Monday, June 27, 2016
1. It’s not the weight that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it. You can use pain, frustration and inconvenience to motivate you rather than annoy you. You are in control of the way you look at life. Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negative thinking.
2. You always have a choice. Choose to be negative and you’ll find plenty of reasons to stop and frown. Choose to be positive and you’ll find plenty of reasons to step forward and smile. Truly, the most powerful weapon against stress and discouragement is our ability to choose one thought over another. Train your mind to see the good in everything.
3. One of the most rewarding and important moments in life is the moment you finally find the courage to let go of what you can’t change. When you stop worrying and complaining about what you can’t control, you have more time to change the things you can control. And that changes everything.
4. It’s never in your best interests to share lots of time with people who constantly try to discourage you (even if they’re your family). Because, if you’re the kind of person who believes there’s something out there for you beyond whatever it is you’re expected to do – if you want to be extraordinary – you can’t get there by shackling yourself to those who hold you back. Instead, you will very likely become just as ordinary as they expect you to be. And there’s absolutely no reason to do that to yourself.
5. Long-term success in life is a trifecta of ability, motivation, and attitude. Ability is what you’re capable of doing every day. Motivation determines what you actually do every day. And attitude determines how well you ultimately do it. Keep this in mind, and keep yourself in check.
6. Sitting around worrying is a misuse of your incredible creative energy. Instead of imagining the worst, imagine the best and how you can bring it about.
7. It’s always better to be exhausted from meaningful work than to be tired of doing nothing. Put in the effort and live the life you’ve imagined. Wake up and remind yourself that you are what you do today, not what you say you’ll do someday. Good things don’t come to those who wait – they come to those who work on meaningful goals. When all is said and done, oftentimes more is said than done. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The way to get going, and feel good about it, is to quit talking and begin doing.
8. Imagine how much more effective and happy you’d be if, instead of dreading and fighting against certain tasks, you simply got them done. Remember, the task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you. Do what’s right, not what’s easy. And when the task is a big one, do just a little bit of it every day. Even the tiniest daily ritual changes everything in the long run.
9. Effort is never wasted, even when it leads to disappointing results. For it always makes you stronger, more educated, and more experienced. So when the going gets tough, be patient and keep going. Just because you are struggling does NOT mean you are failing. Every great success requires some kind of struggle to get there.
10. The next step is always worth taking. Seriously, no matter what happens, no matter how far you seem to be away from where you want to be, never stop believing that you will make it. Have an unrelenting belief that things will work out, that the long road has a purpose, that the things you desire may not happen today, but they will happen. Practice patience. And remember that patience is not about waiting – it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard to make progress every day, and knowing that this journey is worth it.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
It is cliché that history often repeats itself because people never learn from it. In instances too numerous to rehash, the Nigerian State has been a case in point. In our socio-political life as a nation, we find ways to always get it wrong; and for all the brilliant punditry in the world about fixing Nigeria, it is in the basic things that we are found wanting. Sadly, with an educational system in debacle, the disciplines of history are continually on the decline. One fears for what the next generation of historians will have to continue their trade with the emerging paucity in both class and content in Nigerian historical literature.
Arguably the most talked about national concern today, the Niger-Delta Avengers group, has snowballed into a monster few saw coming. There were initial genuine concerns in some quarters that a defeat for erstwhile president, Goodluck Jonathan, at the last polls will mean a return to the creeks for the militants, but few heeded the caution. The political class was too entangled in the power jostling that every other issue seemed child’s play in comparison. Alas, the militancy albatross is fully upon us and one cannot help but wonder that ‘we have been here before.’ There is a worrying trend in town that any group who losses out in a democratic election, resort to the old creed of ethnicity and religion to foment its grudges and ‘play the victim.’ While not suggesting that the Avengers are avenging the defeat of ‘their son’ in the last election, one cannot help but wonder about the timing of this brouhaha. Buhari’s victory has dowsed insurgency in the North-East and resurfaced the Niger-Delta militancy in the South. It’s a striking development and everyone is at liberty to draw his own conclusions.
However, the bigger issue in the resurgence of the secession creed in the East and militancy in the Delta is that the Nigerian state never seemed to have learnt the lessons of the past. Irrespective of how well meaning the Amnesty programme initiated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua was, there were flaws in its skeleton framework that suggested it was a mere palliative to a greater problem. While the programme returned relative peace to the region, it failed to address the fundamental questions around resource control, regional development, economic inclusion and socio-economic sustainability. Perhaps, we were deluded that the ascension to the throne of a Niger-Delta son was going to be the last jigsaw we needed to align in solving the Niger-Delta puzzle. Alas, we were wrong. Today, the amnesty programme has changed the lives of a few, made billionaires out of a handful, and left a new breed of agitators and cannon fodder demanding a change in a different voice. With the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan and the emergence of a new sheriff in town who clearly has his own ideas, the familiar problems of militancy and secession are back with us. We never learn from history. For too long, we have thrown handouts to deep rooted issues, we have uncannily glossed over the tough questions; we have deluded ourselves that time will fix things by default and we have ultimately retrogressed in many ways. It is common knowledge but it is worth reiterating that things don’t change themselves, people change things.
History is replenished with lessons of how not to do things; and therein lays the power of the past. No programme that attempts to enrich a few from the creeks will be the long term solution of the Niger-Delta. It is time not to go that route anymore. In same vein, it will take more than mere rhetoric and a few appointments of people from the East to achieve inclusion of the region and put an ‘RIP’ on the clamour for secession. The problems are not on the surface and having the courage to discuss the real issues and force the dialogue is the starting point in the quest for a sustainable solution. We must learn from the past.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
1. Your presence can be carried with you wherever you go. Appreciate the small moments. There are few joys in life that equal a good conversation, a good read, a good walk, a good hug, a good smile, or a good deep breath.
2. Worry is the biggest enemy of the present moment. It does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all.
3. The problem is rarely the problem. The problem is often the incredible amount of overthinking you’re doing with the problem. Let it go and be free.
4. The more anger toward the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving the present. And remember, letting go isn’t about having the ability to forget the past – it’s about having the wisdom and strength to embrace the present.
5. Paradise is not a place – it’s a state of mind. Whenever the grass looks greener on the other side… Stop staring, stop comparing, stop complaining, and start watering the grass you’re standing on.
6. What separates mindful privilege from empty entitlement is gratitude. A mindful heart is a grateful one – it doesn’t take things for granted. And the greatest gift of this gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more mindful you become.
7. The secret to happiness is not always in doing what you like, but in mindfully liking whatever you do. Be present with each step, do your very best, and let go of the rest. There is always, always, always some reason to be grateful and some interesting lesson to learn along the way.
8. The most fundamental lapse of mindfulness – the most common harm we do to ourselves – is to practice ignorance by not having the courage and the respect to slow down and look at ourselves honestly and gently.
9. In order to understand the world, we have to turn away from it on occasion. Sometimes we simply need to distance ourselves to see things clearly again. It’s important to remember that downtime, rest, and play are productive too.
10. You should sit quietly for fifteen minutes every day to gather your thoughts, unless you’re too busy, in which case you should sit for an hour. Remember this. The world is as we are inside. What we think, we see, and we ultimately become. So gather and choose your thoughts wisely. Think how you want to live.
11. At times, you have to say “no” to good things to be able to say “yes” to important things. You can’t do it all. Be mindful and choose wisely.
12. The best gift you can give someone is the purity of your full attention. Just be present with them and pay attention to the little things. Do so and you will discover the best in both yourself and them.
Monday, June 6, 2016
A conventional marathon as is known around the world in London, New York etc is a 42 kilometers race. Hard is the name of the game as a marathon will test your tenacity, endurance, staying power, determination and courage. If stories are anything to go by, many have passed out and never returned to the land of the living while in a marathon. Many of such people are accomplished runners who thought they had the trained legs and experienced guile to go the entire distance. Indeed, only the truly great concludes a marathon. However, as daunting and daring a normal marathon is, it is child’s play to Izokuthoba. In South Africa, Izokuthoba means ‘It will humble you.’ It was the theme for the May 29th 2016 special kind of marathon; known as ‘Comrade Marathon’ (It was the 91st edition). As opposed to the conventional marathon which is 42 kilometers, this is an 89.2 kilometers race. More than double a normal marathon distance! It will test your soul, stretch your will, dare your tenacity, harass your resolve, meddle with your guts and gauge your lasting power. In many ways, the Izokuthoba is less about running and more about reaffirming the human spirit. It will define you, and it will humble you. The largest ultra-marathon has humbled elite runners. Johnny Halberstadt, arguably South Africa’s most versatile runner who was a world class marathoner met his match in the 1979 up run, where while leading the race, fatigue and depletion saw him drop to the tarmac outside Camperdown, and that was it for him.
Such is life; it is Izokuthoba – It will humble you. Life will throw curve balls at you when you thought you had it together. It will push you so hard you will contemplate the thought ‘Is it really worth it or should I just end it now.’ If you live very long enough, you will discover that every man is fighting his own devils, which you know absolutely nothing about. Some are simply skilled in doing it privately while putting up a cheerful outlook to the rest of the world. Make no mistakes about it, life is a Pandora box, you never quite know what to expect irrespective of how prepared you are for it. Like in Izokuthoba, just when you thought you are adequately prepared for the race of life, it will shock you with the curves and mountainous paths and even for the fearless, it might break them. Life indeed is humbling. It will shut you up, make you mind your business, bring you to your knees and make you pray. One definition of “humbled” I have seen, reads ‘Feeling the positive effects of humility.’ At times, life has to be humbling for the message to sink in.
As you run your own race in life, always remember that no man has it all figured out. Sometimes, it is okay to be tired, to need rest, to seek support systems, to reach out. In Izokuthoba, runners pat themselves on the back and encourage one another. They surge on even when it doesn’t feel like it anymore. Trust me; there are moments in your life when you simply won’t feel like it anymore. It is in those moments that you trudge on, with pain in your heart and your body souring. However, remember that there are times in life, when you will have no support to fall back on and the only one that can cheer you on is yourself. As it is in Izokuthoba, so it is in life; you must learn to encourage and cheer yourself on sometimes.
There is a cliché among the comrade marathoners that goes thus ‘A smooth race never made a skillful racer.’ In life, you will go through paths you never envisaged and when you think the finish line is in sight, you will discover it was only a temporary reprieve, as there is a bend at the end of that road that shocks you and keeps demanding the last of your resolve. However, to conclude an Izokuthoba, is to have won. Same with life; your victory is not dependent on whether you out-ran the next man. Rather, it hinges on whether you met your own goals, finished your own race and cut your own ribbon. The hair rising moment in Izokuthoba is to have crossed the line and this is same with life. ‘Finishing’ your course is what it means to have won in life.
*Special thanks my boss and mentor, Obinna Anaba, who inspired this article when he first told me of Izokuthoba