What is worse than suffering?

Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not.

I spent most of my childhood in a city that some people have called ‘particularly aggressive’ haha. Lagos is a very interesting city to be in. It brims with life and this undeniable sense of hustle which I already wrote about here.

Everywhere you go someone is fighting to stay alive. The young girl is hawking groundnuts and walking long distances on foot so she can get by TODAY. A loved one dies, we mourn and then we move on because we must still put food on the table and find a roof over our heads.

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Riding home in the keke napep. I prefer it to motorcycles lol

We don’t make excuses- we improvise instead. One day it was raining and I had to run an errand and I and my brother took a tricycle (keke napep) home. The tricycle rider had this improvised curtain thing that he threw over the sides of the tricycle so that he could still keep his business going even in the rain.

Life is so unpredictable so you have to be prepared- you have wake up earlier just incase there is traffic, it is flooded, or the roads are bad or something.

People are up as early as 4 or 5 to get to work because they want to beat traffic which is crazy in Lagos.

You go to the market, bargain for food, go to the gas station, buy diesel for your generator, turn it on and deal with the noise pollution because there is no power supply. By the time you come to the end of the day you are exhausted and ready to sleep and even then you may have to fight off mosquitoes if you didn’t spray an insect repellent or if you kept your doors open too late.

Get the picture?

Life is a struggle and that struggle is normal- nothing to complain about or blame anyone for.

You feel alive. You feel something and everyday feels new, and pregnant and promising and troublesome but fulfilling.

Then we come to North America or maybe another ‘developed’ country and struggle is not really something that is normal. You go through life pretty okay. Where your Nigerian counterpart would have to save money for months to pay cash for a house or a car, you just get a mortgage. Where someone else might be homeless if they lost their job, you could at least put it on the credit card for a while.

We become zombies. We can’t really say we are thriving but we are okay that’s for sure. Okay is worse than suffering. When you suffer you feel, and you activate that fighter in you. But when you are okay, anything that demands a little more out of you starts to seem like a chore and slowly your warrior instinct starts to die.

The instinct in us all for greatness and for survival is primal. Its raw and its intense and it can overcome anything.

Even in ‘developed countries’ everyone I have met who is truly fulfilled with their lives had a lot of fighting to do. They had to fight all the limiting beliefs and the resistance within, then they had to fight without- and stand up for themselves, stand up for their dreams and discipline themselves to get there.

So you can choose to be fooled by the illusion of comfort and numb down that warrior instinct in you but it is a dangerous place to be.

When you come to the end of your life how will you convince yourself that living a complacent life was the best of use of your time?

There are too many zombies in the world- thinking what others want them to think, living their life how ‘normal’ people live it, letting people talk them out of the future they came into this world to create.

But the instinct for greatness is in all of us and we must resist the complacency in our culture that keeps us too comfortable to act.

Feel the warrior instinct in you- the desire for more, the desperation, the zeal. Stop trying to numb it down, instead feed it. Guard it jealously and instead of discarding it from fear- TRUST that it will find expression. I think that is one of the noblest things to do with our brief lives.

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for- Oprah Winfrey”

On that note I leave with you the broadway version of Fela’s Zombie 🙂

Happy Monday.

Ps: Join the conversation by leaving a comment. Is your warrior instinct alive and well, dying, or on the way to coming alive again?

Why your boring job is perfect for you

Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not.

There are so many interesting things going on in our time in terms of how much more of a space there is for contributing creatively to the world versus back in the day when everything was about mass producing. In that sense I feel like there is room for us to all give our unique contribution to the world.

However truth be told, on the way to that there are so many loops and turns, and I am sure that at some point you can find yourself in a situation that seems so far from where you plan to be, and you just wonder, what am I going to do with all my ideas? Am I even any step closer to my dreams? I’ve been there many times.

I was reading about the example I gave in number 3 below that sparked this post and I thought I should share.  So here are my thoughts on my tongue in cheek title 🙂

First of all, a boring job is a great way to know what you do NOT want to do with your life.

Most of us seem to be comfortable but not excited, possibly living a decent life but not our best lives. At least YOU feel something even if it is tedium or frustration. Sometimes we need that extra push and this can be just what you need to finally overcome your fears and take the risk of giving your dreams a shot.

Secondly, your boring job just might be freeing up your mental energy for your passion.

While waiting for something more fulfilling, this is the perfect time to redirect your mental energy into creative expression. Since your emotional energy is not being fully tapped by your job, you have more than enough of it to focus on the things you are truly passionate about.

Albert Einstein did the exact same thing. When he graduated in 1900 at the bottom of his class, he could not get a job as a teacher for obvious reasons. However his father offered him an engineering job, and he also had the opportunity of getting a lucrative job in insurance but he turned both down because he didn’t want that to drain his mental energy (isn’t that interesting?).

Instead he took a boring job in a patent office where he would just be analyzing applications. Doing this sharpened his reasoning skills; also because it was so mundane he was able to do it quickly and then focus on his own ideas while at work. It was while working this boring job that he did most of the work that would be his theory of relativity.

Maybe there could be an opportunity for your own personal learning goals while working a boring job? Something to think about.

Thirdly, a boring job might be an opportunity for fresh insight. 

Remember the boring article I was reading? It was about the history of public health. I don’t like history BUT, I read about an interesting story from the 1700s. Back then scientists were still arguing about what causes food to go bad. A scientist called Lazzaro Spallanzani discovered that you could prevent things from spoiling by keeping them in air tight conditions and applying heat. While scientists were still debating this (then they didn’t believe microbes were in the air), a distiller and confectioner in Paris took this idea and applied it to his business in the food industry to preserve food and wine. While the scientific world was catching up to reality a Parisian businessman was using this discovery in the food industry.

Sometimes staying stuck in one field keeps you narrow-minded. Getting out of it even if it is due to a mundane job can give you fresh inspiration. Think about it; sometimes the most creative ideas come from people completely out of the field.

So there you go. Even though you might feel stuck and stifled in your creativity or personal fulfilment, maybe there is some value in the mundane if you look closely enough. Your boring job might just be watering those seeds of greatness in you. Maybe the question is not about your circumstances but about whether you will still go to work in pursuing those things dear to you that the world just might be waiting for.

Do you have any more reasons to add? How did you get something generative out of a mundane circumstance?

On broken dreams & being pregnant

Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not.

“Hi nice to meet you, my name is Ebele.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

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“Tell me about your broken dreams.”

Maybe that is one of the questions we should ask these days instead of the boring “what do you do?”.

Without sounding dramatic I am surrounded by broken dreams. By these dreamers fighting not to be disillusioned but not knowing what to do with the heaviness that comes from dreaming.

“Why do I dream too much?” I asked Emeka in frustration.

“That’s what I love most about you” was the response.

So many hopes, so many ideas, so many blueprints for the future.

Yet all we have is today and no idea of what tomorrow will look like.

Listen in and hear the broken dreams all around you. The hopes getting sore from lifting reality-sized weights.

I hear them.

I also hear hundreds of millions of people in my age range are unemployed.

Suddenly it seems the map the teachers and parents and uncles and aunties gave us aren’t enough for navigating a complex world.

No this is not blaming. This is owning.

Owning all the little broken dreams that I once cried over (in retrospect they weren’t even mine).

Mourning and celebrating simultaneously the journey to embody the new dreams I’m now pregnant with.

I’m not a very realistic person and somehow that has worked for me.

So back sore from trying to push back against “reality” I hold on.

This must be spiritual, emotional, mental strength training.

My tribe mourns together. We confess our losses. We face the rejections that keep us up all night crying but we’d dare not admit because what if we came off as depressed? At least we have ourselves to confess to.

In one breath we talk changing the world and in the other our job search. In one phone conversation we talk being broke and in the next creating value. In one moment we are so scared in the other we are so courageous.

We celebrate too. Those little ways we are dropping the fear. That tiny step forward that no one else may see. In the midst of our broken dreams, there is something in us that knows so well that we are making the future with those broken dreams. That they are stepping stones not stumbling blocks. After all they didn’t die, they broke – wide open to set us free to dream closer to the centre of ourselves. They set us free to soften into more humane versions of ourselves. They set us free to learn grace.

We move forward into a future that may not applaud us for anything. We applaud ourselves; we’ve come a long way. There’s a long way yet. We’ll cry some more. We’ll laugh some more; and something about it all will have us all saying “it’s all good”.

To my tribe of dreamers.

You are one of them.

Here’s another : http://thetruecornerstone.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/fear-of-the-unknown/

 Pssst: Don’t be shy, leave me a comment 😉

Work or play?

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Psst: I’ve moved. Visit me here http://streetsideconvos.com. Maybe the new blog will be for you. Maybe not.

Work. It was all those things you ‘had’ to do for very justified reasons. Today it was in the name of commitment, tomorrow in the name of reputation, the next day in the name of tradition, maybe in the name of adulthood, and oh, watch for the big one- in the name of god.

It was all those boxes you had to stuff yourself into because of course you had to be realistic. Yet no one told you that reality was a constantly changing construct that perhaps you had a stake in recreating.

You justified it long enough although when you stopped to listen you knew that it was not wings but shackles that your so called ‘reasons’ gave you, and you were a willing prisoner. Your excuses were many- justified excuses. Everybody agreed to them because they were so wise and reasonable – except that little’ naive’ child inside of you that you just couldn’t get to shut up.

Then there was play. It was not what you had to do, but what you got to do. It was that place where you became a child again. There were no reasons here, all the reason you had was love. Love got you doing crazy things; much more things than tradition, reputation, god or any other thing they made up to guilt trip you into a loveless commitment could get out of you.

Work or play?

The pesky little child scurries off again into distant lands hidden deep inside of you. (S)he comes back, telling you that there is so much more. That there is a place where life can be play. That it is a place where work is play and so no longer work. A place where you give not just your time and your energy but your whole life. A place that everyone is waiting for you to claim but they just don’t know.

But how can you explain this? What if you never find it? What if you end up naive, irresponsible?

So your dreams become nightmares inside of you. And the light that only you carry gets suffocated in the dark musty cupboards where you hide it.

Your dreams get short of seeing because its been too long in those dark musty cupboards.

You dare not voice them and so they will never know that first kiss with the air that could birth them into words, then goals, then reality.

So then you become disillusioned. And you settle for work. Work is justified. Isn’t there something sanctimonious about the ‘sacrifices’ you ‘have’ to make? You hide behind reasons and everyone agrees with you and nods along because God forbid-  what if your dreams came true then their own dark musty cupboards will have to prematurely see the light in a way that will be oh so unbearable.

Except stubborn little child. There (s)he goes off to play and when (s)he comes home you give him/her a good spanking.

“Shut up! Shut up!”,  you tell stubborn little child.

“Say no more of your childish fantasies.”

But what if you went along with stubborn little child?

What if you got to play forever?

Don’t even deceive yourself that it is an easy road. It will not be as easy as hiding behind all those reasons everyone tells everyone.

Here you will fight and fight. At the risk of your life, your reputation, your tradition and all the other things you and they used to hold you bound, you will fight for your right to play.

Work or play?

What will you choose?

Good news:)

So when I was getting on the flight to Nigeria this summer, I had a ton of thoughts in my head.

One was the overwhelming sense of gratitude I had because of my friends that came, donated, helped me set up, clean up etc. I could not give them anything in return but they came on board because they loved me and really believed in my visImageion. The day I was leaving my friend who was still looking for a job came to my house and he helped me take my bags to the car and gave me a donation to our work. That moved me so much.

On the flight I found myself wondering, hmm where will I start? I hope I can deliver and especially because I didn’t have any big hookups I needed a lot of faith. I wanted Engage Africa Foundation to get coverage in the media, I wanted to find sponsors, I wanted to talk to groups of people, I wanted to raise the profile of the problem in Nigeria and get people thinking and acting etc.

Sometimes I actually wondered if I was naive especially when I got the first couple of rude responses. I did my fair share of crying and doubting too. LOL

I don’t understand the mysterious ways that life works out but I have found that a teeny little bit of faith has a weird way of moving mountains.

Guess what?

Last week we got a whole page in the most widely circulated Nigerian newspaper- The Nation Newspaper.

I went to an event that had a couple of seminars at the same time. I abruptly decided to leave the seminar I was in to check out another one when this lady Hannah stopped me. She was working in the media and asked me if I could spare my time to do a short voice recording telling her how I was liking the event.  I agreed and along the line she decided to interview me about my non-profit instead because she said was inspired by what we were doing. A few weeks later I get a whole page in a newspaper read by hundreds of thousands if not millions. I thought I was doing her a favour by stopping but she was actually my blessing in disguise.

You can read the article here.

Newspaper

That same week I got a call from the University of Waterloo that out of a lot of people they were considering they had chosen me to receive the Young alumni award for 2013 because they believe in our work and my future, thanks to my sister who nominated me.

That same week a contact finally worked out and I got a chance to go on a TV station- Silverbird Television to talk about noncommunicable diseases in Africa and what we are doing about it at Engage Africa Foundation.

Its crazy- you go from working so hard with no clue how everything will work out to boom!boom! boom! so much good news in a week.

I am happy and hopeful:)

Have faith in yourself and your dreams. When you believe in yourself you’ll find it funny that people actually start believing in you and you get to meet the most amazing people in the course of following your dream. It makes all the hard work, bad days, and tears worth it, trust me. I hope that this blog pushes you to actually take a step (no matter how wobbly) in the direction of giving your ideas a place in this world. It will be so worth it.

Ps: I have a video coming up and even a surprise gift for you 🙂 Stay tuned.

Growing pains

Have you ever made a strong resolve to do something only to realize shortly after that –

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Blossoming

shoot, I missed my goal flat out? You set this massive target. I am going to work out more, read more, be a better friend, work harder, or whatever it is. Then a few days after some intense focus and consistency you fall flat on your face and even wonder what gave you the audacity to imagine that you could do such great things with yourself.

That is the huge risk that comes with having goals. You know that you know that you just fell short. That’s one of the most humbling and probably shameful things in the world.

One of my biggest goals this year was to be more resolute because I realized that was the only thing standing between me and my amazing future. My words for the new year were generativity and mindfulness and basically the heart of that was to fuel me to be a more resolute person- who enjoys every moment and expects the best out of life and just GOs.

In between all of that I had and still have to keep letting go of so much baggage- all the fear, self-doubt, comparison, letting people make you second guess yourself, letting little nuisances spoil your day/steal your joy, over-analysis paralysis etc haha. I started to believe that the future is bright regardless of any fear or doubt or worry or failure.

I learnt that we are actually all those great things we want to be. We are strong, we are beautiful, we are bold. Our task is not to be these things, but to drop all the extra ‘stuff’ so that who we already are can be more obvious. It is basically a journey of becoming who you already are.

Sometimes we forget our own stories of overcoming. A few days ago I was thinking about the past few years of my life- from surviving the scariest natural disaster I have experienced in my life, to moving to new countries on my own, to being sick, to lots of failure in so many shapes and forms, to working through numerous loose ends and knots, and the list is endless.

Sometimes we forget how much we have grown and changed and we don’t give ourselves enough grace. We place so much expectations on ourselves, we compare ourselves to others,  and don’t even allow ourselves time to grow into a more beautiful version of who we currently are.

Instead of telling ourselves our stories of overcoming we dwell on all the reasons why we are not enough. I have found that as I have loved myself even despite the things I am not yet, I come closer to being all the things I want to be. On the other hand, when I put myself down, all I do is drag myself down.

Have you tried talking to yourself and being a good friend to yourself? Most times we bully ourselves- pulling ourselves down for every little thing, even though we are nice to other people. So now when I over think things or something annoying happens to me, I stand up for myself and tell myself that the future is bright and everything is ok, and its not that bad and I am strong and I am beautiful.

As I look back, I realize that even though I feel like hiding in a cave when I fall on my face, over time I see that I actually am growing.

So now I have faith in the process- that if I keep putting some work into cultivating my life, my attitude, my dreams, I will look back again and see I have come far.

What’s your latest goal that you are sucking at and falling flat on your face about? Its all growing pains, but the point is, you are growing and you are moving forward.

Never give up on yourself. You can expect the best. You can take your dreams a notch higher and work hard for them because no one was created to be mediocre.

Just keep cultivating that garden that is your life, keep pulling at the weeds, keep feeding it, and give it some time. You’ll see something beautiful.

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