Why ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ is a dangerous question to ask kids.

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

A few summers ago, I met up with an old classmate and we caught up on what he was up to and vice versa.  With my background in the sciences then moving to global health, doing lots of traveling and also going on a literary tour in Europe to focus more on my writing, he found this too undefined. He finally answered me with the question , “So what exactly are you?”. I asked him to explain his question and he said you know like engineer, doctor, something specific.

I find these kinds of titles restrictive and I tend to reject them on an emotional level. However I grew up in an environment where this kind of thinking is pervasive. Right from when you start talking, uncles, aunties, teachers, and whoever has an emotional vested interest in you ask you what you want to be -engineer, doctor, pharmacist, pilot, lawyer- being the ones that got the most positive reinforcement.

I want to share about why I think this is a dangerous question to be asking kids, or even ourselves.

First off, we are moving further away from the Industrial Age and the thinking associated with it to an era where we value meaning and awesomeness over mediocre mass production. Think about the goods and services that are doing great in our times. They always have the WOW factor and a meaningful story informing them. If the Industrial Age is ending and we are needing less and less standardization why teach kids to be standardized?

Secondly, studying the truly great in any sphere of life, you’ll soon see how an intense emotional commitment to what they do separates them from the mediocre. That is why they persist even after failing over and over again. If you don’t figure out what you are borderline obsessed with, what you feel you can do with the WOW factor, you reduce your odds for greatness and mastery. Can you see how this is a more important issue to settle before committing to an ‘occupation’ – for happiness or even purely economic reasons?

So I propose a better way.

In an era where we celebrate meaning and excellence over standardized mediocrity, I propose that we ask questions that make us think about how we want to show up in the world everyday. These can be questions like – what kind of life do you want to live? Not only does this question put the whole of life in perspective it also aims at your unique blueprint and gives room for more possibilities. For example, I want to show up as courageous. I also value mastery. I value connection with people but more than that empowering people and in a way that keeps on giving. I value uniqueness. While the expression may change at any given time the most productive way to use my time will have to be at the intersection of these affinities.

Imagine if we helped kids to show up everyday in a way that helped them practice, refine and experiment with their innate affinities. By the time they have to choose careers they would have more clarity about what they are here to do and what they can be great at. Outside the box living has never been more possible so why stifle their creativity and capacity for independent thinking? Why put pressure on them to fit into straight jacket occupations that we are not sure will even exist when they are done school?

Let me give you an example. 

In secondary school, when I heard that no girl had ever been the valedictorian in the history of the school, inspired by my affinity for excellence I did it. The occupation mentality would say that it proves I was made to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer since I was so intelligent. The mentality I propose would rather say it proved that I value mastery and then nurture me to own and feed this desire, while finding out how I can design my life to intersect it with the world’s current needs so I could make a happy living from it.

Which one is more empowering and gives me room to fly? I think the latter.

I think there would be so much more benefit to this world if kids were prepared to show up everyday in a way that represented the things they intrinsically enjoyed and given small platforms to use and strengthen their core gifting instead of just preparing them for careers, especially in the 21st century. Altogether I think this is a more empowering way to think and live life.

Increase your fulfilment in life starting today.

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

Starting my first full time job at the end of 2011, I was completely taken aback by the escape culture. Here’s a brief summary of what it looks like- we talk about the weekend Monday to Tuesday then plan the next weekend Wednesday to Friday.

Isn’t that a far cry from where we started? As kids we used to dream of changing the world. We wanted to be exceptional at what we did and happy. We didn’t dream of lives we wanted to escape from but rather lives we loved living. There is still hope though no matter what phase of life we find ourselves in. A simple change in mindset can move us from short term escapism to true fulfilment in life.

1. Take a good look in the mirror.

Take a look in the mirror (can be figurative too!)

Take a look in the mirror (can be figurative too!)

With the fast pace of life, technology, deadlines in our lives, it’s always good to make the most of those windows of opportunity to look into our own souls. The more self aware you are the more useful you can be to the world and the more happiness you can find, as your clarity increases. For me, I grow toward self awareness by learning to question my emotions and thoughts. For example, the times we tend to want to escape are times we feel a sense of emptiness. We call this boredom sometimes, but it can be other things like insecurity, fear, comparing ourselves to others or just running away from our own intuition. When you feel the need to escape maybe through food, pleasure or whatever, you can ask yourself if there is something underlying it all that you need to address. Maybe you don’t always have to look outward for happiness. Sometimes you can look inward and learn to love and be at home in your own company too.

2. Move from escapism to a state of flow.

There is nothing wrong with doing things simply to escape and relax however true fulfilment and happiness is not cultivated through escape as a lifestyle but rather when most of our life activities are in a state called ‘flow’. This is a state where we are increasing our capacity for something but because we enjoy it so much it feels more like play than work. We feel a sense of achievement and yet we feel that we haven’t gotten there yet. We also feel like although there is more to learn we are making progression and confident that we can get there. This is the state where true fulfilment is found. What are those things you enjoy so much that they feel like play? Which ones are in line with your deepest dreams, strengths, passions, longings and vision of the world?

3. Once you have identified these you can then gradually direct your life in this direction.

If you are at a point where it is not possible to completely steer your work in this direction, it may have to start by using those times of boredom or free time to have fun in alignment with the values that are uniquely yours. For example I like to use my down time to work on my non profit, read a book on a topic I’m interested in, build my ideas, try out something new (recently yoga), write or to connect and reconnect with people. While I enjoy these things they are also in line with areas I want to grow and contribute to the world. That way my life doesn’t feel like a million disjointed pieces, rather it flows. Since I started living this way, I have felt so much more fulfilled and more self aware. It increases your clarity, contentment, confidence and the quality of friendships you make.

Question for you: How can you move from a disconnected life you want to escape from and move into a state of flow and purpose?

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.

Image

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?

You are an expert. Here’s why

Earlier this year, I decided to live off my hard earned savings-  slow down, meet great people, take some time off to restrategize- relax, be flexible, travel and drop all the things I was holding onto to actually take the risk of trying out the ideas in my head.

After I realized my savings were reducing (like duh!) I still didn’t want the rigidity of a full time job so I decided to take part time tutoring as a source of extra income. I ended up tutoring a lot of Chinese people who were learning English as a second language as well as college students and high school kids. It turned out to be a great experience.

Along the line I decided to try my hands out at making similar content so I put out my course (https://www.udemy.com/become-excellent-at-analytical-writing/ ) and now my students are in the hundreds. While I still have a lot of work to do in getting the course out there, it was so encouraging to see the numbers increase and see that truly what I thought would be useful to others was indeed useful.

So what do I know about you that you don’t know? It is that your life experiences have made you an expert at something and you probably don’t even realize it.

So many times we are waiting for something to happen before we can live life. We are waiting to be more educated, be more experienced (whatever that means), more confident, more beautiful, etc.

Truly, when it comes to it, we are probably just afraid that we are not really enough. We are afraid of failure&rejection. We think that maybe if we can find more titles to mask our insecurity then we will be more confident to proceed in the direction of our dreams.

What you don’t realize is that you already have something that people want to know. You are probably taking yourself for granted thinking you have no value to add.

I don’t mean this post to motivate you. I mean it to be factual. You are an expert at something that other people don’t know and you are hiding it because you think everyone knows it already, or that you need even more experience.

What have you picked from your life’s experiences? Struggles? Lessons? Relationships? Share your gift today. There is always time to refine it. You cannot get experience without putting yourself out there and experiencing all life has to offer anyways.

Living takes time.

Isn’t it interesting that every one of us is growing past something, pressing through, striving, making small but mighty progresses every single day of our lives?

Most times our hopes, fears, dreams, failures and successes are so much deeper than the surface and deeper than the expressions on our faces. But everyone of us has a story of growing and overcoming that actually deserves an applause.

Living takes time.

Just like our limiting beliefs don’t come overnight, positive change also doesn’t come overnight. No matter the mighty tree that is hidden in the seed the plant still needs time to be nourished and to grow.

It will take choosing everyday to move forward and also a good amount of time which can be quite frustrating.

Think about how we get caught up in a bad habit.

You start with the mental image, then thanks to your imagination you build a house on your head with it and before you know it, it becomes your own reality.

Same thing with positive change, we think of it, we take little steps everyday that move us consistently toward what is true and healthy and then over time we find that we have actually made a lot of progress.

Sometimes we may choose positive change and are taking the steps toward it but it will still take time for it to work its way out from our habits to our reality. In that in-between it is so easy to wonder- is this worth it? Who do I think I am aiming this high? Do I have what it takes? Am I okay? Am I normal?

Its so tempting to give up when we start doubting our ability to come out on the other end being who we want to be.

Here’s a life changing fact- change takes time; but if we invest everyday in the right habits, we are laying a solid foundation to build something massive in the future.

How much easier would we be on our selves if someone reinforced into us that change takes time though?

Change also takes us learning to dance to the rhythm of mercy.

No matter how much of the truth we know, being human we have the wonderful habit of self inflicting. Today I choose life. Tomorrow I choose every possible thought and thing that has nothing to do with life. There has to be a way we can come back and start afresh. Mercy gives us limitless opportunities. It is only through mercy, not through what we could do or what we cannot do that we could actually choose life forever. Mercy has found you and chosen you.

So everyday you attempt to live life courageously, don’t question yourself and wonder if you do deserve those dreams of yours. We couldn’t deserve anything we have. We couldn’t wish ourselves to life. Everything we could ever be and have is a gift. Mercy has given us life, new beginnings and infinite opportunities to make something of so we can give them away to others as well.

Here’s a challenge for us- to choose life no matter how many times we fail at it, to keep choosing those habits that bring us the most life, to take more generous helpings of grace and mercy and to know that we have it in us to live the life we have imagined.

Living takes time.

Don’t forget to leave me a comment, subscribe and come on over to twitter to continue the conversation 😉

Isn’t it a mystery

that mercy can break a heart

while justice can only break a bone

that we wish hard for signs

not knowing it is sight we need

that the wise can only be truly wise

when they dare to be foolish

that experience sees into our world

but a little child beyond it

that love will save you

from the ghosts caution will not

that we need faith

but faith needs doubt

that the all knowing spirit

inspired by mortals may have a change of mind

that perfection is the goal

but strength is in weakness

that we don’t choose to live

but must choose life everyday

that experts at reading words

easily miss the treasures between the lines

that in all the chaos

we live out some sort of order

that destiny is in our genes

yet the choice to claim it in our hands

that it is all in your head

but becomes real after a while

Don’t forget to leave me a comment, subscribe and come on over to twitter to continue the conversation 😉

Forbes Africa gets behind the camera for a change.

I had the pleasure of chatting with these men at the WOWe Women of West Africa event last week. I sat down beside them, we started talking and ended up doing a video along the way 🙂

Chris is the managing editor of Forbes Africa and was one of the moderators for one of the sessions.He moved to South Africa a couple of years back and he is loving his work. He said he would do it even if he didn’t make a lot of money out of it. I thought Chris sounded like Richard Branson but I don’t think he took it as a compliment haha

Frederic is the head for their work in West Africa. He has been living in Lagos for a while- 5 years- if I remember clearly. He is excited about investing in emerging markets all over Africa and media work in Africa as well.

I should have asked them to share their experience of moving and living in Africa but it didn’t occur to me then. It would have been nice since they’ve seen Africa from a much more nuanced perspective than people looking from the outside in. Oh well, next time.

Watch to know them a bit better and get into their heads about life, success, passion, and making the world a better place. Also- when you get really successful and interviewed by Forbes Africa make sure you tell Chris and/or Frederic that you met them on streetsideconvos first:)

Don’t forget to leave me a comment, subscribe and come on over to twitter to continue the conversation 😉