All the fourteen lessons above will count for nothing without this. Work hard, give everyday a tremendous wag, take life lemons and make lemonade, pursue success with all you have got, it might still not be enough. With God’s grace in a man’s life, the barriers that will stand in the way are not yet born!