Chapter 35: Foresight, Time travel and Growing Up

 

Photo Credit: Ponbee

 

I turned 35 about three weeks ago.

It’s such a perfect number, 35.

When you’re 35, people can’t seem to figure out if you’re young or old.

I mean, you’re young enough to still rock jeans and hoodies like it’s your birthright without looking or feeling like a creep.

It’s the zenith of childhood – you can get away with sleepovers, movie marathons and pizza for breakfast and dinner.

But it’s also the zen zone of adulthood – you’ve sort of made peace with the responsibilities that ship with being an adult, you’ve been at it for a few years and learned a few tricks along the way.

Age has made you a bit weary but not enough to make you cynical or bitter.

Yeah, 35 is the prime of life!

This year, I’ve been meditating a lot about foresight. How powerful a gift it can be. There’s a reason why it’s the stuff of legends, movies and the stock market.

Then we also have time travel, which is kinda like hindsight on steroids. Writers sure love their wish fulfillment!

I found myself thinking a lot about where I was mentally, physically, financially about 15 years ago (I was 20).

I was at such a low, it was impossible to envision a better future. If ever there was a time I needed foresight, it would be then.

If I ever got a time machine, that exact period would be my first stop.

However, sci-fi has taught us that changing the past leads to unforeseen consequences, and truth be told, my life is awesome enough today not to want to change a single thing.

So rather than changing the past, I’d rather just go back and give myself a pep talk.

I wrote a fictional story on how that conversation would go.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I liked writing it!

 

——

 

Ping!

Me: Hey kid. I only got a couple of minutes with you. You there?

Client 020: Sorry who this?

Me: Let’s just say a stranger from the future

Client 020: Riiiiiight. I’m gonna block you now.

Me: Okay, wait! Your mom’s middle name is Anna and your first ever crush was Linda, right?

Client 020: [shock emoji] Whoa! Okay, that’s creepy.

Me: Not if you’re messaging yourself from the future. Hi stranger! [😁😁]

Client 020: Hmmm, okay. I’ll bite. How does this work?

Me: Well, I won a free Timechat promo and it expires tomorrow. So…

Client 020: Nice. I guess my hunch about us being lucky with raffles still works after so many years. Remember that raffle we won when we in primary school? How much was the prize again? 100k?

Me: [😂] Ode. We won a bike. You still dont believe it’s me? Gosh was I always this skeptical?!!

Client 020: Lol. okay I believe you now. What’s up man? And what’s going on in the future?

Me: I err.. Can’t tell you that. Like, I literally can not. If I type any specifics about the future, the app immediately deletes it.

 

Me: [⛔] Message automatically deleted

Me: [⛔] Message automatically deleted 

 

Me: See? I just tried sending you the winners of the last 2 World Cups.

Client 020: Haha that’s unfortunate. So what exactly can you tell me?

Me: Well, I know mom’s really sick right now. And things are really bad.

Client 020: Yeah…

Me: And I know this is probably one of the scariest times of your life. I remember it was just a few days after our 20th birthday the sickness started.

Client 020: Yeah, day before yday. Her sudden fever is scary baba. And we’re broke so cant buy her drugs. Cant buy food sef.

Client 020: Just tell me she’ll be fine. That’s what counts right now man.

Me: Okay, so I still had leftovers from mom’s birthday cake yesterday.

 

Timechat: Send gifts over the timeline. Click here to order customised cakes from a vendor near you.

 

Me: Argh! Sorry for the ads. I’m using the free version of the app is why.

Client 020: Whoa! For reals? Mom I mean. That means she’s still alive. Thank you thank you thank you!

Me: Yeah, we actually all turn out great. Mom, sis, even your big head eventually gets sense.

Client 020: LOOL. That’s fantastic! Say how’s Yemisi? Did she eventually say yes?

Me: Lmao! I forgot I was still crushing hard on Yemisi at your age. Kai! Wo, even if she did, I’m not married currently.

Client 020: Whoa! Why the hell not? Wait, are we divorced? Hei God! [emoji]

Me: Nah, yet to be married. And currently still single. But it’s either this year or next. I can feel it, trust me.

Client 020: Okay. So, 35, single, and a badass writer.

Me: How did you know I was a writer?

Client 020: I didn’t. I was just guessing. I figured since the app didnt allow you tell me stuff, I can guess and you’ll just confirm. Which you just did!

Me: Clever!

Client 020: I’m sure you see the irony in saying that to me [😏]

 

Timechat: You have less than 3 minutes remaining

 

Client 020: Whoops! Time’s almost gone. What else can you tell me?

Me: Let me see… Well, we love our “writerly” job. The pay is good and your team is great.

Me: You’re gonna feel loss in a deep way when you’re 29. Don’t worry, it’s not mom. But it will hurt almost as bad.

Client 020: Ah! Maybe you should stop…

Me: You’re gonna be quite confused in your 20s. Like, a lot!

Me: But 29, you’ll hit a breakthrough and your life begins to make sense.

Client 020: Guy, you no dey hear word abi. I said…

Me: And, I think in a few weeks, the most important thing that’s gonna happen to you, is gonna happen to you. You’re gonna…

 

Timechat: Chat closed. Thank you for using Timechat. Enter another coupon code to resume the conversation.

 

P.S. In a few weeks, after a series of incredible events, ‘Client 020’ is going to walk into a church and accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and personal Saviour.

It does change everything!

 

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Thank you for reading. Here’s to Chapter 35!

Freelancing in a rapidly evolving world requires you to be a frog

Animals react to climate change in three ways: They move, adapt or die.

I once read about the Alaskan Wood Frog and I was amazed by how far this creature goes to survive in the wild.

During winter, up to 60% of an Alaskan Wood Frogs’ body freezes solid. It stops breathing and its heart stops beating too. This allows the frog to survive temperatures as low as -80 degrees Fahrenheit.

And in spring, the frog thaws out and resumes living like it didn’t just spend months being an ice popsicle.

Incredible!

I like to think of myself as an Alaskan Wood Frog, constantly adapting to changes in the market to remain relevant, to escaping becoming an ancient relic.

Or dying out like the Dodo bird. The poor thing stood no chance against the Dutch sailors.
Take for example, Kodak. Remember when ‘Kodak moments’ was a thing?

No?

How old are you again?

Well, once upon a time, Kodak reigned over the photography industry. But it failed to respond quickly to the arrival of digital photography which led to bankruptcy in 2013 as nobody, absolutely nobody (including diehard traditionalists and your grannies) used camera film anymore.

On the flip side, Kodak seemed to take the lesson to heart. In January 2018, Kodak’s share price on the New York Stock Exchange more than doubled.

Why? Kodak announced that it would launch its own cryptocurrency called KodakCoin, riding on the cryptocurrency wave. Aimed at photographers, KodakCoin forms part of a wider blockchain platform committed to protecting photographers and helping them control their image rights.

You see, adaptation is key. It is accepting that change is inevitable and preparing to embrace change whenever it comes.

The world is constantly evolving. Events like the coronavirus pandemic just happen to speed things up rapidly. Now everywhere there’s job insecurity and stock markets are crashing.

If you’re a freelancer, then you would have noticed a huge drop in our regular business activities.

But not everyone is experiencing a downturn.

Finance and health blogs are booming.

As a freelancer, having a diverse skillset as well as being a quick study, are necessary tools in your survival toolkit.

It is possible that your current revenue streams have dried up. If so, you’re definitely hunting for new streams.

It’s time again to be the Alaskan Wood Frog.

  1. Start Coaching Others

Take advantage of social distancing by broadening your services to include online coaching. You can take on clients from all over the world and share your knowledge and experience.

  1. Create an Online Course for your readers

Remember when everyone was too busy? Felt like a lifetime ago. Now, everyone is at home and we’re bored.

Yes, people have a lot of time on their hands and, if you’re persuasive enough, they just may be interested in picking up new skills.

Create a high quality course on any of your area of specialty and dedicate some amount of time and resources designing useful educative materials that people would pay for.

  1. Rest

If you’ve been working yourself to the bone, this may be the perfect time to just take a break. The rest may give you the much needed to refuel and come back stronger.

Work distancing can help you gain new perspectives about your work and business.

Overall, it is important that we all remain positive during this period. The world has witnessed worse pandemics. And people survived.

You will too.

Ribbit!

 

Me and My Dory Memory

Remember Dory, the standout character in Finding Nemo with anterograde amnesia?

Well, let’s just say I’m the human version of Dory.

She once told Nemo “I suffer from short-term memory loss. I forget things almost instantly. It runs in my family… I think it does.”

Yeah, that would be me and my ‘Dory Memory’.

As someone who writes for a living, it can be quite frustrating to forget things all the time. Maybe it’s just me, but the older I got the more I realized how unreliable my memory is.

Emails, meetings, promises, phone calls, they all get lost in the heat of the daily grind.

Take for instance, sometime last month, as I was drifting asleep, I had the most incredible idea for an article pop into my mind. In fact, it was so brilliant that I was sure I’d remember it in the morning, so I didn’t bother to write it down.

Alas! I woke up the next morning with no recollection of even having the idea, let alone what the idea was. As I write this piece, I still can’t for the life of me remember what it was.

So! To combat my awful memory, I decided it was about time I kept a writer’s notebook.

This is one of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever received – to keep a notebook with you at all times.

Problem is, due to my ‘Dory Memory’ I tend to forget and lose my stuff all the time. So, there was the issue of always losing my notebook. But I was determined. And since inspiration can strike anywhere, ESPECIALLY when you’re not at your desk, I had to figure out a way to record my ideas before they zoom off, never to be seen again.

So I keep a notebook. I also keep a pile of clippings, post its, pieces of paper; my desk is full of them. Come to think of it, it’s been a while since I saw the top of my desk.

But hey, whatever it takes to keep the creativity tap running, amirite?

Once I had to run out of the shower to quickly type out an article that casually wandered into my head before it had the chance to wander off again.

Over the years, I ditched the hardcopy writer’s notebook and migrated to note taking software which I can access from anywhere. It took some getting used to but it’s almost second nature now.

Sometimes, because my muse keeps odd hours, I have to crack open WhatsApp and jot down my ideas in rapid fire, and send them to myself. Again, whatever it takes to trap those ideas!

So what do you put down in your writer’s notebook?

Literally, anything. When you see something that makes you think, or feel something, write it in your notebook! Your notebook may contain ideas, words, quotes, song lyrics… the list is endless!

With so many deliverables, I get to read hundreds of books, journals, articles every week. I also have diverse clients and numerous details to remember about each of them. Not to mention having to remember the day to day activities and family celebrations.

Then there’s church, volunteering, weddings to attend, a hundred other things life demands of you. So it’s easy to miss the fine details on many things.

This is just to say, writing things down is a life and career saver.

It’s a habit to embrace.

 

Photo Credit: Variety

8 things that still tick me off as a writer

Writers are very particular about their craft. We can be docile and quiet around you, but just disrespect the craft and you’ll see us all up in arms.

It’s not just the grammatical errors that scratches our vinyl.

There’s about 7 other things that happen every other week that makes me feel like tearing out my hair or beating someone up.

I know I should rise above and beyond, but it’s exhausting. The following list, in no particular order, are 8 things that get me ticked off:

 

  1. Everyone thinks they can write.

Everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer.

Look, we’re grateful for social media but tweeting and chatting is not writing. If you think everyone can do it, you honestly don’t understand what writing is.

  1. When people say writing is not so difficult.

“You just sit there and punch letters on a keyboard all day. How hard can it be?”

Bruh, writing is hard!

Most writers have to deal with crippling perfectionism and a constant fear of failure all the time. We agonize over every choice of word.

Sometimes I read and reread a paragraph until the words are a blur.

Writing is not for the faint hearted! It requires practice, diligence and focus.

  1. Editing is way easier than writing.

Writing is a bit like giving birth.

There was nothing, and then with patience, and lots of pain, something emerged.

And that something makes everyone happy.

Editing on the other hand involves honing someone else’s idea – after the person is done with all the hard work!

So it grates hard when some editors tear down your work.

Of course, most professional editors  wouldn’t.

But within an organization where every communication is subjected to peer review, writers suffer a lot under the reviewers/editors who usually have no idea what good writing looks like even if it hit them in the face.

Let me put it this way, it’s easier to paint a wall than it is to build it from scratch.

Writing is building. Editing is painting.

So take it easy with the snide commentary.

  1. Ask me to write or edit your [insert something] for free.

For some reason, a lot of people believe writers exist solely to serve their own needs.

After all, “you writers have so much free time. You just sit down in front of the PC all day.”

Uhm… would you ask your surgeon friend for free surgery?

Writing or editing your work would take me more time than getting rid of your appendix would take the surgeon.

Think about that!

  1. When people put up horrible notes on Facebook, tag everyone & wait for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

This right here is the sole reason why I’d vote for Facebook to be shutdown. (This and Candy Crush invites).

Yes, there is freedom of speech and you are allowed to use your platform as you wish.

But please, write, hit publish and just leave it at that.

Don’t expect world hunger to cease simply because you put up a post.

Resist the urge to tag everyone. That voice telling you to ignore that previous sentence is the devil.

  1. When people write sentences using SMS lingo, even when they are not messaging.

I sometimes get emails with sentences like, “I hope 2 hear from u soon, thank u” or “U will defn8ly luv dem” and I often have to bite my tongue.

I do have some questions for them though. Like, are some of the letters on your keyboard missing? Do tell.

  1. When people use “affect” in place of “effect”, “I couldn’t care less” in place of “I could care less” and the most annoying of them all “their” in place of “there”.

For the love of all that is good, it would save us all months of migraines and therapy to learn the difference between these words. I think it’s best I leave it at that. Expatiating on this point may take the whole day and open up deep seethed wounds.

  1. Assume I am less busy because I sometimes get to work from home.

Don’t assume I have time to go pick up every single family member that comes into town from the airport. I do not have time. I may be in my drawers at 3 o’clock in the afternoon (as I am right this very minute) and I may be having a conversation with Molara, one of my madeup characters (which I also am right now) instead of being present at an office, but I am busy.

I am writing which means that I am working.

 

Phew, it felt good to get that all out.

What tricks you off and grinds your gears?

You’re talented; So what?

“Sometimes, good things end so that better things can begin.”

I just read this quote somewhere and it put a smile on my face. 2019 was a really good year. So it’s safe for me to assume 2020 is going to be epic!

Anyways, it’s the beginning of the year; I’m yet to resume work and this is the first post of the year. I thought I’d share one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

There’s a maxim about talent that goes, Talent is not enough.

I agree.

However, I didnt always see it that way until last year.

Last year, I began leading a team. As head of communications, I get to work with several vendors and freelancers including graphic designers, videographers, editors, writers, and printers. There’s also media houses and PR agencies to balance in the mix.

Obviously, this involves managing different quirks, egos while juggling a hundred deadlines every month.

These are not fun tasks at all.

Having so many things I want to get done, I need to work with reliable people. To my amazement, many of the talented people I know often drop the ball, a lot.

I began to realize that truly, talent is overrated. In business, dependability is what really counts.

That doesn’t mean I’m knocking talent.

When you read books by Brandon Sanderson, or listen to a score by Howard Shore, or watch Zinedine Zidane play football, talent is pretty dazzling and hard to ignore.

The G.O.A.T.

In my career, I’ve also experienced the power of talent.

Last year, I had the (unenviable) task of writing the 2019 State of Market report for Digital Financial Services in Nigeria. Considering the fact that the past 3 annual reports (from 2016 – 2018) have been compiled and written by my boss who happens to be a Professor of Information Systems, well let’s just say I had humongous shoes to fill and I had no clue how to begin.

And this is where talent matters.

After about 2 days just staring at the blank page, feeling helpless and terrified, that trusty voice came to my rescue. Every writer should know that voice by now.

Whenever I want to write something, I hear a tiny voice accompanied by a sweet feeling in my gut. The voice is confident but very silent. Sometimes all it offers is just a sentence.

A perfectly formed sentence.

Other times, it’s a nonsensical combination of words that gets me curious enough to wander, okay where is this going? Regardless of what the voice offers, I always treat it as my prompt to start writing. And it’s never failed me yet.

(I finished the report in about 5 days, by the way).

So talent matters.

But, there’s a clause – talent matters to a degree. There’s a minimum threshold of talent required for people to function effectively in a field. Beyond this point, what separates one professional from another is – dependability.

I got your back, boss!

In my brief time heading my department, I’ve seen myself shrink away from engaging some freelancers. These are uber-talented guys with impressive portfolios. However, their knack for delivering work behind schedule is scary and disruptive. Some fail to communicate that they will be late. Others just go AWOL on me, attempting to raise my blood pressure.

What really pushed me to my limit was just before we closed for the year, I got a contract to develop copy for a really big brand and so I needed to assemble a team I could work with.

Two freelancers came to mind immediately. Freelancer A is extremely talented and a great copywriter while Freelancer B is pretty average. I offered the gig to both of them.

In an ironic twist of fate, only Freelancer B came through. Freelancer A didnt even turn in anything, for reasons that remain a mystery till today.

To be fair, it may have been a genuine enough excuse (some emergency perhaps) but at that point, with so many deadlines to manage, I just needed someone to be on time.

Not perfect. Not super creative. Not Picasso.

Just competent enough to deliver the job, ON TIME.

Correct, complete, on time. Can you manage that?

This is the key to a lengthy business relationship seeing as I’ve worked with Freelancer B a lot more since then. And Freelancer B is getting better by the day. I offer helpful tips and resources to aid with skill improvement.

However, dependability? That’s not something that can be taught. It’s a trait that must be inwardly nurtured.

So, would you consider yourself talented? Congratulations. Join the club.

Are you dependable?

If your answer is not a resounding yes, my advice is you spend enough time thinking about why and then spend the first part of 2020 fixing that.