About a week ago, I must have had something weird for lunch or dinner. This kept me up late into the night and during one of my runs (forgive the gory details), I decided to drag my iPad along with me. I observed that I’ve been almost permanently in a state of reflection for the past few months, so I decided it would be a good idea to scribble a few thoughts down. The outcome was this
post. Just before I dozed off finally for the night, I figured I should read through what I had written. It completely blew my socks off! The following morning, my wife and a friend of mine at work convinced me to share the ‘piece’ with people.
If I found the content of my thoughts shocking, the comments and feedback from the readers were astounding! I got such varied responses it was like they were deliberately trying to mirror the thoughts of a pendulum I referred to in my article. “I’m worried about the darkness of his mind”; “He painted himself like a monster”; “…some parts sound contrived”; “…he must be suffering from clinical depression”. On the positive side, most of my readers at least complimented my writing.
Let me start by saying thank you to everyone who took time to read it. I’m unable to compute the exact equivalents in other things you could have done with your time. A hundred tweets perhaps? Four phone calls? I’m not sure…but in a busy and distracting world like the one we currently inhabit, I sometimes feel like it is a miracle we even have time for stuff like reading…much less someone else’s ‘rant’.
I learned so much from all the responses, even made some new acquaintances! Perhaps because of the circumstances under which I wrote the ‘article’, my mind was properly poised to glean as much insight as my readers were willing to share (deliberately or inadvertently). So, in this post I’m going to share the key lessons I learnt from all the people who took the time to engage me and in the next, I’ll try to add some context so as to give greater clarity to those who are interested.
The point that seemed to stand out the most in all the conversations that ensued was the subject of God. I got resounding reminders that God’s grace is not just adequate, but superlative. This is because of who He is…and by virtue of the fact that He has ordained your life for a reason, regardless of your circumstances, you must remember that His will is still in play. The corollary to this thought is that we need to re-evaluate our definitions of success, failure and our journey through life.
It got me asking: “what really is success?” I realized that I couldn’t judge whether I was a failure or success without first having a definition of these two concepts. This would also require me to examine what standards I was using in my definition- mine, the world around me, or God’s? It became clear that I didn’t really believe deep down what I had said to myself previously about these concepts. Fundamentally, I had accepted the definition of success as financial and material acquisition. Though I wanted to ‘assess’ the various facets of my life, my thoughts had taken the subtle hue of naira notes. I had been initiated into the sect that believes that I am only a success if I have money.
Then by relation, there was the issue of failure and how we relate to it. To the honest observer, some crude facts are immediately apparent: You cannot succeed all the time at anything! Life will not always be rosy and smooth…no matter who you are or how many zeroes associated with your ‘net-worth’. Bad things will happen to you if you live long enough. You’ll get tackled, insulted, sidetracked, derailed, kicked, spat on and the rest. It is life. Nobody escapes it. Seeing as hardships and failures are constant in life, how are we to deal with them? My previous approach? Complain about the rain in June when I’m out of the house without an umbrella! The only thing that can be said about that is “Rain falls in June! No matter who you are…deal with it!”
Another thing that stood out was the issue of comparison. Though I wrote something about it, the thoughts some people shared with me gave me additional understanding. Having gotten accustomed to the batch-by-batch progress of early schooling years where you and your ‘peers’ essentially move from class to class each year, it becomes hardwired into our minds that this would always be the case. Except that this is never the case. Life makes sure of it. Once you’re out of school, your lives take such different paths that it no longer makes sense to stick to that ‘tethering’ mindset where you benchmark yourself against your ‘mates’. In this sense, it is always so safe to go where everyone else is going. It requires courage of the kind that many of us have no idea to really ‘walk your own path’.
Still on that thought, I began to wonder whether this benchmarking wasn’t responsible for our lack of creativity. In a conversation with my boss recently, she pointed out to me that Nigerians hold on to their sense of entitlement and love to complain about all the things that aren’t going right. An Indian or Pakistani comes into the same environment, facing the same challenges (and probably more- language barriers, absence of community) and starts to solve problems. Few years later, he is no longer the guy who came to Nigeria with a single duffel bag. What are the Nigerians doing this whole time? “Look at Ghana, ordinary Ghana! They always have light!”
I can’t help feeling like I have left a few things out. At any rate, it is an ongoing conversation I’m having with myself and those around me. I don’t have all the answers and I’m learning that I never will. However, I am responsible for what I do with what I know.
I really want to hear from you. Take a few moments to share your thoughts…even if you’re still thinking I need a shrink! ☺.