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.